Saturday, August 27, 2011
“Oh shit. What’d you do now?” Johnny said as he opened the door.
I smiled grimly and shook my head. Johnny moved aside and I stepped into his home. I walked to a couch and slumped down in it, staring at the old TV across from me. I was surprised to see it covered in dust. Apparently, Johnny’s plan to watch it til he died hadn’t come to fruition.
“Well, you might as well spill. I thought I’d seen the last of you back at the hotel.”
“I would have loved to leave it there, Johnny. I really would have, except something’s come up.”
“With you, something always does. It’s good to see you, Jared. What’s going on?”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the flyer, handing it to Johnny. Johnny looked at it a moment, then started laughing.
“That’s a terrible picture of you!”
“Tell me about it.” I smiled in spite of myself.
“I wondered how long it would take him to admit you weren’t dead. What’s wrong? You’re careful. I doubt anyone will find you.” Johnny said.
“True, except I added three people to my plan. Two are dead; the other is MIA. I think he might sell me out. He could use the money.”
“Any chance he won’t?”
“Yeah. He’s been fighting against Trystix’s high prices on the fever drugs. I guess I found the honorable kind of criminals.”
“Sounds like it’s a pretty good chance he won’t sell you out. If he knows what you’re up to, then he’d be better served to help you out.” Leave it to Johnny to give a killer the benefit of the doubt.
“True, but I have doubts. He’s not the most courageous man I’ve ever met.”
“So you came here to hide, then?”
“I came because if he sells me out, the hotel is the first place they’d look. He knows when I’m hitting the old diner, and he knows the other target as well. I’m unsure if I should change my plans or go through with them as planned. He might not do any damage, but he could definitely get me killed if he wanted to. You’re the last person I know in Chicago that I don’t want to put a bullet in.”
“Sounds like I’ve got one last rodeo before I retire, after all.” Johnny said grimly.
“I can’t ask that of you. I just need to think.”
“You are great at what you do, Jared. But changing your plans at the drop of a hat is a big flaw in your design. You have to think this through. You’re going to need a lookout. You’re going to need a wheelman. You’ve got to get the job done smoothly this time. I know how you work; I know how you think. Admit it; you need me.”
I looked in his eyes and saw his determination. Not only was he right, but he was willing to risk everything to see this through. He was a good friend. Probably the last one I’ve ever had. I mulled it over for another moment, then nodded. Again, Johnny wore his sad smile.
“I could use the help.”
“All right then. I know about the diner…what’s your other target?” He asked.
“You’re not gonna like it. But I don’t think there is a better way to stick it to Trystix before I take him myself.”
“Oh no. This is gonna get ugly, then?” Johnny asked, looking concerned.
“Bowling shoe ugly…I’m going after his Veritas facility.” I watched as the blood drained from his face.
“Holy shit! Are you insane?” Johnny screamed.
“I’ve been called that. Trystix has risen his prices sky-high for the fever drugs, making money off of people dying. Raiden’s busting his ass trying to find a cure, but I don’t think he has all the pieces yet. Beyond that, I think Trystix already has the cure. I think he’s sitting on it! He’s had the fever for ages and is somehow still alive! He could save everyone, and yet he hesitates because he is making money off the damn disease. You know I don’t like killing, Johnny. Even accidentally. But I figure that if his product is gone, he’ll be forced to find a new golden goose. I’d bet my life Trystix will try and minimize the damage that we cause, blame his problems on someone else until he can swoop in and save the day. The damage will already be done."
"No one will trust him to handle the cure after what we do. Raiden will find a way to get a hold of it, and I guarantee he’ll distribute it without trying to make a buck on it. Raiden will know Trystix can’t protect the stock and do everything and anything he has to do to get his hands on the cure. When he sees Trystix can’t protect the product, he can’t protect his people. That forces Raiden to pull out of Chicago and eventually out of his business deal with Trystix. If he does, the people will turn on Trystix for not being able to keep the drugs safe or provide a cure. They’ll want to go to the West to get the cure cheaper. Even if Trystix provides a cure, he will fall out of power. Then, when I’ve taken everything else from him, I take his life.” I'd practiced this part of the speech on the way over.
“Jared, I don’t know…How can you do this to the people of Chicago? You’re signing a death sentence for them!”
“No, Trystix did. He signed it the second he decided making money was more important than saving lives. He has a cure. I know he does; he’s had the fever for a while and he’s still kicking. He isn’t taking the drugs; he knows they only slow the fever. Everyone who gets the Red Rose Fever dies. Except him. How else could that happen?”
“Jared, you can’t do this. You can’t leave things to chance like this. You know destroying his stock will make the price even higher! Supply and demand, Jared. If the supply is gone, demand goes up. Chicago will suffer! When demand goes up, prices soar. You know that!” Johnny looked hysterical.
“I told you that you weren’t going to like it. But it has to happen, Johnny. Nothing else will hurt him this bad. Trysticorp will be alone, no Veritas involved. Trysticorp has to fall, not just Trystix. I have to break his back, Johnny. As long as people adore Trystix, he will be a martyr. I have to make him an enemy.”
“How do you know it will work? What if it makes him stronger in their eyes?”
“I don’t know that it will work. I can’t guarantee that. But this is the only way people can see what he truly is. It’s the only thing that would hurt him bad enough. Everyone who crosses him ends up dead or dying, fever or not. We aren’t the only ones who see that! We need all of Chicago and the East to see what a selfish bastard he is! I have to cripple him! If Trystix falls, Raiden’s stock goes up. He’ll have a shot at becoming the hero. I don’t know what will happen first, but Trystix is going down, one way or another.”
“This is madness, Jared. This isn’t right…It’s just…It’s insane. It’s inhuman. It’s not ok. It’s not right. All those people…”
“I know, old friend. I know. I understand if you don’t want to be a part of it. Think it over. Give it some thought. I’ll leave first thing tomorrow. But remember, I can’t be ruled by emotion. You and Raiden taught me that. This is war. There are no other options. There is no other way. Not without making Trystix a martyr.”
We sat in silence for a while, staring at the dusty old TV. Neither of us looked at each other; neither of us did anything. Finally, Johnny sighed and stood up. He went into his kitchen, returning with a bottle of tequila and a bottle of Coke. He said nothing as he handed me the Coke and poured himself some tequila. He took three shots before he said a word.
“All right. I’m in. On one condition…” He said.
“After we do this…” He took another shot of tequila. “…I want you to put a bullet in my head.”