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The Colorado Conspiracy
By Victor O. Swatsek
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Victor O. Swatsek
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs Rick stood on the tarmac waiting to board Walter's private plane, he thought about what Walter said last week, just before he flew out to Colorado.
"Rick, I recently purchased a company," his accent still strong "and one of the assets is a cattle ranch in Fort Collins, Colorado. They used it as a weekend getaway where the owner took his clients. It's a working cattle ranch and I have some ideas about expanding my restaurant business on the west coast. But, I'm not sure that the beef is up to my standards to launch a new chain of fine dining restaurants."
Rick thought that very interesting, because this was the first time Walter invited him to participate in one of his new ventures.
"Uncle Walter," said Rick with a shrug, "I don't know anything about the cattle or beef industry, much less the restaurant business."
"That is alright," said Walter with a slight accent, "I have someone in mind that may be able to help with that end of the business. The ranch consists of about twenty-thousand acres and needs more management skills, than an actual knowledge of the beef industry."
"What's this all about?" asked Rick.
"With your permission," Walter said, "I will transfer full title of the twenty thousand acre cattle ranch to you."
Rick was silent for a moment taking in the stunning news and finally said smiling, "While I'm very grateful, you know of course I'm still angry that you didn't tell us everything the last time you got us involved."
"I understand Rick," said Walter, "but there were certain issues that I also did not know about. Still I was confident that you would find everything out on your own. That was a major accomplishment, and you should be proud that you were able to stop them from looting Europe and killing many innocent people."
Rick was considering Walter's generous offer. He figured that he would have to see what it looked like before he decided this would be good for him.
He still remembered what Walter said before he left. Remember, you are destined for bigger things to come. I built my empire by taking some risks, but at the same time, I like to think I am also a visionary. I must say though, that when I started building my empire, there were many opportunities, which were at that time, not hampered by the regulations we have today. You are getting an education you could never get from any university in the world.
"Alright Walter," said Rick. "I at least owe you by flying out there to see the place and then I'll let you know."
"That sounds reasonable," said Walter. "I think you will like it. While I have not personally been there, Leonard said it is in a beautiful part of the country. On a different note, I am sorry you and Liz could not work things out, but sometimes there is a good reason."
"Thanks," Rick said, "I guess that it just wasn't meant to be. She'll be okay though, she's strong and she's doing what she loves best anyway ... lecturing and cruising on her boat."
* * *
Knowing how his uncle Walter operated, Rick got that strange feeling that there was more to the story. He was infinitely aware that Walter had special plans for him that for now were to take place in Colorado. He just wished that Walter would share more of what his plans were, so he could better prepare himself. But, that just wasn't Walter's way.
He figured this was just another test, but now he had to consider if he wanted to continue these adventures, because he really enjoyed teaching and missed that most of all. He also felt he owed Walter a huge debt for what he did for him and Liz and both their parents. However, at some time in his life, the bill would have to be considered paid—he just didn't know when that time would come.
It was now 1980 and he was at an age where he should start thinking about settling down, and having a family. With Liz out of his life, he didn't know when that was going to be.
* * *
As Rick got into the plane, he leaned back in the plush leather chair and started to think of the previous two months. Being reacquainted with his father Jacob Teaubel, was the highlight of his life. All these years, when he drove up to visit his uncle he was actually Walter's Gatekeeper. He just listened to him for hours talk about the days leading up to World War II, where they had lived and how the war ended all that.
He was feeling nostalgic again, because he never got the opportunity to know his mother. All he remembered was that they shipped him off from Bremerhaven, Germany on a troop transport named the USS General Balou to the United States as an immigrant when he was five years old. He remembered the weeks he was on board the ship, sleeping in a sailor's hammock that would constantly sway and keep rhythm with the ship moving in the rough seas. He still recalled eating saltine crackers and sucking on lemons to reduce seasickness.
* * *
When Walter gave Rick the deed to the Monarch Ranch, he wasn't as excited as Walter probably had hoped. Rick felt like a duck out of water, since he hadn't been on a horse for years and he knew nothing about working a cattle ranch.
Walter made the argument, "This was one of my new business ventures and I wanted someone to manage it that I could trust. My two restaurants were doing well and I am considering franchising and opening other high-end steak house Restaurants from the Midwest to the west coast area."
Rick knew he wouldn't be able to teach for a while, but was all right for the time being. He took a year's sabbatical from Brown University, and notified Chancellor Martha Franklin that he needed some time off for a book he was writing.
* * * Walter had made contact through Chancellor Ralph Mellon from Brown University with Allen Piermont, the President of Colorado State University, and asked for a favor. Walter felt that Rick might inquire about teaching at Colorado State.
"Would you give me a call if Rick contacts you?" Walter asked. "In return, I will create a full scholarship program for two people each year. I would make Rick the trustee to oversee and develop the criteria for receiving the scholarship."
Chapter TwoRick Benedict arrived at Kingston, Rhode Island in 1955 from West Germany when he was only five years old and stayed with his uncle Walter Donleavy. He spent a short time at his uncle's home, but was quickly enrolled at Mount St Albens, a Military prep school in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a brilliant student and had the transcripts to prove it.
When he graduated, he went on to St Basil's, also a private school in Providence. Again, he excelled in all the academic subjects, and had a particular fondness for European History. He received his Bachelor's in History, and completed his Master's in Art & Architectural History from Columbia University, majoring in the historical European era. He received his second Master's in Engineering also from Columbia. Rick knew he liked teaching and several excellent universities had courted him.
* * * Walter visited Peter Billingsly, President of Brown University and made a special request of him. He was hardly in a position to refuse, since Walter "anonymously" financed a new wing. As a result, Peter Billingsly personally asked Rick to teach at Brown University and made Rick a generous offer. Rick accepted.
However, after a year of teaching, and because he was still single, Rick got the call from Uncle Sam and was promptly drafted into the Army. Since he had degrees in various subjects, he automatically applied to Officer Candidate School (OCS). After completing the course, he advanced to the rank of second lieutenant. After a battery of tests during OCR training at Fort Bliss Texas, the Army felt he had a higher calling and gave him orders for AIT training at Fort Belvoir in West Virginia.
Rick's MOS was a Nike Hercules Missile Maintenance Repair Platoon Leader. Three weeks later, he shipped out to Zweibrucken, West Germany. Rick received his promotion to First Lieutenant as soon as he returned from his training. He was issued new orders to work for a private think-tank attached to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
His assignment was a cipher code expert, supervising ten other individuals. After six months in his new position, Rick received his promotion, to the rank of Captain and head of the department. He became the best code breaker, as well as a great mentor to his group. But, that quickly grew boring for him and he wanted to do something more exciting and fulfilling.
Rick was handsome, with a chiseled jaw, blond hair and blue eyes. After his classes, he often found notes on his desk inviting him to sorority parties. While he was single and unattached, he dated women that were not at the college. He always felt it was safer.
Chapter ThreeWalter Donleavy lived on a 20,000-acre estate in a heavily wooded and secluded part of northern Rhode Island. He had built an estate that would rival the Rockefeller's and the Mellon's of their time. He went to great lengths to keep his anonymity and privacy. He made his fortune after the war by purchasing various newspaper companies, radio stations, and later television stations for pennies on the dollar.
While most people were still trying to recover from the Depression, Walter was very quietly buying companies. He would typically sell off some of the assets of the newly purchased company, reorganize the management team, and selectively lay off at least ten percent of staff in order to recoup some of his initial investment. This would almost immediately increase performance and profits.
He was a very distinguished looking individual, with his full coiffed silver gray hair. His beard and mustache are always perfectly groomed by his personal staff barber. He was five foot eleven, with steel blue eyes that could melt butter, but when needed, he could be very intimidating. He also had a smile that would light up a room, which he used sparingly and only when it had its advantages. Even when he was at his home, he always dressed impeccably and wore a three-piece suit with a royal blue silk kerchief in his outside pocket.
He was a long-term planner, always felt that information was the key to being successful, and was meticulous in everything he did. Over a period of forty years, he outright purchased over forty newspapers and magazines, twenty-five radio stations and three television stations, including one in Belgium. Most of the executives running the company never met or knew Walter, but worked with his chief legal counsel and corporate lawyer. Every single one of his enterprises was doing well because he provided very lucrative incentives to his executives.
In those early days, as Walter accumulated his wealth he also became more powerful and developed a reputation for throwing lavish parties, but never held them at his estate. It was always far away from prying eyes and he never talked about his business, but always talked about their business. This is how he was able to buy companies, because they never knew that when they talked to Walter, they were talking to a very perceptive and well-informed executive. Nobody seemed to realize that when Walter gave a party, shortly thereafter he acquired the company. It was his way to evaluate the executives and their wives.
People knew very little about Walter, and that was how he liked it. In the financial world, he was almost invisible and went to great lengths to keep it that way. In some ways, he was a little insecure, except when he saw a company that would compliment his other enterprises. He paid a little more for the companies he wanted. This eliminated the bickering and negotiating of the sale, which otherwise might expose Walter to scrutiny.
Most of the company's executives didn't know each other or that they all belonged to the same holding company—Monarch Enterprises. He was secretive about himself and his business, but he had one business partner, Leonard Schultz. Leonard also functioned in a COO capacity when required, and gave Walter weekly reports on their progress. He had recruited him from Yale.
Leonard was at the top of his class and single. His parents died during the Great Depression and his Grandparents raised him. Leonard's parents were also German immigrants and came over to the US in 1929. He studied international corporate tax and business law and even though he had several very good offers from prestigious law firms, in New York and Chicago, he finally decided to accept the exclusive position from Walter. In the coming years, Leonard became a very wealthy man with only one client—Walter Donleavy.
Chapter FourRick landed at the Loveland Municipal Airport, in Walter's private jet, which caused quite a stir with nearby onlookers. As he walked off the airplane wearing his aviator-mirrored sunglasses, Grant Williams, the Monarch Ranch Foreman, met him.
Grant walked up, introduced himself, "Hi, I'm Grant Williams, did you have a good trip?"
"Yes, it was very peaceful," said Rick, "I even got in a few winks."
* * * Grant was a rugged looking individual and looked like he spent a lot of time on the range. He was about six feet tall with a muscular built from roping and living that ranch life. He always wore a black leather vest with a gold watch and chain that crossed the front of his vest. His long handlebar mustache was black with just a tinge of grey at the tips. He always felt it gave him character and only he trimmed it. Grant had that western down home drawl that most people immediately liked.
* * * "We have about an hour's ride to the ranch," Grant said, "so just sit back and relax."
As they drove away from the airport, Grant said, "Maybe we ought to stop in town and get you some ranch-style clothes."
Rick sheepishly looked over at Grant, nodded, and they drove over to the Peabody Mercantile, which was one of the largest general and clothing stores in Colorado. As they walked in, a very statuesque girl in western clothes greeted them. She was dressed in a red-checkered shirt, and very form-fitting jeans right through the waist with a tightly cinched, wide belt and a big silver buckle in the middle. It was a typical buckle, but you couldn't help but notice it.
She wore a pair of red and white, eagle-wing designed, stitched Tony Llama boots with silver tips and heels. She had long, auburn hair that hung simply at her shoulders and gently swayed from side to side as she walked to greet them. Rick also noticed that her red checkered blouse was probably two sizes too small, and showed her great cleavage, which he didn't mind.
Grant introduced Dale Honeycutt, the general manager of Peabody's Mercantile.
"Hi Rick," she said smiling, "It's a pleasure to meet you. Grant thought you two might stop by to pick out some clothes."
Rick, fascinated by her looks, was staring because Dale reminded him so much of Liz.
"I'm sorry to stare," Rick finally said, "but you look so much like a woman I was dating."
"Why, thank you," she said. "I'm flattered. A few shirts, and jeans, will help you over the rough spots. In addition, of course, you'll need at least two hats and two pairs of boots.... one for everyday and one for special occasions."
Grant was listening to all of this and just rolled his eyes and smiled. Rick purchased all these clothes and almost didn't have room in the pick-up truck. He decided to get in the spirit and wear his new hat and everyday boots driving to the ranch. He also wanted to see how they felt.
* * *
Grant had been the General Manager and Ranch Foreman of the Red River Ranch for the past eight years, which was then sold to a private investor in Rhode Island, who quickly renamed it the Monarch Ranch. He was concerned about the ranch and his men who worked there.
He'd had several conversations with Leonard Schultz, who assured him that this was an investment and there were no plans to change anything. Only thing Grant was worried about was his personal investment in a venture that was worth millions and had taken a long time to setup.
Grant tried to make small talk, but Rick answered with no elaboration. After a while, Grant stopped talking and figured Rick was not going to be a problem at the ranch.
* * *
As they finally pulled off the main highway and started up the road to the ranch, they drove directly up to the main house. Mildred Conklin, the housekeeper and chef, met them on the front porch standing by the front door.
She smiled and said in her genuine Texas drawl, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Benedict. We've heard a lot about you and hope you'll be comfortable here at the ranch. I see you've already been shopping at the Peabody Mercantile. Let me show you to your room."
Excerpted from The Colorado Conspiracy by Victor O. Swatsek Copyright © 2011 by Victor O. Swatsek. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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