XV. Family Defiant
As Clyde was leaving the meeting with Junior, Ray, Carl and David – he grabbed Jack’s arm as they were headed to the door. “Jack, join me for a drink before you go.”
Jack was not sure and looked confused. “Oh, nobody will notice,” Clyde saw that Jack was not necessarily in agreement, “I have something I want to discuss with you.”
Jack agreed and they stopped at a cocktail table in the bar. There were only a few people there. Clyde felt he could lay the ground work for his proposal that Jack could not refuse.
Murphy saw them stop at the table and brought over a brown envelop. He gave it to Clyde and then moved on away from the table.
“This is strange,” thought Jack. “But from what I know about Clyde, it was pretty much standard operating procedures with him.”
Clyde ordered two drinks and Jack said, “No, make mine just water with a lemon.” The waiter left to get the drinks.
Jack started, “Clyde, I really need to get back. So what is on your mind? .”
Clyde moved a little closer to Jack and said, “Jack, I heard you say that John Deere had an option to remove the tractors if they were dissatisfied with the service after the sale. Right?”
“Yes, but they are sending their warranty people up here to train our people to cover that,” explained Jack. “We only need to give them a place to work.”
Clyde zeroed in on the warranty issue, “Well there is your answer for getting them out. Provide poor warranty work and John Deere will pull out. Tractor Supply can come in.”
Jack, a bit perturbed, responded, “And what makes you think that I want to get them out. I told you Corporate wanted them in and I am as much Corporate as anyone.”
“Well,” Clyde began to lay his trap, “Jack in this envelope, I have pictures of you and Junior meeting a few months back and he gave you 500 shares of my stock to get your business.” Clyde was digging in.
“What do you think your Corporate will think about that, Jack?” he stated rather profoundly as if he had just caught a rat in a trap. Clyde besmirched with a sinister smile.
“Pictures? What pictures? Lay it out, Clyde – what is on your mind?” an angered Jack responded.
“You got 500 shares of my stock totally free to bring your account to Junior’s bank – that’s what. I gave you that stock and I have pictures of you receiving it from Junior to give your account to him,” decried Clyde.
“What – you mean to blackmail me into getting the tractors out of here with pictures that you will give to Corporate?” replied Jack. “You have got to be kidding.”
Alarmed that Clyde would even suggest it, he asked, “Who do you think you are? For your information, I paid for that stock with Junior. Did you get a picture of the money passing hands?”
Further, “And for your information, he got the business because his rates were better than Community Bank. Community Bank was going to help us get tax incentives but in the end had to drop out. That is why I went with Junior.”
“The stock is just an investment in a bank that y’all convinced me would be successful. Remember?”
“Yeah, well,” continued Clyde somewhat sheepishly, “what did you pay for the stock. I bet it was not very much. I never saw the money from the sale.”
“What I paid Junior you can take up with Junior. He handled the transaction and I have a letter from you agreeing to the sale. As far as I am concerned what transpired between Junior and me is none of your business,” answered Jack.
That was a twist Clyde had not expected. He did not expect Jack to be so belligerent. It seemed he had his bases covered. He put the pictures back in the envelope.
“You will hear from me, I guarantee it. Come on, Murphy,” exclaimed Clyde as he stormed out with Murphy.
Jack left feeling bewildered, but at the same time on solid ground. Surely Corporate would see through this for what it was and he would be exonerated.
Junior went back to the bank. He was still mulling over in his mind how to keep the bank from becoming involved with Clyde’s action.
He had brought in Clyde Bonner to the 500Club with his investment. However, Clyde’s actions were his personal responsibility.
In Junior’s mind, what Clyde’s investment with the bank was totally removed from the Home ReSources John Deere program. There was no connection – period.
This, however, would not change Clyde Bonner’s mind. Clyde never distinguished between business, professional, or personal. To him it was always Clyde Bonner – what’s in it for him.
The John Deere consignment program could lead right back to the bank as Clyde was not one to forget his intentions from the beginning through Junior. He was looking to control any interest leading to him or his involvement.
Clyde drove immediately to the New Age Bank and burst through the front door. To the first person he saw, he asked, “Where is Junior’s office?”
The greeter pointed to the back corner and asked, “Would you like for me to escort you? I would be happy to take you there.”
“No,” and he pushed hard toward that direction. Carolyn greeted him as he came in, but he was in no mood for decorum. He looked at her and she pointed toward Junior’s door.
Clyde entered Junior’s office without being announced. “What are you doing? I had Jack set up to get rid of the John Deere tractors with some photos I had taken of you giving the bank stock to him at the club.”
“He tells me you sold the stock to him and he paid you cash money for it. Are you trying to double-cross me on this, Junior?” Clyde bellowed.
Junior stood up from his desk and asked, “What are you talking about? I did not double-cross anyone. There was no need to double-cross anyone.”
Realizing something was amiss, Junior asked, “What have you done? And what do you mean you took pictures of Jack and me when I sold him the stock? Clyde, obviously, there is a method to your madness and I am not going to be a part of it.”
“I told you we were going to get the account with my interest rates. I did not need the stock to level the playing field. As we agreed, however, I sold Jack the 500 shares of stock – not gave them to him,” declared an astonished Junior.
Explaining, “I even deposited the money in your account along with other deposits that had come in from your office. It is and was there for you to see anytime you wanted.”
Junior went on, “I determined that I am not going to answer to the banking commission for something you wanted. Nor was I going to place Jack in a compromising position. After the transaction was completed and we got the account, I sold him your 500 shares of bank stock – which you authorized me to do.”
Further, Junior was becoming defiant with Clyde, “And for this very reason. You, obviously, had something sinister in mind when you pushed me to get him involved with a stock transaction.”
“You were the only one who was pushing for that stock transfer. Now what have you done?” asked Junior.
Clyde retorted, “What I have done is none of your business. How much did you get for the stock from Jack?”
Junior countered, “Have your accountants go over your bank statements. They will find it there as a deposit. I put it in your bank account.”
Junior was irritated, “What I did with the stock after you told me to sell it is my business and Jack’s. Now that too – obviously – for very good reasons. Again, what have you done?”
“Well if you don’t have to tell me what you did, it is none of your business what I did,” Clyde snapped back, turned and stormed out of the office.
“Have my accountants check my statements? What could they find?” thought Clyde leaving the bank.
Junior called out to Carolyn, “Get Jack on the phone. Tell him it is urgent.”
Carolyn called back and asked, “Jack is on line 1. Did you get it?”
Junior responded, “Got it.” He clicked on the line, “Jack, what is going on. Clyde just came by my office fit to be tied claiming I double-crossed him with the stock sale. What did he do?”
Jack responded, “Junior, he stopped me at the club as we were leaving. He demanded that I get rid of the John Deere tractors now.”
Jack went on, “I tried to explain to him that the decision was not mine to make. Then he showed me some photos he had taken when you sold me the stock at the club.”
Continuing, “He said that if I did not get rid of the tractors, he was sending the pictures to our human resources department with an explanation of what happened. The photos would back it up.”
Jack concluded, “Clyde is claiming that I gave the account to you for an under-the-table stock transaction. He would see that I was destroyed if I did not meet his demands.”
He finished, “I explained how the deal went down with you – that your rates were the determining factor. I told him Community Bank pulled out when they could not meet our tax incentive request and you got the business.”
Ending, Jack said, “Then because I felt your bank was a good investment, I bought the stock for myself as a future investment.”
Recounting, “Clyde hit the ceiling and starting ranting. He wanted to know how much I paid for the stock.”
“I told him it was none his business – that I had bought the stock from you. His friend grabbed him by the arm and led him out. I thought he was going to go berserk,” described Jack.
“Well, he came over here,” explained Junior, “blaming me for double-crossing him. And when he found out we actually transacted the stock with an arranged money purchase – he wanted to know how much?”
“I told him I deposited the sale in his account along with other deposits from his office. He could have his accountants find it if he wanted to know. Quite honestly, his accountants could not find hay on a haystack.”
Junior said, “He stormed out of here. I think we might have heard the last from Clyde Bonner on the tractors and the photos.”
Junior relented, “It would have been better if I had listened to Uncle Steve. He told me many years ago when I first went into banking – not do business with Clyde Bonner.”
Feeling somewhat vindicated, Junior declared, “At least we have our bases covered with him. I don’t know too much he might try now since he knows the pictures have no leverage. It’s probably a done deal now.”
Attempting to calm Jack, he said, “Don’t worry about it, he will settle down. It will blow over. Have a great weekend.”
Junior now relieved to know what Clyde had done, finished, “Hey, before you go, do you think you can get away sometime next week for an afternoon of golf? I have got to find out if you can play our course.”
Jack replied, “I think so, let me know when you are free. You have a great weekend too.”
Junior hung up the phone realizing that he had tried to assure Jack that Clyde would not do anything else. But he really was not sure.
As long as they stayed with their story which was true – they would be OK. They say the truth will set you free. Junior went home to be with June.
not to be double-crossed – as he thought he was – sat in his car outside the
bank for a long time. “I am not going
to let these green horns get the best of me.”
I am going to have to go to Plan B.
He would disclose his information to Home ReSources in Washington.
Clyde’s emotions were getting the best of him, “Junior just barely knows what he is doing running a bank. Not to mention Jack thinks he can come in here and run all over me.”
“Well I am going to have to show them. I will show them. I am not going to lose part of my commission from Tractor Supply without putting up a fight,” Clyde’s anger was spilling over.
Clyde started his car and drove to his office. Entering his office, he shouted at Murphy, “Find me the Home ReSources head office number in Washington – their Human Resources Department. If they have one – google it up and get me the telephone number. I need to call them.”
Murphy called back, “Boss, there is no Home ReSources in Washington. There is a Building ReSources. Do you think that is it?”
Clyde questioned Murphy, “What do you mean there is no Home ReSources in Washington? There has to be – it is their headquarter offic. Let me see what you are doing?”
“Murphy, you idiot, you are looking at Washington, D.C., I want the state of Washington,” shouted Clyde. “What I do for help around here?”
“Well you just said Washington … OK, I got it and they do list a Human Resources number. I will dial it for you – line 1.”
“Human Resources, how may I direct your call?” a very pleasant young lady or so she seemed young answered.
Clyde thought, “I am going to get me a young lady with a soothing voice to answer my phones. Anything but Murphy.”
“Miss, I need to speak to your Human Resource Director. I’m in Lebanon, TN and you have Home ReSources store here. My name is Clyde Bonner.”
“Mr. Bonner please stay on the line while I connect you,” the young lady responded. “Ms. Cranford will be right with you.”
“Mary Cranford, I am the Human Resource Director, how may I help you Mr. Bonner?”
Clyde started, “Ms. Cranford I am in Lebanon, TN where you folks have just opened a new Home ReSources store.”
Clyde got right into it, “There is some meddling going on down here you might need to know about before it hits the paper. It could really affect the way people think about Home ReSources.”
“Oh, by all means, we like to keep our lines with the media and the public open at all times. What is going on that we need to know about?” asked Mary.
“You have,” began Clyde, “a manager down here in Lebanon that has gotten his hands all tied up in the till. I think he is going to take you down the tubes.”
Mary interrupted, “Till? And what exactly do you consider as the till?”
Clyde explained, “You know, you big city folks call it conflict of interest I think. It’s where someone working for a company benefits personally with the company’s influence or money. In this case it is the company influence. Your manager took shares of stock from a bank that he gave your account to for the interim financing when they came to town.”
“My … my, Mr. Bonner, you seem to know quite a bit about this transaction. Can you tell me how you came to have this knowledge?” asked Mary.
“Yes, “answered Clyde, “I was in the meeting when it was discussed and you know me – I did not think it was right, so I had some of my people photograph the transaction when it went down.”
“Can you give me details about this meeting? Anything you can tell me will be helpful,” asked Mary.
“Ma’am,” replied Clyde, “half of the town’s business leaders put it together and it was put together to keep the other bank from getting the business.”
“You see several of the business leaders including me were helping this young man start a new bank and the Home ReSources account was his first major shot,” explained Clyde.
He laid the ground work for his entrapment, “I wanted to see the young man get it, but not the way they decided to do it. You see this young banker is the nephew of the boss at the other bank in town.”
“There had been a split up in the family,” continued Clyde. “His Uncle took over the bank after his Granddaddy got killed in a car accident. You don’t want all of the details of that, but that is the bottom line of how we got two banks bidding for your account.”
Continuing on, Clyde said, “The young guy thought he would have a better chance if he could offer some kind of incentive to get the account. Since me and the others had invested money to help him get the bank, it was OK’d for Junior – that is what we call him. He is a junior to his father – to give the new manager 500 shares of stock in the new bank.”
“Now ma’am I assure you I did not like this from the get-go,” said Clyde. “Everyone else thought it was a good idea since the other bank was so well connected and all.”
Clyde acted troubled, “I went out there personally when they exchanged the stock and took pictures that I could send to you to back up my story.”
“Mr. Bonner, if I might ask, the store was built back in June and we are now 8 or 9 months into full operating capacity. Is there a reason why you are just now telling us about this as the concerned citizen that you are?” asked Mary.
“Whoa,” Clyde had not thought that thru hard enough to come up with a quick answer, “Well ma’am as I told you, I am a business man myself. I have a little feed mill business to help everyone with their chickens, and cows.”
“I have just not had the time to get in touch with you. Plus you are way up there in Washington and I am way down here in Tennessee,” responded Clyde.
Playing the dumbfounded country bumpkin, he continued, “I had no idea that I could go on the internet – internet is what they call it, right Murphy – Murphy works with me selling feed. His kids – I think it was little Johnny, told him how to get on the internet. He got me your number just this afternoon from the internet. Isn’t the internet good?”
“Yes, it is 21st century technology even in Tennessee, Mr. Bonner. Now you say you have photographs to back up your story, can you send copies of them to me?”
“If what you say can be verified, we will definitely want to investigate this – immediately,” replied Mary.
Clyde answered, “Sure, that is why I called you in the first place. You know you can make long distance calls and it don’t cost any extra now. Ain’t that great. Wow internet and long distancing without paying.”
“Where do you want me to send them?” inquired Clyde. “I can have my man Murphy get them out to you right away.”
“Tell you what – the address is on the same website where you got my number. Instead of me giving it to you again, you can get it there and send it to my attention, Mary Cranford, Human Resources Director.”
Mary confirmed, “You got that – Mary Cranford and the address is on the internet. We will be ever so grateful for your attention. Thank you. Is there anything else, Mr. Bonner?”
“No ma’am that will take care of it. Murphy has already found your address and I will send it to you right away directly to you – Mary Cranford,” said Clyde.
“Again,” concluded Mary, “thank you. You have been very helpful.”
Clyde hung up the phone and considered himself a genius. He relented, “She would be laughing at my little town persona all weekend until she gets the photos. Then I bet she will want to send me a check or something for my trouble.”
“But just wait until she makes that phone call and terminates old Jack. We will see who gets double-crossed then. Even Junior will probably lose the account to Community Bank,” Clyde was proud of himself.
“Serves them both right for trying to pull one on me. All I got to do now is to sit back and watch the fireworks,” Clyde was laughing at his supposed success.
Monday morning, Mary Cranford got the envelope from Clyde Bonner. “Evidently he knows about FedEx in Lebanon or maybe little Johnny told him about that too,” she laughed to herself.
Her secretary brought her a cup of coffee. Mary settled in at her desk to see what this country bumpkin had sent her.
Pulling the photos from the envelope, she immediately noticed that they were of high quality. “Probably it was just a fluke. These phone cameras can do this with ease now. But would this guy have an iPhone with a camera?” she wondered.
“Back to the photos, there is Jack Meacham for sure and I do not know the other man. There was a camera date mark on the bottom of the photos.”
“Not good,” she thought. “The photos are clear enough to identify the stock certificates being exchanged – that’s for sure. Maybe there is something to this after all.”
Mary thought, “I am going to send a team down there to investigate. We cannot have this type of information spread all over the newspapers or the TV media. Being new in the area, we do not want a scandal. It would affect our public image.”
She considered, “If we get there quick enough, I can probably contain it within the actions of one or two people and not Home ReSources as a whole, but we need to get to the bottom as quickly as possible. I don’t want the media seeing this.”
Calling to her secretary, she gave instructions, “Get me Mason Wagner with internal affairs on the line. Tell him it is an emergency.”
“Yes ma’am,” said her secretary. “I will get him rightaway.”
“Yes ma’am … did she listen in on the call last Friday or was she just being funny with the ‘ma’am’ bit.”
“Line 2, Ms. Cranford,” came back her secretary. “Do you need anything else?”
“No, thank you.” Picking up the line, “Mason, how are you doing this foggy morning?” asked Mary, “Could you see getting to work? I tell you I could not see my hand in front of my face when I went out to get in the car.”
“It is always this way this time of the year,” Mason’s replied. “Right back atcha’ – what do you have going on this fine foggy morning?
“We have an inside issue in Lebanon, TN where we just opened a new Home ReSources location. I want you to put together a team to go down there immediately,” said Mary.
“Be sure to include a CPA with your team. And a public relations person to work with the media if needed.”
She explained, “Come by my office anytime today, I will stop whatever I am doing. This is urgent. I need you down there yesterday. Get your reservations today. If possible, I want you there in the morning.”
“You don’t have something more pressing do you?” asked Mary having forgotten that she was asking a lot from a man who did not answer to her. “Mason was a good man, however, and he always accommodated her needs.”
“No, that is fine. What are we looking at?” asked Mason.
“I will give you the details when you come by for travel vouchers. Thank you and I will see you then.”
Mary hung up the phone knowing that Mason could get to the bottom of what was going on very quickly. And at the same time keep it under wraps if it turned into a scandal. He does know how to buy people off if necessary.
Mason selected his team – got the travel vouchers from Mary, and departed for the airport. Hopefully he could wrap this up in a couple of days and be back by the weekend. “Betty is giving a birthday party for her friend and wants me there.” Betty was his wife.
The team arrived in Nashville the next morning around 9. They had to take an early flight out of Seattle with the time zone changes. They went to the Holiday Inn; checked in; and made reservations for the next 3 nights. It was their plan to fly back to Washington on Friday.
“These things usually don’t take long to fish out once you get the right bait. You fire someone; you replace them; and you are back on the plane for home,” thought Mason.
“This guy, Jack Meacham, had been with Home ReSources for over 20 years and had started on the floor as an associate. He had gotten his degree while working and moved up with the company.
“Why would he do something so foolish to jeopardize his job and maybe his freedom if they found it to be criminal?” thought Mason.
“Not only that this is not his first opportunity with Home ReSources to manage a store for Corporate. He had previously worked as the manager for two other locations before they started using him in start-ups.”
“He would know his way around,” speculated Mason. “But then, those are usually the ones who get their hands caught in the cookie jar.”
“This was not a job he enjoyed doing for the company,” reflected Mason as he completed the paper work for two rental SUVs they would use for travel for the team. They set out for Lebanon to see the ‘city lights’ stopping at an IHOP for breakfast enroute.
As they ate their breakfast; Mason went over their course of action. They would keep interview those around the community first. It would be better to see what they could glean. He also hoped to control the scope of the investigation until they met with Jack.
Since the Community Bank lost the bidding and the account, they might be the first to give details about what went down. The other bank – the New Age Bank that got the account – they were going to be interested in keeping the account regardless of what we do with Jack.
Mason instructed, “I will go first to the Community Bank of Lebanon. There is no need for all of us to go in and stir up the bank with our investigation. I will go alone to meet with the bank president.”
He instructed the rest of the team, “You go to Home ReSources. Work the grounds with the new John Deere tractor program. We might as well take back some information that management can use for future consideration. It will make our trip worthwhile if we do not come up with anything else.”
Arriving in Lebanon, Mason left the team at Home ReSources and went to the Community Bank. He entered and asked to see the bank president.
Sharon, who happened to be nearby, introduced herself. She escorted Mason to Sherry’s office. There she introduced Mason to Sherry and explained that he wanted to see Mr. Johnson.
Sherry graciously took over, “I’m glad to meet you Mr. Wagner. Can I tell Mr. Johnson the nature of your visit?”
Mason explained, “I need to discuss some of the bank’s services. We are thinking about coming to Lebanon for a meeting and I would like to know if you can accommodate us.”
“Certainly,” replied Sherry, “Come with me.” She knocked on Steve’s door and opened it.
“Mr. Johnson, this is Mason Wagner and he would like to speak with you. How about a cup of coffee, Mr. Wagner, to make the morning right? It is fresh.”
Mason responded, “That sounds great. One sweet and low if you have it – please.”
Sherry left to get the coffee. Steve still had his cup and stood to shook hands with Mason.
“Mason Wagner from where?” asked Steve. “Your name does not ring a bell with me.”
“Oh, we are from out of state – Washington to be exact – just doing some exploratory work here. I wanted to get an understanding of your banking services.”
“I will be glad to help you any way I can. Anything in particular that you are looking in Lebanon?” asked Steve.
“Yes there is, we are an investigative team from Internal Affairs with Home ReSources to look into a possible issue with our facility and the banking services here.”
Mason laid his cards on the table right up front, “If I can be discreet, we have received word that some possible collusion might have occurred between a bank and our facility. We want to clear it up as quickly as possible.”
“Well, I am sure you know that we have only two banks in Lebanon. We did not get the account, but my nephew who just started a new bank on the other side of town did get it. I really don’t know how I can help you beyond that,” related Steve.
“Well you can start if you don’t mind by telling me why you did not get the account?” asked Mason. “That might give us some insight as to what happened.”
“That’s a switch,” Steve laughed. “You’re coming down here to find out why I did not get the account and there is a question with the bank that did get the account. Sounds like you are acting in my behalf.”
“Well, we figured that the bank that did not get the account could probably tell us why they did not. That could give us some direction on where to start with our investigation,” added Mason not necessarily understanding Steve’s humor at the moment.
“That makes sense,” said Steve taking the issue more seriously, “Tell you what; let me get my Senior Vice President of Loan Development in here and he can give you more details than I can. He and his staff worked the account.”
Pushing the intercom, “Sherry, get Jody to come in please. And refresh my coffee if you don’t mind.”
“Will do,” replied Sherry. “Coming up.”
Jody came in and Steve introduced him to Mason with a brief explanation why he was there. “Jody, Mason wants to know why we did not get the Home ReSources account. Tell him everything you know about the account.”
“Well,” Jody began, “we presented our program for the services needed for the interim loans and inventory. Our rates were within reason. Mr. Meacham said that we were definitely in the running for making the deal.”
He explained, “In the end, however, he asked for a promise from us to help him get tax incentives for Home ReSources. We were going to do that as we do for a lot of startup enterprises, but he wanted 10 years and we could only guarantee 7 years.”
Explaining, “The city council is not great about giving over 5 years. We thought we could get 7 years if we pushed it.”
Jody concluded, “He said his team drew the line at 10 and he would have to go with Junior … err the New Age Bank of Lebanon. Their lesser rates would equal the tax incentives that he wanted. I am sure you know the New Age Bank is owned by Junior Johnson, Mr. Johnson’s nephew.”
“Yes, I know that, replied Mason. “Let me ask you one more question. What do you think that Junior or Mr. Johnson might have offered Mr. Meacham to get his account since we did not get any tax incentives from him either?”
“Be quite honest, Mr. Wagner, I can’t answer that question,” said Jody. “I just figured that with both of us going up on level playing fields with our rates, that it was our rates compared to his rates and he beat us out even with our tax incentives with his lesser rates.”
“Well that is what I needed to know,” declared Mason. “You have been very helpful, Mr. Carmichael. Mr. Johnson, thank you for your time and hopefully when we need something else you can be of service to us then. I can see myself out.”
Mason left the office door closing it behind him. “Good thinking, Jody,” said Steve, “you gave the perfect answer with the playing fields being leveled. I was worried that you might mention the possibility of the stock that Junior might have offered.”
“Well, that has never been confirmed and I did not want to get into a conversation of he said/she said,” replied Jody, “I just stuck with the facts.”
“Like I said – great. If Junior is going to have problems, let it be problems he brings on himself and not anything we do to embellish them,” stated Steve. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about with this.”
“I understand, Steve. Anything else?” asked Jody.
“No, just keep up the good work,” finished Steve. Jody turned and left the office feeling good that he had not let anything out of the bag.
His friend on the team had told him that as far as he knew – there could be 500 shares of stock in the mix but he did not know that for certain. “And now I don’t even want to ask,” he thought.
Mason went to Home Resources and picked up Paul Jackson to interview Clyde Bonner. They stopped at a Dairy Queen for a drink and were directed to his location by a local farmer. He told them, “His company is just beyond the big house on the right.”
“He lives in the big house and his company is on the same property just beyond that. You can’t miss it. I buy my feed from him,” explained the farmer.
“Big house on the right,” thought Mason. “Hmm, that is not the idea I got from Mary about this man. This could be interesting.”
After traveling about 5 miles down Highway 231, they came upon a drive way that led to a beautiful home up on a hill. The driveway was so landscaped with trees that you could barely see the house but it was obvious that this was the ‘big house.’
The gates to the driveway gave it away as well. “It was a secure place,” thought Mason, “Not anything we were led to believe about Mr. Bonner for sure. Maybe he was a leading business man in Lebanon and was putting on act for Mary to get us down here.”
The farmer was correct as they approached the feed mill. Clyde Bonner had several large feed mill elevators with tractors and grain trailers for hauling grain. He had a maintenance facility for servicing his tractors and trailers that would equal any maintenance shop anywhere.
There were at least 10 bobtails for local feed delivery service for chicken farms. Several pieces of farm equipment were neatly parked on the property. They were either used in the feed mill business or he had acres of farm land somewhere on the property.
Men were servicing the equipment or filling the bobtails at the large grain elevators. The ironic part was that the large grain elevators were so close to the office facilities and the maintenance shop.
If ever there was a reason for an explosion – the entire office and shop would be vaporized. It’s been stated that stored grain can be as lethal as ammonia. It develops gas when not stirred continually.
The driveway and the general overall appearance of the property was great. His landscaping was immaculate, his grounds clean, and well kept; no pot holes in his driveways or in the parking areas for his tractors and trailers. All of his rolling equipment was converted to propane and he had a large propane storage tank to refill his tractors.
“This man was no fool and yet Mary was still laughing at him when I met with her on Monday after their conversation. What gives?” wondered Mason.
Mason and Paul drove into the driveway up to the visitor parking. Paul was his PR man and maybe he could make some sense of this.
Entering the office, Mason was surprised to see a man sitting behind a desk that appeared to be the receptionists. “I am Mason Wagner with Home ReSources and this is Paul Jackson. We would like to see a Mr. Clyde Bonner if he is available?”
Murphy was surprised to see them and immediately jumped to his feet. “Yes, he is in – let me clear you first. I will be right back.”
“Sure, no problem. We know we did not make an appointment, but we would appreciate it if he can take the time to meet with us.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged. Can I tell him what you need to see him about?” asked Murphy.
“It is regarding his confidential inquiry with our home office in Washington last Friday,” Mason presented himself rather curtly. “We would prefer to talk with Mr. Bonner.”
“Just a minute ….” Murphy opened Clyde’s office door and went in closing the door behind him. “Mr. Bonner, some folks out here from the Home ReSources office in Washington that you called last Friday. They want to meet with you.”
Clyde was flabbergasted. He thought they might take action but not this quick. “Boy they don’t fool around do they,” exclaimed Clyde. “Send them in.”
Clyde had thought they would want to meet with him and he had considered a meeting at the club or some neutral turf – not here. “But I guess you have to do what you have to do when you put your foot in it,” he calculated.
“Offer them a drink or anything as you bring them in,” instructed Clyde. “Make them welcome.”
Murphy opened the door and invited Mason and Paul to come in, “Mr. Bonner will see you now. Can I get you a drink or something? We have drinks from water to hard water if you know what I mean.” Smiling with a wink; Murphy ushered them toward Clyde’s office.
“Oh, we are fine. Thank you,” said Mason.
“Mr. Bonner this is Mason Wagner and Paul Jackson from Home ReSources in Washington,” introduced Murphy and turning to Mason, “this is Mr. Clyde Bonner. They did not care for anything to drink so I will leave you to your business.”
Turning toward Clyde Bonner, Mason extended his hand to Clyde. “It’s good to meet you Mr. Bonner. This is Paul Jackson. I appreciate you seeing us on such short notice.”
Clyde shook hands with Mason and Paul. Clyde invited them to sit. “No problem. Take the load off,” he said. Mason and Paul sat down in front of Clyde’s desk as he settled into his chair as well.
Clyde was delighted to see them and that they had responded so quickly. “Now I will fix Mr. Jack Meacham and Junior Johnson,” he thought.
“I trust that you have been able to get a glimpse of our beautiful countryside here in Lebanon. You big city folks probably don’t get to see this kind of beauty do you?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” countered Mason, “we have big sequoia trees on the west coast that you can drive a car through. And our mountains are great places to visit.”
Mason countered, “But, you are right – when you have it in your neighborhood; you seldom get out to see it. You know work, work, work keeps you behind the desk.”
“You have quite an operation here with your feed mill,” changing the subject exclaimed Mason. “I’m impressed.”
“Yes, my father started this business several years ago and when he got ill, I took over. We have added to it as the local needs have grown,” explained Clyde.
“I even hope to do some business with your Home ReSources store with my sack feed. But I want the weather to get pretty first. Everyone will want to get outside again then,” explained Clyde.
“I see you have the John Deere tractors on the lot now, That probably means that you will be doing a certain amount of farming business as well,” Clyde continued.
“Farming usually means animals and if I can provide the feed on consignment that will give me an inside on maybe supplying feed for new customers. Always want to keep my finger on what is going on,” he elaborated.
Clyde bragged about his accomplishments, “I have already got most of the area covered but you never know when a new family moves in. There’s not much we don’t try to get into here.”
Clyde declared, “You know those John Deere tractors y’all how down there. They are set up for diesel.”
He concluded, “You need to get John Deere to convert them to propane and that will open up even more business for me. We do a little propane conversion on the side for my equipment and filling back-yard bottles for backyard grilling outside.”
“We even do our conversions here in the shop,” stated Clyde. “Be glad to look at it if they are interested.”
“Well, that will be between you and John Deere. We just inventory the tractors on consignment,” countered Mason.
“You know, I might just do that. Contact John Deere that is – and see if they will let me convert those tractors to propane.”
He calculated, “I would even consider covering the expense myself. We are quite adept at converting diesel and gas to propane. I can do it right here in my own shop and take one tractor at a time so you will not be without demos for people to look at.”
Clyde remembered that they came to see him and not the other way around, “But, hey, I am doing all the talking. You guys did not come down here to set me up. What can I do for you?”
Mason reminded Clyde, “We got your call last Friday and we thought we would do a little checking around to see what might be going on. Paul is with our Public Relations Department and anything we can do to right what is considered a wrong, we want to do.”
“Now correct me if I am wrong, but you have the impression that the new bank – the New Age Bank – got our account for Home ReSources from Jack Meacham, our store manager. And this because he was given 500 shares of stock with the bank. Is that correct?” asked Mason.
“Yes,” started Clyde, “I was in the meeting when it was discussed that it would be the thing to do to help Junior – he is the head of the New Age Bank – get started in banking.”
He continued, “He is just a young man. His family split up over banking and Junior - that is Junior Johnson and Steve Johnson – that’s his uncle – separately control the two banks we have here in town.”
Continuing, “Junior – just getting started and all – was going to need every foot-up he could get. Some of the business leaders in the community thought that 500 shares of stock in the bank – that was not worth anything just yet – would be a great way to introduce your Jack Meacham into the community. And it would help Junior with his bank.”
“You say you were in the meeting, Mr. Bonner?” asked Mason. “Did you agree that this was the thing to do as well?”
“Well,” answered Clyde, “we wanted to help the boy out – that’s Junior – and shoot, the stock was not worth anything – you know just getting started and all.”
He reasoned, “What would be the harm. He would just be getting pieces of paper. Yeah, at the time of the meeting I thought it was a good thing to do to help Junior.”
“But,” Mason began to drill down, “then you called us and said that you took pictures of the transaction when the stock was given to Mr. Meacham. I have the pictures you sent us. Did you have a change of heart?”
Clyde tried to explain, “Well, I have gone by your location many times while they were building it and getting it ready to open. That has turned into quite an operation if you ask me,” said Clyde.
“I began to think, hey, this thing might turn out to be more than we bargained for in the beginning. So that is why I called your Ms. Mary Cranford in your Human Resources Department.”
“But the date, I have to ask, Mr. Bonner,” inquired Mason. “The date on the photos when you took them was dated back in July and now we are talking about the finishing of the building, and the grand opening in January. Is that not when you called us – right?”
“Well, yes,” stuttered Clyde, “it was finished and setup when I called last Friday. The dates are correct.”
Without hesitation, Mason lunged into the next line of questions, “I don’t want to be rude. Again, Mr. Bonner, why did you wait so long to call us, and why did you take the pictures back in July?”
“I’m just curious and not trying to sound as if I am judging you for what you did. I just have to report all the facts back to Corporate to make sure we handle this correctly,” inquired Mason.
By this time, Clyde was beginning to be aggravated with the questions, “Look, you have a large corporation that covers many different markets across America. It is not up to me to tell you how to run your business or for you to come in here and question me on anything I might have done.”
“The pictures speak for themselves. If that is not enough then as far as I’m concerned, Home ReSources can kiss my ‘where the sun don’t shine,” declared Clyde.
Mason and Paul stood up at that comment. Mason said, “I’m sorry if I have offended you in any way and certainly we will continue to investigate this matter. We just had to get all the facts as you understood them and if you cannot supply them, we will keep looking. Good day sir!”
“Well there is one thing you better do, that public relations man is going to have to speak to the media here. We have three TV stations and one local newspaper. I am sure they are going to want to see the copies of the same pictures that I have,” shouted Clyde.
“They will not run the story or the pictures,” countered Mason, “until they contact us and when we tell them that according to you – you were in the meeting and you agreed to do this as well – you tell me – how will that sit for you?”
At this point, Mason laid a time bomb on Clyde, “Mr. Bonner, believe me we will get to the bottom of this, so I suggest you wait until our verdict is in before you make any irrational moves.”
Mason put the nail in the coffin, “We did not tell you that we are here as an investigative agency with full authority of the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service. This is not our first rodeo as you would say here. And trust me we will follow this wherever it goes – you included.”
Mason and Paul turned and left the office. When they were driving away, Clyde jumped from his chair. “Murphy come in here,” shouted Clyde.
“What’s up, boss? They didn’t seem as friendly going out as when they came in,” exclaimed Murphy
Clyde exclaimed, “I might have stirred up a hornet’s nest, Murphy. I have got to make sure I cover my tracks and stay out of this. They have enough to go on without me ever mentioning Home ReSources again.”
Clyde was shaken by the mention of the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service. If there was anything he did not want to get involved with again was the Internal Revenue Service. “I’m sure they already knew that I served 6 months on a 3 year sentence for what happened in Alabama over the grain,” he thought.
Clyde instructed, “Murphy, take those pictures and burn them. Delete what you have on your phone or anybody else’s cell phone. I am out of this and I don’t ever want to hear of it again. If I never hear the words Home ReSources again it will be too soon. You hear?”
“Yeah, boss, they got to you … huh? They really raddled you – huh?” stated Murphy.
“Shut up, Murphy. Do what I told you and get out of here,” shouted Clyde.
As Mason and Paul were on the way back to town; they discussed the conversation that they had just had. Mason laughing said, “You know, if I did not know better, I would think that man was trying to blackmail Jack.”
“You saw all the reports we got on him and what he did with the grain in Alabama. I suspect if we wanted to interview several of these so-called business men here in Lebanon, we could get a handle on what kind of man we are dealing with here in Mr. Clyde Bonner,” relented Mason.
Paul asked, “You think he will carry through on the threat to go to the media with the pictures? Even with his involvement?”
Mason said, “Paul, did you see that man’s eyes when I told him we represent the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service. He almost jumped out of his skin.”
He continued, “No, if I know his type – as I think I do – he is right now deleting everything, scrubbing, and shredding his files on the subject completely. He will avoid us like a plague for the duration we are here. We can forget the media also – he is not going to the media.”
“And you know,” said Mason, “He actually had a good idea about converting those John Deere tractors to propane to enhance his business here. I bet John Deere would have gone along with him and allowed him to convert them,” smiled Mason.
Paul laughed, “That is what you get when you use muscle over matter. If people would just think before they act, this world would be a better place to live.”
Coming back in to town, they decided that they would stop at Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch. “Call the rest of the team,” instructed Mason, “and tell them to meet us here.”
“We will get a table for all of us. I would love to have a good steak right now. Besides there is no telling what they have been up to this morning. We need to catch up before I go to the New Age Bank this afternoon,” cautioned Mason.
Steve wondered if he should call Junior and tell him that he had a man from Home ReSources in this morning asking questions. The more he thought about it though the more he decided against it. “Junior will want to know what they asked; what I told them; and what I thought they might be up to.”
“Somewhere the question would come up I’m sure about whether he had given stock to get the account. I can’t let him know that I might know that,” thought Steve.
“No,” Steve considered, “I am going to have to let the chips fall where they may. It will have to be up to Junior to get himself out of this.”
Sherry buzzed in. She told him Sandra was on line 2.
Steve picked up the phone “What’s up with the most beautiful woman in Lebanon this morning? Oh, wait a minute – Sherry said my wife was on line 2.”
“I got your line 2 beautiful woman. Wait until you get home,” started Sandra laughing.
“Look, I just got a phone call from John and then one from Sarah this morning,” answered Sandra. “Can you believe it – they both called the same morning?”
“What’s going on with them?” asked Steve. “Do they need money?”
“No, Sarah is coming home for a visit on Valentine’s Day. She says that she has a big surprise for us,” answered Sandra.
“Steve, do not get upset, but I think she is bringing a boy home,” cautioned Sandra. “It may be a boy that she wants to marry. You know she is finishing med school at the university this semester and I think they want to get married in June.”
“What,” Steve exclaimed rather loudly, “You sure do know a lot of ‘maybes’ not to know anything.”
“Well,” stated Sandra, “We have talked and she has told me about this boy; or I should say man; and his family. His family comes from good stock in Knoxville. But she never told me how serious they might be getting.”
“Well she better start telling us what he is all about if we are to meet him. We will have to make a decision if we want him in the family when she comes,” declared Steve.
“Steve,” Sandra corrected, “I think he is finishing up his medical school as well and they can continue with their studies in Fort Worth at the VA hospital where they can do their internship.”
“Sandra, you are not just thinking this – you know this,” exclaimed Steve. “You and Sarah have been keeping things from me – that is what you have been doing. Now that it is going to come out in the open, you have to tell me to get me prepared when you are already prepared.”
“Well,” defending herself, Sandra said, “You have been awfully busy with your bank work and I did not want to bother you.”
She continued, “And John is coming in as well to be part of the celebration. We will have the entire family together.”
“Celebration,” Steve shouted while laughing, “this is a done deal isn’t it. They are not coming for my blessing but to bless me with their announcement.”
“You women are such deviant characters,” he countered, “All right, I will look forward to meeting this quack-doctor and see if I am going to let him marry my one and only precious one.”
“By the way, you free for lunch? I have some news that I want to talk to you about,” Steve asked.
“Sure, where do you want to meet? Anything is fine with me,” exclaimed Sandra.
“Ruby Tuesday’s be OK?” asked Steve. “I need a good chicken fried steak.”
“See you there in about 15 minutes. Love you,” replied Sandra and she hung up the phone.
Steve told Sherry he was going out for lunch at Ruby Tuesdays. “You want me to being you something back?” asked Steve.
“No, I have got to watch my weight,” answered Sherry, “and Ruby Tuesday does not help me do that. See you when you get back.”
Steve left the office to go to Ruby Tuesday’s and get a table for himself and Sandra. Arriving there, he went to the maître d’ and told her a table for 2 near the window.
Looking around to see when Sandra arrived, he noticed that Mason and 4 other men were standing nearby waiting for a table as well.
“Hello, Mason – right?” Steve asked. “You came by my office this morning.
“Oh yes, Steve Johnson. Gentlemen this is Steve Johnson with the Community Bank of Lebanon.” They shook hands and extended cordial greetings.
Mason looked at Steve and said, “You by yourself. We would be happy to have you join us.”
Steve laughed and responded, “No thanks gentlemen, I have a date with the most beautiful woman in Lebanon – my wife. She should be arriving soon. Maybe you will get to meet her.”
“We would love to,” replied Mason. “We are finding your fair city quite charming and hospitable.”
“Well, try the chicken fried steak here. It is to die for,” declared Steve.
Mason, responded, “I just might do that. I was planning on a big steak but the chicken fry in this part of the country is supposed to be a delicacy – right?”
“Oh, you can’t go back to Washington and tell them there that you missed out on our chicken fried steaks,” exclaimed Steve. “You’ll love it.”
“Here comes my wife now, but I see they are calling you to your table. Maybe you can meet her later – have a good lunch,” said Steve.
Sandra walked in at the same time they called Steve for their table. The waiter led them to the table by the window.
Steve made a point to see where they had seated Mason and his team. He helped Sandra with her chair and then sat across from her. “Sandra, don’t be obvious, but do see that group of men over by the bar? There are 5 of them.”
Sandra pushed her hair in a motion that allowed her to turn her head and look, “Yes I see them, what about them?”
“The leader of the group is a Mason Wagner who came to visit me this morning in the bank. There seems to be some issues with Junior and Home ReSources that they are investigating with the onsite manager.”
“I did not get the full details of what they are looking into and it may just be standard operating procedures to make sure a new facility gets off on the right foot,” stated Steve.
He continued, “But he was asking some pretty pointed questions about Junior and the manager and how Home ReSources went with Junior’s bank instead of ours.”
Sandra said with great concern, “You don’t think Junior did something he should not have done do you? Oh, for June’s sake, I hope not.”
The waiter brought their water, and took their order. Steve selected the chicken fried steak with corn on the cob, and a salad while Sandra went with the soup and a sandwich.
When the waiter left the table, Steve answered, “Who knows, he wanted to get his bank moving right away. He might have thought that was the way to do it.”
Explaining, “But details about any under-handed or under-table deals I am not aware of. Jody told me that he thought it was on the up and up with them going with the New Age Bank. We supposedly lost out because I did not want to push for 10 years of tax incentives for them.”
Sandra again addressed Steve, “Steve, I just hope that Junior, in his enthusiasm of being a successful banker, does not do something stupid. It would be a bad mark on the family legacy that Walter and Dessie created.”
“But as you say, it could just be a standard audit that all Home Resources go through on a regular basis. Let’s hope so. I’m ready to eat,” she said.
The waiter came with their food and they engulfed themselves with their selections. “This is great soup,” said Sandra.
Steve could not understand why a woman gets so excited over a bowl of soup. He wanted a big chicken fried steak with gravy, biscuits, corn on the cob, and a green salad with blue cheese. Even sometimes he would order a dessert with the chicken fry.
But a woman, she is happy with a small bowl of soup that looks like colored water and half a sandwich. “Mmm … umphfs, what she was missing out on,” he thought.
After lunch, Steve told Sandra, “I told the men from Home ReSources that I had a date with the most beautiful woman in Lebanon and that when you arrived I would introduce you to them. On the way out let’s go by their table.”
Steve called over his waiter and informed him that he wanted to pick up the tab for the men over by the bar. Steve and Sandra sauntered over to the table with Mason and his team.
“See, did I not tell you I have a date with the prettiest woman in Lebanon. Keep your seats gentlemen. Honey, this is Mason Wagner and his team with Home ReSources. They are out of Washington – Washington State. There is no need to give all the names as we will all forget them once we leave the table anyway.”
“This is my wife Sandra and we have to be going, but just wanted to say hello again and welcome to Lebanon. Oh, and I have taken care of your check so enjoy.”
“Thank you,” replied a surprised Mason as he stood an extended his hand to shake hands with Steve. “We have found Lebanon to be a very friendly place. You have helped to make our time here very pleasurable.”
“Sandra it is very nice to meet you and should you two ever get up to Washington, give us a call and maybe we can go out for lunch. We will introduce to our salmon steaks. You will love them,” beamed Mason.
“Will do,” Steve nodded. He and Sandra resumed their walk to the front door.
“Seems like very nice people,” said Sandra. “Mason seems real professional.”
“Oh yeah, internal affair investigators are always nice to your face but the proof in the pudding is what they do behind closed doors,” Steve amended Sandra’s description. “We will not know until they leave Lebanon.”
Outside, Steve gave Sandra a kiss and sent her on her mission to Wal-Mart. He likewise returned to the bank.
Mason sat back down at their table. “Nice banker – too bad we are not doing business with him.”
He resumed their plans for getting into the ‘fundamentals’ of what might be going on with Jack Meacham, “It is time to meet with Junior Johnson at the New Age Bank.”
He continued, “We don’t want to set him off either so I will accept whatever he tells us as the gospel. We will then go immediately to Jack and see if he can verify everything.”
“As you know Paul and I have some reservations about his Clyde Bonner. His motivation for calling us in the first place might be very personal,” stated Mason.
“I think it best if I meet with Mr. Junior Johnson and try to feel him out on exactly what happened,” Mason instructed.
“You all go on down to the Home ReSources, and this time introduce yourselves to Jack, but don’t tell him I am with you. I will meet with the New Age Bank and then come over myself.”
He went further, “Don – you are the CPA – tell him that it is a routine unannounced audit. This will not be the first time Jack has had one of these. You keep him tied up with the books and your questions. I don’t want him talking to anybody on the phone or anywhere until I meet with him.”
To the others, he said, “The rest of you go through the store as if you are checking out the layout to see if it meets up with our standard protocols.”
Instructing them, he said, “Tell Jack you do not need an escort. With Don on the books – Jeff, you and Phillip be sure and check out the inventory for the farming needs of the community. Paul you go out to the tractors and ask questions.”
Mason surmised, “This will be a good time to give Corporate a complete review not only on the Jack Meacham issue but the addition of the farm supplies that we are using to compete with Tractor Supply.”
“Got it!” declared Paul. Paul assumed the leadership of the team when Mason finished.
Paul stated, “If what Mason and I feel might be the motivating factor here, it is possible that we will wind up with only a report about the new set-up for farming needs.”
He continued, “This Clyde Bonner fellow has given us so many fronts and continues to try to be evasive with this ‘good old boy image’ in a small town, but looking at his operation, he is no man’s fool. He just might be weak only in his methods. Methods we don’t accept at Home ReSources.”
He explained, “We are not going to lose a good man on the whims and wishes of a disgruntled local business man. And it appears that is what we are looking at. So as in the past, our main objective is to prove our man right, and only if we are forced to grant a reprieve, will we let him go without blemish on his personnel record.”
Yet Paul cautioned, “However, if we find collusion anywhere, then out the door Jack goes. That decision will be for Mason to make.”
Continuing, “So don’t let on to the actual reason for our presence. Keep everyone in the dark until it is time. Is everyone on the same page?”
All agreed and tipped the waiter even though Steve had already taken care of their check. They wanted to leave a good impression concerning their presence.
They separated outside the restaurant with Mason going to New Age Bank – Jeff, Don, and Phillip left with Paul to go back to Home ReSources.
Mason was impressed with how Paul had taken over and the instructions he had given the team. He got into his car to go to the bank.
“Paul just might make a great internal affairs investigator in the future to take his own team on assignments. He is definitely worth looking at,” he thought.
Mason made his way to the New Age Bank. Parking his rented SUV, he entered the bank and inquired about meeting with a Mr. Junior Johnson.
The Staff greeter asked him to follow her and she would take him to Mr. Johnson’s office. “Wow,” thought Mason, “this is a bank? It is certainly not anything like the banks we have in Washington. No tellers, only staff assistants helping people online with computers.”
He was impressed, “There is a room over there with the door open that looks like some kind of a parlor. And they have only ATM machines if you want cash money.”
He thought, “Where ever did this young man get his ideas for banking? He is certainly trying to go 21st century technology. You can’t fault him for that. Some would even classify him a vision of the future young man with bold ideas.”