"What do you mean, it's just a short job, Mr Cross?" exasperated Patty asked.
"Just three days, off hours for the client so it doesn't interfere too much with their daily business. You'll be in and out in no time. Won't even make a dent in your schedule, Patty." answer Cross nonchalantly.
"Well, I guess it's alright. The week after next I will be finished with Anderson and I can work it in maybe Tuesday that week?" suggested Patty.
"Oh no, I already have you going this week. You leave on Thursday morning, work that day, Friday, Saturday and leave Sunday afternoon. No big deal really."
"Mr Cross, I had plans with my daughter this weekend. I have been putting in extra hours for the Anderson deal and I promised to take her to the movies and be at her soccer game. I can't do it this weekend." Patty said hoping to evoke some sympathy.
"You'll have plenty of time for the family and your kiddo Sunday when you get back. I got three myself and you know our company is all about family time. Your daughter will hardly miss you and besides, don't your parents watch her when you are working? What kind of kid doesn't want to be spoiled by Meemaw and PawPaw all weekend?" laughed Cross.
("MeeMaw? PawPaw?" thought Patty, "What sort of gibberish is that? And 'kiddo' family time for a few hours? Cross must be a real winner of a dad")
"If I have to go, Mr. Cross, I'll do it. But I will be taking some time off when I get back. Has Glenda made my travel arrangements or do I have too?" ask Patty.
"I got it all scheduled last week. I knew you would want to take care of this audit so I booked you on Southwest and have your hotel arranged in Shreveport. All you have to do is show up and knock this one out of the park. I'll talk to you when you get back, Patty. Bye!" and Cross hung up the phone.
"What a jerk," thought Patty. Cross comitted her without even checking to see if it worked for her yet. Patty made a mental note to put in for vacation time the week she returned and then tried to decide what to tell Elena. It was going to break the little girl's heart.
Whatever the case may be, the job paid well and because of her hard work and level head, she was advancing rapidly. Since her divorce five years ago and her ex-husband's diapparance from her daughter's life (and lack of child support), Patty alone was the bread winner. Besides, it was better to be the person the company stuck on a plane than be the one overlooked and sitting in the cubicle in the corner.
The trip was less than two days away which meant Patty needed to get organized and get some things taken care of before she left. First was making sure Mom and Dad could take care of Elena and get her to school. Next, was getting the a couple of bills paid and withdrawing some extra cash for her trip. Finally, get a couple of business suits to the dry cleaners. Plenty to do and not much time..
Two days later
Leaving had been harder this time than before. Elena had tried so hard to be understanding and brave, but last night she had a nightmare and woke Patty up in the middle of the night.
Elena said she had a dream that mommy was not going to come back from her trip this time. That mommy was going to go away to an awful place and forget about her.
Patty hugged her daughter and assured her all was going to be fine and that she would be home on Sunday night and that she would bring Elena a present. Further, she promised she would take off work next week and they could spend all thattime together.
Patty's father and mother came over early before Elena awoke for school that morning. Ed and Inez Valdez lived outside the small town of Aledo on a few acres in a modest home where Patty and her brothers and sister had grown up.
Ed, which was short for Eduardo, had worked in a paint and body shop while Patty was growing up, but had worked other jobs on the side for extra money. It was only when Patty was working her way through college did she learn what her mother and father had been doing with the extra money.
Her parents owned more than a dozen rental properties which they had acquired over the years and which Ed maintained. Like their home, all were paid for and continued to generate monthly income for the couple.
When Patty finished her accounting degree and went to work, her father asked if she wanted to use her education to help him with bills and so forth. Patty discovered that not only did they own all of their properties outright, but that they had no other debt, had perfect credit and over a quarter of a million dollars in cash combined in their checking and savings accounts.
Patty returned her father's ledgers and checkbooks to him and told him "Whatever you are doing, you are doing it better than I could ever do." and they had a good laugh.
Patty's parents were going to take Elena to school and then on to their home that afternoon where she would stay the weekend.
Maybe it was the nightmare Elena had or the suddeness of the trip, but Patty had a bad feeling about this trip as well. One she couldn't shake.
The plane touched down at 10AM in Shreveport and Elena took a cab directly to the client's office. It was a midsized oil equipment support company which had recently undergone an audit of its finances by state tax officials which resulted in the hiring of Patty's company to help with the numbers and final reporting.
Patty was greeted by the staff accountant and she was directed to a large conference room which had been reserved for their work. Files were stacked on the main table and a variety of supporting documents and accounting records were available as well.
Through a working lunch and past 5PM, Patty reviewed as much as possible before deciding upon the best course of action for the following day and throughout the weekend. The company accountant and accounts payable/receivable workers would be on site the entire weekend until suitable results were met. In two weeks, there would be a conference call to decide upon the next course of action.
Around 5:30, Patty's cab arrived to take her to her hotel in downtown Shreveport. It was a national chain, slightly upscale and near the river which made it walking distance to the popular casinos in Shreveport and Bossier City. While Patty was by no means a gambler, she decided if there was time she would go by one of the larger ones on Saturday evening just to say she went.
After checking in, Patty was told there was a happy hour in the bar until 7PM and while the only thing on her mind was a hot bath, she decided a glass of wine would be nice to unwind with. She left her bag with the front desk clerk and went into the crowded bar to get a complimentary glass of wine, but found herself waiting to get the bartender's attention.
A large somewhat loud man was standing next to her took it upon himself to help,
"Here, let me givev you a hand," he boomed.
"Barkeep? Could you please take this young lady's order? She has been standing here for some time and I insist you serve her next."
After the bartender took her order, the big man turned to her,
"Lamar Hughes. Investments and financial planning for the high wealth individual, how do you do?" and he held out a large paw of a hand.
Hughes was middle aged, easily six foot three, had a full head of dark. wavy red hair, was wearing a high quaility sports jacket, slacks and a silk shirt which was not doing a good job hiding his significant belly. He had a Rolex on his left wrist, a heavy gold bracelet on his right, a gold wedding band on his left hand, a diamond signet ring and a large gold ring on his right.
He was wearing a particularly large amount of cologne and gave off a slightly fussy feminine vibe, thought Patty, but he did not come across as a masher or threatening in any way.
"Patty Valdez, thanks for your help." she replied.
"I love these networking events, I'm a sucker for them everytime. I work out of Dallas myself. Ellen, my better half and live just north of the city in Uptown. Are you from around here?" he asked
"I live in Fort Worth actually, just up the road. Dallas is a nice place but a bit big for me, but that is a nice part of town you live in. What brings you to Shreveport, Mr. Hughes?"
"Please, call me Lamar. Here to see a client. An old guy, lots of old money, but he hates to invest it. Brought my pliers and my 'A' game so let's see how I make out." he laughed causing a nearby woman to jump slightly at the volume.
"Fort Worth is one of my favorite cities, got lots of clients there," he added. "I bet we know some of the same people. So what do you do Patty and what dragged you away from Cowtown?"
"I am an accountant for Sturgis and McCallister. I specialize in audits and tax matters and I'm visiting with one of our clients here."
"Well that'great. I hope they don't have too much trouble with the Infernal Revenue Service, the least we all see of them, the better!
Say, have you been out to any of the casinos yet? I came in last night and went by the Horseshoe. Now, it's not the Venitian, but its a great time all the same. If you get a few hours, you should check it out and play the tables. I won two hundred bucks last night!"
"Well, I am not much of a gambler, but I did want to stop by one if there's time. I will be sure to take your advice and swing by the Horseshoe, thanks. Well, I just checked in and want to get ready for my day tomorrow. Thanks again for the assistance, Mr. Hughes." Patty said.
"My pleasure, here take one of my cards. We should stay in touch. Say, how about another one down here!' said Hughes as he turned back to the bar.
Patty smiled and went to the elevator. She changed her mind and decided to grab a quick workout in the hotel gym, order some dinner to her room and then take that bath.
After reaching her room, Patty first phoned Elena and asked her about school and her day. They talked for thirty minutes before it was time for Elena to wind down and get ready for bed.
Patty changed into her workout clothes and regretted not being home where she would have been in kick boxing class this evening. Instead, she would have to settle for a couple of miles on the treadmill and some free weights. All the same, it kept her body in shape and her mind focused.
For dinner, she ordered room service and flipped on the TV. Apparently, there were some problems with internet access reported across China and the Pacific Rim which officials were blaming on cyber attacks.
Patty booted up her company laptop and while a couple of sites were slow, everything seemed normal to her. She checked her email and sent a quick note to her assistant letting her know she arrived and her plans for the next day.
After eating, Patty took a hot bath and turned in early. The news was still on and there was a problem reported out of Austrailia with the air traffic control system.
"I hope that does'nt happen here," thought Patty as she drowsed off. She turned off the set and fell into a dreamless sleep.
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