I was alive and that was what counted the most; I might have had my face decorated with bruises, and a limp, but I was doing better than the other guys there. I did not kill anyone; however, I injured or knocked them out, giving me enough time to escape. I dropped the file beside the head of Talon to make sure I finished the assignment. Derek always said, “Do not kill, but hurt enough to leave humiliation.” And that was what I did; it felt good to be that powerful and to know that I put so many people in such a state.
I stumbled into my house, only to see Victoria in her night gown eating dinner. She screamed out of fright, and when she saw me, screamed out of despair. Her loud screaming made my ears hurt, it was really piercing, vibrating straight to my brain, giving me a pounding headache. Anyone would have a painful throbbing in the head if he or she was being hit many times in the head. She rushed to me and helped me up. Quickly, she got a bowl and a fresh towel and helped me clean the wound and the dirt that clung to my face, she helped me out of my clothes and helped massage my ribs, where I was hit a couple of times.
I wondered how I would have coped if she was not here, and her presence put the images of those children at the back of my mind. I would have be here thinking about how I could not help them and how barbaric the things they did to those children were, it made me question the humanity of Derek.
Victoria gave me some pain relievers and some liquid food; I could not swallow something hard due my ribs and chest pain. I knew she wanted to ask questions, her lips were pressed together to hold her tongue, she did that any time she wanted to caution her mouth. I was already thinking about the lie to tell that would sound convincing when she could not hold herself back anymore.
“What happened, Michael?” she asked as she fed me some porridge.° “I was attacked.”
“Attacked by whom?”
“A random group,” I said smoothly, looking her in the eyes as I told my lie.
“Michael, I want you to be honest with me… what do you do? What is your job?” she asked. Her black pupils were filled with doubt and something else—fear.
“I have told you, V, I work at Derek’s company as a Director,” I lied again.
“Which director who is able to afford this amount of wealth? C’mon Mike, I am not stupid.”
“Of course not, baby. You are not stupid, never,” I quickly added. Things were escalating quickly and if I don’t keep it under control, things might get worse.
Victoria sighed and said, “Then tell me truth, what exactly do you do?”
“I can’t say anything, I am sorry.”
“I am sorry too,” she said angrily, dropped the plate and went inside the bedroom. When Victoria came out she was dressed up, her bag in her hand. I could not move to stop her, my ribs hurt with each movement, even to speak was difficult. I watched her walk out of my house and probably out of my life; I lay there in pain for hours wishing that moment never happened.
My burner phone buzzed and I picked it up. “Congratulation on a job well-done, I also saw your handiwork, nicely done, kid,” Derek said from the other end excitedly.
“Yeah, hurrah,” I cheered with zero enthusiasm. I wished I could share in his excitement, but my heart hurt.
“Anyway, I called to tell you that Sylvester would like to see you tomorrow,” he said in his formal tone, all excitement gone.
“What? I am not in the best shape to move around,” I said, wincing as the pain shot through me.
“I don’t care. Be at the office by ten am sharp.” And he hung up.
“What a jerk, the least he could do was ask how I was,” I grumbled. I could not move to the bedroom, so I got comfortable on the couch and dozed off.
I had met Sylvester in the past, but that was when he recruited me into the underworld; since then I have not met him again. Derek said Sylvester liked to be aloof, he also had good eyes for talent, hence the reason why he picked me. But he hardly got involved in the dirty dealings of the underworld. He was a ruthless businessman through and through.
I decided to dress formal since I was going to the office, I have been to the office a couple of times, but I was more of a field worker than a desk man. Dressed in a suit, I got into the elevator and pressed number ten, which was where Derek’s office was situated. I decided it was better to meet him first than Sylvester. Derek could teach me the ropes and introduce me; I also wanted him to see my bruised face.
I wore glasses to hide my purple eyes, a bandage was over my over head and my lips were split. I was the epitome of a bad day, and when the elevator pinged, indicating I was at the tenth floor, I got out and located Derek’s office. I still had thirty minutes to spare, so why not give that heartless bastard a tongue-lashing?
“You made it and damn you look terrible! What smashed into your face?” he asked, trying to control his laughter.
“You think this is funny? You sent me to a bunch of rabid dogs.” I glowered in his face.
“The Chaos is a handful, they don’t know how to be refined,” he replied, gesturing to himself, he was dressed impeccably as always.
I glared at him. “Don’t stroke your deflected ego. I can’t meet Sylvester looking like a beat-up truck.”
He checked his time and said, “Time to meet the boss. You look hot by the way. Vicki must be digging this look.”
“Not entirely, she saw me like this yesterday and asked me questions about my job. When I didn’t tell her anything, she left angrily and has not been picking my calls.”
“Ouch. Worry about that later. Here goes the boss,” he said as he opened the door to Sylvester’s office. If I thought Derek’s office was posh, that was because I’d not seen Sylvester’s office. His office was a combination of mysterious elegance. The wallpapers were black, with paintings on the wall; his table was made of mahogany, and painted grey. The furniture was Italian made, and each had its distinctive smell. Sylvester was sipping coffee when we entered, a cigarette in his hand as he sat on the armchair.
“Michael Divine is here, sir,” Derek said in the most formal tone I have ever heard him speak.
“Good. Have a seat, Mr. Michael.” Sylvester spoke in a silky tone, it was pleasant to listen to, but behind it all was a vicious beast. Never trust anyone who dressed so elegantly.
Derek signaled to me and left. I was alone with the Alpha of the Underworld in Area 2, it was not an interesting feeling. I moved to join him and was struck by how familiar he was. This was different from the time I sat with him in his car, it was like I knew him before then.
“Do I look familiar to you, Mr. Michael?” he asked still sipping his coffee.
“In a way, you do,” I answered truthfully as I sat down.
“You are right, but I wonder where. Do you think you can remember?”
I looked at him closely, the suit he wore was what made him look familiar, it was like it gave him another image, one I had seen in passing. Suddenly, it clicked and my expression gave it away that I remember.
“Oh, you remember. Tell me, Mr. Michael, where have you seen me?” he asked with that familiar twinkle in his eyes that told you that he was playing you, playing a game you’d better lose at.
“Chico’s, a coffee bar opposite Central Park, you were having a conference call on your device on the day I came to the bar for a job,” I recounted with a flush on my cheeks.
“Bingo. I picked excellently,” he said with a twisted smile. The underworld scared me now, it was a game of chess.
“How? Why?” I asked. I did not know the question I was asking, but I wanted to know more.
“You will find out soon enough, be patient and all would be revealed. That would be all, Mr. Michael and thank you for all you have done for the Horus, and you are an invaluable asset.”
I did not need to be told a second time, I wanted to get out of this office and the company, Sylvester unnerved me more than anyone else. I walked out of his office and I did not stop to say goodbye to Derek. I left the building immediately and went straight home.
Victoria still would not pick my call, so I decided to go to her apartment in the city, my injuries had healed enough for me to move around and go for my jogging. Although they throbbed terribly when I was done with the exercise, but the pain was welcome.
I got roses and chocolates with which I’d use to apologize. On getting on the floor of her apartment, I got off the elevator, I walked the short distance to the door, my heart fluttering in anticipation; I wondered if she would forgive me and accept me back, I had gotten her favorite brand of chocolates, although she could not be wooed with material things for she was doing okay by herself after all.
I met a bouquet of roses at her doorstep, there was a letter attached to it. I picked it up and read the letter; it was from someone named K. Only the initial was written on the letter with a love poem, I was beyond livid. Was Victoria cheating on me? With who and when did it start? I pressed the bell of her apartment many times enough to damage it.
“Who is the lunatic? I am bloody coming!” Victoria shouted from inside her apartment, she flung the door open and was surprised to see my face, the surprise turned to annoyance and mine remained angry.
“What is this?” I thundered, dropping the bouquet at her feet.
She bent down to pick the bouquet, looking for a note to identify the sender, I stretched out the card I held in my hand to her and, she took it and read the content.
“I can explain, Michael,” she said with a sigh. “Come in.”
I walked in and she closed the door. I did not sit down because I was still angry and wanted an explanation, something I could possible understand.
“I have been getting flowers like this for a while now, all with the same initial.” Victoria motioned to her kitchen, filled with unopened bouquets of different types; it was like she was a florist.
“I wonder who is sending them,” I said aloud.
“I love only you and nothing would change that. Except your job,” she said, walking to me and wrapping her arms around me. “I missed you, Michael.”
“I missed you too, love. Let’s never fight again, I’d tell you about my job soon, so bear with me,” I handed her the roses and chocolates. “I want to show you something, would you come with me?”
“I will.” I knew we would have our ups and downs, but we would always have each other.
I have always told Victoria about my childhood home, but never showed her. I told her of the fun memories with Mr. Fredrick and the orphanage, the charity work we did, the friends I made and the children I had seen come and go. I told her everything, but never showed her.
I wanted her to know everything, the orphanage and how I had lived. I took Victoria to the orphanage; this was what I wanted to show her. I took her by the hand and together we went through the gates of my old home.
Children ran around in the compound, playing tags and hide and seek, I smiled fondly at the sight, and I could see my younger self running around with the other children, playing the game of tag.
“What are we doing here, Michael?”
“Remember all my stories about my childhood? It happened here,” I told her.
“This was where you grew up?” I nodded, and led her deeper into the compound, walking along to the part that led to the entrance with rows of flower pots on both sides. When I got to the entrance of the door, I rang the bell and waited, my hand holding Victoria’s.
The door was swung open by a little girl and she looked at us with her adorable eyes. “Who are you?” she asked in a childlike tone.
“Lily, what have I said about going to open the door!” shouted Mr. Fredrick as he raced to the entrance.
“Not to open the door,” the girl, Lily replied quietly, “I was only waiting for my mama.”
“Oh sweetie, she would be back soon,” Mr. Fredrick said as he patted her on her head; he looked at me, and then at Victoria with curiosity, probably wondering what we were doing here.
I got down on my knees, and looked the girl in the eyes. “Lily, everything would be okay, just trust Mr. Fredrick, he would help you like he helped me,” I said, stroking the girl’s cheek. I looked up and smiled at Mr. Fredrick, and he smiled back.
Mr. Fredrick invited us in; some of the children were having breakfast in the big hall, their loud voices echoing in the house. I looked at Victoria, there were tears in her eyes, one of her hands held my arm, the other around my waist.
“Mike!” I heard my name being called by three of the children; they abandoned their breakfasts and flung themselves at my body. They were children that were here when I was here too; they helped prepare my sendoff/birthday party. I recognized them because I watched them grow, just like I’d watched others like them.
“Are you coming back?” one of them asked.
“No, John. I only came to visit.”
“We’ve missed you, the orphanage has not been the same since you left,” another said.
“I missed you guys, too, especially you Joey. Do you still pee on the bed?” I teased.
“She still does, Mike,” the last one said.
“But she promised us, right James?” I asked. Joey punched James and blushed. I missed my favorite triplets and I knew it would be difficult getting a home for all three at once.
“I will be around for service day,” I declared and the cheer that followed reverberated through the hallway. I turned to see Victoria laughing along with the children—I was at peace.