KERRI'S WAR (Volume 3 of The King Trilogy)

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Chapter 19

New York. Monday, October 8.

Kerri awoke early. Her sagging spirits received a boost when she read the front page of The New York Times. The headline story described the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, as a coalition of industrialized countries and Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, led by the United States, commenced a series of attacks with the goal of overthrowing the Taliban, dismantling the al-Oaeda terrorist organization, and ending its use of Afghanistan as a base. She was pleased to know that the action would provide a measure of retribution for the September eleventh attacks on America, but her heart told her that no matter how successful, the effort would never compensate for the loss of so many innocent people and the sadness and financial hardship imposed on their survivors. She told herself that the buildings could be replaced, but not the lives.

An hour later, she entered the building that was to become the new headquarters for Iacardi and Sons. She was accompanied by Mark Friesen, her new vice-president, human resources, and Louise Markel-Townes, her new administrative assistant. A gigantic step down, both in terms of prestige and altitude, from its previous lofty perch, the building was, at least, a place to work. A recently constructed six story silvered glass clad structure on Park Avenue, the building would provide a launching pad from which to rebuild the company. She chose it because it was new, convenient, and would provide the new employees the comfort of working closer to ground level.

She surveyed the building’s stark, empty interior and tried to imagine it filled with furniture, computers, and people. The thought reminded her of the enormity of her undertaking, the cost and effort required to hire over three hundred people and to provide them with the training and infrastructure with which to compete in an increasingly cruel and competitive world. She turned to Friesen, a forty-two year old hardened corporate veteran who had risked it all by leaving the security of Fusion Financial, a large New York investment bank, to work for Iacardi and Sons, a seriously wounded company with a dubious future. A Special Forces operative in Desert Storm, he still looked like a soldier, lean, mean and ready to fight. His thinning blond hair was short cropped, his face scared, his eyes grey and piercing. He wore a well tailored dark blue suit, white shirt and yellow tie. “What do you think, Mark?” she asked.

Friesen smiled. “This works for me. Just give me three things and I’ll fill this place with the best people money can buy.”

“Only three? What are they?”

“A chair, a desk, and a telephone.” He winked at Louise, his live in companion and the second half of Friesen’s ‘dynamic duo’. A twice divorced thirty-eight year old brunette, she was his first and only love and his condition of employment. He had insisted that the two come as a package or no deal. They had worked successfully with Fusion Financial for the past eight years and compiled enviable reputations, more than sufficient to make their selection a no brainer. “Grant my three wishes or leave me forever,” he said.

Louise smiled and pointed to the elevator. The three rode the elevator to the second floor and emerged to find essentially the same concrete-floored emptiness. There was one difference, however. She pointed to the far left corner. Awaiting them were three offices, defined by crude plywood partitions and furnished, each with two folding metal chairs, a wooden desk, and a telephone.

“How did you do it?” Kerri asked, surprised and delighted.

Mark and I came in yesterday and were horrified to think we’d have to work on the floor. Mark did the carpentry and I sourced the furniture. We had to twist some serious arms for the phones.”

Kerri shook hands with both. “I was pretty sure you two were right for Iacardi. Now I’m certain.” She pointed to the offices. “Let’s go to work.”

Peter Tavaris, dressed in jeans, black sweater, and black leather jacket, entered Kerri’s makeshift office an hour later. He sat on her extra metal chair, crossed his legs, and removed his sunglasses. “You said you wanted to see me,” he said, stroking his stubble.

“I did. I want to introduce you to Mark Friesen, our new V.P., human resources. I want you, Walter, and Billie to work closely with him, and to help him hire traders and analysts. You know the players in the game. You know who we need. That’s a tremendous asset.

“What are we going to use for money? You and I both know we don’t have any.”

“Don’t worry about money. I’ve made arrangements for Iacardi to borrow a hundred million.”

“Wow! You care to tell me who our sugar daddy is?”

“Me.”

“Yah, sure,” Tavaris scoffed. “You and which bank?”

Kerri glared at Tavaris. “Just me. No bank.”

“So how does Kerri King stroke a check for a hundred big ones. There aren’t a whole lot of people who can do that.”

“Long story. The short one is that I once had a very wealthy boy friend,” Kerri replied, making clear to Tavaris that she was unprepared to give him the details. “Now my instructions to Mark are to hire the best people money can buy, and I want you to do whatever you can to help him.”

“Okay, you’ve got it,” he said, then gestured with his arms to Kerri’s stark surroundings. “How do I go about getting a nice office, just like yours?”

“You work with Louise Markel-Townes. She’s in the office to my left, and she’s expecting you. I think you should meet her first so she can fix you up with an office. Among other things, her job is to bring this office space up to speed, as fast as she can. I’m sure you’ll be happy to help her. She already knows I want the traders and analysts to occupy the top four floors of this building.”

“Before I go, I want to talk to you about the Enerco offer. You should know that I’ve talked to the Iacardi wives. They’re both very excited about the offer, and they’re prepared to accept the written version, without making any extra demands. Also, Walter and I have written to all of the other shareholders, asking them to go along with the deal.” Tavaris again stroked his stubble and glared at Kerri. “You might be the only one standing in the way.”

Kerri leaned forward and returned the glare. “Peter, I’m not standing in the way of the deal. I’m doing what I think is the right thing. Now follow me.” She led Tavaris around the plywood barrier to her left, introduced him to Louise Markel-Townes, then left to return to her office.

While Tavaris was anxious to have his own office, he was even more anxious to learn who was going to furnish and wire the building. That information was one of Ken Layton’s specific requests. The two quickly dispensed with the pleasantries, then he made his move. He clasped his hands behind his head and relaxed in his metal chair. “Have you found anyone who’s capable of turning this building into an office in a hurry?” he asked.

Louise nodded. “A company called Trans Metro Office Fitout. Before we came here, Mark Friesen and I worked for Fusion Financial. We used Trans Metro for all of our offices. They’re not just good, they’re fantastic. They sub all of their work, and don’t stop until everyone’s happy.”

“Great. Sounds like you two know what you’re doing. How do I get an office?”

“Take the elevator to the sixth floor. I’ve got people up there now. As I speak, they’re making an office for you, Walter Deaks, and Billie Dukes.”

“How do I get into this building? Sometimes I like to work crazy hours.”

Louise removed a laminated pass key from her briefcase and handed it to Tavaris. You can use this, twenty-four seven. Don’t lose it. She stood and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Peter. Come and see me again, and let me know if you need anything. I’m at your service.”

Tavaris smiled as he left. He had what he needed. He rode the elevator to the sixth floor, stepped out then removed his cell phone from his jeans. He speed dialed Ken Layton’s private number.

“Where are you?” Layton asked.

“In the new Iacardi New York headquarters. It’s on Park Avenue.”

“You have access?”

“Unlimited. No security.”

“Is there phone service in the building?”

“Yup, and our little sweetheart’s got one.”

Layton had planned to exclude Tavaris from his fact finding mission, but his 24/7 access to Iacardi’s new headquarters was too tempting. “Keep your cell on. You’ll be receiving a call, within the hour.”

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