I learned a long time ago that intentions matter. It doesn’t matter much if they are good or bad; they all end up the same way. I heard somewhere that good intentions pave the road to Hell. I took to that a long time ago, but I had only just realized that the ill intentions are ground up in the gravel of that same road. And let me tell you, I had some dark intentions in mind for my visit to Chicago. Hell wouldn’t hold a candle to what I was about to do. I think Johnny knew it, too. Periodically, he would look at me, sigh, then shake his head. It’s a funny feeling to be judged by someone who helped put you under house arrest. But Johnny had found his way out of this chess game. Lucky bastard.
We arrived in Chicago two days later, tired and craving anything but a cheap hamburger. But there would be time for rest and food later; I had preliminary work to do. Similarly to my previous trip to the Windy City, I had to find a base camp to operate from. Johnny said Stu’s house would still work, but I figured Trystix would have eyes on it by now. My old buddy Vic would have mentioned it before he became target practice for Raiden and his men that day on the rooftop. I had to be somewhere close to the Tower, but far enough away that I wouldn’t attract notice. Not yet, anyway. I would do it right this time, or I would die trying.
Johnny suggested a hotel about half a mile away from the Tower. Better yet, it was inside the district that Trystix owned. It made for a nice little place to work from that was right under his nose. I was hesitant at first, until Johnny mentioned the owners of the hotel were a ‘cash-only business.’ That had underground crime written all over it. Either that, or some sort of resistance group. It didn’t really matter to me which. Either group meant I would find a way to fit in. I’d never had trouble fitting in with the other scum of the earth. I would be fine among the creatures of the night. Any enemy of the city would be a friend of mine, well-intentioned or not, so long as they stayed out of my way. I told Johnny to head in that direction.
“I’m gonna need a car, Johnny. Maybe not right away, but eventually.” I said.
“I know, I know. I thought about that. Why don’t you just borrow one from Trystix?” He said.
“What do you mean?” I could tell he had something good in mind.
“Well, his little museum is only a couple blocks from the hotel. I don’t know if he ever changed his system over there. He might not have had time yet, with the funerals and all.”
I flinched at Johnny’s words, but didn’t acknowledge the pain they brought me.
“I hadn’t thought of that. I like the way you’re thinking, Johnny. Use his own wheels and let him pay for the ride. Not bad.” I smiled at Johnny. He gave me a sad smile in return.
“It’s all right, you know. To be torn up inside. To be angry. To feel pain. To be human. ”
“That’s where you’re wrong, my friend. I’m not human anymore. I can‘t afford that luxury. Your boy Raiden taught me that.”
“I never condoned it, you know. You’re only a man, Jared. He can’t make you into anything you don’t want to be. You can turn back; you don’t have to do this.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, old friend. I don’t have to do this; I need to do this. I owe it to my sister, to my niece. Trystix is corrupt and you know it. He deserves everything I am bringing him and more. This is my salvation; I don’t want to be human if I have to let his sins go unpunished. Humanity, morality, a conscience; I don’t want any of it anymore.”
“I believe you. That’s what scares the hell out of me. There’s the hotel; there, on the corner.” He sighed again and pointed.
The hotel looked like it was abandoned. It was only a two-story building, painted a rusted red color. It was run down, beat up, and looked like it was barely standing. No cars were parked in the small lot outside of it, and no people were visible around the building. I looked to the upper floors, at the broken windows covered by a piece of wood and steel grating. If it came down to it, there would be no daring window escapes. No big deal; I wouldn’t need one. I didn’t plan on being tracked down before my job was done anyway. The building was decrepit, but it would fill the need I had. I looked over at Johnny with an eyebrow raised and smiled.
“You chose the worst place in town for me, didn’t you?” I asked, trying not to laugh.
“I thought you’d feel at home here. You and the other vermin.” He chuckled. He pulled into the vacant parking lot and stopped. He looked over at me and grinned again. “You’re a good man, Jared. Don’t forget that. Whether you want it or not, you’re still human. Do what you’ve got to do, but remember yourself. I’ll never forget that look on your face when I first saw you playing with your niece. Hold on to that. And I hope you send that bastard Trystix to Hell. I’ll be watching for the fireworks.”
I looked him in the eyes a moment, then reached across the car and hugged him. He was surprised by the gesture; for that matter, so was I.
“I hate your guts, you know.” I said.
“I know, Jared. Goodbye, my friend.” He returned.
I reached into the back seat and grabbed the backpack Raiden had sent for me. I climbed out of the car, waving one last time to Johnny as he drove away. I turned towards my new home and walked towards the small wooden door. It swung open before I could reach it, and I had three men with guns aimed at my face as a welcoming party.
“Wrong address, friend. Beat it.” One of the men said. He was a little bigger than the other two, his dark skin covering a broad structure of muscle and bad leather clothes. He looked angry at my trespassing, but I’m used to that kind of look.
“Are you sure? I’m usually so good at these things...Maybe you can get your gun out of my face and show me where the real grownups are..? I said.
“Oh really. All right, Small-Time Big-Mouth. I’ll point you in the right direction. After I put a bullet in your head.” He said. His two buddies laughed. This was going well. I’m so good at making friends, aren’t I? I smiled and walked directly in front of him and put my forehead up to the barrel of his pistol.
“Cute. Real cute. A tiny man with a gun talks like he has the guts to do it. Come on, then. I dare you. Show me you’re a man; show me you’re a badass. Do it, cowboy.” I said.
His smirk dissipated off his face, replaced by a look of concern and distress. He looked to his buddies, but they looked as lost as he was. He was sweating now; looking a little shaky. He hesitated another few seconds, then lowered his gun. His boys followed suit.
“You crazy, boy. You crazy.” He said, shaking his head. “What’s your name, devil?”
“Devil. I like that. Let’s go with Devil for now…You got room for the Devil in your little toy box, here?” I asked.
“That depends, Devil. What kind of hell can you raise? What kind of cash you got?” He asked.
“The green kind. All I want is a room. You can raise your own hell. I’ve got my business; all you need to know is that I’m bad company. You don’t want to know what I’m here to do.” I pulled out a wad of cash and threw it in his direction. It hit him in the chest and hit the ground, scattering everywhere. The big man was stunned, but his buddies stooped down and started gathering it.
“All right, Devil. I respect that. You mind yours; we mind ours. My name is KJ, that’s Riv and the little twerp there is Lance. You shout at one of us if you need something, Devil. But you mind your own business, yes? We’ll be friends, as long as you keep the dollars coming. Top of the stairs, to the right. You are a lucky fool I don’t kill you, man.”
“Oh, I know KJ. You wouldn’t freeze unless you meant to, right?” I smiled and winked at him, walking through the door. I continued up the stairs and stopped. I turned back and grinned down at KJ.
“By the way, that gun of yours works better when the safety’s off. Just a thought.”