Every story has its beginnings… as does The Grand Attraction. I myself became intrigued with the building of the great mall… and so the story of Willis Childs took birth.
Chester Wines, A Family Business
Willis Childs was not the type to scour above everyone like the bigwigs of industry or agency. He preferred getting in the thick and grease of it and working as a backstage man. He liked being the man that everyone needed but not much knew. A vague role of necessity that under-ran an entire system without any strings attached. That’s how he felt even through his small town bar at the corner street of Elms in the bustling city of DeNare. His great grandfather had bought out the place back when it would have cost a fortune— just knowing that its profit would turn up more than enough. And so his grandfather had passed it on to his father and now he ran it with his son. The Corner Tavern, as it was known, was now amongst the last standing good-wine sellers and distributors.
Indeed it had grown since Father Childs had taken it. In recent years they’d bought out the suppliers of their wine and began importing their own. Chester Whines had once been in the top ten for beverages, especially in the capital cities. But just like everything else around here, its placing dropped and hit near flat-line till his father bought it out. Instead of destroying what was there, Pergo Childs simply renamed the company after his father, Chester, and kept the slots open for hire. Who knew that these job openings would be what kept it going through the Second Depression.
Just the reminder of the times sent a chill down his bent over spine. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with a callused hand and lifted another box of Chester Wine to the tabletop. For a heavy price, one could purchase a pack-to-go. What did he care? People getting drunk in or out it didn’t matter to him. As long as he gained more than he lost.
“Billy, get me that popper there in the back,” he told his seventeen-year-old son. The kid slugged off his high-stool at the far end of the counter and disappeared behind the sliding doors of the storage cell. An only child he was, and quite the muscle type. Billy had found himself a job at the docks to pay for his school. Then off course the schools closed. He’d tried applying for the university down the street, but they only took the scholar-bigwigs and fancy-dress type. He didn’t really care for those blokes. “Just scoffing their noses on the rest of us,” he would say.
“You reckon I can get a discount this time, Willis?” the man across the counter remarked. Dillard was a regular. In fact, half of the tavern’s profit probably came from the man. He ran a photo booth down at the docks and several other small booths scattered about the city— downtown, uptown, center town— you name it and he had something there. Quite the income for new comers to the city. He’d excuse the overdose as means of relief from the stress, but Willis knew better. The man didn’t have a care for the world, only his whiskey and whine.
“No, Dill, not till you start feeding your kids off your own money.” That was right, poor Dill wasted all his income on whine to the point of debt for his family. But they didn’t care, they all lived with their latest hitchers.
“Come ‘on man, if you gave a discount I’d be able too!”
“You stay outta trouble, Dill,” Willis gestured at the door and putting an end the conversation.
It was four o’clock— just when the tavern would start filling up and business strike a peek. Why? Jobs let out at half past three in most places. Not that no one could work longer, just that so many were unemployed, the shifts had to be kept short to satisfactory the needy. All the better for him. With still time till dark, many of the guys would just drop by his place to burn time and enjoy themselves while they did.
Another man placed in his order and Willis once again moved his fingers to the cling of the register. “Bill!” he called, wondering what could possibly be taking the kid such a long time. “I need it, now.” He didn’t have the patience when it came to keeping with the flow of arrivals. “Jess!” he yelled over the counter.
The man rolled his head back at the old coot. “What?”
“Git over here, your shift’s start’n early.”
“What? Do I get overtime?”
“Just get your mess over here before I fire you.” Jess was a classic drop-out. It seemed everywhere the man went he’d get into the worst of situations and end up on the loose end. Willis was the only one willing to ignore all the man’s shortcomings. He made a good receptionist— never missing not one order. But he also practically lived in the place, never wondering outside less the walkway needed sweeping.
The man trudged over to the counter and began taking orders. Willis patted off his hands and folded his apron as he strode to the back. “Bill,” he barked, about to chew the kid’s head off on responsibility. But instead, he cocked his head upright and tensed his shoulder muscles.
A man in a black suit stood before him. “Mr. Childs, I presume?” the man asked.
“And what on earth you think you doing in my cellar?” Willis replied. He gave a scolding look toward Billy so as for an explanation. No one was aloud in the back— and everyone knew that. Everyone but a new comer. “Spit it out, what do you want?”
It was Billy who stepped in. “Pops, he’s here to invest in our business. He says he has an offer for ya.”
“Offer or not, I sent you back here for something and I expect you to return with it. Now scat, Jess is working the counter and needs what I sent you for.”
Willis could tell his tone had got the point across. Almost too much, as he always did. But the kid nodded and left. He’d never disobey his pops, but he sure didn’t like going along with everything.
“Now I’ll say it again,” he turned to the stranger, “What business you have in my cellar?”
The man adjusted his hat and propped up a suit case on one of the crates. “Lawrence sent me,” he said. Lawrence? The multimillionaire that every poor guy hated? The man that never did any work but always made it out on top somehow?
“My name is Agent Four, and I am here to convince you of a meeting with him. He wants to offer you a job.”
Willis wasn’t biting it. Since when did this man ever start something on his own? He only ever funded new and arising movements and end up making millions in the process of success.
Agent Four opened of his suitcase and withdrew a small file. “A plumber, I believe? As you use to be in your younger days.”
“Yes… why? You guys been stalking me from the alleys?”
The man bit against the humor. “Only securing an investment. Lawrence seems impressed at your wide exposure to handling the mechanisms behind prospering amidst depression. You are, in his own words, a true Renaissance Man of this age, and he’s wanting that.”
“You’re saying Lawrence, the Timothy Lawrence, is wanting what I’ve worked so hard to keep just to make a bigger profit off it? I’ll tell you something and I’ll tell you it straight: you ain’t getting a lick of it.”
“You are a visionary, aren’t you?” the agent cut in.
Willis fell silent. He knew exactly what the man was referencing too. And now he knew where the papers had gone. Just a week ago he’d lost stack that he’d been working on as he took his leave from the tavern. He’d thought them over-rained and down the sewers by now, but it would be his luck that Lawrence would pick up on them.
“You have no rights to my work,” Willis gnashed, his fists clasping shut.
“We did not steal from you, Mr. Childs. In fact, we are returning what you lost, and making an offer for you to finish it under Lawrence’s funding.”
What? Funding? Lawrence liked his idea?
“With some tweaking, of course,” the man added. His fingers slid from the file as Willis took hold of it, mind still weary of the suit-fitted agent of a millionaire. The man’s hand slid into a pocket of his coat and pulled out a card. “Tomorrow, at the fifth hour at the Train Square. A man by the name of Smith will greet you and discuss more. If you decide yes, then you’ll speak with Lawrence. I trust you’ll choose wisely, for this is an opportunity not most get and you are a man not meant to be held back from a revolution. Good day to you, Mr. Childs.” The man bowed his head and left through the heavy steel rear door. The cold smog from outside crept in as he did and Willis took in the smell of such a protruding thought.