The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 50

After the end of a long but gratifying day, Judge Conrad Matthews locked his office, said goodbye to his secretary and headed for the elevator. When the doors opened on the first floor, he stepped out and walked straight for the exit, his loafers clicking on the newly polished marble floor, echoing through the halls, as each step brought him closer to the building’s front doors. The sun was just slipping toward the horizon as he stood on the courthouse steps and stopped to take in a deep breath of fresh air. It had been a good day, a day of compliance and quick cases, and it was going to be an even better night.

“Mister?” a soft voice called out.

When Matthews looked down, he saw a small boy standing at the bottom of the steps holding a bunch of balloons, each one with its own string, as they swayed in the late afternoon breeze.

“Buy a balloon?” the boy asked.

The vividly colorful balloons were inviting and cheery, and the boy had even drawn a happy face on each one. Matthews couldn’t help but smile as he put down his briefcase and said,

“How much, son?”

“A dollar,” the boy replied.

“That doesn’t sound like much of a profit for you,” Matthews pointed out. “Let me have a red one,” he said, handing the boy two dollars.

The boy reached into the balloons and pulled out a red one.

When he saw the extra dollar, the boy said, “Thanks, Mister,” and stuffed the money into his front pocket.

With a spring in his step, Matthews adjusted his glasses and walked toward the parking garage. When he reached his pearl gray Lexus, he opened the driver’s door and climbed in. Placing his briefcase in the passenger seat, he tied the string of the balloon to the leather handle and started the car. His heart filled with anticipation, Matthews knew there was only one other thing he needed to do to make this day perfect. He backed out of his space then slipped the gear into drive and left the parking lot.

Pulling up to a red light, Matthews turned on the radio to Frank Sinatra singing “Send in the Clowns.” As he drove the familiar route, he lightheartedly sang a line or two, humming when he didn’t know the words, until he reached Crescent Bay, the apartment complex where he owned the entire eighth floor.

Parking his car and shutting off the engine, Matthews leaned back against the leather seat and sighed.

“Now a hot meal, a nice bottle of vino, and Rachel, if she’s lucky. Have to think about that last one,” he laughed.

Reaching for his phone, he dialed a too familiar number and waited. On the third ring his wife answered.

“Hey, Susie. It’s Conrad. I’m working late again tonight, so I’ll probably just end up sleeping at the office. . .I know. I’m sorry, sweetie. I was really looking forward to your Eggplant Parmesan. . .I love you too. Kiss the boys good night for me, will you?”

Matthews hung up the phone and said,

“I hate her eggplant. I think I’m still digesting the last one she made.”

He tucked the phone into his pocket then grabbed his briefcase. As he looked at the happy face smiling back at him, he said,

“Now don’t go telling anyone, but I married that hag for her daddy’s money, not her looks or cooking skills!”

Matthews slipped out of the Lexus and walked through the front doors of Crescent Bay straight to the elevator. As he stepped in and pushed the button for the top floor, he started whistling. At the third floor, the elevator stopped and the doors opened.

When a voluptuous woman walked into the elevator, Matthews almost dropped his briefcase. Beautiful red hair tumbled over her shoulders, and as she turned in his direction, Matthews saw her hair catch the light. She glanced at him for just a moment then looked away. He noticed that her eyes were two different colors, one blue and one green. Tight jeans pressed against her body, and a white cotton shirt barely covered her. Nature had been good to her, real good. Matthews looked down at his feet for a moment, trying to catch his breath and slow his racing heart. He noticed she was barefoot, and each of her toenails was painted a deep red.

“You okay?” she suddenly asked.

Matthews looked up in surprise and answered,

“Oh I’m fine. I just noticed you weren’t wearing shoes. I don’t know how safe that is.”

She looked down at her feet then gave him a big smile.

“I know,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Mom bugs me about that all the time. I forgot my shoes when I slipped out of the apartment. I just wanted to go down to the pool, but she won’t even let me leave the building. My friends asked me to go clubbing, but I had to tell them no.”

“Wow!” Matthews said. “Why is that?”

“Mom says I get too rowdy when I go out. I should totally sneak out just to spite her,” the girl pouted.

“Or. . .,” Matthews paused, shocked at what he was about to suggest, “you could come up to my place. I own the entire eighth floor.”

“You do?” she said, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Yea. Come join me this evening. Technically, you won’t have left the building,” Matthews smiled.

Pretending to check his phone, Matthews waited for the girl’s response, expecting her to be revolted by his offer.

After a moment’s silence, she asked,

“Are you serious?”

Matthews glanced over and saw that the girl’s eyes were filled with excitement instead of disgust. He quickly said,

“Of course. Come on up.”

“That would be awesome!” she exclaimed.

“Just let me get some things. Mom’s passed out, and she won’t wake up till morning.”

“Sounds great. Just hit the buzzer for the eighth floor, and I’ll bring you up.”

Matthews pointed to the elevator panel and a key lock with a buzzer next to it.

“I’ll be right up, and don’t worry. . .I’ll be wearing shoes,” she smiled.

When the door opened for the sixth floor, the girl hurried out then glanced back at Matthews once more before the doors closed.

His heart racing, Matthews turned his key in the eighth floor lock and waited as the elevator rose. After a minute or so, the door opened to his apartment and he stepped out onto the thick, plush carpet. Setting his briefcase onto the console table, he walked over to the refrigerator to get a drink. As he thought about the redheaded girl in the elevator, he couldn’t believe his good fortune.

Glancing over at the red balloon with its large smiling face, Matthews smiled back and asked,

“Did that really happen? Did I just pick up a young girl and invite her back to my place?”

The smiling balloon, still tied to the briefcase handle, moved back and forth in the air from the air conditioning vent.

Remembering that the girl said she would be right up, Matthews grabbed his briefcase and hurried to his office. He dropped it on his desk then slipped off his shoes and hung his suit jacket on the clothes valet.

Just then the elevator buzzed and Matthews raced to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of chardonnay and two glasses. When the elevator buzzed again, he hurried over and hit the button to bring the elevator to the eighth floor. Taking a few steps back, he inhaled deeply then slowly exhaled, trying to calm his nerves. As the elevator doors opened, Matthews stood as though in a daze, confused by what he saw. In the place where the redhead should have been, stood a tall figure dressed in a black suit and long black coat, wearing a clown mask and a top hat. In his left hand he held a bunch of balloons, each one with its own string and smiling visage.

 

*          *          *

 

 

Seated at his massive Blackwood desk, Bradford King was busy going over the numbers from the day’s sales. He was the head of King Automotive, a lucrative car dealership with branches just about everywhere. Just then the door to his office opened and his secretary popped her head in.

“Mr. King, I’m leaving for the day. Remember you have to film your new commercial tomorrow.”

“‘Thank you, Denise,” King said with a smile.

“Oh, and Mr. Kinsky is here to see you,” she added.

“Send him in,” King instructed.

“Yes, sir. Good night, Mr. King,” she said, closing the door behind her.

A moment later the door opened and King put down his pen and looked up.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I assume you heard about Porter?” Kinsky asked.

“Heard about it? He called me,” King barked.

“The cops are calling Porter’s murderer Captain Bonkers.”

“I’ve already sent in Crandall. I want this dealt with,” King snapped.

When the phone in his desk drawer suddenly rang, King looked down and slid open the drawer. Pulling out the phone, he looked at the caller id.

Unknown.

“Hello?” he answered

“Castles will crumble; pillars will fall. Kings and pawns alike will feast on a diet of their own destruction.”

The man’s voice on the line was Judge Conrad Matthews, another name on King’s payroll, but King knew this call was not Matthews’ doing.

“Who is this?” King barked.

“Please I read it. Let me go! I don’t want to di—”

A gunshot ended the call.

King squeezed the phone until his knuckles went white then threw it across the room, cracking a window. Red-faced with teeth clenched, King roared,

“Find him, kill him, and bring me his head!”

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