Behind the Lights is Soap Hub’s exclusive fanfiction, set in the bustling metropolis of Genoa City… and you, the reader, have the chance to influence the story! If you have an idea for how things should progress, leave your suggestion in the comments. Then, come back for the next installment to see how the saga takes shape!
Darryn kept a nonchalant swagger in his step as he left the coffee shop, but his heart was pounding in his chest. That was stupid! he scolded himself. The woman – Simone – had been able to tell that something was amiss almost from the get-go. She was friendly, yes, and one might even call her chipper, but there was a hardened layer of steel lying just beneath the surface. Darryn had seen that sort of personality before: Genoa City was full of two-faced schemers and high-level grifters… but none of them had come across as being quite so genuine in their warmth.
Maybe her warmth is genuine, Darryn mused. Wouldn’t that be a surprise? He realized that he had been walking without any sort of destination in mind, and he paused for a moment to collect himself. Passersby gave him wary glances, as though the sight of someone standing still on the sidewalk was some kind of spectacle. He paid them no mind, and instead tried to formulate a plan for a second approach. His first attempt at making a connection had gone well and truly off the rails, and he doubted if he’d get a second chance to make a first impression. It meant that he’d have to start at a disadvantage, then work to ingratiate himself when the time was right.
He sighed aloud as he replayed the brief conversation in his mind. His employer – whoever that actually was – had been very specific about the necessity of a good relationship between him and his quarry. He didn’t entirely understand why, but then again, he wasn’t being paid to ask questions. Maybe she was going to be a future asset. Maybe someone just wanted to learn about the comings and goings at Jabot Cosmetics. Maybe, as unlikely as it might have been, it was all part of some loyalty test for new executive employees.
Whatever the reason, he had blown his first attempt.
There was a time, not too many years ago, when Darryn would have resorted to offering expensive gifts or exciting opportunities to those people he was trying to win over. Sadly, a single misstep had been enough to wrench all of those luxuries from his grasp, and now he was being forced to make do with his wits alone. He wondered if anyone in his old circles even remembered him, or if he had vanished from history like so many forgotten kings and soldiers.
A faraway smile drifted across his lips as he remembered the lavish parties and opulent surroundings in which he’d so often found himself. He’d taken his power for granted, never realizing that a thousand would-be rulers were circling beneath him like sharks. No doubt the city’s upper crust felt perpetually pursued by similar predators, even as they looked for ways to take bites out of their competition. It would certainly explain what had happened at Brash and Sassy recently.
If only he’d been more careful with his trust… if only he’d seen the warning signs, and taken steps to protect himself, he might still be sitting on that proverbial throne, moving pieces across the chessboard as he shuffled between allies and opponents. If he were there now, he’d have his own man on the street, quietly sniffing out whatever information he needed… and he’d be able to trade that information for whatever might interest his next prospect. Even a single day’s worth of warning about some big shakeup or another would be priceless to the right person, and they’d remember his generosity when the moment came.
Darryn shook his head, trying to clear the errant thoughts away. Nostalgia couldn’t help him now, and he knew all too well that he had no favors to call in. Besides, Simone hadn’t struck him as the sort of person to be impressed by trinkets or baubles. As far as he’d been able to see, the only jewelry that she’d been wearing had been a slim, square-faced watch.
No wedding ring, though, thought Darryn.
He realized that he’d been motionless for several minutes, and a slight chill had started to settle on his skin. Almost of their own accord, his feet started moving again, and his thoughts hurried to keep up. Okay, so, she’ll be suspicious of you the next time that you meet, Darryn reasoned to himself. What’s the best way to turn suspicion into trust? He rubbed his arms with his hands, cursing himself for having not worn a heavier jacket. If I make it obvious that I’m trying to get on her good side, Simone will see through it, and she’ll have even more reason to be mistrustful. If I don’t make enough of an effort, though, then she’ll think I’m stalking her.
Darryn scoffed humorlessly. Granted, I am sort of stalking her, he muttered internally.
Just like that, a solution presented itself.
The instructions that he’d received from his employer had been very direct, but they allowed more than a little bit of leeway in their execution:
Step One: Leave the package.
Step Two: Identify the target.
Step Three: Make contact.
Step Four: Become a trusted companion.
The first three steps had been accomplished easily enough, even if their completion had made the fourth one seem incredibly difficult. Still, that failure might very well have been an opportunity in disguise… because if Darryn admitted the whole truth, he might end up becoming an ally by default.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Simone finished the last bite of her sandwich, then looked around for Sharon. At the very least, she wanted to offer her thanks for the free food, and maybe leave a generous tip. Unfortunately, the woman seemed to be engaged in a conversation with a young, dark-haired woman… and it didn’t appear to be going particularly well. Given how close Crimson Lights was to her new apartment, though – and considering that she was already on a first-name basis with the owner – Simone imagined that she’d be back in the not-too-distant future.
She briefly wondered about the man who had approached her, but ultimately chalked it up to another manifestation of that same Genoa City atmosphere. Strange how he had implied that they’d have a second meeting, though. If that came to pass, she’d make sure to ask some very specific questions…