I worked on Wall Street in the early 90s. I knew the Gordon Gekko and Patrick Bateman wannabes, desperate edgelords reveling in scraps of power and pathetically in need of love that only money could buy. I knew the real sociopaths too. The originals. Degenerates who sacrificed animals at altars devoted to Moloch or paid prostitutes to fuck the homeless. But there was only one person I was ever truly scared of—
I met Harlan (“the cunt-god of greed”) Gills on a company trip to Tokyo. We worked for the same bank. Remember Die Hard? Back then, we were all afraid the Japanese were going to conquer us with Sony TVs and robots, and I suppose corporate wanted us to see what the future looked like.
We mostly drank, fucked and snorted cocaine.
I barely remember the city.
I remember Harlan Gills asking me, “Norm, you wanna see something absolutely fucked?”
He led me through an alley to the back door of what looked like a club. Banged on it twice. Some guy eyed us through a slit, then let us in.
“You’re gonna love this shit.”
The place was dark and loud. The Prodigy drowning out screams, moaning—
“You been here before?” I asked.
“Every time I’m in town. Best way to blow off steam.”
An old woman met us. She held out two fingers.
“No,” Harlan said. “Just one.”
He pushed me toward her. “What you want?” she asked.
“Fresh meat,” Harlan answered for me.
The woman left.
She returned with a naked middle-aged cripple, eyes down, shoulders turned inward. This is fresh?
Harlan grabbed my shoulders. “Show my friend the smorgasbord.”
The old woman wheeled out a wooden tray covered with weapons, surgical implements, tools…
“What you fancy?” the old woman asked. “You like knife maybe? Hammer?”
“What am I supposed—”
“Anything you fucking want. That’s the beauty of it,” Harlan said. “As long as you don’t kill her. That costs extra.“
…crossed paths with Harlan again in Chicago, on opposite sides of a negotiation. Afterwards he took me for lunch.
There was a twinkle in his eye.
“You seen Hostel?” He didn’t wait for my answer. “That’s me. Based on my initiatives.”
“Remember Tokyo, Norm? Remember what you did to that bitch?”
My appetite evaporated.
“Now it’s international business. My business.”
“That was so wrong,” I said.
He took a bite of lunch. “Come on. We all got it in us. Like the song fucking says, everybody hurts.”
Our fates diverged. I lost my job during the housing crisis. Harlan started his own investment company.
One day, I’m watching CNN and I see him standing by the president. Harlan-fucking-Gills. Unmistakable. Turns out he’s got his fingers in everything: politics, MMA, bareknuckle, Only Fans, Netflix. There was even a small piece on him in a local paper about the opening of a new nightspot:
“A little piece of nostalgia,” he calls it. “The Tokyo Torture Club.”