The room was damp and warm and stunk of pain and violence. Jeremiah Scott Spencer was tied to a chair. He was disoriented. The haze of whatever the men in fine black suits had drugged him with was slowly wearing off. The famous Florian Willamette was sitting in front of him.
“Look at you. Do you know who I am?” Willamette asked.
Jeremiah recognized him right away. He’d been to several of his parties and brushed past him once or twice while he was working a mark. He was a slim, fit older man. White hair, tailored suit, thousand dollar shoes. A designer. A visionary. And now he was holding a golf club.
“Florian. Willamette. Why. Why? What is happening?” Jeremiah asked.
“We’re talking. Just talking.” Willamette didn’t seem to know how to hold the golf club. He looked uncomfortable. He wasn’t a golfer, got a set of clubs from a friend but never played.
“It doesn’t look that way,” said Jeremiah. His feet were tied too. Panic started setting in. “I don’t know what you want but I don’t have anything. I’m living on scraps and I don’t even have a home to go to.”
“What am I? A fucking thief?” Willamette shouted. Jeremiah winced. “I have everything I want in life. I am at the top of my game. The pinnacle of achievement! Is that why? Is that why you want to kill me? Because I have everything and you have nothing?”
“What?” Jeremiah sputtered.
“Do I symbolize your wasted potential? Crystalize your failure? Is that why you save me for last?” Willamette asked. He was practically screaming. Hysterical. Mad. Jeremiah struggled against his bonds.
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, man! I’m just a guy. I don’t want to fucking kill you!” Jeremiah yelled, the chair scraping against the floor as he writhed.
“Well, you do. Did. Will? This is all so confusing, but soon you will kill me. Or, you were going to. Things might end differently now since they showed me the tapes. I don’t know how they have them, but they do,” said Willamette.
“They? Tapes?” Jeremiah couldn’t comprehend what was happening but Willamette wanted to make damn sure he did.
“You’re a murderer. Going to be. Would have been. Gah, this shit is hard to keep straight. You were going to kill your old roommate. Shoot him twice in the face. Then you were going to kill his boyfriend and then their mutual friend, Alonzo Baker. Oh what unspeakable things they suffered. You fucking animal. Then you’d find another victim and another, cutting a swath of death across the country until you find me. Me. Going about my morning routine. Bothering no one. You shoot me in the back. Killing me instantly. Pop.” Willamette was in his face now, two fingers like a gun, pushing against Jeremiah’s head. “They speculate for days. Weeks. Did we know each other? Was it personal? Or were you a fame hungry son of a bitch looking to immortalize yourself. Have your face next to mine for the rest of fucking eternity. A footnote to my greatness because you can pull a fucking trigger you bastard!”
“What the fuck? What the fuck!” Jeremiah writhed and twisted. He felt the rope around his wrists starting to loosen.
“No one could ever figure it out. Why me? Why like that? Why? But now I have you here. And I can ask you and I want to know. Why? Why do you target me in your little spree? What did I ever do to you?” Willamette asked.
“Holy fuck, man! I didn’t do anything! Let me go! Please!” Jeremiah screamed. His wrists were moving more now. If he could just twist far enough he could maybe get free. Willamette twirled the golf club.
“No no no. See, you haven’t done anything yet.” He readied for a swing. “But you will. You’re going to. Now, start talking. Or things are going to start getting bad for you.”
“Help! Somebody help me!” Jeremiah screamed.
This was it. The line that separated Florian from everyone else in his own mind. A man struggling to be free sitting before him. And he the oppressor, the punisher, the very thing he’d fought against as an artist his whole life. If he did this he would be different. He would no longer be Florian Willamette, visionary designer. This would stain him for the rest of his life. He hesitated. Then he remembered the smug look on Jeremiah’s face from the TV special and his decision became infinitely easier.
“Tell me,” Willamette said. He swung and hit Jeremiah’s right arm.
“Fuck! Oh fuck!” Jeremiah screamed in pain.
“Tell me, you son of a bitch. Why’d you do it?” Willamette asked. He swung again, hitting his face.
“God please! No no no do-”
“Tell me! Why? Why God damn you!”
Willamette swung again. And again. And again. At some point, Jeremiah got free but there wasn’t much he could do to stop the manic swinging.
Sometime later, what was left of Jeremiah Scott Spencer leaked down a drain in the center of the room. Florian gasped for air. His lungs burned. His arms and back and chest ached with exhaustion. And something else. Something new. A powerful feeling he couldn’t name. A man entered the room.
“I believe your meeting with Mr. Spencer is concluded?” Mr. Smith asked. Or was it Smythe?
“It wasn’t supposed to go that far. But… Damn. Damn him. He won’t hurt anyone now,” said Florian.
“Take whatever time you need. Let us know when you’re ready to leave,” said Smith.
“What happens now? With this?” Florian pointed to the mess he’d made.
“Well, we’re going to have call the police and notify them of Jeremiah Scott Spencer’s disappearance.” Florian tensed and his grip on the golf club tightened. “Of course, you will not be implicated in any way, as per the agreement you signed.”
“No one will know?” Florian asked.
“At least a few do. But your secret is safe.”
“And I’ll never see you people again?” Florian asked.
“That would be the optimal outcome.”
Florian couldn’t sleep for weeks. Every phone call could be the one. The one that ended him. Hello, this is Detective So and So calling to ask you a few questions. And that’d be it. He scoured news sites, looking, waiting for Jeremiah’s name to pop up. Someone would find out. Someone was going to know. He would be ruined. Those men in their suits would blackmail him. Wave the tape of him beating Jeremiah to death in front of his face. He was finished. His work was finished. No longer could he sit in front of a blank sketchbook and see anything but the red, pink, and grey of Jeremiah scattered on the floor. Yellow teeth clacking against the heels of his Louis Vuittons.
Finally, it happened. Body of missing man found after mysterious disappearance. Jeremiah Scott Spencer became the talk of the town like he’d always wanted. No witnesses. No suspects. Just a body and a secret that ate at Florian’s soul every single day. The funeral was held soon after. Very few attended. Florian waited outside the chapel until the service was over. He recognized a few faces as they left. Faces from the TV special. Victims. Victims no more. Safe. Now mourning the man who would have killed them had it not been for Florian Willamette.
He didn’t want thanks. He didn’t want recognition. How could he? But it made him wonder just how well these people really knew Jeremiah. Did they know what that monster would have done to them? Did they understand how close they came to the blast radius of this man’s self destruction? Oblivious, ignorant or delusional. A man couldn’t just become one way after being another way. There had to be signs. They had to know something. Had to know why he was the last one on Jeremiah’s list. What did they know? Florian hoped to find out. Some way. Some way…