Riches to Rags, Part Three

Recap with the first two parts of the story here.

Part Three


Chauncey stepped inside, and was immediately greeted by the blazing fireplace tucked in the corner of the room, logs crackling in the fire that forced little embers to sizzle into the air above it but then quickly burn out.  The air smelled of cigar smoke, the fancy Cuban imported kind that gave off a pleasant aroma. A large picture window was placed directly in the center of the back wall that gave a view over all of the districts, company town homes, and the other various facilities that was able to fit in with the scenery. In front of that window, comfortably situated in a large maroon armchair with mahogany chiseled chair legs and arm rests, silently observing Chauncey from behind the large, neatly organized desk, was none other than Mr. James Whittman himself.

He was a younger man, roughly in his late twenties to early thirties. His dark brown hair was neatly combed back, and beneath his nose resided a neatly trimmed, pencil thin mustache. He was clothed in a silver pen stripped suit that seemed to have a metallic luminescent aura when exposed to the fireplace’s light.

“Which valuable piece of fine furnishing have you bumbling buffoons destroyed this time?” he said with the utmost displeasure, not even bothering to look up from the document he was writing on. His voice held a tone that was quite callous and solemn, and that effect only made Chauncey’s nerves worsen.

Chauncey mumbled back another fabricated lie. “Well, sir, I believe it was—“ 

“Your name,” James interrupted, still scribbling at the document in front of him, “What is your name?”

“Chauncey Stuart.”

“No,” James said, setting down his ink pen, finally lifting his head up to physically address Chauncey, “the name I gave you.”

    His eyes were a piercing dark green that resembled the hide of a crocodile, and his pupil’s dark shade was a black pit that swallowed up all the confidence Chauncey had in himself, sent his heart racing with fear.

    “63897,” Chauncey replied back. It was his laborer’s identification number, the name all workers were assigned the moment they set foot in a district work site. It was the name all workers were expected to identify themselves by.

    “63897?” James murmured with an inquisitive tone, “6…3…8…..97?” He heavily emphasized the last two numbers of the name, and much to Chauncey’s dismay, James was quite keen in remembering his district codes.

    Leaning back, James rested his elbows on the arms of his chair, bringing his hands together and pressing his fingertips against each other. He pursed his lips tightly together and narrowed his eyes with great suspicion.
“So, you’re a member of my delivery laborers, yet you have the identification number that is a part of the coal mining district.” He separated his hands and tossed them in the air. “How is that possible?”

    Maybe it was from his attempt to conjure another cover story, maybe it was just out of petrified terror from his chilling interrogative demeanor, but nonetheless Chauncey held silent in response to James’ question. He knew the jig was up, so it was either now or never to get what he’d come for. He felt like giving in and letting his lies unravel and allow himself to be revealed and viewed as just some ne’er-do-well who was just merely wasting the time of the all mighty James Whittman, allow himself to endure whatever devastating punishment was suited for those who impersonate another district laborer. 

But then Chauncey heard a faint cry, a familiar, shrill wailing whose sound always reached into the inner most chamber of his heart and plucked at its strings as though it were a lyre, playing to the tune of sad melody that only the fingers of Orpheus could perform. His mind swirled into a daze, this faint cry now an ear-splitting roar. 

It’s just what he needed to bring him back to his senses.

Chauncey snapped himself back to proper consciousness. His nerves ceased to interfere with his thinking, his confidence making a triumphant return. “It isn’t possible, sir. I’m afraid I’ve lied. I am not one of your deliver laborers, but in fact, just as you speculated, a laborer of the coal mines. I can assure you, however, that my deception was all for the sake of good intentions, as its purpose is spurred by a great emergency.” 

James opened his mouth to speak, but Chauncey cut him off and continued to state his case. 

“It’s my infant son, Mr. Whittman. He’s become afflicted with the scarlet fever, and his time is running very short. My wife and I have tried taking him to the district hospital, but the waiting list is so long that only an incentive payment would guarantee his chance of survival.” He paused to clear his throat. “As generous as your salary for the mining district is, my payment alone is barley enough to cover the hospital charge, let alone the incentive charge. That’s why I’ve snuck in to speak with you. I was hoping you might bestow to me an advanced payment for my future labor? I feel awful for sneaking in here past walk-in meeting hours, but this is something that just can’t wait. Please, I beg of you,” Chauncey clasped his hands together and interlocked his fingers tightly, “you’re the only one who can help!”

James sat quietly still. His eyes were narrowed, his mouth twisted into a disapproving frown, and his hands changed from a relaxed position into two tightly clenched fists, so tight his knuckles turned a crimson hue. The room was quite, the restless crackling of the nearby fireplace being the only audible sound heard.

“You impersonate one of my delivery laborers,” he said, “lie your way into my office, offer to me some pitiful sob story,” his voice began to rise with a small tinge of furry as his mouth changed into a snarl, his teeth making a brief appearance as he stressed the sounds on certain words, “imply my salary to you isn’t adequate enough, and then all the while simultaneously ask for a more immediate payment to compensate for the this same inadequate salary?

“No sir, that’s not what I was—“

James slammed his hands down onto his desk, silencing Chauncey in midsentence. “How dare you!” he hollered toward Chauncey, flinging himself out of his chair and onto his feet, “How dare you commit such an atrocity! You know, it wasn’t your identification number that first revealed to me you weren’t a delivery laborer! No, you see it was actually the putrid stench, that greasy, dusty, grime coated face all of you filthy flea ridden mining curs possess that gave it away!” He paused for a moment, bringing his left hand up to cup around the side of his mouth. “Boris! Mikael!” he shouted aloud.

Within a matter of seconds Chauncey heard the door behind him click open, and after turning around, saw two large gargantuan men, wearing the usual Whittman security apparel, standing side by side in front of the doorway, their mass so large it almost appeared as though they were concrete barriers rather than men. 

“I tell you what, number 63897,” James said, the ferocity in his voice slightly melting away as he spoke, “I’m going to give you something, but it’s not going to be any advanced payment!”

James stepped out from behind his desk, slowly sauntering towards Chauncey with a small smirk beginning to emerge onto his face.

“I’m going to give you something that’ll suit your situation even better than what an early salary could. And do you know what that thing is, number 63897?”

James was now face to face with Chauncey, roughly two steps away. His eyes were now wide open, those black pits now larger than ever before. 

Taking a few steps backward, Chauncey hesitantly gave his reply. “N-no, what’s it going to be?”

James’ smirk expanded into a wide grin. “Disciplinary action!”

He then slugged his right fist into the left side of Chauncey’s face, spiraling him backward into arms of the giants standing closely behind. 

“Gentlemen, would you kindly finish this up for me? I have some very important paper work desperately in need of my attention.”

The two men silently nodded, and they both seized Chauncey from under his arms and began to drag him out toward the door.

“You son of a bitch!” Chauncey wearily hollered back towards James. “I hope you rot in hell!”

James, whose back was now turned away from Chauncey, uttered a soft chuckle, and then slightly twisted his head to glance back. “My friend, in case you haven’t noticed, this is hell.”