Josh had to rush to make Mr. VanWinkle's office by eleven fifteen. Mrs. Trent announced Barlow and Kelly had arrived at eleven thirty, but Mr. VanWinkle let then cool their heels for five minutes then buzzed Mrs. Trent to send them in.
"Josh, good to see you," a prison white Kelly said. "I think about you often."
"Kelly," Josh answered very coolly.
"Josh, this is Mr. Sylvester Barlow who represents me."
"Kelly, Mr. Julius VanWinkle, who is representing me."
"Josh, can't we just handle this privately, man to man?" Kelly asked, giving Josh a puppy dog pleading look, a look which usually got him just about anything he wanted, but would not this time.
Before Josh could respond one way or another, Mr. VanWinkle said, "Mr. Blankenship, I represent Mr. Taylor and any communication will come through me. I believe Mr. Barlow is here to represent you and I suggest you let him."
Kelly could not have looked more taken aback had he just been hit in the face with a shitty baby diaper. Josh became very clear as to how Kelly had expected to be able to manipulate him and was disgusted with how easily he had been manipulated by Kelly from the minute he walked into his office the first time, but not this time. He might be a slow learner, but he did learn.
"Mr. Barlow, if you would state your purpose, perhaps we could conclude any dealing Mr. Blankenship expects to have with Mr. Taylor."
"Indeed, indeed as I am sure we are both very busy men. There are actually three matters we are here to negotiate."
"And they are?" Mr. VanWinkle asked with a raised eyebrow.
"First, there is a matter of Mr. Blankenship's partnership in Blankenship LLLP which, I understand, he stands to inherit from his late mother."
"There is his challenge to the agreement establishing Blankenship LLLP, a matter in which he has filed civil suit, but which we both know can take years in court to settle and we all, I'm sure, would like to get that settled and over with."
"There is a third?"
"A rather delicate matter, but there is the question of a hundred thousand dollars deposited to Mr. Taylor's account by mistake, monies rightly belonging to Mr. Blankenship."
"Shall we start with the latter?" Mr. VanWinkle asked. "It is my understanding that a hundred thousand dollars was, in fact, deposited to Mr. Taylor's account, but there was no accounting for it. However, it was used, on Mr. Blankenship's word, as proof Mr. Taylor had sold company secrets."
"I think we are all adults here," Mr. Barlow said. "We all know Mr. Blankenship was under the influence of drugs while the unpleasantness in Hawaii occurred."
"Which doesn't explain how a hundred thousand dollars belonging to Mr. Blankenship was mistakenly deposited to Mr. Taylor's account."
"Look, I was pissed at Dad for promoting you over me and I was pissed at you for being prudish about keeping everything just between the two of us. I like a little variety, thank you. I was also enjoying the feeling I was getting from some of the stuff a new friend, Everett Sloane gave me."
"Mr. Blankenship, as your attorney, I advise you to keep quiet."
"I feel I must advise you as well," Mr. VanWinkle said.
"Shit no! Josh has to understand! Josh, you have to understand!" Kelly sounded desperate and no doubt was. "Everett suggested a way I could get even with Dad and you. He came up with a scheme to get you convicted of selling company secrets and I went along. The hundred thousand was part of the scheme, but would be mine when the dust settled. He gave me the idea of stealing the module and the computer and helped me do it. In return, I was to be CEO of the Blankenship division of Thomson and Morgan. I only learned later he worked for them. He was also my dealer. So, it really was the dope that made me do it, but I should have the money. Besides, I owe it to some guys who play really rough."
"You can discuss that with the Feds, Mr. Barlow, as they seized it after Mr. Taylor renounced all knowledge and claim to it. As to the first matter, I certainly have no idea what Mr. Blankenship will or will not inherit from his mother, who is, at least legally, not deceased. You might contact Mr. James Davis about her will. Nevertheless, she held no partnership in Blankenship LLLP. Again, you may check with Mr. Davis concerning that. However, Mrs. Blankenship's residency and care at Care Haven has been paid for by Blankenship LLLP as part of that agreement. Further, I understand, Mr. Kelly Blankenship has been receiving a monthly stipend and a deposit was made to an account established in his name. Those benefits enjoyed by both Mrs. Blankenship and Mr. Blankenship are a result of the agreement which you seem to be questioning now. Acceptance of the benefits of the agreement is certainly tacit acceptance of the agreement in which Mrs. Blankenship sold her partnership. I cannot imagine a judge ruling otherwise. Can you?" Mr. Barlow did not respond.
"As to the matter of the civil suit, I believe the above will pretty much convince any reasonable judge there is no case. Mr. James Davis, on behalf of Mrs. Blankenship, has entered the case with us should our position not be enough to convince an unreasonable judge. In legal terms, Mr. Barlow, you and your client are up shit creek without a paddle. As soon as the civil suit is dropped, the money being held in escrow will be paid into Mr. Blankenship's account and the anniversary payment due him will be paid on time. However, since he is not presently in prison, he is not due the monthly stipend until he returns to prison, which I am sure he will do shortly."
Josh was thinking and saw an opportunity to be rid of Kelly Blankenship once and for all. He glanced at Mr. VanWinkle and indicated he'd like to talk with him. "Gentlemen," Mr. VanWinkle said, "if you'll excuse us a minute, we might have one other item of business to discuss with you." He opened the door to a small conference room next to his office and said, "If you would please wait in the conference room for a few minutes." As he flipped on the light, he also turned on the large TV in the room and happened to glance at it just as a CNN news reader said, "We are standing by to learn of the developments in the situation at the State House involving Rep. Chester Boles." Kelly and Barlow practically shot through the door into the conference room. Needless to say, Josh and Mr. VanWinkle were interested as well. "Nancy, what are you hearing about the FBI raiding Rep. Boles's office and arresting him?"
"Max, very little. I have learned that when Representative Boles's staff started arriving this morning, they were not allowed into their offices. His Chief of Staff reportedly called Rep. Boles and he appeared about an hour ago. He was served with a search warrant and not allowed to enter his office. Since that time, we understand, he has been taken away in handcuffs and the FBI have been carrying boxes from his and his Chief of Staff's offices. Special Agent Ralph Milner has announced a press conference sometime this afternoon. Rumors are flying involving bribes paid to secure release from prison of Kelly Blankenship, son of the late owner of Blankenship LTD, and a scheme involving selling Blankenship secrets to Thomson and Morgan, Blankenship's major competitor. Further rumors involve drugs, but all we have now is rumors."
"Perhaps all will become clear at the press conference."
"We can hope."
Both Kelly and Barlow looked as if they had seen a ghost. Mr. VanWinkle closed the conference door behind them and Josh said, "Looks like the jig is up for Kelly, and I can't say I'm sorry. However, before the news broke, I was going to suggest paying Kelly the money in escrow and an additional twelve thousand which would pay for the stipend for ten years in prison, as well as the final payment due for deposit next year in return for an agreement that any and all involvement with Blankenship LLLP and any and all employees, associates and anyone or thing else will cease. "
"Still sounds like a good idea to me and I suspect they'll take it because I'm sure they have bigger worries right now."
"How quickly can you get the paperwork done?"
"I thought about something along the same lines and have a contract which, with a couple changes, will do the job."
"You make the changes and I'll talk to the two."
"You think that's wise?"
"Not really, but something I need to do."
Josh went to the conference room where two very glum men sat. "Mr. Barlow, I don't know how involved you are in the mess that appears to be evolving, but I suspect maybe more than merely as Kelly's lawyer. I think you know your goose is cooked and that Kelly's is overdone. Kelly, I am sure Mr. Barlow is smart enough to tell you you face a very long time in prison for what you have done and tried to do and before you start thinking you can lie, bribe and con you way out of it all, everything said in the office today was video recorded by an independent company who will certify the tapes.
"Kelly, I don't know what we could have had together. Maybe nothing more than being good friends and fuck buddies, but you trashed that. You have tried, time and again, to destroy me. The only reason I won't just leave you totally hanging in the wind is because of your father, who was like a father to me, and your mother, and her only because the Old Man worshiped her. It would be very easy for me just to have security kick your ass out of this office without anything except what you have already gotten from Blankenship LLLP. Mr. Barlow can tell you if we wanted, we could send your ass up the river for the rest of your screwed up life, but I won't and Blankenship LLLP won't.
"I say all of that so you know that the soft spot you are about to witness in me has to do with your parents, not you. Mr. VanWinkle will arrive shortly with a contract which will pay you the money in escrow and prepay the stipend for ten years in prison and the second deposit to your account. In return, you will sign away all rights, claims, etc. you hold or imagine you hold against Blankenship LLLP, me and any and all employees, staff, associates, etc. We're both taking a gamble here—you that you won't have to serve more than ten years in prison and I that you won't serve less—but I am willing to give you the money even if you never go back to prison. Your downgrading your mother's accommodations and pocketing the cost difference I will ignore so far as you are concerned. That is between you and your conscience, if you have one. The partnership will, however, be suing Care Haven."
Mr. VanWinkle entered and said, "Gentlemen, here is the contract Mr. Taylor mentioned. Mr. Blankenship, take your time going over it with Mr. Barlow. When you are satisfied or wish clarification or changes, I'll be next door."
Half an hour later, the two came into Mr. VanWinkle's office, ready to sign. That done, they were ushered out of the building by security.
Josh was halfway out of Mr. VanWinkle's office when the lawyer's phone rang and he held up his hand for him to wait while he answered it. When he hung up, he said, "Josh, that was James Davis. He tried to reach you at home and when he could not, called here. When I told him of the agreement Kelly had signed, he said in that case he saw no reason you shouldn't know what is in Mrs. Blankenship's will in regards to Kelly since it involves the two of you. She never revised her will after she changed it when she had Kelly's apartment searched and he went to prison. She knew Kelly pretty well and her will sets up a trust fund with you as the sole trustee. There is a rather sizable amount of money in it. As trustee, you are to receive a fourth of the interest income as payment for administering the fund. So long as Kelly is in prison he is to receive a hundred dollars a month from the fund's income and the balance is to be added to the principle. When he is out of prison and so long as he is out, he is to receive three fourths of the monthly interest. She further stipulates that at Kelly's death, you or the trustee you appoint to replace you, have sole discretion in regard to interest and principle. Further, she directs that should her directive concerning her end be carried out, you and James Davis are to be in attendance, if possible. Should Kelly not be present, her wish for the machines to be turned off is still to be carried out.
"I never suspected Mrs. Blankenship would give me the time of day, but of course, I'll be there."
"Josh, she obviously thought much of you before her dementia confused her and her thinking. I'll be thinking about you."
"Thank you, thank you very much."
It was afternoon when Josh left Mr. VanWinkle's office. He has just started toward the apartment when his phone rang. Never one to use the phone while driving, he was happy to spot a place to pull over just ahead. When he saw it was the apartment phone, he got a huge smile on his face. He flipped the phone open and said, "So how's my barefoot boy?"
"Mr. Taylor, I'm Officer Winters with the San Francisco Police Department…"
"Officer, is Alex all right?" Josh's heart was pounding.
"I believe so, Mr. Taylor. When can you get here?"
"Ten or fifteen minutes, Officer. Can I speak to Alex?"
"Right now he is occupied, Mr. Taylor. I'll have him call as soon as he can."
"He is all right, though?"
"He is, just needed a bit of cleaning up."
"Thank you, Officer. I'll be home as fast as possible," Josh said, very confused about what was going on. He did not spare the horses and pulled into his apartment parking slot ten minutes later and ran up the stairs, not wanting to wait for the elevator. As he approached his apartment, he was surprised to see the door standing open and more so when he stepped inside and saw no one. "Alex?" he called.
"In here, Mr. Taylor," someone called from the bedroom.
When Josh stepped into the bedroom, he saw Alex sitting on the bed, covered with blood. There was blood all over the room. A female officer sat by Alex, wiping blood from his face. "What the hell is going on? Babe, are you ok?"
Alex looked up and grinned, "Son of a bitch tried to handcuff me. He'll regret it for a long time."
"I was sleeping when I heard someone trying to get in the door. I grabbed one of the swords. Two guys came in and one of them grabbed me. As he did, I slashed him across the face with the sword. The other one grabbed my wrist and I kinda went apeshit when he snapped a handcuff on it. I started slashing him. He got a handcuff on one wrist, but I hit him in the leg and belly and he started gushing blood. Meanwhile a neighbor heard me yelling and called the police and here we are. I'm going to take a shower and change clothes if it's ok."
"Go ahead," the lady officer said. When Alex left, she walked over to Josh and said, "Mr. Taylor, I am Officer Casey. We have a crime scene unit on its way. The two perps are in the emergency room under guard. One of them just may not make it. Mr. Bledsoe got the first one in the face—lots of blood and much of it in his eyes, so he backed off, but no serious damage done. Well, nothing that fifty or so stitches won't patch up. The other one is a horse of a different color. He has a bad belly wound and Mr. Bledsoe nicked an artery in his leg and it sprayed blood all over the place. He is in critical condition. Had Mr. Bledsoe cut him a quarter of an inch deeper, he would no longer be among us.
"When Officer Winters and I arrived and went into the bedroom, Mr. Bledsoe was standing in the corner threatening to kill them if they touched him. As he said, he kinda went ape. It took some sweet-talking before he would allow us to come into the room, handcuff the two and do emergency first aid. Fortunately, we used the plastic ties instead of regular handcuffs, otherwise, I think he might have attacked us."
"That is a very real possibility. You heard of New Beginnings in Utah?"
"Mr. Bledsoe was there. When he thinks he is being restrained, he does go wild. I have been on the receiving end of one such episode."
"Mr. Taylor… Josh Taylor, one of the raiders on that place?"
"Yeah, one of many."
"Well, that explains why Mr. Bledsoe was so ferocious, but why was he attacked?"
"That sure doesn't make sense unless they broke in expecting no one was here. Nothing really, valuable here, but enough to keep someone in drugs a day or two, I suppose. Well, that's not quite true. If their fence happened to be knowledgeable about Asian artifacts, some here are pretty valuable and the swords practically priceless."
"Why would they have handcuffs if they came to burgle? Doesn't make sense and apparently they went straight to the bedroom. No, I think they came for Mr. Bledsoe or you."
The second officer stepped into the bedroom, extended his hand and said, "Officer Winters, Mr. Taylor. I think Officer Casey is right. I think their intention was to kidnap you or Mr. Bledsoe."
"Officer Winters," Josh said, extending his hand, "Why would they kidnap us? What would they get out of that?"
"I suspect they were after you or Mr. Bledsoe in a kidnapping for ransom, but maybe not. Know anyone with a grudge?"
"Well, I'm in business, so there's always someone ready to figuratively cut my throat, but actually? No, unless they were connected to New Beginnings.
"Well, we'll look into that. Have any place you can stay tonight? We have a crime scene unit on the way and it will be here shortly, but they will be here awhile and you will have a mess to get cleaned up after they leave."
"We'll find a place."
"Keep us advised of where you are. I have your cell number. Now check on Mr. Bledsoe."
"Damn! I am a fool," Josh said and ran to the bathroom. His fear was realized when he found Alex on the floor of the shower, curled into a ball, the shower still running. He turned off the shower, wrapped Alex in a towel and called out for the officers. Both came running. "Will you please help me? If one of you would go next door and see if anyone is home and if so, bring him, please," tears were streaming down Josh's face. Two minutes later, Officer Winters reappeared accompanied by Cândido. "Cândido, will you please take Alex? I'll explain everything in a minute. Right now I have to get his medicine."
"Of course," Cândido said. "I will take him to our guest room."
"Officers, I have to go to our room and get Alex's medicine. He goes into a state such as you see when something causes a flashback to New Beginnings. Why I didn't realize this was likely to happen and accompany him to the bathroom, I do not know, but it was a damn fool thing to do."
Officer Casey was pulling on latex gloves as Josh spoke. She said, "Touch as little as possible and let me open any drawer or whatever."
"The vial with Alex's medicine, hypodermic and alcohol swabs are in a pouch in the bedside table nearest the door if you want to just go get it for me."
Officer Casey practically ran into the room and returned with the pouch and Josh ran next door. Cândido had dried Alex and laid him in the middle of the bed. He was leaning over Alex chanting softly. Josh swabbed a spot on Alex's ass and injected the medicine. Almost immediately Alex started uncurling and was soon deep in relaxed sleep.
"Thank you, Officer, Cândido. I really feel rotten that I let him go to the shower, but he seemed as though the attack was no big deal. I was a fool."
"Maybe so, maybe no," Officer Casey said. "I know from my handicapped brother the line between helping and over-protecting is very fine. Will he be ok now?"
"He will sleep six to eight hours and wake up as though nothing had happened. He needs someone with him, so I'll stay with him."
"Everything under control?" Officer Winters asked as he walked into the guest room.
"Everything's under control, at least so far as Alex is concerned. There's the matter of getting the apartment cleaned and I am supposed to be present when life support is turned off for my late boss's wife. Know a good cleaning service for handling blood, guts and gore?"
"The department would frown on our recommending anyone for anything," Office Casey said. "Conflict of interest."
"Granting that, and the fact that Officer Casey is close to the situation, it would be less kosher for her than me. You didn't hear it from me, but one of the best blood, guts and gore cleaning services, and for cleaning in general, is After the Ball is Over. It is owned by Officer Casey's brother, so forget where you heard it."
"Never heard a word," Josh said, grabbed a phone book, looked up the number and dialed it.
"After the Ball is Over, this is Kenneth Casey."
"Mr. Casey, I have been told when it comes to blood, guts and gore, you're the best. I have an apartment soaked in blood. Not sure about guts and gore, but that's possible. I'd like the blood and gore gone, but the whole apartment detailed. I am showing it tomorrow and would like it done by then. Is that possible?"
"Maybe. What's the address? I have an hour right now and could take a look if it's not too far."
Josh gave him the address and he said, "You're in luck. My crew is working a job six blocks away and I just came by to check on it, I'll be there is ten minutes."
As Josh hung up the phone, Officer Casey said the crime scene unit had arrived and started work. "They will be finished in an hour, hour and a half, but aside from the bedroom, the rest of your place is free."
Josh went into the guest room where Cândido sat watching Alex. "Cândido, could Alex and I camp out here for the next day or so?"
"Of course. As a matter of fact, since you are planning on leasing your apartment, why don't you just stay here until you leave? The cleaners have to do their thing and the movers will pack everything. Your clothes and toiletries will be all you'll need."
"Thanks, Cândido, that will be a big help. Hate to keep asking for things, but I really need to be at the hospital at seven when the life support machines for Mrs. Blankenship are turned off. Unless something very different happens, Alex will sleep peacefully until morning, but he does need someone around."
"Think nothing of it, Josh, we are friends and brothers." He hugged Josh.
"I am going to miss you," Josh said, and returned the hug.
There was a knock on the door and when Cândido opened it, a young man with two elbow crutches said, "I'm Kenneth Casey and I am looking for Josh Taylor."
"I have had a look at the apartment. You want the whole thing done, detailed?"
"We are talking serious money, Mr. Taylor, really serious money if it has to be done by tomorrow afternoon since I'll have to have a crew working tonight and that's expensive."
"Do it, Mr. Casey. Do you need a deposit?"
"I usually don't require one, but since I have to field a night crew, I won't turn it down."
"A check for a thousand?"
"It would be welcome, but unnecessary as the final bill will probably be in the neighborhood of fifteen hundred. I can give you an exact figure after I have a chance to really look the place over, especially the bedroom which I just glanced at. Was someone murdered there? I can't imagine anyone losing that much blood and surviving."
"Well, actually, there were two people injured, but most of the blood was from one. I understand the doctors offered no hope he would survive when he was brought in, but they say he does have a chance. Of course, there's the gut part of the picture as well. His gut was opened and that's always serious." Josh then told him what had occurred.
"What's going on?" Luc asked as he walked through the door.
"Just the usual attempted kidnapping and defense by a samurai," Cândido said. "Same old, same old."
"Yeah," Josh said, "just the same old, same old."
Luc looked ready to strangle the two.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
As always, I own the copyright, so no use beyond personal copy, without permission. If you are too young or whatever to read literature which may describe explicit sex, don't or take any consequences.
All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.