Part 1 - Welcome to the Party Mr. Bennett
As the elevator doors opened, Andrew stumbled out into the hallway without any of the self-assured poise and carriage that he naturally displayed. He was, apparently, off his game. That was the only way to put it. He typically moved about with a visible sense of purpose that easily set him apart from other men.
It was part of the Andrew Bennett aura that had helped to make him a man to be feared.
In fact, he was instinctively stumbling backward now in an effort to get back inside the elevator. He was unprepared for the harsh yellow glare of the hallway lights and he was trying to shield his eyes as he moved back into the comfort of the elevator. That’s when he realized that the elevator doors had apparently closed silently behind him.
“Damn your eyes,” he called out in loud discomfort. “What the hell is this?”
It was his favorite reflex exclamation. He believed that he had first heard Etta James sing a song by that name many years ago, but by now it didn't matter. In his mind he was challenging the authority of whatever higher power cared to listen. The fact that Andrew was certain that no such higher power existed, made this a fairly risk-free challenge.
Now, he was squinting painfully while trying to shield his stinging eyes with his left arm. At the same time he was desperately reaching back with his right hand to find the elevator call button.
When he was completely unsuccessful after a few seconds that seemed to drag on and on, he turned toward the doors and blinking awkwardly, he searched for the call button.
There didn’t seem to be a call button.
‘Well that can’t be right,’ he thought to himself. Strangely enough the sheer oddness of this missing call button was sufficient to take his mind off of the harsh glare that assailed his eyes. Between this puzzling distraction and the fact that his eyes were gradually getting accustomed to the unnatural lighting, pretty soon he could see again… even if it wasn't that particularly clear.
The space between the two double doors was as blank as the walls between the apartment doors that he could faintly see down the hall. Not a single painting or decoration or wall sculpture… just this horrid mustard-like color reflecting harsh overhead ceiling fixtures that seemed to radiate an unearthly glow.
Still shading his eyes he looked down the hallway and tried to reconcile the long extended length of this hallway, with what he knew about the building he had entered from the street.
That is when it dawned upon him, that he didn’t remember what the building looked like from the outside… because he did not remember coming to this building at all. In fact… he did not even remember getting into that elevator that had been in such a big, damn hurry to close up behind him. It was as if he had awakened from a deep sleep in the act of stepping out of that elevator.
Now as Andrew looked down at himself, all of the other things that were wrong suddenly rushed to the forefront of his awareness. For example, he was wearing a suit as he so often did, but it appeared to be an ill-fitting selection off the rack.
It certainly wasn't one of his custom-tailored Ralph Lauren suits. His mouth went dry.
On closer inspection, he would also swear that he had never seen the tie that he was wearing in his life. It was too narrow and far too mundane for his tastes. But the alarm bells went off in full force when he discovered a $14.99 price tag stapled to the underside of the tie.
His confusion was giving way to some much stronger emotions.
Andrew Bennett was not a man who is easily frightened. But when he saw that he had no shoes or socks on his feet he got angry. If this was someone’s idea of a practical joke, there would be hell to pay. And he knew how to make sure that the guilty culprit paid the full price too.
As one of the most sought after defense attorneys for some of the most notorious figures associated with union labor disputes and organized criminal endeavors… Andrew knew people. Andrew knew serious people, who were indebted to him for keeping them out of prison and finding ways to protect their earnings. So Andrew’s first response was anger.
When he also realized that he wasn't wearing underwear of any kind… his anger dissolved into a cold, numbing fear.
“This isn't funny,” he called out.
He could easily see that he was quite alone, but he could also see that there were doors ahead that were not elevator doors. They had to be apartments, because this didn’t look like any place of business that he could envision. There were no signs, or water coolers, or rest rooms anywhere in sight!
“Is anybody here,” Andrew called out again. This time he tried putting more ‘steel’ in his voice. It would not do to show weakness.
As he called out, he began walking down the hall until he came to the first of the doors, where he immediately began pounding on the door as he continued calling out. Only dimly did it register with him that, once again, something was very wrong with this picture.
There was no door-knob on this door.
With this revelation the ‘steel’ and volume in his voice was simply gone. As he spoke now he was essentially talking to himself.
“What the f____?” he said in a kind of stage-whisper. “I’m in a flippin’ doll-house.”
He continued walking forward, but only stopping to knock now. He’d stopped pounding on the doors, and he was well aware that none of these had door-knobs either. No handles and no place to swipe a card key just in case he had somehow awakened in some hotel. Nothing. Not even a peep hole!!!
He also realized that none of them had any kind of apartment number or room number. No sign at all. No way to distinguish one apartment from the next. He could feel panic begin to bubble up inside.
“Think Andy, think,” he said softly to the empty, open hallway. “What the hell does all of this mean? Where am I?”
As he gave voice to the questions growing inside of him, he calmed himself. He’d always considered himself a good man to have around in an emergency, and this was beginning to feel like one. Before he let his current circumstances get the better of him, he’d first make certain that he had looked around thoroughly.
He was gradually beginning to reclaim his natural stride in examining this featureless hallway, when he came to a very different door.
This door had a door-knob.
This door also featured a small sign positioned at eye-level for him, in the middle of the door. The small sign read, “Andrew Anthony Bennett Jr.”
At this he started laughing, because by now he knew that someone was having some fun at his expense. And that someone would pay. Damn his eyes, that someone would pay dearly!
He started to reach for the door-knob… when his bravado deserted him. He chose to knock instead.
“Just a minute Andrew,” a husky, feminine voice called out from the other side of the door.
Andrew was momentarily startled, his knuckles frozen against the warm painted door. He hadn’t noticed that these doors and walls were all warm until just then. He did not immediately recognize that voice, but they seemed to be on a first name basis already.
In the back of his lawyer’s mind, he was subconsciously encouraged at the prospect of dealing with a woman. A lifetime of chauvinist thinking had given him the mistaken perception of gender superiority in all things. So at this point, whether he would have to seduce her or overpower her, he immediately felt better… although he would have liked to have his underwear.
That is… until the door swung open and he was shocked senseless as he stood face-to-face with the former Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno. He was rendered completely speechless.
“Kinda rips your wheels off, don’t it?” she said smiling at him.
He was about to deny his eyes, when it occurred to him that something was different about her. For one thing she appeared taller and more toned than he remembered, and he remembered her quite clearly. He had gone toe-to-toe with her as the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, when she had led a major lawsuit against one of his clients. Oddly enough she hadn’t aged at all since that day in the office of the Department of Justice back in 1994.
And he had never once seen a smile on her face.
He also remembered that a year later, the Attorney General had announced that she was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
“You’re not Janet Reno,” said Andrew with a conviction that he absolutely did not feel. “You can’t be.”
“You figured that right out, huh? She said. “Good boy.”
Then she turned around and walked back into the apartment. “You might as well come on in… and shut the door behind you,” she said. “There’s no place else for you to go anyway.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. But he also wanted some answers. He walked in and shut the apartment door behind him.
Part 2 – Will the real Janet Reno please stand up?
Andrew was already working on how to regain control of the situation as he followed her into the apartment. Clearly he had somehow lost control along the way, but he would find a way to get it back.
In his mind he was calling this an apartment, but he quickly realized how wrong that analogy was. Instead he found himself in what looked like one of the small “court rooms” in that Department of Justice building in Virginia. In fact, it looked exactly like the hearing room in which he had most often distinguished himself, when he was pleading that fabricated defense case for his client years ago.
Feeling instantly at home again… Andrew Bennett began to think that this was going to be easier than he thought.
Then ‘Janet Reno’ pointed to what had typically been the defendant’s chair and told him to sit down.
He half expected her to then take the judge’s chair at the front of the room. Sometimes a judge had been present during those hearings, but sometimes that’s where Janet Reno sat. This time, however, she took the wooden defense attorney’s seat beside the one that she had indicated for him.
That had been his seat.
“I am not going to sit,” he said in his most authoritative voice, “until you tell me what the hell is going on here. Where am I?”
“You disappoint me Andy. I thought this hearing room would be enough of a clue for someone like you.” ‘Janet Reno’ was calmly looking around the room as she spoke to him. She seemed to take a certain measure of pride in their surroundings.
Her calm demeanor only served to frustrate him even more. ‘Perhaps intimidation is what is needed here,’ he thought to himself.
With that he slammed both hands down on the wooden table in front of her as he loomed over her.
“Damn your eyes,” he thundered, “you will not treat me like one of the delinquents down in Juvie. You will answer my questions starting with who the hell are you, ‘cause you are not Janet Reno!”
He was hoping to startle her or at least invoke an expression of fear on her face. Instead, the smile that had seemed to wane as they walked in… came back. This time, however, the smile had nothing whatsoever to do with her eyes. Those eyes locked on him and froze his blood. When she spoke it was with a voice that seemed to draw his testicles up inside his body.
“Andrew,” the ‘Janet Reno’ look-alike said slowly. “You will sit your ass down in that seat… right now… before I decide that we can’t be friends anymore.”
He would have snickered, remembering that line from an old Angelina Jolie movie. What stopped him was the fact that once again an icy trickle of pure terror was once again working its way along his spine. For a moment, he honestly believed that this maidenly looking woman would suddenly leap across the table at him with feral savagery, tearing him to pieces. He did not understand where that image came from… but he chose to sit down, oddly bathed in a cold sweat and having difficulty catching his breath.
“Now isn’t that better?” She asked.
He took some comfort in the fact that his heart was beating rapidly. ‘At least he wasn’t dead,’ he thought to himself.
“Don’t count on that Cuddles,” she said with an even bigger smile now, and this time the smile did reach her eyes. She thought this was funny.
He froze in place. His eyes staring at her while he tried to comprehend what had just happened.
‘Had she read his mind?’ He thought to himself.
“Yep, sure did,” she answered, still thoroughly enjoying his discomfort. “You’re kind of an open book at this point.”
He assumed that he had lost his mind, but he had never expected to be so aware of going insane. He’d always assumed it was a slow and gradual process, but apparently not. ‘Bang’… instant looney tunes, just like that.
‘Janet Reno’ thought this was hysterical and gave the kind of throaty guffaw that he had once believed her to be incapable of. It didn’t last long, and it gave him no comfort as she slowly regained control of herself.
“Andy, Andy, Andy,” she finally said shaking her head. “Let’s get down to business.”
Her eyes completely lost their mirth as she went on, “You’ve been a very bad boy.”
Andrew Bennett narrowed his eyes now as he looked at her. “What are you talking about? What is this?”
“Penance, of course.” She said this the same way that someone might say, ‘Charge it to my account of course.’ “It’s time for you to pay for your crimes.”
At this he bolted up from the table, knocking the small wooden chair to the ground.
“Crimes!” He bellowed. “What crimes? I’ve never even been arrested for anything. My record is clean.”
Her amusement returned as she looked up at him. “Oh come on now Bunkie, we both know better. You might have hidden from the law, but you cannot hide from me.” She was now leaning over with her right elbow on the table and her right hand supporting her head.
“And sit down will you?”
“I will not sit down,” he exclaimed. “You’re trying to pin something on me.”
“Only what your guilt confirms.” Suddenly her voice was no longer personable and conversational. She dropped these five words on the table as if they were heavy, leaden weights dropping on his chest.
He said nothing as he looked at her.
“Milton Green,” she said, “was the only person with documented proof, that your client Marlowe Trucking, was a major player in a drug smuggling operation.” She sat up now. “He was never able to give testimony due to that bullet in his face, was he Andrew?”
“What’s that got to do with me?” His voice was steady, but he’d lost all of the strength in his legs and was trying desperately not to let it show. He hadn’t heard that name in years.
“Well, let’s see,” she said thoughtfully. “I believe that Massimo Fucci put that bullet in his face after receiving instructions and payment from you.” She smiled again. "No one was ever convicted for it, because they never found Milton. Massimo buried his body quite efficiently behind a shopping center."
Andrew sat down heavily in what had once been the prosecutor’s chair. His lips were dry and his hands were shaking.
“Sounds like you should be saying these things to Fucci… not me,” he said weakly.
“Oh he’ll have his day,” ‘Janet Reno’ said with casual confidence. “Right now I’m here for you.” Then she spun around and stopped with both hands on her boyish hips. “I know,” she said, “Let’s talk about Lina!”
She might as well have hit him with a baseball bat. He fell back in the chair with his head back and his eyes wild. “Nooooo,” he stifled his scream with his hands at the mention of his former first wife’s name. His late, former first wife.
“Fucci took care of her as a favor to you. Didn’t he Andrew?” Now she walked around him, circling him as would a predator preparing to pounce. “Did you ever know what he did to her before he killed her Bub? It was pretty... sick. And in the end, before he killed her, he told her that it was you who sent him.”
At some point he had lost the will to deny these accusations any more. He was now literally wailing in emotional agony as she pummeled him with each pronouncement of guilt.
“I can tell you that she … is … pissed!” “Janet Reno drew these last words out for emphasis.
Somehow, these last words seemed to cut through his distress, and he looked up at her now. His eyes were wary and clearly afraid.
“What are you talking about?” He asked.
“You’ll find out,” she said, “just like you’ll find out about the Bosworth family.” As she said this she pulled over another chair and sat down directly in front of him.
He stared at her.
“Who are you?” He whispered this question. The shock to his system had left him a broken wreck of trembling nerves. “How do you know all of this?”
“You mean, how do I know that you were so enraged when you discovered that Lina was going to divorce you that you got shitfaced... still got behind the wheel… and killed a family of four?”
“No! It was an accident.” He stood up again, dimly aware that his face was wet.
“You cut them off, sending their car into oncoming traffic.” Her voice was louder now. “You killed an entire family, covered it up ... and you thought you could get away with it!”
It was just the first inkling of a thought. He just wanted to shut the 'Janet Reno thing' up, and thought that if… and suddenly he was being crushed against the floor, her foot painfully pressing into his chest. As he gasped for air, he realized that he could see up under her skirt.
“There’s just no hope for you is there Andrew?” Then she pressed down again and with a flash of agony he felt two ribs break. He screamed.
In time he was sitting up in a chair once again, extremely sore, but he could at least move gingerly. ‘Janet Reno’ was half sitting on the edge of the table looking at him.
“I’ve had about enough of you now Andrew. It’s time for you to go.” She said this almost wistfully.
Andrew Bennett looked at her, beaten and resigned to his fate.
“So what are you, some kind of a twenty-first century Saint Peter?” Now he laughed bitterly. “This sure don’t look like no “Pearly Gates” to me!”
At this she just smiled and said nothing.
“Oh I suppose I’m going down to Hell now huh? That’s what all this has been about.” Now he was laughing insanely and loud. “Janet Reno, here to take my ass to Hell. Well I hope you know how to call the elevator, because that’s gonna be a trick!”
“You brought Janet Reno’s face here Champ, not me.” She was till speaking quietly now. "She was the only authority figure that you ever truly feared."
“And as for taking you to Hell… you’re already where you’re supposed to be.”
“What are you saying?” His lips barely moved when he spoke.
“You don’t believe in Heaven or Hell. Remember? So no such places exist for you.” She spread her arms to indicate their surroundings. “There’s only you and me, here in this place.”
“And you have to atone for the death of six people Andrew,” she continued. “Six souls have come forward now that you are finally here... and they are demanding penance.” Then she was standing beside him.
“What do you mean, finally here? What happened to me?” He was whining. He was revealed as weak and whining … everything that he had hated.
Then he saw that they were back out in the hallway, and standing in front of one of those doors.
Except that now… this first door had a door knob.
Andrew Bennett screamed like a woman. He was helpless to stop himself from moving forward and reaching for that small, horrible door knob, as he heard ‘Janet Reno’s’ voice.
“If you think Lina was pissed, wait until you meet Mrs. Bosworth.”