Depression Is More Than A State of MindBy Marian Mendez
Page 3 of 4
"Wait, wait! Rog?" Will yelled, and started after the big man. "Oh, no.
He's gonna kill Avon. Should'a kept my big mouth shut." By the time he caught
up with Rog, Rog had Avon cornered in the storeroom and the two were shouting
so loud they couldn't have heard a bomb go off. Will tried to pull Rog back,
but was swatted aside against the staircase leading down to the basement. |
Rog had a double handful of Avon's collar, and Avon was holding a screwdriver like a knife. Will closed his eyes and clung to the stair rail, not wanting to be a witness. Something pushed past him on the stair, there was a loud 'splash!' and then near silence, broken only by sputtering. He opened his eyes. Cally stood before him, her back stiff with outrage, an empty bucket swinging from her left hand. Avon and Rog had backed off from each other, so that he had a clear view of all three. The men were dripping, soaked to the skin, with dirty grey bubbles clinging in their hair. It was a toss-up as to who looked more ridiculous, Rog, with his curls plastered along his skull or Avon, with a huge clump of bubbles tracing a path along his nose. One thing was sure, the fight was over. Will collapsed onto the stair, biting his tongue to keep from laughing.
"What did you do that for?" Rog asked Cally.
"Back in the old country, that's how you break up a dog fight." Cally was smug. "I'm glad to see it still works here." She stopped swinging the bucket. "Now, what was that all about?"
"Avon's been bothering Jane," Rog said, sullenly. "Will saw him, yesterday."
Avon turned his glare from Blake to Will. "What lies did you tell him?"
Will flinched. "I just said I saw you talking to Jane. In the dark. And you were awful close. It looked like..."
"You are an idiot," Avon said. He turned back to Rog. "For your information, Jane was trying to convince me to help uncover proof of your innocence. It would be easier to uncover proof of your stupidity."
"Oh, you mean you've never looked at Jane?"
"I've looked," Avon admitted. "She is beautiful. But she is her own woman, and she decided, for whatever reason only God knows, that you are her man. She's getting impatient, though. If you had any sense at all, you'd marry her before she changes her mind."
Rog shook his head. "I can't. Not until I've redeemed my honor."
"Then Jane is doomed to die an old maid. You've been going at it all wrong, trying to work within the system, trying to expose corruption by talking to those who have a vested interest in keeping it covered. You've been a minor annoyance to them. If you ever do get anywhere, they'll have you thrown into a cell for the rest of your life."
Cally had been listening, intently. Now she asked, "How would you go about it, then?"
"I wouldn't," Avon said, "It's pointless. What does it matter if you remove one set of crooks from office? They're all the same. An honest man hasn't a chance." Avon blinked, then smirked at Will. "That is, unless he was willing to let a few crooks even the score."
"Here, now," Will spoke up. "You aren't trying to volunteer me for anything."
"I'm not surprised you'd want to play it safe," Avon said. "I'd rather die quickly with a fortune in my hands than starve in a gutter."
"I'm not doing so bad," Will protested.
"You're not doing so well, either. Grafton has all the more lucrative swindles under his thumbs. He's in bed with the mob; everyone knows it. Every penny-ante bookmaker, shop-owner, anyone who needs a license to operate or the cops to look the other way- they all pay their percentages. Not much from any one, but added altogether," Avon rubbed his hands, "a profitable business. And any businessman must keep books. Which I can decipher, once I get my hands on them. They will undoubtedly be kept in a safe. Which will likely have other contents of more immediate value."
"Value? As in money?" Will sidled closer to Avon, not close enough to get dripped on, but close enough for a conspiratorial whisper. "Avon, ol' chum, ol' buddy, ol' pal, are you sure you don't need a bit of help?"
Avon grinned and draped a sodden arm over Will's back. "Possibly. How are you at safe-cracking?"
Will buffed his nails on his jacket. "I am the best there is." He paused, considering. "Well, at least that's not in the pen at the moment."
Rog said, "I won't allow either of you to commit a crime for my sake."
"Why? Afraid we'll get caught and implicate you?" Avon snapped.
Rog shook his head. "I'm afraid for you. Grafton couldn't have me killed without raising questions he didn't dare have asked, but two thieves? His security men would shoot you down like dogs."
Will looked nervous. "Er, maybe Rog's right."
"Coward," Avon said, pushing Will away from him.
Cally spoke up, "Grafton has been victimizing the poor far too long. If Will will not help you, I will."
"Here, now," Will said, insulted, "what do you know about safe-cracking? It's an art form. You need delicate, skillful hands, and years of training."
"Either that, or a couple pounds of TNT. I had a friend who taught me how to construct explosive devices."
Will was shocked. "That's crude. And what were you planning to blow up, anyway?"
Cally smiled. "I hadn't decided yet.."
Avon added, "Bombs are noisy. Still, if we struck quickly enough..."
Rog grabbed Avon's arms and shook him. "Stop it! I won't have it. You won't drag Cally into this. Avon, think about her. Do you want her to die, as your Anna did?"
Furious, Avon pulled loose, and struck Rog- one swift right cross that decked the bigger man. He stood over Rog's body, staring down at him. "I told you not to mention her," he snarled. He shook his head, then told Cally, "I think I've worn out my welcome." He started out of the room, but Cally caught at his sleeve.
"Wait. You can't go."
"Can't I?" He straightened to his full height. "I have already stayed too long. I am a fugitive. It was inexcusibly stupid of me to linger. If I am caught, and they discover that you knowingly sheltered me, you will be punished for it. That big fool," he nudged Rog with his foot, "was right about that. You have done nothing to deserve sharing my fate."
"I would like to," Cally said softly, looking up into his face. "I would like very much to share your fate."
Avon's face softened. His hand came up to trace the outline of her face. "I find it hard enough to live with myself now. I'm sorry, Cally. Go back to your pamphlets and your charities. We were never meant to be together." Without a second look back, he left.
"Follow him, Will," Cally said, fiercely.
"Should I?" Will looked down at Rog, then up at the tears sparkling in the corners of Cally's eyes. "All right. For you. I'll look after him, don't worry." He patted her on the arm and hurried out after the other man.
Rog stirred. He looked up. "Avon?"
"He's gone," Cally said.
He sat up and rubbed his chin, wincing. "I shouldn't have said that. Do you think Avon would forgive me if I apologized?"
"He's gone," Cally repeated.
"Yes, I know, but when he comes back..." Rog's voice trailed off as he got a good look at Cally's face. "He's not coming back, is he?"
Wordlessly, Cally shook her head.
Avon was striding so rapidly that Will was hard put to catch up. "Er, would you like to come to my flop? Olaf's and mine, I mean?"
"Well, you could use a wash, and a change of clothes." Will wrinkled his nose. "That wasn't exactly Eau de Cologne Cally dumped on you."
"That's not what I meant. Why are you inviting me? Did Cally ask you to?"
"No, no, nothing like that. I just..." Will glanced around, checking for eavesdroppers. "I wanted to talk to you. Rog told me a lot about Mayor Grafton. Things you'd need to know."
"That presupposes a great deal. I have no reason to care about Rog Blake's reputation. Why should I risk my neck to clear him?"
"Because Cally would want you to do it? Because you'd enjoy saving Rog's backside, so that he could feel really guilty? Because you haven't a bean, and Mayor Grafton is rolling in mazooma?"
"Ah. The last reason is a compelling one. I do need funds."
"So, how about it?"
Avon paused, gazing at Will's friendly grin. "All right. But if you let Rog in on it..."
"Do I look stupid?" At Avon's smirk, Will added hastily, "I know, I know." He shook his head. "Why do I always fall for that one? Don't answer that."
"How are we doing?" Will asked, trying to peer over Avon's shoulder. He'd cased joints before, but never anything on this scale. After a week of preparations, his nerves were shot. Avon just got colder, and more controlled.
"We are doing fine." Avon put down the blue-prints he was studying. "The night watchmen?"
Will nodded and told him the results of his latest gossip gathering. "They play poker most every night. For match sticks. They're poor, but proud. Not bribable, but not too bright, either."
"A distraction, then?"
"If it had good legs."
"Hmm." Avon cocked his head to one side. "Do you think Jane would be willing to compromise her ethics for Rog?"
Will laughed. "Are you kidding?"
Whump! In the middle of the night, any sound seemed louder than normal. The two men who sat on battered chairs just inside the entrance of City Hall started up, nearly knocking the cards from the folding table set up between them.
"What was that?" The first man asked. He was broad-shouldered, but had a disproportionately sharp face. His card-partner was even bigger than him, but had a duller expression.
"Dunno." The second man listened, then shrugged and returned to staring at his hand.
"Shouldn't we go check?"
"Mebbe. One card," he said, selecting his discard.
"Might be trouble," the first said.
"Yeah, all right." The second man folded his cards together and left them on the table. "Let's go see," he said as he got up to follow the other man.
There was a street lamp directly outside the building. Under its yellow glare they could see a checkered cab had jumped the curb and was nuzzling the post. The cab's fender was slightly dented and the post was slightly bent but still functional.
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