Giving Bad People Good Ideas
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The diner’s light shone like a lone glimmer of hope within the darkness of the city. The waitress wiping down the counter wore a bored expression. It was nearing the end of her shift, and the only customer was an old man, sipping coffee and flipping through a newspaper. He looked like an old stockbroker, or perhaps salesman, with a weathered tan jacket over a brown shirt, wireframe glasses and a black hat. An empty plate sat on the table in front of him. He had scraped it clean over an hour ago. He didn’t look like a man who had ordered thousands to their deaths. Such men rarely did.

Movement made him look up. A third person had entered the diner, though the doorbell hadn’t sounded. The newcomer slid into the seat across from the man and said nothing. He was at least a head taller than the man, skin pale enough to show the outlines of veins, head completely bald. The navy suit he wore was perfectly tailored, made from material CEOs dreamed of being able to afford. Black tattoos poked out from outfit’s the neck and wrists. On the back of each hand was the image of a slit-pupiled eye.

A twitch of displeasure passed through the old man’s face. “Go away,” he said, looking back at the paper. His voice carried a thin Slavic accent.

The newcomer said nothing. He rested his hands on the table and stared with four eyes.

The minutes ticked by, silent but for the clicking of clock hands and ruffle of pages. The old man closed the final page of the paper and looked back up, scowling. “I’d hoped to never see you again.”

“But you knew better.” The newcomer’s voice was thin, almost inaudible, as if a light breeze was flowing from his mouth instead of speech.

The old man lifted the coffee cup, tilted it back until the last dregs of liquid disappeared. “Out with it, then.” He motioned to the waitress with the empty mug.

“Your friends are becoming curious.” Only the newcomer’s lips moved as he spoke. His body was a statue.

The man laughed. “Did you expect anything else? It’s in the blood. Might as well ask a lion not to hunt.” The waitresses arrived, refilled the cup. If she noticed the newcomer, she made no mention of it.

“It will not be long before they discover more.”

The man dismissed this with a wave of his hand. “You worry too much. Anything they find will be misinterpreted or ignored.” He took a sip of coffee, gave a smile of approval. “Learn to live in blind spots. Life is easier that way.”

“Maybe,” said the newcomer. “And yet, one has begun investigating Navi Mumbai.”

The man froze, mug halfway to the table.

“Is this one of your ‘blind spots’?”

“You’re a fucking liar.” The man rubbed his chin, nails scratching at the flesh.

The newcomer leaned forward. “She has discovered the temple.”

“She?” said the man. Then his face froze. “Aubrey. Jesus.”

“She will not be the last.” The newcomer rose, turned to the door.

“Wait!” the man called. “What the hell do you want me to do?”

The newcomer didn’t look back. “What you do best, Pavlo. Contain it.”

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