He had…everything. But he had nothing. The money his father left him made him wealthy. It made him desired. It made him powerful.
But he knew there were many who didn’t care. Up here, looking down over New York, he wanted more. Things that would make it impossible for them all to ignore him. He had dreams. His name everywhere: on buildings, on television, on people’s lips. To be known, to be celebrated. To be loved. To be better than anyone else. Now that was a real American dream.
He heard a small cough and turned away from the window. A man was standing there. Sharp suit, shoes gleaming, black hair slicked down, dark, deep-set eyes.
‘How did you get in here?’
The man waved his hand, as if it didn’t matter.
‘I hear you like to make deals.’
‘Well, yeah.’ He smiled, flattered. ‘I do. But good ones, you know. No crap.’
Okay, there’d been one deal, a couple of years before. And his father had loaned him money when things looked like they’d fall apart. Back before the old guy died. But one was a start. He had his eye on plenty more.
‘Of course.’ The man smiled and his tongue flicked across his lips. ‘You’re ambitious.’
‘Hell, yeah.’ He sat behind the desk. Old polished wood. It had class. It had authority. ‘So who are you, anyway?’
‘Call me…’ He pursed his lips. ‘Michael will do. My boss has been watching you. He thinks we can make a deal.’
‘Yeah?’ He was interested. Intrigued. He could seen the power that flowed out of the man. ‘What kind of a deal?’
‘A good one, naturally. Good for all of us.’
‘What do I get out of it?’ he asked.
‘Tell me,’ Michael said, ‘what would you like?’
He’d opened up to this strange guy. Unlike him. But there was something…he sat up straighter and ran a hand through his hair.
‘And what do you get? I mean, there’s got to be something. A lot.’
‘We get…power. What else is worthwhile?’ Michael asked.
‘Money,’ he answered without hesitation.
‘Anyone can get money. Are you interested?
‘There’s a contract, naturally.’
‘I need to show it to my lawyer.’
Michael shook his head. ‘No lawyer. Not this time. Let’s say he wouldn’t believe it. If you want this enough, sign it.’ He reached into his pocket and drew out a sheaf of papers. ‘Everything’s straightforward.’
He looked at the photograph on the wall. That was the real crowd. That was what he’d seen when he looked. Not what they were saying in the media. They hated him because he’d won, because they hadn’t wanted him.
So he’d sent his people out to tell them to shut up. They had to learn who was in charge now.
In the background, the television played. He heard his name and watched for a minute.
What did they think, that it had been easy getting here? The bankruptcies he’d had to work around, the people who did bad work and complained when he didn’t pay them. And Jesus, some of the women…but he’d made it happen.
Yeah, some of the people didn’t like him. But they’d learn. He rubbed a speck of dust off the picture frame and saw a face reflected in the glass.
‘It’s been a little while. Congratulations.’
The man – what was his name? Martin? Michael? Something like that – didn’t look a day older. Maybe even younger. He must have the best plastic surgeon.
‘What do you want? I could have the Secret Service come in and kill you.’
‘But you won’t.’
‘You want to bet?’
‘We can, if you wish. But I rarely place wagers. I prefer certainties.’
‘What are you doing here, anyway. After that time in New York and that contract thing I never heard from you again.’
‘You didn’t hear directly,’ Michael corrected him. ‘But who do you think eased you out of those scandals? Who had a word with some judges? Who led the way around everything?’ He paused a moment. ‘Who do you think put you here?’
‘I did that. Me. Look at it.’ He pointed at the picture. ‘They came because of me.’
‘No,’ Michael told him. ‘They came because of us.’
‘No.’ He was certain of it. He’d done it. By himself. He’d believe and he’d made others believe. ‘And that contract, you can forget it. I’ve got the best lawyers-’
‘Believe me, you don’t. My boss has always made sure he uses the very best. That contract is unbreakable. Anyway,’ he said, glancing at his watch, ‘it’s time for us to go.’
‘What? What do you mean?’ He could believe this.
‘You should have looked at the fine print. I said you’d get what you wanted. I didn’t say you’d keep it. Really, the devil is in the details.’