CHAPTER 39: NEVER HAVE CHAMPAGNE TASTES BUT LEMONADE MONEY
LUCIAN & DEE'S SMALL CONDO - TUESDAY EVENING
Poor Daph. Well not poor in the fullest sense of the word. Now that they've made a decision, all the tension has left her body and of course now she's expecting twins. Currently she's got Ralph massaging her feet; he gives the best ones. And Zee is sending the plane over to take her to Portland as she's now officially on maternity leave.
Del is going to be going with her as she used to be a nurse before Luther got all macho on her. When Daphne questioned her skills she said, unless they've changed the physicality of a woman, it's where the dick went in that the baby comes out...unless it a C-section? So we're good.
And according to Medea and the boys, there was a major row over money in the condo. Turns out that Michael also owes money to Lindsay's parents for the previous cases. Although, I can't see her parents letting her back in as Grady seems to think. From what I've heard from the family she gets her bequest, if that.
Personally, I can't wait to get back to Canada. I never thought I would like the smallness of our little home. Don't get me wrong I love NYC, born and bred after all, but when it's just us there it feels cosier. There, I don't feel like I have to wear my armour. And Ralph, despite what he says, doesn't have to prove his worthiness...roll on Friday!
I head to the kitchen to make coffee and a few minutes later feel his arms round me. "She's asleep. The flight can't come soon enough for her, I think."
"Me too, I can't wait to get home. Though I will have to pass by the condo to stir the pot a little."
He kisses the side of my neck. "My wicked woman. I may have to punish you."
"Oh I do hope so." I moan, before pinning him to the fridge and kissing the hell out of him.
MELODY REICHMANN RESIDENCE, NYC - THURSDAY MORNING
"Well hello Jennifer. How are you? Me, well to be honest I'm bored with waiting! Can I...I can? Oh marvellous!" I look round for the rolodex and find the details for Anouk's gallery.
"So what exactly brought this on?" I listen aghast to what they did and shake my head. "She needs to learn and learn hard, as does he. That Novotny creature has taken on her sense of worth, without any justification."
I wave at Franklin, who's frowning at me from the doorway. I write down Lindsay and he merely nods and sits down opposite of me. When I finish with Jennifer, I catch Franklin up.
"Hmm... it seems that she needs to be ousted from her self-appointed position of power. I heard about the Truffaut show and she was less than gracious to all those in attendance. She seemed to be determined to once again get at young..."
"Hunter? Why doesn't she leave that boy alone?!" I huff, angrily.
"When you've discovered the great Justin Taylor but don't give time of day to one of the best curators the art world has seen in a long time because he's not from your social circle, well, it does tend to make you look a little foolish. Since Hunter had a thirst for knowledge and was right under her nose, she could have taken the time to cultivate his talent. Instead she chose her supposed position of power and treated him as insignificant. It was completely absurd and utterly vacuous. As with most foolish people in a defensive position, she hits back first. Now I don't see why you get to have all the fun. Let me set this up and the final denouement is yours."
I look at Franklin and nod. People think that I'm the one with the power and the savvy but I'm a cub compared to this lion.
Yes, he can deal with Lindsay, but that Novotny needs to learn too.
QUBE HOUSE, PORTLAND - THURSDAY LUNCHTIME
I can't quite believe it but that is Daphne- a very pregnant Daphne- grinning tearfully at me. Del is bustling about making something to eat.
"So we've put you on the 1st floor, both of you, and..." Francine starts to cry.
"Please guys don't!" Vince chides us. "You'll start me off again!"
"Come on sit down." I guide her to the sofa and she gratefully stretches out before starting to rise.
"Oh we have something for you. It's from Jenny. She wanted you to see it first."
Vince hands me a suede covered box and we both sit down to open it. As we leaf through the book we're both in tears. "It's so beautiful!" I sniffle. "Here, please have a look."
Vince scoots in behind her and rest the book on her stomach and they quietly look through it. Their silence is unnerving.
"Perfect, just perfect. And when they are old enough, can you give them this letter?" Daphne hands it to me.
"Of course along with this picture." And that sets us all off again.
TREEHOUSE - FRIDAY MORNING
She looks really tired. Carl pulled me to one side and insisted we do something. The run up to Christmas is going to be hellish. We're worrying that with the catering she's going to burn out, so I've made a decision. All bets are off until the New Year. Her competitive nature is such that should they get ahead, then she will try and factor that in.
Zeus is coming to get her today and she's going to spend time with her brothers doing nothing but recipe test with Tom and Emmy Lou, as in she tastes; they cook. Well that's what I told her.
She's stirring and I go still, hoping she goes back to sleep and happily she does. I huff an albeit quiet sigh of relief.
"For a guy in the security services and in the military for a spell, you are the worst person at stealth." She mumbles and stretches, before curling back into my side.
She sniffs before getting up and hitting the bathroom, then bringing back two cups of coffee.
"So spill. What's bugging you?"
"You. You're so tired. I thought you were going to cry over the menus. And I didn't think it was possible to scare an IRS man but Darius said that Tobias was on the verge of tears on the way home."
She sighs. "Them coming after the kids... I just can't get my head round it. Luther and Justin's dad I get because quite frankly they are cunts. But they purported, okay not Grady, to love them before..."
"Stop it." I take the cup off her and press her into the mattress. "You are supposed to be having fun with this. Now come, get dressed. Zeus is coming to get you and there's a surprise for you too."
Three hours later, we're in Ohio and she is beating Menno with a cushion. Sol wisely took refuge behind a bottle of Chocolate Box.
"Stop beating up my man and have some wine for heaven sake!" Sol chuckles.
"I can beat and drink at the same time!" She takes another swing.
"ZayZay stop or you're not allowed to furnish the place!" Zeus orders.
That gets her attention. "What?" She looks round at us. "I can do this place?"
"Yep." Menno hands her the wine. "You've got a week and papa said the sky's the limit. We did the annex so you've at least got somewhere to sleep, but have at it."
"You need time alone. Somewhere to get your groove back." I pull her into my arms. "I shall miss you of course but I shall have Menno to keep me company. But you need this, so enjoy."
"I love you." She sniffles. "Stay safe."
"I love you more." She brushes the tears from my cheek. "Stay safer."
TALON'S CONDO - FRIDAY MID-AFTERNOON
I look incredulously at them. "Say that again?"
Lindsay is just shaking her head in disbelief. "Anouk has let me go. It was a complete misunderstanding!"
I can't help but notice the smug look on Michael's face. "What exactly happened?" He asks.
"Who is always right, correct? That's what you've always told me." Michael snickers.
"Questioned the pricing of some of the artwork." She continues, glaring at him. "Asking if they included commission for the gallery."
"And did they?" I ask.
"I said no and she added the amount on top but it turns out that it did and Anouk was not happy at my attempt at duplicity. I tried to explain what I had thought but she didn't want to listen. And..."
"You're unemployed now." Michael adds.
"Yes Michael, I'm unemployed!" She snaps. "But unlike you, I have at least worked and qualify for unemployment because of my dismissal. You are still relying on the money from Brian and Justin to live on. Isn't that running out?"
That takes the edge off his smugness and I'm surprised when he turns to me. "Is it true?"
"Is what true?" I ask.
"Well two things. You can take my collectibles away if I can't pay the money back? And that Daphne is cooking for Brian and Justin?"
"Yes for the collectibles and if you want to know about the lives of Brian and Justin, ask Brian and Justin. Oh wait...you can't."
His bravado is evaporating and now the smug expression is on Lindsay's face.
Grady has a combination of disinterest and amusement and clears his throat. "Tell me Michael, how much do you owe exactly?"
Leave it to the money man, I think to myself.
"I don't know." He mutters, folding his arms.
"Let's work it out, shall we?" He looks at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Not right now." He grouses.
"On the contrary, I think now is the perfect time." I sit down and smile thinly. "As one of the people to whom money is owed, it is my right to know what my chances are of getting paid. You work it out and I'll wait and see if I should get the truck to come this evening. Or tomorrow morning, give you a chance to say a proper goodbye."
"What do you mean?"
"Come now Michael, you know what I mean." I tuck my hair behind my ear and smirk.
"So Michael, how much do you owe Brian and Justin?"
"I don't know!" He shouts. "And I don't like the way you guys are ganging up on me!"
"We're not ganging up on you..." I pause and let that sink in, "...don't see it as that. See it as us merely letting you know exactly what you're dealing with."
The door knocks and Lindsay goes to answer it.
He sits down resentfully at the computer and brings up his spreadsheet. "There!"
Grady and I look at it and I whistle. "$42,000? Ouch."
"So there's that and the money for Lindsay's parents is?" Grady smirks and waits for an answer.
"I don't know."
"$62,000 and then there's the money you owe Talon, which is $25,000 and of course there's the payments for the college fund."
We both stare at Grady as he leans back and smiles again. "Yeah, Luther is a very thorough man. You really don't give your friends credit. I mean they could have added to the total but even though they haven't, I feel that it should be noted. So about a year's payment would equal $18,000. So in total you owe $147,000."
Michael has gone an extraordinary colour as the reality of his situation hits him. "Obviously this will go down to under $125 grand when Talon calls the truck."
He suddenly springs up. "No! I'll get Talon's money! As I said earlier, there is nothing to worry about. I just need to rework the figures that's all."
"Why are the toys so important to you?" I ask.
"For the last fucking time! They're not toys, they are collectibles, which appreciate in value the longer you keep them and when I come to..."
"Sell them or give them to Talon now." Lindsay's voice is cold and clear. "Brian and Justin will wait for their money but it seems that my parents won't. While this was addressed to me, it's actually for you."
She hands it to Michael and he shakes his head. "They want their money back Michael and they're taking you to court to get it."
"I said fucking no! This will be settled the way we originally discussed and that's an end to it do you guys fucking understand?!" Michael all but screeches and storms out; the slam of his door reverberating round the condo.
"Well on that note." I try not to laugh at his histrionics. "I'll bid you all goodnight."
As I rejoin Ralph in the car, I tell him what happened. "Something is off. Nobody in that situation would willingly bankrupt himself."
Ralph nods. "I agree. Get the boys to photograph all his collection in the condo individually and send it to you. We'll do the same. I think we're missing something."