Take me back

Hart and Bart05-2022, 1400 words


In another life, Bart Lovelace could’ve been anything. A genius. A diplomat. An oil tycoon if he was lucky enough to have oil tycoon parents. Bart would’ve been rich and famous and swimming in money. In this life though, it was his brother who was the genius diplomat (neither of them turned out to be oil tycoons).

Bart hadn't done badly for himself, except for the fact that he was number two, always in second place. There was no reason to complain when he was comfortably in the police department and might make chief one day if Hart pulled a few strings. Still, Bart often wanted to complain. He never did, of course, because he knew when to hold his tongue, but damned if he didn't want to. It stung to be second fiddle, never the main actor but a side piece to Hart's glory. Even now, Bart - police captain, chief hopeful, defender of public morals - stood behind his brother while he greeted Evil Batlet.

Evil Batlet was the city’s resident crime lord. He also happened to be a family friend, sort of, so Hart felt obligated to take bribes from him. In Hart's own words, no politician was ever clean so why not dirty his hands once in a while? After all, Evil was generous with his gift and he had great taste in wine. This time, it was a sassy red, one hundred year old and aged in a wood cellar. Last time it had been a rare Italian and the one before was French, from the coffers of the royal family themselves. 

It wasn’t just great wine. Evil had fat pockets and he shared the wealth whenever Hart did something at city hall, or got Bart to do something at the police station. It wasn't too bad to forge a relationship with the local crime lord. They were scratching each other’s backs and that never was a bad thing to do.

Except when Evil started asking too much. Bart could see it lately, how he visited more often with increasingly unreasonable demands. Hart was getting annoyed, that tight little smile showing whenever he let Evil into the office. Did he not have a life? That was what Bart bet Hart was thinking. 

“I need to call in a favour,” Evil was saying. He chuckled and steepled his fingers. Bart wondered if he ever got tired of doing that. “A little bird told me there's going to be a raid at the dock soon. I have warehouses there.”

 Even when he was talking about police business, he spoke to Hart and not Bart. Yet Bart was the cop. 

It only stung because everyone did that. They directed all their words to Hart because he was more… smart? reliable? Trustworthy? It was all fake, Bart wanted to tell them. Hart was just good at looking like he was listening and telling them what they wanted to hear!

Hart was nodding along as Evil explained how he had warehouses at the dock. Perfectly legal warehouses with perfectly legal things in them, but they were very delicate and could not be disturbed. Could the brothers ensure no one got into them, please? He needed them off limits. 

“Can you do it?” Hart looked at him.

Bart nodded. He would’ve barked too, with how much he felt like a dog right now. Whatever. He pushed the feeling aside. 

“That’s that.” Hart turned back to Evil and spread his hands like how he always did on TV. It made him seem like he was speaking out of the kindness of his heart. “How much is your warehouse worth?” 

Doublespeak again. Bart couldn’t tell if he was asking for a literal estimate of how much was in the warehouse or if he was asking for payment. Evidently Evil could, but Bart wasn’t smart like those two.

Evil pretended to think. Then he grinned and threw out a number.

Immediately, the air in the room changed. Bart could feel it get degrees colder, Hart’s expression freezing in place. A smile that looked plastered on and icy. Clearly, whatever number Evil gave, it wasn’t the right one. Too low, apparently. 

“Are you sure?” Hart’s voice took on that low, knifepoint angle like it did before elections, right when the other candidates were about to get decimated. 

Apparently, Evil didn’t know that. Maybe he didn't watch the local news. A crime lord like him would be arrested the moment he showed his ID at the voting box so he probably didn't bother to participate in democracy at all. Evil just cackled some more and repeated the same number. 

Hart fell stone silent. Bart knew that silence.

Bart could tell when the mask dropped though. And now it was about to. “Your knife in your left pocket, take it out.” Hart motioned to Evil, a thin smile on his face.

Evil mirrored his grin, wider though. He didn't have to put on appearances for anyone. He could grin like a madman every hour of the damn day because no one was expecting anything else from him. Not like Hart, who had to change who he was for every person he met. He was flexible like that.

Sometimes Bart wondered who the real Hart was. Maybe his twin brother wasn't actually the grinning, cruel man in front of him, who struck deals with criminals. Maybe this was all an act.

But then Hart took the knife, twirled it between his fingers and did a trick Bart couldn't ever hope to copy. He slammed it on the table, wedging it between wood. “People like you only back down when you beat them at their own game,” he told Evil. Hart picked up the knife again and did the same trick. “So play a game with me.”

 Bart watched Evil carefully for a reaction. The crime lord seemed nonplussed, amused even. No doubt he had ten more knives on his body, and a gun too for good measure. Bart wanted to use his cop training and frisk him, except that was rude to guests. 

“Hand on the table,” Hart instructed. Then he picked up the knife and slammed it between Evil’s fingers.

Twock. Twock. Twock. 

The knife stabbed the table multiple times at quick speed, Hart's hand holding it steady. It seemed to brush Evil’s fingers but never hit it directly, so that no one was really being hurt. But a single brush to the left or the right and blood would spurt out, Evil might even lose a finger. 

Evil and Hart were looking at each other and grinning like madmen. They weren’t even looking at the knife, as if what was happening didn’t faze them at all! To Bart though, the movements of the knife were almost hypnotic. Any moment now, someone would slip up - but who?

His twin’s sudden display of violence was no surprise. One time when they were kids, he’d eaten Hart’s last pudding and got forced to eat snails in front of their whole class. That was how scary Hart was. The worst part was, no one believed him when he cried because Hart was so good at making it his fault. 

And now, it was Hart's word against Evil’s that this all happened. Bart was never going to tell a soul and who would people believe, the upstanding young politician or a guy named Evil Batlet?

“How much do you think your finger is worth?” Hart said without taking his eyes off Evil.

Evil sneered back. “A thousand for each.”


“I have ten of them.”

Ten more stabs, all of them missing Evil by a hair. After the tenth, the knife wedged itself neatly in the table. They would need to get a new table with how sliced up this one was.

Hart took the knife and handed it back to Evil, as polite as anything. “Ten thousand.”

Evil nodded and chuckled. “I’ll have it in your bank by tomorrow.” He was looking at Hart with newfound respect, as if he was thinking good one. I’ll have to use that trick myself someday.

The moment Evil left, Hart smoothed his suit, put a stack of books over the knife marks and turned to Bart. No longer did he look villainous and evil, but like the brother Bart knew. 

“How did you do that?” Bart muttered, wide eyed.

Hart beamed and tapped his temple. “Simple, I just asked myself What Would Evil Do? and did it. Now, the environmentalist association rep is coming over next. See them in for me, won’t you?” His face turned bland, placid, like a totally new person. No trace of madness remained in his eyes.

Bart shivered. Then he went to go make tea for the rep.