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Shadow of Fear: An Honest Man's Work
Posted By: Archangel_7<x_archangel7_x@yahoo.com>
Date: 7 November 2008, 9:45 am

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Bleeding Phae's Bank Account since 2008!

An Honest Man's Work

From the Journal of Raoul Duke, April 11, 2552

       Had I known the horrible mess I was getting into, would I still have done it? Hell yes. Take the ticket and ride. No point in looking back. At that point none of us had any regrets. There was nothing to regret. For all we knew, it would be the last night of our lives. That was the handle. All of us knew what was happening, even though those UNSC shitheads wouldn't come out and tell us. Our heads were full of animalistic fear, confusion, and loathing. Our hearts, however, filled with a strange and twisted sense of both joy and despair. Horrible atrocities were committed that night, in a final celebration of all the primal cruelties humanity was capable of.

       I've lived a life of insanity and intoxication. But this goddamned city brought me to a place I've never been. However, one of the things you learn, when you've lived a life like mine, is that sometimes, the real fiends are the only ones with true grit. The crazies, the loners, the outsiders; the kinds of people who live outside the law. To be an outlaw, you have to be honest, otherwise you're just a criminal, looking out for yourself. I found hope in this strange vision. That basic trust in the decency in humanity was the only thing keeping me going.

       Raoul took a whiff of the air as his consciousness returned. The place smelled dingy, with smoke and cheap liquor on the air. The kind of rotten place he'd find himself in on any decent Saturday night. It was Raoul's kind of place.

       He slowly stirred, raking his hand against his swollen temple. A guttural moan escaped his throat, and he could taste a warm stream copper trickling in from the split in his lower lip. A terrible aching in his lower back stung him as he tried to sit up. He inhaled air in gasps. His ribcage was tight. "You alright, feller?"

       His .45. Where was it? Raoul's hand flashed to his waist, padding his slacks, searching for any sign of the heavy, cold steel. His eyes darted open, only to be met by a pair of gleaming brown orbs staring down at him. "Augh!" he screamed. He swung frantically at the pair of eyes, swiping the air with a pair of balled fists. "Get away from me you whore! I'll claw your fucking eyes out!"

       "Woah, woah, woah, woah!" The same voice called out. Raoul felt his arms being slammed firmly to the floor. "Take it easy!" Struggle as he might, Raoul's fierce thrashing and gyrating could not break him free. "We're all friends here. I'm your friend."

       "Hah!" Raoul scoffed, "Like fuck you are." Blood ran profusely from the cut in his lip. "Where the hell am I? Are you one of them?" A pair of brown eyes stared blankly from above a scraggly grey beard. "Answer me, goddamnit! If I'm going to be held down and probed by some ONI spook, I want to know now! I have rights! Even in this country I have rights!"

       "Buddy, I don't know what the hell you're going on about, but ain't gonna' hurt you." The man released his grip on Raoul's arms and backed away. The crazed dope fiend shuffled away, backing himself into a corner behind the pockmarked billiards table.

       "Alright, maybe I believe you," he said, brushing the sawdust from his Acapulco shirt. "Your accent. You're American, aren't you?"

       "Yeah," said the man. "Name's Rebus. I'm from San Antonio."

       "Raoul," he said, giving a weak wave. "Los Angeles."

       "Well, Raoul, if you must know this is my own little place in Rio." Rebus shifted around, his arms open. "I call it the 'Sawtooth,' but most locals just call it 'Merda.'"

       Raoul shrugged. "... Yeah. Well, good luck with the business, man, real classy joint. Let me know how this goes, and now I'll just be leaving. . . ."

       "I just saved your ass, so you could stand be a little more grateful, son. Texan hospitality. Right now all that's keeping you from getting your hind end shot off is that there door." Rebus pointed to the door to his left. "And all your jabbering ain't making it much safer in here. Comprende?"

       Raoul nodded. No point in confrontation, especially with much greater odds at stake.

       "Now, I gave your things to that man over there," Rebus continued. Raoul looked in the direction his finger pointed and could see a wide-brimmed hat extending over the back of the corner booth seat. "You can take it anytime you like, but I don't think that fella's going to take too kindly to someone shooting up the place. I'd watch out."

       Raoul nodded, and got to his feet. Taking a precarious look back at Rebus, he pressed on toward the corner booth. The man's face was still hidden, even as Raoul stood over him. "Hey, uh, listen, man," he began.

       "If you want your stuff, just ask."

       Raoul was rather taken aback by the man's calm tone. "Listen, I'm sure you're busy with your beer and all, but . . . "

       "I said you'd have to ask."

       "Listen man, let's get down to brass tacks. It's a fucking warzone out there. You and I don't have time to be fucking around in some beat-down bar. We've got to get the hell out of here. Now, I'm a reasonable man. And I'm sure you're perfectly reasonable too. I'm sure you've got better things to do than to, and so do I. Now if you'll just give me the bag, I'll be on my way, and you'll never see my sorry ass again."

       "Look here," the man continued, his head still covered by the wide brim of his hat. "I'm a man in an uncertain business, and in an uncertain business we have certain ways of doing things." The man tipped his hat up to reveal a pair of sunken blue eyes. "What's your name?"

       "My name?" he replied, stabbing a finger into his chest. "Raoul Acosta."

       "You have a strange way of speaking, Mr. Acosta." The man took another sip from the drink he was nursing. "The name's Everett. Everett Millers. Now, I'd normally see the wild look in your eyes, smell the liquor on your breath, and say to myself 'You know, maybe I oughta bring this boy in.' Then I'd take you down to the police station and have them sort you out. But, like you said, I'm a reasonable man, and these are unreasonable times."

       "You mean to tell me you're a fucking narc?"

       "No, Mr. Acosta, as a matter of fact I'm not." The man shifted in his seat, turning to face Raoul. "You might call me a lawman, but I don't enforce their kind of law. They just pay me to come in and clean up their messes, whenever they might need to."

       "Well I'm sure you've got your hands full tonight–"

       "That I do, Mr. Acosta, that I do. I can see the people behind all this craziness, and although the people out there might seem like animals right now, I know they're no different than you and I. I'm inclined to see the good in people, Mr. Acosta. Some might call it a weakness. I think it's a strength, myself. I can look into a man's eyes and tell what he truly intends, and where the man really stands. And it's only when you know where a man really stands that you can say you deal justice. Most other folks might look at you and see a drunkard, a wreck of a man hopping from one high to the next. But when I look at you, I see a man like me, trying to make sense of a world that doesn't make much sense at all."

       "Well, that's great and all, but I really need to be leaving. I have to get out into the mountains, slip the noose around my neck."

       "Out west?" Everett asked. "You won't make it out west."

       "Well, why not? It's a perfectly reasonable place to go, isn't it? I've been out in the jungle before. Hell, I've spent two years with the Corps. I can hold my own, man."

       "No," said Everett. "I mean you won't be able to get there at all. UN's already blocked the city off."

       "How do you know that?"

       "I have my connections." Everett downed the last of his beer. "Now, Mr. Acosta, are you any good with this .45?"

       "Well," he replied, "I'm a little out of practice. But I can use it."

       "Good." Everett slipped the brown tote from under the table and slid it to Raoul. "If you'd be willing to travel with me, I think I might have a mutual solution for both our problems"

       "Yeah? What's that?"

       "If we're going to get out of the city, we're not going to be able to do it without the UN's say-so. I might have to pull a few strings, but I'm fairly certain that if we can reach the UN's Green Zone up north, we might have a shot of getting out of here alive."

       "We'd be facing certain death, man. What kind of gear do you got?"

       "I have a truck waiting out back. Three rifles, four shotguns, two pistols, and more than enough ammo for all of them."

       "Two guys with a truck full of guns facing down an entire city crawling with panic-stricken people, police, and Marines. Hell, man, I got to admit I like those odds." Raoul drew a cigarette from his bag and stuffed it into the Marlon Spike. "Going on a picaresque crusade straight through the heart of madness? I like the sound of that."