Need, as Associated Social Inertia
By Patrick M. Tracy
(Some adult language in this one –PMT)
“Life is a system of associations, a system in which one person’s need is impressed upon the next through whatever pressure center is available. It’s sort of like chaos theory math, really. That whole Butterfly Effect woo-ha.” Judith held the gun on Ralph as he approached the edge of the roof and looked over. The square below was filled with people. A powerful, scoped rifle waited on a tripod before him.
Judith went on. “So it goes like this—one person’s need might be tiny. Maybe he’s a drinker who gambles a little. He blows his paycheck and is short on the rent money. Maybe he’s a bit of a criminal type, and he ends up breaking into an apartment, stealing something that doesn’t belong the people that are holding it.”
She prodded Ralph to lay prone and look through the scope. She had him covered, and he knew he couldn’t whirl with the heavy rifle before she capped him. “This is all fucking enlightening, lady, but it’s giving me a headache.”
Judith ignored him. “The people who own the object the first guy stole are somewhat less than tickled when they find their item is not in the possession of its appointed keepers. They become unreasonable. Belligerent, even. Hasty bargains are made. Payment plans are finalized.”
Ralph sighed. “Shit on a stick. I hope you don’t want me to shoot who I think you want me to shoot.”
“I probably do, Ralph, but let me finish my story.”
“Any chance of you just shooting me right now?” he asked.
“Not much of a chance, no.”
“If you hadn’t seen me that time at the shooting range, if I hadn’t been showing off my half-inch groupings at a hundred yards…” he mused.
“You’d be home, banging the babysitter or something, yep,” Judith agreed. “But I digress. The thing is, payment plans to individuals like the ones we were talking about—they’re pretty tough to meet. Backbreakers. ‘Debts no honest man could pay’, I think they used to say.
“When you’re caught in a box, you start thinking of anything you can do to get out. Anything. It’s like when you’re looking in the freezer for your lost keys. Crazy things begin to occur to you. That couple, with the debt load over their heads like Damocles’ Sword, well, they end up digging in deeper than they ever intended. Pretty soon, murder for hire doesn’t sound so insane. Pretty soon, they’re kidnapping a good shooter they met at the range before things got so bizarre. Pretty soon, they’re right here.”
“So you’re explaining things to me? Jesus!”
“All I’m saying, Ralph, is that some guy’s bender and subsequent missed rent payment can snowball into a pretty awful mess. Now go ahead and take the shot.”
Ralph took a breath, let it out, and lined it up. He took another, let it half way out, and put the crosshairs center-mass. “Just like deer season,” he whispered. He pressed the trigger before the bile started to rise in the back of his throat.