Prologue- A simple ride on the underground
Dan Lepsky was a common man. He loved simple pursuits, easy women, and lots of Scotch. All things a high level management position could provide. He was on his third flight to the United Kingdom in mere weeks making changes that would place him firmly at the top of the food chain at work. The company Dan worked for recently purchased a wine and liquor retail and exporting business that operated several stores based in the UK mainly around London. Their acquired company was named Maxwell and Donrigger Spirits, a great acquisition as they held sole rights to export popular Scotches into the United States. Dan was flying to London to fire the current Managers because they had been spending money in ways that seemed off to his bosses, the new investors. It was Dan’s favorite aspect of his job. He would fire the entire store to find out what was up. For him, the easiest solution was to replace any suspect employee with people he hand-picked to do the job right while exhibiting loyalty to him. He thought “After all, I did get them the job. It’s the least they could do to return the favor.” He planned to continue to rise through the ranks at work because of the shear number of people who owed him.
Dan’s flight had been excruciating. His secretary Paula had mishandled his itinerary, accidentally scheduling his flight without giving him enough time to get through security let alone to the correct concourse to board. She instructed him to get to the airport only ten minutes before his flight was departing JFK. He was going to fire her when he returned to the US. Dan repeated “It’s fine, she’ll be fired tomorrow” like a mantra. There was no denying that it made him feel better. But for now he was stuck on a new flight, in second class, with two Indian women who sounded like they had the plague. They spit into courtesy cups, coughing up thick dark mucus so putrid it made Dan want to vomit.
Once his flight landed, he made his way to baggage claim where he received more bad news. His luggage had been placed on his original flight because his wonderfully forward thinking secretary sent it ahead to have it loaded in the belly of the plane. All so Dan wouldn’t have to bother with it himself. He had been so distracted in the panic of scrambling to find another flight, he hadn’t given his luggage a thought. He just assumed it would get to him in London. In hindsight Dan really wished he hadn’t praised Paula for thinking ahead trying to make his life easier. His heart sank remembering his lauded final words to Paula before heading home the night before. “I think things are going to be fine for us Paula. None of my previous secretaries have ever thought to have my luggage sent ahead like that. So welcome to team Dan!” Just thinking about her awkward little smile made him angry. He thought “And I’m not even going to get fuck her before I fire her.” There was only one thing to do now. Determined not to further lose his cool, Dan angrily made arrangements with the airline to have his luggage sent on to his hotel once they figured out what they had done with it. He tipped the ladies at the desk thirty pounds each before offering them a nightcap and a dip in the hot tub once they got done with their shift later that night. They smiled so wide they went red in the face but he didn’t get the feeling they were actually interested in taking him up on his offer. So he simply left them with his card, the address and room number of his hotel on the back, and pressed onward, whistling a tune as he walked away as coolly as he could. He wanted to look the part of a rich businessman who got what he wanted whenever he wanted it. In reality he just made himself appear confused and lost amid the massive flow of people in the airport. A steady stream of luggage trolleys fenced Dan in away from the exits. He had no choice but to wait and hope the girls weren’t still watching. When the trolleys cleared, Dan was overly zealous trying to take a few steps to get the hell out of there, the floor was damp causing his heel to slip out from under him.
His fall only compounded his overwhelming sense of hatred for his secretary. He could care less if the girls at the counter saw him.
A cab was waiting for him when he reached the doors. “Hey Dan. Over here.” It was his assistant. A rotund man named Buddy who only needed one more donut to pass his sumo test. He was sweating profusely. “We’re going to take you to the hotel to let you freshen up before we head over to inspect the first store.”
Dan sighed as he climbed into the cab. “Thanks Buddy. Sounds like a plan.” He responded shortly, hoping Buddy would pick up on how agitated he was. When they were on their way he filled Buddy in on the horrors of his trip. “I gotta fire that fool Paula.”
“Who’s that sir” Buddy asked. “My new secretary Paula. She screwed up my flight again. That’s why I had to call you to ask you to meet me so much later than expected. Only a month on the job and she has already ruined two of my trips.”
Buddy thought to himself “I’m sure it was all her” rolling his eyes before pretending to itch his right check with the side of his hand.
“Ok sir.” Buddy was careful not to sound confrontational. He knew Dan was ready at any moment to have a blowout argument. “Better not keep her then. I guess I’ll set up some interviews for later in next month. That way you will be well on your way to being done in London before finding your new girl.”
“Yeah. That’s about typical. Let’s just get a girl who can get things booked right. I’ll figure out something in for now. Call her, let her know she is useless, and she’s fired. If I call her now. Well. I’ll just abuse her for an hour before breaking it to her.”
“Sure thing!” Buddy rolled his puffy eyes before wiping sweat off his brow with his shirt sleeve. He fumbled with a wrapper full of chips, dripping ketchup on his sleeves. Buddy was a nervous eater and he always carried something when he was going to be around Dan just in case. They sat in silence for a minute before a loud squeal steered their attention to the driver.
The cab rolled to a stop in the middle of the street. Cars behind began honking as the cabby turned to break the news. “Sorry to say this. But I think my cab’s dead. Something is wrong, it won’t accelerate at all.” Dan was growing sick to his stomach. He tried to take a deep breath bracing himself. “This is why I never say, it could always get worse” he thought aloud.
“For Christ sake. Well Buddy you’re free to wait. But I can see the entrance to the London Underground over there. I am heading to the hotel one way or another. I still have my pass for the tube from last time.” Buddy gave Dan a very fake grin thinking “I couldn’t give two shits” in his head before nodding understandingly.
“I’m not climbing those stairs waiting forever for a train. I’ll stay here and wait for the cabby to fix it. Besides, he’ll probably just send for another car to take me on to the hotel.”
“Alright. I’ll see you there later for dinner. That is if you even make it out of here without sweating to death. We’ll head over to the first store in the morning. I’ll give those money shedding Brits one hell of a rude awakening. As the sun comes up, I’ll be shining light on all their flaws. Cost us a fortune already. Screwed up three huge orders of rum. Three! Thousands in losses. Had to drink rum for a week just trying to erase some of their mess up. Not to spoil things but I’ll be sending a couple of bottles to you this Christmas along with your usual bonus.”
“Right then Dan. Sounds good.” Buddy was tired of having his incessant sweating pointed out. “Proabably going to be another gift card for twenty hours with his ex-girlfriend, the personal trainer. What a bonus! I get to hear all about how much of a bastard he is. Don’t have to tell me lady! I’ve been working with that monster for years.”
Dan was always taking shots at Buddy for his weight and his hygiene. “It’s no wonder I eat the way I do! Who could work for a bastard like that without picking up some vices.” He told the cabby.
Dan scrambled down the stairs quickly as he could. If a train was on its way he didn’t want to miss it. He made his way as fast as he could. The idea of sitting for hours waiting for a train was enough worry to make him physically violent. There wasn’t much in life that could bring him to violence more so than wasting his time. After his continuously rotten luck, he didn’t dare think for a second on what potentially horrific event might await him on the train. He was desperate for a tall glass of something old and smooth to help take care of his nerves. Maybe something aged twenty seven years, crisp, three pieces of ice, and a splash of water. Dan may have been a simple man. But no one would deny he knew a good drink.
The first train that pulled up seemed to be heading in the right direction so he hopped on. He hadn’t picked up on London’s layout yet. From what he understood of the city map he felt he had picked the most likely train to deliver him close to his hotel. He usually managed to have a taxi take him where he was going. He was too impatient and thirsty to ask a local for help picking the right train. Besides, there were only ten or so people on board. He didn’t exactly have the pick of the litter to choose from, even if he wanted to ask for help. He decided he would talk to himself to keep from harping on all the negative things he had been facing. “Lucky me. A lonely train ride under London. How very welcoming! No doubt that fool of a secretary has me set up in a great hotel too. No one is heading my way. I better not be leaving town to sleep.” Making matters worse, most of the scattered occupants left the train as he attempted to find a seat without gum or food smothered across it. He thought to himself “Is it a coincidence that people are in a hurry to leave this train? Or is it the odd freakin smell of urine and feet?”
He walked down the aisle finding only a sole red headed man in the corner and a couple sitting in the front of the car quietly keeping to themselves.
With a jolt they were underway. Dan was happy to be on the ground. Even in first class, he was no fan of flying. Sitting in second class with the spitting sisters of black death was too much. He was convinced a bit of turbulence was going to send whatever was causing all the coughing all over him. “Something to be grateful for” he thought. “At least they didn’t spray me with that vile phlegm.”
Dan decided the best way to pass the time was to survey his fellow passengers.
He took a look at the couple in the front of the car. They weren’t even talking to each other. It struck him that they weren’t much of a couple. He could almost feel the nervous tension between them on his finger tips just by pressing his hands through the air in their direction. The black haired man rose, stepped around his female companion, and moved closer to Dan followed closely by the pretty woman he had been sitting with. She was wearing a very large red hat. Something out of a Parisian romance novel. Dan tried but couldn’t get a good look at her face because her hat was so big. He didn’t mind. Her body was more than enough for Dan’s liking. She was so curvy he had a hard time prying his eyes away until he felt an angry stare coming from her dark haired companion. He thought “What’s she doing with that lump of coal anyway? A face not even a mother could love.” Still, he thought it was best not to continue checking her out.
He slid his leg out into the aisle to stretch but was startled as he raised his arms. The red headed man had moved close to him without making a sound. It startled him. “Jesus pal. I didn’t see you.”
The red head said nothing. He looked terribly ill. “Creepy fella” he thought. He looked like he had just climbed out of a pirate ship on a long voyage after dealing with months of scurvy.
He didn’t even raise his head. He just sat there staring blankly at his feet.
“Wonderful” he thought. “I guess I’m just a magnet for sickness.”
They traveled for several tense minutes in total silence before the red head started making a weird gargling noise.
“You alright there?” Dan asked, tapping him on his shoulder.
No response. The man began twitching, his body twisted and contorted uncontrollably. His eyes were rolled back into his head. “Hey buddy. What the fuck. What can I do to help?”
His answer never came. Instead his head flopped to the side sending a large quantity of yellow gray vomit across his lap. “Jesus!” Dan shouted.
He launched off his seat turning to see the red head collapse to the ground.
The large, dark haired, man and his sexy companion shoved him aside. “He’s epileptic. He’s having a fit.” Her voice was cool and collected. She moved with precision. Her companion took off his belt offering it to her. “We need to stabilize him or he’ll choke himself to death” she said.
She quickly barked orders to them. “We have to move fast to restrain him or he’ll hurt himself.” She looked up at Dan who had his mouth wide open. “Hey you want to help us out here instead of standing there doing nothing?” She demanded.
Dan wanted to scream at her. “How dare her criticize him” he thought. He didn’t expect to be vomited on by a total stranger anymore than they had planned on having to save one. “What do you need me to do?” Dan asked.
She started to place the belt in his mouth to keep him from choking on his own tongue. But the red headed man looked up to see them working on him, eyes widened, and kicked the legs out from under the dark haired man as he shoved her into the bars, timing his leap perfectly as the train rolled to a stop and the doors creaked open.
Dan felt he should try and help him so he burst out the doors after him shouting “Hey buddy. Let me buy you a coffee or something. You need help.” Dan could hear the woman behind him shouting “A lot of help you were. Jack ass!”
The red head turned to stare Dan down responding with only one sentence. “Don’t bother with me you need to help yourself.” He was gone as quickly as he had appeared next to Dan on the train, disappearing into the crowd of tourists and Londoners. “God. This place has gone to hell since I was here last. No manners. Guy vomits all over me and then not even so much as a sorry as he runs off. What a dick!”
Dan shook his pants to knock off some of the thick vomit. He felt “As long as I get some of it off, I won’t look like so much of a disgusting fool.” He made his way down the main street slowly finding his way through London to his Hotel and the pleasures of a private suite. “At least the god damned idiot knows how to pick hotels. So she’s half as useless as I thought. That’s still not saying much. I thought she was a complete waste of space. Now she’s as useful to me as some kind of paperweight.”
He reached his room ecstatic to be away from the public. People staring at him. Asking if he wanted another drink. Clearly, they looked at him as some kind of alcoholic traveling sideshow businessman. “Damn judgmental schmucks” he exclaimed.
There was an awful smell coming from his pants leg. “I have to do something about this.” He took a whiff of the stench nearly gagging as the sting of acidic spew hit his nostrils. “Jimminy Crickets! That’s Disgusting!” He checked his phone, no messages from the airport and no sign that the hotel had received his luggage. He decided not to wait any longer. He couldn’t bare the aroma he was creating in the room. It was only getting worse the longer he stayed. He stormed out muttering “What the hell else is going to happen?”