Chapter 4 – Boiling Points
The two old friends begin their day loading up, ready to hit the road with the events leading up to the wedding proceed steadily.
“Brook, think we should open the entire Grand Ballroom? I mean, with everyone coming, we’re going to need the room if we wanna provide the largest dancefloor for Sara, you know.” Emily suggests overseeing the setup for the reception.
“Um, sounds like a good idea, sis. I think a forty by forty area should be good enough. It’s not like most people dance anyway.” Brook replies, looking over the finalized table charts.
“Should we keep dad somewhere in the back to keep a fight from breaking out? You know he’s going to want to pick a battle with anyone in his way.”
Emily taps her finger to her lips, thinking it over.
“Yeah, put him in the middle on the left side. Keep Uncle James in the same location, only on the right side of the dance floor. Oh, the projector needs to be tested along with the PA system.”
She reaches down, taking her phone from her pocket to speed dial the head of Banquets.
“Hey Sherry, we’re in the Grand Ballroom. We need to run through the protector sequence and do a mic check right now.” Emily listens as Sherry replies to her.
“Great, we’re here waiting now, so thank you for rushing. Bye.”
The double trouble sisters stand and observe as the final touches are put in place.
“Hey, Sherry, instead of ten seconds, let’s slow it down to, say, twelve seconds between slides. Give everyone else in the room a chance to get a glimpse. Thank you!” Brook calls out from the far edge of the room.
Busy at work wrapping up her last day before preparing to take off on her honeymoon, Sara is a nervous wreck. She’s distracted by the thought of the family arriving that she fails to notice Kyle at her desk.
“Hey, Earth to Sara, snap back to reality, please.” He states, smacking his hands together.
“Oh, yeah, sorry, got lost in the details of the wedding and the rehearsal and mom being here, and just yeah… Sorry Kyle, what’s up?”
Kyle looks over his shoulder, and when he sees some of their coworkers stare. He knows he needs to lower the tone of his voice.
“I’m telling Pop everything when he gets here. So, make sure you stay out of the line of fire. I know it’ll cost me my job more than likely, but I’ve talked to Captain Tanner on the Ohio State Patrol, and I have a position there if I want it. I just wanted to give you a heads up because James is going to be pissed.”
Everyone is informed about possible leaks; a call goes up to James’ office immediately once Kyle entered Sara’s work area.
“Mr. Cline, sir, thought you should know your FBI investigation liaison is in Miss Trout’s area. They’re keeping a hushed tone about them, sir.” One of the IT technicians’ spills as James listens closely.
“Thank you. I’ll handle this one personally.”
James is livid and makes his way to the elevator. He drops down to the third floor to witness Kyle chatting with Sara. She sees her uncle coming towards them.
“Fuck, he knows you’re here, get going; I’ll cover for you,” Sara whispers to keep the panicky glare out of her eyes as Kyle doesn’t look back.
“Kyle! Get back here right now!” James orders making his way into the office.
“What’s going on here, Sara?” He begins when Kyle slowly makes his way back to the office.
“Nothing, just talking about the wedding.” She indicates keeping her eyes on her screen.
“I call bull on that. When he gets back here, we’re going to have ourselves a little meeting.” James states, taking a seat.
He feels the eyes crawl all over him as he marches back over to the desk. Kyle’s nerves begin to rattle ever so slightly that his hands begin to sweat.
Kyle’s not one to be easily intimidated either. He’s built with barely an ounce of fat being visible. His eyes are like his father-in-law’s, ice-cold and calculating as he learned the skills to adapt to any situation quickly. He keeps his hair short and styled, and his expressions only show determination.
“Come on. Kid, take a seat, let’s chat.” James orders interlocking his hands in his lap.
“Fine by me…Sir,” Kyle lets out in a low groan.
“Hurry up, I don’t have all day, and she has a rehearsal at the church to get to.” James barks, as the level of frustration rises in his voice.
Unable to withstand the pressure mounting, Sara breaks down to keep the tension from exploding.
“I can’t do this. Look, Kyle knows I’m scared as hell, okay. So, he came down here to give me some pre-marriage advice, that’s it. Both of you get out of my face so I can finish and get out of here.”
Caught off guard by her mouthy blitz, James tosses his hands in the air.
“Okay fine, I can respect that. After all, James, you are the only married one in the room still…” Kyle’s cut off immediately.
“Definitely don’t go there, and if you don’t want advice from me. I am sorry I’ll go, and Sara, I’ll see you tonight.”
Still not buying the story, James takes the clue to return to the top floor, where he awaits the end of the day. Kyle returns to his post to monitor the building and keeps an eye on his phone.
Sara wraps up her day early, which gives her the chance to run into her mom, who is waiting in the driveway.
“Mom!” Sara yells out, fumbling to get out of her car.
“There’s my little girl!” Audrey calls out and motions for a hug.
“Oh, I guess I’m just chopped liver, heh?” Sean, her stepdad, jokes with his arms out wide.
“Hey there, dad, it’s good to see you!” Sara tells him as they all walk for the front door.
Back at CBI, Kyle gathers his team for a quick rundown over their assignments for the wedding and reception.
“Listen here, everyone, tomorrow is the big day for Sara and Bryan. Remember, unless there is an invitation, no one gets into this event, no matter what. I have your positions posted and sent out. I’ll need you all at the rehearsal dinner as well, so get comfortable. Our former agent and FBI liaison, Floyd Miller, will be in attendance since he is the personal bodyguard to Brooklyn and Emily. I expect nothing less than your best.”
The security team’s phones begin to ding as their assignments are received. One guard seems a little zealous over his post. He sends details to a private number along with the message, “green light is a go,” and doesn’t wait for a reply as he smiles and shoves his phone in his pocket.
Just as quickly as the day gives way to the evening, everyone else begins to arrive and gathers at the church. The last person to arrive is James, and when he walks into the church. He’s greeted by Justin, motioning to join him at the pew behind where Josh sits with Gwen, Delilah, Audrey, and Sean.
James sucks in a deep breath, walking that way. He takes a seat beside Justin, and Josh doesn’t hesitate to turn around.
“Hey there, little brother, how’s life, and hey, where’s Scarlett?”
“Oh yeah, she’s coming, just you know, always late.” He explains, looking over to his older sister as she rolls her eyes, huffing at the bald-faced lie.
Everyone in attendance listens as the preacher runs through everything, so everyone knows what to expect.
“So, when you hear the wedding march begin, send out your maid of honor here to guide your bridesmaids down the aisle. Now we want a huge build-up for you. I take it your father here is the one giving you away.”
“He’s not my father, but he is my dad, and yes, he’s giving me away.” Sara enlightens the preacher as he acknowledges her statement.
“Then when you give her hand away to be married, place it here with Mr. Ryce, and you can take your seat in the corner of the front pew here with your wife, and we’ll begin exchanging vows.” The preacher finishes by motioning where everyone needs to be after that moment.
“Yeah, our little Sara is all grown up!” Josh announces aloud, embarrassing her as her cheeks glow a slight shade of red.
Sara’s always been a little self-conscious since she took after her mother being a bit chunky. Like Audrey, she has ash blond hair with blue eyes, short in stature but has a passion for her field of Information Technology, being a cybercrimes expert.
Gwen smacks Josh on the thigh playfully.
“Now Josh, leave the poor girl alone. Don’t mind your uncle, sweetheart; it’ll be perfect, and you’ll be even more beautiful in that dress.”
Sara smiles and blushes even more.
All Josh can do is smirk as he puts his arm around his wife.
“Sorry, love, you know how it is. That was us just a few years ago, you young little minx.”
Listening as her husband teases, Gwen giggles and reminds him it’s been a little longer than he said.
“Try again, big boy, but it’s good you remembered that it is coming up.”
James listens to this and does nothing but roll his eyes while huffing and puffing. He can’t stand it any longer as Josh and Gwen continue to flirt around like they’re still kids.
“Could you two knock it off? We are in a church, you know.”
“Don’t get your boxers in a bunch; you crank pot. Geez, get Scarlett to give you some and chillax bub.” Josh tosses out the idea as he watches James’ expression tell the whole story.
“When is Scarlett getting here?” Josh asks once more.
Unable to take it any longer, James stands up to head outside to smoke.
“I’m about to get to the bottom of this,” Josh says just before Audrey yanks him back down into the pew.
“Not today, after all of this done, then confront him, please, for me.”
He takes her advice and stays in his seat.
“Alright for you, sis, I’ll wait it out.”
Gwen’s heart asserts itself back in her chest as she breathes a sigh of relief.
They aren’t the only ones caught off guard. Bryan stands there watching and can sense something isn’t right. He’s heard some of the stories but always figured they were exaggerations. Still, seeing it about to unfold before his own eyes, he can see the battlefield shape up to trench warfare as an unwelcome return with the family’s struggle to keep the two generals clash.
Out beyond the edge of the parking lot, James’ nerves come unrattled at the seams.
“Son of a bitch, I swear every time I see this family, I want to puke!” He paces back and forth for a couple of minutes until a rental car pulls into the parking lot. Curious to see who’s arrived late, James strolls over to the car, where his mind is blown.
“Scarlett…” He mutters as she climbs from the Impala to face him.
Scarlett tosses her wavy red hair around her shoulders and pulls her sunglasses from over her eyes.
“Hey there James, sorry I’m late. My flight was late when I had my layover in Oklahoma. Which don’t get any ideas, I’m only here for Sara, and as soon as this wedding is over, I am out of here!” She instructs him as he is in awe at how fabulous she looks.
“You’re tan and thin; holy hell, what have you been doing out there in California?” He babbles, barely coherent.
“I teach and then spend my free time on the beach. That’s what’s great about living in Anaheim, plenty to do and no time to stay bored. Although I must say, you look like you’ve been run over by a truck. The stress of this job is killing you.” Scarlett says in a harsh tone.
Instantly the regret of his decisions, James stands there like a bump on a log.
“Yeah, well, I keep myself busy, I work all the time, I travel, I barely sleep or eat, and it’s mostly take out food or stuff I can have the housekeeper toss in the oven when I get the occasional night at home.”
Scarlett scoffs, shaking her head at her ex-husband.
“Serves you right, should’ve left things the way they were and given Senator Suiter time in the chair upstairs and came to California with me. But no, you had to make all those changes and start sleeping around with interns again. I took you back once, believing you’d changed. I won’t be cheated on.”
His head dips as he realizes the instant gratification can’t amount to all the good times he shared with Scarlett. The moment isn’t lived long as peeping ears catch the main piece of Scarlett ripping into James.
“You son of a bitch!”
Gwen rushes to Scarlett with her hands on her shoulder for support.
“You seriously threw away a wonderful woman for a piece of ass. What the hell is wrong with you?”
Scarlett doesn’t help by popping off with more facts.
“Oh, I wish it was just one; he had a threesome in our guest room with two former interns that were fresh out of college. Then there was the first housekeeper we had. He filmed having sex in the shower and didn’t erase the tape. How about the time at the office when I came to surprise you with lunch, but you served yourself to your administrative assistant with her legs spread eagle on the edge of your desk with your tongue tasting her honey.”
Jaw dropped, and her eyes as big as an owl’s Gwen’s hand beat her brain to her actions. Before any of them realize it, her left-hand slaps James with every ounce of force she can muster that sends James back against the car.
“How dare you betray the woman who gave you your only child. She dedicated herself to you even after her own family disowned her, and this is exactly how you treat her. Remember back when Josh brought you into his last case, how I warned you if you ever did this again, I’d kill you. If not, I suggest this, don’t wait around after the wedding, or else I’ll beat you with an inch of your life.” Gwen threatens him as James rubs his cheek.
He refuses to back down, off the side of the car; James steps up, looking down at Gwen with a threat of his own.
“Touch me, and I swear to God I’ll throw you in Youngstown myself. I’ll let those animals rip you apart and laugh while they do it.”
She places her hands firmly on his chest, shoving James on his ass. Scarlett doesn’t hold back her strength.
“Shut your mouth!”
Gwen and Scarlett return to the church, where they calm down before walking back into the chapel where everyone else is catching up.
“Hey, where’s James?” Justin asks a second before they hear his Corvette come to life and pull away.
“He decided to go home and get some rest for the big day,” Scarlett admits in a sarcastic way embracing each one of them in a hug.
Her eyes say more, and Josh can easily detect it, but he holds his peace until he’s in the parking lot with the others.
“Hey Audrey, would you care to take Delilah back to the hotel. I’m sure she’d love to go swimming with her favorite aunt!”
“Oh yeah, come to Uncle Sean, Aunt Audrey, go swimming with me please, oh please!” Delilah squeals, taking her aunt’s hands.
“Alright, we’ll get our stuff and join her in the pool. Don’t be too long, you two. We want to catch up more before it gets too late.” Audrey replies as Delilah shrieks so loud everyone’s ears start to ring.
“Easy kid, you’ll make us all deaf.” Her father teases her when she hugs him, getting into the car.
“Have fun…” he states, shutting the door after giving Audrey the room key.
As he turns to lock eyes with Gwen, Josh knows something is up when he sees that stare in her eyes shines bright.
“Get in the car.” She demands as they sit together in her rental car.
“Alright, what’s the news?” Josh begins locking his hands together, knowing it’s about to get dirty.
“James is a low life piece of shit that’s the news. He and Scarlett are divorced, and not only that, she is out in California teaching. We’ve been out of the loop too long. Everyone is hiding more than we realize. Now I did slap his dumb ass, and he threatened to toss me in Youngstown, but if you get your chance, kick his ass tomorrow or before we go home. Be that mean son of a bitch I see that’s returned.”
Josh is furious at not only James but with everyone else purposely keeping things from him.
“I walk away, and this is how I’m treated. Well, rather how we’re treated, like unwelcomed strangers. Why should we even stay or attend this thing?”
“Nah, sweetie, don’t do Sara like that. She’s idolized you since she was little. You know it would break your heart to skip out on her big day.”
Josh huffs once, knowing she makes a valid point. “You’re right; that’s my only niece, and even if I’m not her biological uncle, but she’s still family.”
Their conversation comes to a halt when a knock emanates from the rear window.
“Holy God! It’s Kyle…” Gwen yells, holding her hand to her chest, scared as Kyle slides into the backseat.
“Hey, there kid, what’s the word at work?” Josh inserts, turning around to hear what Kyle must say.
“Sorry, it took me this long, last-minute security checks at the hotel. So, the FBI ain’t the same as you remember. No more public records, or more anything like how you ran it for the year President Burns made you interim Director. FBI-Cyber along with CBI, it’s now a private company about to go public as an IT company making James possible billions in deals and contracts all over the world.”
Josh and Gwen can’t believe it as silence speaks volumes in the car for a couple of minutes.
“Whoa, wait, he did what…” Josh mumbles, tilting his head to get the full picture.
“Yeah, after the wedding is over, I’m putting in my notice as well. I can’t take it anymore, Pop. He’s ruined it, and soon he’s going to make his money and run then dump the company on the board of directors he’s brought in privately. He’s even rebranded it as Diplomatic Cyber Systems with a backdoor deal to keep you in the dark from Senator Winters, who’s responsible for the prison city shakeups.”
“Sounds like he’s setting up a Ponzi scheme.” Gwen tosses out there, resting more in her seat.
“Good possibility, mom, but hey, I can’t take having him threaten my job any longer. I wanna knock him out so bad I can’t stand it.”
“Don’t worry about it, son. I’ve got him on lockdown once this whole thing is finished tomorrow. I’m going to back him into a corner and give him the beating of a lifetime. It is not because of his lackluster performance but because he made some poor decisions, especially with everyone treated like dirt. I may have been an asshole, but I wasn’t this bad.” Josh goes on, unable to fathom the weight of it all.
Kyle rolls his eyes, hoping for the full force of his father-in-law.
“Just do what you think is best, Pop but remember we still have a wedding to celebrate.”
“That’s true. Let’s get back to the hotel and enjoy the night. Take in fun tonight because tomorrow the dam is going to rupture in more than one way.”
Nodding in agreement, Kyle takes the notion to leave when he and Josh slip from the car and make their way over to their vehicles as Gwen is the first one to drive over to the hotel.
The coast is clear, and Josh makes a notion of getting Kyle’s attention.
“Psst, Kyle, listen up, make sure I get a hole to slip away when I get my hands-on, James. I want to make sure we don’t make a scene. I’m going to put a hurt on him he’s never thought about before. Get me the place away from the reception, and I’ll show him who the real leader is in this family that still reigns supreme.”
Kyle can only smile as he takes out his phone, making a call to have Josh’s wish granted.
“Done, Pop, just get him into the Mezzanine and over to the freight elevator.”
Josh’s all smiles as they exchange an evil grin. They part ways as Josh makes his way to the hotel with his family while Kyle speeds away for a relaxing night with Brooklyn. Gracie, their first-born daughter, and their infant child Wendy.
The countdown to the confrontation is less than a day away, and the brawl’s expectations are quickly escalating.