Caesar's Fall [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Dorien Grey
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime/Fantasy
eBook Description: With a new building to restore and his relationship with Steve growing more serious, the last thing Elliott needs is someone else's problem, but when lottery millionaire Bruno Caesar moves into his building he can't just ignore the man's pleas for help.
Then Bruno's life comes to an abrupt end when he falls from his balcony. There's only one problem--he was terrified of heights...and never went onto the balcony.
Bruno can't rest until the puzzle of his sudden death is solved, and Elliott and John are once again searching for answers.
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications/Zumaya Boundless, Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2010
* * * *
8 Reader Ratings:
"Highly recommended." -- Rainbow Reviews
Driving back to Steve's after Sunday dinner, Elliott shook his head.
"I don't believe it," he said.
"What? I thought everything went really well. I had a good time. Didn't you?"
"Yes, I did. But this is the first time in living memory that Cessy didn't pump me about my love life or drop three thousand hints that it was time I settled down. It goes against nature, somehow. I can't wait to see what she'll come up with next." He pursed his lips and furrowed his brow. "Probably adoption."
Steve grinned. "As a matter of fact, when I was helping load the dishwasher, she did mention that all we needed now was a kid."
"See? I knew it! The woman's incorrigible."
He found an unusual number of calls on his answering machine when he got home, and saw four of them were from Bruno. He immediately called him. The phone rang four times, and he was about to hang up when Bruno answered.
"Elliott! Thanks for returning my call."
"Sorry I didn't do it earlier, Bruno, but I was with Steve all weekend. What's up?"
"I hate to bother you, but could I come down for a minute? I have a favor to ask you."
Puzzled, Elliott said, "Sure."
"I'll be there in a minute." And without saying goodbye, he hung up.
Elliott was still wondering what was going on when there was a knock at his door, and he opened it to find Bruno, a large envelope in his hand.
"Come on in," Elliott said, leading the way to the living room.
"I've only got a minute. Ricky ran to the store for some things, and he should be right back."
"Is there a problem?"
"I don't know, Elliott. I'm beginning to wish I'd never won that damned lottery! It was bad enough having everyone and his dog hitting me up for money like they think I owe them for something. They just never give up. I always have to check my caller ID now before I pick up--if it says 'unknown caller' or I don't recognize the number, I don't answer. I've even gotten mail, with no return address, calling me a greedy, arrogant, selfish SOB and a lot worse. Arrogant? Me?
"I have no idea who's doing it, or why. I mean, what do they expect from me? What can I do about it? Friday night, Ricky and I went out to dinner, and when we got back to my car someone had left a really nasty note under my windshield wiper. I'm lucky they just left a note--imagine what they could have done to my car, and I just got it back from the body shop after Cage's accident. It's getting so I'm afraid to leave the building.
"My sessions with Sensei have helped, but I'm afraid not enough. Lately, I've been having trouble sleeping. I keep having these terrible dreams that I can never remember when I wake up, but they really bother me."
"I'm sorry, Bruno. I know you're under a lot of pressure. Have you talked to Walter about funneling all money requests through him? That might help a lot."
"Every time I try to talk to him, he makes me feel like I'm annoying him. I guess I'm just too intimidated by his attitude to say anything. And things with Cage have gotten so bad I'm thinking of asking him to leave. He blames me for losing his job with Rudy, he's increasingly demanding, and treats Ricky like crap. I won't have that, nephew or not. Life's far too short."
"I'm really sorry about all this, Bruno. Having money isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just try to ignore the notes and calls. Whoever it is will get tired and stop eventually. I know it isn't easy, but don't let it get to you. As for Cage, well, I don't know what to tell you there. It's one of those uncomfortable no-win situations, and I don't envy you. As you say, life's too short."
Bruno held up the sealed envelope he'd been holding.
"I wonder if I could ask you to hold this for me."
"Sure." He was hoping there might be some sort of explanation forthcoming, but there was none.
Handing it to him, Bruno said, "Well, I really appreciate your letting me cry on your shoulder, Elliott. I'm afraid I just don't have anyone else I feel I can talk to. Sensei says meditation and finding my inner self is the only answer. I wish it was. I don't want to burden Ricky, but it really does get to me no matter how hard I try not to let it."
"I understand, and I'm always willing to listen even if I can't offer much in the way of help or advice." He briefly thought of giving Bruno his cell-phone number but decided against it. While he was sincere in saying he was willing to listen, he didn't want to risk his offer leading to calls at work.
"Thank you! And now I'd better get back upstairs."
With that, he left.
Looking at the unmarked envelope in his hand, Elliott shook his head and carried it into his bedroom, where he put it beneath a stack of folded T-shirts in his underwear drawer.
* * * *
Within two weeks, work on the building had progressed to the point Elliott felt he could invite Cessy and Brad to come take a look. The ground floor still hadn't been touched, other than replacing the false front with new showroom windows and the original trim; but work on it would begin as soon as the upstairs apartments were ready for occupancy.
Steve and he had, out of curiosity one Sunday afternoon, removed a small section of wall paneling and found the pressed tin he'd expected to be under it had been removed. He assumed the stacks of it in the basement had been salvaged during the removal.
Steve had been doing some sketches of how the ground floor space might look, which Elliott liked and had shown to his crew, who in turn agreed the ideas could be implemented fairly easily.
The following Monday evening, he got a call from Bruno, with whom he'd talked several times on the phone since their last meeting. It seemed easier for Bruno to talk when Ricky wasn't around, and Elliott agreed with Steve's earlier assessment that Bruno's life was becoming a soap opera, none of which Bruno was handling very well.
He learned there had been a confrontation with Cage, whom Bruno had asked to move out--he claimed Cage was seldom home, anyway, and apparently was trying to juggle dating two guys at the same time. Cage didn't take the news well. Even Bruno's offer to give him a couple hundred dollars a week until he found a job didn't seem to help--though, of course, Cage magnanimously agreed to accept the money.
"I don't know, Elliott, there's just so much going on I can't keep up with it. And now Sensei says the original owner of my Jennys has really been pressing him to buy them back, claiming he was under severe emotional distress brought on by the financial crash and a messy divorce. He says he only sold the Jennys to keep his wife from getting them. I told him no way. He wanted to sell them, I wanted to buy them, and I intend to keep them. I'm sure Sensei is unhappy with me, even if he didn't say so, because several of his students were referrals from the stamps' original owner, and he's afraid the man may cause trouble for him with his other students."
"Well, that really isn't any of your concern. You acted in good faith."
"I know, but I don't want Sensei to suffer for my refusal to sell them back."
"Again, that isn't your concern."
Bruno sighed deeply. "I know. You're right. Still..." He was silent a moment, then said, "Oh, and I finally talked with Walter Means and told him that from now on I'm going to refer all requests for money through him."
"I thought you'd said he didn't want to do it."
"He didn't, but I finally got tired of his attitude, and Sensei said I should let him know how I felt. He's done nothing but slough off my questions and suggestions, and ... well, I know he knows far more about money than I ever will, but still...
"I finally decided he was working for me, and if he didn't want to do what I told him to do, I could easily find another financial manager, and I told him so. I'm really thinking seriously about doing it anyway. I'm just not happy with him. Sensei knows someone he says would do very well for me."
It occurred to Elliott that Clifford Blanton was exerting an increasing amount of influence on Bruno, and he didn't know if he thought that was a good idea. Then, he reminded himself Bruno's business wasn't his.
"Well," he nevertheless found himself saying, "if you ever decide on a change, I can put you in touch with the firm that handles my own investments. They could probably recommend someone you might feel more comfortable with."
"I just might do that, Elliott. Thanks. Sensei has suggested I invite everyone who's been dunning me for money to a party this Saturday and tell them all at the same time. I'm going to make it clear to everyone that any future requests for money will have to go through Means--whether he likes it or not--and end all this nonsense once and for all. If Means doesn't like it, I'll fire him. And I'm going to invite Rudy so he can see I wasn't singling him out or deliberately trying to sabotage his projects." There was another brief silence, and then Bruno said, almost as an afterthought, "You and Steve are welcome to come, but I'm afraid the air might be a little toxic."
"Well, thanks, but I think we'll pass. We're going to dinner and a movie, but should be home around eleven, so if you have any problems, just give me a call."
"Sensei will be there, just for moral support, and we'll have a session just before the party. I'll probably need it."
"That sounds like you're piling a lot on your plate for just one night."
"I know, but I'd rather do it all at once than drag it out. I really don't do confrontation well, but if I'm going to do it I might as well go for broke. I just want to tie up all these loose ends once and for all."
Though Elliott was firmly convinced a party wasn't the way to go on this, he didn't feel it was his place to interfere. Bruno was a grown man capable of making his own decisions, and he couldn't help but wonder if the man were finally starting to take more active control of his life, or if he were simply transferring his dependence onto Clifford Blanton.
* * * *
Stopping for a drink after the movie Saturday night delayed their arrival home until just after eleven-thirty. Checking the answering machine for any calls from Bruno, he was relieved to see there were none.
They sat in the living room with a glass of strega, with only the hallway light for illumination, and stared out over the city.
"Cessy asked me why I hadn't asked you to move in here," Elliott said.
"You didn't because you knew I wouldn't."
"And with a view like this I can see why you wouldn't consider moving ."
"Also right. So, as I told Cessy when she asked, we're taking a half-step."
* * * *
They got to sleep around one-thirty, and were awakened at three by the sound of sirens that stopped in front of the building. Elliott got up and looked out the bedroom window down onto Sheridan Road and saw nothing but reflections of lights flashing on the building across the street, indicating whatever was happening was on the living room side.
Curious, he went into the living room and out onto the balcony to look over the railing. He saw three squad cars, an ambulance, and a large number of people milling around something covered with a yellow tarp.
He felt the bottom fall out of his stomach, and he started when he felt Steve's hand on his shoulder.
"What's happening?" Steve asked.
"I think somebody fell," Elliott said. "And I'm afraid I know from where."