Carter's Fortress

Well here we go, Book Five.

Sorry this one was a bit late, been focusing on book Six. Andrew is in the next installment released hopefully this weekend. Thoughts and comments please, again this book like the last one is darker than what you are used to. I am wondering if it makes sense.

Submitted for your approval.

As usual Comments or questions direct to Feed back is welcome.


Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character.

Henry Clay


Chapter Five

Brody was up and rattling dishes early as Will walked into the kitchen doing up his tie and turning down his collar. "Morning, honey," he said with a grin as Brody began to make coffee.

Brody turned back to Will with a surprised look on his face. "Morning," he said, flipping on the coffee maker and returning to his omelet sizzling happily in the pan.

Will chuckled as he found a seat at the breakfast bar, turning his attention to the small 13 inch TV sitting on the far end of the counter. Breakfast television, a happy blend of news, features and general mayhem designed to make you perky on your way to work in the morning. Right now they were interviewing Delia Anders about her new album, which apparently had gone double platinum.

"Not bad," Will said aloud.

Brody turned to the screen and grinned, "I know, and her music isn't bad either..."

Will looked up at Brody and rolled his eyes, "You know you're a pig."

"Dude," Brody protested looking hurt. "Just because I can admire the aesthetics of the female form..."

"Morning, Brody." A woman entered the kitchen and wrapped her long arms around him, her back leg curling up as she leaned forward to kiss him tenderly on the cheek. "Thanks for this morning."

Brody smiled at her, "No problem, Candice, I'll call you."

"You better," she tittered before she walked out of the front door, pausing to wave cheerily back at him.

Will watched her leave. "Speaking of the aesthetics of the female form," he mused, accepting the mug of coffee Brody slid across the bar to him.

"Candice is really talented," Brody said, returning his attention to the omelet.

Will shook his head as he looked back at the small television, turning it up as he realized they were onto the news.

The announcer standing in front of a large window overlooking the city shuffled his papers, and began to talk about various headlines. Will listened with half interest to the various tidbits that would be explored in more detail on the news broadcast. Earthquakes, scandal in the States, and the Federal governments proposed culture exhibition that was delayed again due to budget mismanagement. "That's one of yours, isn't it?" Brody asked, leaning on the bar.

Will frowned. "Well, yes and no," he said, remembering the brief the former chief of staff had given him. "The exhibition is ours, and once the building is built and the facilities completed we take over, but right now it's the Department of Public Works that's handling construction."

"Ahh," Brody mused. "Big project?"

"It's supposed to be a showcase of everything Canadian," Will shrugged. "It was commissioned by the last government and we inherited the project."

"So it's like the Canadian Ex?" Brody asked.

"Yeah, like a permanent worlds fair down on the waterfront in Toronto. Big, glitzy and..." Will shrugged.

"A tremendous waste of money," Brody summed up in that effortless way of his.

"Yeah, essentially," Will agreed. "We have a meeting with the Minister of Public Works about it later this week, maybe they can make some sense out of what the last government was thinking when they started to sink money into this thing."

"How much?" Brody asked.

"Officially?" Will asked. "It was supposed to cost 200 million."

"How much does it actually cost?" Brody knew full well that when the government projected the cost of something it was always woefully underestimated.

Will shrugged, "It's sitting at close to five right now."

"Five Hundred Million?" Brody whistled, "Go, liberal spending."

"Morning, Brody," a second young woman said, coming into the kitchen, and Will did a double take, as she gave Brody a big hug, stole a bite of the omelet and headed for the door.

Brody smiled at her, "I'll call you."

She giggled happily at the prospect and left. As the door closed Will gave Brody a long slow look, his eyebrow arching questioningly. "Sandra?"

"Yes," Brody said, resting on the countertop and gesturing with a forkful of omelet. "So this exhibition--who's promoting it?"

Will shrugged, "I can find out for you. Why, are you interested?"

"Maybe," Brody said looking thoughtful. "I have a few acts that could use the exposure."

"Acts?" Will asked; he turned to Brody, looking thoughtful. Brody's occupation was a source of great mystery to everyone. He just seemed to have money, and everyone thought better than to ask him about it.

Lisa was convinced Brody was an international drug dealer, but then she had an overactive imagination. The only one that had any idea was Jared, still living in Toronto, the investment banker who handled most of Brody's portfolio. Though even he didn't know exactly where the money came from, he just invested it wisely for Brody.

Brody looked at Will, a twinkle in his eyes, "Yeah I know a couple of bands that could use a gig like this." He knew full well that he had aroused Will's curiosity, but he wasn't about to confirm or deny anything. As if he enjoyed the mystery about as much as his friends enjoyed guessing.

"Well, I'll get the guy down in events to give you a call," Will said, sipping the coffee.

"And who said cronyism was dead?" Brody grinned.

Will chuckled, "Okay, then I won't get them to call you."

Marc stumbled into the kitchen sleepily, walking to the coffee pot and pouring himself a mug. He looked like he had literally crawled out of bed, his hair sticking up in mad directions and his eyes half-closed.

"Looks like someone had a rough night," Brody remarked. "Will, you really should let the boy sleep."

Marc looked up at Brody and grinned, clutching the mug in both hands; he turned and stumbled across to his jacket hanging on the back of the chair and fished out a packet of cigarettes, making his way out to the front steps for his morning smoke.

Will chuckled. Marc wasn't used to mornings yet, but the fact that he was up, without Will having to get him up, said that Marc was enjoying school. That was a relief to Will. He didn't want to push Marc into anything, but the guy needed to set his sights on something, he couldn't keep drifting.

The front door banged open and little Peter dashed inside, skidding to a halt in the middle of the kitchen to kick off his sneakers as he dashed to the living room. Will leaned his head around to see the young eighteen-year-old sliding across the hardwood floor of the living room to plug in a video game.

"Hey," Will called out, "don't you have school?"

"Not for an hour," Peter fired back, already settling in to play. "Besides, it's gym first period so I can be late..."

Will frowned. "Not on my watch, you don't," he said, sounding very much like a Dad, "Your mother finds out you're skipping class to come over here and play video games and she'll have both our hides."

"Aw, but Will..." Peter protested.

"No `but Will's'," Will replied firmly. "I'm leaving for work in half an hour, you have till then and I'll drop you off at school."

Peter grinned his thanks as he returned to button mashing.

"I swear, it's like having kids," Will muttered.

"You love it," Brody countered.

"Morning, Brody," a third lovely young lady said, entering the kitchen to give Brody a kiss, and Will nearly dropped his mug of coffee. "Same time tomorrow?" she asked in a sultry voice.

"Sure," Brody replied, as he watched her walk out the front door. Smiling to himself until he realized Will was staring at him, "What'd I do?" he asked innocently.

Will gestured upstairs, "Are you manufacturing them or something? Three girls?"

"What?" Brody chuckled. "I didn't do nutin'; I just sat there with my cup of tea, smoking my cigarette and watched."

Will blinked, "You watched?"

"Yeah," Brody said as if it was a perfectly natural thing to say. "It was quite a performance."

"I bet," Will replied dryly, draining his mug.

"No," Brody rolled his eyes, "I'm thinking about getting into films."

Will choked on the coffee. "You are not turning this house into a porn studio!" He exclaimed, having images of his name plastered across the front cover of every newspaper in the country, `Top aide to Minister of Heritage lives in a porn studio'.

"Who said anything about porn?" Brody replied. "I was thinking a remake of Little Women. They were doing a scene for me this morning."

Will gave Brody a look. And he simply shook his head and chuckled. Just when you had the man figured out, he did something completely random to throw you off the scent again.

"Wow, looks like you're busy today," Lisa said, as she walked through the door and set her briefcase down on an empty chair, taking the stool next to Will.

Will smiled at her, "You know us, all go at the Hotel Brody." He glanced at the door, "I think we should just give up and install a rotating door."

Lisa laughed, "Well it might make things easier for you boys." She gave a knowing look at Brody, "But Jeff had to run Aiden to daycare this morning so he needed the minivan. I was wondering if it was alright to ride in with you, Will?"

Will chuckled, "The more, the merrier." He looked at the TV, "We were just talking about the Exhibition Center."

"Oh, that," Lisa screwed up her nose. "It should be called the Exhibition of Boondoggle," she sighed. "It's a money pit and for some reason people keep throwing money at it in the hopes it will go away."

Will nodded, "Problem is, we're committed to it; it passed the point of no return before the minister came into office." He sighed, refilling his mug, "Best we can hope for is that it opens on time and it lives up to peoples' expectations."

Lisa shrugged, helping herself to a banana in the fruit bowl, "It opens on Canada Day. I can keep referring people over to Public Works for the time being, but we need to start announcing acts."

Will nodded, stirring in some sugar to his coffee, "Well, I'll make sure we're on top of it, see if we can book a couple of big names." He paused, "I just need to be sure the work is going to be done on time."

"Public Works," Lisa shrugged. "They're the only ones that know what's going on."

"Right," Will acknowledged. "We have a meeting with them next week, I'd like you to sit in on that." He downed the coffee and set the mug into the sink, "All right, all those happy campers coming with me better get to the jeep. I'm leaving."

Marc stumbled back in from outside, grabbing a bright yellow ball cap from the hall closet and sticking it on his head. It was surprising how little he had to do to be ready to go. Peter on the other hand was still on the xbox when Will grabbed his keys.

"Hey, short stuff," he called out. "Move or you're walking."

He shook his head, finally appreciating what Lisa went through each morning; she for her part was smiling at him from the front hall as he sheparded his flock out to the Jeep. Brody stood in the window, still in his pajamas, waving to all the schmucks who had real jobs.

Chapter Six

It was starting to get cold; Will had a pair of gloves on as he walked around the construction site keeping pace with the chief of staff for Public Works. John Hackett was a veteran of the civil service. He'd put in his time with various backbenchers, working his way up through the ranks until he had been assigned as the `fix it' man to the Office of Public Works.

The reason the department needed a man like Hackett was the man walking beside Robert Avery wearing a hard hat and laughing a bit too enthusiastically. The honorable Samuel Boucher, Minister of Public Works and one of the few men, by sheer miracle, to survive the latest election. The miracle took the form of a heart attack, three days before the polls opened, that claimed the person he was running against.

Boucher was loud, arrogant, and behind closed doors, widely perceived as totally incompetent. But he had the Prime Minister's ear, and had been the only choice for Cabinet from the slim pickings of a minority government. Now the Liberals held a majority by only a single seat, the Prime Minister wasn't about to risk having one of his ministers cross the floor because he'd lost a cabinet spot.

Will rubbed his temple, adjusting the hard hat on his head as he picked his way across the mud and sludge of the rain-soaked construction site; the two chiefs were a little ways behind the ministers and Lisa. Will knew that Hackett was doing it purposefully so they could talk.

" Yours seems on the ball," Hackett said with a motion of his head.

Will glanced to Robert who was examining some blue prints and gesturing about the site, "The Minister's had a bit of experience on construction projects," Will replied. "He knows what to look for."

Hackett seemed to digest that information with a frown, "I envy you that; I have a former high school gym coach that got lucky in an election." He smiled, "Well, we can't all be lucky."

Will shrugged, sidestepping to avoid a truck as it rumbled its way towards the road carrying more freshly dug soil to be carted away from the site. "So," Will said, wishing he could find a cup of coffee to help keep him warm, "what's the story behind this place?" He glanced behind him up at the Gardiner Parkway and beyond it the City of Toronto with its skyscrapers, noise and congestion.

Hackett smiled, "It's a legacy project; the last government voted for it, it had the backing of the NDP party and it passed." He slipped a little on the mud and Will reached out to steady him, "Mainly on the grounds that it promised to redevelop the waterfront." Hackett gestured about him at the decrepit state of the area around them, the rundown buildings that were being demolished.

"They've been wanting to do that for years," Will mused, shivering at the remoteness of where they were. "So that was the plan. Now what happened?"

Hackett licked his lips and sighed, "Unexpected expenses, budget mismanagement and a couple of contractors that weren't prepared to handle a project of this scale. It ended running a little over budget."

"A little?" Will said cynically. "It's already twice the original estimate and..." he glanced around him, "unless I am very much mistaken, we're not exactly done."

Hackett gritted his teeth, "As I told the press the other day, we had to reorganize the schedule but the project will be completed well ahead of opening day."

"How much more is it going to cost?" Will asked seriously, glancing at the two ministers. Boucher was laughing and trying to convince a JCB backhoe operator to let him operate the machine. Wisely, the operator was having none of it.

Robert cast a glance back towards Will and shook his head; Will shrugged as he stuck his hands into the pockets of his jacket and looked at Hackett expectantly.

"I can have a revised budget to your department by the end of the week," Hackett said, his dark eyes watching Will carefully. "We're already committed to this project. The Prime Minister expects this to be the crown jewel of his new tourism plan."

Will shrugged, "That maybe true, John, but is throwing more money at the problem really going to solve the issues here?" He reached into his briefcase and pulled out some projections, "I was looking into some alternate proposals for the site, something less grandiose that we can do that won't end up costing the taxpayers another five hundred million."

Hackett took the sheets and flipped through them, tsking as he handed them back. "You can submit them to the committee for approval, but I doubt they'd be considered before work starts. In order to cut costs we awarded the contract to Gravano construction." Hackett pointed to a large gaudy sign stating proudly to the world that this was another project brought to you by Emillio Gravano.

Gravano was a rising star on Canada's most eligible bachelors list. Will had seen his face on the cover of MacLean magazine a few months before, and had read the feature article that told about the thirty-year-old man who had inherited the Gravano Construction Company after his father had passed away from a stroke earlier that year. He was a man who could get things done, for a price.

Will tucked the proposals back into his briefcase, "Well then, if we're stuck, we're stuck. The question remains how do we spin this so that the press don't eat us alive for Canada's biggest white elephant?"

Hackett looked unimpressed, "I see you share the conservative view of this project."

Will blinked at the rebuke, "I'm sorry, I didn't say that." He frowned, "I am saying that I wish to know what my communications director is supposed to tell the press when they come to her asking why the government is sinking money into a project that has yet to show any signs of actual progress."

"Listen to me, son," Hackett was angry, and his voice seethed with raw emotion. "We have a lot invested in this project, unless you want your communication director telling the public that the Prime Minister and his government was shortsighted in this project, I'd suggest you have her say `everything's progressing well.'"

Will looked at Hackett and realized the older man was deadly serious, and he digested that. Was it a threat? Or a dare for him to do something? He wasn't certain, but the body language of the man clearly said that he was going to stand firm. Will studied those hard eyes with their weathered creases and knew that Hackett was threatening him.

"Right," Will said, turning and starting back to rejoin the other two ministers, "I see where we stand."

"Just remember that," Hackett called out after him. "Arrogant young..." he murmured loud enough for Will to hear him.

Will shook his head as he walked up beside Robert, who was still shaking his head in disbelief at Boucher's antics with the backhoe. "I don't believe this," Robert murmured. "How is this man still in public office?"

Lisa shrugged and looked at Will.

"A lot of luck," Will murmured, touching Robert's arm. "Minister, I think we should go."

Robert glanced at Will, searching his eyes and nodded, "Alright, William, I take it that it is serious?"

Will nodded as the two of them started back to the black Lincoln that had brought them to the site from the airport. Once they were back into the car, and Robert had issued orders to the driver, he settled back to look at Will.

"Alright, Mister Carter, what's going on?" Robert asked seriously.

Will shifted in the front seat and looked back at them, "I just had an interesting conversation with John Hackett."

"Oh?" Robert grunted. "I hope he was more informative than Boucher was. I swear the man has the mentality of a five-year-old and the education to match."

Lisa tried not to chuckle, "He wanted to ride the tractor."

Will rolled his eyes, "Yes, well. Our dear friend Mister Hackett seems to feel that everything is well in hand. Not because everything is sorted out, but rather that this project will have all the money it needs to buy its way out of the hole that `tractor' is digging."

"Hmm," Robert murmured, angling his head to look at the massive construction zone. "If this was my company I wouldn't tolerate this."

"Indeed," Will replied. "In fact, Mister Hackett went as far as to tell me that we should toe the party line on this one, or risk pissing off the PM."

"Odd," Robert said looking over at Lisa. "I'd think the Prime Minister would appreciate an objective assessment of this situation. Is the project really in that much trouble, Will?"

Will looked thoughtful and shrugged, "It's a tough choice; we can cut our losses and abandon the project and essentially write off the five hundred million that was spent already, or we keep going in the hopes the project, when opened, was worth all the money."

Lisa stopped smiling, "Excuse me, but weren't the original cost projections balanced against the revenue projections after the exhibition opens?"

"They were," Will replied, fishing out the appropriate file from his brief case. "But they look... meager compared to the current cost of this project."

"Damn," Robert said loudly. "Well, our best bet is to increase those revenue numbers. Can we pull some strings and see about making this more of an attraction?"

"You mean amusements and the like?" Lisa asked thoughtfully.

"Not just that," Robert stated. "This facility will have a large concert area, perhaps we could lease it out as an alternate concert venue, book it up and recoup some of the losses that way?"

Will sat back around in his seat; the exhibition was supposed to be a permanent attraction. But everything had a shelf life, sooner or later it would lose its appeal and people would stop coming. Now, if they had a reason to be there anyway, the concerts could be used to promote the rest of the attractions. "I'll have someone start making phone calls; if we tell Public Works to have the concert area completed first, and open it early, we can set it up to showcase the brand new facility and give people their money's worth."

"At the same time putting some money back into the project." Lisa smiled, "That's a good idea.

"It should appease the critics," Robert said with a smile. "I am glad I have both of you with me on this. What's next on the agenda?"

Lisa pulled out her palm pilot, "We have a press conference for the multicultural conference, as well as meetings with your constituents."

"Right, we should get on then," Robert surmised.

Will for his part fell silent, staring back out of the window at the dark and empty shell of what would become the jewel of the tourism industry. It stood like a monument mocking Canadian intuition and innovation. An embarrassment to the people it was supposed to symbolize.