A Road Paved with Good Intentions.

The gentle music from his alarm woke him up, he opened his eyes and stretched the sleep out from his body. He looked to his right and saw that his wife was still fast asleep, Marcus Lanarksen smiled to himself and pondered on how rich a man he was. His wife was the love of his life and had given him twenty years of happiness. Their two children were his daily pride and joy. His work as a Manager at his own mental health charity gave him a sense of fulfilment and his night business was booming too.

He got out of bed and went to the bathroom to get himself ready for the day. Their master bedroom was still dark and dim and it took time for his eyes to adjust to the light in the bathroom. Marcus looked in the mirror. Pretty good for an old man, he thought.

He was a tall and broad shouldered man with an impressive physique given his forty years. He kept his long curly blonde hair parted down the middle while his slightly ginger beard was kept short and groomed. Though Marcus noticed some new streaks of grey in both. He possessed a strong jawline, prominent cheekbones, and bright blue eyes with an explosion of brown.

Marcus brushed his teeth, washed his face with cold water and sprayed some deodorant on himself. He went back into the bedroom, switched on his bedside lamp, and put on a pair of cream coloured trousers and a dark blue shirt, ready for work. His wife was still asleep so Marcus woke her by placing a few gentle kisses along her collar bone.

She stirred under his touch, ‘’Don’t tell me it’s morning already’’, she said and tried to bury her head in the soft pillow.

Marcus smiled and rested his chin on the shoulder he had just kissed, ‘’I’m afraid it is, Anya’’, he was fortunate to be able to call his wife his equal. Marcus was always amazed at how Anya managed to tackle being a mother as well as a Psychiatrist for the NHS. She was fortunate her managers were willing to let her work part – time at almost the same pay grade.

Anya yawned, still struggling to fully wake up. She sat up and rubbed the sleep out from her eyes, ‘’Fridays technically count as part of the weekend’’

Marcus took the time to appreciate Anya’s beauty. His wife had an elegant and slim figure. Her soft and creamy skin had aged but was as alluring as the day they met. Her raven black hair now had streaks of grey at the front and sides, falling in thick curls down to her shoulders. Her face was as enamouring as it was twenty years ago, and Marcus lost himself in her wondrous grey eyes.

Anya noticed that he was starring, ‘’Don’t look at me like that, we don’t have time to do what you’re thinking’’, she smiled and planted a quick kiss on his lips before getting out of bed, ‘’Could you go wake up Asora and Erik for me?’’

‘’Of course’’, said Marcus and then left their bedroom.

The Lanarksen family designed their home themselves, building it on a piece of land on the outskirts of Birmingham, towards Worcester. Marcus stepped out from the master bedroom and into the upstairs hallway, to his left was a bathroom and to the right a small closet. He reached the top of the central stairs that led down to the ground floor. Ahead of him were two large windows, stretching downwards along the wall, covering both floors of their home. Marcus saw that it was getting lighter outside, though a wall of grey clouds were blocking the sun’s rays. He turned left towards his children’s rooms.

First, he entered Erik’s room; his eight-year-old son was an avid rugby fan. Two posters of the 2016 championships were on his walls and several rugby trophies were proudly displayed along his shelves, mixed with his comic collection and toys. The room itself was large and brightly coloured, hosting a double bed, a built-in wardrobe, a desk and a large TV with a small collection of DVD’s underneath it.

Marcus sat on the bed besides his sleeping son and kissed his forehead, ‘’Wake up, my boy. It’s time for school’’, he said and proceeded to gently ruffle his son’s bright blonde hair.

The young boy yawned and slowly sat up while rubbing his eyes, ‘’I wish it was the weekend’’, he said with a voice groggy from sleep. Erik was tall for his age, with a small nose and gentle features. He was still fluent in Norwegian and showed a keen interest in maintaining his first language, but Marcus noticed that he was beginning to struggle with his pronunciations.

Marcus smiled, ‘’You’re as lazy as your mother’’

Erik got out of his bed, ‘’Not that lazy, she has more days off than any of us’’, he said, earning a laugh from his father. They shared a quick hug and Marcus sent him to the bathroom to get ready. He was proud of how mature Erik was for his age, though both Marcus and Anya were happy to see that their son was still a child at heart.

He stepped into the hallway once more. The morning was gloomy and grey. The sun was still firmly blocked by several clouds, with more gathering on the horizon. He took a few steps and reached his daughter’s room.

Marcus knocked and called out her name, ‘’Asora? It’s time to get up, my dear’’, no reply.

Marcus entered her room and saw that her clothes from yesterday were all over the floor and that the TV was still on. The dim hue in her room made the purple walls look almost alive, as if the various patterns were consuming one another. His daughter was sleeping on the sofa as opposed to her double bed, Another late night watching films, Asora? Marcus thought. Fourteen was supposed to be a tough age, but his daughter was adjusting well. Other than the occasional mood swings, Asora was smart, beautiful, dedicated and driven.

He planted a gentle kiss on her forehead, ‘’A few more late nights and you just might turn into an owl’’, said Marcus as his daughter was waking up.

She stirred slightly before opening her eyes, ‘’I set an alarm, I swear’’, she said as she sat up. From her wincing Marcus figured her back was in pain from sleeping in an uncomfortable position all night.

‘’More like you switched your phone off’’, he said and the two shared a laugh. Marcus was grateful that his daughter was still fluent in Norwegian and had even began learning Spanish.

Asora got up and stretched, cracking her back in the process. She had her mother’s curly raven black hair, high cheekbones, and full lips. But her eyes were more like her fathers, yet different. Bright blue and full of life, as if they were smiling. Her tall and elegant figure seemed to grow more womanly with each passing day.

‘’Can I still come to the office with you tonight, dad?’’, asked Asora.

‘’Of course, my dear. If you’re going to take over one day, it’s better to star learning early’’, though Anya showed some concern, Marcus was confident that Asora would have what it takes to run the night business when the day came. The two shared a hug and then Marcus left the room.

He walked down the stairs to the spacious ground floor of their home. There was a long rug leading to the main doors, on one side was a quaint parlour and on the other a dining room which was connected to the kitchen. Further in the back of the first floor was a large living room, leading out to a conservatory.

Marcus walked into the kitchen, the ominous morning had become even greyer as the sky opened and a heavy rain began hammering down. Erik was setting the plates and Anya had just finished frying some eggs. Asora came down shortly afterwards and the Lanerksen family had breakfast together. They smiled and laughed as they ate their food, Erik complained that he wanted to go to the office with Marcus and his sister but his mother reminded him that he was too young.  Erik responded by standing on his chair and flexing his arms, announcing to his family that he was a man. Marcus, Asora and Anya laughed and when Erik sat back down, his sister pinched him on the nose and told him that they need a strong man at home while they are away.

Soon they finished their food and it was time for Marcus to head out, ‘’I think it’s time for work. Asora, my dear, remember: be at the day office at three. We have quite a bit of work to do at the night office and can’t afford to be late’’, his daughter promised to be on time.

Marcus kissed his wife goodbye, hugged his children and then left for work. He walked out of the kitchen and reached the main doors of their home.  At either side were two coat hangers, one for Asora and Erik and one for Anya and Marcus. He put on a long leather coat and lifted its colour up, to protect his neck from the fierce wind. He picked up his briefcase and stepped out into the gradually increasing storm. The rain was sharp and fell with rage, yet Marcus was all but oblivious to it. He walked down their long drive way and entered his Jaguar XF, he switched on the engine and listened to the purr for a few moments before driving away.

Marcus quickly found himself on the motorway towards Birmingham City Centre, where his mental health charity Peaceful Minds was located. It originally started off as a small private Counselling practice back in Norway. Relocating proved tedious but after settling in Birmingham, it became the fastest growing mental health charity in the entire country, With some personal investment of course, he reminded himself. They helped the local community with everything from talking therapies to direct social support. However, what made them stand apart from the rest, was their work with autistic children. Marcus had rubbed shoulders with and cajoled Birmingham’s elite and managed to buy a submarine, which they used to take clients and their families on deep sea tours. And stock up on product for the community.

Marcus enjoyed the diversity of people and cultures in Birmingham, how close it was to London and the affordability of property in the surrounding area. The United Kingdom was full of rich history and Marcus was grateful that he and his family had been accepted in such a welcoming manner. But he sometimes found himself longing for his hometown of Stavanger. He missed being able to walk to the port and eat fenelar at his favourite restaurant, the fresh and salty scent of the North Sea and the majesty of the Preikestolen mountains often appeared in his nostalgic daydreams as well. But his life was here now, the Lanarksens could not have stayed in Norway and still ran their night business.

At around 07:30 a.m. Marcus entered Birmingham City Centre. The tall buildings stood proudly amidst the ongoing storm and the city was bustling with life even in the early hours of the morning. Marcus had managed to avoid part of the traffic and eventually reached the Tricorn House, where Peaceful Minds was based. Marcus then began the tedious task of looking for a place to park on one of the side roads, eventually settling for one not too far from the office, I really need to have an executive parking space or something. I am a Manager after all. He thought as he parked.

After a short walk, he entered the office building and warmly greeted the security guard as he walked past him. The open space of the main reception was welcoming but lacked colour, reminding Marcus of an old hospital. Whenever he saw the building’s owner, he always suggested that they do some painting. Perhaps when I take it for myself one day I can have it painted purple, or maybe orange, he thought to himself. Marcus took the elevator to his office; Peaceful Mind was on the fifth floor of the building. He stepped out from the elevator and into the small hallway, leading down to his day office and their solicitor neighbours. Marcus entered the reception area, shining with its green and red decorum, the colours of his charity logo. In addition to the front desk, there were two large leather sofas, four chairs and two knee high glass tables. His recently graduated receptionist Rachael greeted him with a cheery smile.

’’Morning, Marcus’’, she said warmly.

‘’Morning, Rachael’’, he replied and opened the folder to sign himself in.

‘’I like your coat, it brings out your eyes’’, she said as Marcus closed the folder. He noticed that Rachael was leaning forward and that her neckline was slightly too modest for the office.

Marcus enjoyed the attention from her, but made sure to never lead her on. He was a married man after all, ‘’Thank you, Rachael’’, he said and smiled back, ‘’Is Aaron in?’’

‘’He’s been looking for you in fact. He’s got his usual mountain of paperwork as well’’, said the young receptionist.

Marcus then entered the office and was pleased to see his employees working hard. What was once a team of eight was now an office of thirty, providing high quality care and support for their community. Marcus had experienced mental health issues from a young age, knowing all too well what it was like to feel alone and hopeless. Inspired by this, he chose to dedicate his life to helping others. The office itself was large and spacious, several filling cabinets were lined along the middle, on the either side of which were the Counselling and Support teams. Marcus greeted them as he walked past, sharing a quick chat along the way.

He stepped into the hallway leading towards his own office, and was met by Aaron, ‘’Morning, Marcus. Sorry to drop this on you so early, but we have some issues that need your attention’’, he said as he struggled to balance the large stack of folders and paperwork he was carrying.

Aaron was a short and chubby man, with a large nose and a small chin. He stood a foot shorter than Marcus and had a very noticeable lisp. His ginger hair was long and greasy but his bright blue eyes were full of life and seemed to sparkle. Aaron was Marcus’ assistant in both the day and night offices, ensuring everything was running smoothly as well as being Marcus’ eyes and ears whenever he was away. Though there were people below Aaron who could help him with his work load, lately Marcus was playing with the idea of a second assistant to give Aaron some more free time.

‘’Hit me’’, said Marcus as they both walked into his office, ‘’Close the door behind you as well’’

Aaron closed the door with his foot and placed the towering stack of paperwork and folders on Marcus’ desk, ‘’You have a meeting with a potential donor at midday’’

‘’Oh lord. I was hoping they’d cancel or something. I know we have to keep up appearances, but I hate sitting through their bullshit’’, said Marcus as he sat behind his desk. He detested meeting with the elite of Birmingham. None of the arrogant bastards knew what it was like to earn their living.

‘’Also, Bjorn called and said that he can’t come in today. Usual bullshit about a family emergency, so we need someone else to go and meet with the NHS’’, said Aaron as he ran his hand through his hair.

Bjorn was one of Marcus’ original partners back in Norway, ‘’That’s the third week he’s used that excuse. Honestly, I’d rather he just tell me that he can’t be bothered to come in on Fridays’’, Bjorn was Marcus’ best worker and a trusted advisor, so he rarely punished him for skipping work at the day office.

‘’We’re going to have to do some auditing. Somehow, we’ve lost over a grand in the space of two weeks’’, Aaron continued, rummaging through the folders as he spoke.

Marcus sighed in frustration, ‘’I know where it’s gone. Our delivery boys have gotten greedy. I had Bjorn send someone to follow them a while ago and he saw them keeping more than their fair share’’, his blood began to boil at the thought, ‘’Ungrateful cowards. We’ll deal with them later’’. He said and saw a smile creep along Aaron’s face. Marcus wondered if he should just scare the thieves or make an example of them.

Aaron looked behind to make sure that no one was at the door to hear them, ‘’The other issue we have is Phillip and Matthew’’, he said as he turned back to face Marcus.

‘’What has that fat bastard done this time? If it’s more money he wants then I swear to God…’’, Marcus detested Phillip, he only kept him on because of his position as senior editor in the Morning Mail, as well as his connections in the other main newspapers in Birmingham. Having influence on the local media was an invaluable tool.

‘’Surprisingly no. Apparently, Matthew and some other reporter quit a month ago and have become a problem’’, said Aaron, with a concerned tone.

Another coward. These English seem to take but never give, thought Marcus as he tried to remember who Matthew was, ‘’Was he new?’’

‘’No, he’s been with us for about two years. Bjorn recruited him when he caught him trying to steal some of our stock in Wales. Tall handsome guy, blue eyes. He’s a local. The one who came up with the idea of using ambulances for distribution’’, said Aaron as he was stacking the folders back on top of each other.

Marcus remembered him, ‘’How have they become a problem?’’, he said with anger. Matthew did have a weak stomach for what they did.

‘’Matthew suddenly grew a conscience’’, said Aaron with a sickened tone, ‘’Though I’m surprised what pushed him over the edge. He seems to have taken a liking towards the reporter who quit alongside him. Phillip told us she came to his apartment and quit her job, the dumb bastard made a mess of things afterwards. He got his guard to shoot at them, apparently, Matthew was in her car and shot back. Would have killed the guard if not for the bullet proof vest, he got away with bruised rib. Matthew and his girlfriend managed to escape’’

Marcus dragged his hand down his face in anger, ‘’I told that fat moron to be cautious. We give him too much’’

Before taking him on, Marcus made sure to have enough insurance on Phillip in case he ever grew too big for his shoes. As if it was possible for him to get bigger. Phillip spent most of his money on prostitutes, all of which can easily be paid to testify against him for whatever Marcus could think up.

‘’We’ll stop by and remind our friend to know his place’’, he knew that he would have to go to his apartment before the night office but was weary of bringing Asora with him.

‘’Can we get a hold of Matthew and his little girlfriend?”, he added.

Aaron sniggered and a grease filled lock of hair fell on his forehead, ‘’Of course. Matthew isn’t as clever as he thinks he is. Would you like us to warm them up for you?’’

‘’Matthew only. Leave his friend to me’’, said Marcus while thinking of Asora. She must learn how to handle the hard things as well, he thought to himself.

Aaron left and the rest of Marcus’ day was spent in general admin, working with his IT team on redesigning the Peaceful Mind website, going through the CV’s of new job candidates, and catching up with his workers. Although he enjoyed his superior position, Marcus did miss working directly with clients. He enjoyed providing a friendly ear for those who needed, and seeing how they improved with each session thanks to his help.

At around 14:30, Marcus packed up and prepared to leave. Before heading downstairs however, he stopped by the Counselling team and asked the team leader if he could send him a client or two at some point. Though his managerial duties kept him busy, Marcus was keen to make some time for more direct client work. He stood outside the main entrance to the Tricorn House to wait for his daughter. The rain was unrelenting in its onslaught, each drop boomed and filled the air with chaos. Grey and gloomy clouds were still blocking the sun and an icy chill began to creep up as the day was retreating. Marcus took in a deep breath and spent a few seconds to admire his accomplishments as he did every day. He reached into his inside pocket and pulled out a fresh cigar, but just as he was about to light it, a familiar voice reached his ears.

‘’You promised mom that you’d quit. Do I have to go and tell on you?’’, said Asora as she walked up and hugged Marcus.

He smiled and put the cigar back in his pocket, ‘’That’s two people I’m going to have to hide from now’’, he laughed and embraced his daughter in a hug.

The two began walking to the car, luckily Asora had an umbrella to protect them from the rain, ‘’How was school?’’

Asora shrugged her shoulders, ‘’Same old. We learnt a bit about the slave trade. This guy Gavin, the idiot, decided to point out that it was unfair to blame white people because it was the black tribe leaders in Africa who actually sold the slaves to the Europeans. You know, as if that makes buying and treating them like objects for a few centuries okay. Why can’t people just accept some responsibility for the evil things as well?’’, Asora was always a high achiever so Marcus didn’t have to worry about her progress, but he still enjoyed hearing about her experiences.

They reached the car and finally escaped the storm. Marcus shook some of the water off the umbrella before closing the door and placing it on the back seats, ‘’Those kind of people are too weak to just accept responsibility. Good. Evil. These things are a part of life. If you can’t do any good, then do not do any evil. But if you do evil, accept responsibility for it’’.

Asora smiled, ‘’If only all men were like you, dad’’, she said as they drove off.

Marcus was flattered, ‘’Men like me come once in a lifetime, dear’’, though he often thought that it can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing to be such a man, ‘’Speaking of which…do you have any…uhh…Anyone who has caught your eye?’’, Marcus always felt uncomfortable talking to Asora about relationships, he found it hard to take a step back and not smother her with his protectiveness.

Thankfully Asora felt comfortable talking to him about it, ‘’Well…James is really nice but, I don’t know. He’s a bit dumb. His sister Lauren is really clever but a bit of a bitch. I wish I could have both’’

Marcus smiled, ‘’Sounds like it would make a good cheesy teen drama’’

‘’God tell me about it. But to answer your question, no not really. Don’t worry, I’ll warn you before I bring anyone home’’, she said. Marcus was worried that his daughter might get hurt, but he trusted her to be able to make the right decisions for herself.  

The rest of their drive was spent talking about the night office, Asora had accompanied her father before and knew everyone who worked there. But most of the time she would deal with admin or go to meetings with Marcus. He told his daughter that today will be a tougher test.

They arrived at Phillip’s apartment in Edgbaston, the man could only afford his expensive home thanks to Marcus. He wished he could replace Phillip, but he was too valuable an asset. When he doesn’t get what he wants, he throws a tantrum.

Two cars of Marcus’ men were already there, one parked in front of the apartments and one further down the same street. He saw Agnar stood by the entrance to the apartments, waiting for them.

‘’Why are we at Phillip’s?’’, asked Asora as Marcus parked the car.

‘’When a man under your command makes a mistake, you talk to him and show him that you are reasonable. But when he doesn’t learn from his mistakes, you act and remind him he is replaceable’’, said Marcus as he and Asora left the car and walked across the street to the apartments.

Agnar greeted them with a cheery smile, ‘’My favourite Lanarksens!’’, his voice boomed as he hugged Marcus and then Asora.

Agnar was a giant of a man. He stood a head taller than Marcus and was heavily muscled, with a bull’s broad chest, thick neck and arms like tree trunks. His face was covered by a thick brown beard and his dark grey eyes added to his intimidating appearance. Boisterous, always smiling and fierce. Agnar was another of Marcus’ original partners from Norway. His thirteen-year long career in the Royal Norwegian Navy had made him pragmatic and tactfully efficient in his work. As well as the perfect man to captain Marcus’ submarine.

‘’Agnar, good to see you again’’, said Marcus. It had been several months since they last saw each other, Agnar spent most of his time in Wales with the submarine and monitored their distribution network.

‘’You as well, my friend. How are Anya and Erik? We all need to organise something, it’s been too long since all the Vikings got together again! You know, my Home Moving company has been doing well. Might be able to buy more vans soon’’, his loud laugh that followed echoed in the streets.

It really had been too long since all of his friends and family got together, ‘’I know. We’ll arrange something when the Asora and Erik have time off school. But first we have some business to attend to’’, said Marcus.

The three of them walked into the building and up the stairs towards Phillip’s apartment, ‘’He doesn’t know we’re here. I assume Aaron told you about the shooting? That idiot. He could have jeopardized our entire operation’’, said Agnar as they reached their destination.

‘’And our lives’’, added Marcus. He knew that if the police got to him, Phillip would sing like a canary. He shuddered to think what could happen to his family if the worst came, No, that would never happen to me, ‘’Asora. Just watch for now, we shouldn’t be here long’’

He knocked and Phillip quickly answered, ‘’Marcus! You alright, mate? What a pleasant surprise’’, thankfully he was fully clothed. But his fat face was as greasy as ever and his portly figure took up the entire doorframe and more.

Marcus didn’t reply. He pushed past Phillip and walked into his living room that was connected to a kitchen. The whole place was a mess. Stacks of pizza boxes covered the coffee table and dirty old clothes were piled on the leather sofa, forming something of an enormous chair as Marcus could make out Phillip’s gigantic outline in the middle of the pile. The kitchen itself was covered in everything from cakes to oily pots, remnants of Phillip’s attempts at cooking. The entire apartment was filled with a horrendous odour, a mixture of sweat, food and farts.

‘’You are really testing my patience, Phillip’’, said Marcus with a firm tone. Agnar closed the door behind them and ushered Asora to one side.

Phillip’s face filled with confusion, infuriating Marcus even more, ‘’What do you mean?’’, he looked behind and saw that Agnar was standing inches away from him, ‘’I’m not in trouble, am I?’’, he began sweating, ‘’I-I know what this is about. That little incident with Matthew and his whore. C-can you blame me? He knows everything about us, I thought I’d save you the trouble of dealing with him yourself…s-so I’’

‘’Decided to get your guard dog to shoot them in broad daylight?’’, Marcus interrupted him, ‘’This isn’t the first time you have pulled shit like this. Did it not cross your mind that it looks a bit suspicious? What if the police decided to dig and traced the link back to me? You never think how your stupidity can affect the rest of us’’, Marcus towered over the pig and was close enough to smell his greasy skin and his fear, pleasing Marcus to no end.

‘’I-I’m sorry, Marcus. You know how I am…’’, he half smiled, ‘’B-but, you know. I know people. Your cartel profits a lot because I make sure the papers in Birmingham don’t talk about how much cocaine you bring in. They only talk about the good stuff you do with the Counselling and…’’, Marcus simply had to glance at Agnar for the rest to happen.

The giant behind Phillip wrapped his thick bicep around the fat man’s neck and used his free hand to muffle his mouth. Marcus grabbed the pig by the balls and started to squeeze.

‘’You have a fat mouth, Phillip’’, his muffled screams intensified as Marcus tightened his grip, ‘’Let me make one thing clear, you need me more than I need you. I can do whatever I want with you. But you’re right, you do know people and you do a good job, so I keep you on for now’’, he said as he watched the pig’s beady hazel eyes fill with tears, ‘’But unless you get your shit together, next time I come down I’ll cut off these fat balls of yours and make you eat them’’, Marcus held on for a few more seconds until Phillip nodded.

He finally let go and stepped to the side, allowing Agnar to push Phillip into the sofa. The fat man fell to his knees, still weeping from the pain. Marcus and Agnar then washed their hands, though they’d need to do so for a day for them to be really clean. The trio then left.

Marcus, Agnar and Asora got in the Jaguar and drove off, with Marcus’ men in tail, towards the night office. In the car, Marcus explained to his daughter that so long as it is for the right reason, any action is justified. Asora seemed to understand. The rest of their journey was spent catching up with Agnar.

When they finally arrived, it was 19:00. The night office was in the more industrial area of Dudley, deep in the heart of the black country. They drove down a road of warehouses and factories, some abandoned and some still in use, until they got to a small two story building that stood isolated in the middle of a rundown car park. Marcus was lucky that his neighbours didn’t care what he did so long as he kept to himself. They parked their cars and his men took point at the entrance to the car park. Marcus, Asora and Agnar entered the small building, took the elevator down and were greeted by the busy bustling of the night office.

The office itself was a series of underground corridors, stretching for several feet, and huge spacious rooms that were likely once used for storage. Marcus had refurbished everything and used this as a base of operations for his cocaine trafficking. His workers were rushing around with crates of product and crates of money. He chatted for a bit with some of his men and Agnar was pulled away by his own duties.

‘’Come on, Asora. We have some guests waiting for us’’, he said in reference to Matthew and his girlfriend.

Marcus and his daughter walked down a long and dimly lit corridor, which seemed to grow darker the further they went. Eventually, they got to the room where their guests where being kept, ‘’Asora, remember what I told you today?’’

His daughter was probably nervous but she did not show it, ‘’Anything is justified so long as it is for the right reasons’’, she said with confidence.

‘’The people in there have threatened us and everything we have. Instead of coming to me and voicing their complaints, one of my men betrayed me’’, he placed a hand on her shoulder, ‘’If you don’t like anything that happens in there, just know that you don’t have to stay if you don’t want to’’, he said with a warm and caring tone.

They entered the small room, furnished by nothing but a table, two chairs and dried up patches of blood on the white walls. A small and feeble woman was sat at the table, shaking and weeping with a face covered in ruined make up and bruises. Behind her stood two guards, armed with machetes and pistols. And in the corner of the room was a curled up bloody mess that Marcus recognized as Matthew.

He sat down at the table in front of the woman, ‘’Hello’’, she whimpered in response, ‘’I’m sorry that my men were so rough with you’’, he said looking at her swollen and purple cheekbones, ‘’It’s no way to treat a lady. What is your name?’’

She slowly looked up at him, her honey eyes were full of dismay and more tears, ‘’D-Dawn…’’, her voice was barely a whisper.

‘’My name is Marcus, this is my daughter Asora’’, he said as he motioned to his girl, ‘’How much has Matthew told you?’’

Dawn struggled to make eye contact, ‘’Y-you have been in the UK for eight years. B-b-but you have had your cartel for longer. Y-y-you…you only bring in cocaine every five years b-b-but you bring in tones. A hundred tons of the purest. I….’’, she looked at Matthew and began crying once again.

‘’Please finish’’, said Marcus.

She planted her gaze firmly on her lap, ‘’You go to Wales by submarine, then you have vans bring it here. T-t-then you use fake ambulances’’, she said between whimpers.

Marcus sighed internally, he was hoping that he could somehow let Dawn go unpunished, ‘’I am in a very difficult position, Dawn. You and Matthew know too much. I have a family to protect and take care of, friends who rely on me and men who depend on me’’

Dawn reached over the table and held Marcus’ left hand in her own, ‘’Please. Please. I beg you. Matthew and I are just journalists, we just wanted to get the truth out to people. He told me that you were after him and…and…’’

Marcus couldn’t believe what he was hearing, first Matthew betrays him and then he tries to lie his way out of his own involvement, ‘’You’re a conniving little shit, Matthew’’, he looked at the broken and bloody pile that the man in question had been reduced to, ‘’Dawn. I’m sorry to say, but your friend here did not tell you the whole truth’’, he explained everything to Dawn. How Matthew had actually been part of their cartel all along. How he was the one who came up with the idea of using fake ambulances. How he had used her.

Shock and disbelief replaced Dawn’s tears, she shook her head and looked at Matthew, ‘’No. No. T-tell me that he’s lying Matthew. Please’’

Matthew couldn’t lift up his head, Marcus’ men had all but crippled him, ‘’I-I’m sorry, Dawn’’, was all he said and the woman was lost for words.

‘’I’m sorry too, Dawn’’, said Marcus, ‘’Sorry that Matthew dragged you in his own mess’’, he turned to face the man one last time, ‘’Tell me, Matt. Why did you do what you did?’’, he asked with a disappointed tone and held out his right hand for a pistol. The guard obliged.

‘’I couldn’t be a part of your evil anymore, Marcus. I just couldn’t’’, said the broken man as he struggled to lift his head and look his death in the face.

‘’It’s not evil if your intentions are good’’, said Marcus as he squeezed Dawn’s hand to reassure her.

Matthew let out a horrid crackling noise. Is he laughing? Thought Marcus, ‘’The road to hell is paved with good intentions’’, said Matthew as he finally looked up.

Marcus huffed, ‘’Poetic’’, he said as he shot Matthew in the head and added another stain to the wall.

Dawn screamed in horror and ran towards the corpse, cradling it in her arms and crying. Marcus looked to his daughter to make sure she was okay.

‘’NO! Matthew…I’m…I’’, Dawn’s whimpers were beginning to get annoying.

‘’I’m not a cruel man, Dawn’’, said Marcus as he exchanged the pistol with the guard’s machete, ‘’I’ll let you live. You can go and tell your story if you want. No one will believe you. I have too many rich friends and I control the papers. But I can’t let you leave unpunished’’, he stood up, machete in hand, ‘’You have some lovely ears, I think I’ll take one for myself’’, he said and Dawn continued begging for mercy.

Asora’s voice stopped Marcus in his tracks, ‘’No!’’, she shouted, ‘’Let me do it, dad’’

Marcus, the guards and Dawn stared at the young girl in disbelief, ‘’Are you sure, Asora? You don’t have to if you don’t want to’’

‘’If I am going to take over one day, its best I start learning early’’, she said and Marcus smiled.

He handed Asora the machete and ordered the guards to restrain Dawn. She screamed as they bent her over and buried her head into the table. Despite everything that has happened today, Marcus was overwhelmed with pride as he watched Asora slice through Dawn’s flesh.

By Sebastian Zuhury.

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