“Can I help you?” I asked him. I knew he had something on his mind and he wasn’t sure if he should bring it up or not.
“I know that we had this conversation before, when you applied at Hunter Corp…”
“You’re worried about me.”
“I am. I just keep thinking that this man who was smart enough to seize an entire company under the guise of paying off its debts within weeks of the owner dying… He’s not going to be an easy one to fool.”
“That’s true. But you know me, Grant. You know me better than anyone alive. I’m not going into this thinking it will be easy, or that it will be quick. I’m prepared to work hard for the company. I’m only helping myself there in the long run, right? I’m also prepared to be content with doing that for as long as it takes for me to be in a position to… find things.”
“What kind of things do you think you’ll be able to find?”
“The best that I can hope for probably are the old financials on the business. When James Hunter took it over, he inherited all of the old books. I want to see for myself that my father was not in financial straits. I don’t believe it for a second. I didn’t believe it when I was thirteen years old.”
“You don’t think that Hunter would have been smart enough to get rid of them?”
“Well you and I both know that he probably doctored them to begin with or he wouldn’t have been able to say my father was in the red. Then he would have had to keep them for the IRS for at least seven years… I’m just hoping that by that time he was so comfortable with what he’d done he didn’t even think about going back and shredding them. If they’ve been doctored, I’m sure there’s a way to prove that, right?”
“Sure, yeah I’m sure. I just have a bad feeling about you putting yourself in this position. Couldn’t you have the SEC investigate?”
“No, this is a civil matter according to everyone I’ve talked to, not criminal. I have to do this myself. But don’t worry. I have a good head on my shoulders,” I told him with a smile.
He kissed my cheek and said, “Just keep that pretty head low if and when the bullets start to fly.”
I woke up Monday morning with butterflies the size of pterodactyls in my stomach. I tried to have my morning coffee and toast, but it was evident there was no room in there for anything else. Not being interested in throwing up at my first executive weekly meeting I decided on water. While I was getting ready to go, I had to keep reminding myself that I was well qualified for the job and that was all that mattered. Beyond that, no one knew who I was or what I was doing there, and I wasn’t giving them reason to suspect otherwise.
After I showered I put on my navy blue pants and blazer with a power red blouse underneath. I braided my hair into a French braid that went from one side of my head to the other. That would keep it neat, but it wasn’t quite as severe as a bun. I didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard my first day. I slipped on my red heels and took one last look at myself. Picking my compact back up I lightly dusted the light brown freckles that ran across my nose. I’d been told that they made me look like a teenager. That was definitely not what I wanted today.
I parked my car in the employee garage this time, feeling proud when I flashed my badge. Then I saw the spot marked “CEO” and the Aston Martin that was parked there. I got angry all over again and for the first time in my life I considered scraping my keys along the side of a vehicle. I did a lot of self-talk and simple breathing exercises whilst I walked into the conference room a few minutes early. It was an extravagant place with dark wood walls and a long, shiny wood table surrounded by plush looking burgundy chairs. The wooden blinds were open and the morning sunlight was streaming in. The room smelled like coffee and cinnamon and I saw the pastry and beverage cart in the corner and knew why. No one else was in yet and my stomach was feeling slightly less offensive, so I helped myself to a cup of coffee. Instead of sitting down, I carried my coffee over to the window and looked out at the Manhattan skyline. It was a beautiful view and I almost got tears in my eyes as I thought about the fact that my own father probably stood in this very spot years ago and looked out at the same buildings and sidewalks. That thought made me sad for two reasons, one because my parents had died way too young and my father should still be here to reap the rewards of the company he built himself, and two because if my father had to be gone, this was a view that I should own right now. This was my building… my company…