Ann: The Married Years Ch. 27

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“It’s way too early to be doing this,” Ann groaned as she drove down the four-lane highway. Taking another sip of the coffee she’d been holding between her legs, she took an extra moment to let the aroma permeate her senses.

“I told you, I could have driven myself. The company would have paid for the parking,” Neil said as he tried to relax in the passenger seat. That was no small feat the way she was whipping her little Honda through the heavier than normal traffic for a weekend morning.

“It’s silly to have your car there that long, baby. Besides, it’s our day. I want to spend as much time as I can with you before you go, especially since we’re not going to have another one again for quite a while.”

Her bottom lip popped out in a playful pout, but the truth was she hated the idea that he was leaving for so long.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“What’s up?” Neil said nonchalantly as he walked into Andy Evans’s office.

He always felt it was such a huge room for such a small man. But that was simply because of Andy’s height, or lack of it. It certainly wasn’t his stature. After all, he was a vice president in the corporation, and he was in charge of the plant. The title and the office commanded respect. But so did Andy, because he was such a great leader.

Yet he was the kind of guy that didn’t act like it. He hated being called Mr. Evans by his subordinates. He wanted to have his staff feel like they were on equal ground. He was a general, but he liked to lead like he was one of the troops, willing to get in the firefight if need be. That’s why Neil was so comfortable walking into the room the way he had.

Still, finding his boss Jeff already sitting in one of the chairs in front of the huge desk, he had momentary pause. Something was up.

“Have a seat Neil,” Andy said as he stood up, motioning for him to take his place in the empty one next to Jeff. “You had a good night last night, I see.”

“You called me into your office on a Friday morning to tell me what I already know?” he asked, a hint of a laugh in his voice.

But there was some merit to his comment. It was shift change weekend, and Neil had just put in four weeks on third shift. He was looking forward to getting home and getting some sleep so he could transition to day shift and the warmer weather the beginning of spring was surely going to offer. The sooner he got himself acclimated to the hours, the sooner he and Ann would be feeling normal once again. To get called into a meeting on his way out the door, especially on a shift change weekend, was not a good sign. It was a Friday, and his shift was over. He remembered what happened to Conrad; the timing exactly the same. His partner Thelma had told him it was a classic Armada firing scenario… the shift change termination.

It wasn’t like Neil was worried about his job, though. Andy had said as much when he walked in, making sure to ease any tension by reminding him that of the great job he’d been doing. In fact, unbeknownst to him, that was one of the reasons why he’d been called into the office to begin with.

Carol had dialed his extension while he was finishing up his paperwork, letting him know that Andy wanted to see him on the way out. That Jeff was there seemed a bit strange, but he didn’t panic. Instead he made light of the comment about his shifts’ production and had a seat, trying to look relaxed while he gauged the mood in the room.

“Well, there’s no sense beating around the bush Neil. I need your help,” the silver-haired VP sighed as he leaned forward, elbows on his desk as he clasped his hands together.

“WE need your help,” Jeff corrected; wanting to make sure Neil knew this wasn’t just coming from the top.

Neil read that comment quickly, recognizing it as it was meant. Whatever this was, it was a department problem, but one that went over Jeff’s head. It was one that required Andy’s input to resolve.

“Okay… what can I help you both with?” Andy cleared his throat, staring at the blotter on his desk as he searched for the right words. Jeff waited, knowing it wasn’t his place to step in; nor did he want to. Neil sensed the trepidation. “Hey, whatever it is, I can’t help you if you don’t clue me in. Out with it.”

“You’re right,” Andy said as he picked up a manila job folder off his desk, opening it. “There’s no sense sugarcoating it. We’ve got a fuck up, and I’m personally asking for your help in fixing it.”

Neil arched an eyebrow, noticing Jeff was nodding out of the corner of his eye. “Oooookaaaay.”

“The bottom line is we’ve got some defective product at a distribution site, and we need to find a way to do a full inspection and still keep their shipments going out the door.”

“So, we have them ship half of it back and we’ll do a check, and then we can return them and get the rest done when they send us the balance.”

It was a standard, pat answer; the company line that had always been offered on the rare occasion that casino oyna something like that might happen. But Andy shook his head and said, “We can’t.”

“Why not?”

“A couple reasons, actually. First, they can’t wait for us to ship them back here to inspect. They need to have good product available to ship out on Monday if they need to. And the second reason is the freight to ship them back would cost us a fortune.”

“What?” he replied, puzzled by that nugget of non-information. “Just how many are we talking about?”

“A half-million,” Jeff groaned, the steam practically rolling out of his ears.

“Excuse me.”

“That’s right, Neil,” Andy affirmed as he handed him a piece of paper from the file. “Five hundred thousand… give or take a little.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. And they want us to do what?”

“Inspect everything we sent them on the order.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

Jeff pulled a box off the table next to him and opened it. “They’re missing that.” He was pointing toward a small decorative label on the outside of the piece. It had nothing to do with the functionality of the product. It would actually still work as designed without any quality issues whatsoever. But it was missing the shiny gold emblem that made it stand out.

“So, they’re bouncing the job over something cosmetic?”

“It’s their company decal. They paid for it, Neil. That’s what they expect their customers to see when the box is opened.”

“Well obviously I get that. But c’mon… it’s not like we sent them something that’s actually defective.”

“We know. That’s what we told them. We even offered them a discount.”

Neil slumped a bit in his seat, knowing where the conversation was now heading. At least, he thought he did. “So… you want me to go out and inspect them.”

“And fix any ones you find that are missing the label.”

Neil recognized the job as soon as Jeff opened the box. And he knew his crew had done a portion of it. But he also knew the part they had done was right. He’d checked on it during production when it was running, several times.

“Why me? My crew didn’t have anything to do with this. I know we put them on when we were running the job.”

“I know that too,” Andy nodded.

“So… send out whoever fucked it up.”

“We can’t,” Jeff said as he pointed toward the bottom of the production sheet in Neil’s hand. “We fired him.”

Neil shook his head. Somehow, even months after he’d been let go, Conrad had still found a way to screw him over. Yes, Neil’s crew had run a portion of the job. So had Derrick’s… but Conrad’s crew had produced the vast majority of it. But that didn’t matter. While he wasn’t the one that created it, he was the one being asked to clean up the mess… again.

But Andy saw things differently when he said, “Even if he was still here, I wouldn’t send him.”

“Really?”

“Be realistic Neil. Would you want that asshole representing your company? Interacting with one of your largest customers… at their facility? Especially with no oversight or supervision?”

“Well, no. Not when you break it down like that. But how is this even possible. He’s been gone for like six months, and we’re just finding out about it now?”

“This is their new model. It releases to the public in June. They start shipping them to the stores next week.”

“But still… why me? Isn’t Thelma better qualified? She’s your right-hand woman,” he said directly to Jeff.

“She is, to a point. But you’re better suited for this.”

“How so?”

“For one, you adapt to change better than she does. Two, she doesn’t like to fly, although she would if I asked her to. But most important is three; you have a better eye for talent.”

“What in the world does that mean?”

“This is a big project. You can’t possible do this all by yourself. So, you’re going to be working with a temporary service to help you go through these. And you know how to pick out a workforce. Better than anyone I’ve ever met. You’ve proven that time and again. We’ve made arrangements for you to meet with the temp service and then to interview potential workers.”

“I’m going to interview temporary employees? That’s a bit unusual, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but so are the circumstances. The service we’ve contacted is pretty high end. They have a really good reputation. And they’ve agreed to set this up so you can hit the ground running on Monday.”

“I’m sorry… did you say Monday?”

“Unfortunately, yes. Like we said, the customer needs to be able to ship out product Monday afternoon if they need to.”

“When am I supposed to meet with the service?”

“Early Sunday afternoon.”

“That’s not the worst of it, Neil,” Andy cautioned, wanting to make sure that all the cards were on the table so he’d know what was expected. “We’re estimating this is going to take about six weeks to fix.”

“Holy shit,” he mumbled, feeling the blood rushing to his head, the beginning of a headache forming in the front slot oyna of his brain.

“I know this is a lot to ask, Neil.”

Swallowing hard, he nodded his head, knowing they were asking a lot because they had faith in him. Being the good soldier, he said, “Yeah. This really isn’t a good time for me to be leaving, personally. But there really nothing to ask on your part, Andy… it needs to be done. I understand.”

“Well, there is one more reason we’re asking you. And while I know it may not seem like it, we are asking.”

“I know… what’s the other reason?”

“The distribution center is in Indianapolis. We figured since you’re from there, it would be a lot easier for you to get where you’re going and do what needs to be done.”

“I’m from Indiana, Andy. I’m not from Indy. But I get your point… I’ve been there enough to know my way around.”

“So, are you on board?” he asked, knowing the answer before he asked the question.

Neil ignored it though, thinking about how this was going to affect him personally. And Ann. “I’ve just got to figure out how to break it to my wife that I’m losing all of day shift with her… and longer.”

“Well, you can start by telling her that I’m going to compensate you for stepping up to the plate for us. We’re in deep with this customer, partner. I can’t tell you how important it is that you go in there and knock ’em dead on Monday. That first impression is going to go a long way in restoring our reputation.”

“I’ll tell her. But there’s more to life than money. A few extra bucks aren’t going to make up for my not being home for six weeks. Especially because I was going to be on day shift… hell if I was switching to second, she’d probably be thrilled.”

“That’s not true and you know it,” Jeff countered, knowing full well what they were asking Neil to do.

“Well, maybe not. But you get my point.”

“Loud and clear,” Andy said with a grin. “I’ll make sure we do something special for Ann. So… are you on board?”

“Was there ever any doubt?” he said as he rolled his eyes.

“I knew we could count on you Neil,” he sighed heavily, the relief on his face evident. Pressing the button on his phone, he called out, “Carol?”

“Yes Andy,” she answered.

“Neil’s going to go for us. Make his arrangements please.”

“Already done, sir,” she replied, a hint of antagonism dripping from her words.

“Sir?” he questioned, wondering why she was being so formal. Still, he winked at Neil, shaking his head in disbelief that Carol already had everything set up, marveling at her efficiency. “What would you have done if he’d said no?” he joked.

“I think the bigger question is, what would you have done?”

“Good point. I’m not sure.”

“Well isn’t it good to know you have someone so professional and reliable you didn’t have to worry about it?”

“Very much,” he nodded.

“I guess it’s a good thing I hired him then, isn’t it?” she snarled sarcastically. She was reminding him that she had been the one that negotiated the terms of Neil’s offer, having been instrumental in the interviewing process. That process included fucking Neil at the hospital right after his company physical; a scenario helped set up by her friend Martina… who had been hired as the company nurse.

Andy gulped. He knew all too well about that particular negotiation. He didn’t know what happened physically between her and Neil, but he was well versed in what transpired between her and himself. He also knew what was coming next. He was already blushing when he said, “I recall, Carol.”

“Do you also recall how I had to get on my knees for you and beg you to let me make what I knew was the right decision? I swallowed my pride… and more that day. Twice, if I remember correctly. All for the goodof you and Armada.”

Carol was caustically needling Andy about the fact that she’d given him a blowjob in order to secure more money and more vacation time for Neil as part of her ‘negotiation’ of the compensation package. Neil was fully aware she’d done that, albeit way after the fact. He was suddenly stunned that she apparently sucked him off twice that day. Carol alluding that she got on her knees and had swallowed twice was not lost on him.

Or Andy. He had to clear his throat, adjusting the knot of his tie, loosening it. He began to sweat, his face turning a deeper shade of red. “Uh… yes. Thank you again for championing Neil and pointing out all of his abilities. He’s become a godsend here.”

“Absolutely! He’s a highly-valued, company-minded person. Just like yours truly. I seem to take one for team quite often… did it just this morning for you, as a matter of fact!”

Andy visibly shook, the shock of her comment resonated in his reaction. “C… Carol? Please don’t,” he stuttered.

“You should never take your employees for granted, Mr. Evans. Especially those that give of themselves freely by their very nature. Like Neil. Like me!”

He hung his head, shaking it as he let a resigned sigh canlı casino siteleri escape his chest. Jeff was clueless as to the genesis of the interaction between the two. Neil had a strong idea, but remained quiet, unwilling to speculate out loud. The fact that she didn’t call him Andy, and she clearly was openly rebuking his behavior spoke to her disappointment in him. Neil was certain that was why she was making him squirm in his seat. He silently wondered how bad it would have been if she were eviscerating him in person instead of on the speaker phone.

Still, Andy took her stern scolding to heart, stating, “I didn’t thank you, did I.”

“Don’t you dare make the same mistake with Neil. Not with what he’s personally sacrificing to save your ass again.”

“My ass? This is a division problem.”

“No, it was a Conrad problem. NOW it’s a division problem. I’d been telling you about him for over a year, but you didn’t listen. If you would have taken care of it like I warned you, the company wouldn’t be in this mess. Now we’re all paying the price, and Neil the affected the most! He and Ann have been trying to start a family for months. This is going to set that back even more.”

Andy glanced at Neil, who responded with a forlorn nod.

Carol then added, “And if what happened to me this morning happens again in the future, you’ll be taking care of yourself. Have I made myself clear, Mr. Evans?”

“Crystal, Miss Shade. I’m very sorry. Thank you for your assistance this morning.”

“Apology accepted. I’m sorry I had to be so harsh with you. I know you’ve been stressed about this customer problem, but that’s no excuse. All I was did was try to help you, like I always have. I won’t allow all I do for you to go unappreciated… or worse, blatantly ignored like you did today. I love being your beck and call girl, Andy. But I will not have my efforts and talent disrespected like that ever again. You hurt me today. I would have rather you slapped me in the face than to do what you did. I mean it. Please don’t treat me like I’m a… well, you know.””

Neil had to fight off a snort from her ‘call girl’ quip. Andy purposely ignored it, but Neil could tell it bothered him. It went completely over Jeff’s head.

Andy was nodding, even though she couldn’t see him. “I won’t I promise. And Neil, I hope I didn’t disrespect your contributions to our success. We need this problem solved, and I knew I was asking a lot. But I had no idea you and Ann were trying to… “

His voice trailed off, nearly cracking from the emotion. Neil raised his hand. “It’s okay, Andy. I understand the importance of this. I know she will too.”

“I wouldn’t if I were her,” Carol snarked. “She can’t get pregnant if he’s in Indiana for over a month. They’re likely going to miss two of her ovulation cycles.”

“How do you know that?” Jeff wondered.

“Because she’s my best friend, Jeff. This is big, what you two are asking.”

Andy jumped in and said, “That’s why I would like you to do something for Ann while he’s gone, Carol. I want her to be happy.”

“I’m already working on that too, Andy,” she giggled, finally lightening her mood.

The sexy lilt in her laugh went over the head of the other two in the room. But Neil knew that snicker, and what it most likely meant.

“While the cat’s away,” he sighed to himself, thinking of Carol finding ways to entertain his wife while he was gone.

“Thank you again Carol… for taking care of this, and this morning. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re awesome!”

“I know. And now you know I won’t let you forget it, no matter who you’re with,” she said in a sing-song voice, before disconnecting.

Neil saw the look on Andy’s face. It was one he’d seen before whenever he’d interact with his executive secretary. While he commanded respect, Neil knew she was the one that had the real power. And she’d just reaffirmed why.

Jeff didn’t get it, which had him questioning the exchange he’d just heard. “I can’t believe you let her talk to you like that, Andy. Especially on speaker.”

Andy defended her, saying, “First, she was right. I absolutely took her for granted earlier today. I’ve been distracted by this damn problem… I’ve probably been on the phone with our customer thirty times this week, trying to find a way to resolve it that didn’t lead to this. But I was a jerk. She definitely had a right to call me on it. Secondly, it would have been a lot worse if I’d picked up the phone while she was venting. Trust me on that.”

“Okay, but that was so unlike you. And frankly, insubordinate of her.”

Neil spoke up, helping to soften the blow for the man in charge. “Nah. I get it. She’s feeling neglected. Ann lashes out at me like that when I’m a bonehead.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Neil?”

“Think about it, Jeff. The relationship between a man like Andy, in his position, and his executive secretary… it’s just like a marriage, and she’s a stay at home wife. Carol is only successful if he is. Hers is a thankless job, with no recognition from anyone else in the company. If she doesn’t get that acknowledgement from him, she has to think all her hard work is unnoticed, and therefore, unimportant.”

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