You're Worth Dying For Ch. 03byEgmont Grigor©
SO FAR: Ryan and Maggie decide on a near-instant wedding in a private ceremony and honeymoon five nights in Fiji before returning to supervise the transformation of the publishing company into a much larger enterprise.
General manager Angus McCrum was called into the boardroom of the Melbourne-based South Pacific Magazine and Provincial Newspaper Publishing Company to be told by the company chairman he would be sent to New Zealand to investigate a possible acquisitions – the Pukekura Printing Company, based in Southgate just south of Auckland City.
"Why that company, Sir Gerald?"
Gerald looked at the chief executive Ross Abbott, who answered.
"We're looking for a toehold to develop a New Zealand presence in publishing and that company looks the most promising target. The company is innovative, having just relocated all of its facilities to new premises with new presses and had expanded its thrice weekly Echo into a regional newspaper and despite toe-to-toe battling by its two big city dailies on either side of its territorial is building circulation at their expense. We intend closing the newspaper down and printing New Zealand editions of our magazines on those presses. Its commercial printing operation has just won a national award as Commercial Printer of the Year in the top division of turnover of $10 million-plus – that's Kiwi dollars. But before we move in on them we want you to check out the company."
"I see, knock on the door and say 'Hi, I'm a business spy from Australia who wants all your secrets before my bosses roll your company over."
"Very droll, McCrum," said Sir Gerald Ashton-Forbes. "Your wife was a Holbrow."
"Yes," Angus said in surprise."
"It says that on you personal file. We've had Gillian in HR do some research, and find that Midge is a distant cousin of a Mrs Harriet Holbrow, whose daughter just happens to be executive chairman of our target company. Enough said?"
"Yes Sir Gerald. I've never hear Midge mention a relative in New Zealand named Harriet so I guess they're 'lost relatives'. So Midge writes to her revealing this and saying she and her husband, who is a newspaper executive, are intending to visit Auckland for a week and would like to meet this Harriet. Enough said."
Sir Gerald said to his CEO, "You were correct in saying there are no flies on Angus. Brief Midge and tell her to keep her trap closed, Angus, and have her get that letter rather than an email away, tonight if possible. Gillian has already sent her file including address and family history through to your computer. Unlock the booze cupboard Ross – join us for a drink, Angus."
Angus and Midge (Michelle) were met at Auckland Airport by the excited Harriet and a younger friend who, astonishingly, was introduced as her daughter Maggie. Angus (39) realized this slip of a woman was the executive chairman of the target company. He licked his lips: he'd have her in bed and she'd be spilling all the information he required before she could say what a wonderful lover he was.
"Great to meet you, Maggie," he oozed. "Are you a professional model?"
"I don't think so although I'm not sure what I really am," was the confusing reply.
"Angus means do you model clothes or pose nude for arts students," Midge entered the exchanged, attempting to mediate.
"Pardon me, Midge," smiled Maggie. "You'll find some Kiwis have a weird sense of humor."
In correspondence the arrangements were Harriet would host them but to Angus's delight Harriet said they it had been decided they would be more comfortable staying with Maggie in her huge penthouse along with husband Ryan. Angus knew from the file on Harriet that Harriet's daughter had recently married a Ryan de Lacey.
Angus almost wet himself when Harriet remarked, "Ryan is chief executive at the company Maggie works with. Angus excused himself and hurried off to a quiet corner and phoned his boss Ross Abbott.
"Ross, you're going to be blown away by this. This Maggie woman looks like a Barbie doll, blonde, soft and cuddle and rather perforated in the head I'd say. But the sensational news is her husband is chief executive of the company and Midge and I will be staying in their home for at least three nights. Imagine what the conversations are doing to be when Midge tells them at the appropriate time that before she married me she was editor of a country newspaper and I work for her grandfather who controls a newspaper and magazine empire."
"They'll be gob smacked?"
"They'll be excited and invited you two to tour their entire operation."
"Right. Dead easy, huh?"
"It certainly looks like it Angus but don't over-step your brief. If you conclude the business is a ripe plum ready for the picking and these two influential officers say anything to hint they are thinking of moving on or the company is starved of capital then phone me. Gerald and I will rush to your side and commence negotiations."
"My side? You mean I'll be in the negotiating team."
"Hell yes; you'll have their confidence pal. Keep up the good work and keep in touch."
Angus felt he was seven feet tall as he rejoined the others to find Harriet and Midge talking about their mutual relatives in England.
* * * *
At the penthouse Harriet was making coffee while Maggie was helping Angus with the luggage and invited him to choose any one of the four guest bedrooms.
Midge was standing beside Ryan thinking Angus had instructed her to really befriend Ryan. She grasped Ryan's arm and cooed, "Gosh you are so tall and so handsome."
"It runs in the family."
They were looking out at the view. "You can't be speaking about the women – handsome doesn't apply to women."
"Oh yes it does. You'll find it referred detailed in dictionaries as a woman who looks dignified and it is splattered through literature, thought not so much these days. J B Priestley used it."
"Oh, Ryan – you are so knowledgeable. Those things in the distant – are they cows? I'm not sure if we have them in Australia as I rarely get out of the cities."
"Yes, they are Friesian milking cows and you do have dairy cattle in Australia. I believe you have more than two million of them."
"Really? Um, Ryan, could you take me out for a walk in the woods tomorrow – alone?"
"If you want to be alone then I can't accompany you."
"I mean just you and me."
"Just so I can get to know you better?"
"You mean carnally?"
Midge flushed deeply. "I wasn't thinking about THAT, but I'll think about that if you wish."
"I think I shouldn't think about that. Ah, here comes coffee. Harriet, Midge wants to go for a walk in the woods tomorrow. Do we have any woods?"
"She'll mean the bush or a forest darling. Why don't you take her across the river to Shepherd's Bush – it's much more isolated so she'll have the chance of seeing a lot more birdlife."
"That sounds lovely, Harriet. Thank you for suggesting that to Ryan."
"Ah, it may rain tomorrow."
"Nonsense, Ryan. The forecast for the next three days is for fine weather. I suggest you take a refreshments and a rug and have a picnic with heaps of birdlife all around you. Midge, if you let go of Ryan's arm you can take this coffee I've made for you."
Unpacking in the bedroom, Angus asked, "Any joy with Ryan?"
"I didn't get a chance to talk business. He seemed intent on taking me somewhere tomorrow."
"Oh really, that's promising. Where, shopping?"
Midge told him not to be an idiot; he wanted to show her the local countryside. "Any opportunity of achieving a breakthrough will be spoiled if you and the others come with us."
Angus said her heard Maggie telling her mother they should take the visitors to Hamilton City in the morning – she needed to collect from cushions she'd ordered and the mirrors that had arrived from Italy.
"God this apartment is glorious," Midge said. "I thought Maggie must have had consultants in from Melbourne or Sydney but she'd done it all herself with help from the proprietress of a local furnishings shop who until five years ago worked on her husband's farm."
"So what's great about that – anyone can slap a bit of paint around and spend thousands prettying up the place."
Midge sighed and rolled her eyes.
"All right, I guess it takes some flair, like in car design. Listen, I'll suggest to the other two I'll go with them to Hamilton but you don't want to go because you have other plans. Do you think they'll buy that?"
"Yes, if you say it casually, without any sense of drama. Look, we'll be visiting a park I think. What say he comes on to me?"
"Go all the way of course, and then pump him to find out if he's happy working there and if he sounds doubtful suggest I could get him an equitable job in Melbourne."
"What kind of job is that?"
"Equitable means...oh never mind. Anyway, Ryan's not likely to look at you, not considering what he's banging away at home."
"Don't be nasty. You say I do better blow jobs that any other women you know. Are you having an affair, Angus?"
"Of course not, I promised to be true to you, remember. Our agreement is we'll indulge only in one-off casual bangs."
"I love you Angus."
"Oh, that's handy Midge. Give me a kiss."
* * * *
In bed that night Ryan asked what Maggie thought of her cousin.
"She's lovely, a touch naïve and obviously she deeply attached to Angus although they're been married several years."
Ryan earned a dig in the ribs for suggesting Midge knew how to look after her master. They then discussed Angus.
"I don't really fancy men who undress me but he knows how to turn on the charm. He's asked if he could tour our establishment and perhaps learn something of our methods; I thought that was rather rude."
"Rude? He's in publishing."
"I know, but he could have waited to be asked."
"Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, he is a touch aggressive; a brash Australians, eh?"
"Well, I'm just delighted to have one more relative on this side of the world and you heard her over dinner last night she can't wait to take me shopping in Melbourne. I've shopped there before with mother but as Midge says we would not have found where people in the know go to shop. Really, she is very sweet."
"What does that mean?"
Ryan said he'd rather not say at the moment. Something was nagging at him, that's all.
He was told to pull his head in; that it was just jealousy as she'd found a lost relative and he hadn't. Ryan muttered something she didn't catch and didn't bother asking him to repeat. It was "Take more care in judging character."
Next morning dawned fine and over breakfast Maggie said her mother would arrive around nine to take her to Hamilton in her larger car to pick up some furnishings for Maggie. "Please come with us; it's worth a visit."
"Right, thanks," said Angus. "What about you, Midge?"
"Oh, I think I'll have a bath and do my hair."
Maggie worried that Midge would be all alone. "Ryan, you come home at midday and take Midge somewhere lovely for lunch."
"I guess I can do that," Ryan said almost unhappily.
He arrived home at midday to find Midge looking sexy and excited with a picnic hamper packed."
"I bought goodies at your local shops – they're really good. But I couldn't find a rug."
"What do we need a rug for?"
"To avoid grass-stains when we sit eating our lunch, silly," she laughed, adjusting her gaping top, closing it actually, knowing she was being watched.
Ryan went off to fetch the rug in the hall cupboard where she'd found it an hour earlier.
At Shepherd's Bush Midge handed Ryan a bottle of sparkling Australian wine to open.
"It's cheap but does the trick."
He asked what trick was that, but she didn't reply, turning to hide her blush.
After lunch she undid the two higher buttons of her top and lay back beside him, looking up into the tree tops at two wood pigeons. Her hand came into his but rather than wait for half a second and casually draw away he squeezed her fingers.
"This is so romantic here," she sighed. "Do you like me, Ryan; I mean really like me?"
He held his breath in dismay, realizing this wasn't a bird watching expedition, that he'd been expertly compromised.
Apparently taking his silence as male inadequacy at emoting, she fumbled for his zip.
Ryan jumped his feet as if she'd screamed rape – he was red-faced and looking a little terrorized.
"I-I must get back to work."
"Oh well, some other time them," she said airily, poking her breasts back into her dress; for the first time Ryan was aware she was bra-less.
"I'll take all of these things and the rubbish," he said, stuffing everything into the chilly-bin and basket. "You grab the rug."
As they drove off Midge sat forward in her seat and turning looked at him with her bottom lip poking out. "Tell me you're not interested in me and I'll cry."
Back in emotional control after being ambushed, he smiled kindly and said, "Oh you're a very interesting woman, Midge."
That seemed to satisfy her
She settled back into her seat and said, "I know this sounds a mite personal, but how often do you and Maggie have sex?"
Ryan grinned, not at all in danger of steering off the road and crashing. Now he knew she was a descendant of Australian bushrangers, he'd enjoy this conversation and fanaticize a bit.
"Well, this conversation is just between you and me, right?"
"Well, I can tell you whenever I see her bending over dusting or hosing my car in those cute cut-offs of hers, she's not safe and usually gets it."
"Oooh," breathed Midge. "Tell me more."
While Midge failed in her mission Angus's mission resulted in a gusher. As soon as Harriet powered the vehicle away he said, "Tell me a bit about your company, Maggie."
"I thought you'd be interested," she said. "I bought this for your – is our company profile that I produced recently. Everything is current except you must add twelve and a half percent increase to circulation figures for weekday sales of the Echo and twenty-three percent increase to the Saturday weekender sales."
"But I imagined you would be struggling, with the two city dailies throwing everything at you to send you under."
"A pertinent observation, Angus but they're thrown money and other resources into their extermination campaign but, I would think, without working up any strategies."
"But you did?"
"Yes, apart from our editor driving to produce superior local news I devised a marketing plan aimed at saturating the outlying districts with information about our plans and aspirations, with heavy emphasis on winning the hearts and minds of local people to support a newspaper that was as locally based as they were."
"Well I never; so it's working. In our view the village mentality of communities has gone; people recognize the whole world is now a village."
"Pretty philosophy, Angus, but it should be flushed down the toilet if your aim is to make money. Most people are small thinkers so our underpinning philosophy is simply, Think Local, Think Small."
Harriet laughed. "No, it's just my daughter, Angus. She began life as a gifted child building a working community with her dolls rather than simply dressing them and sitting them in rows."
At the first opportunity Angus phoned Melbourne.
"Hi, Angus," said the CEO Ross Abbott. "I have Sir Gerald with me – just a tick while I switch to speaker phone. Okay, shoot."
"I've gathered a goldmine of information. Midge is down at a computer bureau scanning the pages of the company profile now, so you should have the file downloading to you within the next fifteen minutes, Ross. But then I hit the jackpot. Over lunch the little innocent just open and shut her mouth to answer every question I tossed at her – completely confidential information of corporate earnings, expenses and bottom line results after tax. She has everything in her head, though the figures are rounded, of course. Then late this afternoon she took me through their facilities. You guys, it's a model for the publishing industry, unbelievable."
"Excellent work, Angus," said Sir Gerald. "I was confident you'd do well but the speed in which you have achieved your goals is quite astonishing. The one thing you haven't mentioned is company indebtedness."
"She was a little vague on that because with so much activity going on, bridging finance being paid off, claims against the contractors, bonuses earned by contractors and disputed accounts on either side the financial situation is rather fluid at the moment but she said that total liabilities were well within the margins for astute business practice and a percentage of increased revenues was already reducing substantially the bridging loans taken out to cover the cost of fitting out the new buildings and relocation expenses. The new premises have been sold to the investment arm of an Australasian insurance company, effective at the end of this month, with lease-back arrangements for twenty-one years."
"This really sounds like that over-ripe plum we spoke about."
"It certainly is, Sir Gerald."
"Keep on the case, my boy. I shall call her shortly asking for a meeting. We may be over there with you as early as tomorrow. That is all."
* * *
Maggie was delighted that their Australian guest was so interested in her business enterprise. She beamed over his praise for her company profile that she'd designed, cover to cover and wrote without anyone's direct input. She'd regarded that project as her baby.
Harriet excused herself as soon as she's finished her lunch at the restaurant and went off to visit a friend. Maggie asked Angus if he'd like another glass of wine and he suggested they get a bottle as the Central Otago pinot noir was a great drop. She giggled and ordered.
They were sitting under an umbrella, looking out over the river. It was a seductive spot. Maggie was conscious she was being undressed again and automatically lifted her chest a little to give him a better view; she was in that kind of mind and feeling safe as nothing could happen because Harriet was with them.
She looked down, feeling slightly embarrassed that her nipples had firmed and were looking...er...rather prominent. His eyes fixed on them and he began asking questions about the company's finances. It was a private company so the information was not published, but he was interested and he being in possession of that information would do no harm; in fact if it leaked to the opposition it might rock their confidence as she'd been told that the Herald and Times both assumed the Echo was in a shaky position financially because building and relocation costs had ballooned.
Maggie had smiled saying that was good old journalists' gossip. The truth was thanks to Ryan's management pressures the construction firm's had come in under budget and ahead of schedule thereby earning bonuses and through detailed planning and hard bargaining with contract prices Ryan was confident they'd shave forty percent off the consultants' estimates for the costs of relocation.
She lost interest as Angus droned on about his company. Feeling sexy she recalled reading somewhere that the size of a man's thingy was proportionate to his nose and noted Angus had a big nose. She wondered if Midge found him satisfactory in bed and then thought about that ridiculous penis to nose comparison – female journalists' gossip, no doubt. No doubt it was hypothetical twaddle – either that or perhaps the female journalists had gone to bed with a ruler and pooled their findings. She became aware Angus was rubbing his nose and curbed a violet urge to giggle; gawd, she was half-inebriated! No doubt wine from last night was still sloshing about in her blood stream, waiting to be processed into waste for output.
She giggled. Angus drew a thumb and forefinger down his nose and then did it again; the word hysterics leaped into her mind and she cried, "Oh Angus, I'm sorry, what were you saying – I wasn't laughing at you it was just something I'd read about once."