* Chapter Six -- Getting down to Business *
Morning came early with David walking through the door at 7:30am. I was barely awake only in blue jeans and a sweat shirt and had only just put the coffee to cooking. I preferred old fashioned percolated coffee or espresso; this morning it was the old school stove top percolator at work for me. I splashed water on my face, wished for a shower and turned to engage an energetic David. I didn't get my first word out before the door open and Traci came in carrying a bag of what I guessed to be pretend food from a popular fast-food joint.
On their demand the first order of business was to display the actual ticket so they both could confirm this wasn't some sort of sick joke I was pulling on them. So I brought out the ticket, I had it in a plastic baggie to protect it and I held it as the two of them viewed each side of it. I had signed it of course and I had been damn careful to study my drivers license signature and passport signature before signing to avoid any mistakes.
That being done, I was allowed coffee and food and as I partook of my morning sustenance while Traci ran down the day's scheduled events. Both David and Traci had taken the day off from work, they had called out sick and made the appropriate excuses. We apparently had a meeting scheduled at 10:30am with a lawyer, a CPA and a tax attorney. Then at noon we had an appointment with the lottery office downtown followed by meetings with two different bank managers and finishing up the day by viewing an office space and interviewing a potential fund manager.
The important event was the noontime appointment at the Lottery Office, this was the big reveal moment in which I presented the winning ticket and proved who I was. It took all of ten minutes and then David and his team took over and I simply stood back and observed the events. Traci surprised me by handling the mandatory publicity portion with skill and aplomb and in the end the actual winner announcement with my name and face attached wouldn't happen for four weeks. Traci and David had bought me some breathing room and hopefully I'd be well out of town before any of that occurred; the stories of horror surrounding big ticket lottery winners were many and I hoped to avoid all of that.
The next two days were a blur of meetings, fine printed documents and me signing paperwork. My suddenly numerous bank accounts were fat with the almost 60% of my winnings that the taxman allowed me to keep. I paid the taxes with a smile, it was a huge number but it was far less than it could have been without David's CPA and Tax Attorney and my debt to the government was fully and legally paid. I was the silent partner in a new business that was standing up. Surprisingly we already had two other small but new clients on board, so David was earning his keep.
The fourth day was the biggest day of all, Trish was about to see a large amount of money wired into her bank account and at the same time have a lawyer show up at her door with legal documents to sign concerning the educational trust funds and individual trust funds for her and the boys. I was waiting by the phone for the call that was sure to come. As sure as clockwork I got a call from Trish five minutes after my lawyer left her house, she was beside herself and apparently couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. I had orchestrated this event very carefully for I knew that if I was heavy handed or tried to explain the trusts myself I would end up insulting her in some way or form. I had a knack for doing that. In the end it was finished, more than a decade of good life with Trish and eventually destroyed by me was wrapped up and stored away. From this point forward it would probably be nothing but cards on holidays and birthdays.
The next series of calls went out to my surviving family members, those that I had regular and amiable contact with anyways. David's new team had spent the past three days working furiously on my requests and in the end they had been mostly successful. Each sibling and my mother each awoke the morning of the fifth day to find a cool million dollars had been deposited into their bank account. Each also received a call from Traci advising them that all of their known debts were in the process of being retired and how that was being accomplished. Two of my siblings owned businesses and they received special consideration in the form of a new partner who brought in a considerable cash infusion. One specific sister was financially disciplined and basically lived debt free, she got a considerable account at David's Wealth Management Firm; she also got a considerable bit of cash to reward her for her discipline.
I had done all of this and I still couldn't see the top of my cash pile, it was an amazing time. As I said, I was having a lot of fun.
* Chapter Seven -- Planned Preparations *
I had a lot to do to execute my private plans and I was going to need help. The obvious answer was to ask Traci to assist. Hell I should have known that wasn't going to happen and should have realized that she was already too busy, she simply looked at me with her typical disdain and then made a phone call. She didn't attempt to keep the conversation private, she actually looked me in the eye as she said into the phone.
"Hi Sonya, you got the job. How soon can you be here?"
After a moment she added, "Great, see you then"
Ending the connection Traci looked at me and said, "Your new PA, Sonya, will be here in just over an hour. She's bringing lunch."
And just like that I had a Personal Assistant.
An hour and a half later the door popped open and Sonya bustled in laden with bags of food for everyone there. She was the same old Sonya I remembered from back when she worked at my old firm. She had left seeking "New Horizons", but apparently the sun never fully rose on those horizons and here she was now as my brand-new PA. Sonya spread the food out on the counter of the guest house kitchenette. She sat down opposite me at the table, gave me a smile, pulled a battered laptop out of her bag, looked at me and asked "What's next?"
I simply laughed.
Now I'd always liked Sonya: she was bright eyed and energetic with a positive attitude and personality. Physically I would describe her as short to middling height, curvy and very feminine; she wasn't a runway model but she was strikingly pretty and oozed happiness, fun and energy. I couldn't figure out Sonya's genetic background but she had skin colored somewhere between a deep tan and sweet caramel. If pushed I would have called her race American, just that: American.
I looked over to Traci, who appeared to be watching me closely, and said "Get Sonya an account and a charge card to use".
Looking back at Sonya I followed up with "Get a card from Traci and buy yourself a useable laptop, we've got work to do."
The first task I put Sonya on was chasing down property, my future plans included running a horse ranch and raising purebred dogs up in near Teton National Forest. That was beautiful country and close enough to my favorite brother's house to make family part of my life again. I had been in the Marine Corps and then SoCal for so long that family wasn't really part of my life anymore.
David's Wealth Management firm had a real estate attorney/manager on call and I wanted to put him to use, I gave Sonya the basics of what I wanted and set her to work. We'd probably have to purchase and combine multiple parcels to get what I wanted and this would probably involve more real estate agents and municipal officials than I wanted to deal with. I just wanted to see a list of my options with estimated prices, values, and chances of success.
That being done I started shopping for a new truck.
I was a Mopar guy, always had been but I want to try and make a good decision here and get the best truck to suit my needs. I spent more than two hours researching all the new trucks on the market and was sorely tempted by some of the new electric manufacturers. But in the end I settled on the Dodge Ram, this was going to be just a utility truck and once I reached my destination I could take my time and pick out a pretty toy for day-to-day driving. So I printed off the information on the truck wanted and headed to the local Dodge dealership.
Car dealerships are always a royal pain in the ass and I quickly discovered that even if you were walking in and paying cash it really wasn't any easier. I knew that this dealership didn't have the truck I wanted but our friendly internet had helpfully told me ahead of hand that there were two of them available in the local area and exactly what the sticker price was. I knew that inter-dealer vehicle transfer were a common thing and actually required by corporate if you wanted to be a dealer.
You would have thought I would have been the salesman's dream customer.
Nah, I got the same old run around with attempts to point me to another vehicle, upsell me on pointless services and insistence that I reconsider their lease and finance offerings. I put up with almost forty-five minutes of babbling irritation before I demanded to speak to the general manager. Five minutes later the sales manager came into the office to greet me, so I upped the ante and demanded to speak with the owner or I'd be out the door and on my way to the next dealership who would value the cash I was about to hand them. Well that statement definitely generated a look of concern and consternation.
I spent the next ten minutes or so sitting in that grubby little office scrolling through my phone and trying to decide on the trailer I wanted to buy, price wasn't a consideration but design and quality were highly important. Predictably and annoyingly, I was eventually fetched by the sales manager and escorted to a set of double doors on the second floor of the building, I guess I was going to see "the boss", more importantly I decided to remember that I was having fun. And fun I did have.
I was brought through the doors into an opulent office, there was a very nice desk centering the room with two decent chairs sitting in front of it. The surface of the desk was festooned with expensive desk knick-knacks and a pair of high-end computer monitors. Off to the left there was a door leading to somewhere, behind the desk was a credenza with the appropriate family pictures, behind that was a glass wall overlooking the car lot. On the right was a comfy looking couch next to a wet bar. The sales manager gestured to one of the chairs in front of the desk so I walked over to the couch, got comfortable and went back to my phone checking my email and shooting off a few messages.
Predictable another twenty minutes passed by almost to the tick when the side door opened and an attractive woman somewhere around my age entered the room, I politely rose and stepped forward to shake her hand.
"Josephine Taft" she announced as she shook my hand.
She kept that handshake intentionally going long enough for me to take in and appreciate her appearance. Starting with her well-manicured hands, her three-inch stilettos, and up her long legs. Those legs were delightfully accented by a very professional pencil skirt and her ample bosom artistically framed by an elegant professional blouse which was obviously unbuttoned at least two buttons too low. It was an amazing display and those breasts did look recently restored, enough to look almost young again. Everything failed from the neckline up, her neck showed her age and her eyes showed her stress, even her well-practiced sales smile didn't quite smile enough.
She gestured to one of the chairs across from her desk so I smiled and nodded, she sat down and went immediately to her computer monitors. I countered by grabbing the chair, setting it down beside her desk then pulled out my phone to look at my recent messages. As I focused on my phone I was tracking her out of the corner of my eye and caught her glancing at me with a look of consternation and confusion.
I heard two small, muffled thumps from under her desk confirming my suspicion that the outfit was simply a business ploy. It wasn't hard to figure out, no professional businesswoman wore cruel shoes because she liked them. Those shoes were part of the ploy along with the blouse unbuttoned too low and the reconditioned decolletage.
It was too easy, after she gave and turned back to me I kept my focus on my phone for another thirty seconds before I looked up at her. I placed the print-out of the truck I wanted and plainly said, "I came here to buy this today."
I paused for a minute and continued, "I was prepared to pay that price in cash, until your folks started giving me the run around."
She started to speak but I cut her off forcefully, "During the extraordinarily annoying period of time that your people kept me waiting to make a simple purchase, my team has informed me that this entire enterprise is on the brink of financial failure."
Confusion and embarrassment flooded her face and she stammered to respond, I piled on the pressure by continuing, "So I'm told I have three choices: One I can walk out and buy my truck elsewhere. Two I can purchase your debt, fire you and have my people get this company back on track or Three I can offer a cash infusion with the stipulation you adhere to the advice we give."
I sat back for a moment and simply watched as the emotions raced across her face, I experienced a feeling of sardonic and sadistic pleasure as she settled to resignation. After I watched her basically collapse in her chair I decided it was time to take pity on her, there was a good chance this wasn't completely a mess of her own making.
I abandoned the attack and my next words were kind yet decisive, "I want my truck and I want it delivered tomorrow", she merely nodded and picked up the phone. It only took a few minutes but that was done.
"Josephine", I said to her "I'll arrange the cash infusion you need to keep your family business alive but you will report to my business managers and you will be on salary."
She merely nodded that resigned look never leaving her face.
"Keep in mind" I said, "your family business is safe and the knowledge of this transaction will be held confidential".
I stood, turned and walked away, but before I opened the door to leave I turned to her and said, "Just stop being the play girl and get down to business, you usually only get one "Life Buoy" thrown to you in this world and you just got yours.
* Chapter Eight - Trailer Time *
I'd spent the evening munching on pizza, sending emails and contacting breeders. I mapped out my journey to my brother's house and planned my trip. I also reviewed the research I'd done on trailers and came away a positive feeling about my decision. Measure twice and cut once is the old adage and that was what I was trying to do.
The pizza was surprisingly excellent for a delivery pizza; it's understood that no matter how good the pizza joint you order from is, unless they are a top-end restaurant, they employ mostly teenagers and young adults. If you've ever watched a teenaged boy order pizza you'll understand what I'm talking about, they believe more is better because -- well -- that's how they eat it. That night the young ones must have been out to see the new superhero movie or some such because I got an elegant and crispy pizza-pie with just the right mix of everything. I tipped very well that night.
The next morning was another flurry of activity at the guest house. We had a team meeting at 8am with coffee and breakfast eats for all; a lot was happening in the next few days and we all needed to be on the same page. The first order of business from David's point of view was to give me a verbal tongue lashing about my investment in the retail auto business the prior day, retail auto wasn't on the schedule of investments for my account and I was supposed to be a silent partner in this business. I took my lecture with grace and promised to avoid such maneuvers in the future.
The next business matter was new hires for the fund, and I took my cue to get back into the role of silent partner, meaning I stayed silent. We were updated on the status of our new clients and prospects, and Traci proposed a few new reports which would keep our meetings to a minimum. Traci also updated on the sub-lease we had just picked up on a furnished office space and the details of the move that would happen this afternoon. That was good news for me as I'd have the guest house back to myself until I left on my journey.
Breakfast meeting over, Sonya and I went out the door; I was off to look at trailers at the specialist shop in San Diego I had decided upon. It took Sonya an annoying amount of time to pull together the things she would need to work in the truck on the drive down to San Diego; I sat in my truck twiddling my thumbs while I waited for her. It was worth the wait because once she got her working space set up in the passenger seat (which I couldn't have done) we started to get a lot accomplished really quickly; she was amazingly efficient. She gave me full reports on the status of my real estate project, purchase requests and responses from my family to the gifts that were offered. Sonya had full access to my email so she saw whatever came and went; this was business and it was important that she saw everything.
It took the full length of the drive to cover all existing business: she reported to me, I made decisions, we made a few phone calls and then suddenly two hours had passed and we were at the custom trailer facility. This was their main assembly & custom fabrication shop, distribution point and included some display models for their elite models. I wanted an elite model.
After parking, we walked amongst the display models until we found their highest end live-in livestock trailer. It was an impressive thing slightly more than fifty feet long and sitting on three axles. It had stalls for five animals, a tack room, overhead hay storage and a luxurious living area. Most importantly was that you could have it fully customized. Sonya took notes as we toured the living area, and we were quickly met by your predictable salesguy.
We politely listened to his spiel and didn't really speak up until he attempted to divert me to a much cheaper model which he recommended with the comment "something your old truck can handle". It was obvious he was trying hard to be polite so I returned his politeness, I thanked him and replied, "I've done my research and want one of these here with some major customizations". He paused and then stammered for a second so I followed up with, "Look, I'm buying today so please do us both a favor and just take me to see your General Manager so I can write the check". He still looked a little confused and I knew this was going fast for a deal of this sort so I added, "I'll be sure to mention that once you heard what I wanted that YOU recommended I speak directly to him, I'll make sure you get your commission." That seemed to fix everything and off we went.
Instead of being led to a fancy office we were taken to the huge garage workshop where our sales guy talked with a harried looking older man with a clipboard who then walked over and tapped on the shoulder of a worker who was welding on what appeared to be a trailer frame. I guess the big guy liked to be involved in the work, good on him. He was introduced as Sam Adams, the look on his face told me not to make a joke about that name. He wasn't a tall guy but he had a large frame with well-used, wiry and impressive muscles; he definitely had a no-nonsense look in his eyes. I was looked forward to working with this man.
After exchanging the appropriate pleasantries and me giving a brief summary of my intent, we took a walk out to the demo and Sonya took over explaining what I wanted in detail. She added in a few things I hadn't even considered, Sam merely nodded and grunted with each specification. At the end of it all he looked at me and said, "Five months, I'll send you a quote tomorrow and we'll need a 50% down-payment."