My toothbrush’s handle sharpens like a blade as I grind it against the lip of my cell’s metal stool. Hearing footsteps, I slip into bed with my new tool.
I turn away as the guard’s flashlight scans my sell. For a moment, my wife Anna’s picture is illuminated. The only thing I regret in my life is her being dragged into this. Looking at the ceiling, I try to imagine what it was like for her to give birth in prison.
Cody’s face darts through my mind and my fury chases his ghost. Meeting my best friend turned out to be the worst thing to ever happen to me…
“Cody,” I had laughed, “you have to be joking.”
A devilish grin split his face. “Sean, you know I’d like to stay on the upside of the table, but the money is better underneath. All we have to do is steal some old braille books. It’s a one-time thing, the guy I’m working for never hires the same person twice.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“They must be rare. Jasmine and I need the money. The surrogacy rout was expensive. I couldn’t get Jasmine pregnant and she’ll never let me forget it, but she might stop the cold shoulder if I take care of the kid that’s on the way.”
I tilted my head and pulled on my parachute pack. “Did you hear nothing wrong with what just came out of your mouth?”
As we headed for the plane, he slapped my back. “You’ll make a wonderful mother someday. Too bad, because I don’t think Anna will want to fight over who’s the mommy whenever you have kids.”
I gripped his arm as he tried to board the plane. “If there’s anything estrogenic about looking out for family, then I’m glad I inherited that much from my mom. Our wives are sisters, what affects you affects Anna. Do you really want to get involved with this ‘job’?”
He shoved my hand away. “Yes. Do you want to give Anna the life she dreamed of? Making money takes risks. The question is, are you a risk taker, or are you a woman? Like I said, you’d make a great mom.” He had patted my head and stepped onto the plane…
Officer Kieff’s flashlight sweeps my cell, pulling me from my memories. We make eye contact and I hold the shank tighter, my ribs still aching from our last encounter.
He walks away.
I thought it would just be money, but nothing is ever so simple. In doing what I thought would save my family, I put us directly into the Architect’s hands…
We stood outside the palatial home Cody had targeted. Months of planning had taken place, but we had never thought of a backup plan.
“Ready?” Cody tossed his pack over the brick wall that skirted the grounds.
I boosted him onto the wall and he hauled me up.
“What’s in these books we’re taking, Cody?”
“What does it matter? Focus on the money keeping Anna put.” He placed his hand on my shoulder. “You don’t want to lose her, do you?”
I sucked in a cold breath. “Let’s get this over with.”
We had dropped to the ground and gone our separate ways, his to the back entrance, and mine to the front. Cody’s employer had inserted a virus into the houses’ alarm system that kept it from going off when both the front and back doors were opened simultaneously.
Looking back, I should have realized it was all too easy, but I was too focused on money.
The books were in the office, unguarded. We took them, and we left.
Cody had driven away like a sinner running from hell.
“The faster we get these books to my boss, the faster we have the money and this is over.”
“What? Now you’re worried?” I shake my head. “Seriously, I thought you said this was no—”
He glanced at me. “They’re not braille.” He pressed the gas pedal harder. “I’m a computer geek’s son. I know chip designs when I see them.”
“The ‘braille patterns’ are blueprints for some sort of modified computer chips. I want them out of my hands.”
I hate remembering the scene we walked into when we found Cody’s employer. I’d never seen someone split open at length.
Cody’s phone rang and I had to answer it because of how badly his hands were shaking.
“This isn’t Cody.” The man’s voice had almost sounded feminine.
“What do you want?” I said.
“To teach a lesson to all those who try to take what’s mine. I don’t usually like making a mess of it, but I enjoyed making this one.”
I looked up and saw a security camera.
“Smile. My fingerprints are nowhere, but now yours are. Bring back the books, and perhaps we’ll work something out.”
“Who are you?”
I had driven us back, but I should have kept on driving. I should have taken Anna and run. The estates’ gate stood open, and as they closed behind me I spotted Jasmine lying on the lawn, her eyes open, her lips blue.
I had tried to keep Cody in the car, but it was useless. He wrapped Jasmine in his arms and wailed.
I heaved, and prayed Anna wasn’t on the property too.
From my pocket, Cody’s phone began to ring.
“We brought back your stupid books!” I had turned away from Jasmine for fear of crying.
“Bring them to my door and stay on the line.”
As I set the books on the doormat, I thought of the daughter Jasmine would never meet.
“Good, Sean.” The Architect said.
I stumbled back. “How do you—”
“It doesn’t matter. You were a part of this, and as such must learn your lesson.”
I began to tremble as Anna’s face flashed through my mind. “How?”
“If you want to keep your wife, and Jasmine’s baby, safe , then I suggest you take the gun under the mat, and put a bullet in Cody’s head.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Look at the message I sent you.”
Until the moment I saw Anna’s face displayed on the screen, I had never known fear.
“She’s having a beautiful dream, Sean. If you don’t want it to be her last, kill him. Also, be careful of how you dispose of the bodies. I have friends everywhere. The computers at the police station will show Anna’s fingerprints on the shovel I’ve supplied for you. You can be certain the police will find everything they need to convict you both if Cody and Jasmine ever resurface.”….
As a tear falls from my eye, I try to remember what happened first, the call ending, or my gun firing.
Thank you so much for reading! Click here to read his character interview.
This story was in response to When Readers Write’s, Blah Buster prompt ‘Masks.’ To read more Blah Busters click here.