I called Matt and caught him in between classes. I was in a really bad mood, a really pissed off mood, but just hearing his voice took the edge off.
“Hey. Where are you?” I asked him.
“Just got out of one class, heading to another one.”
“I just got out of my meetings, and I’m heading back to Escorial.”
“How’d they go?”
“They were interesting,” I said cryptically. He picked up on that and didn’t push me for info.
“You going to practice today?” he asked hopefully.
“Yep,” I said, mimicking Cole. “You want to come pick me up?”
“Sounds like a plan,” he said hurriedly. “I gotta run, but I heard some interesting news today.”
“Haupt’s not gone. Gathan said he’s still there, and he’s going to class as usual.”
That surprised me. I wondered why he suddenly felt invulnerable to my pressure. “I had some interesting news today too,” I told him. “Guess who my sister is dating?”
“Yeah, Mary Ellen.”
“Isn’t she dating everyone? I thought she was a whore.”
I chuckled. “I thought so too, but she’s got a boyfriend now. His name is Jason. Jason Haupt.” He made me repeat the name.
“What the fuck is that all about?” Matt asked, pissed off.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to figure it out.”
“You will,” he affirmed supportively. “I’ll see you at home in an hour or so.”
“Do me a favor.”
“See if you can find out what Carl’s deal is. He’s got a big mouth. He’s bound to shoot it off to some of the guys.” He’d be better at getting the scoop from the team than I would, since all of them knew I hated Carl.
“You got it,” he said, then hung up.
I pulled up Sean’s number and called him next. “Hey there,” he said, his voice so deep and sexy.
“Hey,” I responded, only I was focused on business, so I sort of blew right past his flirtatious mood. “Trevor gave me some interesting information.”
“Yeah. You know that land I own up in Idaho?”
“The plot that’s in the middle of the land Carl Haupt’s step-dad is developing?”
“That’s it,” I said, impressed that he remembered the players. “Well guess who my sister is dating?” I didn’t wait for an answer. “Jason Haupt.”
“Is that Carl’s brother?”
“I’m guessing, but I’m not sure. Trevor said he was at UVA with Mary Ellen and Jason. They were hammered, and Mary Ellen made some comment about something frosting my balls.”
“You think your sister may be screwing around with you?” I smiled at that. If we would have been talking in person he’d have thought of me as a date, not a client, and he would have said ‘fucking’ instead of ‘screwing’.
“Sounds like it,” I told him. “I need you to do a few things for me.”
“Is this in addition to Sunday night?”
I chuckled, but I was just doing that to be polite. I was totally focused. “I need you to make sure they can’t fuck with that land I own in Idaho.”
“I’ll have our real estate people review that,” he answered succinctly, finally getting my mood.
“Great. I also need you to see if you can find out anything about Carl Haupt and his family for me.”
“You want me to hire a private investigator?”
“I do. You can do that, can’t you?”
“I can,” he said. I heard him scribbling notes.
“And finally, I need to work things out with Tiffany.” Her situation had been on my mind, and I felt guilty for putting it on the back burner.
“What do you need to do for her?”
“I need to work out an agreement with her. I need to make sure she’s got her own income, and that we have a joint custody agreement set up for Riley.”
“You want us to draft something?”
“You can, but she needs her own attorney to represent her.” I wanted to do this right. “You think you can find someone for her? Someone honest, who won’t be a royal pain in the ass.”
“The pain in the ass part is easier than the honest part,” he joked. I laughed with him.
“It’s going to end up being a deal where I’m making sure I have custodial rights, and in exchange I give her a bunch of money.”
“So my job is to maximize the time and minimize the money.”
“I don’t want her to get screwed on the deal. The money should be good,” I said, making sure he knew where my priorities were.
“I’ll work on it. You want to bring her up on Monday too?”
And once again I’d forgotten the most important person. “Matt needs to be there as well. I’ll see if he can make Monday. I should have checked with him first.”
“Will he be coming up on Sunday night too?” Now things were a little weird.
“Possibly. I’ll let you know.” I could feel his disappointment on the other end. “Maybe if he does, the three of us can do dinner. He’s a nice guy. You’ll like him.”
“I wasn’t all that excited about the dinner part,” he teased, only he wasn’t joking.
“Well, there’s always Monday night. I can head back to Paly later on in the night and Matt can go back with Tiffany.”
“Sounds good,” he said, caving to the various claims on my attention.
I hung up just as I drove up to the garage. As soon as I parked my car I headed straight down to the nursery where I found Tiffany and Jeanine sitting there calmly, holding their respective babies. “Hey there,” I said, being as friendly as I could. I winked at Tiffany, and then focused on Jeanine. “How are you doing?”
“I think I’m a little better,” she said cautiously.
“I’m glad to hear it,” I said, hitting her with my most charming smile. That seemed to confuse her.
“I’m not as sad as I was, but my memory is gone. I’m missing huge blocks of my life,” she said, almost to herself.
“Will that come back to you over time?” I asked. I was amazed that I was having a civil conversation with her, and worried that if her memory came back, the bitch may come back with it.
“I hope so,” she said, then seemed to space out.
“How was your meeting?” Tiffany asked me.
“Interesting.” I didn’t trust Jeanine enough to really answer Tiffany in front of her. “I was wondering if you wanted to go for a ride.”
She was a passable equestrian. “Why don’t you have them get the horses ready, and I’ll put Riley down.”
“You got it.” I gave Riley a quick kiss, said goodbye to Jeanine, and then went out to the stables. I pulled on my tack while they were saddling up the horses. Tiffany moved pretty quickly: she got out there right after I did. “You sure it’s OK for you to ride?” I asked. I’d actually forgotten that since she’d just been through childbirth, riding a horse might be a bit painful.
“If you give me the mare, I’ll be fine.” She’d have a hard time handling the stallion even if she was fully recovered.
We mounted the horses and rode across the Escorial land, adopting a leisurely pace. “I want you to meet me in the City on Monday.”
“We going shopping?”
“We’re meeting with lawyers,” I said. “Shopping only if there’s time afterward.”
“I want to work things out with you and Riley. I asked Sean to find someone to represent you, to make sure you got a fair deal,” I told her.
“Thanks,” she said, and seemed genuinely appreciative.
“It’s the right thing to do,” I affirmed. “That way I don’t have to worry about screwing you over.”
“We have to figure this out so I have a life.” I looked at her, and felt bad for her. “I don’t want to be Jeanine, where I hang around and just raise babies all by myself.”
“You don’t think Matt and I will be there for you?” I hid how much her statement had irritated me, of course.
“You have a lot of drama in your lives,” she observed acidly. I rolled my eyes at that.
“And you don’t?”
“Not like you,” she said, shaking her head.
“So what do you want?”
“I don’t know. I want to be around you, but I don’t want to be chained to you.”
“Bondage can be fun.”
“You should let me tie you up sometime. It’s possible that I’ll eventually let you go, but I wouldn’t bank on it.” I laughed at that, since she was being her playfully caustic self again.
“I’d like it if you were around,” I said cautiously, hoping she wasn’t prepping me for her departure.
“What’s your plan, Wade? I don’t even know what your future looks like.” Now she sounded frustrated. I needed things planned out, so I got how that would irritate her.
“I’m going to be pretty much stuck here until I graduate. That will be in the spring of 2002.”
“Then law school,” I said. I had that all planned out.
“Where are you going to law school?”
“Depends on where I get in,” I told her. It was driving me crazy that that part of my life was in limbo.
“Where do you want to go?” Her tone told me she wasn’t happy about my limbo either. It started to dawn on me that she was a lot like me, in that she liked her future to be as planned out as possible.
“I’ve got five favorites: Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, Virginia and Georgetown. Don’t tell anyone Berkeley’s on the list, though.” Our rivalry with Cal was worth that humorous last sentence.
“They’ll think you’re a hippie-wannabe.”
“Right. That’s so me.”
“So you’re going to want us to go with you,” she said, deep in thought.
“Is that a bad thing?”
“No, but it just leaves me up in the air. I mean, I really won’t have any meaningful input on where you’re at until you graduate from law school, and even then you probably won’t give a shit about what I think.”
She was baiting me, trying to piss me off, but I let it blow right past me. “Where do you want to be?”
“I like California. I don’t mind going east, but I’d like to end up back here.” She looked away pensively, and then turned back to me. “We don’t have to be in the same place.”
The thought of her leaving and taking Riley was really disturbing, but I kept my cool. “I guess that’s true, but I’m going to be pretty busy with school for the next four years. It will be hard to see you and Riley as often as I want if you’re not around.”
“How would you handle it if I move back to LA and you stayed here?”
“Are you thinking about going back with Jeanine?” I felt my world starting to fall away from me.
“I’m thinking about it.”
“I don’t know how I’ll handle it,” I said, and that lack of certainty and planning over someone as important as Riley gnawed at me like a feral dog. We rode on in silence, just letting the solid clumping of the horse’s hooves reverberate through our bodies as we pondered our future.
“I think we need to think that through before we go talk to lawyers, otherwise we’ll both be miserable.”
“I want you to be happy,” I said sincerely. “But I don’t want to lose my son.”
“You’re not going to lose your son,” she said, acting all pissed off, even though she was saying it to be nice to me.
“Thanks.” I watched her get slightly miffed that I appreciated her statement.
“I was thinking that if I move back to LA, or wherever I end up, we could work it out so Riley came to see you every other weekend. If you want to see him on the other weekend, you can come to us.”
This was like working out a divorce settlement. “Since I miss out on the weekdays, how about I get him for the holidays?”
“All of them?”
“He and I spend Christmas and Thanksgiving together, and he spends half the summer with me,” I said. “And I get him for a week in spring, for spring break.” I was asking for a lot, but I knew there would be a price to pay. Hopefully it would only be in dollars.
“What am I supposed to do?” she demanded.
“You’re supposed to come with him. I can write that in, that you have a standing invitation to join me.” She gave me a dirty look. “Or are you willing to trust me on that one?”
“Asshole.” I laughed. “Alright, let’s think about that.” She turned back toward the stables, indicating that she was done riding. “I feel really weird talking about it like this.”
She sighed. “Because I think we cooperate really well, and this seems like we’re working things out so neither one of us will be happy.”
“I think the way this works is that we come to a basic agreement, so we both know what our rights are. Then we can change things if we want to, by mutual agreement.”
“This would be much easier if we were a couple.”
“Is that what you want?” I asked, surprised.
She rolled her eyes. “Hardly.” I stared at her, demanding an explanation. “I just meant it would be easier because then we’d be one unit, a family, instead of two people who have a baby. It is what it is.”
“Is that why you’re thinking of going back with Jeanine? So you can have that family?”
“Yeah, I’m that shallow,” she snapped. “I’m starting to see the side of Jeanine that I fell in love with. That person is slowly starting to emerge from the hollow shell that she is.”
I wondered if this was just her maternal instinct expanding itself to envelop Jeanine, or if she really did still love her, but in the end, I decided that psychoanalyzing lesbians was beyond my limited knowledge of psychology. “It would be awesome if this ended up being just a bad dream.”
“A bad dream?” I guess my terminology was just a bit too trite for her.
“You know what I mean. That this was just an aberration, and that Jeanine came out of this like she was before.”
“That might be a bit much to hope for, and besides, even if she did, the person that she was, that was the person who fucked Cody.”
“You know, I probably shouldn’t say anything, because you’ll think I’m trying to cause problems, but you act like you only have a few choices. There’s more here than being with Jeanine, or being with me, semi-platonically.”
“Semi-platonically?” she asked.
“A guy can hope,” I joked. She laughed at that.
“You’re telling me I should go out and meet other people. I don’t know. I don’t feel very attractive right now. I’m basically a cow. I just produce milk.”
“Moo,” I said, mimicking a cow.
She laughed for a bit, and then got serious again. “Let’s talk to the lawyers and see what they come up with,” she said.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I find someone for you. We can start with the weekend and holiday thing, and see where that takes us.”
“That works for me,” she said resignedly.
We handed the horses off to the stable hands and I walked her back to her room, and then went to change clothes. I found Matt waiting for me, acting really impatient. “You about ready to go?”
“Dude, it’s early,” I said, looking at my watch.
“I need to talk to the coach,” he said. He was all worked up. I started changing clothes in my methodical fashion while he continued. “Carl’s going to try and play on the team. That’s toxic.”
“What did you hear?”
“He told Chitworth that he was still on the team, and he was going to practice.”
“Did he talk about why he was still here?”
“I haven’t found out yet.” I rolled my eyes in frustration at him. There were millions of dollars on the line here, and he was worried about a club hockey team.
“What are you going to do if the coach says he can play?”
“What are you going to do?” he asked me.
“I asked you first,” I said with a grin, sounding like a first grader.
“I don’t know,” he said with a sigh. “I love playing, and this is a big year for us, but I fucking hate that guy.”
“You need to figure out how far you’re willing to go before you meet with the coach. You willing to quit the team?” I finished tying my shoes and motioned him to follow me. I figured that the time we took to walk out to his GMC would give him some time to think about that.
“I don’t want to quit,” he said after we got into the SUV.
“Then don’t threaten the coach with that,” I advised. “You willing to resign as captain?”
“You think I should?”
“No, but I’m just wondering how strongly you want to fight Carl being on the team.”
He sighed. “If he has to stay on the team, I guess he has to stay on the team.” This was where I was trying to get him to. The coach was an idiot, but he would be able to read Matt. He’d be able to tell that he wasn’t serious about leaving the team.
“I don’t know if I can,” I said. He started to argue with me, but I stopped him. “I don’t want to make a big issue out of it, though. I think it will work out better if I just keep my mouth shut. If he’s still around in a couple of weeks, then I’ll have to think about it.”
He got really upset at that, and I understood why, based on our earlier conversation. Hockey was something that we did together. But this was a lot bigger than that; there were other issues at play here. “Just promise me you’ll talk to me about it before you do.”
“Look,” I said, demanding his attention, even though he was driving. “There’s something weird going on here. Until I figure it out, I’m not doing anything. I’m just going in there and playing hockey. That’s it. He’s on the bench most of the time anyway.”
“I don’t think I can be that chill about it.”
I laughed. “Duh. Mr. Volcano.” That got me one of his cute grins. “Besides, I think the coach will figure it out. He may need a little help with that.”
“What are you planning?” he asked me suspiciously. We were at a stoplight, so he turned to actually look at me. The light changed, and he just said, “Never mind,” and drove on.
We got to the rink and Matt started for the locker room to change. “I’m going to see the coach first,” I told him. I wanted to go in wearing normal clothes, so it took away some of the power dynamic. When I was in uniform it solidified his dominant role. Matt just shrugged and headed off, while I detoured to the coach’s office.
Unsurprisingly, I found Carl in there with him. “What the fuck do you want?” the coach demanded.
“I need to talk to you,” I said, eying him calmly. “I can wait until you’re done.”
“Wants to try and convince you not to let me play, coach,” Carl said, sounding like a whining, pathetic piece of shit.
“That’s my decision, and nobody else’s,” he snarled.
I decided that my gambit may actually work out better with Carl here. “It’s going to be hard to get a team to win games when you’ve got a toxic player on the bench,” I said simply. “If the team thinks this guy sucks, that’s a problem.”
“The team doesn’t think I suck, asshole,” he spat at me.
“Yeah, they do,” I asserted.
“The team doesn’t fucking think that,” the coach said, countering me.
“Why don’t you find out?” I asked the coach.
“This isn’t a fucking democracy, Danfield.”
“No, it’s not. It’s a university club hockey team.” I’d said that to remind him of its relative importance to Stanford. “One of us is right, me or Haupt. Easy enough for you to find out.”
“They hate you more than me,” Haupt snapped.
“See, that’s a big difference between me and you, douchebag,” I said to him, letting myself get a little pissed off. “I actually give a shit about this team. If I thought these guys didn’t want me to play, or if I was playing like shit, I’d pull myself off the roster long before the coach ever asked me.”
“Alright, Danfield. I’ll ask the guys if they think Haupt should stay on the team. They don’t, he’s gone. They do, and you two dumb fucks can shut the fuck up and play as a team. We clear?”
“Crystal,” I said. Haupt just nodded.
“Go get fucking dressed,” he said to both of us.
We walked out of his office and I heard Haupt’s voice behind me. “My step-dad said that I should tell you to go fuck yourself.”
I spun around and looked at him dismissively. “More pearls of wisdom from the mogul?” I taunted. He got all pissed off, especially when I laughed at him and turned my back, heading straight to the locker room.
He followed right behind me, and when Matt saw him, he got all pissed off. “What the fuck are you doing here?” Matt demanded of Haupt.
I intervened. “The coach said he was going to let the team decide whether Haupt stays or not.”
“Yeah, so vote to keep me around,” Haupt said, smiling at the guys to try to charm them. It fell so flat, it would have taken a bigger moron than Haupt to not get that he wasn’t very popular here.
“We’ve got UCLA this weekend,” Cole interjected. “They’re tough.”
“We need to bring our best game,” Matt said.
The coach came in and glowered at all of us. “Alright, you fucking cheerleaders. I’m sick of all your fucking drama. We lose games while you all sit around and bitch about each other.” No one said anything, so he continued his rant. “We’re gonna start with Haupt. Some of you bitch about him. Well here’s your chance. Make a fucking decision.” He handed us all a slip of paper. “You want him on the team, write ‘stay’ on the paper. You want him to leave, write ‘go’ on the paper.”
Of course he didn’t think to hand us all pencils or shit, but I dug one out of my bag, and a few of the other guys did too. I wrote ‘go’ on my paper and passed the pencil to Matt. We handed our ballots to the coach, and he flipped through them. “Interesting,” he said. “Get on the ice!”
That pissed all of us off, because we wanted to know what the conclusion was. This was probably just his way of fucking with our minds, by making us wait until the end of practice. On the other hand, maybe he was going to just humor us, then disregard what we said and do what he wanted to anyway.
“You think he’s gone?” Gathan asked me as we skated in a circle to warm up.
“Shit, I thought he was gone last time. Guess his step-dad told him to hang tough.”
“He told Chitworth that his step-dad figured a way out of this. He’ll still make some bank, but not what he was hoping for.”
I thought about that, and thought about who was involved in this. The whole thing was starting to make a lot more sense, and was starting to look like something way beyond anything Mary Ellen may have dreamed up. “Thanks.”
Practice was pretty boring, and most of the guys kept to themselves. I think the coach finally figured out that his little trick in the locker room didn’t do anything but freak us out. Toward the end of the practice, he pulled Carl off the ice and talked to him, both of them gesturing in an animated way. In the end, Haupt stormed off, slamming his stick against the boards as he did.
Matt was standing next to me, and we just looked at each other for a second. “Guess that answers that question,” he said.
The coach drilled us for a little longer, and then called us over. “Alright, so it looks like almost all of you dipshits wanted Haupt off the fucking team, so you got your wish. Now you have to prove to me you were right.” We returned to the locker room to find Haupt already gone.
“Dude, did you see the way he smiled when he asked if we liked him?” Blanten joked. The underclassmen got into the drama of the whole thing, acting like they were in high school, dissing on Haupt. The rest of us just showered and changed. I finished before Matt did, and since I saw that I’d gotten a call from Sean, I went out to the GMC to call him back.
“Glad you called me back,” he said, not even bothering to greet me. “There’s a really twisted clause in the dissolution agreement.”
“What’s it say?”
“It says that the master trust can exchange assets with your trust up to 30 days after the initial distribution. That means the master trust can pull that piece of land back and give you something of similar value.”
“How do I stop them?”
“Two choices. Sell it, or have it distributed into your name only.” I paused to think about it. “Here’s the deal. They could act on this tomorrow, so we have to have the documents to complete the deal done by tomorrow morning, so we can file them before the master trust files for a reversal.”
“Alright, which way is better?”
“Issuing it out into your name would probably be easier. You control the trust, so we can draft a letter of instruction for you to sign.”
“We could even have that done today, couldn’t we?”
“I think we could. Getting late, but I’ll get the people on it. We’ll need to get it signed and witnessed.”
“Fax it to me. I’ve got plenty of witnesses,” I joked. Matt hopped into the GMC, looking kind of depressed. “Or did you need me to sign it there?”
“A fax should work. Give us a couple of hours and we’ll send it down.”
“Call me when you do,” I said. “By the way, Haupt got drummed off the team. I heard his step-dad worked out a deal to sell out to someone else.”
“Then we better get this transfer started. I’ll call you later.” He hung up before I could say goodbye.
“What’s going on?” Matt asked.
“Seems they can pull that piece of property in Idaho back out of my trust if they want to. I have to get it distributed into my name before they do.”
“What difference does it make? Haupt’s off the team.” I was frustrated with him for being so myopic, and for not getting that there was more involved in all of this that Carl Haupt playing on the stupid hockey team. I was tempted to explain that to him, but he seemed pretty down.
“You don’t seem very happy about it.”
He sighed and started driving. “It’s a real bummer to deal with this kind of shit. And I know some of the guys liked him. I think they just wanted him gone so we’d be happy, those of us who hated him.”
“Dude, we have to focus on the end result. This will make the season so much more fun for all of us,” I said, trying to improve his mood.
“I’ll cheer you up later,” I said, grinning. “You got plans on Monday?”
“I’ve got classes.”
“Any chance you can miss them?”
He gave me a strange look when I asked that, since I was anal-retentive about never missing classes unless we had an away game. “Why?”
“I have to do a bunch of estate planning, and I have to go meet with the lawyers about that. I’d like you to go with me and help me figure this all out.”
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything vital that day. I can get notes.”
“Thanks. Tiffany is coming up on Monday, too. I was thinking that we could go up on Sunday after we get back from LA and hang out in the City.”
“Don’t you want to spend some time with Sean?” he asked, in a really bitchy way. I ignored his tone.
“I need to meet with him before Monday, so I figured that you and I would go out to dinner with him on Sunday and get the scoop. I might hang out for a little while on Monday evening and spend some time with him.”
“Sounds good,” he lied, putting on his game face. “If you want to just do Sunday night with him, I can come up with Tiffany.”
“I think I’d rather spend Sunday in the City with you,” I told him lovingly. That seemed to make him a little happier.