“Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth in blood.”
Much Ado About Nothing
TOMMY It turned out that Finn wasn’t an easy guy to like. I didn’t really understand it, but most guys just tolerated him, instead of becoming friends. He was one of those people that was sort of closed off. Nice enough to everyone, but not really open. Worse, he was good at pretty much everything he did. That pissed some people off.
Not me, though. I’d known him for more than ten years and we got along great. We were sort of opposites. If someone was a stranger to me when they arrived, chances are that we’d probably be friends by the time I left. I always liked people. They’re endlessly fascinating. Who they are, what makes them tick, I want to know everything.
I drove a cab to pay for college, in spite of being able to work for my dad’s business. The pay was horrible and some of the conditions sucked, but it let me meet new people all the time. I know it’s weird, but I want to know everyone’s story. Besides, waiting for a fare at the airport gave me plenty of time to study.
I met Finn through his sister, Siobhan. I didn’t know what it was about her, but I couldn’t pull myself from her orbit. She was attractive, but not the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. With blonde hair and a lithe body, she was a mix of strength and beauty. Siobhan had that thing where you couldn’t take your eyes off her. It’s a weird magnetism that’s separate from a physical attraction, and as we grew up, that inability to avoid her just became part of me.
She was two years younger than I was, and we spent most of our teenage years together, either studying or hanging out. It was never romantic, but she was always one of my three closest friends. The other two would rotate as things changed, but Siobhan was always there for me and I was there for her. Whenever life threw a curveball at one of us, we’d be on the phone calling the other.
I think things started to change between us when Siobhan’s grandfather wanted to retire and sell his bookstores. The two of them were thick as thieves. She was a daddy’s girl and she beguiled all the men in her family, maybe because her paternal grandparents only had boys. She was the apple of her father’s eye; her other grandfather was a retired bigwig for the Suffolk County Police Department and she had him tied around her finger as well. The men adored her and treated her like a princess.
Her grandfather was smart as a whip but needed some help with his plans to sell the stores. Valuation, tax implications, name brand recognition, and a thousand other things had to be considered. I had experience from working with my family after I stopped driving the taxi. Dad didn’t need an almost MBA to handle payroll, taxes and the rest of what I did, but my mom and cousin also worked there and it was a family business, so I was happy to pitch in. To be honest, I wasn’t the most ambitious guy around.
I was happy to lend a hand, and Siobhan’s grandfather offered me a small percentage of the profit from the sale, a very small percentage. Sort of tiny, but he was a nice old man and had always treated me well, so I was in. Besides, I knew that if we were there together for hours every day, he’d have some great stories of how he built the business and tales of his wife and Siobhan’s mom. I did make him pay for lunch every day.
Siobhan was recruited to help catalog every book, piece of furniture, fixture, and piece of equipment. We grew closer that summer and I started to think about her a bit differently. I realized it at a conscious level one day when she leaned past me to grab a rare book on a shelf behind me and grabbed my shoulder to steady herself. Goosebumps broke out on my arms. That had never happened before, and we’d had plenty of physical contact in the past.
The next day I walked into the store with my usual cry of “Morning, Red!” Her grandfather came out from the back of the bookstore, a tome open in one hand, glasses perched on the end of his nose, and looked at me with a smile.
“Why do you do that? A nickname for everyone?”
“Uhhh, I don’t know. Sorry. Is Mr. O’Shaughnessy better? I didn’t mean any...”
He smiled. “No, with hair like mine, Red is understandable. I was just wondering. Why is Siobhan called Daisy?”
“You don’t see it? Well, she’s older now I guess. The first day that she walked into my dad’s she was there with Mr. Corrigan. It’s a little weird that the first time I saw her I was with my dad and she was with hers. Anyway, she was about twelve or thirteen. She still had that almost yellow color hair, and her face was more rounded, still some baby fat. I greeted them and asked Mr. Corrigan how I could help him and his wife. Stupid joke, but I was fifteen.”
I grinned, vividly remembering that day. “So, she just freaking lit up and had this huge smile like it was the funniest thing she ever heard, that she could be someone’s wife. It was like the sun came out. I immediately thought of the Montauk Daisy, she became Daisy, and that was it. She stayed for a few hours until they had to leave to pick up Finn at the aquarium.”
He pushed the glasses back up where they belonged and closed the book. “You know, she doesn’t let anyone else call her that. Most people it’s Siobhan. Family and a few friends, it’s Shiv. Daisy is for you only.”
Being caught speechless was new to me. I grinned and stood there for a minute, inordinately happy for some reason.
Finn often invited me over to his house to go fishing off his pier, hang out and do some grilling or to watch European soccer games. I think they were European. They didn’t speak English and I only knew a smattering of Japanese and Portuguese. We had the NFL and baseball available all season. Who the heck watches soccer? I think that he might have picked it up from the guys he worked with on fishing boats when he was growing up.
I’d take him up on maybe every fifth offer or so. After that day at the bookstore with Siobhan, I joined him as often as possible. If Finn was cooking, sure as the sun rises, Siobhan would be there eating. That woman had to have her grandfather’s metabolism. Since I greeted everyone who walked through the doors in the bookstore’s final days, they came to me with all their questions. I made it a point to always check with Siobhan for the answers.
I think her grandfather knew what was going on. He’d often send her with me on errands. He’d poke his head in the back where she was checking inventory, his mane of red hair preceding him into the room. “Siobhan, dear, take Tommy over to my accountant’s and get me all of the information for 2003. Oh, and sweetheart, stop at Sip ‘N Soda and get me a large sundae and a patty-melt with extra onions.” He’d reach into his pocket and hand her a hodge-podge of wrinkled bills: tens, twenties, whatever, and off we would go. The man was a black hole. He couldn’t weigh more than 140 pounds, but he never stopped eating.
It felt silly and a little cliched, but it was a magical summer. Siobhan had to pull me away from the cashier at whatever place her grandfather sent us. I’d ask him about his classes or any upcoming store specials. She was never upset, always laughing, saying I was friendlier to strangers than her brother’s dog, Dink, and that dog is a mush. It seemed that we were always together if I wasn’t taking care of something for my family’s business or she wasn’t studying.
Her grandfather bought her college text books and other books that he thought would help in her classes. He felt it was his domain and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was sort of sweet, as Siobhan’s aunt was a freaking billionaire. No, literally a billionaire.
Yeah, that summer was great. The fall? Not so much.
Buyers were in place; the sale was finalized, and Grandpa O’Shaughnessy suffered a fatal heart attack.
Siobhan was inconsolable. Finn became even more closed off. I tried to be there for both of them, but it was difficult. He wasn’t my grandfather, but I admired and liked the man. That was the worst holiday season I could remember. Things slowly got back on track in the spring, and then Jennifer seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Finn dropped back out of my life but for a good reason this time. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that he had it bad for Jennifer. I was happy for him and so was Siobhan. We started to get a bit more serious. Some casual dating and more obvious flirtation. It was clear that something had changed in our relationship and then the next monkey wrench was thrown in the middle of our lives.
Her aunt, the billionaire, became seriously ill.
I’d known them so long that even I called her Aunt Cynthia. I wasn’t told what was wrong, perhaps because I wasn’t family, but it turned out that Finn and Siobhan didn’t know either. Cynthia was undergoing some serious treatments for something but refused to talk about it. She passed away in early October, and Finn married Jen the following spring.
My dad’s business grew to 22 locations and was thriving. I think it was mostly due to the growing interest in MMA. Finn and Jennifer had a son that was just everyone’s pride and joy. He really was a beautiful kid. Siobhan and I grew closer and I was considering asking her to move in when our world was destroyed.
Someone tried to kill and then abduct her nephew, or maybe abduct him twice. I don’t know. What I do know is that I lost Siobhan for a long time. Somehow, she dealt with the threat and then disappeared.
I spent time with Finn and helped Jennifer run Finn’s oyster farm. Whatever had happened with their son resulted in Finn being in a wheelchair. They had more money than they could ever spend, but Finn felt an attachment to his business and an obligation to his long-term customers. He scaled back a bit, and we made it work.
A little more than seven months after Siobhan disappeared, she was back. She had changed. More like Finn now, she was reserved and guarded. While she was gone she sent a few emails to her parents, Skyped with Finn’s son William once in a while, and never communicated with me aside from gifts that showed up about once a week. I’d get a book on Krav Maga or a shirt from an Israeli tailor. They were the most eclectic array of gifts you could imagine.
Soon after that day in her grandfather’s bookstore, we became intimate. There was never a formal conversation about what we meant to each other; we just sort of segued into a new stage of our relationship. Her lack of contact aside from the gifts hurt. Deeply. When she returned we spent most of that spring getting comfortable with each other again. Summer started, and another stumbling block entered our lives.
His name was Everett Sinclair. Yup, Everett Sinclair. It was as if at birth his parents were making a solemn vow to the world, “Yes, our beloved son is going to grow up to be a pretentious douche.” It sounds like a name you’d find in a romance novel.
Unfortunately for me, he looked like he’d stepped off the cover of that novel. Tall, thin with chiseled features and movie star looks, he was an acquaintance of Siobhan’s and just seemed to slip into our lives. Well, I guess her life, really.
Every other sentence out of his mouth had a reference to ‘the company’ or ‘the farm’ or ‘Langley’. We get it, jack-ass. You’re in the CIA.
So, here’s this globe-travelling, model-looking superspy going after Siobhan and here’s me. Hair prematurely thin. Glasses needed if I want to see anything beyond three feet away. Not hideous, but not swoon-worthy.
My life sucked.
My office was next to my son’s room on the second floor. It didn’t make much sense. I should have taken Jenn’s office next to the kitchen and let her have mine. I had to use the electric chair thing to get up the steps. It did, however, allow me to look in on my son when I needed a break from the tedium of work.
Mornings were spent taking calls and exchanging emails with people that had information for me. Reporters in every D.C. outlet and in every state capital knew that if they had a strong, verifiable story that was killed by an editor for being too salacious, I’d pay top dollar. My purview was a bit wider than that and our efforts helped steer the authorities to seven high level operatives for other governments who were engaged in espionage and we pushed the right people in the direction of possible terrorists a few times.
After my last call for the morning, I went through my routine for when we were expecting people over. I guess I’m a hypocrite since I have nothing but disdain for self-help gurus and advocates for visualizing success and yet that’s exactly what I do before interacting with groups. I was always a bit of a loner and that grew more intense after a huge embarrassment in high school and then went off the charts after what happened to my son.
Taking over for Aunt Cynthia, I have no choice but to be functional in groups. I use parties at our home to try to get used to socializing. I lay down and picture the day and how I want it to go. I think about what people might say and how I would respond. There’d be intense bouts of self-loathing before I was done. I envied people like Tommy who made it seem effortless.
Cynthia had been a behind the scenes political power broker. To no small extent, she was a kingmaker and had been for decades. She knew more secrets than the FBI and caused or squelched too many scandals to count. With her gone, that role was now mine.
Looking out the window, I could see some guests arriving, so I slowly made the trek back downstairs.
It was one of those halcyon days of summer where you felt immortal and invincible. After what my family has gone through, that’s saying something. The temperature was in the mid-eighties and a cool breeze was coming off the water. The humidity was incredibly low and the aromas wafting off the grills were attracting the guests, as well as the security we now employed on a permanent basis.
I had a trench dug a year ago and we sunk two Big Green Eggs and a Weber Kettle down a foot, so they would be easier to access from the wheelchair. I was using the tongs to move the bacon-wrapped jalapenos to make room for the Oysters Ala Finn. The cream cheese filling kept falling out of the jalapenos as they shifted, but this wasn’t fine detailed work, it was grilling. A bit of a mess was part of the enchantment.
I hated that Jennifer loved these oysters so much. She originally had them when Steve made them for her at Rouge Cochon. Effing Steve. That SOB flirted with her right in front of me, then tried to hit on her a week before our wedding. Ass. He’s a good cook but a lousy human being; it’s almost disappointing how good the oysters are.
Sliding the aluminum pan with the oysters on the grate, I paused and looked around my backyard. My son was playing with our dog. Dink would run up to William, bump him with his huge head and run a few feet away until William chased him on his chubby toddler legs. Jennifer was sitting with my parents, drinking something that was likely popular in the seventies like a Harvey Wallbanger or something. She’s probably telling them about Seinfeld, an amazing new show she just discovered.
Jennifer came into our lives after an experiment that was part of the Montauk Project swept her through time from 1968 to 2018. Yeah, I’m knee deep in the bizarre and strange. She’s been adapting and learning but has been enthralled by fifty years of pop culture.
When I saw Tommy rounding the corner of the house, I waved, turned the wheelchair and rolled over in his direction. He stopped to talk to my folks, an act of mercy on his part. It gave them a break from Jen’s revelations. He’s the only one who can pretend to be fascinated whenever Jennifer starts telling us about something she recently came across that’s been popular for decades. Hell, maybe he was fascinated. He’s the most people-person I’ve ever met.
Rather than getting himself a chair, Tommy sat on the grass next to Mom. I slowed down and ‘walked the walk’ of the condemned as I heard his question. She’s going to be on this topic for hours.
“Hey,” Tommy said, nudging Mom’s leg with his knee. “your movie was just starting when I left the apartment. So, what’s so great about The Quiet Man? Siobhan’s mentioned how you guys always watch it on St. Patrick’s Day. Is that the one with Sean Connery about leprechauns?”
My mother looked aghast. That movie was like a holy text in our home when we were growing up, to be treated with reverence and love. Take the most die-hard anglophiles you could find but shift their obsession from England to Ireland, and that’s my parents. That’s how my sister and I got our names. Growing up, Siobhan would have given her left arm to have been named Mary or Susan.
I slowly turned the wheelchair around and made my way back to the grills. Tommy was going to be stuck for hours.
While prepping the tomahawk steaks for the Big Green Eggs, I saw Siobhan at the edge of the pier showing Everett the oyster farm. I looked over at Tommy and realized he saw them as well. He looked curious but not upset and turned his attention back to Mom. Strangely, he truly seemed interested. Man, Mom loves talking about John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. He was in for an epic lecture.
Tommy is in love with Siobhan. I think that everyone knows it except the two of them. They’ve been a couple since Grandpa passed, but neither one of them acknowledges it. And Everett? Well, he’s Everett. Effortlessly charming, panty-dropping handsome, cultured New England accent, obvious wealth and mysterious background.
The afternoon seemed to fly by. I fed everyone, Siobhan showed Everett the Cabin Cruiser and the clammer, my mother relished the opportunity presented by a willing audience, and Tommy kept looking over at Everett.
Eventually, Tommy walked over as I was grilling some pineapple chunks after soaking them in rum and vanilla and sprinkling them with cinnamon and brown sugar. A diabetics nightmare, but he’d die happy.
He tried to be nonchalant. “So, who’s the guy with Siobhan?”
I looked up, but he wouldn’t meet my eyes. “His name’s Everett. He was in a training class with Shiv down in Virginia. He’s in town, so she invited him over.”
I hesitated. “I guess. I don’t really know him. I don’t think she knows him that well either. They had lunch down there, he gave her a call when he was in town and here he is.”
“Huh. Okay. Need a hand with the pineapple?”
Jennifer scooped up William to get him ready for bed. Losing his pal, Dink came running over to us. He nearly barreled into Tommy, pushing my friend’s leg with his head. Everyone likes Tommy. It’s part of who he is, but he cheats outrageously with Dink.
Siobhan is the wannabe spy in our family, but even I’m observant enough to notice Tommy surreptitiously pulling some crispy bacon from a Ziploc and slipping it to Dink. My dog is a bacon whore. Tommy was the center of his attention for the rest of the night.
Tommy scooped a bunch of pineapple chunks onto a platter and toothpicked them before walking around. He seemed to be taking a deliberate route. First my parents, then Father Jesse, over to Grandpa, some for Jennifer who came out with William in his jammies, and then deliberately and in a direct line to Siobhan and Everett.
I could see them chatting as Shiv introduced them. Everett squared his body as he shook Tommy’s hand, his left hand going to Tommy’s bicep in that awkward alpha-male dominance move. Nothing too aggressive, but clearly paternal and diminunizing.
Tommy gestured to the equipment bay for the oyster farms and continued chatting, Shiv jumped into the discussion and Everett was keeping a small smile in place that seemed, from my position, a bit perturbed.
Everett appeared to listen graciously while Tommy spoke to him. They even walked over to the hydraulics for the cages and pulled up a few large sacks that I had waiting for a customer who was coming by in the morning. Tommy seemed to be bragging about me as they talked. He pointed in my direction and Everett looked over. I waved. Everett smiled and nodded, but his body language was off. He was irritated and trying not to show it.
Shiv had wandered over to Mom and Dad, spoke to them and then made her way to Father Jesse. The two of them started walking the property, deep in conversation. He was Father Jesse to my family, Monsignor Chakowski to those that don’t know him as well and Dr. Chakowski to people who knew him outside of his ecclesial role. The man of the cloth was also a psychiatrist who taught at Stony Brook University. He wore many hats, but the one most important to me was confidant to Siobhan.
Without making it obvious, Everett tracked her movements and kept up his conversation with Tommy. Eventually, he made his way to her when he saw a break in the conversation with Father Jesse. They spoke for a few minutes and he made his way over to me.
“Finn, you have a beautiful home and family. Thank you for having me over.”
I guess he was taking his leave. “Oh, not a problem. Thanks for coming. Friends of Shiv’s are always welcome. How long are you in the area?”
He turned on his mega-watt smile as he spoke. “Probably a month. Maybe a bit longer.”
“Well, the door is always open. Don’t be a stranger.”
He bent to pet Dink who walked away before Everett could reach him. He straightened back up and replied. “Thanks. Have a great night.”
Watching him walk away, Jennifer seemed a bit annoyed. “What am I, chicken liver?”
Smiling at my wife, I couldn’t help teasing her. “The handsome spy heads off without flirting and you’re upset? And what the heck is with chicken liver? Where do you get these expressions?”
She smacked my shoulder. “No, it wasn’t the lack of flirting, it was the lack of courtesy. He’s at our house, where we were the hosts and he comes over to you, the man, and thanks you for having him while I’m standing right here.”
The last to leave, Siobhan approached as I gathered up the spatulas, tongs, and knives.
“Hey, got any...”
“I think Mom put the leftovers downstairs. Leave some for the security guys.”
She almost sounded indignant. “I wasn’t going to say leftovers.”
I tried not to smile. “Uh-huh. Sure, Shiv.”
“Well, I ... okay, I was going to say leftovers.”
I scraped the grills clean and Jennifer washed the dishes. As always, she took a few plates of food up to the guardhouse at the end of our driveway. I closed the vents on the grills to choke off the oxygen and rolled down to the wooden walkway between the piers. I sat watching the water and thinking about what we had lost. Aunt Cynthia, a woman almost as close to me as my mother, sacrificed herself so Jen could stay with me. A madman tried to kill my son and put me in a wheelchair. My sister lost her innocence when she hunted the psychopath down and killed him.
So much loss. Uncle William, George, Cynthia, the person Siobhan used to be, the safety Jennifer used to feel. It was the end of a perfect day and I was feeling melancholy, as if our perfection and purity were gone like the day turning into night.
Dink pushed his head under my arm, so I scratched behind his ears for a bit. I locked the brakes on the wheelchair, skootched down to the end of the seat and lowered myself to the ground. My back resting against the chair, I sat there listening to the waves, the gulls and the occasional happy outburst from a neighbor’s child.
My canine friend made a snuffling sound and settled onto the ground, laying his huge head on my lap. Without thought, I began to pet my family’s protector as the sadness sunk in. My hands made their way over the scars where he was stabbed. He was with me when I first saw Jen. Dink saved me from a beating by some idiot clammers. More importantly, he stopped my son from being killed or abducted.
I didn’t know how to reward him. What do you get for a dog, especially one who has put his life on the line for your family? All I could do was continue to love him and make sure he knew it.
I heard the backdoor swing closed and a minute later Jennifer leaned down to kiss my cheek. “Coming in, Babe?”
There was no need to watch her. I knew she was looking back at the house where our son was sleeping. I’ll be spending the next twenty years trying to build some independence into William who will be dealing with an over-protective mother. Another thing Duhnagaham stole from us.
Not wanting her to see my tears, I didn’t turn. Indulging my occasional sadness irked me. I’m supposed to be, I don’t know, strong, dependable. The doctors said it would hit me on occasion and that it might be a good idea to see a therapist. I didn’t agree. I lost the use of my legs, not my mind. I can deal with it. “In a few minutes. I just want to sit here for a while.”
“Okay. Love you.” She squeezed my shoulder and headed back. I knew she would enter the house, head directly upstairs and check on William. It had probably been five minutes since she had seen him.
He was always there. Everett was like a virus. Once he found his way in, you couldn’t get rid of him. I tried to find things that I could do with Siobhan, things for just the two of us, but he inevitably wormed his way in and turned them into group activities. He’d make an attempt at being friendly, but it was like he couldn’t control himself. Every once in a while he’d be looking at me with this smirk, a barely hidden condescension that made my skin crawl.
I like everyone. Sometimes I get taken advantage of because of it. I’ll stay on the phone too long with telemarketers, I’ll offer water or the use of the bathroom to religious people going door to door. I overtip outrageously. My friends tease me about it, but I accept it. It’s who I am, and there are worse things to be. I like people.
But I hate Everett Sinclair.
A bunch of old friends from classes got together and we all went to a blues festival on the water in Riverhead and out for ice cream. Everett showed up.
Some out of town friends came in and we took them to the Boardy Barn for drinks and dancing. It was a tourist trap, but a mainstay in the Hamptons, so everyone loves it. Everett showed up, spending most of the night dancing with Siobhan.
I took her to an antiquarian auction. She had become a bit of a bibliophile during her time with her grandfather and I thought we could bid on some books and then get lunch. Everett tagged along. He registered and won a few auctions, always consulting with Siobhan on what he should bid on.
The only bright spot was at the restaurant we stopped at for lunch. We were perusing the menus when Everett asked what seemed to be a reasonable question.
“So, any special way I should store the books, Daisy?”
With a look of disgust, she turned to Everett. “Did you ... what did you say?”
His smile faltered and then came storming back. “I was asking how I should store the books. Do I need to be concerned about moisture or the binding or anything?”
Siobhan’s glare flashed over at him, mouth downturned. “Did you call me Daisy? Don’t do that. It’s Siobhan.”
“Okay, sure. I just ... Okay.”
Closing her eyes for a moment, she shook her head slightly.
I hid behind the menu, pretending to be deciding on what to order. For the first time in a while, I was gleeful. Yeah, don’t call her Daisy, Mr. Everett Fucking Sinclair.
About two weeks had gone by since I had first met Everett. Two weeks of putting up with that ass. I thought about it as I parked in front of Finn and Jenn’s. This was where we met. It was the Garden of Eden that this snake crawled into. Yeah, I get it, maybe that was a bit much. He wasn’t Satan, but fuck Everett.
I made my way around to the back of Finn and Jenn’s house. I had my laptop in a bag slung over my shoulder and was wearing Bermuda shorts and a tank top. It was one of those hot, humid summer days and I was looking forward to some of Finn’s cooking while I helped Jennifer with the books for the oyster farm.
It was a ridiculous exercise. Jennifer seemed to be able to remember numbers like a savant and grasped charts, summaries, and trends like a seasoned pro. For some reason, she always wanted my reassurances, but she was better than I was.
I turned the corner of the house and stopped dead in my tracks. Dink had a back leg lifted, urinating on a small pile of clothes. “Dink! Get away from there.” I went over and nudged him with my hip. “No, Dink!”
He looked up at me and I got the distinct impression that he thought I was an idiot. I heard some distant laughter and looked out to the water. Siobhan and Everett were waist deep and splashing each other. I couldn’t make out their smiles as they frolicked, but I was sure they were there. I leaned down, wrapped an arm around Dink and hugged him.
The salmon-colored Polo on the top of the pile had been meticulously folded, collar popped up somehow. Everett’s clothes, then. I pulled the dog in close. “Sorry, buddy.”
Pulling the Ziploc from my pocket, I opened it and poured out the bacon. I needed to stock-up. That dog was going to get all the bacon. Like, wholesale, distributor size cases of bacon. I ruffled the short fur on his head, patted his side and went to knock on the back door.
My daydreams about wishing Everett would drown were ruined by memories of seeing him in the water. He swam like a damned dolphin. There had been a couple of times when Finn and Jen had some friends over. Deb, Finn and Daisy’s mom, watched William and we all hung out at the beach where Finn had his version of a clam bake and we listened to music.
Captain Handsome borrowed Jen’s acoustic guitar and played some barely recognizable songs. It sounded like the ‘70’s soft rock my mom listens to. I put a fake smile on that attested to my docility while I pictured myself crashing the guitar on the rocks and dropping it in his lap. We were a group of people in our mid-twenties and it seemed like every woman there couldn’t keep their eyes off Everett. And he only had eyes for Daisy.
So, yeah, pee to your heart’s content, Dink. I’ll supply the bacon.
Finn saw me through the storm-door and waved me in. He was using one of his Japanese knives that he’s always talking about. The metal looks sort of swirly and he’s always mentioning how great it is. As usual, he was prepping food. Like his sister, Finn must have inherited his grandfather’s metabolism, ‘cause as much as he eats, he’s still super thin, but recently he’s looked even thinner. Almost unhealthily thin.
There was an older gentleman, maybe mid-fifties, sitting at the table. His greying hair was perfectly coiffed, and he looked like he had a stylist lay out his dockers, polo shirt and boat shoes. He stood and extended his manicured hand and flashed a blindingly white smile as Finn introduced us.
“Senator, this is Tommy Oliveira, an old friend of the family. Tommy, this is Senator Leary. The Senator and I were just wrapping things up.”
The Senator’s grip was strong, but not bracing. “Mr. Oliveira, it’s a pleasure.” He turned back to Finn, pausing halfway towards sitting back down. “Mr. Corrigan, I believe that we have a few other items to discuss?”
“I think we pretty much covered everything. I do appreciate you stopping by. Please say hello to Marcia and your daughters for me. The twins will be entering middle school this year, right? Let me know how staying with the Montessori system works for you. It’s never too soon for us to start thinking about William’s education.”
Smile dropping when Finn mentioned the Senator’s children and their schooling choice, he paused for a second before continuing. “How did ... Yes, well, of course. Thank you again for your time.”
Finn stopped chopping his herbs for a moment and smiled. “Always happy to help out. Bring the family next time. We’ll have a BBQ.”
“Yes. Certainly. I’m sure they’d love that. Mr. Corrigan, Mr. Oliveira.” Eyebrows slightly raised, he seemed a bit nonplussed, as if he wasn’t used to being dismissed. He waited a moment and then made his way to the door, offered a small smile and exited.
Finn turned his attention to me. “Here to help Jen?”
A senator. Finn was chatting with a senator. I shifted the weight of the laptop bag and again wondered about the friends I kept before replying. “Yeah, like she needs it. You know, with her, what would you call it, aptitudes? She could be a shark on Wall Street.”
Finn looked amused. “What do you think she does around here? She’s not lounging out in the sun all day. Jennifer manages the money Cynthia left us. That’s a full-time job. It dipped the first year, but she corrected course. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see double-digit growth this year.”
“Seriously? I thought you guys had some huge firm, like Blackrock or Vanguard handling your money.”
It was sort of sweet to see how proud Finn was of Jen. There was love in his voice as he continued. “No, she has about a dozen people we cherry picked from elite companies working for her, but she steers the ship.
His son came scurrying around the corner and into the kitchen. Seeing William running towards his father, I knew that Jennifer would soon follow. “So, why does she need me to look over the books for a small oyster farm?
“She doesn’t, but she doesn’t know that. She’s insecure and you’re probably her best friend. You know that, right? Outside of family, she doesn’t really have anyone. She leans on you because she trusts you.”
I hadn’t realized that she felt that strongly. It both pleased and concerned me. “What about friends and family from wherever she came from? Connecticut, right? They don’t visit, or she can’t take the ferry over?”
“Jennifer doesn’t see anyone from ... her old life. It’s sort of complicated. We’ll discuss it someday.”
She walked in at that point and scooped up their son who was clamoring for his father’s attention. “No, William. Not while Daddy’s cutting. Hey, Tommy. Ready to go?”
Finn took care of William while Jen and I sat down in their home office, which was adjacent to the kitchen. I plugged in the laptop and realized that I could look out the window and see the water. Half of my attention was with Jennifer and the numbers and the other half was spent torturing myself as I caught glimpses of Siobhan and Everett.
I opened a new window in my browser and Googled “best premium bacon”. Dink had just vaulted over most people on my list of friends.
“Son of a...” I cut my finger. Again. I held the offending finger aloft as I rolled over to the sink. Pete and I went into the Bronx this morning at three. It took us almost two hours to get to Hunts Point and the Fulton Fish Market, but it was worth it. Stretching over sixty acres of land, the Hunts Point Cooperative market is a culinary nirvana divided into three main sections, a produce market, a meat market, and the new Fulton Fish Market.
The largest market of its kind in the world, more than fifty percent of the meat that is consumed in all of the New York region comes through their doors. For the resources Jen and I have available, I live pretty modestly. We’re in the same house I bought years ago. I never bought a new boat, we don’t have a Rolls Royce Sweptail, I don’t have a second home in Tahiti or an apartment overlooking Central Park west.
But there? There I splurge. As long as I don’t believe that the seller is looking at me like a mark, I don’t care how much I spend. Pete and I loaded up a couple of coolers with some amazing bluefin tuna, took a quick drive over to the meat market and grabbed some A5 Kobe steaks. I slept on the drive home and started working on the sashimi for lunch, which is when I saw Siobhan in the backyard, a sweaty mess, sucking down the contents of a water bottle.
I wasn’t an idiot. I’m not a judoka, but it was obvious that when William was playing with his Aunt Daisy and they were roughhousing and tumbling, she was actually showing him how to fall, how to center himself and how to use his weight. She did this three times a week after jogging. She would park in our driveway, go jogging, return and spend time with her nephew.
I bumped up Alexa to seven while listening to Metallica. I could still hear them playing. I bumped it up to ten. The bandaid had helped. The knife was incredibly sharp, but the cut was shallow. Wheeling back to the table, I saw them again. She would jog lightly for about a quarter mile with William tagging along as she cooled down from her run. The same run I used to take every morning. The same run I was on when I first met Jennifer. The same run I’ll never take again.
I threw away at least four-hundred dollars of tuna that had my blood on it. Starting again, I ripped the knife through the flesh while thinking of Shiv with my son. More tuna wasted. I threw it from the table towards the sink. Maybe they could shut the fuck up and let me concentrate.
I had some jambalaya going while I was prepping the sashimi. That would go out to the guards on duty this afternoon. I think the free food helped with our retention rate. Jennifer called out to Shiv to let her know that lunch was ready. She scooped up William and headed in. We enjoyed the fish and had a light endive salad on the side.
William was telling his mother about all the shiny rocks he was going to collect on the beach that day when Siobhan brought up the jogging. “I was thinking about taking Dink with me when I’m running.”
Speaking softly, I responded without looking up from the plate. “No, we need Dink here.”
“He could use the exercise, you know? He’s a big dog and...”
Slamming my fork down, I was suddenly incensed. “What the fuck don’t you understand about the word ‘no’? No, you can’t take my fucking dog! Is that clear enough, Shiv? And William is too young to start training.”
Shoving my plate forward, I pushed away from the table and rolled out of the kitchen. I could hear my son as I made my exit.
“Daddy said a bad word.”
It took two days before Jen’s badgering got me to speak about it.