The $50 notes David was handing out on George Street, were bank crisp as they slipped from the bound stacks and into the fingers of their new owners. At the start of the hour, the money had been warily accepted and a few had, surprisingly, rejected the offer completely. Suspicious they said. Now in the closing stages however, suspicion had been trampled on as the smooth notes were greedily grabbed then crushed in protective fists.
David paused for a moment and checked the clock face that bore down on him from the tower above. Seven more as thick as the wad he was trying to dispense now were still in the lockable case and there were only 23 minutes to go. Chris followed David's gaze and when he too registered the dwindling time, began canvassing more earnestly to the growing crowd. David's family had always been eccentric and this recent stunt undoubtedly qualified as insane. But Chris was a loyal friend despite his reservations that David would once again be left disappointed by the old man.
"Hey, over here!"
The eclectic group included men in suits who used their briefcases to push the elderly out of their way and mothers that rammed prams hard against the knee socks of private school boys. Even the offensive smell of the down-and-out hadn't deterred the money-grabbers who didn't care what the reason was for two desperate looking middle-aged men giving away money. They only cared that they would be one of the ones to receive it before it ran out.
OK, you have 33 done...so 7 times 100...700 notes...divided by 23...
"Breathe David," Chris reassured him, "We're going to make it if you just keep on handing them out". Chris had to work on controlling his own breathing as word spread through the crowd that the money was running out. The mob's power seemed to swell and press the booth so that the men were all but buried under the slackening canvas.
"That's it Chris! I'm done." David's voice both shook with the relief of finishing and cracked with the fear of what was to come.
What was to come? Unless he and Chris untangled themselves from the booth and made it through the mass of angry people to the bank again, he would never know. Chris would probably say David didn't need to know and his father would certainly say he shouldn't want to know. But he did. He needed and wanted to know exactly what he had meant to Sir William J. Holling (the 3rd). If he had to participate in some convoluted game to find out, it was worth it.Twenty-five years of working his way up in the company and trying to please his cantankerous grandfather had so far only netted him an ulcer and a large alimony bill to pay to his neglected ex-wife Gloria. Now the man was dead, David wanted more.
He doubted that Gloria would attend the withered tycoon's funeral unless David allowed her to be accompanied by a rousing brass band that trumpeted her joy.When introducing his granddaughter-in-law to people, Sir William J. Holling (the 3rd) made sure his opinion of her was clear.
"Gordon," he'd say, "This is the brainless trollop David married, Gloria, meet Doc Horsham."
One swift look at the clock and David was reminded that the past was gone and he could do nothing to change it. What mattered was using the remaining minute she had now so that his future might finally be in his control.
Powering through the last metres, Chris rapped the glass. When the doors opened he pushed David inside ahead of him and the burly doorman quickly closed the panels against the surge. For a moment the three men watched the scene framed in the glass. The last of the disappointed people silently mouthed their frustration at the soundproof glass and returned to the real world where money didn't grow on market-booths and people had to earn it.
"Mr. Holling, this way please," said the immaculate manager of Northwind Prudential. He lead David and Chris across the plush carpet of the foyer and down a silent corridor until they once again entered the media room. Chris stood at the door and with a light touch to David's arm, stopped him from following the manager inside.
"Are you sure about this Dave?"He stared into David's darting eyes and tried again,"Does it really change anything that's already written?" Only Chris and David's father (who may or may not have been meditating on a Tibetan mountain this month), knew that today wasn't about money. It wasn't even about the business and who was going to replace the miserable bastard as heir to all his grandfather and father had built.
"And because I want to hear him say it," he whispered, "He had to have been proud of me and I just need to hear that." With a sulk, David walked briskly into the room and the two men sat in the same chairs they had occupied less than two hours before.
Mr. Whaltham QC stood in front of them, checked the notes in his hand before removing his half-moon spectacles and held his hands out for the case. Once he established it was empty he glanced at the time. David returned the approving smile of the lawyer and finally felt his body relaxing for the first time since he got the phone call outlining his challenge.
Mr. Whaltham QC then reached into his own briefcase and removed two video cases; one red, one blue. After replacing his glasses on his nose and again referring to his notes, Whaltham selected the red case and handed it to the waiting bank manager. In the dimming light David looked across at Chris and gave a wobbly smile.Chris opened his mouth to congratulate him, but the screen flickered into life and the enlarged face of Sir William J. Holling (the 3rd) scowled down on them. His bloated body almost filled the screen and the once strong shoulders were hunched over his middle.
David bounced one leg on the ball of his foot and stared engrossed at the wrinkled skin and faded blue eyes he had always known. The star on the bank's screen coughed to loosen his throat.
"So," he continued,"what does that mean?" Unaware he was perched on the edge of his seat, David shifted and had to catch hold of the armrest to stop him falling to his knees. Sir William smiled down in all his plasma glory, seeming to look right at his only grandchild who trembled nervously in his taut suit.
"It means you're an idiot!" The ghost-of-a-man yelled even more,"It means you just pissed away two hundred grand in an hour,which is blatantly stupid, all because some old geezer you pathetically worship said to. Your father was an idiot because he didn't understand the power and value of money and you've just proven you're the same David."
As this dramatic announcement had been recorded almost a month prior, David's grandfather was not conscious of the crumbling atmosphere that filled the small room of the bank. The men officiating this unconventional presentation, didn't want the pity they felt for David to be obvious, and so busied themselves shuffling papers at the back of the room. Sir William used his arms to leverage himself up in his wheelchair, pushed himself further into the seat. The effort had him panting and he closed his eyes to pause.
"Fifty bucks might not seem like much," he eventually continued,"but you can see how it all adds up." Wise eyes bored into Sir William's grandson as he lowered his voice and said,"You disappoint me."
David's mouth was slack and his eyes wide as he slid in disbelief to the floor in front of his chair. Sir William continued his posthumous lecture, unaware of David's glazed stare and the choked gurgle that escaped his throat.
The dying man raised his voice to it's normal commanding level and said, "I assume you have that bean-counter of ours with you as you can't seem to have a shit without him holding your hand. So I'm speaking now to you Chris." David's oldest friend looked to the T.V. in shock, forgetting the slumped figure on the ground next to him.
"Are you there Chris?" asked Sir William and he comically peered down the lens of the camera into the darkened room. Mr. Whaltham QC indicated with a hand gesture towards the screen that Chris should answer his former boss.
"Ah, er...I don't think so Sir William, sir?"he responded to the waiting figure framed in front of him.Chris found himself sweating more in this air-conditioned room than he had outside in the heat of the summer morning, pissing away the old man's money.
Sir William's cracking laugh boomed from the surround speakers and filled the room.
"Then why are you talking to a dead guy on a T.V.?" His chins jiggled and he rocked back and forth in his wheelchair. "Ha, ha , ha, haa, haa, haaaaa!"
The four men in the room watched in disbelief as the suddenly crazed man continued his laughing, seeming to make up for the decades they had all known him that were void of any humour. Reaching for his oxygen, Sir William J. Holling (the 3rd) calmed his mirth to a wheezing chuckle inside the mask and all five men were silent as his breathing regulated. After several minutes he removed the mask, swiped at the last of his thin hair and prepared to speak again.
"You're an idiot too Chris, like your sap of a friend there."The dead man jabbed a finger at the room and then spoke in a weaker tone, which was somehow more disconcerting than the loud one."You'll both keep your jobs, but you won't be running my company, as I'm giving that role to Peter in Finance."
Sir William was far from finished and delivered his cruelest blow.
"As for ownership, I was never leaving it to you David because you're too soft," he announced solemnly, "and that's your father's fault no doubt. I have to give him credit though, he wasn't a brown-nose like you.
"All those years you followed after me like a puppy doing everything I said, never thinking for yourself. At least he had the guts to follow his own path even if that path turned out to be a fucking hippy rainbow." There wasn't even a hint of the usual smugness David felt when his grandfather mocked his father.
"So I'm leaving Holling Ltd to my son William IV, your father David,with instructions to stay the hell out of it which should be easy to achieve from the summit of Mt. Bullshit or wherever the heck he is. He'll own it, Peter will run it and you and Chris will work it."
Tears were rolling down David's face as he continued in morbid fascination to watch and listen to his grandfather kick him down one more time.
"Your father will die one day too and I'm sure he'll leave you ownership then, but don't hold your breath.The bastard will probably outlive you with all that yoga, yoghurt and mung bean crap he's been living on." Another wheezing laughing fit followed, but only lasted a few seconds this time before oxygen was needed. Chris knew that David was deeply hurt but had no words to offer his friend. Instead, he concentrated on the final images of Sir William J. Holling (the 3rd)as he concluded his last will and testimony.
"Happy? Now turn that thing off," he snapped. There was a fumbling noise as the Mr. Whaltham QC on screen, tried to turn the camera off.
"Not that one jack-ass, the red one. The RED one. For Christ sake, David?" Sir William leaned into the camera and his face became blurred with the close proximity. David reacted in an instant.
"If you're still watching this bit, press stop now and eject it, I'm finished. Moron Whaltham here can't work a -"
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