By Casey Kenworthy
The Whittman Industry’s massive central office building stood proud and robust within the bleak, miserable poverty stricken atmosphere that surrounded it. The building’s walls, constructed with a thick, ash gray marble that was decorated with small specks that resembled a salt and pepper collage. Situated at the front were erected pillars as thick as sequoias, their height rivaling that of an ordinary four story metropolis building.
Standing out on the first step of the marble etched steps that angled up and stretched out like a small, pearl-white mountain range, Chauncey strained his neck back in order to observe the building’s spectacular sight. He felt as though he were looking at one of those ancient Greek palaces that honored their Gods, or to be more precise, looking at the palace of Zeus himself.
Chauncey began the ascent towards the top, his feet occasionally slipping on steps that were dabbed with spots of ice. Snow continued to fall heavily and the chilling wind whipped harder than before, with his exposed flesh protruding from his coat’s cuffs burning from its intensity. He paused to adjust his apparel with the hopes of being able to shield away the cold, pulling his coat in tighter around his torso and hunching over to keep his face out of the breeze way.
As he reached the top, a large copper coated door with a decorated gothic archway held firm in a closed position. In front of it stood a man, one of the numerous guards hired to patrol the office’s terrace.
Chauncey approached the man, a rather bulky individual with a clean-shaven face that brandished a few scars around the left side of his cheek. He was dressed in the typical Whittman security attire: a matching navy blue coat and trousers with a red trim around the seams; a matching navy blue flat-topped patrolman hat seated atop his head; and black, obsidian colored boots with a sheen that glistened like oil under sunlight. A pistol was strapped to his right side, and in in his left hand he clutched a Billy club.
“Good evening,” Chauncey said aloud, situated roughly four steps away from where the guard was positioned.
The guard remained silent, his gaze looking beyond Chauncey as though he weren’t even standing there.
“I’d like to speak with Mr. Whittman”, Chauncey went on, “I have something I’d like to ask him.”
The man continued to look outward, but eventually opened his mouth to speak. “Do you have an appointment scheduled?”, he asked.
“No, I don’t, but would it be—”
“Walk-in appointment hours are over,” the man interrupted in a monotone voice, twisting the club as he spoke, “Come back tomorrow morning at nine o’clock”.
“I really don’t have that kind of time,” Chauncey pressed on, “Please, sir, it’s an emergency, I need to speak–”
“No appointment,” the guard shouted in retort, “no entry! If you have a hard time understanding that,” he made a hand gesture toward his pistol hanging idle,
“there are other ways off getting the point across.”
Recoiling back from the harsh response, Chauncey slowly began to turn and head back down the steps, but he paused his motion. His mind began to wander off and ponder how it would be when he went back home and told the news to Mildred, watched her wither and cry in his arms just as she had before. What it would be like to hear little Sammy’s dreadful crying again…
Chauncey turned back around and walked up face to face with the guard, looked him square in the eyes with gritted teeth.
“Look,” Chauncey said, “The reason why I’m here is because my infant son is back at home suffering in agony from the scarlet fever. The mining district’s hospital is filled up, and the only way to get him in is through an incentive payment to get to the top of the list. I need an advanced paycheck to do so.
The guard looked at him with squinted eyes, his mouth slightly ajar as though he wanted to say something but didn’t know what.
Chauncey continued. “You’re out here late at night standing in the freezing cold. When I go down into the hellacious world of the coalmines, the only thing that gets me through the miserable conditions is the thought of my wife and son to support back at home. I have a feeling you’re doing the same right now.”
The guard broke eyes with Chauncey and drifted his gaze downward.
“Please, from one father to another,” Chauncey said, “Let me speak with him.”
The guard brought his gaze up and met Chauncey’s eyes once again.
“I can’t let you in this way,” he whispered softly, “but there’s a supply shipment happening now at the eastern receiving door. If you hurry, you might be able to sneak in with the workers unloading there. But if you do manage to get in and talk with Mr. Whittman,” the guard grabbed Chauncey’s right shoulder and pulled him in closer, “You didn’t come in this way.”
“Thank you so much!” Chauncey whispered back.
“Remember,” the guard warned one last time, “for the sake of my family, you didn’t come in this way.”
Loud grunting and slamming could be heard from the supply truck parked in front of the receiving door. Six bodies moved in and out like marching ants from the door to the large truck.
“Easy with that piece there, knuckle head!” shouted a large, loud-mouthed man who was without a doubt the foreman of this project, “It’s worth more than all of you imbeciles put together!”
Chauncey leaned out from the corner he was hidden behind and waited for a good moment to move. Five minutes later a loud crash ruptured from inside the front portion of the truck.
“Damn it Marco!” the foreman shouted in rage, “That’s coming out of your pay!”
He and the other grunts rushed in to help clean up the accident, and Chauncey seized the opportunity. Sprinting around the corner and up the metal steps leading to the large receiving door, he raced inside and ran down the large hallway to the end of the corridor where another door resided. Opening it and stepping through, Chauncey found himself in an exquisite looking lobby.
Just as impressive as the exterior, the empty lobby he found himself in shined with a polished gray marble floor that made footsteps echo as though it were a cave. A large fountain, spewing cerulean blue water that emanated a pleasant salt smell that portrayed the atmosphere of the sea, sat in the middle of the room underneath a huge overhanging chandelier that dangled what appeared to be diamond tassels. The most significant piece, however, was the huge portrait painting of a man that took up the entire northern wall. A metal plated caption plate situated under it read: “In memory of Richard Whittman, 1819-1881”.
Richard Whittman, the original founder of the Whittman Industries, was the man who built the company from the ground up and was said to be just as cruel and unforgiving as his son James, Richard’s eldest son who inherited the company’s fortune upon his father’s death. Any laborer who lived during the time of Richard Whittman’s ruling easily described him as “the meanest son of a bitch who ever walked God’s green acres”.
A middle-aged woman with silvery hair and beady spectacles quickly passed through the lobby, her high heels clattering on the floor as she hastened through. Upon seeing Chauncey, she stopped and questioned him.
“I beg your pardon,” she asked, “But is there something I can help you with?”
Chauncey paused for a moment, his mind racing for an excuse.
At last he answered. “Yes, um, there was an accident outside with one of Mr. Whittman’s delivery pieces,” he took a moment to swallow and gather the rest of his lie together, “and, um, the foreman asked for me to report it to him in person, give him the details on what broke and how it happened.”
The woman looked at Chauncey from over the rims of her glasses, taking in his appearance and the bogus lie he offered to her.
“Very well, follow me,” she said, twisting her mouth into a disapproved smile as she turned and motioned for him to follow her.
After trailing through the various hallways and stairwells that rivaled the mind boggling, inescapable confusion of Daedalus’ labyrinth, Chauncey and the receptionist reached a door marked with gold letters that read “J.W.”.
“This is it,” Chauncey said to himself silently, “I’m right in front of the lion’s den now.”
The receptionist paused in front of the door and turned to him.
“Wait here for just a moment, please,” she said.
She rapped on the door with a slight knock three times, opened it and then stepped inside.
Chauncey’s nerves began to tingle with a mixture of fear and anticipation, his palms growing moist from being clenched so tight. It felt as though his heart was beating in his throat while his stomach had the most agitated butterflies. He’d never seen a glimpse of Mr. James Whittman before, let alone spoken to him.
The door clicked open, and the receptionist slid out into the hall.
“You may see him now,” she said, gesturing for him to come in.
To Be Continued…
Be on the look out for part three, coming April 24th.