Cause and effect. They don’t necessarily imply one another, but it’s an interesting statistical relationship nonetheless. As humans, we look for patterns - we look for links between data sets that explain the randomness that is modern life. Sometimes, the link between two events can be so closely connected that they must imply a causal relationship, but it’s obvious that it’s nothing more than a coincidence when looking at them with a critical eye.
For example, if you look at deaths by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation in the United States between 1999 and 2009, the trend shows a near lock-step increase with that of US spending in science, space, and technology. The per-capita consumption of margarine decreases at the same rate as divorce does in Maine in the same time period. As the age of Miss America rises and falls, so too does the rate of murders caused by steam, hot vapours and hot objects.
Obviously, all of these connections are tenuous at best. That said, when you see the temperature rising in urban areas alongside a rise in violent crime...you start to understand why people are so interested in finding causal links.
A sunny, warm July morning. Not warm, really. Hot. A sunny, hot July morning.
The kind of morning that’s already too hot at 5 in the goddamn morning. The kind of morning who’s air sits so thick with humidity that it genuinely feels like the world works in slow-motion. The kind of morning that just feels ominous.
The kind of morning that would lead to a day. The kind of day where human interest news reports would be about trying to beat the heat at the local beach. The kind of day where the harder news reports would be about how some 33 vulnerable people - the elderly, the mentally ill, the poor - would die in the heat.
The kind of day that would lead to a sleepless night for many around the city.
See, it’s one thing to sit in the heat of a normal day after the sun has gone down; 24 or 25 degrees celsius (that’s 77 fahrenheit for those around us who haven’t caught up with the entire rest of the world) at midnight is certainly not a comfortable temperature, but at least if you plop down a fan, you’ll be relatively comfortable.
Add in that humidity, and you’re drenched in sweat. Add in that humidity, and it creeps up to feeling like 40 degrees (104, America. Try to keep up. And switch to metric already). Add in that humidity, and you’re not likely to sleep a wink.
My air conditioning unit busted sometime last week. It happened in the middle of the night, so I’m not sure what caused it; probably just a compound effect of the increased use and the strain of the old machine to try to keep up with the record-setting heat. Trying to find a replacement air conditioner in the middle of a July heat wave in Halifax is like trying to light a fire in the arctic; sure, it’s possible, but the cost is probably too high, and I certainly couldn’t do it.
It was the morning of the third day of sweating through my sheets and not sleeping a wink that Ian called me. Ian King is about the only person I know who still picks up the phone and calls like it’s 1998 or something.
I grunted something resembling a greeting, and Ian launched right into his monologue. “We have a meeting at the bank,” he said, not bothering to dispatch with a hello or a question of how I was doing. “Ten o’clock. After that you’ve got to get straight to the airport; you’ve got a public appearance in Cleveland this afternoon, followed by a quick interview on local television, then a reservation at the usual spot for the night. I’ve set up a car rental for you so you can get to Toledo for a radio hit, then onward to Columbus.”
I squinted at the clock in the far corner of my room. The alarm hadn’t yet gone off. “Ian,” I said, groggily, “what the fuck are you doing waking me up at 5:30?”
There was a pause at the other end of the phone. “Well, we have a meeting at ten at the bank, and then you’ve got a flight to ca--”
I hung up, and rolled over to try in vain and get a bit more sleep.
There’s nothing worse than a radio morning DJ.
Eh, I take that back. There’s nothing worse than having to be in the same room as a radio morning DJ...having to put up with their put-on bullshit wacky persona that early in the morning is the absolute worst. Having to have one of those bastards wake you up after you were finally getting a moment’s rest...well, that’s a close second.
I suppose that the local classic rock station thought they were being cute, playing “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner that morning, but honestly I wasn’t seeing the humour at that particular moment. Nevertheless, I sat up and wiped the sleep from my eyes and started to collect myself. Glancing at my phone, I could see that Ian had only tried to call me three times in the ensuing hour - not bad, really...growth, even - and only sent me 5 texts.
Ian had taken a renewed interest in my affairs since the turn of the year. Fair enough, I suppose; my personal, professional troubles had become more and more the business of my family, and specifically Ian when he and Shane had crossed paths. As much as I tried to tell him that I hadn’t wanted him, or Uncle Jack for that matter, getting involved, he did. This led to an interest in my career, my finances, and my future.
After Golden Intentions, he insisted on formally becoming my manager. I had agreed at the time to pacify him. Had I known that his pestering me to become my manager was his version of pacified, I may have reconsidered.
I tossed my phone back onto the bed as I stood, stretching. My bags were already packed, so all I really had to do was shower and head out the door. I shut off the radio and grabbed a towel before heading towards my bathroom.
“It’s about time,” Ian said as I exited the room. My skeleton briefly tried to exit my body from the surprise of seeing his face as I opened my bedroom door.
“What the fuck,” I said after composing myself, “are you doing here?”
“I let myself in,” he replied, flashing the key that I now regretted giving him more than nearly any decision I had ever made. He adjusted his tie - somehow he was already wearing a suit - and glanced down at his watch. “Hurry up, we gotta get going.”
“It’s 6:30,” I replied with a yawn. “I seem to recall that our first fun-time activity isn’t until 10. What the fuck is the rush?”
“6:37,” he corrected me, still glancing at his watch. “And I figured we could get breakfast first.”
It’s a weird thing about having a family member work for you. The thing about family is that, when things are healthy, they’re all about unconditional love and support, right? A business relationship doesn’t work like that. A business relationship is supposed to be about being part of a team, and being part of a team is all about being able to call out underperforming team members. That’s hard when your team - your business partner - is your own flesh and blood.
Now, I’m not going to say that things have always been excellent with me and my family, but I’ve never doubted that Ian cared about me. When we were kids, he’d have no qualms about saying that he hero-worshipped me, just like I’d have no qualms saying that I did everything I could to protect him.
That’s kind of why, as we sat in the Armview diner awaiting our breakfast, seeing Ian pouring over weird print-outs as that were somehow related to my career, despite the fact that I had never seen anything resembling the data that he was parsing before, was so weird.
“OK, so the Cleveland hit should be pretty straight-forward,” he said, glancing up only long enough to ensure that I was paying attention. “They’re gonna have you do the weather segment, and then the anchor’s gonna ask you about the 25th episode of Evolution...you go over a few bits about your match, talk about defending against Eclipse, and then you’re out of there.”
I exhaled a chuckle through my nose. “What the hell is there to say?”
Ian looked up again. “Surely you have something you can mention,” he said.
I shook my head and shrugged. “What,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Am I supposed to say that he’s going to be a big challenge or some shit? Or am I supposed to rightly say that it’s not the first time that I’ve faced off against some schmuck who has more visible abs than brain cells. It’s not like they even give a damn.”
“Just give it your all,” Ian said, returning to his paperwork. The waitress brought us our orders - him, a black coffee that he grabbed immediately and started sipping and eggs benedict that went unnoticed and neglected, and me a latte, glass of orange juice and a western omelette - and I took a sip of my juice.
“How is it?” Ian muttered, not looking up from his spreadsheets.
“Eh,” I said, setting the glass down. “A bit too much pulp for my tastes.”
“Too much pulp?” he said, looking up. He raised his hand. “Let me get her back here.”
“Ian, no, it’s really alright.”
“No, Jarvis, you shouldn’t have to be dissatisfied with your beverage.”
“Dissatisfied with my beverage? I just said it was a bit too pulpy; it’s ok.”
“No, you shouldn’t have to drink it if it’s not right.”
“I’m telling you that--”
Just then, there was a ear-shattering BOOM that seemed to rock the entire diner. There were a few shrieks, and a toddler a few seats over began crying at the loud, echoing noise. Bits of the suspended ceiling came raining down a few booths over, as a man stood up on the cushy bench, .44 Magnum in hand, still smoking, pointed at the sky.
“EVERYONE BE COOL,” said the man, a short-ish man with spiky black hair. “THIS IS A FUCKING ROBBERY. EVERYONE BE COOL, AND NOBODY GETS HURT.”
“Jesus Christ,” I muttered under my breath. “I said it was too pulpy, but this is ridiculous.”
“Shut up,” Ian said, maybe a bit too loudly. Ian was shaking, obviously nervous and upset. It’s possible that he was getting even less sleep than I had been lately.
The gunman hopped down from his perch and started making his way towards our table. Ian immediately put his head down, trying harder than anything to not make eye contact. I rolled my eyes.
“What,” said the man, his breath pungently wafting in my direction as he spoke loudly enough such that the rest of the diner would hear him. “We got ourselves a comedian over here?”
“Well, I like to think I’ve got a certain flair,” I said, unflinching.
“Oh,” said the man, scratching at his day-old scruff. “We’ve got a wise-guy.”
“I mean, I’ve been around the block...know a thing or two. Wisdom does come with age, I suppose,” I said, airly.
The gunman pointed his barrel directly at my forehead. “You think you’re smart now?” he said, menacingly.
I did everything I could to stifle a laugh. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but…”
“What the fuck is the matter with you?” said Ian, essentially talking to his eggs.
“You oughtta listen to him,” said the man. I could no longer smell his foul breath, but instead the pungent, sulfuric aroma of the recently fired gun.
“I don’t wanna kill your buzz,” I said, ignoring his words while staring into his bloodshot, steel-blue eyes. “But a gun to my head is hardly the most harrowing thing I’ve had to deal with this month...hell, it’s not the worst thing I’ll deal with if we all walk out of here alive.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” he asked, taking a seat next to Ian. My brother shuddered a bit as he did so.
“Well,” I said, still staring down the hot barrel of the Magnum, “I mean, I had money on a Germany/Brazil final at the World Cup, and lo and behold Brazil couldn’t even get past Belgium, a team that has barely had an actual test in this tournament, and Germany couldn’t even make it out of a group with Sweden and South Korea….not to mention the fact that I’m kind of pulling for England, and I had to sit and watch them go to penalties with fucking Colombia...now we’re into the semi-finals, and suddenly it’s…”
“No, you fuck,” he said pressing the gun a bit closer to my head. I could feel the barrel’s heat radiating in the blissfully climate controlled room. “What did you mean about what you’re gonna deal with when you leave?”
I smirked, which may’ve antagonized my new friend a bit as he adjusted his grip on the wooden handle of his handgun. I didn’t let it phase me. “I’m gonna go ahead and assume that you know who I am. Frankly, if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter one way or another, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to guess that you didn’t come over here and wave a gun in my face because my brother told me to keep my mouth shut.” Ian shuddered again. “A request that he probably knew wasn’t going to happen.”
“Anyhow,” I said, picking up my OJ and taking a sip, “if you do know me, something you’ll know is that I live in a world where you make enemies. I live in a world with good guys, and bad guys. I live in a world where no matter how hard the good guys try, and no matter how hard the good guys succeed, the bad guys keep cropping back up. Most importantly, I live in a world where those bad guys, even when you think they’re gone, keep coming back. They keep trying to bring you back to the dark place.”
“I live in a world where the bad guys don’t wield guns, Mister…” I said, waving my hand expectantly at the gunman.
“My name doesn’t fucking matter,” he replied.
“Alright,” I said. “I’m gonna call you Mr. Pink.”
“Who the fuck are you calling Mr. Pink?!” he said, half-screaming. The gun was pressed against my forehead.
“Alright,” I breathed, “Not Mr. Pink.” He eased the barrel off of my forehead.
“That’s better,” he said.
“Well,” I continued, “the point is, I live in a world where the bad guys have already taken you to the dark place. They already tried to break you, and when they haven’t, they come back to do it again. The bad guys, well, they may be sporting a new coat of face paint, and you may not completely recognize who they are, but they’re still the same old bad guys, and that...well, that you can’t help but recognize.”
“See, the bad guys...they hope that you’re not gonna recognize them, while simultaneously hoping that you’re gonna be scared of them. They hope that you’re still afraid of their dark place, while trying to pretend that they’re some kind of new threat. The thing is, I know what’s going on here. I know who the bad guys are when I see them. I know who my current foe answers to, and I know the mark of the Mickey Mouse, Dr. Seuss-wannabe when I see it.”
“Fact is,” I said, my eyes narrowing, “I always know. It’s a simple case of pattern recognition. See, when I was last Paramount champion, the bad guys wanted me on side...I have no problem admitting that I was ready to slide into that role at that point in my life. I was more than happy to sell myself out at that point in my career because, problematic as they were, the bad guys had the power at that time. They were capable of giving me what I wanted, so long as I didn’t stray to far into the area that the bad guys want to occupy. As soon as I did, I became a problem...but just like the bad guys, I don’t go away. I remain. I persist.”
“I have to admit - my foe is one that knows how to choose a champion. Furthermore, he’s the type to try to learn from his mistakes. The last time that Jarvis King was the Paramount Champion, my foe found himself on the descendancy while I rose. I’d frankly be disappointed if he hadn’t learned from his mistakes.”
“See, like I said, I live in a world where you create enemies. Sometimes, it’s a worthy adversary - hell, it even feels like a match of talents, like Christian STARR was. Sometime, it’s an old friend whose lifestyle clashes with your own, and something’s got to give, like Shane Donovan was. Other times, it’s a situation where a partnership outlives its utility and both sides are too damn stubborn to understand that someone has to be the side that fades into obscurity.”
“More often than not, when it’s the latter kind of enemy, it’s an interesting thing, Mr. Pink…”
“What the fuck did you just call me?”
“”It’s an interesting thing, because no matter how often he tries to learn from his mistakes, he still suffers the same fate - even if he’s successful this week. See, the thing is, I see the bigger picture, I see the broader pattern...I know when cause actually implies effect...and really, Eclipse, and his little rhyming couplet friend...well, they’re like a robber who spends so much time with one mark that he doesn’t realize that he’s turned his back to the one entrance, leaving himself vulnerable to three police officers with much better aim, and much faster trigger fingers.”
“DROP YOUR WEAPON!”
“WE’VE GOT YOU SURROUNDED!”