The man made no move towards me, but even so I felt myself shy away from him. It was just a flinch, the work of an instant, the kind of thing that would be entirely possible to miss if one had blinked at the wrong time, but even so I hated it. I hated myself for feeling fear or disgust or whatever nuanced emotion it was that had made me recoil. I hated the man for inspiring such a feeling in me. I hated everything in and beneath and beyond the world, and I had every intention of taking that hate out on the figure before me.
“That’s not how this works,” I said. My mind was analyzing the situation, calculating odds of survival, judging the distance between us, trying to decide what to do. The man’s coat obscured his body, but even so, he didn’t look strong enough to fight me. He was probably armed, and if he wasn’t, he probably had a lookout watching his back, a sniper covering him. My eyes glanced up towards the roof of the observatory, looking for the telltale glint of metal or glass, finding nothing. There might be someone on another hill, but it would be easy enough to drop down and take cover. After all, we had the observatory on one side and the high wall separating the patio from the ground far below on the other.
I could rush him, I thought. Surprise him. Throw him over the side to send a message, if nothing else.
“You are in no position to argue with us,” the man said. His voice grated on my ears, as bad as the buzzing that’d plagued me all day. Worse, even. “You were given a simple task, which you performed adequately. You were tested for other uses and found wanting. We are done with you. You should be grateful that you’ve received the compensation you have and that we have no intention of contacting you again.”
I decided it was time to go on the offensive. “You think you’re the first client tried to stiff me on a contract?” I asked, my voice low and angry. “You think that because you’ve got money, because you’ve got connections, you can’t disappear? Nobody’s that big. Nobody’s that untouchable.”
The man was still and silent. I thought I’d gotten to him, that he was just a soft, weak person in a suit and now he was scared. “Now I’m going to get paid,” I thought. “Now I’m going to get some answers.
And then he said, “We are done with you. You bore us. Be gone,” and I lost it.