Another Friday is upon us (where DOES a week go?), and Catrina Bradley is our gracious hostess for Friday Fiction over on her blog, Speak to the Mountain. You don’t have to move mountains, though, to find the Linky tool and great stories for your weekend reading pleasure.
One criticism I’ve received from several readers about Cardan’s Pod is that it seems to “fast forward” at the end, skipping over a lot of details by simply mentioning them in passing. I can’t argue with that assessment, since at the time, I had to weigh how important I thought those scenes were to the overall flow of the story. In a few cases, I have gone back and filled in these events with short stories, and this week’s submission is one such case. The time frame is Josh’s first morning back at Cardan Pharmaceuticals, after the murder attempt and his time in hiding, and corresponds to the same time period as the story posted back on June 12, 2009.
A Lonely Place
“Good morning, Mr. Cardan,” the security guard at the entrance greeted him as he entered the lobby. “It’s good to see you again; we were all so worried when you turned up missing.”
He smiled and nodded politely at her in reply. He’d entered that same door and walked this same hallway so many times before, but this time felt strange; stranger even than the first time he’d walked in as the new owner and President of Cardan Pharmaceuticals after the death of his father. Even more than they had done that first day on the job, people stood to peer over the top of cubicle walls or stepped out of offices to watch him walk by. The looks that first time had been ones of uncertainty and curiosity, wondering what the “new kid” was going to do with the company. This morning, however, the looks were ones of relief and, to a certain degree, sympathy.
“Welcome back, Josh,” the executive secretary said as he approached her desk. “I’m glad you’re back.”
“Thanks, Janice,” he replied with less feeling than he thought he should have. “Would you ask Robert Barron to come see me when he gets here?”
“He’s already here,” she informed him. “I’ll let him know you’d like to see him.”
He thanked her and proceeded into his office, settling into the chair at his desk and swiveling around to stare out the window. A few weeks ago he had enjoyed looking at the nicely landscaped grounds outside his office; now he found himself thinking that what he really needed was an ocean view.
He heard the door open and Robert Barron’s voice speaking. “You wanted to see me, Josh?”
“Grab a chair, Rob,” he instructed without turning around. “We’ve got some business to discuss.” Robert had been his father’s “right-hand man” for a number of years and knew the business of running Cardan Pharmaceuticals from the inside-out. While Joshua Cardan was officially the head of the company, Robert Barron was the one who kept things going properly. He finally turned his chair around to face his associate, and noted the odd look on the man’s face. “What’s wrong?” He asked.
Rob shook his head momentarily. “Nothing, really; it’s just that when you told me to grab a chair, you sounded so much like your father that I half expected to see Paul Cardan sitting there when you turned around.” He stared for a moment. “I never noticed before how much you favor him.”
“I noticed that myself, recently,” Josh agreed with a touch of sadness in his voice.
“He was a good man,” Rob added. “I’m just glad now that I didn’t have to attend the funeral for another Cardan. I shouldn’t need to tell you how concerned we all were when the Bitter Pill was found adrift or how shocked we all are at what really happened.”
“Believe me, you couldn’t be half as shocked as I was by it all. You don’t marry someone expecting them to try and murder you.”
“What did happen out there, Josh? All the reports we heard when you first went missing gave little hope of finding you alive; how did you get from where they threw you overboard to that island, anyway?”
“Someone was close enough to see it happen and rescued me; someone I can’t talk about right now, Rob.”
“Well, thank God that whoever it was happened to be there!”
“I have been doing just that,” Josh said, his eyes aimed down at the top of his desk. Looking back up to the man across from him he changed subjects. “Rob, you know more about how this company works than anyone I know. What would it take for us to branch out our product line?”
“Branch out? What kind of new product line are we discussing here?”
“Medical electronics; in particular, support machinery.”
Rob digested this a moment. “It’s not something that Cardan Pharmaceuticals has done before, and we don’t really have the expertise yet to break into the field and compete against the established players. We could do it, but from a business standpoint I’m not sure how the stockholders would respond to the investment risk.”
“What if I told you that I have a line on the design for a machine that would keep a donor organ alive and fully functional indefinitely?”
Rob mulled that over a moment. “Define ‘fully functional’.”
Josh held his eyes. “I’m talking about a machine that not only supports life, but also simulates the body environment so that the organ continues working as it would inside the body. A kidney would filter blood and produce urine; a heart would beat to pump blood; a uterus would continue the monthly cycle and could even sustain pregnancy.”
Rob flinched slightly. “Okay, the first two I can understand, but that last example; why would anyone want that? It’s not like they perform uterine transplants.”
“I’m talking capability, Rob. Maybe it’s not for transplants; maybe it’s for research purposes. Ever consider what it would be like if doctors could keep a diseased organ alive outside the body of the patient so that they could experiment with treatment options without prolonging the patient’s suffering? Imagine testing new drugs on tissue that unexpected side-effects won’t result in life-altering damage to a patient.”
He considered that a moment before looking at Josh over the top of his glasses. “Let’s quit beating around the bush here. Are you serious about this? Do you actually have a line on such a machine?”
“Yes, provided my request to have the technology released to Cardan Pharmaceuticals is approved.”
“How theoretical is this? Are we talking just a design that needs refined and debugged, or has this design been tested and proven?”
“It’s proven, Rob. It worked.”
He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms skeptically. “Okay, Josh; sell me on this. If this is a proven technology, why isn’t it being marketed by the person or company that developed it?”
“Because the man who developed and refined the technology is dead and until just recently all his notes were lost.”
“We don’t have a machine, we just have notes? What proof do we have besides these notes that the technology works?”
“No machine, but trust me on this one, Rob. He left behind some very convincing proof.”
“Josh, let me be honest with you. The stockholders would probably have trusted your old man enough to take his word on something like that, but you haven’t been in charge long enough to have developed that kind of rapport with them. They’re going to want something more than just your word on the proof before they approve such a business venture.”
“Don’t forget, Rob, that I still own fifty-three and a half percent of Cardan Pharmaceutical stock. That notebook had other developments that we could market faster for reasonable profit as well. I understand your points, and I appreciate your honesty, but I want to start working on this as soon as we can.” He leaned forward across his desk. “I’d like a preliminary plan for a new subsidiary of our Research Division, including your recommendations for the best person to head it up for us. I want to know which of our facilities would be the best place for it, which of our people would be the best choices to staff it, and how quickly we could set it up once I get approval to use the technologies.”
“You’re that confident about this?” Rob asked.
“I’ve read the notes and seen the proof, Rob. I’m that confident.” He reclined back in his chair once again. “There are things in that notebook that the Government doesn’t want released, but I’d already read it before they’d decided that. I’ve been privy to some information that I can’t discuss, but I can tell you that I am 100% confident on this.”
Rob smiled knowingly. “Now you’re not just looking and sounding like your old man, you’re acting like him too. Give me about a week and I’ll have that plan for you. I have some people in mind that I think will fill the positions quite well. Anything else?”
“Now that you mention it, yeah, there is one more thing.”
“I think you need a new office.”
“I think we both do, actually. I think you need a bigger office, and I need a smaller one.” He spun to look out the window again. “Yeah; I need a smaller office, and preferably one with a different view.”
“You have a great view from this office,” Rob observed.
“I’m glad you think so. You’re going to be moving into this one soon.”
“Excuse me? I don’t think I heard you correctly, Josh.”
“Rob, I’ve been sitting in my Dad’s chair for a couple of years now, trying to fill his shoes in the company that his father built. All this time, you’ve been the one keeping things going. He trusted you with this company when he was alive, and you’ve kept that trust in the time since he died. You’re the one I consult for the major decisions, and the minor ones tend to get handled by you anyway. I’m a figurehead because it’s my name on the door, and I think it would be better if I simply accepted that my position around here is more ceremonial than practical. Once the new subsidiary of our Research Division is up and running, I’m officially turning over the helm to you.”
“Josh, it’s still awfully soon after a traumatic incident in your life to make decisions like that. I’ll put together the plan for you, and if we get the go-ahead I’ll organize the new subsidiary as well. I won’t, however, hold you to what you just said. Give yourself some more time to get your life back, and then think about it again.”
Josh laughed, though the sound was dry and humorless. “Rob, I will never get my old life back. Cynthia was trying to end my life when she threw me off the Bitter Pill, and in a way she succeeded. That life is over, and when I woke up on that island a few days later it was to a new life. My marriage to Cynthia is being annulled by my lawyer, and I’ve asked my realtor to put my house on the market.”
“Where are you going to go?”
“I’m looking into buying an island, Rob; specifically, the island I ended up on that night. It has some old buildings on it that include some office space, so I’m going to set myself up an office there. I can keep tabs on the company remotely, and you can handle things without me looking over your shoulder constantly as if I knew what I was doing.”
“You’re not going to go Howard Hughes ‘hermit’ on us, are you?”
“No; I’ll still be around for company functions and such. It’s just that the island has felt more like home than the house I shared with Cynthia ever did.”
“Sounds like a lonely place to me.”
“Believe me, Rob; it will never be lonely out there.”