Dances, Birthdays and Engagements, Oh My!
It was later in the day; Brian was taking a break before the next round of grilling. The steak was all gone but there was plenty of chicken and of course a never ending supply of burgers and hotdogs for the kids. Big kids as well as little kids, if Michael and Justin had any say in the matter.
Brian found a shady spot under the wraparound porch where he was able to put his feet up on the railing and observe the goings on of the family - none of which had plans of leaving anytime soon. There was a slight buzz in the air, bumblebees notwithstanding, of anticipation. The family was sensing there was more to this occasion than just a housewarming barbecue. And no one was leaving until the main event occurred, whatever that was going to be.
“Here, you look like you can use this,” John said as he handed Brian a tall glass of ice water that had slices of lemons and lime floating amid the ice cubes. John sat next to his brother.
“Thanks,” Brian said before he greedily drank it down.
“When does the next round of grilling start?” John teased.
“Hopefully never, realistically in about an hour,” Brian stated as he held the cold glass to his forehead.
“Don’t worry, little bro, I have it on good authority that the hot air current will take a sudden dive shortly.”
“Your hippie dippy weatherman instincts kicking in?”
“That and the weather app on my phone,” John said with a laugh. Brian smiled at his brother.
“Your instincts have never led us astray.”
“Speaking about instincts, what are we going to do about Max Jacobs?” John asked with concern.
“Nothing much we can do before Tuesday, but Ted has assured me that Kinney Bros. has enough funds to make a substantial bid on the land,” Brian replied.
“I hope so. I’d hate to think what Jacobs could do to that area.”
“What do you mean?”
“You mean besides trying to buy you out up front?” John asked. Brian nodded. “Well, depending on what he builds or doesn’t build, he could make the street look so unattractive that no one would feel safe going to Babylon. From what you and Ted have told me, Jacobs is not beyond playing dirty. He could start rumors about drugs or unsafe sex or pandering. I know that you have half the retired police force working for you but once the press gets a hold of those rumors…”
“Shit! I didn’t think of that. I was thinking he was just trying to buy the building,” Brian said. “Fuck, I knew I should have done something last month,” Brian said, mentally kicking himself in the ass for procrastinating.
“You’ve been a little busy with family and business stuff,” John stated.
“That’s no excuse,” Brian growled as he dropped his feet from the railing to the deck with a stomp.
“Easy there, killer; no need to punch holes in the new deck,” John teased. Brian gave him an apologetic face. John grinned as he shook his head and ruffled Brian’s hair. As the brothers shared the moment, Ted and Bobby strolled over.
“Are you having a meeting without us?” Bobby asked.
“Not really. Just discussing the Max Jacobs situation,” John replied.
“Are we all going to City Hall?” Ted asked.
“Yes,” Brian emphatically stated. “We need to make a good show of force. You’re the president of the Pittsburgh business council and John and Bobby have a prominent presence in the city.”
“Not to mention, Justin is the artist at large,” Bobby added.
Suddenly a cool breeze kicked up and the humidity was beginning to dissipate. Brian figured this was a good time to begin the next round of grilling when Gus and Ray hurried over with Hunter in tow.
“What’s wrong?” Brian asked as he stood up; his “Spidey senses” had kicked in.
“There’s a limo that keeps circling the Village,” Hunter began. “Every once in a while, it stops and some guy in a suit gets out to look around.”
“It’s probably a wedding or a funeral,” John commented.
“No stupid horn blaring and no hearse,” said Hunter.
“How do you know this?” John asked.
“Our spy in the sky texted me,” Hunter said as he looked toward the renovated apartment building next to the Village park.
The building was the first part of the Village reclamation project and housed several of Hunter’s grads. Tyrone lived on the top floor in the apartment that faced the park. He worked from home and began a neighborhood watch. He took pride at keeping watch over the park and Justin’s henge.
“Plus, the network of my Jason Kemp Irregulars are keeping tabs on this guy.”
“What are you talking about?” John asked, highly perplexed.
“Wait,” Brian commanded. “Did any of your Irregulars get a picture of this guy?”
“Yeah, plenty,” Hunter said as he scrolled through his texts. Hunter was suddenly surrounded by several Kinneys with heads bent squinting at the phone screen. There was one picture in particular of Jacobs in front of Babylon that got an immediate reaction.
“Fuck!” Brian and Gus growled out at the same time.
“Is that him?” John asked, taking a giant leap.
“Yes,” replied Gus and Brian.
“What do we do, Boss?” Ted asked, ready to do Brian’s bidding against the invader.
“Nothing questionable,” Bobby wisely interjected before Brian could get himself into trouble. “Hunter, have your Irregulars continue to keep tabs on this guy but don’t approach. Find out which parts of town he appears to be showing interest in and have them report back. We have an early appointment with City Hall Tuesday morning. Call Brian with any information you’ve accumulated by Monday night. At least we can get some indication of what Jacobs is planning,” Bobby logically laid out a stratagem.
“Thank the gods you use your powers for good,” Hunter quipped. “My guys can handle it; they’re used to keeping to the shadows. Tyrone is good at analyzing weird data. I’ll forward all the tips to him and have him go through it for patterns and whatever else he can figure out. By the way, what’s this guy done to get your hackles up?”
Gus and Ray briefed Hunter on Max Jacobs and his dubious business practices.
“Okay, we don’t need a mob boss wannabe in the city not after we worked so hard to help clean it up,” Hunter said with anger. He immediately got on his phone to spread the word to his “graduates.”
“So, what do we do now?” Teddy asked.
“Nothing much until we have something concrete to go on,” John stated. “Right now he’s doing exactly what we do when we’re looking for potential properties to develop or invest in,” said John with frustration. “He hasn’t done anything illegal or shady up to this point.”
“Done!” Hunter said as he returned to the group. “I’ll call Brian Monday night. There is one thing you can do now,” Hunter said giving Brian a poignant look.
“Which is?” Brian asked as his eyes narrowed; he took one step towards Hunter. Hunter grinned as he slowly moved out of range. The boys began to chuckle.
“Grill!” Hunter shouted as he sprinted off the deck and into the safety of the crowd.
The boys cracked up with laughter as Brian made a put upon show.
“You know you love it,” John said as he slapped his brother on the back.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to know it too,” Brian admitted.
“Come on, little bro, I’ll help,” John said as he accompanied Brian toward the grill.
“I’ll get the hot dogs, Pop!” Gus called out.
“I’ll get the hamburgers,” Ray added.
“Uh, I’ll get the buns?” Ted hesitantly contributed.
“I’ll supervise,” Bobby called out with an ear to ear grin.
“How have you put up with it for all these years?” Brian teased John referring to his red headed mate. Brian fired up the grill.
“Just lucky I guess,” John replied as he turned to get more water for the grill master.
“What do you think that was all about?” Debbie asked Carl. They were seated in comfortable chairs on the wraparound porch. They had been sipping some lemonade while they watched the Kinney-Anderson men and Ted in their brainstorming session.
“Not a clue,” Carl replied.
“I thought you were Detective Horvath,” Debbie scoffed.
“Used to be.”
“Still are,” Debbie stated gently rubbing Carl’s arm.
“It did look kind of intense.”
“Something’s going on, and it doesn’t look like a good something.”
“So how do we find out what it is?” Debbie asked.
“We don’t,” Carl replied. “It’s none of our business unless they ask us to get involved.”
Debbie snorted. “They’re all my family and if something’s wrong, I want to know, and I want to help.”
“Don’t Deb me! Nobody tells me to butt out when I can see they might fucking need my help,” Debbie declared.
“You don’t even know if there’s a problem, and you certainly don’t know what the problem is … if there is one.”
“That’s why I need to find out what’s going on.”
Carl heaved a sigh. He knew there was no point in arguing with Debbie when she got like this. His wife would do what she felt was right and necessary to protect her “family”. And nothing he could say or do would deter her.
“Maybe Bree knows,” Debbie mused. “I’m going to talk to her.”
“But…” Carl began, then thought better of it.
“What?” Debbie snapped.
“Just that if Bree doesn’t know what’s going on, you asking her about it might upset her and everyone else,” Carl said reasonably.
“Oh?” Debbie said. “I hadn’t thought of that. I guess I better choose my words carefully.” Debbie stood and scanned all around the party trying to spot Bree.
In spite of knowing better, Carl snorted.
“And just what the fuck is that snort all about?” Debbie demanded rounding on her husband.
“Well, you have to admit that you’re not noted for your tact and careful choice of words.”
Debbie was about to contradict Carl, but then realized that what he said was true. “I will be careful,” she promised.
“Good,” Carl said as his wife walked down the step and off the porch. He settled back in his chair hoping against hope that Debbie didn’t have the party in an uproar in the next few minutes. If all hell broke loose, there wasn’t much he could do about it. While he waited, he sipped his beer contemplatively.
“What’s up?” Peter asked as he took the chair Debbie had vacated.
“Nothing’s up … I hope,” Carl responded.
“Debbie seemed a little … agitated.”
Carl gave a little laugh. “When isn’t Debbie a little agitated?”
“Not usually at a party,” Peter stated.
“You’re too smart for your own good,” Carl responded.
“Thanks, I think. But something is going on, isn’t it?”
“Maybe,” Carl agreed with a sigh. “Debbie certainly thinks so.”
“And you’re trying to get her to stay out of it.”
“You have been hanging around with us for too long,” Carl said appraising the lad who sat beside him.
“I never thought you would put up with me for this long,” Peter said honestly.
Carl stared at the young man who had become like a son to him. “We’re in this for the long haul too. Don’t forget that, son.”
Peter smiled at Carl. He thought that he could never hear those words too often. “I’m learning to understand the very weird dynamics of this family.”
Carl chuckled. “That takes years of study for most people, so you’re way ahead of the game.”
Peter smiled and leaned his head back against the top of the chair … content.
“Bree, Bree,” Debbie called as she spotted her quarry.
Bree was on her way to see if her older father needed any help when she heard her name being shouted. Bree turned around to see Debbie waving at her and hurrying in her direction. “Hi, Grandma Debbie,” Bree said cheerfully.
“You’re a hard person to track down,” Debbie said as she caught her breath.
“Am I? I’ve been here the whole time.”
“Took me a while to find you.”
“Were you looking for me? Why, is something wrong?”
“No, no, nothing wrong,” Debbie quickly told her.
“Then why were you looking for me?”
Debbie wondered how she should broach the subject she wanted to discuss. She realized she should have thought about this more before getting Bree’s attention. She decided to get to the point. That might be the best way to handle things. “I was wondering how your father was doing?” she said lamely.
“Which father?” Bree asked with a frown.
“Oh yeah, father Brian,” Debbie said with snort, as she enjoyed her own joke. Brian would hate that she had just called him that.
“He’s right over there. You can ask him yourself,” Bree said as she pointed to her Dada still working the grills.
“Yeah, right,” Debbie agreed. “I … um … saw him talking to all the men of the family a little while ago. I was wondering what’s going on.”
“I don’t think anything is going on,” Bree replied, but she looked over at her father wondering if there might be a problem that she didn’t know about.
“You’re probably right,” Debbie quickly said hoping she hadn’t started exactly what Carl had warned her about.
“Why don’t you go talk to Dada?” Bree asked her grandmother.
“Um … maybe later. I better get back to Carl,” Debbie said as she hustled back to her husband.
“So, did you cause an uproar?” Carl asked when Debbie took the chair that Peter stood to offer her.
“Of course not,” Debbie replied curtly. She wasn’t going to admit anything.
Peter glanced at Carl who winked at him. This might be fun, Peter decided.
Bree sauntered over to her father at the grills. “Hi, Dada,” she said.
“Are you okay?”
“Other than the fact that I’m more thoroughly roasted than these hotdogs, I’m just peachy.” He wiped some sweat from his brow.
Bree giggled. “Want me to flip for a while?” Bree asked.
“Nah, you’ll get all sweaty and flushed. JR wouldn’t like you to look like that at her party. Me - she doesn’t give a fu..”
“You know she loves you.”
“I know. I’m just griping because I’ve flipped one too many burgers today.”
“Everybody appreciates your hard work,” Bree said sincerely. “You’ve helped make this a perfect party for JR and Jacqueline.”
“Thanks, Squirt. I think this batch of dogs is just about ready.”
“Dada, is there something going on that I should know about?”
“What do you mean?” Brian asked with a frown.
“I saw you talking to all the guys before. It seemed kind of serious.”
“Just a bit of a business meeting.”
“About your plans for the land around Babylon?”
“Grandma Debbie asked me if something was wrong, because she saw you guys talking and it seemed serious to her too. Is there a problem?”
“But you’re expecting something to happen.”
“There may be a problem, but we can handle it.”
“I could help.”
“If there’s something you can do to help, I’ll be sure to call on you.”
“That’s good, Dada, because I am good at business, you know,” Bree stated.
“I certainly do know that.”
“Squirt, can you take this plate of dogs to the food table?”
Bree walked across the lawn carrying the plate of hotdogs. She could feel her Grandma Debbie’s eyes following her. She hoped she didn’t get interrogated again, because she had nothing to add other than the fact that there was an impending problem that no one seemed to want to talk about.
“More hotdogs,” she said as she placed the plate on the food table. JR was standing behind it and smiled at her sister. “You look really pretty and … happy today,” Bree observed.
“What’s not to be happy! I have a great partner and we have this wonderful house. Everything’s great!” JR said.
“And what about your wonderful sister and your loving family?” Bree teased.
“That true. I’m very lucky.”
“We all are … lucky to be part of this big, crazy family.”
JR nodded in agreement.
Return to Dances, Birthdays and Engagements, Oh My!