When we last saw our hero he was being absconded into further service to the diabolical Haysbert Rolstein. What does our villain have in store for the caped crus…wait, no, that’s not right. I might get Bob Kane’s ghost up and after me if I carry on with that line of thought. Anyway, Rolstein and Edmund have some serious business to get down to. How it will end is anyone’s guess. Enjoy and, as always, read on, my friends. Read on.
A Matter of Life and Death III
Christian Warren Freed
Reflection is often a dangerous time. The opportunity to fall into holes carefully constructed by the imagination is ripe. Often we find mistakes in our actions. Some prove costly. Others less so. As he was being led down what he assumed was a secretly constructed passage in the basement levels of the building, Edmund Sorenson couldn’t help but become mired in reflection.
He’d made a living off of big game hunting, tracking, and the occasional bit of bounty hunting in the western half of America. Life held too much adventure to remain hidden behind a computer screen or stuffed in an office, languishing under suit and tie. Edmund needed to be outside if for no other reason than to feel alive.
Accepting Rolstein’s offer had been out of necessity. He knew that. Sometimes life threw curveballs and it was all you could do to keep up. Edmund hated the feeling. Couldn’t stand being trapped in a corner with only one way out. Brow knitted in consternation, he realized he was making himself out to be the victim. A scenario in which no one wins.
Edmund glanced at the smaller man marching at his side. Balding, lightly built, the old man was more suited to working in a bank than leading him deeper into the heart of a growing mystery. For a second Edmund wondered why Rolstein wanted the lotus so bad. What special properties could it have to be worth risking a handful of lives?
“You don’t talk much, do you?” he ventured in the hopes of clearing his mind.
“What am I supposed to say? We aren’t friends, certainly not colleagues. You are my charge…for the time being. Nothing more.”
Edmund bristled at the indignity. “You could at least tell me your name.”
“I could,” he agreed, and said no more.
The short trip ended, blissfully, a few moments later when the old man led him into a darkly lit chamber at the end of the hall. Five heads turned his way, none pleased with seeing him. Great, another party I didn’t get invited to.
“I believe I shall leave you here,” his escort said.
Edmund caught the smugness oozing from his voice and clenched a fist. It didn’t take much to imagine backhanding the man to the ground, but he’d been raised better and time was of the essence. “You do that.”
Alone with a group of people who looked more about to rob a bank than retrieve rare flowers in the Arctic Circle, Edmund blew out a deep breath and stepped into the room.
Haysbert Rolstein limped to the antique oak bar resting along the near wall of his office and poured a double bourbon, dropping two ice cubes in for good measure, before returning to the long bay of windows overlooking the city. Storm clouds were rolling in, enshrouding the world in shades of dark grey. Snorting his displeasure, Haysbert took a drink. The soft clink of ice reassured him of the promise of tomorrow.
He never liked winter. Too drab, too foul to enjoy. No, Haysbert needed the effervescence of summer in order to feel alive. There were dark stains on his soul that prevented him from enjoying anything else. The click and slide of the door opening behind him drew his eyes towards the side. A familiar whiff of cologne relaxed his nerves.
“Crispus,” he said without turning. “How is our big game hunter assimilating with his new assignment?”
Crispus adjusted his tie, veins protruding from the back of his aged hand. “As good as can be expected. He is a most unruly sort, sir.”
Haysbert nodded. “I wouldn’t have hired him otherwise. Does he show any signs of trying to flee?”
“None that he has exhibited, sir. Still… I find his mannerisms most contrary.”
“In what way?”
Crispus cleared his throat. “His reason for being here in the first place. One wouldn’t assume him to be the sort interested in this type of endeavor.”
“He has his motivations, which I helped manipulate,” Haysbert confided. “Edmund Sorenson is considered one of the best in the world. He won’t mess this up, not if he expects his daughter to…”
He fell silent, not wishing to discuss such matters with even his closest confidant. Crispus was loyal to the core, but there was always the possibility of doubt. Money was a most powerful factor when it came to the world turning.
“Go back down to the prep room and ensure they make it to the plane takes off on schedule.”
“At once, sir,” Crispus bowed and left.
Haysbert finished his drink in one gulp and scowled. Close. He was so close.