“Good morning, Doctor Wolfe. Russell Giordano here. I understand from my assistant that there is some problem setting an appointment, so I thought I would contact you personally. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I don’t think I have the space on my client list, Mr. Giordano. There are many, many firms out there who meet your needs, I’m sure.”
“Except that we were delighted with your services and your overall performance before you left your old firm. We haven’t been able to find that at any other firm.”
“You’ve tried how many other firms, Mr. Giordano?” Ava asked skeptically.
“Six. They just don’t have your finesse with numbers. Quite frankly, they all have different shortcomings. I need you.”
“Very well. You certainly are persistent, Mr. Giordano. Just hold on a second.” Ava consulted her schedule.
“It’s one of my more admirable qualities.”
“Yes. Well, that aside, what would the scope of the work be?” Ava tapped a long, slim pen on her notepad.
“Well, immediately, I need operational and security systems set up for a new business I just acquired.”
“And what type of business would that be?”
“I just bought a pig farm and processing facility.” That definitely piqued Ava’s curiosity – the strangest place Ava had ever imagined contracting work. She paused and then continued to consult her schedule.
“You are in luck. I do have a cancellation tomorrow afternoon at four o’clock. Would you like to meet then?”
“I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon, and Dr. Wolfe, thank you.”
That evening found Mac and Ava at the annual Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Benefit. Mac was impressed, not surprised, by the number of people whom Ava knew at the benefit. If Mac were so inclined, this was a networking nirvana. Mac appeared disinterested in most of the individuals he met that Thursday evening. He perked up considerably when Ava said, “Marcus, may I present my escort, Mac MacIntosh. Mac, this is Mr. Marcus Neufeld. He’s my godfather, a neighbour, dear friend and business associate of my grandfather’s.”
“Everyone knows the financial wizard and yacht king. It’s an honour to meet you, Mr. Neufeld.” Mac quickly reached into his breast pocket and produced his business card.
“It is a pleasure to meet you.” He took Mac’s card and put it in his pocket without looking at it. The trio made small talk for several minutes before Mr. Neufeld excused himself and took his leave. I know I can convince Ava to help me get Neufeld as a client. That would be a feather in my cap, Mac thought. Professionally speaking, Mac was delighted with all the opportunities cascading his way – all because of Ava.
Personally speaking, Mac was anxious to join the Wolfe clan as a beloved in-law. He wanted Ava’s money, power, influence and his freedom. He did not understand that these things were mutually exclusive.
The next morning Ava received a call from Mac. “Do you have the time to come over this afternoon around four o’clock to meet with Mr. Royce? He just fired the head of our IT department; I got you an in here.” Mac was excited and immensely proud of himself.
Ava consulted her schedule. “I don’t need your help, Mac. I’m the CEO of my own corporation. I choose my clientele – not you. I can fit Mr. Royce in next Thursday morning.”
“Are you serious? I just got you a very prestigious, not to mention lucrative, opportunity, and you can’t be bothered to fit Robert Royce into your day?” Mac grew irritated. So was Ava, who stuck to her guns.
“I have a business of my own to run. Mr. Robert Royce will have to wait. Now, I really do have to go.”
“Who could be more important than Robert Royce, senior counsel to the firm and managing partner?” Mac asked indignantly.
“Seriously? I’ll speak to you later.”
“Wait. What if Mr. Royce were available at some other time? What could you do for us then?”
“In that case, I can do next Thursday at ten-thirty.” Ava’s voice was firm.
Bitch, Mac thought. “Fine. I will see what I can do from my end.”
“Just let me know. I will pencil Mr. Royce in until I hear from you.”
It was not long before Mac called Ava back. “We’ve decided to go another way.”
“Okay, thanks for letting me know. Tell Mr. Royce to get in touch if the firm needs anything.” Ava looked at her phone. She was not sure when he hung up. Mac was gone! Ava did not have time to worry about Mac now. She had to prepare for her afternoon meeting with Russell Giordano.
Ava sat at her desk, studying a map of Giordano Farm. “Come in,” Ava responded to a knock on her office door.
“Good afternoon, Doctor Wolfe. I’m Russell Giordano.” He extended his hand and shook Ava’s firmly. She noticed Russell’s pinkie ring. Her father and grandfather wore the same rings and never took them off. They were their Association rings. Ava saw a lot of them over the years when Bernard Wolfe hosted The Association’s secretive meetings at his opulent mansion,
“Please, Mr. Giordano, take a seat.” Ava noticed Russell’s broad shoulders, chiselled features and intense gaze.
“It’s good to meet you.” Russell took a seat.
“Nice to meet you, too. Now, Mr. Giordano, what can I do for you?” Ava and Russell spent the next three hours discussing his pig farming and processing operation. Ever thorough, Ava made copious notes. Russell was distracted several times during their meeting. She is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill computer geek, he thought. With her looks, she could be a model. All that and brilliant. A rare find.
“I think it might be best if you and I took a drive out to the farm so you can look over everything.” Russell wanted to know Ava better on a personal level. He found her blue eyes and pearly white smile mesmerizing. There was just something about Ava – a je ne sais quoi.
“Yes, I think you may be right.” Ava agreed and consulted her schedule. She was available a week from Friday. For a talent like Ava’s, he would wait.
“Great. I’ll pick you up and take you out there?” Russell phrased it as a question.
“I’ll put you in my schedule.”
“In the meantime, I’ll leave these plans for you to look at. Thank you for squeezing me in, Doctor Wolfe. See you a week from Friday. Oh, and bring your Wellies.” Russell stood and took Ava’s hand. She shook it. A patient man, Ava mused.
“You’re welcome. See you then.” Ava enjoyed the view as she watched Russell leave the office.
That evening during a video chat with Bernadette, Ava told her about her day. “I tell you, Bernie, this is the strangest place I have ever been asked to work. Work is work, and you know what grandfather says?”
“Best make hay while the sun shines. Who knows? Some of my clients may not need me tomorrow.” Ava sighed.
“They are going to need you ad infinitum, lovie. I do not know one single person smarter or more competent at what they do than you.”
“Thanks. The work is in an industry with which I am totally unfamiliar.”
“What industry is that?” Bernadette asked. Just then, there was a knock at the door.
“Hold on a second. Come in.” Mac entered Ava’s home office.
“Your maid let me in,” Mac explained.
“Okay, I’ll be with you in a couple of minutes.” Ava looked at Mac for several seconds before he realized she wanted him to leave. He stepped into the hall, leaving the door ajar. “Sorry about that, Bernie. Mac just came over. What was I saying?”
“You were about to tell me what industry you are going to be working in.”
“Oh right. Pig farming and processing. The owner wants to put in operational and security systems.”
“So, you work for a pig farmer, then?”
“Oh, I would not call Russell Giordano a farmer, period.”
“The Russell Giordano, billionaire?”
“Yes. He is even too polished to be a gentleman farmer.
“That good in person, eh?”
“Better than good. He must be six feet, three or four inches tall. He has the deepest brown eyes and dark curly hair. He wore Brioni this afternoon.”
Bernadette whistled. “That’s forty-grand plus.”
“I know. My father loves Brioni. He has several of their suits. I think Mr. Russell Giordano does extremely well for himself. While we were meeting, his assistant called. He made what sounded like three major business decisions on the spot.”
I want Brioni, too! Mac thought, listening outside the door.
“Russell’s lawyer,” Ava consulted the card Russell had given her, “Scott Belliveau, will be contacting you about the contract for the farm project.”
“Impressive. Excellent, lovie, I’ll expect to hear from him soon. Oh, my dinner is here. Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Absolutely. Have a great night.”
Mac scrambled to the kitchen table, where he grabbed a magazine and pretended to read it. He had to try hard not to say something to Ava about her new client. One thing Mac did not want was competition. After what he overheard, Mac was worried. Mac feigned a migraine and departed.
Once at home, Mac went to the computer and typed Russell’s name into Google. There were many hits. Most of those were newspaper articles. According to Nova Scotia Today!, Russell was a phenomenally successful businessman and philanthropist. His net worth was a highly guarded secret. There had been guesses in the gossip columns that his net worth was in the billions. He held an MBA from Harvard School of Business in Boston, Massachusetts. There was a list of the charities he supported.
Mac went to each of the charities’ websites. It seemed Russell sat on the boards of several charitable organizations and was governor of one. On one website, Russell was pictured working on a Habitat for Humanity home. “Hrmp!” Mac scoffed at the pictures of Russell wearing a tool belt and another with him cutting a ribbon with giant scissors. In most photos, Russell was pictured with a different, beautiful woman. So, he’s a player. That gave Mac no comfort.
Scott Belliveau contacted Bernadette. “Good afternoon, Ms. Walker. I’m Scott Belliveau; I represent Russell Giordano and Giordano Enterprises.”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Belliveau. As you know, I represent Ava Wolfe and Wolfe Computer & Electrical Engineering Solutions.”
“Yes, Russell gave me your contact information. I’m going to email you the first draft of the Farm Project Contract.”
“Once I’ve had a chance to peruse it, I’ll give you a call.”
“Great. And... I just sent the contract to you. Nice talking to you.”
Mac certainly did not want Russell in Ava’s life in any capacity. That meant Mac had to up the ante. Once he formulated a plan, he planned to execute it the next time he saw Ava.
“What do you say we head up to Cape Split next weekend?” Mac asked. “We could leave Thursday night and return Monday night, make a real long weekend of it.” Mac tried to sound excited about the idea. Cape Split, situated on the Bay of Fundy, had the highest tides in the world and some of the highest cliffs in Nova Scotia.
“Oh, that sounds like fun. Sorry, though, I’m booked solid on Friday. We could leave on Saturday, I suppose,” Ava responded quickly.
“Can’t you move some things around? Are you honestly that busy?”
“Yes, yes, I am. I happen to be going out of town on Friday to tour a new client’s facility and give him my expert opinion on the operation.”
“Which client could possibly be more important than your personal life?”
“In case it escaped your notice, unlike you, I work any day of the week and at any time of the day for my clients. It makes no difference who the client is. I made an appointment, and I cannot let frivolous personal matters interfere with my business. If you must know, I am driving to Blockhouse to tour Russell Giordano’s pig farm and processing facility.”
“If you feel that way, I do not wish to go any longer.” Mac reeked of worry and jealousy. Giordano was forcing his hand. Mac wanted rid of Russell.
Bernadette picked up her iPhone and placed a call. “Scott Belliveau speaking.”
“Scott, this is Bernadette. I’ve had a chance to look over that contract; I’m sending the blacklined comparison to you now. There weren’t many changes. I know Russell and Ava agreed on an hourly rate. Ava would like to make it a package – a one-time fee.”
“Well, that depends on what the fee is.”
“Ava is proposing $2.5 million.”
“Give me some time. I’ll take it to Russell and get back to you.”
Scott called Russell. “Hey, man. I just got off the phone with Ava’s lawyer. They want a one-time payment fee structure. They’re looking for $2.5 million for the entire project.”
“Give Ava what she wants,” Russell said without hesitation.
“Are you sure you want to spend that kind of money on IT? You could shop around.”
“No. I want Ava. I mean Wolfe Computer & Electrical Engineering Solutions.”
“Okay, buddy. I’m on it. Speak soon.” Freudian slip? Scott wondered.
Later that day, Bernadette called Ava. “Hi, lovie. I just heard from Scott Belliveau. Russell has agreed to our terms and is ready to sign the contract. Can you come by my office at six o’clock to sign it? I’m sorry it’s outside business hours. Scott and Russell will be here, too. That’s the only time before Friday we could all mutually agree to.”
“Sure, I can be there. My last appointment today is three o’clock, and I don’t anticipate it taking long. I’ll see you at six.”
“Right, I’ll see you then.”
Ava arrived at Bernadette’s office exactly at 6. Bernadette, Scott, and Russell were waiting. “Oh, dear, I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.” Ava looked at her watch.
“No, no. We just arrived ourselves.” Russell and Scott stood. Russell pulled out a chair at the conference table for Ava. Bernadette watched Russell. She noted the way he looked at Ava.
“Thank you.” Ava looked at the middle of the conference table where a stack of papers lay.
“Well, we might as well dive in,” Bernadette said. Ava and Russell were seated next to each other at the table. They exchanged signed documents for the other to sign while Scott and Bernadette witnessed the signatures. Russell noticed Ava was left-handed. The signing only took about twenty minutes. Scott took a photo of Ava and Russell shaking hands over the deal.
“Why don’t we all go for a bite to eat and a drink? My restaurant is right around the corner.” Russell treated everyone to a sumptuous meal at The Downtown Steakhouse, one of Halifax’s premier restaurants. They dined in Russell’s private dining room away, from prying eyes.
During dinner, his cellphone rang. “I have to take this.” Russell pointed to his phone and stepped away from the table. It was his service. “Hysteria is never good. That’s Patti. She called how many times did you say? Nine? If she calls again, tell her a business meeting ran late, and I can’t make it. Messenger over something nice. Thanks.” Russell returned to the table. “Where were we?” he asked.