"Maxwell's" assignment

Maxwell was not a physically imposing figure, and in fact the only times he had ever been in a fistfight were not of his choosing, and on those occasions he had gotten a severe ass-whupping.  He preferred the realm of the Internet, where a sharp mind could always do so much more damage than could a strong body.  That nebulous ethernet.

Where he was king.

But there in the darkness, with a heavy December rain sloughing down the metal roof above, Maxwell looked uncomprehendingly down at the folder in his hands and shook his head.  Here he had no power, no control over anything.  Here he was not a king, just a scared man with thoughts of his loved ones foremost on his mind.  And love was thought to be the most powerful motivator in the world, more so than fear, and white hot rage surged behind Maxwell's eyes at the thought of his loved ones caught in harm's way.  He spoke through clenched teeth, "Where is Henley?  Is he all right?"

The man whom he had addressed was obviously unused to receiving demands; it seemed unnatural to him that the roles be reversed, as he was always the one giving orders.  He stopped and gave Maxwell an icy stare over his burgundy mohair scarf, his eyes as keen as the fine fabric itself.  There was a moment when Maxwell imagined this mysterious boss man pulling out some kind of pretentious flintlock pistol to murder him, but the look in the man's hard eyes soon softened and the wink of a smile touched the corners of those eyes as the man spoke softly, "You have a lot of difficult work ahead of you, Maxwell.  You'd be best served keeping your eyes on the prize.  If all goes well... then maybe we'll see about reuniting you with your boyfriend."

Maxwell flapped the folder in front of him and said, "But what you ask is nearly impossible.  What if I fail?  Will you let him go?"

Now the man turned to fully face Maxwell, and when he did the grin which spread across his cruel slash of a mouth was wide enough to expose many crooked and yellowed teeth.  Unhealthy to be sure, but to Maxwell it was like looking into the maw of a Great White just before it swallowed him whole.  "If you should fail, Maxwell, or die, or run away.  If you should do anything other than precisely what we have written down inside that folder, than please be advised that we will cut your precious Henley into three hundred neat little chunks of kibble that we will dump into the Potomac River like chum.  Keep that in your thoughts every time you feel the need to match wits with us."

"You mother," Maxwell growled, "if you're so damn smart, how come you don't try this little stunt yourself?"

The man laughed, and it sounded like a true, authentic sound of mirth.  Then he answered, "Because we have too much to lose, my friend."

The End

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