Carl Kelley braced Pat Metcalf Wednesday lunchtime, when the security company manager arrived at the estate for his weekly inspection. Walking straight up to him, saying, ‘I want a word.’
'Make it quick. I’m running late.’
They were standing beside Metcalf’s black Range Rover in the parking lot by the gatehouse, with a view down the valley to the tall narrow vee of the dam and the lake spread behind it, the ruins of the old lodge and holiday cabins on one side, forest on the other. It was a warm, sunny day. A hawk was circling in the stark blue sky.
Carl said, ‘I’ll come straight to the point. I found one of your guys in the mansion last night, wandering around the trophy room.’
‘Yeah, Frank Wilson told me about that,’ Metcalf said. ‘He also told me you threatened him.’
‘He was pricing Mr Merrit’s possessions like an auctioneer. What are you going to do about it?’
‘He found the door open and checked it out. Why should I do anything?’
Pat Metcalf was a heavy-set man with an untidy mop of hair dyed blond, wearing a sport jacket over a white shirt and bolo tie. He’d been a senior detective in LAPD’s Vice Unit until he ended up on the wrong side of an assault charge after beating up a working girl and putting her in a coma because she wouldn’t give him a freebie. That had been ten years ago, but he still possessed a cop’s bullish arrogance and made it clear that he considered Carl to be some kind of untrustworthy freeloading lowlife. Saying in passing, ‘I’ve got your number, buddy.’ Or, ‘Don’t think I don’t know.’ Or, ‘You and me, anywhere, any time.’ Eye-fucking him with belligerent contempt. Daring him to try something.
Metcalf was giving Carl that look now. Carl gave it right back, saying, ‘Did you know that Frank Wilson has done time? I don’t suppose you do, or you wouldn’t have hired him.’
‘I interview a guy for a job, I can’t ask him was he ever arrested. That’s a straight violation of Federal law -- invasion of privacy. I can’t ask him if he’s ever been a mental patient either, or if he’s gay or has HIV.’
‘Frank Wilson is sporting a prison tattoo on his hand. He was definitely convicted for something,’ Carl said.
‘So that story about finding the door open was a load of bullshit.’
‘I told you, the guy got lost.’
‘Which reminds me of the other thing that bothers me. Here’s a bloke wandering around the trophy room, claiming to have wandered in through an open door. But why was the door open in the first place?’
‘Maybe there’s a problem with your system. If I were you, I’d get it fixed,’ Metcalf said, and made a move to go past Carl.
Carl said, ‘Either the system was broken, or Mr Frank Wilson got hold of a bracelet that allowed him entry into a part of the mansion where he had no business being. Maybe I should look into that.’
‘What do you want me to do? Fire his ass?’
‘That’s what I’d do.’
‘Yeah, but you don’t have to find halfway decent guards who’ll take wages that’re less than they can earn flipping burgers. And you know what? I’d rather employ someone who’s done jail than some crazy queer dripping with the virus.’
‘If all your employees are like him, maybe we’d better find another security company.’
‘If you’re not happy with the service my company provides, why don’t you raise the matter with Mr Merrit? Oh, but I bet you already ran to him with your paranoid little story, and he told you to forget about it. Is that why you’re sore?’
‘I’m pissed off because there’s been a breach in security and you aren’t taking it seriously.’
‘There hasn’t been any breach in security,’ Metcalf said with exaggerated patience, ‘so quit bothering me with this weak shit about conspiracy to rob or whatever. Stick to your own job, whatever the fuck it is, and keep your nose out of my business.’
Carl let the man walk past, then said to his back, ‘Who mentioned anything about a conspiracy?’