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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Sun Apr 30, 2017 6:24 pm

Chapter 1

 


Chapter 1

 

Her lip curled up slightly in a humorous twist. Was she laughing at them, or had he mistaken a Parkinson’s tremor on her aging face for something more malevolent. Could she really be trying to ignite their avarice, their greed for wealth and substance for her own perverse entertainment? If so, his perception of her had been grossly flawed. He had never seen this side of Aunt Marcie. The promise of a somewhat theatrical presentation in this challenge to qualify for the bulk of her estate left him with a dull, empty feeling in his stomach.

Daniel Treloar was an electronics engineer. For the past several months he had been totally engrossed in the development of microscopic 3-D chips and was a little bemused by this distraction. He had been summoned by a call from his Aunt’s lawyer. He had been virtually commanded to come to her extravagant home—an ornate building that had been the obsession of her late husband. She was going to set up preconditions for possible benefactors of her will and all close relatives were being asked to attend. If he didn’t attend, he was told, he forfeited any chance of being considered as a beneficiary. This had been little incentive for Daniel and he let his Aunt know. However his brother Earl, in England, had encouraged him to go—if only to represent their side of the family—as he himself was too tied up with his university lecturing to even consider the trip.

He viewed the guests. The group was actually quite small. His Aunt Pat’s family were there: Gerry and Trish Greer along with Pat, Pat’s ex-husband Eric and her new husband James Jones. They were really the closest relatives to Marcie since Pat was her full sister. Angus, Alastair and Heather were the three offspring of Marcie and Pat’s half-brother Donald and his Scottish wife Morna, and they were all there. Daniel was the only representative from his family. His mother, Jenny, had been a sister to Donald and a half-sister to Marcie, and also the youngest of the four Quentins.

The links were all rather convoluted—complicated by Daniel’s grandfather, John Quentin, being married twice.

Seeing relatives made him think of his mother. He had loved her. He felt a deep seated regret that he had rarely expressed it. She had died of cancer three years ago and his father had subsequently embarked on some humanitarian quest in Africa. His thoughts meandered there. Daniel hadn’t quite understood his father’s motivation, other than it being a vain effort to find purpose for his life. After being assured by his boys, Daniel and Earl, that they could cope without him, he had enlisted with some NGO and headed off to Mozambique. Last Daniel had heard he was working in Somalia. Being a trained GP, there was no shortage of work for someone with his father’s skills.

Daniel’s glazed stare resolved into focus and he gazed again at his Aunt Marcie. Other family members were still hovering around her sipping drinks and munching on hors d’oeuvres. Such were deemed the proper preliminaries to this strange family reunion. The elderly widow glanced his way and he was sure that he detected that mocking glint in her eye which matched her previous condescending smile. His aunt had established one of the most successful independent fashion houses on the east coast. She had married a wealthy Bostonian who, after twenty two years of childless marriage, suffered rapidly declining health and left it all to her at his death. The business had then become her life, her marriage. It had seemed that Aunt Marcie would always be at the helm, always calling the shots till she died. Then five weeks ago, for no apparent reason, she announced that she would sell the whole business for a not-so-small fortune. This declaration had triggered the unusual meeting they were attending this day.

 

Marcie was now in her fifties, and still quite sprightly. She and Pat were quite a bit older than Donald. His grandfather had remarried and both Donald and his sister—Daniel’s mother—had been born more than ten years after Marcie. So there was a natural division between the four siblings. Daniel sighed inwardly; that would only be exacerbated by this fiasco, this fabricated test of loyalty where family members were expected to pay obeisance to the ‘queen’. 

 

                                                -----------------------------------------

 

Naomi was talking to a good looking, well dressed, highly conceited, young lawyer—Joel Reagan. He thought he was charming the blonde ‘heiress’, as that was his perception of her. In reality, however, she was extracting information from him about the family. Also listening in was Stacey Greene. To Naomi, everything about Stacey spoke of her professionalism. Of medium stature, her tailored business suit and immaculately coiffured, glossy black hair gave some indication of her attention to detail. She was personal assistant to Garth Haversack and had basically done all the housekeeping to facilitate the event. The studious looking young woman was politely listening to Reagan trying to impress Naomi.

Naomi had just about everyone pegged now, but she was curious about the young man across the room. She had watched him stroll in about half an hour earlier. Even from a distance his vivid blue eyes were evident as he scanned the room. Nonchalant, even bored in appearance, his casual attitude fascinated her. She wondered what he did during the day that allowed him to turn up in jeans, tee shirt and dark blue jacket.

“Who’s the blond guy across the room?” she asked, indicating towards him with a slight nod of her head.

Scarcely turning aside his eyes from her, Joel added to his catalogue description of the guests.

“That would be Daniel Treloar; he’s a chemist or something. He’s a son of her half-sister. Says he’s not interested in the money, but he’s here isn’t he? I’d watch him. He’s a bit of a favourite of Marcie’s and I think he expects to get a bit of the inheritance”. Naomi turned her head to examine this ‘pretender’ only to meet his unsettling gaze. She performed a welcoming smile before turning back to Joel. She felt the heat rising in her face. How long had he been studying her? Was her response phony, too cheesy? She was sure it was.

Naomi tried to continue her conversation normally but her mind was elsewhere. How was it that she had been with Marcie for a number of years now and hadn’t heard about this ‘favourite’ relative?

 

                                    ------------------------------------------------

 

Daniel continued scanning. As well as the fawning relatives being present, around a small table across the other side of the room, there stood four other people. Two were obviously lawyers; one quite a bit younger than the other. The junior lawyer was probably the apprentice who had come to see how these estate matters were handled; Daniel surmised.  Another, a dark haired girl may have been an assistant or a paralegal. The senior lawyer had his head averted and talked discretely on a cell phone while the young man was talking to a striking young woman and the paralegal.

In his conversation with the elder lawyer earlier, he had broached the subject of the girl who had attracted his attention. Garth, in his officious legal manner, had explained that she had been in his aunt’s employ, part time, for five years now. She was basically a personal assistant but was also a qualified nurse. That would be handy, Daniel had commented, because of the increasing medical needs that might beset Marcie as she aged. It was a facetious remark and he wondered at how mean spirited he became when Marcie was involved.

 

Why was she here? Daniel had asked. Apart from the fact that she lived in a largish house next door and was usually near where Marcie was, Garth had also confided that she was to be included in the considerations for the drawing of the will. This soured the taste in Daniel’s mouth, for it appeared that she was trying to take advantage of her proximity with his aunt. Maybe ingratiate herself with Marcie to reap the financial rewards.

“Just goes to prove … ” he quoted to himself, “appearances can deceive.” He came to this conclusion as he once again found himself appreciating the attractive girl’s slender figure, straw coloured shoulder length hair and always smiling countenance. In addition to that, she was understated in her makeup, her neat knee length skirt, ‘office attire’ white blouse and her quiet demeanour communicated modesty.  A more flaunting display could have shouted, ‘hey everybody look at me, I’m gorgeous,’ but she didn’t.

“Just goes to prove … ” except this time he enunciated his thoughts audibly as he observed her deferential manner, talking to the junior lawyer.

At that moment she looked across at Daniel as if she had been discussing him. Seeing his gaze, she smiled sweetly and returned again to her conversation. The dark haired law firm representative also flicked her eyes across to him. Her examination was predicated on some prior knowledge that she mulled over. There was no averting with her stare. He was determined not to turn away first.

“Just goes to prove what, Daniel?” Marcie inquired imperiously as she approached from behind. He was startled briefly before displaying his nimble mind with a touch of sarcasm, “What an entirely innovative Aunt you are Marcie … to announce your will before you die.”

“Is that what you think this is?” she returned with a hint of disappointment in her tone.

“To tell you the truth, I have no idea what this is about. I’m only here because Earl wants me here.”

Marcie became more conciliatory. “Well, I’m glad you’re here because I have something really important to share…” She tailed off. Then in a firmer voice, “No, I’ll let my lawyer explain it.” The old woman became more commandeering and aimed her next utterance to all those gathered in the room.

“All right everyone, come and sit in the seats around the desk. Mr Haversack has some announcements to make.”

There was a short hubbub as last comments were made which sought to welcome those not yet greeted or finally deduce the possible outcome of the aggregation of relatives. Following that, a disorderly trooping of sub groups sauntered over to the expensively upholstered leather dining chairs that had been arranged in the large, wood panelled office-library.

When the shuffling of chairs had subsided, Garth motioned the young lawyer to begin his spiel. He began with, “Good afternoon,” then halted while he stared at one of the younger Greers who made an unflattering remark.

“Good afternoon,” he repeated. “My name is Joel Reagan. Mr Garth Haversack and I belong to the legal firm ‘Haversack and Neesham’ and we represent the interests of Mrs Marcia Dougall-Quentin and would like to welcome you all here on this important occasion.

You have all been invited because of the important connection you have with the Dougall-Quentin family. I would like to hand over to Mr Garth Haversack.” He looked at Garth and gave, what Daniel thought was, a smarmy smile before continuing … “one of two senior partners in the firm. He will explicate the purpose of this assembly.”

He paused, as if expecting some polite applause, before moving aside for the more distinguished and impressive Haversack.

“Well, what can’t one lawyer do that two can, you might ask?” he began in a rich baritone voice, “… double bill!” he guffawed over exuberantly. His two hands were quickly raised as his quip informed them of nothing new, “Only joking …” There was a little chuckle or two, but one suspected it wasn’t at the ‘joke’.

“So, as Joel informed you, a decision is going to be made about the disbursement of Mrs Marcie Dougall-Quentin’s estate in the very near future.” As he said it, Daniel noticed a shoulder or two sag and some people slouch in their seats as if the event was going to be futile.

“The purpose of this meeting is to inform you of the criteria on which this disbursement will be based.” Ears pricked and postures straightened as those seated became more attentive.

“If you wish to qualify for consideration to be in receipt of Mrs Dougall-Quentin’s benevolence, you must be prepared to participate in a quest.” Garth paused for effect, obviously enjoying the drama of the moment. “That’s correct … I said a quest!” Some mumbling and scraping of chairs accompanied necks craning as they each gauged reactions to the disturbing turn of events. Apparently this was not going to be a handout! 

Haversack, who was accustomed to being the focus of attention, cleared his throat noisily before almost growling, “All right now!” then more smoothly, “I’m sure you’re keen to find out the details. If you listen carefully you’ll find out that the quest, which will give access to your benefactor’s largesse, is relatively simple.” His stature changed then, and he seemed to address them as an old fashioned school master with his hands behind his back.

“Your task—the quest you are required to complete—is to locate the most valuable asset of Marcie’s, I mean Mrs Dougall-Quentin’s wealth, and to come up with a plan for putting this asset to use to maximise its profitability. It’s a bit like a business management assignment, except the grade you get could be very rewarding.” He smiled at the allegory he had used before launching into his last dot point on his hand held card. “Are there any questions?”

Immediately James Jones called out, “How do we find out where these assets are?”

“Mmm, that’s the trick isn’t it?” Garth droned smugly. “There are six locations,” he continued,   “We’ll give you a list of the countries and you’ll have to work out the rest yourself.”

“Is there a time limit?” Morna asked in a rich Scottish brogue.

“Right, well I’m glad you asked that,” the lawyer responded stuffily realising that he’d missed a dot point on his list. He quickly perused his hand held card. Stacey, standing nearby, pointed to the information.

“Each of you needs to present your plan or idea within three months. The exact date is September the twenty fifth. It only needs to be a sentence or two written down, or it could be a comprehensive document. It’s up to you. Regardless, Marcie’s decision will be final. The selected beneficiary will be eligible to receive up to seventy percent of the profits from the sale of ‘Quentin Fashions’.”

Eric called out, “Up to seventy percent? That could mean nothing.”

“That’s true Mr Greer. That’s the risk you take. You have to participate in good faith and accept the final outcome—whatever that may be.”

Daniel stared with dismay at the questioner, wondering what strange truce had been arranged between Pat and Eric in the Greer’s efforts to advance their cause.

No one else offered any comment. Joel handed out cards with the asset city names listed. Haversack told them they were welcome to stay and have more refreshments or ask questions, but the business had concluded. Small voices became louder as the ‘quest’ became the main topic of discussion. 

Daniel sipped a coffee and chatted to his Uncle Donald who had a real estate business in Scotland. As Donald was distracted by his wife Morna, Heather, his cousin, left her brothers and came over and gave him a hug. It had been five years ago when Daniel’s family had visited his brother in London and then travelled up to Edinburg. She was his favourite extended family relative by a long stretch so, putting his cup on the table, he hugged her with energy.

“So, what’s a bonnie lad like you doing still being single?” she ventured with a slightly exaggerated accent.

“I could ask the same of you,” he nudged the attractive auburn haired girl.

“Well, you might be surprised that I have a young gentleman suitor. His name’s Gregory. I think you’d like him Dan.”

“I’m not surprised at all, a comely girl like you.” He hugged her again. “Congratulations.”

“A bit premature, maybe, but thank you,” she smiled coyly.

A number of heads had turned to observe their spirited embrace. Among those were Marcie and Naomi, who had been identifying the various family members. The two moved purposefully toward the animated cousins.

“Heather, Daniel, I’d like you to meet Naomi Stockton. Naomi has acted as a sort of PA and advisor for the last three years. She is also part of the quest.”

Naomi looked demurely at her feet for a second before appearing to summon her thoughts. She looked up and smiled. An attractive dimple punctuating her cheek.

“Pleased to meet you,” she almost purred.

“Welcome to the family,” chortled Heather in her affectionate manner.

Daniel nodded non-committedly. 

 Naomi turned to face him directly. “And where are you going to search out first Mr Treloar?”

Daniel looked cynically at the young woman, but thawed slightly as she gazed at him with soft brown eyes.

“Maybe I should follow you around as, I imagine, Marcie’s PA would have a distinct advantage in this quest.”

She felt the sting of his words and licked her lips unsure how to reply.

Marcie growled, “Don’t be crabby Danny. It was my idea that she participate. I’m interested in her perspective about my business.”

“Okay, maybe I was a bit rude. I’m sorry Miss Stockton. The truth is, I doubt I’ll have time to go running around. I have some of my own work to finalise.”

“I believe your brother Earl was hoping you’d represent the family. I heard he’s fallen on hard times.” Marcie was taunting him with something he was unaware of.

Daniel waited for the ache in his stomach to subside. He stared at Marcie. “What sort of problems is he having?” Naomi pressed her lips and watched the conversation like a tense tennis match.

“You’re going to have to find that out yourself.” She was blunt. He had to admit that she always had been. “You should talk to him more often.” It was said plainly but he heard the implied accusation.

“Well, some of my business is in London so I could probably drop in and see him and, as well, maybe even check out your London fashion house if I have time.” He meant to sound indifferent, though his tone conveyed his slight agitation at his Aunt’s rebuke. 

He glanced at his watch as if it was somehow connected to what he had just said. It was time to go, but Marcie hadn’t finished.

“Daniel, when you go to London, I want you to take Naomi with you. She has, at least, agreed to go to London, although she has never travelled and has no real desire to join my little escapade.”

Taken aback, he looked at Marcie and then at Naomi, who had lowered her gaze. “Well that makes two of us Marcie.” He gave Naomi a little grin as he made eye contact. He was beginning to warm to her contrary nature. “I’m sure I would love the company of the delightful Miss Stockton, but I can’t afford to go haring off to Australia, Malaysia, Canada,” he checked the card, “and England and Scotland.” He wavered for a second. “Maybe, as I said, if I’m required to go to London, which I suspect will be the case, Miss Stockton can accompany me.” The moment he said it he wondered why he was acquiescing to Marcie’s dictates.

“That’s very magnanimous of you Mr Treloar,” said Naomi softly, “I don’t want to be any trouble. It’s just that London is one of the two places in which I also have some personal matters to deal with.”

“Will you two stop being so formal?” grumbled Marcie. “Daniel, her name is Naomi. Naomi, his name is Daniel.”

Naomi smiled attractively at him. “Thank you Daniel. I would really be grateful for the chance to travel with you.”

Daniel felt a warm glow as he looked into her eyes. Her flecked blonde hair framed her beautiful face. She dimpled and coloured at the same time as she became mindful of his stare.

“You’re welcome Naomi,” he replied engagingly. “I’ll let you know if and when I’m heading to London.”

“Thanks again,” she offered her hand and Daniel felt the smooth, small hand and shook it gently, afraid that he might break it.

“So, I’ll see you then,” Daniel said lamely as he dwelt on her touch.  He turned and started to leave feeling out of his depth.

“Daniel,” her call spun him about. Her expression indicated a slight awkwardness. “You probably need my number.” Naomi handed him a small card with her contact details.

“Er, thanks.” He slipped it in his pocket. “Goodbye Marcie,” he added, not aware of the glint in her eyes. “Interesting parties you have.” With that passing shot Daniel left. He was berating himself for letting his guard down. Why had this girl managed to inveigle her way into his affections? The more he got entangled with this nonsense the more he would be distracted from his research projects.
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SwiftWarrior
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PostSubject: Re: The Profit Prophet   Wed Jul 05, 2017 10:51 am

This is a really good chapter! I liked the joke about what two lawyers can do that one cannot. :)
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PostSubject: Re: The Profit Prophet   Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:31 pm

Glad you liked it. I write to entertain myself (I know it's sad) and to tease out deeper issues with spiritual dimensions. Let me know if you want a second chapter.

...The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love Gal5:6b
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PostSubject: Re: The Profit Prophet   Sat Jul 22, 2017 11:43 am

It's not sad to write to entertain yourself! I like telling myself stories out loud when I'm bored. It's just embarrassing when somebody overhears me... mainly my little sister. :) If you want to write a second chapter, go for it! But only if you want to. :)
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