the shadows where I stood smoking, I watched five thugs follow a
burly older man out of the Terminal Bar and into the parking lot.
I'd been inside earlier, letting coffee nurse me through
the few dark hours before my train would leave, but I had been smoking
undisturbed and staring up at the full spring moon for a couple
minutes, wondering whether I wanted to go back inside and start
Now it looked like I'd get to watch one instead, because
the old-timer had reached the circle of light under the parking
lot's one functional streetlight.
He stopped and turned, and I recognized the stance
and expression ...
The expression was the one you get when you start
a better fight than you even wanted, and the stance was the one
that says, win or lose, you intend to finish it.
The thugs silently fanned out to flank him at the
edge of the circle.
I took off my glasses and stared. As I watched, the
old man looked at each in turn and, one by one they froze. The color
ran out of their faces, then out of their clothing (which had mostly
run to basic, practical-if-predictable bad-hat black) and kept running
until they were faint translucent, then transparent, then gone.
The old man dropped the fighting stance, and his expression
went from bellicose to blank.
I put my glasses back on and walked toward him, badge-case
out, saying, "Sir? I need for you to remain where you are while
"Who the ball-busting blazes are you, bub? Don't involve
yourself in this, officer. Walk away. I work for ..."
"I know who you work for, I know who you're supposed to say
you work for, I know where you live, where you drink your nightly
beers ... I know more than I'd like to know about you, Mr. Hodde.
"I also know that those five goons posed no threat to a man
of your abilities. You could easily have taken them out, but that
would have meant your instant departure, and we wouldn't have been
able to have this intimate and informal chat."
He glared, jaw clenched in hatred.
I continued: "Maybe you'd like ... you'd like to make a denying
retort to that now, but you can't, can you, sir? You shouldn't have
tried to shut down the experiment on your own, against orders. You
particularly shouldn't have tried to disappear the other participants.
Oh, not simply because their murders were wrong, though Lordissa
knows that would've stopped anyone but a sociopath like yourself
I could see him struggling for words, there in the cool March night
breeze. The sight stoked my rage, warming my heart.
I continued: "Really, the reason you shouldn't have killed
anyone at all, much less those in your care, is much more concrete
than any ethical or moral abstraction your group wasn't the
only experiment, or the first, or even the most successful ...
"Ours was. The outfit you work for answers to a higher authority,
and that higher authority answers to the outfit I work for. Until
now, you had no need to know."
I continued to hold him there, silent and immobile, unable to flee
or scream, while I played back the dying terror and pain of his
victims from my mind into his fear and pain centers.
I took off my shades, concentrated a little, and all the color
ran out of his features. I concentrated a little more, until he
had softly and silently vanished away, like the five thugs I'd sent
along before him.
I took a breath, pocketed my badge and walked back into darkness.
As I vanished, grinning, like a Cheshire calico, I lit my pipe,
chortled, and thought: Call me Boojum.