Soaked to the skin, miserable and destitute with the loss of our family member, we stood in reticent pain and stared at one another, dumbfounded and paralyzed as to what we should do next.
Nobel spun around, his head twisting from side to side, the only one noticing that our group was now missing members.
“Where the hell is Dand?” He asked.
Joining his twirling to scan the dismal area of decay, it now became apparent that the young man wasn’t the only one absent.
“And where the hell is JP?” Asked Rufus.
“Oh, shit,” the two moaned in unison, “what are they up to now?”
“Alaina,” Nobel grunted, “you saw Breck dig the point of his knife into her throat. She had to have been here for some other reason than her daughter’s send-off. You don’t think he’s going back after her now for some purpose, do you?”
Thoughts of my day or two of precarious spying years ago came back to me with an excruciating sting. Breck was on the verge of doing her in then – who’s to say that he wouldn’t finish the job here and now that he knows exactly where she is?
Breck’s state of mind was cracked and wanton, leaving him wide open to any desperate act including seeking any sort of vengeance for the death of his young daughter against anyone he perceived to be guilty.
The guy was a loose cannon on a sinking ship.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” I asked Nobel as he tromped off in the opposite direction of the car.
“I’m going after them.”
“No, you fucking don’t,” I stopped him from getting himself in just as deep. “The four of them running roughshod isn’t your queue to join them, Nobel, you know that as well as I do. Enough lives have ended,” I warned him. “You have no idea where they are going or what they are doing and the only thing you’ll successfully accomplish is getting yourself killed, too.
“Get a grip and consider what you’re doing; be some voice of reason where there is currently none.”
He determinedly shook his head.
“Someone has gotta save those idiots from themselves – I’m not coming back here for four more funerals like this one. I will not lose him, Sandy – “
“And I will not haul you or anyone else back in a body bag,” I screeched and grabbed his jacket, having found the end of my tether.
“Enough already! There is nothing you can do with them or for them – nothing. Now, we’re getting on a plane and we are returning to the States.”
He fractiously slapped away my hands, livid at being commanded his next actions and he poked his nose in mine so close that his cologne refreshed by the moldy rain stung my eyes.
“Fuck you,” he spat and continued on his original course.
I wasn’t entirely surprised by his reaction – psychopathy aside – nor was I dismayed to watch Daucal and Rufus follow Nobel’s footsteps to the car. None of them could possibly be in their right minds.
With any luck they’d find no trace of Breck and Robbie in Edinburgh. It was a decent-sized city, sprawling and populous and Nobel wouldn’t know where to start looking.
Hopefully, they’d just return empty-handed and thankful that everyone was back safe.
Not typically a pessimist, I wanted him to be wrong and I wanted him to fail in whatever bizarre mission he believed to be undertaking and I watched the trio’s figures get fade in size and further toward the distant unknown, much like Breck had just done with Alaina. I couldn’t help but admire their head-strong loyalty and determination, displaced as it may have seemed at the time. Those three men were walking into alien territory, a scenario housing potential harm and death for the sake of an unshakeable brotherhood.
Their virtue was not to be ignored but I couldn’t accompany them, though the thought briefly took hold of the adventurous side of me. I was too old and I had too much at stake and I would be of no use to them. Besides, the responsibility of sorting out paperwork – should any of them return to me in hearses – was mine and mine alone.
I was Zeus atop Mount Olympus, looking over my armed demi-gods on their way to battle the awakened Kraken.
All I could hope for was some power left in the thunderbolts slipping from my hands.
Beaming from ear to ear, proud as punch to have made it back to the room alive and in one piece with his arms teeming with bags and boxes, Robbie managed to unlock the hotel door and he carefully placed his parcels on the nearest available flat surface.
“Hungry, lad? Uh got some food n’ some drink; dig in where yuh’d like,” Robbie announced and cracked into the piping hot Cornish pasty that he coveted.
“I’m not all that hungry, but you can pass me one of those Carlsbergs,” Breck mindlessly mumbled, taking the can and snapping the tin ring back.
Robbie paused for a moment and he rested his small pie on the table. Dusting off his hands, he walked in front of Breck when he’d noticed the mournful father considerably more reticent than he’d left him.
Blackened pinholes told the entire story to Robbie when he shifted the addict’s head from side to side to examine the secret in his eyes he made no attempt to hide.
His fingers still gripping Breck’s chin, he let the further sorrow befall him in seeing that his brother’s main source of solitude came from the chemistry-altering drugs.
“Perfectin’ yuhr equestrian skills again, uh see,” Robbie sarcastically lashed. “Did Alvers find yuh and hook yuh up before yuh left?”
“’Equestrian skills’? What the hell does that mean?”
“Yuh’re fuckin’ ridin’ horse again, ain’t yuh, yuh daft bastard?” Robbie was incensed with the latest bout of narcotic indulgence but couldn’t help but feel that, after the day they’d all encountered, Breck was somehow entitled to the numbness.
“Keen eye, Geronimo,” Breck sourly annunciated.
“Cooker’s got ‘connections’ in the city,” he went on to confirm, unashamedly affirming his source, “that took pity on me and provided support for the trip.”
“What about Ray?”
“What about Ray?”
“Does he know? Do uh hafta tie yuh down ta keep yuh from another world tour with ‘im comin’ up?”
“Yes, he knows and I told him and Collette to stay away; you know he doesn’t do that shit anymore, Robbie. He’s the least of your worries.”
Before Robbie’s punishing could continue, Dand and Jean-Philippe returned to the room and dug into the provided goodies.
Having the same earnest observances that had Robbie, Dand crept cautiously to his father and drew his finger through the residue of dust left on the table.
“Oh, thank God,” his trapped inhalation gushed with relief that he wasn’t the only one with mood-changing stash. From his pocket he drew a hand-rolled joint and fired it up, satisfied that he was in the company of others that needed the medical strength to fight the depression of the day.
Not entirely thrilled to see his child indulging in the psychotropic bliss but in no position to ground an adult offspring, Breck’s only option was to smirk and shake his head at the sight of Dand toking up.
Either that or be awarded with the ‘Hypocrite of the Year’ statuette.
“Want some?” Dand choked, offering the marijuana to Jean-Philippe.
“Lookit fuckin’ this,” Robbie exploded, “apple dunna fall far from the tree now, does it? Son, uh oughta kick yuhr arse right along with yuhr dah’s. Godammit the both o’ yuh.”
“Robbie, give it a rest for just a millisecond, would you? We’re all perfectly aware of your disdain,” Breck was riling with the Scotsman’s interruption of his powder pleasure.
Hoping to inject some calm to the escalating tempers, Jean-Philippe held up his hand in declination of Dand’s offer.
“I’ll pass for now, thanks. That’s never been my toxin of choice.”
“What has?” Robbie asked out of curiosity.
“I know this will come as a massive surprise to you all, but my drug of choice is alcohol; wine, specifically.”
“Yeah…that really floors me,” Robbie munched the last of his pastry.
“Down ta business, lads. Bridge tomorrow mornin’; do yuh think she’ll show?
“What do you think?” Breck slurped off the top of his can of beer, continuing to enjoy the reel of his narcotic fuzz. “I’m pretty sure that feeling the point of my knife against her Adam’s apple was all the persuasion she needed. Don’t forget that I’ve known this woman for going on forty years – better than she knows herself.
“She’ll be there…and she’ll be there with her piece of shit father.”
Breck’s level of arrogance bordered on serial killing personality. The malice in his baneful tone was downright horrifying even to Robbie and Jean-Philippe, not attributing his demonism entirely to the heroin he’d been snorting.
“Yuh know, uh’m so happy that uh’m on yuhr side,” Robbie warily mentioned.
“Aw, c’mon now, Scot,” Breck softened on him, “you’ve done so well to learn how to sleep with one eye opened. Don’t be stupid – you’ve know the woman for nearly as long as I have. Use your reason and clear the fluff to put foundation to decision.”
Robbie cracked his third beer and glugged long from the opening.
“When yuh put it like that…yeah, she’s no’ in on it. This is all Jack n’ Greer.”
“These walls are closing in on me,” Breck scratched at his arms. “I need some air. I’m going for a walk.”
“I’ll go with you,” Dand joined up and grabbed his coat from within the hesitant watch of Robbie’s and Jean-Philippe’s concerned eyes.
“Don’t worry,” Breck convinced his colleagues. “Even if I’m not able to return on my own, the kid’ll get me back.”
Dand nodded. “Don’t sweat it.”
The pair hit the dark cold of Chambers Street, walking together in a weird connected silence before stopping in front of the pub.
“Want to go in?” Breck asked.
“Sure, why not?”
The pair sat themselves, shedding their coats from the cold and each ordering pints.
Licking the foam from his upper lip, Dand twisted himself from his barstool to face his father and inquired of something from earlier in the day that hung with him.
“Dad, you mentioned something today in the funeral parlor that was really weird. You said something about me killing you and Robbie and getting a two-for-one deal. What did you mean by that?”
Breck nearly spit his beer across the bar, unable to control the hysterical laugh that his son’s question prompted.
“Ha,” he finally said. “Why don’t you and I grab a booth over there in the corner?”
He grabbed his son by the collar and shifted them both to more seclusion.
They planted their beers on the table and their asses on the wood, and Breck looked at Dand through cold and hard and calculating eyes.
This was it – this was the moment of truth with no intervening entities, with no voices of reason, with no cautioning conscience.
“What I’m about to tell you transcends all reason,” Breck eyed his son and inhaled deeply. “I need you to understand that above and beyond all else.
“After you hear what I have to tell you, I’m prepare to accept whatever decision you make to course your life as you see fit, ready and willing to acknowledge that your reaction to this information will push you far away from me or worse. I can’t expect you to appreciate or even grasp the lives that Robbie and I have led.
“And I’ll preface this by saying that some of what we’ve experienced has crossed very questionable moral and legal boundaries. Some of it has been bad – very bad. Can you get that?”
“Dad, you’re scaring me. What are you talking about?”
Breck took Dand’s hand and turned directly toward him, sober as he’d ever been regardless of the opiate stroking his veins.
“Well, maybe you should be scared. Maybe it’s time you understand that Robbie and I have considerable influence in various circles. Some of the company we keep includes individuals with the power to do some unthinkable things,” he paused to consider his next epic statement, “and that includes pub bombings.”
Dand pulled his thumb down the side of the glass pint and stared.
“You can’t possibly be saying what I think you’re saying.”
“I’m pretty sure I am, son,” Breck nervously confirmed. “It needs to be said, and you need to know that it was Robbie and me and Nobel behind that Dublin pub bombing that killed Marcus.”
Dand tautened with panic, beads of sweat lined his forehead and he shivered under his father’s words as Breck started in again.
“Now, before you go off you need to understand that I hadn’t found you yet,” Breck explained. “We leveled that building to rid our lives of half-brothers – my half-brothers – that took out hits on my life, and came as retaliation of me being beaten to a pulp and shot within the span of a year. Your father was not a target and he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is as simple as that, Dand. I was out to save my life and to find yours, and Marcus was ancillary wreckage.
“These were the disgusting creatures that kidnapped Jean-Philippe and put bullets into both of us, and that was minor compared to what transpired before you were aware that any of us even existed.
“Hate us all you want, but the underlying motivation in taking them out was to clear the path to me finding you and your siblings…the rest of my children that were stolen from me and whom I had every reason to believe were taken by those family members we targeted for death.
“Do you understand, lad? Does this make any sense at all?”
Dand heaved with apprehension, pulling his hand out of Breck’s and sliding away from him.
“Are you going to kill me, too?” He lurched with the prevision that he was in the company of his own murderer, the last light of his life being snuffed out in the eyes of his father.
That question socked Breck square in the jaw. Compounded with the day he’d just been through – burying his youngest daughter on Christmas Day – he gave in to the unthinkable amount of suffering the plagued him for days.
He couldn’t assess that question rationally, forgetting his previous skepticism that his son would be the one to kill him in retaliation for his evil deeds.
Breck fell apart.
“I…,” the question stabbed his soul, “did you just hear what I said? I was picking off my own family members for you; to find you. Isn’t that enough proof that you are my child and I would move heaven and earth to bring you to me and keep you safe?
“Dand, I searched for you for decades, the brunt of my life dedicated to retrieving you. Why would I waste that abundance of time and energy just to discard you?”
The boy was a ghost hovering over the table and viewing this moral confrontation between parent and child only considerably more extraordinary.
“What do I do with this, dad?” Dand asked with purest innocence.
“I don’t know, my love; what do I do with this?” His father replied with equal unsurety.
“You needed to know and I had to tell you before you went off half-cocked, seeking out another thug for a hit. You were truly blessed by angels to have hooked up with Robbie, kiddo; there’s no doubt you’d be in a heap of trouble by now, off searching and not knowing what you were looking for. This is a decadent world where we wallow, Dand, and you need to stay out of it where you can.”
“It seems to have served you well,” he noticed.
“Some,” Breck admitted hollowly, “but the only reason I got stuck into it was because I was young and stupid and I had no other choice, and I didn’t have anyone with half a brain to steer me away from it. Besides, I had babies to provide for and it was worth the risk to make sure that you had the best of everything.”
He smiled and ran his hair through his son’s shaggy mop.
“I would kill and die for you and I would fend off any storm for you,” a tear left his weary eye. “You have to know that, child.”
Two fresh pints were placed before them for consumption.
“I don’t know what I know,” Dand drew the liquid into his throat. “My dad’s a killer and a criminal, a sister I just met and knew for a whole day was buried as a result of it, I’ve alienated my lover only to find myself in the middle of it all…where does it end?”
“Well, you know what they say – you can’t pick your family,” Breck smirked. “You’re not absorbed into this too deeply yet; you still have the ability to walk away.”
“After all of this just to find me you’d simply give me back up to the world, never to be seen again?”
The thought of that being a possibility gutted Breck.
“If it kept you safe and made you happy never to be in our company again, I’d make sure that’s what you’d have,” Breck assured his son. “I sure as hell wouldn’t like it, but I’d do it.”
Dand shook his head and rubbed his eyes. “I need to let this sink in,” he emptied his glass. “Today has been mega overload. Right now I just want to get some sleep.”
“Aye, that it’s been,” Breck rested his employ glass on the wooden table and settled the tab.
“Let’s get outta here.”
They dressed their coats and took back to the blackened muggy street, dragging feet that had been shoed in cement.
“Who knows?” Dand bummed a cigarette from Breck as he lit up his own from the pack he’d slid into his inner pocket.
Breck exhaled the smoke, “Pretty much everyone collected in that room we’re headed toward, plus Nobel.”
The brief remainder of their trek was completed in silence with Dand moving straight to his room upon arrival, closing the door behind him without a word to anyone.
Without removing his coat, Breck collapsed on the couch and rubbed his face with his battered hands as his two colleagues watched in confused suspension.
“Nice quiet pub chatter n’ pint wit’ the lad then, ‘ey?” Robbie started, watchful of the reaction his question would prompt.
“Yeah, it was great,” Breck sarcastically drawled.
Robbie bit his bottom lip. “Yuh told ‘im, didn’t yuh?”
“And I wouldn’t go to closing that second eye when you’re sleeping just yet.”