3rd Place – February 2019

 The Scales of Justice

By Gary Christenson

“Brother McCord, your job is to kill the president.”
We sat in a tiny, electronically shielded, underground office. I gripped the chair arms while facing the Learned Elder of The Brotherhood.
Last night had been difficult–nightmares caused by military service in Iraq, insomnia, anxiety and alcohol. He called early this morning.
His long white hair matched his pants and a turtle-neck sweater. Pale gray eyes penetrated to my soul.
With my strength and Green Beret training I could have killed him with my bare hands. Instead, I feared and respected him; the Learned Elder’s presence was both ferocious and holy.
My heart raced. I smelled my fear-laced perspiration. Anger and panic lurked under the surface of my tense face. I was a member of the Brotherhood, yet alone.
The Learned Elder spoke in a somber tone. “The president of TownBank, James Princeton, is a ruthless sociopath. His security forces murdered many people. The bank illegally foreclosed on thousands of homeowners. A few sued and retrieved their homes. Government agencies have documented billions in drug money laundered through TownBank accounts. Those are only a few of his many crimes.”
Repressing my anxiety, I focused on the Learned Elder’s wise face.
He continued. “One of our brothers lost a daughter to Princeton’s predatory child sexual orgies. Our Brotherhood has condemned him because of his crimes against homeowners, businesses, children, and women. It is time to balance the scales with Mr. Princeton.”
I asked, “What about national laws, the DOJ and the SEC? Why haven’t they prosecuted him?”
He frowned. “TownBank and Princeton made huge payoffs to political parties, congresspersons, and presidential candidates. His political protection is solid. They’ll never convict him for a crime more serious than speeding.”
I met his eyes. “I’m ready to balance the scales of justice for our brothers and sisters, and to finish what others cannot or will not do.”
He stood and offered his hand.
Despite my inner demons, I accepted the job.
He said, “I know we can depend upon you. Read this list of crimes over his dead body, use extreme caution, and arm yourself. His security goons will torture and kill you if you don’t escape. God’s speed to you.”
I felt a personal reason for vengeance against that sick creature. His bank foreclosed on my mother, forcing her out of the house she lived in for thirty years. She owned the house, but TownBank and their team of robo-signers forged documents showing her mortgage was delinquent.
The bank lied and she could have proven that fact in court. But the stress and attorney fees would have broken her health and finances. Instead, my mother lives in a one bedroom apartment in Iowa. I visit her often.
***
In a corner officer in the New York City TownBank building President James Princeton practiced his putting stroke while planning his next billion-dollar theft. Amanda, his secretary, brought documents and coffee.
A moment later he signed acquisition documents. TownBank would strip assets from a prominent corporation, load it with debt, and bankrupt it within a few years. “Too bad all those little people will lose their jobs and pensions. It’s their problem, but a larger bonus for me.”
His secure line buzzed. “James Princeton. What can I do for you?”
“It’s what I can do for you that’s important. You know who this is?” The deputy director of a three-letter federal agency did not want his name mentioned even on an encrypted connection.
“Yes, I know. What’s new?”
“We monitor digital traffic from thousands of fringe groups. Our AI systems suggest there may be an attempt on your life.” The Deputy Director cleared his throat and waited.
“Thanks for the warning. I owe you.” Princeton disconnected and fell deep into thought.
He buzzed Amanda. “Ask Savatelli to come to my office.”
Minutes later Leonard Savatelli, TownBank’s Security Chief, knocked and entered. “Sir, you asked for me.”
“I received a call from a government insider. He thinks a fringe group is planning to kill me. Increase security and scan everyone for weapons. Ask your guards to frisk visitors to this floor. Install microphones in my office for twenty-four-hour monitoring with an off switch I control for private conversations. Report when everything is operational.”
***
After researching James Princeton and TownBank, I brewed coffee, and walked in circles around my living room. He arrives every day at the helipad on the roof of the TownBank building. Nailing him from over five hundred yards will be difficult in swirling winds. His walled home is a fortress. He travels in a bullet-proof car with a skilled driver, and is always surrounded with bodyguards.
I continued pacing until I received an inspiration.
***
Days later I covered skin-tight clothes with a navy pin-striped Brooks Brothers suit, expensive oxfords, and a knock-off Rolex. I’m Anders McCord, a half Japanese former Green Beret. Makeup concealed my robust physical health. After I added face putty, a wig and glasses I could pass for an older Japanese businessman.
A leg band restricted bending in my right knee. I dropped pebbles into my left shoe. My painful gait added years to my apparent age. Two tiny ceramic push knives fit into hidden compartments in my shoes.
I exited the limo and limped inside the TownBank office building. Using accented English I asked for Mr. Princeton. The metal detector remained silent. An armed security guard examined documents, promotional literature, cigars and lighter in my briefcase. The elevator stopped on the 40th floor. A second guard scanned me before I limped onto the next elevator. Another guard frisked me when I left that elevator on the 75th floor.
Calming my fears, I became Mr. Alex Takahashi from the Mitusami Corporation and entered Princeton’s office.
Amanda asked, “Do you have an appointment?”
“So sorry, I do not. But I need only five minutes of time. Please to give Mr. Princeton.” I wrote ‘$50,000 in cash’ on the back of my Mitusami business card and handed it to her.
She read my card and frowned. “Mr. Takahashi, I’ll check with him.” Amanda walked to his office, knocked and entered.
She returned, gave me a non-committal smile and said, “He’s on the phone and will meet with you when he’s free. Please wait.” She directed me to a row of chairs.
Later she announced, “You may see Mr. Princeton now.” She pointed toward his office door.
I knocked twice and entered. “Mr. Princeton, Alex Takahashi from the Mitusami Corporation. I need only minutes of your time. I trust we’ll agree to a profitable business arrangement. May I sit?”
His hungry, dark eyes inspected me. “Please. Tell me your business interest in TownBank.”
“Thank you. We specialize in exports to south-east…” I didn’t finish because I leaped out of my seat, swung my body onto his desk, and crushed his larynx with a knuckle strike. To make certain he died, I grabbed his chin and head and broke his neck by twisting upward and back. I sucked the familiar scent of death deep into my chest.
In accordance with our Brotherhood ritual, I read the list of his crimes. As I finished, a side door crashed open and a guard shot me in the shoulder. I fell behind his desk, grabbed a push knife from my shoe and waited.
The security guard’s bullet had missed vital organs. A moment later, while I feigned unconsciousness, he circled the desk and rolled me onto my back.
I opened my eyes and slashed with the poisoned knife. The soul of the Learned Elder guided my hand as the knife sliced his arm. I locked onto his gun hand and waited for the deadly neurotoxin to work. In a few seconds he lost strength and moments later died. Our blood stained the president’s carpet.
After retrieving my briefcase, I removed two phony cigars and lit them. Acrid smoke filled the room. I stumbled out the side door, rushed down a hallway, found stairs and descended three levels.
The men’s room on the 72nd floor was empty. It took only moments to strip off my suit, glasses, black wig and makeup. I gobbled pain pills, slapped a bandage on my wound, removed the leg band, and hurried from the restroom. Fire alarms rang throughout the building.
Minutes later I emerged from the ground floor parking lot and escaped to a safe house. The Brotherhood arranged secret transportation to another country after my wound healed. I had to flee; the police had my DNA and name.
***
I killed many enemy soldiers in the Iraq war. Like me, they were not wicked, but following orders. My damaged soul shrieked with bitter anguish as I remembered dying soldiers on both sides screaming in pain.
President Princeton presided over an evil empire that destroyed lives. He deserved to experience consequences from his actions. Our Brotherhood helped balance the scales of justice.
My redemption began when President Princeton died.

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