tagRomanceHalf the Man Ch. 04

Half the Man Ch. 04

byMostera1©

'Half the Man'© and its associated chapters is a copyrighted production of Mostera1©

Chapter 4


The bright noon sun glistened off the park's pond as softly quacking ducks congregated on the shore. Children laughed and played noisily under their parent's watchful eye. People from neighboring office buildings gathered on lush green lawns to enjoy the warm outdoors and the company of others. Delightful aromas from the myriad of lunch carts wafted on the soft breeze to attract hungry members of the midday crowd. On one of the many benches located on the water's edge, a solitary figure with legs slightly crossed perused the sports section of the local newspaper. He was seemingly oblivious to his surroundings and completely unaware of the blue eyes that followed his every move. He just finished the recap from last night's game when his ears pricked at a soft 'kwee-kwee' sound. Dylan lowered the newspaper and watched a family of ducks come out from underneath the bench. He chuckled as they waddled single file to the pond.

A smile formed on his face as the brood marched past the vigilant drake and entered the sun-warmed water. That smile faded as memories of another pond invaded his mind.

'Hard to believe it's been four years,' Dylan thought as he leaned back on the bench. 'Some days it seems like another life time, but today it feels like—yesterday.'

He smoothed the neatly trimmed beard he first grew two years before. It took a lot of creative trimming to get just the right look. He didn't grow the beard to hide his face from the outside world, but rather so he would not be constantly reminded of the time following his accident and divorce. The facial reconstruction, for all intents and purposes, was very successful. Of course if he looked he could see the scars his beard judiciously hid, because he knew where they were, but to the casual observer they were virtually invisible. Even his missing dimple wasn't that noticeable.

He raised the newspaper up to read, but couldn't focus. He gave up the pretense of reading, instead staring out onto the serene water as his mind aimlessly wandered through the years. His cell phone abruptly woke him from the daydream, and when he looked at the number—he smiled once more.

"Hello Peter, good to hear from you. How are you this fine sunny day?"

"Sunny my butt! It's cold and rainy here." Then he chuckled, "Nevertheless, I'm doing fine my good man. How are things at 'Promoden' these days?"

Dylan grinned at his former employer's question, "As if you didn't know. Oh, Mr. Raeburn is still waiting for you to pay-off your bet."

"Ha! Tell Greg he'll get his dollar when I'm good and ready to send it. How are your mom and dad?"

"They're doing well. Mom started rehab on her knee right after the replacement surgery. Dad couldn't believe they had her up the same day. That was four weeks ago, and Dad is still hovering over her like a mother hen and driving her crazy. Implant technology these days is unbelievable. Speaking of implants, how is yours doing?"

Peter hesitated briefly, "The pacemaker is doing as advertised; the arrhythmia is under control and Ruth is extremely happy I haven't been to the emergency room in two months. Enough about me—oh, before I forget, Tyler sends his regards, and Sarah became engaged."

Dylan got excited, "That's fantastic about the pacemaker. I spoke with Ruth just before your surgery and she said you were extremely nervous. Glad it's helped. Send my best wishes back to Tyler, How many grandkids now?"

"I lost count after nine."

"I'm not surprised. You have enough health issues of your own to keep track of. So Akashi finally popped the question? That's wonderful news. Would you have Sheila send me their address? I want to send a card."

"Who am I? Your secretary?" laughed Peter. "You can call Sheila yourself; she'd love to hear from you. By the way, this call isn't strictly personal. I wanted to run a business proposition by you too."

"I'll call her," Dylan chuckled and then asked seriously, "I'm out of the office at the moment. Can you give me some of the background information before I get back?"

"It has to do with API800—they're expanding into your area."

Dylan whistled, "Really? Wow, for an up and comer in the industry they sure are hard-chargers. It's been what, three years since they hired your firm?"

"Actually, it's closer to four." Suddenly Peter coughed, "Sorry, excuse me—so when you're done goofing off, call Sheila for Sarah's address, and also set up a video conference time."

The cough caused concern for his good friend, "Pete, are you okay? That sounded rough?"

"Yes, yes, it was just a cough. Don't forget to call Sheila."

"Alright 'Dad' I will. And please take care of yourself. We'll talk later."

"Thanks 'Son', bye." Peter set his desk phone down, picked up a pen and leaned back in his chair. He took a couple of breaths coughed again, and felt lightheaded. "Damn it, I'll have to move up my doctor's appointment. This stupid thing is under-sensing again." He took a drink of water, rolled the pen in his hand and leaned back further. He thought about his former employee's struggles and hoped one day would find his own Ruth.

"Has it been four years already?" he mused and drifted back in time.

****

He had a fabulous weekend with Ruth and their grandchildren. The new heart medication he started the week before had been better than advertised. Peter enjoyed the newfound energy, as did his grandchildren and especially Ruth. Their devotion, nurtured by many decades of love and lust was unmistakably evident after the little ones were sound asleep. It was the best two nights they had in a long time and the playful swat he got as he left for work promised more. He never felt better. He hoped young Hunt's weekend was just as memorable and headed towards the marketing specialist's cubicle anxious to hear how it went after Friday's revelations.

Peter thought about Dylan's return to work after that horrific accident and the quiet whisperings which didn't happen because of Dylan's remarkable foresight. Dylan contacted him about returning to work early. That by itself was noteworthy but when the young marketing strategist warned that his appearance, caused by his injuries, could disrupt the normal operations of the office until his co-workers became accustomed to seeing him. Peter was impressed that despite the catastrophe he suffered, Dylan showed great maturity and thoughtfulness with the disclosure. Peter made a note to discuss the situation at the next staff meeting and thanked him for thinking about the office's well being. His respect increased ten-fold for young Hunt and before they said goodbye he made certain Dylan knew to consult him if he ever needed help.

When his protégé made it back, Peter often stopped by his cubicle to chitchat and soon a friendship developed that transcended work. He was flattered and surprised that Dylan trusted him with very personal information. When he heard about the newly married couple's financial woes, he offered a no-interest loan which Dylan initially refused, but after a friendly twist of the arm accepted.

Several weeks after he made the loan, Peter noticed a pronounced change in his protégé's mood. His young friend became increasingly anxious and tense. Their conversations morphed from that of friends back to employer and employee. He gently prodded, but Dylan continued to withdraw. Frustrated that Dylan seemed to be regressing, he asked Sheila, his executive assistant, what to do. She suggested stepping back and letting the troubled young man come to him. He didn't like the advice, but trusted her judgment enough to follow it. Fortunately the wait was short. It was Friday morning when Dylan came to his office.

As soon as Dylan entered, he saw the tension in his young friends face and when the apologies started, Peter promptly stopped them by raising his hand palm forward, then candidly asked what was going on. He immediately regretted his haste to come to the point as Dylan nervously fidgeted and wrung his hands. Peter offered his edgy employee a glass of water. He took a sip, and Peter could see his friend relax. Dylan placed the glass on the desk and he started to talk.

Straightaway Peter also became concerned about the integrity of John Quade, the insurance company adjuster. He listened just long enough to know that Quade's actions didn't seem normal, and wondered if the adjuster might be doing a scam. He interrupted Dylan and with his friend's blessing contacted Sarah VanHousen, one of the company attorneys, to look into the questionable goings on. Much to Peter's surprise, that very afternoon she notified him that Mr. John Quade was out of the office and when she pressed further about Dylan's claim she got—stonewalled. She began investigating and in a few short hours discovered that Quade had been placed on administrative leave five days prior to her inquiry and that all of his cases were being audited. Before the call ended, Sarah asked him to let her know how he wanted to proceed. He pondered her words for a few minutes, then called Dylan to his office and informed him of her discovery.

Dylan's cane fell when he sat back in his chair, floored by Sarah's findings. He asked, "What does all this mean? What happens to my insurance claim now Mr. Kimbridge? Will I have to start the process all over again? We have collection agencies calling constantly. I...I...don't know what to do." His voice trembled by the end of his statement.

Peter picked the cane up and handed it back to his stunned friend. "I don't have all the answers for you, son," he admitted, just before he curled his lip up into a small smile. "But based on what Sarah tells me, it turns out you were right about the insurance adjuster's lack of integrity and I would speculate the insurance company would want to keep his, umm, 'practices' quiet—real quiet."

The savvy businessman became serious, "Son you've suffered a major loss and have been misled by the insurance company's representative. Once again, with your permission of course, I would like to ask Sarah to continue as your attorney so you are compensated adequately and fairly. What Quade did to you was reprehensible."

Dylan's eyes water when he spoke, "Now, I...I...don't know what to say."

"A simple 'yes' will do just fine."

"Yes."

Peter chuckled and said, "Great, I'll let Sarah know, and with respect to the creditors," Peter thumbed through his rolodex. "Here is Sarah's business card; give them her contact information and she'll handle it. But if I know her, she'll ask you about them first. Now enough of this—I have a splendid idea. Why don't you go home early and celebrate with that lovely wife of yours. I'll see you Monday, so go on and get out of here."

Dylan stood and gave his friend a hug before he left to tell Mari the good news.

****

Peter's daydream was interrupted by a sudden inexplicable pain in his side. He became nauseous and took a sip of water. He picked up the phone ready to dial 911 and then immediately set it down again when the wave passed and he felt better. "Damn pacemaker," he mumbled. Comfortable again, he yawned and leaned back in his chair. He floated back to Monday morning.

There was a big smile on his face as he entered the small cubicle and he cheerfully exclaimed, "Good morning young sir! How was..."

He stopped, surprised to find Dylan slumped on the paper strewn desk. Immediately he walked up and placed a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder.

Alarmed by his weeping employee he calmly asked, "Son, what's wrong?"

When Dylan looked up, he recognized the look of a beaten, humiliated man. The horrific physical scars paled in comparison to the crushing pain his eyes conveyed. Whatever happened over the weekend had driven Dylan over the edge. He projected strong emotions of shame and embarrassment. Peter recoiled momentarily and just stared at the broken figure before him. The proud owner of Kimbridge Marketing had lost his voice. The deafening silence ended when his sad friend spoke.

"I am so sorry Mr. Kimbridge," he said and wiped his eyes. "I apologize for my unprofessional behavior. It won't happen again sir."

Peter cleared his throat, "Son, forget where we are. I'm your friend, talk to me."

"Sh...sh...she's di...divorcing me," Dylan sputtered. "Mari's divorcing me.

"Sh...sh...she said the accident showed her that our marriage was a—mistake, just a mistake." He almost collapsed but regrouped and tearfully continued, "it...it wasn't built on love, but on lust, and that she was drawn to me because I looked like her dad, a...a...a fantasy come to life." He gazed upward tears streaming, "I figured Mari's bitch of a mother put her up to it. I...I...I thought I could change her mind." He took a short breath and stammered, "In...in...instead I discovered she already found my...my replacement, and th...then," his face scrunched, he turned away and began to mumble.

It took a bewildered Peter several moments to process what Dylan revealed. 'Divorce? Affair? I knew her mother despised him, but to deliberately set out to destroy their marriage?' His head suddenly snapped when he caught a fragment of the distraught man's mumbling. 'That can't be right, I must've misheard. Mari wouldn't do that.' He looked at the emotionally devastated man and suddenly his hackles rose.

He found it hard to stay calm, "Son, did you say Mari is demanding $150,000 and spousal support? That...that is completely absurd!"

Dylan silently looked at the papers scattered on his desk then bitterly replied, "No! What's 'absurd' was her telling me she didn't want—much." He started to laugh, "And—apparently her definition of 'much' was as different from mine as my definition of 'marriage' was from hers. When we said our vows in Vegas, we lit a unity candle to symbolize our joining and the start of our life together as husband and wife. Two became one. At least that's what I thought." After a shallow breath he hissed, "Her interpretation always included her mother and now a...a...lover." His fury spent, Dylan collapsed into the chair.

Peter paced angrily inside the cubicle. He felt they as if were being watched and sure enough, a small crowd had gathered. A stern look shooed them away.

His thoughts turned to Mari. He met her on several occasions and he couldn't fathom that she was capable of such appalling behavior. Peter was almost certain that her mother was behind everything. Dylan often told Peter that she 'constantly pulled on Mari's strings.' Regardless if it was Mari or her mother, young Hunt needed to take a stand. Peter pondered, 'He not only needs a strong defense but an exceptional offense too. Hmmm.' He snapped his fingers, picked up the desk phone and dialed Sheila. He asked her to contact Tyler. Tyler Bolt was a damn good family-law attorney. If anyone could help this poor soul it was his close friend Tyler. Peter asked Dylan to come to the conference room at 10:30 A.M. that morning before he headed back to his office.

"Is he okay Mr. Kimbridge?" Sheila inquired with heartfelt concern.

"No he's not; the poor lad is being put through more hell. I'm surprised he's still functioning." Peter became angry, "I can't just sit by and allow this to happen. Perhaps I am overstepping my bounds, but damn it as long as Dylan allows me to, I'm going to do all I can to help him out." He took a breath, "Sheila I know you're worried, but I don't want to disclose anything else until I speak with Tyler."

"I understand sir, and I know you'll help him get through this," she replied as her phone rang.

"Kimbridge Marketing and Research, Sheila Atworth speaking ... Hello Mr. Bolt ... No, it's 'Mr. Bolt' during business hours and Tyler after-hours ... Uh huh, say hi to Gelila for me ... thanks, you too, let me transfer you."

She placed the attorney on hold and looked at Peter.

"I heard, Sheila, thank you." Before taking Bolt's call, Peter turned to her and asked, "Would you please pull up the file for API800 before you go to lunch?" His executive assistant smiled because she knew how important it was to add this rising firm to the company's stock portfolio.

"Consider it done sir."

Peter nodded closed his door and picked up the phone.

"Hi Tyler, thanks for calling back so quickly, I have a problem ... What was that? ... You thought I called about some news? What news? ... No I haven't talked to Ruth since I left this morning, I've been busy ... Latasha and her family are expecting number three! That's grandchild number seven right? ... Oh wow! Congratulations my good friend ... Yeah, it seems like just yesterday we were popping out our kids ... The ticker? Thanks for asking, it's doing great. The new medication is a wonder drug, and you can ask Ruth how well it worked. Wait—on second thought—don't." They both laughed.

Peter briefed Tyler on Dylan's circumstance, and wondered if they could arrange a conference call at 10:30 that morning. The capable attorney asked him to hold. When he came back on, Tyler said that instead of a call he'd come over and meet with Dylan personally. Peter thanked his friend, and laughed when his buddy informed him it would cost him a lunch.

****

Peter sat back and listened as his old friend analyzed the situation. Tyler, having dealt with multitudes of divorce proceedings, projected an aura of confidence that gave Dylan new hope as they discussed the case. Tyler almost blew a gasket when he read the divorce stipulations made by Mrs. Hunt's attorney. As far as Tyler was concerned the demands were borderline insanity. The settlement she wanted didn't equate with a ten-year marriage—let alone one that hadn't lasted a year. He scheduled a time when he would meet with Dylan in a few days to draft a rational counterproposal and send it, along with a very formal letter to Mariette's attorney that would unequivocally state what Mrs. Hunt asked for was asinine. Tyler left the meeting, shaking Peter and Dylan's hands and reassuring Dylan that his interests were going to be vigorously defended, Peter almost felt sorry for Mari—almost being the operative word.

The next day, Sarah contacted him to touch base about the status of the insurance negotiations. Peter could hear the strain in her voice—it was only the week before that her own marriage imploded. He was surprised she wanted to continue with this case, but was glad she did. Peter knew the competent and aggressive attorney would never back down from a challenge and despite her personal problems, this one was no different. She informed the company that her investigation had revealed that Mr. Quade had a reputation—and it wasn't good. The insurance company did not perform sufficient due diligence prior to hiring him and the repercussions of that oversight were potentially devastating—for them.

Peter was pleased to know that his able attorney, although much stressed, did her job for his young troubled employee. Peter laughed when Dylan humorously protested that his arm was about to fall off from all the papers she had him sign. Dylan, as she had instructed him, sent her the names of the all his creditors and each was sent a registered letter to inform them that Mr. Dylan A. Hunt was her client. All contact from now on would be through her. He chuckled when his young friend told him, clearly relieved, that the harassment had stopped.

Everyone worked closely together to protect Dylan's current and future assets from his soon to be ex-wife. They had a number of meetings and conference calls and came up with several different strategies. They prepared for a long drawn out battle, but much to their surprise, the battle ended before it started.

Peter learned from Tyler that Mrs. Hunt's attorney had sent a counterproposal. He set up a meeting to discuss the response.

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