See Jack Hunt

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Chapter 40

The loft.

11:56 pm . . .

I’m having a hard time sleeping, so I’m going back through my mental archives.

Ricky and I spent most of the day at the ALG office, celebrating my accomplishment and hunting the footprints of evil. Turns out Ecuador is still hot. Plenty of radio traffic in and out of the Vatican, and none of it is optimistic.

The day was exhausting. I tried to call Angela earlier and tell her about my good news, but midway through the dialing I realized how completely self-centered and insensitive that would be. I settled with just saying hello to her. Letting her know that I was thinking about her. Girls like that kind of insignificant stuff, Hal says.

Yeah, Hal and I are becoming good friends. Mostly, he just gives me advice based on the most recent polls, case studies, and published medical journals. So, while he doesn’t really tell me what he thinks, he tells me what really prominent people think. And that’s pretty important, I guess.

I left the office early, heading back to celebrate my passage from non-driver, to guardian of the streets. And since then I’ve just been ambling around, not doing much of consequence. I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for a few hours, shooting all kinds of terrorists. I spent most of my time laying on my stomach beside a couch in an abandoned hotel, firing at anything that passed my cross-hairs. Eventually they wised-up and back-doored my lazy ass. It wasn’t pretty.

After that I made some deli sandwiches and sat on the balcony looking down at the calm activity in the courtyard below. There were tons of those black birds pecking around, looking for their insect meals. A lady was walking her golden retriever for a while, then she got a cell phone call that was much more important and she headed off.

I watched this old guy walk halfway out into the grass between the picnic tables and this big bed of flowers. Then he just kind of looks up, smiling at the sky, like he can see something the rest of us can’t. And I wonder if he’s like the opposite of me. If he sees angels and glistening beams of happiness. Maybe he sees the golden embrace of angels as they come to lead people to heaven.

When I’m watching the spooks encircle their next victim, this old man is somewhere else, smiling as some wonderful creature delicately leads a good soul up and away to a place that probably smells like cotton candy. At the same time that I’m cringing as the gatherers claw and knife their way into someone’s chest, looking to rip their soul from their body, this old man is hearing harps and flutes.

Maybe.

After I finished my sandwiches—tons of thin sliced turkey and chicken and ham, hold the mayo—I went back in and laid down. Ricky came and went a couple of times, probably going to meet that girl he met at the DMV, or the receptionist at the office complex.

And that’s what I did, just sit there trying to fall asleep for hours. Problem is, if you’re not tired, you aren’t going to get to sleep. And really, I’m not so much trying to sleep as I am actively avoiding the near future.

I want to get that moment back at the carnival the other night. When I had won Angela all those stuffed horses, and she looked at me like, I don’t know . . . like a real man. And when she kissed me, ever so briefly, it was perfect.

If she had been a color that night, it would have been gold.

All those words I wanted to say, all that built-up doubt giving way to her actually seeing something in me worth finding out about. All of it was said in that tiny little kiss.

In the space between a smile, a million things can be said without so much as a word. And her face, it was just beaming. Her eyes said all kinds of things I may never be able to put into words. If I had a lifetime I couldn’t explain it.

A lifetime in a single kiss.

How strange.

I’m the last guy in the world to be a romantic, but being near her makes me realize how people can fall for other people. She’s way too attractive a girl to be hanging around me. For whatever reason, she doesn’t see it that way.

You can jam a hundred dreams into a single moment, or spend a lifetime saying, I’m sorry. And now, after this whole thing with her roommate, I’m not sure which is more appropriate. I didn’t kill Jesse, but I might as well have. Because once I told Angela, whether she believed me or not, she must have wondered, even if only for a fleeting second, if it was possible. And in that flash of consideration, she felt what I felt.

She got to watch Jesse drown.

With drowning, you’re dead way before you actually die.

So I’m wondering what I’ll say to her. The funeral on Saturday, that’s going to be difficult. And I don’t know if her memories of me will forever be tainted with Jesse’s death.

Will I be Jack?

Or will I be the guy she met when her roommate was dying?

That’s why I’m sitting here at nearly midnight, not able to sleep, not wanting to stay awake. And right about the time I roll over for the 732nd time, I hear a gentle knock on the door. Ricky will get it, if he’s here. If not, it’s probably for him, anyway.

Knock, knock.

I sigh, glance at my watch, and then sit up.

Knock, knock, knock.

I scoot to the edge of the bed, blinking a few times to make sure I haven’t accidentally dozed off into the boundary between here and the place between dogs and wolves and angels. I yawn, No. It doesn’t appear that I have to duck to get out of my bedroom, so I’m still here.

Knock, knock, knock, knock.

Are you kidding me?

I finally get up and head towards the front door of our loft. I have on a pair of sweat pants and no t-shirt, but I don’t realize this until I’m opening up the door and she’s looking at me with her mouth half open.

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