Read Time: 7 mins | Serial Fiction | Part 3 | You can read Part one here.
The boy was being asked to become a man so soon. Much would depend on his ability to follow instructions and play within the rules. I had no doubt that I had made a suitable selection. Michael Keynes was driven by the same force that drew me into this shadowy world. What agitated his mind also inspired his creativity. There would come a time when I would unleash the boy into the spotlight, but for now, his role would be miniscule but important.
He had spent the night at my workshop, probing, observing, like a puppy checking out his new home for the first time. When he finally fell asleep, he tossed and turned, wrestling his nightmares. Michael was used to being a stray, coming and going as he pleased. I had no doubt that at some point he would wish to know more, wish to challenge my authority. It’s what I would have done, and he possessed so much more untapped rage than I ever did at his age.
Teenage hubris, curiosity and ignorance had made him stay in the car. Hunger, and the bitter cold had made him spend the night with his abductor. For that is what I was until further notice. In time he would either learn to trust me or become another permanent occupant of the Inn. Michael had asked a million questions about the man he had called his father, Denzel Keynes. I answered as best as I could, without giving too much away. I knew what was going through his mind and heart. A mixture of doubt, and loss, a yearning to find out the truth. The real question that was on his mind, was still too fearful to ask. That would come with time, and the answer I have now, will still be the same then. His pain now, will be increased ten-fold, and his reaction will be as anticipated… revenge.
Denzel Keynes, the man who took Michael from his loving home and brought him into our darkness was a cruel man. I would hesitate to call him evil, for we are all inherently evil. Who am I to judge? There are those who, because of their experiences, only see flowers and sunshine. Others, men like me, have lived like mushrooms. The darkness succored and weaned us, it prepared us for what the real world truly was, and when we finally emerged into the light, we instinctively preferred the shadows. Michael… loved the shadows.
When he finally awoke, I introduced him to what his first task would be. I had arranged a chart of potential targets for us to assess. There was a gentleman, personally responsible for the slaying of my wife and daughter. Well-connected and protected. For me to get anywhere near him, would probably lead to my death. Someone as unassuming as Michael could walk within touching distance and no one within his security entourage would bat an eyelid. But I didn’t need him to be that close. My objective was his family. My sole objective was to cause him pain. My goal was to send a message to the men who had betrayed our fraternal order. For I was the Innkeeper.
For thousands of years, we had been untouchable. It was a sacred understanding, a burden which denied us any life whatsoever. Men who fulfilled this role held the underworld together. We are the peace that holds chaos in this surreal flux, which makes normal people think that their world is relatively safe. If I didn’t, then this tyranny would reach far and wide, and your world would be absorbed into mine.
After I had explained to Michael what the mission was, I allowed him to ask questions. It was a test to explore his powers of reasoning.
“His eldest child is the weak link. She tries to live a normal life. Security around her could not be too intrusive, therefore two or three men at the most.” He was staring at her picture on the screen.
“Why not go for the youngest?” I prodded.
“Have you ever tried to enter a nursery recently? They have more check points than a maximum-security prison.”
His remark reminded me of my granddaughter. She would have to be back at nursery next week.
“Why not go for one of his businesses?” I asked.
“I’ve had interactions with some of his henchmen before. Let’s just say that they lack the rhetorical facilities to have reasoned arguments.”
“What exactly did you do?”
“Is it important?”
I thought about this for a moment. Michael needed to be assured that he was an equal partner in this experience. That equality would be correlated to his freedom. But that freedom would then be linked to his ownership of his responsibilities, and the dire consequences of failure.
“Yes, it is.”
He fidgeted with the zipper on his jacket. Then he sat down on a small folding chair.
“My dad… Denzel. He had asked me to deliver a message to a blackjack dealer at one of those illegal gambling rooms they operate. When I got there, a certain gentleman…” he paused and pointed to a face on the wall.
It was a repeat offender. One who spent most of the year behind bars and would miraculously be released after some not so very sophisticated legal maneuvering. Usually, a witness would skip town or end up at the Inn. He was not someone Michael would likely ever encounter unless Denzel had wanted it to be so.
“I got there around six in the evening and was allowed in to see the manager of the place. Short guy who owns the deli on Milford.” Michael continued.
“I know him.”
“I did as I was told. Then, that guy on the wall, he suddenly took an interest in me.” Michael seemed more agitated than normal.
“His name is Reza. They call him the Shah.” I interjected.
“Yeah, that’s what they called him. You know this sicko?”
“Not personally, no.”
Michael got up and began to pace the room. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and asked me for a light. I obliged the obviously traumatized teenager. I knew it was uncomfortable. But this was a necessary experience for him.
“One thing led to another, and before I knew it, the Shah had me with my pants at my ankles and a gun to the back of my head.”
“That is unfortunate. I am sorry you had to experience this.”
“Mister. My father… Denzel, has done far worse to me since I was about this high.” He held his hands to his waist. A feigned nonchalance.
“The Shah is due to be released in two hours. What if I were to tell you that we’d be the ones picking him up from prison?
Michael’s face lit up.
“But why not the eldest daughter?”
“The innocents are protected, as much as it lies within our power to do so. Collateral damage is a term that vile men have created to justify their lust for blood and carnage.”
“What are we going to do with the Shah?”
“Use him as a key to the front door. Our target is his brother.”
“Do you want me to kill him?”
How Michael chose to dispose of the man who violated him, would be his prerogative. There were only two men I would personally dispose of, as murder for any cause other than revenge, would dishonor my creed. Tis the nature of my calling; for I am, the Innkeeper.
Read Previous Entries in the Series
Leave a Reply