Ezra Wolfe. A welcome, albeit somewhat annoying distraction, Better than letting her flub of a social interaction sit in silence. She avoids picking up a drink, holding her briefcase close and watching carefully as the boy prances about. Not only was he clearly born in wealth, cradled in wealth, blanketed and showered and fed with wealth, but he was also just a complete showman. Normally that combination works, a little class to the show, but for him... not at all. Heather, once a bit grating in her own right, seemed to reel him in just a bit, which was enough for Haley to mentally thank the poor woman for having to put up with him.
Then again, this was
all just a show, anyway. All the guests likely had sins hanging above their heads. She was no different. Enough money and blackmail will get anyone to come someplace like this, but why... these people? A nanny, even? Nobody important, really, but not anyone completely forgettable. If it had been a group of lonely homeless people, with no family, friends, or contacts, then this would make at least some sense, no matter how suspicious. So what was the plan here...? Haley shook her head as welcomings continued, looking down at the briefcase held over her hips, as if hiding her vulnerabilities subconsciously. She never was any good at socializing, but now, with what's been thrust over her?
Guests continued to talk, but Haley was done with conversation. She couldn't think straight, for obvious reasons, so after a few minutes of awkward standing around, the blonde in her black business suit hurried towards a staircase. She wasn't the first to leave, but she'd make sure not to hang around, dress shoes' clacking muffled by fine carpets. This place was a bit too rich. Didn't matter. Haley made it to her room and had to put in effort to avoid slamming the door behind her. She could do this. She'd have
to do this. For those that she cared about, the truth... would have to stay here.
“I guess you’re the first.”
The first for what? Or was he being ironic, since Brandon was the very last to arrive? The unwarranted comment was successful in putting him on edge. Brandon held an old fashioned in his hand, untouched at the moment of the Wolfes’ arrival, and he took the drink as a shot when Ezra began prowling the room. His hands shook as he placed the glass back onto the table.The Wolfe boy was bright as a spotlight, composed of a gaudy fire that was rather unappealing to Brandon’s taste. Gross. Still, there was something to be said about being unapologetically yourself.
They were part of the elitist class. Ezra was soft and feminine for a man, and though he could deal out punishment, he would crack without political influence and power. Here Ezra was in control, here he could flaunt without fear of consequence, and so he owned the room. His sister was beautiful, and if Ezra was a spotlight, she was a room of dimly lit candles. Dark and exotic. She was captivating, and yet, he was unsurprised by her. She reminded Brandon of every other heiress he had met during his life: hot as hell, but (more than likely) manipulative as fuck. She flaunted attitude for no reason other than wanting to be a strong, independent woman.
Well, such was the day and age. It wasn’t easy for women anymore, having to balance the traditional female role with the pressures of third wave feminism. Especially when you had everything to live up to… her parents being successful billionaires. He could relate to that, at least. It was a really tough position for a woman to be in. The societal expectations from both ends of the spectrum cancelled each other out: the toxic end of feminism shamed women who valued traditional roles, and those who chose to become career women harbored guilt and emotional distress for neglecting their families.
He was so focused on the Wolfe children that he’d hardly taken notice of the other visitors. People were beginning to file out of the room - thank goodness, he could feel himself becoming more and more of an asshole by the second. Ezra was extremely irritating, which was icing on the shitty cake of being here at all. Brandon was eager to get back to his luggage, maybe relax a bit before dinner. Maybe some whiskey would calm him down.
He watched the altercation between the Wolfe son and the hispanic looking man briefly before making his exit and walking towards the third floor. His knee was starting to throb, so he decided to take the elevator. It would be wise to get to know the other patrons. They were all in this together, after all, and there were more of them than there were Wolfe. Just… he’d make more of an effort at dinner. He wasn’t feeling himself right now.
A long, warm jetted bath with plenty of shampoo and conditioner later, Haley dressed slowly in preparation for the night's... 'welcome party.' If there was some kind of scheme, which there obviously was, then it would likely show up tonight. It mattered what she looked like, and given the strange, colorful hat and mask,
it would not be hard to... stand out. Haley pulled out her formal dress
, which oddly matched, as if the mask had been made for her, and slowly pulled it on. With her ensemble together, complete with cherry red flats and matching lipstick, Haley was... mostly prepared for what was to come. It wasn't exactly her style, this much red, but... it would help remind her of why she's here.
Sighing into the mirror and brushing the hair flowing out of her hat, Haley looked back, towards the door. It was time.
A double shot of whiskey did just the trick. Brandon took his time in the shower, skin flushing slight pink from the heat. The liquor lulled him into a state of ease, curbing the worst of his anxieties. He could forget those memories from that horrific night, at least for a little while.
This event was obviously some kind of a trick - his gut told him to stay away from the party this evening, that something bad was going to happen. And, like mother always said, only a fool ignored their instincts. ’Well, mom, looks like you raised the biggest fool in the family.
Brandon was going to play right into their hand.
He wasn’t too worried. Caldwells were notorious for their ability to squeeze their way out of trouble. He would embrace the role of the fool, making his mask
all the more appropriate.
It was time to go. Brandon swallowed the two pills in the palm of his hand and chased it down with water. The door clicked shut behind him and echoed through the hall, ominous.
Haley stepped outside of her room with a nervous, conceited humming. There was no tune, no real purpose or rhythm, just a constant, quiet hum of anxiety. As a lawyer, she should be dressing more appropriately. She'd brought along her suit jacket along with her dress, in the hopes of wearing that most of her time instead. And yet... the mask fit her dress, and would look out of place combined with her jacket, so it almost felt as if she was being forced into discomfort. Intentional...? Maybe.
She shook her head, walking towards the staircase. She never was one for elevators, anyway, and especially not if it was just one floor down. She paused as the smell of whiskey hit her, however, just as she reached a side stairway. Coming from the third floor was one of the guests, a man she hadn't bothered to get the name of. In fact... so far she only knew one of the guests, and maybe it would be a good idea to meet more. Get in good. Haley smiled beyond her extravagant mask, following the man with her eyes until they we close enough to not make talking... awkward. "Another guest here, right...? I like the mask, real 'yin yang' vibes."
Brandon was feeling good. The whiskey left him feeling pleasant and warm, a light (VERY light) buzz that tickled his senses. ’Don’t take it too far tonight, Brandon.’
You could say he had a very delicate equilibrium to maintain. Not drunk, just drunk enough.
Sober enough to think. It would’ve been difficult NOT to notice the beautiful blonde standing at the end of the hall. She was bright enough to attract the attention of every man in the room - she certainly popped in contrast to Brandon, the penguin man. “Thanks. You look good yourself. Red suits you well.”
he paused for a moment, before he could make some awkward ‘oh, so you’re also taking the stairs, we have so much in common’ comment. He should really make an effort to get to know the other guests. If they were as screwed as he was, maybe some of them would be willing to collaborate. What was the saying… two minds are better than one? “You look ready to party. Are you looking forward to this as much as I am?”“Mmm. I like red, but I usually prefer yellows and blacks, if I’m honest,”
Haley chuckled quietly, brushing her golden locks back behind her and carefully walking towards the stairs. As they walked, they came to a mirrored hall, but Haley was more focused on the future than the man beside her. “Oh, I suppose you could say that I’m looking forward to it, yes. I’ve certainly been thinking about it. Haley Black, it’s a pleasure.”
Not enough of a pleasure for Haley to have extended her hand, though, apparently, as she left both hands firmly at her sides while the two walked.“Brandon Caldwell. Likewise,”
Did she seem uneasy, or was he making stuff up? “I can’t blame you. What were you doing before all this?”
The gentle hum of a piano in the background lulled him into a state of contentment.
Haley stepped down and into the great room, her eyes scanning the buffet tables and stopping on each member of the Wolfe family. She smiled behind her hat and mask, looking to Brandon. “My job, mainly. Being a lawyer isn’t busywork. In fact, I would have much preferred not to come here, if I’m honest. But… It’s acceptable enough.”
Haley paused as a member of the staff offered champagne, smiling and shaking her head. “I’m sure mister… Caldwell here would enjoy some, but not for me. Not tonight, thank you.” “Oh, I see. You’re used to being on the go all the time. I’m guessing the entire wait and see dynamic of this trip must be driving you up a wall,”
he observed. It was the same for him, in case the liquor gave it away. His days in the military were far behind him - further than his days from medical school, anyway - and that feeling of doing nothing
was enough to send his anxiety into overdrive. If he let it. “I’m a PA, so if you hit your funny bone in the conga line, you know where to find me. Or maybe you’ll need my help with something else.”
He turned an eye to the champagne, smiling politely. “Thank you very much.”
He held the glass in his hand but it remained untouched. There was no reason to be rude, but he’d had enough to drink for the moment.