At bedtime Tutor tells Audrey stories, often tales from memory, tonight one about babes in the wood, a story about trusts, in effect, though also about swindlers and thieves.
"Once upon a time, long long ago, about the time this very Castle was built, back in the Dark Ages, though ours are not that bright, a mom and dad entrusted upon their deathbed a fortune to the mom's uncle, with the proviso that he care for the two kids, a brother and sister. And, if by some chance the two little kids were both to predecease him, the uncle could keep the money." Audrey listens intently. She is learning words like "entrusted," "predecease," and "proviso," picking them up in context. "And so the uncle hired two thieves to take the kids into a dark wood and kill them. The children, only three or four years old, rode off with the thieves on horseback, waving gaily to their uncle, as if they were going to a party. In the woods the first thief prepared to strangle the kids. But the second, feeling sorry for the children, took his knife and cut the first thief's throat." What does Momma, who sits in on story time, think of this horrific tale? Hard to tell; she is in her easy chair, a recliner, with her feet up, relaxing by playing online poker on her iPad. She always seems to win, though for stakes far lower than when she trades foreign currencies, or commodities. She does not seem to be listening. But Audrey is.
"So the second thief says to the kids, 'Stay right here, I will go into town and bring you food and drink!'" Audrey nestles closer. This is a good story tonight. "But days and days went by. And the nights were damp, dark and cold. The second thief never came back." Audrey's little body stiffens. The little boy and girl waited and waited, but he never came back." "Like real Dad," murmurs Audrey. "My Dad never came back. What happened to the kids?" "They waited and waited." "I am waiting," says Audrey. "Then," says Tutor, "they wasted away and died of hunger, and the birds came and buried them under twigs and flowers." Audrey leans into Tutor, stiff. "I love you, kid," he whispers to her. Audrey says, "But you are not Real Dad; I want my Real Dad. You only love me because Momma pays you to." Tutor masters his breathing, sharing her sorrow, her incurable wound. "Momma pays me $15 a week, kid, and payday is every Saturday morning. Here it is Wednesday night, and it is all gone. I bought a six pack in the commissary on Saturday night, and that rope chew toy for Rex. So, you don't get any more love until Saturday, after nine am......You will just have to wait." It is a good answer; Audrey smiles, safe and warm, and her form, with Tutor's arm around her shoulder, relaxes into sleep.
Disentangling himself gently, Tutor rises, his duties done for the day, and passes Momma on his way to the door. Appearances to the contrary, hyper-vigilant Tess, the Warrior Queen of Wall Street, can win high stakes poker against all comers, and also monitor bedtime, every word. Her hand comes up. Tutor is used to that, like one parent passing the baton to the other. But this time in her palm, held by her thumb is a folded up bill, $5? 10? $100? Who knows. Tutor says, "Madam, thank you, but we Morals Tutors to the World's Wealthiest Families are not allowed to take tips. Ours is a noble trade. Besides, I have all that I need and more. Thy need," says the unlikely priest over his shoulder, "is greater than mine...."
Well, yes, The Happy Tutor has mellowed since his days as Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, but when called upon he can still deliver that flash one handed thrashing for which he was once so well known, sought out by Dynastic Wealth Holders, for whom home truth is a bittersweet thrill at market price.