North to the Max
“Justin!” Brian cried out as he abruptly sat up. He looked around the hotel suite, slightly disoriented, confused, and shaking. “Shit,” he cursed as he scrubbed his eyes with his palms. ‘I must have fallen asleep,’ he thought as he looked around the room; it was about 2am. He was laying awkwardly on the sofa in a now very rumpled suit. Brian searched around in the dark for his phone, nearly falling off the sofa and onto his ass.
Brian scrubbed at his face once more before hitting number one on his phone. He hadn’t shaved in days. “I’m becoming a bear,” he snorted to himself. Brian’s “date” with Michael had kept him sane, but for only so long. Still, he refused to give into any notions of reviving his old pain management techniques. Brian had considered calling one of the Wilders but they deserved their summer off without the burden of analyzing their landlord. And what was Brian going to say to them? That he couldn’t shake this feeling of foreboding. The Wilders dealt with psychos not psychics. Maybe he needed Mysterious Marilyn instead.
“Brian?” Justin answered on the first ring.
“Yeah,” Brian whispered, trying to keep the shakiness out of his voice.
“What’s wrong?” Justin knew better.
“I don’t know. I just have this feeling that something’s wrong or something bad is going to happen to you.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to me,” Justin said with confidence.
“Have they caught the fuckers who set the fire?”
“Not yet but Charles said the Met are getting close.”
“Was it a hate crime?”
“They can’t say for certain but they’re not ruling anything out.”
“You know I can’t.”
“I know,” Brian whispered. “Did Mel get there safely?”
“Yes. She’s been a rock for Lindsay and for me too. She made friends with the Crown Prosecution Service; they’ve been keeping her informed.”
“Thank the gods for that. I guess Mel has her uses.”
“Brian,” Justin admonished.
“I know; you don’t have to remind me. She’s one of the best people Kinnetik has hired.”
“I’ll let her know you said so,” Justin said with a chuckle.
“Don’t you dare,” Brian growled. “She’ll want a raise.”
“And she’s worth every penny, you know.”
“Yeah.” There was a moment of silence. “Justin, promise me you’ll be careful. I’ll hire the Pinkertons if necessary.”
“The Pinkertons; they’re a specialized detective and bodyguard agency. They’ve been around for hundreds of years. They’ll keep you safe.”
“I am safe. I’m never alone, well only when I’m in my hotel room. Charles has hired extra security for us. Sam’s still trying to play the tough guy but I think he secretly appreciates the attention. Sidney seems to enjoy having a bodyguard.”
“He would. Jus, I swear the minute Bree’s safely home, I’m flying over there on the next plane,” Brian promised.
“I won’t stop you.”
“As if you could.”
“How is Bree doing?” Justin asked, changing the subject.
“Waldon renewed and get this, he wants to expand into the States. He’s looking at buying some property in Buffalo, NY. Once he’s up and running he wants us to do up a whole new campaign.”
“And of course, Bree’s in the middle of it.”
“Of course, she is. And she networked during the flight up there. The guy strolled into North to discuss a possible ad. Gus and Bree put together a bang up campaign; it’ll hit the press soon!” Brian said with pride.
“Remind me again how old she is?”
“Yeah. I think I better save that ground floor apartment at Tremont for her.”
They shared an awkward silence again.
“Brian, I miss you.”
“Miss you too, Sunshine.” Then Brian yawned.
“You think you can sleep now?”
“Maybe, not sure. It’s been rough.”
“I know the feeling. Promise me you’ll try.”
“And you don’t lie. I love you, Brian.”
“I love you, Justin. You’re my life,” Brian said quietly. “Please don’t do anything foolish and don’t go anywhere alone.”
“I won’t; I promise.”
“I’ll fly over as soon as I can.”
Brian decided that trying to go back to sleep on the sofa in his work clothes was counterproductive. He stripped off his suit as he walked to the bedroom, took a quick shower then went to bed. As he willed himself to relax enough to fall asleep, he heard the rumbling of a thunderstorm about to hit.
“Crap, if this rain doesn’t let up soon, we won’t have time to spring that trap on Max,” Gus cursed every which way he could. He was pacing the office like a caged tiger.
“The weather hasn’t stopped the soccer team from practicing,” Ray observed.
“That’s because they’re all crazy-ass soccer players. They’re almost as bad as football players, I’ve seen those guys play in a blizzard!” Gus exaggerated. His pacing became more pronounced.
“Take a chill pill, Bubba,” said Ray. “If you lose it, then Bree won’t be able to keep it together. This won’t work if Bree isn’t there to do her part so that Max switches his attentions toward Andrea.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Gus waved Ray off. The plan was for Bree to get “injured” during a play. Her replacement was a very young looking, raven haired beauty with unusually green eyes. She looked about sixteen. In reality she was almost twice that and with the experience of a well trained undercover law enforcement officer.
“Besides, Bree’s well guarded; she’s being tracked and bugged. Plus, the police have Max under surveillance 24/7 as well,” Ray reminded Gus.
“I know but it doesn’t stop me from worrying about her. Anything could go wrong then Pop would kill me.”
“He’d kill me too.”
“Then we go together,” Gus stated as he drew Ray toward him.
“Get a room!” Bree said as she walked in on them. She had just come back from practice. Her clothes were wet and muddy.
“Look what the cat dragged in,” Gus teased. “What are you, a soccer star or an ad exec?”
“Right now, I’m a very soggy soccer player. Give me about forty-five minutes and a hot cup of tea and I’ll be an ad exec,” Bree said with a smile.
“He wasn’t there, was he?” Ray asked. They all knew who the “he” was that Ray referred to.
“No, I didn’t see him. Our new ‘assistant coach’ told me that he hasn’t left his hotel,” Bree replied.
“I guess that fucker thinks he’ll melt in the rain,” Gus swore. Then he went to hug his sister but Bree stepped back.
“Can I have a rain-check on the hug until after I shower and change?” Bree asked. “I don’t want to get you all muddy.”
“Of course, you can. Go on,” Gus said as he made some shooing motions. “I’ll order us some lunch to go with that cup of tea.”
“Okay, thanks,” Bree said as she left the artist side of the building. Using the passageway that connected the old church to the school side of North, Bree found herself in the girls locker room. During the renovations, Brian had decided to keep the small school gym including the “boys and girls” locker rooms with showers; completely modernized, of course. He figured the large bathrooms might come in handy for little kids with fingerpainted hands or for the daycare center. In any case, Bree was especially grateful for them.
In no time at all, Bree was back with Gus for her hug, and in ad exec mode.
“Hey little bro, we miss you guys,” John said as he greeted Brian. The next day, Brian decided to check out the progress of the Babylon project. “Your side of the cottage is weirdly quiet. Beau and company are not happy,” John said as he gave his brother a hug. John stepped back to take a good look at Brian. “Let me buy you a cup of coffee,” John said as he guided Brian to the food cart. They bought their coffees plus something sweet to go with them. Then John led Brian to his car so they could get out of the rain and have a chat.
“You guys work in the rain,” Brian observed through the window. He watched the construction crews busy at work on each building.
“We’ve been known to; unless it’s teeming down, we can still work. You know that. Now, what’s up with you? You’re not looking so hot.” Brian arched a brow. “You know what I mean. Are you eating? I won’t be responsible if Bree or Justin shout the house down at the state of you.”
Brian filled John in regarding Justin and the art gallery.
“You can go to him. We’ll be here for Bree,” John reminded Brian.
“Thank you for offering but I won’t be able to concentrate until Bree is home. As soon as she is home safe, I’m gone.”
“Have you spoken to her?” John knew of the plans to arrest Max and was having a difficult time keeping it from Brian.
“Yes, I have. She agrees with me but wants to stay in Toronto until the kick off of the Dunhill campaign then she’ll come home. She’ll still have some time to hang out with Ashley and go shopping before the new school year begins.”
“All right but if you change your mind, we’re here for you.”
“I know you are. Now, how goes the work?” Brian asked as the rain appeared to be letting up.
“Come on, I’ll show you. Grab your hard hat,” John said with a smile. Brian’s hardhat was on the back seat of John’s SUV.
The Kinney brothers quietly strolled down the street with John indicating points of interest and the progress that was being made. The bones of both apartment buildings were in place. As was the new office building. The market, being a relatively simple structure was almost ready to open as well as the parking garage. Babylon was not in any danger of losing business since most of the work was done during the day and each building was locked up tight at night. Since the project was rather large, John had engaged a security firm to keep watch on the sight at night.
“What about the garden?” Brian asked. Although the progress on the buildings was truly impressive it didn’t ring the same bells for Brian as it did for John.
“I was wondering when you were going to ask,” John said as he took out a key for a rather massive lock that held the ends of a very heavy chain together. John opened the door of the construction fence then handed Brian a very fancy large key.
“This looks similar to the key Justin has for the Village garden,” Brian commented.
“Yup,” John said with a grin as he pulled back the door to reveal the ornate gate. “Go on, open it,” John urged.
Brian fitted the large key into the bright brass lock then gingerly pushed open the garden gate. He took a few steps in then stood in awe.
“We progressed to the point where it was safe for Todd and his crew to come in and take over. He used the drawing you and Justin created as a guide. Todd knows your taste in gardens. I let him run with it. I think it’s beautiful. Todd said most of what’s here are annuals but he’s already planted many of the perennials that will come up next spring. He said the conifers and evergreens may need some protecting over the winter but they should survive. It’s all gobbledygook to me,” John said with a gleam in his eyes. Brian’s face lit up as he walked around the new garden.
“You like?” John asked after a while.
“Hell, yeah, I like! It’s amazing,” Brian said.
“You should call Todd and let him know.”
“When did he find time to do all this?”
“I think he took some managerial lessons from you,” John replied.
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“It means, oh wise brother of mine, Todd selected the right people for the job. He gave them precise instructions and was available to them if they had any questions. This is the result. You’re a good role model, Brian, and now so is Todd. Side note, Emmett has seen the garden. He wants to know if he can rent it for intimate gatherings and small garden parties.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Nope. Personally, I think you should let him have carte blanche. The proceeds can go towards the garden’s upkeep.” Brian nodded; he liked the idea. “And you know the garden will be in safe hands with Emmett. The rest of the time, this will be a calm oasis for this side of the city.”
“We should have security cameras and lighting,” Brian commented.
“Already in the works. I contacted the security firm we use for the Tremont building. They have the specs for each building and the garden. They’ll be ready when we are,” John assured Brian.
“You ready for lunch?” John asked, giving his brother a poignant look.
“Good.” John took his brother to lunch.
A couple of days later, Ray found Bree and Gus hunched over a computer as usual. “Bree, I just got off the phone with the detective; he said it’s time,” Ray said seriously. “Are you sure you want to do this? Now that the authorities know what Max is up to, they can use it to their advantage,” Ray stated reasonably.
“Bree, you don’t have to do this,” Gus reiterated.
“Yes, I do. We have to get this creep off the streets. Who knows how any kids fell for his shit. I need to do this. If it wasn’t for you guys and Dada, and Auntie Mel, and Daddy, and Grampa Carl, and, and a whole bunch of people in our family, I might not have been smart enough not to fall for his crap, but…”
“I get it,” Gus whispered as he pulled his sister into a fierce hug. “But I want to be there.”
“No, you can’t, he might recognize you,” Bree protested.
“I think I may have a solution to that,” Ray said.
Return to North to the Max