Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2016 by Parker Sheaffer
It was Lucas' idea to have a party to welcome the Welsers to San Francisco. It seemed appropriate for such a distinguished family to be greeted in a grand style so Clive invited several of the most important and wealthiest families who had business ties with the Welsers. He saw that it would be a good occasion to strengthen those connections.
Reginald Welser and his daughter arrived a few days later. Reginald was a tall man whose once powerful build of his youth had begun to soften and sag due to years of comfort and easy living. Catherine was pretty and she was a very dignified and proper young lady. Always dressed in flattering garments and jewels, she managed to look even lovelier. Both father and daughter shared Clive's golden hair although Reginald's was sown throughout with gray. At least he was not going bald so Lucas hoped that Clive would also be spared that.
Lucas was nervous when Clive introduced him to his family. They seemed rather cool in their assessment of him, but were not rude. Clive presented Lucas and Andy as being from a decent family, brothers of an old friend, who were enduring a reversal of fortune. That gave the impression that they were of an inferior class and so they were of little interest to Catherine and her father. It didn't matter because Lucas and Andy were happy to make themselves scarce as much as they could during their visit. The two boys didn't even make an appearance during the party, but stayed upstairs in Lucas' suite with a cold supper and a good book. With each other for company they had a much better time than Clive.
Their house had no ballroom so there would be not Waltzing, but Lucas had arranged for a small orchestra to play from the top landing of the main stairs. The music could be heard in all of the rooms while the guests could still converse easily with each other. The sounds of happy chatter filled the house as men in black dinner jackets and ladies in silk gowns drifted through the rooms, greeting each other cheerfully and paying compliments to the Welsers.
Clive found himself alone at one point and wished that he was upstairs with his mate. As he mused silently he felt a hand on his arm. Martha Pritchard, daughter of Earnest Pritchard, the owner of several local banks, smiled up at him.
"Clive, I've been waiting for a moment to catch you alone so we could speak. Are you enjoying your party?" she cooed.
"I'm never comfortable in large crowds," Clive admitted.
"Yes, you seemed restless. I share your dislike for these socials, but they are sometimes necessary, aren't they? We have our duties. Your family seems to be relaxed, thought. Your sister is very beautiful and your father looks just like you, handsome and suave."
"Do you think so? They do seem to be enjoying themselves. Of course, father knows most of the guests, but dear Catherine is only newly come to San Francisco. She says she likes it, but I'm not so sure. It's very different from New York," Clive told her with a tired smile.
"If she grows bored you may tell her that I would love to guide her around town. I could bring a few friends and make it a small touring party. Naturally, you could come too," she said with a smile.
Suddenly uncomfortable with her flirting, Clive said, "I'll pass along your invitation."
It took some time for him to extricate himself from her attentions.
Martha's family's wealth exceeded even that of the Welsers and in the next several days she continued to show a blatant interest in Clive. Her attentions were encouraged by both her father and Mr. Welser, and Clive found himself being herded into an unwanted relationship. It's not that Martha was not pretty, she was, but she was the wrong gender and Clive's heart was already given to another.
He considered being honest with his father and saying that he loved another, but the man would demand to know who she was and why he had not met her. Telling him that he loved a young boy was an impossible idea. He would be lucky to avoid either jail or the asylum. To make matters worse, Martha and Catherine quickly became friends and Catherine repeatedly told Clive that he should marry Martha. He now had pressure coming from two families, but he continued to delay and resist any serious romantic relationship with her.
His father and sister returned to New York so he had a bit of a reprieve until they would return in another year's time. Martha continued assailing the walls of his fortress of indifference.
In the business world, the success of one often comes upon the failure of another, and that happened more than once to Clive's enterprises. As Clive's father often said, "Sometimes you're the horse, and sometimes you're the carriage."
The Welsers did not always win, but more often than not they came out ahead in the financial game and so they prospered. Other less fortunate people frequently blamed them for their failures. Two of those were the Balducci brothers, Ernesto and Antonio. The deeds they had purchased for certain properties turned out to be forgeries and the properties were actually owned by the Welsers, as it was so proven in a courtroom. Ernesto and Antonio were ruined and swore revenge against Clive, who they mistakenly blamed for their misfortunes.
They chose to exact that revenge one afternoon when Lucas and Andy were home alone. Andy was taking a nap and Lucas was reading in the library when he heard a click behind him. Turning, he saw a swarthy man entering the room with a large knife in his hand. By the way he held the blade Lucas could see that he was no stranger to knife fighting.
Lucas leapt to his feet and demanded, "Who are you? What do you want?"
"You are the son of Mr. Clive Welser. I want to kill you. He ruined me so now I ruin him," the man snarled in heavily accented English.
Another similar looking man came into the room with a furiously struggling Andy clutched tightly in his arms.
"Mr. Clive Welser will be very, very sorry when he comes home to find his two children dead, and their heads cut off."
The first man, Ernesto, stepped closer to Lucas, who grabbed the book from the table and swung it at the man's hand, knocking the knife away. It flew against the bookshelf and clattered to the floor. The man lunged at Lucas and grabbed him around the throat, but Lucas kneed him between the legs. As the man doubled over in pain, Lucas slammed his fist with all his might into the man's throat, crushing his windpipe and causing him to fall to the floor, thrashing and gasping for breath.
The other man, Antonio, dropped Andy and pulled out his own knife. He turned toward Lucas, but Lucas moved like lighting and swept up the fallen blade and confronted the larger man. The training he had received from his old sailor friend, Trevor, so many years earlier, came back to him as he placed himself between his son and the attacker. The man feinted, trying to throw him off and then lunged, but Lucas was fast and slashed his blade savagely across the man's arm. Antonio felt the terrible pain and his weapon fell from his hand. He looked at Lucas in shock. If he had expected the boy to let him surrender, he was very much mistaken. Instead, filled with rage and adrenaline, Lucas stabbed him in the stomach and ripped the keen blade upward. With a shrill scream the man fell to the floor, clasping his gut and staring in horror as his blood gushed forth.
Lucas was frightened and angry. Memories of Earl's murder flashed through his mind, stoking his passion even further.
Kneeling beside the bleeding man Lucas growled, "You would have killed my family, my son, my innocent little son. Go to hell, you monster, you son of a bitch."
He pulled the knife from Antonio's stomach and slid it swiftly between his ribs, straight into his heart. With a shudder and a gasp, Antonio fell back dead.
Without pausing, Lucas knelt beside the other assailant who was turning blue in the face from his collapsed windpipe, and he placed the knife over the man's heart. Ernesto looked up at him in amazement at the cold rage in the eyes of the boy who looked like an angel, but fought like a devil. Lucas dispatched him quickly.
"Daddy, daddy," cried Andy and threw himself into Lucas's arms.
They hugged and cried for several minutes until Andy whispered, "You killed them. You killed the bad men. I'm glad you did."
Still trembling with rage and shock, Lucas said, "Oh, my precious little one. I'll never let anyone harm you. I'll kill anybody who tries. Now, let's go wash our faces and hands. Clive will be home soon and we need to decide what to do with these bad men."
Clive was astonished at the scene in the library. He recognized the brothers right away and told Lucas who they were.
"I have plenty of witnesses that have heard them threaten me so there shouldn't be any trouble with the law. We'll have to call the police."
"What if there's a trial. I don't want to be in the newspapers and have everyone staring at me. Sooner or later someone will ask those difficult questions about my age."
"I didn't think about that. Well, there are other ways to handle it. I doubt that anyone saw them come in; they would have been very careful about that. Let me go get a couple of the workers from the office, a couple I can trust. We'll just dump them in the bay and deny they were ever here. We'll need to get rid of that rug, though," Clive said, indicating the large red stain under both bodies. While Clive had been raised in genteel society and had known little of violence back east, the few years that he had been in San Francisco had given him a different education. People here died by the dozen. Disease, poverty, accidents and murder all took a heavy toll on the citizenry, and while Clive hated it, he was no longer shocked by death. He told himself that the world would be a better place without these two villains.
He returned an hour later with three Chinese men and a cart. The bodies were wrapped in rugs, the bloody one and another from the parlor, and casually loaded into the cart. The men were given instructions to wait until dark and drop them into the bay. Clive was confident that there would be no outcry over the men's disappearance.
Everyone's emotions had cooled enough by that evening so that they were able to discuss the day's events more calmly. Andy showed no signs of trauma from seeing the men killed. He had seen dead people before when he lived on the streets and he was glad these two were dead.
Clive was thankful that Lucas and Andy were safe and he was actually quite proud that Lucas had been strong enough to take care of them both. After all, these were two large men from a rough background.
Lucas thought back on the first man he had killed, so many years ago. The drunken robber who had tried to kill him had earned his own death, and yet Lucas had been sick about it for a long time. Now he felt no remorse for what he had done this afternoon, and indeed it was that lack of guilt that bothered him. When had he become so cold, so fierce, that he could commit murder without pity? What sort of man was he becoming? But the men deserved to be killed. Lucas mused that decapitation would have been too serious for even him to survive. He did, however, regret the loss of two fine rugs.
Clive brought a Chinese man home with him the next day and said, "This is Ho Pao. He runs a school for martial arts in China town. I've hired him to teach us all some self-defense. It seems that I, well, we, have enemies out there and I don't want to have to be surrounded by bodyguards all the time. We would lose all of our privacy. It would be good if we could protect each other. Thank God, Lucas that you were able to take care of matters yesterday because I would have been completely helpless if it had fallen to me to protect Andy. I've seen the men at Ho Pao's school fight each other with an amazing Oriental style and it's beautiful to see what they can do. He says he can teach us."
Clive nodded to Ho Pao, who bowed and said, "What I teach is ancient Shaolin method called Black Tiger Fist Kung Fu. This is very powerful way to fight and does not require weapons. Hands are weapons, feet are weapons, mind is weapon. I teach to focus Qi and no one can harm you again."
It was slow going, but over the course of several months the three of them became fairly proficient at defending themselves. They were not at a level where they could compete with the more experienced students of Ho Pao but they could certainly handle most thugs, if they fought them one-on-one.
Lucas was better than Clive because he wasn't afraid to maim someone if he needed to, and Andy surprised everyone by surpassing even Lucas. If anyone decided to pick a fight with little Andy they were going to be in for a great surprise.
If you are enjoying this story, please let the author know by emailing him at email@example.com