One group stands alone against an army of demons created by dark mages to wipe out the planet. And the story begins...
 
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 The Phantoms of Tragedy

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Romanticide
New Kid
New Kid


Posts : 43
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Join date : 2009-05-17

PostSubject: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:53 am

Written by Romanticide and The Wolf Tamer
______________________________________
Chapter One:

Roses For The Enemy

“I don’t assign luck to the things I own, I assign value.” He said slowly, picking up a cloth that had been stuffed in his pocket, “My wife said this was her lucky handkerchief, and told me to keep it. But I didn’t keep it because I thought it was going to keep me out of danger, I kept it because the Aphrodite of our time bestowed it upon me.”

Harold Barnes lifted the handkerchief into the air, turning it over in the light. He stared at the crisp lines defining the starched cloth, and at the small daisies stitched on the corners of the napkin. He smiled, folding it and stuffing it in his breast pocket.

Harold sat at a large round table filled with various laughing men and women. To his right was a radiant woman with long blond curls cascading down to her shoulders. Her ruby colored lips shined in the light, standing out against her bright teeth and porcelain skin. The lines of her mouth expanded and retracted smoothly as she spoke to a young man by the name of Hank Benson. Her voice was the loudest of all, to Harold, as if each of the other voices were not worthy of resonating louder than her own. Harold gazed at his beautiful wife and smiled; proud of being the man Dagny had chosen to marry.

To his right was a young man silently listening to a woman with long, flat brown hair and big blue eyes. James listened to the attractive woman, Gertrude, politely, but obviously uninterested. He picked up a glass full of wine and sipped it carefully, his eyes wandering around the room. Gertrude was talking so much she hardly noticed that he had stopped looking her in the eyes. Harold smiled; proud of being the best friend of a man who listened to the speaker even when he had heard her tell the story two nights ago, at a party she hosted.

Harold looked around at the rest of the table, one arm around his wife, the other holding a glass of red wine. Nobody had paid attention to him long, but all showed respect for him in their own special ways. Most had finished eating, but a few self-conscious women were still picking at their half-finished plates. A group of men had begun a conversation about sports, and were intensely debating the horse race that had taken place the day before. A group of giggling women talked about their husbands and children; it almost seemed, to Harold, that some women were trying to supplicate other women through their stories. Harold smiled; he was proud to be the father of this ‘family’.

Harold was hosting a dinner party for the daughter of one of his clients, Betsy; she had just turned eighteen. The main event had taken place hours ago, but the family was now settling down, eating at an old diner downtown. The place was decorated with cheap pictures and shabby curtains, but the food was worth the trip. The diner was owned by one of Harold’s clients, the Machiavelli’s, and was his favorite place to dine. Some scorned him for frequently dining at a restaurant located in the slums of the town, but Harold ignored their mockery, knowing the food ten times more expensive tasted ten times worse than what had been on the plate before him an hour ago. Harold was a man who believed in quality rather than cost. He didn’t hold the price of any item close to his heart, so long as it was sufficient to his wants or needs.

Above Harold was a picture of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Two valances were beside them, and an outdated light fixture hung from the ceiling in the center of the table. Across the room was a clock, ticking constantly. The hour hand was approaching eleven, which meant that the diner would be closing soon. As the time wore on people began to leave; first the parents went, then the young couples, then the old couples, then the suck-ups, then the close friends, and then Harold and Dagny.
Harold walked his tired wife to his car. He put his arm around her shoulder, and she rested her head on his chest, smiling gaily. Harold opened the door for her, waited for her to be seated, and gently shut it. He walked around the front of the car, his hand sliding against the smooth metal. He closed his eyes, smelling the cool air of the night. By the time he had started the car, feeling the soft vibrations emitted from the motor, Dagny had fallen asleep. Harold gripped the steering wheel tightly, driving his car with expertise.

He lived on the other side of town, in a large, ancient mansion in the hills, located on the side of a mountain in obscurity. When he parked his car in front of the steps to his house the valet opened the door for him. Harold nodded and tipped the young boy, walking to the other side to pick up his sleeping wife. He turned around, cradling her limp body in his strong arms and stood before his steps. He gazed at the tall white pillars standing as sentinels at the top of the steps to his door. There were small carvings of angels on the molding of the roof, and vines crawling up the walls of the house. Tall, broad windows stood on either side of the large oak door. Harold smiled; proud of the house he owned.

Harold carried his wife up the stairs to his house. He stopped before the door, examining the workmanship. It was a gift from James, who had an excellent taste in art. There were carvings in the thick wood: of men, women, and children. It was a picture depicting Harold’s family; a picture that showed the children playing; the women chatting, some with sly looks on their faces; the men dealing with each other. There were three different groups of men. The first group was a skinny, sniveling bunch that were hunched, with shady looks on their faces. They were dealing in secret, scurrying about nervously. The second group was a moderately dressed group holding suitcases. They were the middlemen: the men who collected money and reported snitches, cheaters, and liars. The last group was full of exquisitely dressed men with top hats, suitcases, and grim looks. They drove rich cars and attended lavish dinner parties. Each man carried a gun, some were shooting at other men, and others were simply waiting for orders. These were the men who handled big transactions, protected the father, and took care of the scum. And then there was Harold, the man who had it all; who ran the business and stood bravely, against the hardships, the moneygrubbers, and in the midst of battles.
Harold put his hand on the door, acknowledging his gift. Then he pressed his hand against the cold steel and pushed it open. He carried Dagny up the grand stairway and down the hall. He set her down upon their bed and kissed her forehead. She smiled, opening her eyes long enough to thank him. Before going to sleep beside her, Harold walked down his hallway to check on the rest of his family. He had three small children: two girls and one boy. He smiled; proud of the family he created.

The next morning Harold woke to the sound of birds chirping, and wind blowing outside his window. He could smell breakfast cooking downstairs. He turned over in his bed, smiling at the sight of Dagny, who was still sleeping as quietly and as innocently as a baby. He outstretched his left hand and twisted her hair around his finger. Dagny did not wake; she often slept long and hard. Harold stared at her motionless body for a few more moments before turning and leaving the room.

He opened the door to the hallway, stepping out slowly. Two small girls ran past him, their blonde hair flying in the air behind them. Harold could hear his son singing happily in the shower. He chuckled to himself, heading towards the stairs. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, Harold turned left and exited the great hall. He walked through a small breakfast nook and into the kitchen. Sitting at the breakfast bar was a man who frequently visited the house for business. They nodded to each other, two plates of food being set down before them.

“Mornin’ Harry!” said the man.

“What brings you here, Hank?” asked Harold, taking a bite of a biscuit.

“Ah nothin’ much. Just a few papers for you to sign is all.” He answered, setting a suitcase on the counter.

Harold waited patiently as Hank opened the suitcase and shuffled through his papers. He pulled out three pieces of paper with the words “Property Claim” on the top margin on each of them. He handed the papers to Harold a bit too rushed, and quickly began to explain what they were.

“There’s no need to read any of em’, sir. All they is, is papers that tell the people you own the Adams’s Family Tire Shop. Got em’ from the owner this mornin’, sir. He says you can own the place if you want it, so long as you don’t make him pay you at exponential rates!” chuckled Hank.

“The Adams? I don’t want to own that place.” Said Harold, handing the papers back to Hank.

Hank was frozen for a few seconds, trying to understand why his offer had been rejected. He looked at the papers, and then at Harold, who had continued eating silently. Then he pushed them back at Harold, who set his fork down and looked up at Hank, not attempting to take the papers.

“But, but they’s a good business, sir. I checked em’ out and everything. They got good service, good tires, and decent prices.”

“I said I don’t want to buy their property.” He replied sternly.

“Why?” he asked.

“The Adams have no clue about how to hold their money. I saw Frank at the casino a few nights ago. He burned a hole right through his pockets, all for a heap of chips. Mrs. Adams, I have been told, steals from her husband’s bank account to pay for entertainment from strangers.”

“But their business is flourishing! Surely you can put aside their personal lives long enough to invest?’

“No, I can not.” Replied Harold.

“Why?”

“Because their personal life is their commercial life, as far as I’m concerned.” He answered sternly.

Hank frowned and put the papers back in his suitcase without another word. He slid off of his barstool and put his hand in his pocket. He and Harold nodded at each other before he departed with a quick thank you. Harold continued eating his breakfast slowly. He had just finished when his two girls skipped in to the room. Harold gathered them in his arms and kissed both of their cheeks before setting them back down.

“Anna, Lillian, Ms. Dove has prepared a nice breakfast for the both of you. Why don’t you go thank her and enjoy your meal?” he asked, patting their backs.

“Are you going to work again daddy?” asked Anna.

“Yes, sweetie, I’m going to work again. And one day you’ll understand why I have to put a lot of energy into it, and for so long.” He answered, “One day it will all be clear to you. But for now, go eat your breakfast.”
Anna smiled and ran to the breakfast bar, where her plate was sitting. Lillian looked up at her father curiously and asked, “Are you going to

bring me another present like last time?”

“Of course, dear.” Harold kissed her forehead and turned around. He picked up his car keys and strode out of his house complacently.

* *

The skies were clear, broad sheets of blue stretched across it like a canvas. A vast blue ocean expanded into mystery. A taut young man stood with his back towards the scene, letting the rays come down upon him. Lines of bitterness and contempt remained safe in the shadows of his fedora. The hot sun created beads of sweat on the man’s strong arms, as he leaned back against a steel rail; the rail was the only thing keeping him from falling to a painful death to the shallow waters below. The man wore a brown trench coat with long coattails. Underneath it he wore a white muscle shirt and blue pants. His long legs were straight, one leg over the other. His name was Trigu, and he worked for Harold.

His hands gripped the rail tightly as he leaned backwards, and stared at the door that led to the roof from a staircase. Trigu was waiting for somebody. In the meantime, he thought of his boss. Harold Barnes was a revered man who valued quality over expense. Trigu was a distant cousin of Harold’s, who had managed to get a job chauffeuring men and delivering packages. He yearned to get promoted, so he could get his hands dirty and be trusted with more responsibility. But because he didn’t emit as much energy or enthusiasm in his work like others beneath Harold, he doubted even consideration for a better job.

Before Trigu could delve deeper into his thoughts, a steel door before him creaked open. A man wearing an expensive suit stepped in. The suit was long and crisp; it drew the eyes of many women and, on some occasions, men (:p). The man carried a large leather briefcase that Trigu knew contained many mysteries. Two combination locks on each side of the briefcase held each mystery captive. He studied the briefcase for a few moments and then turned back to the man before him; something about him demanded attention.

He stopped in front of Trigu and said, “Even on a hot day, Trigu, you still wear that heavy coat...”

Trigu ignored the subtle jab at his sensibility. He stood up and asked, “What’s this one.”

“Oh, right. Straight to business, as usual.” The man sighed, “Not very important, just a small money shipment from Lu’s business. Anyways, take it straight to Jonathan. He’ll bring it over to Harold.” Then the man held the briefcase out for Trigu.

“Thanks.” Trigu said, accepting the offer and beginning to walk away, “Oh, and Marty, nobody’s ever going to take you seriously with that ridiculous hairstyle.” Then he closed the door. Marty touched his curly hair; it sticking upward in some places, wondering what he had done to get this verbal lashing.

Trigu walked down the iron staircase, going in what appeared to be circles. He passed four doors. At the fifth door he touched the handle and pushed it open. Then, stepping out into a small hall, he walked out of a side door. This took him out into a back alley crammed between two buildings. The alley was short, but Trigu didn’t seem to notice. He simply turned to his right and walked out into the streets. He shuffled passed many people and stopped at the corner of a street, waving his free hand in the air. A yellow taxicab quickly screeched to a halt before him. He smiled, opening the door and crawling in. He turned to the driver and said, “33421 Molley Drive.”

The driver responded by accelerating the vehicle toward said location. They passed by many grungy buildings with dilapidating walls of brick and stone. He looked at these buildings contently. However, slowly, they began to look nicer and more civilized. He was now entering the luxurious side of town. With a smile on his face he said, “Take a right here.”
“But-” The driver began.

“It’s a shortcut!” Trigu interjected with malice, angry at being talked back to.

“Alright.” The driver sighed, turning into a neighborhood. The neighborhood was nice, lined with big, white houses that had good foundations. Their green lawns were kept neat, for the most part, and their gardens tended to. Trigu enjoyed seeing the cleanliness of this quiet, suburban neighborhood. Then, after a couple more turns, they came to Molley Drive. He smiled at the sight of his destination: house 33421.
“Thank you, sir. Wait for me here.” He said, handing the driver a couple of dollar bills. He exited the vehicle and began to walk up the front drive of Jonathan’s house. He stepped up the stairs, one hand in his pocket, and stopped before the door. He rapped the door a few times and waited patiently. There were five seconds of silence. Then he heard the shades of the second story flip open, and close soon after. He heard footsteps behind the safety of the door, and the door unlock. The door slid open and a man with slick black hair popped his head out in inquiry. He stared at the man before him silently, studying his face.

“Good afternoon, Jonathan.” Said Trigu invitingly.
“Yes?” he asked impolitely.

“Delivery.” Trigu said, slightly agitated.

The man looked at him blankly, and said, “What delivery?”
“Lu’s.”

“Oh, oh right. Sorry, let me see it.”

Trigu shoved the briefcase through the door and said, “This is it.”

Jonathan reached a strong, muscular arm out and grabbed the handle of the suitcase. He looked up at Trigu and said, “Come on in.” Trigu thought for a moment and then, reluctantly, he took the offer.
His feet gently displayed themselves consecutively along the tile floors of the house. It was perfectly clean: probably due to his wife and kids, since Jonathan was kind of a slouch. There wasn’t a single thing lying on the floor, and the tile seemed to be freshly mopped and waxed. There was a vacuumed carpet that led out into a small living room. The living room had a couch that sat staring at two comfortable chairs with side tables next to each of the arms. Between the seating arrangement was a large fireplace with a plane white mantle hanging above it. A fire cackled loudly as the tips danced inside of the brick cell, occasionally trying to lick the outside world with its hot flames.

Jonathan was wearing striped boxers with no shirt on. He yawned, stretching his arms out. He was a tall, broad shouldered man with pale skin and bright blue eyes. He plopped down onto the couch, sinking into their soft cushions. The leather rubbed against his skin, squeaking loudly. Trigu felt repulsed, and angry. How could he be such a slob in such a nice environment? –He thought. “Could have at least graced me with pants and a shirt…” Trigu muttered, checking to make sure no dirt was on his shoes before making a trek across the carpet, around the side table, and into a chair. He rested his left foot on his right knee and sat up straight.

“A man shouldn’t feel obligated to be dressed in his own sanctuary.” Jonathan replied spitefully. “Anyways, how it was going on the home front.”
“Everything is normal. No wife, no kids, no troubles.” Trigu said, looking at the fire. “You didn’t drag me in here to pressure me to find a wife again, did you?”

Jonathan laughed, “I was always told to soften people up with small talk before we get to the business. Guess I should have learned not to do that with you by now. I’ll cut to the chase. Mr. Barnes is having a ballroom party at six, and you might be interested in going. You’ll have a chance to get to know him. Bring a nice outfit too.” He said.

“Why would you think that I’d want to get to know him so much?” Trigu said with a scoff, “And why are you helping me?”

“I consider us friends…and I know you want to move up in position. However, you don’t exactly have the work ethic to do that, so maybe if you chat him up and get on his good side-”

Trigu slammed his right hand down on the armchair, “Do you take me for a petty person who doesn’t earn what he’s got?” His face was turning red. The flames in the fireplace rose a few inches in response to his anger.

Jonathan put his hands up, “Whoa man, calm down, I didn’t mean it like that. Just go to the party, it might serve you well. Here’s an invitation. Me and Marty will be going too.”

After contemplating the offer for a few moments, Trigu grabbed the invitation and said, “Alright, I’ll go.” He then sighed and walked away, just wanting to escape the house and calm down.

He slammed the door in his exit, still a bit fumed. Trigu stepped up to the yellow cab and opened the door. As he slid into the back seat he flipped open the invitation. After reviewing it he decided that he’d need to hurry if he was going to make it to this party and, after looking at his outfit, he concluded that he’d need to stop by a shop first. “To the closest Tuxedo rental around, please.” He told the driver. The driver nodded.

Trigu sat back and stared at the ceiling of the vehicle, tuning the world out for a moment. He knew that if he would ever get the chance to get promoted, he’d have to prove himself. Not to other people, but to Harold Barnes directly. So how would he go about doing this? There were two ways. He’d have to show that he was a respectful and responsible man. However, he needed a way to prove that he could get the job done too. No matter what job it was. So how would he go about doing that? Suddenly the car stopped and the driver said, “You go in and pick up your suit, I’ll be waiting out here for you. Then I’ll take you straight to the party.”


Twenty minutes after buying his suit, Trigu sat in a white chair in a secluded corner of an expensively decorated ballroom. Only a few people occupied the room at the moment, for the party would not start for another half hour. Trigu sighed heavily and waited impatiently, wanting nothing more than to get his business done and return to his humble abode.

* *

Many windows lined a large, expensively decorated ballroom filled with people. Golden curtains framed each of the windows. Tall candelabras stood as sentinels between each of them. Four large chandeliers holding many lighted candles were suspended above the room, their golden light illuminating the floor below. Round tables with white tablecloths and candlesticks sat before a wooden dance floor and stage. A string quartet on the stage played classical music for a crowd of one hundred people.
Harold sat at a large table with Dagny. The table was next to a window that overlooked a bustling city. He and Dagny looked out of the window, their backs turned to the lavish party. White and yellow lights twinkled in the darkness, and cars drove back and forth on the small streets, appearing as ants in a colony, all working to please their queen; and in this city’s case, it was the government. They smiled, enjoying their brief moment of silence.

Dagny chuckled to herself and then lifted Harold’s arm off of her shoulders, turning back to the party. Harold’s eyes followed her movements, but soon returned to the city. It was his city. Then Dagny said, “Those are the government’s ants, and these,” she pointed to the crowd, “are your ants. Don’t you find that interesting?”

Harold wasn’t listening. In his mind he was hearing James talk to him about a man named Ivan Cheyekslav. He was a new businessman in town from Russia, who showed promise. He brought strong revenue to his company, who was already in need of a bigger space and more property transportation. He was strong, smart, and had compelling rhetoric.
Dagny shook his shoulder, “Dear? Aren’t you listening to me?”

Harold turned to her and locked eyes, asking no questions. Dagny giggled and repeated her question. “Yes, yes, very interesting.” He replied.
Dagny eyed him for a few seconds and then smiled, turning her head. She put her hand on his shoulder and stood up. She wore a long red dress with silver diamonds along the neckline. Her shoulders were naked, and she wore only two pieces of jewelry; her golden wedding ring and a silver bracelet were on her right hand. Before walking away she straightened her napkin and grabbed her silver purse. Harold did not watch her leave to mingle with her friends. Instead he turned back to the city.

Harold stared at a large gray building. None of its lights were on, and there were no cars parked in the lot. Two buildings beside it were lit up like torches, but this one stood as an outcast. But by the end of the upcoming week, Ivan will have occupied it and begun to run his business from a new office. The building to the right of it was the headquarters a company that manufactured furniture in the city. The building on the left was the headquarters of a medium sized oil refinery thirty miles east of the city. Harold owned numerous shares for both of them.

Ivan had refused to sell some of his stock to James three days ago. When Harold tried to persuade the man, he wouldn’t even hold an interview. Ivan sold four shares of his stock to four different men throughout the city that didn’t have nearly as much power as him, but for some inexplicable reason, Harold would not receive a penny. He was never even given a reason.

He took a sip of wine and sighed, switching his focus to the ports of the city. A vast ocean of black shined under the moonlight. A small boat glided along the waters smoothly, retiring for the night. Harold began to wonder when his night would end.

A hand rested on his shoulder, “Beautiful night isn’t it?”

“Aye, timeless beauty for all to see, but none to grasp.” He replied, turning around.

“You always had a strange way of putting things.” James smiled, laughing aloud. James was a simple man. He wore an inexpensive, but still attractive, suit and penny loafers. His hair was combed backwards, and his nails were trimmed, but his face had an insurmountable joy that made him seem more approachable. His smile lit up his face, and his eyes glittered with happiness. Harold liked to see him this way.

“How’s the party?” asked Harold, “I haven’t done much more than eat and dance with Dagny.”

“It’s entertaining, but I had more fun at Betsy’s birthday. But that’s to be expected; there was more alcohol there.”

Harold laughed and stood up, “I didn’t plan this one myself. I have been so caught up with work for the past few days, trying to contact Ivan, that I didn’t even know I was going until about an hour prior to the soirée.”
“I see.” James didn’t care to talk business at the moment, “Well Charlie’s got himself a girlfriend tonight.”

“Oh?” Harold was disappointed in the change of subject.

“Yes, I met her. She’s a doll, very sweet. It’s actually Hanks daughter, Amy.” He informed.

“I don’t believe I have met Hank’s family.”

“Sure you did. He introduced you to them two weeks ago, at his anniversary.”

“Ah yes, now I remember. Very sweet indeed.” Said Harold, setting his glass down on the table.

James studied his troubled face. Harold was usually the life of the party, but this night was different. He continuously tapped the table with his right hand and sipped his wine, his eyes meandering back to the window. His face was empty, with only trace amounts of happiness. James smiled and turned to look at the party. He watched a few attractive women dance. Then he spotted two men jovially walking towards them. James caught the worried glimpse of Harold and grabbed his arm, hurriedly dragging him away.

James took him through the crowd of dancing men and women, and to the other side of the room. When they exited the crowd, they saw the two men standing with confused looks on their faces. James chuckled and opened a small glass door that led to an obscure balcony. He pushed Harold through and shut the door behind him, walking over to the balcony ledge. He leaned against the stone rails and stared out into the dark, empty abyss before him.

Harold patted him on the back, “Thank you. I don’t feel very candid tonight.”

“I have noticed.” Said James.

“I would have been three days ago, but you know how things are. The kids are rambunctious, wife’s constantly bringing friends over. I just need a bit of rest is all.”

“So why did you come tonight? You could have simply stayed home. Everybody would have gotten along without you just as fine.” Asked James, turning to face him.

“Because Dagny worked hard to plan this outing. I couldn’t bear to see her heart break over my exhaustion.” He answered.

James smiled, “You have always had a soft heart, Harold, despite the things you have done.” He turned back to look at the empty mountain range before him, “But I know that you are lying to me. I can see it in your face, and hear it in your voice. I have known you too long to let that kind of thing go unnamed. But you probably know that I know.”
“I do.”

“You came to try and get your mind off of Ivan. His actions have agitated you for three days now, for every hour and minute of them. When Dagny told you about the party you claimed that you didn’t want to go, but decided to come anyways, because you thought that you would be able to dance your troubles away, or mask it with unhealthy food. But what you really found is that Ivan’s rejection was stronger than scotch, and more powerful than the medicine of laughter.”

“Aye, it’s like a sword made of diamond. I have tried to put it aside, I really have, but it seems to stalk me like a shadow. If only I could remove my shadow like Peter Pan.” He said.

James wondered why he used that particular analogy, but then shrugged it off. “Even Disney characters have issues. Only Captain Hook is a businessman, which is more dangerous than a pirate these days, and Wendy is your wife, which is safer than a girlfriend.”

“And I suppose you’re one of the lost boys?”

“Nah, I’m the Indian chief.” Giggled James.

Harold laughed and turned around. There was something about James that seemed to destroy each of his problems. He wasn’t sure if it was his laughter, his playful attitude towards everything, or his ear that made him a savior. Harold put his arm around James’ neck and walked him back towards the party. He left his troubles behind him, in Neverland, and took his chieftain, and his best friend, back to mingle with the lost boys.
When they entered the room James jerked Harold towards the buffet. Both of their stomachs growled loudly. Harold filled his plate with chicken, rice, and biscuits, while James went for a Chinese themed dish; rice, noodles, and teriyaki chicken drizzled with soy sauce. They sat down at round table near the corner of the room and began to eat. They were each entranced in conversation that seemed to tune everything else around them out.

* *

Trigu, who was sitting at a round table, only a few yards away, ate his dinner silently. Each of the other partygoers around him gabbed absentmindedly. He picked up his fork and stabbed the last piece of his steak, which he had ordered from a menu instead of buffet. As he lifted the piece of meat into his mouth he took a moment to think about the party so far. None of the conversations, people or music interested him. The building’s décor was exquisite, and the people were dressed lavishly, but the immoderate lifestyle had never caught the attention of Trigu.
He finished chewing his meat and swallowed it. One moment later the seat next to him was pulled back; a man wearing a white suit with a red tie and white fedora sat down beside him. This man slumped backwards, the brim of his fedora shadowing his eyes. A broad grin spread across his face, “So, Trigu, you met any lady friends yet?”

Trigu sighed and retorted, “I came here for only one reason, Marty.”
“Right, right, the boss.” Marty said, looking up at Trigu, and then staring at Harold, who was laughing at what seemed to be a very hysterical story. “Guess who needs a hobby?”

“What good would that do me? Besides, why are you here?” Trigu asked.
Marty shrugged, “Who knows.” He took a sip of the wine in front of him, “Maybe it’s the wine, maybe it’s the ladies or, maybe it’s the chicken. The most likely reason is that I simply love to bother you.” He laughed. “Which appears to be way too easy, judging by that agitated face of yours.”

There was a moment of silence between the two, and then Trigu stood up, “You’re such a pest.” He walked away from his chair. His feet moved briskly, he could hear Marty slide his chair up and attempt to follow him. Quickly, he moved in and out of people to try and lose Marty. But Marty was like a wolf: once he’s got you in sight, the only way to escape was to outrun him. He could quickly tell man was right behind him, so he decided to use an alternative method. The only way to get rid of Marty was to make Marty want to get away.

Trigu spied an empty seat next to Harold Barnes. He smiled, walking over to the buffet table and picking up a plate. He hurriedly ladled some rice, mashed potatoes, and some chicken onto his plate. Then he drizzled some brown gravy onto his mashed potatoes. Marty walked up to him and said, “What, trying to drown me out with food?”

He ignored Marty and turned on his heels. He hurried through the crowd of people with his plate in hand. Instead of seating himself at his old table, Trigu turned to Harold’s and pulled a chair out from underneath it. He sat down quietly, not bothering to jump into conversation with Harold or James. Trigu caught a glimpse of Marty frowning before turning the other way. He smiled; his plan had worked.

Harold and James stopped talking just as Trigu had set down beside them. They glanced at each other and turned to him, watching him eat carefully. The man did not look up or intend to speak with them, it seemed. But Harold did not yearn to continue his conversation with another man at the table, so he turned to his plate and began to eat his food. James, on the other hand, remained still and stared at the man. He had not seen him before; he was curious to know who he was.
“How’s the party?”

Trigu looked up and gazed at James for a moment before answering, “All right I guess. I’m not too interested in parties myself.”

“Then why have you come here?” He asked. Harold looked up from his dish.

Trigu’s eyes shifted to Harold’s, “To talk to him.”
James looked at Harold and chuckled. Harold’s eyes were fixated on the man before him, his face showing no emotion. “I should have known better. Every man in here wants to talk to Harold, to get his hands on money or to try and get into a position such as mine. What they don’t realize is that Harold doesn’t care what they want, nor does he want to do favors for them.”

“I see.” He said.

Harold continued to study the man. Then he finally looked up and glanced around the room. He caught the eye of Martin Lorhowe, who was eyeing Trigu carefully. He smiled and turned back to the young man before him, “I see you have the attention of Martin. He can’t seem to keep his eyes off of you. And judging by the way he had frowned when you sat here, I would assume that you had also intended to escape the man, while getting closer to another goal: talking to me.”

“Harold, are you honestly going to take the time to talk to this peon?” Asked James, pointing at Trigu.

“Do you have a problem with it? As you said, every man wants to talk to me. What’s the point of having underlings if you don’t speak to any of them. We’re all family here.”

James grumbled underneath his breath, “I suppose. At least this man had the decency to be spoken to first.”

Harold nodded to James and turned back to the man before him, “What’s your name.”
“Trigu.”

Harold shook his hand and said, “Nice to meet you, Trigu. What is it that you wanted?”

A slight smile appeared on his face, one corner of his mouth curving up ever so faintly, “Just like me, straight to the point.” He replied, “So I’ll cut to the chase: What I want, is to have a gun in my hand, and to do a job that requires a bit more thought than driving and delivering.”

Harold studied Trigu’s face. His eyes were filled with determination, yet his face remained impassive. Harold straightened his posture and sipped his wine, his gaze shifting to the crowd. With his glass in hand, Harold pointed to them, “You see all those people in that crowd, Trigu? Most of them have worked hard to get where they stand, others have lied, cheated, and stolen. Something each of them have in common is that they each want to move up, whether they have the same motive or not, but none are brave enough to ask me directly. What those cowards resort to is sucking up to me, by buying gifts, treating me to dinner, or throwing boring parties. Every now and then one of those partygoers approaches me and asks a question, but they lack respect and passion. I say passion because this business was not made out of luck, or money. Dagny and I started at the bottom, with no friends and no money. We worked hard for many years to accomplish all that you see before you. We conducted honest business transactions with honest people, and gained loyal followers, eventually becoming the king of the hill. What I see in the lot of them, in their eyes, is a lifeless conscience that strives to reach a goal that their mind cannot even begin to grasp. You, however, have a spark of life in your green eyes.

“You show no signs of conspiracy in your face, and seem to be truthful as far as what you are saying. But take another look at the crowd, my boy, and tell me what you see. Do you see what I see, or is there something of your own that catches your eye?”

There was a moment of pause, Trigu already knew what he wanted to say, he just couldn’t find the words at first. “What I see is a bunch of people who want to take the easy road to get something, which would be getting on your good side. They want to avoid any and all confrontations. However, that’s simply not a concept in which I can live by. If you don’t earn what you get, somebody needs to take it from you. Or at least, that’s my philosophy.” Then he leaned back and sighed, “And then there’s the good ones. You don’t always notice them. They are the ones that complain to themselves, not to others. Of course, despite their complaints, they always get the job done with the proper efficiency and with their head held high. Their heads are high with good reason too. If you can do that, you deserve what you got.”

“You have the eyes of a businessman.” Replied Harold. Harold’s eyes shifted to a broad window overlooking the city. He stared at Ivan Cheyekslav’s tall, lifeless office building once more. It was twilight and soon morning would approach, which meant time was running out for Harold. He knew that once Ivan would establish his growing business in a larger office, the foundation that Harold stood upon would begin to crumble if something was not done. His lips softened and his eyes grew dull as he stared at his greatest enemy. He sighed heavily, frowning a little. Then he heard a slight chuckle. He turned back to Trigu and James, remembering the conversation he was involved in.

“It seems that you have already lost his attention.” Said James.
“Have I?” Asked Trigu.

“No.” Replied Harold, glancing back at the window one last time. But instead of turning back immediately, Harold jumped out of his chair. The chair tipped over and crashed on to the floor, and his table shook. James straightened his back and looked at his friend in inquiry. Then he looked out of the window and understood his actions. James slowly stood up and looked around the room. He nodded toward a few people, who stopped what they were doing and left the room. James pulled on Harold’s shoulder and tried to make him follow him, but Harold would not move. He was frozen, staring out of the window in shock.

Soon other people in the ballroom began to notice his expression. They turned to look out of the window, gasping. The music stopped, and soon the entire room of guests was motionless. The only noises the people heard were the screeching of sirens from the city. A red glow touched the shadows of the room, lighting everybody’s faces. The tall gray structure that was Ivan Cheyekslav’s new office building was engulfed in orange and red flames. They had swallowed the building whole, showing no mercy.

A woman in a far corner of the room screamed in panic. This set off a chain reaction, causing other men and women to scream, stampeding out of the room to escape the horrific sight before them, as if running from it would erase the image from their minds. Tables, chairs, and drinks were knocked over in the rush to leave the room. Many slid past Harold and James, who were still standing in awe, and soon only seven people remained in the once fully occupied ballroom: Harold Barnes, Dagny Barnes, James Pullman, Alice Pullman, Trigu, Martin Lorhowe, and Jonathan McGhee.

Alice Pullman had been enjoying the solace of the night on a balcony outside when the crowd broke into frenzy. She had looked around bewildered, saw the red glow of Ivan’s burning building, and understood the panic. The glass door separating her from the now nearly empty ballroom creaked open as she stepped inside. She looked at both James and Harold carefully, briefly glancing about to see the other remaining men and women. She set her glass down on a table by the door and walked towards them. James turned to greet his wife, letting go of his friend’s arm. They caressed each other for a few moments before turning to look at the smoldering building in the city without saying a word.

Martin and Jonathan remained still in their seats, waiting for orders. Others had already been directed to make sure the building was clear and nobody entered by James. The two nodded towards each other after a few minutes and turned back to the fire. They watched as the walls of the building began to collapse. Orange flames reached out to the black sky, as if trying to pull the stars down one by one to further ignite their fires. Small jets of water could be seen shooting at the building to try and tame the fire, but they were relentless. Smoke blacker than night billowed above the city, cloaking it.

Dagny Barnes turned away from the fire and, slowly, began to tread across the ballroom. She was on the opposite end leaving a table covered in spilled wine. Her eyes were fixated on her husband’s statuesque body. The closer she got the more she began to tremble, feeling what Harold felt. It seemed, to her, that each step took a century to complete: that each step was delicate, part of a large, complex puzzle that would destroy her if she were one second off cue. Then she finally reached her husband. She put her hands on his tense shoulder and pulled. Harold slowly turned his head and looked into her dark brown eyes. His blue eyes were full of rage and compassion, with a hidden sadness that frightened Dagny. But Dagny would not let this disturb her now. Instead she turned his body towards hers and wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him close.
His body was dead. He made no movements and said nothing. He did not look anybody in the eye, save for his wife, for his mind was lost in the catastrophe painted into the night before him. When Dagny pulled away from him Harold made movements to look back at the scene of his enemy’s destroyer, but Dagny took his hand and led him out of the room. He followed her mindlessly, unsure of his next move.

James and Alice began to leave when they suddenly remembered Trigu. They both turned around and nodded towards him. Alice cleared her throat and said, “You are to drive Mr. Barnes’s car to his house and wait for orders there. James and I will escort him home. If he does not show up fifteen minutes after you have reached the house, tell the butler Alice has given you permission to sleep in the guest room. You are not to go anywhere else in the house without a chaperone. Is that clear?”
“Yes ma’am.” He replied, leaving at once.

When James and Alice opened the door to their car, Dagny and Harold were already seated in the back. Dagny gripped her husband’s hand tightly and looked at him silently. Harold stared at the floor of the car with a blank face, his mind racing but body soulless. James turned the car on and drove out of the empty parking lot, Martin and Jonathan following them in separate cars. When he reached a stoplight Alice turned to him and said, “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”

“What do we do?” She asked hopefully.

“I don’t know.” James looked into his rearview mirror at Harold, “I don’t know.” He turned to look at Alice and said one last time, “I don’t know.”
James continued to drive down the dark and empty roads in the night. He turned down back roads, avoiding any possibility of catching sight of the fire. But every now and then they would catch a glimpse of the rising flames, and Harold would jerk his head upwards to see them. Each time Dagny grabbed his jaw and made him look at her until the fire was safely hidden behind trees, houses, or hills. As the night wore on less and less cars appeared out on the streets, but many windows were lighted as they passed by houses. The entire city was now aware of the disaster.

On a dark road surrounded by tall trees James pulled the car over and stopped. He turned around and looked at his friend. Dagny had a worried look on her face, her eyes filled with sorrow and distress. Harold showed no emotion: He was neither happy or sad, angry or calm, frightened or brave; he was simply sitting in his chair, staring at no particular object, and making no movements. James glanced at his wife, who was looking at her boss with pity, and a hint of admiration. He knew that she had always looked up to Harold, and a part of him also knew that, at this moment, she was happy to see him crack, if only for a moment.

When James looked back at Dagny, she was staring out of the window. She was not staring at anything in particular, but she was, it seemed, attempting to remove herself from the situation. Her hands were neatly placed in her lap, and her legs resting side by side, pressed against the door. It was as if the closer she was to the door, the further she was from calamity. And then James began to wonder, for the first time in all of his years of knowing Dagny, whether her love for Harold was still genuine. Several years ago James could have answered that question with a “yes” in a split second, but now he was unsure. But instead of pursuing this question James turned back to the wheel of his car and drove forward.

Driving was all that he could do.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Wed Jun 16, 2010 6:21 pm

Nice, I read it through and loved it. I wish I had your writing talents, but I suppose it'll come in time. Anyway, will there be more chapters of this? Because I sure do want to see what's going to become of Harold and Ivan's business.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Wed Jun 16, 2010 6:41 pm

I really enjoyed it. I usually don't read stuff that has entries this big but when it's written by you I don't have a choice but to give it a chance. It had me immediately. All the characters were really filled out, and I can't help but think my favorite so far is Trigu. I am confused though—why was he so stricken by the fire, Harold, I mean?

I really want to see this continue. I'm looking forward to it. As Wolf said, hopefully writing talents like the ones you have will come in time for us.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:57 pm

Don't give me all the credit. 90% of anything including Trigu is written by The Wolf Tamer. His character is by far the most intriguing. I don't know how he does it, but my brother has a way of making characters incredibly dynamic. I sort of struggle there, as I see many characters as a reflection of myself.

I have a few more chapters. The rest are trapped on a computer needing to be finished.

And I can't post one chapter [third I think] here because it includes sex. I may or may not have an edited version.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:05 pm

...LOL, ROMMY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING WRITING THAT?

loljustkidding.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:35 pm

I'm a bad girl. D: It's symbolic, and way more powerful than a kiss.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:54 pm

But FORBIDDEEEEEN
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:31 am

Only on forums. I feel like publishing it with sex would reduce the gamut of reader types, so I went ahead and wrote an edited version. Problem is I don't have that handy. I should retrive that Friday.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:32 am

But that was Chapter 3... isn't there a second...? :c
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:35 am

Nope. I skipped number two. : D

I guess I'll post that part.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:38 am

Chapter Two: Embers From a Dying Man

A large cloud of black smoke continued to rise above the quiet city, seemingly isolating it from the rest of the world. The fires of Ivan’s building still burned ferociously, threatening to destroy surrounding structures. Harold was standing before a large, flat office window gaping at the burning building. Most of the upper walls had collapsed, and the remaining walls were black with ash. Jets of water pursued their enemy, but could not douse the inferno. The building was dying.

Harold was inside of his large office, at the top of his skyscraper. Behind him was a large oak desk with many papers scattered about the surface. His trashcan was overflowed, and his lampshade toppled over. Before his desk stood two wooden doors that led to his anteroom. To the left of them was a small seating arrangement with two leather couches and a glass coffee table. There were two blankets on either couch; He and Dagny had slept in the office the night before. They did not fall asleep until dawn, and even then Harold woke up two hours later.

He could not stop thinking about Ivan. He could not imagine the anger he had felt, or the inquiry. Harold began to think about the perpetrator. If none of his men had set the structure ablaze, who had? There was a new collection in the city, who seemed to want nothing more than to destroy their enemy with tactics that threatened the entire economy; tactics that would decimate everything that they had worked for; tactics that meant the destruction of Harold’s entire family. Harold would not stop searching for this destroyer until he could display their corpses to the public as trophies.

Harold had not received any word of a new corporation or collection since the arrival of Ivan. Before his arrival, only one company had entered the city, but they were quickly disposed of. He tried to picture a small group of men planning their next move, laughing maniacally, but the only thing that entered his mind was a burning building. He saw orange flames scorching the insides of the building, with a silhouette standing in the fire. At first he could not identify the man standing amidst the hot flames, but then he realized that it was Ivan who was engulfed in the destruction of his future.

Ivan’s hands were hanging on either side of his lean body. Lines of bitterness and contempt framed his eyes and mouth. He stood motionlessly, unable to be reached. In his mind Harold called out to him, but instead Ivan smiled cynically and turned around. As he walked away each of the images were torn from Harold, and he was back in his office staring out of his window, at the smoke hanging above the city. He turned around, eyeing a paper on his desk.

The paper was the letter Harold had received from Ivan four days earlier, about his rejection. The words were lined in neat rows, ending with the sharp, angular signature of Ivan Cheyekslav. Harold picked up the letter and read it slowly. Midway through the letter his telephone rang. He set the letter down and answered his phone.
“Yes?”

“Sir, are you accepting visitors at this time?” Asked his secretary.

“You already know the answer to that, Gertrude.” He replied.

“But sir—”

“I said no.” He interjected.

“—It’s Ivan.” She said uninterrupted.

Harold was silent for a few moments, “Tell him to come in. Nobody is to disturb me until he departs.”

The doors to Harold’s office burst open and slammed shut. Ivan stormed past the couches and stopped before the large oak desk. He slammed his fist on the wood and pointed out of the window. His face was red, and eyes piercing. “Was this about the rejection letter?” He bellowed.

Harold pulled the chair out from underneath his desk and sat down. He pointed at an armchair opposite from him and quietly began to clear the papers from his desk. He opened drawers and closed them, set his lamp upright, and then picked up Ivan’s rejection letter. He handed it to Ivan, who crinkled the paper when he took it in this hand.

“It is true that this rejection letter has disgruntled me for the past few days. I have been unable to eat, sleep, and party regularly. This was the first time in years that I had failed to acquire something I had yearned to obtain. You presented a challenge that I have not faced in all my years of business: of failure, and of a competition that posed a threat to my own business. However, I had no intentions of taking the easy way out of defeating you; of committing arson or murder.”

“Cut the act, Barnes, I know the type of man you are. You’re the type of man that destroys others for your own good. You are an ambitious fool who thinks he can run around and ruin the lives of others without any conviction or denunciation. So why don’t you stop playing games and talk to me as Harold Barnes, the murderer?” Screamed Ivan, who was still standing before Harold’s desk, now pacing back and forth.

“I’m sure we can work this out civilly, Ivan. You don’t want to see me get angry, do you?”

“Dammit Harold I don’t care! When I look at you I don’t see a rational man. I see a man that will do whatever it takes to attain his goal, no matter the consequences. I look past the façade you deceive others with and see the man who is really making all of the decisions. And I have congregated with your kind before, so why don’t you just raise the curtains and bow down?”

“There isn’t a show to see, Ivan, it’s just you and me.” Replied Harold, clenching his fist.

“Either you talk to me as you are, or I walk out of here and eradicate the life you possess.” Harold could see that Ivan was not deceiving him.

He closed his eyes and smiled, “All right, you want me to speak to you as Harold Barnes, the so-called murderer? You want me to talk to you as if I have already defeated you? Then so be it.” Harold pushed backwards in his chair and stood up, leaning on his desk. “When I caught the glimpse of an orange monster reaching out into the black sky, my insides twisted in repulsion. I knew, at that moment, that it was your building that had been lit on fire. The sight had rendered me useless, and for the next couple of hours I would do nothing but imagine the walls of your dying office building being eaten by some horrid monster.

“This morning I awoke to see the smoke still billowing above the city. As I looked down upon it I tried to picture the men who had gotten to you first. You were the man who posed a threat to my business, and had to be neutralized as soon as possible. But I assure you, if I were to sink down to that level last night, I would have hunted you down myself, and slowly eviscerated you before your wife and children. Then I would have killed them one by one, taking your daughter out last. But, fortunately for you, somebody else had made you suffer first. And now you stand before me, trying to convict me for wanting to shatter your dreams, and watching as somebody else did the job before me.

“I stand before you enraged; not about your imputation, but about the fact that there are no leads to the man you should actually be searching for. Once I find him, if I find him, you will see the streets before your building painted in his blood, and his head on the steps of your house. But first I must begin to search for him, while simultaneously watching my back and running a business. So you see, Ivan, there is a side of me you wouldn’t want to meet in your worst nightmares, but even so, I am not the one to blame. And now it is time for me to ask you a question: Why would this new collection take out the upcoming businessman first, and not the established businessman. Tell me, you impotent fool, what did you do that earned you such a bad reputation, that made your enemies follow you after you fled like a coward?”

Ivan stood immobile, staring at Harold with empty eyes. His fingers twitched and he breathed slowly, as if trying not to take too much of Harold’s oxygen. He had finally unveiled the genuine Harold he had sought for since he first met his go-to man, James. And Harold had unveiled a secret greater than the one he had concealed, and Ivan now stood before him naked, with nothing to offer and all to see, but there was no turning back now.

“Oh come now Ivan, you don’t think you can back out now that the beast has been unleashed do you?” asked Harold, walking around the side of his desk. When he stopped before Ivan they locked eyes, neither daring to move.

“So this is who you are, behind all of the masks and lies. You’re just another lowlife imposter that wants to take the world by the reigns.” Said Ivan.

“If that’s what you wish to call it, yes, I am.” Replied Harold. “But what about you, Ivan, are you another scoundrel just like myself, or are you just a clever coward that runs when things get too complex?”

“I didn’t run, Harold, I was forced out. Maybe a man like you wouldn’t understand, but I started at the bottom. I worked my way to the top, and when I got there, I was alone. I stood atop a skyscraper with no weapons and nothing to gain from the underlings below me. I conducted honest business with honest people, no matter how scarce they were at the time. But what people don’t realize is that the top of the skyscraper is just as dangerous as the bottom.

“I was completing a simple transaction, ready to attend a picnic soon after, when the enemy infiltrated. They used the same tactics you use for your enemies, and stormed us with guns and grenades. My wife was with me at the time, and the kids in the car outside. We made a dash for the door, but by the time we got there it was blocked off by a group of men holding shotguns. We ran the other way but we were surrounded,
rendered powerless. I was the man with all of the power, but not at that moment.

“So then we negotiated, and I agreed to hand my business over to them, to save my back and my family’s back, and leave town. Perhaps to you it seems cowardly, but I value my family over my business. So then I came here, thinking they would leave me be, but it turns out that one of those men holds grudges. He chased me here and well, you can see the result.” Ivan pointed at his building, whose embers were beginning to die. “So if you want to call me a coward, call me a coward, but know that I am not going to run out this time. I am going to fight, even if it costs me my business, my family, and my life. Maybe you will side with me, maybe you will side with them, or maybe you will remain neutral, I don’t really care. But I’m warning you, Harold, stay out of my way if you know what is good for you.”

Harold laughed at Ivan, “You think I’m a man without principles, Ivan? You think I cheated my way to the top like all of those other scumbags in the world? Well maybe you shouldn’t be so presumptuous; we’re more alike than you think.”

“I am nothing like you. Look at yourself Harold, you’re despicable.” Spat Ivan.

“And you? We are businessmen, despicable upon becoming one. Just pay attention to who the good guys and the bad guys are, or you might get yourself hurt.” Harold turned away from Ivan and sat back down at his desk. He turned his chair around and leaned back, looking out unto the city. He heard Ivan’s footsteps, “We’re not done.”

“There is nothing else to talk about.” Said Ivan, opening the door.

“I want to know why you have come here.”

Ivan stopped moving and turned around. Harold whirled around in his chair and looked at the man, seeing James standing in the background. “What are you talking about, you know why I have come here.”

“The story you explained; you said that a man had chased you from your past. You already knew it wasn’t me, and yet you came here to blame me nonetheless.”

Ivan shut the door and walked over to Harold, “I wanted to find out if I was right about you.”

“Were you?” asked Harold.

“I’m uncertain.”

“Even after our long discussion?” Harold glanced at the clock on his desk.

“Even after our discussion. There are things about you that just don’t add up.” He answered.

“Well maybe I can do the math for you.” Offered Harold.

“No, that is for me to do. But there is one thing you can do, Harold.” He said, his eyes trailing away.

“Yes?”

“Do not fight my battle. Run your business as if nothing had happened and stay out of mine. If he decides to attack you, or I ask for your help, you may join the fight. But until then, I ask that you remain neutral.” He stated.

“I thought you didn’t care about my position.” Said Harold.

“Well I have changed my mind, Harold.”

“All right. I will stay out of it. You have my word.” Harold and Ivan stood erect, staring at each other. None of them blinked, and they both nodded. Ivan turned to leave, Harold watching his movements. The door slid open, but Ivan hesitated to walk through. Then Harold raised his voice once more, “Oh, and one more thing, Ivan.” Ivan turned around, his eyes hopeful, “You are still my enemy.”

“I know.”

“I’ll see you on the battlefield general.”

Ivan turned around and left with out another word. When the door began to close a small hand pushed it back open. A tall woman wearing a blue pantsuit with a white blouse underneath it walked through. She stopped just in front of Harold. She tucked a small piece of brown hair behind her ear and smiled, her blue eyes shining.

“Was that Ivan who just walked out of here?” She asked casually.

“Yes. What about him?” Asked Harold.

“You tell me. Is he leaving the city, or staying to fight for his position?”

“You really think I would let him walk out of here alive if he told me he was running, Alice? Ivan is going to continue his work and protect his family just as before, only he’ll be a little more careful and a lot more serious.” Replied Harold, shrugging and turning around.

“I see. And what do you plan to do, Harold?” She asked curiously.

Harold ignored her question and walked towards the window. He put his hand upon the cold glass when he arrived, and looked down at the dying cinders, smoke barely rising above the rubble. The majority of police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances remained in front of the building, and a few passer-bys gawked at the carnage. Harold wondered if Ivan was one of them.

“Sir?” She asked, repeating her question.

“I’ll continue working as if nothing had happened just like Ivan. It wasn’t a part of my enterprise that was destroyed; it was my enemy’s. And since he’s still standing, I still have to kill him. The only difference is that this time it is a little bit easier.” He answered.

Alice joined him at the window, “You sure a part of your enterprise wasn’t destroyed? The platform is no longer steady, if you haven’t already noticed.”

“Well perhaps we’re are on two different platforms.”

“Which might be a part of the problem.” Stated Alice.

Harold glanced at her expressionless face, “I see no problem.”

“That’s because our platform is beneath yours, safely hidden under your marble floors. The people are scared sir, afraid that they’ll lose their jobs and you’ll lose your business.”

“Afraid, of what? There is no reason to be afraid.” He asked.

“Afraid that you have lost your strength. We all saw your face when the fire broke out, and you haven’t spoken to more than three people or left your office today. These are clear signs of your weaknesses, and we’re not blind.” She informed him.

Harold turned away from the window and picked up Ivan’s rejection letter. He walked across the room and sat down on one of the leather couches, setting his feet on the coffee table. Harold read the letter one more time before setting it down beside him. He looked up to see Alice staring at him, almost angrily, from across the room. Her arms were folded and she leaned on her left foot. She was no longer smiling.

“You’re not going to give me answer for your actions?” She asked.

“There’s nothing to answer for. I didn’t do anything wrong, and the people are only scared because they think I did something big without telling them, as if I thought they weren’t important enough.” He shrugged.

“You’re making up excuses Harold. You and I both know,” She paused and pointed at the double doors, “Everyone knows, that you were defeated for the first time since you started. They’re afraid that when the statue cracks once, he cracks again, and again, and again, until he eventually begins to crumble altogether. You know how everybody sees you: You’re the boss who never gives up, and never shows emotion; the father who takes care of the family, no questions asked, and with no problems; you are the Napoleon Bonaparte of our time, which makes us wonder; will he fall after his first defeat? Or if you have already fallen, will you be able to stand to fight until the end of your days instead of being exiled?”

“The second time.” He replied simply.

“What second time?”

“This was the second time I was defeated.” Harold continued when he saw the bewildered look on her face, “The first time was when he rejected me for a partnership, and the second time was when somebody almost took out my enemy for me.”

Alice unfolded her arms and sighed, walking over toward Harold. She sat down on the seat beside him and chuckled a little, “Of course it was. But Harold, you mustn’t let this destroy you. Bad things happen in big business, and we all have to learn to adapt to it. If you don’t understand that now you never will.”

Harold slammed his fist on the side table, “I understand it Alice, but the fact that I am unable to do anything about it, or foresee any signs of an attack on my family is unacceptable. This has never happened before!” He yelled, pausing, “If I can’t beat them, they will surely beat me.”
“No they won’t. This is business, not war, Harold. The soldiers who rush out first to do the most damage always fall, if the defenders have a good strategy. But we are not the defenders we’re the bystanders. So you don’t have to be worried just yet, but you can, however, be more alert.” She answered immediately.

“Bystanders get hurt too.” He said looking at his shoes.

“Do you have any intentions of telling these things to your wife?”

“Yes, I do.” He replied, wondering why she changed the subject. “Why do you ask?”

“Because she’s the one who needs to hear this, not me.” She answered, staring at the picture of her on the coffee table.

Harold stared at her a moment and said, “Was there anything else you wanted, Alice?”

Alice winked, “James and I are going to a resort for the weekend.”

“Don’t you have work to do?” Asked Harold.

“Well, no. Everything has been frozen because of the arson. Nobody is allowed to do much until Monday morning. Of course there will be underground operations when the police aren’t looking, but for the most part this calls for a small vacation. You should go home and get some rest yourself.”

“Perhaps in a few hours.”

“Your wife is waiting for you.” Alice put her feet next to Harold’s and lay back in her seat a little. “And so are your children.”

“Well I’m sure they’ll understand.” He replied, stretching his arms.

“Afraid to go home, Harold?” She asked, turning to look at him.

“There is no reason to be.” He answered, his eyes fixated on hers.

“Then why remain at the office? What do you confront when you leave this room?” She asked.

“Surely there is a point to these questions.” He said, ignoring the fact that he already knew the point.

“You know, there is a point, in every man and woman’s life, when their wall finally crumbles, and all of the water behind it rushes through. When your wall finally breaks, will you let somebody lend a hand to get you out of the water?” She asked. “I believe that at that point, trying to swim out of the waters on your own will eventually lead to a drowning in one’s own sorrow.” Alice did not blink. The light shined down upon her skin, her lips glistening underneath the fixture.

“Well perhaps the people you are thinking about do not know how to swim.” He replied with a small chuckle.

“Look, Harold, I don’t know how else to say this to you: Don’t let this fire ruin your entire future. You don’t have to be an iron man to run a business; everybody vents, and everybody has problems. Just talk to somebody about them, anybody, and you will grow stronger because of it. I know you want to be seen as this…hero, but give it up. Every superhero has a hero of his or her own.”

Harold looked away, staring at a picture of his wife and children on the coffee table, “Is there anything else?”

Alice looked down and smiled, her mind on something neither dared to name. Knowing Harold had the same thoughts as her, she quickly stood up and began to walk away. Then she called out behind her, “Trigu is still at your house, with your wife. I wouldn’t be leaving a man like him with a woman like her for too long, so you best get home and send him off as soon as you possibly can.”

Harold watched as she walked toward the door to his anteroom. The crisp lines of her pantsuit crinkled when she moved, and her hair dangled innocently when she turned to open the door. Outside of the door James stood up and smiled, kissing his wife. He looked in to see Harold and waved, Alice smiling happily at the both of them. Then Harold waved back and stood up. He grabbed his coat and followed them as they left the anteroom. He nodded at Gertrude and then called for James to slow down for him.

They departed at the parking garage, laughing gaily. When Harold sat in his car and watched them drive off, the engine purring and his hands on the wheel, he remained silent, trembling. He felt as if he had to wash the woman’s scent, and his memory of her body away. He wondered why, for the first time in his marriage, he had wanted to lay with another woman. But in the back of his mind he did know, he just wouldn’t admit that to himself.

The car did not leave the garage for half an hour. Harold had sat in his car contemplating both the fire, and his conversation with Alice. When he pulled into his driveway, slowly inching forward, his breathing was shallow and his eyes empty. There was a dark thought in the back of his mind trying to ebb its way into his thought process, and Harold was desperately trying to block the sinister thought sojourning in his mind. When he stopped his car the door was opened for him. For a few moments he remained seated, until the valet reminded him where he was. Then he jumped out of the vehicle and briskly walked up the steps into his house.
When he opened the door, he saw that Trigu was already seated in the entrance hall, waiting for him. Harold nodded and took off his coat, sitting down on a green chair opposite from Trigu. Trigu immediately began to talk to him about his goals, not mentioning the fire once. Harold, however, wasn’t hearing a word the boy was saying. He was still thinking about what had happened in his office a few hours earlier, when the sun was still up. He stared at the ground, not blinking. When he finally tuned in, Trigu was just finishing pleading his case for a promotion.

“…My experience in the war taught me discipline and respect, and no matter your decision I will continue to follow those guidelines.” He said, sitting upright, satisfied with the speech he just made.

Harold cleared his throat and tried to remember what he was talking to him for. “Right, well, since the fire has ceased all business, I probably won’t be able to make a final decision until things start up again.” He said slowly, carefully.

Trigu knew that Harold had not been listening right away, “Oh, I see. Well I am not asking for anything big, just a place where I can actually use my brain to complete the job.”

“I will look into the open spots and have Mr. Lorhowe get back to you. Tell the butler to call a cab for you, and have a nice night.” Harold got out of his chair quickly, not wanting to discuss business any longer. He knew Trigu was not finished with the conversation, but for him it was. He hurried up the stairs, feeling Trigu’s eyes following him. He walked into his bedroom swiftly, shutting the door behind him. His wife was sitting on the bed in front of him in her pajamas, talking to somebody on the phone. When her husband walked in she immediately hung up the phone and leaped out of the bed. She quickly wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“We missed having you here!” She cried.

“Oh, don’t worry about it, just some extra hours of business that were needed to get back on track. It might be like this for the next week or two, because of the fire.” He said, hugging her back.

“So you’ll be missing dinner for the next week or two? This kids aren’t going to be very happy about this, you know how much they love you.” She answered.

“And you?” He asked.

“Of course I’ll miss you, dear! You’re my husband, and I love you.” She assured him, turning to sit on the bed.

Harold looked at his wife for a few moments. He wondered why she did not look at him when she said that, and why she would not look at him now. He watched as she twiddled her hair and kicked nervously, staring at the floor. He listened as she droned on and on about her day. He knew that she was avoiding the subject of his work, and the fire. She was trying to escape the burden of having to hear what he felt; trying to escape what it meant to be married.

No—He thought—She wouldn’t do such a thing. Dagny is a loving mother and wife. She is simply struggling with the issue just as I am. It is best to push such iniquitous thoughts aside. Harold did just that: He put on a fake smile and changed into his pajamas without a word. When he brushed his teeth and came back into the bedroom Dagny was already lying down, her back turned to him as if she was already asleep. His smile faded quickly as he slid into the bed next to her and turned off his light. He wondered what he had done wrong, or perhaps, what she had done wrong. Soon his thoughts turned into dreams, and then the night was over.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:27 am

... c: Awesome. Intense confrontation with Ivan and Harold. Poor Trigu. I want to see more of him. And Dagny's despicable. |:
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:50 am

Phew. I'm glad you guys are getting the vibes I'm trying to send. santa
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:15 pm

It makes me wonder if she somehow knows about Alice. Chapter 3 would be appreciated.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:19 am

I apparently the one part is in chapter four and I don't have all of that to post anyway. Here's Chapter Three:

Chapter Three: Questions

A small alarm clock rang throughout a tiny apartment at five-forty on Sunday morning. It’s red light flashed against sky blue walls. A young man’s hand reached across the side table it was placed on and set his hand on the clock. After a few seconds of searching for the off button, the alarm was silenced. The man lay in his bed staring at the ceiling above him, thinking about the day ahead of him. Then he stood up and looked around his apartment.

The apartment was one large room with a bathroom at the corner of it. A large window covered one entire wall and looked out unto the empty city below. On one side of the apartment was a small kitchen and dining room, and on the other side was the man’s bedroom and bathroom. His living room was in the middle of the apartment. All of the walls were the same color and the floors were tile.

Long, rectangular blinds covered the windows, but a few strips of ugly, pervaded yellow light slipped through the cracks. Those were the only lights on in the house. They stretched from the living room to the kitchen, shining on a small coffee pot sitting on the counter, half empty. The counters were spotless, enclosing the kitchen as if they were walls. A bulky white refrigerator was in the corner, awkwardly placed in the sophisticated kitchen. Beside the refrigerator was a sink filled with dishes, nearly overflowing onto the counters.

The man stared at his apartment with satisfaction. Despite the size he enjoyed living in this place. His items were easy to get to and his neighbors were quiet. Then he turned back to his nightstand. His eyes went from a dull lamp, to his alarm clock, to two pistols placed next to each other.

The pistols were antique revolvers that were given to him by his father when he turned eighteen. One of the pistols was white, with a polished silver barrel and a shining emerald on the handle. The other was black, with a polished silver barrel and a ruby on the handle. They were one of his prized possessions aside from his trench coat. They were twins, representing the difference between the light and darkness, good and evil. Over the years they became a part of the owner’s life, aiding him in the killing of many men and women. He smiled, proud of their history.
The man slowly climbed out of his bed and began to dress. He speedily slipped on a clean shirt and pants, followed by his trench coat. He owned two identical trench coats, so that he could wash one while wearing the other. After putting his coat on the man slipped the two guns in an obscure place beneath it, concealing them. He then walked across the apartment, his feet dragging, into his kitchen. He sneered at the yellow light cutting across his apartment as he passed it. When he entered the kitchen he pulled out a cup and poured the two-day-old coffee on the counter into it. He then placed the coffee pot back onto the counter, knowing that he would return to his home, like he had done each day for the past five years working for Harold, and drink the rest of it.

Before walking over to his window the man glanced at his calendar. The top of the calendar had the name Trigu labeled on it, with a picture of an owl beneath it. Today was the twelfth of April, six days after the fire. He sighed and exited the kitchen. When he stopped before the window he pulled the blinds back and stared at the empty streets. He liked to do this in the morning, to clear his thoughts and relax. Seeing the usually hectic streets below vacant was calming just before a busy day.

Trigu pictured the night of the fire. He was just beginning to achieve his goal of a promotion when the incident occurred. Now, more than ever, it seemed that his dreams were slipping away, because Harold was too preoccupied with the fire and protecting his enterprise to notice an obscure man like himself. The arsonist had ruined everything, destroying his hopes, and shattering his chances of a promotion. But Trigu was angry with Harold too, because he felt that he was not showing the machismo he hade spent a lot of time building up.

Of all the days for those bastards to light a building on fire they chose the day I almost get promoted. And it just had to be Ivan’s didn’t it? Why couldn’t it have been some old general store run by Ma and Pa? —He thought wildly—The way Harold spoke to me…I know he didn’t give a darn about my position. After all that I had said to him, all that I did for him, I couldn’t even get an inkling of respect. I am probably just a peon to him, a nobody with nothing to offer. But I’ll show him! I’ll show him that he’s not the only hard-working pretty boy in the business.

Trigu shook his head and beat the window, quickly readdressing himself. What are you doing Trigu? You chose Harold remember that! You have never betrayed anybody before so don’t do it now. This is not about you anymore; it’s about the family, the business. You chose this because it was the most fitting job at home for your disgusting personality.

His guns seemed to call to him, speak for him, light against dark. But how can you stand being ignored like so? I want to be important. I want to know that when someone sits next to me they think, ‘Now that’s a man who gets what he earns, a man who I should treat with the utmost respect.’ I will not accept second place. First is the only thing for me. My ego is too important.

Trigu watched at the sun began to rise, the tips of it’s yellow light slowly sliding into the shadows. His thoughts kept whirling around his mind. He felt as if there was a tornado inside of him, trying to break free and relinquish and uncontrollable anger. He began to try and think of another way he could catch the attention of Harold. At first he thought of Harold, then James, and then Martin, but none of these people seemed to be the link to his success.

As the yellow rays of the sun began to infiltrate every crevice of the city an idea began to form in Trigu’s mind. The light touched a window across the street and reflected on his austere face. His lips were closed, lines of wisdom curved around them, and his eyes were looking straight, picturing Harold’s face. He saw the fire behind Harold, and then the fire within himself. He knew that the arsonist was a primary target for Harold, even if he couldn’t say that aloud. He also knew that Harold would not be able to do much about the arsonist without being caught and condemned. But if a lowly peon did the work for him, somebody nobody cared to notice, then the arsonist could be found and killed without a big commotion. He smiled, for the road to promotion was clear now.

A small patch of daisies surrounded by tall grass and weeds rocked back and forth at the bottom of a large sycamore tree. Rectangles of sunlight desperately tried to warm the long stems that were still stiff with the morning frost. Green leaves fluttered downwards from the long branches of the tree, softly landing beside the trunk. In one of the branches a small bird sang cheerfully, his voice carrying to the fields beside the tree and a cottage in front of it. Inside the cottage was a man sitting at a windowsill with his chin in his hand.

The man listened to the sweet song being played by the bird, watching the obscure flowers being pushed by the gentle winds. His left hand slid back and forth on the smooth, white wood of the sill, creating marks in the dust that covered nearly every piece of wood or furniture in the cottage. He watched, as the sun slowly rose above the earth, the growing rectangles of yellow light stretch across the grass and dirt, warming everything within reach. When they touched the daisies, the frost on the white petals of the flower began to melt, making them limp. Slivers of water dripped from the flowers, causing the ground beneath it to become wet with dew.

A sweet voice from behind the man rang out, “We’ll have to get going by noon if we’re to make it back before the day is over. I already checked out at the front desk and reserved some train tickets to take us back to the city.”

James did not want to leave the resort so soon. He liked the peace and quiet and felt the need to escape his life at home, if only for a moment, so he could think about all that had happened in the past week. Behind him he heard Alice open her suitcase and take the clothing out from the closet. As she put the clothing in the suitcase James sat motionlessly, deliberately putting his packing off. He had always hated packing, more so today because he knew what awaited him in the city. Harold would still be upset, having done nothing to continue running the business, and each of their clients would come to him with complaints and worries about their own franchises.

“James, dear, aren’t you going to begin packing?” Asked his wife, “We only have an hour to spare.”

“I suppose I will eventually. I like it here, Alice.” He replied with a sigh, turning away from the window and leaning back upon it. “It’s a shame that we don’t get to come here more often, just to relax a little. Perhaps one day we could take an entire week off, just you and me.”
Alice chuckled shaking her head, “If we were to do that the entire business would collapse. We take what we can, and that’s what we have done.”

“I’m sure the business will be fine without us. I mean, Harold knows what he’s doing and both Lorhowe and McGhee are competent enough to handle things for a few days.” He replied, thinking about what it would be like to take a week long vacation.

“The only thing Lorhowe and McGhee can manage is themselves, and they can’t even do that well. I’m not even sure why Harold keeps them around. They aren’t any good and they both like to complain.” Said Alice, spite in her tongue.

This time James chuckled and shook his head, “Martin and Jonathan were chosen for their positions for a reason. You have no right to denounce them, especially without any good evidence.” James sighed and got up from his seat slowly. He walked past his wife, putting his hand on her shoulders gently and kissing her cheek. For a second Alice pulled away from James, as if she was frightened of him. They each stood still for a few moments, wondering what each person was thinking. “I’m sure there is another reason you want to return home so quickly, too.”

James let go of his wife, who relaxed her shoulders and continued to put her clothes in her suitcase silently. He walked out of the room with his hands setting beside him limply. He entered the kitchen of the small cottage and walked over to the refrigerator. Instead of opening the refrigerator he extended his arms to the cabinet above it and opened the panel, grabbing a bottle of whiskey and setting it on the counter behind him. Then James pulled a small glass from a cupboard and poured the bronze liquid into it. Alice walked past the kitchen and to the living room, glancing at the bottle with resentment. James noticed the glance and wondered why she disliked his drinking habits.

When Alice walked back into the bedroom, a pair of shoes in hands, James was pouring more whiskey into his glass. She hesitated for a moment, as if she wanted to protest his actions, but continued to walk as if nothing had happened. He smiled, gulping the contents of the glass and pushing the bottle away. He turned back into the bedroom and opened the drawers to his armoire, pulling out the clothes he had stuffed in there only two days before. He could feel his wife’s eyes upon his back, but did not question them. After throwing them into his suitcase nonchalantly, he zipped it up and pushed it off of the bed, letting it crash to the ground with a thud. Alice watched in disapproval, but did not say a word. James could tell she was angry, but did not care.

James spent the rest of the hour beside the windowsill, the bottle of whiskey and his glass in front of him. As he drank he watched the daisies at the bottom of the tree trunk. He could hear his wife moving back and forth behind him, taking their belongings and putting them in a rental car outside. He did not bother to help her, attempting to prolong their stay as long as possible; she did not bother to ask him for help, attempting to avoid an argument. When the hour passed they each climbed into the car. James sat in the passenger seat, watching trees, grass, and bushes fly past the window as Alice drove. He tried to take in all of the scenery so that he could remember it when he sat in his dull office, surrounded by gray walls and fake plants. Alice tried to ignore all of the scenery, so that when she returned to her office her mind would be on work.

As they pulled into the train station, struggling to find a parking spot, James sighed heavily. Alice ignored this and stopped the car. She got out and grabbed a few of their bags. Before shutting the door she called to James irritably, “Get out and grab a few bags so we don’t have to return to the car.” When she slammed the door James slowly opened his and grabbed the rest of the bags from the back seats. As he reached the train Alice handed him a ticket and pointed to a car. When James reached their car a young man took his bags and set them aside. James nodded and climbed up the stairs.

Long gray cushions lined the walls of the train. Above them small rectangular windows showed the rest of the station. James picked a seat just in front of the train doors, pulling his arms close to his body when a few strangers sat beside him. He noticed that Alice did not get on the same car as him, slightly relieved, but at the same time disappointed. James never liked to ride trains because there was no privacy, and he was often rubbing against strangers. He always had the option to rent a private car, but felt that it would be a waste of money.

An old man next to him yawned loudly, stretching his arms. James cringed when he saw large sweat stains beneath his armpits, holding his breath until the man stopped stretching. He scooted to his right as much as he could without touching the woman beside him. When the man spoke to James his muscles became tense, “I ain’t never been on no train before, but I alway’ wanted to as a youngn’.”

James smiled politely and turned his head, but the man kept talking to him. “You seem like you been on trains before. Do you like em’?” He asked curiously.

“No, I do not like trains.” He replied quickly.

“Then why you on it now?”

“Because my wife paid for the tickets.” He said with anger in his voice.

“Where your wife at?” He said looking around.

“She’s on another car.” James quickly stood up and took an open seat in the corner of the car. The man squinted his eyes in confusion and then turned to his other neighbor as if nothing had happened, talking to him as he had talked to James. With a sigh, James stared at the young couple before him.

A young brunette grasped an older man’s shirt tightly, her lips firmly pressed to his. They held each other as if they had been separated for many years and were just reunited upon entering the car. Neither looked up to watch the others around them, but many watched them. A woman next to James suddenly chuckled and put her mouth close to his ear, whispering.

“His wife sure isn’t going to be happy once she find out about this dame.” She said mockingly.

James looked at the couple more closely, noticing that the man had a golden wedding ring on his hand. When he analyzed the docile woman’s right hand he saw that there was no ring on it. He looked up to watch the couple some more, wondering what would bring a man to commit adultery, and what would bring a woman to kiss a married man so passionately.

“It always comes when you least expect it. When my husband cheated on me, it was with my best friend. The day after I found out, he took fifty dollars from my bank account and ran off with her. Never heard or saw him again.” She said, nodding shamefully.

James watched the couple for a few seconds before turning to the woman. “Were there any signs?”

The plump woman suddenly threw a fit of laughter, her red hair bouncing as she held her stomach and rocked from side to side. When she finished chuckling she stared at the strange man with curiosity. Then she understood him, “Trouble with the misses? You got a ring but I see no wife.” She looked around the train for a woman that might have been his wife, “Is she at the house?”

“She’s on another car.” He replied regretfully.

“I see. Just hold on to her, because once you let them start to slip through your fingers, they run like water. That’s what ol’ Frank did when we started havin’ problems.” The woman let out a long sigh before continuing, “But to answer your question, yes. I noticed that he slowly became distant, not wanting to consult problems or be with me when I was havin’ troubles of my own. It was like he had jumped on a boat that slowly drifted away while I called to him. But don’t worry chap, I’m sure you and your wife will work things out. Young couples always have troubles!” She said cheerfully, slapping his back.

James pressed his body against the end of the car when she touched him, gagging a little. “It’s not Alice I’m worried about, it’s my best friend and his wife Dagny.”

“Well just you watch your best friend then, because that’s what I was thinking when he left me for that young tramp.” She said angrily, crossing her arms and sitting up straight.

The two did not continue their conversation for the rest of the train ride. Instead the obese woman mumbled under her breath and glared at the young couple before her. The man and his mistress did not notice anybody around them, and were so consumed with their sin that when a few people voiced their disgust, they did not hear them. James stared at the man in awe, wondering how he could evoke such pain unto his wife. He marveled at what her reaction would be once he left her, turning to the irate woman beside her to picture an example. And in that woman he saw himself, angry with Alice, Dagny, and Harold; he was angry because none of them seemed to realize what a hindrance this business has become to them.

For years things had run smoothly. Small problems could be conquered, and large problems were rare. But for the past few months small issues became big issues after neglect, and large issues became abundant. Each worker became diligent because of this, which put a toll on his or her relationship. James felt like he needed an escape; Alice felt that if she kept working harder their labors would become simpler. Harold, it seemed, felt that if he put his vocations before his family, all of his personal problems would disappear; Dagny felt that because he was pushing her away Harold no longer cared for her.

The night of the fire revisited his mind consistently for the past few days. He saw himself in his car, staring into the rear view mirror at Dagny and Harold, and glancing at his wife. He saw Alice staring at Harold with what appeared to be admiration and joy, to see him broken for the first time in her life. He cringed in disgust; what had happened to his once caring spouse? He saw Dagny pressed against the car door with a frightened look on her face, trying to isolate herself from everything. He shuddered at the sight; why wasn’t she comforting her husband? Then he saw Harold with emptiness in his eyes, devoid of any thoughts or emotions, only with the fire on his mind; was he truly dead inside that night? James looked forward, peering into the darkness his headlights could not penetrate, hoping that a deer would jump in front of the car and kill each of them.

James shook his violently and cast his thoughts aside. He pictured another scene instead. He stood before Harold’s office, waiting for his wife to come out so he could take her home. An hour had passed before the door opened once more, and when it did James caught a glimpse of Harold’s nervous eyes darting from Alice to his own. He remembered that Harold had followed them out to their car, departing when he stopped by his Cadillac. When James pulled out of the parking garage Harold was still sitting in his car with a disgruntled look painted on his face, the car on, but not moving. At the time he had ignored these incidents, but now, before a man and his mistress, beside an abandoned woman, and in a car full of strangers distanced from his wife, he asked himself a question: Should I be worried? No—he answered immediately—there is no reason to distrust Alice, nor Harold. It was Dagny who was to be questioned.
Dagny had an insurmountable beauty, envied by many of the

women in the family. But it wasn’t her appearance that intrigued most men; it was her enterprise, her weapon. Many thought she was an easily manipulated woman with the brain comparable to that of a child’s, but James knew she was intelligent. For each action, Dagny had a motive behind it. Nothing was done capriciously, and each of her intentions had meaning enclosed in it. He had seen plenty of young men try to trick her into defeating her husband, all of them failing. But what he had not seen, or searched for, was any indication that Dagny might have a secret plan of her own. And then he began to wonder if the arsonist who set Ivan’s building ablaze was internal or external, whether Dagny had planned the fall of this business.

James went back to the scene of the car. Dagny was so far from her husband, it seemed she didn’t care about any emotions he displayed. Was this a sign of her mischief? James shook his head once more, and tightly gripped his leather seat, sweat forming in his palms. He looked up at the couple before him, anger overtaking him. Then the mistress suddenly looked up at James, tapping her partner on the shoulder so that he would see him glaring at the two. The man pushed his mistress aside and leaned forward.

“You have a problem pal? ‘Cause if you do, I suggest you leave me and my wife alone.” He said bravely, glancing back at his mistress.

“She isn’t your wife, sir.” Said James, pointing at their hands, “Why don’t you mind your own business and deal with your own problems.”

“Well my wife sure isn’t satisfying at the house, so I picked up this little darling. Don’t you judge me.” He spat, clasping his mistress’s hand.

“I don’t give a crap about your wife, so sit quiet and continue ruining your life.” James glared at the man with abhorrence, making him shudder and sit back without another word.

James sat back in his seat too. He stared at the couple before him in wonderment. Why would the woman choose to look up at his glare, and not anybody else’s? Perhaps it was some type of presence James had acquired through business over the years. Perhaps his feeling was so strong it nearly radiated from his body. He looked at the young dame, not really seeing her. Instead, as his eyes ran up and down her body, he pictured her as Dagny, asking himself whether she was being unfaithful to Harold. But James could not think of any man brave enough to directly destroy Harold for his own personal gain. The idea of Dagny laying with another man was unimaginable, yet that seemed to be the only possible answer.

James’ thoughts were suddenly interrupted as the train began to screech to a halt. Time had unknowingly slipped away from him as he had pondered his ideas. Everybody on the train stood up immediately, hurrying off of the train. Outside workers ran to the train and began to take the bags and suitcases from where they had been held, setting them on the concrete for the owners. When James exited his car, he saw that Alice was waiting for him impatiently, their bags by her feet. He smiled and walked over to her, taking her in his arms. She pulled away at first, but soon returned the gesture.

“Forgive me Alice, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He said quickly, staring into her eyes.

Alice remained quiet for a few minutes, wondering whether or not she should accept his apology. Then, reluctantly, she said, “We must hurry back to the office.” Alice looked away from James and walked away with two bags in her hands. James stood in the train station motionlessly, hoping she would come back for him. He watched her as she walked away, bewildered. Then, as she rounded a corner, he looked down at the suitcases by his feet somberly; they were both his. His face was empty, but his eyes were forlorn, searching for some kind of answer. He stood alone, his heart slowly tearing apart. He wanted to run after Alice, but he did not know whether she was still at the station. He wanted to reverse time and recant all that he had said or done in the past. But none of that was possible; Alice was drifting away, on another ship.

Suddenly James dropped to his knees, tears falling from his eyes. He looked up at the sky and cried, screaming to the heavens. Many stared at the deranged man, wondering what had made him this way. But he did not see any of them. All he could see was his wife walking away from him, carrying his heart in her hands, slowly squashing it between her fingers. He screamed as loud as he could, hoping somebody would answer, knowing Alice would not hear him pleading for her.

At the other end of the train station a woman sat against a wall, her head in her knees. She had been waiting for her husband to come after her. She listened to him shout to the skies, calling her name and crying. She, too, was crying, her body shaking. Each of James’ words punctured her heart, making her more and more sorrowful. She leaned against the wall, wondering why she did not run to him. But Alice did not want to face him, knowing she would want to kill herself if she saw what she had reduced James to.

A small brown table sat in a dimly lit dining room covered with several papers. On the papers were stolen business transactions, receipts, profiles, and building contracts. They told the tale of an indiscreet businessman who fought his way from the bottom of the barrel to the top of a skyscraper, becoming a millionaire. Trigu sat at the table, his tie lopsided and hair messy, shuffling through each paper mechanically, trying to find the missing link to Ivan and the arsonist. He had been gathering information and observing business activity for over a month now, and the results were less than sufficient.

Trigu had devoted countless hours and taken many sick days to complete his work, but still he came up empty handed. It was only a matter of time until Harold became suspicious of his truancy and lack of effort. In the beginning he had hoped that, like crumbs in a forest, each new bit of information and trip would bring him closer to success, but it seemed to do just the opposite.

He carefully read one paper in particular. On it was a description of Ivan’s destroyed business, the one lit on fire. He saw that it was a particularly new business, but Ivan was no rookie in this lifestyle. No, he had practice, perhaps a business in another city. Trigu needed to know what business that was. These were all papers on the business the man had now.

Trigu quickly shuffled through the papers again, his hands running across a few. He picked them up, read them quickly and tossed them aside. Each paper he examined thoroughly, scanning them from top to bottom to find what he needed. However, each paper he went through, he quickly decided was insignificant to his cause, and he quickly began running out of papers. He came to the end of the table, standing up and sliding his hands along the table to grasp for another paper, the last paper, when his hands suddenly slid off the table and he found himself toppling onto the hard floor.

A sliver of blood trickling from his forehead, he lay on the floor, feeling tired and ready to give in. His back hurt very badly. It wasn’t anything worse than pain, but it was still a demoralizing thing to be attached to. Head turned, and eyes facing the floor, he could see dust collecting on the wood that he so often neglected to sweep or clean. Slowly his eyes followed the trail of dust like the Yellow Brick Road, when he saw a piece of paper that had fallen down earlier.

Suddenly hope tugged at his coattails, pulling Trigu up to a sitting position. Trigu turned to that paper of hope now, almost begging for it to be the right one. Slowly, his hand snaked across the floor, and he put the tip of the paper between his thumb and index finger. He found himself delicately raising the paper in front of his face to see that the paper contained a written copy of an old newspaper claiming that Ivan Cheyekslav use to work at an old business in Stanton before he mysteriously quit and left town. It was a pretty big business too, not the kind you’d simply leave.

Immediately, Trigu suspected foul play. Perhaps someone had gone in and taken over the business, threatening and forcing him out of town. Maybe they were back. Maybe these men were attempting to destroy Ivan again, or inherit his new business. No. That was too easy, too simple. Ivan wouldn’t let them come back for him. Most importantly, why would they rupture his business before taking power?

Trigu needed to travel to Stanton as soon as possible; these people were his best lead. If they weren’t the ones who did it, then they knew who did. He jumped from his position on the floor and gathered all of the papers from his table, forming a neat pile. He grabbed them and stuffed them in his jacket, turning away and rushing to his bedroom. He quickly began to shuffle through his dresser and pull out clothing, throwing them into an open suitcase. Then he walked to his bathroom, grabbed a handful of items and threw them on top of the clothes. He zipped it up and pushed it onto the floor. After shutting off all of his lights and grabbing his keys, Trigu briskly walked to his car and sped off. Behind him a lobbyist and a neighbor of his looked on in confusion, wondering why he was in such a rush, and why papers were falling from his jacket.

The engine vibrated roughly when he stuffed his key into the ignition and turned, and Trigu could feel its intensity in his hands, when he held the wheel. Silence was his only sensation as he drove down the empty road that stretched endlessly before him. He sped along the hills and around the curves, watching twinkling lights, and occasional cars fly passed his windows. Nothing could stop him now, he felt as if this new information was the power that kept his wheels spinning, his mind whirling, it was his motivation and his pride—pride that created a smile across his face, pride that made him feel on top of the world, pride that made his path seem clearer. He could only think of the delight he would see on Harold’s face once he presented his findings, and this made him excited.

Slowly, he pushed down upon the gas pedal, advancing his car, trying to get to Stanton as soon as possible. The earth flowed like a river underneath the hood. Bright green bushes and trees, and a colorful abundance of wildflowers hidden in shadows became a blur in the swift movement of the car, and all Trigu could see was a veil of black stretching forever on either side of him. This highway was the only piece of material that proved men had traveled here before, and the car glided over it smoothly, shaking and lifting only when it came across bumps.

Flying down a hill, Stanton lay before Trigu. Yellow and blue and white lights glistened in the darkness, providing a beacon for weary travelers. Trigu slowed his car down as he neared his destination, and took a deep breath. He was anxious to arrive and set to work, but he had no idea where to begin. He knew that he would figure things out as he went along, but the more he didn’t know now, was more time he needed to discover the arsonists secret. And the more time he spent here, was more time to be reprimanded for when he returned to his own city.

Trigu parked outside of a cheap motel. After paying for his room, he entered his room and threw his bags on the floor. He grabbed his remaining papers, knowing he had lost some on the way to the car, and laid them out upon his bed. Sifting through them, he decided that his lost papers were papers he no longer needed. He quickly brushed them aside and jumped on his bed to sleep. Nothing could be done at this hour, so his work had to begin in the morning...

Eyes open and hands by his side, Trigu let out a long sigh. He woke up the next morning calm, ready to discover the undiscovered. For a moment he pictured the promotion he would receive, but quickly set that aside. He knew that there was work to be done, and not much time to complete it. Before he fell asleep the night before, Trigu decided he would be blunt about the issue, no matter the danger in his actions. While being careful was the best option for others, Trigu didn’t have the patience or the time to take precautions. Besides, he could handle himself. He always had before.

His day began with a quick shower and a change in clothes. He slipped into black slacks and a black shirt, putting his coat on afterward. Trigu had a swift breakfast, and before leaving, slipped all the papers he thought he would need and his guns into pockets within his prized jacket.
The first place he wanted to go was an attorney’s office; this attorney, Berkley & Law, was the place Ivan ran to once problems began to mount from his competitors. Here Trigu would investigate the cause of such problems, and the end result. Then, hopefully, he would be able to venture into one of Ivan’s ex-competitor’s offices and question those employees. How he would do this without attracting the attention of his presumed enemies, Trigu did not know.

Berkley & Law was located a few blocks away from the hotel Trigu stayed at that night. The building wasn’t as refined as predicted, but the foundations and columns were strong enough to last a lifetime. Inside the lights were dim, and the hall was long and narrow. The reception area was empty, which actually made Trigu’s job a little easier; without a receptionist present, Trigu didn’t have to worry about any formalities in order to see a lawyer, Ivan’s old lawyer, Anderson Zachary. He waltzed forward and down the hallway, glancing at each of the doors and the labels beside them as he passed.

There were a lot of offices in the offices, which was much to the displeasure of Trigu (though he noticed that the entire building was strangely secluded). He passed by dozens of offices, finding nothing on the first or second floors. On the third floor, however, Trigu was met with success. There, at the end of a long, narrow hall not adorned with any type of pictures or fliers, was Anderson’s office. It was plain, yet austere at the same time, with a long, broad frame about the door and a neat label (neater than the rest, at least). The handle was silver and strong, and this door was stained with a dark hickory (while the rest were an off white color with golden door handles).

Slowly, nervously, Trigu extended his palm and caressed the handle. Not hearing anybody speaking inside the office, he twisted it and slowly pushed the door forward. His heart was thumping rapidly, as if it was about to burst from its cage. Inside a man gasped, relieving Trigu’s fear that Anderson might be out to lunch.

“Hello?” Called out the man.

Without an answer, Trigu walked through the door. He shut the door gently, making sure to lock it before he turned around. Before him was a frail, pallor man with thin, graying hair. His eyes were gray and soft, with some remnant of relentlessness, which Trigu assumed was abundant in his eyes before he lost the big case with Ivan. The man, Anderson, nervously sat up straight and messed with papers before him.

“They said you would be coming. I ordered all of the employees out, just as you said.” He said furiously, yet quietly defiant.

“What? Never mind, I want—” He started.

“I know what you’re here for!” He screamed, standing up and opening all of his desk drawers, “But I don’t have it, I swear! I never have, Ivan always made sure to take the documents and hide them himself.”

Trigu crinkled his eyebrows, startled by the man’s reaction. Staring at the man with curiosity for a few moments, he replied, “What do you mean, he hid the documents?”

“What do you think I mean? He didn’t want any evidence of our meetings, not until the time was right! And by the time that happened, you and your followers wiped out all possible options, dragging both of us to the ground.” He yelled, becoming more and more panicky. “So, please, just leave me and this entire office alone.”

Trigu sighed, not wanting to play any more games. “Anderson Zachary, correct?” The man stared at him oddly, and then nodded. “I’m not apart of some organization out to get you. However, I did come here to speak about your dealings with Ivan.”

Anderson’s eyes nearly popped from their sockets. “What? You mean you aren’t one of Crowshaw’s men? You aren’t here to…no…you have to leave. You have to hide!” Anderson jumped away from his desk and peered through the blinds of his window. Then, quickly, he ran back to his desk and shut all of his drawers, organizing his papers neatly. For a few minutes it seemed that he forgot about Trigu completely. Then, suddenly, after a small noise was heard outside, that of a car door shutting, Anderson ran back to the window. With horror, he turned to Trigu and jutted out his meager finger. “You must hide! They’ll surely kill me for having you in here!”

“I still have questions to ask.” Said Trigu, calmly.

“Forget you and your questions! Forget them, leave me be. They’ll kill you too.”

“Who?” Said Trigu, eyeing Anderson suspiciously.

“His men, Crowshaw’s men! They’re already coming, too. You must hide, but not outside, they’ll surely find you in the hallway. We have already wasted too much time.” Anderson sprinted to Trigu, who made motions to grab his guns.

“Hide?” He asked, “I think I’d rather fight…” He pulled out his right pistol and started for the door. Anderson jumped in front of him and pleaded.
“If you’re spotted they’ll kill me!”

“If I’m spotted,” He said, craning his head to get a better look at the door, “I’ll kill them.”

“What! There are four of them, maybe more! Look, I’ll answer all of your questions, just hide!”

Trigu considered, and then growled out, “Where?”

Anderson led him to a small closet in the corner of his office, with three coats hanging. He pushed Trigu in viciously and slammed the door. Then he ran to the door, unlocking it. Just as he sat down at his desk, the door was opened.

“Hi-hi!” He said, nervously.

Trigu counted at least four sets of footsteps, all brisk and stocky. It would be quite the fight if Trigu went after them just then. But he couldn’t, because he needed to know what was going on, and this would only make his future goals more difficult to reach.

“Anderson.” Said one of the men, presumably the appointed leader, “You know what we are here for.”

“I cannot help you, I don’t have any of the materials you requested.” He said, lifting up all of his papers.

“Henry, persuade him.”

Trigu heard some shuffling, and then a gun was cocked. Anderson let out a yelp and furiously threw his papers about, throwing out the same explanations he had done earlier. Then he screamed, and Trigu heard some quick movements. Then a gun was fired, and something heavy fell. Two men grunted and another gun was shot, from a different position. Trigu held his breath, his hands grazing his own guns for security. And then it was quiet, some movements, and a door slamming. Nothing. Trigu waited for a few moments before opening the closet door and inspecting.
He was not surprised to see several papers tossed about, nearly covering half the floor. But, to his right, a bookshelf was knocked over, books strewn about, and beside it, on the wall, was a splatter of blood. It was smeared across the wall, all the way down to where Anderson lay, a bullet submerged into his skull. He lay motionlessly, blood pooling from the new orifice exposing his brains.

Trigu stared for just a moment. He sighed and took his gaze away from the body. Without further adieu, Trigu grabbed a few random papers and made haste to leave the edifice, knowing more troubles awaited him if he remained in the building, for professional men sent people to clean up their messes soon after a death was created.

He opened the door slightly, peaking his head out for a moment. There was nothing in the narrow hall except for empty space and carpet. Silently but swiftly he slipped through the door and walked across the hallway, making his way to the back. He could already see an emergency exit. The door started to open. Sun light flooded in, and Trigu saw a figure in the doorway, but it was turned around, talking to someone else. They wore suits, like professionals. These were the cleaners.

Trigu darted across the hall and stopped next to the doorway, planting his back against the wall and trying to make himself as small as possible. The first figure came inside, moving in a way so that he didn’t even look in Trigu’s direction. Another one walked in, lighting a cigarette so his head was looking down. They both walked forward toward Anderson’s door. The last one came in a bit late. He saw Trigu in his peripherals.

The man spun on one heel in a stir, but didn’t do much else. Trigu’s pistol was pointed at his head. Trigu made a slight, ‘Shush’ noise and winked. The man was in absolute shock. A moment later Trigu pointed for the man to step outside. They were both in the sunlight in an instant.
The area they had stepped into was closed off by a bit of foliage placed for decoration. Trigu grinned; this is why they had come this way. He slipped the door shut and said with a powerful and commanding voice, “Step behind the trees!” The man did so, and the next moment Trigu had leaped directly in front of him so quickly he barely had time to react. The head of Trigu’s gun smashed into his head and he crumpled down to the floor.

After kicking the man’s body to make sure he was out of it, Trigu marched out of the area, making fast for the sidewalk to blend in with a crowd. He’d be able to disappear without anyone knowing he was ever there. A few moments later, and he was safely in a large crowd. He could hear the other guys coming outside to investigate where their partner had gone off to. That was all good and well with Trigu, because it just meant he had done it quietly enough: That he had done his job.

It was a short walk back to the hotel. Trigu walked into the lobby, and went to the front desk. After ordering something for his room, he briskly walked over to the elevator. Entering, he hit the fourth floor button and was on his way up. Not a moment too soon, he got to his floor, entered his room, and nearly crashed on his bed in thought.

His best link was dead, but even as one window shut, another window opened up. This one was a very dangerous window to climb through. Trigu didn’t know how exactly he would find out who Crowshaw was, but it was his best lead. Well, his new best lead. He figured he’d ask around a few places, go back to the firm, and then, if all hope seemed lost, he’d have to go home.

He really didn’t want to go home empty handed. He needed something.
“Crowshaw…” He muttered, “You’re next.”

Two men sat in a café by a large window. Outside birds chirped and basked in the afternoon sun. There was only one other customer in the café; he sat at the bar eating pancakes with his back hunched, as if he was protecting his meal from intruders. Before the two men were plain dishes with crumbs around the brims, and coffee mugs that hadn’t been touched. Each man was silent, staring at each other with glazed eyes, their minds whirling with questions. Their hands rested on the tabletops for support, and their ankles were crossed.

One man adjusted his posture and cracked his knuckles. He looked up at his friend and opened his mouth, only to shut it moments later. They had come here to talk about Harold’s business and James’s trip to the country, but instead they were merely thinking, as if they had not even left their offices, where each spent numerous hours at a time doing nothing. But James desperately wanted to break the silence, for he was afraid his thoughts would make him insane. Yet he could not; his mind overcame his actions.

He sighed and looked at a red handkerchief peeking out of Harold’s tuxedo. It reminded him of his wife’s red, luscious lips, and her thin, soft body in a long red gown, with blond hair covering her naked shoulders. He pictured her standing among a crowd of women elegantly, participating in dull conversation and laughing politely; she glowed amongst them, like a diamond in the rocks. He thought of this image and smiled but it quickly faded once he remembered what had happened at the train station, what he had done to her. A shadow of guilt came over him, and he sunk into his chair, as if trying to hide in shame.

Harold noticed this movement, but ignored it. Instead he turned his head and looked out of a window. He stared at a foreclosed bakery across the street. The windows were broken, and the door boarded up. Yellow tape ran across the length of the building, and an old warning sign hung lopsided in the center. He tried to imagine what would bring a person to destroy a baker’s dreams. But he didn’t really care about the baker; he was thinking about Ivan’s shattered goals. And there were no answers for his questions. He felt trapped in a maze with no exits. Then their silence was suddenly broken, when a waitress grabbed their plates.

“Well boys, can I get you anything else?” She asked brightly, looking at each of them. Both men glanced at her briefly before staring at their blank table.

“No thanks.” Said James, eager for conversation.

“Alright then.” The young woman set down a leather booklet with a receipt sticking out from some of the pages. “Here’s your bill, and I hope you have a great day.”

Harold took the booklet and stuffed an uncounted wad of cash in it. Then he straightened his jacket and backed his chair from the table. Then James suddenly said, “Wait.” Harold stopped and looked at his friend. “I…wanted to speak with you, about Alice.”

Suddenly Harold’s face became hot. For an instance he thought James was going to ask him about Alice’s faithfulness. His thoughts were washed away when he began to explain what had happened.

“I could never understand why Alice would spend more time at the office than she would with me. I still don’t. She has always been a diligent worker, and I accept that, but ten years ago she would have been willing to sacrifice an entire year for us if it was needed. But now, she buries her self in work, as if she no longer cares.”

“James, what happened at the cottage?” Asked Harold sternly.
“All I wanted was time alone, for us. We have been so far apart from each other lately that I feel we are forgetting who the other is. I simply asked if we could stay a bit longer, but nowadays work is first on her list, and I am last.” He replied, his voice breaking.

Harold laughed a little and said, “You mustn’t have expected her to leave at a time like this, James. She’s a very crucial part of this business, and so are you.”

James banged his fist on the table, “Look around, Harold, we aren’t even working! You and I both know business has slowed. What would change if I were gone?”

“But you can’t predict this sort of thing.”

“The fires of my marriage are now dying embers. If we were at the peak of our success, I would leave if I had to, just to mend our marriage.” Replied James.

There was a long silence between them.

“When I realized we weren’t riding on the same car home, I felt as if all was lost. I was left to think to myself, and what entered my mind made me feel sick. I felt as if I was slowly piercing my heart with a dagger.” James paused to glance out the window, as a yellow car whizzed by, “I was trying to understand why the office is to important to her, and for the first time in my life, I pictured her with another man. I thought that, maybe, somebody at the office had taken her heart.”

Harold suddenly sat up straight and coughed, “Alice loves you, James, passionately. I can hear it when she talks to you, see it when she looks at you, and feel it when you are together. Don’t doubt your love, because it leads to corruption.”

“Questions are asked for reassurance. I need reassurance. I need her to talk to me.” James said, on the verge of tears.

“Don’t wait for her. Run to her side.” Encouraged Harold.

“How can I, when she left me standing at the station? I told her I loved her, and she walked away. And I waited. I waited for her to come back and she didn’t! How can I run to her when she runs away? How can I cry to her when she cups her ears? How can I love her if she doesn’t love me?” His voice sounded fragile, though it was slowly rising.
“James…”

“How?” He bellowed, catching the attention of others in the café.

“James, I don’t know.”

The waitress cautiously walked over to Harold and James’s table and picked up the leather booklet. Her eyes widened when she saw the green bills stuffed into the booklet. She quickly turned away to hide her smile. James watched her walk away. Harold stared at James’s grieving face. His eyes were dull, his lips turned downwards. He turned away, unable to see him in despair.

“James, I don’t know what awaits you in the future. Nobody knows. If we did, there would be no point in living. But you have the chance to control your future, by acting now. Waiting is allowing your wife to give up.” Advised Harold.

“I already tried, Harold. I can’t make her pick me. If I could, there would not be a problem.” Answered James glumly.

“Well what do you want her to do? Keep away, and she’ll give up?” He asked.

“How do you think I feel? Do you think it’s easy for me to attempt reconciliation and fail each time? Do you think it is easy for me to see her ignore me, or deliberately pretend to be busy when I walk by? It’s not my fault! I tried!” Said James, turning to look Harold in the eyes.

“James, she’s a woman. It is your fault. It is always your fault. That’s one of the basic rules in marriage.” Said Harold, with a smile on his face.
“Well maybe things should change for once.”

“Men have said that for years. It’s not going to change.” Harold said, hoping the conversation was ending. He was eager to return to his office.
“Harold, marriage is supposed to be a compromise, not a compensation.” Pointed out James factually.

“Supposed to being the operative word. Look, James, either you make the effort or you don’t. Save it, or let it die.” Harold stood up.

“Tell that to her!” James’s anger was beginning to rise. ‘I’m the one who apologized and begged for forgiveness, when I did nothing wrong, mind you. I’m the one who sacrificed. I’m the one who made the effort already. Don’t tell me to try, when I have been trying for days. Don’t tell me to forget, when she ripped my heart from my body, and devoured it before me like the cold wretch she chose to be.”

Harold looked down and sighed heavily, “James, you must keep trying. When she finally listens, you can talk things through. But until then, you’re on your own.” He needed to be blunt, to finish this petty business. Harold has his own marriage to worry about, his own problems. How can he try to help James when each of his own suggestions are disregarded? Harold turned around and walked out of the café. James sat in his chair, stunned. When his best friend, his only outlet, his only aide, abandoned him, James looked down sorrowfully. Agape, he stood up from his chair and slowly began to follow his lead. With his hands by his side, eyes down, and lips stuttering, he left.

Harold regretfully turned on his car and watched his friend exit the café. His heart dropped when he saw the look painted onto James's face, but he knew there was nothing more he could do. He pushed James away in selfishness, and there was no way to pull him back. Looking away, he backed out of his parking spot and sped toward the office. He had to get away, from this conversation, from this misery, from his mistake.
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Sat Jun 26, 2010 2:31 am

Rommy, I promise I haven't forgotten this. I just suddenly got busy and I haven't had time to read it. I promise I will soon!
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PostSubject: Re: The Phantoms of Tragedy   Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:29 am

It is probably for the best. Not going to be able to post much more for a while. So close to finishing it. Smile I'm not sure how or when to end it or if I like what happens next. I'm pretty sure I also have two more colors to go, I guess I am not all done. In case you have not noticed, chapter titles are symbolic of colors. Would make more sense if I lept the first title: Rainbows at Midnight.
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The Phantoms of Tragedy
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