Edward Drew was working late. He usually did, managing the inner works of a town like Holly Falls was two full time jobs, maybe more. He’d be here, on this night, regardless, and he wasn’t tired. He was working, he was always working, but what he was really doing was waiting. He glanced at his watch. Almost midnight, almost the beginning of a New Year. He had expected George Tilman to be earlier, but the man had proved to be a surprise in many respects.
Drew scratched his beard. He wasn’t nervous exactly, and he wasn’t exactly excited either. It had been years since he’d had a Bean King that didn’t follow the script, and the idea that the completion of the tradition might be in question was both horrifying and exhilarating.
He didn’t really doubt that everything would go fine, he had too many years of experience and too many redundancies to believe that, but even the idea of fear had its novelty. He checked his watch again when he saw the headlights, reflected through the snow. Just before midnight. Right on time.
Drew wasn’t sure what Tilman had planned, although he had a suspicion. He closed the ledger on his desk, but it away. Leaned back in his chair and intertwined his fingers and waited for the door to open.
And so it did, without prelude and without a knock; George Tilman stepped into the room and Edward Drew smiled. Tilman was silhouetted in snow and moonlight. He closed the door quietly behind him. He looked at Drew.
“Hello, Mr. Drew.”
“I think, Mr. Tilman, that after all this time, you can call me Edward.”
Tilman smiled at that as he pulled his gloves off.
“You don’t seem surprised to seem me, Edward.”
“Well, I’m not an easy man to surprise.”
Tilman smiled, pulled a pistol from the heavy coat, and shot Edward Drew twice in the chest.
“How about now?”
Tilman kept the gun trained on Drew who, ironically, did indeed look quite surprised. He didn’t gasp, or flop, or any of the other things that Tilman might have expected. He simply touched the wounds gently, eyes wide and staring. He looked up at Tilman, who smiled slightly and hadn’t moved.
He coughed then, nothing coming up but blood and pain, and now Drew did look hurt and afraid. Tilman stepped closer.
“Look at me. Edward, look at me.”
Drew looked up, his blue eyes fading. Tilman sat down in the chair to watch him dying, Drew’s fingers squeezing tight against the edge of his desk. He was staring hard at Tilman. Life was pouring out of him and hate was pouring into his eyes.
“Look, Edward, I know that the men you usually get for your Bean King are usually random assholes. Did any of them see it coming?”
Drew just stared at him. Tilman chuckled a little, to himself, for himself.
“Yes, I know. I know that you planned to have me come here, and that you were going to feed me a nice dinner and then you and the sick fucks you work for were going to run me across the snow. I know you were going to kill me.”
Drew didn’t say anything. Tilman thought he might be dead, but he wasn’t sure. He kept the gun pointed at him, regardless.
“I am not even going to pretend to understand. I don’t care. But I want you to understand, Edward, that I am not anybody’s fool. You want to fuck with me? Fine. But I’m going to fuck you back. Your asshole bosses will probably come after me for this. But you know what?”
Tilman stood, fairly sure that Drew was dead, but what the fuck, he was on a roll.
“Fuck them. I’m betting that fucking up your little game will throw them off. They want a sacrifice? They’re going to have to earn it.”
George Tilman stared at Edward Drew, dead probably, dying definitely, and then he stepped from the office into the snow.