Storm Surge Excerpt
"Great! Austria was great!" I turn to watch the final drip of brewing coffee land in the pot.
"And, Mr. Goldstein?"
"Mr. Goldstein is absolutely wonderful!" I inhale the rich coffee-scented steam rising from the cups as I fill them. "He is—"
"Katey! Listen to this!" Karen points the remote toward the television; rapidly increasing the volume.
The sound of danger in her voice sets off alarms in me. My pulse races in response. Karen is the calmest "calm-under-fire person" I know.
Bringing our coffee, I pause behind the sofa, studying the television in search of what piqued her interest.
"...just minutes ago, Alistair McKenzie announced, at a scheduled press conference, that his granddaughter, Kathryn McKenzie, will assume control and management of the McKenzie empire beginning..."
The reporter's voice fades in my mind while I study the old man in the wheelchair. The camera perfectly captures my grandfather's compelling nature. He is in control and there is no doubt everyone knows it. The reporters dare not tempt the scope of his anger. Even the cub reporters know not to be reckless with him. It is no secret he is ruthless, and that is exactly how he wants it.
The station returns to the news studio where an anchorwoman reads a litany of McKenzie holdings. Each company logo appears inset on the screen. The list is impressive. I had no idea the McKenzie family owned so many companies.
My gaze remains fixed to the set as I move around the end of the sofa to join Karen. Leaning forward to set down our cups, I misjudge the coffee table. Without a word, Karen intervenes to avoid the spill.
"Beginning immediately." I gasp, then sigh. The whispering echo haunts me with its truth. Life as I know it just ceased to exist. I feel the weight of great wealth laid upon my shoulders.
My fingers reach for the locket around my neck. I seek strength from the people in the photos inside it. Unfortunately my dead parents cannot rescue me from Winston McKenzie.
Tears well in my eyes. Not once in the past four years has Grandfather hinted of his intentions to involve me in the family empire. I was perfectly happy thinking I had been disinherited by default. Grandfather should have groomed me for this. My God, he was cruel to announce it publicly before telling me.
The ringing phone jolts me. Pushing my hand against the sofa cushion, I fumble to get up.
Karen puts her hand on mine and applies pressure. "Don't answer that."
The answering machine picks up. A reporter leaves a request for an interview.
I sigh in frustration. "I need an unlisted number."
The truth is, I don't want the spotlight. The thought of it makes me ill. I resent the intrusion. Grandfather's world was never a world I wanted.
Karen approaches the machine that has suddenly transformed from secretary to shield against the advancing army of reporters. She presses the record button and lowers her face toward the machine.
"Miss McKenzie is not accepting appointments for interviews at this time. A statement will be released later. Thank you."
She smiles smugly and pushes the reset button.
"Come on, Katey," she says, taking the cup from my hand before my first sip of the life sustaining brew.
"What?" I hear her dump the coffee down the sink and set the cups in it.
"Get your purse. We're getting out of here." Karen proceeds through the apartment shutting off lights.
I am numb inside, but I pick up my purse and Dodgers jacket. Karen takes the house keys from my trembling hand and locks the dead bolt after us. She keeps looking toward the street as we hurry down the stairs. A van with a TV station logo on the side rushes recklessly into the parking lot, stopping abruptly in the Fire Lane.
Immediately Karen changes direction away from my car, pushing me around the corner of the building.
"This way. I parked on the side street."
"Where are we going?"
"You're staying with me."
"But I need my car for work," I protest as I look back over my shoulder.
My cell phone rings–startling me. I dig through my purse fumbling to silence it before it calls attention to us. We increase our stride and rush through the dimly lit courtyard toward her waiting car.
Pounding footsteps of someone running up stairs is followed by a voice shouting, "Here it is, Bill! Over here," followed by beating on a door.
To be less obvious we slow to a hurried walk when near the other side of the complex. Someone hollers to us, "Do you know which apartment is Kathryn McKenzie's?"
Karen answers, "I don't live here–just visiting," which is deceptively true.
I keep my head down to avoid the light from the streetlight, trying to act as composed as Karen. I feel dizzy from the adrenalin rush and steady myself against the car as I reach for the handle.