In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 2, 1993
Lucifer sat on the toilet watching with fascination as John wet his face and pulled one of the Bic razors from its plastic package and pondered where to begin shaving. Parting with his hair had been traumatic enough but this mustache had survived five presidential administrations! He didn't even know where to begin, should he start at the edges and work his way to the middle of his upper lip? Or should he go right for the middle so there was no turning back?
It's just a clump of hair, he told himself, And it'll grow back.
True enough, but it felt like the end of something, as though part of his life was drawing to a close. He wet the razor and went to work. His heart sank with the first sweep of the blade but he allowed himself to be caught up in the rhythm of the act. Slowly, the long hidden shape of his upper lip emerged, like a statue from a block of marble. When it was over he paused to study the changes he had wrought in his appearance. Where once there had been a silver-haired man who looked like an aging hippie, there now stood a fierce-looking brute with a grim line of a mouth. John ran his fingers over the pink, recently revealed flesh. He looked years younger.
Angie would never recognize him.
After giving the Bic a final rinse he left the bathroom and wandered back downstairs. He was shirtless and shoeless but still had on his slacks; he may as well start to get used to it. Lucifer dogged his footsteps, meowing. “I know, I know.” John explained as he began rummaging though the pile of shopping bags he'd brought home today, “I'm hungry too. But I forgot to get you cat food... I've had a lot on my mind.”
The cat mewed again, brushing against John's legs. He paused in his searching long enough to scratch him under the chin and behind the ears.
Naturally, he found what he was looking for in the last bag he checked. He'd picked up the cheap push-button phone on his way out of the mall, almost as an afterthought. Originally he'd planned to play it safe and call Magwier from a payphone but then decided that was too paranoid. Magwier had been at this kind of thing forever and probably had already taken all sorts of anti-surveillance precautions.
There was a phone jack in the kitchen, he brought the phone there and retrieved it from its prison of cardboard and foam padding. Lucifer pounced on each piece of wrapping as it fell to the floor. John plugged the phone into the jack and put the receiver to his ear, the steady whir of a dial tone greeted him. He pulled the phone number from his pocket and dialed.
Someone picked up after one ring, “Isobel?”
“Who is this?” The voice on the other end was so slurred and frantic that he didn't recognize it.
“Oh, hi John.”
This was an unexpected turn of events. He had always envisioned Magwier spending his off-hours in meditation over a spread of the tarot cards he loved so much, “You sound drunk.”
“I am drunk.”
“Because she's dead... because she always dies- no matter what I do she always dies.”
“What? Who died?”
Then why the Hell was he expecting to hear her on the phone? John thought, “Who's Isobel?”
Curioser and curioser.
“You have a lover?” John slid down the wall and sat on the floor, Lucifer eagerly nestled in his lap.
“Yes... she always dies...”
“I don't understand.”
“Of course you don't understand!” Magwier's shouts spilled out of the earpiece, “How could you possibly ever hope to understand, living your life as you do with every event laid out in a neat progression from beginning to end! You can't even begin to comprehend!”
“Look, I changed my mind about Las Vegas-”
“...circles within circles… so many choices... How can one man keep track?”
“- you're obviously not having much luck on your own with what you wanted to do there, so I thought-”
“...having lived in the present can I die in the past... they’re appetites you see, appetites from another dimension…”
John sighed with frustration, “Listen, just call me later OK? Here’s the number…”
“... the doorway between our world and theirs is closing fast...”
“- can you remember to do that? Maybe you should write yourself a note.”
“...the company that bought them out is a subsidiary of TRIAD...”
John slammed the phone back down into the receiver, startling Lucifer away. He could do what he had to do without help from Magwier and, more importantly, Jared, but his chances of getting himself killed in the process doubled. Magwier drunk? John shook his head, Well, no sense in worrying about that now. I'll call him again tomorrow, bright and early in the morning.
The cat was peering cautiously around the corner, John drummed his fingers on the floor and picked up the phone again. “I didn't mean to scare you.” he said, “Still hungry? I’ll order a pizza.”