The WillJamie J. Buchanan / Thrillers & Crime
A Short Story by
Jamie J. Buchanan
Copyright 2013 Jamie Buchanan
Glen was shocked to find out that his father had three wills. Dealing with the death of a man he thought was virtually invincible was hard enough to handle, let alone learning that his father’s life wasn’t exactly what he thought it was. As he sat in Uncle Ken’s office, he slowly began to piece together the life that he thought he knew.
Pieces fell into place.
Hints linked, gaps were filled.
Glen felt the penny drop.
Uncle Ken, Glen’s Dad’s brother, was someone Glen always knew he could trust. It was one of those innate, immeasurable, intangible beliefs that he had – he knew that Uncle Ken was staunch.
After the reading of his Dad’s will, this perception became confirmed fact.
The first part of Leonard MacGill’s will read as Glen had expected. Everything was left to Glen’s mother (Julie) who had passed away several years before. After that, all Leonard’s earthly possessions, the house, the car, the savings… it all reverted to be sold off and split 50/50 between Glenn and his brother Joseph.
Poor Joey – he never got the chance to see this.
So that just left Glen.
Then there was the second part to the will – an addendum that Glen did not expect. It ran like this:
“That takes care of the basics in regards to my will and testimony. However, there is more to this. I know that this type of addition is highly irregular but it is important for my family to know the truth after I am gone.
“I haven’t always been an importer of steel products and fabricated farm machinery. As you all know, I was in the army for many years and served two tours of Vietnam. I have rarely spoken to you about my time in the military, using the excuse that ‘what’s past is past’ and that I simply wanted to get on with life, rather than dwell upon the horrors of war and death. I am honoured and humbled by the fact that you all have respected my wishes in this regard and love you all so much more as a result.
“But the time has come to reveal the facts.
“Yes – I was in Vietnam. But it was not for two tours as a raw recruit. I served there for five years in the SAS. I was a trained killer and I was used by my superiors for behind the lines insurgencies and covert operations. Now I can never reveal exactly who, what or where these operations were – and, quite frankly, I can’t remember them all anyway – but I will tell you that all of this is rhetoric for what I really did.
“I was a killer – an assassin.
“And I have never retired.
“One does not simply walk away from a role like that – it is a vocational commitment.
“The army figured out that I had a level of moral ambiguity that made me perfect for the type of missions that a lot of other men couldn’t achieve. My training in the SAS was secretive enough as it is – only your Uncle Ken here knew I was in the SAS because he too was serving. But that training, and my own proclivities towards humanitarian apathy, meant that I was perfect for this type of role.
“I was never conflicted about what I did. It was a war and I was assured that what I was doing was for the betterment of our way of life. We had been indoctrinated with an anti-Communist fervour and this was necessary…at first. Over time I developed my own level of political awareness – in particular with regards to motives and underlying dogma – but that was towards the end of my tours.
“Anyway, it is important you know this about me because my future career was borne from those seeds.
“When I was in SE Asia I developed many contacts within foreign governments and militias – enabling me to work freelance for a time. It also enabled me to establish a legitimate career in the importation of steel products – a career that housed you all, fed you all, educated the boys and gave you all a lifestyle that I could only dream of as a child.
“But the real money was in the clandestine career I had cultivated. The money was real, it was huge at times. You never struggled at home for money as the importation business kept you all well provided for. Therefore I was able to keep this other part of my life completely separate and compartmentalised from my domestic life.
“In Australia, I was the working stiff – a suburban Dad with a good job that enabled me to travel a bit, send you guys to private schools, take holidays each year and buy new clothes, appliances…whatever.
“But, overseas, that role was minor. I would travel to, say, Thailand and spend one day visiting a steel mill or manufacturing shop. Then I would fulfil the appropriate contract in, say, Burma, for example where I would eliminate an annoying political adversary of one of my employers.
“By the time I was on the plane back home again, the contract was completed and the money paid into an off-shore account and I would return home a weary businessman to his grateful family.
“Yes, you read correctly, an ‘off-shore account’.
“Sounds all very ‘James Bond’ doesn’t it? It kind of is I guess – that was part of the attraction for me. The secretive nature of it all, the cloak-n-dagger, the underground lifestyle.
“Maybe, in some other epistle, I will elaborate on the deeper psychological reasons for my state of mind. Perhaps I will, one day, go into the reasons and the motivations for my effectively split-personality that enabled me to function on one level with you and the business (and friends/family etc.) and on another level when I was working solo.
“But I am not ready for that just yet. I’m 45 years old – you boys are nine and six. Your mother has no idea of this background nor this lifestyle. One day, Julie, you might read this and hate me. If you do, please know that I kept this from you because I love you with more passion, more desire, and with more spirituality than I could ever have thought possible. You saved my life without knowing it – my unwitting hero.
“I could never destroy you with this secret life – with what I now know is a monster that needs to be fed within me. By continuing in this way, I keep you and the boys away from the darkness I have within me. You are my light, my salvation and, through you, I hope to leave the pain and blackness behind one day. I hope that day is soon.”
Glen took a break and absorbed the news – his father was a hired assassin, a freelance gun-for-hire that killed without prejudice because he was paid to do so. Glen tried to picture his father as anything other than a loving, caring, perhaps militaristic man but he couldn’t do it. He knew his Dad had been in Vietnam and that he didn’t like to talk about it much, but he had no idea the extent of his involvement.
But, then again, little clues now rung like a cacophony of tiny alarms, building into a crescendo that should have said “Notice me! Notice me!”
His father’s dispassionate and clinical confrontational style. Glen had seen Leonard calmly deal with emotional or passionate situations (a fight at the football, an upset employee, his mother’s quick temper) in such a cold way that it could have been perceived as dissociative. Glen was in no doubt that dissociation was his father’s key – without that he couldn’t have functioned on these two levels. He always thought it was his father’s army background and a naturally calm demeanour that led to these types of reactions.
Now he knew otherwise.
He remembered his father quickly, painlessly, strangling a cat that their family dog had mauled. The poor thing had a broken back after their Blue Heeler had attacked it and Leonard simply, calmly, silently strangled it in front of his sons. There was no emotion – it was simply a task, a chore.
As Glen grew older, he noticed his father was quieter and more detached upon returning from his trips overseas. His mother noticed this too and put it down to the ‘post-travelling blues’, preferring to let her husband handle this in his own way. That detachment, that dissociation with his family...it was his alternative life. It was obviously Leonard’s way of keeping things separate.
Glen could see that one life did seep into the other, no matter how hard Leonard tried to keep them apart.
The addendum continued:
“The off-shore account is set up in Zurich and Uncle Ken has all the details. That is the sole reason why I have decided to tell you about this part of my life. I have no need to confess anything and I feel no desire for contrition or redemption. I was really unsure about whether to say anything at all because I never wanted both lives to cross over. But, at the moment, there’s over 200,000 Swiss Francs in that account and I’m sure you could do something with it.
“Hopefully I have many more years to live and, maybe, one day, I can talk to you all about this rather than leave this letter as my testament. It is vital that the contents of this are never discussed and that you three and my brother Ken are the only ones who ever know about that money.
“It has never been about the