Chapter 15

With a shiver, Neil felt himself waking up. He looked around to take stock of where he had ended up. The faint smell of smoke in the air and the charred structure made it pretty clear. Abandoned building. With his nomadic lifestyle, it was starting to get hard to keep track where he woke up.

After he killed that thug, after he remembered what he had done, Neil knew that it was not safe to be around people. He was a monster. And, like a monster, he started to live in the shadows.

Ambient noises made Neil’s ears perk up. He listened. He could hear people talking. “Maybe some homeless squatters, maybe the property owner,” he thought to himself. He couldn’t get a bead on the words, but he knew they were getting closer, which meant it was time to leave and find another new place to sleep.

Thankfully it was night. Neil preferred moving during the night. Way easier to avoid people.

Not that it was hard to avoid people, looking the way he did. He looked down at his feet. Hard leather combat boots. Well, mostly leather. They were pretty worn. He could see his skin peering through holes in the sides of the boots. The soles were solid though, which is why he opted to rescue them from the garbage can.

He couldn’t help but think of the 90s when he looked at his found sweatpants. They featured a pretty jazzy pattern on them with gaudy saxophones and some colors that probably looked gaudy, even before they got this faded. A dirty, sleeveless shirt and a frayed overcoat tied the ensemble together.

The voices kept getting closer. It was time to move. The idea of accidentally touching another person made him shudder. He got the image of frying that thug on the street. He even swore he could smell that burning smell again. As he fixated for a moment, he realized that was the smell of the building. Shaking his head, he found a way out of the building in a direction that seemed to be taking him away from the voices.

More and more voices started to converge on Neil. He ducked into a room and looked around. His chest tight with panic, he noticed the fire escape. He made his exit. Once again, he had managed to avoid endangering people with his presence. He let out a deep breath and felt the tension melt out of his shoulders.

Neil knew that he needed to keep moving. Not only did he need to find a new place to sleep, he needed to stay away from people. Turning his head down the alley, he tried to decide which direction would be more fruitful, both for avoiding people and for providing a place to sleep when the morning came.

As he sat there, racked by indecision, he started to process the disturbing images of the thug and of Chuck again. He shook his head in a fruitless attempt to shake out the images. Instinctively, he just started walking. For some reason, the exercise always managed to clear his mind. This was largely why his life had become a balancing act of walking until he was exhausted and sleeping until he could walk again.

Neil couldn’t put a time frame on how long it had been since Chuck had tried to kill him. Or how long it had been since the car accident. The PTSD had done a number on him in both cases. His thoughts wandered to Rebecca, Tom, even his father. Things had changed so much. He wished he could talk to someone – anyone without endangering their life. He worried that accidental contact for anyone would be fatal. He couldn’t live with another murder on his hands, even in self-defense.

Neil was processing some mixed emotions thinking about Rebecca. He took it as promising that the thought of her wasn’t sending him into nightmares about the car accident, but he found himself imagining how she’d react to the monster he had become.

Neil took a second to clear his mind and take stock of where he had wandered to. Distracted by his thoughts, he realized he had wandered out of downtown. He was in a neighborhood. Gone were the safe, tall, abandoned buildings. Instead, he saw cookie-cutter bungalows. He felt his chest tighten. He needed to get back downtown quickly.

He turned around to head back downtown and his heart sank. Over his shoulder, he caught a glimpse of his own home. He must have absent-mindedly wandered here as he thought about Rebecca. The sight of his home and all the memories flooding in at once weighed heavily on him. He collapsed to his knees. Overcome, he buried his face in his hands and began to cry uncontrollably.

“Hey, you.”

Neil looked up. A man stood between him and the house, obscured by light. The man kept approaching, shouting at Neil.

“Yeah, you. Who the hell do you think you are? Piss off. Get off my property before I call the cops!”

As the man approached, Neil realized it was his father. Instinctively, he jumped up and called back.

“Dad, Dad, it’s me!”

Neil’s father stopped dead in his tracks. “Neil?”

Neil felt guilty. His selfish need for some companionship was putting his father at risk. He shouted out to his father. “Yeah, Dad it’s me. Um, just… just keep your distance. Stay back.”

“Not a problem. I can smell you from here. I don’t want to get any closer.”

As long as his father kept his distance, he was satisfied. Even if he was being insulted. His father continued talking.

“Hey, wait. Didn’t I go to your funeral?”

Neil knew his father was sick, but he didn’t really expect this reaction. Frowning and contemplating his words, he managed to utter a response.

“I guess you did. Obviously I’m not dead though, Dad”

“Well, I see that. Hey, why don’t you come in and have a beer?”

“I shouldn’t come in, Dad”


“Well, that’s complicated Dad.”

“Complicated or not, I’m not gonna sit here and have a debate with you on my lawn at one in the morning. Someone’s gonna call the cops. Come in and let’s work this out.”

“I’m only going to come in if you promise not to touch me. And you can’t come within a foot of me. No wait. Two feet.”

“Neil, you smell like piss. I’ll give you a wide berth. I promise.”

Neil rolled his eyes. “Thanks Dad.”

Neil’s father turned around and walked back into the house, leaving the door open. Neil considered turning the other way and running back downtown, but given his father’s mental state, he reasoned it would be safe to have a conversation with him. Nobody would believe him after the fact.

Neil started toward the house. A torrent of memories started to flood in, overwhelming Neil. As he passed the threshold, he saw a number of pictures with him and Rebecca. It was too much to handle. He continued walking toward the living room, feeling the tears streak down his cheeks.

Neil’s dad started rambling. “So, are you another one of the investigators? You know, I don’t believe it’s a suicide. I think he’s still alive.”

Confused, Neil replied.

“Um, Dad?”

“Oh, yeah. So, Neil, a bunch of investigators came here and kept talking about you. They didn’t ask questions. They just tried to sell me on the idea that you killed yourself at work.”


“Yeah, but then one investigator gave me the impression they were looking for you, which I assume is odd when someone dies.”

“I would say so”

“So anyway, as I was saying, my son wouldn’t kill himself. He has a beautiful wife and a kid on the way. The car probably just failed him somehow.”

Neil bristled at his father’s confusion. He couldn’t track the conversation. He hadn’t realized his mind was this far gone. It was frustrating. He tried to jar his father’s mind.


“Oh, Neil. So, how are you? How’s things? Still making weapons?”


“Yeah, you know. Weapons. Wasting your life making things that kill innocent people.”

“You were the one that sold my company, Dad.”

Neil grimaced. He didn’t anticipate having this conversation with his ailing father, but here it was.

“I didn’t sell your soul, Neil. I sold your company. You had enough money to walk away and start a new company.”

“You sold the patent portfolio! It was complicated.”

“You made it complicated. You always did.”

Neil prepared for a cutting remark.

“Hi, I’m Robert. Robert Collins,” said his father. “You must be one of the investigators?”

“No, Dad, it’s me. Neil.”

Robert hopped to his feet and began to yell.

“My son died in a car accident! You have no business here!”

Robert became agitated. Neil realized that this was unfair. His father was sick. Rehashing all of this now was unproductive and possibly hurtful to his father. He could see the confusion in his eyes. He started to get up.

“Robert, Thank you for your time. I’ll let myself out now.”

As Neil stood up to walk away, his father called out to him. “Neil, you can’t go to an interview looking like that. You should have a shower and clean up a bit. Those venture capitalists are coming to look at your company. That Conrad guy came up with a solid plan. I think you’ll like the deal.”

Neil didn’t know how to respond.

“I appreciate the offer, Robert, but I must get going. Pass my regards to your family.”

“I have no family. My son died. I wish I could tell him I was sorry. Conrad lied. I did my best, but I lost his company. I lost everything. If he killed himself, it was because of me.”

Neil felt pity for his father. He felt guilt from having assumed that his father was one of the bad guys this whole time. At that very moment, he traded all the hatred he had for his father into an emotion somewhere between guilt and forgiveness. Ruefully, he wondered how things would have panned out if they had this conversation years ago. He wondered how things might have changed.

All the what-ifs aside, Neil knew one thing. Now, more than ever, Conrad needed to pay.

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Richard Belzile said...

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I am Sinewave: Spark

Written by Richard Belzile

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I am not a professional author, this is my novice attempt at creating a novel in an episodic fashion. Comments, critiques and compliments accepted.

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