Control the Center

by Riley Cannon

~Control the Center~

"You think we should pool our resources?" Beecher said, sounding pretty skeptical of the proposal.

"Why not?" O'Reily replied, smooth as silk. "It's worked like a charm before, and we both get what we want: Keller dead."

"No. Look, yes, I want that cunt to pay for fucking me over, but--"

"Huh," you could hear the knowing smirk in O'Reily's voice, "guess it is true: once a prag, always--"

"I'm nobody's prag, O'Reily," Beecher fired right back, angry. "I just don't want more trouble. I want out of here. That cunt turns up dead, who do you think they're going to suspect? No, I can't risk it."

"And I'm not saying we whack him for all the world to see, Beecher." O'Reily sounded annoyed, like he was explaining it to a backward 3-year-old - or his brother. "We finesse it, make it look like an accident and nothing comes back to us. Play it right, we could even make it look like Schillinger did it," O'Reily went on, an even more sly note creeping into his voice.

Beecher cackled at that. "Take out two cunts for the price of one?"

"See, sounds good, right?"

"I don't know." Beecher still didn't sound convinced. "I need to think about it. What's your stake in this anyway? Thought you and Keller were butt buddies."

"Things change, Beecher - and it's nothing personal," O'Reily said with a casually cold-blooded tone. "K-boy knows too much about me, that's all. If he thinks it might make his situation a little cushier, he'd sell me out in a heartbeat." The smirk was back in his voice as he added, "I know this `cause I'd do the same."

"You really think he'd snitch?"

"Done it before, hasn't he?"

There was a long pause before Beecher replied, like he was thinking something over. "I could drop a dime on you too."

"I guess you could. Maybe you want to watch your step as well."

"Fuck you."

"Nah, pass."

Another second and Schillinger knew they were going to spot him, eavesdropping on their plot. Before that could happen, he pushed his mail cart on along, ideas tumbling around in his head, all of them making him smile.

As he waited in the cafeteria line, Keller thought about what Schillinger had told him, leaning against his bunk and reminding him who his real friends were, who had always come through for him, all the way back to Lardner. There hadn't been an outright suggestion of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," but the implication was strong.

He got up to O'Reily, fumbled his tray just a bit as the Irishman plopped a ladle of mashed potatoes down, and then made his way over to sit with the Aryans.

O'Reily unfolded the note Keller had passed him, read the brief message - "Schillinger swallowed it. Hook, line, and sinker." - and flashed Beecher a thumb's up sign.

Operation Vern was check and go.

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