DARK SIDE OF THE SHADOWS is a collection of six thrilling, compelling and provocative tales of suspense, mystery and the supernatural. WARNING: If you summon the courage to enter the realm of the DARK SIDE OF THE SHADOWS, be prepared to encounter your own dark alter ego during your journey!
On a warm Saturday afternoon, a thirty-four years' old lawyer named Benjamin Fulton Tolliver, Ben or BT, to his rapidly shrinking list of friends and professional colleagues, emerges from the dark bowels of the New York City Metropolitan subway system onto a painfully bright but shabby street in the South Bronx.
He's neatly dressed but unshaven and, as usual, he consciously refuses to make eye contact with anyone as he carefully maneuvers his way around some excessively aggressive panhandlers and extremely pungent street people.
He stops at a local newspaper and magazine stand, casually peruses various publications and, after a few awkward minutes, he purloins a copy of the New York Times. Conveniently accomplished at the very moment the stand owner's attention is temporarily distracted.
With his clumsy theft undetected, he walks rapidly down the same street until he steps into the dark and odiferous lobby of a familiar but dilapidated office building. He removes the hidden newspaper from an inside pocket of his coat and notices a familiar but homeless, obviously intoxicated and unconscious man, precariously propped up in a corner.
The man is adorned with fresh blood, oozing out of several relatively minor wounds and contusions on his face and head and dried vomit on his tattered shirt. He's also wearing an oversized pair of pants, soaked and soiled by a particularly appalling combination of human urine and feces.
Ben nearly loses his breakfast as he approaches the man, removes an unwanted section of his newspaper and throws it over the man's ravaged face. This was not an act of kindness on Ben's part but only a selfish effort to provide himself with some minimal personal relief.
After only a moment of relatively pain free inner reflection, he decides to forfeit any remaining shred of personal dignity. He holds his breath and starts a brief and unsuccessful search for any loose change or bills in the man's moist front and even heavily stained rear pants pockets.
He yells out, "shit," when nothing of value is located and "shit," yet once again when he notices the familiar and conspicuous out-of-order sign on the building's single elevator. He continues to mutter a colorful string of obscenities as he's forced to walk up several flights of stairs to his law office. Along the way, he desperately struggles to clean his hands with a pocket-sized container of liquid disinfectant.
When he arrives at his floor he surreptitiously picks up a copy of the New York Post, conveniently lying in front of someone else's office and rapidly runs down the long main hallway in the general direction of his own office door. Just as he turns the final hallway corner, he intuitively stops for a moment to peek around the corner and clandestinely observes an obviously agitated male stranger, taping an envelope over the glass portion of his office door.
The large envelope was being deliberately placed to cover a significant portion of the hand painted sign reflecting Ben's name and the general nature of his legal trade. The sign itself simply reads from top to bottom, "Benjamin F. Tolliver - Attorney at Law - Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning."
As soon as the unwelcome messenger heads down a nearby back staircase Ben warily moves towards his office and angrily rips the envelope off his door. He opens it and reads a very simple message, typed all in caps and demanding, "I WANT MY MONEY NOW ASSHOLE!!!"
Ben laughs out loud at the utter futility of the intent and context of the message and opens his office door to reveal a totally unkempt and secretary free office. Piles of unopened envelopes, passed through the mail slot on his door nearly block his passage until he kicks a couple of the taller piles out of the way, in order to get to his desk.
He glances over at the pile of envelopes closest to his desk and observes several flagged with the now familiar Final Notice banner. The only envelope he bothers to pick up is conspicuously marked, "URGENT NOTICE," which has been issued by the New York State Bar Association's Disciplinary Counsel. It contains a long-expected notification letter, concerning his upcoming disbarment hearing, in only sixty days' time. A period which unfortunately had commenced about ten days before when he last read any of his mail or notices.
It would be extremely difficult for Ben to lose his attorney's license. Even though he had originally paid a substantial amount of funds to a brilliant but mentally disturbed former law school classmate to take the notoriously difficult New York State Bar exam for him years before.
Ben actually was bright enough to have passed it on his own with only a minimally serious level of personal effort. Alas, he didn't have a chance to adequately study or prepare for the exam due to an extended drunken and drug addled law school post-graduation holiday, at various casinos in Atlantic City.
He makes a note of the date and time of the hearing, not knowing whether he'll even attend. Once again Ben laughs out loud when he reads the other conspicuous part of the notice that he is formally proscribed from soliciting any new clients in the interim. He is also ordered to promptly inform his existing clientele about his precarious status as a licensed attorney.
He throws the notice into an overflowing trash can and turns on his office phone answering system to listen to a long series of messages. He's pleasantly surprised that the power to his office had not yet been turned off by Con Ed, for the ongoing non-payment of his utility bill.
He immediately erases the first dozen messages which mostly included various coded threats and warnings from a number of different people primarily concerning unpaid gambling debts and some missing payments for several recent illicit drug deliveries.
Most of the messages were saturated with a stream of almost unimaginably graphic profanity. A few others comprised relatively minor complaints from various disgruntled clients.
The next message is from a very familiar client and he listens intently, as some residual but limited pangs of conscience seemingly demanded. The elderly female voice pleads, "Mr. Tolliver, this is Gladys Purdy, I've called you several times in the past three days but haven't heard anything back.has my settlement check arrived yet? I'm sorry to bother you again but I'm now two months behind on my rent. Since my Albert's gone I've got to have some."
He erases the message in mid-sentence, while muttering to himself, "sorry old girl, I needed some cash and fast."
The following message contains the familiar voice of a local appellate court clerk who angrily blurts out, "Mr. Tolliver, this is Brenda from Judge Collins' court. You've missed your appeal filing deadline in the matter of Davis versus the Bradley Insurance Agency. Be advised that Judge Collins has dismissed your claim with prejudice.please immediately so inform your client." The message is deleted.
The next to last message is from another local attorney, who starts his diatribe by angrily declaring, "Mr. Tolliver, this is Tim Rogers and this is my third call to you in the last two days. I'm representing your former client, Jennifer Bruce in her about to be filed legal malpractice suit against you. If you continue to refuse to engage in any further discussions, concerning a settlement of this matter, I'll be filing suit in no more than forty-eight hours. I'll also be referring this matter to the disciplinary panel of the New York State Bar Association."
Ben deletes the message and mutters, "screw you.take a number and stand in line bitch."
The final message comes from yet another very familiar and angry man who shouts out, "I want my money now asshole!" Ben erases the final message, flips his answering machine the bird, unplugs it and now completely enraged, sends it flying across the room into an interior wall.
With his mind, psyche, conscience and soul all in a steady state of disintegration, an increasingly desperate Ben takes a few prescribed and un-prescribed pills. Special medications chased down by a half-full glass of expensive Irish whiskey. He then logs into the internet with his new and very expensive and sophisticated laptop, just purchased with the assistance of a substantial portion of Mrs. Purdy's recently forged settlement check.
While scoping out possible discount matinee film times at a few artsy local theaters and scanning his favorite porn blog, he's suddenly paralyzed by fear as he hears a loud knock at his office door and struggles to remain absolutely silent. After a few tense and virtually breathless moments, he's greatly relieved to notice just another envelope being pushed through the mail-slot on his door and as he hears footsteps moving down the hallway.
He glances from a distance at the front of the envelope and it appears to contain yet another eviction notice from his despondent and unpaid landlord but he leaves it unopened on the...