|Will Stutely (sly_stutely) wrote in nevermore_logs,|
@ 2021-01-22 14:07:00
|It takes Will a while to a while to realise that somebody is calling his name across the crowded subway car.|
It takes him a while, because the name they’re using isn’t his.
It’s another man’s name, the name of a man he loathes and pities in equal measure. The name of a man who shambled around in his hollowed-out skull for fifteen years.
(It’s easier to think of it as having belonged to another person. If it all happened to somebody else, then it can’t touch him. If it wasn’t him who got left behind, if it wasn’t him who failed to tough it out, then there’s nobody to blame for it.)
Will has done his best to bury that name, and everything that went with it.
But the voice carries over the rattle of the train, hard as the blade of a gravedigger’s shovel and intent on exhumation.
“Stewart! HEY! I’m talkin’ to you!”
And what’s worse is Will knows that voice, with its abrasive Baltimore accent, and the recognition hits like an almighty wallop to the guts.
He doesn’t turn. If he reacts, it’ll be as good as confirmation, lose him the smallest scrap of deniability. He keeps his eyes fixed, instead, on the window opposite, calculating the distance to the nearest door (eight feet, give or take), the time it’d take him to cross it (too long), the minutes till the next stop (shit).
But it’s too damn late for any of that, because he’s been seen. There’s already a moat opening up around him: the elbow that’s been jostling his side for the past four stops has surreptitiously withdrawn, along with its owner; to his other side, a woman slides the book she’s been reading into her bag and silently stands. The subway car that moments ago felt cramped is fast beginning to feel far too empty. New Yorkers can always smell when shit’s about to go down.
“I see you there, you fuck, don’t fuckin’ hide from me!”
And there, standing over him, is Eddie.
Will never knew Ed Pittman well, which is perhaps a weird thing to say about somebody you’ve robbed jewellery stores with. They were never friends. Bill Stewart didn’t really go in for friends. But the two of them always shared a kind of mutual respect: Bill trusting Eddie’s skill with safes and locks, and Eddie trusting Bill’s careful planning and low tolerance for cowboy antics. They’d been working together on and off for a couple of years when Gisborne and his mates busted them back in June.
It’s safe to say there is no lingering trust between them now. Eddie’s fists tight, eyes burning with unconcealed anger. “Stewart, you piece of shit!”
And Will’s aware, acutely, that he’s boxed in, Eddie’s body blocking his view of the door, grille-like railings at either end of the bench seating making a sideways dash impossible. Standing, he’s got inches over Eddie, but he’s trapped in his seat, and where Ed is solid and stocky as ever he was, Will’s clothes still hang loose off his starvation-depleted frame.
And he’s aware, acutely, that he’s on his own here, and he’s not sure what the fury in Eddie’s voice spells, but he feels that familiar pit opening up behind him again and it’s all too easy to imagine himself being swallowed up by it.
Keep him talking. Fuck, just keep him talking till the train stops moving, till you see an opening—
“Mate, I think you’ve got me mistook for someone else.” His throat’s dry, his heart pounding a sick beat, and it’s not hard at all to feign uneasy bewilderment.
His response throws Eddie for a second. Less the words, Will thinks, than the strong Notts accent – Bill Stewart spoke with a cookie-cutter American midwestern accent that only ever picked up a burr of something else when he was especially angry or drunk; Will hadn’t managed to hold onto even that much of himself.
But it’s only for a second.
“Fuck you, Bill, you think you can blow me off with a bullshit accent? You think I’m that fuckin’ stupid?”
Will’s got half an eye on the window past Eddie’s shoulder, on the shadowy blur of the tunnel passing outside. He’s gotta be near the doors when the damn train stops. He takes the chance, rising slowly, hands spread wide and unthreatening. “Look, I don’t want no trouble—”
Where he is slow, Eddie is fast. The first blow catches him full in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He’s not even got the chance to double over before Eddie’s hands are bunched around his collar, and he’s slammed against the railing with such force that his head cracks back and his mouth fills with the sharp taste of copper. It’s not as bad as the pain that explodes through the still-tender wounds on his back.
Eddie’s right up in his face, and oh – oh fuck – he was wrong. He got it wrong, just now. It’s not anger, that look. It’s hatred, pure and venomous. Eddie’s voice is a dangerous hiss. “I know it was you, you lying fuck. I saw ‘em put Bruno and Hickman in cuffs. You and me’s the only ones that got out, and I know I’m not the one that ratted, so you tell me how to join the fuckin’ dots.”
God. Shit. The jewellery store bust. Gisborne. He’s never even given a second thought to that night, or what became of the others. Never considered how it might look to anybody else, Bill Stewart suddenly dropping off the map. Why would he? All of that happened to somebody else.
The pit is wide and yawning behind him.
The blur beyond the window is slowing, resolving. It’s a matter of seconds before the train stops, before the doors slide open, and he’s still pinned, feet away and unable to reach them.
Will stammers, and the rising desperation isn’t a bit of a lie. “Listen, I— if you just lemme explain, it’s—” He doesn’t wait to finish the sentence; the instant he feels Eddie’s grip slacken, he slams his forehead into the man’s nose, takes advantage of the moment of pained recoil to make a sprint for the doors and the platform finally rolling into view.
Eddie’s back onto him in moments, roaring outrage. He feels the hand close on his forearm, tries to throw it off with a wild elbow, cops a vicious blow to the kidneys for his troubles, ramming him face-first into the subway pole. A lightning flash of pain and colour explodes behind his eyes, but he’s already in motion again, can’t afford to catch his breath. The doors are opening – he catches a brief glimpse of shocked faces, feet shuffling backward – and Eddie sees it, too, tries to yank him back.
The next elbow connects with something soft, and he follows it up with a sharp kick to the knee. It’s an ugly scramble, and his strength is flagging, and he can see his one window closing – literally – before him.
It’s luck, and only luck, that he wrenches his arm free at the last. Only luck that he clears the doors before they snap shut, leaving Eddie spitting fury on the other side.
Will doesn’t look back. He’s already pushing through the crowd, booking it toward the turnstiles, only to double back at the last. He picks a platform at random, boards the first train he sees.
His hands are still shaking as the station slips away, the view through the windows swallowed by darkness.