Fiction Fragment: On The Way Down

The rain was merciless. Torrential sheets pelted cars and pedestrians as wind bursts ripped umbrellas out of hands, leaving their tattered skeletons drifting in gutters and perched at the rims of sidewalk trash cans. It seemed to defy gravity, pouring down and somehow to the side so that even the floor-to-ceiling windows of Carl’s office looked as though he’d been sent to work behind a waterfall some 500 feet in the air.

“You understand, yes? We won’t ask again.” The lines between Dempsey’s brows deepened as he narrowed his eyes, his gaze burrowing into Carl.
Those eyes had always been so unsettlingly dark, yet not black, and constantly wet but without any hint of emotion. Less glistening, more iridescent. As though two giant hard-shelled beetles had crawled their way into the bastard’s skull to take residence under the angry gray caterpillars that were his eyebrows.

Carl straightened up, clearing his throat. “Yes. It will be handled.”
“Will be?”

“It’s handled.”

“Good.” Dempsey worked his jaw, chewing and swallowing something not there before standing. He picked up the framed photo on Carl’s desk and looked at the family picture with clear disdain as he smirked. “Abbie will make the call to the Herald first thing Monday.”

“Sure.” Carl clenched his jaw, his fist tightening out of sight under the desk as Dempsey fondled the picture before letting it clatter down carelessly to the desk.

“Oh- and we’ve still got you all down for the fundraiser at the club,” Dempsey slowly walked toward the office door, “First tee’s at 8 am, the luncheon at noon. Elsie wants all the girls to wear lavender or some such shade. Abbie will call with the details.”

Dempsey’s hands fished around his pocket for his phone, already done with the conversation as though it were a regular meeting. He opened the office door wide and left, head down in emails already onto the next thing, as though he hadn’t just threatened the very existence of Carl’s family, the foundation of his entire world.

And, of course, he left the door wide fucking open.

“Um, sir- would you like the door closed again?”
Vera. What a godsend.

“Yes, Vera, please. That would be great.”

“You got it.”

As Vera pulled the door shut, Carl nearly burst out of his seat, pacing in an attempt to order his thoughts and bring some of his anxiety at bay.

He looked to the windows, longing for the view that had often been a balm to his spirits during difficult times, a visual representation of the heights he’d worked so hard to reach. It was a confirmation that all the hard work and sacrifice was worth it.

But now, all he could see was the rain as it created a wall of water distorting the view of Central Park and Manhattan into an unintelligible blur of green and mottled gray.

With each circuit around the office, the room felt more and more like a watery tomb, closing in on him, suffocating him.

What would he do?

What could he do?

Stopping Brandon would undoubtedly end their relationship for good and fracture the family, likely beyond repair. Business would go on as usual- he’d keep the job, the money, the properties, the corner office- he would stay at the top but lose everything that mattered.

Helping Brandon would put them in ruin beyond what Carl could imagine. The company’s reach was long, and the depths of Dempsey’s vindictiveness were endless. Going against them could mean destroying everything Carl had built for himself, his children, and their children. It could mean risking their very lives.

Carl stopped pacing and stood at his desk, picking up the picture Dempsey had been toying with. Turning it around in his hand, he saw the slightest fracture across the glass of the image, cutting directly through his and Brandon’s faces.

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