Private: C. Mortgomery Byrnes
“Welcome back to Mortimer Kjedelig’s life, already in progress.”
Ah, the familiar sound of the microwave.
Mortimer rises from the leather recliner from which he was relaxing for the past five minutes and thirty seconds and pauses the video on a drunken Dudley Moore sporting a top hat, enjoying a bubble bath and a glass of champagne.
As he walks towards the kitchen, Mortimer hears the ominous rapping, the rapping on his front door. Mortimer dreads the sound of knocking. That means there’s people outside his door wanting to speak with him. Nothing good even happens when he opens the door….
His freaking neighbors, always nosing around and bringing him some odd culinary concoction like sardine pie or sheep’s tongue with rutabaga. His stomach turns at the thought of it….
….OR the mere notion of opening the door….
It is a no win scenario.
Of course the pasty, tasteless, slop that is a macaroni and cheese tv dinner. Mortimer can feel his arteries clogging just thinking about it. But gone are the days of fresh fish and produce from Bartolo down the street. All he can afford are these cheap frozen dinners (some, admittedly, are better than others, but when they are bad, they are the worst).
What he wouldn’t give for some mahi mahi over mushroom risotto right about now….
But he put money on the fucking Oilers and they blew it! Fuck Ria and the Avalanche!
Three hundred bucks down the toilet.
Mortimer opens the door and standing before him a well dressed black man with a pencil thin moustache looking like an African American Vincent Price. He smiled a Cheshire Cat like smile and removes the fedora from atop his shaven head.
Mortimer feels underdressed in his Minions boxer shorts, leather sandals, and a black t-shirt that reads “I Want My Two Dollars” over an image of a switchblade comb. He subconsciously adjusts his mask as if that would suddenly “classy him up” in his visitor’s eyes. Mortimer fakes a smile and shows off his less-than-pearly off-whites and greets his well dressed and unwelcome guest.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: What the fuck can I do for ya, pal?
WELL DRESSED MAN: Quite the greeting.
The well dressed man has a deep, slightly gravelly voice that is almost soothing as he hangs on the final syllable of his final word when he speaks (and rather eloquently, at that). However, the man’s smooth tone does not deter Mortimer Kjedelig from his primary objective: To get this guy to fuck off.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Quite the balls you got knockin’ on my door at this time of day.
WELL DRESSED MAN: It’s a quarter after twelve.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: And it’s five o’clock somewhere.
WELL DRESSED MAN: Mortimer Kjedelig?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Yeah.
WELL DRESSED MAN: “Kjedelig”. That sounds Norwegian.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Yeah, my grandparents were from Norwegia, what the fuck can I do for ya?
WELL DRESSED MAN: Please allow me to introduce myself, Agamemnon Noble.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Whoop dee fuckin’ doo. You still haven’t answered my question.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Perhaps it would be prudent for you to invite me in, Mister Scatino.
His last name from his former life sends a chill down his spine and he stiffens defensively, almost recoiling. Mortimer feels the perspiration forming from within his mask. His mouth gapes open, unable to speak as Agamemnon looks both amused and expectant as he stares at the masked wrestler before him. Mortimer utters without conviction.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: You’re mistaken, pal. My name is Mortimer Kuh-Jed-a-whatever.
Agamemnon Noble’s demeanor changes, his face stern and menacing, his dark eyes seemingly looking through Mortimer. Noble leans in ever so slightly.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Perhaps you would prefer to have this conversation inside. Or would you rather perform this farce with your door wide open and your dick hanging out?
Mortimer, who, upon hearing the accusation that his little friend is out for all the world to see looks down. Lo and behold, his winky is peeping out of his unbuttoned fly like a groundhog on February second. Mortimer’s face flushes with embarrassment as he turns away to button the fly on his boxers. Kjedelig turns back to Noble and nods him inside.
Agamemnon Noble follows Mortimer into the double wide. Mortimer Kjedelig’s heart begins racing. The fear is growing inside of him….overwhelming, crippling fear. His knees start to feel gelatinous with each step on the shag carpeting. His breathing becomes irregular and his right eye begins to well up. He struggles to maintain his composure. Murdered in his underwear. Not a very dignified end, but still better than sitting on a toilet or autoerotic asphyxiation. He just hopes he doesn’t piss or shit himself when it happens. As soon as the door closes behind him, Agamemnon speaks.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Rowan Scatino. Born November 20, 1979. Nephew of Francis Monteverdi, underboss of the Torciano Crime Family. Divorced. Ex-wife, Tara LaMacchia, currently a hairdresser in Flushing, Queens. One child, deceased 2014. Two stints in prison—
The cold method in which Agamemnon Noble summarized Mortimer’s life as if he were reading off a grocery list irritates him. The heartless bastard is toying with him before putting a bullet between his eyes. Mentioning his daughter, he could not take it any longer. As if her death was to be given the same courtesy as a dozen eggs and two percent milk. Well, that is not going to happen. He turns and faces Agamemnon Noble, who is staring at the brown, water damaged ceiling.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Are you aware of the dangers of black mold?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: If you’re gonna do it, then just fuckin’ do it. Shoot me in the fuckin’ face! C’mon!!!
Mortimer Kjedelig removes his mask and drops it onto the shag carpeting, shuts his eyes tight and holds his breath waiting for the bang. He tries to focus on the only image he will have of his daughter, the one and only time he held her. Will he even hear the bang? Will he feel anything when it happens? Will his life flash before his—-
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Stillborn is such a vile word, isn’t it?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: What?!
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: The word mocks you. Your child is dead, yet still born.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: STOP FUCKIN’ WITH ME AND DO IT!!!!
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: What is it that you wish me to do exactly, Mister Scatino?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG (opening one eye): Huh?
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Oh my. Were you under the impression that I was here to kill you?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Aren’t you?
Agamemnon Noble lets out a chuckle and immediately stifles it as Mortimer opens the other eye, but still suspicious but starting to feel amped up, as if his body was injected with a lifetime supply of adrenaline.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: What? What the are you—? What the fuck is you malfunction?! You come into my home an’…an’ bring up shit…you psychopathic shitbag fuckface fuck! I’m gonna—-
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Calm yourself, Mister Scatino. Perhaps you would care to listen to me for a moment before you perform an act of violence on whatever extremity or body part that crossed your mind?
Mortimer takes a deep breath and wipes the tears from his eyes, burying his thoughts deep where is belongs. In anger management they taught breathing exercises that helped with growing anger. He missed that class because he was out getting drunk with the boys. He takes a crack at what those breathing exercises could have been, it comes out sounding like Lamaze.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Do you remember those advertisements growing up, the “Don’t Do Drugs” campaign?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: What? Yeah, sure. The eggs in the fryin’ pan.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Why do you think we no longer see those ads?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: I don’t friggin’ know!
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: It is because the so-called war on drugs was a losing effort. Call it patriotic overconfidence. And today? All those anti-drug ads have been replaced with pharmaceutical ads. Antidepressants, medications for Crohn’s Disease, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, you name it. The rich get richer and the poor, well, they remain poor. I have no objective in discussing that, I just find it ironic.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Look, Aggacadabra, if you ain’t here to kill me, then what do you want with me?
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: I represent a group of individuals who have a vested interest in your potential.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: This ain’t some kinda sex thing, is it?
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: No. I find your theories on Anna Daniels fascinating.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Because they’re true.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: You believe her to be a time traveler who has traveled across time, endangering the space-time continuum, to alter your matches due to an unknown personal vendetta that she has against you because you solicited her services—-
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Whoa! Hold up there! Factuality speakin’, I did not ask nor imply nor insinuate in any way via orally or written anythin’ sexual to which I was seekin’.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Allow me to rephrase. You cordially requested that she change one event in your life.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: That is correct.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: I am curious to know, what evidence do you have to support these claims?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: The fact that I lost to a French guy and a fuckwit with dancin’ bear. That’s evidence enough.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: So, no physical evidence. Nothing tangible. You just believe she set those events in motion..
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Just cuz you can’t find the body don’t mean the guy didn’t get clipped.
The words coming out of his mouth at this moment, Mortimer realizes he sounds like a homeless person in the middle of Times Square claiming the Thetans have invaded the earth and have taken human form, preaching to those that will listen that Doozer is, in fact, Grand Overlord Zoeop’k’rqhuc, leader of Thetan infiltrators. Agamemnon stares at Mortimer, stoic, expressionless.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: You think I’m oobatz, don’t you?
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Actually, quite the contrary. I, in fact, want to help you get what you desire the most. Freedom. No more mask. No more witness protection. No more wondering if that next knock on the door will end with a blade across your throat.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Yeah? And how’s that gonna work? Because, no offense, in my experience, nothin’s free. Everything costs somebody somethin’.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Astute. Very astute. The long and short of it is that I offer this solution to you. Best case scenario for you is that it works. Worst case? You are in no different a position than you are now, but I have shown myself to be an ally of yours. Where others would classify you as a “stool pigeon”, in my eyes, you are a hero that stood up against people you have known for years, knowing that you could be marked for death, forced to start a new life, a life you do not know, a life you are ill equipped to maintain.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: I think I’m managin’ just fine, thanks.
Agamemnon looks at the water damaged ceiling, the box full of DVDs and VHS tapes – “Sixteen Candles”, “Arthur”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Mannequin” among them – the smell of putrid, frozen macaroni and cheese, the bucket in the middle of the floor and then looks at Mortimer Kjedelig who looks away from the dapper gentleman in his living room and sits his recliner and leans forward.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Indeed.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: I’m listenin’.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: You want her to change your past, there is a way to bend her will.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Doubt it. I’ve tried everything….bribery, hiring her, please, heart shaped chocolates, mansplainin’, nothin’ works.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: I refer you to the Mask of Malice.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Is that somethin’ I can get at Party City or is it more seasonal like at a Spirit of Halloween?
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Do you even research your opponents?
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: No.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Balaam, the Mask of Malice. The man formerly known as John Royko Junior. Your opponent next week.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: I know who he is, in that I know the name and that he is a wrestler who, like me, prefers his anonymocity.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: You really need to research your opponents. The Mask of Malice can bend the will of the one that adorns it. You will have a rare opportunity—-
Mortimer’s eyes widen and his mouth opens. The clouds have parted, “Hallelujah” is playing somewhere, and maybe the Anaheim Angels are singing it. He looks around the room and then back to Agamemnon who nods, realizing the man formerly known as Rowan Scatino has had an epiphany.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: I get the mask off this Balaam mook and place it on Anna Daniels head and then she will do whatever I tell her to do.
There is a feeling of elation flooding through Mortimer’s body. A buzz no amount of alcohol could replicate. Mortimer begins laughing. He finally has the upper hand. Then it hits him like a baseball bat to the gut.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: Ria! Fuckin’ Ria! It’s startin’ to make sense. You know what happened, don’t you? You know what that lyin’, repungent skank did?
Agamemnon Noble shakes his head and shrugs.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: It was originally supposed to be me against Balaam and Anna, she couldn’t change the result, she saw my victory, she saw me hoistin’ that mask above my head knowin’ full well my intentions with it, so she decided to stack the odds against me, so she went farther back and somehow, someway, got her best friend into the match, a preventative measure to prevent what should be an inevitable victory.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: That is certainly plausible.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: I know what needs to be done.
Agamemnon Noble reaches into his pocket and pulls out a black carbon fiber business card with a phone number underneath the teal image of a chimera. He looks around for a place to put it but the lack of furniture makes it difficult so he selects to place it on the TV stand, underneath the television display emitting the jovial features of Dudley Moore.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: In the event that your best laid plans go awry, give us a call. We are seeking new initiates. Give it some thought.
MORTIMER KJEDELIG: I appreciate the, shall we say, strategical suggestion but I have a real problem with your methods.
AGAMEMNON NOBLE: Good day, Mister Scatino.
Agamemnon Noble tips his hat to Mortimer Kjedelig and offers another bright smile before exiting case de Kjedelig. Mortimer Kjedelig reaches down to pick up his black mask and holds it in hands, staring at it. The Mask of Malice. His golden ticket to set things right.
To change a moment that led him down that dark path. True, he and Tara LaMacchia would never have met, but he also would not know the loss of his child. He would not have spent time in prison. He would not be wearing this ridiculous mask. He would not be in this house eating microwaved food night after night.
Everything will be different.