The two weeks that followed the Newport Haven Train Disaster weren’t easy for Stevie. He had spent most the time watching the news and following the story on the internet. There was plenty of garbage to sort through - memorials, survival stories, heroic feats of bravery – most of it could be attributed to the Walter Wallace/Lucy Blues incident which had even included a mention of ‘Stevie the police officer’ who Walter had referred to in one interview as the real hero. The writer had taken the angle of using the information as an indicator of Walter’s modesty, his defection of glory. Stevie tried not to be bitter.
The other well documented story had been the shooting and alleged accusations against Citadel Inc from the self-titled Hippy Flip. This story had been a flicker of hope for Stevie in his personal endeavour to expose the multinational, but it was quickly made into a circus.
Hippy Flip, proprietor of the once anonymous conspiracy blog BullCit, was now a superstar, a good six minutes into his fifteen at the top of blogrolls around the web. The story of the shooting was conveniently swept under the rug, an exaggeration of Phil’s wacky persona. The kid is just being ironic, a sensationalist making a statement about the art of media deception. That was what they were saying. Stevie would have liked to give Phil the benefit of the doubt, surely his life was threatened, loaned to the devil, but he couldn’t help but see the fallacy in Phil’s exploitation, that the only irony was that he too was being deceived. Again Stevie tried not to be bitter.
In the cluster bomb of conspiracy blogs that saturated the new demand of the day, there was perhaps one piece in every thousand that held any substance. One article told the story of a sighting of a scuffle in the dark alleyways that reared up against Newport General Hospital. Two men, it reported, were seen to approach a single man and exchange words and then punches. The lone fighter was overwhelmed before the two men apparently had a shift in intentions and fled the scene.
The article went on to speculate the possible links between this scuffle and the earlier shootings train crash, but there was a lack of supporting evidence – no police report of a fight, no patient admitted to the hospital with any beatings. Of all the bullshit Stevie read he could subscribe to the truth of this article - he still wore some of the bruises, though the deep blue and purple colours had gone out of fashion for a sickly yellow.
That night he had raced to the hospital after hearing the ravings of a youth who had been shot. A sense of fate, divine intervention he even let himself believe, was his compulsion. He had assumed the Citadel agents would try and find a swift, obscure entry to reach Phil. He had barely arrived there himself when they approached. The exchange of words was more like a dream, he assumed he had been knocked unconscious by the agents. He couldn’t remember their faces, but he remembered that they were the same men who had tried to kidnap Walter Wallace some time ago. He remembered feeling a sense of duty in having perhaps held off the perpetrators just long enough to guarantee Phil’s survival. But as he remembered the hack that Phil had become, as he remembered the lack of glory, as he remembered that the fucking coward had watched him have his ass beaten and hadn’t thought to help him out, he found it very difficult not to be bitter.
Perhaps all this bitterness would have been easier to stomach if Stevie hadn’t been in hiding for the last two weeks. After his short acquaintance with Sammy Tank in the bar at Newport Haven and his subsequent beating he had thought it best to disappear. He still had some annual leave saved up from his job at the force and was now stationed at his partner, Taylor’s, holiday house. It was a big favour to call but Taylor was good in that regard, asking very few questions when a bloodied up Stevie knocked on his door. Taylor’s other partner in life had answered.
“Eww,” he said, looking Stevie up and down before calling out over his shoulder, “Honey. Did you order from that stripper service again? You know I don’t like blood, even if it’s fake.”
Taylor came to the door looking especially effeminate, much more so than when they were on the beat. Stevie assumed Taylor must tone it down when they work – he was grateful for this.
“Stevie?” Taylor said, concern spreading over his face.
“Ugh...Don’t tell me you fell for another stripper, trying to give them a better life? You know he probably makes double my salary.”
“No, Charles, this is my partner. Stevie what happened to you?”
“Yo- You mean that’s real blood?” Charles let out a wail in falsetto and pranced away.
“Jesus Christ,” Stevie said, “I thought you were bad.” Taylor rolled his eyes. “Listen, I need a favour.”
“You need a doctor.”
“No time. You gotta do this for me. No questions. Just a favour.”
Taylor had looked concerned as Stevie explained that he would be gone indefinitely, that he would call twice a week, if he didn’t call something was wrong. It had been on the first of those calls that Taylor confirmed being confronted by a man of Sammy’s description. He had assured Stevie that he remained tight-lipped (and used a rather unnecessary simile in the process) but Stevie wasn’t about to take any chances. He migrated north from Taylor’s house, booking a night in a motel on his credit card as a diversion before backtracking south, driving through the night until he came to an address that he knew to be a witness protection house.
He spent the following day battling fatigue as he scoped out the location for any new protected witnesses or federal agents. Once satisfied he broke in and set up what was now his new home. He passed his days researching his suspicions and cleaning the dusty one storey house. He had called Taylor every few days revealing few details despite his partner’s insistence.
“You know the drill, Taylor. The less you know...has Sammy Tank been back?”
“No I think he gave up the scent after the second visit. Been over a week since I saw that little pappadum.”
The doubts were beginning to seep into Stevie’s mind. They rallied support as his core grew restless. His bitterness and frustration overwhelmed reason and he found himself subconsciously taking more risks. He would venture to the shops more than necessary and connected to the internet at cafes with wireless connections. He found himself convinced that Sammy and Citadel Inc had forgotten all about him. They saw him as no threat and would not care if he resumed his post on the force. Then he would remember that Sammy had indeed done a background check and found Stevie was a liar and an apparent undercover officer with a longstanding professional relationship with the Second in Charge at Citadel.
Mark crossed his mind at times. Stevie truly felt Mark was an innocent soul trapped in a world that scared him to the point of isolation. Now that Sammy had learned that Mark was blabbing to a cop posing as his doctor what would they do to him? All this on top of the abysmal handling of the train disaster, which included the suggestion that terrorism was the cause when there was no supporting evidence. But maybe it was the cause. That was the other big story running on the conspiracy blogs. The mention of William Unston in one of Hippy Flip’s less censored blogs had sparked up a subculture to the Walter Wallace movement. It was small, almost undetected. Unless of course you scrolled the web for any sign of life because your own physical existence was being suffocated in a fucking witness protection house. Only Stevie hadn’t witnessed anything; no one was protecting him. What the fuck was he doing here?!
He slammed the laptop shut and used a chunk of will power not to Frisbee it at the adjacent wall. After some moments Stevie decided to take his own professional advice and went to the bedroom, closed the door and the curtains and sat in the darkness to meditate.