Francis Dillard—Mid-forties. owner of Dillard, Incorporated, a real estate developer company responsible for acquiring land and designing and constructing buildings for large office firms and multiplexes all over the First World nations. Francis is a firm, shrewd businessman, absolutely fixated on being in complete control of every aspect of his business, and he wants nothing more than to see his son Justin become the same kind of leader in the business. He allows Justin to dabble in each field consolidated under the Dillard umbrella, so that he would use that knowledge to be able to place orders with adequate expectations as to what the various contractors are capable of.
Francis dated an American exchange student named Janet Alden, but they broke up after a year. When Justin got accepted into an exchange program at Columbia University in New York, Francis saw this as an opportunity for a firsthand visit to his American land holdings. He bought a penthouse in Manhattan and is there most of the time, conducting deals and negotiating with other business clients—only venturing out for in-person meetings over a meal.
Justin Dillard—mid-twenties; the son of a reputable business magnate, he might have been regarded as a "silver spoon" child, except that he never fought to be recognized by everyone around him. Justin prefers the background, takes more of a supporting role to others. He has had enough of his dad pushing and dragging him into the limelight, he capitalizes on his father's constant distraction and obsession with work, and uses his free time to pursue his own interests. He spends most of his time in the architectural division, chatting with the designers and contractors about their work, and even drawing up his own designs. There is one building in particular, under construction in London, that Justin himself designed, but because the architectural contractor presented the plans to Francis, then the father has no idea that his own son is responsible for the project.
Justin got into the Columbia University exchange program on a business management degree to please his father, but he is also studying for an undergrad degree in architectural design. He met Ben in an Anthropology class taught by Ben's dad, Professor Henry Morrison, and the two became great friends because, while Justin found Ben to be a lot like Francis, he also found Ben's manner tempered by a lot more understanding of Justin's freedom to make his own choices.
Professor Henry "Hank" Morrison—mid-forties Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Ben, Justin, and Ben's girlfriend Edith Alden all take his class for the "Humanities/History/Sociology" credits, even though Edith, as an Education major, would be the only one who actually needs credits in those specific areas. Hank became fascinated with the effect of folklore on cultures during a two-year stint at Oxford University as a Sophomore/Junior, which is where he met Francis (whom he calls "Frank" even though literally no one else does) and the two hit it off well because of Hank's amiable and open demeanor, and the fact that Janet had only recently dumped Frank, and he was a bit depressed over it. Hank drew him out of his "post-girl funk" and the two became close friends for many years. When Frank managed to start the contracting company that would later become Dillard, Inc., he became so engrossed in his work that he all but forgot about his old college buddy, till Justin moved to New York and met Ben, and the two boys discovered the connection between their fathers. Henry's wife did not appreciate his impulsive, easily-distracted manner, as his fixation on the things he studies and his discoveries often caused him to forget important events or other tasks she wanted him to do. Henry's interest in folklore always tends to play a part in his lectures, as he seeks to prove that literally any kind of social value and practice will have some story or another to explain or reflect it. The real recognition comes, though, when he is invited on a tropical cruise through the Bahamas, to speak on the cultural connection and historical basis for the legends surrounding the Bermuda Triangle. The cruise, they say, will pass very near the Triangle (without crossing the nautical boundaries) on the day just after he is scheduled to give the lecture, to give a real-world backdrop to his talk. Little does he know that one single night is going to change his life forever.
Ben Morrison—mid-twenties, Business Finance major at Columbia University. Tends to have a more straight-laced personality, to off-set the impulsive, open personality of his father. His mother was the same way, and wound up turning to alcohol (drinking and "socializing" too much) and eventually separating from Hank, and moving all the way to Florida to commiserate with her family. Ben lives with his father while studying at Columbia University, and during his junior year, he met Edith Alden, a freshman in need of math tutoring. Ben obliged, and the two hit it off very well, as Edie proved receptive to Ben's attempt at starting a relationship, barely-romantic as it was. He was pleased to discover that Edie understood his rationality, and did not mind the absence of "traditional" levels of sentiment, as Ben's gifts to her tended to err on the practical side, and he bore no ill will if she decided to use the gift rather than save it, and he understood when she would decide to get rid of a gift that was no longer useful, for economy's sake. Neither Ben nor his father initially knew Edie's mother's connection to the Dillards--and even Edie herself didn't know that Ben's best friend Justin was the son of her mother's ex-boyfriend. Ben tends to be the schedule-keeper for his dad; whereas his own mother couldn't figure Henry out, and gave up trying to understand him, Ben always observed his father carefully, and learned to interpret his mannerisms and predict when his father would need someone like Ben to step in and assist him. He doesn't need the Anthropology credits, but he attends some of the lectures anyway, mostly for moral support of his father. He definitely appreciates the way Henry still makes time for and shows an interest in him, in contrast to the way Justin speaks of his father largely ignoring or overlooking him.
Janet Alden--Mid-forties. Janet has held multiple jobs over the course of her life, and none of them for very long, much to her daughter's chagrin. Originally from England, Janet met Frank in her first year at Oxford, but by the following year, they had a falling out and she dumped him. A group of American students came the next year as part of the student exchange program (Henry Morrison among them) but Janet, rather than remain in England, applied to be one of the students heading to America instead. There, she began a string of relationships that all started out well but ended up badly, and somewhere along the years (during which she quit school and tried to find jobs that could pay the rent, all while moving all around the state in search of affordable housing) she got pregnant, with little idea who the father actually was (but a fair amount of certainty that it wasn't her current boyfriend.) Not wanting to be saddled with a family just yet, her current boyfriend made her choose between continuing a relationship with him, or raising the baby on her own, so Janet entered a new phase of life as a single mother. Desperately wanting that simple, pleasant childhood that she remembered from her days in England, Janet worked hard to be able to provide for her young daughter, regularly browsing the classified ads in the newspaper for anything that she could reasonably handle. Fate seemed against her, though, as it happened with almost regular certainty that, no sooner would she start a job, than extraneous circumstances would remove her: a pizza kitchen burned down overnight, the family she nannied for moved away suddenly and without warning, the hotel went abruptly (and mysteriously) bankrupt--and so many others. Janet isn't fazed by much, and, circumstances notwithstanding, she has actually managed to stay in the same townhouse since Edith got the scholarship to begin attending Columbia University, and she still combs the newspapers every day for the two of them, eager to see her daughter succeed in the life she never quite had.
Let The Story Begin!!