After their visit to the family oracle, time stopped. They arrived home and the next two days passed so slowly, they seemed like one long, empty fragment of time. On the third day, Jack received a letter in the mail. In all the years that Jack had been working in that office, he had never received a letter. Much like the rest of modern man, he possessed an office phone for a reason, to keep people out of his office as often as possible. When clients visited the office, it tended not to go well. What was more confusing, until Jack noticed his father’s overly elegant handwriting, was the fact that it had no postage on it. Since Jack didn’t have a headache, he knew his sister hadn’t delivered it to the ever present rock that blared from her chopper.
Inside the envelope was a check for an amount of money so absurd that Jack had to do a double take and then clean his glasses off before he even believed it and a note from his father. It was a request, of course, and a request done in the normal way his father made requests. When you ordered someone to achieve a goal, you must choose a task that aligns with their heart. This is the path to making sure all your orders are followed. Jack had even watched this logic in action recently, when his sister had come and got him to go and hunt down a notorious serial killer that they had longed to take down when they were children.
The letter read simply, asking Jack to go to the house of another childhood target. This target also possessed a few items Jack now knew of, namely two silverware settings from the Denavi set. One spoon had taken months for Smiling Jimmy to acquire but whoever had managed to gather two forks, two knives and two spoons was clearly in need of a quick and sudden ending. The job itself was one that Jack would never normally take under the current circumstances. The house he lived at was in a suburb of New York City in a relatively well to do neighborhood, so apparently the target had done alright for himself.
The target in question had always given Jack a Mr. Roger’s kind of vibe. He had soft brown hair and light brown eyes and when he smiled he did look like the host of a children’s show. He also had a penchant for collecting unusual and often dangerous things, which led him to the slight problem of being eternally short of money. As Jack well knew, when you’re short of money the best thing to do is find something that you’re very good at that nobody else can do. Unfortunately for everyone else, what he happened to be good at was murder. Normally, there would have been a packet of information with the letter but apparently Varnes expected Jack to remember Charles Beaufort quite well.
Charles Beaufort was the worst type of serial killer, far worse than Creepy Bug Guy. Creepy Bug Guy killed as a hobby. Charles killed because he needed to make a living. That trait meant he had no traditional patterns, no plausible motivations and made him almost impossible to track. He had apparently ended his career around five years ago and while he had been on the Goodbody family’s radar, he was kept of the target list for reasons Jack had never understood. Now it made far more sense. You don’t kill a man with valuable information. If somebody else collects something you’re looking for, then you let the man collect the damned things and you sit back and watch the body count rise. There was a certain cold logic to it and Jack could easily detect the hand of his father behind the decision making process.
“So this is the first choice I get to make.” Jack tossed the letter onto his desk and leaned against it, taking his glasses off and letting them hit the table.
“Where are we goin’ boss?”
“Fetch and carry, basically. We’ll need your bag, my bag and The Bag. Hopefully this will be plenty messy because after the last job, I really need to unwind.”
Stan got up and started to pack up both of the bags and carry them to the van. Jack stood over his desk while Stan worked, looking at his glasses and gently pushing them from side to side. “Am I making the right choice? This path I take is my choice, but is it right?”
Replacing his glasses, he headed down when he heard the door slam and he hopped into the van next to him. “Onward, Stanley. We have some dinnerware to collect.”
The road stretched on ahead of him and at the end of that road lay the result of his choices. New York City wasn’t all so far from where he lived, they had already made a longer road trip, but Jack never liked going back to New York City because New York City was where the war had taken place. As the road trip went on, Jack found himself shifting more and more, gazing out the window and longing to undo the choice that he had made.
“You sure you wanna do this boss? We ain’t never taken a job in the city before.”
“I just don’t like going back to where the war took place.” Jack sighed heavily and examined the dark blue suit he had chosen.
“I don’t remember no war in the papers, must not a’ been important.”
Jack chuckled in spite of himself, “It was before our time and the newspapers never would have heard of it. I just don’t like going back to places where my father covered himself in glory. Those days make him smile a little too much and I like taking even just a little of that away from him.”
The traffic started getting heavier as they got closer and closer to New York City. The house they were looking for was somewhere in a nice neighborhood in Queens and getting to it would take some patience and liberal application of the horn. When they finally arrived, Jack had a pulsing headache and was entirely ready to collect the items with interest and go home to deliver it. Jack froze in his seat when he realized that he had mentally associated the Goodbody family with home and safety. This was not going to be Mr. Beaufort’s night.
The neighborhood their target lived in could be considered a gated community, but only if it was a series of gated communities. Every single one of the positively opulent houses was surrounded on the edge of its property with a prohibitively high gate. Some of the properties had two gates right next to each other since space was at a premium in New York City. The property of their target seemed to be in the middle of a “who can built the highest fence contest with the next door neighbors. Stan parked the van on the side of the street and hopped out. Jack got out on the other side and tossed his suit coat back onto the passenger seat.
It seemed unlikely anyone would question an unmarked white van sitting outside an opulent mansion on a night like this. The neighborhood was notorious for being an upscale pond onto which exorbitantly rich pond scum had settled, like a film of human disease. Most residents in the neighborhood would never consider calling into the police, it would create too many problems for them and their neighbors. On this block alone around three or four houses in the neighborhood were owned by mob bosses, so unmarked white vans, owned by various caterers mainly staffed by the FBI and the CIA, were already likely a common sight. Stan opened the back of the van and tossed Jack his bag of cleaning tools. Jack slung it over his shoulder and waited for Stan to haul his enormous bag of tools over his shoulder as well.
The real question was how to go about this. As Jack stood in front of the gate contemplating this, an alarm system went off in the house and Jack could hear dogs barking from the other side of the house. Smash and grab it was. “Stanley, a door please.”
“Sure thing, boss.” Stan grabbed two bars of the front gate and yanked them off with ease. Sparks flew through the air at the contact but that didn’t stop Stan from pulling off a few more bars on either side to make a solid entrance for Jack. Jack ducked through the front gate and started off at a brisk walk for the front door. In smash and grabs, the important thing is confidence. When the neighbor looked out the window and saw Jack, followed closely his enormous partner Stan, he wouldn’t assume that he belonged there. He might very well assume, especially given Stan’s large size, that this was something better left for the police and by the time they arrived Jack and Stan would be long gone.
The front door opened at the touch, which worried Jack and made him wonder all over again exactly what his choice had led him to. The house wasn’t just wonderfully appointed, it was tastelessly opulent with items purchased from a lifetime of murder for profit. Some of them, Jack recognized. Directly ahead of him was a set of stairs that looked fit for royalty to process down, complete with enough space for trumpeters and pages, and on the right of that was an enormous elephant tusk ringed with ornate gold. The tusk of Uganda, or some such nonsense. Jack had heard that owning that tusk gave the owner the ability to grant wishes. It was all bunkum, of course, but people like Charles Beaufort often spent huge amounts of money on insane stories just like that.
Every single piece of furniture in the opening room likely cost someone’s fortune and had been collected painstakingly. Jack picked up a solid gold apple and tossed it up slowly. The piece of fruit weighed a ton and looked exactly like a piece of fruit from a certain myth, “For real?” Gold really held no worth for a family that could easily produce gold, but the apple itself had a certain charm to it. Jack was tempted to toss it in the bag, but he had the realization that he would likely never get it back. He tossed it over his shoulder to Stan, who accepted it without question and shoved it into his coverall pocket.
The next room ticked. Clocks lined the walls from top to bottom. Some of them were old German clocks with ornate figures that chased each other around when the bells tolled and some of them just seemed to be cheap kitsch picked up at a garage sale. No doubt, he had still paid an arm and a leg for it. Still, something about the whole mansion was off. The alarm was still sounding in the distance and though Jack could hear the dogs barking in the distance, they hadn’t gotten any closer which means nobody had unleashed the hounds. That meant the alarm was tripped by whoever was here. It seemed Jack’s father wasn’t the only one who had gotten word of the set.
“We’ve been played, Stan. Get the van ready.”
Stan hefted his bag and started for the door, “What about you boss?”
“I’ll be out as soon as I check on the set, won’t be long.” Jack sprinted back to the front entrance and raced up the stairs. Normally, he would have checked the kitchen first but this was a man who collected rare items and loved nice things. A set of silverware that multiple, very dangerous people were willing to counter-murder you for were not kept with the rest of the cutlery, they were kept in an office or a safe. As Jack reached the top of the stairs, the smell of blood reached his nose. It seems they really had been beaten out.
The hallway split up into two different directions and the only light in the house seemed to be coming from down the left hall, streaming out from around an open door. Jack crept down the hallway and peered around the corner to see what he had suspected he would find from the moment he realized the place had been burgled already. Charles Beaufort, dead or dying on the ground. Jack felt no sadness. The man couldn’t be called a cancer on society because cancer took time and Charles Beaufort worked quicker. Better check his pulse to see if he was alive. If he was alive maybe he could be woken up so Jack could ask him a few quick questions before he had to hit the road. An open window on the far side of the room waved its curtains at Jack enticingly, telling a story of another intruder who had already come and gone.
Charles coughed loudly, a streak of blood trickling out his mouth. Jack raced over and cradled him in his arms. A quick examination showed no obvious wounds, but despite that Jack could already feel his pulse getting weaker and weaker. “Who took the Denavi silverware!? Who took it!?’ He shook Charles in his arms, the man was clearly going to die so no need to be gentle.
Charles coughed again, his eyes focusing on Jack above him, “I had…no idea that silverware was so valuable. I paid a hefty price for it.”
Jack shook him again, being a little gentler this time, “Tell me who took it.”
“He came in through the window, a young man with a knife…had no idea who he was. He had such lovely green eyes. He killed me proper though. I’d never fought someone who overwhelmed me so single-handedly.”
Jack let him fall to the ground and started for the door before he got cut short by a whispered voice from the floor, “Don’t go. I don’t want to die alone.”
Turning back to him, one hand on the door and distant sirens wailing out over the city, “I’m sure a lot of people you killed wanted one last meal with their family, or better yet to live till they died of natural causes. I’d say it’s pretty fitting that you die alone in your office surrounded by your wealth.” Turning back to the hallway, Jack raced down the stairs and out the door to the van. Hopping in, Stan floored it immediately and soon they were past the radius where a police barricade would be set up. Jack actually wondered whether or not the police would set up a statue in their honor given the things they would find in that house. A lot of long unsolved murders were about to get suddenly solved and a lot of families who had been left waiting and wondering were going to get some sudden, blissful and horrible resolution.