Illustration by Andres Garzon
Vernon Seymour watched Tillsonburg, Ontario shrink in his rear-view mirror. Barring any unfortunate twists, it should be his last view of the city.
Not that he hadn’t enjoyed his time in that quaint little town; Vern’s employers tended to his needs as much as he tended to theirs throughout their collaboration. Significantly more so in fact. There were many who knew and respected Vern. He had quickly melded into the small community, and had been welcomed into the most esteemed and prestigious organizations. The power in his words and the ability to shift his message depending upon the audience drew both the liberal and conservative minded to his speaking engagements. Equal parts philosopher, counsellor and sage, the masses viewed him as a leader, and the moral compass that the community should follow.
Those who knew but didn’t respect him were a quiet, embarrassed few, but not so quiet that the odd whisper didn’t escape. These people, some of the women of the community, viewed Vernon Seymour in an entirely different light. They compared him to Rasputin, some tones reverent, others disgusted.
So great was the power wielded by this demigod in their midst that when those who had regretted their entanglements shared their stories to others, the resultant backlash was swift and severe.
“How could you say such things about this great man?”
“Why would you lie about Vern? He is above reproach!”
Shame quickly silenced the victims. Those few who saw through the wolf’s mask found themselves isolated, even from their lifelong friends who believed this man on the pedestal over them.
You see, good old Vern opened his doors to people, and they opened their hearts and souls to him, telling the trusted counsellor their darkest secrets, and most intimate details; those things women would dare not share with others. He listened patiently, providing sage advice and tactfully drawing out the most intimate details. Then, when meeting these same people privately as friends, he would throw these details back in their faces, the way a monkey will throw shit at its enemies, deriding them and crushing their spirit when they didn’t bow to his wishes. That is, until they did. Once in his grip, he lorded over his victims at every opportunity, the master manipulator always in control. But in the public eye, the Angel Vernon was always on display.
Eventually though, whispers grew louder and even his greatest defenders conceded that where there was smoke, there had to be fire. In the fourth year of Seymour’s residency in this charming town, things finally caught up with him. His employers met with Vernon privately and told him it was time to leave. His attempts to charm, sway and deny almost worked, but they held firm.
Most men would have conceded their fate and disappeared before the fire burned their ass any hotter, but when it came to balls, Vernon Seymour had big brass ones. He demanded and received a paid move to his next location, a severance package, and a glowing reference letter. This was on top of several ‘loans’ he had received from multiple women of high standing in the community who would never see a penny back. His employers were only aware of a few of the women left conned, swindled, and broken in his wake, but there were dozens. With few notable exceptions, financial loss was their only punishment for becoming caught in Vernon Seymour’s vacuuming vortex.
Vern thought of one of those notable exceptions as he drove down the highway, distancing himself from Tillsonburg. I should have drawn the line at my secretary, he thought. Then he started laughing. It’s right in the Bible. Though shalt not use thy rod on thy staff. My apologies to King David and the twenty-third psalm.
After noon on day three of his westward travels, Vern saw his new home in the distance, and smiled when he saw the sign. Welcome To The Friendly City.
“And on the third day, he rose again,” he said aloud.
Vern couldn’t move into the house he’d purchased for two more days, so he checked into The Temple Gardens Hotel And Spa. After supper, he drove around town for an hour, getting familiar with the layout and his new place of business. He walked through Crescent Park, following the serpentine creek where ducks paddled, introducing himself to those out enjoying the summer day and striking up conversations.
After supper, Moose Jaw’s newest resident returned to the hotel and changed in to his bathing suit. He took the elevator to the large mineral pool on the fourth floor, and did what Vern does best– schmooze and learn a bit more about this place he’d chosen as home. It was important to get to know people, but more important that they knew him.
Back in his room, Vern poured himself a scotch on the rocks, and opened his laptop to prepare for the next day. Facebook and Instagram provided most of what he needed. Profiles of married people with mostly solitary photos, or some with everybody except their spouses told one story. Snapshots of couples together told yet another depending on how close they were, how they touched, their smiles or lack thereof. He took notes, memorized faces, names, and whole families, then Googled specific people of interest to him.
The next morning, Vernon Seymour dressed and ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant, after which he brushed, flossed and preened himself for the most important meeting he would ever have in this town: the first one with his new employers at nine a.m.
Vern arrived twenty minutes early, parking several spots back from the entrance. He watched the people who went into the building, sizing them up, putting names to faces. At five minutes to nine, he added the last touch to his wardrobe, affixing his white clerical collar. The Reverend Vernon Seymour left his car and walked up the stairs to the building where he would meet his new employers, The Church Council. He opened the door, and walked in. The fox had found a new henhouse.
MARK FENTON is a writer who was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, but now lives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He is a husband, father and grandfather. Mark has been a passionate writer since childhood, and is a member of The Moose Jaw Night Writers.
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Fenton. All rights reserved.