Castle Roland


by Ken Barber


Chapter 3

Posted: N/A

Eye of the Storm

We arrived at the house and I was shocked, it was huge. Cal led us into the main house and gave us a tour. The living room was furnished with very comfortable looking leather furniture and had one of the most beautiful fireplaces that I'd ever seen. The dining room had a giant table that could seat twelve. The table itself was made of huge, ancient looking, planks of wood. When I asked Cal about it, he smiled and explained.

"It's actually made from planks from an old whaling ship. Kevin found it at an auction in Mystic, CT and had to have it." There was a sense of nostalgia coming from him, and I realized this guy had lost his best friend less than a week ago but was marching on like a true soldier.

The kitchen was amazing; it had all the best and newest appliances and gadgets. I knew I was going to love cooking in here. We went out onto the back deck to find a fully furnished outdoor kitchen, a huge ten-person hot tub sunk into the patio and a beautiful pool. The gardens in the back yard where perfectly manicured and the pool was pristine.

Again, Cal explained everything. The Gardener and pool company came twice a week and kept everything perfectly maintained. He said the pool had just opened and there was a heater as well.

We returned to the house and entered the five-car garage. The first thing I noticed was that it was full, but there was nothing over top or overly flashy. There was a new Dodge Ram Pick-up, and an INS black Hummer, a Black Range Rover, a black executive Town Car and a dark blue BMW 625I. We crossed the garage and there was a set of stairs going up three flights. The door at the top had its own key and alarm code. We entered the apartment and right away, I thought it was somewhat plain. It was an open floor plan, with a small kitchen and dining area. The sitting area was pretty big and was furnished nicely, including the big 56 inch flat screen on the wall. The bedroom was about the same size as one of my guest rooms in Seattle. It had a decent size bathroom attached to it, that was also accessible from the sitting area.

Carl looked around for a second and said, "Okay, so it definitely was not inhabited by a gay guy before."

We all chuckled and moved on; going back across to the garage to the main living area and just passed the dining room, was a hall with three doors. As we entered the hall, Cal stopped and slid a concealed panel open in the wall and punched in a code. I stood there with my eyebrows raised waiting for him to explain.

"This is your home office wing. The motion detectors are always active and when you type in your code, you follow the code with the number of people with you." If you don't type in the code and just walk in, the security cameras will activate and the INS monitoring center will check out what's going on. If you are with someone other than INS officials, they will immediately dispatch a security team and the local police. The same applies when you enter the wrong number of people. Generally, when you're coming and going back here don't even worry about it. The security center will just keep an eye on you in the hall they don't have cameras in the other rooms."

He walked to the first door and opened it; there was a beautifully decorated conference room. Cal step and sweep his arm out. Inlaid in to the high polished wood tabletop, was a world map made of what appeared to be, stone chips. The table was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. The walls all had artwork depicting famous navel battles. There was a stocked bar along one wall, and behind the head chair was the American Flag and the INS logo on a flag. Cal stepped out and across the hall and open another door. "Your home office."

The office was huge with a giant mahogany desk and leather executive chair. A beautiful brass and marble globe sat on one end of the desk. Behind the desk, was a giant bowed picture window overlooking the back gardens. On the sill of the window, was one of the largest model ships I have ever seen. I walked straight over to the model and was inspecting it, when I noticed the little brass plate on the base, which said U.S.S. Constitution. There was a small round table in the corner with four chairs, obviously for meetings that are more personal, and hundreds of books in the built in book selves. I stopped and looked around for a second, something wasn't right. "Cal, why are there no pictures of Kevin or any personal affects?"

Cal nodded "We removed all personal effects from the house and put them in storage at the fleet base. When you're ready, you can go through them and see if there's anything you want to keep. We thought this change was going to be hard enough on you without all the effects of a man you didn't really know."

"I appreciate that Cal; I can only imagine how difficult this has been on you"

Cal just nodded and walk out of the room to the next door. This door had an electronic lock and when Cal entered the code, we heard a voice from an almost invisible speaker say, "Manual code recognized, Calvin Macintosh, please confirm with voice authorization."

Cal spoke up, "Charlie, Alpha, Mike, 4532 whiskey 3."

The computer replied, "Thank you and enjoy your day." The door lock clicked and we entered into, what I can only describe as, what I thought the war room at the white house looked like. Rows and rows of stations, with computers all facing huge monitor panels. There were four man stations at the back of the room. Cal lead us in.

"This is our best kept secret. This is our auxiliary command and control center. It's a slightly smaller version, of the one at INS headquarters; but in the unlikely event of a catastrophic failure, it can be used to keep our assets in control. We have four of these aux sites, one in Boston, MA., one here, one in Chicago, and one in San Diego. This one just happens to be in your house."

All I could do was chuckle, "Great just what I always wanted."

Cal laughed, "We've only ever used one, and that was the one in Chicago when we took the HQ and the other three sites down for upgrades; after we did them, we upgraded Chicago. For the most part, there really isn't anything you need to do with this room for normal use."

With that, he walked out and took us upstairs to the bedrooms. The first guest suite was huge, it had a giant king size bed, private bath with a huge shower, and whirlpool tub. It was bigger than my Master suite in Seattle. We checked out all five-guest suites before we reached the master suite. Talk about huge; it had its own fireplace and a separate sitting area. The bath was amazing; it had a giant whirlpool tub that could fit four people comfortably; and a monster shower that was stand-alone. All I could think was, damn this place is going to be a bitch to clean. I might need to hire a live in housekeeper.

I looked at Cal, "Please tell me there is a housekeeper?"

He laughed, "Yes, but she is semi retired and only comes three times a week and would like to retire completely soon; so you might want to find a replacement. Clara can give Carl some resources for him to start the search for one tomorrow."

I thought about that for a minute. "Carl, just a thought but why don't you consider taking one of the guest rooms permanently and we could hire a full time live in housekeeper."

Carl nodded, "I don't have any issue with that, just a few days ago I was living in a college apartment with four other guys."

I chuckled at the thought of what kind of trouble he got into with his roomies in college. After the tour of the master suite, we went to the basement and toured the most amazing game room ever. There was a full size pool table, foosball, and air hockey, big screen TV, PS3 and Xbox and off that, was a fully stocked wine cellar; Carl was in heaven in the game room, I was in heaven in the wine cellar.

We went back to the living room and sat down; Cal grabbed a folder that was sitting on the kitchen counter. All the alarm codes and instructions on changing them where in there, and my new admin, Clara, had put together a list of local restaurants, grocery stores, and food delivery menus, complete with driving direction and phone numbers. After a drink, Cal stood up and shook our hands.

"Well gentlemen, it truly had been a pleasure and I am really looking forward to working with you. However, my beautiful wife and daughters are waiting for me at home. I arranged for a car to pick you up tomorrow at 8:30 AM, if that's ok?"

I nodded, "Perfect, we need to get some sleep and try to recover from the jet lag. Cal, thank you for everything, you've been a rock through all of this and I hope our friendship only grows from here."

He smiled. "Good night guys."

After he left, I looked at Carl and smiled. "Are you thinking what I'm thing?"

His eyes light up, "Sex?"

I laughed, "Jesus man is that all you think about? No, pizza, I am famished and way too tired to go out."

He was laughing hysterically, "Sounds...Great"

I grabbed the phone and the first pizza delivery menu I came across. I order the pizza while Carl was flipping channels on the TV. When I was done, I went to the wine cellar and grabbed a decent bottle, nothing to crazy, and poured us both a glass and fiddled in the kitchen until I found some paper plates and napkins and brought them back into the room where I set everything down on the table.

Carl looked over at me and said, "I found a silly movie on 'on-demand' it should bore us to sleep."

I plopped down on the couch, "I hope so, I'm so freaking exhausted but my mind is racing. This all seems surreal. Like we are characters in a movie."

He laughed, "So does that make me Robin to your Batman?"

"Shut up and start the movie!" I playfully punched his arm.

The movie was just beginning when we heard the front doorbell.

Carl jump up as I paused the movie. "Pizza is here, I'll grab it."

"Wait a second Carl, if its pizza, how did they get through the gate?"

He walked over to the kitchen and looked at the security monitor. "It's the Pizza Guy."

I walk over to the door slightly concerned, was all this heightened security making me paranoid?

As the door started to open, the delivery guy spoke up. "Mr. Olsen, I got the pie you ordered." He looked up at the two of us and stopped.

"Oh, sorry I was expecting Mr. Olson."

I opened the door fully, "How did you get through the gate?"

"Oh, I have the gate code. Mr. Olsen gave it to me a long time ago."

Made sense. I stepped back and let him in. "Okay, let me grab some cash for a tip."

He stepped into the door and asked, "Where is Mr. Olson?"

"Well, there is no easy way to say this, but Mr. Olson passed away a few days ago."

He looked shocked. "Holy shit, how?"

I walked to the kitchen and let Carl explain.

"Massive heart attack during his morning run. That's his son." He said, pointing towards me.

The guy stammered a little and replied, "Wow, I am very sorry. He was always a really nice guy. I made it a point of delivering his orders myself so that way, only I had the code to his gate."

I walked over to him with a ten-dollar tip and handed it to him. "Here you go bud. Just so you know, I inherited the house and would like to keep the same arrangement. Any orders from this address, only get delivered by you. I am Dale and this is Carl, my personal assistant." I made sure to explain Carl and I's relationship, because if I was interpreting the looks right, sparks where flying. I took the pizza into the living room and heard the guys chatting. Carl walked in a few minutes later with a huge grin on his face.

I just shook my head, "The pizza delivery guy, really Carl? Have you no standards?"

Carl punched me playfully. "I will have you know, Nick and his father own a chain of six pizza shops. And I have a date, an honest to god date Thursday night."

"Wow a date. So, that means what, grab something to eat before sex or just a coffee?"

"Shut up and hit play," we both laughed. Half way through the movie, we where both sound asleep.

I woke up around eleven and shook Carl awake. "Hey buddy, lets head to bead."

He looked up at me and asked completely dead pan, "Together?"

"You are a hot mess, get to bed!" I laughed, as I walked up the stairs.

The bed was comfortable but I just laid there for a while going over everything that has happened since Thursday morning. This shit only happens in movies. It seemed like I just had just fallen asleep, when the alarm went off. I sat up and a wave of terror hit me. Today, I was going into the office of a company that I now own. I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I headed to the shower and started to get ready. As I came out of the bathroom, Carl was in my room already dressed. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my waist.

"Jesus, Carl, what are you doing?"

"I saw that you had a steamer in your closet and our suits are still a little rumpled from being in the bag. I steamed yours too, oh and your coffee is over on your night stand."

"Crap, do I have a personal assistant or a wife?" I laughed.

"Very funny. Next time I will just pull yours out and throw it in a ball on the floor."

"Okay, okay. Thank you, I really do appreciate everything you are doing."

"Clara called already this morning, and I told her about your lunch meeting with Travis King. She said she would set up the Executive Lounge and have lunch delivered."

"Perfect. I see you steamed my Charcoal suit."

He laughed. "I know it's your favorite. I also steamed a white shirt and the silver paisley tie. We need to get that housekeeper; I don't know how long I can keep doing this before I expect you to put a ring on my finger."

I replied from inside the giant walk-in closet. "Then we better get the housekeeper soon, you are definitely not the marring type. Unless of course, Nick sweeps you off your feet and you guys have lots of little babies running around the pizza shops."

"Hey, be nice. You don't want me spreading it around the office that the new boss is a dick."

By the time, we finished our morning banter and headed down stairs, it was almost 8:15 and the car should be here at 8:30; we grabbed one last cup of coffee. At 8:30 sharp, the buzzer for the gate sounded and the security monitor in the kitchen flicked on and showed the black INS town car at the gate. We grabbed our brief cases and headed to the door. The driver was a little older, probably in his mid-forties, and I could tell by the cut of his jacket he was armed. I am going to have to get used to all this security and armed men around me all the time I thought.

"Good morning, gentlemen. I am Michael. I am not sure which papers you prefer, so I grab the Post and the Times."

I shook his hand and introduced myself. "Those are fine Michael, thank you."

"The drive should take about fifteen minutes; there is a Starbucks on the way if you would like me to stop?" He held the door for us.

"I think we have had enough coffee already this morning, but thank you for the offer."

"No problem at all sir. And just so you know, I have an INS top secret clearance, so you don't have to worry about anything you discuss in the car."

"Good to know, thank you. Although we don't really know any of INS's secrets yet, so that shouldn't be a problem right now."

As we headed off, Carl went over my schedule. Apparently, he and Clara were already best buds. I guess they spent a lot of time on the phone over the weekend. He was going on and on; in addition, I was kind of zoning out until...

"Wait, what was that?" I thought I heard him say something about an appointment with a tailor for a uniform.

"The tailor will be by at two to take your measurements for your uniform. I thought I might get a chance to talk to him, because he might have some good recommendations for dry cleaners."

"What Uniform?" was all I could ask?

"You have to attend the commissioning of the INS Cyclone on Friday, and as Fleet Admiral, you need to be in dress uniform."

"Damn, I guess I didn't expect that. But hey, doesn't everyone love a guy in uniform? Maybe it'll help me get laid?"

Michael started cracking up, "Should do the trick, sir."

Carl just continued. "Oh, and I spoke with Clara about the housekeeper issue. I told her it would probably be a good Idea if we found a guy around our age, since it's an all guy household and someone who is either gay or gay friendly. She said she'd have to poke around and see what she could come up with. The challenge is going to be finding someone who will do some cooking too."

Michael looked into the mirror, "Excuse me Sir."

"Michael, please call me Dale."

"Okay, Dale. But, I couldn't help over hear. You're looking for a housekeeper and personal Chef?"

Carl spoke up. "Yes we are, but it's a live in job."

Michael nodded. "My nephew is looking for work. He was in culinary school for two years and just moved here."

I was intrigued. "Why did he leave school?"

"His mother and father, my sister and Brother-in-law. Where killed in a car crash about six months ago."

"Michael, I am very sorry to hear that. So when is he going back to school?"

"That's the hard part. See, we are doing okay but his mom and dad where putting him through school and they cashed in their life insurance policies and racked up a lot of debt to do it. None of us knew this of course. The funeral and burial expenses used every extra dime they had left. My wife and I helped as much as we could, but we have a son in Med School and a daughter in Law School. When I got promoted as Mr. Olsen's Driver, it was a big help, but I can't afford to put another kid through school. There's a school here that will accept him as a transfer, and he can do a lighter schedule if we can pay for it. If he had a job, it would help a lot. He's a really good kid and is trying really hard to make it on his own without putting a burden on any of us. He sold the house to pay off some of the debt and is living with me and my wife now."

"Carl, set up an interview with Michael's nephew and if you think he will work, then go for it. No promises Michael, but Carl will interview him and if Carl thinks he is a good fit, we will hire him. The job pays well and includes room and board." I elbowed Carl to keep him quiet. "Oh, and Michael, any of my personal staff that's going to school in a field that directly relates to the job they are doing, I reimburse seventy-five percent of their tuition."

Michael was smiling, "Thank you Dale, I hope he's what you're looking for, oh and he's gay, so no issues there. His name is Richard, but he goes by Rick."

"Okay Carl, take of it."

It wasn't too long, before we were pulling up to the gates at the INS complex. A uniformed guard never even stopped the car. The gate went up and we rolled past as the guard saluted. A giant metal anchor, with a giant metal shield with the letters INS, sat in the middle of the garden in front of a twelve-story glass and steel square building. The grounds where manicured perfectly. We pulled up to the front entrance and Michael got out and opened the door for us. Another uniformed guard came out, got in the car, and drove it around the building. Michael led us into the building. Cal, John, and Mike where waiting in the lobby for us. After a round of good mornings, they took us on a tour of the building. The first floor was all pretty much for show. A big presentation room. Some conference rooms and a small employee cafeteria with a Starbucks. I knew it was going to be a long day, so I got in line for a coffee.

Cal snickered. "Dale, you don't have to wait in line. This Starbucks is a franchise owned by you completely, not INS."

"Even so, these people where here first, so I will wait."

There was a young woman in the line in front of me, and she looked over her shoulder and was shocked to see the company top brass standing in line behind her. She stepped to the side, "Do you gentlemen need to move ahead?"

"Absolutely not. I am Dale Ryan and you are?"

"Melissa, sir. I am an accountant in accounts payable, sir."

I shook her hand, "It's a pleasure to meet you Melissa. How long have you been working here Melissa?"

"About six months, sir." We moved ahead as the line moved.

"Please call me Dale, and how do you like it so far?" She looked back at the guys behind me. "Don't worry about them."

"Oh no sir, I am not worried. It's just that this has got to be the best place to work in Virginia Beach, at least if not the whole state." Her response was definitely sincere.

"What makes you say that?" We took another step forward and we were next in line.

"Well, sir, the pay is great, the medical benefits are great, great vacation time, but more than that, everyone here looks out for each other."

"Really? That's great to hear. Now, let me get you your coffee."

She tried to refuse but I insisted. I ordered Carl and my usual. We were becoming like a married couple. Cal, Mike, and John each ordered a Grande Pikes, no room. I had a feeling that would be there order. I pulled out my credit card to pay and the barista, "Oh no sir, I can't charge you, you own this shop."

"Well I guess that's a perk I never considered. Thank you."

After we received our drinks, the tour continued. I stopped random employees and asked them similar questions to the questions I asked Melissa, and received very similar answers. The building was laid out pretty much as you would expect; with Accounting taking up the whole second floor. Sales had a small section of the third floor, and Public Relations and Marketing had the rest. I.T. had the whole fourth floor. This was the largest I.T. department I had ever seen. I spent a little extra time on the fourth floor, as this was something I knew. The fifth floor was legal, and it was laid out just like a law office. Apparently, one of the most genius things Kevin and Cal did, was to actually start an International Law firm right here in the INS building. They actually took out side clients, as long as there was no conflict. The legal department actually broke even most years. In most companies, legal is considered one of the biggest expenses. I was impressed. The sixth floor was Client Services. These where the reps that were assigned to a client once they were signed. The seventh floor was HR and included a small clinic, called an infirmary. The eight floor was very interesting, this was security, and it was huge. One section was dedicated to monitoring. A security tech showed us how they monitor all the cameras and electronic locks in the every INS facility across the world. It was very interesting. He showed me how he could pull up the video from this morning, of Michael picking us up at the house, and how as soon as we left, they noticed we had forgot to activate the alarm at the house so they remote activated it. They jokingly refer to themselves as 'Big Brother.' The INS Marine Security Senior Officers had offices here as well. When I asked where the "Marines" where, Cal explained that the INS Marine Security Operations or, "Marine Camp," was behind the office building and we would tour that tomorrow along with Fleet Operations Center, "Navy Base." The Next floor was actually two stories tall and this was training. The coolest thing were the helicopter and bridge simulators. I wanted to stay and check these out but John laughed and told me I would spend plenty of time in them soon enough. The eleventh floor was the Fleet Office. The Ship Captains all had offices, as well as some of the other senior officers. There was a pretty big fleet officers training center that John told me was used to get newer officers up to speed on INS ops. In addition, yes, I would be spending a lot of time here as well. Starting next week, I was going to spend one hour each day with a ship officer training. The twelfth floor was the Executive Floor. They showed me the conference room and executive lounge, as well as the executive gym. I saw where each of them worked and then was lead into my office. The first office was more like a parlor than an office; it was beautiful. Moreover, there was the most elegant lady sitting behind the desk at the back of the room right beside the door to the inner office. She was in her mid to late fifties, and held herself with the most amazing grace and poise I had ever seen. She stood as we walked up to her.

I held out my hand, "You must be Clara?"

She laughed, pushed my hand aside, and gave me a hug. "Don't be silly, Dale. We will have to work together a lot and I am going to be like a second mom to you in no time; so let's cut to the chase. And this must be Carl, oh and even cuter than I expected," she let me go and grabbed Carl and gave him an even bigger hug. Carl was eating it up. "Okay, let's show you your office."

She opened the doors and we walked into the largest office I have ever seen. It was even bigger, than the office at the house. The back two walls where all windows and looked out over the rest of the INS complex, and I do mean complex. It was huge; I could see the naval yard with all the ships in port. I was awestruck. Clara took the lead here and showed Carl where his office was, just off mine. His office was the size of my old office at the firm in Seattle. I knew Clara was going to be amazing. By the time we were done with tour and introductions, it was 11:30 and Clara reminded us we were meeting with Travis King in thirty minutes.

"Great, does anyone have his file?"

Clara handed me a folder, "I printed everything for you and put it in here."

"Thanks Clara. Okay John, is there anything that might surprise us about this kid?"

"Not that I am aware of. According to everything we know, and that includes talking to some very powerful people in the navy, this kid should have been the youngest Navy Captain in history. Personally, we know his mom passed away a few years ago and his father never remarried. He has two younger brothers. We do know that he is gay, but hasn't been seen in the gay bar scene here. We don't know if he is dating or not. We know that he was dating someone when the shit hit the fan, but that guy now lives in Texas and if they are stilling seeing each other long distance, there is nothing to make us suspect that. His Father is a retired Navy Admiral."

"Damn, man you guys check everything."

"His driving record is in there, as well as his High School transcripts and Academy performance records."

"John, where do you get all this info?" I was concerned this was digging a little too deep.

"Most of it, is public records that are available if you know how to look for them. Some of it, we use more unusual methods. But, as a Government Security Contractor, we have the right to do so. We don't do anything that violates any laws that I am aware of," he shrugged at the end.

The Phone on my desk started beeping. Clara reached over and picked it up. "Hi Jill, this is Clara." The phone display said Guest Reception. "Okay, we will be right down to sign him in."

Clara was a take-charge kind of lady; I was really starting to like her.

She smiled at me, "Dale, your twelve a clock is here, and typically, either Carl or I would go sign him in; but I would like to take Carl with me to show him the procedure."

I nodded, "Makes sense to me. Bring him here first. John, Mike, Cal, if it's not violating any sort of procedure or protocol, I would like a few minutes with Mr. King by myself."

Cal chuckled. "It hasn't sunk in yet has it? Dale, this is your company, you make the protocol or procedure. If you're worried about stepping on our toes, remember we brought this to you."

"Okay, thanks Cal, and I want you three to know that if you ever do feel like I am stepping on your toes, speak up. We need to be a team in all aspects of what we do."

Mike nodded and stood up. "Well said Dale, and that's the kind of relationship we had with your father."

The Three left the office and I stopped and looked around. This was the first time I had been alone since I woke up this morning. So, this is where I will work. I still don't really know what my function is here. I guess this is the learning phase. Cal and I had discussed it a little on the flight. My biggest job was to make decisions that got pushed up the ladder until they reached me. It seems from what Cal told me, and by observing the different departments, INS is a well-oiled machine. Carl walked into my office with a huge grin on his face, and then went over to the bar and started coffee. Clara was right behind him and stopped in the door.

"Mr. Ryan, there is a Mr. King here to see you. He is a little early for his appointment, should I have him wait?'

"No Clara, that's okay send him in."

She turned, "Right this way Mr. King, Mr. Ryan will see you now."

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