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Opportunities (part 2)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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((Following on from the Opportunities story, Hyle and I realised that this story was going to get complicated and would require a lot of dialogue. Our normal method of taking turns to produce a post just wasn't going to do it so we decided to try and do something neew and instead did a 'slow motion' kind of RP via messaging. This post is the result. The story isn't over yet though as Joe still has to... well, read on and you'll see where it's going.


Joe was actually whistling when he got home the following day. Maybe not exactly kicking his heels in the air, but still rather happy about the week he was having. The reading class was coming along nicely, especially Finny who Joe now had learning the basics of accounting, but even Onetooth was now getting more things right than wrong, well, most of the time. The factory itself had had a good week too. But the cherry on the cake was yesterday’s lunch with Uwe. It had gone pretty well, he thought as he hung up the duster and put the shotty on hooks safely out of reach of his curious daughter. The lad might not be able to hold his ale but he had been nodding in all the right places as Joe had explained how his parents would make a lot of money just buy buying from and selling to the businesses Joe stipulated... And he even had a cold store full of vegetables should any nosey official come looking. It was perfect. He was anticipating tomorrow to bring the dawn of a new business relationship and the easement of his dead cash problem.

Pulling his carpet slippers on and anticipating a short snifter before dinner, Joe opened the door to the lounge.

From upstairs came the sound of splashing water and Anneka's usual anti-bath time protestations.

Kirsten though was standing by the mantle with her back to the fire. Arms folded. She greeted Joe with a stern frown, pinning him with those dark almond eyes.

Joe stopped dead, hand still on the doorknob while his brain quickly rewound the day to this morning to seek out the reason for Kirsten’s… This. Yesterday’s underwear in the laundry basket, check. Delivery of boxes of a rather nice malt whiskey put out of Annie’s way, check. Trash collected and taken outside, check. As an aside to his thinking Joe was counting the days until Annie was big enough to take over that particular task. At this point, Kirsten interrupted his thoughts. 

"Which part of 'Do not get involved with Silja and Uwe' do I need to explain again Joe? Tell me. Which part of 'leave them alone' do you not understand. hmm?"

Kirsten opening was direct, softly spoken but laden with the implicit authority she held over all matters concerning her household and everything within it. But the anger shone from her eyes.

Joe knew he was in deep doo-doo, but he still had yet to figure out why… Something to do with Silja? He quietly closed the door behind and approached the couch. It was an effort to steer clear of the silver tray with the decanters on it but history demanded that this was not the time.

“Not sure what you mean, my love.” Joe sank onto the waiting cushions. “I’ve been nothing but sweetness and light around them both.” He looked up into Kirsten’s face and attempted a smile. Not a flicker in the angry almond eyes. Joe’s smile faded.

Kirsten slipped into what was for her, uncustomary irony. "Well done Joe. This morning I was able to avoid that important meeting with Hyle about funding for the new school because it was more important to pick up the pieces of a shattered nanny who was too upset to care for OUR daughter. And do you know what Joe?  It was all thanks to you. So, top marks!"

The news caught Joe by surprise, but he was getting an uncomfortable inkling that it might have had something to do with his liquid lunch with Silja’s beau. He swallowed.

“What’s happened? Why is she upset this time?”

Kirsten didn’t rise to the implication of Joe’s thoughtless comment.

"Because Uwe's father has forbidden him to see Silja again. He was never happy about them being together but allowed it despite his better judgement. Then you get involved with your damned schemes and screw everything up for the kids. I hope you’re pleased!"

Joe’s brain worked overtime to try and understand what had gone wrong. Unfortunately, Joe’s brain wasn’t used to dealing with the concept of an actual straight up honest business owner. And certainly not such morally upright stalwarts as Fritz Wittman. In Joe’s world everyone was on the take to some degree. That was just, well, normal.

“But it wasn’t a scheme. Just a straight up money lau… Er moving… Oh.” The penny hit the carpet. He was silent for a second, but then the injustice of papa Wittman’s reaction soaked through his thick skin. “’ang on. Why’s he taking it out on the kids?”

Joe stood up, his ire rising. “I’ll go and have a word. Straighten things out.”

“SIT…….. Down.”

Kirsten was not finished yet. She could read Joe like a book, one in a well-lit room, read using a magnifying glass.

Joe sank back down onto the couch.

She took one pace away from the mantle towards Joe and leaned forward. The curtain of black hair fell forwards half covering the angered almond eyes. She still graciously kept her decorum but her voice overflowed with the authority and gravity of the situation.

“You thought you were helping out. Didn’t you. But the thing here is. And this is what is really bothering me. Your helping out also included you making a slice of profit at the same time. Out of Silja, out of Uwe.”

Kirsten’s lips were tight.

“Do you know how happy Silja has been? Can’t you see she after all the shit she has had to endure she finally found a nice boy. And he is!”

“Then you come along. With your money grabbing ideas. With your stupid big greedy boots and stomp all over Silja’s happiness in the chance to make a few more chips. As if you haven’t got more than enough already hmm?”

Joe wanted to protest. He really did. It wasn’t about greed in his eyes, or profit. Offering the Wittmans this deal was beneficial for him, yes, but only in freeing up cash reserves. But it was immensely beneficial to them too. If this thing with Uwe and Silja worked out then the boost to the family business he was offering would set them up. Silja deserved it. But the look in Kirsten’s eyes suggested that now was not the time. And anyway, she was right. He’d miscalculated… Badly.

Kirsten’s voice was rising.

“So you are going to sit there and think. Think hard about what you are doing. Before you go and have ‘a word’. Because you are going to try and straighten things out. But properly. Without big sticks or threats.”

“You are going to sit there and realise there are people who do not con. Are not bent. That some people actually live honest lives and wish to do so in peace.”

Kirsten paused.

Just then the lounge door opened and Silja leaned into the room to announce Anneka was now bathed and tucked into bed. But she saw Joe sitting, she skewered him with the coldest stare imaginable. Her gaze shifted to Kirsten.

“Anni’s in bed.” She said curtly before giving Joe another cold glance. She turned on her heels and left, closing the door heavily behind her.

Kirsten returned her attention to Joe after Silja’s timely appearance.

“You are going to put all this right, Joe Spivey. And properly. No threats. No bribes. Nothing like that. Just a whole pile of humble. Do you understand?”

The look Silja had given Joe had cut him to the quick. There had always been a, sometimes begrudged, respect between them. But Joe saw no sign of it in her eyes now. He sank back against the expensive cushions. He’d fucked up big time, but the worst of it was that he wasn’t sure he could make things right again.

Kirsten turned away from Joe and headed for the door, as she put her hand on the catch she turned and faced Joe with her parting comment.

“There’s a mattress and blankets in your study.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Synn's picture

(( AWW Poor Joe.  This should be interesting.

Joe Spivey's picture

It was minutes before closing time when the door to the street opened with the familiar jolly jangle-jangle of the hanging bell and two men came in. These were not regular customers. Both were large in every way. Both bore signs of previous violence. Cauliflower ears, broken nose, scars. It didn’t really matter who had what. Of much more concern, and what set the men aside from the regular customers were the holstered firearms. The men moved to stand either side of the door and stared, unmoving at the proprietor and his wife.

Edeltraut Wittman crossed to her husband and Franz touched her arm reassuringly.

Everyone waited.

Joe ambled in. He jammed his cigar between his lips while he turned, shut the door and turned the sign to ‘Closed’. He turned back, took the cigar from his mouth and beamed his best smile towards the Wittmans.

Franz stepped in front of his wife. His face became flushed and contorted somewhere between disgust and anger. The words, when they came, perfectly demonstrated barely held Teutonic rage.

“Get. Out. Off. My. Shop.”

Joe jabbed the air with his cigar hand.

“Not going to happen.” His eyes flicked to Mrs. Wittman. “I need to have a word.” Joe indicated the beaded curtain in the rear wall. “Shall we go through to the back?”

Franz drew himself up, his beefy arms flexing, unpleasant words forming in his throat.

On either side of Joe the two men rested their hands on the well-worn grips of their pistols. Joe’s smile never wavered. Edeltraut’s fingers tightened on her husband’s arms. And a barely heard warning sighed from her lips.

“Franz.”

Heeding his wife, Franz forced down the anger. Joe, meanwhile, crossed the floor and held back the beaded curtain. Edeltraut part guided, part forced her husband through the doorway. Joe followed and behind him the two large men came after. Edeltraut took them all through to the kitchen. The parlour was for entertaining friends. These verbrecher were far from being friends.

Once again, Joe’s men took up positions flanking the door. Without being asked, Joe pulled back a chair and sat down at the kitchen table. Franz sank into the opposite chair. Mrs Wittman pointedly placed a saucer at Joe’s elbow and then went to stand behind her husband. Both of them treated Joe to a tight lipped glare.

Joe carefully tapped the growing ash from the end of his cigar into the saucer. He took a breath to gather his thoughts, watching the Wittmans carefully.



((This is proving harder to write than I thought, so I'm doing it in baby steps.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

And the Wittmanns watched him. When Joe carefully placed the cigar in the makeshift ashtray and reached into his pocket, Franz and Edeltraut held their breath. But the little gangster at their table only brought out a rather battered looking wallet. The Wittmanns breathed again.

Joe dug around in his wallet until he found what he was looking for. He placed the photograph down on the table and slid it across for Franz and Mrs. Wittmann to see.

“This is my missus. Her name is Kirsten.”

“Pretty lady.” Mrs. Wittmann murmured and even Franz had to concede the same.

Joe beamed.

“Isn’t she just, eh?” Joe leaned across the table and tapped the picture. “Thing is, though, because of this thing with Uwe and Silja, I’m not getting to see the other side of our bedroom door just now, if you catch my drift.”

Edeltraut hid an embarrassed grin behind her hand. Franz remained stony faced. Joe sat back again, making the wooden kitchen chair creak.

“Kirsten wanted me to come here, I don’t know, in my best suit and carrying flowers or some such.” His eyes sought and held Franz’s. “But you wouldn’t have believed that, would you Franz old son?

Franz Wittman folded his thick arms across his barrel chest.

“Nein.”

“No, of course not. Because you know I’m low-life scum, don’t you? Most likely you’d ‘ave picked me up and tossed me straight out onto the street, eh?”

A slow, unpleasant, grin spread across Franz’s face.

“Yesss.” He held the English sibilant deliberately long to emphasise the appeal such a scenario held for him.

Joe returned an equally unpleasant smile.

“Of course you would. Because you and I both know I’m not that man.” Joe gestured over his shoulder with his thumb to indicate the two goons standing by the door. “This is much more how you see me… And you’d have me banged to rights, Mr. Wittmann.” Joe’s smile faded. “I’m not a nice man.”

Confirmation of his opinion of Spivey and people like him allowed Franz to relax back into his chair wearing a self-satisfied smirk.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

Joe’s expression softened and he too, relaxed back into his chair.

“You, Mr. Wittmann however, are. By all accounts you are an honest and decent man. And if I had bothered to check up on you instead of assuming you were just like most of the other businessmen in this town, I would have known that and I would never have sent you that proposal. So for that, I apologise.”

Franz and his wife exchanged looks of puzzlement and suspicion but they held their peace as the gangster went on.

“I’m curious though. What did your lad say when he handed you the proposal? Was he in favour of it? Because if…”

But Joe didn’t get any further because Edeltraut interrupted him.

“He didn’t.”

Joe looked up at her. Mrs Wittmann looked at him steadily. Joe glanced at her husband and noticed that he suddenly seemed to have found something very interesting on the table top. Intrigued, Joe turned back to her.

“He didn’t?”

“Nein. It was I. I found the paper screwed up with his shirt in der laundry and showed it to Franz. Uwe had been sick…”

But Joe had stopped listening. He turned his attention back to Franz.

“Well now, that’s…” Joe’s brain was already putting the numbers together. “… interesting.”

Franz looked up defiantly, his barrel chest expanding.

“He brought that… document into my home. Already he is turning into ein Skalve, a lackey of, of…”

Joe finished the sentence Franz was struggling with.

“Of low-life scum like me?”

“Ja! Scum!” This was accompanied by a huge hand slapping the table with enough force to make the saucer jump and deposit Joe’s now dead cigar onto the table top. Edeltraut held her breath. The two goons stepped forward, their hands again on the butts of their pistols.

Joe casually rescued his cigar from rolling off the edge of the table and laid it gently back onto the saucer.

“So, let me see if I have this right.” Joe folded his arms across his own chest, copying in miniature the large and angry man across the table. “Young Uwe, your lad, instead of doing what he was told and giving you my proposal… Instead of doing that, he screwed it up and ditched it in the laundry basket with his vomity shirt?” Joe’s expressive eyebrows did their thing to help turn the statement into a question.

Franz remained tight lipped but Edeltraut proudly defended her son.

“Yes.” She turned to her husband. “Franz. Uwe is a good boy.”

Franz was unmoved.

“He associates with gangsters.”

Joe hid his annoyance.

“So you, the decent man, decide to punish your son for, and correct me if I’m wrong. For having the balls to not hand over to his father something a gangster has given him to pass on to you?

Franz remained silently staring his defiance into the room in general. So Joe continued.

“And you, the decent man, also decide to punish the girl your son loves and who loves him… To punish her for him having the balls to not hand over to his father something a gangster has given him to pass on to you?”

Still Franz remained stubbornly silent.

Joe reached into his wallet again and dug out another photograph. He placed it in front of Franz.

“This is Silja with my little girl Annie.” Franz glanced down then stared at Joe. Joe continued. “Silja is a nanny, not a gangster. She’s just a teenage girl who I and Annie’s mother trust with the life of their four year old daughter.” Joe lowered his head, looking up into the eyes of Franz Wittman. “This is the girl that you, the decent man, want to punish just because she works for me and happens to be in love with your son.” Joe picked up both of the photos and sat up straight as he returned them to his wallet.

“I can’t force you to let your son and my nanny enjoy each other’s company… Well, being a low-life, I probably could but that would just make things worse for everyone and I’d never get inside my missus’ knickers again” Joe stood up and transferred the cigar to his mouth. “But think on this Mr. Decent man,” Joe lit the cigar and breathed out a cloud of fragrant blue smoke. “It’s not the low life scum that is making two young people’s life a misery just because your son stood up to a gangster.”

Joe signalled to his men and they left then.

Later, at home, Kirsten was waiting for him.

“Well? How did it go?”

He looked sad as he took her hands in his.

“Sorry my love. I couldn’t manage the ‘humble’ thing like you wanted. But I gave him a truck-load of honesty. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see just how decent he is.” Joe managed a half smile. "His missus reminds me of you a bit, so there's hope."

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

Frau Wittman took her place at the dinner table later that evening. The room was bathed in screaming silence bar the sound of cutlery on china. She looked at her two men.

On one side of her sat Pride. Teutonically bolt upright and concentrating on nothing but his food but having a difficult time forcing each morsel past the lump of stubbornness in his throat.

On the other side, sat Misery, facing Pride but avoiding eye contact, displaying a marked lack of appetite. And the silence was deafening.

Edeltraut pointedly put her knife and fork down together on the side of her plate and coughed abruptly, enough to attract the attention of her husband, upon which she made direct eye contact and nodded, well, more a prompt than a nod. After twenty-one years of marriage she was intimately familiar with Franz’ inertia and knew when things needed a shove.

Franz responded, placing his own cutlery to one side before sitting even more bolt upright, if that was at all possible. Uwe, recognising the signs, looked up and glanced at his parents each in turn An announcement was coming, that was obvious He inwardly steeled himself.

Uwe.”

Uwe swallowed and slowly put his fork to one side and looked at his father, who was clearly looking uncomfortable.

Your mother….” Franz paused. “ … And I ...”

Uwe waited for the hammer to fall.

We... would like.. You to bring Silja to tea on Sunday. We...” Franz paused again, clearly the ‘we’ in this case meant his wife. “… would like to meet her, properly, if she clearly means so much to you.

"We...” Franz paused again, but the prerogative had shifted. This time the ‘we’ referred to himself, but the proto-apology took some delivering “…We...accept that… perhaps …We... I.. may have made an incorrect assumption about Fräulein Henningsdottir.”

Franz Wittmann stopped short of an absolute apology. That would have been too much. But it was enough for Uwe.

Entschuldigen Sie mich!”

As the dining room door swung shut in Uwe’s slipstream, Fr. Wittman took her husband’s hand gently and squeezed it.

So, war das so schwer?”

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers



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