“Thank you sir,” I said through the phone.
“Oh cut it out. We’ve been through this a hundred times. Call me Tom or even Thomas and when in company Mr. Updyke, but never sir. I hate that Joe.”
I knew he did, but it felt wrong to not do it. Mr Updyke was not only my boss and the owner of the Tailwinds and the Tornados, but he was also one of the richest people in the country. He owned so many different businesses that I lost track.
It was going to hurt but I forced myself “thanks Tom. Now we are even.” I said.
He started laughing so hard that I thought he was going to have a heart attack. When he finally composed himself he answered. “We aren’t even close. That was just the right thing to do Joe. You can’t cash in a chip that big for something so small and right. Nope, still got one coming to you. Now anyways, I need a favor from you, I have two kids that I’ve been looking at and I can have either one that I want. I need to you to see which one will be a better fit.”
I knew when I asked him for help it was going to get me. I smiled, at least this was better than the last time. “Ok, who are they, and what teams do they play for?”
“That’s the good news my boy, they both play for the same team. They have a back to back in Hershey Wednesday and Thursday. Do you want to fly or drive?” He asked.
“I’ll drive down Wednesday morning and come back on Friday. If that works. Is this the whole player later for the Nemestikol trade?”
“Yeah, I told Sweeney I wanted one or the other and he said fine. He arranged a meet with them Thursday after their morning skate. Feel them out see how they perform in the game and let me know which one I want.” He said.
“I can do that. Anything else I should be on the lookout for?”
“Always, Joe. I trust you. Let me know. I’ve got a board meeting to get to. Thanks for looking into this, and before you say it, you’re welcome.” He said and then hung up.
I smiled. He knew me pretty well. I had been working for them ever since I graduated college but I hadn’t met Mr. Updyke till my second year in. He made the mistake of asking me what I thought about two different players and I told him the truth. Ever since then he had me on Player Patrol. I was too look for players that would make our team better and other teams worse for losing them.
It sounds hard but it really isn’t. You just have to think from the players’ point of view. I could do that. I had a good imagination and took what their needs were and then asked myself, what’s next? It worked well and he was happy so I must have been doing something right. Winning the cup three of the last five years was definitely a major advantage to, but each day was a new day, so we always kept looking for the future.
I hit the button on my intercom system and a voice answered. “Yes Mr. Miles.”
“Tony, see if I have anything scheduled Wednesday through Friday. I have to go on a scouting trip, see if we can move whatever I have.”
“Yes sir, I will bring you an updated schedule as soon as I finish. You also have your ten O’clock here.” Tony said.
“Send her in.” I said immediately standing up and coming around the desk and opening the door for her.
“Joe, thank you, Arthur appreciated it so much.” Julie Babcock said as she walked into my office.
“Jewels, it was no problem. We both know he deserved it. Besides the grumpy bastard should be recognized once in an awhile.” I said ushering her to a seat. I didn’t go back to mine instead I took the seat right next to her so we didn’t have to look over the desk at each other.
“I know that and so do you, but you know how he is.” She said and I did.
Arthur Babcock worked for the team as a bus driver and security man. Arthur was about sixty, so security wasn’t really his thing, but he did odd jobs for the guys and he loved the players like they were all his sons.
“Joe, are they going to make him retire?” Julie asked me. So that was why she wanted the meeting.
I laughed. “Like we could get rid of him that easy. Besides there would be a player revolt if that happened. Who’s the guy that sneaks the Dinosaur Bar B Que sandwiches in to the players when the fitness guys have them on a diet?”
“He doesn’t mean anything by it Joe. He just hates seeing the guys unhappy.” She confessed.
I knew. Hell I had known the day after he started it. “I’m on the players’ side Julie, so don’t worry the secret is safe with me. Julie, he isn’t going anywhere. Until he wants to that is, and when that happens, I will make sure he gets a job here at the arena. That way he can keep seeing the guys and stay closer to home.”
“Oh Joe,” she said jumping up and hugging me. “We were nervous after the ceremony that it was kind of like a final hurrah.”
“No Julie, just the beginning. I need Art around here for a long time, and I wanted him to know it. He deserved it, and when Vlady flew in for the ceremony I thought Art wasn’t going to have a heart attack.”
“He always had a soft spot for that kid,” she said wiping her eyes. “Thank you Joe.”
“No need for thanks. It was something well overdue. Tell Art not to worry, he will be here as long as I am.” I said and I meant every word.
She left and I thought about the ceremony. Forty years he worked for the organization. He deserved what he got. The look on his face when he realized it was about him and not Vlady. It was priceless.
VLady Olechkin, was the all-time leading scorer for the Tailwinds and we let Art believe we were honoring him, but in reality VLady flew in for the occasion for Art. Art took out a gold hockey stick to present him and then when he handed it to Vlady, he handed it back, and we put Art’s picture on the Jumbo Tron with the words “40 years of service”. I cried myself. It was awesome.
That would humble the old fart, I almost began crying again. God I loved my job. I looked at the picture from that night on my wall. I had so many pictures of special events now. I needed a bigger office. I laughed at that thought.
I was officially Player Personnel assistant, but most people just referred to me anymore as the “Boss’s Guy.” The official title was my idea. I liked being not that important, but I had a lot of input into the day to day operations of the team. I tried to let everyone do their jobs and only stepped in when they needed me. We all liked the arrangement.
Which reminded me, a couple of the players wanted to talk to me about arranging a party for one of the assistants. I’d have to see what they had in mind, and see what we could do to help. I headed out of my office and shut my light off.
“Ok, so he got all his files out yesterday, so rearrange as you need to and in the meeting tomorrow, they will go over your new duties in greater detail and let you know what’s expected.” Pam said shaking my hand and smiling at me.
“Thank you,” I said and she smiled and walked away.
Once the elevator doors closed I hear a giant round of applause and I looked, everyone on the floor was clapping for me and then they began coming up and shaking my hand or giving me hugs. Cindy was first and last and she was so excited for me that I couldn’t help being swung into the excitement with her.
“Thank you everyone. I appreciate that. If you need anything let me know.” I said and they all clapped one more time and headed back to their desks. All but Cindy. She hugged me again and I hugged her back.
“If I knew this was how it would turn out I would have turned the Dick in ages ago.” She said in a whisper to me.
“Things always happen the way they are supposed to.” I said and hugged her again. When she went back to her desk I walked into my new office. It was nice. I knew they would give me enough work to make me earn it, but for right now, I am just going to enjoy this feeling.
I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I wanted to call Joe. I wanted him to know everything worked ok and that I wouldn’t have any more problems with Richard. I knew it seemed weird that I wanted to call someone I didn’t know very well, but he had been here for the whole thing, and he deserved to know.
I took out his card and called the number it rang twice and he picked up. “Joe Miles.”
“That’s quite the greeting you got there. Makes you sound real important. Do you practice that?” I asked.
He laughed. “My mom says it’s my way of sounding busier than I am, so I don’t have to talk to her. Little does she know, I sound that way with everyone.”
“Oh, so you don’t want to talk to me?” I teased.
“That’s not what I meant. Why do I always say the wrong thing? It’s like my mind quits working when your concerned.” He asked out loud.
It was my turn to laugh. “Good, I wouldn’t want you to think too much. So, the reason for my call. That little problem I was telling you about won’t be a problem anymore. He was transferred to another office.”
“That’s great, I’m glad Cassie. You didn’t deserve that and neither did Cindy.” Joe said.
“Thanks, another reason for my call. Me and Cindy are going to celebrate Friday night and I was wondering if you would like to join us. Nothing fancy just some drinks and a chance for you and Cindy to meet each other.” I asked biting my cheek waiting for his response.
“I’m actually coming back into town that day; what time were you thinking?” He asked me.
“Oh whenever. What works for you?”
“A normal person can drive it in probably four hours so knowing me I better make it five. How about six o’clock.” He asked.
“That sounds good. I was thinking the place where you drove me to pick up my car.” I said.
“Yeah I remember. I will see you there Friday.” He said.
For some reason I didn’t want to hang up yet. I asked him about where he was going and then we talked about how great Cindy was and that I knew he would like her. We talked about a lot but I knew I had to hang up so finally I said goodbye and began looking around my empty office again. It was big and nice, but something was missing. Not sure what, but something.
“Well that was weird,” I said out loud as I walked back toward my office.
I was happy that the guy wouldn’t bother her again, but why did she want me to meet her friend so bad? She made it clear we were just going to be friends. So why was it so important her friend meet me? Sometimes women just didn’t make sense.
I was walking along thinking about our conversation. Then it hit me. I’m going to be in Hershey. The chocolate factory was right there. Well, the one true way to a woman’s heart, Hershey chocolate. I would have to bring back enough for the two of them and see if I earn any brownie points.
I was right. The first meeting spelled it all out for me. Not only did I have to keep track of all the cases on my floor, I also had three large house accounts I was now responsible for. I wasn’t a Richard, but I knew there were a few people in my group that needed looking after to make sure they accomplished their goals.
The days became a blur as work, and getting used to the new caseload, overwhelmed me. Finally, on Friday I had felt like I had things in order enough where I could breathe again. I looked at the clock and it read four. Two hours till I saw Joe.
Why did I just think that? I hadn’t talked to him since Monday and as busy as I had been I hadn’t really thought about him that much. As long as you don’t consider every day that much. It wasn’t like when you miss your boyfriend and think about them. It was more like just wondering what he was doing, and how his day was going, that kind of thing.
I sent Cindy a text to remind her that we were going out tonight. I saw her give me a thumbs up from her desk where she was on her phone. Management still hadn’t assigned me an assistant, but I was hoping it was her. On this though, I had no say.
The next time I looked up people were saying goodbye and putting their coats on to leave for the day. The clock said a little after five. Wow where did the last hour go? I closed everything down after logging out and began getting ready myself.
“Well, at least you will be leaving on time tonight for a change.” A voice said from the door.
“I know right? Wow, I never knew how much was expected from this position. I think I am finally getting a grasp on it. How you doing?” I asked her.
“Working my ass off trying to get your old job. I hope they give it to me and not Barb. We both know she just sucks up whenever she gets the chance.” Cindy said still standing in the doorway.
“I know, I wish they would let me choose, but that was one thing they stressed. Afraid I wouldn’t be impartial, and to be honest they were probably right.” I finished grabbing my coat and shoving her out the door.
“What’s your rush?” Cindy asked smiling.
“You know we are meeting Joe tonight. I know you will just love him.” I said steering her toward the exit.
“Apparently,” she said giggling.
We got to the bar just a little before six and when I looked around I saw him. I knew I smiled and waved. I grabbed Cindy by the arm and dragged her over to the table he had occupied. He smiled at me and I smiled back.
“Joe, this is Cindy, she is my best friend. Cindy, this is Joe, my newest friend.” I said waiting for the fireworks to take off between the two.
“Hi Cindy, it’s nice to get to meet you. Cassie talks about you all the time. It’s nice to finally put a face to the name and legend.” Joe said extending his hand.
“Damn, that was smooth.” I thought as I looked to Cindy to see her reaction.
She had a coy smile on her face. She reached out and took his hand and they shook. “To say we both have been looking forward to meeting you would be an understatement. It’s nice to meet you too.”
“Ladies I know this is cliché, but I was in Hershey on business and I thought.” He said motioning to the table where two wrapped boxes were waiting for us. I giggled. Cindy is going to fall all over him. I just know it.
I scooted into the booth with my wrapped box in front of me. Cindy sat next to me and Joe sat in the booth across from us. A waitress came by and we all ordered drinks, me and Cindy each got daiquiris and Joe got an Ultra.
Once she left I looked at Joe and he nodded to the wrapped packages. “If you don’t like it you can share at work, or throw them at me.”
I giggled again. He was funny. I knew Cindy was going to love him. I opened mine and it was a container of Hershey Miniatures. Oh how great was this? Everyone loved these. I looked at Cindy and he had gotten her the same thing. She was such a lucky girl to get to know Joe.
“Thanks Joe, this was very sweet of you?” Cindy said.
He laughed. “I see what you did there with the word sweet. You’re welcome.”
She smiled. Yup she was smitten. I knew she would be. I reached over and squeezed his hand. “Thanks, this was great.”
He stumbled with whatever he was going to say but the drinks came at the same time. Must be the waitress startled him. “At least we can enjoy tonight without worrying about Richard showing up.”
“I never met the man, but it sounds like it all worked out.” Joe said.
“Yeah, for some of us really well.” Cindy said laughing.
Joe looked confused and his eyes from one of us to the other. Finally, Cindy let out a little puff of air. She looked at me like why aren’t you telling him? She finally gave up on me and explained.
“Cassie got Richard’s Old job since he transferred. She was next in line, so our girl here is now management.” Cindy explained.
“Wow, Cassie that is great. Good for you.” Joe said and I felt my cheeks burning up. I hated having the moment about me. I needed to get this back on track.
“So Cindy, Joe works for the local Hockey Team, the Tailwinds. In fact, he just got back from a trip. How did it go Joe?”
Joe told us about the trip where he had to evaluate a couple of players and meeting with them. He told us what nice kids they both were and how excited they were to be playing hockey for a living.
“Who wouldn’t be? I mean if someone wanted to pay me to play a game that I loved, I would be excited to.” Cindy said and Joe laughed.
I knew this was going to go well. I could see how at ease they both were with each other. This was right. I could feel it. I excused myself to go to the bathroom after the waitress came to bring us another round. Maybe if the night went well I would be the maid of honor in their wedding.
Cassie left to go to the bathroom, and I didn’t think I did, but I followed her movements making sure she made it alright. When I turned back around Cindy was staring at me. I felt like maybe I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
“So Joe,” She started in a more formal tone. “How bad do you have it?”
I was startled at the directness. “I’m sorry, have what?”
“I see the way your face lights up when you look at her, and trust me I understand. How much in love with her are you?”
I just stared at her for a minute. I didn’t know what to say. I mean I didn’t love Cassie, did I? Then the more I thought about it the more I realized I did. “Shit,” was the only word that came out of my mouth.
“I’m sorry Joe. You are such a nice guy, but the whole reason we are here was because she wanted us to meet thinking you and I could be a romance.” She explained. “I can see that you are already in love, and not that I want to be the bad person here, but I don’t think she sees you that way. I mean if she did why would she have brought me with the intention of hooking us up.”
I just nodded. I wished I could crawl under the table and hide. If it was that evident to Cindy, then Cassie must know as well. I looked at Cindy not knowing what to say.
“Relax, I think she doesn’t know. I think she just thinks you are a good friend that she would like to see happy, but with someone else.” Cindy said.
I just nodded. I didn’t know what else to do. I felt like a fool. “I’m sorry that she brought you here for that, and that I’m obviously um confused right now.”
She laughed. “It’s fine. I actually have a date with a great guy tomorrow, but Cassie kept pushing you on me, so I relented to come. I think in the end we both know where this one was heading anyway.”
“Well crap, now what? Should I leave?” I asked.
“No. We are going to enjoy this night as three friends with no expectations. At least we both know they’re won’t be any expectations of sex tonight.” Cindy said.
I laughed hard at that. Maybe too hard but it was still hilarious. I raised my bottle to her and she clinked her glass off of it.
“I hope I am interrupting something.” Cassie said coming back to the table.
“Nope, we were just sharing a private joke. Yes, it was about you, and no, we are not telling you.” Cindy said winking at me and I smiled at the way she was saving me.
The rest of the evening was just all of us getting to know each other better. It was good, in that, I got to know Cindy better, and I really liked her. She was the perfect friend for Cassie. The bad part was I got to know Cassie better too. I really liked her. I wished she could see me that way.
“It was nice meeting you,” Joe said shaking Cindy’s hand. I was hoping they would hug at least.
“Cassie, I will see you later.” Joe said again smiling and walking to his car.
He had quit drinking early with the intentions of giving us rides home if we wanted, but Cindy asked that we take a cab, so I declined.
When Joe was pulling out I turned to Cindy. “Why didn’t you want him to give us a ride home? He may have kissed you goodnight.”
“Cassie, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but I’m not attracted to Joe. He’s a nice guy and everything, but not my type.”
I was shocked. “How can he not be your type? He is funny, smart and the perfect gentleman.”
“I know. But he just isn’t my type. I’m going out with Mark tomorrow. He is my type.” Cindy explained.
“Well maybe if you hadn’t met Mark first. I just really thought Joe was perfect for you. What if things don’t work out with Mark?”
“No, it will never work. He just isn’t my type. I’m sorry.”
“Why isn’t he your type?” I asked still storming inside.
“Why isn’t he yours?” She countered.