I have absolutely no idea what Dad was thinking with this team building thing. It was total chaos. Athena and Artemis took everything as a physical challenge, meaning all of us ended up with cuts and bruises. Overachievers. The arguments that ensued did not bode well for any future collaborations.
When I got back, repair orders were piled high on Heph’s desk. I don’t know what Charlie and his crew did while I was gone, but it wasn’t work, that’s for damn sure.
I called Bill into my office to ask him what had happened while I was gone. My suspicions were confirmed as he told me about the late night party in Forge 9; the kegger in Forge 20; and the orgy in Heph’s office. That was going too far, even for me. The two of us worked out a schedule, and I gave him the authority to write anyone up who wasn’t pulling their weight. “If they give you a hard time,” I added, “send them to me. I’ll deal with him.”
Bill’s face went pale; I’m sure he was imagining all kinds of scenarios on how I would deal with the troublemakers. I did nothing to remove the images from his mind.
After he left, I grabbed a walkie talkie and asked for Charlie, but the voice on the other end told me that he wasn’t available. I spent the rest of the morning dealing with the repair orders, sending out crews to deal with them as quickly as possible.
After a quick lunch, I went to the Wares Security building. Unlike the forge crew, my team had worked efficiently without me there. I verified that the cameras and other surveillance equipment I had ordered put in the forge houses had been done. I found reports on my desk that gave me very detailed information about the various parties in the forge houses. I’m sure whoever had that assignment enjoyed reviewing the one from Heph’s office. Hell, I needed a cold shower after reading the report!
I called in Sam, a rather nondescript man who blended in wherever he went. He was what you mortals would call a dorky-looking nerd. To him, I gave the assignment of following Persephone. She would never spot him, and I felt confident that he wouldn’t find out anything. As long as Uncle Hades stayed away, the report from Sam would be full of normal, everyday activities.
When he left, I went over to the OA, stopping at Chloris’ flower shop to pick up a bouquet of pink roses. I breezed through the lobby, ignoring several people calling out to me for my attention. There was only one place I was going, and that was Dad’s office.
Cassandra looked up when I stepped off the elevator. While we had been on the retreat, I had spent every evening on the phone with her. Our conversations had varied: one night, we talked about art, another night, she told me about her childhood, and then there was that one night that almost melted my phone. “You’re back,” she said as I approached her desk.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come over last night,” I replied as I placed the vase of roses on her desk. “There was a mess at the forge…”
“I heard all about that,” she chuckled as she stood up and bent over the roses. Gently touching one rose, she bent over and inhaled deeply. “These are beautiful. You didn’t have to do this.”
“I wanted to. I know it’s short notice, but I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me tonight.”
She straightened up, and I saw a look of surprise on her face. Then she smiled, and my heart flip flopped. “I’d love to. I’ll make us a reservation at this little Italian place I found the other day, if that’s alright with you.”
A loud clap of thunder sounded from behind Dad’s closed door. Cassandra saw me glance in that direction. “He’s on a tear today. Someone confiscated all his construction workers, and he’s pissed.”
“Yeah, I know all about it,” I told her. “It’s one of the reasons I’m here.”
She shook her head. “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you, but you’re a braver man than I.”
I walked around to her side of the desk, pushed her chair out of the way, and pulled her close to me. “Perhaps you should give the condemned man one last kiss then.”
Wrapping her arms around me, she molded her body against mine. It was a nice fit. As I tilted my head down to give her a kiss, Dad’s door flew open and the man himself appeared. “Quit trying to screw my secretary at her desk and get in here…NOW!!”
Sighing, I reluctantly stepped out of her embrace. “We’ll pick this up later,” I promised her, then turned and walked into Dad’s office.
He chunked another lightning bolt at his dartboard as I closed the door. “Where the hell have you been? I told that arrogant secretary of yours five hours ago I wanted to see you!”
I sat down in a chair and sighed. “I’ve been busy putting out fires, figuratively, not literally. There was a pile of repair orders on Heph’s desk dating back two weeks. Seems most of the crew decided to party instead of work. I have a very graphic and detailed report for one of the events that took place in Heph’s office. I’m having it thoroughly cleaned. Then I went to my own office, where I found everything going just fine. I read reports, gave out assignments, and other things that a responsible businessman would do, which is what you want us to do. So you need to calm down, take a deep breath, and quietly tell me why you have summoned me here.”
A lightning bolt landed at my feet. Little shockwaves went up my legs, but I didn’t show any reaction, which just pissed him off. “Don’t be condescending with me!”
“I am not. I am merely trying to use some of those coping skills you just spent the last two weeks having us learn.”
Dad glared at me. “All of my construction workers are gone. Nothing has been done on this building in two weeks! We are behind schedule. Rumor has it your son bribed them all with promises of hefty bonuses. They’re all working at his stupid warehouse. There is nothing that is more important than this building! I want those workers back here and on the job in one hour, and I want your son in my office thirty minutes after that.”
I stood up, walked over to him, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “No.”
“You dare say no to me?!” His fingers curled into a fist, and he pulled his arm back, ready to punch me in the face.
“That’s right, I said no,” I said quietly. “Dinlas asked me how he could get some help fixing up the warehouse. I told him to take the workers and use them while we were gone. You didn’t even notice he wasn’t on the retreat with us. I didn’t think it was necessary for him to go. I felt it was more important that he get established here. If you’re going to be angry with someone, then let it be me, not him.”
Dad’s arm lowered to his side and his fist opened up. “You did something for him?” he said in surprise.
I shrugged. “I figured it was a win-win situation. It’s not like the crew was building an entire office complex. They were merely working on an existing one. If the bonus money got them to work harder, then good for Dinlas. He did the right thing.”
He stared at me for a minute. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he chuckled. “You care about someone other than yourself for once.”
I knew he was trying to goad me, but I ignored the barb. “If there’s nothing else, I need to go back to my office and set up some surveillance for tonight. Now that we have returned, I have a feeling our problems at the forge are going to start again.”
“No, I don’t have anything else,” he said.
“Great.” I turned and walked to the door.
“Wait, there is one thing. I got another threatening letter while we were gone. Just a repeat of the first.” He went over to his desk, searched through the pile on his desk, found what he was looking for and brought it to me. “Here, see what you can get from this,” he said.
“I’ll do my best.”
“I want to hear from you on the progress you’re making in two days.”
“Yes, sir.” I opened the door and walked out.
“And have fun on your date tonight,” he called out as I walked past Cassandra’s desk. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” He laughed as he closed the door.
Parents…always embarrassing you at the most awkward times.