Ownership and Obligations
Ownership and Obligations
Mathew Gallo smiled and waved to his daughter as she took her victory lap around the steeple course. Megan was beaming with pride after winning her age group in the Junior Jumper event; Mathew was beaming as well. It had been a very productive and profitable trip. Over the last ten days, in addition to spending some quality time with his daughter, Mathew Gallo had signed a deal to acquire property that would expand his family’s interests in the Adirondacks giving their property management a solid foothold in a well established tourist market. He had also finalized arrangements to protect his interests in a very lucrative import business, the importing and transporting of drugs through the Canadian border to be redistributed through his connections in Ohio. The only thing left on Mathew Gallo’s “to-do” list was to pay an outstanding bill for services rendered.
Mathew smiled as he watched Taylor Bennetto, standing by the fence surrounding the steeple course, wave enthusiastically to his daughter as she waited for Megan to complete her victory lap. He shook his head, silently berating himself for the flush of heat that went coursing through his body as he admired the way her jeans hugged her trim hips showcasing her nice ass and the way her fitted tee shirt hugged her body. He liked that her natural self confidence made her seem very sexy without trying to be, a quality that his ex-wife was sorely lacking. Mathew also appreciated that Taylor and Megan had become close during the past year as Megan adjusted to her parents’ divorce. Megan seemed to blossom under Taylor’s attention, something that her mother had never been able to give. If it didn’t concern money, clothes, vacations, or plastic surgery, Tammy Gallo didn’t care about it. This selfish self-centeredness had made it easy for Mathew to obtain full custody of his daughter; it simply became a matter of price. Even though the divorce lay outside the normal realm of her legal responsibility’s for Mathew, Taylor had made sure that both the custody agreement and the financial settlement were iron-clad and not open to re- negotiation, something else that Mathew greatly appreciated. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were so many things about Taylor Bennetto that made him smile.
Before they had met, Mathew Gallo had little use for women beyond employing them to fulfill his most primal urges. He had been wary when his father had retained Taylor as the legal representation for their property management company. His father had insisted that the only reason Mathew didn’t like having an attractive woman, as his lawyer was the fact that Taylor was all business and seemed completely immune to Mathew’s famed reputation with women. When he first met Taylor, Mathew was very married to a very jealous woman. Tammy Gallo had good reason to be jealous; between the Gallo family’s money and Mathew’s smoldering good looks, women were always throwing themselves at her husband; it was exactly how she herself had landed the catch of Orange County. Mathew’s wandering eye had been the primary reason for his divorce, but a well-negotiated prenuptial agreement had made the divorce amicable enough. Try as he might, Taylor refused to be impressed by either Mathew’s money or his charm and she gave him a wide berth until his divorce was finalized.
Taylor’s initial disinterest in him whetted his appetite for her, but as he came to know her, he begrudgingly agreed with his father’s assessment of her skills and began to respect her as a tough negotiator who could always manage to pull off the impossible or the unlikely. Initially, she worked as an associate for the family’s law firm, dealing mostly with his father’s business interests. Taylor knew how to get things done; she worked efficiently and was generally ruthless when negotiating on behalf of the family’s interests; traits which greatly impressed the elder Gallo and earned her his trust, something that was not easily accomplished. In fact, it was whispered that Anthony Gallo had his eye on the young lawyer and actively worked to keep her away from his son. In reality, Anthony thought of Taylor as the daughter he had never had; he trusted her and developed a genuine affection for her. They worked well together in business and had made a lot of money. If he discouraged a relationship between Taylor and Mathew it was to preserve both their working relationship and their friendship.
Mathew and Taylor’s relationship thawed when he formally took over his family’s resort properties management company and Taylor became his primary legal counsel. He soon discovered what his father already knew; Taylor could be as ruthless as she was beautiful. He enjoyed watching her negotiate tough contracts, taking no prisoners and never spoiling from a fight. Anything that needed to be taken care of, from acquiring properties to disgruntled employees, Taylor made sure the Gallo’s got what ever they wanted—to a point. Mathew had made no secret of the fact that he found her attractive, openly flirting with her and making her presence at his side during social occasions mandatory, perpetuating the appearance that they were a couple. Taylor made it clear that she was not willing to be the next in the long line of Mathew’s conquests when Mathew asked her why she wouldn’t go out with him apart from business obligations.
“I can be your girlfriend or I can be your lawyer,” Taylor had responded.
“Why can’t you be both,” he teased
“As your lawyer, I’ll protect your interests. As your girlfriend, I’ll protect mine.”
There hadn’t been any malice in her voice when she said this, but the comment had spoken volumes to Mathew about exactly how close Taylor was willing to let anyone get to her or where her priorities lay. Truth be told, the thing that most attracted Mathew to Taylor was the fact that she knew everything about him, his family, and his business dealings. He didn’t have to hide who and what he was from her as he did with other women, his ex-wife included. Taylor wasn’t the least bit intimidated by him or his reputation and he was finding that an irresistible aphrodisiac. Lately, Taylor had become distant, distracted, more so as the trip to Lake Placid had neared. Mathew decided that he had waited long enough. At the conclusion of his business transactions, Taylor was going to become more than his lawyer.
Mathew made his way to the exit gate and slipping his arm around her waist, stood beside Taylor who pretended not to notice. Anyone seeing them posed this way could easily mistake them for Megan’s proud parents.
“Will you join us for a victory brunch,” Michael purred in Taylor’s ear.
Taylor kept her focus on the child in the paddock and shaking head subtly.
“I will be busy the rest of the morning. The arrangements for the closing on the Club properties need to be finalized before we leave for the city.”
“You haven’t forgotten the barbeque this evening for some of the show organizers, a few people from the Lake Plaid Club, and other business associates out at Dad’s camp,” he said leaning closer against her. “You will be there, won’t you?”
Taylor removed Mathew’s arm from her waist and put on the jacket she’d been carrying as Megan made her way to them. She bent down and gathered the young girl in her arms without answering him. She knew what Mathew was up to and she wasn’t going to make it easy for him.
The little girl flew into Taylor’s arms. “Did you see me?”
“You were simply awesome Little Princess,” said Taylor brightly as she hugged Megan.
“Megan,” said Mathew holding out his arms for her. “Tell Taylor how sad you’ll be if she misses your party tonight.”
As he pulled Megan into his arms, he flashed his famous smile over the little girl’s head at Taylor. Taylor was well acquainted with this particular smile, the smile that signaled that he’d gotten his way.
Mathew’s cell phone began to ring loudly, giving Taylor a convenient escape.
“Come on Megan,” Taylor said taking Megan’s hand. “Let’s go visit your horse before he goes back to the stable.” She looked over her shoulder as they walked away from Mathew and gave him a smile very similar to his own.
Mathew looked at the number and waited until Taylor and Megan were out of earshot before answering. He had been expecting the call.
“I’ve been expecting your call,” Mathew began in a very business like tone for the benefit of any other horse show patrons who were milling by.
“I’d like to thank you for prompt execution your task although, by virtue of your friend’s reputation, I’d expected a much neater presentation. I assume the purpose of this call is to finalize payment.”
“You need to be careful not to make assumptions, Mr. Gallo,” the voice on the phone was warped by a device designed to disguise the speaker’s identity. “Remember, you also pay me to provide you with sensitive information so that you are well informed.”
“Do you have new information for me?”
“It appears that my task has yet to be completed. Mr. Simpson was not your only problem.”
“What the hell do you mean?” Mathew hissed into the phone. “I hired you to clean up my “rat infestation.” I’ll admit I was as surprised by the identity of the little rodent as I was of your contractor’s sloppiness.”
“You seem to have an additional problem, Mr. Gallo,” the voice crackled. “A problem far more pressing than sloppiness. My contractor didn’t have anything to do with what happened to Simpson and his girl friend.”
“Don’t screw with me,” Mathew hissed into the phone. “Your expert contractor left witnesses. The police have already been to see me!”
“As I said, Mr. Gallo; you must be careful not to make assumptions.”
“Enlighten me,” Demanded Gallo.
“As I told you,” the warped voice continued, “Mr. Simpson was indeed feeding information to the Federal authorities concerning your new “importing business.” However, I am certain that he stumbled upon something more important to you than you realize.”
Mathew was growing impatient. “Get to the point.”
“Simpson found out that there is someone else within your organization working for the Feds. He told me that who ever it was knew things that could cause a lot of damage.”
Mathew let this bit of information sink in for a moment. “Did he know who it was? Did he know it was you?”
“No,” crackled the voice. “He was worried though. He knew he’d been caught dipping his hand in the till and that you were getting suspicious. He was trying to leverage his position, hoping to convince everyone involved that he was working for them when he was actually playing both the feds and us for fools.”
“So you have no idea who got to him or who he was so afraid of?” Gallo’s voice was cold and calculating as he pressed the voice for an answer to his question.
“And you have no idea who took care of him or who the inside plant is?” said Mathew choosing his words carefully in case anyone was eavesdropping.
There was a long silence before the warped voice responded, as if it was weighing its options. The voice knew that it had strayed into dangerous waters and was only mildly grateful that anonymity could serve as protection, for now at least.
“Well my absent friend,” said Mathew as his eyes searched through the milling crowd filtering among the grounds. “It would be to your benefit to find out who Simpson was so afraid of before I do. I’m sure I don’t need to explain myself further.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“I’ll expect progress on this before we leave. You have two days.”
Mathew snapped his phone shut.
The fool. Did his informant really believe that an electronic voice-altering device could keep someone like Mathew Gallo from discovering who was feeding him information? Did this idiot really believe that he would trust him to take care of truly important matters? Mathew smiled as he made his way to the stables to collect Taylor and Megan.
An old adage, a favorite of his father’s, kept milling in his head as he walked; “better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mathew had known all long about Andrew Simpson’s activities. If fact, by the time his FBI source had confirmed Simpson’s meeting with Wallace Murphy, Mathew had already made arrangements to have Murphy silenced. He also knew exactly who killed Andrew Simpson. Perhaps Mr. Warped Voice had outgrown his usefulness. He mulled the idea over decided now was a good a time as any to have him silenced as well.
Mathew’s town car pulled into its assigned parking spot next to the horse show ground’s stable at almost the same moment as Megan and Taylor emerged from the row of stables. He quickly composed and sent a text message as his daughter bounded over to him.
“Daddy,” Meagan squealed as she jumped into his arms. “Taylor promised to come to the party tonight. She thought, maybe, we could even take a ride in the boat before the guests arrive.”
Mathew gave a pleased chuckle and flashed his heart-melting smile at Taylor.
“I thought she might join us tonight. But, let’s get a move on,” Mathew said opening the door and depositing Megan inside the town car. He turned abruptly toward Taylor. “I have some work to do before the party. Taylor, can you give me about an hour then meet with me for a short conference? I want to talk to you about finalizing some arrangements for an event I’m planning.”
Taylor caught the subtle change in his voice. The smile was still there, but all the flirtatiousness was gone.
“I’ll call Margie and make sure your schedule is cleared and then meet you back at the camp around 6:00.”
From the safety of the observation lounge of the small Lake Placid Airport, directly adjacent to the grounds, the man watched as Mathew Gallo’s town car exited the grounds onto route 9N. He ignored his vibrating cell phone and sipped his drink slowly. He was irritated that Gallo actually believed that he was in any position to threaten him. If anyone needed to be nervous, it was Gallo. One carefully placed phone call, to either the FBI or, for that matter, dear old Daddy would mean to the end of life as Mathew Gallo had come to know it.
Using the small pair of opera glasses in his pocket, he turned his surveillance to Taylor Bennetto. He watched as she made a call on her cell phone as she walked to her car; another pain in the ass. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, he harbored a grudging respect for the pretty lawyer because she didn’t sell herself short. She also had a very elusive side to her nature that increased her allure. Bennetto made Gallo work hard for her attention; too bad as soon as Gallo got her in the sack, he’d drop her like a bad habit, lawyer or not. Yes, the man thought, Ms. Bennetto was smart but not nearly as smart as she thought she was. The man clicked his teeth as he watched her drive away. She possessed that same arrogance that had always annoyed the hell out of him, like she knew she was better than him. But not even the elusive Ms. Bennetto would be able keep her secrets hidden for long. A smile crossed his face as he imagined how sweet it would be to watch her beg for her life as Ms. Cane had when she realized she had reached the end of her usefulness. What deals would Taylor Bennetto be willing to broker to protect her own interests?
He had made his decision. As he mentally reviewed his phone conversation, Gallo’s arrogant show of bravado continued to gnaw at the man’s sense of pride. The front office wouldn’t like it, but then again they would have a difficult time connecting anything to him, even if they suspected. They certainly hadn’t noticed his activities so far. His phone began vibrating again; he checked the time before deciding whether to answer it. There was no need to be hasty, he would take his time, cover his tracks. He let the call go to voice mail. It was time Mr. Gallo and perhaps his sweet little lawyer learned a lesson. No one was untouchable.