Don’t Look Back

The man sat in an old solid desk chair in a small room with no windows. The table was old as well, wooded and splintering. He took solace in that it was circular. Tables never seemed to be circular anymore. In one hand was a cup of black coffee, bitter and lukewarm. The other, a newspaper turned to the obituaries. A face stared back at him, and chills ran down the back of his neck. He read aloud, as if to make it seem more real.

“JOHN T. MITCHELL —- SPRINGFIELD —– Man found in river on Wednesday has been identified as John T. Mitchell of Springfield. A loving co worker, friend, and brother…” The man let out a loud “HA” then. John T. Mitchell had never been loving nor had he ever had friends. He looked down at the black and white face, John’s face, and smirked to himself. Here, in print, he looked like a decent fellow; friendly, handsome, and surely too young to meet such a watery end. He read on.

“Mitchell had a promising career in business, a great rapport in the community, and loved para-sailing.” The man stopped because he had begun gagging on his coffee. Para-fucking-sailing? When had he ever para-sailed in his entire god-given life? Never. And promising career? Please. The whole reason he got into this mess was because he was in debt up to his fucking eyeballs. Bullshit.

“The community’s heart breaks at losing a young man in such a tragic way. John Mitchell will surely be missed.” The man felt as if he were going to be sick. Of all the ways they could have portrayed him, it had to be like this. Fake. A lie. If there was one thing he wasn’t, it was a fake. Sure, he’d made mistakes, but he’d always coughed up to them, hadn’t he? Jesus. What a way to go.

Suddenly, the only door to the small room opened and he jumped up, arms locked and ready. He stared at the silhouette in the doorway.

“What the hell are yeh doin’ John? You gonna fight me with your two bare fists, eh? Come on.”

John grabbed the paper and shook it in the air. “What kind of horseshit is this Mick? Makin’ me out to be some glorified fucking sob story?”

Mick laughed. “I thought you’d like that. Gotta make it believable though, ya know.” John sighed. Mick would do this just to get to him. Not that he didn’t deserve it.

“Mick… who was the kid?”

“Oh, just some drug addict from an alley somewheres. Already half dead. Just offered some extra blow, and 10 minutes later he OD’d. He left the world sailin’ high my friend. Looked enough like ya; that with a planted ID and it was easy-peasy.”

Jesus. What had he gotten himself into? “It’s too late to back out, isn’t it?”

Mick looked at him and half laughed. His face turned mean. “You knew what it meant when you started this mess. Now you gotta clean it up. Can’t do that if you have a life. We did what had’ta be done. Now get your shit. We’re leaving.”

John grabbed the single suitcase in the corner, and his jacket. There wasn’t a lot left commemorating his old life. Just a couple of outfits, a packet of cigs, and a picture. He looked back at the newspaper, now on the table, and sighed. John T. Mitchell was dead. That’s what happens when you break the rules with this lot. He looked at his face one last time, and left. He didn’t look back.

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