I HAVE AN ETERNITY AHEAD OF ME
(Intermittent Waves Recorded From the Transformed Heart of A Woman)
AUNTIE YONNY: SEMPER FIDELIS, ALWAYS FAITHFUL
If the week had ended with high emotions, the start of the next week was not to be outdone by its predecessor. The coroner had finally released the slain bodies of Arturo and Miriam. Following Hal’s instructions, Darla had contacted Arturo’s family in South America and arranged for his aging parents, brothers and sisters and a host of other relatives in Venezuela to be flown in to attend his funeral. Special arrangements had to be made with the proper authorities in Venezuela and the U.S. to temporarily allow them into the country.
Granted that Darla was assuming added responsibilities at Tanya’s request, Hal asked her to assist him in hiring his own staff, while extending the offer for her to continue after Tanya’s death, not only as a secretary, but, as director of his affairs. Darla said that she would think about it.
He received notice from Theodore Wellington that the reading of Miriam’s Will would take place the week after the funeral. Hal didn’t look forward to meeting the other half of the family at the funeral and definitely didn’t want their eyes upon him at the reading of the will. There were plans to keep his relationship to the family quiet, until absolutely necessary. Not even, Darla, knew he was Miriam’s cousin and Tanya’s great-nephew.
No longer trusting their services, Hal had immediately dismissed the new agency Miriam had contracted to guard her residence and who had secretly tailed him when he was out and about. He wondered why Miriam had used a limousine service when she owned limousines, so, he made a note to hire a permanent driver.
He was still questioning what to do about Steve and Jake who were still on duty at the hospital. He still hadn’t talked to them about the night of the murders. Lieutenant Hamilton assured him that they had credible alibis, but, he still wanted to hear what they had to say before allowing them to stay on after Tanya’s death.
Perhaps, they may not want to stay on, he thought, since they didn’t particularly seem to care for him at all. And, if he questioned their loyalty, they may decide to move on. Nevertheless, he decided to arrange a meeting with the two men when they arrived the next morning, so, he had Darla give them a memo to inform them of the meeting.
Hal had been making his phone calls back home to his father at least twice a week. He’d told his father that he had left The Daily for a better opportunity. The two of them had always been close and Hal never hesitated telling his father about personal things in his life or asking for advice. But, what he was experiencing now and the information he had found out about their family needed to be delivered in person.
There was always a tinge of guilt in his voice when he talked to his father on the phone. His father knew him so well that he would always ask, “Is there something wrong, Hal?” He knew he couldn’t hold out much longer and worry his father into another heart attack. He was going to either have to find time to go home or bring his father there. He preferred to go home and break the news gently that he was a Graves and the two of them were heirs to the Graves’ multi-billion dollar empire.
He also knew that it would be difficult explaining why he was contacted instead of his father. Tanya said that they had been waiting for the right time and the right Graves to take over.
Their latest plans of course directly involved Hal and his skills as a journalist. However, they knew about his father’s heart condition and took that as a liability and risk in allowing him to take on such an arduous task as running multiple businesses that required frequent traveling and long grueling work hours. Also, with his education and experience, they felt Hal was more suited for the job. Leaving the money to the younger man would avoid all the bureaucracy and inheritance taxes that would be encountered when Hal’s father died. Having heard about their close relationship, they knew that Hal would undoubtedly take care of his father and freely share the wealth.
The next morning, while waiting for Steve and Jake to arrive, Hal was met with the inevitable. He was out of time. His father had just texted him, telling him he would be stopping to see him for a couple of days, since he would be passing through on his way to visit friends in Charlottesville, Virginia.
His mind began to race. His father would expect to visit his job. He would expect him to be living in his apartment. Knowing his father, he would insist on staying at the hospital with him. Should he tell his father everything before he gets here? Should he warn him about possible danger to his life? Should he take him to meet Tanya right away? The questions kept coming. It was a relief when Steve and Jake showed up and distracted him from the unresolved dilemma.
It seemed that Darla had informed them of his new position and they appeared to accept it. To his surprise, they entered the room with greetings.
Jake opened with a strongly voiced,”Good morning, Mr. Siegfried.”
Steve followed with a polite, “Good morning, sir.”
“Good morning, Steve…Jake. Thanks for coming so early. I won’t keep you too long. I just have a few things to discuss with you.”
Jake was the first to reply.
“Sir, we are so sorry about what happened. If we had been on duty, it wouldn’t have happened. We’ve been trained to foil those types of attacks. We had a lot of respect for Mrs. Barrett and Arturo was a good guy, one of the best.”
Jake paused, clearly distraught from thinking about the murders. Steve patted him strongly on the shoulder to comfort him and continued for his friend.
“Mr. Siegfried, this has strongly affected both of us. That night we had gone to a ballgame, then, went out for some drinks with some buddies. The rest of the night, we were sleeping off the beers. We didn’t know what had happened until we arrived in the morning. Man…why did it have to happen to Arturo? We were planning on bringing him in on our plans.”
“Your plans? You had plans for Arturo and Mrs. Barrett?”
“No, no, NO sir! With all due respect, I hope you don’t think we had anything to do with what happened! No, sir! We saw Mrs. Barrett as a fair employer and a good woman. We wouldn’t have done anything to harm her or place her in danger. We should have split up our shift, but, we’ve always worked together. Somehow, we feel responsible.”
“There is no way you guys can be sure that things would have turned out differently and I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m just trying to put the pieces together to find out what happened.”
“Just to make it clear, sir, we weren’t involved in anyway. Our plans pertain to what we’re going to do when we leave this job.
We’ve been thinking about starting our own security company with some pals from the marines. We wanted to help Arturo out by including him.”
Hal sat down and began to think. The two men looked at one another questioningly, then, took a seat, also. After, about a minute, Hal spoke.
“Okay, how about you let me buy a piece of your business? Whatever percentage you’ll allow me or whatever it takes for you to get started. I have a building with a nice office you can work out of. Take what space you need. The more offices occupied, the safer the building will be.
You can put in the security equipment for the building, hire the guys to protect the building, my home, the hospital for now and full-time body guards for me and my family. I’ll pay you for your services and only charge a small rental fee in case you want to move out into your own building one day.
You can buy me out of the business whenever you’re ready. No interest rate for the loan as long as you stay under contract and meet the needs agreed upon. We can put it in writing.”
Jake and Steve looked at one another then rose to leave. Hal thought that they were offended by his offer, but, then, Jake looked back at him.
“Excuse us, sir. We’ve got to make some calls. We’ll be right back.”
Hal could hear the two men on their phones, very excited and trying to sell his idea to the person or persons on the other end. Hal used the time to look over his upcoming agenda for the day. He could tell that Jake and Steve were having trouble convincing one of the parties on the phone to agree with the deal. After fifteen minutes or more, they hung up and returned. Again, Jake acted as the official spokesman.
“Sir we have four other men and a silent partner we were going to bring into the business. All of them are our buddies, good, honest, trustworthy, dependable men.
“That’s a lot of partners. Are you sure this can work?”
Steve couldn’t have been more adamant in his reply.
“We had each other’s back during every mission we went on. I trust these men with my life. It will work, sir.”
“May I ask who the silent partner is?”
Again, the men looked to one another to read the other’s thoughts. With some reluctance, Jake answered.
“We lost a friend on our last mission. A good marine, husband and father. We convinced his wife to take his share of the company.”
Steve was the first to stand up straight and stick out his hand to shake. Jake followed. Hal felt as if he was being saluted.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Hal shook their hands and decided to have a little fun.
“Before we finalize this deal, I’d like you to agree to something.”
The two men spoke in unison as if he’d given a command.
“Stop calling me sir, smile, and go to a game with me to celebrate. I’ll have a buddy of mine at The Daily get us tickets and passes to the locker room. How about it?!”
“Hal! Call me Hal!”
Steve and Jake started to laugh and kept a smile on their faces. Spokesman, Jake, took a rigid step forward to speak, as if he had been standing in line at attention.
“We want to apologize, Hal. When you first came here as a reporter, we thought you were up to no good. You know like, some reporters who only want to dig up dirt on the Graves Family and make a name for themselves. But, we know better now. We know that you’re no wimp, either. I mean, what you did for Mrs. Yanovich and Zenobia was real brave. You’re a real stand up guy.”
Steve, somewhat uncomfortable with his emotions, shied away as he offered support.
“Yeah, Hal. We see how you care about Mrs. Yanovich and all that you’ve done to keep her safe. We just want you to know that we’ve got your back. We’ve got guys who are loyal to us because we’ve been through hell and high water together and don’t worry, we all will be loyal to you. We understand trust, loyalty, and honor. You can count on us.”
Hal smiled to himself, relieved, as he realized that he had finally broken down the barrier.
“Thank you, guys. You don’t know how much that means to me right now.”
There was an awkward pause as the men stood facing one another. Hal needed a hug, but, he knew that wouldn’t go over too well with the big, macho marines. Hal shattered the silence with a boisterous laugh.
“HEY! We’re in business together. Who would have thought?! OH! Did I mention that I need people ASAP? Like today? I just found out my father is coming in to town. I need a driver, body guards and security guards.”
“We’ll make it happen, sir, I mean, Hal. Give us an hour or two. We’ve got the perfect guy in mind for your driver, a wounded veteran.”
The two men did some kind of bonding ritual that ended with head butting and yelling simultaneously…
“SEMPER FI!” “Oohrah!”
Hal remembered his grandfather always saying, during especially hard times, “God is always faithful.” A calmness came over him as he knew everything was going to be alright. God had made a way when he didn’t see a way.
As he watched the two men happily going down the hallway, he couldn’t even imagine what they had been through and seen in war. He admired how they took care of one another and looked out for the families of their fallen brothers. Then, he began to see how God was using him to do the same thing for others. Steve, Jake, Arturo, Tanya, Miriam; God was using him to make a way, while helping him to see the way. He began to see God’s Hand in all that had happened to him throughout his life and now…
A new found love for God swelled up inside of him until he thought he would burst. He found himself speaking aloud, directly to this Awesome Wonder watching over mankind.
“Thank you God. You are Semper Fidelis, always faithful.”