Black and White (short story)

Black and White

I sigh as I look at my watch. This isn’t looking good.

The perp’s still inside, with Mrs. Sparks and her daughter as his hostages. If we don’t hand him three million dollars within five minutes, he’s going to start shooting. And my department’s policy is that we don’t agree to hostage takers’ demands.

I’ve tried everything in my power to get him to surrender, but he’s looking at twenty-five to life and he knows it. Perhaps he wants to make his final stand here.

Still, I must try again. I must try harder.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and summon the White.

The magic fills me with a sense of peace and joy and wonder, as it has always done. Yet the lingering doubt is there, gnawing at a corner of my mind. It hasn’t worked on him the last seven times. What makes you think it would work now?

My magic is strong. My teacher told me that it should work nine times out of ten, at least. Apparently Mike Johnson is the unlucky number ten.

“I’m sure there’s still good in you,” I say into the megaphone as I send my magic forward. “Just put the gun down and let them go. I’ll get you a deal with the DA.”

Silence. Perhaps he’s considering it. I might have succeeded after all. Still, I keep sending my magic forward.

Seconds go by.

“Four minutes, asshole!” he shouts from within the house.

It hasn’t worked. Some people are just rotten to the core.

“I still don’t have a clear shot, Lieutenant,” Davis’s voice rings in my ear. He’s the best sniper in our squad, yet he can do nothing.

I’m going to lose them. But I can’t lose them. I won’t.

I close my eyes and try to summon the White again when the roar of a motorbike jolts me. I turn my head and see it draw near at high speed. A tall black-clad man sits astride it, an eyepatch over his left eye, his long hair blowing in the wind.

He brakes abruptly, with a screech of tires on pavement, and stops less than twenty feet away from me.

It’s Lieutenant Dwayne Parker from Precinct 8. A legend in his own right. He’s been on the force for sixteen years, yet he’ll never make it past Lieutenant. Nobody likes him. But this man has been through hell and back.

He climbs off his bike and strides toward me. His breath stinks of alcohol as he reaches for the megaphone.

“I still have time,” I protest half-heartedly.

He snatches the megaphone from my hand. “You’re done.” He turns it on and shouts into it. “Hey, fuckhead with the gun!”

“I hope he doesn’t mean me,” Davis’s voice rings in my ear.

A sense of dread engulfs me as Parker sends his magic forward. Then comes the sadness, as if I’d lost everything that mattered to me in the blink of an eye. My chest aches, my arms are heavy, and it just feels so — cold.

He doesn’t mean to touch me with the Black, I tell myself. I’m just standing too close to him. That doesn’t make it any better though.

Parker raises the megaphone again. “Yes, you. You’re a sad excuse for a human being and I think you should just kill yourself.”

His magic pulses and my right hand drifts toward my gun. I catch it with my left and hold it tightly — and my eyes drift to my watch. He doesn’t have long.

“Come on!” Parker bellows. “What are you waiting for?”

The seconds drift, each one a death sentence. Then a loud gunshot comes from the house. Parker exhales, and just like that, his magic lifts.

I sigh. It’s as if a giant weight has been lifted from my soul.

I reach for the megaphone with a trembling hand as our men rush inside, but Parker drops it to the ground.

“I don’t know how you live with yourself,” I whisper as he walks toward his bike.

He whirls around and looks me in the eye. His dark stare freezes me to the core.

“Half a bottle of whiskey every night,” he says. “And half an hour sitting on the side of my bed with my gun in my mouth. Yet somehow I find the power to keep going. And because of that, twenty-three people are still breathing, including Mrs. Sparks and her daughter. And that’s only this year, boy. Don’t you forget that.”

He starts walking away, then turns to face me again. “Oh, and one more thing. If Davis was the one to take him out, you’d be buying him drinks at the Fallen Oak tonight. But when it’s me and my magic, it’s all ‘I don’t know how you live with yourself’ crap. I’m sick of you. All of you.”

I just stand there, speechless, as he mutters, “bloody hypocrites” under his breath, climbs on his bike, and rides away.