Ted Cruz fingered his Bible nervously. He was only going to get one shot at this, and if he missed—well, he wouldn’t allow himself to think about that. Somewhere, floors above him, he heard the elevator doors shudder open. Somebody was bringing back the groceries, coming home to the dog, living the kind of normal life that Ted Cruz dimly remembered but no longer understood. He said a quick prayer for whatever poor schmuck lived on floor six. There wasn’t time for anything more, because the elevator had returned to the lobby, its doors opening, ready to take him to the penthouse and whatever awaited him there. Today was Friday, and Ted Cruz was going all the way to the top. Would a lifetime of hard luck and dark secrets come with him?
Four hours, five merlots and a belt of hot scotch later, Ted Cruz was back in the elevator and going down. There was an unfamiliar taste in his mouth: not the twelve-year Macallan or the cheap wine—tastes he knew all too well—but failure. His mission had been clear. His boss laid it on him 6000 years ago, and it hadn’t changed. But once he got into the penthouse, he lost his nerve.
The two flits had seemed friendly, innocent even. He knew they were manipulating him. After the third merlot, he could feel them working their tricks—that way they had of making you feel dangerous but safe, the moments when they drew you in with their eyes. He felt the confusion that set in whenever he was around those people for too long. His Bible felt hot in its shoulder holster, and he kept thinking, “now is the time.” But he couldn’t pull the trigger. He had been so bolluxed up, he realized as the elevator reached the lobby again, that he forgot his sunglasses.
Ted Cruz only needed three things to get by: the Bible, a muscular woman, and his trademark shades. Sighing, he punched the penthouse button again. But when the doors opened and he stepped onto that gray marble floor, it looked like somebody had already done his work for him. The apartment was a mess. The dinner table lay on its side like a sleeping buffalo, and one of the flits was draped over it like an old coat. Ted Cruz didn’t have to check his pulse to see he was dead. A quick cavity search confirmed he wasn’t hiding anything. Here was one flit who would take his secrets to the grave. He found another in the bathroom.
Back on the street, safe behind his sunglasses, Ted Cruise tried to piece together what happened. Who could get into the penthouse, dispatch the flits, and get away in the time it took him ride the elevator down and back? Ted Cruz had known some slippery assholes in his time, but this one took the cake. Was there something he was missing? The wind rushed across Fifth Avenue, lashing his upturned lapels against his neck. The day seemed full of ominous portents. Someone was trying to set Ted Cruz up—someone smart, effective, and completely devoid of any sense that some things you just don’t do. Things like murdering a couple in their own home. Things like messing with Ted Cruz.
His mind working frantically behind the impassive facade of the shades, Ted Cruz went through his list of enemies, searching for someone who could pull this off. Then he went through his list of friends. There wasn’t much difference. Each of them was ready and willing to kill him with a smile. Some of them might save his live, with a grimace. But most would throw away Ted Cruz like yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
The voice came calling out of the crowd, and Ted Cruz couldn’t place it at first. Then he saw him: a gray man in a gray suit with two conspicuous bulges. One was in his breast pocket, maybe a Blackberry, maybe a Derringer. The other was—no. Ted Cruz wouldn’t think about that.
“I have a message for you,” the man said, leaning against the wall of Bergdorf Goodman. “You need to stay away from the wrong kind of people.”
“Dead people?” Ted Cruz said coolly. He was buying time, trying to figure out who sent this goon. This could go easy, he realized, or this could go hard, and Ted Cruz was feeling hard. He seized the gray man in a modified judo grip, one hand on his arm and the other against his hip. He pushed him up against the wall. The man gasped. Ted Cruz was inches from his face. He could feel his hot breath on his neck.
“Who sent you?” Ted Cruz demanded. “Whom do you work for?”
“No one,” the man smirked. “I’m an independent operator, just trying to educate people about liberty.”
The word pierced his eardrums like a dog whistle. Only one person made liberty his byword, and he was a powerful enemy: Randy Paul. The name was like ice water to Ted Cruz. It slaked his thirst, but it also made him long for something stiffer. He pushed the gray man against the wall again.
“Tell your boss I’m coming for him,” Ted Cruz said. “And I’m coming hard.” He turned on his heel and stalked off into the crowd. The gray man shouted after him.
“You’re dead, Cruz!” he said. “You won’t see November!”
Maybe I am, Ted Cruz thought. Maybe he was dead already and stalking the city like an avenging angel. Maybe he was a devil escaped from hell. Only time would tell. For now, though, one thing was certain: he didn’t give a rat’s ass about Randy Paul or his liberty. All Ted Cruz cared about was freedom.
Next time: Ted Cruz in “A Dame to Pray For.”