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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    Parker Owens
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  • 4,600 Words
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  • 43 Comments

Double Concerto - 31. Furioso

In addition to other hazards, a Heinrich Warning has been posted.

“Damn it!” Rick swore aloud, his curse accompanied by the metallic ping of a faucet replacement valve bouncing on the shop’s concrete floor.

At least he didn’t have to apologize for his ill temper. Irene continued her impromptu vacation from the shop; his calls remained unreturned. It made for a quiet Wednesday after a restless night, which wasn’t a wholly bad thing. He had walked over to pick up the newly re-silenced van from Guttmacher's, dodging Jerry's questions about the redness on his neck. Maybe Jerry's interest, like those marks, would fade, and all would be forgotten.

Except he didn't want to forget about how Gus had made them in the first place. He smiled to himself, remembering.

With a little quiet, restocking the parts bins seemed in order. Lunch wasn't far away.

He stepped and bent to retrieve the fallen piece, which had rolled some distance away.

Behind him, an impersonal electronic tone bleated; a customer had entered the shop through the office door. That was unusual. Nearly everyone called; very few made visits in person.

Rising and straightening, Rick turned towards the workshop entrance. “In here!” He called out.

A tall, white-haired figure appeared in the doorway. Dressed in sharp blue blazer, white shirt and impeccably creased grey trousers, the new arrival surveyed the interior of Ernst and Son with a critical eye.

Rick pocketed the errant brass fitting and wiped his hands on his work pants. He stepped forward with an outstretched hand to greet his visitor.

“Hello. Zoltan Takács, right?”

The other man winced, and hesitated a moment before shaking Rick’s offered welcome with a single, emphatic gesture.

Rick blinked. He knew his pronunciation was a long way from correct, but he’d tried.

“Yes.” Takács inclined his head. “You have some place we can talk privately?”

“Sure. Let’s go to the office; it’s behind you.” He guided the elegant figure into the business’ shabby nerve center. “You take the comfy chair.” He indicated Irene’s padded seat.

The older man examined the worn, but serviceable, swivel model, before lowering himself into its vinyl depths.

Rick sat in the scarred wooden side chair across the desk from Takács. “What can I do for you?” He wondered if perhaps Cedarcrest’s new owners were looking for a new furnace, or maybe a whole new heating and cooling system.

“Herr Ernst, I think it is time we spoke frankly.” Takács’ spoke in a precise voice, his Eastern European accent stressing each consonant.

“What about?”

“You have been seeing Gustavo, correct?”

Rick wondered just how much the other man knew. “We went fishing last weekend.”

“Let us not beat behind the bush, as you say in America. You and Gustavo have formed an attachment.”

He and Takács locked eyes for a moment. His heart thudded aloud. Rick swallowed and nodded. “Yes. We have.”

“It must end. Today. Now.” The white-haired impresario spoke in a tone that brooked no contradiction.

“What?” The bottom seemed to have fallen out of Rick’s stomach.

“Your association with Gustavo stops immediately, as of this moment.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I think I have been very clear. You are not to speak to him again.”

“But why?”

Takács leaned forward in the chair, putting his elbows on the desk with steepled fingers. “You are a distraction. Gustavo must live for music, for the art only he can produce. You have seen his injury, correct? How is he to rehabilitate if you are constantly interfering?”

“I’m not – I didn’t –”

“Pffft. Of course, you are a disruption. What do you call your little fishing excursion? You could have set his recovery back by months. There could have been permanent damage. Gustavo could have been killed by your negligence.”

“But Gus is fine. The x-rays showed normal healing.”

“That neither divides nor multiplies.” The man waved his hand dismissively. “What matters is that you took risks you had no right to take.”

“Gus said –”

“Gustavo is a child. He says many words he may or may not mean. You must understand, he cannot be taken at face value. And you – you have treated him as one of your playthings.”

“That’s not fair –”

Takács held up a hand. “Herr Ernst, what do you know about ‘fair?’ Truly? You must know Gustavo Morales has a singular, unique talent, yes?”

Rick could find nothing wrong in those words. After a long moment, he nodded.

“You agree that he possesses art, a soul, a gift like no other?”

Rick recalled Gus playing to a packed hospital chapel audience, how a whole room was transported from the sterile, fluorescent world of medicine to some place beautiful and natural. In his memory, notes still floated over a starlit lake. He remembered making music with him at his mother’s old piano.

“Yes.”

“Is it fair to endanger that talent? Fair to roll the dice and take chances that Gustavo’s talent will go unshared with the world? Is that right?”

“We weren’t gambling. I never meant to put him in danger.”

“Ah, but you did, nonetheless.”

“And I made sure he wasn’t hurt.”

“That may be true, but that is beside the point. The fact that Gustavo would even think about going along on your little expedition simply proves that you are far too much of a disturbance in his life. His rehabilitation cannot be interfered with.”

“I’ve never taken away his practice time.” He wasn’t going to mention Sunday morning; not that he could ever forget it, either.

“But you have. I have observed him during the day, sitting idle, watching the telephone instead of performing his required exercises. Gustavo thinks nobody is watching. When he is at the piano, he dawdles, or experiments with foolish inventions of his own.”

Rick’s pulse quickened. He’d caught himself daydreaming about Gus any number of times.

“And then there is the matter of this music festival some days ago,” Takács continued. “Musical education is all well and good, but it appears he wasted a whole day with you upon this excursion.”

“It was a wonderful day,” he replied, knowing that the adjective was completely inadequate.

“That is precisely my point. It may have been wonderful, marvelous, perhaps exhilarating – for you. But that is not at all what Gustavo needs. He needs encouragement and discipline, not blue skies and rainbows.” The older man exhaled. “In any event, it is done. Your brief connection is over. Gustavo agrees he does not need you anymore.”

“Is that what you believe, or what Gus says?”

“Gustavo knows this. You are not wanted.”

Those words hurt. And Gus agreed? Like a stubborn child, Rick dug in, not wanting to believe. “I’d like to hear Gus tell me that himself.”

“That will not happen. As I said, he is finished with you.”

“Finished? Just like that? Like I’m some sort of inconvenient episode?”

“Please, Herr Ernst, do not pretend to be naïve. You are not the first man to have caught Gustavo’s attention.” Takács fixed him with a disdainful glare. “Though I have to admit I am perplexed why he might have chosen you. Usually, he has better taste.” Takács flicked a bit of dust off his cuff. “He has these little flings, these amusing scherzi, and then he moves on.”

Rick seethed, digesting the insult.

The other man went on. “He has had better men than you in his bed all over the globe. Provided Gustavo is discreet, and as long as these dalliances don’t interfere with his performance, I look the other way. In this case, I have allowed matters to go on far too long.”

“Isn’t it up to Gus to choose who he wants?” Rick challenged.

Takács laughed, a single, sardonic bark. “What an improbable, romantic notion.” He scoffed. “You read too many storybooks. I made Gustavo. I choose who he sees and where he goes, and when. I decide what his best for him and for his career.”

I doubt he would agree.” He lowered his head in mulish rebellion.

“Unfortunately for you, it hardly matters what you think.” The man stood, leaning on the desk, imperious. “You have put your axe to a tree that’s much too big, as they say. Here are simple facts, so even a bumfordi like you can understand, Herr Ernst. If you make any effort to contact Gustavo, even the slightest attempt – if you write, telephone, send emails, appear at a concert, anything at all – I will immediately take legal action against you.” Takács hissed, eyes glittering. “In the most public and embarrassing way, I will have you prosecuted for stalking, sue you for damages, and file for restraining orders, yes? I will see that Gustavo issues statements denying any connection to you, while at the same time, exposing your nasty little secret to the world. And this part of the world is not so forgiving, is it?”

The man straightened, adjusting his lapel.

Rick stood in automatic courtesy, but his jaw worked in fury. “I’m not giving him up.” He grated.

“Then you are a fool. Remember what I say, Herr Ernst. I have made no threats, only promises.” Zoltan Takács walked to the door and turned, his smile both reptilian and satisfied. “I’m so glad we had this opportunity to chat.”

The man let himself out.

Rick sagged against the faded, cheap office paneling, dulled by the long years. He screwed his eyes shut.

This is wrong, so wrong. He can’t keep me away from Gus. Can he?

His mind whirled, but he couldn’t think how to fight back. He didn’t even have a lawyer. It would be one thing to be outed, quite another to be publicly branded as a stalker, some kind of weird deviant.

It wasn’t right. Gus brought out the best in him. He treasured the man’s laughter, his kiss. Rick wanted to shout, to rage against the injustice. But no sound came out. At the back of his mind a horrible question lurked.

What if Gus really doesn’t want you anymore?

As the stolid wall clock ticked the minutes by, a single tear trickled down his cheek. A tear for stars they’d never count together, for songs he’d never get the courage to sing, for baseball games unwatched and unargued, for fish uncaught, for duets never played.

This can’t be happening.

He didn’t really want to believe, couldn’t bear to accept, that Gus would drop him, cut him off.

But Takács, the impresario, was completely credible. Rick had to admit the truth: Gus had amazing talent the rest of the world yearned to hear. It would be wrong to stand in the way.

He grabbed a tissue and tried to blow his nose.

Gus had a career, and his manager’s job was to promote that, to cultivate it and make it flourish. But why couldn’t they thrive together?

The phone rang.

Rick ignored the noise, letting it sound its clangor over and over in every space of the shop. After a while, it stopped.

He does not need you anymore. You are not wanted. He hadn’t felt this bad since Willy Kohler.

The phone rang again, just as insistent as the last time, ringing without pause.

Well, some idiot wants you for something. Rick blinked. He reached for the phone.

“Ernst and Son.” His tone was flat, lifeless.

The voice on the other end was animated by panic, it seemed. “Hi, is there someone who can help me? It’s kind of an emergency. The toilet in the basement is backing up and spewing crap all over the playroom.”

“Oh. That sounds bad.”

“It’s a hell of a mess, and stinks like you wouldn’t believe.”

“I bet it does.” Rick made no move; he felt uninterested in helping the hapless victim of this latest plumbing disaster.

“Please, can you come and fix it? Rescue me before my wife comes home with my daughter?”

Something in the other man’s plaintive tone stirred his injured soul. No kid needed to come home to find her toys floating in a couple of inches of wastewater.

Rick heaved a long sigh. “All right. Give me your address.”

 

 

Numbness set in as he drove to the call; at least it wasn’t very far. The house was on Cedar Street, not too far from the Central School complex. The back yard bordered College Hill. He backed his pickup truck into the driveway. The company van still waited for him at Guttmacher’s. His tools and equipment had been thrown loose into the truck bed. His idle brain couldn't help but notice the old railroad bed where the mown grass ended behind the house. They're lucky. When Rita bulldozes College Hill, that right-of-way will divert most of the water and mud.

A faint alarm bell rang in his head, sounding distant in the mental fog through which he seemed to be working. He blinked and tried to concentrate, but no concrete thought formed. He sighed. Whatever it is, I'll think of it later.

It was just as well he felt numb; dealing with cellar backups was one his least favorite jobs.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming so fast.” A short, slight, sandy blond man in middle age greeted him as he emerged from the truck. He pushed his horn-rimmed glasses up on his nose.

Rick shrugged.

“I’m Peter Beck.”

Rick just nodded at the outstretched hand in front of him. “Can you show me the problem?”

“It’s this way.” His customer raised an eyebrow, then turned toward the front entry. Rick plodded along in his wake.

He was led across a front hall where a set of carpeted stairs ascended to the second floor. They passed down a hallway and entered a dining room; a door stood open to their left. Rick took the lead going down the staircase. At the bottom, an overhead light reflected off an inch or two of water pooled around the step.

“Did you shut off the water to the toilet?” Rick asked, staring at malodorous lake in the basement.

“Yes. Eventually.”

Rick turned and trudged back up the way he’d come. With stolid detachment, he dragged a long flexible hose indoors and dropped its end into the water at the bottom step. He unwound it and attached it to a high-capacity gas-powered pump just outside the front door. More hose snaked away from the pump; he dropped the end at a spot in the yard outside the basement wall. He knew what he had to do. He hardly noticed the man hovering around as he spaded out dirt near where he’d laid it.

“Why are you digging? Is the problem here? Is there a sewer main broken?”

Rick said nothing as he uncovered a wide capped pipe, which he unscrewed with a large wrench. He stood and dragged the end of the drainage hose to the sewer cleanout pipe. All that water in the basement needed to be drained.

Turning back to the pump, he gave the starter cord a savage pull. The pump sputtered.

Useless. Just like so much of my life.

He hauled away on it again, imagining somehow that he was wringing Zoltan Takács’ neck, that he could boot Rita McKee into the river, and wrench his father’s hands off the controls of his life. The machine refused to answer; he yanked a third time, hard, wishing it would sound with the music only Gus could make. Rick’s frustration must have had the desired effect; the motor roared to life.

Later, Beck might want to call in a remediation contractor, but that wasn’t Rick’s problem. He just didn’t want to deal with the stink while he set about repairing the plumbing. He returned to his truck to retrieve his heavy yellow rubber boots. He sat on the tailgate for a moment, looking at the rise of College Hill beyond the old railroad right-of-way behind the house. The woods came right down to the raised rail bed, still intact after so many years of neglect. The Becks must have bought the house for its quiet yard.

The homeowner stood by, hesitating to say something. Whatever it was, the man decided to remain silent. He retreated to the house.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and he won’t chatter at me all afternoon.

This was not to be Rick’s lucky day.

Not a few minutes after he sloshed his way over to the basement half bath, a voice was heard from the steps.

“It looks like the water level’s already gone down a lot. I can’t tell you how grateful I am you could come.”

I’d be more grateful if you’d just leave me alone.

“Is there anything I can get you? A bottle of water or something?”

A shot of arsenic with a cyanide chaser. Put me out of my misery. “No, thank you. I’ll be fine.”

There was no sound of retreating footsteps on the stairs. Although he was screened from view by the washroom door, he still had an audience. The offending porcelain fixture squatted before him, reflecting the light.

The first thing Rick did was take off the tank cover. Few things in his business surprised him, but he jumped back for a second at what was revealed. A gleaming pair of eyes stared back at him, sewn onto what appeared to be a very soggy stuffed rabbit. Wedged into the tank as it was, the child’s toy held the float valve permanently open. That explained the source of all the water. However, the more serious problem lurked where the toilet drained.

Rick sighed. “How long have you been in this house?” He called out to his unseen sentry.

“Just over a year,” Beck replied. “We’ve never had any problems like this before.”

He grunted in response but made no comment about the fate of the once-plush rabbit in his gloved hand. He stared at the toilet for several long seconds. He realized it would be easier to take off the tank to get at what the rest of the trouble might be. It looked to be a bitch of a job.

Some time during those long hours that followed, he began to feel less numb. It wasn’t that Rick warmed to the attempts at conversation Peter Beck made from the stairs. Instead, he began to feel the sting of his inner voice as it sneered at him from the back of his brain. More than the stink from the plumbing that assaulted his nose, he felt bitterness flay his heart.

Admit it. Zoltan Takács is right. What would a man like Gus want with someone like you? You were an idiot to get involved, and a bigger idiot to think it meant anything.

 

You had what, two dates? That is, if you could even call those pathetic outings dates.

 

You should have listened to Heinrich Senior. You screwed up your entire life. Why couldn’t you just settle for the life you were supposed to have – wife, a couple of kids, all that?

 

You fucked it all up for what? Some ridiculous hope? Some pipe dream that the love of your life had parachuted into Eagle-stinking-Lake to rescue you from yourself? Pfffffft.

 

Big deal, so you fooled around; you’ve blown or bent over for other men. They didn’t think about you; they don’t remember you. Why should Gus?

 

Sure, you kissed, and he actually liked it. But why should that mean anything? You were available, that’s all.

 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking Gus loves you or anything.

 

Any more than Willy Kohler loved you.

 

 

 

Rick couldn’t have seen the sun swing westward as he worked. However, at one point he registered the arrival upstairs of the rest of the Beck clan, wherever they had been. Fortunately, that meant the householder had to leave his post and explain the situation to his family.

When he emerged from the cellar for the final time, hauling a length of black plastic hose, the smell of cooking met him at the top of the stairs.

A cheerful blond woman stood in the doorway opposite. “Hi, Rick! I thought it had to be you.”

Rick squinted a moment, trying to set his hurt and exhaustion aside, and get his memory to function. “Debbie Schneider?”

“Debbie Beck, now. Ninth grade was a long time ago.”

“Yeah. Too long.” Rick felt exhaustion creeping in. “When did you move back to town? Weren’t you in New York or something?”

“We both got tired of corporate litigation. We decided to move back here and try being small-town lawyers.”

“Wow. Big adjustment.”

“We’re happy. Or were, until this disaster. What happened down there?”

Rick grimaced. “Basically, the toilet went kerblooey.”

“That’s the technical term?” The woman laughed, oblivious to his toneless response.

“The problem itself was pretty simple. The fix wasn’t.” Rick explained.

“No. I saw the hose and heard you working away downstairs.”

“You know how these below-grade fixtures work?” Even hurting and dog-tired, he couldn’t stop himself.

Debbie Beck grinned. “I’m a modern mom, capable of miracles and possessing unheard-of superpowers. But plumbing isn’t one of them.”

“Well, you know that water, and um …”

“Oh, come on, Rick, Peter and Annie are outside. You can say ‘shit.’”

Rick flushed. “Yeah. Well, it doesn’t flow uphill. It’s the first rule of plumbing.”

“So?”

“Your toilet in the basement has a grinder unit attached. Basically, it takes waste from the toilet and turns it into slurry. Then an electric pump sends all that stuff up and into your main sewer line.”

“I see.”

“I had to take apart the macerator – the grinder part. Um, I hate to say this, but someone flushed a plastic unicorn down that toilet.”

“What? Oh, my God.”

“Yeah. The macerator isn’t really made for that kind of thing. It fried the motor. But the kicker is that I also found a drowned rabbit puppet in the tank. That kept the valve open, so the toilet ran and then overflowed.”

“I’m going to kill Annie!”

Rick put up his hands. “I didn’t mean to be the bearer of bad news.”

Debbie Beck shook her curls. “Oh, that kid. What’s gotten into her? The last few weeks have been crazy.”

“Sorry. I’m an old bachelor - no help there.” He shook his head.

She managed a wan smile. “Don’t worry. I still love her to pieces. But this will be one of the best embarrassing stories to tell her boyfriends down the road.”

“Poor kid.” Rick adjusted the hose in his hand and shifted his feet. “I’d better get this stuff out of your way. You’ll be glad to be able to close the front door again.”

“Can I ask you something? How come you didn’t just pump the water out the cellar window and let it soak into the ground? Wouldn’t it have been easier?”

“Maybe. But then all that water has to go somewhere. It could be the lawn absorbs it – but there’s a chance it all flows down to your neighbor’s yard. It could flood his garden; might even seep into his basement, if it’s wet. Bet he wouldn’t like that.”

“No, I guess not. But the sewer meter’s going to read a whole lot higher this month.”

“You have a point there. Still, the higher bill probably beats the chance of a major blow-up with the guy next door. Wouldn’t want a lawsuit.” Rick delivered this consolation as he dragged the hose out the door and down the front steps.

His former classmate laughed. “I know you’re right. This is all a far cry from Manhattan.”

“No kidding. You may want to talk to Annie about what she can flush.”

“Yeah, and maybe avoid getting her another unicorn. See you later, Rick.” Debbie Beck closed the door.

Rick checked his phone. The door wasn’t shut on his day, not by a long shot. Time was getting short. He had to return tools and equipment to the shop, shower, and then grab something to eat before joining Walter for the damn school board meeting.

He still had no clue what he could do or say to keep Rita from turning College Hill into a housing development. What he really wanted to do was paddle over to Cedarcrest and spend the evening with Gus, watching the stars come out as the sun faded from the sky.

That wasn’t going to happen, either. Not needed. Not wanted. Finished. He squared his shoulders. He still had to show up to up at the school, if only to support his old friend.

Back at the shop, he unloaded the van, just setting things down by the workbench. He’d take care of them in the morning.

Rick let out a long breath. Meeting or no meeting, before he could leave for home, he had to write up a bill for the afternoon’s work.

He plopped himself into the office chair and scribbled the necessary details on a scrap of paper. If Irene ever came back to the office, she could copy it out and put it in the mail. Otherwise, it would have to wait.

As he tossed the pen on the desk, the phone rang.

Irrational hope blossomed in the space of a moment. It’s Gus. He found a way to call.

Rick snatched up the handset.

“Is that you, boy? Where the hell have you been?” It wasn’t the melody of Gus’ laugh, but the discordant bray of Heinrich Senior on the other end of the line.

“I’ve been out on a job, Dad.”

“Well, I guess that’s good. But you’ve been that damn busy you couldn’t call with your news?”

Rick’s shoulders sagged. “It slipped my mind.”

“Slipped your mind? This is the biggest thing to happen in your life, and it slipped your mind?”

He passed a hand over his face. He didn’t want to have this conversation. “Dad, if you’re talking about that thing with Rita …”

“It’s not every day a man’s only son finally gets engaged. Finally! Took you long enough, but now that you got the ball rolling, we can talk about plans. I was thinking we’d make it quick and simple. No need for Rita to spend a pile of money …”

Something in Rick snapped. He sat up straighter. “I don’t know what plans you’re talking about. I’m not making any plans.”

“Oh, so you want me and Trudy to do it for you? Hell, boy you ought to take at least some interest –“

“Interest? Have you been listening to me at all?”

“Oh, come on, junior, stop being a crybaby and get with the spirit of the moment. Trudy and I are thrilled, and we just want –"

“You’re not thrilled, you’re nuts. In fact, the whole damn town is out of its mind. Everyone seems to think I’m getting married to Rita. I’m not.”

There was silence in Arizona for a moment. “Say that again.”

“I said: I’m not engaged to Rita McKee. I never was, and I’m not about to.”

“You have to.”

“The hell you say.” Rick seethed.

“But that internet picture …what she said …” The old man’s voice rose half an octave. “Jesus H. Christ, kid, just how much supervision do you need? What happened? What in damnation did you do?!” Heinrich Senior bellowed from a thousand miles away.

“I didn’t do a fucking thing. I have no idea who gave her that ring, or who she’s marrying. But it’s not me.” He slammed the phone down with such force, it rang.

My abiding thanks go to @AC Benus and @Carlos Hazday for their help with this story. It's current form is far better than my original. Should you have any thoughts, cogitations or conspiracy theories to contribute, please feel free add them to the pile. I appreciate everyone's input.

Copyright © 2020 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



1 hour ago, Mawgrim said:

Well, what a chapter. Zoltan is really controlling Gus's life. I wonder if Gus knows anything about his visit to Rick? All those threats never to try and contact him again makes me think he probably doesn’t. Gus will think he's been dumped, sink into depression and Zoltan will be able to say, 'I told you that guy was no good for you.'

interesting that the flooded basement brought Rick into contact with an old friend who happens to be a lawyer. He may need her help.

And having had a shitty day, in all senses of the word, at last he tells Heinrich senior where to get off!

Rick has indeed experienced a horrible day, and it’s not over yet. Zoltan dealt him the worst injuries, but a flooded basement was just an added insult. No wonder Rick had no patience for Heinrich. He’s had no tIme to think about how to get in touch with Gus, or how to help Walter at the School Board meeting coming up. It’s very sad to think of Gus, wondering why Rick doesn’t call. I suspect it wouldn’t be the first time something along those lines might have occurred. Thanks for your excellent comments and for reading!

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1 hour ago, weinerdog said:

I didn't think it was possible but there's a character that I and I suspect most of the readers hate more than Heinrich and Rita.I had a sense Zoltan was very controlling but I didn't imagine to this degree.Rick in his thought process after Zoltan left felt he had no way to fight Zoltan he even thought that he didn't have a lawyer.Well he then gets a emergency call from and old classmate who's...A LAWYER!!! Coincidence? I think not but I can't speak for Parker so we'll see.I have to think Zoltan said some illegal things to Rick I'm no lawyer but maybe Debbie can strike first for Rick by having a restraining order against Zoltan or something like that.A corporate lawyer from New York would be a good match for anyone Zoltan has

The chapter did end on a silver lining  IMHO.The master of great timing Heinrich decided to call just then and finally Rick speaks to him the way he should have spoken to him a long time ago

Just thought of something it would involve Rick revealing himself a little.He can ask Jared to speak to Marta about what Zoltan said maybe it will get back to Gus.Yeah risky

I had to grin at your comments about Zoltan in comparison to Heinrich. Perhaps there are more members in Senior’s fan club than Zoltan’s after all. In little Eagle Lake, it’s no surprise that Rick would have been called to a lawyer’s house. After all, he’s been in nearly every basement in town. While it was high time for Rick to tell Heinrich Senior off, he hardly got to enjoy doing so. He has too much else pressing in on his mind to take much satisfaction in having made himself crystal clear. Thanks for your comments and thoughts, and for reading! 

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12 hours ago, headtransplant said:

Excellent chapter. So much tension is building, I’m feeling jittery from it all. 

 

I felt this part in my soul. Poor Rick :(. Zoltan is very convincing.  I hope Gus finds a way to do some un-convincing. 

Zoltan makes me irrationally angry. His attitude reeks of classism. I imagine Zoltan is using similar manipulative tactics on Gus. If neither of them can see through it, then they are doomed.

As a few other commenters have mentioned, Rick’s anger seems like a good fuel for him. Both Rick and Gus need to bite back, or they’ll never have control of their own lives. I can’t wait to see how this develops.

Rick has been intimidated by Zoltan, whose words were meant to hurt and humiliate. They succeeded. He turned his hurt on himself, as he do often does. You’re quite right that Rick’s pain flares when his father calls. He simply has run out of patience with the man; he has no more reserves. Unfortunately this horrible day isn’t over for Rick, as there is still the School Board meeting. Thanks for your great comments and thoughts. 

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12 hours ago, 84Mags said:

I really did not see the inevitable confrontation with Zoltan coming in that way; what a sucker punch to Rick. And then to not only call Gus a child but threaten to accuse Rick of stalking and ‘out’ him; what the heck?!  It is not surprising Rick would go back to his negative inner dialogue. It’s been a constant, but it was still heartbreaking to read.  Maybe as Rick processes through that awful conversation he will remember that his Gus is not Zoltan’s Gustavo. Unfortunately, I bet it will take Gus reaching out to Rick first. 
Like other comments, I’m cheering about Rick reconnecting with his high school lawyer friend, even if it was over stinky business. And I am ever hopeful that the anger, hurt and angst he is currently feeling will translate into standing up for himself and the town at the school board meeting tonight in the same way he finally told his dad off. 

Zoltan went out of his way to hurt and humiliate Rick. You’re right to say that Rick’s inner music goes into a minor key, a dirge if you like. It’s very familiar to him, alas. I liked your point: “ he will remember that his Gus is not Zoltan’s Gustavo. ” Rick will be unable to reconcile those two images. At least he managed to channel some frustration back at his father, who must have gotten the worst surprise of his life, a son who is madder than hell, and unwilling to take it anymore. Thanks again for reading and for your comments!

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12 hours ago, Valkyrie said:

Good lord!  Rick and Gus are both adults, but they're treated worse than most teenagers!  Zoltan is just as bad as Heinrich Sr. I could smack Rick upside the head for even considering that Zoltan's words are true.  Gus will find a way back to Rick.  I think meeting his old high school friend is fortuitous.  If Zoltan makes good on his threats, she'll be an invaluable resource. 

Zoltan and Heinrich Senior should be locked up in a room together. At least everyone else could breathe easier for a while. Fortuitous is an excellent word for getting called to the Beck household, even if it was for a crappy reason. Thanks again for reading and for your comments!

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9 hours ago, drsawzall said:

It wasn't so much the crap hitting the fan as the masticator/grinder...there are no coincidences here, I full well imagine that once the legal beagles get involved, all kinds of skullduggery will come to light as it will be found out that Zoltan has been stealing Gus blind...Zoltan is very scared of losing his meal ticket...I think it will be Gus showing up at Rick's door stop.

Good on Rick for firmly standing up to his father, we may need a volcano warning here, as Rick slips past the self-imposed bonds he has placed on himself and freaking finally stands up for himself...Hide the women and children when that happens!!!

BTW...Has Rita Cheater ever paid up the overdue invoices for plumbing work??? Inquiring minds would love to know...

I cannot comment on Rita’s overdue bills, or on Zoltan‘s business practices. In fairness, Zoltan wouldn’t need much skulduggery to profit mightily from representing Gus; he’s a highly talented musician in great demand. But he’s been badly overworked. Rick’s eruption at his father may have been the biggest surprise yet - to both parties. Thanks so much for your comments. 

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4 hours ago, Job said:

This Zoltan dude needs a good kick in the behind, arrogant guy! Poor Rich and poor Gus. I am a romantic and a optimist, they will get together and Zoltan  will regret that he treated Gus like a slave. Great chapter.
 

Elegant Zoltan, kicked in the rear? He can’t imagine it. That’s the problem, of course. He can’t imagine (or care) what his words and actions do to other people. Gus and Rick have been separated. And this horrible day isn’t over. The School Board meeting is next.

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4 hours ago, CincyKris said:

I am sooooo glad I didn't have time to read this before going to work this morning!  I am mad at Zoltan, mad at Heinrich, sad for Rick, sad for Gus.  On one hand, you have me all discombobulated so I'm mad at you, on the other hand, you have me caring so much for these characters I love you.  I'm going to go eat dinner and calm down.

I hope I did not give you indigestion. Zoltan and Heinrich deserve to be locked together in a room just so everyone else can breathe easier. Alas, that hasn’t happened. Rick is marooned in his misery, and Gus is sequestered on his own, unable to call or contact him. And then the School Board meeting is next... oh dear. Thanks very much for reading and letting these characters grow on you. 

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54 minutes ago, NimirRaj said:

I have no words as Zoltan is just... He makes “daddy dearest” look good by comparison and that’s saying something. 🤦🏻‍♂️ 

Zoltan seems to have catapulted himself into the top spot of this story’s ‘most hated character’ list. His nasty words to Rick really hurt. At least the man won’t be at the School Board meeting. Thanks again for reading and for your comments. 

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