This is a redraft of an old short story draft from 2007. Part I
"Hullo, hullo, hullo, hullo" Rastari said in that gratingly loud voice of his. He looked quite as ugly and ordinary as he always did, almost as if he had never fallen from the top of the First International Bank building at all. "I can't remember what we did, but it must have been one wild night!"
"What happened to you?" I asked, trying to keep calm.
"I already told you," he said, laughing. I noticed with some pleasure that he winced as he did so. "I can't remember anything about last night. Partial amnesia, or something like that. But whatever happened, I broke two ribs and my arm, cracked my collarbone, and bruised my side pretty badly."
I tried to assimilate this. "How could you possibly have only broken your ribs and your arm?"
"Only broken my ribs and arm?" Rastari said, laughing (and wincing) again. "What were we doing, if you expected me to be more banged up than this?"
"No," I said, "I meant, what could you have done to break your ribs and your arm, given that we didn't do anything. We were just strolling around, and you wandered off, and nobody saw you for hours. Max and I were worried."
Rastari looked at me doubtfully a moment. "Max?"
"Yes," I said impatiently, "Max. You and I were with Max last night."
The doubtful look became a surprised look. "Who is Max?"
I felt myself on the verge of a rant, but then I remembered the comment about partial amnesia, and just changed the subject. We engaged in some idle chitchat about football and chess and amnesia, with Rastari shouting or laughing that odious, unbearable, fingernails-on-chalkboard laugh every few minutes. In my head, however, I was thinking about Max, whom I'd be meeting for lunch the next day. We were going to have to do some more planning if the world was ever to be rid of that morally detrimental state of affairs called Danny Rastari.
"He didn't remember me at all?" Max asked when I met up with him at our favorite cafe and told him about the encounter in the hospital.
"Not in the least. But he says that a lot of things are fuzzy. Look on the bright side, though: he doesn't remember what we did to him."
"Perhaps," Max said, but I could see he was bothered by it. He was never one to let anything keep him down, though, and in a moment he said, "Well, it means that we can start over again. No harm, no foul."
"Maybe," I said. "But won't we just be pushing it? After all, we pushed him off a bank building once; it seems a little too deliberate to do it again. And what if he survived again?"
"There's no way he could survive again," Max said. "It had to have been a fluke the first time."
"Still, I don't like the idea of trying to kill someone twice; that makes it seem a little too much like murder. It makes us too involved."
"We are aleady involved. We pushed him off the bank building."
"Yes, but we were just helping gravity rid the world of a morally bad state of affairs. Gravity, as it turned out, was incompetent at its job. Unfortunately. Even if it weren't murder to keep pushing someone off a bank building, it's sloppy. We need a better plan."
"He's been talking about hunting recently," Max said.
"Yes!" I replied, snapping my fingers and startling the people at the next table. "Max, you're a genius. Hunting makes accidents easy. It should be easy enough to find something that will accidentally kill him."
"That wasn't really what I had in mind," said Max. "We had better keep it simple. That's what was nice about the bank building plan in the first place. Let's just take him out to your hunting cabin as soon as he gets well. Convalescent recreation, or something. And then we can poison him."
"No, no, no," I replied. "Have you forgotten the whole point? We don't want to murder him. We just want him to die."
"I understand that. But, really, is it murder when someone is poisoned to death? After all, we won't be the ones killing him. He'll just die because his body shuts down in response to a particular chemical compound."
"I suppose so," I said, frowning down at my plate a moment. Then I brightened. "And because we'll be out in the middle of nowhere, we can actually try to get help without fear that he'll be saved. That's great! One thing I never liked about the bank building was the worry about being responsible for his death through negligence if he didn't die on contact. But since we can try to get help, we won't be responsible for his death at all!"
"If you say so," said Max. "I think we should just keep our minds on the goal. Let's just focus on poisoning him."
"Keep in mind that we aren't the ones poisoning him. It's the poison that will do that. That's important. We can't be murders; we can't kill him. We're just helping the poison do so. But what poison would do the job?"
"I know just the thing," said Max. "Leave that to me."
We were silent a moment, then I said, "But what if the poison doesn't kill him?"
"It will kill him."
"That's what we thought about falling from the top of the bank building."
"I already told you that was a fluke. But if it's any consolation, we'll have guns."
"But we can't shoot him. That would be murder."
"Look," he said with some impatience, "you were the one who pointed out that accidents happen when people hunt. Those guns are going to go off at some point or another. All we'd be doing is helping them to go off in the direction that most improves the world."
"True," I said slowly. "And, really, if you think about it, it's the trauma that kills people who are shot, not the shooter. But I still like the poison idea better. There's less ambiguity there -- more separation from the effect. Let's hope that works."
"Very well then," he replied, raising his glass. "Here's to hoping that it works."
We clinked glasses. And that was how the new plan was set: we were going to find a way to let poison rid the world of that odious Danny Rastari.
It was a beautiful plan. It's a pity that poison was as incompetent as gravity.
to be continued