Authors: Simon Wood
“Is that dog helping you, Abby?” he said and raised an eyebrow.
“No, that would be cheating,” she said and hid her face behind her cards and giggled.
Josh smiled at Abby.
He picked up the dice and rolled them.
A five and a two.
This was the third time he’d been sent to the traffic jam square.
He moved his riverboat piece to the square.
Abby erupted into laughter and Wiener barked in support.
“No two hundred dollars, no passing go, daddy,” she squealed in delight and hugged the dachshund.
“Josh, I can’t believe you’re getting upset over losing to your daughter and the dog,” Kate said, hoping to inject some sanity into the situation.
“That’s the third time I’ve been on that damn traffic jam square on the last five circuits.
That must be against the odds and I bet that’s gonna cost me another hundred bucks to get out,” he said in dismay.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.
I’ll be around for consolation hugs for the loser, okay?” Kate said to the industrialists at play.
Josh wasn’t really upset.
It was all for Abby’s entertainment.
He was actually enjoying himself.
His talk with Bob had lightened his mood and so had his two weeks leave.
He wasn’t sure whether the combination of these events contributed to his high spirits, but he hoped so.
He was getting back to a normal life, at last.
Abby rolled the dice.
A double six.
She giggled again.
“What games do you play at school?” Josh asked.
The doorbell rang.
“Can someone answer that please?” Kate called out.
“If you wouldn’t mind, honey.
I’m on the verge of scalping this little upstart,” Josh called back.
“No, he’s not, mom,” Abby shouted.
“Okay, I’ll answer it, shall I?”
“Mommy’s never understood business, not like us chickens,” Josh said.
Wiener yawned and licked his nose.
Kate opened the door and spoke to the visitor on the porch.
Her tone was one of confusion and alarm.
“Are you sure you have the right address?”
Josh looked up from the game.
Abby, oblivious to her mother’s remarks, counted off her move around the perimeter of the board.
“Josh, would you come here a minute?” Kate called.
Getting up, he asked, “Is everything okay?”
“Don’t go daddy, it’s your turn,” Abby said.
“I’ll be back in a minute, honey,” he said over his shoulder.
Kate turned towards him.
Her expression was one of shock.
A delivery boy in his early twenties stood on the porch with a confused look on his face.
Josh slipped an arm around his wife’s waist in a statement of solidarity.
“I have a delivery for the Michaels’ household.
I’m very sorry for your loss, please accept my condolences,” the young man said in a solemn tone, but bewilderment furrowed his brow.
He proffered the delivery, a funeral wreath, for Josh to accept.
Josh couldn’t believe what the guy held in his hands and took an involuntary step backwards.
“Is this a joke?” Josh demanded, his grip on his temper slipping.
“No, sir,” the delivery boy said.
Josh looked at the boy dressed in a yellow and green windbreaker and peered over his shoulder at the van parked in the street.
The van was from Forget-me-not Florists and displayed a free phone number and a local address.
Appearances seemed to be honest enough; the delivery boy wasn’t bogus.
Josh looked back at the boy.
“It’s for the recently departed Josh Michaels,” the driver continued.
He made another attempt to give the wreath to Josh.
“I’m Josh Michaels and I’m not fucking dead.”
Josh exploded at the expense of the messenger.
The delivery boy took two steps back from the force of the blast.
“Josh, for Christ’s sake, he didn’t send it,” Kate said.
“Who sent it?” Josh demanded.
The shaken Forget-me-not boy removed the card from the wreath to read it.
“Pinnacle Investments, sir,” he said offering the card to Josh.
Josh snatched the card from the delivery boy almost removing a couple of fingers in the process.
The boy snapped his arm back in reflex.
Josh read the handwritten card:
To the Michaels family,
Please accept our heartfelt sympathies in your time of loss.
“Why did they order this?” Josh shouted.
“I don’t know, sir.”
The delivery boy took another step backwards, the wreath still outstretched.
“Josh, leave him alone.
He doesn’t know anything.”
Kate snatched up her purse and moved between her husband and the scared driver.
“My husband has had a very traumatic time over the last few days.
I’m very sorry.”
She took the wreath and got a ten-dollar bill from her purse.
She gave it to the boy and apologized to him again.
The driver took the money and thanked her but his gaze was on Josh.
He was wary just in case Josh launched into another attack.
He marched back to his van, muttering obscenities as he went.
Kate closed the door.
“What’s your problem?” she demanded.
“What was all that about?
That poor bastard didn’t know anything.”
“I wanted to know what was going on.
What do Pinnacle Investments think they are playing at sending me a wreath?
Why did they think I was dead?” Josh shouted.
“And bawling out some kid helps, does it?” Kate said, shouting almost as loud as Josh.
He hesitated and bit down on his rage.
“No it doesn’t.”
“Who is Pinnacle Investments anyway?” she demanded.
Josh caught himself before he said something damaging.
He couldn’t afford to tell Kate the truth.
In the moment he took to compose the lie, rationality took over and the rage subsided.
“I have my life insurance with them,” he said, his anger receding with every word.
“Well, I suggest you take it up with Bob, he’s your insurance agent,” she said.
The shouting died and another sound filled the air—crying.
Abby stood in the living room doorway, sobbing.
She buried her face into Wiener’s body.
The dog didn’t move as her tears soaked into his coat.
, Josh thought.
“Well done, Josh,” Kate said bitterly.
Dexter Tyrell sat at his desk in his executive office.
It was five hundred square feet of office space luxuriously decorated with the best furniture, the best carpeting, the best of everything befitting a vice president of Pinnacle Investments.
The report lay on the desk in front of him, the result of weeks of number crunching and research.
But it didn’t matter how many times he juggled the numbers, he still failed to meet the return he’d promised the board.
The growth in revenues would be ten percent, not fifteen as promised.
Seeing Greg Baxter’s name on the cover filled him with bile.
The little shit would be loving this.
Ten years his junior, Baxter was the spitting image of himself—young, ruthless and hungry for success.
Did that bastard think I wouldn’t find out?
Baxter had been playing politics.
He didn’t want to be on the losing team and rather than fight for his successes, he wanted to jump ship.
He’d been sucking up to the other divisions.
“I’ll fix you, you little prick,” Tyrell said to Baxter’s name at the top of the report.
He’d see that Baxter’s wings were clipped before he got to scale the corporate heights.
He still possessed enough clout to arrange for a crap assignment.
Baxter could never be like him.
The man lacked the guts and the vision to be capable of what he had done for this division.
The telephone on his desk rang.
Mr. Edgar has asked for all VP's to be in the board room in ten minutes for the quarterly review,” Tyrell’s personal assistant said.
He put the phone down.
He wasn’t looking forward to this meeting.
It was an opportunity for the big men to show their disappointment in him like parents reading their child’s lackluster report card.
At forty-one, Dexter Tyrell was the youngest vice president to make it to the board.
Many in the organization resented his appointment including three members of the board.
They would love to watch him fail, even at their own personal expense.
They were big men playing childish games.
He made the rules.
He flicked through his copy of the report for the last time.
Tyrell had been appointed to the board eight years earlier, a rising star in the corporate heavens.
However, he looked older than his years, the price for being the head of a failing business venture.
His mop of hair had receded to a widow’s peak with a balding spot on top.
The golden blond had withered away to leave a tangle of gray growing out like weeds in a field.
His rapid rise to fame came when he’d presented the board a guaranteed sure-fire winner.
Dexter Tyrell had seen the future and it had been viatical settlements.
A new and unique business opportunity was created and Tyrell was the man given the task of pulling it off.
Terminal illness in the early 1990’s was creating a disaster area for its sufferers, especially AIDS victims.
Medical insurance policies were not designed to cover the effects of long-term illness and this left the policyholders out in the cold to fend for themselves.
The patients found themselves footing the bills for expensive treatments to maintain their quality of life.
Eventually, patients unable to pay were denied access to drugs because of cost.
But if the patient had a life insurance policy there was a way out for them, through a viatical settlement.
Dexter Tyrell saw the gap in the market.
His division and several other competing companies jumped to the rescue.
Pinnacle Investments’ Viatical Division took over payment of the terminally ill’s life insurance policies.
In addition to paying the monthly dues, a generous cash payment was made to the patient.
In return, Pinnacle Investments became the beneficiary of the policy.
The cash payment could be a considerable percentage of the face value of the life policy.
The percentage was based on the likelihood of the client’s death—the closer the client was to dying, the greater the payment.
And thus, an industry was born mainly thanks to the HIV virus providing so many potential customers.
An industry where everyone got what they wanted.
The investment companies returned a guaranteed profit.
Patients had a carefree life until their death.
The medical insurance companies got a monkey off their back.