Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – The Conclusion
“Where is everybody?”
That was a good question. Ten minutes ago it looked like “Pops” Mulroy held all the cards, but now…? Now it looked like he was “all-in” and holding a dead hand. His two gigantic thugs certainly were. His eyes darted around looking for help. There wasn’t any. It was time for me to show him what I had in my pocket. Now Charlie and I were holding all the Aces.
When “Pops” saw the pistol in my hand it was if all the air went out of him.
“Timmy, is that necessary?”
“I hope not, but I don’t know what’s going on here either and you might be our ticket out of here.” The man I had trusted slowly shook his head.
“That gun won’t get you – or me – out of here if things have fallen apart. We are all expendable.”
“Then let’s keep walking and find out,” I told him.
I looked over at Charlie who had put away his knife and was holding two Russian semi-automatic pistols, one in each hand. He had a deadly serious look on his face.
“Those big boys don’t need these pieces anymore and they might come in handy if things get nasty.”
I was coming to really like and trust that boy.
It was me, “Pops,” and Charlie standing there all alone. No one else was visible and the plant was dead silent, but that sure didn’t mean that everyone was gone. You can’t hide that many Russians quickly – and what about my men, my Security Team? I knew from the FBI that at least two of them were moles.
And where was Van Swearingin?
If I was going to get any answers we had to get moving to Van Swearingin’s office.
“Ok, let’s keep moving…and one more thing. “Pops,” if you try to call out to your Comrades or get stupid on me – I. Will. Shoot. You.
We moved on through the plant. I was hoping that the Boss would be there in his office – in handcuffs, but I was also hoping that he and everybody else was gone. I didn’t care where. I was one man with a snub-nosed five shot .38 caliber handgun. That’s not much. Not much at all.
There were only two places in the plant where you get everybody together at one time: the Loading Docks or outside. The Loading Dock area would be crowded unless they opened the large bay doors – and then you were outdoors. I wanted to avoid either place until I knew more.
When we got close to Van Swearingin’s office I could see that the door was wide open. I’d never seen it like that before. I had Charlie and “Pops” stay out of the office while I slipped through the door. The Receptionist’s area was empty. The door to Van Swearingin’s private office was ajar. I looked into his office. Van Swearingin was sitting at his desk, his back to me, looking out of his window, the only window in the entire building, onto the desolate landscape of the Salt Flats. I walked in.
“Hello, Tim.” He didn’t turn around.
“Boss? What’s going on? Where is everybody?”
“You weren’t supposed to be here today.” He turned his chair around. He looked like he’d seen a ghost. He was pale and his eyes were lifeless. His hands were empty, but there was a shiny chromed .45 caliber pistol in his lap. I didn’t like that. “Why don’t you give me that weapon, Boss?”
I couldn’t reach it and I didn’t want him to start shooting that cannon. We just looked at each other for a few moments. If he was going to say anything I’d have to start the conversation.
“What’s going on, Mr. Van Swearingin? One minute this place is crawling with…” He cut me off.
“What’s going on, Tim? A lifetime of mistakes coming back at me is what’s going on. I trusted people I shouldn’t have. I let them stay even when I knew I should have gotten rid of them. They took my son as a hostage. I didn’t have the courage to fight them. I let my own personal weakness and greed allow me to betray my country. What’s going on you ask me?”
“Where are the Russians?” I insisted. His self-pity didn’t interest me at this moment.
“The Russians? I think some of them are dead by now. I hope so. The FBI stormed in here twenty minutes ago. They must have taken out the guard post before they could warn them here at the plant. A couple of your Security Detail opened fire when the Russians started to fire at the FBI raiders. You trained them well, Tim.”
“Those men were FBI from the get-go,” I corrected him. “I didn’t even know which of my men they were. I have one more question for you.”
“What’s that, Tim?”
I hollered back out of the office.
“Charlie, bring him in here.”
Charlie came into the office walking behind “Pops” Mulroy. He had one of the Russian’s pistols up against the back of “Pops” head. I had no doubt that he would have pulled the trigger if the old traitor had attempted to run or resist.
“Hi, Dad, What’s new?” His voice was as cold as the desert at night.
Van Swearingin looked up at his youngest son like he had never seen him before. “Charlie? Put down that gun!”
“Sorry, Dad, no can do. I had to kill two of your Russian flunkies to get it and this other big one too. Besides, if I put it down your friend here might do something stupid.” He rapped his prisoner’s head with the gun barrel. “Ain’t that right, Grandpa?”
“Easy, Charlie, the FBI has taken control of the plant and I think they’ll want Mr. Mulroy with his head intact. I’m sure they’ll have a lot of questions for him.” I turned back to Van Swearingin. He couldn’t take his eyes off of his son. “I imagine they will have a few questions for you too. But I have just one.” He looked at me and closed his eyes. He was on the verge of collapse.
“Mr. Van Swearingin, You trusted me with your son, why didn’t you trust me enough to call in the FBI, or the Army or whoever, to end all of this before people had to die?
“I had no Trust left. Everyone I trusted ended up betraying me.” He picked up the pistol from his lap. I reached out hoping he would hand it to me.
“Mr. Van Swearingin – don’t! Give me the gun. Please.”
“No. Hear me out. I’ve made some terrible mistakes, horrible mistakes. I’ve caused a lot of pain to people who didn’t deserve it. It’s too late for me to make amends to some of them. I hope that someday they will be able to forgive me.” He closed his eyes as a tear ran down his cheek.
I thought we were out of the woods, but he opened his eyes before I could reach for his gun. He raised his hand and fired one shot across the room and into the chest of his lifelong friend, employee, and ultimate destroyer “Pops” Mulroy.
I deposited my last pay envelope and then closed my bank account. I bought a train ticket to Maine. I’d never been there, but it was as far from the west coast as I could go and full of green trees. I’d had enough of the desert Salt Flats.
I read in a newspaper that they put Van Swearingin on trial, but he had caved in on himself and ended up in the crazy house for the criminally insane. I don’t know how long he survived. I never read another word about him.