Global Corporation tries to rebuild an ancient viking city with haunting consequences
| "Douglas, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but," Richard paused and sighed deeply, "the institution is going to have to let you go."
Professor Howe didn't say anything. Of course he had heard the rumors but hearing the news first hand always hit much harder. He looked across the immense oaken desk that separated him from one of his oldest and closest friends, the president of Statesmorrow university, Richard Crenlish. Douglas didn't really have to say anything, which was for the best because he didn't have anything to say. His foot began to tap. He simply ran his fingers through his thinning black hair and proceeded to drop his cheek onto his fist which was supported by the armrest of a rather expensive but comfortable Louis the fourteenth chair. Judging by his appearance, Richard would have guessed that he was more tired than distressed.
Richard looked at him, his own heart already beginning to drop. "Douglas..." He took a second to gather his words. "It shouldn't be that bad. Honestly, you are one of, if not the best professor of history this university has ever seen. You know that I'm willing to help you find another job any way I can, from writing a letter to pulling a few strings. That is after I find myself one."
This last phrase carried the sentiments of everyone still at the university. Douglas felt for his friend as much, if not more, than he did for himself.
Having been standing, Richard returned to his seat facing away from the fourteen foot picture windows that encircled the rear of his desk. Since he had been at the University, Douglas never really understood this. Why would Richard choose to have his back to the beautiful scene outside the window? Douglas supposed it was simply a matter of who was behind the desk and who was in front of it, something Richard had always had a better grasp on than Douglas. "Actually, I was thinking about having you write a letter of recommendation for me." Douglas grinned at his old friend's sentiment.
“So it's actually happened. They've bought the place." Douglas said this as less of a question and more as an acknowledgment of what he hoped would not have come to fruition.
"No one saw it coming. I mean with the number of enrollments as high as ever, but the amount which they offered the board of directors was too much to pass up. We honestly couldn't say no."
Douglas Howe, with his fist still on his cheek couldn't help but smile, if just to brighten his own mood. "You know, if you sold your desk we could keep this place going for another two or three years." The sadness on Richard's face was betrayed by a grin.
"That's why I wasn't worried about you Douglas. I know you'll see your way through. You could have another teaching job within a month and if you would like, I could make a couple of calls."
"I don't know." This time Douglas breathed a deep sigh of his own. "I'm getting old. Maybe I should take some time off, write my memoirs." Across the desk, the President folded his hands and smiled.
"How old are you now, Douglas? Sixty, sixty-two?" With this, Douglas Howe sat up and pointed a warning finger at Richard Crenlish even though his plump cheeks had given way to a broad grin beneath his mustache. "You know damn well I'm fifty-two, you creep."
"Oh, oh. That's right." said Richard, play acting, but his sarcasm had no chance of winning him an Oscar. "And that bottle of scotch?"
Douglas recalled his last birthday party and the thirty year old bottle which Richard Crenlish had brought for him. Knowing that Douglas was not a big drinker himself, he had excepted it as more of a token that Richard was planning to visit him quite a bit in the near future and what more could a friend ask for. "Most of it is still there. Actually you're the only one who's touched it so far. You had best come over and finish it after this whole thing blows over." The president of the university gave him a reassuring smile.
"I certainly will. So you'll be all right for a while?" He asked more out of concern for a friend than a subordinate.
"Yeah, I guess so." He reached into his pocket and took out a cigarette he had rolled for himself earlier. "I guess I'll just have to figure out what to do with my free time." Douglas furrowed his brow as he gave his first thoughts to what lay in store for the next little while. Unconsciously, he took out a lighter and lit the cigarette. Taking a long drag, he still seemed deep in thought when Richard, simply out of shocked surprise spoke up.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Taken back, Douglas looked up to see the surprised, although not-to-serious look on Richard's face. Glancing back down at the cigarette in his hand, his face broke into a sly grin. He had, in fact, given it some thought and, although surprised at his own daring, could not have imagined a better opportunity. "What are you going to do Richard, fire me?"
Richard sat in the King's Crown restaurant which was situated on the first floor of the Winchester hotel looking down at his plate. He hadn't realized until the black uniformed server had brought him the roast chicken that he wasn't really hungry. The reason he had come was simply not to be at home. Packard would have prepared him something just as appetizing and for quite a bit less money but at this point none of that concerned him. He just wanted to be in unfamiliar, yet familiar surroundings.
The plushness of the King's Crown did a fair, if not perfect, job of distracting him from the events that had transpired earlier that day. Although the Louis the fourteenth chairs did remind him of his office, the antique oil lamps put a dimmer light on things. Richard just wanted to feel high in status even if he felt low in spirits.
Douglas sat on the old wooden bench, which was located next to a small pond near one of the more remote buildings of Statesmorrow university. The pond, Douglas had coined with the pet name, the “duck pond”. Actually, the bench was not completely wooden. The wrought iron sides which held the entire structure of the thing together gave it the look of something that could have been built in the eighteen hundreds. The pond itself most likely did have a name but he had never gotten around to learning it. Actually, when the school had been established in the early eighteen hundreds, this piece of property had not been purchased from the original owner, but was instead known as the “Walker Parade Grounds” after a rather wealthy farmer who had given up some of his land to the use of the community. It was fifty years before the school had expanded far enough to need the land and it was then purchased.
His mind wandered to a time when he had once played with the Statesmorrow marching band on the parade grounds some years back. Where had the time gone? Being not only a scholar of global history but local history as well, Douglas has found the history of Statesmorrow quite interesting although he doubted that anyone else in the entire state of Maine would have known about this Reginald Walker. He also doubted that after a hundred and seventy years, that anyone would recognize the old duck pond by the name “Walker Parade Grounds”. Everything changed over time.
It was just after Easter and although the temperature had not risen enough for him to forfeit his thick woolen sweater, enough ducks and geese had returned north to make it worth tossing a few handfuls of popcorn here and there. Waddling around and pecking at the food he had laid out for them, the geese would occasionally let out a boisterous squawk, glance up at him and then return to their foraging.
Glancing around, Douglas took in his surroundings. There were pines along the north side of the park. Letting his eyes wander along the edge of the wood he saw oaks and sugar maples as well, just again budding after a long winter’s sleep. He noticed a troop of young children playing a game that seemed to him like a cross between catch and tag. There were young college couples holding hands in the romantic atmosphere of a late April afternoon and also families out with their children, finally able to get out of the houses and into the fresh air again.
With the sun just beginning to angle toward it’s final decent, it’s perfectly circular face was captured by the water in the pond which stretched out in front of him. Ripples would sometimes appear, as the wind would blow down from the top of the tree line. If he looked into the water long enough, he might catch a glimpse of a school of minnows darting this way and that or the shell of a hungry turtle slowly paddling by. All in all, it was the perfect day.
“This sucks.” Said Douglas to no one in particular as he lit a cigarette. His backside had long ago grown numb from sitting to long on the stiff wooden board and he was sure that they weren’t helping his back much either. Standing up, he dumping out the remainder of the bag and three of the larger geese quickly charged the pile and, pecking at each other to lay claim to the treasure, buffeted his legs.
As he began to walk back down the path, he wondered how people could spend day after day doing what he had attempted to do, even on such a beautiful day. Even with life all around him, he was bored silly. “I've got to find something to do.” he said out load, to no one in particular, around his cigarette. He knew that he would be much happier, or at least more entertained at the university's library, but he couldn't force himself to go back there. The Tell corporation was probably already dissecting the library, not to mention the Statesmorrow church.
No, he knew this was not true. He had driven by the school ever day since he had been given his leave a month ago, even though most of the time it had not been on his way. Beyond this, they wouldn't begin their work until the end of the semester. He was given his leave early simply out of respect for his position. At the time, he had appreciated the fact, but anymore he was going stir crazy not having anywhere to be from day to day.
Upon reaching his car, a metallic blue Volkswagen, he got in and quickly opened up his lap top which was on the seat next to him. Scrolling through a list of e-phone numbers, he came across the number of his old friend Richard Crenlish. Highlighting the name, he pressed connect and the computer quickly began processing the call. How long would it be before they outlawed cell phones as he took another drag from his cigarette, he thought to himself as the call went through. At least until the first couple of brain tumor lawsuits succeeded. After that, the telecommunication giants would be so bogged down with... This thought was cut short when Richard answered.
“Hello Douglas. How are you?” Richard had answered with video on. At least he hadn't caught him in the bathroom.
“I'm going crazy, Richard. I'm bored out of my mind. Do you mind if I stop over for a cup of coffee?” Richard smiled.
“Give me a second. I'll ask Linda.”
With this, Richard pressed what Douglas assumed to be an intercom switch. He didn't hear the conversation but when Richard again returned his attention to the screen, his expression was positive.
“Certainly. I'll have the coffee waiting. How long will you be?” Douglas looked at his watch. Although being one of the wind up style of days long past it still kept perfect time.
“How does a half an hour sound?”
“Excellent. I'll be waiting with bells on.”
Traffic was not all that bad so it only took Douglas thirty of forty minutes to get across town to the Crenlish manor. It was rare to have seen as many cars as he had on the by-way, albeit passing the other direction, with the cost of fuel as high as it was.
This was still one of those things that he couldn't justify. With the right equipment, a person could make hydrogen from sea water. The tycoons still had enough gall to sell gasoline as if it was the answer to everyones problems and on top of that, charge as much as they did for it. Well, he thought to himself as he turned the car's stereo to the classical music station, I guess everybody has to drive and tycoons certainly use that to their advantage. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This was the thought that echoed in his ears as he parked his car along the cobblestone path and opened the door. It seemed like this had been the motto of America for the better part of two centuries.
Looking up at "Richard's Castle," for that is essentially what it was, the words reechoed one more time. It amazed him every time he came over. With nearly fifty rooms, and four acres of lawn that were as pristine as the brickwork on the paths, all Douglas could do was give a low whistle. Three foot hedges surrounded the crisscross pattern sidewalk which Douglas followed to the front door. Flicking out the last of his cigarette, he was careful to break the seam of the tube so that all that was left was a pinch of tobacco and a sliver of burnt, stained paper. He hadn't smoked cigarettes with filters on them for the longest time for exactly that reason, and with the amount he smoked, he figured mother nature could deal with a few less filters to litter the earth and a little more compost. Dropping the remains, he kicked them under one of the shrubs he passed and approached the heavy oaken front door. Before he could ring the bell, a uniformed doorman opened it and motioned him inside. "Hello, Packard. How's the family been?"
James Packard had been the head of staff since Douglas had met Richard. Tall and slightly rounded at the waist, his hair color seemed like the only thing that had changed since Douglas had met him, now a proud gray as apposed to a dark brown. His jet black, three piece suit was still as spotless and well pressed as ever. "Very good, Douglas. My youngest has just been promoted at the corporation, head of the science department." There was an honest smile on Packard's face.
"Quite a position." said Douglas in response. "So that means he can afford gas by now?" Packard's smile widened.
"If he can't now, he will be able to soon enough."
Douglas had asked the question as a matter of polite conversation. He had known Packard and considered him a close friend and was proud for his son and could tell from Packard's smile that he was elated.
“Mr. Crenlish is waiting in the study, sir. Shall I escort you?”
“Please.” said Douglas with a friendly grin. “So, have you heard any of the news about this business with the university and the Tell corporation?” As they began their walk toward the study, James simply shrugged.
“Just what's common knowledge. With the end of the semester so close, that's when it is all slated to begin. They have actually purchased three houses on the outskirts of town and filled them with everyone from executives, engineers and blue collar. I guess that they are in no small hurry to begin their work.” Douglas frowned at this.
“You mean their destruction. Any idea what their intent is?” James simply shook his head at this.
“You're asking the wrong person, but I'm not even sure if Richard knows the answer to that one. Supposedly, it's all been very hush, hush.” By this time, the two of them had reached the ornate doors of the study and James held them open for him dutifully. “He's just inside.”
It seemed, to Douglas, that there was nothing in this house that was not well decorated. “You take your coffee with one cream?” Packard, of course, knew this but Douglas just smiled and nodded. The man servant was quickly off to the kitchen.
Making his way into the study, there sat Richard, reading glasses perched on his bulbous nose, looking over the daily news. Actually, when he had heard the door open, he had begun to refold the newspaper an rise to meet his old friend.
Glancing at his wristwatch, Richard frowned. “Fifteen minutes ago you would have been on time.” With a mirrored grin, Douglas reached out to shake his hand.
“Don't tell me you've regressed to the point where you still think I'm looking for my tenure.” They both laughed and took a seat while Douglas added sarcastically, “My dog ate it.”
“So, can I get you anything?” Positioning himself across from Richard, Douglas sat in the familiar leather upright which perfectly complimented the room.
“Packard should already be on his way back with the coffee.”
Richard grinned. “You know,” he said, just to make light conversation, “in all the studies I have read as of late, they say that tea is actually better for you. Takes more to raise the blood pressure and all that.” Douglas retorted with a huff.
“As I recall we won the American Revolution. At least allow a fellow the simple pleasures.”
“Now whose back to the days of teaching.” Douglas had to smile but at the same time felt the pangs of remorse.
“Well, what am I if not an overstuffed history book?”
“If it is what you are good at? I believe that it was tea that made the largest impact on the world. Tea was all across Europe and half of Africa before coffee had even traveled farther north than the Grand Canyon.”
“Now be civil, Richard.” At this point, Douglas was on his own playing field and although he didn't want to show his old friend up, Richard had cracked the history book. “Who knows how far coffee actually traveled. The North Americans kept no written records and if those in the South did, Cortes did a fine job of making sure that none of them survived. At this point, it becomes a question of overland travel. Whose to say that there wasn't an Indian Marco Polo.”
With a sly grin, Richard added quickly, “As I recall, most of the stops along the silk road were in India.” Douglas winced at a point well made.
“All right, a native American Marco Polo. I do understand your point though, they should have been Native Colombians and the only reason they weren't was due to a conspiracy of mapmakers.”
“They shouldn't have been anything Douglas, in your own words. The north American Indians kept no written records, ergo no maps, or country names, just tribal titles.” Douglas shook his head for a second trying to recalculate his train of thought. Why didn't that seem right?
“Actually,” he started again slowly as the door cracked and Packard began to walk in with his coffee, “shouldn't they have been the sons of Eric the Red or something?” Richard was surprised by this thought but, yes, he thought. Douglas was making perfect sense. If it did come down to the titles which European travelers had tacked onto they continent they were now on.
“You know, it should be, or Lief land or something. Maybe the vikings weren't given their just reward.”
Packard walked over with a smile and an fine wooden tray. “Your coffee, sir.”
Douglas was more than happy to take the steaming mug. “Thank you James. Your timing is impeccable. I was just loosing an argument to “Old Man Tea Leaves” over there.”
The look on Packard's face told Douglas volumes. “Surprising, it's usually whiskey and soda. Do you need a refill?” Douglas fained disgust.
“I see. Now the truth comes out.” Richard took this light heartedly.
“No thank you, James. I've hardly touched this one.”
“Very good sir.” Turning on his heels and balancing the tray on his hand as aptly as one of PT Barnum's tumblers, he was off.
Now that he had his coffee, Douglas was quick to begin rolling another cigarette. “If you don't mind?” he asked Richard, pointing to the veranda, which was located to the rear of the library.
“No actually. I think I'll join you.”
“I still remember seeing your presentation. Was it in Boston where you did a rather fine job of bolstering the history department and the whole university for that matter?”
For the first time since the loss of the university, Douglas smiled. “Actually, it was in Washington D.C. I was chosen to represent us before six different nations.”
“Now that you mention it…” Richard reflected for a second.
Douglas took another sip of coffee and inhaled his last drag before putting out his cigarette. “I still don’t understand the importance of all this.”
“Neither do I.” Richard paused for a second seeming to be in deep contemplation and Douglas gave him a wide berth, taking out his tobacco pouch and beginning to roll another. A dark look came over Richard’s face. “But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, it doesn’t look good.”
“What do you mean?” Douglas had removed his lighter and was snapping the flint as he said this.
“The Tell corporation, they don’t seem at all interested in the money behind the university, do they?”
Taking a long drag, Douglas raised his hands in a shrug. “I don’t know. I wasn’t at any of the big meetings. I was gone well before that.” Richard was still thinking, but his tempo was speeding up with the excitement that comes with realization.
“No. They didn’t want to talk to the accountants at all. It’s coming back to me. It was all engineers and blueprints.” There was a pause. “They want the buildings, not the money.”
Douglas had taken in everything he had said but the importance still hadn’t struck him. “So? We’re still without a school.”
“Yes, yes.” Said Richard in a daze of deep thought, almost brushing him off. “That’s a done deal.” Now turning his attention back to Douglas, “They were willing to pay more than any of us expected. We couldn’t say no.” Douglas frowned at this point. He was painfully aware of this and it had been gnawing at him for the past month.
“So what do they want it for?”
Richard turned to him with a sly smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye. “The raw material…. the buildings themselves.” Douglas was willing to take Richard at his word but didn’t understand his dubious expression.
“And that means?” Douglas trailed out this last question to play against Richard’s implication that the answer was obvious, which to Douglas, it was not.
“What it means, my old friend, is that Winton Blackmore, who can get his hands on invoices, ships dockets and receipts of sale from anyplace, any time and even those that “may never have even existed” has just reached the eighth square and is no longer a pawn.”
“Winton was never a pawn.” said Douglas trying to piece all this together, but yes. Now it struck Douglas. He had just become a very important piece in this game, that is if the Swiss were playing chess at all.
Putting on Richard’s smile. “Hmm,” he said taking another drag, “this could work.” Quickly turning his smile toward Richard, “But I not sure they are playing chess at all. They could simply be counting on a knock out at the end of the first round.”
“Nineteen thirty four.”
Richard and Douglas both turned to Winton. Richard had his eyebrow cocked but was keeping silent. Douglas on the other hand, being somewhat of a historian himself, spoke up. “From everything I’ve read, nothing in this church dates from after nineteen hundred.” Richard couldn’t help but crack a smile as he saw Douglas reaching into the proverbial lion’s jaws.
“I’ve read that myself,” said Winton, “and actually, everything you are going to find in the school’s records will tell you the same,” Douglas nodded smugly knowing that the historical research he had done was more than paying off. “but as I recall, in the last few years of the nineteen twenties, there were some very serious changes in the water table around here, either that or an earthquake, but whichever, this jigsaw of a marble floor showed up shortly after that. I could probably find some of the work records. They are all in my personal files at home. It was during the great depression, yes, nineteen thirty four.”
Although Douglas had never heard any of this before, he sat and listened, even if it was all hearsay. Richard on the other hand was sitting on a pin cushion that contained not only hope but some dangerous points as well, no pun intended. Something of this caliber might be the key to the entire puzzle or the hole that sinks their boat.
Winton thought for a second. All the information was there although he could not be sure about the finer points. “Yes, thirty four. The Nazis were on the rise in Germany. Hitler was taking the nation by storm due to their depression and every German as well as a few Americans were taking him seriously.” From Douglas' expression, Winton could tell that he was not willing to except this but he went on simply due to Richard's intrigue.
“Do go on.” Richard prodded him.
“Well,” continued Winton, “it was some rather wealthy folks looking to make investments in the poor for the sake of making a profit later on, Walt Disney for one. As I recall they were investing quite a bit of money to procure holy relics, mostly Judeo-Christian. There was a basement to this church, or at least there used to be. Now I can't be positive about this but I think that the people who built the church of Statesmorrow were involved with the masons.”
“But how would the Swiss be involved?”
“And why wouldn't we have any records?” Richard added to Douglas' question. Winton looked at Richard like he was a fool.
“Do I really have to answer that? They are a secret society.”
“Not the masons, the Nazis.” At this, Winton ignored the question and turned his attantion back to Richard.
“To answer your question, Douglas, I don't know, but if I recall some of the information that has passed my desk, the American Nazi party spent a lot of money to rebuild this church floor, probably filling in the basement at the same time and apparently that is where the marble came from. During world war two, the banks of Switzerland were completely neutral. They held money and gold for the Nazis as well as the British and Americans, probably religious relics as well. As the Swiss know, you try to keep your assets in a place where they will make you a high return while taking the least damage, such as a university. Who knows? During the depression, the Swiss may simply have been the highest bidder. Now considering the amount of money that it would take to rebuild this floor and it's possible religious significance, whoever the name on the receipts was would probably have had a Swiss bank account and even more likely, the Swiss had the floor in their vaults in the first place. I imagine whoever it was got it for a steal seeing that the money was more than likely going to pay for the starving at the time. ”
“There it is.” said Richard pounding his fist down on the back of the pew in front of him. “Douglas told us that the Tell corporation was started by Swiss monks. If they kept up with the religious side of things, they would have figured out the true value of the marble floor and thought it was worth investing in. That could be your tie in.” Douglas and Winton both saw the smile on Richard's face broaden and smiled to themselves respectively at seeing there friend so giddy.
“And to answer your question Richard, under the leadership of Adolph Hitler, the Nazi party turned into something worse than anyone could have possibly imagined. Maybe destroying the records of any dealings which they had with the college was a good move.” Richard's countenance changed during Winton's last point and even though still excited, he simply bowed his head in shame.
Douglas could do nothing but agree with both men. “I'm going to go outside and have a cigarette. If you two come up with anymore conspiracy theories while I'm out, please update me before I have to read about it in the tabloids.”
Winton, not knowing if he was excused as of yet and also curious as to find out as much as he could from William Kierken simply looked, listened and waited. To use the cliché, the silence was deafening. The rustle of pages as he leafed through the documents which Winton had just given him was the only sound in the room and even that was few and far between. William was taking his care to make sure that he missed nothing.
After literally ten minutes, which seemed to be much longer to Winton, William glanced up at him. Not lifting his head, mind you, just his eyes. Winton felt their weight. “I believe I have found what I was looking for.”
“What is that?” asked Winton, trying not to sound defeated but knowing full well that he had just given up his only trump card. “What do you know about the Island of Rugen?”
This caught Winton off guard. At this point, maybe his strategy and tact were not what he needed. Maybe he could rely upon his knowledge and experience. “Besides for the fact that it was where the marble was quarried, which you now know, it is a small island on the northern border of Germany and Poland, where the Oder River lets out into the Baltic. The only thing that comes to mind is that during World War Two the Nazi’s used it as a research site to build the V-1 and V-2 rocket bombs.” Mister Kierken nodded.
“Yes, that’s what most people remember it for. The only problem is that most people don’t look back before nineteen fourteen when studying the history of Europe.” William put on a cocked smile but kept on before Winton could interrupt. “Now I’m not saying you fall into this stereotype, Mister Blackmore, but from your expression I can tell that you are correct. There is much more. The town of Vineta, on the Isle of Rugen was known for it’s proximity to a great source of marble for some eight hundred year before the advent of machines. The Tell Corporation had speculations that this was where the stone had come from, but they could not be sure. You have just supplied us with the proof we needed. Thank you sir.”
With this, Mister Kierken arose and set his briefcase on the table. Opening it, he placed the folder inside and once again closed it. Winton arose as well but remained silent, for he had nothing left to say. William Kierken, on the other hand, went on none the less. “After the age of machines, the quarries were drained dry, so to speak. It bankrupt and closed the town for not much more than military research and a few very poor settlements, but alas…” With this, William was silent for a time as he walked Winton to the door. Winton had the same sinking feeling the people of Vineta must have had after the marble was all gone, it was the same feeling he had when Richard had walked him out of Statesmorrow Library on his last day as senior reference librarian.
Once on the other side of the door and walking down the hall side by side, William spoke up again. “My secretary will get in touch with you concerning our contract, our trade. She will draw up some terms which I’m sure will suit both our parties quite well. You will have the paperwork within the week as well as the original copies of what you have delivered to me today.”
His sleep that night was on again, off again. At times, he would wake up thinking of what he had lost to the Tell Corporation without any material gain and how he was going to break the news to Richard and Douglas, both of who would be eager to see him again. In fact, they had scheduled breakfast together at Douglas’ apartment that very morning to discuss the events that had transpired with William Kierken.
Well, what could be done? He would just have to tell the truth but he knew now how Jack must have felt selling the family’s cow for magic beans. The only problem he had now was that he didn’t have half as much faith in the Tell Corporation as Jack had had in those beans. Could it be possible that it was faith in their magic that had made those beans grow?
He laid there for a second before he began to giggle at his train of thought. Then he began to roar. Maybe faith could make beans grow, yes, but he would also need a giant, a magic harp and a goose that laid golden eggs. As he recalled, Richard had laid some pretty large goose eggs in his day and Douglas, although he didn't have a magic harp was a pretty good drummer. Maybe it was his job to become the giant. Who knows? Yes, this plan could be a big goose egg, but maybe with faith it might turn out to be gold and he, Douglas and Richard would go down in history at giant killers.
“You at least got it in writing?” Richard asked.
“Yes, he said within a week he would not only have the original records back but a written contract of their promise.” The two of them sat silently while Douglas brought in the tray containing, not only hot black coffee, but also a fresh brewed pot of Earl Grey tea and once again took his seat.
“Well, we are actually better off now than we were yesterday at this time. We were thinking that they were going to tear apart the whole university. Now we know that it is just the floor and that the rest of the church is going to be there for as long as the contract is for.” Before either man could ask, Winton was already answering.
“No, I don’t know, but he said I would be satisfied with the deal. I’m sorry but he had me backed into a corner. I was doing most of the answering.”
Douglas took out his pouch of tobacco and started to roll a cigarette. “We don’t mind. It's your apartment.” but Douglas was already taking a new seat next to the cracked window.
“There’s no reason to be nervous about it Winton. I’m sure you did your best.” “Don’t patronize me, Richard. There is something about them, the five from the Tell Corporation that….” Winton paused but still couldn’t find the right words, “I don’t know.”
“I do.” said Richard with a huff. “They scare the hell out of you.” Douglas looked over at him with a nod, as well as pointing his cigarette hand at him which told Richard that Douglas had felt it too. “I remember at my first meeting with them, with the board of trustees, when they were first making their bids on the college. Just sitting across the table from them, I was petrified. It wasn’t for any reason I could explain. It was something…. now, I don’t want to sound crazy here, but it was almost supernatural. I don’t know how many of the others around the table felt it but if they hadn’t given us time to consider the offer, they could have offered us three dollars for the whole school and I would have accepted it just to get away from that table, away from those damned blue suits.”