Hide In Light


Sleeping, half in, half out. Cars and trucks roll by and in the quiet room they seem like miles from here. It's dark-thirty, and dust hangs in the air like a fog. Adam can hear voices, but he's not sure from where or when. It's the time between dreams and daylight. He understands the words, and tries to place the voices...
    "He passed the damn test three times--we gotta let him go."
    "You know he did it. He as much as told us where to look for the body and anyway that machine don't know people."
    A machine can't find in you what nature never put there. No lies, no doubt, no right or wrong...
    Then the old man. "Never work for free. This isn't about hate, not yours. People will find you, call you, hire you to do things they cannot. Don't ask questions to find out why, only how. Walk away if it feels wrong, but if not, do the job. You can do things they only dare." He could see the old man, talking, drinking coffee, looking out the window into the Washington night, almost like he was back there, in the mist and the rain, waiting to go back to the river with a girl.
    That had been the first. A man with a problem, a fear, an anger to dispel, but too weak or too holy to do it himself. He had found the old man by phone and set up a meeting at a lot on the strip. They sat in his car, watching the working girls hustle.
    "My daughter is out there, somewhere."
    "Doing that?" The old man asked, and the man nodded, barely, in return.
    "Maybe. I don't know for sure. She's been gone six months and I haven't heard from her. Not a sound. The cops took a report, but that was all, and I know she is doing drugs, she did at home after her mother left." He stopped, and seemed to lose himself in a memory.
    When he spoke again his voice was harder, all traces of the softness he had used before replaced by anger. "I want them gone. This was a nice place, ya know, before that sort of trash came in. Now they line up and down the road, waving their stuff at you when you sit at a light and doing God knows what in cars all around here." He waved his arm around as if to include all they could see. Adam watched the women, brightly dressed, teetering on heels and chewing gum, waiting as the headlights grow big and then fade, or if they were lucky, slow down. The man lit a cigarette and rolled down the window. The smoke drifted out into the cold air and Adam could hear the girls pitch the cars.
    "Hey baby, wanna party?"
    "You all lonely, sweet thing? Need some company?" If you closed your eyes you couldn't tell where the sound came from, there were so many voices. He opened his eyes and looked out, watched a police car roll slowly by.
    "See! They never stop. They just drive by, like they think all these people here are waiting for a bus or something. Why do they do that, just ignore it? What the hell do we have cops for, pay taxes, if they just drive right by it? Fuck."
    The man looked shaken, like this was the start of a tirade he had voiced before. Adam knew why they drove by. It wasn't their job. Cops were there for appearances, to comfort the law abiding joe that they were out there, and to remind criminals of what boundaries were left.
     Once upon a time, Adam guessed, it had worked. Everyone stayed on his side of the street, did what he needed to do, and left everyone else alone. The cops gave tickets, wrote up robbery reports and kept the peace. The peace wanted to be kept, once. Now it was different. The have-nots are the majority, and they have no rules. It was the beginning of the end, and that was why he had been born. These people hadn't given up hope. It was more like they'd been born without it, without a trace of the human elements that once were so evident in the world. 
    It was the children, so far removed from the world the father in the car had lived in that they might as well have been on Mars. These doomed children have been born with all the resources they need to live apart, underneath the world, the same as Adam. They are born to indifference and hate and are reminded, daily, that they are not wanted. No one wants to see them, touch them or think about them. Most people just ignore them, and structure their lives away from them. Their days pass on a tide of boredom and fear. All around are images of violence, physical and psychic, the television that plays nonstop in the corner, the abusive parent. Adam had grown to fear them, admire them, use them. Soon all would be like them, and after them, nothing.
    Everyone has hates, fears, things that anger or disgust them. Some people deal with it, bottle it up and go about their lives under wraps, denying to themselves the satisfaction of retribution or redemption. It was the others, the "clean killers" that had kept Adam in business. The ones who could justify their hate, rage and prejudice into something holy. The holy paid the best, Adam had found, when he would bomb an abortion clinic or kill a AIDS activist for a group who could talk the talk, but needed someone else to walk the walk.
     Their children have gone past needing his help. They live on sugar and speed, watching the tinted windows on big cars reflect their pierced nipples and tattoos and they laugh when the car runs a red light to get away from them, just like the news people tell them to. They have hobbies like crack, carjacking and gang bangs. Together, they send out waves of panic and desperation. Alone, they hide below the level of windows, fearful of an errant bullet. What little they had they squandered, and they look around for someone to blame. They need no excuse to hate, to terrorize. It is all they can do, their only glimpse of power.
     Some of them, one in a thousand, get out of school with a prayer and run with it. The rest steal, kill and terrorize anything in their path. One in a million, like Adam, would go on to bigger things, if they could meet up with someone like he had, when he met the old man. 
    He woke up finally, all the way, trying to clear his head. He looked around, placing himself in the room. What city? Why was he here? He saw the envelope on the dresser and the map of Atlanta and remembered the reason. He had traveled far from the first time, with the old man in Washington. The twelve hundred dollars he had gotten seemed then like all the money in the world.
    The job had been easy, dumping prostitutes in the Green River. One had looked at the old man and said "Daddy?" right before he killed her. When he turned Adam saw what the girl saw, that the old man's face was gone, shrouded now by the features of the man who had hired them. Adam had learned a lot since then. He had perfected over the years the talent he was born with, the ability to change his appearance in an instant, to look like anyone at all. People saw the demon they most feared, every time.

Read the next chapter.

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