Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: This chapter – 2717; the whole story – 8350
There have been several stories written by different authors with their suggestions of how events may unfold after the events of “Yverdon-les-Bains”. This ... is one of them.
Return to Chapter 1
The Z Episode
“But why can’t I?” Arthur is asking as Douglas rejoins the others. From the tired looks on Carolyn’s and Martin’s faces, this is probably about the eighth time that he has asked the question.
“Oh, Arthur,” Carolyn sighs wearily. “I’ve told you why.”
“But if Dad’s given me this money, surely I can spend it however I want,” Arthur protests. “I mean, it’d be lovely to go and live in the control tower, but all I really want is for us to keep flying GERTI. Ooh, couldn’t we move MJN to Zeals and re-open the airfield and ask Karl and George and Dirk and the others to come and work for us there?”
“Arthur, you’re not that rich,” Martin tells him with an exasperated laugh. “And even if you were and you opened Zeals as an airfield, you’d need a working control tower, so where would you live?”
“Oh, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that,” Arthur says. He turns to his mother again. “But why can’t I give you the money to keep MJN going?”
“Arthur,” Douglas interrupts. “Can I have a word with you in the office?”
Carolyn looks at him suspiciously. “What are you up to?” she asks.
“Nothing,” Douglas says casually. “Just need a chat with young Mr. Moneybags here.”
Arthur looks around the portacabin in bewilderment.
“That’s you, Arthur,” Douglas tells him. “Come with me, if you don’t mind.”
He looks reassuringly at Carolyn, whose frown instantly deepens, but she takes her arm from around her son.
“Keep it simple,” she says, and Douglas winces.
“God help me,” he murmurs, ushering Arthur into the office and closing the door. “Take a seat,” he says.
Arthur looks at his mother’s chair for a moment, but instead chooses the seat on the other side of the desk.
“All right, Arthur,” Douglas begins as he takes Carolyn’s chair. “I know you’ve had a hard day and you’re very sad about your dad dying, but I really do need you to concentrate now.”
“Oh dear,” Arthur says nervously.
“Oh dear indeed,” Douglas agrees. He settles more comfortably into the chair and puts the will onto the table between them. “Do you trust me, Arthur?”
“Of course I do,” Arthur asserts immediately.
“Good. Now, I’m going to be completely honest with you. You know that Gordon didn’t like your mum very much, and that’s why he has done this horrible thing with his will, right? No matter how much you don’t like it, you’re not allowed to give Carolyn any money, so you can’t pay for her to run MJN, and you can’t help her buy the house in Zeals.”
“But I want to,” Arthur protests.
“And you can’t,” Douglas insists. “It doesn’t matter how much you want to – you can’t. That’s the law, and if we try to fight Gordon’s will it’ll cost a great deal of money, and we might lose, and then you’d have even less money that you can’t give to Carolyn.”
He blinks. He’s starting to talk like Arthur, and while the young man might just understand him better that way, it’s important to tell him what he’s realised from looking through the will.
“The thing is, Gordon was determined that you shouldn’t be allowed to give any of your money to your mother, all right? You can’t just write a cheque for, say, a million pounds and give it to her, do you understand?”
“But from what I can tell from this will – and we’ll have to get it checked by our own lawyers,” Douglas continues, “Gordon was so fixated on not letting you give money to Carolyn that he didn’t make it more explicit.”
“What’s ‘explicit’?” Arthur asks.
“He didn’t make it clear what else you can do with the money,” Douglas explains. “You can’t hand over money to your mother as a gift ... but you can buy MJN from her, in a proper legal transaction.”
Arthur’s eyes are wide. “Me buy MJN?” he asks.
“Yes,” Douglas assures him. “If you buy the entire company and its aeroplane from Carolyn, you won’t be giving her money; you’ll be exchanging money in order to purchase your own business, and as far as I can tell Gordon’s accountants won’t be able to do a thing to stop you.”
“Me buy MJN?” Arthur asks again.
“Let’s not get into a loop here, Arthur,” Douglas says hurriedly. “Now, like I said, we’ll need to get this checked by lawyers, but I’m fairly sure that if you really want MJN to keep going, you can buy it and run it as your own business.”
“Wow,” Arthur says.
“That just about sums it up,” Douglas agrees.
“Me buy MJN,” Arthur says thoughtfully.
“And here we are again,” Douglas says ruefully. He presses onwards. “And to convince Gordon’s lawyers that you’re making a proper purchase of the company and not just handing the money to your mother in some sneaky legerdemain – even though that’s exactly what you’ll be doing, but let’s not go into that here – I would advise you to change the name of the airline. But there’s no need to make it too complicated – after all, you don’t want to have to repaint the entire tail fin. Why don’t you change it from, say, MJN to AJN?”
“Okay,” Arthur agrees. Then he frowns. “What does the ‘A’ stand for?”
Douglas sighs. “What do you think it stands for?”
Arthur looks at him blankly. Douglas does his best to remain patient – did he really expect this to be easy? He takes a calming breath.
“What does MJN stand for, Arthur?”
“My Jet Now,” Arthur tells him promptly.
“And Carolyn gave the company that name to make it clear to your father that GERTI belonged to her now. So, to prove that this is a proper legal purchase and that you own the company now, you would change the name to AJN.”
“But what does the ‘A’ stand for?” Arthur asks again.
Douglas silently reminds himself that throttling his potential new boss is not a good idea. “Well, once you’ve bought the company, who will own GERTI?” he asks tightly.
“Me,” Arthur tells him with an expression which suggests he’s awfully proud of having worked that out.
“And you are ...?” asks Douglas.
Arthur’s self-satisfied expression fades and he frowns with concentration.
“Um ... happy about it?” he asks tentatively.
“Arthur!” Douglas snaps. “You are Arthur!”
“Well, I know that, Douglas,” the young man tells him with a hurt look. “I’m not a total clot.”
“That is still open to some dispute,” Douglas tells him tiredly, “but we don’t have time to wait for the jury to return a verdict. MJN will become AJN because it will stand for ‘Arthur’s Jet Now’.
“Oh, wow!” Arthur cries excitedly. “Because GERTI will belong to me!”
“Yes, she will,” Douglas tells him gravely.
“But I don’t know anything about how to run a business!” Arthur says frantically.
“No, you don’t – which is why you’ll need a CEO to run it for you,” Douglas says. “And I think I know the perfect person who you could employ to do that. She’s been running an airline for some years now, and she’s about to become jobless, so why don’t you consider her?”
“You mean Mum,” Arthur says thoughtfully.
“Yes, I do mean Mum,” Douglas replies. “I suspect she might not be all that delighted at the thought of becoming your employee but I reckon we can talk her round.”
“But I’d be giving her money to work for me,” Arthur frets.
“You’d be employing her to do a job,” Douglas says, impressed that Arthur is finally starting to understand the terms of his father’s will, “not just giving her money to do you a favour.”
He sits back, beginning to enjoy himself now that Arthur seems to be on board with the idea. “Now, as a diligent employer, you might insist on coming on every flight just to make sure that everything goes well – and because you’re a friendly hands-on sort of boss, you might want to help out your staff by, say, showing clients to their seats and making drinks for them, and providing tea and coffee to your hard-working pilots, and maybe even heating up the meals and handing them out. You might be such a devoted employer that you might even offer to stay behind and tidy up your aeroplane after it has finished each job.”
“But I do that anyway ...” Arthur begins, then his eyes widen. “Oh yeah, and I could still do it!”
“Yes you could – but only if you wanted to, of course,” says Douglas.
“Oh yeah, thanks, Douglas! I’d love to!” Arthur says excitedly.
“Thought so,” Douglas muses. “And with your new-found wealth I reckon you could afford to employ ... oh, let’s say two pilots to fly your plane? Again, it’s entirely up to you who you choose but I happen to know two very experienced pilots who are looking for work right now. They’re a right couple of crooks who have a bad habit of getting fired from their jobs, but they’re available if you can’t find anyone else.”
“You mean ...” Arthur starts.
“Yes, I do,” Douglas tells him, “and quite coincidentally both of them are in this building right now, so you can interview them straightaway. How convenient for you – you don’t even need to put an advert in the paper.”
He grins at the new airline executive ... correction, the new airdot executive. “And if one of the pilots should want to take time off to ... oh, I don’t know ... to flit off regularly to somewhere like Vaduz to visit a princess – ridiculous as that proposition may sound – then there’s a rather useful stand-by pilot sitting around with nothing much to do who I’m sure would be glad of the money.”
He stops and blinks, startled as he realises what a massive favour he’s doing for Herc. Then he shrugs. Herc is going to owe him big time. He’s already looking forward to calling that favour in – repeatedly.
Arthur’s excited look is fading. “Douglas,” he asks tentatively, “will this really work?”
“I don’t know for certain,” Douglas tells him honestly. “But if you really want it, we’ll do everything we can to make it work.”
“I really want it,” Arthur says determinedly. “I really really want it. It would be br...”
He breaks off, his eyes filling with tears. “It would be brilliant, Douglas,” he whispers.
“Yes, it bloody well would,” Douglas agrees. He stands up. “So, Mr. Shappey, sir – shall we go and tell the others just how marvellous I’ve been today?”
“Yes please,” Arthur says eagerly.
Carolyn still seems to be in shock. Douglas isn’t sure whether she’s reeling from his own genius, or stunned at the news that she’s about to start working for her son. Martin is veering between near-hysterical laughter and hushed whispers of “But is it legal?” and “Will it work?” whenever Douglas goes anywhere near him. Douglas has given up replying to him. Arthur is in the corner doodling on bits of paper and Douglas fears that GERTI is going to have more than just part of her tail fin repainted if the varied drawings of the letters ‘AJN’ are anything to go by, especially if the pictures around the lettering are actually going to be incorporated into the company’s new logo. Walking past and squinting at the artwork, Douglas wonders how he’s going to persuade his boss that pictures of otters and yellow cars aren’t quite appropriate for an airline.
Eventually Carolyn pulls herself together a little and heads for the office to phone her solicitors. It’s long past six p.m. and the offices are bound to be closed, but she says she’ll leave a message on their voicemail demanding an appointment at the earliest opportunity.
When she returns a few minutes later she has a bemused look on her face.
“I forgot to change our voicemail to say that MJN wasn’t taking any more work,” she says. “I’ve just picked up a message. We’ve been offered a job next Thursday, flying engineering equipment to Zhulyany International. As it’s in the Ukraine, we’ll need two pilots.” She smiles at Douglas and Martin whimsically. “Are you two available, by any chance?”
“Oh, I might be able to fit it into my busy schedule,” Douglas says airily. “The shoulder should be all right by then. What d’you think, Martin?”
“I’ll need to check my diary,” Martin replies, “but seeing as it’s you, Carolyn, I don’t mind doing you a favour just this once.” He rather spoils his casual response by letting out another high-pitched giggle.
“Well, that’s most kind of the pair of you,” Carolyn says with a twinkle in her eye.
“Excellent,” Douglas says. “Now, how about dinner? You can drive us into town, Carolyn, and we can eat at that new Italian restaurant on Zavala Street. Oh, and Arthur? You’re paying.”
Arthur looks up at this. “Oh,” he says worriedly. “Um, Mum? Can I borrow some money please?”
“Certainly, dear,” she says pleasantly. “If I can give a free flight to Mr. Birling, it will be my utmost joy to lend money to yet another multi-millionaire.”
“Brilliant,” Arthur smiles. “Thanks, Mum.”
“Come on, Martin,” Douglas says. “Oh, and you can stay at my place until you sort out somewhere to live and get your stuff shipped back from Zurich. In the meantime we can spend the next few weeks arguing about which of us is going to be captain and which the first officer.”
Martin opens his mouth, an imminent protest obvious from his expression, then he smiles. “It’ll help pass the time,” he says cheerfully.
“Oh, don’t worry – I’ve sorted that out already,” Arthur tells them. “I’m going to get new uniforms for you and they’ll have three stripes on one arm and four stripes on the other one. That way, one of you can be captain on the flight out, and the other can be captain on the flight home and you don’t even have to swap jackets!”
Martin turns to Douglas with a face full of horror. “We’ll look like idiots!” he hisses.
“Martin,” Douglas says calmly. “We’ve worked for MJN for over five years and the entire time has been idiotic. Within the next few months we’ll transfer to a new company called Arthur’s Jet Now which is probably going to have polar bears and fire trucks and umbrella Christmas trees in its logo. Do you think we stand a hope in hell of looking anything like professional pilots?”
Martin thinks it over for a moment, then shrugs. “Oh, who cares?” he says with a grin. “At least we’ll be flying.”
“Come on, you,” Carolyn tells her son. “Let’s get our pilots fed and watered.”
“Okay!” Arthur says excitedly, grabbing his jacket. “I’m ready, Mum!”
“Fizz!” Martin yelps.
“Buzz!” Douglas responds cheerily.
The three men turn and look expectantly at Carolyn. She rolls her eyes before directing her sternest glare at each one of them in turn.
“I hate you all,” she tells them, then draws herself up to her full height and strikes a dramatic pose as she bursts into song.
“’ave a banana!”
Looking fondly at his friends while they all break into laughter, Douglas muses that Martin isn’t the only one who would happily throw away a proper career for them. The pang of affection he is currently feeling for these ridiculous but amazing people is almost bringing a tear to his eye. Either that, or Arthur has been dusting in here too.
But nevertheless, he is Douglas Richardson and he should always have the last word.
“Let’s get going,” he says. “I’ve been wanting to try out the new Italian place for ages.” He smirks at the others. “With the day we’ve had so far, we can only hope that they’ll have zuppa, zucchini and zabaglione on the menu tonight.”
“Yes, and zemolina!” Martin blurts out. Carolyn raises an eyebrow at him and he cringes apologetically, but then she smiles.
“That’s actually not bad,” she tells him approvingly. “Well done, Martin! Now let’s go and eat.”
“Brilliant,” Arthur beams.
Smiling, Douglas leads his family from the portacabin with no further comment.
Because ‘brilliant’ should always be the final word.