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Rebels in Hell by Michael O’McCarthy (Chapter 1)

Posted in on January 21st, 2008 11:34 pm by HL



The Beginning
Michael O’McCarthy
The 01-2008 Serialization

Machinima Graphic Art Cover
Pierce Portocarrero

Based on
Original Artwork
Roby Hubbard


El Jovani

With a special salutation to Juan Santamaria, Emile Zapata


Séamas Ó Conghaile

William Smythe, the Patron’s servant, sat comfortably. One casually dressed, woolen-trousered leg crossed over the other. In the fireplace, the logs burned, the sap snapping at times. Next to him sat the silver service. The Costa Rican coffee fresh from the grinder sent a light yet pungent aroma about the room. A Mozart sonata tinkled moderately, filling the one-bedroom suite.

Smythe liked the suite. The myriad windows overlooked the park. The northern light outside filled the rooms. It brought out the mahogany of the wood and the depth of the forest-green paper covering the walls.

He liked the wood. It resonated class and solid surroundings. It meant well-spent expense. And he liked expense because it reminded him of his position. Intimately close to money. Money to Smythe meant prestige. Without his proximity to money, he would be just a hired anyone. He had no illusions about that. But with money, now, that was another matter. It was the extension of his Patron’s power, and that made him feel well.

He waited silently, head nodding a bit to Mozart, slightly sipping the brew.

The doorbell chimed nicely.

The Smythe put down the cup and walked to the door. He peered through the view hole, pulled open the thick, oversized door and nodded to the man.

Miguel Flores, known in the clandestine world as The Assassin, moved into the foyer. He paused waiting to be led into the sitting room.

Smythe proceeded.

Gesturing toward the Queen Ann next to the silver service table, he said, “Please,” with a sweep of his hand. “Be comfortable.”

Miguel said his thanks and sat.

“Coffee. Freshly ground Costa Rican. You like Costa Rican, I am told.” Smythe said.

“Yes,” Miguel said making himself a cup. A small spoon of sugar, a slight drip of cream.

Smythe blinked once at the latex gloves the man wore. They were close to the same color as the man’s bronze-tan skinned. But he never-minded it, and walked to the desk and extracted a sealed envelope.

“This will set you on your way,” he said, handing Miguel the envelope.

“Everything you requested is in there,” he said, going to a closet and bringing out an expensive, leather wheel based case.

“Here is your fee. Cash. Used bills as you requested. He wants it done quickly. But you decide. He must be an example. Yes?”

“I understand,” said Miguel, sipping his Costa Rican.

Smythe sniffed. He often sniffed in the presence of employees and strangers; it was a posture of superiority. While he was an extension of the man of power, part of his presence was never quite sure if it were him or his Patron’s money that made the difference to those around him. He knew it was the money, of course, but still. He liked to think that he himself carried a measure of energy different from those who earned their way. His sniff was his signature of elevation.

He did not know that most thought of him as a pretentious bore and despised him and his sniff. An affectation he had stolen from his Patron.

Miguel thought that, too, for the moment. But he didn’t care. Those who hired him and those he killed were the same. Once patriotic they had become a means to meeting his needs and wants. Though the targets, as he thought of them, often provided him with challenge and sometimes excitement. Most often they proved common targets easy to kill. That he was good at it was why the handle of “mechanic” had been given those of his trade.

That is why The Patron could be so casual about having his Servant take the meeting face-to-face. Miguel was one of the few true professional killers of rank. His reputation for success and confidentiality were legendary. So said The Agent, a man The Patron and his associates had used before. Thus, he sent his trusted Servant to do the transaction. And, of course, he took measures to protect himself. That, too, Smythe was seeing to.

“Do you have questions?” Smythe asked.

”Not now,” Miguel said. “I have some briefing, and I assume everything else is in here,” he tapped the envelope.

“Yes,” said Smythe.

“Good. Then I am done here.”

“If you don’t mind,” Smythe said, “You may let yourself out.”

“I don’t mind.” Miguel took one last sip of the Costa Rican, glanced at Smythe, nodded and walked to the door.

Smythe went back to the Mozart and poured himself another cup.

Miguel opened the door, slipped a piece of adhesive label over the latch and soundly closed the door. He stood silently for three minutes occasioned by a glance up and down the hall. He then re-entered the suite quietly, setting the envelope next to the case on the thick carpet.

Without noise he moved down the foyer corridor to the edge of the sitting area, where he saw what he expected.

Smythe was peering into the viewer of a digital video camera. The entire meeting was displaying.

Unnoticed until he was upon him Miguel grabbed Smythe from behind and locked his hand over his windpipe, shoving a linen napkin in the man’s mouth. Smythe’s struggles were of no use. Miguel had a wiry, overwhelming force. And, of course, he had been trained by the very best at the U.S. clandestine special ops school. He used some of the learned and practiced techniques to propel the man to the open-windowed balcony.

With a quick heft he sent him sailing the 11 stories to the concrete below. Not once did Smythe sniff. And the sound made when his head burst was far from superior.

The death of Smythe meant only riddance of a problem to Miguel. Such was the nature of his work.

Miguel picked up the camcorder and quickened back to the door, grabbing up the envelope and case. He removed the tape then checked the hallway and made his way unnoticed to the elevator. He hit the up button and waited. That was the risky part. That and seen wearing latex gloves.

Shortly an empty elevator arrived. This was the other risky part.

Up he went. Out of the elevator on the 15th floor and down the corridor to his suite. In and closed the door and over to the phone. Calling room service, he ordered dinner and sat down to read the contents of the envelope. He would destroy the camcorder and the tape the next day, dispose of the parts in five different dumpsters.

It was not the first time a client had tried to insure himself by stupid means. That Miguel would deal with later.

It wasn’t the warm water of the Gulf Stream that lulled Miguel. Though he swam for exercise, that wasn’t the source of his pleasure at the ocean. It was the sound of the ocean and the sound of the ocean breezes in the palms and pines. Sometimes softly. Sometimes swiftly. That and the smell of the fecund salt water. They combination reminded him of the island where he was born. It was the ocean that raised him, suckled him. It was irony that he was here on this island where Sean Healey lived.

Miguel sat on the hotel deck reading the materials sent him by The Patron, a wealthy man named Walter T. Austin. He looked at the five black-and-white and the three colors of Healey. He was a conventional-looking, handsome man. Not wild-eyed. No beard. No long mane. Not even professorial glasses.

Why him? That was his only thought. He wasn’t a terrorist. There was no evidence of illegal activity or conspiracy or connections to the Third World fanatics who bombed their message into the minds of Americans. Healey was a writer, a poet.

He leafed further through the volumes copied from the Internet. Then he came to an article in which Healey had satirized The Patron. Then he knew. He understood the vanity of the rich and powerful.

Healey’s satire had included the revelations about The Patron’s business relationships and out-of-the-norm sexual activities; Web sites that sold pornography and homosexual dating. Healey had then contrasted that to The Patron’s widely professed religious and moral political positions. Healey’s work had been picked up on the Web. It was blogged and copied then shared everywhere until the phenomenon of it became a mainstream news item, a subject of mass media gossip. That was not to be tolerated.

Irony, thought Miguel, in that The Patron had made a fortune from his family’s conservative media, right to life, conservative Christian based conglomerate. Healey’s article had hit right when the President had pushed to have The Patron become the appointed head of a public office.

Miguel smiled. Their egos always got them more than their balls.

That The Patron could have Healey murdered and believe he would be untouched was a given. His political party controlled not only the government but also the political police. Worst-case scenario would be that a fall guy would be used. That was up to Miguel.

The orders were that Healey be killed, and a signal be sent to the other dissidents.

Miguel leafed through a printout of Healey’s public engagements. He had readings and book signings in two Miami-area locations and one in New York.

He sighed, put away the file, stood, stretched and leaped off the deck. Running naked under the full moon he hit the water. Stroking hard he split the waves. By the time he returned in an hour, his head would be clear, and he would be ready to plan his surveillance of the target. Get to know the man. Become familiar with his likes, loves and habits.

The truth was that Healey had two loves. His writing and Patrick, his 14-year-old son. Though he would admit that his writing was an obsession as well. He could not stop writing.

His son he loved. He felt he could not live without him. He had lived without writing. One time for two years. But that was because he had run out of ideas. It took near three years of sobriety before he felt he had anything more to say.

But he lived and breathed in Patrick’s presence every day. He could not take a break away from him, even though he sometimes just to be free of any responsibility. Teenager that he was and writer that he was often clashed. Sometimes he wanted to just be that selfish. To close off the world around him and think. Thinking inevitably led him to writing. The obsession to ‘say it’ was always waiting. Then he wished, at guilt-loaded times, that his son would be somewhere else. Safe but elsewhere. And when the boy was gone for more than two days, he would miss him. Miss the sound of him. His laughter or his hugs or his companionship to the movies or rides up or down the highways. He loved his son. That relationship became the focus of Miguel’s surveillance.

On week days Miguel would see the boy leave, taking the school bus; Healey always late getting up. Then the father would putter around the house, unwashed, in an odd suit of clothing. He would go about making coffee, sometimes sitting on the deck with his laptop reading e-mail. Eventually he would eat his regular bowl of granola and fruit. Then he would go for a swim. Returning, he would toilet and shower, head out for errands, or write.

If it were Healey’s day of custody, he would drive to the school and pick up Patrick. On Tuesdays the two would come home, Patrick doing homework. They’d have dinner and then Healey would take the boy to his guitar lesson. On Thursdays he would pick him up and they would go somewhere to eat and then a movie. On alternate weekends they would travel.

For two weeks he surveyed Healey. His plan was to execute him at the end of the month, during a reading at a well-known bookstore in South Miami. He learned that between 100 and 150 people attended the monthly events. It was an event videotaped by Book Span for broadcast and cable. That would please the client’s demand that Miguel send a public signal.

He traveled to the store within the week. With two entrances it would be possible for Miguel to enter kill Healey, create a diversion and escape. Even if the videographer had time to spin the camera toward him, his disguise would make it impossible to identify him. As it would be a Sunday evening with most of the shops closed, he could flee down the semi-dark streets into a back alley and speed away.

He continued watching Healey and Patrick.

He found the man simple in his lifestyle, obsessed in his writing. Listening to his phone conversations with the opposition politicos, he found him bombastic, romantic and idealistic; sometimes overly opinionated, bullheaded and unbearable. None of which Miguel found meaningful. None of it had any influence on the fact that he was going to kill the man.

But it was when Healey was with Patrick that Miguel realized the discomfort he felt. Despite the sometimes uproarious, momentary arguments between father and teenager, the two were truly bonded.

They spent dinners together, walked the beach together. They boxed each other, Patrick surprisingly strong, growing more and more balanced and aggressive with each bout. Even when they were each in their own rooms, there was a sense of family between them.

That brought instant flashes of memory for Miguel. Memories long pushed deep. Those of his father and himself when he was 5 and 6. His father, a muscular man who loved fishing in civilian life. It was out on his father’s boat that the two had become closest. Fishing and snorkeling on the reefs off the island. But it was an all too short civilian life.

His father’s reserve unit was called up, and the last he saw of the man was in his Army uniform saying goodbye to his mother. Then lifting him high in the air, hugging and kissing his cheeks, telling he’d be back soon. That they’d catch the “big ones” next time. Then disappearing in his car forever.

Seven months later the strangers arrived at the door. They were dressed in the same colored uniform as his dad’s. The men spoke to his mother, and his mother began crying. Sobbing, holding him and sobbing.

Later his mother told her that his dad was gone. Killed in a place called Vietnam. He had cried throughout the night and the next day. He never went fishing again.

Shortly thereafter, he and his mother left the island, moving to Miami on the United States mainland, where she gained work in the hospitality industry as first a hotel maid then a housekeeping manager. In the time they separated. Miguel was on his own.

The new boy amid the black and Cuban ghetto kids learned to fight to survive. Some of the anger he felt at losing his dad and then being abandoned by his mother who did double shifts came out in his fists and feet. He realized very quickly that he liked the feeling of inflicting pain on those who confronted him. Then he found drugs. The drugs didn’t deaden his anger, but they blunted his feelings of aloneness. But it was drugs that also killed his mother, who had become addicted first to Benzedrine to stay awake and fight being overweight and then heroin to quiet her “nerves,” she said.

He swore he would never use drugs again.

The night after he buried her in the cemetery with the cheap ornate, carved cement cross for her Jesus, he‘d drunk too much and attacked a police officer who’d stopped him for speeding.

The only thing that kept the angry 18-year-old boy from going to prison was his enlistment in the US Marines. He was not unhappy with the decision. In the back of his mind he thought if he joined the service he would become strong like his father and then he could go to Vietnam and kill his father’s killers.

It was within those ranks that an appreciation of his strength and agility in hand-to-hand combat was found. First by those he fought and the non-coms who taught him, then the brass. As the Marines were looking for a “few good men” he was given special attention and soon was enrolled in advanced training. Within a year he was a trained, lethal weapon.
His tour of clandestine duty carried him on assignments worldwide. He killed as ordered. Enough to become a primary asset to intelligence agencies to whom he was lent.

Over the years as he moved from one clandestine operation to the next he became a cynic. He was ordered to kill those designated as threats to the vital interests of the United States and for a while he believed that was what he did. But as the interventionist and preemptive wars grew and the insurgencies in those battle ground countries proved to be of native origin, as he watched the growing amount of “acceptable collateral damage” as part of the occupation, his cynicism became his defense against feeling. Against thinking of more than his mission and “coming home.” But he drew lines “in the sand:” He didn’t kill civilians. He didn’t kill woman and children. He killed his target and moved on. He was regarded as a soldier’s soldier. When he was confronted with regular armed units inflicting war upon civilians, he reported it.

A seminal occasion occurred as he was leaving the killing of an insurgent leader rumored to be working with an old tribal lord. He’d spent the last two days following the old man waiting for him to connect to the insurgent away from his family of son, daughter in law and grandchild who were always present when the insurgent had come to see him. Finally the opportunity came and he’d shot the man in the forehead as he came out of a meeting with the tribal leader. But he didn’t shoot the civilian. He felt good about the time he’d expended to spare the civilian.

On the way back to base camp he was caught on the edge of a small village firefight between Marines and a small number of insurgents. From the hillside overlooking the village he watched the Marines overrun the insurgents killing and wounding four of them. As he made his way through the village he came upon a squad of Marines battering a group of males, men and boys as young as ten. A score of civilians were trapped in a mosque during a firefight.

When the insurgents were killed or fled, the Marines entered the Mosque and began beating and savaging the ensconced group of ten. Observing the firefight he knew there was no weapons fire coming from the mosque. When he approached the scene and told that to the Lieutenant. The officer told him to mind his own business.

Despite the fact the Lieutenant outranked him, when the officer raised his weapon to again assault the man at his feet, Miguel yanked the weapon from his hands and slammed him against the wall. When the squad members turned towards him, he leveled his automatic weapon at them.

He spoke to the Muslims in Arabic telling them to get out. When they were gone he tossed the weapon back to the Marine, identified himself and his commanding officer and told the Lieutenant that if he wanted to press charges to be “his fucking guest.”

He turned and left wanting to shoot the coward. The reprimand came in the form of five days of R&R.

He ended his relationship with the armed forces in Afghanistan, where he had been sent to kill a clan chief in opposition to the U.S. invasion. While in country he watched the anti-communist, anti-al Qaeda warlords resurrect their control over the poppy fields and the harvest grow beyond pre-al Qaeda days under the oversight of the CIA.

His cynicism was all the more fused when he watched the US Ambassador talk about the U.S. anti-drug programs in place in Afghanistan; as the administration increased the amount it was spending on the war on drugs throughout the world as it allowed the number one heroin supplier in the world to grow.

He resigned from the service when his order to kill a northern Afghan warlord who had supported Bin Laden during the anti-Soviet campaign was cancelled. The cancellation, he learned, was in return for a deal that aligned the warlord with the new government in exchange of drug trafficking immunity.

One of his superiors gave him the name of a contact back in the states. In New York he met the man known as The Agent, and began his life as an assassin for hire.

Healey was thought-obsessed. For hours he could sit and think, mull over thoughts that seemed not linked to anything tangible in the world around him. He never knew where his thoughts came from; the organic was his brain, but the actual composition was a constant mystery. At last he decided that it was the spiritual world in the form of creativity. The same creativity that came to Gauguin, Rodin and Picasso. To the voices of Fitzgerald, Holiday and Simone that he loved. A world suggested by Jung.

He simply accepted that. Thus, alone he came to love those times of free association, waiting for inspiration to begin something, or when in the midst of something to take him onto the next page or create a new character or a phrase.
Healey was, by all accounts, a loner. If he grew older, terms like curmudgeon, cranky, “a pain in the ass” would apply.

He was a loner by evolution. The violent, emotional rigors of his life separating him from the common herd of his culture. And the longer he lived the more he was OK with that.

When asked once why he had not gone to the funeral of a mutual acquaintance, he responded, “I don’t go to funerals.”

He said that he had gone to the dying’s bedside while the person’s spirit was still with the body. But he believed upon death there was “no one home.”

Besides, he believed you come in alone, and you go out alone. For him, being alone during the journey became less frustrating than trying and repeatedly failing to belong to a group with whom he had so little affinity. Thus, he also became a snob. He learned that from Patrick. They laughed at his final admission.

For Healey, Patrick was obviously the exception. His only other social exception was the readings his work required. And those he did reluctantly.

His other obsession was politics.

No matter how many times he wanted to walk away in disgust at the circumstances the nation found itself in, inevitably something or someone in power would grab his attention and his ire. Perhaps that was it. His ire, his never-ending resentment came to be focused on the politicians who had stolen the country for the rich and who were slowly but surely destroying the very fabric of the nation’s freedoms.

That was the case when he wrote the scathing satire about John W. Austin, the conservative media mogul. His tirades against ‘aberrant moral behavior’ and ‘left wing homosexual culture’ were but a substitute for the President’s own words. Once known as ‘yellow journalism’, his newspaper’s editorials, radio talk shows and 24-hour televised news and commentary programs saturated the American consciousness. Soon the entire media was spun in the direction of his editorial judgment.

Then the President nominated him to reorganize the Federal Communications Commission, that which ruled over the operation of all broadcast content and the ownership of the nation’s airwaves. The administration wanted not only control of the broadcast enterprise but of broadband communications as well.

The Left opposition was aroused, and shortly afterward Healey received information that there was evidence that one of Austin’s companies manufactured software for interactive male and female Internet pornography and prostitution. It was not the manufacturing of the software at issue; it was the commission that the company derived for its use from the sites themselves. That which Austin railed about he profited from.

But there was more. One of the bloggers was also a hacker. She hacked into Austin’s private computer ISP. When she began tracing Austin’s web activities she found traces linking him to a variety of sites, which included flash media that depicted child pornography, bestiality and S&M movies.

Coinciding with a series of articles in the Left Wing press and online magazines,

Healey wrote his scathing satire of Austin. He portrayed the man as a gender bigot and wealthy tyrant who on at one hand was pious and all-American and in his secret life sat in front of his computer screen nude masturbating to the very images his media conglomerate condemned as evil and sinful.

The piece was first published on a widely read E-zine. Then it became an international Internet release. Then picked up by a mainstream magazine with liberal format. It became fodder for television comics.

The piece coincided with the aroused interests of media competitors who brought the story to the interest of his competing news companies. That in turn led to the scandal in Congress and talk of extended hearings concerning the legislation proposed to govern broadband use.

Austin took the phone call from the President. The next day he announced his withdrawal with a full disclaimer. It was in his family’s interest and that of the thousands who worked for him that they be spared the ‘scurrilous, fabricated frame-up of the liberals and homosexual radicals.’

That is when Austin became Miguel’s Patron.

Healey and Patrick left early Saturday morning in his vintage red and black Isuzu Trooper. It was about a two-hour drive down the Keys highway. Across the keys and over the long and high bridges that led to the Southernmost Point.

At first they listened to Patrick’s choice of music: The Misfits’ salute to the ‘50s with covers of Ritchie Valen’s “ Donna”, Jerry Lee Lewis’ “ Great Balls of Fire”. Then Patrick put in the CD containing the originals he’d downloaded from the Internet. They talked awhile about the difference between The Misfits’ cover and the original.

Patrick put on his headphones and began to listen to metal when Healey wanted to listen to music from the ‘40s. A music that gave him a mood to travel over the limestone islands and past the spread of mud flats and myriad mangrove islands that dotted the way; taking him back to a time when he was a kid in the Keys.

When they arrived in Key West, Healey drove to the skate park, dropped Patrick off and headed to Truman Street, parked and began his ambling walk through the shops and dens that made Key West the tourist mecca of the South. He watched the people. The young and old, quixotic and tourist. Beautiful women and grouchy old men. He drank coffee and sat beneath banana fronds. He mulled.

Behind him, unnoticed, Miguel followed for the next two hours.

Finally, Healey remounted the Trooper and drove back to the skate park, where Patrick begged for another hour. Healey took out a folding lounge chair, seated himself where he could watch his son and began to read a novel he’d brought with him. As Miguel noted, he seemed to carry a novel with him everywhere he went.

Parked on an opposite street he could, with some discretion, watch Healey through binoculars. Watch Patrick come to the fence and talk with him; watch Healey laughing or giving Patrick direction on what he wanted him to try next. Coaxing Patrick to take challenges he would not otherwise take.

At one point Healey entered the park and guided Patrick off a ramp for the first time. It took nearly 15 minutes for Healey to coax Patrick to take the 10-foot almost-straight-down drop-in off the ramp. But finally he did raising his fist in salute.

After that he did the ramp five more times before moving on to something else.

That was when Miguel first realized he had become unusually uncomfortable; that he had a problem.

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