“You’re still here?” Zeke asks genuinely surprisedto see Tyler standing in his kitchen making coffee the next morning.
“Of courseI am, I want to know what the hell is going on and I don’t mean I need to know all your secrets, I just need to know enough that I am not still questioning whether I can trust you or not.” Tyler answers bluntly. Zeke raises an eyebrow at the demanding tone, pulling out a seat at the table and sitting down, ready to listen.
“The more you know, the more danger you are in.”Zeke warns him.
“That’s bullshit because my family knew nothing and they were blind sighted. I want to know enough to feel sure and confident that I can trust you.” Tyler states, walking over to the table and sitting down with him. Zeke studies his face, taking in the seriousness and determination, he could tell Tyler was scared, but he also had a lot of strength in him, asking for this information despite the risks.
“Ok.” Zeke nods and standsup,he turns and walks down the hallway to his office. Tyler follows him curiously. “Will this help?” Zeke hands him an ID card. There was a photo of Zeke followed by a stream of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
“Am I supposed to know what this means?” Tyler asks.
“No.” Zeke laughs to himself. “That’s the point of it. But I carry this on me at all times and it was given to me by the people I work with as my personal ID.” Zeke answers
“WellI hate to tell you this, but this ID card would not count as anything and it doesn’t exactly tell me anything about you. It doesn’t have your name, I’m sure this is some kind of code but I don’t feel like I know anything new from this other than you have a card with a photo of your face on it.” Tyler sighs as he hands it back to Zeke.
“It might not make sense to you, but to me, letting you see this was a sign of my trust in you.” Zeke tells him.
“Ok, but also why does that matter to me?Of courseyou trust me, you know me. You know my name, my home life, my school life. You know I’m not a threat to you so of course you trust me.” Tyler rolls his eyes, thinking about last night when Zeke’s boyfriend had warned him that Zeke would keep secrets and couldn’t be trusted.
“You could go and tell someone what you know and what you’ve seen.” Zeke shrugs.
“Yeah ok, I’ve seen a card with a photo and a bunch of senseless letters on it and this guy tells me he saved my life and is some kind of agent in a war against bad guys. That’d definitely be enough to incriminate you. Aside from the fact people would think I’m an idiot, which I would be if I went showing my face in public right? You’re just continually giving me absolutely nothing to go on. I want to trust you, I want to understand your motives and all that but seriously, you could have made this yourself. I don’t feel any different having seen this. It means nothing tome,it doesn’t confirm your name or tell me who or where you work. I don’t get it so it’s not at all reassuring to me.” Tyler crosses his arms.
“I realize that to you, it seems like I am asking for your blind trust. But from my perspective, I am trusting you a lot by showing you this stuff. I really am trying to not give you information that can endanger you and unfortunately that’s probably the more reassuring stuff.” Zeke argues, though Tyler was having none of it.
“Surebut exactly how would the information ‘endanger’ me?” He snaps back.
“If you’re found and they think you know things about me you could be tortured for information.” Zeke
“Uh huh. And if I’m found I’m going to be killed anyway right? I assume they would torture me because they would likely think that I’ve lived here long enough to know things regardless, or judging by the less than quick deaths this guy seems to like giving people maybe he’d just torture me out of spite.Soyou’re not trying not to endanger me with information, you’re trying to cover your own ass because youdon’ttrust me. You don’t want me to have anything to say if I am found and asked about you. I’m not mad about that, I just think you need to stop lying to yourself about why you’re leaving me out of it, I’d be dead either way, at best, you’re not telling me shit so I’d be dead faster and less painfully, maybe.” Tyler points out, crossing his arms and seeming as though he wasn’t worried or upset at the thought of any of this. After a moment considering his point, Zeke sighs in defeat and runs his fingers through his hair, taking a deep breath then looking back at Tyler, holding eye contact as he starts talking again, in a quiet tone.
“I work for a private agency. We confer with the police and specialized units like the FBI, but we are not part of the government. There was a family decades ago that was attacked similarly to yours, only they were very well off. Their loved ones decided to begin a private investigation into the killer when the police failed to track him down. In the beginning, they employed ex police officers, ones that’d been dishonourably discharged because they took the law into their own hands and beat and murdered people that were given light rulings in the court or were let out on bail when they should have been being punished more harshly. Over decades it has become a place were only the most elite make the cut because obviously as time has passed, the danger has grown. Murderers have gotten creative and more malicious, so we’ve had to adjust the way we approach new cases. We have to be trained to handle a number of scenarios, so it’s not just a bunch of angry trigger-happy people seeking revenge anymore, we’re a group that takes on very particular cases and tries to do so discretely, to get to the bottom of cases that have been put aside unanswered but are still posing a threat to people. Is that enough for you?” Zeke gives him a rehearsed sounding answer that leaves Tyler momentarily speechless as he processes it.
“Did your boyfriend know all of that?” Tyler asks, taken aback by the information.
“Because he wasn’t going to be ‘dead either way’ so it was safer for him to not know anything.” Zeke replies with a shrug as though he didn’t really care.
“So that’s why you didn’t just explain that you’re not cheating on him with me, I’m just the guy you saved from a murder.” Tyler chews his lip, feeling guilty for being the cause of their break-up last night and Zeke justnodsin agreeance. “I’m sorry I ruined your relationship.” Tyler apologizes.
“Don’t feel bad, it wasn’t a real relationship. We suspected he had information on the whereabouts of a family member that was on our wanted list, we found out a little about him and our analysis of him showed that he’d be fairly easy to infiltrate. I was sent to find out anything I could. Only took me 6 months to have enough information to complete the task. I had to go to the funeral I had been the cause of, because I didn’t think it’d be right to end things around the time he was going through that, it may not have been a real relationship but I’m not heartless, he was invested in me and I didn’t want to cause him more pain. No matter the relation, he had no idea what his uncle was up to.”
“Wait, so you dated him to find out where someone was and then killed them and kept fake dating him?” Tyler gawks at Zeke who was now avoiding looking at him. Now he was the one that looked guilty. “You cared about him though, because you went to the funeral and you felt sorry for him. 6 months, surely you cared about him after that long?” Tyler asks and Zeke remains silent, poker faced, which said a lot more than any words could about how he felt about the situation he was in. Sensing that he’d pushed too far and hit a nerve, Tyler decides to change the conversation. “Ok yesterday you took something out of your pocket when your fake boyfriend turned up, what was it?” Tyler asks. Zeke pulls the small device from his pocket and hands it to Tyler.
“I’ll show you.” He states, walking to the front door and opening it, the device instantly starts vibrating until he closes the door again. “Simple safety device, the back door sets it off the sensors too.” Zeke shrugs.
“Mirrors on the ceilings, sensors on the doors, what else?” Tyler asks. “Should I be concerned about there being cameras around the place?”
“No cameras. I am entitled to privacy in my own home. I have a monitoring device implanted here.” Zeke runs his fingers through his hair beside his ear, showing Tyler a small white scar. “That streams to my colleagues so they know where I am and whether I’m in any danger. It’s against the artery so it measures my pulse. There’s also a distance limit, where if I go more than 80 miles away from my work building without discussing the trip with my boss, there’ll be two integrated team members dispatched to within 10 miles of my location in case I come into trouble and need immediate back up. I can also press my fingers against the device so that they can hear what is happening.” Zeke explains and looks at Tyler waiting for follow up questions or a response of some kind, but Tyler just nods at him curiously. There was so much more he wanted to know but he wasn’t sure what or how to ask.
“Is there any news on the guy that killed my family?” Tyler asks quietly.
“I’m personally head of the case so I promise you’ll be told when I know anything. We will find him.” Zeke assures him. “Now, speaking of which I do need to get going. Are you going to be alright today? Not going to answer any phone calls or go for a walk?” Zeke asks in a playfully teasing tone.
“When will you be home?” Tyler asks.
“Probably just a few hours.” Zeke replies.
“I think I’ll survive a few hours.” Tyler answers then looks down at his feet. “Can I have the door sensor thing? You won’t need it if you aren’t home right? But I am so it’d help me feel safe.” Tyler tells him.
“If you don’t plan on leaving, lock the doors. I keep it on me so I know if someone breaks into the place while I’m out, but I’ll see if I can sneak a second one for you.” Zeke answers and with that he was off. Leaving Tyler to the silence once again. The instant pang of paranoia hitting him as the feeling of emptiness around starts playing tricks on his mind straight away. There was something about being alone that felt anything but lonely.
Tyler retreats to the bathroom, which despite the terror of the first day in Zeke’s house, had become the space he felt most safe in. He throws a pillow and a blanket in there so he had some comforts. He goes back to the bedroom just to find the shard of glass he’d hidden and takes it into the bathroom too. Very carefully cleaning the shard in warm water, Tyler felt like he was zoning out, his mindnumbto what he was doing. Tyler strips down and his eyes for a moment go to inspecting the bruise that covered his shoulder from falling from the window the night before, and then he trails down his arms to the series of old white scars on the inside of his upper arm. He traces them with his fingers, the scars so prominent that he couldn’t feel his fingers running along them. Next comes the pierce of the glass, he felt it enter his skin, tearing at the old wounds, and like an emotionless robot, he continued without hesitation or pause, re-opening each scar. He sets the glass on the counter and leans against the wall, watching as he presses his thumb against the bleeding flesh to feel the sting. Tyler gets in the shower to wash off the blood, he hated himself for being back here, for taking solace in inflicting pain like this to himself. It’d been a long time since he’d felt the need to remind himself that he could feel in among the numbness of an emotional low. He couldn’t help but justify it to himself, that after what he’d been through, it was fine to end up resorting to this behaviour that he’d worked so hard to get out of years ago. After all, there was no one here to stop him.