Murray had it coming, people said. Murray was a man who made enemies easily and made friends exclusively with idiots and scumbags. When Murray’s body was found stuffed into a garbage can in the back of an alley, nobody was surprised to learn that he had been shot multiple times. But everybody was surprised to learn that his blood was missing.
“The cops aren’t even going to bother investigating,” said Cedric. “They’re just going to be happy that Murray is dead.”
“It ain’t right,” said Eugene.
Cedric and Eugene, a scumbag and an idiot respectively, were Murray’s closest friends. Eugene was Murray’s cousin and they had grown up together. Cedric and Murray had been cellmates in prison until just over a year ago. Now, the afternoon after the funeral, Cedric and Eugene sat in the kitchen of Eugene’s apartment and pondered life without Murray McDonald. Eugene snacked on dry cereal and nursed a beer. Cedric leaned against the counter and ran his hands through his greasy shoulder-length hair.
“No, it ain’t right,” Cedric nodded. “It’s one thing to shoot a guy. There’s reasons to do that. But why you gonna steal his blood?”
“You think they gonna sell it?”
“Who you think is gonna buy Murray’s blood? Guy had all kinds of diseases. You wanna sell blood you get someone healthy. Someone ain’t been to prison for a start. I think this was some kind of revenge shit.”
“Who you think done it? Mookie Dawson? Those WGH boys? Tommy Ng and his crew?”
“I don’t know. But maybe we ought to find out. We gonna steal some motherfucker’s blood to put your Cuz’s spirit at rest and shit.”
Eugene finished his beer and went to his bedroom. He came back with three pistols. Cedric took one and the two of them hit the streets.
Murray’s mother and sister were sitting in the kitchen of their own home at the same time. Murray had been living with them since getting out of prison. Alana had spent the morning sobbing at her brother’s funeral, but was now quiet. Mrs. McDonald had not shown as much emotion. She projected a strong composure with only extra wrinkles on her forehead and at the corners of her mouth, recognizable to those who knew her well enough, to betray her emotions. “That lady cop was by after the funeral,” she said. “Officer Lee. The one who found the body.”
Alana made no reply. Mrs. McDonald went on. “They have some footage from a security camera. He had robbed some scientific research place that night. Before he got shot.”
Alana shifted in her chair. She put her head down on her forearms and closed her eyes.
Mrs. McDonald took a glass from the cupboard above the dishwasher and filled it with tap water. She placed it on the table next to her daughter. “She doesn’t know what it was that he stole, some experimental stuff they were working on. Expensive stuff. I suppose he was probably looking for drugs.”
Alana stood up suddenly and shouted at her mother. “That’s a horrible thing to say! Murray is dead! How can you talk about him like that?”
Mrs. McDonald put her hand on Alana’s shoulder. “I loved my son, but I am not blind to the truth, girl. He was a criminal and it got him killed. What good is hiding from that going to do?”
And Alana had no reply, so she drank her water and sat back down.
“Why’d you fuckin’ kill my cousin?” said Eugene as he shoved Tommy Ng into a video lottery terminal.
Tommy took it with undue understanding. He was a scumbag too, but he was willing to let a mourning man release his grief. “I didn’t kill Murray, you fucking shitlicker. Why would kill him?”
They were in Tommy’s restaurant, currently empty of customers. A satellite radio rap station was playing Ace-Tone’s latest single, a song about brotherhood among gangstas that always got Eugene worked up. Cedric stepped up to hold back his friend, then puffed up his chest and looked down at Tommy. “We know that Murray owed you big. Like twenty grand last he mentioned. There’s your motive right there.”
“Motive? How the fuck is that motive? What good is killin’ a motherfucker who owes me money? How’m I gonna get my money now? I supposed to hope his fuckin’ zombie get a job and save up enough to pay me back? What’s my motive exactly?”
Both Cedric and Eugene stopped to think about it and, yeah, Tommy had a point.
“Shit,” said Eugene. “I’m out of ideas.”
Tommy patted Eugene on the back. “You know, I didn’t say nothin’ because I didn’t wanna have to talk to the cops, but your cousin was in here that night. Around supper time. He had dinner with some guy.”
“What guy,” asked Cedric.
“Some tall guy. Nerdy white suit-wearin’ guy. I don’t know his name. I never saw him before. But I can tell you this, they was talkin’ business. All hushed voices hunched over drawings and shit. Goin’ over a plan or something. I think your boy was on a job. Probably robbed the wrong people.”
Eugene looked at Cedric, who looked at Tommy. “So how are we gonna find out who he robbed so we can get revenge?”
Tommy grabbed a couple menus as some customers walked in. “If you’re investigatin’ this thing, maybe you ought to start at the scene of the crime? C’mon guys. Think about this.”
And so Cedric and Eugene had an idea: They’d check out the scene of the crime.
Alana McDonald sat on her brother’s bed and looked around. She had never given up on her brother as a lost cause, but she was starting to wonder why she hadn’t. From where she was sitting she could see a set of brass knuckles, a bag of coke, three knives, a set of scales covered in white powder, an ashtray overfull with cigarette butts, a box of shotgun shells, a ski-mask, innumerable empty beer cans and a bootleg copy of that movie where Ace-Tone plays a hitman. “Crime pays if you do it right” said the tagline.
Her brother had been a scumbag, but she always felt he didn’t need to be a scumbag for life. Just a week and a half ago she had met a guy at a bar. He told her that he had a job with some big company and she had asked if he could help her brother get a job there. Anything. A janitor or a mailroom clerk. Whatever they had he would take. The guy had been a bit drunk and was obviously trying to get in her pants, but he seemed sincere when he told her he would do what he could.
Alana was always trying to help her big brother improve his life, even if Murray wasn’t trying. She assumed now that even if the man had called, Murray wouldn’t have bothered with the job. Murray evidently thought that crime was a viable way to pay the bills. And now he was dead. He had died as a scumbag, so he had been a scumbag for life.
She didn’t know that the guy had called her brother after all, but he had done so after a very bad day at work. He’d offered Murray a job, a different job, not with the company. A job that Murray had accepted.
Eugene and Cedric rummaged through garbage and looked around the alleyway, not knowing really what they were looking for. A startled rat ran past them and into a sewer drain. It was past midnight now and the two of them were starting to get bored of their quest for vengeance.
“Man, what if it was vampires?” said Eugene. “What if they ate Murray. They might still be out here lookin’ for someone else to eat.”
Cedric dropped the piece of paper he’d been reading. Half an advertisement for a shoe store. “That’s stupid. Ain’t no vampires. Besides Murray had that cross tattoo on his arm, remember?”
“Yeah, that’s right. They wouldn’ta been able to eat him. They could still eat us, though. I ain’t got no tattoos.”
“Man, you stupid. But still, I don’t see anything here that could-” and he was cut off by a loud sound. Sort of a rip and a bang all at once. For a moment both men saw their shadows jumping in terror on the wall before them as something bright flashed behind them.
They spun on their heels and were facing a man in some kind of costume. He was wearing all black and had a big helmet and mask with red lights pointed at them. A box attached to the man’s belt sparked and hummed. He seemed to glow.
“Who the fuck are you?” Cedric demanded.
“Cedric and Eugene!” the man’s voice was filtered through some electronic device that distorted it. He laughed and it sounded to Cedric and Eugene like a robot clown chasing children in Hell.
“You know our names! You the guy from the restaurant? Did you kill my cousin? Did you kill Murray?”
“”Kill? Oh, I get it.” The man’s electronic chuckle echoed loudly through the darkness as the man walked toward them. “I suppose you haven’t seen… your friend Murray since last week. Yeah, that’s my doing. Well, I have a sur-”
The first bullet, fired by Cedric, passes through the man’s neck. Shots two and three, one from each of Eugene’s gun hit him in the gut and shoulder. After a moment’s consideration Cedric shot again, hitting him in the knee. The man fell down and twitched and writhed on the filthy concrete.
“That’s what you get!” Eugene shouted. “That’s what you get!”
“Let’s get his blood,” Cedric said as they stood above their convulsing victim. “That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Eugene knelt down to the wounded man and looked at the wounds. “Man, he’s already bleeding like a friggin’ firehose. What do we put it in?”
Cedric looked around. “I guess we put him over the edge of that garbage can. Drain him into there.” And so the two of them lifted the body to the same bin where their friend’s remains had been found and began to fill it with fluids. Eugene started feeling around the guy’s neck and Cedric smacked at him.
“What are you doing? We don’t want to leave fingerprints all over him.”
“I’m tryin’ to get that stupid helmet off. I want to see who it is, but I can’t figure out how it works.”
“Forget it,” Cedric said. “We’ll hear who it is on the news when they find his stiff.” Then they heard the sirens. A silent raised-eyebrow glance at each other and they dropped the body into the can, then bolted from the scene.
As the last of Murray McDonald’s blood drained from him his life was passing before him as he’d always assumed it would when he died. these last few hours were especially interesting as he tried to figure out what happened. There was the disgruntled scientist who hired him to steal a time-jumping device from the secret laboratory and there was the chase from security that had compelled him to use it to jump ahead a week. And when he’d landed in the future he found his friends waiting for him. What were the odds of that? As he died, that was his last thought. “What were the odds?”
And as soon as Murray’s life-signs faded the time-jump machine deactivated and sent him back to his natural timeline, a week earlier in the same garbage can, but surrounded by different garbage and leaving nine pints of his self in the future.
Patrick D Ryall, the D is for Invisible