“We’re just going to his house?”
Leah expressed her disappointment from the back seat of sleek sports car that hummed as it weaved its way through the thin traffic. Drexel was driving well over the speed limit, but this particular area of road was pretty void of traffic police, to the point where most everyone between the ages of eighteen and fifty was driving at least ten miles over the speed limit.
“He’ll be there.” Drexel’s voice was so loud, he didn’t even have to yell to be heard over the loud music blasting from his radio. “He’s got no reason to go anywhere unless one of your gal friends or Hunter called him to tip him off. I see guys like him all the time. They pretend to be all clever and sit around smugly, thinkin’ they’ll never get caught.”
Leah muttered something under her breath that no one caught. Drexel raised an eyebrow at her in the rearview mirror, but she shook her head.
“I’m just along for the ride, so I can’t complain.”
“Glad you see it my way, blondie. Primo gave up long before you.”
Primo glanced up when he heard his name but quickly realized that they weren’t talking about anything important and returned his gaze to the passing scenery outside the passenger window.
Well aren’t you just the playboy.
“It’s about time you made a comment.” Primo was secretly glad that Drexel’s loud indie bands all played so loudly. He could have a proper conversation without worrying about being overheard even in this small space. “You’re normally more talkative.”
And ruin your confidence and your chances along with it? No way. It’s was fun watching you be yourself with another man’s girl.
“I’m glad I could entertain you.”
But now look at you. Sitting up front and leaving her alone in the back? You were the one who invited her, and now you’re just ignoring her. I thought I raised you to be a better man than that.
“I invited her through process of elimination. Like you said, she’s Hunter’s girl. And it’s not like I could hold a real conversation by yelling over Rex’s music.”
Maybe you should try asking him to turn it down a bit?
Geez, talk about unmotivated. Miles away from the girl who coldly rejected you, and you don’t even want to try to move on? I love you, Primo, but you have got to get over yourself. You took dropping out of medical school better than this.
“Mostly because you took it hard for me.”
I have no idea what you’re talking about.
“You tried to convince me to use all kinds of illicit channels to still become a doctor and then gave up, just telling me to use my skills in the field, anyways. You just wouldn’t let it go.”
When failure isn’t an option, you find alternate routes to your goal. That’s how you beat the game of life.
“That’s it up ahead.” The entire car came to a smooth stop as Drexel pulled up to a parking meter several blocks from their destination. “We’ll walk from here since we don’t want him seeing us coming.”
It could have parked closer by just shutting off his music, but he didn’t even seem to think of that option. Either way, Primo and Leah were ushered out of the car as Drexel opened up the car’s hood.
“What are you doing?”
“Removing the starter. Just to be safe. We don’t know what this guy might try.”
Leah looked at Primo curiously and he shrugged in response.
Oh, come on! Be more expressive! Tell a joke! Make the girl laugh!
“Let’s split up.” Primo used his suggestion as a way of passive resistance. “We can’t all just walk through the front door, but all of us trying to sneak in would have an even worse effect. Leah, you should go with Rex and head for the front. I’ll sneak around back and try to cut him off if he escapes.”
Leah silently glanced at Drexel, caution in her eyes.
“Just don’t antagonize him. And if he starts using his magic, take cover. Though I hope he’s not stupid enough to let you get caught in the crossfire.”
“I only kill enemies and smartasses.” Drexel shut his car’s hood and retorted snidely. “You’re just lucky you’re James’ friend.”
Primo followed Drexel and Leah down the sidewalk from a distance expected of strangers and casually turned down the next road to inconspicuously split himself off from them. He then broke into a sprint, reaching the next road and turning swiftly, aiming straight for the hedges that hid the house from view.
Well what do you know? Maybe you do have a soft spot for other girls.
“Not what I expected to hear from you.” Primo noted while hoisting himself over the sturdy hedge and landing quietly on the grass on the other side. “I thought you’d have been annoyed that I decided to leave her with Drexel instead of having her go with me.”
That’s a losing argument. Drexel can’t be sneaky to save his life and he knows it. Bringing an inexperienced, normal girl with no stake in this is equally is stupid. He knows it, which is probably why he agreed. But best of all, you’re probably going to kill this guy. Choosing to show her that wouldn’t be very paragon.
“So you’re complimenting me?”
I wouldn’t go that far. Let’s just say that I think you did the right thing. This time.
“Yay me.” Primo smiled slightly before focusing once more on the task at hand. He immediate found a door leading from the backyard to the garage—one of the more neglected areas of any home. What he saw made him frown. A mechanical lock? Anyone with anything to hide would have to be smarter than that. There were numerous way for a person to get past one of those with enough practice, especially if one didn’t worry about tripping any alarms.
But Primo wasn’t going to complain. He raised his hands and long needles that resembled syringes about a foot in length sprouted from his wrists at the very same spot one would touch to check a person’s pulse. The base was about an inch in diameter, but quickly thinned to the size of a needle’s tip. Weaker people might feel nauseous just looking at the infamous shape of these ‘stingers’. Primo inserted them into the keyhole in the door’s knob, working them to push the gears inside to unlock the door. It didn’t take him long—with a satisfying click, he was able to quickly turn the knob and pull open the door slowly, ready to act if he heard an alarm.
It would have been much faster if you just melted the lock with your poison. I mean, what’s the point in having options if you never choose the interesting ones?
Primo didn’t recklessly respond aloud to the deity’s chatter. He didn’t want to risk giving away his position now that he was inside. He was somewhat disappointed, actually. It was normal for a person to not bother putting on their alarm during the way when they were at home, but that made more work for Primo. He’d have to find a way to lure his target outside.
Bennet sure has a lot of stuff packed away out here. Kind of like a pack rat. Or a hoarder.
Or someone who was moving in or getting ready to move out. Weird. Why would he…?
Primo heard a sound similar to someone touching a loose doorknob and he immediately crouched behind a particularly high pile of boxes, keeping himself out of view when the door from the garage to inside the house opened, letting in a flood of light. Primo dared not peer over the boxes to see who it was, but he could guess that it either Bennet or someone affiliated with him. There was only one pair of footsteps and they sounded to light to be Drexel’s, yet too heavy to be Leah’s.
“Come out. I know you’re there.”
Primo frowned when the person called out, their voice filled with far too much caution to be a random guess or just a ‘feeling’. The door must have had a silent alarm attached to it. He hadn’t given Bennet enough credit.
Olly olly oxen free.
Primo raised his hands to show that he had no hostility as he slowly rose from behind the boxes, walking into view. He quickly sized up the man in front of him—average build, wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts, and carrying a several ceramic cups in his hand, looking as if he were ready to use them somehow. The last bit of eccentricity were a fair clue that this was a demigod.
“You’re…you’re not who I thought you’d be.”
The young man frowned with momentary confusion before raising a handful of ceramic cups in front of him threateningly.
“Are you working alone? Where’s the girl?”
“The short one! You know who I’m talking about!”
“I literally have no clue who you mean. I’m alone. I’m a friend of Hunter’s and just came to find you in secret. That’s all.”
Bennet continued to stare at Primo for a long minute, probably continuing to think things through in his head. He was probably so getting advice from a ‘higher power’.
“You’re right.” Primo was sure Bennet was talking to someone else when he said that. “She wouldn’t bother. But that makes me even more worried.”
Bennet’s shoulders relaxed and he sank to his knees, looking tired. Primo lowered his own hands and approached calmly and slowly.
“I can’t do this anymore.” Bennet muttered aloud. “You say you’re Hunter’s friend, right? Give him a message for me. ‘I’m sorry about the other guys. It’s my fault’.”
“He already knows you killed the others.”
“Of course he does.” Bennet chuckled painfully. “But even so, apologize for me.”
A direct confession? That was enough for Primo to kill him on the spot, but he didn’t want to be too hasty. He needed to hear the motivation.
“Why don’t you go apologize yourself?” Primo ventured carefully. “It won’t change the fact that you’re no longer trustworthy, but it’s better than sending someone else to do it.”
“Hunter and I can’t make direct contact. But that doesn’t matter. You have to also tell him to be careful. All of this—this wasn’t my idea. Killing the others, leaving bread crumbs, causing all this trouble…it was all someone else’s idea.”
“You were forced to do it?’
Bennet shook his head.
“More like convinced to. They were very…persuasive.”
“Who told you to do it? And why? What would anyone have to gain from attacking people like this? Are they coming for you next? What about Hunter?”
“No, no. Hunter’s definitely safe. I’ve been the one behind the killing and I definitely don’t intend to kill him.”
Bennet took a deep breath, probably to calm his nerves, and looked straight at Primo.
“Have you ever made a promise to a girl?”
“Well, sure. But I don’t see what—”
“I don’t mean a promise you’d make to a person. I mean a promise to that girl. Something the two of you share. Something that you might say represents the very relationship you two, have.”
Primo was tempted to just say no, but he found himself unable to. He didn’t intend to lie, but the truth wasn’t so easy, either.
“…I can imagine that, yeah.”
“If your relationship broke down and you two stopped talking for years, would you just move on and forget about your promise? Just treat it like it didn’t matter?”
“I couldn’t. Never.”
Bennet smiled. Primo could have sworn that it was from relief.
“Someone gave me the opportunity to make good on my promise. Anyone else would call me stupid, but I just had to get on board with it. I’m sorry I did it, but…I don’t regret my decision.”
Of course he was stupid. Primo knew just how stupid. He knew the desperation. The deep desire to hold on to something that wasn’t there anymore. The opinion that nothing was still something to hold on to. The belief that just because time moved on, it doesn’t mean you have to.
He knew it all.
And he knew how it could ruin one’s perspective.
“I killed them because I wanted to create a utopia.”
A loud crack shook the entire house as the door just behind Bennet was shattered to pieces by a heavy blast similar to a lightning bolt. Primo was sent flying back several feel before he landed on his back painfully and he groaned, just partly aware that all the hair on his body was standing up.
“Huh. You were standing closer to him than I thought. You alright, Primo?”
Primo ground his teeth together while still on his back, not daring to sit up yet.
“Looking for him in his bedroom. We knocked, but no one answered. I was heading to the garage to check it out and I hear him freaking confessing on the other side. I don’t know what you did, but it sure saved as hell saved us a lot of time. Great job.”
Primo didn’t reply. He pushed himself back up to his feet and reluctantly looked at the charred messed in front of the door.
Stop sympathizing with your enemy, Primo. He’s gone. And after he killed the people who were supposed to be on his side, he deserves it. Even among societies where killing is permitted, betraying trust is a far greater offense. Just because he shared some of your ideals doesn’t mean you were the same.
“Easy for you to say. He had a reason for doing what he did.”
Everyone has reasons for what they do. That’s not enough to make it okay. You plan to make a utopia too, don’t you? That’s why you want to revive me.
That still wasn’t enough to satisfy Primo. How did killing his friends help Bennet toward his goal? Who had convinced him that it would work?
There’s no time to figure out another mystery. You have to go deliver his final words to Hunter, remember? Then you have a flight to catch. You wanted to surprise your friend, or whatever. And after what happened on the news, it might be a little difficult getting into Florida.
“Right, right. You’re right, as usual.” Primo pinched the bridge of his nose irritably. “Rex, let’s get Leah and head back. We’ve spent enough time on this stuff.”