1.Pride Goes Before a Fall
Vincent Thorn was special. From the second he had taken his first breath it had been impressed on him how special he was. It was a gift that you were born into, not something you could just pick up at the local mall. He learned that it afforded you certain privileges not everyone was capable of obtaining. For instance, not everyone could have a whole town named after their family. Nor could everyone be rich and attractive and have not one, but three mansions to call home. Yes, Vincent enjoyed the perks of being special. To be adored and admired by all and to be given whatever he wanted.
However, the mighty always tend to fall at one point or another. People say you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel and lower yourself to the lowest point before you will be willing to accept how far you have fallen.
One can imagine the shock he felt then, when he left home for college. His charm didn’t help him to gain access to classes that had already started for the day, nor did it help when he tried to turn in late assignments. He couldn’t understand how they didn’t see how special he was. Unfortunately, his parent’s seemed to think along the same sides as his teachers. By his junior year of college, he was barely passing his classes and spending money at an alarming rate, hosting lavish parties at his down town, prime location condo on campus. In an effort to convince him to settle down and get serious about his future, they removed his access to his bank account. Without his money to supply all of his friends, he was no longer considered valuable. Vincent was deserted by those once called friends, shunned by the very people who once considered him almost to be royalty.
The young prince had been removed from his pedestal, but not thrown into the gutter completely. Unfortunately, he still had far to fall. He searched for something, anything to fill this new void in his life. He turned to gambling and alcoholism.
This was his final fall, the last drop from the royalty he had always thought he had been. This is the story of how the pampered, spoiled, arrogant child became a man of misery and how money can't buy you everything, especially love.
It was a typical Friday night for Vincent, the week before Christmas break. He was in the club, he had his brandy, women of a more provocative nature, and his recent and almost never ending hand of bad luck when it came to poker.
Vincent looked at his cards and then took another sip of his brandy in hopes that it would lessen the shaking in his hands. He was going to lose, yet again, and he knew it. It was the worst possible hand he could have been given. He looked around the room, and through the haze of smoke he could see the bouncers at the door that separated the private, high rolling room from the club. He could feel the vibrations to that stupid Lady Gaga song, Poker Face.
Appropriate, he thought, considering his current circumstances. When he lost he had no idea how he was going to pay up. He already owed Riley O'Malley forty thousand dollars and thoughts of owing another ten were not ideal. Vincent was unaccustomed to losing, and he didn't like the helpless, unprotected and uncomfortable feeling that accompanied it. Vulnerability didn’t look good on him, Armani did.
O'Malley sat across the table from him ensconced in the embrace of two well-endowed women. Riley O'Malley was an Irish mobster who had left the crime ridden New York City streets to look for a new hunting ground. He picked the perfect place in a university town targeting young trust fund babies and swindling them out of their unearned money. He had a reputation for getting what was owed to him, one way or another.
The ginger gave him a shark smile, showing a couple of golden teeth. This is definitely not good, he thought. O’Malley knew Vincent was going to lose as well and what kind of shape his finances were in.
Vincent pulled at the collar of his white button down linen shirt, suddenly feeling quite hot as sweat trickled down his neck and back. He could feel his heart beat erratically against his rib cage at the thought of what might happen to him if he lost again. People tended to disappear around O’Malley faster than the money he gambled with.
Before his parents had cut him off, fifty thousand dollars was considered to be pocket change. Hell, his college tuition had been more than that. Now with that safety net gone, he had been forced to see a touch of reality and feel a good dose of fear. He had seen the ugly side of being poor, and had been forced to suffer, all because his father thought he needed to learn a lesson.
"Well boy, what's it going be? From where I'm sitting it looks like you'll owe me again," Intoned O'Malley, in a pleasant voice that did not disguise his intentions at all.
Vincent tried to take in a deep breath of the smoke filled room and plaster his best fake smile onto his face before setting down his cards and saying, "Looks like you beat me again, O'Malley. Listen, I'll catch you next time on the bill, I'm short tonight. I wasn't expecting your eternal good luck." He stood, reaching for his cashmere jacket.
O'Malley slid back from the table slowly and laid out his own hand as he looked up at Vincent. He was calm and cool by the standards of the Irish. Calculating would have been a decidedly good word to use if Vincent's brain wasn't fuzzy from the brandy.
"I see. Blowing me off again, Kid?” O'Malley spoke calmly, but Vincent could feel the threat behind the words. Shit. He was in deep this time. He started to back away from the table his smile fading on his lips. O'Malley looked down at all of the chips he had accumulated on his side of the table and back up at him, meeting his eyes.
"You know this don't look good, right kid?"
Vincent hated it when O'Malley talked down to him like that. To be called kid. It was infuriating. O'Malley knew that Vincent wouldn't win the hand of poker and he knew that Vincent wouldn't be able to pay for the loss. It was like he expected it and took some sick pleasure in flaunting the fact that he owned him. Or thought he owned, Vincent thought bitterly.
"Come on, man. You know I’ll get you next time." He tried to reason with the gangster.
As if on cue, both women sat back to give O'Malley room to stand. They gave Vincent a pouty face like he had just disrupted the time of their lives. It was like they got off on pampering the Irishman and just being near him.
Whores, he thought knowing that they were being well paid for their services.
"Alright, next time, Kid. And you better bring plenty of money with you. You owe me."
O'Malley extended his hand to shake. Very much intimidated by O'Malley's 6'4" height, hesitantly Vincent reached out and grasped the man's hand, knowing that if he didn’t, O’Malley would definitely think he was a child and a coward. O'Malley continued to tighten his grip on Vincent’s hand and his cool, green eyes narrowed as he started to squeeze Vincent's hand in a vice grip, the Celtic tattoo on his forearm flexing and rippling with muscle. It took all of his self-control not to gasp in pain as he felt the bones in his hand start to crack.
“This is just a reminder. Now get out." O’Malley spat, practically shoving Vincent away from the table.
Vincent all but ran for the door, knocking his chair over as he went, looking like every bit of the coward he actually was. Feeling O'Malley's eyes bore into his back, he darted across the room and between the two bouncers. He quickly tried to make his way through the crowd in the club with the bodies of his fellow classmates pressing in on him, blissfully unaware of Vincent's frantic attempt to exit the building.
The overwhelming heat and noise and alcohol disoriented him and he stumbled into people more than once, stepping on several sets of toes. Outside he hailed a cab back to campus to where his condo was. Feeling woozy and slightly claustrophobic in the back of the smelly cab, he rolled down the window desperate for a breath of fresh air. He watched as late night revelers strolled up and down the street, shouting to one another and dancing, a group here or a pair of blissful lovers there. Sometimes it would be nice to be one of them, he thought. No expectations, no debts.
Yet here he was being treated like a child who had left the milk out on the counter to go bad. It was O'Malley's fault really. O'Malley had taken his money and lost him his inheritance, and his families respect. If O'Malley hadn't gotten him into gambling this would have never happened in the first place. He chose to ignore the fact that his parents had cut his funds off long before that. It was always much easier to blame someone else. After all, he couldn't have done anything wrong, could he? It was always someone elses fault.
Vincent was more than a little intoxicated by this point and didn't notice the black sedan that followed him from the club to his private condo on the edge of campus. He stumbled from the yellow cab onto all fours as he got out, retching all over the sidewalk in front of his building, vaguely aware of the shrieks of fellow students as they tried to avoid his pool of sick. A young blonde, an heiress by the look of her, scathingly remarked how the homeless drunkards and junkies should be kept off the streets of the campus.
Stupid bitch, he thought, dragging himself to his feet and headed for the door to his condo. If she knew who she was talking about she would have a little more respect. Vincent made his way to his door stumbling a bit, his world still spinning. He fumbled with the key and finally got it into the lock and pushed it open into his apartment.
Vincent’s condo was the epitome of modern luxury. He prided himself on always having the best. He stumbled again, collapsing onto his leather couch, not bothering to turn on his lights in order to avoid the bright glare of his pristine white walls. He reached for the bottle of liquor that always sat on the end table and took a long swig from it to rinse out his mouth and then sat back for a moment so the room would stop spinning. He didn't think he had had that much to drink in O'Malley's little gambling den. Usually his tolerance was much higher.
Just my nerves, He thought to himself taking a second gulp and nearly choking on the burning liquid.
Vincent sat on the couch for 10 minutes, almost in a stupor trying to not get sick again. He had just about beaten the nausea back and was congratulating himself for escaping an ass beating when his front door banged open. In stalked O'Malley and two very large and very muscular men, the last of which was carrying a baseball bat. The door slammed shut with a loud and ominous bang.
O'Malley flicked on the lights and then strode to the opposite wall to close the curtains over Vincent's sprawling view of the campus.
Vincent jumped and looked up with red, blood shot eyes to see them standing there. What the hell was O'Malley doing in his house? He must have asked the question out loud because O'Malley turned to him and gazed at him for a moment before addressing his two companions with the answer.
"Boys, take a look here. This is a perfect example of why I left NYC. To many dumbass kids running around acting like they own the world just because Mommy and Daddy pay for everything. I get tired of self-important, pompous, jack asses. Being a hard-working man, that offends me. Especially when they think they are better than me." O’Malley advanced on Vincent, rolling up his shirt sleeves and unbuttoning his collar as he approached, getting more worked up by the second. He jerked the bat from the third man and used it to shatter Vincent's 56" plasma flat screen. Vincent tried to swallow the large lump that had formed in his throat but it wouldn't budge. His heart was beating erratically against his rib cage again.
"I've worked hard to create my establishment here. To work under the radar of our fine protective officers of the law. And a little punk like you tends to set a bad example for the rest of the morons out there and I'm forced to correct it. It's bad business practice. But what would you know about that? You don't pay for a damn thing in your life! You expect everything to be handed to you!" Here O'Malley picked up the blue ray player and threw it against the wall where it shattered and then crashed to the floor. Vincent flinched at the noise.
"You know Thorn, I don't much like you. Always using Daddy's money to bail you out, expecting others to clean up your mess." O'Malley said, continuing on with his rant.
Here he had one of his men pull Vincent off the couch and hold him up right. Vincent swayed for a moment, finding that his legs didn’t want to work properly and without the two men he would have fallen. O'Malley paced in front of him a moment longer and then stopped long enough to punch Vincent in the nose.
Vincent staggered between the two men and felt where his nose had broken. Blood ran down into his mouth and down his chin. He coughed and it splattered his shirt front.
"It's a damn shame and a waste," O'Malley continued as if nothing had happened. "I hate it!" Again he threw a punch, making contact this time with Vincent's jaw. With a resounding crunch, Vincent felt his jaw break. Even drunk, the pain registered, white hot and nearly blinding. Spots popped in front of his eyes like small neon stars.
"Please," Vincent sagged between the two men, trying to beg as blood ran down his chin from his nose and mouth, choking him with its metallic taste and absorbing into his wrinkled white shirt, turning it a bright scarlet.
"Mercy, Eh? You want me to show your thieving, no good ass, mercy? I've already given you enough as it is. You owe me, kid. Not the other way around." He gripped the bat in his hands and cracked his neck, taking a moment to assess the situation.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” he said, grinning manically down at Vincent.
This time O'Malley took the bat and swung it like a pro ball player into Vincent's stomach. He gasped and tried to shout in pain, his breath completely knocked out of him. The two men dropped him and allowed him to sag to the floor onto his knees. He barely saw the bat as O'Malley swung it the second time. He flinched as it stopped an inch from the side of his head, where it hesitated. Vincent dared not look up as he gasped on all fours like an animal, trying to regain his breath.
"No. I think I am going to keep you awake for this. A lesson needs to be learned here," O'Malley drawled, his faint Irish accent becoming more pronounced. Instead the bat made contact with his left shoulder, then his right. Vincent saw through blurry vision as O'Malley swung the bat into his ankle and then he felt it crack. After that his nerve sensors stopped feeling the continued beating. It went on and on, Vincent screaming until his vocal cords were raw. He was barely conscious by the time O'Malley stopped.
His blood was everywhere. A large puddle was pooling on his black and white checkered kitchen floor. He could see its vivid red color standing out against the stark pattern. O'Malley knelt down to look Vincent in the eye.
"You’re a damned filthy animal. Look at yourself! Just look at you! Where’s your pride now? You’re pathetic. If you survive this, your debt is forgiven. If you don't, I suppose it won't matter. This is my payment to society. I’m cleaning the streets of vermin." Vincent flinched as O'Malley dropped the bat on the floor next to his head where it clanged loudly.
O'Malley rose and then spat on him for good measure before he turned back to his men.
"Alright boys, clean up the mess. You’ve got two minutes to meet me in the car. Let this be a lesson to you as well."
And O'Malley walked out. Vincent lay gasping on the floor. Tears ran down his face mixing with the blood. His stomach turned and he vomited, his body convulsing with the pain. It was unreal to think he was still alive let alone conscious. His nerves burned, every sensor in his body on overload.
And he could smell brandy. It was everywhere, permeating the room. Vincent was dimly aware of being picked up from the floor and dumped onto the couch. The smell of alcohol was even stronger. The two henchmen were pouring it on him. God it burned on the open wounds. He just wanted it to all end. To die here.
Then they lit a match and dropped it onto the brandy soaked carpet. It was almost instantly engulfed in flames. It raced across the floor, up the walls, the curtains. Even the couch was on fire. Vincent looked down and through swollen eyes saw that his broken foot was burning, the skin looking like hot wax as it melted. Instead of panic sweeping through him, he oddly couldn't feel the pain anymore. He didn't even bother to try to move his foot from the flames. Everything was going dark anyway. This was to be it. He was going to burn to death in a pool of his own blood and vomit. At least his body had finally gone into shock, blissful and painless.
And then faintly, as if coming from another realm all together, he heard it. Sirens. He saw the firemen knock down the door right before the smoke and shock forced him into unconsciousness.