The Black Wolf - J.A. Redmerski



June 2, 1988 – Portugal

We were kept in a building with tall ceilings and ceramic tile floors and white paint-chipped walls that towered all around us like a prison. A prison with no locked doors or barred windows because no one was ever brazen enough to try escaping.

No one but me, of course.

I wanted out, and I wanted my brother out with me.

No one in The Order but our father, and my mother, knew that Victor and I were half-brothers. Our father warned us never to tell anyone, never to talk even in private about our relation. And we never did.

When we were just boys we were taken away from our homes, from our normal childhood, from our mothers and our meals and our fantastical imaginations and everything we had ever known, except for each other. From our games in the field with our friends, and apparently a half-sister I don’t think I ever knew. Was she the girl with wispy blond hair and big doll-like eyes who played with us in the field behind my house in Germany? The girl who clung to Victor when she skinned her knee and ripped her dress? I didn’t know. And I never asked. I didn’t give a shit about any sister who I never knew—all I cared about was my brother and my father and my mother and the secret we shared and was vital that we kept.

Four years of brutal training had passed in The Order. I was eleven-years-old. Victor and I didn’t grow apart in our time there, we simply grew up very different.

Victor may have been The Order’s favorite, the rising star, the boy who would one day be Vonnegut’s Number One, but just as I did, Victor kept our father’s secret, never questioning why our father—an equally skilled assassin just as my brother is today—would lie about such a thing to The Order that he served with such allegiance.

Despite the secret he kept, Victor was the most disciplined, the one with the most promise. We were so different by then that even I began to wonder if the secret we kept was true.

At eleven-years-old, I wanted to be…eleven-years-old. My older brother, who slept soundly in the room next to me, wanted to be everything that our father expected of him. I wanted to go home—Victor was home. Every day I thought about my mother and talked about her as though I was never going to see her again—Victor never spoke of his mother. I wasn’t cut out for this life, whatever it was destined to be, even though I tried hard to show my worth—Victor was a natural, a machine, he took to everything as innately as an infant learning to crawl.

On this night, I ached in my bed from the cracked ribs I’d sustained the day before; the broken thumb; the swollen bottom lip—my punishment for not hitting my target on the first shot from two hundred feet away in near darkness was to walk a ‘gauntlet’ and be beaten by twenty other boys, most of them bigger than me.

I knew I would never be as good as Victor, no matter how hard I tried. And finally, after four years of grueling training, I had had enough and decided to make a run for it.

The floor was cold underneath my bare feet as I made my way quietly to the opened door of my room, the fabric of my pajama pants swishing about my ankles the only noise. My ribs hurt so badly that I struggled in a slumped position down the dark hall, barely lit by the moonlight pouring in through the windows that lined the high ceilings. A guard sat in a chair at the far end of the hall, the back of his head pressed against the wall, his eyes closed. I didn’t know it at the time, but the guards that watched over us were never really sleeping on the job, it’s just what we were led to believe, in case one of us ever tried to escape.

I crept into Victor’s room and woke him.

“Victor, I’m going to leave this fucking place,” I whispered as his eyes crept open, “and I want you to come with me.”

Victor sat upright in the center of his small bed wearing the same stark white pajamas that I was wearing.

“What are you talking about, Niklas?” he said in a quiet voice laced with concern. His eyes darted from me to the opened door, then fell on me again.