Chapter 26: Brad
Nassau, Bahamas - 1994
Brad had been staring at the latest balance sheet since Dave Irving had dropped it in front of him at 9:00 a.m. this morning. Was he staring at it in search of a solution, or was he staring at it with the hope of suddenly becoming a magician? Would either help? The balance sheet showed a cash balance that would sustain the company for only twelve months without a new project infusion. There were no new projects on the horizon. Brad was good at these numbers, he was good at managing people, and he had a solid strategic mind. But sales were not his forte. It hadn’t been the forte of anyone in the company since Ulysses. Worse than selling, his dad had sent most potential clients scurrying for the competition after appearing drunk at sales meetings, if he showed up to them at all.
The fundamental and frightening truth was that The Hanna Group had lost its draw without Ulysses. The company was old-fashioned, relying on drinks at the Ocean Club and schmoozing on expensive junkets to Florida and DC, making deals on handshakes and Cuban cigars. But the people arriving to develop the island now weren’t interested in paying homage to the Bay Street Boys or hearing the same tired sales pitch. They wanted innovation, shared investment, and voluptuous marketing budgets. Ulysses called marketing the “coloring in” department. In Ulysses’ opinion, the gift of the gab was the only thing required to close deals. Maybe Brad didn’t have it. Maybe Christopher would be a better choice. He chuckled to himself. Yeah, Christopher would have spent this twelve-month cash reserve without a second thought and then wondered why staff weren’t getting their paychecks.
There was a knock on the door, and his mother poked her head into the office. Immediately, the headache that had been only threatening until now flared to the front of his skull as he focused on plastering a smile on his face.
“Hello, darling!” His mother cooed. “Now put that boring work away. Your mother’s here and wants to chat.”
Toni picked up the balance sheet by the corner as though it was contaminated and flipped it over. He had to admit that the blank page staring up at him was a better view.
“Hello, Mother. What is it you need?”
“What is it I need? Well, that’s a horrible way to greet your mother. I don’t need anything. I wanted to see my son and perhaps give him a well-earned break from the pressures of his high-pressure job. I thought we could go to lunch.”
Brad looked at the grandfather clock against the wall. “It’s 10:15 am, Mother. A tad early for lunch, wouldn’t you say?”
Toni waved away his words as though a fly was attacking her. “Brunch then, darling. I could kill a mimosa.”
“I can’t leave. We have a potential client meeting this morning, and I need to prepare.”
Toni pushed out her bottom lip in an exaggerated pout. “Yuck. I hate potential clients. All that kissing up to people lower than you. I don’t know why we don’t make sales the responsibility of the…” she waved her way toward the office door and made a face, “…underlings.”
“Yes, well, mother, that’s a terrible idea.”
“So you won’t leave? Not even for a mimosa?”
“I won’t leave. And a mimosa is the last thing I want at 10:15 in the morning.”
“If not at 10:15 in the morning, then when?” Believe it or not, his mother looked genuinely confused. “It’s a morning drink, darling.”
Brad sighed and lifted the lid on his laptop, hoping to give Toni a hint, but she didn’t take it. She sat in the leather chair before his desk, pushed aside his inbox and a cup filled with drafting pencils, and placed her Gucci bag on the desktop. She patted her hair and smiled at him. He wouldn’t be able to get rid of her until she’d said all she had to say.
“What do you need, mother?”
“A chat, Bradley. A little chat. Surely you have time for a little chat with your mother?”
“Okay.” Brad closed his laptop. He couldn’t spend any more time on the proposal, anyway. Besides, Garret Andrews was also bidding on this one. Andrews believed in jumping on early technology. Uly did not. Garret’s firm was miles ahead of the Hanna Group. They couldn’t win this bid. “What would you like to chat about?”
“Oh, I think you know. Who’s the girl?” Toni took a compact from her bag and checked her lipstick. It snapped shut, and she looked at Brad expectantly.
It was pointless asking which girl she meant. They both knew.
“I don’t know. I met her once when I was out at Water’s Edge fishing. She seems sweet. Most definitely naïve. I’m not sure what Christopher has planned for her, but I don’t think she’s ready for whatever it is.”
“Oh, she’s ready, all right.” Toni nodded enthusiastically, like an Olympic parent assuring a coach. “And what do you mean, Water’s Edge? Is she staying there? And I do wish you would stop with that fishing muck, Bradley. People will smell it on you, you know. Who wants a husband who smells like a poor fisherman?”
Brad wasn’t sure which part of the statement to respond to, so he kept silent.
“She’s trouble, darling. I can tell. What do you think Christopher has planned for her? You don’t think she’s already corrupted him, do you? He won’t do anything stupid?”
Brad laughed. “Christopher, do something stupid? Surely not.”
“That’s mean, darling.” His mother said. “He’s a good boy. They have left him behind, you know. Uly could have given him a chance. At least vice-president or something?”
“Mother, Uly gave him chances. I gave him chances. He doesn’t do the work. He’s not interested in work.”
“Not true! Christopher has expectations for the sort of work that’s right for him, and I don’t blame him. He told me you had him making phone calls. Surely you can do better than that?”
Brad pushed back his chair and went to the coffee machine. Maybe some caffeine would help this pounding head.
“Important phone calls, mother.” He said as he poured the slightly sludgy liquid. It was also cold. He’d drink it, anyway. “I thought perhaps Christopher could shine in the sales department. He’s better at charming people than I am, and people seem attracted to his presence. God knows why?”
Toni waved away the conversation again. Although Christopher was her second favorite topic of conversation, Brad saw she was getting back to her first favorite quickly enough. Herself.
“But this girl is ruining my Christopher plans. Felicity and I have been working on getting him and Jessica together. This girl is in the way.”
“And what do you want me to do about it?”
“Well…” At this, Toni leaned toward the side of the desk he was leaning on, battling against the cold coffee. She lowered her voice as though the entire world was eavesdropping on their conversation. “I was thinking of an investment in Rainbow Cay?”
He repeated her statement to himself several times, but still couldn’t make sense of it. She kept her eyes on his face. Her face was telling him that this was the best idea ever. He didn’t get it.
“Well?” She asked.
“The Syms are looking for an investment in Rainbow Cay?”
Rainbow Cay had been in the Syms family for at least fifty years, as far as he knew. The hotel and spa they ran was the only place on the island. That was the draw. Complete privacy. It was a terrific draw for the rich and famous.
“No.” She said. “But they could be.” He waited. There would be more. “The Hannas could buy half the island. A true union to celebrate the union of our families. A symbol of our commitment to Christopher and Jessica’s marriage.”
His mother was insane. Truly insane.
“Mother, honestly. I don’t have time for this. Where would I get the money to invest in Rainbow Cay?”
“Oh, surely the business has it, Bradley? Uly always had ready cash for the kind of specular investment this would be.”
“It’s a terrible investment.” He said. “Their resort covers their entire island. What’s in it for us?”
Toni smiled a strange smile and leaned back in her chair. “Let’s just say I have reliable inside information that there’s a rare opportunity to be had. What would you say then?”
“I would say, tell me what the opportunity is.”
“Oh, but I can’t, darling. You have to just trust me.”
The caffeine wasn’t helping Bradley’s head at all. He stared at the over-turned balance sheet on his desk and felt a shot of anxiety rocket through him. He didn’t have time for this.
He gave Toni his best “good son” smile. “Okay, Mother. I’ll look into it.” He lied. “But right now, I have to get back to my sales presentation.
Toni squealed and jumped from her seat. “Wonderful, Bradley. We’ll talk soon.” She grabbed her bag, blew him a kiss, and was gone. Hurricane Toni. Brad could always count on her to give him a nervous breakdown.
Bradley sat at his desk again and flipped over the balance sheet. Unfortunately, he still hadn’t learned how to do magic.