The Innkeeper’s Apprentice – Pt.5

Read Time: 7 mins | Serial Fiction | Part 5 | Read from the Beginning.

The news reporters were at the scene, moments before law enforcement and emergency responders. A deliberate tip off after Michael had informed me that he was safely at home. I never asked him what he had done to Reza, as there was blood on his gloves and apron. But it was irrelevant. His inclusion in the deed was an initiation for my young apprentice. Reza was destined to die today, either by Michael’s hand or the authorities. Once Michael had left, I contacted the news outlets and five minutes later I called the emergency services. Then I deliberately torched the premises. It was still only two in the afternoon.

This was not my first rodeo. I had learnt over the years a few tricks of the trade from the nefarious gents and ladies that requested my services. Chaos works best during rush hour. It slows response times and creates general panic. It was 2:45pm when I arrived near the kindergarten where the four-year-old granddaughter of a once trusted client spent her days. It was a typical autumn evening, when the temperature would contradict the bright sun, and frigid winds would cause leaves to fall. The sidewalks were hidden under a canopy of orange and yellow hues, of slippery, wet leaves. The school had many children who were the pride and joy of immensely powerful men. As the Innkeeper, I was privy to most of their treasured secrets. Power is never achieved honorably. Therefore, most of them would die dishonorable deaths. By tomorrow, two of them would die by my hands.

I had hacked the security system of the school three days ago and was now watching a live feed of reading time. The lone security guard attached to watching over the heirs of the underworld, had stepped away for his bathroom break. It was time to place my next call.

Mr. Mansoor, the brother of Reza, would have received my video message of the unfortunate Reza hanging from my workshop ceiling. He would be expecting this phone call. I reached out to his personal line, and he picked it up immediately.

“Yes!” Was his dry answer. He understood that Reza was not going to survive. He would have had sufficient time to explore his options and made his counter.

“Reza should be on the three o’clock news. Unrecognizable, as he’d be in a body bag. Mansoor, I am sorry it had to come to this.”

“You won’t survive the night, my friend.” He hung up the phone.

I sent him a screen shot of reading time, then made my way into the nursery. The pretext was a meeting with the principal, to discuss my own granddaughter’s absence from school. Once inside, I made my way to the bathroom. The lone security guard, whose job was to look after these children, was in the only stall, and on his phone. I could hear him scrolling through social media videos. Lighter fluid, quickly followed by a match, and he was ablaze before he could react. He would survive.

The smoke alarm went off almost immediately. Then I pressed the panic alarm for a greater response time. In the chaos, as the teachers were evacuating the children, I made my way to the classroom at the farthest end of the hall, and gently escorted Annabelle Montez off the premises. She would be fine in the company of her dearest friend, my granddaughter. Her father, however, would not be as comfortable.

I contacted Michael on my way home. He was broody. His tone was sullen and reflective. This was to be expected.

“What is wrong, Michael?” I was too fatherly, but that could be corrected.

“Denzel wasn’t home when I returned.”

“I know. His bosses would have summoned him. What we did would have stirred the nest. All hands unfortunately would be needed. Home was the safest place for you.”

“I wanted him to be here.” There was a determination in his voice. He wasn’t sullen; Michael was still thirsting for blood. That threw the ninety-second theory out the window.

“You will get your chance at Denzel soon enough. Things are going to be moving very quickly over the next twenty-four hours. He’d be hyper vigilant, not trusting even his own shadow. Now, won’t be exactly the most opportune moment to make a move against him.”

The time had come to teach Michael the importance of patience.

“He dies today.” He insisted.

“You need to remain focused on the mission at hand. I promise you that I will help you get revenge on Denzel. But it won’t be easy to kill the man you’ve called father all your life.”

“I don’t know you or need you Mister. I don’t even know your name. I could take care of Denzel without you.”

Michael was beginning to unravel. This too was expected. He needed to be reeled in. Isolation was not good for him.

“Would you like to spend some time at my place, Michael? I could come get you.”

He ignored me for a while. Michael didn’t trust anyone.

“I have a question to ask you. I think I’ve earned the right to three more questions.”

The boy was finally ready.

“Not over the phone. I’ll get you in an hour. Pack an overnight bag.”

After dropping Miss Montez in the care of Naomi, I retrieved my apprentice in waiting, and took him to his favorite place, a small playground near the shopping mall. It’s where I had observed him over several days before I had introduced myself. He seemed surprised at first, but then the familiarity of the environment helped him to relax. This was his world.

I began my rehearsed speech after we had sat down. “I won’t tell you how to feel. I want you to understand that I’ve been there. It is not going to be easy, but I am here for you.” It sounded insincere.

“Would you really help me to get rid of Denzel?” The predator was locked in. It was that singular mind, which I needed to train, to mold… to break. For now, it had its purpose.

“A word spoken is as good as done.” That is our creed.

“The Innkeeper’s Creed?” He teased

“When the time is right, you will have to take these vows as well.”

“And when will that be?”

“If all goes according to plan; tomorrow evening.”

“Can you tell me the truth about my real family?”

“Only after you’ve taken the vows of the Innkeeper.”

“Are they alive?” There was desperation in his eyes.

“What does your heart tell you?” I asked him.

“That Denzel killed them all.”

I shook my head. “They were brought to the Inn by Reza’s father.”

“Was it he who sent Denzel to harass my family?”

“I can say no more, until you’ve taken your vows.”

“Did you kill them?”

Michael had a tell. When he was angry, he would tap his thighs, and his breathing would accelerate. I saw the punch coming ten seconds before he swung at me.

“Tell me the truth old man.”

I froze. My reflexes were not as efficient as they once were. Michael had moved rather quickly and drew a firearm. The same one that I had left under the briefcase. The cheeky little bugger made an old man smile. The boy was ready to challenge my authority. I was proud of him.

Footsteps were coming. Hurried, heavy and not attempting to be discreet. I glanced over Michael’s shoulder. It was two police officers. It was unlikely that they would try anything in public.

“Lower the weapon and walk away.” I whispered to Michael.

“Not until you answer my questions.”

“I will. But there are two policemen closing in on us. They’re probably here for me. Lower your weapon, Michael. Stay calm and walk away.”

“There is a Deli, just across the road.” He spoke loud enough so the officers could hear him. Pretending to give an old man direction, Michael pointed across the park, and turned his body just enough so he could confirm that I was speaking the truth.

“Thank you young man.” I responded in a similarly loud manner, and we both walked in opposite directions.

“Sir. Can we have a word?” I knew the voice.

I turned around, to face the officers. A familiar. Not a friend, but an acquaintance. Okay, even that was stretching it, but Officer Sutherland owed me a favor. I had saved his life.

“Officer Sutherland. My good friend. How are you?”

The look on his face was priceless.



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