Family & Friends Series

Alex

By Ron Robbins,
edited by Frank Perry

2008 All rights reserved

Part Five

 

Three Years Later

Drew was seated at the conference table in Mac's office. They were discussing the Brazilian Petrochemical operation. Drew said, "Terry has increased the refinery profits by 18-percent this year alone. This is the third year of steady increases. I wish we could talk him into staying. Terry is an outstanding manager and I think he is too valuable to be stuck in Brazil. I'm afraid he'll balk if we ask him to stay on another year. He has that operation whipped into shape now. He needs to be back to his corporate headquarters in Atlanta."

"You know, I not surprised at the way Alex has grown as well," Mac said. "Since he's taken over the Stonewall domestic operations from Terry, he has doubled the business. He has put together a super management team and the profits continue to climb. That military training, and his MBA, has made him a hard man to beat. It's not surprising that Terry wants out of South America. Terry has trained two young executives in his management training program that are capable of running the operation. He just hasn't decided on which one to choose. He misses Alex and I empathize with him. I know how I felt while you were stuck in Paris. He wants to be home with Alex to raise their children. Their birth date is in two months. Terry wants to be back in Atlanta by then. His plans are to have Alex continue to run Stonewall while he takes a year off to be with the children."

"You know I can't blame him," Drew said. "My suggestion is to replace him ASAP. It sounds like Terry is burnt out and he needs the rest. They both need the time together. I like them too much to lose them, Mac."

"You're right," Mac said. "I'll talk to Terry next week."

The Brazil Refinery

"I'm sorry I have to leave you again so soon, baby, but I promise this will be the last time for this month," Alex said. "I'll only be away for two weeks this time. I can't take these long separations much longer. I never get a good night's sleep unless I'm lying next to you. I'm getting to the point where I want to chuck the whole thing and stay here with you."

"I feel the same way, sweetheart," Terry said. "I've have some good news that I've been saving until today. Mac told me to select the best candidate to take over my job and for me to get back to Atlanta."

Alex smiled, "Why you sly devil." Alex got up and hugged Terry and kissed him. "This is the best news I've heard in years."

"I'm sure I can be out of here in a month, baby. Then it's home to you and the kiddies," Terry said. "For the first time in three years, I feel everything has worked out for us, Alex. Now give me hug and hurry back to me, my beautiful lover."

They embraced and kissed. "I'll call you tonight," Alex said as he left for the airport to catch his flight to New York.

Corporate Headquarters

"I'm glad you'll have Terry back home again, Alex," Mac said. "You both have an outstanding record over the past three years. Terry told me he plans to goof-off for a year and let you run Stonewall. I plan to make the announcement at the board meeting next week. No more extended trips to Brazil for you, Alex."

"Thanks, Mac," Alex said. "Terry was so happy when I left him yesterday. He's like a kid again. He didn't break the news to me until I was leaving yesterday. That was his little going away present to me. That's one of the reasons I love him so much. Terry is a wonderful guy and I miss him."

"Well, Mac, I hate to run but I have a plane to catch. Keep your fingers crossed that there aren't any last minute surprises on the Exxon contract tomorrow."

Drew walked into the office. His face was completely white. He walked over and stood next to Mac's chair and put his hand on his shoulder. "Alex, please take a seat, I have some devastating news to report." He waited until Alex was seated.

"I have just received a phone call from Brazil that Terry has suffered a massive heart attack and died an hour ago. I'm so sorry, Alex. I don't know what I could say to make the blow any less painful."

All the color drained out of Alex's face. "Oh my God! No, this can't be true! Terry can't be dead, he was fine when I talked to him two hours ago." He stopped talking and stared across the desk at Mac.

"Why don't you skip the Exxon meeting, Alex, and send one of your VPs to sign the contract?" Mac asked. "Alex, what would you like me to do?"

"I'm sorry, Mac, did you say something?" Alex asked.

Mac repeated his question.

"No, I'll close the Exxon contract. There's nothing I can do for Terry now. The Exxon contract is too important to the firm. I need to keep busy right now. You can really help me by taking care of the funeral arrangements. I just can't face that right now. My thinking is to have two funerals, one in Brazil and one in Atlanta. I'll call the office and let Dale Williams know that he needs to coordinate the details with you. I'll have him handle the details with the PR department. As soon as I finish with Exxon I'll fly the corporate jet to Brazil."

Mac said, "Alex, I will be flying to Brazil later today." He pushed his telephone across the desk to Alex. "Make your calls to your office from here. I'll wait for you in Drew's office." Mac and Drew walked through into Drew's office and closed the door between the two offices. Mac used the phone on Drew's desk to call Kim. "Kim, Terry Stonewall died an hour ago. I will be leaving for Brazil in an hour. Will you pack my bags for a week's stay in Brazil? When you're ready, have my bags sent to the helicopter pad."

"Please express my condolences to Mr. Savage," Kim said. "God, what a pity; Mr. Stonewall was such a fine gentleman."

"He was that, Kim, and we'll all miss him. I'll pass on your message to Alex." He called his chief pilot and made his flight arrangements. His next call was to Lance and he had to leave a message. Mac walked over to Drew and pulled him up and into his arms. "I'm sorry I have to leave you holding the fort like this, my love, but I have no choice. I'm afraid this hasn't hit Alex yet, but the reality will hit him when he sees Terry in the casket. I'll call you tonight after I've had time to evaluate the situation down there. We may have to use some of your connections in Washington to get Terry's body out of Brazil."

"You're doing the right thing," Drew said, "you really don't have any choice in this. My God, Terry was only thirty-eight. That is so young to have a heart attack. It's tragedies like this that make one realize how fragile life can be. I know how truly blessed we are. I love you, Mac, please be careful."

The telephone rang; Mac picked it up, "Hello."

 

It was Lance, "Dad, what's up?"

"We just learned that your Uncle Terry died a few hours ago. I wanted to let you that I am leaving for Brazil in an hour and will call you later tonight. Please explain that to your brothers and sister. I love you, son, talk to you later."

"Thanks for letting me know. Uncle Drew and I will hold down the fort while you're gone, I love you Dad."

The MacDonald-Stevens Refinery - Brazil

Mac held a meeting with the all the executives at the refinery as soon as he arrived. He scheduled a second meeting for following morning at 8AM. Then he spent an hour with John Drake, Terry's replacement, and with the Director of the PR department. He arranged to have dinner with John Drake. After that, he met with the funeral director.

He sat in Terry's office and spoke with Terry's secretary as he read the progress reports up to the present date.

Eric Rothacher and Ramon Navaro called Mac to let him know that they were flying in to help handle the visitors at the funeral home. Both the Brazilian and American Embassies called to say they would be sending representative to the funeral and would coordinate with the funeral director to have Terry's body flown to Atlanta after the service.

Mac was tired when he arrived at Terry's villa. He undressed and made his calls to Drew and Lance. His last call was to Alex in Houston. "Thanks for calling me back, Mac," Alex said. "I'm about to take another tranquilizer and hit the sack."

"How did your the meeting go with Exxon?" Mac asked.

"Everything was perfect," Alex said. "I have one final meeting tomorrow morning with the project director and their number crunchers. I should be ready to fly out of here after lunch tomorrow. Have you seen Terry yet?"

"The funeral director will have Terry ready for viewing tomorrow morning at eleven o'clock. I hope you don't mind, but I selected a light colored suit. With Terry's tan, I thought he would look better in a lighter color. Visitation will commence at noon and end at 9PM. The funeral service is scheduled for Thursday. We're all flying back with him on Thursday afternoon for the services in Atlanta. He will be cremated after the service on Saturday. I thought you would want to get this over as soon as possible. There are a few things we need to discuss tomorrow. If you want to change the dates let me know then. The media will then be notified. In lieu of flowers, I've asked that donations by made to his memorial trust fund. You can decide later how you want to handle that."

"I'm beginning to accept Terry's death and the sorrow that goes with that," Mac said. "My sorrow is nothing compared to what you must be feeling at this moment. I wish there was something I could do to relieve your pain, Alex. I know how I would feel if it were Drew instead of Terry."

"Your being there is a great comfort to me," Alex said. "I know I couldn't have faced this without you, Mac. I've decided to fly back to Atlanta tomorrow and wait for Terry there. There is really no reason for me to fly to Brazil. You have thought of everything that I need to do for Terry. There is too much to take care of at home. If you would, have his housekeeper donate his clothes to a local charity and box everything else and send it to the office."

"I feel completely drained right now, Mac. Terry was my whole life and I just cannot believe that he's gone. I've made an appointment to see my shrink in Atlanta tomorrow. I need professional help right now. I can console myself with the fact that I'll have his son to take care of. What we didn't tell anyone is that both our children were born last week. Terry had a son and I have a daughter. That was the other reason he wanted to come home so soon."

"We had planned to ask you and Drew to become their godfathers and guardians in case something happened to us. This is a hell of a way to approach the subject, but would you and Drew mind taking on that responsibility?"

"I would be honored, and I'm sure Drew will feel the same way."

"I'll call Drew tomorrow," Alex said. "That is another reason I need to be in Atlanta. I must change my Will to include our children in case anything happens to me. The pill is starting to take effect, Mac. Thanks for everything and I'll see you in Atlanta on Thursday; I love you."

"I love you too, Tiger, goodnight."

Atlanta

The week after Terry's funeral, Alex met with Terry's lawyer. He was shocked to learn the extent of Terry's Will. Alex was his sole beneficiary and inherited his entire estate with the exception of a few endowments to charity. The stock in Stonewall Engineering and Construction was transferred to Alex as well as Terry's stock portfolio that was worth over two hundred million dollars. The attorney explained that Terry had placed bearer bonds in their safety deposit box to be used to tide him over until the estate was probated, and then handed over a sealed envelope, hand addressed to him. Later, when he was alone,Alex opened the envelope and read the letter that was dated six months ago.

My beloved,

I thought I would include this letter on the odd chance that some unfortunate accident occurred and I wouldn't have the chance to say goodbye or to tell how much I love you.

I suppose this letter is a natural reaction because I have just finished revising my Will.

As the lawyer was reading the Will aloud, my thoughts turned to you and to the wonderful life we have shared together. A Will is one of those unpleasant tasks we all must do. Nevertheless, it also affords us the opportunity to focus on those who are important to us in this life.

This letter is important to us both because I can put on paper my true feelings that would sound melodramatic otherwise. Call it a quirk of mine if you like, but there are some things I can never bring myself to tell you. I love you more than anything in the world, my love, and I could never live without you. You are so much a part of me now. I couldn't face this life without you. Unfortunately, I don't possess your strength. It is my hope, and I pray, that I will die before you.

On the other hand, life is for the living and if I die, I want you to find another mate. Our undying love for each other will never change and will continue into eternity. We both have a profound need to share our life with another person. You are not the type of individual that can live alone.

It is my hope that you will continue to run Stonewall. I had planned to change the name to Stonewall & Savage Corporation as a living memorial to the partnership we shared in life. Of course, it's yours now to do with as you wish. Whatever you decide, I know you will do the right thing.

Naturally, I hope you don't have to read this letter for a long time to come. You are the most precious thing in my life. My life really began the day you walked into my dull existance. I don't fear death, only the thought of leaving you and the children we have sired. I'm happy that I can leave you all well provided for. I will wait for you to join me in heaven, my love.

Goodbye, my love.

Your loving husband,

Terry.

Ales was glad that he waited to read the letter in private, because he was wiped out for the next two days.

Three Months Later

Alex still felt the pain of Terry's death after he returned home from Houston. He couldn't set foot in their bedroom, so he elected to sleep in his old room. He left everything in Terry's bedroom as it was. He had tried on more than one occasion to enter the bedroom but usually ended up in tears and had to leave.

The daily routine of running a business pushed Terry from his thoughts during the daytime. Alex put in long days at the office and then worked-out every evening at the gym. But,he made it a habit to spend time with his babies every day. They helped to relieve part of the sorrow of losing Terry. They were so sweet and innocent. He was at peace when he held them in his arms. The evenings and weekends were the most difficult for him. His solution on the weekends was to change his pattern. He worked at headquarters from Monday through Thursday, and the rest of the week he spent flying the company jet to the major construction sites to monitor the progress of each project. It turned out to be a good working plan all around, to everyone's advantage. It occupied his time and cemented a good working relationship with his project engineers at the job sites. They like the idea that their boss took the time to visit them in the field. Alex learned an important lesson from these many field trips. It kept the lines of communication open to the people in the field and made them feel that all were on the same team. It was also one more reason why Stonewall Engineering became so successful.

One of the first things Alex did when he returned to the office was to have Joe Whitby, the VP of Human Resources, start searching for an Executive Assistant. Alex was very specific on the man he wanted for the job and was willing to wait until he found the right candidate.

Three months passed before Joe came up with three suitable candidates for the position. The first candidate was David Devlin. David was a Mechanical Engineer with an MBA from Auburn. David had eight years experience with the second largest Consulting Engineering firm in New York. The second candidate was Stanford Lambert. Sandy received his Chemical Engineering degree and an MBA from Georgia Tech. He had four years of experience in management with Yale Engineering. The third candidate was Dennis Holbrook with a Masters in Civil Engineering and had his PE. He also received an MBA degree from N.C. State. He had seven years experience in Project Management.

Joe was in Alex's office reviewing the candidates. "All three of these men look good on paper," Joe said. "They are all equally qualified to be your assistant. I had a hard time picking the winner out of the bunch. It's crazy, here I've been looking for the right candidate for over three months without a nibble. Now, three men show up that are perfect for the job."

"You're right, Joe, they all look good on paper. Have you checked their references?"

"Yes, sir, they all check out fine," Joe said. "I think we should pull them in for an interview before we eliminate any candidate. If the chemistry is right between you and the lucky candidate, that will be it. I don't want to spend another three grand checking on each one if you don't like them."

"I agree. Why you don't schedule all three for an initial screening with you on Thursday? If you eliminate any of them, I'll interview the selected candidate on Friday," Alex said. "Why don't you schedule the winning candidate for a luncheon meeting on Friday."

"Great, I'll send you the name of the winner after I have finished interviewing the candidates."

On Thursday afternoon, Joe called Alex with a schedule change. "Alex, we have a problem. We like all three candidates. I had the VPs of Engineering and Planning sit in on the interviews and we cannot eliminate any candidate.

"Then I'll interview all three. Schedule one for seven o'clock, the second for lunch, and the last one at three on Friday."

"Will do, I'll email you the candidates for each of those slots."

Joe emailed the following schedule to Alex:
 

 

Later that afternoon, Alex received a voice mail message from Sandy Lambert. Alex returned the call to Sandy.

"Hello," Sandy answered.

"This is Alex Savage. Do you have a problem with the schedule?"

"No, sir, thank you for returning my call," Sandy replied. "Would you be my guest for dinner this evening?"

"I don't think that's a good idea, Sandy. If the chemistry is not there, it would not be a pleasant dinner. It would be uncomfortable for both of us."

"I'm optimist that the meeting will go well, Mr. Savage," Sandy said. "If, God forbid, it doesn't, there will be no need to interview me tomorrow afternoon."

"I will accept your offer under those conditions," Alex said. "In fact, I'll provide the transportation."

The Dog & the Duck Restaurant

Alex said, "This is a very pleasant restaurant, Sandy, however did you find it?"

"My father-in-law prides himself in finding the best restaurants around, and he suggested this one. One of his clients said it was one of the hidden treasures in Atlanta. They try to keep it that way."

"I felt it would be the fitting place to take my new boss to dinner," Sandy said. "But we can discuss that over dessert."

Alex smiled, "There's nothing backward about you," he said. "Why should I be considering you for my assistant?"

"Actually, there are several reasons you should consider me , Mr. Savage.

"I know the other two candidates you plan to interview are also well qualified, but I will be the best choice to be your executive assistant. I've spent the last four years being fast-tracked in the engineering management program at Yale Engineering, who as you know are sub-contractors for Exxon. They are known to have one of the best executive training programs in the country. I've achieved the highest overall scores in my group. They will probably give me another series of tests and run it through the computer again before sending me off to yet another group to see how I handle myself.

"My feeling is that I'm too much of a free spirit to fit into the Exxon mold. It has been suggested that I have not humbled myself enough to be moved into a middle management slot. Don't get me wrong, they are a great company and I'm sure I would move up the ladder, in time. However, I would like to do it before arthritis sets in. That is not the career path I wish to pursue. I feel that my creative talents would be smothered in such a highly structured environment. I know that Stonewall Engineering is doing business with Exxon and I feel I could be helpful in getting more business from Exxon if you hired me. I've made it my business to compile a list of the savvy managers in all the divisions I've worked within Exxon. That alone is a plus if you hire me.

"I've checked Stonewall out, Mr. Savage. You have an excellent company with a good performance record, with a solid reputation. I know there is the potential for me to grow with you. That's why your opportunity looks so appealing to me. I want the job as your executive assistant."

"How does your wife feel about relocating to Atlanta," Alex asked, "and all the heavy out-of-town travel you will be required to do for the next several years? I'm going to level with you, this position will require at least 80-percent travel in the beginning. It may drop to 50-percent after a year, but that is what you can expect as my assistant."

"My wife and I have discussed all ramifications of this job and she has agreed to go along with my career plans as long as we live in Atlanta. I'm sure that the travel will be reduced to 25-percent in five years. We are young and she is willing to do whatever it takes for me to move up the ladder."

"My wife, Maryann, is from Atlanta, and she would love to move back here to be close to her family. She has already explored the job market in Atlanta and feels that she won't have a problem finding a job in advertising in the Atlanta market.

"I'm prepared to face any challenge this job has to offer and I'm willing to work hard, and do the travel that's necessary to get the job done. I know the promotions and the money will come when I prove my worth with your company."

"Did you deliberately rearrange the schedule to meet me for dinner tonight?"

"Yes, sir, I'm guilty of that," Sandy said. "Mr. Savage, I felt my interview went well today. I also like what I heard about the position. I haven't felt this positive about any of the interviews I've had in the last two months. Would you at least tell me where I stand after the interviews today?"

Alex smiled, "What would you say if I told you I ranked you number two on the list?"

"I would thank you for your time, and bid you goodbye, and catch an early flight out tonight," Sandy said. "If I'm not number one on the list, than I don't deserve the job. If the chemistry is not there, I would never move up the ladder in your company."

Alex smiled and thought to himself as Sandy was talking, 'I like this guy, he has the same cocky attitude I had when I first started out. One thing I'm not going to do is to commit myself until he passes all my tests.'

"So far you are number one on my list since you are the first candidate I've interviewed, but you're not home free yet," Alex said. "There are a few more tests you must pass before the job is yours. If you pass, you'll move to the next level. I promise to have my answer after I've talked to the other candidates. There is still the final interview where we invite your wife along."

"I will arrange the next meeting myself," Alex said. "How much advance notice will you and your wife need to meet with me here in Atlanta?"

"I need a minimum of twenty-four hours. My answering service will find me within two hours of your call, day or night."

"You will have my answer two weeks from today, one way or the other. Call Joe Whitby Monday morning to schedule your testing. One more thing, your agency is out of the loop until I make my decision. If you're hired, you can charge this dinner off on your expense account," Alex said.

"No, sir. How often do you think I'll be able to have dinner with you alone after you hire me?"

Alex shook his head and smiled, "I've enjoyed your company," Alex said. "I hope you pass the next two tests."

Stonewall Engineering Office - Monday Morning

Alex dialed his secretary and asked her to have Joe Whitby and Dale Williams step into his office.

Joe and Dale arrived together. "What's up, boss?" Joe asked.

I've interviewed all three candidates and I can see why you two had a difficult time picking one candidate out of the bunch. They're all good."

"I've made the decision to hire all three if they pass our screening. Sandy Lambert will become my assistant," Alex said. "Joe, I feel that Dennis and David should be hired as project managers. Dale, I know you can use two sharp assistants. You've been pushing yourself too hard lately. I don't want you to end up like Terry." Alex smiled, "I better not see them sitting on their rumps while you're running around doing all the grunt work either."

Dale chuckled, "Don't worry, boss; I'll whip them into shape real fast."

"I'm planning a grand tour in a month. I plan to take all three of them for a shakedown run. They may as well get their feet wet and meet our managers in the field."

"Dale, I would like you and Joe to put the salary packages together as soon we have the test results." Alex said. "And, Joe, make sure you work out a special package deal with the agency on this deal."

"You're not kidding me, are you?" Joe asked.

"No," Alex said. "Get them all tested, ASAP. I would like to make them an offer next week. After you have the package put together, we'll talk again."

"Now, I have some confidential news that I don't want to get out until I make the official announcement. As of next month, this company will be known as Stonewall & Savage Corporation. This company is going to become the largest and most respected engineering firm in the Southeastern US and in South America. That's one of the reason I'm hiring these new engineers. I want to increase our engineering and management staff in every department. I want to have the engineering staff ready to take on the new business."

"Joe, since that new agency seems to know what we are looking for, give them an exclusive if they play ball on the fees. Have them keep feeding us candidates like the three we've just hired. Okay, the next item on the agenda is our new training program. I'm planning to set up a training department that will be under your supervision, Joe. Were going to start with a couple of professional trainers and build the staff from there. I want to develop a company manual so that employees will know what we do, what we expect of them, and what we plan to do in the future. I want a monthly, video news-report produced and sent out to all our field locations. It will be sort of like a company newsletter. I also want to produce training manuals and videos for the unskilled people we hire for the field. We need to have all our construction and engineering people in the field wear a uniform at all sites. The uniform will have our logo and name on each suit. We will make a deal with one manufacturer to produce the uniforms, and we will sell them to our people at cost. I'm appalled with the work clothing that many of our construction workers are wearing on the job. Not only do they look like slobs, they are accidents waiting to happen."

"I've seen men working at a site wearing old sneakers or worn-out boots. Can you imagine what would happen if they stepped on a rusty nail or broken glass? That is just one example of the reasons we need a Training and Safety manual.

"Joe, I'm going to give you some help on this one. That will be one of Sandy's first assignments. He can help you to set up these departments. Let's see how he handles this assignment. He can get some input from our managers in the field while he's traveling with me."

"Thanks, boss," Joe said, "Ken Rogers, the VP of Human Resources over at Calder & Sladdery, called me the other day about a young genius he interviewed last week. He was so impressed with the guy, he had him send me his resume. Maybe he would be a good fit. I'll dig him out of my miscellanies file."

"I'll need some ballpark figures from you, Joe," Alex said.

"Now, for important stuff, MacDonald-Stevens has asked us to bid on four major refinery expansion projects. Three are in South America and one in Asia. It is my intention to land all four of those contracts, gentlemen. So roll up your sleeves and sharpen you pencils on these bids."

"For personal reasons, I will be forced to cut back drastically on my hours over the next few years. That is why I desperately need a competent assistant. If Sandy is that man, he will be able to take up some of the slack. I still plan to make my field visits, but not as often."

"Dale, I want you to promote one of your senior managers to Director of Corporate Development. He will make a monthly visit to all the major projects and report to us every week. This way we can keep on top of our projects."

"Any comments or questions?" Alex asked.

"It sounds like it's going to be an exciting place to work," Dale said. "I'll circulate a letter around to our overseas plants to see if we can find some bright young Spanish speaking engineers to work with us on the South American project. Those field trips have saved us a lot of headaches and I think they should continue. I know several good men that would jump at the new Director's position. I'll get back to you on that one."

"Thanks, men," Alex said. "I'm counting on you to have those men on board by next week, Joe. Keep me posted."

Alex called Lois and asked her to join him for dinner. He felt he needed an old friend to talk to this evening. Lois said she would be delighted and would be there by six.

Alex called home and asked Craig Wong to prepare something special for dinner. He was expecting a lady for dinner.

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To be continued
Ron.Robbins70@gmail.com
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