AP Productions: Cavalier #9

That night, Michael brought the Dragon in low as it approached the mansion on top of a hill. Michael remarked that it was a nice place but it was unfortunate it was bought through selling drugs to vulnerable people. The lights were on and several cars were parked in the back so he decided he’d have to wait for enough people to leave before sneaking inside. As he got closer, he noticed the front gate was curiously open, and at the top of the steps, the front door was likewise open. He quickly landed the Dragon and once he was outside the craft, he could distinctly hear gunshots. He rushed through the gate to the front steps and as he got closer, he noticed a dead body in the doorway. He thought he would be triggered seeing a murder victim for the second time in his life but it was not as harrowing as he expected, which in and of itself, was unnerving. There was a small foyer leading to the living room area where Michael could hear a faint struggle behind a partially closed door, followed by complete silence.

Once he entered the living room, he saw more bodies strewn about the place. Most were on the floor but a few were on the staircase leading upstairs, another man was flopped over the couch and a few more had been thrown through the glass door leading to the balcony. A single man stood in the center of the room, catching his breath as if he had just completed a marathon; Mano was decked out in all black, complete with black gloves.  In his hands, he held two bloody knives and there was an empty gun holstered at his side.  He turned and looked at Micheal, surprised but not afraid.

“Who are you?,” Micheal asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Mano circled around, never taking his eyes off him, “I’m not here for you.”

“Why did you kill these men? Where’s Big Fun?”

“That man is gone, which is all you need to know,” Mano positioned himself in front of the door leading out of the mansion, “As for killing these pendejos, that’s just insurance.”

“You work for Nadie, don’t you?”

“No more questions,” he turned his back to leave.

Michael raised his gauntlet, ready to fire shield-discs, “Stay where you are!”

Mano spun and with one solid movement, threw his knives, one after the other.  They both bounced off Michael’s helmet, forcing him off balance slightly as he fired a disc into the ceiling.  A split-second later, Mano launched himself into the air, delivering a flying kick to Michael’s chest which sent him tumbling over a chair.  He began to pick himself up, but felt a heel slam into the back of his helmet, forcing his faceplate into the tile.  His armor kept him from injury but Michael was still off balance and dazed.  Mano grabbed him by the back, hefted him to his feet and hurled him head-first into the fireplace.  As Michael began to pull himself out, Mano reached down in an attempt to take off his helmet.  Fortunately, the armor had a failsafe and twin sparks shot out from both sides of the neck plate, electrocuting Mano.  He fell onto his back, twitching slightly as Michael finally got to his feet, then asked, “Now, are we done here?”  Mano recovered in time to spin on the floor, sweeping Michael’s feet out from under him and once Michael was on the ground, Mano rolled back and grabbed a discarded gun next to one of the dead bodies.  Michael stood up again and received multiple bullets to the face-plate and torso which made him lose his footing once more.  Finally, Mano grabbed a nearby lamp and smashed it over his head, then kicked him in the chest hard enough to send him back to the mantle of the fireplace.  Michael slumped to the ground, too winded to continue.

“Your skills are shit but at least your armor’s good,” Mano turned back to the door, “I’d find a way to finish this but I have a plane to catch.”  With that, he left.

Later that night, Arthur sat back in his recliner, fast asleep with a book on his chest. Michael, now in civilian clothes, came through the downstairs door and walked into the living room then froze as he suddenly noticed his sleeping father. He tried his best to sneak to the door but Arthur snapped awake with a growl, “Huh? Mike?”

“Yeah, it’s me. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Eh, it’s fine,” Arthur studied him, “How’d it go?”

Michael sighed and brushed his hand through his hair, “Uh,… Well, looks like the Costa Tristans got there first. Some psycho took out the entire house and Big Fun is nowhere to be found… If he’s not already dead, he probably will be soon. I contacted the Commissioner and he’s got a bunch of officers checking the place out right now.”

“I had nights like that,” Arthur nodded, “Still, you took out the operation and completed the mission as promised. I guess that’s that. Might not have been the ending you had hoped but I’m sure the cops can take it from here.”

“Yeah,” Michael bit his lip in frustration, “The guy I fought tonight was a beast… Would’ve killed me if I didn’t have the armor.”

“I know the type. It can get scary out there but I’m glad you’re safe.”

“So am I,” he leaned down and gave Arthur a hug, “Good night, Dad. I love you.”

“Love you too.”

Michael stopped at the front door and turned, “You really are a good father.”

Arthur smiled, “Thanks, son.” He watched his son leave, turned off the lamp, then went upstairs to bed. As Michael drove home, he thought about his fight with Mano, mentally kicking himself for his stupidity. He had been cocky. Going after the low-level dealers on the street was difficult enough, he wasn’t prepared to face a professional. He wondered what he could have done differently. Despite his failure, he was convinced that if it brought his father some peace, it was worth doing. His father could retire knowing he proved himself a hero and hopefully, a good father despite any mistakes in the past. Michael continued to tell himself he did the right thing but what could he have done differently to ensure a successful mission? It was a thought he carried with him all the way back to his apartment.

Hours later, two men dragged Big Fun into the center of a room, his hands bound with zip-ties behind his back. Once the black hood was removed from his face, he immediately noticed Nadie and Mano. They were in an empty room with blank walls and a concrete floor; the only door was guarded by a large man with a rifle. “Good morning, Mr. Johnson,” Nadie greeted him in English, “Welcome to Costa Triste.  Oh, you’ll excuse me if I don’t call you Big Fun.  I feel ridiculous saying that name out loud.”

“You’re dead, bro,” Big Fun gritted his teeth, “This ain’t over.”

The old man cocked his head gently to the side, “How did you come to that conclusion?  I hope you’re not prideful enough to think you’re going to leave this room alive.”

“My boys will find me.  They’ll take you out.”

“Your… ‘boys’?,” his smile conveyed disdain more than humor, “Most of them have either been killed or arrested.  The Cavalier has exposed your drug operation… yours, not mine… so what’s left of your business is gone. Certainly, losing that shipment will cost me quite a lot of money, a fact that does frustrate me, but it will only be a setback.  Needless to say, I’ve won.  You should have done as you were told.”

Big Fun spat on the floor, “Eat shit!  Goddamn crippled old-head!  You act like a badass but you’re just running some piss-ant third world country.  Not that you ever done much running, huh?,” as he ranted, Nadie listened silently and patiently, “Legs don’t work. Your jimmy probably don’t work, either.  Bet you can’t even wipe your own ass.  And how old are you?  Looks like you’re about to fall over dead in that wheelchair.  Yeah, I know you’re gonna have me killed but I don’t give a shit.  Just know that you can’t do it yourself. It don’t matter what your men do to me because we all know you were never able or willing to get your hands dirty!”

With the rant over, Nadie calmly turned to Mano and held out his hand, “Please give me your knife.”

“Yes, sir,” Mano almost seemed excited as he placed a knife in the old man’s palm.

“Thank you,” Nadie turned his attention to the two men hovering over Big Fun, “…Now bring him to me.”

Big Fun struggled as he was lifted off the floor and forcibly shoved toward Nadie.  The old man held the knife with an outstretched hand with Mano bracing his wrist and grip, “Mr. Johnson, you have already surmised that, due to my condition, there are many things I’m unable to do, physically.  Yes, this includes ‘wiping my own ass’ as you put it.  I cannot perform that mundane task; not without assistance anyway.  It goes without saying that I would if I could but it’s just not possible for me to do on my own.  And it’s a simple matter, really.  Little more than a quick removal of waste.”

The men forced Big Fun on his knees.  A firm hand grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back, exposing his jugular.

Nadie continued, “It’s not something I have ever lost sleep over or given a second thought to.”  Mano held Nadie’s arm tightly as the men pushed Big Fun slowly, the tip of the blade pressing against his throat as he frantically grunted and tried to pull away. Nadie’s voice was strained as he held on tightly, “Having said that, I hope you appreciate the physical toll I am currently placing on myself…” 

The knife slid into Big Fun’s throat as blood spewed from his lips.

“…This is me wiping my ass.” 

The body hit the floor and the men began removing it. Nadie carefully handed the blade back to Mano who produced a handkerchief and cleaned it. “You did exactly what was needed, sir.”

“Thank you,” Nadie motioned for Mano to take him away, “Alert the cooking staff.  Let them know I won’t be having lunch this afternoon.  I’m quite tired.”

“Of course.  Should I help you into bed as well?”

“Yes, please.  You’re very loyal, Mano.  I’m blessed to have you.”

“I’m the one who’s blessed,” Mano said proudly as he took Nadie down the hall, “I don’t care that I never met my parents. You’re the only father I have ever needed in my life.”

The next day, Michael sat across from Dr. Ansari having just finished catching her up on the events of the past few days. Her brow was raised and she blinked heavily before she began, “First of all, it’s wonderful that you and your father had a break through and you’re finally talking about your past,” she closed her notebook, “But I don’t feel that wearing the Cavalier armor and fighting drug dealers was the best course of action.”

“I guess not, but it made sense in the moment,” Michael gave a half-hearted smile.

“We’ve talked about generational trauma and how violence is a cycle in your family’s history. I think this is a manifestation of that. You said yourself that your father didn’t want you to be the Cavalier as you previously believed. There was nothing forcing you to take up the mantle. It seems as if you were looking for a reason and from what you told me, even your father suggested that it was somehow compulsive for the men in your family.”

“Maybe it is but Dad hasn’t worn that armor since my little adventure, so isn’t that a good thing?”

“It’s definitely good that he is no longer in danger and it’s good you weren’t hurt as well,” she smiled and gave an assuring nod.

“Thanks,” Michael found his thoughts drifting back to the events that had transpired over the past few days, “Things got… pretty crazy.”

“And the important thing is, we can put this behind us.”

Michael paused. He once again thought about his fight, replaying the situation in his mind and how he could have done better.

“Michael?,” Dr. Ansari leaned in to get his attention, “It’s behind us, right?”

Michael looked into her worried eyes and said nothing.

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