“Holy shit, dude, what have you been eating?” Blanten asked me as we got out of the shower. Ever since we’d gone to Arizona, I’d been a total stud on the ice. Tonight we’d aced out Santa Clara 3-2, and I’d not only gotten an assist, I’d scored the game winning goal. “Whatever it is, I have to try it.”
“Cock. I’ve been sucking cock,” I said to him seriously, and watched him totally freak out. He was such a freshman. Klip and Gathan started laughing so hard, I thought they were going to puke, which of course made me laugh too.
“You had a good game today, Kramer,” Gathan finally said. “You been sucking cock too?”
“Fuck off,” Kramer said, making us laugh even more.
“Remember, no parties tonight,” Matt announced sternly. The coach was pleased with our performance last week and tonight, and he’d decided that we were doing so well because we weren’t going out after the Friday game. He’d have spies out there, and since we usually got fucked up together, someone would tell him, and then he’d do something awful to us.
“Fine with me,” I said, interrupting everyone else’s booing. “Time to get my homework done so I can go out tomorrow.” It was such a supportive comment, it almost made me look like a good wife. Whatever.
I started to walk out of the locker room when Chitworth pulled me aside. “Dude, Carl needs to talk to you.”
I so did not want to deal with him. He and Jason had been bugging the shit out of me as they’d tried to work out a deal to resolve all this shit with Mary Ellen. I felt like I was his attorney, not the guy he’d hired. I’d been adamant that I not be seen with Jason, and I really didn’t think it was a good idea for him to even be in the Bay Area, but that wasn’t my decision. “Where?”
“There’s a scenic view area in Woodside, off I-280. The one you get to when you’re going south, right after you see the statue of Father Serra on the other side of the freeway. He wants you to meet him there.”
“As soon as you leave, and you’re on your way, I’m supposed to call him.” These idiots were so cloak and dagger it was comical.
“Alright. Let me talk to Matt and make sure he’s cool with it.”
“When you get off the freeway, turn right, then go up to the parking lot. You’ll see Carl’s truck there.” Carl had a red Chevy S-10 pickup with Montana plates. It would be easy enough to find.
I tracked down Matt. We drove together, so I’d have to get his OK on this. “Carl wants to meet me, probably about this shit with Mary Ellen. I’m supposed to go to that scenic view place off 280.”
“Now?” he asked, not a little annoyed.
“Yeah,” I said in such a way that he could tell I was as annoyed as he was. “You mind if we do this and get it over with?”
“That’s fine. What about food?”
“We’ll go after that. I promise. I’m fucking starving,” I said. I was always hungry after a game. Shit, I was always hungry, period.
“There’s a surprise,” he said, giving me shit about my appetite. Like he ate any less than me. “We can just eat when we get home.”
Normally we would have just taken the El Camino down to Stanford, or maybe 101, but this time we had to divert ourselves over to 280. “What do you think he wants?”
“I have no idea. Probably wants me to tell them how to argue with my mother’s attorneys.”
“Don’t you mean with the district attorney?” he asked.
“Same thing,” I joked. “Actually, they’ve gone after my parents for damages on this. Last I heard, they were going to shell out about a million bucks to buy Jason off, and to pay for his legal fees.”
Matt laughed. “From asshole boyfriend who beat up his girlfriend, to millionaire. That boy owes you.”
“How do you think I should collect?” I asked with a leer, making him laugh. Jason Haupt was really cute, and a nice guy, but he didn’t have much common sense, and that made him seem stupid. I didn’t want to fuck a stupid guy.
“Dude, teach him how to bottom,” Matt joked.
We got to the scenic view and parked a few cars away from Carl’s pickup. He and Jason got out and walked over to a trail. “I’m going to go over and talk to them. You stay here, just in case something happens.”
“I’m going with you,” he said firmly.
“I’m going to call you on my phone,” I said, dialing his number. He looked at me dumbly. “Pick it up.”
“Oh. Duh.” He answered his phone.
I put my phone in my pocket. “Now you’ll hear everything that we talk about.” He reluctantly agreed. I got out and walked toward the same path Carl and Jason went down, scanning the parking area to see if the people in the other cars seemed to notice. I walked down the path, and then rounded a corner. It was dark, so I almost plowed right into Jason.
“Thanks for coming,” Jason said. “I need to talk to you about something.”
“Go ahead. Just make it fast. I’m hungry, and you’re the only thing keeping me from dinner,” I said firmly, but with a smile.
“We got our settlement done. I ended up with nine hundred grand or eight fifty after I pay the legal fees. They’re going to announce that I’m innocent tomorrow.”
“That’s great news,” I said, trying to act enthusiastic about it.
“It is. And I owe it all to you. Dude, if you wouldn’t have stepped in and helped me, I’d be headed to jail next week after the election.” Even though it was dark, I could see the gratitude in his eyes.
“You didn’t deserve that. Carl might, but you don’t.” They both laughed, but I was actually pretty serious about that one. “So why did you want to see me?” There was no reason to have this meeting when a deal was done and it would be on the news tomorrow. This was just an unnecessary risk.
“I’ll wait in the truck,” Carl said, and walked back up to the parking area.
“I had to sign a confidentiality clause. I can’t tell anyone about it. But I’m going to break that and tell you. I owe you that much.”
Part of me thought about doing the honorable thing, and telling him not to, but I figured it was important, especially since he made a point to meet with me. “I’ll keep your secret.”
“I’m not allowed to talk to the media about anything, other than to say I’m glad Mary Ellen is better, and that she’s getting out of the hospital.” Mary Ellen was being discharged from the hospital tomorrow, the same day Jason’s innocence was announced. How ironic.
“That sounds pretty normal.”
“Yeah, but here’s where it gets weird. After the election, sometime when they instruct me, I’m supposed to lay out all the details on that land deal.”
It’s a good thing it was dark, otherwise he’d be able to see the shock on my face. “Why?”
“I don’t know. I thought you’d know. And it’s not even like it’s something I’m allowed to do, it’s something they’re requiring me to do.”
“Then you’d better do it,” I said, even as I tried to figure out my mother’s scheme.
“I just didn’t want to blindside you, or cause you any problems.”
“I appreciate that, Jason. Does Carl know about this?”
“No. You’re the only one I’ve told.” Well, and Matt, since my phone was on, but he didn’t know that. I paused to think about how I trusted Matt completely again, so that didn’t even bother me.
“You know, with all that cash you get, it would be tempting for you to piss it away on some bling.”
“It will be cool to have some bucks for a change.”
“You may want to keep it low-key,” I advised. “You got out of this whole thing, and you got cash, so people may put the two together.”
“Yeah, but what if they do? I mean, the deal is done.”
“What would they do if they thought you broke the confidentiality clause?”
“I guess they could take the money away from me,” he said, after he thought about it for a bit.
“Look, they expect you to just go off and all but vanish. You do something to attract attention, and they’ll come after you.”
“What can they do to me?”
“Dude, think about what’s already happened. Don’t you realize who you’re dealing with? You piss them off; damn near anything can happen to you.”
“You mean they’d kill me?”
“What if you went out with a girl one night and woke up the next morning in your bed. You thought you just had fun. Then later that day, you find pictures of you and a bunch of guys, and you’re pulling a train. There’s you with a big dick in your mouth, and up your ass. That’s so easy for them it’s child’s play. Or what if you’re driving down the road and your car accidentally drives off the road, and you’re paralyzed from the waist down. Dude, be careful.”
“So you’re telling me to take the money, and just move on and live my life in a calm, cool way, kind of like you do?”
I didn’t think I was all that calm and cool, at least not lately, but it was a nice compliment. “Yeah, that’s what I’m telling you. Where are you going to school next semester?”
“I figured I’d go back to Virginia. Why?”
“Take my advice. Find someplace new. Someplace on the West Coast. Trust me.”
“Bummer. I liked UVA,” he said, then got his act together. “I’ll do that. I’ll find somewhere else to go.”
“Good boy. And good luck,” I told him, then turned and walked back up to the lot. I got into the GMC with Matt and told him to drive off. I made him pull over when we got closer to the freeway and turn off his lights. We waited to see if anyone besides Carl and Jason were behind us. Those two passed us, and we waited a few more minutes. Since there were no more cars, we left, and Matt drove us to Escorial.
“So your mother wants them to talk about this land deal?” he asked. “What the fuck is her game?”
I shook my head sadly. “She’s setting me up. She’s trying to send me a message, to tell me not to fuck with her. She’s doing that by launching this land scandal, then she can turn around and point her finger at me, showing how I’m the person who won, who got all the money.”
“Dude, you donated all of that cash to charity.”
“She doesn’t know that,” I said, grinning.
“Why does this bug you?” He could sense my mood.
“Because this time it’s personal. This time she’s purposefully setting me up for no other reason than to hurt me. There’s no money, no political gain to be had here. That means I’m going to have to really watch my back.”
“Can’t your dad rein her in for you?”
“Not this time,” I said. “Besides, to get his help, I’d have to tell him about this, and that would expose Jason’s breach of agreement.”
“You know, maybe there’s something else here. Your mom doesn’t do shit without a plan.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I said, thinking about what he said. I’d have to consider her motives more carefully.
We drove on while I sat there, strategizing. “Are you alright?” Matt finally asked me as we pulled up to the garage at Escorial.
“I’ll be fine.” He stared at me, telling me that was a lie. “It’s just that I’ve had such a great week, and it would have been so much better without this bullshit. Tonight we played great hockey, I’m doing well in school, Riley’s here so I can see him, and I have you with me. Life is awesome.”
He grinned at me, happy that I was happy, for the most part. “Just don’t think about it.”
“That’s the thing. Every time I relax, or try to just enjoy things, some bullshit, usually sparked by my mother, comes in and fucks it all up.”
“Sometimes it’s from our family. You’d better brace yourself. Will’s not getting along with people in Norway.”
“What now?” Sometimes Will could be just a little exasperating.
“He’s fucking all the skaters and stealing JJ’s limelight.” I laughed at that.
“Better call in the United Nations,” I joked.
“So what are you going to do about this thing with your mother? Isn’t this a high-risk deal for her? I mean, it will make her look like shit if she gets busted for being involved.”
“It is pretty high-risk,” I agreed. “I don’t know what her end game is, but that’s the key to figuring out what to do.” Maybe he was right. There had to be more to it than it just being personal. My mother didn’t operate that way.
We went in the house and went down to see Riley while Anna made us some dinner. He was sleeping peacefully, looking so innocent. With my mother’s genes as part of his makeup, it was unlikely he’d be that way beyond college.
November 4, 2000
“Good morning,” I said to JP cheerfully as I walked into the kitchen. I’d had a nice, relaxing evening, doing homework, playing with my son, and fucking Matt. I was in a good mood.
He grinned wryly, my first clue that he was seriously disturbed by something. “I am not sure that it is.”
“There have been significant problems in Norway.”
“I heard that Will is upstaging JJ with his sexual prowess,” I said with a smile, to take the edge off. It didn’t work.
“That would appear to be the catalyst. It has expanded well beyond that.” He sighed, a rare gesture for him. “It seems that Jeanine decided to intervene in the dispute on JJ’s side, and has become so unstable she’s on her way back here, highly medicated. She’ll be heading back to the hospital.”
I stared at him in shock. She had seemed to be doing much better. “How is Tiffany?” She hadn’t called me, and I hadn’t bothered her. I assumed she’d be busy.
“She is still there, with JJ. Everyone else is flying back tomorrow. It does not appear that she and Jeanine are a couple.” I tried to hide my feelings on that, about how happy that made me. Maybe I could talk Tiffany into staying up here. I chided myself for being selfish, but I really didn’t think that Jeanine would make Tiffany happy.
“Why are you so upset?” I asked him, sparking a non-verbal tug of war. He raised his eyebrow, challenging that he was upset, while I stared at him intently, telling him that he couldn’t hide it from me. I could tell that bothered him, but in the end he relented. Whatever was bothering him, he needed to talk to someone about it. In the end, I was flattered that he chose me.
“Michael, JJ’s guard, evidently took pictures of Will having oral sex with another boy and sent them to the United States Figure Skating officials in Norway. He sent them with Jeanine’s blessing.” I felt my mouth fall open in shock, and I was so freaked out I didn’t even think to close it for a few seconds.
“She told him to send nude pictures of her own son to the USFSA?” That was outrageous. What would she do to Riley, if she could do that to her own son?
“She did. So not only did she do that to her son, but the skater was almost outed, and almost had his whole career destroyed. Ironically enough, he was the one who ended up taking gold in the competition.”
“Wow. I’d better make sure she doesn’t team up with my mother,” I joked, getting a small smile from JP.
“A wise plan,” he allowed. “The skater told Will about the pictures, and he and Brad went in and faced down the USFSA, getting them to drop the whole affair.”
“I’ll bet that was an interesting meeting to watch.” We both chuckled at the vision of Brad, who could be such a hothead, and Will, with his righteous indignation, bearding a bunch of skating officials. Then my mind shifted back to the incident. “Wait a minute, what the hell was Michael doing taking nude pictures of Will in the first place?” That dude should be fired, and probably prosecuted for possessing child pornography.
“That is a core issue. Evidently there was a meeting with Brad, Robbie, Claire, Jeanine, and Stef. Brad argued that they should do nothing to complicate things, that they should just let Michael stay there until after JJ performed, or maybe until the thing was over, then deal with this when they got back. He seemed to think that maintaining a façade of normalcy for JJ, and avoiding any scandals to the family over this, were the most important objectives. The other issue Brad raised is that since this happened in a foreign country, they were now tangling with entirely different legal systems.”
“Brad wants to hush the whole thing up?” I asked, more of a conclusion. I could see that, it was something my mother would do. Keep the media out of it. But how could you think that when it was your own son who had been photographed?
“Evidently. His preferred course of action is to allow Michael to resign in exchange for a small severance package, and no criminal charges will be filed.”
“So he didn’t really care that Michael took pictures of Will?”
“It is worse than that. Michael evidently photographed JJ as well.” JP cringed as he said that, admitting that Brad had let his desire to sweep things under the rug presumably overcome his parental obligations.
“What did the others want?”
I saw from his expression that I was digging into an even more painful area. “Claire thought the offense was so heinous that he should be fired and sent home at once. She told Brad he should contact his attorney to prepare evidence for submission to the district attorney.” That would have been my most likely course of action, and clearly it was JP’s as well.
“What about Stef?” I didn’t even ask about Robbie, assuming that he’d blindly follow along with what Brad wanted. And I knew that Jeanine was the prime advocate for Brad’s position without even asking.
“He opted to side with Brad.” And this was what was torturing JP the most: The thought that his partner could make such an expedient yet morally reprehensible decision. “He wanted to fire Michael for cause and send him packing, and let the matter die there. Under pressure from Brad, he conceded.”
“What did Will think of this?” I asked, bracing myself.
JP smiled. “He is a very intelligent young man, and quite capable of seeing right through his father. He guessed almost everything, although I do not think he is aware that Michael is being allowed to quit, and will be given severance pay.”
“I won’t have to chase him all around the world again, will I?” I joked. Sort of.
“Claire and I were both worried about such an occurrence, and she told me that she had planned to make an offer to Will to stay with them if he wanted to. I asked her to remind him he was welcome here as well. The objective was not to lure him away from Malibu, but to ensure that he didn’t get frustrated and just go off on his own again.”
“Do you think he’ll do that?”
“I think he may, when he finally discovers the whole story. Will has a very strong sense of what is right and wrong, and fights like a tiger once he is sure he is standing on the moral high ground. He had a conference with everyone and, according to Claire, held a mirror up to all of them. I don’t think he had much of an effect on Brad and Robbie, but he definitely made Stef feel bad about his role in this thing.”
“Will went after Stef?” That told me a lot about how out of control things must be in Norway.
“Claire said he was quite succinct, so much so that Stef has avoided talking to me.” I chuckled at that, even though it obviously pained JP.
“What about JJ?” I asked, even though I really didn’t care all that much.
“He came in 13th. He fell during his final program, but it seems that he has earned kudos for his sportsmanship. Even though he fell, he picked himself up and put in a really good performance after that.” JP beamed with pride at that, at JJ being recognized for being honorable, and I felt myself softening toward the bitchy little dude as well. “I think he is very upset about his mother and her actions; he’s upset about all the drama, for which he mostly blames Will; and he’s most unhappy about not medaling.”
“I’m wondering what the fallout is going to be.”
“Especially with Tiffany and Jeanine,” he said, assuming I was that self-absorbed. That bothered me, because I was worried about Will too, but I didn’t go there. “I know I don’t have to tell you this, but Tiffany and Riley are welcome here, no matter what these other people do.”
“I knew that, but thanks,” I said, smiling at him. But he was upset at a much deeper level. “You know, I don’t want to pry, but sometimes it is helpful to talk about things.”
He laughed at that. “We are supposed to go hide in our caves and figure things out, and not ask for help, right?”
“I think we’ve advanced beyond caves, but that’s essentially the preferred male strategy,” I joked.
“And that is perhaps Bradley’s biggest weakness.”
“That he makes decisions in isolation?”
“Yes, and that he seems to have changed since this battle with Omega. Things like media attention would have seemed irrelevant to him before. A family scandal is something we all try to avoid, but not something we couldn’t handle. This is so much bigger, yet he doesn’t see it that way. I am wondering what happened to his moral compass. I am wondering if it is permanently pointed at a different pole.”
I nodded. “You’ve all but dubbed him as your successor, at least as far as family interests go.”
“I had,” he said, past-tense. That was very shocking, considering that Brad was JP’s ‘Dauphin’, as Stef had put it. Dauphin was the French ancien-regime name for the heir to the throne. Brad was the guy JP had pegged to be the leader of the family when he was gone, and he’d yielded power to him already on a few uncomfortable occasions. But was this a big enough issue to JP to consider changing that? Or was it that this was just one of many issues, and the scales had finally reached the tipping point?
“Who else would fill that role?”
He smiled at me, a smile to belie the pain he must feel. “The person who has been the most stalwart in this thing is my daughter, and as I reflect on it, I find that in most things she has shown uncommonly good judgment.”
“She’s also very hot, and incredibly classy,” I said with a smile, getting a frown in return, but a contrived one. I guess you weren’t supposed to like hearing that your daughter is hot.
“Those are other attributes,” he allowed grumpily.
“So you’ve sidelined her for Brad all these years because she’s a woman?” I watched him get pissed at that, but I knew why, and so did he. He was pissed off because he was worried that he was right. I decided to try and allay his self-flagellation. “I don’t think you’re a sexist. I think that Claire is a more deliberate leader, while Brad is more out front, demanding the role. If two people have the skills to be in charge, and one person all but demands it, you give them the job, no?”
“Possibly. In any event, I have much to mull over.”
“When will Stef get home?”
“I expect he’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Will you two be alright?” I asked. It was probably inappropriate for me to pry, but I was worried about him.
“We have had our disagreements before. I think that this time, Will has already fought the battle for me, so I suspect I will just have to listen to Stef as he tells me how stupid he has been.”
“You may not want to agree too easily,” I joked. I finished my breakfast and then went down to check my e-mails. There was one from a Washington Post reporter, a Mr. John Simun, fishing for an interview about my sister’s beating. A plan hatched in my mind, a plan to cause my mother a bit of discomfort. I called him.
“John Simun,” the voice answered. It was deep and gravelly, the kind of voice a smoker has.
“Mr. Simun, Wade Danfield,” I said. “You sent me an e-mail asking me to call you?”
“Thank you for calling me, Mr. Danfield,” he said, and seemed shocked that I’d actually done it.
“Please, call me Wade,” I said affably. “What can I do for you?”
“Apparently the charges against Jason Haupt for beating up your sister have been dropped. He’s not the one who did it.”
“I’m not surprised,” I said, baiting him.
“I think that the police in this case just picked the easiest way out. My sister gets beaten to within an inch of her life, and they simply went out and picked up the most convenient target: her boyfriend.”
“He was seen at her room, but no one else was spotted,” he said, nibbling at the bait.
“Mr. Simun,” I began. He stopped me and made me call him John. “I wonder if they ever even tried to interview people. This is one of the laziest and sloppiest pieces of police work we’ve seen.” I smiled as I thought about how that slam would piss off the Charlottesville and UVA police. “Is any woman that attends the University of Virginia safe?”
“You’re saying that it’s not safe for women at UVA?” he asked, now taking the bait.
“I’m questioning that. No woman should be beaten up like my sister was, but if a United States senator’s daughter can be assaulted like that, and the police don’t really seem to care at all, then you tell me, is any woman safe there?”
“Possibly not,” he said, swallowing the hook. “You think they didn’t pursue this because they don’t take cases of abuse against women seriously?”
“I can’t really make that statement, since I haven’t seen the data. I would wonder, though, how many arrests and prosecutions they’ve made on these kinds of cases, compared to say other towns in Virginia, or beyond.”
“You would think that a United States senator would be able to get the police force to take action, wouldn’t you?”
“I know how much my father loves my sister.” That was true, and the answer was ‘not much’. “I know how upset he’s been by this whole thing. So it can’t be from lack of effort on his part to prod them forward.” I paused for effect. “Evidently not even the ranting of a US senator can convince the City of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia to take cases of abuse against women seriously.”
He ended our conversation shortly after that, and I laughed my ass off. I wondered if the Post would print the article. If it made the press tomorrow, it would be in the Sunday edition, the most widely read one.
I checked up on Matt, who was in the gym, and then called Tiffany. “How is Riley?” she asked me before anything else.
“He’s doing great. The nurses said you’ve been checking in on him. I haven’t called you because I figured you’d be busy. I hope that’s alright.” I was being as nice as I could, because I knew she was having a tough time in Norway.
“That’s fine. I have been busy. Not much of it has to do with skating, though.”
“I heard about some of it. Are you alright?”
“I don’t know. I just need to get this over with and get back to the States. I feel like I need to get my feet on the ground so I can figure out what to do next.”
“You get back on Monday night?”
“That’s the plan.”
“I’m flying out on Monday. I’m going back to DC to be with my father when the election returns come in.”
She picked up on the quandary I was in, how I was torn between being here for her and my promise to my father to be there with him. “That’s fine, Wade. I’ll be recovering from jet lag, and from all of this shit.”
“Matt will be here to keep you company,” I teased.
“Great,” she said sarcastically.
“Um, I know you’re dealing with a lot right now, and I shouldn’t even ask this, but, uh, are you still planning to move to Malibu? I mean, you were planning to go as soon as you got back.” I was nervous, because I was prying.
“I told you that I have a lot to think about,” she snapped.
“I know that, and I’m not trying to pressure you. I just like to be organized,” I teased. I heard her chuckle.
“You figure that now that I’m alone again, and vulnerable, you can coax me into staying in my gilded cage,” she said, in the strange combination of bitching and loving that was unique to her.
“The cage has a door, and it’s been open the whole time. You’re the one who has issues with hot college girls sucking on your nipples.” She laughed at that. “Look, you know that I love having you and Riley here. I’d love it if you stayed here. But I don’t want to hold you back either.”
“I know that, Wade. For right now, I’ll be coming back to Palo Alto. I’ll try to figure things out as soon as I can. I know this is hard on you, keeping you on pins and needles about when I’m leaving, or even if I am.”
“By the way, your little brother has been moving in on your turf.”
“What?” I asked.
“Will and Jeff have been spending quality time together.”
“I thought he was screwing all the skaters?”
“Evidently he is very energetic and quite busy,” she said. I laughed, and then we ended our conversation. It was kind of weird that Jeff was sleeping with Will after we’d been together, but I got over that pretty quickly. What worried me more was Jeff, and his attitude about relationships. Will wasn’t ready for anything like Jeff seemed to want. And Jeff wasn’t good at non-monogamous relationships. It had the potential to be a toxic combination.