"You want to know how I got these scars?"
"You've seen The Dark Knight one too many times," said Tony. "And I thought McGee was a geek. This would be funny if I wasn't so damn scared."
Robert Jackson smiled. "It's funny anyway, Tony."
He did have scars. A Glasgow smile, formed from swollen keloids, and caked with greasepaint, elongated his mouth. He must have done it to himself. When Tony got home, he was going to throw away every Christopher Nolan film in his collection.
"My father was," Jackson says. He was pacing in front of Tony, occasionally gesturing with the box cutter in his right hand. Tony was tied to a metal folding chair. The ropes were tight enough to cut into his wrists, and he could feel blood congealing on his palms. "A drinker, and a fiend. And one night he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn't like that. Not…one…bit."
Jackson moved. Tony thought he was gesturing again, but when he stopped moving the box cutter was in Tony's mouth, and the blade was pressed against his cheek. Tony tried to remember how this scene ended.
"So, me watching, he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. He turns to me, and says, "Why so serious?" He comes to me with the knife, "Why so serious?" Sticks the blade in my mouth, "Let's put a smile on that face!" Do you know what my father did to make me smile?"
Tony remembered how the scene ended. He moved his mouth carefully when he said, "Bought you Prozac?"
Jackson pulled the blade out of Tony's mouth, and bent double, snorting. His stilted laughs were unnerving. He slapped his knees, and Tony saw the box cutter slice into his thigh, but Jackson just kept laughing.
"Bought me Prozac," he said. "Tony, I knew. I knew I liked you. You're fun. You're just like me. Stop me if you've heard this one. You're angry, and you're alone, but you still know how to laugh."
"I'm not alone," said Tony.
"Where's your backup, cop?"
"You told me to come by myself."
Tony saw movement in his peripheral vision, and he forced himself not to look. He didn't have to. He knew Gibbs was waiting. Jackson didn't have a gun, but a knife could be just as dangerous in the wrong hands. His movements were unpredictable. He jerked his elbow to the left, and the box cutter was an inch from Tony's face.
"And if I told you to jump off a bridge? Do you always do what people tell you to?"
"Not according to my boss."
"Then why didn't you bring someone?" Jackson asked.
"You would have killed them."
Jackson crouched in front of Tony. "Can't argue with that. I'll kill you, you know."
"Not for a while."
"What makes you so sure?"
Tony grimaced. "You think I'm funny."
Jackson chuckled. He leaned his left elbow on Tony's knee and rested his chin in the palm of his hand, while he slid the blade of the box cutter in and out of its handle. "I do, I do. You, Tony. You've looked at the world, and you've seen the joke. You aren't afraid to die?"
"Aren't you?" Tony asked.
"Why would I be afraid of a thing like that?"
Tony would have shrugged, but he couldn't move his shoulders. "Because you're afraid of being alone," he guessed.
"I'm already alone."
"Because you're afraid of pain."
Jackson shot Tony a look that reminded him of Gibbs.
"Okay, maybe not," Tony said. He tried again. "Because you're afraid of hell."
Jackson didn't say anything, but he stood up.
"Hell?" Tony raised an eyebrow. "Really? Didn't take you for the religious type."
When Jackson blinked, his eyes stayed closed for an extra second.
"You aren't, are you? You're father was," Tony's words were hesitant. "That part was true. He was a drunk."
"And a fiend, Tony," Jackson said softly. "He made me read the bible and go to church every Sabbath. Have you ever read the bible, Tony? Best joke book in the world. The punch lines, Tony. The timing."
"You believe you're going to go to hell. You know that's where your father is, and you know you're as bad as he is."
"Stop, I've heard this one." Jackson's voice was ragged. He took a step away from Tony.
"You thought you would never have to see him again, but when you die, he'll be there."
"He'll be laughing."
Tony closed his eyes. He heard the box cutter hit the floor, and Gibbs shouting. He'd heard this one before.