A to Z Challenge – V is for: Very clear about this…

V2020

Kane was in a very difficult position.

It was not for the first time, but this time was significant because he had basically agreed in principle to vote for both sides.

And, when he realized what had happened, he had, depending on how you looked at it, been tricked.

Not good for someone who was well respected by both sides, and whose vote would count towards picking up those who were undecided.

That was just pointed out to him by Amy, his personnel assistant, the moment he arrived back in the office.

He leaned back in his chair and stared at a point just past her head, a copy of a painting by one of the old masters, still an object of beauty.

“So, when did Cheney change sides?” He asked, dragging his attention back to the problem in hand.

He suddenly realized what had happened, and it was a well thought out scheme.  Cheney had always been on board with the Board’s recommendation until he accepted Kane’s invitation to come to a meeting that would attempt to explain why the board’s recommendation was wrong.

He should have been skeptical of Cheney’s sudden change of mind, and then of the discussions he had attended with Cheney’s allies, with the objective of changing their minds too.  In fact, he had left with the impression he had persuaded them, saying, in essence, they should all vote against.

Seeing Cheney that morning with the leader of the group agreeing to vote for the motion, should have set off alarm bells.  The phone call from Williams, the head of the group voting for the board’s recommendation, saying he was pleased that Kane had finally seen ‘the light’ as he called it, had been interesting, to say the least, especially when he mentioned in passing, how very much the board appreciated Kane’s confidence in them.

He had done no such thing.

Instead, Cheney had put him on the spot, and his words were now being taken out of context.

“This morning.  I just got word from Ellie, who told me he had a breakfast meeting with Jacobs and Meadows. She said he came back looking very pleased with himself.”

Jacobs was the chairman of the board and Meadows was the CEO who was pushing the new plan, which would break up, and sell-off, or disband, the underperforming divisions of the company.  By having Meadows in attendance, Jacobs could basically offer Cheney anything he wanted.

And top of his list was my division.

“Yes, and I think we can guess why.  He wants this division.  Of course, if they gave it to him, it would not be the magic bullet he thinks it will be.  Nor would it line the shareholders, and therefore the board members pockets as it has in the past.”

“Is this situation the proverbial double-edged sword?”

“It depends.  I doubt you could quit out of dissatisfaction with a crappy board decision.  I doubt anyone could in the current financial climate.  But you won’t have to worry.  It might mean going back to the pool for a while if you don’t want to work with Cheney.”

“No problem there.  Ellie had already told me my days are numbered.”

Understandable.  Ellie and Amy had put themselves forward for the role of Jake’s personal assistant, and Ellie had tried very hard to convince him Amy was not suitable for a variety of reasons, none of which he found valid, and appointed her.  Ellie was not one who forgot or forgave easily.

Although he didn’t like denigrating anyone, he had said more than once to Amy, both Ellie and Cheney suited each other.  Neither cared who or what they destroyed to get what they wanted.

“Then it looks like you and I are heading for the scrap heap.”

“Sounds like an excuse for a long lunch.”  She smiled.  For a woman who was about to lose a dream job, she was in remarkably good spirits.

“Ask me again in an hour.  I have a few things to do.”

“Call in some favors, maybe?”

People didn’t rise in a company over several decades without making friends, making enemies, and stumbling over information which may or may not be used depending on circumstances at the time.  He had a few interesting tidbits in his arsenal, but whether he would use them or not wasn’t uppermost in his mind.

“We’ll have to see.”

Jake watched her leave, and, not for the first time, he wondered what life with her might be like.  He had never married, but had, for a number of years had a more or less relationship with the Chairman’s daughter, before she broke it off.  He suspected the Chairman had instigated it given the number of times she had tried to contact him since parting.

That door had closed. As for Amy, she had a husband who was a member of the armed services and had been killed in Afghanistan.  She had weathered that event and finally come out the other side of some very dark days, some of which he had witnessed personally, and tried to help where he could.  But was she up to dipping her foot into the dating thing.  He wasn’t prepared to ask.  Not yet.

He sighed and picked up the phone.  It was time to call Jacobs.  It was the day I knew he would be in his office, not at the factory site where we all were housed, but in the top floor of a prestigious building in the city, twenty miles away  You could call it an ivory tower, but the board did oversee the functioning of seven different and diversified companies.

Some time ago they had called for ideas on how to integrate a lot of the similar processes of those diversified companies, but in the end, they had paid a ‘crony’ a million dollars for an unworkable plan, and it had not gone any further.  Now, the conglomerate was bleeding cash, someone had come up with a new, knee jerk, plan.

Jacobs was surprised to hear from him.

“I was told,” he said, “everyone is now on board.”

“They probably are.  It’s just that it is no longer a problem for me.  You’ll have my resignation on your desk by close of business.”

That statement was met with silence.  Stunned, or was it smug satisfaction.  He had always viewed Kane as a thorn in his side.

“Is that really necessary?”

“I think you know why, and whatever the plan was, it has backfired.  I don’t need the job, nor do I need the aggravation of scheming and plotting.”

“I think you’re making a mistake, but let’s be very clear about this, you leave, there’s no coming back. If I were you, I would consider my position very carefully.”

Interesting reaction.  The only conclusion from his reaction was that the thorn was now removed.

I expected just such a reaction.

Now, for the next job.  Kane went down to the factory floor and called in all the production managers.  Like himself, he knew most of them didn’t really have to stay, some could retire, some could go into business by themselves, most could walk into another job, even a better job, the next day.

Kane left that meeting a half-hour later, telling them the decision to stay and work under Cheney, a man none of them liked, was their decision but he was moving on.

He called Amy, asked if she had sent his resignation letter, which she had, and to pick the restaurant for lunch, the more expensive the better, and that he would pick her up outside the front of the office block.

For Kane, it was the 107th day of what he called the rest of his life.  He was woken by the sun streaming in through the window of his hotel room.  He had reached Singapore and had been told that Raffles Hotel was the place to stay.

He agreed.  Old but new, the place just reeked of nostalgia.

The figure beside him stirred, opened her eyes, and smiled.

“Good morning, Amy.”

“It is a good morning, isn’t it Kane?”

Over lunch that fateful day 107 days ago, he took the chance of asking her if she would be interested in dating him.  Nothing heavy, no strings, he would understand if she thought it inappropriate.

She didn’t think it was inappropriate, just wanted to know why it had taken him so long.

The had got married in Rome, 42 days ago, in a quaint little church, and after a week, moved to Venice for the honeymoon.  They hadn’t set a limit on how long it should be.  There was no reason to go back.

Of course, just when it’s least expected, the phone would ring.  His cell phone.  It was the first time in months.

“Hello?”

He was surprised it was Jacobs.  He’d followed the fortunes of the company he had abruptly left, as it tried to implement the plan that Cheney and his ‘friends of the board’ had voted for.  One problem after another; in three months the stock value of the parent company had lost 90% of its value.  As Kane had expected, every one of his management team resigned the day after, knowing full well, once Cheney was installed as manager, the transition would fail.

Now, faced with hostile shareholders, a corporate watchdog investigation, someone had to turn around the company’s fortunes or it would slide into liquidation before the week was out.

“It seems that we have serious problems implementing the restructure.  We have made some mistakes, but I think if I could tell the receivers that we have a plan and you would be heading up a new management team, we could save the company and all of the employees.”

The 2,500 left.  They should have left well alone, and the whole 8,000 that had been there the day Kane left would still be employed.

The Board and upper management would do well out of the company going under.  The staff, well, they always lost.

“I’m sorry to hear that.  Now, if you don’t mind, I have business to attend to.  Goodbye.”

I turned the phone off and put it back on the bedside table.

“Who was that?”

“Someone from another lifetime.  Now, where were we?”

 

© Charles Heath 2020

 

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