[January 7, 1981]
[Offices of AGG Imports, Montreal, Canada – 1400]
Bill’s office intercom sounded a tone. When he glanced at the panel, he saw it was his father-in-law, Alain; the boss. “Yes, Papa?”
“Could you come in here for a moment, Bill? I would like to discuss something with you.”
“Certainly.” He rose, adjusted his cuffs, and walked across the hall to Alain’s office and tapped on the door.
“Come in, come in.”
Bill entered and was surprised to see quite a few of the office staff grouped around the walls; some standing, some sitting in chairs. All were looking on expectantly. “Yes?” He looked around quickly. “What is going on?”
Alain stood and rested his fingers on the desk before him. “Bill, you remember that before you married the boss’s daughter…” there were chuckles from the group. “…I told you that I had high hopes you would decide to join our happy little family. Since that time, you have far exceeded my expectations both in sales for this company and personally. You have a fine daughter in Monique and she, in turn, has given me boundless joy as a granddaughter. For that, I thank you.”
Bill started to say something, but Alain held up his hand. “You have become a Canadian citizen, which I know must have been a difficult choice. Now, it is time for me to make a difficult choice.” He paused, head down, for a moment then raised it again. “As of this moment, I am naming you my successor and all that this entails. You will assume the title of General Manager of AGG Imports.
The attendees around the room took a breath in common; more of a gasp, really. He continued.
“At the end of the week I will vacate this office and you may move in when you wish. I will stop by from time to time just to keep my hand in, but for now I want everyone to know that you are the boss.” He looked around expectantly. “I trust there are no objections?” He said with a smile.
Everyone clapped and moved forward to give Bill their congratulations. With tears in her eyes, Josette, Alain’s long-standing secretary, kissed Bill’s cheek. Someone ducked into the hall and rolled in a tray with three bottles of champagne on it and many glasses. Corks were popped and the wine poured. When everyone had a glass in hand, Alain toasted Bill and his new position.
Bill offered a return toast. “Alain – Papa – I think you from the bottom of my heart. I will do my very best to make this company grow as much as it has under your fine hand. “Salut!”
Everyone echoed the toast and they drank.
Bill drained his glass and then spoke. “I thank everyone for their support. I know it will be very hard to replace our former boss. “Everyone laughed. “But perhaps, in time, I can. For now, if there aren’t too many pressing details to attend to I’d like everyone to take the rest of the day off. With pay, of course.”
Light cheering from the crowd as they headed for their offices to clean up those pressing details.
Alain came over and laid his arm around Bill’s shoulders. “You’ll do fine, my boy. Just fine. Now, go home and tell Molly the good news.”
“Oui, Monsieur. J'ai écouter et obéir!” Alain patted his shoulder and went back to his desk – soon to be Bill’s desk.
[February 12, 1981]
[412 Place Sherwood #5, Montreal, Canada – 2312]
The phone rang loudly in the quiet apartment. Bill and Molly were in bed, but not yet asleep as they had waited for Monique to come home from a movie with friends. Bill got up and answered. It was Suzette and she sounded very distressed.
“Bill!” She said into the phone excitedly in French. “You must meet me at the hospital! It is Alain. He has had another stroke. They took him there just five minutes ago. Hurry!”
“Mama, slow down. Which hospital?”
“The one of Monique’s birth. The very same. Please hurry.”
“We will, Mama. We will.”
“We will what?” Asked Molly, calling from the bedroom.
Bill rushed back. “You father has had another stroke. I’ll get dressed and get the car, you wake Monique.”
“At once!” Molly leapt out of bed and rushed into Monique’s bedroom. Bill pulled on clothing and donned his warm coat. “Make sure you all wear warm coats. It is very cold outside.” He called on his way out the door.
When Bill pulled to a stop, the girls rushed out and got in with him. The heater was going full blast but hadn’t warmed up quite yet. Luckily, traffic was at a minimum and they made the trip to the hospital very quickly. Parking the car, Bill and the girls ran into the waiting room and crowded up to the desk.
They found that Alain had already been taken to Intensive Care and had doctor’s working on him. Suzette, who had been waiting for Bill and his family, rushed over and hugged the three of them. “Oh, Mon Dieu, they tell me he has had a bad stroke. They will not me see him!” She wailed.
Bill took her face in his hands. “Mama, you need to be strong right now. They need all the room they can get around him. They will do their very best. You know they will. Please. Let’s go over there and sit down to wait. They will tell us.”
* * *
‘Even now Bill takes charge.’ Molly thought. ‘He always knows what to do in any situation. This; this is the reason my father turned the company over to him. I wonder if my father knew something like this was to happen.’
* * *
Alain did seem to get a little better, but they held him in the hospital under close supervision. His right side was almost paralyzed and his speech was very slow and slurred. He could not walk without assistance and when members of his family came to visit they always eased him into a wheelchair and pushed him about the hospital. His favorite room was the glassed-in atrium on the roof where he could look out at the river traffic.
Monique knitted him a shoulder cover which he loved and wore it constantly. Suzette spent whole days sitting by his side reading, talking, or just holding his hand as he slept. She began to look wan and didn’t eat well. Monique fixed her a small bed in her room so she wouldn’t have so far to travel to visit her husband.
Bill could tell the old man treasured their visits – even Lili came over from Ottawa several times. Her children, now grown, came also. Whenever she could, Monique would spend time with her grandfather up on the roof reading to him.
Alain seemed to be recovering but then one afternoon ten days later, he looked up at Suzette, murmured an indistinct “Je t’aime”, and closed his eyes. Before the running doctor’s could get to the room, Alain had taken his last breath.
Suzette cried out and then collapsed back in the chair she was sitting in and began sobbing gently. Molly and Bill, who had been coming down the hall to visit, were halted by the doctors as they rushed into the room. One of them stood at the door and relayed what was happening inside back to them. It was of no use. Alain could not be resuscitated. It was just before noon.
The funeral was held three days later, on a Sunday afternoon. The small chapel was filled with people and flowers. The service was short, but very poignant. His immediate family, which had grown over time, were seated at one side. Choking back emotion, Bill gave a small eulogy. Monique rose and laid the shoulder scarf on the casket amid copious tears, not really wanting to leave her Grand-père for good. Molly went to her and held her in her arms as they walked back to their seats.
The minister gave a final blessing and it was over. Everyone who worked for him had showed up and passed by Suzette and her family to give their condolences. The newspaper reported that the train of cars to the cemetery was over forty vehicles long.
[February 23, 1981]
[Avocat à la Cour LaForge, Laval District, Montreal, Canada – 1000]
Alain’s will was read following legal preliminaries in the Barrister’s office. Bill was amazed to learn that Alain had left the entire business of AGG Imports to his son, none other than himself. Suzette smiled wanly over at him as various emotions flew though his mind. Molly took his hand and squeezed it – hard – to get his attention. The Barrister continued to detail Alain’s personal and public holdings.
Both Bill and Molly were shocked to find that the apartment building they lived in had been quietly bought by Alain and his company. AGG Imports, with Bill at the helm, now owned the building in which the three of them lived. Molly cried quietly into a tissue as the Barrister continued.
Alain’s immediate family had been taken care of, so now it was time for the rest of the clan. Lili’s children were given sums of money with the hope that they would apply it to their college educations. The same went for Monique who cried to herself between Bill and Molly. The house in which Alain and Suzette had lived for so many years was already paid off so the title was simply changed to reflect Suzette’s ownership.
[April 20, 1981]
[412 Place Sherwood #5, Montreal, Canada]
Molly was still feeling the effects of her father passing away, but was slowly getting better. The immediate pain had faded and now all that was left was a feeling of loss. She would seem happy until something reminded her of Alain and then she would weep quietly to herself. Bill tried to think of a way to help her.
Today, when he returned from the office, he was all smiles. He’d been contacted by a very large French firm that wished to open a market in North America. Their Paris supply department had suggested AGG Imports so they had called. The firm manufactured or handled hundreds of consumables in France and surrounding countries and was a perfect supplier for Bill’s company outlets. They had called and wanted to hold a high-level conference. Bill agreed to attend the meeting in three days in Paris.
“Molly!” He called as he came through the door. “You’re not going to believe the day I’ve had. Just wait until you hear.”
Molly came in from the kitchen. “What? A tough day?”
“No. Quite the opposite.” He told her about the conference call and what had resulted from it. Bill’s infectious attitude swept over Molly and as soon as he told her she was invited also, she was mentally planning what she would pack.
Monique came out of her room and they both scurried about laying clothes on the spare bed for later transfer to her luggage. Bill came in and watched them.
“Remember our first trip to Paris, Honey? I can’t believe we carried as little as we did and managed to look presentable. All we had between us was that beat up backpack of mine and your old hardboard suitcase.”
Molly stopped and cupped her hand under Bill’s chin. “Yes, I remember. I think we did pretty well considering. I have a hard time believing I was ever that young.”
Bill kissed her. “You’ll always be that timid girl to me.”
“You want me to leave for a moment?” Asked Monique with a grin.
“No, Honey. Just reminiscing. Those certainly were interesting times.” Said Molly with a sigh. “Will we need to make hotel reservations?”
“Nope. I’ve already instructed our travel department to make them for us. Unfortunately, the Hotel Muguet is not there any more, or it is under new management, because we can’t get a phone number for it. I’m sure they will find us a good place. I told them it had to have a good dining room because we would be dining in a lot.” He wiggled his eyebrows and Molly punched him playfully on the arm.
“Oh, go on now. Start supper or something.”
[April 24, 1981]
[Hotel Ares Eiffel – Paris, France – late afternoon]
Molly and Bill arrived very tired. The booking desk staff were very friendly and confirmed that there would be a car from Franco-Fabrique in the morning at ten. A smartly dressed page took their bags and directed them to their room on the top floor.
Intrigued by the name, Molly was unprepared for the view out their window. They were quite a bit closer to the Eiffel Tower than they had been before and to see it at almost arm’s length was thrilling. After tipping the page, Bill came up behind her, tucked his arms around her waist, and nuzzled her ear.
“I told them to make sure we had a view, but this is overwhelming. I wonder if they still light it up at night.”
Molly turned to look up at him. “I should imagine so.” She turned fully and they hugged. “Look how far we have come since we first met. It just doesn’t seem possible. Not at all.”
“I surely doesn’t. Are you hungry at all?”
“Famished. That snack on the plane was not very good. I hardly ate at all.”
“I agree. How about we see if the room service works.”
“Room service! Won’t that be expensive?”
“Poof!” Bill said explosively, lifting his fingers into the air in the French manner. “It is not to worry. We are on an expense account. After all, I am the boss.”
Molly giggled and kissed him again. “I love you, you maniac.”
Unfettered by any weekend commitments, Molly and Bill spent a lot of time traveling the Metro. They popped up out of the ground like gophers, walked, took many pictures, and then went back down underground. They visited areas that they had seen on their last trip. Sadly, the Hotel Muguet had, in fact, been turned into a large apartment house. They asked about, but nobody seemed to know where a couple of their bistros went.
Saturday evening found them attending the evening show at Moulin Rouge. It was horribly expensive, crowded, and smoky, but the entertainment was very good. Bill remarked that if the girls had worn those costumes back during their first visit to Paris, they’d have been arrested. Molly concurred.
Chestnut vendors were still present in Luxembourg Park so they bought a packet each and sat on a bench eating them. They had decided to converse totally in French, which Bill was now adept in, so they fit right in with everyone else.
On Sunday they made a nostalgic visit to Gare du Nord and sat in the great concourse and listened to the chatter of hundreds of travelers. Molly grew wistful at the sight of a very young couple obviously on their honeymoon – or very shortly after it – as they walked with their arms around each other and kissing at almost every step. Bill reached for Molly’s hand and held it; squeezed it.
Then, the weekend was over. They went to bed that night fairly early and made slow, deliberate, and wonderful love.
[April 27, 1981]
[Headquarters Franco Fabrique, Paris, France – 0900]
Bill strode into the conference room precisely at the appointed time. He was met by a man, Lawrence Marke, and a woman named Juno Trillier. He had talked with Juno on the telephone and it was pleasant to fit a face to the voice. She was in her fifties, well dressed, and all smiles. Monsieur Marke (“call me ‘Larry’”) was somewhat younger with a full beard and small, rimless glasses. He seemed very nervous.
The meeting originally started out in English, but once it was ascertained that Bill spoke excellent French, they continued in that language. This first day was to be used to establish just what it was that AGG Imports could assimilate into their inventory. F.F. had an amazing amount of goods that they handled and Bill was very impressed with their expertise. In a way, they were simply a much larger version of AGG Imports. He tactfully refrained from making that comparison out loud.
Bill was taken on an auto tour of three large warehouses to view how their automated systems dealt with the large amount of goods. This also impressed him as his firm was still doing it with man power and smaller trucks. At the size of his firm, it wouldn’t have paid to automate things. As he made the rounds, he added items to a notebook he kept in his suitcoat pocket. He would arrive at the hotel that afternoon with four pages filled with neat handwriting.
That evening, Molly and Bill went out for dinner and just walked until they found an agreeable little restaurant called La Blanche Hermine (The White Ermine). The food was terrific, and the clientele very vocal. Soon both Bill and Molly were joining in their sing-alongs accompanied by an accordion and a violin. Bill was amazed at how well those two instruments sounded together considering their disparate musical origins. They didn’t leave until after midnight. They caught a ride with a taxi owner on his way home. It was a wild ride, but entirely too much fun to ignore. They tumbled into bed after making sure of a wakeup call at eight-thirty.
The next day Bill spent wholly discussing finances. They wangled a little on pricing, but eventually reached an accord on quantities of the initial shipment and how much would follow afterwards. Bill thought he’d made a pretty good deal. He’d paid a bit more than he really wanted, but he was sure his markup would give them a decent profit margin. They agreed to meet in the afternoon of the third day for formal contract signing.
Bill was offered a car back to the hotel which he took. He could have taken the Metro, but as long as they were offering, he was accepting. When he arrived at the hotel, Molly was out so he simply waited and read a newspaper. As he read, he reflected that it wasn’t too long ago that he would have thrown up his hands after trying to read French. Now he was thinking in it. A true gauge of how well you’ve immersed yourself in any language. He still could think in German.
That thought, triggered a desire to find a German spot to eat that night. He called down to the desk and was able to locate several in the general area. He took down the phone numbers and began calling them. He found one place that had a decent time of appointment so he made the reservation. The desk assured him that it was only a short taxi ride away.
When Molly came home, she was carrying several long packages on hangers. She had been clothes shopping. Bill told her of their reservation at the grill in the Hotel Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg. He added that it served German food.
“I might have known,” laughed Molly. “It was inevitable that you would develop a craving for German food. But, it sounds good to me so I will take a nice bath and get ready.” Bill perked up. “And, no, you cannot ‘help’ me.” She smiled at him.
He kicked the carpet with his toe and said in his best western accent: “Wal, shoot, ma’am. You never let me have no fun any more.”
She moved close and kissed him gently on the lips. “This will have to do, my love,” and then vanished into the bathroom.
Their meal was delicious but the taxi ride back to the hotel was, to say the least, unnerving. Bill remarked he must be related to the cab driver they’d had before. Molly chuckled as she held on to the leather strap over the door as they screeched around yet another corner. At least with this driver, they were able to converse with him; not that it mattered – he wouldn’t slow down.
Finally, they roared up to the front of the hotel and screamed to a stop. Bill handed the guy some folded bills and he ripped of a patch leaving. Bill idly wondered how long his cabs lasted.
Altogether too soon, their time in Paris came to an end. They packed up, adding a new suitcase to hold Molly’s purchases, and were driven to the airport. All in all, Bill thought, he’d made a pretty good deal with these people. All that remained now was to wait for the first shipment and get it out to his stores in time for the spring bargain hunters to descend.
Monique was totally in love with the blue French outfit Molly had purchased for her. She wore it two days later to a spring dance hosted by the university. It was an immediate hit with all her friends, especially when they found out it was genuine French, with a Paris label.