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IX.  Family Diversified

 

Steve returned from the Kiwanis luncheon and got a water before going to his office.  Sam did not seem to be around.

 

He saw Sherry coming toward him.  He asked, “Sam been in or is he still at lunch?”

 

Sherry replied, “He is still at lunch.  Melissa said he and Junior were going to stop at Subway and then he had to get a new passport.  You know the post office; there may have been a line.”

 

“No – here he comes now.  You want me to sit in with you in the meeting?” asked Sherry.

 

“No,” Steve responded, “it looks like we are going to be dealing with something personal from the way he requested the meeting.  I will call you in if we need anything.”

 

Sam stated as he walked up to Steve, “I hate going to that post office.  The long lines are terrible.”

 

“They only put so many front people out to help customers.  If we did our banking like that we would not last a week,” he lamented.

 

Turning toward Steve he asked, “You ready to meet or do you have something to take care of first.  Mine is not pressing.”

 

Steve said, “No, I’m ready as I will ever be.  Come on in.  You want something to drink – coffee, soft drink, or water?”

 

Sam sat down and then realized he was thirsty from standing in line and getting back to the bank, “Yeah, if Sherry doesn’t mind, I could use water.  Thanks!”

 

Steve called out to Sherry, “Can you get Sam a water please?  My lunch made me thirsty too.”

 

While they were waiting on Sherry, Steve made the comment, “That son of yours really has a project on his hands.  Looks like that is going to be a nice daycare facility they are building.  Lebanon needs a professional daycare.”

 

Steve continued, “We have all these moms who have to use people in their homes.  Some have 4 – 8 kids.  That is not what I call professional.”

 

“One of these days, the city is going to have to address that.  Maybe with a professional daycare center coming in; it will be sooner than later,” concluded Sam.

 

Changing the subject, Steve asked, “Have you been by Junior’s lot lately?  They dug the foundation like they were laying out for a four or five story building.”

 

“The city code must be based on the soil content or some kind of building code for daycare centers.  See what I mean, if it is professional they do it right,” explained Steve.

 

“I don’t know what all is going on,” said Sam, “that is Junior’s venture and he seems to be doing a great job staying on top of it.”

 

Sherry came in with a water for Sam.  “Thank you, Sherry,” responded Sam.  Leaving, Sherry closed the door behind her.

 

Sam started, “Steve, you and I both know that I have been in banking because Dad wanted me in banking.  But you also know that I do not the skills for assessing people the way you and Dad could.”

 

“As a result he made me Executive Vice President of Operations because I am a Johnson.  It is not because of my great expertise.  I know it and you know it,” commented Sam.

 

Sam continued to explain, “He put me over the facilities which you know is a misnomer to some degree.  Any first year college student can do what I do and do it well.”

 

He went on, “I am not a person who enjoys greeting people much less working with them to gain their confidence.  I am much happier in some back office somewhere.”

 

Sam recounted, “You remember the problems we had with the tellers and they were going to walk out if changes were not made.  Well Dad made the changes for them and I am over nothing other than brick and mortar.  Plain and simple, Steve … I want out – out of banking.”

 

Steve was stunned.  He did not see this coming.  He stood up and exclaimed, “What?  I thought you were happy or as happy as I have ever seen you lately.  You did a great job with the re-branding and it seemed you were getting a new lease on life in banking.”

 

Steve alluded to Sam’s hard work, “Everybody commented on your changes and was pleased with what you did.  Even the City Council is considering new garden arrangements for the parks and city hall based on your changes here at the bank.”

 

Steve paused to evaluate what he had just heard.  Sam squirmed in his chair and opened the water bottle. 

 

Sam lamented, “I had fun doing the re-branding.  It was exciting getting all the attention that it brought, but Steve that is not banking, that is gardening.”

 

“If I want to be a gardener, I can go home and do a re-branding on my home.  I might even win the Yard of the Month,” he replied.

 

Sam declared, “It is not banking that disturbs me.  The more that I evaluate my history here at the bank, there is little that I have done that is banking.”

 

Sam opened up his true feelings, “It is that I am not needed.  You don’t need me.  I ask you, when I leave – are you going to replace me with another Executive Vice President of Operations – NO!”

 

Steve could not help but say to himself, “Sam is right.  I would never put anyone else in his position.  It was not needed, but Sam is wrong about not being needed there.  He is family and family banking is important.”

 

He wanted to encourage Sam and to let him know that he did complete an integral part for the bank, “Sam everything we do here is not banking as you call it.  It is family, the family legacy of who we are and what we mean to this town.”

 

Steve wanted Sam to understand, “Just you being here every time the doors open - people need to see you here.  It gives them confidence in the family even if you never loan them a dime or even if you never speak to them.”

 

“You are an integral part of the family,” declared Steve.  “That makes you are an integral part of this bank.”

 

Sam sat there contemplating what he had just heard, “This is going to be harder than I thought.  I just figured Steve would say fine, how much do you want for the stock and let’s get on with it.”

 

He thought, “Now he is bringing in the family.  I never considered myself part of this banking family.  Dad was the ‘quote quote’ banker.”

 

Sam had always figured, “I was just the errand boy with a fancy title for years.  When he moved me up to operations, it seemed more of a feasible position.”

 

“Steve has put a different twist on this that might need further consideration,” he thought.  Then he remembered what was going to happen, “I do not want to be a part of this when it falls apart – family or no family.”

 

“Steve,” he countered, “maybe so, but I have not felt like what you just put into words.  I’ve known the truth about my being here for years.”

 

Sam brought up Joan and her concerns, “Look Joan and I have talked this over.  Mom and Dad’s passing; you taking over the bank – which I agree with by the way – all adds up to my leaving and pursuing other interests.”

 

“It is not like I am going out to look for work.  My working days are over.  I have enough money and with the money we just got from the estate; plus my stock port folio; Joan and I can live comfortably and do anything we want to do for the rest of our lives.”

 

Sam continued, “We have only one child, Junior, and he is doing quite well for himself.  Plus with his part of the estate, he too will be OK.  Joan and I just want to enjoy life for the balance of our lives.”

 

Steve could not argue with Sam’s position.  He was going to be well off financially and maybe since he and Joan did not have the great beginning they had hoped for due to the early pregnancy – maybe they were entitled to enjoy their life.

 

“But that is not all, Steve,” Sam continued, “I want to sell mine and Joan’s interest in the bank.  I feel that with me out of banking, I don’t want you thinking that I am going to be looking over your shoulder.”

 

He went explained, “I don’t want every time I come into the bank – for you to think I am checking on things.  That would bother me if you did it and I am sure it would bother you.”

 

Sam’s plan, “Here is what I propose; you and Junior have the first option at buying me out.  I think Junior has so much going on right now that he is out of the picture so that leaves you.”

 

“Plus with the value of the stock, you could easily make a loan in Nashville to buy me out and my salary alone would make the payments.”  Sam explained, “Junior does not have that option.”

 

Sam went further, “We could get an investment firm from Knoxville to come in and evaluate the stock so that it is fair for both of us.  That can be done next week as I have already called them and they can be here Monday.”

 

“I can give you until the end of the month to make arrangements to buy the stock.  I see no reason why any bank in Nashville would not want to make the loan should you go there,” acknowledged Sam.

 

He finished, “So I can leave right away – today even – and give you to the end of the month to buy me out.  If you choose not to buy for whatever the reason, I will make my stock available to the highest bidder.”

 

Sam said, “You know Clyde Bonner has the money, but whether or not he would want to be involved with you is another question.  Or you with him.”

 

He concluded, “You probably don’t want to be involved with him after that cattle thing a few years back.  He is a dollar man and makes investments when you least expect him to.”

 

Sam ended, “So no hard feelings, Joan and I just want to leave and enjoy life.  And we need to sell the stock to maintain a presence in the family that is family and not business.”

 

“Wow,” answered Steve, “That is a lot to think about.  Yes, I would want your stock before Clyde Bonner has a shot to get it for sure.”

 

He continued, “And yes, I think I could get the money from Nashville.  If this is what you want; get the people in here to evaluate the stock.”

 

Steve calculated, “I will run some numbers by my friends at Capital Bank in Nashville to get a feeling from them.  As you say – that should not be a problem.”

 

Steve continued, “Sam, please understand I do not want to see you go, but it seems you have your mind made up.  I wish you the best.”

 

He instructed, “Keep your office for as long as you want.  Come and go as you want and we will not let the bank know what you are doing until you are ready to announce it.”

 

Sam got up, reached out his hand and said, “Steve, this is indeed a mixed emotional day for me.  I will get through it.  In the end I think we both will be better for it.  God bless.”

 

Steve extended his hand and shook Sam’s hand.  In shaking his hand, Steve pulled Sam close and hugged him.  It was an emotional time for them.  Sam turned and left the office.

 

Steve slumped in his chair.  He wondered out loud, “Whatever just happened?  What comes next?”

 

After what seemed eternity; Steve picked up the phone and called Sandra to tell her what just happened.  “Sandra, you will never believe what Sam just did.  He is leaving the bank.”

 

Sandra was silent; she did not know what to say.  She was stunned.

 

Steve went on, “He just walked in here and said he was leaving.  He and Joan want to fill some kind of bucket list for the balance of their life.”

 

“Not only that, he wants to sell me their stock,” explained Steve.  That will give us 58% control of the stock not counting the kids or Junior.”

 

Sandra asked, “Was he upset with you?  Was he upset about something?”  Questions were filing her mind. 

 

Steve answered, “No, just wanted to work on his bucket list and that he felt he never really had a position of importance with the bank even when Dad was here.”

 

“Part of that might be true, but I told him he was an integral part of this family, the banking family at the bank, and the community,” explained Steve.

 

Steve continued, “I thought he was going to buy the family thing, when he flipped and said, no.  He needed to leave.”

 

He said, “He and Joan had discussed it.  Both of them had agreed it was the best for them.”

 

“What could I do?” debated Steve, “You can’t make a person stay if they want to go.”

 

“Nothing, I guess,” responded Sandra.  “Do you think I should call Joan?”

 

Steve replied, “That is a good question.  I don’t know what is best at this point.  It couldn’t hurt.  Maybe you should.”

 

Explaining, “At least we will be reaching out to them.  They are family and this is a major decision for the family as well.”

 

Steve concluded, “I just wanted you to know.  I need to make a couple of calls about getting a loan to buy him out.  I’ll talk to you about your conversation with Joan when I get home.  I love you and will see you then.”

 

Steve hung up the phone.  He called Sherry in to give her the news.  Sherry came in immediately.

 

He thought, “She was going to be as surprised as I am.  This is a major development not only for the bank, but for the community.  Everybody here knows Sam in one way or another.”

 

“Sherry, Sam is leaving the bank.  I mean really leaving the bank as in retiring.  Today might be his last day.  He is leaving the bank as part of the staff.” 

 

Sherry was stone-faced as she listened to the words coming from Steve’s mouth.  She could tell he was in shock and she wanted to say the right thing but what … her mind drifted off.

 

Steve went on, “He will maintain his office until his final day, which I have told him he can stay as long as he wants.”

 

He explained, “But for the record, he will come and go.  We will announce it to the staff when he is ready for us to do it.  Until then just keep it to yourself and refer all of his calls to me or Junior based on what is needed.”

 

He said, “I will let Junior know what is going on.  He probably already knows.”

 

“Will do,” replied Sherry, “Wow, your dad passing, and now Sam leaving; this will be devastating to the family here at the bank.”

 

“I know it,” exclaimed Steve, “and it will be up to us to hold it together as a banking family.  Dad’s passing was a tumultuous blow and this will be as well, but we got through Dad and we will get through this.”

 

Steve considered the bank, “We have got to think about our clients and the community.  They have to know that we are still here the same as we have always been, and we are still the same friendly bank we always were.”

 

Considering Sam, Steve said, “Quietly, let Sam know that we want to give him a retirement send off party not only for the bank, but for the community.  The community needs to know nothing is behind this other than his retirement.  The more time he can give us to plan the event, the better.”

 

“Will do,” replied Sherry as she left the office.  It will take some time to get over this decision.

 

Steve did not see Junior that afternoon and just figured he was conducting banking business regarding the inventory loans or working with his project.  At any rate, he could bring up the ‘Sam leaving matter’ in the morning briefing.

 

Prior to the briefing the next morning, Steve wondered how Junior would take the news of his dad’s leaving.  It would have to be unsettling for him.

 

He was sure that he already knew and probably that is why he did not return to the bank the afternoon before.  He wanted the dust to settle before confronting me.

 

Steve saw Junior come into the bank.  He noticed, “He’s stopping for a cup of coffee before coming over here.  I wonder if he does know.”

 

Junior knew what the meeting would be about, but he wanted to act nonchalant.  “Good morning, Uncle Steve.  How are you handling everything this morning?  I know about Dad.  I guess you want to talk to me about that this morning.”

 

Steve came back, “Yes, come on inside and have a seat.”  Junior came in and sat down in front of Steve’s desk.  Steve went around to the back of his desk and sat down as well. 

 

“We have a major concern for the bank again.  And it is so soon after losing Mom and Dad.  Now we are losing your dad.”

 

He alluded, “Seems changes are becoming the order of the day around here.  What are your feelings about your Dad’s leaving?”

 

“Well,” Junior started, “we discussed it.  Dad says that he has not been totally happy in banking almost since he started.”

 

He explained, “To some degree, he did it because he had a wife with a baby – me, and needed to support his family.  He said he could not make the money he was making here anywhere else and put up with it the best that he could.”

 

Finishing, “With the settlement of the will and the stock, he made a pretty good argument for getting out of banking.  They want to travel and see the world.”

 

Steve said, “That is pretty much what he told me.  At first I objected.  He is part of the family – not only the family-family – but an integral part of the banking community family.”

 

He exclaimed, “His contacts in banking are immeasurable.  The people he knows have been most helpful over the years.  I tried to make him understand that.”

 

Steve stated, “But he has it in his mind that he was holding a position here only because Dad made a position for him.  I could not change his mind.”

 

“And,” said Steve, “as you say, he and Joan want to see the world so I had no other choice but to accept his retirement plans.”

 

Steve did want to address a concern with Junior, “I did want to make sure that this would not affect your relationship here at the bank.  You have an important position here as you know and I need you like I do a right arm.  With him gone, I am going to need you even more.”

 

“No problem with me, Uncle Steve,” said Junior, “This is all Dads’ idea.  From my conversation with him it has nothing to do with you, the bank, or the family.  He just wants to roam free or so it sounds.”

 

Steve concluded, “Well, I have told him that he can keep his office for as long as he wants; come and go as he pleases; and when he wants us to let the staff know, we will have a retirement party for him.” 

 

“Sherry is going to plan the party for him as soon as he gives us a date,” explained Steve.  In the meantime, I have directed Sherry to send all of his calls to me that pertain to the bank and any others that you can handle; to you.”

 

He instructed, “You will be getting some new responsibilities that Sam was handling.  But we will get into that as we need to.”

 

Changing the subject, Steve began, “Now to the business at hand.  I went to the Kiwanis luncheon the other day and talked to several of my business associates.  I am concerned that we are not seeing the loans coming in like they normally do.”

 

Explaining, “Even Leland who needs to buy grain on the futures to lock in his feed prices did not address his upcoming needs.  We need to get a handle on this.”

 

“I did not speak directly about loans to anyone, but I get the impression nothing has changed.  I just have not seen any proposals from you regarding the loans.  Have you talked to the mill for example or the consignment orders from the Ford dealership?” he asked.

 

Junior answered, “Yes, I have talked to them and the loans are forthcoming.  The mill is having somewhat of a discussion concerning the housing market.  Seems they are on some kind of a bubble that could burst the wrong way, but they are still assured their orders will remain intact.  Their futures are still moving and they are moving lumber quite readily.”

 

Junior continued with his report, “As far as Ford, the economy has taken a blow and fewer people are buying new cars right now.  Ray Miller, at Ford, thinks that will turn around by year’s end.  I don’t think, personally, we have anything to worry about with him right now.”

 

Steve exclaimed, “Well, stay on top of it and keep me informed.  That is a major piece of our business each year.”

 

“Will do, anything else?” asked Junior.  He did not want to stay in the presence of Steve any longer than necessary for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

 

“No, just keep this ‘Sam thing’ under wraps for the moment.  It will come out soon enough.  We will need to find another place for Melissa, but don’t tell her yet.”

 

“She probably already knows he is leaving.  We will not be replacing Sam or his position.  We might want to put her in the secretarial pool in the loan department for now with you.”

 

Junior jumped up from his chair, “Got it and I understand.  We can use Melissa over here.”

 

Junior hurried out of the office.  Being underhanded especially making Uncle Steve think he was talking about loans for his bank when he was talking about loans for his New Age Bank was not how he had planned the transition.”

 

He wondered, “But what else could he do?  He could not disclose what was going on.”

 

“In a matter of a month after Dad is gone, I will be leaving and taking a major piece of the business with me,” contemplated Junior.

 

“Well that is business as they say,” thought Junior, “but still that doesn’t make me feel good about what I just did.  This has got to come to a head and soon.”

 

Junior left the bank, “I can’t look people in the eye after the less than truthful confrontation I just had with Uncle Steve.  Maybe getting my hands dirty will help.”

 

He went up to his lot to get dirt on his hands like he had dirt in his heart.  “Then maybe … maybe I can forget it,” he pondered.

 

He reminisced, “Granddaddy and Grandmother always saw to it that Dad and Uncle Steve were in church.  It did not mean anything that they were grown and with families – if Dessie wanted them in church they would be in church.”

 

  “And because of that, it meant that he, John, and Sarah would be in church as well.  You did not mess with Grandmother,” Junior remembered.

 

“How many times have I heard messages on lying or even worse half truths?  And now here I am using half truths not with just anybody, but my family … my Uncle Steve!”  He literally had to force himself to think of something else.

 

The CPA firm from Knoxville came in for the stock evaluation the following week.  They did a review and semi-audit to determine a reasonable value for the bank stock.

 

Since it was between family members who were in agreement with each other and courts were not involved, it was not necessary to dot ‘i’s” and cross “t’s” to the fullest extent.  An evaluation would be all that was needed.

 

A few thousand here or a few thousand there was not going to make that much of a difference.  Sam wanted out as quickly as he could and he would not be as careful with the numbers as he ordinarily would be.

 

Don Jones, the CPA from Knoxville, submitted the figures to both Sam and Steve.  When the figures were submitted, both Sam and Steve were surprised to see the results.

 

Steve thought the figure was a bit low and Sam thought it was a bit high.  Neither was going to tell the other what they thought so they both agreed to settle for that amount.  They thanked Don and he was escorted out by Sherry.

 

Steve turned to Sam and said, “I will call Warner and set the contract of sale in motion.  This will be a simple agreement and he should be able to have it this afternoon.”

 

Steve further stated, “I will fax the signed contract of sale to the bank in Nashville.  Raymond Gentry is handling the transfer of funds for us from Nashville.  I had given him reasonable high and low ranges and he agreed they could handle it.”

 

He concluded, “After I fax the contract of sale, the funds should be here within the hour.  They will be wired transferred after verification of the arrival of the contract.”

 

“I should have a cashier’s check for you this afternoon also.  You can come by later to pick it up or you can wait here at the bank.  I will stay here until everything is done today,” concluded Steve.

Steve then introduced a possible sticking point of the contract of sale, “Sam, one of the requirements for the Central Bank in Nashville is that we have a non-compete clause for 5 years for you in the contract.  They say this is standard on loans for this amount.”

 

Steve explained, “I know you say you are not going back into banking yourself or with anyone that might be considered a competitor of the bank, but to fulfill the requirement of the loan I will need to include a non-compete clause in the agreement.  Is that OK with you or do we need to discuss it?”

 

Sam first looked surprised.  He accepted it was not at Steve’s request but the request of the Capitol Bank, and added, “Well I am not going back into the banking business that is for sure, and I don’t have people skills to do a credit union – so, no, I don’t have a problem with that.”
 

Sam sloughing off the request for a non-compete clause, “And I can use the time waiting for the transfer to get some things out of my office.  Most everyone will be out of the bank by that time and they will not know what I will be doing.”

 

He laughingly suggested, “I want to deposit the chick immediately into my account here at the bank.  Don’t want to take a chance on losing or misplacing that check.”

 

“Good – that works for me,” concluded Steve.  “Once we have the agreement; loan approval; and everyone is on board; it becomes a ‘sooner the better’ for me.”

 

“Look, I am going over to the club for lunch,” said Sam, “Call me on my cell when you get the papers ready and I will come by and we can sign everything.” 

 

Steve said, “OK, I will call Warner right now.  Incidentally, this coming Friday afternoon, the bank wants to do a retirement party for you.  You have any plans that will conflict?”

 

He informed Sam, “Sherry has been working on this since you first told us about your leaving.  We want to do it for you and the community to let them have an opportunity to say their ‘goodbyes’ to you.”

 

Sam was surprised at the plan and responded, “No, I will check with Joan to see if she has a problem.  If she does, I am sure she can get out of it.”

 

“Thank you for thinking of that,” said Sam, “that’s nice and will be a great way to say good bye to everyone at one time.”

 

Steve – to be completely truthful about the retirement party explained, “We might have some of the city dignitaries here as well – you know the City Council, Mayor Jacobs of course, the Fire Chief and the Police Chief.”

 

“Papers will be coming by for a story on your leaving and who knows, maybe the TV reporters might send over a crew.  But you are an old hat at this since you handled them during the re-branding.  Don’t want to pass up a public relations opportunity.”

 

Sandra is going to want the pastor and his wife to come so it might get a little out of hand number wise.  You have to admit though; your leaving is quite an event for the city.”

 

“That’s fine with me,” Sam said a little embarrassed.  But he was proud of his time with the bank and serving the community.

 

“As I said, I can do my ‘goodbyes’ to everybody all at once and then it is over and we go on with our lives.” 

 

Steve exclaimed. “Good, we will set it up for Friday afternoon say 2:00 PM.  I’ll tell Sherry.”

 

Steve finished, “Sherry will let everyone know and we will go from there.  Since we will have the contract of sale completed this afternoon, I will call the bank staff together in the morning prior to opening and explain officially your leaving.”

 

He finished, “I think with your being gone so much lately, a lot of them have already guessed.  But we will make it official.”

 

“Thanks and thank you Steve for all you have done.  This could not have gone any smoother with anyone else.”  Sam turned to go, but stopped at Steve’s door to take one last look at the bank.

 

It would not be the last time he would be in the bank, but it would be the last time he would be in the bank while employed by the bank for over 30 years.  “That means something to me if no one else,” he thought.

 

A tear rolled down his cheek as he walked toward the side door for the last official time.  He let himself out.  It was over.

 

Sam reflected as he headed toward his car, “Everything considered; my work with the bank had not been all that bad.  The times working with Dad were certainly fulfilling just not what I wanted.”

 

Continuing to reminisce, “Even working with Steve had its moments – like the re-branding where Steve gave me a free hand.  No, there were some good times spread among those years and I really enjoyed the work here.”

 

  He thought, the question now is, “What does the future hold?  In one month Junior is going to do more to upset this bank than my leaving.”

 

Looking at the future, “Joan is biting at the bit to get a free hand to do what she has always wanted us to do.  My … my … my … so much to be considered,” Sam thought.”

 

He got in his car and slowly pulled out of the parking lot.  He headed toward the club for lunch.

 

Steve called Warner and gave him the agreed upon figures for the contract of sale.  Warner knew about the non-compete clause and had it already on computer.  He had the number of shares of stock on file to be transferred and could configure the documents as such.  They both agreed that it could be ready that afternoon and 2:00 PM would be a good time to get everyone together.

 

Steve then called Sandra at home and gave her the news that all had been agreed upon.  They were to meet that afternoon to complete the contract of sale.

 

Sandra, was elated that everything had gone so well, “You coming home for lunch?  I can fix you something if you want.”

 

Steve explained, “Look, I have got some projections to look over this morning so I will grab a burger at a fast food for lunch; meet Sam at 2 this afternoon; and stay here until the funds come so that I can prepare a cashier’s check for him.”

 

Steve then surprised Sandra, “I should not be too late, but when I do come home, let’s go out for dinner at the Benford Cris Steak House.  We need to celebrate.  I have just bought a bank, honey!”

 

“Earth to Steve … earth to Steve – you already owned the bank; remember?  And you have for quite awhile now,” laughed Sandra.

 

Steve was elated, “Yeah, I know but now the stock will never be an issue with me.  Or anybody else in the family for that matter.”

 

Steve reminded her, “You know Junior still owns 14% of the stock.  He will have input with his stock, but only if it is according to what I want to do.”

 

“You know, I have never officially owned a bank before.  I will now,” he crowed laughingly.

 

Sandra tried to calm him down but she too was excited for him, “Well just remember what goes on at the bank – you own it – good bad or indifferent.”

 

Steve ended the call with, “Gotta’ go check out these projections and make my official recommendations.  See you at home.”  Steve was laughing at himself as he hung up the phone.

 

Sandra had mixed emotions, “She was glad that Steve and Sam had worked everything out amicably.  Steve would now officially be the controller of the stock with the bank.”  But she felt an equally emotional tie with Sam and Joan.”

 

She wondered, “What will this do to the family?  And Junior, how is he going to take this?  If something had ever happened to Steve like it did with his Mom and Dad, Junior would move into the top position.”

 

She thought, “Before, he would have had to get John and Sarah to go along with him on the stock plus his mom and dad.  But since Steve officially has 58% that could never happen.”

 

“In the event of Steve’s death, the stock would come to me.  I would have control over Junior’s stock along with John and Sarah if I wanted to.  Steve had it set up to avoid a family crisis.”

 

“Not that it would happen, but it could,” she thought.  “A thought I don’t even want to address in my mind much less in reality.”

 

Sandra quickly put the consideration of something tragic happening to Steve out of her mind.  Besides she thought, “What do I know about banking?”

 

“Junior would have to take it over for the good of the family and the bank.  I would have to go along with whatever he wanted to do,” she calculated.

 

Sandra wanted to finish her flower gardening in the backyard quickly.  By the time she removed the unwanted weeds and grass from the flower beds; she would only have time to take a shower and dress before Steve came home.

 

“And if we are too late, we will have to wait too long for a table at Benford Cris,” she considered.  People love the Benford Cris Steak House.

 

 She thought, “Wonder if I can make a reservation?  No can’t do that until I know when Steve will get home.”

 

“It might take longer than he thinks.  I will just wait until I hear from him and then give them a call.  This indeed is a great day,” she reflected.

 

After grabbing a quick burger at fast food for lunch, Steve returned to the bank.  He saw Junior at his desk and thought, “You know it would be a good idea to have Junior sit in when we finalize this deal with Sam.”

 

He called to Sherry, “Check with Junior and see if he is available at 2 for about an hour in my office.  Don’t tell him why; just see if he is available.”

 

Sherry called over to Junior on the phone and gave the instructions to him.  He looked toward Steve’s office and said “Sure, I’m free.  What’s up?”

 

Sherry replied, “Steve said he would go over everything with you at 2.  See you then.”  Sherry hung up and told Steve everything is OK; Junior would be there.

 

Steve then asked Sherry to come in the office, “Look, we are going to be signing some very important papers this afternoon and we are going to need witnesses for the signings.  I want you and Junior to be witnesses for us as we close out Sam’s account.”

 

He explained, “It might be after hours before we can get all of it in.  That OK with you?”

 

Sherry responded, “Yes sir, I can be here for as long as it takes.  I know how important this is for everybody and I think that there is going to be one little bank officer that is going to be overwhelmed when he finds out what is really happening.”

 

She introduced a new thought to Steve, “I’m sure he knows about his dad, but does he know that he is going to see a new mantle fall on his shoulders this afternoon as he becomes second in command?”

 

Steve said, “Wow, I had not even thought of that.  Yes, he will be second in command.  You are right.  He might get a little shook up at that point.”

 

Steve said, “It has always been me or Sam that he had to go through, and now it is just me.  See what I mean, Sherry, you think of things that had never crossed my mind and they are important things.”

 

Sherry laughed, “Well I better get back to my desk.  You want a cup of coffee, water, or something before I go?”

 

Steve answered, “No, I’m good.  I still have my Dr Pepper from lunch.  Thanks anyway.  Warner should be arriving any minute with the documents.”

 

Steve leaned back in his chair and put the straw for his drink in his mouth.  He got a taste of a watered down Dr Pepper from the cup.  “Might have been better to get coffee,” he thought.

 

Warner called Steve on his personal cell phone, “I have the papers ready.  If everyone is ready, I can be there by 1:30.”

 

Warner thought, “I bet Sam is going to want his check today.  The quicker we get this in process; the better chance of that happening.”

 

Steve replied as he looked and saw Junior working at his desk, “I will call Sam right now.  He is probably just hanging out at the club until I call anyway.  Let’s go for it.”

 

Before he called Sam, he called Sherry, “Tell Junior we want him for the meeting at 1:30 instead of 2:00.”

 

Sherry as she always said, “Will do.  That will give us an early start on everything.”

 

Steve turned his attention to his cell phone and dialed Sam at the club.  Sam picked up immediately when he saw it was Steve calling, “What’s up, Bro?” 

 

Steve responded, “Warner will have the documents here at 1:30.  He has something he wants to do this afternoon and his office put a rush on them and they are ready.”

 

Sam jumped with delight, “I’ll be there.  Now when we finish signing, you fax the papers to Nashville, they transfer the money and you give me a cashier’s check – right?”

 

“That’s the plan, Bro.  Warner is bringing copies for both you and me.  We will sign all the copies.  I have Sherry and Junior primed to be with us to act as witnesses and Warner is bringing his notary to sign off on the signatures,” recounted Steve.

 

“As I mentioned earlier, Raymond Gentry in Nashville said that he would be there until it is completed to take care of the fund transfer.”

 

Sam was satisfied and left the club to get his SUV to drive back to the bank.  “I might be able to get there earlier than 1:30.  I can give Melissa a heads up that I am officially leaving.”

 

“No need for her to hear it in the morning.  She has been a great secretary and I need to give her the respect of not being kept in the dark any longer.”  He arrived at the bank and went immediately to his office.

Junior watching the time decided he would get a cup of coffee before the meeting.  “Wonder what all the suspense is about,” inquiring of himself.

 

“Can’t be about me or anything I am doing as we are not that far along that anyone could even guess what is going on.  It has got to be something else.”

 

With coffee in hand, Junior entered Sherry office.  Warner was coming in the side door with someone with him.  Sherry picked up the phone and called Melissa, “Tell Sam everyone is here when he is ready.”

 

“Who all is going to be here for this meeting?” asked Junior.  He was curious about what was to be discussed.

 

“Just you, Sam, Steve, me, and Warner along with his notary,” answered Sherry.  “Here comes Sam now.  I guess I had better get everyone in and seated.”

 

Turning to Warner, “Warner, you and your notary come in and find a seat at the table.  I’m not sure I know you,” Sherry said to the notary as she invited her to sit.

 

“This is Mary.  She has been with us now for about a year and is one of our notaries,” explained Warner.

 

“It’s good to meet you, Mary,” said Sherry.  She made sure everybody was comfortable.

 

“Is there anything I can get anyone – coffee, soft drink, water?” she asked.  All replied they were good so Sherry took a seat at the table as well.

 

Everyone was seated at the table in Steve’s office.  Warner turned his attention to Steve and began showing him the contract.

 

Sam walked in, “Looks like we have the whole gang here.  Hello, Warner, good to see you.”

 

Steve spoke, “Well the man of the hour has arrived.  Yes, I have asked Sherry and Junior to join us.  We will need witnesses.  Warner has his notary – I’m sorry, I did not get your name?”

 

Sherry jumped in quickly, “Steve this is Mary, she has been with Warner for about a year.”

 

Steve held out his hand to shake her hand, “Well Mary it is good to meet you.  Thank you for coming here this afternoon.”

 

To which, Mary replied, “Thank you.  Your bank is beautiful with all the flowers.”

 

Warner took control of the meeting.  He first went over the details with Sam and Steve on the contract of sale.

 

Steve remembering that Junior was invited but not informed why; said, “Junior, your dad and I are completing the sale of his stock this afternoon.  I need for you and Sherry to act as witnesses.”

 

Junior – relieved to hear that it had nothing to do with him – was glad to be a witness.  He settled back in his chair.

 

Warner turned to Steve and scolded him, “You need to pay attention to this also.  It concerns both of you.”

 

“OK,” Steve laughed, “lay it on me.  Sam and I want it to be right.  Be sure and show Sam the non-compete clause.”

 

Steve was especially jovial as they went over the terms of the contract.  Warner covered everything.

 

At the end, Sam said, “Good by me.  Where do I sign?”

 

Steve responded, “Same with me, let’s get the signing done so I can get this to Nashville.”

 

Warner had Sam and Steve sit across from each other with him in the middle and he carefully turned the pages that were marked with yellow tabs for their signatures.

 

Warner further instructed them to initial each page they were not signing.  Sam signed his copy as Steve was signing his.  They then exchanged and continued the signing process again until it was completed.

 

Warner turned to Mary and instructed, “Mary, put your notary seal on the last page of each copy.  Then place your signature as the notary.”

 

He continued, “When Mary is finished, Junior you take your dad’s copy and initial each page and Sherry you initial each page of Steve’s copy.  On the last page, sign your full name signature on the line provided.  Exchange and do the same thing again with the other’s copies.”

 

Accomplishing that, everyone sat back and waited while Mary notarized the signatures with her seal.  Sherry and Junior initialed the copies and then signed the contracts as witnesses.

 

At the end, Warner said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.  No that is for another ceremony.”

 

The group laughed at his comment.  Steve took the lead.  He stood up to face Sam, “Brother, this culminates a long standing working relationship for which I am grateful.  Trust me, not a day went by that I was not glad you were here.”

 

Sam glancing down and a little emotional responded, “Steve, it has been good here overall for the years I have been here.  I will miss it and starting to miss it already.”

 

To avoid tears, Sam exclaimed, “Now go get me my money.”  They all broke out in laughter and the levity was lifted to a highly cordial meeting.

 

Steve had already given instructions to Sherry about faxing the documents to Raymond in Nashville, so she took Steve’s copy and went to the communications room to do just that.  It was only 2:00 PM and everything was done except the transfer of the funds.

 

Warner finishing up said, “Now I have copies of all of this in my files should you ever need a copy.  Mary, you ready, we need to get back to the office.  You gentlemen, do not need anything else do you?”

 

Both Sam and Steve spoke at the same time that they were good.  It was a done deal.

 

Warner and Mary left the office.  They went out the side door.

 

Steve turned to Sam and said, “Well, tell me, how does it feels to be free?  How many years has it been since you did not have a job?”

 

He reflected, “You came here straight from Nashville after your marriage to Joan.  You went to work the next day – right?”

 

Sam responded, “Yep, the next day.  We did not even have a honeymoon.  I think that is why Joan made me get a passport.  She is setting up cruises and trips abroad to make up for that.”

 

Junior interjected, “Well, Dad if you are happy, I am happy for you and Mom.  I know you will have fun.”

 

He asked, “If I am through here, I am supposed to meet Carl Estes from the mill at the club this afternoon.  I will see if I can find out what is going on with the inventory loans for the mill.”

 

“Don’t look at me,” said Sam.  “You take your marching orders from Steve.”

 

Steve laughed and declared, “Junior, I guess you know you are second in command here now.  I suppose you can pretty much make up your own schedule.  You do that anyway.  Go ahead and get out of here.  All we have now is the waiting for the money.”

 

Sherry came back in office as Junior was leaving.  “The faxing is done, and they have acknowledged that they have received the contract of sale.”

 

She explained, “I guess it was Raymond who received it, there was a note on the return acknowledgement to look for the money in about 30 minutes.”

 

Sherry returned to her desk where she could monitor the transfer.  She began setting up the cashier’s check for Sam.

 

Sam said, “Well I will get out of here for now and go back to my office, which is mine for the rest of the day, and continue to clear out my personal things.”

 

He said, “Let me know when the funds come in.  I told Melissa I was leaving and I think she is a little upset.  I have got to go over and try to comfort her.””

 

The common bank answer that is always given is “Will do.”  This time, however, it was given by Steve.

 

Steve sat down at his desk after Sam walked out and picked up his Dr Pepper cup.  It was all liquid now so he threw it away.

 

He got up and went out to get a fresh cup of coffee.  He noticed that most of the lobby employees were preparing to leave for the day.

 

The drive-thru tellers had to stay until 6 to accommodate any last minute needs of people.  There were always those who came in late from the businesses.

 

It was always a task getting everyone scheduled for who comes in late to cover the late drive-thru hours.  Then there was the flip flop change the next week.

 

“Sam had always handled that quite well and now I guess I will assign that to Junior.  His secretary, Carolyn, should be able to handle that for him,” Steve contemplated.

 

“The secretarial pool with Junior would be a great place for Melissa now that Sam is out.  Think I will let Junior handle that.  I might as well break him in right with Sam gone.”

 

Steve took a tour around the bank and spoke to the employees who were leaving.  He made small talk with the tellers still on duty.

 

He had to kill the time anyway until the funds came in.  “What, Sherry is waving for me to come over.  This is too quick; hope there is not a problem.  I hope everyone is not gone,” thought Steve as he turned and quickly went to Sherry’s office.

 

“What’s up?” Steve asked hurriedly.  “Something wrong?”

 

  Sherry replied with a look that left him with little concern as she was smiling, “They are quick in Nashville.  The money is here and I have the cashier’s check.  You want to take it to Sam or should I call him over here?”

 

Relieved, Steve said, “No, don’t call him, I will take it over.  You go home and thank you for helping me get this done this afternoon.”

 

Sherry nodded her head as she handed him the check, “Be careful you never know who might be lurking between here and Sam’s office.”  Laughing quietly to herself, Sherry left by the side door.

 

Steve walked over to Sam’s office.  He had several boxes on his desk where he was packing pictures and certificates he had received over the years to take home.

 

“You ready, Sam,” Steve started.  Sam thought he was talking about ready to clear out of the office when he noticed that Steve had a check in his hand.

 

Sam excitedly asked, “You mean they have already sent the funds?  Boy they are fast in Nashville.  You might take some lessons from them on moving quickly here,” laughing as he put out his hand to get the check.

 

Steve handed it to him.  Sam looked at it, “I don’t think that I have ever seen so many zeros.  Are you sure there is not too many or better yet not enough.” 

 

Steve said, “That does it.  You are officially no longer an employee of the bank.  By the way, I do have a retirement compensation package for you.  It consists of 6 months pay and the accounting department will put it in the mail to you.”

 

“Don’t spend all this money in the same place, laughed Steve, “You remember how Mom and Dad use to always tell us that?”

 

Sam laughed and said, “Steve, you did not have to do the compensation package.  This was enough.  I just figured it was built into the price of the stock,” countered Sam.

 

Steve responded, “No, Sam as I have said many times, you have been an integral part of this banking family for 30 plus years and if you had just retired normally, I would have done it.”

 

“Selling your stock did not change that.  Sandra, and I talked it over and we wanted to do it,” said Steve.

 

“That reminds, me, I have got to get home,” Steve interjected, “We are going out to dinner tonight.  If there is nothing else; on your last day, be sure you have the teller supervisor make sure all the doors are locked and that they set the alarms.”

 

Sam was glad to do that as he reached out his hand and shook hands with Steve again.  They stood there for a moment looking each other in the eye.

 

Steve nodded his head in agreement.  He turned loose of Sam’s hand and left the bank.

 

Sam left his office and went to the supervising teller to deposit his check.  As he walked, he again was brought back to the realization of what was going to happen in just a few short months.

 

Steve was so content now, yet he was going to be totally let down when everything hits the fan with Junior.  “I am glad I am not going to be a part of it.”

 

“But two things,” he thought, “One – business is business and business is never personal and second – it is Junior who will have to answer for what happens – not me.”

 

But with all that had happened with Sam in closing out his status with the bank and the stock, he could not help but feel some compassion for Steve.  But then that is for another day.

 

Business might be business but in their family business it had always been family first.  This was no different and Sam did not know how Steve was going to handle Junior.

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