“The Old Timer”
"The End of the World as We Know It?"
The Old Timer sighed as he read the headline. It stood out, bold on the page, forcing it’s way to the front of his mind. The weathered creases at the corners of his eyes deepened. He had read it countless times. It was the headline on the front page of the last newspaper ever published. He didn’t know why he kept it. He had seen scenarios like this before. This one just felt….different. Something malevolent seemed to be lurking. Waiting for something.
The light from the small kerosene lantern flickered across the pages of the paper as he turned them, allowing himself to become lost in the articles, but always maintaining the alertness that had kept him alive for so many years. The inside of his canvas tent was warm, despite the chill in the air outside.
The Old Timer was laid back on his bedroll. One knee up, trying to ease the pain that had been creeping into his lower back. The pain seemed to come more frequently now, but for the time being, it was at least manageable. His old Colt six shooters hung above his head, the light caressing the blued barrels, giving them a comforting glow. The Colt’s had long been relegated to being his backup guns, but at night, when The Old Timer was ready to bed down, he was reassured by their presence. His much more recently acquired .357 caliber Coonan 1911s were packed away near the foot of the bedroll. He was still getting used to those. He much preferred the Colts light weight, but he was growing accustomed to the additional two rounds that each Coonan provided. Reloading was much quicker as well. He had rechambered both Colts in .357 magnum many years ago, so the Coonan had been an easy choice. Scavenging for a single type of ammunition was much easier than trying to piecemeal an stock pile of multiple calibers. His aim was almost always true, no matter the weapon. His rifle laid next to him on the ground. He was best with the handguns, but much preferred the rifle for hunting.
The Old Timer lived by a simple mantra…”You change, or you die.”
After reading through the paper, The Old Timer rolled it and gently slid it back into one of his packs. He often wondered if it was crazy to be carrying it after all these years, but literature was becoming rare. It seemed that people were starting to settle down and make homes in the areas that remained unravaged by the last war. Book stores had been picked mostly clean at this point. Either by people gathering material to start fires, or by the few that were left who were trying to preserve the printed word. He settled his head and wondered if he should just burn it. Let the past go. Stop looking back.
Don’t worry about the paper.
He heard this as though it had been spoken aloud. He knew it hadn’t. It was what he called “The Voice”. It was his intuition. His guide when he felt lost. It was what kept him grounded in reality.
You need it You wouldn’t carry it if you didn’t.
The Old Timer knew to trust The Voice. The Voice was rarely wrong. Maybe hanging onto the past wasn’t all bad.
He rolled over onto his side and extinguished the small kerosene lamp. He had a long way to travel tomorrow. The chill in the air told him that winter wasn’t too far off, despite the fact that he had long since stopped trying to keep track of time. He needed to get somewhere warmer. The Voice had told him as much.
Outside the tent, the temperature continued to drop. It was a typical New England night this time of year. The night would be cold, but as the sun rose, and they day wore on, the temperature would climb to something bearable.
The sky was clear, and millions of stars speckled the night. There wasn’t much ambient light to drown them out anymore, not that here had been around here in the first place. The Old Timer preferred to spend his nights as far away from other people as he could.
The wind was picking up, carrying the chill with it across the valley and over the single canvas tent in a small clearing surrounded by pine trees. Two horses stood tied to a small tree close to the tent. There were still some cars to be had, and The Old Timer had often considered trying to find a small four wheel drive vehicle to travel in, but fuel was becoming scarce. Most of it had been snatched up by some of the larger factions that had come together during the years following the war. Some of these groups were friendly enough. They’d help a stranger if they could. Maybe give them a warm meal and a small package of supplies before they sent them on they’re way. Some would even offer to let someone stay of they felt it could be beneficial for the rest of them. However, most of the gangs were anything but. Human nature has a strange way of turning to the worst when there’s nothing left to keep someone on a straight and narrow path.
The Old Timer had spent the last several month far away from any of them, tucked away in the small clearing somewhere in the woods of Maine, or perhaps it was New Hampshire. The borders had faded over time and nobody had any interest in state lines anymore. He was recovering from wounds he had received during his last run in with one of the gangs. They called themselves The Hateful. He supposed now that the name itself was a clear warning, but the first ones he met seemed cordial enough, and he didn’t figure out the name until after the fact. The Voice had warned him, and he had headed the warning, but he was in dire need at the time. His food supply had been dwindling and he was low on ammunition. He thought maybe he would be able to barter with them, or, hearing The Voice’s warning, perhaps steal what he needed. Either way, he had made the decision to accompany the two scouts, as they called themselves, back to their camp.
It was a decision that he had been regretting for the last several months as he nursed his wounds. The events played over and over in his head. He was burning everything that had happened into his mind. Learning from it. Planning. The time would present itself. He didn’t know when, but he knew it was coming.
The Old Timer had been riding Bullet through the streets of some dilapidated town somewhere outside of what used to be Boston. He had named the horse after only after he had been riding him for several months He felt that it was a strong name. A name that he thought painted a picture of speed and agility, but also strength. He and Bullet had been through a lot together. Bullet had become more of a companion than a mode of transportation.
His pack horse followed closely behind them. The Old Timer never named his pack horses. They had proven to be the preferential targets of ambushes and gang attacks. He had lost too many to count, and he preferred not to grow attached to them like he had to Bullet. The pain of losing one of them was hard enough as it was. No, he treated his pack horses more like a tool now. A way to get his supplies from place to place, and nothing more. At one point, when he had grown exceedingly low on food, and was growing weak, he had made the decision to kill one of them himself. He ate the meat and used the hide to make the bed roll that he currently used to sleep on. He wasn’t proud of that, but it was something that The Voice had agreed needed to be done.
The pack horse that rode with him now had been with him for only a few weeks. The one prior to him had been killed by a roamer that was looking to steal The Old Timer’s supplies. The Old Timer had killed that roamer. A single bullet through the forehead fired over Bullet’s back, but the damage had already been done. Not having a pack horse was detrimental at best to The Old Timer’s travels, so he had stolen another horse from a small farm that he had passed the day before. He had left a rifle that he had commandeered from the deceased roamer at the front door of the small cabin on the farm. An act of retribution for stealing the horse. He didn’t like to steal from those who didn’t deserve it, but he had to keep moving. He could have used that rifle, it was a nice rifle. Capable of shooting long distances with pinpoint accuracy, so long as the shooter’s eye was true. It was well kept, and would have served him well, but he wouldn’t leave the farmer empty handed.
As he turned a corner into a small alleyway between two brick buildings that had been long abandoned and were starting to fall apart, The Old Timer saw two men standing at the other end. He halted Bullet, knowing that he had just put himself into a situation that he might have to fight his way out of.
Be careful, The Voice had said, Call out, and be ready.
The Old Timer’s hand dropped naturally to the butt of the Coonan on his right hip. Despite being left handed, he was equally capable of shooting with either hand, and preferred to use his left to control Bullet should he need to.
“Hello!” He called. “I mean no harm!”
He didn’t know if that was true yet, but he wanted to put the two men at ease to the best of his ability. Fighting was saved only for when he needed it. He rarely instigated a confrontation. He supposed it was a part of what had kept him alive for so long.
The two men whirled to face him, both raising rifles to their shoulders. The Old Timer didn’t flinch, nor did he draw his weapon. He remained calm, collected.
“No need for that.” His voice was gruff. As weathered as his face and it conveyed a sense of kindness, but with an underlying sense that he wasn’t afraid to defend himself if that’s what it came down to.
“We can talk without weapons. Or I can just turn around and find another way.”
The two men lowered their weapons. One of them stepped forward. He wore an old Stetson hat that looked like it had seen many years on the road. His rifle now hung at the side of his torn denim jeans, the end of the barrel nearly touching the ground at his well-worn cowboy boots.
He doesn’t look like a fighter.
The Voice was right. Despite the fact that this man had been the one to step forward and take control, The Old Timer didn’t feel like he would be much of a threat if the bullets started to fly.
“Meet in the middle,” the man said, “Keep your hands away from the guns.”
“Can do,” The Old Timer called back.
He gave his heels a small kick to usher Bullet forward. His pack horse followed. As he made his way up the alleyway, he surveyed the second man.
He was tall, and muscular. His biceps bulged under the tight, frayed button up shirt that he wore. His rifle also hung at his side for the moment, but he had a different look to him. The type of look that a man can only gain through a lifetime of fighting to survive. As they approached, The Old Timer noticed his scarred knuckles and tattered face.
This one is the muscle. He’s the one to watch. You talk to the first one, but you keep your eye on the second.
He knew The Voice was right. He knew it without having to be told. A man doesn’t look like that unless he’s earned his scars. He was there to protect the first man. Likely meaning that the first was the negotiator, the one that would make all of the decisions during this rendezvous.
As The Old Timer reached the middle of the alleyway, he dismounted Bullet. On the left side. Always on the left side. That way he could pull Bullet in front of him if their weapons came up and be able to shoot over his back with his right hand. He loved Bullet like an old friend, but his own survival would always come first.
The Old Timer raised his hands, showing the two men that he only wished to talk. Fighting might come later, but for now he wanted to see if they could be peaceful. Maybe offer to take him back to their camp where he could trade labor for some desperately needed supplies.
“I’m not looking for a fight, but I will if I have to.”
“I have no doubt about that.” The first man replied. “You look like you’ve seen some shit.”
“I’ve been on the road a long time. Anyone who’s spent much time on the road has seen some shit in this day and age.” The Old Timer replied. It was true. He’d seen things that he never cared to see again, and things he’d never be able to wipe from his memory.
“What’s your name?” The first man was definitely going to be doing the talking. The second stood close by his side, eyes locked on the eyes of The Old Timer.
“I don’t have much use for a name anymore. I travel alone. I have for years.”
The first man took this in. Looking into The Old Timer’s eyes, trying to get a read on him.
“Fair enough. What brings you through?”
“I’m scavenging, just looking for anything I might be able to use down the road. Same as you I suppose. Pickings are pretty slim around here.”
“Indeed they are,” the first man replied. “It’s been like this for weeks. Seems a large group may have come through. Picked the place clean. You have anything to offer?”
Don’t reveal too much.
“Not much. I’m getting pretty low. I have some skins, maybe a couple of handfuls of ammunition you might be able to use. A bottle of whiskey or two.”
The second man’s eyes lit up when he heard this.
“Haven’t had whiskey for a hot minute,” he said. His voice had a sharp edge to it. His words cut off from each other almost as if they were being spoken individually.
The first man shot him a look, clearly not wanting him to be a part of the conversation. The Old Timer saw this and filed it away as a potential bargaining chip for later. Talk to the brains, but make friends with the muscle.
“I can offer labor, if you have a camp.”
The first man looked The Old Timer up and down, likely trying to decide how much of a threat he might be. The Old Timer stood firm. People had a tendency to underestimate him, and he hoped that would be the case now.
“Couple miles out. You can follow us. Your horses fast? We have a rig, but we can go slow so you can follow.”
“Fast enough. Appreciate it.”
The Old Timer mounted Bullet and followed the two men down the alleyway. They got in an old, run down Jeep Wrangler with no top. The sides had rusted out, and you could see the ground through the floor boards. Although they drove faster than he expected, there was no issue keeping up. Bullet could have out run them if needed, and the pack horse wasn’t slow by any means.
The camp turned out to be much more than a camp. It was more like a compound. Dozens of seemingly freshly built log cabins lined a small dirt road that ran through the middle. A wall constructed of cut and sharpened trees surrounded the compound, protecting the inhabitants from outside threats. They had come through a large gate on the south end with guards posted on watch towers on either side. The guards wore makeshift armor and stood with semi-automatic rifles. The Old Timer took all of this in. The compound seemed well equipped to protect itself.
“We’ll bring you in, but you have to speak with Ace first. He runs the place.”
The Old Timer wondered if Ace had been his given name, or if he had taken it on later in life as many others had.
“You can tie your horses here. We’ll walk down to his place.”
I don’t trust it.
Something seems off.
The Old Timer felt it too. For now though, he pushed it aside. They had allowed him to keep his weapons on him, and although he was uncomfortable leaving his horses tied, he thought this was at least a decent sign that they weren’t an immediate threat.
The three men walked down the dirt road. Dust kicked up from under their heels. It had been a dry summer, and today was no different.
They passed a large cabin with smoke billowing from a chimney through the roof. A large gallows stood outside, with several deer carcasses hanging from it. The carcasses had been freshly skinned and the meat meticulously cut from them. Curious looks were cast from the people standing on the porch of the cabin. It had been awhile since an outsider had come through.
Partway down the road, a large cabin stood towering over the rest. In fact, it was the only cabin that had multiple floors. It also looked as if it may have been the first one built. The outer walls were more weathered than the rest. Standing even above the third floor was a widow’s nest with a view to all sides of the cabin. Inside the widow’s nest, another guard stood, fully armored and armed. Watching.
The Old Timer immediately knew that this would be Ace’s place. He didn’t need The Voice to tell him that. Being the only cabin with a guard on watch was enough to tell him who would be inside.
“This guy must think he’s hot shit.”
He kept that thought to himself. No need to prod a bull that wasn’t angry yet. Maybe in his younger years, but he’d lived a long time now. He knew when to keep his mouth shut.
The men ascended five stairs onto a large porch on the front of the cabin. The second man knocked on the oversized front door, then backed away to wait. The first man stood behind The Old Timer, maybe preventing him from trying to run, maybe just as a coincidence.
A moment later, the door slowly swung open. A petite, attractive woman stood at the entry, her red hair hanging in pony tails at each side. The Old Timer took note that this was the first woman that he had seen in the compound. He hadn’t immediately realized it, but he did now. She donned what appeared to be a tight, homemade dress revealing plenty of skin. The dress ended just above her knees and wasn’t worn or tattered as everyone else’s clothes seemed to be. She looked like she hadn’t seen much for manual labor in her years, but The Old Timer suspected that the labor she had seen had likely been hard on her. The type of labor that men generally spoke of over a bottle of whiskey late at night. The type of labor that some men seemed to view as a woman’s god given function. Especially now, with no law to prevent such things from happening. Everyone had to find a way to survive if they so desired, some chose different paths than others.
She raised her head and looked at the second man, then to The Old Timer, then back to the eyes of the second man. He gave her a short nod, and she pulled the door open the rest of the way. She led the men through the door and into a large central room of the cabin. The Old Timer couldn’t help but notice her figure as she walked ahead of them. It had been a long time, but he hadn’t quite yet forgotten the touch of a woman.
The room was void of furniture, except for a single large desk near the back wall. A man sat behind the desk, feet up on it’s surface and leaning back in his chair. His face was rugged, but clean. His full beard hung to his chest and a cigar protruded from the corner of his mouth.
“She’s a good one ain’t she?”
It was a boisterous voice. Confident. Commanding.
“She’s mine. You can’t have her, but maybe we can set you up with something a little later. I see the way you’re lookin’ at her. Been awhile?”
The Old Timers intuition had been right. That became clear as the woman walked around the back of the desk and began massaging the man’s shoulders. The look on her face showed that it was more of an expectation than an act of kindness. He remained silent.
“No worries,” he said, “We can talk about that later. For now, maybe you can tell me why it is that my men found it reasonable to bring you here.”
He stood up and extended a hand as he spoke. The Old Timer stepped forward and accepted the handshake. It was firm, but welcoming. He could tell a lot about a man from a handshake, but he felt like this one might be misleading.
Something seems off.
Stronger now. More forceful.
“I ran into them a couple of miles out. Offered to trade some labor for supplies if it was needed. Thought maybe we could help each other out, although it seems like you have it pretty well covered.”
The Old timer knew that flattery could put a man at ease. Maybe get him to let down his guard a little. Maybe not this one, but some. It was worth a shot in any case.
“Well, we can always use another set of hands.” The Old Timer thought this was a lie. “Lot of work goes on around here. This place didn’t build itself.”
The man came around the desk to get a better look at his guest. When he did, he stood tall. His broad shoulders cut an impressive silhouette. His leather vest was faded, but not ragged or torn. The shirt underneath was rolled up to his elbow and tattoos covered his forearms. His heavy biker boots knocked on the floor as he walked. The cigar was now in his right hand. Something else The Old Timer made note of. He felt it was good to know a man’s dominant hand.
“Name’s Ace. You look strong enough. Heavily armed. A real loner, huh?”
It was true. The Old Timer stood before Ace, Coonans hanging at each hip. His Colt revolvers hanging under each arm in a shoulder holster that he had fashioned himself. One that allowed them to be drawn quickly when they were needed.
“Have to be when you travel alone, but I don’t intend to use them. Unless you think I need to.”
“No need my friend!” Ace clasped a hand on The Old Timer’s shoulder. “No need at all. If I thought you needed ‘em I woulda had them taken from you at the gate. I think we may be able to help you out. Come on, let’s take a walk, see what we might be able to do for each other.”
I don’t trust him.
“I like to call it Concordia,” Ace boasted as he walked The Old Timer through the compound, “Built it from the ground up. Just manpower and a little intuition. We have just about everything we need here. The rest we trade for with guys like you, or some of the other groups we run across.”
The Old Timer was impressed. Despite being only a couple of miles from his first encounter with them, the people at Concordia seemed to live a fairly secluded life. The cabin he had seen on his way in was where they processed meat from their hunts. A small farm sat in the northwest corner where there were a couple of cows and a small sounder of pigs. Chickens roamed free throughout the compound and there were horses grazing in an open field. Ace had told him that they were still working on growing the farm. While crops seemed to be plentiful, meat was not. Hunting provided much of what they needed, but they hoped to be able to raise what they needed within the walls of the compound. Hunting could be risky.
He saw more women as they walked, but they were the types he would have turned down in his younger years. Not much to look at, but strong backs and capable of working the crops and the farm. Men seemed to outnumber the women significantly, and there wasn’t a child in sight. That struck The Old Timer as odd, but it was something he’d try to investigate later if he had the chance. Now wasn’t the time.
“We could definitely use you around here. We have a couple of more cabins going up right now. A strong set of hands helps speed up the work.”
Ace had stopped in front of a large cabin that appeared to be a sort of community hall.
“We have a couple of empty ones. We could set you up in one for a bit. See how things go. Maybe you’ll decide you want to stay.”
The Old Timer had no intention of staying at Concordia. He intended to do enough labor to maybe get some food and ammunition to take with him and then be on his way.
“We meet here for dinner every night. I’ll introduce you to the rest. We can put your horses up at the farm. Feed ‘em. Keep ‘em in good health. You can keep your guns. Don’t mind one bit. Figure if youd’a wanted to kill me, youd’a done it by now. I wouldn’t recommend it though. You wouldn’t make it out the gates alive.”
Ace’s face grew stern as he spoke this. He turned and faced The Old Timer.
“That’s a warning, not a threat.”
I don’t believe him.
Neither did The Old Timer.
The Old Timer stood on the front porch of the empty cabin that Ace had set him up in, watching people as they began filing into the dining hall. Now he saw more women amongst the crowd. They seemed to be divided into two classes based on the clothes that they wore. If he had to guess, he would say there were workers and servants. What type of servitude some of the women were indentured into he didn’t know yet, but he though he might eventually find out. Still, there were no children in sight.
The air was warm as the sun set over the tops of the pines surrounding the compound. The Old Timer was deep in thought. Running the events of the day through his head. A single thought was nagging at the back of his head.
He never asked your name.
The Voice was right. It almost always was. Ace had never asked him what his name was. The Old Timer thought about how he no longer named his pack horses, he didn’t want to get too attached to them. He wondered if Ace might feel the same way about certain people, especially outsiders who were brought into Concordia.
He looked down at his worn boots, taking in the contrast between the faded leather and the nearly new wood of the porch. He hated large groups of people. Had he realized how extensive this particular group was, he likely would have turned down the offer to follow the two men back to the compound.
“Too late now. I’m here. I suppose I ought to try to fit in.”
He had a certain knack for being able to hide among a crowd. To fit in when he had to without drawing much attention to himself. Somehow he thought it would be difficult tonight. He had a feeling that Ace was going to make sure that he was noticed.
He felt light, unprepared almost as he stepped down off the porch. He had stashed the Coonans and one of his revolvers in the cabin. This evening, he carried only one revolver under his right arm, snuggly tucked into the holster under the best shirt that he carried with him. He didn’t expect trouble tonight. Ace seemed to be the type to put on a show for his people. He likely wouldn’t want to start something in front of such a crowd. As much as The Old Timer didn’t trust him, he did have an idea that once you were in Ace’s good graces, you stayed there until you gave him a reason to oust you.
As he slowly strolled towards the dining hall, he drew curious, even borderline suspicious glances from the residents of Concordia. No one spoke to him. Just a quick look at him, and then their eyes went back to the clouds of dust coming from their feet as they walked down the dirt road. He wondered if perhaps they needed to be given permission to speak to him. Maybe Ace controlled more of their lives than it originally seemed.
As he approached the front of the dining hall, he saw Ace standing at the door. He donned the same clothes as when The Old Timer had first met him. Leather vest, shirt rolled to his elbows, his faded black jeans and the biker boots. He didn’t seem to be carrying any weapons. If he was, he was certainly hiding them well.
“There’s the man of the hour!” Ace’s booming voice could be heard throughout the compound. “Come on in. Let’s get some grub!”
Ace put a hand on The Old Timer’s shoulder and led him through the door. He knew this was Ace’s way of showing that he was in control. Ace probably had three inches and sixty pounds on him, but it wasn’t Ace he was worried about. It was the armored guards, who seemed to be absent from tonight’s events.
Two rows of long wooden tables lined a single large room. There was a corridor in between, and an even larger table at the end. Many of the people had already taken seats at the tables, while a few others continued coming in behind them. The women who were better dressed stood in lines, their backs to the walls on the left and right side of the room. Another line of these women stood behind the larger table at the end of the room. There was a door on either side of the larger table, and based on the smell of the food, The Old Timer guessed that the kitchen was behind them.
Extravagant paintings and various animal hides adorned the walls. Large wooden beams crossed over head supporting the structure. There were two large windows on each side, each of them open to allow the warm summer’s evening air in.
Ace led him through the corridor and to the larger table. Ace took a seat at the central chair and sat the Old Timer beside him.
“I know you’re armed. A man like yourself wouldn’t show up otherwise. You won’t need it here.” Ace said this quietly so as not to be heard by anyone else.
Ace stood up, and as if on queue a bell rang from the corner of the room. Everyone immediately went silent and turned their gaze to Ace.
“Welcome all! We have a special guest tonight. A man who came to Concordia looking for work. Perhaps to barter some labor for some supplies before he goes on his way. Maybe he’ll decide to stay, we can only hope, but as long as he’s here I want you all to treat him with respect. Make him feel welcome.”
Ace had no issue projecting his voice through the room. He was a man in control. A man who cast confidence in every direction with each word that he spoke. The Old Timer thought he reeked of over confidence.
“Shall we have him?”
The question didn’t need to be asked. Ace would make that decision on his own.
It was an enthusiastic response that came from the crowd as if it were a single voice.
He never asked your name.
Even now, The Old Timer was introduced as “a man”. No name. No moniker. Nothing. To Ace, at least for the moment, he was just a man.
Upon hearing this, the crowd began talking amongst themselves again. Perhaps talking of the day’s events. Maybe speaking about the man that sat with Ace in a place of honor at the larger table. For all he knew, there may be some gossip amongst the folks like there always seemed to be in small towns back in the day.
The well dressed women, servants, made their way, single file through the doors on either side of the larger table in a perfectly coordinated exercise. The Old Timer counted thirty of them in all, a relatively small number compared to the number of people who now sat at the tables waiting to eat. He noticed their beauty and guessed that they must have been handpicked by Ace to be bound to servitude. Maybe it was their own choice, but he didn’t think so. There had been no interaction between them and the rest of the residents of the compound. Not that he had noticed anyway.
Moments later, the women appeared through the doors, this time carrying large serving trays with covered dishes on them. The smell was infatuating. The Old Timer hadn’t had a real meal for weeks. He had been living on old cans of beans and what little he had been able to trap for meat. His mouth watered as he watched the women place plates in from of everyone and lift the covers off.
The larger table where Ace and the Old Timer sat was served last. A strikingly beautiful, tall, buxom blonde woman placed The Old Timer’s plate in front of him and lifted the cover. He looked down and saw corn on the cob, green beans, a large dinner roll and what he guessed was venison. Likely fresh venison based on the carcasses he had seen hanging from the gallows on his way in. He briefly speculated that his food may have been poisoned, but quickly pushed that thought aside. The Voice was quiet right now. It would have warned him.
Ace stopped the blonde woman as she was leaving the table.
“Bring two whiskeys,” he said, “double shots.”
The Old Timer rarely drank. Not because he didn’t want to. He had gone through a time in his life where he had drank substantially. Back when he first started hearing The Voice. Before he trusted it. Before he had any understanding of it. The drinking helped quiet The Voice, which is why he rarely partook these days, he mostly carried spirits with him to use to barter. Right now however, he thought that he’d rather enjoy a glass of whiskey. Maybe even a few.
The food that night was the best he’d had in years. Maybe even decades. He ate well. He drank well. He let his guard down and he silenced The Voice.