Shiva's Messenger

Two Companies and Three is Torturous

Chapter 24

Two Companies and Three is Torturous

 

“Sheik Omani?” A light rap on the door accompanied the voice.
“Enter.” Ghazi swung his legs off the office sofa and sat upright.
“A brokerage house in Detroit,” a junior executive held a fax print out in an unsteady hand, “just tendered some of your long-term bonds.”
“How many?” The sheik rubbed at his eyes after his brief nap.
“Seven hundred million dollars.”
“What!” The jolt brought him fully awake. “Who tendered them?”
“We don’t know. The brokerage invoked confidentiality.”
“They must’ve listed serial numbers.” Ghazi growled: was he hiring kindergarten graduates? “Whom did we issue them to?”
“That information hasn’t been retrieved from the lost data yet.”
The Saudi sheik held his hand up flat to warn the man to shut up and let him think. Who would dump his bonds now?
“Wall would obviously want to draw down my treasury,” Ghazi stood to pace, “but when could he have acquired my financial instruments?”
“Will we cash them?” The executive asked tentatively.
“My taking a moment to reflect on that won’t affect my bond ratings.” The Arab shot back and his angry fingers itched to rip out the underling’s Adam’s apple—and eat it. “The relatively short time since Bob hired his queen wasn’t sufficient to quietly collect so many bonds.”
“Maybe a mutual fund got the jitters?” The voice was mutually jittery.
“Why would a fund manager want to remain anonymous?” The sheik suddenly had an inspiration but he wouldn’t utter it aloud. Stryker is the master at clandestine business dealings. I’ve been selling Stryker shares and he’s doubtlessly been buying them. My financing his purchases would well suit Bernard’s perverse sense of humor and doing so when it hurts the worst fits profile too. “This chessboard now seems to have a third side.”
“Pay out the bonds.” Ghazi shooed the man with a hand gesture that was reminiscent of two fingers pushing a pawn forward.
“Bernard’s political manipulations didn’t succeed and he lost leverage.” The sheik had waited for privacy to continue a lonely conversation. Ghazi was privy to more than the public was, regarding the failed assassination. “Stryker was weakened and wants to hinder me while he re-establishes.”
“I’ve already made my move to step ahead of Bernard and a few bonds won’t affect my scheme.” The Arab grinned. “In fact, an ineffectual move even adds some savory spice. When ready, I can turn to him with a smile that shows that his backstab was no more painful to me than a tick bite.”

shivasmessenger

“I see bin Omani’s share price is down.” Bob felt better this afternoon and he hadn’t taken an injection yet today. He had held off on the drug in hopes of slipping into the apartment for some hey-diddle-diddle but found some cat had fiddled with the door lock. “How many shares did we buy?”
“None.”
“Why not?”
“Because—,” Collin took a deep breath, “we’re flat out of money.”
“The treasury was a reservoir filled to the spillways.”
“The sluice has gleaned many shares in a major corporation since and the cash flood from operations has choked to a trickle. Ghazi’s exercising his warrants would pour in gold by the bucketful, but he’s far to cagy to do that until his coup de grâce stroke—when it’s too late for us to use it.”
Bob inwardly wished he hadn’t used his dam analogy because now his mind saw fish flopping and gasping on a dry lake bottom. His mental vista included an Arab walking in sandals while he gaffed the fish.
“How much are we short?”
“The sold sticker on your opulent barge might’ve been the difference.”
I should can this asshole. Bob stared rusty daggers at his impertinent subordinate. He’s even locked me away from my slave girl.
Oksana’s expressive face has taught me how to interpret slightly more subtle ones too. Collin Hersker held his gaze firm while anger and then impotent lust flashed over Bob’s face. His firing me right now might be my best possible résumé reference—to land a position with bin Omani.
“I see the apartment lock has been changed.” Bob allowed his ire pass. No matter how badly he occasionally hated the gay prick, Collin was still the best he had at doing the job—and usually the CEO’s work too.
“You gave me the key but I felt finicky about living in a place with the deadbolt only lockable from the outside.” Hersker gave inward thanks to the boss. He couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to slide that into a conversation. “I’ll have another key cut for you.”
“Don’t bother.” The CEO could call a locksmith if needs or wants be. “Do I dare ask how Ghazi did today on gobbling up my shares?”
“I don’t have the exact figures.” Collin felt like a cancer doctor being asked for a lifespan prediction. “I can only surmise from the buying and selling trends. I really thought we had a big war chest heading into this but the money Ghazi bin Omani has spent in the past days is mindboggling. He still needs to have a massive amount in reserve to pay out what he’ll owe when he converts the options.”
“That didn’t answer my question.”
“It’s ironic.” The proxy general laced his fingers on the desk. “Last week we had him in the same position that we are facing now. If the virus hadn’t struck that night, we would’ve finished him on the very next day.”
“Are you saying that tomorrow is my last?”
“I can’t predict it with that much certainty.” Hersker heaved a sigh. “Ghazi bin Omani is probably the only person in his entire organization or in the world that knows exactly how many shares he now owns. He’s not going to let that information leak out, but we’ll be the first to know when he’s hit the target. That will be when he presents his warrants.”
“I’m to simply bend over towards Mecca and pray the Arab isn’t so big that it hurts too badly when he steps up behind?” Again Bob regretted his analogy as he nearly felt his butt stretch as he spoke it. The parallel was especially unnerving as he was currently with a gay man who might even be turned on by the flippant comment.
“The sheik was doubtlessly in that position and waiting for you until a Trojan spared him.” The asshole fought back a snicker at a line that came out funnier than he intended. Condoms, like the brand names Sheik and Trojan, protect against sexually transmitted diseases during the gay anal sex that this discussion is alluding to. “His prayer to Allah was answered. Maybe you should try one too.”
“I’ll do that at sunset.” Bob’s mind added a safety precaution. But I won’t be bending at the waist with Collin in the same room.

shivasmessenger

“How many this time?” The Sheik gritted his teeth: Stryker’s fleabite was quickly turning into a wasp sting.
“One point four billion.” The executive shied back as he delivered the figure on the latest bond redemption in Michigan.
That’s double the last one! Ghazi felt a snap and a real pain in his jaw matched the hurt of the monetary hit. My extra money from Riyadh is still my warrant redemption reserve—they want it back quickly and it will be in Wall Soft’s treasury when I take over. His tongue found the broken tooth. I’ll have to sell more of my stock. He spit the dental fragment on the table. But I’ll retain my own company with shares that Wall Soft has bought.
“Are we cashing the bonds?” After a lengthy delay, the minion asked.
“Of course we’re paying them.” Sheik bin Omani’s voice and visage was as a timber wolf growling at a leg-hold trap on his bloody paw. The financial underling jerked the door handle, and ran for his very life—he collided head-on with Rajah Fakir entering: both wobbled but neither fell.
“After I’ve secured my hold on the software giant,” bin Omani dropped onto a chair and he put his feet onto the table beside his tooth, “I’m turning my attention onto the Stryker Group—and it won’t be pretty.”
“Are you certain that it’s Bernard?” Rajah took a seat facing.
“I can’t just up and ask him.”
“Two point one billion dollars!” Fakir added the bond payout amounts and spoke to wrap his mind around the staggering sum. “How many of the debt notes do you still have outstanding?”
“My computer system was supposed to keep track of that.” The sheik thought back to the start of the corporate fight. Just these two bond tenders amounted more than the lost boat and the network hack combined.
“The culprit could be Collin Hersker with the backing of every gay on the west coast.” Fakir grasped at a slender straw. “Wall Soft has at least one traitor who sabotaged that shipment with porn.”
“Zip your lips. You’re trying to make me think in circles.”
With the talk in a momentarily strained silence, bin Omani had a rare regret. I should’ve cultivated a few friendships while times were good. Now when he most needed people he could rely on, all he had was some sycophants and one occasionally gutsy sounding board.
“There’s only the one strategy left: keep trading blows until one drops.” Ghazi demonstrated continued good rapport by pouring Rajah a glass of water when he refilled his own. “This race will be a photo finish.”
“The taut end wire will decapitate the looser.” Fakir noted.
“One point two billion more.” A voice came from the door’s crack.
“Pay it.” Ghazi took the information without a grimace but it felt like a canine bite. I’m pushed to sell all my Stryker group shares and my Omani holdings down to my base minimum forty percent. “As a savaging hyena, Bernard has his slavering jaws locked into the lion’s share of my kill.”

shivasmessenger

“The sheik is dumping even more shares of Omani Holdings.” In the mausoleum quiet boardroom, Collin only needed to raise his voice a few decibels to convey the news. “His stock’s price is tumbling.”
“We don’t have cash to take advantage of that.” The opiate in Bob’s bloodstream allowed him to absorb his poverty. Dope carries an addict through times of no cash, but money doesn’t help in days with of no dope.
“Ours have leveled out on the downside and Ghazi is still buying.”
“I don’t know what to do.” Wall kicked off the solid table leg and his chair scooted backwards across the room like a kid at rambunctious play: it was the only fun he had enjoyed all day.
“I’ll give you the options as I see them.” Hersker lowered his voice as the boss zoomed closer.
“Shoot.” The CEO’s feet pushed his seat into a clockwise spin.
“First, you could start selling your personal shares and use the cash to buy his.” Collin found the antics slightly annoying but it wasn’t worth mentioning. “The downside is you’ll force our stock lower and send his up. He makes more and buys us out quicker—if we can’t get him first.”
“I don’t like that one.” Bob abruptly stopped his turning.
“Second, we start dumping bin Omani shares—to push his even lower. He needs the money so we’ve found the depths of his pockets. If we cut what he gets for his shares then maybe he won’t have enough to finish us.”
“I’m not sure if I care too much for that one either.”
“Third, you do both. It puts cash into our brokerage accounts. With our shares as low as they are, his will drop by the bigger percentage. If we can survive out the day then we can switch tactics sometime tomorrow.”
“Is there any chance we can still win?” The childishly behaving CEO kicked dug his heels into the carpeting. He curled his legs to drag his chair toy closer to his only playmate. “Which alternative would you choose?”
“I would pick number three. As to your question on the possibility for success—I can’t give odds but it is still possible. He must have something happening that we’re not aware of. Ghazi’s selling his shares now doesn’t make sense on it’s own. He’s had better opportunities to unload them.”
“Are those the only three?”
“Option four is to try to beg and borrow but I don’t envision any profit flowing from operations until we can solve the virus problem.”
“Make it number three then.”
“Someone else is the game.” Somewhat later, Collin stroked a whisker stubble jaw. “Omani shares have dropped but with Ghazi and I flooding the market—they should be going much lower.”
“Is it the day-traders?” Wall asked.
“Not likely.” Hersker speculated. “They got burned several times and are aware that both giants are nearly out of cash. Those piranha won’t feed again until they know which one will be the corpse.”
“Have we any idea who it might be or why?”
“No and it is odd.” The takeover tactician brought up a market display and his finger pointed at a column of transactions. “The buys are mostly from one Detroit brokerage so it’s likely all one buyer. Someone seems to be trying to take over Omani Holdings but it’s not even remotely feasible.”
“Both Ghazi and I are weakened,” Bob had long since given up trying to appear astute in front of his champion: he asked questions even if they made him seem dumb, “why couldn’t another big player take advantage?”
“In this case a rogue white knight is numerically impossible. We have over forty-five percent of Omani Holding’s shares. Ghazi will doubtlessly have at least forty percent or thirty at the very minimum. Together, that accounts for seventy-five or even eighty-five percent. At the theoretical maximum, the third player can only obtain a quarter.”
“Is it possible we have a friend?”
“If they had our interests at heart they would’ve contacted us already.” Collin turned away and rested a scratchy chin in his cupped left palm. “No—this development is just nothing but bizarre.”
“~You’ll shave first before getting into bed with me.” Oksana put her flat hand against Hersker’s chest to stave off a whisker burn kiss.
“Too much of this has been wacky.” Collin spoke to a lathered mirror image. His mind, as Ghazi’s in New York had earlier, drifted to the start. “Like fighting cocks, Bob and Sheik bin Omani were goaded into a battle to the death. Suddenly a new combatant struts in where a tertiary victory is seemingly not possible. Did this mystery buyer engineer this scenario?”

shivasmessenger

“Argh matey!” Software Pirate Bob speed-wheeled his chair in a path that was nearly worn through the expensive loop carpeting. “I should fire the whole scurvy lot. I’m paying out too many bucks-an-ear.”
“That’ll help the payroll treasure chest.” Wall had joked but Collin was serious. “Personnel here are comparable to perforations on toilet paper: there are four times as many as are ever needed or used.”
“What’s the view—?” An overstressed caster in the geek’s chair broke and the sharp metal snagged. Bob’s forward inertia would’ve thrown him to the floor but Collin’s quick reflexes intervened.
“Our uninvited third honeymooner is still snapping up most of Omani’s dumped units.” Proxy General Hersker steadied Bob’s shoulders, while he got his feet back under himself. “Another stock is seeing an extraordinary sell off. Have you heard of the Stryker Group?”
“Bernard is old money from out east,” if Bob wasn’t being held upright he might’ve toppled over on mention of the name: Stryker was the model Bob had in mind when he hired Collin to help him build a power empire, “and very well established in the influence game.”
“Is it possible,” the young executive surmised, “that Stryker is selling his own shares to raise capital for buying bin Omani?”
“The head of Stryker Group is ultra-shrewd,” Wall chucked his broken chair aside and grabbed another, “so if it’s impossible for a third party, he wouldn’t buy. Unless he already owned a piece of Ghazi’s corporation.”
“I had the current list of shareholders and Stryker wasn’t on it.”
“From what I know of Bernard, any name could’ve been his by proxy. If he is my white knight, I should make contact.”
“If he is white, the color is only so from Ghazi’s viewpoint.”
“Can we buy him over?”
“With shiny buttons?” Collin felt this was as a useful to the situation as a merry-go-round is as a means of transportation. “Our purchases are more expensive—because this white knight is buying. Conversely, Ghazi gets more money from his sales—that he uses to purchase extra units of ours.”
“Maybe we could talk him into forming a coalition?”
“Or perhaps you could start using your junk with an intravenous bottle instead of turning your elbow into a pin-cushion.” Hersker had seen the arm when he caught Bob. “You are George Custer at the Little Big Horn and the hoofs you hear coming over the hill are not the friendly cavalry.”

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“May he live in interesting times.” Stryker said the Chinese curse in the misquoted words Robert Kennedy used. Two years after that speech, my uncle had Sirhan Sirhan end the eventful span of Bobby’s life too.
“I’ve finally regained the controlling interest in my corporation.” Back from the sold boat, the venerated head of the Stryker Group swiveled from his desk. “That’s one big bonus to offset my recent annoyances.”
“I trust I’m not one of those?” An exceedingly attractive blonde female only heard the words annoyances and recent: a television had commanded her full attention before that.
“You’re in my recent acquisitions classification. Annoyances aren’t on the inventory for long enough to merit a file class.”
“Share these recent annoyances with me.” She skipped over and sat on his knee: Amy really didn’t care about them but she liked the word share.
“If I tell you,” he wrapped his arms around her slender waist and spun in the chair, “then I’d have to kill you afterwards.” That trite quip hasn’t ever been so truthfully spoken. Stryker had lent his support by omission to the failed assassination attempt. During the botched killing, he lost his link to the president and Larry Weeds hadn’t sought to reestablish the contact.
“You wouldn’t hurt one hair on my head.” She placed a tress of blond curls under his nose like a mustache and then giggled.
“Should I shave this beard off?” The spun chair had stopped where he could observe his mirrored reflection in an antique hutch. He stroked the trimmed facial hair that was salt with only a few scattered grains of pepper.
“I suppose it depends on why you grew it.”
“I initially wanted it as a subtle way of eliciting kinship with my Arab contemporary but my situation with the Sheik has become complicated.”
“I’ll make you forget all about him.” The young woman put a hand to his flat belly and her fingers wormed between two shirt buttons.
“Ghazi chafed at being my understudy.” Bernard held his gaze on the combed beard and turned to admire his profile. “I’ll keep the beard.”
“I was an understudy.” Amy recalled a show business goal that soured as cream in the midday sun. “My mind played with a gazillion ways that I could sabotage the headliner and earn my big break.”
“My apprentice entertains the same aspirations,” Stryker tightened his abdominal muscles in response to Amy’s nails on his skin, “but his master wasn’t foolish enough to pass on all the trade skills.”
“I’d be good in movies,” the fire of dreams is hard to douse and Amy still hadn’t given up, “and then you would have a big star on your arm.”
“The proxy fight has been more entertaining than movies: especially with my unique position in a sideline director’s seat.”
“You can direct my movies,” the girl purred, “and produce them too.”
“Would you do a porn movie about a Russian slave and a man whose boss thinks he is gay, when he definitely isn’t?”
“It would need to be soft-core with only tasteful nudity or it might be tough for me to get serious parts later on—but sure. Do I play the slave?”
“Yes,” to the slave question, “and tonight is the first rehearsal.”
“You mean that? I’ll make you so very proud,” the aspiring starlet’s hand angled sharply downwards, “and so very, very, very happy.”

shivasmessenger

“Well boss?” Collin added extra emphasis, as this might be one of the final times he could call Bob by that title. Hersker’s smile was warm but the room’s temperature seemed to have dropped a few degrees when the despondent man entered. According to recent theories of quantum physics, thoughts people project creates reality. If true, Wall is broadcasting for his own demise—on all the cable’s channels.
“What’s doing on the markets?” The seemingly doomed CEO plunked listlessly down in a chair. In his mind, the geek imagined his current life as standing on a scaffold with a black bag over his head and a noose on his neck. He was simply waiting for the trapdoor to spring and this question’s answer might be the fatal toggle.
“I started selling bin Omani shares but Ghazi was dumping so fast that the price tanked.” Collin interjected some cheery news. “It’s been a bit like playing arbitrage.”
“Give that to me in English please.”
“Arbitrage is buying on one market to immediately sell on another and profiting on tiny price variances.” Collin explained. “With our problem being a lack of cash, I’ve had to get creative and frugal. Sometimes I sell to help push prices down but as it reaches a low, I buy again.”
Bob looked quizzical but that was better than his gloom.
“Think of the process in terms of short selling.” Hersker tried again. “I sell higher and replace the shares lower. The money made can be used to buy more shares. Even without extra cash, I may hit our target.”
“But since Ghazi is likely the only person buying my stock,” Bob’s view was glass-half-empty, “he and I are essentially trading shares.”
“Under all the maneuvering, it does renders down to that—but he’s in a cash pinch like we are. You know the story of the hare and the tortoise?”
“I know which one we are.”
“You and Ghazi both started off as running like rabbits but it’s been a long marathon and you’ve both turned into turtles.”
“One will crawl over the finish first.”
“We’re only three laps from the checkered flag.”
“Percent? I’ll cross three fingers.” Bob childishly started playing with his digits to achieve the desired configuration.
“In some cultures, crossing fingers is bad luck.” Collin glanced from the CEO’s hand to the clocks on his office wall. “It’s three PM in New York.” The phone on his desk rang and both men looked at it.
“Let it ring three times.” Wall ordered.
“Hello.” Collin Hersker listened to the voice on the other end. He cradled the handset without uttering even a closing salutation. “Ghazi bin Omani has issued a request to satisfy his warrants.”
“It’s—.” The ex-CEO couldn’t bring himself to say the word—over.

shivasmessenger

“I haven’t slept that well,” Sheik Ghazi bin Omani woke at ten and his luxurious stretch disturbed the slumbers of his three favorite wives, “since before the proxy fight began.”
“I dreamed of caravans of wealth streaming to my opulent tent,” the Arab expansively grinned at his bathroom mirror as he leisurely performed morning ablutions, “but I’ve awakened to a reality that outstrips even my most lavish night visions.”
“I can send my jihad men back to Bangkok.” He took his place in the back of his stretched limo and folded his hands behind his head.
“There’s no rush.” Ghazi shouted to the driver in a friendly voice. The chauffeur had been jerkily trying to make time in the traffic.
“I’ll invite most existing management of bin Omani Software to stay on.” His thoughts drifted to the work of restructuring his vast corporations into profitability again and he laughed. “Before I found what it was like to be nearly friendless in crisis, I would’ve terminated every one of them and wished it was by the fatal definition.”
“I’ll need to expand these offices to accommodate an amalgamation of the administration.” The sheik looked about at the relatively tiny corporate area. He entered a boardroom that was converted into his command center.
My troops have turned white with anticipation of the expanded duties ahead. I would expect to see some jovial faces considering the success we had yesterday. This place is like a morgue!
“What’s happened?” Ghazi grabbed Rajah Fakir by his shirt’s front.
“A Detroit brokerage firm just registered forty percent of your stock. It wasn’t the shares Wall Soft bought—physical certificates were presented. We’re certain that they used to belong to—.” The pale man dipped into his well of courage but the rope was too short to bring up a bucket of bravado.
“My shares.” I walked all over those papers when robbing myself of the gold and diamonds. Sheik Ghazi bin Omani blanched to a whiter shade than his laundered thobe, as his mind tumbled to the only possibility. They were destroyed in the tower collapse and reprinting wasn’t a top priority.
My base forty percent in bin Omani is gone. The realization stabbed into Ghazi’s vitals like the jeweled twisted dagger he kept in his belt. The sheik released his clench on the executive and he staggered back a pace. The third party buying will have at least the other needed eleven percent. He bought me out with my own money by cashing in non-issued bonds that were stored in my destroyed safe. I’ve financed my own destruction!
“I’m not done.” As a dervish, he whirled on a heel. The sheik blew as a sandstorm from the headquarters—that was now owned by someone else.
“This Saudi grandmaster does NOT sedately tip over his king.”
The kinder and gentler Sheik Ghazi bin Omani was utterly gone.

 

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