The power to rule
Stoneman surveyed the carnage on the rooftop terrace with a wry grin.
“My opportunity for advancement has arrived sooner than envisaged. I’d better get a move on to secure it,” he stated cynically.
He turned and re-entered the luxurious penthouse. He made his way to the kitchen and turned on the sink tap to wash off the now-congealed blood on his deadly push knife. He dried it on a paper towel and returned it to its sheath on his belt, patting it affectionately before heading on to his office. He opened the door, noticing it opened inwards and, being positioned in the left hand corner of the room, it provided a great degree of protection as nobody could see within until the door was fully opened. “I like that,” he thought as he entered to survey the contents. Directly ahead was a smoked-glass window with an uninterrupted view out across the city. The moon was waning in the early dawn’s light as it tried unsuccessfully to compete with the rising sun. The whole floor to the room was covered in a deep pile, cream-coloured carpet and over to the right, in front of a mirrored wall, was a large antique oak desk inlayed with red leather, studded around the edges with brass domed pins. Behind the desk sat a high-backed, deep-cushioned red leather Chesterfield chair.
“My, my, no expense spared,” he mused as he entered the room, closing the door behind him.
On the desk sat a PC and control panel, which he rightly assumed operated the massive array of LED screens on the wall opposite the desk. They showed scenes of various key parts of the CIB HQ as well as every significant vantage point throughout the city. A couple of screens were dedicated to what appeared to be the insides of private dwellings. “Now this is going to prove really useful,” he thought as his mind raced at breakneck speed, evaluating all the strategic computations open to him to build his empire and make it totally secure.
He strolled across the room and took in the view of the city through his deep, dark, lifeless eyes and, in his mind, addressed the millions of unsuspecting citizens. “All of you will soon be under my control – nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. You will obey and you will suffer.”
On the left of the desk sat a phone.
“Strange,” he mused. He was left-handed. “I like attention to detail.”
He picked up the phone and dialled reception.
“I need the chief investigator and a clean-up team, immediately.” He barked the order with authority then replaced the phone on the receiver.
Stoneman made his way across to the drinks cabinet and took out a short, lead-crystal glass and a bottle of Jim Beam and poured himself a generous slug. Then he moved over to the wall-wide, full-length mirror behind the desk.
He stood posing, admiring what he saw and said, “I salute you, Jack Stone, on your first step to ultimate power. Well done!”
He raised the glass in recognition then downed the drink in one go. The golden mellow liquor warmed him as it coursed down to his stomach then he felt the glow of satisfaction as it settled.
“Fuck, that Is good!”
He turned and sat, making himself comfortable in the chair behind the desk, and he swivelled round and resumed his gaze into the mirror. He poured another drink and took a sip, his eyes never leaving the returned gaze of his own reflection. The mirror appeared to lose its reflective sharpness; his image darkened, losing definition.
He spoke softly to his reflection. “Something. Definitely something there. So close, yet never near. A kinship. My lifeblood? My sister? How to join you? I know you’re there waiting. I need to know how to join you.”
The intercom rang out, breaking his concentration. The mirror cleared, immediately returning the crisp reflected images of Stoneman, the room and its contents.
“Hatcher, sir. You asked for me?” came the solid reply over the intercom.
For a fleeting moment, anger welled within Stoneman at having been disturbed from a pivotal moment. He drew breath. “No. Calm and patience is the means to achieving the objectives.” He looked up at the screen displaying the entrance lobby and saw the massive frame standing at the entrance to the penthouse, impeccably dressed in a black suit covering a bleached white shirt, with a black shoelace tie and silver aglets in the shape of samurai swords finishing off the detail.
“Enter and keep the room secure!” barked Stoneman.
He swivelled his chair to face the door, whereupon Hatcher did as he was asked, entered, closed the door behind him and made his way over to the desk. Both men faced each other, for a moment, measuring each other, seeking information that might prove useful to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
Stoneman, staring unblinkingly into Hatcher’s wide eyes, spoke first.
“Hatcher, you’re the Chief Investigator, I understand.” Stoneman raised his hand to prevent any intrusive response. “And,” he paused briefly, “I’m in need of your assistance. Earlier today I was inaugurated into my new role as Deputy Commissioner of the CIB and yet, no sooner do I arrive in my apartment than I’m subjected to an attack on my life by hired assassins,” he stated quizzically. “I was able to overcome this unprovoked attempt on my life, but sadly to the detriment of those sent to kill me. However, before they eventually succumbed to their injuries, I managed to extract information that leads me to believe the Commissioner’s behind this attempt on the life of an official of the State, namely me. You’re aware of the implications of such a crime and, I trust, having sworn the oath and signed up to the code of the CIB, you’re committed to the laws of the State and will not be swayed or diverted from the course of true justice.”
Hatcher swallowed and replied, “Without question, sir, I uphold the law of the land. Do you have any, ahem, evidence, sir?”
“I like thorough people, Hatcher. Without evidence we have no case. Please take a seat…” Stoneman gestured to the couch facing the screens, continuing, “and we’ll view the incident on screen. I do hope you enjoy what you see.”
Hatcher made his way over to the couch and sat down. Stoneman was, unnervingly, already there sitting waiting.
“I… How… er, right, sir,” Hatcher said a little falteringly. “Where do we start?”
Stoneman, taking another sip of his drink, pressed the play button on the remote he had picked up from his desk. The multiple screens burst into life, with CCTV footage reciting the unabridged events played out only a few hours earlier. Hatcher sat silently taking it all in, a few beads of sweat oozing from his brow and escaping the confines of his tense body as he watched in awe at the speed and ferocity at which the assassins were disabled, dispatched and then summarily executed. Yes, he could clearly see they were guilty and that they had confessed to being under the direct orders of the President and the Commissioner, but the manner in which they were disposed of…
“Your verdict, Hatcher?” asked Stoneman, turning off the screens and finishing his drink. “I do apologise, forgive me. A drink, Hatcher, please.” He gestured over to the drinks cabinet. “Join me in a bourbon.” He poured two drinks, handing one to the waiting Hatcher. “Now, how do we proceed?”
Hatcher, having watched and listened to the footage intently (and in reverence), replied in a matter-of-fact tone, “Well, sir, my experience in these matters tells me you have the evidence, though in the political world it’ll be difficult to impeach the President. That aside, I believe the Commissioner can’t remain in office and must be summarily executed. For State law to be upheld against senior members of office, a minimum of two senior CIB officers must agree on any treasonable evidence being substantial. Summary execution is then deemed lawful and can be carried out immediately. With respect to the two agents, it’s clear from the footage that you acted in self-defence and their demise was lawful.” He briefly paused and added casually, “Shall I write the report and arrange the deed, sir?”
Stoneman turned and nodded. “I like this Hatcher; he’ll be most useful,” he thought to himself. “Must keep him close; I can’t trust anyone.”
“Thank you, Hatcher,” added Stoneman. “I’ll be looking for a new Deputy. Please inform me when the Commissioner has been executed. I hope it isn’t over too quickly, if you understand my meaning.”
Hatcher, not showing any emotion, nodded, finished his drink, bowed and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Stoneman got up from the sofa and went back to his desk and sat down. He picked up the phone and dialled.
“Can I help you, sir?” came the response.
“Commissioner Stone here. Tell the President he’s to call me. It’s rather urgent.”
“Right away, sir. I’ll call back when I’ve found him,” came the reply.
Stoneman replaced the handset and sat back in the chair. He looked through the window at the view across the city and declared menacingly to everyone out there, “Very soon I’ll have the power to change this God-forsaken world and nobody can or will stop me.”
He returned his gaze to the desk in front of him and switched on the computer. Picking up the large buff envelope marked ‘CIB, Confidential’, he broke the seal and tipped out the contents on the desk.
“Deputy Commissioner’s seal of office. Don’t need that one now,” he quipped and threw it in the bin.
Cell phone, security codes for the computer and an ID access card followed. “This needs changing as well. How inefficient,” he thought and sent it to join the seal in the bin.
The telephone rang. Stoneman saw it was from the President’s office and let it ring out a few more times, picking it up just at the point when the caller was about to hang up.
The caller questioned timidly, “Mr Stone?”
“Yes,” replied Stoneman sharply.
“Chivers here, sir. I’m to inform you that the President is far too busy and will call you tomorrow, say, around 10:30?” stammered the caller in a sheepish tone.
Stoneman replied with an attitude that would send tremors down the hardest man’s spine. “Not good enough. Tell Mr President I’ll see him at the CIB HQ in, say, an hour. Oh, and tell him the Commissioner is about to be executed for treason.”
Back in City Hall, the poor butler was shaking like a leaf in a strong breeze as he put the receiver down. He turned ashen grey, clearly in turmoil at the thought of having to relay the news of the Commissioner’s demise and, worse, Stoneman’s ultimatum to his master. Chivers had been in service at City Hall since time immemorial; he was a relic of bygone days, only kept on by the President because he was easy to bully. He tried to gather his composure and headed off to the master’s bedroom, where the President was actively engaged in fornication with one of the younger house maids.
Chivers knocked lightly on the door. “Ahem, Mr President?” he squeaked and waited.
The heavy panting of an overweight man and the rhythmic groaning and creaking of a straining bed radiated from behind the heavy wooden doors.
With a pained face, Chivers dug deep for what little courage he was blessed with and shouted as loudly as he dared, “Mr President, I must speak with you urgently. It’s very important.”
A roar of disapproval was the reply. “Grrrrr, Chivers! You fucking useless little moron! You could have waited. You’ve ruined the moment and you, you little whore, try harder next time. Now, get the fuck out! SHIT, CHIVERS! What is it that’s so goddamn important?”
The President came to the door and opened it, panting, whilst wrapping a robe around his rotund torso. He stood there, red-faced and out of breath, as the poor little girl ran past both of them into the hallway, trying to cover her nakedness with her maid’s outfit. Chivers couldn’t help but notice the weals and bruises all over her tiny frame and, in a rare moment of anger, Chivers thought, “Beast! You’ll have your day!”
“WELL, man, spit it out. What’s so important?” roared the president, clearly upset at being cut short.
“It’s Mr Stone, sir…” began Chivers but was prevented from continuing.
The President who was clearly angry with this interruption, replied in foolish bravado, “Stoneman’s nothing. I AM the President and I needn’t respond to him. He needs to respond to me. I have ultimate power here and the Commissioner is fully behind me. Just tell him I’ll see him when I want!”
“Mr President, please sir, listen,” implored Chivers. “He told me to tell you, er… ahem… the Commissioner is being executed and you need to get over to his office in an hour.” Looking at his watch, he corrected himself, “Well, forty minutes now.”
The President’s demeanour changed immediately on hearing the message. Clearly shaken, he staggered backwards into the bedroom and collapsed in a heap on the couch by the door.
“My God, Abraham, Dr Weiss, the Commissioner to be executed? Dead? Why? How? Oh my God…”
He tailed off as realisation sank in; the assassination attempt had failed and Stoneman had found out who was behind it.
“My God, my God. What am I to do, Chivers? This man’s a monster. He’ll stop at nothing to achieve power. What to do? WHAT DO I DO, Chivers?” he cried out in desperation.
“Well, sir,” responded Chivers with a hint of a smug grin, “I think you need to get over there, and you’d better hurry up about it, sir!”
Stoneman knew the President would not delay. His attempt to pull rank and delay meeting him was but a foolish show of bravado. The President was a weak and ineffectual man with serious sexual problems; he would do well to concentrate on a cure for that and leave running the State to those better placed.
Stoneman casually entered a code into the control panel and one of the wall-mounted screens flickered into life. Further input to the control panel brought up video images from a covert camera secreted in a brothel that was frequented by those of the elite who enjoyed carrying out perverse and degrading acts on children. Although many couples were unable to have children as a consequence of the Viral Wars, there were still enough to provide a ready-made supply to satisfy the demand. The images showed a group of naked, portly, drunk, middle-aged men ogling a number of equally naked young girls and boys, the eldest of whom was no more than twelve. The children had been shackled to a wall in various poses. These poor unfortunate street urchins’ only crimes were being discarded by uncaring parents or orphaned by the ravages of an indifferent society. Having no parents or guardians to look after them, they had been rounded up by the police following a recent street-clean to rid the neighbourhoods of vagrants. The State orphanage collected them to be used as cheap labour in the workhouse or they were sold on the black market into child prostitution. Nobody cared; life was still cheap. Stoneman paused the image as one of the men who had begun to sexually and violently assault a young boy turned his head towards his cheering entourage, clearly exposing his facial features. It was the President of New York – the role model for society’s resurrection from near annihilation – captured in the act of gruesome paedophilia.
“This will suffice,” stated Stoneman in a matter-of-fact tone and he sat back in the deep leather chair to wait patiently for his guest.
Before the President could press the intercom button, the door to the penthouse opened. The perspiration was running down his ashen, worried face and his hands were shaking visibly as he heard a cool, commanding voice beckon him.
“Mr President, please come in and take a seat. We have a long night ahead of us, discussing matters of national security. Close the door behind you, if you’d be so kind.”
The President entered and did as he was ordered. On turning from closing the door, he came face to face with a recurring image of himself defiling a young boy. The image covered the whole wall. He balked. What little colour remained in his face drained instantly. He teetered and collapsed to his knees in despair.
“How... How did you?” he sobbed, still transfixed by the sordid act being played over and over again in front of him.
“Oh that?” said Stoneman casually, pointing to the wall of screens. “None of my doing. The Commissioner had authorised it; I just happened to stumble across it. Fascinating, don’t you think? How would the fine citizens of New York react to their leader being nothing but a paedophiliac despot, who also participates in group murder? Look, I even found this...”
Stoneman pointed back towards the screen and switched to further video images of horrific and barbaric murderous acts carried out for the cause of sadistic sexual gratification.
The President, bent double, wailed in shock and proceeded to be violently sick.
“I wish you hadn’t done that,” complained Stoneman who casually strolled across the room, lifted the hefty President clean off the floor by his thinning hair and threw him on the couch in a heap, as if he weighed nothing. Stoneman stood towering over the pathetic wreck on the couch and lectured, “There are two distinct lessons to be learnt from this unfortunate infringement of your privacy. One; never ever trust anyone. And two; this sort of thing always leads to someone getting hurt.”
The President, now sniffling and sobbing in self-pity, stuttered, “What is it you want of me? You have all the evidence you need to get rid of me. What use can I be to you now?” He rubbed his mouth clean with the back of his left sleeve.
“Come now, Mr President, I want very little from you. I’ll take what I want when I want and you’ll authorise it without question. First, you’ll announce to the State that I’ll succeed the Commissioner who attempted to assassinate me, an officer of the State – an act of treason and he was, according to State law, summarily executed…” Stoneman paused to look at his watch then continued, “about ten minutes ago. Now let’s discuss the detail.”
Stoneman, totally ignoring the President, went to the drinks cabinet and poured himself a bourbon. The President, who had regained a little composure, watched him closely, clearly showing his distrust and dislike for this upstart who was about to blackmail him.
Stoneman strolled around the office and said to the President, “You figure in my plans for the moment and you’ll prove very useful. I intend to allow you to keep your office and remain President, but in name only. You’ll have no power and you’ll run everything by me. You’ll remain the face of the State machine but I’ll lead and make the decisions. Your voice, but my words. I’ll make policy and laws; you’ll announce them. I’ll collect taxes and distribute them; you’re nothing but a weak fool who has sick and perverse desires, which have caused your demise.”
The President winced and hung his head as he heard that cutting comment on his sexual deviance.
Stoneman continued, “Because I’m a reasonable man and you’re agreeing to continue as President in name only, I’ll allow you to persist with your sordid little life as much as it pains me to do so. Now let us consecrate this alliance by taking a trip to City Hall where you can hand over all the security protocols for the files, treasury, seals of office, etc., etc., so that I can progress with my new role and you, sir, can continue with your repugnant little existence, satisfying your urges at leisure.”
The President felt forcefully drawn towards Stoneman’s menacing dark, lifeless eyes. He could not look away nor could he close his eyes. Stoneman had an expression of utter contempt and disgust on his rugged face. As he probed deep into the President’s mind, the President was a beaten man. It had taken the distraction of his perversions and being caught in the act of paedophilia to eradicate the defences of his mind; he didn’t have the strength of will or desire to resist, never mind challenge Stoneman; nobody in their right mind would. The President felt as if he was being raped – ironic, perhaps – but Stoneman was in his head. He didn’t know how, but he was definitely there messing with his thoughts and memories. He felt no urge or desire to resist. He experienced extreme fear and could not muster any challenge towards this intrusion at all. He was completely under the control of Stoneman, surrendering to absolute subservience. The President could feel Stoneman within, controlling his thoughts and actions; he was condemned to serve his new master.
Without showing it, Stoneman felt almost as surprised as the President to find himself inside this wretched human’s mind and able to take control, manipulate and instil dread. It was exhilarating – an exciting development – the ability to take complete hold of this human and make him do his will by simply using his power of thought. Stoneman experienced a massive surge of adrenalin coursing through his body. He felt his physique rise from the floor, enveloped in a glowing aura, as he realised his true avatar had finally arrived.
Stoneman could not contain a roar of accomplishment, following the realisation that he had reached a state beyond that of a mere mortal. The echo resounded throughout the building, shaking it to the very foundations. A prolonged silence ensued as everyone within tried to comprehend what had just happened. Frantic communications flowed throughout then, slowly and nervously, people resumed their duties.
Stoneman returned from his momentary exalted state and teetered against his desk, realising he was nearly drained of all his strength. He quickly recovered his composure and regained control, noting that the President had not seen this fleeting moment of weakness as he had been preoccupied, talking to himself and wallowing in self-pity. Stoneman did not want anyone to realise there was a potential weakness that could be exploited; he needed to find out if this was but a temporary symptom related to the natural evolution of a higher species.
“Mr President.” There was no sound in the President’s ears, just a voice in his head.
The President looked up at Stoneman, an expression of realisation on his face. This was actually happening; he was under the direct influence of this monster.
“Yes?” he answered meekly.
The voice in his head continued, “Return to your sordid little life. I’ll instruct you when I’m ready. I don’t need to accompany you now; I can reach and control you as and when I please. I’m able to read and manipulate your thoughts. Now, go. I’ll send Hatcher over for everything I need. You won’t, under any circumstances, delay proceedings. The slightest hint of disobedience and you’ll feel my wrath.”
The President suddenly folded double whilst his hands grasped either side of his head. There was a sharp intake of breath followed by a scream of pain then sobbing, as whatever Stoneman had done to him took hold.
Stoneman resumed his lecture. “You understand now. Any rebellion will have repercussions.”
The President was visibly white and shaken. He got up from the couch, stood unsteadily on his feet and held the couch arm for support. He momentarily looked out across the city that used to be his. He let out a sigh of disenchantment and, without a word or backward glance, left the penthouse a broken man.
As the door closed behind the President, Stoneman slumped to the floor in front of his desk, exhausted. He realised he would need to temper the use of this new gift until he had managed to control it. He had often wondered about the ability to control the human mind but never thought he had the capability within him. “All this time it was inside me. Where did it come from?” he asked himself. “I’ll have to try it out on others, experiment with its potential and, at the same time, master it. Jack, Jack, come now,” he challenged himself with the voice of reason, “let’s not be too hasty. You’ve got total control over the President and access to all the resources necessary to assist you with achieving ultimate control. Will this gift speed up the process? I believe so, but at the moment it’s too raw and hungry for your energy to assume it’ll give you what you want now. Carry on with your work and bring this gift into play when you have subjects to experiment with. Use it sparingly; conserve your energy and grow in strength with its capability.” Stoneman reassured himself, pondering these thoughts over and over in his mind, and he began to contemplate the possibilities, losing himself in the magical realms of a new world…