In February, 2001 Gordie is asked by his sister Dani to see if he can help a friend of hers from university, Marcella Barrington, find a new job around the View Port / Carmel area. Her parents aren't well and she'd like to move closer to them in View Port. She's a well-regarded business manager with an MBA and a good work record in Berana, the capital city. But there's not much demand for MBAs outside of the capital. He passes her resume around all the businesses, but no one needs anyone of her qualifications.
His plans require him to hire a business manager, he'd been thinking of a less qualified person, but is happy to hire her if she'll take the job. Right now he only needs an office manager. But if she's prepared to start as the manager of the first office he'll hire her because it will have her in place and handy when the business expands enough to use all her skills. She can then hire a replacement office manager when she takes over as the corporate manager. He arranges an interview with her. The interview is arranged for a Saturday morning. He sends a vehicle with driver to collect her from her current work place on the Friday afternoon, and the driver will return her to her home on Sunday night. She'll have the rest of the weekend visiting with her parents. He also pays her for Saturday morning.
Before the interview he sends her his draft business plan, the results of a market survey, and comparisons with similar operations in other countries. She has two weeks to study them before the interview. All the contacts have been by mail or phone calls through Dani. Neither wants her current boss to know she's looking about, so they don't want any new or strange contacts going through her work office. She and Dani regularly speak on the phone, so her calls aren't suspicious.
Marcella is very impressed with the draft business plan. Gordie had hired a good firm to conduct the market survey so its results are easy to verify, so are the comparisons with other businesses. The draft plan is obviously done by someone not used to doing them, but it's very well thought out and put together. There's little she can do to improve on it, but she can fine tune it a bit and present it better. The only concern is the initial growth figures, because they seem very excessive at first, but they're well backed up in the attached details.
The pay being offered is a little above what she currently gets and much more than what's required for what she'll be doing for the first few years. She can tell the man behind the project, Gordon Mannheim, is planning for the long term and intends for her to expand the job with the business. She also recognises part of the extra salary is for taking the risks with this new venture. He's an unknown entering what's a wide open field of business in this country with no local evidence the business will do well. A lot of risks; but, in her estimate, low risks. She, like Mr Mannheim, expects the business to flourish, because they both see a large demand for the service. All she knows about her prospective new boss is he's Dani's brother and Dani thinks highly of him. She's just made him her heir. Dani also says he's almost qualified as a doctor.
The interview is for late July, just after Gordon passes the Manhood Rites. He's legally an adult and now able to enter into binding contracts.
Marcella arrives at the Clan Residence at 9:00 a.m. and is shown into one of the official clan offices for the interview. Gordon has hired it for the morning. He's making every effort to keep the clan distanced from his private ventures. He knows his father and grandfather, this is his venture and he wants full control. He doesn't want their help at all.
She's very surprised to be greeted by a young boy. He leads her to the discussion corner with lounge chairs and offers her refreshments. She accepts a cup of hot chocolate and a selection of very delicious biscuits. She doesn't know it, but Gordie spent a few hours cooking them last night. He went to great pains to get them right. They're three of his clan's most ancient recipes, but difficult ones to get right. He spent the last week making trial batches, to the great enjoyment of the other members of the residence, because they took much delight in disposing of the trial batches he made. The failures were delicious, and enjoyed by people of all ages. Some even turned up being eaten by well-liked dignitaries at Highcliff while they visited the King.
After a few minutes of small talk to allow her time to get settled, Gordie asks, "First, are the employment terms acceptable?" She nods, because they're perfect and better than she'd hoped to get moving out this way. "No doubt you've some ideas about improving the business plan. I know, from your letters, you're happy with the content and it shows everything is well supported. I'll leave the final presentation formatting up to you, because you're much more experienced at that than I am." She smiles her agreement. "The big issue is going to be the approach to the banks. Neither of us has a business track record and the only two financial organisations I've an inside track with aren't acceptable for that very reason." She nods, she's beginning to like this young man, because he's thought through and anticipated most of her comments. He places some papers on the table beside them, "Here's the legal evidence proving I'm able to enter into valid contracts as a legal adult. I'm sure you'll want to check them. Anything else you wish to discuss that I haven't anticipated?"
Munching another delicious biscuit she picks up and examines the paperwork. Nodding when she puts it back down. She looks at him, "I'm surprised you're so young. But it's clear you know what you're about. Much more so than some people four times your age. It's going to be hard to convince the banks to take you seriously. The biggest problem is going to be to get them to accept the growth figures, two hundred and fifty percent per annum is big."
He nods, and pulls out some folders and discs. He hands them over, "Here's some plans with amended growth figures. Amended down. Choose which you think they're most likely to accept."
She nods, "I think one hundred percent per annum growth for the first five years will be best. Now I've met you I want time to think over the job offer. If I accept the contract will do perfectly as is. What worries me is: I have to burn my bridges to accept this. If it doesn't float I'm dead in the water! I feel it'll work, if we can get the senior funding. My concern is that financing." He nods. "In either case, I'll work on this over the weekend and prepare a final business plan. I'll give you an answer by Monday lunchtime."
Standing up, they shake hands and she leaves, taking the new drafts with her. He also gives her the remaining cookies to take with her.
Returning home she gives the cookies to her mother. After lunch they sit down to have coffee and cookies. Tasting the first one, Mrs Barrington asks, "Marcella, where did you get these cookies?"
"Left overs from my job interview this morning. My prospective boss told me to take them. Why, is there something wrong with them?"
Her mother says, "No, nothing wrong. I'd love it if you can get hold of the recipe for these for me. I haven't tasted these cookies for many years. I know they happen to be a closely kept clan secret. They're only made for special occasions, and then the rules are only their maker can offer them to you to take away."
Marcella sits up, "What's that, mother? The person who offers them to you to take away has to have made them?" Her mother nods. "But he's only a boy, about nine or ten years old!"
Her father sits up, saying, "A ten year old boy's offering you a job?" She nods. He gives his wife a serious look, stands, walks over, and helps himself to a cookie. Eating it he gives a big smile, and sits down, while saying "If he can organise a business as well as he can make these cookies, I'd take the job."
She laughs, "Yes, he can! His draft business plan is almost perfect for presentation. Much better than ones I've seen done by business executives four times his age. But this is really a case of 'all the eggs in one basket' and in a 'sink or swim' situation. I have to quit my job to take a run at this. If we don't get the senior financing we're dead."
Her mother looks up, "You think about it and do what you think is best. But this boy is not your average boy, not if he can cook these biscuits this well. They're a very difficult recipe; that, I know."
Marcella is very worried about this. It's a once in a lifetime chance, but the financing is very risky. She decides to speak to Dani-girl; after all, she must know her brother well because she's made him her heir.
Getting Dani on the phone, she says, "Dani, I've a job offer from your brother, Gordie. It's a very good offer. But I'm worried if we can get the business off the ground. Getting the initial loan is the only real problem. Neither of us has a good enough track record to get a half million dollar loan."
In a serious voice, Dani replies, "Cell, please accept I've a very clear understanding of Gordie's strengths and weaknesses. Any comments I make aren't tinged by any bias, despite, like my sisters, having an almost mystical belief in him being able to do anything he puts his mind to doing. Everything he's set his mind to do, he's done. If an obstruction occurs it may delay him; but he'll find a way around it, over it, or through it. He's the classical irresistible force. There are things I could tell you, but I'm not allowed to." She takes a deep breath, "This job may be risky to start with, it may be hard work, but it'll work and be profitable. Gordie has never failed at anything. He's nine, nearly ten, years old and just about to qualify as a medical doctor. He's worked his way through all the medical technician levels and is finishing the doctor crossover course. Many older people doing the same courses are well behind him or dropped out. You work out the risks for yourself. But if it were me I'd take the job. Sure, it may be lean for a while, but it'll pay off. He's not your average boy his age, he's a certified high genius, take that into account."
She thanks Dani for her input. Marcella grew up in View Port, but never met or heard about Gordie, except through Dani, and she doesn't know him at all. That afternoon she looks up some old school friends who stayed around. All have heard of him and most have something good to say about him.
One friend whose husband is in the construction industry, says, "Marcella, I don't know if it's true. But the gossip is young Gordie was responsible for organising the construction of the Happy Reunion Hospital in Kotel. The story is he convinced some people to donate the sixty-eight million dollars to build the hospital. I've not been able to confirm that, but all the money came from private donations. It wasn't on any government or Tribal Council construction project lists. Yet it just popped up and needed to be done very quick; and by local workers only, to keep the money in the region. Gordie was part of the official opening by the Queen. She, and several of those who know where the money came from, smiled at him whenever they talked of the huge efforts of people in raising the funds and making the hospital possible." They both wonder about the implications of this, and can't think of any other reason for him to be at the ceremony if he wasn't involved.
Another friend gives her some gossip about him saving several girls from a wild animal attack some years ago.
Mid-morning Sunday she's in the town square when she sees him leading a young girl about seven into the playground. She has a vacant look on her face, but smiles when the playground equipment comes into focus for her. Gordie stops to kneel in front of her and talk to her in a serious manner, she nods. Smiling, she enters the playground. He stands at the gate, watching. There's a lot of children in the playground, and two adults from the orphanage across the road are there as well.
A short time later a young girl falls over near him. He's quick to help her up and brushes her off. Examining her skinned knee he pulls out a first aid kit and treats her knee. One of the orphanage adults watches from across the way, she smiles at them. With a smile, the girl goes back to playing.
Marcella walks over and talks to him, they chat about minor matters for some time. She asks him, "Gordie, are you rich?"
He looks up, "Not yet, but I will be after you help make me rich." She laughs. He adds, "At the moment I've about eighty thousand dollars in the bank. Rewards from some bank robbers I stopped in Carmel some years back." She stares at him, "I taught some bank robbers with guns little boys with knives are just as dangerous as security guards with guns. One fellow found out you can't draw a pistol while your hand is pinned to your coat by a finger knife. And another learnt how hard it is to stand with finger knives in both your thighs. None thought a kid could be a problem to them, how wrong they were!"
As Dani said, he's no ordinary boy.
The girl he brought to the playground approaches with the two four year old girls she'd been playing with. She slowly asks, "Gor-dee, can weee have some ice-cream, pleease?" The two younger girls give him hopeful looks.
He looks over at the supervisor from the orphanage, and motions his head at the ice-cream parlour. She nods. He squats down to say, "Yes, you may, come along. Care to join us, Marcella?" She agrees to.
They walk over to the road. He stops and stares straight ahead. The girl carefully looks both ways and tugs on his hand. It's safe to go so he leads them across the road. Inside he has them all sit down and order ice-creams to eat-in. Leaving them at the table he walks back outside. He stands there looking at the playground with his arm held up. One by one the children stop what they're doing and watch him. He waits until the only car moving in the square has left. His hand makes a fast circle above his head and points at the parlour.
The children give a joyous shout and race for the parlour. The two orphanage supervisors are holding the gate open. A tidal wave of children surges across the road and into the parlour. Gordie follows the last one in and rings the bell beside the door twice. The children start ordering ice-creams, and the staff are very busy supplying the orders.
Marcella knows Gordie has just agreed to buy ice-creams for all in the store from either of the first two lists. That's what ringing the bell means. He sits down at their table just when the owner sets down their orders. Gordie hands him a credit card, he smiles and accepts it. After all the children have been served he brings over an itemised list and credit slip for signature. Gordie signs it and puts his card away. It all has an air of 'been here and done that before.'
When they're leaving, Marcella says, "Gordie, I'm very concerned about getting the money to make this work. I've one more question. How committed are you to getting this project operational?"
He smiles at her, "Totally, I intend to get this up and running, one way or another. I want this more than the medical degree which I've wanted for some years, and I've nearly finished it."
She gives a slow nod. She thinks over how committed he must be and how that will pay off in the long run. The sort of commitment that puts a ten year old boy through the training to become a doctor is very heavy and he's applying the same commitment to this. She says, "I'll drop the signed contract around this afternoon, can you have my copy countersigned and given to the driver when he collects me?" He nods while they shake hands on the deal.
Four weeks later Marcella has finished work in Berana and moved to View Port. For the moment she's living with her parents. Over the last ten days she's visited all eight of the major banks in Berant and two locally represented international banks. They've all spoken well of the business plan, but have concerns about loaning half a million dollars to two greenhorns in their first major operation. Things are looking very bad. No money, no business. The banks don't know exactly who Mr G. Mannheim is, beyond the fact he doesn't appear in any of the lists of business executives or rich people living in Berant.
She's having lunch with Gordie in the Landing's Field Restaurant in Carmel. She's always wanted to eat here, but could never afford it. This is Gordie's shout. Interestingly, all the staff seem to know him and treat him with special care. She gives him an odd look when the manager leaves them after checking he's happy.
Laughing, he says, "Yes, I get special service here. But it's a case of who you know. All the staff here served with the Third Claymore and many were medically retired after the battle at Marley's Landing. Thus the decor. Their commander that day was colonel, later general, Gerald Mannheim, my father." She laughs, well that explains the staff's special interest in her boss.
She says, "What do we do now, Boss? None of the banks think the business is worth investing in!"
He laughs, "Oh, I wouldn't say that. Each of the banks promised complete discretion in examining our business plan. Two are currently under investigation for breach of trust and conspiracy to commit fraud. Close associates of the two banks' senior management have lodged paperwork for the licences etc. needed to set up the very business we want to set up. When the Corporations Commission investigators asked for their business plans they were given copies of ours with only the corporate names changed to new ones. It'll take several months for the investigations to finish, but we should get some hefty compensation when they're done." She stares at him in shock. She knows this sort of thing sometimes happens, but how does he know, and so fast? "I've a cousin in the department they have to go through to get the licences. I already have the licences and exclusive rights on them for two years. So the new applications immediately came unstuck when they applied. We beat them to the critical punch and the Corporations Commission have a copy of our business plan because I lodged it with them the same day we signed it." She laughs, because the people wanting to cut them out just got shot down by their own greed due to Gordie being a step ahead of them. He used his own money to buy the licences and they thought the two needed to wait and get a loan to do it. Oh, how nice!
She says, "That's well and good. But where do we go from here?"
He taps the duffel bag he has, "The Claymore Association Credit Union (CACU), I've the application in here and a loan appointment for after lunch. It's five minutes down the road. Thus our lunch here. I'm a member and have to be the applicant in my own right. I'm entitled to be a member through Dad." She nods, and wonders where they go if this fails.
Forty minutes later they're walking into the CACU office with three minutes to spare. They're shown straight in to see the Senior Loans Officer, Paul Shane, he handles all the non-housing loans over two hundred thousand dollars. He has a faxed copy of the application with the business plan. It's all been well examined before today.
When they sit down, he says, "OK, Gordie, I've studied all of the paperwork. I think it'll work. But we've a few matters to resolve. These growth rate figures; are they accurate, do you really expect a one hundred percent growth per annum for the first five years?"