A Mere Moment’s Madness

“Mar… Put the gun down and walk out of here. Now.”

Three men sat at a table in a dingy bunker of a room. Nothing lay upon the table save for two pairs of hands. Per the preceding communicae, the men were to bring nothing with them save for their words. One man smiled. Another’s eyes were wide under shades, his heart surging with adrenaline. The third man frowned within his beard, his eyes closed in reticence at the most recent occurrence. A ceiling fan rotated itself haphazardly over the sudden stillness. Smoke and dust from the aged walls of wood wafted into the circle of a conversation now at its swift end. In this moment, a fourth man had entered the room, and ended the ill-fated discourse by furnishing a pistol. Closer to a child than a man, tears streamed down his face. The smiler, in a moment of hesitation just moments following this, had drawn a pistol of his own from some unseen hiding spot beneath the table or within the folds of his clothes. He remained within the fourth man’s sights, smiling despite that fact. The bearded fellow, closed off from the interaction’s latest by way of his closed eyes, lay within the sights of the smiler. The shaded fellow looked between each of the combatants in the standoff, his marks. This is what this meeting has come to; this singular moment was to decide many more potential moments for these men within the room, as well as many outside of it.

They saw it all like a reverie.

Leder, the bearded one, at the opposite end of the table, now staring down the end of a barrel, spoke the words to the fourth man. His voice was quiet. And yet, it echoed through the room, like a father’s to his son.

Mar struggled to ignore his words.

*I have the shot. I have it. Right now. And Leder wants me to throw it away. The fool. He’s taking it too far this time. The hubris. We’ll pay for this with blood. More blood. Always blood.*

Mar, the fourth man — an adolescent — cried tears as thick as blood. He had the shot. He held within his hands the means to ending the entire war. Gol, rival gang boss — the ‘smiler’ — was well within sight, vulnerable, ready to finally die. The young man had eavesdropped on the gathering’s opening stanzas of ’negotiation’ from his signature peephole in an adjacent room. Coincidentally, the two bosses had agreed upon a meeting place that also served as one of Mar’s personal stashes. He’d simply been in the right place, at the right time, to bust this foolishness. They engaged in a dialogue towards something like cooperation between the two groups. A negotiation with the hated Gol and his own gang of cruel miscreants. Bogus. Mar hated Leder for this, and almost as much as he hated him for failing to realize the new supplier — the very man seated in between he and Gol — was a spook. A cop, also invited to this ill-fated shindig, and serving as a kind of intermediary. Mar planned to shoot the cop right after he was finished with Gol. Gol had to know about him too. And yet he had come. It didn’t matter. Mar had hesitated and now it might cost them everything. The future of the whole gang would play out in this moment at the ends of these two barrels. Gol would kill Leder if Mar fired. Mar knew he would. He’d been too late.

*Stupid boy. Assassins don’t blubber like babies. He doesn’t have it in him, even to protect his dear da-da. But I do. I’ll end this and live to reap the grand rewards of this fall. My own will take the streets in their stead and reign in glory.*

Gol, the smiler, gripped his own death-dealer with confidence. His own single-handed machinations had led to this moment. Convincing Leder of his good intentions in wishing to meet with him, having him come alone, getting the damned cop in the same room — all of it had been well-cultivated, even masterfully so. All these years of conflict could end in a single note, a single masterstroke. Perfection, until … this damned interruption. Only a few measly minutes from this city being his, and this punk crashes in, shouting with murderous glee. Gol had been quick, pulling his own gun to contest the intrusion into a stand-off. Through a few carefully placed words, and sentiments the boy likely accepted as his own truth, Gol had seeded a kind of doubt into his mind, and thus, his trigger finger. Gol immediately capitalized upon the opportunity, drew his own weapon to even the odds. And now, a standstill ensued. Much more complicated outcomes for Gol to ponder. He plotted for the same result, but it would be much more difficult a task to accomplish. Gol envisioned how the gunplay might play out — this young gun, blubbering like a fool at his and his precious leader’s incompetence. Gol would still kill Leder, and he would survive. Of this, he was certain.

*This isn’t good. But it could be worse. If they kill each other, more power to them. Negates having to go through with the complicated ordeal of actually arresting them. My cover is still intact. I just need to escape with my head.*

Joc, the undercover cop, sweated. Outwardly, he remained cool. He wore sunglasses, in spite of the dingy indoor environment, because he doubted his own eyes and their penchant for betraying his true motivations. Especially among hardened criminals who could be especially perceptive of deception. As a result, shades provided shelter, calming his emotions and his mind — both of which were constantly under fire within this latest case. A reasonable prop. It had started that way, in the first few meetings to gain his position with the two gang bosses. And now it had become a natural part of his persona, a quirk of a supplier of black market weaponry and drugs. Indoor sunglasses. No harm in it. Something not so unusual for a degenerate born and raised upon the streets. Joc’s cover remained intact after all. The new supplier had been accepted so much so by each gang, so as to serve as their intermediary within this unprecedented negotiation. He also believed he was well on his way to making captain. Well earned after pulling off a dual bust of the city’s two major players, slicing off the heads of the two most active, and most destructive, organizations within the state. Joc just had to navigate this tense situation. But this is what he was trained for. Mediation, arbitration, negotiation. Joc plotted ways to destabilize the situation’s escalating dangers. Worst comes to worst, he was confident he would survive.

*God. Please.*

Leder, the bearded man with eyes closed, felt loss. Before it had even come to pass, the effects of death were touching down upon him. He held regrets, mostly with regard to himself. His perfect sacrifice, his release from his damnable coil which was leading unto the suffering of so many, was now utterly imperfect. The cost was nearly too high. Nearly. Mar was like a son to him. Since he was old enough to realize it, Mar saw Leder as more than just the top dog in the gang; their rapport extended beyond the reach of deals, and hits, and heists. Mar had given Leder something he’d never known he wanted: a legacy beyond his own life. And now, here his boy stood, upon the killing field of his final sacrifice. Maybe he could give him a head start. Maybe there was still time. Leder hesitated from glancing at his watch. It would be any time now. He’d rigged the explosives to trigger after only a few minutes of their negotiation, when they’d just settled in, all seated and prepared to open their demands. In this seclusion, away from the rest of the gang, and the city proper, Leder had outplayed the cop and Gol both. In his final act as a ’street king,’ Leder finally hoped to do some good. How much of that good was negated with the loss of Mar? All of it, or merely some? And the worst part, to Leder’s mind, was simply that Mar wished for the very same thing in his being here, however he was here — he hoped to end Gol, and the conflict between our groups, and protect me. Have I failed him? He cannot die here… Please.

Tears came to Leder’s eyes now, where he expected they wouldn’t. The control needed to maintain his ruse had released. There’d be no need with so little time left. He opened them and looked to Mar. Instinctively, Mar met his ‘father’s’ eyes. Leder shouted for him to run, to get out, to survive. Gol’s smile turned to a grimace, then to a shout. The spook’s heart stopped as he saw the coming motion of events, and the fire from within the walls. Mar tightened all his fingers at once upon his pistol. Two rounds fired near Gol. Simultaneously, Gol emptied his own clip somewhere towards Leder. Mar turned from Leder and Gol and Joc, and from the sound surfacing all around him, engulfing his psyche. Mar ran nearly as fast as the fire chased. ~