Equal Shares Ch. 46bysteveh11©
It was early in the next week when Anne's patience finally blew.
Ken poked his head out of his office and called to her, "Anne! Got a minute?"
Anne was jolted out from deep in concentration. She answered, "What is it, Ken?"
"Could you sort out my PC? I'm getting weird messages from it, and I have to go out."
Anne whirled her chair to face him, exploding, "Well Ken, I'm trying to design the product that you're betting a lot of money on! I haven't got time to nursemaid your PC right now – ask Sid!"
She whirled the chair back to face her desk again, but not before she saw shock register on Ken's face. 'Good!' she thought with savage satisfaction, then gradually picked up the threads of her shattered concentration.
Sid came to see her later that evening, as she was cuddling a cup of coffee. She turned away from the display screen, refocusing her eyes on him.
"I understand you and Ken had words earlier," he said in a neutral tone.
"Yes, I did, though if you'd asked the same, you'd have copped it too! You hired me to design, not to fix computers. You really want someone else to do that job!"
"Yes, we do. Do you have anyone in mind? If not, I can call some people."
The connection suddenly flashed into Anne's brain.
"Which company are you going to use for the chip manufacture, Sid?" she asked. Sid blinked at the apparent non sequitur.
'Perfect,' she thought.
"I thought so. Because I need to get some data from them, and I don't have the contacts to ask. But I know someone who has worked a lot with Shucor. I also know someone else who is stuck where she is and would find running the computer systems here for us a doddle. What's even better is that I know both of them are frustrated where they are and wouldn't say no to a change. Want me to mention it to them?"
"Not so fast, Anne. Write me up a proposal. It sounds like you want me to offer these two people jobs, and I'm not spending money that easily!"
"Oh, Sid. You'd like them. Actually, you've met one of them already... Stan!"
"Your Stan? Look, Anne, I know he's your man and all, but... Well. I'll tell you what. Put a proposal together for each, get their résumés in, and Ken and I will look them over. But no promises, okay?"
"Okay, Ken! You won't regret it, I promise."
"I mean it. No promises. I'm not sure we can afford one, let alone two new people." He smiled a little at her. "Do what I said and we'll check it out. We need to keep you happy and productive, after all."
"Yes, Ken, you do!" she told him through a wide grin.
- - - - - - - - - -
That evening, Anne found Stan deeply sceptical about the idea.
"I'm not sure I'm ready to drop out of what is, in truth, a comfortable and secure job and take such a risk as that, Anne. If it doesn't pan out I'd have to find another job afterwards, and at my age they're frankly as scarce as rocking horse shit!"
"Yes, but the rewards could be amazing, Stan. If you and Denise were to join as well we'd all be getting the bonuses if we get bought out, or go to market successfully. Having done one we'd all be set up for whatever we want to do next."
"But it's still such a huge risk, Anne. I've still got a mortgage on this place, and I imagine Denise has on hers. I can't speak for her, but certainly I'm not in a position to miss a couple of months' pay or more while looking around if things don't work out."
"Perhaps. But if it does work out you'd probably be able to pay off your mortgage altogether, Stan."
"That depends entirely on the offer that's made, Anne. Sid and the other partner, what's his name?" "Ken," Anne supplied. "Yes, Ken. They may only offer a simple wage. What then?"
"Then you don't take that offer, silly. It's called negotiation."
"Hmph. I'm terrible at that."
"Good job I'm not then, Stan. Look, never mind that – I thought things weren't quite as wonderful as all that back at The Firm?"
"Hmm. Well, there's a bit of an atmosphere of doom and gloom about the place, Anne, I suppose. But it all goes in cycles. I've been there when it was like this before, and it gets better again."
"You've told me it wasn't like the 'good old days' many times before though, Stan. Look, it doesn't have to be something you decide on now. Think about it for a bit – but don't take too long, I need some details out of Shucor soon!
"Okay, Anne, I will, I promise. Now, are you ready for bed, yet? I know I am!"
"Bed, yes. Sex, no. I'm just too tired, Stan. But I'd love a cuddle..."
"One specially ordered cuddle, coming right up!" Stan told her, and they hauled themselves up the stairs to his room.
- - - - - - - - - -
The following morning, Anne found that Denise was considerably more receptive to Anne's idea.
"They've taken on a new analyst-programmer. He's just out of university, still wet behind the ears, thinks he knows it all and he's being regarded as the thing that's going to improve the company. Hah! If they'd asked, I could have taken on what he's supposed to be doing and they could have got someone to fill in my job. Grr!"
"So I think I'm interested, Anne. I need to check a few things out, but it might be time for me to move, since it's obvious that I'm not going to get anywhere while I'm at that place."
"Okay. Don't take too long though, please – I'm being driven out of my mind by the silly interruptions already!"
- - - - - - - - - -
As it happened, it didn't take Denise long to make her decision.
Jon, her boss, called her into his office that morning.
"Denise, can you show Philip your documentation program, and how it works? I need to get him up to speed on our house style, and I think you're the best one to show him – and your project's probably the best way for him to learn."
Philip was the new analyst-programmer that she'd told Anne about. 'Oh, well, at least I get to show him how we do things around here,' she thought.
"Okay, Jon, no problem," she said, aloud.
That evening, however, as she sat with Stan drinking tea after they'd got home, she'd changed her mind.
"He's an insufferable little prick," she told him. "He knows it all, wants everything done his way: the way he's been told is right at university. Never mind the way we do things, or the advice I give him, he's right, end of story!"
"That bad, huh?" smiled Stan.
"Yes, that bad, Stanley Hinch. Just because he's got a university education he thinks that anyone who hasn't knows nothing. He's big-headed, pig-headed and thinks I can't teach him anything. So, of course, I can't, because he's not listening. I'm not sure I can take much more of him."
"Well, I heard something today that makes me wonder how long either of us will be there. There's a rumour of a takeover."
"Huh? I didn't hear anything?"
"No, but I overheard Bob talking to Harry in the Materials Control office. One of the big boys has noticed us at last, and we're vulnerable to a takeover at the moment – especially with the Managing Director being the age he is, and wanting to retire. I think things are going to change, Denise. If they are, I want to be in charge of the changes that affect me. Did Anne talk to you?"
"Yes, she did, and I know what you're thinking. You're going to see if you can join Boundless Waves, aren't you?"
"I think so. If they're interested enough to make it worthwhile – pension and all."
"I'm definitely interested, Stan. I've told her so."
"I guess we'd better bring our résumés up to date, hadn't we?" said Stan with a twinkle.
- - - - - - - - - -
Anne was overjoyed that evening when Stan told her that both he and Denise would be interested in joining Boundless Waves.
"I'll tell Sid and Ken right away! This will be great, with all three of us working together again!"
Stan felt it was time to calm Anne down a little.
"You're getting ahead of yourself a bit, Anne. We haven't even handed over our résumés yet. Sid and Ken may decide they don't like the idea after all, or they like it but they've got other people in mind."
"Oh, you! Stop being so practical. I want to be excited – let me!"
Stan smiled at her, and asked, "If you're excited, does that give you more energy?"
"Hmm. It might very well, Stanley. Does that mean anything to you?" she asked him, arching her eyebrows at him. But Stan saw the glint in her eye.
"Yes, it does. It means I can take you upstairs and ravage you, you sexy young thing."
"Oh, you beast! Who will save me?" Anne cried, mopping her brow with one hand. Stan almost laughed aloud at her very bad playacting, but instead he stood, drew her to her feet and led her up the stairs.
"Of course, I don't have to ravish you if you don't want me to," he told her.
"Don't you dare stop now, buster!" she told him with a fierce grin and a wild look in her eye.
Stan had no intention of stopping at all.
Their lovemaking was tender, as Stan did his best to please his blonde lover. She had no complaints, as Denise was to tell her in the morning.
"Three times? I had to reach for my vibrator, you two turned me on so much!"
"Well, trip him up tonight once you both get home. He should have recovered by then," replied Anne, smirking.
"Hey, though. Don't forget your résumés. Sid's going to be expecting them once I tell him you're both interested, so email them today, okay? Tell Stan to get his finger out. You know him – he needs a shove every now and then, Denise – so provide him with one!"
That proved harder than either Anne or Denise had thought. Self-doubt was now creeping back into Stan, as at breakfast with Denise he wondered just what he could bring to a start-up company like Boundless Waves.
"It's just that I feel that I've spent twenty years working my way into a comfortable niche, and now I look round and find I've got nothing there that anyone else is going to want."
"Silly. You know how to analyse, you have good instincts, good contacts, a firm grasp of statistics – and that alone puts you ahead of almost everyone else – and you can communicate well. Well, you can when you're in the mood to, or when you're pushed into it."
"I haven't a clue how to write that into a résumé, though," he said a touch morosely.
"Well I do. I write a great résumé, if I do say so myself," Denise answered with a certain self-satisfaction. "Email yours over to me this morning and I'll tidy it, then we can get them up to scratch this afternoon. You've nothing really pressing on, have you?"
"No, nothing much, just routine stuff at the moment. Not even a meeting with Percy."
"Good, that's settled then."
Later that afternoon, Stan reflected that Denise really was good at writing résumés. Hell, it looked like he'd even want to employ himself.
He was looking over Denise's shoulder as she showed him what she'd done. He corrected a few details, suggested a couple of courses he'd been on that hadn't been added, and then bent down and kissed her.
Denise kissed back for a long moment, but then drew back. "We're still at work, Stan!" she scolded, laughing.
"I don't care, you deserved that. And it's only a sampler for when I get you home."
"We'll mail these off then, eh, Stan? Then we can get some work done, and then later on you can give me your full attention..."
Stan nodded, smiling. "A promise is a promise, Denise," he told her.
Honesty made her reply, "Oh, you never actually promised, Stan."
"I have now," he answered, with a smile.
- - - - - - - - - -
Anne was at her workstation when she heard Ken's voice.
"Anne, can you spare a moment, please?"
She was deep in concentration so she yelled out, "Minute!" and tried to finish. She was startled when she felt a touch on her shoulder.
She looked up and saw Ken's face above her. "Oh! Ken. Sorry, how can I help you?"
"Sid said something about you promising a write-up on some new positions you think we need filling? Only I have a couple of résumés in my inbox, and I wasn't actually expecting anything."
"Oh. Sorry, yes. I meant to work that up today, but I got sidetracked a bit by this... I'll get onto it now. Er, who are the résumés from? A Mister Hinch and Miss Bottomley?"
Ken laughed. "Yes, that's right, it's your friends." He bent down to whisper in her ear. "Don't worry, Sid's just being an old woman. I'm sorry we didn't think of the computer person before, and you're right, we'll need someone to handle the fabrication side of things."
He stood again, and said in a normal voice, "Soon as you can, please, Anne." He left, with a wink.
Anne looked at the bit of digital design she'd been working on, quietly said, "To hell with it," and closed it down. Then she mentally rolled up her sleeves, and got to work.
It wasn't too long afterwards when she was peering into Ken's office. The door was open, but he was staring deeply into whatever was on his computer screen.
"Ken?" she called, and he looked up at her over his half-moon glasses.
"Hi! Touché!" Ken smiled at her and went on, "Is that the proposal?"
"For the jobs, nothing else, Ken!" she answered, and got a laugh out of him. "That's okay, Anne. I thought you realised my interests lay elsewhere."
Anne's eyebrows went up a touch. "Actually, I didn't. To be honest, I don't know much about you."
"Not much to tell, really. Fine example of an English public schoolboy, or I was until I got expelled. But I know a lot of people, and I know a lot about most of them. Like I know that you and these two," holding up Stan and Denise's Résumés, "are in a three-way relationship, for example."
Anne felt herself go numb. "How...?"
"I told you, I know a lot of people. One of them is your former MD. It's not a secret back at The Firm, you know."
The best that even Anne could come up with was a quiet, "Oh."
"Yes, 'Oh.' Come on, sit down."
Once Anne was seated properly on his visitor's chair – comfortable, but low - Ken went on, "It doesn't matter to me what you do in your private life. In fact, I still don't know what you do. Just that you, Stan and this Denise are all involved together. Provided you three don't let it become an issue here, I don't see a problem."
"You mean... but I've only just given you the proposal."
"Yes. But I didn't really need it, as I told you earlier. It's for Sid's benefit really. And if I say we can afford it – and we can, by the way, what's more we have to – then he'll go for it. But at some point it might be a good idea to tell him about your little ménage à trois."
"To tell the truth, I thought he already knew."
"He may, but hasn't told me. Well, discreet of him." He stretched back against the chair. Relaxing once more, he said, "Look, there's little point in staying here any longer tonight. Go home and tell your partners that they'll need to come in and interview, but it'll be an easy interview. Just don't expect too much in the way of money straight away, okay?"
He stood, and so did Anne. Before she left his office, she turned and asked, "Why are you making this so easy?"
Very seriously, he answered her. "Because I like you, but I also like to know things about people I work with. I'm not a pushover, Anne, never get that wrong. You were right about needing those positions filled. You've got people interested and ready to go straight into them. But I like to be in control."
He paused for a moment before continuing, "Good night, Anne."
Anne stared at him for a moment, nodded and then turned on her heel and left.
- - - - - - - - - -
"So what do you think?" she asked Denise and Stan that evening. She'd got home a little earlier than usual, but too late to find Denise still up. Although Denise had gone to bed about a half an hour earlier, Anne insisted on waking her and talking that very night.
She'd explained what she and Ken had spoken of, and relayed as best she could the conversation in his office.
"Wow," Denise said, "sounds like a bit of a control freak."
"Perhaps. But I think he's mainly just someone who likes to have an edge on people. He's very well connected."
"You don't think that was a bit, well, sinister?" asked Stan.
"A bit, maybe. But he was probably just trying to get a rise out of me. Look, the important thing is that he all but said you'd both get jobs there. This way, we can all be together all the time, yes?"
Stan said nothing, but Denise noticed and leapt in with, "Don't you get cold feet on me, Stan. I don't want to stay at The Firm any longer. We're being offered a great opportunity. I say we take it and 'To hell with them all!'."
Stan was silently communicating. He sought guidance from the same place he always did, and wasn't disappointed. Finally, he said, "Okay. I have misgivings. But I don't think staying at The Firm is a good bet for much longer. Besides, I'm going horribly stale there, and I know it. So, let's do it!"
- - - - - - - - - -
The following Monday, March the 19th, Stan and Denise travelled up with Anne. Their interviews were set for later that morning, so they simply went for a walk, intending to find a café. Anne had told them of one just around the corner near the Tube station. They found it and went in, grabbing a cup of coffee and a Danish pastry each.
Stan was actually quite nervous, but if Denise was, she was hiding it well. He knew that he wasn't the best self-salesman around, and worried that he'd not give a good impression. In any case, he thought it would probably be impossible to come up to the standard that Anne had painted of him. He sighed.
Denise caught it. She reached over and rubbed his hand. "I don't know what you're fretting over, Stan. Anne said this would be a cinch."
"When it's too good to be true, that usually means it is, Denise. I think the slightly sinister sounding Mr. McKuan is actually a good thing – otherwise it would be too perfect."
"Well, be assured that it's not too perfect then, go in, answer the questions, make sure you get in a couple of your own, and you'll be in. Ah, hell, just relax and be yourself, Stan. You'll do fine."
Stan's interview was before Denise's. He made his way up and into the office to be greeted there by the receptionist, who he knew was named Valerie. He'd already spoken with her on the phone, of course. He introduced himself, and in no time at all Sid was there, saying hello, drawing him into the office where he met the possibly sinister Ken McKuan for the first time.
An hour later he was being shown out, having done passably well, he thought. A small voice in the back of his head was telling him that that meant he'd actually done well. When he got outside into the cool air of that morning Denise pounced on him.
"Well? How'd it go? What are they like? Come on, give me news!"
"Give me coffee and I'll try to answer you." Denise's interview would be in half an hour – scarce time for Denise to drink and scurry back from the café they'd been at previously, so they opted for takeaway coffee at the station. Denise made a face, but Stan blew on his and sipped, cautiously anyway. He collected his thoughts.
"It went... okay, I guess. I think that probably means it went well enough. They're all right, actually. Sid – Dr. Thoroughgood – is a nice guy, very sharp, not completely convinced I think but playing along. Ken, Mr. McKuan, is an old-fashioned public schoolboy type. Well mannered, smooth, but watch him. They were pretty easy going once I told them of the contacts and processes I knew at Shucor. My guess is that you'll have an even easier time getting the job there – but that to begin with you'll be working harder than the rest of us, getting everything computer-ish running smoothly."