It was 15 years ago that the idea took place. Though I have always remained true to my values, the lifelong pursuit of wealth has led many to far graver fates, but this is not the story of others, this is the story of myself and those I encountered. To tell this story though it is always appropriate to begin at the story’s roots.
It was 1995, with the start of a small family and a reputable banking business in the making, life was a serene setting in which I placed my existence. My wife, Karen, a law student from Michigan was the backbone for my endless endeavors in the pursuit of happiness and gave me 2 gorgeous girls, Katherine and Elizabeth. We made our stake in the foothills of West Virginia in a moderate home surrounded by beautiful weeping cherry, which was a major selling point for myself at the time. It was there I started my work in financial investments. In banking it was my belief that the core of a great business is a close relationship with the people you are involved with. It was this downfall that I so ill-mindedly fed into.
After establishing a foundation on which my business would thrive, my clientele had steadily gave way, with a spotless reputation to follow. With word of my reputation spreading like wildfire, I became acquainted with a business man from Pittsburgh by the name of Joel Mathers. He was a well put together middle aged man with strong features and a rather likable persona. I found common ground in learning he also had attended college in Michigan as my Karen had, and came to learn he new of her as they lived in the same town.His business was in metalwork, mostly in the manufacturing of small gears and levers much like those of a watch or firearm. I was approached with the concept of Mr. Mathers revolutionizing his business by utilizing a mineral much stronger than that of a normal metal alloy, with a subsequently cheaper purchasing price. The problem was that Mr. Mathers had already allotted his annual spending in a new location for his business to take place. After some discussion and financial review it was my assumption that my client was the perfect candidate for a quite sizable loan, but yielded large interest, giving me the incentive to do so also.
Months passed from the time I first met the client and life as I new it went on. From time to time Mr. Mathers would stop in with a cigar or premium bottle of scotch to thank me for the help with his business. Though it was not in the best legal interest to accept such gifts, Joel and I hand become close acquaintances over time. On a cold day in November I was invited to the warehouse where Joel’s work operated. At the end of a narrow gravel road the cold brick encased this seemingly honest work with great mystery. Upon entrance the shop told stories of previous mishaps, as told by the large oil stains on the floor and bits of missing concrete from the walls. As we reached the far corner of the facility, it was here that Joel made his office. It was a small room with very little light, one desk and lamp, and a tiny oak door that had been nailed shut for what seemed like some time, as the nails had began to take on specs of rust. Whilst Joel and I sat in his office discussing his current hurdles in his business, I couldn’t help but to entertain what might lie behind this door. The subject never came up during our talk but played on my intellect for a generous portion of our conversation. As I left the building I found the surrounding objects to be quite odd. There were tanks of corrosive material alongside the brick walls, with a well no more than 20 ft in relation. Though environmental interest was not a responsibility of my occupation, my concern was more personal in nature. Not wanting to seem to liberal in my views, at the risk of losing my customer, I dismissed the thought entirely.
A week went by and soon the visit became a faded memory buried under the pile of work that I had tackled on. During an afternoon appointment with a new client a note was delivered to me from my secretary that read, “Of urgent importance: With Regards to my business”. I found it concerning that Joel had not seen fit to deliver his message in person as we had developed a seemingly close relationship but was not put off from the opportunity to help a friend in need. The note continued, “Please meet me for dinner at my office to discuss the matter at hand around 6 this evening, I implore you I am in desperate need of your help”. I placed the note on my desk and continued my work until 5 that evening. As I drove to the warehouse my mind pondered what trouble Joel might be in that required such urgent response, “Was it money?”, “Was it personal?”, I was intrigued to find the answer. I pulled my car in front of the dark building and met the door handle with caution for the conversation to ensue. As I walked through the threshold it became apparent that Joel was the only person in the establishment. The lights had long since been shut off, as the hum of the factory lighting was absent, and the floor sunk with cold resemblance to that of a mortuary. The only sign of life came from the single lamp in Joel’s office. I crossed into dimly lit room to find no one at all was there. The office, as bare as it was before, looked unchanged minus one simple, unmistakable factor. The door that had once been nailed shut, now open, greeted my eyes with a longing persistence. I walked toward the small tattered oak door, surveying the intricate oak grains that elongated down the face. The knob looked old and withered and concealed the mystery of what lay inside. As I neared the entrance I could see a narrow, concrete staircase leading down into a faintly lit habitat and home to who knows how many insects. I stood at the edge of the stairs and debated between logic and curiosity and which emotion would guide my fate.
I took my first step down into the void almost without impulse, as if guided by some outside force. I placed my hands along the walls to ease my way down. They were cold and wet with a texture similar to that of a algae covered stone. Each step gave way to a louder and more abrasive groan, urging me to turn away. I admit at this moment I did consider turning back but was reminded of the reputation that I needn’t sully, especially due to irrational fear of the unknown. I reassured myself Joel would be hard at work at the bottom of the staircase awaiting my arrival. As I reached the last step a cold sweat made itself known from the nape of my neck to the arch of my spine. The sound of metal on metal was enough to halt the most fearless individual, in such a place as this. In front of my eyes was a devious recreation of an iron chair, crudely bolted to the concrete surface below. The arms of the chair contained metal shackles with levers holding back the fragile nature of sharp instruments of ill intent. Every inch of the device constructed in genius detail and flawless craftsmanship. Suddenly the sharp pain of awareness shot from my head to my toes, followed by the dark glow of unconsciousness.
The blurry scene that I awakened to gave new insight to the purpose for my visit. Seated in front of me sat the man I had grown so well to know, or so I thought. As he glared into my eyes, his hands clasped in thought, he looked as if to unravel every inch of my sanity. Suddenly, a gleam in his soul brought life back into his eyes. In a normal person this gleam would express joy ,but in this man that I undoubtedly had misread, it portrayed a much darker outcome. As he approached me I noticed the faded overalls he was wearing, the heavy boots, and the clean rubber gloves often found in such a shop. His brutish figure encompassed every ounce of light left in the room and hollowed my thoughts to nothing. No words exited his mouth, only mere mumbles as he walked past me to the table I must have overlooked upon entering the room. I could hear the scurry of metal objects in his hands, imagining the horror of a scene that was soon to exist. Without notice the clamps on my chair tightened reducing my movement to nothing, and brought reality to my situation. I could not speak or scream only wait and watch. As his figure appeared before me again, I could see the tools he now held in his hands. The sharpened blade of a carpenters knife, a mallet, a pare of pliers; the purpose of intent as subtle as a blow from a 10 pound hammer. All at once he stopped, a noise from upstairs repositioned his eyes to the staircase. An ounce of hope? Could anyone know I was here? surely my wife and children would be perplexed in my absence, but what time was it and how long had I been down here. Before I could entertain the thought any longer my former acquaintance was making his way upstairs. As I looked to the floor in an act of despair, it appeared to me, a small, but advantageous flaw in the chairs construction. I was not knowledgable in metal work but could easily see that the bonded metal in the chair was weak and cracked. To break free from the shackles that confined my escape was to prolong my survival.
I rocked back and forth to convey my desperation to the chairs fragile arms. At first, the silent push back corroded my mind with certain failure, but after five or six shoves the crack of the metal sounded. It was as magnificent as hearing an orchestra for the first time. I rocked harder and harder as the metal subsided under the pressure. I rocked again as the metal cut into my skin, though at this point it was almost painless in regard to what might ensue had I not made an attempt at escape. Finally, the arm gave way, I yanked on the other shackle with no response. Time and time again I pulled with no avail. As the sound of footsteps erupted I sank inside my chest. My mind raced and toyed with the idea of what the man might do to learn of my attempt at freedom. I slid my hand back into the cuff and held close a metal shard as a final act of defense. As he made his way before me he looked delighted to see my panic. As he leaned down to tighten my legs down, his pupils alarmed at the cracks in the metal prison that held me in my cold embrace. With a swift motion I swung the metal shard from ear to ear, parading an opening nearly and inch above his adams apple. The crimson flood graciously poured down his chest, while he stared in gruesome suspense. I swung again this time for the gleam in his eye that penetrated my soul at the beginning of my stay. He wretched at the wound that enveloped his face. He fell to his knees clutching his eyes, as if he had forgotten all about the ravine across his throat. His body fell to the floor as his hands collapsed entirely. I reached for the snips in his pocket the cold touch of the metal snips met my hand with an eager response, I pulled them into the open and began to cut my legs free and unlock my hands from their confinements. As I sprinted toward the stairs the light of the world came into view, I heard him gargle for breath but had already accepted his end as real as my escape. I ran out of the office into the greasy shop almost oblivious to the machines around. As the air engulfed my lungs, the realization entered that my car was absent. I did not question the strange situation but ran down the gravel road and onto the roadway. Sprinting past each mile marker I could see the image of my home clearer and clearer. After 12 miles of endless fatigue my eyes delighted in the view of the dead cherry trees that outlined my home. I ran through the front door to find my family. As I near the hallway I saw my wife, at the same time realizing my car was outside the house, and had come there from its origin, at the warehouse, somehow during my absence. Her look gave cold certainty to the truth that unraveled before my being. This thought was confirmed by the handgun that extended from her hand. The same kind of handgun that Joel’s company created triggers for.The fact that Joel had known my wife was not a mere coincidence as his story had led me to believe but a close relationship unbeknownst to me. The time I had spent on my work and I had not questioned the trips back home, without the girls mind you, or the lack of information upon her return. My heart sunk as anger filled each chamber pound after pound. I fell to my knees as my thoughts gave way to submission. My life, my time, my trust, all a ploy. I assumed my business, the target, as money was good in these days and money gave way to greed. My lovers focus was always the money but I was happy, so why did it matter? It surely didn’t now. At last I closed my eyes to greet my icy death. My mind faded to the cherry blossoms cascading to the ground, warming my mind to its end. A solemn departure from life.
Fifteen years ago this took place, fifteen years alive with the fear of the truth in my loins. Though the ordeal is a distant memory, its outcomes echo forever in my life. Though I live I am not alive. Though I exist, the truth does not. He was a decent man, with a troubled mind and a deceitful home life. If only he could have known his fate. If only I had known mine, a puppet in her masterful game. I haven’t seen her for years now, don’t know if I ever will. But, the death of the man she loved will haunt her forever. His story is now told.