Written by Andy Mascola
“A memento?” John asked as he and his two friends followed Charles into the room. “You mean like this photograph of me and my dad?” John held up the photo he’d found taped to his door.
Footsteps could be heard coming down the hall. Jennifer turned to see two identical Asian-looking men, just like the ones at the facility, walk past pushing a stretcher, assumedly to remove the corpse of Kimberly in the next room.
“Lynchpins are important,” Charles said as he sat down behind a long mahogany desk at the opposite end of the room. On the desk were a globe and a green lamp along with a couple small stacks of books, and a few magnetic sculptures.
Cyrus’ single eye looked around. Charles’ office had dark burgundy colored walls and a thick black carpet. There were floor to ceiling bookshelves on either side packed tightly with hardcover tomes. On the wall behind Charles’ desk was a painting of Mrs. Margot posing demurely, her hands in her lap, a slight smile on her face.
“Lynchpins: items, memories, happenings that hold us to a moment in time. They anchor us to a place or a person or a critical point in our lives,” Charles said as he stood and walked toward the trio carrying three small wooden boxes. “Or, in this case,” he continued as he handed one box to each of the friends, “a memento to protect you as you complete your mission.”
Jennifer opened her box. Inside was a small silver broach made up of three interlocking triangles. She removed the pin and attached it to her blue jumpsuit just above her left breast. She turned to John and Cyrus.
“What are these?” Cyrus asked as he fumbled to attach his pin before Jennifer stepped in and assisted.
“The triangles represent the bond between your team as well as the larger bond between our kind,” Charles explained.
John clamped the box shut and sighed. “I’m outta here,” he said angrily as he threw the box down on the carpet and stomped through the office’s red door and down the hall.
Cyrus turned to go after him, only to be stopped by Charles. “No! You two stay here. I’ll take care of this.”
John had entered the elevator at the end of the hall. The doors were closing just as Charles reached him. Charles put his hand on a glass panel on the wall and the elevator’s doors opened. John avoided eye contact as Charles stepped in next to him. The doors to the elevator shut. The elevator did not ascend or descend.
“Where did you get that photo?” John asked angrily through clenched teeth.
“What do you remember of your father, John?”
John closed his eyes and breathed deeply before starting. “He wasn’t around a lot for my mom and me, and then one day he was gone.”
“What happened to him?”
John opened his eyes and sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked at the floor of the elevator. The small repeated pattern on the flat carpet was the same three interlocking triangles as the broaches in the wooden boxes. “My mother told me he died of a heart attack.”
“Did you believe her?”
John looked at Charles, “I did…until…” John had never told anyone what he was about to tell Charles.
“Until…” Charles said.
“I got a phone call one day when I was home alone after school. I must have been fourteen or fifteen-years-old. A man told me that my mother had lied about my father to protect me. He told me to look out the front window.”
“What was outside, John?”
John breathed in deeply and ran his hands down his face. “A limousine was parked in front of our house. A black tinted window in the back came down, and there he was. He was holding a phone and waving at me, smiling.”
“Do you remember what happened next?”
“Gunshots,” John said. “The window went up and the limousine pulled out and took off fast. A white van drove by in pursuit. I dropped the phone and ran outside. I watched as the limousine crashed into a sedan at the intersection at the end of our block. I ran toward the accident. The white van stopped and the back doors opened. Two men in black jumpsuits hopped out. They had guns. One man grabbed me and put me in a headlock. The other man ran to the limousine.”
“What happened then?”
“I bit down hard, as hard as I could on the guy’s arm until he let me go. I ran to the limo just as the other man in the black jumpsuit was opening the back door.”
“What was inside the limo, John?”
John shook his head. “Nobody was in there. I remember looking into the front. The limo driver was dead. The windshield was shattered. The two guys jumped back in the van and took off.”
Charles unbuttoned his sleeve and rolled it up. John looked down at Charles’ bare arm to see the bite marks of an angry and confused teenaged boy scarring the pale flesh of the older man’s inner elbow.
“That man you bit was me, John.”
Back in Charles’ office, Jennifer was thumbing through a thick book she’d pulled off one of the shelves titled ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’. As near as she could tell it was fiction. She was distracted by a small crash from the other side of the office. Jennifer looked up to see Cyrus had broken one of the magnetic sculptures on Charles’ desk.
“Oops!” the giant Cyclops said as he fumbled to put it back together.
Jennifer sighed and put the book back on the shelf. “Let me see if I can fix that before he gets back,” she said. As the two collected the tiny metal pieces, John entered the room with Charles. “Too late,” Jennifer said standing in front of the desk next to Cyrus, trying to block the broken mess.
John walked over to the wooden box, still on the floor. He picked it up and opened it, pinning the silver triangles onto his chest. John looked at his friends.
“I’m in,” he said.