Warning: The following story may contain graphic descriptions of sex between consenting adult males. If you are underage or do not wish to read such material, or if reading this sort of material is illegal in your jurisdiction, then read no further. This multipart story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation.
A special acknowledgement to David from the Lakeview area of Chicago and Brad from Denver for providing diligent proofing and editing of the story, to Carey for being a patient teacher, and to Drew for helping to expand my boundaries.
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Part 23, CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER
The offices of Franklin Associates were up and running the next Tuesday, two days before the press conference. There was a natural break in the building floor plan, so our new company's activities didn't interfere with the number crunchers in American Foundry's accounting department. Since we knew we would occupy these offices for only six months, almost no modifications to the spaces had been done.
I had not officially occupied my new workspaces for more than an hour when Bill called and invited me up to his office for an official welcome and a cup of coffee. When I arrived, Bill was in a discussion with George McDonald.
"George, Bill, good to see both of you," I said, walking towards the two men.
"Jerry, this is a big week for you. We both wanted to welcome you," George replied.
"Hi, buddy," Bill added, as we warmly shook hands.
"This is the biggest week in my business life. Thanks again for offering the office space. We'll respect it." I emphasized 'business,' looking at Bill. He knew what I meant.
"It was the least we could do for the job you did. In addition, there's something else we want to do," George said. I slightly raised my eyebrows.
"You've done enough," I replied with a smile.
"Jerry, we want to be your first client at Franklin Associates," Bill said. "Our idea is to take your sales and marketing overview and give it some real teeth."
I stood there and my smile turned to a shit-eating grin. 'Bill, baby,' I thought, 'you've made it Christmas in October. Big bow and all.'
"I want to show positive sales and profit numbers over the next two years. Enough of a trend so that American Foundry will be considered a jewel for an acquisition," George explained. "Sammy's not interested in the company. And, quite candidly, I'm ready to retire. In two years, I'll be 58. At that point, I'd like to work more actively in philanthropy and to enjoy the family." George nodded at Bill when he mentioned the last part.
"George, although this is a surprise, I'm quite honored to accept your offer. I'll make sure that we accomplish your goals." We shook hands again as an informal business seal, discussed the scope of the project and enjoyed the coffee.
Margie Korman informed me that more press had RSVP'ed than originally anticipated. Therefore, she moved the conference to a larger room in the hotel and ordered food for 50. She had the graphics department create a large blue backdrop with our new logo repeating itself in white for the stage. We agreed that the local television stations would treat this as good evening news filler about a new Chicago business.
The conference was a huge success. As Margie had said, all it took was a free buffet at the Four Seasons to guarantee a good turnout. The cameramen for the local channels and the press photographers were happy to be included.
All the associates were decked out in their best, conservative, dark suits and power ties. By design, each associate sat at a separate table with the press for lunch. I was proud of the way each of the guys carefully led the discussion at their assigned group. Especially, Joe. He had a natural, confident, bearing that belied his young 25 years.
"Ladies, Gentlemen, this is a 10 minute alert," Margie said from the podium on the stage at the opposite side of the small ballroom. The stage was surrounded by theater-style seating with platforms behind the chairs for the television cameras and crews. It was 1:50 p.m.
I made a last trip around to each table and thanked all for coming. 'Jeez,' I considered, 'for nine grand, I hope we get the ink and face time on TV.'
Promptly at 2:00 p.m., Margie formally introduced the associates sitting on stage and then turned the conference over to me. Each member of the press had a release.
"Thanks to everyone for spending your valuable time with us this afternoon. Today, I am officially announcing the formation of a new business-consulting firm to be headquartered in Chicago. Admittedly, Franklin Associates is not flashy. But we are not going to be a flashy company. Like the mission when I managed Martin Consultants' Chicago office, our primary mission will be to strengthen the companies who hire us. Hopefully, many Chicago firms. You'll find all the background in the press packet. Before entertaining questions, I would also like to announce that Franklin Associates' first client is American Foundry." There was a small murmur in the room. "Who would like to begin?"
"Jerry, how is this timed with Paul Porter's problems and the merger with your old firm?" I smiled and paused for a moment, pleased that this subject could be dealt with first so we could move on.
"I decided when the merger was first discussed that it was time for me to go on with a new company that is now Franklin Associates. This has been in the planning process for the past two months. As far as Mr. Porter is concerned, I hardly know him. I'll let the criminal courts decide his fate. Franklin Associates' focus will be to provide the best consulting services required." 'That should provide a good sound bite,' I judged.
"Mike Moore, CBS2. We're all familiar with the personal drama that Bill Saunders of American Foundry and you experienced this summer while rooting out and exposing the criminal misdeeds within that company. Is the new relationship payback for what you accomplished?" More sound bite time.
Looking at the audience, I answered, "Mr. McDonald and Mr. Saunders identified other areas of American Foundry where they thought an independent overview was needed to further strengthen their competitiveness. You'll have to address their motives with them." I smiled and nodded to Mike.
The rest of the conference, ending at three, dealt with the goals of Franklin Associates. Margie had reserved a hotel suite for individual interviews with the business writers. Starting at 4:00 p.m., I participated in half-hour interviews with writers from the two dailies, and Crain's Business News. By 6:00 p.m., I was out of there to meet Bill at P.J. Clarke's for a burger and a beer.
The press conference garnered great exposure. We were the featured story in the morning business sections. As expected, a slow news day gave us good exposure on all the local TV stations as well as national cable on their business roundups. Fox News cable channel was especially generous with Neil Cavuto giving us four minutes. Jim Cramer favorably 'broo-ha'd us on his CNBC rant.
I observed Yom Kippur back on Astor Street by myself Friday night. I purposely had a hearty lunch and fasted in accordance with the old Jewish laws. I used Friday night and Saturday day to reflect on this past year and atone in my own way. This personal reflection had a calming, cleansing effect on my psyche.
At Synagogue, for the concluding Yom Kippur Neilah services Saturday evening with my family, several friends and acquaintances wished me well. I accepted their kind words and thoughts before returning to the city and Bill. Coulter shot me an envious glance as I departed early for 2800 and Bill's homemade dinner.
"Hey, bud," I said, walking into the condo. Our home.
"Follow your nose and you'll find me," Bill replied. I smelled the combination of bread baking and rich garlicky tomato sauce aromas emanating from the kitchen.
"Someone's been busy cooking," I said, coming over for a kiss. "After fasting, Bill, I am fucking hungry."
"Well, it's Italian night at the Franklin-Saunders house. Go over to the couch and nibble from the anti pasta platter. I'll bring over the wine after I start the water for the linguini. How were the services?"
"Predictable. It's the most serious evening of the year. Lots of standing and solemnity. I feel better for attending and observing the day in my own way. The salami and peppers are what the doctor ordered, Bill," I commented, taking the first bites of food in 26 hours. I was spearing a few pieces of jalapeno-spiked jack cheese, as Bill came over with two wine glasses and a bottle of Antinori Chianti Classico. He immediately poured each glass a third full.
"Here's a toast to us, Jerry. Our new home and your new business." We both raised the glasses and looked deeply into each other's eyes.
"To our new home. Bill, I like the sound of that." We both drank and approved of the wine afterwards.
"I've got a surprise for you. Come over while I drop the pasta in the water." I followed him back to the kitchen area, while he put the linguini into boiling, salted water and checked on the lowly simmering sauce. "Follow me."
We walked back through the darkened living room into the low-lit hallway leading to the guest bedroom and my office space. "Da, da, dah," Bill trumpeted, as we stopped by the door to my office. He switched on the lights and stood back.
"Oh, wow. It's all set up. This is great,' I exclaimed, pulling Bill into me. Looking into the room, I happily observed that all the furniture was in place, as well as the computer, printer and plasma screen TV on the wall surrounded by bookshelves.
"You like?" he said, nibbling at my earlobe.
"Love it, babe." I turned and gave Bill a firm peck on the lips.
"The designer called me Wednesday and said everything was ready to be installed. I took off Friday afternoon to meet the workers and delivery guys. I figured it was the least I could do while you starved yourself for God. You like?"
"Bill, this is just what I wanted. I really feel that this condo is our space." Bill had his office space in a large alcove of the master bedroom.
"This place is ours. Listen, I gotta get back to the kitchen to strain the pasta."
"I'll come back with you and help with dinner. But, I'm returning later to break in the office."
"After that, Jerry, you can break me in."
"Oh, I plan on that. My dick has been fasting, too," I said, goosing his gorgeous buns as we walked back in for the Sicilian feast.
The next weekend I officially moved everything of a personal nature over to the new digs and gave Coulter the keys to Astor Street. He and his fiancée, Judy, would move in the following week. The only space I reserved for storage was the walk-in closet in the small master bedroom. Several items and excess clothing that couldn't be fitted into 2800 went into the walk-in. There was a smaller closet available for visitors.
By the first full week of October, the office at Franklin Associates was humming with activity. Joe was assigned to the American Foundry project, leaving the other two partners and myself to mine for gold. Alice and the remaining two associates busily followed up on the old Martin account list by calling the contacts. Several executives on the list called me personally, offered congratulations and asked about prospects of working with their firms in the future.
Two contacts produced results beyond my most optimistic projections. Tuesday, I had lunch at the Union League Club with a Senior Vice President of Chicago's largest bank, Illinois Continental. Wednesday, I met the president of Allied Aircraft for breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton. Allied was America's sole manufacturer of passenger aircraft and had recently moved to Chicago. In both cases, a proposal would be drawn, with a firm bid. However, they both candidly said we were the only consulting company that had been considered. 'So much for McKenney getting out of their mess soon,' I thought.
Back in the office, I immediately called the three partners into the conference room.
"Guys, much to my surprise and delight, we have just landed two whales," I said, watching for reaction to this Las Vegas term that we had used at Martin.
"Jerry, just how large are they?" Joe asked.
"This is something that would have been cheered in New York when we were Martin. I've got a 99% commitment from both Illinois Continental and Allied Aircraft for full services."
"Wow, that is good news," said Bradley Robinson. Bradley, along with Chris Harrelson and Joe, were my partners. Bradley was also a member of the 'tribe.' Chris, his wife and two teenagers lived in the 'burbs. Bradley lived in Lakeview and was still looking for a lover.
"Good news, bad news. With the demands of American Foundry, these two additional accounts will strain us. Guys, I don't want to be greedy and turn out shitty work."
"I say we look at some of our former colleagues at McKenney," Joe suggested. "I've been talking to a few of the guys after work at the East Bank Club. They are not happy. McKenney's clients are bailing and they're are not sure how long they'll be around."
"Let's talk about this. Chris, you're a good numbers man. These new accounts should be worth 500K each. And, without dancing on McKenney's grave, I think that we should be able to land two more accounts like these by the end of the year. Do you think we can afford two more senior associates and two juniors?" I really wanted consensus from my new partners on any decision of this much impact.
"Jerry, you think our original projections for calendar year 2005 are too conservative? I mean if this pace continues into 2005, we're talking about major growth."
"Guys, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine the McKenney organization falling to pieces. Now, I'm not going to be one with his head in the sand. They'll get their shit together eventually. But we're on a roll. So, Chris, to answer your question: yes, I think we can bring in a big account once a month. In addition, there will be small, filler contracts we can handle."
"If that's the case, I say let's go for it. Joe, who do you have in mind?" Chris asked.
"We need someone with CPA background like you, Chris. And a sharp HR consultant," Joe said. He named the two candidates and the two other junior partners approved.
"They would certainly get my vote," said Bradley. Who should approach them?"
"I'll contact them tomorrow and feel them both out. If they are interested, we need to meet somewhere that we won't be seen. How about your new place at 2800, Jerry?" Joe asked. I smiled at him to signal I was not upset about being set up to be the host.
"Looks like I'm having a housewarming party early," I replied with a laugh. If all goes well, let's get together at Bill's and my place Wednesday evening. I'd say earlier, but we've got houseguests in for Columbus Day weekend." I didn't add that it was Ben and Megan Martin. "Say cocktails at seven and dinner a half hour later?
"I hope they're interested. In the meantime, I'll draw up some new business projections for 2005 and some salary guidelines we can afford," Chris offered.
"Good thinking. Joe, I need you to help me draft the two proposals so Alice can develop them. I want signatures by next week."
"You got it, partner." Joe replied with a smile.
"Listen, why don't we go out and celebrate with a few after work?" I asked.
"Jerry, I'd love to, but I've got PTA with the kids tonight," Chris said.
"Well, if that's the case, how about the queer contingent hitting Roscoe's? You might get lucky, Bradley," I said with a laugh. Chris was very supportive about our orientation and gave us a thumb up.
"I'm in. Sammy's studying for a big exam. Bradley?" Joe replied.
"Yeah. As Jerry said, I might get lucky. Maybe I can use you, Joe, as a sex magnet to draw in a few hotties for me?" Bradley answered with a laugh.
"This is getting too X-rated for me," Chris replied. I'm going back to my desk before you guys try to convert me." Everyone slapped Chris on the back and laughed with him.
"Then, we're on. Bill's entertaining clients visiting from Japan, so I'm a widow for the evening. Why don't we start at Roscoe's for a few around seven and then grab a bite at Las Mananitas?"
"Just so I'm home in time to tuck in my student roomie," Joe replied with a wink.
"You'll get home before curfew," I said with a laugh. "And I don't want to know how you tuck in Sammy."
I drove out to O'Hare to pick up Ben and Megan Friday afternoon from the 1:10 American Airlines shuttle from La Guardia. Because of the parking nightmare, even in early afternoon, they agreed that I would meet them curbside at the lower level. They would have major baggage due to the various activities planned. On the third pass-by, I spotted my house guests.
After pulling over to the curb and popping open the back door, I got out of the TrailBlazer and greeted Megan and Bill with hugs. "We'd better get the luggage loaded before the traffic control guys start blowing their whistles," I suggested. "Megan, you get in the car while Ben and I get your stuff."
"Jerry, it's great to get out of town and see you," Ben said, as we closed the back door.
"Great to see you two. Ben, why don't you get in the back seat and spread out. We'll all be more comfortable that way."
"Right," Ben said. With everyone strapped in, I eased into the departing traffic and gradually blended onto the Kennedy Expressway back to Chicago.
"I'm glad you could get away from the office today and take an early flight. This expressway will become a moving parking lot in a couple of hours."
"Jerry, fortunately, I don't report to anyone in the office. I've busy nurturing the accounts I brought over from the old office."
"Megan, I think you'll enjoy tonight. The Goodman is presenting Mamet's "American Buffalo." It's an old nugget, but with a brilliant local cast," I said.
"That's sounds terrific. Neither Ben or I have been in the new theater building. I look forward to it," she replied cheerfully.
"Then, tomorrow night we're listening to the CSO with Daniel Barenboim conducting Mahler's Second."
"Jerry, this is a lot of culture to squeeze in for a weekend," Ben said with good humor from the back seat.
"I figure you guys from New York need it," I replied with a laugh. "But, we'll wolf down some Belgium waffles at the pancake house for variety. Then, Mom and Dad can't wait for all of us to come up to their place for a cookout Sunday afternoon. Most important of all, you'll get to know Bill Saunders. He's great, and I'm a lucky man."
"Anyone who has you so cranked up must be special, buddy. Megan and I look forward to meeting him. And you gotta tell me all about the new company."
"Ben, I don't want to get into business now. Maybe tomorrow morning, Bill and Megan can do something...perhaps check out the Michigan Avenue shops so you and I can talk?"
"I'd like that, Jerry. You okay with a little diversion with Bill?" Ben asked his wife.
"That sounds fun. I'm sure Bill and I will get on famously," Megan said with a smile.
"By the way, Bill and I are living together in a condo just north of Lincoln Park. I wanted to try high-rise living for a change. You'll love it."
What happened to your coach house? Did you sell it?" asked Ben.
"Naw. It's a good investment. Coulter and his fiancée are going to live there while he finishes his residency. It's a good location for both of them, and the folks can still use it when they want to stay in town."
Polite banter continued the rest of the way home. Bill had taken off early and met us at the condo. As expected, the Martins loved Bill and vice versa. And Megan was impressed by our home and the dynamite views of the lake and cityscape.
The plan was to rest, get dressed and re-group in the living room for cocktails at 6:00 p.m., before dinner featuring roast chicken and fall root vegetables. Then, we'd be off the play at the Goodman. Without a flaw, the plan was executed. I was proud of Bill and his hosting capacity.
Back at the condo, we arranged to regroup in the morning at nine. in the kitchen for coffee, muffins and fruit. After Megan and Ben retired, Bill and I turned off the lights and moved into the master bedroom.
"Jerry, those are great friends to have. They completely opened up to me. I feel like I've known them forever." We both started undressing without any fanfare, slipping off our shoes first.
"They are sensational. Ben and I always knew where to draw the line between business and friendship. You okay showing Megan around the Michigan Avenue shops tomorrow, so he and I can discuss business?" I asked Bill with a sincere look.
"No. I'm aware that you need some quality time to talk to him. Would it be nosy to ask what you're planning?" We both hung up our jackets and pants in our respective closets and tossed the shirts in the hamper.
"Not at all. I trust you, babe. Basically, I'm going to approach Ben about joining me in a partnership to branch out Franklin Associates in New York." Almost by rote, off came our tees and socks.
"What do you think his reaction will be?" Bill asked with restrained curiosity.
"Basically, it'll be finding a comfort level for him to work under my name. I'm not sure if he'll go for it." We both went into the bathroom and grabbed our toothbrushes.
"On the other hand, Jerry, he's not too happy with his role at McKenney. You said he has eleven months left on his obligation?"
"Yeah, nothing we can do about it right now. However, there is something I would like after we brush." I winked, as I brought my toothbrush to my lips.
"I'm thinking of something in my mouth, and I don't mean a toothbrush," Bill said before brushing. He winked at me in the mirror.
We reached our respective sides of the bed and slid in. I turned off the light and snuggled up to Bill's chest and started pulling at his chest hairs with my lips before moving over to his nipples.
"Oh, babe, I never get tired of you. You know just where all my zones are. Ohhh," Bill lowly moaned, as I slowly suckled on his tit. He reached down and slowly rolled my balls around their sac tenderly.
"I love you. You're my hero, Bill," I whispered in his ear, as I started tonguing and chewing his lobe.
"You're the best thing that has happened to me. I live for you, Jerry." He turned slightly and brought his lips to mine. As we kissed, I moved around so our hard cocks were pressed side by side, each starting to drip profusely. Bill reached down, as we were tongue dueling, and started jacking our pre-cum slicked dicks as one.
"I live for you, too. And for this." I rotated my body so that each had a hard cock poking us in the face. I took his hard member and twirled my tongue around his glans and piss slit as it entered my mouth. I felt him expertly mimicking my actions.
"Ummm," I heard from his cock-filled mouth along with the slurping sounds and deep breath from both of us. His humming while my dick was enveloped was giving me quite an erotic high. We simultaneously were fucking each other's oral orifice. Within moments, I felt the initial spark of an orgasm building. I could feel Bill's dick become harder as his balls almost disappeared behind a tightened scrotum.
"Urrgh," I uttered, as I shot the first of several loads.
"Ohhh," Bill replied as his hot seed entered my throat. I pulled away a bit so that the remainder of his cum flooded my mouth. I felt him do the same. Moving back, face to face, we eagerly traded each other's cum and spit until we swallowed the final tastes.
"Thanks, mate. That was wonderful," I said, moving my head onto his chest after pulling up the covers.
"Anytime, love. Anytime."
Saturday, after a leisurely breakfast combined with a morning read of the Trib and the New York Times and casual conversation, Megan and Bill changed into street wear and departed for a shopping expedition on Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. Ben and I were still in jeans and polo shirts sitting around the dining table.
"I've thought about this moment, Ben, ever since Porter told me I didn't fit into the merger plans." He was thoughtfully studying me as he took a sip of coffee. "I missed not discussing all this crap with you in person."
"Yeah, that shit really upset the applecart. But, as they say, it's water...ya da, ya da, ya da."
Pulling a file from my briefcase sitting on the table, I gave it to Ben and said, "I know you'll respect the confidentiality of these projections. I had the guys pull the numbers together based on revising our business plan. Take a look."
He reviewed the first two pages and looked up at me with a surprised expression. "Jerry," he said, "these are very impressive. You really believe you'll achieve these numbers?"
"Look at what we've accomplished in a month. We're on a roll. By this time next year, McKenney will be looking at our rear end in Chicago. Just like they did with the old company."
"Jerry, I should tell you a conversation I had this past week in New York with Mr. McKenney. He asked me to come out here and run the Chicago office." Ben studied me for reaction. "I wanted to wait until we were eyeball to eyeball before I said anything."
"Are you telling me that...?"
"I'm telling you that I refused the offer. First, I'm a New Yorker, and that's where my family is located. Second, I didn't want to go up against you. This is definitely your turf and I value your friendship too much."
"Thanks, Ben. I appreciate that. So what did he say?"
"Basically, that it was best for everyone if I departed. Yesterday, McKenney paid me for the balance of the contract. But I can't work for any competing firm until next fall. This happened so fast, I wanted to wait and tell you in person when we were alone." Ben had that same look as he had in school when he wanted to share an intimate secret with me.
"Wow. I am taken back. Um, maybe we can do some planning, then?" 'Timing is everything,' I thought. 'Might as well as cast out the hook and bait.'
"I'm free to listen. Something tells me you've got a deal up your sleeve?" he asked with a curious grin.
"Franklin Associates is going to have national presence, and I'd like you to consider some ideas I've been working on."
"Sounds like I'm about to be exposed to a little role reversal?"
"Only the moniker. I want you to be a partner in the Franklin Associates - New York operation. I'll cut to the chase. For the new corporation, I propose that we divide the shares in thirds. You and I will each have 33%. The remaining third will be divided among the three junior Chicago partners and three people we select to be the junior partners for your operation."
"Shit, Jerry, you don't mess around. You've really thought this out."
"Everything except one thing. Will my friend and old boss feel comfortable working with a company name not his own?"
"Okay, truth time. I think a month ago there would have been a problem. Now, to be in the new company and see the turmoil that McKenney is going through while your star seems to be shining brighter than ever, I wouldn't have a problem at all. In fact, I'd be happy to be associated with you again."
"How about the junior partnership arrangements?" I asked quietly.
"You're taking care of your partners. I see that. And it gives me wiggle room to reward the partners I choose. Everyone wins. I think that I can live with this...very well. You get the legal work drawn up, and I'll review it. If everything passes my lawyer, Jerry, we've got a deal." We both stood and firmly shook hands and embraced in a hug.
"What do you think about going over to the East Bank Club and work off a little of last night's dinner? Between tonight and the cookout tomorrow with the folks, a little calorie burn-off might be in order?"
"I'll grab my things from the bedroom. Give me five minutes...partner." We both grinned.
Sammy and I had fun over the long weekend with our families. My folks joined the McDonalds for a final trip to the lake. We all joked that Dad McDonald only wanted us for cheap labor to help close the house for the season.
I got to work a little tired because of returning late last night at the end of the holiday. Jerry had called a meeting for the partners at noon today. A working lunch with a deli spread catered by the American Foundry cafeteria kitchen. I just managed to return my phone calls before going to the conference room.
"Hey, Joe, get some lunch and a drink," Jerry said, gesturing to the food on the sideboard.
"Thanks, Jerry. Hi guys," I said to Chris and Bradley. They were at the table and were waiting for Jerry and me to join them.
"What's the occasion? I asked, filling my plate with cold cuts, cheese and various cold salads. "Did we land another whale?" I followed Jerry to the table and we sat down.
"Naw. Partner stuff. Good stuff, I think. How was everyone's weekend?" Jerry asked in general. One by one, we gave abbreviated versions of our activities in between eating the food. The conversation ended around the table to Jerry.
"I invited Megan and Ben Martin to spend the weekend. They haven't had a chance to get out here for a long time. Mom and Dad really enjoyed seeing them again. Between theater and the CSO, he and I had a very long talk. The long and short of it is I asked him to join us as a the senior partner of a New York operation to be launched next year."
Chris looked a little weary and troubled as he asked, "Ah, Jerry, does this mean that Bradley, Joe and I won't be involved?" All eyes looked at Jerry, intently.
"First, guys, let me apologize for not discussing this beforehand with you. This is something that I had to tread about very cautiously. You guys will be involved, Chris. Absolutely."
'Hmm,' I considered. 'Jerry did tell us that we would all have a smaller piece of the pie if we expanded, when he offered us partnerships.'
"Let's hear what Jerry is proposing," Bradley injected.
"Thanks," Jerry said with a reassuring smile. "Here is what I hope will become the prototype of how we develop expansion in the future. Basically, I want to offer Ben a third of the New York partnership. I'll have an equal stake. He will identify three partners and offer each a 5% share. The three other 5%-plus-change shares will be yours. It would be my plan to do the same thing when we move on to L.A., Texas and internationally."
"Sounds like we've got a chance to become pretty rich dudes," I observed with a smile. The other two nodded affirmatively.
"Very rich, if we work hard. If everything goes well, our New York office will bring in at least twice the revenue that we will here. It's just a matter of economics and size," Jerry answered.
"I feel good about this, Jerry. It was all a big surprise. That's all," Chris said. "Sounds like I can plan on a few more kids." Chris grinned sheepishly.
"I'm the only single guy here. Guess I'd better start looking harder for a significant other," added Bradley. "Seriously, Jerry, I've always felt comfortable with you at the helm. I have no doubt you're looking out for all of our best interests."
"Well, Bradley, I'm looking for your best personal interests," I said with a smile. "Sammy has met this hot, young professor at Loyola, and he wants to fix you two up on a date. Maybe we could all get together for dinner soon at my place?"
"Sammy has excellent taste in men," he retorted with a wink. "That sounds like fun."
"Okay, guys," Jerry said. "This isn't the Franklin mating service. And we don't want to give our straight partner any of our trade secrets." We all laughed.
"Not even the secret handshake?" Chris asked with a grin. "Seriously, Jerry, what's the timetable for the new office?"
"Guys, Ben is tied to a no-compete contract 'til next fall. However, I propose we have everything lined up by late summer next year. Sometime in the spring, we will all go to New York for a long weekend. Take the spouses and significant others. By that time, Ben will know whom he wants as the three New York partners. However, I will want each of you to interview the candidates. Knowing Ben, I'm sure they will all be ex-Martin executives. You guys must be comfortable with anyone we bring into the organization. We are a team that will be together for a long time. Questions?
"Just one," Bradley said, turning to me. "Let's set up the date with the professor soon, Joe. I want to make sure I've got someone to take to New York next year."
"Buddy," I said, "That's a plan."
Jerry stood and said, "Okay, guys. Let's get back to work. This is going to be a busy 12 months. I'm really proud of what's happened to all of us."
This ends my story of Jerry Franklin: his personal challenges, a cadre of friends and the intense corporate adventures in the Windy City. To the readers who have offered support throughout this series; a big thanks! Your notes are the fuel that generates a writer's enthusiasm for the project. When you read a story that interests you, pass on a word of encouragement to the author. We all appreciate it.
Here is a link to a list of another site's top Nifty stories: http://best-of-nifty.org/.
I hope that you will find a few stories that excite you in this compilation. Evan Bradley's "Ambush", David Buffet's "Alpha Male", and Don Hanrady's "Working It Out" come to mind.