Covington Harold Armstead - A Mighty Fortress

Author : Covington Harold Armstead
Title : A Mighty Fortress
Year : 2006

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“Be a gentleman tonight, and don’t clip any of the bimbos.” – Bobby Bells Kelly Marie Shipman and William Cody Brock were both born on the same day in June. Both of them lived in Washington state. Both were newly graduated seniors at Hillside High School in Seattle, and both gratefully received welcome birthday presents from their friends and family. For her gift on the day she turned eighteen years old, Kelly received a new car from her proud and doting parents. To celebrate his eighteenth birthday, Cody got to kill a man. Kelly’s birthday began at seven o’clock on a fine summer morning, when she bounded down the stairs of her home in the affluent Seattle suburb of Mercer Island, a bundle of joyful youth and energy and anticipation at the beginning of her life. She was tall and leggy, an athletically perfect blonde teenager with ivory skin, crystalline blue eyes, and a killer smile of capped teeth that had set her father back almost ten grand. He had been able to deduct the dental work as a business expense, since Kelly had been modeling for advertisements and acting in commercials and on local television since she was three years old. The profits she made were scrupulously placed into a special trust for her by her father, who was administrator of the trust but who wasn’t above spending it on his daughter, especially if it gave him a good tax write-off. The Shipman family lived in one of the last remaining small islands of the American dream, in a split-level ranch dwelling located in a gated community which was flawlessly landscaped, well lit, and discreetly fortified against the outside world. The house had six large bedrooms, a swimming pool, a basement rec room containing more sports and games and entertainment gear than the downtown YMCA, and a capacious garage containing at any given time at least four late model motor vehicles, including her father’s prized Ferrari. The house carried a mortgage larger than the municipal debt of some American towns, but the Shipmans could afford it. They were among those lucky Americans who were not only still employed, but very gainfully so indeed. Kelly’s father, Dr. Edward Shipman, was a cardiologist who ran his own clinic and HMO in Seattle. His company provided three essential services: heart attack and stroke recovery, emphysema home care including home oxygen supplies, and out-patient AIDS and HIV care. Dr. Shipman used to remark wryly that “Our clinic cashes in on the three great health disasters of the past hundred years: smoking, AIDS, and the American diet.” He wasn’t joking. With Medicare and Medicaid long gone the way of Social Security, Shipman’s HMO catered only to the dwindling number of Americans who either still had health insurance, or who were sufficiently wealthy to pay for the services of himself and his doctor-partners to keep them alive. Doctor Shipman had also developed a reputation for discretion which brought him a number of special celebrity patients whom he treated for assorted embarrassing conditions in a consulting room tucked away in his home. Kelly’s mom, the elegantly attired and flawlessly presented Marty Shipman, was senior vice president of a major medical supply firm linked with the HMO, and Kelly herself had already brought in more money in her lifetime of modeling and minor acting gigs than some bluecollar workers ever earned in their lives. The American dream was very much alive in the Shipman household. This morning Kelly was attired in spotless, glistening tennis whites. She was holding a covered racket under one arm, while in a tote bag over one shoulder she carried jeans, shoes, and a knitted top. “Tennis this early, Kel?” asked her father, looking up from the breakfast table. Shipman was a tall and distinguished-looking, avuncular man with a suave bedside manner which stood him in good stead with his well-heeled patients. “Tomorrow morning I could see, since you’re going to have a huge birthday dinner to work off,” he continued. “How’s eight o’clock at the Belvedere sound? And you can certainly bring Molly along.” “Why not invite Craig as well?” suggested her mother, referring to Kelly’s intermittent boyfriend. She approved of Craig Crabtree wholeheartedly. Dr. Shipman wasn’t quite so certain. There were one or two dimly perceived warning flags up in his mind regarding young Crabtree, although he couldn’t have explained why. Something in the boy’s manner, a slight oiliness, a few small but definite indications of dishonesty, a little too casual interest in the drugs cabinet in Shipman’s home surgery had put him on his guard where Craig was concerned. Shipman looked at the young beauty at his breakfast table in silent wonder. He knew that she had been a woman for a good while now, and today would make it official. Once again he fought down his panic and his fear at the terrible world she was about to enter, where he could no longer protect her. In the America of this day, to love a child meant quiet, lifelong terror. “Great, Dad! They’ve got a ricotti quiche to die for!” laughed Kelly. “And I already invited Molly to wherever we’re going.” She pointedly did not mention Crabtree, which her father found relieving. Maybe they were having another spat, and maybe this time it would last. He was honest enough to admit to himself that it wasn’t just that he didn’t want his daughter with Craig Crabtree. He didn’t want her with anyone. Not until she was thirty. Or thirty-five. “Well, good, because that’s where we made the reservations,” said her mother, who kissed her daughter’s cheek. “Happy birthday, honey!” “Don’t worry, I’m hitting the court tomorrow as well and every morning for a while,” Kelly told her father as she sat down at the table. “I’ve got a couple pounds I need to drop before they get too comfortable on my butt, so I’m going to get in a couple of sets with Molly before class starts every day. We can change in the locker room.” “Oh, Kel, for heaven’s sake, you are not fat!” exclaimed her mother in exasperation. “The scale decrees otherwise,” replied Kelly. “Manny says I’m now at optimum weight and I need to nip any gain in the bud before it gets to be a problem.” The Emmanuel Skar Agency was representing Kelly’s talent down in Hollywood. ...

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