My mind is my own, and I will control it’s movements.

I don’t know what it is, but I like the strangest people. A few weeks ago I realized that despite my mission, I’m actually somewhat fond of Salomon and his insanity. I’m sure I can compartmentalize should I need to but what if I can’t? You will.

Roger is very much like that as well. He has a suburban charm about him that is in no way attractive, but soothing none the less. I can remember meeting him for the first time.

Upon moving to South Florida, I managed to find a place to live very quickly so as not to be in the immediate area of the Prince’s control. The small estate on the Intercoastal served my purposes not only by fitting a man of the station I was portraying, but also by cutting off an easy point of access that one might have available to a house that was not bordered on one side by water. The moving vans and newly-purchased furniture had been delivered during the day, so as the sun set I drove to my new Haven.

As I pulled into the smooth slate driveway, I noted that the house should be surrounded by a wall. Nothing too foreboding, but something that would deter causal onlookers, vandals, girl scouts, etc. In my mind I began planning the invisible security measures that wall would entail as I scanned the area to take a more accurate measure of the size I would have to work with. It was in that moment of hesitation that Roger spotted me.

He was wearing Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. The beard on his round face did nothing to draw attention away from the baldness of his head, his hairline having receded to the point of being visible only as he walked away. Socks and sandals with an awkward gait like a robot who had not been gifted with proper knee joints, and he was walking toward me with a simple, toothy smile and his hand stuck out. Trying not to draw suspicion on myself, I smiled as well and caught his hand once it got into range as much to be friendly as to stop his forward motion so he didn’t crash into me.

“Hi there.” He shook my hand with an exuberance I rarely encountered anymore. “Roger Stevens. Looks like we’re going to be neighbors.”

“Looks like it, Roger. I’m Nick Taggart, I just moved in.” With people like Roger it’s always best to mimic the chief aspect of their greeting. In his case, it was stating the obvious.

“Great….great.” He pulled back his hand and wiped the sweat from his palms on his shirt. His desire to be a good neighbor, likely just like his father, clearly overrode his ability to come up with something to say after he’d introduced himself. “So, Nick, what’s your business?”

I continued to smile. If I was to live next door to this person, I’d have to be as disarming as possible, especially considering the fact that plenty of strange things would be happening here pretty soon. I had no intention of breaching the Masquerade, but the landscape of a six-figure a year income community doesn’t allow for much deviation from certain societal norms. I had factored that in before moving here, but the other options for a Haven didn’t provide nearly the benefits that this one did, and I was confident I could find at least one person to represent me to the neighbors as an eccentric rather than a danger. In Roger I saw a face man, though I admit in retrospect that I did and still do find his company enjoyable.

“I’m an investor, largely working in transportation. How about you?”

“Transportation, you say? This must be fate then. I’m the Assistant Director of Operations for Port Everglades. We’re going to be working together quite a bit if you plan to move things through there.” He seemed genuinely happy about this idea. I could see the thoughts in his head of us meeting halfway between the houses, me letting him know what to expect, him signing paperwork to “help a neighbor.” I would have to ask Felipe which loa was responsible for bringing good luck, because they would be getting one hell of an offering from me.

“You’re kidding! This must be fate, alright. Do you live alone, Roger?”

“Me?” He blew air out of his mouth in a half-laughed dismissal. “No, I’m an old married man. Wife and two kids. Shelly, my wife, has my son and they’re picking my youngest up from girl scouts right now.” So much for avoiding the cookie mafia. It’s not like I actually eat the damn things. Oh well, I can afford to outsell anyone else in a year and keep myself in good with a possible new ally. “How about you?”
“Confirmed old bachelor, Roger. No time in my life for a family right now.” Roger smiled as I said this. He wore that knowing, longing look that married men unconsciously master when encountered with somebody who still has the freedom they lack and the youth to enjoy it.

“Well, you should come over and meet mine! We’re having a barbecue this Sunday, why don’t you stop by around noon?” He bent back a little to laugh. Though I didn’t need the air, I sucked a breath in through my teeth as if I had just remembered something. I knew this would come eventually and already had my story planned.

“I’d love to, Roger, but there’s a little problem. You’re…I don’t know. We just met and I’m worried you’ll find it a little strange.” By making it seem as if a lack of acceptance is a fault, I could ensure I would be accepted. “You see, I have this problem.”

His face dropped a little, the genuine nature of his smile replaced with a fearful mask of painted joy. I didn’t need to read his mind to know what he was thinking. “What is wrong with this person? Will it endanger my children? Why doesn’t he want to talk about it? Better say something, Roger, or he’ll know you’re afraid.”

“Problem?” He disguised his fear with a joke, “You’re not a vegetarian, are you?” I admit, he covered himself pretty well. Somebody less observant would have almost thought he didn’t have a moment of hesitation.

“Yea. You see, I have photosensitivity. Basically, it means I’m allergic to sunlight. I can’t go out during the day or I suffer from something called Polymorphous Light Eruption and get these terrible hives…” I added a small shudder for effect. The false smile turned immediately into a genuine frown. While I’m sure he was actually concerned, I’m equally as sure that in a small, secret corner in his brain, there was a party going on thrown by the yuppie-early-GenXer in him that wanted to be nice on a day-to-day basis to somebody with a handicap so he can feel better about himself and brag at the office. That was the part of him I was targeting. He’d rather not question my activities than come off as insensitive to my disability.

Roger raised his harry arm and put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. How about this, why don’t we move the barbecue to a dinner time and we’ll grill out under the stars?” I knew then that I had him. “How do you like your steak?”

“Bloody, and I’ll be there.” I smiled and waved as I watched my stereotypically suburban neighbor stumble back to his house, high on life and endlessly proud of himself.

Since then I’ve cultivated my friendship with Roger as best I could. I make sure to bring toys for his kids. I’m nice to his wife and lightly flirt with her on occasion. I attend night-time events with him and his family when I have the time. I never built that wall. And now that Lorenzo needs to ship things into the country, I have somebody who can clear all the paperwork. I’d call this an asset worth developing.

Three cars and a boat passed by. The boat’s owner is clearly on his way home from the chattering teeth, but likely afraid of getting a ticket in a no wake zone and won’t move faster.

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