UnBooks:Public Relations:The Line/shoot him
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I pointed my gun at Conrad's reflection, and fired.
The reflection began to fall apart. "Well, well. It seems you did finish off your inner demon after all." Conrad said, even as he seemed to be breaking into pieces. "Congratulations, Perez. Even after everything you've done, you can still go home. You can still live to see another day. No matter what happens from here on, just don't be too hard on yourself." Conrad then shattered into a million little pieces right before my eyes.
I woke up inside the room. The 9mm was in my hand. I got up. The only other person with me there was the dead Conrad.
I stood still for some time, pondering over my next move. I finally took out my wallet, and took a look at Elisa Rigg's card.
"Hello?" said Elisa's voice on the other end.
"Elisa, it's me, Perez. I'm calling from The Marina in LA. There's something you need to see."
I stood at the gate, as the patrol cars began to arrive. There would be a lot of questions to answer after this. A lot of messes to clear. But at least I was alive, and capable of making a start. The cops told me to leave the vicinity, but otherwise paid no attention to me. I waited by the pavement, and finally saw Elisa arrive in an SUV. She didn't see me as she got out, but instead went straight to the cops. They would be telling her about Conrad's body being found. She asked them another question. One cop tentatively pointed at me.
She looked at me, and her expression changed to one of relief. She walked across the road to where I was standing. "So, Conrad's actually dead, huh?"
"Yeah, the people here have been covering it up until now. Not quite sure why."
"Well, there's plenty that I'm not sure about, either. Such as how you ended up here. Or why your colleague Mark went on a poison dart rampage in the Casanova Bar, followed by this place. Or why some of the guards think, no insist, that you may have been with him."
"It's a long story. I know you know the first half of it, but a lot has happened since you left."
"Don't worry. I'll listen to everything you have to say. But could you start with why you called me here? I mean, if you find a dead body the first people you call are the cops, right?"
"It's actually to do with the immigration racket. When Conrad went over to his old execs at Kaze! Records, they told him they were facing a lawsuit. That's how I found out about the racket to begin with. Your lie about Conrad's involvement might not be such a lie after all. Hell, it might even be connected to his death."
"I'll let my superiors know." she said. Then she hesitated, and went on, "You know, I meant it when I said you were a good person, Perez. I'm sorry about the way I tricked you and your coworkers."
I raised my eyebrow, taken aback.
"And I'm not too happy about the poverty in South America either," she said "but I can't do much about it in my official capacity. That doesn't mean I'm not trying to find a way."
"Really?" I said, surprised.
Elisa smiled, "You think pop idols are the only people affected by what they see when they travel the world? I do volunteer work whenever I can make the time. Of course, given that I'm in law-enforcement, I try to make sure everything I do is legal, but legal doesn't mean ineffective. Even if the law seems to be getting in your way, you can always make a difference"
"Make a difference?" I said. "To be honest, I don't even know what kind of difference I'm supposed to be making, after all that's happened. I've got some serious issues, and I need help. I really, really need help."
"Then I'll help you." she said, taking my hand. "And I'll find help, if I alone am not enough. I'm not leaving LA anytime soon, and you do happen to be a key witness in Conrad's death after all," she said half-jokingly, "But I'm here for you. I know you can be a better man no matter what happens to you. And I'll be ready to help you on your way, at least for the near future."
"But...why?" I said. "Why would you do all this for me? With your responsibilities and job and everything..."
"Because you're a man in need." she said. "And that's what life's all about, helping people in need."
"Well, then." I started. "Could you show me where they've kept Luigi? I haven't seen him since the crash, and..."
"Of course, of course." she said, and lead me to a nearby place where ambulances were parked.
She went around asking for Luigi's EMT. He finally came up, but after looking at me his expression quickly became one of concern.
"Is this the guy who wants to see him? Shouldn't he be in an ambulance himself?"
"I'll sort that out later. But could you please just show him the body? They were really good friends and-"
"Alright, alright! You, come with me!"
"I'll just go talk to the cops." Elisa said. "Go on, you'll be fine."
I followed the EMT to a stretcher. There was a body zipped inside a bag. The EMT went over and unzipped the top, so I could see Luigi's head.
"I'll leave you alone for a bit." said the EMT and left.
"Hey," I said to Luigi, "I'm sorry man. I'm so, so sorry. Conrad wasn't real and...and...you died. You died for nothing, man..." I said, choking. "It's all my fault....I'm so...so....sorry." I sniffed. Then I turned back and saw that Elisa was watching me.
She came up to me and took me in her arms. I cried my heart out while she was holding me, murmuring, "It's okay, it's okay."
I don't know how long it went, but eventually my crying subsided, and I pulled back and saw Elisa's face. All she did was smile.
"I've booked an ambulance for you. Come with me."
She led me across a row of ambulances until we came up to the last one.
"I've booked this one for Mr. Perez." she said, handing the EMT a clipboard. He nodded and motioned for me to come in.
"Yes." she said with a smile, and we both climbed in.
The EMT began performing a medical checkup on me. I didn't quite understand what he was doing, though I did obey all his instructions. What I did understand was that Elisa was there with me all through, even when they closed the ambulance doors and drove off, even when I was hospitalized, even after all the questions the police asked me, even after my trial, and even after all the therapy I had to undergo after my sentencing. She never left my side. And because of her, I was able to live once again.