After Parkinson’s nurse had collected the swab specimens from the baby, Justin left Gisela and went home. It’d be the third night he’d slept there, but alone; Katelyn slept in Olivia’s room, as
their daughter was hardly around.
He stood at the door. Through the heavy wood came the sounds of his children running and laughing, and someone playing the piano—probably Natasha and her French jazz. An ache thumped in his chest.
The sounds reminded him of all the goodnight pecks, hugs, cuddles he’d missed... He put down the pizza he’d bought them—Natasha’s favorite chicken and mushroom—then removed his shoes. Before his
hand reached the bell, the door swung open and Layla jumped on him. “Hey daddy, I knew it was you.”
“Oh, I missed you, honey. How did you know?”
“I heard the steps.”
“You can tell my steps?”
Natasha came running. “Daddy!”
After watching them eat, he went to the bedroom and flopped down on the bed. Buggins! What would be the outcome of the paternity test? To hell with it. What come what may. He stumbled into
the shower. The cold water felt invigorating, as it soothed his worn-out body.
After changing into a nightgown and pyjamas, he slumped in his rocking chair in the lounge outside the bedroom. Great being at home. He lifted himself slightly and removed the car key pressing into
his thigh. Damn it! Gisela’s image on the key holder threatened to soil his mood. Wretched woman! His body washed cold just thinking of her.
Katelyn walked in, smiling. She tipped her head sideways and her long curly hair, perhaps just done the same day, fell to one side. She smoothed her dress down, not looking at him, as if allowing
him the privilege to admire her exposed back and bosom.
“Hey girl, you look stunning.” He stood.
Are you seeing someone? Dan? No. This is your new look since I left.
She offered her hand. “Been here long? I’d gone shopping.”
He kissed it and squeezed her in a hug. “Not so long ago.”
She eased away and handed him a booklet. “This was brought this morning.”
He flicked through a few pages. “Ah, these are the accounts of that company I told you I wanted to invest in. Twenty percent EBITDA! Sounds good.”
With a slight nod, she pushed her hair back, revealing her feline eyes. “Whatever that means.”
“Profit. A second.” He ran a finger on a page, squinting a little. A trick to catch her attention.
“What’s up?” She bent over, so close her breath tickled the underside of his chin.
He turned to kiss her but she stepped back, smiling.
“Katie, I miss you.” He curled the booklet up into a tight tube. “Really bad.”
She moved to the balcony.
“Have you lost weight? You’re killing me.” He followed her. “Come back to the bedroom. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
She turned her head to the side. Perhaps to avert his scrutinizing gaze. But the sudden rosiness of her cheeks gave her away. “Hey, they’re looking at us.” She grabbed his hands which had coiled
around her waist.
He followed her gaze to the farmhands assembling under the boulevard tree. “I’m in love and don’t care about them.”
“Decorum. That’s your word. Don’t forget.” She disentangled from him. “They cannot leave before I release them.”
“It’s one of my new rules.”
“Wait a minute.” Justin followed her. “I didn’t see Olivia, is she around?”
“No. She’s hardly around anymore. I’m worried.”
He thought for a moment. “Please ask her to come over with her boyfriend.”
Yes! She’s forgiven me. He returned to the balcony and watched on as she talked with the workers.
Towards dinner, he came down to the living room. Katelyn and Olivia helped in the kitchen, Ryan played chess with Mike while Layla and Natasha strummed chords on the piano.
Ryan stood. “Hello, sir.”
“Hello. Please carry on.” Justin sat to watch the game.
Ryan moved the rook to B1, exposing his king.
Poor guy! He must’ve lost his focus with Justin’s arrival.
“Dinner’s ready,” Mademoiselle Rosa announced.
At the dining table, after Natasha had said grace, Justin spread a napkin on his lap and smeared butter on the bread. “Want some?” He passed the basket of buns to Ryan, who still looked pensive.
“Thank you.” Ryan broke off a piece and put it on the edge of his plate.
Forks and knives chinked, amidst chatter. Everything was excellent: the wine, turkey in white sauce, fish fingers, ratatouille, the assorted salads and above all, the broth. Old life was returning
and Justin wouldn’t have wished for a happier family reunion.
“Delicious, out of this world!” He handed Ryan tartar sauce. “This goes well with the fish fingers.”
“Oh, yeah.” Ryan smiled.
Olivia rubbed her arm, where it was red from her leaning against the table. “Ah, um, he—he doesn’t like fish--”
“Not until I tasted this.” Ryan licked his fork. “Mm… This is so delicious.” He scooped more pieces onto his plate.
“So, what do you do for a living?” asked Justin.
“Just got a new job with Pioneer Capital Group as an Investment Analyst.”
Justin swallowed a bite of food. “Really? Is Hammond your MD?” He glanced at Katelyn. “It’s that company.”
Ryan nodded. “Yes. You know Hammond?”
“Just met him recently. Um, you analyse their investments?”
“Eighty percent of my work involves that.”
“Then you must know Green Plant Horticulture.”
“Yes, it’s being sold to a new investor.”
“That’s me. We need to talk for sure.”
Mademoiselle Rosa brought some more tartar sauce. Katelyn turned to her husband. “Honey, let him eat. You can talk business later.”
“Oh, sure. This is just a pleasant surprise.” Justin served more food. “What turkey, so nice! Can’t have enough of it.”
“So… What’s this obsession you have with EBITDA, OPCO, PROPCO?” Katelyn handed Justin a glass of Sauvignon wine. “That’s all I hear when your dad’s on phone.”
After dinner, Justin paced by the living room window, waiting for the rest of his family who’d remained behind in the dining room.
Finally, they came out.
“Get the chessboard.” He slid a hand over Mike’s shoulders. “You okay son? You’ve been so quiet.”
“Yes I am,” said Mike, not looking at him.
The girls have forgiven my affair with Gisela. Not my boy.
He motioned at the young men. “Let’s go upstairs.”
They settled at the upper lounge. Mademoiselle Rosa served coffee.
Justin arranged the chessboard. “Who goes first? There’s a price for whoever beats me. I feel generous today.”
“Sorry dad, I just wanna lie down a little. Got a bad headache.”
“Is it serious? Should I take you to the hospital?”
“No. It’s fine.” Mike waved at Ryan. “I’ll see you around.” He left.
Shit! The son Justin had been looking forward to seeing for the last nine months might not be his child. Now his own flesh and blood was disgusted with him. Damn it! Crap! What was he to do?
Anyway, there was important business at hand to attend to.
He shook Ryan’s hand. “Good game.”
Justin fingered a white pawn and sipped on his coffee. “So, how is work?”
Ryan pushed a pawn to the center, the Queen’s Gambit. “I can’t complain.”
If Justin took the hanging pawn, Ryan would control the center of the board. Added advantage. Justin avoided the bait.
“Ah, you’re reading my mind. Tarrasch defense.’’
Justin chuckled. “Of course. I’ve been playing this game for the last twenty years.”
“Really? Then it’ll be a long game. I don’t remember the last time I lost.”
“Say what? How frequent do you play?”
“Can’t say. Many times in a day.”
“Where do you get all the time?”
Ryan pushed a bishop. “I play it online as I work on my financial models.”
“The game helps me solve complicated models.”
Justin’s mouth slowly dropped open. “This’s new. How’s this even possible?”
Ryan moved a knight and smiled, watching intently at Justin’s reaction. “Well, it depends on the project assumptions... check!”
Justin stroked his mustache. “Wait, I can’t move. When did you pin my pieces?”
“No way. Wait. Are you serious?” Justin stood. “How did you do this?”
This boy’s a genius!
Ryan smiled. “Well, ah—“
“Y’know, just with chess, you can make lots of money?”
“I’m a former National Champ. You’ve beaten me in less than ten minutes.” He stroked his mustache. “Are you in a club?”
“I’ll introduce you to my club.” He pushed the chessboard aside. “No more embarrassment.”
Ryan leaned back. “Oh, really? That’ll be great. Thank you.”
“Have some coffee.” He moved the coffeepot closer to Ryan. “Let’s talk business. Shall we?”
“Um, ah, ok.”
“Don’t worry. I’m a professional.” Justin crossed his legs. “I won’t ask about business secrets.”
“Well, I received your accounts today, but you know very well these can be misleading. The auditors hardly pick creative accounting.”
“Look, you don’t have to give me a lot of details. Just tell me, should I put my money here?”
“Um, how do I put it? It’s a good company. Nothing really alarming.”
“Look.” Justin shifted in his seat. “In a week’s time, I might lose or gain colossal amounts of money with this deal. I need to know the truth.”
“Well, I dunno if this is ethical, but I’ll be honest with you. Everything else is accurate except the company has not fully provided for bad debts.”
“Is it material?”
“Yes. If debtors are fully provided for, EBITDA margin reduces from twenty percent to negative two percent.”
“What? Are you for real?”
“Look at the debtors aging in the accounts we sent you. The customers from line twenty to fifty. Some of them already closed shop, others have denied liability, and others stopped trading with our
company. All these amounts should be knocked off the company’s profits.”
“Wait. Let me get the accounts.”
“Sure… Perhaps you might also like the five tests I devised to analyse healthy investments using the cash position. If I was an investor, I wouldn’t waste a minute on the audited accounts. Most are
“I’m more than curious.” He fetched the accounts. “Here, I can see the customers you mentioned.”
“Google this one—Danico Investments.”
Justin reached for his tablet and looked up the name. “Jeez! Four directors charged for running the company dry. Investors lose billions as company winds up.”
“Search Cactus Limited. We’re not listed as their creditors yet they’re listed in our accounts as debtors.”
Justin offered his hand. “Ryan, I owe you big time! Name the figure.”
“No worries. I’m doing this pro bono. But um, ah—” He dropped his gaze. “Sir, um, will you—”
“You can tell me anything. Just call me Justin.”
“Um, I want to call you Pops. Please allow me to marry Olivia.”
I should be the one asking you to marry her, not you asking for permission.
Justin stroked his mustache. “Do you love her?”
“Yes, I love her so much.”
This is quick. They’ve known each other for... what, weeks? And I should hear what Olivia has to say. But... Katelyn and I, we... Weren’t as quick, but... And he sounds truly earnest...
“Well, that’s all I want from you. Love her and be faithful to her.”
Faithful? Yes. Faithful. I know the price of infidelity. Nothing can be the same again.
“Yes, I’ll take good care of her, sir. Pops.”
“What’s your notification period should you want to resign?”
Ryan’s eyes widened. “One month.”
“Tender your resignation tomorrow and make it clear you’re not serving notice.”
“Yes. You’re now my Investment Analyst. We’ll pay them in lieu of notice.”
“Oh. My... God.”
Later that night, Katelyn returned to the master bedroom. Justin slumped on the couch as he’d promised. But after she’d switched off the lights and changed into her nightgown, he grabbed her.
Pulled her close against his chest. “I want you badly.”
Her voice was low and shrill. “Oh, you scared me.”
“Sorry.” He lifted her to the bed. “Can’t wait.”
“No, not tonight. I need some time.”
“Then let me just sleep next to you.”
At four a.m., his phone rang. It was Ambrose. Elizabeth had fallen ill again and had been admitted.
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