Jonas Quint grinned at Harry and told him that he knew: suicide, already seen in forms, was looked at and judged by the observer of his own demise. Harry hit Jonas Quint, loosened dentures, remnant social graces; blood-crowned drunken obscenity struck the pavement, followed by Jonas in slow-motioned cognizance of the pinnacle of his own desire. Quint’s face left blood scratched into the alley pavement, and Harry's insanity pushed him closer to discovery.
He turned and disappeared into his dream-reality, looking for a way out, not knowing his duality followed him only a few short steps behind, the gap closing, the quick and the dead lurking in haphazard destruction. Harry lunged around the corner -- what to do? He had not planned to hit the man so hard, had not planned to hit him at all. If Harry had still been in control, the policeman on the beat would not have heard Jonas Quint's scream, would not have ordered Harry to halt, would not have been chasing Harry down a crowded, spring-afternoon shoppers' street. Harry was indefinitely middle-aged and particularly unnoticeable. This invisibility, combined with formidable powers of logic and intractability in the face of danger, were his principal professional assets. His soul was grey, as lifeless and cold as hot lead two seconds after being poured into a mold.
For the first time in Harry’s life panic struck him, threw him bodily into Jordan's Sport, Angle, and Hunting Establishment, an unlikely place to be for a man who, on the surface, would never have been suspected of having any idea about weapons, fish bait, jogging, or what tennis racket is right for whom. He heard the policeman yell at him once more to halt, a foreign sound heard for the very first time in the alley ten minutes before. As he turned to face the caller, people near him sensed what was coming and peeled away, ball bearings in a child's hand puzzle, scattering in all directions, vainly seeking to reach holes too small and too far apart.
Peter Guzzman was a rookie on the Monmouth Police Force. He and his wife, April, had been married only eight months. She spent her hours glued to the television, watching police programs, learning how to worry about the dangers of her husband's new job. Peter and April -- her nickname was Pookie -- had met in high school at a see-if you-can-get-served party held in the back room of Harold's Western Bar and Grill. Peter, wearing his father's "good luck" fishing hat covered with rusty, worn-out flies, and Pookie, a Mary Tyler Moore clone wrapped in her mother's leftover cheer-leader persona, were a couple destined for an early try at the marriage-go-round. After the party, they had fallen in pristine debauchery into the back of Peter’s step-side Dodge pick-up and had decided to live happily ever after.
The bullet hit Harry in the middle of the sternum, spun him around, and sent him careening into a life-sized, cardboard display of a father and son casting their fishing lines.
Peter leaned over Harry and asked, “Hey Mister, you alright? Why’d you move on me? Don’t worry, I radioed for an ambulance -- it’s on the way!”
“Is that all he can think of?” Harry asked himself. As he was being rolled over by Peter Guzzman, he slipped his blackjack out of the special pocket in his sleeve. Although he had been dazed by the shot, the bullet-proof vest he always wore had saved his life.
Now Harry did what had to be done. “Hey, fuck, I’m doing just fine!” He back-hand whipped the blackjack at the unsuspecting officer, crushing his nose instantly. Dragged through his face, the metal weapon collapsed the entire right side of his skull. As crushed ear and mastoid split into a bloody rage, Peter’s eyes, no longer able to see, shut for the last time.
Later Harry would ask himself why he had spoken to the policeman; it was not his nature to play tough guy or speak to a victim. He never felt that his behavior was personal.
“Alright, Harry, stand up!” he screamed at himself. With mind-over-matter determination, he managed to gain his feet and walk out the front door of Jordan's into the five o'clock pedestrian pandemonium.
On his way to the Guzzman residence, Officer Chip Bradley asked himself why he always had to do the dirty work. "It's true," he thought. He, outside of Peter Guzzman, was the least-experienced cop on the force, but there had to be more to it than that.
He had heard that the person picked out to be the harbinger of bad tidings was usually a good friend, a relative, or the nicely-plump Santa figure every police station seemed to have sitting at the front desk. Nevertheless, Captain Ferguson had picked Chip Bradley out for such jobs right from the beginning; the first time had been when old Joe Nussbaum had committed suicide by walking into the teeth of his best friend, his rebuilt Sopwith Camel.
Chip Bradley did not realize that he was always chosen for the task simply because he was one of those people everyone naturally trusted. He had a gentle, almost poetic nature; his mellow, bass-baritone voice swept over the unfortunate, providing the soothing vibrations the situation required.