The stairs are so worn down and decayed that the cameraman almost falls through. His good leg punches a whole in on step, but he keeps on until he is upstairs. There are two bedrooms, their layout uncertain as he’s only ever seen the lower rooms through their windows. He enters the first, cautious as there are many candles here. With only a glimpse into the room, the recorder steps back. We hear the rustling of leather and metal, and the barrel of his small revolver now is responsible for opening the door. Inside there is a human form on the floor, convulsing, in the throes of a seizure. They quickly secure the room and approach the man with apprehension. The man is spluttering foam, his eyes wide, a horrible fleshy sound echoes past his teeth, and his movements are frantic. Taking a good look, the recorder can see the tip of a needle stuck in the man’s forearm and an assortment of paraphernalia on his other side. Scanning the room, the cameraman finds he is not the only one to witness the junkie overdosing. A family of dolls, oriented around the room, all facing the center, also see this desperate man’s final moments. They watch in silence as the recorder sidles out of the room.
“Mrs. Harris, is Aaron around? He called me last night, and I wanted to make sure I came over after work tonight and spoke with him,” Lyle asked, noting that two cars in the driveway likely indicated the younger man was home.
Aaron’s mother obliged, “Yes, I’ll… No, you know the house, you know where his room is, come on in.”
“I’m sorry for the abruptness of this, but it sounded pretty important, and…” Lyle was cut off as Marge gave him a stern look.
She nodded gently, “I’m sure he told you, and it’s not like it’s a secret, but I’m glad that he has someone he can confide in, talk to about it.”
“Yeah, I can’t imagine how it’s been, but I figure I should come over and pay my respects and offer a helping hand if need be. You’ve always been close with our family, and I can’t overstate how much, what he had given me in education, has helped me,” the conversation was tinged with an uncomfortable aura, as though neither side wanted to say that name or mention just what happened. After another moment of shared silence, Lyle excused himself and made his way down to Aaron’s room.
Aaron was face down on his desk when Lyle came in, half looking like he were asleep, the other half giving the impression of a pitiful sobbing into the vinyl surface. Realizing the door was open, the bleary-eyed blonde shot up in his chair, “Shoot, hey, Lyle. Sorry, I know I asked you to come over. You just startled me.”
“Sorry, I came over as soon as I could. I heard the news. I’m really sorry about it. Is that what you wanted to talk about?” Lyle tried his hand at being the shoulder to lean on but realized he probably didn’t sound too sincere.
The younger man’s eyes darted to a cubby on his desk and then back at Lyle, “Kind of. It does have to do with dad and don’t think I don’t appreciate the offer, but it’s more about something he was working on. I know he showed you how to edit tapes, like real old school, family video style VHS. Long story short, he had a project he was working on, lots of VHS tapes, and I was hoping you could help.”
“What, like edit the rest of the film?” Lyle asked, wondering if he should turn on the light to better illuminate the dismal, cramped space.
Reaching a hand into a dark space on his desk, Aaron pulled out a standard black tape, “It’s like this; I can’t pay you, I don’t know if dad took the money upfront or was getting paid on completion, but this was a big job he had been on for a while. There aren’t any markings or forms filled out in his workspace, and mom doesn’t want me rifling through his stuff. You know how to do all that, and she’d trust that you were finishing something up for someone dad was working for. I’m asking you, as a friend, if you could help me out with this.”
Lyle thought about the suggestion long and hard for a few minutes giving plenty of umms and hmms to make up for any honest answer. Considering that it sounded like a big job meaning likely a hefty commission, Lyle felt he couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Then there was the reality of Aaron and the situation his family found themselves in now. His step-father had been the primary breadwinner for the house, and his editing was a lucrative way to keep them ahead on bills. He knew he couldn’t finish what was likely the final touches on a project and take the total payment for his less than skilled assistance. However, another bump in his nest egg would mean a lot, especially if it were as large scale of a job as Aaron made it sound.
“Okay, I’ll do it, but I can’t hang out here and do it. It wouldn’t work with my hours with work, and I usually need some solitude to focus on the task at hand. I might be able to order some of the equipment unless your mom lets me borrow your stepdad’s VHS gear,” Lyle finally answered.
Aaron looked a bit torn, fidgeting the tape in his fingers, “I don’t know, I think she’s planning to sell that stuff off, you know if it comes down to it. I mean, she’d sell it to you and maybe for a good deal. You know what? I think I can convince her, say that dad would have wanted to make sure something he got started was finished no matter what. But I have to ask a smaller favor.”
“Sure. If it’s about whatever these people owe your dad, I can figure it out. If they paid him up front, I could get a copy of the invoice or receipt, and if not, I’d only ask like a small fee, if that’s okay,” Lyle half-muttered the second bit, worried it might upset Aaron.
The boy was unbroken by the notion, “No, the commission isn’t the concern. I was just wondering if you could tell me when you get a look at these tapes, who they belong to, or what’s up with them. I know dad would edit less than kosher projects for some people, but I’ve never seen someone go about anything like that, so cloak and dagger. I don’t even know how they arranged to get the tapes to him; they were just kind of here one morning, you know?”