All in all, I think my first day went remarkably well. Jervis was headed in my direction. Good thing I had Patsy send that intercept call directly to his personal cell. I knew that would stop him on the spot. Jervis couldn’t handle more than one issue at a time.
I pulled the Porsche out onto Shelbyville Road and headed downtown. As one of the major shopping areas in town, it was a constant start and stop of traffic. I understood why the office was convenient here, but I would far rather stay in the country.
One of my favorite hangouts was a little bar called Joe’s, tucked beneath the Third Street Bridge. It pre-dated the first Derby and if you looked around, you might think you’d stepped back to that time. The patrons were strictly old money. The attire de rigueur was baggy wool, combatting plaids and a cap that had been properly mashed beneath a hoof on some muddy track. Presidents had been determined here and influence reeked from the age-scented bodies. It was a world where there was no longer any need to impress one another and certainly anyone who wasn’t there didn’t enter their minds. Almost without exception, the ancestors of these craggy faces with their bushy eyebrows and yellowed teeth had come ashore still respecting their King. They’d been sent on a mission to lay claim to the virginal America before the peasants could learn to build a split-railed fence.
This was the battlefield of Kentucky Colonels; a world that ate burgoo and drank juleps made with Bardstown bourbon. It was a world where a small man was not a runt, but a possible jockey. Here a man’s wealth was measured by the acres of bluegrass he’d fenced and the institution that was the Stockyards Bank. Their Derby boxes had been handed down through the generations and their names were like bloodlines; carefully selecting fillies as brood mares for their offspring. Need I add that it was an unspoken rule that women weren’t invited?
I go there from time to time, just to be alone and free of the need to acquire a bed partner for the night. There was a certain stress release that came with entering that unmarked door; a place that smelled of the manure trod in beneath boots that had so recently surveyed the paddocks.
I remember the day when the IRS deemed horse breeding to be a hobby and no longer a tax deduction. It certainly approximated the stock market crash in the 30s, and served to winnow out the new money—those who were in horses as dollar investments. Those who remained had coffers and lineage. These were the men I admired; if not simply for their lack of innovation, as much as for their endurance. These were my people. These were the untouchables.
It was dark, cool and devoid of cologne; factors which made it perfect. I could leave my charm, as well as my insolence at the door. This also meant that I could leave in whatever condition I drank myself into—and nothing would be said. My father never came in here. He said he preferred to do his drinking in his study with guests. I wasn’t sure but I suspected there was something a little gray in his past he didn’t like to be reminded of. This was the kind of place where the walls chastised your conscience; words or looks weren’t necessary. So far I had managed to stay undetected but I was fairly sure all that was about to change. I just never expected how it would come about.