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by Richard Whitten Barnes
Description: What happens when a respected scientist loses everything, becomes homeless, then when on the road to recovery - is charged with murder?
eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: March 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [309 KB]
Reading time: 183-256 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Ray Reineke put the phone back in its cradle. He'd pulled it off! The six month delay of the IPO was approved by the rest of the ZMW board, enough time to launch the new product and drive the stock price up. Barely enough, but possible and he was determined to have it happen. He'd get those beaker jockeys off their collective ass and make it happen. The investor group had finished their meeting in New York. Zucco called him with their decision.
He looked at his watch. 3:45--perfect timing. Taking his suit jacket from the office closet, he walked through the adjoining door into Angela Bell's office to find her leaning over a low file drawer.
"Ah, Mrs. Bell--I'm off. You'll lock up?" Reineke was adamant about having the three accesses to his office locked at night.
"Of course." Angela straightened and returned a polite smile.
"Have a nice evening." He continued on out her doorway. Nice looking rear view, he thought. Actually pretty hot, for an older broad.
His Lexus purred as it headed down I-280 toward Cupertino. The radio was full of news on the economy and Reineke shut it off. His mood was too good for that. Entrec's IPO would be spectacular. It had to be for his game plan to succeed.
He'd studied those who'd made it big--really big. All had pretty much the same story. Genius was not the secret. Ray Reineke liked the idea that his initials matched his philosophy for success: Risk--the balls to go for it all and Ruthlessness--the muscle to let nothing, or anyone stop you.
Buying his last company with their own cash, then selling off their holdings piecemeal, had made lots of money for Zucco and his friends and gained their confidence to the point of awarding him with this gig. Now it was his turn. Entrec was just another stepping stone, as far as he cared.
The Lexus turned off the highway and found the Travel Lodge behind Denny's restaurant. Reineke guided the sedan past the office and around to the back, parked at a ground floor unit and exited the car. He pulled a plastic card from his wallet and slid it into the slot.
Fifteen minutes later a white Volvo wagon parked next to the Lexus. Nadine Daniel, dressed in shorts, sandals and sweatshirt, stepped out to tap on the door with her car key.
"Right on time," Reineke said, as he let her in.
"What's to wait for?" she countered.
The door swung shut. He lifted her sweatshirt, she let her shorts fall, all exposing a lack of anything underneath.
"You naughty girl," he tsked.
"Oh! I am, indeed!" She pushed him back onto the bed.
Charles Yang took a sip from his glass of Red Hook ale, continued his recounting the previous day's short meeting with Raymond Reineke. Annie was at the stove working over tonight's stir-fried rice, a glass of white Zinfandel at hand. The boys were playing Super Mario in the den. "So, after not saying ten words to me in the year he's been here, he calls me in and tells me how good I am, suggesting that Ben's not doing his job."
"He said that?" Annie gave him a look.
"Implied. He's not dumb. He caught the fact that I had to write last month's report--late, at that."
Annie added an egg to the mix, scrambling it in. "I'll bet he's going to fire Ben."
Charles stared at his wife. "Never!"
"Don't be naive. Why else would he call you in with nothing else to say but good things about you and hinting bad things about Ben?"
"You think?" It never stopped amazing Charles that his five foot, one hundred pound slip of a wife seemed to always cut through the complexities of a situation and extract the nut of what it all meant. He removed place mats from a drawer and began to set the table.
"Charles, even I've noticed the difference; at the Christmas party and then last month when he was here for dinner. Ben's distracted. It may be work, but it's something else, too. He's miserable. I think he's been lonely since Nancy skated, but this past year..." She went on, "I think he's got an emotional problem of some kind."
"He's brilliant," Charles reminded her.
"It doesn't matter if he is."
"Annie, we need to help him."
Annie Yang's prescience materialized twenty-five days later. On a late June Friday afternoon, Raymond Reineke, obsessed with removing the perceived obstacle to his plans, called Doctor Benjamin Posner into his office.
Angela Bell was clearing her desk and signing off from her computer for the day when Ben poked his head in her door. "What's he want?" he asked.
"No idea, Ben. I think he's in the men's room." She was alarmed by the drawn look of his face, started to ask if he was all right, but then thought better.
"I'll just go on in," he said.
She heard him give Reineke's door a perfunctory tap before pushing it open. A short while later Reineke returned, then unintelligible conversation as the door was closed. She waited, inventing things to pass the time before the door re-opened only minutes later. It closed behind Ben who stood just outside her office staring down the long hallway.
"Ben?" He turned to look, but said nothing. "Ben, what is it?"
"I just got fired."
Benjamin Samuel Posner had no previous training for failure. He was the only child of non-practicing Jews in Salem, Oregon. Straight A's through high school, three years on his high school varsity soccer team and editor of its yearbook had gained him a scholarship to Yale. Graduate school at Stanford brought him back west where he was pursued by the vivacious and popular Nancy Gerstein. What was a boy to do? They were married at the posh Tamarisk Country Club in Rancho Mirage. Nancy's influential father arranged a post doctoral fellowship at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI International). Ben did not disappoint. He quickly began to gain status and prestige as an expert in electrochemistry and was soon offered a plum position on the permanent staff. A successful career was assured. He had excelled in every facet of his life until the demise of his marriage and now this; the loss of his job and place in the world. It was all gone.
To Ray Reineke's credit, he had not prolonged the act. Ben remembered entering the office leaving the door open, surveying the empty office that personified the man; its artless severity, the only adornment being that silly trophy. What was it for? He had walked behind the desk to the credenza lifting it to see the inscription. The plate on the freshly polished, solid brass base was inscribed with:
* * * *
Passaic NJ Jaycee of the Year, 2005
He'd replaced the monstrosity and moved back around to the front of the desk.
It hadn't been more than a few seconds before Reineke returned. He shut the door walking past Ben. Without sitting at his desk, he came to the point; his words still a clear memory.
"Doctor Posner, it's obvious that you and I cannot continue as compatible associates. I am releasing you from your position here, effective immediately. Your contract runs to the end of the year. The company will compensate you through that period. Thank you for the contributions you have made throughout your tenure here, but now it's time to end our association."
Ben remembered saying nothing in reply. He'd turned, exited the office, saying something to Angela Bell and began walking down the long hallway past Pearl the receptionist, who smiled brightly, then out the rear door, not able to feel, except for an empty hole in his chest.
For the first few days Ben felt only an eerie dream-like sensation; out wandering through Home Depot or a supermarket in the middle of the day. It seemed so strange to be doing this--watching housewives shopping, construction workers, journeymen, going here and there in their pickups--a whole daytime world unfamiliar to him. His head was still back in the laboratory, wondering what his people were up to.
"Good Afternoon, Entrec." He heard on his phone one day after abruptly pulling his car to the side of the road.
He recognized the receptionist, Pearl Chandler's voice and supposed she would his, but merely said, "Charles Yang, please."
"Yes... sir," Pearl answered. "One moment."
There was a delay of a matter of only seconds before Ben broke off, breathing rapidly. He couldn't face Charles, even on the phone.
By the end of August the anxiety had evolved into bouts of panic. A feeling so awful, Ben could have no way of describing it to anyone, no matter how he tried, except that it was like a parasite that had invaded his body from his toenails to the roots of his hair. The only succor was alcohol.