The speakers chimed as the subway-car’s brakes screamed and the train lurched to a stop.
Jane stood up along with the strange man she was accompanying. He stepped through the sliding door, and walked across the platform, passing through the crowd like a forest stream flows between trees.
She’d known it was dark out. It had been sunset when she’d woken up, but, climbing the stairs and standing on the sidewalk, it had gotten darker. The moon hung above them, bright white, like the mouth at the end of a tunnel.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
The man turned back to her, his face relaxed and his eyes shiny. He pulled a balled up bit of cloth from his pocket, transparent white with a bit of oil sheen. It was a veil, and he draped it over his face; he’d been wearing it when they’d first met the night before.
“The park,” he said, pointing a finger across the street.
She followed him as he dodged the traffic speeding down the eight lane thoroughfare and kept after him as he passed between the brick pillars and under the iron arch into the patch of primordial forest in the middle of their metropolis.
He slowed his pace as they walked down the jogging path, and, glancing over at her, their eyes met. He looked like he wanted to say something, but his static features were hard to read. Jane felt like she wanted to say something too, but the words weren’t coming easy.
She’d never been a good girl. She’d had a dozen boyfriends in high school, and had loved a few of them, at least she’d been sure at the time. Choosing part-time work over college, so much as her grades had given her a choice, she’d spent the last few years trolling the punk scene and coming up with loser after loser.
A hundred extremely short relationships hadn’t yielded a boyfriend, but she hadn’t given them a chance, making a practice of slipping away with the dawn.
Walking through the park in the middle of the night with a dead-faced nameless man would have felt weird no matter what, but she felt like, at some point between their meeting in an alley the previous night and waking up in his trailer that evening, they’d become partners if not a couple. But maybe more like the kind of adult couple that discusses what color of shower curtains would accent their custom kitchen. Even if they hadn’t slept together yet.
“…So, what are we doing here?” she asked.
“There’s a guy who hunts this area. I’ve been following his feeding patterns. He’ll be here tonight,” the man said.
That should have seemed like a weird answer, and she knew she was supposed to be frightened, but she wasn’t. She’d been on a hunt like this herself for the last few weeks. She’d been looking for the man the papers called the Masked Killer.
He hadn’t turned out to be the violent psycho the papers painted him as, and it was more like a veil than a mask. There seemed to be some kind of ideology behind his actions, more like a revolutionary than a serial killer.
“There he is,” the Killer said, drawing a pistol from under his coat. “Freddy!”
There was a man in the shadows ahead of them, stumbling out of a tall hedge. He took one look at them and started running. He’d either seen the pistol, he was indeed Freddy, or both.
The Masked Killer ran after him, but gave up after a few steps. Jane thought he was going to shoot, but instead he wound up like a pitcher and threw his pistol overhand. The gun arced through the air and made a dull thud, bouncing off the back of Freddy’s skull.
“I want to ask him something,” the Killer said.
They walked over slowly, because Freddy was barely moving, crawling on the ground like rainforest moss. The Killer picked up his pistol and flipped Freddy over, squatting down with a knee on his chest.
“I-I’m sorry,” Freddy said.
It sounded like he meant it, but maybe he was just sorry he’d ended up like that.
“I got a question-” the Killer said.
“I didn’t mean to- I mean, they were as good as dead anyway-”
“We’re past that Freddy. My question. Who’d you vote for?”
“…What?” Freddy asked. That was exactly what Jane would have said.
“For President. Who’d you vote for?”
“…Reagan?” Freddy said.
“‘Kay.” The Killer put his pistol to Freddy’s skull.
“Wait-” Freddy screamed and the Killer pulled the trigger.
“…So, you don’t like Reagan?” Jane asked.
“No,” the Killer said.
Jane had a hard time imagining him voting Carter; he’d probably stayed home.
“But it’s not about that,” the Killer said, leading her back to the jogging path. “It’s like a poll. I’m just curious.”
“Of the criminally insane?”
“Evil,” he said.
“…You find anything?” she asked.
“Twenty-seven to one, so far, but it’s probly just demographics.”
There were sirens coming as they left the park. He took her hand this time as they crossed the street.
“You want pizza?” he asked.
“I was thinking sweet-and-sour or chow mein,” she said; they’d had pizza the night before.
“You ever had okonomiyaki?” he asked.
That sounded like one of those words that, if repeated at high speed, would make you say something stupid.
“There’s a place on Seventy-Third. You wanna try it?”
“What… is it?” she asked, as they walked past a perfectly decent Chinese restaurant.
“It’s like a giant egg fu yung, but you eat it with ketchup.”
“That sounds… neat,” she said, trying to give him a smile that said she was up for the adventure, but, whether she was up for it or not, she wasn’t sure she wanted to try egg fu yung with ketchup.
“Who’d you vote for?” he asked, and Jane stopped walking.
“…I’d rather not say.”
“…Reagan’s not that bad a guy,” he said. His face was still dead, but he sounded like he was trying to backpedal. “I don’t really care about politics.”
“Ben Bubar,” Jane said. She’d voted for the temperance candidate.
“Don’t you drink?” he asked.
She was glad he hadn’t brought up her other moral failings, but they were implied in his question. “…My dad’s a fan,” she said.
“I voted for him too,” the Killer said.
That hadn’t even occurred to her, and she wasn’t sure if it was a joke.
“I always vote third party,” he said.