I was planning for the start of classes in a few weeks, when I’d start my second year at Harvard Law School. It was typical of me and my organized ways that I’d start preparing this early. The first year had been a huge challenge, but I’d made it through with flying colors. I was hoping this year would be easier, but that hope wasn’t based on any solid facts, just wishful thinking.
“Your phone rang,” Matt said, even as he groggily walked into the bathroom.
“Thanks,” I said, and paused to give him a quick kiss before going into the bedroom to see who had called. I wasn’t surprised to see that it was Sean, but I was surprised that he was calling me this early.
I saw my message light blinking so I listened to that before calling him back. “Hey Wade, this is Sean. I got a heads up that your mother was the star attraction in the Washington Post this morning. I haven’t seen the article yet, but I’m going to track it down.”
I grabbed my laptop with dread and pulled up the Washington Post’s website, and saw a picture of my mother front and center. The headline screamed: “Mrs. Danfield’s accused rapist turns himself in. Claims sex was consensual.” I was puzzled until I saw the picture of the man who had confessed to the rape, or whatever it technically was. It was Felix, the guard who had worked for us for years, the man who had had a twisted relationship with my mother and had been Alexandra Carmichael’s chief spy on our compound. I flipped through the pages, and was horrified to see the pictures, the same pictures my father had shown me by removing them from his office safe, of my mother and Felix engaged in sexual activities. Even though the pictures were heavily censored, there was no mistaking that my mother was having sex with Felix, that she was dressed like a southern belle, and that he was dressed like a slave.
“Dude, what the fuck?” Matt asked, as he looked over my shoulder.
“Evidently the man who raped my mother was Felix Jones,” I said, reading his last name from the website. “He claimed it was consensual sex, and that rape fantasies were part of their past sexual history.” I heard my words coming out of my mouth, but it didn’t feel as if I’d actually uttered them. I was completely numb.
“What does this mean?” he asked, even as I felt his hand on my shoulder. It was reassuring, and I felt myself rejoining the real world, coming out of my haze.
“I’d have to believe that Alexandra did this,” I told him. “I guess this was her big act of vengeance.”
“She’s not as sharp as your mother,” he said, getting a quizzical look from me in return. “Your mother wouldn’t pull this kind of shit without a plan. I guess for Alexandra, it’s just raw emotions.”
“Unless she has a plan, and I’m not seeing it,” I said, stating the obvious. “This could be revenge. I’m not sure what else it could be.”
“What’s the result of this article?” Matt asked.
“I’m going to bet that within the next day or two, my mother will be checking herself into a rehab facility,” I said with a sneer.
Normally I was the calm, thoughtful part of our partnership while Matt was the more emotional and reactive one, but not this time. “She took your mother out,” he concluded.
I stared at him and blinked. “My mother will be gone for a month, probably two, maybe even three,” I said, confirming what he said. “Why would Alexandra want to get my mother out of the way?”
“Maybe your mother could be a problem for her, for her latest plan,” Matt said.
“Maybe,” I agreed, and then looked at my watch. “I better call Mary Ellen.”
“She’ll laugh,” Matt said.
“Probably,” I agreed. He left me alone and went to take a shower, while I dialed my sister’s phone number.
“You’re interrupting my nap,” I heard her answer drowsily. It was almost nine in the morning here in Boston, so that meant it was two in the afternoon in London.
“I’m sorry to intrude on your beauty sleep,” I said. “I am confident you will find waking up worth your while.”
She sighed. “It’s Wade,” I heard her say to someone, presumably Alex, then got up and walked away from the bed, or at least that’s how it sounded. “Alright, what’s going on?”
“Log on to your computer,” I instructed.
“Now, after you just woke me up?” she whined. I didn’t respond, I just waited while she booted up her machine. “OK, now what.”
“Go to the Washington Post’s website,” I said, and gave her the URL.
“Holy shit,” I heard her exclaim loudly, then she started laughing. I didn’t laugh, because I didn’t think this was funny at all. It was just one more time that my family was featured in the press for doing something stupid. It made all of us look bad, and that wasn’t something to laugh about.
“I’m going to meet Mother and see what she has to say about this,” I said, cutting Mary Ellen’s laughter off.
“I think I will meet you there,” she said mischievously. “We’ll let Mother face her whole family and explain this.”
“Would you like to know what I think is happening?” I asked, to get her out of her shit-disturbing mode.
“Why Wade, I would love to hear your thoughts,” she said, making fun of me.
“I think that Alexandra Carmichael set this up, and I think she did it to take Mother out of the picture for a while,” I said. I explained that Mother would almost have to go into rehab to get over this crisis with any shred of her reputation intact.
“Why would she want Mother out of the way?” Mary Ellen asked.
“Yet another piece of this puzzle,” I said.
“Let me know what your plans are,” she said as her tone became serious, then we ended our call.
September 3, 2003
Treasure Island, CA
“I haven’t been to this part of the island,” I said to Mike, as we strolled along the waterfront. The entire vista of the City spread out before us, with the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit tower standing out as the icons of San Francisco that they were.
“There are some benefits to being in the Navy, and this is one of them,” Mike said, in his slightly gruff way. “Don’t have to fight the tourists to get a good view of San Francisco.” As we were walking, I saw our reflections in the window of one of the nearby buildings. Mike was wearing his casual white uniform, while I was wearing slacks and a jacket with no tie. We were both pretty fit, although it bothered me that I still had about ten extra pounds from my time with Marc. There was a resemblance between us that I’d caught the first time I’d met him, one that was subtle, but if a person knew we were related, they’d be able to spot the similarities.
“There was a bus full of people outside the gate when I drove up,” I said with a chuckle. There was a vista area there that was evidently popular with guided tours. We walked over to an isolated bench and sat down, the two us seemingly alone on the naval station even though we were surrounded by millions in this metropolitan area.
“Things haven’t turned out like I hoped,” he said. I just waited for him to continue. “I had hoped that my mother had changed, and that she’d settle down and be content to have escaped with house arrest.”
“She hasn’t done that,” I said, although that statement was more of a question than anything.
“No, she hasn’t,” he said, then sighed. “I’ve had my battles with her, but until that big conflagration with you a few years ago, it hadn’t damaged our relationship.”
“You mean when she came after me?” I asked, surprised. I didn’t realize that Mike had argued on my behalf to the point where it had scarred his relationship with his mother. His reputation in my mind grew considerably when I pondered how hard that must have been on him.
“Yes,” he snapped. He had a gruff, formal manner about him. It bothered me that I didn’t know him well enough to know if he ever relaxed and truly let down his guard. Based on his background and how he’d been raised, he probably didn’t. It was hard to blame him for his reserved caution.
“Why did that bother you?” I asked, intensely curious about that.
“Because it was wrong,” he said, a bit too loudly. “In the Navy, the importance of honor is ingrained into us. Even though you weren’t my father’s legitimate child, the fact that you were his son gave you standing within our family. To have her try to destroy you was unconscionable, and I told her so.”
I felt like I was having a conversation with Wade or JP. “I’ll bet that went over well,” I said sarcastically.
“It did not,” he agreed. “During her legal problems, while I was basically supporting her, I felt that we came to a sort of meeting of the minds on that.”
“I would have to believe that she’d be less than sincere under those circumstances,” I said. He got annoyed, because I’d gently slammed Alexandra, but then relented.
“I didn’t really see that, but it seems that’s the case,” he said. “I think that I was successful in that she no longer has this feral need to hunt you down and kill you.”
“I would definitely call that a success,” I agreed with a slight grin, which he returned. “But I guess that means that I’m a convenient ally in her latest plan, whatever that is.”
“I don’t think that’s necessarily it, and I don’t think she sees you as an ally,” he said.
“Then you have me at a total disadvantage, because I’m struggling to figure this out,” I said. He didn’t say anything, and that pause annoyed me enough to let my temper go. “I’ve been in a fight to defend my sons and my family from threats I didn’t know were there, and enemies I can’t see. I’ve got two dead pilots and a dead business partner, and I don’t know who’s to blame for that. I need to figure this out before anyone else I care about gets hurt.”
“Like Scott Slater,” he said. The fact that he used Scott’s new name and not his old one was proof that Alexandra had tracked Scott down. I controlled my anger and just stared at him. “He is hurt, but still alive. My mother would have you believe that is a gift to you.”
“A gift?” I asked incredulously.
“She is evening the scores, as she put it, and her general attitude is that those who hurt her must be made to pay, and then she can move on with her life.”
“So she has Scott beaten up but not killed, and that’s a gift?”
“That is a gift, because now her vengeance on him has been satisfied, and he no longer has to fear for his life,” Mike said. I was about to argue about how idiotic that was, but in the end, it may just be a fair trade off. I’d have to see how badly Scott was hurt, and how he felt about paying that price for his immunity.
“I feel like I’m watching ‘The Godfather’,” I said ruefully.
“I feel like I’m living it,” he said, shaking his head.
“So the assault on Elizabeth Danfield was similar?”
“It was similar, but I do not think that Mrs. Danfield can be as relaxed about the future as Mr. Slater,” he said, then elaborated. “Scott can go on down the road with his life, such as it is, and she will not bother him again. Elizabeth Danfield will never be able to turn her back on my mother.”
“Which one of those people am I similar to, in her mind?” I asked. I wanted to know if she was done with me, or if I’d have to keep watching my back.
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “I thought you were more like Scott, but I’m not sure.”
“What changed?” I asked. He didn’t say anything, which pissed me off, but I managed to keep my cool by focusing my eyes on the water. Like it had so often in the past, the waters of the Pacific Ocean, even as they were blended here with fresh water from the delta, soothed my psyche.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m trying to figure things out,” he added hastily, to preclude my losing my composure.
“Mike, this whole thing is a big riddle. If we work together on this, we may be able to unravel it,” I said, almost plaintively.
“It’s just hard for me to do that. I’ve been privy to some of my mother’s plans, and to reveal them to you or anyone is a breach of trust that is hard to stomach. On the other hand, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
I smiled, surprising him. “At some point in the future, you should spend some time with Elizabeth Danfield’s son, Wade.”
“Why would I do that?” he asked rudely.
“I think you’ll find that you are kindred spirits, and that he faces and has faced many of the same problems you’re dealing with,” I replied calmly but firmly.
“My opposite in the enemy camp, as it were,” he said with a wry smile.
“What have you been able to find out about Lord Preston?” he asked me. It was a miracle that I didn’t blink at that surprising change of topic.
“Not much. His past is transparent until he went to South Africa, then it is murky. And every attempt to find out what’s going on runs into massive stone walls,” I explained.
“My mother arranged for Elizabeth’s unpleasant rendezvous with Felix Jones at his behest,” he revealed, making my mouth fall open in surprise. “Not that she wasn’t willing to do it on her own, but he encouraged her, and even did so financially.”
“Why?” I asked, almost sounding desperate.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But the money she got from him, along with what she was able to extract from your settlement with her, has made her financially independent.”
“And dangerous,” I noted.
“Yes,” he agreed. “I would understand, with this battle raging around you, if you felt uncomfortable opening up your home to Chris.”
“Nonsense,” I said immediately. “This has nothing to do with you. I have few enough honorable people in my life. I’m not going to drive you away.”
He chuckled. “I have two sons to be proud of. They won’t cause you any reason to worry.”
“My youngest son, on the other hand…” I began, and then chuckled. “Will is already plotting to seduce Chris and lead him over to the dark side.”
I wondered how Mike would react to my reference to homosexuality and to his son potentially being seduced, but I didn’t expect the reaction I got. He laughed, a truly hearty laugh. “I’m sure that Will is successful in many things, but I’m pretty confident he’ll lose that battle.”
“I won’t lay it out like that to him, otherwise he’ll just see it as a challenge,” I said.
“Chris is too much like our father for me to worry about that,” he said. Our father had been a notorious womanizer. “I’ve had to clean up a few of his messes with young women along the way,” he said, shaking his head.
“That’s one problem I don’t have to worry about with Will,” I said.
“One more thing,” Mike said, as we stood up to walk back to my car so I could leave. “I don’t know much more about Lord Preston than you do, but my mother did make an interesting comment about him, or more to the point, about his wife.”
“During one of our more heated discussions about her conduct, she was bewailing my antiquated, as she called it, notion of honor. She said that I would probably not appreciate getting to know His Lordship, and that I would think his wife was even worse.”
September 4, 2003
“She is spirited,” the stable hands said, as they led Psyche out of the trailer.
“That she is,” I agreed. She was really being obnoxious until I grabbed her lead and stared at her, eyeballing her like I’d done in Texas. “Settle down,” I said firmly, like she understood what I was saying. I was surprised when that calmed her down enough to get her into her stall. I told the hands to treat her well, and one of the guys knew an expert horse trainer and offered to give him a call, so in about an hour, I had that problem more or less handled. Dealing with a problem that quickly was pretty good for me these days, with all the shit on my plate.
I walked back to my room, avoiding the public areas and thus the need to talk to anyone. I was just opening my door when my phone rang. I smiled, then frowned, then smiled again, when I saw that it was Zach. “Hey!” he said cheerfully as soon as I answered my phone.
“Hey!” I responded in the same way, even though it was hard to be cheerful with him. He’d totally blown me off, and hadn’t talked to me since before I went to Texas.
“Dude, I am so sorry I haven’t called you,” he said, sensing that bothered me in the way that we could both read each other, even over the phone.
“It’s fine,” I said, but knew he needed more. “You’ve been busy, and I’ve had a bunch of shit to deal with.”
“You doing alright?” He didn’t really want to know, he was just being polite.
“Yeah, pretty much,” I said.
“I have the best news!” he said enthusiastically. “I get to play on Saturday!”
“That is awesome!” I said, faking my excitement so well he thought I was serious. “How the fuck did you swing that?”
“Team sent me to a doctor, and he gave me a clean bill of health,” he said. That meant they probably found some hack doctor who would overlook the damage to his body from the recent “accident.” I reminded myself that even though his playing was a really bad idea, pointing it out was a total waste of my breath and effort, and it would just piss him off. He was focused, he was determined, and nothing I could say would change his mind and drag him away from football. “Coach says he’ll put me in the game on Saturday.”
That was huge, and we both knew it. “That is incredible. Where’s it at?”
“Colorado,” he said. “I was gonna let you know, in case you wanted to be there. I mean, I know you have all kinds of shit to do.”
“Things are busy,” I agreed, just to see what he’d say.
“That’s fine,” he said, worried that he’d offended me by just inviting me. “It would probably suck anyway, because I’ll be stuck with the team most of the time.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said, mentally thinking about my calendar and the things I had locked in.
“Dude, you don’t have to come all the way to Colorado,” he said. He felt bad for imposing because he’d been a douche, but I didn’t want to play that guilt game.
“What if I want to?” I asked playfully.
“Then it would be awesome to see you,” he said, happy again.
“So if I can make it in on Friday, where should I stay?” I asked, using my sexiest voice. I knew exactly why he wanted me to be there, and even though he was more or less blowing me off these days, I was determined to do what I could to help him.
“I’ll send you the name of the hotel,” he said. “I, uh, I worked it out so you can help on the sidelines.”
“How the fuck did you do that?” That was a major coup.
“I found out the school put in for a grant from your foundation,” he said. “I told the coach you were on the board.”
I laughed. “I didn’t know that would be so convenient, being appointed to that board.”
“So can you make it?” he asked, almost begged.
“I need to run it by my dad and see what’s going on with him, but otherwise, I’m in.”
“Awesome,” he said. “I can’t wait to see you.”
“I know,” I said, in my sultriest voice. I could hear him swallowing on the other line he was so horny, and that was pretty cool, to know that I could still get him worked up.
“I’ll send you all the info,” he said. “I gotta go.”
“See you on Friday,” I said, and smiled even as I ended the call. This wasn’t going to be easy, but I loved Zach, so I’d do whatever I could for him.
I was trying to decide whether to go down to get some food or jack off, food and sex being the primary drivers in my life, when my phone rang again. I cringed when I saw that it was Tony. We were OK with each other, but he still made me uncomfortable. “Hey,” I answered cheerfully, but not as cheerfully as I had with Zach.
“S’up,” he said. “Called to ask you for a favor.”
“What do you need?”
“I need to get out to school early, before the dorms open. Can I stay with you?” he asked nervously. I rolled my eyes at his idiocy.
“Of course you can stay with us,” I said.
“I just didn’t want to stay there if it would bug you,” he said, which was kind of sweet.
“It will be fun to hang out with you. Maybe we can do something fun,” I said. It would be nice to get back to a good place with Tony, where his being around didn’t bother me.
“That would be awesome,” he agreed. “Too bad you’re not gonna be here this weekend.”
“Big party in Como,” he said.
“Como?” I asked, confused.
“Columbia, Missouri,” he said. “I’m going to go up and party with Mason and his friends on Saturday.”
“What kind of party is it?” He made it seem like a big deal, so there had to be a back-story to it.
“It’s a pajama party,” he said, chuckling. “It’s at this cool bar downtown called Tonic. You gotta have an invite to get in.”
“You got an invite?” I teased.
“I got an invite,” he confirmed.
“Can you get one for me?” I heard him kind of stop himself in a bit of shock over that.
“Dude, you’d come out for a party?”
“I’m gonna be in Colorado in the morning, so it’s not that much farther,” I said.
“Fuck yeah you got an invite,” he said, cracking me up. “I’ll pick you up at the airport.”
“I’ll fly into Columbia,” I said, remembering that there was an airfield there. Mason had told me that when we’d hooked up a couple of summers ago.
We ended the call and I wondered why I’d made those plans, and then decided it was probably because I was bored. There weren’t going to be any parties around here this weekend, thanks to Jacob Bornstein. Jacob got a DUI driving home from a party last weekend, and his parents grilled him about where he was and who he was with. He was at a party, and there were a bunch of Menlo people there, including John, and so that sparked a whole new round of investigations. The school found out about it and went batshit crazy, and then enough parents got involved that it became this massive ordeal. The bottom line was that now everyone was on lockdown for at least a couple of weekends. Jacob was such a dumb shit anyway. Figures he’d fuck up his own life and manage to mess the rest of us up too.
A knock on my door pulled me out of my hateful mental rant against Jacob. “Come in,” I said, and forced myself into a better mood.
“Am I bothering you?” Dad asked as he walked in.
“No,” I said, and then studied him carefully. It was easy enough to tell from his demeanor that he was here for a reason. “What do you want?”
“I can’t just come by to talk?” he asked.
“You can, but you didn’t,” I said. I led him over to my sitting area. He took the chair, while I sat on the couch.
“I came to ask you a favor,” he said.
“What?” I didn’t automatically agree since he was nervous, and that meant I wasn’t going to like it.
“I have to go to Hawaii this weekend and talk to Scott Slater,” he said. He’d clued us in yesterday about his talk with his half-brother Mike, so I knew the deal on Scott’s situation. “I was wondering if you could go to New York and help JJ deal better with John Carullo.”
I stared at him blankly for about thirty seconds while I thought about that. “JJ will probably tell me to mind my own fucking business.”
“Probably,” he agreed. “But he will hear what you say, even if he pretends not to.”
“I think the only person he’d probably really listen to is Stef,” I said.
“Look Will,” he said, frustrated now. “We’re all up to our ears in this crap, trying to figure out what Lord Preston is up to and how to handle this. I need some help.”
Then I got a truly evil idea, an idea so devious it could almost have been something JJ thought up. “Look, I think the only way he’ll listen to me is if I have some backup there to help out. If Darius goes, I’ll go.”
“I’ll set up the plane, and you can call Darius and ask him,” he said, dumping that onto me.
“If he says no, you can call and argue with him,” I said.
“I’ll do that,” he said. I grimaced, annoyed at being totally outmaneuvered by my father. He was so much easier to fuck with when he had his head up his ass like it was when he was with Marc.
“Fine,” I agreed. I stared at him until he left, then sighed and pulled out my phone. I dialed Darius’ number, and was kind of hoping it would go to voicemail, but he picked it up on the fourth ring.
“S’up?” he asked in his brisk way.
“Dad came in to see me and asked us to do him a favor,” I said. I had learned to mimic his terse, fact and task oriented phone mannerisms when calling him.
“What’s he want us to do?”
“Wants us to go to New York this weekend and teach JJ not to treat John Carullo and everyone else like total shit,” I said.
“I cannot go to New York this weekend,” he said firmly.
“Dad told me he and everyone else here are up to their asses in alligators, and wanted to know if we’d take this off of them,” I said.
“Fuck!” he said loudly, as he struggled with wanting not to go just like I had. “If I have to go to New York, I’m gonna kick JJ’s ass all over that fucking condo.”
“Cool,” I said, like it would be fun to watch him do that. It actually probably would be at this point.
“Fuck!” he said again.
“My plan for the weekend is to go to Colorado on Friday night for the Saturday UCLA-Colorado game,” I told him. I could almost feel him stop his mental tirade as that piqued his interest.
“Bruins are playing Buffaloes, eh?”
“Yep, and Zach’s in the lineup,” I said. “After that I’m going to Columbia, Missouri to go to a big party.”
“What the fuck is in Columbia, Missouri?”
“Their big state university, so it’s a total college town, and this one bar has a big pajama party that’s invite only,” I said.
“I am not going to a gay bar pajama party,” he said.
“It’s not a gay bar, dumbass. I’m sure most of the people there will at least be pretending to be straight. Hell, you may even be able to pick up some Missouri chicks.”
“I’ll bet it’s lame,” he said skeptically.
“Tony says it’s cool, and Mason told me the same thing, so I’m betting it’s not,” I said. “Then on Sunday morning, we can fly to New York, bitch slap JJ around, and then make it back late Sunday night.”
“I may bring a friend or two along,” he said, and I could almost hear the wheels in his brain turning. He was up to something.
“That’s fine, but you’ll have to deal with getting tickets to the game, and tell me who these guys are so I can get them into the party.”
“What time are you picking me up?” I worked out our plans for Friday with Darius, then called Tony back to find out the details on this party and to make sure the other guys had invites too.