THE PRINCE OF DAN
Darkness revealed in place so deep,
that mankind would so daring open keep
the secret closed to the searching eye
the gift, the chalice lifted high
some drank to live, some drank to die.
The Chronicles of Lilith; Book One; Lines 1-5
“The Entrance Way of the Dead”
Tuesday March 4, 1997---12:15AM
Corporate Executive Offices, South Central Auto Insurance Company
When it comes to shock and awe, Nature prefers to use the unexpected as a vehicle for the most violent acts: those which end life. When it comes to violent acts committed by individuals, the most horrific tend to be committed by those whom others feel would never attempt such a deed, and many of these go unsolved for that very reason.
Following the revelation that a nondescript individual has been discovered as being an actor in a brutal crime, friends and neighbors of the human killer generally look surprised while being interviewed by television reporters for it tends to be those regarded as least likely of all the people they know who would ever be capable of a most heinous act; and, then, the questions roll in as to what system could ever be developed to identify such persons prior to their destructive acts taking place. In like fashion, weather forecasters look at computer models wondering why the systems failed to alert operators of violent weather before it occurred or why it failed to promptly alert changing directions allowing corrective actions to be taken.
And so it was that a "no-name storm" came without prior signals. It encircled Madison like a white tiger, its tail twitching, eyes gleaming, slamming down a paw here and there enjoying the confusion and terror it was causing to those who lived within its path. Relentlessly, it stalked the city much like the killer did who moved quietly on the office building's stairway, preferring to climb up sixteen floors over using the elevator which, for some, is too confining and frightening to ride. The costumed figure was not concerned about time, only completion of a well thought out act, the death of a hated man whose office came closer at each upward step.
David Evnowith leaned back in his leather-surfaced-executive chair and watched his vice president, Tom Donovan, disappear out his office door and down the hall to get a carafe of fresh coffee. The liquid in David’s fine china cup was cold, but he raised it anyway and took a hopeful sip. Nevertheless, no sooner had his mouth been filled with the chilled fluid than he wrinkled his nose and crushed his lips together in disgust over the flat, slimy taste.
Those close to him knew he liked his coffee to be “——hot like a good woman, robust, and without cream, please——” he would often jokingly say. And that was true of both. The more robust and the hotter the better.
What made matters even worse than the coffee being cold, in this case, was his detecting a piece of coffee ground left stuck to the surface of his tongue. He turned in his chair, the leather creaking in complaint, and spit the unwanted sliver into the air in the general direction of his desk waste can. He sat forward and was in the process of placing the cup back on the waiting saucer when what sounded like the sharp crack of a pistol shot broke over the howl of the winter storm assaulting the city.
David’s body reacted with a jerk. The thin-porcelain cup slipped from his fingers. It shattered upon striking the ornately inlaid Cherry wood desktop, spilling out its contents over the pile of papers strewn before him. What did not soak into the papers found its way in tiny rivulets to the desk's edge where it dripped off onto the carpeted floor. "Christ,” David shouted, “what the hell?" He looked up from the spattered mess to the doorway expecting Tom to be standing there with a sheepish grin and a lame apology for causing him to spill coffee all over his desk. However, Tom was not there.
And, instead of hearing any reply at all from Tom, David’s skin prickled at the ominous, thick silence which answered his exclamation of surprise. He frowned and pursed his lips——waiting. Even the wind, which had been tearing at the building amid mournful enraged-banshee shrieks, had paused in its assault, as if it too had been startled and needed a moment to collect itself before resuming its howling attack.
David pushed his chair back and glanced over his clothing checking to see if any of the coffee had spattered him as well. He looked up at the papers and shook his head at the mess and was grateful for Tom having the foresight to have photocopied the original documents regarding a merger between their company and another making them safe from such an event as this. The two men had been carefully reviewing extensive and complex reports concerning a pending merger with a company on the brink of bankruptcy up until Tom brought up the time of night and the need to get home to their families.
They had been at it for hours and were the last two people left in the building to David's knowledge, and both were in need of rest.
The President of South Central Auto Insurers had caught himself several times slipping off into sleep while reading at his desk. David’s day began before dawn when he attended a breakfast conference held by Nevada State Insurance Officials who wished to address the growing problem of insurance company insolvencies. Even though it was not stated as being mandatory that he and other company CEOs be present, David knew the game well enough to understand that his being present would be beneficial for his company——and, who knew, perhaps useful for his own needs at some point in time. Nevertheless, the subject matter, insurer insolvency, was nothing to worry about where his company was concerned. It had accumulated a treasure trove over the years and was envied by its peers, loved by its shareholders, and respected by State officials who, several of which, from time to time, were quietly granted use of one of the corporate airplanes for personal pleasures. All that resulted from his attendance that morning was his downing too much coffee in order to stay awake.
Returning to his offices, he was confronted with several in-house corporate meetings which followed one another as would a string of railroad cars being pulled uphill by a relentless and powerful diesel engine made up of his pair of administrative assistants who were more than qualified for the job but (fortunately for them) sexually unappealing to David. Each meeting was beyond being dull and he could have easily dozed off except for the “damn” coffee——not to mention the hovering admin assistants that saw to his every need and who brought——yes, more coffee.
He hungered for a time to nap, wishing to be lulled by the howling snowstorm into a much needed restful mental oblivion. However, a quick glance at the day’s appointment calendar revealed the corporate weather would remain unchanged from that of numerous prior such days: busy, with a continuous shower of mind-numbing, sprinkled with an occasional thunderclap of tension reducing angry outburst amid mostly a steady, unrelenting downpour of mind-numbing while his well-organized team of supportive associates refused to let up. That was their job, and they were good at it.
After a while he began to grow irritable, a sure sign he needed food and rest, and by the time noon arrived it brought with it a much needed break in the structured day for both him and his aides who, themselves, had begun showing evidence of having their claws out. A clash between David and his administrative assistants was not uncommon and when it did take place it generally sent people running for cover.
And so, when noon arrived, the three smiled icily at one another as the two women helped him slip into his overcoat, handed him his hat, and pushed him out the door and into a waiting car for the short trip up one block and over one to the Marquee Hotel where he met with other business leaders for a traditional “once-a-week, cookie-cutter luncheon” with came with a choice of roast beef, breast of chicken, ham or chicken salad plate. Each entrée would be served with a side of peas or corn, perhaps the choice of mashed, fries, or baked potato, small dinner salad with choice of House, Ranch, or French dressing, bowls with butter in tiny cups for the small warm rolls wrapped up in a cloth and stuffed in a serving basket, four or five different flavors of coffee creamer, four types of sweetener, a traditional glass of water with twist of lemon, cup of coffee for some and tea for others who, David felt, were trying to make a point about something that neither they nor the others present could artfully and properly articulate. Following all this came the deadly, fattening little brownie at the end which David happily devoured.
The chewy, chocolate, gooey glob that his wife’s dietician had more than once told him might cause him to gain weight, increase his blood pressure, bring on diabetes, and, God forbid, he might even cause him to have a stroke and die. In defiance, David always asked of the others sitting at his table if anyone was not going to eat their brownies could they please pass them to him. And, so, David went fully expecting to be completely bored by some “expert” giving his or her opinion on a subject that David did not have the slightest interest in.
Nevertheless, David learned through the years that being bored at some events was simply part of the game and to keep his eyes and ears open for possibilities which might suddenly arise. So, he sat and politely smiled and nodded to the others there and joined in some small, short conversations with boiler plate comments such as: “oh?”, “really?”, “well, I think I’ll have to read up on that”. and, of course, his favorite was simply a thoughtful “hmmmm”.
So, David went to the Marquee Hotel resolute to survive yet another business luncheon, one of many in his career. He fully expected to be painfully bored with the guest speaker's remarks over their concerns of an impending economic downturn; however, David was well versed in being able to put up a false front and act opposite of his true feeling, And, as he sat staring at the chicken salad plate placed before him, while toying with his fork, David’s mind drifted, as it always did, to the work waiting for him back at his office until a movement near the entrance to the kitchen interrupted his thoughts. Looking up, he brightened upon spotting a young waitress he was well acquainted with approaching his table with a carafe of fresh coffee.
“Miss,” he cheerfully called to her, sitting upright in his chair. “Miss? I’ll have cup, thank you.”