Kim Phillips slept soundly with no trace of demons in her head while Marty Durkin and Randall Lark sat staring at each other across her condo kitchen table.
“This might be a good time to talk,” Durkin said.
“Whatever,” Randall said.
“What kind of answer is that? You know that’s your problem,” Durkin said.
“You shoot and kill my baby brother, another white cracker cop executing another unarmed Black child, and I’m the problem?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean, officer?”
“You don’t want reconciliation.”
“I want you to pay,” Randall said.
“I hear you’re a combat veteran,” Durkin said. “You ever kill anybody?”
The question stopped Randall dead.
“Killing in war and killing a little boy holding his precious piccolo is not the same.”
“It is if you think the piccolo was a gun,” Durkin said.
“You know that’s what I called him,” Randall said. “I called him Piccolo.”
Durkin saw a soft opening.
“Why did you call him that?”
“He was small and high-pitched like his piccolo,” Randall said.
Durkin felt tears come to his eyes.
Randall wanted to fly across the table and hit the ex-cop who would always be a cop, a white cop, never an ex-cop, a white cop who opened fire on his own uncertainty and fear and killed Tyrone in the process. Randall wanted to punish him. Randall wanted to kill him.
“This isn’t going to work,” he said.
“Look, it’s hard for me, too,” Durkin said.
Randall went to his feet in a second.
“No, you look. It isn’t as hard for you as it is for me. You won. I lost. Tyrone lost. My parents lost. My city lost. Black people lost. The whole country lost. You won because you always win. Even when you lose you win.”
Now Durkin stood.
“You’re right,” he said.
Randall looked at him real hard.
“This isn’t going to work,” Durkin said.
Randall’s voice dropped to almost a whisper, more like a growl.
“You ever even personally know a Black person?”
“From work,” Durkin said.
“No Black friends?”
“I knew your kind in the Army, man,” Randall said. “In Iraq. In Afghanistan. We looked out for each other, depended on each other, saved each other’s lives. But we weren’t friends.”
Now Durkin glared.
“If I’m a racist what are you?”
“All Black all the time.”
Both men heard Kim’s labored breathing before she walked slowly into the kitchen.
“I’m starving,” she said. “Who wants Chinese?”
Now Randall tried to smile. So did Durkin. Both men tried to help put Kim at ease the way they tried to help people when they carried guns in the line of duty.
“How do you feel?” Durkin asked.
“I feel like shit,” Kim said.
“No way around the shit nowadays,” Randall said.
Nervous laughter at least bent the tension. Both men felt sorry for Kim but she seemed better, back to normal whatever that was. The demons seemed to have departed. Or were they just lying low, hiding out in the deepest reaches of Kim’s mind? Durkin and Randall each put on as much of a happy face as he could muster, controlling potentially explosive behavior that could result in some serious damage if tempers flared and sent them over the edge.
Speaking of explosives, across town the meltdown had begun.
After a lifetime of victory on behalf of the motherland, Borys finally gave up. Now, like the average American, he just wanted to get even, to strike out and hit somebody, call in an air strike and kill something in order to feel good about himself.
That realtor Kim was nuts. The Irish girl she pretended to be was nuts. All her friends were nuts. He might be nuts. Borys had enough of American society and was heading back to Russia where he belonged in a nice totalitarian society that let him buy and build whatever he pleased. Nobody in this land of the free and home of the knave cared about him. Nobody cared about his wealth, his power or his political connections. Nobody cared he had often risked his life to kill for the KGB, terminating enemies of the state across the former USSR. A master assassin, he poisoned them, threw them out windows, off bridges and from speeding bread trucks. He served his cruel nation well.
And where did that get him? Alone and lonely in Clearwater Beach, billionaire oligarch or no billionaire oligarch, nobody loved Borys Popov. Had angry birds not pecked out his brother’s eyes, he would have taken an ice pick to Ivan’s beady little peepers. Master of the secret and dark martial art Sicklejutsu, he could kill just by looking at you crooked, radiating sizzling violence from deep inside his mind worse than any James Bond villain, sending his victims into mouth-foaming frenzy and spasms of Red death.
Borys loved living a life of danger. But now he tired of the game. Now he needed help. Now he needed the ultimate weapon to teach capitalism a lesson the world would never forget. Borys needed a nuclear bomb – just a little one, a baby megaton fusion-laden device that would demolish not only every condo on Clearwater Beach but devastate Clearwater Beach itself.
The good life should not have come to this, but nobody appreciated Borys’ talent, his commitment, his twisted loyalty to the glory of self-interest, not even that rotten egomaniac Gov. Ronnie DeShifty to whom Borys had secretly contributed cash and election advice and illegal interference, going so far as to pledge huge infusions of cash for a 2024 presidential run, secretly working against the impeached former madman president who wanted to again become an even more dangerous madman president.
With DeShifty as leader of the so-called free world Borys could finally retire, buy a dozen mail order brides from the old neighborhood and live his remaining years as comfortable as a Saudi prince with a hair-raising harem loaded with prancing dancing girls.
With DeShifty as president, Borys could rule from behind the scenes, discover America on his own terms and control the world. Screw Vladimir Putin, too. Borys couldn’t wait to expose Putin’s plan to undergo breast implant surgery to make his sagging aging pectorals look like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pecs in his prime.
Borys would tell the world!
Fake boobs! Fake boobs!
Then he’d release the pee pee tapes of which he made 100 copies in living color. And show the dirty pictures on Hunter Biden’s XXX laptop. And, and, and who knows what other damage he could wreak on America? Always up for a fight, the idea of destroying the world made Borys feel good again. Maybe he’d quit skullduggery altogether. Leave the whole sordid mess of international espionage behind. Maybe he’d just call it a day after leveling Clearwater Beach.
Time for apocalypse now.
Mr. Big answered the resort phone on the first ring.
“Stormy? Is that you?”
“No, you inflatable blimp,” Borys said. “Weather is perfect. But I do have whirlwind blast in mind.”
Mr. Big grew excited and when he got excited he got hungry.
“Want me to order pizza?”
“With extra mushroom,” Borys said. “As in cloud.”
Mr. Big’s business instincts kicked right in.
“You mean like Independence Day fireworks?”
Borys jumped on the opening like red beets on cabbage.
“You don’t have atomic missile rocket torpedo among White House gifts you moved from White House, do you?”
“I just so happen to have a teeny tiny baby nuke the Little Rocket Man in North Korea gave me as a gift,” he said. “I was saving the sparkler for my Fourth of July celebration here at Shangri-Lago. If I shoot it high enough into the sky, it won’t hurt anybody.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch by your swimming pool,” Borys Popov said.
“You get the bomb, I get the pee pee tapes,” Mr. Big said.
As soon as he hung up he got hungry. The gift-wrapped box of extra-large holiday Hershey kisses the size of silver covered apples caught Mr. Big’s eye. A young female assistant with a Ph.D. in fragrance counseling from Trump University, dyed blond hair, a red dress and pomegranate-colored pumps told him that morning that Mrs. Big had sent the candy as a peace offering. Despite his pleasure that Mrs. Big high-tailed it to Clearwater Beach with Jenna DeShifty, he needed Mrs. Big to return for public relations purposes until after the 2024 election. Then he’d trade her in for a couple of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.
What Mr. Big didn’t know was that one of the out-of-work wrestlers who now guarded Sam Bennett as part of his new crack security detail worked part-time in a gourmet candy factory and had prepared a specialty item Sam Bennett requested to be served at the many white glove society functions catered throughout Florida. The rich remained the enemy of the environment and of the people. And if you thought shit-filled golf balls were something, wait until you bit into a supersized shit-filled Hershey kiss.
Because of the mini confetti popper the professional wrestler inserted into the silver-wrapped kiss with the white paper strip plume as well as the volume of gull shit he jam-packed into the sweet confection, the fattest shittiest candy kiss ruptured as soon as Mr. Big’s thick greasy fingers pulled the parchment pin and the chocolate blew like a grenade in a war movie.
Mr. Big didn’t drink – not even a sip from one of the dusty bottles from one of the thousands of leftover cases he kept in the basement at Shangri-Lago from a failed vineyard investment. But he now gave new meaning to the word shitfaced. Gull guano dripped from his droopy eyelids, his fleshy nose, tiny mouth, thin lips, rippled chin and every strand of his stained hair. Bird feces dangled in coagulated strips from the crystal chandelier. Stunned, he stood by gold drapes covered in fetid waste. Transfixed by the power of the dung discharge he spit out a mouthful of putrid poo.
Still, on instinct, he answered his phone as soon as the slot machine jackpot ringtone went off. At the other end of the line the familiar syrupy voice of his runaway wife cooed bittersweet nothings into his crap-filled ear.
“Is that you, Poopsy?” she said.