Chapter Three
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Ethan stepped out into the cool night air and breathed a thanks to an early escape from the tedious evening. Most in attendance envied him, but he found this part of his life to be the least favorite. However, Marcel’s call meant trouble even if at a small level. His art and antique collection was as secure as any in the country, if not the world. Yet a man with his wealth was always a target for someone. He’d call the security company first thing and get them to ramp up whatever holes Marcel’s attack had revealed.

What bothered him more was that Marcel was certainly capable of handling a break-in on his own. Or he used to be. When they’d first met in Panama City many years ago, Marcel had been the man about town. The go-to person for the finest drink, women, and parties. On the side he’d run a “problem solving” business. He made problems disappear, usually the two-legged, gun-toting kind. He was effective, very effective, to say the least, in every endeavor. 

Ethan had bailed him out of a particularly bad situation that had backfired in a way so full of Central American violence that Marcel had no choice but to leave the country. He’d worked for Ethan here in New York City ever since. Marcel owed Ethan a great deal, but it wasn’t like that. He was family. The family Ethan never had. Didn’t really want. But there it was. 

Marcel had softened over the years, Ethan knew that. He’d embraced the comfortable lifestyle of butler to a jet setting billionaire. But occasionally he still called up old contacts to solve problems for Ethan of a darker nature. Nothing too risqué. Just a few business deals that hung there in the grey area and required a more delicate touch. Yes, he was a sight to see in his prime, and not too shabby as of late either. The burglars must have just caught him by surprise. It was his night off after all. He’d have to renew his gym membership.    

He handed the valet his ticket and walked away from the main entrance where the valet would be able to double park his car for the time it took them to change seats. He loved this time of year, and found his mind wandering. Forgetting for a moment about the break-in. Ahead, an enormous limousine slid up the side alley and pulled to a stop. A small, tightly packed cluster of smartly dressed thirty and forty year olds came out of the hotel. Ethan’s stomach turned. They definitely thrived on all this. In the center, his gray shock of hair impossible to miss, was Bennett. They hurried toward the waiting limousine. Ethan figured he must have finished his speech and was on to the night’s next fund raiser. Not a bad life, if you didn’t mind being a whore. Politicians impressed him about as much, and were just as useless for Ethan.

A loud voice came from the group, Bennett’s.

“I told you to keep them the hell away from me.” 

Ethan turned in time to see a young woman lose her balance and take a step back. She grabbed the side of her face and took a deep breath. It couldn’t be. He wasn’t so positive, but it looked as if she had been struck because of a perceived betrayal. 

“They don’t pay, they don’t get my time. Don’t ever waste my time again.” 

The woman stood there covering her mouth with her hands as she stared back at Bennett, terrified. Bennett looked like he would slap her again but a stone-faced man, with his required ear-piece, stepped in front of him.   

“We need to get moving, we’ll be late sir.”

Bennett turned and slipped into the limousine leaving a few staff standing on the sidewalk. 

Ethan had heard the rumors that Bennett was brutal with his staff. But he was the media darling so the dirt never quite percolated to the top of the news feed. Proof of a system he didn’t believe in. Better to make your own world and not trust in what people said.  

The limousine pulled away just as the valet came up with Ethan’s car. He tipped him and headed home.