January 1983

Caden sat in his office, watching Magnum, P.I. on his tiny television set when a strong knock on his front door caused him to jump.  It was Tuesday night and no one was scheduled to come in.  He frowned and switched off the set, walking cautiously to the door with the names of potential visitors running through his head.  Since it was dark and his apartment had no outdoor lighting, he couldn’t tell who it was by looking out the peep hole, but curiosity got the better of him and he opened the door anyway.

“Can I help you?” Caden asked the stranger leaning against his iron railing smoking a cigarette.

“You bet,” he replied with a smile.

The guy flicked away his cigarette and walked up to the doorway.  He was young and good-looking, with lustrous black hair, clear dark skin and thick eyelashes.  He wore what looked to Caden like very expensive clothes:  pristine brown leather shoes, dark jeans and a tan sweater over a white Oxford shirt.  He shoved his hands into the pockets of his gray wool coat.

“Can I come in?”

“Who are you?”

Instead of responding, he pulled one of Caden’s cards out of his pocket and handed it to him.  Someone had handwritten “Velvet Dog” on the back.

“This is you, right?”

“Who gave this to you?” Caden asked sharply.

“Listen, it’s really cold.  Will you let me in?”

Caden led the stranger down the hall to his office, unsure of what to expect from him.  With his youthful cockiness and obvious wealth he didn’t fit the general description of a potential client.  But he had a card.  And Caden was pretty careful about that.

“So, what can I help you with?” he asked, sitting down behind his desk.

“I want an appointment,” he replied plainly.  “To use the museum.”

“What?”

“This is where you come to smash all the expensive glass, right?”

Caden was speechless.  In a wave of panic he saw everything he’d worked for over the past five years disappear.  The business he tried so hard to keep secret had been compromised.  This kid had a card.  He knew someone.

“Who the fuck are you?” he demanded.

“Roger Maldonado,” he said.  Caden’s anger did not appear to faze him at all.  “I really like your place,” he said, taking off his coat and looking around.

“Listen, Roger,” Caden said calmly, resisting the impulse to jump over his desk and throttle the rich bastard smiling back at him, “I need to know who gave you that card.”

“Sure,” he agreed.  “I understand.  In fact, it’s a pretty interesting story.  A couple days ago I was having a drink with a friend of mine.  Well, actually, I wouldn’t really call him a friend; I see him every couple months or so out at the bars.  Anyway, we’re talking about what we’ve been up to and he spills that he’s been in this kind of alternative therapy with a guy who lets you break glass.  Real nice shit, too, he said.”

Roger paused.  Caden was obviously seething with rage.

“You should know, though,” he explained, “this guy, he was pretty trashed and didn’t really know what he was saying.  I mean, he did tell me this glass business was all top secret and everything, but I know he wouldn’t have given you up if he’d been sober.”

“And your friend is…?”

“Man, I have no idea.  Probably lying in an alley somewhere at the rate he was going.”

“His name, Roger.”

“Liam Jones.”

“Son of a bitch!” Caden exclaimed, slamming his fists down on the desk.  “I knew it!  I knew it must’ve been that asshole.”

Roger laughed and leaned back in his chair.  “You’re not gonna beat him up or anything, are you?  I’d feel kind of bad.”

“Well, he’s definitely not coming back here.”

“Right,” he nodded solemnly.  “So you’ve got a spot open, then.”

It was Caden’s turn to laugh.  He couldn’t believe this guy thought he could just come in and Caden would hand over the museum to him.

“This isn’t for you,” he said.  “Believe me.”

“It might be.”

“Yeah?  Tell me then; why would you need this?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say I need it.”

“Most people don’t go looking for therapy unless they need it.”

“Oh, I don’t want the therapy,” Roger explained.  “I just want the glass part.  I want to wear the hockey shit and get the bat and lay into your museum.”

I’m going to fucking kill Liam Jones.

“Because it sounds like fun?”

“Yeah.  I know it’ll be fun.”

“Okay, get out,” Caden said flatly, shaking his head and getting up from behind his desk.  “There’s no way you’re getting anywhere near the glass, all right?  Just get out.”

Roger didn’t move and Caden wasn’t surprised.  He knew what this guy was about—the self-assured type who’d been handed everything his whole life and whose enormous sense of entitlement extended to the personal property of others.  He would never let a kid like Roger destroy his museum.

“I’ll pay you triple what these other jokers do,” he said, looking Caden directly in the eye.  “I’ll commit to a year and pay in advance.”

“Forget it.”

“I’ve got friends and they’ll pay too.  I know they will.  Come on, Caden, I know this must get expensive.”

Never before had Caden so intensely hated the sound of his own name.

“How old are you?”

“Twenty three.”

“Why wouldn’t you and your rich asshole friends rather blow your money on drugs and booze?  Or college?”

“Because,” Roger smiled, “this is different.  This is something you can’t get anywhere else.  I want to try it.”

“There’s no way you’re getting in.”

“You sure about that?” he asked, taking the business card off the desk where Caden had tossed it.  He began writing on the back of it.

“Positive.”

“Okay.”  Roger handed him the card.  “That’s my number if you change your mind.”

Caden tore up the card without breaking eye contact with him.  He threw the pieces into the trash can and stood up.

“Get out.”

Roger rose to his feet, smiled, and left.

It was 2:43 a.m. and Caden was under his desk on his hands and knees, trying to piece together the torn-up business card.  He thought it must surely have been the low point of his career.  Ends and means, right?  This is what I’ve worked for. He’d been through it over and over, and even though he hated giving Roger what he wanted, he knew he couldn’t let the opportunity slip away.

He sighed and taped the patchwork card back together.  He dreaded the call he was about to make, especially since his words had exuded such outrage earlier that night.  But he had to think about the museum—about how long he could afford to keep it.  With the kind of money Roger was offering him, Caden could charge his real clients next to nothing—something he’d wanted to do from the beginning—and still remain financially stable.  That realization made the idea of Roger and his bastard friends using the museum almost bearable.  And he could always switch out the good pieces for cheap shit whenever one of them came in.  Caden rubbed his eyes.  He knew he’d always feel some regret if he gave into this, even if his clients got a sizeable discount.  But it’d be better in the long run.  He could help more people.  He could make it work.

“Roger?  This is Caden Everett.  Yeah, we’re on.  Come by tomorrow night at nine and we’ll set the rules.”

Roger arrived at 8:30 the next night, dressed as well as he had been the day before, with another cigarette in his hand.

“I wore long sleeves,” he said with a smile when Caden opened the door.  “That’s part of it, right?”

I swear to God, Liam…

“Yeah,” Caden muttered.  “That’s part of it.  Get in here.”

They went back to the office and Caden sank heavily into his chair, wondering if he made the right decision.  Don’t think about it.  It’s done.

“You want some coffee?”

“Instant?”

“Yeah.”

“No, thanks.”

“All right, let’s get down to it:  you get two friends, all right?”

“What?”

“You can only tell two people—people I check out and clear before they come in—and they’ve got to pay triple just like you.”

“You got it.”

“When somebody leaves we can talk about replacing him, but I’ve got to approve.  And nobody talks about this.”  Roger nodded.  “You’ll get one session a month,” he continued.  “And you’ve got to be in and out within an hour each time.”

“Fine, fine,” Roger agreed eagerly.  “Can we start now?”

“You got money?”

He smiled and leaned forward, digging his wallet out of his back pocket.  He pulled a wad of cash from between its folds and tossed it on the desk in front of Caden.

“That seem fair?”

Caden counted the money and nodded, transferring it to his own wallet.

“Just give me a minute to set up a room, okay?”

Caden led him into the first room.  Because he hadn’t expected Roger to have a session that night, he wasn’t able to fill the room with cheap glass, but did take some of the most expensive pieces out, leaving about a third less than he would have for a real client.  And instead of retreating to his office as he always did when someone began a session, Caden listened at the door.  He felt no need to respect Roger’s privacy.

At first there was silence.  Must be looking around.  He waited about ten minutes before he heard glass break.  There was a startling crash followed by laughter, and after that he heard constant noise for about fifteen minutes.  When the room once again grew quiet, Caden went back to his office so Roger would think he’d been there the entire time.

It took about ten more minutes for Roger to finally walk through the door to Caden’s office, drenched in sweat.  He held his tan sweater loosely by his side and bits of glass sparkled from between the fibers of its fabric.  His hair hung in strings and Caden saw drops of perspiration still rolling down his face and into his eyes.  He collapsed into the chair across from Caden.

“Man,” he said, breathless.  “What is this?”

“I thought you didn’t want to talk,” Caden replied.  “Just the glass, right?”

Roger smiled.  “Right.”  He pushed his hair back off his forehead and stood up.  “I’ll see you next month.”

by Kate Kort (Chapter 19 excerpted from the manuscript Glass Museum)

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