It was when he made his way up the stairs that the black Suburban rolled around the corner and on to his street. He stepped midway up the stairs and watched it park exactly where the cab had let him out. A well dressed man wearing everything you'd assume a government agent would wear, stepped out of the vehicle.
"Yeah, that's me."
"Could you please come with us."
"I'd like to get a shower, and maybe some food first."
"Sorry Captain, you're going to have to wait for that."
Michael slumped his head and walked back down the stairs.
"Sorry Sir, no smoking in the vehicle."
"Yeah," Michael said, dropping the second unfinished cigarette of the day. "How about drinking? Is that allowed?" he said, pulling a flask from his jacket pocket and taking a swig.
"Just get in the car Sir."
Michael swallowed the bitter whiskey as he nodded. "Alright." He dropped into the back seat.
Sitting next to him was another man in a suit.
"So Captain. How are you feeling?"
"Like a train wreck, how about you?"
"I'm great. Thanks for asking. Look Captain, you've-"
Michael interrupted. "Listen, I don't know what it is you want from me, but I just want to take a shower and get drunk. I've been stuck in a hospital bed looking at four white walls for three days and I've been suffering serious withdrawal. A flask only lasts you so long, even when rationing it as diligently as I have been," he said, taking another swig.
"Well your concerns are noted, but you're still a member of this country's military and that means you have certain responsibilities that go beyond feeding your addictions. I need a report on your last outing and I need it immediately. For the sake of your cover, we can't go asking you questions while you're in the hospital, so this was the best time to grab you before you drowned anything you remember in alcohol."
"Seriously Dan, you don't get it do you?"
"Obviously not. Maybe if you'd give me some information I wouldn't have to hound you."
"Forget it. Just let me be for a few days, I'll come back in."
"Listen Michael, I know things haven't been going well, but that's no reason for you to be acting like this. The program needs you."
"The program can get a new guinea pig. I quit."
"That's not how this works. You don't just quit. You're the only person capable of doing this, and you're the only person who's ever done it."
"Maybe I'll just put a round through my head, then you'll leave me alone." Michael laughed. "No, even then you wouldn't. You'd get my body and run tests on it, cut it up try to figure me out."
Dan shook his head. "Alright."
Michael looked over to him. He knew the tone of his voice, he knew that it meant he had cracked his thin shell.
"I'll let you relax tonight, but I'm keeping an eye on you. Don't do anything too stupid, you hear?"
"Loud and clear sir," Michael said, throwing up a mock salute.
"Just ... just get out," Dan said, pushing him as the man outside opened the door.
Michael stumbled out of the vehicle and picked up his cracked cigarette. "Got a light?" He asked the agent, who ignored him and walked around the vehicle to seat himself on the passenger side. Michael took out his last match and lit it as the black Suburban drove off. The flame went out before he could get the charred end of his cigarette to cherry. "You've gotta be kidding me," he said, his words muffled by the filter between his lips.