Spark , Stone – Ch. 30

Amateur

Chapter Thirty – Traitorous Little Bastard

“How come they agreed to see you in such short notice?” Harry questioned, as they rode in the elevator together.

“Let’s say I made them an offer they can’t refuse,” Heathcliff said thinly, and opened the folder in his hand for Harry to see the content.

His agent whistled. “Talking about being caught red-handed. Not only written in black and white, but written by hand. Do we know, with certainty, to whom this handwriting belongs?”

“Not with one hundred percent certainty, but our odds look good. And the fact that this meeting was accepted so fast says everything that’s not written here in black and white. Plus, we have a nice looking signature, too.”

Harry smiled. “And how come such sensitive information landed in your care?”

“Let’s just say I had help from the inside,” Heathcliff replied with a small grimace.

Harry’s smile faded. “There will be repercussions for the said help, without a doubt.”

“Not if I’m on it,” Heathcliff replied.

He could hide his restlessness from Harry like usual, by smiling and shrugging it all off, but, in truth, he was worried, and not for himself.

As soon as they stepped out of the elevator, they were taken over by an assistant in a pencil skirt and high heels. Heathcliff looked over the rows of cubicles, hoping to see a familiar face, but he was almost dragged along by the assistant before he could catch of glimpse of anything of the kind.

Harry tried to sit on the uncomfortable chair offered, but Heathcliff chose to stand. Without any introduction, he placed the folder in front of their host and opened it. “I suppose it wouldn’t look pretty if I were to release this to the press, right?”

The man looked away. “It’s just a piece of forgery.”

“Don’t worry; we could always have a graphologist look closely into this handwriting. And signature.”

The other seemed to waver. “What do you want?” he eventually said.

“Disclose this. It’s your mess; you clean it up.”

“Sure, sure,” the man replied with a frown. “Well, if you don’t give a damn what I’m going to throw along with the trash …” he let his words trail off on purpose.

The assistant in pencil skirt hurried to tap something on a laptop and turned the screen toward Heathcliff. He schooled his face into a neutral expression as he watched Aidan coming out of what appeared to be the same office as he was in, with a suspiciously looking folder under his arm.

“We could prosecute. Should. It’s theft and a felony.”

“And I’d say that’s just a concerned citizen making the right choice,” Heathcliff said airily. “No, you’re not playing this how you want.”

“I’m not going to disclose the content of this document,” Aidan’s boss replied, pushing the folder away with two fingers like it was some wild animal ready to bite him. “It would lead to important losses. I think we could negotiate something, though.”

“So, you won’t prosecute Aidan Spark in exchange for what?”

“We bury this.”

“No way,” Heathcliff said aggressively.

“Then he goes to trial. I suppose your apparent attachment to this person was a sham, after all,” the man leaned back into his chair.

Heathcliff exchanged a short look with Harry. His agent began talking. “Seeing that no one was hurt, we could settle for a simple press release regarding an incident at the factory where the product is made. You could just blame it on technology and misunderstandings along the manufacturing chain.”

It wasn’t exactly the solution he was looking for, but, given the circumstances, Heathcliff had to admit that there wasn’t much he could do. Without words, he thanked Harry by nodding slightly.

“And you don’t show this to anyone.” Heathcliff pointed at the screen.

“Agreed.” The other placed one greedy hand over the folder, but Heathcliff was quick to pull it from under his fingers.

“This stays with me,” Heathcliff said.

“That’s not exactly what we agreed on.”

“You could have made copies of this little movie,” Heathcliff replied.

“You have my word I haven’t.”

“Ah, well, I’m sorry if I don’t believe this to be some gentlemen’s agreement, at this point. Let’s settle for mutually assured destruction.”

“All right. I don’t like it, but all right. So you’ll continue with our contract, as usual.”

Heathcliff shook his head. “No. That is terminated, starting now.”

“You’ll have to pay compensation for that.”

“Twenty-five percent, and that’s all. And only because I feel I should have looked into your shitty product closer and seen what crap was in it.”

“All right.” The man rocked back into his chair, showing his frustration. “Anything else?”

“Aidan Spark keeps his job,” Heathcliff said promptly.

He hoped Aidan would listen to reason now and agree to let him find something more suitable for employment. But Heathcliff didn’t want him hurt in any way.

“Oh, it would be a little too late for that,” the man replied, and a broad nasty smile lit up his face. “Aidan Spark is no longer our görükle escort employee. He sent his resignation by e-mail this morning. He also stated clearly that he wouldn’t ask for references. Not that he would have received any, seeing how he didn’t even bother to give us notice of this,” he added with a snort.

Heathcliff kept a cool face. “Good. I doubt your word would equal the value of a dead skunk.”

“I am someone in this industry, Mr. Stone,” the other said, his smile turning crooked.

“Hopefully, not for long.”

“You promised.”

“Don’t worry; I won’t be your downfall. But one day, you will slip, and badly. And then I’ll make some popcorn and sit in front of the TV watching you being dragged through the mud, as you deserve.”

With that, Heathcliff turned on his heels and made a small sign with his chin for Harry to follow. His agent struggled to get up from the uncomfortable chair and hurried after him.

“You won’t scold me for terminating the contract, right?” Heathcliff asked.

“No. I wouldn’t dare. I may be from a different generation, but I do understand how things work in the world right now. Your reputation is still at stake.”

“I’m glad you’re taking this so well. Your commission will not be affected; don’t worry.”

“No. You don’t worry,” Harry said as he put one hand on his forearm. “I’m with you through thick and thin, so you don’t have to overpay me. Are we looking for other venues right now?”

“I think I’m done with all this corporate bullshit, for a while, at least. I’m thinking more along the lines of starting my own business,” Heathcliff replied.

“That’s good,” Harry agreed. “And if you need me for anything -“

“I have your number. And I will count on you, without a doubt.”

Dealing with the boss at The Healthy Shakers had left a bad taste in his mouth. Now he needed to find Aidan, and fast. Heathcliff couldn’t accept to be avoided forever, even though that seemed to be happening.

***

“Are you sure?” Isabel asked as Aidan moved his luggage from one hand to another. “I’m certain that there are plenty of opportunities around, still, for someone as hardworking as you.”

“I need to rethink my life, Bella. At least for some time, until I understand what the hell I want to do with it.”

“What would your folks say?”

Aidan shrugged. “They won’t kick me out the door, that’s for sure. And I really need some time to think things over. I know they wouldn’t want me to work for such dishonest people, either.”

“There was nothing in the papers, no scandal, nothing. Just that lame press release you showed me. And Heathcliff’s apologies for the whole thing, despite it not being his fault.”

He grimaced at that.

“What did you think happened?” Isabel questioned. “By what you told me, there should have been some huge fireworks.”

“I have no idea,” Aidan replied. “They didn’t come after me, either, and I was prepared for that, too.”

“That’s actually a good thing,” Isabel said.

“Well, maybe, but I don’t feel that heroic right now. I did the right thing, but maybe I should have been the one to expose everything, instead of passing the responsibility to Heathcliff Stone.”

“He sounded genuine in his apology,” Isabel pointed out.

“I don’t know. I mean, yes, he did sound genuine. But there’s no doubt he reached some understanding with those creeps. And that means that I don’t know him that well. Maybe I never did.”

“Maybe he negotiated so that you didn’t get hurt in the process,” Isabel expressed her opinion.

“Somehow, I doubt it. I was the one to break up with him, so there was no reason for him to do anything for me in exchange,” Aidan said. “As for his apologies, I guess he chose what was most practical to stop bleeding subscribers.”

“You make it sound like he’s a cynical man, and I don’t think he is,” Isabel insisted.

“He’s great at making a good impression on people.”

Isabel pursed his lips. “Aidan, are you still in love with this guy?”

Aidan looked away. “Why would I be? I mean … I’m not!”

“You sound angry with him. Did you expect him to destroy your ex-employer or something?”

“I guess I did. But, as I said, maybe I don’t know him that well, or at all if I think about it.”

Isabel shook his head. “I choose to believe that he struck a deal to save your ass.”

“Always the optimist, Bella. He must have done it for himself, and despite what you may want to say, I’m okay with that.”

“He stopped endorsing those shitty drinks. That’s enough proof for me that he didn’t do it for himself. C’ mon, Aidan; he would have kept the money. That would have been dishonest on his part. As far as I can tell, he made the best out of a bad situation. And yes, I say it again, save your ass in the process.”

“He should have pushed those assholes in front of the moving train while the opportunity was there,” Aidan said through his teeth, feeling his frustration growing again.

Over the last days, he had turned off his phone only to stop Heathcliff bursa escort bayan from calling him. At the same time, he was grateful for never telling Heathcliff his address so that the man couldn’t pester him in person. He had gone out of his way to find that incriminating evidence, and, in the end, Heathcliff hadn’t used it. Aidan wanted to scream in frustration. After all, it had been all in vain, and he was out of a job, without any prospects of being hired someplace else, and on the way back home, to his folks.

But it was all right. At least, that was his choice, and he would use the time off to figure out what he wanted to do.

“I’ll miss you, you know,” Isabel said, seeing how she couldn’t move him from his convictions.

“I’ll miss you, too,” he replied and hurried to hug her.

It was easier to run away at this point, but he wouldn’t admit it to himself. There was much he left behind if he chose to think of it, but not enough to make him stay. The only one time he had decided to do something for Heathcliff, something grand and heroic, and the man had simply said ‘no, thanks’ through his actions.

At least, The Healthy Shakers must have been shaking a little in their designer shoes. Aidan couldn’t bet that they wouldn’t do it again, but, at least, he wouldn’t be a part of it anymore. Now, he needed to look for what the future held, as scary and uncertain as it was, and put a lock on his heart that was continuously demanding that he should stay. Traitorous little bastard.

***

“Are you trying to tell me that you can’t find him?” Michael questioned him while scratching one ear in confusion. “We’re living in an era of technology, with satellites, and who knows what else watching us while we wipe our asses and pick our noses.”

Heathcliff sighed. “He turned off his phone completely. I tend to believe that he threw it in a trashcan somewhere. Also, do you know how many people with the name Spark are in this city alone?”

“Have you tried his address?”

“It was hard to obtain it from those assholes, but I did, only to learn that he terminated his contract and left.”

“Most probably, he went back to his parents,” Michael said.

“Seeing how he doesn’t seem to be anywhere in this city, I suppose so,” Heathcliff admitted.

“And you have no idea where his parents live.” Michael looked at him with reproach over the table. “Seriously, Heath, did you guys only fuck while you were together? How come you don’t know the first thing about your precious bunny boy?”

“I do know a lot of things!” Heathcliff protested right away. “I know what he likes, and what foods are on top of his list, and what side of the bed he sleeps on, and -“

“You don’t know where his parents live, Heath. C’ mon, don’t beat around the bush. You blew it,” Michael taunted him.

Heathcliff huffed in frustration. “Are you going to help me, or you’re just going to stand there, feeling righteous, and enjoying torturing me?”

Michael smiled. “All right. I admit I’ve had my fun. Now, let’s think a little. Social media? Any proof of life?”

“He didn’t like using it that much. Except for some photos, and the last entry from like eight months ago, there’s nothing there.”

Michael nodded slowly, and his eyelids dropped, looking very philosophic all of a sudden.

“Why are you nodding? Are you impersonating someone?”

“Hush, I’m trying to kick my detective brain into gear.”

“Really? Does it usually take long? Or are you still making fun of me?”

“No. It actually takes little. There is plenty on social media that you’re not even aware of. For instance, a list of friends.”

“Ah,” Heathcliff said, feeling suddenly struck by genius. “So I should just ask his friends about him! That’s brilliant!”

“Not all friends, and don’t turn into a spammer and a virtual stalker just yet. We need to find out who his best friends are and start there.”

“There is actually a girl who’s in most pictures with him,” Heathcliff said. “What was her name now?” He pondered, looking at the ceiling as if the answer was written there.

“A girl? And aren’t you worried?” Michael teased him.

“Shut up,” Heathcliff said, but he was smiling already.

There was a chance to find Aidan, after all, and that, without going through every Spark in the yellow pages. Now he needed to contact the girl in Aidan’s pictures, and go from there.

***

“You’re not eating enough,” his mom scolded him as he stood up from the table.

“I’m full, mom,” Aidan replied.

“Let the boy be,” his dad intervened. “Stop being such a mother hen.”

“He needs to eat,” his mom insisted. “Look at him. He’s all pale.”

“I’m okay,” Aidan said again. “I don’t want to bother you.”

“Nonsense!” His mom eventually took the plates from the table. “We told you. Life in a big city is not all that is cracked up to be. There are many bad people there.”

“Marianne, leave the boy alone.”

“Joe, I thought we were on the same page.” His mom turned toward his dad, her hands on bursa escort her hips.

Great. He had been home for only a few days, and his parents were already fighting over him. Nothing was new, and even that felt a little like home, but right now, he felt so tired on the inside that he only wanted to head to sleep and forget about the world until the next morning. It wasn’t the entire world he wanted to forget about, though, but someone in particular who seemed to appear in his thoughts uninvited whenever he tried to rest.

“And he saw it all for himself. Don’t worry, Aidan; your mom and I will take care of everything. We’ll find you a job, somewhere around here, and you will be happy. Are you worried that you might not meet some nice gay boys here? I’m sure there is a scene, somewhere, if you look hard enough.”

“Dad!” Aidan exclaimed. “Seriously, dating is the last thing on my mind right now.”

“That’s good,” his mom intervened. “I told you to be careful with men. They only want one thing.”

Aidan kept himself from rolling his eyes. While his mom was perfectly fine with his sexual orientation, she treated him like he needed to remain untouched until marriage. “I’m not a girl, mom. It’s not like I can get pregnant or anything,” he mumbled, looking down. “And I know all about safe sex,” he added hurriedly, scared of what his mom would say next.

“But men can still break your heart,” she insisted. “Like this playboy. Didn’t you know who he was before you got involved with him?”

“Marianne, it wasn’t because that man was a playboy that Aidan broke up with him,” his dad pointed out. “Have some understanding. Heathcliff Stone is a handsome, famous personality. Aidan just lost his head a little.”

His parents knew him inside out and that, in itself, was a pretty scary thought. He wondered briefly why the hell he had spilled all the beans. But it wasn’t like there was any other way with them, and he had to live with that. Actually, Aidan thought, there was no other way, and that was why he loved them so much.

“Sure,” his mom huffed. “Handsome. Famous. Personality,” she enunciated each word as if she was listing some bad traits describing Heathcliff. “He played with Aidan’s feelings. I’m telling you, Joe, if I ever meet that man -“

“I doubt that’s even possible,” Aidan cut his mom’s words short.

She was already twisting the kitchen towel in her hands in a frightening manner, and Aidan could only imagine that his mom was ready to wring Heathcliff’s neck, given the opportunity.

“Doesn’t he know where we live?” his dad asked.

“No, I never told him.”

“Why?” his dad asked again.

“It didn’t come up.”

“But you wanted to introduce him to us,” his mom said.

“Yes, but that was before he thought he could just hand me my hard earned promotion.”

“How dare he!” his mom said with righteous indignation. “Good thing your employer proved to be a crooked bastard. Now you’ll see that staying here with us is much better. And safer.”

Aidan didn’t have the heart to tell his parents that he didn’t plan on staying there for long. He had no plan, not even one in an incipient phase, but as much as he loved his parents, they were also driving him a bit nuts, and he still wanted to be the proverbial chick leaving the nest.

“Thank you for your care, mom and dad,” he said. “I will figure out what to do, and I promise it won’t take long.”

“You can take as long as you want,” his mom said right away. “Just don’t stay cooped up in your room all day long. I don’t want you depressed over that playboy.”

“I’m not depressed over him,” Aidan said in his defense.

“Or the job you lost,” his mom continued. “There’s plenty of fish in the sea. Especially here.”

“I can find work on my own, mom. And please, you’re doing so much for me already. I will find a job and a boyfriend.”

“We could take care of that, too,” his mom said promptly. “Joe, who was that nice boy we saw when we visited the Reynolds? The one with the bow tie? He must be gay.”

Bow tie? Aidan was horrified already. One time, his mom had tried to make him friends with a guy who as into dungeons and dragons. Not that it would have been wrong to like role-playing games, but the guy hadn’t spoken about anything else for the entire evening. Also, he hadn’t been gay, either, and, unlike Isabel, his mother had no sixth sense of identifying gay men whatsoever.

“Rachel’s cousin?” his dad inquired. “He’s to marry next year.”

“To a boy?”

“To a girl,” his dad replied promptly.

There you go, Aidan thought.

“I was so sure he was gay,” his mom insisted. “Pumpkin, don’t worry. We’ll find a nice gay boy for you.”

Aidan had been mortified with the fact that his mother was still calling him that after he had turned fourteen, but he had found he could live with it, as long as she kept it only to a few times a day. That was strike one for the day and a miracle.

“Mom, dad, I am capable of finding a boyfriend. Heathcliff Stone was just a mistake. I know well now not to repeat it.”

His mom looked like she wanted to say something, but eventually, she resigned to shake her head. “You go to sleep now, but I’m not letting you linger in bed tomorrow. It’s Saturday. We’re going to visit some people, and you will not stay up in your room all day long.”


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