[Edge1.1.18] Only A Father’s Love
“You okay, kid?” Tony asked. “I knew we had a mole in here. I just wasn’t sure who it was. Get him outta here, Beta Five.”
Tony put a comforting arm around Art’s shoulder and pulled him gently away from the door. He handed Art a handkerchief to wipe his face.
“C’mon. It’s not safe out there. We need to make sure nothing happens to you. You are our golden goose, and we have to take care of you.”
They walked down in the other direction to what seemed to be a dead end. But when they arrived, Beta Five pressed a button, and a bookshelf full of cleaning supplies slid up the wall automatically revealing a secret passage.
Beta Five went through first to make sure everything was okay. He gave them the all-clear signal and Tony guided Art on through by the hand as he still seemed to be in shock.
“It’s okay, Art. I know it’s a lot to take in all at once in a single day. But when you have something this amazing with so much potential, this is what happens. Didn’t you ever consider that anyone would try to steal it from you or kidnap someone you love to force you into handing it over.”
Art shook his head numbly as they walked down another flight of stairs and came to a large vault. Tony put his eye up to a retina scanner, and the door hissed open. He led the way inside and motioned for Art to enter.
He took a step forward and looked around. It looked like a normal house. If he didn’t know any better, he never would have guessed that they were underground.
“A bomb shelter?” Art asked.
Tony smiled. “Do you like it?”
Art nodded his head and looked at Tony questioningly.
“Oh, everyone is fine. We got the lawyers out of there. They’ll continue our meeting via conference call from their office just down the street. Our security team disarmed the bomb with the robot. But in the end, it seems that it wouldn’t have really worked. It was just put there to distract us. Which leads me to wonder how you knew about it.”
He gave Art a hard look.
“I noticed that Alpha Four looked suspicious. He kept glancing at the desk, and I saw it under there.”
“C’mon Art. Don’t insult my intelligence. Really. Please don’t. I’ve been open and honest with you the entire time. The least you could do is repay me with the same respect.”
Art hung his head in shame.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re right. The woman, Carla, told me what was going on.”
Tony continued staring at him with a hard look on his face. It made Art nervous. Could he tell that Art still wasn’t telling the truth? Did he know about the phone? Art tried not to fidget or shift his weight under Tony’s gaze. The man finally smiled and slapped him on the back.
“You mean April,” Tony said. “You’re braver than I thought if you went back up to the office after she told you all that.”
Art chuckled nervously. “I thought she was making it up to scare from going back up. I wanted them to know that their threats won’t keep me from letting them steal my project.”
“Good. That’s good.” Tony said with a smile and slap on the back. “You’re a good man. C’mon in and make yourself ‘homely,’ I mean at home.”
He looked at Art expectantly waiting for him to laugh. “Never mind,” Tony said. “American humor. We call them puns. My uncle used to tell that one to me all the time. Just an old habit.”
“They’re ready, sir.” Beta Five’s voice boomed through the room. Art was surprised to hear the man finally speaking. Maybe it was just part of their hierarchy.
“C’mon over, Art,” Tony said. He was already seated in front of the computer. He could see two screens with the lawyers. But he only saw two of them. One of the men and the woman. After an instant though, the other lawyer came on screen beside the woman.
“Sorry for the scare there, but I’m glad everyone’s okay.” Tony started off. “So, do you all have the contract ready?”
“Yes,” they all said in unison.
Art could barely contain his irritation. A bunch of ‘yes men’ telling Tony what he wanted to hear. Art swore to himself that when he was rich, he wouldn’t surround himself with people like that. He would find the best employees who know what they were doing and weren’t afraid to say ‘no’ if they didn’t agree with him.
Tony printed off two copies and gave one to Art. The lawyer who was on the screen by himself ran through each of the main points explaining them briefly and asking Tony and Art if they had questions each time.
It was pretty self-explanatory Art thought. He didn’t pay much attention and skimmed through it. His mind was busy thinking about Johnny, Carla, April, Alpha Four, and this whole crazy mess he was in.
“Look, let’s just cut to the chase guys,” Art said. “I can’t sign this. You guys are lawyers, and if you want to get something over on me, you can just weave sneaky terminology the way Tony wants you to so you can pull a fast one on me. I don’t know Tony because I just met him last night. You seem like a nice guy, Tony, but you could have some evil plan. Besides, I don’t have anyone I trust to sit here me and explain this to me.”
Tony’s eyes flashed with anger. “What are you doing, Art?”
“Tell me about Alpha Four’s brother,” Art demanded.
“Excuse us a minute,” Tony said to the lawyers and muted the connection.
“Art, we are down to the wire. I have given you more than you deserve. I could have offered you only ten percent of the company shares if I was as evil as you seem to think. I’ve negotiated with you on every item that you wanted. Why the cold feet now?”
“Don’t change the topic, Tony. Explain Alpha Four’s brother, the government contracts, and deadly experiments.”
Tony sighed in resignation and raised his hands as if giving in to him. “Okay, okay. Imagine Art, that I hire you to run this project, but you do some experiments that go awry. Who takes the blame? Me. That’s what happened to Alpha Four’s brother. He was dying. He wanted to live longer and submitted himself to an experiment similar to yours that didn’t pan out. He died. We aren’t trying to do anything evil here. But bad things happen. We did realize that the lead scientist didn’t take proper precautions and took some unnecessary risks that were uncalled for. We took measures to discipline him so that it wouldn’t happen again. So, yes! I understand that Alpha Four was upset. He was afraid that your experiments would eventually hurt others. I’m taking a risk on you. Ultimately, I’m responsible for bringing you and your project onto the team. But that is a risk that I’m willing to take for the greater good. But what assurances do I have that you won’t do something bad to other people in the future. I need to trust you just like you need to trust me. We have to work together.”
Art pursed his lips thoughtfully before replying.
“Look, we have to find another way to make this work. But I’m not signing this contract…”
Tony jumped to his feet and slammed his fists on the table.
“You will sign this right now before the noon deadline, or I’ll call Frank and Joe in here to haul you off to jail for the murder of Johnny Silva,” he shouted.
Art shrugged smugly. He knew Johnny was alive so he wasn’t worried about the charges sticking.
“I have my principles,” Art said. “I would love to work with you, but I won’t be rushed into anything that could jeopardize my research and this project.”
“What do you want, Art?” Tony growled.
“I need to know the truth about Johnny and those men in the black SUV. I need to find a woman named Carla. And I want to know what all that confusion was about with that woman in the lobby.”
Tony glared at him.
“Oh, and I want to see the files on Alph Four’s brother. I want to make sure I’m not making a mistake that I’m going to regret for the rest of my life. I want to be able to sleep well at night because I know for sure that I didn’t take blood money.”
“Would you like my medical records and a full bank disclosure as well?” Tony spat bitterly at him.
“C’mon, Tony.” Art said and spread his hands out palms up. “You would never sign close a deal without doing your due diligence. If you are as innocent as you claim to be, I am sure you can prove it to me. We can still move this deal forward. You’re a smart guy, and I’m sure your lawyers can spin something up quick.”
Tony growled and muttered something under his breath as he turned to the computer to explain Art’s position to the lawyers.
After a few minutes, he had printed off another document and handed it to Art.
“This is a binding contract stating that you have two weeks to make a decision. I’m going to give you full access to our files and resources. But you have to prove me guilty. If you can’t find any concrete evidence that I’m anything other than what I’ve told you, then we conclude the deal.” Tony said with a glare.
Art picked up the beautiful, gold-plated pen Tony had placed in front of him. It was exquisite and perfectly balanced his hand. He wiggled it between his fingers as he read through the contract. Short and sweet. Only one page long. He skimmed through it and scratched his head.
“Sign it already,” Tony insisted. “If you don’t sign that in the next two minutes, your company will make their announcement and you’ll lose control of your project.”
Tony looked like he was ready to pull his hair out. He was an anxious, nervous wreck. His hands were shaking.
“Tell me the truth, Tony. This isn’t how most business people react when deals don’t go their way. There’s something you’re not telling me, and I won’t sign it until you do.” Art said. He put down the pen for good measure.
Tony looked at him like a deer caught in the headlights. He took a deep breath and leaned back.
“You just can’t let it go, kid, and do it for the money like everyone else. Fine! I’ll tell you. But this stays between us. The only people you can tell about this are the members of your team who will be working on this. Is that clear?”
Art nodded. “Of course.”
Tony put his head down and wiped away a tear from the corner of his eye. He took another deep breath. It was a deep shuddering sob. He looked like he was going to break down into tears. But he took another deep breath to control his emotions and looked Art straight in the eye.
“It’s for my daughters,” he said.