Chapter 1



Mark Kimmel




Chapter 1





Bright sunshine awakened me. The clock on my dresser showed 9:00. 9:00! I never sleep until nine. What’s going on? I’m usually awake at five. That’s four hours more than my usual.

Barely awake, I recall a powerful dream from last night in which I had died, then I was awake quite alive. Ghost-like individuals around me. I find this most unusual because I never remember my dreams.

After visiting the bathroom, I climbed back into bed thinking my bladder had really cooperated since I had fallen asleep.

The blinds on the east-facing window blocked most of the intense morning sunshine. To my right a winter landscape painting with a ski trail and green pine trees beckoned me to come skiing. The dull pain in my right knee reminded me that it would no longer tolerate such. The mirror on the closed door reflected my sleepy image still nestled under the quilt.

Realizing I should call my office to tell them I’d be late today, I picked up my iPhone and restarted it. I always shut it down, before going to sleep, so I wouldn’t be disturbed.

I glanced at the iPhone time, just to be sure my clock was correct. The time read 9:06, but the day was Wednesday. I was sure that today was Tuesday. It made no sense. If it was Wednesday, meant I had slept thirty-six hours since going to bed on Monday evening. What happened to Tuesday? Had I lost an entire day? Impossible.

I pulled my laptop computer from my briefcase. Opening it up, I saw the date was the same as on my iPhone. What was going on? I didn’t recall stirring until I awakened just a few minutes ago. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I didn’t look much different, maybe a little rumpled from sleeping so long, but otherwise no different.

I called my assistant June Blackman and told her not to expect me for the rest of the day. “Just take messages,” I said, and hung up when she attempted to tell me about something going on at the office. I had to figure out what was going on with me before I showed up there.


Still in my sleeping shorts, I wandered about the kitchen eating counter. It was attached to the center island. The countertop was plain granite. It matched the grey of the cabinets and the white tile floor. Everything was neatly organized, in its place and clean, just the way I had trained myself to do since the death of my second wife.

There were plenty of eggs in the refrigerator for breakfast, also English muffins. However, I noted that I needed to replenish a few things. Still feeling uncertain about my lost day, I fixed myself two scrambled eggs and a muffin. When the hot water kettle boiled, I made a chai latte with plenty of sugar and milk.

As I ate, I looked around, nothing seemed out of place. I lived alone, had two grown children, a boy and a girl. My second wife, had died two years ago from cancer. My first wife had not spoken to me since our divorce thirteen years earlier. I was sure I was not ready to get connected with another woman.


After showering, I drove to the grocery store. There I wandered among the huge selection of food and other things. Picking up cans and cartons, I was astonished at how many of them contained additives and chemicals. I knew these were not good for me. Previously, I had not paid attention to things like this, or where food came from. Today, I reasoned that it was probably from some corporate farm, like in California or Mexico. I settled on organic frozen meals, plus cheese, lettuce, eggs, bread, and milk.

Returning to my house, I created a snack from these and from what was left in the refrigerator. I turned on the TV and watched three different channels with almost the same news, just a different talking head. I opened my business laptop computer and wandered about the Internet. Again, more of the same.

After an hour with different heads, I stumbled on a site that presented alternative news. The discussion was on politics, about which I cared little, but the woman commentator made some sense. After watching for a few minutes, I could see why so many people rejected her point-of-view as it was way off the mainstream. I shut down my computer.

For the rest of the day I wandered about my house, took a drive around the neighborhood, and stopped at a shopping center to buy some new socks. Did anyone stop to consider where these had come from? Who had made them? How little they got paid? This was not my usual approach, usually I just bought, usually I did not have time to shop.


I called my oldest child, Kevin who lived in Loveland, a few miles away. We chatted for a short time. I asked him a few very general questions and listened while he went on about his work and family.

Then I called my daughter, Victoria. The conversation immediately became involved because she sensed a difference in me. Worried, she demanded to come and visit. She lived in Santa Monica, California, hours away by plane. I put her off for a couple of weeks.

My next call was to a friend, Peter Lockwood, a chiropractor. I had known him for several years, knew his wife and three kids. He knew much of my history back to my second marriage. He and I went fly fishing. The best thing about him was that he had no connection to my work. We agreed to meet for coffee on Saturday.


On Thursday morning I drove to work. My vacant space was labeled “reserved.” The ultra-modern building, fronting Interstate 25, was four stories tall, all glass and polished metal. It had been newly constructed when we designed our offices.

Grabbing my briefcase, I existed my Jeep Wrangler and strolled through the double doors of the building. Rather than ride the elevator, I traipsed up one floor on steps with a geometric design. I was aware that I was walking more casually, taking one step at a time versus my usual two.

Opening the door of suite 201, I encountered a typical office foyer, with large letters spelling out Technology Alliance Ltd. We had designed the foyer to express our company’s success. A large painting of a sparkling blue high-altitude lake surrounded by rugged peaks hung on the wall above a seating area to my right. I had selected it because it reminded me of hikes I had made in the high country of Colorado.

Our receptionist an attractive middle-aged brunette, who had been with the company since its founding, greeted me from behind her counter. “Morning, Michael. How’re you this morning?”

“Quite good, Donna, thank you,” I replied as I walked by.

Passing closed doors for the offices of my two general partners, Jack Shipero and Fred Feldman, and a hallway that lead off to the offices of our other employees, I headed for my office at the end. The name on the door is Michael Garrison.

Next to the door was a cherry wood desk and several low file cabinets of the same color. A woman was leaning over a bottom file drawer, her back to me. “Morning, June.”

Startled, she jerked upward. June Blackman, attractive, long blonde hair, turned with a broad smile and in a familiar voice said, “About time you showed up. Enjoy your vacation?” This morning she was dressed in a knee-length dark blue skirt with a yellow patterned blouse. Her hair was tied back in a pony tail.


Before turning the door handle to the office, I set my briefcase on the floor and said, “Let’s get some chai and you can tell me what I’ve missed out on.”

I followed her to the coffee room. “I can get it,” she said over her shoulder.

The room smelled of coffee and something sweet. An empty donut box sat on a side counter.

I picked my mug from the cabinet and put in a chai tea bag, then added hot water and generous amounts of sugar and milk.

June’s eyes were wide, but she said nothing. This was the first time I could remember that I had come into the coffee room first thing in the morning. She had always brought chai to my office.

Walking back to my office, we chatted about her family. She had a fourth-grade boy in school. He was doing well but had gotten into a fight with another boy and wound up in the principal’s office. Her husband, a software engineer, worked from home while providing care for their baby girl.

I told her that I had spent the past two days getting over a physical problem, and left it at that. Passing the full-length glass panels of the empty conference room, I noticed that I was walking with a more relaxed stride, that my limp was not so pronounced.

June snagged her notebook and a stack of pink slips from her desk. I held the door for her as we walked into my office.


One wall was completely covered by a map of the earth. Behind the desk was a large picture of Monument Valley, one of my go-to places for relaxing. Full height windows looked out on Interstate 25. In the distance was Mount Evans a snow-capped fourteener. My other wall was covered with citations and pictures of various associations and events. The large plants in each corner, serviced by an outside firm, gave the room a warm atmosphere.

My heavy oak desk dominated the room with a matching credenza behind. There was a coffee table and four comfortable chairs off to one side.

There were two stacks of papers neatly arranged on the desk, and a computer printer on the credenza. Otherwise the surfaces were clean. The neatness was June’s touch.

I motioned to a low table with four chairs, pulling one out for her. “So, tell me,” I said.

She hesitated because this was strange. The other partners of the company were not yet in this morning, but I always went to them first.

“Where to start,” she said with blinking eyes. “Okay, here goes. Our sale of Electromer closed on Friday.”

“What was the final price?” I asked.

“We got five percent of the thirty-seven million price in Monand’s stock plus three million in cash.” She read from her notes.

“Everybody happy?”

Again, she was stunned. Usually I was only concerned about what Alliance received. She blinked again, then looked up at me. “As far as I know, everyone was satisfied.”

“Good. Anything new with the bank?” Alliance had negotiated a $20 million line of credit to support their newest acquisition, the takeover of a small chemical company in Texas.

“I have the papers ready for your signature.” She started to rise.

I motioned her to remain seated, “We’ll get to that later. I want to see where everything stands.”

“Fred’s anxious to get it done before the seller changes its mind,” she said.

“I know. What’s next?”

“Josey quit.”

“What?” Josey was Alliance’s in-house accountant, a critical piece of our operation.

“She and Jack got into it, two days ago. She walked out.”

“I want to talk to her.”

“Probably wouldn’t hurt. You two got along real well. Maybe you can convince her to come back.”

“What’s with Jack?”

“You’d better talk to him. I think his divorce isn’t going well, child custody issues. He’s scheduled in court tomorrow.”


After a half hour more of being filled-in, I walked to the conference room where I found my two partners seated at the far end of a long cherry wood table with ten chairs. I glanced at the pictures on the wall opposite the glass that fronted the hallway. They reflected the various businesses in which we were currently involved, or had been. A projector hung from the ceiling with a screen for it on the wall at one end of the room.

Jack and Fred were engaged in quiet conversation. Jack was a large man with a ruddy complexion. I guessed he might weigh in at over two-hundred fifty. He had a gruff manner about him that I had found useful in certain circumstances when it was not directed toward me. Fred was more mild-mannered than Jack except when he got passionate about an issue. Then he became a bull dog. He was the shortest of the three of us, probably not more than five-three. His blonde hair was short, almost a buzz. He smiled a lot and laughed often, mostly at his own jokes.

As soon as I entered the room, they stopped talking, as if they wanted to keep something just between the two of them, something they did not want me to know about. I greeted them and slipped into my usual chair at the end of the table.

They filled me in on what had happened over the last two days. When Fred introduced an investor with whom he had been working, I said, “I still don’t like taking money from those people. It’s a sovereign wealth fund, controlled by their government. If anything happens that doesn’t meet their expectations, they don’t play by the rules of civilized people. Things could get very nasty. I’ve heard stories about what happened to other companies who took their money.”

“Everything’s okay right now, but we’re in a cash flow crunch,” Jack said. “We need somebody’s money.”

I said, “I want to think about it some more, before we agree to take their money.”

“We don’t have too many other options,” Fred said. “We need an infusion of new money. I think it’s at a good price.”

The discussion went on for some time, as we looked at every aspect of the funding, disagreeing about key aspects. Finally, I said, “I refuse to go forward as thing stand.”

Fred and Jack got up, shaking their heads, and walked out of the conference room without saying another word.

I walked back to my office and closed the door. I sat down in one of the soft guest chairs and put my feet up on the coffee table, reflecting about my earlier position. I did not like conflict among the three principal officers of the company. However, I was adamant about my positions on the funding.


In a few minutes, a soft knock on my office door awakened me from my thoughts.

“Come in.”

June cracked the door open and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, just a little disappointed. Come on in.”

She took a chair across the coffee table from me. “What happened?”

“I got into it with Jack and Fred. We were discussing the details of our new funding. Fred had discovered something that might screw up the deal if we disclosed it to the investor. Fred and Jack want to finesse the issue. I disagreed, said we were going to operate with transparency, not hide things. I told them how I foresaw that things would get worse, if we didn’t own up to everything right now.

“I told them what I knew about the investor. I told them we had to operate from a position of integrity, not hiding things. They insisted that was impossible in our competitive environment.

“I refused to go forward with the funding. The meeting broke up without a resolution. This was the first time we have been so far apart about something so important.”

June said nothing. Arguments among the partners were not that unusual. It would probably blow over in a few days. She got out her notepad and placed it on her knees, expecting directions.

I sat back, took a deep breath, and glanced at the Monument Valley picture. It was such an uplifting place, so beautiful. Was there a way to conduct business in an ethical and peaceful way?

“Get in touch with Josey,” I said, pulling my thought back to the company. “I want to have lunch with her today. I’d like to get her back with us.”

Pausing, I said, “I want to institute a new way of operating this company. Please bring me the files on all the projects we have in the pipeline. Yes, I know there’s a bunch. Just stack them up here.” I pointed to the coffee table.

“I’m going to have a short day today. I’ll be at home if you need me.”

I reached for the stack of pink slips she had placed on the coffee table. Walking behind my desk I reached for the telephone and muttered, “I’ll return these before I go.”


My lunch with Josey was initially strained. After a few minutes of exchanging information about our personal situations, she and I both relaxed. She and I had enjoyed a friendly relationship and I knew her to be a very competent accountant. She had been with the company almost since its founding.

When the server came to our table, Josey ordered a salad, I did likewise. She noted that I passed up on my usual cheeseburger and fries. We both had water without ice, again something different for me.

“So, what happened?” I asked after the server had left us alone.

“Jack gets very upset when I couldn’t produce a current financial statement for Alliance. I explained that the latest one was for the close of last month. He demanded a current one and wanted it immediately. I told him that would take a couple of hours to produce. He started yelling at me, screaming that I was not doing my job. I picked up my purse and walked out.”

“I heard that you quit.”

“That’s right, nobody deserves what I got. I called an hour later and told June, ‘I quit.’ She told me she could not get in touch with you and begged me to hold on. I said I’d wait until you and I could talk.”

I reached across the table and place my hand gently on her arm. “I’m very sorry this had to happen. I saw Jack this morning. He’s not acting like the Jack I know. I understand he’s going through a divorce. But that’s no excuse for his behavior.”

“Thanks, Michael. I was afraid you might side with him.”

“Not in this case. Like you say, nobody deserves being yelled at. Besides I think you are very good at what you do. Will you reconsider?”

“I’ve thought about it. Only if I can report directly to you. That assumes that Jack gives me a full apology and promises not to do it again.”

“That may be difficult. I’ll see what I can do.