Art Pact 185 - Golden Room


This golden room at the very top of the tower was Molan's pride and joy, a monument to his architectural and artistic skills in the general and in the specific a testament to his obsessive love of the colour yellow and the shades and hues thereof. Reached by a private elevator (which, for design reasons, did not run to the ground floor of the building but only as far as three floors down from the penthouse, necessitating a long ride up in the public elevators and then a transfer down a short but obscure corridor), it was sandwiched by the roof on top and below by a sort of half-level - larger than the normal maintenance levels but uninhabited and packed largely with sound-absorbing foam so that the noises from the rest of the building were completely undetectable in the penthouse and vice-versa - and vice was indeed exactly what it was that Molan's design was created to render silent. It had been built in secret - not that it was possible in these days, of course, to add a level onto a tower without it being public knowledge in some sense, but Molan had taken a number of precautions to ensure that as little was known about it as possible. He had the outside walls constructed before any of the inner structure save that absolutely necessary to support the fascia, so that the layout of the rooms inside could not be observed by telescope or by flying drone. He flew in construction workers who could not speak English from various exotic climes and housed them in barracks to keep them away from the general public and from the ordinary workers who had constructed the lower floors. When the job was done, they were all flown back to their countries of origin and their records lost to prevent them from being tracked down and quizzed (another story circulating at the time suggested that their reward for their hard work and tight lips had been rather more sinister, earning them a spot of land at the bottom of the sea, but since Molan's public actions and those of his private ones that eventually came to light did not reveal tendencies towards Bond-villain behaviour, these rumours could easily be discounted as the work of his rivals or of bored gossip columnists looking to work their way onto the features desks).

The debauchery which all of this secrecy was designed to protect was hinted at by earlier lovers and employees of the great man. It was well known that he was bisexual - no great surprise, although even in that enlightened time and that more than usually tolerant place there was still a whiff of the unsavoury about it, perhaps a sort of ancient Greek prudishness not about the acts which he enjoyed but about the gluttony with which he attended them. An unrestrained desire for both sexes has always seemed rather extravagant, and so the fact of his sexuality was thrown into a great pot in which other rumours of his excess were held, each additional fact bringing the level within one degree closer to the top - the overflow point, at which the papers and gossips who had once lauded ones conspicuous consumption as right and proper now condemned it as unseemly.

He could not, it was admitted by all, be said that Molan was greedy in this respect - the sins recounted by the tattle-tales painted a picture of great orgies in which Molan's central part was as organiser at most, his place within the structure of the nights or days (or nights and days, since the parties often spanned weekends and on one occasion and entire week) strictly that of an ordinary participant, neither abusing or even using his great power or influence to cause the proceedings to occur one way or another or to sway particular lovers in his favour. Indeed, quite the opposite - he was very fond, it was said, of masquerades, and he loved to go to and fro among the anonymous partygoers unrecognised.

There were suggestions, though - rumours, which did not make the light of day but which were only uttered in places of safety, rooms where the atmosphere was so hazy with smoke and alcohol fumes that lips were loosened to the most subtle of speculations - that Molan's semi-public face was something else, a screen for more confusing or troublesome passions lurking beneath the surface. Just as his career as a successful architect and as a gallery designer and showman were the presentable surface to the debaucher, to the orgiast, to the voluptuary, there were hints that the orgies and parties were themselves not the whole story, but a break-away cover. In this version of events the past lovers and employees were not betraying Molan's trust but being used - either wittingly or unwittingly - as smokescreen to cover up something larger. Perhaps Molan had paid them to let slip secrets that would confirm that he was a rich person just like any other - shallow, obsessed with sex, unable to contain his desires. Perhaps they did it out of loyalty. Meta-speculation about the rumours reported in the press was slight, the whole thing becoming a morass of guess and counter-guess, and as such philosophy only began when the debaters were already marinaded in booze, the rigour with which they were prosecuted left much to be desired.

The possibility of a darker secret, though, was left behind like the stale residue of beer in the glasses the following morning, and it was not long before it was picked up by a reporter - the chance of a scoop to end all scoops being too big a prize to be left on the table, even if it did bring with it countless problems and the chance that it would come to nothing. It was sufficient incentive to draw any number of hungry young journalists, but in the end it was enough that it drew one. That was where Cassandra Dewy's story began, and where Molan's story began to end.

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