Pavelec leaned in close to Pavit’s hands, gazing interestedly through her fast-blinking eyes at the moving images in the space between his fingers. SMS and Brenda Bailey moved into the clearing, closer to Pavelec and the gangster, so they could watch over Pavelec’s shoulders. The flickering grayscale image, seemingly recorded through the gangster’s own eyes, showed him stepping off the sidewalk and working his way through a cluttered driveway towards the front door of Walter Carton’s house. The view through the screen was shifting around nervously, scanning the street on either side. The road curved gently up and around a hill, lined by houses in various states of shabbiness and disrepair. SMS didn’t recognize the neighbourhood.
“This was on Saturday,” Pavit told them, narrating. “It was close to 11 PM, I believe. Jovo always likes to have payments delivered at night. I think she is superstitious about it.”
“Was superstitious,” Pavelec corrected him.
Pavit’s eyes blinked open, and the image faded. He glowered from under his thick eyebrows. “Yes. ‘Was,’ I suppose.”
“Sorry,” said Pavelec. “Please continue.”
Settling back in with a soft sigh, Pavit closed his eyes again, and his screen shimmered back to life. The watchers saw his hand knock at Walter Carton’s front door. Suddenly the view jumped skyward, over the roof of the house, and a blur passed overhead, zipping through the air, then was gone.
Pavelec looked to SMS. “Did that look like Caleb Merton to you?”
SMS shrugged. “Could’ve been, I guess.”
A few seconds passed. Then the view spun around to reveal the front door cracked open, and a face peering out from behind a shotgun. “That’s Carton,” whispered Pavelec. The watchers could see Carton’s lips moving, but Pavit’s ability apparently didn’t extend to playing back the sound.
“He is asking me who I am,” Pavit informed them. “We had codes, and I stumbled on part of mine because I had been unsettled by what I had just seen. You see now that he is beginning to close the door at my mistake, but I correct myself and he lets me in.” The image reflected the narration.
“Did he always carry that gun?” asked Bailey.
“Only, I think, when he was giving a client their powers,” said Pavit, “so that they would not turn and attack him right afterwards.”
“Smart man,” muttered Pavelec. “We found the shotgun in his hands, but it hadn’t been fired. We don’t know why he didn’t use it to defend himself.”
Pavit pursed his lips and shifted his posture a little. “Watch.”
In the video, Carton let Pavit into his house. It was obvious by his facial expression that he was displeased. “He did not trust me, I think,” said Pavit. “I have heard that he did not like working for Jovo. The rumour was that one of the people she sent to Carton some time ago went mad after his powers disappeared and tried to kill him.”
“At SU we know of at least four similar attempts on Carton in the past two years,” confirmed Pavelec. “It’s a common effect when his ‘clients’ come back down to earth. Happens with the others who are like Carton, too. SMS, you saw what it did to Caleb Merton. He got it even worse than most, because he was already a little off his rocker beforehand.”
SMS nodded, remembering the state Caleb had been in when they’d visited him at the prison. No wonder he’d never heard of Innis using Carton’s services. One night of godhood in exchange for a high likelihood of permanent mental damage afterwards? Not a great long-term exchange.
Pavit’s projection showed Carton leading him into a filthy kitchen piled high with dishes and the all kinds of take-out garbage. There was a black briefcase lying on the counter. Pavit laid a thick envelope on the table. Carton shoved aside a pizza box, sat down, leaned his shotgun against the table, and pulled a stack of bills out of the envelope. He took a spiral-bound notebook out of one of his pockets and opened it to a page with a list of names, dates, and dollar figures.
“He used that notebook to keep track of his clients,” said Pavit.
Carton began to count the money. The counting went on for a few minutes.
“Can’t you skip past this part?” said Brenda, impatiently.
The projection stopped as Pavit opened his eyes to glare at Bailey.
Bailey rolled her eyes. “Okay, sorry! Seriously…”
The projection resumed. SMS tried to count along with Carton. “That must be over $20,000,” he said.
“It was $25,000, actually,” said Pavit. “He charged Jovo very high rates. But it paid for itself, as far as Jovo was concerned.”
“How?” asked SMS.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Pavelec. “Theft, bounty killings, gang warfare… Who cares? That’s not what we’re interested in right now. Are we getting to the point yet, Pavit?”
“Watch.” Pavit’s image showed Carton tucking the money back into the envelope and standing up. He gestured out of the kitchen, towards the front door, and Pavit turned to walk away. When Pavit reached the front door he looked back over his shoulder and saw Carton coming out of the kitchen behind him. The envelope was gone, but he had brought the shotgun with him. Carton was saying something to Pavit.
“What’s he saying?” asked Pavelec.
“He is telling me to bring Jovo a message. He said he was going on a long vacation and would let us know when he was back.”
“A ‘vacation’?” mused Pavelec. “Interesting… I wonder if he saw the attack coming and was trying to get out of town.”
“Maybe,” said Pavit. “I only know what he told me.” The image in the projection bounced up and down a few times, as Pavit nodded to Carton. Then the gangster opened the front door, stepped out onto the porch, pulled the door shut behind him, and headed down the driveway towards the sidewalk.
“That isn’t the end, is it?” said Pavelec. “Jovo said you were there. She said you saw something!”
“Watch,” said Pavit.
Just before the Pavit in the projection reached the sidewalk, he stopped and whipped his head around. “I heard a sound,” said Pavit, “like someone falling onto the floor. I thought Carton must have stumbled over something, so I decided to ignore it and kept going.” The image turned back to the sidewalk and Pavit continued walking until he reached a car parked a little ways down. He unlocked the car and opened the door to get in. “But then I heard another sound, here.” The view swept to the house once again. “There were voices this time. I could not hear them very well through the door, but Carton was yelling.”
“What was he saying?” asked Pavelec.
“I don’t know. He yelled twice, loud, and then quieter, and then he stopped. Then…” They saw the front door open and someone wearing a black mask stuck their head out and scanned the street. Pavit ducked quickly behind the door of his car. “I didn’t know who he was, but I thought I should not let him see me if I could help it.” Pavit climbed into his car and pulled the door quickly closed, holding an arm in front of his face to block the view from the house. Just below Pavit’s arm, they could see that the masked man had noticed the car and had flung the front door open. Another person wearing a similar mask and dark, bulky clothing was behind him, standing over what the watchers knew was the corpse of Walter Carton.
The masked man on the porch raised a familiar-looking assault rifle to his shoulder and aimed it in Pavit’s direction.