Family & Friends Series


By Ron Robbins,
edited by Frank Perry

©2007 All rights reserved

Part 15

They were in the limo on their way to the penthouse. "This is the first opportunity I've had to thank you for what you said to Mike," Mac said. "You always make me feel special and loved."

"While I know you have God on your side," Drew said, "it never hurts to help him out when we can. I don't want anything to happen to you. Now Mike knows how important you are to me, and he will be twice as careful."

Mac took Drew's hand and said, "I love you."

"Now that Rod and Jen are officially engaged, have you decided on what we should give them as their wedding gift?" Drew asked.

"All my plans are out the window now that you'll be home in three weeks," Mac said. "I am jealous of our privacy and would like Jen to move. I suggest we ask Jen to use your condo on 68th Street until she can find her own apartment. How do you feel about that arrangement?"

Drew agreed and added, "Have the PR department arrange to have a party to announce their engagement when they have set the date."

"Great, I'll take care of everything," Mac said.

"I plan to approach Lenore this week also," Mac said. "Are you absolutely sure you are comfortable about me marrying her? You realize I must level with her about our relationship?"

"There is no way you can avoid that, my love." Drew said. "We can't do otherwise, though I'm pretty sure she must have guessed by now. Who knows, she may be turned off by the whole idea anyway."

"Well, I'm glad that's settled," Mac said. "Did you have anything planned for the rest of the afternoon?"

"No, what did you want to do?"

Mac smiled, "Now that we're alone, what do you think I want to do? I want to make love before you leave. Are you game?"

Drew smiled, took Mac's hand and led him into the bedroom, locked the door and slowly undressed him, letting Mac do the same to him. They embraced and kissed then climbed into bed and made love.

"This has been so delightful," Mac said. "I enjoy making love with you, baby. We must visit our love nest in the islands again when you return. I want to have a second honeymoon. I don't mind working every day as long as we're together. I'll make sure I have everything with me that will need your immediate attention. I'll meet your plane at LaGuardia Airport and we can continue on to the Island. What do you say, my beautiful lover?"

"It sounds wonderful, let's plan on it, Mac," Drew said. "I must get ready to leave, but not with a heavy heart this time. I'm excited about the idea of being back home for good. These three weeks will fly by, mark my word."

After they showered and dressed they went into the sitting room. "Come and sit by me and let me hold you until it's time to leave," Mac said. "I want your permission to take over Noel Erickson's firm."

Drew chuckled, "That's one of the things I adore about you, Mac, no beating around the bush; cut to the heart of the matter. I have no objections. You do your thing. I think Noel may see this from a different perspective. I was speculating about this possibility with Noel yesterday, and he laughed it off as a big joke, and I quote: 'No way am I ever going to sell my firm, and certainly not to a young college kid, no matter how smart he is'."

"My only concern was your approval," Mac said. "I know you and Noel are old friends. I didn't want a repeat of a previous error, by not getting your approval in advance. Noel will change his mind when he realizes he has no other alternative than to accept our offer."

Drew smiled and kissed Mac. "I love the way your mind works," he said. "It doesn't faze you at all that Noel is adamant about not selling his company, does it?"

"Not at all," Mac said. "Our offer will be generous, and the ideal solution for Noel. I respect Noel for his talent as a creative tax attorney. However, he is a terrible businessman. His firm is surviving strictly on his billings. That firm should be billing double its present rate. He instituted a new policy which is the worst possible decision he has ever made. Unless it is reversed he will lose the firm in less than five years. My plan is to double the business in two years. The new Erickson Division will not cost us anything up front and it will become an important link to our services division, MacDonald-Stevens. We all stand to make a handsome profit from that acquisition. Noel is almost burnt-out and it would be a terrible waste of talent to see his company go down the drain. He has worked too hard to build the company."

Drew smiled, "I'm pleased that you want to help Noel. He is a good friend, and Scott is exactly what he needs. I would like to keep them as friends. I've learned so much from you," Drew said. "The pupil is now the teacher. This should be very interesting to observe."

"You will always be my teacher, Drew," Mac said. "I have so much more to learn from you and I need your years of experience. You have been there, and have learned the hard way. I'm just learning to walk. This is why we make a great team; that will never change."

"I see our corporation concentrating on two segments of industry. The Service industry is one area and the Petrochemical and Plastics business is the other. The service sector will include worldwide satellite communications, accounting and financial services, legal and tax services, industrial security, leisure time services, and health services for both children and adults. The plastics markets will continue to grow as long as we can control the refineries that process the crude oil into petrochemicals. Those are the areas I see where MacDonald-Stevens will make the greatest profit in the future."

"We are already in the start-up phase of two service areas, the Health Services Group and the Leisure Time segment on Paradise Island. We should know in four weeks if we will be successful. I have already moved into the second phase of the vacation get-a-way on Paradise Island. The third project will be the financial and accounting segment, of which Noel's firm is essential. Fourth will be information services, and finally Legal services. I plan to have the complete corporate package put together for you in three weeks. We can kick it around on vacation and hold a meeting of the directors when you think we're ready."

"I'm so proud of you, Mac, you have done more in the last six months than most people have accomplished in a lifetime," Drew praised. "How do you do it? I feel I'm a successful business man, but I started training while in grammar school to learn the family business. When I took over GW Stevens, it had an established base to work with. You, on the other hand, are starting with nothing and have already accomplished wonders. I want to learn your secret. What makes you tick, where do you come up with these concepts? We have had many talks on some of your projects, but never one on such a grand scale as this. These are huge undertakings involving hundreds of millions of dollars and you have already laid the foundations of your organizations. You are twenty-eight years old and you scare the hell out of me. I have billions of dollars to play with, yet I would never attempt projects on the scale you are proposing."

"I had a dream as a young boy about what I wanted to accomplish in my life," Mac said. "Living on a farm is a wonderful and wholesome life for anyone, yet not for me. It taught me to work hard and become responsible at a very young age. I was blessed with a unique brain that very few people possess and was lucky to have understanding and loving parents who knew how to deal with a child prodigy. I knew farming was not in my future. My dream was to become a leader of industry. As time passed, that dream became an obsession with me. I spent every spare hour in the library reading and researching about what made the great leaders of finance and industry successful. What were the secrets that made them succeed where other men failed? After years of pouring over their biographies, I analyzed each one and came up with a pattern that was consistent in all these successful men. That research allowed me to develop my own master plan."

"I worked and reworked my plan until I had devised a foolproof game plan. I made the plan flexible enough to plug in many diverse variables, yet continuing to stick to the same strategy. So you see I had the plan and the steps it would require to set them in motion. Naturally, with any plan you expect a few bumps along the way. These were minor setbacks, but my goal never changed. The reason I didn't reveal everything to you in the beginning was because I was afraid of your negative reaction. Everything I had planned was theory based on logical assumptions. I believed in my plan and knew it would work. The reality would come true if any one element of the plan was put to the test. That opportunity fell into place several months ago and quite by accident, and that accident turned into our Health and Human Services Division. That project will be presented to on your return from overseas."

"I knew early on, that I could not expect you to risk your millions on love alone. It was essential that I prove myself first, before you would invest in the plan. I've proven to you that segments of my plan work, now everything is in place and unless some natural disaster befalls us, I will succeed. The next two years will be the critical phases of the operations, not because the plan is at fault, but because some smart operators will try to derail the projects and capitalize on our efforts. This is where your genius comes into play. You know all the nasty little games the competition will try in order to steal our thunder. I can build the organization and find the talent to make it work, but I am inexperienced at dealing with people at your level. One day I will learn to swim with the sharks, but today I don't have the time to learn their games. Anyway, I feel I will lose my edge if I take the time to learn that part of the business."

"In five years the development stage will be over. We will fine-tune the organization and step back from the day-to-day operations, moving on to the new challenges that we will face in the future. Once the checks and balances are in place, we can sit back and concentrate on new areas we should develop, and more importantly, start living for each other and raising our children. I plan to devote the rest of my life to making a good life for you and our children."

Drew slowly shook his head, "You are quite remarkable. Just when I think I know everything about you, another door opens in that amazing brain of yours. I would never hold you back from achieving your rightful place in the business world. You must push forward and accomplish the goals you have set for yourself, or you will never be happy. I had the same drive to succeed and it paid off, I achieved my goals. You were right in assessing my reaction to your plan. I would have advised you to take a much more cautious step-by-step approach. You have an exceptional talent in recruiting the right people. God knows, after reading your mind following Mike Lee's interview, I would follow you anywhere."

"Mike believes in me because I believe in myself, and everything I tell him is true," Mac said. "I've been careful in recruiting my staff, because I want them to be as hungry as I am to succeed. They believe in me because they know I will not fail. They need me, and I will give them my strength and support until they are confident and ready to stand on their own. Some may not have what it takes to be in that number one slot, but I will give them that opportunity. Even so, there is a place for them in the company. They cannot all be number one. You believed in me, and have made all this possible. I could never have moved this far without your loyal support."

"I wish that were true, my love," Drew said. "I gave you the tools you needed. You are the one that has made it happen. You would have anyway, without my help, it just would have taken a little longer, that's all."

"That's not true," Mac argued. "I wouldn't be alive today it you hadn't saved my life."

"I love you, baby," Drew said. "You always make me feel like the hero. How can I argue against logic like that? Maybe I can retire in ten years after all. Our kids should be nine by then. Don't worry, I'll keep the sharks at bay for you. You go ahead and build your corporation. I enjoy that part of the business anyway; I love the competitiveness at the top. You're right, we are a strong team to beat and nothing will stand in our way, baby."

"I must be leaving you now," Drew said. "I want you to be extremely cautious about your security until Mike Lee is in place. I love you and I'll see you in three weeks time."

Mac always felt a bit down after Drew left. He forced himself to concentrate on his work to occupy his mind and ease the pain.

Chris announced that Doug Chatham had arrived for his interview and showed him into the study.

"Thank you for coming on such short notice," Mac said. "Mike Lee has given you a fine recommendation and I thought Sunday would be a good time to have our meeting. Did you bring a copy of your resume?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. MacDonald, everything happened so fast I didn't have time to prepare one for you," Doug said. "Mike told me I could use his computer this evening and get a copy to you tomorrow morning."

"Good! Has Mike explained anything at all about the position, Doug?"

"Yes, sir, very briefly; he said it would be an excellent opportunity for me and would be similar to the type of work I'm engaged in at the agency."

"How did you feel about Mike being fired from the agency?"

"They were not fair with Mike, and I feel badly about what they did," Doug said. "I don't feel they were justified in dismissing him after all those years. He was a good agent. You really can't have a secret life with them and remain in the agency. If you are a homosexual, forget about a personal life period. I can't see the agency changing their view about gays. It won't happen in our lifetime."

"The agency had the right to fire Mike, or any other man that breaks their rules," Mac told Doug. "It has nothing to do with fairness. Every agent knows that when he joins the agency. It's unfortunate, but you must live by their rules while you are employed by a government agency. They may seem harsh and unyielding by our standards, but they have the right to enforce them even though they are wrong. Do you feel it's wise to visit Mike after what has happened, aren't you afraid the agency may find out?"

"Not really, I am staying at a hotel and there is nothing wrong with visiting an old agency buddy. I'm trained to watch my back at all times, Mr. MacDonald, even against my own agency."

"My company requires that all candidates pass our tests if they are offered a position with our firm. Do you have any objections to that, Doug?"

"I will be happy to take any tests, Mr. MacDonald."

"You are an intelligent young man and you would fit into our organization. Would you have any objections to working under Mike?"

"Not at all, Mike was one of the best in field operations, and I can learn a lot from him."

"Look, Doug, I think you have all the basic qualities I look for in a candidate. You would be entering at a ground-floor opportunity with a corporation that is going to be a force in the business community. I'm hiring the future managers for my company, not another employee. I can guarantee you that any man I hire will rise to heights he never thought possible. I expect three things from every person I hire. He must be absolutely loyal to me, be willing to work long hours, and follow my orders without question. I have never asked a man to do anything I would not do myself."

Mac continued, "As much as I would like to hire you, I honestly don't feel that you are ready for leadership in my company, because you have not made any strong commitments to yourself yet to cut the apron strings. I would hire you tomorrow if you could prove to me that you are ready to stand on your own two feet. How can I put you in a management position if you can't make the tough decisions in your own life? I feel you are at a crossroads in your life, and trying to make a change, or you would not be here talking to me today. I want you to think about what I've said, and if you really want to take control of your life and your future, you'll call me and tell me you're ready. I don't believe in beating around the bush. You took the time to make this interview, and I feel I should tell you how I see it. Now the ball is in your court. You are on the threshold of your future. You can either take the safe road and stay in your government job, or choose the exciting and challenging road to a bright and rewarding future."

"I would like to set the record straight," Doug said. "I have no intention of staying with the government. I've made that decision already. My Dad pulled a few strings to get me into the agency and I've learned a lot. After I discovered I am a homosexual, and seeing the way they drummed Mike out of the service without a fair hearing, has made me realize I must get out. That's why I'm looking. As far as cutting the apron strings, I saved a lot of money living at home. It would cost a small fortune living in a decent place in Georgetown, and since I'm in the field most of the time, I felt I would rather save the money until I've settled into a permanent assignment. My present goal is to find a career in private industry. That's why I jumped at this opportunity. I thought I would be a perfect fit for your job. I have the language skills and the background for the job."

"Are you disappointed with the way this interview is going?"

"I have the feeling that you have some preconceived ideas about me that are not based in fact," Doug said. "I think I would have fared better if I walked in here cold, without any introduction. Look, Mr. MacDonald, please feel free to ask me any questions you want. If they are out of line, I will tell you so."

"You may be right, maybe I've been unfair. I want you to tell me about your relationship with Mike."

"I like Mike as a sexual partner," Doug said. "I wish it could be otherwise, but the magic is not there. He is a very special person and I care for him, but I am not in love with Mike. I cannot commit myself to a lasting relationship with him. I've leveled with him, yet he still wants me to move in with him to see if we can work it out. I don't feel that's a good idea, because it will never work out. We could end up hurting each other. I would like to keep him as a friend, and continue to have sex, until we each find the right person. If Mike were the one for me, we would be together now. My family would have to learn to accept us for what we are."

"Thank you for your honesty, I was wrong about you, Doug. Let me start all over again. Do you want to work for me knowing Mike would be your immediate supervisor?"

"I want to join your organization, Mr. MacDonald," Doug said. "I have no problems working for Mike. He trained me and he is a smart guy."

"You've convinced me that I should hire you, Doug," Mac said. "You've got the job. Remember, you work for me, and your loyalty is to me. Mike is your supervisor and he is my first assistant. I want you to learn as much as you can from him. If you work out the way I think you will, you may succeed him. I want you to go for your MBA as soon as possible. When we receive the green light on all our tests, you can hand in your resignation to the agency. I will have your written offer tomorrow. Mike will schedule you for a physical and give you our employment package. I want you to fax me a copy of your resume and your present salary and benefits package tomorrow morning. You will be on my payroll as soon as you pass our tests. I want you to work hard and learn. We'll talk again after you are settled in. Welcome to the MacDonald-Stevens Company, Doug."

"I won't disappoint you, Mr. MacDonald," Doug said. "Thank you for giving me this job."

Mac walked Doug to the elevator, then returned to his study. He called Mike Lee and briefed him on his conversation with Doug. "It's good news for the company, bad news for you, Mike," Mac said. "Let's discuss it tomorrow."

"Thanks for your concern, Mac," Mike said.

Mac called Chris into the study and briefed him on all that had transpired over the weekend. He told him that he hired Mike Lee and Doug Chatham. He asked him to run them through the loop and see if he could make room for Mike Lee in the Penthouse for the present time. He asked Chris to have the GW Human Resources handle Doug's relocation.

Mac said, "Since Drew will be returning in three weeks for good, I'm going to ask Jen to move into the apartment on Sixty-Eighth Street until she and Rod find their own place. Incidentally, you can expect a finder's fee check for ten thousand dollars; seven thousand for Mike Lee, and thirty-five hundred for Doug. You've done a good job. Keep looking for good people."

"Thank you, Mac" Chris said. "I really appreciate the bonus. Please have it deposited to my retirement fund. Jen and Rod have just arrived; will they be joining you for dinner?"

"Let's find out," Mac said. They walked into the living room. Mac asked, "Will you two be joining me for dinner?"

"That would be great," Jen said.

"There's your answer, Chris," Mac said. "I would love a glass of wine when you have a chance, Chris."

"Well, how did everything go with the family, Jen?"

Rod said, "It went well; everyone was pleased with the news. Now we have to set the date so they can make all the arrangements with the church and the reception hall. I didn't realize how involved planning a wedding could be. We don't want to wait that long, but Jen said we have no other choice."

"I agree with Rod," Jen said. "We are looking at next summer at the earliest. That's a long time to wait."

"May I offer a suggestion?" Mac said. "Why don't you and Rod get married now by a judge at City hall and then hold the church ceremony as scheduled next summer?"

"That's a great idea," Rod said. "How do you feel about that, Jen?"

"I think its the way to go," Jen said. "Thanks, Mac, you always come up with the ideal solution."

"We can get married next month," Rod said.

"In that case I would like to give you our wedding gift in advance. This is from Drew and me. He handed the card to Jen."

Jen opened the card and said, "Oh my God!" Then she handed the card to Rod as she jumped up and ran over to Mac and kissed him, "Thank you so much."

"Thank you, Mac," Rod said. "I don't know what to say. You and Drew are so generous."

"We thought you could use the check as a down payment on a condo in Manhattan," Mac said. "Drew said the company would finance a low interest mortgage loan for you as well. This is only a suggestion; the money is yours to spend any way you wish."

"Jen, until you find your own apartment, Drew is offering to let you use his condo on East Sixty-Eighth Street. Chris has the keys and you can look at it any time. Now that you are both working, you can find a nice apartment in a good section of town."

"You and Drew have been the most wonderful friends, and the best employers in the world," Rod said. "Jen and I can't thank you enough."

Jen hugged Mac again and said, "Thank you for everything, you are the greatest uncle in the world," Jen said. "Would it be alright to call Drew after dinner to thank him?"

"Why don't you try to call him now?" Mac said. "Ask him to call me after nine if he is free."

Mac was working in the study when Drew called. "God, I miss you, baby," Mac said. "The first night is always difficult for me."

"I feel the same way, my love," Drew said. "I understand you solved everyone's problem. They were so excited about the money and the loan of the apartment, they couldn't thank me enough. They're a nice couple. They invited me to their wedding. It would be nice to arrange a small party for them. Why don't you call your sister-in-law and have her plan something? She and Mother love to arrange those sorts of things. Maybe we could have a local judge in Pound Ridge perform the ceremony; check with Claudia."

"That's a great idea, Drew, and much nicer than City Hall," Mac agreed. "I had second thoughts on our vacation plans. I'm having a brainstorming meeting with Mike and Chip on the Wednesday before you arrive. Mike also wants me to review his overall security plan for the island. Would you mind flying to the island from Washington? That will give me a chance to check out the copter pad I had our chief pilot order to be built. Now you can use the chopper from the airport on the main island and fly directly to our villa."

"That sounds great. I thought for a minute there you were going to cancel our vacation. You are in your element planning all these projects, aren't you?" Drew chuckled.

"You bet! Do you remember the night you carefully explained to me how important it was to make your money work for you?" Mac asked. "Well, that's what I'm doing. The money is working for us. I'm planning it so that every project comes in under budget. This island will make money for us once the construction is completed. You're right, Drew, I do enjoy the process."

"Honey, don't tell me you remember all those lessons I've taught you?" Drew said.

"Everything you ever taught me is locked in my memory," Mac said.

"I must run, baby," Drew said. "I have another meeting to attend before I take off tonight. I love you and will try to reach you on Wednesday night."

Mac was so busy for the next three days, he could not believe how fast the time went, yet he felt good in spite of his hectic schedule. He had tried to reach Drew earlier in the evening without luck. Just then the computer phone rang, and it was Drew.

"You had another long day today," Mac said. "How goes the battle handsome?"

"It's been rough," Drew said. "How are you, baby?"

"Great! Noel's operation was a big success according to Scott," Mac said. "I had our florist send him two wilted flowers in a cheap plastic vase. I thought he'd get a laugh out of that. Naturally, he would be expecting an expensive bouquet from us. Starting tomorrow, the florist will deliver an arrangement of roses to the penthouse every three days for the next two weeks," Mac said. "I'm scheduled to see him tomorrow afternoon. The honeymooners have a contract on a nice condominium in a new building on East 79th Street and they will be moving into it after the wedding next month. Eric Rothacher has accepted our offer and is planning to be in Manhattan in two months with his corporate program."

"We have hired the new man from the CIA to work with Mike Lee. Mike has also found us a new chief of staff for Scott and Noel. They are in the process of screening the staff for the estate. Mike will be flying down to Paradise Island next week. I plan to meet him there next Thursday for his evaluation. He and his group will be staying on the main island during our stay. You will be happy to learn that Karl Landsdorf has decided to join the corporation. So we are going to have to put another package together. We will need him on line as soon as possible. Other than that, not much is going on at my end."

"RW and John Chang want to talk to you pronto. They wanted me to meet with them on the Hopkins project, but I told them I had strict orders from you not to get involved on any new projects. In any event, it was not an emergency. They said it could wait until you returned. It is just as well, because if I were running that project, I would put out a contract on Thomas and save the family a lot of grief."

"You did the right thing," Drew said. "I want to handle that project myself. I know you would prefer to see Thomas six feet under. You do have a temper, sweetheart."

"You are doing a fine job and you have everything under control," Drew said. "I think you've made another conquest with Karl Landsdorf. Do you realize if we pooled all the money from the team you are putting tougher we could bail the government out of some of its debt?"

Mac laughed, "Gives one food for thought. I think I'll run a profile on Karl. I'm curious to see what he controls."

"Would you mind giving up one day of our vacation on the island?" Mac said. "I want to have the Medical group down to make our presentation to you?"

"I don't mind; you work it out," Drew said. "I plan to be home a week from Friday, and will have the company jet fly me directly to Paradise Island in time for dinner. I'm happy to see that Mike Lee is working out."

"I can't wait to get my hands on you, my love," Mac said. "God, the days are flying by. I love you, sweetheart, and I am counting the days."

"Mike is a Godsend," Mac continued. "It's a pleasure to have him around, and he's always one step ahead of me. He thinks ahead and is always prepared. He's definitely management potential."

"I'm glad this assignment is over," Drew said. "I'm getting anxious to get back home again. You have gotten me so fired up with all your new projects, I feel as if I'm missing all the fun. God, do I miss you. I hate to cut this conversation short, but I'm due for a dinner meeting in ten minutes. Good luck with Noel, and I'll call you on Friday."

Noel Erickson's Condo

The limo dropped Mac at the front door of Noel's apartment building. The doorman opened the door, "I'm Duncan MacDonald to see Mr. Erickson."

The doorman opened the door and told Mac to take the elevator to the penthouse. He would announce him. Mike was waiting for him when the elevator door opened and took him into Noel's bedroom.

"You look like hell, Mac said. "Are you feeling much pain?"

"It's good you decided not to become a doctor," Noel said. "Your bedside manner stinks. You are supposed to cheer me up and tell me all these lies. Drew still needs to do a lot of polishing before you become civilized. Do I really look that bad, Mac?"

"Would I lie to you?" Mac asked. "Scott told me that you were hurting and you were not a happy camper. Now I see what he means. If you are not going to be nice, I'm going to leave. I'll have to report your true nature to Drew."

Noel smiled, "I'm not in any pain except where Scott burned off my warts. They still hurt. What is it you wanted to talk to me about?"

"First, I want your promise that you and Scott will keep this very confidential."

Noel said, "You have my word."

Mac explained how he and Drew were going about raising a family, his marriage plans, and the surrogate mothers for their children. He went into the adoption plan and changing his name legally. "I wanted your advice. Do you see any glaring legal mistakes or problems with my plan?"

"If your girlfriend goes along with the marriage, you must get an ironclad premarital contract that you have physical custody of the children, and that she will not try to take the kids from you later," Noel said. "If you and your wife divorce, the courts will rule against you. The same goes for the surrogate mothers. I know a couple of good lawyers that could handle this for you. One of the top attorneys in that area is a classmate and a good friend. I want to run this by him if you are serious about going ahead with it. I like the way you are going about your search. I never thought of looking at the social register, or scanning the colleges for surrogate mothers. You are really spending the bucks."

Mac smiled "What price tag would you put on Jason and Eric?"

"Touché, your analogy is well taken."

"I would appreciate your running it by your friend. If he thinks it will fly, I'll meet with him. I must move quickly on this; we want to start a family. Tell me a little about you, Noel," Mac said. "Drew has told me a lot, but there are some very large gaps, and you are a very interesting person. I would like to hear your story, if you don't mind."

"It's pretty boring, so stop me when you've had enough," Noel chuckled. He then began telling his life story up to the point where he started his company, then telling where it stood today. He explained why he had decided to cut back on his workload and how it was important that he spend more time with Scott and the boys.

"I detect this sense of stress every time you speak about your firm. Has the process become a burden to you?" Mac asked. "You don't have the same enthusiasm about your firm as when you describe the tax cases you handled. Are you burned out, Noel?"

"I think it's more a case of getting away from it for a while, and taking a long vacation," Noel said. "I feel like I'm in a rut, but now I have a wonderful new life ahead of me. I have competent people to run the business, so I'm really set."

"May I speak frankly?" Mac asked.

"By all means."

"I feel that you are not happy running the company any longer. In fact, you hate the thought of going back," Mac said. "Your senior VP, who happens to be a lousy manager, is now running the company. You're the driving force behind that company and your managers are a bunch of yes men. Your new program will ruin the company in less than five years. It's your talent and skills as the top tax attorney that are supporting the company. Once it gets around that you are not handling the key accounts any longer, the news will spread, and your customers will find someone else. Your company will have to close the doors. My feeling is that you don't have the heart to close the company, or to sell it to someone that could run it better. It was your child, and you would rather see it fail than sell it. You can always find excuses as to why it failed, but we both know the reason, don't we, Noel?"

"You really have a pair of balls to sit here and tell me I don't know how to run a business," Noel said. "And you call yourself my friend?"

"I'm an acquaintance; Drew is your friend," Mac said. "I've not earned that privilege yet. Our discussion has nothing to do with friendship. This is a business discussion and that is where it will remain. It is because of your friendship with Drew that I have taken the time to look into your company. I've spent a considerable amount of time on this so far and I would appreciate the courtesy of a hearing before you dismiss the issue. However, if you have a closed mind about this, and don't wish to discuss it further, I'll understand. I'll leave and never bring up the issue again. I know you're not angry with me, Noel, you're angry that I've discovered the truth."

Noel stared at him for a long time before answering. "You're right, 'pride goeth before the fall'. "Let me hear what you have to say."

"I had your firm investigated and was impressed with your talents as an attorney. No question about it; you are the best," Mac said. "I've discovered that the firm is just breaking even. The success of your firm is due to your billings. You're tired of running an accounting firm, because it doesn't challenge your creative talents in tax law. My proposal is to merge the Noel Erickson International Division into my corporation. Your name will still be out there, but you will not be running the accounting end of the firm."

"I want you to become the President of a new law firm that will deal strictly in tax law, both in the USA and overseas. I want you to build an organization with the best young tax lawyers from both the US and abroad. Your clients will consist only of fortune 100 corporations. You will be responsible for the selection and training of your staff. You will pay top dollar for your people and hold on to them. We should start with the blue chip firms in the USA that are doing business in Germany and South America. For the present, those will be our target countries. From there, the sky is the limit. You can count on two accounts for openers, MacDonald-Stevens and GW Stevens. I will also introduce you to several overseas firms that will need your services, and have them spread the word that you are open for business. Are you with me so far?"

"What will happen to my present firm?" Noel inquired.

"It will become a separate division, Noel Erickson U.S.A. I would install a group VP to take over and run it. We will pay you a royalty for the use of your name and a percentage of the profits. Naturally, you will continue to handle your key accounts. In addition to your heading up the International law firm, you will also become a VP and Director of MacDonald-Stevens. As president of your International group, you will receive an annual salary together with incentive and stock options. We will arrange a buy out figure for your present firm and give you stock of equal value in the new division. I'll need your answer in a few days. I plan to appoint David Chang, one of Drew's VPs, into the operation while you are recuperating. Let everyone think he is a temporary replacement. We have a lot of ground to cover if you're interested in going ahead with the deal."

"I never thought I'd say this," Noel told Mac, "but I like the deal, and I'm going to talk to Scott about it tonight. What does Drew say about all this?"

"Drew said he hoped his two favorite people could work together," Mac said. "He feels it will be a good marriage between the two corporations, aside from the prospect of seeing more of you. Perhaps I should let you know that I never make a move without Drew's approval. Particularly when it involves his friends. You and Drew have been close for years and I would never do anything to upset that relationship. I could never forgive myself if that happened. I meant what I said earlier, I would have walked away from the deal."

"Our children will inherit all this one day and it will be our gift to them. The important thing for us now is to use our talents to build a better life for ourselves and for our children. I'm pleased you have agreed to join us. You will never regret this decision and your reputation will grow to a point where firms will be begging you to take over their accounts. You and I suffer from the same problem in that we tend to spread ourselves too thin. Drew watches over me and I will watch over you. You have your wonderful family to consider now, and that will require more of your time. I have a few more thoughts on that subject that you may welcome. How would you feel if I asked Scott to run a group in my health care services divisions?" Mac asked.

Noel laughed, "You are not to be believed. Don't you ever slow down? Drew warned me about you and I thought he was crazy. Now I owe him a case of brandy. I have no objections to you talking to Scott. God knows he is overworked in his private practice. I was thinking of buying him a small hospital in the community where we're planning to live, but he said it was too demanding. I won't mention this to Scott until you two have had a chance to talk. I can tell you that he wants to look at an opportunity where one of us is always home with the kids. He doesn't like the idea of running down to the city for an emergency in the middle of the night."

"I'll start putting your package together," Mac said. "The contract will be ready next week. I would like you to meet our new group VP the next time we meet. Drew will be so pleased that we will all be working together."

"You are a remarkable young man," Noel said. "I know we'll get along because we think alike. Drew told me all about you and I was unconvinced of your abilities. The next time you speak to Drew, tell him he was right, and I owe him a case of brandy. Don't worry about me, Mac. I respect a man with vision, especially, when he's smarter than I am. I know the transition will be bumpy in the beginning, now that you will be calling the shots, but for some strange reason I don't feel uncomfortable with that arrangement. You can count on my full cooperation. My priority now will be to build a new corporation. All my energies will be focused on that endeavor. My problem is facing Leanne next week. I have so much to look forward to now, with Scott and my new division. Life can be exciting at times."

"We are both working toward the same goal, Noel," Mac said. Always remember, I will be there to help you over the rough spots during the start-up. Since we both speak German, it should make that part of the move much faster. Both of my assistants and I speak fluent German, Spanish, French and now, Japanese. So you can rely on our help at any time. By the way, I expect to double our profits in the Erickson Division in two years. I would like you to meet the President of the Rothacher Petro/Plastic division, and the President of WorldNet, Karl Landsdorf, next month. They will be flying in from Europe and I would like you to have dinner with us. You will meet my other Division Presidents as they come into town. I hope I was not too hard on a sick man. I fully expected you to chew my head off, and I was not wrong. I'm glad I will never face you in court."

Noel smiled, "Short people are always feisty."

"Well, partner, I must be getting back to work," Mac said. "We all can't take it easy like some Presidents I know. Let me know what my fellow Scotsman has to say after your discussion."

"I will, and again many thanks for the flowers," Noel said. "They were beautiful, even the expensive ones you sent to the hospital."

It was eleven o'clock when Drew called that evening. He asked, "How did the meeting turn out with Noel?"

"It went well," Mac said. "I am drawing up the contract this weekend and should be able to have it signed next week. I'll send you the rough draft on the weekend. Noel is going to discuss the whole deal with Scott tonight. He doesn't see any problem. In fact, Scott has been suggesting that he cut back on his workload and spend more time at home. Noel told me to give you this message, 'he is now a believer and agrees with everything you told him about me and you're going to have to wait for that case of brandy'. What was that all about? Or is this a private joke?"

Drew laughed, "No, sweetheart. I told him how smart you are and bet him a case of brandy that he would be working for you within two years. I think I mentioned his comment on that subject. I am very pleased you were able to close the deal. Send me your first draft."

"I will. I would like to hire David Chang to run the financial group for the Erickson Division USA," Mac said. "Will you let me have him?"

"Sure, if you think he'll make the move," Drew said. "I think he's a good choice. He knows our style, and will get along with Noel. Before I forget, who's the new guy you hired from the CIA?"

"His name is Douglas Austin Chatham, III. He has a good technical background with a degree in Chemical Engineering and speaks four languages. I understand his family is well connected in the Capitol, maybe you know his dad, Douglas Austin Chatham, Jr.?"

"You bet I know his father," Drew said. "He knows where all the bodies are buried, believe me. That guy has a lot of pull in the Capitol. How did you latch on to his son?"

"He is Mike's sex partner," Mac said. "Good looking guy, he looks like a younger Scott, only Doug is built like a brick you-know-what. He is a clean cut, all American type, and polished, smart as a whip."

"You're finding some good people," Drew said. "I'd better watch my step with these handsome hunks you're surrounding yourself with."

"You have them all beat by a mile, sweetheart," Mac said. "No one could ever be as good as you, baby. You're the only man in my life, and I'll always love you. I miss you, sweetheart, and I'm counting the days."

"You're reading my mind again," Drew said. "Well, it looks as if we have our work cut out for us. You make me tired just thinking of the work you have ahead of you. I've talked to RW and Chang and they have taken care of everything. How are you coming along with your University courses?"

"I've been excused from any further class work on my MBA and have turned in my final paper. My professor said I should be teaching the course," Mac told him. "My Japanese is coming along great since I have Mike Lee around to converse with every day. It's like going back to the old days on the farm when my Dad helped me with my language skills. We conduct all our conversations in Japanese. Sometimes it's a hoot. When any nosey types try to figure out what's going on we switch to another language; drives them nuts every time. My teacher said I was too advanced for his course and that I should sit for the finals for the two year course.

"I really appreciate your help on drafting Noel's buy-out," Mac said. You are an expert in those areas. I am familiar with the basics, but at a complete loss when it comes to the fine points of horse-trading. I will send you my business plan and the new structure along with his current prospectus."

"Of course I'll help you, baby, that's what I'm getting paid to do," Drew said. "Don't be afraid to ask for my help, Mac, I don't want you to try to carry this heavy load by yourself. I enjoy being part of your dream. It draws us closer together. I love you and I want you to lean on me. Now is there anything else I can help you with?"

"Yes. Keep me in you heart forever," Mac said. "My plan was to try to lessen your work load, not add to it. Now all I have succeeded in doing is adding more to your work load."

"Look, baby, I don't feel that working with you is a burden," Drew said. "I find it exciting to rebuild a company into a profitable, viable organization. I enjoy the whole process. It keeps me young, sweetheart. Being around you is exciting; you're a dynamo, and you get me all charged up. I can't wait to get back. We have so much to accomplish together."

"If that's the way you feel then I do have something else I want to bounce off you. It's the Landsdorf division. We should put that package together; he will be in New York in two months and wants to proceed. He likes the idea of splitting his time between New York and Paris. Therefore, Landsdorf WorldNet Division will be our next acquistion. We are going to have to put something together to present to him. We can talk about that on vacation. I'm going to approach Scott MacGregor as a possible candidate for the VP of my Adult Care Group," Mac said. "If he likes the idea, I will have him fly in with the Health Services Division for our presentation to you on Paradise Island. Noel gave me his blessing to go after Scott. What do you think?"

"Before I answer, I want to ask you one question. Are all these projects in your game plan or are any of them new?"

Mac chuckled, "Now, Drew, didn't I give you my word that I would not take on any new project without your approval? You know I would never go against your wishes. I assure you this is all old business, except for hiring Doug and finding a spot for Scott, and buying Noel's company, and I don't consider that really new."

"I'm sorry, dear, I should have known better," Drew said. "You're starting to show signs of fatigue and I want you to slow down until you take a vacation. I don't want you to get sick."

"I understand," Mac said.

"I must sign off now," Drew said. "I love you, and please try to slow down."

Mac finished preparing the purchase agreement for Noel's firm, the establishment of two new divisions, and the employment package for Doug Chatham. He sent them via E-mail to Drew in Paris early Saturday morning.

Drew reached Mac at the office later the next day. He said the employment contract was excellent and he only had time to read through half of the Erickson buy out, but promised to E-mail the completed package by Sunday evening without fail. He asked Mac to call him after he reviewed the new draft.

Doug Chatham checked into the Waldorf at six o'clock Saturday morning and called Mac to let him know he was in town. Mac told him to head on over to have breakfast with him.

Mac was in the living room scanning the papers when Chris showed Doug in. "Good morning, Doug. You called at a good time. I'm usually in the gym between five and six every morning, and then breakfast by six thirty. It will be nice to have company for a change." After breakfast Mac and Doug walked back to the living room to have their coffee. "One of my little pleasures every day is to watch the sun rise over Manhattan." Mac handed Doug his offer letter and asked him to read it carefully. "If you find it satisfactory sign all three copies and keep one for your records."

Chris served them coffee and left. "This is a very generous offer, Mr. MacDonald. I never expected anything this good." Doug signed the agreements and handed two copies to Mac. "I've taken the laboratory tests in D.C. and will be meeting with the shrink this afternoon. Mike gave me a rundown on the dress code and outlined my duties for when I report for work next week. My last day with the agency is next Friday."

"I'm pleased to have you on board, Doug," Mac said. "You will be meeting some of my other executives in two weeks. I want you and Mike to fly down to Paradise Island with me the week after next to survey the island, and to discuss the security measures we need for the island. I want you to call the GW relocation office and ask them to find you an apartment. Talk to Chris; he will get them started on that this morning. Chris also can help you find some reliable tailors in town. I've noticed you have shown good taste in the selection of your wardrobe. It may be a good idea to double check with Chris anyway. The firm pays for your initial wardrobe for the first year. Since you will be traveling with me on business, you must always make the right impression. That is a company policy. Again, I must reiterate the basic rule. Your loyalty is to me, no matter how high you climb in my divisions. You will be working with many fine and intelligent executives in this corporation, but you will always be my executive. There is only one other person that can change my orders and that person is Drew Stevens. If an emergency develops and I am not available, you will contact Drew without hesitation.

"If you work hard and learn to be creative in the company, you will advance. Always be on the lookout for an acquisition that would add to our basic industries. If you come across any bright and intelligent person that you feel should be a part of our company, I want you to let me know. You will be well compensated for your efforts. I want your word that this conversation will be kept confidential, and again, if you ever have a problem, I want you to come to me pronto. My door is always open to all my people. How did your father react to your new job?"

"At first he was annoyed," Doug said. "Then he was pleased when I told him about the company, and who was behind it. He told me everyone in the capitol knew of Drew Stevens, and he'd heard through the pipeline some very favorable comments about Duncan MacDonald. He admitted that I made the right decision and was happy to see me get the hell out of the district."

"I'm flattered," Mac said. "Let's see if Mike is free so we can synchronize our schedules for the next month."

Mac called Mike and learned the he was free for a few hours. When Mike arrived, he took him down to his private office at GW Stevens. "Mike, I want you to take Doug on your survey of Paradise Island," Mac said. "It's important that this presentation to Drew goes off without a hitch. I want it to be smooth and professional from start to finish. I expect to have a meeting with my Health Services Medical group on Tuesday, and I would like you both to sit in on it. Find out what size room they will need and what type of visual presentation they're making. You can use one of the company jets to fly them down. We may want to bring them in the day before and let them rehearse their presentation until it is perfect. So, you have your work cut out for you. I don't want to use the villa on Paradise Island unless I have to, so find a villa, or a good hotel on the main island. If anyone wants to make it a long weekend make arrangements to accommodate them.

"Mike, do you think Noel will be well enough to travel in two weeks?" Mac asked.

"He is healing well, according to Scott," Mike said. "He still plans to leave for Charleston in two weeks."

"Doug, in case I haven't mentioned it, when we're together, please call me Mac. Mike, I want your honest opinion about Scott," Mac said.

"He's a first class professional. He has good people skills, is honest, hardworking and a super guy," Mike said. "He has made the right choices selecting his staff and has made some tough calls. He is a team player and I like him as a person. He's not as soft as he appears. Scratch the surface and you find solid steel. Don't ever underestimate him, because he can be a tough customer when crossed."

"You have confirmed my opinion of Scott," Mac said. "I am going to approach him to head a department in my Health Services Medical Care group."

"I hope you do," Mike said. "I feel sorry for the guy right now. He told me all about his wife. He is hoping she will stay away for another two weeks, at least until Noel leaves for Charleston. They are both good people and down to earth. They treated me as an equal. They are very pleased with Alex who is working out just fine. Living with them is like living at the fraternity house again. They are all serious card players, and too rich for my blood."

"I want them to release you right away," Mac said. "Will you see that Doug has his new computer and codes? He is officially on the payroll starting Monday. Make sure he has credit cards and anything else you think he will need. By the way, Doug, I want you to enroll in an MBA program as soon as possible. Mike will help you with that. I think that will do it for today, men, so unless either of you has a question for me, let's call it a morning."

Mac continued working at his desk until lunchtime. He called Claudia and asked her if she would like to arrange a small wedding party for Rod and Jen. Drew was right; she was delighted to discuss some ideas she had. "Why don't you all come up for a casual dinner tomorrow, and we can plan the whole thing?"

"Let me round everyone up and get back to you after lunch," Mac said. "Would you mind if I bring Mike Lee, my new assistant? I want him to see how the beautiful people live."

"By all means," Claudia said. "The more the merrier. We have missed you, Mac. Drew told me you are working too hard, and he is concerned. I hope you can ease off when Drew comes home. He is so proud of you, and he's not the only one, we all love you, Mac."

"I always feel so much better after talking to you, Claudia," Mac said. "I'll call you right back." Mac checked with Rod and Jen. They were all for getting away for the day. He then called Scott and talked to him for a little while. He asked Scott if he could steal Mike tomorrow; he needed him to ride shotgun. Scott said he didn't see a problem. "Could you spare me some time this afternoon? I wanted to bounce a few things off you."

"Drop by any time," Scott said. "We will be here all day. Let me put Mike on. See you later."

Mac told Mike of the dinner invitation and that they would all drive up together. He said he would talk to him later that afternoon if he was free. He called Claudia and confirmed everything for dinner the next day at one o'clock. Claudia told him to be there for cocktails at noon.

Mac continued working in the office. He noticed the e-mail message light blinking on the computer. He accessed the file and found that Drew had sent the revised contract for the Erickson Division. He read the contract very carefully and was pleased with the stock swap plan that Drew had put together. It was a very good package. He accessed the final draft, made all the new corrections, and printed four originals. He popped them in his briefcase and had Chris order the limo to take him to Noel's penthouse.

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To be continued

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