Man at His Best

The Big Slip

This entry won first place in the Montblanc X Esquire Fiction Writer Project 2015.

BY ELDON OOI | Feb 1, 2016 | Books

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When Lam reached the top of the stairs, two uniforms let him through. He continued on towards the edge until the man said, “Alright. That’s close enough.”

The man was standing on the ledge, facing Lam. Behind him were 56 storeys of nothing.

“I knew you would come,” he said, smiling, “You had to know why.”

Lam shook his head. “People like you don’t need a reason.”

The man skipped, lightly, three steps to his left and three steps back. He had a dancer’s footwork. His eyes never left Lam’s.

“There’s always a reason.” Two steps right. “Maybe not reason in the usual definitions.” Two steps back. “Not logic. Not rationality.”

Lam said, “Maybe reason, as in excuse.”

The man said, “Maybe reason, as in a purpose for living.”

Lam shrugged. The wind was a knife. The sun was hot and in his eyes.

He said, “I’ll be your audience if you want to do a monologue, but there’re nicer venues.”

“Your station, perhaps?”

“That’s an idea. We have air-con.”

The man chuckled. He waved a hand behind him, at the cityscape stretching into the distance.

“But do you have this?”

It was a nice view, the view from the top. It always was. Part of the pleasure came from the satisfaction of having scaled those heights. Another part of it came from the knowledge that it wouldn’t last; nothing nice ever did. You had to enjoy it while you could.

It was a long way down to the bottom.

“It’s the view you know,” said the man. He hadn’t stopped smiling. “That’s how you know you’ve made it. It’s why people climb mountains, why penthouses are built at the top.”

Lam said nothing.

“Masses of men just plod along, eyes on the ground.” Three steps left. “But if you want to get to the top of your field, you have to fly, risk the fall.” Three steps back. “You have to dare what others don’t, do what they won’t,” the smile widened. “Can’t.”

Lam said, “Slipped my mind. I’m supposed to ask you not to jump.”

“What do you get, if you bring me in?”“Paperwork.”“And if I jump?”

“More paperwork.”

The man chuckled. “You’re the best at what you do, yes?”

Lam said, “Yes.” He said it without arrogance, as a simple statement of fact.

“I knew it.” Left, two, three. “You had to be.” Right, two, three. “That’s how you caught me.”

Lam thought back over the last six months. 

No witnesses. No prints; not even a partial. No link between victims, no reason behind their selection.

Reason, as in motive.

Lam said, “That’s not how we got you.”

The man stopped moving.Lam said, “The girl lived. You slipped up.”

The man stopped smiling. He tilted his head and looked at Lam from an angle. “You’re lying.”

Lam shook his head. The man nodded. Lam wasn’t lying.

Lam said, “You got 22. That ties you with the Garden City Killer.”

The man smiled with his eyes. “There’s still time. Still one way I can hit 23.”

He reached behind him and took out a sharp knife. He showed it to the detective.

One moment, Lam’s hand was empty. The next it wasn’t.

Lam gestured with his gun. “No, there isn’t.”

The man unclenched his fist and let the knife fall. He lifted a foot and moved it forward, and then stopped.

The man grinned. He said, “Yes, there is,” and took a step back.

The uniforms took their time coming over. There wasn’t any need to rush.

One said, “Bastard jumped, eh? One last kill.”

Lam shook his head. “He slipped.”