Inherently Different

the old man

Joachim “Johnny” Sanchez backed into the darkness of the covered alcove as two guards making their hourly rounds passed his hiding place. Under normal conditions he wouldn’t bother, but his most recent checkup revealed how far the disease ravaging his body had spread. When this news reached his daughter, she raised more sand than he thought she was capable of. If he was to enjoy his beloved cigars he had no choice but to hide from even his own guards. Justine had somehow convinced even the low men who patrolled the grounds around his hacienda to inform her immediately if they caught him sucking in anything other than the air he needed to survive.

Joachim had spent the better part of his 70 years dealing in the business of human misery. To complain about his current lot in life was not something he even considered. Just as he had been a plague upon the lives of thousands, his life was now plagued by an unseen demon that ate slowly from his lungs and justice at last was being served. He accepted this final fate as others had accepted their fates when they crossed his path. He was ready to die. He had made his peace with death even as his daughter struggled to convince him that conquering the disease with proper medical attention was possible. Long before his personal physician had told him that there was little that could be done, Joachim had decided that he would do nothing to avoid a meeting his maker to settle old accounts. He knew he deserved to die and cancer was better than a bullet to the back of the head. The more he suffered, the more likely his actions in this life might be forgiven in the next.

While it no longer amazed him how wealthy and powerful one man could become through trafficking in drugs and prostitution, the secret passions that fueled his success always did. Human misery had enriched his life and the irony was not lost on him.

Stepping further into the shadows he pulled out his leather humidor. Closing his eyes, he opened the case and pulled in a deep breath, sucking in the sweet, woodsy aroma of the Cuban cigars he preferred. Cutting the cigar quickly he chanced one more look out from his hiding place. Satisfied he wasn’t being watched, Joachim backed as deeply into the alcove as he could and struck a match.

As he brought the flame to the cigar, cold steel pricked the fleshy spot at the base of the back of his skull. Even at 70, though his other senses were failing, his ears were still sharp. The voice that whispered in his ear was controlled, businesslike and vaguely familiar.

“With your death, I put paid to what is owed.”

While Johnny considered these last words, the knife pushed its way into his brain and wiped out every thought from his head, save one… “I’m free.”