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Chapter 9

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With his fist clenched, Jake asked, "Business partner? I thought that you were a cook at mom's diner."

"Yes, that's a condition of my parole."

"Then how can you have a business partner? Does this Audrey person work the grill next to you?"

"No. Don't be silly." Ted peeked at his phone again. "I've got something going on the side."

It would be hypocritical to get tossed out of the game for fighting. Besides, Jake would lose his PI license if he was convicted of assault, so he set his nachos on the floor and stood up to leave to inform his mother that Ted was a snake.

"Got to take a leak?" Ted asked. "I'll go too."

"No. I'm leaving."

Ted grabbed his arm. "What? You can't. I drove."

"I'll take a cab, I don't care. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that it's all right that you're cheating on mom."

"Jesus Christ. Sit back down." Ted pulled on Jake's sleeve. "I'm not cheating on your mother."

Jake jerked his arm away, kicking over his nachos. "Prove it."

"How can I?

Jake held out his hand. "Let me see all the text messages from Audrey."

"You can't be serious," Ted said, looking around.

"Dead serious."

The seats had started to fill around them, and Jake realized he was causing a scene, but he didn't care.

Ted handed over his phone. "Fine. Here."

Jake sat back down and scrolled through his messages. At the top were the ones from Audrey, beyond that Ted didn't have many other contacts. Nancy, his bank, a 1-800 number, and some guy named Jim who was probably his parole officer.

Jake opened up Audrey's correspondence. To his surprise, the messages discussed Ted pursuit of a real estate license. He was scheduled to take the exam next week and Audrey's brokerage firm would be his sponsor. The texts were all professional, nothing in them suggested anything sexual or even overly friendly. Slightly dumbfounded, Jake dropped the phone back into Ted's waiting hand.

"I'm not going to apologize." Jake crossed his arms over his chest.

"I didn't think that you would."

A couple entered their row and took the seats next to them. Jake leaned over and asked, "Does mom know?"

"No, and I'd like to keep it that way. I hoped to surprise her by making some extra money so that we can move out of the dump and to a condo in a nicer neighborhood."

Jake snorted. "The dump that you left us in after you ran off."

Ted's head dropped. "I've done a lot of things that I regret."

"You'll get no argument from me."

"Jake, you may not believe it, but I'm trying to make amends to you and your mother, and this license will allow me to do that."

'Why does this woman want to support an ex-con who has a history of bad business dealings?"

"Audrey's dad is my old drinking buddy Jim. He came into the diner one day. He's clean too. Ten years. We got to talking and one thing led to another, and he talked to his daughter who has a successful brokerage firm into helping me get a fresh start."

"That's awful nice of her."

Ted rolled his eyes. "Yes, she was willing to give me a second chance."

"I'm here aren't I?" Jake hissed.

"Barely."

More fans filled in the seats around them.

"Did you think I was going to forgive you that easily?"

"I had hoped."

"Dream on."

Ted put his hand back on Jake's shoulder. "I'm not a bad guy, not anymore. Besides, there were a lot worse people out there than me, people that I know you respected."

"Like who?"

Ted shook his head and pretended to focus on the players taking the ice. "Nobody."

"You can't say something like that and then drop it." Jake glared at him. "Tell me who you're talking about, or you can't watch this game alone."

"It was Don."

"Who?"

"Don Morgan. Your friend, Toms' dad."

"You're lying. What did he do?"

"All I know is that if he'd been cooking my books, I never would have gone to prison. Word on the street was that he was a magician with dirty money."

"I don't believe it."

No way. The guy was a well-respected husband, father, and member of the community. He'd been president of the local Shriner chapter for as long as Jake could remember. He'd rode those tiny motorcycles in those little circles in the 4th of July parade with the rest of the Shriners. No one had a bad word to say about Don Morgan, even after his accidental death. Tom regarded him as a saint, and therefore Jake had as well.

"Believe what you want, but I heard it from several reliable sources."

"Did you ever ask him to be your accountant for your business?"

Ted nodded. "Of course, but he said his client list was already too full."

"Then you can't prove anything."

"You're right. I can't, but that doesn't make it any less true."

"That's not fair. Don is not here to defend himself."

Both teams lined up on the ice facing the flag. The National Anthem started the crowd rose their feet.

When they sat back down, Ted whispered, "I shouldn't have said anything. There was no reason for me to disrespect a dead man. That was all so long ago."

"No, you shouldn't have," Jake agreed.

"My point was that everyone has regrets. I have more than most, but I'm determined to fix our relationship, so you can keep on trying to push me away but I'm not going anywhere."

Jake didn't respond. He needed to hate Ted. The man had ruined Jake's childhood and damaged his psyche which had caused Jake to ruin countless relationships in his own life. Anger seethed in his belly like wrestling snakes. He ground his teeth to mask his pain. The woman in the seat next to him eyed Jake cautiously. She reminded Jake of Nancy which made him recall what his mother told him the other night, that his hatred for his father was only hurting Jake, it was poisoning his happiness and he shouldn't give that kind of power to the man.

Trying to do what little he could to make Jake happy, Ted asked. "Do you want me to buy you another nacho?

On the ice, the official dropped the puck and the game began while the crowd cheered.

"No. We can go out at the end of the first period. We should enjoy the game," Jake said.

Ted said, "Good idea."

They settled back and watched the action on the ice. Jake did try to enjoy it, but his mind was racing, not with hatred for his father but with the revelation about Don Morgan. If there could be any truth to it especially with what he knew about his friend Tom, it would explain a lot of things.

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