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Authors: M.N Providence

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The Brand

BOOK: The Brand
ads

The
Brand

 

M.N Providence

 

Published by M.N Providence at
Smashwords

 

Copyright 2013 Providence Mpumelelo
Ngwabi

 

 

 

 

 

2011: THE BEGINNING

 

 

 

 

 

SOUTH AFRICA

 

Chapter 1

 

They buried him at the West Park Cemetery,
north-west of the Johannesburg city center and nestled between
Melville, Westdene and Northcliff. Many people that he had known,
and then many more that he had not known but who had nevertheless
taken great care in knowing him, had come to pay their last
respects to the man widely known and equally feared as Ugly Joe
Vermuelen. It was perhaps a miracle that Ugly Joe had been
successful in life, because psychologists will tell anyone who
cares to buy
and
read their
books that ever since the beginning of time, ugly people have
always had to make twice as much effort as attractive people in
order to be heard and therefore be treated kindly. It had, however,
nothing to do with magic why Ugly Joe had been lucky with women:
they were attracted to him by his staggering wealth. Conspicuous by
their presence at his burial service were four women of an
astonishing range of ages, all of whom could rightly claim to have
been married to Mr. Vermuelen – Lord rest his soul – at one point
or another during his admittedly long life. Ugly Joe had lived to
seventy-two and had died with all his mental faculties intact and
all his thirty-two teeth in place.

After the burial rites were performed, the
crowds dispersed and went away to carry on with their lives. That
night, Hudson Vermuelen lay in bed pondering his future. His father
had just died. He felt no joy and no resentment. It was as if his
heart had frozen and rendered itself incapable of feeling. Like
most great men’s sons, Hudson had spent the thirty-two years he had
lived on earth trying to please his father. He had tried to emulate
his father in most things, and failed in all of them. He had lived
in his father’s shadow all his life, unable to escape the bitter
truth that he was not his own man, but a product of what his father
had wanted him to become; in short, he was his father’s puppet. Now
that the strings were cut, Hudson suddenly found himself with the
freedom to dance to his own tune, but because he had spent most of
his life in mental incarceration, he did not know how to begin to
take the first step. So he lay in bed and pondered his future.

His wife lay next to him on the bed. Named
Joelyn, she was a remarkably beautiful woman with blonde hair and
an exquisitely gorgeous figure that had once been featured
in
Sports
Illustrated
. Like his
father, Hudson had never had trouble finding beautiful women.
Fortunately, his own mother, Wife Number 2 for Joe, had diluted
Joe’s beastly features to give her son an understated handsomeness
that women found irresistible. Once the first words were exchanged,
Hudson let his family’s money do the rest of the talking. He had
had various flings with several women during his twenties, some of
them cherished but most of them regrettable. At age thirty, he had
married Joelyn, to prove to his father that there was, after all,
one thing he could do better than the old man: staying married to
one partner for the rest of his life. But deep inside, Hudson knew
that the old man was not fooled. Both of them knew that Joelyn had
married him for his family name and fortune and nothing else of
substance – even though she tried hard to hide the fact.

Now that his father had ceased to exist,
Joelyn had suddenly ceased to be a commodity of purpose in his very
private and secret war of egos with his father, because Hudson had
nothing more to prove. The old man was gone, together with the
chains that had kept Hudson in a restrictive line of obedience and
unfailing subservience. Joelyn was suddenly and worryingly a
liability of the first order, especially considering that with the
old man’s unexpected demise in between the thighs of a voluptuous
blonde ordered from a VIP escort agency, Hudson was catapulted to
the helm of the multi-billion dollar empire that spanned across
continents. Granted, being the CEO of a Fortune Global 500 company
certainly had its perks, but it had a nasty way of letting in the
sharks when said CEO decided to divorce his wife, especially for no
apparent reason.

So, Hudson Vermuelen lay on the bed and
pondered his future. His wife stroked his chest affectionately with
her left hand and then moved it slowly down his stomach to his
genitals and grabbed them in a firm grip. Hudson felt no desire to
have sex with her. In fact, he was revolted by her being there next
to him. He rolled to his side and feigned sleep. Dejected, Joelyn
pouted and turned her back to him. They lay like that, like two
total strangers forced onto a bed together, for a long time, until
the coaxing hand of Sleep lulled them both to the land of
dreams.

Hudson had a disturbing nightmare about his
father. Joelyn dreamt of a pair of Jimmy Choos.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

There are people who thrive in bad publicity,
but they are exceptions. Most people abhor bad publicity, more so
those in legitimate business. The death of Ugly Joe Vermuelen had
caused a nationwide sensation in the days preceding his funeral due
to the salacious nature of its occurrence. It is always going to be
a controversial affair – and lucrative for the media – when a
seventy-two-year-old distinguished and respected gentleman has a
fatal heart-attack while engaged in the throes of wild passion with
a high-priced prostitute. Because Vermuelen had in life been a
charismatic smooth talker and cunning operator, he had had a
remarkably good working relationship with the press. Closer
inspection would reveal that he was friends with all the owners of
the country’s biggest-selling newspapers, but upon his death they
all dropped their pretenses at friendship and promptly betrayed
him. The electronic media, still in its inchoative stages in South
Africa and therefore considered harmless and largely ignored by
Ugly Joe for most of his life in business except for purposes of
marketing his various products, picked up on the story and promptly
forgot that Joe’s business was one of the country’s principal
advertisers. The result was that the death of Ugly Joe Vermuelen
became the most discussed topic on people’s lips for the entire
month of November 2010 in South Africa.

When the news that Mr. Vermuelen had met with
his unfortunate death at the hands of an expert masseuse first
broke, the company’s shares, listed at the Johannesburg Stock
Exchange, commonly referred to as the JSE, plunged to unprecedented
levels. The deputy chairman of the company’s board of directors
called an urgent meeting at the company’s headquarters in
Johannesburg to devise a strategy for damage-control. Located to
the north-east of the country, Johannesburg is to South Africa what
New York is to the US – on a smaller scale. It is a melting pot of
diverse cultures, new money and old money, and criminals and
lowlifes. It is a city that can make one’s dreams come true or
shatter them to pieces. It’s a place where most South Africans,
born in many other parts of the country, as well as hordes of
people from the rest of the African continent, go to in search of
better prospects in life.

Home to around fifty million people as of
current estimates, South Africa’s population can be divided into
three distinct groups: Black, White and Indian; somewhere in there
you can throw in Colored – the term used to denote a person whose
origin can be traced back to both Black and White progenitors.
Coloreds are found in virtually every place in South Africa,
including the city of Cape Town, where their population is large.
Cape Town is a coastal city, located south-west of the country, and
it might be termed South Africa’s Florida. Most White families who
have “made it” in Johannesburg have a holiday home there. Facing
the Indian Ocean to the south-east of the country is the beautiful
port city of Durban, with an Indian population that far outstrips
the White population there. Both Durban and Cape Town are lucrative
tourist destinations, and they are some of the favorite haunts of
the world’s rich people. In Durban, Ugly Joe had a palatial mansion
in Umhlanga, a plush suburb with gated communities and stand-alone
properties of the rich and not-so-famous. In Cape Town, he owned a
3-story villa facing the Atlantic Ocean in expensive Llandudno.
However, he spent most of his time in Johannesburg, where the
headquarters of his conglomerate was situated, and he lived in a
sumptuous mansion in Sandhurst, an exclusive suburb of the Sandton
area, where the cream of Johannesburg society resides.
Unsurprisingly, the suburb is one of the most security-conscious
suburbs in South Africa, with properties hidden behind high walls
and streets constantly patrolled by security personnel. It was also
where he had died while exploring the sensuous body of a gifted
young woman who had trained herself in the art of sexual
intercourse.

While for the immediate future the death of
Ugly Joe Vermuelen was bad for Vermuelen Holdings, the company he
had created from scratch some twenty-odd years ago, it was oddly
good for one Jansen Vermuelen, his one and only daughter. It should
be noted that it was somewhat strange that for a man with such a
well-documented and prolific sexual appetite, Joe had not been
talented at making children. He had fathered only two: Hudson and
Jansen.

Jansen was nineteen-years-old in 2010, and
she shocked the tennis world by winning the US Tennis Open women’s
singles title of that year, on the night when her father died in
Johannesburg. Because Johannesburg is seven hours ahead of New
York, it was night in that part of the world where her father had
died, while it was day in New York, so she went into the match
fully aware of her family tragedy. It so happens that the last part
of 2010 brought with it severe weather elements that brought to a
standstill many parts of the world. Catastrophic conditions were
reported worldwide; floods in parts of Australia were wreaking
havoc to homes; in the UK snowfall had reached knee-length and
grounded airplanes; similarly, flights into and out of New York
were suspended due to snowfall that was battering the east coast of
America. In South Africa, flood waters had destroyed homes in
Soweto and other low-lying areas; homes were fatally struck by
lightning in the KZN province; in the Eastern Cape Province poorly
constructed school buildings had collapsed due to the incessant
rains…

The ladies’ final of the US Open had to be
postponed due to bad weather. When it eventually took place and
Jansen Vermuelen won the trophy, she was asked afterwards how it
playing under the cloud of her father’s death had been. The
precocious nineteen-year-old took a badly embarrassing situation
and manipulated it to her advantage; she said her father’s spirit
had been with her throughout the match, and that the knowledge that
he was there with her had helped her in winning the US Open
title.

So, while in Johannesburg men in business
suits were doing everything in their power to contain the
calamitous situation brought onto Vermuelen Holdings by the
reckless behavior of the company’s Chairman and CEO, Jansen was
thriving amidst the storm of bad publicity.

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Although none of them will ever agree to this
declaration, it is universally understood within high-society
circles in any part of the world that there is nothing wealthy
people fear more than losing their wealth. Indeed, they might give
some away to charity, but never all of it, because rich people grow
so accustomed to the comforts brought on by enormous wealth that
they don’t dare dream of a life without those comforts. Also, all
wealthy people understand that the power of human motivation is
money, and therefore will hold on to that crucial commodity that
ensures they maintain their superior position over the rest of
society’s classes.

Hudson Vermuelen had been born into the lap
of luxury and comfort. From an early age he had understood that he
was privileged. He had been schooled at Michaelhouse, one of the
country’s best boarding schools. The boarding school had instilled
in him a discipline comparable to a soldier’s fixation with
protocol and a dedication to succeed similar to a defeated boxer’s
quest for revenge. He had gone for further education at the
University of Cape Town; arguably one of Africa’s best learning
institutions. While there, he had become the president of the
Student Representative Council and earned himself an Honors degree
in Economics, graduating cum laude. After that, he had no chance.
Roped in to become the chief economist at his father’s merchant
bank at just the age of twenty-two, he began his apprenticeship at
the old man’s various business units. By the age of thirty he would
be well-versed in all the various units’ operations; the merchant
bank, the Stellenbosch winery that exported premium quality wines
to Europe, the gold mine close to the Vaal River near Vereeniging,
and the flagship chain of retail stores that were strewn across
South Africa and some countries in Africa, numbering 480, as well
as the food-packaging unit that supplied the retail stores.

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