Read Time: 7 mins | Serial Fiction | Part 8 | Read from the beginning
Leaving Michael was a bit of a gamble. Fear immobilizes most men, but Michael was not like most men. Love, although a powerful emotion, was no match for hate when one was relying on an adrenaline rush. Michael was simply a very confused young man at this moment. Everything about his personality; his power of decision making, his interactions, and in many regards his volatile and unpredictable rage, was very dependent on his ability to think clearly. My contingency was having his niece present in my home. For a young man, who all his life craved the filial affection he had been denied, Annabelle’s presence would be like a lifeline to a drowning man.
I drove into the parking lot of a very private retirement community. Set within a sprawling six hundred acres, the Humble Oaks community catered to the insanely wealthy, who wanted to just get away from it all. I had been here before, three days ago. I visited the older Mr. Mansoor to pay my respects. I wanted to look him in the eye and see if he had anything to do with the murder of my family. I was convinced he hadn’t. But this evening, I was to be the bearer of bad news.
He had chosen a humble way to live in his old age, but to be honest, he was never a grandiose soul. It is why he was one of the few men in our line of work, who had been able to avoid the law and live a long life. His wife had answered the door. A svelte, gentle, Swedish girl, who was really wife number six.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of two visits in one week?” He was sat in the corner of his sitting room, appreciating the warmth of the fireplace. But there was a sadness in his eyes, and he had drank one too many. He was grieving the loss of his son.
“I have chosen my apprentice.” I accepted the drink offered by the blonde. The look in his eyes did not acknowledge the implications of my statement. The old man had been away from the game too long.
“Is he a worthy selection?”
“Yes. Much more potential than I had anticipated.”
“The business with your family. You have found the men responsible?”
“You have declared war?” He leaned forward on his cane as though he wanted to stand up.
“An eye for an eye.”
“This is our creed.” He nodded.
“Albir Mansoor, you have been a dear friend. I am sorry about the loss of your son.” I reached for his hand and gave him a ring that I had confiscated from Reza before he was dispatched.
He inspected it slowly, like a jeweler would appraise gemstones.
“My sons were involved in that business with your family?” He shook his head.
“It is regrettable. I would like to suggest something if I may.” There was no need to linger on immediate feelings.
“Of course.” I could hear the pain in his heart, but he understood that this was our way.
“Your daughter. Is she ready to step into the void that my actions will inevitably lead to?”
“She has the disposition of a warrior. Too kind for this world. And we do not consider it a calling for our women.”
“I think that times are changing. A velvet glove can hide an iron fist. If she is your child, then she has what it takes.”
“I shall speak of this with her when she arrives.” He understood the continued legacy of his family would hinge on her decision, for my path had already been decided.
“I must leave you, Albir. I have a funeral to attend to.”
“Promise an old man one thing.” His aged hands grabbed me firmly by the wrist.
“For our friendship, anything.”
“Let it be quick.”
I nodded to him and his wife and took my leave. He would probably tell his son that I was coming, but everyone involved understood that was the case. Every person in our line of work was prepared to die, at any moment, but it was the waiting that sucked. Not knowing how it would go down, or when, meant that there was constant vigilance against the grim reaper. Tonight, only one person on my list would have an appointment with fate. I texted Naomi very specific instructions. She had been briefed a week ago and knew what had to be done.
The blue Ford Shelby growled as it left the police precinct. Officer Christine Riley felt untouchable. A fringe player in this dirty game we played, she had performed the horrid task of shoving my wife onto the train tracks. She had survived the last two weeks, because I wanted her to. An hour ago, she stood at a press conference holding a picture of the missing Annabelle Mendez. A false sense of security that she was untouchable, based on the myth that the powerful men next to her were themselves, beyond reach. Her routine was the same every evening. She would pause at a local restaurant, to get dinner for both her and her husband. He was a journalist on the payroll of the syndicate. Tonight, he would get the biggest scoop of his career.
“Good evening, Officer Riley.” I greeted her in the parking lot. Both her hands were filled with the evening’s dinner. She could not react as I reached in for her firearm, and handcuffs.
I motioned for her to get in the passenger seat, and I drove the Shelby toward her home. There was fear in her eyes, the kind which precipitated a foolish, desperate act.
“If you would be so kind as to Facetime your husband?”
“You were considerate enough to afford me the opportunity to say goodbye to my wife. I wish to extend the same courtesy to your husband.”
“You wouldn’t dare, shoot an officer…”
I shot her in the leg, and she screamed, grabbing her thigh, attempting to stem the flow of blood.
“Now, if you would be so kind. I have very little time.”
She called her husband. Her bloodied hand was shaking as she tried to hold the phone. I brought the car to a stop at the last intersection before her home. Taking the phone from her just as he answered, I allowed him to catch a glimpse of the surroundings, and his wife. Then I turned the phone toward me.
“Who are you, and what have you done with Christine?” I had his attention.
“Mr. Riley, you would be advised to call your friends at the precinct. Let them know that your wife has been abducted, mere blocks from your home.” I smacked Christine, who was howling in pain.
Just then, the report came over the radio. Naomi had placed a call to emergency services just as I had asked her to. There would be a huge response. I handcuffed Christine to the steering wheel, just as she was beginning to make out what the fuss was about on the radio.
“Won’t you say goodbye to your wife Mr. Riley? I turned the phone to her.
She was too busy trying to deal with her pain, trying to escape, to even care about him now. What she had heard on the radio was news of a train derailment, at her exact location. It was a futile attempt. There was the bellowing of the train’s horn, perhaps about thirty seconds away. All seventy-eight cars were travelling at fifty miles an hour. It would take the monstrosity just over a mile to come to a stop.
“That’s my signal, unfortunately.”
She reached for my arm, a beggar’s desperate plea in her eyes. She groaned, more from the pain in her leg, than from the fate which was hurtling toward her. Then there was calm.
I walked backwards from the scene, allowing the phone to live stream the carnage to her husband. I would be delivering his dinner within a few minutes. An eye for an eye. For I am the Innkeeper.
YOU CAN READ THE PREVIOUS ENTRIES IN THIS SERIES:
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN
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