As I walked up the dark staircase, each step felt like I was climbing a mountain. My breath was ragged and my chest felt heavy. I put my left hand on the sidewalls for support and could feel the faint thumping of music originating nearby. I could feel something dripping down my brows, sweat or blood – I could no longer tell. The fingers in my right hand were cut and swollen, and holding my gun with it no longer seemed viable. But I had to. I had to reach the top of this staircase and I knew what was waiting for me there. And if I wanted any chance of survival, I had to hold on to that gun. Although, as the buzzing in my ears and the dizziness in my head increased with every step that, I wondered if I would even be able to make use of that gun anymore.
As I took the last step and put my hand on the door, my mind went back to the events of last night, when everything went to hell.
24 hours ago
It all happened really fast, but my peripheral vision is good at catching such things. I was taking another swig of my beer, when I felt it whiz by me and I saw in horror as it went right into that eye.
“Bullseye!”, my brother Max screamed as he put down another win against me in our weekly darts championship. I remembered the time when I was teaching my little brother to play darts and wondered if I should start coaching professionally.
“One of these days brother, you are gonna miss. That day, I will have my revenge”, I hollered at him. “Keep dreaming, big bro”, he snickered back, that little shit. But he is all I have left in this world and I loved him to death. There wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for him.
“Hey Alex! Last call, you want anything?”, I heard her call out to me. “No thanks, Marge. Enough beer and losses for the day”, I replied as I walked up to the counter to settle the bill. Marge was the owner/bartender of K-rancher bar, our ‘spot’ for hanging out for as long as we were of legal drinking age.
“Max dunked you again?”, she said as she handed me my change. I chuckled a little at that. “Yes ma’am he did. I don’t know if my pride can take any more losses”, I said as I pocketed that change and looked over at Max. “Then why don’t you stop letting him win for a change?”, she replied winking at me. I laughed a little louder this time. There’s no fooling that woman.
She was perhaps the only person left around here who actually knew my dad. Hector Krey was a man of honour and commitment. He wasn’t the most social of people, but he was always there for us. Our mother was never in the picture. From what I gathered, she died a few days after Max was born. I had some faint memories of her but nothing which I could describe. Who could blame me, as I was all but two years old when she left us.
Our dad always used to share life advice with us, never anything specific though. It had something to do with that shady job of his. He said that he worked for the government, but the cuts and scrapes he always came back with said otherwise. He gave a lot of emphasis on self-defence training, owing to which the Krey brothers were soon famous as people not to be messed with. Our dad passed away a few years ago and he didn’t exactly leave a fortune for us. But we both found odd jobs and were making a happy living. Or so it seemed to me.
We left the bar and started walking home. “Alex and Max Krey!”, I heard someone shout from behind us. We froze in our tracks and looked at each other. Now, we weren’t exactly model citizens of the city. So, someone calling us out like that, at this hour of the night didn’t seem like a good sign.
We turned around slowly and scanned the area for the owner of that voice. A man appeared out of the shadows and walked towards us. He stopped a few feet from us. Tall, white-skinned, medium build and with jet black hair. Seemed just like your average joe on the street. However, his posture and confidence indicated otherwise. He was wearing a grey overcoat which made it difficult to identify whether he was carrying any kind of heat. He just stood there with his hands in his pockets, with a blank expression on his face.
“Who are you?”, I said, breaking up the silent size-up fest. “Mark”, he said. “You are Hector’s sons?”
Looking at this guy’s mannerisms, we both were getting ready to rumble. But the mention of our father threw us off. “What’s it to you?”, Max growled at him.
The man unflinchingly replied, “I have a job for you two. The pay is a million dollars.”
Max burst out laughing at that and I wasn’t far behind. But something about the man’s antics made me realize that he wasn’t joking in the least. “What does it have to do with our father?”, I asked him, my curiosity piqued.
“He used to work for us. And he told me something no one else knows.”, he proclaimed, with a smile beginning to form on his face.
“And what exactly is that?”, I implored him.
He took his hands out of his pockets, folded them at his chest and announced, “That he trained you not only to be fighters but stone-cold killers.”
Now, the whole world knew that we were trained in mixed martial arts including Taekwondo, Muay Thai and Krav Maga. But to my knowledge, nobody outside of me, my brother and our late father knew about our practice of shooting with handguns and automatic rifles, sniper training, knife fighting and explosive expertise. It wasn’t exactly legal to teach these to underage kids by an unqualified instructor, in an unauthorized training space. Our dad used to own a cabin in the middle of nowhere, a couple of hours away from New York and he used to take us there every summer for training.
But how this had come to the attention of this gentleman shocked me. Perhaps our father was more social than we earlier thought.
Mark must have sensed us evaluating our next step and he spoke up, “Hector was my hammer. Whenever I had a problem, he made it disappear. For years I searched for his replacement but found none. If anybody can replace Hector, it’s his sons.”
“Who exactly are you and what is this job?”, Max uttered. I was a little surprised at that but a little curious too, so I kept quiet.
“I run an organization in this city and I have 3 competitors. I need you to take down all three of them. Complete the task and you get paid a million dollars. That’s all you need to know.”
I was reminded of those 90% off SALE SALE SALE flyers from our neighborhood supermarket. My experience with these kinds of offers was always the same. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is. Then there was the obvious issue of killing people.
“We are going to have to decline that offer Mark”, I said cautiously as I waited for a reaction from him but his poker face gave nothing away. He took out a card from his pocket.
“It is an important decision and an urgent task for me. The offer is good till the morning.”, he said as he held out his card for us.
I had no intention of taking it. But Max took it from him before I could say anything. The man immediately turned around and disappeared back into the shadows.
“Why did you take the card, Max? You know we are not doing this”, I declared as we made way towards our house.
“Why not brother? You have a spare million dollars that I don’t know about?”, he said sarcastically while looking at the road ahead.
“Did you miss the part where we need to kill people for this?”, I enquired. “I didn’t. We were trained for this brother. We always knew that dad was into some illegal work and this guy just confirmed it. Dad was our idol, brother. Then, what is there to think about?”, he asked me. We had finally entered our house and sat down in the den. “I don’t care Max. We are not killing people unnecessarily. That’s final!”, I thundered at him. He was red with anger but he knew better than to argue with me. He got up and stomped off to his room. I got a beer from the fridge and settled down into the sofa, to ponder upon the events of the night.
I don’t know when I dozed off but I woke up to the sound of a car speeding away. It was almost morning and I was still on the sofa. I wobbled out of it and went to the front door.
As I opened the door, I saw a large suitcase on our porch with a folder on top of it. As I picked up the folder, a piece of paper fell from it and my eyes immediately went to it. It was a photo of Max. Alarms went off in my head as I picked up the photo and turned it over to see something written on the back.
‘We have your brother. Complete the job in 24 hours and he walks.’
I dropped the folder and ran throughout the house shouting Max’s name, but all in vain. I found myself back at the front door and picked up the folder to scour through it. It was information on the three most notorious arms and drugs dealers of the city. I had seen their names multiple times on the news.
I knew better than to call the cops. A person taking on such high-powered people was bound to have a few friends on the force. I slumped down on the floor. Max was all I had left in this world. I have to save him and I will, and there was only one way to do so.
I had to do the job.
I thought it would be hard, planning a murder or killing people. But as soon as I opened up that folder, my training kicked in. I assessed the threat level and looked for any vulnerabilities. I decided to start with Vincent De Luca. He was currently in his mansion on the mountains with about 40 bodyguards. Tough to reach and impossible to penetrate. Who would even try to, right?
I had the plan in mind but I needed gear. I opened up that suitcase and was awestruck. It was an arsenal of latest rifles, handguns and explosives. Yeah, that would do.
I geared up, loaded up my car and hit the road. I parked at the base of the hills and hiked up from there. Soon, I had the mansion in my sight
s and I found a nice sniper spot. I counted 12 guards outside the mansion and it was time for action. My first shot was a little hesitant, but the thought of my brother helped.
When the dust had settled, all the guards were dead and Mr. De Luca had lost an eyeball. I thought I would be more repulsed by all the killing but it didn’t bother me in the least. These were criminals after all. I took out my phone and clicked a photo of Mr. De Luca or whatever was left of him. Whatever qualms I had about killing people were gone now. I felt no regret, all I wanted was my brother back.
Next up on my list was Clyde Mason. He smuggled ancient artifacts and valuables from New York. No one had been able to catch him as he has a secret underground base somewhere on the outskirts of the city and no one had been able to locate it in the past. Well, everyone except this Mark guy.
With exact coordinates in hand, I reached the site soon. I saw 4 guards patrolling the cabin, which was the entrance to the base. From the intel I had, there was an indestructible 18-inch steel door in the cabin which could only be opened from inside the base. I smirked as a plan formed in my head.
“Someone is attacking the base, we need back up on the outside!”, the radio crackled in the base. The base was aware of the attack as all the entrance cameras were down and they desperately trying to fix them.
“Threat neutralized. It was single combatant”, sounded the radio inside the base and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The cameras came back on and they could see one of theirs standing on top of a dead man. “Bring in the body, boss wants to see who is it”, replied the base into the radio as they buzzed the door open.
The look on their face was priceless as they saw me walk in and realized the grave error they had just made. The place was cramped, not suitable for a gunfight. It was fine by me as I had always preferred a knife.
I made quick work of the guards inside the base. Several broken bones and severed arteries later, I found Mr. Mason sitting on a chair, unarmed and smoking a pipe.
“Any last words?”, I asked him as I placed my bloody knife on his throat. “Mark doesn’t do loose ends kid, you are next”, he warned me. “Well then, save a seat for me in hell”, I whispered as I sliced the blade across his neck.
As I walked out of the place, I thought about what dearly departed Mr. Mason just said. I knew there was no guarantee that Max or I would make it out of this alive. But I had no other option than to do what he had said.
It was almost night by the time I reached for my third target, an arms dealer by the name of Billy, in a huge warehouse with a ton of vantage points. It took me all of 10 minutes to take out all of his men. After that, I made my way into Billy’s office where I saw him sitting at his desk with his brains blown out.
“Looks like you took the easy way out, Billy”, I whispered as I took a photo of the mess. I was getting ready to walk out as a voice called out from behind me, “If you move, I will blow it up!”. I turned around to see a woman in her early 20’s, clad in what looked a high-tech suicide vest.
“I am sure that whatever job you were forced into no longer exists”, I said calmly as I pointed to the freshly red painted wall of brains.
“You killed everyone. You will kill me too”, she said in a shaky voice. “I have no business with you. He was just a job. Let me help you remove that jacket.”
Once the jacket was off, I said, “It’s not safe here. You better leave”. She seemed to agree with me as she ran off immediately.
I sent the three pictures to the number which was in the folder and got an address back for a night club. I geared up for the final stand and hit the road. I was not tense or afraid, just a sense of calm. After all, I had a plan now.
As soon as I showed up, Mark’s men tried to kill me, as expected. I was able to fend them off but not without suffering a broken hand and a blow on my head. I slowly walked up to the entrance of the staircase which led up to Mark’s office.
I pushed open the door to see Mark sitting in a plush sofa smiling at me. I aimed my gun at him but his smile didn’t falter a bit.
“Where’s my brother, you prick!”, I growled at him.
He gave a little laugh before saying, “He has been waiting for this family reunion”. I heard the distinct click of a gun behind me and a voice ringed in my ears, “Hello again brother”.
I dropped my gun and turned around to see the smiling face of my brother Max. “Why?”, I asked simply. “Survival brother. I have mounts of debt and this gives me a life I have always dreamt of. Isn’t that what father always taught us?”
“He also taught us about family. And I am not going to let my brother get sucked into this life”, I declared while looking in his eyes.
“You aren’t going to be around to watch brother. Your part ends here. Goodbye Alex”, he whispered as he double-tapped me in the chest and I fell on the ground.
My lungs were punctured and I coughed up blood as I saw Max bend down beside me, probably feeling some kind of brotherly love. He glanced at the hole his bullet left on my chest when something caught his eye.
He moved his fingers across my shirt and felt something underneath. He pulled open the shirt and gasped at what he saw: a state of the art bomb vest with less than 10 seconds on the timer.
I laughed through the pain and spit out the blood from my mouth. The entire place was going to be blown to pieces but I had one last thing to say to my brother.
“You missed. Told you brother…… will get ya one day”