The days that followed were like a hurricane; fast, furious, almost violent in nature. Reporters and cameras flocked to Tryst Tower, all in hopes of getting a look at the nation’s newest savior. Trystix enjoyed the attention, and constantly gave empowering speeches in the main lobby of the building. He was on every channel at least once a day, promising salvation. People wanted to know who he was, how he lived, and who was a part of his life. They shot periodic interviews with Liv, but not nearly as often as they filmed Trystix playing with his little girl. I, of course, was not involved in any filming or other forms of photography. Trystix said he wouldn’t want me to get recognized by any of his former ‘clients.’
Through all of this, I began to think about the details of what had just happened. I couldn’t believe the sheer amount of money Trystix had procured in a matter of days. A half-trillion dollars is a lot of money, even for someone like him. Maybe he’d been stashing money in a mattress somewhere. I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected some form deceit was involved. There almost always was with Trystix. Then again, I’d never been much of a trusting person, so maybe I was just being paranoid. Maybe.
I was forced to stay in my apartment for the majority of the next month or so. It was incredibly irritating. I hadn’t been that bored since I was in prison. Hell, for that matter, it was probably worse. At least in prison I didn’t have to listen to Trystix babble on and on about ‘progress’ or other pretty little theories his press team told him to say. Worse still, I couldn’t spend time with Lena.
However, I was extremely intrigued by this Micah Raiden. When Trystix wasn’t on TV, Raiden was. He was a very tall man; probably the tallest I’d ever seen. He wore a suit everywhere, usually a shade of green or blue. His blue eyes had a cool threat to them, almost like a wolf staring down his prey. He had short blonde hair, a strong-set jaw, and an enormous and goofy-looking smile. He spoke confidently about his relationship with Trystix and the plans they had for the nation. Where Trystix had grown to fortune in a law firm and investing in real estate, he apparently earned his money in electric power and health care. He didn’t have a family, very much a lone wolf in most respects. That could be why I enjoyed watching and listening to him. I could relate to that. But, at the same time, he had his own mystique and charisma about him. He was likable; like an old friend. He really had a way with his words. Where Trystix was smooth and slippery like a salesman, Raiden was eloquent and soft-spoken. I almost believed him when he said they had a plan that would benefit everyone. Almost.
It was odd to me that Raiden never left his mansion in Seattle. Though Trystix didn’t like to leave his home base either, he did travel a bit. It was peculiar that they didn’t ever stand for a picture together or appear on TV together. Something to solidify their business arrangement. But Raiden stayed in the west, and Trystix spent most of his time in his ‘war room’ he had been secretly building on the thirteenth floor of Tryst Tower. Apparently, Raiden and Trystix didn’t want to share the spotlight with each other.
Liv came to visit me one evening, looking like she was on the brink of a breakdown. Her eyes were puffy, like she hadn’t stopped crying in days. She had a very empty look in her eyes, as if her soul had left her body like a snake sheds its skin. She was carrying a small black portfolio tight against her chest. From the look of it, she was dead-set on something.
“What have you done, Jared?”
“Nice to see you too, sis. What do you mean?”
“I know what you’ve been doing all this time. I know about the buildings; all of them. I know about the man who died.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Uh-oh. This was not going to end well.
“Don’t lie to me! What is wrong with you? You’ve been to rehab! You’ve been to prison! Regan took a chance on you because you were my brother! How could you? How can you even get up in the morning? How can you even look at yourself in the mirror? How could you?” She was crying hysterically by this time.
“It’s all in this file! Regan left it out on his desk, and Lena found it and brought it to me. She thought it was a story!”
“Let me see it.”
I think it bothered her that I barely changed demeanor despite her anger. She scowled at me, then finally handed it to me. I opened it up, looking at everything at once. There was a log of addresses and times kept on one page, looking an awful lot like my handwriting. I’ve never been one to plan ahead, let alone write anything down. I had never even thought of writing down my plans like this, so that was definitely odd. Another page had a layout of streetlights, another had blueprints of all the buildings that I had destroyed. There were even more pages full of incriminating evidence, but I had never seen any of it before. I had no idea where any of this had come from, and my confusion and suspicion continued growing as I flipped through the file. Honestly, if I had had any of that information when I had set the fires, I could have been much more efficient. Apparently, I was being set up for something.
“Liv, I swear I have never seen any of this. I don’t know where this came from, or why Trystix would have something like this. Maybe he was just looking at the blueprints to try and get a feel for the building before he bought it. This is nothing I have ever seen before.”
“So you are saying you had nothing to do with the fires?” She didn’t believe a word I said.
“Liv! I told you have never seen any of this! Do you seriously think I’m that stupid? That I would risk going back to prison? That I would give up everything you and Trystix have given me? That I would risk my relationship with Lena?”
“I don’t know, Jared. But something is wrong. Something is very wrong. Regan never told me about his plans to buy the East. He never tells me anything anymore. And now you’re lying to me! I can’t stand it! There is something going on and I think you are in on it. Why else would he come see you in the middle of the night all the time? What, exactly, do you do for him, Jared? What is your real job?” She was still not convinced.
“I have been working down the street as a real estate assistant. He set me up with one of his lawyers named Noah Smith. It’s terrible, for the record.”
“Jared…I don’t believe it. You really did set those fires!”
“What? You have got to be kidding me! I’ve worked there for almost five years!”
“Noah Smith died from a stroke shortly after I moved here. He was my supervisor when I started working for Regan.”
“What…no…you don’t believe…Are you serious?” She nodded. She looked like her heart had just stopped beating.
“Jared, I want you to leave. I don’t want you in my home or anywhere near my daughter. I won’t tell anyone what you’ve done. It would break our mother’s heart to know the truth of what her son has become. I want you gone.”
“You…I…what? You can’t make me just leave everything! I can‘t leave!”
“Everything you have here is a lie. You’ve been lying to me from the start, haven’t you? My daughter needs good role models like Regan to grow up around. He knew what you were up to. He found you out, didn‘t he?”
I ignored her question. I couldn’t break the news to her that her beloved husband was the source of all of this. Apparently, it didn’t occur to her that I wasn’t the only monster living in her home. It hadn’t dawned on her that Trystix was the one who set me up with my fake job in the first place. Somehow, she had decided I was the only one at fault. But something wouldn’t let me tell her the truth.
“Just leave, Jared. I’ll cover for you. Take the file. Take all the money Regan paid you. Take your clothes, your motorcycle, whatever you need. Just go.” She started to cry as she turned and walked away.
“Just go. I don‘t want you in my home anymore. I love you, but I am so disappointed with you.”
I spent the remainder of the night packing. I wondered how all of this came about. I couldn’t figure out how Trystix had managed to mimic my handwriting, nail down exact dates and times, let alone find the blueprints to buildings older than Trystix himself. As I was packing my bomber jacket, I noticed something sticking out of one of the pockets. I opened it, and couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a check for ten-thousand dollars from Trystix in it, along with a business card for Micah Raiden. I pulled out the card and turned it over.
Sorry how things have turned out. You are a liability to me now. Go see Raiden. He is expecting you. He has need of your ’skills’. There is a plane ticket to Seattle taped under your bed. Good luck. Never return to Chicago.
I read it over a few times. This confirmed my suspicions that Trystix hadn’t just left the file on his desk for no reason. My anger rose to a near fever-pitch. He would pay for this. He had just taken Lena out of my life. He had just stolen my small piece of sanity from me. I shoved the money in my pocket and threw the letter and business card on my bed. I collected the last of my things and headed out to the elevator. I stopped midway across the room, and slowly looked back at my latest residence. I took out my lighter, my soul, and set it down on a table next to my favorite chair. I decided I’d leave a message just for Trystix.
I reached in my bag and pulled out a small knife. I dropped to the floor and began carving my farewell to my sister’s husband.
You have made a mistake. You have set fire to a bridge that should never burn. Know this; you have a price to pay.
I wiped the sweat from my brow and walked to the elevator. As I descended down the hundreds of floors, I again imagined the tower on fire. I smiled to myself, as I walked to where I parked my motorcycle. I strapped my bag on the back, and rode off in to the night. The world may be struggling, but my world had just ended. I would have vengeance. But it would be on my time. I began thinking that perhaps Raiden wasn’t happy with just the West. Trystix had to pay for his sins.