Demosthenes told Phocion, "The Athenians will kill you some day when they once are in a rage." "And you," said he, "if they are once in their senses."
Plutarch, Life of Phocion.
Chico: Right now I'd do anything for money. I'd kill somebody for
money. I'd kill *you* for money.
[Harpo looks dejected]
Chico: Ha ha ha. Ah, no. You're my friend. I'd kill you for nothing.
Harry got up
Dressed all in black
Went down to the station
And he never came back
They found his clothing
Scattered somewhere down the track
And he won't be down on Wall Street
in the morning
The Eagles, “New York Minute”
America thou half-brother of the world!
With something good and bad of every land.
Philip James Bailey, Scene x. “Earth’s Surface”
The Lupara would never make it to anyone’s list of the fifty most beautiful guns in the world. When it comes to elegance, it isn’t a patch on the Peacemaker Colt. But if you ever happened to be on the wrong end of one, it really would be most prudent to make your peace with your maker. And take up anyone who’s willing to wager that you’ll live to see another sunrise, not to forget drawing up your will to take care of such secular issues as the dispensation of your estate, leaving you free to deal with matters of a more transcendental nature. And in case you really liked your heirs, you’d also want to make arrangements to ensure that those bets were indeed honored posthumously.
And if the Lupara happens to be in the hands of Roberto “The Ice” Orolini, you’ll be staring right down the barrel in more ways than one. Orolini’s Lupara had its barrels sawn off by a good four inches. If one’s taste in interior decoration didn’t really run on the lines of splattered brains, one wouldn’t want to blast anyone with it. But the Ice had eccentric tastes.
The garage of the Orolini family mansion was somewhat dimly lit. The two parallel rows of electric bulbs that lined the ceiling seemed to have little effect on the Stygian gloom that enveloped the area. They could scarcely have had better success had they been trying to light up the inside of a black hole. But they did contribute to a peculiar gradient of illumination that faded from a jet black directly under the bulbs to a progressively murkier shade as one moved away from them and finally dissolved into pitch black at points exactly midway between two bulbs.
The marked absence of God’s first creation could not be attributed to any state of penury that gripped the Orolini family. They could have afforded to build a power plant within the estate and still, in a manner of speaking, make light of the expense. But somehow, it had seemed only too appropriate to leave the lighting as it was, for the garage had borne witness to innumerable dark deeds that were better off not seeing the light of day, or of Edison’s effective substitute. So much so that one could be forgiven for confusing the garage with a necropolis, except for the fact that there weren’t any tombstones.
An old Ford Model T languished in disuse in the farthest corner of the garage. Adorning its sides were a couple of painted Lizzie Labels, the car having been born well before the invention of the bumper sticker. Immediately visible was the label on the near side that said “I’m from Texas, you can’t steer me”. It was the one on the far side, conveniently hidden from view, that Roberto Orolini found curiously poignant, for it served as a communal headstone. It said, “I rust in peace”.
The man Roberto Orolini had in his sights stood with his back to the wall and looked at him with an expression that set out to look like disbelief but dissolved into one of fear and despair as his brain insisted that the scene was only all too believable. It took no more than five minutes of associating with the Ice to instill in one a suspension of disbelief.
Diego had known the Ice a lot longer than that. He was dressed in dark trousers and a shirt that would have passed for sparkling white had he been out in the sun. He was bathed in a dim pool of light that emanated from a bulb right overhead, just about enough light for someone to shoot him by. His eyes moved wildly around looking for a means of escape although he knew the garage well enough to realize that there weren’t any. But Diego’s senses tended to assert their independence from his brain in times of stress and, as a result, his actions weren’t always a logical consequence of sophisticated mental activity.
“You wouldn’t really do this to me, would you? What have I done to deserve this?” he asked in an injured tone of voice. Before the Ice could explain exactly what he had done to deserve it, he continued, “Whatever it is, let’s just talk it out, Roberto. Please.”
At least, that was the portion of what he said that fell in the audible frequency range of the normal human being. The quaver in his voice was so marked that it was very likely that he started at infrasonic frequency and ended well above 20 KHz. His plea seemed to have been taken up by the family dog stationed out in the garden as it began to howl piteously, probably in reaction to Diego’s ultrasonic SOS. Although Roberto Orolini couldn’t exactly be described as a normal human being, his abnormality did not extend to his hearing abilities.
“Sorry, old boy,” Roberto said. He had studied at Oxford and it was easy to mistake him for an Englishman. “I love you like a brother, Diego. But there are a lot of people I love like brothers. There’s only one Kate Orolini. And I love her more than anyone else in the world.” He added in a slightly far-off voice, “To every man upon this earth, Death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better, than for a woman worth dying for?”
Roberto Orolini was a poet at heart although his Muse had clearly deserted him very early in his career. But he strove manfully on, resorting to somewhat more mainstream poets such as Macaulay and Wordsworth to produce the verse for the occasion. He really did not feel very happy about having to put Diego away. In fact, it wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say that he was pretty sad about it. He had known him rather a long time and felt a few pangs of emotion. His aspect had become somewhat mournful and there was a twinge of wistfulness that had crept into his tone.
But his victim-to-be had too many other things on his mind to notice. And the communication lines between his ears and his brain were not in the best of shape. The brain was far too occupied in re-establishing its authority over his eyes, which were now focussed full-time on the shotgun. There wasn’t much else that reflected light in the visible spectrum and the gun had a magnetic quality to it, which couldn’t have been explained merely by the fact that it was made of iron.
Orolini went on, even more mournfully.
“I’ll miss you. I know I will. I just wish my gun could too. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ice you, Diego. Nothing business. Strictly personal.”
Diego’s lower jaw went into overdrive, rising and falling with rapid succession but his vocal chords seemed to exhibit a curious reluctance to be pressed into service. His chest began to mimic his lower jaw with even greater ferocity, and both his nostrils and his mouth were engaged full-time in inhaling as much of the air as possible. It wasn’t clear why his body needed all that extra oxygen in such a hurry. It was probably just his lungs realizing that inhalation of air was going out of fashion pretty soon.
The garage didn’t have any ventilation or air conditioning with the consequence that the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere began to rise rather rapidly. But it wasn’t going to be rapid enough to kill Roberto Orolini by asphyxiation, or even slow him down.
He continued, “I promise you this. Your wife will be taken care of exceedingly well. And your funeral will be the best this town has seen. I’ve even picked out a very nice plot for you. It’s a beautiful spot. You’ll like it. You’d feel like staying there all day.” Seeing no reaction from Diego, he added, “I’ve already started working on the funeral speech too. It’s going to be one helluva show. No one’s going to forget this funeral in a hurry. Not on your life.”
Diego’s skin began to develop goose bumps and his hair stood on end as if charged with static electricity. He began to shiver so hard and uncontrollably that he seemed thinner with every passing moment, transforming his soon-to-be-wasted adipose tissue into warmth that he could make use of in his lifetime.
Kate Orolini really was a woman worth killing for. People had long since lost count of the number of battles that had been fought over her. If one thought all that had been consigned to the past- the days before her marriage-this was the moment that proved one wrong.
Roberto Orolini fired at the hapless figure leaning spinelessly against the wall, a figure that had lost all control over its five senses and now relied only on its sixth sense to inform it of its impending doom. His hands were outstretched in some forlorn hope of being able to stop the bullets that were making their relentless way towards him. In that split millisecond when the bullets went past his hands and continued their inexorable march towards their target, he realized he was in no Matrix. It was a harsh welcome to the real world. But the welcome was to be all too brief. A few milliseconds later, as the projectiles entered his body and left a trail of destruction in their wake, he bid goodbye to the real world.
Roberto Orolini used his left hand to extract a cigarette from his pocket while continuing to hold the gun pointed at what remained of Diego. He lit the cigarette with his Zippo, casting a momentary pall of light on the rising smoke from the barrel of his gun, which proceeded to mingle with that emerging from his mouth. He withdrew a couple of shells from his back pocket and reloaded the gun, murmuring “So, once more into the breech, dear friends”.
Darkness didn’t frighten him but he liked to whistle anyway. He happened to be a big fan of the Beatles, and loved to whistle “I am the Walrus”. Whistling with a cigarette in your mouth isn’t the easiest of feats but Roberto Orolini had mastered it to a nicety.
The corpse lay bathed in the dim light and checking it for a pulse was a mere formality that Roberto need not have bothered with, considering that there were very few species of animals on earth, homo sapiens not being one of them, that could survive having a head blown off. But he was a very thorough man. Once he had satisfied himself that Diego had indeed shed his mortal coil and crossed over the Stygian ferry, he crossed himself and murmured his prayers for the departed soul.
“I cry for you. I deeply sympathize. May God have mercy on your soul.”