North to the Max
“Brian,” Justin called out as he rounded the spiral staircase that led to their attic office. Brian was there at his desk and as usual he was studying Kinnetik’s newer contracts.
“We need to talk,” Justin replied. Brian stood and was about to go to the futon but sat back down when Justin took the chair in front of Brian’s desk. The expression on Justin’s face didn’t bode well.
“I’m not going to like this, am I?” Brian asked.
“No, I don’t think you will.” Brian made a ‘get on with it’ gesture with his hand. “I just got off the phone with Lindsay; Charles called her. There was a fire at the gallery.” Brian’s eyes became very wide. “No one was hurt but the fire department and police are investigating. They suspect arson. Charles wants me to fly over as soon as possible. Because of the investigation, Charles hasn’t seen the full extent of the damage. But he’s made calls to all the artists hoping they’d come to the gallery.”
“What can they do?”
“Once the investigation is over, the conservators will have to clean and possibly touch up the paintings. What better resource than the artists who created the paintings. It’ll cut down the testing time. Of course, the older paintings or ones where the artist is deceased will take longer to work on. And I think I’d rather fix my own stuff, if necessary,” Justin seriously stated.
It took a moment for the gravity of the situation to sink in. Brian sighed then frowned. “I can’t go with you,” Brian stated sadly.
“I know. You have to be here just in case you’re needed in Toronto,” Justin said. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be, this wasn’t your fault. And I hope when they catch this fucker they throw his ass in jail,” Brian growled. Justin nodded in agreement.
“Lindsay sounded devastated on the phone. Sam had a couple of pieces on display too. He’s in Paris so he’ll probably be there by the time we arrive.”
“Angier than a wet cat. The gallery is closed for now but he’s itching to get started on the repairs.”
“I’m sure the insurance company will want a full report before the repairs can begin,” Brian added. Justin nodded then became silent; he was overwhelmed.
Brian stood then went to a specialized closet that housed a safe containing their important documents. He opened the safe then rummaged around. Finding what he wanted Brian closed the safe then returned to stand in front of his spouse.
“Here, take this with you. It may help,” Brian said as he placed a thumb drive into Justin’s hand.
“What’s on this?”
“The one where you record your notes about your paintings,” Brian replied.
“You know about that,” Justin asked with astonishment.
“I know everything,” Brian said glibly with a smirk to lighten the mood then he became serious again. “I found your first notebook years ago by accident. I didn’t think it was a state secret. You mostly kept it out in the open. I was curious so one day I looked through it. It was amazing. Needless to say, I was very impressed. Every once in a while, I’d look through it again. As you became more prolific your style of record keeping began to change.”
“Yes, it did. Did you consult Sidney? Your entries became shorter, almost like code. And you began including a small picture of each piece. Anyway, at some point I decided to photographyour entries before you stored the older books in our bank vault. I’ve made copies and discs just in case. Lindsay has one as well as Sidney.”
“Is that a good wow or a bad?”
“No, it’s a good wow. I never thought to make copies of the journals. And yes, it was Sidney who suggested I keep a record of my work when I first went to New York.” Justin stood then went into Brian’s arm. “Thank you,” he murmured against Brian’s chest. Brian wrapped his arms tight around Justin.
“When do you leave?” Brian whispered.
“Tonight. Lindsay booked us on the next flight out. I have to start packing. I’m meeting her at the airport.” Brian nodded and kissed the top of Justin’s head. He leaned backed a little so that they could touch foreheads.
“Go, start packing. Pull out my duffle bag, I’ll drive you into the airport then stay at the Plaza. I’ll be closer to the airport if something happens to either you or Bree.”
“Nothing’s going to happen. But thank you. I’ll feel a whole lot better knowing you’re only about an hour away from Bree.”
“And nine hours from you. I really wish I could go with you,” said, giving Justin anther tight hug.
“I know you do. But I’ll have Lindsay and she said that Sidney is going to fly over as soon as he can. I won’t be alone.” ‘But I won’t have you’ was left hanging in the air unsaid.
“Go pack. I’ll be down in a minute; I’m going to call the guys and pack my briefcase.”
“Okay,” said Justin trying to be brave. The lovers kissed then parted, each attending to their tasks.
Bree tapped on the office door where her brother seemed to be reading some contracts or something.
“Enter,” Gus said without looking up.
He sounded so much like their father, Bree thought. She waited for her brother to recognize that she was there. Finally he looked up.
“What can I do for you, short stuff?” he asked with a grin.
“Is ‘short stuff’ appropriate terminology for the office?” Bree asked with her own grin.
“It’s what you’ll always be to me regardless of the office or a walk in the park.”
Bree smiled. “Speaking of a walk in the park, I was wondering if you might like to go for a walk with me,” Bree said batting her violet eyes at her brother.
“I’m feeling kind of … edgy or something,” Bree replied with a frown. “I thought we could do something other than business.”
“I guess we could … if that’s what you want.”
“It’s what I want.”
“Okay,” Gus said hesitantly. “Can you give me about a half hour to finish up a few things and then we can go.”
“I guess I can give you that long,” Bree said with a sigh.
“Is everything all right?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine. I’ll wait out in the lobby,” Bree said as she quickly left the office.
Gus watched her go with a frown. He decided he’d get through these papers as quickly as possible and then find out what was going on with his sister.
Bree sat in one of the big armchairs in the waiting area near the reception desk. Jeff saw her take the seat and wondered what he should do. He waited to see if she would say anything to him. When she merely sat still and stared at the painting on the wall across from her, he felt he had to say something.
“Could I get you anything?” Jeff asked. “A soda … or water?”
“No thank you,” Bree replied.
“Are you feeling all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“You don’t usually sit out here,” Jeff said.
“I believe I can sit anywhere I want to,” Bree said hoping she didn’t sound too bitchy.
“Of course, I was just concerned that something was wrong.”
“Well, nothing’s wrong,” Bree declared.
Jeff nodded and decided he should just shut up. The phone rang shortly after and he picked it up quickly feeling slightly more useful in doing so.
“I believe he’s busy at the moment,” Jeff said into the phone. “Yes she is. She’s sitting right here in the lobby.” There was a pause and Jeff frowned. “I could transfer the call to the conference room. I don’t believe anyone is using it. Yes, sir, right away.” Jeff pushed a button on the phone and turned toward Bree. “Your father is on line one and I will transfer it to the conference room. He would like to speak with you,” Jeff advised.
“Thank you,” Bree said as she stood up and walked quickly to the conference room. “Hello,” she said as picked up the phone.
“Bree, how are you doing?”
Bree smiled as she recognized her older father’s voice. “I’m fine, Dada. Is everything all right at home?”
“We’re doing okay, but I’m going to be in Pittsburgh for the next few days. If you need to get in touch with me, I’ll be staying at the Plaza.”
“The Plaza? Why? And where is Daddy. You keep saying ‘I’,” Bree said suddenly worried that something was really wrong.
“Calm down, Squirt, everything is fine. Your Daddy is going to fly to England tonight. There was a fire at the gallery where Justin’s art is displayed. He’s going over to England to assess the damage and do repairs to his pieces.”
“That’s terrible. Is everybody in England okay? Is Charles all right?”
“Yes, nobody was hurt. I just wanted you to know where I am in case you need me.”
“Thank you, Dada. Can I speak to Daddy?”
“He’s packing as we speak.”
“But I want to say goodbye to him. How long is he going to be gone?” Bree asked with a bit of panic in her voice.
“You don’t need to worry, Bree. I’ll get your Daddy. Just hang on for a minute, and don’t keep him talking for too long, okay?”
“I’ll be quick,” Bree declared. She then waited impatiently for her younger father to say hello. When he did, she blurted out, “I love you, Daddy. Have a safe trip and come back to us soon.”
Justin smiled in spite of his worries. “I love you so much, sweetheart. I’ll be fine. Are you having a good time in Toronto?”
“I’m fine, Daddy. Take care of yourself.”
“I love you so much,” Justin said with a catch in his voice. “Here’s Dada.” He handed the phone back to Brian.
“Bree, I love you too, and you know if you need anything, I’m just a phone call or a short plane ride away.”
“I know, Dada, and I’ll tell Gus what’s going on.”
“That’s my girl. Talk to you soon,” Brian said before cutting the connection.
Packing for the lovers was completed quickly; having years of practice saw to that. Justin packed as lightly as he could using his carry-on bag. He didn’t want to waste time checking in a large suitcase. He could buy anything crucial in London, if needed. Same went for Brian. Within the hour, the boys were out the door and on their way to Pittsburgh.
Max stepped off the plane into the Toronto terminal. He was already regretting his decision to come to Canada but now that he was here, he was committed to seeing his plans through. His journey had been delayed by a few days having taken a detour to London. At least London was civilized and not so hot. Max had incurred the expense of hiring a private investigator. He was searching for some of his so called loyal and trusted employees that had jumped ship at the first sign of trouble years before. Max thought it was time to revitalize his advertising business but locating his old staff was proving difficult, hence the need for the investigator.
While in London, Max had heard of the fire that “devastated” the gallery. It seemed everyone was talking about it. Max never understood the fascination of collecting paintings or objets d’art. He’d never spend his money on “dust collectors” no matter how fashionable they may seem. Max wore his money on his back in the form of the latest trending fashion or hid it in a bank somewhere the tax man couldn’t reach. And sometimes, he spent it on the latest fashion model. Max was flexible; it didn’t matter if there was a girl or boy on his arm, as long as the girl or boy was very pretty. Max wanted to be envied. But now he was in Toronto, hot steamy Toronto.
After several days of consulting with the investigator, the leads went nowhere. Max suspected that his highly recommended investigator was wasting his time and money. So now Max was still in Toronto, angry, with dwindling funds, and nothing pretty to keep him company. It was time for Plan B.
“Hugo! Don’t you ‘dear Max’ me. That idiot investigator you set me up with couldn’t investigate himself out of a paper bag. He took my money then disappeared. Now I’m stuck in this land of polar bears and penguins… What? I don’t give a flying fuck where penguins come from, the point is you owe me. I need something new and exciting on my arm and in my bed, and to make a few quick millions. Really? I do pride myself on traveling with only the crème de la crème. And all I’d have to do is escort a pretty young lady or two from one place to another then drop them off at a rendezvous point? Well, that doesn’t sound too complicated. And how much per head? Very nice. Expenses are additional, I only travel first class. That’s acceptable. And may I play with the young lady for a while? Bien! Send me the details. And Hugo, do something about that so called investigator. I expect a full refund or his head on a platter.”
A distinguished gentleman introduced himself to the receptionist then asked for Briana. Jeff immediately picked up the phone to call the office that was assigned to Bree. Not getting an answer, he tried Ms. Marcus.
“There’s an Arthur Dunhill asking for Miss Briana,” Jeff said when his call was answered.
“We’ll be right out,” Mel replied. “Well, Miss Bree, it looks like your in flight networking may pay off. Mr. Dunhill’s out front and asking for you,” Mel said as she stood. She, Gus, Ray, Shelly, and Bree were reviewing contract’s old and new, including the newly renewed Waldon contract and one for the art gallery that housed Justin’s work when they first arrived in Canada.
“Let’s not keep the man waiting,” Gus said as they all trailed after Mel.
“Mr. Dunhill, it’s a pleasure seeing you again,” Bree said as she extended her hand. Dunhill took it and gave Bree a firm handshake. “May I introduce you to my brother Gus Kinney? He and Ms. Melanie Marcus oversee this branch. Ms. Shelly Weinstein, the manager of Kinnetik North and Raymond Mann our corporate lawyer,” Bree said as she made the introductions.
“It’s a pleasure meeting you,” Dunhill sincerely stated. “I often travel past this place on my way home. I never knew it housed an advertising agency. I thought it was a church,” he said very impressed with what he was seeing.
“It still is a church. Would you like a tour?” Gus asked.
“I’d love one,” Dunhill replied.
“Gus, take your time and we’ll prepare some refreshments for our guest after your tour,” Melanie said as she and Shelly went back to Mel’s office. There she immediately got on the phone to order some goodies worthy of Emmett just in case.
“This is all very impressive,” Dunhill exclaimed as he was led to a conference room. “And you say there’s still a working church?”
“More of a chapel. The church was decommissioned by the local dioceses. Apparently not enough parishioners or children to fill the school. Kinnetik bought the whole thing which included a small chapel around the back. Services are still held on a regular basis there. The upper floors of the school were turned into offices for the ad execs while the bottom floors are a pre-school and daycare center for the children of our employees. It’s also open to the local public. We blew out the roof in several places to allow for more light for the artists here in the main church.” Gus proudly explained the beginnings of Kinnetik North to Mr. Dunhill.
“Very forward thinking. Is this what I can expect if I decide to allow Kinnetik to run a campaign for me?”
“Mr. Dunhill, we can be as creative or as conservative as you’d like,” Bree ventured before Gus could answer. “We do research on your clients then cater the ads accordingly,” Bree explained as she looked to Gus for confirmation. He gave her a smile and a wink. Bree knew she was going in the right direction.
“If you remember our conversation on the plane, I’m semi-retired but your business enthusiasm is rather contagious. And I still have a few good years left in me. I’m itching to increase my involvement again. After all, the business has my name on it,” Dunhill said with a smile.
By the end of the day, Gus and Bree worked out a preliminary ad and stratagem on how to roll out the ads. Dunhill found it all amusing and was amazed how well the siblings worked together. He could see how their different approaches melded together to lead them to the same conclusions. It was a pleasure to watch.
“I think we can have something concrete for you to see by the end of next week,” Gus ventured.
“No rush. And thank you for allowing me to witness your thought processes,” Dunhill commented with a grin.
Raymond who had also witnessed the creative session and was fully aware of how the siblings worked, also threw his two cents into the ring. “Reminds me of a tennis match,” said Ray.
“Exactly!” Dunhill agreed. He shook hands with the principal players then was escorted out by Bree. “Ms. Briana, it was truly an honor seeing you again and thank you for allowing me to watch how you work. I have no doubt that if you decide to take on the family business, you will go far. I’m also looking forward to meeting your father at some point.”
“Thank you, Mr. Dunhill, for trusting Kinnetik. We won’t do anything without your permission, and we won’t let you down.”
“I’m sure you won’t. I look forward to our next meeting,” said Dunhill as Bree walked him out.
Bree gave Jeff a sunny smile and a thumbs up as she quickly walked back to the conference room.
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