Zoey pulled into the mall’s parking lot the following morning with her mind locked in a kind of autopilot born of shock. Because Warren kept his cell phone off while on the job, she hadn’t been able to call him to let him know she was coming to see him. She wouldn’t have delivered the news over the phone, but at least he’d know that A)she was coming, and B) her tone would convey the weight of what she had to tell him. As it was, he was going to be blindsided.
With everything that he’d been dealing with, she wasn’t sure how he would react. Still, she didn’t want Roger to be the one to tell him. As supportive as Warren’s sponsor had been, even he had thought it might be best to have Zoey deliver the news. That was why, after all, he’d called Zoey and told her about what happened.
She was having a hard time believing it herself at the moment, just staring out the front windshield of her car. How would she tell him? How would he react? Deciding that it would be best to just get moving, she climbed out of the car and headed toward the front entrance, pausing on the sidewalk to pull out a compact and check her makeup.
To her own surprise, she had not noticed twin streaks of tears running down her cheeks. She rubbed her face clean with a wipe from her purse, sniffled briefly, and pushed through the clear glass doors. The soft Muzak piped into the commons areas set her teeth on edge, but she pushed it aside with a quick mental shrug and headed further into the mall, searching visually for the nearby information desk.
Seeing a bored young man seated behind it, Zoey quickly made her way to the desk and set her purse on the counter between herself and the clerk. “Something I can help you find, miss,” the fellow asked, barely looking up from his phone.
“I need to speak with someone in security,” Zoey replied. “Preferably whoever’s in charge or their department.” The clerk gave her a brief visual once-over, his eyes lingering for a moment on her cleavage (as most men’s did). He nodded and reached under his side of the counter for a walkie talkie, half-turning away from her as he keyed the mic and spoke into it.
“Turner in security, this is Mitch in Information. I have a guest here who’d like to speak with you in person, over.” He let the walkie lower to his upper thigh, and a moment later, there came a kind of double-click from the device. He keyed it again and said, “Thanks.” He set the walkie back under his counter and gave Zoey a placating smile. “He’ll be here in a couple of minutes if you want to have a seat on one of those benches there,” he said, pointing with his phone to a couple of nearby public slat benches for guests to take a break on from their walking and shopping. Zoey nodded and took a seat on one, once more trying to turn over in her mind how best to deliver her news to Warren.
Blunt is probably best, she thought. Just be direct and get it over with. She only hoped he wouldn’t be too upset over it.
There were few times when Turner would directly call one of the guards off of their patrol, but as Warren made a pass through the Spencer’s gifts, eyes peeled for anyone trying to pocket one of the hundreds of cheap little trinkets on the various displays around the store, the security supervisor did so. “Voss, this is Turner, over.” Warren swiftly made his way to the entrance of the store and keyed his mic.
“Voss here. What’s going on, over?”
“Need you to come to the office. You’ve got a visitor here needs to talk to you in private. Hustle it up, over.” Warren didn’t like the tone of Turner’s voice; while the man was normally aggravating and confrontational, a routine ballbuster, he sounded grave. The former henchman’s mind immediately spun toward his father, wondering if something had happened to Samuel Voss.
“On my way, over,” he replied, Warren bull-marched his way to the nearest escalator, heading down to the ground floor and proceeding toward the south end of the mall, keeping close to the storefronts and walls. The shoppers became little more to him than colorful blurs that emitted a constant, shifting fog of odors and noises of different levels of volume, from hushed mutterings to half-shouted verbal ejaculations meant to excite or call attention. Normally he would mentally log each excited proclamation for further inspection, but for the time being, he slipped them all like a prize fighter dodging the sloppy jabs of a new boxing student. Turner’s tone, coupled with the fact that he was letting Warren speak to a visitor in private, did not bode well.
Warren pushed through a door marked ‘EMPLOYEES ONLY’ and headed down to the security office. From the hallway he could see through the glass in the door, spotting Zoey seated by Turner’s desk. She looked tiny, sitting demurely in a simple black cardigan and shin-length dark red skirt, her Luis Vuitton bag resting on her lap, head tilted slightly down.
Warren pressed his way into the office, Turner leaning against the wall to his right. “Voss, I’m going to give you two a few minutes to talk. I’ll be out in the hallway when you’re done,” he said, brushing past Warren and giving him a brief pat on the shoulder. Warren’s entire body went tense; Turner expressing any kind of empathy or sympathy was an even worse sign than before.
“Zoey,” Warren said quietly as the door shut behind him. “What’s going on?” For a moment, Zoey didn’t seem to be capable of looking up at him; soundless tears pooled along the bottoms of her eyelids, building toward an inevitable descent. She blinked, letting two fat droplets cascade down onto her bag as she sniffed loudly.
“Warren,” she said, voice catching in her throat. “It’s, it’s Lesinski.” She looked up at Warren then, face ashen, eyes obscured with moisture. “He’s dead, Warren. The boss is dead.”
The specifics regarding the events that had resulted in the demise of Jacob Lesinski came in fits and starts as Zoey struggled to get her composure and tell Warren the details as she’d had them related to her. The brief version that came together, effectively, was as follows:
Tired of being isolated all of the time, Lesinski had sent a request to the prison’s warden to at least be allowed to dine with his fellow inmates. He wanted to socialize, have some human contact. His meeting with Warren had apparently reintroduced him to the idea that being around people could be helpful to the psyche, even if the dialogue to be had was of a less-than-friendly nature. The warden had conceded.
For a couple of days, this seemed to be going just fine. However, several prisoners had apparently been temporary subordinates of his before being thrown out of his organization. Recognizing the Zapper for who he was, they had decided that an ambush attack might take the supervillain off guard, at least enough for them to hurt him, if not kill him.
They hadn’t realized that the Zapper’s powers had been suit-based, that he was a ‘mask’ and not a ‘meta’. When the three disgruntled wanna-be’s shived him all at once, Lesinski had gone down like a sack of grains, spraying blood rather than rice all over the canteen floor. The CO’s hadn’t even managed to get everybody locked down in the mess hall when Lesinski drew his last, dead before he could even be carted out of the room.
Thus ended the life of Jacob Lesinski, aka, The Zapper. A man who would have been a warlord, felled by a trio of improvised weapons in a dingy prison mess hall.
Sometimes, the greatest poetry in life is that which is writ by the cruelty of a feckless universe.