“Being a monster includes more than murder, petty theft, and a few dented cars, your honor.” I explained, crossing my arms calmly.
The judge didn’t seem to like those words. “I did not call him a-“
Before he could continue, I cut him off. “It also includes the impersonation of the president of Ford, the murder of said president, and the hijacking of over a thousand cars resulting in the death of over a thousand people.”
I don’t know why, but people like this hate being outsmarted. He leaned forward in his chair. “Do not interrupt me again.” He hissed and I smiled sarcastically. “Now call a witness or let the defense speak.”
My grin faded, replaced by a calmer demeanor. “Mrs. Mary Labhart, please come up to the stand.”
The judge leaned back in his chair, watching me with slight interest. He was always annoyed at me, but for the moment, it appeared that he was staying silent
The tremulous woman walked up to the stand and I waited calmly for her to reach it. When she finally stood there, I walked up to her and placed my hand on the soft wood. Mahogany. “Mrs. Labhart, Do you swear that the evidence you shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” I said quickly, almost too fast for her to understand.
She stared at me. “Uh… Yes…”
I smiled and leaned on the side of the stand. “Would you like to tell me where you were on the night in question?”
She took a second longer than most to answer. “I was… At a seafood restaurant.”
“Nope.” I said on command.
She raised an eyebrow. “I… I’m sorry?”
“You’re lying.” I said. “I’m going to ask again and if you don’t answer truthfully, you could be prosecuted. Where were you on the night in question?”
The court case continued on without a lot of excitement. The jury were completely on my side. The man, now quivering in his chair, repeated I didn’t do it under his breath. Of course, no one believed him. The judge, which still hated me, had no choice but to agree on my theories. They all came together perfectly, and that were all true, I knew it myself. In the end, they convicted the man guilty and dragged him off for a life sentence in prison.
His pleas could scar a regular person. They were inhuman, terrifying. He screamed for mercy. The jury looked like they were going to be sick, but didn’t say anything. The cries were silenced as the door shut and I turned to the Judge, a grin on my face.
The man, of course, was innocent.
Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
There was a small sound of sliding fabric as I slipped my arms though the sleeves of my sports jacket. Half walking, half dancing, I made my way to the door.
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
The door swung open and I stopped moving when I saw a man standing in front of me. He had a dark trilby pulled down over his eyes and a red tie that disappeared under his black suit. I had to admit, this guy had style, though the air around him seemed to get darker when he moved.
This grizzly mood dissipated when he removed his hat and held out a hand for me to shake. I pulled out my earbuds, abruptly stopping the music, and shook his hand.
“James Lorde.” He said. His voice was higher than I’d expected, he couldn’t be more than twenty years old.
I smiled. “John Palmer.” That was the alias I had been using for the past few days. In the court case.
The boy simply nodded. “I know, I’ve been following the case.”
There was something in his voice… Fear? Nervousness? “Of course… Would you like to come in?” I asked, opening the door farther so he could see the hotel room.
James looked around, his eyes flitting from me to the camera in the hall. Fear, definitely fear. He knows something. “Um… That would be nice.”
He walked past me into the room and I turned, locking the door inconspicuously. “Coffee?” I offered, pivoting on my heel and walking over to the miniature kitchen in the corner.
There was a short pause before his response. Distracted. I didn’t even have to look to know that. “Oh… Um, yes.”
Now the order of business was to figure out what he was distracted by. I turned quickly and saw him searching the room with a frantic gaze. He’s looking for something. Anything. But he’s out of his bounds already. He didn’t plan for this. Idiot. You always have a plan.
I walked up to the boy, and handed him his coffee. “Now.” I said, sitting down across from him. “What did you want to talk about?”
He took a good while to find the words he needed to explain himself. “It strikes me…” He began. “That without you, nudging her in the right direction, Mrs. Labhart wouldn’t have said half of those things. I mean you were borderline badgering the witness.”
I leaned back in my chair and folded my hands together. “And your point?”
“I’m just saying that her account of the story was very vague. You suggested things, and she affirmed them.”
I honestly had no idea where this was going, so I just slowly nodded, waiting for him to explain.
James took a sip of his coffee before continuing. “I’m a psychology major at the University of New England.” So college age, maybe early twenties. “And I just wrote a report on how memories can be created with the right pushes. Especially when the subject doesn’t remember much.” He explained. “A man was made to believe that he saw a well known terrorist in a war when actually, he didn’t, he just believed he did.”
I watched him with interest. “Funny. I thought that you were all idiots.” I muttered. “You’re right. Mrs. Labhart didn’t see Francis Elkin at the Ford Motor Company headquarters. She just thought she did.” I took a deep breath. “In fact, she saw me.”
The kid jumped up, his chair grating against the floor, and backed up from me. “Oh don’t worry.” I said. “I’m not going to shoot you or anything.” I said nonchalantly. “Too loud, the neighbors would hear. No, your death will be much slower than that, I’m afraid.”
James backed up, his eyes wide with terror. “Look, I’m just a kid, I…” He trailed off in a fit of coughs, grasping his throat as he stumbled back into a wall. The boy doubled over and collapsed to the floor. The poison wouldn’t take much longer. “Please…” He breathed, eyes rolling up into the back of his head as he clawed his way towards me. His hands grasped my shoe for a moment before he stopped moving, only twitching occasionally.
I put my earbuds back in and walked to the door, leaving the dead college student on the floor.
Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
They had published me into the newspaper. Publicity, now that I really loved. They had gotten my new tie and everything in the photos. I sat there in the coffee shop, casually reading the article they had written on me. Apparently they had put me down as some sort of hero. I wondered at the fact that they weren’t even the least bit curious about why the man was so, unmistakably mortified.
The waitress walked up, took a look at the paper, the picture, and then at my face. “Bit narcissistic to read your own newspaper articles init, Mr. Palmer?” She asked, putting the tea on the table.
Her words snapped me out of my revelry. I looked up at her and took a quick assessment. British… No, South African. Caucasian. Heterosexual. Single. Twenty… three… Going to college in town. I took a sip of my tea before answering. “You have to keep up with how people view you, darling.” I explained, smiling slightly. “Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.”
She seemed to find that funny. “They said you were a monster. Inhuman.”
“For the way you treated that man.”
“Ah.” She regarded me for a moment. “What’s your name?”
She smiled. “Alex.”
Grinning, I placed a foot on the chair opposite me and pushed it out. “Would you like a seat?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Palmer-”
“Call me John.” I said quickly.
She smiled and looked down, something of a blush hinted on her cheeks. “I’m… I’m sorry John, but I’ve got waiting to do.”
“Your shifts ending in ten minutes and you’ve got class. Just say you left early to get there on time.”
She regarded me with surprised. “How-“
“I’m a lawyer.” I responded. “Now would you like to take a seat or are you going to ignore that wonderfully smooth way of offering you a chair?”
She laughed and slid into the seat. “How old are you?”
“Twenty-four.” I said.
She seemed surprised. “I imagined you as older. Especially cuz of your hair.”
I began to reach up instinctively, but stopped myself. It was silver, but a lot of people mistook it for white. “Well thank you for that. I can’t help my hair.”
She chuckled. “No… I like it.”
I raised an eyebrow.
She blushed. “It looks nice up close.”
I leaned forward a little, watching her with slight interest. “And why are you still single, if I may ask?”
The girl stared at me in confusion and bewilderment, and then a wave of comprehension washed over her. “Oh.. Right… Lawyer…”
She looked down. “I had someone… But… He wasn’t very nice.”
There was a pause as I took a sip. “Some people don’t understand they’re lucky.”
Alex smiled. “Lucky?”
“I should think so.”
She blushed. “And why would John Palmer, the famous lawyer, think that?”
I reached up, brushing a hand over my jaw, feeling the scruff there. “Because, like me, you’re more than meets the eye.”
“And I think you should join me for dinner tonight.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
I smiled, my most genuine one. “Yes, that’s what I’m implying.”
Alex put a hand on mine. “I would like that very much.”
I pushed Alex against the wall, my lips against hers, running one of my hands through her hair and putting the other on her hip. To her… This might be the first time she felt like this. We both fell back onto the bed, kissing each other. She drew away for a moment, her hair cascading over my face. She was blushing furiously. “Y’know. I don’t usually do this with people I just met.” She said.
I smiled and nodded. “Yes. I know.”
Alex scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Of course you do. Is there anything you don’t know about me?”
“Oh yes.” I said, grinning mischievously. “I have no idea what’ll happen if we keep this up.”
She matched my grin. “Well why don’t we find out?”
I straightened my tie, watching Alex on the bed, her brown hair lazily strewn all over her face. She was still asleep, and boy, she slept like a rock. I think I could have shot off a gun at her and she wouldn’t have woken up. There was a slight tug in my mind to wonder what it would be like to be her. Ordinary, happy, ready to face the world. She must be so… Bored all the time. And I honestly felt sorry for her.
I found myself staring at her before I realized what I was supposed to be doing. Shaking myself, I put on my jacket and then pulled over a sticky note and wrote:
I’m heading out. Take care.
When I was done, I put the note on the door and left her in my apartment.
I stood at the light, my hat in my hands. I reached up and put it on, then tightened my bowtie and walked across the street. I actually had enough money to buy a large place here, but it always seemed to boring to live in one place. I loved to move around.
The other people, they must lead such boring lives. They’re in an apartment complex, struggling to keep a little kid in a good neighborhood, arguing with their wife, trying to get enough money. I smiled slightly at the thought.
It didn’t take long for me to reach the Empire State building, what with all the walking. I looked up, taking in the view. Beautiful place. The woman at the counter didn’t believe I was here for a business trip, seeing as I looked like a hipster, with my bowtie and cardigan. I eventually had to give her my card with JOHN PALMER written across it for her to believe me.
The woman sighed and then stood. “Follow me.”
I slipped my hands into my pockets and followed her, absentmindedly whistling as I walked. A few moments later, she showed me into the elevator. I raised an eyebrow. “Coming with?” I asked. She shook her head and I nodded, pressing the button without another word.
The door closed and I stared ascending rapidly. I grinned as I went up and ran a hand through my hair, combing it over to the side. This deal would give me the resources I needed to wipe John Palmer from any records and begin my anonymity. The door opened and I strode out.
Sunlight poured in from under doorways and numbers cycled past as I moved forward. 300, 308, 324. I slowly opened the door to the conference room.
I paused, and then tilted my head. “Well that’s new,” I thought, crossing my arms.
Four dead bodies littered the room. A man lay on the table, a gunshot wound in his shoulder. Another man had been shot three times in the chest, and another lay with his neck at an odd angle. A man lay in the corner, a pen sticking out of his throat. This one had died of blood loss, there was a crazed look in his eyes and a gun clutched in his hand.
The average person would asses that the man had shot the others, stabbed in the chest in the commotion, and died of blood loss not to long after.
Except that’s not what happened. I kneeled down over the fourth man. His eyes were fearful, not crazed. I walked up to the other three and looked at their wounds. The two with the bullets were shot at from the back, not the front, and the man would have trouble trying to break anyone’s neck. I could see it.
So someone else had set this up.
A phone ringed on the table. Blocked. I picked it up and answered it.
“So, how was it done?” Female, midwest accent, most likely caucasian
I paused. “Sorry?”
The voice sighed. “How were the people killed?”
I took a breath, uncomfortable with this, but bought into it.. “Two men, shot from the back when someone walked into the room. The other ran up, and,” I paused for a moment. “Dislocated vertebrae. The fourth man was stabbed in the throat, died of blood loss not long after.”
There was a pause. “Good afternoon Mr. Palmer.”
I couldn’t help but smile slightly. “Well hello yourself.” I walked up to the window. “May I ask your name?”
There was a chuckle, but no answer.
I sighed and turned to survey the room once more. “May I ask why?”
“To get your attention of course.”
“I usually relish in something like that, but now I’m slightly disturbed.”
She laughed. “You really shouldn’t be. I’m your biggest fan.”
The voice on the radio breathed deeply. “Something like that.”
I turned to the window again. “Oh, I get it. So what did I do? Murder your brother? Your boyfriend? Bankrupt your father?”
There was a moment. She was collecting her thoughts. “All the above, I guess.”
“Guessing is a terrible thing. If you guess, bad things can happen.” I searched out the window, scanning the buildings.
“But sometimes guessing can yield results. The police are gonna guess when they find you. They’re going to guess that you killed those men. Then they’re going to take you away for questioning.”
I frowned as I thought about the implications of what she had said. It was true that the police, not finding a gun on me or gloves, or my fingerprints on the gun that had killed the men, would not be able to convict me for anything. The required background check would be sufficient enough to break through my alias, however.
She was forcing me into being on the run. I smiled at the cleverness as I pondered the situation. “Oh that’s good.” I said with a smile. “I stay, my cover is broken. I run, I look suspicious.”
There was no response and I realized with a start that she had hung up. I sighed and looked around the room. Police would be here soon, unless of course, she was bluffing, but I doubt it. A gunshot wouldn’t go unnoticed in New York.
I turned and stalked back towards the elevator. I needed to catch one that the police hadn’t and I needed to get out of here as soon as possible. I pressed the call button and looked around as people walked past, unaware at the destruction that lay in room 324.
It seems I had spoken too soon as the door opened just in time to hear a scream echoing from down the hall. I slid into the elevator and nodded to the operator. “First floor. If you could manage it, I do have to be somewhere quickly.”
He nodded and I leaned back against the wall as we started to descend. I bit my lip, thinking about a plan in case I walked out of the elevator into a group of police. The phone next to the operator rang and he reached for it. I shot him a warning look and stepped forward.
“Don’t pick up that phone, kid,” I said calmly. He looked back at me, a look of confusion covering his face. I smiled. “Seriously, just focus on getting me where I need to go.”
He looked at the phone. “It’s really no trouble, the elevator won’t slow down at all.”
“Speaking of trouble, it would be a good idea to stay away from that phone.” I snapped. The boy lowered his hand and stood silently. He would talk about that later, but honestly it wasn’t too much of a problem.