Chapter 22


On any other day, Rabbit would have ignored the sound of his phone ringing. He didn't recognize the incoming number, and he'd been asleep when the call came in. Being woken up, especially by someone he didn't know, when he was so rarely able to sleep at all, was something he wasn't quick to forgive. But now that he was that he was awake, he intended to take his irritation out on the caller.

He got as far as "what--" in the phrase "what the fuck do you want?" before a very calm voice interrupted him with a name he hadn't expected to hear.

"Hello, Mr. Rabbit. This is Greg Waters."

"Sure it is." He rubbed his eyes, sitting up on the couch. The controller from his game system was still in his lap; glancing up he noticed that he'd paused the game at the entrance to a level of puzzles he hadn't been able to solve before, and hadn't been in the mood to tackle today, even though he enjoyed the effects in the slow motion death scenes that played whenever he failed. He still didn't feel like trying, but talking to someone claiming to be Greg Waters wasn't really a great alternative.

"Well, Greg, I'll just go ahead and submit this phone number to the SPD. They'll be right over to arrest you."

The laugh on the other side of the connection was surprising. Rabbit lay back, reconsidering his initial assessment.

"Contacting the SPD means another life lost. After what you did to Lucky, I'm surprised you'd make such a thoughtless move again."

"Lucky?"

The voice had a smile in it. "The sweet pet you took from me. That wasn't very nice of you. It's hard to train new ones to be so obedient--to scream when you want them to and to stay silent when they must."

Rabbit swallowed as he sat up again, thinking back to the dog collar around William Speight's neck. "Look, if you want me to believe this is Waters and not some kid who's got too much time on his hands, you're going to have to do better than that." He left the couch and crossed into the kitchen, keeping the phone to his ear as he went. "So you've got some inside knowledge about the crime scenes. Lots of officers tell their families details; explains how you knew I was on the case in the first place, how you'd get my contact information and most officers' kids I've met are the type to pull crap like this to get attention. So try again. Start by giving me a good reason to accept the fact that you know who I am."

There was silence on the other line. For a blissful moment, Rabbit thought the caller might have ended their conversation and he pulled the phone away from his ear as he opened his fridge. He only heard the response to his demand indistinctly and had to put the phone back to his ear and ask, "What?"

"I said, I've seen you. You make deliveries to the Protectors of Antiquity on your motorcycle. I've been in that area enough to see you around. Wasn't hard to get your name, since they know you around there. And I remember you, Mr. Rabbit. You were in my hallway that day with the long-haired man."

Rabbit closed the door to his fridge and leaned against it, feeling suddenly tired again. "Hello, Mr. Waters."

"We can talk plainly now I assume?"

"Are you going to threaten me with violence and revenge? If so, no. But if you keep sounding sane, then sure. We can talk."

"You're one to talk. I'm not insane, Mr. Rabbit." The voice was a little gruffer now. Rabbit could hear him breathing into the receiver. "Or should I call you Nicky? Isn't that what they called you? The ones who turned a frightened little boy into a fucked up young man with all their thrusting and grunting?"

Rabbit growled. "What do you want, Waters? If you're going to talk shit all day, I'd just as soon hang up."

"He'll die if you do."

"So you have a new one, huh? Another kid to make yourself feel tough and invincible? You're pathetic." He pushed away from the fridge and stalked to his office. "You think I care if you kill him? Far as I'm concerned, you'd be doing the kid a favor to retire him to the grave. In fact, you'd be doing my job for me. So unless you have anything else you want to gloat about, I'm done talking to you."

"He's in one piece. I haven't hurt him at all. Still want me to kill him? There's plenty more around here for me to fill the gap with, if I do. In fact, I'm quite sure I could take out this entire floor in the apartment complex before the cops could get here. Newborns thrown from the windows, grieving mothers and fathers sliced open to bleed out their last moments. What's the life of a human worth to a Shard? One death or one hundred, it's all the same to me."

Rabbit sat at his desk and put his face in his free hand. The terminal screen in front of him was waiting on the default SPD search page. "So being a Shard makes you better than everyone, huh? Look, I'm done. I'm not working on your case or any case anymore, so why don't you call someone who cares? You're insignificant as far as I'm concerned. Either go to jail or die. Those really are your only options at this point."

"And your only option is to do what I say," Greg replied, calling his bluff. "Cold as you may be, you don't want a massacre on your conscience. Contact the authorities and there will be deaths--come as I command and the only death you can be certain of is your own."

Rabbit chuckled, but it was without mirth. "Not a very convincing argument, Waters. I'm not all that eager to die. If I meet you anywhere, it'll be to kill you, not the other way around."

"I doubt you'll get the chance to fight me, but if you want, we'll call it a fight to death. Wait in the alley by Protectors of Antiquity headquarters. Bring this phone with you. I'll call you when you're there and tell you where to go--if you're not there by five o'clock, I'll turn to other, more immediate things."

Rabbit stood and looked at the clock: it was 4:27. "Five-thirty, then. But I'm not going to trek all over Solace, so you had better be there too."

"Oh, I have no intention of dragging this out, Mr. Rabbit."

"Then I look forward to it."

Rabbit hung up.