The bullet passed through Rob’s shoulder and the familiar pain knocked any useful thoughts from his mind. He slumped against the brick wall, landing in a pile of full trash bags that had never made their way into the garbage cart next to them. The ground in the parking lot was wet from the recent drizzle. Rob’s assailant lowered his gun and started swearing to himself, “Shit. Why couldn’t you just hand it over?”
“Owww, dammit,” was all Rob could offer in reply.
“You’re gonna die here, asshole. I’m getting that cash.”
Rob’s eyes focused again in the early evening light as he felt hands searching through his jacket pockets. Rob grabbed the mugger’s wrist and yanked down, watching his eyes go wide. As the gun came up again, level with Rob’s head, he deflected it hard, leaving his attacker’s arm swung wide. Off balance, leaning over Rob, the mugger got a forehead to his nose as Rob stood up with purpose. As the mugger fell backwards, the gun flew from his hand and bounced off the wall, clattering across the slick pavement. Rob retrieved it as the mugger tried to sit up, holding his bleeding face with both hands.
Rob turned back around to face the mugger, with the tables turned. Instead of aiming, he walked directly up to the mugger and pressed the muzzle against his cheek, “I don’t think so.”
“Wai—wait! Don’t kill me!” stammered the mugger.
“Why? You just tried to kill me over twenty dollars. How many people have you robbed walking out of that 7-11? I just wanted to go see a movie, and now I’m going to have to kill you, which is really going to change the tenor of my night,” Rob muttered, almost to himself.
“No, wait, it was a joke! You’re fine! I was just trying to scare you! Please man, no harm done, my face is fine, I’ll just go away, you see that movie, I’ve got kids I gotta feed!” the mugger pleaded.
“I wish I could claim self-defense,” Rob hissed at the man. “But I don’t feel much like trying to stuff your body in the ground. I know your face. This is my city, and if I ever see you again, it’ll be your last.”
Rob shifted his weight slightly, bringing the muzzle away from the mugger’s face, and fired into the bricks. The mugger ducked down and away, shrieking while Rob continued to fire, chips of the wall spraying both of them. The gun clicked one final time, the magazine empty. Rob stared at the terrified mugger, who was holding his ear and screaming. Both the mugger’s face and Rob’s hand bled from brick fragments.
“Don’t forget,” Rob reminded.
The mugger just stared, anger starting to build behind his eyes.
“I’ll keep this,” Rob lied as he stuffed the pistol into his jacket. Rob wiped the blood off his hand and stared at the mugger. “Give me your cell phone.”
“You must be craz—”
The mugger fished around in his pocket and produced a small flip-phone, handing it up to Rob. Rob snatched it from the mugger’s quavering grip and dialed 911, “Hello? Yes, I’d like to report what sounded like gun fire. I think someone’s been shot in the 7-11 parking lot at 97th and Foster.”
The mugger slipped as he struggled to get up. Finding his feet, and still holding his ear, he started to run. The 7-11 cashier came around the corner of the building just as the mugger dashed past.
Rob turned away, snapped the phone in half and dropped it. He continued his walk north up Foster. The cashier wouldn’t have seen his face, and he was going to need a new jacket anyway. It was still early; daylight savings hadn’t kicked in yet. The 9 p.m. show time Rob wanted to make wasn’t for another couple hours, so he still had time to walk home and change shirts. He’d never been attacked on any of his day-long walks through Portland before. That was a new experience!
Rob picked brick fragments out of his jacket as cop cars shot past heading south, sirens blaring. He crouched down at the edge of the sidewalk and pitched the pistol into the sewer drain. Painted on the street just below the sewer was a picture of a salmon, with the text “Protect the Columbia River. Only rain down the drain.” Rob smiled to himself and wondered if some city worker was going to be seriously surprised by a free gun. Or not … if the rain kept up, the sewers would overflow into the river, just like the sign warned. Maybe the salmon could put a gun to good use in reestablishing their upriver homes.
Rob moved his recently acquired, trouble-causing $20 from his jacket pocket to his front jeans pocket, and pulled off his jacket. He inspected the bullet hole. Like in most ballistic tests, it had made a small puncture in the front, and a larger spread of shredded material on the back. His T-shirt was similar, though it had blood visible on the front. Rob figured the back was even worse looking. He poked his chest idly. Not even a scratch. Walking down the street with either the jacket on, the shirt on, or shirtless was going to call attention to him, so he threw the jacket over his back and tied its arms around his neck like he was from the 80s. The sleeves covered the blood well enough. He’d probably blend in with the hipsters on the way to the Pearl District long enough to make it home, wash up, and get changed.
After an hour of walking up Foster, across the Ross Island Bridge, along the river front, and up into the Pearl, he let himself into his condo. He ditched his shirt and jacket into the garbage, and took a quick shower to wash off the mud, blood, and bits of bone and brick.
He’d been fond of the jacket, even if the left pocket’s zipper had started sticking. It had served him pretty well the past 20 years or so, and he was pissed he’d have to find a replacement. There was a Columbia store nearby and that was probably where he got the last one.
He plucked a fresh T-shirt out of his dresser and went to find a temporary jacket replacement. The maids from the service kept his condo in pristine condition, though they rearranged his closets too frequently. It was usually for the better, and he was able to find what he wanted, but he just kind of wished things could just stay the same from year to year. It was a constant reminder of his condition.
One place the maids didn’t touch was his office. His current journal was locked in his desk drawer, with the last few years’ worth in the fire safe he’d installed at the back of the room. For journals prior to that, he had his collection in a concrete bunker in the Cascade Mountains.
He flipped through the journal and started a new entry. He made some quick observations about his walk on the east side of the city and then detailed what had happened with the mugger. It was hardly the worst thing that had ever happened to him, but he knew he’d want to remember it later so he wrote it all down. He hadn’t gotten very far with his indexing project, and he kept swearing he’d switch to digital, but it seemed like such a giant task. With so much to transcribe, he kept hoping he could just wait it out until OCR was good enough with cursive, or at least speech-to-text could keep up with narration. When that happened, he could do some kind of reverse audio-book where he’d just read journals out loud while he walked and it’d be converted into text. From there he’d have an easier time with indexing people and events.
Right now the only thing he’d switched to doing digitally was managing his holdings. That had gotten pretty complex even by the 50s, but now it was relatively easy to keep track of each of his shell companies, their investments, the hoards of lawyers responsible for each entity, and the various countries of origin.
He gazed out his 10th floor window and lingered on the view across downtown Portland’s twinkling night lights. The journal entry was complete and he still had enough time to call a cab to Cinema 21. Rob walked back through the condo and glanced at his television. He enjoyed watching most things from the privacy of his own home, but going to the theater brought him back in time a little. He still missed Marie. She’d loved movies as much as he did. It had been so long now, but he could still remember her face beaming up at the screen at the Grand Café in Paris. It was a captivating experience, and they were hooked.
It was fading, but he remembered the end, too. He tried to push it from his mind, but it always popped up when he wanted it least. They’d spent almost 30 years together, mostly in London. When the first World War came, Rob, then known as Leland, had enlisted to fight the Germans. Marie had supported the decision. Neither of them wanted to be apart but they both knew he’d be safe. Rob always wanted to help make things right, but normally there was no way to be subtle. However, war was not remotely subtle, so he figured he’d be quite successful there. The trick was avoiding notoriety.
He had journals filled with the stuff. It was all a blur now. Trenches, bayonets, grenades. The grenades worked best. Regardless, the real pain was on the return from his tour in early 1919. Like so many others, Marie had caught the Spanish Flu. There was nothing to stop it and, just before May, she had died. Rob had lost many friends to the war, to the flu, and to time, but Marie had been the first and the last person to know him for what he truly was. He’d never been able to fully share it with anyone else. A few people had suspected, but most found ways to convince themselves that it was just a mistake, a trick of the light, a misunderstanding. His friends all just thought he had a hardy constitution. And, excepting his life with Marie, he was never in one place long enough for people to notice that he wasn’t aging.