I was lying by the fountain, enjoying the mist rising from the water as it splashed on the rocks, and being as lazy as Mourgo when the inevitable happened. It had been four days since Mourgo got me wet by either splashing in the water next to me or bounding over me and pushing me in the water repeatedly, but my guard was still up. He enjoyed the game very much, and I did not mind the interaction or the feel of the cool water. Not everyone liked my resolution to the multiple dunks, though.
After the first dozen times of ending up in the water and having to lay my clothes out to dry, I just gave up on clothes altogether. I think that decision not only annoyed all the people working on the floor, but it also kept Mourgo at bay after a few more Dion dunks. I had finally solved the mystery! The less I had on, the more peaceful my days were. Shame it was not meant to last.
Like I said, I still had my guard up, so I felt Luis before I heard him. I started groaning before his extra nasally and high-pitched greeting of, “Geia sas, Mega Kyrie.”
I snorted and sat up, trying to look as annoyed as usual even though I loved the tiny-in-form but grand-in-stature old man. “I swear, Luis, you actually sound worse than before Andrea phoned in to coach you. You are practically killing the axiom that practice makes perfect. What is it now?”
“Sorry, sir. I’ve been too busy with actual work to practice lately. But that is also part of the news. The new headquarters is now open and 100% operational. Any and all business will now be conducted through here.”
“So I see. Why is it that I am sensing bad news along with this good news?”
“There is too much to tell off the cuff, as they say, sir. There is a lot of information to be conveyed, and the staff expects you to make a showing. Give your blessing, show your support, and talk to them about what is next.”
I scoffed and turned toward the stairs, toward the doors that opened to the landing that separates business and pleasure. “Fine, fine. You know how much I abhor grandstanding, but I understand the notion. Let us be done with this.”
Luis’s gentle hand and a clearing of his throat stopped me short, however. “I understand your…eagerness to be done with this, as you said, but I recommend that you might want to put on some clothes before walking across. The counseling fees are already piling up from our trip to Napa.”
I threw my hands up in disgust and turned back, making my way toward my private chambers. “I knew it! I knew there was bad news attached!”
After giving himself ample time to make sure I was too far to hear him, Luis let his shoulders slump and heaved a long, deep sigh. “If only that were all of them.”
Twenty minutes and a few too many layers of clothing for my liking, I took the trail away from the waterfall and bounded down the steps that led toward the floor’s main landing. I opened the door and walked right into a new reception area. The desk was narrow but roomy enough for all the necessary equipment, and there was already someone behind it typing something up on the computer.
Standing by the doors across from me, the ones that now led to the new headquarters of the business side of me, was Luis. He was looking down at his feet when I walked in, and when he looked up, his eyes lit up when he took in my form. Apparently, he approved of me squeezing into a stuffy suit.
“My, my, my, sir! You do know how to clean up well.”
“Woe to ye of little faith. You actually had doubts? I even wore a tie.”
Reaching up to set the tie, Luis frowned at me. “It’s not your ability that I challenge, but your choices. I was half expecting you to choose something in tie-dye. And no, draping a tie around your neck does not count as wearing one.”
I huffed in mock annoyance and spat out while grinning widely, “You, my old friend, are more insufferable than this contraption around my neck!”
After tying the tie properly, Luis patted my chest and smiled up at me. “You’ll miss me when I’m gone, and you know it.”
Placing my hands on his shoulders, I bent down and placed a kiss on his forehead before looking into his eyes. “Not if I stuff you and put you in a corner by my fireplace, you old goat.”
“Har-har-har. Are you the God of Wine or the God of Death? Because your sense of humor is killing me, master. Shall we go inside then? The team is waiting.”
I nodded and closed my eyes tight before the door opened and Luis led me inside. I still had the images my imagination created the first time I set eyes on what was a massive open space. The images of dance clubs, desert oases, and pirate ships. Oh, how I loved that era! Before I opened my eyes, I made myself a promise to fit a small sloop in the corner of the area if I still could, and that thrilled me to no end.
Unfortunately, the excitement left as quickly as it came when I opened my eyes. The massive space was now converted to a maze of cubicles and offices, separated by hallways that crisscrossed each other endlessly. The only thing showing life in the whole space was the group of people huddled together to greet me. A few of those smiling faces cracked when they noticed the disappointment in my expression, but I recovered quickly and smiled broadly as my gaze whipped to and fro slowly, taking in every person.
A few seconds of awkward silence passed between us, and I had the notion that the group was waiting for me to give some sort of speech. Luis came to my rescue before I opened my mouth by clapping and nodding. His applause was taken up by a few people right away, and seconds later, the whole group was clapping, hooting, and hollering. I nodded and raised my hands to quiet everyone down. I hated speeches, but they deserved something. I licked my lips to stall for time and took a breath.
“I thank you all for your energy and dedication to this project. As long as it exceeds my own, you will be fine.” I smiled broadly at the smattering of chuckles and carried on, “I want you all to remember that I consider all of you as more family than employees. We are all in this together.”
Luis wrapped his hand around my arm and quickly let me off to the side just as another cheer began. It died briskly as everyone broke off and went back to work. “That was excellently done, sir. Would you care for the grand tour, or would you prefer I just lead you to your office?”
“Just take me to my office, but first answer me this, did you make use of all the space that was available, or is there still room for a pirate sloop?”
Luis’s walk came to a sudden stop. For a second, I thought he was also being assaulted by the endless voices in his head. “A pirate sloop, sir? I don’t think so, sir. Was I supposed to save space for that?”
“No, no. You did fine. It is only my imagination taking me on a trip down memory lane.”
“I understand, sir. Your executive office is just off to the left here.”
As we walked past the door, I stopped and did a slow three-sixty in order to get acclimated to the area. The office was so spacious it could accommodate another small business. There was a long desk off to one end, and two smaller desks along each side. There was also a conference table that could easily seat 20, a bathroom with a phone inside, a fully stocked bar, and a sitting area with four TVs forming a huge square.
As I turned toward the sitting area, something familiar caught my eye. I turned to Luis and gave him a questioning look.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Yes and no, sir. The couch is not the couch from the cabin, but an exact copy. And so are the loveseats. I contacted the company that makes them, so we have ample access to them from now on.”’
“You have done well, Luis,” I smiled and clapped my hands happily, “you have done really well!”
I whooped like a little child and jumped on the couch with a sigh of pleasure. Luis sat on the edge of one of the loveseats that were placed along each side of the couch. His face changed suddenly from pride to concern and trepidation.
“I am glad you are pleased, sir, but I do have to relay some bad news along with the good.”
I lifted my head and looked up quizzically. Sensing the trepidation in Luis’ eyes, I sat up and took a breath to calm myself. “Alright, Luis. Let me have it. What is going on?”
“To the mild side of things, first. Putting the headquarters in place took up a lot more space than expected. Your holdings are just too many to be looked after.”
“The companies and brands that you have helped and invested in. Although voluntarily, most everyone you’ve helped has decided to let you hold a part of their company as a return for the blessing and help you gave them.”
“So, unfortunately, not only is there no space for a sloop, but there is no longer space for the wine club we talked about. Also, after talking to others, I came to realize that adding a wine club this close to your private quarters is not good for security purposes.”
Luis’s gaze hit the floor for a second. He tried to hide the fact that something was really bothering him, but I picked up on his state of mind just as easily as a master chef would pick out the main ingredients of any dish. I sat up and opened my mouth to speak, but Luis cut me off quickly.
“The one saving grace for the wine club is that there is plenty of real estate in the area surrounding the main tower. It will cost more, but we can buy an empty lot and build the club from the ground up.”
I excused the offer of placation with a wave of my hand. “Yes, yes, I have no problem with that. But what is it that you are not telling me? What has you so worried?”
“The tragedy in Napa, sir. We’ve had some troubling developments.”
My complexion darkened instantly, and I knew this was serious. Luis would not bring this up without good reason. “What have you found?”
I blinked, confused at the curt statement. “And how is that troubling?”
“That is very troubling. Since Miss Fleming ran off into the night with nothing but a broken mind, there has been nothing. No news. Complete silence. No new thread, no information coming from the investment groups that attached themselves to the business, nothing. And that is not the only thing that’s strange.”
“You are right, Luis. That is very weird. Please, continue.”
“Miss Fleming’s father, sir. There is no information on him whatsoever. It is as if he never existed. Every time I’ve opened an investigation, physical or digital, I’ve come up with nothing. That just does not compute. I even went so far as to look for any associates of Miss Fleming that just go by the moniker of daddy, but that was a dead-end too.”
“That seems impossible in today’s digital world, Luis. You have tracked me down in jungles, and you have found nothing on who was really backing Fleming?”
“Yet that is exactly what is happening. I have no new information for you. Nothing but dead ends. It takes immense clout for someone to be so well hidden. That truly worries me, which is why security has risen on my list of priorities.”
“I agree with you, Luis. I think Miss Fleming was not the rattlesnake, but merely the loud, obnoxious rattle. We might have woken the full serpent.”
“Will do, sir. I’ll hire and vet a team to keep an eye out from afar.”
“Make it happen. Something tells me we will know what all this means in the very near future.”