Black Heart by Eric Van Lustbader
By Eric Van Lustbader
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Those steepled fingers began to flex in the regimented rhythms of isometric exercise. 'The human mind is the best computer on earth, always was and always will be. That's why man does the programming and not the other way around. ' The exercise over, the long competent fingers laced in repose. 'She might not know anything today. But she suspects. Somewhere inside her, the animal the million-year-old mechanism 26 for survival we all still carry around has marked you And tomorrow or perhaps the day after that, what then' Can you answer me that7' The young man stared into the other's eyes for as long as he dared Then he bowed his head The scent of incense was very strong in the room at that moment as if a gust of wind from < the other side of the world, some ancient age, had crept in through the window sash, to permeate the atmosphere 'The pupil still respects the teacher,' the young man murmured 'Obey him, show him esteem by word and deed, harken attentively to his teaching ' The figure unfurled himself from the wing-back chair, a riding sail pushing against an unseen wind, ignorant of defeat He hauled the other up so that they stood within an inch of one another He seemed to tower over the young man, as if he were larger in every way 'Goddammt1' he bellowed 'Don't you dare give me any of that Buddhist bullshit' If you've got a point to argue, say so I won't have you hiding behind nonsense some old windbag taught you when you were a pup in Phnom Penh1' The young man kept his head bowed beneath this verbal assault, as a child who submits to his parent's well-reasoned wrath ''Pardonnez-moi,' he whispered, a reed bending to the force of a strong wind The tone, perhaps, rather than the words took all the tension out of the tall man's frame 'Oh, now ' His arm came up, wrapped itself around the other's shoulders 'Now, Khieu,' he said softly, the anger washed from his voice, 'just tell me what you think, that's all' Together they strolled towards the casement curtains covering the high fifteen-foot windows They moved to the beat of an unheard metronome as if they had performed this act - a kind of ritual many times before At last the young man spoke 'We have both listened to this tape,' he said, 'many times over But I still maintain that it is inconclusive ' In the faint glimmerings of streetlight, it was just possible to make out his black eyes, the unusual width of his 27 cheekbones, the thickness of his softly pouting lips as if, like the brightest of stars piercing a misty night, these were all that really existed or were of any importance.
But despite that, he listened with a purely dispassionate ear; that fever was not for him now or ever. It fell on his ears like a litany out of an alien religion. A Christian mass, perhaps. Latin. He crawled on his belly, silent as a serpent. His mind was cool and detached. Memories, habits, disciplines, all had their carefully nurtured place within. This is what made him what he was. This and, had he understood it, history. But he had no concept of that. He lay on his back behind the sofa and prepared himself.
I saw the kids he was feedin', had to get the ambulance for one little girl. 'So I wanted this one bad. I got him, did everything right. Read him the Miranda in English and Spanish just in case. He was holdin', all of that. 'But the bastard had enough muscle to hire a lawyer who knew his way around the courts. He plea-bargained and the judge was lenient... socially conscious and all that. Sonuvabitch was out on the streets in six weeks. Six weeks. ' He shrugged. 'But that was only the beginning.