Saturday, August 16, 2014

The March, Chapter 24: Heavy Things Happen in the Lightweight Offices

Chapter 23

Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me summarize.
-Princess Bride

“You told Ellinore Ladislaw that you’d find her daughter,” said Rafferty, all these many years later as they sat in Bulstrode’s office.  “You told her you’d find her daughter and give her the money left over after she croaked.”

“She died, Raff!” said Bulstrode.  “Ellinore died before I could find her daughter!”

“You didn’t look too hard, though, did you, Bully” asked Rafferty, leaning back coolly.  “You kept that girl’s money and used it to buy more bars and set yourself up real good, didn’t you?”

“What do you know about it?” asked Bulstrode fiercely.  “You were so high you didn’t know what was going on!  You were dealing dope out of my bar!  You could have cost me everything!”

“Funny about that,” said Rafferty, still cool.  “I did sell a little coke now and again, just to augment my meager income.  Lord knows you could never see your way to paying me a decent salary even though we were such good pals.  But I never dealt out of The March.  And when the cops showed up that day, it was almost like they knew what they’d find…”

“You were obvious,” retorted Bulstrode.  “Everyone knew. If you’d…”

Oh, this dialog is clumsy and expository!  This is not the conversation Bulstrode and Rafferty had.  I am attempting to augment their conversation in order to mete out details which only they and I are privy to. But it is cumbersome and inelegant. And what, after all, is the point of all this third party omniscience if one cannot simply narrate?  So…

On her deathbed, Ellinore Ladislaw asked Bulstrode to find her estranged daughter, Althea (Will’s mother), who was off living the hippie life in San Francisco.  Ellinore was desperate to reach her daughter, to make amends and to settle her estate.  She wanted to die knowing that her daughter knew how much she loved her.  But, besotted as she was, she made the tactical error of appointing Bulstrode as the executor of her estate. Thus, Althea was never found and somehow Ellinore’s money, almost incidentally, found a home in Bulstrode’s business endeavors.

Our man, Rafferty recognized that something here failed the sniff test and made sure, via frequent and un-subtle comments, that Bulstrode knew that Rafferty smelled something rotten.  In between snide comments, Rafferty snorted some cocaine, angled for bar and management shifts, and found himself running with a worse and worse crowd.  And then one day he was arrested at The March by a cop who knew exactly where to find his cocaine.  And then a man Rafferty didn't recall ever meeting swore under oath that Rafferty had offered to sell him cocaine at the bar.  And then he went away to serve a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking.

And that’s where we are now.  So, exposition exposited, let’s return to the tense scene unfolding between Rafferty and Bulstrode:

“Ellinore Ladislaw is dead,” said Rafferty.  “And so is her daughter.  But I’m still here and I want what’s coming to me.”

“I owe you nothing,” said Bulstrode.  “I had nothing to do with your criminal activities or your arrest.  You made your own bed.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not so sure about that,” said Rafferty.  “I think you owe me. So what do you think, how about a job?  It’s hard to get steady employment out of the joint. I want one of those Chicago-style jobs that’s all paycheck and no work.”

“Why would I do that?” asked Bulstrode.

“Be smart, Bully,” said Rafferty. “I’d hate to end up chatting with your wife.   She was hanging around then. She’ll remember Ellinore Ladislaw.  She’ll be interested to know who else you were fucking when you were dating her.”

“Leave Susan out of this!” said Bulstrode.

Bulstrode wanted desperately to turn back the clock, lock the door and keep Rafferty out of his life.  He wished he could go back in time and stand before the parole board and let them know what a dangerous felon Rafferty was.  He wish he could blink hard and Rafferty would suddenly disappear,

But, he knew he could do none of those things.

“It makes my flesh crawl to think of letting a lowlife like you blackmail me,” Bulstrode said at last. “But I’ll write you a check right now if you swear to disappear with it. What will it cost me to get you out of my life?”

“I don’t think you have the scratch to get rid of me forever,” said Raff.  “But for five thousand bucks, I’ll disappear for a while.”

And thus, an unhappy deal was struck.  Bulstrode wrote the check and Rafferty left the building.

Everything in Bulstrode’s life has just suddenly gone to shit and he had a dinner party to go to.  Fred was turning twenty-five.