When the folks at Mulholland Books asked me to write an article to introduce their anthology of mysteries titled VENGEANCE, I passed. It’s a subject I’m uniquely qualified to discuss, but I didn’t want to attract attention to myself. I cherish my anonymity, my ability to listen to the conversation beside me, or blend in among the crowd at a sporting event. I value my invisibility because you know me. You’ve seen me in countless films: the Boston crime saga, the British spy flick, the one about the lawyer who developed a conscience. I’m the finest character actor in the world, known for immersing myself in my roles such that no one ever recognizes me on the street.
Ultimately I changed my mind because I have a story to tell. I once met an actor before an audition. Back then he was starting out, but today he’s one of Hollywood’s leading men. We worked together on one of his action movies. Here’s a hint: the assignment he’s given? It’s not an easy one. Let’s call him Ted. From the moment Ted arrived in Hollywood, he was cocky and ruthless. At the audition, he told me a friend of his – we’ll call him Jimmy – had beaten him out for a part last year. It turned out to be a great role. Jimmy was coming to the audition today, too. When Ted told me he was dying to avenge his loss, I suggested he dent the casting director’s Audi and tell her assistant Jimmy did it.
It worked. The casting director wouldn’t even let Jimmy read for the part. But after the audition, Ted discovered a gash on his Porsche. Ted knew Jimmy had done it. He also knew where Jimmy lived. I reminded Ted that if he didn’t respond, he’d be a punk for the rest of his life. I urged him to drive to Jimmy’s house and show him who was boss.
When we got there, Ted knocked on the door and Jimmy let him in. They argued. When they got to the living room, four guys were waiting for Ted. They beat him to a pulp. You think Ted’s nose job was driven by vanity? Think again.
“I knew you cost me this audition,” Jimmy said, “and I knew you’d come running if I scratched your baby. Looks like we both got even.”
Shock registered on Ted’s face when I stepped out from behind Jimmy and put my arm around him. I’d helped Ted square things with Jimmy, but I’d also helped Jimmy settle the ensuing score with Ted. I can do that. I can be in an infinite number of places at the same time. And that’s why it was so important for you to read this story.
You know me. You speak to me when a driver cuts you off. You cry for me when a classmate bullies your child. You yearn for my help when your spouse cheats on you.
I’m here for you. My name is Vengeance. Give me a chance and I’ll set things right.
All it’ll cost is your soul.
Check out Orest Stelmach’s story “In Persona Christi” in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, now available in bookstores everywhere.
Orest Stelmach is the author of the thriller The Boy from Reactor 4, the first in a series featuring Nadia Tesla, and the historical mystery Lady in the Dunes, the first in aseries set in 1950 Provincetown featuring Father Sean Kale. A Connecticut native, he went to kindergarten speaking only Ukranian. He still tries to use as few words as possible. Orest and his wife divide their times between Connecticut and Cape Cod. Visit him at www.oreststelmach.com.