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

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Chapter 28

New York. Friday, November 16. Nine, A.M.

The smell of fresh paint pervasive, the noise of workers hammering, drilling, sawing and shouting distracting, but to Kerri, the smells and sounds of progress was exhilarating,. Modern furniture had replaced the bargain basement table and chairs in her office. The walls had received a white primer coat of paint and wires hung from gaps in her drop ceiling.

“This place has come a long way,” Louise Markel-Townes said with a warm smile as she entered Kerri’s office. “It’s actually beginning to look like an office.”

“Nice of you to say that,” Kerri replied. “Finally, we’re getting somewhere. I was getting tired of dreaming and visualizing.”

Louise placed a huge stack of mail on Kerri’s desk, then handed her a large thick white envelope. “Fedex just delivered this,” she said, then turned and returned to her office.

Kerri inspected the envelope and saw that it was addressed to her and the sender was USBC Securities, Inc., Investment Bankers. PRIVATE and CONFIDENTIAL was printed under her name and Iacardi address. Curious, she opened it. Before she had removed the envelope’s contents she had concluded that it was the formal written Enerco offer to purchase Iacardi, the one to which Peter Tavaris had referred on September twenty-fourth. She speed read the legalese and noted that while the three billion dollar offer was generous, it still did not contain the clause so crucial to her acceptance.

She remembered her statement to Tavaris and Walter Deaks. “I will accept the offer if all of the shareholders accept it, and it includes a provision to commit to the estates a fixed and acceptable amount of cash, or twenty-five percent of Iacardi’s pre-tax profit for ten years, whichever is greater. I want that money designated for income continuance and for medical insurance premiums.”

“Never!” she vowed. Disappointed and angered, she threw the offer in the general direction of the black plastic garbage can she was using for trash. She missed.

She picked up her telephone receiver and dialed the private number of Wilhelm Lentz, anxious to know why he had failed to contact her.

“May I ask who is calling, please?” a female asked.

“My name is Kerri King. I’m calling from New York.”

“One moment, please, Miss King.”

Kerri waited for thirty seconds, then a man spoke. “Miss King, my name is Julien Geisinger. I am the president of Liechtensteinische Comco. May I ask the reason for your call?”

“You may. I had a meeting with Wilhelm Lentz in his office on Friday, October twentieth. I instigated that meeting to arrange for certain changes to be made to my account with your bank.”

“Would you be kind enough to disclose the details of your conversation with Wilhelm?”

“Why are you asking me? Why don’t you just ask him?”

“I regret to inform you that he has disappeared. No one has seen or heard from him since he left his office on the day of your meeting. Even his car has disappeared. We have informed the police, but so far they have come up with nothing.”

Geisinger’s news ignited a deep sense of foreboding in Kerri. She had no tangible evidence to connect Lentz’s disappearance to her meeting with him, but something deep in her heart told there was a connection. The coincidence was frightening. She was brutally reminded that Dan Turner had told her that she was dealing with a very dangerous amount of money.

“Did Wilhelm leave any record of our meeting? I’m particularly interested in the instructions I gave him.”

“No. We and the police have completed a thorough search of his office. We have found nothing related to your meeting with him on that day. We do, however, have the telephone record of your call to him. We have concluded that wherever he went, he took all of his paper with him, most likely in his briefcase...I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Miss King. Is there anything I can do for you?”

Kerri’s first inclination was to take the first available flight to Geneva and tell Geisinger to do exactly what she had asked Lentz to do. In spite of all of the possible negative consequences, she had made the decision to distribute her money. Each day of delay was another day the families and loved ones of the deceased Iacardi employees had to cope without a source of income. Lentz’s disappearance, however, gave her cause to reconsider her options. She needed time. “Thank you for offering, Julien. I’ll call you if there is. Please let me know if Wilhelm is found.”

She hung up, then hurried to pick up the Enerco offer. She read it again, this time more carefully, hoping she had missed the clause she wanted. It was not there. “Damn those people!” she shouted, then crumpled the offer and threw it into the garbage can. She was now facing a huge dilemma. If she refused the Enerco offer, she risked alienating the other shareholders and sparking the legal action Tavaris had promised. If she accepted the offer, she would foreclose on her dream of rebuilding the company, and fail in her promise of financial assistance to the survivors of the three hundred and thirty-eight Iacardi employees who died on September eleventh. That decision would leave the survivors of the deceased employees who were not shareholders with no money or income. The Enerco offer contained a November thirtieth deadline. Irrespective of what she did, she was on a collision course with unpalatable developments. She had to think.

New York. Friday, November 16. Four, P.M.

Tavaris, looking more like a mafia hit man then a businessman, dressed in his finest black suit and yellow silk tie, entered Kerri’s office without knocking. He marched to a chair in front of her desk, sat, crossed his legs, and removed his sunglasses. “You get your copy of the Enerco offer today?” he asked with an evil smirk.

Kerri pointed to her black plastic garbage container. “I did, and I filed it,” she replied, stone faced.

Tavaris glanced at the garbage can and grimaced. “If I live forever, I’ll never understand you. Why would you do that to a piece of paper that’ll make you ninety million dollars? Why wouldn’t you just take the money and smell the flowers?”

“I told you why, Peter. You want me to tell you again?”

Tavaris was disappointed but not surprised that Kerri was still insisting on the inclusion of her demanded financial assistance clause, one which would cost Enerco a minimum of an additional billion dollars. “Are you the slightest bit inclined to negotiate?” he asked.

“Sure. I told you in September that everything’s on the table. What have you got in mind?”

“Ken Layton has made it abundantly clear that he’s not prepared to include your clause in the Enerco offer. He’s stated, categorically, that Enerco can’t afford it...He has, however, authorized me to discuss this with you to try to find a compromise. In other words, he wants to know what Enerco can do for you to induce you to accept its offer.”

“Peter, stop beating around the bush,” Kerri said, nauseated by Tavaris’ transparency. “Just tell me what Ken Layton authorized you to offer.”

Tavaris tightened his lips and nodded. “If you sign the offer, he’s prepared to make you a vice-president of Enerco, with a substantial increase in your salary, and to give you stock options worth at least a hundred million.”

Kerri closed her eyes and shook her head. “Obviously, you and Ken Layton still don’t get it. I don’t want or need any money from Enerco. What I want and need is to find some way of restoring the incomes of the families of the Iacardi employees who died on September eleventh. If Enerco can think of a better way of doing that than the one I’ve outlined, then I’ll sign the offer. If not, then it’s back to work.”

Until that moment, Tavaris didn’t think it was possible for him to hate Kerri King any more than he already did. He was wrong. Anger and frustration consumed him, pushed him well beyond his boiling point. The woman in front of him was not only occupying the chair he had long considered his, she was now denying him the opportunity of his life, his ticket to power and wealth. He bared his teeth and pointed his index finger at her. “You have until the thirtieth of this month to change your mind. If you don’t, you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life,” he vowed, then stood and marched out of Kerri’s office. To punctuate his last statement, he slammed the door.

“If I do, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life,” Kerri said, covering her face with her hands, shaken and more alone than she had ever been in her life.

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