Home > The Fix (The Carolina Connections #1)(3)

The Fix (The Carolina Connections #1)(3)
Author: Sylvie Stewart

Bailey stepped forward. “Props to your cavemen brethren and all, Dad, but you’re forgetting one tiny, important detail,” my younger sister interjected, crossing her arms. “They all lived to the ripe old age of twenty and were about four feet tall.”

“I’ll leave you all to it. Feel better, Mr. Murphy!” The nurse retreated to the hall. I didn’t blame her.

It was time to wrap this shit show up. “All right, Dad, let’s get the hell out of here and get you home.” I put my arm around my mom’s shoulder and gave her a squeeze. She leaned into me with a hesitant smile.

“It’s about damn time,” my dad grumbled.

I couldn’t blame him for his less than chipper mood. If I’d had my chest cracked open days earlier and had to endure a week of bland hospital food and plastic sheets, my disposition would be pretty damn sour too. Is there anyone on earth who doesn’t hate hospitals?

In truth, seeing my old man lying on the bed with his body stuck full of tubes and wires when I’d arrived last week had really done a number on me. His normally robust presence had been completely absent and a frail and extremely, well, mortal looking figure had taken my dad’s place. The shock of it was extraordinary. After that, it had taken very little time for my brain to catch up with my gut. Priorities automatically began to shift in my mind, and decisions that were once complicated and difficult became simple and quite inevitable. I was home, and I was here to stay.

“Soooo,” Bailey began once she and I were seated at the dining table in my parents’ home, the same home we’d both grown up in just outside of Greensboro. The topic at hand? The family business. “What the hell do we do now?”

I brought my hands together on the tabletop as I took in the familiar surroundings, my mom’s small touches noticeable throughout—the Lladro statues lining the sideboard, the dried flowers arranged among the dishes in the china hutch, and a few of Bailey’s paintings hung carefully on the opposite wall. I brought my eyes back to my sister and narrowed them at her. “Not so fast, Bay. I’ve been here a week—don’t think you’re dumping this whole thing on me as if I have all the answers. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and you can’t play your little ‘Oh, I’m such a right brain person so I couldn’t possibly do anything so uncreative and logical’ game. I’ll drag you with me kicking and screaming if I have to.”

“Oh, shut up, you pompous turd!” She slapped at my arm. “Have I complained yet? I’m more than prepared to jump in. I just don’t know where to start. Dad oversees everything, and I mean everything. Nothing is outside the scope of his domain.” She sighed and propped her chin up with her hand. “It’s just a bit overwhelming.”

Bailey and I had spent the last few days running back and forth between our dad’s office and the hospital; we were anxious, overwhelmed, and pretty fucking exhausted.

So even though Bailey is usually a pain in the ass, I regretted my earlier tone and started over. “Okay, I’m sorry. I guess I thought you’d have a better idea than I would of the best course of action here. I’ve been out of the day-to-day picture for a couple years now and you’ve been working steadily with him so I guess I just assumed.” I shrugged.

“Yeah, but I’m the design person. I can put together an interior with my eyes closed, but all the administrative and construction crap is not in my wheelhouse, Nate. I’ll help where I can but …” She offered a super fake smile and lifted her hands up in the air. Classic Bailey—trying to be cute.

“Have I reminded you yet today that you were a mistake?” I asked, because I’m her brother and it’s my job.

“Nate, I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and crap out a better insult than that.”

I laughed. “Okay, that was a good one.”

“I know—I’ve been storing them up since you’ve been away. I’ve missed you, you big asshat.” She pushed my shoulder. “And I’ll do my best to help wherever I can. Deal?”

“Deal.” I pushed her right back and she fell off her chair. “Oops.”

I knew she was right and the bulk of the responsibility would have to fall to me. I’d been working in construction in one aspect or another since I was sixteen and could legally enter a job site. Even before that, I had spent many childhood afternoons on the trailer floor of whatever site my dad was working at the time. I built some pretty stellar houses and skyscrapers and, well, superhero hideouts, using Legos or blocks or whatever else I had on hand.

My dad’s company, Built by Murphy, was founded by his father and was the family’s pride and joy. It was also a legacy my dad made no secret he wished to hand down to his two kids when the time came. Unfortunately, none of us had anticipated that time coming so soon, or so abruptly. Not that any of us were under the illusion that Riordan Murphy would quietly submit to the laid-back life of a retiree just because he had a major heart attack. But he would certainly be taking a step back—or several steps if my mom had anything to say about it. In light of that, someone had to take a step forward, and it looked like I was the only man for the job.

Construction is tough. There’s a reason most movie scenes involving construction sites occur during smoke breaks or lunch breaks. It’s hard to glamorize dirt and concrete dust, let alone try to carry on a conversation through the deafening buzzes and whirs of heavy equipment and power tools. Hard hats and hard work make you sweat and they exhaust you by the end of the day. But then you wipe your filthy face with your even filthier shirt and stand back to take in your work. And that’s when the magic happens, at least for me. The bones of a future house, or the foundation of a parking structure, or even a whole damn building stand before you. And you know that you built that. You helped lay that floor, you smoothed that concrete, you hung that drywall. Your accomplishment is tangible. And, sure, most days you forget to stand back—you’re exhausted and ready to hit the shower or grab a beer, or you have some crappy errand to run. But on the days that you remember, there’s no feeling like it.

I wasn’t reluctant to adopt the actual construction aspect of the company—never had been—but as I’d seen with my dad, the guy who runs the show doesn’t wield a hammer. He spends half his time in meetings and the other half putting out fires. This holds little interest for me and is the main reason I left town a few years back. I didn’t want to get sucked into the business of doing construction. I wanted to do my job, do it well, and at the end of the day just leave it there and get on with whatever the rest of the evening held for me. Taking his work home with him and strategizing to grow a company is what landed my dad in open heart surgery at the age of sixty. No thanks. But what choice did I have?

It all came down to one thing—family. And worse yet, fucking Irish family.

“Come on in,” I beckoned to the kid.

It was the following Monday and I was starting my day at an apartment building we were putting up on the north side of town. I’d spent the weekend at the office and at the company’s various worksites with Bailey, still trying to get up to speed. We had a few new crew members starting this week and it looked like the first one had arrived.

So maybe “kid” wasn’t exactly the right word for the guy standing at the open doorway. He was probably early twenties, and I had only just turned thirty-one myself. But from the looks of his work history that Bailey had passed on to me, I couldn’t think of what else to call him. There was hardly a thing there. What in the hell had this guy been doing since high school?

He stepped toward me in the site trailer, hands in the front pockets of his jeans, a tentative expression clear on his face. He was fairly tall, probably only an inch or two shorter than my 6’2” and I suppose he looked strong enough. Bailey did mention the stellar character references she’d gotten from a couple of the guy’s former baseball coaches, I think. At any rate, something made her give him a shot, so I figured I’d just go with it. The kid didn’t know shit about construction, that was clear, but that didn’t bother me per se. At this point, I just needed all the extra hands I could get, and as long as we kept a close eye on him, he could learn a lot of what he needed to know on the job. Nothing like trial by fire.

“Monroe, right?” I asked him.

“Yeah, that’s me. Gavin Monroe.”

“Nate Murphy.” I stuck out my hand.

He took it and gave it a firm shake. “Nice to meet you. And, uh, thanks for the job. You won’t be disappointed.”

“Well, I guess that remains to be seen, Gavin.” His Adam’s apple bobbed but he held my eyes. This could work out fine after all. “Follow me and I’ll show you around. You’ll have to pardon me—I’m still trying to get up to speed on all these open projects, but I’m assuming my sister told you all about that when she interviewed you?”

“Yeah, she did. I hope your dad’s doing better.”

“He’s hanging in there, thanks.” I handed the kid a hard hat as I donned my own by the door of the trailer. “You bring a pair of work gloves with you?”

“No, sir.” The uncertain look was back.

“We’ll find you a pair.” I took a step down the stairs. “I’m assuming those boots are steel toed.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yes, sir.”

“All right, come on, I’ll introduce you to Mark. He’s the foreman on this job and he’ll get you squared away. Not sure if you’ll stay on this site or not but we’ll play it by ear.” I strode toward the closest building, not waiting to see if the kid followed. “And cut the ‘sir’ crap!” I raised my voice over the buzz of a power saw. “You work hard and do your job and save the manners for your mom.”

Chapter Three

The But Sandwich


“Soooo hungry,” Gavin whined like the little baby he is. He was stretched out on the sofa with his hands cradling his stomach and his sweaty shirt sullying the upholstery.

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