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I hate doing aerobic exercise just for the sake of having done aerobic exercise. But given the loss of my defined daily schedule since I left the LAPD, I was regularly missing my early morning kata sessions that had kept me in shape for years after leaving the Army. Not to mention, since becoming rich and living with my three lovelies, I was eating (and drinking) more and better than I used to. Any repetitive aerobic exercise is a bit painful and just as boring as anything possibly could be. But because it’s easy, and because it can be done anywhere at any time, I decided to take up running. Even though I’ve learned over the years that I have to be running after something, or running away from something, or be forced to think about something else as I’m running in order to not think about how easy it would be to just stop.
Machines at the gym are the worst. At least on an elliptical I can read, but on a treadmill all I can think about is that if I stop running right now, I’m already exactly where I need to be.
Dawn is a runner and so I started spending many mornings or afternoons chasing after her tight little ass. It was fun, and I knew that no matter how long or short our runs were, she’d eventually let me catch her and we’d recover with hot sweaty sex. But we’d have to run back home first. Usually.
Thomas Barker introduced me to Ultimate Frisbee. 7 v 7, no timeouts, no halftime. Unless you have the disc you’re running to get open for a pass or running to cover someone else who’s trying to get open for a pass. This I could do. 90 minutes or so of constant jogging and sprinting without thinking of how hard you’re working. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of losing the person marking you and running full out towards the goal line with the disc in the air heading towards a place you may or may not be able to reach in time. If you get there and snag it, you feel like you ought to be on ESPN.
Then Mary Beth introduced me to recreational soccer. Not playing it — refereeing it. I’m still not quite sure how that happened but suddenly I was signed up with a non-profit organization and had sat through an all-day course on soccer refereeing 101. I had played as a kid and figured I knew everything about the game. Not so much, as it turned out. There was this book: The Laws of the Game. And another book: Advice to Referees. I sucked it all up as I had done before with penal codes and case files. And when I started working games I realized that, as with criminal law, there was a big difference between knowing the Laws and properly applying them. I got better fast.
I was fairly quickly assigned to the higher-level games this organization had, Under 19. Which means 16, 17, 18, and 19-year-old kids. Who can run pretty goddamned fast, by the way. When you referee a soccer match you have to try to stay 10-20 yards from the ball (which is moving all over a 9,600 square yard fucking field) and be watching and constantly judging everything that’s happening. So you’re constantly walking, running, or sprinting, but it’s not until halftime that you become aware of how hard you’ve been working. Which is good, for guys like me, who don’t really like to run.
Being a soccer referee is a lot like being a traffic cop. There are laws, and you see infractions of the laws, and you have wide latitude to decide whether a given infraction is worth stopping the game for. If every driver was stopped after making any infraction, nobody on the road would be moving.
I had jogged and played Ultimate and refereed enough that I had to admit I was probably in the best shape of my life, at least since the Rangers. I was filthy rich. I had great friends in Meyer, Barker and his women, Richard and Cyndi Morrison, Buddy Magellas and Jen. I lived with three incredibly gorgeous young women with whom I had group sex pretty much every night and every morning. Life was good.
And I was bored. Bored, bored, bored.
I had trained in the martial arts starting when I was 6 years old. I enlisted in the Army at 17 and when I was 18 I became a Ranger. When I left the Army I joined the Los Angeles Police Department and wound up showing enough aptitude for hunting down bad guys that I became a detective. My entire adult life had been about training to fight, seeking the enemy, preparing to fight, fighting, and protecting the lawful.
Now my life was about deciding which type of champagne I should have by the pool.
When we made the deal with the LAPD chief to leave the department but work the cases he would give us that, for whatever reason, he couldn’t have his own troops work, we’d formed Rand & Associates, a private investigation and security firm. Richard Morrison, financial whiz that he is, helped us fund it to nine figures. It was meant to be a cover but it was also meant to give me, Meyer, Buddy, and Jen the ability to use our talents in whatever ways we decided to use them. Sort of a private sector cop force, we thought. We had enough money that we could hire other professionals and probably be very competitive in our chosen market.
So illegal bahis far, we’d prosecuted exactly one case, and that one was for the chief. And it mainly involved Meyer taking bribes. Not very exciting. I had to figure out what we were really going to do with the company and, more importantly for me, what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
I had three different groups that I could approach with an existential question like this. Meyer, Buddy, and Jen ostensibly worked for me and whatever decision I came to about Rand & Associates would affect them. Richard Morrison and Thomas Barker had no commonality with the things I had done in my life, but they were both smart as anything and had turned into dear friends. And, of course, my girls. But I felt that I had to get centered and figure some things out for myself before I went to the girls with this, because they would be the most affected and their opinions would matter the most to me. I decided to start with Barker.
“Hi, Hero,” Tina said when she answered the door, fully nude, which wasn’t at all unusual. “He’s waiting for you in the study.”
I watched her ass as she led me there. I had a thing for Tina, and she had a thing for me. It was a thing that we both knew we couldn’t pursue.
“I’ve been told this is to be a private conversation,” she said. “Pity. I’d love to spend some quality time with you, if you know what I mean.”
“Johnny,” Barker said as he stood and we shook hands. “Has Tina been torturing you again?”
“Moi?” said Tina. “Can I get you boys anything?”
“No, thank you sweetie, Juana is making us a snack and I can grab whatever we want to drink. You go back to the pool.” He hugged her and kissed her forehead, and she slunk out and closed the door.
Tina was Barker’s sister and soulmate. She was attracted to me, and I to her. My niece Dawn was my soulmate, and she and Barker were doing the same dance. Barker and I had agreed that we each would never, ever. We sat down.
“Is she wearing you down, Johnny?”
“There’s no safe answer to that except a lie, Thomas.” I leaned back on the sofa and rubbed my face.
“What’s wrong, Johnny? All you told me was that you wanted to talk.”
I spent the next few minutes laying it out for him. He sat back and was quiet for a time.
“I’m a nerd,” he said. “I never had anything approaching the kind of risky, combative life that you’ve had. The closest I got was helping you get the Morrisons back when they were kidnapped, and that was just logistics. I’m not sure I’m the right person to come to for advice on this.”
“When it comes down to it, it’s more a question of what makes life satisfying and worthwhile,” I said. “I figure everyone has to ask that question and figure out the answer, so I want to know what you think.”
He was quiet for a longer time.
“I still work,” he said. “It may not look like it, but I do. I’m still writing software. It’s very rewarding work for a nerd like me. And I do a little hardware design, too. I outsource the fab for it.”
“Fabrication,” he said. “I have all the time in the world, and no pressure to deal with. Just like you, I’m wealthy and I don’t have to worry about the next paycheck. I can do what I want, on the schedule that I want. I don’t have to do anything at all, but life gets boring if I don’t.”
“No shit,” I said.
“You want a drink?” he said.
“Desperately,” I said.
We walked to his bar. I chose Highland Park 25, neat. He poured himself a glass of red wine, and we went back to the study.
“What do you miss about being a cop?”
I thought about it. “Being a cop is 95% boredom and drudge work, and 5% ‘You couldn’t pay me enough to do that.’”
“And which is the part you miss?”
I thought some more, but it was easy. “The 5%.”
“I figured,” he said. “Because you’re good at that part, and you know you are, and you know what doing it does for the world.” He took a sip of wine. “Cyndi told me everything that happened when you rescued her and Richard. You took a bullet for them and were ready to die for them. You were kind of reckless about it, I think.”
“‘Rangers lead the way.’”
“Yeah, well, isn’t it also advisable to assure that you can lead the way next time as well?”
“What I really want to know, Johnny, is what you think you want to do?”
That took me aback. Morrison was younger than me, but I think hugely smarter than me, or at least smarter in different ways. It was a great question.
“I don’t know,” I said. “If I knew, I don’t think I’d be here.”
Barker started to speak but was stopped by a knock at the door. He stood up and opened it, and there were Juana, Esmeralda, and Nela, wheeling in a cart with what I assumed was lunch. They were all nude. And I’d had sex with all of them before. I wondered what the deal was.
“Lunch is served,” Juana said as the cart rolled in. She pulled the covers off the platter to reveal various types of sushi.
“We can do Nyotaimori,” illegal bahis siteleri Nela said.
“We can do what?” I said.
“Naked sushi. You would eat it off my body.”
“Who’s body?” Esmeralda said.
Nela shot her a look. “Okay, off the body he chooses.”
Barker stood. “Thank you, ladies, but we’re not done with our conversation yet. I fear you might prove a terrible distraction. That will be all, thank you very much.”
We were treated to the view of their lovely asses as they walked out and closed the door.
“I think I need another drink,” I said.
“Me, too,” Barker said.
After we’d refilled, Barker again asked me to think about what I wanted to do.
“Assume you don’t have a pot of money. Assume that you don’t have three young hotties who want to give their bodies to you every night. Assume that you’re just starting out in life. What’s your life’s work going to be?”
I thought about it. “I’m having a hard time doing that, forgetting what I’ve been and where I am now. It’s all a part of me. I…” I couldn’t go on, because I had nowhere to go.
“Let’s take a break and have some sushi,” Barker said, putting down his wine. “Juana is getting really good at this stuff.”
I sat across a patio table from Richard and Cyndi Morrison. The pool rippled and glistened next to us, reflecting the Southern California sun.
“Money,” Richard said.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Money is your problem. Or at least part of your problem.”
“‘Money is the root of all evil?’”
“Actually, it’s ‘love of money is the root of all evil,” Cyndi said.
“That’s good to know,” I said. “But how is it relevant?”
“What are the things that motivate us?” Richard asked. “Why do we pick a job, or a career?”
I thought about it.
“When I joined the Army, I wanted to serve my country.”
Cyndi looked at me. “Really? Not, avoid college, couldn’t get a job, wanna pick up girls who like uniforms?”
I stared at her.
“Sorry,” she said.
“And when you became a cop?” Richard said.
“Well, I needed a job, for sure. And so I tried to figure out what I could do given the skills I had. Cop seemed like a natural fit.” I paused. “Criminal probably would have worked, too.”
“Yeah, that’s not you,” Cyndi said.
“Thing is, most people tend to be driven by the need or the desire for money,” Richard said. “That’s the ‘moving forward’ vector. People also have desires to do certain things, or to work toward certain outcomes, but that just adjusts the vector left or right.”
Richard sighed. “By becoming rich, and by making all your friends rich, you’ve taken away the need for a forward vector.”
I sat back and considered. I sipped some Highland Park 25. All my friends stocked it, because they know I like it.
“You’re rich, and you’ve made me and the chief and lots of other people rich. But you’re still working. You still have a forward vector. Why?”
“It’s fun,” he said. “I get a kick out of taking risks and beating the market, the bigger the beating, the better. And people need me. Not just big players, either. Some of the investors in my fund are little old ladies on a pension, or no pension. I’ve met some of them. It feels good to know that I’m helping them.”
That was one of the reasons I became a cop: to help people. To go after the other type of people: the ones who hurt you and take your stuff. Maybe Richard was onto something here.
Their daughter Laura walked out onto the patio wearing a beach towel. She dragged a lounger close to us and whipped the beach towel off. She was wearing nothing underneath it. She arranged it, and then herself, on the lounger.
“Hi, Johnny,” she said. Richard rolled his eyes.
“You did this to me, Rand. I’ll get you for it someday.”
Cyndi laughed and choked on her wine.
“It’s perfectly natural and innocent, Daddy,” Laura said. “We’ve talked about this.”
“Someday, Rand. Somehow.”
I chuckled. Laura’s 16-year-old body was perfect, with serious promise of turning into a perfect woman.
“Is it really so tough, Richard? Seeing what beauty you and Cyndi have created? Beyond her nudity, which wouldn’t be such a big deal in many countries, she’s a wonderful girl on the inside. I know this, because she’s lived with us. Is it really so tough?”
He looked over at her. “No,” he said. “It was weird at first, but I’m more used to it now. And you’re right: somehow, some way, we raised the perfect daughter.”
He sipped his Scotch.
“I’m still going to get you for it, though.”
Meyer, Meyer’s lady spy Georgia, Buddy, Jen, and I sat at the conference table in the conference room of the recently-leased office suite of Rand & Associates. It was the first time we’d used it.
“So, are you shutting us down?” Buddy said.
“We’re just talking,” I said. “None of us needs to work, ever again. The big question is, do we want to, and if we do, what do we see ourselves doing?”
“What canlı bahis siteleri do you see yourself doing, Johnny?” Jen said.
“That’s the question that started this,” I said. “I’m sort of floundering. I don’t… no, none of us needs to work, ever again. Ever. If we don’t want to. But like I said, I kind of feel like I’m wasting time. Am I going to spend the next 40 years just drinking champagne, lying naked by the pool, and having sex?”
Meyer raised one eyebrow.
“Okay, so there are worse ways to live,” I said. “But you know what I mean.”
“Let’s go kick some ass!” Buddy said. Jen punched him in the arm.
“Whose ass?” I said.
Buddy was silent.
“That’s the thing,” I said. “We’re missing step 3. We don’t even know whether we want to do step 3.”
“Step 3?” Georgia said.
“Step 1 was leaving the force and agreeing to work whichever cases the chief gave us. Step 2 was opening this… whatever it is. Company. Step 3 would be to figure out what, if anything, we would do with the company in the apparently vast lengths of time between cases from the chief.”
The room was silent.
“If I may,” said Meyer. “We pretty much follow your lead, Johnny. Have been for some time. In fact, by the time we left the force I was already following your lead. That sort of indicates that you need to make the decision about what we’re to do, and we’ll follow it.”
“Fuckin’ A, bro,” Buddy said, and Jen punched him again.
“No,” I said. “You’re not getting it. I don’t know what to do. That’s why we’re here. I want to hear what you guys want to do. That will… I hope that will give me some kind of direction, some sort of…” I threw up my hands in frustration.
Georgia stood up, walked around the table, and stood behind my chair. She started massaging my shoulders and murmuring things in Russian as she did it. I looked at Meyer.
“Loosely translated: ‘There, there,’” he said.
I put my head in my hands. The massage felt good. There was more tension there than I would have guessed.
These were people I’d put my life on the line for, and who’d put their own lives on the line for me. Whatever this group decided, I suddenly realized, that’s what we’d do.
“Georgia, is there a Russian restaurant nearby that would be open at this time in the afternoon?”
“Somebody call them and get them to lay on a serious Russian feast. Borscht, caviar…” Which was the extent of my knowledge of Russian cuisine. “Other stuff?”
“You are a heathen, Johnny,” Georgia said. “I shall select.”
“Approved,” I said. “Make it decadent and expensive. Meanwhile, kiddies, the bar is open.”
It was a good bar. I’d ordered the stocking of it myself. It had, to this point, never been used. That was going to change quickly.
I had gotten up early. As quietly as I could, I made a serious breakfast feast for Dawn, Mary Beth, and Jay. Timing was the issue, so I made the things that didn’t depend on when they woke up first: Coffee and biscotti and mixing stuff. When I heard the first stirrings upstairs, I started the blini and the omeletes. Blini was a revelation from yesterday afternoon.
By the time the girls came down the table was set with Parmesan and prosciutto omelets, blini and Osetra caviar, corned beef hash, champagne, and frozen vodka.
Mary Beth stopped in her tracks.
“What the fuck is going on, Johnny?”
“Just making breakfast,” I said.
“Right,” she said. “You’re a very good cook. At dinner. For breakfast, you make scrambled eggs. I know a setup when I see it, and this is it. We just need to know what it’s a setup for.”
I sighed. “Let’s just eat and then we can talk, okay?”
“Serious talk?” Jay said.
“Fairly serious,” I said.
“Go put some clothes on, then,” Dawn said.
“Do I have to?”
We were all sitting around the table naked, finishing breakfast.
“So basically,” Dawn said, “Your peeps want to be the Avengers.”
I had another blini with caviar and washed it down with a small shot of frozen vodka.
“What my ‘peeps’ want to do is keep working. They don’t want to become irrelevant, and they don’t want to stop helping the innocent.”
“And what do you want, Johnny?” Jay said.
I pushed a piece of omelet around on the plate.
“I still don’t know,” I said. “But I’m inclined to follow my people.”
“That’s a conundrum, Johnny,” Mary Beth said. “Because they’re inclined to follow you.”
I pushed the omelet back and forth on the plate, then sat back in the chair.
“And what do you girls want?”
They looked at each other. Dawn became the spokesperson.
“We want you to be safe. We want you to be here. But we want you to be happy.”
The front door opened. “Hello? Good morning!”
Christine and Melanie, our housekeepers, made their way into the dining room.
“Naked breakfast, I like it,” Christine said. “Could be a sequel novel to ‘Naked Lunch’. Or a prequel, I guess.”
Dawn held her head in her hands for a moment, then pushed back her chair.
“Johnny, I have it. I see it.”
“Christine has a degree in criminology, remember?”
“Don’t mock me, Johnny. Learn from me.”
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