“Who would you propose to trust? All you’ve given me is silence.”
Pan spoke softly, though not without purpose, or emphasis. When all the members were together, each one would leave their annual meetings with the same shared, unspoken thought.
That the soon to be leader of the new world, their new world, surely must weigh each word he spoke, every syllable in his mind, with precise care. That effect was making itself very clear tonight. After all, what night could be more fitting? This was the night where Pan had chosen to kill. He had announced it in his usual method, coded messages at dawn. A signal for everyone to meet, to plan.
And as the next dawn would bring, an execution. But who?...
In their grand hall, a grandfather clock had struck eleven pm.
When no one spoke, none of the nine killers, Pan’s most trusted disciples, the vibe in the room changed. And when ten people were inhabiting a mansion in the middle of nowhere, it was not difficult to notice when someone turns angry. Especially a man such as Pan.
Pan turned from the large window, where the view outside, once tranquil with the chilly night air, was now foul. The grey sky had turned a darkly hidden shade of green. It looked poisoned, casting rain down on the countryside’s burnt grass in steep, sharp, slanted cuts. Nervous crickets still managed to chirp among the raindrops.
Pan spoke again, “None of you can answer a simple question.”
The way he spoke those seven words only made most of the other nine more reluctant to speak, except for one.
Solomon stood from one of the three round oak tables that had been clustered together. Solomon had been the first disciple, starting all those years ago.
Despite his willing to speak in such a tense situation, this did not make Solomon any less wary of his old friend. For Pan, some things took priority beyond everyone and everything else. This became clear when their leader leaned down on his own table, located at the head of the mansion’s hall. At first sight, light glinted from the scratched bronze pocket watch he wore on his waistcoat, but soon the other nine were drawn, against their surface will, to the concentric markings around each arm, they could be seen through from his wrist, spiralling upwards. Ancient markings composed from three dead languages.
Even the most impulsive on the nine knew better than to ask what they meant exactly. Their associated rumours were kept far from the mansion walls and spoken with deep apprehension.
“You can trust me, I’ll kill him.”
At this Pan smiled, it did not look unusual on his face, only unused, out of practice.
“Him. You don’t even know the target, as a matter of fact-” Pan said.
“They don’t know, but I do, and I know how important it is to you. These tasks.”
As he said this Solomon gestured at the other members, those who had been silent for so long. Once feared, now complacent. For most of the infamous nine killers, their best years had slipped down the waters of time, any rough edges having been smoothed out like stones in a stream.
Solomon did not know what had given him the boldness to interrupt Pan, but if their years of friendship ever counted, it was now.
After all, this was life and death.
Pan was quiet for a long time. If you listened intently enough, you could hear that old pocket watch, ticking away along with the grandfather clock.
“Solomon. Your mission is to kill me.”
Outside, the shadows grew longer, and crickets sang.