Rebecca and the Duke
Rebecca walks into the interrogation room. Duke Jorgenson, sitting on the other side of the table, stands when she enters. He smiles and says, “Welcome.” Their eyes meet and remain fixed on each other for some time. His smile fades to poker face, then to ice. His blue eyes are riveted on Rebecca’s, as if willing her to lose this staring contest.
Rebecca is silently chanting her mantra, purifying the situation, waiting for words. Finally, the Duke says, “I don’t care what you do to me. You won’t turn me like you did those punks.”
“You start right off with a lie. You do care what we do to you. You care very much. You don’t want to die. You don’t want to spend your life in jail. You’d like to go free, but you’re so corrupted by competition you actually believe the only thing you care about is winning. And trying to be the best at something, you’ve fallen to being the best at murder. You’ve sold your soul to the devil. You’ve become the best, or one of the best, in a race to do evil. When you die, you’ll go to a place where everyone is just like you. There you’ll learn the meaning and the price of evil.”
“You preachers have no more idea what happens than I do, but even if you’re right, I’m betting hell’s not much different from the world we live in now. Evil’s in power. The good, like you, are pawns. I’m no pawn.”
“To avoid being a pawn you have to be evil?”
“You have to have power, and to really have power, you have to be evil.”
“Is that the way you want it?”
“What I want doesn’t matter. That’s the way it is. You think you’re good. You think you’re making the world better. You’ll soon be dead, and I’ll be out of jail, free to kill again.”
“You think you’re free? Right now, you’re in jail, but you’ll never be free. In or out of jail, you’re a slave. You’re more a pawn than I am. You’re free to follow orders or die. You’re free to live in fear. You’re afraid right now. You failed. You did no better than Max and Ray. You’re thinking about what you can say, what excuse you can give, and what they’ll say or do, what your punishment will be.”
“I’ll be fine, and you’ll be dead.”
“Let’s look at this another way.” Rebecca looks at the Duke for a long time. Suddenly, he looks small. Pathetic. “You’ll never have children, or if you do, they won’t know you. You probably won’t know them. You’ll never have a woman who loves you.” The Duke starts to object. “Yeah, sure, you have women, lots of women who have sex with you. They’re even excited by your money and power, but none of them actually love you. And you don’t love them. You don’t even know what I’m talking about. In your world, love is for losers. I can see it on your face. You’re trying so hard to be strong, but love is the strongest force in the universe, and you have no idea what it is.”
The Duke is looking at her, but the ice is gone. He’s grimacing with something. Maybe anger, maybe pain. “What the fuck are you talking about? You call this an interrogation? Get me my lawyer.”
“This lack of love goes deep in you. I bet your father and mother were this way. Maybe their parents were, too. Your whole family. Creatures of the dark. All cold, all ambition and anger, striving for perfection, striving for power, striving to prove something, making yourselves miserable, leaving a trail of pain, sorrow, hatred and death. That icy look of yours is congenital. You have no warmth. You don’t even know what warmth is.” As Rebecca speaks she surprises herself. She is actually feeling sympathy—sympathy for the devil. She walks around the table. The Duke glares angrily but doesn’t resist. She takes his hand and holds it in both of hers, warming it. She looks up into his eyes to see the effect she’s having. He looks away and down.
“They’re going to kill you.” He says softly.
“It doesn’t have to be this way.”
“Yes it does. There’s no other way.”
“Millions of people live far warmer, safer, more comfortable lives.”
“Only when we let them. We’re the ones who decide.”
“Yes, and by deciding the way you do, you bring us all down a notch or two, but you’re the ones who suffer most. You’re the ones who kill, so you live in the shadow of death, all the time. Cold, pitiless, painful death. You don’t have to live so close to death. I don’t. Most people don’t. We live in the light, in much more warmth.” She squeezes his hand. He pulls it away.
“You have no idea. You think I’m evil, but I’m Mother Teresa compared to the rest of them. I kill to protect myself and my employer. The others kill for fun. They kill for an extra fifty cents. They kill young kids just to keep them from growing into a challenge. People like me are protecting you from them.”
“Don’t you understand they think the same of you? At your level, anyone with power is a rival to be eliminated or feared. And yet, you can never kill rivals permanently. When one falls, another rises. The only way to actually protect yourself from rivals is to change the game, play a game without rivals.”
“Can’t be done. You’re trying to play a game without rivals, but you have rivals going out of their way to kill you. However you see them, they see you as a rival, and they’ll kill you before they let you change the game.”
“But just by trying to change the game, I’m living in a better world now, and I’ll go to a better world when I die.”
“Don’t give me that ‘when I die’ bullshit!”
“It’s not bullshit. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the spirit world. I’m not lying, and I swear to you that you’ll be happier now and much, much happier in the next world if you quit the team you’re on and come to mine.”
“It’s too late for me.”
“It’s not too late. It’s never too late. If you help me, I can and will help you.”
“They’ll get us both.”
“Then we’ll die together fighting for a better world. Certain spiritual entities will reward us just for trying, and those forces would never humiliate us or punish us for failing. They want us to grow, all of us, and most of all, they want us to learn to love. The true goal in this world is not power. It’s love.” The Duke is stunned. The word “love” spoken just now by Rebecca hits him like a wrecking ball. He feels his defenses collapsing. In the presence of this woman he can no longer project his ice. He no longer feels the waves of rage he’s been surfing for so long. He feels a door cracking open and a thin ray of warm light shining in. He can no longer imagine killing this woman. It’s as if she’s reached into his brain, turned some knobs, and rebooted him on an entirely new channel. He sits heavily and puts his head down on the table. Rebecca pulls her chair around and sits next to him, quietly, for nearly 15 minutes.
“I don’t know why, but I believe you. It’s all so obvious now. You actually do live in a world that’s warmer and safer. I said you’d never turn me, but you have. I can’t go back to the life I was leading, and I really, honestly would like to work with you. Is that possible? For me to shift from that life to yours?”
“Yes, you can. You can just switch over, and I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear you want to. You know better than I do how badly I need your help.”
“Yeah, you do need my help, and yes, I do know that better than you do. And I can tell you this. I am part of the mob. I work for Michael Mancuso in New York, but the mob is not your problem. We don’t care if you live or die. We’re trying to kill you for money or maybe for some favors or something. I’m not at that level, but I can tell you for sure that someone outside the mob with a lot of power and money wants you dead. That’s where your real problem is.”
“Can you introduce me to your boss? Someone with decision-making power in the mob?”
“I need something to offer. Something more attractive than whatever they’re getting for rubbing you out. In the mob we never do anything without a reason, and that reason has something to do with power or money. I can’t just say, ‘The person you’re trying to kill wants to meet you.’ There has to be something in it for the family.”
“OK, you tell Mr. Mancuso that the mayor of Anytown will be president of these United States in ten years. When and until that happens, she will either be his best friend or his biggest nightmare. I have no need to interrupt the game he is playing if he will make a deal with me. If he leaves me alone, I’ll leave him alone. I want to meet him to talk about how that could work to the great benefit of both of us.”
“How am I supposed to convince him you’re going to be president in ten years?”
“You need to sell that to him as if your life depended on it, which it does. I have faith in you. I think you can do it. Do you?” The Duke smiles, and Rebecca smiles with him.