The wipers of the Mustang cut through the rain as Rolf parks it behind Lana’s red Volvo in the drive. He sees that the lights in his house are on. Hey, he tells Lana, who is napping in the passenger seat of the warm car. We’re home. And we’ve got company. Lana inhales deeply and opens her eyes and then stretches. Thanks for driving. She gets out of the car into the rain while Rolf pops the trunk. Lana grabs the ice chest, while Rolf takes the fishing poles and tackle box, and they walk toward the open door.
Simon watches Lana and Rolf come up the steps. He blocks the door. Hold up. I’m getting a picture of you two for posterity. Take the lid off this ice chest first, Lana tells Simon. He does, and she tilts it forward for the camera.
You better look at this, Tia tells Raul the next morning from behind the massive oak desk. He walks around the desk and looks at the screen. He sees that she’s on the SH5 fanboards, where Simon has posted a picture late the previous night of a soaked Rolf and Lana. Rolf and Lana just in from pier fishing. Tia clicks to enlarge it.
He sees Rolf and Lana standing together, shoulder to shoulder, both soaked and disheveled. Lana is holding up a foam cooler full of fish with both hands and is smiling proudly. Rolf is grinning easily, holding a tackle box in one hand, and two halved fishing rods in the other. His tshirt is stuck to his six pack abs, and his wet collar is stretched low down to reveal the muscled taper of his neck. Raul is able to see right through Lana's soaked top. He notices her lean brown muscled arms and the striations across her sternum as she holds up the container. She looks happy, Tia comments. Raul scowls at the screen, and walks away. He paces around for a couple minutes, and then finally calls Lana.
This is Lana, she answers. Lana, it’s Raul. Hi. <Awkward pause> Are you alright? She finally asks. Are you at Rolf’s? No, I’m back at the apartment. Did you spend the night at Rolf’s? Yes. He breathes heavily into the phone. Go look on the SH5 fanboards. And then he hangs up.
Lana grabs her laptop and finds Simon’s post. She winces when she sees herself. She calls Raul back immediately. Yes, he says in a clipped voice. She sighs into the phone. Raul… and her voice trails off. Do you think of anyone else besides yourself? He replies angrily. How does it look, you spending the night at his house? Coming back late at night scantily clad in the rain? Displaying your bosom? It makes you look like a strumpet. Lana takes a deep breath. I’m sorry, Raul, I didn’t know… and he hangs up on her.
I’m going to go do some target practice, Raul tells Tia, and he gets his range bag, and hops in a golf cart and heads off to the firing range.
When he comes back three hours later, his dress shirt sweat stained, and his face grimy from dust, he carefully detail strips his pistol and cleans it, then lubes it. Then he goes inside the hacienda and takes a cold shower. When he comes out, he dresses in a collared shirt, and comes back to his office, and goes to the SH5 website on his computer. He sees that the picture is down. Should’ve asked before posting. –Simon. Now he’s posted a picture of him and Bettina, his arm around her shoulder, her leaning against him, both smiling into the camera. Raul turns his phone back on and waits for it to boot up, so he can call Lana. He sees that he’s got a text message. It’s from Lana. Proverbs 25:12. He grabs Don Luis’s Spanish Bible and hurriedly looks up the text. “As an earning of gold, an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear”. After siesta, he finds Tia. Raul, I overheard you talking to Lana, and you’re being too hard on her. I asked Ramon to have Samantha smooth things over with her. I want to show you something, he tells her, grinning. He shows her the text on his phone, and then quotes the verse from memory. She looks up at him. You’ll never find another woman like her, she tells him seriously. He grins widely. The picture has been taken down. She gets up and goes into the office. He follows her. And she sees the latest SH5 fan board postings by Simon. Raul grins and walks away. Tia quickly does a Web Search for Lana Radley, Rolf Asgaard, Images. And the wet tshirt picture appears on the first page of results. Tia shakes her head, and shuts off the computer. Poor Lana, she sighs.
Ramon calls up Samantha. I need your help, Sam, he declares without preamble. Okay, she says haltingly. Raul picked a fight with Lana after Simon posted a picture of her and Rolf on the fan boards that he shouldn’t have. Hold on a minute, let me pull it up, Sam tells him. Oh. Well, I can see why he posted it, Ramon. It’s a great picture of the two of them. Raul called her a strumpet and hung up on her. He hears Samantha wince over the phone. Would you help smooth things over? Of course. I’m on it. Love you, she tells him in Spanish, and hangs up.
Bettina sees that Samantha is calling and picks up. Hi, Sam! She says cheerfully. I need your help, Bettina. Sure. Is Lana around? No, she went back to the apartment. Good. Raul really lit into her. There’s a picture on the SH5 fan boards that shouldn’t be there. See if you can get it taken down for me. She hears Bettina typing, and then hears her breathing heavily into the phone. I’ll take care of it. Bettina says in a clipped voice. Bye. And Bettina hangs up. She brings her laptop over to Simon, and sits down next to him. Simon, this is an amazing picture. It shows a side of Rolf and Lana that others never get to glimpse. But Simon, it really should be kept private. Lana’s showing some cleavage, and her bra is visible. Will you take it down for me please? He nods. Get Jax and have him take a picture of us, she tells him. We’ll post that instead and announce ourselves as a couple to the world.
Where’s Bettina? She’s testing out your magic bed. Lana chuckles. I better get my overnight bag from the car, and she heads back out into the rain.
Rolf grins at Simon. I heard about you and her. From here on, it’s going to be twice the joy and half the sorrow, brother. Simon beams. Thanks, Rolf. You know - you and Lana are the only ones who are actually happy for us. That’s not true, and you know it, Rolf replies seriously. Lemme get changed, and we’ll talk. And Rolf heads downstairs in his bare feet.
Jax decided not to come and went to bed early, Simon tells Lana when she comes back inside. Lana shrugs, and goes upstairs to change. She comes back downstairs wearing a kimono over a wife beater and scrub pants, her wet hair now in a messy high ponytail. She goes into the kitchen, where Rolf and Simon are vacuum sealing the fish to put in the freezer. Are you going to get Bettina up? Simon asks. If she didn’t hear me clunking around in the bathroom, then she’s zonked out. I get the couch, Simon says quickly. I’ll bring down a comforter and a pillow for you, Lana tells him, and leaves. Simon gives Rolf a look. I thought she’d put up a fight.
Lana comes back downstairs a couple minutes later with the sleep items for Simon. Thanks for taking me fishing, Rolf. He grins at her. I like your hair. She smiles brightly. Goodnight, Lana. Goodnight, guys, and she goes upstairs.
The next morning, Bettina gets up and wanders to the bathroom. She sees Lana’s soaked clothes in the washtub, and goes downstairs. She sees Simon sound asleep on the couch and grins. She gets herself a bottle of water from the fridge, and then goes upstairs to the master bedroom and opens the door. She can make out Lana sleeping soundly on the mattress on the floor, having dragged it far away from the canopy bed with its ceiling mirror. Bettina smiles and closes the door.
She texts Jax on her phone. I’m the only one awake in this house. Want to chat online? Sure. She goes down to Lana’s workstation and boots up the computer. She signs into her gmail.
Bettina: Just up a wonderful nights sleep in Lana’s magic bed. Simon is dead to the world on the couch. I snuck into the guest room and Lana is asleep on the floor. She pulled the mattress off the cuddle bed so the mirror won’t see her.
Jax: That’s hilarious. I wish I would have thought of that.
Jax: Did you dream?
Bettina: No. Do you want to get breakfast?
Jax: I don’t want to go out in public and be recognized.
Bettina: I’ll leave S&L a note and come over and cook you something.
Jax: Sounds good.
Jax watches as Bettina moves around the kitchen, preparing to make him an omelet, as he drinks his BCAA blend. So have you thought anymore about opening up this fund to other investors? Bettina asks him. Yes, but no one else gets Lana’s deal. What have you come up with? She asks. Ten thousand dollar buy-in. No more, no less. Eighteen month lockup. I get to keep half of the gains in leiu of a mgmt. fee. Bettina smiles at him, and then puts some chorizo in the skillet, which starts to sizzle. Complete opacity, Jax continues. I don’t want to have to run my thinking by anyone but Lana. She nods.
I’m in. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to structure it. One big pool seems to be the most logical way. Green peppers on yours? She asks. Sure. Onions? Sure.
Did you talk to Lana last night when she got in? I was out cold; she let me sleep. It’s so nice to be well rested. What do you think? He asks her. About…she entones. Lana and I. Bettina glances at him over her shoulder as she stands in front of the stove. The beard was a good idea, Jax. Will you talk to her? Jax, why do you think she went fishing with Rolf? He’s the one you need to talk to if you want to find out what’s going on in Lana’s mind.
She flips one omelet, then the other.
About that…he came to see me in the hospital after Lana pretended to be possessed. Jax admits. I was in a pretty bad place. Just get me out of here, I told him. And he didn’t argue with me, but just looked at me. And then I asked him if he’d heard what happened? And he got me laughing. Carry trade is looking pretty good right now. What’s the carry trade? Bettina asks. It’s going long on the dollar against a basket of other currencies. Anyway, I started laughing at his redirect, and my ribs started throbbing. I told him it hurt me to laugh. And he said that I probably wasn’t ready to leave the hospital then. I asked him if Lana was still his partner. Yes. If she was still his doorman. Yes. Then I asked him if I could stay at his place. And he leans forward and puts his hands on his chin, and asks me if I’m ready for this conversation.
Bettina hands him his plate, and sits next to him with hers. Jax takes a bite. And nods. Delicious. Bettina grins, and takes a bite of her own.
I wasn’t, so I stalled for time and told him I’d use the bathroom first. And he asked me what I wanted to eat. And he left to take care of it.
So when he comes back, I’m ready for him. Talk. And he just says, “I’m on Lana’s side, not yours”. Bettina raises her eyebrows. It’s like that? I ask him, and he just nods and stares at me. And I told him that I respected him for saying that. And then I asked him what I should do. “I’m not a lifecoach”. Bettina raises her eyebrows again. And I asked him to give me something to live for. And he talks me into leaving town and growing a beard – that there was a precedent for it in Scriptures, and it might be enough for me to get a fresh start with her. I ask him where in the Bible and he tells me to search it out. And he tells me that it’d be better if I asked Simon to help me get gone. That he needs to take care of Lana. And he asked if we were good, and I told him we were. And he just grinned, and left without saying goodbye. That’s the last I’ve heard from him. Have you tried calling or texting him? Jax looks down. I think he blocked my number, Bettina. His phone just rings once and goes to voicemail. And when I tried to text him, I got an autoreply that this number has chosen not to receive messages. Bettina pats his hand. You’re overthinking it; that’s just how he is. Simon will let us know what’s up.
Want to split another omelet with me? Bettina asks. How about we make a kale smoothie to wash it down? Jax counters.
So what do you think about Raul now? I know this won’t be what you want to hear, but the more I get to know him, the more I like him, Bettina admits. What does your dad think about him? Do not bring my father into your revenge plot, Jax – period. He’s left town; that’s what I wanted, Jax admits. Jax, the best revenge is living well, Bettina insists.