Red Fades To Black

When you’re sleep deprived your brain doesn’t react the way it should; answers come a little slower, movement is more ponderous, it’s a struggle to remain present and focused. Excuses, I know, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

I feel like I could sleep for a year and still wake up tired. Sleep debt is a miserable thing.

I’m moving down the sidewalk two blocks from my apartment, bouncing off shoulders that I’m normally able to slip between without so much as a whisper of foreign clothing against my body. I gave up on muttered apologies ten minutes ago when I realized nobody was listening and even fewer people cared. That’s life in the city for you.

Dinner then bed – that’s the agenda for tonight. With a good twelve hour hibernation behind me I’ll be ready to finish Phase 2 and start thinking about how to approach the third and final phase of The Plan.

Trevor was suitably impressed by my Red Five layout and went straight to the press with it after only a few minor edits on my commentary. Apparently I came across as a bit too much of a fan of Red’s work in my initial draft. Hey, I’m new at this secret identity business, give me a break.

My article graced the front page of the Arts section and turned more than a few heads in other departments in my direction. I'm hoping for the same for my next piece but I've got bigger plans for my coup de grâce.

I don’t think Trevor really believed my spiel about an ‘anonymous tip’ providing me with the locations of all those pieces but his doubts were quickly forgotten when I outlined my idea for the follow-up article.

“Do you really think you’ll be able to locate all of these people?”

“Trevor, once the word gets out they’ll come flocking to me,” I told him. “Street artists, whether they’re willing to admit it to themselves or not, want their time in the limelight just like everybody else does. We might have to agree to print one piece per artist to get them to do the interview but I think that’s reasonable, don’t you?”

He had put up a token argument against it but caved quickly enough. And while my fellow artists of the street hadn’t exactly been the moths to my flame, I had found enough of them to fill out my feature article. I have two more meetings scheduled for tomorrow morning and then I’ll spend the afternoon bringing it all together.

The best part of this whole deal has been working outside of the office – I’ve been sleeping in, getting fresh air all day and my eyes are receiving a reprieve from Trevor’s ties. Maybe after this is all said and done I’ll be in a position to pick and choose my assignments – gallery openings, in-person interviews and travel pieces will be on the top of my wish list.

My eyes catch a flash of red hair as a woman going in the opposite direction brushes past me. I turn my head to get a better look and realize she’s too short to be Emma B. I really need to track her down but she hasn’t been to her office all week and I don’t know what else to try. Maybe I’ll have to dig up a disguise and see what I can find out with a more direct approach.

My ears drift back to the conversation between the two teenage girls directly in front of me. The brunette on the right in the purple wool coat is an up-talker and it’s driving me crazy. I’d never realized how many people finished their statements with question marks until I saw a performance poet named Taylor Mali at a club last month do a piece on the subject. Now I can’t stop noticing it.

Okay, one more block to go, I can do this. One foot in front of the other, don’t get run over by a car at this intersection, one foot in front of the other. Too easy.

I don’t even notice the van that pulls up next to me until the passenger side door opens and a large man with no neck spills out of it.

“Hey buddy,” he says to me, “do you know where Rosa Terrace is?”

Before I can reply that I’ve never even heard of it a cloth bag is pulled over my head and the scene before me disappears into darkness. I struggle weakly as I’m pulled into the van and thrown face-down onto the bare metal floor. A knee stabs into my back as I hear the sliding door slam shut and tires squeal into motion.

My breathing becomes ragged and I struggle for air, only noticing too late that the bag has a chemical smell to it. My head is swimming and my thoughts are steadily growing more foggy. I feel the van round a corner at speed before everything fades to black.

The End

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