Chapter 1 The Circus is a Jealous Wench
It’s a three-ring world and all the while, we’re the ones to make you smile;
It took the world a while to discover The Golden State, California, and join the indigenous tribes that had inhabited it for a few thousand years. But when it became better known, there was no looking back.
Gazing down now on the extended metropolis that is modern day Los Angeles, Stafford Hawkins, gripping the armrests of his seat as he didn’t like flying (in fact didn’t really like being out at all) noted, not for the first time, the vast expanse of humanity and sniffed as if confronted by an unpleasant odor.
Hawkins realized that the vast, sprawling mass below him was responsible for his own vast success; but he still didn’t much like it. Any of it, really. He tolerated most of it and avoided the rest when he could. Hawkins closed his eyes as the plane began its descent into Bob Hope Airport; soon (he hoped fervently) he would be on the ground and being whisked to his company offices in Glendale.
That city lies at the southeastern end of the San Fernando Valley, eight miles north of downtown Los Angeles; bordered to the northwest by the Sun Valley; to the northeast by La Cañada Flintridge; to the west by Burbank and to the east by Eagle Rock and Pasadena. It is in the middle of everything, which was why Hawkins had chosen it.
This was where the head office of Documart, one of the first providers of online legal document services and legal family and small business plans, sat. Stafford Hawkins was the CEO and majority owner of Documart; but one would never guess that from looking at the ultra-conservative but very nondescript man, known more for his exceedingly rare public appearances.
One would not be likely either to guess that he was
incredibly wealthy. But he was; he was also eccentric and paranoid, with borderline obsessive compulsive tendencies that he managed somehow to keep in check. His habits may have been a bother, but they had never interfered with his uncanny ability to spot or pursue, and at times even create, innovative technology. Whatever his weaknesses, he had always overcome them with his strengths, and that had always led to financial success.
As his private jet taxied to a stop, he waited for his staff of two to get all his things, and then he made the brisk scamper to his waiting limousine, so that he was out in the open public as little as possible.
On second thought, if one did happen to see him leaving his jet or entering his limo, one might stumble onto his status. Or not. One might just think he was the president’s accountant.
Emily Hawkins, the twenty-two year-old daughter of Stafford, was, simply, nothing like him. Apart from a similar lanky frame and white-blonde hair, they shared very little in common physically or emotionally. At this moment, as her father was recovering from an airplane ride, Emily was blasting along Ventura Blvd., her 2016 Chevy Camaro convertible darting in and out like a lover’s tongue.
When it came to sharing between the two Hawkins, it was something they did not do at all. Emily could not recall the last time she had actually spoken with her father, face to face that is. All communication went through his executive assistant Carman Da Costa or his lawyer, Ryland J. Ross; and word was both of them were now required to wear masks when meeting him.
“What a freak show,” Emily had commented.
Neither Stafford, nor his sister Melanie, were completely aware of Emily’s plans at any moment, so when her baby blue sports car had shown up two days ago on the doorstep of their massive Adams Hill home, it was something of a surprise. A surprise as massive as his abode to Stafford at least; not as much to Melanie.
Melanie and Emily were sitting now, outside the spacious and open kitchen of the house, perched as it was on one of the hilly, winding lanes of the expensive and exclusive district. The house was three stories with several balconies and patios offering views; the patio they were on now faced west to Griffith Park and Los Angeles, the morning sun warming them.
“Your father pretty much fell off his chair when you arrived, Em.” Melanie Downing smiled, her tanned face and blonde-brown head a testament to her years in the California sun.
‘Em’, Emily, or ‘M’ as she had come to prefer, simply smirked. It was her standard response to most things in life. Emily Stafford had not been born into true wealth, but by the time she was five and her mother had passed away, things had changed. Stafford had, two years earlier, sold the rights to his first tech idea; an improvement on the new CD Rom, and the next few years had seen him turn that one hundred thousand into his first million.
Emily’s mother had died in this very house, and a week later Melanie, Stafford’s youngest sister, had arrived to look after the young girl. Emily did not call Melanie ‘Aunt’, did not think of her that way. They were much closer; Melanie had been all these years the unwavering rock in Emily’s turbulent life, even those years when Stafford had hustled her off to expensive boarding schools, the two had stayed in touch.
The first time Emily was shipped off happened when she had just turned twelve, but had already begun puberty. His daughter transforming into a woman before his eyes was too much for Hawkins to deal with and Emily was sent away, spending most of the next six years at schools in San Diego, San Francisco and finally next door in Pasadena. Melanie kept in touch and on those occasions when Emily was required to return home, Hawkins would leave in response and not return until
the girl/woman had resumed her studies.
What Hawkins feared and what others came to appreciate was the development of a mesmerizing, blonde beauty. Growing to five seven and a half inches with perfectly proportioned hips and breasts and flowing white-blonde hair set off by a model’s face, Emily Hawkins was a stunner. Whenever she returned home, Melanie would simply stand and stare, thinking to herself it was good that Emily attended an all-girl institution; boys would not be able to focus with her around.
But, as Emily had discovered, that also applied to a certain number of girls. By the time Emily graduated and entered Berkeley Business School (much to her father’s amazement) she had left behind a string of broken hearts, both male and female.
Emily had not given much thought to her sexuality; it was what it was. She had given her virginity up at fourteen to a marginally older girl while at school in San Diego. This girl happened to have an astonishing collection of dildos and devices for a girl of fifteen, and she and Emily spent the final four months of the school year determined to try out them all.
And so it had gone. On her rare time spent at home, Emily had experienced no difficulty in attracting male partners; although after coming down with Phthirius pubis, a.k.a. crabs, at age seventeen, she had been so thoroughly disgusted she refrained from any sexual activity for almost a year. When she became active again, she was far more cautious about her partners.
Still, at twenty-two, she was a very experienced young woman, at least when it came to desire, love and sex.
“So how long do you plan on being here this time, Em?” Melanie asked.
“Well, as we have discussed, I have…plans this time.” Both women smiled. “But, I still don’t know, um, like specifically. It depends.”
“Oh, hey, what happened with your big relationship? Last I heard it was all hot stuff, then nothing, and
now here you are. Who was the guy?”
Emily yawned as if even the memory was boring, “Oh you mean my race car driver?”
“Yeah, him. What’s his name?”
Emily stared straight ahead and had to think for a minute, then laughed, “Angelo, fuck, can’t believe I lost it there. We were together seven months; that’s like a lifetime for me.”
“I know,” Melanie added, “You were in Jalapa, I think, and you called to tell me you had just had the greatest um, sex. I’m pretty sure you were drunk, but you sounded happy.”
Emily smirked, “Yeah, there was a lot of Tequila involved with Angelo. And I think I called you to tell you we had just fucked for three hours.”
Melanie made a face, “You can’t remember his name, but you remember; that.” She grimaced. “And I wish you wouldn’t use that word.” She said.
“Ok fine, we were ‘inter-coursing’ for three hours, how’s that?”
Melanie laughed, “I don’t think that’s even a word.”
“It should be,“ Emily added and lit a Lucky Strike.
“Still doing that?” Melanie asked, making a face.
“Hey, it’s cool. I enjoy it, so what the fuck?” Emily shrugged, “Oh, sorry,” she added with a smirk.
Melanie made a face again. “Don’t you worry about all the nasty stuff that smoking can do?”
Emily eyed her aunt; she had heard all this many times. “The world is a harsh place, Mel-bell. You realize that in the sixties our government, and lots of other countries too, dumped raw nuclear waste right into the ocean, right? You do realize that for decades, and right up to now, food producers injected and fed their livestock with all kinds of steroids and hormones and all sorts of shit?” Emily lectured.
“Ok, ok, I give up. Just saying.” Melanie laughed, and
at that moment Chantico Pena their maid, for want of a better description, came in with the telephone.”
“A call for you, Mrs. Downing.” She smiled and left.
“Mrs. Downing, oooohhh, how formal.” Emily laughed, but Melanie waved her off as she took her call.
Carman Da Costa’s phone summoned her into the inner sanctum of Stafford Hawkins’s office. Before entering she donned the face mask almost all were now required to wear while in the man’s presence. She entered and strode to the place on the carpet that marked the boundary of her admittance. “Sir” she said to the back of the white-blonde head.
“Signings, Ms. Da Costa?” The man asked, in his distinctive high voice. If one didn’t know, one might think it was a woman speaking, but it wasn’t.
“Eleven documents sir; I’ve emailed them.” Of course Hawkins’s laptop would have an app allowing him to sign on his screen; he had helped create it. Well, helped in terms of having thought of some things. Hawkins himself was only passable when it came to computers; what he had, had always had, were great ideas and the ability to get others interested in them.
“Excellent; thank you, Ms. Da Costa. That should be all.” The voice remarked.
“Very good, sir.” The tall, dark woman murmured, and made her exit, leaving her mask by the door.
Da Costa seemed, to many who met her, to be older than her twenty-nine years; if might have been her serious nature; she rarely smiled. She was intense, persistent and efficient. Hawkins had come to depend on her greatly in the last four years, whether he admitted it or not. Her and Ryland Ross. And Drew Downing.
Da Costa came and stood by Downing’s desk now; their two offices were across from each other and directly adjacent to Stafford’s. A receptionist, in the imposing form of Ms. Prendergast, guarded the entrance to this
“So you wanted to see me?” Da Costa asked the slim, insipid man.
Downing adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. “Are you aware of the activity on the main company shares?”
Da Costa was aware of everything, but she left the details up to staff. Financial details were Downing and his assistant’s job. So the answer was yes and no, but Da Costa was also careful of direct answers. “I know there has been trading, and it has influenced the market value slightly upwards. But I’m guessing you have something more, specific, in mind.”
Downing directed his pale, blue eyes upwards. Although almost five foot ten, his whole demeanor made him seem smaller, even when seated. He cleared his throat again; he was actually concerned with what he had been checking, but he wasn’t one hundred percent certain what it meant. And he was always careful with giving Da Costa too much information.
“There have been some larger sales over the last six or seven weeks; several to holding companies that I can’t unlock to a source.” Where Stafford had a high, feminine voice; Downing’s was simply soft, quiet, and cautious.
Da Costa had wondered for the first couple of years she worked with him if Downing was gay, despite being married to the CEO’s sister; although it wouldn’t have mattered to her. But she had come to believe that he was simply nonsexual; she could not imagine him having sex with either gender. “Are you thinking…take-over?” She asked quietly, keeping the concern out of her voice.
Downing removed his glasses and wiped them thoughtfully before placing them back on his nose. “Not sure. It is just concerning. With Miss Stafford receiving that ten percent lump on her twenty-first birthday, and my Melanie getting that five percent last year because of some agreement with Mr. H., that gives them twenty-eight percent together now. The total of these last four large purchases, added to that twenty-eight, equals fifty-one percent of voting shares.
They looked at each other for a moment. “Interesting.” Da Costa murmured. “But you said together. Are they, together?”
Downing shook his head. He didn’t know, although things might be different now that Emily had come home.
“So,” Melanie asked, as the two of them had now gone back inside, with Chantico bringing them some tea. “I think it’s time for you to fill me in some more. You’ve given me bits and pieces over the last while, but I think there’s a lot I don’t know.”
Emily then explained, in point form, what she had in mind. First, a number of things had happened a year ago upon her reaching twenty-one; and she was pretty sure her father had not thought much about this scenario years back when the trust for her was created. Second, Hawkins’s current estimated worth was north of four hundred million, but a clause in Emily’s trust had given her control over several companies included in that total, that at one time were too small for her father to worry about.
They had grown and, thirdly, Emily had liquidated most of them this last year, using a chunk of that money to buy up shares in Documart, between her and Melanie; company bylaws stating no one person other than Stafford Hawkins was allowed more than thirty percent of shares. As of a week ago, Emily sat at thirty and Melanie at twenty-one; so, controlling interest. That was point four.
“Why again do you want to control this, Emily? What am I missing? This is your father’s baby; his pride and joy; what are you, um, we, up to exactly?” Emily sat in thought for a moment. Even though she felt no family- bond sort of emotional attachment, the man was still
her father. Somewhere deep inside she felt a twinge.
“You do realize that Father-dear is, well, losing it, right? He’s been odd for years, that’s understood, but now his strangeness is bleeding into his financial world. He’s started investing in whacko projects and bizarre schemes. I’m sure if you asked your hubby directly he would tell you there is concern.” Emily looked directly at Melanie who shifted a little. She and ‘hubby’ rarely talked about anything.
Emily continued. “I like the dough that I have now, fer shure, but I’m not going to just sit back as my father blows up all he has created. The only way to stop that is to take control away from him.”
Melanie nodded her head; it was starting to make sense, even as it made her uneasy. She hadn’t minded buying up shares with Emily; it wasn’t her money they were using, but now things were getting personal. “And now we have control of the, um, core business, you say?”
“Correct. And over the next little while we will take control of Father-dearest’s main support; Da Costa, Ross and your hubby.”
Melanie nodded her head again, slowly. “And how do you, um, we, plan to do that?”
Emily smiled a slightly wicked smile, “The same way you eat an elephant, Mel-bel; one bite at a time. Starting with the smallest bite: Drew.”
Melanie nodded in conclusion. This was going to be …interesting.
Da Costa marched, which was the correct term, the woman never just walked, past Prendergast’s station and turned left. Across from her were the five rows of cubicles occupied by the staff of twenty as they took phone calls and directed messages. Documart was not actually a law firm, but they had a team of lawyers headed by Ryland Ross available to offer advice, supply documents and answer questions.
Along the far side of the open area, to Da Costa’s extreme right, were four small offices that housed the assistant’s to her, Downing and Ryland Ross, who Da Costa was now on her way to see. His office, the largest of all save Hawkins, sat impressively beside reception; all visitors faced it as they waited in the row of leather chairs that sat before the mighty Prendergast.
And it wasn’t just a name either, that. Ivy Prendergast was a large and imposing woman, tall and bulky, not fat, although she possessed enormous and eye-catching breasts and with her heels on, most visitors looked up at her. As Da Costa passed the woman they exchanged a quick glance. The door to Ross’s office stood open so Da Costa peered in and spoke. “Ryland, have a minute?”
If any man ever desired to be an egg, it was Ryland J. Ross. He was short and round with a head the famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot would covet. Ross had for many years sported an imaginative comb-over, then one day just shaved everything off and had been that way ever since. People called him ‘The Egg’, ‘Egghead’, ‘Humpty’, etc. but not to his face. His legal mind was almost encyclopedic and he had steered Hawkins’s business ship unfailingly for years.
Ross held up his hand and finished a call, then looked up at Da Costa. “How can I be of assistance, my dear Carman?” Ross spoke warmly, although he did not trust Da Costa much and kept a close eye on her. She was ambitious, and possibly unscrupulous, he thought. But he knew her value and played his cards correctly with her all the time.
“Drew has just brought some things to my attention,“ she remarked, and the next several minutes were spent in discussions about the possible threats to company control.
“So, because of the structure, this fifty-one percent, if held by people working together, could actually tie up not just Documart, but these other seven subsidiaries?”
Ross stroked his chin reflectively, a habit he had developed that prevented him from blurting things out. “Without having more information, you understand, that would be my fear.”
Da Costa regarded Ross’s shiny round head. “Do you think we should tell Stafford?” She never called her boss by his Christian name, except when in conversations with Ross and Downing.
“Should we?” Ross replied with raised eyebrows. “What do we have to tell him?”
Just misgivings, Da Costa pondered, “Right. We need to come up with more.” She murmured.
Ross nodded his egg-shaped noggin.
Feeling a little over-whelmed by all the corporate and conspiracy talk, Melanie wanted to steer things in a different direction. “You’ve added to your tattoos,” she remarked, eying Emily’s tat sleeves, now on both arms. They were a colorful display of tropical birds and flora.
“Hmmm,” Emily noted, gazing down her arms, “I had these done in Mexico when Ange and I were there. It was two months in Jalepa. Hmmmm.” She smiled, remembering. It had been nice, actually. Warm; unhurried. They had drank and smoked and fucked. And then, as it seemed to happen with her, it went away.
“It’s got to be an age thing,” Melanie commented, “I have no desire to mark my body.” She put down her cup; the pot of tea was now finished. Emily sat regarding her with a quirky smile on her lovely face.
Then she stood, and as Melanie watched mesmerized, Emily stripped completely naked and stood before her ‘aunt’. She turned, so that her back and the large, colorful butterfly tattoo above her tailbone was shown, as well as a black scorpion that sat on her left hip. There was also a brightly colored bird on her right ankle. She turned so Melanie could take in the front view again.
Starting with the face that had one nose stud, a diamond, and a nostril ring, the tattoos began with a small spider’s web on her neck, then a rose on one breast and down to a pair of pouty red lips that sat just inches to the left of her shaved pubes.
A double-silver bar pierced her belly button and then a silver labia ring hung from one fat pussy lip. Emily tugged nonchalantly on that now, as Melanie sat transfixed. All of this as well as the full arm sleeves.
“Wow,” Melanie exclaimed, looking dazed. “Wow.”
Emily laughed and dressed in the manner of a person used to being regarded with desire. She sat back down just as Chantico returned.
Carman Da Costa buzzed her boss, and when he responded she announced, “Your car is here, sir.”
“Thank you,” the distinctive voice replied. Hawkins however did not move; he was in thought. With his daughter Emily now at the house, and who knew for how long, he was debating whether he should now head up to San Francisco; there was business there he could attend to, although not urgent. How bad can it be, he wondered to himself at the thought of seeing his child. Bad, he replied again to himself, with a knowing nod.
Why it was that his daughter’s open sexuality, her flawless representation of pure desire, should bother him so was not entirely clear to him. It wasn’t any sexual response on his part; Stafford Hawkins, although he had his unique desires, had not had a real sexual encounter in years. No, it was something else, something more primitive, and he could not shake it. He made up his mind and texted Da Costa with instructions to ready whichever plane was on site. He would be heading off for a couple of days; enough time to think.
Do you need my assistance, Da Costa had texted back.
No, was Hawkins response, just Winters and Hwang; his two assistants; a couple of court jesters, Da Costa thought of them, scrambling around at the king’s bidding.
After she had made the arrangements, Da Costa sat in thought. Everyone associated with Hawkins, at least as far as business went, were playing roles. No one seemed able to speak directly to him on any concern; they were all busy pandering and catering to him.
A collection of fools, really, she thought. And now this whole shares thing; who would bring that to him, and what would he do with the knowledge? He needed to know. How the ridiculous becomes ordinary, she thought. A strange human condition, this whole business; accepted servitude. But was she any better?
“Off with their heads,” she remembered the Queen of Hearts shouting in Alice in Wonderland. Time to go home, Carman, she admonished herself, you’re starting to lose it.
(End of Chapter 01)