Stevie had just switched off another Walter Wallace interview that was playing on the radio. He sat in the driver’s seat of his car massaging his own forehead, forcefully trying to roll out the white noise that was buzzing around up there. He could barely grasp what had just happened. Mark had been mute for the remainder of the conversation after his associate Sam Tank had left, and the two parted ways after a short while. Stevie needed a cigarette, offering a wry smile to the blatant arrogance in which his addiction presented itself. It was too easy to give in, his reasoning being that he could use the temporary clarity just to get his mind straight.
Mark was in some sort of trouble - that was obvious. Sam was openly warning him of an incoming reprimand once they were back in the privacy of business – but for what reason? Talking about Citadel was the wall Mark had built between them but that wall was weakened at the mention of Walter Wallace. The whispers of fate and destiny that had called to him earlier that day again rose to his immediate conscious. It all has to do with Walter Wallace. Isn’t it obvious? But maybe he was being swayed by the extremist media he read and a desire to trace meaning in the tangle of chance.
He took a long drag for the cigarette, wished he had a pen and paper. Maybe if he could write this down his thoughts would become lineal, but for now he just needed to concentrate.
Mark had definitely mentioned Walter Wallace. He also mentioned the trains. Both the major news stories of the day and fair topic. But he shrunk into himself like a child when he saw Sam Tank. It has to be Walter. Stevie accepted that as the foundation of his theory. Walter could tie into Citadel in any number of ways. The company has its finger in the global pie, from media to infrastructure. Walter started out on the trains. Maybe he is a hack, a plant. Channel 8 is a known subsidiary of Citadel. Walter is basically just another Citadel employee. Maybe he was just transferred from transport to entertainment. But Stevie had met the man and come to know him. If he was simply on the job, and a job that requires such deceit and ill intent, then why would he charge into a burning building to save a life? But which life? Lucy Blues – the woman who unveiled him. Surely there is more than just coincidence behind such a fate.
Stevie let out an irritated sigh. His shoulders were tense and the alcohol was taunting his brain. The cigarette reached the filter and he sparked up another, blocking out the voice of sobriety like a military overthrowing democracy. This couldn’t be resolved. He was hopping blindly around the border of square one while a much more urgent issue needed to be considered: Sam Tank.
What was it about this man that frightened Mark? Mark had inherited a large stake in Citadel and held a lofty executive position. He was brother to the Boss. Was Sam Tank above him? In all his time researching the misdeeds of Citadel Inc Stevie had not come across this name or face. Likewise, he assumed the man had never come to know Stevie’s. But then how did he know Taylor? Did he know Taylor? Was it mere coincidence that there is a professor Tyler at Madison State? Is there even a professor Tyler - or Taylor, or whatever the fuck his name is? What if he doesn’t exist? Stevie had lied and bluffed; what if Tank had done the same? Was he testing Stevie to see how he would react given the right stimulus? Taylor. It couldn’t be a coincidence. If Stevie was to hold true to his belief in Walter on little circumstance then he should trust that instinct on Sam Tank. The man is a potential danger and though Stevie had held his nerve tonight, all it would take was one call to the records office at Madison State.
Stevie cupped his forehead in his palms, the cigarette smoke staining the windscreen as it rose from between his fingers. He had followed the clues and arrived at an uninviting conclusion: to err on the side of logical caution by hiding from an unknown foe with unclear motive for an indefinite period. It was a humbling sentiment after a day of such excitement and stimulation - such potential. His throat felt coarse and his head throbbed as he slumped down into the car seat. The curtain of white noise fell back down, and he turned on the car radio to block out the static. A woman’s voice began reporting:
“And talk about a day for journalists everywhere to rejoice, we have just had another story break: have a listen to this audio picked up by a patient that was admitted into the already crowded hospital at Newport Haven.”
The voice of young man shouted, seemingly a slight distance from the microphone:
“I’ve been shot! I’ve been attacked by a Citadel Incorporated robot! I’ve been shot! Go to my website Bullcit.blogspot. Bring down the fascists!”
The woman spoke again:
“That was captured as a young man was wheeled through the lobby and into the operating room. The hospital staff do not want to reveal too much but apparently the man has been shot. We are hoping to get an interview when he-
Stevie switched off the radio. He knew what to do. It wasn’t safe, it was barely logical, but it was immediate and that was what he needed right now. Before going into hiding he had to go to that hospital and meet the dirty hippy that he threw in the cell the same night he met Walter Wallace.