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Authors: Darryl Nyznyk

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BOOK: Mary’s Son
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Mary had lifted Billy and followed the twins to the window to see Jared staring after Nicholas, who walked back to the car. She recognized Nicholas immediately as the man who had so enthralled the children at the mall just the day
before. She walked to the front door and called out to her son as the car drove off.

“Jared, what was that all about?” she asked.

“Nothing, Mom. He was just asking directions,” Jared responded.

Mary didn’t believe him but knew she would not get to the truth in front of his friends.

“It’s time to eat,” she said to get him away from his friends. “You boys can talk later.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Mary frowned and turned from the door.

Jared rejoined his friends, and M.J. asked, “Wasn’t that the Santa from the mall?”

“He knows something,” Jared whispered pensively. He tried to understand how Nicholas could know anything. He’d never met the man. And even if Hank’s girlfriend had told the man what was going down, he couldn’t have linked it to Jared because she didn’t know him.

Burner sidled up to his friend and whispered nervously, “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. But he knows something,” said Jared.

“Hey, punks…you ready?” Hammer’s uncle Hank walked up the driveway at that instant and glanced up the street at the car’s disappearing taillights. “What’s with the old guy?”

“He was talking to Jared,” Hammer responded.

“What about?”

“Nothing,” said Jared. “It’s not important.”

“The fancy old dude didn’t come here for nothing,” said Hank threateningly.

“Jared thinks he knows something,” Burner said.

“Oh, give me a break,” said Hank. “Are you girls chickenin’ out? He don’t know nothin’…unless one of you talked.” He turned to Hammer and grabbed him. “Did you talk, nephew?”

“No!” squealed Hammer. “Oww, that hurts.”

“Leave him alone, Hank. He hasn’t talked,” said Jared.

Hank glared at Hammer for a second and then shoved him away. “So what’s this about?”

“I told you…nothing…we’re ready. That’s all,” Jared said, angry at Hank’s intrusion. “Look, I gotta go in and eat. I’ll see you guys at eight o’clock.”

 

AS she stared out the rear window at the receding figure of Jared Roberts, Sarah cried out in one long, frantic breath, “Those are the boys who attacked me! Call the police! Nicholas, we need to call the police.”

 

When she received no response, she turned and saw sadness on his face for the first time. It struck her that perhaps
Nicholas already knew everything she was so frantic about and that the concern written on his face was for that and something she could not yet understand.

- 9 -
 

The grounds of the Stone mansion were awash with lights and decorations of the season as expectations of a wonderful evening filled the air. Valets parked cars while tuxedoed doormen escorted guests through the mansion to a large, brightly lit room with open French doors, which led into a large tent in the backyard. Christmas music was being played by a dance band on a stage under the tent, and tables were beautifully set for dinner around a large dance floor. As people began to mingle, several of the unattached women searched for Jonas Stone, the most eligible widower in Penford Heights. But he was nowhere to be found.

 

 

IN his room Nicholas knelt before a crucifix lying on the end table by his bed. He wore a perfectly fitting black tuxedo, which had appeared in much the same way his umbrella, suit, and shoes had previously appeared…with a little help
from his friends. Although he looked dapper with the contrast between the black suit and the snow white hair and beard, the sadness he’d felt upon leaving Jared was evident. His hands were clasped tightly before him, and his head was bowed.

 

“I’m going to need some help with the boy. Please guide my hand, Lord.”

He rose slowly, dusted his knees off, and struggled to regain the strength he knew he would need with both Sarah and Jared. Although Sarah’s apparent conversion at the children’s home was reason for great happiness, Nicholas knew her mind and soul were still fragile. Her reaction to Jared, although somewhat expected, was still troubling. He had hoped she’d be a little more subdued, perhaps even understanding of the difficult living conditions with which the boy was confronted daily. He feared Sarah’s mood might still be changed by her father, and he prayed that Jonas would not let her down this night.

Nicholas turned when he heard a knock at his door. It opened slowly, and Stevens entered.

“The guests are arriving, Sir.” The butler stopped short and stared hard at Nicholas, who rose slowly to his feet.

“What is it, Jonathan? Is something wrong?”

“Nothing wrong, Sir.” Stevens smiled broadly, shaking his head. “You look…well, the suit looks very good on you.”

Nicholas chuckled and glanced down at himself. “I suppose it does. Perhaps we should get Sarah and join the guests.”

 

IN his office Jonas Stone stared angrily at Tom Burns, his balding, middle-aged business broker.

“What is this, Tom?” he asked. “A joke?” He slammed his open palm on his desk, stood up, and shot piercing glances back and forth between the two stiff businessmen sitting in front of him, next to Burns.

One of the businessmen, Mr. Kagumo, leaned forward and spoke in a deep, stilted voice. “It is no joke, Mr. Stone. We received word today from Tokyo that our company cannot proceed with the transaction.”

When Tom Burns first brought the trading conglomerate from Tokyo to his office more than nine months earlier, Jonas had been leery of a potential partnership. Mokai, Ltd. was well regarded in international trade but known as a tough negotiator…and, perhaps even worse, was ruthless when the company hierarchy believed a competitor was desperate. Jonas’s initial concern had been that Mokai would carry its ruthlessness over to its partnership as well. It was that concern that was suddenly being realized.

As Jonas stared at Kagumo and his associate, the commitments he’d already made in anticipation of the signing raced through his head: hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer and accounting fees, negotiated and soon to be executed marketing and distribution agreements in the United States and Europe, and commitments of fully a quarter of his company’s intellectual and productive capacity to a project that could result in enormous annual profits over a period of the next fifteen years. Yet with one sentence from Mr. Kagumo, it was over. Nine months of day-and-night effort were gone.

“We were supposed to be signing tomorrow, Mr. Kagumo,” Jonas seethed but tried to maintain control. “You’re telling me the company cannot proceed?”

Mr. Kagumo leaned back uneasily. “Yes, Mr. Stone. We have no choice at this time,” he said, less authoritatively.

Jonas realized anger would not change anyone’s mind. He turned and walked away from his desk to calm himself. Even though he had to control his anger, they needed to understand his displeasure and convey it to their bosses at home. Somehow, he had to win this deal back. There was still time, but he had to be firm.

“You tell them this business will proceed whether Mokai is part of it or not.” Jonas believed that Mokai’s withdrawal was another negotiating tactic. If they believed Jonas could
make the deal work without Mokai’s involvement, they might come back to the table. The truth from Jonas’s perspective was that without Mokai the deal was dead. He had to take the chance that they’d believe he could do it without them. “You tell your home office that.”

Before Mr. Kagumo could respond, Jonas spoke quickly with more confidence than he really felt.

“Well, gentlemen, if that is your final word…I thank you for coming here today. It’s a shame you’re too busy to stay for the party.” He then shook their hands perfunctorily and turned to Tom Burns.

“Tom, you can show these gentlemen out.”

“Jonas, I’m…” started Tom.

“I’ll talk to you later,” interrupted Jonas with a look that withered him.

 

JARED slipped a black-hooded sweatshirt over his head. His mother eyed him warily. Her fear that her son would follow the same path so many young men from the slums had followed to a life of oblivion was being realized before her eyes. She knew Jared loved her, his sisters, and his brother, Billy. But she also knew her son’s stubbornness. Once he decided upon a path, he could not be deterred. Although she didn’t
know what he had planned, she felt it was no good, and she was afraid.

 

“It’s almost seven o’clock. Can’t you stay with the family tonight?”

“I’m meeting the guys, Mom,” Jared responded sullenly, without looking at his mother.

“Can’t you forget the guys for one night? I’d like to spend some time with you and talk. I know it’s been tough on you since your father left. But you’re still part of us. We need you.”

“I’ll be home early…I promise.”

“I’m worried for you,” said Mary. “Those other boys are lost. Don’t let them take you down.”

“Don’t worry about me, Mom. I’ll be all right,” the boy said before finally looking into his mother’s eyes. He wanted to hug her and reassure her, but he couldn’t. He was not sure of himself and what he was about to do. All he knew was that it was his only choice…the only thing he could do to help his mother and siblings. Since he was the man in the house now, it truly was his only choice.

“I gotta go. I’ll see you later,” he said and walked out the door.

Mary rushed to the window, parted a tattered curtain, and stared at her son. She began to cry and pray softly, “Please take care of my boy, Lord.”

BOOK: Mary’s Son
8.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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