The Scales’ Consequences
In the shadowy room, near-complete darkness covered the room, with only the light through the blinds giving any illumination. Against the far wall he could see light trying to enter over the top of the closed door to the living room. Vinny never slept well, often waking several times before morning, and it always frustrated him; resigned to trying to return to sleep, he rolled over onto his shoulder.
The lines of light wavered and shuddered over a form as movement passed between the bed and the wall, wide shoulders disturbing the stillness of the air. The clatter of the blinds’ zipping up their cords revealed the night, filling the cube with a yellow glow from the streetlamp.
Vinny flinched at the noise, whipping his head to the window, where the figure locked eyes to him. The figure spoke: “I have a sentence you’re invested in, Vengeance.” Jud’s voice lacked his usual flippancy. Instead he held a quiet seriousness carried by the low and steady rumble of his voice. “There was a fire. Arson. The contract’s sealed even before they knew.”
“That’s rare,” Vinny realized as he returned to his back, intrigued.
“Exceedingly rare,” Jud agreed.
As if waiting for a prompt to continue, Jud stood and shuffled his eyes between the men, one of whom lay asleep on his stomach at the edge of the bed with an arm draped over the side, fingertips stroking the carpet. The worn comforter didn’t cover the man’s shoulders.
Vinny yawned, too tired to be annoyed because this wasn’t the first time Jud woke him. Suppressing the finish of expelling of early morning breath, Vinny took the bait: “So how’d it happen?”
“This time, with a promise, but…” he paused to move closer, kneeling by Vinny’s side of the bed, “it can be made if several people pitch in on the payment. I’m flexible.” He threw his shoulders up, and let them drop, as if he could do nothing about it.
Vinny had heard him say that before, that I’m flexible, though usually with a rueful smile. Jud may be a unique person with the harbinger’s power of balance but his flaws remained like everyone else; he earnestly hungered to get paid, be from one person or a group. In this he and Vinny agreed.
Within an arm’s reach, Jud’s eyes cast downward, he whispered, “It was the cleaners, you know.”
Cleaners? He tried to remember the details with another yawn; his cogs didn’t catch. It wasn’t until Jud’s face raised, and Vinny realized he was looking to Robby, that he understood.
Jud persisted, “Two deaths, and the arsonist. The contracts call for ruling on you.”
Vinny’s whimpered. He pushed himself up against the creaking bed, “What the shit do you mean?”
The movement Robby startled awake; the anger destroyed his grogginess.
“The cleaners’ tags. The disarray you left them in.”
Jud rose and hastened backwards as Vinny flung the covers off himself and closed the distance created between them. Fury rained across Vinny’s face as he opened his mouth and began to gesture.
Cut him off before he could start, Jud dashed the words out. “You started the wave of misbalance. Because of you the man set the fire.” For once, he seized no delight in executing his contract.
“That’s bullshit, Jud!” Vinny spat at him. “The arsonist set that fire. You can’t come here to collect. That was just a chain of events that I was involved in. That’s bullshit, Judgment!”
Jud flinched at his full name; he muttered, “I was summoned for balance.”
“You’re perilously close to Vengeance, I think,” and it was quite an insult. Injury crossed Jud’s face; he turned his eyes to the ceiling to avoid looking at his rival in balance.
Paled at the sight of their arguing, Robby watched them. He looked back and forth at the two men, one looking so uncontrolled and the other so uncomfortable. Vinny running his hand through his unkempt hair punctuated his four steps of pacing. Looking to Jud, Robby couldn’t decide if the man was breathing, his shoulders hunched, leaving his arms hanging.
After a moment, Vinny spun back to Jud, “So? What is it then, Judgment?” He mocked the name, spitting every consonant, “What’s your sentence?”
Jud rolled his head back and forth, flexing his neck while slowly drawing air into his chest. He shook himself out and told Vinny, “I don’t know yet; the contract’s being funded.”
“Shit. Might as well execute me. You’re deciding how grandiose to make it.”
Jud shrugged. “A bit. But Vinny, I don’t want to do it.”
“Those words don’t mean very much.” But Vinny played with Jud’s sincere words. After a sigh, he told him, “Thanks, I guess.”
“I gave you warning. Make things better for yourself.”
Jud pointed at Robby. “Start swaying the major investors.”
Robby stilled, confusion crossing his face as his lips parted but gave no sound. Vinny turned to look to at the man as Jud faded from view, leaving the periphery with the sensation that felt imagined.
Vinny held hope with the chance Jud had given him but he slumped onto the edge of the bed. He made an effort to exude calm as he began, “I’ve got some bad news.”