Chapter 32: Toni
Nassau, Bahamas 1994
7:00 a.m. was far too early for the doorbell to be ringing at Highwater. Thankfully, Toni was awake and ready, given she had a Rotary Club meeting at 10:00 a.m.
“Bradley?” It surprised her to see him at the door. Bradley never came to Highwater unless Ulysses demanded it. Ulysses expected the entire family at Highwater for certain events. Although Toni didn’t appreciate that Uly treated the home as his own, she appreciated he could get the family together. It was more than she was capable of.
Bradley’s skin was a putrid shade of green. He ran a palm across his forehead, which slicked back his wavy bangs with sweat. Was he out for a jog? In his business suit?
“Is he here?” Bradley said.
“Who, Darling? Is who here?”
“Dad. Harold. Is he here?”
The boy was clearly having some kind of breakdown. Toni pulled the door wider and motioned for Bradley to come inside. He shook his head.
“No. He’s not.” She said. “Has something happened?”
“It’s the current account.” Bradley sank to the Spanish tile patio and dropped his head into his hands. “He’s cleared it. All of it.”
This wasn’t unusual. Harold often needed cash, and unlike the rest of the family, he didn’t wait for Bradley to hand it over. He had direct access to the account, and Bradley was too afraid to take that away.
“So he needed some cash. Transfer some over. Why are you so panicked? Are you late for a bill or something? You need to stay on top of these things, Bradley.”
“Yes, Mother. I would transfer some over. That’s a great idea. Except the savings accounts are empty, too. He took all of it.”
This was new. A flock of parrots flew across the front driveway in a flash of color. The birds were squawking at each other in their own equally colorful language. To Toni, it sounded like laughter. In the post quiet of the parrot racket, Bradley coughed. He took all of it? He was gone?
She was undeniably here, on her porch, with her son, in this moment. It wasn’t a nightmare. It was real.
“How much?” She said. The number of zeros flying through her vision made her feel like Bradley looked. This was it then—the end of her. Ulysses would take Highwater. She’d have to move into the guest house with Christopher.
“Eight hundred and twenty thousand.”
That was all? Surely, that wasn’t enough to put the Hanna Group in financial trouble. That was peanuts. That paltry amount would disappoint Harold to no end. But he’d be too embarrassed not to follow through on whatever horrendously misjudged plan he’d started. Toni drummed her fingers against the doorframe, thinking. “He’ll be in Cuba by now.”
Bradley lifted his head and stared at her, his eyes as wild as his unkempt hair. “Cuba? Why Cuba?”
“It’s cheap. It’s the place he’d make that money last the longest. He always joked about going to Cuba. I didn’t take him seriously. He said he’d get respect in Cuba.”
“Shit,” Brad said.
Toni straightened her back and adopted her ‘stern mother’ look. Bradley needed to snap out of it, or they’d have a real problem.
“Let him go, then.” She said. “We don’t need him. I certainly don’t need him.” She said it with as much conviction as she could muster, but even she heard the catch in her voice. “It’s less than a million, anyway. You’ll have to let it go. Get Ulysses to transfer from his accounts and get on with your life and running the business. Uly will be mad, but he’ll get over such a small amount. I know you dislike bothering your grandfather, but this is not your fault. Uly is responsible for his son’s actions. You are not responsible for your father’s.”
Brad chuckled quietly and dropped his head into his hands again. “Oh, Mother.” He mumbled.
“What?” What was wrong with him? He was acting like the world was ending. So the accounts were empty now, but it wasn’t like Harold had taken millions. The Hanna Group could surely withstand the loss of less than a million. “Ulysses has billions, supposedly. And he loves going to the bank. It’ll get him out of the house.”
“I don’t know how much Ulysses has, and neither do you,” Brad said. “But either way, it’s beside the point.” Brad stood up and brushed the tile dust from the back of his trousers. He pulled his car keys from his pocket.
“Darling, how can it be besides the point when Ulysses owns the Hanna Group? All Uly needs to do is top up the savings accounts.” She was missing something here. She put a hand on the shoulder of her despondent son. Did he flinch? Just a little? “What am I missing here? You are not responsible for the actions of your father.”
“Ulysses may own the Hanna Group, but that doesn’t mean the Hanna Group owns Ulysses. Yes, Mother, the old man has money. Probably truckloads of it if the rumors are to be believed. But it’s his money. It doesn’t belong to the Hanna Group. Ulysses has been taking the distributions he’s rightly owed for fifty years. He also has the casino, which you know is not part of the Hanna Group. It’s his money. You wouldn’t ask me to return my salary to save the business, would you? I wouldn’t ask you to return your monthly allowance. Grandfather has made it crystal clear to me that the financial stewardship of the company is my responsibility. We only had twelve months of running expenses left, anyway. Thanks to your husband, the company is now bankrupt.” Bradley turned from her and walked to his car, his feet crunching on the gravel driveway. He opened the car door and turned back. “If you see him, if he comes back, please call me right away.”
Toni nodded dumbly.
Bradley’s car crunched back down the driveway, and Toni stepped onto the patio to watch him turn out of sight.
There were so many voices screaming in her head she didn’t know which one to listen to first.
This is the day you dreaded.
Ulysses will blame you.
Harold has screwed you now.
She sat down in the spot Bradley had just vacated and squeezed her head between her hands. She couldn’t think for all the screaming. A sentence rose out of the screaming, loud and clear, sounding shockingly like Harold.
You’d better have a plan.
What plan could she have? She had no way to reach Harold. She hardly spoke to him at all anymore. Suddenly, she flashed back to that night at home. He had a plan, he’d said. You’d better take care of yourself, he’d said.
Take care of herself, how? She had no power, no money, and very few friends. She had Donna. Was it time to bring Donna into the know? Should Toni share the most significant secret she had hidden from everyone? Even her best friend?
Toni didn’t know what this meant for The Hanna Group, but she had to put that aside for now. If she were a good family member, she’d head downtown to the office and volunteer for whatever recovery plan Bradley was pulling together. But Harold had told her to take care of herself and just told her she’d better have a plan. Well, she had a plan. It was a crazy plan. So far-fetched, it might sound like a fantasy. But the problem was that Toni had tried a million things to secure her future, and nothing had worked. This was the only thing she had left. She needed to act on it as fast as possible, and she needed help.