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Let It All Burn: (Flash Fiction)
"He's trying to blackmail me, Terry."
My name is Terrence R. Loljoy. Terry.
Funny name, right? Loljoy. Like "Laugh Out Loud Joy."
The 'R'? That stands for none of your business.
Look, its a funny name I'm kind of embarrassed about, okay?
Alright, Rufus. Satisfied? Rufus.
Go ahead, get your snickering out of the way so I can tell this story.
The man sitting across from me has been a friend of mine, since we both had hair thirty-five years ago.
His name is Macklin Harold Carson.
"Who's blackmailing you?"
"His name's Lionel Rand. Works in the mailroom of our law offices."
"What's he got on you, Carson?" For as long as I can remember, I always called my friend 'Carson.' Not Mac or Macklin or Harold.
You would think that wouldn't be such a big deal these days. But I was surprised. I, who've been Carson's close friend for three and a half decades, and whose supposed to so very observant---indeed trained and paid to be---and I had never even suspected.
But, on the other hand, that just went to the iron willed dedication Carson had applied to self-repression for the sake of appearances and his career and his political ambitions.
"How does he know?" I asked.
"He somehow got a hold of a love letter I wrote to a young lawyer working in Mergers and Acquisitions."
"Workplace affair? Not too smart, Car," I said.
"Its the kind of love I've been waiting for my whole life," he said
"What do you want to do, then, Carson? Try to pay him off? Want me to broker a one-time pay off and tell him that's it and to get out of town? Get the letter back?"
Carson was shaking his head. "Any reason to think he hasn't made a million copies of that letter by now? And once I started paying him, he would keep coming back forever. I'd never have any peace. The only real way to stop him, would be to kill him."
I said, "There's no way to know for sure he hasn't got some kind of mechanism for exposing you, should something happen to him. Has he mentioned anything like that?"
"No, and I doubt he's got anything like that set up. In fact, its only fifty-fifty odds that he even bothered making copies of the letter, frankly. If he had been in the habit of planning ahead, he wouldn't be stuck in the mailroom at fifty-years-old."
"You know him?" I said.
"Personnel file. But still, even if I were to be exposed, I don't think I would mind seeing Lionel dead on general principle."
"Is that what you want, Car?"
I am a licensed private investigator. But between you and me, I have been known to handle a bit of discrete wet work, for a substantial premium on top of my usual fee.
Macklin Harold Carson had a lot to lose. Summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa, law review. Former Assistant District Attorney, big corporate law firm. His resume of professional associations and civic engagement was impeccable. He had just been appointed a superior court judge. He planned to do that for a few years before making a run for mayor, or governor.
He was married to a fashionable wife from the usual wealthy, well-connected family. He also had three lovely children, lovely in that kind of way that played well for campaign advertisements, which emphasize a candidate's family values.
"No," Carson said, "he's not worth killing. Letting him go on living his miserable life is punishment enough."
"I guess I just stopped by to talk, Terry, to ask your help in getting myself sorted out."
My friend, Carson, had not come to see me in my capacity as a private investigator, then.
He went on, "I don't care if I do get exposed. It won't destroy me. I know that about myself. I'm a survivor; I'll reinvent myself. If former Governor Jim McGreevey can do it, so can I. This country was practically founded on the concept of self-reinvention."
"What about the young man?"
"He's been out of the closet for years."
"And your family?"
"I love my children dearly; and I'm even very fond of my wife. None of this is anybody's fault but my own. I'm sensitive to the position I'll be putting them in, but I've been living a lie and they deserve the truth, as painful as it will be."
"So what do you want from me, then?"
"An friendly ear. Maybe a critical one, when necessary. Like I said, I need a sounding board. I want to just move forward as the person I am meant to be."
I felt bad about ushering my friend out of my office, forty-five minutes later. But I had another appointment: a profoundly troubled young woman, who cuts herself.
But my arm was around my friend's shoulder, as I assured him that he was not alone, that I, as his friend and therapist, would see him through his crisis.
You see, in addition to being a licensed private investigator, my other certification comes from the American Medical Association, in psychiatry.