Chapter 3 : The Foxhole
Sebastian Chase was restless.
It didn’t help that his car had been stuck in a rush hour traffic jam for the past twenty minutes. Usually, he would be on his phone, or reading the business news on his tablet, but today he felt like a caged animal inside his large Lincoln town car.
He was on his way to a dinner. However, it was more of a business function than a social one. Unless he was dining a beautiful woman, he preferred his social interactions to have purpose, specifically one that would further his business goals. More business meant more work for more people.
Business. The well-oiled machine of commerce. That’s what he thought about most days.
Today was different. Instead, he wondered when was the last time he took a walk out in the sun. Golf games didn’t count — if you played with clients, technically that was still work. And Sebastian only ever played with clients, or business partners.
It was the same with all the parties he’d ever gone to. The Mattheson Bank was his family empire, so even family gatherings were business-related. At least, that’s how he’d come to think of them. His relationship with his father was not the most cordial, and neither was he particularly fond of his father’s siblings or their children. The only people he thought of as his family, other than his son Benson, were his mother and his brother Eric, and they were both gone.
It was at that moment that Sebastian realized what the date was.
“Connor, I’m going for a walk,” he told his driver.
“Sir?” If Connor Mills was surprised, he didn’t show it. It was part of his job. If Sebastian had suddenly asked him to wait outside a jewelry store while he robbed it, Connor would merely ask if Mr. Chase wanted him to keep the engine running.
“Please give my regrets to the Chapmans, and charge their dinner check to me.”
Sebastian opened the door and stepped out the car. He didn’t know where he was going, not really, but that didn’t matter.
He consciously walked away from where everyone seemed to be heading, walking past restaurants, flower shops and banks. He remembered his brother Eric once told him he wanted to open up a small shop that sold nothing but socks. “Wouldn’t Dad throw a fit?” he’d said, laughing.
“Probably,” Sebastian had replied. “Then he’d come back after a month to check if your sales were improving.”
“Sadly, it seems you’re the only businessman in the family, Sebastian. I don’t think I’ll be good at anything. Maybe I should find me a nice hardworking wife, and I could stay home and cook for our kids.”
“So long as she doesn’t plan on selling socks, you should be fine.”
Eric and their mother passed away in a plane crash on this day five years ago. Eric had left a son, and a wife he’d been separated from a mere two years after they were married. Their mother only had him and Eric, having been divorced from Sebastian’s father since Eric was born. Sebastian was the only one who ever remembered she was in that plane crash too.
There would be no phone call from his father. No dinner on the anniversary of his mother and brother’s deaths. No words of consolation for each other. They didn’t do that sort of thing. They didn’t have a personal relationship, just a business one. All George Mattheson expected from him was a healthy growth in the family corporation, and a healthy heir to that corporation to take over after Sebastian retired.
It would just be another day for his father.
The streets were both familiar and unfamiliar to him. He may have passed through the area once or a hundred times, he wouldn’t know. Sebastian didn’t take walks, not really. He barely glanced outside when being chauffeured from place to place. He wasn’t hungry, but a sign on a coffee shop window caught his eye for some reason he couldn’t put his finger on. On impulse, he went inside.
It was not a fashionable coffee shop by any means. The décor was simple and old fashioned. The first thing that hit him was the familiar smell of cinnamon and bread. He took a seat at a table farthest from the door.
“What can I get you, hon?” said the waitress who appeared almost immediately after he sat down. She was thin and pale, and looked about forty. Her brown hair was pulled up in a bun. “The doughnuts are freshly made. They’re real good with coffee.”
“I’ll have one then,” Sebastian said. “And coffee.”
“I’ll be right back.” She looked tired, but her smile was warm.
According to her nameplate, she was Mabel. Sebastian didn’t even need to read it — customers called her by her name. She chatted up a couple of them on her way to the counter, asking how they were and if they wanted a refill on their coffee.
It didn’t take long before she was back with Sebastian’s coffee and doughnut. He nodded his thanks. As she moved away, an elderly man from the next table called out to her.
“Hey Mabel. How’s Jenni?” he said. “I heard you had to rush her to the hospital yesterday.”
“She’s fine, Cal. Spent two hours in the emergency room, and I was near out of my mind with worry. But the doctor changed her meds and she’s been fine since then. Thanks for asking,” Mabel said. “Thank goodness Victoria offered to take my shift yesterday.”
It was then that Sebastian realized why the name of the place seemed so familiar. He’d seen it on a resumé recently. The Foxhole. Current employer of one Victoria Slade.
“That was right sweet of of her, Mabel,” the elderly customer said.
“That girl is some kind of angel, I tell you,” Mabel said. “She had an appointment that same afternoon too. A job interview I think. Now that I think about it, I hope I didn’t make her miss it.” She shook her head and picked up an empty dish from the elderly man’s table. “More water, Cal?”