Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

right the wrongs - Failed Moments by A. Robert Allen

1790, French Caribbean: biracial plantation owner Patrice Beaumont is known as a “kinder” slave master, but his trusted friend reminds him that is no cause for pride. He claims to be committed to ending slavery, but his actions don’t back-up his words. Is being the “best of the worst” all he’s capable of?


What if the only way to survive your life is to go back in history and right the wrongs of two other men’s lives?

1790, French Caribbean: biracial plantation owner Patrice Beaumont is known as a “kinder” slave master, but his trusted friend reminds him that is no cause for pride. He claims to be committed to ending slavery, but his actions don’t back-up his words. Is being the “best of the worst” all he’s capable of?

1863, New York City: Giant Irish street fighter Patrick Allen is days away from battling it out with a similarly oversized Black fighter, when the Draft Riots ignite dangerous racial conflicts around the city. Never one to take sides outside the ring or join a fight he can’t win, he steers clear of the angry mobs. So when he stumbles on a lynching in progress, who can expect him to do anything more than look away?

Modern day, New York City: Patrick Walsh, a day trader by occupation and a daydreamer by disposition, sits alone on his terrace trading his portfolio, and staring out at the city skyline. Alone feels right…always has, and he’s fairly certain, always will.

Besides having a similar name and a proclivity to make tragic mistakes, what mystery ties these men together? 


Chapter 1

The Boigen

“NO PICTURE. NO name. No background,” he whispered to himself as he realized none of this missing information mattered. In his experience, first impressions made all the difference. Details offered nothing more than preparation for yet another first date. This time, however, roles would be reversed. She would need to find him. Patrick Walsh chuckled as he settled back into the snug couch inside the lobby of the elegant Boigen Hotel on the West Side of Manhattan.

The Boigen had to be new, Patrick thought, as he flipped through a small corporate brochure. The hotel, which was south of his old Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and in the vicinity of a few favorite hangouts, boasted ”Classic Swedish Charm in the Heart of the West Side.” What an excellent tagline, he thought.

A beautiful chandelier in the center of the lobby, situated directly above a multi-colored table, demanded Patrick’s attention. The light passing through the table’s colored shelves reflected off the marble floor and mesmerized him. A large bouquet of white tulips occupied the small, purplish tabletop. Perhaps amethyst, Patrick thought. Below that were three shelves: The first level, ruby, the second, emerald, and the third, sapphire. Noticing the colored flecks of light on the floor again, he looked up. Where have I seen this fabulous chandelier? In a magazine? A catering hall? Or somewhere else?

Patrick’s mind turned back to his social life as he contemplated the newness of a first date and the anticipation of a second, both acting as a lovely build-up to the third date–the highlight of most of Patrick’s relationships, when the increasing ease that came from being somewhat acquainted was roughly equal to the remaining sense of the unknown. Third dates provided Patrick with a brief and welcome opportunity to smile. Fourth dates, however, brought on the inevitable question: “Where is this going?” or the new phrasing he’d heard twice this past year, “What is your end game?” Whatever the form of the question, it always marked the beginning of the end for Patrick, although he preferred to think of it as the need for yet another new beginning. She’s late. Where is she?

Patrick continued to survey his surroundings and tried to relax. The one modern aspect of the hotel, a full-length glass wall, featured three oversized doors with pearl handles, which provided access to Tenth Avenue. The Limerick Liar, one of Patrick’s favorite Irish bars, became visible in the distance as a large delivery truck pulled away from the front of The Boigen. How could I have missed this hotel?

Two distinct groups of people assembled in the lobby. The larger group clustered around the ornate table with the white tulips. Tourists, Patrick guessed as he detected a sense of anticipation when a big luxury charter bus pulled up to the Tenth Avenue entrance. The second group in the lobby lacked the excitement of the first and displayed more control, as they sat in a collection of chairs about ten feet away from the doorway that led to 20th Street. Patrick didn’t know what this group was waiting for and realized he had no theories. That was unusual. This game of analyzing the behavior and motivations of strangers relaxed him when he got anxious, which was often. Patrick’s blood pressure eased as he continued to watch.

The tourists left the lobby and headed toward the charter bus on Tenth Avenue and the more sedate group departed onto 20th Street. Patrick found it peculiar–actually rude–that each of the tourists peeled a single petal off a tulip as they passed the bouquet and left for the bus. He was tempted to say something to them, but realized as much as it bothered him, he would not want to be seen in any kind of a confrontation when his date arrived. First impressions dictate the outcome, Patrick reminded himself. A young hotel employee quickly replaced the ravaged bouquet as if it were a standard duty. Patrick smiled. Good service standards, well executed. It was a tightly run ship.

The Boigen lobby was almost empty and all of the energy that had filled the room a few minutes earlier exited with the two groups. His date was late. As Patrick glanced again at his watch, he felt a tap on his shoulder and then a brief, searing pain just below his right ear. The extreme discomfort forced him to hunch over while pressing his hands against either side of his head. After a few moments, he straightened up and tried to regain his composure. He was unsuccessful. So much for first impressions – Patrick turned to meet his date.

“Good evening, Patrick, it’s been a while,” she said.
He didn’t know how to respond.
“Patrick. This must be upsetting to you, but we need to talk.”
His heart was pounding and beads of sweat started to gather on his brow.

Patrick loosened his tie and took several long, deep breaths. Finally, he stam- mered, “I don’t understand. The last time...the last time I saw you...” His words failed him.

She smiled gently. “I understand your confusion, but before I answer your questions, I have one for you.” She paused. “Do you remember the last time we were together?”

“I thought you would. So when was it?”
Patrick cleared his throat and muttered, “April 11, 2008,” as he examined his surprise visitor who hadn’t changed at all in the past five years. How could this be? Patrick asked himself. April 11, 2008, was the day she died.

Chapter 2

The Reflektions Cafe

PATRICK NEEDED A way to process his thoughts as they headed toward the hotel café. Logic didn’t help and imagination made matters worse; he was about to enjoy a cup of coffee with his dead Aunt Grace. Am I dead too, or is this some type of terrible dream? As Patrick realized there were no good answers to this question, his arms started to shake and his lips began to quiver. He knew he needed to relax by thinking about something else, and his mind turned to the café. First, he considered the name–Reflektions. Probably not a misspelling. The Boigen is a Swedish Hotel, and Reflektions must be the Swedish version of Reflections. Not a bad name for a café, he thought.

The small footprint of the Reflektions Café enabled Patrick to survey the entire operation in an instant. He started with the limited menu, which consisted of coffee, tea, and assorted cookies. Not up to the standard of a Manhattan hotel. Patrick quickly developed a short list for additions-- muffins, cakes, and a selection of sandwiches. Yes, that would be a good start. Next on Patrick’s “to do” list, the review of the clientele. Couples sat at the few occupied tables. Some were older, some younger, and a variety of ethnicities were represented. The only area of commonality involved the lack of audible conversation. Why aren’t they talking? The more Patrick continued to focus on the café, the less his arms and lips shook and quivered. He searched for something else, anything else, to analyze.

Grace and Patrick had been close through Patrick’s thirties, when he made a series of investments that would change his life. Some people made fortunes on the rise of the dot-coms, and others, like Patrick, profited when they fell. Once he no longer needed to work, Patrick quit his job as a professor of finance and began a solitary daily routine from which he never wavered. The morning began with a workout, and continued with hours of reading about business trends. In the afternoon, he sat at his computer and traded his portfolio. Every day was the same. Every day he was alone and that’s how he liked it. No more impressionable students who viewed him as a role model and hung on his every word. No more freshmen orientations, graduations, and endless birthdays, weddings, baptisms, and the like with high maintenance colleagues. Patrick had his computer and the market, and they provided him with what he needed, asking nothing in return.

In the evenings, Patrick went out because even he required some variety. The agenda either involved a date or hours of wandering the streets of the city until a random bar or restaurant in some way distinguished itself from the scenery. He could be quite social with strangers and some of his best evenings came about as a result of one of these urban walkabouts. The variety of the city suited Patrick because he never wanted to be a “regular” anywhere.

Finally, they settled in their chairs.

“So, how’ve you been enjoying your apartment? Sorry, I’m not being specific enough. You’ve probably lived in at least two or three places since I passed away. Tell me about your latest place.”

“Tell you about my latest place?” It hardly seemed relevant.

“Patrick, you’re an anxious mess. If I can’t calm you down, I won’t be able explain what you need to understand. So tell me about the place, and start with a deep breath...” Grace wasn’t usually sharp, but sometimes with Patrick it was necessary.

Patrick recognized he needed to calm down and he did enjoy talking about his apartments. Despite his wealth, Patrick always rented and insisted on one-year leases. He didn’t believe in being locked in and sought out upscale apartments in luxury buildings with either a balcony or a terrace. As much as Patrick needed the outdoor space, even in the cold New York winter, he didn’t need much of it--only Patrick and his laptop computer needed to be accommodated.

“Okay.” He took a breath then stopped, unsure why he was hesitating. “I... I moved to the other side.”

She laughed. “Let me guess, for you the ‘other side’ is the East Side. Were you growing tired of the West Side, Patrick? Or was there another reason? Perhaps it was something about a terrace?”

“Well, yes.” He looked at her for a long moment. How did she know? “I’m on the 35th floor facing midtown and my apartment has two terraces. The first has a beautiful, unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline, but the second is the special one.”

“What makes it so unique?”

Patrick smiled as he started to describe his favorite terrace, the best he ever had. “Well, first of all, it looks like a castle. Of course, the top is open to the elements, but then the sides have four walls with cut out windows reminiscent of those you would see in a medieval castle. The windows are large, so my view is still unobstructed, but the walls block strong winds and prevent me from getting sunburned. The castle is my favorite part of the apartment.”

“So while you can look across the city from the vantage point of your chair in the castle, it would be very hard for anyone else to look in. Is that right?”

“Well, yes, but I burn so easily. The walls give me protection from the sun.” She hid a smile. “Yes, protection from the sun. I’m sure that must be the reason. Irish skin is so sensitive.”

Patrick had always been a headstrong child who grew to be a stubborn man. In recent years, he had intentionally distanced himself from the rest of the family. His Aunt Grace was the only family member with whom he’d stayed in touch. Main-taining contact with Patrick was not easy, however, so Grace often broke little things around her house or caused minor glitches on her computer, which could be easily repaired, and then asked Patrick to come to her assistance. They would talk while he worked; she calmed him down and tried to help him manage his highly introverted, but occasionally explosive, personality. While she recognized that her nephew was a brilliant man, she knew better than anyone he was also a personal train wreck. His inability to commit was not limited to his dates, and Grace had realized that his constant moves from apartment to apartment enabled him to remain the new neighbor while never becoming a trusted old friend.

Aunt Grace sat with her back erect, her posture almost as classy as her diction. “Let’s first order some coffee and then we can talk.”

An elderly, well-dressed man interrupted. “No need,” he offered as he placed two paper cups with lids on the table. “A Chamomile tea for the lady and a black coffee for the gentleman.” Patrick had noticed this same employee earlier at the front desk and admired his neatly sculpted white beard, perfectly tailored three-piece suit, and monogrammed “P.S.” on his shirtsleeve. The gentleman continued with an air of authority, “I think it might be best if the two of you finished your chat in your room. Here is your key card.” The man turned to Patrick, paused for a moment, and then said, “And Patrick, I wish you the best of luck.” As the man walked away, the big ring of keys dangling from his belt jingled, and Patrick became even more confused. Who was that man? How did he know my name? Why do we need a room? Why did he wish me luck? Aunt Grace seemed to understand the urgent need for answers and responded, “Patrick, you’ll get all of your answers upstairs. Let’s take our drinks and go up to the room.”

About the author:
A. Robert Allen is a longtime New York City college administrator with a lifelong passion for writing. When he traced his family tree back hundreds of years and uncovered roots that were white, black, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, the seed of a story began to grow. Failed Moments is a fictional account of the exploits of his ancestors during racially charged periods in the past.

Find out more about the author and his works at his:

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