"What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing — the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others." - John Stuart Mill
He had missed Halloween. No party, no giving out candies. He had no costume anyway. He had paid Ivan November's rent already. Ivan asked him if he knew where Richard was, but Marty feigned ignorance.
"Day five of seven," Marty said as he entered the front lobby from Bay Street. He was relieved to be out of the cold air of the Autumn evening. Trevor waved his free hand, the other one pressing the telephone to his ear.
Marty stepped behind the counter, heading to the backroom to change, hearing: "Okay Mr. Franco, thanks for your cooperation. Uh-huh, yeah, no problem sir." He hung up the phone and sighed.
"What's wrong with Mr. Penthouse?" asked Marty, now sticking his head out from behind the door to the employee closet.
"Just a noise complaint," said Trevor. "I would've gone up but I got no partner to watch the desk. A neighbour from below him called in complaining about some loud yelling, probably in a fight with his girlfriend, or something."
"Erin?" asked Marty, suddenly feeling fluttery in his gut.
Trevor nodded. "Or one of his other girlfriends. I've seen at least three women, all half his age, go up to see him."
"Really?" the fluttering turned into a coiling knot. "Do they know about each other?"
"Really?" the fluttering turned into a coiling knot. "Do they know about each other?"
"Then he's a piece of shit."
"Shh," Trevor hushed him, bringing a finger to his lips. He looked around, then said in a quieter tone: "He may be that, Marty, but his rent alone pays for a quarter of our paychecks in the long-run, so he's our boss too."
"Ain't my boss," replied Marty, feeling a warmth coming to his skin. An image of Harvey Franco replaced Erin's in his mind's eye. His imaginary fist came up and pounded the rich man's face next. Marty tried to calm himself down, taking the first set of rounds voluntarily.
"It's not your buisiness," he kept telling himself. "This is your job. This is Harvey Franco's home. Your job is to protect his home. That's it. He has the money. He pays. What else can you do? Nothing."
Erin too. He knew he couldn't involve himself with her. It would only lead to trouble. In his late twenties Marty had learned by now which women not to get involved with. He kept telling him these
things as he made his way up each staircase.
things as he made his way up each staircase.
"Not your business, not your business," he continued to say in his mind to intercept the thoughts. He had to focus. By the time he reached the penthouse the thought of knocking on the door and running away came to his mind. He resisted the urge and instead walked up to the door and put his ear next to the lion head knocker. It seemed quiet, or perhaps, Marty reasoned, the doors were completely solid.
When he was about to leave he heard a very faint male voice speaking quickly, unable to make out any words. A female voice spoke every now and then, equally indiscernible. He could tell it was Erin. When the male voice became loud he knew they were fighting again.
"What the hell?" he said aloud. He reached for his security radio, ready for Trevor to send him to deliver a noise complaint to them. He wanted to grab the lion knocker and slam it down hard on the wood.
Thirty seconds passed with no radio call. Marty shook his head, noticing that the arguing had stopped. Instead he heard a thumping noise that started faintly and then rapidly became louder. He took his face off the door and dashed backwards across the elevator lobby. Erin, clad in her usual tight jeans and small leather jacket, stormed out of the front door, rushing to the elevator button, not even noticing Marty. He took in her face from the door to the stairs, noting slight trails of purple running down her cheeks. The elevator must have already been stationed at the penthouse floor because the doors swished open almost instantly. She got in.
Once they were closed Harvey Franco came out, wearing a purple housecoat. "Erin! Open these doors!" he yelled after her.
"Everything alright, sir?" Marty called to him without flinching.
Mr. Franco turned around, his eyebrows raised slightly when he noticed Marty in the corner. He frowned. "Does everything look alright?" he snapped, shaking his head and turning back to his door. He slammed it behind him, causing the gilded knocker to thump on the hard wood.
Marty ran up to the door, resisting the urge to slam his fists against it. Instead he heard Mr. Franco running across the floor in his penthouse. "Rich prick," he muttered under his breath. "You got everything in the world you could need, but you want more. There shouldn't be people like you."
He headed to the elevator and rode it down to the lobby, struggling to control himself, continually telling himself to calm down and do his job.
He wandered High Park that night, aimlessly following a pathway running though the eastern ravine, the shelter from the multiple layers of tree branches helping him forget he was in a city. He couldn't think of anywhere in London quite like this place. There were pleny of parks, some with castles and old fortresses, but no space quite as big and green and seemingly empty. Whenever he was in High Park he could find spaces with no other people, especially at night. Richard Brewer had three things with him, a ligher, a joint that Marty had given him, and a flashlight to see his way through the trails.
After a bit he sat on a fallen log covered in moss and lit up the joint, breathing it in deep, feeling instant relaxation. The whole day he spent cooped up in his room, desperate to avoid Ivan. At one point he heard the landlord enter the main floor; he could tell it from his deep, off-key humming noise that he often made. The door next to Richard's opened up and Nicky, with his light footfalls, entered the kitchen. The two of them started talking and it didn't take long before Richard knew they were talking about him.
He shook his head as he took another drag of the joint. He distinctly remembered hearing Ivan say: "I need you to watch him, tell me when he is here." Nicky agreed to it.
"Rats everywhere," Richard muttered, blowing out the smoke cloud. After he got his next direct deposit paycheck that was the last of his money. He wondered about Sean, wondered if he was an actual spy paid by the company to keep the workers in line or if he was a worker who delighted in bringing others down.
He shook his head, feeling defeated. He didn't know what to do next, but he figured he would need another job fast. Once the joint was done he stood up and stretched his legs, feeling an ache in his back. He wondered how much longer he would be able to do a physically demanding job, thinking maybe a telemarketing gig would be preferable. His mouth never got tired.
As Richard started walking along the thin trail he found his way off of it and into the bush, heading upward, grabbing at the roots and branches that thrust up from the wooded hillside. He caught a glimpse of the full moon over him, just barely visible between the overhead branches. Once he started feeling the ache in his back again he took a pause, stepping aside onto more leveled ground, a kind of hidden terrace. Richard beamed his flashlight about the ground, seeing that it was quite long, this platform trail, but just about five feet wide, giving him just a little space to move without dropping off down the slope. Above him were nothing but large trees and bushes.
"Okay, time to get going," he muttered to himself, figuring he could follow the flat-ground a bit along the hillside, hopefully leading back to a trail. Ivan was likely sleeping, he realized. The house usually went quiet after midnight and the sky, from what he could see of it, looked black enough to be nearing that hour.
The space ahead seemed to go on forever. There were too many over-hanging trees and foliage, even this late in the season, to be able to see clearly ahead. Richard heard the dried leaves crinkling under his shoes with each cautious step. The pot made him more careful and paranoid about falling. If he had been drinking instead that night he likely would have ended up at the bottom of the ravine already, legs broken from the fall.
"At least I wouldn't have to work anymore," he thought, thinking of the disability checks he could get if he survived. He shook his head, realizing how cynical he had become in his middle-age. At times like these, times when he felt he was at the bottom, he yearned for the days of his youth, especially his university days when he set out to change the world, feeling invincible once Laura was at his side.
Richard paused as a shadow leaped out from the bushes to the side. He raised the flashlight.
A black dog, it's teeth barred stood there. It reared back a step as the light hit it's face. Then it barked and charged.
Richard raised both arms instinctively, covering his face and falling into a cowering position. The dog snarled loudly as it's snout hit Richard's forearm.
"Back! Back!" he yelled feebly, his heart suddenly pounding . For a second Richard felt himself teetering on the cliff-side. He shut his eyes, ready to free fall into the black void beneath him. In that second the fall felt better than the dog's jaws.
Something gripped his left arm hard. He thought it was the jaws of the dog clamping down, but instead he was pulled forward gently, back onto the terrace.
"You okay?" asked a man's voice.
Richard opened his eyes to see a large burly man with a thick dark beard. The dog backed off at the man's side, it's tongue lolling out now. Richard glanced at his left arm in the hand of the man, relieved it wasn’t covered in his own blood like he expected.
"Sorry, you freaked him out," said the man.
Richard let out a laugh, both in relief and fear. "He freaked me out!"
The bearded man smiled. Richard noticed the man had a raggedy old brown jacket on, looking like it had to be a decade old judging by the tears on it. He lowered the flashlight, seeing the man's green and brown stained jeans and worn-out shoes.
"Do you live here?" Richard asked.
The man nodded."Sorry to come on your home."
"It's okay, sorry my dog almost bit you. He gets like that when he's startled, especially at night. Do you have any change by chance?"
Richard shook his head. "I am broke," he replied, almost saying that he was nearly at the same stage as the homeless man. In a few months he could be not far off from that. The man directed Richard back on the path, asking him to keep his home in the hidden terrace a secret. Richard promised he wouldn't tell anybody.
Before he left the house Richard told him about his strange encounter in High Park the previous night.
"High Park has lots of homeless people living in it," he said as he grabbed an apple from his compartment in the fridge.
"They live like trolls," his mate replied.
Marty shrugged and left for work.
His sixth shift started the same way as the fifth. Trevor updated him as he came into the space behind the counter.
"Nothing new to report tonight," he explained. "Just another noise complaint against the penthouse again. Same story."
Marty shook his head, trying to stop his mind from going there. After the first hour he was ready for a patrol. Like the night before he went from the bottom to the top. It was good exercise and always helped clear his head for the shift. The whole time he was doing his best not to think of Harvey Franco or Erin. Instead he wondered about his father and what this big announcement was.
At first he had thought that maybe his dad had gotten Andrea pregnant, but then he remembered his dad had a vasectomy. It would be weird having a baby brother or sister at this point in his life too. It made more sense that his dad was announcing a move and needed Marty's help. If that was the case, he figured, there would probably be some cash involved. He wouldn't think twice about taking up that offer, even if it meant sacrificing his days off.
Marty reached the penthouse elevator lobby. The shouting coming from the other side of the double doors brought his mood back down. It was Franco again, his words audible this time. Marty went up to the door.
"--And how much do you contribute? Really? Oh yeah! And you think I need that money? Do you think that pays for everything here? Do you think we live in a mansion in the sky because of your tips at.."
Erin cut him off. Marty knew it was her voice, but hers was so quiet that he couldn't make out what she was saying.
"Oh yeah! Sure, you have your own apartment!" Mr. Franco's response thundered. "Oh yeah, a cute little pad to crash at when you've spent the night out drinking with those sluts and you know I won't take you back in here!"
She protested, probably about her friends being called sluts.
"Oh yeah, your idiot waitress friends are sluts! They live off their bodies now, milking their tits and asses now, but when they hit thirty-five—fuck it! They'll wish they'd stayed in school. Look at you, you've already hit thirty and you actually have everything you need thanks to me! Instead of doing what I tell you, you go and keep living like you're nine-teen!"
Marty knew that he was eavesdropping. "Well, you're security too," he told himself. "If a situation looks bad it's a good thing you're listening." He felt a bit better about it.
He decided to wait a little longer, backing up slightly from the door in case one of them came out suddenly like they did the night before. As if on cue the sound of footfalls started emitting from behind the door. Marty backed up more, getting himself back over at the elevators, pressing the 'down' button.
Erin came out quickly, the doors falling closed behind her. She wore a turquoise summer dress, a little thin-looking for the Autumn season, and he noticed she had two diamond shaped earrings in the same colour.
"Is everything okay, Erin?" he asked her as the elevator door opened.
He noticed how red her face looked as she wiped her cheek quickly. She shook her head and entered the elevator, raising her head slightly, their eyes meeting just as the doors closed. Marty heard the elevator move down the shaft, lowering his head with it.
He made his way to the staircase door, noticing Harvey Franco's head poking out of the door alongside the head of the golden lion knocker. Marty gave him a blank look as the other scowled back at him.
"We got to do something," Marty told Trevor back at the front desk.
"Uh no, we don't," he replied, pausing to look over his shoulder as a resident came in through the western doors. "Oh hi there Mr. Green!" he called.
Marty waved and gave his usual superficial work smile as the man entered the lobby and made his way over to the elevators. Trevor turned back to face Marty. "We're security guards, remember that. Our job is to protect people's security, not solve their personal problems."
"Oh come on, Trev! The man's clearly abusive!"
"Keep your voice down," said Trevor annoyingly, looking about. Both men looked up at the bridge that led to the staff room at the same time. No one else was on duty, but it was a habit to assume the worst about that spot.
Marty sighed when Trevor faced him again. "Okay, I know I can't get involved in anyone's lives."
"That's building policy and is the policy no matter where you work," said Trevor. "All we can do is keep an eye on it. Unless we see evidence that he is assaulting her then there's nothing we can do about it. Besides," he glanced around again quickly. "It's not fair to assume it's all his fault. Just because she's a woman doesn't mean she's right."
Marty was taken aback at this. "Wow, that's sexist."
Trevor raised an eyebrow. "Sexist? Man, Marty, let me be real with you. First off, what's sexist is to think that it's your job, as a man, to save Erin, who is a woman, and to assume that as a woman she can't save herself."
Mary shrugged. He hadn't thought of it that way.
"But more important, you don't know the situation. I mean, look at it; big rich man like Harvey Franco," he said, looking about once more like a deer in hunting season. "Now what kind of a woman, especially one way younger than him, would want that?"
"You can't assume," said Marty, although he had had such suspicions himself.
"Okay, well, assume this then. If you got yourself involved with someone that's linked to a man you basically work for, then what do you think could happen?"
He was right. Marty knew it and had been telling himself the same thing anyway. It was just a bad idea. The conversation ended there. Marty went outside to go to a nearby twenty-four hour convenience store, bought a drink of coconut water, and returned to the front desk feeling calmed down again.
The shift was halfway over. He went on break.
Marty sometimes went to the weight room located on the second floor to pump off some steam. Considering the drama that had just unfolded the weight room sounded like the perfect place to spend his mid-shift break at. Instead, for some reason, he felt drained, both mentally and physically, so he went to the lounge instead. Being security, he had the key to all the amenities.
The lounge was nice, especially at night. It was full of big, comfy chairs and plush sofas that were perfect to nap in. At night no one used it, so it was a great spot to doze off. Marty knew the managers probably wouldn't appreciate him using this space for napping, but that made him want to do it more.
With the light still off he made his way to his favourite couch, the only one that fit his whole body. It overlooked a window where he could turn himself sideways and look over the lights of Bay Street and the cars as they drove by. Marty almost dove onto the sofa, but stopped himself from jumping when he noticed something in his way.
Someone was already sitting on the couch, someone wearing turquoise.