Bobby was ushered into Liz Vernier’s office like he wasn’t wearing overalls and a faded t-shirt.
“Bobby…” She glanced up, ignored his outfit, lined up three short stacks of paper on her desk. “These are the forms that will put you in business as POS Restorations, LLC. As with Swamp Vue, in Louisiana you need a registered agent to handle your paperwork. That will be me. Again. The last sheet is assignation to Carrie Louise when she passes the bar. Again. You’re here instead of Atlanta because she’s in school and has enough to contend with that she doesn’t need you dumping all the oddball shit you dream up on her.” She looked up across the desk at him. “That was a hint.”
“I heard you told Momma Roche that I was the Big Mistake in CL’s personal life, and it was her fault for letting it happen. What you’re saying is if I need lawyerin’ from now on, look elsewhere?” Bobby leaned over, signed by all the yellow sticky “sign here” arrows. “She’s too busy learnin’ to be important, you’re too important already?”
“My sister needs to keep her mouth shut. Carrie Louise needs to see herself in a viable future. You need to understand how the world works, how destinies are shaped. You and Carrie Louise were kids together in a swamp. You are no more than what you are, her bridge to getting out. She did whatever legal nonsense you asked of her, for experience, when you were kids. We put your financial affairs in order after your Father’s death, she will continue to manage your financial affairs under my direction, and in return you will pay for her education. When she graduates all of those agreements pass into the legal graveyard. After this POS business lands –”
“I took that hint.” He gave her a look of straight up acknowledgement with a touch of fuck off. Something she rarely saw heading her direction in men twice his age. They’d say it, but they wouldn’t look her in the eyes like he had. She paper clipped and stacked his signed forms.
“You’ll receive your copies by courier. Good day, Mr. B.”
“Ms. Vernier, do you ever meet people you wish you’d somehow missed altogether?”
“Every day. Why?” She continued to push paper around on her desk and ignore him like he was an unwelcome guest’s fart that wasn’t fading fast enough.
“Just checkin’.” He walked out through her office, past her reception, punched the elevator down button. He wiped his forehead with his shirt sleeve, turned back her way when he popped his hat on. “Me, too.”
Francis Guillon was an attorney who had graduated Magna Cum Laude and never practiced law a day in his life. The summer he graduated, knowing Liz Vernier was out of his league no matter what he wanted, he’d married a pretty girl who made pretty babies and good conversation and was born with a “will Hostess and Breed for $” tattoo on her forehead that only men who qualified to provide well enough could see. He started in energy management, shook five hundred hands a month, jumped jobs once a year for five years, followed his father into state politics when he was thirty-one. Where, for the last twenty years he made speeches, got his picture taken and dabbled as CEO or COO for any number of major corporations that needed political grease of one kind or another.
Without the resume he was a nitty, arrogant, vain, starch and cologne festival with a lightweight kink shadow. When he wasn’t smiling like he pooped rainbows he was busy getting the dealers pardoned who ran a small, break-even drug pipeline for, and through, his mistresses. Or renting prostitutes without checking their ID. Things Liz Vernier had no trouble reminding him of, or cleaning up for him. He was going to be Governor, and she was going to be the puppet master. Come hell or high water.
Guillon frowned. “Seriously, Liz. This shit looks like elephant snot with orange lumps.”
“It’s vegetarian gumbo. Supposed to be the only real cure for a hangover. If it fixed stupid I’d buy her out just for you.”
Guillon put the lid on the plastic bowl, dropped it in the paper bag and tossed it out the window of her car. “Remind me why we came here?”
“The woman you shook hands with in there had a big write-up in Baton Rouge Today, where she thanked you for getting the crack dealers out of her parking lot and putting her back in business. And because your office is wired like mine. Appearing to eat local and cheap and fact find in your district based on our phones’ location looks like we’re working. Get out, pick up the bag, take it to the barrel.”
“Fuck you.” He pushed the door open, climbed out. “Take my picture. Guillon is cleaning up his district. What have you done for Louisiana today?” He made a face at the dripping bag, held it out as far away as possible.
He dropped back into the Caddy SUV’s bone colored leather, slammed the door. “Where were we?”
“Eating elephant snot. I was, at least.” She rolled her window down, motioned for the kid with the broom who should have been in school to come over. She handed him her non-dripping bag of lunch trash and a five dollar bill. “Tell everyone you know to vote Guillon. He’s the only one who gives a damn about the people down here.” The window went back up.
“Will you claim that five?”
“Can’t. Smells like bribery if I do.”
“He’s what, fourteen?”
“Roughly the same age as your last stupid indiscretion that cost a lot more than five dollars to send away happy. If it hadn’t happened in the islands that one could have been the end of you, dumb fuck. If you don’t learn where that thing belongs, I’m going to have it cut off and sent to your wife.”
“I’d straighten up if it was you and me, babe.” The almost a ladies man grin always pissed her off. “But you had to be gay.”
“I’m not gay, Frank. I don’t care about men and when I need to be serviced I stay under the radar. Your father and mine could piss in a jar and sell it as lemonade, but there was no way they could ever sell us on each other.”
“Have you fixed that for me this time around?”
“Maybe. I have other options than your son, with equitable long term leverage and I’m not selling Carrie Louise short. As it stands now, your son won’t be an easy sell. I need him hardened up, with decent posture. Send him to the rain forest or somewhere on a mission, get rid of the skinny dough boy and bring me half a man. He’s up against a reasonably good looking, rich, healthy and fit, albeit unrefined, young man. With redneck macho charm to burn. And a big head start.”
“And Sean is a tall, skinny, whiny, silver spoon weasel who sneers and leers. I’ve heard you, believe me. Next summer he works a sawmill, gets a farmer’s tan, learns to eat elephant snot and drink Miller Lite, get his heart to beat Zydeco like his father and his grandfather. At least when people are looking. Where are we right now?”
“Sean and Carrie Louise will be neighbors on Greek Row, and I’ll push as hard as I can. I had Bobby’s car sabotaged before their prom and Carrie was already pissed when I brought her up here. I kept her here or in Atlanta most of the summer, made sure Bobby and the boat show bikini girls’ pictures were lying around and had his texts to her shunted to the Twilight Zone. She’ll pine for awhile, but she’s an eighteen-year-old female used to an active sex life who’s been thrown into a whole new world full of alcohol and an endless supply of healthy, horny boys with nice cars who own more than two pairs of pants. And the Prince Charming she’s been sold since she was in diapers has apparently dropped her.”
“For now. If Sean and Carrie Louise don’t trip over each other we’ll do Thanksgiving together, show them the writing on the wall. They’ll roll their eyes at us and do what freshmen will do. Over the next couple of years they’ll burn out on sex and parties, grow up some, see the inevitability of their future bearing down on them. Time and proximity are on our side.”
“And you can keep up the campaign against the little redneck until I get Sean manned up some?”
“I can. Well enough that ‘manned up some’ might be all we need.”
“It might be all we can get.”
“Funny.” She looked across the Caddy. “I can almost hear your daddy saying that very same thing.”