Adventures of Nick Nelson Ch. 11byA.W. Root©
On Tuesday morning, Nick rode his bike to the nearby town of Toowoomba and reported to the General Manager of the company's district office. His specialty with the company was problem solver and trouble-shooter where project management was required. The General Manager, Gene, briefed him on the problem and explained that the Australian SEC was involved. He went on to say that he had formed a project team, subject to Nick's approval, and that they were ready to assist at any time.
He walked Nick to an office on the second floor and introduced him to his temporary secretary, Sarah Ward. Nick almost fell over when he heard her name and noticed that except for the hair color, she looked a lot like Julie. As he settled into his office to begin reviewing the information on the project, the General Manager closed the door.
"A word of caution, Nick. Sarah Ward is the best assistant in the company but she has a distinct dislike for men. Her nickname is "Ironpants" just so you know."
After Gene left, Nick settled in to review the information. It was very difficult for him to keep his mind on his business knowing that Julie's daughter was sitting just outside his office and that she was nicknamed Ironpants.
After a while, he decided that a phone call back to the main office was in order. He dialed Julie's extension and waited while the phone rang.
"Human Resources, Julie Ward speaking. How may I help you?"
"For starters, you could unbutton your blouse and let me kiss those sweet breasts."
"What!!! Oh, Nick, you naughty boy, I almost fell off my chair. How are you and no, I will not unbutton my blouse."
"Good morning, Julie, I am fine. I am in the company office in Toowoomba this morning. My direct dial extension is 94588."
"Toowoomba? Our office? Oh, Nick, my daughter Sarah works there. If you run into her, she looks a little like me except she is a blond. Please be careful, darling, I've only hinted about us so far but I haven't told her who you are. I think she should hear the rest of it from me instead of from you."
"Well, when you put it that way, I suppose she should hear about us from you first. Would you like to tell her now?"
"My God, Nick, is she there with you?"
"Not exactly. Ironpants Ward has been assigned as my temporary secretary and assistant and is sitting just outside my office. I don't think she caught my reaction when we were introduced. She can be reached on this same extension. In fact, I think she will probably be the one to answer this phone when it rings."
"Ironpants? Is that her nickname or something you thought up?"
"According to Gene, that's her local nickname. A reference to the fact that she doesn't like men very much, apparently, although Gene says she's the best assistant in the company."
"Ohmygod! No, I don't think I want to tell her now, thank you very much. I didn't think she was coming on that strong. I prefer to tell her in person, if that's OK. Would it be a big problem if I waited until this weekend? I mean, would it get in your way as far as work goes?"
"I don't think so. I can just pretend I don't know she's related to you. As I said, she will probably answer this phone so it could be a way to introduce the subject. I do need some information from Human Resources for this project so it isn't completely unthinkable that you should call me."
"Mmmmm. Let me think about that for a minute. It might be a way to break the news without creating a bad reaction. I have told her there is somebody and that we are intimately involved. I think I've told her your name but I'm not sure she remembers. What information do you need and I'll try to get it for you and call you back."
"I have several people that the GM has picked for this project team. I need some quick information on their backgrounds, particularly skills inventory data. Can you help with that?"
"Sure. We have all that in the computer here. Give me the list of the names and I can probably get back to you in about an hour or so."
Nick gave Julie the names. She promised to investigate and call him with whatever they had in their files. She was about to warn him that Sarah had a basic distrust of men but she decided that the nickname was sufficient warning. They ended the call with a kiss to each other, then he walked out of his office.
"Sarah, where can I find a cup of coffee?"
"I'll get it for you, sir. How would you like it?"
"No, Sarah, I can get my own coffee unless you happen to be getting one for yourself. Just point me in the right direction. I will need a cup as well."
"Sure. It's just down the hall this way."
Sarah rose from her desk and began to lead the way. Nick noticed the slight swing to her ass and smiled to himself. Yes, indeed, Sarah Ward, you are your mother's daughter. They fixed their coffees then he invited her into his office to get acquainted. He sat down, smiled, then started to talk.
"To begin with, my name is Nick Nelson and unless you're an agent of the government, I prefer to be called Nick, not sir. I am a contract project manager-that means I'm technically not an employee of the company-but I've been here before. I managed the installation of a software system at headquarters three years ago and now they have invited me back to solve a variety of problems. On a personal level, I have just filed for divorce from my current wife and accidentally have become involved with another woman."
"Sarah, I don't generally beat around the bush. I don't like bullshit and don't tolerate it from others, regardless of their supposed rank in the organization. I solve problems, period. If I happen to step on someone's toes in the process it's too bad. The first priority is to solve the problem for the company. Is that going to be a problem for you?"
"No, that's definitely not a problem. I've been here about three years and that attitude is like a breath of fresh air. Most of the managers here are deathly afraid of making a decision without consulting everyone else."
"I've been the roving secretary or assistant, or whatever most of the time. At one time or another, I have worked for or with most of the managers here and some that have gone on to Brisbane. Personally, I am single, unattached and enjoy good food, good wine, and good company. I know many of the staff members so I may be of help to you when you need particular kinds of information."
"Well, it certainly sounds like Gene picked the right person to assist me. May I ask you a very personal question?"
"Of course, if you don't mind if I choose not to answer."
"I understand some of the personnel have nicknames. Some of them are funny and some not so funny. What do you know about this practice?"
"Well, it does happen. Usually, it's because of a personality quirk or some habit the individual has that everyone else has noticed. It usually means they care because if you don't have a nickname, it's usually because no one cares enough to give you one."
"I see. Does Gene have a nickname?"
"Yes, they call him foureyes. Not because he occasionally wears glasses but because he always seems to know what's going on, hence eyes on all sides."
"What about you? Do you have a nickname"
"Yes, but it's not very appealing."
"Do you want me to find out from someone else or are you going to tell me yourself? My nickname, by the way, is Tiger."
Sarah blushed slightly and fidgeted in her chair. Something about Nick Nelson made her nervous and she didn't want to displease him, especially on their first day. Still, she didn't really want to explain the reason for her nickname. After a moment, she took a deep breath and looked him directly in the eye.
"My nickname is Ironpants. I suppose it's because I refused to sleep with any of the managers I've worked for, which is apparently a departure from the normal case."
"Well, I'll be sure not to call you by your nickname. Sarah is so much prettier. In any case, your sexual preferences are strictly personal and I have no intention of making them an issue on the job. I think you and I will get along pretty well as long as we keep our communication open and honest. OK?"
"Yes sir, I mean Nick, that's fine with me. Is there anything in particular you want to talk about?"
"Yes, I placed a call to corporate a little while ago to get some background information about the people on my project team. Here's the list. What can you tell me about them?"
"Hmmmmm. This is a pretty good group. Pardon me for saying so, but I don't understand why they can't solve the problem without your help. They certainly have the talent."
"It's usually a matter of organization. Let's start with Ron Jacobs. He is apparently the designated team leader. What do you know about him?"
"Well, he's a good worker. He's been here about six years and so far as I know has never missed a day. He started as a junior programmer and worked his way up. Gene seems to think he's really good at finding problems with the software and the only bad word about him is that he's a little sensitive."
"OK. Anything outstanding about the others? Anybody in that group strike you as super-smart or pushy in some way?"
"No, except maybe Kathleen Hamilton. She has a kind of in-your-face personality although I understand she's pretty good at her job as well. She has some kind of chip on her shoulder and I haven't had enough to do with her to really figure it out. Most of what I've heard about her is really second-hand."
"Fine. We'll wait for the information from corporate. Can you get a message to these people that I want to have a team meeting at 1pm this afternoon and can you find a room where we won't be disturbed for about an hour?"
"Sure, Nick, no problem. Anything else?"
"Nothing for now. I want to read over this information from Gene and get the details from corporate before the meeting. Thanks, Sarah, I think we'll get along just fine. Leave the door open when you leave. I don't like a closed office unless I have a meeting going on. Thanks"
Nick felt good about his meeting with Sarah. As an employee, he had a feeling of confidence in her work and in her dedication to the company. Personally, he thought they had made a connection but that was only his opinion and needed to be verified.
Sarah left Nick's office with a broad smile on her face. The dreaded Nick Nelson was really a pussycat, she concluded. His reputation as a hard boss had preceded him but so far, she really liked the guy and he did seem to turn her on. Too bad mother can't hook up with somebody like Nick - HEY, what a minute! Didn't she say his name was Nick??? Now that would really make life interesting. A little more than an hour later the phone rang. She looked at Nick and saw that he was leaning back in his chair with a file in his lap and decided to answer it.
She could tell by the ring that it was an internal call so she answered in her internal manner.
"Nick Nelson's office, Sarah Ward speaking."
"Good morning, Sarah, what a nice surprise."
"Mother! How nice. Why are you calling here? Is something wrong?"
"No, Sarah, nothing is wrong. I am calling to deliver some information that your Mr. Nelson requested from us. Just between us, what do you think of the infamous Nick Nelson?"
"Well, I haven't seen him in action yet but so far he seems to be a really nice guy. I don't know what it is but something about him really attracts me. What do you know about him?"
"A little hearsay. He's some kind of whiz kid trouble-shooter and the big bosses really like him. I also know that he's just filed for divorce, plays golf and tennis and rides a motorcycle. Are you working for him now?"
"Just for this project I am. Gene, the local GM, assigned me to assist him. How did you find out about his marriage and so forth? Is he the one who's got your radar up?"
"Well, Sarah, I know this stuff because, well, because he's the man who I have been dating for the past week or so. There, I've said it!"
"Omygod, mother, you and Nick Nelson? That's incredible. I don't believe it. Oh..my..God!"
"Sarah, are you OK? I've never heard you like that. Are you OK? Sarah, talk to me, please!"
"Oh, mother, you won't believe it. A little while ago, just before I sat down here at my desk, I was in his office and we kind of introduced ourselves to each other. When I came out, the thought hit me that it would be great if you could hook up with somebody like him. I don't know why, it just seemed to pop into my head and now you're telling me it's real! I can't believe it."
"Well, you had better get used to the idea, Sarah, because it is real. This situation is what's unreal. We didn't know he was going to Toowoomba until last night and there was no time to warn you that he was coming."
"Even if there had been time, I don't know what I would have said but that's history now. Sarah, he's a wonderful man and he takes great care of me and I believe in my heart that you will like him as much as I do when you get to know him."
"But be careful, Sarah. This company has a rumor mill that just won't quit. If they start talking about you and Nick like they have started here about us, you'll be in for a lot of trouble. Nick says as long as they're talking about us, they're leaving someone else alone but if they start talking about you and him, it could be disastrous for all of us. Please be careful."
"I will, mother, I promise. How close do you want me to get to him? I don't know how long this project will take and he's really your guy, you know."
"Sarah, you have my permission to get as close to him as you wish. I'll tell him the same thing so there are no secrets. At least, not many secrets."
"That reminds me, darling, Nick doesn't like secrets. The only thing I've kept from him is the details of our relationship. He knows you're my daughter and that we spent last weekend together. He just doesn't know what we did. I don't think it will exactly bother him when he does find out, but maybe we three should be together when we break that particular piece of news, OK?"
"That's fine with me. But you're saying I can be myself with him, right? Not that I plan to sleep with him, you understand, but there is something about him."
"Yes, Sarah, just be careful of the other eyes in that small town. Now, my dear, may I speak to Nick? I do have some business things to talk to him about as well as giving him the green light with you."
"Hold on, I'll get him for you."
She walked into Nick's office, knocking on the doorframe as she passed. She stopped just a few feet from his desk and stood with an impish grin on her face until he finished what he was reading and looked up at her.
"Nick, mother's on the phone for you."
"Mother? Oh, you mean Julie. Thank you, Sarah, I'll deal with you later."
"Hello, man in the middle speaking, how can I help you?"
"Man in the middle? Nick Nelson, whatever are you talking about?"
"I have just been informed that "Mother" is on the phone by a georgeous blonde with a very impish grin on her face. I get the distinct impression that I have been set up."
"No, darling, not at all. I just told Sarah that you were the one who has been making me feel so good these past few days and that I wanted her to get to know you as well as I do. You see, Sarah and I share just everything with each other. Just everything."
"Hold on a second." "Sarah, would you leave us alone and close the door, please. Thank you."
"Now that we have a little privacy, Julie, would you kindly explain to me in words of one syllable exactly what you expect of me? For instance, am I to understand that I'm part of the everything?"
"Yes, Nicky, but only if you want to be. It's up to you and Sarah. Nick, darling, please stay calm. As I said, Sarah and I share everything. You wanted a relationship with no secrets, didn't you?"
"Yes, I guess I did say that. But how does Sarah qualify as a secret? You told me you had a daughter almost the first day we met, remember?"
"Yes, Nick, I remember. But....Sarah is special. She thinks she may be a... lesbian. I'm not really sure if it's true. Nick, are you still there?"
"Yes, Julie, I'm still here. Just give me a minute to rationalize this."
"Honestly, Julie, my first reaction is that it will be just fine. Remember, I told you that many of my friends were gay, lesbian, or switch hitters. I see no reason to dislike Sarah because of her sexual preferences."
"Oh, Nick, thank you. I was so afraid that you would react badly. Can I explain a little more, darling?"
"Of course, Julie, what else did you want to say?"
"Nick, I'm not really sure that Julie is a lesbian. I really think she's more of a switch-hitter but just hasn't found a man to prove it to her. She hasn't had any close relationship except for me. Do you understand what I'm trying to say, Nick?"
"If I understand you, you're saying that it would be OK for me to make love with Ironpants if she wants to, is that right?
"Yes, Nick dear, that's exactly right. You definitely have a way about you and that could be just what Sarah needs. As long as Sarah and I agree to share you, and we have, I don't see any downside for you at all."
"Wow, what a phone call. I have to put this one down in my memoires. Now that you have completely changed my life, can we talk about business for a little while? I need to give my brain a rest. Do you have the files I asked you about?"
"Yes, I have them right here. There's a lot of information in these, do you want me to send them to you?"
"Are you in a private office right now?"
"I'm going to get Sarah on the extension to take notes and you can just answer my questions, OK?"
"Allright, I'll try to find what you want."
"Good. Hold on a second while I get Sarah."
Nick put the phone down then crossed to his office door. Opening the door, he found Sarah sitting at her desk waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Sarah, do you know shorthand?"
"Yes, I do. What do you need?"
"I need you to get on the extension with Julie and me and take notes of the conversation. We will be going thru some HR file information and it will probably be too much to remember. After we're done, I'll need you to type up the notes and keep them private, then you and I will review what we have. OK?"
"Sure. I'll be on in a minute."
Nick walked back to his desk and picked up the phone. He heard the click as Sarah came on the line, then made sure they both knew what was about to happen.
They spent the next hour reviewing histories and skill information of the team members that Nick had been assigned. Finally, he called a halt and promised to call Julie that night. Sarah typed up the notes and presented them to him at 11 am. He asked her to close the door and to be seated. Sarah did as she was told and seemed to Nick to be a little on edge.
"Sarah, I've had a talk with your mother and I think I understand the situation between the two of you."
Sarah's face grew beet red. "She told you about us? She said she was going to wait until the three of us could be together."
"Yes, well, I want you to know that the information that we share privately with each other, -you, Julie, and me - will have no effect on the work we do together. On the job, it's strictly business and if anyone thinks otherwise, it's their problem and not ours. What we do outside of working hours will be decided my mutual consent. OK?"
"Yes, thank you, Nick. I was worried about that but mom said you really understood and I guess maybe you do. What do we do now?"
"We will have to get to know each other outside of business hours but for now we do have work to do. I have the notes you typed up. I'd like to go over them with you and get your gut feeling about these people. Did you set up the meeting?"
"Yes. Everyone has been notified for 1 pm in the boardroom. That's upstairs on the fifth floor. I'll show you later. OK, boss, let's get going if you want to get some lunch before you meet these folks."