Chapter 12: Anniversary
Freddy finally stopped walking and looked around – he had no idea where the fuck he was. The streets looked unfamiliar and it was late at night, so he ducked into a bar before someone tried to fucking mug him. He could use a drink anyway.
The place was dimly-lit and almost empty, a shitty little hole-in-the-wall where people minded their own business. Perfect. He sat at the bar on a rickety stool and waited for the red-faced bartender to notice him. But the bartender wasn't paying him any attention, because he was busy shouting at another customer: "If you're not gonna fuckin' buy anythin', ya penniless cocksucker, then get the hell out!"
The "penniless cocksucker" was a black man reading a soiled newspaper. On the ground beside his stool was a plastic bag that Freddy assumed contained all of his worldly possessions. His expression was strangely serene, but still Freddy felt rather sorry for him. He budged over one stool to sit beside the guy. "I'll get it, buddy."
The bartender stopped in mid-shout and squinted at him. "It's your money," he grunted.
Freddy turned to the black man. "What'll you have?"
"Whatever is good for my brother is also good for me."
Freddy blinked – this guy was a fucking weirdo. "Two beers," he said to the bartender, beginning to regret his charitable impulse. Hopefully this homeless guy would leave him the fuck alone. They drank a while in silence, and the bartender left the counter to play checkers with some old fogey sitting in the corner. It was strangely peaceful, and Freddy was free to brood. He hadn't felt so depressed in ages. There were the fucking memories, plus the problem with Toby... He sighed and drummed his fingers on the dusty counter.
The black man looked at him, eyes darting over the scar on his cheek. "I'm Jules."
"Freddy," said the young cop, coming out of his misery to shake the older man's hand.
"You see this?" Jules held up his newspaper. Front page headline: "Alleged gangster Wallace faces charge of racketeering conspiracy", and below that was a mug shot of the guy – Detective Jiang had scored one for the LAPD. "You know," said Jules thoughtfully, looking at the picture, "a guy like this is gonna have some major fuckin' infrastructure, man. Even if he does time, nigger's still gonna keep his power on the inside. And when he gets out, his empire will be fuckin' waiting for him."
"I know," said Freddy heavily, "but at least they're doing something." Despite his words, optimism was the furthest feeling from his current state of mind.
The black man's eyes seemed to sharpen. "You a cop, Freddy?"
Freddy raised his bottle to his lips. For once he was glad alcohol affected him so badly. "I couldn't do field work, so I quit." He took a long, long gulp and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "A couple months ago I was on patrol with my partner Jeff, when I had a motherfuckin' seizure. Turns out I've got post-traumatic epilepsy. Exactly a year ago I was shot in the head. That's kinda why I'm here today. Some fucked-up anniversary."
Jules was looking at him steadily. "Something happened to me a year ago, too. I witnessed a miracle." Freddy was about to laugh, but stopped when he saw how serious the other guy was. "I decided to give up a life of crime," Jules explained, "and a couple days later my partner was killed with a fuckin' shotgun. Ever since then I've been walkin' the earth, tryin' to find God's purpose. But in honour of the anniversary of that miracle, I returned to LA."
Freddy whistled. "Jesus Chri–"
"Don't blaspheme, Freddy."
The young cop blinked. Was this motherfucker serious? If he was telling the truth, then he'd once been a fucking dangerous law-breaker. Freddy could very well believe it.
They continued to drink their beers, and it was Jules who broke the silence: "Why were you shot in the head?"
Freddy opened his mouth to tell the other guy to fuck off, but thought better of it. Something about the mild expression on Jules' face made Freddy feel that he could trust the guy. That was complete bullshit of course – this guy was fucking homeless and trying to con a few bucks out of him. But there was no harm in being honest, was there? Fuck it.
"I was shot because... because I deserved it. I was in a fucking coma, by all rights I should've died – but I was given a second chance." Freddy snorted. "I can't believe I'm telling you this. My psychiatrist wants me to confess to a priest, but what does a fucking priest know about crime? Or about being a fuckin' undercover cop?" He realized that his fists were clenched, and he took a few deep breaths, forcing himself to calm down.
Jules cocked his head to the side. "You still wanna confess?"
"I – what?" Freddy was caught off-guard.
"You were told to confess, Freddy, but you couldn't find the right person to hear your sins. Now, this is the way I see it." Jules leaned forward, placing an elbow on the bar. He had piercing eyes that reminded Freddy of his old high school principal. "Your life was spared, and so was mine by the touch of God. You went undercover among criminals, and I used to be a criminal. You're afraid of opening up to someone, but this time tomorrow I'll be gone from LA, never to return. Now, Freddy, what's it gonna be?"
Freddy was staring at the other man with his mouth hanging open. This guy couldn't be serious. But Jules was still looking at him expectantly, and this was his chance, he could finally do what Dr. Moss had fucking told him and get it off his back. "Shit." He drained the bottle and slammed it down on the counter. "Let's get this fuckin' over with."
Jules turned on his stool to face the bar, and Freddy did the same. He felt like an idiot, the two of them staring at the row of bottles, Jules with his hands clasped on the counter in front of him. Freddy looked around the bar, but nobody was paying any attention. He cleared his throat, and spoke in a low whisper: "Bless me fa– um, I mean Jules. I have sinned. Uh... it's been over four months – wait." He turned to the other man. "Does a confession count if I didn't really mean it?" Motherfucker didn't move his head, just looked at him out of the corner of his eye. Freddy got the message. "Then it's been... five years since my last confession." He took a deep breath – he was finally going to tell it all. Here goes. "A year ago, I got an inside job on a robbery as an undercover cop..."
Sitting in that filthy little bar, Freddy Newendyke poured out his story to a homeless man he'd met only minutes ago. At first he felt pretty fucking stupid, but after a while it got easier. Apprehension turned to sweet welcome relief, and he found himself describing everything: going undercover, his guilt about lying to Larry, the day of the robbery...
"So I'm standin' outside when the fuckin' alarm goes off. I go into the store, and shootin' all the customers and employees is that psycho motherfucker Vic Vega –"
"Vic Vega?" Jules interrupted him for the first time.
"Yeah. What, you heard of him?"
The black man had a small smile on his face. "Not exactly. Continue."
Freddy looked at him curiously, but carried on: "Well, Vega went insane and it turned into a fucking bloodbath..."
The innocent victims, the woman in the car, the agonizing pain, Marvin being tortured, and Larry believing him, Larry standing up for him, Larry taking a bullet for him...
"Then I told him I was a cop. I'd betrayed him. He put a gun to my head, but I couldn't fuckin' blame him. In a way, I wanted him to. D'you understand that, man?"
Jules nodded. "I think I do."
"The cops burst in, and that's when he did it. Right here." His hand brushed the scar on his cheek. "Two months later I woke up from a coma, and I couldn't remember shit..."
The suicide attempt, his testimony, finding out about Vega, tracking him down once – twice – and now three times. Jeff. Irene. The arsons. The showdown at Karina's...
"And then I pulled out the gun and shot him – bam! – right between the eyes! It was eight fuckin' months since the robbery. But I finally killed the bastard."
Jules was silent a moment. "What are you doin' now?" he asked.
"I left the force. Fuckin' epilepsy. Holdaway told me about a detective agency run by his friend Dargus, a retired cop."
The black man looked at him warily. "Man, you ain't gonna have a fuckin' seizure right here in the middle of the fuckin' bar, are you? Start shaking and vomiting and shit?"
"No," said Freddy tiredly. "I'm taking meds for it. And if something happens, just leave me alone and it'll pass. Still scares the shit outta Toby, though."
Jules laughed and shook his head. "I gotta ask you – what kinda chick's name is Toby?"
"Her Chinese name is Tao Bit or Toh Bik or some fuckin' thing like that." He twiddled his thumbs. "So, what, is that it? Was that my fuckin' confession?"
"Just wait one fuckin' minute, Freddy. After confession comes absolution. I need to absolve your ass." Jules looked at him shrewdly. "You read the Bible, Freddy?"
"As a kid. Catholic upbringing. In fact," Freddy sighed, "that's part of my problem."
"Well..." Freddy hesitated. "I didn't just come here because of what happened to me a year ago. Well yeah, that was some of it, but my girlfriend just gave me some news. We've been together a few months." He paused. "She... fuck, she just found out she's pregnant. We're both Catholic, so for her it's a pretty bad situation." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box. "I've been carrying this around for weeks."
Jules opened the box and expertly eyed the diamond ring. "It's nice."
Freddy grinned. "Karina's gave me a good deal on it. They kinda owe me." He returned it to his pocket. "My life as a kid was pretty fucked up, and as you can probably tell from my confession, that hasn't changed. I mean – what kind of a father would I be? My mom abandoned me and I lived in foster homes. And during that job I witnessed two people die who were parents of young kids – one who I killed. Shit, I dunno what to do."
Jules was silent for a moment. "When I told my girlfriend I was gonna walk the earth, she walked out the fuckin' door, man." Jules looked him in the eye. "You're asking me if Toby's the one. So imagine. If Toby told you she was gonna leave everything, give up her money, her home, her job, and walk the earth, what would you do?" Jules paused, and his voice lowered to a whisper. "Would you let her go? Or, would you walk with her?"
Freddy pondered this. "Nobody knows what they'll do in a situation until it actually happens," he said wryly. "But... I think that I'd walk with her." Slapping some money on the counter, he called to the bartender, "Give this guy a couple drinks on me." Freddy hopped off the stool and shook the other man's hand. "Thanks, Jules."
The black man winked. "Good luck, Freddy."
He had a mission now. It took a while to find his way home, but Freddy was too excited to care. He took the stairs two at a time, and was slightly breathless when he unlocked the door.
They'd just moved into a bigger apartment and most things were still in boxes. His Sandy Rogers CD was playing "Train Fare to Memphis". And Toby had stayed up late, painting. She was wearing his old button-up shirt for a smock – and nothing else. Freddy watched her rub the back of her leg with her bare foot as she worked. Then he walked towards her. Hearing his step, she turned around.
Freddy reached into his pocket, and got down on one knee.
A/N: And so ends the trilogy. It's been quite a ride, and I've had a lot of fun! I couldn't resist having Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction as our guest star of this chapter. If you've taken the time to read this I'd love to hear your opinion! Cheers.