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The Cradle Will Fall
Part Two of the Tangled Web Trilogy
By Ian Black
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Ian Black
All rights reserved.
Sloan Phoenix looked on his transparent reflection, while gazing down at the city. That reflection was as close to seeing his own soul as someone like him could possibly get. In some ways it was like staring at a stranger, floating aimlessly in the autumn cold. But in that exact same way it was like staring at himself. For no matter how far he stood above the streets he stood, at least part of him would always be on the outside, looking in. For a moment his mind stood still, trying to appreciate the complexity of such a notion. But the moment passed with the shaking of his head. Those thoughts were self-indulgent and self-pitying. And such thoughts were not of Sloan Phoenix.
In some ways it surprised him when thoughts like that crept into his mind. In other ways it did not. It wasn't even ten years ago that Sloan was a poor kid, leaving the orphanage he grew up in to find his place in the world. Now he was pacing around the boardroom of the Prescott building, fifteen floors above the busy downtown streets of Carolina Bay, staring down a savvy mahogany boardroom table with a phoenix emblem in the center that stamped the fact that all of this belonged to him.
"Deep thoughts, Mr. Phoenix?"
Mary Don Viuda, Sloan's assistant. She always seemed to enter the room with more stealth than his cat Churchill. Her last name means widow in Spanish, which Sloan thought was unfortunate, but he was too polite to bring it up. She was an immigrant from Spain in her late fifties. And though she wasn't as young as some people prefer their assistants, and though still had the habit of referring to him as Mr. Phoenix, Mary had more than earned Sloan's respect. Only about three months into the job, Mary managed to completely revamp the head office, reorganizing the database for efficiency, so Sloan knew he had done the better for having chosen her among all the other candidates for this job.
He looked up at her as he sat at the head of the table and smiled like a child greeting his mother after a long day at school. "I was having those for a second, but I got over it."
"Good to hear. You're way too introspective for a person your age."
"You have no idea how many people would disagree with you. By the way, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Sloan?"
She shrugged and flashed grin. "Sorry it slipped. I forget that people calling you Mr. Phoenix makes you — how did you put it — sound like a cartoon super villain?"
Sloan stood up and paced toward her casually. "You keep quoting me you'll end up writing my introductory text book."
Mary chuckled lightly looking down at her watch. "We'll have to save Sloan Phoenix 101 for another time. The reps from Pierce Technology are here."
Obviously it was a little later than Sloan expected. He must've gotten really introspective. "Has Miss Faulkner arrived yet? As the only other shareholder in the company, she did say she wanted to attend this merger meeting. Seeing as how either of us have met her yet and only corresponded through e-mails and text messages, I was hoping to get acquainted before such a big meeting."
"Would you like me to tell them to wait?"
"No, no, it's okay. There's no sense in keeping them waiting. I can't officially start any negotiations until she arrives, but I might as well use the meantime to cut what I am sure will be some thick tension before the meeting begins. Just let me know when she gets here."
Mary shrugged compliantly and turned toward the door. When she left Sloan remembered exactly how frustrating this upcoming meeting was going to be. He never said please or thank you. He always did that with his staff. Something he learned from his father, Chad Prescott, the former owner of this company. This meeting had him so much on edge that he forgot his manners.
Today he was meeting the Pierce Technologies family. Daniel Pierce Sr., the company's founder and CEO, passed away over a year ago. Since his passing, the company has been staggering to the point that most of its shareholders thought it prudent to sell the company, which is where Prescott Industries entered the equation. The situation was more complicated because of Daniel Pierce's son, Daniel Pierce II. The Pierce family had close ties to the Prescott family. The younger Daniel Pierce and Mike Prescott, Chad Prescott's son, were friends, which, given how Sloan came to be in control of Prescott Industries, bred a great deal of contempt. Owning 60 percent of the company, in his will, Daniel Pierce Sr. split his ownership of the company down the middle, giving half to his son and half to his very young wife, Alexis Pierce, with certain conditions. Through various e-mails, meetings and conference calls, Sloan managed to convince Alexis and the other board members that an acquisition by Prescott Industries was the best way to ensure the survival of their company. All the board members combined with Alexis equaled about 70 percent of the company's ownership. And though according to their company charter, they only need support and approval from seventy of the shareholders to make such a move, a unanimous decision would make workings between the two companies infinitely smoother.
And then there was the new issue of the new Prescott Industries shareholder, Mrs. Faulkner. The former owner of those shares belonged to Marcus Raymond, the most prominent OBGYN in the city, and a friend of Chad Prescott's. Until his passing, Dr. Raymond remained a silent partner. He was mostly in it for the money. The new heir to his holdings wanted to take an active role in the company. According to their company charter, she was entitled to have an active role, which could make her a liability with regard to Sloan's running the company to his liking.
Mary Don opened the door and welcomed in the representatives from Pierce Technologies. In filed two lawyers, four members of the board of directors and the two majority shareholders, Alexis and Daniel. They were followed by two of Prescott industries' lawyers.
Alexis, Daniel Pierce Sr.'s second wife, married into the Pierce family about four years ago. Only a three or so years older than her stepson, Alexis Pierce had a reputation for causing controversy wherever she went. But as Sloan knew first hand, 80 percent of reputation is pure rumor. And 95 percent of pure rumors are outright lies and exaggerations. So what does reputation count for anyway? Some of it may be true. Some of it may not be. He tried to keep that in mind when dealing with her. But when she came cat-walking toward him like a supermodel with her super-trendy, shiny auburn hair that draped over the shoulders of a form-fitting red business suit, which accentuated her touch-me-here curves that were smooth enough to roll a quarter on, the only thought Sloan Phoenix could keep in his head was, To hell with reputation. She extended her finely manicured hand and took Sloan's, giving it a professionally dainty shake "Mr. Phoenix, a pleasure to meet you again."
Sloan smiled, finding it difficult not to be overwhelmed with how stunning she was. "Sloan, please. And the pleasure is all mine. Please, have a seat." He took his seat as everyone sat around the table. Alexis and the Pierce Technology people on the left. The two Prescott Industry lawyers sat at the right. There was an empty chair immediately at Sloan's right. "We cannot officially start yet as we are waiting on another member to arrive. She should be here shortly. But if I or any of my associates can field any questions or concerns you might have regarding these negotiations, please feel free to ask."
Cameron Harris, one of Pierce's lawyers leaned forward, staring up at Sloan from over her thick-framed glasses. "Mr. Phoenix."
He raised his forefinger to politely interject. "Sloan."
She gently cleared her throat with an edge of nervousness "Sloan, the partners are in near unanimous agreement that being purchased by Prescott Industries would be mutually beneficial, and essential to the survival of Pierce Technologies. However, just for the record, could you state your overall plan for the company?"
Sloan stood up and paced behind his chair. "Certainly. This isn't a buyout in the strictest sense. Though Prescott Industries has a highly successful tech division of its own. Having two top-of-the-line tech companies under its belt is not a bad deal. And essentially signing over the requested majority percentage of your shares over to us beats selling those shares out on the open market, thus keeping Pierce technologies, much like Prescott Industries, privately owned. The basic plan is for Pierce Technologies to remain a semi-independent business with very little corporate supervision. Its overall goal is to benefit of Prescott. Prescott's majority ownership does not only ensure that it benefits from the progress of Pierce Tech, but that the financial concerns of Pierce Tech are our responsibility. Now I know that there has been some reservation to this proposal, particularly with my being at the helm of this endeavor, but hopefully we can use a few moments in this meeting before the signing to iron out those differences."
Dan looked up sharply, tapping his pen on the table. "If you're referring to my reservations, you're wasting your time. I'd sooner sign my shares over to a street corner hustler than to you."
Sloan repressed a frustrated grimace and leaned over the back of his chair. "Have you looked over the proposal?"
"I don't have to look over anything. I know who you are. I know that you're selling us a bill of goods and I, for one, am not going to be a part of it. Now I may not be able to stop this farce, short of talking sanity into one or more of the partners, but let it be said that I took a stand against this. And I can make it difficult as hell for you to move forward."
William Hagan, one of Pierce Sr.'s advisors removed his glasses in frustration and turned to Dan. "We've been over and over this. I don't see why you can't see the validity in what we are trying to do here."
Dan growled softly and sat back in his chair hard, much like a frustrated child. "And I don't see why you all can't see the validity in what I am trying to do. He was my father, not yours. All you're interested in money. I am interested in my father's legacy. And I know for a fact my father would turn over in his grave if he knew we were selling our souls to this man for thirty pieces of silver." Dan pointed in Sloan's direction with his pen. "This man is a calculated, unscrupulous liar and if you'd do business with him to save your asses and make a buck than you don't belong at my father's company."
The frustration welled up in Hagan's face as he fought for control of his tone. They had obviously rounded the corner of this argument several times. "Listen to me. I've known your father since before you knew your name. He meant a lot to me too. Personally and professionally. I am preserving his legacy. Preserving it from mediocrity. The best way —"
Hagan was cut off when Mary tapped on the door. She stepped in, closing the door behind her. "Sloan, Mrs. Faulkner is here now."
Sloan smiled softly, gesturing by directionally cocking his head in the direction of the empty chair. "Thank you, send her in."
Before the sentence left Sloan's mouth, in strolled the one person he expected to never to see again. Proudly, pompously she strolled in, carrying her briefcase like a military rifle and made her way to Sloan. He could feel the pleasure she took in rendering him speechless. And as much as he tried to hold back his initial surprise, he couldn't. For the last person he expected to come through that door was his former psychiatrist, Judy Palmer. "Sorry to keep everyone waiting. I hope you didn't start without me." She stopped, face to face with Sloan, armed with his teeth clenched behind his lips.
She hadn't changed much from the last time he saw her two years ago, her looks still miles behind her years, her style of dress still professional and hopelessly predictable. The same battleship gray business suit that he'd grown accustomed to seeing her in. But there was a small difference. Though her skin was still as flushed and soft as ever, the soul of her face was pale and hard. "Why do you look so surprised? I told you I was coming."
Sloan turned away from her toward the seated group. "Everyone this is —"
She touched his shoulder with mock-gentleness as she interrupted the introduction. "Judy Faulkner. A new partner here at Prescott Industries." She extended her hand to Alexis who gracefully shook it. "How do you do? So, why don't we begin?"
Sloan gestured for her to take the empty chair at his right hand side. The two sat in unison, both crossing their legs in an eerily synchronized fashion as Sloan looked back on Hagan. "Actually, Mr. Hagan was in the middle of something." He nodded toward Mr. Hagan. "Continue."
Hagan turned back toward Dan. "As I was saying, the best way to ensure the survival of your father's legacy is to wrap the company in the security of a parent company. And our best offer has come from Prescott Industries. Your personal dislike of this man has blinded you to these facts."
Judy leaned forward to catch Hagan's attention. "Then you are still not at unanimous agreement?"
Hagan raked his dull, graying brown hair with his fingers and smirked as if the answer was obvious. "Mr. Pierce here is letting his personal feelings affect his judgment."
Judy batted her eyelashes in mock-surprise. "Personal feelings? Against Sloan? How surprising." It was clear that only Sloan could feel the bite of obvious sarcasm in her voice because no one stirred or chuckled. "Mr. Pierce, I understand your reservations. I think it's very honorable that you want to preserve your father's legacy. And I am completely aware of Prescott Industry's PR problem of late. I assure you and your partners, Prescott Industries will only have the best of intentions for your company. I have an idea. Why don't we postpone the sign off?"
Sloan suppressed the urge he felt to get up from the table by shaking his head in violent objection. "We've already postponed this deal for quite some time."
Judy smiled subtly with what was probably great satisfaction. The kind of satisfactory grin that Churchill would get when he killed a pigeon in the gigantic oak tree outside his apartment building. "Well, I've done an extensive rundown of the company's agendas for the next month or so and we could use some time to get things in place for this deal. It would make the transition on both sides smoother, and give me enough time to show Mr. Pierce the value of signing over with us."
Dan shook his head nonchalantly. "I appreciate you trying, but I don't think that will be necessary."
"Give me three weeks. Three weeks to convince you that siding with us is in your best interest. That'll give Prescott Industries time to get things in order. If you decide to sign, then great. If not, we can still try to go ahead as planned. But things will be much easier if we have a united front on the part of Pierce Tech. Don't you agree, Sloan?'
Having played the role of Sloan's psychiatrist has definitely given Judy some insight into how to get under Sloan's skin. He immediately recognized this as a power play, similar to the one he told her he made once in his days at Prescott Architecture. Sloan swallowed his frustration and smiled suggestively at her. No sense in giving her too much satisfaction. "If you think you can convince him, and as long as everyone else agrees, I see no reason not to give diplomacy one last try."
Judy turned to the other faces seated around the table. Everyone fell silent. Some shrugged and mumbled aimlessly as if to offer their compliance. "Fine then it's settled."
Alexis stood up confidently and leaned slightly over the table to catch everyone's attention, giving the board members, seated beside her a healthy glance at her cleavage. "Why don't we schedule a meeting for three weeks from today? Either outcome will end in us signing over our shares to meet the percentage that Prescott Industries requires."
Sloan stood back and awed her confidence and authority as everyone seemed nod with compliance, most likely at her breasts which were accentuated by her welcomingly authoritative posture and the suit jacket that tastefully clung tight to her chest. Everyone rose from the table, almost in unison. Sloan stood as Alexis extended her hand. "I guess we'll see you in two weeks. Sorry to have wasted your time."
Sloan smiled as he took her hand. "Nonsense, it's always a pleasure. The closer we are to having this debate resolved, the happier we will all be."
Judy paced over to Sloan's side. He found that her presence made him grind his teeth. "I'm inclined to agree. I assure you before the three weeks are up, we will all be of one mind on this issue." She extended her hand to Alexis, shaking it firmly and casting a glance in Dan's direction. He was standing by the door, having the riot act discreetly read to him by Mr. Hagan. Sloan could tell that Dan wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. "I will call you later this evening to schedule a meeting."
Excerpted from The Cradle Will Fall by Ian Black. Copyright © 2016 Ian Black. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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