Brother, Unseen

I’m bending the rules of the Brotherhood just entering the Museum of Recent History, but I must pay my respects. Whoever invented this—presenting history barely a few weeks old in a museum—must be delighted. A fresh tragedy means something new to put on display and charge for.

The queue moves slowly as if hinting I can still turn back. When my turn comes, I slide a crumpled note over the counter and grab my sticker. I peel off the back and place it on the collar of my shirt—grey and unremarkable in every way, just like me. The First Tenet: To be unseen, a Brother must hide in plain sight.

No one will recognise me or even know I was here, and it’s a blessing since the force that pulled me here is guilt.

I trail an older couple into the exhibition hall. Tourists. The woman’s faded eyes fill with sparks of awe. She bites her lip, attempting to hide her inappropriate excitement. The man’s fingers curve around his camera bag. For them, there are no nightmares here, only a personal rush. I pass the couple so I can begin at the end. It’s safer that way in case I want to make an early exit.

Everywhere around me lies familiar memorabilia in all its macabre glory: bits and pieces from aboard the MS Peregrine where a simple assassination at a birthday party escalated into a massacre. Extravagant ball gowns and black suits stand suspended on pedestals, the only bodies inside them ghosts. Their glass displays bear a striking resemblance to glass coffins. Around each hole in the expensive fabric, I spot copious amounts of dried blood.

A sign has been attached to each display, and one by one, I make acquaintance with a laminated face and a name to go with it. Their faces, joyful like this, are foreign to me. Aboard the ship, everyone wore fancy party masks, but even when I examine the lips, the chins, the dimples, they all look the same. Anonymous like me.

All but one. Aleksandr Callis, the intended target. He was infected, and there’s no disease more devastating than global greed. The brotherhood had no choice but to stop him.

The events of the night still play in my mind. I served drinks, pacing to the live orchestrated music. The guests danced and whirled while Aleksandr sat watching, flanked by his bodyguards. Against instructions, Brother August took the shot in the open, drawing attention. I neutralised one of the guards before my tray of champagne flutes touched the floor. After that, general panic hit the room, and the guests got caught in the crossfire.

Seventeen people died that night. The Brotherhood is responsible, no matter whose bullets they were.

I take a deep breath and push back the red hot blanket of anger and regret. I remind myself why I’m here. Staring into the bright eyes of Aleksandr’s younger self, I say a silent prayer for each victim, each interrupted life. I save the last prayer for Aleksandr. The Second Tenet: To honour life, a Brother must respect every life, even those he takes.

I start toward the exit, threading past the exhibits—chairs, life jackets, ship railings—anything that could be pried loose has been brought here for show. It wouldn’t surprise me if the bullets carved out from the flesh of the victims are on display, too.

My mind drifts to an unmarked grave and a man in it. No sign of him here; the brotherhood made sure of it. May Brother August rest in peace.

A group of people dressed in black flow into the exhibition hall, their faces ghostly pale. I recognise their masks of grief.

These are the families of the victims and a few of them walk with crutches, survivors themselves. I keep my head low and feign interest in a fruit bowl that sits on a marble stand. How could these people have any desire to be here, to witness this farce?

I give them quick glances, waiting for them to pass. My gaze locks onto a man lingering behind them. I know him. What business does another Brother have here? The crowd moves forward, exposing him. He’s not with them, only pretending. A trick I once taught him, but I can’t believe how far he’s pushing it. And to what end?

I edge closer. A piece of the ship’s hardwood panelling, adorned with bullet holes and propped up in the middle of the room, separates us. He cocks his head, focused on the exhibits. His every feature is confident, unfettered. I see no honour, no remorse.

He smiles.

Fortunately for him, I’m not carrying a weapon or I would be tempted to break every rule to enforce just one. The Third Tenet: To reform the Brotherhood, a Brother must strike like a serpent, even at his own Brother. Not the last of the tenets, but it will be for him.

I drop the sticker into a trash bin on my way out. He won’t see it coming. I was never here.