Cain was leaning back in a chair, with his feet up on a stool. He listened to what Victory had to say, and then his jaw dropped several inches.
"You're going out of town?" he asked when his jaw became functional again.
"Yup," Victory said.
Cain looked absolutely astonished.
"Tonight?" he said, getting up from his chair, and looking intently at his friend.
The date was October 13. It was also, as it happened, the date on which Victory had been born, many years ago.
"Yes. Come on, Adrian, it’s my birthday and I’m going to do something," Victory said, getting defensive, "What's the problem?"
"Jesus Christ, Vic," Cain said, covering one eye with his palm, "Tonight's the night, man."
"The night," Cain reiterated.
"Adrian," Victory said, his patience slowly dripping away, "Would you tell me what the hell you're talking about?"
"It was supposed to be a surprise, Vic. I'd been planning it for weeks. I even pulled every string I had at city hall to get a curfew set for tonight. Oh, God, Vic, do you have any idea how hard it is to get everyone off the streets?"
"Why do you want everyone off the streets?" Victory asked, a little suspiciously.
"The Fellowship was gonna get ahold of a few SEPTA buses, and prowl the streets looking for vagrants. Then we were gonna offer them all rides out of Philly. It was part of my whole plan to get the homeless out of this city! It was going to be a birthday present to you."
"And you didn't tell me? Cain, you son of a bitch! Do you have any clue just how stupid this idea is? No bum's going to want to ride out of town. And eventually it will just turn violent when the Fellows decide to make the bums get out of town. Oh, Cain, you didn't think this through at all, did you?"
Cain could tell that Victory was pissed. He only called the man by his surname when he was really annoyed with him.
"Au contraire, mon frere," Cain said, with a jolly smile, "I've thought this through very much. I've only chosen the Fellows I trust implicitly, the biggest pacifists in our ranks, to do the scrounging and the bussing. I made certain there would be no fights. And it was supposed to be a birthday present for you. We'd go out on the town, get the bums out of here, and then come back here to celebrate our victory - heh heh - over unemployment with some champagne."
"Well, I really wish you would've told me!" Victory said, "I probably could've talked you out of this crazy scheme before it was too late. And if I'd known, Dina would've known, and she wouldn't have invited me out to the Poconos tonight. And I'm still convinced this crackpot idea is a little less than half-baked."
"Oh, all right! It was just a pipe dream anyway. We'll return all the buses. I'll put it off until you're back. Don't worry your pretty little head," Cain said, and he vigorously rubbed Victory's hair in affection, "Enjoy yourself at the Poconos."
"Don't touch me," Victory said, detaching Cain's hand from his scalp.
"You're a complete homophobe, you know that?"
"What?" exclaimed Victory.
"What if I told you I was gay?"
"No," Cain said, smiling, "But I saw the way you looked at me just now when you thought I was. You hate gays, I can see it in your eyes. Oh, come on, Victory, homosexuals work just as hard in this world of ours as heterosexuals do. You've got to be more open-minded, old friend, like me!"
Victory gave a derisive snort and walked out. When he was gone, Duke came out from the back room.
“I thought you knew he was going out tonight, Adrian,” the German bodyguard said.
“I did,” Cain confirmed.
“Then why did you just tell him?”
“Forget about it, Duke,” Cain said sharply, “You don’t understand. You don’t need to understand. Stop trying to act like a brain, which you’re not, and act like what you are: a fist.”
Duke nodded subserviently, although his feelings were clearly hurt. With an inward sigh, Cain realized he would have to recement the brutish oaf’s loyalty with a few kind words.
“I’m sorry for saying that,” Cain said, putting as much false sincerity into his voice as he could, “It’s just that Victory doesn’t share my vision. He was a good man for starting the Fellowship, but he’s always thought too small. I’ve got plans in mind which he just wouldn’t understand. So you see why I had to lie to him?”
Duke nodded dumbly.
“Good,” he said, giving Duke a light, friendly punch in the jaw, “Now let’s go. We’ve got a long night’s work ahead of us.”
As they walked outside, Ben and Annie joined them.
“I hope you’ll appreciate the trouble I went through to spring you two from jail,” Cain said as they headed towards the buses, “But I’ll do anything for my loyal followers.”
The two nodded grimly.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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