Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 18

The Shark Tank

Preston's brother, Carmen, was as charming as Preston. Carmen was several years younger than his brother and there was a strong resemblance.

Carmen's wife, Belinda, was beautiful and wearing her weight in dazzling jewelry. She sparkled as radiantly as her diamonds. Even her smile sparkled.

The Foyer expanded to a large space beside the living room. It had a curving staircase leading upstairs. An ornate chandelier hung over head and lit the staircase and the walkway at the top of the stairs.

Glenn and I stood behind Preston as his brother hugged him fondly.

"You look marvelous, Press," Carmen said.

Mrs. Hathaway kissed Preston's cheek while she hugged him.

"You look younger every time I see you, Press. The Med must agree with you," Beiinda said.

I came next. I was picturesque in Glenn's ruffled blue shirt. It was a perfect shirt for the occasion. I was greeted warmly.

Glenn got a special greeting. The Carmen Hathaways were happy to meet him. They hoped he enjoyed Seattle.

My presence fit Preston's purpose perfectly. Of course he didn't object to me going along. I could accept his desire to create mystery where ever Glenn went.

The next stop was the living room. It was filled with people nibbling and chatting. They drank from crystal glasses and laughed politely. Everyone had a million dollar smile. I'd never seen so many perfect teeth.

When Preston stepped into the room, everyone turned his head to look.

They stopped in mid sentence and mid nibble.

Most every eye was on him and the doorway behind him to see who followed Preston into the room. They probably thought that would tell them who the violinist was.

Except Glenn's hand in the middle of my back guided me into the shark tank behind Preston.

A mystery arrived with Preston. There were two young men with him. Since neither of us carried a violin, no one could be sure which one was the violinist.

Since I came next after Preston, they thought it was probably me. After the handsome Glenn entered, no one could be sure.

Once Preston stopped to chat with the closest gaggle of folks, progress stopped. We were held up in the doorway to the living room..

That's when Mrs. Hathaway swept into the room. Her white gown sparkled with jewels.

Carmen stood beside Preston as the people laughed and gushed over the handsome brothers. There was still the lingering question.

Mrs. Hathaway answered it as she took Glenn's arm.

"Glenn is a violinist. He plays for Press and this is his friend Gordon," she said, guiding us to another cluster of people deeper in the room.

"Have you played for Preston before?"

"Where are you from?"

"Where did you study the violin?"

"Do you play?" a smiling woman asked me.

"I play the guitar," I said.

"Where?" She asked.

Preston came to the rescue with Carmen beside him. That's when subsequent questions were directed at the leader of the Preston Hathaway Orchestra.

You don't talk to the Indians when the chief is nearby.

"Is Glenn the prodigy?"

"Where did you find him?"

"Has he played for anyone we know?" A woman wanted to know.

In my mind I could hear some mythical voice asking, 'Did you really get him out of a box of Cracker Jacks, Press?'

"I can only field one question at a time, but the simple answer to your questions is, you'll have the answers to all your questions this time tomorrow evening. We've come to say hello and mingle with our patrons tonight," Preston said. "Don't make Glenn wish he'd gone to the Mariner's game."

There was polite laughter.

The people closest to Preston reached for his hand to greet him. They were all smiles. People strained to see Glenn. Others pointed out which one he was.

After making the rounds of the room, Preston escorted us to get something to drink and a few tidbits to eat. I was suddenly starving and all they had were tiny crackers and something that looked a little like smashed blackberries.

"Try it," Glenn said, scooping a cracker into the blackberries. "It's caviar. It costs an arm and a leg."

I was suddenly looking forward to a Big Mac.

Preston hustled us away from the food and he introduced us to some of his friends. I felt more comfortable with them. Preston said each name and the instrument he played. The way Preston spoke told me that each musician we spoke to was highly regarded.

Everyone scrutinized us politely. The dozen clusters of people in the living room faced us, watching Preston, Glenn, and me.

Preston started each conversations with, "This is Glenn. He plays the violin. This is his friend Gordon. He's also a musician."

I hung back to allow Preston and Glenn to move together. No one cared if I was a musician or not and they all wanted time with the two of them.

A bejeweled elderly woman came off right tackle and headed directly at me. She accidentally bumped me as I stood alone behind Glenn and his new admirers.

"Oh, excuse me, dear. I should never have a second drink, you know. Are you going to be at Preston's performance tomorrow evening?"

It was a clever approach, even if it was transparent. I'd give her points for cleverness, but that's all she got out of me. I'd been taught never to give information to strangers, but in this case I'd be polite.

"Oh, yes ma'am. I wouldn't miss one of Press's shows. He's the bomb," I blurted with sincerity.

"He is?" she asked with her confusion obvious.

She excused herself, going to find someone who spoke her language.

Preston brought me punch, after everyone was straight on who played the violin. He took my empty glass, making sure I wasn't left to stand alone while Glenn was being interviewed. A semi-circle had forming around him.

I heard Glenn say, "I'm just a poor country boy who plays the fiddle."

Preston cringed.

I laughed at Glenn's sudden southern accent. I thought he might have gotten it in southern Germany.

People acted delighted to meet a prodigy. No sooner did one speaker run out of questions than the next was at his elbow, introducing himself.

Glenn's expression hardly changed, as he appeared to listen to every word with the same enthusiasm he had for the last questioner.

Glenn's display of patience had to please Preston. It surprised me. Glenn seemed relaxed and not uncomfortable. Perhaps he'd consider an acting career once playing the violin got old.

It was at this time, Preston introduced me to Carmen Jr. He looked at me like he was a cat and Preston had just brought him a mouse. Junior didn't get the memo about being cordial and polite, and he whined.

Carmen Jr. wasn't impressed by the gathering. They'd eaten Junior's favorite Hors d'oeuvres and he wasn't happy about it.

His mother said, "Take Gordon upstairs and show him your games. I'll fix a sandwich and some chocolate milk."

If I looked as out of place as I felt, Preston may have suggested Junior should entertain me.

I followed Junior up to his room. He said he'd show me his electronics collection.

How long would that take?

When I followed him into his room, I'd never seen so many games and gadgets. I didn't know there were so many. This kid had more games than the electronics store. Many of them looked new.

I listened to Junior describe each item as he picked out the one we would play first. I yawned a lot but he didn't mind. I had become a captive audience. If I had to pick between junior and what was going on downstairs, I'd stick with junior, but his parents needed to buy him a new voice.

The easiest way to go was to fake an interest in what he was saying. When we played one of the games, he remained silent, except for his superior little laugh, when he won every game by massive margins. He continued to show off his hardware as we went through the latest shelf of games he'd gotten for Christmas.

The majority of the shelves were ignored as the time for those gadgets had come and gone. The important thing was to have the latest game and become expert with it. It was obvious how Belinda and Carmen kept their annoying kid out of their hair.

I was sure he couldn't be this annoying around his friends, but where were his friends? Wouldn't he invite one over while his parents entertained their friends?

Having me out of the way eliminated the uncomfortable explanation of who I was and why I was here. I'd stayed long enough to know it wasn't my kind of people.

Junior's mom brought us plates of food and soft drinks. She smiled. I nibbled. Junior continued playing. His mother was gracious. Maybe they thought I'd like their arrogant kid. Someone had to do it.

I played each game, as per Junior's instructions. He didn't give me any tips on how to be competitive. He enjoyed running up the score on me, laughing that insipid laugh each time he drubbed me.

Junior was the kind of kid I'd avoid. In this case I'd put up with him until it was time to go. I didn't want to go back downstairs.

I'd just about had enough of Junior, when Berlin appeared. Berlin at thirteen way more mature than his fifteen year old brother. He had a delightful little smile and hardly said a word at first, watching without asking to join in on the fun.

Berlin wanted to show me some of his games and I let him charm me away from junior, who complained that Berlin always ruined his fun.

I'm sure Carmen pulled the wings off flies, after the maid caught them for him.

It was during a brotherly exchange that Junior picked up a football intending to bean Berlin with it.

"You little faggot," Junior spat, and the football went straight up in the air and came down on Junior's pointed head before it bounced along a shelf full of games.

Glenn had arrived in the nick of time. He grabbed junior's wrist as he was about to launch the football at Berlin.

"Get off me, asshole," Junior ordered, unable to get loose from Glenn's grip.

"You say that word again, little boy, and I'll wash your mouth out with kerosene," Glenn said softly into the struggling boy's ear.

"I got your little boy," Junior suggested, grabbing the front of his jeans to search for the item in question.

"Like I said, little boy," Glenn said, grabbing his own crotch, leaving Junior shocked by his shortcoming.

"You aren't so hot," Junior said, knowing when it was time to change the subject. "I play the violin too."

Junior's irreverent tones proved he could regroup swiftly.

"I'm sure you do. You probably play it with your feet, you little geek. Come on, Gordon, Preston said you'd need rescuing by this time. I'm done here. There's a back way out of here and it's time we get gone."

"I'll show you a shortcut," Berlin said.

"Preston called Leo and told him to bring the limo around back to meet us."

Glenn held his hand out to me. Junior's eyes opened wide as he watched our hand holding as we headed for the back door.

"Nice to meet you, Berlin," I said, as we went down a narrow staircase at the back of the house.

"I'll show you my record collection next time," Berlin said, as we went down the back steps outside the house.

Glenn looked particularly happy we were making a getaway. I was happy to be escaping with him.

Preston was familiar with the lay of the land. He'd given the gadflies a little more than an hour with Glenn before pulling the plug.

Preston knew his business. Getting an hour of cooperation out of Glenn was an achievement. It was exposure Glenn needed to adjust to and doing it slowly was going to get the best result.

Glenn would mature in time. He'd accept the intensity as part of what he did. Giving audiences and fans time would pay off. They'd remember him for that as much as they remembered his performances.

Preston was protective of Glenn. He knew what was coming and protecting his young protege was his job. Like all the entertainers who went before Glenn, he'd become better equipped to handle his fame as time went on.

If Preston played his cards right, Glenn would adjust to being a member of the Preston Hathaway troop. There was no hurry. It was Glenn's first time at the rodeo. His fear of failure and his doubt about his ability created apprehension.

I thought Glenn would do fine and having done fine the first time, would make every other time easier. One day Glenn would look forward to performing and enjoy being part of the Preston Hathaway show.

Leo waited by the open rear door of the limo. I got in first and slid across the seat to leave room for Glenn.

Leo closed the door and walked around the back of the car before getting in on the driver's side.

"Where to, gentlemen?" Leo asked, once he turned onto the street and drove pass the waiting line of limos.

"McDonald's," I said. "I'm starved. Do you have any money. I've got five bucks on me," I said. "You weren't kidding about the good food being gone by the time we got there. I had two crackers with little eyeballs staring at me. I had to close my eyes to eat those."

"My mommy always pins a twenty dollar bill on the inside of my jacket," Glenn said, opening it to unpin a crisp new twenty dollar bill.

"Tell your mother she's a life saver. I don't know what that food was but it will never make it onto my favorites list," I said.

"How'd I know you'd need food. There were no meatballs, no chicken wings, not even a carrot stick," Glenn said. "We've decided on McDonald's, Leo. Don't spare the horses, my man."

"Yes, sir," the driver said. "You're the violinist everyone is talking about?" he asked Glenn. "If you aren't, I'm being carjacked."

"I'm Glenn and this is Gordon. How about I buy you a burger and fries, Leo. Shake or soda with that?" Glenn asked.

"No thank you. I'm trying to quit. My wife packed me a roast beef sandwich. McDonald's don't quite cut it when stacked up against my wife's roast beef."

"Maybe we should be going to Leo's for sandwiches," Glenn said.

"My wife would skin me alive. She don't like me being out late and I told her you boys might want a tour of the town. We best not disturb the Mrs. I'm in enough hot water as is."

"Leo, you are a mind reader. We'll leave the route up to you, after we get our fix at McDonald's. Is that OK with you, my prince/" Glenn asked, kissing my cheek.

Leo's eyes quickly left the mirror he looked into while talking to us.

"I couldn't ask for more," I said. "I've never been offered more."

"After sticking you with Junior, I can offer you no less," Glenn said, taking my hand to hold.

"You boys met the little monster? Carmen's boy? Spoiled rotten," Leo said. "I'll deny it If you say I said that. I doubt it would be a new's flash to the parents. They live with the little creep."

I laughed.

"Yes, Gordon had to play with the creep. You know the child in question, Leo?"

"Small town. When you drive folks up on the Hill, you get to know their kids first. 'Take them here. Take them there. Take them anywhere but get them out of my hair.'"

Glenn and I both laughed.

Leo was a regular guy.

"Man's a poet," Glenn theorized.

Leo laughed.

"Berlin, sweet kid. To look at Belinda and Carmen, you'd expect their kids to be like Berlin. Junior has become the bad seed."

"Do you drive Preston a lot?" I asked.

"Whenever he's in town. They play the university once a year. Preston always asks for Leo. I'm 'Leo the lip,' because my lips remain sealed no matter what is said in my limo. Folks on Capitol Hill like that. Preston has me meet as many orchestra members as I can manage. They usually come in an hour or two apart. I've had twelve in here. Two had to sit with me up here. Preston likes to go with me to pick his people up. He's like an anxious parent," Leo said.

"I drive for Carmen a couple of times a week. They're probably a quarter of my business and half my income. They don't mind paying for service and whatever they want, I deliver. I pray for customers like the Hathaways."

"Well, Leo, you are our kind of guy. We're both new to the limo world and you seem to know the ropes. Nearest McDonald's and then we'll put our fate in your hands," Glenn said.

"At your service, gentlemen," Leo said, turning into the McDonald's take-out line.

I had a double cheeseburger, large fries, and Coke. Glenn had a Big Mac and fries with a chocolate shake.

Leo pulled off to one side of the parking lot and he got out his sandwich and thermos to join us.

There were foldout tables in the back with places to put the drinks so they wouldn't slide around when the car was moving.

"I'm really sorry about tonight," Glenn said. "I didn't know it would be like that. I told Preston I had enough. He said he was waiting for me to take out my white flag. He took me to the stairs and told me where I'd find you."

"Me too. It wasn't that bad but I missed you," I said. "Junior was not a suitable replacement."

"This is nothing like playing Berlin," Glenn said.

"How's that?" I asked.

"You're nothing like my mother for one. My friends came to see me in Berlin. Herr Gorman came back stage to give me a hug. It was more like a home coming than a dog and pony show. Being here is like I'm a slab of meat people have heard about. Preston has spread my legend far and wide. In Berlin dozens of musicians had solos. It was about Christmas music and not the musicians."

"He is building up to your performance," I said.

"He told me about you when he asked me to drive you the next two days," Leo said. "Preston is a smart man when it comes to music. I hear about the Preston Hathaway Orchestra coming to town for weeks in advance. Of course I already know he's coming because he calls me to tell me what dates he'll need me. I think you're lucky to be starting out with a gentlemen like Preston. He cares about everyone in his show."

"I'm happy with how I'm treated by Preston. I could live without the hype. I know people like to say they heard a musician when he started out. They'll watch my career, and if I do catch on, they'll tell friends where I got my start," Glenn said.

"Preston does like hype. Creates more interest when his show comes to town. There's always a gimmick that has people talking about the Preston Hathaway Show."

"Glad it's over with tonight. I'll play tomorrow night and we'll finish our tour of Seattle," Glenn said.

"True! There is the brunch before the performance. That's mandatory. It's his entire show eating and relaxing before going to the auditorium," Leo said.

"That should be OK. It'll be other musicians," I said.

"I doubt it will be like this all the time. One day I'll just be a violin player," Glenn said, wiping his mouth with his napkin.

"Never," I said, kissing him to add a little of my hamburger juice to his freshly cleaned lips.

He leaned to return the kiss.

"You OK? You sure you want to tour the town tonight?"

"May never get another chance. I've always liked the sound of Seattle. So far I've seen the airport, the Interstate, and a hotel."

"You've seen Capitol Hill. That's where the money lives," Leo said.

"Is Preston rich?" I asked. "If he's staying with his brother, he obiously doesn't have a place on Capitol Hill."

"I don't know. He has an orchestra. Can't imagine those come cheap," Glenn joked. "Hey, Leo, is Preston rich?"

"Mr. Hathaway? He's the man when it comes to hiring a touring orchestra. People come from all over to audition for him." Leo said. "He lives in Rancho Bernardo. Down in California. My wife tells me it's a pricey neighborhood. He's a good tipper. He's a great tipper. When I take him to the airport to leave town, he asks for the bill for my services. He writes a check for the number on the bottom line, adding twenty percent for my tip. When Preston brings his show to town, I have my best month that week."

"Good help is hard to find," I said.

"Is he rich? In the eyes of a working stiff, he is, but he doesn't confide in me about his bottom line."

"I think you've got it about right. He seems familiar with the good life and people who are living it. He's not married to money the way he's married to his show," Glenn said. "He's got us in a first class hotel. That's not necessary. A room at Holiday Inn would be fine. Even Holiday Inn is a step above what my parents could afford when we traveled."

"No, sir," Leo said. "A working man wouldn't be allowed in the lobby if he's not there doing maintenance. They have security between the door and the front desk. They only allow me inside because I pick up client's luggage and then I'm asked to do it discreetly."

Leo was a first class tour guide. He not only knew where everything was but he knew the history of Seattle and its many transitions.

It took us some time to work out way up to the Space Needle. Glenn and I got out to walk around its perimeter.

"The restaurant up there," Glenn pointed. "It moves. It rotates so you get a full view of the city while you eat."

"We'll have to eat up there one time," I said.

"Probably not this time, but Preston's Christmas show is in Seattle this year. I can call to make reservations for us to eat there at Christmas," Glenn said.

"It's a date but how will Santa Clause find me?" I asked.

"He knows where everyone is," Glenn said.

Leo broke out a camera he kept in his car for such occasions and he shot pictures of us near the Space Needle.

Glenn borrowed Leo's chauffeur's hat and he held the door open for Leo. I had the camera and snapped a picture. Leo took it all in stride. He seemed like a man who enjoyed seeing his clients have a good time.

We stopped for coffee and Leo sat with us and let us buy him a cup too.

Leo had been driving clients for over fifteen years. He owned the limo and had a list of clients who called his house when they needed him.

He had a service that provided clients when Leo called for work. He liked people and he'd always liked to drive. Becoming a NASCAR driver didn't seem like an option and Seattle is a great tourist town.

I don't know what time we got back to the hotel but I was so tired I could hardly get out of the car. Leo said he'd be back early in the afternoon and take us to see Puget Sound and Pike's Market before we went to the brunch that started at three and lasted until we went to the auditorium around six.

Glenn opened the hotel room door for me. I stepped inside and he followed. There was light coming in from the balcony as we embraced and shared our most passionate kiss yet. The idea of sleep, after being on the go for so long, was replaced by bigger ideas.

There was no tentative embrace as our bodies pressed together. If you followed our clothes, you'd end up in the bedroom. There was nothing left to lose by the time we slipped between the sheets on Glenn's bed.

It was the kisses that took my breath away. We'd run out of things to say and having his naked body pressed against mine created a fire it would take hours to put out.

The kisses intensified. Our hands and mouths were everywhere.

Little did I know how much I already knew about how many ways there were to drive my lover crazy. It didn't seem to matter what I did, his surrender was complete and unconditional.

I had a power over Glenn that I'd never had over anyone before. He didn't know the word enough.

That left me free to explore to my hearts content.

Sometime before daylight, we finally slept. We didn't decide we needed some sleep. We drifted off in each others arms between kisses.

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