Turning off all the lights
Slim and Bonni Savage
201 Fire Island Road
His father was waiting for him on the front porch as Will strode up the walkway toward the sprawling estate. Slim looked tired and Will was sure the fatigue wasn't from having a new baby in the house. They hugged briefly, one of those one-armed pats on the back, but Will sensed his father holding the embrace a little longer than normal.
"Hey, Dad, thanks for meeting me so late."
When Will called his dad from Duff Tyson's house and recounted all he'd heard from Camilla, he half expected Slim to laugh and tell him that she was making a mountain from a molehill but that hadn't been the case. Instead, he'd been silent until finally confirming Camilla’s story although he would not go into details over the phone. And Will had expressly asked for details about this Gemma Wilson and why she was out to ruin his dad.
Will followed his dad into the front room and set the files he'd put together at Duff's place onto the table. Slim stared at the stack of papers and after a long, uncomfortable moment, offered Will a drink, which he gladly accepted. They sat in silence neither of them making eye contact. Will realized with some surprise that he felt awkward and ill at ease. This was his father, not some impersonal client, and the gravity of what would transpire hit Will hard. He would be asking his own father to sign away his life’s work.
Slim was the first to break the silence. "You might want to consider crashing here tonight, son. It's a long way back to the university and I don’t like the look of that fog." Slim threw back the contents of his glass, rose from his seat, and poured another. He took a few more sips, set down his glass, and moved toward a wall that held framed family photos.
"I was around your age when Coop and I founded Hitman, maybe younger. God knows we were both ambitious and full of big plans for our futures. We always knew we'd succeed, knew what we each brought to the table. Words and music, kid, my way with words, his musical genius. Back then, we were unstoppable. You couldn't throw anything at us that I couldn't deal with and believe me, taking care of Cooper Stanfield was never easy, even when we were kids. A long, tiring, and never-ending job but I was glad to do it because that was my role in this thing and he was my friend."
Will shook his head slightly. He was still doing it, his dad, worrying over the long drive in the fog, looking out for him like he did for Cooper. Slim rubbed the back of his neck, a gesture Slim often made when he was overly tired or irritated. Slim nodded quickly toward the files and said, "I can't do it anymore, Will. You want to give me the Cliff Notes version or do I need to read the whole damned thing?"
Will knew in his gut that giving up Hitman was not a choice his father would be making now, not when he was in his prime. Behind the hardened expression, Will could see the anger and pain in his father's face. The details he'd pressed his father for over the phone no longer mattered to him. All he cared about was helping his father in any way possible. So, Will laid out, in brief, what he, Duff, and Camilla had agreed to in principle and what would need to happen if Slim agreed as well, right down to the lawyers, financial audits, and everything else.
Will gestured toward the papers. "This is just the quick and dirty version. We'll need to draw it up more formally. Rayne is talking to her dad about this too. The consensus was that it would be best all-around if neither of you had an interest in the business for Gemma to go after."
His dad drew a deep breath and exhaled before moving toward Will. Slim picked up the files, flipped through them, smiling occasionally, and then set them down. "For quick and dirty, this is pretty thorough."
"It's okay, kid. Just tell me where to sign."
Cooper and Beth Stanfield
103 Fire Island Road
Rayne parked her car in the space her mother normally used and slowly walked across the pavers outside her parents house. She was clutching the folder Will had given her, the one with the papers that had to be signed. She did not want to be here, did not want to do this, did not want to confront her father and demand that he sign papers. She had Camilla on one hand and her father on the other. One of them had lied to her, and this time she knew it had to be the man she had spent years protecting.
He looked around, a quick survey, his attention fractured. “Your mother wanted something different. It makes her happy to play around with the designs, and I like to make her happy.”
Well, that was thoughtful of him. He let her mother buy new houses to keep her happy. Rayne tossed the file on the table in front of the sofa and sat down. Like everything else here, it was new.
“Then I hope you bought her a whole lot of chairs.”
He was visibly stunned. At first, she thought he would strike back at her but he didn't, he just stood there. Smart ass he'd called her when she was a child. Don't be a smart ass he'd said.
"You're here for a reason Rayne and it's not to discuss your mother's furniture. You want to tell me in detail what Camilla dropped on you?"
She'd already told him. Will and Duff stood right there with her when she called him just in case she got something wrong, not that she needed them. They were selling the studio because Gemma Wilson was blackmailing her father. Gemma Wilson was taking revenge by going after his best friend, or something close enough to that to make no difference. It wasn't at all clear what her father intended to do about it, and she was afraid, deeply dreadfully afraid, that he intended to do nothing at all until someone forced him to.
"Along with her usual garble, Camilla said Gemma's blackmailing you and wants Slim's half of the studio or she'll tell all, whatever 'all' is. We have absolutely no time to fix this but you'd know that, wouldn't you. I'm here to try to make sure you clean up the mess before the world comes crashing down. I have paperwork. Will's at his father's house with similar paperwork. We need both of you to sign to sell the studio to keep Gemma from tearing things apart. I'm sure you know why. That's about it."
Cooper briefly stared down at her, eyes flashing, then he turned and walked into the kitchen. “Rainie can I get you coffee, something to eat?” He picked up a bottle of Jack and a glass as he waited for her to respond, looking at the counter, then put the glass back down, doing nothing, just staring at the counter, and her own temper flared.
“No, I don’t want coffee! Just a couple of hours ago Camilla of all the people in the world told me that whatever happened between you and Gemma Wilson really did happen and that it was bad enough to give her a way to blackmail you. She didn't trick you or overpower you or drug you or make something up. And on top of that, what's even worse, you're letting your best friend fall on his sword to save you! No, I do not want any of your damned coffee!”
Her father came back out of the kitchen and quietly sat down on the sofa and looked at her. They looked at each other, speechless, and she saw not anger but pain. “Rainie I’ve made mistakes, and yes, you're right, I wasn't honest, but at no time have I ever deliberately done anything to hurt you. I tried to shield my family from the consequences but made mistakes there too. I'm sorry, that's not nearly enough, but I am.”
She leaned forward in the chair, facing him directly and found her hands were shaking. “But Dad your best friend is losing what he spent his whole life building. You say you're sorry but what are you doing about that? Are you going to keep your half of the studio like nothing happened? Have staff meetings with Gemma? What is wrong with you?"
Rising from the chair, Rayne went to the fireplace and stood next to the fire like she'd done just a couple of hours ago with another fireplace in another home, tears hot on her face. This was her father, she didn't want to do this, somebody else should do this.
" I should not have to come over here to make you do something you should have done on your own. It's not fair, it's all inside out, you're my father, you're supposed to be telling me what to do, don't be a smart ass, don't go out with that guy, don't drive in the fog. You have to stop it. "
“I know Rainie. I'm sorry sweetheart, of course you shouldn't have to do any of this. I'm trying to find a way...find a way to keep hurting you, hurting everyone in my family. I'm so sorry.”
She bit her lip to stop crying and it didn't work, it never did. "You have to sign the paperwork. That's what you have to do and you have to do it tonight.”
"Of course I'll sign it. I'm not questioning that Rainie. Give the thing to me and I'll gladly sign it."
Rayne picked up the folder and put it down carefully on the dining table next to some blue flowers and Hugs' laptop. Will had marked them so she spread them out where he couldn't possibly miss the marks. Her father glanced at them then actually smiled. “Duff and Camilla?" He hesitated then shrugged his shoulders. "She's always had Slim's back so if he's okay with it, that's all that matters." He started signing, going down one page after another. "You mentioned fog. We've got fog and it's going to be a bitch tonight. Be careful driving back."
She was going home to Duff - fog wouldn't stop her. She watched her father use a pen from Hugs' little glass cup to sign away the studio he'd owned with Slim since they were younger than she was, the studio and everything that went with it, the ambitions and the dreams and the plans. He would keep his music and that was what made him who he was, not the studio, so what he was losing wasn't all that horrible. He scrawled his name across the page in his long angular handwriting: Cooper Stanfield. With that name on that paper, this would end, not a good end but an end.