Lucas gazed out at the throngs of people blocking the streets in front of the massive refineries. Traffic on all the streets surrounding the site was gridlocked. Horns honked their own protest against the thousands of people packing the busy roadways with banners and signs raised in the air. “Lucas, Lucas,” the crowd chanted his name drowning out the squeal of sirens and the police bullhorns. Another city held hostage by yet another anti-oil demonstration.
Turning his eyes to the sky, he studied the clouds that had floated in during the afternoon. Dark and threatening, rain definitely, hail a good possibility. Lucas zipped his coat tighter to ward off the brisk wind blowing in from the Gulf. With his eyes trained on the ominous clouds, his mind drifted back a couple of years to when he became involved with the professor and the anti-oil movement. No, that was wrong he corrected himself, not anti-oil. Climate change. That was the catch phrase this movement was all about now.
Lucas strained to remember how he had become involved in the first place. The last couple of years had passed in a blur. Something to do with his folks he seemed to recall but for the life of him, he couldn’t nail down the reason. Lucas vaguely remembered attending university when this had all transpired. After that things grew foggy. The professor had taken him in, and Lucas had done what the man had asked of him. Now thousands upon thousands of people joined him, cheered his name and treated him like a celebrity whenever and wherever he was protesting.
Lucas lowered his eyes from the looming clouds. The large crowd of followers shouted and waved their hands, some holding placards denouncing dirty oil and corporate greed. Large banners with pictures of desecrated land bounced in the air. Suddenly the crowd grew louder. Lucas peered toward the ruckus. Through the wall of bodies, he watched as flashes of police uniforms appeared as they fought their way through the riled bystanders.
Knowing that his arrest was imminent Lucas quickly dug out his pouch of marijuana and proceeded to roll a couple of joints. Sticking the finished cigarettes in his mouth, he lit both sticks with the same match then slid one out of his mouth and looked Alice in the eyes. The two of them had been in this position too many times to count. He handed off the second cigarette to Alice.
He let his eyes linger on her. She looked like shit. Her hair was greasy, and her eyes were two black holes sunken in a gaunt, shrunken face. How had she come to be like this Lucas wondered, too may drugs he figured? He’d have to talk with Alice one of these days about her drug problem if he could remember. His mind wasn’t what it used to be.
“It’s time,” he muttered and drew the smoke deep into his lungs as he fished a set of handcuffs out of his back pocket. Clamping one over Alice’s wrist he fed the remaining cuff around a pair of posts at the refinery entrance and then snapped the cuff over his wrist effectively locking the large gates leading into the grounds. The entrance now blocked, Lucas swung his head back toward the crowds of demonstrators. News cameras spun between him and Alice and the front line of protestors. The police uniforms battled their way to the front. A couple of the cities finest broke through the human barricade, one of the cops brandishing a pair of bolt cutters.
The potent drug of the marijuana mixed with the uppers he had consumed a short while ago. The action in front of Lucas appeared to him in slow motion. His brain was sluggish to record the events as they were unfolding. The police officers stepped closer. Lucas watched their mouths move, but the words failed to register in his ears.
One of the officers stopped a few feet in front of Lucas. The man’s face morphing from human to demon to...Lucas stared, his mouth open. Sweat began to trickle from his scalp and run down the sides of his face. The officer/demon leaned closer. A pair of bulging eyes came within inches of his face, a huge gaping mouth with rows of razor sharp teeth and foul demon breath crowded Lucas back tight to the wire gates.
Panicking, Lucas twisted to avoid the beast. He yanked on the handcuff tying his hand to the gate. A woman screamed close beside him. Lucas was too scared to look. His attention wholly focused on the beast standing in front. A blood-curdling cry left his mouth. Raising his free hand, Lucas pinched the joint in his fingers before flicking the lit cigarette into the beast's face. The demon raised a large club. With horror, Lucas shrank to avoid the sting of the demons weapon taking the hit on the top of his skull. The demon raised his weapon again. Then thankfully Lucas felt peace. A welcoming blackness closed in on him as he slid to the ground. Now, if only that woman’s screaming would stop.
A painful white light shot into Lucas’ brain as his eyelids fluttered open. His vision was blurred as he looked around. He heard whispered voices. He must be in heaven he reasoned. His head felt like it rested on a cloud. With determination he forced his eyelids wide, the bright light blinding him briefly. He lay still as his eyesight cleared. He was in a room, a white room with curtain walls. Without moving his head he stared straight up, a white panel ceiling came into focus.
Lucas rolled his head to the side when he felt a hand grasp his. A young, beautiful girl stood to the side. Beside her were a serious, older man and another man dressed in white. Slowly Lucas’ memories seeped back.
“Alice. What am I doing here?” he asked. Alice leaned in closer. The rims of her eyes were wet with tears.
“You’ve been here for the last couple of months,” Alice sobbed. “We weren’t sure if you would come back to us.” She clutched both his hands in hers and laid her head on his chest.
“I don’t understand,” he eyed her wearily before glancing up at the two men. “What happened? How did I get hurt?”
Professor Ender smiled down at Lucas. “For now, you rest and get better. We will explain everything in due time.” The professor patted Lucas on the shoulder reassuringly. “But right now let the doctor take care of you. I need you back soon, young man. We have important work to do, lots of greedy corporate climate deniers to be visited. It’s what our followers want. They want us to save the planet.”
Lucas cocked his head and through narrowed eyes studied the professor. Flashes of large crowds and police and oil and corporations ran through his head like a slide show before a sudden clarity chased them away. In that instant, Lucas knew what he had to do. It was evident to him that he was on this earth for a reason and one reason only. That reason was to protect the planet and its environment at all costs.
His face relaxed and in a very calm tone, he spoke to the professor. “Do you mean that we should continue our little charade and put on a dog and pony show for the media while we do nothing to stop the capitalists from destroying this planet?”
Professor Ender cleared his throat, sheepishly avoiding Lucas’ face while he replied. “Well, I wouldn’t put it in those words exactly but yes we have to stand up to those determined to destroy the earth in their selfish drive to deplete her of her resources, the climate be damned.” Ender turned to Alice for her support.
“By using large groups of people to block streets and by chaining myself to buildings and equipment so we can claim we are doing good and keeping our funding flowing. You think that we’ve helped slow global warming. Do you believe we’ve done one bit of good?” Lucas raised his voice.
Ender looked between Lucas and Alice and shrugged. In a quiet voice, he argued. “We have done great things. Our gatherings now attract thousands and thousands of people, millions worldwide and the international media covers all our demonstrations,” the professor concluded, the argument sounding weak even as he said it.
Lucas was the reason for the large turnouts and international media coverage and the severely increased funding from the multitude of environmental groups. “You get yourself mended, and when you’re healthy, you’ll see that what we are doing is important.”
Lucas answered with a resounding, “No.” “When I come back we will do things differently. No more speeches and protests. The deniers had their warnings. Now we fight them on my terms,” he said before falling silent.
Professor Ender was caught off guard by the young Pensworth’s anger. He watched the boy stalk away from where he stood and stormed toward the main doors. The riled crowd of protesters soon broke rank and rushed to catch up with Lucas. Enders turned his face toward the news cameras, his face a mask of concern for the world to see. Inside the professor cheered. He hadn’t known what to imagine from this hastily thought through plan, but obviously, things had turned out far better than he could have expected.
The professor followed Alice into the hotel room, removed his jacket and threw it over the back of a chair. Exhaustion beat down on him after the long day. The unscheduled march on Pensworth Oil and Gas, then the unexpected rampage started by Lucas. He stood leaning on the chair as he replayed the tirade in his mind.
The way Lucas stormed into the glass tower owned by his father, then the crowd of demonstrators who followed the young Pensworth inside. The buildings security being brushed aside as the flash mob began smashing objects in the grand lobby of the building. All this captured on cameras by the media. Ender smiled as he relived the scene of destruction the mob imparted on the buildings entrance.
His smile increased as he recalled the flashing lights and the rush of cars when the police arrived. Lucas and several other protestors were handcuffed and marched out of the building all under the scrutiny of the news cameras. The professor hadn’t known what to expect when he hijacked the demonstration at city hall and on a spur led the crowds through the busy streets toward the gleaming office tower bearing Lucas’ family name. But that impromptu march, he realized couldn’t have been better planned.
“What are you going to do about Lucas?” Alice’s stern voice cut into his thoughts interrupting his mood. “We certainly can’t leave him in jail,” she stood firmly planted a few steps away from where Ender stood, her face wrought with concern.
He glanced over at her almost forgetting that she had accompanied him back to the hotel. “No, definitely not,” he answered quickly to mollify her. “Go clean up or order supper. Whatever you need and let me worry about our friend. I’ll call down to the police station and find out about having him released.”
Ender waited as Alice left the room then wondered over to the corner bar and poured a two fingers of scotch into a glass before rummaging through the inside pocket of his jacket for an expensive Cuban cigar. Clipping the end of the cigar, he slid open the patio door and settled into a chair. Resting his feet on the balcony rail, he held a wooden match to the Cuban then raised his glass in a mock salute to his good fortune. The smug smile returned to his face.
He was in no hurry to find out how Lucas fared after the altercation at the Pensworth building. The police let him go with a warning for his illegal disruption of traffic caused by his march; their primary concern was for Lucas and the other demonstrators and the anxiety their short rampage caused.
Ender drew the acrid smoke into his lungs washing it down with another sip of the scotch. He needed to find a way to keep Alice calm while he waited for Lucas’ outburst to play out. The media had lapped up the scene from earlier like he suspected they would, in fact, they had gotten more footage for their coverage then he previously had planned when the idea of the march had come to his mind.
The castaway son of an international oil baron rises from the gutter to champion the cause of environmental stewardship and returns to confront his father. Ender rolled the headline around in his head. If he were writing tomorrow’s column that is the byline, he would use. He had already decided that any phone calls about the boy’s welfare would wait until the morning.
He wanted to see the effect today’s events had on the media. If the story sold a lot of papers and garnished a lot of attention then he would have the cameras meet him at the police station in the morning as he fought for Lucas’ release. If the media ignored today’s debacle, then poor Lucas was probably not worth his time.
With another puff of the cigar, he focused on what he lies he would tell Alice to comfort her until morning arrived.
The sound of the running shower drifted through the open balcony door. Maybe Lucas’ famous last name wasn’t the only good fortune to come his way recently. A little charm and a shoulder to cry on, anything could happen he thought as he stubbed the cigar out and tilted the glass of scotch back before heading for the bathroom.
Sunlight streamed through the bedroom window. Ender opened his eyes slowly. His head pounded, and his brain was foggy. He lay on his back trying to remember the previous night. The jackhammering in his head increased as he tilted his head to the side. The sheets beside him were rumpled but empty. Struggling against the constant throbbing, thoughts of last night slowly worked back into his foggy brain.
The briefest of smiles tilted the ends of his mouth. It had taken him a lot more drinks and several of Alice’s joints before she relented and gave into him. What had he promised her he wondered? With great care, he swung his legs to the floor and then strode to the ensuite.
With a towel wrapped around his torso, he walked from the bedroom into the main room of the hotel. His hands busy toweling his hair dry. Alice sat scrunched up against the end of the couch; her attention focused on the TV. A taped feed of a reporter from yesterday's clash at Pensworth building was talking about the aftermath of the sudden march from the city hall steps. The news cut back to the studio as the anchor updated the story.
Professor Ender leaned across Alice and picked up the TV remote. He switched to another cable channel. The story played out the same. Ender’s headache eased as he watched repeats of yesterday’s event. So far so good he thought to himself. Turning his eyes away from the news he glanced down at Alice.
“Morning,” he said cheerily. Alice mumbled a response her eyes avoiding his. Ender shrugged, tossed the remote on the couch near her and strolled back to his room. He picked his phone off the bedside table and glanced at the screen. Several texts waited. He quickly read them as he scrolled down the screen. Some he immediately dismissed, but others caused him to read over.
“Finally, we have something newsworthy enough to advance our cause,” read one. “Congratulations. Finding the Pensworth boy was a stroke of genius,” read another. Ender smiled. Between the news coverage and the texts, he started to push back the nagging worries about having his funding stopped and his rock star lifestyle end.
The professor made a few well-placed phone calls. Finished on the phone, he dressed swiftly and sauntered back into the main room. He couldn’t wait to give Alice some good news.
“Grab your things,” he beamed at her, “I have the car waiting. We are heading for the police station. It’s simply deplorable how they locked poor Lucas away.” Ender piled on the shit. “We must have him released before he has to suffer anymore. And don’t worry," he continued, "I’ve notified the press. I will be giving a statement condemning the abhorred treatment of our good friend. Outrageous, really when you think about how the wealthy can use the police to do their bidding whenever someone questions their morals!”
The professor escorted Alice to the elevator. On the way down to the lobby, his mind was filled with thoughts of how he could continue to use the young Pensworth to his advantage. The hastily called press conference outside police headquarters was just the start. He had the ball rolling. The world had just begun to understand how determined he was to save the planet…. well, that was the message he hoped to portray when he rescued poor Lucas from jail.
Professor Ender sat at the small table next to the hotel suites kitchen. The morning newspaper lay beside his coffee cup all but ignored. He tried to focus on the paper, but he found his concentration lacking. To his relief, he had heard Lucas and Alice return to the hotel room in the waning morning hours, as he lay awake thinking about the night’s turn of events and how he could maximize their usage.
He had tried to sleep, but the uncertainty of the latest addition to his staff had kept his mind churning. Was the young Pensworth serious about joining his campaign or was the kid playing him for a fool? Ender’s head swam with possibilities both for and against the boy returning. Could he be certain that Lucas meant what he said about seeking revenge on his father or was the young man just rebounding from a severe bout of drugs?
Ender’s fidgeted with his cup, the coffee he had poured growing cold in the cup. Lucas Pensworth 3rd had returned which was a good sign but how dedicated would he turn out to be and how bad was the kid’s drug problem. The professor found that he could care less about the drugs Lucas used as long as the problem remained under control but if he tried to control the kid’s drug usage would Lucas bolt?
A loud snort erupted from the other side of the room pulling him out of his reverie. Lucas lay crumpled on the couch; his snoring filled the hotel room. Ender pushed the paper aside. At least the doubts he had last night were nullified with the Lucas and the girls return. He realized he had taken a huge risk in fronting the boy money but with his current situation what choice could he make. The groups funding his environmental crusade were balking at his lack of newsworthy demonstrations threatening to take their money elsewhere.
Lying awake in bed Ender’s found his mind racing to capitalize on his newfound hope. Smiling, he stood up and crossed the room. Ender paused with his hand raised outside the door of the second bedroom. The professor mustered his nerve and rapped lightly on the door. New employee number two was about to be tested. Was Lucas' girl infatuated enough with being in his presence and the job he had offered her the evening before to stay? And she would make a reliable ally in handling the drug-addicted heir to one of the largest oil empires in the country.
“Alice,” he softly spoke through the door, “Time to rise and shine.” The professor waited until he heard a faint reply then returned to his coffee. Pouring out the cold liquid, he refilled his cup with fresh coffee and settled back at the table to wait. At the sound of the bedroom door opening, he scooped up the newspaper with his free hand and tried to appear calm and in control.
“Morning Professor,” Alice brightly called to him as she tussled her hair, her clothes showing the wear from the previous day.
Professor Ender smiled back at her. “Call the front desk and have them deliver a new outfit. Tell them to charge it to my room. I’m certain they can have them supplied to the room in short order.” He beamed at his newest employee. “I’m glad you decided to take me up on my offer of a job. Grab a shower and we can order breakfast. We’ve got a full day ahead of us.”
Another bout of snoring and loud breathing rose from the couch. Alice changed directions, scooped the hotel sheets off the floor and carefully covered the sleeping Lucas. “Shouldn’t we wake him up?” Alice asked.
Ender hadn’t had a chance to ask Alice how she came to be involved with the Pensworth boy but from what the professor had observed the girl seemed to be able to control the young man. To control Lucas, Ender knew he had to stay on the young ladies good side. “We will shortly. For now, he may as well rest.”
Alice’s clothes arrived while she was still in the shower. Ender set the clothes at the bottom of the door and paced the room. He had originally planned to spend most of this day at the rally at city hall. As he wandered the room, the glimmer of an idea sprouted. Pensworth Oil and Gas had their head office only a handful of blocks from city hall. Ender tossed around the idea of marching the gathered protesters in the park on a hike for an impromptu demonstration in front of the large offices of Lucas’ dad, a showdown of sorts between father and son. There he would find out exactly how much Lucas resented his father. And if there just happened to be a few news cameras around to record the meeting, oh well.
A smile cut through the worry on the professor’s face. The idea might just have merit, especially if he added a little fodder to the mixture. Ender spun on his heels then quickly stepped over to the hotel phone. A couple of anonymous calls to the local news media notifying them of a possible protest at Pensworth Oil and Gas should set the ball rolling.
Professor Ender stepped out of the limo then, in turn, helped Alice onto the street. He stared up at the steps of city hall waiting while Lucas gathered himself and shuffled out the door. At the hotel room, Ender had politely stopped Alice from waking up the sleeping guest of honor until it was almost time to depart. She had tried to help Lucas clean up but with the slept in, stained clothing Lucas wore he had the appearance of a vagrant. Precisely what the professor was planning.
Ender looked all about at the demonstrators who had made the park their night's lodging. A considerable enough number remained, and no doubt more would be showing up again soon. The rally was scheduled to start by nine, only a brief half hour from now. Climbing to the top of the steps the professor stopped and talked to volunteers who had arrived early and were busy setting up the microphones and stage area. People were slowly clambering across the road toward the steps now. In all visible directions, Ender watched as the crowd started to thicken. The professor swelled at the sight and knowledge that his reputation was still a drawing card for these events.
Walking behind the volunteers setting up the equipment Anthony Ender noticed that a couple of guest activists had already arrived for the day’s demonstration. Ender chatted briefly with them as he waited as the crowds swelled while the clock ticked closer to nine. All through the preparations he kept a keen eye on Alice and Lucas. One of his staff tapped him on the shoulder warning him that the proceedings were about to begin. He signaled Alice to bring Lucas and stand beside him on the stage.
Ender stepped up to the microphone and tapped it to summon the crowd’s attention. “Today,” he began, “today we gather on these public steps to call on the energy giants of the world to join us in protecting our fragile environment. Join us in saving the earth instead of raping the resources for greed and power.” The crowd cheered. The professor noticed that the people standing nearest the steps were looking past him at Alice and Lucas as they stood behind him.
“Today is a special day. A day we fight back against the pollutants and deniers hidden in plain sight. The same people who have ignored our attempts to save the earth’s climate not only for ourselves but also for the generations who will come after us.” Professor Ender piled his phony emotions on the crowd as thick as possible. “Joining me on stage today are a couple of notable environmental heroes. Both have published numerous papers depicting the decline of the earth’s climate. Originally that was all that I had planned for today…” Ender paused and gazed over the crowd, “but the time has come for us to be more militant in our fight. Our words have fallen on deaf ears, and the destroyers of our planet sit in their skyscrapers counting their money and ignoring us.”
The professor stopped and slowly uncapped a plastic bottle of water letting the cool liquid wash down his throat. Enders took his time. If his little charade was going to be effective, then he had to reach deep into his soul for every ounce of acting prowess in his body.
“After the speeches, I ask for all of you to follow me. We will make a short walk from the steps and take our protest straight to the heart of the greedy climate-killing giant’s lairs.” He stood to cheers before announcing the first speaker. Standing off to the side he watched and listened as the two guest speakers rambled on with the same tired rhetoric. The crowd slowly grew restless, their enthusiasm waning.
Fearing the loss his momentum the professor cut into the second guest’s speech. “Enough talk,” he screamed at the crowd. Turning to the volunteers, he motioned for the microphone audio equipment to be wrapped up. Then before anyone could move, he signaled for Alice and Lucas to join him as he strode down the concrete steps into the protesters. With Alice and Lucas at his side, he waved, beckoning the crowd to follow and started walking away from the front of city hall. With a brain full of determination, Professor Ender crossed into a busy street. Car brakes squealed, and horns honked all around him. The gathering from the steps of the hall poured across the sidewalk, and soon the busy road became deadlocked with automobiles and pedestrians.
Ender gulped a stomach full of courage. To march on public streets, he was well aware that protests had to have permits and police to block traffic. Today he ignored the rules. His star as an environmentalist was fading fast and he desperately needed a jolt to make himself and his cause noteworthy again. As he paraded amongst the stopped cars and angry drivers, he shouted and ranted. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a reporter and cameraman scurrying close behind filming his fiasco. He smiled inwardly.
The large gathering of people from the park ran amok among the parked cars. Horns honked, and drivers rolled down their windows and swore at the walking stampede that had closed the street. The professor held his head high and avoided the glaring eyes of the disrupted drivers while he continued marching down the center of the four-lane thoroughfare.
Behind him, he heard arguments break out between drivers and protestors. Several times he slowed long enough to peer back over his shoulder only to find protesters smashing their signs against the automobiles stopped by the number of pedestrians walking in the street. Somewhere along the way, the arguments between protesters and motorists grew fiercer. Protestors collided with annoyed drivers as fights erupted. Before long the demonstrators were grabbing anything they found loose along their travels and tossed the objects at the idling cars.
Just ahead of the police sirens, Professor Ender stopped outside the main doors to Pensworth Oil and Gas. There he instructed the volunteers with the audio equipment to set up. Ender carefully watched the expression on Lucas’ face as the troupe stopped at doors to the massive tower. Lucas’s face turned a scarlet hue. A good sign or bad Professor Ender couldn’t tell. He grabbed the microphone and launched into another inspired speech.
“Here we are ladies and gentlemen, face to face with capitalist greed and environmental corruption. The man who owns this tower is one of the richest oil barons and dare I say an enemy of the earth. Profits before people might as well be his motto. How much of our planet has had to be destroyed to fill the insatiable lust for power and money shown by companies of this ilk.”
The professor paused for effect and to give himself a second to compose the next words out of his mouth. His eyes roamed the streaming tide of protesters still weaving around the stalled traffic to join him. To his delight, he spotted several reporters and news cameras.
Time to execute his plan involving the young Pensworth. “Lucas Pensworth 2nd, the CEO of Pensworth Oil and Gas, a man so eager to add to his bulging bank account that the destruction of our planet is of little consequence.” Ender clutched his microphone in one hand as he used his free hand to drag Lucas 3rd into the spotlight.
“I would like to introduce you to Lucas Pensworth 3rd.” Lucas’ clothes were wrinkled and stained. The boy’s eyes a dark red from the late night of drugs and lack of sleep. Professor Ender droned on working the fired up crowd. “All the money in the world and Lucas’ father hasn’t got the decency to do what comes naturally to most parents. Take care of your family first. No, the man running this out of control energy behemoth is too busy lining his pockets and the pockets of his shareholders. The environment and his son be damned.” The crowd cheered and waved signs. Ender placed the microphone in front of Lucas’ mouth.
“Is there something you’d like to add Lucas?” the professor asked. Lucas’ face reddened. Enders watched nervously. Did he make a mistake and rush into this. Would the boy forget the anger he displayed toward his father? The crowd cheered Lucas’ name. Lucas stared through bloodshot eyes at the throng of people looking back then he turned and looked at the front doors of the building. Professor Ender held his breath. His whole career hung in the balance of Lucas’ decision.
Lucas mumbled a string of incoherent words. Scared of what the boy might do the professor gulped and asked Lucas to repeat his words. Lucas thought back to the meeting at the chancellor’s office where his father had helped humiliated him instead of taking his side. The stinging words his father had spoken echoed off the walls of his brain. He locked eyes with Ender then reached a hand for the microphone. “I said you are right Professor Enders,” he spoke quietly. “The man running this company doesn’t care about anyone only his damn money.” Lucas’ face grew an angry shade of purple, his voice increased in volume. “Where do these people get off shoving us to the curb?”
His addled brain was twisting the events of his father’s words and his removal from the university as he now saw himself as the innocent victim not the cause of the problem. Lucas yelled into the microphone before handing it back to the professor. “ITS TIME WE FOUGHT BACK,” he said while grabbing a metal speaker stand and heading for the front doors of the office tower.
Professor Ender welcomed his two guests into the massive hotel suite. Swinging his arm he gestured toward the opulent setting. “Make yourselves at home,” he announced and led the way to a bar in the back corner. “Drinks?”
Serving his new associates the professor stood in front of them. “A salute to fate for our opportune meeting and to a relationship that will bode well for our mutual beliefs in saving the earth from the greedy and the wasteful.” Ender’s eyes twinkled over the lip of his glass as he studiously watched the facial expressions of the young Pensworth. His little introductory speech had worked numerous times before as he inducted new sheep into his climate cult, although not many with as rich a father as this one.
“Lucas. Why don’t you go and clean yourself up. I will call downstairs and have them send up new clothes for you,” Ender oozed the charm. “Just set those old clothes you are wearing aside, I’ll have them taken care of.” The professor pointed the way to the large main bathroom.
Anthony Enders watched Lucas 3rd weave across the floor toward the bathroom. His eyes switched quickly stopping to rest on his other guest. The edges of his lips curled “Young Pensworth’s girl would probably be quite fetching if she cleaned up a bit,” he selflessly thought to himself before he pivoted and crossed the room for a couch parked in front of the fireplace.
Lucas stepped into the large tiled bathroom. His body was starting to itch uncontrollably like his skin was infested. He absently scratched his arm all to aware of his condition. Even with his laggard brain he knew the warning signs of his body crashing as the last residues of drugs left his body.
Lucas closed the door and from behind bloodshot eyeballs he caught a glimpse in the bathroom mirror as he passed. An unrecognizable face stared back at him. Pausing briefly he leaned on the countertop and studied his reflection. His face twisted and his eyes a bleeding red. The hair on his head that he so carefully kept groomed sticking in all directions. The clothes draped over his body wrinkled and stained. Disgusted at the man looking back from the other side he turned away, his eyes roaming the inside of the room.
His attention stopped at the medicine cabinet to the side of the double sinks. With a lurch he tore open the door and rifled through the small collection of bottles on the middle shelf. Grabbing one that looked promising he drew it closer and after a cursory look threw it onto the counter. Then with a faster tempo brought on by urgency he pawed and discarded the other containers.
“The strongest stuff in here is this shit,” he groaned then slammed the cabinet door closed. Any thoughts of a shower and clean clothes now a mute point. Lucas scratched harder at one arm then the other, the crawling under his skin getting worse. Lucas ripped open the bathroom door and stormed back into the spacious front room of the suite.
“No. I’m not really that kind of a scientist. You could say I am self taught on the science of climate warming,” the professor cheerily expounded to the young lady who sat perched close to him on the couch. She gazed at him with a look of awe. He chose his words carefully, “I taught art history before the calling came upon me.” The professor laughed, “Besides, there are some groups who are deeply concerned with the decline of the environment. People with very deep pockets who help fund my planet saving crusade.” He said with earnest then winked at Alice while using his arm to proudly show off the interior of the grand suite.
“I need some money!” Lucas barked startling the two. In Lucas’ mind he was certain that the professor had hired him, why else bring him here. And if he was working for this guy then he should be paid. Fair is fair he thought as he stood staring down at the surprised faces glancing up from the couch?
“Pardon me,” the professor said. “Pensworth Oil and Gas must be worth billions. I am sure that the son of the company CEO must have money enough of his own?” Professor Ender’s heart raced. He eyed the disheveled man standing across the room. Although he had mildly entertained this thought he had banked on convincing the young Pensworth to pull out his wallet and support his cause. Faced with the possibility of Lucas being broke frightened the professor.
The crowd that had been funding his environmental journey was about to cut off the flow of funds. Professor Ender’s bills had grown to staggering amounts and the groups were now balking at the lack of media attention his campaigns produced lately. His golden goose was running out of eggs. He took a slow look around the hotel suite. His days of plush hotel rooms, limos and first class travel were quickly coming to an end unless he found new resources or convinced his backers that he was still worth their time and money.
Professor Enders’ mind raced as he realized the kid might well be broke. He stalled. He could still use the kid if he planned things right. Turning back to face Lucas he pulled a smile back on his face to hide his disappointment. “What happened to your money, son?” he asked with faked concern.
The question caught Lucas off guard. He didn’t want to confess to being robbed in the park especially since he was in a drug-induced state. Thinking quickly he pieced together a lie to gain the professor’s sympathy, “My father,” Lucas mumbled quietly, “Took my money away.” Then remembering his stolen car. “And my car.” Why not blame the bastard for everything Lucas justified, “My old man doesn’t care about me…” Lucas gained momentum, the lie starting to form easily, “yesterday…my…old man…he conspired with the Chancellor at the university to have me expelled and then he kicked me to the curb.” Lowering his eyes to the carpet, Lucas Pensworth 3rd went silent.
Professor Enders contemplated the young Pensworth’s words. Enders considered himself well informed and from what he recalled hearing about Lucas Pensworth, he highly doubted that the man standing before him was entirely lacking in blame for his current situation. Still, he hid his own views and considered the gains to be made by having the young Pensworth on his team. The kid might be broke but the family profile might possibly be of use.
“How much money do you need?” Professor Enders asked. Lucas hummed and hawed. A fire was crawling through his body as the drugs wore off preventing him from having any sort of coherent thoughts. Lucas became agitated. His lack of money for drugs brought back the burning anger toward his father. The twisted lies combined with shakes brought on by withdrawal consumed his body told him to hurry while his brain screamed for another fix. “Five hundred should do,” Lucas looked the professor in the eye.
Anthony Enders eyes widened then he reigned in his surprise. “That’s a lot of money, son,” he replied calmly. “May I inquire what that’s for?”
Lucas glared back, “You’re just like my father.” Lucas continued staring at the professor, his breathing deepened. The need for his next fix pounding on his brain, his stomach lurching. “Medicine,” he finally answered, “I’m sick. I need some medicine.”
Enders carefully considered his options. If he gave Lucas the money would he see the young Pensworth again and if he didn’t then the boy would surely leave. Turning the problem over in his mind it dawned on him that the solution was sitting a cushion over from where he sat. “If I loan you the money you promise you will return?” Professor Enders brow furrowed as he gazed intently at Lucas. An idea popped into the professor’s head, “You said you wanted to join our cause. Consider the money an advance on your wages.” His eyes left Lucas and focused on the girl sitting a cushion over. He continued, “Alice, would you mind accompanying Lucas. Make certain he returns. I will be needing his services tomorrow.”
Alice’s eyes grew wide as the attention focused on her. “No. No I can’t,” she replied, “I had better be going.” She shifted to leave. A façade of concern appeared on Enders’ face as he leaned forward and patted Alice’s knee.
“I can see that you take the destruction of our climate very deeply. Think of the good you can do for this planet. Alice. I would like to offer you a job also? Mr. Pensworth 3rd appears in desperate need of a friend at this moment, someone to help him through this troubling time.” Enders watched her nod her head in approval. “I will call my driver. Tell him where you need to go Lucas.”
Anthony Enders watched as the hotel door closed behind his two new employees. He realized that without a doubt Lucas Pensworth 3rd would be a train wreck by morning. Enders smiled. He would drag the boy with him back to the steps of city hall early the next day and prove to the world that the same kind of capitalist monsters running the huge energy companies not only cared little about the environment but they put profits before people, even their own children.
With a few well-placed calls to the media and the Pensworth kids famous last name he might be able to return some fire to his dying climate crusade and change the minds of his fleeing financial backers.
In the back seat of the limo Lucas repeated the number to his old room. “Ask for Donkey,” he explained. “Tell him where the car is and have him come to meet me,” he issued his final instructions as Alice closed the door and walked across the dew-licked grass toward the dorm building. Fifteen minutes later Alice retraced her steps, Lucas’ roommate lagging behind her. Alice stood to the side while Donkey timidly poked his head into the car. Seeing his friend he hopped onto the seat.“ Score dude. Where’d you get the wheels?
Lucas explained as much as he remembered from the last day before showing Donkey the wad of cash. “What will this buy me?”
Lucas waded into the crowd gathered on the steps. Pushing and shoving he fought his way through against protests from the demonstrators, clustered tight and listening to the environmentalist. Lucas ignored the crude remarks directed his way as he continued his squeeze to the front.
In frustration, a member of the crowd stuck their foot out tripping Lucas as he moved toward an open space in front of the crowd. Lucas let loose a grunt as he tumbled onto the hard concrete of the steps. The speaker halted his speech watching as the spectacle stumbled toward the dais.
With a look of disdain emphasized with a furrowed brow, the man behind the microphone took in the haggard appearance of Lucas rising from the cold steps. “Who are you?” he asked.
Lucas staggered to his feet using his hands to brush the dust from his clothes. His glassy eyes were blinking rapidly as his mind fought to catch up with his movements. “Lucas,” he mumbled under the speakers daunting stare. “I want to join your group,” Lucas weakly replied holding out a filthy hand.
The speaker motioned with his arm at the surrounding throngs of protesters. “You’re here. You are already a part of our movement. All of us belong to the same fraternity in our fight to save the planet, you don’t have to drop to your knees in front of me for that,” the speaker mocked Lucas, his words drawing laughter from the crowd.
“You don’t understand,” Lucas struggled for words as he surveyed the faces of the crowd gawking back at him then turned his attention back to the man behind the microphone. “I want to work for you. I want to help you bring down the greedy bastards.”
“What greedy bastards are you referring to?” the speaker questioned with a tone of amusement.
“The…companies responsible…for…” Lucas’ foggy mind searched for the right words to explain his angry thoughts, his muddled brain racing to quantify his actions“…stealing the oil from the ground…for their selfish purposes…and then looking down their noses at me…at us,” Lucas spat the last words out.
Smiling benignly the speaker regarded Lucas as one would a small child, “We all want that.” The environmentalist threw both arms wide indicating the demonstrators gathered on the steps of city hall. “Go back to your place and try not to interrupt again.” He chastised then started to turn back to his speech. Alice broke free of the crowd and grabbed Lucas’ arm to guide him away. The speaker eyes snapped back and locked on Lucas’ face.
“Hey, aren’t you that young Pensworth? Your dad, he owns a multinational oil conglomerate, doesn’t he?” the speaker asked. Lucas jerked free of Alice’s arms and glared back up at the man beside the dais.
“LUCAS!” he shouted, “My name is just Lucas.”
“Yes. Yes of course. Lucas, nice to make your acquaintance,” the speaker corrected and climbed the steps down to where Lucas and Alice stood. “Professor Enders. Anthony Enders.” This time, the speaker shot his hand forward in greeting. “Stick close you two. We can talk more once I’m finished speaking.”
Alice pulled Lucas aside and helped him to a seat as the speech resumed. She divided her attention between Professor Ender’s inspired commentary about saving the fragile environment and the young drug-wasted man she had first helped on the park grounds. The young man was now garnering the careful watch of the professor as the rally passed from daylight well into darkness.
Lucas dozed on and off as Alice stood guard. The assembly on the lawns of city hall flitted around the park. Small clusters of protesters left the steps and soon tents began springing up, several open bonfires blazed with people drinking and chanting.
The street lighting fell over Lucas’ face as his mind drifted out of a drug-sorted nightmare one last time. Groggily he stared at Alice and then further out at the worked up assembly of chanting activists. Scratching his head, he glanced up at Alice’s face breaking his silence,” you don’t have anything to smoke, do you?”
Alice returned the look and with a motherly smile, she stuffed her hands into her fanny pack and using her back to shield her actions she expertly rolled a joint and placed it between Lucas’ lips. Cupping her hands in front of his face she held a lighter close to the end of the slender paper roll.
Lucas drew in a long breath and sat motionless as the pungent smoke filled the cavities of his lungs. With a loud cough, he expelled the smoke. “Thanks,” he muttered. The two remained quiet as the speaker finished his ranting before walking their way.
The professor’s bodyguards cleared a path through clambering activists on a route straight for Lucas and Alice. The smiling bearded face of Professor Ender beamed. “Follow me,” he said momentarily pausing for the two to stand before resuming his walk close behind the bodyguards and away from the crowds. Professor Ender walked without talking. In the parking lot, he stopped at a long black limo motioning for the two to join him inside.
“George. Drive us to the hotel,” the Professor called to his driver. “Tell me young Lucas. How does someone of your stature end up looking like a homeless man?”
Lucas stared out the limo windows at the passing city, “It’s a long story. I…”
“Your dad, the CEO of a multinational oil company, threw you out. Is that it? He’s so focused on company profits that he hasn’t the time for his own son,” the Professor interrupted.
“No. Not exactly,” Lucas started again. He tried to remember the reason why he was in the park in the first place, but his mind was empty. All that stood out was the burning anger he felt toward his father and at the moment, his drug-influenced brain failed to fill in the blanks.
“It is nothing to be ashamed of, young man. You don’t have to make excuses, I’ve known a lot of people in your situation,” the Professor cut Lucas off again. “Relax. We can talk at the hotel."
The Professor’s mind was also reeling from the fateful meeting of a person of Lucas Pensworth 3rd position. With the proper maneuvering, the professor realized he could exploit the young man for huge gains to his cause. Even if he couldn’t squeeze money out of the young man, he would certainly be able to use the boy’s connection to such a wealthy family to further his credibility and grow his faux environmental status.
Be cautious, move slowly, and don’t scare the boy away, the professor reminded himself as he turned his smiling face to peer at the unsuspecting young man sitting across from him in the back of the limo.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.