1. Quid Pro Quo


    Date: 9/26/2016, Categories: Reluctance, Author: Burquette, Source: LushStories

    When I got to the bookstore, everyone was in a tailspin. Liz and Brian looked fearful and wouldn't answer when I said good morning to them; they just stocked the mysteries as if their life depended on it. Pauline was white as paper while she worked the register; her usually cheery lips in a grim line. And Sue, who spent six hours out of eight talking to her boyfriend on the phone, was studiously doing inventory in the children's section. I wondered if the weirdness had anything to do with the smattering of reporters outside. Only Derek spoke to me on my way back to the employee lounge. "Bette sold the bookstore," he whispered. "No, she didn't," I said. Bette and I had been best friends for more than a decade. I was the first person she hired. If she sold her life's work, the business she loved, I was very sure I would have gotten a phone call. "She did. This morning," Derek said. I looked at him. He was pale. "Did she tell you that?" "Yeah." I wasn't going to ask him anything else. I had to go to the source. I walked into the Bette's office. There was a cardboard box on her desk and her back was to me. "Why did Derek just tell me that you sold the bookstore?" I asked. She turned. Her face was red and puffy. Her eyes were bloodshot. "Oh, my God," I said. "You did. What happened?" Her lip trembled. "I didn't have a choice. He knew about the porno." I blinked at her. "Wait. What? The porno you made when you were eighteen? There were only like fifty copies made and only in ...
    VHS." "He owns the production company that bought the rights back in the late nineties. He's threatening to make it digital and re-release it" "He, who?" "Charles Fucking DeWitt." Clearly, I had woken up in an alternate universe. One where Bette Turner gave two shits about a porno she made twenty years ago and where womanizing, real estate moguls make power moves to buy privately owned bookstores. "First of all, who cares about the porno?" "My eighty year old father sure would. Fucking DeWitt promised to send him a copy." "Jesus. Why?" Her eyes dropped to the floor. "I dated him a zillion years ago and I cheated on him." "You dated Charles DeWitt and cheated on him?" "With his best friend, Rob." "Shitty of you, but still, hardly worth all of this fuss." She still didn't look at me. "I married Rob. Charles told me at the wedding that if I ever hurt him, I would pay." I stared at her, knowing perfectly well that none of her three marriages had ended well. There was infidelity in all three, sometimes on both sides but always on Bette's. "So, Little Prick DeWitt is here this morning when I get in, tells me about the porno, tells me he knows that I poured my heart into this business, and then tells me he's going to take it from me and sell it off piece by piece. Tells me payback's a bitch." "After twenty fucking years. Are you kidding me?" "That's what I'm saying." "This is some bullshit, Bette." She loaded a couple more of her things into a box. "He told me to send my manager to him ...
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