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Under Parr
Author: Blair Babylon

 

* * *

 

Love, Blair

 

 

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

Convention of the Medical Committee

for Human Rights

(Chicago) March, 1966

 

 

New Year’s Day

 

 

Jericho

 

 

Jericho Parr cracked his eyelids open.

Laser beams from the sky lanced through his eyeballs and sliced off the top of his head.

Ouch.

He pressed his fist to his right temple.

The hangover headache counterattacked with steady roundhouse kicks to the side of his head.

Somewhere to his left, a male voice asked breathlessly, “What did we do?”

Jericho wasn’t sure, but from the acidic taste in his mouth, he would’ve bet a hundred million dollars it had involved tequila.

Shading his eyes with his hand, he curled up to a sitting position and swung his legs over the side of the couch where he’d been sleeping.

Or passed out.

Yeah, he’d probably passed out.

Great slabs of sunlight hammered through the wide windows rising two stories into the air and splashed across the dark leather couches and chairs. Outside the walls of the country club, sunbeams refracted off the glittering snow covering the golf course and seared Jericho’s eyeballs. He squinted, and his eyes watered.

Beyond the crisp snow, the flashing white disc of the sun rose out of the gray Atlantic Ocean that dove and crashed on the rocks.

Toward the rear of the sitting room, uniformed staff members quietly scurried about, cleaning up the debris from the New Year’s Eve party the night before and trying not to wake the four of them who had been sleeping on the couches near the center of the room.

The fire in the fieldstone fireplace, large enough to have roasted a stag a century before, had burned to ashes hours earlier. Half-empty and completely empty bottles of thirty-year-old scotch and much younger tequila littered the coffee table between the couches where Jericho and his three best friends and business associates had collapsed.

Jericho squinted at one of the other men, who was sitting up and holding some papers. “I say, Match, what have you got there?”

Mitchell “Match” Saltonstall squinted at a sheaf of paper. Pages dangled from the corner where they were stapled together. His sandy eyebrows were raised above his green eyes as he ogled what was written there. “We’re in trouble.”

“What could we have done that is so horrible?” Morrissey asked. Morrissey Sand was the levelheaded one of their little group, the least likely to be involved in something that would live forever on the internet. “We spent New Year’s Eve at an exclusive country club in Rhode Island, not at the casino in Monte Carlo. Surely, we haven’t gotten ourselves involved with international arms trafficking or BitCoin speculating at one of the oldest, stodgiest, most boring parties on the face of the planet.”

Match’s hand stole toward his mouth and his eyes widened as he continued reading the document. Finally, he flipped to the end page. “Jesus, it’s notarized. How did he get somebody to notarize this thing in the wee hours of the morning at a country club New Year’s Eve party?”

“Considering the types of business that have been closed in this room over the past century, I imagine several of the staff are also notaries public so that contracts can be finalized and deposited before the signatories have a chance to rethink and back out,” Kingston Moore said. He stretched his burly arms over his head and shook his head with his eyes squeezed shut as if trying to fling away the sleep. His broad shoulders and thick arms looked like he was a bodybuilder. Kingston had discovered the gym in high school and worked out before the rest of them had followed suit. Thus, he’d earned himself the nickname “Skins” because he’d been the first to strip off his shirt at every pickup basketball game when there were girls around. “What did we sign?”

Jericho was running his fingers through his hair and palpating his scalp, making sure the stripes of pain in his head were just due to a hangover and not the result of a broken skull from a fight that he couldn’t remember either, like the contract that was making Match turn paler by the second. “What did we sign, Match?”

“It’s a bet,” he said. “Was Gabriel Fish here last night?”

Jericho rubbed his face, numb from lying passed out with his feet hanging over the arm of the couch. “I saw him early in the evening. He had a model fresh from fashion week in Milan on his arm and said he was in town because his grandfather was tottering near the edge of his grave. Was The Shark in on the bet?”

Gabriel Fish had picked up the nickname “The Shark” when they’d been in boarding school in Switzerland together because he could take advantage of any situation and would steal everything from you if you didn’t watch him closely. Everyone considered him an apex predator, and Gabriel reveled in it.

Match nodded, his green eyes becoming wider by the second.

“Who was stupid enough to make a bet with The Shark?”

Match said, “All of us.”

That information ran through Jericho like someone had poured an ice bucket over his head. “What?”

“We all signed this, all four of us, plus Gabriel Fish. It’s a five-way bet.”

Match had all their attention now, and the other guys leaned forward with their elbows on their knees.

Morrissey said, “Well, it can’t be that bad. How much could we have bet?” But his blue eyes creased with concern.

Match shook the paper. “A hundred million dollars each, winner take all. Whoever wins, the other four saps have to pay him a hundred million dollars each.”

The sound of the colossal sum jolted Jericho to his feet. “Are you serious?”

Kingston slapped his palms on the coffee table. “If the four of us lose, we’ll owe Gabriel Fish four hundred million dollars. That would bankrupt Last Chance, Inc.” The four of them had gone in on a venture capital firm five years before, and they had been making excellent returns ever since. Liquidating nearly half a million dollars’ worth of investments would destroy them.

And even that wouldn’t be nearly enough. Each of them would be millions of dollars in debt, too.

Morrissey shook his head, his dark hair falling forward over his forehead. “We were drunk. We were not of sound mind when we signed that contract. It’s not enforceable.”

Jericho nodded his head. Morrissey would know. He’d gone to law school and passed the New York State bar. Morrissey could get them out of this stupid sucker bet.

Match shook the paper. “It’s got two notarized sections. One is us agreeing to the contract. The other one states that we were of sound mind and body. Ten witnesses co-signed and attested to it, including Justice Marissa Otis.”

Jericho had his hands up as if he could ward off the insanity that seemed to be coming at him while he was still hung over. “Gabriel got a Supreme Court justice to witness the document stating that we were of sound mind and body when I can’t even remember what happened?”

Morrissey combed his dark hair away from his face with his fingers. “It’ll take years in litigation to break this contract, and I don’t know if we could ever do it with Otis as one of the signatories. Who else?”

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