“Matt?” I looked again and then said, “God you look awful.” And he did. He looked like he’d been in gaming purgatory for too long.
Briefly surprised then thorough affronted Matt snarled, “Of course. Your plebian tastes always were the first thing to give you away.”
I was in no mood and told him so. “Get real Matt. What hole in hell did you crawl out of and what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to see the fruition of my plans.”
The world was slipping sideways. “You’ve what?”
“Wake up and keep up Lydie. Or did you really think that the little interlude you arranged would actually stop me.”
I don’t know why I said it. I was in shock … had been in some sort of shock since Ginger had come by the farm. Shock from seeing Jax smiling and laughing like I hadn’t seen since the twins were babies it seemed. And now shock at seeing Matt. So I fell back on the old Lydie and her grade A snark. “Okay Maestro, enlighten me.”
And he did … or that’s what he thought he was doing but all he was really doing was blathering complete, nearly incomprehensible nonsense. Until he got to my letters.
“You were so easy to reel in. But you were so damn slow. Just like you always were. Slow. I needed those plans and you just were too damn slow.”
After a few more rounds of blathering I realized he’d been my penpal and it hadn’t been friendship being offered on the other end. He’d been pumping me, using me, to get plans that he then foisted off as his own. But it hadn’t been the priority for me that it had been for him. I’d been doing it for companionship, he’d been doing it because he needed the designs we came up with. Then someone had figured it out and whatever stay-out-of-jail card he’d been using was vacated by the powers that be that held him. And he blamed me for that on top of everything else he’d already blamed me for.
Apropos of nothing I asked, “Where’s your father?”
“No you’re not. You hated him.”
“I disliked him, I didn’t hate him.”
“Yes you did!” he screamed. And then he said, “As you should have. He betrayed me like all the rest.”
“Never mind. You aren’t capable of understanding. But it was at his betrayal that I knew what I had to do.”
“Oh … uh … really?”
“You had to pay.”
It was at that moment that my sense of survival started knocking on my consciousness. Matt was feeling the need to meet out some vengeance. I knew him too well to think that there wasn’t going to be a lot of pain involved. ‘Me? I thought you just said it was your dad who betrayed you.”
“Don’t try it Lydie. Don’t try and play. This game – my game – is too deep, too intricate and ingenious. You’ll lose. You’ve already lost,” he said sounding so sane that he sounded crazy. “Get out.”
Then he pointed some type of stunning device only I didn’t know what the stupid looking little stick was until he triggered it. It basically hit me with a concentrated sound wave and the resulting force caused me to be pushed out of the back of the van’s doors and onto the ground.
It was that stupid statue, the one I still hate - Chimera … or Venustas like they call it these days – that told me where we were. The old dam. The water was far below the embankment where it tumbled over the new boulders and other debris left from where I’d blown things up a few years earlier. I was feeling some serious déjà vu.
“Cute,” I told him. “Come to finish the job?”
“In a nutshell? Yes. You’ve wasted too much of my time. Now I have it all in place once again. I’ll …”
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” I said, despite everything feeling pity for him. “There is no way you are going to walk back in and …”
“I already have. It took me time but I’ve rebuilt my fledgling empire and now is the time to make sure that no one interferes again. With you gone they’ll all fall apart.”
“Seriously? Seriously?!” And then something snapped. I didn’t go berserk, I’ve only done that a few more times in my life but of all the times that wasn’t one of them. But something did snap. “You know my day has sucked quite enough as it is. Did you really have to bring your crazy train of stupidity and ignorance back around?!”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Which? Stupid, ignorant, or crazy?!”
The expression on his face reminded me too much of wax head that had been left out in the sun too long. There was no one single emotion, but too many fighting for space and they kept morphing over and over. It was sick. And then he said, “I was going to draw this out but it is simply not worth it. You’re dead Lydie. And good riddance.”
Oh how quickly some people forget.
See when I said that Matt looked bad I hadn’t been exaggerating. He didn’t look like he got out in the sun very often and the handsome guy he had once been was gone. Wherever he’d been he hadn’t been getting much exercise. He was soft and pudgy to go with pasty. I on the other hand I may have given up my books and such but I’d continued to work … and work hard.
But Matt had crazy on his side. That and his little stick of pain. He stunned me again and was rolling me to the edge before I could recover. But when I did I ripped the stick out of his hand and tossed it over the edge. All of the pain I was feeling just came pouring out of me.
Every statement was punctuated with a punch. “You are NOT going to waltz in here and take over. You are NOT going to just play us all for fools again. I am DONE with the pain you cause. I totally PITY you. You are CRAZY. I don’t know who you THINK you are but MAESTRO you are no longer IF YOU EVER FREAKING WERE!!!!”
“You can’t do this to me!!” he mewed, pawing at the ground where I’d left him. My mistake.
“Newsflash. I just did,” I growled.
And then he gave one more effort and flew at me. Strong I was but he had the leverage of height and weight. We wrestled around on the ground and then he got a rock and tried to hit me with it. Did hit me a couple of times but nothing fatal no matter what he tried. But he did hurt me, that he did just like that other night. But unlike that other night I didn’t think I had anything left to live for so when he got me up and was pushing me over, I didn’t fight.
But before I couId go over someone was pulling me back and there was screaming. “No!! No!!”
A man yelled, “Arrest him!”
Matt sounded several bricks shy of a full load as he sing-songed, “Too late! Too late!! Hahahahahahaha Too late!! She knows. She knows all about you and how weak you are! She’ll remember I never betrayed her like that! She knows who the better man is!! You won’t fix this! Too late!! Too late!!”
A different voice shouted the order, “Someone tranquilize that bastard already!”
Matt screamed, “No! I won’t be thwarted! It’s mine!! It’s … No!!!!!!!!!!” And then I heard yelling and then I didn’t hear anything else for a while.