Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers - Chapter 4

Chapter Four

The questions had been long and continuous for over three hours.  The two St. Augustine Detectives seated across from him had explored the initial series of gunshots that had killed Stanley Watchman and the subsequent chase and shoot out in the Fort from every conceivable angle.  They had taken turns asking questions and then had started the tedious process of interrogating him again.  They had gone over the story at least three times and each time Slade had painstakingly walked them through the events, starting at the coffee shop and ending at Castillo De San Marcos.  Finally Slade had had his fill and he stood up.

“Where are you going?” asked the senior detective seated in front of him. 

Slade was tired and irritable.  A man had come to him for help and had been killed instead.  The young doctor had told him over the phone he was his last hope and hours later a lone gunman ended his life.  It was not fair and the answers to who had hired the killer were not going to be found in the St. Augustine Police station.

Having been a detective he knew the two detectives were ‘fishing,’ hoping parts of his early story would not match his recounting of events.  It was an age old police technique and one he had used in the past to ‘crack’ suspects and elicit a confession.  During his time on LAPD he had become a master at the tactic.  But he was tired of playing their game and had decided to leave.

“I’m leaving.  Unless you have charges, you need to return my gun and open the door.”  Slade started for the door as he spoke.

“Have a seat, Mr. Lockwood.”  The younger of the two detectives had spoken.

“No.”  Slade smiled at the younger man and continued to walk to the door.  The younger man hurried to intercept him.

“I said sit down.”  There was terseness in the detective’s voice.

“Son, you need to relax.  Place one hand on me and I’ll mop the floor with your head.  Do I make myself clear?” 

The detective paused as he looked at the ex-cop.  There was a coldness that had suddenly settled over Slade, turning his blue eyes to ice.  It was an expression that sprung out of nowhere, changing his countenance.  St. Augustine Detective Ron Sanchez stopped and backed up.  This man would hurt him if provoked; he was certain of it.

“We’ll get your weapons.”  Detective Brown rose from behind the desk and motioned for Slade to follow.  Once in the hallway, Detective Brown turned around and looked at Slade who had stopped.  “Come on, Property Section is over here.”

“Not until I find my friends.  I came in here with them and I’ll leave with them.”  Slade smiled and reached over and opened the door in front of him.  Inside the interview room was Bubba Singletee looking as bored as any man on Earth.  “I’m leaving.  Had enough of their hospitality.”

“Bout time.  These youngin’s aren’t too bright.  Done told them a half dozen times what happened.  Seems like they would’ve figured it out by now and pieced the thing together.”  Bubba jumped up and smiled at the two detectives seated across from him.  “Been a pleasure, gentleman.  Be talkin’ to you.”  Bubba turned and headed for the door.

“You can’t leave!” The nearest officer shouted at Bubba.  The young man left his chair and reached out to grab him.

“Son, I’ll wallop you side the noggin you try and stop me.  I’ve been an officer of the law longer than you been out of diapers.  Now go grab a milkshake and put some hair on your chest.”  Bubba shook his head and brushed past the confused and angry detective, joining Slade in the hallway.

“Let him go,” ordered Detective Brown, who was smiling.  “We know where to reach them.” 

“Where’s June?” asked Bubba, rubbing his hand across his prodigious girth. 

“Don’t know.” Slade turned to face Detective Brown.  “Do I need to keep opening doors or are you going to get my other friend so we can leave?”  The smile had returned to Slade’s face and his eyes glistened.  The coldness was gone.

Detective Brown walked up to Slade and stopped directly in front of him.  The other officers stood watching.  

“Will you keep me informed if you develop anything on this case?  I can’t have two dead bodies show up on my doorstep without my boss asking a whole lot of questions.  You’ve been there.”  Detective Brown extended his business card to Slade, who took it and dropped it into his pocket. 

“Will do.  But I don’t have much to go on.  Can I count on you to do the same for me?”

“Absolutely.”  Detective Brown extended his hand and shook Slade’s.

“Now, where is my other friend?” asked Slade.

“Ron, get their friend,” said Detective Brown addressing his partner.

Ron Sanchez moved to a door near the end of the hall, opened it and gestured for the men to come out.  June was the first one to spill into the corridor.

“Wondering where you two got off to.” June joined his two friends.

It took less than thirty minutes for them to retrieve their weapons and leave the station.  By the time they left, the officers and detectives were chatting with them as if they were long lost friends, thanks mostly to Bubba Singletee.  Bubba very seldom met anyone he could not engage in conversation.  Put him in a room full of cops and the outcome was predictable.

The three of them found a local restaurant Slade had eaten at before and after drinks and lunch had been served, Bubba broke the ice.

“So what now?  The young man did not have anything on him according to the Detective I was talking to,” said Bubba.

“And aside from the phone numbers we took off of our assassin we’re not exactly rolling in leads,” commented June, biting from a crunchy taco and spilling sauce across his plate.

“Agreed, but we do have something to work with.  We have the phone numbers from the killer and we know this doctor was scared out of his wits.  And we know something about the doctor.”  Slade stared off at the Atlantic Ocean and watched a small sailboat bow to the wind and speed past.  The little restaurant was on the intra-coastal waterway and their table was as close to the shoreline as it could get.  The sound of the waves hissing onto the shells and sand could be softly heard.

“What do we know?” asked June.

“We know he went to Johns Hopkins University and graduated at the top of his medical class.  That’s a prestigious school and if this young man was that sharp, then I’m betting someone there knows him very well.  Maybe a professor or dean or fellow student, but someone is familiar with our guy.  And I bet that someone call tell us a lot about him.  Maybe…”  Slade was cutoff by Bubba.

“Like maybe who recruited him out of medical school or the job offers he received.”  Bubba peered over his hamburger at Slade.

“Or maybe who his girlfriend was or close associates.  Slade is right - the university would be a good place to start.  What about his parents?” asked June.

“The locals will already have called them and I bet they have a neighboring jurisdiction knocking on their door as we speak.  We can contact them later if need be, but there is no use right now.  I think the beginning of this puzzle lies at Johns Hopkins.  Stanley was terrified of someone and now I can see why.”  Slade bit hesitantly from a burrito Bubba had recommended.  It was not as spicy as he had feared.

“So when do we leave?” asked June.

“We don’t.  I need the two of you to go back to Cedar Key and track down information on those phone numbers.  Give the parents a day to accept things and then go and talk to them.” 

“Where do they live?” asked Bubba.

“I don’t know, but I’m assuming it’s in Florida.  This is where Stanley fled to.  When frightened, most people tend to go home or close to home.  It’s an animal instinct we all have and it takes over, especially when stress is involved.”  Slade stared at his two friends.      

“Are you going to Johns Hopkins?” asked June.

“Yes.  I’ll contact both of you when I find out anything.”  Slade rose from his chair and dropped some money on the table.

“What are we supposed to tell your girlfriend?” asked Bubba.  “Don’t leave me hanging like you have before with her.  That woman can become angry very quickly.”  Bubba chuckled but all of them knew he was serious.

“Tell Katherine, I’ll call.”  Slade flipped his hand at them as he disappeared down the sidewalk.

Bubba and June watched their friend walk away, his quick steps removing him from their line of sight.  Both men glanced over at each other.

“What do you think?” asked June.

“I think if there is any trouble he’ll find it.  We better get moving on our end.  Seems like he has us up to our necks in another one.” 

The waitress could not figure out what they were laughing about as the two men paid their bill and left. 

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Harry Sloan had poured over the history of Akron Pharmaceuticals and when he was convinced their business dealings were impeccable, he started to examine possible companies that could benefit from a hostile take over.  If that was the game being presented, then they would need to know about their competition to counter any proposal.  To succeed in the high stakes game, it was imperative the shrewd financial planner know as much about the assets of possible suitors as he did those of Waterbury Enterprises.  Only preparedness and research could win in this high stakes poker game.

After Harry had dug through a half-dozen companies, a thought so brilliant occurred that it floored him.  It struck like a dazzling ray of sunshine.  Why spend his time trying to figure out which company may be the suitor?  Why not let the suitor expose their hand?  Take the offensive rather than the defensive and put them on notice there was another bully in the sand lot.  Harry smiled at his stroke of genius.  It was risky and then he quickly dismissed the thought.  It was only risky if a company did not have the assets to bank-roll such an endeavor.  Waterbury Enterprises had the capital and the moxy to pull off such an undertaking. 

Reaching for his desk phone, Harry called Shirley and asked her to join him and told her to bring Dustin Zane.  The ex-football player had majored in economics at Dartmouth and had run a successful brokerage on Wall Street.  This type of financial maneuver was not new to him.  Besides, Dustin Zane had a way of looking at things from unusual perspectives that Harry found both frustrating and effective.  This was a high stakes game; better to cover all bases. 

The door to his office was pushed open and Shirley breezed inside, followed by her giant body guard who always wore a perpetual scowl across his face.  The look was menacing as if his sheer size was not intimidating enough.

“What do you have for us, Harry?  Identified who the suitor may be?” asked Shirley, flopping down in a chair across from his desk. 

“No, but I have an idea.  An interesting one, but an idea.”  Harry stared back at his boss.

“Tell me all about it.”  Shirley drew her feet beneath her and smiled back at her financial advisor. 

“Have a seat, please,” instructed Harry, motioning to Dustin Zane.  Somehow the large body guard wedged himself into a leather chair.  “Thank you.  I need you to analyze this as well, since you worked on Wall Street and are familiar with a hostile take over.” 

“Shirley told me about Akron Pharmaceutical.  Anything suspicious in their books?  Any untold or unreported debt?” asked Dustin Zane, sliding his sunglasses onto the top of his closely shaven head.

“Not even a penny out of the ordinary.  Their company is sound and growing.  Paul Akron has not taken the risks of most of his competitors and that has left his company in a very strong position.”

“Then how does that position them for a take over?” asked Shirley, her brow wrinkling in confusion.  “This financial stuff is a little beyond me.”

“The first thing the suitor will want to do is force the parent company, in this case Akron Pharmaceutical, to dig into their cash reserves and buy back the stock in an attempt to shore up the price and thwart the move.  By controlling most of the stock, you can control the outcome of the purchase.  Once the company has depleted their reserves, then the suitor continues to drive the price down and they move in with a cash position the Board of Akron Pharmaceuticals cannot ignore.  In the end, the Board will capitulate and the suitor owns controlling interest in the company.”  Dustin Zane looked at Harry for confirmation when he was done speaking.

“Very well put.  I see your Ivy League education was not in vain.”

“Not in the least.” 

“Carol told me that she and Paul had already delved deeply into the cash reserves of Akron Pharmaceutical to purchase some of their outstanding stock.  I didn’t understand what she meant until now.  So you’re hinting to me they may be vulnerable?” asked Shirley, concern registering on her face.

“Very.  Especially if they have substantially depleted their reserves and dipped too far into their assets.  They may be approaching a very nebulous position.  One that Wall Street and Akron’s Board of Directors will watch closely.”  Again Dustin Zane looked over at Harry.

“Correct you are, unless we step in and up the ante.”  Harry smirked at Shirley.

“Explain please,” asked the young CEO of Waterbury Enterprises.

“You are in a unique position.  You have billions in cash that I’ve been investing in safe, sound investments with a considerable rate of return.  I’ve stuck to investments complimenting your current enterprises and that take advantage of Oasis and the resultant players it brings to the table.  Especially when a country invests in the Oasis technology and desires to recognize a perpetual gain from the enterprise.”  Harry paused as he saw confusion register on Shirley’s face.

“You will have to use English please.  You’re way ahead of me on this.”  Shirley shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“When Oasis is introduced into a foreign market and water is brought to semi-arid or arid regions, agriculture is sure to develop.  To make agriculture prosperous requires machinery – tractors, planters, harvesters and the like.  The food must still be brought to the table.  Harry has been investing your assets in John Deere, Caterpillar, International Harvester and other companies that the agrarian community can depend upon to sow their seed and harvest their crops.  It’s a sound, logical investment strategy and one that I believe has paid you handsomely.”  Dustin Zane stopped from his narration as he watched Shirley’s eyebrows rise in understanding.

“So, not only do we sell Oasis to countries that need it, but we invest in the supporting companies aiding the people in growing their food and bringing it to their table?” asked Shirley.

“Exactly.  We’re not profiting off the poor, but we are taking advantage of the companies supplying a service much like us.  They just supply it differently.”  Harry studied the young CEO.

“It makes sense.  I can see how it would be beneficial for us.  If we’re successful with Oasis then the other companies will be successful by following us into a region and selling their products.  It sets up a chain reaction.  Good business acumen I presume.”

“Yes, it is.”  Dustin Zane nodded his appreciation to Harry, one financial expert to another.  “And don’t forget, machinery is just one area Waterbury Enterprises invests in.  Your brother was far ahead of everyone in the field of genetic engineering. I’ve read some of the briefs from Professor Johansen and the hybrid rice and corn strains he experimented with are out producing anything that has ever been planted and harvested in the history of the human race.  Your seed distribution subsidiaries are also reaping an incredible profit from supplying the grain to every country on Earth.”

“We’re involved in every aspect of agriculture, from Oasis to start the process, to placing the food on the table.  We’re a complete company.”  Harry grinned and added, “And very profitable.”

“So now you want to invest the profits from these investments into Akron Pharmaceutical?” asked Shirley.

“Absolutely, but not all of them.  I will channel the profits from several of them to a portfolio.  You are cash rich.  Most companies do not have the staying power you bring to the table.  And remember, we’re talking mostly about revenue generated from Oasis.  You and I both know the other inventions your brother worked on are paying off handsomely.  The business world has only seen a fraction of the inventions your brother created and your wealth continues to grow at an alarming rate as a result.”  Harry’s voice had risen as he had become excited by talking about capital growth and expansion.

“Let me see if I understand you correctly.  I buy into Akron Pharmaceutical to force the suitor to make a play for the company.  We will then know who it is and be able to thwart their attempt.”  Shirley leaned toward Harry to make her point.

“In theory, yes.  I believe it will work.” 

“It will work.  If the suitor really desires Akron Pharmaceutical.”  Dustin Zane rose from his chair and looked down at the two of them.  “But there is one thing both of you have overlooked.”

Each of them stared at the Security Chief and they were quick to recognize the concern on his face and the serious nature enveloping him.

“What are we forgetting?” asked Shirley.

“Your family was murdered for an invention a man thought might make him rich.  Akron Pharmaceutical is making money and is worth a considerable fortune.  You thwart the attempt of the take over and whoever is behind this may not take it kindly.  These are high stakes and when money is involved, you cannot gauge how people will respond.”  Dustin Zane paused to let his words sink in.

“I don’t run scared and you should know that.”  Shirley left her seat to face her body guard, the defiance hitting her eyes, the stubbornness evident in her upturned face.  Not even clearing the man’s chest, she had to step back to stare directly at him.

“You need to know all the angles on this.  Whoever is bold enough to drive down the stock of a company to force a take over moves with impunity and disregard for conventional operations.  They do not pause to consider the feelings of an individual or the outcome it has on lives.  They’re concerned and obsessed with the bottom line and to make as much money as possible.  Even if you are the richest woman in the world, they may view you as nothing more than an annoyance.  Your life could be in jeopardy if you go through with this.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” mumbled Harry.  The small man’s face had turned ashen.  The mere prospect of placing Shirley in harm’s way was terrifying to him and one he had not considered.  His hands were visibly shaking.  “Forget I mentioned this. I’ll find another way.”  Harry was stopped by Shirley.

“No.  Start buying the stock and force the suitor into the open.  Let’s see who it is.”  Shirley placed her hands on her hips.

“I will not endanger your life,” said Harry, rising from behind his desk.

“You’re not,” snapped Shirley and turning toward Dustin Zane she said, “Bubba hired him to protect me.  Let’s see how good he is.”  Shirley cocked her head to the side and smiled, before leaving the room.

Dustin Zane glanced over at Harry Sloan.

“Tell me when you have a rise out of whoever is doing this.  I’ll need to be prepared.”

“Are you stepping up security for her?”

“Without a question.”

Dustin Zane reached for his cell phone as he left the office.  There was more at stake than a pharmaceutical company.

Read Chapter Five