Bill and the Sting of Death

Harold Makes A Proposal

The cabin cruiser sat silently in the still waters. Small desert keys could be seen in every direction. Harold brought a thermos full of rum runner that he claimed was Garcia’s recipe, so there were no concerns about navigating later. They had managed to catch some modest groupers, but nothing either man felt was worth taking back to eat.

Harold asked, “So, this isn’t so bad, right?”

Bill shrugged, “I’d call it peaceful.”

“Good. Now, I have a question for you. Well, it’s more of a proposal.”

Bill stopped staring blankly at the horizon and turned towards his brother. “What sort of proposal?”

“Well, my understanding is that you’re between jobs. I have some offshore funds my parents’ set up for me in case of an emergency.”

Bill raised an eyebrow, “What kind of emergency?”

Harold shrugged, “Well, I guess a government takeover or something that would put my future at a high risk.”

Bill sat up, “Wait, isn’t that what happened to you? I mean, your company almost collapsed, and it looks like you were in pretty deep with the CIA.”

Harold nodded, “I was able to avoid using the money. I couldn’t bring myself to cut and run and leave all those workers and their family’s stranded.”

“And if it happens again?”

Harold answered, “I like to think I’ve learned a few things. One of those things is that there are circumstances I won’t always be able to control. Next time there may not be a Garcia or Alice looking out for me. Not to mention, I have a wife now, and hopefully, one day, some kids. I’ll need to put them first.”

Bill reached for the thermos and started to pour a drink. “So, what do you want from me?”

“I need someone I can trust to handle those accounts. How would you like to manage them?”

Bill asked, “What sort of fees will I be paid.”

“Well if you are half as good as Carol told me, you’ll be doing well.”

Bill took a sip from his cup and then asked, “What does that mean?”

“I’m going to pay you Wall Street’s standard rates plus commission based on the funds’ year-end performance.”

Bill nodded. “Okay, I suppose this is a silly question, but how much is in there now?”

Harold looked Bill in the eye, “As of this morning, one hundred and fifty million.”

Bill’s eyes widened, “Most people would put at least some of that into a charity fund instead of hiding it offshore.”

Harold nodded. “Well, most people don’t make nukes. I want to grow that big enough to not only look after my own interest but my employees. I never want to be in a position again where somebody can force me to do things I disagree with.”

“Even your country?”

Harold answered, “Especially my country.”

Bill put down his cup. “That’s a tempting offer.”

Harold continued, “I’m not done.

“I want you to help me diversify Parabolic Defense Systems. I lost a lot of good people when the CIA focused our company on conventional arms, and for good reasons. Causing death and destruction shouldn’t be the only thing we’re about. I’d like to see us get more involved in the new private space race.”

Bill asked, “You want to compete against SpaceX?”

“No. I want to find a way to partner with them, and Blue Origin, and others. We have some great rocket scientists with more experience than the whiz kids working at these new companies. I think we can bring some value to their table. You’d handle the money side of any partnerships we manage to put together.”

“Is that a commission or salary position?”

Harold responded, “That part of the job is salary since that job is part of PDS.”

Bill finished his drink and then asked, “Are there any contingencies?”

“Doc and I were talking yesterday while you were resting. Maria wants to go back to North Carolina and work with the orphans one or two days a week as a volunteer. Doc used to have a very lucrative online counseling blog before we had to go into hiding. He wants to bring that back. Since it’s online, he’s flexible about where he lives.

“Adam called Joshua and said there is a rumor going around that a pandemic may be coming. Personally, I think it’s just the media. Still, Doc says Adam has it on good authority from some medical physicians he knows. Anyway, Adam wants Joshua to come to North Carolina and teach psychologists and psychiatrists how to do remote counseling through the internet. Evidently, they’re expecting folks to get locked down. I hope the rumors are wrong, but who knows.”

Bill asked, “What does that have to do with me?”

“Doc and I talked with Carol yesterday. She tells us your house in the suburbs around Charlotte is pretty nice.”

Bill said, “Well, nice is relative. Compared to a lot of the homes, it’s pretty modest.”

Harold stood, stretched his back, and looked back over at Bill. “Well, by west coast standards, it’s upper middle income. Anyway, Doc is interested in swapping his house for yours if you’re interested. I’ll pay for the movers so we can get the ball rolling ASAP. Doc says Adam claims we only have a few weeks or maybe a couple of months before things go sideways.”

Bill thought about his vision while he stared at his fishing rod.

After a couple of minutes, Harold asked, “Are you still with me?”

Bill blinked a couple of times and found Harold sitting next to him. “Yea, sorry. I was just pondering your offer. I’ve never even seen Joshua’s house.”

Harold answered, “Carol warned us you’d say that. As soon as Garcia arrives with the all-clear, we’re flying back to Malibu. I want you to join us. Joshua and Maria will show you around.”

“I’m not sure Carol can go on such short notice. I’m sure her family is worried about her.”

Harold asked, “Why would Carol come? Did you pop the question without telling anyone?”

Bill coughed and took a breath. “No, I mean, well, it’s hard to explain.”

“Hard to explain? Now you have me curious, bro. What’s so hard to explain?”

Bill sat back and looked Harold in the eye. “When I was dead, I saw God. He spoke to me and showed me things.”

“That’s awesome.”

Bill asked, “That doesn’t freak you out?”

“Freak me out?” Harold started to laugh and then said, “Bro, I’ve seen ghosts and a demon.”

Bill’s eyes widened, “Are you serious.”

“Yes. I was dealing with a lot of hate. I hated John for causing my parents’ death, and I hated myself for killing. I was starting down a dark road. I had to learn to truly forgive my enemies. I didn’t think that was possible given our little issue with striking out at those who hurt us.

“I learned a couple of lessons along the way. First, God created me this way, and if it wasn’t for my strength and anger, more good people would have been hurt or killed. Second, I don’t have all the answers. Growing up around rocket scientists and engineers, not to mention Joshua, makes it seem like there’s an answer to every problem, but there isn’t. A universe is a vast place, and God created all sorts of amazing things, both on earth and beyond what we usually see day to day. It’s alright if I don’t know everything that’s going on. I don’t need to know unless I’m involved in it at some point.

“So, tell me, Bro. What did God show you?”

Bill answered, “Well, he showed us. I was married to Carol, and we were dads and living at this big house overlooking the ocean.”

Harold held up his hand, “Stop there. That’s meant for you, not me. So, I see your problem, I think. I offer you this position in California. Obviously, that’s where that vision was. I know because that’s my house. Now you’re worried if you don’t take the job and marry Carol, you’ll mess stuff up.”

Bill nodded. “I spent most of my life asking God to prove he existed. In a moment, God helped me understand that he’d always been there. When I saw God, he let me see Lori and our son, who was killed. They were so beautiful and happy. They were far more satisfied in heaven than they ever would have been down here. I understand now that God’s view of our lives is different than ours. It’s like you said, we can’t have all the answers.

“But now I’m worried I’ll screw up God’s plans. What if Carol says no to my proposal? Worse, what if I’m marrying her because of the vision?”

Harold slapped Bill’s back, “Bro, you think too much. We’re talking about God here, and you can’t mess up his plans. He controls the universe and beyond. I have an idea. Why don’t you go back home? Take some time to unwind because you’ve been through a lot. Believe me, I’m planning on soaking up some of the California sun when I get back.

“Spend some time with Carol. I’ll be honest, I’ve seen how you two look at each other. You’re not just friends, at least not now. Darla told me the first day she saw you two that you would end up together, and she isn’t wrong about people.”

Bill nodded, “Women’s intuition.”

“CIA. Look, give me a call when you feel like your heads clear. If you’re interested, I’ll fly you out to see the place, no pressure. The offer stands on Joshua’s house whether you decide to remain single or get married. If you tell me no, I’d love to have you visit my estate as my brother, and we’ll go play the tourist. If there is a pandemic I’ll find a way to make it work. A lot of important people owe me favors and your role in my company is in the national interest as well as my own.”

Bill smiled and nodded, “That sounds perfect. I waited my whole life for a family. I think finally meeting you has made some of it worth it.”

Harold laughed, “Some of it?”

He reached over and gave Bill a bear hug, and Bill returned the favor. Harold’s fishing pole suddenly bent towards the water. He jumped to get his rod, and Bill went to the bridge and started the motor. The two brothers fought the fish for several minutes.

Harold yelled, “Bro, I see it, grab the net.”

Bill cut the engine and left the bridge, and grabbed the large fishing net. Harold made his way to the rear of the boat to the dive platform. His eyes widened.

Harold yelled, “Cut the line.”

Bill stared intently into the water. The shadow of an eight-foot bull shark swam this way and that. The rear of the boat drifted in the direction of the fish. Bill turned and ran for the cabin. He quickly dug through the toolbox and found the tool he needed.

He returned to Harold, extended his hand, and said, “Here, kill it.”

Harold looked at him wide-eyed, “Are you crazy? That’s just a large wrench.”

Bill smiled, “Put your strength behind it.”

Harold shook his head, “I hate sharks.”

Bill pushed the wrench against Harold’s chest, “Sounds like there’s a horse you need to climb back up on.”

Harold took the wrench, and Bill grabbed the pole. The shark nearly pulled him over until Bill quickly regained his footing.

Harold turned to Bill from the back of the boat and growled, “Not funny, bro.”

Bill replied, “Kill it.”

Bill fought the reel and pulled the shark closer to the dive deck, and the small cabin cruiser drifted towards the shark. The fish saw Harold at the water line and swam towards him. Harold raised the wrench over his head. He roared as it came down, and the whole boat shuddered. The fish stopped moving and drifted near the surface.

Bill started to help Harold when his brother grabbed it by the gills and tossed it onto the deck.

Bill said, “Great job.”

Harold scowled, but then his lips curled up, and his entire face lit up. “That felt good.”

Bill responded, “Looks like you were right about getting back up on the horse. Why don’t I bring my line in, and we’ll head back to the island.”

Harold nodded, stepped over the fish, dropped the wrench in the toolbox, and started the engine.

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