CHAPTER 17: PARIS = HAPPY...NYC AND SAN FRAN NOT SO MUCH!
SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY JAIL - FRIDAY MORNING
"What in fucks name were you thinking?" My lawyer is yelling at me, I glare at him. "I can't put down glaring as a reason for your immense stupidity! Do you realise how much damage you have caused?!"
I shrug. "I've made my point; the works are ruined. His kind shouldn't be allowed to exhibit with good people!"
"His kind? Good people? Are you seriously telling me you have that kind of money lying about that you can just give to this guy?"
"I would rather go to jail than give him any money!" I snap.
"Can you tell me why you did it? I just don't understand why." He sighs.
I look at him incredulously. "Why? Because he's an abomination, an affront to good Christian values! He's a faggot, everything that God says..."
"A faggot?" He looks incredulous. "First, Lucian Stark is not gay. He's been married for over 30 years to a woman!" He yells back.
"Lucian Stark? Who the fuck is Lucian Stark?" I demand.
"The owner of the artwork that you and your merry band of fuck turds destroyed last night!"
"No. We were at the Justin Taylor Showing last night..."
"Then you must have taken a wrong turn when you guys got there because you ended up in a Stark Perspective. And secondly, because you went in there armed so it's premeditated. You won't be granted bail until next Monday at the earliest."
"What! You're saying I'm stuck in here over the weekend? You've got to get me out of here! I need to get back to Pittsburgh. I have an important meeting to attend to on Monday afternoon."
"No can do. I've already tried. I shall be back on Monday once I've spoken to Stark's lawyer to try and arrange a deal of some sort but it is not looking good for you. See you on Monday."
The guard pulls me to my feet and starts to lead me out. "Mr Taylor there is a couple more things you should know. Because of the hate crime element of this in San Francisco of all places, they will press for it to be tried here."
"Trial?" I echo.
"Yes trial. Lucian Stark as well as being one of the richest Black men in America is also a staunch advocate of gay rights. I suggest you rally your friends; the bail bond is going to be massive."
As I head back to my cell, a horrifying thought hits me. I hope that Lucian Stark is not related to Luther Stark!
MARTHA'S VINEYARD - FRIDAY AFTERNOON
MANSION INN HOUSE HOTEL & SPA, RECEPTION
The way their eyes have lit up is really quite amusing, like kids in a candy store. Lindsay is already discussing spa bookings. Since I'm here for the vine part of Martha, she's on her own there. I'm not sure what idiot boy is going to be doing and I care even less, but I have booked us all into separate rooms, just for the fun of it!
"Right we're all on the same floor and ah here comes Grady."
I try to hide the amusement as the look of horror flits across his face and the annoyance flashes across Lindsay's as Michael gives him a hug.
"Talon, I had no idea it would be the four of us. You should've said."
"It was a last minute thing. Luther's still negotiating and they've never been, so I didn't think you'd mind. You don't, do you?"
"No of course not. So what floor are you on?"
"We all have harbour view rooms, although not next to each other. Why don't we all get settled and meet at the bar in say an hour?"
We head to our rooms and I have to bite my lip as Michael is almost humping Grady's leg in the lift. Oh yes! This is going to be an interesting weekend!
ZEON'S RESIDENCE - PARIS - FRIDAY EVENING
I look at my gorgeous, caring husband who I'm really trying very hard to be mad at.
Whilst he and Brian were shopping Zeon casually called to see what I thought about the house and mentioned that he would be interested in a swap, the house for my share in Uptown and some paintings. So I knew then that Faal had spoken to him.
"Mad?" He asks quietly putting his hands on either side of me and peering in the dish.
"Fuming!" I pout. "Do you have any idea how much it's going to cost to fucking soundproof this place?"
"I'll pay half."
"Damn right you will. And we will have to get another Floyd for here too!" I can feel myself starting to smile. "You interfering adorable man! Thank you!"
"You going to leave it as is or reno?"
"Leave as is. For now." I lean back into his chest and sigh. "It's perfect."
The front door knocks and I smiles at him. "You're not the only sneaky person here. Jenny, can you get that for me doll?"
Now there are two people in the world outside of the family that Jenny adores. Nobody is silly enough to say the word adore about Hank to our little pitbull, but the other one is Daphne. She's not seen her for a few months as they both had heavy study schedules so I've arranged a little surprise for her and by proxy Justin.
We watch her head to the door and because it's glass albeit frosted you can make out the shape of the person and there is no mistaking her.
"Aunt Daphne!" She screams and fumbles opening the door so badly that Faal has to help her. "Aunt Daph! Oh Aunt Zee thank you, thank you!" She's so happy she doesn't know who to hug first.
"Honey let me get in!" Daphne grinned, before dropping her case and scooping her in for a hug.
"Daph?" Justin calls from the stairs. "Daph!" He yells and is all set for full pelt but is stopped by Brian bellowing at him to walk or he will break his neck.
The bellowing of course brings the rest of the family to the front door and soon she's engulfed in more hugs and there are more tears of joy, but Jenny looks a little sad.
Daphne nudges her. "Now come on Jenny. Take me to our room so I can get rid of this case and tomorrow we shop, though we have to work round the..."
"Daph! Let's get the cases upstairs yeah?" Vince interrupts her.
"Spill." Brian orders coming out of the kitchen eating from a jar.
"Brian what are you eating?" Emmy Lou asks before huffing and snatching it off him. "That's for dinner for everyone, not just you!"
Brian shrugs. "Again spill."
I sigh. "We've booked everyone for pampering treatments tomorrow from 1300. It's Caudalíe Le Marais, same as NYC. But because of time constraints, it's just a facial and a body treatment, 2 hours max. So everyone should be back by four and that gives us enough time to get over there."
"Everybody?" Lydia asks in surprise.
"Yep." I grin at the look of delight on her face.
"So what's for dinner?" Brian saunters back to the kitchen. "I'm hoping those are short ribs, which will go great with the green tomato relish or the sweetcorn and black bean salsa. " He pauses and looks at the jar. "Which Emmy Lou is going to give back to me now."
Emmy rolls his eyes but hands over the jar.
MARTHA'S VINEYARD - FRIDAY EARLY EVENING
MANSION INN HOUSE HOTEL & SPA, BAR
I had hoped to speak to Grady alone but so far no luck. I don't even know his room number. I find Talon frowning at the TV.
"Hi Talon, no Grady yet? Talon? Are you okay?"
"Huh?" She pulls her gaze from the TV and smiles slightly. "Excuse me a minute, I just need to make a call."
"Oh okay, I'll just wait here then." I sigh at her abrupt tone.
I head to reception. "Is there any office I can use I need to make a business call?"
"Of course madam, follow me."
After three attempts I finally get through to Luther and put him on speaker so I can file my nail that I have just broken. "Hey honey how you doing?"
"I'm fine, you? Is Zander coming around?"
"I'm working on him. Slowly but surely he's coming round to my way of thinking."
I smile tightly. "Listen, the reason for the call is have you seen the news lately? Didn't you say you were doing business with a guy called Craig Taylor in Pittsburgh?"
"Well he's been arrested in San Francisco for desecration of property."
"And that's my concern how?"
"He and some friends destroyed $10 million worth of art belonging to Lucian at the Cobalt Gallery."
First there is silence, then the clipped angry tone comes over. "He did what?"
"Destroyed $10 million worth of art belonging to Lucian at the Cobalt Gallery. Seems an odd thing to do..."
"Thanks for letting me know honey. Do you fancy dinner somewhere nice tonight, book..."
"No Luther, I thought since you were negotiating with Zander, I would take some time out to get to know Lindsay and Michael properly. We're in Martha's Vineyard with Grady. That's not a problem, is it?"
"Oh no sweetheart, I think that's a great idea. Well done for thinking of that. Let me know how the match-up between Grady and Lindsay goes, when you're back. When is that?"
"Monday afternoon. I've got a meeting with Melody Reichmann about your painting amongst other things."
"What other things?" His tone is sharp and petulant. "We've not spent a weekend together for a while."
"But honey, you're the one negotiating. I'll see you on Monday."
"Okay then. I..."
I hang up before he can finish. Well done for thinking that... I stare at the phone in disbelief at his patronising tone and sulky attitude. But then think of Monday and smile.
I head back out to the lounge where Bethany is waiting. "Everything alright? Who was that?"
"A business associate, who's given me some disturbing news about a guy I thought I could trust and work with but it seems we're not working towards the same goal."
"But enough about that; I'll deal with that when I get back to the office." I scoop her into my arms and carry her upstairs.
Oh yes Craig you and I will talk. You have a lot of explaining to do!
CAUDALÍE LE MARIAS - PARIS - SATURDAY AFTERNOON
This has been blissful, I just love having facials. I can't wait for tonight but more specifically I can't wait to get back to Pittsburgh and see what the country club set has made of Craig's behaviour. Apparently he's still in San Francisco and won't be released until at least Monday.
Zee said the bail money is the least of his worries. Her father has a rather peculiar sense of justice in that it's perfectly okay for him to hurt members of his family but not okay for anyone else. Then his family loyalty comes to the fore.
It's been a great day all around. The boys and Lydia have had their facials and massages and are now heading back. We have shopped our little hearts out with Jenny particularly happy with her suede backpack, tote and crossbody bag set. She was less happy when Leda took them off her and packed them immediately saying she can use them for school.
We're waiting for the car outside as I look at gorgeous products in the Carl Marletti window and decide to get some for breakfast tomorrow.
"Guys! Just popping in here, thought I would get some pastries for tomorrow." I call out and I'm soon joined by Daphne and Jenny. Twenty minutes later Debs is calling us out and as we step into the car, I could've sworn I recognised the woman dashing across the street.
MANSION INN HOUSE HOTEL & SPA, BAR
I can't believe how much Michael has been monopolising Grady's time! He's barely let anybody else speak to him, let alone sit next to him. He's much like he was with Brian during his cruising days. Doesn't he know this man is not gay?
Talon and I exchange covert looks of amusement, though I am less amused than she is.
Grady clears his throat and stands up. "Can you excuse me for a moment? There's a gentleman I need to catch up with briefly."
"Michael why don't you and I get some more drinks and maybe order some snacks?" Talon suggests standing up.
"They have table service." He replies, sipping his drink unmoving.
"Oh I hadn't realised you'd been here before and know the intricacies of the service in this particularly very busy bar." She drawls sarcastically.
"Fine, but shouldn't we wait for Grady to come back?" He asks. "You know wait for his order too? It's the polite thing to do."
"Grady will have his usual of vodka with ice, I do know him after all. Let's go." She tugs him to his feet and pushes him ahead. "Oh wait I need my room key. You go grab a space at the bar!"
She quickly comes back and grabs her purse. "Swap seats; the poor man needs rescuing!"
I giggle and immediately Grady returns and I move to where Michael was sitting. His relief is palpable and even more so when Talon returns smirking and sits on his other side.
"I've just had my nails done, so Michael's carrying the tray back."
When he returns with the drinks, the look on his face is priceless. He looks like a jealous fishwife and spends the rest of the evening sulking, especially when neither of us move from our seats for the rest of the evening at Grady's insistence. And when we're joined by a couple more of Grady's friends- none of whom have an interest in comics- he went up to his room claiming he had a headache.
LE CENTRE POMPIDOU - PARIS - EVENING
The press pack wasn't as large as I thought it would be but it's large enough.
Justin pauses with Brian at his side. "I have a prepared statement. I will not be taking questions on this subject. I am in no way affiliated with Craig Taylor. I obviously do not share his views. I wish to express my deepest sympathy to Lucian and Deidra Stark for the damage to their artwork and hope that the courts in San Francisco see his acts for what they are, which is premeditated desecration, and do not give him a slap on the wrist for who he is. That is all."
He clears his throat again. "Now excuse me, I have a show to do."
I can see the pride beaming out of Brian's eyes as he turns and leads him up the steps with his hand carding through his hair and Justin's arm circling his waist under his jacket.
"Get that picture." I growl at them and the lights flash.
I quickly follow them and give them both a hug once we are safely indoors. "Show time."
Zee has been forced out of the kitchen. We didn't need Floyd in the end so he's on his way back. When we were testing, she didn't tell anybody what brawn was until it had been approved and now both Faal and Justin have said it stays off their menus.
I have never had such a rich pork terrine. Okay the fact that it is made out of the head of the pig is a little disconcerting, but the celery and carrot pickle offsets it beautifully. They're also serving dirty rice in little cups, asparagus and crab toasts, blackened Cajun redfish, mini blue cheese tarts, beef short rib pies with bone marrow and red wine jus, various salads and dessert of honey tart and chocolate, peanut butter and cherry tart.
She and Emmy Lou are getting stacks of cards as we all knew they would when we saw this menu and Justin and Courec's artwork work together beautifully. I do believe there is going to be a row between her and Faal because she expressed an interest in a piece of Courec. I think it's the first time ever and of course he's bought it for her.
The Q&A is done and now it's just mingling and enjoying ourselves. My work here is done, time for champagne!
I'm so proud of my Justin. Tucker gives me a quick hug but it's all a bit much. I've never been to a showing outside of the USA before and in Paris of all places!
"Excuse me sweetheart, I'll be right back." I whisper to him and he nods in understanding.
I dab my eyes and search in my purse for another tissue only to have one handed to me.
"Hi again. My turn."
"Xanthe? It is Xanthe, isn't it?" I gasp in surprise. "You look beautiful! So this is where you walked to?"
"Yes, thanks to you, and I'm loving every minute of it! Who are you here to see Taylor or Courec?"
I grin at her. "The clue is in the name, remember? I'm Jennifer Taylor."
Her mouth drops open and she looks embarrassed. "I'm so..." I wave away her apologies.
"Come on, come and meet my son."
Most the family have gathered in one spot as we always do. "Guys I'd like to introduce you to a friend of ours. This is Xanthe...yes that Xanthe."
"That Xanthe?" She echoes. "I don't..."
"Your ex is my dad, Luther Stark. Hi, I'm..."
"Zaden." She gasps. "I uh don't quite know what to say..."
"You walked away, so you're alright with me as far as I'm concerned. And you unwittingly gave us a heads up on what Jen's ex was planning with Luther when you first met her."
"Happy to help. He was just so vicious; they both were. And the way he discussed me like I was a piece of meat." She shudders at the memory.
"Women have their place and in his world, it's subjugated and serving him." Zee grimaces.
"Hi I'm Justin and this is my husband Brian."
"Nice to meet you both. Look I won't bother you any longer. I'll..."
"Xanthe. Don't feel that you have to run off. You're among kindred spirits here, so have a glass of champagne and chill." Daphne tells her, firmly handing her a glass.
"Now let me introduce you to everyone..."
Daphne grins at her and by the time she's finished and given a potted history, Xanthe has visibly relaxed and will be joining us for lunch tomorrow before we fly back.
And I have a feeling there is more she wants to share.