Snakes and Pills

150 - cellar

Terry pushed his apartment door closed. He gave it a little tug and then another push. A test, to make sure the door was snug and secure in its frame. It was. He thumbed the lever to move the deadbolt, and felt safe when he heard the metal slide into place.

Not really. He never felt truly safe these days. Inside his home, doors locked, was about as good as it got, though.

The inside of his apartment was still dark, but he had lived here long enough that he was in no rush to illuminate things. He took off his coat, and hung it up on its hook purely by sense. He moved into the living room, and reached for the switch in its familiar spot. Terry finally threw the lights on.

He was not alone. He jumped in surprise at the presence of the five men in the room. They were waiting for him, the most somber of surprise parties. Terry could almost appreciate the theatrics of it, and wondered how long they had waited in silence and darkness.

An effort that was ultimately a waste, Terry thought. He had known this meeting was coming at some point. In his apartment, that surprised him. But it would have happened someday, somewhere. He was certain of that much.

He only recognized the man seated on his coffee table. With a face like a graveyard, Terry would recognized the well-dressed Nash anywhere. The other men flanked Nash and surrounded Terry, obviously just a bunch of Nash's goons.

Nash gestured for Terry to take a seat, and he quickly obliged. He slid into his sofa, which had never felt so uncomfortable. The two men were face to face. Nash produced a cigarette from a hidden pocket in his overcoat, struck a match, and inhaled. He offered nothing to Terry.

He waited for what felt like an eternity while Nash finished his drag. There was no point in trying to open his mouth. Nash would dictate the pace of the conversation, and at the moment he seemed to take great pleasure in moving slowly.

"Do you like living like this?" Nash finally asked Terry. The words came out of his mouth like a rhetorical question, but he stopped and waited for an answer.

"Living like what?" Terry nervously asked.

"In fear. Always having to be looking over your shoulder. Never knowing what's lurking around the next corner," Nash clarified.

Truthfully, Terry was indeed living just as Nash had described. He couldn't stand it, his life had been unraveling completely over the last couple of weeks. He found himself less and less able to resist the paranoia. Seeing Nash in his apartment, while being completely terrifying, also gave him some sense of relief. No more hiding, no matter the outcome.

Yet he couldn't admit any of that to Nash. Terry tried to put on a more confident face. "Listen, I didn't do anything wrong. Mickey had it coming. He was the one who wronged me first. I know you're here because you believe in justice. Well, believe me then, I was just giving Mickey what he was due. Where's my justice?" Terry desperately explained.

He didn't know where all those words had come from. They had been pent up for so long that they spilled out uncontrollably now. He feared Nash's reaction. But the man with the cigarette simply nodded understandingly.

"Be that as it may," Nash carefully replied, "This isn't simply an issue between you and Mickey. When you interfered with Mickey's work, you interfered with all of us. Understand?"

Terry nodded. He understood, as he had from the beginning.


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