He liked to tell people he was named after Cary Grant. It took away ever so slightly from the overall sleaze that his aura radiated. Still, it did little to mitigate his general foulness, for most kids his daughter’s age really had no idea who Cary Grant was. Sometimes he wondered if he ought to go by Grant instead. Maybe that would give him the credibility and grace he needed to manipulate these children. And they were children, college students or not. That’s why it was so easy to control them. They were still young and sheltered enough not to be jaded. And at Lara Torrance–a school “as unique as you,” as the tagline went–there were plenty of malleable misfits for Cary to seize upon. All he needed was the conduit of legitimacy for hanging around there that his daughter, Shayla, provided him.
Shayla was indeed a willing vessel, having long been conditioned to want to please her father, ever since, as far as she knew, her mother, Ella, abandoned them–not picking up on the fact that she just “so happened” to disappear the same night of a particularly brutal fight between her and Cary. Yet Shayla, at age eleven, could never remember a time when her parents weren’t screaming at each other. So, to her, it didn’t seem telling that Ella should vanish after hearing Cary call her a “lying whore.” For all Shayla knew, maybe she was. She had always tended to favor her father’s opinions over her mother’s–maybe it stemmed from the ability he had to instill disciplined devotion to him via fear. A technique he had picked up in the army. Which he was loath to tell Shayla (or anyone else) that he had been kicked out for misconduct (that misconduct specifically being to appoint himself as Ringleader of Hazing, culminating in some Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club antics, i.e. taping people’s buns together).
As far as the “average” person knew, Cary had left of his own volition. But the truth was, there wasn’t a day that went by when he didn’t yearn for it–to still be part of the only entity that ever meant anything to him. That is, until he started up his own version of it. One that allowed him to be in total control. Yes, when the opportunity presented itself to become a ringleader, of sorts, again, he scarcely recognized it was happening, for it came so naturally to him to manipulate, to wield people as though they were his little marionettes. Even he would be hard-pressed to admit that’s what was happening as he found himself becoming his daughter’s “third roommate” in her spring semester of freshman year. She already had a requisite roommate amid the numerous dormmates on her floor. Her name was Arabella, an impressionable and insecure girl from the outskirts of Los Angeles.
Perhaps as a result of her proximity to Spahn Ranch, she was predestined to join a cult in some capacity. And Cary quickly became her cult leader for sure, offering to “counsel” her, to “open” her up (more than just chakra-wise, mind you). At first, Shayla exhibited an eerie jealousy over Arabella, trying to thwart their closeness by constantly interrupting their “sessions,” finding any excuse to come into the room while they were “working.” Walking in on Arabella fellating her father was enough to cure her of these “accidental” interruptions, and she wondered if her father hadn’t orchestrated the timing on purpose somehow. He was just that warlock-y. And that fucking sadistic.
Shayla didn’t speak to him for days after the incident, putting a slight damper on the clout he held over the other students in the dorm, who began to sense perhaps there was something to be mistrusted about “Daddy Cary.” Feeling his loss of power, Cary had no choice but to get violent with his “baby girl.” A term he cooed to her as he pushed her against the wall of an army friend’s (lately nowhere to be seen since Cary came back into his orbit) Yorkville apartment and backhanded her across the face. Enough physical abuse convinced her to go along with what he wanted, and apprise all the wayward members of the flock in the dorm that “school” would still be in session over the summer at this oversized Yorkville space–that they were all welcome to stop by or even stay rather than go back home to their “hypocrite” parents, as Cary referred to them. Shayla’s steady boyfriend, Sergio, meanwhile, was starting to get way too severe a case of the heebie-jeebies to want to keep sticking around to watch her interactions with her overly present patriarch.
He began to distance himself, much to Shayla’s dismay. It was over a late night omelet at Midnight Express that Sergio finally had to tell her point-blank: “I don’t want to see you anymore. The whole thing with your dad is just way too fuckin’ weird.” Shayla stopped mid-chew to spit the bite of omelet in her mouth right onto his face. Maybe she was still drunk or maybe she was just that blindly protective of her father. Either way, it was the final nail in the coffin of any passion Sergio might have still felt for her. So it was that he wiped her DNA off his face and walked out of the diner without looking back.
When he received a panicked call from her at the end of the summer, he was surprised, almost hanging up, yet compelled to stay on the line when he heard her desperate sobs. “I didn’t know who else to call–I–he’s gone too far this time–she’s–Arabella–” “Who the fuck are you talking to?!” Sergio heard Cary bellowing to her from across the room. A vision of that horrendous sty of an Upper East Side apartment came to mind. Of takeout boxes and liquor bottles scattered everywhere, maybe a few errant mice milling around for good measure. Worst of all, from the sound of things, maybe there was an errant dead body or two as well. But before Sergio could ask her what was going on, the line went blank. Cary had hung up, or maybe knocked the phone out of her hand and smashed it, knowing his penchant for theatrics.
Sergio was now faced with the moral dilemma of choosing to be a savior or simply looking the other way, as so many already had in order for Cary to come this far. Taking a toke from his blunt as a means of reflection on the situation, Sergio decided there was no disengaging from it. He had to get to that nexus of darkness on 89th and 1st and do what he could to extract whoever was willing. It seemed that whatever Cary had done now, it was far enough across a line of common decency to at least send the cult members’ defense mechanisms into overdrive. But it still might be too little, too late with a man as depraved as Cary in their midst.
As visions of Cary spattered in blood laughing diabolically over the corpses of those he had converted swirled in Sergio’s head, he hopped on his moped and made the journey from the Lower East Side to Yorkville. It was late, around 12:30, and there was no traffic. It only took him fifteen minutes to get there. The “secret” key to allow all of Cary’s “children” easy access to the “compound” whenever they wanted was where it usually was–hidden in the dirt of a specific bush near the door. He opened the portal to what he knew would be something he couldn’t come back from. And that whatever he saw behind these doors could not be unseen. Even so, he somehow believed it couldn’t possibly be as horrendous as he was imagining it. Alas, he found, it was worse.
Before he even opened the door, he could see there was a pool of blood oozing out of the threshold. How could Cary be so reckless? Sergio asked himself. Then he remembered how accustomed people were to getting away with literal murder in New York. It was just that apathetic of a place. Perfect for the depraved to carry out their iniquity in all of its uninterrupted glory. Or at least, in this case, partially uninterrupted. For Sergio was about to burst in and take by force whoever was still left alive. Cult leaders could be so foolish that way–slaughtering a well-trained flock without seeming to understand how much effort it takes to condition a new one. And where Arabella was concerned, well, she was the most loyal–even more loyal than Shayla (probably because Arabella could fuck Cary and Shayla couldn’t, at least not without it getting extra weird). Yet here she was strung up from the rafters like Casey Becker in Scream.
Sergio himself might have screamed were it not for the sudden presence of a gag in his mouth before he felt the blunt force of a gun handle thwack him against the back of the head.
When he came to, he found himself amid a heap of once trusted Cary acolytes: there was Shayla–her throat slashed–Derek–his guts haphazardly heaped on the floor–Erin–her backside somehow where her frontside should be–Jaquim–his eyes and tongue ripped out before he was shot in the chest. In fact, he was the only one still gurgling with any life left in him. Trying desperately to get out one last sentence or even just a word, one that seemed to warn, “Run.” Sergio knew there was no running now though. It had all come down to this moment–this showdown–between him and Cary. All he had to do was wait for him to return again.
Once he did, he sauntered in with an annoying air of confidence as he chomped obnoxiously from a bag of potato chips. “Well Sergie boy, it’s just down to you and me now. I guess I always knew it would be.” Sergio spat at him. “You’re fucking sick. Either untie me and let’s have a fair fight or just kill me and get it over with.”
Cary started laughing. “‘Just’ kill you? Oh Sergie, if I’m to get rid of you, it’s going to be nice and slow.” Sergio glared at him. “What do you mean ‘if’?” Cary wiped his greasy hands on the side of his U.S. Army shirt, already grease-stained to begin with. “I want us to work together, dontcha see?”
Sergio was livid at the prospect, whatever it meant. “No.”
“No you don’t see or no you don’t want to?” he asked as he came closer to Shayla’s corpse and started to unzip his pants.
“Both.” Sergio sneered.
“But we could be so good together. Me with my tenets and you with your own manipulative charm. Why, it’s the very charm that turned my daughter against me, isn’t it? She started poisoning the well once you poisoned hers.” He started to urinate on Shayla, causing Sergio to bristle. “But if we work together, we could be so much more successful. Unstoppable really.”
“You mean you could,” Sergio returned. “What the fuck would I get out of it?”
Cary tittered. “Your life, I guess.”
Sergio realized he was right. He would have to play along if he wanted his freedom.
A year had passed since he consented to Cary’s terms. He couldn’t say anymore why he was still doing it. There had been more than a hundred opportunities for him to defect and go to the police. But he never did. And something told him Cary knew that he wouldn’t. That he himself would become addicted to the power. Some innate sense within him knowing that’s why he pulled away from Shayla the first time–it wasn’t just that he was repulsed by her and Cary, but repulsed by himself for gravitating toward them in the first place. Such repulsions had been either pushed aside or suppressed of late, particularly in this very moment as he proceeded to assuage a new cult member, Dana, about stealing the stray money she had mentioned her father kept around the house like a type of petty cash. Only it was intended for his usage only (for strippers and what have you), not his daughter’s.
Sergio found himself assuring her as he stroked her bare tit, “It’s the least he can do for you. After the way he’s abandoned you. Tried to buy your affections with this overpriced fucking college without bothering to ever spend time with you. Get to know you. So why not let him pay a little more? Make him really earn your affections.”
Dana returned later that night to the dorm (Cary was still taking up residence in the common area, never informing anyone that his daughter had died) with the money. It would be quite useful to fortifying the cult’s power. Sergio spread it out on his bed and proceeded to fuck Dana on top of it, giving a new meaning to the term “parental backing.” It was going to be a very profitable semester indeed.