A Day on the Path to Justice
Darkness. My eyes are open – pitch black darkness around me. Is it day or you, vicious night, my beautiful friend? There have been times when your shades of black were my enemy… now, you are at my side to fight those who stole my days, my laughter, my dreams. But my dreams are back, my laughter echoes in these cool chambers, far, far away from where my dear friend Jacob.. Father.. suspects me. Thinks he is smart, trusting his instincts… Ha. Strange how the sound of my laughter keeps coming back to me through the tunnels. How I enjoyed the message on the pipes: I might be deeper in the tunnels… ONE place? I’m everywhere. Underestimates me, like always.
Past midnight already? Time to hurry and deliver. All those precious extracts have to enter the world above, glittering powder of the night. The times of the shiny Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds are over! Not quick enough, not new enough for those simple minds up there that follow the sparkling untraveled paths. Have the trips of your lives… no one will miss you… no one ever does… New recipes every other month for them to try, new gold for me to follow my destiny. The power of evil and over all shadows of death is mine… No, no, no… not of evil, of justice, of righteousness… How I love to walk those tunnels, smell the cool air, listen to the wind quietly whistling. This is my world, it has always been mine, and those who stole it from me will suffer, buried here forever… One more corner, I need to pull my hat over my face, stay in the dark corner. He is already here, I can feel his presence, can smell his foul breath. He is alone… I made sure they won’t betray me again. It was worth getting rid of those idiots. Easy to replace… I’m sick of teaching the new ones what might happen, my reputation needs to be kept alive. My substances are worth every bit of their gold.
His breath is going fast. I hear my voice, asking for my gold, warning him not to come closer. Quiet and dangerous. The fool asks for more… do you want to die? Twice a week, that’s the deal. One step back into the darkness, I’m gone, like a ghost. A deadly demon. My steps are echoing in the empty tunnels. Should I stop at the little lake for a minute? Take the detour? Only the devil has to leave the same way he comes in. Isn’t that what Mephistopheles does? I’m free to go wherever I want. Free to do what I want… the right of an outcast. No rules but mine count… didn’t I just take this tunnel to get there? I can feel the tunnels inside me… I breathe with the wind, rest in the silence, see in their darkness. The tunnels are me.
Ah, here I am – where is my torch, I need light to enjoy my treasure. Isn’t it glorious: My gold, my precious gold. Half of what I got today adds to it, the rest is sacrificed for a higher call… takes me closer to my victory…
I have to move on, get the substances started for the next delivery, the mushrooms need to be cared for. Little misunderstood plants. So tender and vulnerable. My little babies. So special, so unique… almost like Vincent, but not fighting their destiny. They use their power to develop the glow of hope, kill if they have to. They are the wind beneath my wings, they carry me higher than Icarus, but nothing will ever destroy my flight, Vincent can join me or he will die with his treacherous companions… right, my little friends. Make me happy, make me rich, make me reach my dreams… We will rule the world above and destroy their world below… I will rest with you for a while, until I have to leave the cool inviting silence in my world.
What voices haunted me in my dreams? The devil tempted me to forgive those who betrayed me… vicious laughter filled my head in those restless hours of sleep. It still echoes within me, follows me to the threshold to my life above.
666 Sutton Place – a gift of Fortuna and worth the gold spent. It fulfills all my needs. In the middle of a web of tunnels, connected by several entrances to give me the choice of where and how to disappear should it be necessary one day. Secret chambers, some of them with hidden locks and mechanisms. In this web I can wait like a spider for the prey to come… From outside, it’s the representative estate of the rich and honorable Mr. John Pater, whose family goes back to the Pilgrim fathers, whose forefathers worked hard to make America great. I’m a humble man who has the wisdom and the money to save New York. Our beloved city, corrupted by drugs and gangs… Our beautiful home needs to be saved by a gentle and generous mayor – ME… Quiet… No, no steps in the hallway, just my laughter echoing through the empty house. It’s still time to use the bed and get rid of the expensive evening whiskey that was prepared for me… an eccentric millionaire, who lives a life of solitude. My only goal is to save the city… How different my laughter sounds in this ancient house with all those shelves filled with books, with carpets and pictures of “my ancestors”, bought in auctions in London or Vienna to add to the ones that were already here.
I can hear the lock… “Good morning, Master Pater”… Yes, yes, yes, I want my breakfast in my office… like every day… How I hate this always friendly, always laughing woman… a simple soul with no family, no friends in the city. This might come in handy. She might have to disappear one day…
Thank god she knows better than to disturb me at my desk going through my notes for the interview at 10:30. It cost a fortune to get the Times to put me on the front page for a day. So much money… this large donation at their charity dinner for orphans yesterday evening. Why, I ask myself, why? The bright ones survive anyway, and the dumb ones, who cares, like this Mouse person… no one would have noticed if it had disappeared from the surface of the earth. Becoming the new mayor of the city means wasting money for useless things like that…
Cling-cling-clang of dishes, a little tune babbles from the lips of my housekeeper. Breathe, Paracelsus, breathe. Give her one of those sweet smiles you are so famous for.
Finally, the newspapers. All gossip about my donation for the unfortunate children. What a glamorous event it was, lighted by the gifted “Magic Shade Lighting Company”… Oh, here, a picture, “the honorable mayoral candidate J. Pater handing the chairwoman L. Inda, a former teacher, a generous check”.
Hmm, the tea is tolerably good. The best a millionaire can get in this city of coffee-drinking morons. Might be the last thing Jacob has in common with me after all this time: The appreciation of a good cup of tea, when leaning back in a comfortable chair… in my case, the chair from the Oval Office of the White House. Paid for by a bit of gold and the life of the delivery person – it was too dangerous to leave him alive after he knew where he took it. The chair will be back with me, when I’m President of the United States… one day…
I have to put that aside. First steps first. Concentrate on my interview. Check the news for issues that might be brought up in the interview. A concert of the Irish band “Hothouse Flowers”, Shakespeare in Central Park, “Cats” on Broadway, drugs, gang fights, murder… Money needed for the health system. Fight violence with education? Idiots! The answer to violence is violence. The answer to drugs is, let them die of it. They choose their way of dying…
Knocking? Who on earth disturbs me! My guest is here, right on time. Relax, become the charming mayoral candidate. “Come in, my dear Miss J. E. Spencer, right? Let’s sit down. Do you want some tea? Mrs. Potts makes wonderful tea.” I hear my words, my voice, almost flirting with this young, highly celebrated journalist. She does not suspect a thing. “Oh yes, sharing with the less fortunate is so rewarding. It’s my family’s legacy to make this city a better place for everyone, to give those a chance who suffer…”
I have to keep a straight face, no bitterness in my voice. I have to look at her… a sad and silent smile. Now I know why I trained all those hours. Mirror, mirror on the wall…
“Do you want to see the house, Miss Spencer? Oh, J. E. … only if you call me John.” Put your hand on her shoulder, Paracelsus…
I have to concentrate. I have to lead her to my picture gallery. To the picture with the sign “JosephineAnne”, have to explain that this was the young and wild wife of my grandfather. Her family was from Italy and had to work hard when coming from Europe, escaping hunger and death. She would never guess that I found the picture in one of the remote tunnels. “Of course you can take some pictures, my dear… and yes, time seems to fly. I have to go down to my election office. You can come with me… of course you can come to me…” That was the plan, my naïve young girl. Get to know my team, my devoted idealistic dreamers. “Your coat, my dear. Mrs. Potts, we are leaving. It will be a busy day. You can leave early, if you want, just get everything ready for the evening. I won’t be back until late. Yes, leave the whiskey in my bedroom…” For me to pour it away, like every day.
“Oh, what a beautiful day,” I hear myself say, “do you mind if we walk”? A beautiful day?? Bright sunlight blinds me and the streets are full of human garbage begging for the mercy to live. “It’s just a few blocks away. Just down the street. You don’t mind me dropping off some food and clothes at the shelter first? I usually do that once a week and hadn’t had time yet. Poor souls finding a safe harbor there. Dearest J. E., it’s so nice to chat with someone as inspiring as you are.”
Her smile reminds me of Anna. She was so young when we met, full of hope and plans. So full of life, so full of love…until they stole her from my side, those who called themselves our friends. Now I live in darkness.
“John?” Is someone calling me? “What’s wrong, John, are you ok?” Who..? Oh, I have lost myself again. I need to get myself in control, need to smile at this woman.
“I’m ok, my dear, J. E., I’m sorry, I just got lost in thoughts of those unfortunate souls in these shelters. And those are the lucky ones… We need more safe and clean places to give them a real chance in life. How much more I could do if I were the mayor of this city.” Give her a sad smile, Paracelsus… full of sorrow… Sometimes I almost believe myself.
Her eyes are sad. I won. Again. My precious smile for her comes with the words… “But there is hope.”
Yes, there is hope, hope for my revenge. These noisy streets… how I long for my cool and quiet tunnels, for the wind, the distant pipes.
Concentrate, Paracelsus, concentrate. Lead her to “Sam’s basement”. It’s cooler there, and it’s the perfect place to show my gentle side. Hahaha. The basement is full, as always. I have to greet some of those filthy individuals. Thank god I have my gloves… I knew the big hat and the gloves would come in handy when I decided on my “official” outfit. Elegant, a bit snobbish – maybe, eccentric – definitely.
“My dear J. E., I have to introduce you to a wonderful woman, one of the real heroes of the streets of New York. This is Sam, she sacrifices her life to help those in need. She had such a difficult life herself, fought for everything she owns. She is an angel. My dear Sam, here is the promised donation, some food and clothes, a little money.” The two women smile at each other. “A picture, oh no, J. E., this is not my achievement. If you both insist, dear Sam, a picture of both of us, for the Times.” And J. E. promises to do a story about Sam’s private shelter. I will make sure that I will be mentioned.
What a successful morning. This is going even better than planned. I have to pet that ugly child when we are leaving, give him a dollar or two, but make it look like it’s spontaneous. This is so tiring and frustrating. But if I’m lucky, these pictures will take me right up to the top.
We need to go up into the sun and the roaring chaos in the street. Just a few minutes. I need to let her talk for a bit, don’t have to listen, need a break. Why don’t people shut up? I can’t hear my thoughts, can’t think… thank god, we’ve reached the office.
And there is Pat. He and Stacy will take care of J. E., show her around, and will praise me to the skies. I can rely on their idealism, their dreams, and that they trust me. Precious tools in my hands. If they knew… those fools. Keep smiling, Paracelsus… just one more picture with my young team, handpicked to represent every single person in this cursed city to speak for them, to make them vote for me. A young single mom – took her kid to work today, since kindergarten is closed today… not quite a coincidence… The girl, Teresa, a ray of sunshine, everyone claims, will look so pretty in the picture. Someone pinned one of my buttons on her – very thoughtful.
“Good bye, J. E., please call if you need something. You are welcome here any time.” My head is almost bursting. Hot and too much light. Thank god, she is gone. My face hurts from all this smiling and sparkling. No wonder people up here need drugs to survive… or not to survive… There are too many of them anyway, above and below, vermin, breathing the air of those who are meant to rule the world.
Nice and cool in my office, shades are closed, I have to close my eyes, rest a bit. Knocking… again… ”Mr. Pater”… Oh, can’t they leave me alone at least once? What was the name of this little thing that I picked to do the easy stuff around here, get coffee for folks or go to the copy shop. Not the brightest one, but really nice to look at. “Lunch?” Yes. Surprisingly she remembers where to get my favorite salmon chard pie with walnuts. I really don’t remember the name, Lisa or Lena? “In half an hour, yes.. and a nice cup of cool tea.”
Already here? Maybe more brain than I thought. The special recipe of her dead grandma, peppermint, to clear the head, a drop of orange oil to brighten the day. Her smile is enchanting. She quietly leaves the room, puts up the “do not disturb” sign. I hear her say, “Mr. Pater has a difficult week, he needs some time to rest.” I will enjoy the silence for a while until she is back.
I’m smiling, looking at the rough drawing of the tunnel map, dreaming of my revenge. Leaning back in my chair behind the old wooden desk, I close my eyes, listen to my breathing. Finally relaxing, finally me. It’s almost chilly, almost dark. A few minutes resting, not thinking, not haunted by the ghosts of the past. Pictures in my head. Pictures of Anna, walking hand in hand in Central Park, touching colorful flowers, listening to birds singing in the sun, making plans, dreaming of the future, a family. Our laughter melting into one sound of joy. The smell of her hair, orange with a hint of peppermint. I hold her tight. She is close to me, I’m close to her. I pick a flower put it into her hair.
I look up and there is the face of the young girl. She has a flower in her hair. It’s not Anna anymore. I’m not in Central Park… I hear her voice, letting me know that my lunch was on the extra table and that everyone in the office went out to eat. Why is she telling me that?
She dropped something… a pen? She bends down, goes down on her hands and knees, giggles a bit. I might still be dreaming… no, I’m awake. What the hell is she doing down there? I can feel her hand slowly opening my pants. Her words come to my ears. “You are working too much, Mr. Pater, you need to relax. Just lean back, I know what I’m doing. My stepfather taught me when I was ten or so.” Gently her hands make their way. How did she get my pants down that far?
Her stepfather was a good teacher. “Don’t you worry, Mr. Pater, no one will disturb us. I locked everything.” Her hands are touching my thigh, slowly going up to my penis, stroking it, soft but firm. I feel my whole body reacts. Should I allow myself to let go, allow her to gain control over me? She has no family anymore. Hasn’t spoken to her stepfather since she turned 15 or so. It wouldn’t be a problem to make her disappear if necessary.
How long has it been since someone has touched me that way? I can hear my breath going faster and faster, see her face looking up to me, feel her hands on my skin. My body rears up, my senses seem to fail me… A moan of pleasure fills the office.
I lean back in my chair, look at the girl getting up, smiling. She leans over to whisper in my ear. “No one will ever know…you are my hero. You will fight for people like me in this city.” Gently, like she had entered, she leaves the room. I’m alone.
I need a minute to understand what has happened. Paracelsus, put yourself together. Pull up your pants and get a grip. Twenty minutes to the team meeting. People will start coming in soon. This cool tea is a blessing. It brings back energy and perspective. This girl might be a lucky pick after all. I should take a few bites of this salmon chard pie, freshen up too. I’m the one who has all the strings in my hand. I have to stay focused.
These team meetings are so boring. People need to be assured they are doing a marvelous job. If they don’t know this themselves they are not worth it.
The new campaign “John Pater Against Crime” has to start in a week at the latest.
Pat suggests using staged photos we had taken weeks ago with families with their children and pets, which come in handy now. I prefer not to do that ever again. It was disgusting. Those creatures shed their hair all over my clothes. I still feel the sticky, chocolate-covered hands of their children on me. Why do humans reproduce? Noisy, drooling things. Can’t keep enough distance.
The first draft of the posters says: “Violence creeps up on us. We need to find the source of it. We need to destroy the places criminals use to hide.” “Brilliant,” I hear myself say, “brilliant. We double the number of posters and ads. Put them in all the major papers and magazines. Whenever there is an article about violence, crime and drugs in a paper, this has to be on the same page. I will transfer more money to our campaign account. It’s money well spent. Our beloved city needs to be safe again.”
Stacy hands me the schedule for the week. It’s busy. She is sorry. Several national newspapers asked for interviews and I’m invited to two talk shows on TV, one about my active role in charity and the other about my crime campaign. She is worth the effort and money.
“Hope you are feeling better after lunch, Mr. Pater…” Lisa’s – or was it Lena? – eyes meet mine. Her head shakes slightly. No one knows our secret. Can I trust her? For now, I have no reason to believe otherwise. She hands me more of the cool tea. For now she is mine… at least in my world above. How would she, and all the others, react if they knew they are a tool of justice, of my revenge.
Stacy’s statistics show constantly rising numbers of people who trust us, who are ready for the humble Mayor John Pater. I can almost feel my victory. Oh, how long these minutes of thanking everyone last, stolen moments on my path to the darkest moment in Jacob’s life. When his precious tunnels will be sealed at once. Every single entrance they have built and secured, every extra place like Narcissa’s. No escape for anyone when the tunnels are filling with concrete, killing one after another, mouse and man, child and mother and Father, my precious friend. Solidified forever. The city will call for this, so criminals can’t hide in there anymore. Can’t threaten the city from below. It also stabilizes the foundation of the city, makes it more secure in case of earthquakes. I know where Jacob and his gang are – he just guesses where I am. He feels safe? He should know better…
There is Lisa or Lena, still don’t know her name. Did she just touch me by accident? My body reacted to her touch… the smell of oranges, like Anna’s hair… I have to leave. Walk along the street to Sutton Place. Grateful there is no charity event today, but on Thursday evening, only an interview to prepare for tomorrow. No need to hurry back, but I still do. It draws me back, back to the tunnels. Dinner is ready in the kitchen – Mrs. Potts is gone. It’s quiet in my home above. It’s just an entrance to the tunnels to my real home, where I go to rest and recover…
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