by Russell B. Child
“Will you walk with me, Max?”
“Where is there left to walk?”
“The bridge, Max. We can take a walk across the bridge.”
“So you haven’t destroyed that? The idiots pulling your strings destroyed everything else in this war.”
“In devastation there is always opportunity.”
“Is that how you got to be sitting on that side of the desk, Nicky?”
Nicky leans back in his chair and finishes opening a new packet of cigarettes. He gestures towards the packet. Max shakes his head.
“Very sensible, Max. They’ll be the death of you.”
Nicky closes his eyes and inhales, savouring the taste of the cigarette.
“I’ve sat in this room many times, Max. Exactly where you are now, in fact. Trust me, the view’s better from here. You’re a clever man. Respected. Don’t let pride make you act foolishly. Sign and join us.”
“And if I don’t?”
“You will be allowed no visitors and you will not leave here until you sign this paper.”
“I remember when you stood on street corners, Nicky.”
“Never alone. Always with friends.”
“They weren’t friends. You’ve never had friends, only people who were frightened of you.”
“You were never frightened of me.”
“We still stand on street corners. Well, they do. As you can see, I’ve been promoted. You know, you really must be more co-operative, Max.”
Nicky takes a wallet from one of the drawers and walks towards Max. He rests his hand on Max’s shoulder and enjoys watching the smoke from his cigarette drift into Max’s face. Nicky takes the bank notes from the wallet and slides them into his pocket. He leans against the edge of the desk, looking down at Max. Nicky drops the wallet into Max’s lap.
“Next time, just give them what they ask for.”
“I never gave your gang what they asked for, Nicky. Not when you were playground bullies. Not when you were street-corner thugs. Not now you wear police uniforms.”
“We don’t just wear the uniforms, Max. We are the police. Would you like a drink? Let’s raise our glasses to old times. Then you can sign.”
“Are you paying? I don’t seem to have any money.”
Nicky nods to the guard who unlocks one pair of handcuffs, releasing Max’s right arm. Nicky smiles as Max stretches his wrist and puts his wallet into his jacket pocket.
“I don’t pay for my drinks, Max.”
“You never did.”
“Only now people don’t seem to mind as much.”
“What are they going to do, Nicky? Call the police?”
Nicky stands at the bay windows behind his desk. He looks out over the ruins of the city below, the old bridge arching over the river. Nicky’s admiration for Max’s refusal to sign has become irritation. Nicky hears the guard handcuffing Max’s arm to the chair. As Nicky finishes his cigarette, he turns, knowing exactly where he is going to stub it out.
Copyright © 2006 by Russell B. Child