Tom sat in his easy chair. It had been a year to the day that he had received the call from Ken’s widow telling him that Ken’s body had been shipped back to the US. Three days later, they had all been standing graveside as his old friend was given a hero’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Now he sat, beer in hand, holding a silent memorial. Ken had been a good friend. It was hard to accept that he had been gone for a year, but then Ken had always been a bit reckless. A tear ran down Tom’s face.
Tom rarely cried. He’d seen too much. Done too much. Still, he had never had many friends and losing one was a hard thing to accept. And his list of friends was getting shorter.
He never drank enough to get drunk. Just enough to commemorate what he and Ken would do every year. Once a week, during those years they were partners, they would go out and have a single drink. Just one. It was a way for them to ease the tension of the week.
God, he missed those outings. But Matt was too young to take out to something like that and he didn’t want to corrupt the boy. Matt wasn’t into drinking anyway. At least not from what he had seen.
Good thing. Alcohol was the number one killer of careers. Along with drugs. And the boy was all about having a career.
He rubbed his jaw. Poor boy. Never had a childhood. Had always been working. But he loved what he did.
And he was the best. Everyone wanted him on their albums. It was his bread-and-butter. And he had invested Matt’s money wisely. Matt would be set for life if he ever decided to give it up and retire out of the music industry, even with the little bit he had been giving his mother to ensure her wellbeing.
He rose. Time to go do something constructive. Like make a little music. He raised the beer can once more.
‘Here’s to you, Ken,’ he thought, then drank the last little bit in the can.
Throwing the can in the waste can next to his chair, he walked out of the living room and turned off the lights. The memorial was over. Now it was on to something less emotional.
He set off in search of Matt. The boy had to be through with homework by now. Perhaps he would want to go to the studio and create a few new songs. Anything to brighten the day.
Matt emerged from his room, his homework now done. He liked home study better than public and private schools because of its flexibility and how it allowed him to do homework whenever he wanted. This allowed him to set his own schedule and made it easier for him to work in studio sessions for outside bands and singers. It also helped that his surrogate mother was a school teacher. He smiled.
Tom appeared from the living room. “Ready to go make some music?”
Matt smiled. “Sure am.”
Tom turned down the hall and headed toward the door. “Let’s go.”
Natalia had not been ready for what she had begun to go through in rehab. The morphine had been taken away so that her body now felt the full effects of the withdrawal from opiates. The pain was horrible. The jitters made it even worse, as did the hallucinations. From time to time, the DTs got violent and even caused her to vomit. In the beginning, at their worst, she had to be strapped down.
But now, they were bearable. She could handle the pain, but the nausea and the jitters were bad. She had to do this, though. She had to make her son proud of her and show him that she did care for someone other than herself.
She could do without a man for a while. Perhaps she would quit them altogether if the movie biz agreed with her. Or maybe she would find herself a famous actor and attach herself to him. there were plenty of young, attractive actors to choose from.
This was going to be worth every bit of pain and struggle. Matty had been thinking of her and had found her work as an actress. She was finally going to be able to live her life’s dream. She was going to be on Broadway!
She pulled herself together after each attack of the DTs. After every gut wrenching pain, she recomposed herself. She was going to win this battle. She was going to be the mother Matty wanted her to be.
Sure, she had lost the others-Matt included-but maybe it was for the best. They were where they were supposed to be at this moment. All of them. She had accepted that.
They had a fair chance at life now. No more outside threats. No abusive stepfathers. Shasta was a wonderful mother to them and Matt had seen that they had the best possible futures.
Mira Wells had never remarried. After her split from Kendrick, she had been unable to find another man who could fill the emptiness. It hadn’t been that she wanted the divorce. no, she had wanted them to stay together. She loved him. but the French case had done something to him. made him more violent. More reckless. Less in love with life.
And she had Eddy Hoover to thank for that. That little man had destroyed more marriages in his career as head of the FBI than any other man in Washington. Whatever had been in that case file had destroyed whatever good had resided in Ken’s soul and replaced it with a thirst for vengeance and death.
After three questionable deaths, he had asked for a divorce. he claimed that it was for her protection, not his. He didn’t want to hurt her. He had a problem and he needed space. Space where he could feel sure that he wouldn’t hurt her.
Not that he would ever do so. Or even plan it. But he was broken and she could tell. Something in him had broken and all that had been held in check was now on the loose.
After the divorce, he had gone to Vietnam. Once there, he vanished. Then, the bodies of Tobias French and his gang were flown home to the States to be buried. Rumors had Ken reappearing in Iowa for a short time during which, Toffer French also died. Then, there was nothing more.
She even asked Tom Goldman if he had heard anything. He had not. It was as if Ken had fallen off the face of the Earth. For ten long years, she waited for word. Then, Ken was also sent home in a casket. His violence had finally caught up to him.
Now, she mourned him every day. When they separated, she had been pregnant. Their child, she had raised alone. Now, a man, their son was about to graduate from Princeton. It had been a long hard road to get him there, but she had done it with Tom’s help.