The island of Manhattan has long been a home to men whose love of money is rivaled only by their love of themselves. The better part of the world’s power is concentrated in these few, greedy souls. Among them, however, there is one whose lust for power and money makes the rest seem tame. My name is Brian McMahon, and I am that man.
In my time on this island, I have been an advisor to many of the wealthiest entrepreneurs the world has known, I have served the state of New York as Attorney General, and I recently announced my candidacy for Governor. At the moment, however, my position does not appear so lofty. At a rally earlier today, a sniper put a bullet in my chest, and as I stare up into the blinding whiteness of God knows which hospital, I have decided that now is as good a time as any to recount the story of how I came to be here, for I may not have another chance.
Bear with me then, if you would, for this story is a rather lengthy one. It begins sixteen years ago, when I had just turned twenty-nine. At that age, I was the youngest partner in the history of Davis, Eagan, and Howell; the most prestigious law firm in the city. The day that my story really begins is shortly after I made partner. I am fairly certain that it was early autumn, because some of the leaves on the trees beneath my window were still green, while others had turned orange and red, as if the branches burned beneath me.
I sat in my new office, looking down at the fiery foliage, and on the other end of the phone was my colleague and closest friend, Jimmy O’Reilly. Jimmy was in an absolute panic because some little old lady was suing Simpson Manufacturing, perhaps the largest corporate client the firm had, for several million dollars. The lady’s husband had, in fact, died during a fall from one of Simpson’s ladders. The ladder had, in fact, been defective, and the geezer had not been the first to fall victim to the sub-standard welding practices of our client. He was, however, the first to die and his widow was the first to sue.
I was not interested in seeing any additions to that list. The list of lawsuits, of course, if others died I wouldn’t have lost any sleep. I allowed Jimmy to vent his fear and trepidation. He was a couple of years older than I was, but he did not have my composure. He was soft inside, like so many others. I was not soft, not even in my youth.
“Jim, calm down and listen carefully,” I purred into the phone, “everything is going to be fine. I need you to set up a meeting with the lady and her lawyer, and get me a conference room. I want you to put 5 people with us in the conference room with legal pads in front of them. It doesn’t matter if they are paralegals or bums off the street. Whoever they are, take them down to my tailor, tell him to put it on my tab, and make sure that they look like they belong in the room. I will take care of the rest.”
Jim began some crowing about how outlandish my instructions were, and how he needed more details or something to that effect. Honestly, I didn’t hear most of it because there was a blonde on the sidewalk below my office, and I found myself quite a bit more interested in her than I was in my esteemed colleague’s hissy fit. Once the blonde was out of sight and Jim seemed to be calming down I heard him ask, “What are you planning, Brian? I need to know.”
“Shock and awe, Jimmy. I have to let you go. There is a call on the other line,” I soothed. Jim started trying to ask more questions but he was silenced by an abrupt click. There was no call on the other line. I was just tired of listening to him rant about ethics. I stood and walked across a ten-thousand-dollar oriental rug that some older partner had given me for the office and opened the deep brown wooden door that led to my private restroom. I turned on the lights, which were too bright to be comfortable, and I splashed some cool water on my face. I looked in the mirror and examined myself thoroughly. In those days there were no wrinkles on the face, and there was not yet any gray hair around the temples. It was a similar face to the face I wear today in few respects, but the only things that have not changed at all are the eyes. Cold, blue, emotionless eyes stared back at me.
I have long held the belief that hunger is the difference between wild and domestic animals. When a creature is exposed to real hunger and desperation in its youth, the Hunger never really leaves it. The same goes for humans. I saw the Hunger in my eyes. Others saw it as well, which kept them from meeting my gaze. This was not a hunger that could be sated by food. This was the aimless thirst for power and control. This was ambition that knew no reason: the mark of a man who was neither soft, nor domesticated. I had not yet seen hunger in another person’s eyes in those days. Before very much longer I would.
In my office a shrill bell sounded, and roused me from my daydream. I walked slowly toward it, expecting it to be Jimmy calling me back. The caller ID did not bear his name, however. This was someone else.
Despite some small part of my being screaming out against it, I picked up the phone. “This is McMahon,” I said somewhat hesitantly.
“Mr. McMahon,” a very Brooklyn voice implored, “my employer was given your name and number by a client, and he is eager to meet with you.”
“Appointments are handled by our reception staff, I can give you their number if you like,” I said, walking the tightrope of being both dismissive and respectful at once.
“My employer would be extremely disappointed if that proved necessary, Mr. McMahon, especially after you came so highly recommended,” the voice spoke up. The way he emphasized the word highly made it sound like a threat, even though it was perhaps the least threatening part of that sentence. I shifted the phone to my shoulder and searched desperately for something to wipe my hands on, for they were suddenly slick with perspiration.
“And who are you?” I interrogated, feeling as though it were permissible to begin to show frustration at this point. I make it a point of never showing true emotion, but I have found that crafted, calculated emotion can get you very far if it is applied intelligently.
The voice laughed a little. “We will be in touch, Mr. McMahon.” Click. I don’t know if I ever recovered from that phone call for as long as I lived. I still don’t know what it was about it that unnerved me so badly. It certainly wasn’t what he said; it was more in the way he said it. There was a snake slithering between his words, hissing its malice while his voice spoke pleasantly. This was something I did not recognize from any other conversation I had ever had with another person, but it was still, somehow, familiar. It was the sound of ambition: the sound of Hunger.
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