Protecting David-Finding Christopher 14
When we were landing at Logan I was trying to remember if I had ever been to Boston before but I was coming up blank. One thing though, you couldn’t have the airport in a more convenient place to downtown.
There was a car waiting for me and Mr. Tam’s organization had sent someone along to take Mei’s place. I wanted her to stay with Chris and Larry and make sure that they were okay. On the one hand I didn’t really think that I needed anyone guarding me. After all, no one really knew that I was going to be here except for a tiny handful of people. But for all the logic of that I’ve never been really free from what happened in California. I guess that maybe I never will be.
Before they opened the door Mike asked me what time I thought I’d be back and I told him I was clueless but that I’d give him as much notice as possible. Karen said that they’d be sure something good for dinner was on board just in case I didn’t have time for it in the city.
As soon as the door was open Mr. Tam’s guy poked his head through the door, looked at me and said, “Mr. Chauvet-Kerry?”
I held out my hand. “That would be me.”
He shook my hand and said, “My name’s Gary and we’re ready any time you are, Sir.” I really don’t feel like a Sir.
It being Sunday, traffic was pretty light and we were pulling up to the hotel in no time at all but when we got there Richard was out front on the sidewalk pacing back and forth. He spotted the limo and I guess figured it was me and headed towards us even before we stopped.
Gary was sitting in the front seat and I could see that he had his eye on Richard. He turned back to me and asked, “Is that man known to you, Sir?”
I laughed. “Yeah, Gary, that’s Richard he works for me.” Richard was just dressed in charcoal gray slacks and a blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He looked harried.
Richard had the door open while we were still moving. He grabbed my arm and pulled me out.
“Alex, that she-wolf from hell you sent is gonna screw up this deal!!”
“So fire her.”
He seemed to freeze, looked at me for a moment and said, “I can do that?”
“It’s your deal, Richard. Just make sure I’m protected.”
“Whadya mean, protected?”
“Just the usual. Make sure that they’re gonna do what they say. Maybe you need a lawyer for that and maybe you don’t. It’s your call. You tell me that you’re happy with me just writing a check in exchange for stock certificates, that’s what I’ll do.”
He shook his head. “You are such a shit, Alex. That just puts more pressure on me!”
I grinned at him. “I know you’re up to it buddy.”
“Fuck! Are you gonna come up there and help me do this or not?”
I laughed. “You mean you want me to be responsible for my own money?”
He made a disgusted face. “Okay, so maybe we’ll use the she-wolf a little bit.”
As we were getting into the elevator I asked him about Darleen.
He covered his face with his hands and shook his head. “Damn that woman can be mean! She hates it when I drink and she never says anything at the time, she always waits until I’m hung over before tearing me a new asshole.”
“Get her pregnant and she’ll have other stuff to think about. Besides, you almost never drink.” But he was already thinking of the meeting.
“Alex, when we get in there you gotta defuse the situation. She’s got these guys spooked and on the defensive. If any one of em was to say, “Let’s get outta here” they’d all be gone in a flash. They’re not used to this.”
“Okay, Richard, you’re their hero and let’s keep it that way. Once we’re in there and settled you tell me in front of them that we’ve gotta make this simpler, word it any way you want. I’ll go along with you and they won’t forget it.”
Gary had slipped ahead of us to the door of the suite and he held out his hand to Richard.
“Could I have the key, Sir?”
Richard looked at me and then at Gary and then handed him the key. This was the correct procedure. Gary would look in and then call me in. Mei didn’t do that very much because it really wasn’t necessary and she knew that I hated it. Gary didn’t know that and you gotta let people do their job.
When we finally got in the room there were six guys all about my age practically cowering at one end of the room while an attractive red headed youngish woman was trying to talk to them. When she turned to greet me I recalled Connie’s word…aggressive, it was written all over her face.
She held out her hand and I took it. She said, "You must be Mr. Kerry’s son."
"I am that. Call me Alex" Her eyes were green and her hands were cool.
She stepped over to the table and picked up some papers. "These are some of the things that we've been discussing." One of the men sitting at the sofa started to get up looking as if he wanted to say something. She glanced over at him and then said to me. "We haven't quite managed to come to agreement on everything."
Richard grabbed my elbow and steered me over to the guys saying, “Alex, lemme introduce you to these guys.”
Six guys, pretty much all of them dressed in blue jeans and dress shirts stood up. They actually looked relieved to see me.
After the introduction Carlos said, “We’ve got one more guy coming. Mr. Casteel. But he oughta be here any second.”
I glanced at Richard and he gave me a clueless look. But then Carlos added, “He’s kinda been advising us on the financial end of things.” He gestured towards the other men. “We’re all pretty good at what we do, the science end of things but none of us are all that great at the accounting and financial stuff. Henry, that’s Mr. Casteel, has been helping us get that straight.” Somehow the name Casteel sounded like it should be familiar.
I asked him, “How many employees do you have now?”
“We’re up to twenty. That’s the hardest part is managing a lot of people. It just takes and incredible amount of time. They’re all really great employees and a lot of em even have bought stock but it’s just dealing with all the usual human things.” I was remembering what my dad said about getting a human resource person.
“Do you have anyone that just deals with human resource issues?”
“No, Alex, we’ve pretty much just all been doing it. We really can’t afford it. I mean we could have gotten someone with kinda lameass experience but nobody who was really a pro.”
There was a knock on the door which Gary answered. He turned to us raised an eyebrow and asked, “Expecting a Mr. Casteel?”
Mr. Casteel was a plump five feet eight inches tall and about sixty years old. His hair was white and his eyes were a clear bright blue. He was dressed impeccably. He smiled, lifted an exuberant white eyebrow and extended his hand. “You must be Mr. Chavet-Kerry.”
He laughed. “In my experience this is the moment when a well meaning business acquaintance shows up and destroys the deal just to show how smart he is.” He squeezed my hand. “Let me assure you that I have no intention of doing that.” There was something very charming about this man and it wasn’t just the words.
“Mr. Casteel, why do I feel that I should know you?”
“Oh…well, I was in all the papers a few years back. Maybe that’s it. The Wall Street Journal ran my picture with the unfortunate caption, “Collateral Damage.”
“Oh my God! You’re that guy!”
He laughed. “Guilty as charged. Although it wasn’t the best reason to get your name in the Journal.”
“Well…how have you been doing since then? I mean….”
He grinned. “You mean, for a living?” I nodded.
“Well, once I got those creditors paid off there actually was a little bit left. Not much God knows but some. And I never did put my house here in Cambridge at risk so I always had a place to live.”
I laughed and shook my head. “My dad actually called me and told me to read that article. You impressed the crap outta him.”
“Well if I had known that I’d have hit him up for a job.”
“It’s not too late. Seriously he’d……”
He held up his hand. “I’m too old. Oh, maybe not theoretically but practically. I wouldn’t be able to stand working in an office with a bunch of young bucks. This sort of thing is more my style. A few hours here and there and I get to employ such wisdom as may be rattling around in my tired old brain.”
“Well, I guess that we should get this done but afterwards I’d really like to talk to you.” Cassie seemed to slowing circling us like she was trying to pick the right moment to move in.
Henry said, “Let me round up the guys and we can get down to business.”
I signaled Cassie to meet me over in the corner for a meeting.
Standing in the corner facing each other Cassie squared her shoulders and licked her lips.
“Cassie, I looked at your list and we’re not going to get all of that but we will get the things that I really want. Once we sit down with the boys Richard is going to tell me that we need to simplify this deal. When he does that I’m going to agree with him.” She looked ready to combust until I said, “Would you be available to serve on the board along with Richard, representing me?”
She blinked three times inhaled and said, “Why? I mean your pretty much ignoring what I’ve suggested, why do you want me on the board?”
I grinned at her. “You unnerve them. Now that’s not something that I would ordinarily feel was a good thing but I’ve already got Richard being a pal to them. I want someone on the board that keeps them on their toes.”
She laughed and for the first time I could really see how attractive she was. “Okay, I guess I underestimated you. Sure I’ll do it but you’re entitled to another board member.”
“I want Henry Casteel. I’m going to try and get him to ride to the airport with me when I leave and hopefully I can make him an offer he won’t refuse.”
“But he just had that failed company didn’t he? Why would you want him?”
“He had actually sold his company. He was figuring on retirement but the guy that bought it was a crook and drove it into bankruptcy on purpose and was in the process of screwing all of his creditors. Henry had his money and could have just let it be but he bought the company back and paid off every creditor. He said they were all people who had been with him from the beginning and he didn’t want them hurt. Plus, because it was a trading company his international connections are the best. I’ve got plans for him, if he’ll do it.” I didn’t tell her about the report that my dad had on him.
“Wouldn’t some young Harvard MBA be a better long-term bet?”
I shook my head. “Not for what I want him for. Plus, just look at him. If he’d been a hard charging young Harvard MBA all of your defenses would be up but the charming old Henry has got a brain no new guy is gonna have. There isn’t much left for you to do in this negotiation but just watch Henry. I’ve got a feeling you’ll be surprised.”
Later, on the way back to the airport with Henry.
“Alex, I guess that I’m just not sure what you want me to do.”
“Well, Henry, immediately I’d like you to represent me on the board of this company but there are other companies where I’d like you to do the same thing for me. There are also cases where I might just want you to go to a place, absorb the culture and get an idea of what’s going on, business wise mostly and then fill me in.”
“I’m not particularly well known but my dad is and if I show up people either become guarded or they’re trying to figure out how to separate me from my money. I guess, more than anything, I want you to be my eyes and ears.”
There would be travel involved, maybe a lot but all that would be covered and I would expect you to go first class.”
He sighed and then grinned. “I do love to travel. How much does it pay?”
“A hundred grand to start. Then, let’s see what it develops into. Oh and you keep whatever you get for being on the boards. This company doesn’t pay anything yet but that can be the first thing you change and in some cases it’ll be a lot. I’ve already told Richard that same thing. I have three other boards that I’m thinking of for a start. Oh and I’d want you to start up a company to…well, hide is the wrong word but maybe, “obscure” our relationship. Some sort of consulting company or investment advisory company would be fine.”
He shook his head. “That’s a hard offer to refuse, Alex.”
“I’m hoping you won’t.”
“Give me twenty-four hours.”
“You’ve got it.”
It had been a good day and profitable in more ways than one but it was eight o’clock now and I was tired and hungry. Seeing the plane sitting there with its lights slowly flashing and Karen standing at the bottom of the steps I felt relieved.
I told the driver to take Henry anyplace that he wanted to go and then turned in my seat to face him. “You’ve got my number.”
Henry was nodding. “I’m sure it’ll be in the affirmative, Alex but I’d like to discuss it with my daughter first. She’s the only one left to worry about and I just want to let her know that it won’t be anything that’d put too much strain on me.”
“Henry, I promise that we’ll take good care of you and if you’d like me to speak to your daughter I’d be happy to.”
The moment that I stepped into the plane the engines began to turn. I stuck my head through the cockpit door.
“Guys doin okay?”
Both Mike and Jared turned in their seats and waved at me while Karen took my briefcase and put it next to the seat I liked.
I dropped heavily into the seat as the plane began moving. Karen placed a printed menu down in front of me with what was available for dinner. I wondered how she could always have a printed menu for these things but decided that I should probably just enjoy it and not over analyze it.
I handed her back the menu and said, “I got a feeling that you and I like the same kind of food. Gimme whatever you like.”
“Alex, if it was me I’d be starting with a Sapphire Martini.”
“Oh God I love you, Karen! Yeah, do that!”
Moments later we were tearing ass into the southeastern sky. We climbed steadily to forty-two thousand feet while we were turning slightly to the southwest.
Dinner was some fabulous stuffed chicken breast affair that was maybe one of the better meals that I’ve ever eaten and afterwards I started going through emails, most of them from Connie.
Gerhardt had three hotels that he thought I might be interested in. I told Connie to tell him yes. There was no point in double checking him, his organization was too good. It would be a waste of time and money.
Connie wanted to know if I wanted our house and grounds decorated for Christmas. That seemed odd it being so far away but then she pointed out that we had Chris now and she had this remarkable company that did everything, inside and out but you had to order now. Again I told her yes.
And on and on it went. When I was done with her email to me I gave her a full report on the meeting today and asked her to prepare for the possibility that Henry Casteel would be working for us and that she should cut Richard a commission check. It would be a big check but then there weren’t many people who could put these deals together and money was a good motivator.
We landed at Palm Springs at about eleven and Mei met the plane.
“Was good trip?”
“Yeah great! Did everyone have fun at Disney?”
She grinned. “Chrisofer wear out everyones. They all sleeping like dead. All cept Chrisofer. He pretend to sleep but he up waiting for you so don be surprise when you see him. He in big living room curled up in red chair. You eat or need food?”
“I ate on the plane, I’m fine. Did everyone else have a good time?”
“Your dads had great time. They love being wiv Chrisofer. Larry had good time too but I can tell he miss you.”
I laughed. “How can you tell?”
She shook her head slowly. “I dunno, just look he get.” She laughed. “He look like lovesick bull.”
The house was completely still except for the loud ticking of a huge clock in the foyer. Mei went upstairs to bed and I slipped off my shoes and walked into what we’d been calling the living room. It was a huge room probably twenty-five feet by forty feet that faced the terrace; the furniture divided it into several areas. The red chair that Mei had mentioned turned out to be a really large wingback that was turned in such a way that you couldn’t see if anyone was in it.
Chris had fallen asleep and had pulled a large throw pillow over himself apparently to keep warm. He looked like an angel but then I guess that all kids do, especially when they’re sleeping.
I hated to wake him but I touched his shoulder and his eyes snapped open in the kind of instantly awake way of someone who needed to be on guard.
I ignored the fear and whispered, “How come you’re out here?”
He blinked and swallowed and then said, “Larry fell asleep. I mean I know you wanna be with him but he’s asleep. He won’t even know you’re there. So’s it okay if I tell ya about today?”
“Chris, it’d be okay even if Larry was awake.” I held out my hand to him. “But let’s do it in your room. You should be under the covers. I don’t want you catching a cold.”
We walked to his room and I got him tucked in but he was bursting to talk. I layed down next to him but on top of the covers and as soon as I did he said, “Before I forget, what time do ya think we’ll be home tomorrow?”
“I dunno, Chris. Well, it’s about four hours and if we leave at nine or so we’ll be there at one o’clock eastern time which is ten o’clock Denver time. So like ten.”
“Are we gonna do anything?”
“Well, I hadn’t really thought about it but I need to stop by the shelter and then I should take you to my office and have you meet Connie.”
“She works for me, does everything really. You need to meet her.”
“So if I wanted to go someplace in the city it’d be okay?”
“Well, sure. Where do you need to go?”
“Ah, I just need to check on something.”
“Yeah. When I was…well, you know, before I knew you, I had to hide something, so nobody’d get it and I check on it whenever I can…I just wanted to check on it again…make sure it’s okay. Could I do that? It wouldn’t take long, just a couple a seconds.”
I knew he was lying. It was a little boy lie, the kind that you tell and you think you’re being so subtle that nobody would ever know but in fact almost any adult would know you were lying. But I also knew that it must be important.