70. The Crash
In all aspects of life, clouds often gather, linger and then harmlessly disperse over time; this was not to be the case with First Vision. Or with the two highly respected, financial entities that brought the catastrophic company onto the horizon. H & U employees, like the receptionist, Susan, always felt confident that any client problem could be resolved by her company's legal department assuring her salary and 401k retirement plan would continue to increase consistently until her son was through college and she was heading into her golden years; enjoying retirement in the comfort of a coastline community in Florida where golfing, swimming, and country club parties were a normal, daily routine.
When a corporation gets into trouble, it often files for chapter 11 bankruptcy whereby it regroups and eventually has a rebirth; a reincarnation. H & U did not enjoy that option. Fraud charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission followed by serious criminal charges from the government not only ruined First Vision beyond repair; it badly tarnished H & U for being a secretive accomplice. Clients left in droves, their balance sheet so badly damaged by debt resulting from severe trading losses that they had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Liquidation of all assets was H & U's only option.
"I can't believe we are closing," Said Susan. "I'm scared . . . really scared."
Tara felt bad for everyone innocently caught in this debacle. "What do you think you will do?" she asked her friend.
"I honestly do not know. Look at this. Now I have no job and my future looks bleak." Susan threw her latest retirement asset statement onto Tara's desk. "This market is a disaster. My account has already lost half its value."
Tara took the report and perused it trying to reassure her coworker. "You have experience and skills as a receptionist, our clients all respect and like you. Perhaps one of them is looking for a smart and dedicated employee."
"Oh, I don't know where to go. Maybe I should apply at that company, what's the name . . . Quantum something or other?"
Her comment surprised Tara. "You mean the one we were preparing to do an IPO on before the market collapsed?"
"Yes, that strange guy that came here one day saying that you and he were college friends or something like that." Susan shuddered.
"Why would you want to apply there?" Tara knew there were rumors circulating about Jeff's company but never could pin anyone down who might really know something specific.
"Well, I hear they have a homeless woman living in a storage room. Maybe they could use a hope-less woman as a receptionist."
Susan laughed at what she had suggested. Tara was not amused. "Isn't that just a rumor? I mean why would any company have a . . .?"
Susan did not let her finish her question. "Hey, two guys own that place. Maybe in this bad economy, she offers them benefits." Susan began walking to the door. "Tara, please don't leave without stopping by my desk. We really must keep in touch."
Tara had been very clandestine in her handling of the Quantum Solutions account for the very reason Susan had just stated: everyone who ever met Craig described him as weird and Jeff, as well, was certainly fitting into that category by his secretive behavior and refusals to have contact with anyone else at her company. Even when she insisted he would have to meet people for the normal promotional activities that accompany a new stock offering, he had gotten angry. Tara had never enlightened Susan about her real relationship with J. S. Fuller and her friend never connected any dots to know that he was the Jeff with whom she lived.
The sun was clouding over as the out-of-work stock jockey put her last belonging from her desk drawer into her briefcase. The packing had gone better than she had hoped. She made one more trip to her car then returned to give the place one last check. She was going to miss the view of the city, miss going to the park for lunch, and miss her friend, Susan. Tara had no professional plans now. She thought about taking a vacation but who would she go anywhere with? Felicia still mired in her loss of Steve, Susan had a son to care for and job-hunting to do, Kari was mentally unstable and missing, and Cyrus would not be the best company on a cruise ship.
"Well, that's it I guess." Tara gave Susan a sincere and emotional hug. "I'm going to miss working with you everyday."
The receptionist did not want the moment to end. "Look, I've been meaning to ask but didn't want to pry."
Tara tensed at the use of the word pry. "Yes?" Tara feared what Susan might be going to ask.
"I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was dating my son's coach. Remember?"
"Oh, yes. How's it working out?"
"Oh, he is so nice; a real considerate guy."
"Good. I'm happy for you." Tara could not help feel a little jealousy.
"Hold on . . . there's more. He has a friend who helps with the team. He's good looking and I think you should . . . I mean, he . . . the coach suggested we go on a double date and my first thought was that you might be interested in meeting his friend."
Tara was caught off guard. Was she ready for a third side to her love life? She wondered.
"We'd like to go for drinks and dinner after Saturday's game," Susan continued, "what do you say? Are you game?" She smiled. "No pun intended."
Tara smiled back, "Well, wait a moment until I check the mental schedule I keep in my head of my empty love life." She looked toward the ceiling for one second. "Yes. Surprisingly, I am free."
"Super!" Both girls hugged again. "Robby and I will pick you up at one o'clock Saturday and you can sit with me to watch his team play."