#37 – What Happens at Red Terrace

September 28th, 2012


“It’s Nathan.”

“I know who it is, who else would be calling me from my own number?” Frank replied, “now why are you calling me?”

“I just wanted to say nice digs, bro.”

“Nathan I am kind of in the middle of something right now.”

“Oh shit, yeah, the deal with your girl’s family.  Sorry, man, I didn’t mean to interrupt your game.”

Frank’s jaw clenched, “it’s not… okay, Nathan.  I will be back later and we can…”

“What the fuck!”

“Nathan?  What’s going on?  Are you okay?”  Frank said, his voice rising slightly more than he’d wanted.

“Dude,” the younger man said, “you’ve got a cat?”

“Goodbye Nathan.”

Red Terrace“I hope we’re not going to have a problem.”

Kerstin turned around to face Marcus LeBrandt.  She had been standing quietly in the upstairs hallway outside her father’s study thinking about how much she wanted to barge in on him in the midst of some or another task.  She half-smiled thinking about the way that he would struggle to be stern with her when she’d interrupted him.  She quirked an eyebrow at Marcus, “I can’t imagine we having a problem at all,” she said.

“Good,” he replied.

She chuckled, “I don’t think you get it.”  She continued, “we won’t have a problem, but you might.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what it sounds like,” she said.  “I don’t have any idea why my father didn’t expose you as soon as he found out about what you tried to do to this family.  I don’t have any idea why he let you marry my sister.  But he did and now it’s done.  But don’t think that because my father…  that just because he can’t stop you that you can’t be stopped.”

He drew himself up slightly and rolled his shoulders, “I don’t need to be stopped,” he said as he cracked the joints in his neck.  He leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “just wait and see; I already have what Oliver Jordan promised me in the first place.”

“And just what is that?”

“Your father’s job.”

Red Terrace East TerraceLeticia McKinelle was standing on the east terrace of Red Terrace.  This terrace, like all the others, was not actually red as in the name of the famous estate, but rather it was built of white-gray granite interlinking blocks that were bordered by one of the many short red brick retaining walls that created the terracing effect for which the property was named.

Across from the terrace, tucked into a little alcove on the southern edge of the east garden, in a clearing of trees and behind the now-drained pool, was the flat bare slab that once held the pool house.  The ruins of the building had been removed so that without her memories she might have thought the plain slab of concrete all that had ever been in that place.

The trees that had been scorched by the fire were meticulously trimmed and tended such that there was no sign of the damage the licking flames had caused.  The lawn, too, had been seamlessly repaired where the emergency vehicles had crossed it to get nearer the blaze and its victims.

She frowned and chuckled ruefully as her memory failed her when she attempted to recall the structure in its place.  Had the frieze and the architrave that rested on the classic Ionic columns been the same colour?  She couldn’t remember.  She blinked twice in quick succession as she felt tears threaten the corner of her eyes.

“I thought I might find you out here,” Frank said from the doorway behind her.  “They’ve moved to the sitting room,” he added as he stepped out into the evening air to stand beside her.

She glanced at him quickly and forced herself to smile in acknowledgement.  “Okay,” she said finally.

“A hell of a thing, huh?” He said.  “I mean, what a tragedy.  Did you notice the way that Kerstin kept looking at her father’s chair at dinner?  I wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to make it through…  hey… it’s cold out here.  Are you cold?”  He said as he reached out and wrapped his arm around her.

She pulled away immediately, “don’t.”

“Leticia?”  He asked.  “What’s going on?  Are you okay?”

“The fire…” she said, “I…  I think it was my fault.”

Red Terrace Sitting RoomKerstin was sitting in the big blue leather armchair with the decorative brass tacks that traced the front of the arms.  Her index finger absently traced back and forth over a seam that ran across the arm.  Her legs were crossed, as was her custom when possible, and she watched the door of the room for any sign that Leticia and Frank were going to join them.

“You are so ridiculous,” Tish said to her as she walked by.  “Why must you cart that horrible chair all over the house?”

“It’s the one I like,” she replied, “and it’s not like I expect you to carry it.”

“I’m going to throw it away in the morning.”

“I dare you to try.”

“Girls, that’s enough,” Ophelia Waterford said as she walked into the room with her mother following close behind.  “Mother, I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish tonight with just the family here,” she added as she helped the elder woman into a red and white striped wingback chair.

“Yeah, Granny,” Tish added, “we’ve got to have at least two of the non-principles,” a term Kerstin knew was used to describe members of the Board of Directors of Waterford Holdings who were not themselves Waterfords, “to make a quorum.”

Eileen Waterford pawed at the air in order to dismiss the qualms of the two women, “sit down,” she instructed.  “We may not be able to make anything official,” she said, “but the time has come for the board to make a decision.”

The decision, Kerstin knew, was to name a permanent – or at the very least semi-permanent – replacement for her rather as the head of Waterford Holdings and Waterford Developments, its primary subsidiary.  Kerstin watched Marcus enter the room and move to stand behind the chair in which sat his wife.  He glanced at her and smirked for the briefest moment before turning his attention to the family matriarch.  “We can, at least, come to the board with a unified family position,” he said, “and any bickering,” he paused, “we can get out of the way now.”

As the last of her family entered the room, and Leticia and Frank were absent, Kerstin felt quite alone.  Amongst her family she was the only one who had taken almost no interest in the family business.  She hadn’t attended a board meeting since childhood and in those days she was more involved with playing dolly under the great mahogany table than listening to the goings on above it.

It made her feel foolish when she proffered, “why can’t you do it Granny?”

“What,” Anders said emphatically with a drawn out pause and pointed enunciation, “are you talking about?  Do you think she could do site visits?  To say nothing of scouting new development locations after the plans that are already in the works are finished.”  He shook his head, “I don’t even know why you’re here,” he said more quietly.

Kerstin’s mouth hung open for a moment before she clamped it shut.

Red Terrace East Terrace“You started the fire?”

Leticia wiped the corner of her eye with the back of her finger, “no,” she said, “not exactly.”

“Then I don’t understand,” Frank said.

Oswald,” she began, “my ex-husband and I were in the pool house when the fire started.  We were having an argument about…  about…” she couldn’t tell him the details of Oswald’s lab and the other fire, “him coming here, following me to Emerald Heights, and now he’s involved with Sarah.  And he turned all the Prices against me.  I just…”

“You just what?”

“I hit him over the head,” she said after a pause.  She was looking directly into Frank’s eyes when she spoke the words.  She couldn’t gauge his reaction, but it wasn’t one of hatred, which was her fear.  “I was afraid.”

“That he would hurt you?”

She nodded, “he tried before.  It’s why I left him,” she said.

“Wow,” he breathed.  “But how did you cause the fire?”

“We were in the sauna,” she said, “he dragged me into the sauna.”  She shrugged, “there was nothing else to hit him with but the kettle.  But I slipped and fell and got knocked out.”  She shook her head, “when I woke up the place was on fire and…  and I ran.”  She had begun crying again at some point during her statement.

“The fire started in the sauna?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Then you don’t know that you caused the fire,” he said.  “Does Kerstin know?”

“No!” She exclaimed, “how can I tell her that?  How can I tell her that there’s even a chance that I killed her grandfather?”

Red Terrace Sitting Room“This is stupid,” Ophelia Waterford said simply, “which I say with all due respect, Mother.”  She gestured across the room, “I am already running the Conservancy and Waterford Properties, I am clearly the best choice to take over the Holdings.”

Kerstin raised an eyebrow.  Her aunt’s reaction to her grandmother’s suggestion that Tish and Marcus be put in charge of Waterford Holdings – since they were already key players in the business – was unexpected. Ophelia Waterford, opinionated as she could be, very, very rarely ever spoke back against her parents.

Anders scoffed, “why can’t it be my Dad?”  He gestured to the man sitting in the corner, “or me, I can do it.”

Marcus laughed out loud, “do you even shave yet, little man?  You’re going to go up against Oliver Jordan?”

Anders leapt up from his chair and turned on the other man, “sit down,” Kerstin said shaking her head.  “You think you’re more suited to defend this family against the Jordans, do you?”  Kerstin said to Marcus pointedly.  She turned to her grandmother, “no, Anders is right; it should be uncle Trey if it’s not you, Gran.”

Eileen shook her head and raised her hand.  She addressed Kerstin, “your uncle Trey will be much too busy to be running Waterford,” she said softly.  “The Governor has asked him to run in the special election in March to replace Charles Taylor.”  The family momentarily exchanged confused glances with one another.

Kerstin turned fully in her chair to regard her uncle sitting in the corner of the room; he had sat through the entire evenings events without having said a single word that Kerstin had heard.  This wasn’t unusual for Trey Waterford, especially, but it was a strange trait when one viewed him through the lens of a senate hopeful.

“No, it makes the most sense for Tish and Marcus to step in and run Waterford,” Eileen continued which interrupted Kerstin from her gawking.  “They know the existing contracts and they know the business better than anyone else.”

Marcus smirked at Kerstin in a way that made her blood boil and before she knew what she was doing she had started to speak, “they know Waterford Developments,” she said, “but the Holdings can be administered by anyone, right?  I mean, it’s just shuffling money and signing paycheques, right?”

“It’s more involved than that,” Ophelia replied.

“But basically it’s just a shell company…”

“A holding company,” Anders corrected.

“Okay, a holding company.  It’s a company that just exists, basically, to own the others, right?  So anyone can run that, I mean, as long as they’re good at oversight.”

Eileen nodded, “yes, oversight is its most important purpose.  Why do you ask, Kerstin?”

“Because I want to run Waterford Holdings.”

Red Terrace“And they said yes?”

“Well, yeah,” she replied.

“No offense, honey,” Frank said, “but why?”

“Oh yeah, no offense at all, jerk,” she replied playfully.  “I think Granny said yes because I’ve never shown much interest in the family business before and she thought that as long as I was making a gesture that it was worth taking me up on it.”

“And probably because she wanted to give Ophelia a stroke,” Leticia added.

“That too,” Kerstin replied.

“So you’re going to be the… what?” Frank asked.

“Executive Vice-President and Acting President of Waterford Holdings,” Kerstin replied, “I don’t want to be made president, that’s my dad’s job.”

“Kerstin,” Frank said softly.

“No.”  She said firmly, ”I’m not going to re-argue this point, it’s my father’s job and that’s how it’s going to stay.”

“Wow,” he said, “I’m proud of you.”

She smiled broadly, “me too.  Actually, I’m kind of excited about it.”  She spun around in the foyer of Red Terrace, “I get business cards and a fancy car, I get an assistant, my own special laptop, and an office…” her voice trailed off.  “An office,” she repeated more softly.  Frank and Leticia shared a quick glance, she shook her head at them, “no, it will be okay.”

“Are you going to use his office?” Leticia asked.

“Well, that’s where all the files and stuff are, so, yeah, I guess I will.”

“Maybe you’ll find it comforting, like you’re close to him even when you can’t be at the hospital.”

“Oh God,” she said, “I won’t be able to be at the hospital.”

Frank wrapped his arm around her, “Kerstin, he knows that you care and he’s in good hands with Doctor Bachman.  Don’t worry about it, you will still get to see him, it will be fine.”  He paused and gave her a playful shake, “in fact I think it will be great.”

She smiled wanly.  Just then Anders walked into the foyer of Red Terrace.  Frank shot daggers at him with his eyes and Leticia crossed her arms.  “See you Monday, cousin,” he said.


“Because Granny just made me your personal assistant,” he said as he ducked out the front door of Red Terrace.

Kerstin wheeled around and looked at Frank, “maybe not so great after all.”  She could feel the desperate look on her own face.

The chirp of the car alarm punctuated the silence of the parking garage under The Rockwell as the three made their way across the asphalt toward the elevators.  Kerstin was leaning against Frank, partly in affection and partly in exhaustion.

“Well, I guess I’ll be heading out,” Leticia said as they neared the exit that lead to the road and to her car.

“Thanks for coming, Let,” Kerstin said and gave her cousin a hug.  “I’m really glad you were there.”

“It’s better than the food at the Greenstone,” Leticia said casually, “and Frank,” she said, “thanks for the talk.”  She turned and immediately stopped, “oh, my phone,” she said digging into her pocket to retrieve the gently buzzing device.  “Hello?”

“What did you talk about?”  Kerstin asked quietly after a moment.  Leticia had stopped walking so it seemed to Kerstin only polite to wait until she was finished with her phone call before saying their final good-byes.

“Uh,” Frank said, “just some about stuff her ex-husband and whatever.”

“He’s a real piece of work, huh?”  Kerstin asked mostly rhetorically, “so that’s where you were while we were in the sitting room?”

Frank nodded, “I found her on the terrace and we got to talking,” he paused for the briefest moment, “she, uh… I think she needed someone to talk to about…  stuff.”

Kerstin nodded, “yeah, no doubt.  It was nice of you to be there for her,” she laid a hand on his chest and gave him a soft kiss along his jawline, “that’s very thoughtful.”

“Well, she did agree to come to Red Terrace with us in the first place, so it only seemed gentlemanly,” he said miming out a gallant pose.

Kerstin laughed as she heard Leticia say “thank you, good-bye.”  She turned back toward them and Kerstin noticed that her demeanour had changed.

“What’s going on?” Kerstin said.

“That was… it was John… John Price.  He said the hospital just called him to tell him…  they said that…”  She shook her head slightly, “Oswald is missing.  He…  he disappeared from his hospital bed about two hours ago… and no one has heard from Sarah, either.”

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