Randy pushed his hair down, hoping it helped enough to make him look nice. He tugged on the suit jacket and glanced in the mirror. Despite the jacket being a little too small and his hair still being a little too wild, he didn’t look bad. He gave his most charming smile to the mirror, rolled his eyes at himself, and left the house.
He could see Sandra as soon as he pulled up to the café. It used to be a favorite of hers, and he knew she would feel more comfortable meeting him here than one of her fancy city restaurants where she might be seen.
She was polite enough when he joined her at the table, but he could see that her smile stopped at the corners of her mouth, not at all the Sandra he used to know. The old Sandra laughed through those brown eyes, tugged at his shirt when he took too long, kissed him on the cheek when she was high with the victory of a successful swipe.
“What do you want, Randy?” she asked as soon as the waitress had brought them drinks and left the table.
“Listen, Sandra; I don’t mean to be a nag, but do you remember what you said? Remember when you promised to be an advocate for my concerns in the state government when I helped you with your money thing? I just—I hadn’t heard anything about it in a while, and you haven’t been returning my phone calls. I just wanted to see if anything had changed, y’know; any updates.”
“Randy, you know how this government stuff is, it’s tricky and there’s a lot of paperwork and red tape and big egos involved. It’s not something I can just waltz in with.”
“Okay, yeah, I guess that makes sense. But just, you know, it’s been two years since you got elected, and I just—I think it’s important for people like me, y’know? It’s not fair that people leave their windows and doors unlocked and then get mad when someone steals things from them.”
Sandra sighed through her teeth. “Randy, you know what, I’m tired of pretending. The truth is, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re a petty crook, there’s no legislature in the world that can change what you are, and I’m not going to take this to my constituents as part of my platform.”
“But Sandra, you promised! And you were one of us, remember? Right there in the middle…thick as thieves, remember? You used to say that!”
“And I grew up, Randy. You didn’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t fall on a sword for this. If you care that much, do a protest or something. I’m late for a meeting. Sorry, get yourself some lunch on me, okay?”
Randy felt like he’d been punched in the teeth, like that time when Sandra accidentally kicked his nose climbing out of a window, only this time he didn’t cry, he just sat and stared at the table.
Back in the city, Sandra pulled up in a side street and looked around as she got out of the car. No one around, she steeled herself and walked around the corner to a small, walled-off alley between two abandoned industrial buildings.
She heard a car pull up and looked out. The familiar BMW pulled up and the senator stepped out with two of his lackeys. Sandra shifted uncomfortably, feeling the hair on the back of her neck rising.
“Hello, sir,” she said politely, extending her hand. “I’m glad you agreed to meet me. I was hoping you would want to get this settled quickly.”
“Oh, I intend to settle it, Miss Roberts,” the senator said with an almost imperceptible smirk, ignoring her hand. He moved toward her, an imposing figure even if he didn’t have two lunkheads on either side of him. She took a few steps back and cleared her throat, trying to regain footing.
“It’s nothing personal, Senator; you know how it is. The lobbyists come with dirt trying to win us over to their side, and it’s our job to make compromises and deals, right? It’s all for the greater good, after all,” she tried to laugh, but she found her mouth too dry.
“Did you really think you could blackmail me? Miss Roberts, do you know how I became a senator in the first place? You think I did it by letting sniveling little new brats roll over me because some lobbyist managed to get their hands on a bit of filth that may or may not even be true?”
“Well, sir, I’m just—”
“I know what you’re doing, and you’re about to stop doing it.”
One of his bodyguards stepped forward, and Sandra’s world went black.
When she woke up, it was dark. It had been one o’clock when she met the senator; what time was it now? How long had she been out?
She put her hands underneath her to hoist herself up and a jolt of crippling pain ran through her wrist. Doubling her efforts and using her other hand, she managed to get to her feet.
Her phone was missing, and her purse. In addition to the pain in her wrist, her head throbbed and blood trickled from her knee. She was still in the alley, but it looked different. There was so little light; where had they taken her?
Sandra took a deep breath and looked around, realizing she was still in the exact same spot in which the men had cornered her, but there was a scraping sound nearby. She turned to where the opening should be, but there was only a wall. She looked up, following the trace of light coming in from above. There, she found the source of the scraping sound: the tip of a trowel was just visible, followed by a brick.
She gasped when she realized what they had done—she was walled into this tiny space.
“No, stop, please!” she yelled. “Please! Someone help! I’m here; I’m in here, please!” Sandra banged against the wall but it was no use, the bricks were solid. The last two bricks went down and the space was almost completely dark. The only light came between wooden planks that formed a bridge between the two buildings over her head.
“Please! No! You can’t do this!” she screamed.
Three months later, Randy pulled up into a side street brandishing a can of spray paint. He had taken what Sandra said to heart, especially once she went missing. He owed it to himself and to her to prove that he had the will to do what she had suggested.
His pattern of civil disobedience started with a protest, then a petition (he got 21 names, which he thought was pretty good considering most of the guys he knew wouldn’t sign their name to anything because they had outstanding warrants). Now he was tagging buildings, but not with gang stuff, he’d never been into that, or even art—he had looked up some smart quotes about government and was leaving them all over the city.
He had seen a lot of nice cars coming down this alley, and there was a fresh wall that was crying out for a message.
Randy shook up the can and pulled out the paper on which he’d scrawled the quote, then he started writing:
“We hang petty thieves and appoint the great ones to office. – Aesop”
He nodded at his handiwork and headed back to the car, whistling.
Behind the wall, Sandra’s body lay crumpled, her life mercifully ended by head trauma caused by falling when she tried to climb out.