Ashamed of his past and afraid of his future.

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A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 17

Oh-pah!” Fire exploded on the plate, licking the air around it. A few gasps went up, followed by clapping. The waiter bowed and offered the plate to Deanna. When the flame died, she sliced the saganaki and passed it down the table. The Roditis was flowing along with the food; Georgia refilled her glass.

With no one to impress and no family traditions to uphold, the wedding ceremony was over in five minutes. Toasts and champagne followed. By the time they headed down to Greek town, everyone was so cheerful that even the judge, who barely knew Stone, joined them for dinner.

Apollo’s had stucco walls that looked like they were still puckering, posters of Greek islands covering them, and waiters in shabby black vests. Deanna sat at one end of the table, Stone at the other. Between them were friends of Deanna’s, most of whom Georgia didn’t know. Stone’s son, Jack was there next to Matt. Taller and leaner than his father, Jack hardly made eye contact with anyone. Georgia had seen that before in ex-cons, and Jack was one. Ashamed of their past and afraid for their future, they tried to skate though life without attracting attention. Sometimes, they landed back inside. But Jack was young. There was hope. She listened to him talking to Matt.

“…Taking classes at Temple at night. I work during the day.”

“Where at?” Matt asked.

“A Lexus dealer. I’m a mechanic.”

“Where’d you pick that up?”

“Jack’s always been good with cars,” Stone cut in. “He rebuilt the engine of a Four-Forty-two when he was fourteen.”

“So you ‘gonna make that a career?” Matt asked.

“I dunno. I’m taking some business courses too.”

“You could open your own place.”

“Maybe.”

Stone smiled proudly. Despite a rocky period, father and son seemed to be getting along okay. Child is father to the man. Or makes the father out of the man. Matt laughed at something Jack said and poured more Roditis. Surprising, Georgia thought. Matt usually didn’t drink.

A shrill voice cut through the conversation as Laurie Levine, a blowsy friend of Deanna’s who knew everyone on the North Shore and made sure you knew she did, called from the other end of the table. “So Detective Sergeant Stone.” Her dark eyes flashed. “What heinous crimes are you ridding the village of these days?”

“Sorry, Laurie. It’s confidential,” Stone shot back. No love lost there, Georgia thought. Laurie had made it clear months ago that she felt Deanna was marrying beneath her. Stone had made it equally clear he didn’t care.

Deanna explained what had been going on at the Feldman site. Before she’d finished, Laurie’s head bobbed up and down. “I know Stuart. It’s not surprising.”

“What makes you say that, Laurie?” Stone asked.

“Stuart’s never had—what you’d call— the necessary social graces for someone in his position.”

Stone tapped his spoon against his wine glass, then looked at Deanna. Their eyes met, and some private communication arced between them. Stone’s eyes softened, and he relaxed. Georgia let out a breath. True love was heady stuff.

“You know, it’s too bad in a way,” Stone said.

“What is?” Laurie said.

“From what I understand, his daughter is running the show these days. She seems okay. But she’s saddled with his reputation.”

“Stuart handed over the reigns last year.” Laurie thumped her chest. “Heart problems, you know. Ricki, isn’t it?”

Stone nodded.

“She’s quite a girl, I hear.”

“How’s that, Laurie?”

Though loath to give Laurie any credibility, Stone understood the value of information, and Laurie’s was usually reliable.

“Well.” Laurie propped an elbow on the table. “A few years ago one of the daughter’s friends became president of a small bank downtown. So, naturally Ricki puts her business account there. A year or so later, the bank merges with First, and her friend is kicked out. Now, First starts wooing Feldman with all kinds of promises if she stays with them. You know, better rates and more service than anyone else in town. But you know what Ricki did? She pulled everything out of downtown and followed her friend to the new bank, a tiny place on the North Shore.” Laurie glanced around the table. “She’s like that, I hear. Loyal to her friends.”

Georgia leaned over to Matt, about to make a comment about money and loyalty. But when she saw the expression on his face, she kept her mouth shut.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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