I didn't make it back to the hotel until 10:30 and I felt like I'd been pistol-whipped repeatedly by Eddie the Dane. So, aside from looking things over and doing some forward plotting, I contributed no new wordage. Bollocks.
Today is the day we go home. Goodbye, Toronto. It will take all day. I won't get a thing done, either, unless I can somehow work on this project on the plane. We'll see. The trip, by the way, was a success, and I'm doubly-glad that it's over, so I can get back to this contest with no further distractions.
It's been a while, but here's a taste of what I am working on:
“...And Saul fell upon his sword.”
Lincoln Childs finished washing the supper dishes. He wrapped the cornbread in clear plastic wrap and set it atop the small pot of beans in the fridge. He glanced down at the neat row of green bottles on the shelf below. Mickey’s wide mouth beer. There were only five bottles left. He took one with the heavy resignation of a man dropping a round into a cylinder in preparation for a game of Russian roulette.
There was no joy in the way Lincoln drank his beer. He consumed it quickly and dispassionately, standing in the open fridge. He pulled another out and finally closed the door. Dumb move, he thought. You’re going to be back up in two minutes for another one, and you won’t wait until the commercials, so why don’t you just take them all to the couch and get it over with?
He tried to quiet the nagging voice by turning the television on and nudging the volume up. Like that’s gonna help, he told himself. You and all of your beer and praying and TV ain’t been able to shut me up, yet. Don’t know why you think that would all of a sudden work.
The beer bottle was cold in Lincoln’s hand, so he opened it and set it on the end table by his recliner. Thirty years ago, he swore he’d never be the guy who had a recliner, but these days, he slept in it more than his own bed. The times, boy have they changed.
The television was singing its usual song of fear and envy as Lincoln impatiently waited for 24 to start. It had not been a good day; he woke up early, plagued by the usual nightmares, and couldn’t get back to sleep. He spent half a day dealing with a missing insurance check, and as a result, he couldn’t get his prescriptions refilled before the drugstore closed. Lincoln couldn’t go to his neighborhood CVS Pharmacy, not after what happened. Not after the last time...
Without realizing it, he had picked up the phone and dialed Dan Reed’s number. His old partner. Sometimes, talking to Dan made things better and sometimes it made things worse. He suspected that tonight it would behoove him to call.
The phone rang twice and then the machine grabbed the line. “This is Dan Reed, 555-7391, please leave your name and a brief message. Thanks.”
“Dan, it’s Linc. I’m...uh, I just called to check in, see how you’re doing, you know, the usual. We should get coffee tomorrow or something. It’s been too long since we’ve socialized. Give me a call, Ace.”
Lincoln hung up, embarrassed. Ace? Where had that come from? What was this, 1963 again?
The staccato drumbeats signaled the start of the television show. Lincoln watched the recap, mentally picking up where they left off last week, but another part of him couldn’t stop thinking about another time and another place. Years ago, when he was called Saul and his partner, Dan Reed, was The Black Knight.
Back then, more often as not, Linc was Dan’s voice of reason, or his Jiminy Cricket, as the occasion warranted. Many a man owed their lives to Lincoln Childs. Men who, where the tables turned, would have (and some surely tried) lynched Lincoln and laughed as he died. Crooked cops, politicians on the take, clansmen, even some Communists—Lincoln was proud of his community service. He and Dan were a good team. They complemented each other well. And, at the time, Lincoln reveled in the fact that as a Keeper, he was participating in something greater than himself. His few friends called him an Uncle Tom for going to work at a newspaper as a copy editor, but in truth, it was that job that helped him to be such a good Keeper for the Reeds.
He smiled, remembering the oversized suits he wore to play down his muscular frame. Old as he was now, the thing he missed the most was the boxing. His uppercut used to be a thing of beauty, and his right arm was formidable. He never forgot the satisfying sense memory of his fist connecting with the chin of a mobster goon and watching the lights go out. There was nothing so satisfying as Saul’s Knockout Punch, usually delivered with an appropriate verse of scripture.
It was over and done with. Lincoln never regretted his decision, never questioned his mission, but he was not the kind of guy who lived in the past. He told himself that, every day, as he drank himself into a stupor to try and chase away his ghosts. No, scratch that, they weren’t even his ghosts. They were the Reed Family’s ghosts. He had been a good partner, and a faithful Keeper. Everything he did, he could be proud of. But after what happened to Andy...
Stop it, you old fool, he said to himself. Drink your beer. It’s not your fault. You walked away, remember? David’s doing fine, and neither one of them was your kid, and didn’t the family want your help, for God’s sake, so just stop it stop it stopitstopit—“STOP IT!”
The empty beer bottle crashed against the wall, splashing emerald chips of glass in a radius like a firework. “Son of a bitch,” he said. Lincoln got up from his chair, went into the kitchen and returned with a broom and a dustpan. “Dumbass,” he said aloud. For now, it seemed, the voice inside him was quiet.
He had scraped up a pan full of green glass up when he heard a knock at the door. What now, he wondered. “Hold on,” he called out, taking his time to drop the wet glass fragments into the trash. Still holding the broom, he approached the door. “Who is it?” he said.
Someone said something on the other side that Linc couldn’t quite make out. It was a familiar sound, though, and so without thinking too much about it, he swung the door wide and stared. The broom clattered to the floor. “What the hell is this?” he said, as the color drained out of his face.
Lincoln took a step back. “No, no way, man.”
The sword appeared from behind the man’s body, like a magic trick. It was a simple weapon, elegant and balanced. A crusader’s sword. The Templar's Sword. Lincoln would have known it anywhere. It came on point, and Lincoln turned to run, willing his old, stiff knees to take him, where? The kitchen? The phone. 911. Get help. No, fuck that, man. I’m old, but I’m still Saul.
He checked his turn and used his torso to give as much torque to his right arm’s swing as possible. His punch crashed against the side of the man’s head and for an instant, Lincoln felt a surge of joy at the contact. Then a cloud of agony shot through his arm like squid ink as the bones in his hand shattered. Dumbass, he thought. Too old for this shit. Go for the phone.
Lincoln tried to run, but got no further than his thought of escape. A strong hand gripped his shoulder and steadied the old man. “I’m sorry, Saul,” the man said.
The sword entered his body just under the ribcage, punching through the muscle wall and excoriating the large intestine and part of Lincoln’s pancreas before nicking the spine and entering out the back.
The pain was so profound that Lincoln couldn’t breath. He felt things tearing, slipping, letting go inside him, and the most uncomfortable sensation of the blade leaving his body again, and then a cold numbness set in. Lincoln moaned, knowing what came next.
Twenty years of fighting for survival took over and Lincoln lurched away from the man in the doorway, trying like hell to reach the phone beside the couch. He went three steps before he collapsed, the blood pooling out under his twisted form. With the last bit of strength he had, he found his murderer, looked him in the eyes, and whispered, “Why?”
The man walked into the shabby apartment, stood over the dying man. He tilted his head, watching Lincoln’s breath leave him one last time. The light went out in the old man’s eyes. That was that.
He dragged his finger through the pool of blood. Is that what did it? The blood loss? Or the shock of the wound? Or both? He didn’t know. In careful block letters, he wrote with the tip of the sword
WHO IS THE EVERYMAN?
He stood up, wiping the blood off of his finger on Lincoln’s pants. He nodded, satisfied with the job he’d done. He placed the sword in Lincoln's unfeeling left hand, and then he backed out of the apartment and ran down the stairs.