On Wednesday evening, Leah receives a summons to appear at her father’s condo in Buckhead on Friday, something she was expecting, though not as soon as it came. The announcement of her funding won’t be in the news until the following week, but Paxton has enough contacts in the business community that very little occurs in Atlanta that he misses. As is customary with her father, once he’s stated he wants to see her, he gives no follow-up at all unless plans change unexpectedly, so she has no idea what might be on his mind. She’s certain that by the time she appears Friday, he’ll know about Cairo.
In the days since she and Tracey secured their office space, Leah’s been inundated with phone calls from financiers who’ve heard rumblings about the support she’s receiving from Cairo. As one of her last duties in her current position, Tracey sent an announcement to the Atlanta Business Chronicle and other relevant business publications nationwide, so in addition to offers of financing, Leah’s been fielding calls from a number of contracting firms looking to be a part of her bid to the government. Tracey has lined up meetings for the end of the following week, after their meeting with Bickering. Cairo reacted to Tracey’s resignation as Leah expected.
“I do and do for you, Doctor, and you go and steal my receptionist,” he said in a phone call to her on Thursday.
“What did you expect?” she replied.
“Pretty much what happened. I’m sure she’ll be happier with you than she was pushing papers here.”
“Did you talk to her daughter?”
“Yeah, she’s coming on board next week. I’d give you some advice for meeting with Bickering, but in all the time I worked there I never quite figured them out. Heard from your Dad yet?”
“No. Probably tomorrow when I see him. Not looking forward to it.”
Leah arrives at her father’s condo in Buckhead just as rush hour is starting to wind down and lets herself in.
Paxton Walker is a man of medium height and trim build, who speaks with an erudite Southern accent, slow and measured, as though he’s given much more thought to each of his utterances than he actually has. Since he semi-retired from his company, he’s grown a full beard and usually dresses in casual slacks, polo shirts, and loafers. He never actually relinquished control of the company and still okays most of the decisions made by the board. A pack-a-day smoker and moderate drinker, he’s sometimes plagued by discomfort in his chest, indicative of the heart condition he’s ignoring, which will end his life in a little over six years on the golf course he visits at least twice a week.
Leah exits onto the balcony and finds him overlooking the intersection of Peachtree and Roswell Roads, a half-smoked Camel between the index and middle fingers of his right hand and a rocks glass of bourbon, neat, on a tray beside him. He’s leaning forward in his chair, staring intently at the early evening traffic. Sensing Leah’s presence he doesn’t alter his gaze but takes a draw on his cigarette, expels the smoke and shakes his head.
“I heard some rather interesting news today, Leah,” he says.
“I guessed as much,” she says.
“My contact at the Business Chronicle called to alert me to a story that’s appearing next week in their start-ups report.”
“Did they list me as L. J. or Leah J.?”
“There is just no limit to the lengths you will go to get under my skin, is there?”
“Thanks, Dad, I’m excited about this new venture, too.”
“It’s all just one big joke to you, isn’t it?” he says, finally turning to face her.
“I’m getting a pretty massive startup check that says otherwise.”
“What in the hell possessed you to go to that clown for financing?”
“It’s what he does,” Leah says.
“Did I not make it clear to you that my network of financiers would be at your beck and call?”
“And every dollar would have a string attached to it,” she replies. “Cairo takes a hands-off approach to his financing.”
“You just have to do things your way, don’t you?”
“Sort of like a certain novice developer in 1969, eh, Dad?”
“Don’t change the subject. It’s not about me.”
“Did you really expect I was going to grovel before your network of old boys?”
“You have known these men your entire life,” he says. “You don’t even show them the courtesy of listening to their proposals?”
“Funny thing, Dad. Ever since word leaked out about my funding from Cairo, my phone’s been ringing off the hook with offers from them.”
“They know a good thing when they see it,” Leah says.
“That’s neither here nor there,” he says.
“If I’d done it your way, I’d have gotten a fraction of the funding but far more condescending advice than I could stand.”
“I am never going to live this down.”
“That’s it, isn’t it, Dad? It’s not about me charting my own course, but how it all reflects on you. How will you ever face Johnny Portman and Artie Blank on the links, knowing your own daughter had the audacity to go to the wealthiest financier in town?”
“In this town you wait your turn,” he says, waving his cigarette at her.
“That’s a load of crap and you know it,” she says. “When have you ever waited your turn?”
“It’s bad enough you embarrassed the family by breaking into all those systems. Doug Daft has been giving me the cold shoulder at the club ever since.”
“So sorry I broke up your foursome, Dad,” Leah says. “The consensus seems to be leaning in my favor. By the time I get Cairo’s check Monday, I’ll have another ten million waiting for me. What’s that you always say? Success breeds success.”
“Time will tell, I suppose,” he says. “Enough about that.” He motions for her to sit and she does so she’s upwind from his smoking. “There’s another reason I wanted to see you. The original reason, in fact.”
“What’s this about?” she says.
“Estate? Are you trying to tell me something, Dad?”
“Oh, of course not,” he says. “But there’s no reason not to be ready, just in case.”
“Fair enough,” Leah says.
“I’m naming you my executor.”
“A bit of a surprise, given our discussion up to this point,” she says.
“Despite our differences, I have no doubt you’ll be a responsible administrator. My alternative is one of the lawyers and I’d rather have someone in the family handle this.”
“Uncle Duane used to specialize in financial planning. Why not tap him?”
“I don’t want him or especially his wife anywhere near my assets. I’d rather you handle things.”
“I’m glad you have such confidence in me. What about Alyssa?”
“I don’t want her to have to deal with this,” he says.
“She’s a lot more capable than you think she is,” Leah says.
“No matter. I don’t want her involved.”
“Of course not,” Leah says. “Anything in particular I’ll need to know about?”
“Not really,” he says, “it’s pretty straight-forward. I’m evenly dividing my assets between you and Alyssa, including what I got from Margaret’s estate.”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to be a grocer,” Leah says.
“You’ll still have your uncles to contend with,” Paxton says. “In fact, they’ll probably be happy I don’t have a controlling interest anymore.”
“I doubt they’d be much happier with me or Alyssa.”
“Individually, you’ll each have less control,” he says.
“I guess,” she says. “Any surprises?”
“I’m not a surprising person. Walker Dev and the grocery business are the major concerns. My personal assets are well-documented.”
“I’m sure I’ll sort them all out,” Leah says.
“Good,” he says. “Because I’m not planning to have any further conversations with you on this.”
“What, you’re cutting me off after naming me as your executor?”
“I don’t see what other alternative I have, Leah. You’ve allied yourself with a man I find deplorable. Unless you come to your senses, I don’t see what else we have to talk about.”
“Great going, Dad,” Leah says as she rises. She starts to walk back into the condo. “Oh, you know what the best part of all this financing is?”
“What’s that?” Paxton says.
“I got my seat at the table and didn’t have to ask your pals for a thing. They came to me. Have a wonderful evening, Dad.”