The Tides of Fate
"Chandler Marine. Mr. Atkin's office," came the pleasantly familiar voice over the phone.
"Mrs. Maxwell?" Tracy inquired.
"Yes. This is Ada Maxwell. How may I help you?" The older woman thought the voice sounded vaguely familiar.
"It's so good to hear your voice. This is Tracy Chandler."
"Oh my word. Tracy? It's been way too long. How have you been? I haven't seen you since your father's service. What am I saying!?! You poor dear. I heard what happened to Allyson. How awful for you. Have they found who did it? Why anyone would want to hurt your partner . . . and the police arresting you . . . Well, it is just beyond me."
"I'm Ok., Miss Ada. It's hard, but Uncle John and his granddaughter, Chelsea, have been wonderful. I don't know what I'd do without them."
"Thank goodness you haven't had to face all this alone. Now, what can I do to help?"
"I wondered if we could get together today. There are quite a few things I want to go over with you and I don't want Mr. Atkins to know. I intend to hold a meeting of department heads today at three. Do you think we could meet over lunch in my Dad's private rooms?"
"Well, of course. How is noon? What will I need to bring?"
"Noon's good. I'll bring my laptop. You can use it and then transfer the information onto floppy and onto your computer. Please, don't let anyone know about this. I want to spring it on everyone myself."
"Ooooh, sounds intriguing. I can't wait to see you. Should I order us some food?"
"How about some finger sandwiches and iced tea?"
"And send a memo to all the department heads that we will have a mandatory staff meeting in my Father's private conference room at three. You don't have to send one to Mr. Atkins. He won't be attending."
"Life is just getting more and more interesting. See you soon, Tracy."
"Will you be kind enough to transfer my call to the personnel office?"
"Certainly. Hold just a moment."
"Personnel office. Mrs. Ramirez speaking."
"Good morning, Mrs. Ramirez. This is Tracy Chandler."
"Dios Mios! Oh, I am so sorry, Mrs. Chandler. You took me by surprise."
"That's all right. I have a favor to ask of you." Tracy explained what she needed from her employee.
"I understand. It will all be ready by 11 a.m. for you to pick up."
"Thank you. I hate to interfere with your schedule, but this is a priority. I will see you later today, then. Bye." Tracy hung up the phone and grinned broadly. She was going to enjoy this day immensely.
After showering and dressing in her best business suit, she joined Chelsea for a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage and coffee.
"You sure are chipper this morning. What are you all dressed up for?" Chelsea asked as she admired her friend.
"I have a meeting with the current Regional Director of Chandler Marine and the department heads of this Region. I can't wait." She said with a mischievous spark in her eye.
"You are having a meeting with Atkins? Chelsea asked shocked.
"Oh yes. It's about time I took over the reins of Chandler Marine and weeded out the riffraff."
"Then, I guess I'd better get moving if we are going into town." Chelsea wiped her mouth and pushed her chair back from the table.
"You don't have to go with me. Anyway, I have a session with my therapist at 5:45 p.m. I can't ask you to hang around all day."
"Sorry. I'm afraid you're stuck with me. Charlie took your jeep in to have the windshield replaced. So, you are without wheels and without a bodyguard. Besides, there is something we need to talk about."
"That sounds ominous. What's up?"
Chelsea sat back down. "Detective Hardie has arrested Timmy Atkins for attempted murder and suspicion of murder in your wife's case." She filled Tracy in on all she knew.
"Wow! I can't believe it. Why would he do that?"
"I don't know. I have to tell you: I'm not convinced he killed your wife."
"But, you just said the Detective believes he did it." Tracy didn't know what to think.
"I just think it would be a good idea for you to stay close and let us keep you safe just in case Jimmie is wrong. Why don't you wait to have this meeting at Chandler? Would it hurt to put it off until after the trial?"
Tracy nodded. "I can't put my life on hold any longer. It's time I took control back. Plus, I have a therapy session today and I think I'm gonna need it. God, I wish this was really over. What about the fingerprints the police got from the Morales house?"
"No results yet. We have to be patient." Chelsea gave her friend a sympathetic look, then left the kitchen.
* * *
Tracy marched into the personnel office where Mrs. Ramirez was waiting with a large manila envelope with Richard Atkins' name on it.
"Is the check in here?" Tracy asked as she picked up the rather hefty envelope.
"Yes, ma'am. Everything you asked for is in there."
"Good job. Thanks." Tracy turned on her heel and headed for the Regional Director's office. Mrs. Maxwell stood up from her desk when she saw the tall beauty exit the elevator.
"Tracy, you look wonderful." The older woman wrapped her soon-to-be new boss in a warm embrace and gently kissed her cheek. The hug was gratefully returned.
"It's good to be back, Ms. Ada. But, we'll talk later. First, I have some unfinished business to attend to with Mr. Atkins. Oh, you know Chelsea Lambert, Uncle John's granddaughter." Tracy stepped back and motioned to the grinning little blonde.
"It can't be. . . Oh my. . . The last time I saw you, you were all skinned knees and ponytails." Ada gushed.
Chelsea blushed all the way to her roots. "Hi, Ms. Ada. It has been a few years. I've grown up."
"You certainly have. And, how is that handsome grandfather of yours?"
"As sly as ever. You look great." Chelsea said, a plan running through her ever-busy blonde head.
"I'm sure he is. And, thank you." Ada Maxwell walked around to Mr. Atkins' office door. "Shall I announce you?
Tracy took a deep breath and looked at her friend and back to the door that held her future. "Please do."
Ada nodded and smiled broadly. She knocked on the door, then opened it and entered, leaving the door ajar.
"Well, what is it Mrs. Maxwell? As you can see, I am very busy." The older man snapped.
"Mr. Atkins, Mrs. Tracy Chandler is here to see you." Ada couldn't help but grin.
"Chandler? What in . . . What does she want?"
"To see you." Tracy said as she passed through the door and nodded at Mrs. Maxwell, who quickly left the room closing the door behind her.
"Mrs. Chandler, what can I do for you today?" Atkins asked as he stood from his desk and buttoned his suit coat.
"You can empty this office of your personal belongings. Your presence will no longer be required in the position of Regional Director. I will be taking over the position effective immediately." Tracy proffered the envelope she'd been holding. "You will find your severance pay and an explanation of Cobra benefits as well as your evaluation and reasons for termination enclosed."
Mr. Atkins was shocked and confused by what he was hearing. "I'm afraid that I don't understand."
"I think you'll find my notes self explanatory, but I will be more than willing to further explain. You see, you are being let go for improper conduct. You fired an employee, who had seniority, under false pretenses to protect the illegal actions of your own grandson, who, by the way, tried to murder me . . ."
"I can explain that . . ." Atkins interjected.
Tracy put her hand up to prevent the now very nervous older man from continuing.
"I, of course, cannot fire you because of the illegal actions of your grandson outside of Chandler Marine. But, it is the fact that your grandson was stealing from my company and you took advantage of your position while my father was ill, firing a perfectly innocent man to cover up for little Timmy's actions. It is my belief that you set into motion a series of events culminating in the murder of my wife and the attempt on my own life by your grandson."
Atkins didn't know what to say to these charges. He just stood there looking like he was about to explode.
"Oh, and by the way, Alexander Stephenson is my brother-in-law. I don't take kindly to your firing him."
"Mrs. Chandler, um . . . Tracy . . ."
"It's Mrs. Chandler. Now, please collect your personal belongings. Security will escort you out."
"And, what if I refuse?"
"Then I will have you physically removed and the story will be in every paper in the State of Florida tomorrow. Since every word can be documented, you have no legal leg to stand on." Tracy tilted her head toward the door. "Am I right counselor?" She knew Chelsea couldn't stop herself from listening at the door.
The door opened and the cute blonde stepped in. "Yes, I believe you are correct."
"Who the Hell are you!?!" Atkins bellowed.
"I am Mrs. Chandler's attorney." Chelsea smirked.
"But, you are not the attorney for Chandler Marine and I intend to take this matter up with him."
"No. I'm his granddaughter." She grinned even more broadly.
Atkins knew that he'd been beat and started collecting his things while Tracy picked up the phone and dialed for Security.
"This is Tracy Chandler. You may come up now. Mr. Atkins will be ready to be escorted out of the building shortly. He is not to be allowed back in for any reason. Is that clear?"
"Yes, ma'am. I'll be up in a few minutes."
Tracy set the phone down and turned to her attorney. "Miss Lambert. Would you leave us alone for a moment?" She walked Chelsea to the door and whispered to her to go to the end of the hall and make certain Ms. Ada did the same.
Chelsea didn't know what to make of the request, but did as she was bade.
"I'm ready. If there is anything else you find, just mail it to me." Atkins held his briefcase and a box filled with pictures and a few files.
"May I see that, please?" Tracy placed the box on the desk and looked through it, removing her father's gold letter opener and the files that belonged to the company. "You won't be needing these. Now, before I let you leave I have one more thing to say." Tracy tried to hold back the tears that stung the back of her eyes. "Your lies stole my wife from me. You killed her just as sure as if you murdered her with your own hands. I'm not a vindictive woman, but just give me a reason to ruin you and I promise every newspaper and reporter will know what you did . . . Awww, FUCK!!!!" Tracy hauled off and slapped the smug face as hard as she could.
"You'll pay for that, young lady. I'll sue you for everything you've got."
"Go ahead. It's your word against mine. And, at the moment, your word isn't worth much."
The Security Guard knocked on the door.
Tracy fought to control her shaking hands. "Come in." Tracy looked away so her tears would not be noticed. "Please, escort Mr. Atkins out of the building."
"Sir?" The Security Guard gestured toward the door. Mr. Atkins held his head up high and lead the way.
Tracy heard the door close, then slumped into a nearby chair. She leaned over with her head in her hands and wept.
"Wow! You were great." Chelsea beamed as she walked back into the office. She stopped short when she saw her friend's distress. "Hey, are you Ok? Did he hurt you? The bastard."
Tracy shook her head. "No. I'm all right. I just let him get to me. That's all."
Chelsea stood next to the chair and pulled her friend's dark head to her bosom, letting her shed the long-held tears. Her heart bled for the anguished beauty. "Is there anything I can do?" Chelsea asked.
"You're doing fine." Tracy whispered. She slowly wrapped her arms around Chelsea's slim waist and held on to the comfort offered.
* * *
Tracy, Ada and Chelsea got reacquainted over finger sandwiches and iced tea. Chelsea left the women to their work and took the opportunity to do some work of her own. She hoped she could inspire Joe Epstein to put a rush on the fingerprints found at the Morales home. She hadn't heard from Detective Hardie, which meant he had little luck with that effort.
* * *
Tracy and Ada had worked diligently for nearly two hours when there came a knock on the door.
"Come in." Tracy called. Mrs. Ramirez timidly entered through the door with a large file in her hands.
"Here is everything you requested, Mrs. Chandler. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"No, thank you." Tracy flipped through the file and checked that all documents were enclosed. "You've done a fine job, Mrs. Ramirez. I can take it from here." Tracy smiled warmly at her employee.
"What's that, Tracy?" Ms. Ada enquired.
"Oh, you'll see. Just be patient and hang in there with me. I think I here the pitter patter of alligator shoes." Tracy and Ms. Ada snickered as they heard the door open and saw the shocked faces of the department heads of Chandler Marine
"Good afternoon gentlemen. Please take a seat so we may begin."
* * *
"But, Joe, he is innocent. The Atkins kid didn't even know Allyson Chandler. If he didn't kill her that means the murderer is still out there and he is trying to kill my client. I need your help to put him away. I need proof. Help me out here." Chelsea demanded.
"Miss Lambert, I am a very busy man and you and Detective Hardie are preventing me from doing my job. My staff and I are overworked and underpaid and criticized by all you overpaid private attorneys. Now if you will excuse me. . ." Joe Epstein had enough of people trying to push their cases to the top of the pile. It wasted his time and got everyone else pissed at him. He turned and stomped back into his lab.
"Dammit all!" Chelsea slapped the door that closed behind Joe Epstein. "Shit, what do I do now?"
Chelsea walked out of the building, bypassed her car and decided to take a walk down to the park to clear her head and consider her options.
* * *
"First, I want to thank you all for coming on such short notice. I have a few important announcements. For any of you who don't know I am Tracy Chandler, owner of Chandler Marine. I have decided to take over as Regional Director. Mr. Richard Atkins is no longer an employee of this company. Mrs. Ada Maxwell will be promoted to Assistant Regional Director. Her salary will be commensurate with her position. She will be working with me and any communications you may have can go through her." Tracy looked up to gauge their reactions. Ms. Ada seemed to be the only one whose face showed her shock and joy. Warm smiles were exchanged.
"Now, gentlemen, I want to express what I expect from you. I want to see some creativity. I want to see fresh designs and marketing strategies. Please have your suggestions on Mrs. Maxwell's desk by the end of the week. We will meet the first of every month to review financial records as well as to brainstorm ideas for our future. Now, if there are no questions, I will see you all here at 10:00 a.m. on the first."
Tracy was pleased with the reception she received from most of the department heads. Ms. Ada waited for everyone else to leave before she wrapped her new boss into a warm hug. "Thank you, Tracy."
"You don't have to thank me. You worked side by side with my Dad for twenty years. No one knows this business as well as you. And there is no one else in that bunch that I respect nearly as much as I respect you, Ms. Ada. Now, I believe my ride is here." She pointed to the little blonde with the pout on her face getting off the elevator.
"Uh . . .oh. I think things didn't go so well at the M. E.'s office." Tracy whispered in the older woman's ear before walking up to her attorney.
"No luck, huh?"
Chelsea shook her head. "I'm sorry, Tracy. We're just gonna have to wait our turn. That sucks!"
Tracy put her arm around Chelsea's shoulder. "Don't take it so hard, my friend. We just have to wait a little longer. It will all work out. I feel it."
The angry little blonde looked up into deep blue eyes. "You really think so?"
Tracy smiled, reassuringly, "Yeah, I really do. Come on, let's pick up a pizza and go eat at the beach."
Chelsea smiled. "Sounds like a plan."
* * *
The dark figure sat behind the deeply tinted windows of the red Z4 BMW with the top up. He drank from a barely chilled can of beer, with five empty cans on the floorboard hidden by a beach towel. This was his routine. One day he waited under the shade of an oak tree watching the entry gate of the Jetty East and in the far corner of the parking lot at the Chandler Marine building the next. He knew the Chandler bitch would show up eventually and now his patience was about to pay off. She'd been in there for hours now and he was hot, sweaty and drunk, but had a strange sense of euphoria knowing he was so close to his prey. He took the last swig of his beer when he spied the tall Chandler woman step out of the door behind an attractive little blonde. He started the engine, then put the BMW into gear and slowly pulled out to where he had a direct shot. He stomped on the accelerator. The tires spun until the rubber caught in a cloud of foul smelling smoke.
Tracy heard the cry of the tires and looked up to see the red Z4. Her "fight-or-flight" reflex kicked in and she grabbed Chelsea by the back of her blazer.
"Run!!!" Tracy yelled. She continued to force her friend ahead of her and between two parked SUV's, with her other hand holding on to her briefcase.
Chelsea didn't stop to ask questions, she just did as she was told. She too could hear the squealing tires and smell their smoke.
The sound of the Z4 crashing into the SUV was deafening. Tracy felt her brief case ripped from her hand as the sound of crumpling metal inspired her to yell to her friend to climb the chain link fence and escape to safety.
He saw the tall one was still moving, backed up, and rammed the SUV again. He was sure she was smashed between the giant vehicles. He felt such excitement that he was unaware of the security guard approaching with his gun drawn.
"Get out of the car! Put your hands up and get out of the car!" The security guard demanded, holding his revolver with both hands.
Ms. Ada stood in the lobby of the building watching in horror. She called 911, while the security guard tried to restrain the crazed driver.
"Tracy!?!" Chelsea whipped her head around.
"I'm Ok!" Tracy yelled back. Her adrenaline was pumping so high, she didn't feel a thing as she tore her hip out from between the crumpled remains of the two vehicles. She tried to retrieve her briefcase, but it was firmly jammed behind her. She sprinted to the fence and climbed up next to her winded friend.
"Are you all right?" Tracy asked as she looked behind her to the scene unfolding.
"Yeah. I think so. It must be him."
They watched as the Z4 backed up and then tried to run down the poor security guard who dived out of the way, ripping his uniform trousers and leaving a large brush burn on his elbow. He couldn't pull the trigger of his revolver. After 15 years on the job, he had never pulled his weapon.
The car sped away, just as the sirens of police cars could be heard.
Ada ran out of the building when she saw the car speed away. "Tracy! Tracy! Oh my goodness! Are you all right!?!" The older woman tried to catch her breath and speak at the same time.
Tracy and Chelsea climbed down the fence and jumped into each other's arms. They didn't let go until their shaking subsided. Ada held them both and pet their backs, offering comfort.
The friends finally stepped away from each other, wiping the tears from their eyes. "Oh my! Tracy you're bleeding." Ada announced, pulling the younger woman's blazer away from her hip, where the material of her slacks was torn and bloodied.
Tracy looked down at her hip and gingerly touched it and winced. Chelsea moved Tracy's hand away and pulled her slacks down, careful not to hurt her friend. Chelsea grimaced at the discoloration and jagged tears in the delicate skin.
"Geesh, girl, you need to go to the ER and have this looked at." Chelsea carefully replaced Tracy's slacks.
"It doesn't hardly hurt. I don't wanna go back to the ER." Tracy pouted. She was exhausted, coming down from an incredible adrenaline high.
"We need to get pictures of that hip for the police and to take to court." Chelsea stated as she flipped open her cell phone and hit Detective Hardie's number on her speed dial.
"I'm already on my way. Are you two Ok?" The detective now knew he had been wrong and the Atkins boy was innocent.
"I am, but Tracy's hurt. I don't think it is too bad, but I want to get her to the ER."
"I'm driving up now. Give me a minute. I want to take some pictures of the scene and Mrs. Chandler's injuries."
* * *
"Good Lord, but this has been an embarrassing day!" Tracy complained as she carefully slipped into the scrubs her nurse provided. "I never thought I'd see the day when I'd let a man take pictures of my bare hip."
"But, you did foresee a handsome man painting your hip with brown stuff and poking it with a needle and thread? Wow, you must be psychic." Chelsea was relieved when her friend gave her an exasperated look.
"Thank you. I try." Chelsea chuckled. "Let's get you home."
"Not yet. If I hurry, I can make my therapy appointment." Tracy looked at her watch. "Her office is on the third floor."
"Are you sure? You've been through a lot today." Chelsea inquired with concern.
"Exactly why I need to make that appointment. The sessions are really helping me cope." Tracy started to shuffle to the door.
Chelsea just shook her head and walked toward the cafeteria. "Meet me in the cafeteria when you're through."
Every bone in Chelsea's body hurt and her hands stung where the nurse cleaned the tiny cuts from the chain link fence. "I need some Advil . . . with a Coor's chaser."
* * *
The women lay on Chelsea's queen size bed and watched an old movie on the TV. Tracy had taken the pain pill the ER doctor prescribed, not so much for the injury to her hip, which stung more than anything, but for the pain in her arm from the tetanus shot the nurse gave her.
"Don't you think, now that the police know they are looking for a red Z4 with a severely damaged front end, they'll have a better chance of catching the killer?" Tracy asked.
"I hope so. All he did was repaint your wife's car and switch the license plates." Chelsea stated.
"I know. It was surreal to see my wife's car coming at me with deadly intent." Tracy felt an overpowering exhaustion. "I'm going to bed. See you in the morning."
"Sweet dreams." Chelsea said without thinking.
Tracy stopped and shook her head. "Not likely."
To be concluded in Part 5
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