Chapter 4: The Long Weekend
We have a word for that in the military:SUSFU.
What? You don’t know that one? Seriously? How long have you been reading my autobiography? Fine. Fine, seeing as you have to ask, it stands for – situation unchanged: still fucked up.
It comes in handy around the boss.
It was a different story on Wednesday, the night of the big reunion. And, by the way, the boss and Miss Steele still haven’t had any make-up sex, which I totally don’t get, because that’s the best thing about having an argument. Jeez, I love arguing with Gail because when we make-up, all bets are off, and there’s that thing she does with her… well… yeah.
So, back to the boss last Thursday.
He didn’t know if the woman of his dreams was going to stay an apparition, or whether she’d swallow her better judgement and let Mr Control-Freak-with-unmentionable-tendencies back into her life.
He was so tense, I had my tin hat ready for the moment he snapped. It was like driving a bomb-disposal expert on the way to defuse an IED, except the fucking bomb was in the car, twitching away on the backseat.
And while I’m thinking about it, why do limeys – sorry, Brits, as we’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder – why do Brits call their bomb-disposal guys ATOs? I mean, come on! Ammunition Technical Officer? Sounds like some desk jockey who hands out the rounds of ammo, not the guy with balls the size of watermelons who takes the lonely walk to defuse a bomb?
Yeah, I’m going off track again. It was thinking about that R-rated make-up sex with Gail. Puts a man off his stride.
So, I’m driving the boss and wondering if I should have Flynn on speed-dial. And I’m thinking if the boss’s anxiety levels stay that high, he’ll be chewing on his $400 manicure. Hey, I know about these things: I’m a New Man.
Well, that evening, the boss’s story had a happy ending. It was hard to believe that the man I’d driven out, Mr Ticking-time-bomb, was the same one who sat with his sleeping woman in his arms for two hours on the ride back. He looked like he’d found a small slice of heaven. Yeah, I get that.
Now if I could just figure out how that Williams woman got into the Escala apartment, I’d be a happy guy, too. I might even go crazy and, I don’t know, smile. Except that would freak-out Sawyer: he’s the sensitive type.
So, Friday evening, I have the pleasure of driving the boss to pick up Miss Steele from work, or, in fact, from a bar called ‘Fiftys’…
Were you waiting for some rich seam of sarcasm? Some inappropriate jest at the expense of my FUBARed boss (you’re going to have to look that one up for yourself, unless, of course, you’re the sensitive kind, too, in which case it would probably be best if you stop reading now).
So, I pick them up and Grey opens the door for Miss Steele. She’s got that look on her face like she’s trying not to laugh at him. Jeez, I love that look. Fuck! What’s with all this ‘love’ crap? I’m turning into a fucking cheerleader. Mind you, you’d better believe I have the pompoms to prove it. Oh fuck. Did I really just say that? Paging Dr Flynn – I need a new job.
Ok, well, getting back to the intrepid Miss Steele, she says,
“Why did that feel like a pissing contest?”
You know, I’m really not sure about these potty-mouthed women. And you were wondering how come I’ve been led astray all these years. I was a choir boy once. Fucking A!
Ana is such a cute kid, I can’t help smiling at her in the rearview mirror. And you know what, it doesn’t suck. I kinda like smiling. Who knew?
And for once my sense of sarcasm is safely in control. He’s happy, she’s happy: jeez, if there was any more joy going around the cops would be stopping us for having loud smiles in a built-up area.
The boss barely acknowledges my presence like he’s almost forgotten I’m here: his eyeballs are only for Miss Steele. And suddenly I’m really hoping he remembers that this car doesn’t drive itself because watching my boss get it on with Miss Cute-and-Flirty is not my idea of a fun Friday night. Call me old-fashioned.
“What would you like to do this evening?” he says.
Woah! Did I just have an auditory hallucination? He asked her what she wanted to do? Stop the fucking press.
“I thought you said we had plans.”
“Oh, I know what I want to do, Anastasia. I’m asking you what you want to do.”
See, she’s amazed, too: that’s why he’s had to spell it out for her.
Like I can’t guess. Like she can’t guess. Hell, it’s so fucking obvious he wants to work through the Karma Sutra from page one to the end, (and including all the appendices), that he may as well have me drive them to the nearest pay-by-the-hour motel.
She doesn’t reply, so while they’re enjoying their version of foreplay, I get the SatNav to plot the quickest route to happiness, so to speak.
I don’t hear her answer: maybe it was non-verbal, because the boss says,
“I see. So… begging it is, then. Do you want to beg at my place or yours?”
You know, what’s great about women like Miss Steele and Gail? They’re real good at letting us guys think that we’re the ones in charge. I know that Gail calls the shots, and she knows that I know that she knows that she calls the shots, but she’ll let me have that guy-pride thing and pretend I’m in charge. She’s thoughtful like that. Miss Steele is cut from the same cloth; maybe that’s why I like her.
But she lobs it right over his head:
“I think you’re being very presumptuous, Mr Grey. But by way of a change, we could go to my apartment.”
Fifteen -love to Miss Steele.
I begin to relax as the boss manages to have what passes for a normal conversation for him, until he says,
“That man Hyde wants into your panties, Anastasia.”
Yep, that’s my boss, who really only opens his mouth to change feet.
Next thing I know, he’s threatening to fire the creepy fucker. Now, I have no problem with that, but the jerk (and now I’m talking about the boss – keep up at the back)… the jerk threatens to fire Hyde. Thus giving away the closely guarded secret that’s he’s bought SIP. A secret he was particularly keen to keep from Miss Steele. See what I mean? Jerk.
And she’s pissed. Really pissed.
Well, no shit, Sherlock!
“What kind of responsible business executive makes decisions based on who he is currently fucking?”
Thirty-love to Miss Steele.
The boss is getting hammered. I’m thinking of having commemorative T-shirts printed.
I pull up outside of Miss Steele’s and act like the Pinball Wizard. Oh please! Pop culture reference? You must know that one.
She slams out of the car.
“I think you’d better wait here, Taylor,” says the boss.
Yup, already worked that out. You hired me for my brains, not my snappy suits, bossman.
He tries to talk her down – double fault.
“It’s gross moral turpitude – the fact that I am fucking my boss’s boss’s boss.”
Forty-love to Miss Steele.
“At the moment you’re arguing with him.”
“That’s because he’s such an ass!”
Game, set and match to Miss Steele.
It could go either way. Inside, I’m begging Miss Steele to put the poor bastard out of his misery – mostly because I have a couple of scenes planned out with Miss Moneypenny back at Escala, one of which may involve fun with food, and I do not want Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ playing in the background if that dumb jerk fucks up again, no matter how apt a musical segue it is for the boss.
I can’t help thinking Miss Steele needs a holiday named after her just because of everything she’s had to put up with*. Well, the boss is rich: he should be able to swing that.
Eventually she lets him in and my torture – and his – is ended.
He waves me on my way with a weird look on his face. Wait… maybe… could be… yep… thinking it is… the boss is happy.
Doesn’t it just make you feel warm all over?
And I drive like a bat out of hell back to Escala because I have every intention of making Gail feel warm all over with the least amount of time between me exiting the car and entering, well, the apartment, for starters.
Gail’s voice is strained and immediately my hand reaches for the Korth.
“Kelly just rang: Sophie isn’t well.”
“What? What’s happened? Why the fuck didn’t she call my cell? Stupid fucking bitch.”
“I don’t know, Jason, but yelling at me isn’t going to help. Nor will yelling at her. She thinks Sophie has some sort of gastroenteritis. They’ve taken her to the emergency room.”
I feel like every drop of blood has drained out of my body. Not Sophie. Not my princess.
“Jason, I’m sure it will be fine. Children have these stomach upsets all the time and you know how Kelly tends to panic.”
I want to yell that’s easy for her to say, but I don’t.
I pull out my cell and call the Bitch.
“Kelly: how is she?”
“We don’t know yet, Jason: a doctor is checking her. I’ll have to call you back.”
And the fucking bitch hangs up on me, leaving me staring at a useless hunk of plastic.
“I’m going down there.”
“Jason,” Gail lays a cool hand on my arm, “just give it ten minutes. Wait until the doctor has seen her.”
I know she’s right, but it feels wrong, standing here as useless as a sundeck on a submarine.
Ten minutes are up and the Bitch hasn’t called back. I try her cell but it’s turned off.
“That’s it: I’m heading down there.”
Gail bites her lip but doesn’t try to stop me. I text the boss to tell him I’m going away and arrange for Sawyer to do the security sweeps. Just as I’m heading out, my cell rings.
“Jason, she’s fine. She’s ok. The doctor says it’s just stomach flu.”
I hear the tremble in her voice and remember, for the briefest moment, that I cared about her once.
“Thank, Christ. I’m coming down, Kelly.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Jason,” she snaps, reminding me why we got divorced. “It’s late at night and I’m taking her home. I was just letting you know. She doesn’t need upsetting now.”
“I’m her father, for fuck’s sake!”
“Don’t swear at me, Jason, and stop trying to bully me. Maybe next weekend. I’ll let you know.”
“FUCK!” I yell into the phone as she cuts me off again.
Gail wraps her arms around me and, with her touch, I feel like I can breathe again.
Saturday morning, and my woman is going away. It’s only for one night, but I feel like someone cut off my right arm.
“Jason, put me down! I’m only going to be gone till Sunday evening!”
“Too long,” I murmur into her warm, soft, deliciously-scented neck.
She gives a light laugh and tugs my hair.
“Hey, this is getting long! I thought you told me that if you could hold onto your sideburns, your buzzcut was in need of a trim**. You’d better shape up, Marine!”
“You’re leading me astray, woman.”
Damn, I love it when she’s a bad influence.
“You don’t seem to have any difficulty being led, Jason.”
“Not true! I’m trying to make an honest woman of you, but you don’t want to give up living in sin.”
She stills, and I regret my words because now they’ve broken the mood.
“You know what I think about that Jason. I don’t want to discuss it again.”
“Ok, but can we discuss some more sin when you get back?”
“I’ll think about it, Jason.”
Oh yeah, me, too.
With the apartment empty, and with no distractions, I can focus on keeping the boss safe. I check all the entrances and exits again, but still nothing. There’s something I’m missing: and I do not like that fucking feeling.
I’m almost relieved when Welch calls me with an update. But not for long.
“We’ve got a problem, Taylor. The Williams woman has been stalking Miss Steele.”
“What the fuck?”
“Yes, a confirmed sighting yesterday evening.”
“And you’re telling me this now? What happened? Is Miss Steele ok? Is she hurt? Was the boss there…?”
“Shut the fuck up and I’ll tell you!”
He’s right: I have to focus.
“Williams approached Miss Steele outside her place of work at approximately 1750 last night. She didn’t make threats but she did speak to Miss Steele. She asked her, ‘What do you have that I don’t?’ Does that make sense to you, Taylor?”
“Of course it fucking makes sense, Welch! She wants to know why she didn’t end up as the boss’s girlfriend. Move it on: what happened?”
“She left. Miss Steele didn’t think anything of it and forgot about it – until she had a nightmare last night.”
And that really, really pisses me off. That fucking Williams woman has scared Gail to the point where she doesn’t want to be in the apartment by herself, and now she’s giving Miss Steele nightmares? No fucking way!
“I’ll add a twice-daily sweep of Miss Steele’s apartment to the security rota, Welch. I’ll make a personal inspection this afternoon. Grey is there with her at the moment and…”
Welch takes a deep breath.
“There’s more, Taylor: Williams has acquired a gun licence.”
“How the fuck…?”
“And she’s managed to obtain a concealed weapons’ permit.”
“Yes, that about sums up my thoughts. Mr Grey is aware – he’s on his way back to Miss Steele’s apartment now so she can collect some personal items; they’ll be back at Escala within the hour.”
“The boss has a fundraiser event at his parents’ tonight: I’ll try to persuade him to cancel… and if not, I want Sawyer and Ryan.”
“Where the fuck is that Williams bitch, Welch?”
“I wish I knew. She hasn’t touched her bank account or used a credit card. The concealed weapon’s permit is our first, solid clue.”
I put the phone down and the first thing I do is check my Korth because nothing is going to happen to Miss Steele and the boss: not on my fucking watch.
I sweep the apartment again and wait by the elevator when I see that the boss and Ana have arrived in the underground garage.
The boss gets straight to the point.
“Has Welch been in touch?
“Excellent. How’s your daughter?”
See, this is why I put up with all the boss’s fucked up shit: he’s remembered that Sophie was sick. Gotta rate that twisted bastard.
“She’s fine, thank you, sir.”
“Good. We have a hairdresser arriving at one – Franco de Luca.”
Yeah, I know the flash asshole. Gail thinks he’s ‘cute’. I hate him. Phony fucking accent: he’s as Italian as a Wienerschnitzel, but a lot less useful.
Miss Steele smiles at me.
“Hi, Taylor. You have a daughter?”
“How old is she?”
“She’s seven: she lives with her mother.”
“Oh, I see.”
And I know that she does: Miss Steele’s parents got divorced, too.
I follow the boss to his study and give him the latest.
“I’d like to recommend that you cancel going to Mr and Mrs Grey’s fundraiser tonight, sir. There’ll be upwards of 300 guests plus catering staff and musicians. I can’t guarantee…”
“I know that, Taylor. I fucking know that. Look, my parents have already agreed to extra security staff and with Ryan and Sawyer, too…”
“Sir, my recommendation is that you cancel.”
“Noted. I’m not.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake!
“In that case, sir, I’ll want full access to the grounds and your parents’ house from 4pm. Welch’s team will do a preliminary sweep and then be on stand-by throughout. And they will be armed, sir.”
“My parents won’t be happy having armed men on the property, Taylor.”
“Non-negotiable, sir… or I walk.”
And I mean it. If he wants me to keep Miss Steele and him safe, I have to be able to do my job without one hand tied behind my back.
“Sir, we still don’t know if Miss Williams is after you or Miss Steele. We have to assume after last night’s encounter that she knows everything about Miss Steele, including her place of work, home address and typical schedule. I will not leave her exposed at a fucking fundraiser. Sir.”
His eyes widen. I’ve never spoken to him like that before, but I call it as I see it.
“Fine. But low profile, for fuck’s sake.”
Yeah, I can do that: the cool cat who walks alone.
“My sister will be pleased to see you, Taylor,” he says, blandly, as if it’s an afterthought.
Bastard! He’s getting his own back.
And I can’t help groaning: I need a run-in with Mia Grey as much as Colonel Custer needs more Indians.
* Thanks to Louisvuittonfreak for this idea.
** Thanks to Ana Alfaro for this snippet of info.