Seamless Sky


Jade Cabral strides into the 21st century as a golden guy. Brilliant and beautiful, with a California cool and a Harvard education, he is poised for wealth and success in New York’s Financial District.

But Jade harbors a secret flaw, a thirst for revenge against Señor Rodriguez, the California landowner who deprived his father – Señor’s out-of-wedlock son, John Virgil -- of his family’s rightful inheritance and place in the world. Jade thinks if he succeeds in New York, he can make up for every loss and humiliation his family has endured at the hands of Señor. That searing quest leads him into the arms of Nan Spencer, a lovely, fragile socialite, and to the top of the financial world, the Twin Towers, on September 11, 2001.

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Chapter 1
Part 1 Chapter 1 California, the early 1970s He stood at the bottom of the wraparound porch—turning the brim of his straw hat over and over in his long, damp fingers. He hated to be in this position—hat in hand, one foot on the lowest step. But the wide-brimmed hat made his coarse, curling blond hair feel like a wool cap in the noonday sun—even as it shielded his fair skin from a blistering burn. And though the porch—spacious and gracious—opened its arms to him, he knew Señor did not appreciate those who overstepped their bounds. He wiped his brow with the long sleeve of his striped shirt and jiggled the hat absentmindedly. The only thing he dreaded more than being summoned by Señor was being left to wait and wonder which of Señor’s seemingly unlimited rules he had violated. The more he waited, the more extravagant the wondering became, until he feared his pounding heart would pull his legs out from under him. Fear was his constant companion. Indeed, he had lived his whole life as if the other shoe—or in his case, the other work boot—were always about to drop. He was rarely disappointed. Presently, the screen door snapped and the floorboards creaked under Señor’s weight as he rolled onto the long, shadowy porch in his wheelchair. “You’re late, John Virgil,” he barked. “Late as usual.” “I came as soon as you called, Señor Rodriguez,” he said softly. John Virgil did not bother to reply that he had been weeding a garden on the far side of the estate. To do so would be useless. And anyway, he was well-aware that Señor had not summoned him to discuss punctuality. “It has come to my attention that Miguel is out sick again. That’s twice this month,” Señor said. “Yes, Señor, that’s correct. His wife has cancer. She’s very ill, sir. I believe she’s dying.” Señor paused for a moment. It was not like him to miss a beat. “We’re all dying, John Virgil, dying all the time. Some of us are just on a more definite timetable than others, that’s all. In any case, it’s not my affair.” “No,” John Virgil countered, “but it is mine in as much as Miguel works for me.” “As you work for me,” Señor reminded him. “I want you to dock Miguel’s pay for the days he’s missed.” John Virgil reeled back ever so slightly, his eyes widening. He steadied himself, took a deep breath, and said, “No, Señor, I will not.” “Then I have no choice but to dock yours.” John Virgil looked straight at Señor, something he rarely did, for his face had a terrible, predatory cast, with its hawkish nose and hooded eyes, at once piercing and filmy. It was a face that had never looked on anything—or anyone—with love, John Virgil thought, least of all me. He held Señor’s gaze but could not return its fierceness. His features were just too melting for that—the full lips too ready to curl upward into a smile, the large blue eyes too apt to betray hurt or express forgiveness. “As you wish, Señor,” was all John Virgil said. Just then the screen door swung open, and a woman appeared in the doorway, a fist resting on a generous hip. “Old man,” she called. “Old man, you don’t mean to tell me you’re keeping this boy out in the hot sun when you could at least invite him up on the porch for a glass of my lemonade iced tea? John Virgil, would you like a glass?” People always called him by his first and middle names as if they were the only names he had. “No, thank you, Paris,” he said. “I have to get back to work.” His throat was caked with heat and soreness. But John Virgil thought he’d be damned if he’d take anything from Señor that he hadn’t earned. It was a scene played out too many times, ever since John Virgil had returned from the war in Vietnam three years ago to become the foreman of Bethzatha—the name Señor’s father had given the estate. Although John Virgil did the work of a manager, everyone in the town of Madrugada knew the real boss of Bethzatha was Joao Rodriguez, the man who was known simply as “Señor.” What no one could grasp, however, was why, oh why John Virgil had returned to Bethzatha in 1968—instead of moving on as he said he would—and why Señor had made him overseer in the first place. Many remembered a sunny little boy who followed the gardeners around the 250-acre estate, pestering them to let him help or playing hide and seek by himself amid the stone sculptures—mostly copies of famous classical statues—that dotted the cloistered gardens. It was there amid pungent stargazers, pink tea roses, and peach-colored day lilies that John Virgil felt safest, happiest, and he would fall asleep under the stars, far from the fish-eyed gaze of Señor and the ravings of his mistress, Adelia, who was John Virgil’s mother. Before Vietnam, John Virgil thought he had led a small life. Bethzatha—which stood on the outskirts of Madrugada, a little town high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific—was but a claustrophobic microcosm of the universe. The center of that universe was, of course, Señor’s sprawling pale-pink manor house—with its five gables, seven chimneys, light-gray awnings, and gingerbread trim. It was the sun around which all else revolved—the carriage house and various small buildings that now made up the inn at Bethzatha; the caretaker’s cottage; and the gardens that were as much an attraction as the inn itself. Apart from St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church and the Madrugada Public Library, John Virgil had never ventured beyond that world. Until Vietnam, that is. After Vietnam, he never wanted to venture beyond his home again. And if that meant enduring Señor’s cruel carping, well, he had already witnessed worse and survived more. Besides, John Virgil honestly believed that one day that mean old man would, like some character in a fairy tale, recognize his real worth—not just as the loving person he was but as the true son he knew himself to be. John Virgil may have been simple, but he wasn’t stupid. He understood the rumors that had wandered like ghosts through Bethzatha for years, understood, too, that people saw his late, lamented mother as a gold-digging w***e who went mad and killed herself in the car accident that had crippled Señor. But if his mother had never tired of scheming how to marry Señor and get her hands on his estate, John Virgil cared about money and property only to the extent that they conferred legitimacy. He rented the caretaker’s cottage that had been his childhood home and that he hoped one day to buy outright. He drove an old pickup he had fixed himself. He didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, gamble, curse, or chase women. He rarely went into town, except to go to St. Mikey’s—as he had called St. Michael’s ever since he was a little boy—the library, or a movie recommended by Paris Pageant, who had come to Bethzatha to nurse Señor after the accident and had stayed on to become a surrogate mother to John Virgil as well. His one dream, apart from Señor’s acknowledging him as his son, was to share a life of quiet contentment with a wife and children.

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