Wow, I started writing this so many months ago, pretty much directly after episode 1X05. It took me entirely too long to finish it off and even longer to decide to post it, so I hope you guys like it. I'm working on a second, longer story that is set in the present day. This one takes place in the late 1980s.
Thanks in advance for reading! ~KG
The air in the Lodge's library was stuffy and thick with cigar smoke and the smell of brandy. It was only 4:30 but many of the men were drunk. Stanton Infeld wished he were too, but he had a higher tolerance; it took a lot more than a few drinks to get him red in the face. All those drinking competitions with Gibson in their younger days prepared him quite well.
He wished Gibson were here now, instead of all these puffed up wankers. Smarmy politicians and their vapid wives, CEOs, and lawyers—so many lawyers. "Just go already!" Daniels had persisted. "Shmooze and booze. Flatter them a little; I don't care how you do it, just get our name out there!" It was easy for him to say; Abe Daniels was much better at sucking up to potential clients than Infeld ever was, in Stanton's own opinion, and he would be here at this bourgeois cocktail party instead, except he was stuck in court on a vehicular accident lawsuit. Infeld would have to do.
"Would you care for a drink, sir?" a cocktail waitress asked Infeld, appearing at his side with a tray full of champagne flutes.
"Ah, no, but thank you, dear," Infeld replied, lifting his glass of bourbon to show her he was set already. The conversation had turned to stocks and Infeld quietly wandered off to join another circle, but he wasn't too keen on his options. These weren't his people. Sure, they were veritable titans of their industries and descendants of old money, ripe for the picking, one would say, but they were postured and pretentious, and it pained Infeld to heap flattery on those undeserving of it. Still, Daniels was right. They needed bigger clients, and this was the way to do it.
Infeld and Daniels weren't alone in this strategy. On the far side of the room, that sensationalist git Leonard Franklin was being his usual bombastic self for a slew of interested onlookers. It was like him to always be the center of attention, in the courtroom and out. He was regaling his listeners with a story about the governor he represented on a prostitution charge some years back, a story Infeld had heard half a dozen times. It was designed to make Franklin look both competent—because he had won the case—and important—for getting one up on a well-known public figure—and it seemed to be doing the trick. Infeld wasn't interested, but before he could wander off to the next circle, he heard himself being beckoned.
"Stanton! Is that you? Come on over here!" The voice belonged to Harrison Hughes, the dean of Something-or-Other University. They were affiliated ever since a case several years back. He was at Franklin's side, cheeks flushed from laughing at the other lawyer's recent anecdote—or from the brandy, it was hard to tell. Reluctantly, Infeld joined the group, tipping his glass to the men politely. As he greeted them, he couldn't help but notice, unnoticed and off to the side, a familiar looking young boy sitting on the couch behind the group, baseball mitt in one hand and a worn-out ball in the other. The sullen boy looked to be about seven or eight, and couldn't have been more out of place at the party where every other guest was at least 20 years his senior. "Stanton, I thought that was you!" Hughes exclaimed, clapping Infeld on the back. "I was just over here talking with the man himself, Leonard Franklin. Have the two of you ever met?"
"I do believe I've had the misfortune once or twice," Infeld winked, taking a sip from his glass.
Hughes and some of the others laughed raucously while Franklin just smirked, unphased. "Yes, Stanton here is probably just still reeling from the last time we met on the battlefield and I whipped him on a property dispute."
"Yes, well," Infeld began, looking up wistfully, "I just didn't want you to get discouraged, Leonard, since I took the last three cases we faced each other on prior to that."
Leonard's face wrinkled, but Hughes, oblivious to the antagonistic attitude brimming just below the surface, blustered on. "Franklin here was just telling us about Governor Hawthorne's dalliances with the ladies of the night."
"Ah that old one," Infeld nodded.
"Anyway," Franklin plunged on. "So I give Hawthorne his bill and his jaw just about drops to the floor. You'd think he'd have realized this was going to cost him, but no, he wants to protest. He says, 'What in the hell is your reasoning for this?' and I say to him—"
"Well, Gov', I would think you were used to letting others screw you by now," Infeld finished, winking at a stunned and irate Leonard Franklin. The other men laughed uproariously and Hughes patted Infeld on the back.
"You're alright, Stanton," he chuckled.
Before Franklin could reply—and Infeld was certain he had a comeback waiting—the boy with the baseball mitt appeared at Franklin's side, tugging on his suit. "Dad, is it time to go yet?"
"Not now, Jared, go sit down."
"But what about the batting cages?" Jared asked. "You promised."
"We'll go after. Your old man's just got a few business things to finish up here. It'll only take a minute."
"It's been hours!"
"Is this your boy, Franklin?" Hughes asked. At Franklin's assent, Hughes, red-faced and beaming, leaned down to ruffle Jared's hair, a gesture that the boy did not seem to appreciate. "Well he's looking more and more like his old man every day!"
Jared sighed and glanced at the grandfather clock near the front entrance. A subtle defiance that the other men did not seem to notice set in the boy's eyes, accentuated by a stamp of the foot. "Dad, you promised mom you would take me to the batting cages today to practice and said this would only take a few minutes. We've been here two and a half hours. It is 4:47 p.m. The batting cages close at 6 p.m. sharp. If we don't leave in the next 10 minutes, we won't have time to practice and your verbal agreement with mom will have been broken." Jared leveled his eyes at his father's. "And you don't want to breach contract with mom."
There was a beat of stunned silence before the men broke into laughter again. Hughes ruffled the kid's hair once more. "He sounds like you too, Franklin! You teach him to talk like that?"
Franklin looked down at his son, a mixture of pride and annoyance evident in his features. "What can I say? My boy's a real chip off the old block. 'Bout time I added the '& Son' to the billboards, huh?" Franklin spotted the cocktail waitress from earlier and beckoned her over then leaned down. "Hey, son, why don't you go grab yourself some of those little cheese cubes from the table over there. We'll be all ready to go in just a few more minutes, cross my heart."
The boy sighed and trudged off back to his spot on the couch, already forgotten. Infeld waited with the group just long enough to see Franklin flirting shamelessly with the much younger cocktail waitress before deciding this was not his crowd anymore, if it ever was to begin with. After a few more moments of meandering and mingling, he began to tire of the façade completely and wandered over to join the only person in the room lonelier than him.
Infeld dropped heavily onto the leather couch next to Franklin's boy, the bourbon in his glass jostling with the movement, sighed heavily and said simply, "This party sucks."
Jared regarded him with a funny look, but not one to be shy he replied, "Yeah, well, at least you get to leave whenever you want."
Infeld scoffed. "I wish!" He leaned ever so slightly towards Jared, adding confidentially, "My partner's making me stay and talk to these sodding fools. I'd rather be outside like you."
The boy processed this, tossing the tattered baseball from one hand to the other, then smiled. "You don't like my dad very much, do you?"
"What makes you say that?"
"Just the way you talk to him. Like it's a pretend game. You know, like you're getting kissed on the cheek by your great aunt Bethany and it's totally gross but your mom's making you do it so you have to smile and be all nice." Jared tossed the ball a few feet in the air and caught it deftly.
Infeld looked down with piqued curiosity then attempted to cover for his apparent social faux pas with an explanatory, "Well, you see son, in our profession, some times—"
"It's okay," Jared said quickly. "I don't like him either. I mean, I love him, 'cause he's my dad, you know, and I gotta, but I don't like him much."
The precociousness of the statement threw Infeld off, but it was in his nature to recover quickly. "I must say, you're extremely observant and logical for a boy so young."
"I'm not as young as I look," the boy replied quickly. "I'm just short for my age. Mom says I'll have a growth spurt soon and catch up to the other boys."
"Don't be ashamed of your short stature, son. It's not the size of the man in the fight but the size of the fight in the man that really matters. You can do big things no matter how small you are." The boy smiled at this revelation, a grin that faded when he glanced across the room to check on his father… only to see Leonard whispering into the ear of the young waitress and following it up with a quick slap on her rump. It was a subtle gesture that went largely unseen by the surrounding guests, but it had one clear witness, Infeld observed ruefully, and Leonard didn't know it, but it was the most damaging witness in the room, and the most impressionable to boot.
The waitress turned, grinning, and pushed Leonard away playfully, the latter raising his arms in a gesture of innocent protest. Infeld turned his gaze on the boy as subtly as he could manage, wondering how much of this the young lad was processing, and how much would go over his head. The kid was smart—too smart for his age. If he didn't understand his father's ways yet, he would soon, and that would spell trouble later on. Leonard banked too heavily on the boy's senses not being keen enough, it seemed; Leonard very much underestimated his boy.
Be that as it may, it wasn't Infeld's place to teach this lesson to the boy; it was something young Jared would have to learn for himself. Suddenly eager for a distraction, Infeld piped up, "So, you like baseball then?"
Jared watched his father in the distance a moment longer before snapping out of it and grinning anew. "Yeah," he said with a big smile, "My dad and I watch games together. He's taken me to a few. It's so cool."
"Never had much of an eye for the sport myself. I'm from across the pond, if you couldn't tell. We're more about cricket and rugby over there."
"That means you're English, right?"
Jared nodded, satisfied he'd guessed correctly. "Dad says those sports are for tea-drinking pansies, and American sports are a lot tougher."
"Well your father has obviously never seen a real rugby match. I've come away from many a match with a few broken bones and bruises," Infeld said wistfully, thinking of the old days. "I was much younger then, of course. It's getting a little harder to keep up these days but I've been known to take on a few opponents half my age."
"Cool," Jared replied with wide-eyed sincerity. "I wish I could learn how to play."
"You will some day if you don't let anyone hold you back," Infeld nudged his shoulder.
The boy stared off into the crowd, looking for his father who seemed to have vanished momentarily then looked down at his shoes. "I really wanna be a famous baseball player, but dad says I'm going to be a lawyer like him one day. I don't know if I wanna do that. Dressing up in suits and talking sounds boring."
Infeld considered this. "In case you weren't aware, I'm in the same business as your father, so far be it for me to declare it's all boring… Some of it can be a bit… tedious, but it all depends on what you're getting out of it, son. If you're in it for the right reasons, it can be some of the most fulfilling work you'll ever do. But of course, I'm a firm believer that you should, first and foremost, do what makes you happy."
Franklin's boy would have some tough decisions to make down the line, Infeld thought, but it was more than obvious that what would make him happy at this moment would be a game of his catch with his old man. It was at this moment that Leonard emerged from one of the rooms down the hall, the cocktail waitress in tow. They went in separate directions, Leonard straightening his tie and suit jacket before rejoining the crowd. Jared, thankfully, did not see this, meeting his father's gaze only when the elder Franklin descended upon the pair.
"Stanton, you making friends with my son?"
"Jared here has a lot of interesting things to say, Leonard. He's an extremely perceptive boy."
Leonard narrowed his eyes, no doubt curious about how much Infeld knew. "Yes, well, all the better to protect him from hearing any more of your bullshit. My boy's gonna be a lawyer like his old man. Don't want him to get the wrong idea early on."
"Indeed," Infeld said crisply, finishing off the last of his bourbon.
"C'mon, Jared, time to go play some ball, as promised," Leonard said. He turned and walked away to say goodbye to Hughes and some of the other politicians. Jared stood, gathering his jacket, less sullen now at the prospect of finally getting out of here. Infeld was almost envious.
"Listen, son," Infeld began. "This probably isn't my place but… try not to let your father decide what you're going to be when you grow up."
Jared beamed back at him. "Oh, don't worry, I'm never going to grow up."
Infeld couldn't help but smile as he watched the boy bound off after his father. "Splendid!"