Do you mind if I sit here?
Do you know the trolley problem? It supposes to be a philosophy and ethic series of theoretical question to say how much you would sacrifice to preserve something. I am not a philosopher, but I think about this every day. Why? Because I'm living inside a trolley problem.
Please, don't leave. Sit here, and I will tell you my story. A great story, I promise you will like it. Come on. I will pay you a round of beer. The beer here worth every penny. I won't keep you long. Come on. Thanks for keeping me company. Berny, my man, bring two from the top shelf.
Let's see, when is the best moment to start my story? The beginning? Every moment is the beginning of something and the end of many more—Right, no philosophy bullshit, only the facts.
I was a cop, a negotiator before I become a private. You are too young to know, but in the late '80s, some people moved to a big farm on the county's edgy. New age folks, searching for their own utopia. Although this is a free country and people are free to believe in wherever they wanted, we put a couple of eyes on these outsiders. Something didn’t seem right in there.
Thanks, Berny. One for me and one for you, Nick. Cheers.
I only enter the scene in 99, when some letters were delivered to the local news and the mayor, declaring the end of the world and war against capitalism. I was called to decipher and deal with the terrorist. At that time, we didn't use the word terrorists. The "nine-eleven" put this term in everybody months. Anyway, I did my job, did an investigation, and discover the culprits, the reasons, and the plans. As you can deduce, the Solar Ethereal Temple, as they called themselves, were the men behind the letters. They had some rotten apples brainwashing people to believe that killing people was the best way to win friends and to influence others. Lunatics. Skipping the details of the cop work. I discover they were planning to detonate some buildings, and we lack the proof to make the politician move their butts and take the threat seriously. Lives were in danger, and they needed a full filled form before looking us in the eyes. Dammit.
Sorry, until today, this bothers me. Give me a minute to cool down my nerves. The beer is good, isn't it?
Long story short, the probable targets were three residential buildings, all homes to the new rich, the ones who made a fortune in the early internet. The cult believed that by killing the owners of those businesses, they would get more attention for the cause. As I said, there were lunatics. My problem was the lack of people and time. There weren't enough people to cover all the places nor time to evacuate everybody properly before everything exploded. I had people barking in my ears and tough choices to make. News, politicians, NGOs, lawyers, the whole circus had a concern about the situation.
I made my choice, and I accept the consequences. I tried to consider the situation as a whole, measuring everything, but I made mistakes, terrible mistakes. All the targets had explosives. I saved a hundred and eleven lives, but I lost fifty-four. This isn't a math problem to have a balance. Human lives. Their stories were abruptly ended because of my decisions. The internal affairs said I did the best with the resources, and we have enough proofs to put the cult's leader behind bars. The case was considered a minor success, but I know deep down I made a mistake.
Did you have already finished? Berny, two more, please.
Days later, I found the way I should have acted to save everybody, but time isn't a boomerang, right? If I had left my team and handle myself the third one, I might have saved those fifty-four lives, a full deck of cards. I had some courses on explosives. A person can't be over-prepared. I had the skills to solve, although not the practice needed. That attempt would have better odds of a complete success than what actually happened. Things couldn't end up worse. Of course, I could die, but be a victim of your own mistakes is better than just watch the mess you made. Do you understand me?
Wednesday is the calmest day here. Only people with problems come to a bar on a Wednesday. Another round.
I went to all the funerals I could, showing my face to be insulted by those who survive and the decease's families. I needed to do that. Are you a believer? Sorry, no philosophy, just curiosity. I was raised in a catholic house, and as one, asking for forgiveness and making amends is part of my core, even after I start to question the bible. The funerals weren't enough for me. I need to do more for them.
I ask for some favors and spend some late nights searching to make a profile for everyone that died in the incident. I had a complete profile with personal life, job, family, even some secrets, skeletons in the closet. I was measuring the damage I have made. It was one of the dumbest ideas I have ever had. Soon, the situation wasn't theoretical anymore. It became practical, and at that moment, I know in detail what I have done. Each aspect I didn't notice and all the consequences. The worst, I didn't have any idea what to do next. I create something without purpose, except to torment myself.
I keep my position until the end of the trials, and the lunatics were sent to jail. They tried to plead, but at this moment, I had already asked for retirement. I had something to live on and a tiny share of the cider's family business to help with the bills. I still had energy, and my mind was as sharp as ever, so I decided to devote my life to make amends to those who have died.
All this was just the introductions. Berny, please, bring another round, a jar of water, and peanuts too. My grandma always said to me to prevent a hangover by drinking water.
I become private, and my first goal was to make sure everybody receives what they deserve from the insurance company. The first thing I learn was money attracted problems as honey attracts bears. Don't you agree? I had to show what I had gathered to allow some people apart from the official family to receive some help. Oh boy, I made some dangerous enemies, deceived wives, and traditionalist's parents are terrible. I receive some cruel mail, and I lost a great car within two years.
My next goal was to preserve the legacy. These people had jobs, dreams, projects, many already in process. I didn't want that to all get lost because they had died in a stupid mistake, my mistake. I tried to make sure to stop any crook attempt to steal the business they had build through nights without sleep in their parent's garage. White-collar criminals think they are smart and less dangerous than other thugs, but they are as vicious as any other bandit. Believe it or not, I enter in some gunfights and exchange some punches to complete this task. Some families got really mad with the mess I made and the dirt I discovered. I had to exchange houses to escape from the rocks and eggs thrown at my window in the middle of the night.
The legacy plan wasn't over yet. Almost two years and a half later, and with some gray hair saying hello, I enter the hobbies parts. As soon rich people become really rich, they seem to discover that to gain a rich badge, they need to support some NGO or found one. NGO's can be a real snake's nest and hide all sorts of creepy things. Money laundering, pedophile rings, drugs, human exploitation, and more. Please don't misinterpret me. The legit business also exists. They do important work with quality and honesty. I have a theory: The problem with paradises is that eventually, a snake will appear and make everybody be exiled. I don't know my role in this allegory: snake, apple, or the angry god.
My adventure in this world cost me some days in the hospital, strange memories, and more dead people in my account, new cards for my deck. My girlfriend called me crazy, stop accept my calls, leaving my life for good. People started to look strange at me. A good friend, my best friend, said I was punishing myself and creating a shit storm whatever I go. He is right, but I have much to do to compensate for what I have done. I wasn't over yet.
Do you want to eat something? They have hot wings here, delicious ones. Excellent, Berny, bring hot wings, and the lasts bottles for both of us.
These jobs were pro bono, using the term the lawyers love. Don't you love it? I have other cases. The typical ones are missing people, cheating ones, and paranoics. Those were the cases that paid my bills but didn't clean my souls. The NGOs took me more than three years to solve- well, there are still some loose ends I am working on, but the majority is over, and I am only dealing with the consequences now. When I think I find the end of a line, it launches me into a rabbit hole. My life is a rollercoaster.
Did you get the trolley part? The trolley problem haunts me. For example, I discovered that the money that helps people living in the streets of this city comes from a crime lord. If I blew the whistle on that situation, everything would vanish the moment I hang up the phone. Yes, I was an accomplice in a crime. Not my first, not my last. Other situations like that had happened: a person supports free clinics killed several hookers, companies which offer job opportunities also sell illegal immigrant as slaves, a whole building was being exploited by a diplomat's son, one whose the parents are great people and didn't have a clue about his son's behavior. I was seeing more crimes without the badger than with one. Before your eyes pop the sockets, I didn't make the three monkeys for all crimes. I had denounced the majority, winning tons of hate as a reward for the good deed. Of course, new cards came to my hand too, some I thought had prevented.
Great! Here's the food, you need to try this sauce is to die for. Don't need to hurry, enjoy the meal, and have your time. In last than an hour, you will be wherever you want to be, far from me. If you are on the clock, I call you a uber when we end the wings. I promise you.
Where did I stop? Right, the hard choices. I extend my debt to compensate the deceased's love one too. I deliver my card at the funerals, and months, years later, some come asking for help. I accept these cases, most simple like the cases which paid my bills. Others were bigger than I could bite. One father saves every penny to put the only daughter in a good university but dies. The heirs spent all as the world was on fire, and when the well dry, they came with crocodile's tears looking for me. I have a code of honor, but I am not stupid - or maybe I am. I sold my car to help her. I sold many things to help cases like that. Cars, small properties, my part in the cider company, and a part of my savings all invest in keeping some dreams still alive. By the way, no thanks or hugs as payment, just insults, mean gazes, and in the best-case scenario, nothing. Now, my belongings maybe fit in a travel bag.
Do you know the pain of being shot? No, great, I hope you never discover. In my line of work, gun wounds and broken bones are expected if you are doing a good job. And if this is a trustful measure for good work, I may be pretty good. Eight shots, four broken ribs, one arm, and some burns. Scars all over the body. Each one taught me a valorous lesson about lockpick, talk with each urban tribe, get the best from cars, run, act, drunk, and others. Many lessons I learned, many injuries I accepted to fulfill my goals. I had to found another insurance firm because the old said I was a liability. Sorry, I daydream a little.
Berny, my man, the bill. Where is the uber going to? Maple Ville. Fifteen minutes. The traffic on the east side is terrible. Don't be silly, it is freezing outside, wait in here. Maple Ville- I know the place, nice one. Finish your drink.
Over with the small talk. I have to say that you are a strange man, Nick. I came to you knowing your name without ever meet each other, and it took you almost twenty minutes to notice the strangeness. Don't even think about running. You are so drunk that you can't even crawl. Calm down. I don't want to hurt you or make a fuzz. What do I want? I thought my story made it clear. You need to pay more attention, Nick. I want to make peace with my deads, and you have the opportunity to make me a solid. Nick, please, don't make me show how not drunk I am and how fast I make you a new pee hole.
Nice, good to know you still have something between the ears. I have a profile with your name on it, a thick one. Family, work, friends, lovers, hobbies, passions, name something it will be in there. I did my homework. I want to be clear, I am blackmailing you. You will be selected to represent a big shot in the cult case, sentence review, maybe you already know this, and this is your reason to be here. Anyway, you are an excellent lawyer and is quite sure you can free the man from jail. I don't want it, you don't want it too, because if you take the case, I will put your old client's secrets on the news. By the way, you should change your locks and keys. You know how your old clients deal with leak information. Right, you would meet the farm. Just to you know how deeply concern I am with your health, I know what is in Havana street, 222, and I have copies of this archive in a safe place.
I don't want that anything harmful happens to you. On the contrary, I want you well, taking good care of your life and loved ones. In fact, I believe you should take a vacation to somewhere warm. Tonight, when you enter your cozy home, call your office saying you deserve a month off. Please take this ticket to Mexico. It cost me my last miles, so accept as a gift. Everybody will be happy if you decline this case and take a tan on the beach, right?
The driver is two minutes from here, better move. I will accompany you. See? I told you that you are drunk as a skunk. Lean on me, right. Almost there. Hang in there just a bit. The cold will help you get better and think clearly. Keep breathing. The car is almost here. As I said, this is your car, Nicolas Johnson Smith. Have a good trip, and don't forget to pack your baggage.
Berny, my boy, how much I owe you for your help tonight?