Well, Joe has some revelations in this week’s installment that could be game changers. It’s going to be interesting to see how this ends up.
Please enjoy this week’s installment of Extra Innings.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Joe powered through dinner with his parents. His dad had to be fed and his mom and sister-in-law took turns with the duty. About 25% of what went in his mouth came dribbling back down his chin and onto the bib his mom had fastened around his neck. Joe had to look away. He couldn’t bear to see his father this way. Throughout dinner, he pieced together a bit of what happened. His father had taken to jogging and then running following heart bypass surgery. A cardiologist had identified a blockage and had saved his life with surgery. His genetically flawed blood vessels, however, caused him to suffer a stroke while running a half-marathon.
Joe couldn’t help but feel responsible. Apparently, the entire McClean family’s commitment to physical fitness had been his idea. It had benefitted his Mom, his brother and of course, himself. His dad, however, seemed predestined to illness. His quality of life was horrible. Joe couldn’t help but wonder, again, if his altering of the timeline had caused this. He realized something else. He had experienced the death of both of his parents in the original timeline. When he went back to his young self and changed the current timeline, he took the knowledge of their deaths with him and acted on it. He realized that he didn’t lose knowledge as he switched timelines.
Dinner progressed and his mom served a healthy fruit salad dessert. Joe was restless. He wanted to get away from the surreal scene and do some thinking. He and Mike had an early flight to New York in the morning for the merger finalization and he wanted to process all that had happened during his first weekend in the new timeline. Joe made the rounds saying goodbye to everyone. He saved his mother and father for last. His mom gave him a long hug and Joe could feel her trembling. She looked at him with moist eyes.
“Joey, are you okay?”
Joe hesitated with his answer. A mother’s intuition was not something to take lightly.
“I’m okay, Mom. Just the merger and everything.”
“I worry about you. Something in your eyes is not right.”
Again, Joe did not know what to say. His mother was totally accurate. There was something bothering him, a lot of things, actually.
“It’s just the merger. It’s a big step for the business,” Joe partially lied.
“It will be over tomorrow and then maybe you can rest a bit. I know it’s a big step for the business, and for you, but a positive step.”
“Thanks mom,” was all Joe could manage as he teared up.
“Say goodbye to your father and go home and get some rest.”
Joe walked over to his father who was seated in a chair in the living room. As he bent to give him a painfully awkward hug, his father grasped Joe’s forearms in a vicelike grip and locked eyes with him. Joe could tell he wanted to say something.
“What is it Dad? Tell me.”
His father twisted his mouth into a gnarled shape and continued to fix his gaze on Joe’s eyes. He tried in vain to vocalize, but could only manage a single tear from his right eye. He then broke the eye contact and released his grip. Joe was shaken when he turned to leave. He drove home in silence reflecting on what he had just experienced.
Joe was mentally and physically exhausted. He changed and collapsed into bed. His flight to New York was at 7 A.M. Luckily, he only lived 15 minutes from the Langerton regional airport and he and Mike would be in the New York offices of F, O and M by 10 A.M. in time for the 10:30 meeting.
Surprisingly, Joe had a dreamless sleep that ended when his alarm went off at 4:30 A.M. He got up, showered, shaved and put on a dark suit, white shirt and subtle blue print tie. He took a second look at himself in the mirror before exiting his walk-in closet. He actually looked pretty good, if not a bit tired.
He pulled the BMW out of the garage at 5:45 and navigated the nearly deserted streets to the airport. His ticket was booked in first class and he had TSA Pre-Check status which helped him move through security quickly. He made his way through the A concourse of the small airport carrying his backpack. He was planning on one night in New York. Mike mentioned a celebration dinner with their attorney and the principals from F, O and M at a trendy Italian restaurant in Manhattan. They would then stay overnight and take an early flight back to Langerton on Tuesday morning.
Joe sat in an uncomfortable vinyl seat in the gate. He was alone with his thoughts for about 10 minutes until his brother Mike and their attorney, Tim Clayborn arrived. They looked at the small regional commuter jet parked at the jetway.
“I’m glad we booked first class on that thing. Coach is so cramped,” Mike said.
“They are pretty fast though. Great commuter planes,” Clayborn said, trying to make conversation.
Clayborn was a ruthless attorney and a little short on people skills, but, for mergers and acquisitions, he was very effective. It made sense that he would be working for the McClean firm.
The small talk stalled, partly due to the hour, and partly due to lack of rapport between the brothers and the attorney. Finally, the call to board the plane came. Since there were no wheelchair-bound passengers or families traveling with infants, the McCleans and their attorney boarded with the first-class passengers. The plane left the gate on time. There were not a lot of flights leaving the Langerton Regional Airport at this, or any time, frankly. They were in the air and climbing to altitude right on time. The flight out of Pennsylvania and over New York State only took about an hour and Joe woke from a semi-nap at the sound of the dual tones letting him know they were making their final descent into LaGuardia. Joe looked out the window at the skyline of Manhattan. He could see the Statue of Liberty and Citi Field, home of the Mets. Finally, they descended to the runway. The short runways at LaGuardia made it appear that the plane was going to land on the water, but it made contact with the end of the runway and quickly came to a stop and taxied into the terminal.
None of the party had checked luggage, so they made their way to the ground transportation area. Joe spotted a man in a traditional chauffer uniform and hat holding an iPad with the name McClean on it. The three men followed the driver through the automatic door into the crisp, sunny New York morning. They eventually arrived at the correct black town car among a sea of town cars and the driver opened the trunk for their overnight luggage and then opened the doors for them to get into the back seat of the car. Joe and Mike sat in the back and Clayborn joined the driver in the front.
It was just after 9 A.M. and, even though the trip to Manhattan was short in mileage, traffic was heavy and it took them nearly an hour to get to the 5th Avenue high-rise that was the headquarters of F, O and M. When they arrived, they went through the revolving door into the spacious lobby and approached the security guard.
“Mike and Joe McClean and Tim Clayborn for a meeting at F, O and M,” Mike said, speaking for the group.
“Who is your meeting with, Sir?”
“Martin Filbright, the CEO.”
This seemed to get the security guard’s attention and he quickly mashed a series of numbers on his phone console. Based on the one-sided conversation, Joe surmised that the guard was being told to send them up immediately.
“Mr. Filbright is expecting you. The meeting will take place in the executive board room on the 85th floor. He is sending someone down to escort you to the correct place. Please have a seat in the lobby.”
Mike thanked the guard and they settled into three comfortable leather chairs. They had barely sat down before a young woman dressed in a prototypical New York business suit approached them.
“Hello. Mr. McClean, Mr. McClean and Mr. Clayborn?” she asked.
The three men rose.
“Hello. I’m Joe McClean.,” Joe said as he shook her hand.
Introductions were made all around and the young woman instructed them to follow her to the elevator. The elevators, as they were in many high-rise buildings, were segmented. One bank went from the 1st to the 10th floor. Another from the 11th to the 30th . A third from 31 to 45 and then a final bank that went from 46 to 85. The last bank was their destination. The young woman, named Kandace, used her badge to activate the elevator and punched in the 85th floor as their destination.
The elevator rose up quickly from the1st to the 46th floor and then slowed it’s climb somewhat as it made its way to the top of the building. Surprisingly, there were no stops before they reached the 85th floor. The elevator stopped and opened on a floor clad in dark wood paneling. It looked like a luxurious old building carved out in the middle of a shiny glass and metal skyscraper.
Their escort ignored the receptionist and led the trio to the executive board room, an opulent room decked out with modern, expensive furniture and the latest multi-media gear. There was a complete breakfast setup and they were the first to arrive.
“Mr. Filbright and the others will be with you soon. Relax and have some breakfast.”
Joe poured some coffee. He ignored the steamer trays filled with eggs, bacon and potatoes and, instead, sat at the conference table and gnawed on half a bagel. His stomach was in knots. He assumed he had been through countless meetings before this in this present timeline, but since he couldn’t remember experiencing any of them, he had to subdue his nerves.
After about ten minutes, a tanned, well-dressed man in his early fifties entered the room.
“Joe, Mike, Tim, it’s good to see you again.”
Joe shook hands and accepted the shoulder pat from this man that knew him well that he had never met before.
“Pat and Jim will be joining us in a minute. Our attorney is on his way up as well,” the man Joe realized was Martin Filbright said.
Like clockwork, a trio of similarly aged and dressed men entered the room. They greeted Joe, Mike and Tim. They were Pat O’Hara and Jim McInerny, the other two senior partners in the firm and Jeff Riordan, F, O and M’s attorney.
“Well, let’s get started,” Fulbright said.
Riordan removed a substantial pile of paperwork from his briefcase and began to lead everyone through the signing of the documents. To Joe, it was like closing on a house. He had, in fact, read all of these documents and was familiar with them. He signed them and then passed them on to Mike for his signature after each brief explanation from Riordan on the meaning of each document.
After about 20 minutes of this activity, Joe sat back. It was done. He had merged his successful company with an even more successful New York firm.
“Well, that was painless,” Filbright said. “We just have one more piece of business.”
“What would that be,” Joe asked.
“Well, the agreement states that F, O and M will assign a managing partner to oversee the merger activities and help with strategic planning going forward so that we can create a seamless company that still keeps the flavor and spirit of each original firm. You know, the best of both worlds.”
“So, which of you will that be?” Mike asked.
“Oh, it won’t be one of us. We aren’t familiar with your market. We wouldn’t presume to know your customers and their needs. We brought in someone as a new junior partner specifically for this task.”
“And who is that,” Joe asked.
“I’ll ask him to come in,” Filbright said as he dialed a number on the conference room phone.
“Yes. Send him in please.”
Within 30 seconds, a familiar figure entered the door into the conference room and Joe’s heart sank from his chest into his toes.
“Joe, Mike. So good to see you. Glad to see our two families will finally be working together.”
It was Johnny Provenza, the cocky son of John Provenza, Sr., Joe’s boss from the original timeline.
“Johnny,” Mike said and then to Filbright, “Is this some kind of joke.”
“No, Mr. McClean. It’s not a joke. Mr. Provenza knows your business well. I understand his father’s business was a competitor of yours, but that your horse eventually won and you outlasted their firm in Langerton. He has nothing but respect for your business and we feel that this alliance can achieve great things.”
Joe felt suddenly nauseous. Alliance? His whole purpose for going back in this timeline was to refuse to work for the Provenza family business. He knew of Johnny Provenza’s lack of ability from the prior timeline. This was not a good outcome. The other shoe had dropped. This timeline was not the best outcome for him or his family. He could feel it.
As if sensing his thoughts, Johnny Provenza walked over to Joe and extended a hand.
“This is going to be great, Joe. My dad always admired you. Even though your firm took away most of his customers, he respected you to the end.”
As Joe Shook Provenza’s hand, he had the feeling that a million tiny spiders were crawling up his arm. He also realized at that moment that this timeline was not the one he wanted to stay on. Now all he had to do was figure out how to escape it.