Jimmy John was having a terrible day.
To be honest, all of Jimmy’s days were terrible -- he was living on the street, after all -- but this day was especially bad. A black-haired fellow who was probably named Shavonne (what a stupid name) was crouched next to him on the cobblestone, hacking up his life’s troubles like a cat with a hairball. All Jimmy wanted to do was freeze to death in peace, but Shavonne had insisted upon talking to him.
Their first interaction had gone something like this:
Shavonne: “Hello, sir. I can tell by your face that you have a kind soul. Mind if I sit here?”
Jimmy: “Yes, I do mind. Go sit somewhere else.”
Shavonne (taking a seat): “Thank you, sir. I’ve had a rough day, so I appreciate your generosity. In fact, you wouldn’t mind if I got some things off my chest, would you?”
Jimmy: “I would.”
Shavonne (smiling): “You’re too kind. I didn’t catch your name, by the way. Mine’s Shavonne.”
Jimmy John was not a psychologist. He’d never gone to elementary school, let alone university, and even if he had gone to school, he wouldn’t have studied psychology. He would have become a mathematician, maybe? Or an actuary? Anything that kept him away from people because, frankly, he was a raving misanthrope. Unfortunately, beggars can’t be choosers, and Jimmy was -- quite literally -- a beggar.
“He’s charming, but I’m not sure I can get past the murder,” Shavonne was saying. He was speaking of his neighbor, who he thought was a handsome man, a serial killer, and possibly the devil. “I don’t believe he’s interested in killing me , but it’s hard to tell. Normally this would be a turn-off, but he is quite handsome. What do you think, Jimmy?”
“Dunno,” Jimmy muttered, inching away from Shavonne. Jimmy was gradually becoming less annoyed and more worried for his life.
Shavonne opened his mouth, ready to spew more nonsense about his neighbor, when a raindrop fell onto his forehead. He looked up to the cloudy sky, as more drops rained down around them. Shielding his eyes, he got to his feet.
“I’d best get going,” he said over the rain. “Thanks for listening. You’ve helped me a great deal.”
Jimmy stared at the hole in his shoe. “Uh-huh,” he said.
When he looked up seconds later, Shavonne was gone, enveloped by the pouring rain. Jimmy hugged his legs to his chest and stared at the spot where Shavonne had been seconds before. He decided he was too tired to puzzle over what had just happened, so he laid his head back on the brick wall and went to sleep. Hopefully, he’d never see that awful man again.
A week later, Jimmy had nearly forgotten about Shavonne. He’d relocated to a different corner of Brash and was spending his days shivering and longing for death. In other words, he was having a relatively nice week. But good things only last so long.
Early one morning, when the petal-pink sun was just peeking over the horizon, Jimmy opened his eyelids to find a set of golden eyes staring at him. Immediately, Jimmy screamed and sat up, only to headbutt the man standing over him.
“Owww,” the man complained, “what was that for?” He didn’t sound annoyed, but rather amused and almost flirtatious. Jimmy wasn’t sure why he was being stared at and flirted with this early in the morning, and he didn’t want to find out.
“Go away,” he barked, closing his eyes and lying down again.
Jimmy expected the man to keep talking, or to shake Jimmy awake, but he didn’t say a word. For a minute, the only sounds were the wind’s howling and a churchbell’s tolling. Tentatively, Jimmy opened his eyes, expecting to find himself alone.
“Hello again,” said the man. He was still there, crouched in front of Jimmy with his head cocked to the side. “My name’s Lewellyn. What’s yours?”
“Jesus Christ!” Jimmy shouted, shooting to his feet.
Lewellyn’s golden eyes widened. “Your name is Jesus Christ?” he said. “That’s an incredible name. But it’s ironic that someone with a name like that is living on the street.”
Jimmy frowned. “No, my name’s not Jesus Christ,” he mumbled, sitting back down. He was malnourished, and only capable of standing for so long. “My name’s Jimmy John. As in Jimmy John, the guy who would rather be sleeping right now. So go away.” To emphasize his point, he curled into a ball, laid his head on a pile of newspapers, and pretended to be asleep.
Lewellyn laughed, “That name certainly fits you better. Well, Jimmy, I can see you’re tired, so I won’t bother you for long. However, I must confess, I’ve been longing to get something off my chest, and I can tell that you’re a kind person just by looking at your face.”
Jimmy’s eyes snapped open. “What is it with you people thinking I have a kind face?! Why can’t you leave already?”
Lewellyn sat down, “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘you people’, but I’ll assume you’re referring to rich, handsome, polite men.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Anyway, I can’t leave yet because I want your advice on something. You see, Jimmy, there’s a man in my life who is very special to me. I’ve known this man for seven years now, but he has amnesia, so he thinks he’s just met me.”
Jimmy grunted. “So tell him that you knew him before.”
Lewellyn shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid I can’t do that. He would think I’m crazy. When I met him, I was a high-security prisoner in a local penitentiary, and he was a prison guard…”
Lewellyn launched into his story, which he told vivaciously for the next four hours. When, at last, he was done, the sun was high in the sky, and the city street was bustling with people. A carriage flew past, spraying slush over Jimmy’s jacket and leaving Lewellyn dry.
Lewellyn stared at Jimmy and said, “well?”
“Well what?” Jimmy snapped, scraping the muddy snow off his clothes with a fingernail.
Lewellyn rolled his eyes. “Jimmy, you’re a great man, but you’re rather slow on the uptake. I want to know what you thought of my story, and what you think I should tell my friend.”
Jimmy stopped scraping and looked him dead in the eyes. “I think your story’s bullshit.”
There was an awkward moment in which all was silent apart from the bustle of the city. Lewellyn frowned and ran a hand through his golden hair. His eyes, however, were smiling. “That’s not very nice, but I understand why you’re skeptical. I am rather handsome for someone who was imprisoned and abused for most of his life.” He flashed Jimmy a scintillating smile. “Assuming everything I told you is true, however, how should I proceed?”
Jimmy sighed and looked to the heavens for divine intervention. When none came, he consulted his last remaining brain cell and gave his advice:
“If I don’t believe your story, your friend won’t either. Don’t tell him anything.”
Lewellyn thought for a moment. Then he smiled and patted Jimmy on the shoulder like an old friend.
“I knew I could count on you for good advice. I’ll let you get back to your slumber now. Have a nice day.” He stood up and left in one graceful motion, walking so quickly that Jimmy almost missed the chance to glare at his back before he disappeared into the crowded street. Once he was gone, Jimmy stared at his newspaper-pillow forlornly, wondering if he could go to sleep in the daytime ruckus. Deciding against it, he picked up his newspaper and blanket -- his only possessions -- and shuffled to the other side of town. He couldn’t risk running into Lewellyn again.
The sun had not set before Jimmy encountered another problem: Shavonne. Again.
Jimmy was curled up in his corner, tired from the morning’s misfortunes and ready to fall asleep, when he saw Shavonne advancing on him from across the square like a predator to his prey. Immediately, Jimmy leapt to his feet, gathered his belongings, and darted to another street. However, before he could lose himself in the crowd, Shavonne caught hold of his shoulder.
“Jimmy,” he said breathlessly, “could I speak with you for a moment? I’ll pay you, I promise.”
This stopped Jimmy in his tracks. If there was one thing that he loved more than he hated people, it was money, and he needed it desperately. Turning around slowly, he raised a bushy eyebrow at Shavonne.
“How much?” he asked.
Shavonne must have been desperate because he offered him twenty Rona for his troubles -- enough for a day’s worth of meals. He certainly looked desperate; his hair resembled a discombobulated porcupine, and his green eyes were wide and electric. Determined to earn his keep, Jimmy ushered him to a bench by the fountain at the center of the square. Shavonne sat and stared at his reflection in the fountain.
“Err-” Jimmy said awkwardly, taking a seat next to Shavonne. “What did you want to talk about?”
Shavonne swirled a finger around the ice-cold water. “My neighbor. Do you remember me talking about him last week?”
“Yeah.” Jimmy said. “You said he’s tall and handsome, and that he’s got golden eyes and no body heat and that he could be a serial killer or the devil.
Shavonne stared at Jimmy and slowly smiled. “You’ve got an excellent memory, don’t you? You're right on all accounts, except that I know he’s a serial killer; there’s no ‘could be’ about it. But that’s not important.”
“Your neighbor being a serial killer isn’t important?” Jimmy clarified. He did his best to appear unperturbed.
Shavonne waved a hand dismissively. “That’s old news. What I’m here to talk about is -- well, we’re dating now, and he’s a bit clingy.”
Jimmy cleared his throat. “You’re worried that your serial killer boyfriend is... clingy.”
“Precisely,” Shavonne said, seemingly annoyed that he, once again, needed to clarify such a basic statement. “He gets upset when I leave, and doesn’t like when I’m around other men. When I’m in contact with someone for work, he finds their addresses and… well, I’m not sure what he does then. He’s convinced that I’m going to leave him. You seem like an experienced man. What would you do?”
Jimmy, who’d never been in a relationship in his life, stroked his beard. He tried to focus on giving relationship advice, but he was a bit preoccupied with the fact that Shavonne’s neighbor was a murderer. He’d heard about the recent killings in Brash, and although he often daydreamed about leaving this hellish life, he’d rather die of something peaceful, like the cold or hunger. But he was being paid to give advice, so give advice he would.
“Don’t do anything,” Jimmy said, because he didn’t know what else to say.
Shavonne rubbed his chin pensively. “I see. If I don’t say anything, he’ll eventually realize his preoccupation with me is foolish. Of course, there’s the trouble that he might kill someone in the meantime, but there’s not much I can do about that.”
“Well,” Jimmy said gruffly, “I’ve given you advice, haven’t I? Pay up.” He stuck out a filthy hand, and Shavonne tentatively dropped twenty shimmering rona into his palm. Jimmy cradled the rona to his chest like a newborn baby and scampered away, afraid that Shavonne would try to get another word in. Treasure in hand, he returned to his corner of Brash and inspected the coins, turning them over and over in his fingers.
After a short nap in an alley sheltered from the freezing wind, Jimmy decided to treat himself to a good meal with his newfound wealth. He found a homey diner near an apartment building and dipped inside, brushing the snow off his coat at the door. A waiter ushered him into a booth near the furnace, and for the first time in years he was able to shuck off his moth-bitten coat. The heat from the fire seeped into his skin and warmed his bones, and he relaxed into the table like a melting snowman. After a while, the waiter returned to take his order and then to bring him his food -- a bowl full of chicken noodle soup. Jimmy stared at the bowl like a man staring at his wife. He picked up his spoon with trembling hands and poised it over the bowl, seconds away from taking his first bite in days. Before the spoon dipped below the surface of the broth, however, a deep voice interrupted his reverie.
“Jimmy! I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
It was Lewellyn. He was standing at the foot of Jimmy’s table, his hands in his pockets, his blonde hair shining in the candlelight. That omnipresent smirk cut across his features as he gazed down at Jimmy. He was always gazing down at people, which made his already monstrous height seem more considerable.
Jimmy considered throwing the soup in his face and making a run for it. Instead, he said, “please let me eat in peace.” The words came out more pathetic than he intended.
Lewellyn gave Jimmy a frown as genuine as his propriety and bent to meet his eyes. “I’m hurt,” he said with a smile. “I thought we were good friends. Anyway, I’m happy to see you, because I was hoping for more of your advice. I need to know if I should kill my boyfriend’s boss.”
“I told you to go aw- Wait, what?” Jimmy banged his palm against his ear, sure that he had misheard.
Lewellyn sighed and took a seat across from Jimmy. His golden eyes shimmered even brighter in the firelight. Twirling a strand of his hair, he said, “that sounds crazy, I’m sure, but let me explain. Remember that man I spoke to you about earlier? He and I are dating now -- he couldn’t resist my good looks -- but I’m worried that he and his boss are too close. His boss is absolutely enamored with his writing, and he asked him to work in his house. I discovered this -- not because my boyfriend told me -- but because of some investigating I did on my own.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be investigating your-” Jimmy began saying, but Lewellyn cut him off.
“Be honest. Based on what you’ve heard, is he going to leave me?” Lewellyn looked uncharacteristically pathetic. His superfluous decorum was gone, and in the place of that arrogant mask was a man who looked positively terrified. The sparkle in his eyes became a fervent flame, and although he was still smiling, the corners of his lips trembled. Jimmy had preferred him as an arrogant bastard.
When Lewellyn spoke next, his voice was a whisper. “He’s going to leave me, isn’t he? Just like he did last time. I should’ve-” he gritted his teeth, and his voice took on a guttural quality. “I should’ve known better. I may read, write, and wear nice clothes now, but I’m still the same person I was seven years ago. He’s smart enough to know that, amnesia or no. I’m still just-”
Remembering himself, Lewellyn dipped his head and clenched his fists. Jimmy might have been a nobody, but some emotions were too powerful to show even to nobody. Jimmy stared at Lewellyn’s golden hair and listened to the crackling fire. He considered grabbing a bite of his soup, but a question scratched the base of his throat and demanded to be let out.
“So all that prison nonsense that you went on about was true?” He said eventually.
Lewellyn’s golden head snapped up, and his eyes glared daggers into Jimmy. “Of course it was true! Did you think I was-”
He froze as a man approached their table, and his face slackened. It was Shavonne; he was here, his green eyes bright as ever. Jimmy groaned and buried his head in his hands, unable to believe his misfortune. He prayed that he would have an aneurysm, or that the earth would crack open and he would fall to the core, but nothing happened. He’d never had much luck with prayer.
“Lewellyn,” Shavonne said, sliding into the booth, “what are you doing at this table? Do you know Jimmy?”
Lewellyn, who had been both on the edge of tears and murder just seconds before, smiled. “I do, actually. How do you know him?”
Shavonne was just about to speak when Jimmy interrupted him. His addled brain was desperately catching up to the situation, and things were gradually making sense. “Wait- this is your boyfriend?” he asked. “You two are dating?”
Shavonne raised an eyebrow at Lewellyn. “You were talking about me?” he asked.
“I may have mentioned you in passing.”
“You’re together,” Jimmy muttered to himself, now that it was clear that he was going to be ignored. “Everything makes sense now…”
Lewellyn, who was uncharacteristically unruffled, stood abruptly. “Well, Shavonne, we should leave this nice man alone.” He glared with surprising ferocity at Jimmy and said, “Bye.” Shavonne looked skeptically at Jimmy but stood to leave the booth.
Before he could think twice, Jimmy shouted, “Wait!” and grabbed a fistful of Shavonne’s jacket. Shavonne raised an eyebrow at Jimmy, silently demanding an explanation. Taking a deep breath and questioning his own sanity, Jimmy said, “Now that I know who your boyfriend is, I’ve got some more advice to give you. Pay me, and I’ll tell you.”
Lewellyn, looking more murderous than ever, removed Jimmy’s hand from Shavonne’s coat. Even for a man of his size, Lewellyn was shockingly strong. His vice-like grip would leave a bruise around Jimmy’s wrist.
“We should really be off,” Lewellyn said with a saccharine smile. “You have to be at work early tomorrow, don’t you Shavonne? We should get home as soon as possible.”
Shavonne nodded. “You’re right.” He turned to Jimmy. “I don’t have any money to give you anyway. I spent it all last time.”
Jimmy, feeling crazier by the minute, waved his hands in the air. He wasn’t sure why, but he needed to tell Shavonne what he knew. It wasn’t altruism, although he had nothing to gain from telling the truth, but rather an illogical urge to share what he so conveniently knew.
“No need to pay me,” he said, though the words burned his tongue. “I’ll tell you for free. Your boyfriend -- Lewellyn -- the reason he’s been so worried with you leaving is-”
“I think we’d better go,” Lewellyn said sharply.
“It’s because he’s known you before!” Jimmy shouted. “You have amnesia, so you can’t remember, but you used to be a guard at Lute penitentiary where he was being held captive…” he launched into the story Lewellyn had told him a week prior, oblivious to the shocked expression on Shavonne’s face and the cold, dangerous expression on Lewellyn’s. They stood there, silently listening to him, until he was done with his tale.
After finishing the story he sat down, still gasping for breath, and looked at Shavonne. He hoped that he would be compensated, but even if he wasn’t, he would at least relish in the realization on the man’s face. However, when Jimmy looked at Shavonne, he was met with a confused expression.
“He’s crazy,” Lewellyn said darkly.
Shavonne nodded. “Clearly. I’m not sure how he dreamt up such an oddly specific story.”
Lewellyn smiled shakily. “Jimmy, why would you make up a story like that?”
“You know I’m not-”
Shavonne held up a hand to cut his protests off. “I suppose I misjudged you. I didn’t think you were the type of man to lie.” He turned to Lewellyn, “Let’s get dinner. We’ve wasted enough time already.”
The two slid out of the booth, Shavonne strolling immediately towards a table across the room, and Lewellyn turning around to mouth, “watch your back,” before following him. Jeremy stared at the odd pair in stunned silence then, eventually, began eating his soup.
It was very good.
Jimmy never saw neither Shavonne nor Lewellyn again. The Brash murders stopped, then started, then stopped for the last time. The streets were cold and unforgiving as ever, and eventually he died on them, just as he always suspected he would. Such is life. This peaceful death was one of Jimmy’s few strokes of good luck, for although golden eyes always watched from the shadows, no one ever bothered him after that night in the diner.