Anton sat and watched the wall of monitors. Videos from all over the world played out all the horrible things humans were doing to one another in an endless stream. Poverty, murder, abuse, hate; all things that the internet documented on a daily basis. The great archive of human suffering now available in high definition.
Sometimes he would see something on the screens that would make him cringe, sometimes cry, but he never didn’t watch. He had the resources and the time to devote his life to what he felt was his purpose, bearing witness to the degradation of humanity. Some days were harder than others. There were times he had to leave his chair to vomit, there were times he had no choice but to lie on the floor in a fetal position and sob. On more than one occasion a screen had to be replaced as some random object was hurled at it; usually a hard backed journal that he kept on hand to record his ideas on how to help. Sometimes that book was all he had to tether him to reality and keep him focused on his Karma; Anton wanted to save the world from it’s self.
The “Observatory”, as it was referred to by his house staff, was a large and less than inviting place. Dark hardwood floors with great dark drapes covering the windows. Bookshelves lined the walls and teamed with filled journals among the other prose; religious texts, philosophical works spanning from Max Weber to Nietzsche and even Mein Kampf. One great chair sat in the center of the room, flanked by a small side table, which faced the wall of monitors. The floor was a littler of extension cords and network cables running to the screens. Many of the cords protruded through various rough holes in the floor and walls from other rooms where their were open electrical outlets. Anton could have afforded to have the room properly wired but instead decided that the destruction of his family home was a poetic statement on his new mission in life.
For two years he sat in that room, watching. His staff feared that he had gone totally mad. He had developed many traits of other great thinking men who had lost touch on reality. Like Howard Hughes he would urinate in jars and stack them behind his chair. His hair and nails had grown unruly and none of the staff could recall the last time he bathed. He demanded that his meals be the same everyday served at the same time so he could time his bowel movements with downtime on the news sites. Everything he requested to be brought to him was plain; canned tuna on dry white bread, an apple and an orange, plain white rice mixed with peas, and only water to drink. The only exception was on Saturday evenings when he was delivered a fifth of Jack and a bucket of ice. Those were the nights that the staff liked the best; there was far less crying coming from his room.
The Whitecliff estate was a beautifully maintained place on the coast of Maine, over looking the Atlantic Ocean. Antons father and grandfather had been extremely successful developers all over the North Eastern seaboard. Anton Whitecliff was the soul heir to over two hundred different business ventures; ports and warehouses, breweries, apartment complexes and shopping centers. His net worth was well into the billions of dollars, all managed by some of the shrewdest and most ruthless lawyers and business men in the country.
When Anton announced he was going on permanent sabbatical after a car accident none of them worried, they figured he needed to clear his head. Like many men of power they watched him from afar, paying his household staff to spy and report his activities. The initial reports didn’t concern them too much, they figured that Anton was building some sort of home theater to relax in. They became very concerned when reports on what he was watching came to light. If they had not been half as loyal to the family as they were they surely would have had him committed, but as it was that they all made incredible sums of money thanks to this man they elected to let him be mad, at least until they couldn’t hide his actions anymore.
Time passed, and Anton watched his screens. The machinery of his life ran smoothly without him giving a second thought. Though it might have appeared that he had gone quite mad there was a pure purpose to his life. He watched and recorded horrors so he could determine the best way to help mankind. The blessings bestowed on his life were quite clear to him. He never lost sight that he was in a fantastic position to help; the question was how to do it.
One day while watching online videos a scene spoke to him. This video showed children, no more than four or five, preforming acts of such racist hate that it sickened him violently. Other videos had caused this reaction before in him, but there was something else to this one. The majority of the children in the video were black, and they were brutalizing a child of three simply because she was white. It was that little girls crying that snapped his mind.
After two years Anton had made his decision, and those kids were going to be the test. Anton was going to show the world how to stop hate.
That night, when his meal was delivered, he told his staff to turn off the screens and draw him a bath and call a barber. After cleaning himself, restoring his professional appearance, he stood nude in front of his bathroom mirror. He had become gaunt, thin, and his face had aged since he had last seen it. His eyes had changed, becoming a sad blue rather than a vivacious turquoise. His black hair had began to develop wisps of grey at the temples. His arms and chest, his whole body in fact showed how thin and how sickly he had began to appear.
Looking him self in the eyes he could see all the accumulated images of the pain in the world running through his mind, “Are we going to do this Anton? Are we going to show the world a perspective on how to solve problems that others refuse to acknowledge? Are we going to humble the rich, or are we going to appear to have gone totally insane?”
Anton’s father, Gregory, was a brilliant man. He was skilled in so many things but most of all it was people. When it came to finding the perfect man for any job Gregory had an uncanny knack. Anton knew this, and his father had shown him how to make those kinds of decisions with the same skill. The next day, after coming back to the world, he called the one man his father had told him he could trust with anything, the man his father had appointed as their family lawyer; Sebastian Potts.
Potts was from a good school, a good family. He was in his sixties, with grey hair and a slight limp, however his face was that of a man in his forties. He had a chiseled jaw, roman nose, and dark brown eyes. Only a few small lines appeared on his face, mostly on his washboard forehead and around his eyes. He could intimidate with a stare and was known to be ruthless but fair negotiator.
Sebastian was also a workaholic. He was often in his offices by 5am. He preferred it that way so he could have some peace and quiet before the troubles of the day rose with the sun. Anton knew this, so when Potts entered his office at 4:55am and turned on the light he jumped at the sight of the ghost of Anton Whitecliff, sitting in a chair in front of his desk.
“My god Anton,” Sebastian uttered, shocked. “You look like absolute hell.”
“You should have seen me yesterday. How have you been Sebastian?” Anton replied.
“I’m fine, things are going well. The question is how are you?”
“I’m better than I have ever been Sebastian. I have a project for us. It is going to take a little time but I want it done quickly. I need you to dump off all of your current projects on others in the firm so you can help me with this. I can trust you to do that right?”
“Well, I can tie some things up and be free in a week. Care to tell me what we will be doing Anton?”
“A week? OK, that will give me enough time to figure out who the people are we need to talk to. Can you let me know as soon as you are free? Oh, and I’ll probably need your attention for at least a few months. I’m going to want you working on this exclusively,” Anton said as he rose from the chair.
“And what is this project?”
Anton walked to the door and turned as he pushed it open, “We are going to show the world how to stop hate Sebastian. I’ll see you in a week.”
“You want me to do what now?” Calvin asked.
“Come on Cal, we’ve been friends a long time. I need your help on this one. I need your company to find some people for me, the parents of all the kids in this video,” Anton replied.
Calvin Quinn was owner and lead investigator at Liquid Investigations, specialized in high profile criminal investigations of mostly white collar business crimes. If you needed help finding assets hidden by crooked CEO’s, locating mistresses, giving ammo to political campaigns, then Liquid was where you went.
Calvin and Anton had gone to school together and had been friends ever since. Both came from affluent backgrounds, but Calvin had always had an edge to him. He liked to get into scraps with the other kids, he like to make people uncomfortable, and he liked a challenge. Antons father had always said that Calvin was the best pure blood Irish he had ever met, with his red hair and blue eyes. He had a fire in him that could never be extinguished and it usually came out in his words; Calvin could have a sharp tongue.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Besides the fact that those kids need to be arrested for what the did to that little girl, why on Earth would you want to contact the parents of those little monsters? They are surely to be worse than those kids are, so give me a reason I should waste my time on this?”
“First, because this video made you as mad as it made me. Second, because I am going to do something amazing when I find them. Third, because you are my friend and are the only person I trust to find them and keep his mouth shut about it.”
Calvin sighed, “Something amazing huh? You aren’t going to have them killed are you? And where the fuck have you been? I don’t hear from you for over two years and you show up out of the blue looking like you just spent time in a fucking concentration camp. What the hell is going on with you Anton?”
“I’m going to change the world.”
Calvin started at Anton and just blinked, “Excuse me?”
…to be continued