Fortesque's Friend

Reads: 165  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
From riches to rags and back again. This heartwarming story of a young boy who inherits immense wealth through the untimely death of his parents is told through the eyes of his court appointed guardian.
The process of overnight personal wealth turns young Fortesque Grenville into a very disagreeabled person. Friendless and despised by all.
When his financial advisors squander the estate funds, Fortesque is forced out onto the streets to stand on his own for the first time in his life. He befriends a dog named Rascal, and together they manage to get in trouble with the law.
A friendly judge sentences Fortesque and Rascal to a new progressive correctional facility where the young lad flourishes, learning about life and relationships in a whole new way.
Using ingenuity and spunk, Fortesque's journey back from the depths of poverty provides an enjoyable and inspirational experience for readers of all ages!

Submitted: May 10, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 10, 2019

A A A

A A A


GEORGE COLLINS

 

 

There are two things about young Mr. Fortesque Grenville that immediately come to mind. First of all, the kid is fabulously wealthy. He has so much money; he couldn't even come close to telling you exactly what he is worth on any given day. The second thing about the fourteen-year-old boy is that no one, and I repeat no one, likes him, not even a tiny bit.

Why was that, you might ask?

Because, Fortesque was an incredibly spoiled, petulant, irritating, useless, vain, puffed up and entirely unlikeable, little jerk.

Again, you might ask, how do you know all this stuff about Fortesque?

The answer is simple. Let me introduce myself. My name is George Collins, and my unfortunate role in this life was being hired as the head butler and court-appointed guardian for Mr. Grenville Jr. I considered it a sad ending because I had always aspired to something more significant.

Here is my story:

On my first day on the job, I arrived at the beautiful penthouse apartment on 5th Avenue where Fortesque lived alone, surrounded by his opulent possessions. He also had a country home in the Hamptons covering more than fifty acres. Swimming pools, stables and a helicopter pad for his frequent travels, were just a few of the pleasures available to him. Numerous staff members waited at his beck and call, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Our first meeting did not go well. The young jerk was in the middle of one of his tantrums. He was screaming at one of the unfortunate staff members who was fervently wishing she had never left her home in Honduras.

“Maria, you are a stupid woman. How many times do I have to tell you? I don't want any of the red ones!"

Each morning his breakfast was served in bed or, if he were at the Hampton’s Estate, at the poolside on a silver platter. It was forbidden for the staff to give him any of his favorite multi-colored Cheerios unless they had been hand sorted first to remove any of the offending red colored circles.

He saw me standing in the doorway and automatically assumed I was the new butler. He pointed a finger in my direction.

“You there, don’t just stand around looking like a dummy. Get rid of this incompetent person immediately!” The little punk punctuated his demand by throwing his bowl of cereal in the general direction of the maid. Poor Maria fled for the safety of the kitchen.  I was sure she would be happy to pack her meager possessions and depart for home as soon as possible.

I decided to bide my time and not confront Fortesque until I had a chance to assess the situation entirely. I merely nodded and replied, "Yes, Master Fortesque. I’ll terminate her employment immediately."

Down in the kitchen, a sobbing Maria was telling the other staff members about her despicable treatment at the hands of the boy. She cheered up somewhat after I assured her she would receive a handsome severance package and a good reference. I learned from her co-workers that Maria was the seventh staff termination this month alone.

The cook poured me a cup of fresh coffee. I drank it alone, sitting at the table thinking about my next moves. I vividly recalled the recent meeting I had with Joe Carter, or the Honorable Justice Joseph M. Carter, as his associates referred to him in New York legal circles. Joe and I are golfing buddies and have known each other since high school. We were having lunch at his club when he broached the subject.

“George, I have a very unusual situation on my hands. I have a young boy, extremely wealthy, with no living relatives, who seems to be spinning out of control. The lady we appointed as a guardian has just resigned. Says the kid is unmanageable. I know you have a lot of time on your hands these days and, as ex-military, you know how to be tough when you have to."

“Wait a minute Joe, is this conversation heading where I think it is?”

Justice Carter laughed, "You got me. Yes, I am officially offering you the position of the court-appointed guardian for young Mr. Fortesque Grenville.”

Before I could answer, Joe quickly started to fill me in on the boy’s background. It seems Fortesque had inherited the family name of Grenville from his Mother’s side of the family. It was an illustrious name dating back to the Norman conquest of 1066 in England. In addition to the prestigious family name, Fortesque had also inherited the accumulated wealth of generations after both parents died as a result of a car collision with a New York City bus. After the bus driver was found to be inebriated, the court awarded significant financial damages to the parent’s estate. This generous settlement was the icing on an already rich cake.

I have to admit I was intrigued by the offer and I did have a lot of time on my hands. I’m fifty-five years old now. I’ve been living on my own since my wife, Jennie, passed away two years ago. I took early retirement from the Marine Corps to care for her while she recovered from a series of operations.

“Okay Joe, tell me exactly what you have in mind.”

Joe Carter hesitated, “This is where it gets a little tricky. Normally, a guardian operates on an arms-length basis, but because of this kid's wealth and difficult disposition, we want someone who will move in on a full-time basis."

 "You’ve got to be kidding me, right?"

Joe disregarded my comment and plunged ahead, “The guy who was running the joint also resigned last week. Said he couldn’t take the abuse. The vacancy creates a perfect opportunity for you to take over as a combined manager/guardian.”

“So, what’s my title going to be?”

Carter looked sheepish, “Well, you’ll be functioning as Estate Manager, but your official title will be Head Butler."

I laughed so hard I knocked my coffee over, but I had to admit, with my silver hair, slim build, and military bearing, I could probably play the part of a butler very well.

Joe moved in for the kill, “The position comes with a very handsome salary. Also, if you don’t like it after six months, you can go back to being a hermit again!”

I thought about it for a minute or so, “Okay Joe, I’ll do it. What the hell have I got to lose?”

Little did I know that I had a whole lot to lose — my dignity, my sanity, and my temper - several times a day, in fact.

My meeting with Joe Carter ended with a handshake, and before I knew it, I found myself here in the kitchen of the 5th Avenue Penthouse, drinking coffee, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.

By this time, Grenville Jr. was out of bed creating havoc with the staff. I could hear him screaming at Eric Wilkens, the chauffeur, “Bring the limo to the front door now! I want to go shopping for a new drone; then I have a 12:00 p.m. meeting with my Investment Manager.”

Having thrown his breakfast at Maria, Fortesque was now quite hungry. He stormed into the kitchen demanding that Lucy, the day cook, stop everything and cook him some bacon and eggs. He finally stopped shouting when he noticed me sitting at the kitchen table.

“I gather you’re the new butler. Don’t you know you’re supposed to stand when I enter a room?”

My first instinct was to stand and belt him one. Instead, I apologized, "I'm dreadfully sorry Master Fortesque, it won't happen again." I decided to take a few days just observing before sitting down with the jerk to set him straight. Fortesque didn’t seem to know that I was now his court-appointed guardian.

Fortesque ordered Lucy to have the bacon and eggs sent to his room; then he stormed out of the kitchen without a backward glance. I looked at Lucy, cowering beside the stove, trembling in her haste to prepare the meal.

I asked her gently, “Is he always like this Lucy?”

She sniffed, “Oh no, Sir. Sometimes he’s worse!”

 

MORNINGSIDE INVESTMENTS

 

 

I was waiting in the circular drive when Eric pulled the limo up to the front door. He introduced himself, and we stood chatting while waiting for Grenville Jr. to make an appearance. I needed an excuse to accompany Fortesque to town as I wanted to get a first-hand look at his Investment Manager. Eric spotted the boy first and hurried to open the rear door. Fortesque climbed into the back seat without a glance, while I opened the front door and sat beside the driver.

Fortesque got angry, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

“Oh, please forgive me Master Fortesque, for taking such a liberty. In my previous employment, I became somewhat of an expert on aerial drones. I thought I might be of some help with your purchase.”

That appeared to mollify the little squirt because he ignored me and spoke directly to Eric, “Macy’s first, then the offices of Morningside Investments and make it snappy.”

The driver was unhappy. After working for the estate for over two years, he still hadn't received the salary increase originally promised. Eric hadn't counted on me being in the car, but he decided to forge ahead with his request anyway.

“Sir, when the estate hired me, I was promised a raise after a six-month trial. I’ve been waiting for over two years. I was hoping to get my increase before I get married next month.”

Fortesque laughed, “Eric, as far as I’m concerned, you’re getting far too much money for the little that you do. I could probably hire a monkey to do this job for half the price.”

When Eric started to protest, Fortesque said, "That's enough. I told you about my decision. If you don't like it, you can leave. Now shut up, I'm trying to think." Eric looked at me, and I could see the anger in his eyes.

The silver limo pulled up at the entrance to Macy's Department store, and as Fortesque climbed out, an old, one-armed beggar shambled up.

The bum pleaded, "Spare some change, Sir?"

The beggar had seen better days. He was smelly and poorly dressed in patched and stained clothing. He was probably the second or third owner of the cigarette butt he was puffing. Fortesque wrinkled up his nose and replied. “Why don’t you get a job? If you saved your money, instead of wasting it on smokes and booze, you might amount to something!” With that, Fortesque spat in the man’s outstretched hand and entered the store.

I handed the poor guy a five dollar note, then hurried after my cheapskate employer.

After spending almost an hour haggling with the store clerks over the price of a new MX-490 Aerial Surveillance Drone, we returned to the car and headed for the offices of Morningside Investments. Fortesque was scheduled to meet with Winston Brownley, the senior partner of the firm that handled all of the Grenville family’s financial matters.

On arrival, I attempted to join Fortesque, but he told me in no uncertain terms that my presence was not needed. I thought quickly, “Sometimes Sir, in these important meetings, it helps to have an assistant take notes, in case there is a disagreement in the future.” I could see that Grenville Jr. was puffed up at the idea of having his private secretary. He didn’t say no, so I tagged along.

The offices of Morningside Investments were elegantly furnished, giving off a subtle impression of a haven for the stewardship of old money. Winston Brownley, the Investment Manager, was a middle-aged, portly fellow, with slicked back hair, wearing silver wire-rimmed glasses. His pinstripe suit was well cut and expensive.

He ignored me as he rushed forward to greet Fortesque with his hands outstretched, “Oh, Master Grenville, what a pleasure it is to see you again!”

Fortesque ignored the handshake, “Forget all the crapola, Brownley. Just tell me how my investment portfolios are doing.”

For the remainder of the afternoon, Brownley produced chart after chart, showing the impressive compounded investment gains accrued on the Grenville stock portfolios. I’m no investment genius, but even to me, it seemed strange that none of the charts showed any sign of a downturn. When I started to take notes, I could see Brownley was getting uncomfortable. He quickly suggested we take a break for a light lunch in the boardroom.

He turned to Fortesque, “We have been at this now for some time, Master Fortesque, should we send something to eat or drink down to your driver?”

Fortesque snapped, “Stop worrying about the hired help so much and start spending more time concentrating on my stuff. These investment returns are okay. Jack them up, or I will find myself a new advisor!”

Winston Brownley looked troubled when the meeting ended. I made a note to myself to do some background checking on the manager and his firm just as soon as I had a chance. At the car, Fortesque told Eric to drive to the 5th Avenue Penthouse, then start preparing for a two-week stay at the estate in the Hamptons. I assumed I would be moving to the Hamptons as well. I was right.

The 50-acre estate was gorgeous. Rolling hills and lush green meadows were home to a small herd of spectacular thoroughbred horses. The main house was huge, as was the Olympic size pool and tennis courts. I was sure I might like it here.

Fortesque ordered Eric to unpack the new MX-490 drone. Although he had never flown a drone before, the boy was a quick learner. After I showed him a few shortcuts for mastering the controls, he flew the small craft in all directions over the estate. The shrill whining of the drone’s engines was bothering the highly-strung thoroughbred horses. They kept moving nervously around the corral looking for some escape from the noise.

Fortesque was easily bored. He decided it might be fun to try and stampede the herd. He started flying the drone directly at the herd, at maximum speed, pulling up only at the very last second. After several flights, the tortured animals were galloping around in a frenzy, lathered up and drooling saliva from their gaping mouths.

 “Stop that immediately!” yelled Tony Hasbro, the stable manager. Tom was a real animal lover and couldn’t stand seeing his beloved horses mistreated like this.

“Hasbro, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave now and go back to shoveling horse poop in the stables, where you belong.”

The boy and the older man stood and glared at each other for a few minutes. Reluctantly, Tony Hasbro dropped his gaze and turned slowly back to the stables. He needed his job very much. He had seen too many Grenville employees shown the door for minor offenses. As he walked, head down, Tony muttered to himself, “One day, you little arrogant jerk, you might find out what life is really like on the poor side of town.”

That evening, I could tell by the commotion in the kitchen that the dinner was going to be a disaster. A petulant Fortesque sat alone, as he usually did, at the end of the long and elegantly arranged table. So far, he had refused to touch the poached Normandy Lobster, the juicy baron of beef, the grilled Dover sole and now the stuffed pork tenderloin

In the kitchen, Maurice the head chef was threatening to take a knife and end it all. Maurice had been recruited from Paris by Fortesque’s parents, at great expense, to join the estate staff. He now was wishing he had stayed in France. He thought he might prefer jumping off the Eiffel Tower to cooking for this spoiled bumpkin.

“Bring me a peanut butter and banana sandwich!” yelled Fortesque.

The boy sat with his head down wondering why he had no friends. He also couldn’t understand why he was so unhappy. In the kitchen, despite my begging, Maurice refused to touch the ghastly peanut butter with his hands. I didn't have much choice, so I made the sandwich as demanded.

I decided it was getting close to the time that Mr. Grenville Jr. and I had our little chat.

 

 

 

 

WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?

 

 

In the City, at the offices of Morningside Investments, Winston Brownley was also sitting with his head down between his hands. In this case, though, he knew the cause of his unhappiness. For years he had been embezzling funds from the Grenville Estate to cover a multitude of severe gambling losses. Over time, the estate wealth had dwindled from well over three hundred million dollars to the current value of slightly less than twelve million.

All the account information he had shown at our meeting earlier that day was false. Brownley had also placed forged mortgages against all of the fixed assets of the estate, even including the horses. The Investment Manager's gambling losses had been small in the beginning, but he kept "doubling down" trying to cover the losses before anyone exposed him. Brownley knew that a lengthy prison sentence awaited if he couldn't find a quick solution to the dilemma. When he saw me taking notes, he realized the end was in sight.

Winston decided, he would commit all of the remaining Grenville Estate assets into one last throw of the dice. The current problem was a result of gambling; perhaps another gamble would get him out of it. He had recently heard great stories about a New York investment genius who was showing outstanding returns for his clients. He thought, “If I can keep a lid on this long enough, this guy might be able to help me regain the lost Grenville fortune.

Without hesitation, he picked up the phone and called (212)- 327- 8095. The phone rang directly through to the opulent offices of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC.

Bernie Madoff answered himself and listened to the amount that Winston would be investing on behalf of Fortesque Grenville. With a sly smile on his face, Bernie said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not taking on any new clients at the moment.”

Winston was desperate. He pleaded his case for several minutes before Madoff seemingly relented. "Okay, we can probably make an exception just this once. Why don’t you come over this afternoon with a certified cheque and we’ll get the ball rolling!”

Two weeks later, I had just started my background check on Winston Brownley and his firm. It was still too early for any real detailed information though. We were about to end our time out at the Hampton Estate and return to the Penthouse on 5th Avenue. Enough time had passed for me to pretty well sum up the situation with the kid; I decided our chat was overdue.

I found him at the poolside, suspiciously examining his bowl of Cheerios in case a red one had somehow slipped through the kitchen staff’s inspection. I plunked myself down on a deck chair beside him, enjoying the look of astonishment on his face.

His countenance was now beet red, “How dare you! Get out of here immediately!

“Shut up, you little squirt. It’s time for you to listen. And listen to me good.”

I proceeded to fill him in on all the details of my appointment as his court-appointed guardian. I explained Judge Carter’s concern that Fortesque’s actions were becoming uncontrolled, possibly leading to serious legal consequences. I then went through the items one at a time: the ill-treatment of his staff, the drone attack on the horses, his inhumane treatment of the beggar, his miserly treatment of suppliers and so on.

He sat there with a face carved out of stone, not speaking, just staring at the swimming pool. He finally turned to me and spoke. His words came as quite a shock; they were the last thing I expected.

“I’m an orphan, you know.”

Now, I had no idea what the lad was like before the tragic death of his parents. I started to feel guilty that so many of the people around this boy were probably not taking the long-lasting effects of the trauma of his parent’s accident into account.

The boy was starting to open up. He talked in a low voice as he explained that the realization that he was entirely on his own had come as a major shock. Gradually, he toughened up as a defense against the world. He saw it as them or me.

I finally had a feeling that a door was opening. I was trying to figure out some way to help him when the lad got the phone call that changed his life forever. The message was simple. It was imperative for him to attend a meeting at his lawyer's office, without delay. No details were given over the phone, but I could see that the message had shaken the boy. Eric drove us to the meeting at high speed. No one talked during the trip.

We were sitting in the offices of Periwinkle, Johnson & Krakow, lawyers for the Grenville Estate. All three lawyers, looking very solemn, were trying to explain the depth of the problem.

At first, Fortesque couldn't believe his ears. "What do you mean, my money is all gone?"

Gordon Krakow explained, "We are dreadfully sorry to be delivering this news, Master Grenville. It appears that Mr. Bernie Madoff if you'll pardon the pun, has made off with all of your assets. Not just yours but many, many others as well. It is truly a tragic state of affairs."

Fortesque started shaking his head, “What about Brownley from Morningside Investments, why isn’t he here?

Frederick Periwinkle, the Senior Partner, hesitated, “I am sorry Fortesque, but Winston Brownley will not be available at this time. According to the police, it appears he departed his 16th-floor office, early this morning, right after the news about Madoff’s arrest came out. The police were reluctant to give us any details but the Officer I spoke to, laughed when he said Brownley left the 16th floor, but he didn't use the elevator."

 “What happens now?” Fortesque asked with a frightened quiver in his voice.

Periwinkle replied, "The secured lenders have already taken action. A  Notice of Seizure has already arrived, I’m afraid. All assets of the estate will have to be turned over to the bailiff within 48 hours. 

Fortesque was stunned, “But what about me? Where will I live?”

Gordon Krakow answered, "Because you're a minor, we're working on a petition to have you made a ward of the court. This process could take some time.  In the interim, we have rented a room for you in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, you will have to vacate it or find some way to pay your way after the first month is up."

Phillip Johnson, the partner in charge of the firm's finances, spoke up, "We must also formally advise you that, because of a conflict of interest, the firm can no longer represent you or the estate. Several large legal bills remain unpaid, making us one of your many, many creditors.”

It suddenly dawned on me that I was a creditor too. I had yet to receive a payment from the estate.

Eric, the driver, looking at Fortesque pale and shaking in the back seat, almost felt sorry for him. “This will probably be our last ride together, Sir. I have been ordered to turn over the limousine keys by tomorrow morning.” I could see that Fortesque was terrified. He didn’t have a clue about what to do next. Unfortunately, neither did I.

Fortesque said nothing when I joined him at the long table that evening. Dinner that night consisted of cold left-overs on a bun. Maurice, the chef, had already departed for the airport. Word of the impending disaster was spreading quickly among the estate staff. I tried to comfort the boy, even offering to give him a place to stay for a few nights, but he was having none of it. When I retired for the evening, I could hear Fortesque sobbing, alone, in his bedroom.

Next morning, a convoy of Sheriff's vehicles showed up at the estate to start the process of removing all assets from the house. Up in his bedroom, Fortesque was packing a small bag of clothing under the direct supervision of one of the deputies. The lawman was there to ensure that Fortesque did not leave with anything belonging to the estate. They were having a heated discussion about the ownership of the new MX-490 Aerial Surveillance Drone when I arrived.

The Deputy finally backed down when I stared directly at him and told him that I had purchased the drone with my funds, as a birthday gift for the boy. I'm not sure he believed the story, but he didn't attempt to stop Fortesque when he packed the drone in his belongings. I think it was the very first time I heard the boy use the words thank you.

The entire staff had lined up along the driveway, with serious looks on their faces, to say a final goodbye. Old Tom Edwards, the gardener, was the longest-serving employee of the estate. He came forward and said in a quaking voice, "Master Grenville, I will speak frankly and freely. On many occasions you have mistreated your staff, sometimes we deserved it, but many times we didn’t. Most of us here have had a personal experience with hardship and poverty. You have not. We all feel that how you choose to handle this adversity will determine the path of your future life.” Fortesque just hung his head; he didn’t know how to respond.

Tony Hasbro, the stable manager, stepped up and added, “We don’t have much money, son, but we didn’t like the thought of you arriving in the City penniless. We hope this helps you get established.” He handed over a crumpled brown paper bag containing a collection of small bills and loose change. The paper bag contained $574.80 in cash.

I was in a dilemma. I was no longer the estate manager and my status as a guardian was in limbo. As a creditor, I wasn’t even sure I could be a guardian without also having a conflict of interest. I walked over to Fortesque to hug him. I could tell by the flinch that it had been a long time between hugs for the boy.

“Fortesque, I’m going to head back to the city and try and meet with Judge Carter. Maybe he will have an idea for our next move. Here’s my cell phone number. Call me as soon as you can so I can keep in touch.” We shook hands for the first time.

Eric, the driver, interrupted, "I have been authorized to transport you to your new lodgings, Sir. We better get going."

Despite trying to hold back, tears flowed down the young man’s face as he waved goodbye to everyone from the limo. As Fortesque looked back at the receding mansion, many regrets over what might have been, cascaded in waves over his weary body.

 

 

A DOG NAMED RASCAL

 

 

A few hours later, the silver limo pulled up in front of an old brownstone apartment building in the lower Bronx area. The building had seen better days. Half opened green bags of assorted garbage, carelessly littered on the broken sidewalks outside the building, did nothing to improve the picture.

Eric turned and said. “Here we are laddie, good luck! I think you are going to need it.” He opened the door and offered a handshake.

Fortesque took his hand and murmured, “Thank you, very much, Eric.  I’m very sorry for any problems I may have caused you.” Eric was stunned. It was the first time he had ever heard those words from his employer.

The pimply-faced clerk at the front desk was miserable. "Room 46, kid. You have got it until the end of the month. If your new rent ain’t paid by 5:00 p.m. on the last day, your room will be locked and your stuff will be out on the street."

There was no elevator, forcing the boy to lug his heavy suitcase up four flights of worn stairs. The room was worse than he had imagined. Peeling wallpaper, fading paint, and a dirty window were the highlights of the room. The bed was small with a stained, very thin, straw-filled mattress. Fortesque fell on the mattress and cried himself to sleep.

I waited in vain for a phone call from Fortesque, but nothing came. I found out later that he had lost my business card and had no idea how to contact me or anyone else. For the next three weeks, the bewildered boy just wandered the streets trying to fill his time until he could seek the dubious solace of his bed.

Fortesque had never paid any attention to money before so he was alarmed at how quickly his gift from the staff was evaporating. He checked the contents of the brown bag. There was barely enough to cover his rent when it came due in one more week.

He was now starving. The fresh aromas from a local fish and chip shop wafted out to the sidewalk, beckoning him in, like offering bait to a feeding seagull. When Fortesque entered the enticing smelling shop, he noticed a sign in the dirty window, advertising for a delivery boy.

 "What do you want kid?" growled Big Tony, the owner.

 “I would like to apply for the delivery job, Sir,”

 "Look, kid, the job pays 60 cents an hour, plus you get to keep any tips you get. But, I’m warning you, there is absolutely no free food here, and you get the ax if you show up late, even once. No exceptions!"

For the next few days, everything worked out okay. The delivery routes were simple, and sometimes Fortesque even got a small tip or two. The trouble started when a hungry, mangy looking mongrel dog started following him around on the deliveries. Despite yelling threats at the ragged little animal, it just wouldn't go away.

Because Fortesque was very lonely, he found himself looking forward to seeing the dog each day when he started work. It didn't seem to have an owner or a home. Fortesque decided to adopt the dog as a pet and companion. The animal always seemed to be planning some new mischief, so the new name of Rascal seemed appropriate. Like most dogs, Rascal was always hungry. And like most teenage boys, Fortesque was always hungry too.

It started quite innocently. Fortesque would take the odd chip or two from his delivery orders and feed them to Rascal. The smell of the hot, steaming, fish and chips kept beckoning to the hungry delivery boy too.  Soon he was joining Rascal in devouring their stolen booty. They probably would have escaped detection if they had stuck with just removing a few chips here and there. However, the delicately deep-fried halibut fish was their downfall. Most of the delivery orders called for two or more pieces of fish. But, quite a few orders arrived at the homes of the customers with fewer contents than when they left the shop.

Back at the store, Big Tony was perplexed. He was getting more and more calls from angry customers. One customer even said, “I ordered fish and chips, not fish and chip!” He had more demands for refunds than he had ever experienced since opening the shop. Some of his best long-term customers had switched to his hated competitor.

Because Big Tony had four delivery boys, it took quite some time to eventually discover that all of the complaints were coming from customers that were on Fortesque's route. Big Tony was angry and determined to put an end to the theft once and for all.

Fortesque knew he was in trouble when he walked through the door to pick up his next load of deliveries. Big Tony grabbed him by the throat and yelled, “Open your mouth, you little crook!”

Fortesque had no choice; he had to open his mouth. Big Tony took a big whiff of expelled air and squeezed tighter. “Just as I thought, I can smell the fish and chips on your breath. Probably on that mutt’s breath too!”

Big Tony wasn't a cruel man, but he had a business to run and a family to support. He was sure If he failed to make an example of this kid and his dog, he would soon have four more delivery boys eating him out of business. He hesitated for a moment more before picking up the phone and calling the police.

Fortunately for Fortesque, when his name was entered into the station computer, it flagged an alert. A call went out to Judge Joseph Carter who then immediately called me in. "George, young Fortesque Grenville has been arrested, I just got the news. I know you're not his guardian anymore, but I need your help." I flagged a cab and headed for the police station to see what I could do.

When I arrived, Fortesque was sitting in a holding cell. He had a mangy looking dog curled up on the floor beside him. If Fortesque had thought his hotel room was terrible, the cramped jail cell was even worse. I wasn't sure it was legal for the police to have thrown the dog in the cell with him, but I was glad they did. Fortesque seemed overwhelmed to see me. I told him to hold off with his questions until I had a chance to talk to the desk Sergeant.

At first, I thought they would release Fortesque and his canine companion with a warning or something light, but the officer dispelled this idea. According to the information he had, the shop owner was demanding that a criminal theft charge be issued immediately. Supposedly the man was livid and highly irrational because he wanted a dog named Rascal to be designated as a co-defendant on the complaint as well.

I called Judge Carter and filled him in the situation. He said he was due in court tomorrow. He also said he would try to arrange the docket so he could hear Fortesque's case. That seemed irregular to me, but he explained that, because of his prior involvement with Fortesque and the estate, it was an acceptable practice.

I arranged for the boy’s bail, planning to take him home with me until his hearing before the Judge. A big problem arose when he refused to go without his buddy. He said Rascal was the only friend who accepted him just the way he was. We argued for a bit, but I could see he was serious, so we took the dog. The taxi driver wasn’t too happy with our decision though.

That night over dinner, Fortesque told me all about his escalating theft of the fish and chips. I tried not to laugh about the petty theft. However, I knew as a result of the shop owner’s position, it was a serious matter. The magnitude of the refunds the owner was forced to give could very definitely influence the charges. Watching Fortesque’s animated face as he talked about finding the dog and about having his first real job, reminded me of all the positive changes this kid was experiencing over a short period.

At 1:00 p.m. the next day, Fortesque appeared before Judge Joseph Carter for a hearing to determine his fate. I had talked to Joe earlier and told him how impressed I was with the changes in Fortesque’s approach to life. No one stopped me when I appeared alongside the boy in court. I guess they just assumed I was his lawyer.

Joe had told me earlier that he was worried that Fortesque could end up with a criminal record plus an extended stay in a juvenile delinquent facility if this case went to trial. I knew Joe well enough that he would do whatever he could to avoid that outcome. Normally, my old friend wore his mismatched golf outfits when we were together, so I was quite impressed with his courtly demeanor as he sat on the bench in his full-length black robes.

The judge called the prosecutor over for a conference. The prosecutor was well aware that the boy had committed some foolish acts, but he didn't think the kid was a criminal.

Joe leaned forward and asked, “This is not much of a criminal case, Fred. Surely the shop owner will drop the charges if the boy makes some financial compensation?”

“No, your Honor. We’ve made several approaches, but the guy insists on making an example of the defendant.”

Judge Carter looked over at me and shook his head. He knew that Big Tony, the fish and chip owner was sitting in the back of the courtroom. Justice must at least appear to have been served. He called on Fortesque to stand.

Judge Joe looked sternly down at Fortesque, “Young man, I could start proceedings that would end up sending you to a juvenile detention center. However, because of extenuating circumstances, I am going to try something different with you. I am sending you to Revision House, on probation.

He described a new experimental facility called Revision House. It was a state-sponsored shelter that focussed on special programs designed to keep kids out of jail. Under the terms of his sentence, Fortesque would be released on his 18th birthday, providing he kept his nose clean. Judge Carter asked for progress reports to be sent to him every six months for review.

Judge Carter released Fortesque to my immediate care, providing I made sure he was at Revision House by noon the next day. I watched Big Tony’s face as the sentence was handed down. I’m not sure he understood what was happening, but he seemed satisfied with the outcome.

I drove Fortesque to his old rooming house to pick up his stuff. We arrived just in the nick of time because the desk clerk was depositing all of his belongings on the sidewalk for non-payment of rent. In this neighborhood, the MX-490 Drone and the other items would disappear in minutes.

Because I wasn’t sure what the future had in store for Fortesque, I took him out for a big steak dinner. We talked for hours about many things before he broached the question bothering him most.

“What’s going to happen to Rascal?  He’s my only true blue friend in the world.”

We hashed it around for a while then I said, "We'll take him with us to Revision House. All they can say is no. Fortesque thought that was a good idea, but I phoned Joe Carter later, just in case.

 

 

REVISION HOUSE

 

 

Revision House was located on the outskirts of New York City. The building, although old, was in good repair. It had once been the local high school for the area. Significant modifications had been to the school, adding cooking and sleeping arrangements for the hundred students/inmates, as well as a baseball field and a small swimming pool. The grounds were immaculate. As we drove up, we could see some of the occupants working on the gardens.

I introduced myself to David Ralston, the Director of Revision House. I had heard from Judge Carter that all of the residents liked the Director because of his no-nonsense but fair, approach to every situation.

He shook hands with Fortesque, "Welcome to Revision House, Mr. Grenville.”

Ralston looked at the dog and nodded, “We don't normally accommodate animals, but Judge Carter called and specifically asked if we could make an exception in your case. He felt having the dog would be beneficial in your rehabilitation. So, as long as he behaves himself, Fortesque’s friend Rascal is welcome here too."

I handed Fortesque over to David Ralston, wished him well, and headed back home.  My job was finished for the moment, and I only hoped the program was as effective as Judge Joe Carter said it was.

Back at Revision House, Fortesque was in the middle of a tour of the facilities with the Director. When they reached the gymnasium, they bumped into several kids playing basketball.  Ralston introduced the newcomer to the other students.

“Guys, this is Fortesque Grenville and his dog Rascal." I want you all to make them feel at home here at Revision House.”

As soon as Ralston was gone, a tall, lanky kid with several tattoos on his muscular arms walked up, stared at Fortesque and said, “What the hell kind of sissy name is Fortesque?”

That started the fight.

Later, the two boys stood defiantly in front of Mr. Ralston’s desk, “What happened Toby?”

Toby Kelly answered, “Why don’t you ask fancy pants here; he started it.”

Fortesque said, “It seems this jerk doesn’t like my name.”

David Ralston laughed, “Toby might have a point. Your moniker might be a little rich for Revision House. From now on around here, we are just going to call you Que.” He made the boys shake hands and go back to the gym. In his previous life, Fortesque didn't have a friend, but now he seemed to have an abundance. After the fight with Toby Kelly, they soon bonded and became best friends. He also added Gillian Walker and Norman Pence to his list of buddies. Norman was a young mathematical genius, but Gillian was just plain smart. She could add thoughtful input on almost any topic that arose.

Fortesque found that he enjoyed being at Revision House. The daily routine provided a sense of accomplishment. The curriculum subjects were an interesting blend of theory and practicality. For example, French language lessons might follow a practical class on woodworking. The cooking classes became Que’s favorite. The boy also benefited greatly from David Ralston's enlightened approach to discipline.

One day I received a call from my old friend Joe Carter, “George, it’s almost time for the six-month progress report on Fortesque Grenville. When you were his guardian, you seem to have developed a good rapport with the boy. How about taking a run up to Revision House for a first-hand look?" I didn't have much on my schedule, so I readily agreed. Besides, I did want to see young Fortesque again.

When I arrived at Revision House, the place was in turmoil. I found Fortesque in the lunchroom with some friends, and he filled me in on the situation. It seems that the State Budget Director had just informed Director Ralston that the school’s budget for the coming year was going to be cut by almost one half. I excused myself and went to find David Ralston. He was in his office, feverishly working on a spreadsheet.

“What’s happened, David?”

“Oh, hi George. I didn’t know you were coming. You sure picked an interesting day for a visit. It looks like our funding will be cut in half soon. It seems our new President feels the benefits of rehabilitation don’t warrant the expense. The mandate for the cuts is coming straight from the White House. We have two choices - shut the place down or find other sources of funding.”

I went back to the gym and sat down with Fortesque and his friends again. They were worried because rumors were spreading that Revision House was closing and all the current inhabitants transferred to a regular reform school. I decided it was time for a pep talk.

"Listen to me, you guys, When I was in the Marines, we had a saying - When the going gets tough, the tough get going! It seems to me that you have to decide if you are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution." I shook hands with each of them and left them to think about it. They promised to keep me up to date on the situation.

It seems my pep talk fell on fertile ground. With the blessing of David Ralston, Fortesque formed an advisory group/think tank charged with the task of developing funding ideas for Revision House. The group concluded that it would be almost impossible to create one single plan to solve the funding crisis. They agreed that the most promising approach would be to introduce a multitude of small, revenue producing ventures, all at the same time.

One by one, students and staff members both, came forward with fund-raising ideas. Some ideas were promising, while others would never see the light of day. Toby Kelly thought a charity car wash might work. Gillian Walker felt that they could use the school kitchen to develop a "meals on wheels" delivery service for nearby residents. Norman Pence believed they could set up a small office and do tax returns for numerous clients. Other ideas ranged from providing student labor for lawn and garden services to house painting and garage cleaning. One kid even suggested giving paid swimming lessons in the school pool. The most useless idea was the one that suggested Rascal could be rented out as a guard dog.

Fortesque had given the whole situation some hard thought, "Mr. Ralston, we get a lot of traffic in front of the school. I want to open a hamburger stand at lunchtime, and maybe even after school hours. Everyone loves a good hamburger. If the idea works, we could make a lot of money."

Director Ralston agreed that all projects should be considered, with one main provision. Every project had to be self-funded on start-up. There was no Revision House money available for any supplies that might be needed.

Norman Pence, the math genius, did some preliminary estimates. He thought they would need about $425.00 for initial supplies, plus building material for the hamburger stand. Norman knew they had to find some way to raise this seed money or the hamburger idea would never get off the ground.

Fortesque came up with a brilliant idea. They could use his MX-490 Drone to take aerial pictures of homes in the neighborhood, then have the students sell the photos, door to door, to the homeowners. The plan worked great. In only four days of work, they had almost $800.00 in the kitty!

The Grenville side of the family had produced a long line of successful business people over the years. Some of that inherited financial acumen started to surface in Fortesque. Because he was envisioning a growing business in the future, Fortesque decided to use some of the funds from the drone operations to form a legal entity known as Q-Enterprises Inc. David Ralston was impressed with his ambition and agreed to help with the legal applications.

Once he was set up as a real business, Fortesque went full speed ahead. He appointed his buddy, Toby Kelly, as Director of Drone Operations.  Toby was instructed to put half of any drone earnings into the Revision House fund then use the other half to buy additional drones. By the end of the first month, they had 15 drones in operation.

Fortesque focussed his attention on developing the hamburger stand. He used a portion of drone revenues to buy materials for building the actual stand and sufficient raw materials to get started. Gillian convinced Fortesque that the hamburgers should be cooked to order on the outdoor BBQ for extra flavor.

Although the weather was excellent and the stand looked great, opening day was a disaster. They only sold five hamburgers!

Director Ralston found Fortesque and Gillian sitting in the gym, heads down, looking pretty defeated because of the failure of the new hamburger stand. David Ralston listened to their story with interest. He had been a marketing genius for a large consumer goods company before deciding on a complete change of career as Director of Revision House.

David thought for a few moments before responding, “Fortesque, your business failed for one simple reason. You didn’t attempt to make your product any different from all of the other zillion hamburgers on the market. Trust me, the key to success is finding a way to stand out from the crowd." 

Fortesque was determined not to quit because David Ralston’s advice made sense. The Revision House kitchen was rapidly transformed into a food laboratory.  Fortesque, with Gillian’s help, experimented with as many variations of the hamburger patty as they could imagine. They often tested their creations on Rascal, but the dog either turned his nose up or spit most of them out.

At his wit’s end, Fortesque decided a new approach was required. He started at the chemistry Lab where he entered the topic “FLAVOR” in the school computer. He started to read about flavorants, substances that can alter the flavors of natural food products like meat or vegetables. He was interrupted by Ronnie Lee, a young Chinese boy. Ronnie was the school’s chemistry whizz.

“What are you looking at, Que?

“Oh, hi Ronnie. I’m trying to find out if there is some easy way to flavor hamburger patties by using a highly condensed form of natural ingredients.”

Finding a solution was a challenge that Ronnie couldn’t resist. He wanted to help with the project and quickly became Q-Enterprises’ first paid employee. For the next sixty days, assisted by Fortesque, he worked almost non-stop distilling and condensing various flavors until they finally had a breakthrough.

The final product was similar in shape and size to kid's candies that come in a range of colors, coated with a hard sugar surface. The pair managed to synthesize three distinct flavor combinations — Bacon & Cheddar, Mushroom & Bacon, Brie Cheese & Onion.

The pair tinkered with the coating until they reached the perfect combination. The final version did not require refrigeration, the layer dissolved at the correct temperature for a properly cooked burger, the flavor was intense, and, most importantly, it was inexpensive to produce.

Fortesque shook hands with Ronnie saying, “All we need now is a name and maybe one additional unique flavor.” None of the suggested names worked, so they just called the new invention FlavorBalls.

Shortly after the invention of FlavorBalls, Fortesque was preparing his favorite lunch, peanut butter, and banana sandwich. Gillian had gone to her room for another notepad. While she was away, Fortesque decided to play a joke on her. He put a blob of creamy peanut butter and a half of a banana in the food processor. When the mixture was thin enough, he loaded a flavor injector with the concoction then squirted it deep inside two of the raw hamburger patties, waiting on the counter.

Gillian found him gently sautéing the burgers in a non-stick pan on the stove. He had added some finely diced cooking onions to the pot as well.

“Sit down Gillian. I have a real treat for you and one for Rascal as well.”

Fortesque served Gillian her burger before placing the other one on the floor for the dog. He was getting ready to laugh at the expected reaction from Gillian when she got the first taste of his peanut butter and banana burger.

“My gosh, Fortesque. This burger is fantastic! I’m not sure what the secret ingredient is but this tastes like a winner to me.” Fortesque was stunned. He looked down and saw that Rascal had devoured his burger and was sitting up begging for more.

Fortesque couldn't wait to tell Ronnie that a fourth and final unique flavor had been discovered entirely by accident. Ronnie quickly synthesized the ingredients, and a new Flavorball was born.

The new lineup now consisted of, Bacon & Cheddar, Mushroom & Bacon, Brie Cheese & Onion and, Peanut Butter & Banana.

The pair designed an entirely fresh, square bun to complement the flavored burgers. It had a brown, whole wheat bottom and white flour with sesame seeds top. Everyone who tried the new burgers gave them a rave review. After several group discussions, they decided to name the new product - the Q-Burger.

Within a few weeks of the new burger introduction, business was booming. Word spread in the neighborhood. Soon they had long line-ups at the stand. Passing cars, stopping or slowing down created mini-traffic jams.  Even with most of the staff and student body at work, they couldn’t keep up with the demand. The new slogan on the stand read - "Quality ingredients - Quickly served!"

When the news of Fortesque's success reached the city, I got a call from Judge Carter suggesting we both take a trip to Revision House to see for ourselves. We drove up together idly chatting about Joe's new golf clubs. When we arrived at the school, we could hardly make our way into the parking lot because of the crowds at the Q-Burger stand.

Fortesque was too busy to talk to us, so we settled for a chat with David Ralston. He was very excited, "I'm telling you, George, I was in marketing for years, and I've never seen anything like it. If this keeps up the school's budget deficit will be covered in no time!"

Joe Carter’s legal mind kicked into gear, “If this thing is as successful as you think it will be Dave, I’m worried that someone will take advantage of the boy. We should help him get some patent and trademark protections as soon as possible.”

“That’s a great idea Judge, but don’t be worried about anybody taking advantage of Fortesque Grenville. The kid’s as sharp as a tack. He also got people and organizational skills of someone three times his age.”

David Ralston's words were very accurate. When Joe and I finally sat down with Fortesque, we could hardly believe the changes in the young man. In addition to his mature manner, he was filling out physically as well. He talked to us as friends and equals.

“Judge, I have to thank you for sending me here. My time here has probably been the most positive experience of my life. I've learned a lot, and, hopefully, I can give back to the school and society as well."

Judge Joe was beaming. His decision was working out better than anyone could imagine. “Tell me Fortesque, do you think the Q-Burger concept is something franchisable?’

David Ralston interjected, “On the subject of franchising, Judge, I’m certain Fortesque is onto something big. The problem with most franchises is the heavy up-front costs. I’ve been helping Que develop an approach we call Franchise Lite. Instead of pouring a small fortune into building things like arches and so on, the Q-Burger approach will be to find existing outlets that can benefit from a rebranding. With a décor and menu package, any owner can have a whole new look almost overnight.”

I had been sitting, just listening, but now I had to butt in, “If I were still Fortesque’s guardian, my first question would be, how does the boy benefit?”

Ralston laughed, “Don’t worry George, everything would flow through Fortesque’s company, Q-Enterprises. The beauty of the plan is that Fortesque controls the profit flow through the exclusive production and distribution of the FlavorBalls.”

Judge Carter asked Que if he was still operating the drone business as well as working on the franchise idea. He smiled and replied, “Although the drone business is doing quite well, I think the burger division has overshadowed drones, but I think we have over 100 drones in operation now and, under Toby’s direction, it’s expanding like mad. We are even experimenting with drone deliveries of Q-Burgers.”

We were both very impressed with Fortesque, both as a person and as a budding entrepreneur, too. Joe looked thoughtful.

“Fortesque, the terms of your probation call for your release on your 18th birthday next year. However, I’m more than satisfied with your terrific progress. I’m prepared to petition for an early release as a reward for your efforts on behalf of the school.”

We were surprised when Fortesque shook his head. "Thanks, Judge, but I would just as soon stay here. There's lots more for me to accomplish, and Director Ralston just gave me the green light for a new course I’ve been developing for the other students. It’s called Business Building-101.”

 

 

Q-ENTERPRISES INC.

 

 

True to his word, Joe Carter arranged for Fortesque’s Company, Q-Enterprises Inc, to successfully apply for patent and trademark protections. I managed to get up to the school to see Fortesque as often as I could over the next few years, but I always left with the impression that the young man was light years ahead of me, on all fronts.

David Ralston used his marketing background to help Fortesque develop a franchise package, and before long Q-Burger locations were popping up at multiple locations across the State. The chain grew in popularity with teenagers who referred to the experience as, just meeting at the Q. The Drone Division under Toby’s direction was still growing like mad. As a reward for his efforts, Fortesque spun the drone operations into a separate company and made Toby a 50% partner.

The growth rate of Q-Enterprises was quite incredible. Time magazine and even the elite Barron’s business publication came to Revision House to do photos and interviews with Fortesque and his associates. Venture capitalists started approaching Fortesque about taking his organization public. He turned them all down.

Although Fortesque kept a close association with Revision House and David Ralston, he finally felt it was time to move on. With some legal help from the Judge, he was able to repurchase his old Penthouse on 5th Avenue. When he returned to his old apartment, it triggered many memories, some good but mostly bad. Fortesque cringed when he recalled what a jerk he had been when he last lived in the Penthouse.

We kept in touch on occasion, so I wasn't shocked when Fortesque phoned me on his 30th birthday. What did surprise me was his question.

"George, it's Fortesque. I'm not sure if you know that Q-Enterprises went international last year. I'm going over for our first opening in Paris, and I would like to have you and the Judge join me as my guests.”

"Fortesque, I'm not sure about the Judge, but you can count me in for sure!'

Judge Carter did enthusiastically accept the invitation, and that's how we ended up on the beautiful new Global Explorer Company jet, flying across the Atlantic on the way to Paris. Toby Kelly, now the President of Drones Unlimited was aboard as well as Norman Pence, the math genius. Norman was now the Group Finance Director. Gillian Walker had blossomed into a beautiful, graceful young lady. Her job was Director of Human Resources for the group of Companies.

We were having a glass of wine and laughing over some of the stories about Fortesque in his previous life. I finally asked Fortesque what had become of Rascal.

Fortesque looked sad, “He was a great little dog and a great friend to me when I needed one. I guess he just passed away from old age.”

Gillian started laughing, “Come on Fortesque, everybody knows the dog never recovered from eating all the experimental burgers you fed him!’ Everyone laughed at this, even Fortesque, but it was easy to see he truly missed his old companion.

Fortesque stood up and put his arms around Gillian. Although it was not public knowledge yet, people on the inside were aware that Gillian and Fortesque were dating regularly. She smiled at him, and the mutual affection was very apparent.

The opening of the Q-Burger franchise #762 in central Paris was a first-class event. The Mayor and his staff showed up in full formal wear for the cutting of the ribbon. Fortesque made a terrific speech about business building, leading to better relationships between countries and people both.

We stood on the roof of the café, sipping champagne. Down below, we could see the first crowds lining up for several blocks down the Boulevard. I mentioned to Fortesque that it appeared that franchise 762 was going to make some local business people very wealthy.

He laughed when he replied, “George, I think you have already met the new owner. I located my old Head Chef, Maurice Gagnon. He was in charge of the kitchens at the Hampton’s Estate. I talked him into giving it a go. If he ever gets over his fright of peanut butter, I think he will become a rich man!”

We spent a few more delightful days in Paris before finally boarding the gleaming Company jet for the trip home. Most of the others had retired to the sleeping cabin when Fortesque asked Judge Joe Carter and me to stay and join him for a nightcap. It was a beautifully clear and still night for flying. Looking out over the horizon, you could see all the way down to the ocean surface, sparkling brightly from reflected moonbeams.

Joe and I had a glass of cognac while Fortesque sat quietly sipping on a glass of red wine. He seemed in a very pensive mood, so I said, "What's on your mind Que? The opening went very well, but you seem troubled."

“George, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my youth. It’s hard for me to believe now that I could have been so callow. I asked you to join me on this trip because I do enjoy your company. But I have to admit, I have a secret plan that I want to implement - and I need your help.

So, he told us what he wanted us to do.

 

 

A SECRET PLAN

 

 

Because Fortesque’s secret plan was quite involved, Joe Carter and I had to hire some additional resources to assist us in doing our part. But, finally, the 4th of July was set for the big event. Engraved invitations were sent out by courier. Each message included the appropriate first-class transportation voucher for a round trip for the individual guest to travel to the event and then back to their home. Most of the guests were very surprised at receiving the invitation. They were even more astonished by the locale for the event. It was the old Grenville Estate in the Hampton's.

The 4th of July dawned bright and clear, not too hot but with a light breeze keeping everything fresh and clean. The event was supposed to start at 3:00 p.m. but people had been drifting in for the past few hours. Some arrived by taxi, some by chartered bus, one man even came on horseback.

Waiters circulated through the waiting crowds offering a selection of fancy sandwiches accompanied by a wide variety of alcohol and non-alcoholic cold drinks. A small musical group played soft background tunes. Even though everybody seemed to be enjoying the event, most of the guests were not sure what they were doing here.

Gillian Walker, Toby Kelly, and Norman Pence were all moving through the crowd. They all wore expensively cut, dark blue blazers with the corporate logo, Q-Enterprises, embroidered on the breast pocket. People, assuming the three were part of the program, bombarded them with enquires. Everyone got the same answer- wait ‘till 3:00 p.m.

Right on the dot at 3:00 p.m., the guests could hear the distinct sounds of a large helicopter approaching overhead. It landed on the lawn, and Fortesque Grenville stepped out. He was also wearing one of the corporate blazers. On cue, the band started playing an old song - Thanks for the memories.  Fortesque stepped up to the waiting microphones.

Judge Carter and I had ringside seats, sitting beside David Ralston from Revision House. We had done an excellent job with our part of the program. By hiring private detectives, we had managed to locate the bulk of the old Grenville Estate employees as well as a list of special non-employee guests. I started to point them out for the Judge.

The first person I spotted was Maria, the maid who was the victim of Fortesque’s cereal tantrum. She had traveled all the way from Honduras. Then I saw Eric, the chauffeur, Lucy the cook, Tony Hasbro, the animal trainer, Tom Edwards, the gardener and many more staffers whose names escaped me.

There were quite a few surprise guests as well — the three lawyers from Perriwinkle, Johnson & Krakow, Big Tony from the fish and chip shop, Maurice Gagnon, previous head chef and now a Q-Burger franchise owner. The Judge laughed when I pointed out the one-armed panhandler that Fortesque had spit at in front of Macy’s.

“I don’t know how the hell they found him Joe, but that’s the same guy, I’m sure of it!” Somebody had helped the bum clean up because he looked almost respectable. The man was enjoying himself to the fullest with the free food and drink.

Fortesque tapped the microphone, and the crowd went dead silent.

“My friends, welcome back to the new Grenville Estate. Because of numerous legal challenges, estate ownership has been in limbo for many years. With the help of my friend and mentor, Judge Joseph M. Carter, I have recently managed to purchase the estate back from the bankruptcy court.”

Fortesque stopped, took a big breath before continuing, “First of all, I want to apologize to all of the people that I treated badly over the years. It hurts me to think of the young jerk I must have been.”

Laughter and applause broke out from the crowd. Someone shouted, “Right on brother.”

Fortesque was embarrassed, but he continued, “My new Company, Q- Enterprises has become a real success because of the efforts and support of many people. On July 5th the Company is going public, and its shares will begin to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. As a small gesture of apology for my previous actions, and also as a thank you for your generosity in making sure I didn’t leave the estate that day, penniless, I want you to share in my success.”

On cue, the three lawyers from Periwinkle, Johnson & Krakow came to the podium with a large brown carton. They then proceeded to call each person to the stage where Fortesque shook hands and handed each a large white envelope.

Stunned faces broke out all through the crowd when the envelopes were opened to reveal a share Certificate for 1000 shares of Q-Enterprises Inc. Eric, the chauffeur, had a little market knowledge, so he Googled for information.

Eric's voice could be heard everywhere when he screamed, "Holy cow! The IPO price per share was $25, but the brokers are saying first-day trading could break the $50 mark!"

Everyone was excited and happy. The guests milled around Fortesque thanking him and shaking hands. Maria even asked if he was eating any red Cheerios these days. The noise level was so high that it took Judge Carter more than a few minutes to get everyone’s attention. He was standing at the microphone.

 

 “Well folks, this has been a great day for us all. But I always think a great day should be one that ends with a great surprise. Could I ask Miss Gillian Walker to come to the stand?”

Gillian was indeed surprised, but she made her way up to the podium where Fortesque joined her. He reached into the brown box, "Gillian, the lawyers forgot to give you your envelope too. Please accept it with my most sincere gratitude." Gillian took the envelope and started to leave the stage. She wanted to open it in private, but the Judge stopped her.

“Miss Walker, this won’t be much of a surprise if you don’t share it with us!”

Gillian was trapped. She knew Fortesque wanted her to be a shareholder, but she was afraid of the reaction of the crowd if her share certificate was for a number much more substantial than theirs. She opened the envelope with shaking hands. When Gillian saw the contents, the tears started rolling down her face. Her Certificate wasn’t for Q-Enterprises stock. It was an unsigned, valid Certificate of Marriage made out in the names of Gillian Walker and Fortesque Grenville.

Fortesque walked over and embraced her tightly, “Never a dull moment, right honey?”

Judge Carter continued his speech, "In the practice of law, we were always taught to prepare for the unexpected. This young lady has just received a most unusual proposal of marriage from our good friend Fortesque. In the event, she says yes, I’m a duly sworn Justice of the Peace, George Collins is standing by as a potential Best Man. We also have a marriage license, a fully stocked bar, caterers by the dozen and a musical band ready to go.

With eyes sparkling, Miss Gillian Walker did indeed say yes, with great enthusiasm. Judge Carter did his part, I did mine, and so did all the others. The excellent wedding party was a blast. It went on ‘till the wee hours of the morning until finally, the gleaming white corporate helicopter whisked the newlyweds off on their honeymoon.

Joe Carter and I stood on the lawn, still waving as the craft slowly disappeared into the night sky. I noticed that the Judge had a tear running from the corner of his eye. And, I might have had one as well. What a couple of old softies we were!

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Check out easywriter's Book


Fortesque's Friend

From riches to rags and back again. This heartwarming story of a young boy who inherits immense wealth through the untimely death of his parents is told through the eyes of his court appointed guardian. The process of overnight personal wealth turns youn

© Copyright 2019 easywriter. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Young Adult Short Stories