The Brass Statuettes Ch. 09byAutumnWriter©
© Copyright 2007
Chapter 9: Tourniquet
Brenda arrived at Gloria's house just in time for lunch. Ashley and Darlene weren't due for at least an hour. She found Juana humming a song to herself. She gulped down some of her iced tea. Without the vodka, the taste of the mint and fresh lemon were somehow stronger.
"I saw Raul walking away looking kind of glum," Brenda said.
"He's disappointed, I suppose," Gloria answered. "It was the second week in a row I turned him down for the Deluxe Workout."
"Gloria, that's not like you; I don't blame Raul for having a sour look.. You've always been a regular."
"Last week I told him it was my time of month. This morning I said that I didn't have time because we had relatives coming in for the weekend. I don't what I'll tell him next week."
"I don't get it," Brenda said. "You've always sworn by Raul."
"Trouble is, I think next week is actually my time of month. I think I'll just tip him for the Deluxe Workout, anyway."
Brenda took a bite of her sandwich and washed it down with another gulp of iced tea. "Something's happened, Gloria. Things seem different. You would never have sent Raul away twice in a row; and what's up with this virgin iced tea?"
"I know," Gloria answered. "It's not Raul's fault. It's just that Alvin's been keeping me busy in that department."
"Gloria, how wonderful!"
"He's been doing a fine job, too," Gloria added. "I don't know what's gotten into him, but I like it. It doesn't seem right to get it from Raul right after making love with Alvin all night."
"He's realizing how much he should appreciate you."
"Maybe," Gloria answered. She looked away for a second but Brenda saw her blushing. "He didn't even complain at all when I told him about the fifteen thousand for the ESL teacher for the school."
"Don't complain," Brenda said. "So you're leaving the vodka out of the iced tea to trim some calories—keep yourself slim for Alvin?"
"No, I just don't want that boozy feeling right now. But, you can have some. I'll get the bottle."
Brenda shook her head. "I'm fine for right now. I'll wait for the others to get here."
Gloria poured more tea in her glass. "I feel a little ashamed the other day," she remarked as she poured. "I think I trapped you into buying that piano. I should have asked you privately first."
"It's alright. After I sent the check, it felt kind of good. For a moment I understood how it makes you feel. Anyway, Blake didn't say much when I told him. He's preoccupied by something at work."
"It makes me wonder what I've been missing," Gloria said. "In a way, it's confusing. I tried so hard, but people always resented me. Now it seems so easy."
"It was just a matter of time," Brenda assured her. "It's always the timing."
"All I know is that something's working out for me that never did before. Everything's so perfect. There's Alvin—and the school with the children. I even had a nice talk with Trudy the other day."
"Trudy!" Brenda exclaimed. "I thought she aggravated you."
"That was the old me," Gloria replied with a wave of her hand. "She came to see me about the Foundation. I'll fill you in when the others get here."
Brenda nibbled her sandwich and stared across the lawn. Through the hazy spray of the lawn sprinklers she saw the rose garden that José was tending in the distance. It reminded her of a rose garden in a park down the street from her girlhood home. She would stroll through it in the early morning when the dew still clung to the petals like warmth on a kiss. The roses bade her to dream—she did, and made wishes on those dreams. None of the wishes came true; Brenda realized she had been dreaming in someone else's garden. Those dreams weren't hers, nor were Gloria's. Brenda gave up dreaming; let others do it She traded wishes for practicality.
"Gloria's got her the head in the clouds. Let her enjoy it while she can because she can't stay up there forever. When she crashes, she'll wake up to find that I've stayed down-to-earth, taking care of things."
"Hi y'all!" It was Darlene calling out that broke up Brenda's reverie. Ashley was with her. They were arriving for the meeting of the Foundation Board.
"Get yourselves something to drink," Gloria called to them. She refilled her glass with iced tea and added a generous dram of vodka. She cast a rapid glance back at Brenda, perhaps checking for a scolding look. Brenda noticed, but only sighed joined the others in pouring herself a dose of the lubricant, too. A little voice inside her cried out that it might be nice to try it without the alcohol. The voice was too faint to make her listen; she fell in step with her mentor with one foot on each side of the line.
"We're only missing Trudy," Darlene announced to the assemblage.
"You can miss her if you want to," Ashley shot back.
"Trudy won't be here today. She's picking her daughter up from her college orientation in Austin," Gloria announced. "But she came to see me earlier this week and had some interesting ideas—and that's what this meeting's all about."
"Trudy?" Ashley blurted out. "Well, this must be really something."
"Ah cain't 'magine..." Darlene started to add, but Gloria cut her off.
"You're wrong about Trudy," Gloria admonished. "She sorted out a lot of problems and brought them to me. It'll save us all a lot of trouble later."
Brenda was intrigued. She remained convinced of the temporal nature of Gloria's transformation. Short-lived or not, it was a major shift and she knew better than to join Darlene and Ashley in derision when Gloria was full of praise. "No kidding, Gloria. What kinds of things?"
"Well, ordering stationery, for one," Gloria recited. "And we have to keep track of all the correspondence we send and receive. There's mailing lists and insurance—just a lot of things."
"I never thought of any of those things," Brenda admitted.
"Ah thought we gave Trudy the job t' take care o' all that," Darlene argued.
"She's been doing just that, but she can't for long," Gloria answered. "We need a long-term solution."
"Well, why cain't she?" Darlene demanded.
"Trudy's a volunteer, just like the rest of us," Gloria reminded her.
"She's done more work so far than the rest of us put together," Brenda agreed, "except for Gloria, of course."
Ashley and Darlene looked at one another with frowns. Neither spoke.
"Anyway, Trudy said that we should all pitch in and share the work," Gloria cheerfully informed them.
"What?" Ashley gasped.
"But don't worry," Gloria assured them. "I came up with a different plan."
"Thank goodness!" Darlene exclaimed. "Gloria, y'all had us worried for a moment—but Ah think your were just puttin' us to th' test."
Brenda was smart enough to say nothing.
"We'll get some help from professionals who do this for a living," Gloria informed them. "Our husbands' secretaries will volunteer to help us."
"You mean we're going to have our husbands order them to help us," Ashley clarified.
"I don't think Blake will do that," Brenda felt compelled to point out. "I don't think any of the husbands will."
"We could use some female persuasion at the proper moment," Ashley said with a giggle.
"None of that will be necessary," Gloria said. "We'll get them to volunteer to do it."
"Y'all mean of their own free will?" Darlene asked in astonishment.
"Exactly! I have a plan, so everyone listen." They all drew their chairs closer around Gloria. "We'll bring them out here and have a pool party. We'll get the husbands to give them a day off for it. Alvin told me they forgot National Secretaries' Day back in April. So, the excuse for the party will be to make up for it. That will put them on our side at the start."
"We'll have caviar, shrimp cocktail, oysters—the works!" Ashley chanted.
"An' plenty o' drinks," Darlene agreed.
"It would be nice to have some photos of the Preschool on hand," Brenda said. "Maybe some of the children's artwork, too.
"Good thinking, Bren," Gloria shouted out. "I'll ask Maddy to put something together."
"Ask Maddy to come, too," Brenda suggested.
"Perfect! Great thinking again, Bren," Gloria exclaimed. "Now you're all reading along on my page."
"We're all agreed, then?" Brenda asked Darlene and Ashley. "It's a wonderful idea, Gloria," Ashley said. "It would never have worked Trudy's way."
"I'm glad we're agreed," Gloria told them. "I already sent the invitations. The party's on for next Friday. The caterer is all signed up. It's a pool party, so wear your suits."
A short time later the meeting was adjourned and the four women were lounging poolside in their bikini's.
"Where are the gardeners today?" Ashley asked. "This was to be your initiation, Darlene, if I remember correctly."
"It's okay," she answered. "Ah don't feel much like it, anyway."
Ashley leaned forward. "You said you would..."
"Ah didn't say I wouldn't," Darlene snapped back. "Ah jus' said that Ah didn't feel like it."
"You can't be good at it if your heart's not in it," Ashley admonished.
"Do we have t' talk about this?"
"Someone is testy today," Ashley sang in a teasing voice.
"Well, Ah do have somethin' on mah mind, if anyone cares to listen."
"Of course we want to listen," Gloria soothed. "Ashley, you should give Darlene some space. Now, Darlene, tell us, dear."
"Well, it's nothin', excep' Jason's angry 'bout sumthin' at work an' he wants t' resign and go back to th' University."
"Oh, that is bad," Gloria agreed. "How serious do you think he is?" Darlene gave a big sigh. "Ah got him calmed down raht now, but 'tis sure to come up 'gin. Ah tol' him there'd be no lovemakin' if it did."
"There's your first mistake," Ashley countered, "calling it lovemaking. Why don't you call it by its real name, fu..."
"Back off, Ashley," Gloria scolded. "Darlene's trying to tell us something."
Ashley put her hands over her mouth in mock shame and looked at Brenda giggling.
"It's true. If Jason is determined to go back, denying sex to him won't work for long," Gloria said. "In the end, he'll do it just to get even with you for cutting him off."
"What's his problem?" Brenda asked. "He just moved into this job—and he must know that the money won't even be close where he wants to go."
"That's why he came here in the first place," Ashley pointed out.
"He's angry b'cause a lot of funding for his projects didn't come through."
"He must mean the stock deal that fell through," Brenda said. "Blake told me about it. He shouldn't worry. They'll get the money from somewhere else."
"Jason's not sure. He really doesn't understand business—an' he hates talkin' 'bout it. Ah think the worst part is tellin' all the scientists he brought in that the money's dried up."
"Then do something to make sure it doesn't," Gloria said. "Talk to the right person."
"But Ah don't know..."
"That would be Jim Sweeney," Brenda said.
"Ooowww, that sounds like fun!" Ashley exclaimed.
"Jim Sweeney?" Darlene asked with a puzzled look.
"Sure," Brenda replied. "He's the Director who's in charge of the Finance Committee. He's the man Ashley flirted with at the gala several weeks ago."
"Ah don't even know 'im. What would Ah even say?"
"Let your cute little figure do the talking for you," Ashley answered.
"Ah couldn't!" Darlene gasped. "Ah jus' couldn't. He maht think Ah'm serious, and Ah've neva bin unfaithful to Jason. It's jus' not propah."
"It would be for a good cause," Ashley replied. "Maybe you would become serious after thinking it over." Brenda gave Ashley a stern look.
"You've already told Jason that you won't have sex with him if he quits," Gloria said. "You've got yourself trapped in a box. Flirting with Jim would be so that he wouldn't have to quit and you could keep on having sex with Jason. There are some things you have to do for your husband."
"Oh, no," Darlene sobbed. "Jason would nevah understand. And that Mr. Sweeney—he's so fat and dumpy..."
"Cute and rolly-polly," Ashley corrected. "And Jason doesn't ever have to know."
"But Ah'd know an' Ah'd always wonder if Jason would evah find out."
"By the way, how do you sing the alma mater of that university he wants to run off to?" Ashley teased, "because it appears like you're going to be singing that song real soon."
"No, no!" Darlene blubbered. "Ah jus' cain't."
"Quiet, girls!" Brenda scolded. "You don't have to, Darlene."
"Ah don't?" Darlene looked up, drying a tear.
"Jim—er, Mr. Sweeney only has to think he's going to bed you. Just be nice; flirt; give a few down-the-neckline looks and maybe a shot of your thigh. A hint and an accidental bump with the hip and he'll be eating out your hand."
"Well, maybe," Darlene mused. "Ah've nevah done anythin' like that. Ah don' know if Ah know how."
"We're all surprised what we can do when the moment comes," Brenda said.
"Ah hope it passes an' Jason jus' fo'gets 'bout it."
"Maybe," Gloria cautioned, "but don't count on it. When men get something like that in their heads it doesn't usually go away."
"Perfume," Ashley said as she polished off her drink. "He likes perfume. He might even buy you some."
"How would you know?" Brenda asked.
"How would you?" Ashley shot back.
"Good morning, Mr. Bennett," Floyd greeted Frank as he signed in. "You sure like to get into the office early. If you aren't early, I don't consider it a normal day."
"Maybe I need to be less predictable," Frank countered.
Floyd laughed as he filled a stryofoam cup full of coffee for him. "You wouldn't do that to me in my old age, would you, Mr. Bennett?
"I suppose not," Frank admitted. "Then you'd get unpredictable on me, and I wouldn't get this bootlegged cup of coffee every morning."
"Touché!" Floyd replied. They touched cups in a kind of early-morning toast.
"Floyd, I have a visitor coming in today; Mr. Shoreham."
"Yes sir; Miss Jeannette put him on the list last night."
"Be sure he gets the full security treatment when he gets here—ID, sign in, the works."
"Why sure, Mr. Bennett, if that's what you want. Something wrong with this guy?"
"No; nothing like that," Frank answered. "I just want to make sure that he knows we're on our toes, that's all."
"No problem," the elder man shrugged. They walked together down the hall to Frank's office. "Things are sure tense around here, Mr. Bennett," Floyd commented as he unlocked Frank's door. "I've been noticing. It must be something to do with all the stock problems."
"Just a few things that need to get ironed out," Frank answered. "Where did you hear about that?
"Can't help but hear about it. It's been in the papers. I don't normally read such things, but my son called me the other night and asked me."
"Hmmph!" Frank grunted. He paused and then answered. "Tell him that Western Chemicals is strong and this problem will be ironed out in short order. We'll be back to normal in no time."
"Oh, I know," Floyd protested. "I only said what I saw in the paper. I never really thought that something was truly wrong with the Company."
"Tell your son that he can't always believe what he reads in the papers," Frank said.
Sure, sure," Floyd assured him. "And don't worry. I'll give that Mr. Shoreham the once-over—just like you said."
"I knew I could count on you, Floyd."
Frank started looking through the papers on his desk as Floyd began to walk away, but he paused at the door instead of leaving.
"But, sir, it's hard not to pay attention to the papers when we see the Company written up there; and you know all of us employees have a lot of company stock in our 401k's. But if you tell me all is well..."
"It is, Floyd. We don't know what happened, but someone broke security with our plans for the new stock offering and that sent the market for our stock into a tailspin. But let me assure you, this will pass and we'll still be in good shape."
"Any leads on who did it?" Floyd asked. "I hope it wasn't a security breach. We take a lot of pride..."
"No one knows very much right now," Frank answered. The investigation's only starting."
"Do you think they'll catch whoever it was? What'll they do to him—or her?"
"It's probably more like a 'them'," Frank answered. "It was too well-thought-out and happened too fast to be a single person. To be honest, I don't know if they'll ever figure the whole thing out."
"I bet you'd sure like to catch whoever it was.".
"Well, sure; of course," Frank answered. "But I don't want to spend my whole career doing it. I wouldn't be surprised if the thing got old and we lost track of it over time. We can't turn the company upside down if it takes our eye off the real ball."
"Yeah; right," Floyd said. "It's comfortin' to know you're on top of everything, Mr. Bennett." He heard something off to the side and spun around. "Oh, good mornin', Miss Jeannette. You're in bright and early."
"We have a special visitor today," she said as she unlocked her desk.
"Well, a good day to you both," Floyd said as he turned and started walking back to his post in reception. "Let me know if I can do anything to help you."
"I see you already have coffee," Jeannette said, casting a glance at Frank's styrofoam cup.
"Guilty as charged," Frank replied. "Sometimes Floyd likes to share some of his with me."
"Well, alright; most of the time. When is Shoreham's plane scheduled to land?"
"Changing the subject?" Jeannette asked with a smile. "He's scheduled to land at eleven-thirty. I've arranged for a company car to pick him up and bring him over."
"Fine; can you meet him downstairs when he arrives? Make late reservations for lunch in the dining room. I'll see if Alvin can join us. Maybe I can get Jim Sweeney to sit in, too. See if you can get Al Crossman on the line, too."
"Of course," Jeannette answered. "I'm on it. Do you still want coffee this morning?"
"Of course!" Frank joked back as he went into his office.
He had only been at his desk a few minutes when Jeannette buzzed him on the intercom. "Mr. Richter of Chase-Morgan on the line."
Hanford Richter was the bank officer with whom Frank had been working to put together the financing package. "Damn!" Frank cursed under his breath before he picked up the phone. He knew in advance what Richter was going to say. He expected it, but hoped he wouldn't have to face the news until Murray Shoreham had departed from his one-day visit. If Murray asked about it, Frank would have to tell him the truth.
Frank: "Good morning, Hanny! How are you?"
Richter: "I wish I could say I was fine, Frank. I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you."
Frank: "I'm not surprised. I don't know how the bank could go through with it with the 10-Q held up."
Richter: "Well, just to make it official, I have to tell you that the Loan Committee has voted to turn down the application."
Frank: "Is that a final turndown, or could you say that we could resurrect it when the 10-Q comes out? We've got our attorneys working on freeing it up now."
Richter: "It's final, Frank."
Frank: "Why not put it on hold, pending the 10-Q? It could be only a matter of days."
Richter: "Can't do it, Frank. Those guys don't like hiccups; and, we've got the commitments of the secondary lenders to consider."
Frank: "So you're saying they want us to walk away? I don't believe that. If we do, you'll be off the radar screen on a permanent basis."
Richter: "I wish I could be more helpful, Frank. The Bank doesn't want to drive you away. It's just that we're one of the few outfits with access to funds and there are a lot of companies standing in line."
Frank: "So, you're saying that once we've got things straightened out you'd want to reconsider it?"
Richter: "You'd have to reapply. We'd probably wait for the next 10-Q—probably the next 10-K."