Editor’s note: This column is part of a fictional weekly serial.
Nothing had gone the way Edgar had planned, which in his experience was rather par for the course when one was dealing with hotheaded criminals and international intrigue, but it was still an enormous disappointment. He had to accept that some of it was his own fault; he had certainly let it all go on too long, given them too many liberties when he should have reasserted some subtle semblance of control over the proceedings. Instead, he had let his granddaughter research a little too deeply, even stirring up the interest of the national security services; he had let his own daughter kidnap and threaten him, all to see how far they would take it and what they would do.
He had invited them here on the pretense of straightening out his affairs at the end of his life in order to groom a successor. His daughter knew the business, but his granddaughter’s lack of exposure to the syndicate could itself have been an asset. Ultimately, though, they had both failed him. Alicia had gone deeper into a persona of violence and chaos than he had ever experienced, even when he had run the criminal underworld. And Cecilia proved too innocuous: intuitive and talented, to be sure, with a streak of defiance which could have served them well, but entirely devoid of the weaknesses he would normally have manipulated to bring her into the business.
So this was where it would end, the three of them in a darkened laboratory, soldiers with automatic weapons on the other side of the door. In this moment he had finally taken control of the situation, mixing a toxic combination of compounds that would kill them all if he released it. Alicia had released Cecilia and they both watched him warily from the far side of the room. He retrieved the volatile biological samples, the cause of all this fuss, from the locked freezer. They had not changed the keycode in the 30 years since he had programmed it — they probably had not known how, he thought with grim satisfaction.
There was really no way out of this, as he saw it. The samples could not go to Alicia’s people or there would be biological warfare. Nor could they land in the government’s possession: Alicia’s assertion that the government or its corporate allies would manipulate medicine prices for personal gain was spot-on.
Then Edgar looked at Cecilia and realized that he could leave her still believing he was a mad old man, that there was a way to keep her refreshing acceptance of the world intact while destroying the samples. It wasn’t the ending he would have chosen for himself, but there was a certain idiotic poetry to it, really.
So he uncapped the test tubes, gave them a swirl as if they held a martini instead of almost-instant death and drank them in one swallow, exiting on his own terms.