Family & Friends Series


By Ron Robbins,
edited by Frank Perry

2008 All rights reserved

Part 25

Two Years Have Passed

Lance and Pat completely recovered from the effects of the car accident. Lance received more than enough credits to graduate from the Stevens Glen High School. Both Paul Cunningham and Frank Hartley, Lance's friends from Stevens Glen High, had succeeded in winning the State swimming championship for their school. All three would be graduating together in May with the senior class of Stevens Glen High.

Paul, the oldest of the three, was seventeen. Frank and Lance were sixteen. Paul and Frank were frequent visitors at the Retreat. Lance would take them along on his visits to the Kings' home in Pound Ridge, and the Erickson's at Scarborough Hall. Mac and Drew liked both boys, and were pleased that Lance found two friends his own age that lived near by. Mac thought it would be a good idea to see if the young men could continue to be friends after they graduated from high school. He contacted the principal at the high school to learn more about the scholastic standing of the two young teenagers. He found out that both boys were above average students and had attended the accelerated program for brilliant students during high school. He approached the boys to explore the possibility of them attending the MacDonald-Stevens Academy of Advanced Studies. The boys and their parents were delighted with the idea and the boys willingly took the entrance exams.

Their test results were excellent and they were given the opportunity of enrolling in the school. Their parents were overjoyed that their sons were accepted. This worked out great for all three boys. They all would be attending the Academy for the next three years.

The three musketeers, as the boys called themselves were delighted to learn that Brian and Anne King, and Jason Erickson were also accepted and would be attending the Academy together.

Frank and Brian were majoring in Finance and Paul was majoring in Chemical Engineering. Lance and Anne were majoring in Law. Anne was beginning her first year and Lance his second year. Jason Erickson, Noel's oldest son was beginning his first year in Medical School. The magnificent six, they called themselves, were all very bright teenagers. They were all dedicated to their field of study and had developed a close relationship. Anne King liked Lance and they had grown closer over the years.

Mac and Drew were hosting a gourmet dinner party that week. This was the fourth anniversary party. Over the years, the little group had expanded to eleven couples. Mac was discussing the budding romance between his son Lance and Anne King. Mac said, "Well it's much too early to tell, but I think that Anne and Lance are a charming couple. I, for one, hope it lasts. It would be great if they both decide to take a serious interest in our business."

"I agree," said Claudia. "I have the feeling that something good will come out of their relationship. I know they are young, but they are two very serious and smart young adults. The nice thing is that they respect one another. They are taking this slowly. They are well beyond the getting-to-know-you stage. They've known each other for over four years now and their feelings for each other continue to grow, at least according to Anne. I know how Lance feels because he told me a couple of years ago he wanted to go steady with Anne."

Drew chuckled, "Well, we can certainly save on our security bill if those two marry. Lance will be graduating from Law School next year. He plans to stay on at Yale for his MBA while Anne finishes her degree."

Noel said, "We will only have one child left home when my two go off to finish their degrees. I'm happy that they are all doing so well, but I feel saddened knowing that they will be leaving home to build their own lives."

Charles said, "I feel the same way, but at least we still have one in the nest. The only thing we can hope is they will live close enough so we can enjoy our grandchildren when the time comes."

Noel asked, "How are Paul and Frank doing these days? I don't see as much of them since they are spending so much of their time at the Academy. I understand from Jason that Paul will be finishing his degree next year. Frank and the gang are not far behind."

Mac said, "Paul is depressed because his mother is not responding to her treatments to stop the spread of cancer. The entire family is in a funk, but Paul and his dad are taking it hard. They are a very close family and it's difficult for them right now. The doctors discovered a malignant tumor in her left kidney a month ago and they had to remove the kidney. They started chemo shortly afterward, but they discovered that it had metastasized to other organs. According to Scott, it's only a matter of time. She's a very special woman and the heart of that family."

Drew said, "They are a hard working family, yet they still found time to enjoy a normal family life."

Noel said, "Now I'm glad that Jason is specializing in Medical Research."

"Did he say what area of research he wanted to explore?" Mac asked.

Noel said, "Oncology is the area he had selected."

"For some reason that doesn't surprise me," Mac said. "Jason has always been a very sensitive young man and I think that his mother dying from cancer had a lot to do with his decision."

"I think it's great that he decided to select that area," Drew said. "I wish more young people felt the same way. One thing for sure, he won't lack for the money to finance his research. I for one would be happy to donate money for it. Maybe even set up a foundation to fund his work. What do you say Noel?"

Noel said, "When he gets to that point, I would be happy to contribute to the foundation."

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Mac said, "Honey, has Alex spoken to you about the date of his combination corporation gala and wedding party in Atlanta?"

"It's still up in the air at the moment. Alex told me that he and Sandy are flying up to Sandy's family farm in Manassas next weekend. They need to finalize the date for the company party and the wedding party after that. Sandy's parents are not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but they are not in Alex's league. His dad feels uncomfortable allowing Alex to pick up the tab for everyone. The good doctor wants to pay the costs of flying his family to Atlanta. Old Southern pride is at work there.

"Sandy tried to explain to his dad that Alex wanted to pay for everything, yet his dad feels uncomfortable letting Alex pay for his family's airfare and hotel costs. Sandy's father has no idea that Alex is a billionaire. They don't know that Sandy hit the jackpot and that Sandy and Alex have their own fleet of jet aircraft."

Mac chuckled, "I'd like to see the look on their faces when Alex and Sandy break the news. Alex told me he gave Sandy five-million dollars as a wedding present among some other goodies that cost another million."

Drew smiled, "He must really like the guy," Drew said.

"You could say that," Mac said. "I think Sandy is a great guy and the right man for Alex. He has many of Terry's wonderful qualities. Alex is lucky to have met and married two fine men. I will never forget Terry, he was a fine person."

"He was one of the nicest people," Drew said. "I never thought that Alex would ever get over him. Yet he found Sandy, who is just as nice, and he loves Alex as much as Terry did. He's one lucky guy."

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Lance walked into Mac's office and sat down quietly on the sofa. Mac was working at his desk typing on his computer. After a while, Mac looked up and noticed Lance reading a book. "Hi, son, is there something on your mind that you would like to talk about?"

"Paul's mother died earlier today and I was wondering if we should send flowers?" Lance asked.

"How sad; Janet was a nice person. I sympathize with the family. I'll make sure that the florist sends an arrangement from all of us. I don't have the Cunningham's home phone number. Can you give me that, Lance? I want to call Jeff to see if there is anything we can do to help."

Lance gave his father the telephone number. "Thanks, Dad, Paul said his father is taking it very hard. He told me that his father is not on friendly terms with his family. Paul hasn't seen his father's family since he was five years old. The family has never seen his little sister and brother. Janet's only living relative is her mother, and she's living in a nursing home. So there is no family support during this mourning period. It's very sad."

"Let me see if I can reach Jeff Cunningham," Mac said. "Hello, Paul, Lance just told me about your mother's death. Is there anything we can do?"

"Not right now, Mr. Stevens," Paul said. "The viewing will be at Holland's Funeral Home from four until eight for the next two days. The funeral is Wednesday at 11AM at Stevens Glen Cemetery."

"I know this is not a good time to talk to your father, but if there is anything we can do to help, please let me know."

"Thank you, Mr. Stevens, we appreciate your offer."

"Who is taking care of Jane and Tony while all this is going on?"

"My dad hired a sitter to fill in when Dad and I are at the funeral home. We're eating our meals at one of our restaurants."

"I would like you to have your brother and sister stay with us at the retreat every day. We have a day care school with an excellent staff to take care of the children. I think the kids would be better off here. There are other children their age to play with. You can drop them off in the morning and pick them up after their dinner."

"That's very kind of you, Mr. Stevens. I think that would be great for the kids. I'll run it by Dad and let you know. I really appreciate your thinking of us, Mr. Stevens."

"That's what friends are for, Paul. We'll be by to pay our respects tomorrow afternoon."

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Mac's intercom rang, "Mr. Stevens, do you want to take a call from Jeff Cunningham?" Barbara asked.

"Yes, thank you, Barbara," Mac said. "Hello, Jeff, please accept our condolences."

"Thank you," Jeff said. "Paul told me about your offer to take care of Jane and Tony until after the funeral. I really appreciate your thinking of us, and I gladly accept your kind offer. I would feel better knowing that they are around other children their own age. This whole situation is difficult for them right now. It would be different if Paul or I could be with them all the time, but that's impossible right now. I really don't like the idea of leaving them with a sitter, no matter how qualified they may be. To my kids, they are strangers."

"I'm glad we can help you out, why don't you have Paul drop them off tomorrow morning at the house and we'll take care of everything."

"I really appreciate this, Mac."

"I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but have you been able to find an accountant to replace Janet? From what you told me once before, Janet was responsible for handling the accounting side of the business and you handled the operations side. How are you managing everything at this point?"

"It hasn't been easy. Up until a few weeks ago, Janet was still able to keep up with things with Paul's help. For the past few weeks, I had to hire a temporary bookkeeper to handle the work. Paul and I were able to give her some help; however, there were a number of areas where we didn't have the answers. Paul is a big help, but he can't neglect his studies. I don't want him missing any more of his classes. I'm really in a bind right now. I realize I need to spend time on the administration side, but I have my hands full running the operation side of the business. I never realized just how much work Janet did. She did the payrolls, purchasing, filed the taxes and posted and paid the invoices. It looks like I need to find a full time accountant to handle the job."

"At this stage, I don't think that would be wise," Mac said. "No matter whom you hire, you and Paul will still need to teach him your accounting system. I'm sure your CPA can help out somewhat, but you will still need to supervise him."

"Janet didn't use a CPA. She filed the corporate returns and the IRS forms."

Mac said, "I think you should sub-contract all your accounting work to an outside firm that is able take care of all your accounting needs. They could set up and streamline your accounting system and also take care of employee health insurance and retirement programs."

"I've heard of those kinds of firms, but I thought they only handled large businesses, not small businesses like mine. Do you really think they would be interested in taking on a small account like mine?"

"Absolutely," Mac said. "I'm not trying to drum up business for my firm, but you are in a bind and I feel this is a good solution to your predicament. If you are interested and you are free for a couple of hours on Monday, I'll have David Chan meet with you to discuss how he can help you. I don't think you will be disappointed."

"I would appreciate your setting that up. I can't wait around on this; my employees expect to be paid on time every week."

"I'll have David Chang call you," Mac said.

"Does David Chang work for you?" Jeff asked.

"David Chang is the President of the Accounting & Financial Services Group of The MacDonald-Stevens Corporation," Mac said.

"I thought that MacDonald-Stevens was in the Petro-Chemical business," Jeff said.

"That's only half of our business; the other half concentrates on the Health & Services Industry. David's Company is part of the services group. We have a great group of interacting service Companies that make up our Health & Services business. David's group takes care of Accounting & Financial services. Another group handles Federal & International Tax Law, another, Computers & Communication. Other groups cover Security, Health and Child services, Advertising & Promotions Group, Corporate Motivational Presentations Group and the Paradise Island Resorts Group, and we are still growing. This is not public knowledge yet, but next year I will be running the Hart Corporation. As soon as my children are old enough to take over I'm bowing out. My late wife left her interest in the company to our four children. My father-in-law wants to step down next year. He's leaving his stock in trust to my children. When his daughter, my wife, was killed, he lost all interest in the business. He had always hoped his daughter would end up running the company. With three boys and a girl, I hope one of them will be interested. Lance has set his sights on running MacDonald-Stevens and he doesn't think the Hart Corporation is for him."

"I never realized your company was so diversified. I'm sorry we were not able to attend your last party. It looks like we missed out on a lot."

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Mac, Drew and Lance were returning from Janet's funeral in Drew's limo. Drew said, "I dislike funerals with a passion, but in particular, I hate funerals where a parent dies at a young age and leaves three children behind. Janet was a good mother, homemaker and wife. From what Paul has told me, his mother was the mainstay of that family and contributed a great amount of her time to the business as well."

Lance said, "Paul said that his father hired a fulltime housekeeper to take care of the children and the house. He told me his father is taking this hard and is trying to keep up a brave front for the family. He has enrolled them all in a family grief counseling program."

Mac said, "That's a good idea. They all need that important counseling. Jeff is the one I'm most concerned about. He's under so much pressure right now; I just hope he doesn't snap. I think that David Chang will be a big help to him. Once Jeff has that big load off his shoulder, I think the other issues will disappear."

Drew said, "I'm glad we were able to take care of Janie and Tony for the last few days. They are really well behaved children. They are certainly no burden to our staff. Lance, you let Paul know that the children are welcome at the Retreat at any time should they have a scheduling problem. Make sure Paul and his dad both understand that. Those children are no burden to us."

"That's very thoughtful of you Uncle Drew. I'll make sure Paul understands that. He and his Dad said that it was very thoughtful of you to offer your help at this time."

Mac said, "Jeff took me aside at the funeral home today and told me he was adding a codicil to his Will. He asked if I would be the children's guardian in case anything happened to him. He explained why he didn't want his family to have anything to do with his children. He said that Paul would be eighteen in a few months and was an intelligent, responsible young man. He felt he could take care of his siblings. However, he felt that Paul did not have the experience to handle the business and raising the kids as well as going to school. It would be too much for him to handle everything even though the money was there to take care of the children."

"What did you tell him?" Drew asked.

"I told him I would let him know my decision after I talked it over with you."

Drew said, "How do you feel about taking on this responsibility if anything happened to Jeff?"

"That's why I wanted your answer before I committed us to such a serious responsibility. Not that anything is going to happen to Jeff, but nothing is certain in this life. On the other hand, I've grown fond of that family and I would not want to see anything bad happen to those children, if anything happened to Jeff."

"I appreciate your wanting to consult with me before you gave him your answer. I happen to feel the same way about that family as you do. Paul and Jason are good friends and I feel that they will continue to be close friends in the future. I think between us, we can shoulder the responsibility. Why don't you call Jeff and tell him you will be the children's guardian. I'm sure he will be relieved."

Lance said, "Thanks, Dad, Uncle Drew, for offering to be their guardian. I would hate to see the same thing happen to those kids as happened to me when my father died."

"You're welcome, Son," Mac said. "Will you tell Paul that if he or his father is stuck for a babysitter, that they should just call and bring Jane and Tony over here."

"Thanks, Dad, I will."

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Drew walked into Mac's office and said, "I just got off the telephone with my mother. Thomas Hopkins committed suicide. Edith tried to wake him this morning and had to call 911. They pronounced him dead at the hospital. Edith found a note. In it, he said that he had failed and he had no intention of spending years in prison. He was not sorry for what he did, he was only sorry that his family had to suffer. Mother said she and Claudia were going over to Edith's home to see how they could help. She will call me later to let me know how Edith and the boys are doing. I talked to Charles, and he said nothing has changed except the key conspirator is gone. We have a strong case against the rest of the bunch."

Mac said, "Well, well, well, Thomas was a self-righteous, thick-headed coward right up to the end. He still thought he was right in what he did. The sad thing about this is that he convinced six intelligent executives to play this dangerous game as well. I'm amazed that their quest for power, and their greed, took the place of their good judgment. It was just luck that they were not caught sooner."

"I'm going to have a talk with Edith and my two nephews. I want to learn if they are really happy working with GW Stevens. Maybe Edith wants to sell her shares of stock in GW Stevens now that Thomas is out of the picture. If she does, Mother, Claudia and I will buy her out. She and the boys could live very comfortably on the millions Edith would receive."

Mac said, "I suppose you will need to attend the funeral services for your sister's sake?"

"Well, it's the right thing to do. Edith is my sister and I know she had no idea what Thomas was doing. I also know that my nephews know nothing about Thomas' deal either. He didn't respect them enough to keep his secret. I guess he thought that they might say something to Edith. They are too much like Edith in their thinking."

Mac said, "I'm glad they were not part of Thomas's grand plan.

"Alex sent an email saying that the gala and commitment are in three weeks. He asked us to coordinate with his social secretary for those folks from our neck of the woods that would be flying in our 737 to Atlanta."

"That's fine, the more the merrier," Drew said.

"The annual board meeting is set for next Monday and Tuesday. The people from overseas are flying in Sunday," Mac said. "The joint will be jumping, it should be fun. It'll be good to see everyone together again."

Drew said, "It's hard to believe the international corporation that you have built Mac. I just never imagined that you could have built a multi-billion dollar conglomerate in less than ten years. You're a marvel, my love."

"I could not have done it without you, sweetheart," Mac said. "I must say we have the most talented and hardworking executives heading our divisions and I am proud to call them our friends. I'm heading over to the nursery for lunch; I want to spend time with the children today. I get a kick out of watching them play together. They are so cute at this age. Want to join me?"

"I'd like to, but I'm having lunch and a stockholders meeting this afternoon in Manhattan. We'll find out what Edith wants to do about her stock."

"I wish you good luck," Mac said. "Will you be home in time for dinner?"

"I plan to be back by five o'clock at the latest," Drew said.

Mac said, "I have a meeting with Jarv Purdey, Carnabee, Carter and Darlington. He is that creative young advertising executive that Grant Westerville recommended. Our in-house advertising department is snowed under with work. I need to look into hiring some outside talent to bid on some of our special projects. I'll let you know tonight if he has the talent we need."

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The telephone woke Mac up. He picked up the phone, "Hello," Mac said.

"Mac, I'm sorry to wake you up at this hour but this is an emergency," Kim said.

"What time is it, Kim?"

"Its one o'clock, Mac. A very upset Paul Cunningham is on the line and needs your help."

"Thanks, Kim, put his call through."

"Mr. Stevens, I hate to bother you in the middle of the night like this, but you are the only person I could think to call."

"That's alright, son, how can I help you?"

"It's about my Dad. I was in bed when I was awakened by this loud crash downstairs a little after midnight. I quickly went down to see what caused the noise and found Dad lying on the floor with a gash on his head. He had fallen and knocked over the table in the middle of the foyer. I tried to rouse him but he wasn't responding. I called 911 and they rushed him to Stevens Glen Memorial Hospital. The children are still asleep. I want to rush to the hospital to be with Dad, but I can't leave my sister and brother alone."

"You've done the right thing, Paul, and you can't leave your brother and sister alone. Can't the housekeeper take care of the children while you go to the hospital?"

"She would if she were here. She doesn't stay the night; her hours are from noon to eight o'clock. Dad takes care of us in the morning and makes sure we all get off to school."

"I know you want to go to the hospital to see about your father, but you need to stay home to look after your brother and sister. As soon as I get dressed I'll head over to the hospital and check on your father. I do have some influence at that hospital, and I will make sure your dad gets the best of care. As soon as I talk to his doctors, I'll call you back with the news. Give me your cell phone number, Paul."

Paul gave Mac his number and said, "Thanks, Mr. Stevens, you are a life saver. I wouldn't know where to look for my dad's medical insurance records. I know the hospital will want to know that."

"Don't worry about that, Paul. I'll take care of everything. Try to get back to sleep. I'm sure we won't know much for several hours."

"I'll try. Thank you again for your help, Mr. Stevens."

Drew said, "I heard some of the conversation, Mac. What is this all about?"

"Jeff Cunningham fell and hit his head on a table. That was Paul on the phone. He's very upset about his dad. I told him to stay home and take care of his brother and sister and I would go over to the hospital to check on his dad."

"Would you like me to go to the hospital with you, sweetheart?"

"You need your sleep. There is no sense both of us losing sleep. I'll take Pete Schneider with me. I'll be back when I know what's wrong with Jeff."

Mac kissed Drew, turned off the bedside light and walked into the dressing room. He made the call to Pete and dressed. He took the elevator to the lower garage level where he was to meet Pete. While he was waiting for Pete to arrive, he placed a call to the emergency room at the hospital to check on Jeff. They told him that Jeff was still in the ER and they had no information yet about his condition. Mac placed a call to Dr. Gordon, the family internist, to explain the situation. Dr. Gordon said he would call ahead to speak to the chief of staff on duty, Dr. Brody, to let him know that Mac Stevens would be by to talk to him. Mac thanked him and closed his cell phone.

Pete said, "Sorry to keep you waiting, boss, what's up?"

"No need for apologies, Pete," Mac said. "You've made good time. I wanted you with me on this one. You have more experience working with me on the hospital beat. We need to drive over to the Stevens Glen Hospital to check on Jeff Cunningham. His son Paul called me a little while ago. His dad was rushed to the hospital with a head injury. I was the only one he could think of to call. That family has had their share of grief lately."

"That's too bad, Paul is a good kid. I remember checking on his family background a while back. They're a nice family. Chet is the duty driver tonight. Which vehicle do you want to take?"

"Let's take one of the SUV's," Mac said. "I want to keep a low profile."

There was hardly any traffic on the drive to the hospital. Chet pulled up to the Emergency entrance and let Pete and Mac out.

Mac walked up to the desk and introduced himself. "I'm Mac Stevens, is Dr. Brody available?"

"I'll let him know you're here, Mr. Stevens."

A few minutes later, Dr. Brody walked into the Emergency waiting room. "Good morning, Mr. Stevens, I'm Dr. Brody, Dr. Gordon ask me to let you know how your friend Jeff Cunningham is doing. I understand that you have Jeff's power-of-attorney."

"Yes, doctor. I would like you to meet Pete Schneider, my associate." They shook hands. "How is Jeff? His son, Paul, called me and asked me to see what I can find out about his dad."

"Jeff is in intensive care at the moment. The Emergency staff treated his scalp wound and admitted him to the intensive care unit. Our Neurologist examined him and diagnosed Jeff's condition. It seems Jeff suffered a cerebral stroke. That was the reason he fell and hit his head on the table. The scalp wound is minor and required a few stitches. However, the stroke is another matter. He is unconscious now. He was lucky the emergency response team reacted the way they did. We were able to medicate him, before his condition worsened. We won't know more until later today. The neurologist has ordered another series of CAT scans for later today, along with other tests to determine the amount of brain damage. We have no way of knowing when Jeff will regain consciousness. There is nothing you can do at this point, we'll have to wait and see. I will say, from what I observed in other cases like Jeff's, that given his age and physical condition, he should come out of this. The only thing we won't know is how many nerves are affected. There is no doubt at all that he will require many months of therapy. You are welcome to see him before you leave."

"Thank you, Doctor, I would like to see him."

"Come with me, I'll make sure the Intensive Care unit will allow you to visit Jeff. Will other members of his family be visiting him?"

"I know his son, Paul, will want to visit him later this morning."

"That shouldn't be a problem. If you wish, you can call the intensive care floor and they will give you the latest on Jeff's condition."

"Thank you, doctor, you have been very helpful. As you've said, there is really nothing we can do until we know more. When Jeff is ready, I want him moved to one of your VIP suites and please order around the clock special nurses. The MacDonald-Stevens Corporation will pay for any charges that his insurance doesn't cover. I will have my Health Services director call the administrative office with all the information."

"Thank you, Mr. Stevens. It's a pleasure meeting you in person, your family has been a generous contributor to this hospital and it is appreciated. I will notify the business office that your office will be calling."

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It was two AM as Mac called Paul to let him know of his father's condition. Paul thanked him and said he would visit his dad after his brother and sister left for school.

Mac said, "Paul, I want you to drop by my office after you have visited your dad. We need to talk."

"I will, Mr. Stevens, and thank you for being there for me."

Mac returned home, crawled into bed, and fell asleep. It was seven o'clock when he awoke the next morning alone in his bed. Drew was gone. Mac quickly did his morning bathroom thing and left for the dining room.

Drew was at the table reading the morning paper.

Mac walked over to Drew and kissed him. "Good morning, sweetheart, sorry I'm late."

"You needed the sleep. What time did you make it back last night?"

"It was after two AM." Mac told Drew about Jeff's condition, and what he had told Paul. "We need to decide what we are going to do about Paul and the other children. Since I am their guardian, I wouldn't feel comfortable allowing them to live at home, even with a housekeeper. She is only there for eight hours a day. Someone should be there day and night. Paul is a mature young man, but he should not have to take on the responsibility of caring for two young siblings. Paul is still in college and needs to concentrate on his education at this point. Anyway, he doesn't know the first thing about running a household and doing the things that a parent does automatically. Do you have any suggestions, Drew?

"I do, but I don't know if everyone is going to like it," Drew said. "I gave this a lot of thought this morning. Since you are the children's guardian, you are responsible for their care and safety. I agree that Paul is not ready to take on that responsibility. My solution is to bring all three children to live here at the retreat. We have the room and the staff to take care of them. They can socialize with the other children their age here at the Retreat. Paul and Lance have been friends for years. I don't see the problem with him taking the suite next to Lance. The other two children can move into the children's wing. There are several spare bedrooms there as well."

"That was my initial thinking; however, I didn't want this to become a burden for you and the family. I thought I could hire a staff for the children so that they could live in their own home. The only problem I see with that arrangement was that I would still be liable if anything happened to those kids while under the supervision of a hired staff. I really cannot devote the time that would be required to monitor the staff. If you are really serious about bring the children here to the Retreat, I'm all for it."

"Of course I am, sweetheart. It's not a problem taking care of two more kids. I don't consider Paul a problem. He's an intelligent young adult. Hopefully Jeff will recover and the children can return home again."

"Thank you for opening your home to these kids, Drew. I'll go up and talk to Lance before he leaves for school."

Drew said, "Sweetheart, the Retreat is our home now, remember that."

"Thanks, baby, excuse me for a few minutes."

When Mac returned a few minutes later he said, "Well, Lance is all for your solution. He was shocked that Jeff Cunningham had a stroke. He was concerned about Paul and his family. He said Paul is a great guy and he liked the idea of him living here."

Drew smiled, "That's my boy, he is always considerate of other people. I think the loss of his parents and being left in Uncle Stanley's hands has a lot to do with his thinking about the plight of Paul's family. I know he will be a fine steward to run your company down the road."

"I think so too. Now that we have solved that problem, the only thing to resolve is finding an administrator to run Jeff's restaurants. I'll call David Chang when I get to the office to get his input. He is responsible for the accounting and finances for Jeff's business. David should have some ideas about who to hire to fill that job."

"See, dear, everything is settled, and you still haven't eaten breakfast. Now, be a good fellow and eat."

Mac chuckled, "You're right, sweetheart, I'll need all my strength to get through the morning."

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"David, I have a problem. Can you give me a few minutes of your time this morning?"

"I'll see you in five minutes," David said.

As he walked into Mac's office David asked, "What's up, boss, did you buy another business that you want me to audit?"

"Don't talk dirty, David. That's all I need today. I have some bad news. Jeff Cunningham had a stroke last night and is out of it for now. Let me tell you what has gone down so far."

David said, "Well, that's a damn shame. He's a nice guy. I'm glad you are taking care of his kids. His business is healthy and is making a nice profit every month. Of course no one man can replace Jeff. He's a workaholic and is on top of everything. He is meticulous in everything he does. That's why his restaurants are doing so well. But he has a problem with delegating responsibility. He has a great, well-trained staff that knows what they are doing, yet he still likes to micro-manage. It doesn't surprise me that he had a stroke."

"Well, his restaurant business has been dropped into my lap now. I can tell you right off the bat, I don't intend to spend any time micro-managing a chain of restaurants. You're his business manager, is there anyone I can promote to manage the business until Jeff is able to return?"

"The answer is no. All his restaurant managers are good, and they have no problems running their own restaurant, but I don't see that any of them have the desire or the ability to become a general manager. I think you need to find someone from the outside. Let me give this some thought, I know some top guys in other chains that may fit the bill. I know one guy off the top of my head that would fit. He told me he's looking to make a change. Ethically, I can't get involved directly. He is second in command of a large chain, and I know he will not get the number one slot. The chain is family owned. Let me feel him out. If he's interested, I'll give him your contact information."

"That would be great, David. I will be talking to Paul later this morning. He isn't ready to run the chain, but I want him to be involved. I don't know how long Jeff will be out of the picture. I have a feeling it will be for some time. If Jeff is ready to take over sooner, I'm sure we can find a slot for the guy in one of our divisions. What's this guy's name, so I can let Barbara know?"

"His name is Jess Williams," David said."

"I'll need a P&L statement on Cunningham's Restaurants. If you're free this afternoon, we can go over the statement. I'll need to know from you what kind of salary we want to offer Jess."

David said, "Are you free at two?"

"Let me check my computer," Mac said. "Okay, you're on. Thanks, David, I'll see you at two."

Mac was finishing working on his email when Barbara announced that Paul Cunningham had arrived. "Please send him in Barbara."

Paul walked into Mac's office. Mac stood and shook Paul's hand. "How is your dad, Paul, any news?" Mac directed Paul over to the lounge area.

"I wish I could say he's better, but his condition is about the same as you reported early this morning. The nurse said he is stable and that he would be having several more tests after lunch."

"I asked you in to talk about you, your brother, and sister. Shortly after your mother's funeral, your father made me legal guardian, with his power of attorney, in case something happened to him. I'm sure you know what that means."

"Yes, sir, Dad told me that he was appointing you as our guardian. That's why I called you last night. I'm concerned about Dad right now and I really don't know what I'm supposed to do next. There's enough food in the house now and the housekeeper will prepare our meals. I told her about Dad and she's concerned about what she should do about the marketing. I told her to make a list of what she needs and that we would go shopping after I talked to you this morning. Dad had given me a credit card for school and emergencies. I thought I would use that to cover the food shopping."

"You're a smart young man, Paul. That would be the way to go since you have no access to your father's checkbook. It must have been quite a shock to you this morning when you found your dad. It's tough to discover that your only parent is in a coma and you are responsible for taking care of yourself and your siblings. Let me lift some of that burden off your young shoulders. I have decided how we are going to handle this situation, until your father is able to take over again. You, Jane and Tony are going to live with us for the present. We have the staff to take care of you. All three of you will continue to attend your regular classes. We have an excellent staff to supervise your brother and sister in our day care center after their normal school classes. All my executives' children attend this center until their parents pick them up every evening. The staff is there to supervise the children and even help to see that their homework is completed. In your case I have arranged for you to have the bedroom suite next to Lance. You two attend the same classes at the academy, so that should work out fine. I have discussed the Cunningham Restaurant business with your dad's business manager and we have decided to hire a general manager to run your restaurant chain until such time as your father is able to take over. I want you to sit in when I select a suitable candidate for the job. The individual restaurants have store managers who I understand are doing a good job, but they need direction and there needs to be someone like your father to handle the day to day operation. Do you have any questions so far?"

"Wow! I never even gave a thought to the business. You are right of course, we can't neglect the business. I'm so relieved that you are allowing us to live with you. I know my brother and sister will be better off. They can be a handful at times. My mother's death has been difficult for them to accept. Now that Dad in not around they are worried. They were crying this morning when I told them about Dad. They're worried that we will be left homeless. You know the imagination kids have today. I appreciate your taking charge and supervising our restaurant business, and I would like to sit in on your interviews. What about our home?"

"Are you satisfied with your housekeeper?"

"She's okay, she does her job just enough to get by. Her cooking leaves a lot to be desired. That's why we eat at one of Dad's restaurants. She's there for the kids when they get home from school. She does like to watch her special shows."

"From what you tell me, I don't think we will keep her on. I intend to keep the house just as it is until your dad gets home. I will have a service come in every two weeks to dust and clean and have one of my security men check on the house every day."

"That's a smart move, Mr. Stevens. I won't lose any sleep over that housekeeper leaving."

"Good! Another task settled. I think it would be better if you called me Uncle Mac from now on. Mr. Stevens sounds too formal. Have you had lunch yet, Paul?"

"No, sir, I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and I'm starved."

Mac chuckled, "Come on, Paul, let's head down to the dining room and have lunch with your Uncle Drew."

The Executive Dining Room

Mac and Paul walked over to Drew's table. Mac said, "Drew, I brought a starving young man for lunch, mind if we join you?"

Drew chuckled, "Sit down, Paul," Drew said. "I'm glad you could join us for lunch. The deal here is to look over the small menu and pick-out what you want to eat. Next to your plate is an order card. Write down what you wish to order by the number on the menu. The bus boy will come by and pick up your order. You will be surprised how much time this saves."

"Thank you for explaining that, Mr. Stevens," Paul said. "That's a clever way of ordering."

Mac said, "I've told Paul to call me Uncle Mac, from now on. We had a nice meeting and Paul is happy to accept our hospitality. He's going home to tell his brother and sister about the new living arrangements."

Drew said, "Well, that's great, Paul, I'm glad you have agreed to Mac's arrangement. You see, he's responsible for you and your siblings, and he feels much better having you under our roof for now. If you don't mind, I think you should call me Uncle Drew as well."

Mac said, "I plan to call the agency and release the housekeeper. Paul and I have decided to close up the house and have our security keep an eye on the place. I'll call Kim as soon as we finish lunch and have him show Paul the rooms he will assign to Paul, Jane and Tony. I thought I'd have Kim and one of his staff meet Paul at his house and move the children's personal things and clothing to their rooms in the manor house."

"That's a good plan, Mac."

The waiter served their lunch and left.

Mac said, "Paul, it might be a good idea to have Kim follow you over to your house. You can tell him what you want to move. This will give him time to pack the clothing and the other things you want. Don't feel you have to move everything today. Take what you will need and you can always make other trips back later."

Paul said, "That's a good idea, Uncle Mac. Will you be contacting the Junior High to let them know the new contact information?"

"Thanks for reminding me, Paul, I'll do that when I get back to the office."

Drew said, "Mac, you have a lot to do this afternoon, let me take Paul over to the house and talk to Kim."

"Thank you, Drew, that would be great. I have a meeting in twenty minutes with David. This will give me time to make a few calls. Well, gentlemen, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to work."

Paul and Drew finished their lunch and Drew led Paul to the mansion. As they were walking, Paul said, "I really appreciate everything that you and Uncle Mac are doing for my family. You have such a beautiful home. I've always admired it when I was a guest. It's like a palace. It's a privilege to live here. I couldn't get back to sleep last night thinking of everything that could possibly happen now that my father is incapacitated. My only thought was what the worst thing was that could happen to us. My credit card has a maximum credit of a thousand dollars. That's not enough to buy food and pay for lunches and gas for long. I really lost it when I saw Dad in the hospital. It was really a frightening experience seeing him like that. I didn't know how I was going to handle everything and continue my education. The kids were a mess after I told them about Dad. I was able to calm them down and get them to school. I didn't want them to stay home with our housekeeper. God knows what she would tell them. I didn't know what plans Uncle Mac had for us. Dad told me he was naming him guardian after Mother died. I almost cried with relief when he told me we were going to live with you. He is a smart man, he thought of everything, about Dad, our home, getting rid of our housekeeper and about running the business."

"You're right, Paul. Mac is a heck of a smart guy," Drew said. "You can stop worrying about your future, Mac will make sure that you and your family are safe and that Cunningham Restaurants is in good hands. If Mac takes it on as a project, it will triple the business in five years. I'm sure your dad will be on his feet before that. Do you plan to enter the family business after you graduate?"

"No, sir, Lance and I have been kicking around some other ideas. You see Lance wants me to join Uncle Mac's company after I graduate college. I just don't feel that the restaurant business it where I want to be."

"If that's what you want to do, I'm sure Lance is right. That would be a smart move," Drew said.

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Mac returned to his office and made the calls to the Stevens Glen Junior High and to the Academy to change the contact information and address for the Cunningham's. He had time to call the agency to cancel the housekeeper before David showed up for their meeting. David walked into the office, sat in the chair facing Mac's desk, and waited for him to finish his call.

Mac said, "Right on time as usual, David. Were you able to print the last P&L statement from Cunningham Restaurants?"

David handed Mac a copy of the report. Mac took a few minutes to peruse the P&L. "Jeff is doing well, I can see where he could make some improvements, but overall it looks good. Tell me, does Jeff pay the housekeeper out of his personal account?"

"Yes. I set up a separate account for him that handles all his personal accounts. Everything is posted and paid out of that account."

"The reason I mention it is because I called the agency to let her go as of today. She will be paid until the end of the week. Paul was not happy with her and there is no need to keep her around now that the children are moving in with Drew and me."

"That's great, Mac, they are a real nice family. Is there any more news on Jeff's condition?"

"I haven't had time to check with the hospital yet."

"Oh, I talked to Jess about the position and he said he would call you later today. He doesn't want to make the call from his office."

"Good. Let's hope he does. If not, I'm going to turn it over to an agency. I'm glad to see that you are handling all Jeff's household expenses. That's one less thing I need to worry about. You have done a good job setting up his accounts. Keep me posted on any changes. I still want you to take care of the payroll and cut all the checks. The general manager can sign off on all the invoices and the weekly payroll but you are to control the bank accounts. I also need to know who is handling his health insurance. We'll need to give that information to the hospital. Would you look into that for me? Don't forget to charge your time to the Cunningham account."

David chuckled, "Don't worry, boss, I've already taken care of that."

"Okay, David, I don't want to see your division lose money on my account. Please see that the insurance company is notified about Jeff, and that the hospital gets the insurance information they need. I'm picking up the difference that his insurance company doesn't cover on that VIP suite. I think that's where he needs to be when the kids go to visit him."

"If that's all, Mac, I have another meeting in ten minutes."

"I'm finished, thanks for squeezing me into your schedule."

"Talk to you later. I'll take care of the insurance thing," David said as he left.

Mac was working on his correspondence when his cell phone rang. "Hello."

"Mr. Stevens, this is Jess Williams, I understand from David Chang that you are looking for a general manager for a restaurant chain."

"That's true, Mr. Williams; this is an upscale restaurant chain that caters to the middle and upper middle market. I need a good operations manager that knows the business and can manage this operation."

"I would be interested in hearing more about this position. Would you like to receive a copy of my resume?"

"That would be helpful, Jess. Here's my email address, would you send it to me? If you have the background I'm looking for, I'll ask you to come in for an interview."

"Great! I'll send that to you later today, Mr. Stevens"

"I'll let you know as soon as I have a chance to read it."

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Mac finished his last call and headed for home. He took the elevator to the second floor and went into his bedroom suite. He changed into casual clothes and found Drew working out in their gym. "Hi, sweetheart," Mac said. "Is everything under control?"

"Everything is fine, the Cunningham family is all settled in. Tony and Jane have had their dinner in the nursery dining room and are amusing themselves with one of those new fangled computer games that kids love to play with. Paul and Lance will be dining with us at seven."

"Well, you and Kim have done your usual, efficient job of managing everything, sweetheart." Mac kissed Drew and said, "I'm going up to the nursery for a little while to see how my other loved ones are doing."

"That's nice, they will enjoy your visit," Drew said. "I joined them while they had their dinner a little while ago. Tony and Jane are nice kids, although I think we need to think about moving Tony into his brother's suite. I think he feels a little out of place with the younger children. Jane is content and is like a mother hen, you know how little girls are."

"You are probably right; I'll run this by Paul. The suite that Paul is in has two good size bedrooms. They would share the sitting room, but that can be worked out if that's what they want. I will be back in time for our cocktail."

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Mac returned to join Drew in the drawing room for their cocktail before dinner. Mac said, "Our children are the smartest kids in the world, bar none. They are really bright for their age and so lovable. Paul and Lance are deep into some discussion about the law, God, it's like being in college again with those two. I think this new arrangement is going to work out fine. I called the hospital about Jeff, and he's holding his own. Dr. Gordon said that the new MRI showed some improvement and that the new medication was helping. They won't know much more for a few more days. If he gets by the next few days without having another stroke, they feel his chances are good."

"Well that's good news, sweetheart," Drew said.

"I was impressed with Jess Williams' resume and I'm meeting with him tomorrow morning. If he's as good as David says, and his background is as he shows in his resume, I think we have the general manager for Cunningham Restaurants. I'll have Pete check him out."

"Well, that's good news; you really don't need another distraction with everything else you're working on now."

Mac said, "You know, sweetheart, we have been very fortunate, and blessed. We have each other and we are both healthy, with beautiful and healthy children. This incident with Jeff made me realize how fragile life can be. Who would have thought that a young man like Jeff would be brought down by a stroke? I am so glad that we have the financial resources to take care of his children and to see that Jeff and his family come out of this whole."

"Yes, sweetheart, we are very lucky. It looks like Lance has recruited yet another candidate for our company."

"Don't tell me he's already recruiting people to run our company. I knew about the Kings, but who else has he been talking to?"

Drew said, "His two best friends, Frank and Paul. Paul told me that he and Frank plan to work for Lance when he joins MacDonald-Stevens."

Mac laughed, "I hope they give us enough time to clean out our desks. Come to think about it, Lance will be twenty-one in four years time. I guess we had better start grooming them to take over in the future. Maybe you can develop an executive training program for them and any of the other young people that want to join the program. Your dad trained you while you were in high school. I can see no reason why these young people can't do the same."

"I agree, sweetheart. I'll make that one a priority. Why don't we place that on the agenda for our next board meeting? I think they can come up with some good suggestions. Since all the divisions will benefit from the program, I think they will be more helpful in seeing that it works in their respective divisions."

Mac said, "I better say good night to my son. I won't be long, lover."

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