Interesting Times
Chapter 06

Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater. All rights reserved

Full Friday

Matt’s Friday morning starts with Monica waking him for breakfast. A couple of hospital maintenance people start some drilling in the wall outside his ward while Matt eats. A few minutes after they start the noise is louder when a masonry drill bit comes through the wall about waist height on the hall wall on the other side of the door, almost in the corner. Both Matt and Monica continue with his breakfast while one of the maintenance men enters the room to start doing some work at the new hole. A few minutes later he cleans up and goes back into the hall. Now there’s a new four socket power-point on the wall. He’s soon back to plug a tester into the sockets to check each one before packing up his gear and leaving them. He doesn’t say a word while working there.

At twenty to eight Matt is checking the news, and smiling. The state news is full of Gran’s media counter-attack on the Premier. The memo signed by the Premier and Minister has been leaked to the media with a copy of the response from the Commissioner and summaries of the two Cabinet meetings discussing the matter, but not approving it. The gloves are off, the blood is in the water, and the media are going for the throat. While Matt reads the on-line news reports Mr Hardy arrives as he leads two men with large drink fridges on trolleys.

George walks over to shake hands while saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve made a few changes to what we discussed the other day.” Matt waves for him to continue. “All of the flavours you said had to be included are there, but I’ve changed a few of the others. Instead of going with cans of drink and tetra bricks of juice I’m putting in bottles of everything. The sizes are five and six hundred millilitres instead of the three hundred and seventy five millilitres first discussed. I know this is a bit dearer for you so I’m giving you a larger discount across the board. The total value on the average reorder we worked out is only ten percent higher.” Matt nods his approval. “Thank you. This means the only waste will be plastic bottles and food wrappers. This’ll be a lot easier for the scouts to handle. It also makes refills easier for my staff.”

“OK, I can see why the changes. It’ll also reduce risks of spills as the kids can put the tops back on when not actually drinking. Thanks.”

“Right. Now the fridges. The drinks should be cold enough for you by three o’clock this afternoon. Please leave them alone until then. The chiller is set high today and Alfred will set it to the maintenance level when he checks the stocks in the morning.” One of the men wrestling the two fridges into place turns to wave when his name is said.

Matt is handed a list of stocks before George leads the two men out. A few minutes later they return with two more fridges. While the men put them in place George leaves again, only to return with a trolley of drinks. In another few minutes Alfred is loading bottles of drinks into the machines plugged into the new power-point while George and the other man bring up trolley load after trolley load of drinks and snacks.

Cushion Chat

They’re still busy loading the machines at a quarter past eight when a man walks in with two cushions under his arm. He looks at Matt as he asks, “Matt Dyer?” Matt nods yes. The man holds his hand out, “Bob Walker, call me Whitey.” Matt’s eyes go very wide because Bob’s skin is brown but not as dark as Alfred’s, more like a mid-brown. Bob sees the look on Matt’s face, “I’m only a half-blood. Unlike my half-brother, Alfred, over there,” while he motions with his thumb over his shoulder. “The rest of the kids are all full-bloods so they nicknamed me Whitey.” Matt has a hard time not laughing while he nods his understanding as he really likes Bob’s attitude.

“OK, Whitey. Why the two cushions?”

“I hope to convince you to save me from my one mistake in this job as I talk you into take the thicker cushions for the price of the thin ones. I thought a thicker cushion would be better so I had a hundred made up. I can’t give them away. So I hope to convince you to buy them to minimise my loss while clearing out storage space.”

“You sell most of your product to scouts and the like, I take it!” He nods yes. “Go into the main ward to see if there’s someone there who can give me the scout reason for not buying the thicker ones, please!” Bob puts the cushions down and goes off while Matt looks at them. Bob is soon back with a girl Matt knows. “Rose, why don’t the scouts like the larger cushions? I’d have thought they’d be more comfortable!”

She smiles, “Yes, they are. But you have to take into account the way the scouts use them. That’s where Scrapper messed up.” Matt assumes that’s Whitey’s scout name. She continues, “The halls are all bigger than a basketball court, some a little and some a lot. The cushion storage is in a corner of the hall. A couple of scouts go to the bins and pass them out by tossing them. When finished we toss them back to the people putting them away. It’s easy for us to grab and toss the thin ones like a large Frisbee, but the others are too thick for most scouts to toss about. So we don’t want them in the scout halls as they’re too much work to use.”

“Ah, that makes sense. Thanks, Rose.” She has a good look at the work near the fridges while she leaves. Matt turns to Whitey and says, “No need to toss them far here. In fact, I’d rather they didn’t toss them. But I’ve got a set budget to spend on cushions and storage. If you want to supply the thicker ones with bins for them all at the same final figure as quoted for the bins and thin cushions you can supply either one.”

Whitey smiles, “Done. I was told you’d probably agree if I was up front about it. So I took a chance and I loaded up to supply the thick ones with enough bins for them. I’ll be right back.” Matt nods approval, and Bob leaves to go get his gear.

He’s soon back with some steel frames and a member of the hospital maintenance staff. A check of plans, a use of sensors, and a frame is held in place while a dozen holes are drilled. Small DynaBolts are put in and the frame is attached to the wall. The rest of the steel mesh frames are locked in place with clips and screws. Bob borrows one of the trolleys while George and his men put the drinks in the fridge, and he’s soon back with some metre high boxes. He places a box over a cushion frame then he opens the bottom. Cushions fall down to fill the frame. In a moment the nine frames are full of them. A quick count shows seven one hundred and twenty-five millimetre cushions per frame for sixty-three of them while only sixty were ordered. Bob ducks out again. He’s soon back carrying three half metre wide mesh tops he places on the frames and he locks them into place. The whole thing is installed and ready to go by the time the drink machines are loaded with drinks. The frames are made of chromed steel mesh in hand sized squares with a slot at the centre front of each bin. It all looks real nice and it seems solid.

Matt organises a direct payment to Bob’s account via his computer, thus making Bob happy to have some cash flow today. George and company continue to trolley in boxes of snacks. They soon have the boxes set up with cut open fronts and they’re put along the tops of the bins that stand just over a metre high. The snacks flow over onto the top of the DVD storage area under the television. Extra boxes of drinks and snacks are stacked in the space left between the fridges and the media cabinet. The television is wider than the cabinet and an open space is the result of the difference because the fridges can’t get too close to the TV.

Matt signs the delivery docket and George promises to send Dot the bill for payment. He introduces Alfred as the man who’ll do the regular supply run. Matt smiles and shakes Alfred’s hand while he thanks him for setting everything up. When the rest leave George says, “The coin slots on these machines don’t work, but the required parts are on order. If you don’t mind I’ll have them installed when they turn up. The slots are turned off but I want the parts in the machines and not lying around. There’s a chance the hospital will allow me to leave these here after you go. If they do I’ll just turn the coin units on and see how they go. OK?” Matt nods yes while he smiles at George’s forward planning.

He lies there thinking, Well, that’s drinks, snacks, and cushions for movie time when it starts. TV and computer. House organised for later. Now just the legal matters and the Sydney house to get sorted today. He goes back to checking the news on the Internet. It’s only a quarter past nine and it has been a very busy day already, with much more planned to happen.

Updates and Orders

Dorothy and Paul arrive just before ten o’clock. Betty arrives too, so they have a four way talk on the legal matters while snacking from the morning fruit platter just brought in. Each takes a turn to summarise the current situation of the matters Matt already knows about.

Guardianship: the magistrate will hold court in Matt’s hospital room one evening next week because that disrupts his day less. It was looking to be a major issue until all of his uncles withdrew their claims to leave Alice and Joe unopposed and with a supporting letter by Constance.

Compensation claims against the driver’s estate: most of the family want to negotiate, but a couple don’t. They expect to have a suitable out of court settlement organised over the next week to ten days. Matt looks at Paul and says, “Look, I don’t want to get involved in that if I can avoid it. If they make an offer you think is acceptable, go for it. I don’t much care about that at all. Understand?” Paul nods yes as the wound is just too raw for Matt to want to deal with. “Check if the shot cop is getting compo too.”

Life insurance payments are on hold pending the Coroner’s Court decision. The policies have a clause for a major increase in payment if they’re murdered, so the companies want to settle quick while Paul and Dorothy are going slow. The Inquest is down for over a month away to allow the police to do a lot more investigating and get back lab reports. Matt looks up, “Offer them to sign off if they pay eighty percent of the maximum for a murder ruling. The settlement to stand whatever the final ruling.” Dorothy looks shocked. He’s talking about writing off millions of dollars. She’s about to speak when Paul grabs her arm and shakes his head for her to leave it alone. He looks at Matt and nods his agreement. He understands why Matt wants it out of the way and over.

Matt continues, “Good. I want to put as much of this behind me as I can as quickly as I can. Look to sell the houses in Sydney, I don’t think I could stand to go back to either of them. I can always build new when I move back. I’ll have to move back later in order to properly manage certain business affairs.” Dorothy and Paul nod yes. Matt notices Dorothy looks a bit sad about the decision. “Aunt Dorothy, if you and Uncle Paul wish to buy Mum’s house or the one next door we rent out set out a suitable contract to allow you to do that at a rate you can afford. I’ll carry the loan at zero percent. OK?” They both nod yes.

Dorothy speaks up, “Thank you. I do want your house, but we can’t afford it yet. This way we can just afford it. About the bikes, there’s a website set up with the photos on it. A front page, then one with a single photo of each bike which has a link to pages of photos of each bike. That should allow you to let people look at them.” She gives him the website address and he opens the site up on the television. She hands him a piece of paper with a log on ID and password, “If you sign in with that ID you can mark which are sold and add comments.”

Matt logs in and he opens the page with all of the bikes. He turns to Paul, “OK, which one did you have your eye on?” Dorothy’s eyes go real wide when Paul points to one bike. Matt clicks on it and follows the instructions he was just given to mark that bike as sold. He does the same for two others he’s not selling. That leaves twelve of the fifteen bikes free for sale. He picks up his phone book and he calls a number. They answer, “Hammer or Rhodes, thanks, it’s Puff.” He gets some odd looks from his audience. A moment later he’s talking to Rhodes. He gives him the website address, “OK, Rhodes, the photos are from all angles so you can have a good look at what’s available. Three are sold to family members and are marked as sold. You can have what you like of the others at fifty grand a pop, as discussed. Let the others know and you can referee the fights, please.”

Rhodes laughs, “Yeah, Puff, I know Hammer and a few of us will get what they want, so should I, but it’s going to be murder sorting out the selections of the others who won the pool to ride one. Hammer decided to make them club bikes and the guys work to earn the right to ride them. No one argues with him now.” Matt laughs with him at that neat solution to who gets to buy what. It helps with club discipline too, a carrot to go with the sticks. They discuss a few things about tomorrow morning then hang up.

Dorothy hands over a pile of papers with a computer hard drive. “I had the bike business computer hard drive duplicated as there’s too much information on it that needs to go with the sale as well as what we need to keep. Here’s the papers you asked for and the shop keys.” She drops two bunches of keys on the side of the bed. Matt slowly nods as he shifts them to the low cupboard beside him on his left hand.

No Sale

Paul glances at Betty and Dorothy, “Ah, Matt, one issue we’ve been holding off speaking to you about until we could get together,” he says with a bit of concern. “It’s to do with Jacobs Accounting Services.“ Matt frowns because he can’t see why they need to talk about where Alice Watson works. “Your father started negotiating to buy it some months back and we’ve been looking into it. There are a few issues with it.”

“You’ve got an independent auditor’s report of its and their client’s books!” A shake of the head no. “Why not?”

Dorothy takes over, “I’ve got copies of the tax returns and financials they’ve lodged with various government bodies for them and most of their major clients. But they say we’ve no right to look at the books until after we buy the company.”

Matt’s eyes go wide. Giving a potential buyer a look at the books is a basic part of sorting out a price, even he knows that. “How much do they want, and do we know of a local CPA we can trust?”

“They want ten million and eleven is set aside. On what we can find out that’s a good price. One of their junior accountants comes highly recommended. That was the only place she could get a job when she moved down here, just like Alice. This city is lousy with out of work accounting people but no jobs for them. Oh, the money was set aside a fortnight back, so it’s available for the purchase if you agree to buy the business. That’s the reason for the current cash shortage.” She hands over several financial statements for him to go through. Matt takes over thirty minutes to go through them with a great care for the details.

He looks up, “I’ve decided what I want to do about this, but tell me, Dot: if Alice and Dad hadn’t been involved what would you say?”

She gulps, looks at Paul, and says, “Stuff ‘em, it stinks! Those papers are way too light on detail.” Paul is shocked because he’s put in many a late night on getting it to this stage. That’s a lot of work to throw away.

Matt smiles while he slowly nods as he hits the speaker button on his phone, “Dot, call Jacobs, now.” She punches in the number, and goes through the levels of staff to speak to the owner of the business.

Mr Jacobs comes on the line, “Good morning, Missus Barnes, is this call to set a date for the contract exchange?”

Dot responds, “No. We’re in a board meeting at the moment and the Chairman asked me to call you because he wishes to speak to you about the negotiations on the purchase of your business.”

Matt interrupts, “I’ll take over, thank you, Dot.” Paul looks up at the hard tone of Matt’s voice. “Mister Jacobs, this matter was being dealt with by the company Chief Executive Officer, but Robert died recently. I’m now looking at this directly and I’m not happy with the information on file. When can we send independent auditors of our choice in to do a good check of your books?”

“The day after you buy the company. No one looks at our books.”

Matt’s voice takes on a new level of hardness when he replies, “Then I suggest you start looking for a new buyer because I’m not prepared to invest a cent in your company without having a good evaluation of the books to ensure what you report is true. Goodbye.” He hangs up while Jacobs starts yelling at him. He looks at the stunned faces before him. “I’m not a trained accountant or manager, but even I can easily see he’s cooked these books six ways from Sunday. That man is a crook, so he can get lost.” He turns to Dorothy, “OK, the name and number of the contact you have.” She hands it to him and he dials the company again.

They answer, and Matt says, “Amanda Bellows, please.” They put him through. A woman answers the phone, “I wish to speak with Amanda Bellows.” She confirms it’s her. “May I call you Amanda?”

“I prefer Mandy.”

“Thank you, Mandy. Are you in a position to speak freely?” She says she can. “Do you have a resume or CV available on the Internet I can look at. I’m looking for an honest CPA in your area and I was given your name by a couple of people.”

“Ah, no, I don’t. We’re not allowed to do anything like that here. Is there somewhere I can meet you to hand one over? I always go out for lunch, so I can slip out to deliver one.”

“Amanda, how do you know this is a local call?”

“The switch can tell if a call is local or not, and only local calls are allowed to be put through to anyone who isn’t very senior staff. Since you were put through I know it’s a local call.”

“I see. I’m on the fourth floor of the Base Hospital, ask for Saint.” He says it this way so it won’t mean anything to anyone who’s listening in on the talk or sees a note as he’s now very wary of the firm’s telephonist.

“I’ll be there a little after twelve forty-five. I do hope you’ve got a real job because I so want to get out of here. Working a hot burger grill is starting to look very good to me at the moment.”

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