The phone rang. Dina knew that Vic would make no move to answer, even though it was her apartment. She answered it herself, then walked inside the living room and looked at Victory. He had become dark and brooding, an absolutely forbidding image. She could hardly blame him. His whole value system had been shattered. The noble vision he had spent years of his life trying to build had transformed overnight into a monster. Men and women whom he had trusted had betrayed him.
“It was HealTech,” she said, “I guess you gave them my number in case they couldn’t contact you at home?”
He made no reply. He hadn’t moved in days. Ever since they had gotten back from his birthday in the Poconos, and he had guessed the truth about the October Massacre, he had simply sat in the living room of her first floor apartment. She had one of those large, upscale apartments. It even had a small staircase which led to his bedroom loft.
She had spent all her free time, when she wasn’t teaching, with him at his apartment. She had tried at first to console him, but he seemed utterly closed off to the world. He hardly ever answered her, and when he did, it was in short, one or two word answers. To all appearances he simply sat and pondered life’s harsh realities all day and all night, although she suspected that he ate and slept when she wasn’t around.
“They say you haven’t come to work and your vacation has been over for a week. You haven’t even called.”
“I’m fired, aren’t I?”
It was the most he had spoken in a week.
“Yes,” she confirmed.
“You’re glad about that? Why?” she asked with complete incredulity.
“It’ll attract his attention.”
They didn’t have long to wait. After a few hours, a pounding started to come at the door. It wasn’t knocking, it was someone forcibly trying to knock the door down.
Vic said quietly to Dina, “Hide upstairs.”
She didn’t want to abandon him, but she wanted to argue even less. She walked up to the loft. And just in time, too. The door suddenly cracked and groaned, then shattered inwards. Adrian Cain took one long step into the room. He was brandishing a small pistol. Two more heavily armed Fellows followed him. Cain seemed stunned.
Cain slowly wove a circle around Halov, as though trying to view him from every angle and make certain he wasn’t simply a cardboard cut out. Halov defiantly turned along with his old friend, so that Cain could only see him from one view. Still, once he had completed the circuit, Cain seemed satisfied, despite the fact he had seen nothing new. He gestured with his pistol towards the couch.
“Have a seat, Victory.”
Halov sat down on the couch. Cain followed him a moment later, gently lowering himself onto the cushion so that his coat got wrinkled. A moment later he straightened out the blue cloth.
“I must admit,” Cain said, relaxing back into his seat, “I am spectacularly surprised to see you here. I guess you knew we would come for her when we didn’t find you at your apartment. Attempting to nobly sacrifice yourself to save your mistress?”
“Hardly,” Halov said coldly, “She abandoned me. She’s probably in Mexico by now, for all I know. I guess she knew that you would come for her. I left her alone for a few hours, and when I came back she was gone.”
“Is that so?” Cain said, clearly seeing through the deception, “I suppose you would want her back then. The Fellowship has enough resources to find her. Fellows, start by checking the house. See if you can find any…clues as to her whereabouts.”
The two armed Fellows that Cain had come in with prepared to move out of the parlor.
“Wait!” Halov exclaimed.
Cain waved his hand and the two men stopped dead in their tracks. Halov turned to his former friend.
“Adrian…if you care about anything I ever did for the Fellowship, if you ever cared at all about our friendship, if you have a conscience…promise me one thing.”
“What?” Cain asked, carefully shaping the word.
“Promise me that whether you or I live, no Fellows will ever harm Dina.”
Cain took a deep breath. He looked down at his weapon, then back up at Halov.
“I promise, whether you are living or dead, whether I am living or dead, no one in the Fellowship will harm her.”
“Swear by everything you hold dear.”
“Swear by your blood.”
“And your soul.”
“I swear by my soul.”
There was a long, pregnant pause. Cain was the next to speak.
“I never thought you would betray us, Victory. I never thought you would be so blind that you could not see anyone other than yourself at the head of the Fellowship.”
“Is that what you think this is about?” Halov nearly screamed, his eyes growing wet, “You think this is about power? I couldn’t care less about power, money, anything material. It’s about morals, Adrian. You’ve steered the Fellowship away from what it once was. It began by promoting values and hard work. Now it’s a violent, militant gang of criminals. You’ve started us on a road to evil, and once we tread that path, we can never turn back.”
“Oh, you are so much holier than I am, aren’t you Victory?” Cain sneered, “You’re just bitter because the Fellowship didn’t turn into your vision. It turned into something which you didn’t forge. All you did was stand by and watch. And you can’t stand it. You can’t stand being anywhere but in charge.”
Halov’s eyes narrowed to slits.
"I don't care about being in charge. Frankly, it's a burden I could do without. But what I do care about is seeing goodness prevail. That's why I made the Fellowship, Adrian. I didn't make it to fulfill any of my own greedy desires. I made it to see the right things be done. I hate evil whatever it's guise! But I hate evil most of all when something which I created has been corrupted and twisted."
"You're saying I'm evil?" Cain asked bitingly.
"Yes, Adrian, I am. And the worst thing of it is that you can't see it."
"You know what goodness is, Vic? It's loyalty, no matter what the cause, no matter who the leader, no matter what is being done. Loyalty is righteousness. Betrayal - that is evil. And you have betrayed us, Victory. Now you're going to pay the price."
Cain gestured to his two goons. They grabbed Victory, who struggled somewhat, but quickly realized the other two were far more powerful than he was.
"Take him back to headquarters," Cain said quietly, "I'll follow you shortly."
Holding him with crushing pressure, the two Oxen brought Victory out to their vehicle. Cain leaned back in the couch and put his pistol to his temple. For a moment he considered it.
"No," he said, "I'd rather have revenge than peace."
He stood up and turned around. Dina was standing at the top of the staircase. She seemed glued to the spot, not moving a muscle, not even blinking. He realized she was petrified, or horrified. She'd doubtlessly seen the whole thing.
"You're in no danger," Cain confirmed.
She didn't reply, but she seemed to snap out of her zombie-like state.
"Believe me when I tell you, Dina, I love Victory as I love my own family. What I am going to do now, I do for the world, for the children, for the Fellowship."
"No. For yourself," she said quietly, and turned and walked away.
He didn't bother pursuing her. He just turned and left. As he stepped outside he felt the bitter cold air. It cleared the anger from his mind for a moment, so that he could really analyze the situation. Victory was his best friend. And now he would have to kill the man. It always seemed as though his sense of honor made him hurt those he loved. But he was destined to do it.
"Oh, most damnable fate," Cain yelled to the wind, "Why dost thou mock me?"
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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