"The police of a state should never be stronger or better armed than the citizenry. An armed citizenry, willing to fight, is the foundation of civil freedom." ~ Robert Heinlein
Minerva, Chapter 22
Mason looked around the glorious apartment. Tara had originally wanted an actual house, but O'Toole had convinced her that it would be too extravagant. Instead, they had purchased three consecutive floors near the top of the Trump Tower. The middle floor had been removed, and the near-cube had been completely renovated to form a luxurious loft, enclosed on all sides by windows offering a view of the entire island. The O'Tooles' home had been featured in countless articles and television spots.
Tara emerged from the upstairs room, and softly padded down the winding staircase. Mason could barely make eye contact.
'It's okay David,' Tara said softly. 'It wasn't your fault. And Danny's fine.'
'You feel better, tiger?' O'Toole asked. Danny nodded, his head still buried in O'Toole's shirt.
'Now Danny, I want you to listen to me,' O'Toole said. He gently pushed his son's shoulders and tilted his head up to face his own. Danny wiped his snot-filled nose with an arm.
'Everything turned out O.K. today, and your mother and I are very glad that no one was hurt. But next time, if you ever find yourself in that situation, give up your money. Don't ever fight someone over something as stupid as your wallet. As you get older, you'll see that the easiest thing in the world is making money. All you need to do is open your eyes, and you'll see nine different ways to become rich. But if someone hurts you, or worse, no amount of money can take that back.'
Danny nodded his head, but then burst back into tears. O'Toole let him bury his head once again in his father's soiled shirt.
Especially in light of the day's events, O'Toole was more confident than ever in his position regarding the family's money: O'Toole felt that they should donate the great bulk of it, and publicly. Especially if Danny ended up going abroad to study, O'Toole felt it was imperative to eliminate the appeal to kidnappers.
Tara would never allow the type of security that would ease O'Toole's mind; she believed, probably rightly, that a boy shouldn't be surrounded by bodyguards while growing up. The only solution, to which Tara hadn't yet agreed but would probably now come around to, was for the O'Tooles to give away their wealth. Once they had done that, perhaps O'Toole could sleep peacefully. He would even have the homing chip removed from Danny's arm, hopefully without Tara ever realizing it had been there in the first place.
'I don't know why you would think that, David,' Tara said in response to Mason's concerns. 'Yes, I disagree with you on just about everything, but I certainly respect you. I wouldn't leave Danny with you otherwise.'
'Oh,' Mason said, stunned. 'I suppose I just thought that you viewed me as . . . crazy.'
'Well, your review of my book . . . .'
'Oh, that?' Tara said with a laugh. 'David, I was still in college! I knew before I even opened it that I was going to trash your novel. But in the grand scheme of things, it was a wonderful book.'
'Really?' Mason asked.
'Of course. You have a lovely mind, David. I couldn't write the sorts of things that you do. Not that I'd necessarily want to, mind you.'
'Well, I never realized that,' Mason admitted. 'You know, I feel the same way about your work. I couldn't write the way you do, and often I wish I could.'
'Oh David,' Tara said, 'I don't need a quid pro quo. I know you're above gossip columns.'
'I'm not talking about your recent work,' Mason said, without irony. 'Back when you wrote for the Verdict. That was genuinely brilliant writing.'
'And I must tell you,' Mason continued, 'the most amazing play I have ever seen, was a low-budget production in the Village, and written by a young Tara McClare.'
'Which one?' Tara asked.
'I don't remember the name, but it concerned the crucifixion of Jesus.'
'Oh, Trial by Jury,' Tara said and nodded.
'Yes,' Mason recalled. 'It was unbelievably bold, the way you tricked the audience. At the climax, I looked around me, and just about everyone was shouting, 'Crucify him!' at the top of his lungs. And they weren't only shouting it . . . they were really angry at the arrogant man. They wanted him to pay for his self-righteousness. I've never seen anything like it.'
* * *
'Again, I cannot express to you how sorry I am for this,' Mason said as they waited for the elevator.
'David, it's okay,' O'Toole reassured him. 'Say, anyone know what time it is? Oh! You've got a watch.'
Mason smiled. O'Toole was a genuinely decent human being.
After he had seen Mason off, O'Toole returned to the kitchen where Tara was brewing tea.
'Guess what?' she asked.
'David said that he thought one of my college plays was the most amazing one he'd ever seen.' As she said this, Tara didn't even look at her husband. Instead, she stared off into the distant ocean.
'No kidding,' O'Toole answered. 'I'm going to check on Danny.'
O'Toole tried not to sulk as he climbed the stairs. He constantly praised Tara's work, yet she had always pooh poohed his compliments and pointed out the flaws in whatever she had written. O'Toole had always thought this was because Tara was a perfectionist, but now he realized it was simply that she didn't consider him a very good judge of talent.