Chapter 8: Just a Perfect Day
a perfect day
"I'll put on the hat, but I'm not wearing the ski mask," Spike announced.
"What, man? You afraid you ain't gonna look cool or some shit?" Caleb mocked him. He was backed up by Morris' heartfelt "Pussy."
Spike rolled his eyes. "I just don't see the point. I'm against it on principle," he said flatly.
Caleb shook his head as he rolled down his own mask. "Fine, man. Whatever."
As they walked off, Ravi attempted to communicate to Spike that he really should just wear the mask this time, but the exchange turned into one of those confused whirlwinds of pantomime where two people are simply not on the same wavelength. She eventually gave up and stomped off a few feet ahead of him.
The reason why they were suddenly so adamant about concealing their identity became obvious to Spike as they approached the evenings "hit." They were stealing from the mob.
It wasn't The Mob, as in the Red Dragons, but it was mob enough. They had paid off the owner of a small time button factory to allow them to keep their hot merchandise in his warehouse. The owner, not really given much of choice, agreed. It was a ballsy move to be robbing from them, but it was unclear to Spike why they were making it.
"They stole from us," Caleb whispered.
Spike nodded. That was reason enough for him. In fact, the theory of relativity would have been reason enough for him. He never needed much convincing to do something stupid, just the promise of shits and giggles.
There was a shattered pane in one of the windows, and after an awkward climb upwards, the four of them managed to lower themselves into the warehouse. It was unclear where the buttons ended and the real valuables began. Everything was in huge, towering stacks of unmarked boxes. The dark, inky shadows they cast along the floor were both convenient and creepy. There was no guarantee they were the only unsavory individuals in the building. They looked at each other, trying to communicate their next move with their eyes, but it turned out to be more confused that Ravi's earlier attempt to get Spike to wear his mask. Unspoken communication only worked when the willing parties had at least one thing in common.
Not knowing what else to do, Morris got out his razor and was about to slit open the nearest box. But just as he plunged the steel into the soft cardboard, there was a gunshot. Everyone froze. They looked at each other again, but this time the message was crystal clear. What the fuck was that?
Wearily, they all peaked around the corner of a stack of boxes, and was met the grizzly sight of a dead body. The gunman was standing over him, grinning. "Come to see the show?" he asked, without turning around. Spike could feel their bodies tense around him, and the sensation was suffocating. He was about to do something, anything, when someone else answered the question.
"Wouldn't miss it," the voice replied. Jet.
Spike choked on a small gasp as he snapped the woolen mask down over his face. The motion did not go unnoticed. Caleb looked at Spike again, the message in his eyes quite obvious this time as well. Who the hell is that?
God, these people asked a lot of questions. Spike made a "let's get out of here," motion with his eyes, but the rest of the group was too curious.
Jet was standing ominously atop a large stack of boxes, pointing his gun at the criminal as if he was delivering some divine justice from on high. The Bebop always did have a taste for the overly dramatic.
"So what's your scenario?" the gangster smirked. "Did I kill your mamma? Bang your sister?"
Jet shrugged. "Barely even know your name, bud," he smiled. "But your head is worth a hell of a lot of money."
The gangster seemed pleasantly surprised. "A bounty hunter. I have made it big," he mused before daintily loading his gun. It was so much more fun when it wasn't personal.
It was then that several things happened at once. Jet, or at least everyone thought it was Jet, got off the first shot, just as the fugitive gangster dove behind some boxes for cover. The same boxes Spike and the gang were hiding behind. The man knocked into the group of them like a bowling ball might mow down a set of pins. Caleb stupidly went to get off a shot of his own, lost what was left of his balance, and toppled into the large stack behind them. As the boxes swayed precariously overhead, it became obvious by the heavy clanging that those were not buttons. Several pounds of steel parts were about to come crashing down on them from a good 20 feet in the air. The shadows bent and shifted on the floor, as if they served as the site for a very shaky assassin. Finally, the boxes seemed to settle on Jet. He stood there wide-eyed, firing at the boxes as if it was some stoppable entity. The stolen merchandise remained unfazed. It all slammed directly into his stack, sending both crashing to the floor. The sound of thousands of buttons and a few dozen ship parts hitting the floor in an empty warehouse sounded like something just shy of the Apocalypse.
Mufflers and engines hit the pavement like great, steel meteors. The buttons rained tiny pinpricks of irritation down upon the group of them, rat-tatting away on both the floor and their flesh. Everyone was knocking into everyone else, and it became impossible to tell who was who in the chaos. Very bad situation in a room full of people with guns. Jet, not really giving a shit at this point, fired randomly into the crowd. He had swallowed about 30 buttons on the way down and he was not in a particularly diplomatic mood. This of course prompted everyone else to follow suit, but their gunfire seemed to take down more boxes then people. When the smoke cleared, the gangster was missing, an engine had fallen on Morris's leg, Ravi was struggling to free herself from a web of cardboard, and Caleb had been shot in the shoulder and whimpering softly to himself. Only Jet and Spike remained standing. They were standing a bit shakily, but still standing.
Jet took in a deep breath as he looked over the small time thief in front of him. "You just cost me a shit load of money," he observed in a surprisingly calm manner.
"Um...sorry," Spike said in an exaggerated British accent.
"I swallowed buttons," Jet continued, as if listing everything that went wrong in the past ten minutes.
Spike nodded. "Sorry...again?"
"I think I am going to kill you," Jet said as if he was coming to a casual decision. Like, I think I will have sushi for dinner tonight.
Spike had to almost bite his tongue to keep from laughing. "Sounds fair. Do I get a head start?"
Jet smirked as he loaded his gun. "Start running. You'll know in a minute."
Jet did not give Spike a head start. No sooner then he had his back to him then bullets were bouncing off the steel walls all around him. Jet was missing, but it was intentional. He really only wanted to scare him. At least at first.
Spike fired a few behind him as well, but they were equally half-assed. It wasn't until they were in the street that Jet started playing for real. It wasn't a fight to death. Spike knew that much. It was just like a high stakes version of executive paintball. First one to get in the leg loses.
Spike was quite enjoying himself. They bobbed and weaved through parked cars and city lights, glass tinkling merrily in their wake. They were like two boys having the ultimate pissing contest. It wasn't until Spike realized he was out of ammo that a wild thought occurred to him. A wild, adrenaline fueled, feverish thought.
Let him kill me.
He didn't know where it came from, but he couldn't shake it. Let Jet shoot him. End it now. End it for real. He suddenly veered sharply to the left and towards the bridge. Jet had some trouble keeping up with his quicker and more agile opponent. Where the hell was this kid going? He was following more out of curiosity now then anger. He became even more curious when he found him standing on the ledge of the bridge, staring at the water below.
Jet raised both his eyebrow and his gun. "Who are you?" he asked.
Spike laughed. "John Doe," he replied.
Jet shook his head, not feeling any more enlightened. "What were you doing in that warehouse?"
Spike took a deep breath. Could he get him to shoot him? He pictured the bullet piercing his flesh, his body cascading over the side and into the ravine bellow. He knew how it felt to fall into nothingness. He had done it before, but he was unfortunate enough to be pulled out of it. He would want it to be Jet. If not his worst enemy, then his best friend. He had never called Jet his best friend before, not even inwardly, and the phrase sounded strange to him. Strange, but undeniably true.
He had a best friend before. How easily friends and enemies bleed together.
"What were you doing in the warehouse?" Jet repeated. "Who do you know?"
If Spike whirled around at that moment, gun blazing, Jet would shoot him. It would be survival instinct. Cop instinct. It would be that easy. All he had to do was turn around this very second and boom. Dead. Done.
"Uh...hello?" Jet asked again. "You high or something?"
Spike shook his head. Partly as an answer to the question, and partly because he had another thought. This time they would find his body. This time they would identify him. And Jet would know he pulled the trigger. He would never forgive himself. Even though he would know deep down it was Spike's intention, that it was what he wanted, his life would never be the same again. Spike couldn't let that happen. He could never bring himself to hurt him that way.
So what was he doing here?
Spike sighed. Looked like it was back to another annoying day of living. "I didn't kill my wife," he said over his shoulder.
Jet looked at him like he had nine heads. "What?" "Nothing," Spike shrugged before diving off the bridge.
Jet stared at the empty space for a moment, trying to figure out if he had just imagined that whole exchange. He took a long drag off his cigarette before peering over the side. Nothing. No body, not even a ripple in the water. Like it was a ghost. Jet rolled his eyes at himself. A ghost. Things like that seemed to be popping up a lot lately. Spike seemed to be popping up lately. He would be an idiot if he denied the fact that kid reminded him an awful lot like Spike. About the same height as Spike. Same gait as Spike. Same charmingly suicidal attitude as Spike. And though he had never heard him attempt to do one, he figured his British accent would sound something like that.
Truth was, there was no real way to determine if this was some sort of sentimental psychotic episode or if it actually was Spike. If it was his grandmother or Aunt Petunia, then yeah. He could easily chalk it up to some frou-frou grief transference...thing. But this was Spike, for whom 9 lives were not enough. If he were alive, why wouldn't he tell them? Vicious and Julia were dead. He had no more excuses.
Jet decided he did not want to think about this anymore. It wasn't Spike. It was his imagination. There. Case closed.
God bless denial.