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Authors: James L. Rubart

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The Five Times I Met Myself (9 page)

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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“Ron, talk to me. What is in there?”

“Walking papers.”

“For who?”

“Us.” Ron blew out a long breath. “I wish it contained a lifeboat. But women and children first, right?”

Brock asked the question even though he knew the answer. “What are you saying?”

“I should have told you earlier so you could have come up with a final flavor.” Ron sat up with a sick expression on his face and pointed at Brock. “We’d have called it Titanic Morning.”

A bowling ball appeared in Brock’s stomach. “I asked you about this.”

“Yeah, you did.”

“What exactly, and I mean
exactly
, are you telling me?”

“I’m selling my company.”

“You’re what?”

“Selling my company.”


Your
company?”

“Right. Sorry. Our company.” Ron gave a dismissive shake of his head and pushed a stack of papers to the side of his desk. “Doesn’t matter at this point.”

“Yeah, it does matter.” Brock leaned forward, his hands resting on the back of the chair. “You want to explain to me what’s going on?”

“Sit.” Ron stood, then flicked his finger at the chair across from him. “It’s not my choice.”

“At least you have that part straight; it isn’t your choice. It’s our choice.”

“Relax, Brock. Yes, it’s our choice. What I’m trying to say is there isn’t much choice left. At this point we can take one of two paths. Either sell for less than pennies on the dollar, or file for bankruptcy, which we wouldn’t climb out of. We’re right in the middle, right at the crossroads.” Ron ran his hand over his head and slumped into his black leather chair again. “Nah, we’re not in the middle. We’re at the end . . . and we lost. I lost. We sign papers in three days with an investment firm that’s going to take over.”

“Let’s back up. Way back. How did I not know about this?”

“I know.” Ron shrugged. “I should have told you earlier.”

Brock picked up a bag of their coffee and shook it. “For the past year and a half you’ve told me things are as solid as they’ve ever been. Better than solid.”

“I wasn’t entirely forthcoming.”

Brock didn’t respond.

“If it makes you feel any better, my house is gone. Or will be. I put it up to get some working capital. Yacht is gone, all but one car is gone. My vacation home is gone. You could put your houses up, but at this point it wouldn’t help.”

“Again, what you talking about? This is ludicrous. Our sales
have never been better. Crazy good. We’re adding new clients every month. Reviews of our coffee have never been this strong. We’ve launched three new flavors this year and each one of them is pegging red on the in-coffeepots-everywhere meter.”

Ron rose and went to the full-length windows that looked out over Lake Washington. The setting sun put him in silhouette. “The outside looks peachy, but the fruit is rotting on the inside.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s my fault.” Ron turned and wandered back over to Brock. He sat, leaned forward, and straightened the four issues of
Golf Digest
magazine that sat in the center of the table between them.

“Tell me what happened, Ron.”

Ron flashed Brock a sick, lopsided smile. “Do you remember when we were kids, and we used to play Monopoly with Vince Capastano and his sister? Remember how Vince always seemed to have more cash than he should? How he was stealing it from the bank when we weren’t looking?”

“I remember how you beat him up when we found out.”

“He never cheated again.” Ron pushed back his hair. “Wish I could do the same thing right now.”

The truth washed over Brock like an icy wave. “Who stole our money, Ron?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you not know?”

“It’s not there. No trace of where it went. We can’t find it. Our IT guys say the hackers were brilliant.”

“When did this happen?”

“When do you think? While you were off gallivanting around the world in China, and Costa Rica, and Japan.”

“Working. Not gallivanting.”

“Whatever you want to call it.”

“Are we going to start in on this again?”

“No.” Ron slumped forward, head in hands. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry? Why didn’t you come to me?” The words came out louder than Brock intended.

Ron blew out a long breath and turned his head toward Brock but didn’t respond.

“We’re going to find a way out of this.”

“There isn’t a way out, Brock.”

“There’s always a way out. We’re going to battle this insanity with everything we have. Right?” Brock leaned forward and tried to keep his breathing steady. “Right?”

“I told you, it’s over. I’ve
been
fighting it with everything I have. I’ve pulled every string. Called in every favor. We are finished.”

“Then let me ask again, why did you keep this from me? Why didn’t you tell me this was going on?”

“This was my war to fight, not yours.”

“That’s an asinine answer.” Brock slammed his fist into his chair. “I’ve given my life to this company. Everything I own, everything I am, is wrapped up in Black Fedora. It goes down, so do I.”

He’d told Karissa for years to wait just a little longer and the breakthrough would happen. And it had. The past six years had been stellar. This coming year was supposed to be even better, the one that would set them completely free. But now the dream was crashing and burning with the power of a nuclear warhead.

“The company was my life too.”

“And you leave me out of the greatest battle it’s ever faced? For the third time, why didn’t you come to me?” Brock stood and paced on his brother’s tan carpet.

“Like I said, this was mine to fight.”

“Tell me the real reason. The deeper reason. Time to get real, brother.”

“You’re the artist, the one with heart and a palate that creates coffee flavors the world loves. The one who talks to the media, the spokesperson, the face everyone loves.”

“I never wanted to be the spokesperson. The PR firm said it should be me, and you agreed, and even then I said no.”

“But once we talked you into it, you learned to love the limelight, didn’t you? Made you feel good. Made you feel needed. Told you you were worth something.”

“What does that have to do with what’s going on right now?”

“I have to spell it out? You’re the face and heart of the company, I’m the mind and the strategist. I don’t spend a lot of time in your part of the company and you don’t spend a lot of time in mine.”

“Nice try. Once more. The real reason.”

“What do you want?”

“The truth.”

“No you don’t. You never do. You just want this company all for yourself. And it ticks you off that you never have been the true owner. The fact I’ve held that itty-bitty two percent over you galls you so bad. You taste it every morning along with your three cups of coffee. And it torques you something fierce that I’m your baby brother and the one who is really in control.”

“Oh, we’re going to talk truth? How ’bout if I’d focused on the business side I’d be better at that part of the company than you could ever be.”

“Now we’re in fantasyland.” Ron flicked his fingers in dismissal. “Enough.”

The reality of what was about to happen to his life settled on Brock like a thick fog.

“What will we have left when this is over?”

“Nothing. I already told you that.”

Brock’s stomach clenched. They’d just bought the big house two and a half years ago. A nice vacation house too. When Tyson applied to colleges last fall they told him private college wouldn’t be a problem. And he’d been accepted at Gonzaga. Shelling out $75,000 per year? No problem. Now suddenly it was.

“Does Shelly know?”

Ron nodded.

“You told your wife before you told me.”

“Now you get to tell Karissa. Get over it.”

“How many other people know?”

“Richard. The lawyers. No one else.” Ron rubbed his forehead. “Yet.”

“When is it going to leak?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it hits the web by tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon at the latest.”

“Wow. Thanks for giving me so much lead time.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I want to look at all the financials. Everything. There has to be a way out of this.”

“I knew you’d say that, and knew what you’d want to do. So I’ve prepped it all for you. It’s all ready to go.” Ron pointed to a stack of papers on the corner of his desk. Two silver flash drives sat on top of the papers.

“I’m going to find us a way out of this.”

“With your vaunted business skills?”

“Whatever it takes.” Brock rose, picked up the papers and
flash drives, and strode to the door. “There’s always a solution if you dig hard enough.”

“Not this time, brother.”

When Brock left his office at nine thirty that night, a large part of him admitted Ron was right, on two counts. First, he didn’t have the skills to find an answer. Second, from what he could understand, Black Fedora was drowning in red ink so deep he couldn’t see the bottom.

As he pushed through the lobby doors of their building, despair stabbed at him. But it wasn’t over yet. He refused to believe this was the end of the company he’d given his life to and loved like nothing else.

He trudged toward his parking lot two blocks away, wracking his brain for an answer, for even a shred of hope, but nothing came. Brock rounded the corner on Cherry Street and smacked into a man, who crumpled to the sidewalk as a muffled grunt escaped his mouth. Brock bent over and took the man’s shoulder.

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. How are you?”

“Good.”

“Sorry about that.”

His matted hair was the color brown that looked like it had dust in it. His skin was dark and his thin green coat and pants clung to him as if they were a size or more too small. A backpack that might have been bright red once upon a time leaned against the building.

“Whew.” The man shifted from his knees onto his backside
and wrapped his arms around his legs. He glanced up at Brock. “You used to play football?”

“No.”

“I did.” The man patted himself on the chest. “Made it too. Cornerback. Played five seasons for the Rams back when they were in Los Angeles. Not a starter every game, but still made good coin. You should look me up.”

“What’s your name?”

“Robert.”

“You need money?”

“Could always use a buck.” The man grinned.

Brock looked at him. “That’s all you want? A dollar?”

“If you can spare more, God will bless you.”

“Oh he will?”

“Most assuredly.” Robert looked at Brock with eyes that were as defiant as they were defining. This man might be living on the street with his entire world packed in a duffel bag, but it was clear he respected himself.

“Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps.” Robert opened his eyes wider as if to ask whether Brock accepted that as true.

Two thoughts struck Brock as he stared at the man. First, most people were probably closer to life on the street than they believed they could be. Here he stood, looking down both figuratively and literally on a man who could conceivably be himself in the short future. And second, his dad’s words from his dream were coming true.

“What kind of food do you like?”

“Thai food.” Robert smiled.

“Good choice.” Brock extended his hand and the man took it. Brock pulled him to his feet.

Robert gave a shy smile. “I used to make it for my family.”

“Really.” Brock studied the man and wondered how much of this meeting was orchestrated by God. “That’s interesting. It’s a dish I’ve cooked a time or two for my family.”

“Hard to do much cooking these days.” Robert’s eyes grew intense again and Brock turned away after a few seconds.

Brock opened his wallet and found two hundreds, a fifty, and three twenties. Depending on how the next week went, this might be the last time he could give stupidly for a long time. “Take this.” Robert opened the wad of cash, then slowly lifted his gaze. “I can’t. Too much.”

“I want you to have it. Maybe help you get a leg up.” Brock pushed Robert’s hand away. “The Lord gives, and I have a feeling the Lord is about to take away in great measure. So take this while you can.”

Brock took the long way home, hoping Karissa would be asleep by the time he arrived. His wish was granted. Her soft rhythmic breathing was soothing in a way as sleep took him amid the torrent of anxiety.

Chapter 12

M
AY
19, 2015

T
he malaise felt like a drug fogging his mind when Brock woke the next morning. It was almost like a dream, but he wasn’t dreaming. He glanced at the clock. Two minutes after seven. Good. Karissa would be in the shower for at least another five minutes, which would give him time to escape to another part of the house where she wouldn’t immediately find him. He needed time to process the explosion that was about to rock their world. Time to surface from the despair. He gave a sad laugh. Five minutes wouldn’t be enough. Neither would five months if they truly were going to lose everything. And he’d seen it in Ron’s eyes. They were.

He rolled out of bed and half walked, half jogged across their bedroom and through the door. Just in case Karissa finished early. Brock snaked into the kitchen, poured himself a cup of coffee, and started to head for the media room, but stopped to stare at the rain that squiggled down the windows. He put the coffee down and
shuffled toward the French doors leading to the back deck and, beyond that, their lush green backyard.

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
7.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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