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    Wombat Bill
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May contain graphic sexual content

Catering With Benefits (3) - An Appetite for More - 25. He Declined an Interview

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When Price arrived at work, his secretary was busy on the phone. He nodded good morning to her and headed for his office as she tried to get his attention, while simultaneously trying to end her phone call. “Yes, I’ll give him the message, Four Corners program is it?”

She dropped the phone and raced after her boss in an attempt to speak to him before he saw the newspaper on his desk.

“What is it Prism?”

“I just wanted to warn you that today’s newspaper is...ah...somewhat...that is it will be...upsetting to you.”

“What are you babbling about woman?”

“See for yourself Mr Price.” she answered as she held up the paper.”

“Fuck!... Sorry Prism, thank you, that will be all for now.”

“Very good Sir, shall I bring your coffee now?”

He did not answer.

<>

Price was on the verge of apoplexy when he read the news item, which this time was on the front page.

He didn’t bother his secretary about calling Thomas, who had insisted Price carry his mobile phone at all times so he could call at any time.

“Good morning Jonathan. I’m on my way in, should be there in fifteen. Can it wait till then?”

“I don’t suppose any more damage can be done in fifteen minutes.”

“Damage, what’s up?”

“I know you young folk don’t read newspapers, but you really should keep up with what’s happening. Isn’t that what I pay you for?”

“Of course, but what’s in the paper that’s got you so upset?”

“You’ll see when you get here.”

“Ok, won’t be long.”

Thomas could not wait till he got into the office, and the traffic was slower than usual, so he thought his estimate of fifteen minutes might now be overly optimistic. He called Jared “Hi where are you?” Jared asked.

“I’m stuck in traffic, but I need you to do something for me. Go get a copy of the morning newspapers and see if there’s anything about Jonathan in them. He’s mighty pissed off about something but wouldn’t tell me.”

“Ok, I’ll go down to the stores dock, those guys always seem to be reading newspapers between deliveries.”

“Good and call me back immediately.”

As Jared approached stores, he could hear raucous laughter coming from their tea room. As he entered and was noticed, the laughter became stifled and all three storemen looked at him with smirks on their faces. “Hi guys, sounds like you’re having fun down here.”

“Hi Mr Jared, top of the morning to you.” replied Ernie, the longest serving storeman. “What can I get you this fine morning?” he asked in his Irish accent.

“I was wondering if I could borrow a newspaper from you.”

That started them laughing again.

“Guys what is it that’s so funny?”

Ernie replied “I think you’ll see when you read the Daily News. Johnson’s got a copy. But he may have read all the print off it, he’s read it out loud so many times.”

“Johnson?”

“Oh yes Sir.” he said with mock reverence and handed the paper to Jared. “The best news is right there on the front page.”

Jared turned pale as he read:-

 

The Sydney Daily News

Diamonds and Dirt on the Campaign Trail

Is the independent candidate for Sydney East who he purports to be? It seems not. This man, who presents himself as a happily married, wealthy businessman, has another life he has kept hidden from the public for many years. A reliable source, close to the jewellery magnate, has spoken exclusively to the Daily News and revealed all, about Jonathan Price’s until now, secret life.

The would-be politician, we are told, has for many years virtually lived a life separated from his wife. The “family” home in the north western suburb of Castle Hill is only nominally his home. He actually has lived for many years in his Potts Point apartment. It is believed he has recently returned to the family home to create a clean image of loving husband for his political campaign. The Price’s have no children because it is understood he and his wife are not compatible in their private lives.

Our source says Price has “entertained” young men at his apartment as well as having a live-in male lover for many years, who still works for the company. In return, the Mrs. part of this couple has also entertained young men on a semi-permanent basis at the Castle Hill home and her last young man is also still in the employ of the company.

This news outlet does not pass judgement on how people lead their private lives, provided their actions are legal. However, if one put’s oneself out there in the public domain by nominating for election, then the voters deserve to know who they really are and what they honestly stand for. This does not seem to be the case here.

Over the years there has been a steady stream of professional sex workers make their way into Price’s eastern suburbs bedroom. It is reported the live-in male lover facilitated this arrangement. While at Castle Hill, Mrs kept her paid lovers for a little longer. Recent bedroom buddies included a hung-like-a-horse professional, a French guest worker and an ex SAS soldier. The lady certainly has exotic tastes. It is believed this is an open secret in the Price household and the jewellery company, so we put in a number of requests for interviews with some of Price’s employees, but at the time of publication none of our calls have been returned.

Before publishing this article the writer attempted to get Price’s side of the story but he declined an interview.

***

“Fucking Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed, unintentionally loud enough for all to hear.

“You aint wrong there boyo, but I’d prefer you didn’t take the Lord’s name in vain.” said Ernie.

“Oh sorry Ernie, it was not intentional, I do apologise. I’m just so shocked I’m not thinking straight.”

“Straight, that‘s a good one.” and they all laughed again.

“May I take this, I’ll return it shortly.”

“Keep it as a gift from me.” replied Johnson. “I don’t think I could read it again. I’m sore from laughing already.”

“Thanks.”

Jared immediately called Thomas and told him the gist of the story.

***

When he arrived, Prism was in a mess. She had made coffee for Price, but her hands were shaking so much, she had as much in the saucer as remained in the cup.

“Are you ok Prism?”

“Yes, why do you ask Thomas?”

“Your hands are trembling, you have coffee on your shoes and I’ve never seen you pacing across the office before.”

“I’m worried about Mr Price. It’s not very nice what they said about him, people shouldn’t say such things?”

Thomas ignored the question and instead focussed on Prism’s condition. “Take a seat and try to calm down. Can I get you a cup of tea?” But before she could answer, Thomas added “No probably not a good idea. At least until you stop trembling.”

“I’ll be ok Thomas, you had better go in, Mr Price will need you. Oh and give him these messages. They’re all pretty much the same, just from different stations.”

Thomas looked at the messages before he knocked on Price’s door. “Mmm, Sixty Minutes, Four Corners, The Feed, A Current Affair, The Project and News 24, that’s about the full gamut, Prism.”

“Yes, bad news travel’s fast.”

Thomas was still concerned about Prism, so he called Alma.

“Hi Thomas long time no hear.”

“Yes, sorry about that, but I need a favour from you.”

“Of course what can I do?”

“Prism’s in a bit of a state this morning, I don’t suppose you could come up and take care of her? I’ll explain when you get here.”

“Sure, be right there.”

When Alma arrived, Thomas filled her in and left her to console Prism. He then knocked on Price’s door and entered without waiting for an answer.

“About bloody time Steadman. I don’t pay you to work banker’s hours.”

“Sorry Jonathan, traffic was horrendous.”

“Never mind that, what are you going to do about this monumental disaster in this pathetic excuse for a newspaper. I can’t put up with this kind of filth being printed about me.”

“I understand Jonathan, but more to the point is who leaked this, who has been speaking to the media?”

“You’re right, none of this could have come from what happened at the function. Somebody close to me has been blabbing to this journo with no regard for the consequences. Mind you there will be consequences for them when I find out who it was.”

“As may be but first we need to limit any further damage.”

“Can it get any worse?”

“Hopefully not, but we need to ensure that.”

“How about I talk to the media and present my side of the story?”

“And what is that? There’s nothing in this story that’s not true. The problem is everyone knows now.”

“I’ll sue the bastards, for every penny they have and some more.”

“I’m not your legal adviser, but I don’t think you can sue if what they say is the truth.”

“Despite that, it’s still invasion of privacy, character assassination and liable.”

“You’d better talk to Smidmore about that.”

“It does disappoint me that they didn’t check with you first, we might have been able to do a deal and have the story toned down if not scrapped entirely.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well if that journo had asked for your side of the story we might have been able to offer him exclusives in return for not publishing this story. I’m surprised he didn’t ask you for a quote at least.”

“What’s his name?”

“Tim Shand, why?”

“I think he might have called and I refused to talk to him.”

“Fuckin’ hell Jonathan, he gave you an opportunity and you passed on it. Does, keep me informed of everything, mean anything to you?”

“Sorry Thomas.”

“I’m astounded, that is the first time I have ever heard you utter that word, Jonathan. Am I finally getting through to you?”

“I should have listened and trusted you more. I will from now on.”

“That’s fine but after this I’m not sure you’ll have that opportunity.”

“You’re not going to desert me in my time of need?”

“Not me, but all those voters out there, who you are trying to attract.”

“Have I lost before I’ve barely started?”

“Could be, I’ll have to test the waters and see what the feelings are out there in voter land.”

“Ok, you do whatever you have to and I’ll back you. Let’s get this back on track. Surely the gay community will stick with me, now they know I’m one of them.”

“We’ll see.”

“But what are we going to do about finding the traitor?”

“I don’t know and I’m not sure a witch hunt will achieve anything. What will you do if you do find out who gave Shand the story?”

“If it’s someone who works for me, they’ll be fired and never work again in this town.”

“Jonathan, you watched too many gangster movies as a kid. Anyway, talk to Smidmore and see what he has to say. It might not be worth all the trouble, now the damage has been done.”

“Sure.”

“Oh, I do have some good news. The production company that shot the video footage with you were very impressed with your performance and will have the promos ready in about two weeks. That means I can firm up some dates for you to present the TVs.”

“That should help with the campaign.”

***

Thomas left Price and went back to his office at Crystalline to book in with the charities for the presentations. He confirmed four nursing homes, the scouts, girl guides, the migrant support centre, a community museum and a homeless shelter. All were grateful for the offer and promised to have a good attendance on the presentation day.

He then checked with Edward, who advised that since removing the charge for the gay community function, bookings had improved.

That left one more task for the day. He sent out press releases and invitations to the media for all Price’s planned appearances at the local charities.

***

After her chat with Jonathan about her not being needed for the campaign any more, Virginia was relieved, but that discussion had also raised another matter that she had never forgotten but had, over the years managed to cope with. For a few days she could not get the memory out of her mind and decided she needed to talk about it. She called her friend Margaret, but she was not available so she decided to go and have coffee or something stronger with Desmond.

“Are you there Desmond?” she called as she approached the garage. When she received no answer she went up to his flat, where he was already making tea.

“Hi, you’re just in time for a cuppa, kettle won’t be long.”

“Thanks Des, I need it.”

“Have a busy day?”

“Not so much busy as a thoughtful day.”

“Oh, and what have you been thinking about, good times I hope. Making plans for Mallacoota?”

“Oh that...yeah...it’s all coming along fine. Settlement has taken place and Smidmore has the keys. He’ll send them over this week and then.....” Virginia’s sentence trailed away to a moment’s silence and then she burst into tears. As she sobbed Desmond tried to comfort her, but with no idea what was upsetting her, all he could do was hug her. Desmond was not a man of many words and while a caring man he always found it difficult to show his feelings and providing comforting words was totally out of his area of expertise. He managed a few ‘tell me what’s wrongs’ but beyond that the hug had to suffice.

Eventually Virginia managed to stop sobbing, dried her eyes and looked at Desmond. If Desmond could read body language he would have detected signs of guilt in the face of his loved one, but alas it was not so.

“Where’s that bloody cuppa?” she suddenly asked.

“Oh...um...of course...I almost forgot.” He answered, relieved that the tears had stopped and he was released from his discomfort.

“I’m sorry to be such a mess Des.”

As he poured boiling water over the tea leaves, he asked “Do you want to tell me what’s wrong.?”

“I will, just give me a minute.” She replied as he set the teapot on the table and went to a cupboard to fetch the cups. He looked at Virginia, but she said nothing so we went to the fridge for milk, still nothing, so sugar was next on his list of distractions. When he returned with sugar, he said “Oh, I forgot the teaspoons.”

“For Christ’s sake stop fussing Desmond and sit down.”

“Sorry, just trying to do it all nice, like. Give me a sec, I’ve got some Iced VoVos here somewhere.”

Virginia let him get the biscuits, as she reckoned that would complete his afternoon tea setting and he would finally sit and listen to her.

“Or would you prefer cake?”

“NO!... SIT!”

“Allright already, give a man a chance. Now what’s all this ab....?”

Desmond was interrupted by a call from the garage below.

“Are you here Desmond?” asked Jared.

“Oh shit!... Hang on Virginia, I’ll see what this bugger wants. He’s probably broken a fingernail or something equally important. I’ll be right back.”

Desmond bounded down the stairs, two at a time. “Yes, what’s your problem?”

“Oh, you’re a bit short today. Anyway it’s the Roller, just doesn’t seem to be running right. Can you have a look at it?”

“Now?”

“Well, I need to be sure it’s ok to drive tomorrow. Mr Price is a busy man, what with running his business and an election campaign. Don’t want to break down in traffic.”

“Mr Jared, Rolls Royces do not breakdown, on a very rare occasion they may ‘fail to proceed’ is the correct term.”

“Oh right, and I just remembered they have a sealed bonnet so you can’t do anything to the engine.”

“That is a myth from the old days when they used to participate in reliability trials and the engines were sealed then so they could not be tampered with.”

“Oh good, then you’ll be able to check it out for me.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Oh hello Virginia, I didn’t know you were here.” Jared said as she rushed past, and returned to the house.

“If that’s all Mr Jared, leave the car with me and you can be on your way.”

Feeling he had been dismissed, he went up to the house and looked for Thomas.

Next Chapter - Juanito receives a gift. - Brett has a plan. - Tristan’s frustration. - Juanito uses his fingers. - Edward and Juanito make up.

Copyright © 2021 Wombat Bill; All Rights Reserved.
If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

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Chapter Comments

A very event-filled chapter.  It will probably take multiple chapters to solve all the events of this one.

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NimirRaj

Posted (edited)

This is not remotely surprising but this news has really caused a ruckus in the Price household. 🤔 I wouldn’t be shocked if this actually helps Jonathan gain some votes as he’s much more relatable and humanized now I suppose compared to his stuffy, sleepy persona he typically exudes. I mean I wouldn’t vote for him in a million years but I doubt anybody would have before now so a few potential votes gained from the drama is better than the zero he’d likely have had before. 🤷🏻‍♂️ 

Edited by NimirRaj
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On 5/3/2021 at 10:33 AM, ReaderPaul said:

A very event-filled chapter.  It will probably take multiple chapters to solve all the events of this one.

I agree with you @ReaderPaul.

I hope I am wrong, but I have a bad feeling about Virginia rekindling her relationship with Desmond. I fear she is once again going to give Desmond "the flick" unless there is another explanation for the "signs of guilt" on her face which Desmond did not detect. I shall have to wait for @Wombat Billto reveal the source of the guilt, if in fact, it is worthy of revelation.

Edited by Summerabbacat
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