2010-01-19: Love Hurts (Phantasm)



Posting Date: January 19, 2010


Business is good for Adam Monroe in the war-torn future…and sometimes that trumps what might have been love.

"Love Hurts"

Adam Monroe's Mansion, Upstate NY

The residence is practically a palace. Massive. Gargantuan. The upstate New York marble palace is a testament to the wealth and power that Adam Monroe commands now, and a declaration of his skills as a bounty hunter. Have a human target you need dead…well, there's only one man you'd consider going to. Cash for death…that's the business in which he now works.

Tonight, however, he has a special dinner guest. It's the woman who reminded him so much of his third wife upon their first meeting years ago…though now, the situation is a bit different. She isn't exactly an invited guest…unless invitations are sent via shackles and hooded masks. Regardless, she sits at the end of the long dining table in the expansive dining room, flickering candles, firelight, and low wall sconces the only illumination for the massive feast set out for two people.

The invitation itself came as a surprise, oddly enough. Not without its own bunches of terror filled screams, kicks, and squirming. There isn't much one can do to avoid situations like that when you're only five feet tall and less than a hundred pounds, soaking wet. From the time the hood and shackles came off to being seated in the chair, Hallis was treated… like a princess. Bath, hair, makeup, clothes and accessories were all provided for her, all of it very tasteful and extremely expensive. The most uncomfortable part of it was that she was dressed by someone else. Someone that she didn't know.

When ready, the young woman is escorted to the table and the hood removed. The music is divine, something that she would listen to with her grandmother, unfortunately it isn't her grandmother on the other end of the table. It's the man that she met a little while ago in the bar and then a few times on the street after that. It doesn't need to be said that the entire situation is rather confusing and in order not to raise the ire of the man across the table. She remains quite silent.

(Hallis arrives to the dining room with an appropriate procession, royal, elegant, with a bit of a Russian feel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz1jscOlbtI )

For countless minutes, the room is silent, save for the music which seems to come from somewhere…everywhere, filling the room at a comfortably low level, so that speaking is very much possible along the dining room table. Attendants begin to prepare plates for them both, quite the show being made of it; wine is presented, poured, swirled, tasted, and met with the man's approval before both of their glasses are filled halfway with the dark red liquid.

"I do hope you can forgive me for the rough manner in which I've brought you here…" he begins, as the music continues to drone on in the background. "This is partially business…partially pleasure," he says, with a wry grin. Of course, if his reputation does proceed him, business is certainly not something that anyone would want to discuss at the table, especially in such extravagance, paid for with blood.

"What kind of business?" The young woman says quietly, it is possible that her voice isn't quite heard by him over the music. Just as well since the quiver of fear therein would definitely give him even more power over her. Looking down at her plate, Hallis is treated to an expensive a meal as she was clothing. The gold gilded plate, the flatware, everything is much more extravagant than necessary.

"What k-ki- Pleasure?" It certainly isn't a pleasurable pursuit for her, not yet. She's very confused, deeply entrenched in the fear zone. Her stomach clenches and her eyebrows furrow together in a very worried expression.

(As the dinner is served, the music changes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHMJFhJNycM )

The response…the fear and the trembling. It's exquisite. For a man that's lived for more than 4 centuries, tried his hand at almost every occupation a man can try, nothing beats the sensation of watching someone recognize that they are totally at your mercy. First there had been booze and money. Then there had been what he was certain was true love. Then there had been revenge. Then, finally power. Pure, undilluted power. Better than sex, and more valuable than gold. The thought of seeing one's enemies cower, tremble, and beg for their lives the most exquisite pleasure known to man…and one of the only emotions is capable of anymore. That's why he can't help close his eyes and smirk a little as Hallis responds that way.

"Yes, Miss van Cortlandt…pleasure. But also business. I've provided for you a wonderful dinner, in the hopes that we can discuss…your involvement in things. I intend for you to divulge to me all the actions, fiduciary or otherwise, that you've taken to help support the war efforts on behalf of non-Evolved individuals." No mention of death in there…yet.

A discussion? This is what all of this was about? The very thought of it causes Hallis to bristle just a little. There are ways to discuss business, she's sure of it, but this is certainly not one of them. "What sort of involvement, Mister Monroe?" Yes, she remembers his name. "If this is about the donation to the Red Cross, that was for tax purposes. Besides that, I didn't send it in, it was my father." There is very little doubt in her mind that her father wouldn't be caught in such a situation.

Slowly, she picks up the flatware and begins to cut into one of the vegetables on her plate. Perhaps Adam was playing the gentleman and waiting for her to begin her meal before he began his?

That is indeed the case. When she sets about her meal, he does as well. Each of the two diners is allowed enough time as possible to take a few polite bites, before the conversation resumes. "I'm not talking about the contributions your father may have made for tax purposes," he says, going along with what he's already quite well-aware is a lie. "I mean the personal contributions you've made to research and equipment manfacturing, for the purposes of anti-Evolved warfare." While he wastes no time in getting to the meat and potatoes of the conversation, the plates before them still have the appetizers upon them.

Placing her silverware down after the first two bites, Hallis gives the man a wide eyed look. "W-what are you talking about? I didn't… Not at all… I…" She's speechless. Whirling through her mind, there had been some charity dinners, charity auctions, charity benefits. It didn't matter what the cause as long as the photographers were there. As long as it was an excuse to wear a pretty dress and a new pair of shoes, she usually attended the event. "I'm not a part of your war," she insists, "I'm just…" She doesn't even know what she is. An heiress? Certainly not gainfully employed, she gets paid to appear at parties but that isn't a real job.

(Before Adam sits his flatware down to respond, the music changes again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-lnUdR-D10 )

Her response is exactly as predicted…total obliviousness. Fortunately for him, well, others like him, financial records are stored electronically, and there are those who can be paid to retrieve such sensitive information with neither fuss nor alarm. With a snap of his fingers, he calls a servant over, and whisper something into their ear.

A few moments later, the servant returns with a few formal folders. Setting them in front of Hallis and off to the side, they're opened to reveal organized and neatly stapled financial records…with the flow of money from Hallis's estate into the hands of company fronts for anti-Evolved research and warfare. "I do apologize for troubling you with this during dinner, but it simply could not wait. The matter is pressing, you'll find…especially for those like me."

A single trembling hand the color of milk reaches out to the folder and runs her fingers down the lists of contributions made. Her already pale face takes on a sickly palor as she recognizes each of the amounts. A pretty bauble here, a painting there, a trip to Aspen… Looking up at him, her dark blue eyes are wide with shock. They're such a contrast to her pale white skin and hair, especialy lined as they are. "They were benefits, charities, I just…" The panic is beginning to rise and her breath quickens, causing her chest to constrict inside of the tight clothing as she tries to take in some gasps of air.

While she goes about reading through the documents, Adam sets about his dinner again. Appetizers are subsequently replaced with the entree, something as fine as it is dainty on the plate. Delicious, but small in portion, something Hallis should appreciate. The change in food is also a change in topic, and he doesn't say anything more about the damning records. As far as he's concerned, her fate is sealed…and his payment is contingent upon that fate.

Hallis' appetite is just not for the food on her plate, rather she picks up the glass and takes a small sip of wine. The liquid quivers in the glass as she places it back down on the table. She can't look at the records, the food, him, anything. Her eyes slowly close as she tries to think of a way out of the mess that her dalliances and carelessness have put her in. "Wh-what do you want me to do? How can I make it better? I didn't mean to …" Her voice drifts off to a faint whisper before she just can't think of anything else to say.

(As the somber mazurka dies, a waltz appropriate to the mood and the setting begins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slhyXGx-lM8 )

"And thus is our dilemma, Miss van Cortlandt. There is only one acceptable outcome that my employers are willing to accept." His face is set in stone as he wipes with a cloth napkin and slides his chair out from the table. Almost choreographed, another attendant appears, carrying a long, ellipsoidal-cylinder shaped object with a graceful curve along the length.

The man holds the object as from within, Adam slides clear a sword. The polished steal gleams, classic design and elegance mixed with the greatest of modern technology. The Symbol is, of course, engraved low on the blade, near the hilt. Sword in hand, he begins to approach Hallis…

As Adam unsheathes the sword twin rivulets of tears spill from the dark blue eyes at the other end of the table. "N-no please no. I can make it better, I'll give you more money. Please don't… I didn't know!" He is halfway down the length of the table when she suddenly springs from her chair and begins to run toward the end of the room. The constricting corset of the dress doesn't allow for the necessary breath to keep up a run. Perhaps that was the intention when the man picked it out. Perhaps he just wanted the satisfaction of making her look a little more like his third wife and this was just an advantageous side effect. The attendants aren't required to herd the woman or keep her from the exits… The light in the room only provides for the table and she is left feeling the walls for any chance of escape.

The flight isn't unexpected, but the way she's dressed, she won't go far. For added effect, each time she does manage to find a door, every time her hand might touch a handle, the thing locks with a satisfying clunk of a heavy bolt. There is no escape. Behind her, Adam pursues casually. He's aware that there's no escape, so he's in no hurry. His prey is cornered. All that remains is to make the killing blow.

Turning so that her back is pressed against the wall, Hallis looks up at Adam. "Please don't do this. I can make it better. I can… I can pay you more." She doesn't even look at the sword in his hand, it's too frightening to even consider. She's much too young, much too pretty to die. "I can't… please just give me a chance?" She ekes out, her voice suddenly very small and childlikes. "I'll run away, I'll hide and they'll never know."

"I can't…I have a reputation that would suffer too much if I let you do that…" he says. But there's a crack in the stoic, emotionless face. Adam approaches Hallis, presses himself close to her quivering, trembling form. He leans in just close enough for a lip to brush the top of her hear, before he whispers. "Once…years ago, I thought I might've loved you. So much like my third wife…but, like everyone else in my life, they die, and I persist."

His body pressed close keeps her from seeing the sword. In a single fluid motion, the blade plunges into her chest, up and in, driving through until it strikes the wall. When he steps back, the blade protrudes from her slender frame, the dress turning crimson around the point of entry. "For what it's worth, I apologize…in another life, we might have been something more," he says, bowing his head a little, as a single tear beads up at the corner of an eye.

(As the sword strikes through, the music in the dining room persists in its somber way, but an outside viewer would hear the music soundtrack swell. Dramatic, tragic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFq-HHA0k2E)

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