Chapter 2: Botched Job
“It… disturbs me greatly—our failure today…” Miguel Far spoke quietly as he stared out the window of their black SUV. He was not the sort of man who was familiar with failure in anything. The feelings of inadequacy that hovered like fog around the edges of his stoic countenance were foreign and unwelcome. They made him shift in his seat restlessly as he tried to shake them off.
Jason Earley merely shrugged his shoulders in response. His only disappointment with the botched capture of Lilith Knight was in the missed opportunity to use his gun, like they had planned.
“The mother knew we were coming. She…anticipated our plan. She waited for us and then killed herself to stop us!” Miguel continued. He felt incredulous even as he tried to put the pieces together. No one stopped them. It was a point of professional pride that whenever he was sent to gather a Seer, he always brought his target back. To be empty handed, with neither a hostage to leverage nor a Seer in hand, was almost inconceivable to him.
Exasperated by Miguel’s inability to let it go, Jason offered up the only points he felt were worth making. “Look, she was probably born to some hippie woman out in who cares where. I mean, she barely had a birth certificate, remember? There was no way we could have known the mother was a Seer. The Guild will understand. Besides, we still scared the heck out of the neighbors,” Jason added with a chuckle. “Did you see the looks on their faces when we told them there was a Seer in their precious little community? If those kids come back, no one will help them, that’s for sure.”
Miguel met Jason’s explanation with a sideways glance that did little to mask his disdain for Jason’s half-baked theories. Miguel had worked with Jason for two years, and while Miguel respected Jason’s abilities as an enforcer, they were co-workers in Miguel’s eyes – not equals, not friends.
“There is more here than we have discovered today,” Miguel responded, through gritted teeth. “The entire house didn’t have a single picture in it. No paperwork or vital documents. Why? She knew that we knew about the girl, so what else was she hiding? She killed herself so that we would never know. If the mother and the daughter were Seers, do you know what that would mean? It’s never happened before and we lost them!” Miguel took a long, deep breath to calm himself before continuing. “So, no, this will not be forgiven by the Guild.”
Miguel and Jason were silent for the rest of the trip as they each considered the consequences that awaited them when they returned to Chicago. After just under 6 hours of driving, Jason finally pulled over on the service road behind a large, modern house at the end of a cul de sac. The atmosphere inside the car shifted palpably as both men prepared for another gathering.
“We’ll figure out what happened later,” Miguel said, as if they were in mid-conversation. “We need to make sure this goes…” He trailed off as he watched Jason slip his gold Desert Eagle pistol with custom tiger striping into his inside jacket pocket.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Just in case,” Jason smiled sheepishly.
“This is a gas leak, not a burglary. You were sloppy enough back there at the Knights,” Miguel snapped, as he leaned over and yanked the gun from Jason’s jacket. “Use your damn hands if you have to, but no guns. We need this one to be clean.” Jason was about to protest, but then thought better of it as he stared into Miguel’s icy blue eyes. Even though Jason was slightly taller than Miguel, Jason knew enough to be intimidated by his partner. If Miguel wanted you dead, that was exactly what would happen. Jason never wanted to be caught on the unforgiving side of Miguel’s calculations. Miguel had been with the Guild for a long time– almost ten years. He had earned the right to kill without question.
With the discussion over, Jason pulled on his black baseball cap and grabbed his tool kit before handing Miguel his matching cap and duffel bag. They became single-file shadows as they stepped out of the SUV and headed into the Parsons’ backyard. Once they were inside the high fence, they broke formation with Jason moving wordlessly to locate the main gas line while Miguel circled the house to make sure all family members were present.
It was a beautiful, lazy Sunday afternoon and everyone was where they should be. Mrs. Parsons was in the kitchen making a late afternoon snack while Mr. Parsons and his son lounged on the couch watching TV in the family room. Their daughter, Emma, glanced at the TV occasionally from the desk behind the couch while texting her boyfriend. From the surveillance report that he had received en route to the Parsons, Miguel knew that the neighbors would not be a problem. The Reeses were conveniently away on a surprise sweepstakes vacation and the Mosleys were busy arguing in the bedroom while their five-year-old daughter watched Barney videos in the kitchen and pretended not to hear them.
Miguel retraced his steps to the back porch just before making final contact with Jason on his wireless earpiece.
“Target confirmed. Take the front. Keep it quiet.”
Despite Miguel’s reservations about Jason’s intelligence and character, he knew Jason was good at what he did. It was the only reason he had let him stick around for longer than the year it took to train an enforcer. Jason was fast and efficient in hand-to-hand combat and exacting and careful most of the time. Miguel guessed that the real reason why Jason was sloppy at the last gathering was because he was pissed off that he didn’t get to use his gun. With most Seer gatherings being staged as accidental deaths, Jason rarely got a chance to use his favorite weapon. He loves that thing, Miguel thought ruefully as he watched Mrs. Parsons make her way from the stove to the wastebasket closest to Miguel and the back door.
This is just too easy.
Miguel knew he needed to start the gathering by taking Mrs. Parsons first. Cooperation was facilitated best when the strongest in the family felt responsible for protecting the weakest. At 5’3’’ and already suffering from early-onset osteoporosis, Mrs. Parsons was shorter and frailer than her youngest child. Miguel slipped the spare key that the family left under their doormat into the back door slowly as he watched Mrs. Parsons recycle the popcorn bag and turn toward the living room.
Suburbia, he thought with a smirk as he eased the back door open. The breeze coming from behind him was the only thing that alerted her to his presence, but by the time she turned around to catch the first glimpse of his face, it was already too late. His left-hand grip was deadly around her neck as he quickly closed his right hand over her mouth and began walking her towards the family room. She didn’t even have a chance to inhale the breath she needed to scream. No one heard the sound of the plastic mixing bowl as it hit the linoleum, scattering popcorn under their feet.
For Miguel, Jason’s entry through the front door was equally satisfying. Timing was an important element of inspiring the cooperation necessary to stage a proper gathering. The stealth of Miguel’s entrance – followed by Jason’s more dramatic “kick down the door” approach – helped to elicit the perfect blend of surprise and terror in the hearts of the target family. Each face, no matter how brave, displayed the same mix of emotion every time: surprise, terror and protectiveness at the sudden sight of Miguel, followed quickly by complete and overwhelmed surrender at the subsequent appearance of Jason. No matter how many family members were present, the effect of this synchronized attack left families feeling completely outnumbered.
Miguel had done it for so long he could track the stages like clockwork. Once they accepted surrender as their only option, each family member entered what Miguel called the scavenger stage, when each person became willing to do whatever it took to simply survive. This was the mindset needed to break a Seer.
“Don’t make a sound,” Miguel announced calmly as he walked Mrs. Parsons into the family room to stand just in front of the enormous flat screen TV. As he moved, he could feel her tears rolling down and in-between the fingers of his hand. Each tear tickled then cooled under the steady flow from the air conditioner vents.
Good, he thought as he appraised their frozen faces. This group will be easy, docile.
He nodded toward Jason, who quickly grabbed Emma from her place behind the couch and held her to him closely.
“Shhh,” Jason purred into her ear seductively as she began to cry. From behind her, Jason noticed the way her fear caused her nipples to pebble under the thin cotton of her t-shirt and licked his lips appreciatively. Emma, he thought, I think her name is Emma.
“Shhh, Emma. I know you have a boyfriend, but you could learn to like me, too,” he whispered loud enough for everyone to hear.
Instinctively, her father jumped up from the couch, holding his son tightly behind him. “Oh God, please, no… don’t do this. We’ll give you anything you want. Just don’t do this…” Mr. Parsons begged just as Mrs. Parsons’ arms began flailing wildly toward her daughter.
“Enough, Jason!” Miguel roared before tightening his grip on Mrs. Parsons’ throat, then turning his attention to Mr. Parsons.
“If you are quiet, no harm will come to your daughter. I promise,” Miguel offered, as he willed Mr. Parsons to sit back down with the mere force of his gaze. It worked. It always worked.
They had only been in the house for twenty-two seconds.
Mr. Parsons sat back on the couch, nervously gripping the only child he could reach.
“Good. Very good,” Miguel cooed as he set Mrs. Parsons gently down in a nearby arm chair. When he released his hands from her neck and mouth, he knew she would not run or shift from her location. She was nearly catatonic with fear. Only her eyes moved as they roamed the faces of the people she loved most. Trying to remember them laughing for the last time. She knows, Miguel thought. The mother always knows.
Miguel crouched down beside her and slid the duffel bag he’d been carrying from his shoulder. As he dragged the zipper slowly open, he felt like a magician who had hypnotized the crowd. All eyes watched him as he opened the bag. If there was anything that amused him about his job, that was it, as he tried to imagine pulling a white rabbit from his bag rather than a gas mask.
He nodded again to Jason just before pulling the mask out. At his signal, Jason pulled a syringe filled with tranquilizer from his jacket pocket and stabbed it into Emma’s neck. The force of the blow made her knees buckle as she felt a strange tingle, followed by numbness spreading over her limbs. She could hear her mother and brother’s screams and some scuffling sounds as her father yelled, “Please stop!” But she couldn’t see them from where she fell. Even though she could no longer move, Emma realized that all her other senses were completely alert as Jason dragged her from behind the couch to lay her on the floor facing her family.
While her body lay listless, she watched as Jason covered her face with a mask, just before Miguel sprayed an aerosol into the air. All around, her family began to scatter. Her father tried to push her brother out of the room, but was immediately yanked back from his efforts by Miguel and thrown to the floor just as he began to gag and choke. She could see blood begin to leak from his eyes and mouth as he convulsed, but she could not blink, could not look away. Her brother went next, making his way only a few feet before stumbling and succumbing to the same fate as her father. While she could not see his face, she could hear the gurgling sounds in his throat become softer and softer as he died. Miraculously, her mother was the only one who remained upright, crying, even in death, with red streaks down her face.
Emma only knew she was crying when her face began to recover its sensation and she could feel the dampness of her hair pressed against her cheek, but she had no need of her muscles now. When she needed them to fight for her family, they had failed her. Now that her family was gone, her only hope was to catch a whiff of whatever had taken them from her. But that was not what Miguel and Jason had planned. She could see the shins of their pants moving around quickly as they arranged her parents’ bodies at different locations on the floor. But when it came to her brother, Jason simply turned her brother’s body to face her so that she could memorize the pain and sweat and blood on his face.
“We’re three minutes thirty-two seconds in. Quit playing with that boy and get the bag. We need to get out of here now to be far enough from the blast.”
Just as she heard Miguel say the words, she thought she could smell the gas. Emma screamed in protest, but it came out as a muffled groan behind the mask she still wore as Jason yanked her up from the floor and over his shoulder. She felt him run with her to their SUV and prop her up length-wise in the back seat. Why he took the time to buckle her in she couldn’t imagine, but it gave her a perfect view of her house as it blew up in the distance, taking all her family and her sanity with it.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – NC-17
More details about the author
Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.