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As if running through cold puddles in the pitch-dark alley just wasn’t bad enough, I got three black vans screeching after me, plus they’re making a hell-of-a-lot-of-racket! This whole situation wasn’t even my fault, if anything it was that toothpick broad that blew my freaking cover! “That’s what you get for being a spy, Rick!” I’d keep telling myself, and boy, was that a story? I go to Harvard for four years to become a sniveling lawyer, working for a man on a pedestal in a white powdered-wig, and just for helping guilty creeps appear less-guilty---Another way to make a quick buck. Then my teacher goes off and gets murdered, leaving me the only living person to witness it, and my grave was dug for me that very night and I didn't even know it yet.

A Little While Before...

It was a hot, summer day outside of the library at Harvard Law. I was slumping to myself on the steps having a quick smoke before some professor made me put it out. The smoky stench was appalling, but the sweet nicotine was worth it. I caught into the bad habit that is a cigarette back in high school. Where I grew up, the only people that didn’t pop a light, where the little old ladies and the preacher on Sunday morning, but that’s beside the point.

I stretched out onto the hard marble steps and stuck one hand deep into my wrinkled green jacket. The grungy fabric was rough, but somehow soft against my hand, and I just sat enjoying its cool touch. The relaxing sun across campus was a bright orange, slowly shifting down the color wheel to a desert pink as it disappeared over the horizon. I had an artist eye for my surroundings. In fact, if it weren’t for my artsy side, I never would have passed in school. Looking at me, a person would never think grad-material, much less a successful lawyer! I was just an average guy, normal size, shape. I had stringy brown-red hair that I left short, but just long enough for my bangs to cover my pale green eyes. I always hated those eyes. They reminded me of my father.

I know what you’re thinking, “Here he goes…the sob story about his childhood.” It’s not my dad’s fault he loved booze more than my mother and me, and it must have been a complete fluke that he just wound up in bed with a horde of dead Chinese hookers? My bum of a father, who abused me at every turn, was murdered, along with those eight women looking for a cheap one-nighter’. I hated him for making my mother run out on us, and I couldn’t stand her for doing that to a five year old boy, but after I thought about it…my dad---slaughtered? It was my father, mine to live with and mine to kill.

Never would I have laid a finger on the drunken fool, but if anybody deserved the right, it was me, his only son. I wanted justice, just to feel the cooling sensation flow across my fingertips. The sweet taste of vengeance for whoever took nine lives in one night for thrills. I needed satisfaction and I never got a drop! The police never bothered to search my dad’s body, not like they do on CSI or Law and Order. They said he killed himself with a cloth noose or worse, he murdered the hookers and then asphyxiated himself for some crazed sexual thrill. No need to open up that can of worms, right? Just ship an emotionally corrupt eleven year-old to an orphanage and clean up the mess, that’s what they said.

Therefore, I end up living in that godforsaken, old, beat up building for around a good seven years, just watching the kids rot within its molding brown walls. Nobody in my home ever got adopted, and it wasn’t all too hard to see why. Who in their right mind would want a kid from the ghetto? Heck! Our orphanage was covered in foul-mouthed graffiti, some of which was my own; and from the Thai joint on the corner, any senseless person could smell how it wreaked of cigarettes. "Bunch of bad seeds in there…let’s just go adopt a little African baby like Angelina Jole’!" We heard that line on passers by nearly every week, and eventually it became as familiar as air. Sad, story of my life…

That old orphanage was run by one lone woman named Octillia Krumnoff. All alone for seventy-five years, no inheritance that wasn’t spent on liquor or drugs, and not a care in the world, though adopting so many American kids gave her a strong edge not to be deported back to Siberia. Octillia was a one-hundred year old, Soviet, corn child, who had a very strict set of rules, yet only three rules to give. One, never expect her to bail your sorry butt out of prison. Two, if you break something of hers, she will return by breaking something of yours, and being of no possessions, that mostly meant one of our bones. Three and the final, most important rule, don’t talk to her, and she won’t talk to you.

Krumnoff was a dastardly woman, but she was tolerable. Her rules were easy enough to follow and we bent over backwards to oblige. No one got on Octilla’s bad side and in turn, she restricted her wrath and attention. Unfortunately, Old Lady Krumnoff died from her ninety-seven years of smoking and drinking Vodka, when I was about four years into the orphanage. The older children of her rein, who we all referred to as “seniors” took us in and pretty much enforced Octilla’s three ruled standards, so it was as if nothing had changed. The government and child services didn’t care much who was taking care of us in the long run, as long as somebody was and they had at least a twelve-year education. We didn’t need to go to school but once or twice a week, but for some reason I went every day just to get out of that house for eight hours.

I was a reasonably smart kid, always got B’s and an occasional A, yet my attitude was so bad, I spent most of my Middle school years in detention. Back at the home, kids could start smoking by the age of ten, and if somebody got knocked up, that meant they must be old enough to take care of themselves, and they were literally kicked out of Octilla’s orphanage. I was often teased for my grades in school, but my street skills were even more advanced than my mathematics gene, and all who picked on me, got a bloody nose in return. That of course, if I was feeling merciful and decided against scarring my name into their flesh like Zorro would. I had a Zorro fanatic childhood for a little while there. It was the only movie we ever managed to sneak into without getting booted out or the cops called on us.

By high school, I was a little nicer to my peers, got in less fights and matters such as that. I practically lived in the art room, and the old teacher, Mr. Millburn, let me spend certain nights camped out under his desk. He was the only teacher that ever saw any potential in me, and he strove for my inner artist to push itself to the limit. Under his hand, I received an art scholarship and even a good review on many a job application. But, like most good things in my life, he too vanished far from it when Mr. Millburn mysteriously contracted a bad case of Malaria and died about three months later. Though, with his help, people started noticing, that I was an alright guy. Even got a few strangling acquaintances to talk to, a girlfriend or two that weren’t embarrassed to be seen with me, though no relationship ever lasted long. It was all thanks to Mr. Millburn, and for the longest time, I only thought about how I could ever repay him...now I could never get the chance to

I took in a deep huff of smoke and scratched the fading bud out on the steps. An eerie vibrating shook the back pocket of my worn out, old jeans, and I pulled out my little black flip-phone given to me by one of the professors. I didn’t care for all those high-tech I-Phones or touch-screen pocket gods they dub cell phones---No. Simplicity was my motto, and I was completely content in the early 2000’s, with a little bland Kyocera. I looked down at the caller ID, and in bold, black letters, it read “Albert Kingston”.

Flipping it open with a reluctant scoff, I greeted, “Hello, Professor, to what do I owe this lovely phone call?”

“Sedrick,” he replied in his hollow, scratchy voice, “You are one essay short from failing my class do you understand that?”

“And---You dug up my number, just to tell me that?” I replied in a gentle tone, while rolling my eyes to myself.

“I called because I know what potential you have, and I know you can do better!” he griped, “You are the only student of your graduating class that kept a 4.0 average, and had earned a full-ride to Harvard on an art scholarship!”

“Oh yeah,” I spat, while kicking at my loose shoelace, “Doodles and sketches, and I get a trip to law school, wow how does that tie together?”

“Regardless!” Professor Kingston coughed, his squeaky throat tightening over the phone, “I want to see you in my classroom in a half hour to discuss exactly what it is you’re going to beg me to give you, so you do NOT fail out of college!”

The line blinked dead, and I shoved the phone back into my pocket. Gradually, I rose to my feet and grouched down the stairs between a couple holding hands and laughing at the world. They mumbled something about me as I tore through them, the girl giving me a glare that could peel the paint off a wall. Where they lived, everything went absolutely perfect all the time so they could just laugh at it together. I envied that aspect of life, so I was a tiny bit hostile towards happy people that get in my path. It was a nasty trait that I was working to avoid on future occasions...

I made my way across campus, just as the sun started going from a vicious yellow to a peaceful orange and the sky went pink with the evening. Looking up at the new born stars trying to sink their way into the dying sky, I started thinking, “Hey Rick, just shut your big, stupid yap for three minutes, grovel a little to Kingston, and we’re home free.”

Unbeknown to me and for some reason unheard of in the universe, old Kingston adored me. Whether it be my scratchy background or my artistic law-skills was beyond me, but for whatever reason, Albert liked me---and, other than Mr. Millburn, he was the only one in my life who did.

By the time I reached the brick building where he worked, it was already dark out. The minuscule campus lights the district installed were unsuccessfully attempting to shed a little bright onto the sidewalks. Another college night, filled with nonstop parties on one half and crashing all-nighters on the other. Nights for me, always possessed certain calmness to them that no other time of the day brought. It was eerie and silent, but it was the only hour one could actually think, truly open up to solely you and just remember what’s real. In a way, the twilight of the night and me, just always got along, coexisted because we knew we were the same---Misunderstood by those who thought dark and silent were filled with dread and fear. I never in my wildest dreams, thought those people might be right.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing!?” a scratchy voice bellowed distantly. The clatter of metal trashcans and popping glass being kicked around finally enlightened my eardrums, and I ran over as the two men’s hollering grew louder. I saw two silhouetted figures struggling in the alley between the two apartments; one man proving to be much bigger, groping some silver object that gleamed in the moonlight. Seeing it, made me duck in the bushes nearby, but I peered far out to observe what was going on. Gang fights and relationship abuse always happened in the course of my childhood, by now, I was used to it. I knew how to fight, use a gun, disarm an alarm, and even break into cars, but that didn’t mean, that just on rare occasion, I felt like getting SHOT!

“Just shut-up old man… You’re in too deep and it’s time to cut our loss!” the big, thunder-throated gunman snarled. His voice was as low as James Earl Jones’ was deep; he completely outmatched the other man in brawn like a hippopotamus would do to a kitten!

I figured I’d be a Good Samaritan and help out, but just as I rose, a thunderous shot lit up the narrow alley, and the small silhouette let out a weak yelp as it fell to the pavement. The big guy ran off eagerly in a flash of red, before I rushed over to the wounded victim. He was cold to the touch, as I turned the frail body to his back and drug out my phone for a bit of light. Shining the powerful blue ray around, it slowly creeped onto the man’s white face, where a pair of wide, frozen eyes stared right at me, making me jump and smack my head against the slick, greasy dumpster.

I let out a wail, when a broken glass bottle crashed to the floor, and as a trickle of blood slid down my neck, I figured I’d sliced my head on it when I hit the trash can. Loosely, I ignored that, and stared down at the stiff little body. The corpse was starring into the night as a drool of ruby blood oozed from the wrinkled creases in his mouth. A scuffled mess of white hair stuck out vividly, compared to his plaid greed suit, both, stained crimson with the deadly fluid. At first, I was traumatized with shock, but I got a hold of my grip and took a picture with my phone for the police. They had to come, this man was dead! No it was more than that---Professor Kingston was dead! His face, his eyes, his thoughts, all waiting for my arrival. I had spoken with him, not twenty-minutes ago, and now, here he lay dead as dust. Once again, I felt that need for justice, and as I dialed 911 on the phone that trembled lightly in my hand. I knew as a law student, I knew, not much could be done on this point, and I was the only witness.

Of course I was brought in for questioning over the murder, and I told them all I could before they finally released me. Rumors around the college spread like famine and all were blaming me for Kingston’s gruesome death. Eventually, the harassment was intolerable, and I just decided to forget the whole lawyer thing, and head home for a break. It was a few days later, but I’d managed to hitch-hike my way to the Big Apple. New York City, New York, remaining just as I had left it before going off to college, nothing was different.

Hailing a taxi the rest of the way, I rode to a small apartment building just on the other side of Brooklyn Bridge. My room was high up on the fifth floor, where nobody would bother me, and after a quick march up the stairs, alongside a ruthless fight with the hinges, I opened the decrepit wooden door of my room, and stepped inside. Like the city, it was just the way I’d left it. Yellow walls, brown carpet, a bedroom to the left, bathroom to the right, all surrounding one mini living room in the middle, and half a kitchen straight ahead. The whole house pretty empty, with only a few books and paintings here and there; an ugly brown sofa smack in the middle of the room close by a small box TV set, and a Playboy magazine from last March rested on the coffee table alongside any spam mail I’d gotten from the landlord.

BARK! BARK!

The booming rush of noise shook me off my nerves as the unexpected hollering sounded. My big black hound stormed clumsily out of the bedroom and tackled me to the flat floor with the full force of a linebacker!

“Bruce! Bruce!” I laughed, as the mutt’s slobber quickly coated my face, “Get off! Down boy! Sit!”

He obeyed, and sat down on his spastically wagging tail. It wiggled his whole body uneasily, yet the dog tried his best to remain calm. Stupid mutt is bigger than I am. A Great Dane, I bought off of a dog-fighter about three years back. Even so, with a little training, I accidentally managed to turn him into the laziest, loving, tramp you ever did meet. He and I, we’re kind of in the same boat, both grew up in a lousy neighborhood, no friends, family, and no care in the world---maybe that was why Bruce was so quick to like me? As for no worries, well he was still the same, but I had this big murder ordeal tugging on my nerves, weighing me down as it took a toll on my nerves.

I remember the big dude said something about Albert being “in too deep” what did that mean? What was Kingston up to? And, what if Prof. knew about that little meeting? He said to meet him in a half hour, when heknew very well it only tookten minutes for me to walk down to his office. Why so specific? Did he want me to see him get murdered? Did Albert think I would save him, did he believe I wouldn’t show? Whatever it was, this went farther down the well than I knew, and I could feel it in my gut, that this was somehow connected to me. I scratched Bruce behind the ears, his serious black eyes starring me face to face as his flopping pink tongue ran drunkly from the side of his jaws.

“Why me---Why him?” I asked in a hushed tone, “Brucey ol’ boy, I think we may have been in the wrong place, at the wrong time---I just know this’ll all back-fire on me somehow? But when it does we’ll be ready, right?”

He whimpered in reply and licked my hair back out of my eyes in one mighty swoosh! I groaned in disgust, but whiped my eyes, as I headed off to bed. When under the covers, I drowsily yawned and then grumbled back at the equally-tired Bruce, who snuggled up beside me in all the excitement of my homecoming.

“I’ll just take that as a yes, okay?”

BARK!

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