The block was quiet except for a few chirping birds.
No one out and about.
Zero hustle and bustle.
Just an endless row of houses that looked the exact same. Identical cars in all the driveways. Same brand lawnmowers. Hell, everyone even had the same plants growing in their perfectly manicured gardens.
Rodney hated sleepy, one horse towns like these.
If he wasn’t being so handsomely paid, he’d have driven off a long time ago and gone to find some real action.
No matter, he thought to himself. Knowing his employer as well as he did, he had a feeling things would heat up in this part of town soon enough.
“We’ve got movement,” his partner, Jake, said from the passenger seat.
Rodney lifted the binoculars and peered through them. There were two youngish men, each on the tall side, each with sandy brown hair, walking up the driveway of the house they were watching.
Rodney began to snap a few pictures.
One held the other’s arm firmly as they walked toward the house. Before entering, he turns and gives a quick look around. The look on his face wasn’t one of worry. It was more like anticipation. Like there was something he was waiting for or hoping would show up and he was looking for it to show up now. The other one began to rock from side to side. Slowly at first, but then picking up more speed.
“Inside now?” he asked the other one.
The other turned to look at him and gave him a gentle smile. “Yeah,” he said with a nod. He put his key in the door and then picked up the black bag he’d been carrying and they disappeared into the house.
“Pass me the phone,” said Rodney.
Jack tossed the phone at him and Rodney began to press some buttons.
“Yeah boss,” he said when his call was answered. “We got ‘em.”
“Two of them? Together?”
“Yep. They’re inside the house now.”
“Was one of them carrying a black bag?”
The boss was silent for a moment.
“Is one of them slow or something?” asked Rodney. He was uncomfortable with silences. Especially when they came from this particular person.
“That is not the politically correct term for it, no. He isn’t slow. He’s sick.”
“Oh,” said Rodney, not caring one way or the other. “Honestly boss, I don’t really see what you could want with these two. I’d bet money they were clean. No way they’re involved in anything that conflicts with your interests.”
“You assume too much. What have I told you about that?”
Rodney made no answer.
“It isn’t them that I want. I just need them to lead me to who it is I’m really looking for.”
“You want us to go in and pick them up now?”
“No. Keep and eye on them. Don’t be seen. And send pictures to my phone.”
“You got it.”
He hung up
Julian Assante sat back in his plush, oversized office chair and stared out of the window. A minute or so later his phone buzzed with an incoming message. Photographs. Of two thirds of the Alexander brothers getting ready to settle in as they no doubt had done many times before, not suspecting that anything was amiss.
One of them was missing.
Vanished without a trace.
And he needed to find him.
Julian studied the pictures. They really were a lovely family. What was left of them. He regretted having to mix them up in this but he really could see no other way.
He would use the family if he had to. Dispose of them if he must. It would be a shame to be sure. But at present, it was the only way to get what he wanted. And after all, who knew better than he the things that danger to one’s family could compel you to do.
He smiled. Yes, the boy would do exactly as he was asked, he was sure of it.
They had grown up together, went to the same school, a military academy. They became fast friends. They were both so innocent back then, so naive. They had their whole lives ahead of them, and each of them wanted nothing more than to be like just their fathers.
And now neither of them had one.
Or mothers for that matter.
How quickly things had changed.
Their brief foray into certain business ventures ended badly. And after that, they never saw each other again.
He disappeared was the word on the street. Things had gotten too hot for him and so his only recourse was to vanish before he got caught up any further.
Julian had spend months trying to track him down. Not because he missed him but because he was the only man he knew who possessed the skills he needed at the time. And the only man with enough to lose that he would actually carry out his request.
His reverie was interrupted by a cough. Manny always gave a mild cough to announce his entrance.
“I trust you have some good news for me.”
“Yeah boss. We found him.” He slapped a thick manila envelope onto Julian’s desk.
Julian removed his glasses and cleaned them with a black silk cloth he kept in his suit’s breast pocket. He put them back on and examined the contents of the envelope.
A slow smile spread across his face.
He had his man.
“And I trust you were able to properly persuade this man to give you the information we seek.”
“He sang like a bird. The cell number should be in there as well.”
Julian put his hand back in the envelope and pulled out a small scrap of paper with a telephone number scribbled onto it.
“He said this is the number he uses to reach him, and that once a month, like clockwork, he arranges to meet him and gives him a package full of money that he then makes sure gets to the other brothers without making contact.”
Julian nodded. “I’ll be giving our long lost friend a call later on tonight. Thank you Emmanuel. You’ve done a good job.”
He turned to leave and then stopped, raising his eyebrow.
“Something you want to ask me?”
“What if he doesn’t bite?”
“Ok,” he said, clearly not convinced. “But then what if he rolls on us. I mean you’re talking about the federal government here.”
Julian removed his glasses, cleaned them once more and put them back on. Manny could see the look in his eye clearly and it was a dark and dangerous look.
The government. He nearly spat at the mere thought.
Useless, corrupt government. Government that used it citizens up until there was nothing left of them and then spat them out, discarded them and moved on.
This is what they had done to his parents. His father proudly served the United States government after he emigrated from Chile. He worked harder than anyone he ever knew. Never missed a day of work. Never late. Always going above and beyond. How he looked up to him for those many years. How he wanted nothing more than to be him.
His father was hard man. Disciplined. And required the same discipline from his family. But he was a good man. He provided. He taught his children everything he knew about what it meant to be a good person, a good citizen.
Then he got sick. Cancer. He deteriorated quickly. He didn’t respond well to the treatment. His state of mind teetered dangerously as his body wasted away.
And then he was discharged. His treatment went unpaid for and soon the family went bankrupt. Julian had gone out and gotten two more jobs just so he could help as much as he could.
But it was no use. His father stopped going to treatment and he died soon after. With no money to even bury him properly, he put his father in a plain pine box in an unmarked grave. He doubted he could even find it today if he looked.
His mother, overcome with grief and fear at raising two boys on her own with no money to her name and no family to speak of, simply went to bed and never got up again. She stayed in bed, not eating, not even getting up to go to the bathroom, willing her heart to stop, until finally it did. He didn’t even tell anyone. He buried her himself in the yard behind their house.
He vowed then that he would never be without what he needed. He would take it. And take it from the very ones he held responsible for his miserable existence.
But to do that, he needed a tool. He looked down at the envelope again and smiled.
And now, thanks to the diligence and loyalty of those in his employ, he had it.
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