The cigarette between my lips illuminated the cloche hat that hid my long blonde hair. I turned my jacket up against the wind, the weather threatening rain once more. I pulling out a pocket watch. He was late, again. Not for the first time, I wondered if he was worth keeping around, after all the hell he had been dragging around with him like a lost puppy dog. How many times had I bailed him out? Keeping face like the perfect wife I pretended to be, all coiffed hair and hot meals in stark aprons. Sure, he didn’t mind playing dress-up on the evenings of galas and being wined and dined by the positions of power around the city. But if it came down to the brass tacks, he was just a shmuck. He followed his old ideologies like they were going to save him, like they were going to plant the Silver Star on his chest again, and we both knew – even if he didn’t want to admit it – that he never deserved it to begin with.
Oh I heard all the tales and propaganda about how he was a war hero, came home to the wife and kids decked out in medals and accolades. Received that departmental promotion, climbing the ladder like a fire in a dry wood. I dug up old army buddies, asked them out for drinks, regaled them with her sultry voice and slicked back smiles, and they came to me like bees to honey.
He was known for being secretive, kept things to himself. In the war, he never thought of his men – just the orders, the outcome. And even the outcome was blinded: all he wanted was to follow the rules, and be damned his conscious. Well, he sure damned himself. Where did that land him?
Dead men. One crazed, following the dream of helping people after being made to murder so many innocents in the name of “order”. He scared me at first, who wouldn’t be if you were kidnapped by a man with a flamethrower? But he was just a lost soul, and you couldn’t come back from that. You can’t ever come back from that, not without a bullet to the head. And that was the kindest thing that could happen to him, the poor bastard. The others? One a drug dealer, out of his mind with the idea that he would be forgotten just because he played a small part in such a large scale war. He had guts, I’ll give him that. But guts only get you so far until you need the mind, and he was just as lost as the other bloke.
Then there was Jack. He played the right cards, no matter what. Phelps used to make fun of him, throw him out to the wolves in camp. He never believed he had what it took because he didn’t follow the protocol that he lusted after. But Jack … he was the best of them all. He looked after the men, whether they were his own or not. He made the calls that Phelps never could. He did what had to be done, because he was human and a soldier, and Phelps … well, he got the Silver Star, didn’t he? He had no men to show for it, and in the eyes of war, that was worthy of redemption.
But would his men agree? I doubt it.
So here I am, waiting for that lone ranger. He didn’t know I had been following his history, not until tonight. I told Jack that his lieutenant friend was going to see the light one way or another. He said he wasn’t his friend, but that he wasn’t his enemy either. I think the death of Hank still riled him. Poor guy. I wish there was a better way to wash away memories besides pouring alcohol over it. Some wounds just grow stagnate. I sure am glad Jack stayed in Vice.
I watched as his car came around the corner, headlights flashing high. I stood just out of the streetlight, observing as he pulled in, parking across the lot. Thunder shook above us, but I hardly noticed. Jack promised he would come by in about ten minutes – I had until then. I watched as Phelps jammed his hands in his pockets, hat tilted over his face to ward off the wind, and jogged over to me.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” he said, reaching my spot. I handed him a cigar, lighting it up for him. “Thanks.” He took a puff or two, and seemed to relax slightly, before turning his head skyward. “It’s going to rain soon, did you want to go inside?”
I took her hat off, hair spilling out across my shoulders. I was glad she put a little more effort into my makeup today; it was the least I could do for him.
“No, that’s alright honey. We won’t be long anyways.” I smiled at him, taking a long drag. “You don’t talk about your past. Why is that?”
I saw him stiffen noticeably, and he took several puffs of his cigar. “It’s not important. What happened, happened. Why do you ask?”
I shrugged, letting the cigarette hang from my fingers for a moment. The clouds were darkening above us properly now. “Ran into some old friends of yours, all were pretty tight lipped about what happened in the war. Seemed pretty worried about talking about you in particular, but they kept calling you the shadow. No reason why?”
He was silent, taking a long drag and staring into the darkness for a long time. Whatever he saw there, I didn’t want to know what it was. Let him have his demons.
“What’s going on Elsa.” His voice was straight now, and he didn’t look at me. Fine by me.
“You know I don’t play around, Cole. You couldn’t be honest with your own wife, never mind your men – why change now, right?
His head snapped around to me as I pulled the trigger on the Beretta, squarely against his chest, three times. His eyes widened as he realized what happened, and he crumbled. I stood there, watching him for a moment, the smoke from his cigar curling up from the cement as the rain started to come down heavily. I guess he was right, it was going to rain pretty soon. I tucked my hair beneath my hat once more just as another car pulled up, and this time I didn’t have to wait. The passenger door kicked open, and I stepped over his body to ease myself into the seat. The door shut with a click, and I remembered that Jack had such good taste. He smiled at me warily, and I leaned over to kiss his cheek.
“Well, that went smoothly.” He looked at her carefully. “Are you alright?”
She smiled, leaning against the seat comfortably. “Of course, sugar. I always kill the things I love.”