Author's note: This is a long and crazy one so be warned. I wanted to kick off the summer with something fun and hopefully this is it. There are a few people I wanted to thank because without them you wouldn't be reading this story. First the real life Helena Martinez, who claims to have read every one of my stories and dared me to write a story about this song. I'd also like to thank the two best writers I know DQS1 and Rehnquist for letting me borrow their toys, and I hope they aren't upset with what I've done to them because just using them was a dream come true for me. Lastly I'd like to welcome my new editor MikotheBaby to the party. She did a great job of prying my fingers loose from the comma key. Anything you don't like about it was my fault, she just made my gibberish legible. Okay Harry in Va here it is rip me a new one.
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My name is Alexander Blake. As I wind my Cobalt blue Shelby GT 500 KR Mustang through the crowded streets of L.A. I can't help but feel a sense of Déjà Vu. You know that eerie feeling that you've been here before.
I guess it only makes sense seeing as how almost exactly one year ago I was doing the exact same thing. I was on my way to a charity dinner honoring me as the top man in the advertising industry. It was one of those stupid honors that were designed to let the other ad men know who had brought in the most money over the past 12 months.
Advertising is a truly weird business. We don't make anything or own anything, but without us the general public has no idea of who does do those things. Take my hopped up Mustang here. Do you think it would matter how great this car is if no one knew they made them or had heard of it? I think not.
No matter how many pencil protector wearing engineering geeks it took to design and build this beast, it would all be for nothing if some smart marketing wiz hadn't come up with a way to sell it. It also takes a genius to decide which market to sell the product to and how to approach it.
Any way, this year just like last year, I brought in more advertising dollars for my company than any other ad man in the world or at least in the industrialized nations. I guess that's where my sense of Déjà Vu came from.
The funny thing about it though is that even though I feel like I've done this before and I have, nothing is the same this year as it was a year ago. The Shelby I was driving last year is at home in the garage. Last year I worked for a different company or at least a company with a different name and I was married to...Shit, I may as well tell you the whole story and let you see why I feel so weird. Sherman, crank up the way back machine. Set it for one year ago today....
Okay, last year my name was still Alexander Blake and as mentioned I was on my way to a charity event to honor me as the top man in advertising and make an absolute shit load of money for some charity that I had no interest in.
I'm sure the charity did great work for the homeless whales environmental disease cure or whatever it was. In my mind the big thing was that I was on top of my game. I had the world on a string and didn't give a shit who knew it. In fact I wanted everyone to know it.
I was again guiding a ridiculously powerful Shelby Mustang through the crowded streets near the convention center, with my lovely wife at my side.
Mary Beth, my wife of 6 years was 28, like me. Where I was California born and bred, she was New England royalty. It wouldn't have surprised me if she turned out to be related by marriage to the Kennedys. She had that Bostonian accent with its odd sounding vowels and clipped delivery. If someone had modernized Kathryn Hepburn, they'd have Mary Beth, at least on the surface.
I can't say that Mary Beth was ravishingly beautiful, but she was pretty and healthy and she had that All-American girl glow. Kind of like the Governator's wife Maria Shriver. She was the perfect wife for a top ad exec, attractive, but not overly so. Classy, sophisticated, well read, she was all of those things. But none of those are the reason I married her. I married her because I loved her like there was no tomorrow and I thought she felt the same about me.
Of course the fact that she could suck a golf ball through a garden hose and loved doing it didn't hurt. In public or around people, Mary Beth gave the impression that she was some kind of perfectly poised Ice Queen. Alone or out of the public's eye she was probably the biggest sex fiend I knew.
It was normal for me to come home to find her naked and bent over the back of my sofa as the first sight that greeted me when I walked in the door. There was nothing off the table for Mary Beth when it came to sex. I remember times when she'd come into my office in the middle of a meeting and tell the clients and my colleagues that she needed to borrow me for a few minutes. I'd be worried thinking that some dire emergency had arisen, only to have her pull me into my secretary's office for a quickie. "I just wanted you to understand what's really important," she'd said to me as she scooped up a finger's worth of my sperm that had leaked from her vagina and licked it off of her fingers. Then she kissed me goodbye and told me to come home straight after work.
Needless to say, I loved her back and our life together was never boring.
Besides being way under forty, my personal style also separated me from a lot of the top guys in the industry. I didn't wear suits unless I was going to an occasion that required it. I had never owned a black foreign sedan and never intended to do so. And I simply hated fucking golf with a passion. I preferred casual more modern clothing, Muscle cars and extreme sports.
I was the bad boy of the ad world. Of course having the might of one of the world's biggest ad agencies behind me hadn't hurt me, but I had worked my way up through the trenches on my own.
When I started at McMillan Worth, it was as an unpaid (yep I worked for fucking free) intern during my college days. I started out running down to the corner store as a gopher to some of the ad execs. And now I dictated policy to the ad execs from a corner office.
Mary Beth was particularly stunning that night in a long tight black Vera Wang dress with a diamond choker as her only adornment. It was a simple, but classic look that she managed to make effortless. Of course I knew that she'd been in make up for three hours to look like she was barely wearing any make-up. And having her hair styled to appear she'd just thrown it up and pinned it, cost us more than some people made in a month. But it was all worth it, this was my night.
Hundreds of flashbulbs went off as we surrendered my Stang to the valet. Mary Beth and I exchanged a chaste kiss for the reporters. I smiled as I remembered why the front of my raw silk pants was ever so slightly stained. She'd just had me pull over less than two blocks from here to give me a sloppy blow job, only moments before we got here.
As we stepped into the cavernous room, another round of flashbulbs exploded in our eyes. This time we were greeted by cheers and applause as we were introduced to the waiting crowd. The ceremony hadn't started yet but the party was in full swing. There were throngs of rich and or famous people there. Politicians, athletes, actors, musicians, the entire human zoo was represented and they were all here to honor me.
A bit later the ceremony began and they started out by acknowledging the works of some lesser honorees. There were awards for commercials, ad campaigns, product placement and other things. When my award was announced and the truly staggering amount of dinero I had procured for McMillan Worth, there was near stunned silence in the room. Even one of my ex college buddies and greatest competitors, Caesar Anthony's jaw dropped as he heard the amount of money I'd raised for the firm.
After that, the night moved onwards. They announced how much money the dinner had raised for the charity and then people returned to eating, drinking, dancing, socializing and networking. I'm sure that my earning power was a topic of discussion. I was also sure that taking me down was being discussed with equal fervor.
I was, to quote a line from a movie about a sinking ship, "The king of the world." But little did I realize, my ship was about to sink as well.
As I looked over the crowd of well heeled men and women, they all seemed to blend into startling similarity. The men all wore tuxes, and except for cufflinks or some other minor personalizing trim all looked the same. The majority of the women all wore some version of the famous little black dress. Only the name of the designer differentiated them. Maybe their hairstyles were different too, but I couldn't tell. I was dutifully dancing with several of the assembled ladies in an effort to be polite, when I saw her.
She had long unbound blonde hair that cascaded down around her shoulders as opposed to an up-do. Her hair covered one side of her face completely, so that only one eye was visible. The style was reminiscent of Veronica Lake and was extremely arousing. Among all of those rich and beautiful women there, she stood out. She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene. As she slowly made her way across the floor towards me, I noticed the way her red dress cut through the crowd that was dressed mostly in black.
Watching her as she approached me was like seeing a fireball cut through the darkness of space.
She actually bowed in front of me as the music started. I looked at Mary Beth and she just shrugged her shoulders and nodded. Of course at least fifty photographers took pictures of us as we started to dance. She danced extremely well and I suppose we looked good together. We didn't actually talk, until just before the dance ended.
Then with at least ten microphones near us she said the one fucking line that started all of that hell for me. She said that I was the one. Her voice was so soft at first that I didn't hear her. But apparently all of the microphones picked it up well.
She said I was the one, who would dance on the floor in the round. When she said that, my heart clutched. I hadn't heard that term in over six years. It was before I'd met Mary Beth, back in my days as a carefree single guy. It referred to a practice of mate swapping that we did back then. A bunch of couples would all form a circle, hence the term, "the round." Anyway, we'd dance for one hour, in a very dimly lit room, changing partners constantly. Whoever you were dancing with when the lights came on, you went home and had sex with. Most of the couples involved didn't survive.
It was a great thing for a young single guy like me. I'd meet some girl that I didn't really care that much about, take her to the party and let the chips fall where they may. Most of the time, I went home with someone completely different than I'd gone with.
Naturally I'd given things like that up long before I met Mary Beth. Dancing in the round was not conducive to stable relationships. Anyway back to the party.
The reporters, sensing a story were swarming around us like stink on shit. They were there as the whole thing collapsed. She told me her name was Billie Jean and she caused a scene.
Then every head turned to see what was going on. Mary Beth came over to stand beside me like a good wife. She knew the drill. Some gold digger looking for money or publicity showed up at a big event to cause a scandal. Half of the guys there took one look at her and dreamed of being the one themselves. Billie Jean was really fucking hot.
The problem was that try as I might, I simply couldn't remember her. Not only did I not remember fucking her, which I have to admit, was a crime. I couldn't remember ever meeting her or ever hearing of a Billie Jean.
Before I knew what was going on, before I could even hear the rest of her bullshit. My people whisked me and Mary Beth out of there. I really have to give Mary Beth credit. She was cool and professional. She smiled and posed for the cameras, even as they tried to turn my life to shit. If pride goeth before a fall, I was headed for a hell of a tumble.
As we left the hall I could see two things and neither of them boded well for me. The first was that Billie Jean was literally surrounded by reporters and microphones. For an evening that had started out all about me, it had ended up being all about some woman I was sure I'd never met before now.
The second thing was that Mary Beth was studying me intensely as if she'd never seen me before either. I could tell that my fit and status as her spouse was being carefully weighed and measured on a number of levels. Before that, I'd have told anyone who asked that Mary Beth and I were eternal. Or that we'd spend the rest of our lives together regardless of any circumstance.
We managed to slip out the back door and into my Mustang without being seen. As we roared off into the night only the deep throaty growl of my Magnaflow exhaust system gave evidence of our passing.
Inside the car Mary Beth was excited as usual. She quickly reached for my pants and for the first time ever, I pushed her hands away.
"Ooh teasing me huh?" she said. "I swear, even after all of this time. You can still surprise me. So what was all of that shit back at the party about?"
I really wasn't in the mood to talk right now, but I loved MB with all my heart, so I answered her questions.
"You were there MB, you saw her," I said. "She's some chick from my past that crawled out of the woodwork and claimed we had sex. Honestly, I don't get her point. If every person I had sex with came out and admitted it. There would probably be a long ass list. And we wouldn't get to you until the end. You'd be the last one in line, but definitely the best."
"You flatterer “ she smiled. "You don't have to try to charm me to get some pussy. It's all yours, whenever you want it. I think you should just chalk this one up though as a publicity stunt that didn't quite go the way you wanted it to."
"MB, this wasn't one of mine," I said. "This was real."
"Well then it makes perfect sense all of a sudden," she said. "She's some unemployed actress who remembered that you once fucked her. When she found out that you were being honored at a big charity event, she decided to crash it and steal your limelight to generate some publicity of her own. It'll probably do wonders for her career."
She was silent for a few moments and then continued. "Realistically I thought that you'd planned it. It is after all brilliant. I don't know why we never thought of it ourselves," she said.
I looked at her skeptically. "Why would I want this?" I asked.
"Think about it Blake," she said. "Our next logical step is to separate you from the firm. Instead of people hearing about you as McMillan Worth's Blake Alexander, we want them to simply think Blake Alexander. It's the first step in you becoming famous on your own instead of as just an employee of some giant ad company."
"That way if it takes them too long to offer you a partnership and try to avoid giving you a titled partnership, we'll just walk and start up on our own." She seemed awfully confident.
When we got home it was business as usual. The necklace that I'd paid a ridiculous amount of money for was dropped casually on a table. The dress was on the floor at the bottom of the staircase, and Mary Beth was walking slowly up the stairs with only her thigh high stockings and panties on. She hadn't even worn a bra that night, not that she really needed one. The closing of our door was the signal for the previously perfectly coiffed paragon of class and dignity to resume her chosen role as my personal slut.
She settled down on our massive bed and spread her legs. "You didn't eat much at the party," she smirked. "I don't think you should go to bed hungry. So come on over here and eat some of this." Her hips lifted off of the bed in anticipation. I knelt before my carnal goddess and did what she hated most. A lot of women want their men to be gentle and careful, when they eat them. Not Mary Beth, "RRRR...quit fucking teasing me and get to it," she snapped. I blew a gentle gust of air at her shaved bare vagina and was met with an icy glare. Just as she got ready to chastise me again, I caught her off guard and roughly swiped at her sensitive area from anus to clit as hard as I could in one swift stroke.
"EEEEEEE," she screamed. Her head jerked backwards and her legs flew even further apart. "Ohhh! fuck that was good." I swabbed her deck with my tongue as if I was trying to rub the skin off of it. She jerked and grimaced as if she was being tortured and screamed like a dying cat. Within seconds her eyes were rolling back in her head and she was gushing her juices all over me.
"Get your fucking clothes off, already," she snapped. "No that's okay; I can't wait that long, just do me."
I shook my head, in disbelief. Even after being together for six years, I was still shocked by exactly how slutty Mary Beth could be. Less than twenty minutes ago she'd appeared to be a woman who wouldn't say shit if she had a mouth full of it. Now in the privacy of our home, she could teach drunken sailors how to swear. I pulled my pants down around my ankles and grabbed her off the bed. I turned her around and slammed myself home in her tight hairless pussy. None of that romantic rubbing and easing my way in for her, she was already sopping wet and she liked it rough so that's what I gave her.
The first brutal stroke found me bottomed out inside her and her trying to get her legs even further apart, so I could get deeper. "Harder, baby. Slam me," she said. I was already fucking her so hard that if she got pregnant our kid would be born with a black eye, but she wanted it harder so I obliged her.
I grabbed her by her slim waist and pulled her onto me harder with each stroke. She pushed her ass against me increasingly harder also. It was more like we were fighting than fucking. I was getting closer with each stroke and Mary Beth knew it. "Don't you dare fucking cum," she said. She pulled herself off of me and turned to look at me. "Do my ass," she said. She was out of her mind. She was slurring her words together, and she had the biggest smile.
"Who was I to turn down the love of my life? I pulled her cheeks apart and started to lick her anus for lubrication. "Just put it in me," she screamed. "Force your dick into my shitter, now!" So again I complied. She pushed against me as I pushed into her. It was so tight I thought my dick was going to break. Finally I got the head in and she started oohing and screaming, "yes."
After a while we got the whole thing in and she started sawing against me again. It was so tight and I was already close." It didn't matter. I reached under her and rubbed her clit. Mary Beth started slamming her ass into me again.
Mary Beth doesn't have a large fleshy ass so her pelvic bones slamming against me were not the most comfortable thing, but it was brief thankfully. She started jerking involuntarily, and I grabbed her around her waist and drive myself home one more time. I came like a fire hose. Semen erupted from the end of my dick and blasted her insides. She reacted from the warmth of the fluid more than the volume. She ripped herself free of me and turned around quickly taking my shrinking member into her mouth and slurping greedily. Her tongue circled the head of my shaft and even probed the hole in the end of it for the last few drops. A few errant drops had escaped and landed on the bed. She scooped them up and swallowed them as well.
"Oh baby, that was so good," she crooned. "Just the way, I like it."
We fell back on the bed wrapped around each other and slept the sleep of the damned, while the world around us started to fall apart.
The next morning I woke up and unwrapped Mary Beth's arms from me. I showered and stumbled into my Mustang. Fortunately it was a Saturday, so it really didn't matter that it was nearly 10 a.m. when I got on the road. I noticed a few people staring at me as I went into my favorite Dunkin Donuts for coffee. I was sure it was the car. How did Michael Keaton say it in that Batman movie? "Chicks dig the car."
As I pulled into the parking lot behind our building, there was a group of reporters gathered. I figured that one of our advertising clients was making their shoes with slave labor in some third world country again. Or someone we represented has destroyed some tree in the rain forest. While I'm sure they were tragic, they were neither my job nor my concern.
I was working on landing a huge new client. They owned several hundred hotels all over Europe. Their advertising budget alone was worth over 10 million dollars a year. If I could land them, I'd already be one of the top five in terms of sales for next year already.
I'd been doing conference calls and video conferencing with them for the past few days. They were open to my advances but their responses were lukewarm at best. I was avoiding the inevitable trip to Europe to meet with them until I could arrange to take Mary Beth with me.
As I stepped into my office, things got weird. Normally the office would be deserted on a Saturday. But the few people that were there would greet me. I guess I expected some type of congratulations for the award I won last night. There was nothing. I did notice a few people staring at me and talking, but not much else.
My longtime secretary Myra grabbed me by my arm and yanked me into the office. "What the he'll were you thinking?" she asked.
"Well, I was thinking that I'd have coffee and call our new French client to see how the deal is going," I replied.
Myra looked at me as if I'd arrived at work on a short yellow bus instead of a $70,000 Mustang.
"Not that, you idiot," she said. "I may not like your wife much. She seems too uptight for you. It's like she has a stick permanently up her ass. But you married her. How could you cheat on her?"
"Myra what the hell have you been smoking?" I asked her.
"Didn't you read the paper this morning?" she asked. "What about this Billie Jean thing?" She looked at me closely. It was as if she expected me to confess to some terrible crime. But I was as cool as a cucumber. I just shrugged my shoulders.
"Blake, aren't you going to say something? It's not every day that your lover comes out of the woodwork and..." I had to stop her before she got too wound up with this, so I interrupted her.
"Billie Jean is not my lover," I told her. "To tell you the truth, last night was the first time I ever saw her."
Myra was still looking at me, intensely. Finally she nodded her head.
"I believe you," she said. "I've known you long enough to be able to look into your purple peepers and tell when you're being truthful." I laughed a bit. Because of a weird genetic melding in my family's gene pool, some of the kids were born with red eyes. My uncle Stanley had them. He wore brown colored contacts to disguise them. The trait was supposedly dominant. But my mother's side of the family all had very deep brown eyes. When you matched her with my father it got messy. I guess I should have been born with red eyes but when you mixed my mom's brown with the red I'd been born with very striking purple eyes. From a distance they looked brownish. But anyone who got close to me could see their purple shade.
My purple eyes were one of the reasons that I'd been so successful with women throughout my life. I really like to think that the fact that I'm a nice guy didn't hurt either.
Myra held up a copy of the morning paper. The headline read, "Blake's in trouble!" The article went on to give the usual background crap I'd become used to. I was described alternately as both an advertising genius and a ruthless business man. It talked about the award last night, some of the highlights of my career and all of my failures and setbacks. Then it talked about last night's fiasco.
A second article had the banner headline, "Who is Billie Jean?" I didn't read more than the first two lines of that one before I discovered that Billie Jean was talking to everyone she could. She was scheduled to appear on television, radio and many more magazine and newspaper articles. Apparently my nightmare was just beginning.
I called my lawyer, Montgomery Burns. He was a ruthless old bastard. I wanted him to jump on this whole Billie Jean thing and find out what she wanted and what it would take to get rid of her. Barring that I wanted him to start the proceedings to sue her for Libel.
I called home to see if my blushing bride was awake yet. She eerily answered the phone and yelled for our maid to bring her some "fucking," coffee.
"Mary Beth, you probably won't want to read the papers this morning," I warned her. "They're all full of the Billie Jean shit."
"Oh my God, you're kidding," she laughed. "It must be a really slow news day. Why else would they be interested in some woman you slept with back in college?"
"Mary Beth, would you please listen to me," I said seriously. "I don't remember that woman. I don't remember having sex with her period. I don't even remember talking to her or seeing her."
"You were probably bombed out of your mind," she said.
"I don't think I've ever been so drunk that I couldn't remember having sex with someone," I said seriously. Mary Beth in the way that people who have been together for a long time can, sensed that my mood had shifted.
"Blake, don't worry about this. It's nothing. I believe you. I'm on your side no matter what. For better and for worse, remember? I love you, stupid," she started making little kissing noises over the phone. I started laughing and felt better instantly. Naturally she wasn't done sticking it to me though. "Blake did you notice the way every guy in the place couldn't take their eyes off of that Heifer’s Tata's though? I think I'm going to have to insist on breast implants for my birthday. I think I'll move up to like a quadruple Z cup," she laughed.
"Oh yeah, I can see it now," I laughed. "We'll have to get you a wheelbarrow to carry them around in."
"And I'll terrify our kids when they breast feed," she said.
"What kids?" I asked. "How are we going to have any kids?"
"We can have kids any time we want," she said. "I come from damn good breeding stock. All I have to do is stop taking my pill and I'll start spitting out little Alexander’s like there's no limit."
"I don't see it," I said.
"Why not?" she smirked. I could already imagine her at home on our huge bed completely naked with her head tilted to the side. It was the way she always reacted when someone told her she couldn't do something.
"Well," I said, with mock seriousness. "In order for us to procreate...You do understand the term procreation don't you? I'm not being too technical here am I."
"I know what procreation is, you idiot," she said.
"Well, in order for us to procreate, I'd have to shoot my stuff into your Hoo hah," I said. Mary Beth erupted with laughter.
"I thought this was a serious technical talk," she said. "You and I have more sex than anyone I know. And you can shoot your stuff anywhere you want, but your stuff is my stuff. No one else gets a fucking drop of it. Especially not Billie Jean." she was still laughing as she hung up the phone.
For the rest of the weekend, Mary Beth and I just relaxed and enjoyed each other. We took the boat out on Sunday morning and just lazily sailed around the bay. We stopped off at several secluded coves and did what came natural. We even moored just off of an island where we could make out picnickers with our naked eyes. We took off all of our clothes and had sex right in front of them to act out one of Mary Beth's fantasies about having sex in front of other people. The people on the beach did start pointing at our boat, though.
It was lucky that we did it then because if we'd waited a couple of days, there'd have been reporters all over us.
While Mary Beth and I were relaxing Billie Jean had been telling her story. Monday morning it was all over the papers again. As much as I hoped it would die down and go away, the story seemed to have legs.
When I went into the office Monday morning I was told to appear at a special meeting of the board of directors. This was what I'd been waiting for. I assumed that they were going to offer me a partnership as a reward for all of my bard work.
When I walked into the meeting, it was the same as it always was. A group of old men, who had all, at one time or another been in my shoes.
Each and every one of them had been the company hotshot at some point. Each generation's hotshot had to rewrite the record books until they were so important to the company that they had to be offered a part of it.
First I was asked about the new account I was working on. I told them that we hadn't actually landed it yet, but things looked promising.
Then the moment I dreamed of came. I knew that once the discussion of money was over we'd move to discuss me personally.
"On a more personal note," said Arthur Harris. I was trying very hard not to smile. I needed to remain professional and in control. I couldn't let them see how much this would mean to me to become a partner before turning forty. I'd also become the first to make partner before turning thirty.
"What are we to make of this Billie Jean situation," continued Harris. I sucked in a breath, and remained silent for a few ticks.
"This adverse publicity could possibly affect our bottom line if allowed to run unchecked," he said.
"I guarantee you that it is being handled as we speak," I said flatly. I kept my voice as free of emotion as I was able to manage. Inside I was seething. I was beyond pissed but I managed to hold onto my cool.
I returned to my office and sat down behind my spacious desk. What I'd thought was an annoyance was becoming a true problem. It was obvious that Billie Jean would need to be dealt with. The problem was that I didn't know what she wanted or what it would take to get rid of her. I was smart enough to realize that I needed to handle it all through my attorney. Any direct contact between the two of us would simply lend credence to her claims.
Myra burst into the office unannounced and looked at me. "How did Mary Beth take the latest news?" she asked.
"What latest news?" I asked back. I was so pissed that I could care less. The thing that had me the most upset was the fact that this whole Billie Jean thing might allow those old bastards to delay me getting my partnership for a while longer.
"Billie Jean claims that your affair with her was four years ago," said Myra, looking at me suspiciously.
"That's pure bullshit," I yelled. "I was out of college and already married to Mary Beth by then."
My outburst caused several heads in the outer office to turn and look towards us. My office had floor to ceiling glass walls. The glass was thick and we couldn't be heard out there but they could certainly see in, and the way I had jumped up and started yelling had attracted some attention.
The ringing of the phone on my desk snapped both Myra and me out of the impromptu staring contest we were in.
"Blake Alexander's Office," said Myra crisply into the phone. "He's right here Mr. Burns." she handed me the phone. "Hey, boss I'm on your side. I believe you. Don't shoot the messenger," she whispered as she walked out of the office.
"What took you so God damned long to get back to me," I asked.
"I do occasionally take a vacation," laughed Monty Burns. "Besides, what were my final instructions to you last week before I left?"
"Ha ha fucking ha," I said, remembering that he'd told me not into get into any trouble while he was gone.
"Alright so far, all I've had time to do is put a couple of investigators on her. I may cut it down to one though to save some money," he said.
"Since I'm paying for it don't spare any fucking money," I snapped. "Put as many men as you need on the job, I'm not exactly broke."
"I'm not trying to save you any money," he snapped right back. "It's just that I've tried out a new agency, Arturo Rios Investigations. The girl, Sarah Price, that they put on the case is really good. She got back to me in a matter of minutes with more information than my regular guy was able to come up with over 24 hours. I'm thinking of sending her and her husband to Florida to do more research."
"Why are we sending people to fucking Florida? And why does her husband need to go with her?" I asked.
"Well, her husband is actually not an investigator but he helps out on some of her cases now and then. But since they just got married she won't go anywhere without him. Arturo warned me about that when he gave me her results. They also may not take the case. According to Arturo, Sarah is the best PI he's ever seen, but she's picky about the cases she takes. Arturo said that once she met her husband Chris, there are just some things and some types of cases she simply won't take. They make enough money from her husband's job as an engineer or auto marketing guy to live comfortably so they do the investigations things on a pick and choose basis," he said.
"Okay your super spy girl has weird quirks," I said. "Why do they need to go to Florida?"
"Because Billie Jean lives in Florida," he said. "If we're going to find out anything about her, that's where we need to have boots on the ground. There's some really funny shit going on here. Like Sarah found out that Billie Jean has no fucking money. The bitch has like twelve dollars in her checking account and no savings account. So how the fuck did she manage to fly all the way to California and get dolled up like she did for your party? Obviously she has help and there's something going on. If we want to find out the who's and the what's we need people in Florida."
"Okay send them already," I said.
"We can't," he said. "I already told you, she's picky about the cases she takes. She wants to meet you first."
An hour later I was headed out of town to a quiet little restaurant just outside of L.A. There was very little traffic and I was listening to the Eagles' One of these Nights CD as I drove. By now you've probably realized a lot about my personality so you know what I did when a car flew by me. His fucking exhaust system was as loud as mine and the exhaust note was so sweet, that I couldn't believe it.
As I looked up to see what it was, I wasn't shocked. It was another Mustang. It was a GT but the car was nowhere near stock. Whoever the guy was he was making tracks. Nobody went past me, Mustang or not, so I shifted up a gear and put the pedal on the floor. My Shelby woke up and as the supercharger started to whine I was narrowing the gap. There were curves up ahead and I was sure that my car's handling package would allow me to easily over take him.
Unfortunately, the bastard hugged the corners like his car was on rails. That car was definitely not stock. As we came out of the last corner, I quickly shifted and stomped the pedal. Five hundred and fifty horses quickly nosed their way towards the front. I pulled ahead of him. But it was very gradual. He was smiling from ear to ear and gave me the thumbs up sign as I passed. I really wish I had friends like that guy. He was a class act. And obviously we shared a liking for the pony cars.
I slowly pulled away from him but I wasn't leaving him in the dust like I expected to. Just so you know it, this experience was why I bought the newer Shelby GT 500 KR, this year. The GT 500 that I was driving last year only had five hundred and fifty horses. The new KRs put out almost eight hundred horsepower.
Before too long and luckily before any cops saw me it was time for me to leave the freeway. I checked my GPS and saw that the restaurant I was going to was only a couple of blocks away from the freeway exit.
I pulled into the parking lot and was under whelmed. This wasn't the type of place I was used to. It was a small out of the way Mexican place, very understated and very authentic in its decor.
I walked in and noticed that there was no hostess by the door. A fat woman in a greasy apron waved at me from behind the bar and told me to sit wherever I liked. There were a few seedy looking characters scattered around so I decided to sit at a table near the window along the side of the restaurant where I could watch my car.
After I'd been sitting there for a few minutes a couple came in. She looked around and examined everyone in the restaurant before her eyes settled on me. She also never let go of his hand. She was tall for a woman with a lot of honey blond hair. She was fit and trim with larger than average breasts that told me from the way they moved under her light sweater that they were real. Her well rounded yet trim ass perched on top of long thin legs. She was a hell of a package.
The best part was her face. If she'd put any time at all into make-up or styling she'd be beautiful. Hell she already was beautiful but she didn't have so much as lipstick on and in California, raw bare naked beauty just didn't stand a chance. Out here even the maids and the waitresses wore more facial enhancement than this woman did.
The man with her was tall and well built. He was muscular without being hulking. He also moved like nothing I'd ever seen before. Maybe it was some kind of martial arts training or something. His disposition and the open and easy way that he smiled, worried me. He looked like he was lost. He was just too fucking friendly. The wolves out here would tear him apart. He could probably handle himself in a fight, but the con men would eat him for lunch without ever lifting a finger.
She was obviously the brains here. He wasn't an idiot or anything, he was probably very book smart, but she had the street smarts. At any rate you could tell by the way they fiercely held each other's hands that they were a team. There was also something very familiar about him. Maybe he was an actor or something that I had worked with.
Surprisingly enough she looked at me and then led them over to my table. "Mr. Alexander?" she asked as she stood in front of me.
"Hey," he said. "We Roy Orbisoned you on the way here, didn't we?"
"You what?" I asked smiling. "His easy going disposition was infectious. I liked the guy already.
"Roy Orbison, we blew by you," he said excitedly. "I knew I couldn't beat your Shelby. You've got a supercharger and my car has no power adders. It's naturally aspirated so that gave you a big advantage. I just wanted to see how long it would take for you to crush us."
"There's no way your car is stock," I said shocked. If it was I'd spent way too fucking much money, for way too little bump in performance.
"It's been tweaked," he smiled at me nodding.
"Mr. Alexander, we haven't much time and I've several questions for you," she said pulling me back to earth. "May we sit down?"
"Of course, please do," I said. I called the fat woman over and got a Corona for myself. I asked Sarah what she'd like and got her a glass of white wine. Her husband looked over the drink menu and eyed my beer.
"I don't often drink beer," he started, bringing a smile to my lips.
"But when I do, "I said joining him. "I drin..."
"Bring him a Pepsi, he's driving," snapped Sarah, killing our fun.
"Hey that was one of my best advertising campaigns," I said.
"Mr. Alexander, let's get to it," said Sarah all business. "What's the truth about this thing with this woman Billie Jean?"
"The truth is too the best of my memory, I've never met her before I saw her the other night at my party. I don't know what she wants or why she wants it from me. I've never cheated on my wife once, since we got married. I was wild before I met Mary Beth but once we got together I've been faithful ever since," I said. The whole time that I was talking Sarah Price was looking into my eyes.
Her husband was looking outside of the bar. "Chris," I said, snapping his head towards me.
"Take it for a spin. The clutch takes a little bit of getting used to. You need a heavy foot to shift it." Without a word he plucked the keys out of my hand and was gone.
"You do realize that he's going to want one now," she said looking at me with a pained expression on her face. "We're supposed to be putting money away for a bigger house in a better suburb, so we can have some property around us to start raising our kids and you have to go and give him the keys to a car that costs nearly three times as much and only goes maybe twenty or thirty miles an hour faster."
Her expression said it all. "Billie Jean, as Mr. Burns already told you, has no money. We really can't figure out any motivation for her attack on you, but it seems as if she's slowly rolling out more information a little bit at a time. I have a friend who works in Florida. He's digging up things as we speak. I also have found out in the past few hours that she's filed some type of suit against you that originates in Florida. We don't know what type of suit it is though. We're sure this whole thing will come down to money. My goal is to give you and Mr. Burns enough information to give you a heads up on the whole thing and possibly to give you ammunition for your fight against her if necessary."
"So you're taking my case?" I asked. She nodded her head.
"Two reasons," she said. "The first is that I'm almost a human lie detector. I believe you when you say that you've never cheated on your wife. I really believe that there are some men out there who are faithful. In fact I married one. You were telling me the truth and every time I look at her I get the feeling that she's hiding something. I don't trust her."
"What's the second reason?" I asked her. "Him," she said, pointing at her husband as he rejoined us, smiling wide enough to light up the whole room. "He said we should take your case. We'll be in touch." Chris threw me back my keys and gave me the thumbs up sign.
I went back to work and tried to concentrate on my career and my clients. Mary Beth was still trying to fuck me to death every night. She also assured me that she believed me too. But Billie Jean seemed to be everywhere. TV, Radio and print, all of the media seemed to be eager for every tidbit she put out.
Burns had finally decided that we needed to meet. He still wanted to keep me out of it, but he wanted to meet with her. Thus far she hadn't asked for anything. Mary Beth though claiming she believed me had begun asking me questions. She asked more and more of them as the week went by.
She even got out my old college yearbooks and spent a lot of time looking through them trying to see if Billie Jean appeared in any of the pictures. When I pointed out to her that Billie Jean was at least a couple of years younger than us, she gave up the yearbook search.
"Blake, I hate myself for asking you this," she said. "I'm giving you a one-time get out of jail free card. Tell me the truth. Have you ever had an affair since we've been together? With Billie Jean or anyone else?"
I was shocked. My mouth dropped open and words refused to form or come out. I think more than anything else, I was hurt. People were always trying to find out who the hell was under the Lone Ranger's mask, but Tonto never tried. Mary Beth was supposed to be my Tonto. She was my rock. She was the person I wanted to grow old and live out my life with. Everything I did was for her or for us. Her faith in me was one of the biggest sources of my seemingly unshakeable confidence.
Without saying a word, I gathered up a pair of pajamas and my shaving kit and moved down the hall into the guest room. A few minutes after I lay down I heard her twist the knob but I'd locked the door. She called me a few times, but I didn't answer.
The next morning I had just gotten to sleep after tossing and turning all night. It seemed like just as I closed my eyes the loud buzzing of my cell phone woke me up.
"It's a paternity suit," said a voice from the phone as soon as I pushed the button to connect the call.
"Whuh?" I said. "Who the fuck is this? Do you know what time it is? I just got to sleep."
"Mr. Alexander, this is Sarah Price. I'm sorry to call you so early. It's just after nine a.m. here. I forgot about the time difference. But I wanted to give you a heads up. So you could plan your strategy. The way I figure it. I've given you a few hours of lead time, but that's all," she said.
"Sarah what are you telling me? I'm not sure I understand you. Say it all again, now that I'm awake." I told her.
"Billie Jean claims that you are the father of her child," said Sarah. "She's filed a paternity suit through the Florida Attorney General's Child Support Enforcement Bureau. You wanted to know what she's up to and after. It looks like she wants two things. The first is to ruin your reputation and your life. And the second is to suck out a shit load of money from you."
"You can tell that the money is only a part of it. If it was only the money, she could have come to you quietly, under the radar and told you about the child and asked for you to pay child support or even asked for cash settlement outright to keep quiet. She did this publicly and dramatically because she wanted to pull you down. Either she or someone she's working with has a big fucking grudge against you. Can you think of anyone who hates you badly enough to want to do this to you?" she asked.
"Not off the top of my head," I said. My brain was still only half functioning.
"Well I'm looking further into it. I'm trying to cross reference and check out every person she's known to associate with over the past five years. She's scheduled to go on TV and blab all of this soon. She also claims to have proof, so be careful," Sarah said before she hung up.
I had to admit, Sarah was good. The other investigators that Burns had put on the case and the ones that McMillan Worth had hired had all come up empty so far. Thanks to Sarah at least I wouldn't be surprised when the news papers came out or the TV shows hit today.
As I headed for my morning shower, I realized that last night had been the first time that I can remember that Mary Beth and I slept apart.
In the space of a week I'd gone from controlling the media on behalf of my clients and their products, to hiding from them on my own behalf.
Just as the sun came up and far before anyone was out on the streets I snuck into my office. I actually got there before Myra did for a change.
When she walked in at eight, she was surprised to find the lights already on and me already in the office.
"Myra, sit down," I told her. "Over the next couple of days things are going to get worse."
"Oh Boy," she said. "How much worse can it get?"
"Billie Jean is doing all of this as part of a paternity suit," I said.
"Why didn't she just ask you for the money," asked Myra.
"I don't know. My investigator thinks that she also wants to ruin my reputation," I said. "I'm telling you this because I don't want you to have to find out by reading it in the papers tomorrow. Apparently she's going to be on TV today."
"How is Mary Beth taking it?" she asked.
"I guess I should call her and tell her," I said.
"Why haven't you told her already?" she asked.
"I'm not sure Mary Beth believes me anymore," I said sadly. "I guess there's just too much of this too soon."
I did call Mary Beth to try and give her the news too. Her cell went straight to voice mail, so I left her a message. I was glad it happened that way, because I still wasn't ready to talk to her. The fact that someone I loved so deeply and so completely didn't believe me was devastating. I realized then that I had to take a closer look at my friends.
Billie Jean appeared on A.M. California. It was a popular morning news magazine type show. She had changed her appearance. Instead of the glamorous beauty queen persona she'd shown at the party she was trying the poor mistreated girl role.
I watched as she theatrically wiped a tear from her eye. The hosts of the show were trying to comfort her as she choked out her tale of woe. She claimed that she'd been at a party barely four years ago. The party had been in Florida. Some of my old college friends had arranged it and we had danced on the floor in the round. It was pure bullshit. I hadn't done the swapping partners thing since long before I'd met Mary Beth.
She told them that she'd been instantly in love with me and that was the only reason she'd had sex with me. She also told them that I'd led her to believe that we had a future. She said she woke up the next morning and I was gone. She had no contact information and no way to get in touch with me. Then she dropped the big bombshell. She claimed that she'd discovered a few weeks later that she was pregnant, and I was the only person who could possibly be the father.
With no way to contact me, she'd raised our child alone. She'd struggled and took whatever jobs she could get just to make ends meet. Then finally a few weeks ago she'd seen a picture of me in a magazine. She'd borrowed every cent she could for a cheap flight out here. She'd tried several times to contact me, but claimed that she couldn't get through to me. She was crying, the hosts of the show, though they were supposed to be unbiased were trying to vilify me and of it was up to the studio audience I'd probably have been both castrated and tarred and feathered.
As Myra and I were watching the Billie Jean circus on TV, Burns called me.
"I've got a meeting scheduled for tomorrow with her," he said. "Hopefully after that I can figure out what it'll take to get her to just go the fuck away."
"I want to be at the meeting," I snapped. A few minutes later Mary Beth called me. Her sister, who I couldn't stand had shown up at my house early this morning and told her about the show. Mary Beth had apparently heard all about it. When I told her about the meeting, she insisted on being there as well. She was also very suspicious about how I'd known this was going to happen.
Later that morning I was summoned before the partners for another wonderful meeting.
Arthur Harris was all over me as soon as I walked in the door. "I thought that you were going to take care of this embarrassing situation of yours before it affected the company," he said.
"I am working on it Arthur," I snapped. "The problem is unlike the affairs that you've had this woman seems to want more than just money. There's of course the added problem that unlike you, people know who I am, so when something happens to me, it's news. And lastly there's the fact that unlike you, I'm innocent."
For a second he was shocked; first by the fact that I had called his old ass by his first name and secondly because all of my points against him were true.
"Your innocence or guilt in this matter is irrelevant," he hissed. "The bottom line is the main thing. Some of our agents are reporting that they're having a more difficult time selling our ad campaigns. Some of our clients are watching this and waiting to see which side wins before they continue to do business with us. Once again, I'm asking you to handle your uhm...affairs."
When I got home that evening, I was hoping I could talk to Mary Beth. Us not being together was killing me. It wasn't going to happen though. Before I even shut off my engine her sister Tina was out in front of my house trying to pull my door open. I unlocked the door, pushing her away from my car.
"Be careful, Tina," I snapped. "This car costs more than three years of your alimony payments."
"You cheating asshole," she snapped. "You finally got caught. I knew you would."
"You mean you hoped I would, don't you Tina?" I snapped. "Come on you were hoping that I would cheat on Mary Beth so she'd divorce me and you and I could get together. Some kind of a birds of a feather thing." She was seething. She was so angry and so red I thought she would explode.
"The difference between us though is that I didn't cheat. And my people are going to prove it," I said.
Mary Beth came out then, wondering what we were yelling about. I went into the house, walking right by her and back into the guest room.
The next morning I knocked on the door to our room and told her that I'd left the address to Burns' office on the table. I also told her that Tina couldn't come to the meeting.
"Blake, why are you sleeping in the guest room?" she asked. "I really miss you. It's tearing me apart not having you next to me. Tina says that you're acting guilty."
"Thanks MB," I said. "It's good to know that the woman I love believes me and is behind me." My sarcasm was lost on her. "Maybe you should have Tina sleep in here with you."
I drove to the office alone. When I got there Burns was there along with another man who was one of his associates.
Mary Beth got there about 10 minutes after I did. I could tell by looking at her that she hadn't really taken the time to put on the show that she normally would have. She'd swept her hair back into a pony tail and thrown on some relatively casual clothes compared to what she normally wore in public. Maybe she was as upset about this whole thing as I was, but more than likely it was simply because she thought that the meeting would be a semi private affair.
Finally with a great deal of fanfare and a bunch of reporters trailing after her, Billie Jean arrived. She made a big deal of wiping a tear from her eye as she saw me. Then she smirked as she looked at Mary Beth. "No wonder he wanted me," she said. Then added for the benefit of the reporters, "She's built like a skinny teenager."
Burns started the meeting out by simply asking her what she wanted. She told him and it sounded as if she'd rehearsed the speech many times, that what she wanted was for our son to have the benefits that he'd been denied for so long. She wanted for him to be raised in the lifestyle that he was entitled to. And she wanted to make a point that big shots can't go around loving and leaving innocent young girls.
Then she recounted the whole fantasy that she'd spouted on the TV show. Mary Beth started asking her questions.
That's my baby, I thought. Maybe Mary Beth was back on my side. She asked Billie Jean a lot of tough questions. Like how long were we together that night. And what kind of proof did she have that the child was mine. Billie Jean was unruffled though by Mary Beth's questioning.
She told my baby we danced til three. Then she looked at me, and showed a photo of a baby crying. His eyes looked like mine. It was a very high resolution photograph, and very clear. The boy did look a lot like me, too much in fact. The purple eye coloring was extremely damning. Even I was shocked.
Mary Beth got up from the table and ran out of the office. She was clearly upset. Billie Jean's nearly hysterical laughter followed her as she ran away.
"I'll be in touch," smirked Billie Jean as she too left the meeting. I saw her in front of the office playing up to the reporters as I snuck out the back like a God damned criminal. There was an itching in my brain though.
Again I drove to the office, but this time I was too late to avoid the crowd of reporters who greeted me.
"What do you think about you lover's claim that she's raising your child alone and nearly destitute?" asked a reporter as I got out of my car.
"Billie Jean, is not my lover," I said. "She's just a girl who claims that I am the one. But the kid is not my son." I really wasn't sure if I was trying to convince them or myself.
Luckily building security held them off as I got on the elevator and went to my office. I spoke to Claude Gascon in Paris about the hotel deal. He wanted me to come over there and actually look at their operation and see a couple of their buildings. The deal was going nowhere so I finally agreed. I told him I'd have my people coordinate with his and we'd work out dates. Perhaps this would be a good time for Mary Beth and me to get away for awhile.
Burns called me and told me that we needed to go to Florida to file our counter claim or at least answer the claim that I was the father of Billie Jean's son. I told him that we could leave later that afternoon. I would arrange for us to take one of McMillan Worth's Jets.
He said he'd arrange for us to handle our business there as efficiently as possible, so we could get back here to keep things going with as little disruption in my schedule as possible.
Myra came into the office and told me that the office gossip was now split forty/forty. A lot of the associates and the people who worked with me on a daily basis believed me. Though the evidence was damning they knew me and were on my side. The secretaries and a lot of the other workers there were sure I was guilty. The remaining twenty percent didn't care one way or another.
I sat there thinking about my life. It had been less than two weeks since I first met Billie Jean and she was systematically tearing up a life that had taken me years to build. Again I thought about my wild and misspent youth. I really was kind of wild back then, but it was all in fun. People always told me, "Be careful what you do. Don't go around breaking young girls' hearts."
And it wasn't just people who gave me that advice. Mama always told me, "Be careful who you love. Be careful what you do. Or the lie becomes the truth." And God damn it that was what was happening here. Slowly but surely all of that bitch's lies were becoming the truth. Fewer and fewer people believed me. I was still sure even after seeing that fucking kid that I had never set eyes on Billie Jean before the night of my party. The funny thing was that as soon as I'd seen the picture of the child, I'd felt a connection between us. Not necessarily with Billie Jean but with me and the boy. I didn't know how to explain it but it was there.
I tried to call Mary Beth, but somehow got Tina instead. "Why are you answering my wife's phone?" I snapped.
"Because she's so busy crying over what you did, that she can barely do anything," said Tina, snarkily.
"Could you please put MB on the phone?" I asked.
"I'll see if she wants to talk to you." There was a big clunk. She'd obviously dropped the phone.
"Sorry, I dropped the phone," she said. "I hope it didn't hurt your ears."
"You probably dropped the phone about as quickly as you drop your panties when sailors are in town, just give the phone to MB," I snapped.
"Hello," said Mary Beth. Her voice sounded as if all of her strength and life had been drained out of her.
"I have to go to Florida," I said quickly. "Would you like to come?"
"Why are you going to Florida?" she asked flatly. Just hearing how dead her voice sounded made me want to kill Billie Jean and whoever else was behind this.
"Billie Jean's Paternity suit originates from there. I could probably phone this in, but I want to appear there in person. It will let everyone know first that I'm taking this seriously and second that I'm not hiding from it," I said.
"Blake, you're going to have to do this one without me," she said. "I really can't take anymore of this. That baby looks just like you. He even has those freaky eyes of yours. God damn it I gave you a chance to come clean about this and you fucking lied to me. I don't know if I'll ever be able to trust you again. Maybe someday we'll come close to what we had, but it's going to take time and it's going to be hard. You're going to have to go to Florida without me Blake." She said all of this with the same flat tone to her voice. There were no highs and lows in her delivery, it was emotionless. I was shocked.
"Thanks for believing in me," I said quietly. I hung up the phone. I punched in another number and waited for it to ring.
"Hey Sarah," I said. "Thanks for the warning. It was good to know what was going to happen before it did for a change."
"That's what you pay me for," she said cheerfully. "How are things on your end?"
"Well fifty percent of the people I work with think I did it. The one that kills me though is that this may end up destroying my marriage. Mary Beth thinks I'm lying to her. She doesn't believe me and it's killing her. We've been sleeping apart for almost a week. That's the first time that's happened to us. And after I prove that I'm innocent, it won't matter. Billie Jean is going to pay for this," I said.
"Anyway Sarah, I'm coming to you. I'll be there before midnight your time. What I need from you is a file on all of the significant players in the Florida State Attorney's office. I'd like to have some heads up on them before I face them tomorrow. I know it's short notice but I'd appreciate anything you come up with," I told her.
"Okay, I'll have the files at your hotel by midnight," She said as she hung up the phone.
As soon as I hung up, my phone rang again.
"Who were you talking to, one of your whores?" said Tina's acidic voice. "Listen, I just called to make you an offer. Actually it's two offers. Mary Beth doesn't want to go with you to Florida. So I thought that I'd go with you. That way when we get back I could tell her that you only handled business on the trip."
"Why the fuck would I want to take you with me?" I asked. I was totally confused. Tina surely understood that I hated the shit out of her.
"Look, moron, with me there my sister will know that you weren't screwing around behind her back. Plus when we get back maybe I'll try to convince her to forgive you," she snapped.
"Tina you never do anything, for nothing," I said. "What do you get out of this?"
"Well Mary Beth told me that you two haven't had sex in about 4 nights, so you must be kind of hard up, if you get my meaning."
"Tina, I'll never be that hard up," I said hanging up the phone.
Myra stepped into my office at that point. "Everything's arranged, hotel, car, the whole nine yards. I even know you well enough to make a contingency plan for when you call me," she said smiling.
I didn't have any idea what she was talking about, so I let it slide.
I rode to the airport with Burns. There was no way that I'd leave my Shelby in long term parking. Actually I should have realized that there was plenty of room in the area around the hangar where McMillan Worth's jets were stored to park my car.
As we got into the winged aluminum tube that would fly us across the country in a matter of hours, I thought back on my life. By the time the jet took off I was deep into my thoughts. Actually when I'd seen the pictures of the child that Billie Jean claimed was mine, I'd realized what was going on here.I also realized that proving it would be difficult if it was even possible at all.
Several hours later we arrived in Florida. Even though the temperature was a close match to what we'd left in California, it felt hotter. This wasn't dry warm air; this was far more humid, wet towel sticking to your skin swamp air.
In California the temperature and the warn breezes caress your skin and make you feel good. That's why all of the people walk around smiling. This felt more like the temperature and the air clamped you in a fist.
The women here were to be truthful, no less beautiful and certainly at least as well endowed as the ones in Cali. The interesting thing though, was that they seemed to be more natural.
As we walked out of the hangar that connected with the main airport terminal, my head was snapping left and right. Shit, I was a happily married man. If the women here affected me like this, I'd hate to be a single guy here.
As we left the terminal I saw a limo driver with a sign that had Burns' name on it. It was a big Mercedes stretch limo. My face dropped immediately. Then I decided that Myra needed a raise. As we walked towards the car that I was dreading getting into, my transportation arrived.
Back in the sixties when Ford had just released the Mustang, They made a deal with Carroll Shelby to produce some special edition cars for the Mustang line. One of the most sought after was the Shelby GT-H. These cars were sold to the Hertz rent a car company and could be rented by anyone with the money to rent a car. Lots of guys who wanted to get into racing on the cheap would rent those beasts that were faster and more powerful than the stock Mustangs of the day and take to them their local drag strips.
In 2006 Ford and Shelby had built the 06 Shelby GT-H as a tribute to those cars. And yep, you could still rent one from Hertz. All of a sudden Myra's cryptic message made sense. She was probably sure that after I'd driven the car, I'd want it. That woman really did deserve a raise.
I followed the limo to the hotel. I checked into my room and before my ass hit the surface of the couch my phone rang. Inwardly I was pissed then I realized that thought it was 10 o'clock here it was only 7pm back in LA. It was of course crazy Tina.
I pushed the button to record the call and before I could say anything, she just started talking.
"By the time this night is over, you'll wish you had taken me with you. Your life is never going to be the same. You think Billie Jean hurt you. Wait until you see what I'm going to take from you. You should have given me what I wanted." And then she started hysterically laughing. I hung up the phone. Tina was certifiable. When this Billie Jean thing was over and life got back to normal, I needed to have a long talk with Mary Beth about distancing ourselves from her sister.
My phone rang again. I was torn between letting it go to voice mail and just cursing Tina out until I noticed the 904 area code. The call was from here in Jacksonville.
"Hello," I said tentatively.
"Mr. Alexander, this is Sarah Price. Can you meet us in Mr. Burns' suite I have the information you needed and I'd like us to discuss our course of action," she said.
"I'll be right over, Sarah," I said. The woman was certainly worth whatever I was paying her. She'd promised me a file by midnight and she'd cut two hours off of that.
Monty's suite looked much like mine did. Unlike the hotels in Cali where they tended to use different designer's for every suite to create a different mood every time you stayed in place, here it looked like they went with what they liked and used the same pieces or very similar ones in every room.
There were four large wing backed chairs around a small conference table in the sitting room of his suite. His bed appeared to be the same one I had as well. Not just the frame and the mattress, even the linen and spread seemed to be the same. It made me wonder how the maids didn't get lost or confused.
"Okay, let's get started," said Sarah. I was amazed. This was the longest I'd ever seen her go without glancing at her husband. Nope it's over; she just locked eyes with him again and smiled.
"I've narrowed this down to all of the players and sub players involved to make this simpler," she said.
"Darryl Martin," she said showing us a picture. "Don't worry about him. He's toast we won't be dealing with him. He's the attorney for the state who was assigned your case. He's not very good, which would have been great for us."
I raised my hand, like a school kid and she looked at me and smiled. I don't know how Chris could handle being around her all the time. With all of that long honey blond hair and those huge green eyes aimed in my direction, I was getting aroused. Today she was wearing those little rectangular glasses like an extremely sexy librarian. "This is your meeting, Mr. Alexander," she said. "You don't have to raise your hand."
"Why won't we be dealing with Mr. Martin if he's the attorney assigned to the case?" I asked. "And if he's not important why do we have his picture?"
"I wanted to show you the entire situation we're dealing with," she said. "You pay us for all of the facts so that's what I'm giving you. The real deal is that with your celebrity status and the importance of your case, I was expecting the Florida State attorney's office to go bigger. I just wasn't expecting them to go this big."
She flipped up another picture. Even seeing him in a photo filled me with dread. She didn't need to introduce him to us at all.
"Before we get into who we will be dealing with let's look at the why." She pulled out another picture; this one was of a woman. The photo was a full body shot of a woman in a business skirt suit. Her long curly jet black hair was the kind that most men would die to wrap their fingers in while they were...
The woman was incredibly busty, that much was obvious even in the photos. The fact that she was covered from neck to knees only seemed to enhance her appeal, not to mute it. She had a slim waist and a rounded ass that her skirt couldn't conceal. Her legs were thick but so well shaped that it seemed natural. The woman looked like that pornstar Angelina Castro. She had the same zest for life or so it appeared in the photo. Her eyes drew me in, they were the most expressive brown eyes I'd ever seen.
"This is Helena Martinez," said Sarah. "She's the social worker assigned to the case. Her only concern is the child. If paternity is established she's the one who will determine, except for the amount of your obligation, everything else. She is exceptional in her job. If we can get her on our side, or at least not working against us, it would be very good."
I looked at Sarah, thinking that maybe just this once, she'd made a mistake. She shook her head at me as if she was psychic. Then she showed us another picture, this time another woman. The hair was different but there was a resemblance. If the first woman had been busty this one was even more so. I wondered how she could stand up.
"This is Myra Martinez," said Sarah. "She's the PA for the Florida State Attorney. She's the aunt of the previously mentioned Helena. I'm sure you guys have all noticed the family resemblance." Sarah smirked as she said this.
"Maybe it's something in the water," said Chris. Sarah slapped him gently on his head and began speaking again.
"Anyway, Helena puts in a phone call to her aunt, who probably called in a favor from her boss and now we'll be facing William Maitland," she said. "He's a far better attorney. He's probably the best lawyer on this side of the country including all of the fancy guys in New York. Our only advantage here is that he usually handles Criminal cases, like homicides etc. You've all seen him in the papers and on TV. They call him the Angel of death."
"Oh great," I said. "From what I've heard that guy never loses. I'm going to the chair for something I didn't do." Everyone laughed.
"Be serious Mr. Alexander," said Sarah. "Maitland is a very good attorney, but from our research, I can tell you that no matter what kind of case he's involved in, all he wants is the truth. Again if we can get him on our side, it will make things a lot easier for us. So we have to be straight and up front with him. Please look over the file on him I've prepared for you and the others too. We're having a meeting with him first thing in the morning, at the courthouse. Be professional and be polite. You're a charmer, make him like you."
"Okay, I'll do my best, but how do I do that?" I asked.
"Just be honest," she said. "Maitland is like me, he can smell a lie from a mile away."
"Oh, I forgot to tell you, he probably doesn't know he's handling the case yet?" she said.
I looked at her strangely. "Sarah, why doesn't he know?" Then I had another thought. "If he hasn't been assigned the case yet and he doesn't know, then why do you know?" I asked.
"Because that's what I do," she said. She handed me more files and pictures including another incredibly beautiful woman with an outstanding rack of her own. "That's Maitland's ex wife Debbie," said Sarah.
"There has to be something in the water," said Chris.
"Do I need to start drinking the Florida water, Chris?" asked Sarah.
"Nope you're perfect," he said smiling at her sheepishly.
Then we all left and headed for our own respective rooms. I studied each picture and the files associated with them. I did it the same way I look at a client's product line, looking for weaknesses and products that are a drain on the company. Sometimes they're great products that only need a different target audience or a different pricing structure. Sometimes they're simply deadwood. I will admit that I spent a lot of time looking at the picture of Helena Martinez. She was incredible.
Very early the next morning, we all got up and headed out. Sarah had decided that the best way for us to handle our meeting with Maitland would be to catch him on his way into his office.
Sarah and Chris greeted me warmly as we headed for the parking lot.
"I'll bet you miss your car," said Chris. "Rental cars suck."
I nodded my agreement. "The one I have isn't so bad," I said. As we neared the parking lot I pouted out the GT-H to him and his eyes got bigger.
"Oh my God, that's nice," he said.
"Mr. Alexander, do you really have to?" asked Sarah exasperatedly.
"I'll bet I can beat that one," said Chris. "But I want one anyway. Honey, this one is way closer to our price range," he whined.
"Rrrrrrrrrr," growled Sarah.
We drove over to the municipal complex that housed the court room and all of the office buildings for the county's legal teams.
We waited in a small cafe on the first floor that our target was known to frequent.
# # # # # # # # # # #
My name is Bill Maitland. I'm an Assistant State Attorney in the Jacksonville State Attorney's Office. Unofficially I'm the chief prosecutor which means that I get most of the juiciest and most important cases. Because of my success in high profile cases I'm viewed as the number one guy under the Big Man, State Attorney Austin Edwards. Austin is a friend and sometimes mentor figure to me, though we've bumped heads a time or two.
I had just parked my Escalade and headed to pick up my coffee of choice from the cafe across the street from my office when I noticed something different.
Two obviously not stock Muscle cars, both Mustangs were parked very close to my normal parking spot. As I stepped into the cafe, a tall pretty woman with long honey blond hair moved into step with me. "Good Morning Mr. Maitland," she said. I abruptly stopped and looked at her. She held out her hand for me to shake and I simply looked at it.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that several of the early morning patrons had already stopped their morning rituals to watch. The price of notoriety is that people are always watching me.
The easiest way to end the stares was to pretend that everything was normal and nothing was going on.
"I'm Sarah Price," she said. "You're not scheduled to be in court for a few hours so is it possible that you could sit down and talk with my boss for a few minutes?"
"Price," she supplied. "And actually it's Mrs. Harris, but I use my maiden name for business."
Whoever she's married to is one lucky bastard, I thought. She was very pretty. At first glance I thought she was one of those up and coming, fresh out of school attorneys that some of the bigwigs hired. That way they could develop their own legal talent while they were still affordable. Later on in their careers when they were no longer cheap, you could use the "But I gave you your first job when you got out of law school," line on them.
She was as I said tall. Her body was thin but curvy in the right places. Not in the same class as my wife Debbie. God, why did I still sometimes make that mistake even in my own mind and especially after all of the water that had passed under that bridge. My ex wife Debbie, who'd dumped me for a younger guy with a bigger dick. No, Sarah was no match for either Debbie or the current woman I was hoping to start something with, Myra Martinez.
But Sarah had a youthful vigor and a spark that neither of them could match and her legs were incredible.
"Mr. Maitland you're going to meet my boss one way or another anyway," she said. "We'd like it if our meetings weren't adversarial, so why not have a brief sit down before the hostilities begin?"
"Who's your boss?" I asked.
"Blake Alexander," she replied.
I'd heard of him. Who hadn't? Recently he'd been all over the newspapers. He was one of those California guys who had everything going for him and wanted more. He wasn't my type. The guy had everything, a great career, a beautiful if boring looking wife and more money than he could ever spend.
Recently, one of his former lovers had crawled out from under a rock somewhere and started making trouble for him. It was the same with all of these guys, his first line of defense was to claim he didn't know her. One of the local papers even had a banner headline using a quote from him. It read, "Billie Jean is not my lover." Yeah, sure. Why didn't he just pay the woman and get on with his life?
Still there was something interesting about Sarah if not necessarily her boss. "Lead the way, Ms. Price," I said.
She turned and started walking towards a booth in the rear of the cafe. I was suddenly glad I had manners. Sarah's rear view was a symphony of syncopated muscle movements and twitches that would drive any man to the brink of sanity. I was sure she'd thrown in just a little extra sash, in her sashay for my benefit.
Three men awaited us at the table she pointed to. One of them Monty Burns I remember from Law School. He'd been a couple of classes ahead of me but was a competent attorney. After graduating he'd headed out to the land of fruits and nuts to do entertainment law.
In the middle sat Blake Alexander. I recognized him from his pictures and TV. The boyish charm and good looks were even more intense in real life. I really wanted to hate him.
The third guy at the table could have been related to Alexander. He was roughly the same age, but cut from a slightly different cloth. His hair was darker, his eyes weren't that peculiar purple color that Alexander's were, but they had the same kind of appeal.
"The Angel of Death in person," smiled Alexander, extending his hand to me.
"And they call you Alexander the Great, don't they?" I asked. We both smiled.
"It's funny," he said. "A bunch of people who don't know us, or what we stand for, give us names that the public takes to more readily than they do the ones our parents gave us."
"All you've ever tried to do was to bring out the truth and make sure that the guilty got what they deserved," he said. "In my case all I'm trying to do is to advertise my client's products to the best of my ability. I don't conquer people or places. Despite our differences I think we're lot more alike than most people would ever believe."
God Damn it, I thought. I was going to like this bastard.
"Both of us are men who give our careers almost too much of our lives and attention until they put our families in danger," he said. The bastard had certainly done his homework.
"In fact this whole fiasco is putting so much pressure on my marriage that I'm not sure it will survive, Mr. Maitland," he said, looking me straight in the eye. Despite his slick way talking, I was sure he was being very straight with me. But I had run into people who were simply such good liars that they never even blinked, when telling lies in church. I'd imagine in his business, advertising you'd have to be a good liar to sell useless products to the public and make them believe they needed them.
"I still don't understand why I'm here, Mr. Alexander," I said.
"You're going to be assigned my case," he said. "I know that normally you handle criminal cases, but I guess my case is high profile enough that I merit the best." He smiled ruefully.
"In any case," he began again. "There are a few things I want you to know. First off, in the words of Bill Clinton, I did not have sex with that woman. I never saw Billie Jean until she walk into that awards ceremony. I'm not expecting you to give me any favors, but I wanted you to know that I did not do this. I love my wife more than I can ever say. This whole situation has driven a wedge between us and it gets worse every day."
"If I'm proven guilty in this case I will pay whatever the law requires and more, I have no problem doing that, but I really did not do this. I will cooperate with your investigation fully. Anything you need, you'll have. And to start with...Chris," he said.
The other young man at the table produced a brief case and brought it to me. The briefcase was full of files and records. There was a sheet on top with a list of account numbers and passwords.
"What is all of this?" I asked.
"All of my phone records for every phone used by anyone in my employ for the past two years," he said. "There are also banking records. There are a couple of documents that give you the right to search through any of my personal and corporate accounts online..." I looked at him.
"We assumed that if we gave you the phone records you'd think they were doctored. So assuming that you thought they might be doctored, having access to the accounts means that you can go in and without a court order, simply look through the phone company's servers for any information you need," he said. "We're trying to be completely transparent with you."
I looked puzzled. Alexander was unlike any other suspect I'd gone against.
"Also I'll be staying in Florida for probably another day. I'd like it if you could, once you find out that you have the case, arrange for my DNA to be taken and processed."
I nodded at him. I was taken aback. He was volunteering his DNA. "What makes you so sure that I'm going to be assigned your case?" I asked.
"Quite simple, Mr. Maitland," he said smiling. "I'm the best there is at what I do. You're the best there is at what you do. And I truly believe that Sarah is the best there is at what she does. Sarah's information says that you will be. I believe her. Now after the investigation goes forward, I'm expecting the first DNA test to prove that Billie Jean's child is more than likely mine." Everyone at the table gasped when he said that. The test will be inconclusive though, but it will prove the theory I've been working with for the past few days."
"What theory is that?" I asked.
"I'm not ready to reveal that yet," he said. "But when this all comes out and I'm exonerated, I'll expect you to pursue the true villains here with the same zeal that the press has hounded me with." He smiled and got up extending his hand again and I took it. "We'll be in touch," he said. Then he and his people left. I was shaken by the whole thing. Did I at his age have anywhere near that amount of poise or cunning? Probably not.
# # # # # # # # # # #
"Helena Martinez tried for the fourth time that morning to adjust the ancient fan in her small office so it would direct a stream of moderately cooler air towards her desk.
She really wished that she could simply take off all of her clothes and run around naked. She laughed at the image. What she really wished was that her job would allow her to be as daring in her dress as her aunt was and still maintain a sense of professionalism.
Her aunt had been cursed or blessed, depending on your viewpoint even more than Helena had. But her aunt had the status of her employer's office to keep the wolves at bay.
If she came to work in a blouse or shirt that showed even part of her cleavage, all of the years of striving to be recognized for her skill and dedication to the job would be over. The worst part during Florida's brutal summers was that she couldn't even wear a sleeveless shirt because then the men just tried to look at her boobs from the side of the shirt through the arm holes.
As it was now she was very proud of being the very best case worker in her department. All of her clients called her Miss Martinez and a very few of them called her Helena, if they were good and doing what they were supposed to be. But if they missed a payment or mistreated their kids in any way shape or form. Both her name and her temper got shorter and then they just called her Hell, cause that's what she gave them.
In frustration she just turned the fan off. She'd noticed that the motor on the back of the fan was about to overheat. It was putting more warm air out than the amount of cooler air the blades were producing.
As she turned the fan off it fell off of her desk. She bent over to make sure the fan wasn't damaged.
As she bent over, the movement causing her ass to stick straight up, she saw him out of the corner of her eye. He seemed to be shaking his head. She imagined what he was thinking and erupted, before she gave it a second thought.
"Get the hell out of my office. What are you some kind of peeping Tom. If you'd get off your lazy ass and get a job, you could pay for internet service and see all of the pictures of bent over women you want. Maybe you could even make your child support payments on time and we wouldn't have to have these meetings set up," she screamed, as she straightened up.
"Wow," he said smiling. "That probably scares them off doesn't it?"
Helena looked at him for a second. There was something familiar about him, but she'd never seen him before.
"Maybe we should start again," he said. He held out his hand for her to shake in a professional manner. "I'm not one of your cases yet," he said. "His clothes were certainly better than anything the people she dealt with could afford. There was also just something different about him. She really found herself wanting to like him.
"Who are you?" she asked in a tone that was just slightly less gruff. "Do you have an appointment?"
"Nope," he smiled. "But I figured that since we're going to be spending a lot time together, I should drop in to meet you before you sick your dogs on me."
Oh shit, she thought. He was definitely a smooth one. He was probably one of those guys who charmed your panties off, left you pregnant and was shocked when you tracked him down to make him pay for the child he left behind.
"If you don't have an appointment, why are you here?" she asked. She could play his little game too. "Shouldn't you be hiding somewhere, hoping we don't track you down and force you to deal with your responsibility?"
"Nope," he said again. God damn it, he had this way of making her think that he wasn't a bad guy.
"How about if we try this a different way?" he said. "I've already spoken to the prosecutor who'll be handling my case. I've volunteered to give my DNA as soon as possible and I'd like to have you go over my records and tell me exactly how much I'll have to pay, possibly."
That certainly was different, thought Helena. He hadn't yet been proven the father, but he was already here. Instead of hiding and trying to avoid this, he’s coming in and volunteering. Maybe he'd be one of the rare good ones.
"What's your name?" she asked smiling. She may as well try and get things off on a good foot.
"Blake Alexander, "he smiled back.
Helena could only stand there staring at him. This man had enough money and influences to have kept this case out of court for many years. Probably until the woman accusing him couldn't afford the delays and just settled out of court for what would amount to a pittance to him. But here he was, showing up and volunteering his DNA and his records. Something was funny.
She brushed her hands over her clothes to straighten them out without appearing to do so and looked at him. Without realizing that she did it she also licked her lips and smiled a tiny bit brighter as well.
"Would you like me to have my secretary bring you some coffee or something," she said. "I need to find the file and go over the information we have. I'm not sure who'll be litigating your case or even if litigation will be necessary."
"Your secretary isn't out there, that's why I just walked in," he smiled. "And litigation will definitely be necessary because," he shrugged his shoulders. "Miss Martinez, I know that you're not going to believe me, almost no one does, but I'm not the father. I'm very sure that you've heard that, thousands of times in your line of work. You don't know me and you have no reason to believe me. So let's just make this as pleasant as possible for both of us."
As she looked at him she noticed that a little bit of the boyish charm and swagger had worn away. He looked as if he'd been slightly worn down around the edges by all of the pressure of being under the spotlight. The vulnerability actually enhanced his attractiveness even more. Inspite of herself, Helena could feel something for this man already. It didn't make sense. And her track record with men was dismal.
"Mr. Alexander, you said something interesting. You said the prosecutor assigned to your case..."she began.
"Yes, Miss Martinez, it would appear that your Aunt was able to get the case assigned to Bill Maitland," he said.
"Well both Mr. Maitland and I would need to speak to the mother first, before we could go into the specifics of the case. All we really have right now is the complaint she signed..."
"She's in California still, doing the talk show circuit and trying to trash my good name," he said.
"I just wanted to come in and hand over my records so the investigation can proceed and all of our dealings with one another can be pleasant or at least as straight forward as possible," he continued.
"I'd like to return home sometime within the next day or so, would it be possible for you and Mr. Maitland to arrange for them to swab my cheek and get my sample sent out to the lab?" he asked.
"I'll see what I can do," she said. As he started to leave, she stopped him. "I can see that this is pretty hard on you, Mr. Alexander..."
"Please, call me Blake," he said.
"Blake, why didn't you just pay her or arrange something when she first told you? You wouldn't have had to go through all of this."
"Miss Martinez, I was never given the chance to do that. I found out about the child the same way you did. I read about it in the paper. I was never once contacted or told about it before then. I gave Mr. Maitland all of my phone records to prove that. In fact, I never actually met Billie Jean before my awards dinner. All of the things she's saying on TV and in the print media about how she tried to contact me for months are simply not true."
As he walked away, Helena was surprised. In the five years that she'd been doing her job, she'd heard hundreds of ridiculous and farfetched things. She'd gotten to the point where she'd thought that she was a fairly good judge of character. She really believed this one. She dialed her Aunt's phone to get Maitland's number.
# # # # #
By the time we got back on the plane the next day Helena Martinez and Bill Maitland had arranged and received my sample. Both were beyond courteous in our dealings.
Both were also trying to arrange to speak with Billie Jean. Helena was trying to find out as much as she could about the whereabouts and disposition of my supposed son. After all, if I was going to have to pay for support for him, I'd be entitled to see him and have a say in his life and living arrangements. Both Maitland and Martinez expressed their concerns about certain aspects of the way that Billie Jean was handling things.
I had given Sarah the assignment of finding out as much as she could about the child and his whereabouts. As good as the Florida Attorney's office was and I was sure they had their own investigators, Sarah was simply, better.
None of that mattered, within hours we were back in California and my life had gotten worse. Before the plane landed, there were already reporters waiting for me.
"Have you seen the latest headlines?" I was asked.
"Did you fly to Florida for a secret tryst with your lover?" another asked.
"Who was the mystery woman you met with in Florida?" someone asked.
"What about your divorce?" someone asked. That caught me by surprise, and outraged me. I instantly put two and two together and came up with three. I assumed that they thought that I wanted to divorce Mary Beth for Billie Jean.
"That won't ever happen," I said, breaking the rule of common sense and engaging in an impromptu talk with a person who would only take my words and twist them into the most salacious form possible in order to sell a few papers.
"I love Mary Beth far too much to ever leave her for anyone," I said firmly. There was a round of laughter after that. I got into my Shelby and headed for the office. Once I got there I noticed that the usual rounds of good natured joking that usually accompanied my return from a trip were absent. The majority of the associates and my co-workers wouldn't meet my eyes.
Myra hustled me into the office and closed the door behind us. She handed me a stack of newspapers. The headline on the first one was hilarious. "Alexander the Great vs. the Angel of Death." The accompanying article told about how my crime was so bad that I'd probably be the first person to get the electric chair for fathering a child.
The next paper was nearly as bad and as untrue, "Alexander sneaks off to Florida to make secret deal behind Billie Jean's back."
Another paper didn't even try to get any facts. They just made something up, "Alexander goes to Florida for yet another woman." There was a picture of myself and Helena. I wondered how she'd take the publicity. I hoped that she wouldn't think that I'd caused it.
The one that hurt me the most was a local paper. The headline printed in it struck a dagger in my heart. "Mary Beth files for divorce against cheating spouse." It wasn't me divorcing her over Billie Jean; Mary Beth had simply come to the end of her rope. According to the article she was seeking a divorce from me citing irreconcilable differences. In the article she said that things between us had been bad for a long time. Billie Jean wasn't the cause of the divorce, just the final insult. I was hurt beyond belief. We had in fact been very happy until Billie Jean stuck her nose into our life. At least I'd thought we were. I wondered why MB had said that.
I collapsed into my chair. I really wanted to start crying right then and there. I grabbed my cell phone and called MB. I hoped more than anything that the article in the paper wasn't true.
Myra handed me a stack of phone messages. One stuck out more than anything else, a message from my old college rival. He'd struck out on his own and started his own advertising firm. For a small potatoes outfit they weren't bad. Of course he wasn't in our league but he was good. He probably just wanted to take this chance to strike while I was down and twist the knife a bit.
It was funny. We'd always been rivals, but friendly ones. I'd even sent a few clients that couldn't afford us his way over the past few years. I guess that Cyndi Lauper had it right. Money changes everything. I declined to return any of the calls.
The phone on my desk started ringing then. It hadn't gone through Myra's line; it had come straight to my direct line.
The partners wanted to see me. What else could go wrong?
As I walked through the offices most of the associates ignored me. A few, maybe three or four out of the tenth of so advertising reps waved at me or gave me the thumbs up sign. Three guys and one woman. I made note of who they were. In a few months when this was all over and I was back on top, I'd remember them. I was sure that I was going to have to explain my usage of the company jet for my trip to Florida. Or the fact that I hadn't given them any further information on the status of the French hotel deal. As soon as I spoke to the partners, I'd have to call Gascon and arrange something to make it look like the deal was proceeding as expected.
I stepped into the office that I'd been in thousands of times over the past few years. The climate was different. It was like being in Africa among a herd of Zebras. There's a certain kind of tension in the air that lets the Zebras know when a predator is about to strike and all of the Zebras take off. It felt like that in the office. Generally when I address these old men it's been from a position of strength. There have been times when certain partners didn't agree with or simply did not like something I'd planned, but I was usually able to garner enough support based on my track record or the amount of money I'd made for the firm.
This time there were no friendly faces in the meeting. Arthur Harris was absolutely gloating. I knew before he'd even begun to speak, that I wasn't Alexander the great today. I wasn't even Alexander the not so good. I was Napoleon at Waterloo. To put it simply, I was fucked. The decision had already been made.
"Blake," began Harris, in a tone that was dripping with fake concern, which only served to cover the sarcasm and the genuine malice he really intended. "You've made a lot of money for the firm, over the years. But all of this publicity is causing us to lose clients. So we'd like you to take a leave of absence until this whole thing blows over."
"Of course we'll keep you on the books as a consultant so you'll still draw fifty percent of your current salary. Two million dollars a year should keep you in Mustangs," he smiled. "And you can devote most of your time to taking care of this. These headlines simply aren't good for business and this will enable the firm to distance itself from you and all of the negativity."
Of course the papers would only say that I had left the firm indefinitely, which the average person would interpret as meaning I'd been fired. They'd assume that the firm was trying to put it nicely to make sure that there was no wrongful termination suit. Since this wasn't about my work or the quality of my work, I'd have a darn good chance of winning a suit, like that. The two million was a payoff to prevent the suit as well.
"Of course as soon..."he began.
"Arthur, shut the fuck up," I said. "I've begun to see that things aren't the way I've always thought they were. You spend your life working your ass off to improve things and provide for people you think will be loyal to you. But at the first sign of trouble, they abandon you."
I looked around the table and surprisingly none of the old men would meet my eyes. "Out of all of you sanctimonious old bitches, I actually have the most respect for you, Arthur. You and I have never seen eye to eye on most things. At least you have a reason for wanting to see me gone. The rest of you are just...Pfah. I don't have words for you. To save you the trouble of going through all of this bullshit, I quit."
And I walked out of the room.
I walked straight out of the building, got into my car and drove away.
When I got home, feeling worse than I'd ever felt in my life, I just wanted to forget about the entire day. More than anything I just wanted to sit down and talk this whole thing out with my wife. I was sure that if I could just explain to her what was going on or what I thought was going on she'd at least give me a chance to fix it somehow.
That was when I found her note on the kitchen table. She'd gone away with her sister for a few days. We could talk about the best way to handle the divorce when she got back. She didn't even tell me when she would be back.
Less than a month ago I'd been Blake Alexander, and I had the world on a string. I had a great job, a great life and I was married to the woman of my dreams. Now I was unemployed, my life was in the toilet, my wife had abandoned me. The string seemed to have wrapped itself around my throat and was choking the shit out of me.
That night I sat alone in my house getting drunk as hell. I was wallowing in self pity. I'd lost it all, my cushy job, having everybody like me and even my wife. That was the toughest pill of all to swallow. I'd done everything for that woman. I'd even put up with all of her weird ass relatives and all the skeletons in their fucking closet. The first time things don't look good, she bails on me.
That was really it. Mary Beth had always been about appearances. In public she was the perfect arm candy wife. In private, she was an absolute whore. God I loved her. God I missed her. God I couldn't stand that bitch for doing this to me. What had she done to me...I'd forgotten. I must have really been drunk if I couldn't remember what she'd done to me. Well anyway, it didn't matter, I had the power of liquor and I didn't need her anymore. I was thinking clearly for the first time since the last time I was this drunk. Then the phone rang. I answered it.
"Who does this be being?" I asked. Surprisingly he didn't understand me.
"Uhm, Blake, is that you?" he asked. Of course with my absolute clarity of mind brought about by my new mental powers, I totally understood everything.
"Are you drunk?" he asked. "That doesn't seem like the Alexander I know."
"Caesar, is that you?" I slurred. "Seize the fucking day Caesar. It is day isn't it? I don't know about the fucking part. Except that Billie Jean pretty well fucked up all of the fucking. She chased Mary Beth off. Anyway you can have it all now."
"You're drunk aren't you?" he asked.
"Yes, I am." I said. "And you should be too."
"That bitch really did a number on you didn't she?" he asked. "We all warned you," he said.
"I know," I laughed. "People always told me, be careful what you do don't go around...making dumb girls fart. Someone also told me, be careful who you love. Be careful where you toot, or your thighs will fill with poot, hey, hey."
"Damn Caesar, that was good. I should write a song," I said laughing.
"Uhm, Blake, I wanted to talk to you," he said. "So I'll call you in the morning." Then he hung up.
Several hours and a lot of drinks later, my phone rang.
"What?" I said.
"Blake, are you drunk?" asked a voice. Then I heard laughter. "Your life is all fucked up now isn't it? I told you what would happen. You've lost everything, even my stupid sister. I warned you. But it's not over. Wait until you see what happens tonight." Then she hung up and I passed out.
The next day I woke up. I know that sounds crazy, but I was lucky to wake up at all. I could have died from alcohol poisoning from the amount of liquor I'd put away. The phone rang and it sounded as if it was the loudest thing in the world. I quickly turned it off.
My head was fuzzy, so fuzzy that I could barely think. I did remember that Mary Beth had left me. I threw up all over the tile of my kitchen floor. Why had I been sleeping on the floor in the kitchen?
The sound of my cleaning lady coming into the kitchen also focused me. She came in and smiled at me. Then she either saw or smelled the vomit and made a very ugly face.
"It's okay Mr. Alexander, I'll clean it up," she said. I got up and went upstairs to take a shower. I noticed that most of Mary Beth's clothes and jewelry were still there. Her clothes were everything to her. She was planning on coming back. I'd have to tell Burns to find out who she'd hired as an attorney and arrange for Mary Beth's things to be taken somewhere.
If she wanted out of the marriage, that was fine with me. I didn't blame her. I guess I was more hurt than anything else. It just goes to show you how little we know the people we love. I'd always thought that MB and I were forever. But the first spot of trouble and she goes running. I guess it didn't do her image any good to see in the papers that her husband had gotten some girl pregnant, even if it wasn't true.
I'd always thought that MB would stick with me through thick and thin. I guess it's good I found out now, that it wasn't the case. I got to my feet and slowly made my way up the stairs. I hadn't been this drunk since college. What did I do back then?
I took a long cold shower which focused my brain a little bit. Then I threw on some running shorts. I stopped off in my kitchen after that and drank a half a glass of orange juice and a handful of tiny twisted pretzels with cheese on them. I ate a couple of slices of my favorite Canadian Maple turkey and threw on my running shoes. It had been a while since I went out for a run. There usually just wasn't time for it while I was working so much.
The first few steps were the worst. My lungs burned and my head ached. After that I got into an easy rhythm and it was as if I'd never stopped running. Sure my pace wasn't as fast as I used to run, but this was about thinking and getting clear, not speed or distance.
As I ran I took stock of my life. The main thing that most people worry about is survival. In real world terms, that meant having a place to live and food to eat. Those are the true necessities. For a man once those have been solved, the next things are a reason to be and someone or something to share it with.
Suddenly I started smiling. I had enough money that I never had to work again unless I just wanted to. Food and shelter were a given. My house was in my name and paid for. Even in a divorce it would be difficult for Mary Beth to get the house. I could start moving money around instantly to cover myself in the divorce. Getting another job wouldn't be difficult once the Billie Jean thing died down. There'd be lots of companies that would be willing to give me a chance as soon as I cleared this shit up.
And as for Mary Beth, if I couldn't count on her when the going got rough, as bad as I felt right now, did I really need her? I was sure that when all of this was over she'd come crawling back to me. But I wasn't so sure I wanted her back.
When I got back from the run, my maid's car was gone. Mary Beth's car was in the driveway though. I quickly opened up the door. I was sure she'd be bent over the couch waiting for me. That was the way we always made up. Make up sex was the best.
I stealthily opened the door and my heart almost popped out of my chest. Mary Beth was naked as a jaybird and bent over my three thousand dollar sofa alright. Only some guy I'd never seen before was pumping his dick in and out of her like there was no tomorrow. I watched for a few seconds before anyone was aware that I was there.
The weirdest thing about the scene was that the guy was doing his best to fuck the shit out of her, but MB was just lying there taking it. It just didn't seem like her at all. Then I noticed Tina sitting in a chair just watching them, as calmly as if she was watching it on TV.
I stepped into the room and grabbed the guy with both of my hands around his throat. I yanked him backwards out of my wife. Unlike what you read on the internet there was no popping sound as his dick came free. There was only the barest possible shattering sound as my already broken heart disintegrated even further.
The guy was slightly bigger than me but it didn't make a difference. He was already off balance from being pulled backwards out of MB. I slammed him down onto the hardwood floor and pistoned my fist into him several times. I hit him in the face and the stomach. Then I dragged him out the door and left him naked from the waist down in my driveway.
I turned to face Mary Beth and her sister. "Get the fuck out of my house," I said calmly. Tina sat there smiling. Mary Beth was shocked. The expression on her face let me know that this wasn't what she'd expected.
"Blake this isn't your house, it's ours," she said. "I live here too."
"Show me your name anywhere on the fucking mortgage, or anything else," I snapped.
"You filed for a fucking divorce. When we get to court, if a judge rules it, you might get the house. That is if I don't have my lawyers keep us out of court for 5 or 6 years, in the meantime I'll be living here without you. That is also only if I don't burn this fucking place to the ground before you move back in. More than likely in a divorce we'd have a fifty/fifty split of the assets and I'd make sure you didn't have enough money to buy me out of the place. Now go."
"Blake I don't really want a divorce. Tina said that if I filed, the reporters would find out about it and then leave me alone. I just felt so bad about you lying to me about this whole thing. Tina said that the only way for us to get even would be if I did something too. So we went out and I did some really bad things. And I'm sorry Blake, but it still didn't feel right," she said. "After I wrote you that note I knew it was wrong. I didn't really want to be away from from you. I love you too much for that. But Tina was right, I had to do something to let you know the pain that I was feeling. So I figured that letting that guy fuck me would hurt you, like you and Billie Jean hurt me. It didn't mean anything and he wasn't even any good. It was..."
"Mary Beth get the fuck out of my house and take your piece of shit sister with you," I snapped.
"Blake if I leave, I'm not coming back," she said. "Everyone knows how you've humiliated me in public with this whole fucking Billie Jean thing. If you'd just admitted it from the beginning and gave the little bitch some money it would be all over by now. But day after fucking day, I'm humiliated over and over again because of you. You should be kissing my ass to get me back."
I just started laughing. "Thanks MB," I said. "Last night I got so drunk I couldn't see. Not because I lost my fucking job or anything like that but because I was so upset about losing you. Now I see that I haven't lost shit. And don't worry about coming back. I'm sure our security system has footage of what you were doing with your boy toy. I'll use that when I counter-file for the divorce. We had a great marriage or so I thought. But once again I was wrong. I thought you were the person I wanted to see eternity with. I'm glad I found out that I was wrong so early in life and don't have to waste anymore of my time on you. Boy are you going to feel stupid when this is over, now go."
I went back upstairs for another shower. But this time I felt good about it. I realized then that I'd truly hit bottom so there was no way for things to get any worse. I was down as far as I could possibly go. The only way left for me to go was up. I even smiled at Tina as I flashed my middle finger at her on my way up the stairs.
When I came back down the stairs after taking another longer, slower shower and changing into more comfortable clothing, I was ready for a more reasonable talk with Mary Beth. I'd listen to whatever she had to say but Tina had to go. Luckily as I looked around the house I discovered that both of them had already left.
My head was clearer and surprisingly I felt good. I know that it seems like I was in denial or shock. Some would think that I was running on adrenalin after all of the shocks I'd recently suffered. And maybe that was a part of it. I remember once when I'd been marketing a book by a famous psychologist that he'd written about divorces and infidelity. He seemed to think that if you could quickly just walk away from your spouse, then you had never really loved them in the first place. For years I'd believed him. But right then I wanted to sit down and talk with him about updating his theory.
I had loved Mary Beth for as long as I'd known her. But her actions had destroyed it.
Walking in and catching her drunk and fucking some guy was just the tip of the ice berg. Her lack of faith in me had been the real deal breaker. As I thought about it, her not believing me wasn't even the worst of it. I remembered back a little over three weeks ago when this all started. She'd offered me a get out of jail card, if I confessed. That told me something even worse about all of this. She'd been willing to forgive and forget, me cheating on her. What she couldn't get past was simply her reputation being damaged by the negative publicity.
So the woman I loved above all else, was vain above all else. Maybe she was right about all of this, we did have irreconcilable differences. Had the shoe been on the other foot, I'd have reacted totally different. I wouldn't have cared a whit, if every newspaper in the world thought she was a whore. I'd have proudly gone everywhere with her on my arm. But if she had actually cheated on me, that would have killed me. So what did she do? She went out and cheated on me. Game over we were done.
I was just trying to figure out how to explain all of that to her, when I realized that it might be best to give it a day or two before trying to contact her. We'd both probably said things that could have been said better. I was sure that the two of us were done, but I really wanted an amicable divorce.
Now I had to figure out what to do with myself. I decided to do one of my very favorite thinking activities. I went out to the garage and got out all of my car cleaning and detailing products. Back when I had a job I couldn't afford the time necessary to wash my car myself. I liked doing it but it just took too long to do it right.
Since I was a bum, I had all of the time in the world. It was early afternoon and I rinsed the car down to loosen all of the accumulated surface dirt. That was all it took to jog my memory. As I looked at the car it started me to thinking about the other Mustang. Myra had arranged for me to buy that car if I wanted it and I did. That got me to thinking about Myra. I pulled out my cell phone and called her.
"It's about time you called me," she snapped. "I can't take any more of this."
"Can't take any more of what?" I asked.
"Being out of work and sitting at home," she said. "My husband is at work and my kids are driving me crazy."
"Myra, you aren't out of work. There are probably 5 or 6 of the associates alone who'd want you. And if you didn't want to work for them there's always the pool," I said. "I'm the one who's out of work," I said. "Not you."
"There were more than ten who wanted me," she said. "But you kind of get used to working for the best. It took me too long to train you to how I like my boss to work."
"Ha, ha," I said. "When I first picked you, you couldn't even sharpen a pencil." We spent a few minutes laughing and reminiscing about things we'd done over the past few years.
"Blake, seriously," she said. "What did you think about Anthony's offer?"
"What offer?" I asked. As I said it I remembered talking to him the previous evening, but I couldn't remember a word of the conversation. "Oh, shit," I said. "He called me while I was drunk and depressed. I probably made a fool of myself. Well I guess that's off the table whatever it was."
"He wanted you to come to work for him," she said.
"Myra I love you, but you're deranged. I made more money last year in salary than his agency brought in. He can't afford me," I said. "But you know what," I said, thinking about it. "Maybe I should start my own agency. Myra, you're on vacation for the next couple of days, until I get some things straightened out. Be ready to go back to work. We'll negotiate your new salary and responsibilities as soon as we get a chance."
Why not? Why couldn't I start my own agency? Just as I was starting to consider how I'd go about it, my phone rang.
"Mr. Alexander, I have some information for you," said Sarah. "I've found out where she lives, but still no sign of where the baby is. She has a boyfriend. A guy named believe it or not Carmen San Diego. I have no known address for him either. I believe she has someone looking after the child while she's been in Cali. Mr. Maitland has been trying to find out things about her too, may I share our information with him as well?"
"Yes Sarah, please do that. And share it with Miss Martinez as well, "I said "Although in her case you might not want to mention that I asked you to. I'd imagine she'd pretty pissed at me for the articles in the paper."
After the call from Sarah, I started imagining what the logo for my new agency would look like. I saw two crossed A's. Alexander Advertising. I was just rotating the image in my mind when the phone rang again.
"Damn it, Blake, I can't keep up with you," said Burns. "As soon as we get off the fucking plane, I'm bombarded with questions about your divorce and who's getting what. Then this morning, before I can even call you to ask you how you'd like to proceed Mary Beth calls me, crying. Not her lawyer, Mary Beth herself. In all of the years I've known the two of you I've never heard her cry. The woman is usually as composed as a beauty queen. But she was bawling her fucking eyes out. I told her that I shouldn't be speaking to her that it's unethical. She should have her lawyer call me. She told me that she wants to stop the divorce proceedings immediately and that she'd made a terrible mistake. How am I supposed to tell the fucking reporters that there isn't going to be a divorce? Should I just tell them that the whole thing was from someone being misquoted?"
"Monty, who do you work for?" I asked.
"You Blake," he said.
"Have I asked you to stop the divorce?" I asked.
"Well, uhm, no," he said. "But I..."
"No buts, Monty, get back to work," I said and hung up.
Just as I was about to dip my microfiber towel in my bucket of Turtle wax car wash solution, a car pulled up in my driveway.
Caesar Anthony got out of it.
"You look better than you sounded on the phone last night," he said.
"I still feel like shit, Seize, but I'm going to take it one day at a time," I said.
"Same old Blake," he said.
"Nope," I said. "This is a totally new, far more driven Blake, standing in front of you. I'm like a guy in a bar fight. While I've been sitting here drinking on my stool, not bothering a soul, some asshole comes up and sucker punched me. That's really what Billie Jean did, she sucker punched me. I didn't know what was going on and my whole world just went to shit. There was nothing I could do about it but absorb the punches and let everyone get their shots in. Lately the punches have kept coming but I've suddenly got my guard up. I've taken some steps both here and in Florida to get that guard up and I'm defending myself against those punches now." I took up a boxing stance and held my hands up in front of me so he could see them.
"So Seize, if you've come here to gloat or to take your shot at kicking me while I'm down, get on with it but remember, I won't be down forever. Long before anyone expects it, I'll be on my way back up. And this time I'll aim even higher."
"You know," he said. "Last night I understood it. You were upset about the whole Billie Jean thing. Then on top of that, your wife files for a divorce while you're out of town. But maybe you should take a look at yourself too, Blake. All through college you and I competed with each other. Sometimes it was tooth and nail. But it was always in my mind, a friendly competition, based on mutual respect."
He paused and looked at me. "We competed because we both wanted to be the best, but we never cheated. And we never kicked each other when we were down. Something else I remember about you Blake. You always had class. Remember when you broke up with that cheerleader...Sue Anne something or other? I started dating her about a week after you two broke up. I never knew it but she was just trying to use me to get back with you. When you ran into us, you didn't whine or act like a little bitch or try to get macho. You came over shook my hand and wished us well."
I smiled remembering what he was talking about.
"Then in our sophomore year, Mandy Grayson dumped me," he said. "That bitch put me through hell. I knew she was trying to go after you, but you didn't give her the time of day. I'd been trying to get myself ready so I could handle the situation in as classy a way as you had, but I didn't think I could, I was still too hurt. I still remember you coming over to me and telling me, that the true measure of a man isn't the respect he gets from his friends, but the respect he gets from his opponents. And you respected me too much to go after Mandy when A she wasn't worthy of me anyway and B there were plenty of other women around."
He just shook his head. "I thought about both situations then Blake and I realized a few things. Number one as soon as she found out that you weren't going to try to get back with her Sue Anne dropped me like a hot rock. She was using me to get back at you and I fell for it. Everyone I knew told me that you'd go after Mandy and turn about was fair play. But you were above all of that then. That's the way I see it now."
"I didn't come here to gloat or to rub your face in anything. I came here to offer you a job," he said. And he turned and started walking back to his car.
"Wait Seize," I called. "What did you have in mind?"
We spent the rest of the afternoon talking. There were a few things of interest to both of us. Our strengths actually complemented each other. Caesar was an executive. He was great at delegating and running the business. He needed an office manager to handle all of the paperwork and clerical things, but the whole executive profile fit him to a tee.
I on the other hand, hate all of the bullshit socializing and company to company get-togethers. I hate paper work and employee evaluations. I hate signing requisitions for paperclips and toner. Shit, I rarely get to work on time. I do one thing really fucking well. Sell advertising campaigns. I'm very good at meeting clients and telling them what I can do for them, but after that I have just enough contact with them to plan out what we'll do for their account and then show it to them for their feedback. After that I'm back hunting for new business.
This was a good thing. It meant that we wouldn't get on each other's toes. But the bottom line was as I had already told Myra, I made four million dollars the previous year. CA associates only sold 1.5 million dollars in total sales for that same period of time. He simply could not come anywhere close to affording me.
It wasn't that I was above coming down in salary, it would simply be crazy for me to put myself in a situation where I'd be working in a smaller company and doing much more work for much less compensation.
"Well, I guess it just wasn't meant to be, Blake," he said. "But I'm sure you'll bounce back."
Suddenly I had what I thought was the answer. "Seize how much is your company worth?" I asked.
"Well my banker tried to get two million dollars from a consortium that wanted to buy us out, but they balked and bought another similar company," he said.
"Okay let's say that is your current value then," I said. "Sell me half of it. We'll be partners. 50/50."
He thought about the idea and we dickered. We came up with the idea that he and I would each own 45 percent of the company. We would look over everyone who worked for us over the next few days and divide the remaining 10 percent of the company between the employees who remained with us. We'd probably have to re-staff and make a few other decisions, including hiring more associates, but we could work out the details later. It was nearly six o'clock California time and he had an engagement planned for the evening.
As he drove off, I was actually happy. The partnership I'd worked so hard for at McMillan Worth, was finally mine albeit at a far smaller company...for now. I called Myra.
"Hello," she said answering her phone.
"What the hell are you doing?" I yelled. Before she could figure out what was going on, I continued. "Get your ass back to work, tomorrow, 9 a.m."
"So I take you accepted the job from Anthony," she smirked. "What would you like your loyal assistant to do first?"
"Nope," I smirked back. "I bought half of his company."
There was silence on the line.
"Myra the first thing I want you to do is get my Florida car paid for. You still have all of my account info right? And after that I need you to interview and hire a new assistant for me."
"Why would you need a new assistant?" she asked. "What’s wrong with me?"
"Myra, you're going to be the office manager and a minor stockholder." Before I could finish she was screaming and crying.
"I can't wait to go back to McMillan Worth to clean out my desk," she said.
After hanging up the phone, I wandered around my house. It felt empty. I guess no matter how nice the house may be, without someone to share it with, it's really just a big box to keep your stuff in. It takes love and memories to make a house into a home. I went into the kitchen and remembered that less than a day ago; I'd been at the lowest point in my life and still headed downwards. I'd stopped falling and had reached a solid bottom so now I could only head for the top.
The soft buzzing at my hip startled me. It wasn't the house phone it was my cell phone.
"Mr. Alexander," the voice was quiet and tentative with just a trace of an accent, mostly on the vowels and a few consonants. I recognized it but I wasn't sure who it belonged to.
"Yes," I said. Shit it could be another reporter.
"I'm not angry with you," she said. "I realize that what happened in the papers was not your fault. Is your life always that way?"
"Yep, all the time," I said.
"And I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry about you losing your marriage over this. Somehow it just doesn't seem fair. Everything about this seems funny. You claim this is not your child, yet you step forward to take responsibility, just in case. Meanwhile neither I or my people can find any information about the child or his living conditions while the mother is across the country going on TV shows, talking about how all she wants is Justice and the best for a child she left nearly a month ago and has not been home to visit since."
"Thank you, Miss Martinez," I said. "It makes me feel good to know that the Florida State officials are interested in finding out the truth."
"You can call me Helena," she said. "I'm not in the office right now."
We actually spent the rest of the evening on the phone. It was one of the most pleasant conversations I'd had in a long time. I told her about how all of the Billie Jean stuff had begun. And about my life in general. She sympathized with me about the stupid way that this whole situation had destroyed my feelings for Mary Beth and our marriage.
When I asked her about why someone as attractive as she was wasn't out with her boyfriend or husband, she filled me in on her life. Her personal tragedy was nearly as sad as my own. She'd been in three relationships during her whole life and all of them had ended in part to her physical attributes or the way people thought she was because of them.
Her first boyfriend had wooed her during college. It took her months to become comfortable enough with him to give herself to him and it turned out, that he was only a very patient predator. His only intention from the beginning had been to as she later heard from a mutual friend, "To get his hands on those Tig Ass Bitties."
Once she'd heard about this, she'd dumped him with extreme prejudice. To make the breakup even more painful, she'd called him over and had him bring a couple of friends on the pretense of helping her move some heavy furniture. Once they'd arrived, she met him at the door in only a very low cut sweater with no bra. While his eyes nearly exploded, she'd told him to start by putting the boxes on her porch into his car.
"What's in the boxes, babe?" he'd asked.
"All of your shit," she'd replied. "Take it all home with you, we're done. And you should probably take a picture of these," she said leaning forward towards him. "Because you'll never see or touch them again."
Her second lover was one of her professors a couple of years later. That had been a mistake from the beginning. He'd given her all of the classic lines about how his wife didn't understand him. She'd been flattered by the attention from an older more sophisticated man, he had more experience and was far more gentle than all of the boys who constantly followed her breasts around.
In the end it came down just the same to quickies in cheap hotels and in his office after hours. The final straw was when she actually met his wife. The callous, conniving bitch who didn't understand him and made his life a living hell, turned out to be a very sweet, caring woman who loved her husband an incredible amount and was completely devoted to him. The worse thing was that she actually invited Helena to their home so she could seek extra help from the professor. The poor woman truly believed that her husband loved her as much as she loved him. She had no idea of what a bastard he was.
The finale of Helena's romantic escapades had come from an old friend whom she'd lost touch with. When they reconnected at a picnic for her mom's church, she'd become very interested in him. Perhaps someone she'd grown up around, who shared a similar background and upbringing might be the answer.
Life had thrown him a few lemons, but he was trying to rise above his station. He'd just gotten out of jail and was looking for a job. Over a few months, depression from not finding the perfect job had escalated until she found herself screaming at him to just take any fucking job and stop mooching off of her. He could probably find something if he'd get off her fucking couch and turn off the play station. He'd gone out and gotten drunk. The argument that followed led to him hitting her.
Before he could apologize she'd called the cops and gotten him removed. She set all of his stuff outside where he could find it. There was no going back from that. She worked all day long with women who were the victims of abuse. She'd never allow herself to become one of them. She took several pictures of herself with her face swollen up, as a reminder of what she would look like. It had been more than enough to deter her from going out with anyone she even thought had a temper.
Before we knew it we'd talked the evening away. She didn't want to get off of the phone, but I reminded her that she had work tomorrow.
"Don't you?" she asked. I laughed realizing that after less than a day, I was no longer unemployed.
The next few days were a flurry of activity. Anthony-Alexander LLC was getting ready to open for business. We rented out a much larger office suite and bought equipment. Caesar Anthony had misgivings about it. "We can't really afford this yet. We don't have any clients," he said.
"Don't worry," I told him. "Our first step is to get set up. After that the rest will handle itself or we'll handle it."
Seize shrugged his shoulder and threw himself into it. We retained his personal assistant and hired a new girl to serve as mine. We got rid of all but three of the associates he had. We'd spent time reviewing all of their records and most of his people had not been working very hard to bring in business. We kept the three top performers and intended to hire at least three more. Myra became our office manager and oversaw the whole thing.
We bought computers and printers and got a network set up. After a flurry of activity during which time the Billie Jean thing seemed to be dying down we sat back to look at what we'd accomplished.
Caesar, Myra and I were proud of ourselves. "What do we do now?" he asked me.
"Hold that thought Seize," I said my phone was ringing.
"We need to talk. We're not happy at all." I'd heard the voice described by her husband as "Somewhere between low and high pitched with nothing in between."
When we first met she'd been the editor of his first book, a book that had gone on to become a best seller and a great movie as well. The advertising campaign I'd done for that book had been one of my first big successes.
Now Marissa was a successful author herself, but she still helped with her husband's projects as well as her own.
"What's wrong Marissa?" I asked.
"You tell me," she said. "I know you're busy being a media darling these days but what's with this whole "Indefinite Leave" thing?"
"It's complicated M," I said. "But let's suffice it to say that I'm no longer with McMillan Worth."
"Okay, then let's suffice it to say that Tyler and I are not happy with the people that McMillan worth have assigned to his new book and we're going to the publisher to tell them that we want a different ad agency. Who are you with now?"
"Anthony-Alexander LLC," I said.
"Ooh, we're dealing with an owner," she said. "We're going to have to work fast. The book comes out in two months, and six weeks after that my new book comes out. That way we can do our summer book tours together. How soon can you get here so we can figure this out?"
"I'll be there tomorrow, I'll have Myra call you with my arrangements," I said.
"Good, Tyler really wants to talk to you." she said as she hung up.
I put the phone down and turned back to our conversation. I had the strangest look on my face. "Oh my fucking God" I said. I had the same look on my face that a shark gets when it's released into a tank of smaller fish.
"What's wrong?" asked Myra.
"Yeah, are you okay?" asked Caesar.
"Remember how when you're let go from McMillan Worth you're given a non-compete waiver to sign. If you don't sign it you aren't given your severance package," I said.
"Most companies have something like that," said Caesar.
"I didn't have to sign one," said Myra.
"You were only an assistant there," volunteered Caesar.
"I quit and didn't sign shit," I said smiling.
"What exactly does that mean?" he asked.
"And why do you have that funny look on your face?" asked Myra.
"It means tomorrow, I'm flying to Illinois to talk to our first two potential clients. If we do well here, we could end up with all of their publisher's business." I smiled again.
"That would be a pretty nice chunk of change, but all it really means..." I smiled even more. "Is that hunting season is open. When I get back from Illinois I'll start making some calls. Seize pack your shit, we have to make some plans. Within two weeks we're going to Paris."
"You're not seriously going to...?" began Myra smiling.
"Why not?" I asked. "McMillan Worth doesn't officially have the account yet and it's a ten million dollar deal."
Less than a day later I looked out from the inside of a beautiful but not ostentatious house at a pool. In a chair with his back turned towards me sat Tyler Collins. He watched as four kids played around in the pool. I knew three of the four. One was Tyler and Marissa's daughter. Her brother, Ben was the product of Tyler's previous marriage. Even stranger was the fact that the last child I recognized was the step brother of Tyler's son Ben. The boy was Tyler's ex wife's step son. I didn't recognize the youngest child but I had my suspicions.
It struck me as amazing the way that kids could just get together and play and have a good time regardless of who they were and who they came from. They just wanted to have a good time. There was universal acceptance. If you were "nice" they liked you.
Second chances were granted so easily. All it took was an "I'm sorry," and they could be friends again.
I stepped out onto the deck and got a wave from the kids, which caused Tyler to turn and see me.
He looked a little worried, which was unusual for him. Tyler was normally pretty easy going. He smiled as I came over. I saw a thick stack of newspapers next to him.
"Research?" I asked him. He nodded and just pointed to his diet Pepsi.
I shook my head. "Straight to business as usual, huh?" he asked.
"Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first," I said.
"You mean the easy stuff?" he said. I nodded.
"I love to write," he said. "I just need a subject that grabs me and the words just come. They lift off the pages. It's almost as if the books write themselves. But it's strange because technically, Marissa is a far better writer than I am. She knows all of the stuff about punctuation, building tension, word usage and formatting. Without her editing most of my stuff wouldn't be half as good. My gift is the ability to simply tell a story. To find something that people find interesting and frame it in a way that they want to read it. It's almost like I'm a spot light and Marissa is the lens that varies my intensity."
I knew that Tyler Collins was crazy smart. It sometimes took me a while before I caught up to him. Either that or the fact that I'd received a call from Sarah that morning at the airport that confirmed one of my suspicions. Luckily for me Sarah had called first and warned me as usual. The woman's list of contacts in a city she didn't live in was amazing.
"Anyway, Marissa and I don't like the way McMillan Worth wants to do our ads," he said.
"Let me guess, since this is your first non-mystery book, you’d like to feature ads that are outside of the normal literary advertizing spectrum. Since the potential for a movie tie-in is even greater this time around you're looking for more market saturation. What we want to do is release the ads in more and more varied types of media outlets to reach a broader audience than just general readers and mystery readers," I said.
"Exactly," said Marissa, chiming in. "Why can't that idiot they assigned to us see that?"She asked.
"And I had an idea for you too Rissa," I said. "Have you ever heard of the SyFy network?"
"Yeah," she smiled. "They do all of those really cheesy movies but a lot of their series' are great. I really like the one about the town where all of those scientific geniuses live. Tyler and I watch it all the time."
"What I'm trying to arrange is for you to host one of their Saturday night movies. You'd come on and talk about the book after every commercial and lead back into the cheesy movie. That way before we even release the book you've got all of the sci fi geeks curious about it," I told her. I could tell she was enthused by the idea.
"Okay, it's official," said Tyler. "You're hired." Marissa nodded and went to make yet another phone call.
"We could have done this over the phone Tyler. What did you really want to talk about?" I asked. Having known Tyler for years I knew that there were things he wanted to know. He had the sensitive soul of an artist. He could very often discern things that were not readily available to the average person just by observance.
"I've had questions, during this whole thing, but now after seeing you. I have my answers," he said. I was still confused.
"You didn't so this," he said. "When I look at you I can see a mixture of a lot of things. I see pain. If you were guilty of this there'd be frustration because it won't end or because you thought you'd gotten away with it. But from the pain you have at what you're going through and what it cost you I can tell that you didn't do this."
"Well thanks for the belief," I said. "You don't know how much that means."
"Here's the hard part," he said. "When this is all over would you sit down with me and fill me in on all of the details?"
I looked at him strangely.
"I guess I'd like to write the story as my next book," he said. "So I want to know the whole thing. I'd like to interview you and as many of the key players as possible," he said.
I picked up my cell phone as it interrupted his thought.
"Yeah Mr. Maitland, I'm here," I said as Tyler's eyes went huge. I put the phone on speaker so Tyler could hear the conversation.
"Blake, I'm afraid I don't have good news for you and you can call me Bill. That girl Sarah of yours is incredible she's coming up with leads that my own guys can't track down and they live here. Anyway like you figured the DNA is inconclusive but we can only come up with a 79% certainty. The state requires 85% minimum, but it's close enough that we're going to retest and proceed with the paternity hearing. It's going to take longer because we're going to use a more definitive test," he said. "Unfortunately with our computers that will take longer, probably six to eight weeks, but we won't release the results until we have definite proof."
"I'll call in a favor and fly your techs out to UCLA where they can use the university's Cray supercomputers," I said.
"You can do that?" he asked.
"Yep," I said. "Anyway according to Sarah, there must be a leak somewhere because whether or not you want to release the results of the first test, the newspapers already have it. It's going to be the headline in the morning."
"Okay, I won't ask how the hell she knows that," he said. "But you sound like you're okay with it."
"Well Bill, It was the kid's eyes that told me. The purple eyes are a genetic accident in my family. That meant it's a family member so the DNA would have to be close enough to prove that. The papers releasing the info will only let him know that I've probably figured this out. So now we just have to figure out how this ends. By the time I get back from Paris, hopefully Sarah will have found him and we can end this."
My phone made a peculiar beeping sound that indicated I had another call. I pushed the button and added Sarah to the call with Maitland.
"Blake, I found the baby or at least I know who has him," said Sarah excitedly.
"How the fu...!" started Maitland.
"Hello Mr. Maitland," said Sarah. "Chris you can stop calling Bill Maitland, he's on this phone with us now."
"We were trying to call you and Miss Martinez to fill you in," she said. "I believe that we should be able to get the baby into protective custody if you and Miss Martinez come to us."
"I'm having someone call Martinez now," said Maitland. "I'll call you for the location as soon as we get her on the phone."
"She's in the park outside of her office," I said. Now it was both Maitland and Sarah's turn to be surprised.
"Okay, how do you know that?" asked Sarah.
"She always takes her breaks and her lunch in the park," I said. "It's cooler than her office and she loves to watch the kids playing."
"I'll send someone to the park," said Maitland.
"Bill before you hang up, I'm sitting here with Tyler Collins," I said.
"The mystery writer?" asked Maitland.
"That's me," said Tyler. "When this is all over, I'd like to interview you for the book I'm hoping to write about this. Would that be possible?"
"Sure why not," said Maitland. "Have Blake give you my number." Then he was gone.
"I spoke to the Angel of Death," said Tyler.
"We heard it," said Marissa.
I flew back to Cali and was jet lagged and tired. Of course I wasn't too tired to speak to Caesar on the phone and tell him that we'd gotten Both Tyler and Marissa as clients and if we played our cards right we could get the entire publishing company to sign on.
He was excited. We hadn't officially opened yet but we already had a couple of fairly lucrative accounts. "What are you doing the rest of day?" he asked. "Want to go out and celebrate?"
"I can't Seize, I have to call Texas and order a car for our trip to Paris," I said. "But you have a great time."
As I got off the freeway and pulled into my driveway, my great mood ended. Mary Beth's car was parked in front of my house.
She was sitting in the shade of the porch drinking something in a tall glass.
"I just stopped by to get some clothes," she said. "So I decided to wait and talk to you."
"You should have brought a truck and took them all," I said.
"Blake, can't we talk? We both made mistakes. If we can just get past them, things could go back to the way they used to be." she said.
"Mary Beth things can't ever be the way they used to be," I said. "We didn't both make mistakes. You did. You got pissed off and embarrassed because I'm getting negative publicity. You were so worried about being guilty by association or worried that some of the shit that's been thrown on me might splatter you, that you forgot about why we were together. Your vanity over ruled any love you had for me. Then you decided that I needed to pay for what I did. We needed to be even. So you went out and let some guy fuck you. I guess you expected it to be a quick behind the scenes thing, unfortunately I walked in." She looked down.
"I never enjoyed it," she said. "None of the things that happened that night gave me any pleasure. It was just wrong. I guess my pride was just hurt because you needed to go out and have an affair with some girl with big tits. I guess I just needed to get my pride back by getting even. They always say don't get mad, get even."
I just laughed at her words. "And that's the real reason why our marriage ended MB," I reached out and opened the door.
Before I could step inside she put her hand on my arm to stop me. "Blake what reason are you talking about. We can get past whatever it is." she said.
"MB, did you ever consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, I didn't do it? That what really hurt us was the fact that after all of this time you don't believe me." I yanked my arm away from her and went into the house and locked the door behind me.
I poured myself a long stiff drink and sat down in a chair in my living room. I looked at it and remembered a few nights ago when I'd tried to drink myself to death. Mary Beth simply wasn't worth it.
A few minutes later my phone rang as I was pouring the amber liquid down the drain.
"Why are you giving out my secrets?" asked Helena.
"Are you stalking me Miss Martinez?" I asked. That of course started another of our long phone calls. We filled each other in on the day's events and happenings. She too was as amazed by Sarah as everyone else is, but for a different reason.
"Her husband loves her so much," she said. "They'd do anything for each other."
"That's the way it's supposed to be," I said. We slowly went off topic and to far more personal matters. We talked about my upcoming hunting trip to Paris. She gushed when I talked about it.
"I've been there before," I said. She ran off a whole list of things to ask if I had seen. I had to admit to her that I hadn't seen any of them. Both times that I'd been to Paris, were for business. All I saw were hotels and conference rooms.
She told me that she thought that I had wasted my trips. She'd always dreamed of going to the city and wanted to see nearly every famous museum and tourist attraction there.
"Perhaps, when all of this is over, I'll take you to see those things," I said and then realized that it sounded like I was asking her out.
"Perhaps, you'd better take me out to dinner, before you try to take me out of the country, buster," she said.
"Why Miss Martinez, are you asking me out?" I said with mock surprise. Suddenly it dawned on me that life without Mary Beth might not be the dark and dismal place I'd imagined. I went to sleep that night happy again. The next morning's headlines knocked the smile off my face.
"DNA proves Alexander likely the father," screamed several papers.
I went out for a run to clear my head. When I came home, sweaty but refreshed I had my head back in the game. I changed into a pair of nice pants and a lightweight sweater, which was to me normal business attire.
When I hit the office at about 9:15 Caesar dragged me into my office.
"Uhm, Blake we've got a problem," he said. He had a look on his face that told me he'd run into something he really didn't know what to do about. "Look out there," he said, pointing at the outer office. I saw Myra sitting on a desk talking to and laughing with a couple of familiar faces whose names I could not place.
"Those two are from McMillan Worth," he said. The look on his face was priceless. I think he was actually afraid that we were breaking some ethical practice just by speaking with them.
"Oh shit," he said. "She's giving them coffee."
"Relax Seize, I've got this one," I laughed. I walked across the office. I smiled and waved at the people at their desks. I could already tell the ones who were actually working from the ones who were on their phones watching Myra and the two visitors.
"Hi Myra, sorry I'm late," I said.
"You're always late," she smirked. "We have an interesting situation here."
"Nah," I said. "It's actually kind of boring. What's your name?" I asked a slim redhead who was sipping coffee.
"Stephanie Carlson," she said. "I w..." My held up palm stopped her as I retrieved a piece of paper from my wallet.
"And who are you?" I asked a geeky looking guy who was sitting next to her.
"Wayne Lemertz, sir," he said. "But..." again the magic palm prevented further conversation.
"How good are you guys?" I asked. "Oh forget it that was a stupid question. It's a work day and you're here instead of back at the old hacienda. Obviously the two of you have balls, and fortunately you're both on my list." They both looked at me strangely. So did Myra. Even she didn't know the list I was referring to.
"My last day at McMillan Worth, almost everyone knew about the trouble I was in. Very few people bothered to speak to me or even make eye contact. You two were among the ones who did. It happens that we're looking for three associates to fill the spots of people we've let go from before the merger. With you two we only need to fill one more spot and then things get interesting. So if you came here for jobs you're hired. We'll start you out at 10 percent more than you were making at McMillan Worth." The two of them were really pleased.
"Myra, call everyone together, please," I said. It was time for our first staff meeting.
Caesar started out by welcoming everyone and telling the old employees and the new ones that everyone would be treated equally from this point forward. No favoritism would be shown nor would any leniency be given based on which company they came from or how they got here. From this day forward the company would be known as Anthony-Alexander LLC. He then outlined our business structure and ownership of the company. He explained that after six months they'd all be vested in the company and would receive profit sharing checks annually plus their bonuses depending on their good standing in the company.
Then I took over. I explained to them that we were a very lean and very mean company. We needed to hire one more associate and three secretaries. That meant that every two associates would share a secretary for the time being. I also explained to them that at this point our company was hungry and hunting. All of our associates would be expected to produce. On a quarterly basis we would evaluate each associate by the quantity and quality of the work they brought in. Every quarter the bottom man on the totem pole would be warned or replaced. For the first quarter we didn't know where to set the bar so the sky was the limit. After a few quarters we'd probably know enough to assess our market share and determine reasonable levels.
One of the older guys who'd been with Caesar for a while raised his hand, he was one of the guys who had been staring at the two newcomers while pretending he was on the phone.
"So what you're saying is that if we don't bring in a certain amount of business we can be let go?" he asked.
"Well what I'm saying is that we're not a big company," I said. "We have to kill to eat right now. And even when we do get richer, we'll still need to have everyone pull their weight."
"So when you say everyone, you mean all of the ad execs except for yourself and Mr. Anthony," he said.
"Mr. Anthony isn't an Ad exec in the new structure, he's the CEO. Weren't you paying attention? And as far as I go, the same rules apply to me that apply to the rest of you," I said.
"So you mean you have to sell as much as we do," he smirked. I already didn't like this guy.
"You started working yesterday, right?" I asked. "So did I. "Yesterday I landed the ad accounts for two best-selling authors. Each one of those accounts should be worth around 2-3 million dollars annually. Perhaps more, because some years they'll put out more than one book and there are also subsidiary revenues that we'll accrue for paperback sales of their books and the movie tie-ins. We're also possibly in line to take over advertising for their entire publishing company. What did you do yesterday?" I walked over to his desk. "Make no mistake about it. We are in business to make money. We aren't slave drivers by any means but we will expect accountability from everyone. That old trick of talking on the phone, while there are no lights showing a connected line won't fool us for very long," I said looking at him. He blustered and looked away.
"The main thing that's important here is that we process as much business as we can. I can't handle all of the business I'm going to bring in so I'll be handing some of my accounts down. If you can't handle all of your accounts and service them well, we'll expect you to do the same. Just like in basketball or hockey you'll get credit for the assist. But we will be expecting you to produce or walk."
Everyone looked around at the others mentally assessing their competition. I walked into my office leaving them to take care of business. Caesar and Myra followed me. "How was that Seize?" I asked.
"Well at least we know now who started the war." he said. He did seem to be a bit more relaxed.
"Seize, before we head off to Paris next week, we're going to need a few things," I said. "That Graphic arts firm you've been working with is simply not big enough or talented enough to handle our needs. We need to get a bigger, better firm temporarily. Eventually we're going to have to hire our own people and do that kind of thing in house. It'll be cheaper, more efficient and give us more control over delivery dates and the quality of the final product. Start looking for a firm we can deal with for now. If you could actually find a great small company we could probably afford to invest in them or buy them outright and move them in here."
"I never really thought of that," he said.
"Myra, we need those three secretaries ASAP. I want our associates constantly trawling for new business and working with the graphic arts team. I don't want them to have to do paper work as well. Eventually we'll be able to have separate sales and accounts reps but for right now those guys have enough on their plate. Just because I like wearing both hats doesn't mean everyone should have to," I told her.
"Do you care where I get the secretaries from?" she asked.
"Myra, you're the office manager not me. It's your call. I just want them here, yesterday." She nodded at me and I knew she was going to steal them from McMillan Worth.
"Myra," I said as she got ready to leave my office. She stood in the doorway and looked at me smiling.
"When they call, you don't even have to direct the call to me. Just give them a message for me." She looked at me again.
"Just tell them that if they fuck with the bull, they get the horns," I said.
Myra smiled and I turned to pick up the phone on my desk that had begun ringing.
"Good Morning Boss," said Sarah. "This morning at nine a.m. Florida time inspectors from the Florida State child protective services branch will be taking a look at the place where Billie Jean's son is being kept. They'll be looking at both places simultaneously. If either place is found to be unfit for the child he will be remanded into custody. We're expecting to find Billie Jean's aging mother in one location and this Carmen San Diego guy in the other. During the interview we conducted yesterday it was determined that Billie Jean's mom, while a nice lady is not physically equipped to handle caring for a four year old."
From the tone in Sarah's voice I could tell something was bothering her.
"Tell me what you're not saying Sarah," I said.
"Okay two things," she said. "Neither of which you're going to like. The first one is that I can't find shit on Carmen San Diego. He's a ghost. He doesn't exist."
"Sarah I think that's because Carmen isn't his real name," I said.
"What is his real name?" she asked.
"I'm pretty sure it's Cameron," I told her."They say that when people change their names they keep the initials or the sound of their name similar so they can remember it and acknowledge it. So to hide out Cameron just became Carmen."
"So, "I'm looking for Cameron San Diego," she asked.
"Sarah, keep this between us," I said. "You're looking for Cameron Alexander. The only person who hates me enough to try to ruin my life, whether for money or just for shits and giggles is my own brother. I'll fill you in on the whole thing later. Now what's the second problem?"
"Well for the past few days, I've been watching you from here. It's part of my job. You're starting to come out of it but you were scaring the shit out of Chris and me for a while. We knew that besides the Billie Jean thing the divorce was bothering you. We don't really know how the divorce is going but if you need anything besides that shitty video from your home security system, we have some for you," she said.
"What?" I asked. "Sarah uhm you'd better explain this to me."
"Okay, while you were here in Florida, your wife started going out with her sister. They frequented several clubs. A couple of which had uhm, male performers," she said. "We found all of this out backwards," she explained. "Three days ago when you got into the argument with your wife, as part of our routine monitoring we saw the whole thing on the security video. The guy you beat up, deservedly so I might add, he had to check into a clinic to be treated for the broken nose and lacerations you gave him."
"He had your wife pay his medical bills. She also gave him a chunk of change to stay quiet and not press charges. This would be a good time for you to restrict her access to your accounts too. Because basically you just paid to have the man whose ass you kicked treated and silenced. Anyway from the hospital records, don't ask how we got them and I won't have to lie to you, we got his name and the club that he works in. We pulled the video from the private rooms in the club, and found video of both your sister in law and your wife giving blow jobs to the same stripper you beat up. Your sister in-law seemed to be the one who initiated it, but I hate to tell you this but your wife was so pissed off at you that she went along with it."
I was stunned. I knew that Mary Beth had said none of the things she'd done seemed to even the score with us, but I couldn't imagine her doing something like that.
"The owner of the club is not beyond using those videos for blackmail," said Sarah. "Should I have Chris get the tape or don't you care?"
"Sarah, whatever Mary Beth has done, she'll have to handle from now on herself. Keep Chris there with you to protect yourself. Send a copy of the video to Burns for the divorce just in case. I'll also do all of that account closing stuff you were talking about. As hard as it is for me to deal with, I guess I can't just hide my head in the sand anymore. Mary Beth and I are not going to come out of this together. My brother is probably going to win this after all," I said.
"Blake, why would your own brother do this?" she asked quietly. "Ever since that first day when you told me you weren't the father, I've believed you. I didn't know how or why, but I knew you weren't. But I never would have suspected a family member, let alone your own brother. As a matter of fact everything we've read on you from the internet never even mentions that you have a brother."
"Sarah, it's a long story that I'll take some time to tell you when I come back to Florida. But Cameron doesn't just want the money. He wants to ruin my life. I guess I've always told people that the most important thing in my life was Mary Beth. When this is all over, maybe I'll have a better career, and I'll have wiped my reputation clean again, but I won't have my wife. So, Cameron will win in the end."
"Maybe you won't have Mary Beth, sir, but I don't think you're going to be alone for long," she said. "I'll keep your brother's name and status under my hat until you're ready. Of course I'll have to tell Chris but no one else will hear it from either of us. Even knowing his name, finding him seems to be very difficult. Maitland's people are still wondering where in the world Carmen San Diego is. I'm sure he's right here in Jacksonville under a different name."
"Okay Sarah, I have a couple of calls to make," I said. "I'll talk to you later."
"Blake, do us both a favor," she said. "Make sure one of those calls is to Helena. Up until now all of those late night calls you guys have been having, she's called you every time. That's a rough blow to a girl’s ego."
"Sarah, is there anything you don't know?" I asked as I hung the phone up.
I sat back and smiled seriously thinking about my feelings for Helena Martinez. Suddenly I realized that there might actually be something there. Possibly something very good. She wasn't the typical California girl for sure but there was something so special about her. And it wasn't the mounds between her shoulders.
"Blake, God damn it, didn't you hear me?" screamed Myra. "Wipe that stupid grin off your face."
I opened my eyes back up and saw Myra standing in my doorway looking at me strangely. "Claude Gascon, from Gascon Family Hoteliers is on the phone for you," she said. She looked at me in amazement. "If you can pull this off, we'll be set. Ten mil a year is nothing to sneeze at."
"Myra I was going to call him in a few minutes anyway," I said. "Why do you think I've been talking about dragging Caesar's ass to Paris? McMillan Worth hadn't actually landed the contract yet so as far as I'm concerned it's up for grabs. This has been the plan all along."
"Well, you'd better speed things up because several of your old clients have called us this morning alone. I've set up at least four meetings for you with people who aren't satisfied with your replacement at MW," she was smiling as she walked away. I couldn't really tell if it was because she was happy to see me stick it to my former employer for their shitty treatment of me. Or if she was just imagining what her profit sharing checks would look like.
"Blake Alexander," I said into the phone.
"Blake this is Claude Gascon," he replied in heavily accented English. "Have you been too busy to return my calls? Every time I've tried reaching you at your company, they've given me to some twit who has no idea of what is going on. Finally they told me that you were on indefinite leave. So I tried your cell phone number and it was forwarded here. You've started your own company I see. I have no ties to McMillan Worth. I'm actually angered by their audacity and their dishonesty. Why didn't they simply tell me that you no longer worked for them?"
"Claude instead of dwelling on the past, let's look to the future," I said. "You always wanted me to hop over the pond and come to see your offices and a few of your hotels in Europe. My partner and I will be there in a few days if you'd still like to do business."
"Perfect," he said sharply. "I will personally assure that you have a great time in Paris my friend."
I gave him Myra's number so she could coordinate the details with his assistant. I had to start actually giving my new assistant something to do. I was so used to relying on Myra that it just felt natural to filter everything through her. For her part, she still handled all of my calls. That made me wonder what the woman sitting outside of my office actually did.
For the rest of the day I made plans for my trip to Paris. Fortunately I already had a passport and Caesar's arrived in plenty of time a couple of days later. That night I went home happy with thoughts of a certain woman in Florida running through my mind. As usual though, whenever I get too happy, fate tries to piss in my oatmeal.
I had just pulled into my driveway when I noticed that Mary Beth was sitting on my porch while Tina was banging on the door.
As I got out of my car Mary Beth approached me. I held up my hand for silence while I dealt with her sister.
"Tina I know you're stupid, but if I'm not home yelling and banging on the door won't do any fucking good," I said.
"Your cleaning woman is in there but she won't let us in," hissed Tina.
"I'll have to give her a raise," I said. "She's doing her job. Mary Beth is not allowed in the house unless she notifies me beforehand. Isn't that the deal our lawyers worked out?" I looked at Mary Beth and she nodded.
"And Tina you're not allowed in my house at all, ever, under any circumstances. I believe the exact words I used were for the woman to "Cut off my balls with a rusty, shit encrusted hacksaw," if I ever mentioned letting you in. So you see she's just doing her job. She should have left hours ago. I'll have to pay her extra for staying to keep you out."
Tina just fumed. She opened her mouth but couldn't come up with anything to say.
"Tina, close your mouth you're letting all of the flies out," I said. Then I turned to Mary Beth. "I thought you'd gone home to your parent's house to avoid all of my negative publicity.
"I came back to talk to you," she said quietly.
"Okay, talk," I said.
"Why did you lock her out of the fucking money, you bastard," said Tina fiercely. "You have no fucking right to do that."
"Tina I have some of that jock itch cream in my medicine cabinet. I'll go get it and you can rub it all over your balls. It'll make you feel better and you can stop being such an asshole," I said calmly.
I stepped towards the door. So did Mary Beth and Tina as well. "Tina you may as well take MB's car and go for a drive. I am seriously not letting you inside of my house," I said.
"Go ahead, Tina," said Mary Beth. "I'll call you when I'm ready to leave."
"Remember you don't have to take any shit from him, you guys are even, you both cheated once," said Tina harshly.
"Wait a minute," I said. "Before this shit goes any further, let's get everything out in the open. I pulled my iPhone out and played back the conversation where Tina asked to go to Florida with me and threatened to take MB away from me. Tina's eyes got bigger and she paled.
"I was only testing him," she said. "I wanted to see if he was still cheating on you. After all he cheated on you with Billie Jean; maybe he'd do it with someone else." She hurried towards the car before Mary Beth could say something.
"Then my loving soon to be ex wife, there's you. We already know that you fucked some stripper in my living room. But you failed to mention giving him a blowjob in a private room in the club he works at. I think you have me beat when it comes to cheating," I said.
Mary Beth started to cry. "Can't we just go in the house and talk about this?" she asked.
"Blake, I was back home at my parent's house," she began. "Even in Boston I couldn't get away from this. It's so embarrassing. I couldn't go out. I couldn't do anything. If anything it made it worse. Then there are my parents themselves. They looked at me as if there was something wrong with me."
"Finally I couldn't take it anymore. I'm not a little girl so I decided to talk to my father about it. I told him that it wasn't my fault that I got fooled into marrying the wrong man. I couldn't help it if your California upbringing gave you the morals of a flea and let you bring all of this embarrassment on us. I yelled at my own father to realize that though I had been fooled once I had taken all of the steps necessary to distance myself from you and your circus and that as soon as the divorce was over I'd change my name back to our family name," she said.
"Do you know what he said Blake?" she asked me quietly.
"My own father told me that he was ashamed of me," she cried. "He told me that they'd done the best they could with Tina but she was still a whore, and he'd thought that I was better."
"Then he told me that I was an even bigger fool than I thought. He told me that he'd looked into your eyes lots of times and he was sure that you loved me too much to ever cheat on me. He said you weren't built like that. He said he thought that someone was just trying to pull us down to get money and that when you needed me the most, I'd run away and left you alone while they pulled you down."
"Then he asked me if I was proud of the way I'd acted and the things I'd done to get even. He asked me even if you had done it, which he didn't believe, would two wrongs make a right?"
"Finally he told me that he was kind of embarrassed, but not by what you had supposedly done, but by what I had. And if I was stupid enough to get a divorce, he didn't want me to use the family name, I should either make one up, or just call myself stupid, because that's what I was," she said. "The worst part was when my mother started humming that God damned country song. I couldn't figure out what it was until I asked someone later."
Then she looked at me. "I was stupid wasn't I?" she asked. I nodded my head. "I messed us up didn't I" she asked.
"Can't we...?" I shook my head then. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a new credit card for her. "This will get you through with your daily expenses until we put the divorce settlement together," I said. "Mary Beth you really hurt me, but I'll be fair with you. I won't leave you with nothing. There's even a chance that I may move out of state. If that happens, you can have the house. But if I stay here, you're probably not going to get it. Also I'll pay you alimony long enough for you to get on your feet, but I won't support you for the rest of your life. Realistically with the evidence I have of your cheating and the way I'll spin the situation and you for not standing by me during my hardship, when this is all over you'll be lucky to walk away with your clothes and jewelry. That's not what I want, but it's the way it'll be if it has to be." she nodded.
"You've figured this whole thing out haven't you?" she asked. "You have that look on your face like when you've figured out the perfect pitch to use on a client. This will all be over soon won't it."
I nodded back to her.
"I'm going to come out of this looking really stupid aren't I?" I shrugged my shoulders. "Why didn't somebody just play that fucking song for me sooner?"
"I don't know MB," I said. "If I thought a song would have convinced you I'd have had the original artist sing it in our bedroom even if I had to dig them up. What was the song?"
"Loretta Lynn's song," she said. "Stand by your man."
My watch beeped breaking the tension. "Oh shit," I said. "I've got to get ready MB. We can work out the settlement as soon as I get back from Paris."
"Blake, are you getting ready for a date?" she asked. I could see she was about to cry. "No MB, I'm just getting some things ready because I have to make a very long phone call. If you don't believe me you can sit outside on my porch all night. I promise I won't leave the house."
Tina honked the horn and Mary Beth looked at me one last time. "I believe you now," she said. "I know it's too late, but I finally do."
I settled down and called Helena. It was a very long call as I'd told MB. So in that respect I really didn't lie. But in another way I actually had. Because in the truest sense of the word date; a social engagement for the benefit of getting to know another person better. My phone call to Helena was in fact a date.
She filled me in on what had happened during the day with both Billie Jean and the search for the child. Apparently the mysterious Carmen San Diego had gotten wind of what was going on and hadn't shown up to drop the child off with Billie Jean's mother. Meanwhile Billie Jean was still making TV and radio appearances and couldn't be bothered to return to Florida. Maitland was considering issuing a warrant for her and having her expedited back to Florida. They'd name her as a person of interest in a kidnapping if necessary. I told her to ask Maitland not to do that just yet to wait until I returned from Paris in a few days. She asked me why. She told me that she had a feeling that I wasn't telling them everything right now. So I told her as much as I'd told Sarah. I also promised her that I'd tell her the rest very soon but I had to get at least some sleep before I flew away the next day.
Naturally that still didn't get me off the phone. That started her to talking about how us calling each other every night and staying on the phone for hours at a time reminded her of the way kids in high-school acted when they first fell in love. The only thing missing was the parents complaining about the phone bill.
I think that was when I said it. I hadn't planned it or anything, it just came out. "Well it probably should remind you of that because I feel like I have fallen in love with you," I said. I really wasn't thinking. Most of the time when I was on the phone with her, I didn't think, I just said what I felt. And now it had come back to haunt me. I felt extremely naked for a while there while my mind struggled with a way to take it back or clean it up.
I didn't know what to do and her silence was deafening. I couldn't sense her reaction at all. "Well good night, Miss Martinez," I said, and hung up.
Have you ever seen a person that was so bright and shiny that you just wanted to curl up with them and be with them forever? That junior high cheerleader, she's so pretty that you can't imagine that she'd ever have to pee, kind of love. Well that's what I felt for her. And remember when you took all of your allowance and went down to the drugstore and bought her the biggest nicest Valentine you could, knowing that you wouldn't even have money for lunch at school for the rest of the week.
Then you summoned up your courage and handed her your valentine in the hallway at school. She looked at it. And then she looked at you and her lips curled up into the beginnings of a smile. And your heart grew wings until you noticed that she hadn't stopped at a smile. She had carried it into pure unadulterated laughter. Then she showed your valentine to her gigantic boyfriend and all of the other cheerleaders and they all gathered around and laughed at you too. Then she threw your valentine into the trash and walked away, still laughing. Okay, that never happened to me, I'm Blake Alexander after all, but that was how I felt.
But less than ten seconds after I hung up the phone, it rang. I looked at the caller ID and saw it was her. I wasn't going to answer it, but I knew that she knew that I was still here so I answered it.
"Why'd you hang up on me?" she asked.
"Well, I do need to get some sleep," I said. "And to be truthful I was..."
"That's how I feel too," she said quickly. "But I was afraid that it was only me. I mean you're like some California rich guy. You travel all over the world meeting important people and making lots of money. I watched the You Tube video of your awards thingy today. You know the one where they have people standing outside to appraise people as they walk in. Do you know the necklace your ex wife was wearing at that party? It cost more than the rent on my apartment for a year. I keep thinking why would he like me? I'm sure they have girls with big tits in California too."
"Helena, stop," I said. "I fell in love with you, not your body. The woman who does everything she can to protect other people's kids and make sure they aren't cheated out of everything they deserve. And most importantly the woman who before she even knew me, believed me when my own wife didn't."
"Does that mean you don't like my tits," she asked.
"Well, I'd have to see them to comment," I said.
"I knew you wanted to see my tits," she laughed. "Go to sleep, and for the record I love you too."
The next morning before the sun came up, I was on a plane bound for Paris. I have nothing to say about the boredom of the flight except that it was as you'd imagine, extremely unexciting being crammed into a giant beer can with wings.
Caesar did look at me several times. I guess he mistook my happiness for excitement. Among a host of other travelers including Caesar, who were all looking forward to experiencing one of the world's truly great old cities, four words explained my happiness. "She loves me too." I'm sure the flight crew must have thought me a schizophrenic or at least bi-polar the way my mood continuously swung from the elation of new found love to depression over having to leave her.
Somewhere though, early on in the very long flight, the fact that I'd stayed on the phone with her for far too long took over and I fell asleep. We were met at the airport by Claude Gascon and several members of his staff. They were a study in contrasts. His assistants seemed to be very much like young people world-wide. You can never over state the importance of the internet in bringing us all together and making the world a very much smaller place. They dressed alarmingly like the younger people in L.A. did and I was quite at home. I noticed that they all wore the same baggy, grungy clothes that people in their late teens and early twenties seemed to choose everywhere. He even had to warn the two young men several times to pull their sagging pants up.
Gascon on the other hand was in his forties, though he dressed much older. He wore a very formal suit and tie. He even had a tiny French flag as a lapel pin. He was apparently very old world or at least trying to give that impression.
Caesar smiled when he saw Gascon. He had worn a very contemporary business suit, that while not quite as formal as Gascon's attire, was very appropriate. As usual I wore a black light-weight sweater and black dress pants. At least my pants were well tailored and didn't hang off my butt. That was as close to formal as I intended to go.
After making the introductions and the traditional handshakes, Gascon gestured towards a limousine that awaited us. It was a stretched out Renault and was painted a black so shiny it could have been a mirror.
"My friend, you have dressed to match my car," laughed Gascon. Obviously the battle had been joined.
A young French woman in a navy blue skirt and a polo shirt with the logo of a shipping company joined us.
"You are Mr. Blake Alexander?" she asked. I nodded and smiled. "I recognized you from the photographs in the newspaper. I think you have been waiting for me?" I smiled again and she gestured towards a garage-like building near the terminal.
"What is this?" asked Gascon. "I told you that we would take care of everything during your visit."
"Oh, don't worry," I said. "There are just some things you can't do without."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my wallet. I showed the woman my international driver's license. She explained that my Gold card would cover my insurance for the duration of my stay in France, then she handed me the keys.
"No one has driven it, as you requested. When you return home, simply return the car to this building and it will be shipped back to America for you. Enjoy your stay, Mr. Alexander," she said."
"I think she likes you," said Caesar. "The whole time she was here she looked at you like a rock star or something."
"That's probably just because I've been in the papers, Seize. By next week when the Billie Jean thing blows over she won't remember me from Adam," I quipped.
I opened the door and watched as the faces around me dropped. The four men with me all exhibited differing responses. The two young men with Gascon were young enough and possibly car savvy enough to recognize it. Their faces I interpreted as being shocked and amazed.
Caesar not only recognized it, but understood the statement the made by not only the car itself, but the significance of the paint job.
Gascon was clearly horrified. Before us was my new baby, a cobalt blue Shelby GT 500 Super Snake.
Even for the GT 500s the Super Snake was a fucking monster. A stock Shelby GT 500 put out 550 horsepower like my car back home. But after meeting Chris on the freeway I'd decided that I needed something a bit meaner. The typical Super Snake put out closer to 800 horsepower, and my car had been modified just a touch beyond that.
The car's brilliant cobalt blue mirror like finish had only one adornment. A single white star in the center of the hood just before the menacing twin intake scoops.
Gascon probably didn't get it, but I think everyone else understood that a single star meant only one thing, Texas. The car couldn't have been more American if I'd painted the flag all over it. I actually was trying to be subtle.
I got into the car and watched their faces as the powerful motor roared to life. "I'll follow you to the hotel," I said. I was really more concerned with something else as I navigated the beast through the narrow streets. Caesar had decided, ever the diplomatic one, to ride in the limo.
Realistically Caesar was playing his part well though he didn't know it. Meanwhile, I had math on my mind. I knew that time zone wise Paris was nine hours ahead of L.A. Florida was three hours ahead of L.A. That meant that Paris should only be six hours ahead of Jacksonville. Our flight left at 5 a.m. and took a little over eleven hours. That meant that it should be somewhere around 4 in the Afternoon back in L.A. It was one o'clock in the morning here. But more importantly it was 7 p.m. in Jacksonville.
That meant that I needed to get my ass checked into the hotel and free of these people over the next two hours. Fortunately everyone was tired, and as soon as we got to the hotel which was quite naturally a part of the chain we'd be representing. We were left alone. The plan was to sleep in late in the morning and get together for a tour of a couple of the hotels tomorrow. A fun night of socializing that Gascon had planned for us and then a business meeting the next morning where we'd iron out all of the details of the contract or at least explain the reasons why we couldn't do business. Then fly home.
It had to be done that quickly because things back home had to be settled and that was the time frame that both Maitland and Sarah had agreed to. Maitland wanted answers, and he was not a man who could be kept waiting. Also the final DNA analysis that was being done with the help of the Cray super computers would be done. So as Sherlock Holmes would say the endgame was afoot. Caesar stayed in my room after Gascon and company had left.
"Hey did, you notice that no one has mentioned Billie Jean since we got here?" he said. I could tell he was upset.
"Seize, we're partners, no bullshit between us, spill it," I said looking at my watch. After all of the pleasantries had been taken care of I had about an hour to kill.
"Well uhm why'd you ship a car over here?" he asked. "They have a limo for us and they know the streets here, we don't. It seems almost rude. I guess it doesn't mean much to you, but this would be the biggest deal I've ever been a part of, and it would mean a lot to our business. It almost seems like you're trying to insult them. Don't you want this deal?"
"Seize of course I want this deal," I said. "I've been working on it for months. That's why I'm not going to let McMillan Worth have this client. But there are things you need to look at. There is a very big culture clash going on here. We need to be very firm in the way that we approach things." He sat back in a chair and started concentrating on what I was saying.
"Have you noticed that Gascon speaks very good English?" He nodded. "Yet whenever he speaks to his subordinates they speak in French and very quickly. They think that we don't understand them."
"Do you?" he asked. I nodded my head.
"My French isn't fluent but it's decent," I said. "At any rate their behavior; speaking a language we can't understand right in our presence is rude isn't it?" He nodded.
"Europe is a very old continent, Seize, full of very old countries, who think of us as rude uppity children. They are content to let us protect them and make money for them. But they are firmly convinced of their superiority over us. To them the fact that the Euro is higher in value currently than the dollar only proves this. If we are going to get a good deal here, or get the deal period, we have to bargain from a position of strength. We have to come to the table letting them know that we are prepared to walk away if necessary. If we deal from a position of desperation, they'll eat us alive."
He blew out a long breath, and nodded his head. “So this is some kind of weird business tactic.”
"Yep," I said. "It is flat out psychological manipulation among friends. Gascon wears a French Flag in his lapel, even the fucking limo. Everywhere in Europe among the rich you see mostly German cars among business people. Audi's, BMW's and Benzes. Those cars are practical and dependable, which is why business people who are very much into the bottom line love them. Your wilder crazier guys over here like their Italian sports cars. The Ferrari's and Lambo's with the occasional Porsche thrown in."
Caesar nodded his head he understood this.
"Did you notice the limo?" I asked.
"I don't know that car," he said. "But it was European."
"It was a Renault," I said. "A French automaker, a company known for cars so bad the French won't even drive them. Even the guys who make them refuse to buy them. Gascon had one stretched out into a limo. It was a statement. My people have checked out Gascon and I have a fairly good profile of him. He's a bit Xenophobic, so I needed to make my own statement. Relax we've got this."
"I guess I'm a novice in some areas of making this kind of deal," he said.
"Nope," I said. "You're like I was. In the US we pretty much tell the truth and shoot straight. Well everyone with the exception of our politicians and con men does. I had to learn to deal this way too. It'll be fine. See you in the morning."
Caesar noticed the abrupt way I had dismissed him, but didn't say anything.
As usual I stayed on the phone with Helena for an ungodly amount of time. Especially when you considered how Jet lagged I was. That conversation was totally different though from the start. There was no more pretended politeness and political correctness. In fact it was the first phone call between us where I had to ask questions about the Billie Jean situation to get any info on it. We talked more about our lives and plans and preferences than anything else. And she threatened me and wheedled me into complementing her constantly.
"So why'd you call me?" she asked.
"Because, I wanted to talk to you," I replied. "I miss you."
"Why?" she asked. "There are thousands of beautiful women all over France. Why would you miss me?"
"Because you're very special to me," I replied, knowing she was in total control of this conversation. She was leading me down a path that I had to decide whether or not I intended to follow.
"Hmm, that's not the way I remember you saying it last night. I think that way was better," she said. "Maybe you've come to your senses. I mean a lot of things can be special to you. A car can be special to you or you can even have a pair of shoes that are special to you."
"Hmm, you know you're right," I said, deciding to play her game.
"What do you mean I'm right," she said. I don't think she expected that. I think there was something she needed to hear from me. And when I thought about it, I realized how important it was to her.
"I mean I've only seen you once. And you were fully dressed. And you live in Florida and I live in L.A. We don't work in the same industry. We have no idea of what each other needs in our lives or where we're each going. Plus I guess I'm too cynical to believe in anything like this. It's crazy. You're probably not even any good in bed." She was shocked. She didn't say a word. Again the silence was scary.
"But of course there is the other tiny thing that I didn't mention," I said.
"What's that?" she asked quietly.
"Helena, please don't take this the wrong way or be insulted, okay," I said. "I'm only trying to be honest with you."
"I understand," she said quietly. "What's the other thing?"
"There is the fact that I love you so much that none of that other shit matters. So I only saw you once, you're beautiful. You're one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen but you don't use it like a fucking club to beat men over the head with. And you're caring and smart. I don't care what we do for a living or even if we don't do anything at all. I don't care where we live. Whether you move to L.A. or I move to Florida or we just meet somewhere in the fucking middle. It will be fine as long as I get you. I only know that right now the place I'm going in my life is closer to you and I'll do anything I have to do to get there. And you know what? I don't care if I'm too cynical to believe what happened between us because whether I believe it or not, it happened. I love you Helena, okay?"
"Kay," she said quietly. "But for the record, I'm very, very good in bed. And you left out one other thing too."
"What's that?" I laughed. Hearing that she was happy lifted my spirits more than I can say.
"I have enormous Ta ta's. Guys like that," she said.
"I hadn't noticed," I said. "And no other guys had better notice it either. Personally, the first thing I noticed about you, after the butt shot you were giving me of course, was those beautiful brown eyes. But as of this moment, I'm claiming those enormous Ta ta's, and the rest of you."
"Kay," she said. "Just for future reference, when will that be?"
"As soon as I get done here in Paris," I said.
The following day was boring, probably because I've been in thousands of hotels all over the world. I've seen tons of hotels including some of the incredible hotels owned by the Casinos in Las Vegas. The Gascon chain was nice, but nothing to write home about. As far as European hotels went, they ranged from frugal, pronounced cheap, to opulent, which really meant over-priced. They had an old world charm, which in a lot of cases meant that they needed to be modernized.
It was a good thing I saw what I needed to see early on because that meant that for the rest of the day, I could sleep on my feet. As usual my late, long phone marathon with Helena hadn't allowed me much sleep. It was getting worse. I woke up this morning with the phone still attached to my ear and the call still connected hearing her breathing on the other end. I wonder how much that was going to cost me.
After the day's tours were over, Gascon gave us directions to a club that we were going to visit for the evenings activities. We assured him that we'd be there. I was wondering what Gascon would find entertaining. I was hoping it wasn't going to be a symphony. He seemed to be aging in front of us.
At six p.m. Paris time I woke up from a brief but refreshing nap and called Sarah.
"How are things in Paris?" she asked.
"To early to tell," I replied. "What about the home front?"
"Maitland is ready to move on Billie Jean, and getting frustrated. Your ex is in trouble. The blackmailer has contacted her and wants money or your well bred New England cutie will be seen all over the internet sucking some muscular stripper's dick. They've asked for more money than you left her. Serves her right if you ask me. I know where Cameron or Carmen was working up until this happened and have leads on a few of his friends. I should have him in a day or two. And Helena Martinez is in love with you. What do you do to women? Speaking of women, you really have to see her aunt in person. I'm not sure how that woman's back can handle the strain. There really has to be something in the water here."
"Sarah, great job as usual. Can you and Chris really do something about the blackmail thing?" I asked.
"The club owner is small time. The club isn't making much money when he needs to supplement his income or he finds someone too wealthy to resist he pulls the scam. Consider it done. Chris will handle that. He's been dying to have a case of his own," she said. "One more thing, you weren't surprised about poor Miss Martinez pining away over you. That isn't like you. You're usually pretty considerate, except with your sister in law."
"Sarah, Miss Martinez isn't pining away over me alone..." I began,
"Oh my God," said Sarah. "You two are...Okay then."
After Sarah hung up I had just found Helena's number in my phone log. It was easier to just push the one button than to punch the whole area code and number in and I'm lazy. Anyway before I could call Helena, my phone rang.
"Blake, this is Stanford McMillan," said a voice from my phone.
"Hello sir, good to hear from you," I said casually. McMillan had been my mentor when I first started out in the business. McMillan Worth was his company but he'd retired several years ago and left the running of the business to the partners.
"Blake are you aware that McMillan Worth had lost nearly twenty percent of its customer base over the past two weeks?" he asked.
"No sir, I don't really keep up with McMillan Worth anymore," I said.
"Then you wouldn't know anything about us losing, I believe three of our most promising ad execs either would you?" he asked.
"That's terrible," I said.
"We also lost some clerical workers who all left in a hurry, over the past few days. Do you think it would be possible for you to come in so we could all sit down and talk about this?" he asked.
"Well sir I don't think that's possible, I was placed on indefinite leave," I began.
"The way I was told, you quit," he said. "But I don't remember accepting your resignation. This whole thing seems to boil down to a pissing contest between you and Harris. I think we should all just take a breath and look at the situation rationally. Let's get together in the conference room at say 4 p.m."
"I can't make that sir," I said.
"Okay how about 9 a.m. tomorrow?" he asked.
"Sir, I'm not in L.A. currently," I said. I didn't want to hurt McMillan's feelings. He'd always been good to me.
"Where are you?" he asked. "Are you in Florida dealing with your bad publicity?"
"No sir that will be resolved shortly after my return. I'm in Paris," I said.
The line went quiet for a while; I could tell he was speaking to some people in the background. "You're not going after...?" he asked.
"Yep," I said. "It should be completed over the next few days. I'll try get in contact with you when I return."
Finally I got to call Helena.
"Hi," I said.
"Hi," she said back. The happiness in her voice lifted my spirits even higher.
"Don't you ever do any work?" she asked cheerfully.
"I'm working right now," I said.
"Well instead of spending all your time talking on the phone to your girlfriend, you should be working your butt harder so you can come and see me sooner," she said.
Her girlfriend line wasn't lost on me.
"Did I say something wrong?" she asked knowing immediately what was going on.
"Helena, you know I love you, right?" I asked.
"Uhm huh," she said. I loved that little girl tone she got in her voice sometimes.
"Well until the divorce goes through, as much as I hate it we need to keep quiet about us," I said.
"I know that silly," she said. "But I just like saying it."
"Speaking of work," I said. "Isn't your half hour in the park almost over?"
"Nah, I'm the boss," she said. "If I'm a few minutes late no one will say a word."
We talked until Caesar came and got me. I piloted the Super Snake through a maze of Rues and Places. If not for the GPS I'd have been totally lost.
We finally found the place. In my halting French I asked for directions. I also held up the card with the address on it. Finally a bored looking guy pointed at the building we were already standing in front of. He held out his hand in the universal sign for give me some freaking money. It was then that I realized he was the parking attendant for the club we'd come to all along. I guess it was just his way of putting the arrogant Americans in our place. He held out his hand for the keys. In my halting French I asked him where he intended to park it. He pointed to a spot in the front. I parked it myself, kept the keys and gave him a tip.
He shrugged his shoulders and went back to reading his newspaper. I laughed when I saw the headline. Though I couldn't understand, it the words "Alexander," and "Billie Jean," stood out.
My laughter was drowned out when I entered the club. The music was so loud I could barely think. Thankfully there were long gaps between songs, unlike the clubs in the US where the music is constant one song after another.
There were a lot of really pretty women inside the club. Caesar's smile and the way his head kept swiveling as if it was going to come off of his neck let me know that he had noticed it too. I guess that I had spent so long concentrating on one woman, lost her and found another that I simply wasn't fazed by it. Also there was the fact that none of the women I saw even came close to Helena. I did notice a lot of cameras, both video and still. That did bother me.
Finally we noticed Gascon and he waved us over to a table. Surprisingly all of the waitresses in our section wore shorts so tiny they resembled bikinis. Their bra like tops appeared to be like gingham shirts. They all wore cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Gascon smiled when he saw that I'd noticed this.
Some of the women had that European thing with body hair. They preferred to go natural, while others shaved it. Maybe it was one of those cultural things but I preferred the shaven ones.
For the first hour or so we talked casually. Gascon even brought up the Billie Jean thing briefly. I think he did it more to let me know that he was aware of my troubles than anything else.
"You'd be more at home here in Europe," he said. "Here we don't take affairs of the heart so seriously. We prefer to look the other way as long as no one is hurt. Your situation would not have sold any news papers here, my friend." I didn't bring up the fact that less than an hour ago the parking attendant outside the door was reading about me in one of those newspapers that would not have been sold.
Caesar got up to dance with a woman who came over and asked him. One of her friends approached me but I politely turned her down. I offered to buy her a drink and for some reason she sat down at our table to drink it. I turned away from her so anyone taking pictures would understand that we were in no way together. Perhaps I was just being paranoid, but after Billie Jean, I was camera shy.
Suddenly a couple came over to our table. The man was well dressed, but unremarkable. The woman on the other hand was spectacular. She was about twenty years old perhaps a year or two older. She had long reddish hair and bright green eyes. She seemed so familiar to me.
"May I introduce Amanda Kingsley, and her date Johann Weismann," said Gascon. "This is Blake Alexander. He's in advertising, and very good at it. Johann is vice president for a large Swiss Banking firm here in Paris and of course Amanda is the world famous actress."
That was where I knew her from. I'd seen the ad campaigns for some of her movies. I don't remember if I saw any of them. Then I remembered she did mostly European films and though I'd seen her get awards for them, she hadn't really hit it big in the US yet.
Her eyes immediately locked on mine. I wondered why she was here with Weismann. He was at least forty, nearly twice her age. Well it was no business of mine. Love is strange as they say. They did though make an interesting couple. Her head was constantly bobbing to the music and Weismann talking nonstop to Gascon about business.
"Blake what did you think about the hotel tours we had this morning?" asked Gascon. "The European sophistication and flare had obviously lulled you into near silence. Here in Europe there's no need for us to advertise. Our reputation has been established by decades of service, but things in America are so different that we thought we'd use your little firm to introduce our company and our culture there," he said. Then in an abrupt change of subject he began a new topic. "What do you think of our serving wenches," he asked. "We outfitted them to make you feel at home. A kind of a tribute to your old west, very adventurous that period, but quite out of pace with the modern world."
Caesar had just returned to the table in time to hear the comment. I could tell alarm bells were going off in his head as he looked at me.
Gascon continued undaunted. "It seems to me that America is finally trying to grow up but still lacks the sophistication of Europe. I see more European businesses locating there though and that is what this is all about. Becoming global is the big thing now so we have decided to build some hotels in the US. America is almost ready to take its place in the rest of the world. She seems to have gotten rid of much of her savagery like your old west and Indians and cowboys. Those cowboys really did cut a striking figure though alone on horseback riding off into the setting sun. Too bad they've died out."
In a move that was far more intelligent than I'd had ever given her credit for Amanda took my hand just as the music started up again. The DJ was playing an old Michael Jackson song from the 80's.
"Care to dance Mr. Alexander?" asked Amanda.
"Yes," show us how it's done," said Gascon. Weismann appeared upset that Amanda had asked me to dance.
On the floor the song's huge menacing bass tight drum section started Caesar and I moving. We started out at opposite ends of the floor dancing with the two women. The competition was on. It was almost like in our old days in college. When Caesar's dance moves weren't enough, he moved on to gymnastics. He dropped down into a handstand and started doing mule-kicks. The crowd opened up and gave him room to work; the woman he danced with was nearly forgotten as he gyrated to Michael’s screams and tee hees.
When he came up he looked at me triumphantly. Not to be outdone I spun around twice in front of an amazed Amanda and then moon-walked the length of the dance floor ending with a back-handspring into a back tuck. The crowd was cheering. I did a quick run up and a front tuck landing lightly in front of Amanda just as the song ended. I pointed my finger at Caesar as if to remind him that he'd been on the gymnastics team, but I was the captain.
It seemed like there were even more reporters following us around now. Caesar was in a great mood and suddenly I realized why he'd wanted to dance with me. I think he was trying the same thing that Amanda had. They'd both wanted to defuse the situation with Gascon and that bullshit he'd been spouting.
As I returned to the table with the crowd all stopping by and waving and sending drinks over, Gascon's reaction was different. He was pale. It was as if he was trying to show us how sophisticated everything over there was but had failed. Weismann on the other hand was livid. I recognized the look on his face. He was a very jealous man, much the same way I'd probably have been if some I didn't know very well started hitting on Helena.
As I sat down Gascon tried to engage me in conversation again. So how do you think, after seeing our hotels, that we'll do in America?" he asked. He was all business again and his ranting over the greatness of Europe had seemingly been forgotten.
Caesar seemed to be glad that the conversation had gone back to straight out business as well.
"I think they're going to suck," I said, pointedly. "You're going to lose a lot of fucking money and have to crawl back over here with your tail between your legs whining about how unsophisticated America is and how we don't appreciate your greatness."
Caesar spit out his drink, and had trouble catching his breath.
"If by old world charm and sophistication you mean people who are sophisticated enough to accept barely meeting the minimum standards for sanitation and comfort as being acceptable, that's fine," I said. "Over here you accept things that would not be considered acceptable in a flop house or homeless shelter in America and market it as "Charm," I hissed. "Rusty tasting water and atiquidated plumbing." I shook my head. "No internet service and spotty electricity," I shook my head again.
“In America that won’t fucking fly. Instead of competing in some backwards armpit of the world whose time has passed, you'll be competing against some of the best hotel chains in the world. The Westins, the Hiltons, Caesar's Palace. I'm sorry but unless you modernize and change your concepts you don't need us. We can give you the best advertising campaign in the world. Everyone will flock to your sophisticated hovel, but you won't have any return business. Once people have stayed there they won't come back. Most of them won't stay after seeing it. If what we've seen today is what you want to show us we may as well go home because it won't fly in America."
Gascon looked like I had shit in his caviar. No one had ever spoken to him like that.
"The greatness of Europe," I said. "When the fuck was that, 400 years ago? France in particular. You guys are famous for cooking, kissing and running away from fights. You guys surrender faster than a whore gives up her panties. Yet you look down on the rest of the world as if you have this great fucking legacy to live up to. Sure we were at one point savages, and we fight a lot, but when anyone in the world has a problem we're the ones who are counted on to help. The cowboys, every fucking time. When something happens somewhere in the world while you're arranging delegations to discuss avoiding the problem, we have boots on the ground and are fixing it. Two days after the crisis is over France can be counted on to decide to help and usually arrives just after the work has finished, but just in time for the news stories."
"Another thing you got wrong is the fact about the cowboys. Sure they've modernized the way they do things but God Damn it the cowboys never died. They're still out there riding the range, and doing what they do. Maybe they drive pickup trucks and trade in commodities and raise tens of thousands of head of cattle instead of working on family owned ranches but the cowboys never died,"
"When Hitler came over here and took over your fucking country with barely a shot fired, those were cowboys who came to your rescue. They flew airplanes, and rode in on ships and drove jeeps and trucks instead of horses, but the cowboys never died."
I was standing on my feet with my finger in Gascon's face. Caesar pulled me back into my chair.
"Perhaps things have gotten a little out of control," he said. "This has been an interesting debate on culture..."
Weismann got up and said, "Perhaps it is time for Amanda and me to leave."
"I want to stay," said Amanda. "I'm having fun. This has been much more fun than your boring little get-togethers usually are. I want to dance some more."
"Amanda, we are engaged. What will people think if I leave you here?" hissed Weismann.
"That you trust me," said Amanda.
"Amanda, come with me now, you know his reputation, and yours. That is why you need me," he said. By now the cameras and reporters were focused on the arguing couple as their voices got louder.
"Fuck you, Johann. The engagement is off," snapped Amanda throwing her ring into Johann's drink.
Weismann glared at me and stomped off. Cameras and flashbulbs were everywhere. Reporters were asking questions in rapid fire French. It was time to end this evening I stood up and Amanda grabbed my arm and asked me to stay.
"There's too much going on here for me," I said. "I came over here to discuss business and instead I get insulted by a man I thought was a friend but who only wants to run my country and our culture down."
"Perhaps it was the wine or the excitement," offered Gascon.
"Let's go Seize," I said.
Caesar looked at the woman he'd been dancing with and sitting with all night, and then back at me. He shrugged his shoulders and stood up. We left the club with Gascon rapidly throwing a bunch of bills on the table and following us. As soon as I got outside Weismann stepped up to me. I thought that he was going to try and hit me, but he had other plans.
"So is this your little horse car?" he asked.
"Well technically it is a Mustang, but it's a Shelby," I said there are no horses anywhere on the car."
"Whatever, it's a child's toy," he said.
"What did you have in mind," I said. "You obviously want something."
"Prove what you said about cowboys," he said. "Race me to the plaza at the end of the rue. Winner takes all."
He got into an Audi R8 and revved his engine. The R8 is Audi's version of the super car. Zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds top speed of 190 mph and all of that jazz. Johann thought he had the advantage. He thought that he was racing a normal mustang that was gussied up.
His car cost at least twice what I'd paid for the snake.
"What do you mean winner takes all?" I asked.
"The winner gets both cars and Amanda," he said.
"How far is it to the plaza?" I asked.
Someone shouted out that it was about a kilometer, roughly six tenths of a mile.
"Alright," I said. "I don't want your girlfriend or your car, but I understand that this is about pride."
He got into his car and started revving his engine. I put my foot down once to warm the snake up. I didn't want to scare him. I opened up my glove box and my engine management computer booted up.
I enabled my double shot nitrous system and shook my head. Weismann thought he had the advantage so it was easy for him to be brave. I knew that the race would be far closer than he expected. If it had been around a track with heavy cornering involved the race would be his. My car was far too heavy and simply not designed for track courses, it was a muscle car. With his Audi's mid engine design, and being a very light two-seater he'd probably win a quarter mile drag race as well because of his zero to sixty times. He also thought he had more horsepower than I did. All in all he thought I was General Custer and he was leading me to the slaughter.
I put my car into launch mode. Johann nodded at Gascon who apparently was going to start us. Gascon waved his hand and the air was rent with the sounds of screaming tires as the two cars rocketed towards the plaza. Weismann had a slight advantage but not nearly as much as I'd expected. I started to gain a bit but then he began to press his advantage while I fishtailed just a bit. Then when I hit my next gear, I pulled it back. My car's almost 800 horsepower, making up the difference in our strength to weight ratio. I pulled even and then looked over at Weismann. With a look of horror on his face he watched me start to pull away. Then just to pour salt on the wound, I hit the first stage of my nitrous and leapt forward even farther. There was daylight between us as I passed the finish line. I turned my car around and slowly made the return trip.
Gascon was waiting for me back at the starting line. Reporters were everywhere and even a few Gendarmes who seemed not to have seen any illegal street racing through the streets of Paris. The thing that surprised everyone most was the fact that when Weismann came back he drove right past us and headed away. So much for the honor of the Swiss. "I'm sure he'll be back," someone said. It never happened.
Gascon reached out to shake my hand. "The cowboys never fucking died," I said. Caesar shook his hand.
"We can still talk in the morning," said Seize.
"I'm going home," I snapped.
"The job is yours," said Gascon.
"We can't do it for ten million dollars," I said. "Now that I know what we're up against. It would cost us more than that just to get past the attitude. We'd need at least 14 million."
"Done," said Gascon, extending his head. "Anthony Alexander LLC will advertise for us in the US exclusively and will be paid 14 Million..."
"Euros," I said noticing that reporters were recording every word.
I turned to go back to my car when Amanda stepped in front of me. "Where are we going?" she asked.
"I don't know where you're going, but I'm going back to my hotel," I said.
"That's where I'm going, what a coincidence," she said.
"You're cute," I said. "But I've already been Billie Jeaned once."
I left her standing there and waited for Caesar to get into the car.
"Why are you driving so fast?" he asked.
"I have to make a phone call," I smirked.
Helena picked up the phone on the first ring.
"I don't know what time it is in Paris," she said. "But it's only four o'clock here. I'm still at work. I have a bunch of papers to file including the arrangements to put Billie Jean's son into foster care."
"Don't put him into foster care," I said.
"Why not?" she asked. "We're only waiting for you to get back. Sarah came up with a bunch of information that really helped. I haven't given the information to Maitland yet about who Carmen San Diego is but as soon as he knows and does the correct background check, Billie Jean will lose custody and your reputation will be cleared."
"At what cost Helena?" I asked. "A child will go into the foster system, who really is related to me. Look right now Billie Jean claims that he's my son right? So get me custody until they find out that I'm not the father. Meanwhile let's see if we can get a quickie adoption started."
"No one is going to let you adopt him. You're a single guy with a questionable life style. They want to give kids to families and stable home environments. Unless you'd agree to stay married, which is likely," she said.
"Why do you think that I'm likely to stay married?" I asked.
"Well the headlines here say that your wife has canceled her petition for divorce. She forgives you and wants to stay married to you," said Helena sadly.
"Don't worry about that," I said. "How long will the adoption process take?"
"Between six months and a year," she said.
"Good by then I'll be in a stable marriage situation," I said.
"Your marriage won't be stable in six months," she cracked. "It's going to take years of therapy to work through this."
"Helena, a quickie divorce will take three months, since she's not going to fight it and we have no kids. I'll be married to you in less than six months," I said. There was another one of those long silences.
"Helena?" I said. "Are you still there?"
"Yes," she said.
"What are you wearing?" I asked.
"A skirt suit," she said. "It's navy blue."
"Is your hair up or down?"
"It's up," she said. "Why?"
"Take it down," I said. "Are you wearing a blouse or a sweater?"
"A blouse," she said. It's white."
"How many buttons do you have open?" I asked.
"One," she said breathing harder.
"Open three more," I said.
"Oh no," she said. "Not going to happen."
"Helena," I said.
"Whaaaaat?" she whined.
"Close the door to your office and send me a picture of them," I said quietly.
"Blaaaake, I can't do that here," she said.
"Helena, you did admit that they were mine anyway, right?" I asked.
"Okay," she said laughing. "Wait a minute. This is so dirty." I heard movement in the background. Then she sat back down. I got a text message on my iPhone.
Helena was giggling.
"Helena," I suddenly gasped. "What did you do?"
"You like them don't you?" she asked. I could barely breathe.
"Uh huh?" I choked out. "But why'd you send me this?"
"Wait until you see the rest," she said seductively. "Blake Alexander, What did you mean why did I send you that? You asked me to send it. You said send me a picture of them."
"Helena all I wanted was a picture of those gorgeous brown eyes." I said.
"RRRRRRRRRRRR, men," she quipped.
As usual we talked through the night. Early the next morning I was in Gascon's office. He'd already had the preliminary papers drawn up. Caesar and I signed them and we flew back home. My car would be shipped back by a slower route. I'd have to drive the regular GT 500 for a couple of weeks.
As soon as we touched down in Cali, I called Myra and had her get me on the first Flight to Jacksonville it was time to end this. Before I got to my car there were reporters all over us. They asked more questions than I could answer. Some of them worried me. "Are you in love with Amanda Kingsley? Is Amanda Kingsley going to have your baby? Did you really engage in an illegal street race in Paris? Did you steal a Multi Million dollar deal from your former company? What about Billie Jean? Is Billie Jean okay with you having multiple lovers? Do you and Billie Jean have an open relationship? What is the baby's name?"
"No Comment," I screamed as I got into my car. "And for the record, "Billie Jean is not my lover."
"What about Amanda?" they screamed.
"Her neither," then I was gone.
I shocked my cleaning lady as I walked into my house. I guess she wasn't expecting me. I showered and changed clothes before heading to the office to find out how things had gone in our absence.
I got a message from Caesar telling me that he'd be back in the office tomorrow. And one from Chris telling me he'd handled the problem with my ex wife's blackmailer. He'd basically just bought the video from the guy. He simply paid for it, but made sure he'd gotten every copy. He'd also let the guy know in no uncertain terms that if it was ever mentioned anywhere, the black mailer would not only be prosecuted for his activities, that he probably wouldn't survive.
Chris had also told the guy to simply stop calling Mary Beth. This had been brilliant because that way I could use it to my advantage. I hated to play dirty with MB but I would if necessary.
I did stop and pick up a couple of newspapers on my way into the office. As usual
the headlines were not good for me. "Alexander the Great conquers Paris" was a good one. "Alexander goes rogue: Steals accounts from under McMillan Worth's nose," was my favorite. The rest were not so good. "Amanda Kingsley falls for Alexander," was bad. In that article, Amanda while not directly ever saying it alluded that we had sex in my hotel room in Paris. Here we go again, I thought.
Even worse were the articles claiming that she'd broken off her engagement to a
wealthy Swiss banker, for me. A few even claimed that she was moving to the US to be with me.
So here I was, In love with one woman, while married to another. A third woman was claiming to have a child with me and yet another was moving halfway across the world to be with me.
Time to end all of this. I called Sarah and told her to end it the way we'd planned. As soon as she got off of the phone with me Sarah called Bill Maitland. She told him that the man they'd been chasing had changed his name which was why they hadn't found him.
His real name was Cameron Alexander. He was my brother and that was why the original DNA had been so close but not conclusive. Maitland's people ran Cameron's name through their computers and found out that Cam had been convicted on drug charges years ago and had been released from prison five years ago.
A few hours later I flew to Florida. When I arrived there Chris picked me up.
"Hey where's your GT-H" he asked.
"I had it shipped somewhere," I said smiling. "Thanks Chris, I know you only do the PI stuff to help Sarah out. You handling the blackmail thing for MB was great."
"It was nothing," he said. "It gave me a chance to actually try handling a case by myself. I actually kind of liked it."
We drove to Maitland's office. There I met Bill, Sarah and Helena. I also got a
chance to see the famous Myra Martinez. She was just as gravity defying as her advance publicity claimed. As I passed her in the hallway on my way into the office, she'd whispered something to me. "If you don't treat her right, I really will send Bill after you," she'd smiled at me in a way that let me know she was being one hundred percent serious.
Sarah smiled as we entered the room. I knew that the smile wasn't for my benefit even as she said, "Welcome back to Florida, Boss."
Nope that smile was for Chris. If the probably forty minutes that it had taken him to pick me up and bring me back here got him that kind of smile, I shuddered to think about what he got when he came back from California after handling Mary Beth's blackmailer.
Maitland was...well Maitland. I just couldn't believe that this seemingly
granite man had ever had human feelings. I knew his history, the marriage gone bad, the hot ex wife, the possible romance with Helena's aunt. But seeing him in person made him seem somehow above the human condition. He was all business.
He was serious, focused and on the job. He had already come up with three possible scenarios for how to handle the case moving forward. Then I saw her, she looked up at me from a chair and the heaven's opened up. Her smile lit up the room. Sarah who'd already figured things out simply twitched her nose and made a face. Maitland kept looking back at us and then just decided to carry on.
I moved over to the table and sat down next to her. Instantly she entwined my fingers in hers and leaned towards me. Our legs rubbed against each other’s as if we both sought every possible inch of contact.
"As soon as I found out about your brother," said Maitland, staring at me. "I ran his record and found out that he's a convicted felon. That means that in this state he can't be bonded and therefore can't be licensed as an official child care provider. Billie Jean's mother has been found also to be physically incapable of caring for a child due to her health issues. The woman has to drag an oxygen tank around with her all day long."
"Billie Jean is going to have some problems. I'm going to have the California state police extradite her here to face child endangerment and child abandonment charges. I also ran your brother's DNA the preliminary investigation looks like you're an uncle, not a father."
"I don't know which one of them cooked this up, but it looks like your brother is going back to jail. And Billie Jean may get to see the inside of prison walls too. They're both guilty of trying to defraud you out of probably millions of dollars in child support, and of trying to misuse the power of the Florida State attorney's office."
"There's also a good case for libel and slander for them trying to destroy your reputation and ruin your good name. Even though it's not used much anymore this seems like a case for alienation of affection since their schemes and plans facilitated the destruction of your marriage. Why would your own brother hate you that much?"
I clasped Helena's hand and kissed it as everyone looked at us. Across the room I could tell her aunt approved. "Growing up, Cam and I came from a relatively well off family," I began. "But although we were only a year apart in age, we were never close. We were simply too different. I tended to work very hard for everything I got. Cam expected everything to be given to him. When we got to college, I hung out with the jocks and worked hard to keep an A- average. I wasn't a genius, but I was never far from the top of my class. Cam hung out with the stoners and while I can't actually prove or disprove that he sold any drugs, he did sometimes hold merchandise for the guys who did."
"He was always on the verge of being expelled. Anyway, he came up with this scheme where I'd take one of his finals for him. Before he got really into the drugs and went to prison, people had trouble telling us apart. He thought that since I'd taken his history class the year before with the same professor, and gotten an A in the class that I could use his ID card and take the final for him. It was his last shot at staying in school. The dean had told him that if he failed one more class, he'd be expelled."
"I told him that I had no intention of taking the test for him. But I guess he didn't believe me. Up until then anytime he'd needed anything from me I had gone along with it. So the morning of the test, he was sitting in his dorm getting high, thinking that I was taking his exam. When I didn't show up, the professor notified the Dean, who sent a security officer over to bring Cam to see him. The security officer smelled marijuana smoke coming from Cam's room."
"He decided to call the police since smoking weed on campus was illegal. The police raided Cam's room and found not only his personal stash of weed, but all kinds of other drugs that he was storing for friends. The amounts were staggering and he was charged with a felony for possession of numerous controlled substances and narcotics for the purpose of sale."
"Naturally he blamed me. Notice he never blamed the guys he was holding the drugs for or himself. In his mind it was my fault because I refused to cheat for him."
"My brother and I haven't spoken since the day in court when they sentenced him. Originally I told him I'd get him a better lawyer and I'd visit him and make sure he had a job and a home when he got out. But he wouldn't have anything to do with me. After a while I just forgot that I even had a brother." Everyone just shook their heads.
"Hey Bill, I have a good idea for how to do this," I smiled. As everyone gathered around the table, I explained my idea.
The next morning Billie Jean was scheduled to appear on A.M. California again.
At the last minute, the producers of the show told her that they wanted to do the show a different way. Instead of just interviewing her, they wanted her to discuss the case with someone else who'd been involved in a similar case.
The other person was a supposed "Deadbeat Dad," who'd been hounded by the justice
system to make payments. That way they'd be able to show cases from both sides. Billie Jean was told that she'd be viewed favorably and the additional publicity might help her out because her story was actually beginning to become stale. This might possibly extend the story's life.
Billie Jean, sensing that her fifteen minutes of fame were up, agreed. When told that a social worker would also be part of the interview to give a professional insight into the case Billie Jean just said, "Whatever, the more the merrier. Just make sure to make me look good."
A few moments before the taping was to begin Billie Jean sat in a chair on the set. Over the last month or so she' gotten used to being prepared by top make-up artists for the taping of the forty or so TV shows she'd done. She'd gotten herself an agent and was taking acting lessons.
Most of the money she'd gotten from her TV appearances was gone. The apartment she'd rented was far more expensive than a similar place in Florida would have been. She'd also bought lots of clothing for the TV shows. Her acting lessons and agent hadn't been cheap either.
She'd also had to pay the plastic surgeon back for her breast implants and nose job. She'd be glad when the money from Cam's brother started rolling in.
As Billie Jean pursed her lips to have her make-up applied she noticed another
woman being seated across the set from her. She also noticed that the men on the set seemed to have trouble taking their eyes off of the other woman. The woman's breasts were incredible but she had them covered up. Billie Jean wondered who she was.
A few seconds before the cameras started to roll, the guy came onto the set. Billie Jean heard the count-down and saw them sit the guy down near her. Her heart nearly stopped when she noticed it was me. I smiled at her.
The lights went up; there was an audience of women in the studio. The announcer introduced Billie Jean and the women in the audience looked at her. Then they announced Helena and finally me. When they said my name there was dead silence and then a round of booing. I smiled and bowed.
Billie Jean smiled when the audience booed me. The host of the show went over to Billie Jean and asked her to tell her story. Billie Jean launched into the story that had made her famous and a household name, the same story that had made my life a living hell and cost me my marriage.
Then the announcer stepped away from Billie Jean and came over to me. "Blake Alexander," she said. "Is what Billie Jean told us true?"
"Not a word of it," I said. The studio audience was suddenly stunned. "First off," I said "I never met Billie Jean in my life until she showed up at a media event I attended a little over a month ago. Forty days ago Billie Jean turned my life into hell with her allegations that have never been proven."
"She's cost me my reputation, my job and even my marriage. All of it with no proof."
"What about the DNA?" screamed a voice from the audience.
"Great question," I said. "the DNA wasn't conclusive. It didn't exactly prove that I was the father or disprove it. It only proved that there were enough genetic similarities to indicate that the child was fathered by me or someone with my genetic traits."
"Because you're his father," said Billie Jean. She was getting upset; she'd never expected to have to face me.
"If I'm his father, I want custody," I said.
"No, you can't have it, I'm his mother. I'm the one who takes care of him. I won't let you take my baby away from me because you've got money." Billie Jean was going for the full dramatic effect. She was trying to make the audience sympathetic towards her. She wanted them to feel that she was a mother struggling against a rich man now.
"That's what this has all been about from the start isn't it Billie Jean, money?" I asked.
"Billie Jean where is the child now?" asked Helena.
"None of your business," snapped Billie Jean. "Who are you?"
"I'm Helena Martinez from the Child Welfare department of the State of Florida. We're charging you with several crimes including felony child endangerment."
"What, you're crazy," said Billie Jean. "I didn't endanger the kid. He's safe."
"Did you or did you not leave your child in the care of a convicted felon?" asked Helena. The audience was shocked.
Billie Jean tried to run off the set but saw that there were police officers stationed at both sides. Suddenly the audience noticed how she was acting and realized that they'd been had.
"Answer the question, bitch," yelled someone from the audience.
"He doesn't count as being a felon, really," said Billie Jean.
"Why not?" asked the host.
"Because, he's my baby's father. He wouldn't hurt his own son," she said sadly. She knew the jig was up, then. There'd be no saving this. It was over.
"Cameron came up with this plan to get money from his brother. He read this thing about how brothers have very similar DNA. He's always blamed Blake for his life. I guess it started a long time ago. So we decided to get child support money from Blake and ruin his life to get revenge on Blake for ruining Cam's life. No one would really get hurt. Blake had a lot of money and could spare some of it. And Cam thought that Blake needed to learn how to lose something important to him too."
"We were as surprised as everyone else when his wife started to divorce him. I'm sorry." She hung her head and started crying. I got up and walked across the stage and patted her on her shoulder. The audience ate up my compassion and started cheering.
As the police took Billie Jean away she told them where to find Cameron and their son. But it didn't matter, Sarah had already found him and Maitland's people had arrested him and taken the child into custody before we started taping the show.
There had been some excitement involved in the capture and actually it had been Chris who saved the day again. Maitland had relayed what happened to me later.
Sarah, Maitland and Chris had gone to a derelict apartment building to take the child into protective custody. They had found the apartment that one of Sarah's tips said the child was in. There was seemingly no one home. Sarah had turned the knob and found the door open but before they could go inside. Three men had forced them inside of the apartment.
The three men had been Cam and two of his jailbird friends. One of the men had a shotgun and kept it leveled at them, while Cam started packing. Maitland, Sarah and Chris had no idea of what the men planned to do to them.
Sarah and Chris knew each other well. He could tell by the things she said that she was going to do something. Maitland could also sense that something was going on but didn't know what to expect.
Suddenly they heard the sound of a police siren. The three thugs looked to the windows for only a fraction of a second. Actually it hadn't come from outside. It has come from Sarah's pocket. Her phone had a bunch of sound effects on it, but the distraction was all Chris needed.
Maitland told me that he'd never seen anyone move like Chris did. In the split second of the distraction Chris had grabbed the barrel of the shotgun. The gunman felt Chris pulling the barrel of the gun downward and tried to prevent it by pulling the barrel in the opposite direction to regain control of it. Chris suddenly reversed his movement and the barrel of the gun slammed into the gunman's own face. Then Chris snatched the gun away from him and swung it into the gunman like a baseball bat.
Maitland himself started using his own knowledge of boxing to deal with Cam. Cam threw a punch at Maitland who slipped it and counter punched, landing a blow to Cam's chest.
Maitland said that he saw Chris run up to the last guy and do another one of those weird moves of his. He leaped straight up into the air like a diver on the diving board. He did that step they call a hurdle where one of their legs bends at the knee to drive them upwards. Chris wasn't doing a dive; he drove that knee into the last guy's jaw which shattered. The guy never woke up until after the surgery to repair his jaw in the hospital.
Maitland and Cam were so shocked by Chris that they just stopped what they were doing and stared at him. Chris calmly picked up the shot gun and stuck the barrel in Cam's mouth. That was how they were when the police arrived.
After it was all over here in California, Helena and I went back to my office. "I want you to explain something to me," she said. She pulled out a newspaper with the headline about the night I spent with Amanda Kingsley. She didn't look pleased.
"Explain this," she said to me. My heart lurched. Why the hell did this keep happening to me.
"It didn't happen," I said weakly. "Helena, I know you won't believe me. I met her that evening at a business dinner that Gascon took us to. I danced with her one time, to a fast song. We didn't even dance close together."
"I love you, Helena. You have to believe me. It's not true," I said.
Everyone in my office was looking at us because we hadn't closed the door. Myra
Helena came around the desk and hugged me. I almost went into shock. Her breasts were so soft but so firm at the same time. They also seemed to push themselves into me a while before she got there.
"Blake what are you talking about?" she asked. "Of course I believe you. I'm not
an idiot like your last wife. If you read the article and looked at the date and the time difference between Florida and Paris, you couldn't have been in a hotel room with her. Because at that exact same time you were on the phone with me, making me text you pictures of my boobs."
"I did not ask you to do that," I smirked. "Besides, you did say they were mine."
"Give me your phone," she said. I handed her my phone.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Well, If you don't want the picture, I'm going to delete it," she said.
"Uhm, I'll keep it," I said quietly.
"You don't need the picture, you've got the real thing," she said. "But if I ever run into Amanda Kingsley, I'm going to kick her ass for using you for publicity."
Billie Jean and my brother Cameron both got jail time for their scheme. They both tried to claim that the other was responsible for it and tried to rat each other out for a reduction of their relative sentences.
The next day the papers were full of new headlines. "Billie Jean goes to jail," was my favorite. Of course the articles telling about how I wasn't the father were all on page fourteen of the second section.
Mary Beth called me and apologized for not believing me. She told me she wanted to stop the divorce and try to work everything out. I reminded her that we'd already been through that. I also reminded her that it had been her lack of trust in me more than anything else that killed our marriage and I had someone now who did believe in me.
Mary Beth signed the divorce papers in exchange for the video tape of her performance with the stripper, so I got off easy there. I gave her enough money to start her life without me. She wasn't very happy, but for a person as vain as she was, having anyone know what a slut she turned out to be would have been worse than death. I don't feel too badly for her because if she'd just had a little bit of faith in me, we'd still be happy.
Helena and I did get married and we adopted my nephew, Michael. I'm also extremely glad that Helena was right, she's very very good in bed. It's so different from the sex I had with Mary Beth. There's nothing frantic or violent about it. Just two people who really love each other communicating and joining on a very emotional level. We do get kind of wild every now and then, though. I still remember the first time I woke up with my head nestled between those pillows of hers and reached up to suck one of her nipples. I was in heaven.
McMillan Worth bought out Anthony-Alexander LLC for twenty million dollars making me richer and Caesar rich. I became a titled partner and Seize became a partner. So the company is now called McMillan Worth Alexander. I fired Arthur Harris.
Tyler Collins wrote a book about the whole Billie Jean incident and it became a
best seller. Sarah still works for Arturo Rios Investigations, but I pay her a very big retainer to handle any problems that come up for me. I gave her a big cash bonus and Chris too, but she was still angry with me. A few days after she and Chris headed home it seems they pulled up into their driveway and discovered where I'd had the Shelby GT-H delivered. She sent me an e-mail begging me not to encourage him. And that he didn't need two cars that he never let anyone else drive.
One year later, we're back where I started this story. I'm driving my Cobalt blue Shelby to a charity dinner where I'll be accepting my second consecutive award as the top grossing man in advertising. As my beautiful wife and I get out of the car flash bulbs start popping and there are lots of pictures being taken. Sadly though Mary Beth showed up. Somehow the fashionistas she'd always worked so hard to impress must have realized that she was wearing the same dress she wore last year and none of them photographs her. I notice a single tear slide down her cheek ruining her make-up as Helena and I walk by her. Helena and I both wave to her, but she turns and runs away.
Again this is my night but there are more pictures being taken of Helena than of me. This is her first time going to one of these big charity things and her version of the little black dress is incredible. Maybe it's just the body that's squeezed into it. Helena wouldn't let me see the dress before she put it on.
The top barely contains her breasts and I'd never have let her wear it. "Relax honey," she told me. "I'm all yours and I always will be. I need to show off this body now before everyone sees how you've ruined it. And there's something I need to do here tonight."
"Helena, what are you talking about," I asked.
"Well in about 8 months, Michael will have a little brother or sister," she smiled.
"And in about 8 minutes someone here is gonna have some Hell."
In the background I heard someone say, "Hey isn't that Amanda Kingsley?" I turned
back to Helena and she was already heading in the direction of the voices.
"Oh Amanda," she yelled, taking off her shoes and ear rings. "I want to talk to you about something you said about my husband!"
I wonder what the papers will say tomorrow.
Life goes on