Trouble in the Camp – Chapter 5
Tony was just settling in for the daily routine when his mother phoned. He greeted his mother warmly and waited to hear what she had to say.
“Tony your father has been having chest pains but was foolish enough to start dressing for the office. I phoned the ambulance while he was dressing, and they are here at home now. They say he must go to hospital, and I insisted he do that, but he has been huffing and puffing about it. I’ll drive to the hospital behind the ambulance and see what the doctor says then phone you. He was to have a meeting with the office interns this morning as a couple of them got their CPA results and have qualified and that means they may be looking for opportunities for a partnership somewhere so please meet with them for the regular meeting he has with the interns and care for any issues that arise.”
Tony was torn. He had a good relationship with his parents and had been concerned about his father’s obvious decline for months. This couldn’t come at a worse time as they were already overstretched and if the Colthorp account was to be grasped, he’d be over his capacity to handle the workload. He pressed the intercom button on his phone and Stella picked up her phone.
“Stella, we have a problem. Can you reschedule my appointments for the day and then come into my office for consultation?”
He then looked at the internal telephone listing and phoned the interns one by one asking they meet him in the staff room in half and hour. He was just finishing the last call when Stella made an entrance.
The Colthorp woman has been phoning and insists she needs an urgent appointment with you this afternoon. I told her you were cancelling all appointments for the day, but she says it is an emergency that affects their business and needs urgent attention, and she needs professional advice. It can’t wait. She tried to phone you direct but your phone has been engaged. Reception referred her to me because of that. I told her I’d get back to her.”
“Stella, Dad has been taken to hospital with suspected heart attack, so I have to take his meeting with the interns in half an hour and am not sure what is going to come out of that. Did you know Charles and Ben received word they’d passed their CPA requirements and are eligible for entry into the register of practitioners. We have a list of hopefuls who’ve been asking for work so we may need to do some quick interview work in case Charles and Ben decide to move on now. Dad did all that work. Ben will be a great loss as he’s built most of the new clients since his time with us. Both these men have filled in for us in the country practices when the principals are on holidays, so they are well acquainted with our branch work too.”
“You’re going to be very busy. What do I tell the Colthorp woman?”
“Explain our predicament to her and try and find out what this urgent matter is as I have to go and meet with the interns on behalf of Dad. If it’s an urgent problem, I’ll phone to see how we can help now that we’re responsible for their corporate audit and advice which will bring us a lot of money. Though with Dad potentially out of the way for a while and the possibility of the loss of one or two of our auditors and corporate advisors I’m not sure how we will handle extra work now.”
After the regular meeting was complete and assignments confirmed for the coming month and Tony had acknowledged the advancement of Charles and Ben all went back to their offices to put their plans into effect and Charles and Ben lingered. Each asked for a private appointment with Tony as their appointment with his father was naturally cancelled due to hospitalization. Tony sensed more problems to deal with.
“Which of you would like to come to the office with me now and sort out your personal concerns and then I’ll call the other one immediately that interview is complete.”
Charles spoke first. “I’ll take the first appointment if that’s OK with you Ben?” Ben shrugged and headed for his office.
Back in the office Charles informed that he’d be looking for a partnership somewhere and realizing that was not the way this office did things being a father and son operation he’d be seeking that opportunity somewhere else so perhaps Tony should look over the list of those seeking an internship and replace him. He was prepared to give a three-month notice. Tony thanked him for his consideration and expressed appreciation for the very professional service rendered to the firm of Edwards and Son. Tony then phoned Ben and soon Stella was ushering him into the office.
“Stella, could you contact the list of interns applying for work here and set up an interview for each of them if they are still interested in an internship. Some may already have found placements.”
He turned to Ben. “I suppose you’re ready to move on too Ben now you have your CPA acceptance?”
“Actually, I’d like to put a proposal to you Tony. You know our history. My dad worked for a law firm here in town when he first qualified in law, so I did some of my early education in the city and was a couple of years behind you in elementary school and early high school before dad took us to the city where he did more intensive studies and worked his way up to first teaching then an appointment as barrister then a judge. He wanted me to follow that profession just as your dad wanted you to take over this business eventually. But I rebelled and fell out of favor with him because I had an interest in accounting as a profession. Your father was kind enough to give me a chance here and I’ve enjoyed the work very much. You know Jill one of our data input workers? Well as soon as I learned about my CPA grant, I asked Jill to marry me, and she said yes. We’ve been going together for a while now. I’d like to buy in here as a partner. I told my dad as soon as I learned of my successful bid to be a CPA and to my surprise, he was excited about that and my intended marriage and offered to give me the money to buy either a home or practice as a wedding present. I’d like to buy into this practice if you’ll have me as I like the whole set up and the way you do business. I’m particularly interested in growing the branch offices.”
Tony thought quickly. His father would have to slow down practicing that is if the doctors would even let him continue to work in a high stress operation. They needed to add permanent experienced persons to take the top load and be mentors to the recurring interns that came and went. Ben was eminently qualified to take some of that load.
“Ben I’m certainly interested but will have to run it by my father as he is the one who built the business and I want to respect that. Stay here as I need to make a quick phone call while you’re here. He consulted the internal phone list and punched in the number chosen.
“Jill, could you come to my office now please?”
Ben looked up in surprise and turned to watch the door as Jill crept in nervously. She’d never been into this office before as Stella was her contact for work assignments. She looked at Ben seated there and relaxed.
Tony chuckled at her nervousness. “I wanted to congratulate the both of you on your engagement personally Jill. Ben as soon as my father is well enough to communicate, I’ll let you know the answer to your proposal, but it is certainly favored by me.”
Tony stepped out of the office. “Stella what’s the story on Anita Colthorp.”
“She was very reticent to give me much detail, but she said the matter is very serious and it’s a legal matter. You’d better give her a call as it seems I won’t get much more out of her than that.”
Tony went back to the office and phoned Anita’s cell phone. She responded immediately and he could tell from the tone of her voice that she was upset.
“Tony, do you remember that man my brother bought back from the US with him? He is making a bid for buy in to our business and with my brother’s support too. There’s a document he’s handed to my father to sign showing our willingness to negotiate with his company in the US. He’s painted a rosy picture of the future and how we will become rich and an international player with them as a partner. My father gave me the document to look over and this guy has been trying to sweet-talk me with my brother’s encouragement. I can understand most contracts, but this is beyond me and I’m nervous about any international agreements unless we are on top of what an agreement will lead to.”
“Who is your lawyer Anita and what kind of business has he done for you in the past?”
“Old man Smythe is a couple of doors down the street from you. My dad has been working with him since I was a child. He does our property conveyancing work and work contracts and works with the regional government office in Brownsville on our behalf where needed.”
“Anita, we know him and frankly this document you describe needs someone with a lot more experience in matters like this. “The firm we deal with is headed up by a friend I grew up with who spent time with an international law firm before coming back to Brownsville as he missed the rural atmosphere. If you can get the document to me today, I’ll see if I can get my friend to look it over as it’s probably something I’d need to consult with him on in any case.”
“Tony this man knows dad gave me the document and he’s hanging around watching me. I don’t feel safe. I can’t trust my brother in this matter as I think he genuinely thinks this will benefit us. This is beyond dad and I’m afraid my brother will sway him before I have a chance to check the document for dangers. I love this place and don’t want to see our family sacrifices over the years thrown to the wolves.”
Tony’s mind went into overdrive. His stress levels were high already because of his father’s condition and the news he’d had of the potential loss of top workers when he needed them and training of a new crop of interns. He thought of this crisis Anita faced and a troublesome thought came into his mind. If there was a plot being hatched that would affect the family and Anita was perceived as a block to the goal of this foreign company and if what Anita had told him was true, they were a predatory corporation sucking in competitors they may feel the end justifies the means. They wouldn’t dare do anything to her on the property. They wouldn’t have influence with anyone who could do her harm in this area. Maybe an accident would put her out of the decision-making equation?
“You told me your Porsche was giving you a little grief and you were going to have it looked at?”
“I picked it up this morning from our workshop and it seems to be OK now.”
“Who worked on your car.”
“I don’t know. One of the mechanics I suppose.”
“What vehicle have you been using?”
“One of our jeeps.”
“Try and shake this guy off somehow, get into that jeep and head here immediately with the document so I can get it to my friend and ask him for an urgent appraisal looking for clauses buried in the middle of the document that could be a danger to your family holding. Do not use the Porsche. This is a difficult time for me as my father has just been taken to hospital with suspected heart attack and I’m waiting for word as to his condition. So, I’ll do my best for you, but I have urgent problems here to attend to also.”
“I’m so sorry about your father Tony. “I’ll shake this guy off somehow and use the jeep as you’ve suggested. You’ve really frightened me with that thought.”
“If I’m not here for any reason give the document to Stella. She is my right hand and absolutely trustworthy.”
The Takeover Bid = Chapter 6
Stella opened the door to the office. “You mother is trying to reach you can I switch you through from my office?”
Tony nodded and waited for the ring tone then picked up the phone. “What’s the situation Mum?”
“They stabilized your dad and have finished the tests. It’s not a positive report and they feel he needs to be transported to the capital for open heart surgery. I told them to go ahead with arrangements. They feel there’s good chance for recovery, but he will be out of the office for a long period of time and if I have my way, I’ll see he retires and enjoys a must less stressful life from now on. He wants you to attend to what must be done there now you’re taking on his work as well.”
“Do you need someone to take you to the capital and see you settled while dad has his operation, and you can be close by?”
“I’m perfectly capable of driving myself young man! I’ll be staying with my cousin there while fathers in hospital and when he can be released to our local doctor’s care here, I’ll drive him home.”
“Is dad able to talk with me?”
“I’m by his bed now and he’s wide awake and fussing so yes you can talk with him as long as it’s not a stressful problem.” She handed the cell phone over to her husband.
“Is everything ticking along well son?” His father’s voice was more subdued than usual.
“Yes, dad I won’t keep you long but there’s something I need your agreement on. With you gone and some of our recently qualified interns leaving one of them Ben would like to buy into our accounting practice, and I highly recommend we welcome him because our business is expanding rapidly, and I can’t handle the administration without top level help. Ben is one of the best we’ve had over the years, and I want to keep him, but he wants some form of buy in not employment.”
“Son the business is yours now so do what you think will keep things going smoothly and you have my blessing. Looks like I’ll have a very diminished role when I come out of this if I can manage even that. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be back home soon.” The line disconnected.
Stella was still standing there listening. “Call Ben I need to talk with him urgently.”
Soon Ben was striding into Tony’s office behind Stella. “Ben my dad welcomes your request to become associated with us in some way. There’s too much going on right now to work out the details but for the time being you can count on us working something out. Right now, I want you to take over the branch offices oversight. The guys in charge know their stuff so it just needs regular visits to keep in touch and assess potential for expansion or seeing if head office can help with corporate problems, they’re not familiar with. Some of them are clamoring for a partnership deal rather than employment and some want to buy us out in the country towns they serve, and we’ll have to investigate whether that serves our interests in that they act as a feeder into our network of client base we’re ultimately responsible for. I’m planning on a rethink in the way we organize the whole organization too, but we can talk about that when I have less pressure than I have now. In the event something happens to my dad that dictates I rush to the capital you will be in charge. Stella is the one who has a handle on everything here so you should listen to her before acting.”
There was a commotion outside, and Stella went outside to check. Anita Colthorp was arguing with their receptionist.
“Can I help you Ms. Colthorp?” Stella didn’t like the woman but forced herself to be polite.
“Mr. Edwards told me to get here as fast as I could, but your receptionist says I can’t get in without an appointment.”
Stella soothed the receptionist and beckoned for Anita to follow. Tony took the thick document and scanned through it quickly. He took out his cell phone and looked at his contact list finding the appropriate number then hit on the number. It was his lawyer friend’s personal number, but his assistant answered.
“Mr. Benjamin is with a client now and asked me to take the call. Who am I speaking to?”
“This is Tony Edwards and I urgently need to speak with him, when is he available to take a call?”
There was a pause on the line, but Tony could hear the conversation between the assistant and his boss. He heard his friend apologize to his client and then take the phone.
“Tony I’m with a client but my assistant says you have an urgent matter to discuss. I take my lunch at the Brown Jug Café near our office. Meet me there at 12.30 and we can talk while I eat.”
“Thank you, Clive, see you then.” Tony went to his desk and began to scan through the document there was a lot of fine print to wade through. The worry about his father’s condition was clouding his mind so he put it aside. He turned to Anita.
“I’ve got a few things to do Anita so will take this document with me when I meet Clive at the Brown Jug Café at 12.30. I suggest you join us there so you can hear firsthand his views.”
Anita nodded. “Thanks Tony, I’ll go visit my aunt and be there for the consultation on time. I really appreciate you taking the time to protect our interests despite the unhappy turn of events with your father’s impending surgery. I’m really sorry to be troubling you at this time.” She quickly left and Stella glowered at her as she went.
Clive looked at his watch as both Tony and Anita walked through the door of the cafe. Right on time. He ate his food as he scanned through the document speed reading. Tony marveled at how he could do that as he tended to dwell on every word in a document like that seeking its import. Clive ignored them as he read and ate. Finally, he paused and looked up after cleaning up with the napkin provided.
“So, you are contemplating selling the controlling interest in your cattle pedigree business to this foreign group and they will be appointing an administrator. You will be removing your horse pedigree business to another site. We would have to look at the government’s attitude to a foreign transaction like this. Of course, this is only an expression of intent and not a binding contract, but if you sign it then it would open you up to possible litigation should you refuse to follow through after signing. I will have to study the fine print more carefully to see what other issues are involved. Did you want to engage our services to follow through with this and protect you in the event of legal considerations?”
Anita was dumbfounded. “We would never agree to such a proposition and it’s not the way it was explained to my father. Could we ask you to write what you just told me is your initial interpretation of the document on your law office letterhead so I can share this with my father and bill us for your time? I will definitely retain you if we are thinking of moving ahead for this or a modified proposal.”
Clive picked up his phone and dictated rapidly into the recording app, then pressed send and selected his assistant’s phone. Then he phoned his assistant. “I’ve just sent you a message. Please put what I’ve dictated on a letterhead and in half an hour a Ms. Colthorp will pick it up from the reception desk. Just bill her the nominal fee on the schedule.”
Then he got up and went to the checkout paying his bill with a credit card. Tony followed him. “Thanks Clive I really appreciate your help. My father is being rushed to the capital for some urgent surgery, so you’ve taken some of the pressure off me today.”
He turned to Anita. “Probably just my overactive mind but can I suggest you have your car towed to a garage in town for a complete check-up. Now that I’ve heard Clive’s quick take on the document, I feel that would be a prudent move seeing you drive fast. When you told me you were standing in the way under pressure of this foreign guy and your brother, and they were being so forceful about urging your father and you I’d just like you to take that precaution. If you want me to, I’ll keep this document until you clarify things with your father.”
Anita studied his face. “You care about me. I like that. I’m staying with Aunt Mable this evening. Can I see you in the evening?”
Alarm bells rang in Tony’s mind. He was not going to have another repeat of the last visit Anita had made to his home. “That would be nice Anita, but I have to work late this evening. With my father in hospital, I have his work to cover now as well as my own and it’s going to be a very stressful time for a while with no personal time to enjoy for myself.”
Late that afternoon he had a quick phone call from Clive. “Tony, I did some further inquiries with my old bosses in the international law firm we deal with for difficult cases. I gave them the name of the group trying to buy out your client’s business. It appears there are rumors of a government inquiry in the US about the work of this group. They’re suspected of buying legitimate businesses to launder huge sums of drug money they need to sanitize. They’ve been buying around the world to move money from one place to another. They have top level law firms defending them but thought you may be interested in knowing that so you can warn your client.”
Tony was beginning to feel the stress of so many issues facing him at one time when the door opened, and Stella appeared. She looked unhappy.
“Tony there are stories circulating around the office you need to be aware of. I heard it being discussed and laughed about now in the staff room as they all prepared to leave for the day. Someone said you have purchased a Porsche as they noticed it outside your apartment all night recently but as it didn’t appear in our parking lot since, they came to know Ms. Colthorp owns one and are making up stories about it. I told them you’d borrowed it for a day and returned it which I know isn’t true, but they swallowed the story and the rumors have subsided. You need to be careful. I know it’s your private life, but rumors can spoil your reputation and this city still has a rather conservative outlook on these things.” She was obviously not pleased and turned to walk back to her workstation.
“Stella, please come back and sit down.” He was angry and she’d never seen him angry before. She felt her legs turn to jelly and wished she’d not said anything. She sat in the chair with eyes averted waiting for an explosion.
“Stella, I have never and would never lie to you so what I’m about to say I hope you’ll accept as truth.” In a rush he told her of the events of that night and how embarrassing it had been. Anita Colthorp had not in any way tried anything wrong and he’d not known how to handle the situation. She’d gone before he woke up in the morning.
“Thank you for what you did to try and protect my reputation with the staff. I have told you the truth.” He then busied himself with the mountain of paperwork on his desk.
This was the final straw. He waited until she’d closed the door to return to her workstation and torrents of tears flowed. He was unaware his tears had not been in silence. The door opened a crack and Stella peeped in. She entered silently locking the door behind her and switched off the light, so they’d not be seen through the tinted glass wall looking over their office. Then she came over to the desk and put her arms around him from behind kissing him over and over.
“I’m sorry Tony. I should never have told you that particularly with your father’s situation on your mind and changes happening in this office. Please forgive me”
Tony spun his chair around to face her and put his arms around her as she stood there sobbing quietly but he quickly recovered. He looked up into her eyes.
“I told you the truth Stella. You are my rock and I need your support as never before. I guess it’s late so you should go home and get some rest. It’s bad enough I have to keep working but at least you calmed me down and gave me courage to keep going.”
She continued to hold onto him. “I love you Tony and I’m jealous of this Colthorp girl.”
Tony laughed. “Why on earth are you jealous of that poor woman. She’s a good woman and has in no way tried to entice me.”
Stella pulled him to his feet and unlocked the door there were only a couple of lights on as some of the interns attempted to catch up on the mountain of work on their tables. She locked his door and secured papers on her desk in locked drawers.
“I’m taking you to buy something to eat and you will sit by the river and relax with me for an hour. Then I strongly advise you to go home and sleep after that. In fact, when I drop you off after relaxing it will be at the parking lot not the front entrance and I will see you into your car and on your way home. I will follow you there to make sure you go inside and if I see you faltering and looking back at the office I’ll come inside and sit there all night, so you have another rumor floating around about you.”
He threw up his hands in resignation and followed her obediently.
To be continued
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