An excerpt from my novel in progress The Third Day. This is a tension filled scene in which the two main characters confront each other.
After seeing Janus at Ranko’s funeral I went straight to my workshop in the store, I took off my suit coat, loosened the tie and rolled up the sleeves of the dress shirt. I hooked up the battered hard drive we had found at the house Janus had told Ranko he was living at. The dirty and dented hard drive had been sitting on my workbench for a couple of days, I hooked it up and made some adjustments and suddenly it lit to life spewing out directories onto the monitor the neon green glow illuminating the surrounding darkness. I went through file after file that Janus had thought deleted or destroyed and found lists of safe houses and names of people who supported his effort, payments made to him in large sums. I had everything I needed to find Janus and stop him. Next to the hard drive was the book of matches Ranko and I had found in the ruins of Janus’ house, the Club LAMERIKA, Ranko had said that’s where all the war profiteers hung out. I had to give Janus the same chance he had given me I owed it to my friend.
It was easy to find the Club “LAMERIKA, I walked into the club and the first thing that hit you was a wall of sound, a throbbing emanating from the darkness. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness there were POPS of reds, greens, and blues from Christmas tree lights blinking on and off. I could see people dancing on a cleared section of the club, others standing around a bar and around the walls of the club, booths, and in one sat Janus wearing his white shirt and leather jacket surrounded by beautiful women. I walked over to the booth.
“Vlad! My old friend! you look terrible.” He was obviously drunk.
“It’s raining out.”
“What’re you doing here?”
“Looking for you.”
“How did you know where to find me?”
“I didn’t, I was told that people who profit from the war come here to celebrate.”
“We aren’t celebrating, we’re trying to forget the death of an old friend and the war for a few hours.”
“I know you’re the sniper.” Janus looked at me cooly while he sipped his drink.
“The sniper everyone is talking about. The sniper that can shoot great distances. The sniper whose gun has such a unique report that the victim hears the shot that kills him.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“None of that sounds like a champion marksman with a Mauzer awarded to him by Tito himself?”
“I know what you think of me Vlad, as some kind of predator. But it seems like you’re the one stalking me, who’s the predator here? The sniper could be any of us, all of us on the team have those guns.”
“I’ve accounted for all the guns except one, where’s your gun?”
“At my store.”
“I haven’t seen mine in years, the last time I saw it was at my father’s cabin.”
“It’s not there, I was there with Ranko when he was killed.”
“The cabin has been abandoned for years anyone could have taken it from there. Anyway, you shouldn’t have been there.”
“You suddenly seem to have a lot of money to celebrate while others suffer.”
“It’s what’s left of what little my father left me as an inheritance.”
“I’m just here to warn you, you warned me, I’m returning the favor, to give you a chance to leave.”
“Leave?” He looked around feigning shock.
“Leave the country, I’ll help you, otherwise…”
“I’ll have to stop you.”
“I doubt it.”
“You’ve courted death your whole life, but you can’t live with that knowledge, you’ve lived your whole life in fear of it, and what has it brought you? Has it made you any wiser than others? It hasn’t brought you any peace, just violence and death, you’ve always been hunted, more haunted than hunted.”
Janus smiled at me, “your arguments have gotten better over time, but then you went to college.”
“You had the same opportunities as me, maybe more, you were the hero of the Olympics.”
“So, you’re going to kill me, is that it?” I stared at him coldly, hoping to see my friend in the eyes of this person I no longer knew. “You told me before this war began that I haven’t learned compassion, if you kill me or try to murder me, where has your compassion gone?”
“It’s still there, it’s there for the innocent people that you gun down in the streets, the people who can’t escape your sights. And it’s there for the boy who was my friend that I’m trying to save.”
“Better to save yourself.”
“When we try to save someone it’s not the body we’re trying to save, it’s the person, the mind, the individual, that unique perspective on the world that makes each of us special, important, and Janus was important, important to me, important to the world.” This enraged him.
“Innocent?! Who is innocent? No one I tell you, and that boy you knew is dead and I killed him.”
“You’re not the boy I knew.”
“Has it occurred to you I could just kill you here?” He pulled out a gun from under the table, pointing it at me. He looked at me, I think he was hoping it would scare me. “You’re right a lot of people here are from a darker side of the war, they’re my friends, I could kill you and they would help me take your body out and throw it in the street, another victim of the war.”
“That’s not part of the game for you, you can’t kill anything or anyone face to face, you like your killing impersonal, abstract, safe, a target down range.”
“I’m not going to kill you,” he said, putting the gun down on the table, “not because you’re right, but because I’m right about you, you’ll never do it, if you could do it, you would have done it already.”