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Before any of this happened, when Nathan was a rookie fresh out of college, he still had a great business head. Savvy and shrewd, he could dream up proposals and plans that most people would never have even thought of. But here's the difference. Before his wife's death, he cared about the other guy. If Haycroft was taking over or acquiring a company, he would do all the financial and logistical planning. But he would make sure that the majority of employees in the target company would be taken care of, or simply stay at their jobs and work for Haycroft. Now he didn't care. His savvy and shrewd were joined by conniving and cunning with a tinge of resentment for the world.
Now his mergers and acquisitions were cold and strictly business. He would do the calculations, but the employees or the new company were not his concern. He knew that some would stay to ensure a smooth transition, but his personal care that used to exist had disappeared. It wasn't shady business, not yet anyway. It was just hard line, no frills or perks, business. He was still a model employee, but he had definitely changed. If the change had stopped there, the world would have been a better place. Alas, who knows what would have happened. I can't say for sure, but my speculation says he would have lived happily ever after.
The particular instance in question happened when his daughter was about eight years old. It was winter and Nathan had taken a bus to Lowtown. He had an afternoon meeting with a struggling company. They had seemed desperate on the phone. Everything was primed for a smooth takeover. It was a small financial consulting firm, one that catered to people with very little money to invest. But Nathan didn't care, a good deal was a good deal, plain and simple. The meeting took longer than expected. He'd gotten everything he wanted, it just took longer than expected. When he left their office, it was dark out and a storm was brewing. He bundled his coat and walked as fast as he could to the bus stop. He simply had no idea those two thugs would jump him. Why should he, he'd never tasted this part of town, the underbelly of society. At any rate, they jumped him and dragged him back into an alley. He wasn't much of a match for them and quickly succumbed to the beating.
As he lay bleeding and sore, he heard the first one say, "Stupid rich man. You don't belong in this neighborhood."
Then the second one said, "See if he has any cash on him, I'm hungry."
They never got that far. Out of nowhere a shadowy figure slammed the first thug's head into the side of a brick building, dropping him to the ground unconscious, blood trickling from his ear. The second goon, caught by surprise, was hit with two rapid hurricane kicks to his jaw. Nathan was vaguely aware of this but could barely see between the bruises and faded light. He awoke the next morning in a clinic with several bandages around his head and ribs. He remembered traces of what happened but not much more. When he went to pay his bill, he discovered his wallet was missing. It pissed him off something awful. He should have been grateful to be alive, but he wasn't.
The solution was relatively simple, a gun. Just a simple handgun. He went through all the hoops and did all the research that a man of his education and standing would do. He compared prices, quality, consumer feedback, durability, capacity, power, and any other aspect of guns he could find. After choosing a gun, he took classes. Basic target shooting with proper technique. His instructors were amazed at how quickly and passionately he learned. If they knew the truth about the coldness and bitterness in his spirit, they may have thought differently, but for now they were content with seeing a man enjoy his new hobby. And he was gaining control and confidence with each shot. But this was a different composure than he was used to. He used to be composed and collected because of love and good things. Now his composure was cold and ruthless with sinister undertones. Chills me just to think about it. Chills me even further to think of what he'd do next.
In addition to once being a good man, he was recognized as a good man. His bosses, his friends, his co-workers and subordinates all knew Nathan as an honest, industrious, company man. None of them resented him for it. They simply thought that he was a dependable human being. Some of them began to suspect something wrong when he started to get more cutthroat with his mergers and acquisitions. Luckily for him, he had an ace in the hole. He could prove that his new method was better. Not caring about the employees of the new company actually created profits and even raises for people at Haycroft. In a nutshell, his people were benefitting from these actions, so they were content to let it happen. If they only knew, it was freeze their blood and turn their nose to even hear his name. Not only were his mergers and acquisitions brutal and bonecrunching, they were deliberately so. He literally couldn't stomach a so-called "smooth" transition anymore. He had this new urge, compulsion to inflict pain and heartache. Taking away someone's pension after they'd worked for a company 30 years, firing an employee already seriously in debt, these were the things Nathan started to relish. I wish I could say it stopped there. I really wish. Sadly, some wishes and dreams never come true.
In truth, the only reason he was still a partially good human being was his daughter. He had made a vow to his deceased wife. Despite all the changes in him,he was still a man to honor his commitments. Plus, however angry and aggressive his job made him, one look from Marianne when he got home would chase those feelings away. A feeling of..., not contentment, maybe relaxation would come over him as he forgot about work for a few hours and spent time with his daughter. He would go to her school plays, soccer games, friends' birthday parties, and anything else. When she was a teenager, he even sent her to a series of etiquette classes on being a proper lady. Now, Nathan had no intentions of Marianne becoming a debutante or plastic surgery altered housewife, but Marianne needed to learn certain things and he couldn't teach them to her. So life went on moderately well between the two of them for a good many years. Then one day when Marianne was 17, all of it changed forever.
Marianne was a pretty young lady. She still had not fully grown up into what some people would call mature beauty, but she was pretty none the less. She was the quintessential "Daddy's Girl" too. She worshipped her father. And why not? He gave her whatever she asked for and seemed to worship her too. Because of this, she had taken to surprising him at work for lunch. She would get all dressed up in one of her best business suits and have lunch with her dad.
The event I mentioned started out innocently enough. Marianne wanted to surprise Nathan for lunch. Nathan was becoming quite used to these surprises. Marianne would come into the office and call Nathan's secretary to have Nathan come down so they could go to lunch. That was the way it always worked. That's why Nathan had no qualms about shooting the president of a rival firm in the Haycroft board room. Nathan had become CEO by this time and a rival firm was rising way too fast for Nathan's taste. In addition, this firm, Warren Enterprises, was targeting several Haycroft companies in a hostile takeover. Nathan didn't even think twice. He shot the man three times and watched him drop. He then turned to his own board members.
"You all knew about hostile takeovers. I did that to protect the company and our own livelihoods."
The board members still looked stunned, but gradually, murmurs rose indicating their approval of Nathan's bold decision. Growing more confident by the second, Nathan turned to exit the board room to make arrangements for the body and carpet cleaning. That's when he saw her. Marianne was standing there. She had come up to see her awesome father in action. Now tears were streaming down her cheeks and she looked terrified beyond belief. As soon as she saw his eyes with no remorse in them, she fled. He opened his mouth to tell her to stop, but nothing came out. By the time he reached the front door of the highrise she was gone.
Nathan had gathered his thoughts by the time he reached his office. He did not meet anyone on the stairs. That's the beauty of tall buildings. If they're tall enough, no one uses the stairs. But what to do now? He thought about it for as long as he could, which was about half an hour. After that, people would start to wonder. Was he feeling emotional and remorseful? Was he still fit to work? He wasn't about to let the empire he had created be destroyed because of weakness and vulnerability. He simply wouldn't allow that to happen. There was no other choice. He had no other acceptable recourse in his mind except to go on business as usual. As soon as that decision registered in his mind, the last traces of his once noble and idealistic spirit were gone. There was nothing left of the good man that was Marianne's father and Anna Maria's husband. He was gone. He had become the embodiment of things he once despised. If even an ounce of his former self had remained, he would have walked away from everything to try and win Marianne back. Sadly, that was not the case.
One evening he was in the restroom, musing over some recent acquistions. The Torean brothers' shipping company amused him. Vast potential, low risk, and no need for employee holdover. His only regret was that one of brothers had managed to escape when he started shooting. A minor nuisance at best. He washed his hands and went back to the office for his last appointment. Some lawyer that worked for a company he was targeting. Silently, he hoped she would offer a good enough reason to kill her as he patted his shoulder-harnessed pistol.
"What can I do for you Miss Pendleton?" he asked, striding into the office where she was waiting.
"I'd like to talk about the Torean brothers." She said icily.
He was drawing his gun before she finished, but somehow she was quicker. Her shot hit his shooting hand and knocked the gun across the room. The pain and shock dropped him to his knees while she calmly went and picked up his gun.
"Knew I should have killed that last one," he managed to still sound defiant.
She regarding him with extreme distaste and even sadism. "You should have, but that isn't the only reason I'm here...Daddy."
He was dumbstruck. His wound seemed distant now. "Marianne?"
"It's Jessica now you heartless coward," contempt oozing from her every syllable.
Nathaniel's face regained much of its ruthlessness. "You're alive, I'm so glad you're alive. I thought you'd run away forever. All I wanted was a chance to explain myself."
"You don't have to, it was 'business' right?"
"Yes it was," he said, becoming more defiant, "that's the way business works in this town."
"No matter," she said in cool serenity "You still have to die for all the pain and suffering you've cause to me and others."
"What?" he grinned wolfishly with a fevered light in his eyes. He started to stand. "You're not going to shoot your own father. I raised you and I know you're not capable of this."
At that she emptied her clip into him. Two thoughts passed through his mind before he was completely done. The first was shock. For all his planning and ability to foresee and manipulate people and events, he had misjudged her. His one misstep had cost him his life. The second, more important thought, was his daughter. She had been innocent as a lamb. And now was had become a heartless killer like him. He felt immense pride in her and in himself for that. She had done what it takes. She followed through. Many people would have felt at least a tinge of repentance for corrupting something so pure as Nathaniel had done to his daughter, but all he felt was pride.