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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A billionaire businessman who's risen to the top by betraying others -- ends up on the wrong end of that procedure. (And what happens after that isn't pretty!)

Submitted: April 13, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 13, 2017



It was late-afternoon at Times Square in the Broadway district of New York City’s Manhattan Island – particularly, the right traffic lane which was part of Seventh Ave., as it intersected with Broadway, only a few feet from where the statue of entertainer George M. Cohan stood.  Only a few minutes before, auto vehicles driving on the city streets abruptly stopped, as its drivers and passengers – not to mention those walking on the sidewalks and across on the streets’ painted white pedestrian lines in order to get to the other side – quickly got out of the way, as they saw what appeared to be a flaming comet or meteor plummet down the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Ave. at the speed of sound.  Luckily, the auto vehicles’ drivers and pedestrians managed to get out of the falling projectile’s way, as it landed hard on the city street pavement.

At first, those eyewitnesses to what just happened acted very scared and paranoid – and feared that this was the first of many to fall from the sky and destroy the Earth, caused by either a race of hostile aliens or terrorists from a plane flying up in the sky.  Or even God’s wrath.  Their fear was understandable – in a time when the world itself was already a dangerous place to live in.  As uniformed officers and a SWAT team from the New York City Police Department and local firemen arrived at the scene of the incident and started to assess the situation while preventing further panic, they knew that it wasn’t the first time that New York City had faced this type of turmoil – and it wouldn’t be the last.

“Look,” said a female on-looker, as she pointed directly at the flaming projectile – only it wasn’t flaming any more – and the other eyewitnesses, plus the police and the firemen also took notice of what just happened.  Within seconds, all present in Times Square learned that it wasn’t a comet or meteor – or even a satellite from outer space – which crashed on the Earth.  As news of what just happened was flashed around the country – and the rest of the world – the truth became apparent: what just crashed in Times Square was the burnt corpse of a human being!

Fifteen minutes later, police officers placed the corpse inside a body bag and delivered it via a police wagon to the city morgue, where the Manhattan County Coroner’s Office would perform an autopsy on the deceased to determine his identity – and perhaps the how and why of him burning to death.  Fortunately, the corpse wasn’t radioactive – and wasn’t a threat to those living in New York City and the surrounding areas.

At the same time, there was another news story which also caught the public’s attention and which might have serious complications in more ways than one: the President of the United States was missing!  This was – in many respects – odd, since the President disappeared at roughly the same time the burning man fell to his death in Times Square, and led some to believe that if the two incidents were somewhat connected to each other, which many would call a conspiracy theory without any tangible evidence.  However, those residents of Manhattan – and those visiting the city itself who witnessed the heart-pounding and mind-numbing incident were too upset to even think up their own theories – all they knew was if they hadn’t gotten out of harm’s way in time, they would have ended up like the burning man: 100% dead.

A half-hour ago: In New York City’s Park Avenue section, home to the rich and their varying degrees of wealth – inside the spacious penthouse apartment located at the top of the skyscraper building belonging to billionaire businessman Tyler Lipton, in the equally-spacious living room adorned with priceless works of art on all four walls – Lipton, a medium-height and slender Caucasian man in his early-seventies with a mane of silver-white hair and a black pencil-thin mustache above his upper lip, and who wore a black dress suit with a white long-sleeved dress shirt, a gold necktie, and a pair of brown leather dress shoes imported from Italy, stood at the bar located in the living room’s rear right corner.  Lipton poured some diet ginger ale into a 16 ounce clear drinking glass with some ice from the built-in mini-fridge located on the other side of the bar, used by the billionaire’s personal bartender when he served alcoholic beverages to any of Lipton’s guests from both the business and financial worlds.  Lipton didn’t drink any alcohol – which was one of his few positive traits.

Lipton had come a long way from the Bronx, where he grew up in – and now, he was one of the most powerful men in the country.  Not to mention the rest of the world, if his success was any indication.  Everyone knew who Lipton was – and not just those who achieved wealth and power beyond their wildest dreams.

But Lipton also dealt with his own failures – proof that he wasn’t infallible.  And yet, Lipton’s failures proved to be, at best, minor obstacles – and after all, they were outnumbered by his many successes as a business and financial titan.  Of course, when someone like Lipton is extremely successful – there was the possibility of his fortunes being depleted someday, and his reputation crumbling beyond any and all repair.  Lipton, however, refused to believe that his luck might run out someday – and besides, only a fool would dare to cause his downfall.  Or so Lipton believed.

“Are you alone, Tyler?” said a mysterious male voice from out of nowhere, which Lipton quickly noticed.

“Who the hell said that?” asked Lipton, with an angry tone in his voice.

“A certain voice from inside your head – only it didn’t speak to you openly whenever you had company, like say, your family members – or your business consultants – or even your professional bodyguards.”

“Okay – who wiretapped my building, including my penthouse apartment?  I want an answer –!”

“But your building isn’t wiretapped – and the same goes for your other residences.  But then, I must have done my job a bit too well.”

“If that’s supposed to be a joke –”

“Your living room’s home theater system’s already turned off, right?  And the same goes for your widescreen HD TV and stereo system – am I correct?”

“Are you trying to –?”

“My voice is 100% live, Tyler.  Get used to it – for the rest of your life and beyond that.”

“And why should I do that?”

“Without me, you’d still be a slum brat from the Bronx.  But then, considering your behavior and attitude throughout most of your life – you haven’t changed that much, despite the wealth and power that you now have.”

“Are you –?”

“I’m not one of your business or financial rivals.  Then again, I’m not one of your most severe critics from the political world.”

“If you’re wearing some kind of –”  But as Lipton placed his glass atop the living room bar and attempted to walk towards the center of the large room and track down his supposed tormentor – the billionaire businessman started to slowly float upward towards the living room ceiling, complete with the LED glass chandelier which was already bolted to it.

“I can assure that you don’t have any wires attached to you,” said the mysterious voice, as Lipton floated towards several inches below the living room ceiling, “I can also promise you that nobody’ll come to your rescue.”

“Yeah?” yelled Lipton furiously, as his right hand reached into his dress jacket’s front right pocket, “Well, nobody’s coming to your rescue!  And once I remove my cell phone from my jacket pocket –!”

“I doubt it, Tyler.”  Seconds later, Lipton’s right hand removed from his dress jacket’s front right jacket pocket, not his touch-screen cell phone which he used to contact his bodyguards whenever he was in a tight situation – but a diamondback rattlesnake native to the southwestern United States and Mexico, as evident by its ominous hissing sound and equally-ominous rear rattle already shaking.  Lipton, now frightened as hell, let go of the rattlesnake before its venom-filled fangs bit into him.  Soon, the rattlesnake plummeted downward and landed on the multi-colored Persian carpet that covered the living room floor – where it exploded into mere dust.  At the same time, the mysterious voice laughed mockingly – as if Lipton’s present situation was nothing but a sick joke.  And in some ways, it was.

“Laugh it up, stupid,” yelled Lipton angrily, as his left hand reached into his dress jacket’s front left pocket and removed from it a fully-loaded Wesson M1911 ACP semi-automatic pistol, “Being invisible won’t --!”  But then, Lipton’s weapon started to mysteriously turn red hot, which slightly burned his left hand – so much so that within seconds, he let go of it as it fell and landed in the middle of the living room floor; once it did, the gun itself exploded into dust, just like the diamondback rattlesnake only a minute ago.

“It would’ve been fun to force you to commit suicide,” said the mysterious voice, the tone of which was becoming more sinister, “But then – it would’ve been too easy.  I’ve got a far more appropriate fate planned for you – and one that’ll send an important message to anyone stupid enough to consider double-crossing me.”

“You bastard,” said Lipton furiously, “Either you show yourself immediately – or --!”

“I know what you’ve done in the past – and I know what you’re currently doing.  But then, I’ve played a key role in your decisions – both past and present.”

“Aw, shut --!”

“And I know what you’re planning to do – only that won’t be in your future.  But then -- you have no future.  I’ll see to that personally.”

“When I find out who you are – you’ll --!”

“You claim to be a big man, Tyler – and that’s always been one of your biggest problems, which tends to increase even more over time.  But I’ll solve this and the rest of your problems – though you won’t like my solution.”  With that, the mysterious voice laughed more mockingly and louder – but only Lipton could hear it, as if his invisible tormentor somehow willed it.  In this moment, Lipton’s bravado disappeared – as he stared at his own mortality and wondered if he had a future, given his present predicament.  Lipton then realized that he wasn’t as strong and dynamic as the outside world saw him – and that, perhaps, his own past was catching up to him.

It was late-morning on the following day, as the Manhattan County Coroner’s Office revealed to the public the results of the autopsy on the burning man who fell to his death in Times Square the previous day.  What all of New York City – the rest of the country – and the rest of the world learned greatly shocked and saddened them, especially when they learned the identity of the deceased.

By early-afternoon, the world learned of a second and equally bizarre death which also shocked its population – and which happened at roughly the same time as the burning man crashing to his doom, leading some to conceive conspiracy theories in which the pair of deaths was somehow connected to each other.  But for many, the theories they heard were just that – with no tangible proof to back them up.

“What a way to go,” said Hank Swenson, a medium-height and burly Caucasian man in his late-forties with black crew-cut hair who was a professional plumber, as he and his friend Eddie Collier were taking their lunch break sitting at a dining booth inside a pizza restaurant which was located in Manhattan’s west side; Swenson was reading today’s edition of the New York Times in-between bites of his Hawaiian-style pizza that he ordered for lunch.

“I have a feeling that what you’ve just said has nothing to do with what you watched on TV last night,” said Collier, a tall and slender Caucasian man in his late-thirties with sandy brown hair and a beard who owned a local pawn shop in Manhattan’s west side, as he ate a mushroom calzone and a small salad for his lunch.

“After what all of us found out from the TV news networks this morning, I’m wondering if our country’ll ever recover from this.”

“You’re referring to the death of the President of the United States – whom you voted for in last year’s election.”

“And worse – he turned out to be that burning corpse who fell to his death in Times Square yesterday.  How he ended up that way – nobody knows, including the NYPD., the FBI. – and the Secret Service agents who were protecting him when he vanished yesterday.”

“And based on what I read in this morning’s Daily News, the Secret Service agents guarding the President were in a hypnotic trance when the President vanished from under their noses – and remained so until after his death.”

“What’s bugging me – not to mention most Americans – is: who’d want to bump off Tyler Lipton, the rich guy who was elected U.S.. President last year – the man who promised to restore our country’s greatness?”

“And the same person who gained more than his share of controversy in his presidential campaign last year, Hank – helped in part by many politicians and journalists criticizing him.  And that’s just those who voted for Lipton’s opponent last year.”

“So Lipton was controversial – aren’t most politicians?  After all, it’s the most controversial politicians who shake up the status quo – mainly for the better.”

“From what I’ve heard, what Lipton accomplished as U.S.. President has done the country more harm than good – including praising a certain foreign political leader for his accomplishments, which weren’t any better than most of Lipton’s decisions and goals.  And the funny thing is – the political leader that Lipton praised in public died at almost the same time as he did.”

“Are you telling me that --?”

“I’m no expert on the supernatural.  All I know is that their deaths were both unexpected and mysterious.”

“Bull!  With them gone for good, what does that --?”

“If we’re all lucky,” said Mitch Patterson, a medium-height and muscular African-American man in his mid-forties with short black Afro hair and gray temples who sat in the dining booth next to the one occupied by both Swenson and Collier, “It’ll be a fresh start for the country – and the rest of the world as well.”

“Are you saying that we’re better off without Lipton?” said Swenson, already taking offense at Patterson’s comments, as he turned his head around to face him, “The guy who promised that America would be great again?”

“I didn’t vote for Lipton last year – I voted for his opponent.  But then, I was hoping that someone other than Lipton’s opponent would get her party’s nomination last year.”

“Are you badmouthing Lipton – and especially since --?”

“Back off, Hank,” said Collier calmly, “He has a right to his own opinion – just like the rest of us.”

“Your friend’s right,” said Patterson.

“I’ve got a right to express my opinions,” said Swenson, “But nobody criticizes the --!”

“We also have a right to criticize the President of the United States – especially when he does anything that questions and challenges the country’s trust in him.  Nobody’s perfect – not even the politicians we help elect into office.”

“But President Lipton promised great things for our country.”

“It’s easy to make promises – it’s difficult to turn them into reality.  Not every U.S.. President can be a Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, or Roosevelt – and most of Lipton’s policies have resulted in nothing but criticism and controversy that has already tarnished what the U.S.. Presidency stands for.”

“Are you saying that Lipton was a --?”

“A good number of people throughout the world who are great at what they do best in certain professions – aren’t that great in others.  And that includes business titans seeking political office.  Many Americans have already given their opinions of Lipton as U.S.. President – and that’ll only increase after his death.  Only the future’ll determine what kind of U.S.. President Lipton really was.”

“Impressive speech,” said Collier calmly, “What’s your opinion on this, Hank?”  But Swenson was totally silent as a result of what Patterson just said – the kind of silence which came with a sober truth which was difficult to understand at first, but which ultimately had to be accepted and remembered, given its basis in both fact and tangible evidence throughout much of recorded history.

“I’m a construction foreman,” said Patterson, “I’ve had my peaks and valleys throughout my life and career.  And whatever mistakes I’ve made in both the past and present, I’ve claimed and accepted responsibility for them – just like many people who have the wisdom and courage to accept and live with, and hopefully learn from whatever mistakes they make as well as avoiding them in the future.  And that includes politicians who are expected to perform their duties to the best of their abilities – while doing their best not to make the kind of errors that challenge and damage humanity’s faith in democracy.  Think about it.”  Already, Hank Swenson and Eddie Collier had a lot of thinking to do – especially Swenson and other Americans who had voted Tyler Lipton into the White House, only to realize that perhaps he wasn’t the right man to lead the free world.  And as Mitch Patterson pointed out, only the future would determine Lipton’s true place in the fabric of American history.

Elsewhere:  In a dimly-lit room, a mysterious figure clad in a dark red robe and hood similar to those worn by devil worshippers silently stood before a 70-inch widescreen HD video monitor that was bolted to the rear wall – the figure’s identity and gender, as well as time spent in the room, was unknown.  The video monitor, which had a built-in Web-Cam video camera, was already turned on, as it showed a totally black screen.

But within seconds, a white-outlined image of a human skull against a solid red-colored background started to appear on the video monitor – leaving no doubt that the mysterious figure was had been contacted by his or her master for a closed-circuit video conference, even if the latter preferred not to be seen on-screen, hence the skull image shown on the video monitor to protect his identity.

“America’s only learning now of Lipton’s death,” said the mysterious figure in a raspy voice, “Without him, the country itself will soon fall apart.”

“Good,” said the mysterious voice coming from the video monitor’s built-in speakers – the same voice that Tyler Lipton heard in his Manhattan penthouse apartment before his death, “Even now, his soul’s regretting the folly of his actions.”

“And Lipton’s Russian opposite – who died at the same time as he did?  How will this affect U.S..-Russian relations – not to mention the global balance of power?”

“That too will fall apart – and quickly.  In the meantime, what matters now is that those two fools have been eliminated – before they set forth their plans to double-cross and destroy us, and after what I’ve done for them.”

“Perhaps others serving the darkness’ll be wise enough not to betray you in the future – and perhaps avoid the consequences that felled Lipton and his Russian opposite.  And now, America and Russia’s twilight – is about to commence.”

“And soon, the rest of the world will enter the abyss – its misguided faith in democracy and freedom shattered.  Survival of the fittest – it’s a concept which has served me well.  It’s a pity that much of the world has forgotten it – otherwise, they wouldn’t be heading towards total oblivion.  It’s what you’d call the perfect crime – but with one major difference: once we’ve committed it, nobody will be in a position to stop us.”

“Not even the dead – or a certain would-be deity who’s long worn out his welcome in the universe.”  But both the mysterious figure and the mysterious voice were wrong about several things as they co-plotted what they hoped would be the world’s descent into permanent darkness – including the undeniable fact that though tragedy and disaster struck unexpectedly, the best of humanity could and did rise above it, displaying not only human strength, but also the wisdom and decency to forge ahead.  And hopefully prevent past incidents – and perhaps more – from repeating themselves.

With the death of U.S.. President Tyler Lipton, his successor was – for good or bad – now charged with leading the nation into a future that was at best uncertain.  Whether or not Lipton’s successor would fare any better than him would depend in part on learning the mistakes of the past – and helping to insure that they weren’t repeated ever again.  For democracy and freedom – and not just in the United States – can’t survive without the knowledge and compassion needed to help better humanity.  And at the same time, prevent evil in its many guises from plunging the world into a new and permanent age forever dark – and devoid of any and all light associated with the good in all humanity.  For in the end, darkness – even the kind existing within the worst of humanity – was no match for the light which must always shine.

© Copyright 2020 John Lavernoich. All rights reserved.

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