‘Tell me Jake, what do you see,’ Benedict asked and pointed with his hand to the crowd seated in the cafe while he sipped the fragrant cherry-blossom tea from his lavishly ornamented porcelain cup.
Jake, still feeling ill at ease glanced at the crowd. The rocks in his gin tonic rattled gently against the glass as he nervously tapped with his foot. He let his eyes wander, trying to figure out what was Benedict referring to. He downed the drink and grunted as the alcohol burned his throat and said, ‘People. I see people.’
Benedict put down the cup and followed Jake’s gaze and shook his head.
‘Indeed my young friend. Look at them. Just look at them,’ he exclaimed, ‘this wonderful waltz of their everyday existence. Walking, talking, working, loving, hating. But we are not here today to admire the virtues of being human.’
Jake scowled, ‘Then why are we doing this pointless shit? If you wanted a date, there are lots of services you can call – you certainly have the cash, and I’m not gay.’
Benedict’s lips curled in what could loosely be described as a grin, ‘Neither am I Jake but that’s beside the point. I’m here to teach you something really important about… them. You see, people are not just people. They are stories incarnate. Their flesh suits we call bodies are only an external display of the stories being told every second of every day. You have to see the true story behind the charade, the naked truth behind the layers and layers of lies and deception, to uncover the core of their beings. Are they fundamentally good or evil? Is their story worth letting reach its natural end or should it be discarded like a bad movie script?’
Jake stiffened at the implication and said ‘I’m not sure I understood you, Ben. You can’t possibly mean…’
Benedict wiped his mouth casually with the handkerchief in his suit pocket and nodded at the table few tables away from them. A man was seated on the table dressed in a rather expensive suit, well groomed hair and beard alongside two fairly handsome, provocatively clothed women. Even though he couldn’t hear what they were talking about, their body language showed that they were actively struggling for the man’s attention. From time to time the brunette casually caressed the man’s forearm while the blonde was flaunting her voluptuous figure at the man.
‘Describe what you see in that man, Jake,’ Benedict asked coyly with that slight grin on his face that never quite reached his eyes.
Jake watched the man and his escorts for a few minutes in silence before turning to Benedict who patiently waited for an answer while attending to his tea.
‘He is rich, probably one of those prep-school privileged men who never had to worry about cash or anything. He seems to know his way around the ladies as those two are literally drooling all over him,’ he said plainly and shrugged.
‘Very well. You are quite observant when it comes to the outer layers of a person’s disposition. Now, take a good look at him and tell me if you notice something odd,’ he said contently.
Jake sighed and turned back to the man. To him this whole thing seemed pointless. What was the point of this exercise anyway? At least when Benedict subjected him to the inhumane training regime back at the mansion it served to steel his body and temper his mind for the task to come. This however seemed like an irreversible waste of time. Thoughts like this crossed his mind while he watched the man carefully, trying to pinpoint anything unusual in this man’s behavior but he couldn’t see anything abnormal. That was until the blonde companion accidentally spilled her drink all over the table and suit while telling some fanciful fake story in an effort to impress him. In that very moment Jake saw something change in his subject’s posture. The frown around his eyes painted the man’s face in a state of heightened agitation. Jake’s blood ran cold in his veins as the man’s face changed from one of benevolent gentleman to that of a mindless beast in matter of moments. The man’s hands clenched in fists ready to deliver punishment to that poor woman. Then, it was gone. The entire display of aggression tried for a couple of heartbeats before the man reasserted his easy-going disposition and wiped his suit with a handkerchief. The woman did not notice the change – in fact no one did, except Jake. He has seen that look on a man’s face before. On that fateful night, on the vile maniacs’ faces who took his beloved Diana away from him. On the night when she screamed helplessly in front of his very eyes while those two monsters violated and killed her. He felt a hard lump in his throat that suffocated him even now and the thousand pin-pricks on his skin which tormented him to this day. He remembered then, he remembered the horrific details of the night which sent him in a downward spiral of drugs and self-destruction. Faintly Benedict’s voice reached his ears and brought him back.
‘Jake, what do you see,’ Benedict asked softly with his melodic voice, looking at Jake expectantly as a teacher would a student when waiting for an answer.
Jake swallowed hard and felt his gorge rise. With bile in his mouth he uttered through gritting teeth, ‘I saw it Ben. I saw the beast beneath the carefully forged masque. That man is no good.’
Benedict smile widened, ‘Very good my dear friend. Now comes the time for you to learn some things about our… friend,’ he said and pulled out a file from his leather bag which hung loosely on the chair back. ‘Now, you are ready to begin,’ he said before finishing his tea and positioning the cup neatly on the holder. Benedict left the file on the table next to the empty cup, left couple of 50$ notes to cover the bill alongside a hefty tip, stood up and slowly left the café garden.
Jake looked at Ben half-confused and said, ‘what do I do with this?’
‘Read, my friend. And decide on a best course of action,’ Benedict answered casually as he waved his hand to greet the hostess goodbye. The hostess smiled back at him and quickly went back inside the café.
Jake grunted in dissatisfaction as he hated his friend’s mysticism. He looked at the file which had ‘The Eightfold’ written on it in capital letters. He opened the file and slowly began reading its contents. With each turned page his face twisted in horror at the images of young boys and girls who have disappeared in a night club. What made his insides knot was the fact that the authorities have not found and credible suspects and the case has gone unsolved for 8 years. Tears rolled down his eyes and he sobbed quietly as images of Diana assailed his mind and the torture of her loss began anew. He empathically felt the pain of the families who lost their loved ones and were left in the limbo of ignorance just like he was. And as he turned the last page, a note containing the photograph of the man he observed appeared.
‘Christian Wright. A man of ordinary workers family have amassed a huge amount of wealth 8 years ago without any apparent explanation. In the envelope there are financial records that prove Mr. Wright had some suspicious financial transactions which lead to some men involved in dark and dangerous things. Read them carefully, Jake and remember. When all else fails, you are the final hand of righteousness.
Jake put the note aside and opened the brown envelope containing the promised financial information. In that moment the cute hostess with wavy auburn hair and bangs that covered her forehead touched Jake gently on the shoulder. He shuddered for a moment and turned to see the hostess who held a wooden box the size of a small chess in her hands.
‘This is a gift from Mr. Ingram, Jake,’ she said with a slightly high pitched girlish voice. ‘He must respect you very much.’
‘Is that so, Miss…’
‘Clara. Pleased to meet you, Jake’ she said and squinted her eyes like a little girl who admired her father or older brother.
Jake stood silent for a few heartbeats, not knowing how to respond to this girl standing in front of him.
‘T-thank you Clara,’ he finally uttered and felt his cheeks blushing slightly at the awkwardness of the situation.
The hostess just smiled, her pearly white teeth shining in the sun and brightening her face and returned to her duties after she left the box on the table. Jake left the file and took the box in his lap. He pulled the metal latch and opened the box. Inside it, a Rock Island Armory 1911 pistol rested neatly in the framed padding red velvet padding. He slowly picked it up and admired the ornamented slide, the carved handle, the sleekness. Then he noticed the small piece of paper on the inner end of the lid.
‘Please accept this weapon as my pledge to you and your task. Let it be guided by your hand in delivering the final justice. I know this does not even come close to consoling your pain over losing Dianna, but this gun bears the name of Danail, the name you intended for your unborn child.’