Copyright© 2016 by Jay Cantrell
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 61 - Travis Blakely had a comfortable existence. He had a decent job and good friends. He was comfortable with what the future held for him. Then he ran into a girl he remembered from high school. His life got a lot more interesting - and infinitely more complicated
Liz and I spent only our second night apart since we reunited. I didn’t sleep well in the guest room and I wasn’t at my best when I got downstairs the next morning.
The chef, Lynwood, got on my nerves almost immediately.
“Let’s make a rule, Dennis,” I said after chided me for pouring a bowl of cereal for myself. “Never speak to me. I don’t like you. I don’t want to put up with you. So leave me the fuck alone. I’ll get my own meals while I’m here and you can take your prissy ass back to wherever the fuck it is you live without my foot up it. Deal?”
The man looked as though I’d just strangled his poodle right in front of him.
“Why don’t you take the rest of the day off, Lynwood,” Liz said as she entered.
“I will not be spoken to in this manner,” the man said.
“Did you fucking think I was joking?” I asked as I got up. “I will snap your fucking neck, you puffed up little toad.”
“Go,” Liz said. He made a hasty departure and Liz sat down at the table across from me. “I’d rather you not threaten to harm the people that work for me.”
“If you will recall,” I said, “I explained to him last time I was here that I prefer to fix my own breakfast. I don’t need him jumping my ass because I dared to open the God damned refrigerator.”
Liz closed her tired eyes. For the first time since she’d returned to my life, she looked every minute of her 30 years.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll go apologize to him if you want me to. I’m a guest here and I’m acting like an asshole. It happens a lot – as you might be learning.”
One side of Liz’s mouth turned up in a small smile.
“Well, yeah,” she said. “I didn’t hide things from you because of guilt or shame. I didn’t tell you this earlier because I knew ... I knew it would be the end for us.”
“It’s not necessarily the end,” I said. “Right now, I need to focus my attention on shielding you from fallout. Once we’re on the other side of this we’ll figure out the rest.”
“I’d rather figure out the rest and let the other side worry about itself,” Liz told me. “I don’t care what’s on the other side if you’re not going to be there with me.”
“I’m still planning to be there,” I said. “I want to make sure that you’re going to be walking free. The Italian court system isn’t like ours. You remember the case from a few years ago in Italy. They kept trying the same people time and time again until they got a conviction. I don’t want to see that happen to you. It’s going to take all of our energy to deal with your professional problems. Those are more pressing than our personal ones. OK?”
“You really think they might put me in jail?” Liz asked.
“I think it depends on how much publicity the prosecutor can get for trying,” I admitted. “You have to admit a story about five ... well, four ... extremely well-known personalities being charged would put any prosecutor into the limelight for quite a while. Even if it doesn’t get a win for him, it will get his face out there and his name in the news. These guys are all politicians at heart. They’re not in it because they love prosecuting criminals. They’re in it because they want to advance to judgeships and federal jobs. On the federal side, the prosecutors are looking for jobs on the federal bench. Those are lifetime appointments and pretty much a full-time seat on a gravy train. How are you on your taxes?”
“I’m solid,” Liz said with certainty.
“Did you pay taxes on the no-work job?” I asked bluntly.
“Yes,” Liz said, nodding. “That’s really when I figured things out. My accountant called me about ... the missing money. When I asked Emelda about when I could expect payment, she laughed at me. She told me I’d snorted the payment up my nose and not to ask for cash or things would go really bad for everyone. I want you to know that I never really agreed to do any of this. I didn’t one day sit down and say ‘I’m going to help a drug cartel.’ It was broached in a way that didn’t seem horrible. The guys had some businesses that needed a spokesman ... that sort of thing. It wasn’t until my financial planner sat me down and explained things to me that I really understood what was happening. I didn’t really even understand that these guys were dealers. I thought ... I thought they just always had drugs.”
“Be that as it may, it’s not going to help you much,” I said.
“I’m just trying to explain it to you,” Liz said. “I want you to understand things even if no one else does.”
“I’m trying to understand things,” I replied. “It’s just not easy. I’ve done some messed up things in my life. With what you told me before, I could put it into context with how I acted at the same time in my life. This shit? I can’t. Yeah, I can see how you got roped into some of the things. But the worst thing is still causing me trouble. It’s what’s going to cause you the most trouble. A lot of the stuff ... the money laundering ... the statute of limitations has expired. If you’re right about when it happened, it’s been nine years since the contract expired. They might tie you in through racketeering charges but the main damage from that news will be to your reputation.”
“Yes,” Liz said.
“There is no statute of limitations on murder,” I said. “And none on accessory to murder. That’s the thing, Liz. If technology comes along in 10 years that lets them recreate situations from sonic energy, they can come back and hang you for this.”
“If I have to pay for my actions then I’ll pay for them,” she said sadly.
“But I don’t want to pay for them,” I told her bluntly. “I don’t want my children to pay for them. I don’t want something coming up in 10 years or 20 years that will destroy my family. I need time to assess things. I’m not walking away from you. But this might affect my ability to move forward with you. I’m just not sure yet. I need time to figure that out and I need to see exactly how bad things are before I can commit to anything past today or tomorrow. OK?”
Liz lowered her eyes and nodded gravely.
“What do you want to do first?” she asked.
“I’d like to be able to talk to them in person,” I said. “I need to get their take on things. You were ... removed ... from a lot of it. You have little firsthand knowledge of how things were. Your information came from them. Am I right?”
“Yes,” Liz said, nodding more firmly now.
“So I want to get their take,” I said. “It’s not going to help much on the PR front but it might give me a better understanding of your train of thought then.”
“OK,” Liz said. “But don’t gloss over facts with me, Travis. I know you want to find out who talked and who they talked to.”
“I do,” I said. “And then I’m going to set about finding everything possible about the source so we have ammunition if it comes out. The first salvo is to discredit the messenger. We don’t issue any denials. We simply play off the questions as though they were ludicrous. If you don’t deny then you never have to backtrack.”
“I don’t want to lie about this,” Liz said. “I’m sick of lying.”
“I’m not going to ask you to lie,” I said. “I’m going to ask you to stay silent. I still believe you should tell those you’re close to, but if you are adamantly opposed, I won’t push it. But I don’t want you speaking to a single person about this unless privilege is attached. OK?”
“What do you mean about privilege?” Liz wondered.
“A lawyer you’ve retained, a licensed or board certified mental health professional that can’t be subpoenaed to testify against you,” I said.
“You really think that I’ll be charged?” she asked.
I tilted my head back and looked at the ceiling for a moment while I formed my reply.
“It’s an awful far-fetched concept to toss out there without real proof to back it up,” I said. “That’s why we are not going to issue any statement denying the allegations. We’re just going to laugh it off and keep plowing ahead toward Dallas. If the time comes for lies ... I’ll tell them.”
“That’s no different than me telling them,” Liz stated.
“It’s way different,” I said. “You can always disavow my statements and fire me or dump me or whatever if it becomes necessary. But I would prefer you stay silent.”
“No,” Liz said with authority.
“We agreed that this would be handled my way,” I said. “You promised that you would not interfere and you would go along with whatever I wanted to do. Do you recall?”
“I don’t like it,” Liz said.
“You don’t have to,” I said plainly. Our staring contest lasted almost a full minute before Liz blinked first.
“Fine,” she said. “But I’m not going to ... disavow you. So, you need to make that a part of whatever you have in mind.”
“I really didn’t expect you to,” I admitted. “So I’ll tread lightly. Do you think we can get the other four in one place at one time?”
“Yes,” Liz said. “It shouldn’t be too difficult. They’re all in Miami right now.”
“Really?” I asked.
“The summer swimsuit season starts this week,” Liz said. “There is always a big show in Miami. They’re all there. Jill got an email from the label while we were in Cabo asking if I would be willing to be seen with them this weekend and then bring them up to Jacksonville for the show. I told her I’d consider it after I talked to you about the idea.”
“I thought you said Nadia dropped out of the industry,” I noted.
“She did but she lives in Miami,” Liz told me. “Or she did. I suppose she still does. She’s started a ... vegan, healthy living ... cult or something down there. She invited me to visit and I declined. That was three or four years ago. I’m sure I have a phone number for her.”
“OK,” I said, nodding. “I’d prefer sooner than later. I want to know what we’re looking at in time to deal with it decisively. Now, one more thing. Is it possible for you to remove all PR functions from RFN?”
“What do you mean?” Liz asked.
“I mean I don’t want any of those motherfuckers making a statement to the media on your behalf,” I said. “The easiest way to make a leak work is to craft the narrative from both sides. They know what’s coming next so they craft your response to fit it. Maybe it’s a categorical denial that you have ever been around drug use ... then they drop the news that your parents are growers.”
“Do you think they might do that?” Liz asked.
“I would,” I said with a shrug. “If I had something on RFN right now, I’d lay it out there, particularly if I could decide how the label reacts to it. It would make my life a lot simpler if I was the only one talking in your voice right now. I’ve got a lot to get a handle on and I don’t need to worry about who might be saying something completely off point.”
“So you plan to deal with our response and handle the promotions?” Liz asked.
“And take care of Dallas and try to get that set up,” I said. “That’s what I mean! Your fucking secrecy has tied my God damned hands. I’m juggling six chainsaws right now and you want me to pat you on the back at the same time. It’s why the job is the only thing I can focus on right now.”
“Why don’t you let someone else handle Dallas?” Liz asked.
“Yeah, so if it goes to shit I can be the one responsible for costing one of my friends a dream job,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“I’m not going to fire them,” Liz said.
“No but you’ll move them out of what they like to do,” I countered. “Besides, it wouldn’t work anyway. It’s too late in the game. I know the players and I know the score. I would have to go down to lay the groundwork to have them handle things. My proxy could do it but that’s not workable right now.”
“I know it’s your mom,” Liz cut in. “I know she’s been making calls for you to people down there.”
“I specifically asked her not to mention it to you,” I said. “I wanted plausible deniability for you.”
“She didn’t tell me,” Liz replied. “She was online with one of them when I called her Thursday afternoon. I overheard a bit of the conversation when your mom first answered. She thought it was you calling, I guess.”
“Fine,” I said. “But you still see my point. I have to get with them this week. I have to be in Miami this week. I have to be in Jacksonville this week. The chainsaws are starting to spin a little too fast for me.”
“I don’t want to mention this to anyone until I’m sure,” Liz said.
“Then I guess we need to get to Miami,” I told her.
I hated to drag Brian and Dom away again so quickly but they agreed without a hint of protest. Ryan, on the other hand, did a whole lot of protesting – as did Jill and Stephanie. I wasn’t about to step into that minefield so after I told them it wasn’t my idea I clammed the hell up and let Liz deal with them.
As it was, less than 24 hours after arriving in Nashville, we were in the air to Miami. Anastasia, Emelda and Caley weren’t exactly thrilled to hear from Liz but she was forceful enough to get them to agree to a private meeting in a Miami Beach hotel later that evening before they went out to kill what few brain cells they still owned.
Nadia was a bit easier to convince ... until she heard that the three other models were coming. Liz finally convinced her that it was necessary for everyone’s long-term best interests.
Dom and Brian were pretty pissed to be shuffled off to the hotel bar while we enjoyed a private chat with her “friends.”
Despite her misgivings, Nadia Staniskaya was the first to arrive. I could vaguely remember a swimsuit calendar with her on the cover but I’d never known her name until she arrived. She hadn’t changed much since my college years.
She and Liz spent a few minutes getting reacquainted before I explained to her the real reason we’d asked to see her. She was immediately angry and wary. I couldn’t blame her. When I explained the rest of what I suspected, her anger shifted away from Liz and to the others.
Her version of events was a little different from Liz’s recollection but not markedly so. She insisted that Liz was just a pawn in a dangerous game played by the others. Nadia admitted that she wasn’t even a pawn. She was just a conduit into more illicit activities for Caley, Anastasia and Emelda.
We’d talked for half an hour when a trio of scantily dressed and highly intoxicated young women arrived fashionably late.
As had happened in the private room at the club in Cabo, they immediately assessed my worth and I came up well short of their standards. I found I was not the least bit unhappy about it. I shook my head as they walked past and sat down. Up close they were not nearly as attractive as they were after hours of airbrushing and makeup.
“I thought we were going out,” Caley slurred, gesturing vaguely to me and Nadia. “What’s with the nun and the stunt cock?”
“Shut up,” Liz said. “I’m not going out with you. Not now and not ever again. I asked you to be here for two reasons. First, our arrangement is officially over. I’ll be notifying your agencies of that fact in the morning. No more visits to New York; no more concert invites; no more Twit pics of us together. You’re not coming on stage with me in Jacksonville and I’m not doing a promo with you in Jamaica next week.”
“Fuck you,” Caley said. “We don’t need you.”
“Believe what you want,” Liz said. “I’m just telling you how it is. More importantly, we need to talk about something else. Travis?”
I stood to make sure the others had to look up at me. It was a lesson in dominance that they taught in business schools and I had found it worked remarkably well with arrogant assholes (such as journalists and hospital administrators).
“Liz’s contract with RFN is done in a few weeks,” I said simply. “In order to drive down her asking price, certain people at the label are going to reveal what you five idiots did in Milan.”
Every eye in the room shot to my face and then to Liz’s face.
“We promised never to speak of that!” Anastasia said angrily.
“I know you did,” I said. “But, someone violated that so here we are. I need to know who has been told of this. And ... quite frankly ... I’m willing to hurt you as much as I need to get the information.”
This time Liz’s face shot from the floor to me. She had a look of incredulity etched there. I had not told her anything about my plans. The others look stupefied when I rolled my shoulders and neck. The cracking sounded like a gunshot going off in the room.
“So, now that we understand that I’m going to learn about who blabbed,” I said, “we can speak freely.”
“Fuck you,” Caley said. “I’m leaving.”
She stood and I pushed her back to the couch.