/ Saturday, March 18th, 2006 /
“Are you sure you can handle this?” Vickers asks aloud, both he and Taylor standing beside Grant as the lavish elevator they occupy ascends. “Grant, you just buried your brother yesterday” Taylor murmurs, “I’m sure we can work out a postponement.” Vehemently refusing to consider any of the options offered, Grant silences the conversation, standing by his decision with his foot down.
“I can’t put this off forever, and quite frankly, I’d much rather get this all over with” Grant replies, hands held toward his hips, their palms aimed evenly to the ground. Resigning to the man’s unwillingness to budge, Taylor and Vickers silence for a moment before the latter tries one final time. “Even if she pressed charges, we could get you out in a day and have all of them dropped” Vickers adds, “I’m sure the one night behind bars would be worth avoiding this.”
“I have to do this, Sam” Grant responds, looking back at Taylor, his eyes affording the woman an apologetic glance. Knowing this situation to be out of Grant’s control, Taylor gives the man a smile, the bell of the elevator chirping the moment upon reaching its destination. Sliding open, the doors reveal an exquisite interior, the lavish luxuries of a penthouse slapping all three of its guests in the face.
“This is unfair to all of humanity” Taylor mutters beneath her breath, the first to step off of the lift. Following the woman shortly thereafter, Sam stands in the foyer and shares a look back toward the platform, both he and Taylor watching Grant build up the confidence to step forward. As a puff of air leaves his lungs, Grant gingerly steps out of the elevator, feeling a cold air rush over his body the moment his feet touch solid ground.
Both remorse for his past actions and fear for the ones he will make in the future, Grant scans the area he’s just entered, the doors behind him closing to seal off the only exit. “You alright?” Vickers asks, the tone of his voice replicating that of a concerned father, his hand held out in the event Grant would need guidance forward. In nearly the same breath as Vickers’ attempt at comfort, a man strolls around the corner at the foyer’s end, arms extended with a devilish smirk.
“Grant Haste!” Howard’s familiar voice calls out, another chill coming over Grant’s spine as he stares, too rigid to move. “I think we have a lot to talk about!” Howard exclaims, waving over for the man with the fakest smile one could imagine being met with. Stepping forward collectively, the trio are stood in their places, Howard reminding them that he dictates the rules of how this confrontation works.
“He comes alone, you stay back here and wait” Howard proclaims, Taylor immediately lurking forward to call his demands into question. Before the woman can get anywhere, Grant pulls her arm back, looking her in the eyes calmly. Opening his mouth to speak, Grant stutters for a moment, their collective worry fading at the look they share with each other.
Easing his grip on the woman’s arm, Grant allows his hand to fall, removing itself from the soft cotton of Taylor’s shirt, rotating his hand and resting the knuckles of his finger on her shoulder. “I’ll be alright” Grant explains, giving Taylor a comforting grin, a gesture in which she reciprocates, her efforts slightly stunted by the obvious uneasiness settling over her.
“Be careful in there” Vickers says, pulling the man around until Grant’s back faces the awaiting fiend at the end of the hall. “You just make sure you play into your strengths- and into his weaknesses” Vickers commands, sliding a pen into Grant’s blazer pocket and patting him in much the same spot. “You have all the leverage and all of the control” Vickers continues, lowering his voice further upon the final approaching reminder, “just let him think he dictates the pace.”
With a smile, Vickers pats the man on the sides of his face, understanding his role as conscious mediator and taking the fatherly approach to heart. With a wink, Vickers allows Grant to turn back, Howard dressed in business casual attire for the occasion. “Follow” Howard insists, watching Grant pause for a moment before confidently striding forward, both Taylor and Vickers stood back, watching the man depart as if offering him a goodbye.
= Tonight at 9 is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
Groggy, Aiden pulls himself out of bed and rubs at his eyes, the harsh morning sun blinding him each time his eyelids part even the slightest bit. Walking through his morning routine, the man hears the door to his apartment swing open and slam shut in nearly the same motion, startling him. In a rush of adrenaline, Aiden storms out of his bedroom door and holds his fist in the air, glancing into the kitchen to find an amused man standing in a sweaty t-shirt, eating a handful of cereal.
“Please tell me you didn’t think anyone would be scared at this sight when I know for a fact that you just woke up” the man pleads, Aiden immediately suggesting otherwise. “Shane, I’m telling you, one day you’re not gonna be the person shoving that door open” Aiden explains, “and when that day comes, I’ll be ready.”
With a smirk, Shane holds back laughter and nods, replying “yeah yeah, okay” before shoveling the circular grains into his mouth. “How the fuck do you wake up so fucking early?” Aiden mutters beneath his breath, “I go home from work on a Friday night and you’re practically already awake.”
His hands thrown out to either side, the young man, now amidst an effort to remove the headphones from around his neck, reminds his roommate of one crucial detail. “We work at the same place and we both work the same hours” Shane explains, a notion Aiden is quick to dismiss. “I work as the executive producer of a national broadcast!” Aiden shouts, “You're an associate producer- and you haven’t even been there for a year!”
His hands held in the air as if to mockingly surrender, Shane apologizes for the easy mistake. “I’m so sorry, Aiden! I forgot how much different sitting at a desk and wearing a microphone for an hour a night truly is” the man shouts back, jokingly patting his roommate on the shoulder with a smile as a knock comes from the door. Pulling it open, Shane greets the woman on the other end with a welcoming “hello.”
“Hi, you ready for the second loop?” the woman on the other side asks aloud, Shane agreeing to meet her outside the complex in a short minute. Removing his shirt and taking on a drier one, Shane hurries to get himself situated for yet another workout, something Aiden finds himself baffled by. “I don’t get why you do this to yourself” Aiden admits, “you let your girlfriend run you all around New York City, like a second-in-command, for what?”
His displeasure with the act of working out until the point of near-unconsciousness showing vividly, Aiden listens to Shane strike both below the belt and above in one motion. “I let my smoking hot girlfriend run me around New York City so I don’t end up like you…” Shane replies, “sleeping in all weekend and spending the afternoons with my dick in my hand thinking about Carly.”
Finger raised, Aiden defends his position whilst Shane walks away, throwing a jacket over his shoulders to fight the frigid Northeastern-March air. “I do not jerk off to Carly!” Aiden shouts back, a pleased Shane turning as he walks further towards the door. “Don’t even try to pass that nonsense off on me!” Shane calls out to Aiden, “her name is practically written on your tissue box at this point!”
With that final remark, Shane dashes through the door, audibly slamming it shut before Aiden can even manage a rebuttal. With a brief look of amused shame on his face, Aiden’s expression goes to one of relaxed comfort, opening his laptop upon his legs as he sits at the couch, focusing on the written reports before him.
“You’ve made a really big mess, Grant” Howard explains, his arms swinging by his hips in the least intimidating posture, scolding Grant as if he were a petulant child. “I’ve genuinely been trying to help you since the day you sat at our desk for the first time” Howard explains, “trying to teach you the ropes, how the unspoken codes worked, how to get far in this industry… I did it all out of the kindness of my heart.”
Stopping in his place at the uttering of that last line, Grant watches his former co-anchor waltz to a sofa opposite himself and sink into the soft, welcoming cushions. “And you took all of what I taught you, stabbed me in the back and moved onto some comfy gig up in New York” Howard explains, “not only that, but you smeared my character on national television for the entire world to see… Completely stabbing me in the back.”
His nostrils flaring, Grant stands in the place he stopped, arms hanging by his sides as his fingers tense, spreading out at his hips to keep the tendons from pulling his hand into a noticeable fist, doing his best to uphold appearances. “You did a bad thing” Grant replies, mocking the simplicity of Howard’s description with one of equal treatment, “you did a truly awful, heinous, despicable thing- and expected me to lie about it.”
Hand held in the air, four of Howard’s fingers fall back into his palm until only one remains, his index finger held toward the sky and extended at Grant, stopping him in his place. “I didn’t expect you to lie about it, I suggested you lie about it for your own good” Howard clarifies, “and not only do you mince those words, but you stand here, in my living room, pretending you didn’t still lie about it anyway.”
“I told the truth!” Grant shouts back, his words not wasting a moment of silence upon Howard’s response, which only prompts Howard to do just the same as Grant. “You told the truth after months of silence!” Howard retorts, “but when you could have done something about it then, you chose to stay silent and lie to police.”
Mouth shut, Grant stares angrily at Howard, the man sitting patiently, awaiting Grant’s next words. “Am I wrong or is that exactly what happened?” Howard asks, noticing his answer to not come from Grant without persuasion, his head tilting to the side as he notices the nerve he’s struck deep within Grant’s soul. “Am I wrong or am I right?” Howard asks again, his voice raising the longer Grant stands before him in complete silence.
“You’re right!” Grant shouts back, the reminder of his actions being beaten into his head, again and again, by the man that prompted them in the first place. “I may have done the wrong thing then, but so did you” Grant explains, watching Howard sink back into his seat, smiling at the man he once considered his protege. “The difference between you and I is that I, eventually, came around to doing the right thing” Grant explains, “And I acknowledged my own wrong doings in the same breath.”
Amused, Howard shakes his head and stands from the comfort of his couch, walking over to a side table with exotic alcohol in no rush. “My actions are the actions taken from thousands upon thousands of other people every single day” Howard replies, turning to Grant with a half-filled glass of vodka, “I had some fun.” With an arrogant smile, Howard turns back toward his kitchen, calling out for Grant to follow after him, the man he lets follow snarling.
His fingers racing across the keyboard as if they were competing with each other, Aiden loses himself in thought, emptying the ideas inside his head into the screen before him. Suddenly, the man’s fingers stop sprinting across the machine in his lap, coming to a strict halt and dangling in mid-air as he stares into the corner of his screen, lost. His head hung, his fingers finally fell to the empty pockets of metal beneath the keyboard, and his eyes redirected to his phone.
Nothing more to offer than the time in the small square within the phone’s case, Aiden stares blankly regardless, almost considering his options silently. Contemplating his next actions, the man stares blindly for another few seconds before eventually looking back towards his computer screen, the white light covering his face and highlighting his brown eyes.
After another few seconds, the door to the man’s apartment finally flies open, Shane returning inside with his girlfriend in his arms, the pair locking lips as if there were no other resident inside. Their jackets taken off and dropped onto the ground to reveal a pair of sweat-soaked shirts, the pair continue to go about their day, Shane carrying the woman into the room at the end of the hall and slamming the door shut.
Shrugging this off, Aiden returns to work, continuing to allow his fingers to dash across the keyboard for another minute before coming to a complete stop yet again. The slight vibration of furniture dragging across the ground is nothing unfamiliar, Aiden finds it impossible to work any longer the moment the moaning and groaning from the end of the hall becomes rampant.
Having gone to work almost immediately, Shane already brings the woman into a world of pleasure, a reality that forces Aiden to call it a day, closing his laptop and tossing it onto the other end of the couch. In a quick moment, the man takes off for his room and throws on a jacket himself, his feet leaping into shoes just moments before he takes himself through the front door.
Descending the staircase of his apartment complex, Aiden is overcome with the wash of cruel light, the movie-like shade of uneasy green coming over the cramped corridors. Only a few stories to walk down, Aiden soon comes to the exit of his building, hands stretched out to push the doors in, immediately blinding the home-body man with a staggering amount of sunlight. Promoted to throw his hand over his eyes, the man staggers, gradually accepting the bright sunlight.
His eyes adjusting to the new environment, Aiden is left standing there, the door shutting behind him as he looms aimlessly on the sidewalk. Not having thought his actions farther ahead than this, the man glances down both sides of the walkway and chooses one at random. Hands in his pockets, the man ventures into the neighbourhood at random, not caring where the roads lead him, only wishing that they take him somewhere.
“Why am I here?” Grant asks aloud, the man still strutting his way through the apartment without concern, only a half-smile on his face as he approaches the terrace. Stepping outside, Howard leans over the railing overlooking downtown Manhattan. Standing in the doorway, Grant stares blankly at the man, refusing to step any further. “You coming out here?” Howard asks aloud, his guest watching him turn with glee.
“I’m gonna stay here…” Grant replies, his tone becoming defensive, “...away from the edge of the building you could throw me off.” With a chuckle, Howard takes the glass of liquor to his mouth, staring out over the view, high enough into the New York skyline that the knees of those afraid of heights would grow weak beneath their body weight. “Ninety-seven stories in the air, Grant” Howard calls out, “this is the life you could have had if you just kept your mouth shut.”
Finally showing some emotion in his face once again, Grant chuckles to himself, hanging his head both out of humour and in order to shield himself from the awful sunlight above. “Unfortunately for you, I have some human decency” Grant replies, Howard forcibly puckering his lips and shaking his head in refusal. “I’m disappointed you can’t see as far into the future as I do” Howard explains, “we’re quickly getting to a point where only the cheaters and bad people are going to prosper.”
Growing tired of Howard’s words, Grant stands there silently, growing angrier with each syllable Howard allows to leave his lips, his once coworker growing pleased with the horrible future he paints. “The government will be nothing more than a bunch of collective puppets” Howard invisions, “the only way for individuals to contain power… True power… Will be to create influence.”
His hands held firmly by his side, Grant drowns out the words Howard shares, watching the man lean further out with ease, almost tempting Grant to just lay in a good shove. Nothing more than the muffled sounds of whatever Howard’s trying to say fluttering through his head, Grant considers it, thinking about the justice that would be served, even if it were to come at his own expense.
For a moment in time, Grant truly considers murdering Howard in broad daylight, just lunging forward and shoving the man over the horrifyingly high ledge. In his eyes, Grant would be doing the world a great service, Howard’s muffled nonsense no longer needed to be heard by anyone, let alone himself.
Despite the flurry of thoughts running that come over him, Grant spends only a few short seconds considering the choice made available, only needing such few seconds to go from consideration to outright refusal. “There’s going to come a time where it’s easier than ever to make your name known, to make your words heard” Howard explains, “and when that day comes, power will be given to the people… And if you think I’m evil, you should take a look at them.”
“I don’t care about this sob story you’re trying to paint me, Howard” Grant finally exclaims, refusing to bend the knee any further, or allow Howard to dictate the discourse any further than he already had. “You asked me to come here and talk to you… You had your lawyer come in and force me into all of this” Grant recalls, watching Howard turn back to him undisturbed, “now get to the point or I’m going back to that foyer and walking out.”
Now pressing one arm against the glistening metal bannister, Howard looks back out at the city, glancing down to the massive fall below before nodding to himself. “You sure you wanna cut to the chase?” Howard asks, putting a small concern over Grant at the moment, only for the visitor to double down, no longer wanting to spend any more time in this palace of filth than he already has.
“Alright then, you can’t blame me when you don’t like what you see” Howard replies, returning to Grant, who backs away to keep himself a proper distance from the patio. With a smirk, Howard brushes past Grant, walking further into the home, settling on concluding their interaction.
The bell above the entrance ringing as Aiden steps in, a bustling coffee shop filled with men and women adorned in workplace attire is joined by the casual look Aiden sports. Stepping into line, the man stares at the cafe menu, his eyes running down the length of cardboard, taking the items he desires into his brain and eliminating each thing, one after another, until he’s satisfied.
“That’s nowhere near business casual, Aiden” a feminine voice calls out from behind, her words spoken nearly right behind his ears. In the moment it takes him to leap forward in surprise and regain his composure, Aiden becomes a completely different man, his look of shock turning into one of great joy. Stood behind him, Carly awaits the line’s progression with her bag over her shoulder, an LMC sweatshirt draped over her arms, their out-of-work appearance foreign to each other.
“Hey!” the only word leaving Aiden’s mouth, Carly apologising for startling him before he can pull off anything better. “No! It’s a wonderful scare!” Aiden exclaims, both unable to stop smiling until a different realisation dawns over the man, his eyes looking around the cafe before any other word can leave his lips, yet again.
“Where’s Juno?” Aiden asks, Carly looking at the man with a now-half smile, her head tilting to the side. “I can’t go to a cafe without my boyfriend?” Carly asks, her words suggesting offence, but her tone offering the idea said the question is asked frequently. “I didn’t mean anything like that” Aiden replies, lying through his teeth, “he’s just with you a lot and I didn’t want to be rude and not say ‘hi’.”
Her lips puckering for a moment, Carly nods, stating that she understands what he means, that being the truth both internally and externally. “I’ve never seen you in anything less than a button-down” Carly says, switching the topic of conversation to Aiden’s gym attire, “you just get out of a workout?” His mouth opening without any words to follow, once again, Aiden slowly lifts his finger toward the woman, thinking about his answer carefully.
“Yes?” the man answers in the form of a question, a gesture which allows Carly to answer herself. “I hope you know I’m going to take that as a ‘no’, right?” Carly wonders, Aiden accepting defeat, coming clean. “I’ve never seen you pull off anything less than a skirt and pearls either, but you still amaze me” Aiden responds, genuinely flattering the woman, assisted by the surprisingly smooth delivery of it.
Exchanging pleasantries, the pair move forward with the line, continuing to look at each other with smiles, neither sharing words any longer, only losing themselves in each other’s faces. In a moment of realisation, Aiden shakes out of his aimless gaze, Carly embarrassingly doing much the same, the pair in as much wonder as school children with a crush.
Trading apologies, the pair remain in line, silently smiling to themselves at the thought of the strange encounter. Biting into her lower lip, Carly looks back to the menu, Aiden’s glance much the same, her eyes unable to keep focus on the overhead boards. Shaking her head, Carly breaks from her cross-armed posture and grabs Aiden’s arm, pulling him out of line and through the entry of the store, the pair running off into the city like two star-crossed lovers.
“Do you remember meeting me after you got the co-anchor gig?” Howard asks back, Grant refusing to speak any further until Howard gives him the answer he’s looking for. “Well, if you’re going to give me the silent treatment, I guess I’ll have to talk to myself” Howard explains, “you just stand there like a freak and listen.”
Clearing his throat, Howard continues further, the longer the pair walk, the darker the penthouse becomes, the natural light pouring in from the vast amount of windows replaced by a bright, orange glow. “I told you there were going to be many perks to this job, and that, if you played your cards right, you could ride those perks all the way to the tippity top” Howard persists, turning back toward Grant with a smile, “I wanted to know how you would play your cards.”
Setting his glass on a side table, Howard turns to Grant and removes the pen from his pocket, dropping it into the cup of liquor and watching it spark. “You didn’t even know the old man planted a mic on you, which shows me you don’t know how to properly play a hand” Howard mocks, reaching out for the door behind him and grasping the knob, “but I’ve got a pretty good hand and an astounding poker face.”
Beckoning for those on the other side, Howard waits by the half-opened door with a smile, looking at Grant with the smug expression of a kid having proven his parents wrong. Before Grant can speak, a woman walks through the door’s opening, standing by the side of Howard as Grant’s face shifts from concern to shock. “Why the fuck is Jessica here?” Grant calls out, the pair of clattering footsteps leaving the foyer and hurrying towards the location of the shout.
“Here’s one thing that your little friends over there should have made clear to you” Howard remarks, watching Vickers and Taylor hurry to them, “money is power, power is influence, and influence is control.” Closing his eyes in disappointment, Vickers listens to the rest of the conversation, Taylor stood by his side, looking at Jessica with an overwhelming anger.
“Regardless of what you did, I have all the resources I need to keep this under control” Howard explains, “there is nothing you can do, on air or behind closed doors, to change that.” Rolling his eyes, Grant storms away from the new couple the moment Howard wraps his arm around her, his once-mentor calling for the man to turn back and listen to him with care.
Unwilling to obey any commands the man may have, Grant is consumed by anger, looking towards the bannister and remembers the option he chose not to take. Somewhere inside, deep within his soul, Grant blames himself for the sights he’s allowed to be made, Howard calling the man’s name once again.
Enraged, Grant allows himself to be faced with the punishment of not having ended the misery when he had the chance, turning back toward Howard for what the abuser has sentenced him to. “I told you that we anchors are supposed to look after each other- we’re supposed to have each other’s backs” Howard recalls, “you were told that you didn’t see anything, but apparently, you had your eyes open the whole time… Now we need to fix that.”
Leaving Jessica’s side, Howard walks past Vickers and Taylor, both of whom wish to kill the man the moment he enters their area. Finally, after a few more steps, Howard meets with Grant, up close and personal. “You tried to end my career, and unfortunately for you, you didn’t hear me when I warned you the first time around” Howard whispers, “now that I know how you play your cards, I’m gonna bankrupt you… And then I’m gonna ruin your life.”
Having heard enough, Vickers and Taylor walk back toward Grant, Taylor peering at Jessica with a scowl for a moment before doing so. “Let’s go, Grant” Vickers exclaims, roughly taking the man beneath his arm and leading him away whilst Howard waves, the trio returning the way they came.
“He can’t do anything to you, we won't let him” Vickers explains, leading the man into the elevator and turning to face the doors. As the bell to confirm the selected floor beeps, Howard and Jessica turn the corner at the end of the hallway, the man wrapping his arm around his victim and waving with a smile. Visibly shaking in anger, both Grant and Taylor join Vickers in watching, the last sight before the doors close being the petty send-off from their newest, most-wanted figure.
== Tonight at 9 ==