Nothing and nobody favor the weak.
Petey V’s bones ached. He’d been hustling almost forty years, and most criminals his age washed cars, washed dishes, or plastered sheet rock. You knew them by the vacant, defeated look in their eyes and the faded prison ink emerging from beneath a sleeve or marking the crease between thumb and forefinger.
After what he’d seen that day, Pete felt a vacancy creeping into his own eyes. He had two choices, neither desirable. He could kill Tran van Kahn’s lieutenant and start a war, or he could wait for them to come for him. One way or another, people would die. He would be killed, or he’d do some killing, the law of the life he’d chosen. He needed to decide which action he could live with and for how long.
Violence, like all suffering, came in waves.
There was a time when he’d enjoyed a fight, a time when he saw it as a legitimate expression of society’s undercurrent, the reality just beneath the submission demanded by the forces of productivity and consumption. Those days were gone. These days, he enjoyed a glass of wine with breakfast, smoked three packs a day, and spent evenings watching television in a bathrobe. He lived alone and daily business usually took care of itself. A wife or child would’ve been a weakness too easily exploited. He didn’t regret his decisions, but he wondered if he lived a life worth living, a life worth more than the lives he’d taken.
Pete splashed some wine out of a jug into his highball glass. He hadn’t killed anyone in twelve years. He still remembered the last, a pusher who’d robbed his supplier. The kid had been nineteen, not yet old enough to legally drink. They’d wrapped his body in a cheap area rug and tossed the rug in a dumpster. Pete had made sure the kid’s mother received a raise every year. She was the highest paid lunch lady in the city’s school system.
Violence came in waves.
You’d fight for this piece or that piece, all in the name of peace, but in the end, somebody new came to take your piece. Peace never lasted long. It had been almost fifteen years since the last big war, the war that brought Tran to power, which meant it took almost twenty years to realize the new boss had been no different than the old boss.
Pete swallowed half his glass of wine in three gulps. He lowered the glass to the table and realized he was wrong. He’d been the new boss. After the war, he’d been the most powerful man in Central City. The new boss hadn’t been the same as the old boss. When had he begun to consider Tran the new boss?
Violence came in waves.
Pete lit a cigarette and flicked some ash into the ashtray on the table. He enjoyed the smoke in his lungs, enjoyed the taste of red wine on his lips, and knew he would let it go. He wouldn’t kill Tran’s man. If he did, he’d only start a war he didn’t want to fight. He wanted to enjoy his wine, his smoke, and an eternity’s worth of peace and quiet.
Violence was inevitable; change was only a matter of time.