Killing The Faithful
A short story by Paul Kain
David woke up and for a split second couldn’t remember where he was, he looked at the dark patch on the roof where the water from the room above his must have leaked and seeped through the ceiling. The dark patch resembled an octopus with its tentacles stretching out as far as possible to the end of its reach. He stared at the water stain for a few moments longer trying to figure out the time then remembered that he had purchased a wristwatch at the train station when he arrived that morning. He looked at the wrist watch and saw that the hands had stopped moving. He sat up quickly taking a gasp of breath thinking that he had blown it by over sleeping but the realization that there was still sunlight pouring in through the window reminded him that it was still day time.
He tried to wind the wrist watch but as soon as he wound the tiny button twice he realized that he had been duped into buying a dud watch. It probably had a battery that only ran a few hours then died. He started to curse the old man that had sold him the watch but thought against it. He was the same in or outside the ‘retreat’ as they referred to it and cursing certainly wasn’t a thing one does in the retreat. He turned the little button another revolution then turned it anti clockwise hoping that the watch still worked but the button turned freely both ways making him realize that the watch was indeed a dud.
He reached over and opened the side flap of the satchel that he brought with him and produced a travel clock with a digital display and looked at the time. 4:37 pm. He still had three and a half hours.
He stood up and moved silently across the carpeted floor to the window where his cigarettes and lighter lay on the sill. David shook a Camel from its packet and lit it with the cheap, green lighter that he had bought 3 days ago when he left the retreat. He placed the digital travel clock on the window sill and went to the writing desk and carried the chair back to the window. Still standing, he shifted the cigarette to the corner of his mouth, loosened the watchstrap and threw the watch onto the bed. The strap had left a small red welt on his wrist. He wasn’t used to wearing a watch and hadn’t worn one since his last mission out of the retreat more than 6 months ago. He rubbed the welt lightly then parted the curtain further to give him a wider view of the road below and the hospital just opposite. Tiny tendrils of smoke floated up from the cigarette, into his eyes making them water. He took the cigarette between thumb and forefinger and dragged deeply on it, feeling the smoke burn deep into his lungs, filling them up and occupying every crevice. He was slightly disappointed with this hotel as it came across as slightly dingy even though the room had a pleasant citrus smell and was spotless. Even the bed was firm and the TV with its sound muted had a good clear image that wasn’t blurred or had one of those funny running colors down the side that you see on TV’s where the cathode tube is slowly going. He had endured more than his fair share of those in battered hotel rooms right across the country than he cared to admit so the sight of a working TV was like a comfort to him even though he didn’t watch TV. There wasn’t a single TV set in the entire retreat. Hell, there wasn’t even a radio in the place. The only news that they got from the outside world was strictly on a need to know basis. Other important information was always pumped into his head at a debriefing three or 4 days before he embarked on a mission.
He had silently hoped that the hotel would be more like the last one he had stayed in back in April. It seemed like a lifetime away but he could clearly remember the fine wooden hand carved furniture with its plush upholstery and the stocked bar fridge with its ice cold mineral water.
It had been a treat to stay in such a posh place with the high class snobs that frequented those kinds of places. He had made sure that he had used the facilities that the room offered; the room service, the mineral water, the jet bath. He was always careful enough to make himself scarce when room service arrived. The less people who saw his face the better. He’d always leave a tip on the receiving table and leave the door unlocked and would go and turn on the hairdryer or the shower in the bathroom to pretend that he was busy. The room service personnel would always knock, enter, leave the trolley and retreat back to the bowels of the hotel taking with them the tip. He would disappear in the early hours of the morning and when he returned at night the trolley would be gone and the bed would always have a chocolate mint on the pillow. In the back of his mind he could still taste the mint.
Outside in the street people were moving about and he could see the sun beginning to make its slow descent into the horizon. He flicked the cigarette out of the window and watched it tumble lazily all the way till it fell outside of his view. He wanted to lean out of the window to watch it hit the ground but realized that it would mean that he would have to lean far out of the window and risk the chance that someone might see him and be able to identikit him later. He didn’t even know why he smoked. The entire time he spent in the retreat he didn’t smoke. It was just when he was out on an exercise such as this one. He always bought a carton whether he was out for a few days or longer. Habit.
A sudden gust of wind caused the curtain to billow and he pulled the open window shut hoping that a wind didn’t pick up later as it would make his task a little more difficult. He looked around the room for something to prop the curtain against the wall then remembered that he had a roll of duct tape in the satchel that he could use to simply stick the curtain to the wall if need be. He glided silently to the bathroom and stopped at the large oval mirror. He stared at the face in the mirror and looked into his own eyes. They were red and tired. He had traveled solidly for two days and contemplated having a shower to wake himself up a bit more. He walked over to the shower, turned the cold water on, peeled off his clothes and stepped under the jet of icy cold water. The water was freezing and he gasped for breath while trying to get used to the cold. They never had warm water at the retreat and he wondered to himself why after nearly 13 years of the same routine, cold water showers still made him gasp the way he just did. He soaped himself down and washed the soap off quickly. No shampoo meant that he would either have to skip washing his hair or use soap which had a nasty habit of causing his already curly hair to frizz and get knotty so he decided not to wash it. He bent down onto his haunches and took the bar of soap and started breaking it up into small pieces and forcing them down the drain. David took no chances and always left very little for anybody to work with. He was a professional and had been trained this way.
He climbed out of the shower and toweled himself off. He could see that there was hair on the towel so he folded it up neatly to take with him when he left. Nothing was ever left to chance.
He dressed quickly and walked back out to the main room carrying the hotel’s towel with him. He placed the towel on the bed and went to the door leading out to the corridor. The room had become dark while he had been showering so he clicked the light on. The over head light hummed softly then switched on, throwing shadows. He unlocked the door and checked down the corridor in both directions. Nothing. This time of the year was quiet so he could relax a little knowing that he practically had the entire floor to himself. The fluorescent light by the lifts blinked rapidly giving away the fact that it too was close to the end of its life. David sighed and closed the door again locking it before he went and picked the satchel up off the floor and placed it on the bed. It was a rather bulky bag because it contained a number of apparatus.
He pulled out 2 small monitors wrapped in a light chamois cloth and placed them on the bed. He stood and turned the chair so that the back faced the wall next to the window. He then unraveled a few meters of wire and rolled out 2 strands and plugged each into the back of each monitor. He laid a track of wire to the door and returned to the satchel where he pulled out a small box that resembled a ring box. Inside were 2 tiny cameras. He looked at the 2 tiny cameras lying side by side in the box, thinking how they resembled 2 pearl earrings and was momentarily reminded of his long dead mother who had only worn pearl earrings. She had been buried wearing her favorite pair. He muttered a short prayer for her while fitting the cameras onto the ends of the wires by the door and then slid the tiny cameras under the door facing away from each other and returned to the monitors and switched them on. He could see the blinking fluorescent light by the lift in the one monitor but the other was dark. He crossed quickly to the door and turned the wire while watching the monitor till he could see the corridor to the other end. Satisfied that he would be well prepared should someone interfere with his work tonight, he returned to the satchel and keeping one eye on the monitors he placed the satchel onto the floor next to the bedside table and reached under the bed and retrieved the guitar case.
He found it so clichéd to carry a high powered rifle in a guitar case but never argued this. He didn’t make the rules after all. He just executed them.
He placed the guitar case on the bed, opened it so that the back faced the door and began assembling the rifle. He always took his time with this part because he never wanted to be in a situation where the weapon misfired because of something he did wrong during assembly. A short while later he screwed the silencer on and had the rifle assembled and ready to use. It was more than habit that the last thing to attach was the silencer. Most of the others always loaded the magazine last, he loaded the magazine before finishing with the silencer as that is what his life was, that of a silencer. He glanced out the window to the hospital window across the way and saw that the curtain was still closed. He looked at the digital clock. 6:36.
In an hour and a half visiting hours at the hospital would end, the nightshift nurses would start their rounds. Two of them would go to his mark’s room; one would assist the old man into a wheel chair and would wheel him off for his nightly bath. The other would open his curtains and window to air the room while she prepared his bed and took away his dinner tray and cleaned up the room. According to the information that David had received, the nurse had a habit of closing the window when she was done but leaving the curtains wide open. This would provide David the opportunity he sought. The old man knew something and needed to be silenced. He then had another 3 hours to be out of the city and long gone before the midnight check would find the body. David grimaced thinking that he was in the business of keeping people quiet. He was a silencer.
But he had made the choice to do what ever it took to serve a higher purpose.
He got himself a clean pair of socks from the satchel and pulled them on then pulled on his sneakers and began tying the old, fraying laces. As he pulled the left lace tight it snapped. For a split second of confusion and dismay he sat with the piece of lace in his hand. He packed it neatly into the pocket of the satchel and then started unraveling the rest of the lace to be able to tie it properly. It would be shorter than the other but it was still long enough to make sure that the sneaker stayed securely on his foot. It didn’t matter, in a few hours he would be back on his way to the safety of the retreat where he could pull on the sandals that had been his only footwear for as far back as he could remember.
It was standard footwear in the retreat, everyone wore sandals. He made a mental note to request from Angelo a new pair of sneakers for his next mission as these has seen their day. He would need to do that at his return briefing which is the only time he was allowed to speak. He would be silent again for another 6 months or so. He quickly counted the number of people he spoke to the last few years. Eight, maybe nine. Angelo, who always briefed him, the faceless voices on the phone when he ordered room service from the last hotel, the last mark who had hurled abuse at David right before David offered to pray with him before David ended the man’s life with two bullets to the back of his head, his new trainee Michael and the weapons people back at the retreat.
His travel documents were always ready when he traveled and the old man that he bought the watch from was content to converse with David while David only raised his eyebrows as to enquire the price of the watch.
The less people he spoke to, the better. He had often wondered why he was taught so many languages if he didn’t speak to anyone; he was fluent in 6 other languages including French and Italian which he could understand incase the need to operate in and around the Vatican ever arose, but Mandarin, German, Hebrew and Arabic were beyond his reasoning. Remembering that he would be spending a lot of time with Michael on his return made him realize that they would be conversing almost everyday and he was happy with that. Time in the retreat where he was allowed to speak was always comforting as these were the only people he could trust. Michael would be entering the next phase of training and would be spending nearly every waking minute with David. This was a hard phase that Michael was about to enter as it was Torture, Trauma and Psychology. The phase of breaking him down to build him up. It would either break Michael or make him. David prayed that Michael would make it to then go to his toughest trial, the first mission. All first missions were mocks, but the trainees wouldn’t know that till after they had passed the trial, or failed. The bullets were blanks and the stage was always set as though it was the real thing. David would accompany Michael on his first mission just as Angelo had accompanied him, to grade the pupil.
David reminisced a while about his own first mission where he can still remember himself on a rooftop lying flat on his stomach, his body cocked slightly side wards and one knee drawn up, staring through the scopes with Angelo kneeling next to him and the confusion and bewilderment that nearly drove him insane as his mark didn’t drop as he pulled the trigger. He was an expert marksman yet the man in his scopes continued walking across the bridge even as David had squeezed off another clear head shot, and another and yet another. He had then tried a body shot, aiming for the dead center of the man’s chest and yet again the man walked. He broke out into a sweat and panic consumed him as he turned to Angelo with eyes crying, pleading for explanation or assistance. Angelo smiled at him and spoke just 3 words; “You have passed.”
David was confident that Michael would succeed. He was a star pupil whose hand-to-hand combat was superb and his weapons knowledge was top notch. David’s only concern was that Michael was still a little heavy footed and would need to work on his silent stepping, otherwise he was ready. It wouldn’t be difficult to overcome; David knew this as he has been a heavy young man himself with a passion for sweet things. Two years in the retreat had reduced his body fat to next to nothing and his muscles rock hard. In another life he could have been the perfect model for some large clothing giant with his chiseled features and toned body. At 36 he had a 6 pack that most men 10 years his junior would be envious of. But he was no model or actor; he was the perfect killing machine.
David turned to the monitors and watched a while then went about preparing for his departure. He went first to the bathroom, relieved himself then turned on the shower and basin’s hot water taps causing the bathroom to quickly fill with hot steam that would remove any finger prints that he might miss. He waited a few minutes while steam made its way into every corner of the bathroom, he then grabbed a fresh towel and quickly wiped down every possible surface he came into contact with. He turned the taps off and wiped them carefully then pulled the bathroom door shut quietly behind him, wiping both the door handles as he shut the door. It didn’t really matter because David has long since been dead. A grave stone over a grave that contained someone else’s long since rotted and petrified remains that depicted his death nearly 15 years ago and a death certificate that was probably in a shoe box in the attic of his sister’s house halfway across the world confirmed that he was dead and buried. The names on the tombstone and death certificate were that of one Frank Vicente. His birth name. But he was now David. Just David. Or father David as he was known after he had left the seminary. The surnames always changed with the passports although he hadn’t traveled abroad in over 6 years. Angelo and Michael were part of a very small handful of people that still called him father David.
Even though his prints would come up that of a dead man, he didn’t want anyone to go search through his past and go and shake up Laetitia, demanding to see his death certificate. She had had a hard enough time with their mother’s death and had practically fallen to pieces at his funeral. It was the last time he had seen her. Pity it had to be from a car parked at the road while he sat in the back seat and watched members of his family and his old friends lower his own casket into the ground. Watching his own funeral was the most amazing, yet saddest thing he had ever watched and was fuelled by anger at some of the hypocrites that had made their way to his funeral. People from his past that he knew couldn’t stand him while he was alive had stood around his casket, dressed in black, wiping tears from their eyes. He had secretly wanted to jump out of the car and run screaming at them that he was the ghost come to haunt them for being hypocrites. Or knock at their doors in the middle of the night and when they opened up the door he wanted to scream at the top of his lungs; “BOOO!” then watch them keel over clutching their chests before he ran off into the night. Angelo sat silently beside him in the car and allowed him to watch a while longer, then motioned to the driver to make their way to the airport.
Michael hadn’t wanted to attend his own funeral but David had convinced him that it was the right thing to do. When you give your life up, you have to watch it die. Michael’s funeral wasn’t a sad affair as he was Irish. They had sat in a similar black car outside a pub on the outskirts of Dublin and watched as Michael’s friends and family paid tribute to Gerald O’Rourke’s passing by throwing back Guinness after Guinness until some of them had passed out. A young man had stumbled out of the pub and hurled his guts out right before falling fast asleep on the bonnet of a parked car. Michael had laughed at the sight and then admitted that he was glad that he had watched it because it had made him feel alive. There was no burial because Gerald O’Rourke’s body had been disintegrated into nothing by a blast in a chemical factory. Or so the world believed.
David glanced at the clock again. Another 40 or so minutes before the nurses came to attend to their charge. David began to make himself comfortable and noticed a light flash on one of the monitors. He looked closely and saw a hooded figure letting himself into a room at the far end of the corridor. David sat up and watched while wondering if anyone knew he was here. The idea made him a little uncomfortable but he stared at the monitor. A short while later the hooded figure let himself out of the room and moved to the room on the opposite side of the landing and let himself in again. This person was carrying a satchel, smaller than the one that David had. David quickly turned to the bed, grabbed the rifle and slid it under the bed then turned to the monitors again. The shadowy, hooded figure came out of the room, shone his torch in both directions quickly before making his way to the next room. David realized that the fool was robbing the place. Looking for rooms with tenants. He was 2 doors away. David clicked off the monitors, quickly crossed the room to the bathroom, switched the light on and turned the basin tap on. He left the door slightly ajar then quickly made his way back to the main door, grabbed the camera cables and yanked them from under the door. He didn’t want this person to stand on his equipment. He clicked the light off and the room fell dark, leaving only the light coming from the bathroom. Reaching into his back pocket David grabbed a hair band, pulled his hair into a pony tail and stood behind the door, unlocking it and waiting. A few minutes later he heard the door handle creak, then heard the person slide a card into the edge of the door to release the lock. It was David’s own experience that hotel room doors were easy pickings. The door opened slightly and a torch shone into the room, stopped and focused on the monitors. They looked like little TV’s and unless you were in the field you wouldn’t know what these were. To anyone else they just looked like those gimmicky travel TV’s except these didn’t have aerials. The thief entered the room slowly, focusing on the faint sound of the running water and the rays of light coming from the bathroom. David pushed the door softly closed then stepped up to the man and whispered; “Hi.”
The dark figure turned quickly and the bathroom light glinted off the blade of a knife in the man’s right hand. In his left he carried the torch. David swiftly grabbed the man’s right wrist with his left hand, pulled him towards himself and hit the man in the throat with his right fist. The man gagged and tried to make a noise, throwing his head back, causing his hood to fall off.
“That’s why I hit you in the throat my friend; I don’t want you making a noise.” Whispered David softly
The young man just stared back at David shocked and obviously very confused. His deep blue eyes bulged in fright then turned to anger as he tried to loosen David’s grip on his wrist while dropping the torch and reaching for his throat. David twisted the young man’s wrist then bent it down, hard. The man whimpered as his wrist snapped and bones poked through the skin. He tried to take a step back and David hit the man again, this time with his upturned palm catching him in the solar plexus. The man dropped onto his rear and scrambled backwards with one hand, clutching his wrist to his chest, his satchel that he had slung over one shoulder falling with him to the ground, spilling its contents. His eyes wide, frightened. David stepped towards the man as he whimpered again trying to breathe or talk, David wasn’t sure. All that was escaping the man’s throat was a strange gurgling sound that David thought might be blood from a splintered esophagus. The man opened his mouth and blood trickled out, confirming David’s thoughts.
David knelt down next to the man and whispered softly to him; “I am sorry my friend, would you like me to pray for you?” The man, confusion in his eyes, wasn’t sure what to do and started shaking his head then changed his mind and nodded.
David made the sign of the cross and knelt on both knees and said a silent prayer. Aloud he muttered; “Forgive me Lord for what I am about to do.” Then grabbed the man’s head and swiftly broke his neck. The man’s eyes stayed open for a few seconds then slowly closed, blood now flowing freely from his mouth. David quickly grabbed one of the towels and placed it on the carpet then moved the man’s body so that he lay flat on the ground, head on the towel, preventing the blood from spilling onto the carpet.
David switched on the light, opened the door then peered down the corridor. From what he was told in the debriefing was that all the rooms that the young man had just been searching were all void of occupants. His closest neighbors were at the end of the corridor on the other end. He quickly walked to the closest door, reached into his back pocket and produced a card similar to the one the young man must have used and opened the door, leaving it slightly ajar. He made his way back to his room and lifted the man’s neck, took the towel from the ground and stuffed a corner of it into the man’s still open mouth to prevent any more blood from dripping out. He picked the man up and carried him quietly to the room across the way and laid his body on the ground on the opposite side of the bed, out of sight. He then removed the towel from the dead man’s mouth and crossing quickly to the bathroom, he grabbed a towel from the rack and wiped as he went. Leaving the door still open he returned to his room to retrieve the fallen satchel. He first went into the bathroom to turn off the tap, wiped up as best he could, closed the door then dropped the borrowed towel from the other room on the bed, placing on top of it the bloody towel that had soaked up the dead man’s blood. He then picked up the satchel and tried to scoop up as many of the fallen items as possible, anything he might have missed would leave with him when he did a final sweep of the room when he was done. He crossed to the other room quickly and placed the satchel on the dead man’s chest and left the room, he closed the door behind him and wiped the handle with his shirt. He darted back into the room and glanced at the digital clock. 7:43. He still had about 30-something minutes before the nurse returned with the old man from his bath. He quickly set up the cameras again and retrieved the rifle from under the bed. He watched the monitors wondering if anyone had heard anything but was confident that no one had. He was silent, this silencer.
He watched the clock approach 8 o’clock and started making his preparations. He switched the light off again, used a bit of duct tape to secure the curtains to the wall then opened the window. He lit a Camel, sat on the floor with his back against the bed, feeling the lump of rosary beads in his pocket against his leg he was comforted. He finished the cigarette, flicked it out of the open window, took the rosary out and began to pray.
He began to reflect on what he was about to do and why.
He was a Catholic Priest trained in the art of killing. A killer and a hit man. A silencer.
He didn’t do it for money. He did it for the protection of the Catholic Church.
He had learnt years ago that many people were out to discredit the Catholic Church that had started his sect centuries before. They were really just a group of Dominican Monks whose sole duty it was to do whatever it required to ensure that stories of Mafia connections to the Catholic Church were never made public knowledge. All the catholic priests who had fallen victim to desire and the weakness of the flesh had to be removed.
All the Vatican Bank’s secrets, especially those where for years the mafia had controlled the Vatican Bank and had used it to launder money. All these had to be kept very quiet or the Catholic Church stood the chance of being ridiculed and lessening their chances of spreading God’s words to the masses.
All the people who knew about the dark little secrets of the church had to be eradicated before they could talk about it. And the old man in the hospital bed across the way was a bishop who had stumbled onto some information about a group of other bishops who had been living double lives and had been stealing money from the parishes for years and he wanted to expose them. When the Vatican didn’t take action, he decided to go to the press and was on his way to a secret rendezvous with a reporter from a large newspaper when his breaks failed and his car had careened off the side of a cliff. But the old man had survived the accident and David was sent out into the field to finish the job.
The clock showed 8:07 pm, yet the curtains in the room across the way hadn’t budged. David sat up straight because according to his debriefing the nurses were always punctual. David hardly ever became nervous but he was slightly concerned. If there was ever a change in plans, Angelo always let him know. Normally someone one would come to give him a message and he would call Angelo at a secure number where he would be briefed further. At 8:23 his pulse had quickened and he thought of a plan. He picked up the telephone and dialed the public telephone enquiries and asked for the number of the St George’s hospital. He hung up then dialed the hospital’s number.
“Good evening” he said to the receptionist “Is it possible for me to talk to Bishop Andrew Sheppard please?”
“I am sorry sir” came the reply “He passed away in his sleep this afternoon.”
David hung up.
He was bewildered as to why Angelo had not let him know. He hadn’t sent a messenger. They normally always send out another field agent. The thief certainly wasn’t a messenger. Who brings a message with a knife?
Knife? He remembered seeing the knife in the young man’s hand but after he had broken the young man’s wrist he couldn’t remember seeing the knife again.
He certainly didn’t pick it up and drop it into the satchel. He knew that much. Peering under the bed he saw a silvery glint. There was the knife. As he reached under the bed and his fingers touched it. He realized that it wasn’t a knife. He pulled it out and looked at it. It was a silvery piece of paper, the kind you find in cigarette boxes. This one was folded up. David swallowed and quietly unfolded the piece of paper. Inside was written 2 words. “Call Angelo.”