A Gathering of Clowns
Chapter 15 The Jugglers Amaze, Tossing Torches Of Flame
“Carm, it’s Em. Got a minute?”
“Of course I do, what’s up?”
“Just thinkin’ about all that stuff you laid on me Saturday. Shit, like we say, that’s heavy sister.”
“Don’t go all L.A. street gang on me, Em.” Carman chuckled as Ivy entered and put some papers on her desk.
“Hey, if I wanted street thug, my posse would like take you down and haul your butt to my place. But seriously, you know I wouldn’t have let the freaky father fire your lovely ass, right? He couldn’t have threatened you, really, you know that, right?”
Carman paused. “Well, that’s it. I don’t know. I certainly didn’t want to stick you in the middle of my business. Running to you for help.”
“So you got naked on your knees and let him have you whupped?” Emily sneered in a strong southern drawl.
Carman chuckled, “I told you it wasn’t that bad, Em.”
“Well, you know I got your back, Carm.” Emily said quietly.
Carman sat for several moments, watching the second hand of the wall clock slowly move. “Yeah, it’s complicated, Emily. In many ways, you know, to me at least, you’re a lot more dangerous than your father.”
Rock Springs, Wyoming, 2011
The big Lincoln Town car ate up the miles between Casper and Rock Springs in style; Ryland Ross checked his watch; they should be at the motel before nine, as planned.
He thought back to earlier in the day and the unexpected call that had sent him here. Ever since Alex Vargas had left in the night years ago, Ross had been after him. The man was the last loose end, and Ross had trailed the man all over the western U.S.A., one time missing him by just an hour.
Today, a bus driver with the latest (one year old) bulletin in his unit had noticed someone that fit the picture. As indicated on the Wyoming version, Sweetwater County Sheriff Tobias Martin was the man to call with info, which happened, and he in turn had called Ross; once he had seen the man himself and knew where he was staying.
And that would be at the Rock Springs Double D Motel, with air conditioning in all the units and cable television! That was where the Town Car was headed, with Winston Stiles, black, six-four, ex-military, ex-CIA and the man Ross turned to for any ‘heavy lifting’, at the wheel.
Half an hour later, darkness settling in, the car pulled into the wide expanse that served as a parking lot; currently it held but three cars, including the Lincoln. The man thought to be Vargas, registered as ‘Brown’, was in room two-thirty, the last unit on the second floor. The motel had one other guest and the night manager. It was pretty much ideal.
Having quietly moved to the unit, Stiles rapped gently, “Mr. Brown, I just need to bring in the towels, buddy,” Stiles said to the door; one that conveniently carried no peephole. When the occupant opened, Stiles easily pushed his way in and calmed ‘Mr. Brown’ down with two punches to his gut, settling the man on the worn bedspread. Ross looked at him; it was unbelievable.
“Alex, it’s been quite the chase. Twelve years, sir. You’ve caused us some problems.” Ross said with just a hint of emotion. He paused as the young man looked up at him. “Why’d you run, Alex?”
The man shook his head. “Why’d I run, are you nuts? Sarah and I are having an affair; then she is dead; I don’t need a map to see which way this is goin’. I’m sure if I’d have stayed you and Hawkins would have given me a kiss and a promotion, right?”
Ross nodded his head; the man was right. “I’m sorry,” he said.
The next thing that happened, happened quickly. Stiles moved slightly to his left, then brought a revolver out from somewhere and the gunshot echoed through the small room. Vargas was driven off the bed to lie on the floor, dead immediately.
Stiles, wearing gloves, used the man’s right hand to handle the gun and then dropped it beside him. Ross was already out the door; the sight of blood upset him. In a few moments Sheriff Martin was on the scene and the body moved and the room sealed off. The only hitch was that the one and only town reporter happened to hear a dispatch call and arrived just as the body was being hauled out. He managed to get three pictures before he was chased off.
Ross spoke with Martin for a moment. “Here, Tobias,” he said, passing a fat envelope. “Use what you need to see the man gets buried, etc., the rest is yours.” The envelope contained fifteen thousand dollars.
“Thanks, Mr. Ross,” the sheriff said with enthusiasm. “They’ll be no problems, you have my word.” With that, he put the dead man’s wallet and a couple of items from his pockets into his jacket and climbed into his vehicle. His car went one direction, and the Lincoln Town car went another, back to Casper and the flight back to L.A. The death would be ruled a suicide; victim unidentified.
“You tellin’ Hawkins how it went down?” Stiles asked as they hit the highway.
Ross stroked his nose thoughtfully. “I don’t think so. What he doesn’t know can’t be used against him.” He said, in his quiet voice, various emotions within him.
Ross then closed his eyes and said a small thank you; finally, it was over.
“Hi Emily. It’s Becky, you know, from the Times.”
“Hey, of course. Old Beck-beck. How’r things, Beckster?”
After a little chit chat, Becky Flagg brought up the reason for the call. “So, just ‘cause I like you, Emily, and also ‘cause, well, you got me interested, I’ve kept looking for things related to Mr. Hawkins and that Ryland Ross fellow and your mom…” There was a pause as the girl took a breath and collected her thoughts, Emily staying quiet with a sense of…something.
“And I’ve found an odd set of, well, photos with info, from just a few years back, and I wanted to show them to you, like.” She finished.
“Absolutely, Beck my girl, how about tonight? I can come and get ya’.”
“Oh sure, you remember my place?”
“I do sister, I do. Be there, what, seven?”
“That would be perfect, Emily. See you at seven.”
The call ended and Emily sat, looking at her cup of tea but her mind was going all over. What could this be? She should have pressed Becky for more details. Damn. Well, she would just need to wait.
She’d waited a while so far.
Ross went back into the third account again. This was one of the accounts Downing did not have access to. After a moment, Ross decided he would share this information with Downing, despite his misgivings.
“Good morning my pet,” Folake spoke warmly into her cell.
“Hello, woman who, emm, owns me,” Carman snickered softly.
“I think sometimes I am too soft with you, my dear. I feel you need a, what shall we say, a tune-up, hmmm?”
“Yes, my mistress, but you do know my devotion.”
“I do,” Folake paused, “why have you called, from work. That usually means something, oh, important.”
Now Carman paused, “I needed to say this. I need to talk to you. Tonight. I just wanted it out there so I wouldn’t change my mind.”
“Hmmmm. Sounds serious, sweet one, but now I know and will hold you to it.”
“Okay. Um, okay. See you later. I will be as respectful as possible,” Carman smiled.
“Right there,” Ross directed, standing behind Drew Downing and looking over his shoulder.
“Damn,” Downing murmured, “yeah, that’s definitely four million moved out of there and to where, who knows, can’t see.”
“So, what do you think it means?” Ross asked, playing his cards carefully.
“Well, probably the same as you, Ryland. Mr. Hawkins is moving money somewhere that he doesn’t want us to know about.”
The large egg nodded. “Yeah, that was what I thought.” They both looked at the screen as if the information sitting there would suddenly wake up and do something. “The question is, why?”
Downing simply nodded his head; Ross rubbed his nose and left, heading back to his office. With his cell in his pocket, Downing went out and took the elevator to the main floor, then walked out the front to the open area with a few benches, trees and the sculpture of ‘Justice’, which Hawkins, strangely, had donated and installed. Sitting on a bench, Downing called Emily.
“Drewsums,” the voice replied languidly, “what’s up?”
“Um, I wanted to alert you to the fact that Mr. Hawkins has just moved four million dollars out of one of his hidden accounts, but I don’t know to where, at least not yet.”
“Hmmm, Drew-boy, that’s good dope, dude. Keep those peepers open like that and sweet Chantico will show you some lovin’, hun.” Emily smirked, but she was actually impressed with Downing. Maybe he had come out from the darkness, after all.
Carman closed up her case and headed out, giving Ivy a gentle pat on her shoulder as she passed. She had rounded the corner of the reception area and was headed for the elevators when she saw Candace leaning against the wall. The girl smiled broadly and approached her. “Walk out with you?” she asked.
“Of course,” Carman enthused, looking around quickly before giving Candace a quick kiss on her cheek. There was another person in the car as the elevator headed for the basement, so the women had to behave themselves.
In the parkade, Candace walked with Carman to her car. “So, you’ve been, like, busy,” Candace said, “and I can’t believe it, so hard to get away from my desk. I’m like, dude, it’s totally non-stop; but the day went by fast.”
Carman looked at the girl, “How about we plan to do something after work on, say, Thursday. Grab a bite, take it from there.”
“That would be sick,” Candace smiled.
“I take it that’s good. Here, let me give you a ride.” Carman offered.
“Oh no, Carman, that’s totally out of your way.”
“A little, not, um, totally. We can at least have a little chat.”
Candace smiled again, “Okay. Sweet.”
“So, Becky-baby, what am I lookin’ at, exactly?” Emily asked. The two women were in the ‘library’,(Emily had searched and concluded the room wasn’t ‘bugged)with a folder and its contents spread out on a coffee table. On the top of the pile were three ‘photos’.
Becky took a breath; they had not even had any drinks, Emily wanting to be sharp, with the result that Becky was nervous and more hyper than usual. “Well, okay, first of all, this was in like a weird file.” Emily resisted the urge to interrupt; she wanted the girl to get to the good stuff, so she just nodded. “Somebody a few years back had obviously started looking into your father.”
This was too much to resist. “Okay stop there. Do you know who or why?”
“No, at least not from this, but I could look deeper. I just thought you would want this info.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay, sorry. Go on.”
“Okay, so as well as your father they were obviously looking into his lawyer, Mr. Ryland Ross.” Emily nodded vigorously. “So my search engine had Hawkins, Ross and investigation and I stumbled onto this. But look at these photos…”
Emily now regarded them more closely, when she suddenly said, “Hey, that’s Ross, in this photo for sure. And that‘s I think the back of his egg head in that one. What is this?”
Becky at this point looked like she might explode, “Okay, okay, this was taken five years ago, in Wyoming at a motel, where the police had been called to investigate a shooting.”
“A shooting. What the Hell would Mr. Namby-pamby Rossy be doing in Wyoming, at a shooting?”
“That’s just it. Look at the info.”
The photo was actually from a newspaper clipping and below it read, “Sheriff Tobias seen leaving the site of a homicide at the Double D motel.” The tag line was Rock Springs.
Becky continued. “I looked into it further, and apparently an unidentified man committed suicide in the motel that night.”
“But, again, why was Ross there?” Emily stared.
“Exactly. Unless, you know, that unidentified man was someone he was, you know, like interested in.”
Emily stared. “Holy Fuck,” she exclaimed. Someone like… Alex Vargas, immediately jumped to mind.
And that expression was definitely becoming a habit.
London, England November 2014
The nurse, not the same one as before but similar, white outfit, red lipstick, led Stafford Hawkins into the office. Even though this was in England and not Switzerland, the office seemed just the same, albeit with no view of the Alps. The Thames River was below them however, along with a splendid view of the city.
Dr. Haeners came once again from behind his desk, his hair shorter than before, looking a little older (it had been five years after all) and he was today wearing a wool sports jacket and looking quite, academic. “Ah, Mr. Hawkins, it is goot to see you. Please, have a zeat.”
Hawkins sat and then passed an envelope to the doctor, who opened it, removed a letter, read it, put the letter back and then removed and wiped his glasses. “Zo, your illness vorsens?”
Hawkins nodded his head. “Yes, as you can see, and I have the same opinion from three physicians, all specialists, so I believe their conclusions.”
The two men sat for a moment in thought. “Zo,” Haeners continued, “How can ve now be of assistance?”
Hawkins took out a sheet of paper that was almost completely covered in text. “I’m hearing your Cryonics program is working with the Stottlemyre group; that there is a project involving space travel. It all sounds very science fiction. But I wanted to hear the details from you, personally.”
The doctor smiled. “You are, as always, vell informed Mr. Hawkins. And yes, ve have been working with several large corporations and at least four billionaires, not to mention five governments, on a project that has been kept completely under zee, as zey say, radar; and yet you have heard zomething.” He shook his head, “Amazing. Ah, but here is Annette vith our Echinacea, sweetened vith natural lemon. You vill enjoy zees.”
Hawkins actually smiled; he did like tea.
“So, that’s my thinking,” Carman murmured. She was lying pressed against Folake on the couch. She had just spent the last twenty minutes describing her plans for the rogue accounts of Stafford Hawkins. Ever since she and Folake had unlocked the final one, their existence had sat like the elephant in the room. It needed to be discussed.
“And how much do you think there is again?” Folake asked.
“It changes, but around one hundred sixty-two million.” Carman said quietly.
“Hmmmm,” Folake purred, “that’s a lot of money, my sweet. A person could start a whole, new life with that. Maybe two lives,” she smiled.
Carman spoke into Folake’s neck. “I know.”
They lay then for a little while longer, before Folake took Carman into the bedroom and had her put on her slave collar. She then tied her face down on the bed, after stuffing her thong underwear into Carman’s mouth.
Using a small, leather paddle, Folake then delivered twenty blows to Carman’s round buttocks, with the woman pulling against her bonds by the end.
Folake then rubbed some cooling Aloe Vera lotion onto Carman’s reddened buttocks, forced a small vibrator into her anus and a vibrating egg into her vagina; set them both to low, and left the woman bound and moaning.
Going out to the living room and closing the door, Folake went to her CD player and put on an early Rolling Stones disc, December’s Children. She had seen the Stones in England as a young woman and became a life-long fan.
As Mick Jagger was singing about blue turning to grey, Folake was making a call to Stafford Hawkins’s private cell number.
“Carm, it’s Em. Got a minute?”
“Wow, two days in a row I get a call from you, at work even.”
“Yeah, well I don’t want to bother you at home, you know. Wouldn’t know what I was interrupting, hey?”
Carman paused for a moment; for some reason that comment stung; perhaps it was Emily’s tone. “Um, okay. How can I help you, boss?”
“Ooooh,” Emily murmured, “I like that. Anyway, just letting you know that Father Hawkins is spending some serious cash on stuff.”
“How much, um, cash we talking about, Em? Or should it be Ms. Hawkins since this is company business?”
“Ha; no, let’s not go the Ms. Whatever route. Anyway, four million bucks, ma’am. That ain’t chicken, um, feed, as they say.”
Carman paused. “So, what are you worried about, Emily?”
“Well, I don’t want the man draining the pond, so to speak.”
“Well, it’s not Documart money, or related, so…”
“Yeah, who knows? If we don’t know where the money came from and we don’t know where it’s goin’, well, that’s a lot we don’t know.”
“I suppose you’ve already talked with your uncle?”
“Yup, Uncle Drew’s in touch. And he doesn’t know shit. And, he’s the accountant, so…”
“Hmmmm, I see what you mean.”
There was a pause. “Oh, and there’s something else I wanted to show you. Can you swing by the house tonight before heading, um, home?”
“Uh, yeah, okay. Anything you can tell me?”
“No. just swing by. What, like between five-thirty and six?”
“That should work. See you then, okay?”
The call ended and Carman sat, her mind whirling as it often did with Emily involved.
“Gotcha’” Downing exclaimed. It had taken a while and a transaction by transaction comparison, but he had finally found the bread crumbs, and then the trail. The transfer and payments had been slyly hidden behind other transactions, removed and the accounts readjusted.
Downing wondered if Mr. Hawkins had done this on his own; it seemed technical and complicated. But Stafford Hawkins was a brilliant man, whatever else he was. Things, ideas, came to him and he had the uncanny ability to recognize potential or see opportunity.
Well, whatever the story, over the past two years, Downing had found, so far, (who knew, there might be more) forty-two million dollars transferred to something called the Haeners/During Clinic.
Downing did some more searching and discovered the main trust controlled by the clinic: The Living Tree Life Sustainability Foundation.
This was a mystery of sorts, but also very interesting.
Carman and Emily sat with the coffee table in front and the photo Becky had discovered sitting on top, only Emily had her hand over part of it.
“So what’s this you need to show me, it seems kind of, well, cloak and dagger?” Carman asked.
“Here, look at this. Who do you think that is.” She removed her hand and Carman stared.
“That looks like Ryland Ross. What’s this about?” Emily filled her in on the particulars of where the photo was shot and what happened the night it was taken.
“So,” Carman said cautiously, “I’m guessing you think this is connected to your mother, right?”
“Well, what I know is Alex Vargas left and was not heard from again, except by his mom, who got calls and cards at Christmas. Then five years ago, which puts it the same time as this photo and mystery death, the cards and calls stopped.” Emily stated. There was no smirk on her face with this information.
“And you think Ross was involved?”
“Why would he be there Carman?”
“Well, yeah, that is a mystery. But that was just before I began working for your father, so I’m not sure what Ross was doing, um, exactly for him.”
“Yeah, fine,” Emily folded up the information and sat back, looking unsatisfied.
Carman looked at her, “You’d like me to be, um, a little more supportive?”
Emily looked at the woman, and Carman had a difficult time maintaining her gaze; Emily was hauntingly beautiful tonight, but with a harder edge than Carman had seen. There was no kidding around or teasing.
Emily leaned her head back, “Well, yeah, I guess. I don’t think I’m off on some wild chase. My mother dies suddenly; we find evidence of an affair; my father has her cremated as quickly as possible with no autopsy; the man she was involved with immediately disappears but stays in contact until 2011; then one night an unidentified man commits suicide in some little town and Ryland Ross just happens to be there. Fuck.”
She stood up and walked over toward the door, “Look, sorry for bugging you. Thanks for coming by.”
Carman sat for a moment. “Em, I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say. You do have some compelling evidence. I can see why you believe what you do; I just don’t know where you think this can go. I’m…sorry.”
Carman looked up at Emily, but the woman had her back to her so she could not see any facial response. Then Emily turned, looking slightly down; her face was set. “Thanks Carm, you’d best be heading off; I’m sure your friend is waiting.”
“No, Emily, I don’t need to leave. Why can’t we spend some time together?”
Emily looked up, her face cold, “Why?”
Now it was Carman’s turn to look down for a moment, “I still want to, um, be with you, Emily. My other relationship doesn’t stop you and me…”
“There is no you and me, Carman. Dig ya’ later.” With that, Emily turned and started off, “I think you know where the door is, kid.” She said, as she headed up the stairs. Carman stood, feeling an icy fist in her stomach and not knowing why. Wasn’t Folake enough? And Candace? But Folake had also been very insistent that she wanted Carman to keep up a relationship with Emily. So Carman just stood, mulling all of this before deciding.
In a moment she was knocking gently on Emily’s door and then entering, to find the girl lying on her bed, though still clothed. “Couldn’t find the door?” Emily asked, her hand over her eyes.
“I, um, didn’t want to, Em. Please.”
Emily lowered her hand and looked at the other woman. “Please what?”
“Please don’t do this to me.”
“Do what, exactly?”
Carman swallowed hard, her throat muscles tightening with emotion, “Hurt me…like this.”
Emily sat up on the edge of her large bed. “Hmmm. Maybe I want to hurt you.” She said quietly.
Carman remained with her eyes downcast, beginning now to feel arousal, and strangely, shame that this exchange was affecting her this way. “You can hurt me, in other ways. Not like this; not inside me.” She said in a voice just above a whisper.
“You’ll let me punish you?” Emily said, also in a quiet voice.
Carman stood, breathing heavily, a swirling mass of emotions tumbling through her mind; sadness and desire mixing in a strange and compelling way. “If that’s what it takes to, keep something, together. If that’s how, you and me, need to be, I’ll do…” She looked up and angrily swiped the tears seeping out of her eyes away with one hand, then stood defiantly. “I’ll do what you want…” She murmured, then looked down.
Emily said nothing, just stood and walked to a dresser, opening it and retrieving something, which she brought to Carman and held out to her. It was a leather slave collar, red and not as wide as the one Folake had bought her. It had the single word, ‘BITCH’ on it in black letters. “Okay, then. Let’s see if you are true to your word. Put this on.”
Carman took it and rubbed a thumb over the letters, before slowly clasping it around her neck.
Emily smiled, then quietly spoke, “On your knees…Bitch. You did say I was more dangerous than my father, right?”
(End of Chapter 15)