Well, here’s the last of it. I added some new material to previous chapters, so the additions are listed here along with the chapter in which they go. The PDF has been updated with all the new material.
Chapter 29: Epilogue
Angela was bobbing up and down in her chair almost uncontrollably as Melissa came down the stairs into the kitchen. Lawrence , of course, sat reading a paper next to her, ignoring her completely as she knocked plates, cups, and other random items on the table to the floor with her movement.
“Angela, settle down and eat your brea kfast!” Melissa knew it wouldn’t happen. The five-year-old looked down in disgust at the strange mixture of foodstuffs on her plate. The toast was now soggy from spilled apple juice, and the remaining bits of egg swam in a pool of juice as well. Angela turned her nose up at the plate primly and crossed her arms across her chest.
She was pouting at the reprimand. Melissa rolled her eyes at her daughter’s silliness and flipped on the small television in the room, pushing down two slices of brea d in the toaster as the picture faded in.
“Can we watch cartoons, mommy?”
“No, we cannot,” Melissa responded fla tly. The question was asked each morning, and the answer always remained the same. But Angela nev er gave up; one day her mother would relent, and she would get to watch cartoons while she ate breakfast… But today is not that day, Melissa thought to herself.
Lawrence had his morning paper and cup of coffee, Melissa had her morning newscast and toast. It was their routine; the sole moment in the day that she would not vary – it was her tether to the world and to her own sanity. No matter what mischief Angela would cause throughout the day, it was all bearable if she’d had her toast and caught up with the world.
She sat down on the chair to Lawrence ’s right, ignoring her daughter’s continued pleas for cartoons. “Angela, I said no! Settle down and be quiet!” Angela resumed her sulking, but at least it got quiet.
She had just missed the weather report, but she was in time for the morning headlines. The newscaster droned on with little emotion through the long list of headlines, and Melissa listened only passively until something caught her attention.
“ Twenty-three-year-old McAllister Park resident Joel Mendocino is dead this morning, the victim of a car accident at the Franklin-Niles intersection late last night. Mendocino, who had recently returned from an overseas trip, had left the Elston Memorial hospital where he was being treated for a near-fatal gunshot wound he received earlier in the day. His father was the vehicle’s driver, and is listed in stable condition at Elston Memorial.”
“ Lawrence , listen to this! This poor kid lived around here!” Lawrence looked over his paper and murmured an acknowledgement, then resumed reading his paper. Melissa focused intently on the television as the news anchor continued.
“In related news, police were able to discover an illegal “fight club” of sorts that is believed to be the source of a rash of unexplained abductions and beatings of homeless individuals that has been plaguing the city of late.
“In a statement released early this morning, Detective Angus Cobb credited Mr. Mendocino’s identification of his attackers as the crucial clue that led the detectives to a supposedly abandoned warehouse in the ind ustrial area of the city.
“Several participants in the “fight club” were apprehended by city police officers, and it is expected that the ringleader will soon be located.”
The news anchor seemed to be enthralled by the story as it continued on.
“But the story doesn’t end there, folks. Mike Turner, a former Copeland Advertising executive, was shot and killed by detectives on the scene when he refused to discontinue his beating of a mentally-challenged homeless man, and instead charged towards police officers.
“It is believed that Mr. Turner was also responsible for the brutal beating and death of his wife’s lover, Brandon Lloyd, a story that we brought to you yesterday on the 6 o’clock newscast.
“Police are confident that the criminal’s behind these recent activities will soon be rounded up, but remind all city residents to report any suspicious activity immediately and exercise common sense when moving around the city at night.”
Melissa was almost sad to realize that the story had come to an end. It was more interesting than the plot to one of the afternoon soap opera’s that Lawrence berated her for watching. Who knew so much could happen one day in their city?
“Makes you wonder sometimes, doesn’t it honey?”
“Hmmm?” Lawrence murmured, looking over his newspaper again.
“Makes you wonder how many people you see and interact with each day will be dead tomorrow. It’s kind of sad, really.”
Lawrence looked back at his paper. “I suppose. But I don’t worry too much about it. After all, what do they have to do with us?”
Melissa stood and ran her dishes under the warm water at the kitchen sink. She wouldn’t think about Joel much after that. Lawrence was right, after all; what did it all have to with her?
Joel shrugged as she moved as quickly as she could to the opposite side of the train, sat down, and eyed him warily. Whatever.
While he had traveled in Asia , he’d been amazed at the hospitality and friendliness of nearly everyone he met, including the tourists with which he’d had the opportunity to converse. All travelers there seemed to be inexplicably linked; they al shared that undeniable experience that was Asia , and that experience drew them together. That experience, combined with the basic human need to communicate, at least occasionally, with people from similar backgrounds and worldviews, produced a level of camaraderie with some of his new acquaintances that Joel had seldom had with friends from home.
Two, in particular, Sean and Pang, had become very close to him during the three days he’d known them. They had met outside a market while he was staying in Thailand for a week. Sean had been excited at spotting someone with the same color skin as his own, and Pang, who’d spent a year studying at a university in the States, was glad to have a Westerner with which she could converse. Pang and Joel hit it off immediately; they both had an affinity for analytical thought, much to Sean’s dismay, and spent many of their nights chatting about philosophy, art, literature and even mathematics, late into the night.
Sean played the dumb oaf, but behind his goofy exterior was a curious, sharp young man with a razor sharp wit. Together, the three of them had traveled the city high and low, seeking out coffee shops, bars and pubs, and sampling every piece of the Thai nightlife that Pang could think to show them. It was hard for Joel to believe that they’d only been together for three days before they’d split paths. He looked forward to calling them when he got the chance; their ongoing relationship was an opportunity to relive their past experience vicariously through each other, and it was an opportunity that Joel was thankful for.
But it didn’t stop there. The Asian people he’d met, from Sumatra to Thailand , were friendly, eager to please, and very rarely had any desire for profit, monetary or otherwise. On several occasions, while he’d carried his bags to and from a taxi, a random man off the street would run up to assist him, and many times, refused payment. Their payment was his smile and gratitude, and in the wake of their unabashed kindness, Joel felt obligated to at least attempt to repay them by spreading that kindness. It was just too bad no one could believe he was just trying to be helpful.
As the train began to move towards its downtown destination, Joel found an empty seat and sat down, peering out the window at the cars passing on the highway alongside him.
The path along State Avenue to the tower was relatively clear; it was so late in the morning, a majority of people had already made it to their jobs. He eyed the homeless men on the corner warily. Why the hell didn’t they get jobs? They were always standing there, begging for change, occasionally offering a useless trinket or piece of shoddy journalism up in exchange.
But even worse than the beggars were the ones with the squeegees. They attacked his car every single time he drove to work, splashing his windshield with their vile liquid and doing a piss-poor job of cleaning it off. They always left his car in worse shape than when they started, and they expected to get paid! Bull shit! The mere thought of them soured his entire mood considerably, if it were even possible for him to be more pissed off at this point.
His previous physical activity had left his body reeling, and he was unable to move faster than a brisk walk towards the tower. He was interrupted several times by beggars along the way, huddling against the looming stone buildings for shelter from the wind. He ignored than each time, yelling whatever obscenities surfaced to his mind first, until finally he slapped at the hands of the last one, knocking the small collection of nickels and dimes from the man’s hand. He smiled cruelly as the man cried out and dropped to his knees to reclaim the coins that would serve as his dinner for the day. That would show the bastard.
He continued as fast as he could along State Avenue, ding his best to ignore the legs’ increasing cries of anguish as they suffocated, until the doors of the Tower stood before him, peering down at him with a foreboding gaze. He pushed his way through the revolving doors and ignored the pleasant greetings of the security guard as he headed straight to the elevator.