This week Joe is trying to sort out the timeline he has found himself in. He is apparently in business with the people he loathed from his original timeline. His quest to avoid this while he took the place of his grandfather failed miserably. He still is confused about how to deal with fixing his life.
Please enjoy this chapter of Extra Innings.
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, Part 28, Part 29
Joe and his new timeline family made it back to the house. He pulled the car into the driveway and Eric was waiting to stow the car for the night. Joe opened the front door and his wife and kids walked into the house. He followed his wife upstairs so that he could change. He planned on spending some time in his office and would go to sleep on the sofa. The discomfort in his marriage worked to his advantage to avoid the awkwardness of sleeping with a woman who he had just met despite a sixteen-year marriage.
Joe kissed his children good night, something that felt strangely natural. He then went into the master suite. His wife was already there. The room had his and hers walk-in closets. Joe went to his and found some shorts and a t-shirt. He closed the door and began changing. As he stripped off his clothes and underwear, the door opened. It was his wife. She was in a very revealing bra and panties set and Joe’s biological instincts caused an unwanted reaction. His wife glanced down at the saluting appendage.
“Well, if this deal with my brother goes well, you might get to use that.”
Joe hastily pulled on his shorts and looked away.
“What’s the matter? Has it been a while since you’ve seen a real woman?”
“Do we have to get into this right now?” Joe asked.
“No, but we do need to get into it. After this shipment is done, we need to sit down and talk about this. You’re going to have a choice to make.”
Joe thought he probably knew what the choice was, but he didn’t want to deal with that right now. At the present time, he wanted to get on the computer and game plan how he would handle the shipment the next day.
“That’s fine. I agree. After the shipment, we’ll get this settled.”
At the time, Joe didn’t know what that meant. Would he stay in this timeline? That was in doubt at the moment. Would he try to fix the situation by going back in time? He wasn’t sure which point in time to go back to. This might take some time to resolve.
Sophia retreated to her closet to change and Joe turned back to his rack of clothes and grabbed clothes and shoes for the next day. He would be up early checking out what the RPM empire looked like in order to help him form a decision on how to handle this timeline.
He padded down the stairs toward his office. Eric was just coming in the front entrance.
“What time will you be needed the care in the morning, Mr. McLean?” He asked Joe.
Joe was at first unsure how to handle having someone to take care of his cars.
“Um, how about 6:30? Is that too early?”
Eric seemed confused by the question.
“Whatever time you need the car, that’s fine. Would you prefer the Jaguar or the SUV?”
Joe didn’t know there was an SUV option. It might be less conspicuous.
“The SUV is fine. Thank you.”
“No problem sir.”
Eric headed down the hall. It appeared that he had quarters in the house. Joe found this interesting.
Joe went into his office and sat at the computer. He wanted to compile a list of addresses and map out where he wanted to go the next morning. First, he looked at a list of properties owned by RPM. There were several apartment buildings around Langerton as well as a couple of strip malls. Beyond that, most of their income seemed to come from the import/export business. Because mainland Canada was across Lake Erie from Langerton, RPM had apparently worked with local government to establish a free trade zone that was quite sizable on the shore of the lake. The warehouses and some offices owned by RPM were inside the free trade zone. This allowed the importing and assembly of goods within RPM’s facilities which minimized taxes and import fees.
Joe collected the addresses and mapped out his plan for the morning. He plotted out a circle that ended at the warehouse where the deal would take place. He searched for two hours for any shred of evidence that would give him a clue into the nature of the deal. He found nothing. That wasn’t a good sign. There was nothing in the invoicing or ordering systems for the company. It appeared this deal might be off the books.
Joe realized it was almost midnight. If he was going to be on the road by 6:30 A.M., he thought it would be smart to get to sleep. He went into the full bathroom that was connected to his office and brushed his teeth. He decided to take a shower so that he wouldn’t have to in the morning. He towed off and put his shorts and t-shirt back on. He walked across the office and arranged the pillow and blanket on the sofa. The sofa was a long, dark brown leather, overstuffed model that proved to be quite comfortable and it had apparently seen quite a bit of use lately. He set the alarm for 6:15 on his cell phone.
It took him just a bit to put the events of the day out of his mind as he tried to fall asleep. Eventually, the fatigue that was rampant in his body won out and he drifted off. When he did, however, he slept very soundly. Hopping timelines was starting to take a toll on his body. More than he realized, unfortunately.
His alarm brought him out of his dreamless slumber at 6:15. He slowly woke up, shook the cobwebs from his mind, and put on the clothes that he had brought down. He went with jeans, a button down striped shirt, and casual shoes. He went into the bathroom, relieved himself, brushed his teeth again, and made sure he didn’t have bed head. He grabbed an iPad that was on his desk in case he needed to look anything up during his journey. By 6:30, he was headed out the front door and it appeared Eric had been very efficient in bringing up the SUV. When Joe saw hit, he realized it might not be as inconspicuous as he thought. It was a 2016 black Lincoln Navigator L, a land yacht, which started out close to $70,000. Apparently, the Joe McLean in this timeline didn’t believe in subtlety.
Joe set off for his first stop, an apartment complex with 40 units that was on the west side of Langerton. Joe set off in that direction. The west side of Langerton was traditionally industrial. The streets were lined with car dealerships. Joe was surprised, however, at the signs for the dealerships as he passed them. Instead of the names that were familiar to him, Many of them bore the RPM name and logo. Apparently, his company owned auto dealerships as well. This made sense as the free trade zone likely took delivery of automobiles manufactured in Canada. RPM could prep them and then sell them in their own dealerships. So far, a smart business strategy with legitimacy.
Finally, Joe reached the first apartment building. It was an old candle manufacturing plant in his original timeline. In this timeline, it was an upscale renovated space with elegant shops on the first floor and converted luxury condominiums on the floors above the shops. It looked like a very appealing property.
Joe circled back out of the parking lot and went on to the next property. He saw more of the same. This was a converted shoe factory that had been turned into an apartment complex designed to attract young professionals. It was called sole survival. A clever play on words and another beautiful, and legitimate, property. Joe was about to abandon driving to the other three properties, but the deal wasn’t for another three hours and something told him to continue.
As Joe approached the third property, he began to see a gradual decline in the neighborhood. The property looked very rundown. It was a cedar-shingled apartment complex that appeared to be in disrepair. Trash and abandoned toys littered the front parking lot. There were discarded liquor bottles near the entrance. Young men were loitering, even at this hour, appearing to be looking for purchasers of whatever product they were offering. Joe quickly pulled away from the property as the loiterers were eyeing the Navigator greedily.
The next stop was a strip mall. As Joe approached it, his worst fears were realized. The tenants included a pawn shop with barred windows, a check cashing establishment and the Joyful Finish Massage Center. He asked himself how he would allow the company to own properties like these. The last property was no better. It was a similarly occupied strip mall with a liquor store, tattoo parlor and a bail bond store.
Joe looked at his watch and there was about 90 minutes before the deal at the warehouse. He headed toward the warehouse and the neighborhood gradually improved the closer he got to the lake. He wanted to get there early to see what he could find out about the deal, but decided to get some coffee at a Starbucks that he came upon while on his way.
As he sat at a table with his iPad sipping a venti regular coffee, Joe looked up some of the businesses that he had passed. The apartment complex was notorious for crimes and violence. Both strip malls had records of robberies and nefarious businesses. The massage business had been raided multiple times for illegal conduct. Joe just shook his head. Why did RPM own these businesses? As he struggled for answers, he realized it was time to get to the warehouse. He tossed out the cup from his half-empty coffee and climbed into the Navigator.
As he drove toward the warehouse, the feeling of dread grew in his stomach. What if there was some elicit deal happening in the warehouse his company owned. What could he do to stop it? His options were limited. He wondered if there was some way he could diffuse the entire creation of the company. Obviously, his stint as his grandfather had failed to do this. It had quite the opposite effect.
As he pulled into the warehouse, he saw a black Mercedes parked near the office entrance. This would likely be Johnny. He was there early as well. Joe went through his game plan one more time in his mind, took a deep breath and entered the warehouse.