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    Mark Arbour
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Gap Year - 89. Chapter 89

April 9, 2004

Los Angeles, CA



My phone rang, and since I was about to go into a meeting, I was tempted to ignore it until I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was Jake. I smiled as I answered it. “Good morning,” I said pleasantly.

“I miss you,” he said.

“I’ve only been gone for a day, and I should be back tonight,” I said, which wasn’t what he wanted to hear. I changed course and said what I should have said in the first place. “I miss you too.” Our meetings with Casey were significantly effective in helping me learn how not to piss him off.

“Is this a bad time?” he asked.

“Kind of,” I said, and stopped outside of the meeting room. My lawyer looked at me in frustration, but I ignored him. “I’m about to go into a meeting.”

“I talked to Will, and wanted to update you,” he said. “I’m really impressed with their plan to spring Travis.”

“So am I,” I agreed, trying not to sound rushed, even though I was.

“They are on Stef’s boat, but they can’t go anywhere except Morocco and the Cape Verde Islands if they don’t want to risk Travis getting arrested,” he said.

“What would it take to remove that threat?” I asked.

“Curtis Buck would have to have the arrest warrant for Travis canceled,” Jake said. “He’d have to drop the grand larceny charges he’s filed.”

“Let me see what I can do,” I said. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he said cheerfully. I ended the call after that and followed my attorney into the conference room. Yesterday we’d agreed on terms with the creditors to buy out the assets of Buck Industries, while the purpose of today’s meeting centered around executing that agreement and engineering the change in control. I was not surprised to see a scowling Curtis Buck there, along with his key executives. Their hostility was both evident and understandable. Curtis Buck was being removed from the helm of the company he’d been born and groomed to run. His failure was a blot not only on himself, but on his family. The shame he must bear, if he ever allowed himself to acknowledge it, would be overwhelming. His executives were just as angry, because we’d concluded that none of them was worth retaining, and as thick-headed as they were, they’d at least been able to figure that out. The meeting had not yet started, even though it was supposed to have, so everyone was still huddling in their respective groups.

“This is going to be a fucking mess for a while,” Gail Bruxton said softly, referring to Buck Industries. She worked for Carruthers & Schluter and was one of our key management consultants, one of the people we would send in as a temporary CEO to stabilize a distressed or mismanaged company, and I’d picked her for this role because she was well-versed in energy, and had at least some background in agriculture.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because there isn’t an executive on their team worth saving,” she said, referring to the hostile group huddled with Curtis. She was telling me things I already knew, but I tried not to let that annoy me. Yesterday, those executives had expected us to go hat in hand to them, begging them to stay and keep things running smoothly. They’d approached us with an arrogance that was even more unattractive considering the situation. Their attitude today reflected their realization that their jobs were over. “I’m trying to bribe a few people to help us with the transition, but so far I’ve got no takers.”

“That means that we’ll have to go in and get a handle on the history and characteristics of all the assets,” I said, even as I internally sighed. That meant, for example, that instead of being able to ask someone what the deal was with a property or a well, we’d have to figure it out on our own. Everything would require a shitload of research. It would be a grueling process, requiring a lot of man-hours, and would make us incredibly inefficient until things were organized. All of that did not bode well when it came to generating profits. “What about the lower-level people?”

“I’ll have to check on that,” she said, and looked embarrassed. My dirty look probably made that emotion even worse. She should have already thought of that and checked it out. That she hadn’t done so was a big demerit on her part.

“I’d think that would have been the first thing you’d do,” I said acidly, to let her know that she fucked that up. She cringed, and I knew I’d made my point, so I eased up a bit. “Look, I’m betting that, in an operation like this, the lower-level people have no idea what’s going on with all of Buck’s schemes, but they’re probably totally focused on the day-to-day shit they have to handle. If we can keep them, that gives us time to bring in some managers who can take over.”

“And maybe some of those people, with some coaching, will have enough talent to advance,” she said.

“That’s right,” I said, happy that she was on track, even though she should have already been working on that as well.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have figured this out.” With her apology, she completely changed my attitude. I had no use for people who refused to admit their mistakes. She’d just done so, and taken responsibility for it. Her value in my eyes went up considerably.

“I think you did just figure it out,” I said, and gave her a warm smile as a show of support.

Having resolved that issue, this meeting was largely unnecessary, because we had no interest in working with any of these people. Still, we went through the motions, executed the sale agreement, transferred the money, and then it was done. Curtis Buck hadn’t said one word to me since the meeting started, and the only thing emanating from him was rage, but that didn’t intimidate me at all. “I think we’re done here,” Curtis said, and stood up.

“I’d like to have a word with you in private,” I said to him, standing up as well.

“I would think that anything you have to say to me you can say to my attorneys,” he said abruptly.

“I think that the things I need to talk to you about are better left out of a public forum, but I am willing to have the discussion in that format if you so choose,” I said just as tersely. Will accused me of pumping out some serious power from time to time. This was one of those times, and it worked. Curtis could sulk and whine all he wanted, but he was a defeated executive who had lost not only his job and his company, but probably most of his net worth, while I was still richer than Oprah.

“Then let’s make this fast,” he said. His words served to empty out the room, until it was just the two of us.

“Travis is in the Mediterranean on Stef’s yacht,” I said.

“Thank you for that information,” he said in a snarky way. “Now I can have that ungrateful bastard dragged home.”

“They are prepared to avoid countries with extradition treaties to the US, so he is effectively out of your grasp,” I said smugly, just to piss him off.

“No one is outside my grasp,” he snarled.

“I think you should consider a different route,” I said.

“I don’t give a shit what you think,” he said dismissively.

“I think you should drop the charges you filed against Travis and have his arrest warrant removed, and I think you should have it done by 5:00 today,” I said. “And I think you should promise to leave him the fuck alone.”

“That asshole brought down this company,” he said loudly.

“That’s bullshit, and you know it,” I said, matching his volume. “You went all in on tech stocks, trying to hit a home run. You bet the farm and you lost. The word was already out on the street about the company’s problems. This just moved the crisis point up a couple of weeks.”

“As you said, he moved the crisis point up,” he said. “It took away the time I needed to keep a corporate raider like you from ripping off the company.”

“And where were you going to get someone to loan you enough money to keep this thing afloat?” I asked, taunting him. “You and I both know you’d exhausted all legitimate forms of financing, so unless you were going to borrow money from the mob, you were done.”

“Then we’ll agree to disagree on that point,” he said, and was so pissed off it looked like he might physically explode. He knew I was right, and that he’d had no options left. “That still doesn’t get that little asshole off the hook for betraying his family. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t ruin his life.”

“Because you raped Sierra Gardner at Big’s birthday party, and I have proof of that,” I said, getting in his face. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but she’s a minor.”

“That’s a bunch of crap. What proof do you have?” he demanded, but I could read in his eyes that he was afraid.

“You are welcome to find out after 5:00 today, assuming that warrant is still active for Travis,” I said.

“You’re threatening me,” he accused, like that wasn’t obvious.

“Yes, I am,” I said confidently. “Your reputation may survive running this company into the ground, but it will never survive the scandal of raping a sixteen-year-old girl.” He stared at me blankly. I handed him my card. “My fax number is on there. Get it done by 5:00.” I gave him a contemptuous look, then stalked out of the room.

April 10, 2004

Aboard the Tonto

Bastia, Corsica



“No matter what this morning brings, that was the best night of my life,” Travis said. I smiled back at him, then chuckled when I glanced in the mirror and saw that both of us were glowing. Our reflections moved gently in time to the Tonto, as she let the waves gently rock her.

“It was for me too,” I said. We had made love, then talked, then made love, then talked, and repeated that process for the entire night. Sleep had seemed irrelevant, like a waste of what little time we may have had left together.

“I should probably get something to eat, since I don’t know if they’ll feed me in jail,” he said, and that changed our euphoric mood to one of almost despondency. Looming over everything was the probability that the authorities would return today and haul Travis away. I’d go from enjoying this time together to chasing him around various French jails and courts with Charles and Grand. Still, there was something in the back of my mind, call it a hunch, that made me optimistic.

“I think things will turn out alright,” I said. He gave me a dubious look. “It’s just a gut feeling.”

“It’s your gut feeling against my father’s raptor attorneys,” he said, shaking his head.

“My family has a lot of influence in France,” I said. “That has to be worth something.”

“Even if you guys can keep me out of jail, I can’t see any way you can keep me from being sent back to the US,” he whined. He misinterpreted my cringe at his whining as annoyance. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I just don’t see the hope that you do.”

“I see the hope,” I said. I led him up to the dining room, where our full crew was assembled. We helped ourselves to food and started to sate our enormous appetites.

“Did I see you lusting at me on the sundeck yesterday?” Elise asked me in her flirtatious way.

“Duh,” I said, using the English word for full effect, then had to explain what that meant.

“Charles, if you weren’t so repressed about your latent desire for guys, you would have appreciated seeing these two beautiful young men climbing out of the hot tub, naked,” Elise said to him.

“I am quite confident and secure in my sexuality, and if I had been there, I am sure I would have appreciated the inherent beauty of the male form,” he shot back. They were both so funny, and so absolutely perfect for each other.

“That is so disappointing,” I said to him, making her laugh hysterically.

“Good morning,” Grand said, as he entered the cabin. He looked very happy and had a twinkle in his eye.

“Good morning,” I said to him, in a questioning way. I was about to ask him why he was in such a good mood when Skip came in.

“There’s a boat approaching,” he said. “Looks like there’s some officials in it.”

“Here we go,” Travis said. He paused and looked at our assembled group. “I want to thank you all for everything you’ve done for me. No matter how this turns out, I will never forget it.”

“Darling, you will be just fine,” Elise said. “You must trust Charles.”

“She’s right,” I said. “You will be just fine.”

“Thanks,” Travis said, but he was unconvinced.

I looked at Grand, who was actually smiling. “What?” I asked.

“Let us go meet with these officials,” he said, ignoring my question, and heading out of the room.

“What’s his deal?” Travis asked me.

“I’d say he has some good news, and it sounds like it’s about you,” I speculated, even as I followed Grand out onto the deck. Travis joined me, and we stood, side by side, as a small motorboat hooked on to Stef’s ship.

Sergeant Leon Capadilla came aboard, followed by one of his men. He wore a police uniform of sorts and was the man who we’d been in contact with yesterday. He had been quite rude when we’d first gotten here, then after he’d talked to Charles he’d become more civil, probably because he’d begun to realize how much pull our family had in the French judicial system. Today, it seemed his mood had improved again, going from civil to positively cheerful. “Good morning,” he said.

“Won’t you both join us for some food,” I offered, determined to be polite.

“Thank you, it is a kind offer but there is no time for that,” he said. He turned to Travis, and adopted his official pose, and began speaking formally, as if he were addressing a convention. “Travis Buck, you are hereby free to go. The warrant for your arrest has been revoked.”

“What?” Travis asked, stunned.

The Sergeant ignored him. “This ship may stay in port to enjoy beautiful Corsica, or she may leave at your discretion. You are all welcome ashore.”

“The warrant was revoked?” Charles asked, and he was as surprised as Travis.

“It was,” he said. “We received a message from Paris, first thing this morning.”

“Thank you for letting me know,” Travis said, dumbstruck.

“A good day to all of you,” the Sergeant said, then turned on his heel, and left, followed by his officer. We stared after him, even after he’d gone, all of us shocked into inaction, except for Grand who was still smiling.

“You know what happened,” I said to Grand, zeroing in on him as soon as I pulled myself out of my daze.

“I was fortunate enough to talk to Stefan,” he said. “With all deference to Charles’s legal skills, this change was brought about by your father.”

“Dad did this?” I asked. “How?”

“I will leave it for him to tell you,” Grand said. I was going to argue with him, but I could sense that he didn’t want to talk about the details in front of Charles. “Skip, I would appreciate it if you would try to reach Rome as soon as possible. We must absolutely be there by tomorrow.”

“Why do we have to reach Rome by tomorrow?” I asked.

“Because Stef is meeting us,” Grand said.

“No wonder you’re so happy,” I said.

“I am happy because Travis is now free to join us on our Grand Tour without fear of apprehension, but I am also happy that Stef is joining us,” Grand said, cracking me up.

“I wonder if this means I could go back to the US,” Travis mused.

“You can, and certainly are welcome to do so, but I would think you are safer here in Europe, where it is more difficult for your father to hurt you,” Charles said.

“So I can stay here, but I don’t have to remain in hiding,” Travis said, and was beaming: he was so happy.

“And you can contact Brentwood and see if you can catch up on your schoolwork,” I said, being positively evil, and getting an appropriately dirty look for him.

“Yeah, what a great idea,” he said. “Asshole.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at that.

“I will make helping you with your studies my priority,” Grand said, and that was so funny, I started laughing my ass off.

“Suddenly jail doesn’t sound so bad,” Travis grumbled.

Grand led us away from the others, who tactfully vacated the deck, leaving us alone. “Your father had a conversation with Curtis Buck,” Grand said, ostensibly to me.

“That must have been interesting,” I said.

“They were at a meeting, and your father suggested that Curtis remove the warrant and leave Travis alone,” Grand said.

“Like that will happen,” Travis said.

“It did,” I reminded him, then looked to Grand to explain.

“Brad told Curtis that he had proof that Curtis had raped Sierra, and that if Curtis didn’t remove the warrant and leave Travis alone, Brad would turn that proof over to the police,” Grand said.

“That tape came in handy in the end,” Travis said ruefully.

“It was not a pleasant conversation, as you might imagine, and that is why I think it is a good idea for Travis to remain here with us,” Grand said, then focused on Travis. “My understanding is that he blames you for the downfall of the company.”

“That’s such bullshit,” I said.

“I expected that,” Travis said nervously.

“Doesn’t he realize that he’s the one who drove it into the ground?” I demanded.

“Whether he realizes it or not, he will not acknowledge it,” Grand said. “In his mind, he was just a few weeks away from securing financing to tide them over.”

“Could he have actually done that?” Travis asked.

“Both Brad and Stefan are adamant that he could not,” Grand said.

“That’s just so much more bullshit from him,” Travis said, shaking his head.

“It is, but perhaps we can put thoughts of him aside,” Grand said. “At least for the next few weeks, it seems that you are in a safe place. I will see if I can help you stay on pace so you can graduate, and you both can enjoy and experience some of the more spectacular relics from the past.”

“I’ll try to stop being pissed, but give me a day or two to work that out of my system,” Travis joked.

“I will grant you leave to be moody about this until Stef arrives,” Grand said. “He is less tolerant of artificial despondency than I am.”

“Artificial?” I challenged.

“In other news, your father’s efforts were successful,” Grand said. I knew he was referring to our acquisition of Buck Industries. “The closing was yesterday, and that was when the encounter between Curtis and your father took place.”

“That’s good news,” I said. Travis looked at me strangely, then his eyes narrowed.

“Can I talk to you?” he asked abruptly.

“Come on,” I said, and led him back to our cabin. “What?”

“You guys are the ones who snapped up our company?” he demanded, his volume at a relatively loud level. “You were the ones who jumped in to feast on the bones like vultures?”

“You are about half a second away from pissing me off beyond belief,” I said to him through gritted teeth, then I felt all of my controls snapping. After all that I’d done for him, all that my family had done for him, he had the absolute nerve to lump us in with his lawyer and the other greedy assholes trying to fuck him over. “Too late, I’m already there.”

“Just answer the fucking question,” he demanded, getting in my face.

“Just fuck you,” I shouted, and pushed him away from me, the force of the shove sprawling him backwards onto the bed.

“You’re just as bad as the rest of them,” he said, as angry as I was. He made to get up, but I held up my hand in a ‘stop’ motion, and glared at him enough that he finally got how incredibly pissed off I was. I didn’t remember having been this mad at anyone who wasn’t my father.

“When I figured out your big, stupid, dumb as fucking shit solo effort to try and acquire a company that was about to go into bankruptcy, even though you were thousands of miles away and were in hiding, I asked my father if there was something we could do to help you out,” I shouted. “So the plan was for us to go in and acquire the assets of Buck Industries, then when you turned eighteen, to turn around and work out a deal to let you buy them, or at least part of them.”

He stared at me, his face turning white as he realized the mistake he’d made. “Oh,” he said lamely.

“I have no idea what kind of a deal they worked out for the assets, and I don’t know how they want to structure things, but I’m betting that tomorrow Stef will take the time to explain it all to you,” I said, my words spitting venom with the same force as if I were a cobra. “Then your ungrateful, undeserving ass can look at him and think about how you accused me, him, and my entire family of trying to fuck you over.”

“Will…” he said, now in full retreat. It didn’t work, because I wasn’t done venting.

“This is just what I was explaining to you when you didn’t think I was worth including in your plans, when you didn’t trust me enough to ask for my input and support,” I spat. “Together, we could have made this happen. Only I expected that you’d be happy to have my family as a partner. Instead, I feel like I’m not dealing with Travis Buck; I feel like I’m dealing with Curtis Buck.” That pissed him off, and I was glad that it did. I turned away from him, walked out of our cabin, and slammed the door behind me.

The ship had a small gym, so I went down there, stripped down to my boxers, and started to work off my anger by lifting. It took me almost an hour before I was calm enough to even think without being enraged, but by then my muscles were so sore I had to stop. I went up to the deck, shucked off my boxers, and got into the hot tub. I’d thought that the hot water and the jets would relax me, but ironically they just pissed me off even more.

I got out of the hot tub and grabbed a towel to wrap around my waist. Just as I was contemplating what to do next, I saw Travis come up on deck. I started to head toward the stairs to go down to the cabin and change, and he moved to intercept me. I kept going straight, and shoulder-bumped him out of my way in such a strong collision that it hurt, then kept walking until I got to my sanctuary. I made sure it was mine by locking the door. I ignored his knocking, took a long shower, got dressed, and went up to get lunch. He wisely avoided me, and ate his own lunch out on the deck by the pool.

By the time I was done eating, my rage had abated enough that I could evaluate my other emotions, and the one that loomed the largest was a feeling of betrayal. Everyone in my family was jumping through hoops to try and help him out. There were guards on this ship, along with a lawyer just for him. Grand and I had wandered all over Europe, helping him escape from the people he had stupidly entrusted his safety to. We’d been cleaning up the messes that he’d made, and then we’d gone in, plunked down what was probably a shit ton of money, all to buy oil wells and farmland that we sure as fuck didn’t want in our portfolio, so we could help him achieve his goal. And in return, he decides we’re pieces of shit. I saw him come up on deck and I used that as my cue to go down and seize the cabin as my refuge. I locked the door and pulled out my computer, but barely made any progress on my Civilization game before I fell asleep.

I woke up later and looked at my watch, noting that I’d crashed for three hours. I yawned, trying to figure out what had woken me up, and guessed that it was the ship’s motion, which had increased substantially. I got up and was about to go on deck when I spotted an envelope that had been slid under the door. It had my name on it, and I recognized Travis’s handwriting enough to know he’d drafted this.

I held the envelope in my hand for a minute, then went back to sit down on the bed and open it. I pulled out two identical pieces of paper. The first one said:

This certificate is issued to Will Schluter by Travis Buck. Will Schluter can present this certificate to Travis Buck at any time, and any transgression Will Schluter has committed against Travis Buck will be instantly forgiven. This certificate has no expiration date.

At the bottom of it was a checkbox, with nothing in it, and the word “Redeemed” next to it. I couldn’t help but smile at how stupid yet cute this was. It was like something someone would have done in middle school.

I looked at the other certificate, which was theoretically issued by me for Travis, and the box at the bottom was checked, to indicate that it had been redeemed. There was writing on the back, so I flipped it over. “Will, did you ever say something so stupid, put your foot in your mouth so badly, that you just wanted to curl up and die? That’s where I’m at right now. I’m sorry, and I love you. Just tell me what I have to do to make this right.”

I made a quick call, tapping into the ship’s satellite phone, then went up on the deck. The winds were much stronger, and the waves were bigger, causing a decent amount of motion. Travis saw me, got nervous, then looked away. I walked up to him and put my arm around him, and it was good to see how that made him smile. “Will…” he began.

“Dude, let’s just forget it, okay?” I asked.

“Okay,” he said.

“Besides, I have a piece of paper that says I can really fuck up once and get away with it,” I teased. He shook his head at me indulgently. It was weird, because while I wasn’t mad at him, I didn’t want to run down to the cabin and have wild, make-up sex. I reflected on the emotional ups and downs I’d just been through, and how I felt so different now than I had with any of my other relationships. This was so much deeper than how things had been with Tony, or even Zach.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Arbour; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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On 9/22/2023 at 6:57 PM, PrivateTim said:

A great way to spend a Friday night with a new chapter of The Gap Year. Thanks Mark and team for this epic.

How can anyone say Will is mature, let alone mature beyond his years? He is a complete douchebag with anger/rage issues. A mature individual would have simply waited for Travis to vent his anger and waited with crossed arms while Travis ranted. Eventually Travis would have burned out and been wondering why Will was just smiling.

We are four years past Will's Malibu Meltdown and his anger/rage issues have barely moved.


Yes Will, does have anger issues, but you got to take into consideration, who Will's father is. :whistle:
And you also have to consider, this as well, Travis had accused Will's whole family which is one of Will's most important if not the most important things he cherishes. being pretty much nothing but thieves.

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17 minutes ago, methodwriter85 said:

Meanwhile JJ gets more of the vindictive passive aggressive bitch. He wouldn't get someone whacked, but he will put out a scheme to humiliate someone if he thinks they crossed him.

Is JJ in this story? I hadn't noticed.......

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9 hours ago, PrivateTim said:

Is JJ in this story? I hadn't noticed.......

Just one cameo, basically. Mark essentially wrote JJ off into a "happily ever after" with his New York City romantic comedy life. Well, what passes for happy with JJ. Lol I'm happy Mark let JJ go off and finally have a relatively stable, good life right now. 

Edited by methodwriter85
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