He could feel the cold metal pressed against his unshaved cheek.
The cold gun that would never be used.
The cold barrel that will never release the wisps of smoke that succeeded a shot.
The dormant bullet that would never pierce flesh or see the light of day.
The damn trigger that would never be pulled.
The very same guilt that fueled his thirst for retribution, held him back from pulling it.
“Why don’t we try it on ourselves then?”. Those were the words that had doomed Sarah. Words that came from James’ mouth, not Morgan’s.
And yet, he was standing on another rooftop, once again observing Morgan under the crosshairs of his scope.
He was dressed formally as usual. Although this time he had a red tie and a suit. He was talking animatedly to a whole conference room full of people clothed in a similar fashion.
On a screen, behind him, there were slides of the nano bots being displayed dramatically. James shook his head. He could not believe that he was going ahead with the project. After what happened. That bastard.
“We cannot report this to the board.” He had said, merely an hour after Sarah’s death. “We would be shut down, there would be no more grants.” He had been holding a handkerchief to his lips where James had punched him.
“You sonofabitch. You think I’m going to go along with this? You murdered my fiancée.”
Morgan shook his head sadly. “No James. She knew what she was getting into when she put on that suit. She knew the risks.”
“To hell with the risks. I’m not going to let you get away with this.”
Morgan leaned in closer.
“Think James. All you’re gonna accomplish by doing that is destroy everything we worked for. Everything Sarah worked for. Everything she died for.”
James growled and lunged at Morgan once again. He punched him with his one good arm and stalked off, leaving him cradling his broken nose delicately on his knees.
James could almost make out the slight bend of his nose. The place where he had made satisfying contact with his knuckles, feeling the bone breaking under his fist. The satisfaction had long since died out. He needed more.
If only he had the balls to pull the trigger. If only.
He looked back into the scope to find that the meeting had ended. The suits and waistcoats began filing out of the room in their dignified gait, shuffling around their papers. They all seemed pleased, nodding to each other as they left the hall. Only Morgan was remaining, standing near his laptop, staring at the closed doors. He remained motionless under the crosshairs for nearly five minutes. James new it was the perfect moment for the kill.
But the figure suddenly collapsed into the nearest chair, head in his hands. James frowned.
He watched as Morgan reached into his coat pocket and drew out a small cell phone. He flicked it open and quickly pushed in a couple of buttons before slipping it back into his jacket.
James felt the weak vibrations of his own phone humming in his pocket. It was a message. It read:
“James, we need to talk. Drinks. My place. 6:00 pm. Please leave your fists at the door.
He sat in his car, watching Morgan’s house. The bright spotlights aimed at the walls of the modern villa provided enough illumination for James to observe Morgan as he paced around his hallway. It was a beautiful place, palm trees, swimming pool, the works.
He had arrived two hours earlier, making sure he wasn’t noticed. The C4 was rigged all around the compound, including the gas tanks. Now he was sitting once more in his car, still uncertain of Morgan’s motives. Finally after another twenty minutes, he drove the car closer, parking it behind Morgan’s Aston Martin. He walked slowly towards the door, both hands in his pockets. One curled in a fist, the other curled around the trigger. He was going to hear him out.
The lights brought out a green hue of illumination around the trees in the garden, creating a sinister ambience, appropriate for the occasion.
Morgan greeted him at the door with a sheepish grin and an awkward hug. He was wearing his signature black pants and purple shirt.
“Hello James, how have you been.” He said, shakily, guiding him into the hallway.
James cleared his throat, swallowing hard. He fought to maintain a steady voice as he replied mechanically.
“I’m alright Morgan. Been better.”
Morgan nodded, almost to himself, as he led him into his posh living room. He walked over to the bar in the corner and starting pouring drinks. “Make yourself comfortable. You’ll take the usual?”
James grunted in approval as he sat down on his black sofa. He gazed around, absorbing every detail of the luxuries that were paid for with Sarah’s blood and screams. The 90 inch flat screen that hung at the end of the room, shining in all its malevolent grandeur. The gold rimmed spotlights that enveloped the room in a sophisticated ochre glow. All of it would not be here, if Sarah were. Their mere presence goaded James into justifying his action of rigging the whole damn villa.
As Morgan placed the cold glass in his hands, plopping onto the black armchair in front of him, James felt a slight chill run down his neck. That was the nearest he had been to Morgan in the past month. He struggled to maintain his calm, caressing the long plastic trigger for comfort.
Morgan placed one foot onto the table in front of him, trying deliberately to seem at ease. He shuffled around uncomfortably before finally resting his eyes on James.
“James it has been too long now.” He voice almost pleading. “How long are you going to hold her death against me? We all knew what we were getting into. I am sorry for what I did, but I honestly believed I could have stopped it. There has not been a single day that has passed without me cursing myself for doing it.”
James avoided his gaze, staring hard at his glass. The cold scotch glinted golden through the reflecting light.
Morgan waited for him to show some sort of reaction. But he remained silent.
“I know all this,” He said, waving his hands around, “Might make me look like the bad guy, the guy who walked away with all the blood money.”
“But I just could not let everything we worked for, everything Sarah died for, go to waste.”
He carefully took his foot off the table and bent closer towards James, desperate to get his attention.
“James, listen to me. I want to let you know exactly how sorry I am, and what my real intentions were. The research was a success, and the bots have already been set up for mass production. I cannot continue to reap the benefits of our success whilst you burn this bridge.”
James finally took his eyes off his glass, looking up into Morgan’s eyes. He waited for him to continue.
“I’ve already used whatever money I have left, to set up a cancer research fund, in Sarah’s name. The rest I wired to a separate bank account, the details of which,” he said, tapping on a white envelope on the table, “are in here.”
“It’s yours, the original 33%. I don’t care if you think I murdered her, or if I’ve come this far only because of her death, but you are going to take this envelope whether you like it or not.”
James’ mouth formed a bitter line, trying not to look at the envelope.
“And I also wanted to make sure you know that there is no one who regrets that day, more than I do.” He finished quietly, leaning back into his armchair, waiting for James’ response.
James looked at Morgan weakly, unsure of what to do. Morgan’s desperate plea for absolution had left him disoriented and confused. The one shining beacon of hope for his growing darkness was Morgan’s death, and now the clearly defined culprit had shown remorse.
He felt weak and lost, like an abandoned child in a departmental store. The gathering darkness surrounded him completely and his one defense gave in entirely. His eyes blurred as he blinked around, sweating. He opened his mouth to utter the first words from his side. “It’s hot-“
He wiped his brow and blinked through the sweat. Poison? He thought, looking up at Morgan. No, he had genuine concern on his face.
Morgan got up to decrease the temperature. As he got up, a hazy figure took his place, sitting on the armchair.
She wore the same gown that she had on, the night of their breakthrough. Her lips, as red as ever, opened slowly, as she bore her gaze into James’.
“Kill for me James.” She said yet again, her haunting memory leaving no detail to the imagination. Her eyes had the same hungry look that she had when she leaned in during their dinner. “Avenge my death.”
“But he, he is right. We all knew what we were getting into..” He muttered to himself. He wiped his eyes, letting the ghostly pale figure fade away. Morgan returned to his chair, a worried expression on his face. “You alright James?”
But James was not listening. His cursed words rang once again in his ears. Why don’t we try it on ourselves then?
He straightened out in the sofa, looking at Morgan once again.
“You were right Morgan, you did not murder Sarah.”
Morgan let out a huge sigh of relief as he took a sip of his drink, his shoulders drooping in reprieve.
James let his drink down and reached into his pocket. “We did.”
And with that he finally pressed down on the trigger, his last burst of guilt silenced as he let the darkness and torment die out in the blinding light of the raging explosion.
He closed his eyes and sank into the sofa as he heard the beep of the transmitter, as the walls collapsed and the glasses shattered. And as he drew his final breath, a faint smile formed on his lips, feeling Sarah’s gentle peck on his earlobes, her smooth skin grazing against his bristly cheek.
He heard her voice whisper one last time, “Let’s get outta here James. I think a little celebration of our own is at hand.”
And then the light consumed them both.