2. Secrets And Beef Jerky

Henry was fondling his Nobel Peace Prize in his dimly lit office. An old film projector was running black and white news clips of the bombings over Cambodia back in ’69. There was no sound, except for the spinning reels, and the occasional puff on a stogie.

His gaze drifted from the moving images on the wall when I walked in, and he threw the metal disc towards me. I brought my hands together to catch it, but before I could, it turned into a raven. The bird circled the room before settling down on Henry’s left shoulder. Henry offered it some beef jerky from an open packet on the table in front of him.

“Arnold. Please, have a seat,” he said, gesturing to an empty chair. “Stogie?”

“No thanks,” I said, sitting down across from him. The bird was pecking away at the beef jerky lodged between Henry’s fat fingers.

“So it is business then. Very vell. Vhat can I do for you?”

“I need to find CROM.”

“Arnold,” he said, sighing. “You do not find CROM. CROM finds you.”

“Dammit Henry! I don’t have time for your bullshit!”

“So make time. Tell me, vhat vill you do vhen you find CROM? Hm?”

“I’M GONNA RIP OUT THAT COCKSUCKER’S HEART!” Both fists slammed against the table. This startled the bird. Henry appeared unfazed. He offered the bird another piece of jerky.

“This vill upset the order of things.”

“I DON’T CARE!” I was on my feet, standing over him.

“I’m sorry Arnold. I cannot help you.” Tiny beads of perspiration had formed on his forehead. “Please. Sit down. Have a stogie.”

I lunged forward and clasped his throat with my right hand. I squeezed hard. My knees were on the table, and I used my weight to push him down in his chair.

“Arnold,” he gasped. “Vhat the fuck are you doing?!” The bird flew up into the air, and then turned back into a metal disc, which dropped to the floor with a clink.

I tightened my grip.

“Stop… please… this… is… maddness…” His voice was barely a whisper. His face was turning blue. His pleading eyes were looking right at me.

I loosened my grip, but kept my weight on him. “Tell me how to find CROM, you fat, useless piece of shit.”

He gulped for air. “Vhat vill you do if I don’t?” he sneered, between greedy breaths. “Hm? Kill me?” He started to laugh, but his glee was soon reduced to a fit of coughing.

“No,” I said. “That would be too convenient for you. I’ll expose you, you sick son of a bitch. I know all your dirty, little secrets, Heinz.”

He said nothing as he sat there in his chair, his eyes wide with horror. I got up off the table and walked around to where his Nobel Peace Prize had fallen. I picked up the metal disc, and wiped some dust off it. I held it out to Henry, just beyond his reach.

“Now, I will ask you for the last time… how do I find CROM?”

The bastard broke, and told me everything he knew, which wasn’t very much. But it was enough to keep his secrets safe for one more day. So I left him alone in his dimly lit office. The old film projector was still running black and white news clips of the bombings over Cambodia back in ’69. The only sound was the spinning reels, and the muffled sobbing of a tired, lonely man.

Somehow, I don’t think he was crying over dead Cambodians.

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