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Authors: Dan Koontz

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The I.P.O.

BOOK: The I.P.O.
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D
AN
K
OONTZ

 

The I.P.O.

 

 

Copy
right © 2013 by Daniel Koontz

All Rights Reserved

 

 

This book is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance of the characters herein to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

Cover Art by: Gerome E. De Villa

To the
loves of my life:

Kyla, Emily, Ashley and Claire

 

CHAPTER 1

 

His eyes snapped open as if spring loaded as his head shot up from the thin foam pillow.  Despite the chill that permeated the orphanage barracks half an hour before sunrise, he threw off his covers and sat straight up, sweating and out of breath, tenting his scrawny arms on the cot’s metal frame. 

A quick look around the converted gymnasium confirmed that all the other kids were still asleep.  Good.  He knew from experience that this night’s sleep was over.  At least he’d have the shower to himself before the hot water ran out. 

A little over three months had passed since the day Ryan Tyler, Jr. had spent every subsequent day trying to forget.  But as he stared down at the shower drain, warm water tumbling off his hair in sheets, he found himself returning yet again to the last memory he had of his parents, on their way to pick him up early from daycare on his seventh birthday. 

In a matter of seconds, he was all the way back, standing beside his teacher just inside the center’s glass double doors, searching expectantly through the pouring rain. 

An impatient grin materialized on his lips as the form of his dad’s Honda Civic gradually took shape through the torrent.  A hazy rhythmic flash of orange joined the cone of white light from the headlights as the car slowed, approaching the entrance to the parking lot. 

Soon he was able to make out his mother’s face in the passenger seat as the light from an oncoming car shined through the front windshield.  She had just started to raise her hand to a wave, and a smile had begun to take shape on her face, as she briefly made eye contact with her son. 

The light on her face grew gradually brighter, until it almost appeared that the sun was shining, only on her.  This was the image he had seen every morning since, just before being jolted awake.

Then she was gone. 

A cannonblast, followed by the screech of tires, several rumbling thuds that shook the floor, and finally the mundane static of the falling rain.

Ryan’s heart stopped.  He reflexly jumped at the door, threw it open and bolted out to the edge of the parking lot.

Wide-eyed and panting, blinking away the rain, he stared fifty yards down the street to the glowing tail lights of a massive Chevy Suburban that dwarfed the unrecognizable remains of his dad’s eight-year-old Honda Civic just beyond.

After a brief pause, he forged ahead at a slow, deliberate pace, continuing on instinctively toward his parents, scared to death to see what awaited him – no one could have survived that impact – but compelled to go forward, as if drawn to them magnetically.

Broken glass crunched underfoot as he approached the rear fender of the Suburban.  His chest felt hollow.  His heart seemed to have slowed to a stop.

Just as he attempted to peer around the back end of the SUV to the mangled mass of metal and fiberglass that had been his parents’ car, his teacher rushed in from behind, scooped him up in her arms, and took off running as fast as she could back to the daycare center.

He screamed a desolate scream of desperation, stretching both arms out over her shoulders reaching for his parents, futilely giving everything he had to free himself from her serpentine hold, as he watched his whole world slowly disappear from sight.

“Turn that off!  You’re going to wake up the whole wing,” one of the orphanage nannies hissed. “And what makes you so special that you get all the hot water?”

Snapping back to the present, he quickly shut the faucet off.  He hadn’t soaped himself yet, but he really hadn’t done anything to get dirty the day before.

“Now, get dressed,” the nanny added with just slightly more compassion in her voice.  “You’ve got a visitor.”

His expression brightened a little at the thought.  It didn’t register with him that it wasn’t even six o’clock yet.

 

~~~

 

James Prescott scanned one final email as he slugged down the last ounce of his first coffee of the morning.  Before reaching the end of the message, he quick-replied a simple “no.”

He didn’t care what favor he owed to whom or what kind of sob story a supposedly close friend was selling him about how much he needed this.  He wasn’t about to do anything that might jeopardize his first IPO on the opening day of an entirely new market he’d spent the last 25 years almost single-handedly bringing to fruition.

“Good luck, honey,” his wife called out, still in bed.

“Thanks,” he yelled back, adding under his breath,  “I won’t need it.”

James Prescott had long maintained a closer marriage to his idea than to his wife – an idea that had come to him as an undergraduate in economics at
Princeton.  An idea that would gradually grow to consume him.  He had submitted it as his senior project, earning him the only failing grade he had ever received.  But that had only hardened his resolve.  With time, he’d grown to appreciate the F, which added character to a transcript otherwise weighed down by the monotony of A’s. 

After graduation, he’d been a standout in a brief stint with Goldman Sachs, building as many wealthy or likely-to-be-wealthy contacts as he could.  Then came the hard part – essentially putting his idea on hold for the four years it would take to complete the combined JD-MBA program at Northwestern.  But he knew he’d need the credentials. 

Four long years later, after countless hours of independent research of the legal, ethical, financial and marketing nuances of his idea, he was finally ready to start.  Within a week of graduation, James Prescott, JD, MBA tactfully turned down multiple lucrative job offers and raised just enough capital to turn his idea into an entity. 

He named it Avillage.

As he built the foundation of the fledgling company, gradually adding investors and employees but resolutely refusing to take on partners, he forced himself to take just enough time off to find a wife.  To build the popular and political support he’d need to take his project past the developmental stage, he knew that a wife and, eventually, a family would be necessities.

With a very specific target in mind, he sought someone attractive but not sexy, motherly without being homely, intelligent but with no specific career aspirations, conservative but not political, Christian but not a zealot, whistle clean on a rigorous background check and, most of all, desperate for children.  His search was quick. 

An athletic 6’1” with dark hair, dark deep-set eyes, and a masculine cleft to his chin, offset by boyish dimples that made an appearance each time he smiled – a deceptively warm smile – he was a charmer (to the point that even those who suspected he was schmoozing them couldn’t really resent him for it).  A clear “catch” by any young woman’s standards – or her family’s.

He married Jessica Prescott, nee Aronson, in June of 2012, before an audience of the most influential men and women he could figure out a way to contact.

Just prior to their second anniversary, Jessica gave birth to John Prescott, followed less than two years later by Jacqueline Prescott.  With a healthy son and daughter, there was just one more step he would need to take to complete his family.  The most important step. 

While away on a business trip in
Los Angeles, unbeknownst to his wife, he underwent a vasectomy.

No longer capable of fathering a child, he took any and every opportunity to gush to his wife and their acquaintances about his strong desire to have more children.

After a year of “trying” to get his wife pregnant, he tearfully and ashamedly confessed to her that he’d gone to see a urologist and had discovered that his sperm count was low – they weren’t going to be able to conceive again.  This, he explained, was not uncommon as men entered their 40s. 

They could, however, consider adoption.

Jessica’s emotions were frayed over her inability to get pregnant over the prior twelve months, and her longing to have another child was forged in steel.  The timing could not have been planned any better.  And planned it was – right down to breaking the news on the day that she should have been ovulating. 

Within a month the adoption papers were finalized, and in less than a year the Prescott family was complete, as James and Jessica welcomed their second boy, James Edmond Prescott, Jr.  The fact that he’d saved that name for his adopted child would be P.R. gold.

Slowly, in carefully calculated sequence, his bizarre, underground but well-funded operation was introduced to the masses.  A multi-faceted and seemingly nebulous ad campaign began pummeling the public from all directions. 

In one public service announcement, an imprecisely-named foundation emphasized the number of non-infant orphans in need of homes, while another pointed out that due to our country’s lack of investment in our children, the United States was falling progressively further behind China in math, science, and, perhaps most importantly, ingenuity.  James Prescott’s arrestingly magnetic smile was gradually folded into the PSAs, as his name became associated, and eventually synonymous, with the foundations.

Over the next several years, he and his special interest groups peppered congressmen and influential local politicians with tales of orphans trapped in the dead end that was serial foster care without any chance of eventually leading a productive life.

He then turned his rhetoric to what has worked in America.  “Why should our most valuable assets be stuck in government-run agencies?” he posed.  “What has worked in this country – what has made this country great – is the private sector.  Investment.  Accountability.  Measurable results.”

It was a full-court press political campaign.  He smeared his rival – the status quo.  He made lofty promises, invoking themes of patriotism, compassion and “change.”  The only difference between his and a typical campaign was that he had no opponent.  No one was smearing him back during primetime programming because no one was funding the other side.

Things were already going better than planned when the news “leaked” that James Prescott, who had to this point fought to keep his private life extremely private, was himself a parent to an adopted child.  Even the most cynical critic couldn’t have perceived this as a publicity stunt.  James Prescott, Jr. had been adopted almost a decade earlier. 

Finally, with public opinion overwhelmingly on his side, he lobbied for a new division of the securities and exchange commission.  His goal had always been to have his idea operational by the time he turned 50.

Now, two weeks shy of his 50th birthday, he was three hours away from realizing a dream; a passion; an obsession. 
His
market opened at 9:30.  He directed his driver to lower Manhattan.

 

~~~

 

“Mr. J.R.!” Ryan beamed, running into the open arms of his guest.

“That’s
Doctor
J.R. to you, buster,” Jared Ralston laughed, lifting Ryan up off the ground.  “You wanna get outta here and get some breakfast?”

“Uh... hmm... let me think about it for a – Yes!” Ryan shouted.  “I could use an Egg McMuffin.”

Jared Ralston had been the late Ryan Sr.’s best friend.  They had met in medical school, gone through residency together in internal medicine, and were midway through the final year of their cardiology fellowships when the accident had occurred. 

Both of Ryan’s parents had been only-children, and he’d only had the opportunity to meet one of his grandparents – his mom’s dad, who had died in his sleep shortly after Ryan had started first grade.  The other three were gone well before he was born. 

His parents had left behind more college and medical school debt than they had assets, and their life insurance policies had barely covered what they owed.  Mere months away from starting what would have been a privileged upbringing, Ryan found himself with nothing and no one.  Except J.R. 

“So, what did you do at school this week?” J.R. asked with his standard first question.  He kept a booster in his back seat and tried his best to make it in to visit Ryan at least once a week.

“Not much,” came the standard reply.  It was a stock answer, but it was honest.  At the beginning of the school year, like every other first-grader in the country, Ryan had taken the recently instituted Initial Aptitude Test, and he hadn’t missed a question – one of only four students nationwide to do so. 

J.R. wasn’t privy to that information specifically, but he knew Ryan was smart – and that he was stuck in a mediocre public school in Cleveland Heights that had absolutely no idea what to do with him.

They drove on in silence, both a little groggy from the early hour.  But J.R.’s mind was preoccupied with what he had to tell Ryan.  He knew it would have to come from him.  And he knew he had to do it today.

They each ordered an Egg McMuffin.  Ryan got an orange juice, J.R. a coffee.  Then they made their way over to a table for two, as far away as possible from a group of senior citizens in an otherwise empty restaurant.  A flat-screen TV, tuned to CNBC at a fairly high volume, assured that nothing they said would be overheard.

“How do you like where you’re living now?” J.R. asked.

“I love it,” Ryan answered sarcastically.

“Look, Ryan, you know I’d get you out of there if I could,” J.R. said. “It’s just that I’m on call every third night, and I’m working everyday.”

BOOK: The I.P.O.
10.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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