The Gifted Realm: Academy - Volume 1

Chapter 41 - The Buck Stops Here

Fionna brushed a kiss on Dan’s cheek as he raced out the door Monday morning. The Gifted News Network was on in the living room. The press had shown up en masse at Venton to catch Mentor Bryant’s return to teaching and Governor Vindico’s arrival as the new chancellor. It was going to be quite a day.

“Don’t forget we have birthing class this week and it looks like your sister is actually going to have a wedding here next weekend. You know, before they go to the hedonist camp.” Dan ignored that last detail.

“Births and wedding. Done one about to do another. All on my calendar. I love you, baby doll, but I’ve got to go.”

“I know.”

“You rest,” he called as he headed out the door.

“I know, I know.”

Halting abruptly, Dan spun back around. “Nope.” He shook his head.

“Nope what?” Fionna began frantically searching the kitchen counters for something he might’ve forgotten.

Dan’s long strides ate up the distance between them. “Nope, not doing it this way, not making the same mistakes again.” Setting down his laptop case and coffee, he wrapped her and her extremely large belly up in his arms. “Not leaving my girls without even a kiss.” Cradling her face in his hands, he mated their mouths, reminding himself of the flavors of his wife. God, he missed her. Turning his head, he went back for more tangling his tongue with hers. He trailed kisses down her neck when she gasped for breath. “And you were going to ask Adeline about the pelvic rest today, right?” he pled.

“Most definitely,” she panted.

Working down the tight t-shirt she was wearing, he gave Halia’s bump several kisses as well. “Bye, baby girl.” Much to his delight, she responded with a tender nudge of either her foot or her hand. He couldn’t quite tell. “Now, I have to go.”

“Okay, but maybe come back as soon as your last class is over? You know before Aida gets off the bus, assuming Adeline ends this awful pelvic rest ridiculousness.”

“Oh, honey, trust me, I’ll be home early.”

“Good. I’m worried my hymen’s growing back,” she teased.

Dan’s left eyebrow lifted in intrigue. “Would that mean I get to pop it this time?”

“Would you go to work before I figure out how to be offended over that comment?”

“I will if you promise not to think too hard on how to be upset with me.” He planted another kiss on her head.

“Promise.”

It took him twenty-seven minutes to get from the entrance of Venton to the faculty parking lot. News vans and reporters clogged every road and passageway. Dozens of flash bulbs went off in his face as slowly traveled Venton Drive.

Here we go. He exited his car into a mob of reporters.

“Mentor Vindico, can you give us your take on your father’s decision to suspend Chancellor Wilshire and take over Venton himself?”

“Mentor Vindico, how do you feel your father should proceed as Chancellor?”

“Dan, can you describe in your own words what lead to Chancellor Dean Wilshire’s suspension?”

“What do you say to the rumors that your father is stepping into Dean Wilshire’s role here so you can return to Iodex?”

"Do you think your father has taken over Venton Academy to diminish press coverage on his own affair thirty years ago?"

Scowling, Dan shot an incredulous glare at the man in a cheap suit that asked the last question. “My father is stepping in, adding to his own responsibilities as a Realm Governor, to make certain Venton remains the outstanding Gifted academy that it has always been. Now, get the hell out of my way.”

“There’s the Dan Vindico we’ve always known and the one we always saw when he was Chief of Iodex.” The man spoke to a steady-cam mounted on some guy’s chest. “It seems highly unlikely that he wasn’t hired on here to help the solve the crime sprees ruining this academy.”

Dan spun back around to dismantle that ridiculous lie until he remembered that he had only been teaching three days when his father and Governor Haydenshire had asked for his help.

Besides, to his shock, the reporters were no longer interested in him. They were rushing back to the parking lot. Dan’s stomach twisted uncomfortably. They completely surrounded Katherine Bryant as she edged out of her car.

He couldn’t even see her face as she attempted to force her way through the throngs of reporters desperate for any word from Wilshire’s mistress.

Feeling sorry for her, Dan shook his head. He didn’t have a badge. There was nothing he could do. Terrible choices have terrible consequences, Daniel.

He could still hear his father and Governor Haydenshire’s words that Sunday morning when he was seventeen and had finally been able to lift his head out of the toilet. Garrett, Will, and Dan had snuck as many various liquors as they could out of their father’s liquor cabinets and had gone out for one of their camping trips in one of the Haydenshire’s back fields. They’d consumed pure alcohol for most of the night. Terrible consequences indeed. He’d never forget that.

As his first act as Chancellor, Governor Vindico had moved all of the Predilect head’s offices to the Admin building. He was determined to make certain that each department was working just the way it was supposed to.

He was going to run a tight ship. Wilshire may have used his time liberally to fool around and cheat on his wife but Governor Vindico was going to work and the staff was going to tow the line as well. Dan had expected nothing less.

“I’m sure as hell not sitting in the man’s chair so find me another. I don’t care if it’s from a student’s desk,” Dan heard his father command one of the maintenance staff that was whining about working.

Dan left his office door open mildly curious to hear his father’s next few commands before he headed to his first class.

“I want a cash flow and balance report on my desk every morning by eight o’clock,” he ordered the head of finance.

“Well, sir, Chancellor Wilshire really didn’t begin finance meetings until around ten and then it was only once a month.”

“Did you hear me ask you what Wilshire did?”

“Uh, no, sir.”

“That’s a relief because I don’t give a damn what he did. I am standing here and he is not so it does seem fairly obvious that bringing up anything Wilshire used to do might not stead you in the best light as I am the man that suspended Wilshire,” Governor Vindico shot angrily.

Dan choked back laughter. The entire staff was about to get a lesson in Vindico dynamics.

“We are going to figure out where all of the money is going and we are going to make certain that each and every penny this academy takes in is being used to further the education of the students that attend here. So,” he drawled, “you will make certain that I have a cash flow and balance report on my desk every morning at eight o’clock. Is that understood?”

Still chuckling, Dan gathered his things for his first period class. He locked his office door behind him and met his father in the corridor.

“Where are you going?” the Governor huffed.

“Well, since you are currently paying me to teach, I thought I might go offer my wisdom and my sarcasm to my Senior defense class.”

“Sorry. I’ve just yet to find anyone that actually wanted to go do their job since I arrived this morning.”

“Might be a slight case of when the cat’s away,” Dan reminded his father.

“Yeah, well the cat’s boss is back and he’s angry.”

“I picked up on that.”

With a grin, the Governor chuckled. “My sweet girl is still coming over tomorrow night, right?”

“I taught her a few of your Checkers tricks. She’s going to try to beat you when she’s there. Fi and I have to be at Georgetown at six thirty. Class goes ‘til eight. We appreciate you watching her.”

“Don’t thank me. I’m thrilled. I’m determined to get this mess cleaned up and then I’m gonna spend time with my grandkids. I’ve missed too much with all of them.”

“You’re doing great, Dad.” Dan slapped his father on the shoulder. “But that bell means I’m late and I’m trying to avoid a lecture from the new boss. I got enough of them growing up.”

“Funny.”

Jeff grinned as Dan entered the class five minutes late. They all looked eager to begin. If I taught this class all day long, I might actually like my job.

His top ten percent Ioses predilects, all vying for positions either in the National Iodex or in one of the Iodex branches in every major city across America, always impressed him. They worked hard, asked intelligent questions, turned papers in either early or on time without having to be reminded, did extra research and then asked Dan about their findings.

Two hands shot up as soon as he began class. Dan nodded to Thane St. Rhettart who’d asked for a recommendation to the New York branch of Iodex. He apparently loved the city and wanted to live there after graduation. If he kept up like he’d performed the first few weeks of school, Dan would write him a glowing recommendation, assuming he didn’t back over his on cell phone again.

“St. Rhettert?” Dan urged.

“Do you think as the former head of Elite Iodex that Iodex should have provided Mentor Bryant security this morning when she arrived on campus and was mobbed by the press?”

“Mr. Strenton, care to field that one?” Dan directed Jeff.

He nodded. “Iodex can’t just decide to offer anyone security unless they’ve made the request themselves and then the Chief agrees to the protocoled response, or they’re sent out by one of the governors either state or realm.”

“I know that,” Thane huffed. “But should that policy be changed in light of the public persona involved in the affair?”

Dan seated himself on the edge of his desk. “Truthfully, I have two schools of thought on this. Mentor Bryant could certainly have used a little help this morning getting in the building and Iodex could have cleared the way. I was honestly worried for her safety. But, for the most part, Mentor Bryant’s need of security was of her own making. Do remember every time Iodex teams are sent out it costs the Realm money either in personnel costs or even gasoline for the vehicles. I do not feel that the Realm should fund the consequences of her incredibly poor decision making.”

Like it had been scripted, Katherine Bryant happened to walk by his open classroom door at that very moment. Shit.

Dan returned to his office for his off period. “Daniel, could you come here a minute?” his father called.

Slipping into the Chancellor’s office, Dan chuckled. There were numerous pictures of Mrs. Vindico situated on the desk and all of the Governor’s children and grandchildren’s photographs, including one of Halia’s ultrasounds, were hung on the wall. His father was making a point. That much was obvious.

“What can I do when these kids are brats?” the Governor sighed.

Being Chancellor meant that if a mentor couldn’t handle a student, he was the heavy.

“I personally assign more work,” Dan offered. “You can do detention on Saturday mornings. You can refuse them passes to upcoming events. You can send them home for the day, week, month, whatever. They can do manual labor around the school, which I happen to know is a person favorite of yours when it comes to discipline.”

“Remember that do ya?” His father laughed.

“Uh, yeah,” Dan rolled his eyes, remembering the Monday afternoon after he and Garrett and Will had spent the weekend regurgitating pure alcohol that they’d been forced to empty every trash can in the entire Senate and then had to scrub the dumpsters. Doing yard work was another common punishment in the Vindico household.

Just then, a knock sounded on the chancellor’s door.

“What now?” He flung open the door to reveal a sophomore named Brent. Dan recalled that he was an Adminis predilect but couldn’t remember his last name.

 He was sporting quite a smirk as he handed the Governor the pink slip from the mentor who’d sent him to see the Chancellor.

“Sit down,” Govenor Vindico barked.

Dan leaned against the wall wondering what the kid had done that he was so very proud of.

“What did you do?” Governor Vindico demanded not bothering to read the mentor’s note.

“Well.” Brent preened like peacock. Dan rolled his eyes. “Mentor Bryant decided on her first day back to rearrange everyone’s seats, even though she’s been gone for weeks. So, I told her I like to sit in the back of the class,” he went on. “She said not in the back, Mr. Coggin.” He could hardly contain his laughter as he concluded, “So, I said betcha never said that to Wilshire.” He howled with laughter as Governor Vindico’s eyes goggled and Dan bit his lips together to keep from joining in the laughter.

“Given how thoroughly delighted you seem to be with your incredibly rude comment why don’t you compose an apology letter to Mentor Bryant. You can do this while you scrub all of the urinals in the men’s restrooms in the Adminis building. Mentor Bryant is your mentor and therefore you will show her respect. After I’ve inspected the urinals, you can write your letter of apology and deliver it to Mentor Bryant tomorrow morning.”

“Seriously,” Brent whined.

“Do I appear to be joking?” the Governor growled.

“Wilshire never made us do crap like that.”

“Do I look like Wilshire?”

“No, sir.”

“Go.”

“Yes, sir.” Brent flung the door open.

“How was that?” Governor Vindico lost his menacing growl as soon as Brent made his escape.

“Good. But if his parents are on the Katherine Bryant deserves to be burned on the stake bandwagon then you may hear about the letter though so be prepared.”

“I don't have any respect for her myself, currently, but that was a crude comment to make to her face. Guess I'll wait and see what the parents say. I'm more upset about the verbiage than I am that the kids have opinions on what her and Wilshire did. They should have opinions. Everyone's an example..."

"Either a good one or a bad one. I know, Dad," Dan finished for him.

"And these books are insane.” His father settled back at Wilshire’s old desk with ledgers strewn everywhere and spreadsheets open in numerous windows on the computer monitor. “I did find the school’s copy of the credit card expense we discussed Friday. I should fire him officially for that alone but I just can’t bring myself to do that to Ellen.”

“How’s she doing?” Dan wondered if his parents knew anything about Mrs. Wilshire. They were acquaintances.

“Not certain,” his father admitted. “Stephan said Lillian took her out to lunch over the weekend. Her sister’s staying with her. Lillian would certainly never share with me what they discussed, not that I’d want her to betray that confidence. Stephen says she was doing as well as could be expected. I just hope that the press isn’t hounding her the way they did Mentor Bryant this morning. I mean the woman’s been through enough and truthfully, I don’t think she even knows the half of it.” His father gestured back to a printed copy of the credit card charge from the New York Gifted Women’s Clinic.

“Has she filed for separation?” Dan asked.

“To everyone’s shock, no. But as far as I know, Dean’s still has a room at the Holiday Inn.”

“Yeah, well, Fi would bury me under the Holiday Inn. Rightfully so.”

“When she finished with you, then I’d take my turn,” Governor Vindico assured his son.

Pride welled in Dan’s soul as he stared at his old man. Memories of the woman in that photograph seemed like nothing more than two dimensional strikes someone had thrown at his family. He understood what Fionna had been saying for a week. They only held as much power as he gave them.

“Thanks, Dad,” he urged.

His father’s brow furrowed. “For what?”

“For everything,” Dan offered sincerely. “For being a hard-ass on occasion. For not letting me get away with much. For doing this.”

“I never had an affair, Dan.”

“I know.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah. Still want to know who she is but I know.”

“Well, I invited her to your sister’s wedding so maybe you’ll finally get to meet her.”

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