“The most dangerous man in America,” said Lieutenant Gabriel Bowers one drunken Sunday evening in McMalter’s Pub & Brewery, “is the son-of-a-bitch who tried to rob the 7/11 three years back. Quit your fucking fooling!” he roared, accent thick and face flush, for the host of fellow officers and inebriated companions around him were snorting with laughter. “That’s my answer, and I’m sticking to it. Never met a more dangerous fucking shoplifter in my entire fucking life.” He took another tall swig of Red Hook and slammed his mug onto the varnished table. “Do you want to hear the story or not?” he said, foam dribbling down the tangles of his beard, and his audience rolled their eyes and chuckled to themselves and settled in to listen.
“It was Thursday, July twenty-five, two thousand and five, and it was a hot fucking day. It was hotter than any Jacuzzi or sauna you’d ever slipped a toe into; it was hotter than two volcanoes making love in the Sahara. The sun was an angry bitch that day, beating rays and waves of heat down on our poor bald heads. We felt like fleas nesting in Satan’s sweaty balls.
“My partner and I—Lieutenant James Marten the Second, Marty the Moron—were sitting outside the 7/11 down on Corona Street. We had the windows down and the air conditioning on, doing our best to keep a semblance of normal fucking temperature. And then James looks over, and he sees this guy—I say guy, I really mean kid. He sees this kid with a baseball cap, kinda tall, kinda lanky looking, probably about sixteen. The kind of brat who hasn’t grown into his own stretched-out skin yet. This kid is strolling up to the 7/11, walking all casual and not sweating a drop, like there’s not a care in the world.
“And the kid’s got a fucking gun.
“So we grab our shit and we run out the car after him, thinking we’re about to stop some stupid teenager from making the biggest mistake of his punk life. And we’re less than a hundred feet from him, weapons drawn, when I yell ‘POLICE! STOP!’ So the kid turns to face me, slow as you fucking please. He looks at us, we look at him. And I see his eyes.
“There was something in that kid’s eyes that scared the shit out of me. There wasn’t any fear there, you know? I don’t know if he was confident or crazy or just dead inside, but he looked at us like we were fucking nothing. He didn’t even react when he saw us, just blinked a few times.
“I was going to yell something else, ‘put down your weapon’ or ‘turn around slowly’ or ‘nice hat, dipshit.’ I don’t fucking remember. But it didn’t matter, because Marty decided right then would be a good time to take a step forward. And the kid raised the gun with his finger on the trigger.
“So I shot him.
“The bullet went out the back of his head and off into the distance. There were chunks of bone and meat and liquid red spraying everywhere. I knew, right then and there, that I’d killed him. I knew it in my fucking gut. But the kid didn’t fall down. He didn’t even seem to react to the fact that he was dead. He just looked down at the blood all over his shirt like it was a nuisance. And then he looked at me, and I swear to Christ I’ve never felt so small.
“And then he dropped the gun on the pavement, and he walked away. Nice and easy. Dumb-son-of-a-bitch must have forgotten what he was trying to steal when I blew out his brains. But he left, and we didn’t make a fucking move to stop him. James said he saw the hole in the back of his head starting to disappear…but then, he’d just shat his pants, so I don’t know if his word can be trusted.
“Anyway that’s my story. Doesn’t matter to me if you believe it, but I haven’t told any of you shitheads about this for three fucking years. Maybe there’s a reason for that, yeah?” Gabriel got up from his chair and flipped his coat over his shoulder. “Think on it.”
Ms. Elizabeth Pritta-Jamison, Libby to her friends—the ones that are still alive, at least—is the most dangerous woman in America. At least, she thinks she is. There isn’t really a frame of reference for these things, not that she knows of, and anyway FBI Most Wanted lists do not good bridge conversation make. She can picture the rest of the silver-haired, fair-weathered ladies raising their eyebrows and letting their mouths hang open in shocked disapproval.
She believes she is dangerous because last week, when she woke up, her husband was lying next to her in two pieces. His lower half was draped over the edge of the bed like a primly folded sheet, and his face was resting on the pillow wearing an expression of disbelief. She found, to her own gentle surprise, that she was not at all bothered by her husband’s death. She had hated him for many years, true, but she would at least have expected something to well up inside of her, some sort of grief or pity or even disappointment. She felt nothing but detached disinterest, going about the rest of her morning routine and stepping into her car as though nothing had even happened.
And now she sits with her circle of card-playing companions, tapping her bony fingers to “Born in the USA” on the plastic table. It’s a cobbled-together mental rendition; she hasn’t listened to Springsteen in ages. Distinctly she hears the women around her talking about banal things: golf tournaments and bingo clubs and, “Whether or not the world is actually going to end this year, because although they Mayans got many things right they certainly couldn’t have known everything, after all the conquistadors wiped them from history, no dear that was the Aztecs the Mayans died out of plague, no that couldn’t possibly be right she’d seen it on the History network, and anyway 2012 was such a wonderful number for a year to have, there was something very final about it, perhaps they’d all like to hear about the end-of-year golf tournament her dear husband was planning—“
Elizabeth realizes suddenly that she is standing on her own two feet, and she is screaming. And the table has been split into two halves, both pieces launched in different directions, and the tea cups and bridge cards and packets of sugar are tearing themselves into pieces and whirling into the air. And there is a wind whipping from nowhere inside the room, and the women are shrieking as she rises into the air, clothes rippling and invisible lines of force dancing down her body and sending her hair into a hurricane. And the windows are shattering, and the doors slam shut, and the lights begin to flicker and die above them.
And Elizabeth is laughing
You are the most dangerous person in America. You have only occasionally suspected this about yourself, but it is the truth. You can do things that no one else can; you can push boundaries that have never been explored; you can change your life just by thinking about it. Sometimes you cannot die, and sometimes you can move the world with your mind, and sometimes you can see everything in the world happening in a single moment, all at once. You are more than dangerous—you are special, and you are everywhere.
And there is no stopping you.