An Angel Like YoubyEgmont Grigor©
Pretty Penny Lane knew her hair was in a mess but that wasn't the only thing in a mess. Her grandfather, after her father's tragic death, had appointed her chief executive of the company and had given her three months to turn it back into profitability otherwise he'd close it down and sell the building.
After five weeks Penny knew the company under her direction was actually losing ground. It was her fault, she knew that; the problem was she didn't know what she was doing. She hadn't a clue.
In growing frustration Penny left her office. She found a spare seat in a crowded café and sat down for coffee and a cookie, asking the guy finishing if he'd mind sharing. Not giving him time to answer, she said brightly, "Thank you for your hospitality."
She ate in silence but couldn't bear that so said, "Do you live here or are you passing through?"
"Involuntarily staying I believe. I was passing through by my car has developed a terminal knock in its bowels."
"Oh really. I wasn't aware motor vehicles had bowels?"
"Well I won't be accurate in terminology because motors are not my forte."
Penny thought 'forte' was a sophisticated word for a tramp. "Oh, so what is your forte?"
"I'm crossing the country on vacation. Normally I work when I find work, I'm curiously known as a business analyst. I say curious because the reality is no one really knows much about business. Whimsical demand, chance opportunity and risk-taking drive entrepreneurial- linked business. Know what I mean?"
"I'm quite sure I have only the vaguest idea of what you are talking about."
He grinned. "You are bluntly honest for a woman."
Penny decided to play. "How dare you insult me like that?"
The guy looked around in alarm as in fear of reprisals for alleged molestation and said he was sorry and asked how could he make it up to her?
"What? Are you humorless? You were rude about me and I countered aggressively or in your book aren't women allowed to do that?"
"I am terrible confused."
"Yes and that would be understandable from anyone with a terminal knock in their bowels -- er, of their vehicle. Have you anywhere to stay?"
Penny said then she invited him to stay with her and her mother.
"B-but you don't know me?"
Penny laughed and said that was scarcely surprising. He was passing through and he'd not introduced himself.
"I'm Darcy Tanner."
"Hi Darcy, I'm Penny Lane. I am chief executive of a company with suspected terminal knocking in its bowls. This could be your lucky day if you decide to help out."
Vera Lane looked rather doubtfully at the scruffy man her daughter had brought home to sleep the night.
"I'm not sure about this young man. We don't know you."
He grinned and said he was taking a risk because he didn't know her. That rang Vera's bell and she smiled.
"Well at least you have humor."
"I didn't think he did ma."
"Oh god then we can't have you sleeping here."
"Can it mom. We can't throw him out. He has a terminal knock in his bowels."
"Oh dear," Vera said, reaching for the jar on the window sill. "I'll take your temperature and fetch my medical encyclopedia. We must get you off to bed."
The temperature was normal and there was no mention of terminal bowel knock in the encyclopedia. Vera sighed and said, "Well since Penny has put on extra meat and vegetables for you and you look settled I guess you better stay and we'll keep you under observation."
Darcy was placed in the guestroom opposite the snoring Vera. During the night he attempted to reach pretty Penny in her attic bedroom but was beaten back, very red-faced, by the enormous creaks in the stairs. He lay awake for a while holding his erection and grinned. Mother and daughter appeared mentally left of center but they had been very entertaining and indeed two of the liveliest and entertaining people he'd met since setting out on vacation a fortnight ago. He decided he liked them and would try to help out Penny who said she had business difficulties.
A knock on his partly opened door awoke Darcy and for a second he'd thought he'd died overnight. Standing before him, golden hair out in all directions, an angelic smile and holding a cup of coffee was Penny, clad in a ridiculous inadequate shortie nightie that clearly showed her cute pointy breasts and a bulge that clearly was shaven.
"Good morning," she said brightly. "Survived the visitation by mother during the night?"
Darcy's mouth fell open in shock and his vocal production assembly began the denial when he fell silent weakly and grinned. "Good morning, Miss Lane. Over-brimming with humor this early in the morning I see."
"You probably can see a lot more than my mom would like but it's a lovely way for a guy to start the day I assume. We eat at 7:00. Daddy always had us up and eating grits at 7:00 because he grew up that way."
"I see. Where's daddy?"
"In the blue box on the mantelpiece in the kitchen. He overdosed on laxatives and no one found him in time. He was a shadow of himself when cremated."
Darcy took the coffee, stupefied.
Vera had already packed a lunchbox for Darcy. "Would you like roast duck or pasta for dinner Darcy?"
"Will I be here for dinner?"
"You are our houseguest until you help Penny sort out of business darling. Now no shirking or running off."
Penny came in with her hair done and wearing makeup.
Darcy swallowed hugely.
She smiled and winked.
Darcy doubled checked his seatbelt and sat fearfully, holding on to the passenger grab. He recognized the pickup was the 400hp model. But Penny drove sedately and probably smoother than he did. She chatted like a bird separated from the Dawn Chorus and in need of company. Darcy's mind wandered when he thought of what else she may be in need.
"Looking forward to being back at work -- I'll pay your fees," she said brightly, hitching up her skirt and scratching an itch inner mid-thigh.
"Er, what's the nature of your business?" Darcy said, attempting to get his mind back in neutral.
Penny said trying to make money.
"Our product lines are protective clothing, principally wet-weather gear."
"Ah, you are contracted to supply local authorities and Government agencies, hopefully the military?"
"No longer. The competition forced us out of markets established in those sectors by my grandfather and before him his father."
"Ohmigod, you are confined to retail. There is little chance of your survival."
Penny snapped a little irritably, "That's what daddy spent his time finding out and now I have been appointed to oversee the end."
"You unlucky bitch. You are so cute. You deserve better than that."
The tear running down Penny's cheek almost broke Darcy's heart.
They were stopped at traffic lights, first in line. He said thoughtfully, "I did say there was little chance of survival. Where there's a will there's usually a way. Perhaps by working together we can return to profitability."
"You really think so?"
"Dunno but it's worth a try."
Penny gave him a stunning smile and then looked around at the two young guys beside them in a hot Japanese coupé, the gas pedal strumming the noisy motor.
The lights changed.
Penny yelled 'Yahooooooo!"
And they zoomed forward, leaving the coupe-kids fading in their rear.
"Penny!" choked Darcy.
"Oh yeah," she smiled, returning to sedate driving under heavy braking. Darcy turned and saw a cop car a quarter of a mile back pulling over the coupé -kids. He grinned: another injustice being done and then thought perhaps the vehicle had been stolen.
The plant was the usual ugly squat slab of metal with the admin building pitching a level higher. At least that would sell for a good price if the company folded because right now it was much cheaper to buy industrial real estate than to build it.
They spent the day touring the offices and plant, Penny introducing Darcy to key people and showing him the production lines and Darcy having systems explained. Darcy could see the thirty-two-year old was hugely popular and guessed many of the workforce would be descendants of people who'd worked for her great-grandfather. That can happen in smaller cities and towns. It was unusual to see a boss being held in such genuine affection and judged Penny had won their respect through sheer personality. No way could she be called competent. She really didn't appear to know much about anything within the business but she was awesome in interrelating to people. Sales and marketing, he smiled inwardly. She'd be awesome.
At dinner that night in the huge kitchen when Vera said grace Darcy noticed the two women look briefly at the blue box on the mantelpiece. He shivered. Oh fuck, they believed Danny was looking at them, watching to see them enjoy their food. He felt a great desire to run. However, after a couple of more wines he felt rather more relaxed, looked at the blue box and winked at it.
Darcy spent some time observing Vera and learned she'd spent all her life since seventeen until Danny's death working at the plant.
"Oh, the usual stuff. The coffee trolley, bathroom cleaning and then promotion to cutting out and then learning to become a machinist. That sort of thing."
"Yeah, and you can add fabrication machining -- mom became a top operator -- and packaging and dispatch, invoicing, outward accounts -- oh she spent time in design and in sales and in new business before she worked through admin and retired as operations manager."
Darcy gawked. "Then why aren't you chairman?"
Vera said, "Well when we went cap in hand for our final loan, or so we were told it would be, the bank insisted in installing its own chairman."
"I see. Would you like to be chairman?"
"Well yes, you see Danny had neither the brains nor the drive to hold down a responsible position in the company so he delegated me to be groomed for chairman and his father accepted that."
Penny must have felt she was being left out. "Why are you talking to mom in this manner, bringing up the past?"
"Well Penny, first of all for better understanding. Tradition is a vital element of most businesses. But dammit, your mom has had her destiny ripped from her in the finishing straight. Be damned if I'm going to allow that to continue."
"Darcy, I admire your confidence, I admire your brain and secretly I admire your body but I prefer you not talking nonsense like this to us," Penny said, a little flushed with wine. "It will unsettle mommy."
"No leave him be Penny. You wanted him to do a job and he's doing it."
"Very well," Penny sighed. "Let's clear up and go to bed. Do you wish to sleep with me Darcy? That's okay isn't it mom?"
"Yes, it's an excellent idea."
"Thanks for the lovely invitation Penny but that could complicate my thinking. Right now I have a specific task and wish to remain totally focused."
"As you wish."
"Vera would you take me to the plant tomorrow and spend all day with me discussing things?"
"Yes if you wish, but later than 7:30. I'll drive you."
"Okay. Penny this is just for me to gain another perspective. Your mom probably knows more than any two or three senior people combined at the plant or in administration. You are welcome to be with us, coming and going as you wish and you may like to take us out for a quality lunch."
"Well that sounds a very professional approach. I'll leave you two at it but will host you for lunch with pleasure. My expense account is in neglect."
In the morning the cute golden-headed angel slipped into bed, waking Darcy.
"Hi, this morning instead of coffee it's little kisses."
Darcy stretched and groaned appreciatively.
"God, what's this pressing into me? Ohmigod!"
"Oh don't be," Penny cooed, squeezing it. "It's my birthday on Saturday. I know what you can give me for my birthday present."
That evening the still excited Vera Lane presented roasted duck and had her father-in-law to dinner in the little-used dinning room. Peter produced two bottles of a highly prized Californian red. They ate slowly and talked a lot, the two women noting the two men took an immediately likening to each other.
"Your approach is very analytical young man. Something should come out of that."
Vera and Penny nodded in agreement.
"Even if it's immediate closure," murmured Peter and chortled when the women looked shocked. "I believe you are more optimistic than that Darcy?"
"Too early to say but I'm motivated by those workers I see. I'd say some of their parents and grandparents worked that that plant before them and perhaps parents are still there with them."
"Damn right so. That's why I'm saying now I'll give you $100,000 cash if you manage to turn this business around. But I'll need revenue from my stock before I can pay that amount."
"That is mighty generous of you sir but no thank you. My contract is with Penny."
"Give him one of your cars now granddad as a gesture to show you back him. He found out this morning his car is not worth repairing as it has cancer in its bowls."
"I didn't know motor vehicles had bowls."
"Darcy sold me that concept," Penny laughed.
"Well Peter," said Darcy, "you know how engines and running gear turns to crap when not maintained."
Everyone laughed hugely. The other three noisily drowned Darcy's protests that he could accept such a gift.
Next evening Darcy followed Penny home from Peter's place driving his very low mileage three-year-old Lincoln Zephyr. Peter owned seven cars and preferred driving the oldest, a 15-year-old Chevy.
The next day Darcy spent time with the chief designer and on Friday, when the family met at a restaurant dinner hosted by Peter, he released his commendations.
He said there wasn't great depth in his recommendations because of the nature of the business and the intensely competitive market in which it operated.
"Some of these recommendations may shock you Penny, perhaps hurt you emotionally."
"Shoot, I'm all for the good of the company and its people," she said bravely. Peter held her hand as Darcy continued, beginning with administration.
His recommendations were to streamline it. With immediate effect Vera was to act as chief executive for as long as she wished to hold the position or until a suitable candidate could be found.
Penny looked white but smiled.
Darcy said Penny should immediate be appointed director of sales, marketing and new business and those departments merged.
Penny appeared stunned.
"You are a people person Penny, through and through. You will succeed brilliantly in this role and the appointment of a head of department administration, perhaps one of the current managers being displaced, will unload you of admin constraints."
"The present product range remains until it realigns to tune into sale demands. The company immediately begins investigating new-age lightweight materials before introducing a new elite line because those materials will be more expensive."
There was discussion on those proposals and cautious agreement although Vera said she thought it was the way to go.
"My final recommendations may be more difficult to get your minds around. From my observations your machinery and equipment need updating and there should be a constant sum of money set aside for that. At the same time your plant appears over-manned and management must look at that very closely. It is not necessary to achieve targets by mass firings. Introducing new systems will automatically persuade some people to leave and natural attrition will also cut population if those leavers are not replaced. That implies a job retraining program is absolutely necessary. I was astonished to find the company doesn't have one."
Heads nodded in agreement over that hard talking.
"Finally, innovation is the way to go in business today but it needs to be planned properly and executed brilliantly. I have two suggestions. One is you register the name and introduce a new line of heavy duty rainwear, colored bright metallic red, with the brand name emblazoned on the back, He-Man Worker. If that doesn't appeal to macho men and even skinny guys I don't know what will."
The family laughed and clapped and Peter said he could see that line taking off. "You are smart -- by branding it the company has that name to itself and imitators will be shown for what they are, imitators."
Vera said she really could see that brand becoming hugely successfully. "We may have to license other producers to make it."
Darcy nodded and continued. "There are now many females who work outdoors in all weather including at airports, on farms and ranches, supermarket car lots, construction sites, as parking wardens and involved in child supervision and safety. My suggestion is a similarly registered name on the jackets colored pink and branded Lady in Pink."
"Jesus, that's brilliant," Penny shouted. "I want one."
Vera and Peter exchanged glances that lacked confidence. Holding the excited Penny who'd jumped on to his knee, Darcy said, "Believe me guys, this is not an impulsive way to sign off my recommendations. It will be a flyer, the color pink will be a winner in itself but we do want to label it in the market's mind that it's your product."
"Well I suppose we could try it," Vera said. "Perhaps Pink Lady might be the preferred wording?"
"I don't think so Vera but that's something for Penny to sort out in directing trial sampling with prospective buyers, which is one of the reasons why she is being appointed director of sales, marketing and new business. She thinks this way and her mind goes to the core of issues."
"Yes," Darcy said, kissing her. "You have specific strengths but have never identified them I believe. You are a flier but haven't yet found you can fly."
"Oooh. I like the sound of that."
Vera stood and said, "You two stay and finish that beautiful wine. Peter will pay on the way out. I'll stay at his place tonight. It's time you two had time together."
The women were kissed and the men shook hands.
"We'll meet you two at Lakeview Restaurant tomorrow for your birthday lunch darling," said Vera. "I booked for one o'clock."
Penny stayed sitting on Darcy's knee. He swallowed and asked what was occupying his mind.
"Um, do those two occasionally sleep together?"
"He's seventy-four so that must give you some hope?"
Darcy laughed and hugged her.
"Mom came clean some years ago and told me it started before she married dad and a little while after the wedding she saw no reason to stop the practice. As you guessed she said it was only occasionally."
"Why did Peter leave the business?"
"He'd almost lost his vision due to growths. Then five years ago after grandma died and granddad had become such a pain, mom took him to Switzerland to a clinic he'd heard about but thought it wouldn't be any use going and the expense would be horrific. But it worked, successfully, but at a cost. That was paid out of company capital and from then we began our financial decline."
"That might have occurred anyway but perhaps not quite as quickly. The truth is consumer tastes are changing more rapidly than they ever have and the East has become the dominant player in clothing manufacturing. But many people still prefer buying local providing the design, finish and price are reasonably competitive. Innovation and keeping a couple of jumps ahead of pirates will keep many domestic producers solvent."
Drunk on cocktails, wine and brandy and excited about Darcy's cock within reach and her change in career direction, Penny slammed Darcy against the front door as soon as he closed it. She pressed up against him and opened her mouth to suck in his tongue. A hand snaked down to seize her birthday present, about to be delivered a day early.