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Old 05-24-2017, 07:58 PM   #1
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An Unlikely Affair (closed for Initiate_me)

It was 6:15 p.m. as I backed my police cruiser out of the driveway. It wasn’t how I wanted to spend my day off, but at this stage in the game, I really had no choice. I knew that nobody ever went into police work for the salary. It was to answer a call, to fill a need – a need the community had for men and women like me; a need seated deep inside of me to protect and serve – the motto of my department and many others.

Except today’s work wasn’t on the schedule. It was one of those private gigs we officers have to pick up from time to time to help make ends meet. I knew that with the events in my life of the past few months, there would more than likely be many more of these private security evenings on my schedule. Living on a cop’s salary was tough on its’ own. Having to pay child support and alimony was making it nearly impossible just to survive.

I checked the assignment details again – a brand new art gallery downtown was having its grand opening. The last name of the owner was one I recognized – everyone knew that family as the one having the most “old money” in town. I knew exactly what tonight would be like – rich people fawning over each other, dressed to the nines, looking at art they really didn’t want, and all because of who the owner of the gallery was – well actually, who the owner’s parents were. My job would be to protect the wealthy people first, and the actual art second. And as I did my job, not one person would notice me, or acknowledge me, or thank me for my service. I would be no more than a fixture in the room, a necessary presence in a world that didn’t really want me there.

I sighed as I pulled onto the on-ramp for the beltway. The routine was always the same – meet with the owner 90 minutes before the gallery opened; examine the building, learning the entrances and exits, and identifying potential problem areas should someone be there that wasn’t invited. The net worth of the visitors in this new gallery this evening would combine to a number in the billions. That fact alone meant I could not treat this job lightly.

But another reason I needed to treat this job with diligence was the fact that I still had to take care of my own two kids – Susie was 9, and Joey was 7. Even though I don’t live with them, I still love them, of course, and I’m willing to work otherwise detestable jobs like this in order to continue to provide for their needs, even if that means working on days off. It was their happy faces that made it possible for me to survive evenings like the one coming up.

Two miles away from the downtown exit, my cell phone rang. It was Kristy, my now ex-wife, with her nightly call, pleading for me to come back to her. I could hear it now – “Joe, honey, please – I know we can work this out! I need you – the kids need you – can we at least get together and talk?” I wish we could work it out, to tell the truth, but that would mean me not being honest with myself. If my job as a cop required honesty, then my relationship required it as well….
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Old 05-24-2017, 08:08 PM   #2
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It was very very quiet and I was nervous. I stopped and took a deep, calming breath, and stared at the cottage on the hill to try and distract myself. It was beautiful, unspoiled and in the most picturesque of settings. But could anyone truly be happy living there? Who would be able to actually enjoy living somewhere so small, so devoid of space and entertainment and any kind of luxury? Just thinking about it made me feel a little sick. I shook the thoughts off and moved away from the painting.

The next few were better, real favourites of mine and I was pleased with my choices. A graceful hawk in flight, a spectacular vista of Spanish plains, toddler siblings running through long grass. In a few hours the gallery would be officially open, for the first time, and other people would be able to enjoy these pieces as I had.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard my dad's gravelly voice.

"I'm very proud of you honey. You deserve this, you've shown a lot of potential with this art thing."

I wasn't sure if I was pleased with the praise or irritated about how vague his interest in my efforts was. He always knew everything about Mason's business dealings, or Theo's stock-brokering. Every little detail. With me.... he just thought art was a fun little way for me to pass the time. It hurt because I knew he was probably right.

"Will people be thinking that I've only got this gallery because.... because of our family?" Even as I said it I knew it was true. How could they think anything else? I could hardly pretend that I'd somehow earned this grand opening. Daddy's money. Mom's connections.

"Of course not, don't be silly. Everyone's going to see just what I see- a gorgeous, capable young woman who has put a lot of work into creating something truly beautiful." He smiled complacently , kissed me on the cheek and wandered off, mumbling something about checking on the caterer. I knew that he was going to get another glass of champagne. As per usual.

The large silver clock hid on the grey walls, it's face reading 6:15PM. Two hours to go. Grey walls.... what the hell was I thinking. I had been aiming for soviet-chic but I wasn't sure if it had worked.... God I was nervous. Having to face everyone who is anyone in this town, present myself to them- this is me, this is what I'm passionate about. Have a look around, judge me, please. I reached back to run slender fingers through long chocolate hair but missed- I'd put it up in a high bun a short while ago. Stylish, but pulled just that bit too tight.

The thought ran laps around my mind. You didn't earn this, You didn't earn this, You didn't earn this. I pushed it away, telling myself that I had. I listed the responsibilities for which I deserved the gallery. Acting as the pretty Public Relations face for Dad's business group, acting as the peacemaker in every single family argument, driving Dad home when he'd had just a few tumblers too many. Surely that was enough. Everyone needs something for themselves.

I couldn't help wondering if Pierce would turn up. Whether I wanted him to or not.
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Old 05-24-2017, 10:28 PM   #3
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I looked at my watch as I pulled up - 6:40 p.m., five minutes to spare. I knew they were going to tolerate me tonight simply because I was there to do a job, one they realized needed to be done. But I also knew they would not tolerate problems like tardiness. In reality, I guess I needed these people to see I knew how to perform my duties well, if I had hopes of continuing to acquire these extra-duty assignments. So by arriving early, I had unofficially cleared the first hurdle of the night.

I parked down the street a ways, and on the opposite side of the gallery. That way the presence of security was visible, but the cruiser was not obstructing the front of the gallery. As I stepped into the street, I noticed a valet parking lane was being established. They gallery owner had failed to inform me that valet parking was going to be available. It must meant the possibility that something else could go wrong. After I toured the inside of the gallery, I would have to come out and make sure those working the parking lane knew what they were doing.

I pushed the front door open and stepped into the gallery. It seemed to me to be a little depressing, but what did I know? I'm sure they didn't care that gray wasn't my favorite color. And I also knew that the depressed feeling I was experiencing may have been from my attitude toward being here - basically this was nothing more than a necessary evil in order to take care of my kids. C'mon, Joe, I told myself - you can survive this, just do your job and leave your opinions aside.

The first person I encountered looked gruff, but in a polished way. I walked over to him and said, "Hello, I'm Joe Simpson. I'm providing security tonight. I'm looking for Clarissa."

He didn't look at me once, and I could tell that I was an intrusion into his world, a world in which I didn't belong. Swirling his drink in his right hand, he half-nodded behind him and muttered, "Next room on your right." It was cold and abrupt. If I wasn't dreading this night already, I certainly was now.
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Old 05-26-2017, 06:46 PM   #4
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I was glad to be back sat in the office. Small, dimly lit, quiet.I could pretend that nothing was happening tonight. That it was just me with the paintings, as it had been for the last few months. I'd enjoyed getting everything ready on my own, refusing help except for heavy lifting and jobs involving tools. Workmen had come in to do those tasks- some had been flirty, had looked at me lingeringly, but I'd kept well away. Kept to myself.

The urge to be alone was strong, and it worried me. I was usually so sociable.... Little Miss Party, twenty-three year old daughter of Big Mr Business. An easy life, lots of time to make friends, go shopping, travel, go shopping again.... was I getting bored? How could I, when I had so much? I put it down to nerves. That was all- just nerves.

The knock at the door jolted me back to the present. I stood up and straightened my dress, a straight indigo number that ended midway down my thigh, and was fitted close enough to flatter but not close enough to distract anyone, hopefully.

"Come in", I said and the door opened immediately. I'd expected my Dad but no, it was..... some guy, looking at me with a completely neutral expression, hands clasped behind his back, posture upright and straight, like someone in the military, or maybe the police. I noticed blue eyes, closely-cut blonde hair- I always noticed eyes and hair, and clothes too- his were dark and plain.

I knew he couldn't be a guest arriving early. He definitely didn't belong here.

"Can I help you?" The stress showed in my voice, it was tight and cool.
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Old 05-26-2017, 07:22 PM   #5
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I followed the instructions given to me by Mr. Charming and soon found myself standing in front of a closed door. I paused and took in a deep breath as I looked around at the gallery from the back. I had tried to ignore the paintings and other artwork on display, mostly because I really didn't understand them, and fine art in general, as well as knowing that even if I liked any of the pieces, most of them would sell for more than my annual salary.

I knocked lightly on the door, and heard a soft feminine voice answer, "Come in." I opened the door, and for the first time met the owner-manager of the gallery face to face. My first two thoughts were that she looked very professional, and that she was very attractive. The second thought bothered me - I wasn't there to ogle the beautiful women, I was there to protect. I needed to put her beauty out of my mind immediately.

She looked at me with a confused expression as she said, "Can I help you?"

"Yes, m'am, I'm officer Joe Simpson with the Metro Police. I've been assigned to provide security for your gallery opening tonight. I came early, hoping that you would have time to give me a tour of the gallery so I could look for potential problem spots and learn where the entrances and exits were located."

She looked....I wasn't sure, exactly. Worried? Stressed? In over her head? If she wasn't ready for this, we were in for a long night.
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Old 05-26-2017, 07:59 PM   #6
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I couldn't believe this- I had to sort out the security guy too? My immediate thought was: What the hell are we paying the gallery staff for? Two full time and one part time, and it's me who has to show the him around?

This was followed by two more thoughts- firstly that I was being snobbish, and should respect the staff- I didn't want to end up like Mom, turning her nose up at everyone, being rude to salespeople and making waiters' lives difficult. Second, that it might actually be a good distraction from the anxious wait.

I stepped past him, through the door. "This way. There isn't too much to see, it's really just all one room that curves round a few corners, and then a couple of store and maintenance rooms." I walked too quickly and almost tripped in the brand new heels I'd bought for the occasion. Unwise to wear them for the very first time on such an important night, but they had been an impulse purchase earlier in the day. Beautiful black three-inch heels, at the very reasonable price of $1,200.

He followed silently. The gallery was empty except for the staff hurrying around to straighten paintings, adjust lights, set out champagne bottles and flutes on tall tables. Deborah caught my eye as she fiddled with one of the soft-blue ambient light fittings I'd chosen and I knew her well enough to read the question.

"A little lower please Deb, we want them to have to get nice and close to the pictures, to create a crowd around each one."

Deb nodded quickly and fiddled some more. I liked her, she was always cheery and smiling. I wished I could be like that. We were around the same age.... but so different. I couldn't help wondering what she thought of me- did she envy me, with all the money and opportunities? Or did she pity me, with all the decadence and drama? I knew I'd never ask her.

Not knowing what to do, I pointed vaguely at the doors (why had I insisted on so many doors leading out to the lobby area? It had seemed like a good idea- multiple entrances and exits, people appearing and disappearing. But now it embarrassed me- would anyone walk further round the lobby to enter the gallery at another end? Pointless. And this guy would no doubt think it was a security hazard.

"So there are a few different doors for the gallery," I said lamely, "But everyone still has to go through the lobby, where we've always someone at the desk. Er..... I think it's pretty safe really, it's a good neighbourhood and I think we'll have the right sort of people visiting tonight, you know?"

Did that sound unpleasant? I wasn't sure. I didn't know anymore- talking to Working People was so hard for someone like me, surrounded by the wealthy and the privileged all day every day. I tried to remember the last time I'd talked to someone like this guy but I wasn't sure. I took another look at him. He had some kind of strong, rough good looks if you looked at him the right way, squinted a bit.

It was hard to tell his age.... blue-collar people always looked a bit tired to me, like they'd had too much work and not enough reward, which they probably had. I could tell he was older, but not Old Old. We'd reached the far end of the gallery and I stopped underneath a large painting of a tiger emerging from a river- not one of the more subtle pieces, but I loved the strong colours of the animal and the dark, murky background that faded behind it.

"Is there anything else I can show you? Mr..... sorry, I forgot your name." I felt bad for that, but then i did have a lot on my mind. The clock was ticking for me.
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Old 05-26-2017, 08:14 PM   #7
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Had she listened to me at all when I had first introduced myself? Or was it that since I was out of her "league," I was a transparent nuisance, a necessary evil in the grand scheme of the gallery opening? To tell the truth, I'm not sure either of us wanted to be in the gallery that night, but we both had to endure, so I was hoping a little cooperation - and at least a little appreciation - was in order.

I pretended to not be upset as I politely said, "Simpson - Officer Simpson, but it would be fine if you wanted to call me Joe." I looked at her as I said it - still caught up in something about her appearance. Perhaps it was the severe bun in which she had pulled her hair. Maybe it was the dress that clung to her petite body - curves in the right places, but overall fairly petite. I don't know what it was, but for a minute, I could almost forget the money that had offered her a protected life.

I was drawn back to reality when I realized she had already had too much of my presence during the pre-opening stress. "Ma'am, is it an invited list only tonight, or will the event be open to the public?" It was a key security question - basically, the answer would change how I did my job once the gallery was open.
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Old 05-27-2017, 04:55 AM   #8
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My Dad had had a consistent security presence out in public since I was a little girl, due to his growing wealth and the low-key enemies he'd made stepping on a few toes on the way to the top. But this was the first time I'd ever spoken to anyone assigned to protect out family- hefty men in sunglasses and dark suits had been an amusement until now. But I still didn't believe that there was any real threat. Otherwise they'd send more than one guard, surely? And someone bigger and heavier than 6 foot, or 6' 1" and 200 odd pounds or whatever this guy was.

"It's by invitation, Officer Simpson." I glanced at the clock again, compulsively. "But there's no restriction on guests, and I imagine everyone will bring somebody. I couldn't guess who exactly. The wives and husbands and companions change so often in these circles, you know?" I said with a smile.

Then I felt immediately stupid. Of course he didn't know. This must seem like encountering another species to him.
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Old 05-27-2017, 01:53 PM   #9
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I'll never understand why people are so objectionable to a security presence around them. I know this woman had no idea of the things I've seen in my 13 years in law enforcement. That world obviously doesn't exist for her, except for the time when that world wants what she has and doesn't give a fuck who they hurt to get it.

I caught myself losing my temper. Calm down, Joe - she can't know and won't ever understand unless it happens to her or to those she loves. It's your job to make sure that doesn't happen tonight, so quit this nonsense and just do your damn job.

I knew she was getting tired of talking to me, and after the last comment about her "circles," I needed to move on as well.

"Thank you, ma'am. I think that's all for now. I'm going to visit with your other staff a bit, and then familiarize myself with the layout of the gallery. Please don't hesitate to come to me with questions or concerns during the evening."

Now it was my job to be present, but to be as unobtrusive as possible - for the rest of the evening.
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Old 05-27-2017, 06:25 PM   #10
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He walked away and I checked the time again. Half an hour. I breathed deeply, fiddled with my hair, and Deb caught my eye and smiled reassuringly.

"Everything's ready, we're all set," She said as she passed by with an empty tray for canapés. I loved her for it and a lot of my wanted to hug her and say thank you for all of her work and support, but of course I didn't.

I looked about for Dad and he wasn't there. Mason and Theo were though- together as they always seemed to be, making loudly sarcastic comments about the tiger painting in the corner. Theo in a gold suit, Mason in silver. They looked ridiculous. Was that some kind of joke, was it funny to them? They knew it was my big night. To turn up looking like that. Bastards. Theo spotted me and beckoned with that shit-eating grin on his face but I turned away. I didn't have the patience for twin brothers of twenty-eight going on twelve.

The thought of no guests turning up stabbed my mind viciously but only for a moment. None of these people would miss a party, or more accurately, all the opportunities it presented. For gossip, expressing disdain, drinking, and probably, swapping spouses. I knew it happened, I'd seen them pair off, thinking their fun went unnoticed.

That reminded me- almost three months since I'd had any. Work and the gallery had distracted me, sure, but it still hurt. I needed something at least.... I thought vaguely about Pierce. Maybe I should invite him over. Tonight even, if he makes an appearance. He'd always been happy to oblige, and he was okay in bed, in a complacent and slightly underwhelming way. But I still wasn't sure if I actually liked him..... he was so hot and cold. Nice one day, devious and mean the next.

I saw Rodrigo whisper something in the officer's ear, and I knew it must be about the arrival of the first guests. They always traveled in packs. I wondered if Rodrigo was bringing his charming A Game tonight- or if he'd be distracted, slipping off to do his cocaine. I knew I should fire him but... he was a nice guy, and that big family to support. I just hoped Officer Simpson wouldn't harass the guests at the door too much- security should be at the side of the room, silent, half in the shadows- a comforting presence but no more. Unless something actually happened, which I was sure it wouldn't.
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Old 05-27-2017, 07:08 PM   #11
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I went about my business - inspecting every inch of the gallery, looking for places big enough where an un-welcomed guess could hide. I located every potential exit, in case someone tried to lift one of the pieces of art. The staff seemed much more approachable to me than the Clarissa did, but I expected that. Only the most loyal of staff would view working for someone like her as a privilege. I would think the rest of the staff were probably reminded of their place often, and would not be able to view themselves as anything more than the "hired help."

With everything in place, it was time to wait as the guests started to arrive. I have to admit, some of the first ones gave me a reason to stifle a laugh. Two in particular stood out - they looked like brothers, even twins perhaps, and one was wearing a flashy gold suit while the other was equally flashy in silver. I noticed a quick interaction between the two of them and Clarissa - it was brief because it appeared she wanted nothing to do with them.

One of the staff members walked up to me and told me that the guests were beginning to arrive. I didn't want my presence to lessen the appeal of the opening for the guests, so I moved towards the back of the room where I could still see them coming in, but wasn't so close that they felt I was in their face. This was a critical part of the operation for me. I needed to see everyone come in, so that if a person became difficult later on, I would know if they were in fact an invited guest or just someone who had wandered in from the street.

If Clarissa was nervous before the opening, as I perceived her to be, once the guests started arriving, it was clear that she was firmly entrenched in her element. All worry disappeared as she greeted those arriving. Immediately I saw that she did have the ability to be warm and inviting, as long as there was money supporting the hands she was shaking. I couldn't help but glance her way from time to time. She certainly was attractive, and the guests seem to love her, even if she was just putting on an act.

I had identified three places within the gallery where I could stand away from the displayed artwork so as not to be a distraction, but at the same time offered me a full view of the gallery. As more and more guests arrived, I would rotate between these spots, doing my best to try and blend in, even though I knew that was impossible.

My last move put me near Clarissa, and for the first time I could hear her talking to a small group of people nearby. The words rolled off her tongue in a sweetly lyrical way, as if to prove that she was sincere as she worked the room. I quickly moved to one of the other spots - I couldn't be distracted in any way, and I chastised myself for breaking focus on the safety of the guests and the art. But I couldn't help but think....in another time, in another setting, I wonder if she and I could be friends?

I glanced at my watch - still a couple of hours to go. I would survive, but it took the image of Susie and Joey to help me make it through. Remember, Joe, I told myself - you're doing this for them. You're doing this because you love your kids, and you want them to have everything possible to have a great life....
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Old 05-28-2017, 06:43 PM   #12
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Simpson obviously knew his job well, he'd placed himself so that he had a view of proceedings but wasn't imposing himself on my guests. Good, that was one less thing to worry about.

Familiar faces were pouring in and I was starting to feel better. A "Good evening" here, a "beautiful dress" there, the warm smile I'd perfected as the PR face of Dad's company. Easy.

I looked left and saw Mr and Mrs Plumer weaving through the growing crowd towards me- I'd only met them twice but that toupé on top of Mr Plumer was unmistakable. And was that their obnoxious teenager in two? Fuck me, this would be painful. I silently counted to five, smoothed my dress, and reminded myself that they could be great patrons for the gallery. I ideally wanted it to eventually be independent of Dad's financial support.

"Mr Plumer, Mrs Plumer- you both look wonderful." I kissed his fat cheek and clasped her jewelry-covered fingers. "And is this your daughter? What a beautiful young lady," The smile hurt and I felt a bit sick, but I could tell they were eating it up.
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Old 05-29-2017, 12:08 PM   #13
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As these things usually to, there didn't seem to be any serious problems brewing, and by an hour into the event, I had a pretty good routine going, although I was careful to mix up my route as I traveled from spot to spot. I knew that serious criminals would be learning my routine and using it against me if they were planning a heist of some kind. As of yet, not a single guest had said even one word to me, but I realized that was probably for the best. My instinct told me that even if they had engaged me in conversation, it would have been out of my league, and I'm afraid I would have looked like an idiot at best.

I kept a close eye on a few patrons whom I thought could pose potential problems - nothing serious, but more just mischievous activity. The shiny boys were making themselves known with loud talk of wild stories, but they weren't going to be harmful. The problems they could create would be little more than a nuisance. I was curious as to the location of Mr. Personality, the man whom I had met upon my first entry into the gallery. Not knowing where he was meant there might be a place in the gallery that I did not know existed, creating a potential security problem. I decided I needed to do a little more snooping around, just to make sure my guard wasn't down.

I also caught myself catching glances at Clarissa from time to time. I had to admit - she was a master at making people feel good about themselves. Perhaps in another time, in another universe, she and I could be friends. But then I realized her genuine interest in each and every guest might have been just an act for the rich friends she had invited to the opening. So if I ever had a chance for even just casual conversation with her, would that also be an act? I suspected that answer would be "yes......"
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Old 05-31-2017, 07:12 PM   #14
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Loud, familiar voices rose up through the general murmur of constrained conversation, and I knew who it was. I'd heard it before, too many times, and I felt panic burn inside me.

Not tonight. Please not tonight. Fate, don't let my idiot brothers ruin this for me- please.

I took a deep breath and willed it not to be happening but when I stepped through the crowd I could see that it was- the same old scence. Mason had dropped his silver suit-jacket on the floor and his shirt was sweat-soaked and his hair all over the place, face red. Pumped up on God knows what. My best guess was speed, that was his standard, and lots of it. Bunched in his fist was a good handful of Theo's glitzy gold suit, and Mason was yelling and Theo was laughing stupidly, looking stoned as anything.

The crowd had parted and formed a loose circle around them, the expressions a mix of amusement and concern, but I knew that everyone was enjoying it on some level. Except me. The Mason and Theo Barrington show- most of these guests knew it well, they'd seen it a few times and it was always good value. Those crazy twins.

And little miss Clarissa Barrington? Well, I was just trying my best to put a stop to the performance, like always. To no avail.

"Theo, Mason, stop it- please!!" I yelled and tried to pull them apart but Mason shrugged me off and shook Theo hard, only to be answered with a rough slap round his face from his brother. I stood back helplessly as they started to fight properly, swinging at each other, oblivious to the disapproving-but-fascinated crowd, and I struggled to hold back the tears. My big night, unraveling horribly.
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Old 06-01-2017, 03:33 AM   #15
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I heard the commotion the second it started. When my eyes finally spotted it, I saw the first tell-tale sign that something was going on that should not be. I could see the patrons of the gallery gathering around in a circle formation, which meant something was going on inside of the circle that required my attention.

I was not surprised to see that it was the flashy suit boys, and they looked like they were angry with each other. I quickly noticed that silver's jacket was on the floor and he had his hand on gold's jacket like it was the most important thing in his life and he wanted it right now. At first it was just a tussle - two brothers (apparently) who struggled to get along in good times. Now it looked like both may be carrying something on board that could "enhance" their personality.

On my way over to the fracas, I spotted Clarissa. She was obviously upset, because I'm sure this isn't the kind of attention she wanted to attract at her gallery opening. I saw her run into the middle of the two boys - realizing by this time that they could have been her brothers, since she tried to take care of it herself and didn't come to get me first. As I arrived at the perimeter of the circle, I watched as she called out a couple of names I didn't understand. The need to break through the crowd and get this stopped increased when one of the two shiny boys tossed her aside in her attempt to stop this nonsense.

It quickly became much more than nonsense when the two started throwing hay-makers at each other. That was it - the fun was over. I noticed Clarissa was crying and yelling at them to stop. When they started throwing punches, not only were they in danger of themselves, but the crowd and even the works of art were in danger. I removed my baton from its holder and waded in, getting quickly between them. Unfortunately, they weren't aware of my presence, and I took a roundhouse left in the jaw from silver suit boy. It had become a felony situation.

The baton is one of the best friends of the cop. Not heavy, it was still very effective when used with the proper force in the proper location. One of those locations was the on the leg, right above the knee. Since silver hit me, he received the first attention, and with a quick swing, the baton did its job, causing him to disengage with gold and crumble to the floor. He would be in pain for a while, but there would be no permanent damage.

I turned my attention to gold suit, who stopped when he saw his brother crumble. Believe it or not, I think he was ready to take a swing at me in defense of what I had done to his brother, but even in his altered mental state, he realized that wouldn't be a good idea. As he came to his senses, I grabbed my cuffs from behind me and quickly slapped them on him. I told him to sit on the ground and to not move, and he quickly obliged. Next I reached into the pouch on my belt and pulled out a flat, wide zip tie. We used them for multiple arrests when we only had one pair of cuffs available. Silver boy was easy to restrain, since he was still not feeling well where he took the baton.

With the two lunkheads under control, it was time to figure out what to do with them. I rubbed my jaw where silver had hit me, and it wasn't too sore. But it was still a felony, even if he didn't intend to hit me. Clarissa walked over with tears in her eyes and stood looking at the boys, who weren't going to look up at her for any reason. I was just about ready to ask Clarissa what her intentions were, when I heard another stir behind me - it seems that Mr. Personality - the man I met first as I entered the gallery - had a stake in this, and was making his way to where we were all gathered. I turned and looked at Clarissa, and suddenly felt extremely sorry for her.....
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Old 06-02-2017, 03:40 PM   #16
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The guard stepped in and it was over before I knew it- an exchange of a few blows, and then Mason had been felled and Theo was meekly surrendering. Both with hands tied, sitting on the floor red-faced like naughty schoolboys in front of the headmaster.

Joe (or was it James? I knew it was something beginning with J.....) stood over them and he hadn't broken a sweat. He was rubbing his jaw though- one of my idiot brother must have hit him during the fracas. Could cops arrest people and bring them in for crimes when technically off-duty? I wasn't sure- if they could, then this would be yet another situation I would have to try and charm away for the family....

I wiped my eyes and then immediately regretted it, knowing that smearing the tears would ruin my makeup even more than it already had been. I never wore much, always going for the lightest amount I could, but I still didn't want it running down my cheeks.

The officer met my eye amongst the bustle, with the guests chattering excitedly and taking photos with their Iphones, and I thought I saw warm sympathy in his expression, but who knows. He looked as if he was going to address me and then Dad stepped in front of me and laid his gnarled hand on the younger man's shoulder.

"I'm very sorry about this Officer," He said with that tone of reasonable, confident authority. He somehow managed to look down at the security man, despite being several inches shorter. His short silver hair was still immaculate and he looked generally un-ruffled by all the excitement. Mom always said that a decade ago, without his middle-aged belly, he'd still been quite a ladies man. Too much so.

"My boys get a tiny bit silly at these little events you know, but it's nothing to get carried away about. They're just playing around- twin rivalry, that's all."

He smiled widely, assured in his ability to convince. "I wouldn't want you to think that it was anything serious, or that they actually wanted to hurt each other. I appreciate the find job you've done here- you've really taught them a lesson. I think it might be best if you could just set them off now, and they can leave without a fuss. We can step through to the office and discuss this further there."

He gestured towards the gallery office- my office, and looked over at me. "Clarissa, you come with us, okay? The staff can manage things here. More champagne for everyone please waiter!"
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Old 06-02-2017, 04:56 PM   #17
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Mr. Personality's words brought the whole big picture into place. I was standing in front of William Starks Barrington III, the wealthiest man in the city. His "presence" was legendary - following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, he was considered to be even more ruthless than his namesakes before him. Having been handed a fortune without having to work for it, he spent his time doing anything he could to increase the family wealth, even if that meant participating in shady ventures that would land other people on the wrong side of the law.

I don't know why I didn't put his name with Clarissa when I first met her. It explained a lot, though. How could she not emulate her father in her own dealings? It was all she had known. In fact, realizing now who her father was, I was surprised she had been as accessible to me as she was when I first arrived. I was nothing to this family - only a necessary nuisance in an otherwise lovely evening.

Except Clarissa's brothers' actions had validated the need for my presence. Mr. Barrington had suggested we move the discussion he desired to have to Clarissa's office, and I didn't object, since getting the gallery back to its intended purpose was important. The show was over - it was time to deal with the aftermath.

I helped the flashy boys up, and guided them back to the office, where I sat them down in the two chairs in front of Clarissa's desk. As a gesture of goodwill, I cut the zip strip from Theo's wrist, and unlocked the cuffs that restrained Mason. Mr. Barrington followed closely, and went immediately to the office chair that belonged to his daughter. Clarissa was left as a bystander, standing next to the desk as her father occupied her chair. At that moment, I felt sorry for her - I knew this was the last thing she had wanted from her gallery opening.

I looked at Mr. Barrington and said, "Sir, I'm afraid it's not going to be that easy to sweep this under the rug. The tussle may have been between your sons, but in my attempt to break it up, it seems that Mason landed a roundhouse left on my jaw. I don't think I need to tell you that striking an officer of the law as he performs his duty is a felony. This little "twin-rivalry," as you call it, is much more serious."

I could see Mr. Barrington shift in his chair, and for the first time, I knew I had the upper hand. I know it's not appropriate for me to think that way - especially when I'm in uniform. But I was struggling to keep the smile hidden that wanted to burst from my face.
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Old 06-02-2017, 06:05 PM   #18
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Dad went straight to my desk and sat down in the chair which was supposed to be mine. That hurt- in that gesture I saw that he didn't take me seriously. I knew it before, but somehow, with all the excitement in recent months of my own gallery, I'd forgotten it- I'd managed to convince myself that he understood what I wanted. But when it came to it, on my big night, he just cast aside my authority. I bit my tongue and stood silently there beside him.

I watched my Dad as the Officer talked about the felony. Apart from a slight movement, he remained impassive- but I could sense his worry. His precious boys.

"Officer, you have implied it yourself- it was purely an accident. My son was tussling with his brother, and mistakenly stuck you as you rightly attempted to put a halt to it." He shrugged and rose his palms- that classic gesture I'd seen so many times, combined with the magnanimous smile that had charmed so many investors and politicians over the years.

My brothers were grumbling between themselves. My Dad waited, but the security man said nothing, and gave just the slightest shake of the head.

Then my Dad changed tactic and it shocked me- I'd heard all sorts of talk about him giving bribes but I'd refused to believe it- now I was seeing it firsthand. With a flourish, he drew a thick wad of notes from his pocket and placed them on the desk.

"Mr Simpson. I looked into your background earlier this week. I'd never allow anyone close to my family without doing so. I understand you are a father. It can't be easy, on a standard police salary, and I'm sure you're not here for the art tonight." He patted the wad of cash. "I think you deserve a small bonus. Five thousand dollars. I'm sure you could put that to good use. Please- I insist."

He somehow managed to make it almost sound reasonable. I looked from one man to the other, and wondered what would happen next- the air was tense.
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Old 06-02-2017, 06:35 PM   #19
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I listened to Mr. Barrington the Third as he talked to me about the punch Mason had landed on me. I'm not a lawyer, but I know in this day and age where being a cop is now perceived to be a less-than-noble occupation, I wouldn't be surprised if his talk about getting Mason exonerated was probably true.

And then he dropped a bombshell on me - on all of us, judging by the look on Clarissa's face. A flat-out bribe, $5,000 in cash, untraceable, unreportable, just to make the problem go away. I realized immediately that $5,000 to him was about like $10 to me, and yet it was a huge amount of money in my financial situation. I'd like to say that I didn't seriously consider taking the cash and looking the other way, but two things stopped me - first of all, I tried hard to be a man of integrity, and I could tell I was the only man in the office that felt that way. Second - Mr. Barrington was trying to control me, as I could tell he controlled his children. There wasn't enough money in the world that would get me to sell out like that and become another pawn retained just to do his bidding.

So I looked at him as he slid the wad of bills across the desk and calmly replied, "Mr. Barrington, I'm going to pretend that I didn't see what just happened. I'm willing to look past the punch, because I believe you are right, he might not have intended to hit me. But the fact remains that neither you nor I nor your two sons have a say in their fate tonight. There's only one person in this office that can make that decision.

I looked over at Clarissa, who by now was in the beginnings of a wide-eyed look of apprehension on her beautiful face. "Ma'am - would you like to press charges, and have these two hooligans hauled away?"
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Old 06-02-2017, 07:52 PM   #20
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I couldn't believe it. Neither could my Dad- his complacent expression dropped, at least for a couple of seconds. It seemed he hadn't considered that his money would be, could, refused.

I opened and closed my mouth stupidly, and looked between the men, even more stupidly. Theo grunted from his spot in the corner- "Just let's be done with this, Clarry. I wanna go home and relax with some beers, I'm done with this shitty evening!"

My Dad looked straight at me and smiled, and nodded his approval. He didn't need to say anything- his face said it all, showed his confidence in my pure, everlasting obedience. I was angry. I wanted to cry, it was hard to hold it back. My dream was fading, already, and it tore into me and sickened me. Sending Theo and Mason off in a police car, stupid shiny suits and all, would be some recompense at least. Wipe the grins off their smug, spiteful faces. Show Dad that I was my own person.

I struggled with the idea of independent action for another three seconds before caving in. Who was I kidding.

"No charges, thank you Officer," I said quietly and I kept my eyes down, fixed on those damn stupid shoes.
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Old 06-03-2017, 03:58 AM   #21
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Even with her voice being soft and her head down, I wouldn't have had to hear a word she said to know what her answer was going to be. The saying "blood runs thicker than water" was especially true when the blood in question was made of gold. Clarissa had too much at stake to stand up to her family. And the sad fact was this - until she did, she was just going to be more and more miserable as she continued to struggle to bloom with the shade of her family blocking her sunlight.

I tapped the brothers on the shoulder with my baton and said, "Stand up, you two clowns, and look at me." They grudgingly did so, although it was more difficult for Mason, since his leg was more than likely starting to bruise. "You're free to go, and that means go right now. I'm not going to let you stay so this can happen again. If you want to fight me, that's fine, and I'll haul you in for public intoxication. I'm sure we can find something in your bloodstreams that's not supposed to be there."

I turned to Clarissa and said, "You're going to need to find someone that can take them somewhere else. They are in no condition to drive themselves." As I said those words, I quickly realized that she hadn't heard them. She was lost somewhere else, her thoughts not on her two idiot brothers, but on something deeper. The light in her eyes that I had seen as she greeted her guests was gone, replaced by a dull, cold sheen from the tears she was still fighting to prevent.

Mr. Barrington must have noticed her as well, so he got up out of her chair and made his way over to the boys. With a quick, "Thanks, officer, I'll make sure these two get home," he put his hands on the necks of his twins and ushered them out of the office. I watched as they walked through the gallery (well, Mason limped, the others walked) and out onto the street.

Satisfied that they would not cause me any more problems tonight, I looked back at Clarissa, who hadn't moved an inch while all of this was going on. An unusual empathy came over me. I felt sorry for a woman whose net worth must have been a thousand times mine. But I couldn't know her pain or her embarrassment she felt after this incident. All I could do was check to make sure she was going to be okay.

"Ms. Barrington - can I do something to help you?"
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Old 06-03-2017, 01:06 PM   #22
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His voice startled me and I looked up- my family had left, a hasty retreat. The money remained on the desk, and I knew that my Dad, despite getting what he wanted, would be annoyed that the bribe hadn't been accepted. He had wanted the upper hand. I couldn't remember the last time anyone had refused him.

I shook my head, I was numb. Inside, somewhere deep, I knew that I should get back out there, smile, laugh it off, and salvage what I could of the opening night. Try to enjoy it even- God, I'd waited long enough for it. Dreamed about it, through all those family events with the awful jokes and the dull guests. Longed for it, during countless meetings and PR interviews for Dad's businesses. And every time my brothers called me up, off their heads and demanding help with one thing or the other, I'd told myself that I had my reward coming. The gallery. I should go back out there.

But somehow I couldn't bear it. I'd suffered worse humiliations, but this one mattered more. I didn't look at him when I spoke.

"Please could you check everything's okay out there for me. And.... tell Deb, the girl, that she's in charge for the rest of the night. She can tell people I feel ill.... or.... whatever."

I walked slowly to the external door. Time to slip away, into the Porsche, away down dark streets to the safety of my apartment.
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Old 06-03-2017, 01:28 PM   #23
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I watched as she walked, head down, out of the office and toward the back exit. She was a beaten woman - not physically, but emotionally, beaten by the family who supposedly loved her, and yet just embarrassed her beyond comprehension. I wanted to help her, to stop her and try to lift her spirits in some way. And yet I had nothing I could offer to her, since I was so far down the pecking order in her eyes. So I just watched as she walked away.

I noticed the money her dad had offered me was still laying on the desk. I located a security camera in the corner of her office, picked up the money, and made an exaggerated effort to show that I was putting it in the center desk drawer. I didn't need some false accusation coming back on me when one of the Barringtons realized the money wasn't where they had left it.

Back out into the gallery now. I spotted the assistant she called Deb and explained everything to her. She just nodded and moved away, as if she wasn't surprised to learn Clarissa had left. With all of the Barringtons gone, it didn't take long for the gallery patrons to start filing out on their own, which made me realize that most of them hadn't come for the art at all - they came to shake hands and rub noses with the elite of the elite, and when they were gone, there really wasn't a reason to stay anymore.

Soon the last of the guests had departed, and as the staff quickly cleaned up the debris left behind, I helped Deb make sure all of the exits were secure and the art was all accounted for. I took the time to show her Mr. Barrington's bribe money in the desk drawer - again, erring on the side of caution was important to me. I filled out my final security report, had Deb read and sign it, and then helped her secure the front doors. I asked her if the behaviors I had seen from the Barringtons tonight was the usual order of the day, and without saying a word, she just nodded yes. With nothing else to say, my work was done for the night.

As I drove my cruiser home, I tried to put the gallery events out of my mind, but I couldn't - one thought keep pulling them back. How was Clarissa doing? That thought consumed me the rest of the night.
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Old 06-03-2017, 02:18 PM   #24
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That night was poor. I had to admit it to myself- sitting there, still in my indigo dress, but the shoes lay rejected in the corner of my apartment's living room. Usually the large, tastefully-decorated space, with its natural light and my favourite painting mounted high and central, was an oasis for me. I'd bought the place with my own money (well, with the salary I received for my PR job which Dad had provided to me, but that was close enough), and I loved it.

My family approved of the safe, wealthy neighbourhood with its privacy-craving families and hyper-busy power couples, and they understood that an apartment (with a couple of spare rooms) was most suitable for a single young woman. But they said that surely I could find better. They said that a lot. The mortgage was only just over a million dollars- a budget choice for the area. I preferred the smaller space- small enough to keep clean myself, as I'd never been comfortable with maids being around. Maybe it was seeing the way they had been treated in the family home, as I grew up....

I sank another tumbler, and swung my legs up, to lie back on the sofa. Tapping my phone, I raised the volume on my music system and the shimmering guitar chords of Different Stars, my favourite album, filled the room. Dripping with regret and repressed sadness- like me, I though self-pityingly. Then I promised myself that tomorrow morning I would hit the gym, turn of my phone, and enjoy a Sunday without anyone else. I needed it.

I drifted slowly to sleep, lulled by the music. As I closed my eyes, I wondered how the rest of the event had continued. Deb would have done fine, she was responsible. And that security guard seemed to have everything under control...... maybe I should have thanked him..... whatever his name was....
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Old 06-03-2017, 05:34 PM   #25
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I pulled into my driveway, turned off the ignition, and did a quick check to make sure everything was in its place. The night was officially complete - my report of the gallery opening, complete with details of the fracas, could wait until tomorrow.

I dreaded tomorrow, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I started a week of evening shift patrolling - on at 4:00 p.m., and off at midnight, although usually there was enough going on that midnight often came and went and I was still working. Evening was my least favorite shift. It was by far the busiest, and it was also when the rest of the world attended activities - like school programs for their kids, which I was going to miss on Thursday evening. It was hard to explain to a 9 and 7 year old why you would't be there to watch them sing and dance and do whatever else they were doing.

But I also dreaded tomorrow for the simple fact that once again, I would wake up alone. I really think I was meant to be with somebody - I just hadn't found the right person yet. Kristy, my ex, was sure that I was wrong, and that we were supposed to still be together. But I just didn't think so - there may have been a spark between us at one time, but it was long gone by the time I moved out. I didn't think it was fair to her, to live with a man who really didn't love her. Yet I hadn't convinced her of that, and her daily calls served a reminder of my failure as a husband and father.....and perhaps even as a human being.

After my shower, I laid on the top of the covers, waiting for sleep to overtake me, so I could continue my existence. My last thought before my eyelids fluttered shut was that of the pretty gallery owner and the miserable night she had experienced....
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