Friday, March 19, 2010

Chapter 10

There aren’t very many things to like about airports; they’re crowded, they’re noisy, there are all sorts of little children touching things…It’s just not very appealing to the senses. I had never liked them, not since my one trip to one when I was ten. We were going to see my grandparents in San Fransisco, which never happened. They called my mother right before we got to the Salt Lake Airport, claiming they had ‘an emergency come up.’ My mother didn’t take the news well, but she put on a happy face and took Liv and I to the little pizza place just inside the monstrosity. I was ten, and yet even I was too scared to touch anything.
I knew I’d never be able to ship my bike across the country with me, so I gave it to a homeless man on the side of the road. I left him with a hundred bucks and a full tank, and he gave me the most sincere thank you of my lifetime. I know that doesn’t sound much like me, but I’d had one hell of a week. Maybe it was time to turn over a new leaf. Big mistake. I walked the rest of the way, my bag slung over my shoulder and my thoughts lost to darkness.
As I walked in, I saw everything in the Chicago Airport I remembered about the one in Salt Lake, only about ten times dirtier. A couple decades of financial decay and layoffs will do that to a place. I looked around, thinking how little I wanted to fly ten-thousand feet above the ground. At least I could run somewhere on the ground. I saw my reflection in one of the huge mirrors along the edges of the huge room. I looked about as green as moss on the bottom of the ocean. I handed the clerk my ticket, and she somehow managed to smile at me.
“First time flyer?” she asked.
“Yep. First time thinker?” I responded. She gasped and gave me a very rude look.
“Gate 13. Last gate on your left, asshole.”
I laughed to myself as I walked to Gate 13. I knew I was being a jerk, but I had just lost everything good in my life for the millionth time. I checked my pockets to make sure I had my money and wallet (empty, mind you) and my one picture of Lena. If it was the last thing I did, I’d see her again. My little niece meant doing anything, working for anyone, becoming anything they wanted me to be, so long as I got one more Lena hug. Someday. Someday…
When the obnoxious public servant announced boarding for Seattle, I had a very bad feeling. To this day, I don’t know what it was, but something was off. I shook it off as nerves and got in line. My legs were shakey, palms were sweaty, and my mind was racing. What could Raiden possibly need me for? He seemed like a man who would have someone for any problem that arose a lot earlier in his candidacy for world domination. I was interested to finally meet the man, but I was very skeptical nonetheless.
I squeezed my way down the aisles, trying to get to my seat in the back. At least Trystix had put me away from the general public in the back of the plane. I guess you could call it a last favor. I had an extremely hard time feeling grateful. I sat down and closed my eyes. In a few hours, I would be in Washington. I would be ready to start my new life…again…
It took a while, but the plane took off. I tried to relax and enjoy a Coke along the way. Unfortunately, being a mile above the rest of the world doesn’t make it easy to enjoy the simple things. I tried counting the people in the plane, but I could never get an accurate count. I kept getting distracted when the flight attendants asked if I needed anything. It took all of my self-control not to punch them in the face and ask for some quiet time. As a matter of fact, I think I was about to when the world turned upside down.
For some reason I’ll never know, the plane lurched forward. Lights started flashing, people started screaming, the whole nine yards. Stuff started flying out of the compartments; carts flew down the aisles, splashing Cokes and alcohol all over the place. It was incredibly annoying. I grabbed hold of my armrests, made sure I was buckled in, and screamed like a little girl. Go ahead. Judge me. Let’s see you hold your tongue when you’re plummeting to a fire death. Needless to say, I was going down in flames.
The next few minutes felt like hours, hours like days, days like years. I don’t remember the crash, just the flashing lights and the body bags. I don’t know how I survived, but I knew I was not in very good shape. I was gently put in a neck brace and ushered in to an ambulance for a fun ride to the hospital. Let me tell you this; if you have a choice, skip the plane crash. You feel like hell afterwards. I was told I was unconscious for almost a week after my little ride to Hell and back. I awoke to an obnoxious beeping sound that apparently meant my heart was beating, and a TV special to benefit the victims of Flight 689. Kind of the American public, or should I say, the United States of Trystix and Raiden, to pay my hospital bill. I found some humor in that, but the laughing hurt like hell.
Doctors and nurses kept coming in and checking on me, asking if there John Doe needed anything. They had me on so many medicines and painkillers I couldn’t really understand what they were asking. Let me reemphasize something; I hate feeling out of control, and neither drugs nor alcohol have never appealed to me. This made it doubly difficult to stay in bed. I caught up on my soap operas though.
It took me almost two months from the crash to finally get the OK to check out of the white hell known as a hospital in Colorado Springs. I had been lucky enough not to sustain much more than a few fractured ribs and some dislocated vertebrae. The blackouts I seemed to keep having are what kept me in the hospital as long as I was. The doctors were worried about brain damage. I found that amusing, seeing as I thought of myself as damaged before the fiery end to Flight 689. I turned on the TV as I was gathering my things and preparing to leave. Somehow, someway, my bomber jacket had survived with all of my money and possessions in tact. I guess I still had some luck left.
I was looking at my picture of Lena, a little charred and bent from the wreck, when I heard Trystix’s voice on the TV. He was talking about the crash like it was something he actually gave a damn about. I knew his fake sympathy voice all too well; he used it on my sister enough.
“What happened to those brave souls should never be forgotten. This act of cowardice from my enemies will not go unpunished. I know who you are, and you will pay. You are the Nemesis of this great nation.” He now had my undivided attention. He continued:
“Although he was only my brother by marriage, the death of Jared Donovan will always burn in my soul as an act of terrorism against my family. He, along with the other hundred-fifty passengers, are national heroes. We will remember you, brother.”
Now this was interesting…Trystix thought I was dead…That meant Raiden wouldn’t be expecting me anymore…Unless they were behind it. Trystix had said I was a liability, and I had basically carved a death threat for him in his own tower. The more I thought of it, the more it made sense. It got me out of his way, and yet appeased Liv with closure. Brilliant in a way, except it had one fatal flaw; I wasn’t dead. I would not die. Punishment was still coming for Trystix. I now had the gift of being a spirit, a ghost, and I could make him pay without mercy. But I still thought I would check out Raiden. Perhaps he had a small investment in my death as well. Only time would tell, and now Jared Donovan could rest forever. Nemesis had risen.

Chapter 9

The days that followed were like a hurricane; fast, furious, almost violent in nature. Reporters and cameras flocked to Tryst Tower, all in hopes of getting a look at the nation’s newest savior. Trystix enjoyed the attention, and constantly gave empowering speeches in the main lobby of the building. He was on every channel at least once a day, promising salvation. People wanted to know who he was, how he lived, and who was a part of his life. They shot periodic interviews with Liv, but not nearly as often as they filmed Trystix playing with his little girl. I, of course, was not involved in any filming or other forms of photography. Trystix said he wouldn’t want me to get recognized by any of his former ‘clients.’
Through all of this, I began to think about the details of what had just happened. I couldn’t believe the sheer amount of money Trystix had procured in a matter of days. A half-trillion dollars is a lot of money, even for someone like him. Maybe he’d been stashing money in a mattress somewhere. I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected some form deceit was involved. There almost always was with Trystix. Then again, I’d never been much of a trusting person, so maybe I was just being paranoid. Maybe.
I was forced to stay in my apartment for the majority of the next month or so. It was incredibly irritating. I hadn’t been that bored since I was in prison. Hell, for that matter, it was probably worse. At least in prison I didn’t have to listen to Trystix babble on and on about ‘progress’ or other pretty little theories his press team told him to say. Worse still, I couldn’t spend time with Lena.
However, I was extremely intrigued by this Micah Raiden. When Trystix wasn’t on TV, Raiden was. He was a very tall man; probably the tallest I’d ever seen. He wore a suit everywhere, usually a shade of green or blue. His blue eyes had a cool threat to them, almost like a wolf staring down his prey. He had short blonde hair, a strong-set jaw, and an enormous and goofy-looking smile. He spoke confidently about his relationship with Trystix and the plans they had for the nation. Where Trystix had grown to fortune in a law firm and investing in real estate, he apparently earned his money in electric power and health care. He didn’t have a family, very much a lone wolf in most respects. That could be why I enjoyed watching and listening to him. I could relate to that. But, at the same time, he had his own mystique and charisma about him. He was likable; like an old friend. He really had a way with his words. Where Trystix was smooth and slippery like a salesman, Raiden was eloquent and soft-spoken. I almost believed him when he said they had a plan that would benefit everyone. Almost.
It was odd to me that Raiden never left his mansion in Seattle. Though Trystix didn’t like to leave his home base either, he did travel a bit. It was peculiar that they didn’t ever stand for a picture together or appear on TV together. Something to solidify their business arrangement. But Raiden stayed in the west, and Trystix spent most of his time in his ‘war room’ he had been secretly building on the thirteenth floor of Tryst Tower. Apparently, Raiden and Trystix didn’t want to share the spotlight with each other.
Liv came to visit me one evening, looking like she was on the brink of a breakdown. Her eyes were puffy, like she hadn’t stopped crying in days. She had a very empty look in her eyes, as if her soul had left her body like a snake sheds its skin. She was carrying a small black portfolio tight against her chest. From the look of it, she was dead-set on something.
“What have you done, Jared?”
“Nice to see you too, sis. What do you mean?”
“I know what you’ve been doing all this time. I know about the buildings; all of them. I know about the man who died.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Uh-oh. This was not going to end well.
“Don’t lie to me! What is wrong with you? You’ve been to rehab! You’ve been to prison! Regan took a chance on you because you were my brother! How could you? How can you even get up in the morning? How can you even look at yourself in the mirror? How could you?” She was crying hysterically by this time.
“It’s all in this file! Regan left it out on his desk, and Lena found it and brought it to me. She thought it was a story!”
“Let me see it.”
I think it bothered her that I barely changed demeanor despite her anger. She scowled at me, then finally handed it to me. I opened it up, looking at everything at once. There was a log of addresses and times kept on one page, looking an awful lot like my handwriting. I’ve never been one to plan ahead, let alone write anything down. I had never even thought of writing down my plans like this, so that was definitely odd. Another page had a layout of streetlights, another had blueprints of all the buildings that I had destroyed. There were even more pages full of incriminating evidence, but I had never seen any of it before. I had no idea where any of this had come from, and my confusion and suspicion continued growing as I flipped through the file. Honestly, if I had had any of that information when I had set the fires, I could have been much more efficient. Apparently, I was being set up for something.
“Liv, I swear I have never seen any of this. I don’t know where this came from, or why Trystix would have something like this. Maybe he was just looking at the blueprints to try and get a feel for the building before he bought it. This is nothing I have ever seen before.”
“So you are saying you had nothing to do with the fires?” She didn’t believe a word I said.
“Liv! I told you have never seen any of this! Do you seriously think I’m that stupid? That I would risk going back to prison? That I would give up everything you and Trystix have given me? That I would risk my relationship with Lena?”
“I don’t know, Jared. But something is wrong. Something is very wrong. Regan never told me about his plans to buy the East. He never tells me anything anymore. And now you’re lying to me! I can’t stand it! There is something going on and I think you are in on it. Why else would he come see you in the middle of the night all the time? What, exactly, do you do for him, Jared? What is your real job?” She was still not convinced.
“I have been working down the street as a real estate assistant. He set me up with one of his lawyers named Noah Smith. It’s terrible, for the record.”
“Jared…I don’t believe it. You really did set those fires!”
“What? You have got to be kidding me! I’ve worked there for almost five years!”
“Noah Smith died from a stroke shortly after I moved here. He was my supervisor when I started working for Regan.”
“What…no…you don’t believe…Are you serious?” She nodded. She looked like her heart had just stopped beating.
“Jared, I want you to leave. I don’t want you in my home or anywhere near my daughter. I won’t tell anyone what you’ve done. It would break our mother’s heart to know the truth of what her son has become. I want you gone.”
“You…I…what? You can’t make me just leave everything! I can‘t leave!”
“Everything you have here is a lie. You’ve been lying to me from the start, haven’t you? My daughter needs good role models like Regan to grow up around. He knew what you were up to. He found you out, didn‘t he?”
I ignored her question. I couldn’t break the news to her that her beloved husband was the source of all of this. Apparently, it didn’t occur to her that I wasn’t the only monster living in her home. It hadn’t dawned on her that Trystix was the one who set me up with my fake job in the first place. Somehow, she had decided I was the only one at fault. But something wouldn’t let me tell her the truth.
“Just leave, Jared. I’ll cover for you. Take the file. Take all the money Regan paid you. Take your clothes, your motorcycle, whatever you need. Just go.” She started to cry as she turned and walked away.
“Just go. I don‘t want you in my home anymore. I love you, but I am so disappointed with you.”
I spent the remainder of the night packing. I wondered how all of this came about. I couldn’t figure out how Trystix had managed to mimic my handwriting, nail down exact dates and times, let alone find the blueprints to buildings older than Trystix himself. As I was packing my bomber jacket, I noticed something sticking out of one of the pockets. I opened it, and couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a check for ten-thousand dollars from Trystix in it, along with a business card for Micah Raiden. I pulled out the card and turned it over.


Sorry how things have turned out. You are a liability to me now. Go see Raiden. He is expecting you. He has need of your ’skills’. There is a plane ticket to Seattle taped under your bed. Good luck. Never return to Chicago.


I read it over a few times. This confirmed my suspicions that Trystix hadn’t just left the file on his desk for no reason. My anger rose to a near fever-pitch. He would pay for this. He had just taken Lena out of my life. He had just stolen my small piece of sanity from me. I shoved the money in my pocket and threw the letter and business card on my bed. I collected the last of my things and headed out to the elevator. I stopped midway across the room, and slowly looked back at my latest residence. I took out my lighter, my soul, and set it down on a table next to my favorite chair. I decided I’d leave a message just for Trystix.
I reached in my bag and pulled out a small knife. I dropped to the floor and began carving my farewell to my sister’s husband.

You have made a mistake. You have set fire to a bridge that should never burn. Know this; you have a price to pay.

Your Nemesis

I wiped the sweat from my brow and walked to the elevator. As I descended down the hundreds of floors, I again imagined the tower on fire. I smiled to myself, as I walked to where I parked my motorcycle. I strapped my bag on the back, and rode off in to the night. The world may be struggling, but my world had just ended. I would have vengeance. But it would be on my time. I began thinking that perhaps Raiden wasn’t happy with just the West. Trystix had to pay for his sins.