Things have really gotten out of hand.
I suppress a giggle as I realize that might be the understatement of the year. Okay, hold it together you prick. Losing it now could bring this to a very quick, very undesirable end.
I mean, I’m only wanted for murder and marked for death by the crime lord of this city - nothing I can’t handle, right?
Christ. I’m a dead man.
“Red Five, can I see you in my office?”
My heart tries to run screaming from my chest - the result is rather painful.
“Jeremy, I’d like a word in my office,” Trevor Sykes tells me. I look up at my editor, try not to look like I just saw a ghost, and nod. He leads the way through the twisting alleys between the cubicle buildings of our floor, leaving a note here, a quick word there. He’s a few inches taller than me and about half my weight - the sort of guy that if he turned sideways you’d look around wondering where he went. I guess that’s why he wears those garish ties - to make sure we don’t forget he’s around.
“Have a seat,” he says and closes the door behind us. He moves around to his side of the desk and doesn’t sit down. “Jeremy… you look worse than my dog’s breakfast.”
“Thanks,” I say while studying his bookshelf full of back copies of every paper in town. I consider pointing out that his collection is a huge fire hazard but decide that the less that comes out of my mouth in this meeting the better. “I haven’t been sleeping very well lately.”
“Sleep?” He pushes his glasses up his narrow nose with a hairy finger. The movement draws my eyes to his tie - lime green with pink flowers - and my stomach shifts uncomfortably. “I wouldn’t think you’ve even seen your bed for the last month.”
I’ve really been pushing myself hard lately - I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve ended up in the position I’m in: murderer, hunted, about to lose my job. I got carried away and now I'm going to be swept away and forgotten.
“Sorry Trevor, I’ve been trying to not let it interfere with my work… the lack of sleep, that is. I’ll go see a doctor if you want, get some sleeping pills…”
“I don’t care how you deal with it - just make sure that you do,” he breaks in. “Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk you about. You’ve shown an interest from day one in street art, much to my poorly concealed annoyance. But now it might come in handy - what do you know about this Red Five character?”
“I’m sorry?” My mind is having trouble connecting the dots and I’m not going to apologize for it; it’s a pretty crowded place at the moment.
“Come on Jeremy, it was all over the news this morning - the vandal turned murderer? The Features and Editorial departments have worked themselves into a fine lather already but I think us Art geeks can provide some insight into how this guy’s mind works. What do you think - you up for the assignment?”
“Please don’t turn me into Peter Parker,” I mumble at my lap.
“What if my investigation turns up proof that Red is innocent? Would you go to print with my article if I‘m the only finger pointing in another direction?”
“Jesus Jeremy, I offer you the assignment of the decade and you question my journalistic integrity?” You have to hand it to the guy - he managed to say that without a hint of a smile. “Do you want this or not?”
“I’ll start right away.” Great - I just agreed to investigate myself. Maybe I should stop by the self-help section of Film, Art & Books on the way home tonight. Or maybe I would be better off hitting a comic book store for back issues of Spider-Man...
“That’s more like it. I want you to talk to any of these vandals that know him, or have even heard of him, that you can track down. Find out what they think of this lunatic, why they figure he did it. High on paint fumes, drinking problem, his daddy beat him as a child, whatever. Just be careful - the police are hunting for any male with a spray can so these guys are going to be on edge. You’re going to have to work to earn their trust.”
Being careful - that’s a novel idea. I think I might have to try that one out sometime.
It will have to be some other time though - I just thought of a way to use this to my advantage. This could work out for Red Five and Jeremy Paulo.
Now that would be a first.