by JR Bancroft
Murder, hidden family secrets, a car fortune, and blackmail.
|Chapter One: The Deal Is Off
A tall, disagreeable sort of man towered over the table nestled parallel to the back of the couch. In one hand he held the base of a phone and in the other the receiver.
It was easy to tell by just looking at him that he had been very skinny and lanky decades ago. The years had since taken their toll.
His hair had a similar worn disheveled air. His hair was a bit course with out-of-place feathered ends. The color ranged from a medium gray to a light mousey brown. It was in the process of drastically straying from the latter.
Though he was physically large and intrusive, none of those qualities were what turned heads.
His voice was what attracted those who first approached him. It was loud and booming. It was the sort of voice you could hear clearly at a party from across the hall. Though the sound levels were not it's only draw. The obnoxious bass was framed with a very worn in English accent.
Each word he spoke into the phone, no matter how small, had power. He forged each word without thinking, a slurring of instinct and inhibition.
He stood impatiently listening to the voice on the other end. His restlessness was shown in the haphazard and random way in which he jostled the base. The windows in front of him would've have been letting in a beautiful bright welcoming gesture symbolizing the entrance into the afternoon, but he kept the thick drapes unmoved, sealing in the dark dank colors that seemed to be decades old.
The room itself was a decent size, and the walls were covered in a thick decadent paper. Its style gestured its age, not it's condition. In fact, the only flaws in it seemed to cluster near any door frame.
The walls were the only garish feature, every other constructed feature was about average.
The hardware was a demure silver. Not real silver, but realistic looking enough. This encompassed everything from the lamp base to the desk drawer handles.
The desk rested its back against the back of the couch. The two very obviously fighting for the center of the room. The couch, the clear winner, was draped in a stiff fabric housing a leafy pattern that seemed to dance across it mechanically.
The only out of place feature was the man himself. He very obviously broke the aesthetic.
His brow furrowed, a subtle reaction to the news he was receiving. He was very obviously trying to hold back his ire. An easily tempted demon. “I don't care. Fix… His demanding and somewhat terrifying words were swiftly started and finished. “Fine.” He said begrudgingly accepting the news. With one swift motion, he slammed the receiver onto the base that was held in his left hand, then threw it against the wall.
It shattered into hundreds of pieces. The flecks broke off in slow motion creating a starburst of freedom that lightly showered his face. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He turned back around to face the swaddled window.
Another man peered in from the hall. He was significantly shorter and better looking. “What was that?” He asked. His tone portrayed a touch of concern but was more rhetorically playful knowing exactly what the loud noise was.
He looked down at the ground near the other man's feet and saw the mess of plastic. “Thomas.” He said trying not to laugh as he looks at the stoic pieces of plastic lying amongst the lush carpet. “We can't keep buying new telephones.” Thomas turned to see Richard standing awkwardly with both elbows resting on the side of the door frame.
“The shareholders are not happy.” He said. Richard stood normally, and his demeanor quickly changed from playful to concerned. In that moment he understood why the phone was no longer functioning.
Taking one step into the room he spoke. “ I'm sure it will work out.” He said trying to quell his anger with optimistic projection even though he himself wasn't sure if he believed his words. “Have you heard from Genera?” He asked while walking even further into the room.
He was very much the athletic-looking sort, no extreme definition but reasonably toned. “No,” Thomas said tersely. Richard immediately regretted asking the question. “Let's just wait it out, we are already here, might as well.” Thomas clumsily walked over to the desk that sat diagonally from the couch. The desk was covered in dozens of loose papers. Some designs and others not even worth mentioning.
The only portion of that cluttered corner more distracting was the poster of the car they tacked to the wall above it.
Thomas wistfully shuffled through the papers. He picked one up, a sketch of a car similar to that on the poster. He looked at it, his demeanor was unmoving. “I know we can make this work here.” He said with defying certainty. His words did not surprise Richard but rather their delivery, there was a man underlying layer of pure hope. A childlike and pure emotion that was very uncommon in the vessel of all things harsh and detached.
“Of course” Richard added, “Even if Genera doesn't work out, there are other options. If the Copan can be sold in England it can be sold here.” Spewing the last words in a comedic manner imitating the words Henry had said so many times before. Henry chuckled. “It's true.” Thomas relaxed and poured himself a stiff drink just as he finished the front door opened.
The duo remained silent until the man entered the room. “So,” he began while taking his coat off, though before he could continue Richard, shot him a look trying to signal him to stop, his efforts were lost on his very clueless friend. “hear anything?” Richard turned to Thomas bracing for another outburst of rage but his response was even more terrifying. “Of course not.” He said slumping onto the couch with a hint of defeat on his tongue. “Oh, I'm sure they will come through,” William said finally realizing his mistake. Thomas, whose mind was already wandering elsewhere grunted halfheartedly in response.
Richard slowly walked behind the couch. William saw what he was approaching and began to laugh. Richard methodically picked up each piece. He lied them all on the table where the whole phone was typically kept. He tried forcing some of the larger pieces together very ungracefully, similar to how a child would have. Thomas leaned his head back to see what he was doing. “Don't bother.” He said waving his hand nonchalantly behind him. “I'll get another one later.”
William, who had taken a seat at the desk interjected. “Are you sure? I don't mind stepping out again.” “No, no I'll go.” He insisted. Richard continued to tinker with the phone until Thomas got annoyed with the noise. “Let it go.” He said, “It's obviously not going to work.”
Even though that was obvious to Richard he still felt like trying to salvage it was the right thing to do at that moment.
Thomas leaned to his side and pulled up the garbage pail. Richard accepted it and placed the pieces inside.
Content that he was obeyed he stood to replenish his drink. His large hands reached out to grasp the decanter. He pulled out the gem-shaped stopper and poured a sliver more into his glass. With one rough but succinct motion, he lifted the glass to his lips disposed of its contents and returned it to the table. “I'm off.” He announced.
Richard took a deep breath as soon as the front door closed. He ran his hands through his thick disheveled hair. “I hope he is feeling better by the time he returns. William mirrored his sentiment with an uneasy smile, a gesture of understanding.
“There is no reason to get upset yet, we have time.” Richard's words sparked Williams memory. “Oh!” He exclaimed dramatically. “Have you seen the Times article?” Richard whipped around to face him. “No!” He said with an air of excitement and terror. “What did it say?” Knowing it was about their business by his delivery.” Richard tried to remain hopeful but there was a pang of doubt haunting him. William walked briskly to the coat rack.
The rack was simple but notable. It was black with a glossy sheen and silver hook tips.
Two coats hung lifelessly on it, one black and finely pressed and one blue and a bit disheveled.
William reached into the breast of the blue wool coat and pulled out a tightly rolled up newspaper. “It's not bad, at least in my opinion.” He said sensing Richards trepidation. He sat at the desk and unrolled the paper and began to read it. “Copan, the front-runner in small car fortune finds opportunity in America. Copan, the Ford of Europe, invented the Copan 12 which sold thousands. Though no deals have been made the American people are in the market for a smaller car.”
Richard was frozen half way into a seated position. He stood. “That isn't bad at all.” He said quite surprised. “I'm not done,” William interjected. He continued. “Though the demand is there, the stockholders of Copan are angry with the idea of a potential deal with the current interested party, Genera.” Richard slumped into the chair. “Thomas is going to hate this.” William nodded. “Though it's still not the worst outcome.”
William set the paper on the coffee table and sat on the couch. Richard took that chance to approach the desk and pour himself a drink. He lifted a graceful looking long-necked bottle of scotch. “What should we do?” William inquired. After pouring the glistening amber liquid into two circular etched glasses he lifted up one looking to William. “Ice?” “Yes, lots.” He responded. A bit confused by his decision to put the alcohol in before. “I don't think we should react yet.” He said finally responding. He returned to the couch with the drinks.
Both men sat side by side positioned straight towards the bay window.
As though they were synchronized, they both aggressively hit their glasses to their lips.
William took a breath and slowly began to relax. “It's nothing we didn't already know.” Richard shrugged “Now everyone knows.” Richard grabbed the paper and stared at the article as if it would give him an answer.
His eyes burned through it. He read it again for himself. “You know this really isn't bad. It could be but it isn't.”
He looked straight at the windows again. Most often the large bay windows were covered with thick heavy drapes, but that day, they were open and the bright mid-afternoon light flooded the room.
They could see the expanse of grass that led up to the bank of a gray quiet lake. The wind cascaded across the blades, a pleasant relief from the normal stagnant heat of summer. "I think the possibility of it all ending in disaster is the part no one likes, the risk."
William was still nursing his drink as Richard set his empty glass down. "Thomas, he was talking a walk right?" He asked.
“Yes.” They both looked at each other and smiled. “ He's going to be gone for quite a while…” “ Race?” They both jumped to their feet.
There were five cars parked as close to the house as possible. The shape of the road curved at the edge of each house in that particular cluster. This allowed the cars to create a large physical disruption for any of their neighbor's views.
They both chose their car and sped off. Both cars were identical, in fact, all of them were the same make, model, and color. The chic jet black body slithered like a tropical snake beneath the sky.
The drove side by side on the cusp of a flat pasture, there were limited roads within the rural area they were staying so they made their own.
The air whipped past their faces, invigorating them with the brisk chill and accompanying adrenaline.
They tore apart fields without looking back. They knew no one, and no one dared chase them.
They missed the English streets, though the United States had its own unmatched appeal, a freeing naivety.
The noise and exhaust from the cars were overwhelming to those new to the concept of automobiles
Their adventures were always a spectacle.
They returned to the house. Thomas was inside hooking up a new phone. "Oh if we would have known you were going to be back so soon you could have joined us for a race," Richard said apologetically. "Race with you losers? No way." He turned to them. “Phone up and running?” Richard asked.
"There better not be dirt on those cars," Thomas said. He was overprotective of his inventions. Richard and William looked at each other and ran out the door again.
Thomas picked up the phone and spun the rotary. The phone was a disgusting green like the last one, in fact, they tried to buy the same color every time. It was a weird joke. He held the receiver up to his right ear and waited as it rang. “Greg!” He said, excited he got someone on the line. "Have you heard anything?" He stood silently as the man spoke to him. "Come on,” he pressed. "I know you can get information faster than I.” He paused again. “I know, I know, my phone was down for a bit. Five? OK, I'll wait. Goodbye."
Richard came back into the house. His clothing covered in water. Thomas looked over at him. "Did you guys finish destroying my cars yet?" Richard laughed. "The races whether they be with cars or water never last long.” “Well, Will is very slow with everything.” “Though to be fair he is a much faster driver than the average person.” Richard pointed out. "Who wants to be fair? " Thomas retorted. They laughed. “Where is he?" Relaxing he still hadn't come in. "He saw a lady," Richard answered holding in laughter. "He is hopeless."
Their lightheartedness was interrupted by the sound of the phone. They looked at each other, knowing it was the call they had been waiting for. Thomas slowly walked over to the phone and picked it up
"Hello?" He started off with a positive tone, but after that one moment, his voice changed. "OK, fine, you are clearly an idiot." He slammed the phone down on the base, this time, without breaking it. Richard afraid to look at him was pulled in by curiosity. "The deal is off isn't it?" Thomas responded with silence, he began to pace around the room "A bunch of wankers." He spat out angrily. Richard who was, more level-headed, was able to think quickly, "I'll check out the town tomorrow and see if we can find something else. Don't worry about it, this will work out ." Thomas seemed to be a little more annoyed after his words. "There won't be anything else, I can't imagine anything right now." His words were meaningless and knowing this he stormed out of the room.
Richard could hear his heavy footsteps crush the floor tiles beneath him as he walked through the hallway and out the front door.
He heard the door swing forcefully open but did not hear it close, thinking that he might have stopped at the doorway, he ran into the hallway. Thomas was not there, he was quickly getting into one of his cars. Richard was grateful he had not closed the door, aware that he most likely would have broken the glass insert inside of it. He stood in the doorway. He was not waiting for anything, in particular, he figured the fresh air could not hurt. After a few deep breaths, he returned to the hallway and closed the door gently behind him.
The sitting room was silent and empty. He normally felt more comfortable alone, but that day the feeling led to a lingering emptiness.
He walked past the sitting room and to the stairs. As an extreme contrast to Thomas, the tiles quietly creaked under his shoes. The sound was almost satisfying. His right foot made his way to the first stair. Joining the melodic noise, it creaked his own baritone ode. Once he reached the landing he stood still, reviving his thoughts from moments ago. His room stood to his left. He slowly walked to the door and placed his hand on the glass looking doorknob. Though it looked like glass, to the touch it felt softer, possibly plastic. He turned the knob and the rusty metal framing the keyhole scraped against his knuckles.
There was a hole for a skeleton key. He always voiced his disappointment that no one used them any longer. Again gently closing the door. He leaned against it and took a deep breath.
His room was simple, just like the others. hey had been renting the house for about a month to facilitate their business dealings in the United States. His real home was Longbridge, England, a quaint, beautiful old town. Though he loved his town, America seemed like an invigorated version, which pleased and excited him. There seemed to be new inventions and concepts every corner. He sat down on the edge of the bed. There was a very old looking telephone on the bedside table. He picked up the receiver and began to rotate the dial in the middle. The rotary sang long drawn out moans, haunting his ears. "Hello." He responded. " No, sadly the deal did not go through. "I don't know when we are coming back." He paused, "We might look for another opportunity. I know." Almost anticipating what the person on the other end was going to say. " It's far, I know it's far but it will be worth it I promise, it's better if I stay a little longer now. I don't want to have to travel back and forth from Longbridge again. " He listened exasperated. "OK, I'll call you if anything changes goodbye." As he hung up the phone he took a deep breath and flopped back onto his bed.
The ceiling was ugly, a weird collection of white clumps of paint.
The front door opened and Richard hearing it all the way from upstairs, sat up.
"Richard ?" It was William. It was easy to tell their voices apart, Thomas being rough and careless and William soft-spoken and meticulous. "Up here," Richard yelled back. He clamored up the stairs and found Richard lying back on the bed. "I saw Thomas speed by on my way back." "Yeah" Only leaning up a bit to pull out cigarettes and a lighter. He lit the cigarette while still lying on his back. "Is it done for good?" He asked while still standing by the bedside table.
He towered over Richard though only physically. He took a long puff. "Yes, for Genera." He placed the cigarette in his mouth again. He opened his mouth to speak again, "But don't worry I'm looking for other opportunities." As he spoke he first couple words pillowy clouds of smoke floated out of his mouth. "Fag?" He asked holding he pack up in the air. "You know I don't smoke." "I thought maybe this would be an exception." He sat up, placing the carton on the table. "Should we even finish the designs?" Richard asked earnestly. "I am still going to, I do believe we will find something, it might help Thomas get moving again too. Honestly, I thought we were in completely until that call earlier. " "We just need more buzz." "Hmm, buzz." Richard repeated, "that might be true.” "Thomas needs to come back so we can get this started again." "I doubt he will be able to work today, he's irate, let's give him a day." "He will get over it." Will said heartlessly. Richard stood up and walked the dresser. He pulled open the top drawer and pulled out a large bottle of scotch. "Come on, let's go find him."