Chapter 1 : Chapter One: Prologue: The Man In The Suit
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Prologue: The Man In The Suit
December 24, 2031
Two men, both nearing middle age, sat facing one another in the center of an otherwise empty room.
With only the sweat-soaked air filling the space between them, there was nothing to stop one man from leaning forward in his chair and slapping the other across the face. It was an idea that had undoubtedly already crossed both their minds. And while the man in the suit didn't seem the violent type, the same could not be said of his companion.
"I'll ask you again," said the man in the suit. "Do you know why you are here?"
Viktor Krum said nothing. He just took another long drag on his cigarette, which was now little more than a nub between his stained fingertips. He inhaled deeply, holding the smoke in his lungs for a long moment before allowing it to slowly trickle out from between his lips. The grey tendrils drifted forward on an invisible breeze and directly into the other man's face. The man in the suit made no attempt to wave away the noxious cloud. Instead, his own breathing seemed to slow, as if trying to suck the second-hand smoke up into his own flared nostrils.
"This is a serious matter,” said the man in the suit. “You realize that, don't you, Mr. Krum? That neither of us is going anywhere until you give me the information I’m looking for? How long this takes is entirely up to you. But you've known me long enough to know that one way or another, I will get answers."
Still Krum said nothing, and the man in the suit was forced to watch as his prisoner's attention drifted further and further from the business at hand. His gaze had become fixated on a spot just over the man’s shoulder. Krum stared at it for so long and with such unflinching intensity that the man in the suit was finally compelled to turn around and see what had him so mesmerized.
But there was nothing there. Just a blank cinder-block wall. A wall just like every other wall in the room - like every other room in the building. The whole place was completely whitewashed: the ceilings, the floors, even many of the people dressed all in white. It was like a madhouse... which, in some ways, was exactly what it was.
"Mr. Krum," the man in the suit said, turning back around so the two were once again face to face. "If she were here, what would she tell you to do? Do you really think she –"
But Krum cut the man off, speaking for the first time that afternoon. "You vant to know vhy I think I'm here? It that your question for me?”
Krum’s accent was faint, his Bulgarian roots all but obliterated thanks to decades spent living abroad. Still, to the trained ear, the heavy V sound of Eastern Europe was still detectable, particularly when the speaker was under duress.
"Well, yes," said the man in the suit, his even tone belying any sense of excitement he may have felt at Krum’s sudden willingness to engage. "That, among other things. But we can start there, if you like. Why do you think you've been brought here, Mr. Krum?"
Krum took one last drag on his cigarette before letting the tiny nub fall to the floor, pressing it into the ground with the heel of his shoe. "I'm here because my life has gone to shit.” His words were lifeless, devoid of all emotion. “Vhy else is someone brought to a place like this? Men come here vhen they have nothing left to lose. Vhen there isn’t anything left in them to kill. How disappointing that must be for you...”
“Disappointing?” repeated the man in the suit, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “And why would that disappoint me, Mr. Krum?
“Because men like you... Like us. We’re the ones who like to do the killing. It’s no fun if they’re already dead inside.”
The man in the suit gave him an almost imperceptible smile. "Insightful, Mr. Krum. So tell me, why is it then that your life has 'gone to shit,' as you say?"
Krum laughed, a low mirthless sound that bubbled up from deep in his gut. "It's in my book, or haven't you heard? It comes out next veek. I can sign a copy for you if you like.”
Krum patted at his chest and legs as if checking for a spare pen he might have tucked away somewhere. Of course, the outfit they’d put him in after stripping him naked and leaving him in a darkened cell overnight didn’t have any pockets. They hadn’t even allowed him laces for his shoes.
Krum shrugged. “Ah, vell. It seems I left all my quills in my other prison vear. I’ll have to give you a...vhat do they call it? A rain check.”
"Do you think this is funny, Mr Krum? Miss We-"
"Don’t you say her name! Don't you fucking dare to say it in front of me, you Правителствено прасе!"
And with that, all traces of the calm façade were gone. Viktor leapt to his feet, preparing to lunge at his captor. His fingers were already outstretched, itching to encircle the other man’s neck. But the instant his soles hit the floor, Viktor felt his entire body being snapped back into place. Invisible bonds snaked their way around his legs and chest, pinning him to his chair. And the more he struggled against them, the tighter they seemed to squeeze.
Throughout it all, the man in the suit never so much as batted an eye. In fact, he seemed to almost be enjoying himself, watching as Krum fought against his restraints, his face growing redder and redder as the breath was forced from his lungs.
"I seem to have struck a nerve with that one, haven't I, Mr. Krum?"
Viktor continued to struggle but his strength was fading fast, too oxygen-deprived to carry on fighting. With one final grunt, Viktor collapsed in on himself, his body slumping over as much as his restraints would allow.
"Such a display,” the man in the suit said, shaking his head in feigned disapproval. “Perhaps we should discuss this issue further. Explore why the mere mention of her name seems to leave you in such a state." Krum said nothing. He was too busy gasping and sputtering as the air raced back into his starved lungs. "No matter. We can return to that subject later. But what an interesting subject it is, don't you think?"
Just then, there was a loud knock at the door.
Both men turned in their seats. The man in the suit scowled at the interruption but called out, "Enter!"
The heavy metal door that marked the only entrance into the room swung inward, opening just wide enough for a young man with untidy dark hair to stick his head through. The little of his body that was visible was dressed in a dark green uniform. When he spoke, his words were clipped, almost militaristic in tone.
"They need you now, sir. On level six,"
The man in the suit clapped his hands together once before resting his chin on his fingertips. He looked genuinely disappointed at this sudden change of plans.
"Well, it looks like you’re in luck," he said to Krum. "There's some poor bastard up there in worse trouble than you." He stood up, and for the first time, Krum saw that he had been concealing something behind his back. “See something that interests you?” he asked, catching the look of surprise on Krum’s face.
The man in the suit picked up the object, making sure Krum could see what it was.
It was a book: new and shiny, the spine barely broken. It was Krum's book.
"I got an advance copy,” the man in the suit said, looking down at the book before focusing back on Krum. “A titillating read, to be sure. Had the wife and I blushing a bit there towards the end. But really," he whispered, lowering his head so his mouth was only inches from Krum's ear. “You're old enough to be her father. Tsk-tsk, Viktor. What will people say? Especially when they hear you screwed the mother too." The man in the suit straightened up, dropping the book onto Krum's lap. "Feel free to take a look while I'm gone. Of course, you already know how it ends..."
The man in the suit winked at Krum before turning his back on him. Seconds later, he was gone, the door closing behind him.
Viktor stared down at his lap. The book seemed to stare back up at him, his name spelled out in giant letters across the front.
Viktor Krum: Over The Edge
He had hated the title the moment she'd suggested it. But she'd insisted. Only now was he beginning to understand what she'd meant by it. Though he still wasn’t sure to which of them it referred.
His eyes moved slowly down the cover. It was the first time he'd seen it in its final form. She had wanted it to be a surprise...
Underneath the title, in smaller type, it read:
The True Story of a Quidditch Legend, His Despair and His Final Redemption
At least the despair part was proving true. Krum wasn’t so sure about the redemption.
Then, at the very bottom, in the smallest print yet: her name.
A Biography by Rose Weasley
Viktor Krum began to cry.
*Правителствено прасе – government pig in Bulgarian, according to an online translator
Full Summary: Fifty-three year old Viktor Krum is a shell of the man he once was. A crippling injury long ago put an end to his Quidditch career, and a subsequent drug addiction nearly took his life. Now on the brink of sobriety, he’s agreed to let the publishers at Fletcher and Sons print a book about him – a chance to not only escape his financial troubles but to restore some measure of respectability to his once-beloved name. Enter Rose Weasley, an up-and-coming author with a serious case of writer’s block. She’s been tasked with the job of helping turn Krum’s stories into publishing gold. Things get complicated, however, when the two find themselves embroiled in a scandalous affair, where their thirty-year age difference is the least of their problems. It turns out Krum’s troubles might not be as far behind him as they'd thought. Someone, it seems, isn’t ready to forgive Krum for his past mistakes, jeopardizing not only he and Rose’s relationship, but maybe even their lives.
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