Nadine was listening to her brother, Regan. She was seated behind a large, polished desk angled in the corner of an executive suite on the top floor of the King building.
Her office had floor to ceiling windows and a panoramic view of the entire city. It was newly refurbished too. She had known when she first saw the space it would one day be her executive office. Her father had been giving another one of his frequent tours to a group of investors and walked them into the empty shell on this side of the building and held forth on his plans for the future expansion of the company headquarters. Holding his arms wide to encompass the empty space, he had described how the company had plenty of room for a planned expansion. He told them the empty space would house a new unit for a whole new product line they were developing and where they were standing was to be a conference room where clients could meet with company personnel on new projects and the new product line. And he pointed out that with the clients looking out at the city during the presentations they would be suitably impressed. They would know this was a company that would be around well into the future.
Nadine saw the space differently that day and it did not involve impressing new clients and their team members or routine clients for that matter, but only those deemed important enough to meet with her. She already knew she was going to maneuver Lenny out of the business before he was ready, even if she didn’t know exactly how that would take place.
She unconsciously ran her hands over the surface of the great desk. Caressing it. Her brother was saying something about Dylan when her mind had drifted. She asked him to go back and reiterate.
“I said he’s gone. I’m not sure where, but I think it may be San Diego. With that girl you thought he was sweet on. You remember, what’s her name, from the college. The day we went to see him there.”
Nadine remembered. “Her name was Marcy.” Nadine said. “I didn’t like her.”
“You never even spoke to her. Good looking little thing.”
“Yeah, and he was fawning all over her. What makes you think he’s gone?”
“Got it direct from the old man. Dylan threw it all over. All of this. Doesn’t want anything to do with the business. Just getting out. And, Nadine, what is this shit with Willets? He gets thrown in jail and someone digs his eye out? Jesus, who would do such a thing?”
Nadine didn’t want to talk about Willets. She never meant for that to happen. Somebody got carried away. Edmund.
She wasn’t sure how she was going to handle Edmund. When she learned what had happened to Willets, she had called him. She had been angry and screaming. He had told her to just calm down and not go all dramatic on him. He said there had been a misunderstanding. He acted like what had happen to Willets was nothing but a business action and nothing to be concerned about.
But she was concerned. She knew that if Edmund would do this, and do it knowing she didn’t want it to happen, do it despite of her objections, in effect do it over her head like that, well, she didn’t know what leverage she retained over him? And if she had no authority over him, then how could she exercise control over what was happening with the business? Not with how she had positioned him.
Edmund was at the center of everything she was doing. All the legal strategy and the not so legal strategy behind the scenes at the courthouse was being lead and directed by him. Investing so much in one man might have been a mistake. But he was a handsome devil. Just to her taste. At least he had been. She was getting a little of tired of him. It wasn’t as much fun as it had been. Too much law, too much business on his mind to play the fun little games she wanted to play.
She returned the conversation to Dylan. “Well, I guess that is all right for Dylan, but I don’t trust that little twat he was with. They could make trouble with his block of shares. They could have a real impact on what we are trying to do.”
“Yeah, but what about Willets?” He wasn’t letting go of the subject.
“It was tragic, just awful what happened to him. But we need to stay focused on what’s important here,” Nadine said.
“You don’t think what happened to him is important?” Regan said.
“Come on,” Nadine said. “I’ve seen you torture cats and I’ve seen your little games with your hired women. You’re not squeamish.”
“But nothing like what they did to Willets! Hell, man that must have been terrible. And what does it have to do with our plans?”
Nadine didn’t like the use of the word “our”. To her the moves, the plans, were all her. But for now she needed Regan. She would let it pass. This time. After the takeover she would straighten Regan out. Once their father was gone and it was for sure, he wasn’t coming back to the business she would be in charge. She had no plans for anything to be “ours”. She didn’t intend to share the power with anyone. She intended it to be all “mine.”
“Look. One thing at a time,” she said. “Who is, what do we know about this Marcy?”
“She’s got money. We know that. Her father is some big deal in the shipping industry. Has his headquarters in San Diego. The man has a lot of political friends in State Government. Federals too I heard.”
“Where you getting all this?”
“One of the professors at the college. Actually, he teaches in the same department as Dylan. He, uh, sometimes attends, shall we say, “Club” meetings with me.”
Nadine smiled sardonically nodded her head knowingly. “Club meetings, huh? I know about those meetings. A college professor? Does he dress up pretty?”
“Never mind about that.” Regan continued, “We are close, uh, friends. He told me about her. Said everyone in the department knew Dylan and her had a thing going. Not exactly kosher, a professor and student, but happens a lot, even with all the new rules on fraternization and sexual harassment.”
“This isn’t good. Willets is sidelined. But we definitely need Dylan’s shares. He has to vote his shares with us. We need to talk to him.”
“Why don’t I do it?” Regan said.
“He’s a little frightened of you, I think.”
Nadine furrowed her brow in a skeptical way.
Regan said, “Look, Nadine, we all find what you are doing a little scary. This is big time stuff. You seem to take to it, take it in stride, but for us, it’s scary. And for Dylan, he’s scared of you period. Hell, you used to fight bullies off him. He thinks you are the toughest person there is. He loves you, sure, you know how goofy good he is, but he is scared of you too. Too scared maybe to tell you the truth. Let me talk to him. See what he will tell us. We can use his fear of you when we need it most. We don’t need it full bore right now.”
Nadine was impressed. Regan was thinking matters through. Immediately on the heels of the pleasant surprise came another thought, that now she would need to pay more attention to him. Watch him closer. If he was this clever, it was just a few small steps for him to arrive at the conclusion that he might be as clever as Nadine. Maybe smarter. And maybe then he starts to have the illusion he should be the one to run the business. And that wasn’t going to happen.
As Nadine sat there listening to her brother, she thought how she didn’t trust anyone anymore. No brother, no father, not her business partner, not her lawyer, no, especially not him. Had she ever trusted anyone, really trusted them? She couldn’t remember.
No matter. As things stood there was no need for her to trust anyone. And trust was overrated anyway.
He was tall. A lot taller than the last time Lenny saw him. Still, he would have recognized him anywhere. The same set of the jaw as Willets. The same hair color. The eyes that seemed to be seeing a higher purpose, a monk like willingness to sacrifice, to submit to the stake for the good of the one true religion. He was Willets son okay.
And Lenny felt comforted that Edgar had arrived. He was here. And he was a tough marine. Dependable. Brave. Courageous. He was someone who could hold his own against a bunch of thugs. And he would take them on regardless of their superior position, regardless of the likelihood of losing, of the sacrifices that may be demanded. He would charge the machine gun nest. He was just the kind of guy Lenny needed.
Edgar smiled when he saw Lenny and waved his free hand. In the other hand was briefcase of some kind. The briefcase looked out of place, incongruous. Edgar wasn’t dressed for business. He had on blue jeans and tee shirt made of some kind of stretch material that hugged and emphasized his musculature. Which was substantial. He put down the briefcase and walked toward Lenny.
When he got to Lenny there was a momentary awkwardness. He first reached out for a handshake, then evidently decided that was ludicrous and reached out with both arms and gave Lenny a big hug. Lenny was never much of a hugger. He never hugged members of his own family. Hell, he didn’t hug his mistresses. He didn’t like the feel of hugs, the physical intimacy, the odor, the breath of another person. Better to just shake hands or fuck them, but not embrace. Nevertheless, he let Edgar have his way, let him envelop him in a hearty hug and then he immediately stepped back a half step from him. He looked up at the taller man and nodded.
“Edgar, I’m so glad you are here.”
“My Dad? How is my Dad?”
“We are going to see him right now. I figured you wouldn’t want to wait.”
“You got that right.”
“You need to prepare yourself. He looks pretty bad, Edgar. Those thugs did a number on him. But the Doc says he’s recovering and he will pull through. Just be prepared. He doesn’t look good right now. No one would.”
Edgar didn’t say anything else. His look, however, changed from friendly to hard. He set his mouth firmly and started walking toward the baggage area. He was a big impressive guy and people parted or moved to the side as he moved through the terminal. Lenny followed in his wake. The bags were already coming around on the carousel. Edgar grabbed a big olive-green duffel bag off the moving circular panels. He must have not had time to purchase any proper luggage. He hoisted the strap over one shoulder and looked to Lenny. Lenny pointed toward the front of the terminal.
They walked in silence until they got to Lenny’s car in the parking lot. Edgar, once seated in the car ran his hand over the leather seats.
“Mr. King. Who did this to my father?”
“I’m not sure.”
“But you have an idea?”
“Well, lets’ have it.”
“Let’s see your dad first and then we will talk.’
“No. I want to know now.”
“Listen, Edgar. It won’t do anybody any good to go off halfcocked.”
Edgar raised his hand to halt Lenny from talking.
“I know all that. It there is one thing three tours in the Middle East fighting a bunch of murdering bastards taught me, is you better have a plan and a good one before you launch an attack. But there is going to be an attack. I’m going to get them. The ones who did this and the ones who put them up to it. It may take a while, but they are going to suffer. Just like my dad suffers. Now, who did it?”
Lenny pushed a button under the steering wheel and the BMW came to life. He sat there holding the wheel and thinking.
“Okay, Edgar. I’m going to tell you what I know, but we have to keep it together. Figure out first what we should do.”
“And that’s what we will do. Now who was it?”
Lenny turned in the seat to face him. As Edgar stared out over the hood of the idling car, Lenny told him what he knew. He started by telling him his suspicions about Nadine.
When they entered the hospital room, Willets was just coming out of an opioid induced sleep. Lenny stayed near the door as Edgar walked to the side of the bed. Edgar reached out and put his hand on his father’s chest. Lenny saw that both of Willet’s eyes were bandaged. The attending physician had said it was necessary because Willets had suffered a concussion. And the disorientation when he regained consciousness would be severe. And it would not just be from the concussion. All the injuries together had affected his balance. The Doctors preferred minimalizing the confusion and wanted time for the uninjured eye to accommodate, acclimate to taking over the burden of his entire vision.
Willets stirred when Edgar touched his chest.
“Who is that?” Lenny noticed he had not withdrawn from the strange touch. Lenny would have. But Willets did not.
“Dad, It’s me. It’s Edgar. I’m here now. I’m here to take care of you.” Edgar opened his mouth to say, more, he tried to say more, but he choked up. The words wouldn’t come. He had to swallow the words. Faintly pink tears ran in rivulets from under the bandages down his cheek.
“Edgar?” Willets turned his head as if to look for his son. But he was blind. “What are you doing here? I thought you were still overseas. You shouldn’t be here. Edgar, you need to get away from this. There are some very mean people who . . . “
As he turned his head further, Willets suddenly winched with pain and Edgar winced right along with him. Lenny knew Edgar was feeling the bolts of his father’s pain.
Lenny watched silently until Willets tried to raise his hands to his eyes, and the bandages.
“You can’t do that Willets,” Lenny declared. “The doctors told you. Man, you have got to leave your eyes alone. I know it hurts, but we can’t have you get an infection. That would be worse. That would be much worse.”
Edgar gently held his Dad’s hands from rising. Willets unfolded his hands and placed them on top of Edgars. Gently patting, feeling them there. Being comforted by their presence.
“I’m glad you’re here, Son. I am glad you’re here. I’m scared. I’m scared now for you too, but I think I’m going to need help. Lenny, is that you? Lenny, when can I get out of here? What do the Docs say? What’s going on with the case? Lenny, I need to know what is going on.”
Lenny shook his head at Edgar. “Listen, Willets,” he said, ‘you don’t worry about that right now. We got to get you well.”
“Are they going to be send me back in there, back to jail?” He grasped Edgar’s hands. “Son, don’t let them do that. Get me out of here first. Take me away. Let me hide. Will you? Will you do that for me?”
Lenny spoke up. “You aren’t going back Willets. Don’t worry about it. We got you bailed. I put up the house as collateral. And glad to do it. Everything is going to be okay. Easley says he is asking for an emergency order. Maybe we can get back on the inside of our corporation. But you just rest. There is nothing we can’t handle. For now, just take care of yourself.”
Willets didn’t reply. He just lay there and kept gently patting Edgar’s hands. Edgar was having trouble catching his breath. He was hurting. His heart was bursting with what had been done to his Dad. His body was tight, flexed, full of rage. He wanted to hurt someone, he wanted to fight, he was a soldier and he wanted to charge. Lenny knew, regardless of what he had been said, he was going to have to restrain Edgar from embarking on some precipitous course to exact revenge.
Lenny’s cell phone rang. He answered. It was his lawyer, Easley. The message was simple. There was to be a hearing at ten a.m. the next morning. Easley needed to talk to him. Lawyer stuff. Lenny would have to testify, and Easley needed him to come to the office. He needed to prepare him for the hearing. It would be important. His testimony was critical, but there were traps to be avoided. They needed to get ready.
Edgar looked up. Lenny nodded toward the door. Edgar leaned over and kissed his dad. He whispered something in his ear. He straightened up. He left his father’s bed and walked over to Lenny. He towered over him. He looked down at Lenny. There was still the film of tears in his eyes. They held. If he blinked they would run down his cheek. But he wasn’t blinking. He was staring.
“I want to get these guys.”
“You’ll get your chance. We start tomorrow.”