Alex Cannon stood outside Dan’s condo, waiting. He didn’t want to know what he would find inside. He pulled out his phone and hit the number again, listening as it began ringing on the other side of the door. Voice mail.
He knew Dan was in there. Not only his phone ring said so, his car was parked in the downstairs garage.
He buzzed again then knocked. “Dan. I know you’re in there. I’m not leaving.”
He couldn’t make himself believe that Dan would do something stupid. But this whole situation with Catherine had continued to explode, bigger and uglier with each passing week. He’d been shocked, actually, with how Dan reacted. Dan, the older one, the stronger one, now reduced to hiding out in his condo, or making barely coherent appearances at the office looking unkempt and reeking of alcohol.
He knocked again, louder. “Damn it, Dan. Let me in.”
Heard the deadbolt throw and the door flew open. Dan had already turned to walk back to his couch. The big windows overlooking the city were shut off by closed curtains, casting the room into semi-dark. Empty liquor bottles crowded the big kitchen bar. Shoes, clothes, unopened mail, newspapers, and take-out cartons littered the room.
“Dan, what the hell, man?” He followed Dan, trying not to shout. “We had Oglesby today, the whole team.”
Dan didn’t look up. He sat on the couch in a bathrobe and boxers, holding his head in his hands. Alex hovered over him. A collection of pill bottles lined up on the coffee table. He snatched up one after the other to read labels. Oxycodone. Vicodin. Xanax.
“Goddamn, Dan, what are you doing?”
His voice softened as Dan looked up. He had dark circles under his eyes, hadn’t shaved in days. His light blonde hair had grown out from its usual short cut and matted in unruly clumps. His eyes looked vacant.
Alex sat down hard on the couch next to Dan, trying to think of what he could do, or say.
“Look,” he said after a few minutes. “You don’t care about the business anymore? Is that it? You’re going to let what your parents—our parents—worked for their whole lives just go down the toilet?”
Dan’s jaw twitched, but he didn’t say anything.
“Why would let that bitch do this to you?”
Dan reached forward and picked up a half-empty bottle of whiskey to pour more into his glass. He lifted the glass and drank it all. He poured more. “I don’t give a goddamn about that bitch,” he said in a low voice. “This isn’t about her.”
“Well.” Alex shook his head in exasperation. “Then, what’s it about?”
“Me, Alex. Me, the clueless sonofabitch who let this all happen right under his nose. She went around picking up men left and right, men she met at our company parties, at business dinners.”
“That’s still about her, Dan.”
“No, I should have known. She was buying new clothes, spending money. Going out without me. Why didn’t I pick up on that?” He shook his head and drank more whiskey before slamming the glass down on the table. “Why didn’t any of those bastards say anything to me? Did they laugh at me, talk about me behind my back? Of course they did.” A hoarse laugh erupted from his throat. “I’m ruined, Alex. I can’t go back out there not knowing how many men in the room have had their dicks in her mouth. Jesus!”
“Dan, it’s not that bad. Maybe a few, but not most of them. Hell, these are married men, happily married men, mostly, with kids and a mortgage. They’re not going to risk a fling with a crazy bitch like Cathleen. She wants you to think it’s worse than it is. Surely you know that.”
Dan lit a cigarette and threw down the lighter. “I don’t know a fucking thing.”
“So what’s the plan with the pills?”
“I don’t have a plan.”
“How about I take some of these, just in case you have some crazy idea?”
“Leave the pills alone, Alex.”
“No, I can’t do that.” Alex stood up and grabbed the bottles in both hands and stuffed them into his jacket pockets. “I’ll be back later with some food, we’re going to figure this out.”
Dan stood up and grabbed Alex’s arm. “Give me those pills.”
“Not a chance in hell.”
Dan’s face contorted and he shoved Alex back until he crashed into the wall. “Give me the fucking pills.”
Alex wrestled against Dan’s arms, trying to get loose from his grip. Dan’s fury blazed in his pale eyes, his face close up to Alex’s.
“No, Dan. Let go.”
Dan’s fist came out of nowhere. Alex felt the shock of it across his left jaw as he staggered sideways. His own fist came up as he connected with Dan’s chin, knocking him backwards. He landed another blow in Dan’s stomach.
Dan bellowed as he came after Alex with both fists, landing punches on Alex’s face and head. A metallic blood taste spread in Alex’s mouth. He shook his head, trying to see where Dan would come from next, and then another blow caught him in the temple. He felt his knees go, saw black.
“Alex, goddamn it.” Dan’s voice penetrated in bits and pieces. “Alex.”
Alex opened his eyes. He was lying on the floor with Dan squatting over him. His head hurt, his jaw hurt.
“Can you get up?” Dan pulled on his shoulders, lifting him to a sitting position.
“Shit.” Alex turned his head, trying to look at Dan. It hurt to move.
“Come on,” Dan insisted, pulling him up. “Let me help.”
Alex shrugged his arm away from Dan. “I think you’ve helped enough. Son of a bitch, Dan. Are you crazy?” He felt of his face, gingerly moving his jaw. He stumbled toward the couch. “Jesus.”
“Look, I’m sorry. OK?” Dan poured more whiskey and handed it to Alex.
Alex shoved the glass away and slapped the pockets of his jacket. The pills were still there.
Dan threw himself down in the chair across from Alex. He stared at Alex a few minutes. “I’m really sorry, goddamn it Alex, I didn’t want to hurt you, you know that.” His eyes filled with tears. “Things are all fucked up.”
“You been drinking all day?”
Dan stared at him. “I, yeah, I guess.”
“What’s the plan? You going to kill Cannon Company and yourself over Cathleen?”
Dan shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t figure it out. I always know what to do. You know that. I always figure it out, don’t I? Don’t I always?” His shoulders heaved. “I can’t get in front of it, Alex. It’s everywhere I look.”
Alex rubbed his forehead. His jaw hurt like hell. “Look, Dan, let’s go somewhere, get away for a while. The folks can hold down the fort for any emergencies. We can go fishing, or hunting, or just camp out somewhere.”
“I always know what to do, Alex.” Dan bloodshot eyes stared at him across the coffee table. “I’m losing it.”
“I’ll get some ideas, come back with some dinner. How does that sound?”
Dan looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language.
“Dan,” Alex insisted. “I’ll be back, don’t do anything stupid. You promise me.”
Dan poured more whiskey and swirled the glass. “I’ll be here,” he said finally.