The dial turned and they heard the mechanism click into place. The closest man looked back at the other three slightly darker shadows in the room and smiled. Then, realizing they wouldn’t be able to see it, he turned back and swung the safe door open.
Now the flash came on, just a sliver, the lens covered with the seconds’ fingers.
“It’s empty,” he said, growling behind clenched teeth.
The third pulled his gun, and took a quick step back, to cover what were until minutes ago, his partners. He fired six times, two rounds each. And then he ran.
Owl disarmed Raccoon and advanced, his birch sabre poised high, ready to thrust the final, fatal blow, when he saw something strange along the riprap.
“Come on,” he said, sheathing his sword and crawling along the slick, sharp stones. It was a body. One foot caught in the rocks, the rest of him splayed out face down in the water. They watched as the bloated body bobbed with the waves.
The sky greyed over. The wind picked up. Owl and Raccoon moved closer together, they put their arms around each other’s shoulder and hung their heads in something like prayer.
Vixen sat on the vanity, legs crossed, toes twitching, trying to anticipate the irregular drops of cold water from the tap. Her nose inches away from the toothpaste-speckled mirror, one hand pulling her eyelid taut, the other dragging a pencil across the lash line. She applied a vivacious red to her lips, smacked them twice, leaned in close and kissed the corner of the mirror.
Then she climbed down, went through the house to make sure the panties she’d hidden were sticking out from under the bed just enough.
She wished she could be there when his wife came home.
He must have waited for a lull in the conversation. For the one big talker of the table to get up for the washroom or to buy another pitcher. Maybe someone leaned back, their elbow knocking against his. Maybe he just stumbled down the uneven stone path and landed there.
“You kids wanna know a secret,” he said, sliding across the picnic table’s seat. They did. They hungered for something to talk about the next day, something to follow, do you remember when.
“There’s no win or lose,” he said. “Only compromise. Mind if I have one of those?”
White and black are always the first colours to be named. No matter the culture. Next comes red. Blood and bones. Fear and violence. Throughout human history, this is the way it has been. They named things they were afraid of, things that threatened them.
So they could warn others. So the group remained safe.
Danger and comfort, or against.
No one talks about the fourth colour. We work in threes. Fourth place might as well not exist.
But it was probably blue. A clear sky. A cool lake. A respite. Before the winds and the wars rolled in, again.
Dzinski knelt down against the nearest car, when it seemed like the man he was tailing was about to look across the street. He must have dropped a second too late, because a woman started screaming and he knew the man had taken off running, likely shoving her out of his way.
Cursing, he struggled to his feet, guessed at the runner’s likely direction and hailed a passing cab, telling him to hurry.
They went up two blocks and stopped at a red. The chase was over. He’d got away. Dzinski leaned back and waited for the light to change.
The cold bottle felt good in his hands. It felt right. A man can only do so much work on a Saturday, he told himself. Looking over the backyard, his gaze lingered on the new shrubs he’d put in along the fence. He drank, savouring the beer. Rolling it on his tongue.
He ducked back inside, making sure his wife was really gone, then pulled a book from the shelf and opened it, and took the pack of cigarettes hidden in the hollowed-out pages.
On his way back outside, he grabbed another beer, and then smoked, sweated and enjoyed himself.