Jacko made himself right at home in Sir Denholm's kitchen and offered to make us all omelets. That worked for me because neither of us had eaten breakfast. My brother liked to cook with breakfast being his specialty. Cooking is one thing Mama taught Jacko that actually stuck with him. He did know how to make a mean omelet.
Denholm and I kept the conversation light while Jacko worked. We sat at his dining room table drinking coffee. The two of us needed to discuss weightier matters, but I was willing to let Denholm take the lead. He'd get around to it.
Jacko set breakfast plates in front of us and took his seat. We attacked our food.
"Good job, little brother," I said between bites.
"Yes, quite," Denholm remarked. He eyed Jacko. "But your brother is not so little. I dare say he's taller and, how should I say this, more muscular than you are."
I explained to Denholm how Jacko and I had two very different fathers.
"You're British, aren't you?" Jacko asked.
"Born and raised in London."
"Sing tells me your full name is Sir Denholm Stewart. Are you a knight or something?"
"I'm not nobility. It's an honorary title. Some time ago I did a personal favor for the Queen."
"Cool! What did you do?"
Denholm shot a glance my way. "Perhaps that's a story best reserved for another time."
I took it to mean it had something to do with his time as a Herald.
After setting down his coffee cup, Denholm leaned back in his chair and looked at me. "Tell me, Sing, why did you do it? Why did you go public?"
"A better question is why didn't you go public? You or one of the countless other Heralds who preceded me? You had to know, just as I did, the corruption behind that organization."
"The Heralds were designed to be self-perpetuating, following a model of reward and punishment. The reward was a very lucrative bank account. The punishment, as you found out, was intolerance toward those wanting out before their time."
"Blood money," I said.
"Be that as it may, the setup effectively inspired loyalty. I wasn't going to go against my own self-interest, and apparently nobody else in the past wanted to either." He picked up his coffee cup and took a sip. "Until you came along."
I scoffed. "Sorry I ruined it for you."
He looked at me stone faced. "You ruined nothing for me. I retired some time ago and already have my nest egg."
Nobody said anything for some time before I asked, "When we got here, you asked what took me so long. Were you expecting me? Are you supposed to report me to some hit squad?"
"I deduced that you would soon show up, and no, nobody is looking for you."
That gave me pause. "How do you know for sure? Judge Severn told me about some shadowy Washington figure who doled out the Heralds' assignments, somebody who would come after me for betraying the organization."
Denholm smiled. "Judy was always fond of hyperbole. You have to remember that she was a successful courtroom lawyer and skilled at bluster before becoming a judge. It's true that the Heralds received intelligence from above, but nobody gives a second thought to the Heralds' demise. There are many such unofficial organizations at the disposal of the government. They simply moved on to have another entity deal with their extra-judicial activities."
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The Story of SingTeen Fiction
[2018 Wattys Short List] - Sixteen-year-old Sing strives to do well in school so that he can find a decent job and provide a better life for his crippled mother and younger brother, Jacko. That goal becomes derailed when Sing is falsely accused of a...