First let me thank you all for the votes and emails. And as I’ve said before, this is not meant to be the next great novel, so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m sorry to disappoint. I started it wanting to do a running chronicle that spans years like a soap opera, so it may never actually reach a satisfactory end for some people. With that in mind, if you haven’t read all previous chapters, I suggest you do so before proceeding.
If I haven’t already scared you off, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do writing it. All mistakes are mine. All people, places and institutions are made up, this story in no way reflects reality and any similarities to it are coincidental. Enjoy.
The year Mason had taken off after testing out of high school early, was coming back to bite him in the ass as he tried to settle in at MIT. He only attended four days a week, Monday through Thursday, but they were long days, and the classes were all heavy on coursework right off the bat. There seemed to be two types of professors, at least in the courses he took, dry just the facts ones that rushed to get the maximum data covered that was possible. And the funny guys who never got to the point until minutes before class ended. But one thing they all had in common, they all seemed to think they were the only source of homework he had.
To make things worse, Cybil’s schedule totally opposed his all week long. Both spent hours on campus between classes alone. And though they spent their evenings together, they were more likely doing homework than each other.
The purchase of Mason Hall happened quicker than Mason was prepared for. Two weeks in, Mason was finally getting a handle on things and starting to relax some, when Allan phoned to tell him that they had closed on the hall for two million eight. And he needed Mason to stop by the Stanton & Stanton office to sign on the dotted line, this being the law firm Allan had clerked for while at Harvard.
Ardella, who was an old hand at handling her academic schedule and still living her professional life, had been working hard since Mason officially hired her after Cybil’s birthday. When Mason told her the news, the crews she had lined up moved in and things started happening fast. Surprisingly, the first stage of the construction was demolition. As the structural regulations and building codes that had changed, needed to be addressed before further construction could begin. Most were minor issues like floor drains and a fire suppressing system in the kitchen area, sewage gas venting and replacing the lead piping. A big issue though was emergency egress, and that was going to take an amendment to the court order, since the additions would be visible on the exterior of the building. Multistory residential buildings now required fixed fire escapes and secondary egresses from living areas. None of this had been in the original plans, so the Stanton firm had been busy seeking a judgment on the matter since the offer had been proffered. At Allan’s suggestion, there was a carefully worded rider in the petition that would allow the construction of unattached structures on the property.
Ardella had discussed fire egress with members of the Historic Society in the past, and assured Mason that they weren’t going to be unreasonable about it. And in fact, they agreed with her that the building would be best served with an external fixed fire stair on the rear wall of the hall. Mason watched Ardella orchestrate the deal without ever missing a step, and decided he wanted to stay in business with her after the hall was finished. Even if it was just as a financial backer.
A CPA working at the Stanton firm was assigned to work with Ardella to keep the payment schedule for all work and material contracted. A three million dollar account being made available for the project. Ardella convinced Mason to provide her with a separate discretionary fund, for “incidentals”, of a hundred thousand and promised to keep a separate accounting of it. She knew projects the size of the hall would have every petty bureaucrat that could add a wrinkle doing so, and there would be many private meetings before all the permits were signed and sealed.
After her birthday, Cybil sold her Ford back to her father’s friend, he’d been bemoaning its loss since the deal had happened, and used the proceeds to get Katey a Nexplanon implant like hers. She had really liked the party, and had plans for the future that would benefit from this, so it wasn’t totally altruistic. Ardella and Becky were both on the pill. When she casually told this all to Mason after the fact, the look on his face sent her into a fit of laughter.
Mason had done his best to stay in touch with Brigid, missing more days than he liked. She seemed okay with Cybil’s growing presence, and even talked of wanting to get to know her better. Something Cybil echoed, but it definitely had a sexual connotation when she said it. Brigid wanted to come visit him as soon as things were wrapped up with the hall and had claimed one Alanya Escort of the two suites on the fifth floor.
Cybil sat listening to Mason and Ardella discuss the hall as often as not. And pushed both of them to keep people like Saul and her father in mind if there were places that they were qualified to do the work. Something that Mason basically agreed with and Ardella could work around. So Saul was contracted to set up a building wide WI-Fi and security system. And the shop Benny worked out of was hired to do the metal fabrication on the retrofit.
Her devotion to friends and family had Mason looking at the people around them and wondering how he could improve their lives. The fact that Cybil and her friends had to work as well as attend school to get by, or help with tuition, found him on campus the next Friday. Where he met with each at the registrar’s office during their free periods, and paid whatever tuition fees were left on the year, as well as settling any student loans they had.
That evening, Mason and Cybil were returning to her place after having dinner, Cybil promising great rewards for his generosity, when her phone started clanging. Her face went pale when she got it out, and she grabbed Mason’s arm. “It’s Katey.” She told him, “She’s in trouble. Pull over for a second.” Then she began flicking her fingers across the screen as he did.
“What?” he began.
“It’s the rape app on her phone.” Cybil answered, shaking. Then looking up and behind them. “Turn around, we need to go back the way we came.” She told him and he saw the little red blinking light on her phone screen. Cranking the wheel, he saw a gap in the cars and stepped on it, the Chevelle’s rear wheels screaming as they came around, Cybil stuck to her door.
A shiver of fear and anger ran through Mason at the words ‘rape app’, then his mind was clear. Cold anger fueling his reflexes as the muscle car seemed to slip through the traffic, Cybil calling directions. He left the car half on the sidewalk when she pointed at a dingy dive bar. The padded door flying open as he ran through it.
Cybil caught up to him when he paused, the place was empty except for an old bartender who looked as shabby as the room. Then he heard a cry from deeper in the back and he was moving again. Katey was backed into a corner in the old pool room. A dark-haired man holding her there, her blouse ripped. She was fighting him, scratching at his face as he pawed at her.
Two others stood behind him waiting their turn. Mason hit the nearest one at a full charge, using his momentum to throw him into his buddy, both of them bouncing off the wall and going down in a tangle. He saw Katey’s eyes find him, fear and pain in them, and he grabbed the dark hair of the man holding her with his left hand, yanking him back as he slammed a right into the guy’s kidney. Hitting him there again even as he screamed and folded after seeing Katey’s bare breasts. Then wrenched him around by the hair and threw him into one of the others as he tried to get to his feet.
The third guy was back on his feet and coming at Mason, as Cybil ran past them and took Katey in her arms. This guy held himself like a fighter, his lips drawing back to show a glint of gold as he stepped in and threw a right that Mason barely slipped with his forearm. The guy’s gut was soft though as Mason threw a right of his own at a wide opening. The man folded, and Mason gave him another short right just behind the ear, dropping him boneless on the stained threadbare carpet.
Turning, he saw the one he’d knocked down twice just reaching his feet, a cue stick in his hands. Mason figured he’d get at least one swing in with it even as he went for the guy. But then Cybil had a hold on the cue and was pulling at it, and as the guy turned his head towards her in surprise, Mason was on him. His left hand went to the guys throat, fingers digging in as he slammed him up against the wall. Then Mason’s right came over the top, flattening his nose and bouncing his head off the plaster. Mason holding him there even as his legs went limp, hitting again and then again at the thought of Cybil being so close to danger.
He dropped the guy when Cybil cried his name in fear, swiveling his head towards her even as she threw a cue ball passed him. There was a hollow thunk right behind him, like someone slapped a watermelon, and Mason turned in that direction to see the old bartender holding his head, a Louisville slugger rolling away from his feet. Then Cybil stepped past him and kicked the old guy square in the nuts. Even as keyed up as Mason was, he winced. Then dismissed him as he rolled under a pool table trying to get away from Cybil.
He turned towards Katey, thoughts of further violence on the first guy in his mind, but ended up with her in his arms crying instead. He wrapped his around her, seeing that the guy wasn’t getting up anyway. Then watched as Cybil ran over to him with the bat raised and brought it down on the asshole’s shoulder.
“You fucking bastard!” She Alanya Escort Bayan screamed at him as she hit him again, striking his hip as he curled into a ball. Mason just watched her, not feeling any need to step in as she hit him a half-dozen more times, then dropped the bat and came over to be included in the hug.
“We should call the cops.” Mason told her, but Katey stiffened.
“Can we just go?” she pled in a small voice, “Please?”
“Okay, whatever you need.” Cybil told her gently, looking at Mason before taking Katey and steering her towards the front of the bar. Mason hesitated for a second, looking at the scene, then bent and picked up the bat and the cue stick. He spotted the cue ball Cybil had thrown and scooped it up as well on the way out. Throwing all three in his trunk before climbing in behind the wheel. Cybil was in the back holding her friend, letting her cry. He supposed he should tell Allan what had happened, but knew that would mean full-time security, and then there was Cybil to consider, he didn’t want her getting into any trouble over what had happened. So he decided to wait and see what came of it.
Mason felt different after that. Rite of passage or first blood, the fight had answered that nagging question, ‘What would you do?’. He had trained and spared with Marcus countless hours, survived Kato attacks in his sleep, but he had never raised his hands in a real fight. He tried to tell himself he didn’t like it, but he knew he was lying. MIT’s immense campus and the faculties’ reputation had intimidated him for weeks, but most of that just quietly died.
The story they got from Katey still pissed him off. It had been her second date with the guy Cybil had beaten with the bat. He’d been really sweet on their first date and they were supposed to meet some other couples that night for some dancing. Only the other couples turned out to be his two friends at that sleazy bar. When it became clear she wasn’t going to be allowed to leave, she had used the app Cybil had made her download the year before.
Mason never said anything to Cybil about what she had done, just holding her later that night and asking her if she was okay. Katey having finally fallen asleep, curled up on the other side of Cybil. Feeling her nod and squeeze him tighter in response. The next day he made sure the bat and other stuff were buried deep in the hotel dumpster.
Cybil ran what happened through her mind a lot over the next few days. The gentle man she had come to love, had exploded in that bar, and guys had started going down. He’d been like some primal beast for those short moments. She had seen it in his eyes, couldn’t get it out of her mind. She caught herself looking at him, wondering what it would be like if that part of him ever took her, knowing it never would. But the idea left her wet.
Mason caught the look once. “You don’t have to be afraid of me.” He told her quietly, relaxing when she smiled and told him she wasn’t.
If anything Katey was quieter after that, but if Mason was around, she was close to him. Cybil teased her about being his shadow. A week passed with no cops or calls to the Dean’s office, and life went on. He didn’t see a reason to bother Allan, and Cybil seemed to be even hornier than before if that were possible, not that Mason was complaining. And Ardella told him she needed him to come to the hall and make some decisions.
The next Saturday found Katey, Cybil and Mason at the hall. Mason stunned by the work already done. He’d known that Ardella had a dozen full crews working seven days a week, and had seen the ditch crew already half way up the road, another crew laying casing and lines a short way behind them. But the amount of work such a force could carry out in just a couple of weeks staggered him. People were crawling over every inch of the place like a colony of ants.
Ardella swept them along in a tour, starting down in the spa. The recommended distance for the new steam generator to the steam head was ten feet, so space meant for lockers in the showers had been walled off and tiled to accommodate it. Mason didn’t see a need for more than a dozen lockers anyway. A commercial grade stainless, quiet technologies heat pump was installed alongside it to supply the bath and showers. There were red oak single tier lockers with matching benches. All fine with Mason.
Sports tubs had been bought to take the place of massage tables in two of the three alcoves. An inclined stainless whirlpool tub in one, and an ice bath in the second, while the third had been enclosed and turned into a bathroom.. The eight shower heads had been swapped out for handheld multi-function wands. It was a far cry from the dark basement Mason had first seen. The recessed lighting had been wired so that a series of dials could mute or brighten any area, and color programmable pool lighting had been installed in the bath. Overall, Mason was very happy with it and let Ardella know it.
Katey came alive when Ardella led them up to the kitchen Escort Alanya next. A small fortune had been spent on it, and the room was crowded with restaurant grade appliances and cabinets, still in their crates. There were reach-in refrigerators and work tables, everything in stainless. Katey fluttered around it all like a monarch butterfly in a field of Goldenrod. She just waved for them to move on when Ardella was ready to.
The original dining area had been sectioned out, with two bathrooms at the front of the space. A large three stall ladies’ room with a door directly off the hallway and a smaller men’s room behind it accessible from the room itself. A fifteen by twenty foot laundry had stolen part of the end next to the elevator. It had four sets of washers and dryers plus folding counters, its door opening into the hallway. The rest was rewired and turned into a gym area. Mason felt there was more than enough room around the little dinner stage in the library slash smoking room for tables, since there would be no smoking going on if he had any say in the matter. Extra outlets lined the walls to accommodate adjacent treadmills and elliptical machines, and half-inch coin grip rubber flooring would be rolled out to protect the hardwood.
To Mason’s delight, the birdcage elevator was working as of that morning. And they took it to the second floor, where they found Benny supervising the installation of the first landing of the fire stairs, as well as a steel emergency exit door. Another crew had already cut the door openings to the right of the elevator on each floor. Cybil ran to him and got a hug, Benny grumbling for his men’s sake, but Mason could see he was pleased.
They had doubled the space Ardella had originally allotted to each bathroom, adding a large walk-in tiled shower enclosure and a dedicated instant on gas water heater to each. They’d done away with the sitting rooms, in favor of the extra room in the baths and a large walk-in closet. Ceiling fans and cedar closet organizers all agreed with what they had decided on, so they moved up to the next floor and found everything virtually the same. . On the fourth floor, it was Saul that got a squeal and a hug from Cybil. He was installing Wi-Fi access points in each apartment and suite, along with video security in the hallways. Cybil had tried to explain the wireless back bone dual-band-capable 5GHz 802.11a radio signal as well as a 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n radio signal stuff to Mason, but he’d finally told her if she and Saul understood it, he was okay. They had decided to turn the small lounges on the second through fourth floor into media areas in an effort to keep the downstairs library open for study. So Saul would be wiring all of them too. As well as mounting cameras along the edge of the roof parapet. Accessing the roof by climbing the ladder in Mason’s room had hampered getting the elevator running, so it had been decided to extend the fire stairs to the roof in case of future maintenance needs.
The big difference here was that while Mason had agreed to splitting the space on the second and third floor into eight apartments, the fourth floor still had just four larger ones. Each suite almost fifteen hundred square feet, so while they also got larger baths and closets, each still had a large living room and a utility room that could be used however the occupant wanted.
Mason’s suite had been gutted. He saw no use for the extra rooms, so he also went with a large bath and walk-in closet. Leaving the rest as an open studio. Several tables were scattered about the space that were covered with plans and contracts, Ardella’s command center. Leading them to one of the side tables, she started going through a pile of granite samples.
“These represent all the white granite available domestically,” she began, “as you can see, there are no good substitutes for the Kashmir granite used in the hall. I’m afraid we have little choice but to bring it in.” As soon as the court decree had been amended, Mason had Ardella start working on plans for some out-buildings. And they were doing everything possible to conform to the style and materials used in the hall itself. A local brickworks was matching the extra red pigments in the English bricks, but the white Kashmir granite could only be faked if done by a domestic source. Something neither Mason or Ardella were willing to do.
“The price isn’t as bad as we feared it would be. And if we have the sawn blocks worked by a stonemason there, we can cut as much as half the shipping costs by weight.” She went on, sorting through some paperwork. “So I’ll need you to release the additional funds so we can finalize the plans and start getting the granite cut.”
Mason had agreed to an additional one point six million for the construction of outbuildings and landscaping. For that they were building a three bay auto shop with an attached fabrication and storage area. Building the Chevelle with Marcus was one of the high lights of his life and he hoped to do it many more times. A shepherd’s cottage, if you could call a two thousand square foot building a cottage, for Marcus. A parking garage capable of handling a dozen cars, and a security gate structure with a seven-foot wall that spanned the front of the property, the other three sides getting chain link fencing.