"The Eyes Have It"
Six weeks after the Bay Valley Medical Center explosion...
Zach: ...fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen... POW
A taller opponent clad in matching headgear and boxing gloves staggers back for a brief moment and then rejoins the sparring inside a Chaparral Heights gym.
Zach: (Dodging a punch and then countering with a flurry of his own) One, two, three, four, five, JUST LIKE THAT, ANOTHER HIT JUST LIKE THAT
Opponent: (Going down on one knee) JESUS, ISAACSON, THIS IS JUST AN EXCERCISE
Zach: GET UP, GET UP YOU SHITBAG AND HIT ME, HIT ME, C'MON LITTLE GIRL ARE YOU TOO SCARED TO HIT ME?
The opponent reluctantly continues.
Zach: (In his head) Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota... BAM
A cheap shot to the left kidney sends his opponent to the mat in agony.
Zach: GETUPGETUPGETPUPGETUPGETUPGETUPGETUPGETUP, GET UP FAGGOT AND FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT ME
A gym supervisor steps in and shoves an enraged Zach to the corner. Two others jump into the ring and help the opponent to his feet.
Supervisor: COOL IT, ISAACSON
Opponent: I don't know what your deal is, dude, but if you come at me like that again, I'll fucking KILL YOU
Zach: (Trying to get in his face) WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, ASSHOLE? - DO IT, DO IT, DO IT
The opponent charges at Zach but the others stand in their way as a human barrier.
Supervisor: GET OUTTA THE RING, RIGHT NOW
Zach tracks the opponent into the locker room with his eyes as the supervisor keeps him close.
Zach: IS THERE ANYONE IN HERE MAN ENOUGH TO FIGHT ME? ANYONE AT ALL?
Zach spots Craig Phelps doing curls off to the side.
Zach: HEY CRUNCH, CARE TO SHOW THEM HOW IT'S DONE?
Craig: With my head history, I don't care to be the next Steve Young - find someone else, Zachary
Zach: I saw you downing shots last week at Muldoon's, you couldn't be too concerned about your health, Captain Morgan!
Supervisor: SHUT IT THE HELL DOWN OR I'M SHUTTING YOU OUT OF THIS GYM
He pushes Zach away.
Supervisor: You have two choices - button that yap of yours and work it out on the bag or get the hell outta here
Zach: Just looking for a quality opponent...
Supervisor: That's not what you're looking for, Zach I suggest you go elsewhere and find it
Zach: Screw you
Supervisor: (Quietly in Zach's ear) Because we're buds, I'm only suspending you for a week... pull this crap again, I'll not only get you banned from here but from every gym in Quartz County - understood?
Zach: (In his head) Chelsea, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Man U, Tottenham, Bolton, Liverpool...
Supervisor: IS THAT UNDERSTOOD, ISAACSON?
Zach: (Walking off) Got it
Zach sulks off to the bag as the supervisor leaves to check on his opponent. Craig finishes his curls and makes his way over to Zach.
Zach: Are you too much of a pussy to hold the bag for me?
Craig: (Doing so) Care to tell me about the new inhabitant in your sigmoid colon?
This comment causes Zach to catch his breath momentarily and then launch into a fist barrage on the hanging bulk.
Zach: (In his head) Tet, chet, zayin, vav, he, dalet, gimel, bet, alef...
Craig: Fine, don't talk to me keep hitting, that solves everything
Zach: (Stopping to catch his breath) Maybe we should just crack open a couple of six-packs instead, eh Phelps?
Craig turns away but not before Zach catches a glimpse of his guilty expression.
Zach: (Resuming his verbal and non-verbal punches) Did they demote you to Coast Guard shrink or is it bartender now?
Craig suddenly hurls the bag into Zach, knocking him off balance.
Craig: You need to be faster on your feet... arm strength isn't enough
Zach: (Conciliatory) Gotcha
Craig: Just trying to help
Craig decides to show Zach some footwork and leg tricks.
Zach: Thanks, I appreciate it
Craig: Since you've become a total gym rat now, for whatever reason, might as well learn how to go after an enemy properly
Zach: How do you know what I'm doing here, Craig? maybe it's simply to look hot for the ladies, did you ever think of that?
Craig: You never had trouble in that department before, Zachary - besides, I know seething when I see it - you forget how long I've worked with Anita...
There is an uncomfortable silence as Craig goes back to holding the bag.
Zach: (Smacking it again) Do you really want to know what's happened to me, what's going on with me? it's the same thing that has half this town in the Twilight Zone, the same thing that has you hitting the bottle again, the same thing that has Lieutenant Fury no longer a lieutenant - we're all getting in position!
Craig: Position for what?
Zach: Don't play stupid, Crunch, you're all brawn but I know there's a very sharp brain up there when it's not soaked in bourbon
Craig: I'm done with this, Isaacson get someone else to hold your baggage!
As Craig starts to walk away, Zach grabs his arm and whips him around. He holds out his right wrist and points to a small spot below the base of his thumb.
Zach: See this? SEE?
Craig: (Pushing Zach away) What is it, a bruise?
Zach: No, it's a tattoo of a slingshot
Craig: I don't understand
Zach: (Voice braking) I got it to remind myself... every time I hold my fist up, I REMIND myself
Craig: Of what?
Zach: Of what David used to bring down Goliath but instead of a rock, I'll use a keyboard
Craig: I thought marking yourself was against your religion?
Zach: This expression is beyond my religion, I'm beyond my religion...
Zach lowers his head and heads for the door. He abruptly pivots and looks Craig dead in the eye.
Zach: And if the keyboard doesn't work, these will!
He holds up both fists. One dissolves into a friendly wave as the other bashes the door open. Craig shakes his head and quietly contemplates a row of weights before him.
Zach: (In his head) Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Isuzu, Mazda, Suzuki, Kawasaki wait, that's a motorcycle SHIT... one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...
Now in his car, Zach pulls into the parking lot of the Jade Gate cocktail lounge. He takes a space in the very back.
Zach: Gracie has eight fingers AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH
A postcard with palm trees in shadows framing a brilliant orange sunset over purple waters sits in the seat next to him.
Zach: (In his head) All Apologies, Dumb, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle, Heart-Shaped Box, Milk It, Pennyroyal Tea, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Rape Me...
Zach slumps down in his seat and begins to sob like a baby. He flashes back to the caves of the Kiyomis. A group of a half dozen hoods surround him as he is tied up and brought before a larger hood in a blue robe.
Zach: (Screaming) MORRIGAN, MORRIGAN I HEARD YOU, MORRIGAN WHERE ARE YOU?
The blue robe towers above him. A swift kick in the stomach causes Zach to choke on his tongue.
Blue robe: You never know when to quit, do you Eyes?
A brown robe punches Zach in the face three times.
Zach: (Spitting blood) Who... are you?
The blue robe paces around him but the hood is drawn too forward for Zach to make out a face. The voice is somewhat familiar but the ringing in his ears prevents an identification.
Zach: Let Morrigan go!
Blue robe: You don't need to worry about her, she's already dead
Blue robe: It's too bad you won't be... I begged them to let me kill you instead of what's about to happen
Zach: YOU DON'T SCARE ME, BEDSHEET
Blue robe: I should
He signals to the others and they tear off Zach's remaining clothes.
Blue robe: See, the boss thinks you'd be a better example than a corpse
They push him belly down on the ground and pin each of his limbs to the sides.
Blue robe: (Kneeling lower to Zach's face) It's nothing personal, Zach - in fact, I've always respected you... but we each have a purpose to fulfill
Two of the brown robes untie their sashes and take their positions.
Blue robe: (Stepping away) BREAK HIM
Back in the Jade Gate parking lot, Zach lets out a primal scream. He pounds his fists on the steering wheel and dash. One of the bar patrons taps on the driver's side window.
Patron: Buddy, hey buddy, you okay?
Zach wallops the patron with his car door.
Patron: (Faltering) WHAT THE HELL?
Zach: GET AWAY FROM ME, ASSHOLE
Patron: JUST CHECKING TO SEE IF YOU WERE ALRIGHT GET SOME HELP, MAN
Zach: FUCK OFF AND DIE
The patron gets on his motorcycle and screeches off as Zach strides into the bar. Without saying a word, he motions to the bartender for the tequila bottle and plunks down a c-note. The bartender obliges with the bottle and a shot glass. Zach settles into a corner table and pours himself three drinks in quick succession.
Zach: (In his head) Arette, Caballo Negro, Cuervo, Galardon, La Corfradia, Sauza...
A burly older man with a salt and pepper moustache and thinning hair enters the bar and spots Zach.
Marv: Starting without me, Eyes?
Zach: Hey, Marv thanks for meeting me
Marv struggles with his jacket for a second, drapes it on the wooden chair and flops down on it.
Marv: (Letting out a big sigh) Anything for my favorite paper boy
Zach: Ex-paper boy...
Marv: You never did tell me why you quit?
Zach: I'm freelancing now
Marv beckons to the server for a beer as Zach pours himself another shot.
Marv: It must be keepin' ya pretty busy the guys sure do miss your ugly mug at the pool hall
Zach: They just miss taking my money
Marv: (Pointing to Zach's arms) Well, you've got some guns grownin' there we sure could use those at the firehouse - I'll hook it up if ya ever get tired of the freelancin'
Zach: Thanks, Marv, but I have important business I need to finish...
There is cool silence as Zach snaps back the shot. Marv quizzically scans around the bar. He quickly turns away as two men in another corner kiss.
Marv: (Lowering his voice) Geez, this ain't your usual haunt, Eyes are ya switchin' teams on us?
Zach: NEVER... I have to meet another source here later
Marv: Is it about, ya know, my information?
Zach: Not directly
Marv: Good, ‘cause the quicker I dump this in your lap, the quicker I can get away from it
Zach: Hand ‘em over
Marv skulks around and fishes an overstuffed envelope out of his jacket pocket. He passes it to Zach.
Marv: I've seen a lot of weird shit on the job before but in all my years I ain't ever seen nothin' like this!
Zach: (Flipping through the envelope's contents) And you probably never will again
Several color pictures of the inside of Bay Valley Medical Center's charred wing peek out above the envelope.
Marv: (Draining his beer) That was not a good scene - me and Rob, the one who took those, are still havin' nightmares...
Zach: (Searching the photos) I understand
Marv: None of the boys could believe what they were seein' we had a hell of a time knockin' the fire down but then... dealin' with those bodies
Zach catches his breath at a picture of Jason Clark. His body is badly burnt in places but his face is still recognizable and he is covered in the remnants of his blue robe.
Marv: (Letting out a slow sigh) Do you know these hooded freaks, Zach?
Zach: (Voice dropping an octave) Intimately
Marv waits for a detailed response but it never comes.
Zach: Can't talk about it now, Marv
Marv: Big surprise ya know, the second we got back to the firehouse from that call, a squad of G-men were there waiting for us
Zach: I'm guessing they told you to forget what you saw?
Marv: Not only forget what we saw but pretend the whole thing never happened at all
Zach: (Wiping his nose) Heh
Marv: They tried to tell us that it was a ‘terrorist event' and they didn't want the country going into a massive panic ya know, the stock market takin' a dive and all that...
Marv: Rob took the photos with his cell phone, he was the only one who had the smarts to do that
Zach now hands over an envelope packed with cash.
Zach: Please tell him thank you for me
Marv: Hey, he wanted to destroy the pics but I took them instead I knew that this was important and that I could trust ya with them
Zach: I'm forever in your debt, Marv
Marv: All I ask is that ya give me a few months the retirement will kick in and then me and Dolores are headed up to Idaho
Zach: No problem, this is going to take some time to crack, but I will do so, I guarantee you that
Marv: You're a good guy, Zach, I don't want anything bad happenin' to ya
Zach's hand trembles at the urge to crumple Jason's picture.
Zach: It already has...
Marv goes to say something but directs his focus to the empty beer glass instead.
Zach: (Extending his hand) Thank you again, Marv
Marv: (Shaking it) Take care of yourself, Eyes
Marv abruptly gets up, grabs his jacket, and makes a hasty exit as Zach downs another shot.
Zach: (In his head) Azure, beryl, cerulean, cobalt, indigo, navy, periwinkle, royal, sapphire, teal, turquoise, ultramarine...
Zach flashes back to the day after the explosion. He saunters into his editor's office, unshaven and in shorts.
Zach: I know I'm a popular man, Jessica, but there's no need to leave 20 messages...
He suddenly realizes Bill the managing editor and a security guard are also in the office.
Zach: What's... going on, Jess?
Jessica: (Unable to look him in the eye) Have a seat, Zach
Zach: (Eying the security guard) I'd rather stand, thanks
Bill: This is hard for us, Isaacson, you were one of our best and brightest
Zach: ‘Were' - past tense?
Jessica: Look, I don't want to do this but you haven't given us much choice...
Zach: Um, what ‘choice'? you pay me and I turn in excellent work, that's how it's been since I started here!
Jessica: That's just it you haven't been turning in anything lately
Zach: Okay, so I've been a little out of it...
Bill: You've been MIA since the Mt. Wiggins eruption
Zach: True enough but I would hope that my prior performance in this position would allow you to cut me some fucking slack
Bill: Party a little too much, skip a few days, no problem but we need a reporter here when events happen and there have been A LOT of events happening these days
Jessica: One of the biggest was yesterday with the hospital explosion and we couldn't reach you we had to give the story to Porter
Zach: (Spitting with disgust) Porter - have fun with that!
Bill: We've been giving too many of your assignments to Porter and others now, it will be official
Zach: (Getting in Jessica's face) I can understand this guy being an ungrateful asshole, but you, Jess?
Jessica: (Pleading) Then give us something, ANYTHING if you're doing drugs, we'll understand, or if you have some other health issue going on, be honest about it we can put you on leave, get you into treatment...
Zach: I don't need treatment, I need a job
Bill: Your avoidance is not helping
Jessica: (Arms folded) We need someone to cover the new PCOC drilling operation in the Kiyomis you need to go over there tonight...
Zach winces and holds his face in his hands.
Jessica: This is your last chance, Zach
Zach: Sorry, I can't do it
Bill: That's it give the guard your security clearance, you have 15 minutes to clean out your desk Jessica will retrieve any personal files on the company computer for you... goodbye, Isaacson
The managing editor slams the door behind him.
Jessica: I'm sorry, Zach, you gave me no other choice...
Zach now returns his thoughts to the present.
Zach: (In his head) a, b, c, a and c, b and c, a and b, NONE OF THE ABOVE, NONE OF THE ABOVE, NONE OF THE ABOVE...
He pours himself another shot as Tim Hajanian enters the bar. Looking pale and in need of a month's worth of sleep, Tim takes a seat near Zach. The two men kissing earlier rush over and wrap Tim in numerous comforting hugs.
Man #1: Timmy, how are you holding up?
Man #2: We are so sorry, we know how much you loved him
Tim: Thanks... but I'm just not ready to deal with this here, I hope you understand?
Man #1: (Patting his arm) Of course we do
Man #2: When you need us, you know where to find us
As the two men leave, Tim orders a glass of wine and takes out his cell phone and dials.
Tim: (Low but still audible to Zach) Jesus Christ, not the voicemail again... Erika, Erika where are you? please answer me this is Tim, I KNOW it was you at the cabin and I KNOW you have my bag why are you doing this? I need my bag contact me as soon as you GET this!
Tim slams the phone shut and nearly knocks over his wine glass.
Tim: (Startled) Oh, Zach, I didn't see you there... hello
Tim: You wouldn't happen to know where Erika is, would you?
Zach: Can't help you there
Tim: It seems no one has seen her since her father's memorial service
Zach: I'm sure she's off dealing with her grief... as I'm sure you are mind if I join you?
Tim: (Somewhat surprised) Please
Zach brings his nearly-empty bottle of tequila with him
Tim: So, what are you doing... here?
Zach: I have business here... and it's a good place to relax
Tim is startled to find Zach's hand on his thigh.
Zach: Things have been so stressed lately... for both of us
Tim: I... I don't understand
Zach: (Whispering in Tim's ear) Meet me in the alley and you'll understand...
Tim gasps as he feels the tip of Zach's tongue on his earlobe. Zach stumbles out of his chair and exits out the side door. Tim remains paralyzed in his chair. After a few minutes of mental debate, he cautiously follows Zach out into the alley. The evening shadows overwhelm the tiny area, interrupted by a flickering hazy green glow from the Jade Gate neon sign.
Tim: (Softly) Zach... where are you?
Zach comes up behind Tim and wraps his arm around his waist.
Zach: Right here
Tim turns to face Zach but a sharp blow to his side sends him to his knees. Tim chokes on his breath as a sharp kick to the stomach launches a stream of regurgitated wine onto the asphalt.
Tim: What... are... you doing?
In full fury, Zach is now on top of Tim, clutching his neck in a death grip.
Zach: AREN'T YOU HAVING A GOOD TIME, TIM?
With his last ounce of strength, Tim manages to push Zach away momentarily.
Tim: Are... are you doing this... because of my Middle Eastern heritage?
Zach: No faggot, I'm doing this because HE WAS ONE OF THEM
Tim: I don't...
Zach's fists now target Tim's face and hit their mark with bloody precision.
Zach: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX...
Surfaced on July 1, 2000
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