Sentinel Mountain

Chapter Twelve
Husbands and Feds

"Kelly wasn't in his office when I stopped by Monday morning. I reminded Elizabeth, his secretary, that I needed his thoughts and projections for the Hawaii meeting as soon as he could get them together. 'Have him give me a call when he's ready to discuss them.'

"I had a memo on my desk from the Old Man asking that I meet Senhor Soares and his wife at the airport and take them to their hotel. I was also to explain that he was not expected in the office until noon Tuesday. The Old Man had been very impressed with Senhor Soares after he read over the recommendations and reports concerning him and his work. Their plane was arriving at noon, so I had a couple hours to begin catching up on the backlog from Thursday and Friday.

"I was preparing to leave for the airport when Elizabeth called to tell me Kelly would meet with me Tuesday afternoon. I didn't have time to do anything about that right then so I just told her I'd get back to her.

"When I arrived at the airport, I recognized Senhor Soares at the baggage carousel at once. He was a very handsome man, tall, slender, very Portuguese in appearance in spite of his height. Beside him was a man who was obviously not of pure European background, but also native Brazilian. 'Senhor Soares,' I called and he turned. I hurried over and embraced him, 'Welcome to San Francisco. Senhora Soares?'

"Senhor Soares got a huge grin on his face, 'I'm afraid you misunderstood, Mr. Taylor. There is no Senhora Soares. May I introduce my husband, Senhor Cândido Rondon, who, as you might guess from the famous man for whom he is named, is the son of a Portuguese father and a Bororo mother. Cândido, Mr. Joshua Taylor, my new boss.'

"'Senhor Taylor,' Senhor Rondon said, extending his hand. 'I am very pleased to meet you.' His English was perfect with a soft accent, definitely different from a Portuguese one.

"When they were checked into the hotel, Senhor Soares said, 'Mr. Taylor, I am sure we have to be formal at the office, but would it displease you to use our Christian names?'

"I smiled, 'Not at all Lucas, but call me Josh rather than Joshua.'

"'I'm Luc, but I'm afraid the only nickname Cândido has is my pet name for him and it just seems too personal…'

"'I understand. So you two are actually married?'

"'Yes, we took a vacation to Canada last year and were married by an Anglican priest. The fact that he had known Claude Levi-Strauss might have paved a way for us, but it was all official in Canada. In Brazil we are domestic partners. I understand even that is not recognized here.'

"'Sad, but true. If you would like to just rest this afternoon, feel free. If you would like to explore, give Prue a call and she can arrange just about anything you wish.'

"'The flight was not an easy one, so I suspect we'll nap until dinner, then maybe find a club.' I gave him the name of some clubs I thought they might enjoy and told him to use his company credit card to pay for it, then went back to the office.

"When I got back to the office, I had Prue call Kelly before going into my office. When Elizabeth answered she spoke for a minute or two. Prue covered the mouthpiece and said, 'Kelly hasn't been in the office today. Elizabeth said he didn't call in and she hasn't been able to locate him.'

"I started to have her call the old man, then thought, 'No, this is not a family matter nor a Josh-Kelly matter. This is a business matter and I am his boss and should handle this.'

"'Elizabeth, of course, called Kelly's service?' Prue nodded. I looked up Stan and Hank's number and said to Prue, 'Call Kelly's cell. If there is no answer, try this number and see if anyone is there and if they know where Kelly is. If not, try these cell numbers. Surely Stan or Hank will know where he is.'

"A few minutes later Prue buzzed and when I picked up the phone said, 'Kelly's cell went straight to voice mail, second number you gave me also went to voice mail after ringing five times. The first cell went to voice mail and when the last one rang, someone picked up and hung up, cutting me off before I could say anything.'

"'See if Raymond is in the building and free to do an errand.' Five minutes later Raymond, who was head of security among other things, was at my office door.

"'What's up, Mr. Taylor?'

"'Kelly's AWOL when he is needed here. Would you check by this address and see if he's there and if so, drag him to work?'

"'How persuasive can I be with the boss's son?'

"'Anything short of a major concussion,' I replied.

"Half an hour later, Raymond walked into my office, literally holding Kelly up by the collar. Kelly looked as if he had been picked up in some back alley—unshaven, half-dressed, eyes red and half-shut, semi-conscious at best. 'Three of them passed out. Enough empty liquor bottles for a two-week party for lumberjacks, straws and coke dust on the coffee table. From the smell and looks of things, I'd say the party started before the weekend. What do you want done with him?'

"Company policy dictated a stay in rehab and company insurance paid for it when someone was into dope. That would have been the wise thing to do, but we were headed for Hawaii and Kelly needed to be there next week. 'Raymond, you know company policy, so what I'm going to ask is not kosher and you can say no and be assured I'll respect that. Do you happen to know some place where you can take that wreck to get dried out and back in here as soon as possible. He needs to be here and able to work. I need him here, the Old Man needs him here.'

"'How rough can he be handled?' Raymond asked.

"'Try to keep the bruises where they don't show.'

"'We haven't seen each other or junior have we?'

"'Not since last week,' I grinned.

"Two days later Kelly showed up in the office, still looking the worse for wear, but he was able to pull together some of the materials I needed, and Prue and Elizabeth helped me round out the report. Raymond showed up at Kelly's office at five and disappeared with him. He did this Thursday and Friday as well. Friday he came by my office first and said, 'You'll be short a date this weekend as Kelly has a weekend date elsewhere.'

"I got home and decided I didn't want to stay in the apartment, so I called Susan and asked if the Masons were free for dinner. 'We're always free if Mom and I can get out of cooking.'

"I called for reservations at a place I knew was kid friendly and asked if they had a small private dining room since there would be six of us. They didn't, but suggested a table on the patio which worked out great. The boys were free to run around a bit since we were outside, and immediately became pets of most of the older people eating on the patio.

"After dinner, we went to a small park where the boys could run free, try the swings and even the slide. They were fearless. I envied their innocence and energy. It was getting late for them, so we went back to the Masons' and I helped bathe the two, get them in their PJs and read them a story before tucking them in. Susan and Winston both came in and kissed the boys goodnight. When I said I guessed I enjoyed the two so much because I would never have children, Susan said I shouldn't be so sure. I remembered Luc had said he, and what I now knew was his husband and not wife, hoped to have children in the future.

"After the boys were in bed, we talked shop a bit. Winston wanted to know just how much 'crooked shit,' to use his words, the company was willing to tolerate.

"'None, nada, zero,' I replied.

"'May get some people in trouble.'

"'Too bad. You ready to make a report to the Old Man?'

"'Josh, you know I can't write worth shit.'

"'You can tell Susan and she can write the report for you. Hire her as your part-time secretary. She can work from home, type your stuff and send it from the computer.' Susan thought that was an excellent idea and Winston agreed.

"Luc had signed a contract the day after he arrived and went to work at once getting material ready for the Hawaii meeting. When I checked on him Thursday, he was light years ahead of Kelly. I should say Prue and Elizabeth because the materials were essentially their work, mostly Elizabeth's. Kelly was still having problems getting straightened out. Raymond said he thought he could hold it together for the trip, but he thought straight to rehab after it was over.

"Friday afternoon, Mark Jenkins called and said he had managed to get a hearing before a judge with no connections to Wellsburg and the title to the Williamson place was in my name, free and clear. 'I also drew up agreements between you and Jack Kennedy and you and Sally Wilkerson. She's coming down tomorrow to sign the papers after she looks over the contract. If all meets her approval, she'll move in next week.'

"The situation in Wellsburg in hand and the Masons settling in in Oakland, I felt ready to tackle the small stuff, Blankenship Ltd. Raymond dropped by shortly after I talked to Mark and said he would have Kelly on the plane for Hawaii with the San Francisco people Monday but not to expect to see him before then.

"The Old Man debated flying us all over first class, but decided a charter was a better deal all the way around. We'd be leaving at noon and arriving six or so hours later. Given the time difference, we would have plenty of time to freshen up before getting together at 5:30 for drinks with dinner at 6:30. The officials from the Brazilian facility would be arriving about half an hour after we did and Taiwan officials had arrived earlier in the day.

"I was pleased when the Old Man suggested Kelly and I not room together. We had not been together since the night before I left for Wellsburg but, of course, the Old Man didn't know that. As soon as I reached the hotel, I had my laptop locked in the hotel safe and took a DVD back-up to the room and locked it in the room safe. The back-up and the drives on the computer were heavily encrypted, but I was taking no chances since not only were all my reports and presentations on them, but also some pretty top-secret stuff which would be shared with a limited number of people. I also had a small, steel, lock-box stowed in the hotel safe. It contained a top-secret control for a proposed night surveillance devise being jointly developed by Blankenship and Safco under government contract.

"I still had not developed a taste for hard liquor and saw no reason to drink fruit punch at 5:30 in the afternoon which was what most of the drinks looked like. I had a glass of red wine which I found very good and wandered around greeting people I had not seen for a while since I was not traveling.

"After the social hour had been going on for half an hour, I noticed Kelly was downing a lot of alcohol. I guess, as his boss, I should have said something to him since I knew he really had a problem, but this was a social hour and there was nothing on the docket for tonight except a welcome by the Old Man and dinner, so I ignored him.

"After dinner, I changed into shorts and decided to go for a walk on the beach. As I left the hotel, Luc approached me, also wearing shorts, and asked, 'Going for a walk on the beach?' I nodded. 'Mind if I join you?'

"'Not at all.'

"We walked to the beach in silence and started strolling alone in the edge of the surf. 'It's such a beautiful moonlit night. I wish Cândido was here to enjoy it with me, but he has his job and I have mine.'

"'He has a job in San Francisco already?'

"'Actually in Berkeley. He's an adjunct professor of anthropology, and definitely not of the Levi-Strauss school,' he laughed. 'He does teach about the native peoples of South America and since he is half Bororo and lived among his mother's people for much of his life, he is in high demand as a professor and lecturer.'

"'How did you two meet, if I may ask?'

"Luc laughed, 'You may ask. Cândido was doing a guest lecture at the University where I was working on my advanced degree in business. I was interested in the native peoples of Brazil and especially the Bororo since I had read Levi-Strauss. I assumed the Bororo standing outside the lecture hall was for 'show and tell' by the visiting professor. I tried to talk to him in my halting Bororo and he just looked at me. I tried again, speaking slowly as we do to small children and people we believe are slow. He responded in Bororo as though he was speaking to a three-year-old, or at least that was my sense of what was going on. Finally he said, in that Bororo-accented Portuguese of his, 'I sure hope your Portuguese is a lot better than your Bororo, but thanks for the talk. Right now I have a lecture to give.' I asked if I could make up being an ass and he said, 'A good dinner would be a start' and it was. We had a long courtship since making a commitment to another man was a difficult step for our families to accept and, both having been raised Roman Catholic, well, I suspect you understand the church's stand.'

"'Do I ever!' I replied, but said no more.

"'After we had known each other for a year, we found out we could be married in an Anglican church in Canada and did that. What about you? Are you married?'

"'I'm gay, but am not committed to anyone. Actually I am, but I haven't seen him since we were sixteen and don't know where he is.' I told him about Alex, then said, 'Kelly and I have been living together and have agreed so long as we are together, we will be faithful to one another…'

"'Oh… sorry,' Luc said. I looked at him in the moonlight, but he was looking away and said nothing. 'I guess we better get back. I understand we have very full days coming up.' I wondered what he knew about Kelly, but didn't push him.

"The next couple days were full. The next morning the Old Man announced we were trimming back the company. 'We make and program the best controls in the world, but over the past couple of years, we have been adding one thing and another, most of which other companies do and do better. As of this week, we design, manufacture and program controls, nothing else. From coffee pots to weapons systems, if it can be controlled by a programed microchip or chips, we design the chip, build it and program it. We prototype test it, field test it and put it in production.' He then announced the Brazilian and Taiwanese facilities would no longer be duplicating each other's work. 'The Taiwan factory will do all government controls as well as large industrial ones. The Brazilian facility will focus on small industrial and consumer goods control, coffee pots, if you will. We will be devoting a large amount of our resources to research and development in that area.' He restated that Mr. T'an would continue as COO in Taiwan and Mr. Dimas the Brazilian one.'

"In spite of the fact the officials had been sent copies of the reports from all operations for the past two years, and told to 'read, learn, mark and inwardly digest them,' with special attention to what was turning a profit, what was breaking even and what was losing money, there was an immediate uproar. Several who were from divisions being scrapped had spent their time coming up with reasons why they were not making money and how they would be the only money makers in a year or so. After allowing them to speak for longer than I would have, the Old Man said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, nothing you have said and none of the reports you sent to prepare for this gathering leads me to believe any of the bullshit I have heard here or read in the summaries you have submitted. That having been said, I'd add, we do not have the resources to do a lot of playing around to see if we can make something else work when we know what we can do that has and will turn a profit. We will be spending our limited resources on better engineering and manufacturing of controls.'

"'As I said and will say again, we know how to design, program, test and manufacture controls and that is what we will be doing. Does that mean we will be cutting personnel? Possibly, but we will work hard to keep everyone and especially those who have proven their worth time and again. Does it mean we will be making changes in the manufacturing facilities? Definitely. Now we have four more days in this lovely place and I would like for all of us to have some time to enjoy it. However, we are here to plan the future of the new Blankenship Ltd. We will take a break and in half an hour, meet by divisions. You will find your meeting places in your packet. We will spend today working on your divisions, tomorrow, we'll work in mixed groups, looking at the work from today. There will be breaks as determined by your division heads. We will end today's sessions at four. You are on your own for the evening and, within reason, use your company credit cards for drinks, dinner and entertainment. There are brochures of attractions in your packet. Questions? Then gather in half an hour.'

"As he dismissed us, he motioned for me to join him. When I reached him, he said, 'Josh, join me in my room after the break as soon as you make sure Kelly and Lucas have their groups under control.' I nodded and headed for the break area to mingle. Seemed what needed doing right now was to listen to complaints and encourage 'the good guys'.

"The break was half over when a hotel employee approached me with a sealed envelope. I opened it and a sheet of note paper from the hotel had written on it, 'Are you sure your laptop's secure?' It was unsigned. I felt a chill run down my spine. That laptop would be worth a fortune to our competitors. I immediately went to the desk and asked to have my laptop. As soon as the case was brought to me, I took it to a desk in the nearby business center, opened the case, took out the computer and turned it on. All appeared as it should. I guess someone just wanted to give me a hard time. I returned the computer and asked that it, again, be locked in the hotel safe. Just to be sure, I asked that the steel lock-box also be brought out. It was still sealed, so it too was returned.

"By the time I had checked on the computer, the break was over and the groups were getting underway. I sat down with a cup of coffee, wondering about the note, and waited until Kelly and Luc had time to get their groups going. When I looked in on Luc's group, they were hard at work with Luc obviously in charge. Good. When I looked in on Kelly's group, it was a totally different picture. Half the group was arguing about how to proceed and the other half were doing whatever they wanted—talking, reading newspapers, and generally waiting to be told what to do. Kelly was nowhere in sight. I had worked, at one time or another, in one situation or another, with most in the room and, in the case of many, knew their strong and weak points. Looking over the group, I saw Candice McCall looking disgusted, her arms across her chest, looking at her watch. I walked over to her and said, 'Candice, as of this moment, you are in charge of this group. Don't blow it.'

"'Ladies and gentlemen,' she said in a commanding voice, 'we are the engineering division and we have work to do.'

"Some asshole I had seen with Kelly yesterday yelled from the back, 'Who the hell are you, honeybuns?'

"'As of two minutes ago, I am head of this group…'

"'Ms. McCall is head of the engineering division of Blankenship Ltd, sir, a company of which you are no longer an employee. Please see me in the hall to discuss your travel arrangements,' I said. 'Ms. McCall.'

"When I walked out, the joker didn't follow. Instead, I heard him say, 'I don't know who the fuck that guy thinks he is, but Kelly Blankenship is my boss.'

"'Everette, I'm surprised you are a part of the Blankenship Ltd team and do not know Mr. Taylor, vice-president in charge of engineering and performance—Mr. Kelly Blankenship's boss, my boss and, until a few minutes ago, your boss.'

"'Fuck you, bitch,' he said. 'Until Kelly Blankenship fires me, I'm staying.' When he spoke this time, it was clear he was high on something. I walked down the hall and looked over at Luc's group, spotted two of the biggest, strongest men there, nodded to Luc and motioned for them to come with me. When they joined me in the hall, I said, 'Gentlemen, I am…'

"'We know you, Mr. Taylor,' one of them said. 'I am Levi Stockman.'

"'Mr. Taylor, I'm Terry Sanford.'

"'Mr. Stockman and Mr. Sanford, I had an unpleasant task for you.' I explained the situation and said, 'If you don't want to remove Everette—I don't know his surname—please feel free to say so, otherwise, ask Ms. McCall to point him out to you. If it is necessary, physically remove him from the conference room and bring him to the front desk.'

"While they went to the other conference room, I went the front desk, asked for hotel security to send two men to the front desk, and asked the concierge to arrange a coach seat on the next available flight to San Francisco. Recalling a paragraph in our standard contract, I also asked that she arrange a drug test. When the two men brought Everette Sloane—I learned his surname from them—to the front desk, hotel security was waiting. Everette was cussing, screaming about his rights, and hotel security reminded him he was creating a disturbance and the police would be happy to take him off their hands. He calmed down until I told him they would be accompanying him to a clinic for a drug test. They again reminded him the police would be happy to lock him up for creating a disturbance and he went along with them, hanging his head.

"As soon as he was out of my hair, I took the elevator to the penthouse suite where the Old Man was staying, wondering what was on his mind. I was surprised when I walked into the suite to see Kelly with a shit-eating grin on his face and two men who, from their dress, I suspected were some kind of federal agents."


Miguel just sent me a note about the Brazilian sentence in Chapter 10. I copied the correct one into a document and then sent the incorrect version for posting. If you want to correct your copy, the correct sentence is

Você tem que saber com o que estê lidando.


Editors: Jesse and Scott.

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All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.

~ Sequoyah