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XVI.  Family Defused

 

The staff greeter said, “Here we are.  Ms. Summers, this gentleman wants to see Mr. Johnson.  Sir, she will help you with your needs.”  Nodding to Carolyn, the greeter turned and walked away.

 

“I am Carolyn Summers, Mr. Johnson’s personal secretary, “What can I do for you?”

 

“My name is Mason Wagner and I know that I should have made an appointment,” Mason admitted his mistake for not calling ahead, “but I am town for such a short time.  I had hoped that I could see Mr. Johnson before I leave.”

 

Carolyn replied, “I think that can be arranged.  Let me check.  Please have a seat and I will be right back.”

 

Sitting down, Mason was thinking, “I don’t make appointments for this kind of an interview.  It would give the person a chance to get their stories straight.  I can judge from a person’s face if something is amiss if I catch him unaware of my coming.”

 

Carolyn returned, “Mr. Wagner, Mr. Johnson can see you now.  Is there anything I can get for you – water, coffee, soft drink?”

 

“No, I’m fine.  Thank you,” replied Mason.

 

Carolyn instructed, “If you will follow me.  I will take you to Mr. Johnson.”

 

Mason followed Carolyn to Junior’s office and saw a nice young man standing to greet him.  “This is supposed to be the conspiracy maker that has broken the good will of our long entrenched employee, Jack Meacham?” he questioned.

 

Junior extended his hand to shake Mason’s hand and said, “Mr. Wagner, my name is Junior Johnson. What brings you to our fair city of Lebanon and that you have to leave so quickly?”

 

“We are doing a little standard operating unannounced auditing of our facility, Home ReSources,” answered Mason.  “You know when we open a new facility; it has to go through a certain amount of scrutiny before it gets the final seal of approval.”

 

“Do, I ever know about auditing and unannounced meetings,” exclaimed Junior.  “We get that all the time in the banking business.  As you probably know we are a new bank and we have auditors from the State Banking Commission knocking on our doors all the time and mostly unannounced.”

 

“Jack did not tell me that Corporate was sending in auditors,” declared Junior.  “It would have been nice to have been informed about this.”

 

“But then that would kind of defeat the purpose of an announced visit,” laughed Mason.  “Corporate policies and such – you understand.”

 

Junior, realizing what he had just said, agreed and was laughing at himself.  “Yes, I guess it would.  Well, how do you like our fair city?  We have plenty of trees, hills, lakes, and natural animal habitations.  You need to plan a longer visit next time and take advantage of all of these amenities.”

 

“I will do that for sure.  What I have seen thus far is absolutely beautiful.  Mr. Johnson … “

 

Junior interrupted, “Call me Junior.  I think you are referring to my Dad when you use Mr. Johnson.”

 

“OK then, Junior, as you know your bank handled the interim and inventory loans for the new construction for our facility.  You worked with Jack Meacham, our manager and set-up of the Home ReSources Store here in Lebanon.”

 

Junior replied, “Yes, we did and it was a joy working with him.  At the time, I was getting my feet on the ground in banking, so I spent an extraordinary amount of time with his contractors and with Jack.”

 

He explained, “I wanted to make sure that everything worked efficiently.  I had the time and I wanted to make sure it was right.”

 

“Well, you certainly did that,” Mason began laying his ground work for the hard questions, “We got a great report relating to the help everyone gave here in Lebanon.  Getting us up and running can be a hassle.”

 

“Good, I am glad that type of information gets back to your Corporate head quarters.  In our business we need all the good reports we can get; especially when you are just getting started like we are.”

 

“Junior, I do have a couple of standard questions to ask.  When you were setting up the account with Jack, what were your primary objectives with Home ReSources?”

 

“To begin with; as I mentioned,” Junior started, “I was a new bank wanting to get my feet wet and on the ground.  Home ReSources came to town with a need and I jumped at the chance to get involved.”

 

“I see.  Did you give any special rates to us or offer any special incentives to Home ReSources for getting the account?  You see, you were not the only bank and I am sure they were equally interested in getting our business.”

 

“Please excuse me for getting personal here, but Corporate does want to know that everyone was on an equal footing here,” stated Mason.  “We don’t want folks from the other bank thinking we went with you because of something you could do as a new energetic bank that an old line established bank could not or would not do.”

 

“You understand the reason for my question?  Home ReSources has been around for years and we like to think that vendors and all business people like yourself get an equal chance at working with us,” explained Mason.

 

“Sure I understand.  Mr. Wagner ….”

 

Mason interrupted smiling, “Call me Mason.  I also have a Dad who is Mr. Wagner.”

 

“OK, Mason, yes I understand.  First, you have to understand the old line established bank you are referring to is my Uncle Steve’s bank.  I worked for him for several years and I know my uncle to be a very honest and forthright person not only personally as a member of the family, but professionally.”

 

“Since I knew that he would not do anything to influence the decision that was unethical, I knew that rates would be the determining factor,” explained Junior.  “And as you know, banks do have certain latitudes within reason to adjust rates to accommodate client needs.”

 

He concluded, “Sometimes those needs are as much for the bank as the client – as in this case with Home ReSources.  If you want the business – you go after it aggressively.”

 

Junior continued, “Uncle Steve has been involved with banking here for umpteen years.  Everybody knows him including all the members on the city council.”

 

Junior explained, “Without offering any special rates, he could promise to help Home ReSources get tax incentives that I could not.  I understand that Jody, his Senior Vice President for Loan Development did just that – he promised to help Home ReSources get 7 years.”

 

Further, “Now there is nothing illegal about helping anyone get tax incentives because all you can do is offer your influence and either you get them or you don’t.  So to offer to help Home ReSources for 7 years to me was a tentative offer that did uneven the field of play.”

 

Junior exclaimed, “I thought it was a good move on Uncle Steve’s part.  It is something I would have done if I was still working for him.  It was kind of what we called over there standard operating procedure.”

 

“I – in turn … ,” declared Junior, “used the only weapon at my disposal.  I adjusted rates so that you got the advantage today and not at the whim of some city council politician in the future.”

 

Junior reasoned, “I chose the latter according to the accepted latitude allowed in commercial banking.  And for your information, all of the Home ReSources loan activity has been reviewed by the banking commission and they have not found anything out of the ordinary with any thing I did.”

 

Junior finished, “Aggressive and energetic – I plead guilty.  But in the end, Uncle Steve was impressed that we moved so efficiently working with Mr. Meacham.”

 

“Like I alluded to at the beginning, Junior, we are not questioning your personal motives as such, just wanting to get a handle on what and why it went down,” explained Mason.

 

“It just helps keep the public image of Home ReSources on a high plain,” acknowledged Mason.  “We have to be concerned with our public perception.”

 

“One last question and I am embarrassed to ask it since I have found you to be such a fine young man and very knowledgeable about banking.  Did you, or any one in your bank, or anyone associated with your bank offer any personal incentives to our manager Jack Meacham?”

 

“There it was,” thought Mason, “now to watch his face to see what kind of reaction he would give.”

 

“The answer is an unequivocal no.  All we offered up front was the lesser rates of interest to compete with the 7 years of tax incentives that Uncle Steve might be able to get,” an emphatic Junior responded.

 

“I understand from talking to Jack, that he asked for 10 years and Uncle Steve did not feel comfortable doing that.  At that point with our adjusted rates giving the same competing dollar level as the 7 years of tax incentives – which was a concrete proposal and not a promise – we got the business,” Junior answered looking Mason directly in the eye.

 

Mason had to dig deeper, “Junior, I am going to get a little more personal from a banking standpoint at this juncture in light of your answer.  I trust that I will not offend you.”

 

“If you as the owner of the bank today wanted to sell me stock in your bank – and if I bought one share of your stock and wanted to be at your next stock holder’s meeting – would Jack show up as a stock holder?”  Now it was there out loud and simply spoken by Mason without judging Junior.

 

Junior answered, “You started out asking what relationship I have had with Jack throughout this entire process of Home ReSources doing business with us.  I have related exactly what happened between Home ReSources and the bank.  And it has been a great relationship for both Home ReSources and my bank.”

 

He continued, “Now that does not cover what has happened since then.  It has nothing to do with what Home ReSources got with the favorable adjusted rate schedules.”

 

“Everyone in Lebanon knows that this bank is on the move and will be a great financial institution one day.  Not only for the business it brings in, but the 21st century technology we have introduced,” Junior watched his words carefully.

 

“I have people all over Lebanon wanting to buy my stock as they see it as a good investment.  Having said that you know Jack is not stupid.  He asked to buy stock as well.  I am very selective with whom I sell stock,” explained Junior.

 

Junior became crystal clear with the entire deal, “We had a business man who had stock and wanted to sell a portion of his stock. We discussed it and I arranged to sale him those shares through the bank.”

 

He explained, “But – and this is a big but – it was after the consummation of the deal with Home ReSources and the fact that Home ReSources gained from the lesser interest rates.”

 

“In an attempt of being totally transparent,” asked Mason, “Can you tell me how many shares of stock he bought?  And can you tell me what he paid for the stock?”

 

“For the privacy of our stock holders and in the interest of the community,” answered Junior, “You know I cannot answer that question.”

 

“And I would expect no less from you, Junior,” responded Mason smiling, “Good answer.”

 

That question was not in Mason’s investigation anyway and he concluded “Well young man, you have an interesting concept of banking and I hope you do well.  I think this concludes all that I need to know from you.”

 

“You might find it interesting that this is pretty much the same information I got from you uncle’s bank and your Uncle Steve.  It is obvious that the acorn does not fall far from the tree,” declared Mason.

 

Mason stood, extended his hand.  Junior returned the gesture as they shook hands.  “Thanks for seeing me on such short notice and for the being open and candid with me.  I can see myself out.”  Mason turned and left the office.

 

Carolyn looked in with the door open and asked Junior if he needed anything.  “No, just close the door.  Thank you Carolyn,” replied Junior.  Carolyn closed the door and Junior picked up his phone to call Jack.

 

With the door closed, Junior immediately dialed Jack but there was no answer on his cell phone; only to leave a message.  Junior remembered that he could text Jack and only Jack would see the text as he had seen that Jack kept his phone locked when not in use.

 

He took his cell phone and messaged Jack “911 – call me!”  He felt he needed to talk to Jack as soon as possible.

 

Furthering his attempt to contact Jack if he did not see the text, he buzzed Carolyn and instructed her to call the regular number at Home ReSources for Jack.  “He is not answering his cell phone.  He must be out on the floor somewhere.”

 

Carolyn came back on the office intercom and said that the girl at Home ReSources said that Jack was tied up with auditors.  He could not take phone calls.

 

“OK, I will reach him later,” said Junior.  “Thanks.”

 

“Well this is not going so well,” thought Junior.  “What I told this Mason Wagner fellow was the truth, but if Jack veers off either way trying to cover his tracks, it could be disastrous for both of us.”

 

Junior thought about driving over, but he figured that Mason was headed in the same direction as well.  He reasoned, “That would not look good.”

 

“Maybe if I could send someone over, but I don’t know who it would be.  When they got there, they would not know how to get into Jack’s office to interrupt him with the auditors,” Junior was at a loss for what to do.

 

Junior finally realized that he could only wait, “The only thing I can do now is to fall back on the truth and let the chips fall where they may.  I can’t do anything anyway.”

 

He reasoned, “These guys are good.  They set me and Jack up in such a way that we cannot let each other know what is going on.”

 

“Jack is no fool, he will see through what they are doing especially when this Mason fellow gets there.  He will know to stay with the truth.  If he does admit that he bought 500 shares of stock so be it,” thought Junior.  “He will not divulge what he paid for it.”

 

Junior was worried – not for the sake of the bank – or even the keeping of the Home ReSources account – but for Jack.  He did not want Jack to be hurt over what Clyde might be doing under handily.

 

He knew that what he had done was exactly as he had told Mason.  If Jack tells the truth as well, there should be nothing to worry about.

 

“But then,” he thought, “why am I so worried about it?  Truth be known, sometimes the truth can be damaging if looked upon with a skeptical eye.  It can be damaging if they are looking for a reason to make a name for themselves with the internal affairs department.  This could twisted and turned on Jack and out the door he goes.”

 

“Our friendship means more to me than this stupid Home ReSources account although that is how we established this friendship in the first place,” analyzed Junior.  “I wonder if we would have become friends if there had never been a Home ReSources.  Well I might just find out.”

 

Junior remembered from his days of youth that prayer was his only resource in times like these.  It had been – what seemed like ages since he last prayed.

 

He lifted his eyes to God, “Father, you know – yes, there could have been some deception in getting this account – but we won it fair and square.  Nothing unethical happened.  I actually won the account on my own merits with my plan as you have allowed me to practice banking.”

 

He continued praying, “I did not feel comfortable doing what Clyde wanted to do and I knew that he was up to no good.  Thank you for allowing me to stop him in his tracks with that simple gesture of selling the stock to Jack after the account was completed.”

 

In Jack’s behalf, Junior prayed, “Now I lift my brother Jack up to you.  These folks from Washington can come in here and can make much of this or little of this.”

 

He bargained with God, “If they do a proper investigation, they will make little of it I am sure.  But it will be only by your Grace that Jack can come out of this totally unscathed.”

 

“Help him, Father, in answering the questions with the truth.  If he stays with the truth, You will bless him,” Junior pleaded with God.

 

Releasing it to God, Junior prayed, “I am going to trust you to guide Jack in his answers.  Your Scripture says that when called before those in authority over us, you will give us the words to speak and to that end, I place Jack in your hands.  In Jesus name … amen and amen!”

 

Junior leaned back in his chair in the solitude of his office.  He promised God that he would never get caught up in anything like this again with Clyde or anybody else.

 

He thought, “If it cannot be on the up and up, then it is not for me and banking as far as I am concerned.  Thank you, Father God in Jesus’ Name.”

 

Placing it in God’s Hands, Junior found some relief.  He also pondered Mason’s comments about the Community Bank, “He said that Uncle Steve had given us a clean bill of health.  I just wonder what kind of questions he asked Uncle Steve.  Boy sometimes this stuff gets hard for the family especially when the family competes for same business.”

 

Mason had the principals in the investigation locked in and down.  He had Jack locked down with no communication from anyone outside his office.  He had his reports from the Community Bank; the New Age Bank; and from the original whistle blower Clyde Bonner.

 

 Mason figured now was the time to approach Jack.  He had nothing derogatory from the Community Bank or from Junior at the New Age Bank to dispel the actions taken by Jack at this point..

 

He reasoned, “The interview with Clyde left little doubt there was something that did not pass the smell test.  Certainly there was something sinister going on in Clyde’s mind to wait so long to use the pictures against Jack.”

 

“We will just have to play this out to get to the truth,” calculated Mason.  “One thing is for sure – this thing could blow on Jack’s answers.”

 

He further concluded, “Even talking to the Junior Johnson with the New Age Bank who got the account – it was obvious that he had done his homework.  Jack had properly evaluated his programs.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary there.”

 

He continued, “Yes, Home ReSources likes tax incentives when they come into a new town.  But you can just as easily make up the difference with lesser out-of-pocket interest rates.”

 

Mason calculated, “And from what Community and New Age Bank concluded is that New Age would go with lesser interest rates while Community would go with promising to help with tax incentives.  Promises carry a big ‘if’.”

 

Further, Mason admitted to himself, “Heck, if had been me, I would have chosen to go with New Age Banking.  After all, you get the dollar benefit right now.”

 

He acknowledged, “With tax incentives, you have to factor in changes in the makeup of city councils; attitudes of politicians; politicians seeking graft money for their pockets – it leaves much to be desired.  Politicians have a way of muddying up the water,”

 

“The last step in the investigation was Jack,” thought Mason.  “We will see what he has to say.  If only the stock option had occurred at a much later date.  But even then the loans and the account were set up before the stock was purchased.”

 

Mason arrived at Home ReSources and parked his car.  He saw Jeff, Phillip, and Paul out looking at the John Deere tractors.

 

Mason smiled to himself, “That means that Don has Jack bottled up in the office pouring over the books.  That Don can put on a good front with his questions.  He can also tear a set of books apart and scrutinize them with a fine tooth comb to get what we need to complete an investigation.”

 

Mason went into Home ReSources.  They were working with customers up and down the aisles.

 

He knew from Corporate layouts that the office would be in the middle of the store up front.  So he went there immediately.

 

Entering the office, he saw Don and Jack in Jack’s office with an assistant who was trying to keep the paperwork available that Don needed.  He was also working the computer for the files Don wanted.

 

As Mason walked in, Don saw him and stopped in mid sentence.  Mason flashed a company ID badge and walked past the assistant directly into the office with Don, Jack, and his assistant.

 

Jack stood there for a minute thinking, “I know this guy.  What’s going on?”

 

Mason introduced himself to Jack.  He asked Don and the assistant to step outside and close the door.

 

  Jack wanting to know what was going on, said, “I know you from when I was in Idaho at the manager’s convention with Home ReSources.  You were introduced as the head of Corporate investigations and that we would never want to meet you personally.”

 

“I guess I now have the honor. What can I do for you, Mr. Wagner?  You did not come all this way from Washington to wish me well with the new store,” began Jack.

 

Mason smiled and said, “Jack, you are right – you never want to have me in your store, but here I am.  I want to get right to the point if you don’t mind.”

 

He started, “We received a call last Friday and an envelope from Lebanon filled with questionable pictures on Monday concerning some of your activities here.  We came down Tuesday to look into the matter.”

 

“Corporate does not take these matters lightly.  We came to hear you side of the story,” reasoned Mason.

 

“Are you aware of the pictures I am talking about?  I can show them to you,” he explained.

 

Jack knew what the pictures represented and said, “First there is no story.  The only thing that has transpired here lately and I guess I should have contacted Corporate to let them know about it then.”

 

“There was a gentleman – one of the leading businessmen here in town – that approached me about getting rid of the John Deere tractor supply business,” Jack explained.

 

He continued, “In no uncertain terms he wanted the tractors out of here.  He wanted me to do it.”

 

“Mr. Wagner,” began Jack, “there is … .”

 

Mason interrupted.  “Call me Mason, my Dad goes by Mr. Wagner.

 

 “OK, Mason.  For your information, Corporate set up the tractor supply business on a consignment basis with John Deere for the tractors and farm implements.  Home ReSources in turn was going to stock all relevant farming parts to compliment the business and provide warranty service and maintenance for the tractors.”

 

Going further, “I was not aware of this until the day after the grand opening.  I was kept completely out of the loop or we would have coordinated the display of tractors with the grand opening.”

 

Jack elaborated, “If we had had them one day earlier, it would have made the grand opening that much more of a success.  I heard later that John Deere drug their feet with the agreement.”

 

Jack returned to the issues at hand, “To the point, there is a man in town that seemed to think that our being in the tractor supply business is going to harm his business and he came to me wanting me to get the tractors out of here – point blank.”

 

Explaining, “I informed him that the agreement was through Corporate.  The only way it could be changed would be through Corporate.”

 

Jack being thorough, “I did inadvertently mention that if we performed poor warranty service on the equipment, John Deere had an option to pull the program.  He then wanted me to sabotage the warranty service to get the equipment pulled out.”

 

  “When I would not agree, he proceeded to show pictures of me with the head of the bank we selected.  The New Age Bank that we secured financing for the new construction,” explained Jack.

 

“Seemingly, he thought these pictures were damning enough that I would succumb to his blackmail – if you want to call it that – and do what he asked.  I refused,” stated Jack.

 

Finishing, “I suspect now that is why you are here to investigate me.  Are those the pictures you are referring to?”

 

Mason responded, “You have pretty much spelled it out for me.  Yes, we did get the pictures, but his account – supposedly – was merely that he was a person who has the best interest of Lebanon as a private citizen.”

 

Mason began laying it out, “You know that Home ReSources would not want the negative publicity since we are just getting started here.  Jack, when it comes to our public persona, we have a grave interest in being above board on everything.”

 

Mason did not want to give away any advantage of surprise that he might have with Jack until it came time to reveal his findings.  The time would come but not now.

 

In the meantime, if Jack let slip any information conducive to the investigation; that could be a horse of a different color.  It could make matters worse.

 

“Jack, the photos are about as damning as any photos can be given under certain circumstances.  You are going to have to explain to me the circumstances and what actually was going on at the time back in July?” inquired Mason.

 

“Mason, when you come into a new area,” detailed Jack, “and you are putting up a new facility where you have not previously been, there are many avenues that you have to look at.  You have to look at the town; the community; the existing businesses; and fitting in with the right business clients, etc.”

 

“We had property in a previous arrangement with a firm out of Nashville that wanted a location there.  Corporate had worked for over a year securing that property.  In the meantime setting the stage for a successful venture in Nashville through the city fathers,” explaining Corporate thinking as Jack had knowledge.

 

But Corporate had a change of heart stated Jack, “Instead, we traded that property for this property.  Instead of fitting in with the other location, now we are fitting into this locale.  This happened late and we had to move quickly to fit in.”

 

Jack continued, “Corporate thought it best to spread our wings into the outlying areas as opposed to the Wal-Mart practice of a store every 5 miles.  So we came here with this property and proceeded to get the permits; blessings from the city council; right of ways; utilities lined up; tax forms completed and of course the interim financing for the construction.”

 

He explained, “The team covered the basics.  I covered the financing.”

 

Continuing, “We have two banks in Lebanon.  One is an old line established bank with many years of service and the other a new bank that has just been started.”

 

“Both of the banks originated from the same family.  The old line bank is headed up by Steve Johnson and the new bank by his younger nephew, Junior Johnson,” said Jack.

 

“I gave our requirements to both banks and they came back with their proposals,” contemplated Jack.  “The old line bank would not give the lesser rates of interest, however, they assured me that they could get tax incentives from the city council – which at the time seemed the way to go because it would wash out the difference in the long run to the lesser rates.”

 

He detailed his reasoning, “Junior – Mr. Junior Johnson – on the other hand presented his plan with lesser rates up front as he did not feel that he could go to the city council and get any tax incentives.”

 

Calculating, “He knew the amount in dollars the council would grant should Community Bank get them.  He adjusted his rates to compensate for his inability to promise the tax incentives.”

 

Explaining, “In other words, we at Home ReSources would get the difference in dollars up front with the lesser interest rates now.  It would not be at the whims of politicians.”

 

Concluding, “Community could only give us promises to help get the tax incentives but were not guaranteeing them.  They did, however, assure us that they could do it.”

 

Summing up, “Community was only offering to help us with 5 years of incentives.  They eventually went to 7 years as we haggled over the details.  In the end, to match the new bank, I asked for 10 years and they drew the line and said that they could not help us beyond 7 years.”

 

Finishing, Jack said, “I went with the New Age Bank to get the dollars up front.  I did not want to have answer questions from city council members at a later date.”

 

Acknowledging, “Junior helped us get acclimated quickly with the business community through its leading business men.  And he gave us a lot of support with our grand opening.”

 

“Now I have said all of that to say this, Junior Johnson has a brand new bank on the edge of becoming a great successful bank.  After the deal with Junior’s bank was completed with the lesser rates; we started construction and completed the project on time.”

 

Continuing, “I was told that if I so desired, I could buy into his bank.  A group of leading business men here in Lebanon encouraged me to buy stock at the going rate in July and that within a very short period of time it would be very valuable.  I would be inducted into a business club with them.”

 

“Explaining further, “I saw it from two points; one it would be beneficial way of getting involved with the community and the business leaders.  And to be part of their group for Home ReSources.”

 

“Secondly – quite honestly – I saw a great potential for making a great investment on the ground floor in a new bank.  An investment in stock that would increase in value over a short period of time.  I bought his stock with that understanding and the standing of the business leaders,” explained Jack.

 

“The very fact that Junior could present such favorable rates for us here at Home ReSources spelled volumes in his ability.  The work he did for us during the construction led me to believe that my investment was indeed in very good hands.”

 

Returning to the pictures, Jack said, “I met with Junior at the country club here in Lebanon – out in the open – not hiding or meeting in some clandestine place to purchase the stock.  We met; I bought the stock; and Junior gave me the certificates in an envelope.”

 

  He finished, “Seemingly there was someone there who took pictures of the transaction and that is the pictures that I assume you referred to.  Those are the pictures that Clyde Bonner attempted to use to blackmail me into getting rid of the Tractor Supply business.”

 

“Jack,” Mason was going to attempt to catch Jack in one last effort to reveal possible collusion, “That is pretty much what we have come to realize.  But you know to complete my report and to get you off the hook, would you be willing to submit an affidavit stating under oath the price of the stock that you purchased and how many shares were purchased?”

 

“Mason, first, don’t you think that is going a little too far here into my personal business,” appealed Jack, “I told you the loan arrangements and bank selection was completed before I was given the opportunity to get in with the business leaders by investing the new bank.  And who is to say whether I paid too much or too little for the stock.”

 

Jack addressed the perplexity, “And if too little, who is to say now that may have influenced my decision on the interim financing agreement.  Especially since I went with the bank I invested in.  But then how could that be if the deal was completed and Junior was already working with the contractors?”

 

Jack presented the finishing touches to his case, “I promise you, if you talk with Jody Carmichael at the Community Bank, he will back up everything I have said about how I made my decision.”

 

Further, “If you talk to Junior, you will get the same story.  There was no wrong doing in my decisions.”

 

He concluded, “Apart from that you have some lunatic out there who wants to blackmail us just because he can’t get his Tractor Supply business.  He is the one stirring up the apple cart as we would say in Washington.”

 

The final challenge, Jack relented, “an affidavit to keep my job; to stay with the greatest company that I could ever work for – yes, I would do it.  But it would be a big slap in my face if I have to prove myself after 20 years over something like this.”

 

Mason relieved that he got Jack to agree with the affidavit when he was not planning to get one in the first place was a big step in Jack’s favor.  “Jack,” concluded Mason, “I think we have enough here to report back to Washington.”

 

Mason summed up his findings, “We have met with both banks and they have both backed up your account.  And this character – Clyde Bonner – well he is his own nut case.  You can forget the affidavit – I just wanted to know for my record that you would take one.”

 

Giving a warning to Jack, Mason stated, “Yes, there are Clyde Bonners everywhere.  But I must warn you; this man is not to be taken lightly.  A man that will go to the lengths he went to and to even threaten me with negative publicity, he could be a person to be reckoned with.”

 

In summation, Mason offered, “I think we put the fear of God into him and I don’t think you are going to be hearing anything else from him.  But to be sure, if you hear anything out there, let us know immediately.”

 

Mason stood shook Jack’s hand and asked, “How about dinner tonight before we leave?  I want you to see the team in their better light when they are not giving you the once over.”

 

He ended, “We really do come into these circumstances looking for ways to salvage our employees first.  We take drastic measures only when the need dictates it.”

 

“Invite that young banker to come with us,” added Mason.  “I may have given him a hard time.  It will give me the opportunity to set things right with him at the same time.”

 

Jack feeling relieved that he was able to satisfy Mason’s questions, replied, “Great – that sounds great.  And I think I can get Junior to meet with us as well.”

 

He asked, “Have you guys tried the BBQ place up the road?  They have the best pork BBQ you will ever find anywhere and the coldest Coors beer in town.  We can give you a great send off back to Washington.”

 

“Good, that will give me a little time to look over your store.  I am interested in the John Deere set up.  We can at least give a report on that with Corporate.”

 

Mason ended, “When Jeff, Phillip, Paul and Don get through, we can meet in your break room to discuss any details on the new John Deere line of business.  We can go eat after that.”

 

Jack said, “Great, go ahead.  I will have the floor manager take you around and I will join you shortly.  Your CPA Don has had me tied up all day.  I need to make a few calls; and go to the restroom.  I will catch up.”

 

Jack called out to his assistance, “Get Joseph in here to give Mr. Wagner the twenty-five cent tour of the building.  Tell him, I will catch up later.”

 

Mason walked out to meet Joseph.  Jack headed to the restroom.  There were nature calls that Don had kept him from doing what he needed to do.  He had to relieve himself.

 

Jack locked himself in the employee break room restroom.  He took his cell phone and called Junior immediately.

 

Junior looked at his cell phone when the call came in.  He saw that it was from Jack.  He told Carolyn to close his door as he clicked the phone.

 

Junior frantically asked, “Jack, did you get my 911 text?  I was afraid you had missed it.”

 

“Yeah, I got it,” responded Jack, “but I was in the middle of an audit and could not get away.  What’s up?”

 

“Look, can you talk,” began Junior.  “There all kinds of things breaking loose.”

 

“Yeah, I am locked in the break room restroom,” answered Jack.  “Hit me.”

 

Junior continued, “I had this Mason Wagner from your Corporate office here this afternoon.  He drilled me pretty good over the method we used to set up your Home ReSources interim loan accounts.”

 

Junior explained, “He was either searching for answers or had information and was trying to verify it as he got real specific about the stock.”

 

Specifically, “His last question was if he bought one share of stock and showed up at the next stock holder’s meeting, would he see you there?  I was taken back at first.”

 

“What did you tell him,” an impatient Jack wanted to know.  He could see how the handwriting on the wall could have gone downhill with that question.

 

Junior explained, “I told how we got the account with of the lesser rates which made my deal better than the Community Bank deal.”

 


Finishing, “Mr. Wagner seem to understand that Community was promising only tax incentives.  But since they could not fully guarantee them until after the store opened there could be a question.”

 

He concluded, “I was willing to make the deal up front with the equivalent dollar reduction you wanted in the interest rates.  Home ReSources would get the benefit now and not later.”

 

Then Junior emphasized, “Since my bank was a new entity in town and many wanted to invest in the bank, I shared that with you.  You saw that it was a great investment and chose to come in.”

 

Continuing, “He asked if I would tell him how many shares and at what price.  I told him that for the privacy of my shareholders and the good of the community I could not divulge that information.  That seemed to satisfy him.”

 

Junior asked, “Has he been over there yet?  That is what I wanted to tell you is that he might be coming over.”

 

“Oh, yeah, four of his staff members have been here most of the day.  And he came in about an hour ago.  I got the same drilling here and I told the same story that you did.”

 

Explaining, “I told him I made my decision on which bank to go with.  It was after that since your bank was a good investment according to several leading business men – I was encouraged to buy in.  And that I did.”

 

Jack continued, “I told him that I felt it was a good way to get into the community through the business leaders.  I emphasized that it seemed to be a sound investment opportunity.”

 

Finishing, “I emphatically told him that the deal with you was complete before we ever got into the stock offer.  The only thing he wanted after that is would I – under oath – give an affidavit as to how many shares I bought and what I paid for them.”

 

“What did you tell him,” exclaimed Junior.  “That is critical.”

 

“At first I laid it on him real hard how I had been a loyal company employee for 20 years.  And I would not jeopardize my career with Home ReSources over stock that had little value at the moment,” reasoned Jack.

 

“I then gambled on my longevity and told him – yes – that Home ReSources was the best company I had ever worked for and if it meant my job – I would give an affidavit to that effect,” said Jack, “and I waited.”

 

“What did he say?” asked Junior, thinking there might still be trouble over this.  “He had you if he wanted you.”

 

“He started laughing,” Jack said, “And told me not to worry.  The question on the affidavit was only a proving point that my story was the truth.  Plus they had visited both your Uncle Steve and you.  Both of you backed up my account and that the idiot – Clyde Bonner – that called in on me with the pictures was just that – an idiot.  He did not warrant any consideration of their time.”

 

“Wow, I am so glad you stayed with the truth,” declared Junior.  “That’s the same thing I did.  It is no one’s business what I sell my stock for.  If you can gain from the stock value when it starts climbing, then so be it.

 

“Well, it looks like it is over,” declared Jack.  He continued, “They are going home in the morning from Nashville, which means they will go back to Nashville tonight.”

 

Jack remembered, “Mason thinks you are a stand up guy.  He wants you to join us for dinner tonight before they leave to go back.”

 

Jack said, “I suggested the BBQ place down the road.  They haven’t eaten there yet and you know how cold their beer is.  Can you make it?”

 

Continuing, “We will leave when they get through surveying the John Deere Tractor parts department.  They said that they might as well make the trip beneficial by at least reviewing the new work we are doing here.”

 

“We should be through in about an hour – hour and half.  I can call you and you can meet us there if you want,” ended Jack.

 

“By all means, if they think I am a stand up guy, I don’t want to mess anything up now,” laughed Junior.  “Just give me a call when you are ready.”

 

“Got it,” responded Jack.  “See you there.”

 

Junior hung up the phone and called June.  “I just wanted to let you know not to expect me for dinner.  We have these men in from the Home ReSources head quarter office.  They want to go to the BBQ House tonight.  I am supposed to meet them in about an hour.”

 

June whimpered, “We were supposed to go to dinner and the movie tonight.  I was looking forward to that new Eastwood movie.”

 

“Look,” explained Junior, “I’ll make it up to you tomorrow night.  The movie will still be showing and the popcorn will still be hot.  Can I bring you something from the BBQ House?”

 

“No, I’m good,” June feeling better and laughing, “You better not let something like this come up tomorrow night or you will get it.”

 

Junior hung up the phone and turned his computer off for the day.  He was ready to go to the BBQ House for dinner.  “Their BBQ really sounds good now,” thought Junior.

 

“Looks like we skipped by this time – thank you Jesus,” lamented Junior.  “Although the stock transaction was legal and above board, it could have been viewed in a completely different circumstance if someone so chose to do so – especially if the stock price was known.  Well that is for another day.”

 

Then Junior was prompted to remember the man who was drowning in the ocean.  He was desperate and cried out to the Lord – “Save me, Lord.  I will do anything you want me to do – just save me.”

 

God moved in his behalf and as he neared the shoreline, he felt the sand beneath his feet and said, “Never mind Lord, that’s OK, I got it.”  His commitment was forgotten.

 

Junior’s thanks could not be for another day.  It had to be for now.  God had rescued him and Jack.  He wanted to give glory for what had been done to God as He was the only one who could have responded in their behalf.

 

Junior was surprised at Jack’s fortitude, “He really took a chance when he agreed to do the affidavit.  It turned out that was a real cool move on his part.  Maybe this Mason fellow is one of the good guys after all.  We will see.”

 

Junior thoughts then went to Clyde, “I wonder what he will do when he finds out that the Home ReSources people did not act on his information.  I have a feeling that is going to set him off again.  We obviously upset him when he found out we sold the stock instead of just giving it to Jack.  This could bring round 3 to the ring.  Clyde does not take very much sitting down.  I will most assuredly have to be on my guard.”

 

“Oh well … Carolyn, I’m leaving.  I am going to run by the post office and then meet with the Home ReSources people before they leave for Washington.  If you need me call me on my cell,” instructed Junior.

 

Completing his instructions, “And you can go ahead and leave for the day if you want.  I think we are through for the day.”

 

“Yes sir,” answered Carolyn.  “Thank you.”

 

The following Monday was business as usual for Clyde.  He was especially pleased with himself for his actions the previous week and he had shown these young squirts what it means when you mess with Clyde.

 

  He showed up for work and went about his daily routine of making sure all deliveries were made over the weekend.  He checked on the trucks that had gone for replacement grain in Texas.

 

They usually left around midnight Saturday which would give them time to load the Sunday morning.  Then they had the full day to get back to Lebanon sometime Sunday evening.

 

He found out that one of his tractors had blown a head gasket and had to be towed back in for repair.  That was going to set him back at least toward the end of the week with the repair.  “I probably will just unload one of the trailers that is enroute and send it back for another load.  I need that grain.  This cold weather is not completely gone and the chickens need to be fed,” contemplated Clyde.

 

He stopped by the maintenance shop and inquired if the engine in the tractor that broke down had been dismantled.  “Might just be a good time to rebuild the entire engine.  If I am not wrong, that one has close to 500,000 miles anyway,” he reasoned.

 

The shop foreman answered, “Not yet, we want to get out all the pressing service orders competed first so they can keep up with the local deliveries.  Then we will start breaking down that engine.”

 

“Keep me apprised of what you will need to rebuild the engine and how long you think it will take?” instructed Clyde.  “And check the maintenance record – that engine might be due a complete rebuild while we have it down.”

 

“I think we have what we need to completely rebuild it.  I will let you know as soon as I know,” responded the shop foreman.

 

Clyde got a cup of coffee in the maintenance shop.  He proceeded to walk back to his office thinking, “Why does this shop coffee taste so much better than the coffee in my office?”

 

Several of his employees greeted him as he crossed the lot toward the office.  “Mondays are always like this.  Something always goes wrong over the weekend and has to be taken care on the first day of the week.  These guys are all running around like chickens with their heads cut off.”

 

“Certainly our equipment manager has them on some kind of mission or he better have,” Clyde amused himself thinking, “I am the boss, I can question everything and anything.” 

 

He quickly dismissed his Monday morning frivolity as he entered the office.  “Murphy, what is on the agenda this morning?” asked Clyde.

 

Murphy replied, “Well, you were in the shop so you know about the tractor that blew the head and had to be towed in.  Maintenance says maybe by the end of the week it will be ready.”

 

He continued, “All the deliveries were made.  We do have that one chicken farmer, Larry Cordona, who owes us money and said he would pay when we came out.”

 

Murphy explained, “Well he did not pay and he begged the driver to let him have the feed anyway.  The driver called me and I OK’d it one more time.  I told him that if he could not come up with some kind of payment between now and the next time he needs feed, we will be forced to cut him off.”

 

Murphy continued, “He assured me he would.  Clyde, he has that house filled with new birds.  I figured OK – one more time and he would get on the ball.”

 

“At least we will be past some of the cold weather by then.  He does have his family to feed also and sometimes when it is tough that makes it that much tougher,” a compassionate Murphy commented.

 

Clyde scoffed, “You have to soft of a heart, Murphy.  It is a good thing you are not running this business or we would be in the poor house.”

 

Clyde instructed Murphy, “I don’t want you to wait until he needs feed again; you stay on him every week until he pays something.  If he gets the idea that he can cry his way into chicken feed every time, he is sadly mistaken.”

 

Murphy replied, “OK boss.  I will put it on my calendar to call him every Monday.  That way he will have to think about it all week long.”

 

Murphy cautiously approached the next subject, “One more thing that I know you don’t want to hear about.  After all you did to help Home ReSources with their public image; it appears that nothing has taken place.  I saw Jack out there this morning checking over the tractors on the front lot with a clip board.”

 

Murphy finished, “It looked like business as usual to me.  And I was told by one of their employees that the team from Home ReSources head quarters had come down, but that they left Friday.  What does that tell you?”

 

“It tells me that they have made a ruling and regardless of what I did to help them; they are disregarding the pictures I sent,” said Clyde.  “What do they think is going on over there.”

 

He shouted, “Well … one thing is for sure – if that be the case, they will find that I am not through with Junior and Jack.  I am just beginning.”

 

Clyde muttered, “I don’t need a team from their head quarters to stop somebody in their tracks.  I can stop them myself.  My next target is going to be Junior himself.”

 

“I will go with Plan C or D … I don’t remember.  I will get my money back from Junior and we will see how his banks fares after that,” concluded Clyde.

 

“What’s my calendar for the balance of the day?” an angered Clyde asked.  “I might just need to go have a conversation with this Mr. Junior Johnson and clear him up on a few things.”

 

Murphy replied, “You can be as clear as you want.  I have nothing but standard activity here in the office.”

 

Clyde exclaimed, “Good.  I will probably be gone the better part of the morning.”

 

Clyde left the office and got into his car.  Granted the last plan did not include Home ReSources as such, but the person who put him at odds with Home ReSources very well needs my attention for sure.  “Junior, you ask for it and you got it coming,” he mulled over in his mind.

 

Clyde stopped by the Burger King and got a sausage biscuit with a cup of coffee.  “No sense dealing with anyone on an empty stomach,” he thought.

 

He continued developing his plan for taking down Junior.  “If Junior thought he was going to stop me by selling that stock and taking away my leverage, just wait until Junior sees what I am going to do with him.”

 

“I got his major accounts in the palm of my hand.  I can do whatever I want and they have to go along with me or else.  Plus there is my money – I can get that back,” his mind was swimming with ideas.

 

Clyde thought, “David has his chicken manure – that was a good one,” he laughed to himself.  “Who would have ever thought you could make money with chicken litter.  I don’t make money on the litter – might want to look into that sometime though – but I can make David dance like a monkey on a chain.”

 

“All I have to do is to threaten him with the loss of that business if he does not go along with everything I want to do.  Yep, like a monkey on a chain,” mused Clyde.

 

Clyde continued reviewing his devious connections, “And Carl at the lumber mill – those photos of his one indiscretion would be fodder for a divorce should they ever become public.  Carl has to go along with me or face the wrath of a woman scorned.”

 

“Uh … oh, I forgot,” thought Clyde.  “I have got to make changes with Carl on the Home ReSources account.  I will just have Carl sell direct and allow my auditors to come in to determine my commissions based on sales to Home ReSources.”

 

“I might even go further and start taking a commission on all his sales since I have to pay the auditors to do the work.  Yeah, that will work with Carl,” figured Clyde.

 

Then his thoughts went to Ray at the Ford dealership, “And Ray needs my business on the purchase of my rolling stock.  And with the cruises he and his wife go on with us, he’ll stay close on any decision I make.”

 

Clyde concluded, “That just leaves Junior.  And the one thing Junior needs at a bank is money – my money.  I invested millions when he started the bank and he is still not out of the woods with the state auditors.”

 

“What if that money disappeared; the bank would fold.  Yep, the bank would fold – come on next plan – get my money out,” he reasoned.

 

Clyde amused himself with his ideas, “Junior does not know it but I control his bank.  Well this morning, he will find out.”

 

Finishing up his sausage biscuit and coffee, he made his way to his car to go to the New Age Bank.  “Mister Junior Johnson does not know what is going to hit him.  Mess with me?  No way and get away with it.”

 

Junior went by Home ReSources to visit with Jack on his way to work.  Jack was finishing up on some inventory figures and invited him into his office for a cup of coffee.

 

“Well the internal affairs team left for Washington Friday and I have not heard one word yet from our Human Resources Department,” began Jack.

 

Junior replied, “No news is good news.  I am sure they would have taken action before they left if there was anything in their report to indicate so.  Don’t these guys have that authority?”

 

“Oh, yes, and more,” declared Jack.  “In the field they can do just about anything they want to do including shutting down an entire store if needed.”

 

“Well, you did not get fired,” sighed Junior, “and your store is still operating.  Maybe this thing with Clyde is over.”

 

“That Mason fellow turned out to be a good kind of guy after all,” considered Junior.  “In a real tug of war, he would be a good guy to have on your side.”

 

“Yeah … Mason said that he thought we could forget about Mr. Clyde Bonner,” ventured Jack.  “He thinks he put the fear of God into him by telling him his team had the full authority of the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service.”

 

Mason said Clyde’s face turned four shades of white when he told him that.  “He said you should have seen Clyde’s eyes light up,” laughed Jack, “and to tell the truth they do have the Department of Justice and the IRS behind them.”

 

“Well maybe we can move on now without Clyde’s interference,” exclaimed Junior.  “That will be a big relief.”

 

Then remembering, “At least you can.  I still have him as a stock holder in the bank and that could be problems for me somewhere down the road.”

 

“Well, I had better get on over to the bank and see what waits for me there.  Have a good day,” stated Junior as he started walking out of Jack’s office.

 

“Don’t forget we need to get together at least Thursday or Friday for 9 holes.  That is if you can spare the time?” asked Junior.

 

Jack grabbed his clipboard and said, “I will certainly try.  I will let you know in plenty of time so you can get someone else if you need to.”

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