Part Six: Reassessment
I did not waste any time. I assumed upon making that revelation that I did not know what I needed to know to make this right. I turned my attention to Mary’s life over the last 15 or so years, but the trick was figuring out how to learn what she got up to during that time without revealing myself to her. I needed to form some sort of cover that would keep her, and anyone working for her, distracted while I hunted down information regarding her recent past. I could not figure this out alone, so I went to the one I knew I could trust: I went to my dear friend.
I made my regular visit to her in the hospice as I usually did, making every effort to avoid being seen as changing my pattern of behavior. This time, however, I brought with me a small device. I had a personal music device on me, and I carried also a pair of secondary devices that would allow the music to fill a room with ease. When I saw her, I set up the devices and sat very close to her; again, I masked our conversation from those nearby. I also looked about the room using the player to search for any undocumented listening devices; I found a few, and muffled them by moving the fixing to cover them. Now assured of our privacy, I spoke freely.
I quickly got her fully informed as to what’s going on, and what I need to do next. She nodded her ascent, and she told me to let her handle it. I agreed. I returned a few days later to see a large pile of paper next to my friend’s hospice bed. My friend told me that she still had a few favors to call in, so she used one—under the guise of forming a complaint against the insurance provider—to get all of the public records on Mary Redalen. As I read them, I saw some things that I already knew, but also I saw that the pattern of deniable accidents of rivals and enemies had begun far earlier than I ever knew.
My own misfortune, from Mary’s perspective, was as ordinary as receiving a gift when one got married. The authorities’ records on Mary went well into her youth, and someone got hurt or worse at or near the same time that she got herself something significant that she wanted. The authorities got suspicious of her when the three students at her school died in drive-by shootings before graduation, but ultimately blamed it on the girl right behind her in the rankings due to stronger evidence of ties to street gangs, and Mary went on to graduate at the top of her class. This, I must say, is despite being suspected of leading a gang of thieves that broke into homes during the day.
They looked at her again when a rival for her lover at the next level of education turned up dead in a corn field, but dismissed it when the evidence arguing for the victim being raped and murdered by a disturbed local man held up under scrutiny and that arguing for her involvement did not. Then, as she trained as a law expert, Mary ran afoul of the authorities when one of the masters accused her of cheating; that fell apart when illegal pictures of children appeared in the accuser’s possessions.
The pattern now appeared, plan as day. Mary wanted something. Either someone threatened her acquisition of that, or someone stood in her way. Because she either lacked the ability to resolve it peacefully, or she lacked the character to do so, she conspired to have that someone destroyed. Often she manipulated others to do her work for her, leaving her in a place to deny involvement and get away with it. I now found myself lucky that all I blocked for her was a more desirable lover; I alone survived her lethal attentions. Yet, for all that this information did to fill in gaps in my knowledge, it still did not answer the questions before me: what does she want, and how do I threaten that?
To answer that question, I now had to dig into Mary’s recent past and present. Public records showed that she took a husband, and that she birthed three children, as well as receiving permission from the authorities to work as a law expert. As she came from a rich, if declining, family this was not at all unexpected. However, I found the answers to my questions when I discreetly inquired into her time at the insurance provider as well as in public service. Mary’s work displayed a rather subtle pattern of self-aggrandizement, of perception management and a keen appreciation of what made her look good to her superiors. In short, the work of a status-conscious pyramid-climber, much like many others that sought power and profit for their benefit and no one else’s.
Mary now held a senior position of power within the power structure of the insurance provider. She had to acquire more easily cowed opponents, so I scoured the little-trafficked areas of our land to find them. It took quite some effort, but I found them; I found them, and I found records of their rants, often done while drunk. Resentful men often speak the truth when freed from restraint, and drink does that loosening of restraints very effectively, so I listened and read. Then I followed up on the leads that I found therein. On a hunch, I followed up Mary’s professional associations; there I found more ranting by more resentful people.
They resented her ambition. They resented her willingness to, literally, sacrifice others to feed her appetite for power and prestige. They resented her ability to avoid accountability, and punishment, by using proxies—and many of them were proxies that she used and discarded—and blame the victims. Yet they feared her, because they knew of no one that survived doing so; therefore, when I read that she entered into secret negotiations with the authorities to acquire a monopoly on the management of medical provision to the area and that her enemies within the company started dying shortly after they moved to block her from doing so, I knew that this was the thing she wanted so badly.
I also soon realized that she knew that I lived, but had no idea of how to get to me. She wanted me dead because I was the living, breathing proof that she was not invincible. She failed once, and now I could galvanize resistance to her merely by being known to’ve suffered her attentions and survived. I now had the clear picture as to what was really at stake here: the control of life and death by Mary over everyone else, because if she succeeded then she would seize total control over the provision of all forms of medicine in the region and she would use that power to propel herself to total tyranny over all.
I threatened that by mere dint of living. She targeted my beloved friend to draw me out. If I had not put those motorcycle gangs at each other’s throats, one of them would’ve ambushed and killed me by now. I realized that my window of opportunity would not stay open much longer. I had to act, and act fast, to put this threat down permanently for the good of us all. It was time to settle old accounts.