Read Time: 6 mins | Serial Fiction | Final Episode
One Year Later….
Delayed revenge, like hope deferred, makes the heart sick. Nicollo Machiavelli, who my young apprentice chose to name himself after, once said that war is postponed only to the advantage of others. But for the sake of Nico, it was worth it. Vengeance, as he had so rightfully reminded me, was for the impetuous and the weak; and I was the Innkeeper.
The news stories had been released almost a year ago, thanks to Mr. Riley. The horrible death of his wife at my hands only saddened him for a moment, and he was never likely to retaliate. Ambition, vanity, fame, glory, are far more seductive motivators than grief; especially if one lacked the capacity for revenge. Senator Mendez’ career took a nosedive, after revelations of his extra marital affair, and the mysterious death of his “other” family hit the national headlines. Sadly, all politicians seem to have nine lives, and he survived. Somehow maneuvering and slithering his way off the front pages, and back into the shadows. Retribution, like justice, is a slow process. But today, we were executing another phase of our plan.
My apprentice couldn’t be involved in any of this, for he had taken the vows of the Innkeeper. As such, he was only allowed to act for the sake of personal revenge. He did, however, give me a message to deliver to the man. It was a small handwritten note, safely tucked away in my pocket. It was the only item I carried with me.
Time provides occasion and opportunity if one is patient enough. The death of Mr. Mansoor had created an opening, where all parties concerned were present. In my role as Innkeeper, I was untouchable. It was the old man’s wishes that I take care of his funeral arrangements. His son was furious, and if he could have murdered me that day, he would have. But the blow back would have been catastrophic. I had no such restrictions, for retribution was now on my terms. The right to retaliate, whenever and wherever, was mine. And I played my delicate hand at the funeral.
Mr. Mansoor had asked me to make it quick, and I always kept my promises. I had never promised him that it would be without suffering. Three days after the funeral, Yuri Mansoor, the head of the crime syndicate fell violently ill. His arrival at the hospital was greeted with a special urgency, and a very specialized team of doctors. He had demonstrated symptoms of radiation poisoning, for which there was no cure. How fast he departed this world would be up to him. But evil men loved living more than life itself. This was nearly a week ago.
It was easy to gain access to the hospital. Several members on the staff had requested my services over the years, and as hospitals are notorious for unexplained deaths, my services were always appreciated. Yuri’s entire floor was well protected. Entrance to his room required federal clearance, and only three physicians had access to him. If you’ve ever been hospitalized for any period, there is always one person it seems, who has unfettered access to all areas: the orderly.
For the last week, I had been walking in and out of his room, doing the menial tasks, the invisible man in a room full of thugs and federal officials. I watched as his body fell apart. He was barely recognizable from the man who had sat across the room from me just over a year ago. That night, surrounded by his henchmen, he had extinguished the life of my daughter, after having his way with her. Calling it a kindness when he had dropped off her body to the Inn. For no other reason, other than having the power to do so, he had murdered an innocent. At least that’s what he had claimed. I later found out that I was also supposed to die that night. But for the intervention of several influential men, I would have. It was a cruel kindness.
The death of my family had been ordered by Yuri Mansoor, and the disgraced Senator. A presidential run had been on the cards, and they had decided that twenty-five years was still to be considered recent memory. I and my family were in the path of his destiny. That train was derailed with Mr. Riley’s news story. Nico had argued that it was to our benefit to play the long game. I was allowing him to fulfill his potential, and I would have my moment at the proper time.
‘Men should either be treated generously or destroyed.’ That’s also something Machiavelli had said. The Senator had received enough of my generosity, a year’s worth already.
“Good evening, Officer.” I smiled politely and spread my arms to be searched at the entrance to the ward. This was now a familiar routine, which had lapsed into carefree banter. Officer Dennis and his partner incorrectly considered me to be quite safe.
“We got the senator visiting this evening. Security will be a little heavier than usual.” He said as he conducted a careless search of my cleaning cart.
“The senator hasn’t made a public appearance for quite some time. Mr. Mansoor must be an incredibly special friend.” I spoke in a casual tone, with heavy hints of sarcasm.
Officer Dennis rolled his eyes. “Don’t forget to protect yourself now. Everybody been dressed like the man has Covid. Today in particular. He took a turn for the worse.”
“I most certainly will.” I assured him. There was nothing more I could wear to protect myself. Aprons, masks, gloves, all designed to protect me from radiation exposure. I was never actually in the room with Mansoor. But I could communicate, and watch him die, slowly. Today, I wanted to look in his eyes. Officer Dennis was correct, Yuri Mansoor had taken a turn for the worse.
“Hello Yuri.” I whispered in his ear. Gone was the thick hair and the full face. He had even lost most of his teeth. Once an overweight man, he had lost so much weight in the last week, he was unrecognizable. But I would know him even if he was just a sack of dried bones. Yuri was deteriorating rather quickly. Polonium poisoning would do that to you, and it was a horrible way to die.
He barely opened his eyes, too weak to respond, but he recognized my voice. A slight smirk creased his lips. It was all the reaction that I needed; at least he knew. I know I had promised the old man, that it would be quick, and this act of reciprocal kindness was much faster than I had planned all along. Thanks to Nico, I kept my promise. I placed the letter addressed to the senator into his frail hands, and he clutched them in a vice-like grip.
The letter was Nico’s official introduction to the underbelly of society. Our own private playground. He was declaring himself to be the Innkeeper’s Apprentice. A title which designated him an untouchable. Having done his own research with the information I had given him; the kid had devised plans for the demise of his two fathers. I would eventually get the Senator, but as a favor to my young apprentice, Senator Mendez would live just a little while longer. The letter was signed ‘Mister Keynes.’
Note: – the follow-up to this series, about the adventures of Nico the Apprentice, will be called Mister Keynes. I hope you guys enjoyed the series… and I look forward to releasing the sequel shortly.
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