Life in Vancouver was not the same after Michel arrived. He had no problem going to bars and listening to loud music. George had better things to be doing.
Michel didn’t drink alcohol – “It got no effect on me, at all,” he said – so if Jesse had a few, he’d look out for him on the Vomit Comet, the night bus that conveyed him back to Burnaby (Jesse had moved, but only one street over), and keep the pickpockets and jackasses away if he started to ‘nap’. Knowing he was with a person of considerable strength, skill and speed was sometimes enough to make Jesse giddy, no alcohol required.
Michel’s favourite watering hole trick was to wait until closing time, figure out which of Vancouver’s world-class supply of entitled young douche-nozzles was drugging the drinks of their marks, and tie him into diverse shapes in the parking lot, after surreptitiously punching out all the security cameras. Sometimes he just covered those prying eyes in gum, it being useful and pretty much lying around everywhere downtown. Threats were usually all it took to deal with jackasses, since Jesse was big and Michel was a small town in Saskatchewan¹, but there were always the nights when Michel allowed things to get lively.
After, he told Jesse he’d smelled the gun a mile against the wind. It had been recently fired, within the last day, anyway, so Michel knew he was dealing with, at minimum, a hobbyist who probably wasn’t a bad shot, and at worst, a wise guy, who lived to achieve oneness with his gun. Michel knew and loved wise guys from his early days in Montréal. The prospect of being shot at didn’t bother him, and he thought he’d take special pains to ensure Jesse didn’t eat a stray round, that being at least a possibility. Jesse, having survived, allowed himself to be amused.
Michel had caught a young man drugging a woman at closing time. His comments on the young man’s technique had led to a shoving match which Michel cheerfully took outside, with Jesse keeping Michel between him and the amateur druggist and his chums.
“So you’re telling me one of three things,” Michel said, punting each syllable across a chasm of disbelief, “You think you’re too ugly to pick up girls without drugs, you know you’re too ugly to pick up girls without drugs, or you just plain like girls who don’t move and can’t complain about what a sorry excuse for a penis you have.”
“You don’t get to say shit like that to me,” the young man said, with complete contempt. He pulled a gun from the rear of his waistband and shot Michel once.
Jesse yelled, and ducked behind a car. Michel’s voice, apparently in his ear, said, “Don’t worry, I’ll deal with the gun. Stay put.” Jesse couldn’t help himself and peered around the vehicle. He could see three men, but only one with a gun.
The young man approached again and shot Michel, who had fallen over backward, twice more at point blank range.
“Well, you shot me, but you didn’t manage to kill me,” Michel said, conversationally. He got up. He was neither bleeding, nor gasping, nor anything really, except moving toward the gun as implacably as a golem. “Jeez, if you’re shooting at me, shouldn’t I at least know your name?”
Jesse yelled, “Don’t tell him, he’s got a really good memory!”
Michel said, “Now what the fuck would you say that for?”
The young man, eyes glaring and face stark with rage and disappointment, fired twice more. Michel appeared to skid along on the ground on his ass, rotating slightly with each shot. The gunman’s two buddies, coming forward, murmured to each other.
“I dunno, dramatic effect?” Jesse yelled.
“You’re enjoying this too much.”
“You said you’d get rid of the gun,” Jesse yelled.
The young man emptied his clip, another seven bullets.
It was as if the gun hadn’t spoken with its deafening, soul-shattering voice.
“Oh yeah,” Michel said. “That’s right.”
The gun disappeared from the shooter’s hand and reappeared in Michel’s. Michel, apparently having been shot 12 times to no effect, pistol-whipped his assailant once and then tripped his buddies as they approached to help their friend.
Michel said, as he stood over them, “Because you came forward to help this asshole” – here he toed his unconscious form with dainty disgust – “I’ll give you the chance to run away now. By god if I catch you drugging girls or helping to haul them home, you’ll get drugged and wake up in a Saudi jail. Or maybe an Indonesian one, depending. You fucking understand me? Try to have fun without hurting women. It is possible, you know.” He then hauled them to their feet as if they were puppies, patted them both hard on the ass and they bolted. “Don’t forget to call 911 for your friend!” Michel called after them.
Jesse had reached for his phone.
Michel said, tucking a hand into Jesse’s belt to pull him along, away from the scene, “Don’t bother. If you call the cops you’ll be tying yourself to me in a police report and while I have very little respect for cops George does not share my opinion.”
“He could die,” Jesse said.
“I don’t think so. It’s just a little depressed skull fracture over a part of his brain he doesn’t seem to be using, it’ll slow him down for a week maybe. Let’s rewind! He shot me twelve times! Well, if you’re gonna get technical he shot me ten times and I had to stand in front of the strays to catch ’em so they didn’t hit somebody’s car.”
This triggered Jesse’s interest in forensics. “Hey wait a minute,” Jesse said, turning to look one last time at the scene. “Where’d all the shell casings go?”
Michel gave an exaggerated shrug. For about half a second, he looked like a tall and infamous professional magician, and then, smiling at Jesse’s startled reaction, he theatrically spat out a shell casing.
“Jesus!” Jesse said.
Still smiling, Michel continued to spit. Eventually his left hand held all the shell casings, and his right hand held all the bullets, which had been flattened, as if they’d hit a wall.
“What in the ever loving fuck are you made out of?” Jesse breathed.
Again, that shrug.
“I don’t know,” Michel said. “But George is made out of the same stuff, except for his hair, and he wants to find out what it is.”
“Why would any creature evolve naturally to be able to resist being shot at point-blank range?” Jesse asked, his brain ringing along with his ears.
“You think evolution did this?” Michel said, tapping himself all over. He tapped his hand, and Jesse heard a cartoon bouncing noise. Then he tapped his chest, making a great, hollow, metallic noise. Then he tapped his head, and it sounded like a tree being struck with a baseball bat.
“I can sound like anything too.”
“You can do anything,” Jesse said. It was hard not to sound envious.
“I can’t seem to make babies with Kima,” Michel said. The tone wavered between resentment and acceptance. “It may be too much to ask, her commitment to George being how it is.”
“I wish I could meet her,” Jesse said. Then he said, as he started to tremble, “I really hate getting shot at.”