I was at my favorite bookstore looking for an out-of-print book. I was scanning the books up and down when it happened. The death of my brother hit me like a train going downhill with no breaks. My brother and I were very close. Of course, what can a person expect? He was my identical twin. I felt pain in my chest spread out to the whole of my body. Something happened and my whole body went numb. Everything went dark, and as far as I could tell, I had collapsed onto the floor.
After what seemed a long period of time I opened up my eyes and looked up. There was a female store clerk standing over me. She had a nametag on and it said Samantha. A tall, skinny male store clerk named Fred was behind her. His face was covered with pimples. He was a typical teenage clerk. Samantha told Fred to go dial 911.
"Are you alright? The paramedics will be here soon," said Samantha.
I just sat there for a few minutes. The pain passed and finally I answered Samantha.
"I'm fine," I said.
"What is your name?" said Samantha, who stretched forth her hand and pulled me up.
The paramedics arrived. They wanted to look me over, but I would not allow it. As I drove home, I knew that my brother was dead. The weather was beautiful and warm, but not too hot. A breeze blew through the trees and the grass. This was a stark contrast to what I knew waited for me at home.
I drove my convertible into the parking garage at my apartment. I walked into the elevator and went upstairs. I went into my apartment and pressed the button to play my messages on my phone. I typically have my cell phone with me, but for some reason I had left it at home. All of my calls were forwarded to my home phone. The first message on my phone was from my secretary, Crystal.
"Hey, Pete, you need to come in. I have something for your birthday," said Crystal.
There were a few more messages on the machine, but the last message concerned me. It was from my brother's wife, Alice. Many uncomfortable thoughts washed over me. I had not spoken much to her since my brother and she had gotten married. The most uncomfortable situation rolled over in my mind. I sat and thought about how they met a few years ago.
Paul, my brother, was staying at my place. I was planning on visiting with him, but business took me away. I was once very close with my brother's wife. Oh, I loved Alice. I was engaged to her. She was a model. How she and my brother met was just one of those accidents that just happened. My fiancee was the kind of girl who couldn't wait to get married. She had so many plans for us, but things don't always work out the way we plan. My brother seemed to be at the right place at the right time. The telephone rang at my place and my brother picked up the telephone.
"Pete, I can't hold it back anymore. I want you now," said Alice.
"This isn't Pete. He's out of town," said Paul.
"Don't play games with me Pete. I know it's you. I saw your car in the driveway when I drove past your place on the way home from work."
There was a picture of Alice sitting next to my bed. Paul hadn't noticed it before, but he licked his lips and ran his finger over her signature on the photograph. Her hair was very long and blond. She had deep blue eyes and luscious lips. Licking his lips like a cat Paul spoke softly into the telephone.
"Yeah, you're right. This is Pete."
"Please, I really need to see you right now. I'm so lonely."
I was out of town for over a month. My flight came in and I hailed a taxi. When I got home the taxi driver helped me out with my luggage. In front of my house was my parked car and written on the back of the window was, 'Just Married'. I sat there with my jaw open. I was very confused. Maybe it was just a hint that she wanted to get married.
The driver turned to me, and said, "Someone in your family got married?"
"I don't know," I said.
I gave the driver some money. I needed to know what this was all about. It was kind of exciting to think that she wanted to get married sooner rather than later. We had both been putting it off for quite awhile. We were too busy with our careers. I recently had started a new business and she had a modeling career that was just starting to take off.
I placed my luggage on the ground and looked around. There were clothes on the floor. There was furniture that was broken. Several of my lamps had been crushed. It appeared to me that some kind of wrestling match had taken place. I could hear some showering and laughter upstairs. The shower was still going when I saw my brother come out. He spoke with somebody in the background.
"I'll be back, sweetie," said my brother.
Then I heard my fiancee's voice. "Okay, honey, I'll be waiting."
My brother turned and looked at me. I really did not like where this was going.
"What's going on, Paul? Was that who I think it was?"
"Come on, Pete. Let's go into the kitchen and talk," said Paul.
Paul and I went into the kitchen. He pulled out some of his special truffles. My family and I were good at making treats.
"When I said you could use my home, it didn't include my girlfriend."
"I didn't plan it this way. It was only meant to be a joke, but it turned out to be more. She's such a beautiful woman, but that's not the only thing. She's very beautiful inside too. I just found myself falling in love with her."
"She thinks you are me?"
"No, she knows who I am. I told her that I go by Pete sometimes for fun. I'm sorry brother, but I love her. When I met her in person I knew she was the lady for me."
"Does she know that you're involved in the mob?"
"That's only business."
"Why did you do this to me?"
"There are plenty of fish in the sea for you. Just cast your lure in and you'll find somebody else."
With a towel over her head and a robe on, Alice came around the corner. Her jaw dropped at seeing both of us. I walked out to my car and drove off. I'm not the kind of person who shares my girlfriend, so I stepped out of the picture. I really wasn't that mad at him. Alice and Paul seemed to gel, yet this could just be the surface calm, for I knew there was much more darkness under the surface. He was involved in underworld activities.
I came back out of my memories as I listened to Alice's message. I could feel for her.
"He's dead! Someone shot Paul. I went to his office and his blood was everywhere. Please, Pete, come as soon as you can. I need your support."
I shook my head and I left the room. Some people use alcohol to make them feel better. When I'm depressed I go for ice cream. One of my favorites is rocky road. I sat there for a good number of hours trying to take it all in. Then, I had to find something to get my mind off of my brother's death.
I entered my office, sat down in front of my computer and went online. I checked the local news, the weather and a few other things, but it didn't help much. I checked my e-mail and found a message from my godfather, Uncle Robert. He was the only real family I had left.
My thoughts wandered again. I thought about how he raised us after my parents' deaths. I tried to remember all of the good things about my brother in my childhood. There were a few. It was a very tragic event for us to lose both parents at the same time. We were 10 years old. My twin brother and I stood over their graves. Uncle Robert put his warm hands on our shoulders. He turned to us and smiled, so we smiled back, even though we were sad.
"Let's go boys, and get some ice cream," said Uncle Robert.
We didn't have any family except for our godfather, our great uncle. A limo drove up and took Paul, myself, and Uncle Robert to an ice cream parlor. Then we went to his house. It was a very large house. I guess you could call it a mansion. Uncle Robert took us fishing at his private lake. We always enjoyed being with him. He spent a lot of time with us. When we did well in school, he took us out on trips like fishing, skiing and diving. He took us to many different parts of the world as well.
He always tried to keep us separate from his work, but on one occasion I looked into the trunk of his limo and found a dead body. I would not have looked in the trunk, but it was slightly open. I lifted it up in order to close it. I just stood there for a minute or two before my godfather told me to go into the house. He told me to never mention what I had seen.
It wasn't until I was 18 or 19 when I discovered that he was more than my godfather. He was a mafia Godfather. I had no desire to join my uncle in the family business. My parents also had nothing to do with my godfather's business. But my brother gladly followed Uncle Robert into everything.
My thoughts were again brought back into the present. After I re-read the e-mail from my uncle, I called him. I had a lot of apprehension, but I knew I needed to do it.
"Hello, Pete. You've probably already heard," said Uncle Robert.
"Yes, I know Paul is dead," I said.
"I know this isn't the best time to talk about this, but since your brother is gone and I'm getting old, I need someone to take over the family business."
"You know how I feel about that."
"I was only asking. You were so much more diligent than your brother. You always made sure everything was done right."
"I understand that, but I don't think I'm a good match for that position. When do you want me to fly in for the funeral?"
"I don't think you should come. Someone wants you dead."
"Who would want me dead?"
"I don't think we should talk about that over the phone."
"That's fine. We won't speak of that. You don't have to worry about me. I'll only be there for a short amount of time, so nobody will be able to get me."
"Alright, but don't say that I didn't warn you."
I hung up the phone and went about some other business. When I awoke the next morning I was covered in perspiration. I had a nightmare, but it wasn't about my brother. I showered, went to work, and parked in the parking garage. The elevator slowly rose toward my office. It was a glass elevator, which allowed me to look out upon the city. The sun shone through. It was very bright. The elevator opened, and my well-dressed secretary was waiting for me. Her name was Crystal and she had green eyes and red hair. She was my friend and she always did a good job.
"How are you doing, Pete?" she asked.
"I'm trying to keep it together. Have you ever had the feeling that there is more to life than just work?"
"Yes, I have. I can understand about losing your brother."
"It's not just that. I always had the feeling my brother was going to die a violent death."
"So, what is it?"
"I have been having a recurring dream ever since my brother sent me a blue crystal ring for my birthday six months ago."
"Oh, the one he supposedly found on an ancient shipwreck?"
"Yes, that one."
"So, what was the dream about?"
"I was at a costume party, but it was inside a cave with tables and candles. Outside the entrance of the cave was a wintry scene. It was night and the ground was covered in snow, but inside it was warm. I met a redheaded woman with a golden mask. It was a very beautiful mask. She took my hand and we danced. We played a few games; we passed notes to each other and shared our deepest feeling and thoughts. We enjoyed each other's company. Then I found her sinking into the ground. I tried to pull her out, but the only thing I was left with was this crystal blue ring. I don't like how it ends. The closer the ring is to me, the more intense the dream is."
"You could just get rid of the ring."
"I did. I sent it to a lab to be analyzed."
"So, what did they find out?"
"They did different tests on it and they had no idea what it was made of."
"So, why did you take it back?"
"I like the woman in the dream," I said, with a shrug. "Just not the last part."
"So, is that why you stopped dating Sharon?"
"It's weird, I know, but I would rather spend time with the woman in my dreams than with Sharon."
"Sharon was such a nice girl."
"You're probably right. It's only a dream. Here, please, take the ring."
"Okay, if that's what you want."
I handed her the ring and she placed it on the desk.
"So, you wanted to show me something this morning?" I said.
Crystal pulled out some fudge and gave it to me.
"You always seem to know what I like. I'm sure glad I hired you."
"It is very tragic what happened to your brother. I bought you a train ticket to give you some time to relax. I always find it relaxing to sit on a train, and watch the scenery go by. It was supposed to be a birthday present from me and your brother, but since he died I figured that you needed it now," said Crystal.
"We are so far behind right now. I have to get back as soon as possible to work."
"In your present condition, I think it's a good idea that you go. Don't worry. I have everything under control. I'll work late to catch everything up."
"You don't have to do that. That's a lot of long hours."
"You have always said that I could take my vacation whenever I want. If you don't go, I'll take my vacation."
"Okay. I'll go on the train ride just to make you happy. Thank you so much. You have always been a good friend."
I had to get some things together to get ready to go to the airport. I really didn't want to drive my car to the airport. I could have taken a taxi, but Crystal would have nothing to do with that. She was going to take me. I always enjoyed being around her. We weren't romantic in any way. We were more like father and daughter or a sister and brother. I was going to fly there and then take the train back.
We arrived at the airport. I slipped out of the car and took out my luggage. There were many other people busily unloading their luggage. Crystal turned to me.
"I hope you enjoy your trip."
"Don't forget to feed my dog, Henry, and my salt water octopus, Max," I said.
"I'll see you later, and thanks for the ticket."
I went into the airport. The plane ride to my brother's funeral was very quiet except for a little boy that sat behind me. He kept talking and talking. I was glad to get off of the flight. I walked off of the plane carrying my luggage when a man with a suit and tie approached me. In spite of the fact that it was very warm, he was wearing a full wool suit. I had a cold feeling about him.
"Hello, Mr. Jones. Your uncle told me to come pick you up and take you to your hotel," said the man in the wool suit.
"I'm sorry, but I thought someone else was going to pick me up."
"I am here to pick you up."
"Then tell me. What is my uncle's favorite candy?"
"It's peanut brittle."
"No. You don't work for my uncle. Get out of my way."
The man in the suit grabbed my arm and pressed a gun into my back. It was hidden underneath his coat, so that nobody would know.
"Don't make any sudden moves or you're dead."