Monday, 17 March 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast Chapter Ten

Victoire went on the record claiming her husband accidentally slipped and fell to his death. The press kept busy recapping Prentice’s stellar career, their lenses focused on the beautiful, grief-stricken widow.
    Willy Waites’ name was never mentioned. After he managed to calm Victoire the night of Peter’s suicide, he agreed to disappear before the police arrived on the scene. “God forbid they think you and I were in cahoots and pushed him overboard to get to his money,” she told him. “Stay away until it dies down. Please, I can’t risk losing you, too!”
 He kissed her goodbye and bolted back to his apartment shaking like a leaf. Willy understood how Victoire suffered from shock after seeing Peter commit suicide despite her attempts to dissuade him. Deep down he felt sorry for the man and realised the courage it took Prentice to spare his wife from an imminent scandal.
Willy tried to see Victoire but to no avail; his only contact with her was by phone. “Victoire, I need to see you even if it’s clear across the room. I’m miserable without you,” he said aching for his beloved’s touch.
    “Sweet, sweet Willy,” she cooed. “I barely sleep these days with everything I’ve lived through. I look like a wreck. My stepfather has arranged for me to spend two weeks in a clinic. It’s in Switzerland.”
    The last time Willy saw her was at Peter’s funeral two months earlier and at a considerable distance. “When are you leaving?”
    “Tomorrow.” She overheard his groan of pain.            
   “Promise me you’ll come to see me the minute I return? Please Willy?”
    Two weeks after her departure, Willy turned up with an engagement ring in his jacket pocket.  Instead of seeing her radiant face, he was greeted by movers. Later, he phoned the residence of Dr. and Mrs. Vestey, but he was told they were out of the country.
    That same week an article about Peter appeared in the local paper. It claimed his estimated worth was fifty million dollars, three of which went to an arthritic foundation in New York.
    Willy never heard from Victoire again, and he subsisted in a state of despondency. Family and friends rallied round to keep him from slipping away, but the broken-hearted man never revealed the name of his lover to another human being.
    Artemis eventually intervened and urged Willy’s partner to temporarily take over all administrative duties and allow Willy to immerse himself in the creative side of business.
    The arrangement paid off. The three-year retreat into his tormented mind unlocked keystone ideas that would revolutionize computer programming. A week before his thirtieth birthday, the shy, intelligent face of Willy Waites graced the covers of Newsweek and Time on the same week.
    Waites’ claim to fame was a software package called ViperSoft, used by banks worldwide used to keep track of individual financial transactions. His wealth ranked just behind the Sultan of Brunei.
    Willy and wife Julie, whom he met in the R & D department at Bassadai, became dedicated philanthropists. The couple had six children and was happily married. They shunned publicity, and their children attended local public schools in Atherton, California.
    Victoire’s career prospects later exceeded her expectations when she married the president of Bolivia. The pock marked dictator and his high society wife lived like king and queen of La Paz for ten years until a military coup resulted in the couple being gunned down as they tried to board an awaiting helicopter to flee the country.
A sizeable portion of country’s coffers was found in thirty-two pieces of designer luggage aboard the aircraft.
   Most recently, CNN reported an unexpected private donation of computers to Bolivia with the aim of facilitating the growth of democracy and getting the economy of the debt ravaged country back on its feet.

     The ten million dollar gift remained anonymous.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast End of Chapter Nine

Willy looked ill at ease at the far end of the dark wooden bar at the Silver Dollar and kept looking at his watch. Minutes ticked by as slow as molasses. His nerves made him jumpy. Four minutes to nine, the twenty-seven-year-old put down the rest of his lukewarm beer in one gulp and took off into the night.
    Heavy fog hung inches from the ground on the moonless night making it difficult to see more than a few feet ahead. “Shit!” he cried, barely missing a large raccoon crossing the road. He opened the window and shivered.
    I should have never left her alone, he thought, biting hard on his lip. I should have been more of a man and insisted on waiting outside in case things turned ugly.
    He imagined Peter screaming at her or worse yet, reacted violently at being exposed. His foot pressed harder on the gas pedal.
    “Damn it!” He pounded his fist on the steering wheel. He would confront Peter. After all, Victoire agreed to marry him as soon as the divorce came through. She even hinted about starting a family.
    He almost missed the turn off to the Prentice house. He hit the brakes, put the car in reverse and made a sharp left turn towards the jagged coast.  When their parked cars became visible, Willy swerved to one side and immediately switched off the lights. He put on his parka and stepped into the dark.
    The entire coast was socked in. Aside from the occasional distant foghorn, an eerie silence enveloped the night. Willy heard no voices, no screams. His eyes adjusted to the surrounding darkness, and he listened for a while longer before making his way around to the back.
    Shadows leapt up when the winds blew and startled him. Willy nearly lost his footing on a bush and fell against the side of the house with a thud. “Shit!” He hunkered down for a few minutes before continuing. Sweat trickled down his back.
Suddenly, the thought of facing Prentice unnerved him. Not only was Peter one of the top men in the industry he was still Victoire’s husband. He was wealthy, very well connected and powerful, very powerful. Willy groaned but carried onward, grinding his teeth.

# # # #

    A lonely hurricane lamp shone on the deck table like a warning beacon. Peter watched as Victoire suddenly got up and walked outside towards the light with the unearthly gait of a sleepwalker.
    But Victoire was anything but asleep. Time was running out. She knew Willy would turn up soon and didn’t want him to stumble into any unfinished business. She had to get Peter onto the deck while he was in shock and still malleable.
    “Victoire?” Peter’s voice grew closer. She hurried to the edge then turned around. She looked like a ghost against the moonless background. Waves slapped hard against the rocks below. Cypresses creaked and swayed like hunched giants heightening the surrealism.
    “Peter we’re ruined,” she cried. “There’s nothing left.” She turned away from him and gripped onto the railing.
    “Victoire, no, don’t say that,” he countered, taking her by the arm. She was shaking.
“If I’d been a better wife, if I’d paid more attention, you would have been happier,” she replied with sorrow. “I caused this, I must have-Oh God help us!”
    Her young face looked so stricken, her tone so bittersweet, so wrenchingly convincing. Peter instantly made his decision. He was ruined, and there was no possible way out for him.
    “Victoire, I caused this. Do you understand?” He grabbed her forcefully by the shoulders. Her eyes widened. “I’m to blame, no one else.”
    She placed her cold palms against chest. “Oh, Peter I want to get through this awful nightmare, but how?” she pleaded. “Help me!”
    The wild pounding of his heart became deafening, He gave her a quick last kiss, grabbed the railing and threw one leg over it. Victoire took a step back. Peter put the other leg over and said, “I didn’t kill the man, tell them. Do it for me!” The narrow edge was slippery. Peter looked down at the raging surf below frozen with terror. The cliff side glistened under the spotlights. He let go of one hand and was about to let go of the other when Willy came running towards them from the side of the house and screamed her name.
    She spun around, startled. “Willy?!”
    “Waites?” Peter cried out at the same time.
The face of the cliff appeared smoky under the glare of the lights.
    Victoire spun back around to face Peter and caught the penny drop in his red-rimmed eyes. Before Willy ruined her perfect plan, she hurled herself towards Peter screaming hysterically at the top of her lungs. Peter not only jumped out of skin, he accidentally let go of the railing and dropped from sight.
His wife watched in morbid fascination as Peter’s body ricocheted off the side of the cliff and became impaled on a sharp boulder below.
    Then she covered her eyes and shrieked, “Peter, no!!!”

Willy looked over the edge and saw waves wash over Prentice’s broken body. The tip of the sharp rock protruded from his bloody abdomen.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Shebug Origin: West Coast End of Chapter Eight

“Peter, you’re whoring around—with men! What do you expect me to think, let alone feel?”
    Oh my God, whom has she spoken with? Who else knows about the photographs? Why was I stupid enough to keep them?
“I know you’re in shock. I’ll, I’ll do all in my power to fix this somehow. Just, please, don’t do anything rash, Victoire. Please!” She’ll want a divorce.
    “But I’m afraid I have to, Peter. I’ve trusted you, gave you space, never questioned anything.” Her voice sounded frail.
    She’ll seek legal advice, and they’ll talk her into exposing me unless I agree to a huge settlement.
    His palms glistened with perspiration. He longed for air to think more clearly. “Have you spoken to anybody else?”
    “Do you mean have I told anybody about this or are you worried I might have seen a lawyer?” she asked accusingly. “No, Peter, how can you even think that?” She shook her head. “What do you take me for, a cold-blooded bitch?” Her hands tightened into fists. “I’m hurt, angry and scared beyond words but have been compassionate enough to keep my mouth shut!”
    Peter breathed an inner sigh of relief. “Victoire, if I told you it was a one off, crazy, regretful night, would you believe me?”
    She gasped. “Now you chose to insult me? Peter, please stop this, I can’t take any more of this. At least have the decency of telling me the truth!”
    He couldn’t argue the point. She was an intelligent woman whom he respected and whose company he enjoyed thoroughly. He took another sip of wine, but the bouquet turned sour in his mouth.
   He sat down and put his head between his hands. “Victoire, my lovely Victoire.” He sighed deeply. “I should have never married you. It wasn’t fair to you.” He looked at her with honest eyes. “At the beginning I tried to be a good husband. I swear to you, I tried.” He shook his weary head very slowly. “I have to accept all responsibility for my actions. I know I’ve let you down but I hope you’ll be forgiving, Victoire. It won’t mean much right now, but I do love you.” He did in his own way. “I’ll give you anything you want. All I ask is that we keep this secret, my secret, between ourselves.”
    She had no doubt he would take good care of her. She could have struck a very lucrative deal. But she was heady with power, consumed by greed and wasn’t about to settle for anything less than the entire pie.
    She walked over and knelt in front of him poised to unleash the final blow.
    “You know I would have never exposed your secrets, Peter.” A tear trickled down her cheek and landed on his knee. “But I’m afraid there’s so much more at stake here. You see,” she reached for his hands, “I’m afraid it’s no longer up to me now.”  Her colourless lips quivered.
    He looked at her quizzically. “What are you saying?”  She rose, walked back to a glass table and pulled out another envelope from her handbag.
“If this gets out, it’s going to kill your mother, Peter!” She handed it to him and burst into tears.
    Spooked, his shaky fingers opened it up. She watched his expression of quiet horror as he leafed through Willy’s stash. “Where did you get you get this? What is going on here?” She never heard a grown man’s voice tremble before.
    “Somebody is blackmailing us, Peter! They have the negatives and say they’re going to hang you publicly unless we pay them whatever they ask for, for as long as they ask.” She looked like a terrified doe.
“Was there a note?” he croaked. His heart had accelerated to a dangerous speed.
    Victoire put both hands over her rising chest. “No! I got a call this morning after you’d left for the office. I was told to see what they’d left me on the front steps.” She pointed to the envelope. “He said something about it being your comeuppance and how he was going to make us pay for the rest of our days!” The fright in her eyes echoed in her voice. She blew her nose, and took an extra beat for a more dramatic effect.. “I tried to trace the blackmailer’s call, but I couldn’t.”
     “Dear God,” Peter cried. He had lived long enough to know that in the game of blackmail victims never won. A surreal state took possession him. Time ceased to exist, and things seemed to move in slow motion. Wine laced with bile rose in his throat. He gagged and swallowed hard.
Victoire gasped. “Oh, Peter, what do we do? Tell me you didn’t kill anybody, please, tell me you didn’t!” She covered her face and leaned against his chest like a child. “Please make it all go away, I beg you!”
    “No, I didn’t kill anybody, as God is my witness.” His throat constricted uncomfortably. Victoire clung to him. Stupefied, he stroked her loose hair.
    The threat was no longer the exposure of his homosexuality but of being accused of murder. His brain flapped about like a fish out of water looking for solutions. No matter how this situation played out in court, he knew no lawyer in the country could save him from the humiliation.
    Bitter reality stared him in the face. Peter’s head sunk into his shoulders, like an old turtle: he would be permanently disgraced, on national television no less. His mother would collapse under the pressure of the news before the callous scrutiny of the press even knocked on her door.
    The damp night’s breeze brushed his stony face, and he looked up slowly. Victoire stood by the open window, her platinum hair blowing in the wind looking like a forlorn child, dejected and resigned. He hadn’t even felt her walk off. The logs in the fireplace cracked and spat angrily at the invading wind. A handful of glossies jumped up at floated about the room in a macabre dance.

    Victoire held onto the door and turned to look at the thundering surf. “It’s over, Peter. You won’t survive this scandal no matter how much we fight it. God knows who else out there knows! She looked away and cried out, “I’m scared, Peter, I’m so scared!” She fell to the floor in a heap and wept.