'You see, I told you. I knew you would do it. You just couldn't say the magic 'NO word', could you? And to make matters worse, you put the onus for the decision upon my family and me.' Rich said.
'Well yes, I guess I did! After all we are partners aren't we?
'Yes we are and I know how much you and my father would like you to continue so I am out voted. Go on do it!'
'My love, even if everyone one voted 'Yes' and you voted 'No', your vote would constitute a majority of one.'
'Fancy words. You and your fancy fucking words, you know damn well that I'm afraid to say 'No'. You have me by the short hairs and I'm not about to say no.' Rich fumed. 'Do what the fuck you want! Let's just leave it like that.'
'Ok, are you coming home tonight?' Joseph asked, still feeling the hostility in Richard's voice.
'No, we are having a late night rehearsal. Tomorrow we are going out of town for the try-outs and we are working our tails to the bone in order to get ready for our New York opening. If all goes well we will open next month.' Rich said. 'I think that's why I'm so edgy lately. I'm nervous and I'm taking it out on you.'
'That's what I'm here for, lover. Do you want me to come up to be there with you for the try-out?' Joseph said trying to smooth over the situation.
'No, don't come up. The try-out will still be rough and I want you to see the finished project.'
'You are going to be just great and so is the play. Don't worry about it. I love you.'
' Look I have to go now. I have some shopping to do for the trip. I'll call you from the try-outs. Joseph forgive me, in spite of everything, I love you.' Rich said as he closed his cell phone.
Joseph put down his phone and was startled to hear it ring as soon as it had rested in its cradle. Picking it up he said 'Benson here.'
'Marhaba, keefak? Hello, how are you? It is Allie here. I hope it is not too soon, but when do you think you would like to have a meeting? There are some things I would like to discuss with you.' He said in Arabic. 'Aside from preparing the lists of Arabic charities, I really don't know what I am supposed to do or even when I am supposed to start my new job.'
'Allie I was just thinking about you,' He lied. 'I am not planning anything for this evening. If you have the time why not drop by the house this evening for supper? Perhaps you might even bring your wife. Like, Fazzi my father, I find it more interesting if I can meet and socialize with my employees and their families. That way the family does not feel left-out and they can understand when I impose on their husbands' family time.'
'Oh, but, I thought you knew. I am not married. I have found that having a wife would have tied me down and besides what woman would put up with my hours.' Allie told him.
'Perhaps you would like to bring a girl friend?'
'No, at present, there is just me.'
'I'm sorry to hear that. Then perhaps you will come join me for dinner and the two of us will get to know each other better. You could perhaps bring that preliminary list of some of the organizations that you prepared and we will go over it together. I think it is time to start the process of funding these charities. I will have the cook prepare us a lamb shish-ka-bob dinner.'
'Yes the money is needed and I am sure that it will be put to good use.' Allie said. 'Lamb shish-ka-bob! Oh don't go to any trouble. Something simple will be fine with me.'
'Nonsense, besides I love the stuff and look for any opportunity to have cook serve it. It will be a pleasure to share it with an Arab, who knows and can appreciate the finer points of the cuisine. You know that delicate taste of the spices and the aroma that can drive you wild.'
'OK, OK, say no more. What time shall I drop by?'
'About seven p.m. will be fine.' Joseph said, 'and be prepared to eat. One thing more, I hope it won't offend your Muslim sensibilities or you, if I have beer on the table.'
'If you don't let it be broadcast about, I too drink now and then. Like your late father, I have become accustomed to the Western custom of taking a little alcohol with my meals. I have learned that custom as well as a few other of your decadent and depraved morals.' He laughed. 'Fazzi and I loved to delve into and appreciate much of that western debauchery that our Imams love to preach against.'
'Ahhhh, but now I shall insist that you tell me all about my father's debauchery.' Joseph said. 'After that fine speech you gave and all those funeral accolades, there were times that I was beginning to wonder if the Fazzi I knew and loved was the same one we were putting to rest. You must tell me the whole story tonight. I will see you at seven then.'
Joseph sat down and began to plan out the evening. One thing was plain. In order to get back into the center of the Emirate he would need a connection. Without Fazzi he was unattached, an outsider and suspect. He needed a tie-in, someone already inside who could smooth his way. The only person that could fill that description at this point was either Allie or perhaps Hassan. He already had one successful experience with Allie (the freeing of his friend Ibrahim). Yes he said to himself. It will have to be Allie. He went upstairs and while showering and dressing for the evening he planned his strategy.
A few minutes to seven the doorbell rang and Joseph opened the door to find Allie standing there holding two bottles of wine.
'How come you are answering the door? Did you let the valet off for the night?' Allie asked as he handed Joseph the wine. 'Here, this is for dinner. I thought a dry red wine would go better than beer. I don't know how to address you now that I am working for you. Is it Sergeant or should I address you as sir? I don't know what to call my new boss.'
'When we are alone in social settings like this, why not just continue to call me Joseph or Yussef.' He said taking the wine. 'Thank you for being so thoughtful. You are right wine will go better with dinner. As far as the valet, I let him go. His main duty was to drive Fazzi and as I like to do my own driving I had little or no use for him. Besides with me away most of the time he made my housekeeper a bit upset with his rough ways and I think he might have 'come on to her'. In any event she seems happier without him and a happy housekeeper and cook makes the house run better, as you will see tonight. Please sit in the library while I have the cook put this on ice for us.'
After giving the wine to the cook he returned to find Allie looking at some of the books in Fazzi's vast collection.
'Cook tells me it will be ready in about 15 minutes.' Joseph said.
'Before I forget, here is that listing you wanted. I did not think you would want to move so fast.' Allie said as he removed an envelope from his suit jacket and handed it to Joseph. 'However I did have a list prepared and brought it with me. Would you care to go over it now?'
'Yes, I think we must start to move fast with some distribution of funds as we do not want our contributors to loose interest or worse yet, think we are forgetting the reason we started the fund. I think it only fair to inform you that the American government is also going to be very interested in checking out these organizations.' Joseph reminded him. 'It was one of conditions of the incorporation agreement.'
'Yes I know.' Allie said handing Joseph the list. 'As you can see the main recipient so far is the 'Red Crescent' and there are a few schools of higher learning.'
'Are you sure that none of these have ties to terrorist groups?' Joseph questioned. 'I don't want to be shot down before we even start.'
'These are all organizations that the UN and the United States have approved of in the past. I realized that would be one of your concerns, so I did do a lot of checking.'
Joseph took the list and told him he would go over it and get back to him.
'By the way,' Joseph said with a grin on his face, 'walking in and seeing you in this room reminds me of the fact that it was in this very room that we first met. If I remember correctly, we had a heated discussion.'
'Yes we did, but most of your argument was with Hassan Segour. He is a rather hard liner and I seldom agree with him. Your father thought he was an idiot and told him so many times. Hassan hated your guts and repeatedly advised Fazzi to throw you out.'
'He did, did he? And why would he do that?'
'There were several reasons for that, not the least of which was that you were an American soldier and a Christian at that. He could not believe that Fazzi would allow his daughter to see, much less marry, a Christian. Knowing Fazzi's reputation he thought there was another reason he was so taken with you.'
'And what might that reason be.' Joseph asked.
'Yussef. I like you. I like working for you and you are entitled to know whatever you need to know about me, however, perhaps it is better to-how do you Americans put it-'let sleeping dogs sleep'. Fazzi was not what you would call a loving father and husband. He had this other side. It was vicious, cunning, depraved and ruthless.'
'Fazzi and his family, but mostly Fazzi told me about his past.' Said Joseph. 'At first I was shocked and repelled by the stories of his escapades in the Lebanon, but after a while his charm and generosity broke me down and I just forgot about them and saw the good side of him.'
'I can honestly say that except for his devotion to duty and his relationship with you, I have never seen this good side that you talk about.'
Joseph looking Allie square in the eyes said, 'As an ex-soldier you should know that there are times when duty calls for 'Fazzi types'. They are one-sided, focused and ruthless. They care nothing for the people they serve or those that serve under them. General Patten was such a man and during troubled times, we need them and we wish we had a hundred men like them.'
The two men stared at each other for a while until a knock on the door caused them to jump. 'Dinner is ready, Sir.'
'Yes.' Said Joseph rubbing his hands together and smiling, 'we can continue this discussion at the table. You did promise to fill me in on some of my father's debauchery.'
They sat down and ate and as usual the food was great. 'I have never tasted this dish prepared in this manner. Do you mind if I ask your cook for the recipe? It is not prepared as we make it in Syria.'
'Not at all.' Joseph said ringing for the cook. 'Summaya, Mr. Balbak wants to know your secret recipe for the shish-ka-bob. He says he has never tasted it as good as this. Dare we give away a state secret?'
'Thank you sir,' she said. 'It is the spices and the marinate. They come from Yemen. I will write it all out and you can have your wife call me if she has any questions.'
'I'm not married, but put your telephone number on the paper and I will contact you if I have problems.'
'You will be able to contact me here. Mr. Benson has asked me to stay on as his cook and housekeeper and I think I will like that very much, now.'
'Summaya after you do the dishes you may lock up and go home I will see our guest out.'
After finishing dinner they took their wine and went back into the library and seated themselves on the couch in front of the coffee table.
'Now you were going to tell me about my father and why Segour did not like me.'
'Hassan thought you were a homosexual and that Fazzi had fallen under your spell. He knew, as most of us did, that Fazzi loved young men. He set out to try to prove you were seducing Fazzi and as it turned out all he proved was that women were not distasteful to you.'
'Well you must tell me how he did that.' Joseph asked.
'You may not want me working for you after I tell you the story, but I am going to tell you anyway.' And Allie told him the story, the whole story; at least as far as he could, including the fact that a video tape and photos were taken of him and the belly dancer in her bed.
'Whatever happened to the tape and pictures?' Joseph laughed. 'I would love a copy of it. If I remember right she was one hell of a good fuck.'
'I told her to keep the tape as we did not need or want it. For all I know she still has it. Anyway it was a stupid idea.'
'It was not stupid. You were concerned about your friend and you wanted to protect him...., however, Hassan got it all wrong. It was not I coming on to him, but he that seduced me. To make a long story short--- while I loved his daughter and would have married her gladly, he thought it would be better if the two of us cooled the romance down for the time being. He feared, and rightly so, that I was going to take her virginity before we married. To prevent this, and the repercussions it would have here in the Arab community, he sent her and her mother away until the wedding. As you know Fazzi was and could be a very charming man. While his wife and daughter were in Deerborn Michigan living with her relatives he insisted I live here with him in this house. He said he wanted to keep an eye on me, in order to prevent me from running after other women. My future father-in-law was very understanding and showered me with gifts and love. I never knew my birth father and mother. For too many reasons to tell you now, the people that adopted me and myself never got along well. So I guess I longed for a family and Fazzi became a father figure to me. To satisfy my desire for sex, he introduced me to the joys of man-to-man sex. At first I fought against it, but it was during this time that I realized I was a homosexual. I decided to let his daughter off the hook and her father became the love of my life. Now, knowing all this, do you still wish to work for me? Do you have a problem working with someone who might at times have thoughts of taking you to bed?'
'No. Do you really have those thoughts? Because if you do,' Allie said his dark shimmering eyes roaming up and down Joseph's body, 'I have absolutely no problem at all with that. What do you think I was doing with Fazzi all that time in the Lebanon? As you must know-he was a great teacher!'
'So the two of you were .......?' He left the rest hanging in the air.
'Lovers?' Allie finished the sentence for him while sipping some of the wine. 'No. Not lovers. Fazzi did not need or even want a lover at that time. Now and then he would take me to bed but most of the time he used me to procure his victims and we would sometimes have a threesome. He was an insatiable beast with a voracious appetite in those days. And Lebanon provided him with whatever he wanted. Those were wonderful times for him and I admit, for me also.'
'And since then?'
'I have been very fortunate. I have had posts in Paris, London and now New York.' Allie smiled, 'in all of which it is not difficult to find...errrrr... entertainment.'
'I should think that a man of your good looks and personality would have no trouble finding suitable partners no matter where he was.'
'Playmates? Yes. Lovers? No. I never was lucky enough like Fazzi to find a real lover,' he said and then asked, 'Why do you ask? Are you looking around for Fazzi's replacement?'
Joseph burst out in laughter. 'While you are very good looking and the tone of your skin, the color of your eyes and hair remind me of my father's, it is a bit too soon to even consider that. I may perhaps consider it in the future, but, as we Americans say, his shoes will be hard to fill.'
'Yussef, you Americans have so many wonderful sayings.' Allie said as he too laughed and placing his hand on Joseph's thigh he continued, 'When your time of mourning is over I would like you to remember that I have very big feet.'
Joseph placed his hand over Allie's warm hand and moved it to his inner thigh. 'We have another saying about 'big feet', but perhaps we can go into that at a later time. For now let's go over that list you made up.'
The two of them went over the list that Allie had prepared. Joseph had asked many questions about the seemingly innocuous looking organizations and then said. 'They look fine and I will show them to Richard Worthington for his approval.'
Just then there was a knock on the door and the cook said through the door that she was finished and was leaving. 'Mr. Balbak I have the recipe for you.'
'Thank you, Summaya,' Allie said, taking his hand reluctantly off Joseph's leg, getting up and opening the door. 'I hope I can do it justice.'
'I am sure you will. Oh one thing more. I just heard on the radio that there was a big accident on the bridge and traffic is all tied up, so you might want to use the tunnel instead.'
'Thank you I will consider that when I leave. Once again thank you for a delicious dinner.'
She left and Allie said to Joseph, 'perhaps I had better leave also. It is getting late and I don't want to wear out my welcome.'
'There is no need for you to rush off. The night is young and I do enjoy your company.' Joseph said taking Allie's hand in his and leading him back to the couch. 'After I get out of the army I have been thinking of taking a trip throughout the Muslim world. I would love to visit the places that Fazzi told me about. I also want to see how the money is being used. It may also give me ideas for more projects to fund'
Still holding hands, they sat on couch. 'That is a very good idea, but it could be a very dangerous trip to take without a guide and protector. Especially for someone like you.'
'Like me? I don't understand. You know, Fazzi said the same thing to me when I offered to go with him this last time. I wish I had insisted on going now. I may have protected him from that murdering bastard.' Joseph said with tears in his eyes.
'Fazzi was looking to protect you from the evils of some of our desert brethren who have never seen a blond man and would kill to own one.'
'You are kidding me? Own one, not in this day and age.'
'Yes. Even today in the remote areas there are many sheiks that pay lots of gold coins for young blond flesh. Blond Christian women or better yet, young light skinned, blond Christian men or even boys are most rare and would bring fabulous prices. I can see the slave merchants drooling and fighting to put you on the auction block. A young American in the best of shape, yes, Fazzi was right in not allowing you to come with him. Those rich older sheiks prefer a young man because they could not only use him for sex but also as a worker. They would most likely display prime goods like you as a prized trophy, perhaps even rent you out for their friends' amusement also. You would command a very high price, perhaps hundreds of thousands if not millions. They would have cut Fazzi's throat to get at you.'
'Fazzi said the same thing, but I did not believe him. Joseph said. 'Why do they want Christians?'
'As I said, there are very few light skinned Muslims and besides they are our brethren and one does not do those things to them.' He said smiling. 'You never know how well connected their relatives may be.'
'Now you are joking. You are trying to make me feel better.' Joseph said with his blue eyes filled with tears.
'Now, now. No more tears.' Allie said as he placed his arm around the soldier pulling him close to his strong chest and comforted him. 'Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in what Fazzi and I told you. Besides, I don't think there was anything anyone could have done to prevent his death. Eshalla, the will of Allah.'
'What's wrong with me? Why am I crying like some stupid grieving asshole? I'm sorry for acting this way. I'm really not this way. The funeral, the speeches, this big empty house, I guess it all finally caught up with me. I have been trying to be the type of man he would have wanted me to be, but I still expect him to come home any minute now.'
Allie placed his hand on the back of Joseph's head placing it on his broad shoulder as he pulled him closer his lips brushed Joseph's ear and kissing it he whispered, 'I know being alone in this big house can be overpowering, would you like me to stay the night with you?'
To be continued...