Victor and Violet arrived at Hellers car dealership and were walking around looking at the various cars, trucks and SUVs with Victor telling her the pros and cons of each. None of them appealed to Violet. It wasn’t that they weren’t great cars. They were indeed wonderful. Her complaint was the sticker shock they induced. She was certain she would hyperventilate if she saw one more exorbitant price tag.
Granted, her first car when she was a teenager had cost less than a thousand dollars but she didn’t think anyone should have to pay more than a year’s income for something you drive only to and from work and to do sundry errands about town.
“Like this one?” Victor asked pointing to a small SUV.
Too bad the price tag wasn’t equally small, Violet thought after reading the bottom line. She nearly swallowed her tongue. “You think I’m a millionaire?” she shrieked.
“That’s just the suggested price, Violet. I can get them down substantially, enough for you to afford it nicely,” he replied soothingly.
“Substantially wouldn’t by chance mean one tenth, would it? There’s no way I can afford even half that. The payments alone would....dear me! I want my old car back,” she whined. She looked ready to cry.
“I can loan you the money if .....” he stopped at the quailing look she gave him. He sighed and knew what to do, tricky and underhanded though it may be, but he had to get her a decent car whether she liked it or not. He wouldn’t be able to rest thinking of her in some broken down old wreck.
She was grateful when Victor left her to wander on her own while he talked to the salesman. What would Victor know about economy? “His yearly income is probably a hundred times mine,” she muttered waspishly.
“Al, this is the thing. She needs a car and she’s not cooperating. I’m going to ask you to do something dishonest,” Victor said bracingly. Al’s lifted eyebrows made him laugh. “Not illegal, just a...a little white lie of sorts. Can you take the sticker off of that dark green SUV and just pretend that it’s not new. Make up a phony contract with a price for half, no, make it three quarters off. That way she’ll know she can afford it. I’ll pay cash for it and she’ll make the payments to me. Is that all right?”
He looked at Victor with an amused expression. “I love cash but won’t she know what you’re doing if she has to pay you?”
“Way ahead of you, Al,” Victor retorted handing him his business card. “Use the New York address and the law firm name for the bank. She’ll never know the difference.”
Al laughed. “Anyone ever tell you you’d make a great con artist, but then isn’t that synonymous with lawyer?” he said smirking.
“Al, I love you like a brother but you know I can crush you like a bug. So, you’ll do it?” Victor asked needlessly.
“Sure, Vic, anything for you,” Al replied. “Give me a few minutes and I’ll have the guys bring it out for her to test drive. You must really like her.”
Victor took out his credit card and handed it to him. “Al, if there’s to be another Mrs. Romanoff, she’ll be the one, if I have anything to say about it. Thanks,” Victor said and he jubilantly walked back to Violet.
“You hear that?” Richard snarled to Heidi who was right beside him. Her expression, however, was quite as serene as ever. “He’s already pulling tricks on my wife, trying to make a fool out of her.”
Heidi shook her head slightly. “How do you figure that, Richard? He’s merely getting a good, reliable vehicle for her and because he knows she has her pride and won’t take a loan from him he’s willing to preserve it while still...”
“You are really something!” he shouted. “So, your precious son can do no wrong? Looks kinda wrong to me to be lying to Violet. That’s a pretty big lie, Heidi.”
“Pish-posh! Are you telling me you’ve never lied to Violet? Especially when it was for her own good? Or when you deemed it such,” she said sternly, that shrewd look once again in her eyes.
Richard gulped and looked away. Those eyes, he was convinced, could see right through him, to his very soul and see all his secrets. Or was it that once you die all your secrets are revealed, no longer secrets?
“As I was saying,” Heidi passed a hand over her skirt as if to eliminate invisible wrinkles then continued, her calm voice completely devoid of animosity. “Victor is helping Violet get the right vehicle. One in which she will be perfectly safe. You do want Violet to be safe, do you not?”
Richard growled in the back of his throat, wondering why this ghostly mother always made him feel like a naughty little school boy. He turned without answering her and went sprinting after Victor, wishing as he did so he could tackle Mr. Fancy-pants to the ground like he used to do with his rivals when he was linebacker at Catalpa High.
Violet stood at the far end of the lot shaking her head in disgust as she read a number that amounted to more than her parents paid for their first house.
“Violet, I found the perfect car for you,” Victor told her smiling broadly.
“I’m thinking it’s a shopping cart,” she said turning to him with a grimace on her face.
He laughed. “You are so cute. No, funny girl, it’s not exactly brand new so it’s more affordable for you. Come, you can test drive it, see if you like it,” he said grabbing her hand and pulling her to the office. By the time they walked all the way back a small forest green SUV rolled out of the garage sans a price sticker.
“Hop in,” he told her as he opened the door for her. She frowned. “You don’t like it?”
“Are you sure this isn’t new? I didn’t know they sold used cars here. Why doesn’t it have a sticker?” she asked suspiciously.
He suddenly wished she weren’t so bright. “Actually, they only just got it back. They sold it to people who couldn’t make the payments,” he lied quickly.
Still frowning she slipped in and immediately fell in love with the lush interior. “Wow,” she muttered against her will. It had the softest leather she’d ever felt and every extra known to man. “Victor, this has to be new. Look, it only has twenty-eight miles on it.”
He glanced at the odometer doing some quick thinking. “Wow, Al wasn’t lying. He said the people who owned this before wouldn’t drive it because they were worried about their insurance going up.”
Her eyes widen in fright. “Will mine go up too?” she asked anxiously.
“No, you’re an excellent driver. They had tons of accidents on their record,” he said reassuringly. He reached over and buckled her seat belt as she thought this over.
“How do you know I’m an excellent driver?”
“Freddy told me. He thinks very highly of you,”he replied, trying and failing to look serious.
“Well, he is my brother. He’s supposed to love me regardless,” she said haughtily.
Victor laughed. “Funny girl.”
“So, why doesn’t Al just sell this at the same price? It’s still new,” she asked confused and still a bit suspicious.
“As soon as a car is driven off the lot it’s considered used and it loses half its value and with my extraordinary negotiating you get it for less even than that. Cool, huh? We’re lucky we got here at just the right time. At this price it would have flown off the lot,” he said confidently.
“That doesn’t seem fair at all. Benefiting from someone’s misfortune,” she said sadly.
“Not misfortune, stupidity. They were too dumb to know what they could afford.”
“Violet, if it’s not you it’s someone else and you deserve it far more than anyone,” he told her adamantly. He closed her door before she could retort then ran around to the passenger side and got in. “So, what do you think?” he asked, looking both gleeful and excited.
She laughed at him. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather buy it yourself? You seem more excited about it than I am.”
“It’s a guy thing, cars. Girls like shoes,” he replied carelessly shrugging.
She laughed again. “I guess I should be happy I’m a girl then. I can get tons of shoes with the amount of money you need to get only one car.” She turned the key and liked that she didn’t have to coax it to life as she had to do more than occasionally with her old one. She drove around the block and was convinced there could be no better car.
“Oh, Victor, this car is fabulous,” she gushed.
“So, you like it?” he asked needlessly.
She frowned at him again. “Why do you think I deserve this more than anyone else?” she asked as she drove back to the dealership.
“Because you’re Freddy’s sister and a great person in your own right. So...what do you think?” he asked brimming with enthusiasm. “It’s a go then?”
She stared at him for a while. “What’s not to like? It’s...are you sure I can afford this?”she asked simultaneously anxious and suspicious.
“Yes, you silly girl. I’ll get them to start the paperwork,” he answered getting out and walking away with a bounce to his step.
Violet watched him go smiling. “A very strange, funny man, you are, Victor Romanoff,” she murmured.
Heidi giggled in the backseat next to Richard who ground his back teeth so loud he was amazed Violet couldn’t hear it.
Violet meanwhile looked around the car checking knobs and buttons, setting the wipers on accidentally and then trying desperately to make then stop. Biting her bottom lip she giggled to herself then frowned again.
“I don’t care what anybody says. This is definitely new. To me anyway. Me with a new car. Everything is completely upside-down now. How in the world did that happen?”she mumbled to herself.
Again Heidi giggled and Richard growled in his throat.
Within minutes Victor was back. “Come on. We can go for a ride while they take care of the paperwork,” he said helping her out of the new car.
“Paperwork takes that long?” she asked incredulously.
“Every ‘I’ crossed and every ‘T’ dotted,” he joked then he leaned down to whisper in her ear, “It’s like that with lawyers, too.” He smiled, staring into her wide hazel eyes so full of wonder. He had the sudden urge to kiss her.
“Don’t even think about it, Mister! Just because you bought her a car doesn’t mean she owes you anything, not even a kiss,” Richard hissed angrily in his ear.
Thoroughly bewildered Victor straightened up and looked around searching for the source of the voice.
“Something wrong?” Violet asked.
“Uh...no, I just thought I...no,” he said forcing a smile even as his brows remained slightly furrowed. He took her hand and led her toward his car.
“He heard me,” Richard mumbled both amazed and thrilled.
Heidi frowned for the first time since Richard had known her. Her placid smile had vanished. She certainly didn’t like this fresh development.
Violet followed Victor to his car, he helped her in and buckled her seat belt again. He simply couldn’t keep out of her personal space, she noticed. He didn’t make her nervous anymore but he did make that funny feeling come fluttering in her chest again. Freddy had been right. Victor was truly a nice man. He had found her a car, a wonderful car. Although she still wasn’t convinced she could afford it.
“Victor, are you absolutely certain I can afford that car? It looks entirely to good for me,” she anxiously asked again as she watched him buckle his own seat belt.
He smiled indulgently. “My sweet little Polly Anna, just like Richard said, there are no dark clouds in your part of the sky, remember?” he said as he gently pushed a strand of hair out of her face, his thumb softly brushing her cheek . “You deserve this car and so much more and yes, you can afford it. I wouldn’t let you get in over your head. Freddy would kill me if I did and Richard would haunt me forever,” he added with a grin.
“Bet your life he would,” Richard said menacingly.
Again Victor stopped and looked around. He had heard something, faint but distinct. There was, however, nothing and no one around them. He shook his head and proceeded out of the lot.
Richard, sitting in the backseat, stretched out grinning broadly. Heidi, on the other hand, sat in nervous agitation biting her bottom lip with her brow furrowed for the second time.