Authors: A.J. Carella
Tags: #General Fiction
Copyright © 2015
The dim bulb barely reached the dark recesses of the room as one by one the men took their seats.
Once the eight men were seated around the weathered wooden oval table, the figure at one end spoke. “Thank you all for coming.” He looked around the table, looking each man in the eye. Each of these people had been handpicked to take a seat at this table.
“Why did you call us here? I had to cancel a meeting at the White House for this,” the man on his immediate right complained.
“I have a new target gentlemen.” He gestured at the folders on the table in front of each of the chairs.
“Wait a minute, this goes against the rules,” another one of the men spoke up. “They are very clear; no more than one target every six months.”
“Don’t tell me the rules,” he snapped. “I wrote the damn rules.”
“So what is this then?” Another man held up his folder. “You don’t have to abide by them, is that it? The rules are in place for our own protection, to minimize our risk.”
He nodded, acknowledging the point. “Yes. But this case is unusual. This is personal. This is about Michael.”
He watched the glances pass between them all and knew that he had won. Not one of them would dare to vote against him now. This is why he had called them here: to vote. No action could be taken by any one member without the others. There was only one outcome if they agreed. “So, are we ready to vote? Who is in agreement?” He smiled to himself as everyone raised their hands. “Good. It’s decided then.”
He stood up from the table. “Don’t forget to shred your files before leaving the room.”
All the men picked up their file. With the exception of one, they made their way over to the shredder in the corner of the room. The one who remained stood and came over to him.
“Can I have a quick word?”
He turned to face the man who had complained about cancelling his meeting. “Of course.”
“Seeing as I’m already here, I thought I might stay awhile if that’s ok.”
He smiled. “Of course,” he said again, reaching for the keychain on his belt. “Any particular choice?”
The man reached for the key as he held it out but he pulled it out of reach. “I don’t want a repeat of last time. She was out of action for weeks after you finished with her and she hasn’t outlived her usefulness yet.”
“I’ll be careful.” The man was visibly struggling to contain his excitement as he looked longingly at the key. “I promise.”
“Make sure you are,” he said, handing it over.
He watched as the man quickly went and shredded his file before letting himself out of the room. He waited until everyone had left before opening his own copy and looking at the pictures inside. He knew that Michael would thank him for this one day.
Meticulous about security, he shredded it before leaving the room and locking the door behind him. Once outside, he paused. He should leave, he had work to do, but the temptation was so close and he was feeling very pleased with himself.
I deserve a reward.
Instead of taking the stairs that would take him back upstairs, he turned left.
The tunnel had been hewn out of rock a long time ago and he’d come across it quite by accident. He’d bought this property when he’d first known that he needed somewhere private to go. Somewhere out of the way, remote. This abandoned farm had fit the bill perfectly, miles from anywhere on the outskirts of a town that was dying a little bit more with each passing year. The discovery of the tunnel system had been an unexpected bonus and one he had made full use of and improved upon.
At first the rudimentary lighting system showed nothing more than bare walls as he made his way deeper into the tunnel but after a few hundred feet, he started passing heavy wooden doors built into the rock. He’d passed several before he heard the sound of a woman screaming out in pain and chuckled to himself. It sounded like he was having a good time. The sound got louder as he got closer until he was right outside the door. He paused for a moment, tempted to slide open the small viewing panel built into the door at eye level, but decided against it. He had his own entertainment to get to and he didn’t want to deny himself any longer.
The screams faded once more as he carried on walking until he could no longer hear them and before long he found himself at his destination. The door was the same as all the other doors along the tunnel but this one was his favorite. Behind it was the one he’d selected for himself, the one no one else was allowed access to.
Taking a key off his belt he slid it into the lock and turned, the metallic groan as the bold slid free alerting the occupant to his arrival. She scampered off the dirty mattress on the floor where she’d been sitting and pressed herself against the far wall. He smiled. He loved to see their fear.
“Missed me?” He asked as he closed the door behind him.
“I just don’t understand why you’re going.”
Jennifer let out a sigh against the mouthpiece of the phone. She knew her sister was only looking out for her, but she didn’t understand. “Sarah, we’ve been together since we were in high school, how can I just walk away from that without trying to make it work?”
“You’ve been trying to make it work for the past two years and you’ve been utterly miserable. What makes you think things are going to change? Come on, you’ve done the hard part, you made the break, please don’t take a step backwards.”
“Look, I’ve got to go,” Jennifer interrupted.” I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Not waiting for a reply she gently placed the phone back in its cradle and let out a long breath. She loved Sarah dearly and they were very close, but sometimes Jennifer wished she would just butt out. Despite what she’d told her though, her mind pondered her words as she went upstairs to get changed and ready for her dinner date with her estranged husband.
After nearly ten years of marriage it had been one of the hardest things she’d ever done when she’d finally summoned the courage leave. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Michael any more, it was just that she wasn’t
with him. He’d changed over the years— as had she—and all those things that she’d found wonderful about him when they’d first met had become an irritation. She’d always been the quieter of the two, bowing to Michael’s wishes, letting him take charge. At first she had appreciated this show of masculine strength, but as time went on and she’d become more confident in herself, she’d realized that in fact it was none of those things and was just plain controlling.
She wasn’t sure herself why she’d agreed to have dinner with him but when he’d called he’d seemed so lost, so desperate, that in a moment of weakness she’d agreed. In all the time they’d been together she couldn’t remember a single time he’d cooked for her so it would be a new experience at the very least.
Checking in the hall mirror one last time, she looked herself over critically. Never having had any children, she’d retained the slim boyish figure she’d had in high school and apart from a few more wrinkles and a few strands of grey in her long dark hair, she hadn’t changed much. Satisfied, she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear, grabbed her car keys from the table under the mirror, and left the house. When she’d been looking for a place to rent she had consciously chosen a house across town it would take her at least twenty minutes to get to their old house. She didn’t want to be late. One of his pet peeves was lateness and it wouldn’t make a good start to the evening.
Jennifer pulled her car onto the drive and switched off the engine. Stepping out she looked up at the house, surprised at her sudden desire to get back into the car and leave again without even going inside. She’d only been gone a few weeks but maybe she’d moved on more that she realized if the thought of revisiting her marriage again was filling her with dread. Before she could do anything about it though, the front door was thrown open and light spilled onto the front porch.
“Jennifer, right on time.”
Forcing herself to smile, Jennifer walked up the steps to where Michael was waiting for her in the doorway.
“Hi, Michael,” she replied, turning her face and offering her cheek as he leaned in to kiss her. She couldn’t fail to spot the shadow that fell across his face at this but he quickly recovered and the smile returned.
“I’m so glad you agreed to come.” He ushered her in and closed the door. “It’s really good to see you, Jennifer; I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too.” And it was true, she had missed him. But she wasn’t sure if that was because she had missed
or because she just missed having someone around. She’d never lived alone before; she’d gone from living with her parents to moving in with Michael so it was a completely new experience. One that was taking a bit of getting used to.