Back-Page News

police-raidFear is stronger than love.”

-Tupac Shakur


He had read it in the paper this morning, black-print letters as moribund as a funeral gong:

Suspect Nabbed in Drug Bust in Kingston

But the real slant of the article, the bit that caused Sean’s mind to start whirling with sad prophesies was the name below:

Lucas Fitzgerald was arrested today in an early-morning raid that uncovered ten pounds of marijuana and a pound of Psilopsybin mushrooms.

Sean’s name was also Fitzgerald; Lucas was his younger brother, his business partner, or at least that’s how Lucas saw it. The first question that flashed like a sad fever across Sean’s mind was not, ‘how did this happen?’ but, ‘why didn’t he call me?’ This may seem like a thought of compassion to those that weren’t in the business, but to those who were, it was like a log of worry stuck high in mud. Sean had told Lucas that if anything like this were to happen, if the pigs were to come blasting through his door with flared teeth and greedy eyes, the first thing Lucas should do was call him on the emergency line and let it ring without an expected pick-up. Sean would know the reason for the call.

No call had come. Sean called his lawyer, and he hadn’t heard from Lucas either. Sean’s mind was pre-seeded with worry; now it was on to the next stage, and the seeds started to unwind their molesting tendrils.

You should never mix family with business. This adage followed from the legitimate business world to the black-market one. His brother was rash and stupid. Sean had known this from the sun-freckled days of youth when the two brothers had gone diving off the waterfall behind their parent’s house. Sean always jumped off the low cliff, but Lucas wanted to be grander than that, to show up his big brother, who only served as a challenge of his own abilities. Lucas went for the high cliff and injured himself again and again until he split the bone of his ankle one day, and both children were forever forbidden from the woods.

Twenty years later, and the boy still hadn’t grown a head on his shoulders. Sean assumed that Lucas had done something stupid to attract the attention of the police: flashing money, being stupid on the phones, sloppiness, sloppiness. Sean walked determinedly into the bathroom, filled the sink-bowl with water and tossed his phone into it. The water closed above it like a rush of black oil.

The only reason one mixed family with business in the black market was because of trust. You could trust family, the logic said, there are deeper bonds, ones that can’t be broken by interrogations or threats. Sean hoped that this logic proved correct, but he was too careful to trust it.

Sean trusted little these days. The logic of his business sucked up the juices of his personal relationships like a dark sponge that never became saturated. Even his eyes became dry, and he could see the world more clearly. Everyone was a liability in some way, and he wished he could just spin alone in this world, only having to trust himself.

The lock-and-key safe opened with a melodious groan. In it were packed hundreds of thousands of dollars, bills that started off in a multitude of places—a twenty tossed on a restaurant table, a hundred from a cashed tax return, a ten-note from a snot-nosed middle schooler’s allowance—but they all ended up here. Sean had nowhere to put all the money. His hand instead reached for a heavy, loaded Glock that was stuffed inbetween the leaning towers of cash. He resealed the safe, then exited the house with the gun tucked under his bathrobe. The sun was too bright for Sean; too revealing with its unblinking eye. He pretended to drop something on the suburban street, then clandestinely slipped the gun through a sewer grating as he reached down. He walked back into the house, the eyes of the sun and the birds and the insects burrowing through the back of his hair to his skull.

Sean reclined back in his leather desk-chair with the gravitas of the businessman he always wanted to be, but now never could. Lucas was more concerned with women and expensive cars—the pop-flash and circumstance surrounding the job, not the job itself. Lucas wanted to sell drugs to be big. The big ones are always caught.

Still no word from Lucas, and it had been more than 24 hours. Sean felt a pang of pain from the assumed betrayal, but this was washed along with the greater sorrow of a life so governed by fear and logic that there was no room for compassion. It was a sad world, but Sean followed the rules.

Sean glanced at the close-circuit televisions that were linked to the half-dozen cameras pointed away from the house like mortar tubes. He saw a car pull up, and his blood would have turned to ice if it was not already there. The car stopped in front of the house, but the driver did not get out. Sean turned his head away and stared at his desk until everything turned black as the souls of circuits.

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