Hart sat on the bed in his hotel room reading the newspaper behind closed eyelids. Two sharp raps on the door startled him awake.
“Hold on,” Hart called. He rubbed his entire face with one hand before rising to look through the peephole.
“What the — ?” Hart said, throwing the door open.
Bicky held up a hand to silence him. “May I come in?”
Hart stepped aside to allow Bicky ingress. Bicky headed straight to the window.
“I’ve been calling you all day,” Hart said. “What the hell are you doing here?” Hart grabbed two beers out of the mini-fridge, popped the tops and set one down on the window sill next to Bicky. “And what happened to your hand?”
Bicky appraised the appendage as if it were an alien species, but said nothing so Hart switched topics.
“I’ve secured financing. But it means I have to sell out. Completely sell out. Every last stock certificate.” Hart gave this information some time to sink in, but Bicky didn’t answer, just stared out the window, his face glued to the view. “Look, I know what that could do to you…to the company. And I’m not trying to undermine you, Bicky, so if you can get the money together….”
“I spent the whole day with the kids.” Bicky stood as still as Billy Penn atop City Hall Tower, staring out over the Delaware, watching the ships come in. “She came back nicely, didn’t she?” he said, nodding toward the river. “Not even a trace of the spill is visible to the naked eye. And it’s only been what? Two months? He picked up his beer and raised the neck to tap Hart’s own. “To the healing power of nature.” Bicky took a seat on the window sill and turned to Hart, his entire body engaged.
It was the atypical nature of the gesture that made Hart uneasy. “I’m guessing you didn’t come here to talk about nature.”
Bicky shook his head. “I was wrong. Too many times over these years I’ve treated you with less than the respect you deserved.” Bicky picked up the beer, but did not drink. “You’re a fine engineer, and a fine son-in-law. Probably the best I’ve ever seen in both categories.” He set his beer down and stood up. “I just wanted to tell you that.”
Hart stared at Bicky, mouth agape. In the ten years he’d known his father-in-law, Hart had received more than his share of the booty for a job well done: new cars, six-figure bonuses, vacations in exotic settings, even a boat once, but this one small comment, mixed with confession, was the most profound and heartfelt gesture Bicky had ever made. Perplexed and more out of sorts than when Bicky first walked in, Hart stood up, too.
“Thanks,” he said. He looked at Bicky queerly for a moment until Bicky’s words sunk in. “The kids? I guess you’re talking about my kids?”
“Very fascinating family. I’ve been thinking about this all day and I’m prepared to make a deal that benefits everyone. Truly benefits everyone.”
“Tomorrow. Let’s meet at the Tirabis’ in the morning. Say ten?”
“You want to give me a glimpse into the future?”
“The thought struck me that you could benefit from an existing facility, not just for refining purposes, but for transport. We have pipelines all over the country bringing raw crude into our refineries. What if we reversed the process? Instead of pumping to us, we send the finished product, the stuff you distill from trash, away from us to be either sold or further refined around the country. We can run this without the additional capital and I predict….”
Hart’s smile was so wide, Bicky stopped in mid-sentence.
“What?” Bicky asked.
“Had you given me the chance on the phone that night…”
“Oh. You already thought of that, is it?” Bicky smiled, his trademark half-smile. “Thanks for humoring an old man.” Bicky patted Hart on the back and walked to the door. “Tomorrow.”
“The Tirabi kids know we’re coming?”
“Yes.” Bicky stood face-to-face with his son-in-law, his hand on the doorknob. “They are one loyal group. They wouldn’t deal with me at all until you were at the table. You should be proud of that. The ability to engender loyalty is a lost art.”
Hart smiled, but couldn’t formulate a response because of the large boulder in his throat. Bicky squeezed Hart’s shoulder and shook his hand at the same time.
“See you tomorrow, son.”
to be continued. . . .