In the end, not one of them had backed him. He was out on a limb. Then one evening, after a particularly bad day and yet another difficult confrontation with Tom, he had sat at his desk, thinking. He was contemplating the portrait again and realised he was wondering how that gaunt figure would resolve the situation.
“I just don’t know what to do now. It seemed so clear before. So simple.” He sighed and slumped back, gazing at the knowing eyes and the hand with its crust. Stefan seemed to be reaching out to him and then he suddenly knew with utter clarity what the solution was. He recalled Tom’s words about the value of the business and realised what had to be done. Tom and Harry would never agree to change the nature of the company, because they wanted to keep earnings high and ensure their share of profits. All they wanted was the money but he could now see a way to guarantee them even more capital as well as giving himself an escape route.
A few weeks later, the deal was done. The agency was sold. Tom and Harry were delighted. They had made a fortune and they would continue to rake in big bucks. And Charles was free. He had bought his freedom with his share of the deal. He would have to continue to work for the release period that had been negotiated, but in one year he would be completely free to invest or spend his share however he liked.
So far, he did not even have to worry about Alex’s reaction. He had been obliged to tell her about the takeover of course, as it was big news in all the media pages of the nationals and in the trade mags, but he did not have to tell her any more than that. She was delighted in fact, because the sell-out was so newsworthy and she was aware of the large sums of money involved.
“Darling,” she said, (she only called him darling when she wanted his agreement) “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to invest some of your capital from the agency in property? It’s such a good investment and we have been talking for simply ages about having a place in Rock. You know how you just love going down there, meeting all our old friends and getting in a bit of sailing. Somewhere with a view of the estuary and a mooring would be ideal. Why don’t I put out some feelers. You know how anything half decent down there is snapped up in an absolute jiffy.”
He had deflected that suggestion with mutterings about the state of the market and the need to see how the new deal bedded down, but in reality he wanted to do his sums first. Once Alex realised what he really planned, she might not co-operate. He needed to calculate how best to protect this small fortune to make it work the way he wanted. He owed it to the children to ensure there was enough for their education and maybe travelling or as a deposit towards their first property. He felt Alex should be assured of being able to maintain her present standard of living, but beyond that he did not see the need to splash out on more houses, cars or expensive holidays.
On his journeys to and from the office and at quiet times in his study at home, he mused on what should be his next step. He began to consider that having the freedom to think, maybe taking a sabbatical, could be the most constructive option. He began researching voluntary work overseas, thinking that investigating various countries and levels of need might be the best way of establishing where he could be of the greatest use.
And then one evening as he was travelling home on the train, staring out of the window at the dark night, he recalled Mary’s words and could see her looking at him intently with her pale blue eyes. Use your talents, she had said. Put them to good use. And suddenly it all became totally clear and he wondered why there had ever been any confusion. His experience in advertising, in managing the creative process, in buying media space, in negotiating deals, was of value. He just had to apply it to the right client.
to be continued June 2