When Sam gets home, Sandor is lying on the couch in the living room listening to the stereo blasting the music of the Finnish metal band, Nightwish. He turns down the music’s volume when he sees his cousin, and sits up.
“Boxes came for you today. They are in the butler’s pantry,” he tells her. “I lied about my age and signed for them. The delivery man didn’t ask to see identification. Anyway, my age seems like an irrelevant detail at some level. Was I wrong to do that?”
“No, Sandor, thank you for signing. Are they from Cousin Ambrus?”
“Probably.” Sandor sighs unhappily.
“That’s really fast, I only ordered the cases yesterday,” she muses aloud, heading to the butler’s pantry.
There are only two boxes and they are from Ambrus. Sam, slipping back into her Zaira world, opens one of the boxes and reads the note tucked inside; these are some of Ambrus’ best ‘estate reserve’ he’s sending her, in the hopes that she can cultivate Sandor’s palate. Zaira smiles at the sweet, thoughtful gesture. Ambrus had sent these along even before her latest order for the dozen cases. For a moment she reviews her activities of last night. Can she teach her young cousin how to hunt for himself? Right now the task appears insurmountable. She turns to see Sandor standing behind her.
“How was work today?” he asks, his deep morose eyes looking expectantly at her.
“Weird, actually. The founder appears to be giving up more than half the company to an investor. There is something strange going on, and I’ve decided not to leave just yet.”
“Have they filled the positions for the interns?” he asks tentatively.
“One. A nice Russian, a graduate student in computer science.”
“I could apply for the one that’s still open.”
“Sandor, I don’t think-”
“Couldn’t I go with you tomorrow and see? They might not choose me, but you promised to introduce me to Gil.”
It’s true that she had once mentioned the possibility of introducing Sandor to Gil. It’s unlikely they’ll hire Sandor; he has no prior work experience, and he may be less enthralled with the idea of working there when he appreciates what commuting and working with humans actually entails. Give in to his request, be accommodating, collect some points for the battles yet to come.
Zaira looks Sandor squarely in the eyes. “Alright. Come in with me tomorrow. But you must promise me, Sandor, that you will say nothing of our family and our ways. Nothing! Can you really commit to this with your blood honor?”
“Must I have a guise?”
Zaira sighs and ponders this quickly.
“You may use your own name and we may be cousins. But, I must find caps for your incisors.”
She looks at him sharply for an affirmative, and he nods.
“Blood honor you will not betray our family nor our race.” she demands of him again.
Joel Anderson adjusts his white leather seat and grabs a handful of hot cashews from the bowl which the flight attendant has just set down next to him. Now she brings a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and sets that down next to the bowl. The corporate jet will arrive in Chicago in about an hour. The jet is enabled with Wi-Fi, but Joel doesn’t need to communicate with anyone at the moment. It’s his little private time aloft between deals, on the road to conquest.
The six startups now in his portfolio, the newly-formed Scorpio II Fund, should be sufficient. The fund’s name is whimsical; he happens to be a Scorpio born in autumn, just like his older brother. But, the name carries a deep emotional semantics. Joel takes a long swallow of the orange juice and kicks off his expensive loafers, looking at the cumulous cloud layer outside the window of the jet, frowning in contemplation.
Shep Anderson, his brother, is four years older than he, and a world-renowned violinist. Their mother had musical talent and had pursued a brief career on the stage as a lyric soprano, singing in the second-tier opera houses and concert halls of Europe and America. Her marriage to an orchestra conductor was even briefer than her career as an opera singer, and Joel and Shep had never really known their father. They were raised in the frugal home of their mother, who gave voice and piano lessons and also worked part-time as a music librarian. When it became clear that Shep possessed a musical gift, their mother sacrificed everything for his training and musical development. She poured her being into overseeing and nurturing his blossoming career. Joel tried to dazzle her with his good grades in school and his enterprising ways, but he hadn’t inherited an ounce of the musicality his brother possessed, and Joel knew that when his mother smiled at him, the smiles did not spring from the same source as the smiles she gave to Shep.
Joel snatches another handful of cashews and eats them almost defiantly. He’s impatient with these memories, they’re just impotent ghosts. His brother is an artist, but artists have always needed patrons to sponsor them, to build the great venues to showcase the art. The pharaohs and kings of history, the wealthy and the powerful, have been the world’s patrons. Few men truly appreciate what power is, and they never attain it. But Joel knows that his own gift is the ability to see power and seize it without hesitation. His instrument, his weapon, is a quick, disciplined mind and an unflinching and unsentimental assessment of the world. Love is for chumps and cowards who can’t shape their own destiny. Like Dean Divers, Joel thinks to himself with a faint smile of contempt.
— to be continued —