Chapter 4: Christopher
New York City - June, 1994
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Christopher’s primary goal for tonight had been to get some action, but the pickings on offer made his stomach turn. And not in a good way. Clark and Michael were already well into schmoozing two bimbos at the bar. “Sisters,” Michael had said with a leering raise of an eyebrow. Christopher watched the girls fawning and flirting from his favorite booth at the Waldrove. From this booth against the far wall, legs man-spread under the white marble-topped table, he had a view of the bar to his right, the tables in front of him, and the lobby beyond. The perfect place to see and be seen. The Waldrove was his scene alright. Well, normally. Not tonight. Tonight he was getting increasingly pissed off about the lack of decent company, and increasingly drunk from the martinis that Albert kept delivering.
Albert was his favorite bartender at the Waldrove, and Christopher was Albert’s favorite customer. He ought to be with the amount of cash Christopher dropped both at the bar and directly into Albert’s pocket. The man had lit up like a bulb on the fancy chandeliers above his head when he’d seen Christopher walk in. He’d had their usuals on the bar before they reached. The Waldrove was a popular starting off point for people of Christopher’s caliber, so his group got waylaid a few times on their journey to Albert and their drinks. They’d high-fived the Beverly brothers, pricks though they were, ordered a round for Calista and her crew, and Christopher had bent to kiss the hand of Mrs. Brookford, who was there without Mr. Brookford and with a man who could be her son, but wasn’t. Mrs. Brookford and Christopher had been “acquainted” once or twice. Why not. She was pretty hot for a forty-something. This evening, however, he was in the market for a newer vintage.
Albert had waved away his credit card when they’d picked up their first round of drinks. As usual, he’d run a tab “forget” a few rounds before he totaled it up. Unfortunately, the glamor of the surroundings and the adoring looks thrown in his direction from a few of the fisherwomen at the bar, and also Mrs. Brookstone to the dismay of her company, wasn’t having the usual uplifting effect on Christopher’s mood. Watching Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dee throwing drinks, compliments, and charm at the bimbos would usually be enough to keep him amused from his spot on the “be-seen” couch. Tonight, it irritated him his friends were on the prowl, and he wasn’t. And it irritated him that not one girl made him want to leave this booth or share his martini. What was up with him, anyway? Why was he so damn bored?
He’d been coming to New York at least once a month since his grad school disaster. It had turned out that grad school professors weren’t as easily charmed, or bribed, as the undergraduate teaching assistants who’d smoothed over the rough edges of his undergrad efforts. He’d needed something new, something more than home, and the prying eyes of his brother and mother. In the beginning, these trips to New York had given him what he needed. Good cards, good girls. And money bought more respect in a place where people knew little about his family or his role in it. But today the blackjack had been shit, the company had been lamer and even his friends were getting on his damn nerves. Plus, tomorrow was another game he now regretted agreeing to. Christopher downed his martini and signaled Albert for another.
All of this was Brad’s fault. All he’d needed was an extra couple of grand to get him through to his next quarterly allowance payment. He’d been running late to the airport, but he knew he’d catch Brad in the office downtown. The office had been crowded, some investor group or another was looking into working with Hanna Group on a development on some piss-ass island somewhere. Rainbow Cay or some other bumfuck place only good for a weekend mooring and a beach picnic. Brad had been super prickly, like, more than his usual prickly self.
“I don’t get it Chris, man? You get the same allowance as the rest of us. None of us go into overdraft.” He’d been straightening his tie in front of an ornate mirror that had stood in their dad’s office for as long as Christopher could remember. Dad’s office was now, for all intents and purposes, Brad’s office, yet Brad looked about as comfortable standing in front of that mirror in a tie as his dad always had, which was not at all. “Even your sister doesn’t overspend.”
“Liz doesn’t have a life, Bro. To be fair, neither do you.”
“Well, you're not getting it. You know that money comes from Grandpa Ulysses and not from the business. Grandpa’s watching these books like a hawk every month. Even if I was willing to bend the rules, he’d spot any payout in a hot minute. Maybe skip New York this month?”
“And do what? You know I can’t gamble here. What, go to Rose Island with the same losers I see every weekend? I need to get off the rock, Brad.”
Brad had stopped fussing with his tie and crossed to the window overlooking downtown. He lifted the blind. The sun lit Brad’s drawn face and Christopher knew he’d won. His brother was a soft touch and either the sun was making his eyes water or Bradley was feeling sorry for him. But he seemed to pull himself together, then turned back to Christopher. “Yeah, well. A weekend on my boat sounds like paradise to me, Christopher.”
“Oh, here we go with the ‘Woe is me for being the favorite son’ crap. Seriously Brad? You want to be the heir apparent, then you get the heir apparent job. Sorry if your precious business keeps you away from your precious fishing, but it also makes you one of the future richest guys in Nassau. Forgive my lack of sympathy.”
Brad hadn’t spoken and the silence in the cushy office was getting uncomfortable when he finally turned to his desk drawer and pulled out a tightly wrapped bundle of hundred-dollar bills.
“Your allowance won’t change, Bro. I would never even broach the subject with Grandpa Uly because I value my life and my sense of self-worth. But if you feel the need to get away, I get it. Here.”
He handed Christopher the bundle of cash.
“I thought you just said you couldn’t hide a payment from the business.” He didn’t hesitate in taking the bundle, though. If Brad was offering, he was taking. He didn’t care where the cash came from. He was only asking to be polite.
“I can’t hide it,” Brad said. “But that money’s mine. I don’t need as much. I withdrew it for Mother, but I’ll get more for her later.”
Brad had probably expected him to protest, or to feel bad. He didn’t do either and hadn’t felt bad since he’d taken that fat stack of bills. But if Brad hadn’t given him the extra cash, he wouldn’t have planned to stay on for tomorrow night’s game. So basically it was Brad’s fault he couldn’t just go home and let the luxury of Highwater bore him. At least the staff there knew how to treat Christopher Hanna. Michael had talked him into hosting a game at the Hanna Hotel. High-stakes blackjack with a bunch of finance nerds. Michael knew one of them through a friend of his sister’s at NYU. His sister’s friend’s older brother apparently was looking for an extra player or two. Christopher hated playing with the finance nerds. All those Wall Street assholes were so goddamn superior - thinking they were all smart and shit. Treating him like some sort of country bumpkin cos of where he came from. And he never won with those guys. Ever. Michael promised him this time would be different, that these particular guys weren’t talented players and he knew how to schmooze and impress. He would run the entire thing. Now Christopher was so fucking bored, he wasn’t up to it. If he backed out now, though, he’d look like a chicken.
That was enough. He stood suddenly and bumped the table, his empty martini glass (was it his fourth or his fifth?) wobbling dangerously. He called toward the bar, “Come on losers let’s get out of here.”
Clark and Michael looked up in surprise, and it wasn’t until Christopher noticed Calista’s sideways glance he realized he’d shouted. Michael waved him over, pointing aggressively behind the back of the girl he was standing next to. Christopher got the message. Michael didn’t want to leave his bait uneaten when there was no hook to be seen, but Christopher wanted out. And when he’d had enough, they’d had enough.
“Let’s go,” Christopher said, lowering his voice. “Come on. We’re outta here.” He stumbled past the table and this time, the glass toppled. Miraculously, it didn’t break but just rolled across the table and landed on the thick carpet at Christopher’s feet. He picked it up just as a server appeared at his elbow. He didn’t like dealing with the servers. They were too slow. Besides, they didn’t have the “understanding” he had with Albert.
“I’ll take that for you, Sir.” The guy reached for the martini glass.
Christopher handed the server the glass. The guys would follow him. He knew that. He passed into the hotel lobby, and just as expected, Clark and Michael were at his side, but surprisingly, so was the server.
“Your bill, sir?”
Christopher stopped. “Excuse me?”
“Well, I’m assuming you have quite a substantial bill, and I didn’t see you settle it?”
Christopher gave him the once over. The guy was a weedy little shit. Christopher doubted he’d spent even one day in the gym in his entire life. Either he’d smothered his hair with too much cheap product, or it needed a good wash, and he had one of those ridiculous goatees that were in style right now. He looked like a druggie. Christopher had no time for druggies.
“What’s it to you?” Michael said, stepping up beside Christopher and folding his arms across his chest. Michael went to the gym. A lot.
“I work here?” The server wasn’t backing down and suddenly Christopher was more than irritated. The guy was pissing him off.
“You work here?” He said. “You work here and so somehow you’re responsible for the finances of the fucking Waldrove? You’re the what? CFO?”
“No. But I care about whether I am serving the type of customers who can’t afford to pay their bills. Walkouts affect the entire…”
“Can’t afford to pay their…” Christopher stepped back and looked at his friends. “Did you hear this guy? Can’t afford to pay my bills?”
“Well, I’m just saying… you seemed in a hurry to get out, and…”
“You slimy little shit,” Christopher thundered, and several guests turned toward his voice. He was about to make a scene. His mother would kill him, but seriously, who the hell did this guy think he was? He was a fucking server. A server! In a hotel not too far from the one Christopher Hanna owned. Well, part-owned. “I can’t afford it, huh?” He pulled Brad’s wad of crisp hundreds from his inside jacket pocket and strode back into the restaurant. The guy scurried in alongside him and Christopher saw Albert, hands raised, palms out in the ‘calm down’ position. Christopher didn’t slow. Anger streamed into his veins and he welcomed it. It was something. He was feeling something.
At the first table, an older couple, all dressed up and looking uncomfortable, shied back from his approach. “Did you enjoy your meal?” He smiled his best fake server smile and didn’t wait for a response. “Great, let me get that for you.” He slammed two hundreds down on the table and walked to the next. It was Calista’s. “And I’d be happy to cover your drinks, lovely ladies.” He turned and waved the stack of bills in the server’s direction and then pulled out a bunch before chucking them into the air over Calista’s table. They rained over the perplexed faces of the socialites. “Can’t afford my drinks, huh?” He called out to the server as he moved to the next table and slammed down more bills. “I could buy you, Asshole.”
“Mr. Hanna. Excuse me, Mr. Hanna.” It was Albert. He put a calming hand on Christopher’s shoulder, which fired an arrow of unexpected zen through Christopher’s tornado of rage. Michael was also at his elbow and he reached out to steady the hand holding the cash. “Mr. Hanna.”
The entire restaurant was staring at him. Beyond the restaurant, in the lobby, Christopher could see jeweled necks craning toward the disturbance. Damn, his mother would be furious. This would definitely get back to her. He took a few deep breaths and shrugged off Michael’s grip, slipping the stack of cash back into the inside pocket of his jacket. “I’m fine. Just get this asshole out of my sight and I’ll be fine.”
“Of course, Mr. Hanna.” Albert turned toward the weedy server. “Shane, if you could just head back to the staff room. I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
“What?” Shane gave Albert a fish-mouthed stare.
“The staff room, Shane. I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
Shane closed his ugly, gaping mouth under his sex-offender goatee and left the restaurant. They should fire that little shit. He deserved it speaking to customers like they were dirt.
“Of course, the bill is on us, Mr. Hanna. I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding.” Albert was circling the tables retrieving the bills Christopher had chucked, although he caught a chick at Calista’s table stuffing a hundred down the front of her top. She didn’t blush when he caught her. Just stared. Ballsy chick, he thought with approval.
Albert handed back the bills and patted Christopher’s hand. “Our sincerest apologies again, Mr. Hanna. Why don’t you stay for a while and enjoy a Laphroaig on me? I just opened an 18-year-old.”
He didn’t want to stay, but Michael looked at him hopefully and if he left right now, he’d be admitting he’d acted like an asshole. Which he hadn’t. That little worthless shit deserved it. They’d stay for the Laphroaig, then they’d head out of here. But first, he needed a piss.
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