Friends and Anger – 16

He was in one of his hideaways, an anonymous safe house and dealing with his feelings about what had just happened, because he’d learnt he had to confront the violent things he did in order to put to rest their unsettling impact. It drained the emotion away, so he could think logically about what had just occurred and where to go from there. Violence got you through a jam that perhaps if you’d be thinking, might have been avoided, but it was thinking clearly that kept you alive in the long run.

He’d just killed three men, and despite the anger, he’d known what he was going to do as soon as he got through the apartment door. Seeing Julia fighting for her life had instantly sealed their fate. They were three thugs whose hands weren’t blood-free either. They were in the life and how they’d ended up was a thing they’d long thought was a possibility, though as always they’d operated under the delusion that it would never happen to them.

It had, and although he’d no heavy regrets about ending them, it still bothered him. He’d got out of a life similar to theirs over fifteen years ago because he was never altogether easy about taking life. He’d seen what a career of doing it did to a man. In the end it rotted them out or turned them into zombie killers who could only function on a steady stream of opiates or alcohol, which was their way of committing suicide on the job, or killing themselves in the waiting time between jobs.

He hadn’t killed in fifteen years. Despite what that policeman Pritchett thought, he wasn’t and never had been an assassin for hire. When it’d been necessary, he’d killed, but that hadn’t been necessary for a long time.

It’d been an occasional deed that was part and parcel of the criminal life he’d been in. It was always to other people in that life as well, never to what they called civilians. Only the mad dog outfits did that because nobody cared about criminals killing each other, but a civilian, even as unintended collateral damage, brought the whole thing down on your head; police, politicians, papers and media, and all business had to be closed down until somebody was thrown to the baying mob crying out for the blood of the culprit.

After one piece of work, a stray thought had entered his mind. It was barely a whimsy. Perhaps his parents might really be up there somewhere looking down at what he’d done on that day and thinking what had their child, their gentle little Fedayka, who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, become? A monster? It was like a tiny cancerous seed that’d grown steadily in him, until he knew with absolute certainty that he had to get out of that life or twenty years down the line, he’d become just another wasted zombie, a killer just looking for a way to make it all stop. By that stage, there was nothing else left in their lives.

It meant abandoning that safety raft he’d clung to after all those years out there being by himself, and the prospect of losing that scared him badly, but he was out of choices. It meant striking out again into a new ocean of uncertainties, and it came with its own load of worries that he’d never had to contend with as one man alone. Never even thought could happen.

The first was meeting Julia in that new life, an unplanned happenstance that’d go on to define how it was to be shaped forever after. She was unprogrammed, unexpected and for him not something he could anticipate in a nose-dive back into the normality and the warm feeling of just being another face in the crowd. Just be normal was the plan, sink into the warm bath of being ordinary but then just seeing her had driven a torpedo directly into that progressively more comfortable effort of being an aimless student. She’d destroyed his plan and became the only other vulnerability in his life.

In the immediate aftermath of killing the three thugs, he’d looked at her, dreading that look of revulsion on her face at what he’d just done, but it never happened. The recent combination of events in her life had hardened her up. Vince nearly beating her to death, fighting to regain her health and then fighting for her life against the thugs had all changed her. She had no hangups about doing what was necessary to stay alive and had seen what he was capable of doing when pushed. In a way, he was relieved. All the years of secrets never to be told were washed away.

The first, in his old life, was Ari, who had a sense of personal honour he’d always aspired to, but knew he could never match. Ari was a true warrior who fought not only for himself, which Manno always had with a single-minded ferocity, but the difference was that Ari fought for his woman, his children and those he’d chosen to take under his wing and was loved because of it. Manno had always known he’d only ever be three league divisions below the level of respect and love engendered by a man who’d take on all those additional burdens, rather than just looking out for number one.

But Manno had a spy in Ari’s camp, someone who’d recognised straight away a fellow waif who’d rummaged through bins and gorged on the cold half-eaten remains of discarded hamburgers outside of the local MacDonald’s at 1am, and had in response nearly fed him to death. She was also the one person who’d sensed that seed growing in him and knew he was about to make a big change, pull the big disappearing trick.

She kept him informed about how Ari and the girls were doing. He’d watched from afar the wedding ceremonies of Ari’s three daughters being married to good Jewish boys, and he knew they were that because he’d looked into them, though he was sure it wasn’t half as tough as the grilling Ari had done before giving his blessing to the union.

On such occasions, Manno became that absent Russian relation too poor to travel to the marriage, that obscure bit of family from all that was left of the old home in Krasnoyarsk, and who always sent a cheap and garish slim necked vase as a wedding present. The postage cost more than the vase.

Ari would know who it was actually from, because a present to the happy couple from a relative he’d never heard of would be examined very carefully by him. Manno was equally sure he’d intimate to the happy couple that if things got really desperate, stamp down hard on it, without telling them that inside it they would find a carefully rolled up piece of paper with some numbers on it that led to a line of already deposited and cleared funds that would get them out of any reasonable financial scrape.

Over the years, Manno had kept overwatch on the family, his ersatz substitute for being inside some sort of warmth, a loving group of people. He’d only ever once interfered in their affairs, albeit indirectly, by “buying the legs” of a local wannabe gangster anxious to build a reputation who was threatening to do dire things to an aging Ari. After a visit from four very tough boyos armed with Stillson wrenches, a very graphic example had been made and the rumours, carefully planted by him, were that Ari had connections high upstairs and more than a few from well below the basement line.

The message for all was simple, Ari was a made man, untouchable – leave him well alone.

Having parked the emotional considerations to one side, the hunter-killer cyborg that would always dwell within him now clicked into full operational control. He could think and plan with a clear head. It was like putting back on an old and favourite jacket you hadn’t worn in many years, and finding to your surprise it still felt good. He was now ready to go to war. The old, simple rules of the jungle he used to live in when he was younger would apply once again – find them first, kill them and get away with it.


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One Response to “Friends and Anger – 16”
  1. Blackswan says:

    “The choices we make, not the chances we take, determine our destiny”.

    I really hope Manno has made a wise choice in Julia. She could prove to be a very big chink in his armour.


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