I knew I could catch President Davis at lunch because his writeup in the school’s alumni bulletin mentioned that he enjoyed having lunch at home. So I found myself at the front door to a house almost as lavish as my grandparents’ home, and I knocked on the door. His assistant came to welcome me, and I let her know who I was, and I gave a brief description about the business I was tending to. She led me to Dr. Davis anyway.
A short, solidly built man, with a balding head and a poorly tended comb-over, Davis’s tenure at The Goode School had brought significant growth and recognition. Many generations of successful alumni tripped over themselves to support the school in its scholastic and sports endeavors. Davis and his wife were another hugely popular part of the islands, and as a team they were perhaps the most adept and cunning political machine the island would ever know. All their actions served one purpose, the betterment and supremacy of The Goode School over all schools in the islands. If you were the admissions director for any top 100 college, university or institute, and you couldn’t speak highly of the graduates of The Goode School, Peter and Maureen “Morty” Davis would take it as a personal affront. To this day, their presence looms large over the school’s lush green grounds.
I followed Davis’s assistant through the high ceilinged, mahogany floored halls of the presidential home, with its airy hallways and naturally lit rooms. I envisioned walking into a colonial style dining room replete with white linen and crystal, as I had so many times at my family home. So it came as a surprise that Dr. Davis was dining in his own kitchen, on a stool, eating a sandwich of his own making. His similarly brilliant and politically astute wife Morty was at his side, eating breakfast cereal from a bowl. They were both reviewing paperwork as they noshed, with bifocals low on each other’s noses. I waited in the hall as his assistant forewarned them of my arrival.
Introductions were unnecessary, as the good doctor and his wife recalled my face from my early days at school. His photographic memory, my family’s history with the islands, and The Goode School made for an easy greeting. There had also been several recent and spurious articles written about me by the local paper. Those articles, written by a band of gossip hounds, sycophants, and sweet talkers who were known to stretch the truth for column space, had done little but publicize the firm’s name. I have enjoyed myself earnestly and often. And whether I am judged correctly or in prejudice, I have learned that no one really knows, or for that matter should know, the whole truth. Any press is good press. And if anybody would know that, it was these two.
I thanked the Davises for their graciousness in taking my unannounced visit and explained the situation. As expected, they professed sincere concern at my description of the railroading I thought Mark Nicholson was being subjected to. They also appeared surprised when I told them who I believed was the real thief of Louise Sinclair’s stash to be, and acted as though they were otherwise oblivious to the situation. I knew better. If Peter Davis didn’t know what was going on in the lives of such notable and prominent students, Morty Davis did. Together, their fingers knew the very pulse of the school. Any incidents that drew the attention of any administrator, including Bill Constanopolis, were relayed to the president immediately. And they were dealt with similarly.
As they sat, I continued standing and rested my bum against the counter next to the double kitchen sink. We began talking about the school’s response to the issue and its ramifications to all involved. I reached for my Rothmanns, and the ever gracious Morty slipped a large crystal ashtray from one of the cabinets, placed it next to me and returned to her husband’s side. As I lit the cigarette, I let them know that on a community level, they had a great deal to think about. I was telling them something they obviously already knew, but they feigned concern. I took a large draw from my cigarette and began going over the situation as I saw it.
“Nearly all of Tinny Gleason’s family has gone to The Goode School. I went to the semis with his uncles Kenny and Bruce. They’re a Goode School legacy family. They’ve been reliable and generous donors. The brothers’ albums have sold well and they continue to.” I reached my smoke down to the crystal and flicked the ashes in the faceted oval while I watched both of them take in my performance. “I think it would be a hard pill for the family to swallow if there were any publicly revealed responses to Tinny’s transgressions.” I emphasized ‘publicly revealed’ by bobbing my head and making a small hand gesture as I said it. “Such information might certainly be a small blight on the Gleason reputation in the entertainment community.”
I cleared my throat quietly and took another drag, focusing my thoughts. “Mark Nicholson, on the other hand, is the son of a quiet, yet mildly successful professor at the university. He’s seen a lot of hardship over the last two years, as has his father Bill.” They both nodded in sad agreement, still nibbling at their food and occasionally taking sips of juice. I continued, “Albeit not a stellar student, and certainly not one of the The Goode School’s most shining examples,” I shrugged subtly and waving my hand slightly for effect, “he’s innocent, and needs to be in school.” In the slight pause I moved to the other side of the kitchen sink and continued assessing their reaction.
Both the Davises quickly darted glances towards the paperwork on the counter that I was getting closer to. I slowly rolled a look at a re-sealable manila inter-office envelope that was lying by the fridge next to the milk that sat out. On it were written destinations to offices around the campus. The firm uses the same type of envelope all the time. The top six destinations had been crossed out with indelible markers. The only plainly visible line read, “Dr. Davis/Disciplinary Committee.” The line above it, though, scribbled out ineffectually with a ballpoint pen, displayed the previous recipient. It read, “Bill Constanopolis.” I smiled as my mind followed the chain of delivery. I turned my head back to the Davises, who realized that the gig was up. I took the last long, luxurious drag off my Rothmann while smiling at the gift that fate had dropped on my lap.
As I lightly tapped the half smoked cigarette into the crystal, I began my summation with new confidence. My eyebrows rose, and I couldn’t help but smile as I began. “I suppose this brings us to the only student who actually admitted to a breach of the school rules.” I began to subtly bite my cheek to suppress smiling openly. “Marijuana possession is hardly a capitol offense, but it does buck The Goode School rules. Offenders are subject to immediate dismissal. We all know Ranier Sinclair has done well in hotels and other ventures around the islands. He continues to do great things for the island community, and our national pride as a whole.” I paused, half-formulating response, and half for effect, “We know that although Sinclair didn’t attend school here, that four of his kids, including Louise, are long-standing students. Several of which have been athletes of some note.”
I paused again and continued, “We also know that the school takes a very serious stance on the use and possession of drugs.” My mind raced to formulate a path of easy resolution. “If certain indiscretions were left unmentioned, and certain activities were strongly,” deep inhale for tension, “advised against in the future, I’d imagine a firm and generous donation to the sports center endowment would go a long way towards removing the bitter taste of youthful indiscretion.” I paused briefly to gain eye contact and judge their reaction. To hammer my point home, I offered an alternative course of action, one that wouldn’t read so well for the school in the black and white of the island’s gossip-filled press. “If the school did chose to pursue the path of investigation and subsequent disciplinary action, the public, as well as the press, would surely find out about this absurd caper,” slight pause, “and nobody would be well-served. Excepting, of course, the lawyers.” I smiled, leaned my bum against their counter and lit another smoke. I crossed my arms over my belly and warily prepared myself for their reaction.
Peter Davis took the bifocals off his nose and rested them in his hands as he crossed his arms on the table. He remained silent and craned his neck to over his shoulder to his wife and confidant. She looked at him and tipped her head to the side ever so slightly. He looked back to me with a concerned look and asked, “Can Morty and I have a moment alone in order to talk things over?”
“Surely!” I said, nodding my head and grabbing the ashtray on my way out to the hall. I didn’t have to wait long. I had always heard that they were a great team together, and they were. Efficient, wise and fair, they helped to provide rapid resolution to my case.
I left the president’s home on Whistler’s Hill with a handshake and the promise that as far as The Goode School was concerned, Mark Nicholson would return to school Monday morning as if nothing had happened. That response was good enough for me, and I believed that it would serve the Nicholsons similarly well. When I got back to the office, I had Rebecca make the call to Bill Nicholson. Hers was a better conversational voice for him, and I was leaving for the club anyway. She let me know later that night that he was ecstatic, and relieved to hear the good news. She later mentioned that he did have questions about the speed of the resolution. She told him that he didn’t need to know how such things worked out, just that they did. And that little bit of magic, well, that was my job.
Sometime later, months after the Nicholson check had been cashed, I noted while reading the morning paper on Rebecca’s porch that construction for the new Ranier S. Sinclair Sports Center was to break ground in a very public service. Oddly enough, The Goode School had been given an enormous, tax-deductible donation from the Sinclair Corporation as a display of unyielding support and appreciation for the school, its sports program and scholastic integrity. In an oddly similar story on the Arts and Entertainment page, the Gleason Brothers were holding an Goode School alumni fundraiser at the amphitheater to gather donations for the replacement of the now outdated and obsolescent G.S. Keates II pool. How serendipitous, I’ll save the date.
And that’s what happened.
Gordon S. “Stumpy” Keates III, Esquire
Thanks again to MANVIL for the opportuntiy to use the space.