The Corolla’s AC had expired the previous summer, so Billy was sticking uncomfortably to the driver’s seat vinyl. The manor’s no doubt functional air-conditioning beckoned, but he kept the car in PARK because the sculpture’s face, with its strong cheekbones and broad, dignified nose, was simply marvelous to look at. It had been carved with obvious talent, someone’s skilled hands imbuing it with a persona of one who gives orders but doesn’t take them. Its robes were finely-hewn, floating on an imaginary wind—an observation reminding Billy of how hot the day was becoming.
Though the lifelike samurai king was carved to look intimidating—and in Billy’s mind, the sculptor deserved kudos there—pigeons had really done a number on it. No matter how formidable looking, something covered in bird crap could only be taken but so seriously. This glaring indignity broke Billy’s trance, allowing him to register an untended lawn tall enough to hide the ankles of all three statues. No minions, of course, meant no one to cut the yard.
The young man and the royal regarded each other for another moment, long enough for Billy to once again hear the droning grasshoppers and the companionable tick-tick-tick of his aging Corolla. But the insects’ churring couldn’t mask the anger he felt at Mental Richard’s unwanted return, an auditory appearance brought on by the sight of these high-end statues standing like pickets. Though the obscene expense pissed the shit out of him, he knew contemplating Richard’s in-your-face yard bling would prove exhausting. Yes, king, you’re an impressive son-of-a-bitch, he thought, but my head’s still killin’ me. He engaged DRIVE, shouting, “Sayonara, coalminers!” then drove the rest of the way.
The pavers crunched as he pulled the car around the manor’s circular drive. Bates had told him the detached garage would be locked, so he parked by the front doors. There were no other vehicles or signs of activity—he was alone. BK emerged to take in the building. It looked as ugly as it had three years ago during his first visit, dad’s infamous fiftieth birthday party, save for one striking difference—a new blue-tiled slate roof. That must a’ been pricey. Or maybe not. What had Bates said?
Bates had told him Richard had had the original grey slate, guaranteed for one hundred years, replaced earlier that summer, telling him it hailed hard in Rock Hill, “wink-wink.” (Bates, a literal man, made great pains to indicate that Dick Buchanan had said wink-wink, and that he, Deacon Bates, hadn’t.) BK tried to imagine ice pellets damaging slate which elsewhere protected cathedrals for centuries—it just didn’t seem possible—but there had been turbulent weather over the winter and according to the insurance adjustor, a May inspection did reveal dings and missing tiles. However, the suspicious adjustor also noted that the other neighborhood houses, with their 30-year asphalt shingles, were undamaged. According to Bates, the guy had asked sarcastically, “Did you have a party on the roof, Mr. Buchanan?” Richard had replied, “Oh yes, a real slammer.” Dick got a new roof, dying before paying his deductible.
But those statues, they’re a crap-load of money, Billy thought, free roof or not. Lear jet money. Biggie Smalls money. Where did Richard get that kind of money?
Before she married, Billy’s mom, Sarah, joked that Richard, a New Yorker, had to be mobbed up to throw cash around the way he did. He never said where it came from and she never asked; she’d fallen deeply in love with a flamboyant, successful man—things would take care of themselves. But being connected was a joke which soured after the first few years and by the time Billy was born, simply chaffed. Richard was neither mobbed up nor on a nodding basis with the traditional concept of work. Work was for minions, and Dick Buchanan was no minion. Richard earned, by which he meant using his brain to separate money from those who already had it—Mensa for profit.
A half-in-the-bag tax attorney attending his father’s fiftieth party had put it best: “Buchanan worms his way into the financial heart—a real middleman’s middleman.” BK, serving at the time as a 19-year-old backyard bartender, nodded, smiling pleasantly, realizing the man, who tipped well, didn’t know he was talking to Buchanan’s son. The man’s statement didn’t upset him; he assumed everyone knew about his father’s finagling, and in some weird sense, this was okay; scheming was how dad provided for the family, at least in the early years, keeping money coming in the door. What did make him and his mother mad was how fast the money also went back out, and for the last few years of the marriage, didn’t come in at all.
Richard spent cash—no question there—he just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) save it. In their household, Sarah’s hard-earned waitressing money, needed at month’s end, found itself instead briefly riding in the first-class section of Richard’s wallet before passing to parts unknown, at least unknown to her. When these parts did become known—Richard took his affections beyond his wife—the Buchanan’s seven-year marriage foundered, then sank out of sight, leaving a few photograph albums and a 6-year-old Billy to bob in the waves.
Excerpt of the first chapter of horror-fantasy novel 22 Dutch Road