By J. B. Tilton
Kiethran Tannish rubbed the sleep from his eyes. For a moment he was unsure where he was. But the bars at the front of the room brought his memory back in a flash. He was in jail: again.
He sat up in the cot and looked around. He was in the cell alone. He brushed the hair from his eyes and scratched his jaw. He was badly in need of a haircut. And the beard he was wearing was long and shaggy.
"Hey, rummy," shouted a policeman who was just unlocking the cell door, "you've been bailed out. Get your stuff together."
Kiethran reached down and picked up the ragged fatigue jacket he wore. As he did, another policeman, wearing the stripes of a sergeant on his sleeve stepped though the outer door that lead to the police desk.
"Stoddard," he said, looking directly at the other cop, "don't refer to him as 'rummy'. Let's show a little respect."
"Aw, sarge," said Stoddard, "what's the problem? He's in here as much as we are. And it's always for the same thing. Vagrancy and public intoxication. He's just a drunk who has no permanent home and sleeps it off in here."
"You know, Stoddard," said the sergeant, "Preston is going on vacation next week. I still have yet to decide who's going to fill in for him for the next two weeks. Maybe I should reconsider letting you pull that duty."
"The graveyard shift?" asked Stoddard. "Come on, sarge. That's no work for a cop. Those guys are just glorified baby sitters. Besides, you said you were going to put Crenshaw on there."
"If you don't change your attitude real quick," said the sergeant, "Crenshaw won't have to worry about it. Because you're going to pull the duty. Tannish is a human being. If you can't treat him as such, you might find yourself on the graveyard shift permanently."
"Yes, sir," said Stoddard. "Excuse me, Mr. Tannish, but it seems someone has posted your bail. If you will collect your belongings, I will see you out, sir."
Kiethran just smiled and walked out of the cell. Sergeant Craig Williams was different from most of the cops in Precinct 23. He had been on the force for twenty-seven years. And he always treated Kiethran with courtesy and respect. Kiethran was going to miss Williams when he was promoted to Lieutenant next week.
"Stoddard is right about one thing," Williams told Kiethran. "Someone posted your bail twenty minutes ago. You're free to go. Just make sure you make your court appearance in three weeks."
"I will, Craig," said Kiethran. "I always make my court appointments, you know that."
"I know," said Williams. "But this time it's different. You could be looking at serious time. At least two years. Maybe more."
"I didn't break into the place," protested Kiethran. "It was already unlocked. I just wanted a place to stay for the night."
"I believe you, Kiethran," said Williams. "Let's just hope the judge does."
"Who posted my bail?" asked Kiethran.
"She didn't give her name," said Williams. "But she posted it in cash. Five thousand dollars all in hundred dollar bills. She also asked me to give this to you."
He handed Kiethran an envelope. All that was written on it was his name. He opened it and removed a short letter. He read it carefully.
Mr. Kiethran. Your bail has been posted. I would appreciate it very much if you would come by to see me at 22174 Carlyle Drive as soon as it is convenient for you. Shallon Tier.
Enclosed with the letter was a crisp, new ten-dollar bill. Kiethran took out the bill and looked at it. It had been a while since he had seen a new bill. He showed the letter to Williams.
"Should I go?" he asked.
"That's up to you," said Williams. "I think for five thousand dollars, you at least owe her the courtesy of hearing what she has to say."
"I guess," said Kiethran. "Only, I don't know any Shallon Tier."
"Well," said Williams, "she looked like she was about twenty five or thirty. Blonde hair to her shoulders and the most amazing emerald green eyes I've ever seen. She was wearing a rather expensive pantsuit and her nails were immaculately manicured. She obviously has some money to throw around. Oh, and she was extremely attractive."
"Doesn't ring a bell," said Kiethran. "Other than you, I don't really have any friends. And I don't even know anyone with the kind of money it took to bail me out."
"Well," said Williams, "it only takes three or four dollars for a cab from here to that address. Or you can walk it in about twenty minutes. You can use the ten bucks to get something to eat."
"Yeah, maybe," said Kiethran absentmindedly.
"Here's your stuff," said Williams, emptying a large manila envelope onto the counter. "One wrist watch, a wallet with an expired drivers' license and a picture of you wife and daughter, fifty seven cents in change, one disposable lighter, one partially full pack of cigarettes, and one gold wedding band. You know the drill. Check to make sure everything is there."
"It is," said Kiethran. "It always is. What have I got that anyone would want to steal?"
"Try to stay out of trouble, Kiethran," said Williams, as Kiethran signed the release form.
"That's always my intention," said Kiethran. "I'll see you later."
Forty minutes later Kiethran stood outside the address that was written on the letter. Kiethran took a drink from the bottle he had bought at a liquor story two blocks away. Then he shoved the bottle into his field jacket.
The building wasn't impressive. It appeared to be a small abandoned warehouse. He checked the address and found he was at the right place. There was only a single door on the building.
Kiethran walked up to the door. It was boarded over and the lock in the door was partially rusted over. He raised his hand and was about to knock on the door.
"Come in, Mr. Tannish," said a feminine voice from inside the warehouse.
Kiethran hesitated for a moment. There were no windows in the building below the second floor. The door was boarded over so that no one could see through it. And there
were no security cameras that he could see. How could the person inside know he was there?
After a moment, he opened the door and walked inside. What met him was incredible when compared to the dingy, rundown outside. Inside, the building was a very well maintained room. Just inside the door was an empty coat rack. There was a white sofa, a very plush white easy chair, and a coffee table in the center of the room. Behind the sofa was a tall stool. Against one wall was a bar, well stocked with several dozen types of liquor, and a large mirror behind it. The doorway he was standing in was the only way into or out of the room.
Standing next to the sofa was, presumably, Shallon Tier. She was exactly as Williams had described her. And saying she was extremely attractive was an understatement. Kiethran thought she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen.
"Please come in," said the woman. "I'm Shallon Tier. Thank you for coming."
Kiethran walked in and closed the door behind him. He felt self-conscious. He had lived on the streets for many years. His clothes were dirty and badly ripped. They didn't fit him right as he had scavenged most of them from the trash.
"Please, have a seat," said Shallon, pointing to the sofa.
"I wouldn't want to mess it up," said Kiethran.
"Don't worry about that," said Shallon. "Please, sit down."
Shallon took a seat on the stool behind the sofa. Self consciously, Kiethran spread his jacket on the sofa, and then sat down. He hoped the jacket would minimize the dirt he got on the sofa. He pushed back his disheveled hair.
"Again, thank you for coming," said Shallon. "I trust you didn't have any trouble finding this place."
"No," said Kiethran, "not at all. I was just wondering why you bailed me out and what you wanted to talk about."
"I didn't," said Shallon. "He did."
She pointed toward the bar. Kiethran looked over and saw a man standing behind the counter mixing a drink. The man was about forty years old, close to Kiethran's own age. He had stark silver hair that was closely cut over the ears. He wore a light blue sport shirt and a sport coat that appeared to be the same color. He was wearing no tie. Kiethran wondered how he didn't notice the man when he first entered the room.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Tannish," said the man with a distinct British accent. "I appreciate you're coming this afternoon. Can I fix you a drink?"
"I, uh, well," stuttered Kiethran.
"How about some red wine?" the man asked. "I'm sure it's better than what's in that bottle in your coat pocket."
The man walked out from behind the bar carrying two glasses of red wine. He handed one to Kiethran, and took a seat in the easy chair. As he did, Kiethran noticed that his coat and shirt were a medium shade of green. And the pants were a similar shade of green.
Kiethran rubbed his eyes. It wasn't the first time things had seemed to suddenly change. After all the years of steady drinking, he had become accustomed to things not being exactly as they first appeared.
"Was that your building I was arrested in?" asked Kiethran, downing the entire glass of wine.
"No," said the man. "I'm afraid I have no idea who owns that building."
He picked up a bottle of red wine from the table and poured Kiethran another glass. Kiethran was now getting suspicious. He knew the table had been empty. He couldn't figure out where the bottle of wine had come from.
"My name is Mykaa," said the man.
"Okay, Mr. Mykaa," began Kiethran.
"No," said Mykaa, "not Mr. Mykaa, just Mykaa."
"Very well, Mykaa," said Kiethran. "What can I do for you?"
"Direct and to the point," said Mykaa. "That's a good sign. I can see you are a good choice."
"Choice?" asked Kiethran. "Choice for what?"
"As it happens," said Mykaa, "I have a job opening that you are uniquely qualified for."
"What kind of job?" Kiethran asked.
"You might say it's something along the lines of a security job," said Mykaa. "A very special security job. Could I bother you for a cigarette?"
Kiethran took out his pack of cigarettes. There were only four cigarettes in it. He handed one to Mykaa, then took one for himself. He offered one to Shallon.
"I don't smoke," said Shallon.
Kiethran took out his lighter and lit his cigarette, then laid the pack on the table. He handed the lighter to Mykaa, but Mykaa's cigarette was already lit. This struck Kiethran as
odd. Mykaa had the cigarette in one hand, and his glass of wine in the other. He didn't appear to have a lighter or any matches.
"I'm afraid you have the wrong guy," said Kiethran.
"Nonsense," said Mykaa, flicking the ashes from his cigarette into an ashtray sitting next to the bottle of wine. "As I said, you're uniquely qualified for this job."
"I don't do well at regular jobs," said Kiethran. "If you have some odd jobs or something like that, I'd be glad to help out."
"I'm afraid I don't have any odd jobs," said Mykaa. "Just the security job. As it happens, it's the job you have been destined for your entire life."
"Right," said Kiethran sarcastically. "The only thing I'm destined for is an oversized liver and burial in a potter's field somewhere. In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bum. I have been for a long time."
"I prefer to think you've simply had a bad run of luck," said Mykaa. "After graduating high school, you went to college for a year. Then your father became ill and you had to drop out to take care of him. After his death you held several jobs, one of which is where you met your late wife."
"You seem to know a lot about me," said Kiethran. "Do you know the rest? How my wife and daughter were killed in a car accident? How I lost it after that?"
"Oh," said Mykaa, "I am aware of all that. I know that because of the depression you fell into, you lost your job, your house, even your friends. And I know that you ended up on the streets where you have been for the last four years."
"Then you know what my life is like now," said Kiethran. "My life as it is now consists of scrounging enough money to buy some cigarettes and my next bottle. That
bottle in my coat pocket? I bought it with the ten bucks Miss Tier gave me for a cab to get here. And right now I'm up on charges of trespassing, breaking and entering, public intoxication, and resisting arrest. Is that the type of person you want for this security job?"
"I am aware of all this," said Mykaa. "I believe I can help you change all that. If you take the job I'm offering you, you can begin to become a productive member of society once again."
"Maybe you didn't hear me," said Kiethran. "I said I didn't do well on regular jobs. More importantly, I'm not really interested in a job. I'd just like to be left alone."
Mykaa poured Kiethran another glass of wine. It was Kiethran's fourth glass. Kiethran looked at the bottle. It was still full.
"I'm afraid I can't do that," said Mykaa.
"Listen," said Kiethran, "I appreciate your bailing me out of jail. And you'll get your money back, I promise. I'll show up for my court hearing. And I do appreciate that you think I can do this job for you. But I'm just not interested. All I want to do is go back to my life."
"I'm not concerned about the money," said Mykaa. "And you must be aware that at your court hearing, you will most likely receive jail time. I doubt you will be going back to your life, such as it is, any time soon."
"I know," said Kiethran. "But it's my life. If I can convince the judge that I didn't break into that building, which I didn't, he might go easy on me. I might even get a suspended sentence."
"What if I told you I could get the charges against you dropped?" asked Mykaa. "Then you wouldn't have to worry about them at all."
"And all I have to do is take this job, right?" asked Kiethran.
"Not at all," said Mykaa. "All I would ask is that you allow me to explain to you exactly what the job entails. After that, if you want to go on your way, you may do so."
"How do I know you'll keep your part of the bargain?" asked Kiethran. "How do I know you can get the charges dropped and that you'll do it once I've listened to you pitch?"
"Fair enough," said Mykaa. "I'll tell you what. Give me a little while. Once the charges have been dropped, then you can listen to my pitch, as you put it."
Kiethran thought about it. If this guy could get the charges dropped, which he doubted, it would be easier than trying to convince a judge he was innocent. He could always tell Mykaa no later.
"Okay," said Kiethran. "You get the charges dropped and I'll listen to your pitch. But I wouldn't hold my breath if I was you."
Mykaa stood up, placing his still full glass of wine on the table. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a wad of bill. He flipped through hundreds and fifties, and then pulled out a twenty.
"Here," he said, handing the bill to Kiethran, "why don't you go get yourself something to eat. I'm sure you could use a good meal. Come back in a couple of hours. I should have everything arranged by then."
"No, thanks," said Kiethran, standing, "I don't want charity."
"Don't look on it as charity," said Mykaa. "Let's just call it an investment in the future."
"If I say no to your offer," said Kiethran, "you'll loose your investment."
"That's the way of investments," said Mykaa. "Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. Please, take it. I can afford it, I assure you."
Reluctantly, Kiethran took the bill and shoved it into his pocket. Then he picked up his field jacket from the sofa. Looking at the spot where he had sat, he was surprised to see that it was as white as when he sat down. Not a speck of dirt showed anywhere on the sofa.
"Perhaps you can do us both a favor," said Mykaa.
"What is it?" asked Kiethran.
"It's not charity, I assure you," said Mykaa. "I'd like you to have that coat. It should be about your size."
Kiethran looked over to where Mykaa was pointing. Hanging on the coat rack was an overcoat. It was gray and appeared to be virtually brand new.
"I've been meaning to get rid of it," said Mykaa. "It's supposed to be cold tonight. If you'll agree to take it, it will do us both a favor."
"You aren't just saying that 'cause you feel sorry for me?" asked Kiethran.
"Not at all," said Mykaa. "If you don't take it, I'll just have to throw it out or give it to a charity or something. You'll be doing me a favor if you'll take it off my hands."
"Okay," said Kiethran. "As long as you were going to get rid of it anyway."
"Thank you," said Mykaa. "If you'd like, Shallon will dispose of that field jacket. It looks as if it's seen better days anyway."
Kiethran handed the jacket to Shallon. She took the jacket, handing him the bottle that was in it, and then folded it over her arm. Kiethran reached down and picked up his pack of cigarettes. He was dumbfounded to find that it was nearly full; only a single
cigarette was missing. He was also surprised to see that the bottle of wine and the ashtray had mysteriously disappeared.
Kiethran put the pack in his pocket, then walked over and took the coat off the rack. He put it on and found it was a perfect fit. He put his hands into the pockets and found them comfortable and warm. Still suspicious that it was charity, he took it anyway, knowing he would be warmer at night with it than he would be with the old field jacket.
"I'll see you in a couple of hours, then," said Mykaa.
"I guess so," said Kiethran. "Assuming you can do what you claim you can."
"I'll see you in a while, then," said Mykaa.
With nothing else to say, Kiethran left the building. As he walked down the street, he thought how it was odd that Mykaa's suit was yellow when he had left the warehouse. Perhaps it simply seemed to change color depending on the light.
He decided stop at a nearby restaurant for something to eat. It would be a nice change from scrounging through dumpsters or accepting handouts from some of the places he knew. He walked down the street to an out of the way diner he knew.
"He won't be back," said Shallon.
"Have some faith," said Mykaa. "He'll be back. I have confidence in him."
"He doesn't have any in himself," said Shallon. "How much did you put in the coat pocket?"
"Five hundred," said Mykaa.
"Five hundred?" asked Shallon, her voice rising. "Are you crazy? With five hundred dollars he'll disappear and we'll never see him again."
"I don't think so," said Mykaa. "He'll be back."
"I don't see why we can't just tell him," said Shallon. "Why do we have to go through this charade? The last time you just went up and told the successor what was going on."
"This one is special," said Mykaa. "Not like the last time. The last time, the man was a priest. And it was a different time. People still believed in the unexplained. They had more faith then."
"I still say he won't be back," said Shallon. "Then where will we be?"
"He'll be back," said Mykaa. "For now, we have some things to attend to. I'll tend to the building owner. I need you to pay a visit to the arresting officer. You know what to do."
"Alright," said Shallon. "I shouldn't be long. I'll meet you back at the house."
With that, she turned and walked to the bar. When she reached it, she didn't stop, but walked directly to, then into, the mirror. She vanished into the mirror as if she had never existed.
Once she was gone, Mykaa looked around the room. He waved his hand and the entire scene changed. Instead of the lavishly decorated room, it became a dingy, dust covered warehouse. The mirror where the bar had stood remained, but it was a wall mirror that was leaning against the wall.
Mykaa looked around the room once more, and then disappeared into the mirror just as Shallon had disappeared several moments earlier.