Chapter 16:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 159

Chapter 16

Maggie returned from the wedding deliriously happy to be back with Jack, and spent that first night in his bed. A fortnight later they had shifted all of Maggie's things to Jack's house and attended dinner at the flat where Maggie's flat mates said good-bye to her in style.

They were very happy, but Jack still had a nagging thought she rather liked him than loved him, although it was clear that Phil was no longer in the picture.

This touch of uncertainty worried Jack. He found it difficult to love Maggie totally without being convinced the feeling was completely reciprocated; although they talked about their feelings and developed a much better mutual understanding they did not get to the point of completely baring their souls. After several days of chewing away on this, Jack decided that if this was the extent to which Maggie wanted to commit, then that was fine. Perhaps their partnership would mature like a bottle of high quality red wine.

One night they began talking about their future. Maggie made it quite clear that as far as she was concerned, their future lay together.

"Why don't we start up our own magazine?" she asked. "You'd be able to switch from being a journalist to becoming a publisher."

This was an opportune moment to bite the bullet, Jack thought, so said, "Do you want to get married?"

"I'm starting to think about it, but don't want to put you under any pressure. We are very, very happy just as we are, aren't we?"

Jack thought it best to ride with that one so replied, "Yeah, it's been magical."

Relaxed on the sofa, they listened to Mendelssohn's 'Violin Concerto' as their conversation shifted to discuss Gavin and his company.

"Would you really like to be the new Gavin?"

"No, I'm quite against that. Workers being sick, workers damaging your business, people including your workforce, suppliers and tax-gatherers wanting the first 85c in the dollar you make - it's really not a creative environment. What about you?"

"I'd like to get into business - I understand it, I like it. But capital is required and I am without it unless the folk help me out."

"Would they?"

"If I called, dad would sell something to come up with a treasure chest."

Jack decided to be totally truthful: "I want to stay behind the camera lens. If you wish to build a business around me, that's fine, if you wish to start your own business or work elsewhere to find you niche that's fine -I'm happy either way.

"Alternatively we could do some books together but the local market is really far too small to do just architectural books.

"So, that's where my thinking has stopped - right there on the edge, and that's where I think the answer lies - a solution that will allow me to remain in Auckland."

Maggie looked relieved Jack at that.

"I have to, no way are you a regular hours, regular gait worker - at least, not until you've been reprogrammed."

Jack looked melancholy. Yet his hazel eyes were sparkling. "I'd like to hear your thoughts," he said, twisting a lock of her hair.

Maggie stretched, aware that she'd unintentionally diverted his attention, so she replied provocatively. "I'd prefer staying working alongside you, that's if you're happy about that."

He muzzled behind her ear and whispered, "Thank God for that."

It was now Maggie's turn to push the issue: "You flicked over the word ‘marry' earlier when we talked about options. Do you have designs on me?"

"Would you like me to suggest a wedding date?"

Maggie stretched out tight as a drum, nodding vigorously.

"How would a year from today suit you?"

She relaxed, drew up her left hand and examined the fingernails: "That long?"

Jack proceeded calmly: "A year's time would suit me, however..."

"No, approximately one year from today would be fine," she said, rolling on top of him. "Right, my potential bridegroom - let me at these lips of yours."

The following week after arranging a time - as yet without Maggie's knowledge - to view engagement rings, Gavin was walking out to production to check the front cover proof of Property&You.

"Oh mate," was the call as Jack turned into the corridor. "Come join me for morning tea."

Roberta had left the previous week, going with her husband to England as her husband had won a head office position in the insurance company he worked for twelve years. Roberta's replacement brought in the coffee and sugar cakes, coffee spills showing on the saucers.

"She's up from accounts on trial - I'll probably have to swamp her for another or else advertise," said Gavin, tipping his coffee spill back into his cup.

"Why not Steph?"

"I asked, but she rejected me mate. Reckons I'm only after her body and she's married."

"Sounds as if she's got brains, mate. Offer her another fifty bucks a week and she'll come purring to your side. I know young ladies like her - cosmetics, hair styles and shoes are so damn expensive these days."

"I'll try that, I've really forgotten how the other half live. Now, what I've got you here to discuss, mate, is I've heard on the grape vine that you are thinking of leaving us. Is this true Jack?

Jack looked surprised, thinking Roberta must have been guilty of pillow talk. When she'd let slip that Gavin had received more than a passing enquiry from an Australian magazine company about whether he was interested in selling out to them, Jack had remarked that he'd not stick around if that happened.

No names, just vague comment was in order. "Someone is speculating but when I heard you've entered merger talks or some other accommodation with an Aussie company I began to rethink my future."

Gavin looked nervous. "Cor, throw me a life-line Jack."

Jack pressed on not sympathetic about Gavin's position. "I've been through all the permutations, but nothing looks appealing. Our Great Romance as a business duo appears as if it is ending, Gavin - it's being garroted by you. We had a great thing going now with you eager for a good offer, it's time for both of us to move on."

"Oh jeeze, Jack. If you look twitchy about staying I'm obliged to divulge your possible departure to the potential buyers because it materially affects the value of assets. If you promise to stay I could grease your palm."

"Sorry, Gav. My mind's all but made up. Why don't you bring consultants in to package what you've got in the most attractive way? Even begin recruiting my replacement. I can see now that the so-called rumor appears to be fact."

Gavin blustered, scrubbing his jaw with his palm: "But you don't like consultants."

"But you do, Gav, and in this instance I recommend you get Budge Willis & Associates. Budge is expensive but he'll know everything about you by the time he's finished and he'll inform you about your potential purchaser and if there are ever bigger paying purchasers around. He'll earn his fee by telling you if he thinks the purchase offer stacks up, that is, if you receive one. The prospective buyer will want to send in a team to look you over - Budge will help with that. In all probability the Aussies will know him."

"Right, Jack. Have another sugar cake. I got them because I know you love ‘em. I'll take to Budge as soon as you go and will keep you informed."

That evening in the restaurant Maggie kept touching her engagement ring, reminding Jack just how happy she was. They'd bought it before going to dinner. Jack had assumed they would probably spend hours looking - it possibly would be midnight before they ate.

But when they walked into the jewelers Mr Friedman recognized Maggie and handed her a box.

"Your ring, Miss MacCrae."

Jack was astonished.

"I thought you would choose this shop," Maggie told the Jack. "I spent hours looking for the right ring and Mr Friedman finally produced one he had made especially to attract me - this one. Do you like it?"

Maggie opened the box. It looked just like any old ring but the look on Maggie's face hinted at what he should say: "It's gorgeous, darling, and beautiful. It looks...er...so much like you?"

Maggie appeared not to have heard that last comment end as a question. Excitedly she threw her arms around him and began weeping in happiness. The Rottweiler was no more.

Later that week Jack began a series of meetings in an attempt to establish a new career. Finally when negotiations were close to completion he said to Maggie: "We're in Wellington tomorrow - flying down early, coming home late. Sorry about the short notice but the PM is very busy."

"The Prime Minister?"

"Yeah, if it's decided to pull her into the meeting we'll be on our own, working to get her nod. So wear your black suit with that blue and gold scarf, not too much war paint and a light shade of lipstick."

"Oh yes, and what will you be wearing; you don't wear suits and rarely wear ties?"

"A suit."

"God, this is serious, isn't it? What's my involvement?"

"To give the impression of being an extremely nice and professional competent journalist who adores New Zealand."

"Well, I shan't have to act, will I?"

Jack explained the concept. He'd gone to famous architect Sir Barrie Ferguson, who chaired of a government advisory committee on recording aspects of New Zealand life for the benefit of future generations.

"Barrie was blown away with my concept, agreeing that it will be a commercial cash cow for the government through licensing photographic users such as advertising agencies, book publishers and researchers.

"The proposal is that I take photographs of buildings, new public edifices and private buildings of note which will be digitally archived somewhere within government administration. The rights for restricted use of these copyright photographs would be sold on-line. They will also become part of New Zealand's historic archive."

Jack pushed away his pasta dish.

"I was only talking about starting from now, covering this decade. But Barrie reckons we can identify buildings that remain authentic from earlier decades and there would be heaps of potential work there. He's also talking about fountains, bridges, dams, etc. He's so really whipped up about this that I think he'll get it pushed through. I would be given a sizeable annual budget to run my side of things. I would be loosely controlled - emphasis on loosely - by a three-person committee established to set-up and run the unit overall. Initially in the field will be myself and an assistant plus a researcher/spotter to build up a database of potential targets. I'd like you to be my assistant."

Maggie pushed away her plate, burped lightly, and said that idea sounded most attractive. "It means we would virtually work as we have being doing."

"Yes."

"What is the name of this archival operation?"

"My suggested name was Decade Digital, but Barrie seized that idea and came up with Decennium Digital."

"Nobody's going to forget that name."

"Quite. So sorry about the rush but the PM is only available tomorrow for the next couple of weeks. She waits for no one."

"That's fine - I'd like a day and night in Wellington. We better take samples of our work."

"Right, mine are already packed, Maggie. I was going to suggest you sorted some good work out - something that just looks nice. The PM won't have time to read a word."

"Oh, I'm disappointed. I've never had a PM mark my work."

At Parliament Buildings Jack introduced Maggie to Sir Barrie. He could see that the architect took immediately to Maggie, opening the door into the meeting room and ignoring Jack behind them.

Maggie and Jack were then introduced to the four other members of Sir Barrie's committee plus six officials.

"The Indians always outnumber chiefs in politics," Sir Barrie whispered to Maggie.

Maggie was then asked for her opinion about the concept, whether she knew anything about buildings and monuments and if she had a sense of history.

Sir Barrie was amused by her replies.

For the benefit of architect Mrs Crystal Hedges, QSM, Maggie gave her a potted history of the Christchurch Cathedral, the Wellington Carillon and the town bridges of Hamilton.

Maggie then charmingly answered civil engineer Paul Jacobs, that so far she'd visited the Savage Memorial in Auckland, the Thames School of Mines, the Tangiwhai National Memorial, the War Memorial Hall building in Wanganui, the..."

"Thank you, young lady. I have my answer," said Mr Jacobs.

"A sense of history is difficult for someone as fresh as you from the UK, my dear," said Margaret Butcher, a noted librarian, "but you will understand people in our area of expertise expect us to know our nation's history. Are you able to quote me a couple of dates of merit?"

"Oh dear, where to start," sighed Maggie, causing Mrs Butcher to smile sympathetically.

"Here are some for a start - Circa 1300 start of continuous Polynesian settlement, 1642 Tasman, 1769 Cook, and 1806 first European women arrived - one would have to assume they may have been hardy Scots."

"Any further questions for Miss MacRae?

"Good," said Sir Barrie. "Gaston, while we're looking at Mr Nightingale' photographic samples and Miss MacRae's sample articles, perhaps you would be kind enough to let the PM department know that we're ready at her convenience."

The Prime Minister swept into the office with a male and two female assistants in her wake.

"No - stay where you are Barrie, everyone. This is just to allow me to touch base on this project. If my officials here today give it the green light, I'll accept it. Seeding funding to get the whole thing operational comes out of the trust fund established for such purposes."

"Ah, Miss MacRae. According to my researchers, you are someone of note - you're the daughter of that hilarious scoundrel Blair MacRae - he's in my regular group in Edinburgh. I go there every second year for the Festival and he is one of my three official minders."

"Goodness, I didn't know he went there on official duties. He always tells us someone has to drink the whisky."

The PM was laughing before most others in the room realized it was a joke.

"Oh excuse me Prime Minister, this is my fianc Jack Nightingale."

"Ah, yes. He's going to be working with you, isn't he?"

An aide whispered something to the PM."

"I seem to remember dishing out photographic awards to you from time to time, Jack. Well, that's what my assistant just told me. But I know your work and yours too, Maggie. Property&You is one of six magazines that I always have put aboard for me when I fly off overseas. A first class magazine - the way you two are going you'll eventually become historical relics yourselves. This project you've come up with has tremendous merit.

"I gather you came up with it Jack because your publisher is selling your magazine from under you."

"That's exactly how it is, Prime Minister."

"I must fly. Gaston, you know what you are expected to do."

"Yes ma'am," he replied, and with a wave she was gone.

"You know what you and your fellow officials must do," Sir Barrie said menacingly.

"Yes, Sir Barrie. I have my instructions. Why don't we sign the papers right now?"

"You anticipated approval?"

"Oh no, Sir Barrie. No one subjugates the Prime Minister. We just have all the approval papers ready for signing, plus a second folder with just one sheet announcing the rejection of the application. We then await instructions."

Jack marched into the office ahead of Maggie next morning, wheeling at the front desk and calling, "Hi, Steph. Welcome to your new role - love your new hair-do."

"Great shoes," supplemented Maggie.

"Oh Jack, Gavin says coffee and sugar cakes for you at 10:00."

Jack waved in acknowledgement without turning. He slowed to allow Maggie to catch up. "Notice how she's calling him Gavin already. She's only been on the job 24 hours. Obviously she's got no self-control. If she held out she could have got a good raise."

"Oh, you men think you know everything. I screamed my head off in the ladies the other day she confided that you said she ought to go for an extra $50 a week. She'd have to wait a couple of months to get new shoes."

"Oh yeah, so what did Miss Experience suggest?"

"I said to Steph to go in not wearing a bra and a loose neck. She should plant both palms wide on his desk and lean right over him. Then she should tell him she was take the job for a $50 rise, but if he wanted her to be extra sweet and sexy in the way she looked at the front desk that would be $150 a week. I said that Gavin would be so excited he'd probably mess up and add the fifty to the one-fifty."

"And did he?"

"Probably. Steph has just given me a huge wink and those shoes would cost $300 if they cost a penny."

"That's straight out extortion."

"What would you do if you didn't have suitable shoes to wear at the front office?"

"Wear sandals?"

Maggie looked in despair.

"You know Jack; I think you must have been difficult as a child. With some men the difficulty remains."

Jack walked to his desk thinking about that one.

At 10.00 Jack went Gavin's office.

"Sit down mate. Well, you've delivered me once again from the wolves mate. Every thing is honky dory. That consultant fellow of yours, Budge Willis took a walk around here with me yesterday, spending the longest time looking at Steph and trying to soften the sides of her new shoes for her. Budge my boy took one look at the main press and said he knew someone who'd pay top dollars for that particular model. The Aussie's already own an under-capacity printing outfit in South Auckland. I didn't have to tell him you were going and Phil has already gone. He knew, adding that you were in Wellington jacking up a job with the Government. The Government? You? Is that true?"

"Yeah, but first tell me what else did Budge say. How the hell did he know about Wellington - it was very hush-hush?"

"Dunno. Budge said the Australians are buying up any half-decent magazine in New Zealand so reckons our top three will go to them. They won't even stop to think about you not being on K&K and Property&You as Budge says the OZ publishers reckon their journo and pixmen run rings around Kiwis."

"So, things are getting close to being wrapped up?"

"You bet. There's not a press buyer on ever street corner - not even one in the whole of the country for most of the year. Our presses will all go overseas. Offers from Oz are due over the next week or so and I'll be trying to get ready to flick on other stuff and organize talks with the Australians about what jobs they can offer my staff who want to be placed with the new owners. They proposed to build their New Zealand magazine operation around this set-up of mine." So, as you say, everything is honky dory."

"Gavin, I'll be leaving on the 25th of next month."

"Buster thought you would be giving notice any day now; he says you'll be staying on at your current home and using it as your operational base."

"Oh, did he now? Well at least he could have told me first. I didn't know I was going to do that but it is likely."

"Good operator is Buster, isn't he?"

"Yeah, one of the best, Gavin," sighed Jack. "Where would you be without us?"

"Earning big profits to dish out to you guys, of course."

"All of this conversation is confidential, mate."

"Understood."

Feeling guilty Maggiephoned her parents at 7:30 - three evenings after buying her engagement ring! She'd been so busy and they had kept it so low-keyed that she'd simply not thought about it.

Bonnie had answered the phone. Word of an engagement was lost in mutual wails and screams, with first round under way on which of the two countries would host the wedding.

When it was Blair's turn to speak he became quite emotional, explaining that not being able to see his daughter face to face to watch her reaction when delivering the news was rather disappointing.

Just at that moment there was a flash, and noting that Jack was using the digital camera Maggie said Jack had just photographed her on the phone so they should check their email for a copy of the photo in the next half hour. Blair became even more emotional when Maggie told him that the Prime Minister had asked after him.

"Me?" That is just unbelievable," he said, obviously handing the receiver back to Bonnie.

Maggie's mother wanted to know the color of the wedding dress, the style, who'd make it, what was...

"Stop, mother!" I am sorry, but we have just been too busy thinking about it. I really think we should come home for the wedding as you'll drive me crazy with nothing to do, on the phone all the time asking my about progress, who'll sleep where and fighting over who's going to make the cake. There's no promise mind you, I said I would talk to Jack about that."

"Oh darling, I'll start discussing arrangements with my friends."

"Mother - nothing is set, I have to talk to Jack about that."

"That's all right dear. The wedding is here. Jack would not wish to upset me because he's a gentleman."

"Oh God," groaned Maggie, who could then hear her father shouting.

"What's dad on about?"

"He's yelling what's the like of you cosseting up to the Prime Minister. Maggie, have you met the Prime Minister of New Zealand!"

"Yes, Jack and I have been commissioned to do work for the Government on a 5-year contract. It is very hush-hush at the moment. News about it will be released through the PM's department."

"Oh darling, you are going to be the most famous member of our family. Oh darling."

"No I won't mum. A senior official called Gaston told me that the New Zealand Prime Minister refers to daddy as ‘The Wide-Eyed Red-head' and he calls her ‘The Scot's Lament'. Apparently he makes her laugh so much she becomes legless. He's now part of her volunteer bodyguard whenever she visits Edinburgh."

"That's odd dear - his humor never makes me legless."

"You're a Campbell mother - Campbells never have a well developed sense of humor."

"You are so right, dear, and so right. If it's fine I think I'll have the whole of the wedding at The Hub if I can get it. You'll just have to take the closest date I can get to one year's time."

"Yes mother - make ENQUIRIES by all means."

"A booking dear, by the time one fluffs about with enquiries someone's stolen your wedding date. That would be catastrophic for your poor mother."

"Yes mother."

"Can we speak to Jack?"

"Oh, Jack. Yes, that rather redundant figure who's got a minor role to play in all this. Both of you talk to him on speaker phone, mother. That will shorten his slot even further."

"Jack, please, you cheeky monkey."

"Jack - congratulations, warmest congratulations."

"Yes, my boy. Well done."

"Thank you Mr and Mrs MacRae."

"Jack, don't be so painful. I'm Bonnie and the Prime Minister's plaything is Blair. We've told you that before."

"Right. Well thanks, I shall send this lovely photograph of your daughter through in a couple of minutes. Bye."

"Goodbye, Jack. It's going to be wonderful having you in Edinburgh."

Jack sniffed and said to Maggie, "I gather our wedding has been hijacked?"

"Yes, I tried to remain steadfast, but the Campbell - she knew she was coming. There was little I could do."

"No problem - here's what we'll do. Let's have the wedding in the Loch or wherever the Scots have their weddings. My two sisters who are both living in Sydney at present will probably come over with us but mum might not want to go that far. Then your parents will have to come back here with us and you and I will put on a thanksgiving service and wedding breakfast for our folk here."

"Thanks for being so nice about it, darling. That sounds lovely. But who will you have for your best man in Edinburgh?"

"Gavin."

"What, that lecherous blackguard?"

"He's been really great to me, Maggie, particularly when Lisa died. The other women thing only began fairly recently when he stupidly took on those two worshipful bodies that arrived in front of him about the same time as his wife semi-retired from wifely duties."

"I've still got some mates in London so will come up with a groomsman or two. Um - on the other hand, could we could consider a small registry office ceremony at a town hall halfway between Edinburgh and Auckland?"

"Jack Nightingale, we certainly could not. No way would you wish to upset my mother because she considers you to be a gentleman."

Two weeks later AusMAG (Australasian Magazines Pty Limited) completed the purchase of all of Gavin's publishing interests.

With all major titles being retained, suitable existing staff would be retained. The chief executive designate from Melbourne received mixed reaction during her three-day visit: those preparing to work under AusMAG welcomed her excitedly while others issued with redundancy notices greeted her sourly.

Jack, who was escorting the Australian executive around, grinned when they were walking into editorial and editor-in-chief Pettronella Gabor, spotting them approaching, slammed her door and the lock clicked.

Jack commented that Petty Petra had not taken kindly to her redundancy notice.

There was still work to be done for Jack and Maggie while serving out their notice of resignation. They headed out to Piha - a rugged West Coast beach of great natural beauty.

"Are you sorry to learn the name Twin Horizons Publishing is to be dropped?" asked Maggie. "So much of the business was you."

"Nah, it's what I would have done to signify a new broom and a new direction. Twin Horizons is poor branding anyway as it gives mixed messages."

"Yes, I agree. But is Southern Ocean Publishing all that much better?"

Jack grinned and patted Maggie's thigh, and her thighs opened.

"I've been thinking about babies recently."

The hand removed itself, fast.


Submitted: July 29, 2007

© Copyright 2022 Grigor McGregor. All rights reserved.

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