By Melekwe Anthony
“Have you felt fear? Have you heard your heart in your ears and a sudden impulse to lie, hide or run; that you know what is coming and can not prevent it? Staring down the barrel of a gun is not fear, Doctor.
“Yes…I’m. I understand.”
“Watching your son get pulled away from your dead wife’s arms is still not fear. Getting chased in the rain while your baby dies screaming in your arms isn’t even close to fear. Do you under –”
“Then what is fear Mr. Gregory?”
“Fear?” His scratchy voice paused a moment. His palms folded to fists as he looked around visibly, for a way to put his feelings to words. “Fear is knowing that the man you have done all these to, the man you have stolen everything from, is hiding just behind your shadow.”
The silence stretched. The doctor adjusted himself once more and managed to look him in the eyes.
“Now look Mr. Gregory. You must be made aware that I am required to report any crime you intend to commit to the appropriate authorities. It will do us well not to go into details so this process can continue, so you can heal.”
“Oh” His eyes fumed. “I am not making threats Doctor. I have done them already.”
“Good God!” Gasped the Doctor. “You killed them. You took vengeance and doomed your boy. What kind of a man does that?”
“The kind that has nothing to lose.”
“What do you mean? You could have contacted the authorities. What about Justice? The rule of law? Kill and be killed?” Asked the Doctor in a rapid English accent.
“Yada yada yada. I had to become something else. Something more than I was. I couldn’t be weak any longer. I knew that somewhere, in the deepest parts of their minds, they believed I would do as instructed simply because they had my four year-old. They weren’t going to kill him yet, to keep me in check.”
“And what was it they wanted, Mr. Gregory?”
“Something more than I could give.” Greg answered evasively. “I had to open that door once more. I couldn’t retire this time, never again. I had to become the monster they knew I was. Their wives screamed, but I did not listen. From house to house, the Sparrows Order fell piece by piece. Ashes, rubble, shells were the only heaps left in my wake.
“Who are this Sparrow Order and why do you think they came after you?”
“I was a loose end. They were my employers.”
The Doctor adjusted his glasses. He was beginning to see Greg clearly now. The first three times they met, he had done all the talking. Greg seemed more fidgety than usual and the doctor feared he was as well. “Maybe Greg didn’t know who to trust” he had thought before, but now he wasn’t even sure Gregory was the man’s real name. “Employed you to do what?”
“To topple governments. The Middle-East, Europe, Africa, I could get it all done in a week. I came highly recommended and they paid to keep me working for them.”
“As an Assassin? Was your wife aware?”
“No, of course not. She wouldn’t have married me if she did.”
“So this had gone on for a long time.”
“Since I was 17. My father liked Guns. It made him feel manly while he drank. He…um. He used to threaten my mother and me when he wasn’t washing off paint from his bleached body. He would say ‘cleaning is for pussies and sorry(s) are for wimps.’ He was tired of his life: unclogging people’s toilets, painting dirty barns and begging for money so much, he decided to frustrate ours. He was mad.
“Was that hard for you as a boy?”
Greg chuckled. “I came back one day from school and was told by Mrs. Quiley down the yard; my mother was in a coma at the River Row hospital and my father had put her there.”
“Don’t tell me you killed your father?” asked the Doctor.
“No, I couldn’t. I hadn’t become this thing yet. He was a piece of shit, my piece of shit… even after hitting my mother many times with his long gun. But may be I should have. Maybe I should have grown a pair a little sooner – shown the Owf what it meant to be manly.”
“So what did you do?”
“I cried. I cried like a girl and when mother staggered home nine months later, after Mrs. Quiley’s support with the hospital, he killed her. There were warrants for his arrest, but the man went into hiding – leaving his 17 year old son at home alone with his guns.”
“So you didn’t tell your wife what you did for a living, because you didn’t want to end up like your father. You never wanted to bring your work home with you and end up destroying your family.” Nodded the doctor. “A perfectly good plan Mr. Gregory. But you still ended up killing them, didn’t you? Your father caught up with you once again and that is why you are here.”
“That’s right but that’s not all.”
“Tell me Mr. Gregory, had you not heard of the butterfly effect? I am sorry for your loss… but didn’t you think this incident was a possibility? You were an Assassin after all.”
Mr. Gregory closed his eyes. When he brought them up again, they weren’t filled with the usual fury. They looked glassy. “I provided for my family.”
“So did your father. How did you explain the posh life you lived to your family? Your neighbors? I imagine assassinating government officials pays handsomely.”
“It does. But most of the money was placed in Trust funds for our kids so we could lead regular lives.”
“You didn’t want to draw attention to yourself.”
“I couldn’t do anything else. I dropped out of school because I was an orphan. The police soon caught up with my father and the bastard shot back. He fucking shot back! I couldn’t be that kid. I hit the road, left school and burnt the house. The Sparrows found me after foster care and I met Lilian years later.”
“Why burn the house?”
“The police and social services would have caught up to me eventually. Son of the murderer that killed my mother. I needed to disappear. I wanted to start over in a new town. A new life. A new name.”
“Gregory, I presume.”
“One of many.” He sighed heavily.
“What happened to your boy Mr. Gregory? Why did you put a four year old in danger for revenge?”
He studied the doctor. “I can’t do this.” He jumped. “What are you saying – that I’m a terrible father? That I should have let the boy suffer and die at the hands of those animals? That vengeance is God’s? That’s a whole lot of shit.”
“I am not saying anything Mr. Gregory. You said it yourself. You had to become a monster.”
“Yes… yes I did.” He stopped pacing. “I tore through every hellhole, every pimp joint, and every manor they sunk into and burnt the sparrows down that night. I couldn’t let him become me.
“Who become you?”
“Ah! I see.” The doctor puffed his cheeks. He was beginning to grasp the situation that had woken him up early this morning. The police officers were wrong. Mr. Gregory wasn’t insane, he was conflicted. Conflicted between being a father that grieved and a monster that tore down. And when a conflicted assassin pays cash to open up to you, there are no loose ends. It was the doctor’s turn to pace about while Greg stayed seated with his gun.
“I think you are torn Mr. Gregory. You don’t want to be your father, but you are exactly like him. Your actions have killed members of your family, probably scarred your four year-old son for life and you do not feel guilty. You try to burn everything you don’t like about your identity to the ground – your father’s house, the sparrows, your past? What if your son becomes you?”
“He is safe and that is all that –”
“You wouldn’t be here if that was all. You want somebody, preferably a doctor or a priest to certify you sane. To tell you you were right to kill all those people and assure you that your son would be okay once you eventually get arrested. You want to be absolved of your guilt.”
“But will he? Will he be okay?”
“Who knows?” Paused the doctor. “From where I’m standing, it’s entirely up to him. Will he decide to play with the guns his father leaves him alone with or will he break the circle? Will he decide your actions killed his mother and sister and stay clear from you? Or will he decide to become you, as you are your father? It is entirely up to him.”
Greg’s head sunk into his palms at this point. Maybe it was the frustrated honesty with which the Doctor spoke to him, despite having a gun. Or maybe he realized the doctor was right, because he moaned visibly. His arms trembled and his head bobbed. He knew he couldn’t win any fight feeling like this. He wouldn’t shoot back like his father.
“Pick up the phone Dr. Simons.” He managed. “Pick up the phone and tell the cops to come in.” He sniffed. “I knew all along. Even before they contacted you, I knew you would betray me. It’s what people like you do. I surrender.”
The doctor studied him carefully. If there was any a time to run screaming, it was now. The man didn’t look focused or even remotely sane. Was this a trick? Had he played the same trick on his victims over the years and this was just playing mouse? The doctor watched him.
In times like this, no one could have informed the doctor that what he was feeling was decision paralysis. That he was stuck between taking the offer to save his life and waiting cautiously for that offer to expire, wasting time. What if Greg changed his mind? The doctor didn’t move.
“Mr. Gregory, you… you have to understand. I have kids myself. I can not judge you for being a parent. God knows we all make mistakes with children.” He swallowed. “But do you think hanging by a noose is the right move now?”
“What?” Greg wiped his nose. “What do you mean?”
“Well.” He clarified. “Who would take care of your boy? Are you willing to just give up everything and surrender to the police without incident? Am I supposed to believe that?”
“Yes.” He replied.
“You ran from Foster Care once, am I really supposed to believe you want that same life of running for your son?”
“He is somewhere safe. Somewhere the cops will never find him.”
“Of course.” There. It was the silence again. It was more awkward this time, like both men were thinking. Detectives in the police van outside knew what this was. They had heard it before many times. It was the wheel of reconsideration spinning.
They had geared up to burst their way through the thoroughly bugged room upstairs when Greg asked Dr. Simon’s to call them. They had gotten so far, but the doctor started talking. They had no clear shot from the trees. They couldn’t snipe Greg without killing the doctor. Greg had deliberately stayed far away from the windows and hid his face well. All they could see from the trees was the doctor’s back and Greg’s moving shadow.
“So your arrest today will be your punishment.” The doctor started. “A way to make up for your mistakes. Fascinating! Another display of typical burn down behav –” he croaked. His eyes widened to see Greg still composed in his seat. It must have happened so fast. Maybe in a blink. But the knife was unmistakable.
When the door opened minutes after from outside, the detectives found Dr. Simons in a growing pool of his own blood and no one else inside. The other person was gone and no one had seen him leave. Not through the door, window or roof. But he was definitely not in the room.
“I want a perimeter 3 blocks wide!” Barked one of the detectives. “I want him found. I want him cuffed. Use deadly force if you have to, but I want that murderer brought to book.” He bent over the body now and knew they had nothing to go on. “Son of a Bitch!” They didn’t have his real name, his face and not even his fingerprint.
They only had a few eye witness accounts from those who were present in the clubs where members of the sparrows were murdered. They had seen Greg’s back. Add the new cooked up story about babies dying in the night, and they couldn’t identify him in a hall of Gregorys. The witnesses had described him as very muscular but not too muscular, that he had blond straight hair, wasn’t too tall and maybe even very handsome. None of them could help a sketch artist draw anything, but they all seemed convinced that the suspects’ back put on display for identification didn’t look like him at all. They had nicknamed this maniac “The Shadow”.
“One day.” The detective promised as he looked upon the therapist’s body. “One day, I will get you.”
Bio: Melekwe Anthony is best known for his suspense pieces published across North America. His works have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Pride Magazine, Multiplicity Magazine, Inlandia Literary Journal, Dark Moon Digest, Sapphire Hues, Rigorous Magazine, Wingless Dreamer, the Hindu College Gazette, Dead Talk Live USA, The Yard: Crime Blog and others. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @MelekweAnthony
Other posts by Melekwe Anthony on The Yard: Crime Blog is the poem “Nightmare“