The Victim

Chapter Three: Ascent

They burn house

I just talked to his uncle. I explained how his nephew needed a family for public image, a wife for support and a dedicated assistant to clean up his messes. He agreed to meet me in person when he understood I could provide it all. Who knows, I could soon be engaged to the guy with the brightest future… and the darkest past.

That doesn’t bother me though. My friend from school and I have plans for that. But first, me and my new fiance will move to his uncle’s apartment, where I’ll have my own, independent room. That is, once his uncle accepts me, which he will. The, let’s say “night of revelations,” ends with him alone in the motel, while my friend from school and I sleep at her apartment. The next day I wake her up in the crack of dawn. “You knew I wouldn’t go to the police,” I say. She smiles, still half-asleep. “Yes, because in more ways than you think, I’m like you.” I sip from my coffee and hand another one to her. “Before I go to his uncle’s apartment, let’s fix the whole ‘arsonist’ deal. Are there any cameras where you buried him?” She shakes her head. “Good,” I say.

She drives the car through a rundown boulevard beneath rundown buildings and parks in a rundown house. It’s the perfect house for meth heads, degenerates and dysfunctional families. Here you can grow up to be any kind of lowlife you want. We take two shovels from the trunk and start digging up. The smell is strong at first, increasing until it then becomes unbearable. Finally, when I reach with my shovel to dig, I accidentally stab his face. It’s kind of disturbing. “Oops,” I say looking at her. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t mind if it’s you who stabs him,” she says.

He’s wrapped in a large plastic bag and sprinkled with a white powder that helps with the smell, although not enough. We drag the plastic bag into the house and leave the gun I used to kill the man in that basement by his side. Then we empty a gasoline can all over the floor. After I’m done, she hands me a box of matches. I find it ironic. “Do you want to do the honors?” she asks. “Sure,” I say, lighting a match and flicking it into a small trail of gasoline we had left that led to the house. The fire quickly spreads, engulfing the whole house.

She takes out one of her many burner phones, and we call the hotline for people who spot the infamous “arsonist.” “Yes? Hello?” I say with a foreign accent. “I-I think I just see him.” “Please, I’m going to need you to calm down,” says the lady on the phone. I ignore her and go on. “Oh no, oh no! They just—oh god, they just shooting him. They have gasoline can… Oh can’t watch, can’t watch.” “Please tell me where you are,” goes on the lady. “They burn house… oh can’t watch… come fast to 32 acacia avenue.”

I hang up, turn off the phone, take off the battery and destroy the card. Half an hour later, we stop by a bridge over a river and throw the shovels and the remains of the phone to the water. Then we drive home to change clothes and shower away the smell of kerosene. Once I’m clean, we go to his uncle’s apartment. “Talk to you later,” I say to her before picking my things and stepping out of the car.

I’m finally at his uncle’s place. It’s a large flat in the middle of the city. It must have cost millions judging by the location and size. I ring the doorbell at the building door, walk up the stairs, and ring the apartment’s doorbell. “Greetings, dear. You’re as beautiful as always,” says his uncle, gracefully kissing my hand. His wife is on the kitchen, immobile, smiling like a piece of furniture. I heard she had a stroke when she learned her niece had died and has been paralyzed since. “Please, come inside,” he goes on. “My nephew is already here.”

I enter the flat carrying a suitcase. The walls are covered with images of his uncle shaking hands with important people. Politicians, tycoons, news anchors… you name it. “Just leave the bags at the entrance,” his uncle says casually. “Follow me please,” he goes on. We enter a studio. His wife smiles sweetly from the kitchen at me as I close the door. She’s kinda creepy. His uncle sits down in a large reclinable chair behind his desk.

I sit in a small wooden chair in front of his desk. My… “boyfriend?” is at my right, and doesn’t even greet me. “Are you ill?” his uncle asks him. “Uncle, why—” my boyfriend tries to protest. “I said, are you ill?” his uncle interrupts him. My boyfriend moves around in his chair, clearly uncomfortable. “Please, not in front of—” he practically begs his uncle. “Answer the question,” his uncle says calmly. They look at each other for a moment. “No…” my boyfriend finally answers.

“Good!, good…” says his uncle. “Are you a retard?” his uncle continues, angrier. I feel very violent. “No, I—” “Then can you explain to me why you started another f-wording fire after I ordered you to stop!?” he yells. “I’m beginning to question whether you’re serious about your commitment or not. Maybe you don’t have what it takes, and you’re just a little stray sheep after all…” “I am the wolf,” my boyfriend mutters, and only I hear it. “Come again!?” his uncle yells at him.

“N-nothing,” my boyfriend mutters, cowering back into his chair. “Now, dear,” says his uncle. “I’m terribly sorry about the way he’s treated you. I hope we can start over. Want some tea?” He hands me a cup of tea with some cookies. I take it and drink from it. “Look,” his uncle goes on. “I’ve brought him here because, well, it seems we can’t leave him on his own.” I look at him puzzled, unsure of how much he knows. “Dear, there’s something you need to learn about me,” he says noticing my expression. “You’ll never be able to hide anything from me.”

We’re all quiet. “Yes, I know all about the fires,” my boyfriend’s uncle goes on. “I had such high hopes for him, you know. But I fear he’s a wildcard, that he can’t be controlled. Not even by his own aspirations.” His uncle looks at his own cup of tea, and pulls the tea bag in and out for a few seconds. “Oh, but he can,” I say confidently. The two men look at me confused. “I will keep him in check, as we discussed.” I go on. “What are you doing, shut up—” my boyfriend tries to stop me. “No, no. Let her speak her mind. This is how she convinced me,” stops him his uncle.

“I’m guessing you want him to be mayor for the election after this one?” I ask. His uncle nods. “Okay, afterwards probably… congress?” I go on. He smiles. “And I thought you only had the looks. You’re going to be of more use than I thought.” He stops for a second and looks at my boyfriend. “Out, shoo!” he commands. My boyfriend leaves, ashamed. Once the door is closed, his uncle continues. “Now that I see you’re not just some bimbo, can you tell me why should I trust you? You are little more than a stranger in this family.”

“That’s not fair, and you know it,” I answer. “I gave everything I could to tol, your organization. I planned and spent months working all day on your niece’s campaign. I loved her as much as I could, as long as I could. So don’t you dare tell me I’m a ‘stranger’ in this family, because I’ve had more interactions with it in the last year than you probably have in your whole life.” He’s half-shocked by my attitude and words at first. Then a smile slowly forms around his lips as he stands up and walks around his desk in my direction. “I believe he can be even more than a congressman,” he says. “But not by himself. He needs people like us to do the hard work.” I’m starting to see the whole picture. “President in sixteen years…” I mutter, astonished. It’s too ambitious. He sits on his desk, right in front of me. “Yes, dear. It’s ambitious, I know.” “But he’s a murderer,” I say.

He chuckles and says “And a major participant in large-scale insurance fraud, after threatening, bribing or blackmailing insurance officers to ensure their cooperation. I’m aware of all that. I know they got millions out of it. That… brat too, the one running tol now. I’ll have to pull the plug from that immediately, before—” “Why?” I interrupt him, fearing for my friend from school. “It’s gotten completely out of hand. All it was meant to do was propaganda for natdec, not… engaging in large-scale fraud. You see, it was supposed to be a… let’s say ‘mob of angry possums.’ All they had to do was, you know, make noise, turn over trash cans and get hit by cars. Now they’ve become a pack of shady ferrets… or, ironically, how it’s called: a business. And your friend in particular has too much power right now.”

I have to prove my loyalty right now, even if it’s completely fake. “It needs to be shut down then,” I say. He looks at me with suspicion. “So you don’t care if your good old friend from… school was it? You don’t care she loses her job and we potentially antagonize her?” I shake my head and say “To hell with her.” “Ok, then I want you to announce it yourself. You’ll go over there tomorrow and shut down the whole thing.” I nod and say, “As you wish.” “Oh, and take your fiance with you.” We both smile. As the song says… “you put your right foot in…”