Home > Uncategorized > Day One Hundred and Fifty-seven: Killing Time

Day One Hundred and Fifty-seven: Killing Time

The explosion that took out City Hall was precise and, as far as these things go, perfect. The charges had been set the way a demolition team would do it, making sure to take out that and only that building, which was exactly what Javier Varas had wanted. He did promise, after all, that if the state didn’t release his criminal compatriots from prison, he’d start blowing things up. Our tough-on-crime governor said he wasn’t going to negotiate with terrorists, and so Javier followed through on his promise. Scratch one historic city hall.

Of course, he hadn’t planned on being stuck in a basement storeroom when it happened.

Neither had I, come to think of it. But someone had to bring the guy in, and it turned out to be me. The chase took us all over the building, and we ended up there when the charges went off. It may have been the panic talking, but for a moment, he looked just as scared and surprised as I did. Then a great cloud of dust overtook us and everything went dark and cold.

I woke up coughing. No idea how long it had been since the explosion, but not too long, I hoped. I staggered to my feet, being careful to feel above me in the darkness with my hands. How much would that have sucked, to survive bombs only to knock my brains out standing up? I seemed to have lots of room, though. Not that I could see a damned thing. I hoped that was just because I was trapped under rubble and not because… Well, you know.

“Varas!” I coughed. I could still hear pieces of masonry crumbling around me, and I said a silent prayer that the next one to fall wasn’t the one that was holding half a building up above my head. “Varas!” I said again. “You here?”

There was a weak groan off somewhere to my left. I called him again and got another groan as an answer. Slowly, ever-so-carefully, I crawled over the rubble to where he probably was.

“Varas?” I said. “You all right?”

There was a moment of silence before a thick voice answered from somewhere below me and to my right. “Officer Zurowski,” he said. “Didn’t know you cared.”

I let out a breath that I didn’t know I’d been holding, a fact that probably would have troubled me if I’d been more inclined to think about it. I sat down on the rubble pile and tried not to move anything. “Naw,” I said. “It’s more paperwork if you die.”

There was a harsh, raspy laugh from wherever he was, and it ended in a cough. “Trapped down there?” I asked.

“I knew…” He paused to take a breath. “I knew you’d make detective someday.”

I grinned. Sure, the man was a criminal and a bomber and a murderer. But he had a sense of humor, and that’s hard to hold onto when you’re in that kind of position. “Well, just hang in there,” I said. “We’ll have you out in no time.”

“Ah,” he whispered. “Glorious freedom.”

We stayed like that for a while. There was no sound down there but our breathing – mine had calmed down a little, but his was still raspy. I strained my ears in the darkness for anything that sounded like a rescue crew. Heavy machinery, scraping, drilling… My fellow officers yelling down to me how I gotta hang in there, help is on the way.

There was none of that. Either we were a lot further down than I thought, or there was something keeping rescue away.

“Officer Zurowski,” he said. I turned towards the voice.

“Yeah?”

There was a moment of silence and then a raspy breath. “Why did you come after me?”

I thought about it for a moment and then shrugged. “You’re threatening to blow the place up. I’m a cop. I made a decision.” And it was not a good one, as it turned out, but I figured that went without saying. “If nothing had happened, I’d probably have my ass in a sling with the Chief right about now.”

“That might… be preferable.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it might.” I sat for a while, chewing on my lip. “Hey Varas.”

A pause. “Yes?”

“Why blow up city hall?”

There was a longer pause. “Seemed like a good idea… at the time,” he said. I laughed a little at that.

“So much for that.”

“Agreed.”

The quiet slammed into us again, and his raspy breathing got quieter. Part of me was starting to panic, thinking that someone had to come and come quickly. There’s a guy hurt down here, after all, and we gotta take care of him! But then I remembered that he was Javier Varas, and that the world might be a better place, on average, without him in it. But then I remembered he was a human being.

Here’s a tip for you: cops don’t like moral quandaries. We like our reality like we like our cars – in black and white. But for all the mental hand-wringing, there was one inescapable fact that kept popping up in front of everything else.

Several tons of concrete and debris were above us. And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it.

“Hey. Varas.”

He was quiet a long time, and when he spoke it was a thin whisper in the darkness. “Yes?”

“It was a good plan, you know.” I stretched a leg that was starting to fall asleep. “Sorry I screwed it up for you.”

Another long pause. “No more sorry… than I am,” he said.

He didn’t say anything after that. I let him go to wherever it is people like him go to while I waited for rescue.

We sat there for a long time.

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