Mickey Gibson wiped the spit-up off Darby’s face, and then gave her two-year-old daughter a plastic squeaky ball, hoping that would hold her attention for a bit. The girl sat stoically in her playpen, eyeing the toy like it was neither foe nor friend.
Gibson had learned in one of the many child development books she had read that two-year-olds should be able to play and entertain themselves for up to thirty minutes. Whoever wrote that was on drugs, or else my kids have no future as adults. She was hoping for simply a five-minute respite, just to finish her phone call. Gibson hefted her three-year-old son, Tommy, who had been doing his best to use his mom as a jungle gym, and placed him on her thrust-out right hip. It was only eleven in the morning and she was already exhausted.
She said into her headset, “Okay, Zeb, I’m back. Like I said before, the paper trail is pretty clear. There’s at least two hundred mill in six different bank accounts, three in Chad, one in Bermuda, and two in Zurich. Larkin must know we’re closing in, so he’s probably going to try to move that money ASAP, and I may not be able to track it again.”
Gibson listened for a few moments as she deftly dodged Tommy’s attempts to grab her hair and knock off her headset. Darby threw the ball out of the playpen and hit her mother in the back before starting to wail, then tried to climb to freedom over the playpen rails. Gibson noted this and went into action. While still holding Tommy, she grabbed the ball off the floor, tossed it up in the air, and deftly caught it behind her back—one of the skills she had developed from her basketball days.
Darby stopped climbing, grinned, and started clapping. “Mommy, Mommy. G-good.” Tommy was also mesmerized by this enough to stop attacking his mother’s hair. “Do it again,” he ordered.
Gibson kept repeating this act while she said, “Right, Zeb, I understand. But the fact is I got lucky on some key clicks and ran down a couple tricky leads that paid off, but there’s no guarantee that will happen again. The lawyers need to get injunctions filed and put concrete lids on those accounts before he can wire that money out to God knows where. I checked and we can get the assets frozen because all those countries are subject to the usual global banking laws, so Larkin can’t grease their skids without severe consequences to their memberships in the international financial community.”
Gibson paused for a moment and tossed the ball again so she could remove Tommy’s index finger from her right eye. Nimbly catching the ball, she said, “Larkin’s probably already regretting not burying those funds deeper, offshoring them in the Cook Islands or laundering them beyond our reach.” As she continued to try to control her gyrating son, she added, “I’ve also already provided the evidentiary trail to the creditors’ lead bankruptcy lawyers and they’re following up, too. The wire rooms are closed in Zurich and Chad, but they’re still running in Bermuda. So you need to hit this hard and you need to hit it fast.”
As though he were waiting for Gibson to finish speaking, Tommy threw up all over his mother. Gibson watched the vomit spiral down the front of her only clean outfit at the moment, with chunks of it landing on her bare feet. As a final touch, the slop soaked into the rug, to join all the previous stains there. Darby started laughing and pointing. “G-good. T-Tommy.” Gibson looked at her son, whose expression told her all she needed to know. She ran for it and reached the toilet just in time to hold him over the bowl while simultaneously hitting a button on her headset to place the call on mute. Tommy managed somehow to miss the toilet completely and instead puked on the toilet paper holder and her pair of slippers. Gibson had left them there earlier after attempting to use the bathroom. Then she’d heard a crash somewhere and found Tommy sitting on the kitchen floor, covered with most of the wet dirt from a potted plant. She’d stripped the boy and thrown his clothes directly into the washing machine.
Gibson had wanted to toss him in, too, only she didn’t relish a visit from Child Services. But she’d forgotten the slippers. And her urge to pee. Until now. She set Tommy down and threw the soiled footwear into the trash can. She washed her face, trying not to look at the gunk that was sliding off her and down into the sink because it was making her want to vomit. She dried off, then she sat on the toilet, holding Tommy, and finished her long overdue urination. After that, she unmuted the phone. During this whole time Zeb had been chattering away, oblivious to all her domestic drama. “So, as I was saying, great work. Now go paint the town red tonight, Mick, on the company card, of course. Have a blast. You’ve earned it.”
“Yeah, Zeb, I’ll get all dolled up. Champagne and caviar and a long, slinky dress.” “Have fun. We all need downtime.” “Yeah, we do, don’t we?” “Hey, and next time, let’s do a Zoom call. I like to see my people’s faces.”
Not this people’s face, thought Gibson. Not now. Not for maybe the next ten years. “Right, sounds good.” She clicked off, flushed the toilet, and looked at her son. He rubbed his stomach and said solemnly, “Better, Mommy.” “I bet.”
[This book is published by Pan Macmillan]
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