The Matador

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
a man arrested for sedition is interrogated by a peculiar member of the secret police.

Submitted: January 05, 2016

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Submitted: January 05, 2016

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Peter’s cell was made of stone.  The door was a thick iron barrier.  The only light came from the narrow slits in the wall, just wide enough to let the sun’s slim fingers through.  He had no clothes, nothing to sleep on, just a crumbled up blanket in the corner alongside a bucket.  Upon closer inspection the blanket was caked in dried vomit and feces.  Disgust and dignity kept his hands away.  He sat down and listened to the waves lapping at the heels of the cliffs below.

The first night was not terrible.  It became chilly in the night, the stone walls seemed to absorb the cold.  The strangest part was the silence.  He expected a constant ruckus.  Inmates howling or banging on the iron doors, cruel jokes by the uniforms, an insult when he got food.  If he ever got food.  But he heard nothing of the sort.  Even stranger to him was his own silence.  He had told himself time and time again that if they ever caught him, he would rage, snarl, and bite.  When the day came, he found that the fight had left him before the struggle ever began. All he managed was a meek “What for?”  He wondered if he ever had it in the first place.  No.  He was a coward.  He knew it.  But this is his chance.  He won’t give in to them, his comrades needed him. Angelica was counting on him.

That thought hit hard.  Was she alright?  Has she been arrested too? Did they hurt her?  Was she here?  Were any of them here?  Anger coursed through his body.  Peter shouted and yelled.  “Angelica!  Josef!  Paul!”  The sound reverberating in the tiny cell pained his ears, but he gave no mind.  His voice was nearly hoarse and he became painfully aware of how thirsty he was.Again and again he shouted, to all of them, but to Angelica most of all. 

Silence gave it’s reply.

The next day a coastal storm blocked the sun.  It didn’t take long before shivers wracked his body.  He dared not touch the blanket, he would not give them the satisfaction.  He endured. Cold. Miserable.

Lonely. 

The iron portal swung open.  Four uniforms were standing outside, and one of them said something like “Get out.”  They looked intimidating, but Peter was just happy to see people.  He did not like that. 

They put some steel shackles on his wrists and ankles, and a blindfold on him and marched down a labyrinth of halls.  The shackles made it difficult to walk but that failed to stop them from pushing him to go faster, no help him up when he stumbled.  Finally took off his blindfold after ushering him into an empty room (save one dirty lantern hanging in the middle casting a sickly pale glow).

“Just so you gentleman know, I have done noth-“

The largest one punched him straight in the gut, never saying a word.  Peter doubled over wretching onto the floor.  This didn’t please them.  Peter wasn’t sure how long the flurry of fists and steel-toed feet lasted before he passed out. 

A sudden shock snapped him awake. He found himself lying on the floor of his cell, icy water dripping from his hair and chest.  He heard a small metal clink on the floor in front of him, then the heavy clangor of the iron barrier. Peter sat up, wincing in pain before his eyes fell on a small tin cup with water.  “A token of apology I’m sure.” Peter lips curled into a bitter smile.  Still he drank it, savoring the taste of it.  Even mixed with his own blood and bile water never tasted so good.

The cycle continued for a week, though the beatings never reached the savagery of the first.  Every day at sunrise they would take him.  No questions, just a good plastering from the men of the law. None of them ever uttered a word in the room. Afterwards he got water. On one occasion some gruel.  Peter had gotten used to it.  Truth be told he was starting to enjoy it.  It broke the monotony of the prison, gave him precious time to not think too much.  But this night, when they were escorting him back in his cell, Peter caught a whisper.  “He takes it better than that bitch he was with though.” 

That night was the coldest.

The following day started the same.  The greys removed him from his cell, no shackles this time. They forced him along, every step was agony.  When the blindfold was removed, the empty room was no longer empty.  A long table, two chairs (one on either side, long ways), and a set of neatly folded clothes upon the table.  One of the uniforms pointed to the table and gave him a shove.  The clothes were nothing special, just some common linen trousers and a shirt, but he wasn’t going to complain.  “Sit down, put your arms behind the chair.”  Peter complied, facing away from the door.  The shackles hugged his wrists.  Peter could not turn his head, but he heard the door open and the uniforms file out, leaving nothing but the thundering clank of the iron lock’s tumbler. 

“No beating this time?  Getting tired of beating an innocent man?”  Peter said to the empty room.

Peter had no idea how long he sat there.  An hour? Three?  His wrists ached, his stomach begged for nourishment, his throat was as dry as a desert, and no one to keep him company except his idle thoughts, and those were quickly overstaying their welcome.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop himself from thinking of Angelica and what those monsters were doing to her.  Peter knew he was being selfish.  Josef and Paul, needed him to be strong as well.  Hell, even that asshole Maurice needed him.  It was all so stupid. It was all his fault.  He knew it was dumb, they knew it was dumb, but Angelica stood by him, and the others followed her, as they always did.  Now she was in their clutches.  Compassion is a real bitch.

The iron lock began to croak, and Peter was thrust from his mental world to the real one.  It sounded like two people. One of their footsteps heavy, one gentle.  A soft humming was in the air, the melody was foreign but jovial.  An average looking man in a brown tailored suit, with a matching bowler hat strolled into view.  He did not even glance at Peter, just kept humming to no one and everyone, writing notes into a small notebook.  His chin was clean shaven (freshly done it would seem). Just above his lips was a thin meticulously crafted, moustache, with a few strands of gray.  Peter wasn’t sure if this man was 25 or 55.  He took the seat opposite of Peter, leaned back and made himself comfortable, flashing a quick look at peter before returning to his notebook.  An unfamiliar but pleasant aroma crept into Peter’s nostrils.  “He’s wearing perfume” Peter realized.  Another plain looking man stood at attention at the door.  The seated man gingerly put down the book and his pen, reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small vial of ink to refresh his pen.  Peter just sat and watched.

“Your quite patient.”  The man said.  His voice was light with a sing-song quality.  “That is a useful trait.  Wouldn’t you say?”

“It’s usually polite to shake someone’s had when you introduce yourself.”  Peter retorted.

A grin appeared on his face.  “But I’m not introducing myself am I Mr. Crofter.  I do apologize for those brutes though.  You have more bruises than I can count. Although I have never been skilled with arithmetic”

“Badges of honor.”

“Ha!  I expected nothing less from you.  You have made quite name for yourself, nothing flattering I’m sorry to say.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m an innocent man”

“I believe you” the man said with clear disbelief.

“Why am I here?”

“You know the answer to that.”

“I’m afraid I missed that message.  Did it arrive before or after I was wrongfully arrested?”

“Be careful with that glib tongue of yours it could be a detriment to our negotiations.”

“Negotiations?” Peter smiled. “You have me at a disadvantage sir.  You know my name and I don’t know yours.”

“True, but that’s part of the fun.  Sir will do just fine.”

 “What is it you do?  Talk to prisoners?”

“Sometimes I do, any I think are interesting.  I wish I did it more often it’s always an enlightening experience. Alas, I’m just a humble police officer.  Right Lieutenant?” 

The expressionless man near the door squeaked “Yes, sir.”

“You don’t look like any I’ve ever seen.”

“That’s because you have never seen a good one.”

“I thought you said you were humble?”

“Touche!”  The man gave a hearty chuckle, picked up his pen and wrote in the notebook.

“Aren’t you supposed to be wheeling and dealing in a negotiations?  Why are you just writing and chatting like it’s an afternoon brunch?”

“I’m writing down what I know about you.”

“You don’t know me.”

“Prideful.”  The man grinned.  “I like that” he said, scribbling into his notebook.

Peter went silent.

“Not so prideful it seems.  Let’s get to the real thing now shall we?” The man in the suit said.  “You are facing some serious charges my man, I can help you if you help me.”

“I find this situation odd, I have never broken the law.”

The suited-man’s smile died.  “Everyone has, even if they don’t know it” He said.  “No judge is going to give you an easy time.”  He reached into his suit and unfolded a piece of paper.  “Aiding and abetting terrorist activities, promoting insurrection, property destruction, sedation-”

“There is no proof.”

“Extortion-”

“You haven’t let me-“

“Murder.”

“Speak in my defense.”

“That’s not why you’re here.”

Peter could feel the heat in his face.  He took a deep breath to calm himself.  “If I’m already guilty then why am I not at trial?  I demand a lawyer.”

“Consider your position before you attempt to make demands.”  The man in the suit made a ‘give it here’ gesture at the lieutenant. “You smoke cigars?”

“No.”

“Don’t lie, I know you do.”  The lieutenant handed a small wooden box to the negotiator.

“I am not in a position to partake” Peter said and jingled his shackles.

“Fair point.  Fair point.  Lieutenant, please unshackle my friend…Thank you.”

Peter’s wrists were raw from the heavy iron shackles but he still grasped them with his hands in a protective manner.  “Thank you, but you are not my friend.”

“I am the only friend you have left Peter.  I want to help you.”  The negotiator opened the box and took out two cigars and a matchbox from his pocket.  He lit his own cigar before handing one to Peter.  “Here you go. They are Marlowes.  Excellent quality.  I’ll light it for you.”

It WAS a good cigar.

“Smooth” Peter said, “Quite smooth.”  Peter took a few puffs.  “If you’re my friend, then tell me your name.”

“Fair enough.  Call me Aldric.”  Aldric smiled a toothy smile.  It seemed genuine but it was hard to tell with a man who could craft lies with the easy of bedding a drunk dockside whore.

“So why do you want to help me?”

“So you will help me.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“You don’t have to.”  Aldric sucked on his cigar, exhaling a great gust directly towards Peter. 

“I don’t believe I will be” Peter said unsure.  “I shall be exonerated of any wrong doing at trial.”

“You’re too smart, and too cynical although I suppose that would be redundant, to believe that.”  Aldric leaned towards him and stretched out his hands.  “You know I’m right, you can stop pretending like this is a standard legal sanctioned meeting.  I am your judge. Your jury. Your executioner by proxy.”

Peter was beginning to understand.  “He want me to give him information.  I will not sacrifice my comrades for my own sake.”  Strange, he felt better now.  “I have nothing to say to that” Peter said, confidence returning.

For a few seconds, Aldric just peered at him.  “I see.”  Aldric leaned back in his chair.  “Tell me about your relationship with Mr. Marcel Claudine.  I know that you two associated.”

“He was a friend of mine, although we never associated outside the company of mutual friends.”

“Cold relationship?”

“No.”

“That’s not what he told me.”

Peter’s heart skipped a beat.  “I can’t speak for his side, but I never sensed any animosity.”

“I see.  Pining for the affection of the same woman put no strain on your relationship?”

“I admit it made for a few tense moments.”

“Any physical altercations?”

“No.”

“He told me some things about you.  He told me you were involved in the Unity Day bombing.”

Peter hesitated, then realized his mistake.  He took a moment to collect himself.  “The perpetrators were already caught, that was even in the papers.  You never talked to Marcel.”

 

Aldric frowned.  “Friends shouldn’t accuse friends of lying.  Marcel told me that you were the one who planned the bombing targets, and the one who chose bomb-throwers.  He was much more cooperative than you and I’m believing his version more and more over the course of our conversation.”

Peter scowled.  Doubt, thin and sharp, stabbed his heart.  Marcel was always envious, but would he really sell me out?  He tried to come up with a response, but Aldric spoke first.

“Why don’t you sleep on it tonight, and I’ll check back with you tomorrow.”  Aldric stood up, the chair made a terrible scrapping noise on the floor that echoed in the concrete room, and cleaned up the table while the Lieutenant opened the door ushering in six uniforms.  “No need to shackle him this time boys.  I doubt he would try to resist the six of you, and even if he did, where would he run too?”  Aldric turned towards Peter and bowed.  “Good day.” He said.  As he bowed he removed his hat with a flourish, revealing a thin comb-over resting atop his head.  Then he left.

The uniforms put the customary blindfold on him and escorted him back to his cell.  At least he thought so, but this route was different.  This walk was not as distant Peter noted.  But the scream of the iron doors was familiar.  One of the uniforms took the blindfold off him and closed the door.  Peter marveled.

The cell was at least four times the size of the previous one.  It had a feather bed, clean sheets and a blanket, and a tray of still hot food.  Nothing too opulent, some fresh cooked chicken, some soup, bread, and water.  A cup of wine!  He is trying to butter me up.  Ill eat his food but not his lies.  Were they lies?  Marcel had competed for Angelica, and he lost.  But he was a comrade, he would never sell out Peter just to get back at him.  Peter was growing less sure by the second.  Then he remembered what the brute said.  “He takes it better than that bitch he was with though.”  Could Marcel be trying to save her?  Why haven’t I done that?  No.  She would want them to fight, for the ideal, not for her.If Marcel was betraying them, Peter would strike harder.  He was doing the right thing.  But then why does it hurt so much

True to his word, Aldric met with Peter in the concrete room the next morning.  He was looking as spiffy in a tan suit and top hat. The aroma of lavender danced around him as if to seduce by proximity.  On the table sat a bottle of wine and a couple wine glasses, gold woven into them. A briefcase rested near the table leg.  Its presence made Peter uncomfortable for some reason.  A sense of foreboding.“Have seat and a drink,” Aldric said, his voice carried across the entire room, the smell of lavender followed, giving Peter the impression of tasting the words themselves.  It was a flavor so sweet it was sickening.  “You’re going to need it.  How did you sleep?”

“Well enough” Peter admitted.

“That’s good.  Have some wine.”  Aldric poured a glass for Peter and one for himself.  “This vintage is decent enough.  The grapes were grown outside of Lambrie, a picturesque wine country.  Long rolling hills guarding jealously the vineyards nestled inside them.  Quite the sight my boy.”

“I’d like to see it one day.”

“I would like you to see it as well, how do you like the wine.”

“It’s good.  A strong red.”

“Indeed.  Strength is something everyone admires, even if we don’t agree on what strength is.  Wouldn’t you agree Peter?”

“I admire virtue Mr. Aldric”

“Just Aldric please.  Virtue is all well and good Peter but how do you measure the virtuosity of virtue?”

Peter had to think for a moment.  “By how well it conforms to universal morality.”

“Ahhh, but that’s the problem isn’t it Peter?  There is no universal morality.”  Aldric’s eyes gleamed.  He was enjoying this game.

I will indulge him.  Peter gulped another mouthful of wine.  “But there are universal principles, that is what I believe and that’s what I judge it on.”

Aldric rubbed his chin and leaned back into his chair.  “My principles are different than yours.  Does that make them wrong?  I would argue that universal morality is a myth.  Not because there aren’t moral truths, but because they are indecipherable to man.  We are just small creatures with small minds, barely able to fathom the world in our immediate vicinity.  How can we ever determine universal truth if we can’t even agree with each other?”

“So your idea is to throw it out altogether?”  Peter asked attempting to hide his scorn.  He failed, but thought he did such a good job he rewarded himself with more wine.

“You do me wrong my friend.”  Aldric leaned forward, his body shaking with excitement.  “I am not some barbarian with a ‘might makes right’ philosophy, if you can all it that a philosophy.  I admire people with the strength to push the boundaries.  Adventurers willing to risk life and reputation to bring humanity just a little closer to tasting the sweet fruit of enlightenment.”  For an instant Peter thought this was rehearsed, and maybe it was, but the conviction Aldric spoke with was no less than what he had heard from his comrades in their cub.  A conviction he was so drawn to in Angelica.  A conviction he never felt himself.  There was a power in that belief far greater than anything else Peter had ever experienced.

“An interesting point.  I will think on it” Peter said, defeated.  He was feeling tired and the finer points of philosophy were always lost on him.

Aldric laughed.  “You give up too easily my dear Peter.  Still, it was an admirable effort, thank you for indulging me.  My lieutenant over there doesn’t have much of an appetite for reasoned debate I’m afraid.  Let’s have a toast shall we, I will refill your glass.  There we are.  Too reason itself, may it never steer us wrong.”

Peter guzzled his wine down before deciding to get to the real matter at hand.  “If I may Mr. Aldric.”

“Just Aldric” Aldric reminded.

“Aldric,” Peter allowed “I would like to finish our discussion about from last time.”

“Very well, very well.  Why don’t you give me your version of events and Ill compare with Marcel and see where it takes us.”

“Okay.”  Peter was ready, he had prepared this story last night, although some of the details were beginning to slip his mind now.  “I had nothing to do with what happened on Unity Day.  I was busy making a newsletter, while Marcel planned the whole thing.”  Sorry Marcel, but if you dying saves the rest of us it is worth it.  This is what you deserve.  “He told our people where to throw bombs go and when to throw them.  He wanted to kill Henry Ashmark, the chief of the city police, Dorian Namur, the head of-“

“I know who he is!”  Aldric interjected.  “You say it was all him?”

“Yes.”

“Marvelous!  This is good Peter.  I can make some of these charges disappear for you and” Aldric opened his notebook and flipped through a few pages, “I may even disappear some for Angelica.  Would you like that?” 

It was a much an offer as it was a threat.

Peter managed a meek “Yes.”  He beat me with that, he knows my soft spot.

“I’m glad you would like that.  There is a little more we have to discuss though before I can let you walk out of here.  You are quite the writer.  Or at least you sign onto someone who is.”  He opened the briefcase and retrieved handful of crinkled pamphlets.  “Factory Owners the New Slave Owners.  The Necessity or Worker’s Consciousness.  Brotherhood of Industry.  On Revolution.  Rather bombastic titles, but I suppose that was required a subject that maudlin.”

“Pamphleteering is not illegal.”

“Printing without a license is.  Besides, two of these articles are in violate the sedition law, punishable by death, and you signed your name to every one of these pieces of evidence.”  Peter was starting to admire Aldric’s uncanny ability to deliver a death sentence with a smile. 

“However,” he said, his eyes opening wide, “I know that you distribute out of a secret location with a password.  Tell me the password and I will scratch those of your list.”  His smile was still stuck on his face, his bright white teeth still glowing in the lantern light, but that same light turned his eyes into pits of shadow.  Shark’s eyes that portray nothing except hunger for the kill.  “You don’t even need to tell me where the location is, just the password and this all disappears from your record…and from hers.”

“Well…”  Peter tried to think but it had become difficult with the wine coursing in his blood.  Only Angelica and I know these, and she would never betray us, betray me.  If he only has the password, he can’t harm us and it will help both of us.  She will understand.  “The password, or passphrase rather is said after you ask for a newspaper.  ‘The herald of things to come.’  That is what you say when you are asked what newspaper you desire.”  Peter believed he was doing what was best for himself and Angelica, but he still felt shames embrace.

Aldric nodded and wrote in his notebook.  “I see.  I thank you for our cooperation and please understand that you did nothing wrong.  You want to save your lady friend and I can’t blame you for that.  You aren’t cut out for this sort of thing anyway my friend.  Don’t make that face, I don’t mean it as an insult, you have a good heart you just don’t know where your head should be.  Love makes fools of us all.”  Aldric stood up, walked to Peter’s side and gave him a fatherly pat on the back.  “Would you like a cigar to commemorate our breakthrough this evening?”

Peter nodded. 

“Don’t look so glum.”  Aldric opened the cigar box from last night then frowned.  “Only one left. You can have it I don’t know any good smoke shops in this city, can you tell me where to get more?”

“Try Heyburn’s place on 2nd.”  In that instant Peter’s blood went cold, his mind became sober, and he nearly cried in frustration.  That bastard, he got it out of me.  He got it all.  Peter was not a religious man, but in that moment he prayed to any deity with ears.

“Thanks for the tip.”  Aldric left the room and the six uniforms took Peter back to his luxury cell with another hot meal waiting.  Peter had no appetite but he tried to drown his sorrow in the wine.

It tasted of bitterness and regret.

The streets were beginning to clear as dusk turned its sleepy gaze on the city.  Most shops were closing to avoid the riff raff that prowled the night looking for trouble and an easy score.  In the minutes before Marcus Heyburn closed for the night, a fancy dressed, sweet smelling man stepped through the shop door. 

“Good evening sir.  I hope I’m not too late to make a purchase in your fine establishment.”  The fancy man said.

Marcus was tempted to tell him the shop was closing, but the man wore the friendliest smile he had ever seen (his wife excluded of course) and seemed a decent fellow.  Not a street rat looking to rob him. He gave an openhanded ‘go ahead’ gesture.

“Thank you good sir.”  He strolled leisurely through the aisles (all three of them) examining the many different fine tobacco and opiates. 

“Ive never seen you around sir.”  Marcus said.

“I’m new in town sir, trying to get a feel for it.”

“What brings you to this fine city?”

“Work.”

“Don’t it always.”  Marcus chuckled.

“You know I am wondering, do you sell newspapers here?  I need to catch up on local issues if I’m going to make this city my place of residence.”

“I have the Modern Ardista, the Ardista Today, and the a few other local ones but hose aren’t as reputable.”

“I’m looking for the herald of things to come.”

“Oh.  I see.”  Marcus suddenly realized what this man was really about.  Another of revolutionary persuasion!  “Give me one minute.”

Marcus moved behind the counter and with careful pressure opened the trap door to the basement.  “We have some fresh ones binging printed right now.”  

In the basement were four large printing presses, two of them being used.  His wife Maggie and his sister Jenny operating one with proficiency, while his son Jeremy and his wife Abby worked the other. 

“Gonna take another stack, we have another recruit looking to distribute.”

“Do what you gotta do husband.  Just close up and help us, it’s gonna take all night to print out our quota for next month’s issue.”  Maggie said smiling.

“Of course my dear.”

 Marcus picked up a stack of newsletters and carried it up to the shop floor.  As he was coming near the top of the stairs he spoke to address his new comrade.  “This is a little dated but next month’s issue is due in a few days.  You may want to just wait-“

The stack of papers scattered to the floor when he turned around.Standing behind the smiling gentleman were a dozen uniformed police officers.  He tried to run back down but one of them leaped over the counter and grabbed him by the collar.

“Maggie!  Jeremy!  RUN! ALL OF YOU RUN!”  Marcus was thrown to the floor and a baton smashed into his face, turning his teeth to splinters.  He vision blurred and the pain terrible but it didn’t compare to the screams of his family below as the rest of the gang rushed into the basement shouting and yelling.

 “UNDER ARREST!  DON’T RESIST” seemed to be the only thing he could hear for what seemed to be several hours.  But when his vision came into focus he found it was only a few seconds.  He heard the suited man say to bring Marcus to the basement.  The thugs dragged him below.

His wife was sobbing with snot streaming down her face and her hair disheveled.  His stoic sister was clearly a mess and her left eyes was swelling shut, but she stayed as quiet as the grave.  His daughter-in-law was prone on the ground, an officer was shackling her arms.  His son was being held upright by two more officers, his hands were already shackled behind his back.

The sweet smelling man stood in the middle of the room surveying the scene, that same friendly smile still on his face but now the contempt behind the mask was as clear as a full moon.  And twice as haunting.

“This is an interesting arrangement you have her Mr. Heyburn.  Your women are quite lovely too.  One your wife and the other two are your mistresses?”

“My wife, my sister, and my daughter-in-law you fucking a-“ a baton struck the back of his head.  He heard Maggie scream.  Then the man talk again.

“Hush now my dear, I will take care of it.  Please refrain from that again, let him speak his mind if he insists.  Now Mr. Heyburn those relations did not mean they aren’t your mistresses but I take your apparent offense to the suggestion to mean they are not.  Or you don’t want your wife to know.  No worries your secret is safe with me.”  The man approached Marcus.  “From now on, my Lieutenant will be overseeing this operation, he will giving you instructions understand.”

Marcus nodded his head.

“Good.  Your wife is going to have to man the counter, no offense to your womanliness ma’am.  But your husband hurt his face slipping in the bath.  IT looks quite serious too wouldn’t you agree.”

She hesitated.  Jenny finally spoke “Just do as he says Maggie.”  She sobbed before muttering an agreement.

“Thank you Ma’am.”

“FUCK YOU!  You come in here and beat my father and terrify my mother and my wife and just expect all of us to roll over!  You aren’t getting anything from me you fuck!”  Jeremey spit on the ground in front of the suited man.

“I see.” Said the man.  “You are a brave lad.”  He strolled over to Jeremy before looking Marcus directly in the eyes.“Consider this your first lesson.” 

The man reached into his coat and drew a revolver.  In one motion he aimed it squarely at Jeremy’s head and pulled the trigger.  Blood and brain decorated the wall behind body of what was once his son.  The body hit the ground with a thud.  His wife screamed, his sister screamed, his daughter screamed.  He screamed. 

The man’s eyes never left Marcus’.

“This is the price of defiance.  Any hint of betrayal of my trust and this is the fate of the rest of them.  You get the honor of watching before you rot in a cell for the rest of your life.”

He left them there and the lieutenant told them what was going to happen next.

Aldric found himself in Heyburn’s cigar section while waiting for Lieutenant La Mont to emerge from the basement.  Ah ha!  Marlowes!  He took a box from the shelf and stuffed it into his coat pocket.  Just then La Mont appeared from behind the counter.

“It’s done Sir, they know what to do now.”

“Good. Let’s step outside, fresh air seems nice.”

The night air was crisp and the moonlight cast a surreal glow onto the cobblestone streets.  Aldric loved this time of night.  It felt like his natural home.  “So Lieutenant, have you learned anything on this recent outing?”

“Here, or do you mean the whole operation?”

“The whole of it.”

“I learned a great deal sir, but I have a question?”

“Speak it.”

“What do you want to do with Peter Crofter, are you really going to set him free?”

Aldric snorted, “Of course not!  He was aiding and abetting treason.  Shoot him tomorrow with the rest of them.”

“All of them sir?  The others haven’t talked yet.”

“Nor will they.  You have to learn to identify the weak ones lieutenant.  Then you can win with ease.”

“That was masterfully done Sir.  I admit I don’t know how you did it.”

“Have you ever seen a bullfight Lieutenant?”

“No Sir.”

“Do so at the first opportunity.  It’s a fascinating spectacle.  The bull is much stronger than a man, so a man must be smarter.  He antagonizes it with a red cloak, he keeps in charging at him, barely avoiding its horns, but the whole time studying its movements, learning how it thinks.  Once he has that down, he sticks daggers into its back, antagonizing it, driving it blood-drunk.  Every dagger makes it more and more reckless, easier to anticipate.  Finally, he draws his sword, and in one masterful blow, plunges it directly into the animal’s brain, killing it.  All for the crowd, for the honor, but most importantly, to prove that he is the superior being.  Humans behave in a similar manner as the bull, you just have to find their pattern and anticipate their moves.  Once you have done that, you have won.”

“A fascinating story sir.”

“Indeed.  We should be getting to bed, we have done good work today but there is always more to be done tomorrow.  Sleep well lieutenant.” 

The Matador departed into the night, listening to the cheer of the adoring crowd in his head.


© Copyright 2017 Septawn. All rights reserved.

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