The Report [Hotel Dusk]

Friday, December 24, 1976
New York, 5:07 PM

The wind off the East River is bitter, all polluted and cold, and it cuts right through his clothes, right to the bone, as he stares down into the water. Buildings from the city on the other side reflect off the river's rippling surface, dancing oily orange and bright white, pink and blue neon from the bars closer to the water's edge, melding together with the waves in a way that makes him think, half-made, that that must be what makes the river brown, all those colours mixing together on the surface. Then another wave comes, and the reflections separate out again, distinct, always touching but never making contact.

He's promised himself he wouldn't run, but now that he's here, it takes every inch of determination he's got to keep his feet fixed on the dock. It makes him feel like a child again, like when his father had told him to stand still in the living room while he went to go get the belt from his closet, and not to cry or he'd really give ya something to cry about, as the phrase went; unguarded, unmonitored, you could always have run, except if you ran, you wouldn't get away from what's coming to you, you'd just get it worse when it finally arrived. And even now, he isn't stupid enough to think that it can't get any worse.

He doesn't even turn around; he knows his partner by the way the tires on his car sound as they grind corners around the dock warehouses, the way his brown policeman's-salary designer knockoff loafers sound across the saltwater-warped planks of the dock, the way the hammer of his pistol sounds as it slips metal-on-metal into firing position, pulled back by the quietly reluctant thumb of a man who's fired it fewer than any other cop in the precinct. He knows how many times because he's signed off on every one of them, given his name on the dotted line of every piece of the paperwork a cop has to do for every round that leaves his gun. Jumpy cops have forty, fifty of those pieces of paper in their files, and just as many careless slugs pulled out of drywall or lodged into brick. Kyle Hyde has five, and every one a clean kill.

Something to cry about is about right.

Sunday, January 16, 1972
New York, 6:14 PM

"Shoes off the coffee table." To punctuate his command, Bradley gives Hyde's feet a pointed kick with the heel of his ratty old athletic shoes, and Kyle rolls his eyes but complies, putting his neat loafer-clad feet back where they belong atop Bradley's rug. He's tried to explain to Hyde over the years that nobody dresses up for football, but he's also learned over the years that sometimes Kyle Hyde is just one fussy motherfucker, and it's usually better to go with it than to fight that losing battle.

He's got a pair of ice-cold longnecks in his hand, his fingers wrapped around the point where the dark brown glass rubs together just below their lips, condensation making them slick against his skin; he holds them out, and Hyde takes one with a little nod of gratitude. "Miami won the toss."

Settling himself down at the other end of his well-worn couch, Bradley shrugs. "About the only thing they're going to win today," he says, watching the screen as the players scatter into their places for the kickoff. The camera pans across the crowd, bundled up against what the announcers are calling 'bitter winter weather' in their tinny television voices, huddled together beneath blankets as they breathe great plumes of grey smoke into the chill afternoon air.

"Can't believe you're cheering the Cowboys." Hyde shakes his head, utterly disappointed in his partner's choice of team loyalty for the evening, but Hyde, as Bradley has been more than willing to point out on several occasions, is a cranky Irish kid from Queens who hasn't stopped sulking since the Jets got their asses handed to them by Dallas.

"Not cheering," Bradley corrects him, pointing the neck of his bottle at the television for emphasis. Framed by the dark brown of his old set, Dallas sends the ball flying into the air, and Miami scrambles to get beneath it. He hasn't -- and wouldn't -- bet so much as the price of a pack of smokes on the outcome, not with Hyde or anyone, but even so, all the bookies they'd picked up that week had promised him it was a sure thing, and he's never yet met a bookie crooked enough to lie outright about a sure thing. "Accepting the inevitable."

Saturday, June 30th, 1979
Nevada, 9:38 PM

He locks the door and starts to undress, taking off each piece of clothing methodically, in no hurry to get anywhere or be anyone else for a little while. His neat brown loafers line up side-by-side next to the bathroom door; the rest of his clothes fold on top of the room's short dresser, stacked from top to bottom in the order he'll put them on again eventually. Tie on the bottom, undershorts on the top. He'd never seen this particular routine in action, of course, but still can't imagine it not happening -- or if not just like this, then in some other obsessive concession to small-scale order in the midst of a chaotic world.

Naked now, he sits back on the edge of the bed, allowing himself a moment to cringe at how the harsh polyester bedspread crinkles like paper beneath his weight. Hotels are the kinds of places fussy people like, he tells himself. They're neat, clean, impersonal; they don't hold fingerprints. You leave, and there's nothing left of you to mourn, just a wastebasket to be emptied and sheets to be changed, and then it's like you weren't ever even there at all.

On a whim, he reaches into the pocket of his pants and pulls out his lighter, flicking it open and shut in time with his slow, metered breathing, a perfect flammable metronome. He's been trying to quit for months now, but every time he thinks he's done for good, he looks up and there's another one hanging out of his mouth. He's walked away from that as well as he's walked away from any other addiction.

But he isn't himself now, not since he signed into the hotel register. He's become an honest cop again, or at least the next step for one who's just turned in his badge. He's looking for his partner, wants to find him and grab him by the lapels and make him answer the goddamn question this time. He's smart, smart enough to figure out what's going on, smart enough to solve any mystery with just a couple nudges in the right direction. Maybe even smart enough to exchange solving one set of mysteries for getting the answer to that question, the one he doesn't want answered anyway.

He snaps the lighter shut one last time and places it in the bedside drawer for himself to find later. It'll mean a lot to him when he sees it again, he figures, enough to lead him to the end or enough to make him give up forever and go home. Either way's fine by him, really. Better than a lifetime of chasing ghosts.

Kyle Hyde stretches back along the scratchy bed and lays one long arm across his eyes, splaying the other hand across his bare chest. In his self-imposed darkness, he fingers the circular exit wound over his right shoulder, the only part of himself his new name can't erase.

Saturday, July 25, 1970
New York, 1:14 AM

They make a great pair in the bars, the two of them, bait for those girls who come in pairs, one pretty one, one the pretty one's homely friend who's either begged the pretty one's help in getting a date or surrendered to the pretty one's friendly insistances that all she really needs is a good night on the town. Ordinarily, you couldn't get a girl like that to ditch her friend -- girls traveled in packs like that, and trying to break up a bond like that was a sure-fire way to kiss that opportunity good-bye -- but if you've got a wingman, you're in business.

In business indeed, Bradley thinks, as he pulls the pretty one of this night's particular pair closer into his lap. She's got bright green eyeshadow and boots up to her thighs, and her name is 'Cindy', though she probably spells it 'Cyndi' or 'Sindee', or spells it normal but insists on dotting the i's with hearts. "So," she asks, taking a drag from the cigarette between his fingers, "if you're cops, you ever shoot anybody?"

"Well, that's classified police information," Bradley says, grinning across the table at Hyde, who occupies the other half of the booth. True to wingman form, he's wound up with the homely one of this pair -- Sherry or Cherise or something, all these girls' names sound alike after a while -- and has accepted this with his customary quiet resignation. It's obvious the man doesn't get out much on his own, Bradley has noticed, but he's never yet turned down an invitation from Bradley, and Bradley takes this as a sign of encouragement.

The girls laugh in the way girls do when they're impressed by men's dangerous jobs, and Bradley knows they've got this one in the bag. Sherry-or-Cherise-or-something in particular seems greatly fond of Hyde, taken the way girls tend to be by his quiet, gentlemanly demeanor; the strong, silent type is in high demand these days, and Kyle Hyde is practically a showroom model. She wraps her hand around Hyde's, which is wrapped around his sixth finger or so of whiskey. "How about you?" she purrs.

"Once," answers Hyde with no hesitation, staring into his drink. "Made the papers, so I guess it's not so classified." He doesn't even look up to see the reactions from the girls, who, if their expressions can be trusted, would let him have them both over the table right then and there. Girls like that, though: that cool, aloof detachment that gives the impression that there's something below his icy surface, just waiting for the right girl to melt into it. What Bradley doesn't have the heart to tell any of them is that he's starting to suspect the whiskey'll get there first, and shut the door behind it.

Friday, May 17, 1974
New York, 11:38 PM

The place isn't a dive, necessarily, but neither is it one of Queens' finer establishments: set just below street level, down a half-flight of stairs, with nothing on the outside to indicate its interior function -- no drink menus, no bright posters, and certainly no neon. In fact, Bradley can see a horizontal slit in the door, about eye level, and doesn't have a problem imagining what that might have been used for in very recent history. He flicks his glowing cigarette butt into the rain-soaked gutter and lights another, mostly to give him something to do with his hands.

He supposes he looks like a cop, skulking out here in the shadows on the far side of the street, just past the streetlight's edge, and he is a cop, but he's an off-duty cop, and he doesn't mean anyone any harm. Truth be told, he's not sure precisely what he means out here tonight, or why he hung around the station doors for another hour after he'd said good-night to everyone, or why he tailed Kyle all the way to the FF station, up all the way into Manhattan, across the river twice and back to the east side. A couple of times he'd thought he'd been spotted, and had gotten ready a whole story about his going to visit a cousin and what a coincidence it had been they'd been on the same train and he'd never even noticed; but every time Kyle looked away again, seeing nothing, all the way from the station to the street to the nameless little bar half-under the ground.

First he tells himself it's to make sure that Kyle's not crooked, that he hasn't fallen in with Nile or worse, but that sounds like so much bullshit to his ears; the NYPD may only be able to employ one honest cop at a time, but with Frank Serpico gone, Kyle Hyde fits that bill. Next he reasons it's to make sure Kyle's not in some kind of trouble, paying blackmail to the mob for some ages-old transgression or some family member's fuckup, but that doesn't seem any more characteristic of Kyle than the first reason.

While he's been thinking up other explanations for being here, he's been watching the bar's unmarked door, watching singles and couples come and go every few minutes or so -- quiet place, not like the downtown bars or the pubs the college kids fill up on weekends and even most weeknights. From what he's seen over the last hour, the patrons all look solidly blue-collar stock, not the pretty kids in glitter and platform shoes that crowd Manhattan's nightlife, not one of them under thirty and not one of them a woman.

The rain reaches its crescendo as he stands under the awning of a nearby store, its windows shuttered against the storm and the disreputable nighttime crowd. Hell of a detective, he thinks to himself as he lights another cigarette. Hell of a detective, hell of a friend.

Wednesday, August 25, 1976
New York, 3:53 PM

"You awake?" A mug of the station's shit-coffee appears under his nose, black and steaming, the smell foul enough to rouse him from his stupor. There'd been efforts made over the years to remedy the situation, from new filters to new beans to whole new coffeemakers, but when Lt. Harris had floated the theory that they'd built the station house on old Indian burial grounds and now the dead Indians had cursed them all to shitty coffee for all time, it had seemed as good of an explanation as any.

Bradley wraps his hands around the mug, wincing as he pulls himself upright in his chair. "Is it quitting time yet?"

"Keep wishing." Kyle tosses a manila folder across the place where their desks join, spilling almost artistic black-and-white photographs across the gap, like some museum collection if Ansel Adams had photographed chalk outlines, busted locks, and blood splatter patterns. "Just got these up from the shutterbugs. You know, maybe it's my public school upbringing, but I don't tend to think of art theft as one of those real high-stakes, James Bond, killing-people-over crime avenues, you know?"

With a brave grimace, Bradley downs half of his coffee mug, trying not to shudder as the bitterness washes over the back of his tongue, praying the caffeine will cover for three sleepless nights in a row. "Money's money," he says, pushing apart the pictures with his fingertips, trying not to look for anything familiar. "Just because you've got no taste doesn't mean other people won't pay millions for some pretty oil on canvas."

Kyle lets out a low whistle, plucking the top picture from the pile and holding it under the scrutiny of the desk lamp. "I can think of something better to spend millions on than a pretty picture. A couple somethings, actually."

Bradley grunts a half-hearted response and scrubbed his hands through his hair, messing it into his face, curtaining eyes that refuse to shake the red around their rims, giving himself another excuse not to look Kyle in the face. He's past trying to hide, well on into trying to hide how mad he is at Kyle for not being able to see right through him, like he should be able to do, like a good partner should be able to do, like someone who gives a good goddamn about somebody else important in his life should be able to do. "Saw through you," he mutters, rifling through the stack of photographs.

"What's that?" Kyle looks up, his face puzzled but otherwise unconcerned.

"I'm out of smokes." Bradley pushes away from his desk and grabs his suitcoat, then starts his weary way toward the station doors, not even sparing another glance for his partner as he goes. "Back in a few."

Tuesday, October 21, 1980
Oregon, 4:47 AM

In retrospect, he should have known better; after all, telling Kyle Hyde to give up is a bit like telling a toddler 'no' -- not only does it make the opposite happen, it actually increases the subject's desire to contradict orders. Maybe that's what he'd wanted in the first place, even: not to make Kyle give up at all, but to make sure he didn't. That probably makes him a selfish bastard by anyone's count, he figures, but he's too far past that to give a shit.

He doesn't sleep anymore; he doesn't smoke anymore either, at least not after leaving his lighter in Room 217. Word got back to him about everything that happened there, and he works that over and over in his mind like he worked at loose teeth with his tongue when he was a kid, especially nights like these when he lies stretched out on one of those anonymous motel rooms, staring at the bumpy white ceiling. Streetlight glow pours in through too-thin curtains over the window, creating an alien landscape in stark relief up there, a canvas of dark and light like an amateur Rorschach test. It's a little like finding pictures in summer clouds, only in clouds he never sees guns or knives or the faces of dead people, and summer's long gone by now from the Pacific Northwest.

He'd say he doesn't drink anymore, too, and it's usually the truth, because being drunk makes you make stupid mistakes. But he's been drunk tonight, even though the effect wore off hours ago, leaving him disoriented and sore. Six fingers of whiskey at the hotel bar: two for him, two for Mila, and two for whoever catches this mistake of his first, just enough in his blood to let him use a familiar name on the hotel registration in the first place. Nearly four years of being on the run has taught him that you never know who's listening, after all.

A key turns in the lock, and surprise ripples through his body, but he wills himself to stay still, forces his gaze not to dart toward the door, no matter how much he wants to see who's on the other side. If it isn't who he wants it to be, he'll be dead quick enough that it won't matter, and if it is ... well, he may still be dead quick enough that it won't matter, and he'll deserve that as much as he deserves anything else he's got coming to him. But at least he won't be running anymore.

A beam of light falls across his face as the door opens, then is interrupted by a tall, dark silhouette that even his peripheral vision knows so well, as two scuffed brown loafers walk their way back into his life.

Monday, February 17, 1969
New York, 8:03 AM

"You Hyde?"

"Yeah." The blond man in the rumbled beige overcoat brushes flakes of snow from his hair, looking around the station house with a small frown, like a tourist trying to get his bearings in an unfamiliar airport. He takes stock of the man who's addressed him and sizes him up, giving him a friendly little half-smile that doesn't make it with any sincerity up to his eyes. "You Bradley?"

Bradley extends his hand and decides right away that this new partner is probably a cranky, sullen bastard, and that he's not going to let that bother him any more than necessary. "Most days, if I'm lucky," he quips, trying his best for charming.

That, however, actually seems to win him a real, honest smile from Hyde, one that seems to light up the room most of all for being so unexpected. "Yeah?" he says, taking Bradley's hand in his weather-chilled one. "Who are you when you're not?"

"I don't know," Bradley shrugs. "Maybe I'm you."

Hyde shakes his head and slips his fingers free of the handshake, instead clapping Bradley on the shoulder. "You sorry son of a bitch."

And Bradley folds his arms across his chest and just laughs and laughs.

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