Beginning of chapter 2

It’s never black and white. Fact of life, and if one can’t recognize it, he may as well have already died. The truth of the matter is there are grays. Where someone lies on the scale of grays is inconsequential, for the person’s position will change, from lighter to darker, based on the actions and the events of the days leading up to and forging past the climax where the change occurs. Roy grimaced at the thought. He’d had a while to formulate his response to the events leading up to his imprisonment. Yet another two weeks had passed; it was November 6th, but that was icing on the cake right now. Just icing on a rather tough and stale piece of cake, probably made from candy corn in the candy’s first generation. Hell, might even be a war relic from the First World War. A war cake. Roy thought how that might taste, and liked the idea a whole lot better than being penned up in this fucking cement cage. In two weeks time; however, he had not even come close to understanding why he had just upped and walked away after being underwater for fourteen days. Maybe it had some connection to his gray theory. Maybe he had changed somehow, and hadn’t noticed. Maybe he had noticed, but he refused to accept. Denial was a prominent thing when phenomena occurred. Was his existence, then, a phenomenon? Was there a greater purpose to his seemingly well-placed stroke of fortune? Roy found the answers to these questions were more questions, algebraically solving X for Y, and Roy was not a good math student in high school. His stomach turned though, preventing any further thought; it must be about that time.
“WHO ARE YOU?” The intercom blared. Evidently, though the décor of Roy’s dungeon lacked modern amenities, they had found fit to install an ear-shattering sound system behind the walls. And Roy didn’t even know who “they” were. Every time that voice asked him who he was, he asked himself who they were. Roy often wondered if lab rats thought the same thing.
“Like I told you an hour ago, and probably what I will tell you an hour from now, my name is Roy McGilman. I grew up in Boston. I graduated from Williams with a degree in Economics. I am currently unemployed, and you are not helping that in any regard.”
“WE ASK THE QUESTIONS, MR. MCGILMAN, NOT YOU.” Not so belligerent this time. Maybe they were getting tired of the same response over, and over, and over again. “WE WILL TRY THIS AGAIN IN AN HOUR. PERHAPS SOMETHING NEW WILL EMERGE FROM THE SURFACE.”
“Whatever you say, boss. Obviously I won’t be going anywhere.”
No response. They weren’t social creatures, whoever they were. Some scraping noise made him start. Although it really wasn’t necessary. He didn’t need to start. But it probably came with the whole “imprisoned” package; some strange sound happens, might as well jump as if a knife were suddenly at the neck, a rat suddenly at one’s feet, a voice suddenly trumpeting in the head. Mid-stride Roy had his epiphany. Is that—could it be? Could this be what they wanted to hear for so long? That somehow, at some point in the past month, he’d been hearing more than what people had been saying? That he was different? This—this was huge…Roy couldn’t keep grasp of his surroundings, once again plummeting into the black.


A story I’ve been working on…

They called him a cheat. But he was just lucky. It was a special thing he had. His relationship with the positive side of chance got him out of a lot of bad situations. Like the one he was in—it was obvious to Roy that going into a high stakes poker game with the local mob boss would not end in a handshake. Roy just had to keep his wits about him—he’d leave unscathed somehow. He looked at the face across from him. Unreadable. They all were. These mob types were professionals. But they didn’t have Roy’s luck. Looking at his cards didn’t give him any boost in morale though; five cards, different numbers and nowhere near a straight. And he hoped his bluff would work. Something had to.
“I’ll raise you $500.” The money pot was now almost $5,000. Roy thought about licking his lips, knowing that if he did, he would probably have two new holes in his body, an entrance and an exit, probably made by the Beretta hidden in the coat of the man to his right. Roy saw his chips, and called the man’s bet.
“I’ll fold.” The man to Roy’s left laid his cards face down on the wooden table. Three players left. The next player in turn played with his oiled, black goatee, and eyed Roy with a soul-scorching blaze. Roy wanted to melt. But he just had to last it out. Something would get him out without a scratch. Something.
“You told me all you was was lucky, Roy boy.”
Where was he going with this? Roy eyed the men to his left and right, both turned slightly in his direction. “It’s all I am, Don.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll raise a thousand; we’ll see where your luck takes you next.”
Shit, this sucked. Roy was damn sure the Don had better cards, and could back it up with a museum of firepower. Roy looked at his cards as he went to wipe the sweat off his brow.
“I’ll call, boss.” The man to his right said.
Looking at his chips gave Roy some time to decide where chance would take him; it was a paradox to think of chance as a decision, but it usually was for Roy. As long as it paid the rent. “I’ll raise a thousand.”
The men to his left and right gave furtive glances to each other—they didn’t get the memo about subtlety, apparently. Something had gone dreadfully wrong. Roy gulped.
“Boys, search him!” Roy was lifted to his feet by two burly hands, and patted down. “Check his pockets! Sleeves! Anything!” Fingers ripped at Roy’s sleeves, and others dove into his pockets like eagles in search of invisible prey. Something made a sound on the cracked cement floor, and Roy could only hope it was a wad of cash.
“Sir,” One of the Don’s thugs bent below Roy’s gaze, “he’s got aces!”
That was impossible, Roy thought. He was lucky, not a cheat. Guess it didn’t matter. Not now, anyway. Some little breeze in the air just told him that his supply of luck ran out. A loud clatter audibly described the table turning over.
“Get the cuffs and the tape—we’s gonna see if his luck stops him from bleeding.” That’s approximately where Roy’s recollection cut off, because the next thing he knew, he was sprawling on the ground after a painful hook. No. Make that two.

So this was the mirror room. Accurately described from the rumors, and Roy was inside, dead center, cuffed and muffled with a wad of oily cloth and roll of duct tape. That wasn’t all. Roy’s stomach felt as if he had been lying on a bed of coals for an hour, and his breathing interrupted by an unhealthy rattle. Seems like the two brutes had some fun at his expense. Sadistic fuckers, they were. Roy stared at his image through the only eye that could open. Bloody and bruised, used and oozing, he was more beat than a hooker in Vegas.
“I don’t like cheats, Roy boy. You oughtta known that.” A sharp blow to the back of his head sent stars into his eyes. It also signified the Don’s entrance. Pain spread across his face like a fast growing beard when the tape and the muffle were ripped off.
“But that wasn’t—I mean—” The Don’s fist whirled around and slammed into Roy’s cheek. His torso moved in sympathy. Trying to form his next defense, a tooth came loose and fell to the floor.
“Ain’t so lucky now, eh?” Another fist, this time a jab, flattened his nose with an audible crunch and sent his head reeling backward. “I’ll tell ya what, Roy boy. I’ll make this easy.” The Don’s hand perused a pocket and returned with a switchblade. It opened with a metallic shriek. The Don was smiling from ear to ear. “Tell me where you got those cards, and you might leave with some fingers.”
“I don’t—”
“Wrong answer.” The anticipation of the blade hurt worse than the pain of loosing his right pinky. Eventually that hurt just as much. Out of the corner of his eye, something small and red rolled across the dirty floor.

It was dark out, or maybe he just couldn’t see. Roy squirmed, and rolled around. A muted screech of tires on gravel told him precisely where he was. He tried to move more, but something was preventing his feet from moving apart.
“Boys, open the doors!”
Hands bound behind his back, and his feet bound by something else, Roy was defenseless and when the four arms of the Don’s brutes grappled with his squirming torso, he could do nothing except await his fate.
“Take the bag off.” Suddenly Roy could see, and when that came about, he spit at the first face he saw. One of the brutes, and he felt the answer in his guts. “Easy, easy, easy, Roy boy. You still have a chance. Tell us where the cards came from, we’ll break the cement and you walk off,” the Don laughed, “Easy as pie.”
Like hell it would end that way. They took him to the dock, and that’s usually where most of the Don’s enemies meet their end. Roy was going to drown. Worse, he had no clue where the cards came from—what choice did he have? Then recollections of one of the brutes taking off his jacket upon entering the Don’s suite flashed to the front of his mind. How could that work? The brute’s hands are far too big for that kind of legerdemain. But then Roy remembered being embraced by the Don himself. Maybe that was it—
“You have anything to say, Roy boy? I mean, this ain’t the Academy Awards, here.”
“You did it!” The words were unfamiliar and hard to get out, sort of like a bad dream, only worse, because in this dream, everything was real. “You sonuvabitch! You did it!”
“How can you possibly expect me to believe that?” He laughed again, and it sent a chill down Roy’s spine. “Toss him, boys—and clear the evidence.” He walked back to his Cadillac, in which he followed the van, started the engine, and drove off.
Rough hands pushed and shoved him to the end of the dock. The harsh feeling of mortality cut in. Thirty-two years old, and dead, because of some bum luck. He imagined his obituary in the newspaper in the several months that followed, and how his existence boiled down to a series of stupid choices. Roy realized that in the end, his life made no progress. No one alive cared about him; his mother in a psych ward, his father dead, his brothers and sisters all gone off somewhere to pursue vastly more successful lives. That hurt worse than the brute’s punch. It hurt worse than the missing finger. He gazed out at the bay, at the moon half hidden behind a dark cloud. His eyes tracked the lights at the far end of the peninsula, the cars that meandered by, noticing not a suspicious thing in the world. Nothing mattered. He was going to die, and his life meant nothing. But Roy couldn’t accept it; it was a hard lump of food that was too big to swallow. He needed to change something. His life needed meaning. He wouldn’t accept it, and he closed his eyes, the difference between the dry air and the water a brief change in temperature, the difference between the pent up breath and the cool, fatal water a mere change in taste.

Blackness consumed him. Minutes after submergence, Roy remembered winking out of consciousness. It must have been a day, since he washed up on shore, and it was mid-afternoon. Something inside wanted to come out, and with a gruesome vengeance. A gallon of water proceeded to find its way onto the warm gravel before him. Coughing and sputtering, he stood up. His clothes were dry—he must have been lying there for a while. Looking around, Roy noticed that he wasn’t that far away from the dock where the brutes pushed him off. The more he thought about the events that happened last night, the more Roy was convinced that the whole operation was unprofessional. What happened to the cement his feet were encased in? It didn’t matter. He was alive, and what’s more, the brutes even forgot to take the money out of his wallet. Time to go to the bar. Seems his luck didn’t break after all.

His favorite bar was just at the fringe of the docks, lucky him; he didn’t have to travel far to erase this memory from his mind. Entering the door, he caught all the familiar scents and sights. But it seemed louder for some reason, like there were more people inside the bar than he saw. He passed it off as an illusion of being unconscious for a day, and didn’t think much more about it. Sitting down at the bar brought him a different feeling, though, when he glanced at the calendar.
October 23rd. Tuesday. Two full weeks had passed. How? Screaming and yelling drowned out the whimpers forming in his stomach. Roy tried to concentrate on the game, but it wasn’t working. Maybe the bar wasn’t the right place for him after all.
Someone was talking to him and it took awhile for Roy to focus his attention. “Roy, you don’t look so good,” the bartender said, “want me to call a cab?”
A cab? No, he needed to walk this off, he needed to get out of here—the walls were closing in. He shook his head and left as quickly as he had sat down. Once outside, he inhaled deeply and set his mind to work. Two weeks. He had been lying there for two weeks—had anyone noticed? Was he underwater for all that time? Surely that meant he had drowned—it’s the only way anything would make sense, two weeks underwater is impossible to survive. But why was he alive? Coming across an alley, Roy slowed. He heard something. Someone was shrieking—no, not that. Someone was begging for help. Sounded feminine. Looking around he saw no one, but maybe if he moved toward the sound it might give him a clue.
Help me!
Why won’t she be quiet? Where did that come from? Who was that? Roy moved into the alley. There was a dumpster in one corner, and a door in the other.
Oh my God, he’s got a gun! It was the girl’s voice again. The most obvious path to Roy was through the door, but upon coming in contact, it wouldn’t budge.
Cursing, Roy looked for an alternative, then realized there was something above the dumpster, and looking in the direction—a window!
He’s unzipping his pants! Someone! HELP!
Scrambling on top of the dumpster, he noted the glass was already cracked in some areas—only a small shove would break it entirely. A short burst from his elbow did the job. He picked the shards of glass off the bottom of the pane, and shimmied through the gap. Where was the sound coming from? Kneeling, Roy waited.
There! Roy lowered his shoulder and ran toward the door down the stairs to his left.
What was that? Who the fuck—
Roy stopped short of the door and instead cautiously stepped to the side, his right shoulder resting on the doorjamb. Footsteps made their way to the door he was about to bash in. The pistol entered his vision first, and he could only think of running away, out of sight, but there was someone else there and she needed his help. Steeling himself, Roy made the decision to grab the gun before the man could turn in his direction. It wasn’t all the way visible yet; he watched in agony as it gradually came into view. He counted in his head to make up for the lack of noise. One. Time seemed to slow; his muscles contracted and extended; he was a beast and the man his prey. Two. Energy pulsed from his shoulders to his arms, his spine to his legs. Three. Release.
Roy exploded into action as the wrist of the man appeared from behind the door. With his left hand he folded the pistol toward the ceiling, his right, balled into a fist, smashed into the man’s forearm, breaking it with a loud crunch. The pistol fell away and the man slammed into the wall back inside the room. Rage clouding his judgment, Roy sauntered into the room, approaching the downed man with an air of confidence he didn’t have a moment ago.
An arc of pain trailed across his shin, burning into his leg. The downed man had waited for him to come within reach of his knife. Roy staggered back and fell into a table, breaking it, his back flaming up. Reminded him of that terrible spinal tap at the hospital. But now, the man was standing, right arm flailing at his side, his left hand twirling a vicious, blood-stained Bowie knife between the index and middle finger. The look of death was in his eye.
In the nuts! Kick him in the nuts!
Roy didn’t have time to question the unseen advice. Using his left foot, he lanced off his bruised back and plunged his shoe deep into the man’s groin. A whimper not unlike the one Roy had made when he noticed the calendar issued from the man’s lips as he crumpled to the ground. That man wasn’t moving for a while. Better see to that girl.
Over here! Behind the bed!
“Okay, I hear you! I’m coming!” Roy ran to the other side of the bed and saw the girl—hands bound and—and mouth sealed shut with duct tape. Going back and grabbing the fetal man’s knife, Roy shook his head. No sense in thinking about that now. Back at the girl, he put the knife to work against the rope. Soon her hands were free to take off the tape.
She was just as confused as Roy was, and for a while they both looked at each other. She decided to break the silence. “Tie him up.”
Right. He should have done that in the first place, but his goal was to make sure the girl was safe. In any case, he turned around, rope in hand, and bound the man to the foot of the bed, which was bolted to the floor. Now the man wasn’t able to go anywhere.
…dipshit…saved the wrong person…
“Wha?” Roy turned to the man again, and his eyes stared into his skull. Then they focused on something just past his shoulder. That’s where the lights went out. Again. Roy hadn’t had much luck with staying in consciousness these past couple of days.

When he awoke, he found himself stripped even of his dignity, cuffed to chains ten feet off a yellow-tinged concrete floor. He could just touch the ground if he stood on tiptoes. The idea of where he was soared so far over his head it may as well have landed on the moon. Maybe it was probability that got him out of trouble, and his luck that got him in.