Monday morning, as Mr. Ken and Collin left the Wilkinson Estate, they didn't head directly back to Three Finger Cove. Instead, they began their odyssey to visit as many of the companies his father owned, before their return to the huge 4th of July party that was going to be held at Three Finger Cove, in just about three weeks.
Back at the Cove, Ryan kept the beaches and boats in order, and fed Chief and kept her company. Even, Mary Taylor stayed at the Cove and enjoyed the elegance of the very large estate.
Out on their two week plus 'meet and greet', as they came to call it, Collin and Mr. Ken met a good number of the managers of Collin's new 'Empire'.
"So, what do you think about that last manager and the manufacturing plant, Collin?" asked Mr. Ken.
"I'm just not sure, Bro" replied the new owner. "What I mean is, well, that the place looked well-kept and the people all acted very professional, but there seems to be a disconnect, or something, there. Do you know what I mean, Bro? I just can't seem to put my finger on it, but … well, something doesn't feel right."
"You know, Collin, I got that same feeling. They were too well prepared for our visit. I'm sure the word got around that we, actually you, the 'new' owner, along with the company's CEO & COO, namely me, were out checking every operation in the Wilkinson collective," replied Mr. Ken.
"Geez, you made it sound as if the Borg had taken over my Corporation," laughed Collin. "But, what can me, or we, do, since you're still the CEO and COO?"
"Let's get something to eat and we can talk it over during dinner," replied Ken Thomas.
"Bro, what is your opinion of all of the operations we've visited, so far? We've seen seven now including that last one today. What are your overall feelings now, after all of them?" directly asked Collin, just before he took a big bite of his medium-well steak.
Before answering, Mr. Ken took a drink of wine to clear his mouth, of the steak he was eating. Then he answered by saying, "Those first two plants didn't have a clue that we were coming. But overall, they quickly recovered, knowing you were the new owner, as they should have. Neither of them had time to 'hide any skeletons' but it appeared they didn't need to. Their operations ran very smoothly, and the employees seemed to be very happy in their jobs.
"The Admin Staff was professional and they never wavered when we asked to see any reports. They knew where they were, quickly retrieved them and then eagerly told us all they could and then answered any questions we had. The grounds, although not immaculate, did show an attempt to improve the outward appearance of the plant. Inside, I was very happy with the cleanliness and the pride people seem to take in their workplace."
"I totally agree with you, Bro. I felt very welcomed at them both. Even though I am a very young owner, of these places, the managers and staff and the employees greeted me as if I had owned that place for years, and they respected me for that. They all were eager to answer my questions and offer information without me even asking. But, what is it about those last two places that … I don't know … didn't add up?" wondered Collin.
"Collin, you made some great observations there. It was sort of like night and day between those five places. But let's talk about the third manufacturing plant we visited, first. That one is definitely in the middle of the seven," reasoned Mr. Ken.
"You know, Mr. Ken, they all appeared to be well-run organizations. They didn't go over board to treat us like royalty, even though they knew you were the CEO and I was the new owner. It sort of bothered me, at first, but they were all very professional, and answered our questions with ease. The workers seemed pleased to meet us. That one lady couldn't get over the fact that the 'bosses' actually came to talk to the 'peons', as she put it. I gather dad didn't go out into the plants at all, but left that to the managers to make sure the employees were okay," explained Collin.
"I agree with everything you said, there, Little Bro," said Mr. Ken. "I think they should have been a bit more respectful of whom we were but that didn't really offend me. But, I think they need to have a protocol in place for VIPs, when they visit, no matter if it is from corporate or a 'buyer'".
The two discussed that last comment for a few minutes and by the time they got around to desert they got around to what was bothering them about those last two sites.
"Bro … I think we missed something at those last two places. I think we NEED to go back. They won't think we'd come back, this quick, and maybe we can figure out what was wrong," offered Collin.
"I agree!" said Ken. "Where do we go first? The same place we visited today? Or back to the previous one?"
"Same," was all Collin said.
Very early the next morning, the two Wilkinson executives went directly back to the plant they visited the day before. They walked into the main office, unexpectedly, and before the secretary could buzz the manager they were here, the two walked directly into his office. They could hear him on the phone, but he didn't know who just walked into his office, as he had his chair facing to look out the large picture window. Neither Collin nor Mr. Ken said a word that they were there as they listened to the conversation.
"Yeah, they didn't know what hit them, Jim. It was a piece of cake keeping them away from knowing the real story around here. … Yeah, ever since old man Wilkinson was killed, nobody has checked on us here, and looked into our books. When they asked questions, I just gave them the least I could, to satisfy them and they seemed to leave here okay with this place. … You're right Jim, having a sixteen year old as the owner, and a know-nothing 20 something year old as the CEO, we should be able to do what we want, almost with impunity. … Yeah, I better get going. My secretary just walked in, so it must be important. … Keep me informed and I'll do the same. Bye."
"Martha, what is it, this time?" asked the manager, as he turned around to look at where the lady should be standing. His heart skipped a beat when he saw who it actually was.
Recovering nicely, he quickly asked, "Ah, what can I do for you gentlemen? I had hoped we answered all your questions yesterday and showed you everything you wanted to see,' said Charles Sumner
"Was that Jim Colby?" asked Mr. Thomas.
"Why, yes, it was," replied Mr. Sumner.
Hearing that, Mr. Thomas turned around only to have the secretary standing directly behind him. He then told Martha to get James Colby on the line. Martha looked to Mr. Sumner for some guidance when Collin spoke up and said, "He's NOT your boss … ANY more."
"Wha … what's the meaning of this?" demanded Charles Sumner. "You're just a pipsqueak of a kid. You have NO Authority to fire me! I was appointed to this position by Mr. Clarke, and Mr. Hale is my direct supervisor, and ONLY they can relieve me of my position."
"YOU THINK?" demanded Collin. "We'll see about that!"
"Mr. Sumner, James Colby is on the line," announced Martha.
"Tell him I'll call him back later," replied Sumner.
"NO! I'm the one who told you to call him. I'll take that call," announced Mr. Ken, as he walked toward the large desk.
"You'll do no such thing!" angrily said Sumner.
Mr. Ken then angrily looked at the man and announced, "You, sir, are dismissed! Mr. Sumner, your last paycheck will be forwarded to you!"
"You can't do this. I work for…"
"Yeah, yeah, I know … but I'm the CEO of Wilkinson, and for now, you are FIRED! Martha, have security come here, NOW!" directed Mr. Thomas.
Martha again looked to Mr. Sumner and that brought out Mr. Thomas' wrath. "Martha didn't you hear that Mr. Sumner, here, has been FIRED! So, if you wish to remain in this company's employ, you'll call for security and I mean NOW!"
As the woman turned to call for security, they arrived with Collin in the lead.
"I saw how things were going here, so I got one of the other secretaries to call for them," said Collin.
"Mike, Chuck, take these two and hold them until I can get the sheriff here to arrest them for trespassing," demanded Sumner.
The two security men didn't know what to do. They met Collin and Mr. Ken the previous day and were told they were the new owner and the CEO and now their boss was telling them to hold them for the sheriff.
"You heard me. Martha, call the sheriff. We'll see who runs this operation here," stated Sumner. He then proceeded to call Mr. Hale.
Unbeknownst to the assembled group, Collin slipped away and called the sheriff himself. But it wasn't the local sheriff, it was Sheriff Barnes and he told him what was happening, at the plant, and asked the man to call the local sheriff and ask him to come to the plant.
Within the hour of their arrival, Charles Sumner was being escorted out of the plant and Martha was also heading towards her car. In their stead, were the assistant plant manager and the secretary who helped Collin get the security guys and make the call to Sheriff Barnes.
"Mr. Kitson, Stewart, if I may, you are now the acting manager, and Jordyn, you are the acting executive secretary for this plant. I am going to have some people come in here and inspect this place, from top to bottom. I would like you both to help them in every way you can, to uncover what Mr. Sumner was hiding from us, yesterday. Can you both fill in those positions without any problems?" finished Mr. Ken.
By noon, Ken and Collin were headed for the airport. Mr. Ken's private airplane was waiting for their arrival, to whisk them back to where James Colby managed the plant they visited four days before.
When Collin and Mr. Ken arrived at the plant, late that afternoon, they were met by a sheriff's deputy, who told them they were not allowed onto the grounds.
Mr. Ken didn't say a thing but pulled out his cell phone and made a phone call. Within five minutes, sirens were heard in the distance and within two more minutes, two Sheriff's vehicles arrived, screeching to a halt.
The Sheriff himself stepped out, of one vehicle, and strode over to the man and teenager.
"You must be Mr. Thomas," stated the Sheriff.
"Yes, sir, I am, and this here is Collin Wilkinson, the owner of this plant, that your deputy refuses to allow to enter," answered Mr. Ken.
"Ernie, what's this all about?" asked the Sheriff.
"Well, sir, Mr. Colby called me and … and. well, he asked me to help keep these two from entering the premises. He said they were not who they said they were and they weren't to get onto the grounds without his written permission."
Ken and Collin laughed at the deputy's reply and then looked to the Sheriff for his reaction.
"Ernie, who do you work for?"
"You Sheriff, everyone knows that!"
"Then why are you taking orders from this guy, Colby?
"Well, he called me and asked me to do this for him. I know the guy, real good, and, well I sort of owed him."
"Ernie, listen, son, you need to understand that only I give orders to the people who work for me and I gave you NO orders to be here, stopping the owners from entering their own property.
"But Sheriff, they aren't the owners. No sixteen year old can own a huge plant such as this, and that wet' behind' his-ears is no CEO. So, I figured…"
"You don't figure, you hear me, Ernie! Did I, or anyone in this department, give you directions to be here and work for a private concern? Did they?"
"Well … no, Sheriff, this is my day off."
The other deputy had to snicker, at what just transpired, and for his troubles received a look from the Sheriff that told him to 'shut up'.
As the Sheriff, and the two deputies, escorted Mr. Ken and Collin towards the main building three security men came out and stopped them.
"We're sorry, Sheriff, these men are not allowed on this property," said the guy with sergeants stripes on his sleeve. "Mr. Colby said they are imposters trying to get trade secrets, and besides, no sixteen year owns a place like this."
"Guys, Collin here owns the place and Mr. Thomas is the CEO and they indeed have authority to enter and fire your asses, if they so choose. Now … move aside and let these men pass," explained the Sheriff.
"No Can Do, Sheriff!" said the security sergeant.
Just then a shot rang out and struck the sidewalk just in front of the Sheriff and everyone ducked for cover. The Sheriff, and his deputies, and even the security guards, pulled out their guns. The second deputy radioed in there was shots fired at their location.
Then, another shot rang out as the eight people began looking for better cover. Collin stayed with Mr. Ken and the six armed men looked for where the shots were coming from. Then a third shot rang out and hit the grass and threw up a chunk of ground.
Luckily, the shots were from a hand gun, which doesn't have very good long range accuracy. Suddenly, five more Sheriff's vehicles came rushing up to the plant along with the SWAT team's assault vehicle.
An hour passed, with no more shots being fired. The Sheriff coordinated with the SWAT Captain for the SWAT team to set up to rush the plant entrance. As the team's vehicle began a slow, methodical, approach to the entrance doors, another shot rang out. This time the noise from it was a muffled sound, as if it was from inside the building. Just then, a number of employees came rushing out saying that Mr. Colby had shot himself.
The SWAT team rushed the building, in order to secure the building, and to check that what the employees had said was true. Five minutes later, the SWAT Captain came out and got the Sheriff and the two went back inside. Ten minutes later, the Sheriff came out and explained to Mr. Ken and Collin what they surmised had happened.
Addressing Ken and Collin together, the Sheriff said, "Guys, what the people said, coming out was true. James Colby is dead by what we feel is a 'self-inflected gunshot wound'. The coroner will have to make that determination, though. We'll have to cordon off the area to do our investigation, and it will be late tonight when we will finish up, since there was a death involved. Why don't you two go back to your hotel and I'll call you when you can enter the building. Will that work for you?"
"Thank you, Sheriff, for everything you've done. And, I hope you won't be too hard on your deputy. He looks new to me, and was probably trying to get in good with Mr. Colby," said Mr. Ken.
"Not to worry, I'll take real good care of him, for sure," laughed the Sheriff, as he began to walk back to the scene.
Mr. Ken and Collin went back to their hotel suite where, from there, they called Uncle Andy and told him what happened to James Colby. The next morning, the two went back to the plant and began looking through James Colby's office.
There they found that reams of paper had gone through the shredder. All they could do then was speculate that the man was covering his tracks, before he got caught. Then, as they continued to search through the office, they found some incriminating evidence that had not yet been shredded. They were now way over their heads, at this point, so they called Andy Marshall for advice.
Just as they had done, two days previous, they appointed the assistant manager as the acting manager, of the plant, and relieved James Colby's secretary, pending the investigation into the dealings between James Colby and Charles Sumner.
The two were now extremely weary from their trip and the preceding four days of stress. Late, on that fourth day, and 16 days into their trip, the two travelers arrived back at Three Finger Cove. Chief was so excited to see them that she couldn't decide who she wanted to welcome back the most, Collin or Mr. Ken.
Mary Taylor and Ryan both waited for Chief to settle down some, before helping the duo to take their things to their respective bedrooms.