Castle Roland

Forever 1 - Beginnings

by Jack Schaeffer


Chapter 7

Posted: 15 Jan 15

FOREVER 1 - Beginnings
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.

_"A beginning is a very delicate time."_
from Dune (1984) by Frank Herbert, David Lynch

Billy dropped Clyde and me off at Toscana's, a nearby Italian restaurant, and then departed on an errand for Jerome. I had hoped maybe he would join us for lunch, too. Truth was, I wasn't sure Clyde and I would have much to talk about. I was expecting a lot of uncomfortable silence while we ate. I secretly hoped the service was fast.

We were seated right away – Clyde had called ahead – and our waiter, a very pretty young woman named Yvonne, explained the afternoon specials. She had an unusual color of red in her hair which matched her complexion perfectly. Her large green eyes were full of intelligence and humor. I'm not a fan of nose piercings, but her diamond nose stud was small and tasteful and did not detract from her features. She was nice as she smiled her way through the chef's specials and graciously answered Clyde's detailed questions about possible substitutions.

Our food ordered, Clyde sat back with his ice water, me with my iced tea, and we stared at each other. Awkward silence. Then he thought of something to say.

"Jack, I have to tell you, meeting you and getting to know you a little over the past two days, it's like being with Amanda again. I look at you and I see so much of her in you. I even hear her voice in yours. Which reminds me, you asked me for a picture. I have a few here for you." He opened his briefcase and pulled out a large manila envelope and handed it to me.

My hands were slightly shaking as I pulled open the clasp on the back and extracted three 8x10 pictures, two of a couple together and the other of the lady by herself.

She was beautiful, her long dark brown hair cascading in waves down the back of her neck. She had bright green eyes which radiated something powerful – I wasn't sure what. It looked like a professionally shot photograph, but not in a studio. She was standing in front of a huge fireplace with a large oil painting of the Rocky Mountains hanging above the mantle. Her long green dress looked expensive, and the color matched her eyes perfectly. She had on understated jewelry, just a small diamond pendant and matching diamond tennis bracelet. I couldn't see if she had matching earrings behind her hair.

There was no doubt she was my mother and I was her son. It was like looking at a female version of me. Very surreal. No wonder Clyde and Sharon, and even Judge Bartells, had reacted so strongly to my appearance. I looked just like her. She really was beautiful.

Another picture was obviously of her and Phillip Franklin, though it looked like it had been taken at a later date. This was a studio shot, with one of those gray backdrops which seemed to glow behind them. He was what a fifty plus man would love to look like – fit, athletic, intelligent, and very handsome. He had some noticeable wrinkles around his eyes, but they gave him an amused look. He looked very happy in the picture. His hair had some serious gray at the temples, the rest a salt and pepper mix. His dark suit was perfect for his coloring.

Amanda was radiant in this picture. Her solid red dress had an air of the consummate professional about it, but it wasn't stuffy or masculine. If anything it accentuated her femininity. She was stunning. She had a large ruby pendant and ruby ring which matched the color of her dress perfectly. This time I could see the matching earrings as well, as she had her hair styled up and behind her ears. Clyde said the picture was for the company annual report the year before they sold it.

The final picture was a candid shot of Phillip and Amanda standing outside, arm in arm, at what looked like a ski lodge. It was clearly wintertime – I could see snowed piled on top of the surrounding landscape. They had on matching Christmas sweaters, his red, hers white, and their cheeks and noses were tinged with the chapped redness of windburn. They were smiling and I could see what they looked like in a more relaxed setting. This was the real Phillip and Amanda. If anything, the resemblance between her and I was even more striking in this casual look. Clyde told me it was taken during their last Christmas together.

I dabbed my eyes quickly with my napkin and then carefully put the pictures back in their envelope. I didn't want any stray tomato sauce to mar the surface. I had a feeling these photographs would be treasured for a long time to come.

"Beautiful, wasn't she," said Clyde.

"Yes. I had no idea. And they were obviously happy."

"Oh yes, Phillip and Amanda were always like that – like two lovesick puppies on their first date. From the first time he met her, Phillip was head over heels. I remember him calling me the next day after a company party and telling me he had just met the girl he was going to marry. I told him he had watched one too many sappy TV movies, but he was serious. This was it. And he was right. He wasted no time, either. They had about six dates and they were hooked. He asked her to marry him and she said yes immediately. We all thought it was kind of sudden, we hardly knew her yet, but anybody could see they were madly in love with each other. He was always doing little things for her – flowers, tickets to a play, new lab supplies. He would even take her on all-day shopping trips. I couldn't imagine spending a whole day in a shopping mall. I'd gouge my eyes out."

"We had so much fun with them over the years. Shirley and Amanda liked to invite us guys to a ski weekend at some lodge and then say it was too cold to ski so they would just go shopping instead. Of course we caught on to their routine after a couple of outings, and we went along with it.

Phillip was an avid outdoorsman. He skied, hunted, fished, anything to get outside and stay outside. I think it was because he spent his professional life hunkered down over test tubes and Bunsen burners in the lab. But once he took off his lab coat, good luck keeping him inside.

Didn't matter the weather, either. Snowstorms, ice - blizzards meant nothing to him. He'd be outside messin' around doing nothin' while the snow was piling up so high he had to dig his way back into the house. Summers he would have us out at the golf course every Sunday from the first snow melt to the first snow cover. Rain, sleet, didn't matter. I remember one time he insisted on playing out a full round in a storm so bad the cart paths were starting to look like water hazards. We took shelter under the cart roof while Phillip played on in the rain. No lightning, you don't stop the golf. Cart breaks down, don't stop, grab the clubs, walk the course to the end. That was Phillip.

Amanda was just like him in a lotta ways, though not so much the outdoorsy stuff. They spent a lot of time in the lab together, side by side. We used to joke they spent most of their marriage dressed in lab coats. But they had such passion for their work. They believed in it, and they did great things. Sometime it would take years for the payoff, but it didn't matter to them. They just persevered. I love the law, I always have, but for them the research was like a holy calling or something.

I remember when some test or other came out positive for a new drug they were researching. Amanda called Shirley and was shouting, 'It works! It works!' over and over again. We didn't think too much of it at the time. We found out later it was a drug for fighting diabetes and the clinical trials were showing huge reductions in blood glucose readings with no discernible side effects. When they went to market a year later, patients were able to replace three different drugs with the one from Franklin Pharmaceuticals.

Of course Phillip's father was ecstatic over the money they would make on it, but it meant nothing to Phillip and Amanda. Especially Amanda. All she could talk about for weeks was how people would not have to suffer the ill effects of uncontrolled diabetes. On weekends, when Phillip was on one of his hunting excursions, or fishing yet another mountain stream he'd heard about, Amanda would visit hospitals and talk with patients to get the real-life perspective on how their disease was affecting their lives. I used to think maybe she had missed her calling and she should have been a nurse, but I think not now. She did exactly what she was supposed to do."

Clyde stopped his narrative when our food arrived. Here I had thought we would have nothing to say to each other, but Clyde was painting a beautiful word picture of Phillip and Amanda to go along with the photographs. I didn't want the stories to end.

I ate my Caesar salad while Clyde talked – he ordered a salad as his entrée. Even though I wasn't particularly hungry after my late breakfast, I had the lasagna – it looked delicious on someone else's plate. Yvonne brought more bread and refilled our glasses. We settled in to eat in a comfortable silence, each thinking about Phillip and Amanda in our own way.

I would never get to meet them, so I was grateful for the stories and Amanda's letter as a window into knowing who they were. They were remarkable people by all accounts. I'm sure they weren't perfect, no one ever is. I only hoped when I was gone, people would speak as highly of me as they did of Phillip and Amanda.

Clyde interrupted my thoughts with, "Sure wish I was having your lasagna instead of this rabbit food."

"Why did you order a salad then? You can't be on a diet. You're not fat."

"Well, not anymore. I had a mild heart attack a couple years ago, shortly after Phillip died. Scared the crap outta me. Shirley too. She and the doctors put me on a strict diet. I lost 60 pounds and so far my heart checks out fine. She watches my diet like a hawk. I think she has all the Maître D's in town on her secret spy payroll."

I laughed. "So what you're saying is she's keeping you alive despite yourself."

He laughed back. "Yeah, something like that."

The food was excellent – Clyde even said his salad was surprisingly good. We skipped dessert and after Clyde downed the last of his coffee, we stepped outside to wait for Billy.

I was in a great mood, standing in the warm sun, feeling the light breeze on my face and neck. I thought about the love affair which seemed to define Phillip and Amanda. I know Billy and Sharon both thought I could have something similar in my life – someday – and I hoped they were right. Maybe my true love was looking for me right now and he was getting closer to finding me every minute?

Clyde was talking to his wife on his cell – sounded like she'd asked him to pick something up at the store for dinner. He hung up, a bit irritated. Nobody should be upset on such a beautiful afternoon, so I asked, "Everything okay, Clyde?"

"Yeah, I guess. My wife just wants me to stop for groceries on the way home."

He had made a couple of references to his marriage over the last couple of days which indicated it was less than blissful. It wasn't my place to pry, but I kept thinking how wistful he was when he spoke of Phillip and Amanda's love. Like me, I was betting he wished his relationship with Shirley was as deep and wonderful.

"Hey, Clyde. When you're at the grocery store tonight, why not grab some flowers for Shirley. Most grocery stores back home have them. I don't know about out here. Or maybe hit up a florist on the way. I'll bet she'd love them."

He looked at me like I'd grown a third eye. "What are you driving at, Jack?" he asked.

"I'm sorry, Clyde. I know it's none of my business. It's were talking about Phillip and Amanda's love for each other, and I know I'm hoping I find something as magical in my future. I just thought some flowers for Shirley might be nice. It's something you said Phillip would do for Amanda. You could steal from his playbook, so to speak."

"Hmmm. Interesting. Maybe I will, Jack. Maybe I will." I could tell my ridiculous idea had taken on some real possibilities in Clyde's mind.

Just then Billy pulled up, and we were whisked back to the law offices. Clyde got out in the circle entrance where we had picked him up earlier.

"Get him back here in time to say goodbye, Billy. And make sure he gets to Larry in one piece, please."

"Sure thing, Mr. Watson." And we were off again.

"Hey Billy, do you think we have time to stop off at the hotel for me to get my stuff and check out?

"Yeah, Jack. We can do that. Are you leavin' us tonight?"

I really didn't want to now. I was slowly connecting to these wonderful people whom I had never met before yesterday. I felt like I had known them my entire life. Billy, Sharon, Clyde – they were my friends now.

"Yeah, Billy. I guess I am. My flight's at 7."

"Can I take you to the airport then?"

"I hope so. I'd never find it on my own. Besides, I want another look at your ass to remember you by." His smile filled the rearview mirror. What had gotten into me? I'd gone from shy introvert to shameless flirt with Billy. I felt so free around him. Free to be myself.

We pulled up to the hotel and he let me out, saying he would wait there for me.

"Cool. I shouldn't be more than 10 minutes, I think."

"I'll be here waitin', Cute Stuff." I giggled at his goofy grin and headed for my room. Thankfully there was no sign of Miguel this time.

I keyed in to my room and saw immediately it had been cleaned. The dishes from my breakfast had been removed and everything looked fresh and polished. Housekeeping had left my flowers in their vase on the table. I was gonna miss this room.

I went into the bathroom and did what you're supposed to do in there. Then I started throwing clothes in my duffle bag. I put my toiletries back in the plastic baggie they came in. I stuffed as many of the Bvlgari shampoos and shower gels as I could in there, too - the stuff was so fantastic. The now full plastic baggie went in the duffle as well. I checked the closet twice and the drawers three times for missed items.

I remembered how housekeeping had had my clothes pressed, so I ripped the note off the garment bag in the closet and scribbled my own note on the back. "Thank you so much for the excellent service. You made my stay most enjoyable. Yours, Jack Schaeffer." I pulled out a twenty from my wallet and placed it and the note on the desk in the living room.

I now had seven dollars in my wallet to get home on. Thank God Billy said he'd drive me to the airport. I grabbed my jacket and the key cards and with one last glance at the mountains through the window, I walked out and shut the door.

I rounded the corner for the elevators and ran smack into Miguel. I apologized profusely and tried to step around him but he blocked me.

"Well, well, well. What have we here? Where ya goin', Mr. Schaeffer?" The anger and disrespect were palpable.

"Let me pass, Miguel. I'm late."

"Oh, I don't think so, Mr. Schaeffer. I think you want to stay right here with me. You missed out on a good time this morning, didn't you Mr. Schaeffer. You wouldn't want to miss out now." He started touching me all over. My skin was crawling and my fear was off the charts. I kept shuffling backwards to get away from his hands which were everywhere, on my ass, my thighs, my chest.

My back hit the wall behind me and I was trapped. He kept leaning in closer and closer. I could smell his breath now – he reeked of alcohol and something else – pure animal sweat. Bile rose in my throat, full blown panic seconds away. His hands got more insistent, squeezing my ass now, as he told me how much I was going to enjoy this. I closed my eyes so I couldn't see the evil on his face anymore.

I heard the elevator ding behind him, and felt him suddenly disappear. One second he was trying to kiss me with his rancid breath, the next he was gone. I squeezed open one eye and saw Miguel pinned up against the opposite wall by the elevator. Billy had him by both arms and was holding him tightly, his feet four inches off the floor. The macho bravado was still on his face as he saw me looking from across the hallway.

"So, you think you're mister big shot, eh pretty rich boy? Get your slave here to do your dirty work for you? Have to have your hired muscle protect you from little ole me?"

I snapped. I took three running steps across the hall and slammed my outstretched hand into his throat between Billy's giant arms. An unholy rage erupted in me and I started squeezing his neck tighter and tighter until I saw the mockery turn to real fear in his eyes.

"Jack!" It was Billy's voice. He was distracting me from my work. I needed to remove this vermin from the earth.

"JACK!" His booming deep voice broke the spell of my uncontrolled anger. I looked at Billy and back to Miguel. My hand was still squeezed tightly across his throat. I didn't remember putting it there. I leaned in closely to Miguel so he could feel my breath on his face.

"Nobody...nobody...talks about my friends that way. Do you understand me?" No response. I squeezed tighter.

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!!" I shouted right into his nose. This time he looked at my eyes, then to Billy's, and back to mine. He nodded once, then again more quickly until he started to look like a bobble head doll up against the wall.

I let go of his neck and stepped back. My arm hurt. Billy still had him against the wall. He didn't look like he had broken a sweat.

"Come on, Billy. Let's go. I wanna get out of here." I moved to the open elevator. My duffle bag must have somehow gotten kicked into the doorway in the scuffle. It was now blocking the doors from closing.

Billy put Miguel down very slowly, and then leaned in and almost whispered, "If you ever put your hands on another person without their personal invitation, I'll come back and break you into little pieces and drop you down the elevator shaft. You feel me?" Miguel went back to vigorous nodding, totally defeated. Billy gave him a slight shove backwards and then stepped onto the elevator with me and pressed the Lobby button.

As soon as the doors closed, I collapsed into his chest and burst into tears. My legs nearly buckled but he held me up tightly and just let me cry. It didn't last long. Billy never said a word, he just held on. By the time we got to the ground floor I was standing on my own and breathing normally. What I looked like I had no idea, and frankly didn't care. I walked straight for the revolving front door and skipped the front desk altogether. I tossed the key cards in the trashcan and walked out. I was done with the Ritz.

Back in the car, Billy got us moving again. He kept looking in the mirror at me.

"You alright back there, Jack?"

"I've been better. But I'll be okay. Thanks for coming to my rescue. Again."

"What the hell happened, Jack? I send you up to get your stuff and you don't come back. I come to find you and you're pinned against the wall with a guy all over you. If I hadn't seen your face I'd have thought I was interruptin' something hot and heavy."

"Hardly. Don't remind me Billy. It was awful. His hands were everywhere." I shuddered at the memory of his smell and vowed to forget it had ever happened.

"Okay, Jack. I'll drop it. But I gotta ask you one thing. What happened back there? You suddenly went all Rambo on the guy. I thought you were gonna kill him."

"I snapped, Billy. He said that crap about you being my slave and I just wanted him gone. Him and his evil smirking face. Just gone. I meant what I said to him – nobody talks about my friends like that. Of course, it helped you were holding him still." I laughed at the absurdity of the situation.

"So Jack – you think of me as your friend?" He was smiling, trying to lighten the mood.

"Billy, with an ass like yours, of course I want you as my friend." We burst out laughing. It felt so good to be so free.

Billy got me to the First Colorado Banc Corp building in good spirits. He dropped me at the curb and said he'd be in the parking lot across the street. I added his cell number to my phone – I put him under the Friends category – and then went inside.

The gargantuan lobby was done in multicolored glass sculptures and ultra-modern furniture groupings. I approached the large circular Information Desk in the center and asked a very cute guy named Mark for directions to Larry Weiss's office. He gave me the info along with a killer smile. Yes indeed, I was feeling much better. Inside the elevator I adjusted my hard dick into a more comfortable position, hoping I wasn't on any cameras. Mark had my motor going.

The foyer on the 10th floor was all done in wood. Wood everything. Walls, doors, and floors. It all gleamed with polish. You could almost smell the money seeping through the wood grain. The gold plaque on the double doors said "Private Trust Division" so I guessed I was in the right place. Inside I was greeted by a perky receptionist who looked up from her latest romance novel.

"Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to First Colorado. How may I help you?"

"Good afternoon. My name is Jack Schaeffer. I'm looking for Larry Weiss. I have an appointment."

"Certainly sir. If you'd like to have a seat over there, I'll let him know you're here." She had pointed to a grouping of leather chairs and couches set into an alcove to the left, so I went and sat down. The leather was soft and cool on my back. I had nearly fallen asleep when I heard a familiar voice.

"Well, Jack. You made it, I see. Welcome to my world." I stood up and shook Larry's hand.

"Hi, Larry. Thanks for making time for me. I'm sorry about yesterday. Not my best day."

"Forget it, Jack. Water under the bridge. Come on, we've got lots to talk about and Clyde made me promise to get you out of here in time to say goodbye."

"Okay then, lead the way." I followed Larry deeper into the Private Trust domain. Unlike Clyde's office, where there were lawyers and secretaries working out in the open, here everyone was in offices behind closed doors. Most had thin glass panels on either side of the office door so I could see people in them, on their phones or hunched over computer screens. It was very quiet – so quiet I could hear the air rush through the ventilation systems overhead.

Larry walked straight into a conference room and told me to have a seat.

"I'll be right back Jack. Help yourself to coffee, tea or if you prefer, I think there is some water and maybe even a soda or juice in the fridge right there." He turned and departed.

I got up and got a water bottle, looking around at the various oil paintings of what had to be past bank Presidents. They all looked the same – blue or black suits, white shirts, striped ties, serious faces. Apparently there was no humor in money.

Might have been the heavy lunch, might have been the good mood I was in. Either way, I was feeling pretty relaxed when Larry returned carrying a stack of folders and his big binder. I really didn't like his big binder.

"Well, Jack. Clyde said you had requested a name change on the trust. No problems there. Schaeffer & Associates Executive Trust. Has a nice ring to it. Very corporate sounding."

"I was hoping to avoid everything being too personalized. I'm still trying to adjust to all of this."

"Sure. I understand, Jack. It's a big, big change for you. But let's see if we can make it a little easier." He handed me a slim folder and asked me to open it.

"Now Jack, the paper on top is what I showed you yesterday. It's a very high level summary of all the assets and accounts within the Trust. Does it make sense to you?"

"Yes, I think so. I don't know what all the names mean or how they work, but I get the idea. But can I ask you a question which has been bothering me a lot?"

"Sure, Jack. Anything."

"Where did all this money come from? I mean, I can't even comprehend numbers this big. What did Phillip and Amanda do to accumulate it all? They seem to me like people who hardly even cared about money very much."

"They didn't. You're right. It was like pulling teeth to get Phillip in here to do a quarterly review of things. Amanda – forget it. She was definitely not interested. Just told me to handle it. So I did. But as to where the money came from, the bulk of it came from the sale of Franklin Pharmaceuticals. Did Clyde tell you much about the merger?

"No. We didn't talk about it much at all. No details anyway."

"Okay, well let me start with Arthur Franklin. Art was a small-time pharmacist who got a little lucky in the beginning. He figured out the real money in medicine was in manufacturing and selling the drugs wholesale, not the retail end, like he had been doing. So he got a couple of guys who had some money and together they managed to buy a patent on some drug which had languished, never properly marketed. Art was a born marketer. He could sell sand at the seashore. He turned their initial drug into the number two medicine for blood pressure control at the time. It's since been replaced by any number of newer medicines, but he had his start. Over time he bought out each of the original investors and pretty soon was the sole owner and CEO of Franklin Pharmaceuticals.

It was a small but highly profitable operation. He understood the concept of slow, sustainable growth. He wasn't interested in competing with the big dogs directly. He preferred to stay under the radar.

As the cash came in, he needed to do something with it. So he slowly acquired additional drug companies who had promising patents but little marketing skills or operating budgets. He turned a number of those into real money makers and cash cows.

Then his son Phillip convinced him they needed to do their own research. Art was not easily swayed – research was extremely expensive and Art liked to hold on to money pretty tightly. But this was his son, and he had a real passion for research. So Art relented and Franklin Applied Research was birthed as a division of Franklin Pharma. When Amanda came along, Phillip was in his glory. Research and the girl of his dreams. He was in test tube heaven.

Phillip wanted no part of running the whole company – he just wanted to do research. Art tried several times to try to get him involved, even made him a board member. But Phillip resisted. Then came the fateful day when Arthur Franklin dropped dead in the middle of the boardroom during a particularly hostile meeting. His sudden death forced some changes neither Phillip nor Amanda wanted, but there were over 500 employees to consider. Franklin Pharma was their home, too. Many of them had been there almost from the beginning.

So Phillip did his best as the new CEO, but he wasn't good at marketing, and even worse at refereeing executive scuffles, so when Merck & Company came calling, he was ready to listen. They made an offer which really was too good to refuse. Franklin Pharma had some market leading drugs in the Diabetes realm, a market Merck was keen to get in on. Buying Franklin gave them instant control of the market, so it was worth every penny of their generous offer. Phillip convinced enough of the board, and the deal was struck. Phillip had to agree to be the figurehead CEO for one more year while the merger was consummated. Thankfully he could spend most of the year in the lab with Amanda.

When the sale was finalized, Phillip and Amanda, as the sole owners of Franklin Pharma, received just over 300 million dollars for the company. There was no debt – ol' Art was a stickler about credit. He was also a cash miser. He hoarded millions in off book accounts – he called it his rainy day fund.

Thankfully for the majority of employees, most Franklin staff remained on board after the transition. A few executives took golden parachutes, but when the dust settled, the only real significant change was the name on the building and on their paychecks. It was a win-win for everyone.

He could have stayed on and continued his research, but Phillip always said his heart wasn't in it after it was no longer "Franklin" on the door. I think he cared more about the company than he ever let on. But he threw himself into retirement the same way he did everything – all out. They travelled, saw most of the world together, and settled in to a quiet home life. Amanda did some charity work, which she loved, especially after Phillip's tragic accident.

They never put a dent in the money, despite some of Phillip's more extravagant travel arrangements. They never really concerned themselves with the money. I think they were content to let us manage it for them, and we did well.

Over the course of the last four and a half years, we, me and my investment team, have turned the initial 300 million into just under 600 million. Pretty good, wouldn't you say?"

"Wow. Yeah, I guess that is pretty good. But what is it you really do? I mean, how do you make that kind of money?"

"Have you ever heard the phrase, 'Put your money to work for you'?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Well, it's what we do. We take your money, and we put it to work for you. We invest it in places where we anticipate the highest returns. We are constantly exploring opportunities for where to put money to work."

"How do you know where the best places are?"

"Well that's where my team comes in. I have two specialists who are especially trained and gifted to sniff out great opportunities. They analyze hundreds of stocks, funds, real estate investments – whatever is out there in the current market which could be a good place to put some money. And they are damn good at what they do. We win 8 out of 10 times on those investments."

"So it works like a savings account? I put in 100 dollars and a year later I get back 102 dollars?"

He laughed. "Kinda Jack. But we operate on a much bigger scale of course. And our returns are usually better than the 1-2 percent you can get from a regular bank account."

"But what happens if it doesn't work out? You pick one of the two loser opportunities?"

"Well, we try to avoid those. If it happens, we could lose a portion of the original capital invested. Which is why we diversify. We never put everything in one basket. Much too risky."

I knew he was being deliberately basic with me, but I was beginning to get a better picture of what he did.

"So, if I do nothing for a while, just kind of let things lie, what happens?"

"We keep doing what we've been doing. We keep growing your money for you. You really don't have to do anything, Jack. It's what you pay us for."

"I'm paying you? How much?" Now he really started laughing.

"We are paid a small percentage on the gains of the account, and we make plenty for our efforts. Rest assured, Jack. If we don't make money for you, we don't get paid. So we are highly motivated to make your money grow." It made sense to me. I really was financially naïve.

"So Jack, let me ask you a question. Do you have any plans for the money? Something you've always wanted to do and now you have the resources, you can?"

"I haven't thought that far ahead, Larry. I have some bills – well, just my student loan – that would be nice to pay it off. But I can handle it for now. I was planning on just leaving it all alone for now until I figure out what I'm supposed to do with it."

"Well, Jack. I'm glad you aren't one of those kids who would take this as an opportunity to buy a million dollar car or mega yacht or something. But I think we can certainly help you get the student loan squared away. I'll tell you what, let me have Todd Martin, he's on your team here, come in and give you a few more details and he can maybe help you decide what your next steps can be. Okay?"

"Sure, Larry. Whatever you say." I was finding it to be the easiest thing to say when I was feeling over my head. Thankfully I trusted Larry – if Phillip and Amanda did, I would too.

Larry left to get Todd and I sat there trying to not be overwhelmed. I was glad I didn't really have to do anything for now. No chance I could screw it all up that way. It would be nice to have my student load paid off – it would be another $280 a month I'd have in my pocket.

There was knock at the door, and before I could get up to open it, a very handsome young man came in, carrying several folders and a coffee cup. He set it all down and reached out to shake my hand across the table. "Todd Martin, nice to finally meet you, Mr. Schaeffer."

"Please call me Jack." I said.

He was probably about 30, dark haired and looking very dapper in a trim cut, three piece suit. His tie was loose around his neck, and I could see what looked to be the makings of a hickey peeking through his collar. He somehow sensed my staring at his neck and he reached to cover it up with his hand, blushing a bit.

"My wife got a little carried away last night." He smiled. So much for him being gay. Still, he was very pleasant to look at. And he seemed very nice. Plus Larry said he was extremely smart. I could like working with Todd Martin.

"So Jack," he said, quickly changing the subject of my thoughts. "Larry tells me you have a student loan which needs to be taken care of. I don't suppose you have any of the details with you – bank name, loan numbers, amounts?"

"Nope, it's all back at home."

"Well, how 'bout I give you my number here at the office, and you call me next week with the info. I can get it paid off for you right away."

"You don't even know how much it is?"

"Jack, I'm pretty sure we can cover it, no problem." He was smiling gently. Of course they could cover it. Geez, I really needed to get a grip.

"Oh, ok. I keep forgetting. This is all so new for me."

"I'm sure it is. I look at these big numbers all day and after a while they don't mean anything anymore. They're just numbers. But to be suddenly thrust into this, I bet it's really daunting."

"You're telling me. When Larry first told me the balance, I lost my lunch." He laughed. I don't know why I told him that, but it felt okay.

"Well, Jack, I hope I don't make you throw up, but I do have some things to give you today before you go." He opened one of his folders and took out its contents.

"The first thing I need you to do is sign these signature cards. You need to sign twice in the boxes I checked." He gave me the card and a pen and I signed my name, twice.

"Jack, this is an American Express Centurion credit card. There is no spending limit. And before you ask, I will tell you unless you go out and buy a dozen multi-million dollar businesses or maybe your own 747, there is no way you can spend even a fraction of the money in the trust. So if you need, or even just want, to use this, please do. Amanda and Phillip both carried these. It works anywhere in the world." He handed it across the table to me. It was black and made of some kind of metal instead of plastic. My name was embossed into it across the bottom.

"This second card is a Platinum Visa Debit card. It is linked to an account here at First Colorado bank in your name. It is also essentially unlimited, but I think ATM and retail outlets might have a system limit on what you can do in a single transaction. But if you need cash anytime, anywhere, you can generally get it from any ATM you find out there." He handed the card over to me.

"Now if you will fill out this form with your current bank name and account numbers, I will have additional funds transferred to your checking and savings accounts. This way you'll have cash funds anytime you need them."

"I don't have a savings account, just a checking account." I suddenly felt very small.

"No problem, just give me the checking account number and I'll transfer some funds on Monday. We've also opened a checking account for you here, but I'm waiting for the checks to be printed. Should be here next week, I think." I took the form and filled out the required fields. I signed my name again.

The last thing he gave me was an envelope full of cash. I didn't want to be rude and count it in front of him, but it felt like more than I had ever held in my hand before.

"Any questions for me, Jack?"

"Uh...what just happened here? I'm a little confused." Only it was more than a little. What the hell did I need with a Centurion card?

"These are just the basic things we give anyone who has an account with us. You don't have to use any of it. They're for you if you need them. I'll get the money to your checking account over the weekend so you should see it on Monday. Until then, is there anything else you need?"

"Yeah, a heart monitor. I came in here with seven bucks in my pocket. I'm leaving with the keys to a fortune. Never in a million years..." I trailed off, feeling dazed.

"Jack, I'm sure it's gonna take time to get used to all this. Take it slow. I'll tell you what, let me give you my number and if you start to feel weird or confused or you aren't sure what you can or should do, call me. I'm here for you. Okay?" He gave me his number and I loaded it in my phone.

"Thanks, Todd. I really appreciate it. I think it will definitely take me a little while to get comfortable with all this. I may be calling you sooner than you think."

"That's why I'm here, Jack. I work only on your account, so if you need me, call. You aren't taking me away from anybody else's account. I work for you alone." Great, I have employees now. More to deal with.

We shook hands and he left. I counted the money in the envelope under the table. Holy crap! It was a thousand dollars! Half the bills were hundreds.

I scrambled to get the shocked look off my face as Larry came back in.

"All set, Jack? Did Todd take care of you?"

"Yeah, I think so, Larry. He told me I could call him with any questions. Is that okay with you?"

"Of course, Jack. What an excellent idea. He works for you, so call him with whatever. He's a great guy – and between you and me, he's probably even smarter at financial management than me. But never tell him I said that."

I laughed. "I won't I promise. Thanks for everything. I'll try to get up to speed as fast as I can. Please be patient with me."

"No worries, Jack. Take all the time you need. Now you better get back to Clyde before he accuses me of kidnapping you." We shook hands and I left, considerably better off financially than I had come in.

I reached the lobby and called Billy to let him know I was ready. I looked to see if Mark was still working the information center, but unfortunately the only person there was an elderly lady who looked like she might expire any minute. It made me sad someone of such an advanced age should have to work at this point in her life. But then again maybe she just wanted a reason to get out of the house.

I was at the curb when Billy pulled up. He hopped out and opened my door with a flourish. "Where to, Mr. Schaeffer?" he asked, with a grin.

I was laughing. "Oh Billy, I'm so gonna miss you. I guess back to Clyde's office."

"Sure thing, Cute Stuff."

We parked in the garage like always and made our way to the office, me looking at Billy's ass and him smiling all the way.

Sharon stood up as I reach her desk. Billy gave her a big hug, and then I got mine. It felt so good. "How'd it go at Larry's?" she asked.

"Fine. I still don't understand it all, but I'll get there. He said I could go slow. I met somebody named Todd who I can call if I get anxious or have questions or whatever. It's just so surreal, you know? I suddenly have all this money at my disposal and I have no idea what to do with it."

"Well, Jack. It's like I told you this morning. You don't have to do anything, but if you want, spend a little on yourself. Amanda won't mind. Do something you've always wanted to do but couldn't."

"You mean like quit my job or go on a world tour or something?"

"Well, maybe not so much right away. But yeah, if you want to take a vacation, why not? Go somewhere you've always dreamed of seeing. Do something that would make you happy. You deserve to be happy, Jack." She was smiling her big Adams smile and I couldn't help but feel better.

"I just may do that, Sharon. I'll think about it. But hey, I did have something I needed to ask you about the money. Do I need to pay you guys for the plane tickets and the hotel and all the rest? I'm sure it was very expensive. I'm not sure how this works."

"Oh, Jack. Please don't worry about it. And whatever you do, don't say anything about the expense to Clyde. He personally paid for everything. He told me it was the least he could do for Amanda. I think he would be really hurt if you tried to pay for it now. Just let it be. Everything is just fine. Clyde was very happy to do it, I promise. I'm pretty sure he likes you."

"Well, if you're sure, I'll trust you. Thank you for everything, Sharon. These last two days have been a whirlwind for me, but you've been my anchor in the storm. I'm forever grateful to you." She looked like she was going to cry. I hoped she didn't cause then I would. She hugged me again really tight.

"I love you, Jack Schaeffer. You're gonna do big things. Really big things." I started to cry anyway. The she started to also. We were quite the pair.

I was blowing my nose when Clyde popped out of his office. He came right around and shook my hand. "Jack, it has been a pleasure to meet you. A real pleasure. Thank you for coming out here under such crazy circumstances. I hope we will see a lot more of you in the future. Denver could be a great place for you." I think he was totally serious about me moving to Denver.

"We'll have to see, Clyde. It'll take me some time to get all this figured out in my head, but I do want to thank you for everything. You've been so generous and taken such amazingly good care of me. I don't know what else I could say."

"Well, we're gonna miss you for sure, Jack. Don't be a stranger, give us a call once in a while." I nodded.

"Alright, Billy. Time to get our Jack to the airport. You've got precious cargo there. Take care of him." Clyde was getting seriously emotional. Damn, he really did like me.

"Let's roll, Mr. Schaeffer. You've got a plane to catch." I turned back one last time to see Clyde duck back into his office, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief. Sharon wasn't even hiding it. She was smiling and crying at the same time. I smiled back and then turned to follow Billy's amazing ass to the car.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. Billy got out to open my door and handed me my duffle bag. I took one look at his face and just fell into him and wrapped him up in a hug. Or at least I tried to. My arms didn't quite make it all the way around. I felt his massive arms engulf me, and we held it for a couple of seconds.

"I'm really gonna miss you Billy. You've become like my best friend and my superhero all in two days. Jerome is a very, very blessed man." I was trying desperately not to cry again.

"You need to come back out here and meet him, Jack. I think you'd like him."

"Maybe I will, Billy. Maybe I will."

"Take care of yourself, Jack. And remember, don't get too anxious about all the sex stuff. Take your time. Your guy is out there. You'll find each other when the time is just right."

"I hope you're right, Billy. I can't wait to meet him."

"Me too, Jack. Me, too. Cuz whoever he is, if he's meant to be with you, he's gotta be a pretty wonderful guy to match up with you." Oh crap! Now he's got me crying again.

"Damn it, Billy. Get back in the car. I can't keep cryin' all the time. It's embarrassing." I was smiling through the tears.

He gave me his best Billy smile and turned to the car. I started walking toward the entrance to the terminal.

"Hey Jack!" I turned to look back at him. "You've got a great ass, Cute Stuff!"

I blushed. I had a new forever friend.

Author's Note: If you are enjoying this story, please take a moment to comment in the Forum on CastleRoland – you can click the link labelled "Forum Discussion" just under the story synopsis at the top of this page. Or, if you prefer, send me an email to I would love to hear your thoughts about the story.

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