William Fitzgerald Sharpens His Pen

The husband is trying to explain himself to William Fitzgerald, how hollow his marriage had been, how loveless; how much he needed the money to get away, to save himself; how his wife didn’t believe in divorce and how he’d found love now, too late, with a wonderful girl; how he’d signed a prenup and would walk away with nothing.

William Fitzgerald stifles a yawn.

It’s nothing he hasn’t heard before, a dozen times at least; the people who have enough money to hire him often marry for money, too. Divorce at the best of times, murder at the worst. He’s a blackmailer at heart, but blackmailing a murderer is more trouble than it’s worth — who kills once will kill again.

The husband has stopped talking. William Fitzgerald glances down at his notepad to make sure he’s captured everything automatically; good. Recordings can be stolen, data recovered. “Fire is safer,” he says, and the husband blinks at him, not understanding, even better.

“Go home,” he tells the husband. “Stay quiet. Make nice for your wife and for god’s sake stop seeing your girlfriend while I’m working. I’ll be in touch.” The man leaves, happy enough, and William Fitzgerald burns the notebook, already forgetting.

William Fitzgerald Holds Them To Account

William Fitzgerald heard the crack of the gunshot while he was walking back to the bus stop. It happened that way, sometimes — the proud mind was frequently brittle, and couldn’t stand up to the shock of being known; that was why he insisted on payment in advance. It closed off the more lucrative cost for his ongoing silence, but he’s doing well enough, these days. He’s got a window back, at least, and if the streets are hot with plague they’re also full of people again.

Best not to linger, however. The cops might be worthless for everything meaningful, but they wouldn’t be able to overlook this, and there was a bright line leading from the dead man and his unspeakable basement to William Fitzgerald’s bank account.

He spends the first few hours getting everything in his office in order, making sure the right books were where they could be easily found, but not so easily it’d seem like he wanted them found, locking his hard drives and phones in the special faraday safe he’d built into the floor himself, along with the paper ledger he can’t bring himself to abandon, then he waits.

William Fitzgerald waits for days.

When, a week later, he opens the paper to see a full page of glowing tributes to a philanthropist, cultural icon, and city benefactor, he discovers almost pleasantly that the world is still capable of failing his expectations.

William Fitzgerald Turns Freelance

William Fitzgerald is there when they teargas the mayor, just as he was there when they teargassed the mothers, just as he was there when the crowd was only a few dozen people and no one was paying attention. Not in the crowd, mind; well off to the side, an anonymous hunched shadow next to a trashcan, bearing witness, such as it is.

It’s been a lean few years for William Fitzgerald, his secrets worthless, his clients gone; the office is shut and he’s living in an unheated, windowless basement, sleeping on concrete. He’s desperate, and worse, he’s sober, too skint for even the six dollar scotch he prefers. He loathes the openness of this violence, but he is long familiar with the glee and the fear glittering behind the blunt snouts of the gas masks, the safety they think their power and anonymity give them. His fingers twitch with acquisitive fury.

He prowls behind them, a lion after hyenas, remembering faces, conversations, license plates, names. When they slip out in the grey light of morning, legs shaky from a night’s worth of license, he is there, another piece of litter blown against the sidewalk. When they go home, he is there, with his camera and a new little book, piecing together identities. What is hidden is valuable; what is buried must be unearthed.

William Fitzgerald Tidies Up

He didn’t like to do it, but he knew the practice: William Fitzgerald braced his legs and drew the sharp edge of the knife against the soft throat of the man sitting in his office. His legs jerked and his eyes rolled back toward him but whatever he wanted to say puffed out of the broad gash in his throat and was lost in the deepening twilight.

William Fitzgerald stripped the gloves from his hands and tossed them into his former client’s lap. Later, he’d burn them separately: one in an incinerator and one in a bonfire, trash in a trash disposal and careless loss in the other. He tipped the man’s chair back and onto the small rug he kept in the center of the room, levered him out and rolled him tightly enough into the rug. It made a suspicious-looking package, but William Fitzgerald was a suspicious-looking man; humping a body-shaped rug down the stairs wouldn’t make him any more noticeable.

He was out of sorts by the time he tipped the remains over the bridge railing and into the rush of the strait. It was far past his working hours, and he resented the additional and necessary sobriety. The murder itself bothered him not at all; some men deserved to die, but all men were doomed to it regardless.

William Fitzgerald Becomes A Reluctant Optimist

Work’s been dry lately. Not so much that people are better—in William Fitzgerald’s experience people never change much for the better or the worse—but that no one seems to care about the old things one way or the other. He calls the people in his little book and they laugh at him. Go ahead, they say, let it out. Who cares? Take out an ad in the paper. He tries, he does, but none of the journalists he knows can be bothered. Corruption, incest, addiction, who cares. That stuff won’t even make the back pages.

He’s got money stashed away, so it isn’t like he’s going hungry, but it puts him out of sorts. The time is suddenly in joint with him, and for William Fitzgerald that’s deeply uncomfortable. People are beaten in the street, the wealthy roll through poor neighborhoods with long guns poking out the windows hunting sport, and no one cares. His storehouse of sins is suddenly worthless, common goods, after a life spent collecting vileness.

He is at the corner of 12th and Broadway when traffic stops and a crowd comes growling up towards him, armed with bats and manhole covers, glass bottles and cigarettes. There is blood in their voices, old blood, blood of the old world, and William Fitzgerald, dry old vampire that he is, shudders at the scent of it. He does not join them, but as they pass he picks a stone up off the street and follows.