SPOILERS after the cut.
This picks up from where we left off HERE. From Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis:
He found his sunglasses in the champagne well and put them in his shirt pocket. There was a sound outside, a bouncing ball. He was about to give the driver the signal to move when he heard the sporadic heavy bounce of a basketball, unmistakable. He got out of the car and crossed to the north side of the street, where a playground was located. He looked through two fences and saw a couple of kids crouched and growling, going one-on-one.
The first gate was locked. He climbed the fence of spiked iron palings without hesitation. The second gate was also locked. He climbed the chain-link fence, which was twice as high. He went up and over and Torval followed, fence to fence, wordlessly.
They went to the far end of the park and watched the kids go at it, playing in shadow and murk.
“Some. Not really my game,” Torval said. “Rugby. That was my game. You play?”
“Some. I liked the action in the paint. I pump iron now”
“Of course you understand. There’s still someone tracking you.”
“There’s still someone out there.”
“This was a petty incursion. The whipped cream. Technically irrelevant.”
“I understand. I realize. Of course.”
They were intense, these kids, hand-slapping and banging for rebounds, making throaty sounds.
“Next time no pies and cakes.”
“Dessert is over.”
“He’s out there and he’s armed.”
“He’s armed and you’re armed.”
“This is true.”
“You will have to draw your weapon.”
“This is true,” Torval said.
“Let me see the thing.”
“Let you see the thing. Okay. Why not? You paid for it.”
The two men made little snuffling sounds, insipid nasal laughter. Torval removed the weapon from his jacket and handed it over, a handsome piece of equipment, silver and black, four-and-a-half-inch barrel, walnut stock.
“Manufactured in the Czech Republic.”
“Smart too. Scary smart.”
“That’s right,” Torval said.
“You what. You speak and it knows your voice.”
“That’s right. The mechanism doesn’t activate unless the voiceprint matches the stored data. Only my voice matches.”
“Do you have to speak Czech before it fires?”
Torval smiled broadly. It was the first time Eric had seen him smile. With his free hand he took the sunglasses out of his shirt pocket and shook the temples loose.
“But the voice is only half the operation,” Torval said, then paused invitingly.
“You’re saying there’s a code as well.”
“A preprogrammed spoken code.”
Eric put on the glasses. “What is it?”
Torval smiled privately this time, then raised his eyes to Eric, who leveled the weapon now.
He shot the man.
A small white terror of disbelief flickered in Torval’s eye. He fired once and the man went down. All authority drained out of him. He looked foolish and confused.
The basketball stopped bouncing twenty yards away. He had mass but no flow. This was clear as he lay there dying. He had discipline and a sense of pace, okay, but no true fluency of movement.
Eric glanced at the kids, who stood motionless watching. The ball was on the ground and slowly rolling. He gave them a casual hand signal indicating they ought to continue their game. Nothing so meaningful had happened that they were required to stop playing.
He tossed the weapon in the bushes and walked toward the chain-link fence. There were no windows flying open or concerned voices calling. The weapon was not equipped with a sound suppressor but there’d been only one shot and maybe people needed to hear three, four, more to rouse them from sleep or television. This was one of the routine ephemera of the night, no different from cats at sex or a backfiring car. Even if you know it’s not a backfiring car, because it never is, you don’t feel a prod to conscience unless the apparent gunfire is repeated and there are sounds of running men.
In the dense stir of the neighborhood, living so close to street level, with noises all the time and the dead-ass drift of your personal urban anomie, you can’t be expected to react to an isolated bang. Too, the shot was less annoying than the basketball game. If the effect of the shot was to end the game, be grateful for moonlit favors.
He paused imperceptibly, thinking he ought to go back for the weapon. He’d tossed the weapon in the bushes because he wanted whatever would happen to happen. Guns were small practical things. He wanted to trust the power of predetermined events. The act was done, the gun should go.
He climbed the chain-link fence, tearing his pants at the pocket.
He’d tossed the weapon rashly but how fantastic it had felt. Lose the man, shed the gun. Too late now to reconsider. He dropped to the ground and advanced to the iron fence.
He didn’t wonder who Nancy Babich was and he didn’t think that Torval’s choice of code humanized the man or required delayed regret. Torval was his enemy, a threat to his self-regard. When you pay a man to keep you alive, he gains a psychic edge. It was a function of the credible threat and the loss of his company and personal fortune that Eric could express himself this way. Torval’s passing cleared the night for deeper confrontation.
He scaled the iron fence and walked to the car.
A man from the century past played a saxophone on the corner.
What a scene. My reaction to this part of the book was complete shock. Jaw drop. Gasp. Stunned. It was a turning point for me. I can’t wait to see this interpreted on film. It’s one of the reasons Torval is my favorite character to interact with Eric. The coldness in which Eric took him out Nancy Babich’d me. I know it was discussed before why Eric did this but feel free to explore the offing of Torval again.
The Nancy Babich scenes stuck with me immediately. I dedicated our Cosmopolis twitterbot to “her”. NB was an early tag I used and I told M Nancy would be the main image for our Zazzle store when we got it up and running. We all got a thing for Nancy Babich. 😉 If you’d like a shirt or mug, they’re 17.76% off for the holiday weekend. Click HERE to go the store and enter the code: LANDOFTHETEE.
Kevin Durand wrapped Cosmopolis the night of this scene and we wish him all the best. Can’t wait to see him in the role of Torval.