Mitch Wilder knows his days are numbered. And all because of one man. Things start to turn for the worse when Ontario Provincial Police Detective Neil Cleary starts to dig into Mitch's life. Now all his secrets, lies and cover ups are surfacing.
On top of all that Mitch is still battling his demons. He's charged for raping one of his mistresses and is humiliated when he's sent to the psychiatric ward. When he's released, he hopes to teach his son, Darren Hoffman, enough of the shipping business to keep Mitch's brother, Tom Fleming, from taking off with the rest of the company.
He watched his illegitimate son drive out of the parking lot with a sense of pride and apprehension. Darren Hoffman was more like him than anyone suspected. He didn't want Darren to turn out like him. Yet, part of him was glad he could share things with his son, a son he was just getting to know. He was teaching Darren, not only about the family business, but also a better life than what marriage could provide. Mitch Wilder turned back into a blustery wind and, leaning heavily on his cane, hobbled toward his apartment building after the Mustang turned the corner.
He knew Darren was a changed man since they went up to Hamilton three weeks ago. They both had done things back home, in Port Shetland, they weren’t proud of. Darren spied on his father-in-law, Bob Marshall. He followed Bob out to a shack in the country and watched Bob screw Mitch's estranged wife on the couch. Mitch closed his eyes as he rode the elevator up to the ninth floor. Darren told him where Claire was just before Mitch had been served his divorce papers. It didn’t matter that they were separated, he still thought of Claire as his. He’d been trying desperately to get her back.
Mitch stepped off the elevator and limped down the hall to his door. After he let himself in, he headed straight to the bar and poured himself a neat whiskey. He thought about the day he drove out into the country and found Bob there with his wife. A friend whom he suspected was screwing his wife.
“I was drunk, I didn't know that asshole was going to be there. I only wanted to confront Claire,” he said to the glass he held in his hand. He gulped the whiskey down then poured another one. His hand shook as he raised the glass to his lips. If only he didn't see the baseball bat leaning against the wall. If only he hadn't let his rage take over.
Not only did he attack Bob with the bat, he hit a police officer with it. And he went after his nephew. Todd Breckenridge was just a police cadet. “That bastard shot me!” Mitch's hand tightened around the glass. He could still feel where the bullet went into his left leg, high up, in his inner thigh. It was only a half an inch away from his pecker. He asked Todd if that's what he was aiming at, the young man's face turned red.
Then part of him wished Todd had shot him there. It had been a source of pride in his younger years, a good-looking man with a big penis. He screwed any girl he wanted. But lately, his body started to slow down, yet the itch to have sex hadn't. Mitch thought that if Todd shot him in the pecker, then that itch might have been gone by now.
He ‘d already been to court. Convicted with assault with a weapon, on two accounts, and attempted assault on one. He'd paid the hefty fine. It was the probation that irked Mitch. He was to report to the cops once a week for another five months...out of the six he'd started with… and tell them every time he went from Port Shetland to Hamilton. He had offices in both places, the big one was in Hamilton. His stepbrother, Tom Fleming, ran the one in Port Shetland. They’d inherited the Great Lakes Shipping Company four years ago when their old man died. Mitch wasn't allowed to leave Ontario during his probation. Most of their friends shunned Darren. He wondered how his son would fare once he was back home.
Mitch waited until after Darren was gone before calling his mistress of three years, Diana Smithers. He didn't have her go up to his apartment when his son was there, he didn't want to upset him at this time. Darren didn't like Diana, didn't like what she represented...another woman he screwed around on Claire with. But hell, they were divorced now, finalized yesterday. Why didn't he have Diana come up? He didn't want to deal with the tension. He told Diana he was still recovering from his gunshot wound. She didn't need to know about the hookers he'd hired for him and his son. They were his test, for him to see if he could still perform. As long as he watched his injured leg, he was fine. The wound itself was now just a scar. It was still sore, but at least he could have sex, and his limp was getting better.
Mitch poured another whiskey while he waited for Diana to show up. He sat at the bar and thought about what Shirley told him when Darren couldn't hear her. Shirley was his personal secretary.
“Guess what?” Shirley told him. “I found out that Amber doesn't work for the agency anymore. No one knows where she is.”
“Damn it. Keep looking.”
“I'll see what I can do,” Shirley promised.
Shirley hired hookers for him, anytime he wanted, which was often. The cost, taken out of an account set up for that purpose. He'd hired Amber Clarke twice before and Mitch wanted her exclusively. She wasn't just a hooker to him, she loved sex just as much as he did. But Amber did something bad. She cornered Darren behind this bar and seduced him. They spent a whole weekend together.
If she wasn't such a good lay, Mitch would forget about her. He had never met anyone who was so good in bed. He promised Darren he could have her again, if he didn't press charges against her for holding him against his will. Mitch let out a snort and wondered just how much “against his will” Darren was referring to. “He never had it so good,” Mitch said. “And he wants her again, just like I do.”
“Anyone can hire her,” Darren told him.
Could he share his favorite hooker? He had to, it was Darren's incentive to go up to Hamilton in the first place, to start learning the family business. Except they couldn't find Amber, so Mitch hired them both hookers, twice in the three weeks Darren was there. Mitch smiled, his son loved it. He'd show Darren how good life could be, especially if Lily Marie didn't take him back.
Mitch used to love his son's wife. He used to have a good friend in Bob Marshall, until Bob screwed around with Claire. Since he found out Bob was going to sue him, he decided to steer his son away from Lily Marie. He wondered if he should make her twin, Justin, pay rent for his apartment on Anderson Street in Port Shetland. It had been a wedding gift when Justin married Amy Phillips. They split up three months later when Justin found out that the kid she was carrying belonged to someone else. That was well over a year ago, the length of time he had given them. “Yep.” He decided. “All the Marshalls are going to pay.”
The closer Darren got to Port Shetland, the more his hands sweat on the steering wheel. He gripped it tightly after he wiped his hands on his pants, one right after the other. There was no choice but to go back home, his house was there, the one he inherited from Gramps. He needed to go back to school. His courses in Western University start next Monday, September 6, 1971. Two more years to get his business degree.
The twenty-four-year-old pulled over on Highway 15 and put his old blue Mustang into park. His head dropped on to the steering wheel. He couldn't make himself drive down the hill and into town. For the first time in his life Darren felt the entire world was against him. Except his cousin, Todd Breckenridge, talked to him since the fiasco, and Todd's father, Big Joe.
Todd had been scared to death after he shot Mitch. At first Darren wanted to kill his cousin. Then he realized that Todd didn't have a choice. Mitch would have attacked him too. So, after a long talk, he became friends again with the only cousin he had. Darren figured, if they could forgive each other, then maybe the rest of the town could forgive him. He didn't realize the chain of events he'd set into motion when he told his hot-headed, drunken father, where Claire was.
Darren sat back and wiped his eyes. He looked out of the rear-view mirror to see a black Harley pull up behind him. He left the car, leaned on it, and waited for the big man to walk up to him. The biker wore jeans with a red T-shirt and a blue-jean jacket with the sleeves cut off. He was a menacing figure to people who didn't know him. As he approached, Darren could see the wolf tattoo on his right bicep and the gold earring in his left ear that shimmered when the sun hit it. The biker stopped beside Darren and held out his hand. Darren shook it, a sense of relief going through him. “Hey, Loser. You’ve lost weight.”
“Hey kid. Back from Hamilton, I see.”
Darren worked for the Great Lakes Shipping Company for the last part of the summer. He remembered his first day. The impressive building and expensive decor. Mitch bought him a whole new wardrobe to wear to work. All he had to pack when he went up there were his casual clothes.
“We have to quit meeting on the side of this highway,” Loser said and winked at Darren.
The first time they'd met was when Darren had a flat tire. Loser helped him change it. That was when Darren learned that this big, mean-looking biker dude was really an Ontario Provincial Police Detective. He watched over Darren ever since. Loser was the one who arrested Mitch. Darren sometimes loved this cop, and sometimes he hated him.
“You have trouble?” Loser asked as he looked down at the car.
“No. Just needed to get my bearings.”
Loser nodded in understanding. “I can follow you in, if you want.”
Darren watched the traffic go by. “You think I'll get strung up?”
“No, except for maybe Bob.” Loser held Darren's arm. “Here's what I think you should do...”
Loser (Neil Cleary) shut his Harley off and went into his brother's house where he rented a room. Stan was two years younger than Neil. They were separated when they were young, after a drunk driver killed their parents. He often wondered if that's why they both became cops. Loser recently found Stan after decades of searching for him. He moved in there six months ago to get to know his brother. Tom Fleming was the only one home when Loser walked in the door. He was the one who really owned this house. “Darren's back,” Loser told him as he walked into the kitchen. “What are you cooking?”
“I made a stew this morning. Want some?” Tom filled two bowls and set them on the table. “Stan's out on the lake road, investigating a car accident.” He looked up at the clock. “I don't think he'll be too much longer, he's been gone all morning.”
Loser sat down and ate some of the stew. “This is good, Tom.”
Tom grinned then jabbed his fork into a piece of meat. When he finished eating it, he looked over at Loser. “So, how is Darren?”
“Nervous.” Loser pulled apart a piece of bread, dunked it into the juice then slurped it up into his mouth.
“He probably went to his place and locked all the doors.”
“No, he went right over to the diner.”
“He did? Were you there?” Tom looked down at Loser's bowl as if accusing him of eating twice.
“No. I met him on the highway. He was afraid to drive into town.” Loser put the coffee pot on then sat back down after re-filling his bowl. “I was the one who told him to go to the diner. He has to face the people in this town, the sooner he does, the better for him.”
Tom's face brightened when Stan walked in. Stan walked around Loser and gave Tom a kiss. “Hey, there, Loverboy.” He turned around and looked at the stove. “You made stew. Good, I'm starving.” Stan helped himself to a bowl and joined the men at the table. Tom told him that Darren was back.
Loser finished his second bowl then poured them all a coffee. “He's scared. He doesn't know who still wants to punch out his lights.”
“I never wanted to hit Darren,” Stan said. “It's his old man who knocked the wind out of me.” He looked over at Tom. “Bob's going to sue Mitch.”
“I don't blame him. I just wish my brother would learn to control his temper,” Tom said. “And I worry about Diana.”
“Diana?” Loser asked. “His mistress in Hamilton, right?”
“Yeah,” Stan said. “Linda is the one in London.”
Loser shook his head. “I never did blame Claire for leaving that asshole. Why in God's name did she marry him in the first place?”
Tom and Stan exchanged glances. “He kept pestering her until she did,” Tom said. “I think he wanted to keep her away from me.”
Loser looked from one to the other. He knew how Claire left Mitch then lived with Tom for a year afterward. He also knew Tom had a lover named Marty during that time because he couldn't handle women. Stan dated Claire before she married Mitch, and Stan nailed her a few times after she left him. Now Stan seemed to have found the love of his life in Tom. Loser was happy for them, they almost seemed to be one person, so close were they. They even started to finish each other's sentences.
Darren had just taken his suitcase into his bedroom when someone knocked on his door. “I'm not home five minutes and already the vultures are here,” he mumbled, as he headed toward the front of the house. He opened the door and stepped back without a word. Claire walked in and sat down on a chair in the living room. She was the beautiful, sexy blonde that all the men fell for. Mitch included. Darren didn't know what she saw in Bob, though. He wasn't the hunk Mitch was. But Bob made Claire happy, so Darren didn't question it. He offered her a glass of wine. As he poured it, he thought about how this was her father's house, the one she grew up in. Bud left to him after he died of a heart attack in '67. “I feel like a stranger in my own hometown,” Darren said to her after he handed her the glass. He sank into a chair and faced her, took several sips of his beer before setting the bottle on the table beside him. “How have you been, Mother?”
Claire narrowed her eyes at him. She had been like a mother to him since Kathy died from cancer when Darren was seven. Claire was Bob's first wife, now she wanted to be his fourth. “I'm still pissed at you, Darren. But I think I understand why you spied on us.”
“It wasn't the first time I saw you with Bob, remember? I thought I stopped him from screwing around on Sue, especially after I caught him, naked in his kitchen, and feeling you up.”
“I told you, he just got out of the shower. I was the one who went after him.”
“He was married, Claire. You were married to my dad.”
“Geezas, Darren.” She stood and began to pace. “Why go after Bob when you knew I've had other men in my life? You knew Mitch and I were separated.”
Darren set his elbows on his knees. “I think I wanted to protect my dad. I didn't want him to find out that his friend was screwing his wife. Plus, I wanted to stop Bob from hurting Sue. And,” he said before she could say anything. “I wanted to protect Lily Marie from the embarrassment her father was causing.”
Claire sat back down. “Well, you sure caused a lot more than embarrassment, didn't you? Did you think to enter into that scenario, of all the women your father's screwed?”
“You know,” he said. “I just had to grovel to Justin, so I could have lunch at the diner. I'm tired of having to apologize every time I turn around.”
“Well, one things for certain, there is no way in hell I'm going back with Mitch, again. Ever.”
“You always did before.”
“Not this time.”
“You’ve said that before too.”
Claire glared at him over the rim of her glass. “No more. I'm done with him, forever.”
He nodded. “I know that now.”
“Good.” She finished her wine then set the glass down. “I'm very happy with Bob. And yes, we are going to get married.”
He pointed to her left hand. “I see you have a new diamond ring.”
She lifted her hand up and smiled down at it. “Bob formally proposed to me.”
“What did you do with Mitch's diamond? It's not on your right hand anymore.”
“What do you think? There is no way I'm going to wear his ring and Bob's too.”
Darren sat back. It finally sunk in. Eventually, he said, “I hope he's the one for you, Claire. I've often wished you'd find the one man you can hang on to.”
“I really believe, in my heart that this is it, Darren.”
“Good. I've always loved Bob like a second father. Him and Uncle Joe.”
She grinned at him. “What about your Aunt Tom?”
Darren chuckled. “Yeah, him too.”
Cadet Todd Breckenridge jumped out of his chair when his mentor walked in. Constable Stan Cleary chuckled. “I don't care if you sit there, Todd.” Stan walked around the desk and sat in the chair. “Your cousin's back.”
Todd nodded. “Yeah, he has to go back to university.”
“Lily Marie still screwing around with Bret Campbell?”
“Yeah. I hope I'm not there when Darren finds out. He thinks she's an angel.”
“He's the one who messed that up,” Stan said, as he leaned back in the chair. “I wonder why he told her he spent the weekend with a hooker. That was kinda dumb.”
Todd grinned. “Lily Marie told me that when he made love to her, to make up, she saw that his dick was red, and he held in his breath as if it hurt.”
Stan chuckled. “Well, that'll do it.”
Todd sat in one of the chairs that faced Stan's desk. “I still spend the odd night at my dad's. He still wanders around the house all night.”
“I think it's going to take him a long time to get over your mother's death, Todd.” Nora Breckenridge died June 7th, 1970, of an aneurysm in the brain. The day after Darren and Lily Marie were married. She was Mitch's sister and Tom's stepsister.
“I think a year and a half is too long to mourn,” Todd said. “I feel sorry for Loser.”
Stan ran his hand over his bald head. “He says all he and Joe do is talk.”
“That's what Dad tells me. He has strong feelings for Loser, I can tell. I don't know what's holding him back.”
“Probably the stigma that comes with the territory, Todd.”
“Yeah, but you and Tom don't seem to care. Tom told me you don't get harassed anymore for being openly gay.”
“Well, not as much as we used to.”
Todd let out a sigh. “I just want my dad to be happy. I see him when Loser's there, it's the only time he smiles.”
“Give it time, Todd. Loser isn't going anywhere. He'll wait for Joe.”
Todd opened the door to Bret's apartment after work that day. It was quiet as he headed to his room he rented from his friend. Bret owned the house and collected rent from three other apartments. Plus, he worked for Joe at the gym. Todd set Stan's old books on the desk and headed toward the kitchen. He was studying to become a constable. Next week he'd start classes at the Ontario Police College in Aylmer, not far from there. He'd still work for Stan between classes and on weekends. He stepped out of his bedroom when Bret's door opened. Lily Marie came out. Todd noticed how she could barely walk, how stiff her movements were. Her hair was wild, her lips swollen. He wished he could do that to a girl. No wonder she couldn't leave Bret alone.
Her face went white when she saw him. Usually he left when she was with Bret because she was like a sister to him. He didn't want to see a sister in this state. Her twin brother, Justin, had been his best friend since, well forever. Lily Marie was just as close to him as Justin was. Darren, his only cousin forced Todd into the middle of this soap opera. Todd went into the kitchen and took a beer out of the fridge. Bret came in shortly afterward with his arm around Lily Marie.
“I don't think you realize,” Todd said, “your husband is home.”
She swayed. It was a good thing Bret was holding her. He looked at Lily Marie. “Maybe it's about time he finds out about us.”
Her eyes widened. “Please, not just yet.”
“Why?” Todd asked. “I think you should tell him before someone else does. Or before Jody catches you in here.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Is she still spying for Darren?”
Todd shrugged. “I don't know. But she shows up at all hours as if she's trying to catch you with him.” He nodded toward Bret. “You know they've suspected for some time now.” It was no secret. Everyone knew how Bret felt about Lily Marie. Which made Darren so jealous that he was at the point of being paranoid.
“You better tell him soon,” Bret told her. “Or I will.”
She looked from one to the other. “Okay, I'll tell him. Just give me a day or two to work up the nerve.”