Chapter 14: Albert.
**Author's Note:** Please read the disclaimer in Chapter 00 before you read this.
Monday, when I went to work, I began asking my co-workers a few questions, beginning with the guy who sits next to me. "Hey, do you know anything about a family named Katz?"
"Katz? Do you mean Arnold Katz, who owns Uptown Realty and some of the best commercial and investment properties in the area?" he asked back.
"Yes, that would be the one," I told him.
"Shit, that guy's worth major bucks!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide and his mouth open. "Why are you asking about him?"
"I just heard some stories about him over the weekend," I fibbed, in an attempt to keep my tracks covered, "and I just wanted to verify what I'd heard."
"What did you hear?" he eagerly wanted to know.
"Well, if I tell you, then I may sway what you might say, which won't give me verification at all," I reasoned, in an attempt not to have to show my hand.
"Well, I wouldn't lie to you or make things up, but I can see your point," he conceded. "I hear he's a workaholic and spends every waking moment trying to expand his fortune. I've heard his wife, Patricia, is just as bad."
"What about their family?" I pressed, hoping to see if he might know about Jason.
"I think their parents are alive, but I'm not sure about siblings," he rambled.
"I meant more like children," I snapped back, trying to steer him in the right direction.
"Easy, Leo," he replied soothingly. "You seem a bit on edge here."
"Just answer my question, please," I pressed him, although softening my tone. He looked at me suspiciously, as if he were trying to read my intentions.
"Honestly, I don't think they ever found time to start a family," he eventually answered. "With their work schedules, I don't know how they would have managed any time to fuck."
"But I heard they had a son," I explained.
"That's news to me," he said. "If they did, then they must have had sex during a business meeting and she must have delivered the kid while closing a business deal," he quipped, not thinking them possible of performing such a normal human act as procreation. Seeing he wouldn't be able to provide the information I wanted, I thanked him and went back to work.
I was chatting with someone else about the Katzes over lunch in the cafeteria, when my boss came over to join us. He listened to our conversation for a few seconds and then made some remarks in response. "I feel sorry for their son," he told us, without being asked. "They parade him out for the company picnic during the summer and then again for their Christmas parties. They have one party for their employees, one for their commercial tenants and another for their friends, who are mostly just business contacts. I got invited to the party for the commercial tenants, because we used to lease office space from them."
I didn't comment, but merely listened as my boss continued. "I also knew the nanny they hired to take care of their son, right after he was born. She said the parents hardly ever spent any time with him and she literally had to raise the poor boy. She said except for the functions I mentioned earlier, Arnold and Patricia had little contact with the lad. The nanny said she was excited when he started school, because he finally got to be around other people." I now had my confirmation about Jason's situation, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do with that knowledge.
I didn't tell Colt any of this when I got home, because I wasn't sure if it might depress him. He greeted me when I got in and told me he'd played basketball with the same group again today and probably would each day after school. I told him that was fine and I was glad he was enjoying it.
Right after dinner, Colt went to his room and started on his homework, without any prompting from me. I was wondering if his weekend experience, with how long it took him to complete his assignments, was what had motivated the change. When I went to bed later, he was on the computer in my bedroom, looking up some information for one of his assignments.
"Leo, I'll get right off," he told me, as I entered the room.
"It's not necessary," I responded, as I went into my bathroom. I finished my preparations before I came back out and got into bed.
"Leo, are you sure this won't keep you awake?" he asked me, concerned.
"No, Colt," I assured him. "If it's for your homework, then you don't have to stop."
"I'm just about done, so I won't be much longer," he added, almost apologetically, even though I had told him it wasn't a problem. I was just impressed at how dedicated he was about completing his assignment.
A short time later, Colt turned off the computer and went to his bathroom. A few minutes later, he crawled into bed with me, but stayed on his own side. He didn't even try to cuddle and I could soon tell by his breathing he had fallen asleep. I assumed it was just because he was tired and needed his rest, so I allowed myself to doze off too.
The remainder of the week went pretty much the same. Colt seemed to have a lot of homework, but that was to be expected, as this was his next to last week of school. The final week would be exams. He fell asleep in his own room a couple more nights during that week, but I figured he had just worked late and then passed out from exhaustion. When Friday night rolled around, I came home to find Jason with him again. Of course, I had expected to find both of them there, but I wasn't prepared to find them studying in the living room.
"Hey, guys. What's up?" I greeted them, as I entered.
"Hi, Leo," Jason responded.
"Hey, Leo," Colt followed. "Jason and I are just studying for the big math test on Monday. It's going to be a killer." His expression told me that he wasn't pleased about the idea of having to take it.
"I'm glad to see you guys are taking it seriously," I told them, truly impressed. "So, I guess the basketball games are on hold this weekend?"
"Oh, no," Jason told me. "We have a game scheduled for 11:00 tomorrow, but the rest of the weekend we're going to study for our finals. Right Colt?" Colt nodded in agreement.
"Hey, I'm glad you guys are taking a little time out for some fun at least," I quipped. "Just remember to only have a small breakfast before you play then." I almost laughed at Colt's reaction, as he made an exaggerated face at me.
"You too, Leo," Jason added. "We still need you to play, too." This time Colt smirked at me.
"Are you sure you want me?" I asked. "I thought after my awful performance last Saturday, you guys would have found someone else to fill that spot."
"Oh, you weren't that bad Leo," Jason lied, although not convincingly.
"Jason, you don't need to try to make me feel good just so you can come over," I explained. "You can spend time with Colt, even if you don't include me in your games."
"That's not what I'm doing Leo," Jason countered, obviously shocked by my implication. "I like you too and I want to include you in the fun. Colt thought it was a good idea too." Colt was nodding energetically at this point.
"Thanks, guys. I really appreciate that," I told them, flattered that they wanted to include me in their other activities. "But if you're hoping to see me barf again, that's not going to happen." Both boys feigned innocence at that announcement and then began to chortle.
Except for dinner, the boys spent the rest of the night by themselves. I simply left them alone and found other things to keep me occupied. When bedtime rolled around, I just stopped by to say goodnight to them, before heading off to my bedroom alone.
When I awoke the next morning and exited my room, I noticed that the door to the spare bedroom was open again and the room hadn't been used. I guess the boys must have worked late and passed out in Colt's room. I went and made my normal pot of coffee and grabbed the newspaper, as per my normal morning routine, and I was halfway through the paper when Jason's wandered in.
"Hey, Leo," he mumbled, as he sat down at the table. He was clad only in his boxers again.
"Let me know when you're ready for breakfast," I told him. "Would you like some juice?"
"Yeah, thanks," he answered, "but I can get it. You don't have to wait on me." I nodded and he got himself a glass and went to the refrigerator and poured some OJ into it. I went back to reading the paper, since I knew it would take him a while before he was completely lucid. Before that happened, Colt came stumbling into the kitchen too. He was wearing only a pair of boxer briefs.
"Morning, sunshine," I teased.
"Yeah, whatever," he mumbled back. I could tell he probably would have slept longer, but either Jason woke him when he got up or something else had disturbed him.
I waited until both boys were somewhat coherent, before I fixed them a small breakfast to tide them over. Once they'd finished, I told them to get dressed for their game and then relax until we were ready to leave. They had no problem with complying, while I puttered around, doing a few chores. About twenty minutes before the game was to begin, we loaded into the car and drove to the high school.
We still must have been a little early, because only Bert and Gary were there when we arrived. As soon as we were out of the car, Bert came over to greet Jason, but sort of ignored the rest of us. Bert then dragged Jason out on the court to warm up. Undeterred, Colt and I grabbed Gary and went to the other basket and began to shoot. Over the next ten minutes or so, the rest of the boys showed up and went to one basket or the other to warm up as well. After several more minutes, everyone was ready to play.
The boys quickly decided they wanted to keep the same teams we had the week before, because the game had been very close and the losing team wanted a chance to redeem itself. That meant it was Bert, Jason, Ben and I against Simon, Colt, Ron and Gary again. We started out in a full-court game.
The early pace of the game was fast and furious. I did the best I could to keep up, but I usually took a second or two longer than the rest of them to get from one end of the court to the other. The game had been fairly nip and tuck the whole way, when suddenly Colt stole the ball from Jason and headed toward his basket to score. Out of nowhere, Bert went charging after him and blocked his lay-up. The problem was, not only did he block Colt's shot, but he also crashed into Colt, sending him sprawling on the blacktop. Colt immediately leaped back to his feet and charged Bert, catching us all by surprise. Some of the others had to jump in and separate the two.
"What's the matter, you wuss?" Bert taunted Colt. "Can't you handle a little contact?"
"That was an intentional foul," Colt screamed back at him. "You meant to take me down."
"Maybe I did," Bert conceded, defiantly, "but I also blocked your shot, showing I was going for the ball."
Jason jumped in between the pair and slowly got them to calm down, however Bert continued his arrogant strutting about the court, which only kept the fire simmering in Colt's eyes and his temper smoldering. The rest of us kept a close eye on the pair, as we were still fearful another skirmish would break out again at any second.
The biggest difference between this game and the previous one was that Ben's shooting hand had gone cold. He wasn't scoring nearly as well as he had the previous week, so the rest of us had to make up for his scoring slump. Although I was dragging, I did manage to score a few times, which helped our cause, but it wasn't quite enough. My team was still trailing.
The more tired I got, the slower I moved and Gary took advantage of this. He was much quicker than I was to begin with, but now I was even a step or two slower than before. Gary shed me easily and broke free for a shot, but fortunately he missed it. Bert came down with the rebound, and as Colt ran by him, Colt took a playful swipe at the ball, trying to knock it free. He didn't come close to touching the ball, but Bert reacted and threw an elbow, catching Colt squarely in the jaw and knocking him to the blacktop again.
Colt was furious. He rocketed back to his feet, with blood flowing from his mouth, and stormed toward Bert. Colt was ready to throw a punch at Bert's head, but I managed to grab his arm and kept a fight from breaking out. This was supposed to be a game among friends, not a donnybrook.
"What the hell was that about?" Colt screamed, as I restrained him.
"You tried to steal the ball and I tried to protect it," Bert sneered, seemingly pleased with himself. I thought I'd better defuse the situation.
"Let's take a timeout," I suggested. "Colt you come with me to the fountain, so you can rinse your mouth. Then I'll check and see how badly you might have been injured." Reluctantly, Colt went with me, but I nearly had to drag him, to get him to do so.
"Did you see that?" he asked me, as we moved away from the others.
"Of course I did," I responded. "Now, rinse you mouth out and let me have a look."
"What the fuck is his problem today?" Colt asked me, before he did as I requested. "That's twice he's gone out of his way to hurt me."
"I've noticed, but they might have just been accidents," I offered, although I didn't believe it. "He was going for the ball the first time and he might have swung his elbows, just to keep you from hitting the ball from his hands."
"Bullshit," Colt screamed at me. "He was out to nail me and that's just what he did."
"Let's give him the benefit of the doubt," I suggested. "I don't want our friendly game to end up as a battle."
"Well, if it does," Colt countered, "it will be his fault, not mine." I had never seen Colt this upset, and although I couldn't blame him, I didn't want this escalating.
"Just rinse your mouth out, so I can see how bad it is," I ordered, watching Colt glare at Bert, just before he did as I asked.
I quickly checked Colt over and discovered a small cut on his lip and another on the inside of his mouth. These seemed to be his only injuries from the encounter, other than his head might have been a little sore from the contact. I told him to rinse his mouth out again, get a drink and cool down. I could tell Colt was still pissed about what had happened, but he didn't seem quite as volatile as he was a few minutes before. When we rejoined the others, I learned they had decided to declare the other team the winner, which was the team with Simon, Colt, Ron and Gary. Seeing that game was over, the boys picked new teams, so we could play again.
This time Bert, Ben, Gary and Colt made up one team, with Simon, Jason, Ron and I on the other. I think the boys felt there would be less hostility if Colt and Albert played on the same team, but that decision merely led to other problems. Neither Bert nor Colt would pass the ball to the other and each went out of his way to make the other look bad. Due to this fact, my team jumped to a very a sizeable lead and it wasn't much of a competition. That's why the rest of the boys decided it best if we stopped playing for the day and I agreed wholeheartedly with their decision.
Although I watched Colt, to make sure he didn't go after Albert again and try to get even, he made no move in that direction. I got both boys into the car and started to drive away, when Colt started in again. "What the fuck was up with Albert?" he asked Jason. Jason looked almost panicked, as if he was afraid to answer, but he eventually did.
"Bert just plays rough and doesn't like to lose," Jason explained, although I don't think that was what Colt wanted to hear. "Don't take it personally," Jason added.
"How can I not take it personally?" Colt asked him. "I was the only one he smashed in the face and knocked down."
Jason did not respond to this and things remained silent until we got home. As the boys went into the house, I hoped Colt would remain calm and we could enjoy the rest of our weekend.
E-mail responses to the stories, story suggestions, or other `constructive' comments or advice may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org - but please put the story title in the subject line, so it doesn't get deleted as junk mail.