The Beholden Man

A Cedric St. Davids Story

Cedric was not one to move rashly. He was methodical, and tested. That’s why people of the small, Upstate New York hamlet of Youngstown thought he was such a great master mechanic, and person. He was a community man. Part of the local Lion’s Club, Knights of Columbus, and reader at the local Catholic Church, St. Bernards, where he helped Fr. Sylvester, a notorious town drunk, navigate his Sunday duties without causing too much of a scene. All in all, Cedric St. Davids was a picture boy for the American dream – faith, family, and firm resolve to serve his country. His wife Cynthia, a Polish born kindergarten teacher and Sunday School liturgist, had met him just before his 3rd Tour of Duty to Iraq, May 1st, 2006. In all, Cedric served as a U.S. Army Ranger for twenty years, and had the scars to prove it. He hadn’t been out a year but was making a good, wholesome name for himself, his family, and his little business, ‘St. Davids Automotive,’ a two-pump, two bay, gas station and mechanic shop. Of course, like most small businesses, he wore all the hats so the 6-day weeks were long, but at least free from enemy bullets.

Mayor H.W. Prescott, who had recently been re-elected to his record-setting tenth term in office, had dropped off his dad’s WWII MGTD, which  he used to drive while flying, as a volunteer, in England during the Battle of Britain, 1940. Cedric knew the Mayor had heard business was a little slow the past month so was sending work to him because Fr. Sy had told him too at their Friday night poke game. Cedric loved classic cars, especially the old British and American icons. He kept as a personal, daily driver, an old Land Rover Defender, kitted out for desert operations just like the British used all over Africa and Iraq. Cedric had been to Africa, actually he had been to just about every corner of the planet – just not for long. Cynthia never knew the full story of his past, she just believed he was a gunner, with a flawless record which explained his endless nightmares – the screaming, the shakes, the fists through walls and, most strangely, the periodic conversations in Arabic.

It was a peaceful Friday afternoon in sunbathed Youngstown, and Cedric was happily on his back under the oil-dripping sports car which had been specifically built for American personnel during the Second World War. Some sort of consolation for those brave souls who freely marched into one of the fiercest air battles in modern aviation history. A soft breeze was the only thing at his feet as the open garage bays allowed him to hear if any cars pulled in for fuel or service. His mind was on the business. He needed to start increasing his income now that Cynthia was pregnant again, this time with twins. They had the perfect family, one boy, one girl – healthy, happy, and holy little munchkins. Cedric had however vowed to make sure they got the best, unlike his childhood in Detroit. He was only seven when he first got raped, made to feel it was both something normal and, in fact, what he wanted. It kept up for seven more agonizing years, until he slid a knife into the neck of his abuser – a pedophilic and twisted uncle who was 300 pounds of evil. Enough he thought, he would not go there, not now, not on such a beautiful fall day.

Tonight, after leaving work early he was going to talk to Cynthia about building the business up, getting a couple old classics and maybe even starting a touring business. Fr. Sylvester promised all the weddings of course. He knew Niagara Falls, just half an hour away, would be an easy sell, as would some royal looking classic Rolls Royces for brides to be. Those thoughts made Cedric smile – just the chance to be part of someone else’s happiness for a change. He even had a little business plan to show his wife, and the bank manager, that he had painstakingly written out by hand, complete with oil and coffee stains. That was just him though – no filters, no bullshit.

Cedric and Cynthia made all of their decisions together, sometimes over a glass of wine or two after the kids had gone down for the night. The hardest ones, bar none, were about his service; his deployments out – each time more risky. But he always valued her input and knew her prayerful way helped them pick the right path, and, ultimately, bring him home.  For instance, Cedric wanted to be as far away from the military when he finally got out. She however thought it unwise to go cold turkey after twenty years. So they ended up moving into a notorious ex-military suburb where many of his best friends now lived. She was the love of his life, the one who always knew how to bring him back from the darkness, from the memories of what he had done.

Turning the 5/8th wrench he was pulled from the daydream. In a flash, every element of his ruthless training came back – danger was incoming. The smell always preceded them, the hunters. Before the tap of their boots or the sarcastic tone of their voice. Cedric knew who was standing at his vulnerable feet before a word was spoken. ‘If you talk out of line,’ Cedric said, ‘you will be held to account. That’s always been my rule and you know that. I’ve served my country, now I serve my God, freely. I can send you to the Creator in one move General.’ There was a deep baritone laugh that responded after a few impromptu claps.  ‘When the boys told me you were turning wrenches under shitty old cars and trucks and pumping gas for $32 k a year I had to see it with my own fucking eyes Trig.’ Cedric threw his wrench to the side and squeezed his stomach tight while pushing back on his heels. At the same time his right shin swung out, knocking the man to the ground.

‘Don’t call me Trigger here Denver. I am unlisted, I am inactive, and I am uncommunicative thanks to a Presidential Order remember? You can’t call me back, even if there is a nuclear war or some end of days economic collapse, which, because of you, looks kinda of imminent. I served faithfully; no matter the cost, no matter the order with total loyalty sir. Just let my life be.’ The bald man stayed seated on the garage floor, almost amused while motioning over his shoulder to 3 black suburbans strategically surrounding St. Davids Automotive that he was ok… and, to say back. He was wearing a black overcoat, black suit, white shirt, and black tie – U.S. Navy. ‘You know Cedric, five years ago you couldn’t have pulled that stunt on me. Then again,’ the older man spoke as he pushed off his right hand to get up, ‘maybe I should become a new client of that Fabian fellow, what do they call it? Pangea? The ultimate in human enhancement right?’ Cedric was shaking his head and offered the man his hand. ‘You know the rules General; you know that after me the program stopped. We were too successful, too much of a decisive tool in the hands of politicians with no ethics what so ever. Just look how decisions are made now – basically by PR firms gauging social media feeds, fucking twitter is the new command centre. I’m glad, for one, the program was shut down and I am the last beast you made.” He pulled the general’s hand closer, so they were inches away, “No more. I’ve paid my debt. No more fucking blood. I’m going to spend the rest of my life repenting for what I did… and fixing these old tin cans.”

Brushing off the back of his coat, the General said, ‘you see Cedric, that’s where you are all wrong.’ Cedric had gone to his main tool box which was on wheels, to put away the wrench he was using. Everything was clear, orderly, and regimented; more akin to an operating room than a small town garage. A client could have eaten his lunch off the floor. Cedric did not react to the five-star general, Denver McCallum’s comment. He had prepared himself for this day, when they would come and get him, to force him back to “mission active,” to the hell he had helped create. Cedric had always known there were more top-level operators like him, specialists with a deadly secret. He also ashamedly recalled that his blood lust for over a decade was legendary, that of near folklore / cultish appeal both here and in the Muslim world. His “top story,” as it was known in the highest of covert circles, was so pristine there had not been a breech in 20 years. All of that however, was being jeopardized  by the General’s appearance here. Every passing public minute increased the risk for Cedric, and his family. He couldn’t afford that now, not after so much angst to finally get here.

Over the past two decades, there was no public record or mention of the fact that Cedric was indeed an expert in Islam, fluent in International Arabic with a PhD in early mosque architecture and the first two hundred years of the religion’s meteoric domination. This education was critical if he were to truly infiltrate the hearts, and minds, of the enemy.  Bombs and bloodshed would only go so far, it needed to be married to a far more sinister program – Operation Timber Wolf. 

In truth, in his own heart, he had only ever let two men know the depth of how far he went, at times almost considering converting to the religion he was tasked to undermine and at the centre of his savagery.

“Remember Cedric,” the general said as he walked over to his tools, “I know your darkest secrets – all of them. Including that other wife of yours, what was Fatima? You know, the one you left back in Jordan. Do you think Cynthia or the kids would like to know about that?” Cedric did not react as the General had hoped; emotionally. He was trained far better than that and knew the General was testing him, so see if he had grown soft. That would covet more attention than he could afford. He observed the three, heavily armed tactical teams now approaching, surrounding his little slice of salvation – work and the American dream. He also knew that General McCallum, although one of the two who knew his truth, did not have the most recent, pure and hive-intelligence generated picture. The general for that matter, Cedric thought, was probably completely unaware of the imminent invasion sailing toward England… and the west coast. He and his old savage troupe has vowed to stay out of the coming war they, and their brutal actions help make inevitable. Now was the time for everyday, blue collar heroes to rise up, not for those like Cedric who were built to win.

Mauler, Dawson, Royce, and even fucking Drabek, his true and ruthless Scottish brother were probably dead at this point, similarly hunted by their former commander. A thought rushed in on Cedric, almost like a deep growl; 24 hours, a 24 hour mission to vindicate his brothers in arms… but the deck was stacked to high, as he thought it would be. So he thought of Cynthia, the kids, and reflected on Matthew 5.6, “Do you want to get healed?” …. Jesus at the healing pools of Bethesda. How he longed to be healed, released from the beast within.

Cedric’s thumb was on a button, a red button rigged with enough explosives to ignite the entire fucking place, sending him and the hunters straight to hades. He knew they would one day come and had hoped to escape, take the family farther north, but he was ok ending it here and now. Then he heard it. ‘If you push that button I’m going to have to kill them all, even the new ones inside, what are they twins?’ Cedric turned around, looking squarely in the eyes of his former commanding officer, ‘you wouldn’t dare do that to me. You, of all people know what I am capable of Denver.’ He could feel his teeth chewing together, a feeling from the past, from decades of blood, a feeling that first woke his brutality when he was just fourteen, at the moment he took his first life.’

‘Look over there Trig, at the third Suburban. Now, I’ve told them you have been nominated for a Presidential Medal of Honor and we’re putting you up for a week in DC. I also told your wife there is a $100,000 deposit, EFT to your savings account. She knows you guys need the money. Naturally the kids are ecstatic about going to Disney World first while you finish our special operation that is already in motion.’ Cedric just shook his head. He did not want to go back, to murder, the lies, the blasphemy. He had killed and tortured so many so many of the believers, spilled their blood in too many ways, transitioned his terror to the Russians over that last, unparalleled mission in Moscow. These thoughts were stopped dead by what the general said next. ‘I need you to save someone, an imperative target, one the world cannot afford to loose. He is being hunted by the remains of who you put down in Syria. You must complete what we started and find this objective… Tes.

Save someone? How the fuck is that even possible, they were the most legendary grim reapers the military had, built to destroy, not save. “I know how important family is to you Cedric, so all I’m going to say is that this target shares the very same blood bumping in those veins.” Cedric’s mind raced relentlessly as his former self began climbing his spine, taking over all operating systems, like a powering up battle ship. He had always longed for someone who could actually understand his mind, his body, and his way. Maybe this was it? ‘You give me your word that they will be protected McCallum? And if I do not return the same deal is in place? $20 million to each of them correct?’ With the General’s nod, Cedric turned to him and nodded back. The men did not shake.

The three black Suburban’s immediately raced off after a simple signal that was sent by the tall elderly general in the garage bay. Reaching into his inside pocket, he presented small images of five men. ‘In ten hours you will cross into Iran. I want these five alive, but ready to talk. Anyone else is blood to the sea son. Let them know you have returned and those the soul’s of the enemy will tremble. All resources are open to you. We are expecting a lot of movement in Syria and Ukraine over the next four hours so please be prepared for updates.’

Cedric just stood there, looking over the hood of the British racing green MGTD and his parked Land Rover that was too much fun to drive. He saw the poster on the wall of a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III, 1965, and just shook his head. ‘Dreams will have to wait while I create some more nightmares.’