The Man Behind the Iron Mask Damian The funeral was polarizing compared to where I was a few days earlier, in bed with Marjorie. Her slim dark form breathing easy under the silk sheets. I was on the edge of sleep when the phone rang. “Mr. Marks,” a deep ominous voice crackled through the phone. “Yeah?”, I said sleepily. “This is Michael Micheline, Captain of the New Jersey Police Department.” When he said Captain, I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t campaign season yet. “What can I do for you, Captain?” “Unfortunately, Mr. Marks, I am sad to be the first to tell you. At approximately 7 o'clock this morning, your mother and father were driving near Veterans Memorial Highway and 13th Ave, your father’s brakes malfunction. The car careened and went into a ditch, when we pulled the car out we were able to identify, the two occupants of the car, as Howard and Maria Marks. We needed to inform the closest kin first and I wanted to be the first to give my condolences, your parents were great people.” There was a moment of silence, as my mind tried to logically wrap around and judge the permanence of the words spoken to me. “Well thank you Captain.” “Are you o--,” I slammed the phone down. Marjorie was awaken by this time, I told her the news, she was shocked. I got up and walked to the all glass bar I built with my father. I prepared myself an old fashioned and sobbed quietly. I downed the old fashion and threw the thick glass into the mirror. The broken shards reflecting my anguish. * * * Stepping into the limousine. I still felt detached from the entire experience. Of course, I had to lie about the real Howard, he was a wealthy drunk. I remember one Christmas he forced me to drink a glass of bourbon, I didn’t think it was a big deal, I just wanted the approval of my father. I took a big gulp and coughed, as the brown liquid left a burning feeling in my stomach and throat. When he slapped the glass out of my hand I didn’t know what to do. He flicked me in the forehead so hard I almost tumbled back in my chair. He told me that all Marks men were made of iron and always on point. My mother on the other hand was the most caring women I’ve ever known. After that incident, my mother apologize for my father's behaviour, she comforted me, something quite frankly my father never did.. Since that day, I’ve hated my father and loved my mother. It showed in my behavior shortly after my father sent me to boarding school. He told me that I was smart but very childish and arrogant. It took another 12 years before I talked again to my father. The knock at the door the next morning, brought a pounding headache and feeling of nausea. After dry heaving in the bathroom, I opened my door. There was Larry Heck a short tanned stout man, with a hideous gray comb over who somehow finagled his way into my father's circle of friends and then subsequently became our family lawyer. “Please come in,” I gestured towards the (L)ouis (V)uitton couch, “What can I do for you?” “Must have been a helluva party Damian,” he was pulling a 1990 Dom Perignon bottle sticking from the couch. “It was ok,” I was trying to remember why I opened the door. “First off, I want to once again give my condolences for your parents, and my close friends,” he was breathing pretty heavy as usual. “Thank you,” I said. I put on my Dolce and Gabbana glasses, hoping it would tell Heck that I didn’t want to talk to him at all. “As your family lawyer, we need to talk.”, said Heck. “About?”, I was rubbing my temples, trying to calm down the monstrous headache that was springing from my frontal lobe. “Due to your mother and father recently passing away they left an incredible amount behind, son.” “How much am I worth?” I looked at him, without blinking. He couldn’t maintain eye contact, as he shuffled through his briefcase. Finally, his eyes met back up to mine, his hands holding a stack of papers. “From an independent auditor,” Heck said. ” your worth is approximately 616,501,332 dollars and some change.” “Oooh, nice.” He laughed, his teeth stained by his excessive dipping and coffee drinking. “Mr. Marks, you are now the interim CEO and the board has requested your presence to decide the future of Marks Industries,” Heck said. Reaching for his pen and a paper for me to sign. “When?” I said, scribbling my signature down. “Tomorrow,” Heck said, “at 9am.” “Come on that’s really early,” I said. “Is that a yes or no, Mr. Marks?” He was looking irritated. “That’s a sure, anything else Larry?“ I said. “Not right now,” he said as he was packing the papers into his briefcase. I gestured a hand shake to him and ushered him out the door. I walked over to the bed and woke up Esther in my bed. “Oye, tengo que ir al laboratorio, puede dejarse a cabo?” “Si.” “Gracias, cariiño.” I said. My shop was two levels underneath where Esther sleeped. The shop is about 3,000 square feet, made out of 3 feet of concrete walls. It was a place that I went to when I needed to sort out and solve my problems, my kind of zen garden where intelligence and logical choices ruled. When I reached the bottom step of the shop, my coffee maker started its normal routine. The monitors fired to life, the relaxing hum of the computers started. Hickory handed me my coffee and Dickory handed me the two advil that I’ve needed all morning. I created Hickory and Dickory when I was at the Tonbridge School for a science fair, my teachers were so impressed that they actually got me on the BBC. and that encourage the unique agony of children trying to humiliate me at every turn. I suppose it was different than most of my classmates science projects. I built them over a course of a semester from the boardrooms old computers, using a splash of C that would make Bill Gates envious. Hickory and Dickoy are a pair of robots with articulated hands with a tread based locomotion that I initially made out of fishing wire, cylinder metal tubing and a remote control car for the base. Turns out 12 years later they are still useful, with several upgrades. I walked over to the car that killed my parents, I had the Captain send it to my place by helicopter after the investigation was over. I started working on getting the brake from the passenger side of the car. Based on the investigator's report the brake simply broke due to wear and tear, but looking at the axle I could see where the brake failed, but it seems that the master brake cylinder broke in half and the brake clip was mangled. There was some residue all over the passenger side of the car. The investigator states that its from the surrounding environment. This could be strengthened with an air pressure system instead of this clip, therefore making it 100% efficient for at least 5 years. “Hickory turn on the drilling machine,” I said. Hickory, the left hand of the duo, turned on the machine. I walked over to my computer and woke it up. The buzz of my monitor was comforting. “Dickory scan the master brake cylinder and upload it to the drilling machine database. Once completed, go on standby.”, I said. I looked at my watch and realized that I was 15 minutes late to the meeting. “Damn!”, I said. When I walked up to the clean and modern styled offices of Marks Industries, I was unimpressed. I worked under my father for a couple of years and everytime I walked in there I felt as though I needed to run out. When I walked through the gold encrusted revolving doors, I was met by a sense of dread as well as the stern smile of the bald headed Ezekiel Eckhart, the COO of Marks Industries. “Ezekiel, how long has it been a year or two?” As I reached out to shake the man’s hand. “Well Damian you know how it is, a day in here feels like a week, and a month feels like a year, but you come back because you love it,” he said in his west texan accent. “I heard that the board wanted to talk to me.” Some of the secretaries, ran by giggling. “Well yes”, he finally said after looking at the girls for a second too long. “Then what are we waiting on,” I said impatiently. I didn’t want to be here any longer than I needed to be. “Ah now I remember, you were always impatient,” Eckhart said. “Well in any case let's go up to the boardroom then.” He led the way, even though I worked in this building several times over the years, I would get turned around, my father constantly redesigned and relocated Marks Industries, now it was on 5th Ave in New York. Eckhart tried to make small talk on the elevator ride up, however I ignored him, instead I was making sure that my Ferragamo Oxfords weren’t getting scratched by the thick plush carpet in the elevator, that opened up on the 47th floor. Looking at the long African Blackwood table there were 12 people already there. All of them got up and looked at me, of course most of them were ancient, you know the old money type. Ezekiel in his Versace three piece was the first to step out and greet all of the board members. There was Marc Sabatine, Susanna Carlisle, Joseph Courbis, and even Simeon Gartner, the other I haven’t met before. As we finally sat down after all of the courtesies. “Damian, we want to know what is your position and how we should move forward?” said Harrington Byrd. “I think we should buy the Merkur brand and redesign it.” there was a moment of silence, “let's think about it. It’s a great move for me as CEO of M.I. We will garner public sympathy and unity from the people. The press will be saying this is a bold moment in MI as well as not forgetting its founding member, my father. “We should buy the Merkur brand and address the issue that killed my parents. Then at a later time we will sell the division and make a hefty profit.” “I like the idea,” Carlisle was the first to speak up. “It says to the world that Marks Industries, believe in safety as well as defense. That is genius! ” Most of the people around the table shook their head in agreeance. “Well, then gentlemen and lady, buy the company and I will personally fix the flaw that killed my parents,” I said. “Hold on!” Said Simeon Gartner. “The board was convene here to see if your the right candidate for the position.” “Well,” I said before getting cut off. “All for yea say yea now,” said Ezekiel. All of board members said yea except for one. “All for nay say nay now,” Ezekiel looked around the table. “Nay!” Said Simeon Gartner. It was silent. When I got home from the meeting, Erwin Stan greeted me with a bowl of beef noodles. I took a whiff, “are these from Niu Ba Ba?” “Yes sir, we flew a whole case for you.” “Good man Stan, you know me better than myself.” “Indeed, I do”, with a wrinkle smiled and a wink.