Trigger warning: allusions to sexual assault, kidnapping, mugging
Don’t shoot the messenger, it wasn’t my idea to begin with. I was forced to go along on the ride but I admit it wasn’t our first go-around. We had done this plenty of times before with a lot more unsuspecting people. So in a way, she can’t really blame herself. She was forced into this game just like I was. It didn’t always start out this way. The four us use to be real cool. We would hang out all day and have dreams of the life we wanted, visions of the future. I guess those dreams were too hard to bear and they had to make them a reality, regardless of the cost. We just want the good life. We deserve the good life, and we had to take what was ours. They had their hands around my neck, I couldn’t say no. We had to. So that was that. The four of us walked into the bar.
The game plan was simple. What made it even easier was my buddy, Tony, being the bartender. He was the ringleader of it all. It was an easy way for him to scope out the options and decide who was going to be the next victim. You know what they say, a bartender makes a great therapist. He would make the drinks and listen to each person spill their life story. They would get so drunk that he didn’t even have to ask. It was as if they were asking for it, each pawn claiming their own spot on the board —until we found her, the Queen.
He had been at her for some months now actually, luring her into the right spot to be captured. Of course, the Queen being as powerful as she was, resisted for a while. She was different than the others, Tony knew that. Not as willing to show her cards, but he was willing to call her bluff. So he called it. And she showed up to the bar that very night. I hoped that maybe this time he wouldn’t go through with it. I was scared, at his side rattling from fear. He patted me, to settle me down.
She took her next move sitting at the bar. Cocky, with her guard down. But like I said, we can’t blame her, she was a piece on the board like everyone else. Tony circled around the bar chatting with the guests. He played his part well on account of having so much practice. I felt bad for being the right hand man. Watching at his side how easily he switched characters. Like a kid scrolling through the players on mortal combat, deciding on which one he wanted to don today. He slithered through the crowd, like the snake that he was, then made his way back behind the bar to serve the Queen.
He mixed her two drinks, a couple of yellow hammers, ironically. He reached into his right pocket, his hand wrapping tighter around my neck as I tried desperately to get away. This was too much for me, my barrel had nearly run dry and I knew the emptiness that filled me would soon consume her too. He pulled me from his pocket, uncapped my lid, then dropped me into her drinks. It was habitual and easy. I felt myself drowning from guilt as I sunk to the bottom of the cup. She would never see me coming. Tony knowing her every move, and the Queen none the wiser.
Tony made his attack and served the Queen her drinks, sitting in her lonesome throne. A Throne he also picked perfectly for his plan. She drank the first one, like he knew she would. They all do. It helps that you can’t tell that I’m there; I can sneak up from behind and grab you. Knock you out so you don’t remember. No queen stands a chance against me. A part of me was happy that she only drank one. Maybe Tony’s plan would fail, and the walls would come crashing down to Tony’s fake reality. But I guess one of me is enough to do the job well enough for Tony’s other two friends to make their way to the parking lot.
They took their places on the board, surrounding the Queen. Tony watched her from afar waiting for the moment her guard finally fell. He swooped in and sat at her side. At this point, he could have been any one of the other strangers that aimlessly sauntered around the bar tonight. He smoothly approached the Queen playing the part of a jester, distracting her with his circus act and magic tricks. The devil in disguise. Her shoulders began to sink and her eyes grew heavy.
You might ask what was it about the queen that made her the unsuspecting victim. Well it was simple — because he wanted to and he could. I mean, why else do people play games other than to control the pieces. The Queen had the most to lose, her ego. It makes sense knowing that Tony’s own life was falling apart, anything that had the slightest hint of glitter was gold to him.
What happened between leaving the bar and the gas station was a blur. I made sure of that. Tony’s other two friends, watched from the parking lot as the Queen made her exit. What she thought was a successful night of networking and business planning was really a rouse for exposure. Tony used any reason he could as bait for his victims. All he had to do was sell them the same dream they were trying to sell to him. If a dog wanted a bone, he gave it a bone. The Queen was finally out in the open with her guard down. No pawns around to defend her, no poker face to mask her emotions.
As I flowed through her bloodstream, I wondered what was going through her head as Tony’s buddies slapped the cold barrel of the gun across her face. Her stomach must have burned as she laid face down on the ground. Her heart pounding out of her chest wondering if this was going to be her last breath, if the blurry face of Tony, her captor, was going to be the last one she saw. Her lungs nearly collapsed as she let out an exhale of relief when the two thugs finally left. Although, she was a couple hundred dollars and an iphone 8 plus lighter, she still had her life.
I knew the play from the start. I knew it wouldn’t get too far and maybe that’s why I didn’t try harder to stop it. Sitting in Tony’s living room talking about the good life they wanted, I should have showed them that they already had it. A bartender, some thugs, and an unsuspecting guest. And here I was, the play maker behind the curtains no matter how unwilling. It’s easy to think back on the situation now and wonder about all the things I could have, or should have, done different. What’s hard is accepting the fact that I played the game regardless. Now that’s a hard pill to swallow.