Friday, February 29, 2008

Roderick Thomas glanced at the clock hanging on the wall in his office: three-thirty in the afternoon. By now, his son Kent and most of his classmates were either home from school or nearly there, which made this as good a time as any to make the phone call he'd been thinking about all day. The tall, handsome CEO turned in his chair to look out at downtown Los Angeles, and with his cell phone he dialed the number of the private phone he'd given to James Allen, a classmate of Kent's that he and his wife (and secretary) Gina had met almost a month ago in the aftermath of the high school's winter formal dance. The phone rang a few times, and Rod worried that he might have to leave a message, but luckily, Jimmy answered soon enough.

"Yes, Rod?"

"Hi, Jimmy. A situation has developed that I think we need to talk about."

"What kind of situation?"

Rod scoffed. "Last night, Kent came up to me and asked if I would be willing to hire a private investigator…to follow you."

On the other end, Rod could hear the lump that had formed in Jimmy's throat. After a moment, the sixteen-year-old replied, "And…what did you tell him?"

"I told him I'd think about it. But you and I both know I don't need to."

"Where the hell did Kent get this idea?"

"Apparently his friend Tom suggested it," Rod said. "And he added that we could also enlist the help of Sam Greene, their friend Iris's father." Knowing this would go over Jimmy's head, he clarified, "He's a cop."

"Shit."

"Can I make a suggestion of my own, Jimmy? Make an effort to be a little less obvious with your threats next time, would you?"

"I didn't tell them anything!"

"Maybe not, but you were still obvious enough to make them suspicious. Do you know how I've accomplished all the shady deals I've made over the years? I kept quiet about it."

"The men's clothing industry has shady deals?" Jimmy said, half-jokingly.

"Every business does," Rod said. "And you wouldn't have come to me if you hadn't heard of my reputation from Kent, anyway. Luckily for you, Jimmy, there may be a way we can use this setback our advantage."

"How?"

"You wanted to keep an eye on Claire, didn't you?"

"Yeah, but you did, too, right?"

"I know a guy," Rod said, rubbing his fingers together as he surveyed the cityscape through his top-floor window. "He's worked for me before. I can pay him to trail Claire for us, indefinitely. If anything big comes up, we'll be the first to know. If she's hiding anything, we'll find out. And if an opportunity for that revenge we've both been craving presents itself, we'll have our window open and ready."

"What about Kent?"

"I'll just tell him I decided not to hire anyone. He knows I'm a busy man."

"And that cop?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

"Really?" Jimmy said. "You're willing to take that chance? Because if it were up to me, I'd try to remove him from the equation early, so we wouldn't have to risk any of his interference."

"You're welcome to do that yourself, if you want," Rod said, reclaiming his seat at his desk. "But not only do I not advise making contact with the police if you're in the middle of planning something illegal, you have to remember that the cop in question is the dad of one of Kent's friends—the redhead, Iris, I think. He's just a beat cop, but he's still a cop, Jimmy."

"Fine. We'll leave him alone for now."

"Now you're thinking. Listen," he said, checking his watch and the pile of papers on his desk, "I've still got a lot of work to do. Is there anything else needs discussing before I hang up?"

"Have you thought about raising my allowance?"

"I think five hundred a week is plenty," Rod said.

"Oh, come on!" Jimmy whined. "Who's going to miss it? It's not like Kent's using any of the much smaller allowance you give him!"

"And while I do hate him for that, Jimmy, I don't see any point in upping your take until you can shown me that you're putting it to good use."

"Fair enough. Call me when you've got that guy of yours following Claire."

"Will do. Have a nice day, son." With that business finished, Rod closed his phone and returned his attention to his paperwork.