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For a long time, Adrian stalked the streets. He had nowhere to go but he didn’t want to return to his apartment. He wanted to walk until his mind was clear. This mysterious organization obviously put a lot of effort into gathering information about him, right down to the old scar on his knee. He wondered what could be the purpose of an organization so secret that recruits weren’t even allowed to know its name.

The sun sank lower and lower in the sky until it sat just above the horizon; its golden rays reflected off windshields and office windows. Adrian found himself on a street corner about a block away from his apartment building. Adrian spent the past three years of his life in a tiny apartment in a run-down building on the worst side of town. The lock on the main door had been broken long ago and never repaired. Most residents didn’t even have a building key anymore. Adrian easily pushed open the old wooden door with chipping paint and went inside. An out-of-order sign hung on the elevator doors just as it had on the day he moved in.

Up on the fifth floor, the hall was littered with trash: old food wrappers, plastic bags and miscellaneous articles of clothing. As he stepped into the hallway, a nearby door flew open, revealing a tall, thin man with bloodshot eyes and a big smile on his face as he pocketed a plastic bag. A cloud of smoke accompanied the man, rolling out the door and filling the corridor with the unmistakable smell of pot. Luckily, someone had smashed the smoke detector to pieces years ago. Adrian passed the tall man without a second glance, trying to ignore and be ignored. It was not unusual for him to hear fistfights break out over drug deals gone bad on this floor.

As Adrian extricated his key from his pocket and unlocked room 507, he noticed his neighbor, Janet, sauntering towards him. This was never a good sign. Janet was an older woman with dyed blond hair, caked on make-up and form fitting, low cut clothing. She leaned against the wall so close to Adrian that he could smell her vile breath. Lighting a cigarette, she spoke to him in a croaking voice:

“So, how ‘bout it, big boy? Wanna have some fun tonight?”

“No.”

“Oh come on. A young, strong guy like you? You must want to,” she said with a smile as she ran a hand across his broad shoulders and down the lean muscle of his back.

“I’m busy tonight,” Adrian replied curtly.

“Fine. Have it your way,” she pouted, “Does this mean that you finally found yourself a girlfriend?”

“No,” he paused, “I have some work to do.”

Janet exaggerated a sigh, blowing cigarette smoke in his face. “You’re always working. It’s all you ever do. You should have some fun every now and then. I’m telling ya, I could show you the time of your life.”

“Somehow, I think not.” When you work for the FBI, fun is rarely on the menu.

“Whatever, your loss,” she snarled before strolling off down the hall, occasionally wobbling in her high-heeled shoes. Janet usually propositioned Adrian at least once a week but lately she had taken to offering her services every time she saw him. He could only conclude that she was having trouble paying the rent, otherwise she wouldn’t waste her time on someone who always turned her down.

Inside his apartment, Adrian kicked off his boots and threw his jacket across the back of the sofa. He tossed his gun on a small coffee table that he had built from parts of other broken coffee tables. None of the legs matched in size or color but he had gotten it relatively balanced and level by jamming a book under the shortest leg. In the kitchen, he found the fridge devoid of anything remotely edible. The only thing in there was a bottle of beer. Adrian swore under his breath. Inspection of the cupboard found only a box of stale crackers. The dinner of champions, he thought with a grin. He made a mental note to go to the store tomorrow as he ambled back over to the couch and flopped down. It groaned under his weight and bowed a little closer to the ground but it refused to break. It may have been old, ripped and threadbare but it wasn’t going to quit without a fight.

Taking a sip of his beer, he turned on the evening news with a flick of the remote. Their top story: well-known lawyer Eugene Banks had been found dead in his home. There were no leads and no suspects in the case. Adrian glanced at his gun on the table. He remembered Belle’s warning about the duplicate Eugene Banks. Every word she had said to him had been nonsense and riddles. What if everything she’d told him had been a lie?

He slammed down the remote and grabbed his jacket, digging through the pockets. Finally, he found it, the piece of paper Belle had given him. Now, in the sanity of his own apartment, he couldn’t believe that he had taken the girl and her crazy theories seriously. A secret organization looking to recruit him? An evil duplicate monster out to get him? It couldn’t be. He threw the paper out the window. Maybe his boss was right. Maybe he had imagined it all. Maybe the stress was getting to him and he needed some time off. Maybe but maybe not. Picking up his gun, he considered it for a moment before returning it to the holster on his belt. Preparing for the worst was a part of his job.

He sat back down on the couch and finished watching the news. Nothing else of major importance had happened and so the news channel ran their backup stories about high gas prices and how smoking is bad for you. Adrian finished his beer, no longer paying attention to the television. He was waiting for something to happen, something that would substantiate everything he had suspected since this morning. But as the night wore on and nothing happened, Adrian’s eyes became too heavy to keep open and he soon fell asleep to the sound of a mindless sitcom.

The End

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