“And who are you?” Kenneth inquired of the man before him. It was a question he had asked a thousand times as an assistant to one of the most respected men in the immediate area. He had dreams to progress further in his career of course, but he felt his job a noble one or short of that, one that served to get him by month to month financially. For now, anyway.
“Who I am isn’t important.” The man responded briskly.
“Well, who should I say is here?”
“Just tell your employer his investment has arrived. He’ll know what you mean.”
“Um, ok. Just wait here, okay?”
“Don’t tell me what to do, okay?” He added, mocking him. This man was not going to make this simple social encounter a pleasant one. That much was obvious from the second the man entered the lobby. The man simply felt out of place and tried his hardest to live up to that expectation. It was the middle of summer and the man was wearing a long black trench coat. There are very few places in this town one would adjust to an environment in his get-up and this dentist office was certainly not one of them.
“Fine. I’ll be back in a second.”
“You do that. I’ll wait over here.”
“I called you a prick and I said it loudly enough for you to hear me. Prick. Now excuse me.” Kenneth had always had a hot temper and an unwillingness to allow himself to be bullied. Perhaps a terrible idea of his was to take a subservient position for a man who was equally hot tempered, but the two surprisingly worked well together. Most days. It was yet to be determined if today was one of those days.
The man he worked for was a much beloved dentist who treated most of the city council and their families. To say he was highly paid would be an understatement, which was most of Kenneth’s reasoning for interviewing in the first place. His logic was that a higher paid professional can and should pay his staff higher wages. This theory has since been debunked by Doctor Jurgens, his employer and occasional friend.
Kenneth turns from the mysterious man and enters a back corridor. From which, the man, Calvin Sneed, is able to hear a loud exchange between the doctor and the young man during which he hears his own name repeated. Odd, he thinks considering he didn’t state his name to either of them. He wasn’t in the mood to get his hands dirty with these two, but knew if things went south, he would be able to easily handle the situation.
His day up to this point had been one of complete lunacy. Only last night, he had been on death row ready to face his sins. What a difference twelve hours can make. He now stood in a dentist office. The last place he’d expect to be, but he needed information from a former employer. That former employer was an old friend Dick Jurgens or as he noted from the diploma on the wall next to him, Richard Jurgens III, but Calvin had only called him Dick the Jerk since his first run in with him over ten years back. Ironically, almost ten years to the day. Calvin wondered to himself if that was a coincidence or not, but put aside the idea due its kismet implications.
“He’s out in the lobby, Dr. Jurgens.” Calvin heard as the voices from the back corridor became louder, closer.
“I know that Kenneth. Have you taken your break yet?”
“Go, Kenneth. Now.”
“Why Dr. Jurgens? Is everything alright?”
“Everything’s fine Kenneth. Just go. Now, please.”
By this time, the two had come into Calvin’s view. He shifted his weight to his back foot as if he would need to strike without warning. The doctor, garbed in a white coverall and glasses, stepped up to Calvin addressing him.
“What are you doing here?”
“Well, nice to see you too, Dickie.”
“Please refer to me as Dr. Jurgens here, Calvin.”
“Well in that case, I don’t go by Calvin anymore either.”
“I don’t give a shit what you go by now.”
“Look, I just came here to talk.”
“Bullshit, Calvin. You’ve always had an agenda. You being here means you’re into something, but look, let’s not do this here. Come back into my office where we can have a little more privacy.”
“Ooh, office huh? Very nice. You’ve come a long way these past few years, have you, Dickie?”
Upon Calvin finishing his comment to Doctor Jurgens, said doctor grabs Calvin by the arm and begins to strongly pull him back into the corridor. Calvin turns a full 360 degrees while sliding his arms from his coat freeing him from Dr. Jurgen’s grasp leaving him with only the trench in his hands. Dr. Jurgens revolves his head to the side pulling Calvin back into view. He isn’t surprised to catch a glimpse of Calvin’s tightened fist for a split second before he closes his eyes.
He doesn’t have time to prepare himself for the pain of the strike causing it to surge through his face and down his back. Before he has time to adjust his stance, he’s flat on his back in his own lobby. He cracks one eye back open to see Calvin blurrily standing over him. Calvin’s other hand then shoots toward him and Dick immediate recoils and readies himself to cringe once again, but feels no pain. Instead, he feels the Calvin’s coat ripped from his clenched fist. He watches as Calvin aligns himself back into it straightening the collars and fitting it back nicely into place on his body. He looks down at Dr. Jurgens on the ground.
“Well, this brings back memories, huh? Don’t touch my jacket. Now get up.”
Calvin reaches down and pulls the doctor up to his feet. Dick begins to say something but stops himself immediately. The thing about pain is it’s a good reminder to prevent further impulsive outbursts. He collects himself as Calvin guides him back further down the corridor. “Which one’s yours?”
“Excuse me?” Calvin rolls his eyes in annoyance.
“Which office is yours?”
“Oh, this one.” Dick points to a door on the left.
“Good.” Calvin slams his hand down on the metal knob forcing the door open and guiding the doctor into his office. Calvin enters behind him and surveys the room taking stock of what was available to him to use against the dentist if need be. “Sit down.” Dick sits in a chair in front of his desk.
“Look, Cal, what do you want? I’m a dentist now just trying to live the rest of my life honorably. I’m not the same guy I used to be.”
“Neither am I, Dickie.” The two stop and silence fills the room. Calvin again looks the room over. “So, what have you done these past few years, Dick?”
“What have I done? You come in here, cold cock me in the face, push me into my own office like a hostage, then want to chat about old times?”
“ I need to know, Dick.”
“Why? What are you up to? When did you get out of prison? I thought you have a few life sentences left to serve.”
“Yeah, so did I.”
“Well, what happened?”
“Do you remember the trial?”
“That’s real funny, Dick. You know I remember you having a sense of humor. I’m referring to the one where you testified against me.”
“You know I had no choice, right, Calvin?”
“No, I wouldn’t know that. You son of a bitch. You never came to visit me once. I haven’t talked to you once since then.”
“What was I going to say? Sorry?”
“It’s a start. My god. I just sat in that cell day after day thinking about it. I had no hope. Nothing to look forward to except the same shit day after day. The funny thing is, I get out and look you up; you lived two and a half miles down the road.”
“I couldn’t explain everything. You know how I was back then. I was lucky enough to get through school with all the shit that was happening to me.”
“Oh right, I feel so sorry for you. You really got crapped on, didn’t you? I should have considered that in all that time I was rotting in prison.”
“I didn’t mean it like that and you know it.”
“Yes, you did. That’s exactly how you meant it. You hung me out to dry and moved on with your life. How long did it take to forget about me, Dick? Tell me. Did you make it down the courthouse steps before I was out of your mind? Did you laugh to yourself as you got paraded out of there?”
“I did what I had to survive!”
“To survive. That’s a funny thing to say. To survive what, Dick?”
“I’m done talking about this.”
“Oh, you’re done talking about this. I bet you thought you were done with this six years ago, didn’t you? You never thought you’d have to look me in the face again. We’ll here’s my face now. You look me in the eyes and explain it to me.”
“I can’t, Calvin. You’re right. I did move on with my life. I did try to forget about you. I felt safer knowing you were rotting. I buried that part of my life hoping I’d never have to join you in there.”
“Ha, bet you didn’t count on me joining you out here.”
“No, I didn’t, Calvin. What happened to you? When did you get out?”
“I really don’t think you’re entitled to ask me anything, Dick.”
“You’re right. I’m not. Withdrawn.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t already heard anyway. Ironically, it was because of you, I was released.”
“What? Because of me? How can that be?”
“You tell me. I don’t fully understand it myself.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I haven’t thought about your case in years.’
“Figures. Well apparently something in your story was disproved, I guess. I mean I always knew you were lying, but I guess the police do now too. Hmm, that could end up being bad for you couldn’t it?”
“You’re a son of a bitch, you know that?”
“Yeah, the guards told me everyday, but if I were you, I wouldn’t be worried about me. You seem to have your own problems that need your attention.”
“So, what, that’s it? That’s what you came to tell me?”
“Oh, no, Dick. You don’t know the half of it.
“Get the hell out of my office.”
“No, I don’t think I’m going to be doing that, Dickie. I may not have much time left with you and I have been thinking for years what I’d do if I ever saw you again.”
By this point, Dick can feel tears welling up in the corner of his eyes. He knew Calvin could see this, but he still was unwilling to give the satisfaction of him seeing him cry. He fought the moisture as it tuckered out onto the rim of his cheek. He wiped it away appearing as careless as possible. “What are you going to do?
“What am I going to do? You know, it’s the damnest thing. When I woke up this morning, I knew exactly what I’d do if I saw you again. Now looking at you, I haven’t a fucking clue.”
Dick wasn’t sure if that would be good for his safety or not. The uncertainty of the moment was what was really pushing him over the edge. The thought that in the room bordering this one contained needles and scalpels did not add any comfort, either. A much bigger bead of moisture formed and gushed out onto his face. He knew his eyes would have to look irritated. They were after all.
“Are you doing alright there, Dickie? I haven’t upset you have I?” Calvin sneered to himself as he said this.
“You know you’re not in prison anymore, Calvin. You can’t live by Neanderthal rules anymore. You’re back in the real world and we have real consequences. Don’t waste your second chance here.”
“You’re lecturing me, a man who spent the last six years behind bars, about the real world consequences.”
“What I’m saying is you’re free now, Calvin. You can turn your life around now. Be a better man, like I have.”
“You think you’re a better man? You’re further gone than I thought. You’re every bit the monster I remember and more so.”
“You’re wrong, Calvin. I have done a lot for this community these past few years. I’ve been the happiest of my whole life. It can be done.”
“Boy, did you just say the worst thing you could have said. You do not deserve happiness. If that is how you’ve lived, I’ll have to put a stop to that immediately. And what, you think you can flip a switch and your sins go away? It doesn’t work that way. There’s no buying your way out of Hell.”
“I’m not buying my way out of anything, don’t you see? That’s not how I see it at all.”
“And how exactly do you see it, then Dickie?”
“As atonement. We both know what I’ve done. I’m sorry I testified against you. I really am. I’ve been fucked up over that ever since, but I am trying to live a well-balanced, meaningful life now. I’m giving back now.”
“You’re a dentist! You’re still inflicting pain. Do your coworkers know what you used to do? Does Elizabeth?”
“You leave her out of this!”
“Oh, I guess I struck a chord with you there. When I looked you up, I was surprised to find another person living at that address. Technically, two other people living there, isn’t that right, Dick?”
“How do you know about that? We haven’t told anybody yet.”
“Oh, I know all about your precious little baby, Dickie. Fatherhood doesn’t suit you, though, so don’t get your hopes up.”
“What the hell does that mean? I swear to god if you hurt Elizabeth or our baby, I’ll-”
Dick takes a second and realizes he’s shouting. He prides himself a mostly in-control man, but he’s always had a proclivity for shouting as well. He’s taken anger-management classes and has mostly kept himself in check since starting his practice just to remain safe. He remembered his anger exercises and took a deep breath. He quickly felt himself calm. Reflectively he responded, “We both know what I’m capable of, don’t we?”