When we last left Joe, he was attempting to go back and change the current timeline in an effort to change the direction of his life and the outcome for his company, family and love life.
This week’s installment sets up some additional twists and turns as Joe learns the lesson that you can’t try to fix everything without consequences.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
When Joe opened his eyes, he was still sitting in the basement. The gas forced-air furnace kicked on and had made the room vibrate. He wasn’t transported back to the game. He wasn’t on his way to fixing the timeline, he was still in his basement. Neither one of the seats had worked. As he pondered what this meant, he heard his cell phone ring. He had left it on the washing machine. He got up from the seat and grabbed the phone. It was Mike.
“Joe, where the hell are you? Provenza’s got people here combing through our files.”
“He does? I thought he was in New York until tomorrow.”
“He is, but he’s got his minions asking for logins and passwords and wanting access to the paper files.”
“Okay, Mike. I’ll be there in a little bit.”
“Joe, did you find any loopholes or anything that will get us out of this?”
Joe’s heart sank in his chest.
“Not yet Mike. I’m looking as we speak,” he lied.
“Well, I’m not sure how to stop these guys, Joe. They have a letter from F, O and M. It looks pretty ironclad.”
“Just give it to them in small increments. Keep telling them it will take a while to pull it together. Make up something about software licenses or something. You’re good at that, Mike,” Joe said hopefully. “I just need a couple of hours.”
“Alright, Joe. I’ll do my best,” Mike said only sounding slightly confident. “I hope you find something.”
Me too. Joe thought to himself, then to Mike, “I will.”
Joe ended the call and then ran his hands through his hair. What was next? Did he go into the office and actually look for a loophole or did he go back to the storage unit for the third seat? His brain told him the office was the right choice, but his gut and his heart demanded that he give it one more try. He grabbed the program book and headed out to the SUV. The trip to the storage facility gave Joe a chance to come up with a plan if the third and final stadium seat worked. If it didn’t, he didn’t have a plan B.
He punched in the code and the gate slid open and he drove the short distance to his storage unit. Joe made a decision on the way over. He grabbed the program book, unlocked the door and opened it, went into the storage unit and slid the door closed behind him. He didn’t want to chance anyone seeing him if this experiment worked.
He climbed his way over the furniture and boxes and settled into the stadium seat. He paused for a minute and then opened the program book and closed his eyes.
For about 15 seconds nothing happened and Joe was about to open his eyes. Something stopped him, however. He decided to take a few deep breaths, relax, and give it a bit longer. He felt himself slipping into a trance-like state and he lost consciousness for a split second. He felt warmth on his face and a warm breeze that had the slight fragrance of the lake. When he opened his eyes, he was at the Langerton Chiefs game. The timeframe was about two and a half years in the past. The key to the timing, however, was that it was one day prior to McClean and associates agreeing to the merger with F, O and M and about a month prior to his father’s stroke. Joe thought he would attack these most recent problems first and then decide if there was anything that could be done about Beth.
It was a late afternoon game, the second in a double-header. It would be dark by the time it was over. As Joe settled into his box seat next to three and a half years younger, Mike, he thought about the challenge of what he was about to do. He had to find out what time the merger meeting was the next day and stay awake through the night so that he could attend and stop it. He knew, if he went to sleep, he guessed he would return to the current timeline with the merger intact or, even worse, the original timeline with everything undone.
“Hey Joey,” Mike said.
Joe snapped back to his current reality.
“What’s going on with you?” Mike asked. “The Chiefs just took the lead and your sitting there like a lump.”
Joe scrambled for an answer, but them just tried the truth.
“Sorry Mike. I’m just thinking about the merger meeting with F, O and M tomorrow.”
“We need to hear them out, Joey. We’ve worked hard to build up this business. A big firm like that could set us up for life.”
“You’re right. Let’s just go into it with our eyes open. We don’t want to throw away what we’ve built up.”
“I agree Joey. Nobody has a gun to our head to do this.”
Joe felt a bit better. He settled in to watch the game careful not to eat too much or drink any beer. He didn’t want to do anything that would make him sleepy later. It was an exciting game, but Joe had to fake it since it was fairly recent and he knew how it would turn out.
When the game was over, Joe and Mike walked to the parking lot. In this timeline, the firm was still successful and they enjoyed reserved parking along with their box seats on the third baseline. Joe had driven the Tesla. He maneuvered the high performing automobile back to his house. It was virtually unchanged from the timeline he had just left. It was about 8:30 P.M. by the time he got home and a quick check of his computer calendar told him the meeting with F, O and M was at 9:30 the next morning. He would have to stay awake if he wanted to remain in this timeline and change the course of the merger. He would also have to figure out a way to get to his father and warn him of the impending stroke. Then he could finally go to sleep and wake up to the results of his efforts.
His first instinct was to work out. He knew that working out always made him feel energized and awake. He started with a 30-minute jog on the treadmill and then some free weights. After a cool shower, he had used up about 90 minutes. He brewed some strong coffee and settled down at his desk with a large mug. He wanted to study what had been proposed by F, O and M prior to the initial meeting to see how the outcome with Provenza in charge could have happened. The paperwork was all very preliminary. It included a letter dripping with compliments and a request for an exploratory meeting to discuss a possible merger. That meeting was tomorrow. Joe saw that it was early enough in the process that he could stop the merger and remove the chance of Provenza getting his hands on the business.
At about 2 A.M., Joe became tired of looking at his computer. He still had seven hours to go. He refilled his coffee and decided to do some research on stroke prevention so that he could come up with a way to help his father. Most of the literature seemed to focus on reducing cholesterol. He also made note of the warning signs. It quickly became apparent that there was no magic solution to preventing a stroke, but he at least had to try.
By about 5 A.M., Joe was starting to get very drowsy. He decided that another 30 minutes on the treadmill and a shower would chew up some additional time before he headed into the office. At 6:30, Joe went out to the SUV. He realized that he hadn’t been to this incarnation of the firm. It was in a five story building in the heart of downtown Langerton. His firm had the top two floors.
On the way, he stopped at a drive-through Starbucks and ordered a triple espresso and some sugary baked goods. He was tired, but still functional. He pulled into the parking lot and found his reserved spot. There was already someone at the security desk. The guard greeted Joe as he walked to the elevator bank. Joe was concerned about his ability to find his way to his office, but he guessed correctly that it was in one of the corners of the top floor. The office looked like something he would have worked in. It had family photos and Langerton Chiefs and New York Yankees memorabilia tastefully hung among his diploma and CPA license.
He sat in the comfortable executive chair and sipped his espresso. There were about two hours to go. The staff would be arriving soon. He just might make it to the 9:30 meeting. At 8:30 Mike arrived and settled into the guest chair in Joe’s office.
“Joey, are we ready for these New York City big shots?”
“I think so, Mike. I’m really having second thoughts about any kind of merger.”
Mike sighed and sat back in the chair.
“I understand, Joe. We’ve worked hard to build up this business. It’s not easy to give up control. Think about this, though. You’ve given your whole life to this business. Don’t you need to step back and enjoy what you’ve accomplished?”
“You’re right, Mike,” Joe admitted. “I don’t feel good about this one, though. Something tells me this is too good to be true.”
“Well, your leadership has gotten us this far. I trust whatever you decide.”
Joe and Mike went over some of the upcoming expenditures for technology that Mike was proposing. At about 9:15, Joe’s phone buzzed.
“Mr. McClean, the gentlemen from F, O and M are here. I’ve put them in the conference room.”
“Thanks, Carmella,” Joe said. “We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Joe put some papers into a folder and stood up.
“Well, Mike, let’s get this over with.”
The two brothers walked down to the conference room. Joe was determined to change the course of history. He had no idea how much a change would result from the actions he was about to take.