By eleven-fifty in the evening Rudy had exhausted every option to bridge the missing profit. So he did what he’d never done before. He closed his mind to the problem and let consciousness slip away to be replaced by dreaming. There would be no rabbit pulled from a hat. He couldn’t save the quarter. Couldn’t save himself. Couldn’t save Max or the other 61,470 hard-working people he’d screwed. The world he’d constructed so meticulously had come down around them all.
In his dream the sun radiated down on him, warm and kind. There was no land or sea. Only the perfect sun glowing in a perfect sky. He found he could watch without feeling the need to blink or look away. There was no discomfort. There was only the contentment of the moment, and with it the question: why would you ever choose to leave such a moment? Wasn’t it better to stay here, under this benevolent sun, than return to reality? He let himself relax for the first time in years. Twenty-five years, to be exact. He felt the weight leaving his shoulders, the tension melt from his brow. And then, the sun flickered. Once. Twice. Blinking off and back on, twitching like a dying butterfly. It trembled a final time and went out. The warmth was quickly replaced by a penetrating cold that told him the sun wasn’t coming back. Ever.
He felt his phone pop to life with an incoming message. Carter, texting him his 10:00 a.m. boarding pass out of Miami for Roatán.