North to the Max



Chapter 6






“Aren’t you supposed to be on a plane somewhere?” Cynthia asked Mel as she strolled into Cynthia’s office. 


“Shouldn’t you have closed up shop by now,” Melanie countered.  The two women stared at each other for a moment.


“Sit,” Cynthia said as she pointed to the chair in front of her desk.  “What’s going on?”


“You’ve known Brian for a long time, right?” Mel asked.


“Almost as long as you.  Why?”


“Then you’d know what he’d do if he felt one of his family was in danger,” Mel stated. 


Cynthia looked horrified.


“Yes, I do and so do you.  Melanie, get to the point, and now please, before I call him.”


Melanie told Cynthia what happened in Toronto and their probable run-in with Max Jacobs.  Melanie indeed. called some of her network of contacts at the Crown Attorney’s Office and they in turn contacted Interpol.  Bottom line, the local police in conjunction with several other law enforcement agencies, were planning a trap for one Max Jacobs.  One that would take him and several others out of commission, permanently.


“He’ll kill you and then me when he learns that I didn’t warn him,” Cynthia said as she pinched the bridge of her nose.  She was feeling a headache coming on.


“You look like him when you do that,” Mel said with a smirk.


“This is not funny!”


“No, it’s not,” Mel admitted with a sigh.


“They’re not planning to use her as bait, are they?”


“Not in the literal sense, no.  But they are using her to get Max interested in another young lady.  She’ll be planted in Bree’s soccer team to get Max’s attention.  Once he lures her into his scheme, the cops will pounce,” Mel explained.


“You mean you hope they’ll pounce.  Things don’t always go as planned.  You were lucky with that Cole person.”


“You’re right.  Our kids are not surrounded by family up there,” Mel commented.  “Which still doesn’t help me with my dilemma, do I tell him?”


“I don’t know.  This is a very bad time for him.  He’s miserable.  He wants to be with Justin but that means being hours away from Bree.  He will curse you from one end of the city to the other when he learns about this, then fire us both.”


“So, you think I should tell him?”


“It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” Cynthia replied with a shrug.


“We’re dead,” said Mel.  Cynthia agreed.


“What time do you leave?”


“I have a taxi picking me up at the apartment in an hour.”


“Then get the hell out of here.  Look, give my contact info to whomever up there, as well as John and Bobby’s; leave Brian out of this for now.”


“I’ll do it now.  I’m including the boys in this too.  They all must keep out of this since they know Max.  And thank the gods Ray kept Max’s business card.  It’s another piece of evidence to hang that creep.”  Melanie stood. “I gotta go, I’ll let you know as soon as I land.”


“I’ll walk you out.”


“Keep in touch,” Mel said as Cynthia locked up Kinnetik.  The women hugged before going their separate ways.






Brian sat on a bench in the park.  It was a warm day and he was hot in his suit.  He had left Kinnetik in plenty of time to avoid meeting Melanie Marcus.  He knew he wasn’t up to his usual lunge and parry with Melanie.  He just didn’t have the stomach for it these days.  With a sigh he fished out his phone from his jacket pocket and hit the familiar button.


“Hello, Brian,” came Justin’s voice.


“You’re still speaking to me?” Brian asked in response.


“Of course I am.  What are you talking about?”


“I’ve been waiting for you to call.”


“I’ve been real busy, Brian.  The damage is worse than any of us thought.”


“Okay, I get it, but this is going on far too long.”


“You miss me?”


Brian pinched the bridge of his nose.  “No, I don’t fucking miss you!  I’m going crazy.  I’m climbing the fucking walls.  I don’t miss you at all.”


 Justin smiled in spite of the anger and longing he heard in Brian’s voice.   “I’m really sorry, Brian.  I’d come home right now if I could.”


Brian let out a long sigh.  “But you can’t.”


The resignation in Brian’s voice almost broke Justin.  He fought back tears.  “I’ll try to get things fixed as quick as I can,” he promised.


“I know.”


“Have you heard from Bree or Gus?” Justin asked hoping a change of topic might lighten things up a little.


“Nary a word.”


“You could call them,” Justin suggested.


“I want Gus to feel in charge.  He doesn’t need me to be checking up on him.  I’m sure he would call if he needed something.”


“You could call and talk to Bree.”


“You mean the newest business exec at Kinnetik?  I don’t think she would appreciate me checking up on her either,” Brian said with a catch in his voice.


“She’s your daughter besides being an exec,” Justin reminded him.


“I know, but she’s growing up and feeling her way forward.  I don’t want to make her feel like a kid.”


“News alert!  She is a kid.”

“Not in her mind.”


“I don’t want to argue about this.  Call her if you want to.  You’re her father and there’s no reason you shouldn’t call.”


‘I’ll think about it.”


“Do that.”


“Um, do you have any idea how much longer you’re going to be needed over there?” Brian asked trying not to sound too needy.


“I’m really not sure, but I hope another week or two should do it.”


Brian groaned.  “A week … or two.”


“’Fraid so.”


“I guess I’ll have to learn to live with that.”


“You could come visit me,” Justin suggested.


“You know I don’t want to be that far away from Bree in case she needs me.”


“Weren’t you just telling me how grown up she is and that you don’t want to interfere.”


“That’s right, but that doesn’t mean I want to be unavailable should it turn out that she does need me.”


“Okay, okay,” Justin conceded.  “I’ll get the repairs to the paintings done as quickly as I can.”


“That’s good.”


They talked for a while longer until Brian heard Justin yawn, and realized it was quite late at night in England. 


“I better let you go,” Brian said with reluctance.


“I love you.”


“Love you back.”


Brian cut the connection.  He was tempted to throw the damn phone across the park but thought better of such an action.  There had to be a better way to handle things.  He closed his eyes and turned his face to the sun hoping for inspiration.  However, the gods of inspiration must have been out to dinner because nothing came to help him.


“Dinner,” he muttered to himself.  The thought of another meal alone in his hotel room was enough to make Brian’s stomach roll in protest.  “What the fuck!”


Brian could only think of his younger days when he would go to the baths or Babylon or anywhere to pick up a willing piece of ass.  That used to make everything better.  But that was those days and this was now.  Those things were no longer part of the package.


Brian picked up his phone which he had dropped on the bench beside him.  He was glad he hadn’t flung it across the park.  As he was about to give in and hit Gus’ number, another thought crossed his mind.


“I wonder,” he said out loud.


He dialed a familiar number that he hadn’t used in quite a long time.






“Who is this?”


“You know who the fuck this is!”


“The voice does sound vaguely familiar, but it couldn’t possibly be the person that I haven’t heard from in months …  could it?”


“Cut the crap.”


“It’s not crap.  I haven’t talked to you in ages.”


“I know.  Stuff got in the way,” Brian said lamely.




“Yeah, stuff!”


“Okay Brian, what do you want?”


“I … I thought you might like to spend some time with me.”


“You must be really desperate with Justin in London, and everybody else away.  So you actually had to stoop to calling me?” Michael asked in his most sarcastic voice.


“I guess this was a fucking stupid idea,” Brian said as he was about to hang up.




“For what?  So you can try to make me feel worse than I already do?” Brian asked.


“No, no, I’m glad to hear from you … even if it has been … a while,” Michael admitted.


“Are you on the lane or in Pittsburgh?” Brian asked.


“Pittsburgh.  Ben has been working at the university developing a new course for the fall.  That’s where he is right now,” Michael explained.


“Would … would you like some company for an hour or two?”


“Yeah … I’d like that.”




“Now would be great.”  Michael realized he was smiling.


“Have you eaten?” 




“I’ll bring some food,” Brian said.  “See you soon.”


Brian thought about going to the diner for burgers to take to Michael’s, but then an old remembrance changed that plan.  He arrived at Michael’s a half hour later loaded down with KFC and pizza.  When he rang the bell, he held the boxes up to cover his face.  He heard the door open.


“Delivery,” he said quietly.


Michael gave a snort and said, “You are such a dork.”


Brian lowered the boxes and looked at his old friend.  “I resemble that remark.”  That elicited a loud cackle from Michael.  “How did you know it was me?” Brian asked.


“You did call to say you were coming, and what delivery guy wears an Armani suit and Gucci shoes?” Michael asked with disdain.


“Ah Michael, when will you ever get your labels sorted out?” Brian asked.  “It’s a Prada suit and Ferragamo shoes.”


“Who the fuck cares?” Michael asked.


“Obviously not you,” Brian retorted.  “Are you going to invite me in?  The food is getting cold.”


Michael moved aside to let Brian enter.  He closed the door and turned to find Brian taking off his jacket and then his tie.  Michael smiled at the pile of food on the coffee table.


“We could eat in the kitchen,” he suggested.


“Too formal,” Brian stated.  He flopped down on the sofa and started opening boxes.  “Got any beer?”


“Sure,” Michael replied and headed for the kitchen to get a couple of beers out of the fridge.  When he returned with the beer, he took a good look at his old friend.  Brian was older with more grey at the temples, but so was Michael.  They were all getting older.  Michael noticed the sadness in Brian’s eyes.  He handed a beer to Brian before sitting down on the sofa beside him.  They each took a long draw.


“You’re really missing him, aren’t you?” Michael asked in a soft voice.


“More than you can possibly know,” Brian replied.


“Oh, I know,” Michael stated.


Brian looked at his friend.  He noticed the grey in Michael’s hair and the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth.  They were both getting older.  “How do you know?” Brian asked although he thought he already knew the answer to that question.


“When Ben and I were apart,” Michael said with a sadness and weariness to his voice.  “It was the worst time of my life.”


“I can believe it,” Brian admitted because this was becoming the worst time of his life.


“He’ll be back soon.”


“I fucking hope so.”


“Let’s dig into all this gourmet fare that you brought.”


“Gourmet fare?” Brian repeated with a snort.  “You have been hanging around that Bruckner guy for too long.”


“Yeah, he’s grown on me.”  Michael opened the pizza box and they each took a slice.  “Yum, this is good,” Michael said.  “Ben and I rarely have pizza.”


“Is he still doing okay?”


“Yeah, he’s very careful about his regimen of food and exercise, but so far so good.”


“Glad to hear it.”


“I was on the lane for a couple of days and John told me that Gus and Bree were in Toronto.  You must be missing them all.”


“I am,” Brian replied simply.


“And that’s why you’re here.”


“Old habits.”


“Yeah, we did help each other through some bad times, didn’t we?” Michael observed.


“We did.”


“I … I’m glad you’re here,” Michael admitted.  “I missed you.”


“We should stay in touch,” Brian agreed.


“Was I really so bad that you didn’t want to be around me?” Michael asked before taking another bite of pizza.


“You went off the deep end.  There was no reasoning with you.”


“Ben said almost the same thing.  The problem is, when you’re wallowing and striking out, you can’t help yourself.”  Michael shook his head in remembrance of some of his words and actions.  He had been so out of control and unable to stop.


“But that’s all behind us now, right?” Brian asked.


“I sure hope so.  How are you doing with everyone away?”


“I’m here, aren’t I?” Brian asked in response.


“Sick of being by yourself?”


“A hundred and ten percent!  Another meal in that fucking hotel and I thought I might stab myself in the heart with the bread knife.”


“I’d recommend the steak knife for heart stabbing,” Michael advised him.


“Thanks for the advice but the bread knife is more difficult and more excruciating if you can get to the heart.”


They both laughed.


“I’ll remember that for the next depression I’m in.”


“Good plan.”


Michael cracked open the KFC tub and they dug into the fried chicken.  They talked and talked, catching up on all the things that had been going on in their lives.  Michael filled Brian in on JR and Jacqueline’s decorating of their new home.  Michael admitted that the girls were loving the place and had made friends on the street.  Much as he would have enjoyed having them live on his street, Michael now knew that they had made a good choice of a home.  They were happy and that was all that was required.


Brian talked about Bree and Gus and the business.  He even admitted how much he missed having them under foot.  Working at Kinnetik was kind of boring for Brian since it basically ran itself.  Cynthia and Gus made most of the decisions these days.


“Sounds like the world is leaving us behind,” Michael observed as he belched.


“I refuse to let that happen,” Brian declared.


“I don’t think we can stop it,” Michael said as he brought two more beers from the kitchen.


“Stop saying things like that,” Brian admonished.


“Want another chicken leg?” Michael asked as he finished the one he was eating.


Brian surveyed the half empty containers and stifled a belch of his own.  “I don’t think I can eat another bite,” he admitted.  “I’m gonna have to have my Prada let out as it is.”


Michael laughed.  “Stretch denim,” he said pointing to his jeans.  “Solves a lot of problems.”


“Sh, I don’t want to think about things like that.”


“You are such a queen!”




“It was great spending this time together, Brian.”


“Yeah, it was.”


“Don’t leave it so long before we do this again.”


“You can always call me, you know.”


“Can I?” Michael asked.


“Of course you can.”


“Good to know.”


“I should get going,” Brian said.


“Want me to call you a cab?  Ben has the car.”


“Naw, it’s not that far to the hotel and I need to walk off some of this fucking chicken that I ate.”


“Are you sure?”


“Yeah, and thanks for coming to my rescue tonight.”  Brian gave Michael a chaste kiss as he put his suit jacket back on and stuffed his tie in the pocket.


As he walked toward the hotel, Brian told himself that this was the best day he’d had since Justin left for London.  Maybe he’d get through this separation after all.  And it was good to reconnect with Michael.  Old times!


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