Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 59 - The Move is On

Josh and I had arrived home and had just stowed all our camping gear away in the garage and the apartment downstairs, when my cell rang. It was Bryan.

"Tom, I've been doing some searching with a good real estate agent. I think I've found the perfect place for us to set up the company."

"Already? That was fast. What'd'ya got Bryan?" I asked.

"It's a negotiable property, just a year old. Location is perfect.... only a five minute cab ride from the airport. It's a 40,000 square foot building on three floors, modern, primarily unfinished except for the washrooms and elevators. All windows are dark tinted. I had a look at it from the outside and then a good look inside. Parking for about thirty visitors out front, two hundred cars out back and a hundred in the heated basement of the building. That's a good touch with our winters."

"What's he mean by negotiable?" I asked.

"I haven't cut the figures to know what the best deal is, but John Etax, the real estate man, says the owner is willing to rent the whole facility to us which would include building maintenance and landscaping, but not janitor work, so we'd pick that up together with heat and power. The other deal is on a lease-to-own basis, and of course the third option is for us to buy it outright."

"Bryan, that close to the airport.... how's the noise level inside the building?" I asked.

"Tom I was amazed. I was in the building, I could hear the air circulating slightly, but there was no sound from the outside. I watched a few jets take off and land and there was no sound coming into the building, and that's with no carpet or ceiling tile to muffle the sound. Outside though, you definitely can hear the airport noise. I figure once we put carpet and ceilings in, it'll be like working in a quiet tomb."

"Hey Bryan, I just got released from a tomb in New York. We'll have to install some white noise or something in there. Do you think we'll need 40,000 square feet?"

"Sorry Tom, bad choice of words. Maybe we will need 40,000.... maybe not," he said thoughtfully. "If we don't need all that space, maybe we could rent out what we're not using.... that is if we buy it outright. The way I envisioned it as I went through the building, was generally speaking, reception, security and restaurant on the first floor, which is already roughed in by the way, together with day care.... research, development and marketing on the second floor, top floor could be executive and financing.... but all that would take some detailed planning by an architect or space planner."

"Sounds good Bryan and I'm going to take your word for it. What's the figures?" I asked.

"You gotta pen?"

"Right here.... shoot."

"Rent.... $400,000 a month for a five-year lease. Rent to own would be $2.4 million a year over ten years. Purchase price today would be an even twenty million. John Etax thinks we could carve a few million off that and the owner would grab it."

I did a quick bit of arithmetic on the paper I was doodling on. "Bryan, if we took the five-year rental, that means the Owner would be getting 24 million and in five years, he'd still own a building worth twenty million plus inflation and we wouldn't even own a door knob. On the rent to own, we'd be paying 24 million for it. It's a no brainer.... if you think it's the place we need, let's consider buying it."

"In the beginning, it's a lot bigger than we need. For a typical open plan office environment, the second and third floors could accommodate up to five hundred work stations. Some would be smaller and of course, executive offices are larger, but including circulation space, that's about what it would come to."

"Wow! How would we run a company with five hundred people?" I asked.

"I know what you mean Tom, but who knows where this is going to go. Mr. Goldman has great faith in where we're going to go and he realized that just by reading the eMemories business plan. As a business person, I think he'd advise that it would be better to start in a building that we won't have to move out of because we'd outgrown it. As I said, we can always partition off the spare space and rent it out. I've a bunch of pictures and a copy of the listing that you can see on MLS. I'm sending you the link and the pictures right now."

"Sight unseen, Bryan I think for a building this size and the investment we'd be making, we should get a professional assessment of it. Find out who the architect was that designed it and the contractor who built it. Then I think we should hire someone else not associated with either of them to do the assessment on the building. Codes are codes, but they can be broken. I think if all that pans out OK, we should carve a deal to buy it, then hire the original architect to do the interior renovations for us. How's that sound?"

"Sounds great! John Etax mentioned that if we do buy it, whether we rent out part of it or not, we should hire a good property manager to look after the details of the building infrastructure itself, maybe including the landscaping, paving, and other maintenance such as roofing, air conditioning, window cleaning, heating and other mechanical stuff."

"He's right on that account Bryan. I think it's a good idea to give all those headaches to someone else and pay them for it."

"Yeah, that's right. A good property manager will have a preventative maintenance program in place, whereas we'd react only after something quit working. I got more Tom."

"More?" I question in disbelief.

"Yup. I mentioned to John about all the relocation that was going to happen and that this was going to be a family business that would be operated out the building. I told him that there are four homes that would be relocating to Calgary from Toronto and another one from Burnaby. I also mentioned that Darren lived in an apartment. Tom, it was astounding.... you should have seen his eyes light up. It's like I put him in seventh heaven. He said that considering how quick we have to make the moves, it might be better if we had them rent a few three-bedroom apartments until they have a look around and can decide where they would like to finally settle. He does know of such a building that may accommodate everyone. It's a rather exclusive building with only two suites on each floor. Let's say we pay their rent for the first three months until they get the money from the sale of their present homes. Who knows? Maybe they'll want to stay there.... say like Darren."

"You know Bryan, that might work in the short term. We can't make the family's final decisions for them. It's hard to say if Mom or Susan would want to have a big house to look after again. Maybe they'd be happy to stay in an apartment. Let me talk it over with all of them, see if that would be acceptable in the short term."

"OK. Now here's one more." Bryan said laughing.

"WHAT! More?" I exclaimed.

"Yeah, but let me just send you the link to the listing. It looks so sweet. Oh and by the way, I love you."

"I love you too Bryan and I miss you. Sometime before we sign on the dotted line for this or any other property, I'm going to have to make a quick trip to Calgary and see the place."

Bryan laughed. "That goes without saying. It will be outstanding if we can get this all in motion by Christmas. I was thinking.... it's less than three months. Have a look at the listing and there's some plans there that you can download and enlarge. I think you'll like it."

The first thing I looked at was the office building. WOW! Bryan didn't tell me about the roof top double skylight and atrium in the centre of the building and ran the length of the building. A water way ran from a second floor small fountain at the back building entrance, which filled a shallow stream that ran from the second floor down to a shallow first floor pond at the front of the main entrance reception area. The whole atrium was planted with lush trees and tropical greenery that were already reaching the second floor.

When I looked at the second and third floor plans, I realized the necessity of the atrium. There would be a number of work areas towards the centre of the building that wouldn't have any natural light from the outside if it wasn't for the skylights over the atrium - and what a view the inner offices would have looking at the trees and plants in the atrium.

As I examined the rest of the first floor, I found a large space that could be outfitted into a small gymnasium. The whole thing seemed to be a perfect working environment.

Then I looked at the second email 'Sweet Place' that Bryan had sent me and clicked on the link. My heart started to melt as I looked at the distant rolling hills and the ranch house. The pictures and description left me numb with enthusiasm. 'We can't afford something like that,' I thought, but with the reality of the pencil in hand, I jotted down the figures. It was a piece of cake! Right away, I phoned Bryan.

"Well, what did you think?" he asked answering the phone. I could just see the smile on his face.

"Oh God Bryan, that office building is just fantastic. You didn't tell me about the atrium.... it's beautiful. The grounds seem to be enormous. Oh and at the back of the first floor, I was thinking of a small gym. What do you think?"

"Tom, I wanted the atrium to be a surprise for you. It really is the jewel in the whole thing. The gym sounds like a necessity for office workers. I know I'll use it. I didn't tell you about the garage building in the back corner of the property. There's room for grounds keeping and snow removal equipment. A property manager may or may not use it, but considering the length of the walkways and the amount of grass to be cut, I can't imagine him bringing separate equipment to the site. It seems like a full time job in itself."

"Bryan, sight unseen, it's a go. Get the real estate broker working on it. I'll be out sometime this week to see it. Now about the other property..... the ranch.... I gotta see that too. "

"I was hoping you'd like it. It would be a great homestead for us and the boys.... ya think?"

"Definitely! I want to get everybody together again so we can go over the idea of moving them into apartments in the short term. Then I'll arrange for a quick flight out. How about I plan on flying out on Tuesday?"

"Perfect. On Monday afternoon I'll arrange for John Etax to take us to the apartment building just in case everyone's in favor of it."

"Good plan. I'll call you tomorrow when I have everyone here."

Josh was just getting out of the bathroom after his shower as I went upstairs to speak to Susan.

"Hey Dad! What's up?" Josh asked smiling.

"A whole bunch I hope," I answered teasing him as I sat down on the sofa. Right away Josh was at my side snuggled in comfortably.

"You hope?" Susan questioned. "With all that's gone on in the past month and all that's planned for the future, what's to hope about. It's going to happen."

I laughed as I explained what Bryan had been up to with the real estate agent in locating a suitable building for our new company. Susan and Josh looked at the pictures and thought that was great.

I didn't show them the pictures of the ranch - I was keeping that as a surprise until I knew for sure we'd be buying it.

When I told them what we considered doing for three-month temporary accommodation into apartments, Susan was also agreeable, but also suggested that a number of off-site storage facilities be included for the temporary storage of other things that wouldn't be needed until the final move.

"OK Tom," Susan finalized, "we have to have a quick get-together with your Mom, Andy, James, Anne, Darren, Grant and Ethel, with the Mason's and Bryan on the phone, so we can hammer this thing out. Let's make it here at nine tomorrow night.... that makes it 6 PM in BC."

"You read my mind Susan," I laughed, "because that was the next thing I was going to bring up. I'd like to get their consensus on the idea before I take off on Tuesday to go see the office building."

"HEY! We're going to Alberta on Tuesday!" Josh exclaimed. "GREAT!"

My grin at the thought of having Josh along on this quick trip was interrupted by Susan.

"Josh, not this time," she said with a determined look in her eye. "We can't have you taking another two or three days out of your first semester in high school."

"But Mom..." he pleaded.

It hit me - he'd already lost four school days after 9/11. "Josh, your Mom's right," I said as I put my arm around his shoulder. "You're going to be coming up with some Christmas exams and we have to factor that in with our move west. Will you be taking the exams here in Ontario or out west in Calgary where the curriculum is probably somewhat different? It would be nice if we could make the move sometime around December first and have you enrolled into your new school before they have their exams in December. What I want you to do is phone, email, or whatever to talk to Mark every day and find out what you should be learning to be at his level when you write the exams. In the short term, we'll be living with Bryan and you'll probably be attending the same school as Mark, although you may not end up in the same class. Besides. this trip is only a quick, exhausting, strictly business run to look at property and I think it'll be pretty boring."

Josh looked dejectedly down at his lap and pouted. "Aw shoot!" He finally said, "Sometimes I don't like it when you're right ya know." After a pause, he looked up at me and grinned. He stood up, went over and kissed Susan on the forehead. "I'll send Mark an email and maybe later I'll have to call him. Maybe we'll have to include Kevin in our studies."

"That's the spirit son. If this trip works out for the office building, maybe I'll include you with my next trip when we'll be planning the office space."

Right away, Susan and I phoned Mom, James and Anne, Grant and Ethel, Darren, and the Masons to arrange a quick business meeting for the next evening.

By 8:30, everyone had showed up. While the twins entertained themselves with Brutus, Josh and Kevin went to his room to study and talk with Mark about courses he was taking in Calgary.

With everyone; Mom, Andy, James, Anne, Grant, Ethel, Darren, Susan and myself gathered around the dining room table, I circulated the pictures and the floor plans of the building that Bryan and I were considering. I explained about the fact that we would be buying it outright and that we'd employ a property manager to maintain the building. Naturally, everyone considered the building too large and I explained that we might partition some of it off and rent the unneeded space until our company was large enough to use the entire space ourselves.

Everyone was keen on the whole prospect. Andy said he'd look up the name of a good lawyer in Calgary to act on our behalf for the legal aspects of the purchase. Then I explained that I'd be going to Calgary the next day to see the property.

"That's OK," Andy said. "I'll phone Bryan when I have the name of the firm and after I've spoken to them to make sure they'll take you on as a client."

Darren looked concerned. "Tom I want to come with you tomorrow to check this place out from a security point of view. Things have been tightening up throughout all large office buildings since 9/11. Maybe there's no need to worry about a terrorist attack on this building, but you'll want limited access to certain areas of the building because you wouldn't want your competitors snooping around to catch a glimpse of some of the things that the computers might be displaying."

I considered that for a moment while I looked at the nodding faces around the table. "Darren, you're right. You should be there and maybe you and Grant should attend any planning meetings we have later on. I'll get our reservations when we're through here tonight. The next thing we have to iron out is one that includes Bryan and the Masons. Susan, can you get the Mason's on the speaker phone and I'll contact Bryan."

Once we had the phones connected and made all the salutations, I laid out the suggestion of the apartments and allowed Bryan to fill in the details. Once everyone realized that the real estate market was running so hot right now, they all agreed that it would be a good idea. Susan added that we should also make provisions for storage for our other things, gardening, snow shovels, and other implements that wouldn't be needed in an apartment. Again everyone agreed.

Just then, Kevin and Josh came into the room and had to say 'Hi' to everyone in Calgary, Burnaby and at the table.

Then I went on to tell Bryan that Darren was coming with me to look over the building from a security point of view. Everyone agreed that was a good idea. Bryan also added that we'd need a trusted IT department that would be responsible for computer upgrades for any material that we were developing, scan for computer viruses, an in-house intranet system and secure in-house backups as well as off-site backups.

"Speaking of security," Susan said, "you'll be hiring many programmers and other people for all the departments. I'm thinking of the screening process and how trustworthy the new people would be that we hire."

"Susan, that's a good point," Darren said. I'm sure he winked at her. "I think that an RCMP criminal record check should be a requirement of all new personnel regardless of how impressive they may be on their resume or in the interview process. One bad egg and it could ruin an enterprise of this eventual size. If they think it's an intrusion of their privacy, I doubt they'd be the people for this company."

"That's a good idea," Bryan agreed. "We had a bad one join the company I'm with and it took six months for us to nail him. If you remember the computer geek from the movie Jurassic Park, you'll get the picture."

"I'm not a criminal," Matthew said as he nudged under James' arm.

We all had a good laugh at Matthew's expense.

"Neither am I," Richard chimed in as he crawled up on Josh's lap. "Isn't that right Brutus?"

Naturally, Brutus responded to his cue and let out a low howl, which made everyone laugh just a bit louder.

That incident ended our little business meeting and I quickly phoned Westjet, got reservations for Darren and I, and phoned Bryan with our arrival time while everyone had coffee and few treats compliments of Mom, Anne, and Susan. Bryan also explained that Mark would be going to Air Cadets on Wednesday evening, so maybe I should pack my uniform. I agreed because I wanted to talk to the Major about transferring into his unit in Calgary.

Josh was rather melancholy as I tucked him in that night.

"I wish they'd been here instead of on the phone," he said.

"Me too son," I said, "but come Christmas, I think you'll be very surprised. I'm sure we'll be all together, maybe in a place that you don't expect."

"Dad, you're teasing me.... we'll be at Bryan and Mark's house."

I gave his ribs a gentle tickle. "Maybe son, maybe not," I said as we rubbed noses.

"Love you Dad," he said sleepily.

"Love you too son."

The next morning, while Darren and I flew to Calgary, he kept my mind going with stories of what it was like to be my Dad's partner. Some of the anecdotes were comical and others so full of light emotion that I wanted to bow my head and give thanks that they had been so compatible as fellow cops on the force.

After a pause, he took a deep sigh as if his reminiscing had even overwhelmed him. Finally he said, "As much as I admire the great way your mom carried on after your dad's passing, the lady who gets my vote for a courage medal would be Susan. That lady has class. So many women wouldn't leave their husbands the way she did, but she thought she could raise their son and do a better job by herself than sticking with a drunk. That took real guts. To boot, she's really talented in the business world.... guts and talent.... great combination."

"Darren, you're right." I replied. "There are so many women that stick with their abusive husbands because they would feel so insecure without them and they don't realize that all they're doing is digging them and their families into a deeper hole of despair. I hate to think of what direction Josh would have taken if Susan had stayed with George."

"Tom, that's a tough one to realize looking at Josh today. With the influence of a drunken father, it's hard to say if he could stay on the right side of good. For sure, Josh is a very intelligent kid and always would have been, regardless of his background, but had he been enticed by a criminal element instead of a person like you, I may have been the person arresting him instead of being a person that I admire. Josh is just one more reason for Susan to be proud."

I laughed. "Me too Darren.... me too! What surprised me most about Susan was the way she recovered after that incident with McNaulty."

"God all Mighty Tom," he said disgustedly, "Susan shouldn't have had to go through that experience after we found out McNaulty was a drug trafficker. That cut me to the quick the day I saw the two of you in that bedroom. Thank God for Josh and Brutus. You're right though, she bounced out of that terror like a real trooper. Most women would have gone into a state of depression and let themselves go to pot, but not her, she went in the opposite direction.... it made her stronger and she took it upon herself to become more self sufficient.... ya know, any man would be proud...."

I looked at Darren; he had a slightly satisfied grin. I had to smile. "Darren," I said with a giggle, "You should see her shoot a gun." Darren's grin turned into a wide smile. "Josh and I taught her." I said smiling.

Darren continued to smile broadly looking at me and then the seat in front of him and back to me. Finally he said seriously, "Ya think.... Susan and me...?"

I giggled. "Darren, you just keep thinking. I know Josh and I would be thrilled. The rest is up to you and Susan."

Darren remained quiet after that, just as the crew announced that we had to fasten our seatbelts. We were on final approach. After we landed at the Calgary International at 11:30 AM, we found Bryan waiting at the arrivals area with two other gentlemen. After we gave each other a one-handed embrace, Bryan introduced us.

"Tom," he began, "I'd like you to meet John Etax, the real estate agent I've been dealing with. John, my partner, Tom Davis."

"Mr. Davis, it's a pleasure to meet you. I see you're still sporting the wounds of your terrible stay in New York." John said as we shook hands.

"Please call me Tom," I began, "it's a pleasure to meet you too. One more week and I should be rid of the cast and back to normal."

"Glad to hear it Tom," he replied. "I'd like you to meet Harold Stemming. Harold runs the property management company that looks after the apartment house I described to Bryan."

"Glad to meet you Mr. Davis." He said as he shook my hand firmly. "I hope you don't mind, but I'm just tagging along to offer any advice that I can. I'm not here to solicit any property management business that you may need. Also though, I am curious about this office building that you're going to visit."

"Fair enough Harold, but please call me Tom." I replied.

"And this gentlemen," Bryan continued placing a hand on Darren's shoulder, "is a dear friend of our family, a semi-retired police officer, Darren Higgins."

While Darren shook hands with Harold and John, I explained that he'd be in charge of our security at our offices and wanted to get a feel for the building.

With the five of us seated comfortably in John Etax's Hummer, I watched the route as we headed for the office building. Bryan was right - it was just over five minutes. On the way there, I asked John why the Owner had had the property on the market for so long. He explained that there had been a few ridiculously low offers made, but most people didn't want an office building this far from their clientele that were located in business centre downtown. I thought about that, but I felt that in our line of work, most of our business would be hinged on our internet service provider - we weren't tied to the oil or financial markets.

From the main road to the building seemed extraordinarily long. John explained that this was a big piece of property and in order to allow for further building development of the property, the owner decided to put the entrance to the property in one corner.

No doubt about it, the building footprint was immense, not tall, but a squat sprawling rectangle. When we got out of the car, Bryan mentioned that we only had four hours here because we had the ranch and the apartments to look at as well.

As we approached the entrance, the door was opened for us by a distinguished looking man - I guessed to be in his mid-fifties. He introduced himself and agreed to let us have our own tour of the building once he had explained where everything was located. After we had all introduced ourselves, he began his explanation, which was a lot to take in, but we listened carefully.

The first area that drew Darren's attention was the security/reception desk. At the present it was just a large marble counter on the visitor side with a desk height working space behind for the reception's work area.

To the right was a very large open space that Darren said would be a great spot for the security office that he and Grant could occupy in the initial stages, although they would only need a third of the space.

To the left was an immense unfinished area that was to become the restaurant. The owner pulled out a set of plans and showed us what had been proposed for a layout for the servery line and the seating arrangement for 250 people. Harold studied the proposed plan quickly and went wandering through the servery area checking all the drains, water lines and electrical boxes before he went into other open areas of the kitchen. From there, I suggested we go to the back of the building to the open space that I thought would make a good gymnasium. On our way, we passed another vast open area and mentioned that it would be a good area for a daycare. There was abundant window space and an exit to the lawn outdoors.

When we arrived at the room that I thought of as a gymnasium, Bryan's eyes sparkled with happiness. It was a immense size - larger than a few workers would need for a lunchtime workout. Harold pointed out that it would need a shower and change room that would have to be taken from the space. The Owner pointed out that there was a washroom right next door and the plumbing water supply and drains could be roughed from there. I began to realize that Harold was a great asset to this visit as he stepped out the area that would be needed for the shower room. From there, we continued around the perimeter corridor until we were back at the main entrance area.

"Gentlemen," the owner announced, "the next stop I'd like to make is the third floor. Follow me please."

We followed him to what appeared to be a little alcove to the left of the entrance. There, two elevators were resting for us to get into. Although it was only two floors, it was breathtaking. The walls were glass all around three sides as we ascended to the third floor and the view of the atrium was awesome. Harold mentioned that he'd want to see the elevator room before we left the premises.

Surrounding the atrium on both the second and third floors was a concourse/walkway with glass balustrades, which kept the view open to the inner office space.

When the owner opened the full nine-foot height glass double door into the open office building, Darren was concerned. He stood outside on the concourse while the door closed and then he opened it.

"I have two concerns with these doors," he said directing his glances between the owner and Harold. "First, it takes a fair effort to open that door especially if you're in a wheelchair and the other thing I have a concern about is how they could be locked and unlocked with a card system. There isn't too much to those metal door jambs in which to run wiring for such a security measure."

"Mr. Higgins," the owner began, "I understand your thought. This building was designed before the 9/11 terrorist attack and of course there is a fair bit of business espionage that goes on, however we didn't consider any of those needs in the design of the building."

Darren and Harold just nodded. He had made his point.

No doubt about it, the open office space, although it had unfinished ceilings and floors, was vast. On the floor was a fifteen-foot grid of electrical receptacles, which caught Bryan's eye.

"Can you imagine a triangular pod of work stations surrounding each receptacle?" he said smiling.

"I definitely could," I replied, "but we need something to break it up. How about two conference rooms to split up the work modules - maybe a short hall in between so you can walk from one area to the other without having to go out of the secure area." I knew we were talking as if we were definitely going to be buying this building and we shouldn't be doing so in front of the owner, but in doing so, it was something that the people with us could envision.

The owner then guided us to the back of the third floor and back through the glass door at that end of the office space.

He explained his ideas when he had the building designed. He didn't want to get the same useable floor space in an office tower that would have a small footprint, but would have to have many more elevators, which would add to the operation and maintenance costs of the building. Also he said, in an office tower, that related departments of a large company would have to be placed on different floors and elevator usage would be increased and time wasted by employees going from one department to another. Looking across the building through the atrium, I could see right to the outside of the building on the other side. His explanation made sense.

Bryan quietly said, "Whoa," and beckoned me back into the office area. He pointed to the corner and said, "Our offices are going to be there." I grinned and shook my finger.

When we caught up to the others, they were toward the back of the building and the owner was explaining about the weight capacity of the freight elevator that ran from the basement to the third floor as did the passenger elevators.

Then the owner directed us towards a short, but wide alcove with three doors in it. One was to a staircase and the other two were washrooms - male and female. The washroom configuration was repeated on each floor and at each end of the building. The owner was obliging and allowed Darren, Bryan, and I to make use of the facilities. The washroom finishes for an office building were astounding, almost decadent for an office building. Stainless steel partitions, ceramic floor and walls and granite counter tops for the basins. I was impressed. Harold said he would have to check the latest code to see if the washroom capacity was sufficient for the building occupancy numbers that we were contemplating.

I asked Harold, "What's your impression so far?"

"So far, he's honest," he replied, "but until I meet the contractor, I'd like to hold my cards to my chest."

We continued around the third floor concourse admiring the view of the atrium from above.

Harold noted that the skylight appeared to be well designed with motorized platform inside and out for window cleaning. Actually the platforms blended into the window frames quite well when it was parked at the one end of the skylight. The owner explained that the system was American designed, but built in Canada and volunteered to show Harold the shop drawings for the units.

We all got back into the passenger elevator and left the beauty of the atrium as we descended into the basement area. We followed the owner out of the basement elevator lobby into the underground parking garage. It was another vast area and rather cool. The owner explained that the heat was only kept at around fifty degrees and it needed to be filled with warm car engines to bring it up to about sixty degrees. At present, there was only his car in the garage.

While there, he showed us the location of the hydraulic elevator machine rooms and of course, Harold was right into it like a dirty shirt, examining the motors, the electrical panels, and controllers. With his usual poker face, he just nodded when he came out.

Next, the owner walked us over to the entrance of the garage and he explained that normally the presence of a car would open the overhead exit door automatically, however this time he had to press the open button to open the door manually. In front of us was a long ramp, which he explained was heated for snow melting purposes in the winter. We climbed the ramp and he pointed out the card system that he included in the construction. At present, only he and his general contractor had a card to operate it. Changing the codes and issuing new cards was an easy process.

As we reached the top of the ramp a jet went over at about 700 feet and the noise was surprising. Then I remembered how quiet it was inside the building.

While the owner and Harold went over to the utility garage, Bryan, Darren, John and I walked around the exterior of the building to John's Hummer.

"Well," John asked, "do you think this is the type of building that could suit your needs?"

"It would definitely serve our needs in every way, at least from and day to day working environment. I know Darren has some security issues that we should consider although we shouldn't have to deal with any criminal element in our business."

"The problems I see with the security and the handicapped access isn't insurmountable." Darren began. "We could lower the height of the doors and put in lintels and stronger door jambs that could house the electronics to make them electrically activated with infrared eyes for the handicapped and also include a card reader system. It's an expense, but well worth adding to the building. I think I counted eleven of those double full height doors that would have to be adapted. At five thousand for each set of doors, I think it should be workable."

"That is a bad design flaw," John agreed, "but a good reason to offer a lower price than he's asking."

"Is all that full height glass to the atrium corridor laminated?" Bryan asked.

"Yes it is," John replied. "It's like the windshield in your car.... hit it with a hammer and it will stay in place."

As we rounded the corner, Harold and the owner were coming around the other corner. We all met at the Hummer. After giving our thanks to the owner and saying goodbye, we all climbed into the Hummer.

While John started the car and headed for the ranch, Harold gave us his thoughts. "Gentlemen, it's a good building. It's great to examine a building when it's empty like that, no people, no ceilings, or other stuff to examine behind the drywall. I loved the experience. The utility garage that you didn't look at is basically empty with two gas-fired unit heaters and a 110/220 volt service. At present, it's uninsulated.... something that would have to be done as soon as it's put into use. There's a scad of power to the main building.... when you weren't looking, I examined the main electrical room and I saw the drawings for the air conditioning distribution. I didn't go on the roof to verify the nature of the heating and air conditioning units, but being new, they shouldn't be a problem. The problem comes when you add the ceilings and the flooring, but more so, when you add the people and all the heat they add to the building. Balancing the heating and cooling systems is always a problem as a building fills up in bits and pieces.... sometimes it even drives the experts nuts especially in Calgary where we have such temperature variations with the wintertime Chinooks. Having said all that, even with a new building, if I were spending the bucks, I'd ask the owner to give you a guarantee that his contractor will look after all deficiencies that may show up with the equipment, for example the heating air conditioning units, the mobile skylight window washing platforms, water pumps for the fountains in the atrium.... that type of thing."

Right away, I wanted Harold to be there when the lawyer or John were making out the offer to purchase.

"Bryan, did Andy call you and give you the name of the lawyer?" I asked.

"He sure did and he's more than willing to take us on as a client." Bryan explained, "Normally he doesn't deal with property transfers, but I guess Andy must have sung an opera in his ear. ALSO, but more important, he asked for our corporate number or our business license number. Once I explained our situation, he told us to meet with him tomorrow at 2:00 PM. He'll have all the paper work ready for us to sign so we can operate a business in Alberta."

I laughed. "This is a new experience for both of us isn't it?"

"New experience for me too," Darren said, "but if I'm any judge of character, and I am, we're among people we can trust."

"Well thank you very much for your confidence Darren," Harold exclaimed, "what qualifies you as a judge of character?"

"I'm presently a semi-retired cop and I've dealt with most of the sleaziest con artists in Toronto over my twenty years in the force. John, you're a salesman and yet you haven't given any sales pitch about the property.... on the contrary you've advised Tom and Bryan on how they can get a better deal on the property. Harold, you haven't given any sales pitch either to persuade the boys to hire you as their property manager. Both of you have given us solid, gratis advice and I judge that to be a sign of integrity. Harold, how would you feel if Tom and Bryan DIDN'T hire you as their property manager?"

"It would be no skin off my nose," Harold answered. "As I said, the thought of looking at that building was a great experience for me. I've got enough for me and my crew to work at without taking on a job like that."

"How about you John?" Darren asked.

"You're right Darren, I'm a salesman, but if I don't sell that building to Tom and Bryan, I'll sell it to someone else or maybe the owner will lease it and I won't get a commission, but there's always other properties in my portfolio.... other properties that Tom and Bryan may be interested in if a deal with this building falls apart. Either way, I have no worries. Giving the best advice to a buyer is my job, but I have to be careful too, that I can sell the owner of the property on any deal that I conjure up. It's a bit of a balancing act, but it's part of my job that I enjoy."

"What's the worst part of your job John.... the thing you hate the most?" I asked.

"The curse of every real estate agent.... dealing with a dishonest owner. The buyer is almost always honest, even naïve, but an owner that isn't forthcoming about his property....? it leads to so many headaches after a buyer has purchased and occupied a property. Some cases have ended up in court and I'm always on the side of the buyer. Here we are," John announced as we approached the entrance to the ranch.

I thought the Hummer was going to touch the wood gates, but as John pulled slowly forward, the gates automatically open. In the arched gateway, completely made out of various sized logs, was the title of the ranch - 'SERENITY'. The same split rail fence carried on each side of the entrance gate for as far as the eye could see.

"WOW!" Harold, Darren, Bryan, and I said together. The entrance alone was very impressive.

"Gentlemen," John began as he drove up the gravel drive, "the listing on this property was rather incomplete. In addition to the main house with its four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms, there are five other houses on the property. Three of them are three-bedroom, two-bathroom and one is a two-bedroom two-bathroom, and the fifth one is a one-bedroom one-bathroom smaller home. First we'll do a quick tour of the main house and then we'll drive over to the rest of the buildings."

As we stepped out of the Hummer, I took in the sight of the stained pine exterior of the house. Even the verandah and all the handrails were stained the same rustic motif as the main gate. I remarked, "John, you forgot to mention the four car garage."

John laughed and with a grin said, "Oops!"

Once inside, we all took off our shoes and looked up at the massive stone fireplace at the end of the living room. I wanted to start a fire in the fireplace right away because it felt chilly in the house, although the furnishings made it look so inviting and cozy. John explained that the heat was turned down because it wasn't occupied at the moment. The husband of the owner had recently passed away and was presently living with her daughter in town - which boiled down to her reason for wanting to sell it.

In the lower level, was the living room, a huge dining room which presently had ten chairs around the table with lots of room to spare, the kitchen which had a wood burning stove in it in addition to a modern wall oven, six-burner cook top, a commercial sized refrigerator, a walk-in freezer, massive amounts of counter space including a bar height counter with six stools on the family room side.

"I'd be right at home here," Bryan exclaimed as he ogled all the stainless steel appliances.

The family room had another huge wood burning fireplace at the end with sliding doors that went out to the rear of the house.

Down a short hall, we came to the utility room with a forced air furnace and hot water heater. Harold was taken back as he examined the furnace.

"This place has central air?" He asked John.

"For sure," John replied. "With our hot dry summers, you'd need it out here."

Across the hall from the utility room was the laundry room - somewhat larger than the utility room. In there was the washer, dryer and utility sink along one wall and along the other wall was a short counter with the rest of the wall containing an open clothes rod to hang up clothes as you pulled them from the dryer or finished with after ironing. They had thought of everything.

At the end of the hall, we found a door that led to the master bedroom. WOW! A great big open area with just a king-sized bed and two side tables set up on a one step pedestal stood before us. It was indeed bright with windows on each side of the room. Standing at the foot of the bed, I looked around and found it odd that there wasn't any other furniture.

"WOW!" I heard Harold exclaim behind me. He was in the walk-in closet which was actually a double 'his and hers' closet. Each side had banks of drawers and cupboards with the remainder filled with closet rods. Bryan and I were going to have to buy a lot of clothes and accessories to fill it.

On the other side of the entry door was another door that went into the bathroom. "A seven piece bathroom?" I questioned when we looked at it. Bryan and I would probably never use the bidet, but we would enjoy the four foot by six foot multi-headed shower together as well as the bathtub. With a grin, I added as we went back into the bedroom, "All we need is a short counter, a hot plate and coffee maker and we'd never have to leave this room."

"Watch it Tom," he giggled, "we have a business to run."

"OK gentlemen," John said, let's go this way. I have to show you upstairs yet."

The staircase than rose across from the foyer curved gently to the second floor. The first two bedrooms were somewhat plain and simple each containing a queen sized bed and a wall-to-wall closet. The larger bedroom at the end of the hall was nearly a mirror image of the master bedroom downstairs, except it didn't have the raised pedestal that the bed sat on. John explained that the lower floor had nine-foot ceilings and the upper floor only had eight-foot ceilings, so the pedestal for the bed was eliminated on the upper floor.

Next John took us downstairs, back into the family room and opened the sliding door. Although the patio stone was cold on the feet, I was overwhelmed by the sight of the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Right away, Harold had to check out the pump house that was attached to the back of the garage.

At the end of the patio was an enormous stone gas-fired barbeque with multiple burners and a section for wood-fired barbequing as well. Once again, Bryan's eyes lit up.

I looked over the mowed field about forty feet beyond the end of the swimming pool. "Bryan, you see that flat stretch of grass over there," I said as I stretched out my arm and swung across the horizon.

"Yeah. What do you have in mind?" He asked.

I grinned and stared at him. "It would make a great runway."

"Good deal!" he exclaimed, "you get your runway and I get my kitchen."

"You're a pilot?" Harold asked.

"Yeah Harold, I am. I have a new Cessna and this would be the perfect place to keep my toy." I answered.

Harold smiled and said, "We have a few things in common."

"OK gentlemen, we have to get moving before dark if we want to see the rest of the ranch." John announced.

As I was putting on my shoes, I looked up and as I glanced at everything, the living room fireplace and the curved staircase, I thought of how happy Bryan, Susan, Josh and Mark could be living here.

The five of us got back into the Hummer and John drove us across a curving gravel drive that seemed to go on for about a half mile, although we never left the property. Before us stood a large barn and three other out buildings and just beyond that, John parked in front of the second house that was placed together with four others approximately thirty feet apart. All the houses had the same rustic appearance as the main house.

"Gentlemen, I'm going to take you into this house." John announced. "It's a three bedroom and is the same layout as the one we just passed. The interiors of all the houses here are immaculate."

He was right - the house was immaculate and although the living room had a stone fireplace, there wasn't one in the family room. All three bedrooms were oversized and the ensuite to the master bedroom was a five piece - no bidet, however it did have a separate shower from the soaker tub and two sinks. The kitchen seemed oversized with new stainless steel appliances as well, but not as huge as the one in the main house. John assured us that the other houses had the same appliances. The three-bedroom houses had double car garages, and the two-bedroom and the one-bedroom had single car garages.

"OK gentlemen, let's hit the barn," John said as we left the house. For a barn, I was impressed as John flicked on the lights at the lower level. It was full of neatly parked farm vehicles and was like some of the barns I'd seen in Ontario. John explained that the barn and the fields presently had an in-place lease agreement with the neighboring farm.

"That suits me fine," I said because I didn't know anything about farming an acreage this size. "I hope we can adjust the lease a bit so we can use the stretch at the back of the main house for a runway."

"I'll look into that with the owner and the neighbor," John confirmed.

The upper floor of the barn had more equipment in it, but it was smaller tractors for the most part.

As we were driving back to the John's office, Harold asked with a big smile, "Fellas, I... uh.... I guess there isn't much sense in showing you the apartments, is there?"

"I don't think so Harold," Bryan replied, "but if you're willing, we'd like you to be there when we meet with our lawyer tomorrow. Although we have to sleep on it, I think things will be pretty affirmative to place an offer on both properties."

"I agree Harold," I added, "your advice and expertise has been invaluable today we'd certainly like to tap into it again as we prepare the offers. Naturally, we'd compensate you for your time."

"Gentlemen, it would be my pleasure." He answered.

"John, do you have any objections to meet with us at our lawyers office instead of your office?" Bryan asked.

"None whatsoever." John replied. "When we're talking the amount of money you fellas are going to lay out, I think it's better that we meet as a team so that the legalese is understood by everyone. That way I know where everyone stands when I present the offers to the owners."

"That's very reassuring." I added. I was excited about the prospects, yet a little intimidated by the expertise that was in the car at that moment.

As we got out of the Hummer at John's office building, my phone rang. I checked the caller ID. It was 5:30. "Hi Josh." I answered.

"Hey Dad, how's it going?"

"Fantastic!" I replied enthusiastically. "I think we found the perfect office space for us."

"Oh yeah?" Josh asked.

I took a moment to describe the building to Josh and he sounded just as enthusiastic about it as I was.

"That sounds really cool! I wish I was there to see it though."

"I wish you were too kiddo. We're going to go pick Mark up from school shortly, he and Michael were hitting the gym today after class. We've all been invited to the Burton's house for dinner."

"Tell everyone I said hello," Josh said.

"Will do son. Don't worry, I'll be home in a couple of days and we'll do something together. Deal?"

"Deal!" he replied enthusiastically. "Love you Dad."

"I love you too son," I replied.

Bryan, Darren and I left John's office in his Ford Explorer and we headed over to Mark and Michael's school. We barely stopped at the curb when a very excited looking Mark came bounding out with Michael following closely behind. Mark pulled my door open and immediately I was enveloped in a powerful hug.

"Marky, how are you son?" I asked as I gently ruffled his hair.

"Great now that you're here," he replied before giving me one final squeeze and then climbing into the back of the Explorer.

"How are you Michael?" I asked after both boys climbed in and I had introduced Michael to Darren.

"Great Tom, nice to see you again. I was really worried about you when all that stuff was happening in New York."

"I'm getting better all the time kiddo, thanks for your concern."

"Of course I was concerned, we're practically family, right?" Michael said happily.

"Right you are bud," I replied with a smile.

"That was a heck of a work out," Mark said. "Guess how much I can bench now!"

"That hug was pretty strong," I chuckled. "I'm guessing it's a lot."

"He can do 10 reps of 220lbs easy," Michael said.

"That's more than your own weight!" I replied completely astounded.

"I can do more than that, but not as many repetitions. I wait to increase the weight until I can do at least 10 reps."

"How about you Michael?" Bryan asked. "How much can you do?"

"I'm only up to 180, but I'm catching up," Michael replied.

"ONLY 180?! 180lbs is pretty damned good," I said and turned in my seat to smile at him. "Hey Mark, thanks again for your part in coming up with that picture that Glen did. It's absolutely amazing."

"We all wanted to give you something back and I got that idea from a painting that I saw of modern day soldiers marching along the parade square with ghosts of soldiers from the past marching along behind them."

"Marky, you guys give me back so much every day in every way. You mean the world to me kiddo."

"You mean that to me too," Mark replied with a smile.

Josh and I were closer than I ever believed that two people could be, but Mark and I had a very genuine bond too. Something clicked between us right from the start and it had only deepened and strengthened over time. I loved both of our boys with all my heart and soul and I knew that I would do anything for either of them and that I would put everything that I had, including my very life on the line for either of them.

When we arrived at the Burton house, we were greeted by Howard and Angela Burton. Both hugged their son and then turned their attention to the rest of us.

"Welcome back to Calgary," Howard said and offered me his hand.

"We were so worried about you," Angela said as she hugged me briefly.

"It's nice to be back and it'll be even nicer when I'm back to stay," I replied with a smile.

"You must be Darren," Angela said and offered her hand to Darren.

"The one and only," Darren smiled and shook Howard's hand as well.

"How's the arm?" Howard asked.

"Getting better all the time," I replied. "The cast comes off next week."

"Well come on in," Angela said as she motioned for the three of us to follow her into the living room. Mark had gone off with Michael to the family room to play on Michael's PlayStation.

"It's not often that we have the wealthy new bosses over for dinner," Howard laughed. "I can't remember ever having the president and CEO of my company over for a meal!"

We all laughed. "We may run the company, but everyone is going to be their own boss. Remember you own a portion of the company too," I said.

"I'm still speechless over the pay and benefits package that you're giving each of us," Angela said sincerely.

"We want everyone who works for the company to make a comfortable living," Bryan said.

"Yeah, we don't want to see our people just getting by," I added. "Which brings me to another point. Michael," I said.

"What you're paying him is more than generous," Howard said.

"We're paying all the kids the same and we're doing something else for all of them as well," I replied.

"I can just imagine," Angela replied with a grin.

"Well, we're big believers in education," I said. "Josh and Mark are set for life and we want to ensure that all of the kids, Michael included, who work for us will have no worries in terms of getting a quality education. With that in mind, we've created $50,000 RESP funds for each of them. All you need to do is sign the papers."

"I'm speechless," Howard said. "That's incredibly generous."

"We like to think about it as an investment in the future. The company will need plenty of well-educated people down the road. I don't want to work forever," Bryan said.

"Neither do I," I added. One day Josh, Mark, Michael, and the others may take over the running of the company one day. They may have other ideas as well. I know that Mark wants to go to RMC and when he's accepted he'll still have that money for future learning endevours or he can put it into a retirement fund."

"Michael has the same idea," Angela said. "I can see the pair of them making it too."

"So can I!" I replied enthusiastically. "So can I. Mark is one determined young man and his flying is precise and cool as ice. I've never seen Michael fly, but he and Marky are two peas in a pod."

"Did they tell you how much they're bench pressing these days?" Bryan asked.

The four of us, like any sets of parents spent the next half hour discussing the lives of our sons. We all marveled at the joy and happiness that each of them brought into our lives. Each of the boys had the ability to light up a room and turn a bad day into a good one. While none of them would ever be short in terms of their monetary needs, all of our boys were rich beyond imagination in terms of the talents they possessed and the love that they received from all of us.

Dinner was much like it was when the rest of the family got together back east. We were all growing more and more comfortable with each other and it was clear that the Burtons had allowed themselves to be drawn into our ever expanding family circle.

"I was thinking about school for the boys," I said to Bryan later that evening as we drove home from the Burton's house. "Given our newfound wealth, it might not be a bad idea to look at private school for all of the kids. For security reasons primarily."

"Might not be a bad idea," Bryan replied. "We are casting a spotlight on ourselves, aren't we?"

"My thought as well," Darren said. "They could very well become targets. Private schools are usually much more secure and most will even allow, if necessary, private security personnel to be onsite."

"I might have to change schools?" Mark asked.

"I think you'll have to change anyway if we move into the ranch we looked at today," Bryan replied. "We can probably swing it so that you'd finish the year where you are."

"I'm sure that would be fine," Darren said. "We have to think about your personal safety Mark," he continued. "There are sadly people like Bob McNaulty and unfortunately your deceased father who are not very nice and who might see the idea of kidnapping one of you guys as means to a decent payday. Part of my job and Grant's job will be to ensure that doesn't happen."

"You'll be like our body guards?" Mark asked with a grin.

"From time to time if need be. We'll have other people, probably mostly ex-police officers working for us as well and we'll keep an eye out for you. We'll also setup special signals and things using our cell phones so that you can alert us in case of emergency."

"Cool," Mark replied. "That would be ok especially if Michael is going to go to the same school as Josh and me."

"I'd like to see all you "company kids" go to the same school," I said.

Bryan took a detour and we drove past the ranch to give Mark his first look.

"This is where we're going to live?" he asked incredulously.

"It sure looks like it," I replied. "You guys will each have your own room with your own bathroom and you can furnish and decorate your room however you like."

"COOL!" Mark exclaimed.

"We have to see the lawyer and the real estate agent again tomorrow to finalize the deal, but perhaps we can get you inside to take a look."

"You don't have anything big happening at school tomorrow do you?" Bryan asked.

"No, not much. No tests or anything," Mark replied.

"Ok, you can hang around with us tomorrow," Bryan said.

"Hey bud, we forgot to tell you," I said as I turned in my seat to look at Mark. "The new place has a spot where we can put in our own private airstrip and hangar for the plane!"

"Are you serious!?" Mark asked "That is the coolest thing ever!"

"Oh but and it's a big BUT!" I said. "I just thought of something. Please don't tell Josh about the ranch. I want to save it as a surprise until we fly out on our moving trip and land on the property."

"You ARE devious Tom," Bryan exclaimed. "I thought you were bad at camp, but this is way beyond that. It's going to be tricky to pull it off. Susan's got to see it before she moves in."

"No problem," Darren said. "If you guys can keep Josh occupied on the planning trip, I'll be able to sneak off with Susan and show it to her."

"My lips are sealed." Mark deadpanned. "I know nothing," He continued in a passable imitation of Sgt. Schultz.

We drove past the office building next and gave Mark his first look from the outside. He seemed almost overwhelmed.

"This is real isn't it? I'm not going to wake up from a dream any minute now am I?"

We all had a good laugh at that.

The next morning I awoke bright and early and after splashing some water on my face, I dressed in my running gear and went to Mark's room. I wasn't exactly surprised when I found him up and in the process of dressing in running gear of his own. "Great minds think alike eh bud?"

"For sure," Mark replied and gave me a big hug.

We headed out into the brisk morning air. Mark took the lead and we followed his usual route around the neighbourhood and through a couple of parks. Daisy was trotting right along with us with her tail wagging continually.

"So bud, what do you think about all of this?" I asked as we reached the half-way point and began to head back towards the house.

"It's amazing but most of all, I'm glad that you're back and that you're ok."

"I hear you son," I replied. "I'm glad to be back as well. This is all a bit overwhelming to me. I've never dreamed of the things that are taking place now, but none of it really matters. Rich or poor you guys are my first priority and my pride and joy. You guys are my whole world and I'd be just as happy as we were as I am now, so long as we were all going to be together."

"Me too," Mark replied and leaned into me for a brief cuddle.

We ran the rest of the way home and I couldn't help but notice that when we reached the end of the run, Mark was far less tired out than I was. He was in remarkable physical condition and seemed to be getting stronger and more fit all the time. Josh had recently matched my height exactly and he still had a lot of growing to do. I could tell that Josh was going to grow into a broad shouldered barrel chested man who would easily stand over six feet tall, but Mark was different. Mark would never be as tall as Josh nor would he have the large frame that Josh was developing, but what he lacked in bulk, he more than made up for in efficiency. I could tell by looking at him that he had a very low level of body fat and his muscle tone was developing extremely well for his age. Mark had what people often called a swimmer's body and he was well on his way to a level of physical fitness that would rival most athletes.

We took turns in the shower and by the time we were both done, Darren was up and about and Bryan was in the kitchen making breakfast.

"So Darren, what do you think from a security standpoint?" I asked as I sat down.

"On the whole, it looks pretty good," he replied. "The building will need some upgrades as we discussed, but I think considering the prime location and property itself, it's a good deal."

"That's my sense as well," Bryan added as he handed me a cup of coffee and Mark a glass of orange juice.

"What about the ranch?" I asked.

"It doesn't get much better than that," Darren chuckled. "We'd of course put security systems in all the houses and other buildings and we'd have security on the grounds as well. Discreet of course, you don't want to look like you're living in armed encampment!"

"That's a must. I don't want walls and fences or anything, just a security house at the front gate and security cameras at critical installations."

"That's about what I had in mind," Darren replied.

"I can't believe that we'll have our own pool and our own airport! Josh and I can fly anytime we want."

"You bet kiddo," I said and reached over and squeezed his shoulder.

After breakfast, we all headed over to the lawyer's office, which turned out to be Harold's lawyer, and in no time we hammered out the details to purchase both the ranch property and the office building. After several back-and-forth telephone sessions with the present owners of both properties, John Etax successfully negotiated a price that couldn't be beat. Although it would be a month before we could get legal possession, both owners agreed that we could have another tour of their properties. Moreover, the owner of the ranch was going to have to sell most of her furniture, so she said she would be willing to negotiate a price for any furniture that we may want.

Matters were further simplified when we retained Edgar Delaney, Howard's lawyer to help us with the regulatory and zoning issues that were involved including formally incorporating Davis-Callahan Incorporated as well as getting city approval for the private airstrip at the ranch.

We also had him complete the paperwork to incorporate Higgins-Brown Security Services and he advised Darren as to what he and Grant would need to do in order to be licensed as private investigators and security consultants in the Province of Alberta.

As we stood in the parking, thanking Harold and John for all their assistance, Harold said, "Your first order of business with the office building is to line up a contractor to get the ceilings and carpet installed. The general contractor is still on the owner's payroll, but I know of two subcontractors that could do an excellent job. I'd like to contact them and have them submit prices for you."

Bryan looked at me, then Darren with his eyebrow cocked. I grinned and Darren nodded his head.

"Harold, Tom and I think alike in many ways," Bryan said seriously. "We'll accept your offer on one condition.... that you take on the job of being our property manager for this building. I know it puts a burden on you with your present commitments, but we know you're the man for the job."

"Well, Bryan, Tom.... thank you for your confidence.... I do appreciate it. Tell you what, let me sleep on it and call you in the morning. In the meantime, here's the name of the interior designer I think you should visit. He won't lead you astray."

"That's a deal Harold," I said. "I wouldn't make a harsh decision in a hurry either unless I felt a hundred percent about the venture. We owe you in many ways for all the help you've given us."

Not really fellas.... for me, it's been an experience that I've enjoyed. I'll call the interior designer and let him know you're coming."

"Thanks a lot Harold," Bryan said, "I'm looking forward to your call in the morning."

We spent the rest of the day running around preparing for the move. We found an excellent school for the kids to attend, which would provide private transportation from the ranch to the campus.

To assist us with the interior design process, we retained the services of the interior design company that Howard strongly recommended. Armed with the floor plans from the listing, we explained what we thought was the sensible way to split up the areas and a proposed layout of the work stations. He assured us he would have preliminary sketches ready for us in a week. We also hit the several local merchants and began preordering office equipment, computers, furnishings, and decoration for the office. By that evening, I felt as if my head was spinning because we had accomplished so much.

It was Mark's air cadet parade night and I'd brought along my uniform in order to join him there and to discuss the possibility of transferring to that squadron when we moved west. There was also to be a special presentation that night that I wanted to be there for. Bryan and Darren along with the Burton's planned to be there for the presentation as well.

While Mark attended his classes, I met with Major Richardson the commanding officer and Captain Steele, the training officer.

"Captain Davis, Tom, it's good to see you again. Great to see you in one piece after that mess in New York. You are a credit to all of us," Major Richardson said as he shook my hand.

"This stuff seems to follow you doesn't it?" Captain Steele chuckled as he shook my hand.

"Thank you Major," I said. "It's good to be back. It'll be even better to be back permanently."

"I understand that you're moving out here," Major Richardson said. "Before you say anything else, let me assure you that you will be more than welcome on staff here. I've spoken to Major Poole and he can't say enough good things about you. He's sorry to see you go."

I was surprised that Major Richardson was already well aware of the reason for my visit. "Thank you sir," I replied. "Will I be serving in the same capacity as training officer?"

"Not exactly," Captain Steele replied.

"Oh?" I asked, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"There are a lot of changes coming here," Major Richardson said. "I am being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and I'll be taking a position with the regional staff office. Captain Steele will be promoted to Major and become the new CO."

"Congratulations!" I said to both fellow officers.

"I'd like you to be my flight training officer, but I'd also like you to consider being my second in command," Captain Steele said. "I can't think of a better or more qualified officer to do the job."

"I'd be honoured," I replied with a huge grin and shook both men's hands.

Once we had completed a bit of paperwork and worked out the final arrangements, it was time for closing parade. I followed Major Richardson and Captain Steele out to the parade square where the other staff officers and cadets were already assembled.

Major Richardson made some routine announcements and then delivered the news about the pending change of command. "While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as CO of this cadet squadron, I feel that I am leaving you in Captain, soon to be Major Steele's capable hands. I am also pleased to announce on behalf of Captain Steele, Captain Davis from 845 Mississauga will be joining us in the very near future. Captain Davis will assume the duties as flight training officer and he will become the Squadron Second in Command."

I noticed that both Mark and Michael were positively beaming where they stood formed up in their flight.

"One last task that I have this evening is to announce two well-deserved promotions. We presently have two open Sergeant's positions that need to be filled and as luck would have it, I have two Corporals with exemplary records, who have shown a tremendous level of leadership and devotion to duty. These two cadets have distinguished themselves time and time again during their short career as Air Cadets. Promoted to the rank of Sergeant and appointed Second in Command of Flight 1, Corporal Callahan. Promoted to the rank of Sergeant and appointed Second in Command of Flight 3, Corporal Burton. Corporals Callahan and Burton please step forward," Major Richardson said to loud cheers from the assembled cadets.

I smiled as Mark and Michael both snapped smartly to attention and marked crisply to the front of the parade square before halting and saluting Major Richardson. Major Richardson handed Michael his new rank badge and shook his hand. He was about to do the same for Mark when he turned to me. "Captain Davis, would you like to have the honour of promoting Corporal Callahan?"

"I sure would," I replied. I marched over and accepted the Sergeant rank badges and then halted in front of Mark. Mark saluted crisply with an enormous smile on his face. I handed him his new rank badge and shook his hand, "You earned this son and I couldn't be more proud of you."

Later, Bryan, Darren and I were in the parking lot speaking to Howard and Angela Burton waiting for the boys. When they exited the armoury, it looked as if both of them were floating on air with their feet not even touching the ground.

Michael jumped into his parent's arms while Mark hugged me, Bryan and a very surprised Darren. "This is awesome!" Mark said. "I'm now the second in command of the flight! Too bad we have to be in separate flights now though."

"Yeah, I'm second in command of number 3 flight," Michael said. "I guess they can only have one second in command in each one!"

"You boys are moving up so fast I think you'll be running the show in no time," Howard chuckled and patted both of them on the back.

"I'm very proud of both of you," Angela added and kissed each of them on the cheek.

"I guess congratulations are in order for you too," Bryan said. "Second in command of the squadron!"

"That is so cool that Josh and I will be in the same squadron and you'll be one of our officers," Mark said. "Kevin too!"

That night I went in to tuck Mark in. He was awake and sitting on the edge of his bed in a pair of boxer briefs carefully sewing his new rank badge onto his uniform tunic.

"Nice job there bud," I said as I leaned down and kissed the top of his head before sitting down next to him.

He smiled brightly at me before continuing his work. He was nearly done and I sat and watched him silently. One of my greatest pleasures was to sit and watch Josh do his thing, whatever it was it didn't matter. I just gained a huge amount of pleasure out of watching either of our boys do anything. I was in awe of both of them.

Finally Mark finished and climbed into bed. "I can't wait for you to get out here with Josh and everyone else," he said. "I miss you so badly when you're not here."

"I know bud. Josh said the same thing the other night. He wished you had been in the room instead of being on the phone. I miss you too. Josh and I were talking the other week and I said something to him that you should hear too," I said. "I told Josh that you two are the perfect sons. Perfect in every way and that given the opportunity to change anything about either of you, I wouldn't change a thing. I love you Mark no matter where I am or how far away I may be. Always know that."

"I do. I love you too Dad," he said with a grin and reached out to hug me tightly.

After I left Mark's room, I went to the living room and sat down on the sofa next to Bryan. He handed me a tumbler glass filled with Bailey's Irish Cream.

"You know, I often wonder what we did to be blessed with such a family and especially with two of the most remarkable and wonderful boys the world has ever seen."

"I'll drink to that," Bryan smiled. "To our sons," he said as we clinked glasses.

The next morning while Darren and I were waiting for our cab to the airport, Bryan called my cell from his work. Harold Stemming agreed to become our property manager for the building. He decided that he would hire a new crew for this building - the crew he had working at the apartment were familiar with the tenants and he didn't was to disturb that relationship.

Everything was coming well ahead of schedule and I was looking forward to the upcoming family Christmas in which the entire family would be assembled under one roof. It was only a few months away and yet we had so much to do between now and then. At least we knew that the light at the far end of the tunnel wasn't an oncoming train this time.


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