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Black and White

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Thomas sat in the dingy diner waiting for his mark. The diner was mostly empty, save for a couple late night truckers and insomniacs with nothing better to do. Thomas sat in a booth near the far right corner away from everybody else. The bright red upholstery made his arms stick to the booth every time he laid them down so he wrapped them together in front of him on the table. From where he sat he could see whoever came in before they could see him and he also had a good look at all the red-eyed patrons of the diner in front of him.

The art and paintings on the wall gave the diner a kind of retro feel and Thomas liked that. Maybe in another life he was part of that crowd. He thought staring up at a black and white photo of James Dean smoking a cigarette and leaning up against his motorcycle, was redefining what cool is. Beside the photo was a life-size, thin cutout of Elvis Prestly, the king was shaking it down right up against the wall, frozen in time to the better days when people would scream his name and he couldn’t do anything wrong.

There was more but Thomas didn’t come here to ogle the Marilyn Monroe pictures, or idolize the easy rider Jack Nicholson frame up. He came here to try and save a life. Right now Roy Conners was coming home from work early. The accounting firm he worked at was swamped with back payments, and to make matters worse all the computers on his floor froze up. They have to send for a tech guy, but he won’t come around until the morning. So instead of just waiting for the tech guy, his boss piled a bunch of files on his desk and told him to take the shit to his house and finish it up before they open tomorrow.

Thomas knew that when he got home three hours before he usually did, he would find his wife sleeping with another man. These circumstances were already in motion, there was nothing Thomas could do. The others got to her first and she did what they wanted, but they got cocky, like usual. They thought it was over. What they think is that Roy Conners will storm out of their small one-bedroom high rise, come to the shitty retro diner across the street and think about ways to kill his wife.

The others were smart, they have been putting little hints in his head about doing it even before he found her having an affair. A random show on television, that weird Guns N' Roses song on the radio that seemed to always pop up when he was in the car, a strange book left for him to find in the hallway on his way to work. All clever little clues leading him down a path they were trying to push him.

Thomas had one shot at this, he knew he couldn’t have gone after him too soon. If he did it before he caught her, then everything he would have said would have gone out the window when Roy saw his wife with her lover. No, he knew that the only chance he had of changing his mind was now, while they were alone, while what she did was fresh in his mind.

A soft bell chime broke his train of thought and the light brown door opened inward as someone new entered the diner. The man strode briskly up to the bar with his chest pushed out in front of him as if whatever he had built up inside him was just waiting for an excuse to burst out. Roy still had his work clothes on, he wore a tailored dark blue suit, that looked almost black in the diner's dim lighting, with a matching jacket, underneath he wore a plain white dress shirt. The light blue-striped tie he must have worn to work looked stretched out and hung loosely off to the side like a misplaced tail.

The anger and rage were swirling inside him, Thomas could feel it from where he was sitting even if he couldn’t see it, which he could. The long black tendrils were rising off of his suit like the tentacles of a pissed off squid.

It was now or never, soon he would lose him to the others and Roy would leave the diner, go back into his small high rise and to the special drawer in his study where he keeps his gun. Thomas knew he would shoot her in the back while she was still packing up her things, she probably wouldn’t even hear him coming, but the first shot wouldn’t kill her, and Roy wouldn’t stop there. Thomas knew all of this like he knew that the man in front of him was Roy, there didn’t need to be any proof. He knew what would happen if he didn’t do what he was sent here to do, as if it already happened, and he figured maybe somewhere it had.

He slowly slid out from under the table and walked leisurely over to the bar. It was times like this that made him miss his wings. The diner was old school and still served beer, even though in most of these places these days the strongest thing you could get was the bad coffee.

“I'll have what he is having, I'm having a shitty day,” Thomas said, pointing to Roy’s beer. He let out a loud sigh as he flopped down in the stool next to Roy.

Roy barely even moved. “Listen guy, I’m not in the mood for talking, please go back to where you were sitting,” Roy whispered in a voice devoid of all emotion, he was almost gone already.

“Not a talker? That’s fine, I just need to rant, my wife cheated on me a couple weeks ago, and I just walked right in on them. Still really hasn’t hit me yet, you know? I mean you always think about what you're going to do if it ever happens, but you never really think it could happen. I kind of just stood there shocked, with this dumb look on my face, I must have been standing there for minutes. The only thing that brought me out of it was my wife screaming, weird huh?” Thomas thought the only way to get to him was to relate, but knew it could also go the other way to.

Roy stared into his beer, giving no sign that he even heard Thomas talk. “For me the hard part isn’t what happened, it happened, there isn’t anything I can do about it now, it’s where to go from here. I used to get all these urges to do something really crazy, you know? Like hurting her because she hurt me, but that wouldn’t solve anything. Why would I have to pay for a mistake she did? Would jail time be worth that?

"I mean I get the appeal, believe me, I mean I felt that she ruined my life, I wanted to return the favor. But then I got thinking, if I went to jail, then she won, then I really let her destroy me and that I wouldn’t allow. How could I keep on going, knowing that what she did ruined my life, what does that say about me? How weak would that make me that I couldn’t pick up the pieces and carry on? There are more fish in the sea, right?” Thomas let it hang there trying to get a feel for what Roy was thinking.

Roy’s head turned slowly and he looked at Thomas, his eyes were bloodshot. “How could you ever trust anyone again?” he whispered almost pleadingly.

“Yeah, it would be hard. But have you ever gotten pick pocketed or ripped off somewhere? Just because one person did something to hurt you, even if it was someone you thought you knew, someone you loved, it doesn’t mean that everyone would do the same. You just have to tell yourself you are stronger than she is, tell yourself that she was the weak one, that she was the one to feel sorry for. Then just live your life, start over, don’t let this moment be the end of you and you will be ok.” Roy’s eyes widened a little bit and he seemed to understand that this conversation wasn’t about some stranger he met in a dinner.

“Who are you?” His voice rose a little and some of the color seemed to flow back into his face. The black tentacles surrounding him were still there, but they lost some of their fierceness and seemed to be faded.

“A friend, someone who did the right thing, like you would have done, right?” Thomas said and put a wad of bills on the bar. “Yours is on me, to a new life,” Thomas said and walked away, when he got to the light brown door he looked back one more time at Roy. Tonight when Roy leaves the bar he has a choice to make. He will either hurry back home to his study and his special drawer, or he will wait and start over. Thomas didn’t know which one it will be, he can see both outcomes though.

He could see Roy being shoved into a cell, his lifeless eyes staring at the wall seeing his wife’s smiling face on the day of their wedding when he knew without a doubt that they were both happy. Or Roy in a new apartment, with a new girlfriend, taking it slow and letting love and trust build up. He can see him both happy and sad, free and caged, new and old. What will happen is not up to him, what he does is just give them a chance. A chance to go against the others. A chance to do good.

He walks down the road and knows there will be another mark tomorrow. Another person to give the choice for good or evil, to be happy or sad, a choice between life and death. He needs to be the counter balance to the others. The right choice to all the wrong in the world, it's what he is here for, it's his job. Sometimes he missed his wings.

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