A Gathering of Clowns
Chapter 08 The Jokes Clowns Play On Each Other
“So what do you think this means?” Melanie asked, as she and Emily sat once again on the patio. Although it was only nine o’clock, Emily had already been up and busy; first, getting Becky back to her place to change and then taking her to work. And now back home, sitting with her ‘notes’.
She had just shared some of the info, the news photos, with Melanie. They showed the wedding and the roses.
“Well, it is cool seeing pictures of my mother. Remember, I have nothing of her but my memories, and that’s as a five-year-old. I really don’t know what is a true memory and what is just hope.”
Melanie looked with sympathy at her niece. It had always bothered her that Stafford had been so weird with photos or the public in general. They had no photographs taken at their private wedding ceremony; the picture Emily had was by a reporter who snapped a shot and happened to include both Stafford, Sarah and two unidentified persons; plus part of someone’s arm.
“Yes, Em, that is cool and I’m glad. I never knew your mother either; none of us were invited to the ceremony, we were just informed afterwards. But what about this other photo?”
Emily looked hard at her aunt. It was probably time to share a little more. She carefully removed the scrap of letter from her pocket, explaining to Melanie its discovery. “So, what we have is a photo showing that there was a garden and a gardener, and that both were gone after my mother’s death, and like with no record. Now we have this, a mystery.”
Melanie now looked hard back at her niece. “But why are you doing this, Em? What are you looking for, hoping for? All this, you know, dredging up of the past, what’s the point?”
Emily lit a Lucky Strike and considered. “Let’s say something, like, happens and for some reason it bothers you…”
“Like what?” Melanie interjected.
“Hold on, kid. This is an, um, example sort of. I’m trying to explain what I’m feeling, ‘cuz that’s where this all starts for me. Okay?” Melanie nodded her head, although keeping silent was hard for her with this, for some reason.
“Okay, so as a little kid, I sneak into my mother’s closed off room, where no one is supposed to go, and I find a scrap of paper under my mother’s bed. It is connected to her; that is what I feel. And, like, why else would it be there? It’s not imaginary. There were only a few people that went into her room. So, the feeling it gives me is that something is happening that is a secret. Now that is speculation, I get that.”
Melanie nodded again, but could now see where this might be headed, and wanted to know more; so she continued to remain silent.
“Now, this seems like a love letter. It says, ‘All my love’, it doesn’t say something general. This was a letter from ‘Alex’ to someone. So, don’t you get it, it has to be to my mother. What else makes sense?” Melanie sat in silence, just staring. “But who could this ‘Alex’ be; you hadn’t heard of him? But now, here we have a picture of my mother with an Alex. They are both young; even in this photo you can see he is good looking. He says ‘in two days’; but there is no date, so that part is still, em, screwed up a little.”
Both women sat in silence. Melanie spoke slowly, like she was just putting the words, like jig-saw pieces, together into ideas as she said them. “So you are suggesting your mother and this Alex were, what, having an affair? And then, well, what?”
Emily butted out her cigarette and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t think you need to be Sherlock Holmes here, Mel-bel; my mother died suddenly and right away this rose garden is destroyed and replaced with that, um, anti-whatever…”
“Yeah, antiseptic thing that’s out there now.”
“It can be nice to sit out there in the evening,” Melanie offered quietly.
“Yeah, sure, but it’s stone and mulch and angel statues…”
“It’s a clown.”
“The fountain out there; the figure that the water is shooting out of isn’t an angel, it’s a clown; his out-spread arms look sort of like wings until you get closer. Go look, you’ll see.”
“Weird,” Emily muttered, pausing. “My point is that what is out there now is very little living stuff. This photo shows at least fifteen rose bushes with roses on them, for Christ’s sake…”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry. It’s just that this garden is not, you know, my father, but what is out there now is. Cold, maybe attractive in a hard way, but what my mother had is gone. Now, does Daddy-dearest seem like the sentimental kind of guy that couldn’t stand to look at his beloved wife’s garden?”
Melanie slowly shook her head. “Right.” Emily agreed. “He replaced it. No one else would. And there is no record of this man, Alex. And…” Emily thumped her index finger on the table in emphasis, “there is no record of my mother.”
“What does that mean, no record?” Melanie asked, unsure how anyone did not have a record of some kind.
“I looked, Mel, I looked on my own and got nowhere, so I hired a company; they are experienced and pros and shit and they looked, two of them for a whole week, scoured the internet and used tricks to get into public records and secret places I couldn’t access, but still nothing.”
“By nothing you mean…”
“Nothing. No birth record; no drivers licence; no graduation information. Who has nothing Mel?”
“And so you think…”
“I think it was erased, by someone who has the wealth and connections to make someone’s digital history; their existence; disappear.”
“But I don’t see…”
“Fuck Mel! Who but my fucking father has the fucking power?! WHO?!” Emily swiped a coffee cup off the table and it crashed on the patio as she stormed back inside.
Chantico came running to find Melanie crying quietly; and the mess. “I’m okay, Chantico,” Melanie answered, “Just please take care of this.” Melanie said and went inside in pursuit of Emily. She found her, standing and looking out the front windows, her breast rising and falling with emotion.
“But Emily, that is an incredible thing to say. You’re accusing your father of…”
“Killing my mother,” Emily said, still staring out the window.
Emily sighed deeply and shook her shoulders. “Melanie, I’m not saying this is easy to wrap your head around. I’ve been struggling for months; that’s why I set this thing in motion. Once I had the money from the trusts, I knew I could start trying to find answers. I sure as Hell didn’t start with the idea my mother was murdered, but everything points to something, underhanded. That’s it.”
“But…” Melanie however didn’t get a chance to finish this, because the doorbell chimed. Since she was closest, Emily answered it, and was surprised to see Carman standing there. “Hey, what’s up? We weren’t getting together, were we?”
Carman chuckled and entered. “No, calm yourself. You have not missed something. I’m actually here on behalf of my boss; you may know him, to see your aunt?” She smirked.
“You have several aunts stashed here?” Carman asked with another smirk and Emily had to laugh, the anger leaving her body, and she smiled up at her friend.
“I have only the one aunt here, and she’s just in this room. Melanie, Carman Da Costa is here to see you.”
Melanie came around a corner and stood looking at the woman with a puzzled expression. Carman spoke, “May we speak somewhere, Ms. Downing?”
Emily gave Carman a look as she passed her, following Melanie, but Carman did not look back at her. The two women proceeded to the oddly named library and stood in the middle; Carman observant and Melanie cautious. Carman spoke again, “Your, brother, wishes to meet with you. He would like me to drive you to our office, so there is no inconvenience to you.”
“Now?” Melanie asked, puzzled still.
“Yes, if we can. You certainly look fine for the situation. It’s just a chat between brother and sister. There will be no crowds.”
“But, I don’t know…” Melanie said, quietly.
Carman then handed the woman an envelope. “Mr. Hawkins said to give you this if you were uncertain.”
Melanie opened the envelope and looked at the piece of paper inside. It contained a single word, ‘Seth’. Melanie blanched and said quietly. “Fine, I’ll get my jacket.”
“It is warm out,” Carman noted, pleasantly.
“I’ll still get my jacket,” Melanie repeated, retrieving a blazer from the hall wardrobe.
“What’s up, Mel-bel?” Emily asked.
“We’re going to see your father,” Carman said quietly, looking at Emily with an expressionless face.
“Why?” Emily asked.
“You know he doesn’t tell me those things, Em.” Carman said, with a touch of weariness, casting a quick glance at Emily as she went by her again, this time with Melanie following. They went out, down the stairs, and entered the sedan through the rear door; there was a driver in the front. The ride to the office, fifteen minutes, was subdued. Carman attempted some small talk but Melanie was brusque. Her mind was on, among other things, Seth. Seth Griffin.
Glendale, California, 2008
Mrs. Pena came to Melanie, as she was reading on the patio. “Mrs. Downing, the plumber is here.”
Why wasn’t she told anything? Melanie considered as she went to see what this was about. It would turn out that her brother had decided that four sinks needed replacement, and so hired a company, but as was his manner did not tell his sister.
The company had sent one man, Seth Griffin, Melanie would quickly find out, and he was something. Young, tall, slim, athletic and very good looking. Not what you might expect from a plumber.
Oh, and he was also black.
He ended up needing four days to do the work, and by the third day he and Melanie were having vigorous, satisfying sex. Melanie was thirty-one to Seth’s twenty-six, and he seemed to enjoy an ‘older woman’ while Melanie could not get enough of his hard-pounding body. She had orgasms; multiple orgasms, and had to work to keep the smile off her face and the desire from her voice when she spoke of him.
After the job was complete, she and Seth would meet in various places and continue their enthusiastic love-making. And it wasn’t that Seth had some massive porno dick; he sported a seven-and-a-half inch unit, but it came with a muscled body that worked relentlessly until Melanie climaxed.
Then came a weekend, approximately three months into their affair, when Drew went off to a conference with Hawkins in Chicago, and Melanie went off with Seth to a little place in Santa Clarita that a friend owned. It was to be a weekend of sex, and it completely was. Only Seth had not mentioned that he had invited two friends to join them. After Melanie had gotten over the shock and initial awkwardness, it ended up being two nights and two days of almost non-stop drinking and fucking.
Melanie had the men solo, in duos and sometimes all three at once. Melanie joked (to herself) that she walked ‘like a cowboy’ for a week after, but the weekend had also featured her first anal sex and the first time she had allowed someone to come in her mouth. Both things happened several times, as Melanie was not allowed to wear clothes until Sunday evening when they drove back to Glendale; she was the men’s sex toy and they used her.
And she had loved it.
And then Seth had just stopped seeing her. She was unable to contact him and unable to find out why. It was as if he had vanished. Melanie suffered from this, falling into a despondency that included drinking, and it was several months before she pulled herself out, coinciding with one of Emily’s returns.
It would be five years before she had sex again, with another person, at least.
And now today, out of the blue, her brother’s assistant hands her a note with Seth’s name on it, as she was summoned to meet with Stafford. She rode along beside the woman (who she couldn’t blame personally for anything) deep in thought. What was this all about?
Raisha went to the postal box as directed, opened it and took out the envelope. Inside were five hundred dollars and two small packets: one of coke and one of heroin. Raisha looked around, with the feeling that she was being watched, before closing up the box and heading out. She needed to see if Tad had gotten his ass out of bed; it was ten-thirty already.
Emily pulled her car into the parking lot of Archer Films International, a small to medium budget level company and the one that would be handling their production. Emily needed to meet with the executive producer and make sure he understood who was calling the shots. Tad Allan was involved, but not in charge. Emily was planning to make this point and to make it very clearly.
And she had a way of making things…clear.
Melanie was shown into her brother’s office by Carman who left and closed the door. She was not asked to wear a mask and when she approached Hawkins’s desk, he turned to face her. He was much as she remembered (how long had it been?) perhaps a touch thinner.
“Thank you, sister, for coming in.” Hawkins said, softly.
“I didn’t really have much choice, Stafford,” she replied, brusquely.
Stafford chuckled darkly. “There is always choice, dear sister.”
Melanie took out her note, “So, what is this about Seth Griffin?” she asked.
“Patience, sister. Let’s start with why I have asked you here. Remember, that was the first thing. Because you were hesitant, I needed to, oh, spice things up I guess.”
Melanie began to develop a sense of apprehension. Her brother had a manner about him which was foul, disturbing. His eyes were half-closed and he was menacing. “Fine, ask me what you wish then, brother.” She emphasized this last word and Hawkins chuckled again.
“I wish to speak of your shares in my, um, our, company. I want to know I have your support in any actions going forward.”
Melanie looked at him. She wasn’t really interested in business and shares and votes; she was helping Emily. Supporting Hawkins was not the plan. “I don’t see how I can guarantee that, Stafford. That sounds like a kind of blank check. I would need to know what you were planning, doing, before I could support you.”
“Hmmmm, then let me ask you. Why have you and, my daughter, taken this action?”
Melanie was a little taken back by this, but decided on the spot to be truthful. “Emily, um, we were concerned with some of your decisions; some of the companies you were buying into. And then there was the fact you do not communicate with us; we really had no idea who was involved, advising you, like that. We needed to start a dialogue.”
Hawkins sat quietly. Whether that was the answer he expected or not, he did not reveal. “Well, now about your friend, Seth. I want you to see something, and then I believe your path will be clear.” A wide-screen television to Melanie’s right came on and in a moment a video began playing. To Melanie’s horror, the video was clearly from the weekend she had had with the three men, years ago.
“Shut this off,” she cried with alarm.
Hawkins simply laughed and said, “I have seen it several times, beginning the day I bought it from your gentleman friend. Or, to be more precise, after I had paid him for making it. He then did what had been agreed to and left town, never contacting you again. So I have watched it a few times since then. I must say, I am amazed by your flexibility and agility; my, my. I would not have thought you were that, um, athletic, but you got yourself into some incredible positions.” He chuckled again.
Hawkins now scooted his chair forward a couple of feet and spoke
to Melanie while gesturing at the screen. She sat with tears dripping down her cheeks. “I mean, look at that stretch, where all three men are using your whore’s body. My God, look how your leg is bent. Jimminy, sister, that’s amazing.” After a few more minutes of this, Hawkins turned the device off and waited for his sister to collect herself.
Finally Melanie spoke in a subdued voice, “So what is your plan, Stafford.”
Hawkins sat with a smug smile on his thin, serpentine face. “My plan is that you will support me and I will keep your, um, activities away from the world. I imagine there are a number of folks at the Golf & Country Club that would pay to see this movie.” He grinned.
“And you will not release this, or whatever is done, if I support you?”
“That is what I am saying. Tit for tat.” He leered, saying quietly, “Or I guess, two tits in your case.”
Melanie stood up; she needed to get out; she needed some air. “Fine, I will support you. There, is that it?”
“That is all. My assistant will see you get home.” And with that, Hawkins turned his chair and his back to Melanie, and began doing something with his computer. Melanie stood for a moment looking on with disgust, before heading to the door and out. Carman was waiting for her.
“The car is outside, Ms. Downing. Is there anything you need?” She asked, courteously.
“Why should you care?” Melanie snapped, then added, “I’m sorry it’s not your fault. Good-day.”
“Good-day, Ms. Downing,” Carman spoke quietly, unsure of what had happened in the office, but it was clear nothing pleasant.
As Melanie began to walk away, she turned and looked at Carman, “How do you work for him?” she asked, simply. Carman just smiled a little; what was there to say? With that, Melanie continued on her way, Carman standing and looking thoughtfully after her.
Emily was back at home after her meeting; it had gone well.
Giselle, the woman Tad had suggested to the producers, looked to be a great choice. Now the casting department was just about done with all the most important roles, and the production crew had picked several sites; filming would start in probably ten days.
And the executive producer was aware of who the money was coming from, and nothing would be approved without going through Emily first. She smiled at the thought, as this man had also suggested that Emily consider films. Maybe someday; for now she had other plans.
At that moment, she was working intensely at her computer; searching for ‘Vargas’, hoping to perhaps find a relation, (a mother?!) to Alex, and she had not heard Melanie come in. She only noticed her aunt sitting on the patio, looking deep in thought, when she came out to find Chantico and have her make some tea and lunch.
After a brief exchange with the girl, Emily went out and greeted Melanie. “Hey there, you look serious. How’d it go with Daddy-kins?” She asked.
Melanie looked up and she was solemn, “You know, Em. Forget what I said about your father and your accusations. I honestly don’t know what that man could be capable of.”
Carman and Emily were lying quietly, side by side, on Emily’s bed. They had enjoyed a spirited love session, both women seeming to need this release seriously, driven by some inner demand.
Carman was now stroking Emily’s arm as the girl nestled into her. “What happened with my aunt and my father?” Emily asked in a hushed voice.
Carman lay quietly for a moment. “I have no idea. He didn’t tell me why he wanted to see her, and I did not accompany her home. She said nothing to you?”
“Ummmm, not directly. She said he quizzed her about our plans and that he was probing as to who she would support or why. She was certainly pondering things after their talk.”
“Yes, I think that is the deal. You have taken him by surprise and he is on the defensive. But he knows he needs to face you.”
Emily snorted, “I bet he stalls that for as long as he can.”
Carman considered for a moment, then asked, “He asked me, and possibly Melanie, why you were going through files at the L.A. Times. He obviously is having you watched or something.”
Emily paused, considering this. “Did he ask you to check that out?”
Emily snorted again. “Tell him I’m looking up my family history, where I can, as he hasn’t given me anything. Tell him, for example, I saw my grandfather’s obituary. And have now asked Melanie about my other aunt and uncle. There.”
“So what are you doing, using their computers or something?” Carman asked, in as innocent a voice as she could muster.
“Nah, an archivist, Becky something-or-other, has actually let me go through old microfilm. It’s kind of been fun; also kinda boring.”
“Hmmm.” Carman said, making note.
With a grunt, Tad slammed his hips into Rasha’s round ass, and then collapsed on her, Brianna making comments as she lay beside them on the bed. Rasha extricated herself from Tad’s member and slid over, grabbing Brianna’s head and forcing it between her legs. “C’mon, Brie, Tad left me on the edge. That’s it, ooooh, yeah, baby, baby, baby. Fuck, yeah, yeah. AAAAaaaahhhhhnnnngg.”
Brianna got to her knees and looked around. “Any of that coke left?”
“Naw,” Rasha mumbled, “Tad-boy snorted the whole shit load. But there is the other shit.”
Brianna looked at the other packet. “That’s Capital H, man, sorry, no way. Not gonna happen.”
Rasha chuckled. “Leave it for Tad. I think that’s the way it’s s’posed to go, anyway.”
The two girls eyed each other, then looked at Tad, who was now sleeping. Brianna smiled.
Carman Da Costa waited in Matthew Kroening’s office at the L.A. Times. Kroening was Becky the archivist’s direct supervisor, and had been notified by his boss to cooperate fully with the assistant to Stafford Hawkins. “This is what Ms. Hawkins was searching through.” Kroening gave Da Costa a list, “If there is anything else?”
“No, thank you Mr. Kroening. You have been most helpful.” Da Costa took the list and left, going across the street to a coffee shop where she sat and pondered what this meant. Emily had told the truth about her research, but only partly. It was clear that her search was focused on one person; her mother.
“What are you doing out here?” Melanie called. It was early morning and Emily was in the back; in the area that had once been the home of her mother’s roses. It was possibly forty feet deep by fifty feet wide and was now mostly stone, concrete, landscaping rock and mulch. Seven trees were placed here and there in the mulch that rose as an embankment, beside some stairs, up to a trellis topped fence that enclosed the whole space, with the large, marble, clown fountain dominating that space.
Emily was standing and staring at the fountain, with its centre spout, as Melanie had said; a circus clown with outstretched arms. “I’m here, Mel-bel. Looking at this…fountain.”
Melanie came and stood beside her niece. “He has dozens of them, you know, in glass cases.”
“Dozens of what?” Emily asked, watching the water shoot from the figure’s mouth.
“Clowns.” She said.
(End of Chapter 08)