4-The Emperor

4 The EmperorImage from The Dark Fairytale Deck by Luis Royo.

The Emperor

David saw his father standing at the desk, speaking to the young woman seated there. His back was straight, the suit unwrinkled, and his gray hair perfectly combed. He felt himself begin to shake. Not his father, anyone but his father. Why could they not have called his grandmother, or his sister?

“Keep walking, fruit cake.” The voice behind him said. The cop that had lead him from the little temporary holding cell was a good head shorter than David, but stocky as a fire plug. Now he knew what that meant.

The Jail had been a surprise to him, he had expected it to be different somehow. Not that he had ever planned on being inside one. There were no cells with bars, or big clanging doors, just lots of locked rooms with little windows and the ever present smell of antiseptic. The same company must have a corner on the market, every public place where people were kept smelled the same, hospitals, schools, the nursing home where his grandfather died, and now he knew that the local jail was included.

David could not bring himself to look directly at his father and he was lead up to the counter and his hand cuffs were removed. He knew what he would see there, what he always saw there, disappointment. He had failed to live up to his father’s expectations yet again. Granted, this was a pretty spectacular fuck up, but he had gotten the look for much less.

“Have a nice day, sir.” The cheerful lady said as she handed his father a receipt. He did not want to know how much money this had cost, but he was sure he was about to find out. David wondered if she said that out of some reflexive habit from working with the public, or a perverse sense of irony. There was no way anyone standing at that counter was going to be having a good day.

David’s father took his arm firmly on his grip and almost pulled him from the building. His father was not the type of man to take being called to the police station to collect his wayward son lightly. He was the CEO of the biggest employer in town, deacon at their church, leader of the youth group, and president of the Kiwanis club. This was a man who demanded respect and got it. He ruled over his little world like an all powerful king. This was going to be bad.

The sun was just coming up, but it felt like the light was searing his eyes and skin. He just wanted to go home and go to bed for a few hours, pretend this had not happened. The legal weasel guy told him the church was willing to drop the charges in exchange for some unofficial community service, so this could all just go away.

His father still said nothing as he stabbed at the button to unlock the car while they were still 10 spaces away. The Hummer chirped and beeped like a mechanical nestling, flashing its lights to announce that it was awake and ready for action. David hated this car. Everything about it was obscene, from the chrome wheels to the special extra blinding headlights. It was conspicuous consumption at its worst. He climbed in the passenger’s side and felt the vehicle rock and the heard the door slam as his father launched himself into the driver’s space.

He didn’t bother to put on his seatbelt and did not check to see if David had his on before he turned the key and slammed the beast into gear, pulling out of the parking lot like a man possessed. They had more than 30 minutes before they would be back at the house David grew up in. They were obviously not going toward the University.

The rode in tense silence for 10 minutes or more, lights ticking away like sand in an hour glass and nothing but the growl and hum of the enormous vehicle. David could feel it building. It was coming.

“GRAVE ROBBING!” David’s father roared while they were stopped at yet another red light, morning traffic was just getting started and there was no hurrying now.

“My son,” he continued in a voice tight with the effort to keep calm. “My son was caught grave robbing in the middle of the night with a bag full of weeds and spices and a god damned sword. What is wrong with you? Are you trying to ruin me? Do you want me to be the laughing stock of the city?”

There it was. The real problem. It was all about him and his reputation. David was just an accessory, useful only as a decoration, just like his mother. Though his appeal was of the academic variety.

“I will not let you ruin everything.” There was a coldness in his father’s tone that made David shiver. He knew his imagination was far too active, but there was something in his voice that told him this was about more than the company, or the church, or his clubs. What had he just walked into?

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