by Daniel Curry
Political differences blurred, power absolute, populations angry. God appears for one man.
“Pleasure, as always.”
The high-backed, leather chair turned to face the window, the shutter scattering light across the room. “I believe you will find Miss Gallow at her nephew's birthday party, the details of which you will be receiving now.” A pause as Samuel Jones pushed greying hair from his eyes. He let out a chuckle, “Bernie, I'd advise you to run this straight away. I've got a feeling this is going to be big, and when have I ever let you down? Keep in touch.” A clink from the handset and Samuel lit a cigarette, turning again in the chair. With a sigh of satisfaction, he increased the volume on the large television mounted opposite his desk, 24 hour rolling news a permanent fixture. Scribbling notes in a small grey journal, Samuel let the ash fall from the end of his cigarette to his desk.
The voice of a female news anchor jumped out from the screen.
“Unconfirmed reports that Genie Gallow, reality television star and now music personality is at a child's birthday party threatening members of her family. We are awaiting a report from John Grange who is on his way to the scene now. John, I believe you can hear us, can you tell us where you are?”
“Yes hello Phillipa, we have just arrived at an address given by our sources which is in a suburban area of Kent. We should have camera feed any moment now. It appears as though we are first on the scene and we are actually on the front lawn area of the house. Now a large fence is obscuring our view of the rear garden, however we can see the tips of gazebo tents and we can also hear a lot of commotion from behind the fence. The word is that Genie Gallow has arrived at this party uninvited and has entered into an argument with members of her family. We believe that she was snubbed due to recent events and also the intense media following of the star. It is assumed that she has turned up unannounced and may actually be threatening members of the party.”
Flicking the ash from his cigarette, Samuel tipped back in the chair as the news anchor gave way to a live video feed.
“John, we can see you now. Are you able to gain access to the party? Are the police in attendance?” John, a balding man with spectacles stood in front of a large house.
“The police have just arrived behind my camera, as well as various media vehicles, no doubt led here by the breaking of the story by us at Cloud News. Two police cars have arrived and several officers are entering the house, the rest are blockading the members of the press preventing them coming any closer.”
“Are you being asked to move John, are we able to stay with you?”
“As far as I can see, the officers here are having enough trouble keeping everyone else back and do not seem to be about to move us. Also Phillipa, an ambulance has also arrived adding fuel to the speculation that the individual may be armed.”
The image shot back to Phillipa in the newsroom. Samuel recognised her face from several parties attended under the guise of networking, as well as her fiery red hair. “Do we know if there is any truth to those rumours, has anyone come out from the party?”
“As long as we have been here, no. No one has been in or out apart from the police officers you have just seen entering.”
“We're going to, yes, John we're going to stay with you for the time being and see how this unusual story develops. We are still waiting for confirmation that Genie Gallow is involved in the situation, but lets talk about the star and her troubled personal life.”
Samuel rolled his eyes; he knew the details.
“Yes well, recently it has been very interesting and the media following she has accrued has been growing with intensity every day. We all know Genie from her beginnings as a contestant on Diary Days, and that she went on to marry Mico Jarento the highly successful football player. Now, what is unusual for reality T.V stars is that Genie has been highly popular since her time on the show. Musically, she has done extremely well, her first two songs reaching first position in the singles charts, as well as a number one album released at the beginning of this year. In April though, her latest release has failed to enter the charts, and speculation has been growing that her marriage is in trouble. This may have been caused by an unconfirmed miscarriage suffered by the couple.”
“John, do we know if recent events have anything to do with what is going on today?” John in his grey suit shuffled in front of the camera, trying to watch the doorway of the house behind him.
“It would not be implausible if this really is...” distracted he started again, “Phillipa, something seems to be happening.”
Samuel straightened in his chair and cranked the volume even higher. A large crowd of emergency personnel, mixed with television crews and reporters pushed towards the front of the house. The camera on John erratically tilted as people rushed around the scene. The source of the excitement an elderly man exiting the house. John managed to pull him in front of the camera, shoving his microphone, almost colliding with the man. “Excuse me sir, can you tell me what is going on?” now shouting over the background commotion.
“She has a knife, she can't handle this any more! That's all I know.” Red in the face with beads of sweat above his brow. John kept the microphone firmly in front of his mouth.
“Is Genie Gallow inside? Are you a relation to the star?” Pushing John aside, his face grew on the screen moving towards the camera to escape the spotlight.
“Please, I can't say. Please let me get away from here.” The man's escape was short lived however, as he became entrenched in a ring of cameras and microphones lying in wait. <<<
“Phillipa, I don't know what you can see back in the studio, but stay with us. There seems to be more people leaving the house now.” The bustle of the crowd knocked the camera from it's intended target and voices could be heard shouting for everyone to get back. Samuel watched intently, he could feel the anticipation building even inside his office. The excitement had evidently affected John as he let out a string of expletives directing the camera as to where it should be pointing. The screen now showed a blonde woman standing in the doorway of the house, clutching what looked to be a large kitchen knife to her chest.
“Phillipa, I can now confirm that it is Genie Gallow at the centre of this situation. We are trying to get closer.” A scrum of bodies pushed forwards and police officers lost their battle for calm. As the crowd got closer to the figure in the doorway, Samuel picked up the phone again and began dialling.
Genie Gallow stood on the decking with the worlds press at her feet. The chattering of the cameras coupled with the lights blinding her seemed to send her further into her frenzied state. Suddenly, her face contorted and she let out a deep scream.
“Leave me alone!” In one movement, the blade flashed across her throat.
The scene on the television could have been from a horror film. Dark thick liquid spattered over the crowd, and Samuel reeled backwards in the chair. The crowd didn't seem to share his sentiment, and remained firmly where they were. They were now focusing on an older female who had thrown herself across Genie where she had fallen. Sobbing hysterically, she seemed to be chanting.
“You did this, you did this!”
Samuel winced as the words stung him. They seemed to bring him back into reality, the phone held to his ear. He fell back in his chair once again as the call went through to an answer machine. He closed his eyes.
“I think we need to renegotiate my fee.”
Deep in his routine post meeting daydream, Weston would today be interrupted by a brick. Not that he knew this, but he became aware of looking up at his colleagues from the floor, with a searing pain from his brow upward.
Feeling for his clammy forehead and wiping the sweat to the back of his hand, he blankly stared at the scarlet streak. An arm around his shoulders sat him up, Weston pretending not to see the wince from Mark.
"We seen which one of them it was, she soon scarpered mind you. That's quite nasty West, but don't worry we've called an ambulance." Weston blinked hard and heard himself groaning at his Manager.
"I'm, fine, really..."
"Oh still, got to follow protocol Weston, health and safety and all that. It looks quite deep, we don't know the damage."
"What happened?" His voice, alarming how loud he sounded. "Was it the protesters?" All week he watched them swell in number, demonstrating cuts or bankers. Probably one of the two. All quite common and dull now in the city, it seemed as though everyday there was an angry group making their point known to reflective glass. Faceless masters stood behind them sizing up the scene, chortling to one another Weston imagined. A shake of his head and he realised he was suffering a strong dizziness.
"Protesters? Ha, bloody yobs and hooligans if you ask me. Right through my window, and that computer has had it. No respect for property these days. Marian, fetch Weston a glass of water."
Mr Crumpton, red in his chubby face following his rant, had beads of sweat glistening on his balding head. Weston had always been reminded of a monk, right from his first interview with the firm. Marian bobbed back into the room, her short dark hair flapping around her ears like a spaniel. As she leaned forward the reek of flowery perfume displacing the air in front of Weston, and he quickly took the glass of water from her.
"Thank you." Gulping at the liquid, "Really I don't think I need an ambulance."
"It's here now, got to cover all grounds. You should understand that by now boy eh?" Mr Crumpton slapped his knee and stood, Weston now resting with his back against his desk, a warm sticky liquid tickling down his nose and dripping from the end. From the floor he looked up at the faces around him, and felt a surge of embarrassment flush his cheeks. He had only been in this job a month, most of the staff avoided speaking to him, and his boss relied on the word 'boy' to address him far too heavily. Now. Here they all were, staring at him with fake concern wrapped over their nosey intentions.
As the faces swam in and out of the grey cloud invading his vision, an unfamiliar voice called out.
"Paramedics. Do we have a head injury?" and up bobbed Marian, with her squawking.
"Yes over here, his name is Weston Nichol, he's 24 and we think he lost consciousness."
"I can speak for myself..."
"They smashed my bloody window, have you seen the damage? Are the police coming?" His little red face swelled further, the beads of sweat perched on his bald head, looking rather unstable now. The paramedic blew her red hair out of her eyes swinging a large red rucksack from her back.
"Well did you call the police?" and she didn't even glance at Mr Crumpton. Her eyes on Weston, bumping through with her bag, brushing the man out of the way.
Puffing up his face like a hamster, flecks of spit jumped from his lips, "Well, well they send police don't they, when property has been damaged? There's a bloody riot going on out there!" he stomped towards his office, "Come on Marian!" the secretary jumped, almost running after him.
"Right, Weston, my names Shauna. Can you tell me what happened?" Weston felt drunk. The delay between what he was hearing, his thoughts and his reply felt an age.
"Something came through the window, and hit my head. It's bleeding," he went red again, "well you can see that. I fell off my chair and I can't really remember much after that." Shauna wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm, and took his pulse from the other.
"Did you lose consciousness?"
"I don't know, I think so, it's all a bit fuzzy." Weston winced as she felt the wound on his head. "I'm sorry."
"No never you mind sorry. Best get you in the ambulance, we'll get you sorted out at the hospital."
Shauna's partner was radioed in from the ambulance and they set about the awkward task of getting Weston in a wheelchair and on to the vehicle. Mr Crumpton bumbled back from his office ranting about police, damage and lost staff time, but Weston just let it go over his fuzzy head. Fighting the urge to fall asleep, he enjoyed the release the drunken feeling brought him, and just let everybody get on with it.
Samuel Jones was unintentionally a powerful man. Starting his career in the media as a mouthy journalist with something to prove, he wasted no time in realising that there was big money to be made from celebrities and their well documented lifestyles. The gods of the earth, people followed their every move and people like Samuel were there to make a fortune. Publishing sensationalist stories on the famous, wealthy and important public figures he soon made a name for himself, eventually becoming editor of a popular celebrity lifestyle magazine. Whilst in this position, Samuel engaged the next phase of his career. He began to make a lot of contacts but instead of trying to impress those higher on the social ladder than him and trying to get himself noticed further, he befriended and conducted favours for various background workers and family members for the rich and famous. It could be a sports stars personal shopper, a make up artist's assistant or the brother of a politician. The degrees of separation were often very convoluted, but it was enough. These people then owed Samuel favours in return, or would often outright work for him for a fee.
These connections were the source of his information, and information made him a lot of money. The last half an hour alone had secured him the best part of £250,000. Now retired from his editorial position, Samuel worked full time making money from his information and securing new contacts. He now had an inside person close to all important public figures, be it movie stars, television presenters, established and up and coming pop stars or politicians. As long as they were famous then they were worth money to him.
In this age of the media and the constant streaming of news and information on 24 hour news channels, countless newspapers and magazines and most importantly the internet, there was always a demand for more information and there was always a highest bidder.
“It's all about the break, the big reveal, we knew first.” This comment had stuck with Samuel throughout his career. People wanted to know things first, before anyone else. Simple.
In the case of Genie Gallow, well sometimes Samuel just felt he got lucky. The younger sister of the reality sensation was so desperate for a glimpse of the spotlight that she told everything to Samuel on the back of promises of stardom. The miscarriage, the divorce, hell even how many times a week she had to shave her legs, everything had a price.
That which Samuel had just witnessed live at two in the afternoon was just gold. Solid bullion. Originally he had made a substantial amount selling the tip off that she had arrived at the party and was under the influence of drugs, but for her to kill herself live on television. With cloud media being the first on the scene they were in the best position to broadcast everything. This was worth millions in advertising revenue to them and ensured that consumers turned to them in breaking news events.
They were now confirming the death, the same reporter calling out from the television speakers.
“Poor kid.” Samuel muttered to himself as he lounged back again. Muting the sound, he raised another cigarette to his lips. He inhaled deeply and held the breath for as long as he could, then pushed all the smoke out at once. He would be a liar if he said the things he saw and heard no longer affected him. At the end of the month though, there was always his bank balance which was able to alleviate his conscience. He felt that was what it was all about, being successful, looking after number one. Just as his thoughts began to lift a vibrating in his jacket pocket startled him. Groaning as he looked at the screen he held the phone to his ear.
“Sam Jones.” he closed his eyes. A shrill voice emanated from the speaker. “ I am incredibly sorry...please...listen, if there is anything I can do?” He leaned forward in his chair and angrily stubbed the cigarette out. “My fault? Sorry, I do hope that you have not forgotten our arrangement? I am sure that you would not want the details of our conversations to become common knowledge as much as I need to protect my privacy. Especially after today, it would shed you in a rather bad light.”
Massaging his right temple with his free hand, he leaned back again, “You will still receive your payment in a few days.” he sighed, “and truly, if you do need anything just send me an email and I'll try to...” the call ended, the abruptness leaving the room silent, Samuel feeling the rush of guilt coming up from inside him. Pulling himself from his thoughts, he tossed the phone on to his desk. People had to be controlled to stop his infrastructure from crashing down around him, no one could find out fully how he operated. The guilt was beaten by his sense, and tucked away again in the dark corner deep inside him. Samuel lit another cigarette and glanced at his in-tray. On top of his daily newspapers lay a yellow envelope decorated with looping handwriting of his address. The paper was thick and heavy and Samuel looked closer at the handwriting. Not recognising it as belonging to anyone he knew, he turned it over to open it, and a sudden sinking feeling pulled from inside his stomach. He had been expecting one of these for a long time. Someone was going to blackmail him, someone who knew too much. He tore open the thick paper envelope and a small piece of the same thick yellow paper jumped out into his shaking hands, the same handwriting displayed in front of him.
I am in a position to be able to offer you a piece of extremely valuable knowledge. I have studied you and your line of work and I am confident that you will understand why I have contacted you.
I await your response.
Confusion washed over Samuel as he read and re-read the note several times. Undecided as to whether he should take it as a threat or not, he noticed what appeared to be a phone number on the reverse. Twisting the paper between his fingers he picked up his phone. As he typed the number he thought through everyone who could have sent this. Someone had been watching him, or had worked out what he was doing. There were too many possibilities, and Samuel realised that the control that he thought he had, was simply an illusion. Panic began to rise inside of him as the call connected.
“Hello Mr Jones.”
The voice rumbled low with a South African accent through it. “You have my letter, I presume?”
Samuel tried to recognise the voice, but was unable to place it.
“Yes.” He replied, standing and opening the blinds a touch. “What is it you want?”
“What do I want? I believe you have misinterpreted my position.” the voice spoke properly, pronouncing every syllable. “I have something to offer you.” Samuel peered between the blinds, looking for signs of anyone watching him. Hesitating, he responded.
“What is it that you think that I do? And what do you think you can offer me?” A deep laugh from the handset unsettled Samuel further.
“I know what you do Mr Jones. I understand that you provide people with, shall we say, information. I have an excellent lead on someone who may interest you.”
“Excuse me? I don't quite follow what you mean.” Unsure of what to say, Samuel stalled the conversation whilst he racked his mind for who the caller could be, or what their connections were. “I am in the business of popular media if that is what you are referring to? As for any leads or stories, you would be much better placed contacting a local news agency or journalist.”
“Samuel, I have taken the liberty of withholding this information for you. I feel that you are the one who could best use my help.” The strangers words confused Samuel further. It was now that he regretted not paying for security, and was seriously considering calling the police.
“Look, I don't know what it is you think I do, I'm actually retired and only maintain a few contacts for some freelance journalism...”
“We both know that this is untrue Mr Jones. Please listen to me, perhaps we can meet and I can detail everything for you.”
“I'm sorry but you haven't even explained who you are.” His curiosity starting to pique, Samuel attempted to pull some more information from the caller.
“Please, my name is Mr Orifiel as stated in my letter. I am contacting you as no threat, so please do not worry.” Samuel felt himself starting to trust the man, something the cynic within him never let him do. If he was going to be blackmailed, there was very little he could do about it anyway. Decision made, he spoke in a whisper.
“Where can we meet?”
Standing at the base of an old track, Samuel checked his watch. The meeting point was towered over by a red stone archway with black painted details. Behind this, a track ran up towards the higher street levels of down town Los Angeles. Checking his watch, Samuel took his gaze from the monument. The glint of the sun on the glass dial of his timepiece flashed across his eyes, momentarily blinding him.
“Mr Jones.” The voice from the telephone called out. Samuel took a sharp intake of air. Standing below the archway was a tall man, his dark skin covered by a black suit with white shirt and black bow tie to match. He was wearing what looked like a bowler hat, its rounded shape fitting neatly on his skull. He would not have looked out of place on the set of an old black and white film, save perhaps for the colour of his skin wasn't painted on. Mr Orifiel.
“Yes, I am Samuel Jones.” Already knowing that the conspicuous man knew exactly who he was.
“Thank you for meeting me. Have you ever been here before?” he paused as Samuel shook his head. “This is Angel's Flight.” Samuel directed his eyes upwards and read the carving aloud.
“Angel's Flight, I've never seen it, but why are we here?” Mr Orifiel strode towards Samuel, extending a hand as he drew close.
“I like the symbolism.” He smiled a coy grin, and a flash of light across his dark eyes looked like a wink. The pair shook hands with a firm grip and Samuel felt a slight warmth flow up his arm followed by a prickling coldness. Withdrawing his hand, he shuffled uncomfortably.
“Who are you, and how do you know me?” he inquired, wanting to get to the point. Mr Orifiel removed his hat revealing a bald head, and moved it to his chest.
“Of course. Samuel, I sense distrust within you but please know that I am not here to cause you any harm. I am here simply because I have information that I believe you would make best use of.”
“Why me?” Samuel interjected with a pang of frustration.
“Lets say that you have an interest in certain influential individuals.”
“Carry on.” A smile crept onto his face but his eyes looked somewhat sad. Samuel however felt an anger growing inside of him.
“Please, Samuel let me show you.” Mr Orifiel reached out and took hold of Samuel's hand, holding it tightly between both of his. Closing his eyes he began to recite name after name of leaks to Samuel, and which famous person they were associated with. Samuel's heart beating faster, racing to his mouth. Jumping back he pulled his hand away.
“How, have you hacked my computer? Tapped my phone?” breathing now in short bursts.
“You must, how do you know those people?”
“Let me prove myself further. Do the words 'I have never forgiven you' mean anything to you?” Samuel felt a block of ice colliding with his stomach.
“Wha..” an inaudible noise escaping his lips. Now his voice a whisper “who are you?”
“Please do not be alarmed. I have come to you for a reason. I do not wish you harm or to stir up memories of the past. Memories of your father.” tears flooded Samuels eyes, and a vicious shaking took hold of his body. His breath grew shallower still and his heart felt it would burst. The world around him blurred into colours, swirling around his head. Staggering back, all he could see was Mr Orifiel, his arms outstretched towards him. The blackness of his suit took hold of his vision.
Before Samuel, stood the outline of a bed. A thin figure wrapped in the sheet lay on top of it. There was a feeling of desperate clinging to a shell under the whiteness of the linen, yet all the while a longing to let go. Samuel looked at his father. He looked at himself watching his father. Samuel watched the scene he had been a part of so many years ago. He saw himself slowly edging towards the bed and leaning down low placing his face against his father's pale skin stretched tightly across his cheekbones. A hiss escaped his lips and every word lashed across Samuel's heart.
“I have never forgiven you.” small flecks of spit jumped from his past self's lips and landed on the old man's face, searing anger in every drop. The young Samuel Jones turned from the bed and made his way to the door of the room his breathing slightly fast but controlled, tears strewn across his face. And he remembered it all, every single fraction of the seconds that passed in that room. The smell of the air entered his nostrils again, the heaviness of the silence crushed his ear drums. The next moment however, he had no memory of. The dying man opened his eyes like a crack appearing in a statue and a whisper escaped from his mouth.
“No...” a tear from each eye slowly travelled down his cheeks, and as they fell lower, so did his chest. As the droplets rolled off the thin chin and on to the pillow, the soul let go of the body that had constrained it for so long. Leaving the heavy mortal shell below, it soared through the air making it suddenly fresh. The coolness forced Samuel take a sharp breath, drying the tears on his face leaving streaks where they had ran.