“Those look like cases, Sammy.”

Jefe excelled at stating the obvious. But it was the way he’d spice it up with added menace that too it from “dumb” to “dangerous.

Things were spiraling out of control. Jefe had taken the precaution of pointing a gun at Sam’s head. Sam’s boys had their weapons trained on him. Jefe’s men had their guns aiming for Eddie and Allan.

“Those look like you’re going to be leaving. You thinking of going up, Sammy?”

Sam was doing every conciliatory move he could remember. “Jefe, this really isn’t how it looks. Just put the guns down and we can talk about this.”

“You think you’re good enough to go up there?” Jefe screamed as he came advanced on Sam, who retreated the same distance. The others moved around, keeping a close aim. “This is MY ELEVATOR! You’re not going up there!”

“Jefe. Please. This is all a mistake. You need to listen to-”

“I need to put you down like the stinking dog you are. You would be NOTHING without me. NOTHING. I made you.”

Sam fought his anger and memories of being the punching bag for people he now owned.

“Jefe.” He stopped, took a breath and tried again. “You do not understand what is happening here because you are not a part of it. Go home, Jefe.”

Jefe spat out a mirthless laugh. Looked away for a fraction of a second. “Fuck this, you’re a dead man.”

“Jefe, Jefe, Jefe. Why do you think we’d take you. You were a failure the first time round; You have let this young man run rings around you. Really. You’re not worth setting on fire so I wouldn’t have to piss on you to put you out.”

All eyes shot round to the figure approaching. The man who recruited Sam.

“Not helping,” said Sam.

“But all I need to do is put a bullet in this piece of shit and your plans are fucked.” Jefe laughed.

“Not really. That still take Samuel out of circulation. The Tow goes back to being useless, and you go back to being a failed criminal, constantly in fear of your crown being taken. The normal order returns.”

Jefe turned his gun on the newcomer.

“Well, Samuel. This is exciting, isn’t it. Don’t forget, now. Only one can ride The Elevator, so let’s hurry this along, shall we?”

Eddie turned to his friend, “What did he say?”

“Nothing.”

“No – fuck you. What did he say?”

“I said only one-”

A shot rang out. The ground at the newcomer’s feet exploded. “I wasn’t talking to you,” growled Eddie. “What, Sam, did that piece of shit mean about only one person being able to ride The Elevator.”

“That you’d be staying behind. I’d be the only one going up.”

Sam lowered his hands, slipping one into his pocket.

“So, what, Sam? You were just going to leave us?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

In his pocket, Sam found the small transmitter.

“A manner of speaking?” Eddie was screaming now.

Sam nodded, flicking off the safety catch. Eddie winked and Sam pressed the button.

Eddie’s car exploded, lifting into the air. The shock wave pushed Jefe’s the the floor, their weapons tumbling away from them. Eddie and Allan shimmered out of sight.
Sam pulled his revolver and swung round.

Sam’s guest had a compact gun pointing at Jefe. Jefe had two guns, one pointing at Sam, the other at his guest. Sam had his gun out, but he wasn’t about to announce which side he was on.

“It looks like you were right. You know, I never did get your name.”

His guest shrugged.

“This is very exciting.”

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Sam put the last of the cases in the lift and sent it down to his waiting men.

There was something bothering him.

He ran back to his apartment and threw some weapons in a bag for his team, taking a quick glance as the Elevator as it made its long descent.

“Only one can ride The Elevator.”

On the desk sat an open oak box. Inside was a revolver. Sam paused. Could he really go through with it?

Could he –

It was something with the elevator that bothered him. What the fuck was it?

He grabbed the revolver, slipped it into the back of his trousers and headed down.

***

Once in the car, he opened the bag of weapons, signaling for silence, one last time, in case the car was bugged.

Allan and Eddie reached in, grabbing pistols, automatics and ammo clips.

Finally Sam coughed. “Right. It’s not everyday that thing comes down. Let’s go see what’s going on.”

***

It seemed that Sam wasn’t the only one wanting to see “what’s going on,” and so the roads to The Elevator were quite busy.

“Look at them. They clearly forget the only thing connected with The Elevator is death.”

Sam shook his head.

It would appear that Sam’s final act of betrayal would be his gift to the people of The Tow. How kindly would they think on him then?

Christ. It was going to be ugly.

***

Eddie swung the car into the final approach. Already a small crowd had gathered, but they were keeping a respectful distance.

“What’s… going on here?” Sam muttered.

The base of the Elevator was surrounded by armed guards. They clearly weren’t going to let anyone on rr, for that matter, off it.

Which was a bad thing. The Elevator was nearly at the bottom and Sam wanted to be on his way.

Christ. The Elevator. It was something about The Elevator.

A thought grew in Sam’s mind.

“Stop the car.”

It was huge.

Eddie looked back. “What?”

The small crowd stopped talking amongst themselves and watched.

Only one can ride The Elevator.

“Stop the fucking car!” Sam yelled.

They screeched to a halt.

“It’s a set up.”

The Elevator stopped. Pinged. A muffled voice said “Ground Floor.”

It grew clearer as the doors opened. “Have a nice day.”

She stood, encased in black. It absorbed the muted sunlight, giving her an edged outline. In the time it took the guards to react, two were dead.

As one, the crowd screamed. You could see the wave of panic spread through them.

The weapon was perfect. Silent, no recoil. She stepped from The Elevator.

The crowd fled.

Sam heard his breath catch. She was beautiful. No movement was wasted. A third guard dropped.

A ballet of death. She spun, avoiding the clumsy attack from a fourth guard – letting the bullets fired rip into his team mate – before firing and taking the attacker out.

Sam stepped from the car, revolver in his hand. He aimed over the door, watching her dance. Counting her steps, waiting for the moment until –

He squeezed the trigger.

The revolver roared. The assassin danced to the left, her body weight committed, pulling her into the path of the incoming bullet. He head snapped backwards and she crumpled to the floor.

Sam stuck his head in the car. “Bring the cases. I’ve been fucked.”

His crew looked at him, clearly confused. “If The Elevator coming down causes all this madness. The guards, the rubber neckers. How the hell did my visitor get here? We need to keep our eyes open.”

***

Sam tried to kick the guns from the figures hands, only to discover they were grafted on. He crouched and checked them out. The seams were flawless, as if she had been born with guns for hands. Jefe’s words echoed in his head – “If that’s how they let us live; how they choose to whittle us down; what place do we have up there?”

None of the guards had survived her attack. Sam approached the elevator. Empty, the doors kept open by the slumped body of a guard.

Eddie arrived with the cases, which Sam slid into place. “We good?”

A car screeched to a halt, doors slammed. Sam stuck his head out and had a look.

It was Jefe.

Sam looked up at Eddie and shook his head.

“No, my friend. We are not. Not good at all.”

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Eddie pulled up outside Jefe’s place and Sam got out. “To be honest, I’m not so sure what this is about. I’m hoping it won’t take long.” It had been three weeks since Sam’s visit. Two since he had made his plans.

Sam had discovered he wasn’t implanted, but he didn’t know if his place was bugged, or his car – so a lot of meetings were taking place in various clubs around The Tow. He’d soon know if his planning was for nothing, though.

This was the final week.

Sam walked into Jefe’s room, sat in the chair he sat in 18 months ago when he sold Jefe his idea of an investment. They still used the same tailor. Sam paid now.

Jefe came into the room.

“Sam. Always nice to see you. How are things going?”

“Eh, you know, Jefe. We own pretty much everything. So, it’s going well.”

“And the schools?”

“Protected.”

“Drug use?”

“Down.”

There was a moments silence.

“For how long?” Jefe asked.

“In the major spots, it’s up and down. At the edges, it’s been down for 6 straight months.”

Jefe smiled.

“Who would have thought, Sam. You’ve made a crime lord an honest man. And yet…”

“He knows.” Sam thought.

“How are things with you, Sam?” The tone was ingratiating. “Anything changing in your life? Thinking of.” A pause. Short. But there. “Going anywhere?”

“Me, Jefe? Noo.” Sam shifted in his seat. “Wh-” Shit. He’d said to much. “Why’d you say that?”

“I’ve heard rumours, Sam. People visiting. Trips to clubs. Quiet planning. I recognise the signs.”

“Signs?”

Jefe fixed Sam with a look, sizing him up, taking his measure.

“Sam,” he said, finally. “Walk with me.”

Jefe got up and walked into the back of the building. Sam had never been anywhere except that room.

He was terrified.

***

They walked up.

“Sam. You know how I think of you.? I look at the difference we have made. And. Well. I like to think we have trust, Sam. You know? That you don’t think of me as a schmuck.”

“Jefe! You know I don’t. That’s why I came straight to you with-”

“That was over a year ago, Sam. I’m wondering about now.”

The roof.

Jefe walked to the edge.

“Sam. Come and look out here with me.”

And that’s when Sam’s spime rang.

Sam looked at the number. There wasn’t one.

“You want to take that, Sam?” Not really a question.

Sam answered. “Yup?”

“Samuel. That’s not very polite is it.”

“It’s all your getting. What do you want?”

“It is time, Samuel. In three hours, The Elevator will be coming. Do you remember what I told you, Samuel?”

Sam stared into Jefe’s eyes. “Sure.”

“Tell me, Samuel. Tell me so I-”

Sam hung up.

“Problems, Sam?”

“Nothing that can’t be handled. So, what were you going to show me?” He joined Jefe at the edge of the roof.

“Look at this place, Sam. Look at what we are. We live like animals. Sure, you do what you can to help, and I let you. But this is what we are. Animals.” Jefe looked up to the smog cloud. “If that’s how they let us live; how they choose to whittle us down; what place do we have up there?”

Sam nodded. Thought long and hard before he replied. “Yep. But what are the chances of me getting up there? Shit, Jefe. You’d be up there before I would.”

Jefe’s shoulders slumped. “And there’s nothing you want to tell me, Sam. Nothing at all?”

“Fuck! It’s not your birthday, is it, Jefe?”

Jefe’s head snapped up and he glared at Sam. “This meeting is over, Sam.”

Sam walked from the roof, then took the stairs two at a time and ran to the car.

“He knows. And the Elevator’s coming. About 3 hours. Sam took a deep, ragged, breath. “Let’s go. It’s going to be all over soon enough.”

***

Jefe watched the car pull away, his jaw tightening as he ground his teeth. He knew something was going on.

He’d seen the signs, put the dots together. It’s just like it was when he was asked to go up. Jefe stormed through the building yelling for his driver.

“We’re going to The Elevator.”

***

High above The Tow, gleaming in the sunlight, a metal and glass elevator started its slow descent.

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“Plan B?” Eddie was incredulous. “Are you sure?”
“That’s what he said.”

“But.” Eddie opened and closed his mouth. “Man. Are you?” He shook his head.

“Shit.”

“I know.” Allan nodded. “I know.”

“Well,” said Eddie, standing. “We better get on with it, then.”

***

Allan and Eddie stood by the car.

It was the only protocol Sam insisted on.

They would call when they arrived. Sam would say he’d be right down.
They’d wait for him to get up, have a coffee and a shower. Then, when they saw the private lift start to rise to the penthouse, they’d get out the car.

As the lift returned Allan would walk to the lift door to meet his old friend. He’d take his case, and put it in the boot of the car.

Eddie would hold the back door open and, once Sam was settled, cross to the other side and get in.

Finally Allan would get in and drive.

***

The first stop was a meeting with a supplier at an old meeting house that was rumoured to be the second most protected building in The Tow.

Only Jefe’s was more secure.

However, once they arrived, they were told there was a problem with the room. With much apology from the old man who ran the place, they were kept in a waiting hall for half an hour. As they were, eventually, seated, Sam quietly told the owner that, if that ever happened again, security or not, he’d have the building burned to the ground before the day was out.

Eddie watched the from the corner of the room. That was his job. Any twitch that was out of place, he’d note it; remember when it happened and, five minutes later, lean in and whisper to his boss about it. Five minutes after that, Sam would refer to it.

Meetings with Sam were torturously long.

Eddie walked up to Sam for the fifth time this meeting, leaned in and whispered “Boss, I’m breaking me neck for a piss. Any chance I can slip out for one?”

Sam kept his lips from twitching and kept his head straight. If he looked at his mate he’d dissolve into a fit of giggles. “I see.” He said. “Very well.”

Eddie walked back to his corner and signaled to the camera. 30 seconds later the chamber hissed open.

“We’ll break here,” announced Sam. “Coffee, I think.”

Eddie nipped out and met the old man in the toilet. “Well?”
“Well, we have no idea what we’re dealing with. Tech from up top could be light years beyond what we know about. But – as far as my system can tell…”

***

The meeting continued.

After a 20 minute, unbroken stretch, Sam glanced at Eddie, who shook his head.

Sam nodded slowly. Took a deep breath and turned to the supplier.

“Well, that seems to be in order. Organise the shipment and we’ll deal with the paper work.

They shook hands and left.

***

The rest of the meetings were scattered around town. A mixture of meet and greets, personal appearances and some charity work. That done, the ritual was reversed.

Allan retrieved the case walked with Sam to the lift door, and handed it to him.

Sam stepped into the lift and smiled.

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There was laughter, on both sides of the phone. Arrangements were made. Dates and times.

Locations.

“It’ll be fun. You should come. Everyone wants to see you again.”

***

Edgar was lost.

Everywhere looked the same. There were no landmarks and no one to ask.

There wasn’t even a map. He’d googled.

It felt like he’d been stuck there for days but he knew.

It’d been much longer.

***

The night of the party, Ed put on his face. He swapped out his eyes for the sparkling ones; changed his mouth for the one with the easy smile.

He dressed in silence. He’d been alone long enough to not need to speak to himself. Even his internal monologue had stopped.

He tried out some faces with the clothes he chose, and allowed himself one word.

“Shave.”

He wanted to pull his old mohawk out the bag, but that really needed two.

***

Shower, shave, face and clothes done, he flopped onto his sofa. He didn’t want to go, tonight. He wanted to make an excuse, any excuse. But he’d promised people.

He stared at the clock and wasn’t the slightest bit surprised when an hour had passed.

In a pervious life he’d have jumped up, ran from the door.

In this one he sighed, pulled on his coat and left quietly.

The party was in full swing when he got there. A drink was shoved into his hand and he was pushed into the melee. He slipped it onto a passing surface and went in search of something less Beer, more wine.
“Ed! You came!” A hug here. A kiss there. Had he been out of circulation that long? As he thought about it he supposed he had. Cornered, he finally accepted a drink – mixer. Strong. Tasted like petrol, so not the best vodka, but it was a start – and listened to the news he’d missed. And what news! He laughed, sympathised, hugged and kissed with the best of them.

***

He’d tried following set paths but they gave out on him. So – he’d set his sight on something on the horizon and made for that.

But it wasn’t a fixed point. It moved across the horizon – sometimes to the left – sometimes to the right. But it got no closer.

It was always out of reach.

So he turned and tried to back track. Get back to where he started and move from there, but he’d wandered for so long he couldn’t tell where that was.

He decided to draw a line. To call where he was Point A. To move out from there.

Which was when the fog rolled in.

***

“So. Tell me, Ed. What happened in…”

He was sharing in a chair in a corner of the chill room with… someone.

Had she told me her name yet? Did I know her from before and just couldn’t remember?

He started his story. One listener became 2, became 4. Soon he had the room listening, laughing, gasping. He grinned, winked, paused to drink, perfectly and then –

With his story was over, the crowd disappeared and Ed was left to his own devices. Namely, another drink.

“That was a great story. Any more where that came from?”

She was beautiful. He looked at her and played the future in his head.

They’d date, sleep together. It’d be fine. They’d get comfortable. And then she’d notice he wasn’t who she thought he was. He wasn’t the guy in the corner telling stories, or the guy on the dance floor. And she’d start to move away, to distance herself.

And he’d notice she wasn’t Her. And he’d try not to compensate, but he knew he’d be restless. Want to leave.

He looked down into his drink. Back up at her with a sad smile.

“A couple. But I only do one a party.”

“What about,” she stepped closer. “After the party?”

***

The fog cleared around him. Enough that he could lay down his hat. Pitch a tent.

Stop wandering.

It was that easy.

***

He looked over her shoulder, to the horizon and remembered when he could see so far.

“Not..not tonight. I have an early start tomorrow. Sorry. But, I’m always around. Do ask me again.”

***

The fog rolled right back in.

***

It was late when Edgar got home. He closed the door, stepped from his clothes and fell into bed within 10 paces.

During the night his face would fall off, and he’d awake lost, with his dull eyes and flat mouth.

But he’d dream.

He’d dream of the horizon.

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