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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. 

Brian: Taking Courage - 24. The mysterious Mr Kahn

"Drew has a big new client, looks like he's going to get rid of some of those big canvases that clutter up the studio".

Drew smiled but refused to be drawn. Brian and Gordon had arrived at Drew and Evie's for lunch, with Toby and Noah in tow. They were early, miraculously, because getting two boys out of the house was way harder than one. As soon as they arrived, the boys had disappeared off to the orchard, bugs and bees were waiting.

"How come?"

Evie shrugged, "Local businessman. Refurbishing offices and wanted a local artist. He, or someone in his employ, saw the website", here she looked pointedly at her husband who was a notorious technophobe, "I sent them some images and he's coming over tomorrow to choose."

"Choose or decide?"

"Fair point. Choose, supposedly."

"We hope", Drew's comment was more of a rumble, "He wants a range of styles and there are a couple of unfinished pieces I'll let him see and I can easily finish them. He just wants the big ones."

Gordon smiled, "So you are doing a deal with an evil capitalist."

Drew shrugged, but gave a wry smile, "Only folk that can afford the big pictures, nowadays. Besides, your Mum did some digging and as capitalists go, he seems to be all right, supports lots of good causes", he held his hands up, "Oh, I know, that's probably just a disguise for his evil doings. But", he pulled a face, "it would be nice to see some of those big ones up on a wall for a change, with people actually looking at them."

Gordon stared at his Dad, the big pictures were big indeed, "What does he want the pictures for, they're bloody big?"

Drew turned to his wife, "Don't you love how he supports my work?" But the man grinned, "Seems he's got a lot of wall space in his offices needing covering."

"Who is he?"

Drew shrugged, uninterested in individuals, it was Evie who answered, "Local businessman, finger in lots of pies. Name of Russ Kahn."

Gordon's response was a snorted, "Fuck me", which caused Brian to smile, and Evei to roll her eyes. "Did he mention me?"

Drew looked puzzled, "No. Why would your name come up?"

"Russ is a new client of ours at Ares, we're doing a special project for him and, well, let's just say that Gordon and I have got a lot friendlier with him than is usual in our client relations."

Drew let out a guffaw, "I take it that means that Gordon's exclamation there was literal as well as metaphorical. Bloody hell."

Evie shook her head, "I don't think we mentioned you name, Gordon, after all why would we? And he certainly hasn't mentioned either of you, mind we've only done things online or by phone, so far. Did you mention your Dad's work to him?"

Gordon shrugged, "Not that I can think of, we’ve had no reason to. Toby met him once, but he was chattering away about the trip to the Wetlands Centre. It was Russ Kahn who organised that so we could have an evening meeting with him."

This led, of course, to a fuller explanation of Monday's events; both Gordon and Brian noticed Evie’s smile when Gordon mentioned an evening meeting. Clearly his parents were adept at filling in the gaps.

The boys returned, full of news about the bugs in the orchard and covered in grass stains. Brian hoped Marina was as sanguine as she made out to be and wouldn't be annoyed at Noah getting so messy. As Gordon and Brian had warned, Drew and Evie were regaled with the complete story of the visit to the Wetlands Centre along with the amazing views from Mr Russ' top floor penthouse. Though it was still strangely unsettling to hear Toby and Noah rattling on about the man whom Gordon and Brian had clearly been intimate with.

"You should come over tomorrow when Mr Kahn comes to look at Drew’s work." Gordon looked at his Mother and she smiled, "There's no reason why my son and his partner should not just happen to be here".

Drew nodded, "They are arriving about eleven. You two can help me with the pieces, Gordon didn't call them the Big Orange Pieces and the Big Blue Pieces for nothing."

"Well, we could…" Gordon looked at Brian who shrugged.

"We're at Mum's in the evening for dinner, but late morning should be OK, and I don't think Toby has anything to do for school."

Gordon and Brian were keen to talk about the strange turn of events, but it was ages before they were able to get time together. Lunch at Gordon's parents over, they dropped Noah off at his parents and then returned to the flat, where Noel and Celia did indeed appear. Both men had been sceptical whether the visit would happen, even though Toby had been certain.

Toby was entranced to show the visitors the jungle. Gordon made tea and there was even some of Friday's cake left. Toby then went to fetch his work on the recent project that was shown at the Science Fair and the visitors saw that too.

Brian was waiting; he was pretty certain that Noel, at least, was here for a reason, though Celia seemed to have tagged along purely out of curiosity, or perhaps she fancied Noel. Brian wasn't certain and wasn't really that much interested.

Finally, Celia led Toby off to the balcony and, as if by arrangement, Noel pounced. "You probably suspected that I am here for a reason. Toby impressed me on Monday, and I wanted to see him further and to talk to you, privately. The Wetlands Centre has a youth festival each year, when we put on a variety of events for young people and this year, we have a day in September when the youth will take over and do events themselves. This includes a series of youth advocates who are giving talks on a wide variety of topics, and I wondered if Toby would speak. I have heard good things of the project that he and his team presented at the Science Fair."

Brian looked at the man, gobsmacked. It was amazing that the boy had been asked, and it put their amused tolerance of Toby's obsessions in a totally different light. But would Toby want to do it?

Brian sighed, "As far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy providing it doesn't impact his schoolwork. But we'd need to ask Toby."

Gordon, who had been lurking at the door to the balcony, asked Toby to come in. Noel explained about the youth festival and the idea of Toby being one of the youth advocates.

Toby's eyes opened wide, and he looked from Brian to Noel and back, "For real?"

"Certainly, if your Father is happy?"

"And what about Nina and Elise?"

Noel looked at Brian who explained, "Toby's partners on the project."

"Ah well, we'd like you to speak but they can join you for questions." Toby pulled his lip in, and Brian wondered if he'd object.

"OK. I don't think they'd like doing a proper talk but they like answering questions, they enjoyed doing that at the fair." Then he looked up at Brian, "But we'll have to tell them, right?"

Brian nodded, then patted his son's head, "But the thing is, sport, that you want to do it. Do you?"

Toby grinned, "You bet!" He turned to Noel, "Thank you. Will it be just young people?"

"And parents, I'd imagine. There'll be lots of different topics and presentations, so you'll have people who won't know much about your project."

Toby grinned again, "Cool". He went to return to the balcony, then turned, "Will Noah be able to come?"

"I would imagine so, but we'd have to ask", Toby nodded and disappeared.

Gordon turned to Noel, "Why didn't you ask the school?"

Noel pulled a face, "Because they would insist on it being representative of the whole school." He gave an embarrassed grin, "Colleagues had noticed Toby at the Science Fair but had no way of contacting him except through the school."

Brian shook his head, "Then you were asked to do a favour for Russ Kahn."

Noel gave a dry laugh, "I drew the short straw. We cannot afford to offend donors as generous as Mr Kahn". Then he pulled himself up short, "My apologies, is he a friend of yours, I understood…"

"He's a client; one that we've enjoyed meeting, but as you can see, he's well out of our price range."

Noel laughed, "You and me both."

---

"I honestly don't know where he gets it from."

Brian was helping his Mum wash up, whilst Gordon was drying and Toby was in her sitting room, watching a nature documentary on TV.

"Don't knock it love. But your Grandad was really keen on the science bit, he knew all sorts about what type of grain to grow, what different strains of plant did what, what pesticides and fertilizers did. He read everything", she laughed, "Drove Mum mad. But he'd taught himself, left school at 16 to work with his Dad. When the war came as it were only him, his Dad and the old 'uns, he had to learn. Always think that was why your Dad didn't run with the farm, couldn't compete with his Dad".

The fate of the farm had been something of a sore topic during Brian's youth and this was the first time he'd heard his Mother speak so much about her Father-in-law.

He smiled, "It skipped a generation and landed on the little monster next-door".

"Reckon you and Gordon need to do some ordinary stuff with him."

"Going to the swimming baths, long walks, crazy golf", Brian ran out of ideas off the top of his head.

"That sort of thing. He needs regular stuff too. This Russ Kahn bloke? He on the level?"

Gordon gave a dry laugh, "He's a high-powered business-man, he's way out of our league."

"But he’s taken a fancy to you two?"

"Mum!"

"Well, sounds like. He fancy you two lusty blokes, or is there more?"

"Lusty. Mum!"

She smiled, "Well, look at you"!"

Gordon coughed, "What more?"

"Ready-made family, three of you. Off the shelf, like."

"You think?"

"I probably watch too many soaps", she shrugged. But the thought stayed with them.

---

"What do you want to do about Russ?", Brian stretched out in bed, pleased to finally get time alone with Gordon.

"Well, I've no objections to a repeat of the other night, have you?"

"No. And it strikes me that it won't happen often."

"Why not?"

"Well, we have a family life to run, Toby's busy schedule at school to sort out, and Russ has got businesses to run."

"And money to make”, Gordon smiled, “What about your Mum's idea?"

"The ready-made family", Brian shrugged, "Well, apart from foisting Toby on the Wetlands Centre for reasons more to do with getting his end away than a desire to foster family life, I've not seen much of that. Yet." He wiggled his eyebrows.

"Your Dad's pics? Reckon it's a coincidence?"

"Dunno. I know he's got money and contacts, but why go to all the bother of digging up stuff about us."

"God knows."

They were relaxing after a lively sexual session, releasing tension Brian called it but as far as Gordon was concerned it was rampant nookie, pure and simple. And all the better for it.

"Noah's folk are a funny lot, I spoke to Marina and she's happy for Noah to come over whenever Toby wants, and yes to the youth day at the Wetlands Centre, too."

"Providing we do the fetching and carrying?"

"Yeah, they're nice enough folk but their careers come first, I think."

"Humph."

---

"Why are we going to Grandpa Drew's again so soon? It's not that I don't want to…" Toby, in the back of the car, rather tailed off.

"Because Russ Kahn is buying some of Grandpa Drew's pictures and we want to surprise him."

"Cool. Mr Russ from the other night?"

"Mr Russ?"

"Well, he's a friend of yours but I thought Uncle Russ was…"

"Yeah, I think you're right there, sport."

It was a good job they'd left in plenty of time, because when they arrived at Drew and Evie's, Drew set them on helping him and it proved a big job. His main studio had a half-mezzanine where most of his finished canvases were stored. To extract the ones for Russ meant Drew going up the ladder and working out which was which, then he and Brian extracted the canvas and lowered it down to Gordon. It wasn't ideal, requiring rather too much moving and shifting of other canvases to get at the ones they wanted, and by the end all three men were feeling knackered.

Gordon looked at the pile of canvases stacked up against the studio walls, "You know, if he doesn't want them, we're going to have to get them up there again."

Drew shook his head, "Oh, ye of little faith."

Brian stared at the works, "How the hell did you get them up there in the first place?"

Gordon snorted, "If I know Dad, a lot of bribery, a lot of hands and a lot of alcohol afterwards."

Brian rolled his eyes, "Sounds dodgy."

Gordon's "Welcome to my world", was whispered in the hope that his Dad didn't hear. Drew might have done, but he was too immersed in checking over the works.

Brian nodded at the pictures, "Do you understand any of these?"

Gordon shook his head, "Why do you think I nicknamed them the Big Orange and the Big Blue pictures. Dad's got some fancy names for them, but I've never been able to place them."

Drew looked up, "It never fails to amaze me that we managed to raise such a Philistine."

Gordon smiled, "But I have my uses!" Drew smiled back, and Brian sensed that this was familiar territory. There was a shout from Evie, coffee was made.

They sat outside, Brian, Gordon and Evie, and drank coffee but Drew found a willing audience in Toby and the two disappeared into the barn. The front doorbell going was a surprise, no-one ever used his parents' front door and Gordon was startled at first. But Evie leaped up and disappeared to the front, returning shortly with Russ Kahn.

Brian and Gordon heard them first, as Evie was explaining to Russ that her son Gordon and his partner had come to help Drew manhandling the pictures as they were starting to get a bit difficult for Drew to manage on his own.

Russ appeared, wearing a beige polo shirt and dark grey chinos, looking very crisp and neat. Both Gordon and Brian, however, had a flash-back to the last time they had seen him, naked and bent over for them. They stood up and grinned at him.

Russ, thankfully, smiled, "You two again! Don't tell me, Gordon's your son", this to Evie who nodded. He rolled his eyes, "I should have known, but it's a fairly common surname. You never said that your Father was an artist."

"Well, it never really came up. Dad and I have always lived rather separate lives, and we were rather busy on Monday what with the plans for the event and other stuff. Not to mention Toby."

"Where is our ecology nut?"

"Helping Dad in the studio."

Brian laughed, "And probably getting filthy in the process."

"Look, Mum'll take you over. We won't stick our noses in. Now the pictures are down from storage, Dad should be able to manage."

"If you're sure. I've pretty well made up my mind. Look, I hope you don't think this was a set up. My PA was looking for local artists and your Dad's work popped up in the searches and appealed, also there were plenty of images on the website so I knew what I might be getting."

"Yeah, that's Mum's domain, she's pretty keen on putting stuff out there aren't you, Mum?"

"Well, I'm no expert but you can't sell things unless folk know what they are getting. Look why don't we go over and see Drew and then you can have a coffee with these two."

When Russ returned, Evie stayed to help Drew and Toby disappeared to the orchard. Gordon sorted out Russ' coffee. "How many have you bought?"

"All of them", Russ' expression was puzzled, "Why? Shit. Look, I bought them 'cause I liked them, not because he's your Dad. That's just a bonus." Gordon didn't look convinced, and Brian didn't blame him. Russ sighed, "If you'd seen some of the crap the so-called interior design consultant came up with, you'd understand." He held up his hands, "I'll be the first to admit that I know diddly-squat about art, but I know when something says things to me, when I'd want to live with it every day. You want something that gives the place a real lift." He fiddled with his phone, then showed them a dull red expanse, "This looks like someone's done it in their sleep, whereas Drew's stuff sings, it makes you enjoy being around it. My PA liked the online images, as did some other staff we showed them to, so think the office will be a more vibrant place."

"Because of Dad’s pictures!” Gordon smiled, “I suppose, growing up with them, I took the pictures for granted. And the big 'uns were a bit overwhelming. I came back from my first tour of duty in the Army and there they were. A whole series of big orange fuckers. Mum was furious 'cause they wouldn't sell, and he'd spent so much time on them." Russ' eyes widened but he stayed silent. "Welcome to my world. The drawbacks of having an artist for a Dad."

"Well, we’re going to have fun with the new office, all the orange ones and all blue ones." He smiled, "Your Dad wants us to refer to them by the proper titles, but I rather like Big Orange Pieces and Big Blue Pieces."

Brian laughed, "Something your ordinary office worker can get the hang of."

Gordon shook his head, "You know, Dad won't know what to do with the space in his studio and Mum will be dying to get someone in there to clean. There’re only the new ones left, and I don't think many of those big 'uns are finished."

"Oh, they soon will be. Drew has promised to get them completed so that I can hang them in our main office, the one you've visited. And I plan to get some smaller pieces for my office and the penthouse."

Brian stared at the man, "You're really going for it."

Russ wiggled his eyebrows, "When I like something, I really go for it", then he shot up, "That reminds me, I've got something. Back in a moment."

Drew and Evie joined them. "Well, that's gratifying. Now that your Dad's sorted the pieces out, we don't have to do anything else."

"Russ will arrange for a firm to come and pack them up, proper-like", Drew's eyes sparkled, "Quite a thing, eh?"

"I gather Russ is interested in some of the new ones as well."

Evie laughed, "He's going to have to get a move on and actually finish something, for once."

Drew rolled his eyes, "It's always nice to have a goal."

Gordon smiled, "You realise that Russ is bound to want to have some sort of launch event."

"Yes, I know", Drew looked gloomy, "I'll have to get dressed up and answer folk's questions."

Brian cocked an eye, "I thought you liked parties."

Evie gave a dry laugh, "Parties yes, but not events where he has to actually talk about his work. He’s an artist, you don’t expect him to actually like talking about art, do you?"

Russ reappeared with a small paper bag, and a smile on his face, "I left it in the car, as I meant to drop it off at your place later today. Now I get to give it to Toby in person."

"Toby?", Brian and Gordon were almost in unison.

Russ chuckled, unembarrassed, "I saw it when I was away and thought of him."

"You've been away, I though you saw these two the other day", Evie patted Gordon's leg as if he was Toby's age.

"Been a bit busy since then, off to Italy for meetings, new partnership in the offing, exciting stuff. Turns out their CEO's girlfriend works at a local conservation charity, and we had lunch there", he gave an embarrassed shrug, "Couldn't resist."

As if on cue, Toby appeared asking what time lunch was.

"Hold right there, sport. We only popped in. You can't expect a full meal every time."

"Sorry Dad", Toby grinned, "but I'm a growing boy."

Evie shook her head, "It's OK, I've got plenty in store if you don't mind a cold collation. You too, Russ, you are more than welcome to join us."

Russ seemed surprised, but looked around and nodded, "If you're sure?"

"It's not every day that my husband manages to sell so many pictures."

Toby looked around, "So, we are staying for lunch?"

"Looks like it, sport. Your stomach just got a treat."

"Yay!"

"Russ has something for you."

Russ handed over the bag to Toby, "I saw this and thought of you."

Toby stumbled over the Italian wording on the bag, "Centro Ecologica di…", though the associated image was very striking.

Russ helped him out and then explained, "It's from an Italian ecology and conservation centre I visited the other day."

"Wow. Cool."

Brian guessed that whatever proved to be inside, the bag itself would be carefully preserved too. Inside there was a series of cards made from coarse paper, each had a print of a plant on one side and text on the other.

"The paper is hand-made and has seeds in it from the plants in the pictures. You soak them in water and the plants grow. I have English translations of the instructions and descriptions. I can email to your Dad."

"Cool. I can't wait, you could email me, if that's OK?", he looked at Brian who nodded, they kept Toby's email address to just a close group. "Thanks, they're terrific."

"I think they are wild plants from near the centre, I figured that you might find them a bit different to local ones here", he grinned. "End of what I know."

"Dad can we…"

Brian rolled his eyes, "We can add it to the list, but trips to Italy are expensive. We'll have to save up, OK."

"Yeah, I figured that, but…"

Evie reappeared with food. There was cheese, bread, pickles and some sort of meat pie. "Toby, could you do me a favour and pop round the front and ask the young man if he'd like something."

"What young man?" Gordon's question came out rather sharply.

"I expect it's Russ's driver, love."

"Certainly he is. But don’t think you have to feed him."

"Nonsense, if I'm feeding you, it's only fair. Oh, and Toby, tell the young man that I can provide everything vegetarian if he'd prefer." Toby nodded and trotted away.

"Vegetarian?"

"Oh, think, dear. There's a good chance that he's from another culture or religion. I can't offer kosher or halal, but I can go some way."

Russ smiled, "Thank you, you're very kind. In fact, I think he's technically Moslem but inclined to break the rules if he's not at home."

"Like a lot of young men", Evie smiled.

"Did you manage to see anything else in Italy besides the inside of offices and an ecology centre?" Drew's question set Russ off, and he regaled them over lunch with stories from various business trips. But he had questions of his own.

"What's the history behind this place, has it always been artists' studios?"

Gordon laughed, "Not at all, when Mum and Dad bought it, it was almost derelict, and it took them nigh on 20 years to get it fit for habitation."

"Now, Gordon, that's not entirely fair."

"Mum, I was in my teens before the downstairs toilet worked without the help of a bucket of water, and I was over 20 before we had a proper shower", both Drew and Evie looked exasperated, as if these were minor quibbled. Gordon smiled, "But. I'll grant you; it was a great place to grow up."

Evie shook her head, "After he joined cadets, he'd have friends round and I'd find them doing drills and training in the orchard. It wasn't quite what we expected."

It turned into a pleasant interlude. At one point, Russ' driver, a burly man with thick, black hair, a huge moustache and a gap-toothed smile, came to return his plate and thank Evie for the food.

Russ' interest in the mill meant that he did get a tour, returning to Drew's studio in the big building and then on to Evie's in the smaller. For once, his Father's studio was tidy, Gordon's memories of it were always of organised chaos. But visits from potential customers always meant that it got a tidy, even if that was mainly throwing dust sheets over work that wasn't yet to be seen.

In the house, there was a run down on some of the art and the artists; Russ seemed charmed by Drew and Evie's double-act, remembering and misremembering names and places, correcting each other. Either that, or the man was good at faking things. Still, the portrait of Drew brought out a real, strong reaction and Russ' ears did prick up when Toby added that his Dad and Gordon had had nude photos taken by Marcus' son, and that they were going to do one of the three of them. That non sequitur brought forth a flurry of hasty explanations and resultant laughter.

Russ even bought a couple of Evie's bowls. She didn't have a kiln, and insisted she was just a fair-weather potter. Despite nagging from Drew and encouragement from Gordon, she insisted she preferred the more social aspect to renting kiln time at another studio and having other potters around to chat to.

As he was leaving, clutching his purchases, Brian leaned over towards Russ, and nodded at the bowls, "So, what do you plan to do with those?"

Russ shrugged, "Well, I don't cook, so I can't see them being filled the way your Mother uses hers. Probably on display in my office", he smiled, "bring a bit of colour to the place", then he leaned closer, "and remind me of you two, and a lovely lunch."

Copyright © 2023 Robert Hugill; All Rights Reserved.
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Many thanks for reading.  I'm always delighted to receive comments and suggestions
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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5 hours ago, CincyKris said:

Just had a thought, if Deirdre and Jasper do become a problem, and I think we all agree that our author is just biding his time on that problem, having a good friend in high places may be very beneficial!

Or in Russ's case, perhaps low places????

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Nope.

No way.

Red flag. 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

Huge NO WAY on Russ having Toby’s personal email address.

My spidey senses are tingling.  🕸️🕸️

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