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Devil in the Dark

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“Have you come to kill me?” he asks into the black beyond the glass.

The lights had cut out seventy seconds before and that was about how long it would take between sabotaging the power and reaching his cell. He’d used the time like a guessing game, wondering if all the show was for him or not. There’s more unmarked cells in the building, after all.

“Dunno yet” said the voice attached to the gun that had to be pointed at him. One more step and the voice had a face, ghostly in the glass.

Could be Wakandan or American or any one of a thousand nations that might want him dead. But at the same time, he knew the man. Had served with him over and over in the Army and the death squads. A man whose trade was death.

In the darkness he could almost make out the barrel now, eyes adjusting.

“Why did you come?” he said, mostly out of idle curiosity. Death or not, it doesn’t matter much to him. And he’s had instruments of killing pointed at him too many times to flinch now.

“Tell me about T’Challa” the man says, almost angry. That must mean that he’s apocalyptically wrathful.

“I know nothing of Wakanda” he says, just to be contrary. And to test the other, just a little.

After all, he doesn’t have anything to lose.

The man on the other side though has approximately two minutes and fifty-two seconds before his viable escape window closes. Perhaps a little more, perhaps a little less.

Depends on whether or not he’s taking whatever’s left of Zemo when he’s finished with him.

"T’Challa” the other growls and yes, he’s hit a nerve.

It’s an amateur move but everything else about the soldier-hunter-killer says he must be one of the best. A personal mission then. He understands that.

“Smart, efficient, an excellent fighter. I'd give you details but I assume you've acquired whatever footage exists. A difficult opponent on any field, but he’s not ruthless. But I should warn you, he's less likely to be baited, now” he shrugs, spreads his hands with a schoolboy smile. Sorry, my fault.

In the lessening darkness, the other pauses, lowers the gun. Preparing himself, not hesitating.

“You killed T’Chaka”.

Zemo stops smiling.

This is one death that he thinks about at night. Amongst the ones he caused, anyway. Maybe this man hasn't come to eliminate a witness but to get revenge.

“Collateral damage” he says, honest. Lies have their place but it's not here.

“I wanted him. He killed my father”.

For the first time Zemo feels really, truly sorry. That is something he knows intimately.

“I’m sorry”

“Nah. Gave me the window I needed” says the smile with gold teeth. Good.

He nods, waits for the bullet, if that’s what’s coming. Men like them know death can be a reprieve. And then he finds that he wants to give someone encouragement.

It’s a fatherly urge he thought extinguished with his children. “I think you’ll succeed with whatever you have planned. With patience and experience, a man can do anything”.

He smiles again, thinking of the last time he said that. And the first. Fatherhood is essentially a repetitive experience.

His father handed down that phrase with the others.

Behind the glass, the other snorts, amused.

Then he raises the gun and fires.