Mr. Bernard S. Heidelbach,
Chief Financial Officer of Westfront International Investment Group, stepped
out of his taxi in front of its downtown Chicago destination. As he stepped out
onto the sidewalk, he looked up at the fifty-story high-rise office building
looming before him. He was impressed. The imposing structure looked like it was
made entirely of glass, and gave no hint of its structural inner workings.
As he dodged the late afternoon
pedestrians crossing through his path to the front door, the man noticed how
hot it was. It’s late August; of course it’s hot, he thought to himself.
An inner voice answered back, Yeah, but it’s not the heat making you sweat.
The little voice he rarely listened to was right. Despite the oppressive and
blistering temperatures radiating off the sidewalk baking the city’s walkers,
Heidelbach knew his discomfort was due to the significance of the meeting he
was about to have with the individual he had made an appointment to see only
He crossed the sidewalk and
entered the building through its massive revolving doors. As he walked into the
lobby, a cool air-conditioned breeze hit him full in the face, which did
nothing about his uncomfortably tight collar and the sweat rolling down his back
inside his suit. As he walked forward toward the empty hallway in front of him,
the man’s nervousness confirmed his problem was anxiety more than the
temperature outside. He was worried. He might very well be making a terrible
mistake in his approach to his appointment this afternoon. But he needed to
understand what was happening. He wanted some answers. He needed somebody to
explain what he saw yesterday.
the immense marble floor, the clacking sound of his leather shoes echoed in the
space around him, making it sound like he was part of a larger group. He wished
it were true; he could use some help for what he was about to do next. He
finally stopped and looked up at a colossal rolling archway above him. Curving
round the arch were the words, Cigam Draziw and Associates. He sounded
out words, “Ke-gum Dra-zoo. Definitely the right place,” he said,
apprehensively to himself; he straightened his tie. He passed beneath the
archway and toward the brass elevators waiting on the other side. As he pushed
the button and waited for the car to arrive, Mr. Heidelbach realized he didn’t
know what floor he was supposed to go to. He hurriedly reached inside his coat
and pulled out a small address book as the elevator doors opened with a snap.
He stepped into the car, looking at the name and address of his appointment; he
didn’t have the floor number.
“Great!” he said, irritated, as
he turned to look at the dark buttons on the panel before him. Which floor?
he thought nervously. “Well… he is the Chairman of the bank, isn’t he? So that
would put him on — the top floor.” He pushed the button highest up and to the
right on the panel. The button’s light glowed bright, but nothing happened. He
pushed it again… still the elevator doors would not close. “Hmmmm, now what?”
he said, looking at his watch to confirm the time.
“Yes, sir. May I help you?”
asked a pleasant voice from above. Mr. Heidelbach spun around quickly.
“Ahhh — yes, please. I’m
looking for the office of the Chairman. I have an appointment,” he explained,
still looking for the source of the woman’s voice. He saw a small black and
white monitor in the corner of the ceiling to his right with a young woman’s
face looking down at him.
“What is your name, sir?” asked
the woman sharply.
“Oh, of course… Mr. Bernard
Heidelbach of the Westfront Group,” he answered, turning to face her image
“Hold on, Mr. Heidelbach, let
me confirm your appointment with Mrs. McConnell, the Chairman’s executive
assistant,” she said, and then the monitor went black with a click.
After about thirty seconds, the
man began rocking back and forth on his feet and inspecting the walls of the
car around him. Stay calm, he thought to himself, think of something
totally unrelated. “Hmm, real bird’s wood,” he said, focusing on the walls
again inside the car. “Very nice; stuff goes for about two hundred dollars a
“Mr. Heidelbach?” came the
voice from the ceiling again.
“Yes…” the man replied with
jolt. This time the woman looking down at him was displaying a very nice smile
as she spoke.
“I am very sorry for your wait,
sir. I have confirmed your appointment. Please stand clear of the elevator
doors, and I’ll bring you up directly to the Chairman’s suite. Would you like
some coffee or some tea perhaps? Have you eaten lunch?” she asked amiably, with
that unrelenting smile.
“Ah — no. I’m fine, thank you.
You say I’ll be going directly to the Chairman’s office from this elevator?” he
asked, stretching his neck forward as if to hear her more clearly.
“Yes, sir. Mister Grayson
occupies the entire top floor.”
“Okay… well then — that’ll do,”
he finished, as he turned to face the doors again. There was a sharp click from
behind him, and then a long low buzzing noise. A strong sense of fear began to
overtake him as he waited for the elevator doors to close. He allowed his eyes
to focus down the hallway from which he had arrived, and realized how strange
it was that he hadn’t seen anybody else in the building.
The doors slammed with a thud,
which snapped his focus back inside the car again. He could feel a slow build
up of speed as the elevator began to rise. Then he felt a strange sensation of
floating, which made him extremely dizzy and slightly nauseous. He immediately
stuck his right arm out to lean against the wall of the car. The dizziness made
him feel very warm again, as cold sweat began pouring into his shirt collar.
The car’s walls seemed to blur and distort slightly in front of him, adding to
his wooziness. He closed his eyes and leaned harder against the wall. Finally,
the car began to slow and eventually stopped. He immediately stood straight and
forced his eyes open. He looked at the display above the door and saw he indeed
had arrived at the topmost floor. Mr. Heidelbach wiped his forehead with his
handkerchief, flattened his hair and adjusted his tie again. He was as ready as
he could be. The doors opened.
He stepped into an opening
nothing at all like what he expected. There were no windows in the immense
space. He thought how strange this was, considering he was on the top floor of
an executive suite. The view outside overlooking the city must be fantastic. It
was odd that a person in Mister Grayson’s position wouldn’t take advantage of
his picturesque location. But compared to what he had recently witnessed, Mr.
Heidelbach realized his definition of strange had changed considerably over the
last forty-eight hours.
The room was enormous, but
clearly partitioned into several unseen rooms surrounding what looked like a
formal boardroom. A very large highly polished black oval table sat in the
middle of the space surrounded by at least fifty chairs. In front of each
chair, sitting on the table, was a large stone bowl, large enough for an
individual to wash their hands. Although the bowls definitely added to the mystique
of the setting, Mr. Heidelbach couldn’t think what in the world they would be
used for. At the head of the table, opposite from where he was standing, stood
a black stone podium. Behind the podium, sat a heavy desk with a small reading
lamp, and several old scrolls stacked neatly across the table’s top. A black
leather chair was pushed against the desk, and at least ten television screens
of various sizes were built into the wall behind it. All were dark.
The room was absolutely
spotless and contained four large fireplaces, two on each side of the room, big
enough for a man to enter. He thought about how strange it was to have a
fireplace in a boardroom, never mind four of this size. Must be
cold-blooded, he thought with a smirk, as he walked around the parameter of
the office looking at each of the portraits lining the walls and above the
One picture contained the image
of a very prestigious looking gentleman in an ornate frame much bigger than all
of the others in the room. Heidelbach knew from the gold etched lettering
attached to the bottom of the frame that the person in the portrait was
undoubtedly the Chairman’s father. He was stern, very gray, and gave the
impression of a powerful man both physically and in spirit. His eyes, bright green
in color, were seated deep in his face under eyebrows that betrayed the man’s
original red hair color. The eyes were tilted to the right as if contemplating
some far-off memory. Heidelbach was glad the portrait’s gaze was not looking
directly at him. Those eyes; it would be hard to imagine one surviving the
direct stare of a man such as this. He was dressed in what looked like a black
robe, but he wasn’t a judge. “What is that he’s holding?” Heidelbach asked
himself, as he leaned forward to have a closer look. “A dark wooden stick —
like a baton. Hmmmm… maybe he was a conductor of music,” he surmised.
“Screeeeech!” came a loud noise
behind him. The man quickly spun around as his heart leaped uncontrollably.
“My God…what?” he said wildly,
backing up against the wall as if to protect himself from some unknown
assailant. “What in God’s name is that?”
It was an owl; a very large
animal, sitting in a black barred cage. Its huge eyes focused on where the man
was standing. “Now what is that doing in the city?” the man said, as he walked
up to the cage and slowly circled its exterior. “Humph! Must be a pet.” Then,
from behind, he heard the sound of a banging door.
“Sidney! How are you?” Mister Grayson walked into the room at a
very fast pace. “Sorry I kept you waiting; blasted teleconference with the
Federal Reserve ran over. Should always know to double my scheduled time when
I’m working with the government,” he said, walking quickly up to Mr. Heidelbach
with his hand out-stretched. He shook his visitor’s hand vigorously with a huge
smile. He was wearing a very dark suit with a white shirt and silver silk tie.
Mister Grayson was impeccably gloomed with jet-black wavy hair. He was a lot
taller than Mr. Heidelbach had imagined, but then again, most powerful men were.
“How’s John these days?” Mister
Grayson asked, motioning his guest toward the desk and an empty chair while he
unbuttoning his suit coat.
“Oh…ahh… he’s doing well —
thank you. That is, as well as can be expected under the present circumstances.
His wife has been ill,” Mr. Heidelbach informed him, nervously.
“What? Really? I hadn’t heard;
it isn’t serious, I hope?” Mister Grayson said, opening a cigar box on the
desk. “Have one?” he asked, tilting the box toward him.
“No, thank you, Mister
Grayson,” Heidelbach answered, contemplating how he should start the serious
part of their conversation. “Sir… I’ve come to you with some important
concerns, and I don’t want to take up too much of your time, so, I’ll get
directly to the point.”
“Ahh…” Mister Grayson interrupted,
“a man respectful of my time — now that’s a rare find indeed. Frankly, I was a
bit concerned when I heard you wanted an appointment on such short notice. If
there were any problems with our doing business together I would have thought
John would have come to me directly. This illness with his wife must be very
serious,” he finished, in an assuming tone.
“No, sir,” said Heidelbach,
“John…. er…. I mean Mr. Landers doesn’t know I’m here today. As a matter of
fact, he told me to drop the matter entirely, so you can imagine the risk I’m
taking in coming to you anyway.”
Mister Grayson frowned. “Well,
Sidney, I think I might have to re-examine my opinion about you. Going against
the wishes of your Bank’s President can be a very serious matter. I only hope
what you’ve come here for is worth the risk you’re taking. How can I help you?”
he asked, putting down his lit cigar. He laced his fingers together in front of
him and leaned forward with a confident smile. “What’s the matter, Sidney?”
“Well, sir, as you know, the
investors represented by your firm have come to us recently with a substantial
amount of — ah — equity. The quantity alone should have raised several alarms
in our firm, but they didn’t, despite the,” and here Heidelbach paused, looking
for the right words, “method of disbursement.”
The man continued, “But, then again, there were never any questions
about the source of this equity flowing into my company either. That concerns
me, Mister Grayson, and frankly I didn’t reach the position I have in my
company by letting this kind of detail slide by me without full disclosure.”
“Equity? Methods of
disbursement? Full disclosure?” Mister Grayson repeated with a frown. “What are
you talking about?”
Heidelbach leaned forward.
“Gold,” he said, with wide eyes. “The disbursement of the equity was done using
commodities — in this case, your people brought us gold.”
“So… is… that a problem?”
“Frankly, yes. In the
quantities that we’re talking about — yes; I think it should have raised a
number of questions. After all, one doesn’t normally see this kind of commodity
in the amounts your investors have shared. Where does the gold come from?” Mr.
Heidelbach asked, longingly. His face appeared strange, almost expectant of a
Mister Grayson picked up his
cigar again without saying a word. He took a long draw on it, and then leaned
back and blew out a long steady stream of smoke before answering. “Where the
gold comes from, Sidney, is a private matter between myself and the people I
represent. Surely you can understand that? This part of the world comes to me
because they trust me; they’ve put their faith in me. They know I will keep
their privacy secure because… their safety” he leaned forward and dipped his
ashes into the glass bowl in the center of his desk, “is most important to me.
I will go to any length, you understand, to insure their trust. Do you
understand?” Mister Grayson’s eyes were now staring down at Heidelbach with
unquestionable authority. It reminded him of the man in the portrait over the
Mr. Heidelbach leaned back.
“Yes, sir. I do understand — and that is, essentially, Mr. Lander’s view on the
matter as well. But again, I’m not the type of person who lets unanswered
questions affect the security of my firm. I also have a duty to those who have
entrusted our company’s financial welfare with me. I checked into some of your investors, Mister Grayson,” the man
declared, with a marked change in his tone. It was now cold and direct.
“What?” Mister Grayson replied,
in shock. “What’s that you say? How dare you?” he replied, in surprised
indignation. “What gives you the right in invade the privacy of those….” but he
was cut off.
“Yes — yes,” Heidelbach
interrupted, “I’ve acted outside my normal boundaries. But what I found shocked
me, Mister Grayson. I found something — beyond imagination,” he said, looking
around the room nervously before turning to face him again. “I’ve seen things…
that defy explanation,” he finished, in a much-lowered voice.
Mister Grayson put out his
cigar, and sat straight in his seat, his hands clenching the arms of his chair
in controlled rage. “Seen things?” he said, through tightly clinched teeth.
“Yes,” explained Heidelbach.
“You see, I decided to look into the source of this wealth, and was troubled to
find no explanation for it. Well… you can imagine my surprise. I even tried to
verify the information of these so-called investors of yours — names,
addresses, background checks, etc.”
“Background checks?” Grayson
repeated, now applying so much pressure to the arms of his leather chair that
it was beginning to emit groaning clicks under his nails.
“I could only find information
on two names,” Heidelbach continued. “The first was the Worsten family in
Massachusetts. I made a visit to a small suburb outside of Boston, and ended up
spending two days searching a remote area of woods. It was there that I finally
found them.” He paused, and then, “Mister Grayson — do you know these people?”
Heidelbach’s eyes were focused on his lap, listening for a response.
“No — not personally — no,”
Mister Grayson answered back.
Heidelbach continued his tale,
“The things I saw there in the woods, Mister Grayson, astounded me so much that
I never allowed myself to be seen. I continued to watch them all day there in
the cold woods and I saw them…” he stopped suddenly, his eyes still down, not
looking at the man seated across the desk in front of him. “I saw them flying!”
His eyes shot forward, looking directly into Mister Grayson’s face. Grayson
matched his stare for a while, and then dropped his focus toward the desk
drawer in front of him. He glanced back up at Heidelbach, saying nothing.
“Did you hear me, Mister
Grayson?” asked Heidelbach, who didn’t seem at all surprised by Grayson’s lack
of reaction to what he had just said. “I said they were flying. Zooming around
on the doors of their house. I saw furniture and rugs being cleaned in mid-air
without anything to hold them up, and individuals appearing and disappearing
from out of thin air. I then found the second investor who goes by the name of
Clouts in Hampshire, England. And what I found there was much worse. He was…
cohabitating… with indescribable creatures.”
There was a very long pause
before Heidelbach finally stood up. “Who are these people you represent,
Grayson? What are they?” he suddenly shouted, leaning over the desk in front of
“Sit down!” Grayson bellowed,
with a look of stern warning in his eyes. He then took a deep breath to calm
himself, and reached up to pull down the knot of his tie. He then slumped back
into his chair again. “Please Sidney… have a seat,” he said, motioning to the
chair behind the man once more. Heidelbach sat down.
“I reported my findings to my
President, of course,” Heidelbach said, in a matter-of-fact tone. Then he
looked up to meet Grayson’s gaze again. “His response was much the same as your
own. He already knew. He didn’t say that, but I could tell he already knew what
these people were, and he verified this knowledge by telling me to drop the
matter and forget what I saw. But I had to come here today and tell you
personally of my findings. I had to see the look on your face. I didn’t know if
what I’ve found in these two cases represent all of the clients you manage,
Mister Grayson, but now, from your reaction, I believe they do. What are these
things I’ve seen, Grayson? Who are you, and what are you really trying to
accomplish with my firm?”
There was another long pause
between the two men, and then a loud bang at the adjoining door as it suddenly
flew open against its stops.
“Mister Grayson…” said a
growling voice from across the room, “I forgot to have you sign this parchment
concerning the ministry’s holdings in Bulgaria. I…” the voice immediately
stopped. Standing there fifteen feet inside the door was a Goblin holding two
large scrolls. Standing
just four feet tall, the creature was dressed in an old velvet green suit coat
with tales and a Colonel string tie. His brown eyes darted up to see Mr.
Heidelbach, and then over to Mister Grayson who was now slowly laying his face
into the palm of one hand.
“My… apologies… sir, I didn’t
realize you were entertaining a guest,” the creature said, with a nervous
smile, his eyes darting back to Heidelbach again.
“My God…!” said Sidney, jumping
out of his chair and backing away from the desk. “It’s… it’s one — one of those
creatures I saw in England… with Clouts.” He stepped backwards in obvious fear,
and suddenly tripped and fell over his own feet.
The goblin looked up at Mister
Grayson, “I’m very sorry sir… I had no idea a Muggle was here,” he said, a sorrow
filled draw overlaying his words.
“It’s all right, Greechins,”
replied Mister Grayson, raising his head to look at him, “completely my fault.
Please stay where you are.” The Goblin nodded uncertainly, looking back at
Heidelbach who was trying to stand again.
“WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?”
Heidelbach screamed, finally returning to his feet, “WHAT ARE YOU? WHAT DO YOU WANT? WHAT IS THAT THING?” he shrieked, pointing at the figure standing
near the door. “It’s a demon — some kind of unholy creature from…”
“Now… hold on, sir,” challenged
the Goblin. “I’ve been in the service of Mister Grayson for many years now. I
am one of his most trusted servants. Demon indeed!” he replied, resentfully.
“Sidney,” Mister Grayson
interrupted, a drawn sadness was in his voice, “your boss, Mr. Landers, is a
long time friend and advisor. He has been a trusted Muggl… ah… I mean associate
for many years. The information he possesses about me, and the people I
represent, is safe. He has proven his openness and ability to accept the things
around him for what they really are. Unfortunately, you and I are not at that
point in our relationship.” Mister
Grayson opened his desk drawer and pulled something out, pointing it into the
air. Heidelbach recognized it immediately from the portrait of the man holding
the same baton-like instrument. He glanced up at the portrait again, and was
shocked to see the man in the picture begin to move, now placing that long
dreaded green-eyed gaze upon him. He saw the man in the picture point his
wooden stick at him.
With a look of horror filled
shock, Heidelbach looked back at Grayson, who was now pointing his stick at him
as well. “What is that you’re holding?” Heidelbach asked, taking an unsure step
Mister Grayson sighed. “It’s… a
wand. I’m very sorry about this, Sidney. I truly am.” He stretched out his arm
to its fullest extent and shouted, “Obliviate!” Mr. Heidelbach’s eyes
immediately glazed over, and his jaw fell slack. An absentminded and faraway
look came over his face, as his whole body seemed to rest on the answers
finally delivered to him by the wand’s spell. Mister Grayson slumped back into
his chair running his other hand through his hair and down the back of his
“What a mess,” he said, in a
“I am sorry, sir. I should have
knocked first,” said the Goblin
“No — no, it had to be done
anyway. It’s just… I hate it when I have to do that.” Mister Grayson meant what
he said. The Director prided himself on being able to correctly maneuver
through the high level negotiations expected of him everyday without the use of
magic to push his will upon others. His dealings with the Muggle world had
proven to him that, if done correctly, it was far easier to parley his needs
across a common set of goals rather than bend the will of everyone with the use
of his wand. While putting a spell on somebody like Sidney seemed the easiest
way to handle things, Mister Grayson knew this method required on-going work
and maintenance. His way of bargaining produced longer lasting results, and
freed more of his creative time to pursue the value in his post.
Grayson quickly stood up. “We
have a lot of work to do here, Greechins. I want you to move Sidney’s things
into my private study. I will need to begin probing his memory for any
information he’s discovered over the last week. I don’t want to wipe out
everything, so this will take an extended amount of time. I want you to call
his boss, John Landers, in New York. Explain what’s happened, and tell him I’ll
be performing another memory altering charm on Sidney immediately. Make sure he
understands this was our fault — I don’t want him punishing poor Sidney just
for being thorough.
“Then contact the Accidental
Magic Reversal Squad, and the Improper Use of Magic Office. Have them contact
both the Worsten family in New England and Clouts in Hampshire; have them get
these families in line immediately. It’s bad enough they were seen, but they
don’t even know they were discovered. Stupid amateurs. Have these offices
contact me directly in about an hour. I’ll probably have more detail about any
other Muggles Sidney has shared his information.
“Then I want you to go back and
clean up these accounts. A Muggle should never be able to purposely find a
wizarding family. Although our friend here is extremely intelligent, I get the
feeling we’ve probably made his job rather easy through our lack of diligence.
Check all of the records for any links to our banks overseas. Have Meredith
help you; she has the account numbers in her possession. We also need to find another
way to transfer assets into Muggle banks other than sacks full of gold.” Mister
Grayson walked over to his chair and sat down again rubbing his forehead.
“I will take care of
everything, sir,” said the Goblin, and he turned to leave.
“And one more thing Greechins,”
Grayson called out. “Have them take another look at my elevator. The spell used
to turn it into a port key still isn’t right. How am I supposed to have a
discussion with my Muggle visitors here in the basement of the estate if when
they get here, they’re always sick? I almost had to carry Sidney to his chair
when I arrived. You will probably get a lot of pretext and complaints about my
office and the mix of magic and electricity that we manage here, but I’m tired
of their excuses. I want the problems fixed; see to it,” he finished, without
looking up for a response.
“Yes, sir,” replied Greechins,
“right away, sir,” The goblin left the room.
Grayson looked up, rubbing the
back of his neck. Heidelbach was still standing in front of him with a weak
smile moving across on his face. “Well, Sidney — lets go,” he said, standing up
and walking over to the man. He gently took him by the arm and guided him to
the door of his private study. “Through here, there’s a good fellow,” he said,
“What? Is the meeting over?”
asked the Muggle, in a sleepy voice.
“Yes it is, Sidney. Your
presentation was first rate. Please come in and let me fix you some tea,” said
Mister Grayson. He opened the door to his private study and guided his
companion into the adjoining room. “Have a seat there on the couch,” he said,
as he slowly closed the door behind them.