Thursday, May 13, 2010

Demands #fridayflash

I demand that she take me to this place she told me about, the scene of the crime as it were. I know I shouldn’t even ask, but I can’t help myself. I need to see it, even if the truth of it will be worse than my imaginings and it drives me deeper into despair.

She seems resigned to my irrational choice, so she shows me without an argument. I drive in the pitch blackness of an oppressive summer night, moonless and moist. She stares out the window, saying nothing. There is no sound but the roar of an angry engine and the pounding of blood in my temples. I try not to let my emotions get the best of me. It’s very difficult.

The hotel we pull up to feels like some dark cave. The lights are dim, the bar adjacent to the hotel long since closed. The cars in the parking lot feel like apocalyptic husks, discarded years ago. I pull up, my headlights a violation of this blackest of spaces, and shut off the engine. My car, like the rest, joins the ranks of the dead machines, cast aside for what lies inside the looming building.

She leads me to a nondescript door on the face of the building. The key is already in her hand, sliding into the lock as she answers my unspoken question. “We … keep the room. There’s a standing rendezvous here …”

I try to keep myself under control. Try to sound reasonable when I speak. “How … how often is this … this …?” I can’t even find the words I want.

“Every week. Sometimes twice, if we feel up to it,” she admits freely, as though it doesn’t bother her. As though it’s the most natural thing in the world. My chest feels like its burning. She turns the knob and reaches in, expertly finding the light switch in the dark room.

I walk in once the light is on, ready to confront the space like it’s some sort of monster. Inside there are no dragons to slay, no boogey men but what I’ve brought with me. The room is small, bare and old and worn, with discolored wallpaper sloughing off the walls in patches and threadbare sheets on the one, large bed in the room.

There is no mistaking the purpose of a room like this.

She enters behind me and closes the door. I stand, looking at the room, trying not to gawk as my mind tries to picture her and some other being, inhabiting this room, regularly dropping from the living world to exist for a time in this tucked away place. It’s warm in here, but far drier than outside, and it feels like a whole other world with the orange glow of the light keeping the darkness at bay.

“I … I can’t picture this,” I admit to her. “You … here … it doesn’t make any sense.”

She shuts the light off in response, walking past me. There is nothing to see now, no light at all. I wait as my eyes begin to adjust to this new darkness. Slowly, very slowly, the world comes into focus. To her credit, it was the right response. In this light, all faint grey-blue tones like a heavy bruise on the world, this room seems mysterious and alien, uncaring walls and slashes of light from out in the parking lot coming in through the blinds. The bed falls across this pattern, slats of brighter color making prison bars on the mattress.

She’s laying on the bed, now. I hadn’t seen her move, but there she is, lying there staring up at the ceiling, hands tucked under her head like she hasn’t a care in the world. “This is what it’s like for me. It’s dark. It’s away. It’s comfortable. I don’t come here to look at the furniture.”

“Obviously,” I answer, my mouth dry. I thought the humidity outside was unbearable, but in here where it’s as dry and still as a tomb, it’s somehow worse. I feel as though all the water is being sucked from me, the room thirsty for what life I had to give it.

“Come lay down with me,” she says.

I stare at her, stare at the bed where she had … I couldn’t even finish the thought without my rational self dissolving in the emotional turmoil that I was keeping a tight lid on. “No, I can’t do that.” I move over to the other side of the bed, where there was a small space before the closet. I lie down on the floor, here where it was dark and somehow cooler for being on the ground. “I’ll lay down here.”

She moves over to the edge of the bed, her head a silhouette as she peered down at me. After a moment, she rolls off the edge carefully, landing at my side where she throws an arm over my chest protectively. I don’t have it in me to shrug her off.

“So what now? You know. I couldn’t stand you not knowing.”

I don’t know what to say at first. I look down at her and run one idle hand through her hair. “I don’t know what now. There’s not much I can do but deal with it. What other choice do I have?”

“You could have gotten mad,” she answers. “You could have yelled. Could have hit me. Threatened me. Left for good.”

I think it over as I watch her face turn up to mine, awaiting my answer. I shrug as best I can with her against me, shaking my head. “I don’t think I could do any of those things. I feel numb. It hurts, but it’s all … tied down.”

“Tied down?”

“Like a tourniquet,” I answer. “I’m keeping it all from bleeding out of me.”

“You don’t have to do that,” she says. “I can take it.”

“No, I could hurt you, if I did that. And I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself. Easier to stay in control.”

“I’m not afraid,” she says. She reaches up onto the bed, her hand fumbling around for something. When it returns, she has her purse in her hand. “I’ve got a little something that would have kept me safe.” In the faint light down here, I watch as she opens up the bag and pulls out her little something. It gleams faintly metallic, large and heavy, snub-nosed and dangerous.

“What the hell are you doing with that?”

“It’s more effective than pepper spray,” she says. “A girl’s gotta protect herself.”

“Is it loaded?”

“Of course it’s loaded,” she answers. “What good would it be otherwise? I might as well go out and buy a toy and paint it the right color and hope for the best, at that point.” She hesitats, and then looks up at me. “You wanna hold it?”

I pause, thinking for a second. Then I hold out my hand. “Sure.” She slides it into my palm and my fingers close around it. It’s heavier than I imagined, a huge chunk of metal cold and unfeeling. I lift my hand, feeling its heft, looking at the outline of it. “I’m surprised you can even lift this thing.”

“It took some practice,” she admits. “But I’m a pretty good shot.”

“Just how many things don’t I know about you, even after all this time?”

She doesn’t answer, just shrugs her shoulders and rests her head back on my chest. “I can’t give away everything at a moment’s notice,” she says. “I’m not like that. Maybe you’re okay with being transparent, but I can’t do it. You can’t straighten a maze, you just have to run it and try to get to the other side.”

I shakemy head. “I’m tired of playing games.”

“Well, then you’ll just have to make a choice. You either keep up this game, though I’d hardly call it that myself, or you get up and walk out this door and don’t come back. How does that suit your carefully controlled intellect, hm? Here you are, in the den of my dishonesty, and yet you still don’t know how you’re going to react. How pathetic can you be?”

I hug her close to me, her body small and soft against mine. The report that comes out of the monster she had handed me is muffled by her torso. She lets out a small gasp, her body stiffening beside me and then going loose. I feel a new heat, urgently warm and wet, spreading across my body.

She clings to me, not raising her head. “You really were upset, weren’t you?”

I hold her, rubbing her back, avoiding the gaping hole that I had blown through her. It wouldn’t be long, if the puddle I was lying in was any indication. I lean down, kissing her cheek and whispering in her ear. “More than you’ll ever know.”

“I’m … glad,” she says. “I didn’t think you cared as much as I did. I’m sorry that this is what it took for me to believe it.”

“It’s okay,” I answer. “Just relax. Everything is going to work out. You’ll see.”

“It already has,” she says. She raises her head, looking at me. “This is how it was supposed to be. You and me, together in the end. Everything else was just … baggage.”

I nod and she rests her head against me again. “Your heartbeat is steady,” she says. “I don’t think mine is, anymore. Will you miss me, when I’m gone?”

“Of course,” I answer without a thought. “I love you.”

“Mm, I know you do,” she says, her voice faint. “Thank you.” And then we are silent, our breathing the only sound in the room, the warm puddle I am lying in cooling. Eventually it turns thick and sticky, and soon there is only my breathing in the room. I am alone. Instantly, I miss her. Not that it matters for long.

Holding onto what was left of her, I lift the revolver. I had kept it free of any of the mess she had made. I lift it, staring into the cylinder. There are plenty of bullets left. I only need one. I rest it against my temple, where the muzzle feels cool and refreshing. I don’t have to keep a tight reign on my self-control anymore. I could just let go.

I let go.

Movie Rundown, Mid-May Version

I apologize that this has taken so long to get this out (by my count this is a week and change late) but things conspire from keeping me from sitting down and pounding this out. Not that I've been watching a whole lot of things, so this list isn't too terribly painful to slog through. Lately I've been doing less projects and watching more things I'm interested in, so this list is rated generally higher than a normal slice of movies would be. But there's nothing wrong with watching good movies!

The West Wing (season 2) – *****
The West Wing continues to be one of the best, if not THE best, TV shows I've ever seen. Season 2 was better than season 1, which was amazing in itself. A powerful show.

The Cat Returns – ****
One of the few Studio Ghibli films released in the West not directed by Miyazaki, The Cat Returns still bears a lot of the hallmarks that make Ghibli films so special: a sense of wonder, flight, an emphasis on personal empowerment and imagination. The Cat Returns is a great fairy tale of a young girl stolen away by a kingdom of cats. It reminded me a lot of Labyrinth. Anybody who loves good animation should see it.

Initial D Second Stage – ****
I could just repost my Initial D First Stage review, but this is 2010, so instead I'll just link it.

Dexter (season 3) – ****
Dexter season 3 went to some interesting places. After Dexter confronted his worst fears in the last season, he entered this season full of confidence and power and the ability to achieve whatever he wanted. A killer in his prime, it was the entanglements on the home front that really made this season, including an amazing guest role by Jimmy Smits.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – ****
I'm an unabashed Terry Gilliam fan. That said, I understand that his movies are difficult at best, and downright antagonistic towards the audience at worst. The first half of this movie, especially, fell into that later category, with a whole slew of unlikable characters acting with uncertain motivations. But it all really starts to shake out once Heath Ledger shows up and takes charge. Even forgetting that this is his last movie, he turns in an amazing performance as a smooth-talking man with an ambiguous past and only a flirting relationship with the truth. The Imaginarium works, even with the death of its star mid-movie, and the inclusion of Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to take the place of Ledger in scenes feels organic and appropriate for this movie. It's a miracle this didn't end up like Don Quixote, but I'm glad it didn't. At the end of the day, Parnassus is up with Gilliam's better movies.

Match Point – ****
Continuing my long term Woody Allen project brought me to this darkly comic little thriller. Match Point starts out as a weird classist British drama about a working man who suddenly finds himself in the upper class and uncertain how to handle it. Watching it all unravel is interesting enough, but the movie takes a late second act turn that really surprised me, and kept me on my toes until the final scene. Match Point is a movie that continually undermines itself in the best way, a riff on an established movie archetype (see Cassandra's Dream, below) that is better for its self-awareness.

Disneynature is in the habit of releasing a nature movie every year for Earth Day, it seems. And I couldn't be happier. On a big screen, in a theater full of people, these movies are breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly engaging. I teasingly refer to it as the yearly public dose of nature porn, but that's not far from the mark. It's a lovingly created tribute to the natural world, and just from a visual standpoint it's worth experiencing. Is it good? I have no idea what metric to compare it to.

Kick-Ass – ****
Make no bones about it, Kick-Ass is violent. But I wouldn't call it violent in a seedy, exploitative way, despite what some people might want to claim. It's transformative violence, people in situations who react in a certain way that goes beyond our day to day responses, to a place where some part of us dreams we could all be, a place of mythic heroes. There are scenes in this movie that have the impact of movies like Old Boy, The Professional, or Kill Bill Volume 1. They're affecting because of their extremes. And the rest of the movie is pretty good, too, a great send up of the same old tired origin stories every super hero movie tries to tell. For anyone with the disposition to handle a little blood, Kick-Ass has plenty to offer.

North by Northwest – *****
North by Northwest is the best James Bond movie ever. No, I'm not kidding. Yeah, sure, it involves a reluctant case of mistaken identity, but the movie quickly drops the pretense that Cary Grant is just a normal guy in an abnormal situation and becomes one of the best cinematic representations of adventure and intrigue I've ever seen. Grant carries this movie, suave and unassuming and convincingly competent without seeming invincible. I love everything about this movie, from it's goofy, out-of-left-field start to its rapturously brief (and dare I say perfect) ending. This isn't just the best Hitchcock movie I've seen yet (not really a big field to dominate, I'll admit) but it's one of the best movies I've seen--ever.

Bronson – ***
I really wanted to like Bronson. In fact, I was going along with it quite well at first. The barely lucid, crazy story of Britain's most notorious prisoner, Bronson opens with the kind of fever dream violence that reminds me of A Clockwork Orange. It's strange, entrancing, and powerful. Unfortunately, that kind of energy doesn't stick around, and midway through the movie seems to run out of steam, plodding across the finish line by the sense of goodwill the first half gathered. It's not a bad movie, but it's so horribly front-loaded that the ending was a crushing disappointment.

Iron Man 2 – ****
Iron Man 2's best feature is that it doesn't feel like a proper sequel. In its fast paced two hours isn't a heavy continuation of the first movie's arc, but instead it is perhaps the first major installment of this new Marvel Universe initiative. The movie is a breezy 2 hours, but it seems to go by in the blink of an eye. Ideas that will pan out in future movies are introduced, nods to other franchises are made, and Tony Stark continues to be the most fascinating Marvel hero put on film yet. It's a strange movie, but I found it incredibly compelling.

Cassandra's Dream – ***
Remember up in the review of Match Point when I mentioned the obvious entries into the thriller drama movie? Well, this movie is that. The story of two brothers who get roped into a murder and how it affects them, this movie has all the charm of a dead fish. It's baffling how the same director can tackle similar subject matter with two wildly different results. The actors (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) are both fantastic, but the story is very straightforward and I ended up waiting for the movie to end instead of enjoying my experience with it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Mob Lawyer (part 3)

“What the hell are you doing bringing the kid here?”

Camen looked up from the body that was laying in the entryway of the house, dropping the sheet back over her. He turned to face the detective who was coming over to them, a tired looking man in a disheveled looking suit.

“Sonny, you know he’s with me,” Camen said. “I can’t very well show up on the job without my assistant.”

“You’re not here on the job, Ben.”

“Detective Nolan,” Hiroki spoke up, “are you saying that Ben is a suspect?”

The detective rocked on his heels, thinking for a moment before he spoke. “Not seriously, no. But we found your card on her body, and so we had to make the call. It’s not like you just hand those out to everyone.”

“Well, I do hand them out to everyone, considering that it’s a good way to drum up business,” Camen said, “but in this case you’re right. We were here earlier this afternoon, when I assure you she was very much alive.”

"What were you doing here?”

“Investigating,” Camen said as he motioned towards the body. “I needed to question her on a case I’ve got, tracking down a guy stepping out on his wife. She was the other woman.”

Sonny’s eyes lit up. “Then we have a suspect!”

“Maybe,” Camen said. “Let me fill you in on what I’ve been up to. You mind if Sugoi here takes some crime scene photos?”

Sonny looked around the apartment. Most of the cops were already gone, just a few left milling around outside to keep the neighbors at bay and wait for the coroner to show up. “Yeah, I suppose he can. Don’t touch the body, kid, or I’ll make sure you never step foot on one of my crime scenes again.”

Hiroki hesitated, waiting until the two of them walked away, Benjamin talking rapidly while Sonny listened. Ben didn’t have any choice but to cooperate with the police, but Hiroki didn’t like it. The police were decidedly unadventurous about these sorts of things.

Hiroki lifted the sheet and pulled a small digital camera out of his bag. He had photographed bodies before for Ben, though never in an official capacity in front of the police. He felt decidedly unprofessional as he went about taking all the pictures he could of what used to be Victoria Falchi. It was decidedly messy for such a neat kill. Two round holes were stamped in the skin above her low-cut neckline, and another set right between her eyes.

He took his pictures and then returned to Ben, still talking to Sonny. When he approached, Camen gestured to Hiroki. “Sugoi has our conversation with Miss Falchi recorded, if you need to further substantiate our proof.”

“No,” Sonny said. “You’ve told me enough to work with for now. If I need it, I’ll give you a call. But you’re free to go.”

The two of them walked out of the townhome and into Ben’s car. Once they were inside, Ben held out his hand for the camera. Hiroki gave it to him, watching as he flipped through the images. “I can’t believe he didn’t take my recording of our interview,” Hiroki said, as a way to make conversation. He was still unnerved whenever he was confronted with a body like that.

Camen pulled out a cigarette and lit it, one-handed, as he rolled down the window and continued to flip through the pictures. “The thing you gotta remember about the cops, at least the good ones, is they know that if they push too hard I’ll stop volunteering information. So I volunteer, and they go easy. We’re in the same business, and if you do your job right when you’re negotiating your fees you’ll get paid whether the police do the work for you or not.”

“So … what now? Detective Nolan seemed to think that our missing man was the killer.”

“It certainly could be construed that way,” Ben said. He handed the camera back to Hiroki. “What do you see?”

“Two gunshots to the chest, one to the head. Looks like whoever it was shot her as she opened the door. Neighbors didn’t report gunshots, so there was some kind of suppressor being used.”

“Yes. There’s one problem with that, though.”

“Which is?”

“If someone shot her from the doorway where she was, there’d be some sort of burn left on the skin, even with a suppressor. She couldn’t have been shot point blank.”

“Are you saying she wasn’t shot there?”

“No, I’m pretty sure she was shot there. Too much blood for that to not be where she was standing,” Camen said as he started up the car. The engine wheezed to life and they took off. “But it means that the shooter was standing somewhere else. I don’t suppose you thought to look for where the bullets hit after they exited the body.”

Hiroki gaped for a moment, feeling incredibly shortsighted, before he shook his head.

“Don’t worry, I already did. The two bullets that hit her in the chest struck the back of the front door. You didn’t notice because it was covered until the forensics guy could get there. The third one is embedded in the floor under the body, probably.”

“A double tap to the chest and one between the eyes sounds a lot like a mob hit,” Hiroki said, trying to recover. “We’re looking for a mob guy, remember.”

“Yeah, but he’s a lawyer, not a hit man. So far as my research pulled up, he didn’t even own a gun, let alone know how to use it enough to do something like that.”

“So … what then?”

“I don’t know,” Camen answered. “We just continue the investigation. Though the odds of it being a coincidence that she was killed shortly after we asked her about our missing man seem pretty high.”

“So someone’s killing the people related to this case?”

“If' that’s true,” Camen said, “then we need to be careful, meddling around and asking questions. And we need to talk to our client. The last thing we need is to wake up tomorrow and find that our employer ate a bullet.”

“We’re going to be out late, then?”

"Camen looked over at Hiroki and shrugged. “If you need me to take you home, let me know now. I can always come get you next time you’re free.”

“There’s a job to do,” Hiroki answered, reaching for his phone. “I’m not going to miss this.”

Camen nodded and floored the accelerator. Hiroki dialed his mother’s number, a ready lie as to what he would be doing forming in his mind.