Those who go looking for an escape often get more than they bargained for.
On the streets of New York City there is a secret darkness hiding around every corner, even in the daytime. Two stockbrokers, looking to add excitement to their boring lives, are quickly drawn into a world they never knew existed when they get caught up in a terrifying game that exposes how truly evil the heart of man can be.
Try a little “Moonlighting” by Chad McKee
My question is: where do I fit in? I’m not weighing down the tithing plate at Sunday Mass, but I’m also not grabbing the lot and stuffing it into my pocket. I don’t have a criminal record, look at kiddie-porn or swear in the presence of old ladies. I live in a tasteful apartment off Thirty-Eighth Street, close enough to the Upper West Side to flirt with the bourgeoisie, but far enough away to pretend I possess the grit of the proletariat. I had that grit once, but five years of aspiring higher had scraped it to a nearly translucent veneer. I have an attractive girlfriend who just graduated from NYU and is socially conscious enough to donate her time to the soup kitchens on Forty-Second Street. I am the model for the middle class, responsible, well kept, docile and predictable.
I’ve never made an honest assessment of my faults, my weaknesses. Possibly because whatever the symptoms may be—that extra drink when you don’t need it, or a stop by the “gentleman’s” club when you know your girl is waiting at home—they boil down to one central problem: boredom. I think my old man had it—he took off when I was twelve. I don’t know where or why, nor does my mother, and if I were to ask Dad he could probably only shrug his shoulders as well. Chasing something he didn’t have. A wife and a kid didn’t meet his standard of life so he left them behind without a word. The man was nothing if not decisive.
Maybe in the end that’s why I fell in with the Men With No Faces and their Architects. Their Game, if you could name it such, seemed much more innocuous when I began to play it. You’re twenty-eight and think you’ve experienced some things. Drugs, sex and money, enjoyed in their ordinary vehicles, become mundane in an unexpectedly quick fashion for a man like me. Perhaps I can’t generate an ordinary amount of passion—it’s always been a mechanical process, like deriving electricity from running water—I need an outside source to make an excess. So I keep my ears open. Word of something interesting always filters down to those who listen. Maybe it’s my job. Stockbrokers are notoriously control starved and satisfaction focused. It’s an imbalance of serotonin or something.
Those promising words reached the halls and cubicles of Bordeley, Cooper and Kendrik, the brokerage firm I work for, as the summer session was closing out. The economy was in a mild recession, but I had managed several portfolios to a point modestly above an even break. Tech stocks had tanked and had tried to pull the mutual funds into the red when new lawsuits went against a particular drug-maker whose product was linked to heart attacks. Like most arcane bits of information, I caught wind of The Game through a cable of hearsay, word of mouth.
I’m always a little surprised at how many rumors are seeded with truth and how subtle digging moves you closer to the source with every germane question asked. Taboo subjects are spoken about in whispers and delivered in fragments. However, finding the stream of information on these topics is like detecting gravity surrounding objects with small masses: you may have to take careful measurements to find anything, but it’s still there all the same.
My initiation to The Game was at the hand of a fellow stockbroker, Mickey Templeton. Mickey was a junior broker, a bond handler, but talented enough and on the rise. He had overcome a slow drawl born of Hickville, North Carolina, or somewhere, though you could hear it sometimes when he was excited. He also possessed cum laude credentials from Columbia which placed him squarely within the vanguard of BCK-caliber members. The Club was not so elite to exclude Southern ex-patriots from the lower ranks, although the Inner Circle itself was founded on a bedrock of New England breeding. In fact, some Northeastern connection seemed to be prerequisite for a job offer. I’ve wondered more than once if my Massachusetts upbringing smoothed over my Georgetown education.
Like most brokers, Mickey had a fire burning inside him. He kept a carefully neutral expression in most cases, sometimes augmented by a mask of studied concentration. At a casual glance, he had an unassuming look to him anyway: average build and height, clean cut. He had neatly groomed blonde hair, combed to the left in a conservative side part, a faint under-aroma of aftershave, and favored ties that accented his clear blue irises. A closer look and you could see the light sheen of sweat over his upper lip and occasionally at the edges of his carefully trimmed sideburns, as if his internal combustion couldn’t be completely held at bay by a mere layer of skin. Mickey was always on simmer, especially when things got tight. Such was the case with most of us. The reality was that most in the brokering business excelled under stress because stress squeezed an extra measure of adrenaline out of your sympathetic nervous system.
Still, it was often not enough. Mickey had been hinting around for weeks about something he was involved in but wouldn’t spit it out until a slow Friday at the end of September.
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More About DREAD
DREAD is a unique volume of dark fiction containing stories chosen solely by fans and featuring an array of award-winning authors and masters from the horror, science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction genres.
DREAD contains nightmares from some of the most accomplished authors writing in genre fiction today, including New York Times bestselling author and multiple Bram Stoker Award® winner Jonathan Maberry; Grand Master of Horror Award winner Ray Garton; Stoker award recipients John Everson and JG Faherty, and nominees Michael Laimo and John F.D. Taff; Shirley Jackson Award nominee Tim Waggoner; Pushcart and Rhysling awards nominee Edward Morris; Nightmare Award winner Trent Zelazny; and leading fiction authors Bracken MacLeod, William Meikle, John C. Foster, T. Fox Dunham, Rose Blackthorn, Chad McKee, Martin Rose, Jane Brooks, Peter Whitley, J. Daniel Stone and Jonathan Balog.