A craftsman is only as good as his tools.
Normally, you’d want a #9 pointed round sable brush for this kind of
work, but Mac Devlin prefers brushes of his own manufacture, with hair
cut from the scalp of his sensei.
It’s every person’s god-given right to bitch about their job, but Mac
Devlin does not bitch. He paints. Some silly motherfucker might call
it art therapy, but they’d be missing the point.
Last week, he’d caught up with Sangelier. He’d gone to ground in
Mombasa and it had taken Devlin three weeks to flush him out. The two
The sound of his son’s footsteps outside his study jolt Mac Devlin
from his reverie.
“Dad? Mom says you forgot to take out the tras—”
—- The two exchanged gunfire in the plaza, and after the first thirty
seconds both were bleeding from a dozen wounds. It was winter there,
and nearing midnight, but mirage and heat shimmer twisted the stars
and moon and muzzle flash, the very ground between them grew hot from
the exchange of heavy weapons.
Sangelier’s nerve broke and he scrambled for cover behind a kiosk
loaded with brocade silk. Mac Devlin seized the opportunity.
An artist is only as good as his tools, and the tool at hand was an
84mm recoilless rifle. This motherfucker chucks a high explosive
round the size of a infant’s head at like seven hundred feet per
second, and is so much goddamn gun that Park Rangers often use them to
Mac Devlin’s aim was true. As Sangelier fled, the six-pound bullet
caught him right behind the balls, and the sky was occluded by a
shower of boiling ass meat. Mac paused a moment, felt the warm blood
leaving his body and cooling in the humid air, the smoke burning in
his lungs, the adrenaline churning in his testicles, the screams of
the onlookers giving way to the gentle roar of the ocean, the
fwap-fwap-thwop of chunks of ballistic butt cheek ending their
trajectory onto the dusty tile.
Devlin thought, “I’ve never seen the world set right so elegantly.”
Tonight he paints. Normally, he’s a buffalo-and-landscape kind of
cat, but tonight his brushes work to evoke that singular moment.
While his heart and hands murder effortlessly, his soul cannot create
without great struggle. He mixes his paints, struggling to capture
the color of seared butt flesh wrapped in the warm light of gunfire
and the blue of the moon reflected off the harbor. The cool dark
spark of his rage smoulders and catches.
A twitch in his shoulder reminds him: His son is still there. Mac
Devlin’s hand is wrapped around the boy’s throat, and has been for god
knows how long. That breath he drew to interrupt his father is still
lodged in his lungs. Mac Devlin notes clinically that his son’s
oxygen-greedy nerve cells are already shutting down. Death is, as
always, imminent. Without rancor, he considers squeezing harder.
THEN: On his son’s face, amidst blue lips turning grey and the deep
reds of capillaries shattering under tremendous pressure, he sees that
near-perfect crimson of his memory. The boy convulses hard, and
Devlin opens the window, letting that summer night sky in. He watches
for just one more moment until the color is perfect.
Mac Devlin lets go of the stupid shapeless boy and grabs a tube of
Maimeri 106, the Naples Yellow Reddish. He mixes just a touch and…
perfect. He doesn’t hear the boy crawl from the room or the rain on
the roof. Instead, he paints, and he paints like he fights, lost and
exultant in a grim job done beautifully.