Jim Reid got up at 6am every morning, because he had to. Maybe he slept, maybe he didn't, it made no difference. 6:30am he needed to be showered and ready to go. The coffee needed to be at his desk at no later than 6:35am, because he might have to leave in a hurry if the new messages were important enough.
Coffee had become a problem in recent years. He'd got used to a bit of a caffeine boost, and the good stuff too in instead of the typical office sludge, to the point where his doctor said palpitations on top of ulcers were going to kill him one of these days. He'd cut back to one cup in the morning, plenty of cream and sugar, no extra espresso shot unless he really hadn't touched the sheets in 24 hours, because when that happened he probably had bigger things to worry about than his own impending death.
He was really rather proud of Kato. The guy was one of his best finds. With the things Kato could do, any man who controlled him was in danger of starting to feel invincible. The security system around the Reid house had never been as top-notch. Half of it wasn't even electronic. He could drive his car into the Valley of Death and come out none the worse. The coffee? That had seemed almost too good to be true. Maybe he'd ask the guy for a tractor beam or a levitating spy camera next, see what he'd come up with.
It was one of those mornings. 6:36, he was gulping down the hot liquid, already typing Mike's number on his phone. "Kato, hold on," he said when the guy moved towards the door. "I need the car, ready to go in no less than 10 minutes. I want you to drive."
"Sure," said Kato. Not 'yes, Mr Reid', Jim noticed, but let it slide.
Jim was at the Sentinel all day, every day. He'd expect the car to be there to take him back at 7pm. Didn't matter who drove it, unless he had some reason to worry and wanted Kato especially, in which case he'd have the temp call him up. Didn't bother him what Kato did the test of the day. His job, preferably. Make sure everything was running smoothly. Sit on his ass if he couldn't think of anything else.
It wasn't anything to Jim if the guy chose to spend his free time running back to the mansion and making coffee for a whole barnful of worthless heirs. Still, it was strange. Kato wasn't the fucking chambermaid. If he was entirely honest with himself, Jim felt a little robbed. That boy didn't deserve a cup of coffee like Kato's. Didn't deserve his silk sheets or his expensive suits either, but it was just easier to let him play, most of the time. It was only money, after all. Britt wanted to spend it on hookers instead of charity? Fine. Jim wasn't running for congress any time soon anyway. But this? It was like letting a five-year-old kid fingerpaint on a Rembrandt canvas. It made him sick.
"So, what else do you do? Wipe his ass for him?" he said to Kato that midday when he'd had to run back to the house in the middle of the day and found the guy going into the pool house with the trademark leaf pattern cup of coffee on a tray. "He should try making his own coffee, see how he'd like that." He didn't say anything else, because it was only coffee, after all, and Jim was a busy man.
It was 6:40 and Jim was trying to find his way into the kitchen. He could swear they'd moved the damn thing since a couple of years ago. He saw the light on at the end of a corridor, heard Amelia's voice and followed it.
"...spit in it?" she was saying. "I would."
He could hear the hum of a machine going, probably the dishwasher. He slowed down and approached quietly. Maybe he should have been keeping a closer eye on the help. Amelia was hardly irreplaceable.
"It's just a different kind of bean," came Kato's voice. "I'll switch back in a week or so."
"So it's like, what, negative reinforcement? He's going to get worse coffee if he yells at you?"
"You switch it back right now," said James, coming around the door and throwing the coffee cup on the kitchen floor. It shattered, warm liquid splashing all over the tiling. Amelia jumped back clutching her chest, but Kato just stepped back to avoid the splash.
"You think I wouldn't notice, huh?" Jim shouted, shaking his finger at him. "Did I hire you to do a half-assed job, Kato? You don't fucking punish me. Don't think you're safe just because you've got a visa now. I can always have a little chat with homeland security about what I found in the garage with your fingerprints all over it, inside it. How would you like that?"
They said nothing. Not 'sorry'. Not 'please don't'. Nothing. It made him furious, and he almost raised his hand when Kato stepped back and nodded. It was the barest gesture of submission, but hell, he was too good to lose over this. "All right," Jim said, fighting down his temper. "Kato, make me another cup, and make it right this time. Amelia, clean up this mess."
With that, he turned and walked back into his office. He had a new cup in a few minutes, and drank it while reading his mails. Goddamn Scanlon wanted another meeting.
He saw his son briefly that night when he got home. It was 7:30pm, early for Jim to be in the house, and comparatively late for Britt on a Friday night. Jim caught him hanging around the foyer with a colourful girl and an inebriated boy, already dressed to go out.
"Son, I want a word with you," Jim said and pulled him away by his arm from his so-called friends. He watched, humorless, as Britt tried to cover the gesture, make it into something convivial. Jim didn't give a damn what Britt's friends thought of him.
"What's up, dad? We were just going to, uh. It's an event. For charity."
Look at him, trying. His mother's eyes, damn him. Such a waste. "I want you to stay away from the help, all right?"
Britt looked confused. "What do you mean? I've barely talked to them."
"You got a girl chauffeur?"
Jim snorted a short laugh. "Go to your 'charity event'," he said and shoved Britt back towards his friends. Britt straightened his jacket and gave him a resentful look. Boy should try and take a swing one of the days, Jim thought. Would show he's a man, at least.
Good to have him out of the house, anyway. The meeting with Scanlon was supposed to be clandestine. Less eyes around, the better. Jim checked his watch. Plenty of time.
For once, he could stop and smell the roses.