"No, Son, I was just reading through some briefs. What is it?"
"Seems we have a problem. Long version: Zeus has been contacting Sam without our permission or knowledge and wants him back. Short version, I'm going to kill him."
"Todd, slow down, Lad. What exactly happened?"
Todd filled Timothy in on the recent events, and the older man let him give all the details. Todd's voice was filled with ire and disgust, and Timothy could hear it. The older man said, "Well, ya have a case to put a restraining order on the man. He's terrorizing the boy."
"Okay, is that where I start?"
"Yes, I will file it immediately with the Llanview Family Court."
"Todd, don't go and hurt him, threaten him or show yourself to be a violent man. If ya do, ya run the risk of proving him right. Ya can't behave like Peter and prove y'ar not. Do ya understand?"
Todd swallowed. He wanted nothing more than to run off in the copter and land in Zeus' yard and strangle him slowly to death. "I hear you."
"That's not what I asked ya."
He relented. "I understand."
"I want ya to promise me."
"I don't think I can do that. When I think of Sam, so afraid, scared to sleep, and how he's been manipulating him, I just want to squeeze The So-Called Magician's pencil neck until it breaks."
"Make sure I'm the only one that ya say that to," Timothy said.
"Of course. He's going to be looking to prove that Sam is in more danger with ya than he would be with them. It's typical. In fact, ya know enough about this from y'ar own past with Blair."
"Karma: it's a bitch."
"When I think about how afraid Sam is, I just see myself. It's . . . he's just like I was. Terrified. Not what a young kid should be, you know?"
"Yes, I know. I'll get on this restraining order immediately. Zeus may possibly be brought up on charges of risk of injury to a minor. I'll check. Just stay put, stay with Blair, don't do anything rash, Lad."
Todd didn't answer. Again, his plan of squeezing the life out of Zeus would have to wait. "What about Ribsky and the case?"
Timothy rolled his eyes and sighed. "Oh, that, well, I am not feeling it, is that the expression?"
"Hmf, it is. Why not?"
"He's obsessed, Todd. No good can come from it. He's putting himself into his work to avoid dealing with Pamela's death. He wants ya to send the police roster to him. He asked me to do the funeral arrangements and contact his son, Lucas."
"Whoa, wait a minute, that's odd, huh? I can see why you're not feelin' it."
"No. In fact, I felt he might be headed for something . . . possibly a breakdown."
Todd was concerned, and said, "Well, maybe with time."
"Time? Can ya imagine y'arself without Blair, Todd? I couldn't imagine life without Erin, and it happened."
He swallowed, and didn't like that his father brought up precisely what he was envisioning. "No, I can't. And let's not dwell on that. I'll send the roster. Just help the guy out, if you can."
"I'll do what I'm able. And stay away from Zeus Zelenko."
He sat, in the motel room he rented, with a can of beer in front of him, and a half-eaten pizza. Connie's journals were piled up on the table, and the curtains were drawn. "There has to be more here, somewhere, something in passing about a cop, who was maybe on the take, a friend . . . come on, Connie, old girl . . ."
He paged through the oldest volume, which would have placed Todd at 16. "That's a far cry from 6, old man," he said to himself. He thumbed through, stopping here and there to read his sister-in-law's flamboyant script.
I met his son today: Todd. He's a blustering sort of mess of hair and attitude. Not quite my cup of tea. There's something between them that's not quite readable. Whatever it is, I sense the boy is damaged or spoiled, one or the other, and I can always see something like fear in his eyes when he's spoken to by Peter. Other than that, Peter seems to be quite a find. He knows how to treat a woman, and definitely spares no expense when we go out. I'll have to give it more time, of course, but he's wealthy, and respected in the community. What more could a girl ask?"Hmf. She was totally taken in there. So blind to the truth about the guy. You should have looked around the basement, Connie, and seen what respect looks like." He turned a few more pages. There were a few doodles along the edges of some of them, and sometimes scribbles where the dates were. He stopped and read more:
Peter seems to have the respect of everyone. His son answers his every beck and call, it seems, and does what he is asked. He's rather quiet, at times, but knows his place. Today, something odd did happen. Peter mentioned, briefly, a court proceeding regarding a follow-up to a probationary period for Todd. When I asked about it, Peter was very angry and didn't want to discuss it. Seems Todd may have gotten into some kind of trouble when he was younger, a few years back. I guess that's the norm nowadays with these teens. Ungrateful and wanting everything when they want it."Looks like your sister Pamela had the brains," he said, and reached for the beer. As he sipped, he fought not to let his mind go to his dead wife, or what had happened to her.
"I'm looking for Lucas Ribsky?" Timothy said, and a woman asked him to hold on.
"Is this Lucas?"
"I'm very sorry for y'ar loss. I am a friend of y'ar father's. My name is Timothy Broderick. I'm afraid y'ar father has asked me to take care of funeral arrangements and to call ya. However, I have just met him, not long ago, and barely know the family. I felt ya should know that he is not faring well with the loss."
"I know. I can tell, and I have to apologize Mr. Broderick, for him putting the responsibility on you, as if you could even be considered responsible."
"I don't mind helping at all, y'ar father and I are involved in an important case, which is connected to y'ar mother's death."
"I know. It's all he talks about. We have the arrangements in gear, working on it."
"If I can be of help, I would be glad to."
"We could use a pall bearer, if you can."
"I can. And I will. Thank ya for the honor of including me."
"No, thank you. My father needs a friend right now. I can barely speak to him. He cuts me off, talks about this case, and nothing more. I'm assuming the man who he's searching the information for is your son, Mr. Broderick?"
"My dad seems to be . . . out of control. It's all he talks of, and then he hangs up. He won't discuss my mother with me. In fact, I barely know what happened to her, and why."
"Well, I guess I see the reason, then, that I'm in touch with ya. If you'll allow me, I'll meet with ya and discuss it. I can shed some light on it, and we can at least put a face with a name?"
"Yes, that would be fine. Tomorrow, at the diner?"
"Certainly," he had already been there, once, and that was with Ribsky.
"All right, say 9 a.m.?"
Yes, I'll be there. Goodnight, and my condolences."
"Thank you," he said.
Timothy sighed. "Dear Goodness, the poor family," he said, and dialed. "Creena, are ya busy?"
"No, Broham, what is it?"
"I'm stuck in a muddle. Thought ya could help me." He went on to explain everything that had happened since his return to Chicago and the current state of affairs with Ribsky and his family.
"This sounds very sad, and not particularly healthy for the man. Is there anything ya can do?" she asked.
"No, I can only support him and his family, I suppose. They've asked me to carry the dead, I've agreed. Ribsky is nowhere; I haven't been able to locate him in the last few hours or so. His son is also concerned."
"Oh dear. What can I do for ya, then?"
"I supposed just y'ar usual sisterly advice, is all."
"Well, I can do that, Broham."
"I know, that's why I called ya, Dear One."
"Watch over Todd, don't underestimate what all this has done to him."
"I wouldn't. He's my first concern. But I'm feeling he's all right."
"Perhaps this man, Jack, needs to do this his way? Perhaps he needs this to get over his loss?"
"He may. It's just a bit strange at times. As if he can't think of anything else."
"Possibly he can't. But at least he's committed, eh?"
Timothy hadn't thought of that.
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