Thursday, January 10, 2013
A Restless Night
Chapter Forty Six
A Restless Night
“Did you get any sleep at all, Holly?” Tracy said the morning after Scott Douglas made them an offer on The Merryweather authorized by his boss, Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce was well known in the hotel industry. He sought out successful hotels in prime locations, bought out the owners, tore down the existing structures and built high rises on the property. The fact that he was interested in building in Camden Corners was a surprise to Tracy and Holly. Mr. Pierce didn't normally waste his time and money on small town locations.
“I slept, but I had dreams all night about our lives here at the hotel and so many of the people we have met here. The dreams weren't unpleasant, just thought-provoking.”
“I did the same thing. Aggie and Hap were in my dreams and so many of the people who are no longer here. It was a strange night. I know it was because of Arthur Pierce's offer that I had such a restless night.”
“You sure the ice cream and cookies didn't have anything to do with it?” laughed Tracy.
“How did you know I indulged my sweet tooth?”
“Because I know you, whenever you are worried about something, you eat. I, on the other hand, drink. Jack's martinis were extra tasty last night.”
“Did you come to any conclusions?” said Holly.
“No, did you?
Holly shook her head. “It's something we need to talk about. I think we should weigh the pros and cons together. I'd also like to bring the staff in on our decision, especially the management people. I'm sure the housekeepers and desk clerks will be eligible for hire if a highrise takes the place of our hotel. I'm also sure they would hire within the company for most other positions.”
“We will try to keep it quiet for a day or two. No sense upsetting the staff if we decide to turn Scott Douglas down flat,” said Tracy.
“My first inclination is to do just that,” said Holly. “I love The Merryweather, it isn't only the building that would be destroyed, but the family feeling we have built here with all the staff and even the guests.”
“We always dreamed Jenna and Katie would take over for us eventually. They have done such a wonderful job with the ski resort,” replied Tracy. “I wonder if it is more than they want to take on now. We should let them in on this decision too.”
“I know we should be thinking about retirement, but I don't feel old. What would we do all day if we didn't have this place and the people in it to worry about.”
“It's not only The Merryweather I am concerned with,” said Holly, “Steve is worried the Chronicle might be in trouble. Print newspapers are being phased out and replaced with on line editions. Steve is losing advertisers regularly and subscriptions are falling as well. He mentioned last night that maybe we should just retire to the Florida Keys. I know he didn't mean it, but I know it will break his heart if the paper folds.”
“Oh! How could I have forgotten the good news? Kelli and Jeff are expecting. She took a home pregnancy test and it came out positive.”
“You mentioned yesterday that you suspected she might be pregnant. That is wonderful news. Another baby in the family.”
“How is Jenna feeling? Is her morning sickness any better?” Asked Holly. “I remember how bad it was when she was expecting Maddie.”
“I think it's subsiding a little,” said Tracy. “She told me yesterday that nothing could spoil her joy at having another baby. When I think back to how she fought her feelings for Danny and now they are expecting their second child. That is another reason our daughters shouldn't be overburdened with taking on this place. They both have young children and responsibilities at home too. Maybe the smartest thing to do is just let Arthur Pierce have the place.”
“You don't really mean that do you, Tracy?”
“No, I don't. The truth of the matter is I picture myself sitting at this desk when I'm 80, talking to you every morning and meeting new people. It isn't only the two of us, though. We have to think of what is good for everyone. Having an Arthur Pierce hotel on the lake would benefit our town's treasury.”
“I feel the same way,” said Holly. “We would also have enough money to do whatever we wanted, we could travel to Europe like we always talk about. Go on an African safari, like Steve and Jack would like to do. We would have enough money to send everyone one of our grandchildren to the college of their choice. Even so, I can't imagine not having the Merryweather to come to every morning. I wonder what old Millie Merryweather would think about having her home demolished?”
There was a knock on the door. “Ladies, I don't want to disturb you,” said Donna Hammond. “I think the ghosts are haunting The Merryweather again. They must know about the offer you received on this place. Eddie told me the gallery pictures were all askew this morning when he walked into the lobby. He questioned everyone who worked the night shift and none of them saw anyone moving them. Also, we are down to only three copies of the Camden Corners' Journals. Those books had fallen off the shelf and were open to entries all having to do with folks who stayed here in the early 1900s. The gift shop is locked up at night. Cecilia Carter is the only person on the night shift who has a key to the shop. She would never do such a thing.”
“I agree, Donna. Cecilia is completely trustworthy,” said Tracy. “Strange things happen often with those photographs. Wouldn't you agree, Holly?”
“Definitely,” she said thinking of the time Millie Merryweather appeared before her as she was about to make her debut as an actress. Holly had a severe case of stage fright until Millie talked her through her jitters.
“That reminds me. I have a note from Hank Towers, he wanted to speak with one of you about the order for the journal books.”
“We'll call him, Donna. Thank you. I guess I'd better do that now if there are only three left. We ordered twenty more, if I recall. They do sell quickly,” said Tracy. “By the way, Donna, would you set up a meeting with the managers for tomorrow afternoon, please?”
“I'll send out a memo right away. It's about the offer, isn't it? I have done nothing but think about that since I overheard you yesterday. I didn't even mention it to Eddie although he would never breathe a word to anyone. I know it isn't my decision to make, but if it were, I would vote against it. I can't imagine Camden Corners without The Merryweather in it. I don't care how much money they offer.”
“We are in agreement, Donna, but we can't let sentimental feelings interfere. We will try to base our decision on what is best for the future of the town and its residents.”
Tracy made the call to Hank Towers. “Hi Hank, this is Tracy. Holly is here with me, we had a message you called.”
“Good morning, ladies, I hope your day is going better than mine. I don't understand how it happened but when we attempted to run your twenty copies of Camden Corners' Journals, we ended up with two hundred copies. Your order plainly stated twenty and from what I can tell, twenty is what the operator inputted. Since we have them, I thought I'd send them over. We can't do anything with them here and thought you might like to give them away to your guests. I didn't want you to be surprised when two hundred books were delivered.”
“Hank, we don't want you to eat the cost. Let's see what happens after the first twenty are sold. The guests seem to enjoy purchasing them at the end of their stay. We may be able to sell a few of the two hundred anyway. Just send us an invoice for them and we will take care of the added cost. You have always done a good job for us. At least we won't have to order them for quite some time.”
“Thanks, that is more than generous of you. I'll give you a discount on them. That way neither one of us will be out too much money.”
“I wonder how much call there will be for the books once there is a thirty story building standing here?” Holly said with sadness.
Meanwhile in a New York City High Rise. “Scott Douglas here.”
“Douglas, why aren't you in that hick town finalizing the deal with those women?” It was the unmistakeably gruff voice of Arthur Pierce.
“Mr. Pierce, I'm working on it. They didn't take the bait with my offer. I thought I'd let them mull it over for a couple of days,” Scott tried to keep his voice from rising an octave or two. Arthur Pierce frightened him to death, although he would never admit that to anyone.
“Douglas, get back there and talk them into it. If I have to go there myself, I will. If you value your job, you will be on the next flight out of New York.”
Scott Douglas leaned back in his chair wondering how he ever got into this pickle. He had been a small town kid raised in a small town much like Camden Corners. He was on the high school football team. He dated the head cheerleader. The team won the state championships the two years Scott was their quarterback. He was spotted by a scout and offered a full scholarship to an Ivy league school. His friends tried to discourage him from going to the prestigious school telling him he would never fit in. The truth was, he never did fit in. He studied hard and graduated with honors. He played football, but his team never could compete with the most of the teams the school played. He had given up on his dream of being a professional football player before the end of his freshman year.
He concentrated, instead on any profession that would make him rich. He had friends in school, but they were mostly there on scholarships too. Scott didn't want to be on the outside looking in for the rest of his life.
When he graduated, he applied for a position at Pierce Enterprises and was accepted. He was working his way up the ranks when he met Ashley Banks. She was working for a temporary employment service and had been assigned to his department.
She was waiting for the elevator when he saw her for the first time. She smiled at him as he walked up next to her.
“Hello, Mr. Douglas,” she said.
“Do I know you?” he asked. “I'm sure I would remember you if we met before.”
“No, you don't know me, I'm filling in for Janice while she is on maternity leave. You were in a meeting when I was being introduced around the department. I saw you go into your office a short while ago. I'm Ashley Banks.”
“It's nice to meet you, Ashley. You must be on your lunch break. Do you know the area? There are some good restaurants here.”
“I thought I'd just get a hot dog from the cart. It's such a beautiful day and I love to walk in the park whenever I get the chance.”
“You may not believe this, but that was just what I was going to do.” It wasn't exactly true, but Scott thought he might like to get to know Ashley better.
They walked in the park. Ashley told him she signed on for the temporary job because she had come to visit her cousin for the summer and found living in New York was more expensive than she had planned. She was astonished at how much it cost to do almost anything. She figured if she worked through the week, she would be able to save up enough to see a show on the weekends before it was time for her to go back home.
“How long will you be staying in the city?” asked Scott, hoping he would have enough time to change her mind.
“I'll be here until Janice comes back from maternity leave. The plan is three months from now.”
Scott worked long hours and most weekend mornings. Arthur Pierce expected total devotion of his employees. Rich Landers, Scott's colleague, told him Arthur Pierce had his eye on him. Rich thought Scott had a good chance of climbing to the top of that ladder.
“It's too late for me,” said Rich. “I have a wife and three children. I made the mistake of telling Arthur I couldn't work on the weekends after my oldest was born. He didn't agree with my priorities and let it be known I had progressed as far as I was going to with the company.”
“Why do you stay here? You shouldn't have any trouble finding another job, this is New York, after all.”
“I don't believe there is an employer out there that doesn't know Arthur Pierce. If I so much as inquired about another job, he would hear about it and it would be the ultimate betrayal. With a family to support, I can't take the chance.”
Scott enjoyed being with Ashley. The women he met since he graduated were either competitive business women or wealthy heiresses looking for someone to amuse them. Ashley reminded him of home. She was beautiful, but down to earth. She loved walking through Central Park eating a lunch she had gotten off a cart. Whenever he could break away, Scott joined her. On weekends they would meet at the museum or stroll down Fifth Avenue and window shop. They also saw some Broadway shows.
The three months past by quickly. Janice was due back to work the following week. “I will be leaving on Friday, Scott. I will miss you, but it's time for me to go home.”
“Ashley, don't go. I love you. I don't have much to give you now, but I hope to advance in the company and be able to give you everything money can buy. Will you marry me?”
“I don't want to go, Scott. I love you too and yes, I will marry you. I don't require much, I like to live simply. Having a lot of money isn't important to me.”
Ashley and Scott were married in city hall. Rich Landers and his wife, Shelly, were their witnesses. Ashley moved into Scott's one bedroom apartment in a brownstone. Ashley worked part time at the movie theater around the corner. Scott was promoted not once, but twice. He was finally beginning to see the top rung of that ladder.
“We'll move out of this dump. I have my eye on an apartment in one of the exclusive buildings near the office. It may take six months or so to save enough money for the down payment, but I think we will be able to swing it.”
“Scott, I love our apartment. I know all the neighbors and I enjoy working at the movie theater. I can see any movie I want on the nights you are working late. I don't want to leave here.” Ashley didn't want to tell him she would be lonely without her friends in the building. Scott left for work at seven in the morning and rarely got back home before eight. He worked most weekends, at least in the morning. She knew he was doing it for her but she didn't care about life in a high rise or fancy clothes and jewelry. She wanted her husband home with her. They didn't walk in the park anymore. Scott was always too tired when he got home from work.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Pierce's assistant called Scott.
“Mr. Pierce would like to see you in his office immediately,” said his assistant in a no nonsense voice. Scott wondered if the woman ever laughed.
He was never sure what to expect when he was summoned to the boss' office.
“You may go in, Mr. Douglas,” said the receptionist.
“Douglas,” Mr. Pierce said in his usual gruff manner. “I want you to go to a place called Camden Corners. There is a resort hotel on the lake. It's an old mansion that two young women saved from demolition close to forty years ago. Offer them an amount they can't refuse. I want that property and I want to start building as soon as the deal closes. Arrangements have been made for you to fly to Greensboro first thing in the morning. From there you will rent a car for your trip to Camden Corners.”
“I won't let you down, sir,” said Scott.
“You'd better not.”
Scott got up from his chair. He knew he had been dismissed.
When he got home that evening, he told Ashley he would be leaving town but expected to be returning that same day. Ashley had a sense of foreboding. She brushed it off and poured them each a glass of wine as they sat down to dinner.
Scott thought his trip would be a piece of cake. He would walk in, offer them a small fortune and walk away with a signed contract to buy the property. It didn't work out that way. The owners seemed astonished anyone would be interested in buying their place and weren't receptive to the idea of selling.
They seemed like nice enough ladies, but Scott was all business. Maybe I shouldn't have been so forceful, he thought to himself on the way back to New York. I'll give them a call in a couple of days after they have had a chance to think about the offer. They'll come around, I'm sure. Everyone is out for money and those two sweet ladies won't be an exception.
Scott hung up the phone after Arthur Piece ended the phone call abruptly. Tomorrow was his and Ashley's one year wedding anniversary. Ashley had been planning a special evening for them for weeks. How was he going to tell her he was leaving town and would probably be staying in Camden Corners for a few days.
He called his home. “Ashley, I have some good news and some bad news.”
“Oh, Scott, don't tell me you have to work tomorrow night.”
“Yes and no, I have to go to a place called Camden Corners as soon as I can catch a plane out of here. I thought maybe you could go with me. They have a nice hotel in town. I think you would like it there. They have a large pool and it's on the lake. You would be able to sit by the water and read while I'm busy with my meeting.”
“That sounds like fun. We can always postpone our anniversary celebration until the weekend. I'll hurry and pack a bag for us. I'll call a cab and meet you at the airport.”
“Thanks for being so understanding Ash.”
The couple arrived at the resort. Scott called ahead for a reservation and was happy they had a suite available. While he was checking them in, Ashley strolled to the gift shop. As she was walking by the books, one dropped to her feet.
“I'm sorry,” said the clerk. “I don't know why those books keep falling. There seems to be enough room on the shelf, but they won't stay put.”
“That's alright, my husband will be tied up in business meetings and I left the book I was reading at home. This looks interesting, I'll just buy it and it won't fall off the shelf anymore,” she laughed.
“Are you ready, sweetheart?” said Scott. “We are in the Burke suite on the second floor.”
“Scott, I love this place. I can hardly wait to explore it. Do you have to take care of business right away?”
“I have a few minutes, the desk clerk said to be sure we looked through the gallery. Shall we do that before we go to the suite?”
The couple walked through the gallery looking at the photos. “Look, here are Randy and Polly Burke and a little girl. Her name is Faith. Here is their story just below the photo. I'll come back and read that later. This one says Millicent Merryweather Stout Harvey. This place was built by her father. Is it my imagination, Scott or is she scowling at you?”
“You are right. I just got a chill up my spine. Let's go to our room. That picture is getting to me.”
“Mr. Douglas, you are back,” Tracy said as she walked by the gallery. “Is this your business partner?” she asked pleasantly.
“Hello, Mrs. Robinson, this is my wife, Ashley. Ashley, Mrs. Robinson is one of the owners of The Merryweather.”
“Hello Ashley, please call me Tracy. We are so happy to have you visit us. Are you staying at the hotel?” she asked.
“Yes, we are. I didn't realize Scott had been here before,” she said looking quizzically at her husband. “The hotel is so beautiful. I am anxious to see every part of it. I can tell you have put a lot of thought into the decor. The gallery here seems to come alive.”
“Sometimes our minds play tricks on us. We are never sure if they are trying to tell us something or we just imagine they are. I see you have the book of journals. I hope you find it interesting. There is a lot of history on those pages. As you can see, we have the original journals in the glass display shelves here. Through the years, our staff transcribed every one of the journals for the book.”
“Mr. Douglas, are you here for business or pleasure?”
“A little of both, Tracy. I wish you would call me Scott. If you and Holly have some time this afternoon, I would like to meet with you.”
“Whenever you are ready. I can tell you we have not made any decisions yet. If you would like to come to my office after you settle in, I'll tell Donna to expect you.
“Ashley, I do hope you enjoy the book. If you have any questions, most of the staff knows everything there is to know about Camden Corners in the early 1900s.”
After Tracy left, Ashley turned to Scott. “Why didn't you tell me you had been here before? Scott, I don't know what is going on here, but I don't like you being so secretive. Tracy was very polite, but I sensed she wasn't terribly happy to see you.”
“It's business, Ashley. I'm sure it isn't personal. Let's go see what our suite looks like. I'll take care of business and then we can have a nice quiet dinner. There is a restaurant called Hemingway's that looks very nice.”
“I'm not sure I trust Douglas to talk those ladies into giving up their hotel. I think I'd better move things along,” Arthur Pierce said to his assistant. “Get someone from the Associated Press on the line. I have some news for them.”
Donna Hammond was walking through the lobby, she glanced at the television there and the cable news station was announcing Pierce Enterprises is buying out a resort called The Merryweather in the small town of Camden Corners, New York. Donna's mouth flew open. Before she knew it, ten people were standing behind her watching the television.
“What's going on out here?” Holly said as she walked by.
“They are announcing The Merryweather is being sold to Pierce Enterprises.”
The phones started ringing. Cars were pulling up to the front door. People in the coffee shop were leaving their lunches to see what was going on in the lobby.
Scott Douglas walked down the stairs and into the crowd. He couldn't help but notice both Holly and Donna were glaring at him.
“Mr. Douglas, please follow us to Tracy's office, we need to talk.”