Chapter 1

Rob Martin was a solitary man, he really could not remember ever being close to anyone. Sure, there were a few girls he thought the world of, most, though, never even knew that he existed. The few that he had met always found him shy, backward and a bit of a 'nerd'.

Yep, he thought, it was a fitting description of his life. His life, that is, until this past month.

He had been working on one of his pet projects: a molecular space binder and gene splicer formula. The drug company had wanted to buy it even before it was tested. They knew that with it, many of their drugs and toxins would have gone generic, or no longer needed to be licensed. It could cost them billions to have competing products out there.

The deal his lawyer got was for 50 years, and after fees, taxes and paying expenses, he would receive $23 million a year. That did not include the actual patents and the $50 million up-front. The years of solitude had seemed to pay off now. Or had it?

He was still living in the same house on Elm St., it was 50 years old and needed a lot of work. The area had changed, the economy had changed, and very few, if any, new businesses were coming to town. He very quickly evaluated things and made a decision. Instead of packing up, leaving 'Dodge' and starting the life of a rich playboy, Rob decided to make his town over anew.

The drug company wanted him on their good side, so when he asked them for a favour they were happy to do it. They opened a Sales Office, Warehouse and Distribution Center just at the edge of town on some vacant land. The press, media and politicos were going wild when it was announced that 50 new jobs would be created in the first year, then 25-30 more for another 3 years as things would grow.

This doesn't sound like much, but to a dying town it gave new meaning to Tarry Town. Several training programs were announced by the local Junior College, and interviews were to be held for some 10 senior level jobs, with training to be provided by the company. All this to coincide with the new construction project.

All this was done under the guise of an investment made by the drug company. The center was going to be built anyway somewhere, Rob just requested they build it in his home town. It was the first step, albeit a small one, in the hoped for rebirth of his town.

There were a lot of things that could be done. The homeless, military vets, and any sick or disabled got first chances to apply for 8 of the jobs or temporary aid. The State, County, and even the Federal Government were asked to provide help. What the main reason for this, was that everyone seemed willing to help what private industry had started. When the ball was already rolling, it was easier to get on the bandwagon than to start something new.

Rob also created a foundation. It was meant to keep him busy now, and to try to do things that all the normal organizations never seemed to be able to do. He had some basic ideas where to start. He called his lawyer and accountant and asked their opinion. He was surprised at the responses he got from them. They each said that it was a good idea. Both had made quite a lot of money on helping Rob, now each wanted to contribute into the foundation. The drug company did as well. After it was formed, he had $7,500,000 to use each year for the next 10 years, a tidy sum for a town of less than 6,500 people.

The first newspaper ad for the new organization was made. A small staff was working to sort and process the requests for help into several categories. Dying, abused and battered, homeless and destitute. The staff was made up of 2 hired workers, 1 full time and 1 part time, and 4 volunteers. A review committee was made up of a teacher, nurse, religious leaders and the 3 founders, and they approved expenditures before any funds were distributed.

Rob left the small leased office feeling satisfied on how the day had gone. There were 23 requests that day, and each category had something in it. As he was walking on the street he felt a gentle tug on his coat.

"Mr., am I too late? Are they really giving out money to help people?"

The girl must have been 9 or 10 years old. Her clothes were clean but thin and well worn. It was clear from her appearance that she truly was sincere about the request for help.

"I think the office is closed by now, sweetheart. Why don't you come back tomorrow?"

"I have school, and by the time I walk here,... !" She began to cry and turned away.

"Listen, I know some of the people that work inside. Would you tell me what they need to know, and I will see them and explain it to them for you."

Her face seemed to brighten up.

"I was just about to get dinner, do you think you could join me and tell me some of those things?"

He pointed to the diner down the block.

"OK." said the little elf.

It was not a fancy meal. He had very little desire to show his wealth, nor was he so inclined. The choice of a public place was good for both her cautiousness and his reputation.

"We have to hurry, though! I need to be gone before 6pm." she said.

They found a booth, got a menu, and he ended up making some choices for both of them. This girl was not going to let her one opportunity slip away. She began talking, and astonished him with her initial opening statement.

"I read how that new organization works in the school library. We have a 'putter' and a 'Entreweb' thing where they have newspaper stories. I read what I could! They do not seem to want to have people like me or my Mom make a request, we don't fall into the areas they say, but I just know that if I could get them to listen we could work something out!"

"Sweetie, if you think they can, then let's go for it! Tell me what you need and why!"

For the next 30 minutes she made her pitch. It was a presentation that would make a Harvard MBA proud. She never repeated, never faltered, nor stated anything that she did not give a reason for or would not be able to have verified.

In short, here is what she said: "My father left us last year. I was hard on my Mom, but she had me and my little brother to take care of. She got us a room, took a job in a diner, and we started our life over. Things were working out. I get home in time to watch my brother when Molly, that's my Mom, goes to work. She closes up and is awake in time to make our breakfast and then watch Joey, my brother."

"Everything was working out till Joey got sick. The doctors, medicines and time off my Mom had to take took its toll. She lost her regular job and we still had bills. She got another job, but needs to take 2 buses and she still has to walk several miles for the part-time job. We just can't make it. Here is what I would like. If Mom had a better job, one with medical even, it would make all the difference. If not, I would do things around the office and they could pay my Mom. I read up that I am too young to do real work. Or, and this is a big deal or, if they could pay our bills now, then when I grow up I would work for them free until I paid the money back. What do you think?"

Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I had just heard something that even the foundation had not considered, people who just needed some help. They weren't homeless, destitute or abused, but they needed help. She was not even asking for charity, she wanted to pay it back.

"Well" I said. "I think you have a clear and concise plan with several options and alternatives. How much money do you think you will need?"

I never for the life of me expected to be stared down by a nine year old girl.

"If they go for option one, my Mom makes $137.50 clear each week but we don't have any medical. If she had a full time job that allowed her to take home say $155 or $160 per week and medical, we could make it and start paying our bills!"

I was just about to say that could be arranged when I heard a shriek..."Jody!!! What are you doing here? Who is that man?"

"My Mom," she said. "Hi Mom! This is Mr ... Ahhh, I don't know his name!"

"My name is Rob. Before you shoot me, go get Bill, and you and he come over. We need to talk."

Bill was the owner and an old friend, one of my few ones. I sat them down at the booth, all the time watching the daggers coming from Jody's mom.

"Jody and I were just reviewing her business plan. It has a lot of merit and just needed a man's touch on a couple of points. If Bill is agreeable, can you start on your new job on Monday? Oh, yeah, my name is Rob. Oh, I already said that; where is Joey at, now that my new business partner, Jody, is here with me?"

Now I was getting stares from both Jody and her Mom.

"Ummm ... ummmm... !"

Not a word out of either of them.

"Good, now that that's settled, we need to do some things tonight and tomorrow so you will be ready for Monday. Now what about Joey? How old is he and when is the lease up on your place?"

"Ummmm ... I'm Julie."

"Hi Julie! That's a very pretty name! Oh, Bill here might be able to tell you that I'm a pretty good guy, and he and I have been friends a long time. I won't hurt you or Judy. Now, about Joey?"

"He is 3 going on 4 and, and... ?"

"Ok, why don't you bring him with you on Monday and we'll work something out."

"Now where do you live?"

"123 Clark St., upstairs. We have a month to month rent, but the house is being sold so I'm not sure we can stay there."

"Ok, we have a few things to do. Do you have a driver's license?"

"Yes, but no car."

"How about school for Jody, or other classes?"

"We just moved, so she will be starting in a new school this September."

"Bill, is it OK if my partner and I take Julie now. I'll make it up to you!"

"Right, you better have beer and Pizza for my dinner!" he gave a laugh.

"Now, one more thing, where is Joey?"

"He is at the landlord's. I had to get to work early; then I saw you here with Jody."

"So, if I promise to behave, can we go to a few places today, then on Friday to others?"

"I guess so, Will I get paid?"

"Ha, yes, you and my partner, Jody here, are both on salary, no matter how many hours you work. The benefits of being management and knowing the owner."

I am not certain that Julie understood or believed me. Jody sure did. I gave her a wink and raised my thumb up in a 'life' sign. She looked at me with eyes alive and a smile that could light New York City.

We took a cab and went to 'Sam's Used Cars'.

"Sam, we need a company car, but a safe late model."

"Jerry just got a couple in, let's look."

"Jody, which one do you think your Mom would like?"

I did not have to even ask, as her head had turned to a 2 year old Honda Accord with sunroof, Mag wheels and a spoiler. "Sam, the blue one, OK?"

He nodded and started to hand me the keys. I pointed to Julie, he handed them to her.

"Plates, title, insurance, warranty, the whole works. OK, Sam?"

"No Problem."

I took both my ladies by the arm, opened the car door, got them inside and said "To your home, Julie, let's get Joey and do some shopping."

I'm not sure that if it was not an automatic that we would have gone anywhere. Julie just kept looking at me like I had two heads and was green. We finally got to her place.

"Why don't you get Joey, tell your landlord thank you but you will move out so he can sell easier."

Either she was a natural 'submissive', or the shock of being told what to do was just to much for her to complain.

We went shopping in her 'sort of new' car. Jody held Joey in the back seat.

"First, we get a car seat for Joey."

That done, there was an older but nice mall near the office. We went there, bought out what seemed like the entire store, then I directed her to a condo complex. It was only 5 or 6 years old, and the suite I had in mind for her was formerly owned by a young couple who had moved.

"Suite #218, we can use the stairs or an elevator." as I handed her the keys.

"It has a garage, a storage unit, and you will have use of the pool and exercise area. Plus it is only 4 miles to your job, too. The company will pay the rent on it and the car."

When she walked in, both Julie and Jody stood and dropped whatever they were carrying. It was furnished and the items were selected by a decorator.

"I'll see you in the morning about 10 am or so. Everything you might need is in the bedrooms and bathrooms. You have three of each. My number is on this card" and I handed it to Jody. "All the utilities work and so does cable. Jody, one of the bedrooms has a 'putter' in it."

"We will get you signed up and ready for work. One of the first things you will need to do is see how many mothers are in the building, and if they want a day care."

Still no response from either. Joey stated crying, my cue to leave.

"Chow! Breakfast out, or there is some basic stuff here!"

It was indeed a good day!

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