Rotted Roots — Part 13: Loose Ends
Servaes sipped his glass of wine and looked at Ryder questioningly. The sun cut through the blinds in Ryder’s office and illuminated it with an orange light. The first hints of summer could be felt through the smog and dust clouds that still floated through the streets. A new file was open on Ryder’s desk. It held his notes on Freya and WorldTree Technologies.
“I’m not buying it.”
“What did you expect?” asked Ryder as he poured himself another glass of merlot. “That we immediately got into the nitty-gritty of plotting the overthrow of western civilization?”
“There wasn’t anything?”
“If Freya Ironside is half as dangerous as Ethan and Sarah are, then they’re not going to spill in front of me. I’m just the intermediary to make sure the sociopaths don’t tear themselves — or the world — apart.”
Servaes paced. “Did Ironside say anything that might lead us towards why she did all of this?”
“Sarah made a reference to a comment Freya said about wanting the government contracts Ryder Industries had. Now that she took down the company, WorldTree has those. She also seemed interested in knowing what was inside the R & D labs at Ryder Industries.”
“I’m sure your brother and sister were very forthcoming about that.”
Ryder swirled the wine in his own plastic glass. “We all agreed that, for the time being, we’d start with the smaller, day-to-day stuff. Until we get more solid ground under our feet from being in this group together.”
“Well then at least Ironside doesn’t get what she wanted.”
“She’s crafty. I’m sure she’ll find a way to get there eventually. We just have to figure out what she wants before then.”
Servaes set down his plastic cup and peeked through the blinds. The sun was setting through a cloud of concrete dust. Horns honked as taxis swerved through traffic, rushing impatient people to exciting rendezvous.
“I told you I hated Chinatown endings.”
“And that’s exactly what you gave us.”
“For now. Things aren’t over.”
“They are for me.”
Ryder turned and faced Servaes. “Bosses reassigning you?”
“They want to. I’m thinking of resigning.”
Now it was Ryder’s turn to set down his glass. “Why the hell would you do that?”
Servaes turned back to Ryder. “This afternoon, staring down Way and knowing I couldn’t do anything to stop him. It made me feel…worthless. What’s the point of having total immunity if, when you need it the most, you can’t use it?” Servaes turned back to the window. “Just seems like kind of a waste of a life.”
Ryder leaned back in his chair. He scratched the back of his head as he tried to gather his thoughts. His tongue was tied — something that hadn’t happened since Molly and Lieutenant Allen had left.
“When I got out of the hospital,” Ryder began, “After I went in for my addiction, I took a trip. I packed a bag of stuff and went around the world. I had to. I spent half a day out on these streets before I started wandering towards the places I would score Chronos. Being here was part of the addiction, and one that only distance was going to break.
“I decided on Nepal. Europe was going to be filled with dopy college kids backpacking and Asia seemed too crowded and tempting for an addict. The region around Nepal always seemed like a spiritual place, so that’s where I went. For four months I lived there.”
“This going somewhere?” chided Servaes as he snapped the blinds back. “I don’t feel like hitting your age by the time this story’s done.”
Ryder smiled. “When I was there, I visited Kathmandu. I heard boastings about the Shwayambunath — “
“Shwayambunath. It’s a temple. Can I finish?” Servaes was silent. “It’s said that if you can scale all three hundred sixty-five steps of the temple in a single breath, you’ll achieve enlightenment. It took me three tries to do it — I was still getting used to being in an old body — but I finally did. I sat at the top and looked out across the vista.”
“And what did you realize in your enlightened state?”
“That life is worth living.”
Servaes folded his arms as Ryder pushed himself out of his chair. “You quit this life, what’ll you do? Be an assassin? A hermit? A barista?”
“Whatever I feel like doing.”
“You’d be throwing your life away. It may not have turned out great today — “
“It turned out pretty terrible today.”
“But if we work together, we can stop them. But only if we’re a team. And if we’re a team, I need you as you are.”
The two men looked at one another. Both had been through the impossible together and come out the other side. It was something that few could say they had accomplished. They were changed.
“Guess I have a plane to catch then,” Servaes acknowledged. They shook hands as partners.
“Where they sending you?”
“Figured I’d ask.” Servaes scribbled a phone number on Freya’s file.
“Reach me on that number with any updates. I should be back in a couple of weeks.” The two men nodded to one another before Servaes headed for the door.
“Servaes,” Ryder called. He looked back as he stood in the open doorway. “We’ll get them. Both of them.”
Servaes smiled. “Yes we will.” He closed the door behind him on his way out.
Ryder took his seat in the light of the setting sun. He turned on the radio and let the sounds of a ham-fisted radio drama wash over him as he scribbled his notes on a new adversary. He poured himself another glass of wine. It was going to be a long night.
William Way walked out of the coffee shop and into the night air with a bag of doughnuts in his hand. He bit into a blueberry muffin as he checked the road before he walked out into the street.
The sound barely registered among the white noise of the city. A soft PEW in between the screech of the subway and cheers from an open window. Before the sound Way was walking to the car waiting for him on the other side of the street. After the sound he was on the ground, a tiny hole in the center of his forehead and the back of his head a gaping mass of carnage. By the time the driver got out of the car, Way’s shattered skull had gushed blood all over the pavement beneath him. The pastries began soaking the blood into their dough.
Servaes looked through the scope of his rifle three blocks away to see the driver hunch over the body and begin hurriedly dialing someone on his phone. A few onlookers started to notice the dead body in the road. A faint scream carried on the wind. Servaes’ phone went off.
“Yes, sir? Yes, sir…I understand they’re waiting for me…I’ll be there. I just had to take care of something first.” He ended the call and began disassembling his rifle. The plane wasn’t going to wait forever.