Ancient History - Part 8
Maxwell was always watching. The wall of screens showcased the many different cameras in place at work and at home with constant feed spilling across them in a maze of empty, uneventful rooms with a few hidden moments of activity passing in the blink of an eye. He glanced casually between the work and home feeds. The staff were working in his office and lounge areas, Ashe floating in and out of rooms gesturing to this and that without having to so much as look up from his datapad. The staff marched immediately to the places they were directed to and worked. He was a fine commander of men. For an instant he saw Nirvana as she stepped off the elevator in an unassuming pink pant suit. She only left the home when she felt Maxwell was gone and unaware. An affair, he assumed. Fifteen years was apparently too long to go unloved despite her protests and holier-than-thou attitude. The less he knew the less he could claim to know, though, and he left her to her adultery.
The work feeds directed from the docks were still showing the same things as the last time he checked: blood. In the bottom left corner a man was clawing at his own flesh, desperate to die, locked in a room all in white. In another, one he watched with a great deal more interest, his son stood in front of a man bound to a chair, his lips moving but the sound disabled on Maxwell's end for convenience. The man's face was a mess. There were teeth in his lap and on the floor. Julian's unforgiving smirk as the other man seemed to beg for mercy was a proud sight. The muscle in the room let the bound man have it again, a spray of blood pouring from his mouth with the first of the many blows to his face. He'd tell them what he did with the missing shipment. Julian had a very high success rate.
"You seem to be experiencing quite a lag, Mr. Maxwell."
Maxwell turned and looked at Ashe as his assistant placed a fresh cup of tea down on his desk. It had a strong fruity smell to it but possessed no hint of sweetness. Ashe was monitoring his sugar intake again. Groaning, Maxwell slipped his spoon into the golden liquid and stirred it absently. He was far too young to be treated like an old man.
"Julian just called. Seems the informant died during interrogation. He's on his way home."
On the screen, the bound man vomited blood into his lap, still very much alive despite his wounds. It was less interesting now that he knew how it ended. He'd need to see about speeding up his receptors. "He at least get something useful out of him?"
"He got a name but not much else. I'm sure he'll fill you in when he arrives."
Maxwell sighed and leaned back in his chair, saucer and cup in hand. He took a sip, glanced up at Ashe in disapproval, then sank down lower in his chair with a continued engagement now invested in the clawing man in the white room.
Ashe remained standing at his side though, a sure sign the tea and news were not the only reason for his journey into Maxwell's hidden floor. His datapad beeped in compliance as he tapped against the screen. "Nirvana returned not long ago."
"Mm. You happen to know who the man is?"
Ashe shook his head, curls bouncing. "There is no man. I've been keeping tabs on her and I can assure you her actions continue to be in accordance with your vows, as she promised. However, she has been making regular withdraws from the house account. Two thousand every month is loaded onto an unconnected cred card."
"So, she doesn't want me to know what my money is going towards." Maxwell set the saucer down and turned in his chair to face Ashe. "I take it you know, though."
"Of course, sir. The card is delivered in person to a Delilah Leimann."
Maxwell blinked, sure he knew the name though the face, time and place were all forgotten.
Ashe was more than willing to fill in the blanks. "She used to be a maid employed here, Mr. Maxwell, one of which you engaged in sexual debauchery with five years ago."
Red curls and sinfully pale skin. He remembered her. Maxwell glared at the screen as Nirvana walked from the kitchen towards the grand stairwell.
"Yes, Mr. Maxwell."
Maxwell rose from his seat and stalked off up the elevator. He caught Nirvana before he had gone too far and grabbed her by the arm. Nirvana looked up at him, fear momentarily caught in her eyes before she swallowed it whole and let it sink below.
"James, let go of me."
"You meddling bitch," he growled.
In an instant he had her in his office, the door slammed shut behind them. Nirvana clenched her jaw and stood her ground as Maxwell stormed to his desk in a furry.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"He's your son and he deserves to have the very least of what you can offer him."
"Money leaves trails!"
"I was careful."
Maxwell glared at her and saw red; red like the stiff spikes of hair he'd seen on his bastard child's head in the picture he'd been shown many years before. Red like the child's mother's with her blue eyes and a slight, youthful dusting of freckles across chubby cheeks and shoulders. He'd be around four or five by now, he surmised between flashes of rage. His first and only mistake in so many years. It was a godsend he didn't turn out like his brother with an undeniable resemblance.
"Delilah is smart enough not to ask me for anything so what the fuck do you care if I support him?"
"He's brilliant, James." Nirvana seemed to hesitate at telling him this, swallowing more often than necessary. "Delilah says the school is ready to advance him to middle school and maybe further but they don't want to deal with the social issues of having someone so young advancing so far. He needs a tutor. There's no reason why you can't provide him one. You never even noticed the money was missing."
"It is my decision alone that dictates what is done with loose threads like him. Christ, woman, and I thought you were an ungrateful bitch when you bored me about Julian but now you've gone and found a new way to piss me off."
The mention on her son's name caused a slight flinch in the set muscles of Nirvana's jaw.
Maxwell's scowl deepened. "Don't even fucking start."
"What would be the point? You've ruined him. You took everything that was beautiful inside him and perverted it into your same ugliness. Congratulations on murdering the first decent thing to come from you. All Phineas needs is financial support; he has a family that loves him and can get along just fine without you. Call it a charity case, have Ashe spin it any way you want to, but for once do the right thing, James."
"I'm done arguing this point with you, Nirvana."
The bullet pressed in and exploded out almost without any sound at all. The silencer was well crafted. It was the fleshy debris from the missing half of her skull that made the quiet pattering on the floor, followed by the heavy thud of her body. The mess of it all; brain, blood, and skull fragments, was more than he ever remembered it being. Ashe was not going to be pleased with him.
The door creaked. Maxwell looked up, expecting one face but finding another as Julian leaned against the structure, eyes locked on his mother's bleeding corpse with a splattering of blood on his face and chest that could only have come from one source. He'd been so angry he hadn't heard the door open, hadn't seen through Nirvana to see their son had come home.
His son's eyes sprang to him, to the gun. He stepped backwards from the doorway into the hall, body visibly shaking.
He turned in an instant and ran.
He had to be stopped, Maxwell thought. He might do something stupid like call the police or run for help in the building. He needed to be stopped and brought back and made to understand. So the gun went off again and Julian stumbled and slid across the floor. Why it had made sense in that split second he suddenly forgot, tossing the gun onto a chair as he ran from his office to the hall.
Ashe was there with a stern but accepting expression on his face reserved for none. He knelt by Julian who had risen on shaky hands and knees and helped him back to unsteady feet. The young man clung to him with white knuckles.
"Did I hit him?" Maxwell asked, looking for signs of fresh blood. He was sure he had shot him.
Ashe shook his head slowly. "Your son is unharmed."
Maxwell felt a wave of relief, an apology budding somewhere on his lips, and extended a hand to clasp his trembling son's shoulder.
Julian jerked away from him, red eyes wide in shock. He clung harder to Ashe, trying to weave him between the two of them like a shield. "H-He-He shot her! She's dead! He fucking shot her in the head!"
"I am aware of this, Young Mr. Maxwell. It will be dealt with." Ashe turned his face to Maxwell, voice void of sympathy as though it were just another part of the job. Maxwell supposed it was, in a way. "Shall we say it was robbers, sir?"
"What? No!" Julian pushed against Ashe who held on to him firmly with one hand on his back. "No, he did it! He did! He shot us both!" Julian glared at his father from around Ashe's shoulders, tears in his hateful eyes. "What the fuck did she ever do to you?!"
Maxwell stood dumb. He looked to Ashe for help but his assistant had none to offer.
"Go upstairs," Ashe instructed, pushing Julian along towards the stairwell. "There's a warm bath drawn for you. You're in shock and are not thinking clearly. Take a few hours to mourn and we'll discuss this further."
"I am thinking clearly! Jesus, Ashe, call the police!"
"If your father is taken to jail you will surely follow, Young Mr. Maxwell. Any inquiry into his dealings will link to you and your own crimes. Is vengeance worth your own freedom? I do not believe your mother would have approved."
Maxwell watched the pain and frustration mix with agony in his son's eyes as Julian let his head fall against Ashe with defeat in his very being. He sobbed like a child and shook his head, rubbing his wet face into the soft fibers of Ashe's blazer.
There was quiet for a moment before Ashe again told Julian to go up to his room. At this point he did, wiping a running nose on his wrist before casting a hard, hateful look to his father and darting up the grand stairwell. Maxwell thought he saw the jagged edges of a hole in the back of his shirt but Ashe commanded his attention away from such details.
"We will of course be calling the police," Ashe clarified for him in an even tone, "as soon as things have been well established. Nirvana caught a maid stealing and was shot. Undoubtedly you are heartbroken over this."
Maxwell didn't need a map to find the sarcasm hanging off his words. He glared at his friend just slightly, not daring to truly be angry. "I'll do my part when you do yours."
Ashe nodded and walked into the study where Nirvana lay with her blood splatter halo. Maxwell saw the red and thought of the picture of the impish toddler he'd been shown long before. He saw his wife's brains scattered against the wall and floor and tried to picture just how brilliant a child would be if what Nirvana had said was true. He shook his head at the mess and walked to the seat cushion where his gun had landed.
"I want you to arrange a meeting for me with Delilah Leimann."
Ashe looked up from his datapad and the body he'd been eyeing. "I trust for different purposes than Mrs. Maxwell was called in for?"
"I don't want to kill her. There are things we should discuss, however."
Ashe nodded and tapped at his screen as though making a quick note of it. "Anything else?"
Maxwell shook his head and sat down in his chair. "No, I think I can manage for now. Just let me know when the show begins."
Ashe nodded, stepping back into the hall away from the mess to where the world carried on none the wiser. A maid walked past with a vacuum and smiled, tilting her head just slightly as she continued to her next task. It was a world within a world, Ashe observed. One less life a part of it and no one within ten feet had noticed. He flipped a curl behind his ears as he dialed for the police. Their self-sustaining world might not have noticed the loss of one but he was willing to bet they would not overlook an addition.