by TA (Terry)
"Marky, they're driving me outta my fucking mind!" Frank walked into my office and plopped down in the chair facing my desk. "The Germans are mad at the Swiss, the Swiss aren't speaking to the Germans… it's fucking nuts!" He rubbed his forehead with the tips of his fingers. "I'm too fucking old for this."
He smiled at me. "Ironically, the Germans think that the Swiss are uppity. A word not often used in International discourse." He put his feet on my desk. "Actually, they didn't use the word uppity. That's my loose translation. Strangely enough, it's getting to the point where the only ones I understand are the French. God, I wish I had some fucking scotch!"
I smiled at him. "No booze in the office… your rule."
"I must have been fucking nuts!" Then, "How's David?"
"I don't fucking blame him. He puts together a deal like the gods couldn't do and we're dicking around with it."
"Tell him, Frank. David has ways around things that I don't even pretend to understand. If you've got a problem, tell him. I promise you he'll help. His contacts are wide spread and deep." Then casually, "They may even extend into our home office."
Frank sat up. "Marky! What do you fucking know?"
"Unfortunately, not enough to help you, Frank. Talk to David and don't rule anything, and I do mean anything out." Then, "If you can take the time, I'll buy you lunch and join you in a scotch."
"I can't, Marky. They're gonna be calling… oh fuck'em. Let'em talk to each other. Let's go." Then on the way to the elevator, "How did lunch with General whats-his-name go yesterday?"
"Great! Big surprise! They really want things that go bang!"
Frank smiled smugly and shook his head slowly. "We're in the right business, Marky… the right fucking business."
Frank had just taken his first solid sip of scotch. "Marky, you've got your fucking cell phone. Call David. Talk to him."
"C'mon, Marky, maybe he's got an idea. They're drivin me nuts."
"Okay, Frank, but why do I get the feeling that you already know what he knows?"
I dialed home and David answered. "David, hi, hun, I'm sitting here with Frank and he's goin crazy trying to get all the Europeans together on this deal. You got any ideas?"
I listened for several minutes. "Holy fuck! Okay, babe… okay, I'll tell him. You need to talk to him? Okay, babe, see ya tonight."
"He says that if you want to buy our American division from the Europeans he thinks he can arrange it."
Frank had one hand resting on his ample gut, he slowly raised his other hand, turned his head slightly and said, "Waiter!"
I went to answer the door by myself and ended up doing it with a boy and a dog. Alex, clad in his yellow flannel pajamas, stood behind me and looked out from around my legs. Joe sat behind Alex watching.
I reached out and grabbed Mike by the arm. "Mike, it's really great having you here, come on in."
About a half pace behind Mike, Ted stood. Ted was about six feet tall with lighter brown hair than Mike and what looked like brown eyes. He was a pleasant looking guy, but not in the same league of drop dead gorgeousness that Mike was - but then almost no one is.
"You must be Ted. I'm glad you could come." He shook my offered hand; his own was warm and dry.
Just inside the foyer Mike stopped and hunkered down. "Hi. You must be Alex."
Alex had his hands tightly around both of my legs and was leaning out smiling at Mike. He just nodded in response to Mike's question. I reached down and touched the top of his head and said, "Alex, say hello to Mike and Ted." Alex moved his head back behind my legs and leaned his head against them.
I looked down and back at Alex. "Alex, aren't you going to say hello?"
Alex stuck his head back out and said. "Hello!" Then he took off running for the kitchen with Joe gallumping right behind him.
"Come on in, guys. Looks like Alex is feeling a little shy."
I got the guys headed into the rec room, where we were met halfway by David carrying Alex, who had his head lying on David's shoulder.
I introduced Mike and Ted to David, who shook hands with them. I took Alex from David and said, "Sweetheart, would you like to watch television in the living room for a while, or do you want to stay with us?" I turned so that Alex was facing Mike.
"Mike is your dentist. Do you remember, we talked about that?" Mike walked over to us and very gently rubbed his finger over Alex's hand. "Remember how we talked about a dentist being a doctor for your teeth?" Alex nodded and smiled.
Mike smiled at Alex. "Alex, would it be okay if I held you for a little while?" Alex looked at me and I nodded yes. He held out his arms and Mike carefully lifted him to his chest. "You sure are a big boy." Ted and David were standing well back.
Alex held out three fingers. "I'm three!"
"Wow! That's pretty old." Mike turned his head and gave Ted a look that twisted my heart.
After about twenty seconds Alex seemed to suddenly realize he was being held by someone he didn't know and asked. "Can I watch TV now?"
"You sure can, buddy." Mike lowered Alex gently to the floor. "Thanks for letting me hold you."
Alex looked up at him. "That's okay. Come on, Joe." The two of them took off for the living room.
Mike looked at me and said. "Geez!" It was there just for an instant and I didn't know if Ted and David had seen it, but for a second Mike looked about as vulnerable as a guy can be. Apparently, Ted sensed it because a second later he was next to Mike, his arm around his waist.
David intervened and ushered us all into the rec room while taking drink orders. He put Mike next to me, but close enough to Ted that they could touch. Then positioned himself next to Ted, with whom he kept up a constant conversation for the rest of the evening.
After a couple of drinks, Mike and I traded military stories, gay stories, and business stories. An hour later, David brought Alex in to say good night before going to bed. After they left, Mike gave me a look, then told me how bad he and Ted wanted kids.
I looked at him and nodded. "I know how you feel."
Mike smiled at me. "What is it? Fucking hormones?"
I said. "You'd think we'd be immune."
David stood up. "Guys, let's eat dinner. I fed Alex earlier." Everyone got up and started following David. "I set it up in the kitchen." He glanced back and smiled. "It's friendlier."
David had made pot roast, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a salad; all served family style with an Australian Shiraz, designed to put people at ease.
David said, "I think that it's really smart of you guys selling your separate condos and buying a place that'll belong to both of you. Where are you buying?"
I interrupted with, "Geez, David, you made a lot of food," while passing Mike the mashed potatoes.
David smiled at Ted. "A Marine and a Ranger and he thinks I should of cooked light?"
Ted put his hand on the back of Mike's neck. "What he eats would kill a normal person, but he does like two hundred pushups every day."
Mike smiled with a mouthful of food. "You could join me if you wanted to."
"Michael, I exercise the way God intended, with Nautilus machines, followed by steam rooms."
"Well I agree with Mike, pushups, situps, chinups, they're all you need. Nobody has researched this like the military. Besides, now when I do pushups Alex gets a free ride and it's kinda cool having him doing pushups with me. I mean, I think that with him just riding along now will maybe mean he'll wanna do it when he gets older."
Mike stopped eating. "You mean you let him ride on your shoulders?"
I nodded. "Yep, he loves it."
"There was a guy in the Marines that used to do that with his kid." A quiet look came over his face, like he was remembering. "He used to go on and on about it. I guess now I see why."
Ted reached over and touched Mike's shoulder. "You'll be doing the same thing some day, Mike. We'll make it happen."
David said to both Mike and Ted. "If you guys do want to do that, I mean once you've lived together for awhile. The lawyer that helped us with Alex is like the best."
I looked at both Mike and Ted. "Yeah, this guy's expensive, but he seems to know how to make it all work."
Mike glanced at Ted and then looked at us. "I don't mean for it to sound like kids are the only thing I care about. I mean, Ted is the most important thing in my life. It's just that kids would be a great addition. Ted reached out and held Mike's hand.
"Well, guys, I can tell you that Alex has made a huge difference, like we knew he would. And… well, it's all been for the best. I mean we were pretty nervous about having sex for the first few weeks, but we got that ironed out. Then you go through a period where you think that if you take your eyes off of him for a second he's gonna pull the refrigerator over on himself." I laughed. "But when he gets in bed with us at six in the morning, pries my eyes open and asks if I'm in there; some fucking how that makes it all worthwhile."
It was two o'clock in the morning and David, Frank, and I were sitting in David's office addition around a small conference table. David and I were in bathrobes; Frank was impeccably dressed in a charcoal gray suit with a deep burgundy tie. David was typing on a keyboard and seemed to be getting answers on four separate monitors that were actually acting like one large one with many different windows.
David was talking as he typed. "The European insurance companies, who by the way are the principal owners of your company, are dumping US assets like they were radioactive. The stock price of your company has dropped sixty percent in the last two years and to say that the board is in panic mode is really an understatement." David turned to face Frank. "I think if we offer them the right price, they're just nuts enough at this given moment to accept it."
"The first thing that I need to know is if you're truly committed to doing this, and I mean no matter what the fuck comes up. And secondly, I need a business plan done in under two thousand words, and I need it by the end of business tomorrow, or rather today."
Frank took a sip of his scotch and then looked back at David. "Whadya need in it?"
"Who's gonna run it, their experience, their bio's. No, fuck the bio's, nobody reads'em anyway. The divisions, where they'll be located and how much they'll each contribute to sales and profits. What makes it unique and why you'll succeed. The usual prospectus crap, but keep it brief. They're not really gonna read it, but they'll want to say they have it. The American subsidiary is far and away the most profitable, or at least could be. But the Europeans are looking at this through their own lens and seeing what they think they should.
"Frank, to use a military term, you have to take the point on this. It's your name as CEO that's gonna make this fly." David turned and looked at a screen. "The markets are down again." David sat forward in his chair with his arms flat on the table. "Frank, there's a tide in the affairs of men"."
Frank took a sip of his drink. "Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune". Frank turned to me. "You're being very quiet, Marky. Talk to me."
"Frank, our business is solid and every contact that I have tells me we ain't seen nothing yet. By the way, the General almost wet himself when I told him about the new altitude indicator."
Frank turned back to David. "David, why would your people buy this when the markets are going into the crapper?"
"Frank, our company makes money in several different ways, none of which involves advertising. By that, I mean that our strength is in the fact that we're small… small and exclusive. First, we act as consultants, like we've done for you. Secondly, and this is new but growing like wildfire, we act as investment advisors and handle peoples' money. People have stopped trusting their own judgement. And thirdly, we put together deals like this.
"Normally, the big guys would never let us in their playground, but we've got spectacular contacts with some of the wealthiest families in the world. And they didn't get that way by buying in last. The key to that is that these families are made up of actual human beings and that's where our relationships exist. Frank, there are a lot of little old ladies out there that have assets exceeding a billion dollars, and a bunch of them like to have someone actually sit down with them and explain things. One of the reasons we get the fees from companies that we get and, Frank, it will be a large one on this, is that we've made money for these folks in the past and they trust us. So, our reputation is on the line too."
Frank stood up and stretched. He looked at me and then his watch. "Marky, it's two thirty now. I'll see you in the office in, what, thirty minutes?"
I hopped up. "On my way, Frank." David was walking Frank to the door.
"Frank, I'm gonna make some coffee. Send me the rough drafts as you make them and, if I think they need it, I'll edit them and fax em back. David was still holding the front door open. Frank stood on our front stoop lighting a cigar. Turning to David he smiled and said, "Well, lad, this ought to be fucking interesting."
By ten o'clock that morning David had faxed the results of our work to all of his offices.
Frank's phone had finally stopped ringing and a strange silence had descended on our offices. Even though, to the best of my nowledge, nobody had told anyone what was going on. Somehow it just seemed to be in the air.
I was sitting at my desk staring through my open office door down the hall to Frank's closed door when my phone rang. I thought for a second there that my heart would stop.
I picked it up. "Mark here."
"David, you scared the crap outta me! It's like a morgue here."
David laughed. "It's cause they're all in meetings. We've given them a lot to think about."
"David, how can you take this so fucking calmly? I'm nervous as a cat."
"Mark, listen to me. This is only money. It can't really touch us - not if we don't let it. Nothing that happens with this deal is gonna change by one millionth of a millimeter how much Alex and I both love you."
"I know, babe." I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax, like I used to in combat… relaxed but alert. Then softly, "That's the first time you've ever said that you and Alex both loved me, kinda matter of factly. I mean, I figured he does. Well, maybe it's too soon to say love, but I think he likes me a lot, don't you? I mean, I know when he's hurtin he goes to you, but he and I do have fun together." I sighed. "Fuck, I'm rambling too much!"
I could hear David smiling. "Sweetheart, you're an idiot. You're all he talks about… really! All day long it's, "Mark did this with me… when will Mark be home… Mark this… Mark that." This time David sighed. "Good thing I love you and I'm not insecure; well, not about this anyway. The fact is, Mark, Alex looks to each of us for different things, which when ya think about it is only natural. But, sweetheart, you're the Army Ranger guy, the business guy who actually dresses in a suit and works in a biiiiig building downtown. I'm like just around. You're like what, eight feet tall, and I'm just this short, incredibly cute guy that tells him to wash his hands after he takes a dump."
Somehow, more than I would ever have expected that got to me. "David, I love you. I mean, I know that you know that and I know that you know that Alex loves you too, but I mean something more - deeper if that's possible." I had to stop for a few moments. "God, you're everything to me. How the fuck did I live before I had you?"
David just said, "Mark!"
I got a grip on myself. "David, it's your birthday in a few weeks. Is there anything special you want? God, do ya realize we've only been in that house for a year, but what a fantastic, fucking year! Oh damn, right after your birthday is Halloween. Alex'll go nuts. We gotta think about that."
"Mark, this buyout thing is gonna be okay. You gotta believe me when I say this. They'll take the deal. I wouldn't have made the offer if there was any doubt in my mind."
"I hope to fuck you're right, David."
"Mark, ask yourself this question. What is Frank doing? Is he pacing the hall looking in every office? Is he pestering you?"
"You mean he knows something?"
"Mark, he's my client, I can't talk about him, but ask yourself those questions." David laughed. "By the way, it's worked in almost all the circumstances that have involved Frank before. Oh also, I got a call from Ted this morning thanking us for last night. Although I guess Alex was the star of the evening, but he said it was great for them to get out to someplace other than a restaurant. He also said that he never saw Mike be so much himself with other people."
"Mark, I'll have to call you back, bells and whistles are going off here. Love you."
"Bye, sweetheart," then he was gone.
I leaned back in my chair and rubbed my eyes with my hands. I could smell a cigar and when I looked up Frank was leaning against the door jamb smoking one.
"Frank, you know that's against company policy... yours again, by the way." I smiled.
He sat down in the chair facing me and tossed me a cigar.
"Frank, you know I don't smoke."
"I know, Marky. Just put the fucking thing in your mouth and pretend."