It was done anyway. Danny knew it. So what did it matter how he greeted the man who had come to kill him? So many times in his life, he’d felt unsafe, unsure of what might happen. But now… now he was home. These were his walls keeping out the cold and his floors warming his feet.
Outside, the clearing in which the scorned man stood, that was Danny’s too, as were the trees surrounding the cabin, as was the snow drifting in the morning breezes.
Danny was safe, but he wanted the man to know it too. That’s why, on his way out of the cabin, when he came to the kitchen bar, he paused in front of a bowl of fruit that had been left there only a few hours prior by someone from the Ernst Group. He considered what he might look like, standing on his porch, casually biting and chewing an apple, while a man threatened him with death.
After all, he’d seen it done in the movies. Sometimes it wasn’t fruit. Sometimes the hero played with his glasses or pretended to check his phone. What mattered was the distraction, the thing that was more important than the threats. The smaller the thing, the bigger the disregard, the greater the insult.
It only took a few seconds of careful consideration to dismiss the idea. Though he didn’t care what the man had to say and didn’t feel threatened in the slightest, it just wasn’t his style to appear so aloof. Danny wasn’t the kind of guy to ignore anything that was right in front of him, let alone pretend to do so just to get a rise out of someone.
And yet, as he opened the door and walked out onto the porch, he was struck by a vision of himself simply miming an apple. Obviously, it was bat shit crazy, but to Danny, it was hilarious. The man would say something about putting Danny’s head on a pike, and in return, he’d hold his empty hand to his mouth and take a bite out of the air. Pretend to chew thoughtfully. Swallow hard.
And when the threatening was done, or perhaps after the man’s ultimatum, Danny would turn and, ever so casually, toss the imaginary apple over his shoulder. This too, he found hilarious.
So funny was this image that Danny could not keep from laughing as he approached the edge of the porch. The glare of the sun forced his eyelids into slits, and he felt them squish into the rising cheeks above his smile.
The man stood in the clearing, his hand on the gun in his holster. Vengeance dripped from steely black eyes.
“You and I have unfinished–” growled the man.
Danny put up one hand, said, “Sorry, give me a minute. I just thought of something funny.”
He bent at the waist, put his hands on his knees, and laughed as gunfire erupted in the Vail wilderness.