Friday, October 27, 2006

Players - 14

Dirk Merrit was sitting at his big desk in the library, his white, angular face steeped in the glow of the computer’s flat screen, his right hand twitching a cordless mouse as he scrolled across a set of architectural plans. On the other side of the dark room, the plasma TV and the bank of smaller screens around it were all showing the same looped clip, sound muted, taken from the local TV station’s evening news: a wasted-looking fellow in black lunging at a much bigger man in an orange jumpsuit, the picture jolting as the camera was caught in the mêlée, showing a confusion of feet, a blur of indistinct motion, settling on a woman in a grey pants suit throwing the man in black against the side of a police cruiser, pinning him there while a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed him. Each time the clip jumped back to its beginning, light and shadow swung across the walls like a flock of birds turning on the wing.

Carl Kelley, walking across the room through television light, knew that Dirk Merrit could hear the ticking of his combat boots on the poured-concrete floor, but the man waited a full minute before dismissing with a click of the mouse the plans he had been scrutinizing -- the plans for the mansion -- and swinging around in his chair. After Carl had explained that he’d overhauled and fuelled up the RV, and packed the ultralight into its trailer, that everything was good to go,

Dirk Merrit said, ‘Tomorrow, at dawn.’

‘It’s your party.’

‘I have the feeling that you’re still angry because I choose to honour the sacrifice rather than give in to expediency.’

Carl didn’t want to get into that again. ‘How’s he doing?’

‘He’s angry, too,’ Dirk Merrit said. ‘He threw his dinner at the wall and stood there in the dark with his fists raised. I believe he was hoping to get into a fight. He’s a feisty boy, Carl. We’re going to have a lot of fun together.’

‘The quiet ones usually run better.’

‘We’ll see.’ Dirk Merrit gestured at the rack of TVs. ‘Do you know what that’s all about?’

‘I imagine the big bloke in orange is the one we framed.’

‘Looks suitably crazy, doesn’t he?’

Carl shrugged.

‘I do hope you’ll be over your sulk tomorrow,’ Dirk Merrit said. He sounded amused.

‘I just came up to report that everything is ready. If there’s nothing else, I’d like to turn in, seeing as how we have an early start.’

‘The fellow in black, he’s the girl’s stepfather. The woman, there . . . ’ Dirk Merrit turned back to his computer, moved the mouse to the menu bar at the bottom of the computer screen, clicked on an icon. Across the room, the action froze on the TVs. ‘She’s a detective from the Portland Police Bureau. Do you think it signifies anything?’

‘She probably brought the stepfather here to ID the girl’s body.’

‘I think so too.’ Dirk Merrit clicked the mouse again and the sequence ran on, the detective shoving the stepfather against the side of the cruiser and pinning his arms while a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed him. Dirk Merrit saying, ‘She’s rather feisty too, don’t you think? I bet I could have a lot of fun with her, in the right circumstances.’
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