Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fifteen
I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. The one man I felt that I could trust – “Pops” and his two big thugs walked me back to my little office. One of the big guys stayed outside the door. I guess “Pops” didn’t want any interruptions. They didn’t tie me up or anything. What was I going to do? Where could I go? I was trapped and I was alone. The only person within 700 miles or so that I felt I could even come close to trusting was a kid who had once tried to stab me. I was as alone as anyone could be.
“Timmy, I’m sorry you decided to show up here a day early. By tomorrow we would have been long gone and this place would have been a smoking pile of ashes – a black stain on the white salt flats. But, you did come early and I’m afraid you’re going to be a tragic victim of the fire. That’s too bad, I kind of liked you.”
I didn’t like being referred to in the past tense while I was still around. I had to speak up. I knew my goose was cooked, but I had to know…why?
“Can I ask you something, or is this a one-way street?
“Pops” chuckled like a grandfather talking to his little grandson.
“Sure, Timmy, we’re not going anywhere for a few hours. Shoot.”
I could have asked him a thousand questions, but the big one was – Why? Why are you betraying your country? What about Van Swearingin? You’ve known him for almost thirty years. You’ve been friends. Why?”
He pulled over one of the side chairs and sat across from me. He moved the big Russian over into the corner like he was a piece of ugly furniture.
“Let me give you a bit of a history lesson, young man, and then maybe you’ll understand who I am and what I’m doing.
“That is true that I’ve known Van Swearingin for a long time. We were both in the army during the first war. When the Armistice was signed he came home – the young hero. I stayed behind. The Army and the politicians weren’t done with me.
“The ink wasn’t dry on the Armistice papers in Versailles before the U.S. Army shipped me and more than ten thousand other men into Russia. We were there taking sides in their civil war. We were there to back the so-called ‘White Russians’ against the ‘Reds’ who had overthrown the Czar and taken power. We had no right to be there. It wasn’t our fight. It was strictly a Russian affair. I spent more than two years there fighting and killing people I didn’t have anything against.
“Like any war there is a lot of idle time. I got to know some of the Russians I picked up the lingo and I learned how the Russians felt having us and troops from other western nations, there tearing up their country. I came home in 1920 and I was a changed man.”
“But, what about your family and friends, “Pops?”
“They were still my family and friends. It was me who’d changed, not them. I was still the same man on the outside, but inside I was changed. I had been betrayed. Inside I became a Russian, an angry Russian.”
“But for thirty years? For thirty years you were what – a spy? A Saboteur?”
“No, Timmy, for almost thirty years I wanted there to be a payback for what we – what I – had done to the Russian people.”
He stopped talking and looked at me with a sad expression on his face.
“’Pops,’ if you were a part of all of this why did you tell me to call the FBI? I don’t get it.”
“Because my naïve young friend, you tell them what you see – or what I wanted you to see – then they tell you what they are going to do, and then you call and tell me everything. You were my spy inside the FBI.”
I stopped trying to ask him anything else. There was no point. He had been stewing over this for decades and I wasn’t going to change his mind sitting here in the middle of nowhere. I looked at “Pops’ and he looked at me. We both knew that any further explanations were useless. Neither of us was going to change at this point.
For about a half hour we just sat there, me, “Pops”, and the side of beef by the door. We could hear plant noises as people passed by my office or equipment was being moved.
A little before noon the big Russian said something. “Pops” answered him in Russian and the big man opened the door and left us alone.
“He has to go ‘Make a Russian River.” He’ll be back in a minute. One thing I can say about them – they are very loyal.”
I bit my tongue. I wanted to answer him with, “Not like you,” but what would be the point?
After another twenty minutes “Pops” began to look concerned. His large pet and bodyguard hadn’t come back. He opened my office door – the other man was gone too. It was just the two of us now – and my small personal revolver that I had taken to carrying again. “Pops” had been overconfident and never had his gorillas pat me down. I hadn’t seen any weapons on “Pops” so I kept mine where it was. I’d bring it out when it would do the most good.
“Pops” closed the office door. He was not happy. For the first time he looked a little scared.
“Stand up, Tim. Something is wrong. We’re going for a little walk-around. Come on.”
He still showed no weapons, just the threat of one. I came from behind my desk and together the two of us walked out into the plant floor.
We turned right. We were both nervous as we headed toward Van Swearingin’s office. We hadn’t gone five yards before we both saw a pair of shoes sticking out from behind a line of lathes. Two shoes – big shoes and they were attached to the Russian bodyguard who had been standing outside of my office. The big man’s brown suit coat was wet with blood. His throat had been slit and there was another damp area in the middle of his broad chest. I hadn’t seen anything like that since we crossed into Germany near the end of the war.
“Pops” stepped back and quickly looked around. There was no one else in sight. The plant had fallen silent. All of the machinery was stopped. It seemed like we were the only two people in the building – no longer counting the dead Russian.
“What’s going on here, Tim? Who? What is this?”
“The ‘Who’ is me.” It was Charlie. He stepped out from behind a large tool cabinet. He was holding his knife – the one I had told him to stop carrying on duty. There was blood dripping from the blade.
“And ‘What this is” – is the end. Your other playmate is back here. He won’t be joining us.” “Pops” was in a stunned silence. I wasn’t.
– Next Week, The Conclusion –