The smell of rotting meat fills the air when I wake up and when I move my hand the pain is incredible. I don't know how long I've been asleep but when I gingerly lift my hand from beneath the covers and see the blackness spreading from my finger into the meat of my palm I have to believe it's been days. I don't want to believe it could spread that fast. I've been on the medication Frank brought me, it had to have slowed it down, surely.
Then I remember. Frank. Beautiful, brave, bastard Frank. He died so that I might live. My personal Jesus Christ only I knew he wasn't coming back.
I'd had no information from anyone, Red had gone dark, disappeared without a trace and without Frank to bring me news I was on my own, rotting away here in the darkness. The radio is my only companion now and so I turn it on, hoping for something, anything, to take my mind off of the pain.
"...Wilkerson Memorial service later today." Richard Maxwell, a local radio news reader I did an interview with a while back, drones out over the airwaves.
Memorial service? Today? I don't know whether it's the drugs, the illness or something else but I can't let this happen. Staying dead was an option before but things have changed now. I'm not dying for Grozny, I'm not letting Frank down. Red might have abandoned me but I wasn't going to hell without taking Grozny for the ride.
I scrabble out of bed and my pants fall around my ankles. I've lost a lot of weight. My PR girl would be proud. Painfully, slowly, I clean myself up as best I can and make my way out to the real world. Deceitville. Falsetown. Motherfricking Babylon.
The city seems darker somehow, deeper, like looking down a well and seeing he light fade until the bottom is just a myth. Everything seems in slow motion and I'm not sure if it's me or the drugs or something else that's causing it. Wrapped in a blanket I make my way through the melting streets. The snow is melting and water's everywhere, leaving the concrete slick and dimly reflective. Everything looks grey in that slick water, dead.
Get it together Thomas! I'm not normally like this, dwelling, moping, whining and complaining like some spoilt kid. I'm better than this.
As I reach the site of the memorial, I realise I haven't thought this through. Grozny has his little video of my playtime, something he won't hesitate to use unless Red has managed to acquire it like I asked. Out of one enemies hand's and into another, it's true, but Red isn't stupid. If he discredits me, he discredits my testimony against Grozny and neither or us want that. But I don't know where Red is now, or what he is doing. I've received no calls, no word of his progress. Oddly, I find myself worrying if he is okay.
And Joel. Frank set up something there, forced him into a corner. He's an agent though, the police wouldn't be a problem for him in the same way they would for a civilian. He must have had something else planned. Why didn't he tell me? It must have been to protect me, that much is obvious. But how could my knowing cause a problem? I suppose I can't know, that's the point after all.
So I have a plan, a bad one, you couldn't really call it a plan as such but it is all I have right now. Climb the steps, make a speech, reveal it all and hope Grozny's goons don't stop me before I had make the big reveal. Hope against hope that Red has kept his side of the bargain.
As I cross the street cars blare their horns at me. They think I'm some bum, wandering their streets. I try to avoid them. I don't need attention right now but it's hard to see and I'm dizzy from the sickness.
It's a lovely service and there are more people in here than I ever would have thought possible. I was never this popular which means these are Grozny's friends, come to see his triumph. A display to consolidate his power and control over is allies. I lick my lips, savouring the thought of bringing him down in front of his peers. The satisfaction of that alone gives me a boost and I slowly work my way along the fringe of the crowds.
The whine of a microphone fills the air as a woman takes the stage.
"We're here today to pay tribute to a great man, an honest man who stood up for what he believed in and spent his life making our great city a better place to live in."
I cough up something thick and yellow at that remark and the people around me back away in disgust at the filthy thing among them. The voices begin listing off hollow platitudes and congratulations, listing my achievements one by one. I almost want to laugh, to cry, but I keep on going.
"Sir, you can't get past here."
A man with a bud in his ear and a hand on a holster steps in my way as I reach the ropes barring off the public from the stage entrance. I sidle up close and push the gun into his side, nudging it at the soft parts under his ribcage. I look up into his face, my cowl of blanket slipping back slightly to reveal my face and he gasps.
"Stop me and it will be you that reveal everything. It will fall on your shoulders, even if I don't kill you. I think a man deserves to say something at his own memorial service, don't you agree?"
The man nods slowly, swallowing hard and lets me through. He makes a beeline for the exit. He doesn't want to be here when the storm hits. Smart man, he should have worked for me.
"And that's why the Wilkerson Estate is being converted to the Thomas Wilkerson Memorial Fund for Children's Hospitals." The woman finished.
There is applause as I hobble on stage and worried, confused looks from the woman.
"And now, err..."
I shift my weight and the blanket falls to the floor. The silence is deafening. The microphone cuts a screech across the stunned crowd.
"I am Thomas Wilkerson and I am alive. I escaped."
I scan the crowd and there, in the VIP area, I see a face, straining to maintain composure. The feeling is electric, more powerful than the hardest erection I've ever had.
"Victor Grozny was behind it all along." I hold up my hand so all can see. "Victor Grozny did this."