Good 17-Vignette

I Will Lie.

Two years ago, or thereabouts.

The light in the kitchen was on. That wasn't particularly unusual, except for the fact that it was three in the morning. Flint froze, halfway down the corridor. He'd been basically one sheep away from being fully out of it, but as soon as the light registered in his brain, it was like getting dunked in cold water. For a few moments, he just stood there, listening. Apart from the usual background noise, he could just barely hear, from down the corridor, the sounds of a man grunting.

He narrowed his eyes, and began padding down towards it, rolling his feet and placing his steps to make as little noise as possible, sticking as close to the wall as possible. As he grew closer, the sounds grew louder, accompanied by rustling and the occasional clunk and clatter of a drawer.

He frowned, nervous and tense. If there was someone there, he really should call the police, shouldn't he? At the very least wake his mother. They didn’t-

“Hey, Flint,” came a tired voice from the kitchen.

Shocked, he abandoned his attempts at stealth, shooting up straight so fast he almost left the ground. “Dad?!”

Sure enough, when he rounded the corner, Marco Perez was standing there, behind the kitchen counter. His shoulder-length black hair was bound back in a ponytail, and he was wearing the tattered remains of what looked to have once been a very nice suit. He was covered in bruises and wounds, and one. Strangely, one side of his mustache was just gone, giving his face an odd, lopsided look. On the kitchen counter in front of him sat a first-aid kit; a proper one, not the little one that only had five bandaids and some cream. He had a bandage between his teeth, the other end wrapped around one of his biceps, and as he pulled it tight and tied a knot in it, Flint could already see the blood seeping through.

“Jesus fuck!” he swore, involuntarily, and his dad looked up at him with a pained grin.

“Keep it down. We don't want to wake your mom.”

“W-wa- bl- wha?” he spluttered. “Dad, what the fuck happened to you?!”

Marco finished up with the bandage and walked over to the sink. He dipped a cloth in some water, and began wiping at his cuts. “I… got mugged,” he admitted, wincing as the cloth touched each open red gash.

“Mugged?!” Flint demanded, a little hysterically. “That's not what getting mugged looks like! You look like you fought a bear! Two bears!”

Marco laughed ruefully. “Well, I didn't say I just let them mug me, did I?” He put down the cloth, and held up his hands in front of him in a mockery of a boxing poze. “I fought back.”

“Isn't that… like, the exact opposite of what you've always told me to do?”

“Well, yes,” he admitted. “But, Flint, sometimes it's important to know when to back down and when not to. And these guys, well, if I'd just handed over some cash, it wouldn't have ended well for me. Besides,” he gestured to his satchel, sitting on one of the swivel chairs, “I had important business stuff, and if I lost that…” He laughed, but he didn't sound like he thought it was particularly funny. “Those guys would've been the least of my worries.”

Flint walked over to the counter, and reached down for the satchel. “What's so important that-”

In a blink, Marco’s hand was there, resting on top of the satchel and holding it closed. “Sorry, kid,” he said lightly, “you know the rules.” He withdrew the hand, and the satchel with it.

Flint groaned, lowering himself into the now-vacated chair. The Perez family didn't talk about Marco’s work. Period. Flint had managed to glean that it was something highly classified, which was the the main reason they didn't, and it required him to travel a lot. When he was younger, Flint had thought that maybe his dad was a spy. Most kids do, but in his defense, it was a little less of a ridiculous idea in their case. But as he'd grown up, he'd realised that if his dad was a spy, he was a very boring one. “When did you even get back, anyway?”

“A few hours ago.” He shrugged off his destroyed jacket and began bandaging another wound. “I was on the way back from the train station when I got jumped. I was going to try surprise for you two in the morning, but I guess that's gone now.”

“Who were they?”

He frowned. “That's a bit of a strange question. Nobody. Just some thugs who thought that knives made them tough.”

“They had knives?! How many of them were there?!”

Marco shrugged. “Three or four. Relax, Flint. I'm fine.” He reached into the first-aid box and pulled out some salve, which he began applying to his wounds, wincing all the while.

“You're very obviously not, Dad.”

“Nothing’s broken, I don't have a concussion, and I'm not bleeding out. That's fine in my books.”

Flint stared at his father, baffled. “How in God's name are you so calm about this?”

“Because I survived. Besides,” he laughed, “you should see the other guys.”

Flint stared at him with a mix of horror and awe. Marco saw it, and chuckled. “See, this is why we do self-defense.”

“This seems a little far from self-defense.”

“Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.”

Flint gestured at the first-aid kit. “You sure about 'best’?”

Marco chuckled. “Fair enough.” He stood up, stretching. “I'm going to go and wash. Do me a favor, don't tell your mom about this?”

“Uh, yeah,” Flint said, a little distractedly. “Sure.”

“Good man.” He patted him on the shoulder and strode off towards the bathroom.

Once he was out of sight, Flint leant over the counter, and picked up the suit jacket he'd left lying there. It was a dark navy, made of some thick, rough fabric that he didn't recognize. It was probably missing a good third of its original mass, with a good half of one of the sleeves torn right off. It looked like it had gone through a wheat thresher, and Flint struggled to think of any way a human being could do that kind of damage to it.

He went to put it back down, but as he did, one of his fingers caught on something on the back. Curious, he flipped it over to see what it was.

In the dead centre of the back of the jacket was a small patch of black scorching. And in the center of that, was the unmistakable shape of a bullet hole.

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