Friday, September 21, 2012

The Brothers Everhart Ch. 9 Getting Organized

Prince had come to the conclusion recently that he needed a legitimate business with which to explain away the money he was making outside the law. He rented a small 2-room office and set up as a financial consultant. After all, he did have a business degree and he'd learned quite a bit playing the market himself.

Astonishingly the enterprise just took off and after a couple weeks he had to start spending all his time at the new office meeting with customers. He'd tried doing work at home and he always got distracted. He wanted his home to still be a relaxing place and not get work and home mixed up any more. He'd also managed to forget other personal appointments he had and was feeling somewhat overwhelmed. An assistant was what he needed. Suddenly a vision came to him of a curvy blond secretary sitting on his knee, laughing, and feeding him green grapes. She'd wear very short skirts and very low necklines, he decided, and she would have an agreeable and lighthearted nature. But she had to be the soul of discretion. For it was already happening that some of his nefarious associates were coming there to see him as well as legitimate clients. And those criminal types just hated to make appointments.

When Penelope Monaghan showed up to apply for the job Prince took one look at her and thought,

"Oh, man, she looks like Miss Cramer, my 4th grade teacher. Old Crabby Cramer hated me and we formed a mutual aggravation society. This is not good."

From head to toe Penelope looked prim and prudish. Coppery red hair was the only vibrant thing about her but it was scraped back into a tight knot. She wore old-fashioned round glasses and a dowdy green plaid suit fashioned out of a scratchy woven material that looked like a horse blanket. The skirt was baggy and way too long. The woman wore no makeup that he could discern. There was a silly little purple string tie at her throat which was evidently meant to soften her austere look. It wasn't working.

She handed Prince her resume and when she came closer he realized she was actually quite young yet she dressed like a woman of fifty; a really unfashionable woman. How she got so buttoned down and repressed in only a couple years Prince couldn't imagine unless she'd spent her formative years in a convent school. 

Prince actually did know how to speak properly but had fallen away from the habit at college. Once he'd started consulting he'd had to re-acquire the habit if he wanted to be taken seriously. Of course, how he spoke in his down time was his own business he thought. But now he tried to sound professional again.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, miss," he said, hoping she wouldn't burst into tears, "But really I don't think you're right for this position,"

She didn't cry at all as she insisted,

"But you haven't even read my resume, Mr. Everhart. I promise you I can do any  job you require of me as your administrative assistant. I'm well trained and I'm eager to work." her voice was actually quite soft, but her manner was plucky. Prince was chagrined to realize she was right he had not even perused her resume; he felt foolish.

"Oh, yes, well, let me check that out," he sat back down gritting his teeth and read through the document. She was perfect really, much more than the job required, in fact, but she was a sexless frump. Not his type at all.

"Yes, this is quite impressive, Miss Monaghan," he handed it back to her, "In fact, you're over qualified for the job."

Her face finally became a tad anxious, only indicated by a crease forming between her eyebrows,

"Please give me a chance, Mr. Everhart. Truthfully, I really need the work and you won't find anyone who is a more loyal or hardworking employee."

Prince considered her words. Frankly no Marilyn Monroe types had applied for the job so far. Well, what the heck, it wouldn't hurt to give her a chance. Maybe he could ask that she wear shorter skirts. Ha! What was he thinking? That could really get him in trouble nowadays. Well, if some gorgeous blonde showed up he might have to fire Miss Monaghan, but until then...

"Do you...ah...always dress so severely?" he ventured.

She permitted a quick tightening of her lips that made the corners of her mouth go up slightly. She seemed to be taking his question as a compliment somehow. Straightening her small shoulders she said,

"Yes, I try to always look professional and modest. 'Dress right, feel right; act right' as my high school principal used to say. I was class valedictorian," her cheeks flamed pink a little.

"I see. I don't suppose you went to a parochial school, Miss Monaghan?"

As she answered, she practically snapped to attention and for a moment Prince thought she was going to salute him, 

"Yes, sir, I did. Sacred Heart all twelve years and then I went on to Madonna Girls' College. Mother Mary Charlotte was the one in charge at Sacred Heart. We were held to very high standards."

"Er, um, yes. I'm sure you were," Prince said coming around his desk to shake her hand, "Well, I guess the job is yours, Miss Monaghan. What do you prefer to be called, Penelope or Miss Monaghan or would that be Ms. Monaghan?"

She relaxed a little and gave him the first genuine smile he'd seen from her. Crap, she was just a kid.

"Thank you so much, Mr. Everhart! You won't be sorry. And you can call me Penelope if you wish, but really everyone calls me Pepper."

Prince blinked. He didn't think she looked much like a "Pepper", but whatever. 

"Well, you can arrange things on you desk and in the room as you wish. Just keep in mind that it also serves as the waiting room, and as such it's the first impression clients get when they walk in the door."

She stood in the center of the office looking around, just thinking.

"Well, I'll leave you to it, then," Prince said and then went into his own office and shut the door. He must be crazy.

Pepper sat down at her desk and began to organize things immediately.

Prince had put in a pinball machine in the beginning since he figured the business would just be a front and he'd have nothing to do. He never guessed that it would be successful and that he'd be so busy. Now that Pepper was handling his calls, his invoicing, and even purchasing any supplies needed he actually did have time on his hands now and then.She was soon making sense of his gnarly calendar and making an address book from the slips of paper he carried around or shoved in a drawer. Appointments with clients were now scheduled properly and things were running smoothly even down to the excellent coffee she made every day.

It wasn't long until Prince had become dependent on his plain little assistant. He was not tempted in the least to flirt with her and he realized that was for the best anyway so he no longer worried about her appearance. After a time he didn't even notice. It was the first platonic relationship he'd ever had with a woman in his life and it amazed him.

Ever since he'd screwed up one time and made two dates on the same night with two different women, Pepper now kept track of his personal appointments as well as business. For instance, getting his hair cut, or taking his car for maintenance, she even helped with his romantic liaisons, ordering flowers and making reservations whenever required. Reminders in the form of neatly written post-it notes on his desk or, when he was out of the office; texts to his phone would catch his attention.

"Mrs Trenchant, Le Magnifique, reservations at 8 pm. Don't forget the flowers in the little fridge."

"Birthday card must be signed for Mrs. Styers (see your in-box). Her gift is wrapped and in your file cabinet, third drawer down."

"Don't forget you have an appointment at The Health Zone for a massage at 4:30"

"You have a consult scheduled with Kevin Candeloro tomorrow at 11 am."

All of this information was already available on Prince's calendar that she'd redone, but he tended to forget to check it. He was very visually oriented and unless Pepper shoved his face in front of the computer and lashed his hand to the mouse he would never know when anything was or where he should be. The computer he used for his business only, checking the stock market, planning analysis and delivering plans. He never used any of the personal stuff except occasionally the games. So Pepper found it helped to give him notes and texts.

She seemed to be non-judgmental and was even a bit protective of him. That was most useful when he ended a romantic involvement and was dodging the woman. On the office phone, the internet or in person they never got past Pepper if Prince didn't want to see them. Of course, they could still try his cell, but Prince had long ago developed the habit of getting a new throwaway cell phone with each woman and then discarding it when things ended. He never gave his real cell number to any women. In truth, he never had to deal with Katharine Burb again and was so grateful for Pepper's intervention that he gave her a large bonus.

Soon Prince was closer to Pepper--and she easily knew more of his secrets--than his brothers or, frankly, his analyst.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Brothers Everhart - Prince Ch. 8 Dancing on the Knife's Edge

Prince Everhart still frequented the night clubs on a regular basis, he was a party animal and found it easy to make friends with almost anyone.

One evening he'd been at the Crypt O'Night Club earlier then headed to Midnight Flows. Curiously, for the weekend the place seemed kind of dead, in his opinion, although eventually a few more people drifted in around 11 o' clock. And that night he met someone who was certainly different from anyone else he'd ever encountered. Prince was at the bar having a discussion with Elsebeth, the bartender, when he got this strange creepy feeling at the back of his neck. He was quite attuned to anyone following him as a rule. Turning around he found a sinister looking fellow dressed up in tails and a luxurious cape lurking over him.

"What's up, my man? You got a problem?" Prince was both belligerent and friendly. Things could go either way he surmised. The man said in a heavy Slavic accent,

"Good evening. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Count Floyd. (With a tip of the hat to SCTV and Joe Flaherty--Author) I am one of the undead and I live only by night."

"No shit? That's pretty heavy. Well, I can relate; I'm pretty much undead myself; love to party through the wee hours most nights. And I have trouble with insomnia now and then, too. But what the hell, I always say the action doesn't start until after dark anyway. Can I buy you a drink? Maybe a beer? Or are you the Margarita type?"

The count seemed taken aback and wrinkle his nose in distaste,

"I don't" then he looked around eagerly, "But who is this Margarita and how can I meet her?"

Prince laughed,

"Oh, man, you're a crackup, Count. You must be from out of town. I didn't mean a girl, I meant the drink. You know, alcohol? If you'd like to meet some chicks, though, I might happen to know two or three, but I'd have to give them a call first..."

"Chickens you say? I don't care for livestock. But what kind of women do you know?"

"Oh, just your average red-blooded American types with bodacious racks and loose morals. Why? Are you partial to a certain type?"

"Red-blooded is good," the count seemed to approve but then frowned, "Although I wouldn't want any that had been on the rack, no, definitely not. Just very pretty women with a lot of red blood will be fine."

The count smiled and for a moment Prince thought he'd seen a flash of something that looked like fangs. But that was ridiculous of course. Probably the guy just had a slight overbite or wore a dental plate that was slipping.

Before long Prince and Count Floyd were yukking it up as though they were old friends even indulging in some rock-paper-scissors.

He seems like a nice guy, even if he's kind of stuffy and formal, guess that comes from being royalty, Prince mused on his way home. But if he wants to charm the women that I know he should be ready to spend the big buck and definitely stock up on denture adhesive. Of course he does have a foreign accent and chicks really love that.

It was about time to get in touch with Katharine Burb again, Prince decided the next day. Possibly he should end his affair with her--he didn't want to get caught up with any woman for long, but she was attractive, classy and interesting and had once loaned him some money when he was struggling long ago. He'd paid her back with interest but he still felt indebted to her. At least he hadn't tired of her yet which was almost a record.

He called her up to plan a dinner date for that night at Midnight Flows. Then he went downstairs to make himself some lunch. He had no idea that at that very moment Katharine's husband, Josh Burb, was passing by his house.

Josh had begun to get suspicious that his wife was having an affair. He wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box, but it was finally sinking in that something had to be going on. She was gone often lately and didn't say where she was going, not coming home until late. Whenever she was on the phone and he came in the room she ended the call.

Finally, determined to get at the truth, he began to pay attention to the rumor mill. To this end he only had to hang around the local restaurants and stores and the community center. The name of one bachelor kept coming up and it was Prince Everhart. So Josh decided to check out his place. It looked to him like the home of a player and Josh went home to think things over and after a bit he began to stew. Then Katharine came downstairs dressed in a low-cut leopard skin dress that looked spray painted on and had the nerve to say she was going out to meet her girlfriends for supper and a movie. She gave him a tepid kiss on the cheek and left. Inwardly Josh began to seethe and boil over.

When Prince arrived at Midnight Flows Katharine was already there and told him that her husband was working in his greenhouse and would be there for hours.

"At night?" he was skeptical.

"Of course, often that's the only time he can do it and there are lights and heat in there. Don't worry," she assured him.

"Honey, I never worry. You are the married one; not me."

They ordered and Prince selected a wine. His taste, he knew, was not as impeccable as his brother, Perry's, but he managed well enough.

Conversation flowed, although neither one of them talked beyond surface matters and that was as usual. No discussion of their dreams or plans and neither of them ever brought up family. Their usual pattern was after an evening out (or many times while slow dancing) any discussion consisted of their mutual assurances that they soon would be demonstrating their lust for each other. Then they always headed to Prince's house to have their fun and games.


On this occasion, however; things did not go as planned. Their food had just been served when they looked up to see Josh standing near the table. His face was contorted in fury and he was breathing so heavily that he was almost panting. Still dressed in his sweatshirt and work pants he appeared out of place but it was obvious he didn't care. Suddenly he burst into tears, looking pitiful and Katharine got up from the table telling him she could explain--that it was all a big misunderstanding. Prince was in shock. How could she possibly explain this? Surprisingly such a thing had never happened to him before. This was the first husband he'd ever met. Of course it was not exactly a "proper introduction". 

As Katharine launched into a long story full of lies and excuses, Josh moved closer, interrupting her to castigate her for her infidelity and cruelty. He brought up the subject of their daughters, especially the youngest two who were in high school. How could she do this to them? When Katharine refused to even look apologetic and would not admit any wrongdoing even as she was caught with her hand in the cookie jar, something snapped and John bitch-slapped her silly. Prince still sat there with his mouth hanging open as though he were only a spectator in this little drama.

Katharine began crying and Josh rushed out of the place. She gave her husband a dirty look as he left and Prince finally came to his senses. He went to her and hugged her,

"Might as well face it, honey, we are so busted."

"It'll work out I'm sure, Prince darling," she replied, wiping her eyes, "I've always been able to bring Josh around."

All Prince could see was D-I-V-O-R-C-E and a painful vision of himself falling off a cliff.

"And if it doesn't," she went on, "At least I'll be free and we can be together all the time."

"Yeah...together...all the time," he said morosely. Okay, this is where I get off.

Katharine didn't know it yet but her grand affair was a thing of the past. Prince had zero interest in romancing a single woman, nor in being half of a "couple". He'd been up front about that with Katharine from day one. But evidently she hadn't believed him or figured she could change his mind when the time came. It wasn't to be so.

Prince had no way to know that Katharine's husband finding out about them was saving his neck from prosecution...for the moment. Meanwhile, his relationship with Katharine was history. Even though his parents had brought him up to be a gentleman he'd fought it all the way. Self-preservation was his motto now. Don't hurt anyone if you can avoid it, but if you can't...