“Hi, my name is Stan. Most of you know that already, but we do have a new guest among us this evening. So, we might as well get this meeting underway.”
Stan spoke at a podium in front of a small crowd. This was one of numerous meetings the group has had in this rented conference room.
“Sometimes all you need is just a little support. That little nudge from someone who knows what you’ve been going through. This idea has helped form many different kinds of support groups.” Stan added extra emphasis on the word “support” as he spoke with a steady and deliberate flow. “These groups come in various forms of AA type meetings that deal with anything from alcohol abuse, to being addicted to hard drugs.”
He scanned through the blank stares of the crowd. Nearly everyone in attendance had heard the same speech many times before—with the exception of one fresh face sitting in the front row.
“This brings us to where we are now. Our own little secret group that helps us keep our urges in check.” This time he focused on the word “urges,” drawing it out to get his point across. “We all know why we’re here and what it is that we fight so hard against. All of us here have,” Stan paused a moment and scanned the crowd again, searching with a suspicious eye before he continued, “killed.” The word cut through the air like a knife. “We all have had our reasons for giving into such urges, but the one thing we all have in common is that we must stop—and do everything in our power to keep it that way.”
Stan hammered his fist onto the flimsy podium and was met with a light smattering of applause. Then he fixed his eyes on the man in the front row, seemingly directing his next words straight at him.
“There are many different reasons for why we’re here. Some might be a little more wicked than others,” the word wicked lingered on his tongue a bit too long, “but we are not here to judge,” he added to sooth its sting. “The main thing is that we all have decided to change for the better.”
As he got into the next part, he took on a more warm, fatherly tone. A welcoming tone to guide the lost to him like a lighthouse guiding sea-battered ships to the safety of shore.
“Due to the strength of this tight-knit community, we strive toward and are succeeding at becoming better people. We started as few and have grown to many. It’s our job to continue the tradition of helping those who need to put their dark past behind them.”
As he finished the often recited speech, the atmosphere in the room shifted to that of anticipation.
“With that in mind, I would like to introduce the group to our newest member. Everyone, say hi to Joe.”
“Hi Joe,” the crowd said in unison.
“Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you’re here tonight, Joe,” Stan said, waving the newcomer up to the podium.
“Oh… Well,” Joe stumbled over his words for a moment but managed to quickly collect himself, “I guess you could say I’m here for the same reason all of you are. I got into a bit of trouble with what I like to call, ‘my hobby.’ Then, after my last outing, I almost got caught. Right after that, a dear friend of mine told me about this place and how it could help me quit my dirty little ‘hobby.'”
An unnatural grin crept across Joe’s face as he stopped talking and stared into the silent crowd.
“Thank you for sharing, Joe. At this point we normally move on to what things might set us off—”
“Sorry, Stan, I don’t mean to be rude, but I wasn’t quite done,” Joe interjected.
Stan was a bit taken back but rebounded without skipping a beat. “It’s no problem at all. Please continue,” he replied in a polite tone.
“What I wanted to say is, I don’t quite share the same point of view with my recently departed friend. Did I forget to mention that bit of information before?” Joe’s eyes sparkled at the mention of his friend. “Well, let’s just say after my buddy gave me the info on this little gathering, he was, most unfortunately, involved in a fatal car accident.”
“We’re sorry to hear about your friend’s passing, Joe,” Stan said in a calm manner. But inside he was bubbling with turmoil. There was something unsettling in the way their newest member spoke of his dead friend.
“Some might be a little more wicked than others,”
“Thanks. But that’s not what’s important here. What’s important is that I was able to find you guys. See, once I heard the rumors of these little ‘get-togethers,’ I knew I just had to see it to believe it.” His smile faded from his face and he took on an unusually solemn expression. “I also knew I would do whatever it took to get here.”
While his face and posture remained stoic and calm, his knuckles began turning white from how hard his fingers were squeezing the sides of the podium.
“If you’re wondering why that is, it’s not to get this so-called ‘help’ that you seem to love babbling on about.” The sparkles in his eyes were no more. They had turned into flames of rage. “You could say my reasons are a bit more,” he searched for the right word before landing on, “devious.”
With a sudden clank that brought the sleepy crowd to attention, Joe had pulled out two unseen hunks of metal from the inside of his long coat.
“You see, once I found out, I knew I had to put a stop to this charade, no matter what. Which, unfortunately for the rest of you in this room, means you will not make it out of here alive.”
The wicked smile returned to his face. Then the lights went out.
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