Copyright© 2020 by Graybyrd
What the hell is THIS? Little Chief, and Big Chief?
Jason Embridge tried not to stare at the two figures who’d appeared in his office. Both men, one barely of an age to shave, and the other much older with a bronzed, deeply wrinkled face, stood gazing back at him. Both wore beaded high-topped moccasins reaching to the knees of their tanned leather trousers with loin flaps, topped with cream-white leather shirts with beaded designs on their left breast. Each wore bead-worked head bands to hold back shoulder-length hair. Embridge had never seen such costumes before nor, upon closer inspection, had he seen such long hair in alternating bands of grey and black on the young man, and silver-white and grey on the elder.
He struggled to regain his composure. He flushed, upset that he’d already lost the advantage of self-control in his own damned office!
“Who are you? How did you get past my secretary? I cannot ... did you have an appointment?” Embridge clamped down on himself, hard; he heard himself babbling like a confused fool.
Get a grip, damn it! he swore to himself
“We have an appointment,” the younger man said. “Perhaps your secretary failed to explain our purpose in asking to speak with you?”
These two? Embridge moaned silently. The Kendricks property representatives?
“Why, of course you do,” Embridge back-tracked swiftly. “I’m sure she did but perhaps she wasn’t quite clear in her explanation. Please, come in. Sit down. May I offer you refreshments? Coffee, perhaps?”
“No, thank you,” the young man explained. “Allow me to present my card?”
Embridge extended his hand to take a business-card size engraved metal slab from the young man. He very nearly dropped it. It was heavy. It was pure engraved silver with a thick gold medallion mounted through its center. The silver card held symbols and characters Embridge had never seen; the golden medallion was stamped with a sunburst over a mountain scene with a winding river at its base. He flipped the card; the reverse side of the golden medallion bore the name ‘Graydon Williams’ engraved in an upper semi-circle over an embossed nighthawk in flight, with ‘Pasayten Peak Holdings’ engraved in a lower semi-circle.
Embridge stared at the card in his hand. He absently flipped it over and over, not believing what he saw or held.
“Is this real?” he blurted, despite himself.
“Yes,” the young man answered. “You may keep it. I have others.”
“Keep it!” Embridge stammered. “Is this ... I mean, this is real silver, real gold?”
“Of course. Pure silver, solid gold. And that is my name, and our consortium. I am Graydon Williams. I represent Pasayten Peak Holdings. You sent a package of documents, an offer to purchase property we hold. Are you able to discuss that offer?”
The older buckskin man sat silently, his face an unresponsive mask. Embridge nearly giggled to himself, he was that far off balance, totally unnerved. He forced himself to suppress a ridiculous thought: He looks like a damned wooden cigar store Indian! He nearly bit down on his tongue. He struggled to continue.
“Could I impose on you, Mr. Williams; do you have the documents with you? The documents we sent? Forgive me, but I must ... it will confirm the message.”
The older man reached into a buckskin pouch and withdrew the manila envelope bearing address labels and post office stamps and cancellations and an initialed special delivery label. He silently handed it across to the young man and resumed his stoic, upright, unmoving posture.
Damn but that’s creeping me out! Embridge shuddered.
Graydon slipped the cover letter out of the envelope and handed it across to Embridge.
“Yes, that’s in order. This is the last package of documents we’ve sent; this was addressed directly to you. I understand from my assistant that you refused this offer? I’m sure we have your response on file.”
“I’m sure you do not have it on file,” Graydon replied. “It was a verbal rejection, made by telephone to your assistant. However, we have reconsidered. Perhaps if your principal officers and yourself here at Alpine-Colorado could discuss the offer in detail? We are willing to listen.
Graydon, Mike, VP Jason Embridge, and CEO Augustus Atwood regarded one another across the huge Alpine-Colorado conference table. Graydon sat in relaxed confidence, erect and self-assured. Mike sat a bit stiffly, unmoving, his hands resting on his thighs under the table. His eyes, half-closed, seemed to ignore the others.
“Young man, this is somewhat incredible,” Embridge protested. “You present us with notarized copies of documents asserting your right to exercise power of attorney on Mr. Kendricks’ behalf. But you are not of legal age; you cannot sign or commit anything!” Embridge protested.
“That is true,” Graydon replied.
“Yet you claim to be here in a negotiating capacity!” Embridge protested again.
“That also is true,” Graydon answered quietly, looking first to Embridge, then shifting his gaze to Atwood.
“I caution you not to waste our time, Mr. Williams,” Atwood spoke for the first time. “Obviously we have an interest in the Kendricks property, and your calling card is certainly unique, so you have piqued my curiosity. But I fail to see how you claim to be a factor in this matter.”
“I advise,” Graydon answered.
Atwood scowled slightly for an instant. Embridge flashed momentary irritation, then raised his voice with a hint of impatience.
“Advise! Just what does that mean? Are we to assume that you advise Mr. Kendricks? To what extent? How seriously, if at all, does your advice factor into Mr. Kendricks affairs? His property interests?” Embridge demanded.
Mike sat motionless, his eyes unmoving, half closed. For all anyone could see, his attention may have been anywhere but on the matters at hand. Embridge’s secretary, a slender, professionally-attired middle-aged woman taking notes in a steno pad resting on her lap, shifted her eyes between the young man who seemed poised, perhaps disrespectfully self-assured; then to the oddly disquieting older man set in stiff posture beside him. Just once she glanced up from her pad; he was gazing at her from under half-closed lids. She shivered slightly. She stared back down at her writing and never glanced in his direction again.
“I evaluate the situation. I consider the factors involved, research the risks, verify the claims and financial foundation of the proposals, and consider the implications and consequences of whatever decisions are to be made,” Graydon answered. He might have been reading from a script; his gaze never wavered, his voice was flat and expressionless. He regarded both men with a cool, calm expression.
“I find that impossible to believe,” Embridge said, his face not hiding his sudden skepticism. “Given your age, and I assume extremely limited experience, I cannot seriously accept your claim at face value.”
“Very well, gentlemen. Thank you for your time.” Graydon rose from his seat and touched Mike on his shoulder as he moved away from the table and turned for the office door. Mike rose and together they walked into the hallway and turned to the elevator doors.
Embridge and Atwood stared after them while they walked out, too confused and upset to do anything but turn to look at each other.
“What the hell just happened?” Embridge said.
For the first time in Embridge’s experience, Atwood appeared visibly confused and shaken. One moment they were attempting to investigate a possible link to acquire the Kendricks property; the next moment, that ‘link’ up and walked out on them.
“I think you insulted him,” Atwood said after a moment.
“I should think so,” Embridge responded. “He can hardly claim to be qualified, given his age.”
“Do you know that for certain, Jason? Have you done your homework on that young man?”
“We ... I tried, Gus. The problem is, he’s virtually unknown. There’s nothing to investigate. He graduated from high school in that valley, and that’s all. That’s the extent of his education, as far as any records show.”
“But there must be something else? He’s certainly well-spoken; his demeanor is certainly not that of a teenage youth. Is there something else, some experience or training we’re not aware of?”
“That’s just it, Gus. We’re not aware of anything about him. Where else do we look?”
“Well, I’d suggest that we take another look at this boy, because we’ve certainly gotten nowhere with Kendricks. Is there any point in trying again, to get Kendricks involved?” Atwood asked.
“I honestly believe it would do more harm than good. In fact, I’m beginning to think that my skepticism has just set us back even further. Those two showing up, almost like apparitions, was unexpected. ‘Negotiate’ he said. And I’ve got to apologize, Gus. I think I’ve blown that chance.”
Atwood had motioned to the secretary, still seated against the wall behind them. He whispered something to her; she rose hurriedly and went to a telephone at the end of the table. After a few quiet words, she returned.
“The lobby guard was able to intercept them before they left; he gave them your message. They’re on their way back up,” she said.
“Thank you, Ms. Jones. Please arrange for some light refreshments--coffee, juice, and sandwiches, perhaps? After you call for that, please return to your note taking.”
Graydon and Mike entered the room. Atwood and Embridge rose to their feet and welcomed them, inviting them to return to their former seats at the table.
“Please forgive our rude reaction,” Atwood apologized. “You should understand that we feel a little out of our ... comfort zone? Yes, comfort zone. Your obvious youth, Mr. Williams, and the silence and presence of your ... associate? Companion? This is without question a unique encounter for Mr. Embridge and myself.
“I assure you both that we’ll not make that mistake again. So ... disrespectful of us. Please, may we begin again in earnest acceptance of the situation?” Atwood asked.
“Yes, we may,” Graydon said.
Just then, a young lady pushed a serving cart into the room and placed a coffee service, two juice pitchers, a small stack of cups, and another tray containing sandwiches on a side table. She nodded to Atwood who smiled his acceptance. She withdrew from the room. Atwood glanced to Embridge who rose to his feet.
“May I serve you anything?” he asked. Graydon nodded acceptance.
“Water, please, for myself and my friend.”
After a few moments, Atwood and Embridge were holding coffee cups. A small plate of sandwiches rested between them. Graydon sipped from his water glass. Mike sat motionless, eyes half-closed, seeming to ignore an untouched water glass sweating a trickle of condensate onto its coaster.
Graydon spoke first.
“I have considered the purchase offer your attorney, Mr. Adams, sent to us. I do not wish to discuss it at this time.”
Embridge started, his hard eyes staring back at the boy. He bit his tongue and waited.