This week Joe finds himself in a timeline that is the polar opposite of the one he was in before becoming his own grandfather. He starts to find that there is no perfect situation. Will this one work out for him? Read on and find out.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27
Joe navigated the Jaguar along the curves that led to the lake. The car drove intuitively, almost as if it knew the roads and had some type of autopilot. This was fortunate because Joe was lost in thought. Not only had his family not separated itself from the Roselli’s, it appeared that both families had flourished. Joe wanted to believe that this was due to some kind of awesome legitimate business venture, but something told him he should know better. As he navigated through the small, upscale village that bordered the lake and made the turn on East Lake Road, he noticed something else, he had a wedding ring on his left hand. Could it be that he and Beth somehow ended up together in this timeline? That would be the resolution of one area where he had failed in every timeline thus far. Joe looked closely at the house numbers. He had programmed his into the map app on his phone and he was only a quarter mile away. As he pulled into the driveway, he realized that this house made the one in his prior timelines look like a guest bungalow. The massive stucco property with tile roofing and Spanish architecture looked gaudy and out of place in Western Pennsylvania. It also looked very expensive.
Joe parked the Jaguar on the circular driveway and a young man in a black suit immediately emerged from what he assumed was a guest house.
“Mr. McLean, your home early. Would you like me to park the car or are you heading out again?”
Joe was taken aback. Apparently he employed a person to take care of his car.
“Um, you can park it, I think. I don’t think I’ll be going out.”
The man looked a bit confused. Joe assumed he probably should address him by name, t
“Mr. McLean,” a woman’s voice called as he went through the front entrance. “You’re home early. The Mrs. isn’t home yet. She may not be for a while. She took Joey shopping about an hour ago.”
Joey? Did Joe have a child in this timeline?
“That’s okay. I have some work to do in my office,” Joe said as he took a chance that he had an office in this mansion.
“Very well, Mr. M. Shall I call up to you if Mrs. M. comes home?”
“Yes. That would be great. Thanks you,” Joe said as he received the same confused look from the woman who appeared to be a housekeeper or nanny. Again, he probably made things awkward by not addressing her by name, but guessing what her name was would have been much more awkward.
Joe walked through the marble entry hall and climbed the elaborate staircase. All he could think of by the size and décor was a merger between Donald Trump and The Beverly Hillbillies went into creating this house. He wondered if he had a gold-plated cement pond out back.
He wandered around the upstairs, grateful that no one else appeared to be up there. He would really have a hard time explaining why he couldn’t find his way around his own house. He found a young boy’s room, presumably Joey’s, but was also surprised to find what appeared to be a teenage girl’s room. Did he have a daughter as well? He passed the gigantic master suite and then found a closed double door just down the hall on the right. When he opened the door, he realized he had found an office, his office. It was larger than his apartment in the original timeline. It had dark paneling and, as he explored the room he found a computer with two large monitors on top of a massive antique mahogany desk, a fully stocked bar, and a full bathroom.
He crossed back through the room to the desk and keyed in his usual password to his computer. Luckily he was consistent in all timelines with this bit of information. The screens came to life and the logo for a company called Roselli and McLean, Inc. came up. The logo was made of two rings intertwined. Joe couldn’t help but theorize that this was to indicate the union of the families.
As he fired up his browser, he looked around the room and behind him, on a matching credenza under the massive window, there were family pictures. Joe recognized his mother and father and Mike and his wife right away. They looked even healthier and wealthier in this iteration of the timeline. He then saw himself in various decades. First, a wedding picture. He looked closely at the bride. It wasn’t Beth. He had married someone else in this timeline. She was a beautiful woman with dark hair and eyes and distinctly Mediterranean features. In later pictures, he saw himself with two young children. First a girl and later a boy. They both looked like a blend of Joe and this mystery woman.
In order of importance, and to avoid embarrassment in the near-term, Joe thought he should probably find out who he married so when she returned from shopping, he could at least pretend to know her since they had been married for at least 16-20 years by his estimate. He logged into his computer and began a search. He figured he might be well-known in the community so he started with a Google search and typed in Joe McLean marriage. He was surprised to see that at the top of the search results, he had a Wikipedia page.
The page said that Joseph McLean was a Western Pennsylvania business mogul who had been one of the heirs of a fortune amassed by his grandfather William McLean in the 1950s and 1960s. Joe found out that he had attended Cornell and had earned his CPA after receiving his Master’s Degree. Joe’s grandfather had been the original CFO for Roselli-McLean Limited, an import/export company that cornered the market for importing produce and olive oil in most of Pennsylvania. Since that time, the company had expanded into importing and exporting other goods and even owned several manufacturing facilities across the northeast. The company was renamed Roselli, Provenza and McLean (RPM) in 1980 and was a family business that employed the entire McLean family including Joe’s grandfather, his father, his brother Mike, and Joe himself.
Joe’s grandfather died in 1990 and Joe’s dad retired in 2000 leaving the financial arm of the business to be run by Joe and the technology side in charge of Mike. It appeared that they filled similar roles that they did in the most desirable timeline to date, but in this current timeline, those roles were for a much larger and more prosperous firm. Not only were they still in business with the Roselli family, but they had also added the Provenzas to the fold.
Joe now came to the personal part of his Wikipedia page. He was married in 2001 to Sophia Provenza. It took him just a minute to recover from this revelation. He married into the Provenza family. The irony was not lost on him. Sophia was the eldest daughter of John Provenza Sr., the retired Chief Operating Officer of RPM. They had two children, Maria and Joe Junior, aged 16 and 9. That was about all the personal information that Joe could find. He wasn’t sure if that was enough to get him by with his ‘wife’, but he needed to dig into the business further.
Joe logged on to the company website. Luckily, his familiarity with how his brother administrated the set up user IDs and passwords. He found his way into the company’s financials. What he saw nearly blew his mind. Revenues were in the high nine figures approaching a billion dollars. Net profit was very healthy. It appeared that they had a very solid revenue stream from the leading retail chains. Everything appeared legitimate at first glance. That only made Joe feel marginally better. The next thing was to look at the tax history for the company. Again, it appeared that they were using one of the Big Four accounting firms to audit them and prepare their taxes. It all appeared above board. So much for the public stuff, Joe now needed to dig further. See where the bodies were buried, so to speak. He had only been in this timeline for a short time, but he was starting to feel uncomfortable.
Just as he was about to do a more extensive search of the company files, he heard noise downstairs as someone entered the house. He then heard footsteps coming up the stairs and then a knock on the office door.
He wasn’t sure what to say, but thought he would start with the obvious.
“Daddy it’s me. Can I come in?”
A child’s voice.
“Sure,” Joe said not sure how to feel.
A young boy with both McLean and Provenza features ran to Joe and put his arms around his neck. Although Joe had never met this boy, he instantly felt parental affection toward him.
“Joey. How are you?”
“I’m good, Dad. Mom bought me some school clothes, but she let me get a new video game.”
“That’s great,” Joe said.
“As long as you don’t play it too long,” said another voice from the doorway.
Joe looked up and saw that it was Sophia, his wife of 16 years, that he had never met.
“You’re home early,” she said. “Slow day at the office?”
“Um, yes,” Joe said. He was nervous at Sophia’s beauty and his lack of familiarity with this woman he had been married to for so long.
“We still have dinner tonight at 7:30. Don’t forget.”
“Dinner?” Joe asked.
Sophia gave him a look of confusion.
“Yes. Dinner, like we do every Friday night. With our parents. At Dominicks. Did you forget what day it was?”
Joe did his best to laugh.
“I guess I did. Sorry about that.”
Sophia just shook her head.
“Come on, Joey. Let your father work. Let’s go get rid of some of your school clothes from last year so we can make room for the new ones.”
“Okay, Mom,” the boy said and then he turned to Joe. “Are you okay, Dad.”
“Sure, Joey. Why do you ask?”
“You just seem…um…different.”
“No. I’m fine. Go help your mom and will have dinner later.”
“You go ahead, Joey. I’ll be right there.”
Joe looked up as Sophia came into the room and closed the door.
“Okay, what’s going on? You leave the office early and come home and then act all strange. Is it her again?”
“Her?” Joe asked truly ignorant of what his new/old wife was referring to.
“Yes, Her. Don’t play dumb with me, Joe. We agreed that we would work this out for the kids, but if I find out you’re seeing her again, I will divorce you and take everything you have and then you’ll have to deal with how my family might resolve the situation.”
“I promise you, my being home has nothing to do with anyone else. I just was out doing some errands and decided to come home instead of going back to the office.”
Sophia turned to leave, but then turned around for a parting shot.
“Okay, Joe, but if I find out you’re lying, you’ll lose every penny you have and they’ll be finding parts of Beth Burton all over Western Pennsylvania.”
At the sound of Beth’s name, Joe felt both elated and deflated. Apparently, she was in his life, but not in the way he had envisioned. This timeline was getting complicated.