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From Unexpected Quarters

written by: Mark Kuglin

@cr8fiction

 

Brian Kelly was the epitome of the word dichotomy. His flaming red hair and freckled, cherubic face gave him a choirboy appearance. His short stature, small build and mild mannered demeanor instantly put everyone at ease. Yet, all of them belied his true nature....

***

Brian Kelly's experience, on his return flight from Atlanta, was just like the countless ones that had preceded it. His stomach was churning-- despite not having eaten a thing, he was nervously fidgeting and he was doing his best to come up with a plausible lie to tell his mother. He knew she'd be waiting, when he returned to the Los Angeles apartment they shared, to hear all about this latest business trip.

As far as Aileen Kelly knew, her thirty three year old son Brian was a sales rep for an office supply firm. His frequent out of town trips were to service accounts and to wine and dine his most valued customers. It was the latter that Aileen was most interested in and what caused Brian so much consternation. However, it also brought him a sense of glee. It was one thing to pull the wool over everyone's eyes but fooling his mother brought him intense satisfaction.

Despite being uncomfortable, Brian couldn't help but smile. He knew he should be working on his cover story but his mind wandered back to the job he had just finished and the two hundred thousand dollars it had earned him.

Two more jobs and I can retire...No more Mother...No more lies...Just wine, women and song...

***

Three Weeks Later

The day had started like everyone that had preceded it for as long as Brian could remember. He woke up early, showered and shaved and then headed to his favorite recliner in the living room. Prior to sitting down, he switched on the television-- to catch a bit of the news-- although he knew it was, for the most part, a pointless act. At best, he might catch a full story before his mother would enter the room and berate him for sitting there.

Like clockwork, Brian's mother Aileen raced into the room-- a few moments later and snapped, "What are you doing?... Turn that thing off, we're going to be late for Mass."

With a deep sigh and a shrug of his shoulders, Brian dutifully responded, "Yes, Mother." He then got up and silently followed-- a few steps behind her-- to their car.

On their way to St. Michael's Church, Aileen continued her harangue. "Brian, you're a grown man. It's high time you started acting like one. I shouldn't have to remind you every morning. You need to be ready to leave on time."

Brian listened but said nothing. He knew better than to respond, it would only agitate her further. He knew he only had to endure her rant for the ten minute ride to St. Michael's. Once they were there, she would get distracted by talking to other parishioners-- or Father O'Malley-- and he could escape into the pre-Mass silence of the church.

After they arrived, Brian excused himself and entered the church. He dipped his hand into the Holy Water, genuflected and then proceeded to the pew where he and his mother normally sat. Once there, he kneeled and stared intently at the large crucifix above the altar.

My clients pay me well to mete out your justice and it's my honor to serve you...The truly wicked and those who've gone irretrievably afoul of others must die...

***

After Mass, Brian impatiently waited for his mother to say her goodbyes. He wanted to return home, as quickly as possible, and check his email. During Father O'Malley's sermon, he had felt the familiar buzz from one of the two cell phones he carried. The location of the phone--inside the left breast pocket of his sport coat-- had told him that someone had sent him a contract for his services.

On the ride home--as was her custom, Aileen recounted the highlights of Father O'Malley's sermon as if Brian hadn't heard a word of it. Normally, he found her routine highly annoying and it took everything he had to not have a scowl on his face. On this day, he unsuccessfully fought the suppression of a smile.

Upon seeing it, Aileen hissed, "And just what do you find so amusing?"

"Mother...It's nothing to get upset about," Brian replied--in as a soothing tone as possible. "I just found Father O'Malley's sermon uplifting."

Brian's response-- and obvious servility-- temporarily appeased his mother and sent her into silence for the remainder of their trip home. Her gift of peace and quiet, however, was short lived. Not long after they walked into their apartment, she turned to him and said, "I'm going to brew a pot of coffee and we're going to sit down and have a chat...You're hiding something, I can sense it."

"Mother, please...I'm not hiding anything...Like I said in the car, Father O'Malley's sermon really moved me." But before she could respond, Brian quickly added--on his way out of the room, "I don't want to be rude but I have work emails to answer."

***

Ensconced in his bedroom, Brian removed his sport coat and hung it on the back of his chair before sitting down at his makeshift home office desk. And in an instant, he was deeply conflicted. He wanted to check the message on his special second phone but he knew it would contain either exceptional news-- that this would be one of his final jobs-- or he had once again been undercut by an unknown competitor. It was the latter, a conundrum partially of his own making, that consternated him the most.

Over the course of the previous three years, Brian had received numerous messages that diminished a contract he'd been offered or they'd been outright canceled. And with each one, he found himself in the exact same position. He desperately wanted to know the identity of his competitor but to make any inquiries would be foolhardy.

From the very beginning-- and throughout-- his career as a paid assassin, Brian had known that his appearance and non-threatening demeanor only protected him to a point. It was why he'd gone to great lengths to devise a constantly changing series of email accounts--each forwarded from one to another and routed through a handful of proxy servers-- as a means of initial client contact and for follow up communication. And, when on job, he used as many burner phones as necessary.

Brian's initial cut-out had been an old school mafia don who been dead for years. In the early days, Don Antonio Fabrizio--once he became aware of Brian's skill set-- had used him for difficult jobs and had made it a point to farm out his services to the other families and to anyone who would meet his price. After Don Antonio passed, his son Don Marco continued his father's pattern for a time. Don Marco, however, lacked his father's loyalty.

Overall, Brian trusted Don Marco. Brian was completely convinced that he would never give him up-- he was too much like his father to do it. What troubled Brian was Don Marco's erratic handling of the contracts, the money it was costing him and that he couldn't ask for help with his competition. Don Marco was more than likely the reason for all of it.

Therefore, it came as quite a shock-- and a very pleasant surprise-- when Brian finally reached into his pocket and pulled out his special phone. When he checked the message, it read: 'Boston plus two. Call 555-3214 on arrival.'

***

On his return flight from Boston, Brian was elated and having the time of his life. What should have been a difficult contract to fulfill turned out to be a remarkably easy one. Instead of having to stalk each of his three victims and do the subsequent planning, he discovered that they knew one another and that they frequented an illicit high-stakes poker game.

All Brian had to do was to wait for the game, sneak inside after it started and then kill everyone present. After he was done with the shooting, Brian was enraged that he had killed three extra men for nothing. His anger evaporated when he realized that the money on the table and the victim's jewelry more than made up for it.

Not long after Brian's plane landed, he felt the familiar buzz of his phone. However, this time its location confused him. The only person who would be calling him on his regular phone would be his mother. Instead of answering it, Brian headed to the airport bar and ordered a cocktail. As he nursed a martini, two thoughts kept repeating:

She's never called me when I'm on a trip...What could she possibly want?

Brian finished his first martini and was halfway through his second before he returned his mother's call. He was apprehensive as he heard the phone ringing and somewhat relieved-- after she picked up and said in rapid succession, "Where are you? I'm outside the terminal. We're meeting Father O'Malley for dinner."

***

Brian was annoyed with his mother, for her unexpected plans, but he knew it was pointless to argue. With reluctance, he collected his suitcase and made his way curbside-- through the early evening darkness-- where he found her impatiently waiting in their car. "Get in," she snapped. "We're already late."

Resigned to his fate, Brian didn't bother to ask where they were going and his mother didn't supply him with any details. It wasn't until after they'd been driving for a few minutes that Brian realized she wasn't avoiding traffic, they were headed in a strange direction. Confused--and a bit concerned, Brian asked, "Mother, where are we going?"

Instead of responding, she abruptly turned into an empty parking lot and slammed on the brakes. The move was so jarring and unexpected it hurled Brian towards the windshield and he had to brace himself--with both hands on the dashboard. But before he could turn to face her, she angrily ordered, "Get out of the car!"

For a split second, Brian was frozen in place. He then turned towards her and was stunned to see that she had a gun pointed at his face. "Wha..wha..what are you doing?" Brian stammered.

"Get out or you die right here," she vehemently hissed back.

Scared out of his mind-- but quickly realizing complying was his only hope for survival, Brian slowly and carefully opened the door and stepped out. His first chance for an escape was dashed when his mother followed him out the same door.

Once both of them were outside, Brian's mother cautiously moved a few feet away--without taking her eyes off of him-- and then directed him to back up against the car. After a brief pause--to let his fear build, she ordered Brian to kneel.

From the tone of his mother's voice and the intense look in her eyes, Brian knew his situation was hopeless. He bowed his head and waited for the noise that would end it all. When it didn't come as quickly as he expected, he looked up at her. But before he could get a word out, she snarled, "Brian...You really fucked up!"

"What are you talking about?"

"Boston!...One of the guys you killed was Don Marco's cousin."

Upon hearing this, Brian became simultaneously confused and angry. He immediately snapped back, "What does that have to do with you?"

"You have to pay for what you've done!" she vehemently retorted.

The increasing intensity of his mother's rage left Brian without doubt or hope, he knew he was about to die. In a last ditch effort, he begged, "How can you do this?...I'm your son and you're a..."

"Actually, I find it easy," she snidely interjected. "I'm the one who's been taking your contracts."

Mark Kuglin

Mark Kuglin

JULY 2018 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Mark Kuglin is an American expat currently living and working near Ensenada, Mexico. He writes fiction, poetry and the occasional essay. Samples of his work can be found on his website 'Mark Kuglin'.
Mark Kuglin

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