My birthday party was wonderful. Mother did a good job planning it. Yes, I still refer to her as ‘Mother’ but only behind her back because I know she prefers it when I call her Mum. I don’t understand why she was so hurt when I started calling her that as a child. I’ll admit, I started calling her that out of spite because she punished me for something that was no fault of mine but eventually I started liking the sound of it. I felt it was more distinguished than simply Mum and it sounded more natural to me, but whatever my mother wants, my mother gets. I’ve realised that’s how things work when you’re in charge of the legacy and I was so thrilled to finally have my turn at being in control.
Of course, I’m still limited in my powers because Mother is still around and everyone else who lives in this house, who apparently have every right to live here for as long as they want, gets to have a say in certain decisions. We’ll just see about that. One day when I get married and have children of my own I’m going to need a lot of space which means my sister, uncle and cousin will all have to go before that time comes. Mother and Clay will be dead by then so I won’t have to worry about them being in my way either. Then, I’ll have full control over the estate and no one to tell me what I can and cannot do.
I’m eagerly waiting for that day, but until then I have to focus on building myself an empire. I want to transform this place. It’s a cute family home right now but I have a dream of turning this place into a proper mansion, a statement of our family’s prestige and power in this town. To do that, I’ll need to increase our wealth substantially. I was shocked to learn how little funds we had once I met with our family accountant the day after my birthday. Mother took me there to formalise my heiress status which was when I learned the hard truth. Forty-something thousand simoleons was not going to cut it for me if I was going to revamp this place. Mother had seriously mismanaged our estate if that’s all we have in liquid assets. To accomplish my goal, I’d need a job.
With my high skills in programming and my good grades in school I knew I could easily land a position in the Tech Guru career but when I checked the job specifications I realised that the position they were offering was for a Code Monkey and I would start at a meagre 506 simoleons a day in pay. Ugh!
It was so disappointing but at the same time this was one of the highest paying jobs I could get so I accepted it thinking I could work my way up the ranks to eventually earn more money. Unfortunately, the job was not what I thought it would be.
I ended up having little time for anything else as I had to write code day and night and also act as a tester for video games in their beta stages. Do I look like the kind of girl who likes to play video games? Not. At. All.
I had to quit that dumb job. So then I ended up accepting a job at an accounting firm as an assistant to the manager. Finally, I could work in the corporate world and socialise with co-workers who wore suits instead of jeans, who drank gourmet coffee instead of cheap lattes, and who converse about current affairs and the stock exchange instead of the latest episode of A Game of Groans and the new limited edition copy of Llama-Man.
But I was disappointed by that job as well. Assistant to the Manager? More like the Manager’s Assistant’s gofer! My days were spent making coffee runs for both her and the manager, making copies and scanning contracts which were assigned to her, picking up her dry cleaning, making her doctor’s appointments. Why does anyone need to see a gynaecologist so often? Someone who obviously can’t keep her legs closed, that’s who!
Very often I’d return home tense, exhausted, and so angry that I felt like I wanted to punch something! Luckily we had a punching bag in the gym that I used to release some of my pent-up frustration.
I had to quit that job but I was running low on good career options. Anything else would be a major downgrade in terms of salary which I couldn’t allow. I started to believe I had no choice but to stick it out until I could get a promotion and snatch her job away from her, but even her job was crappier than mine. I don’t think I’m cut out for working for other people. Luckily opportunity called, literally, and seeing as how I was low on equitable options, I answered.
I sat by a table at the Rattlesnake Bar waiting for him to arrive. He was late, which was unlike him so I knew he must have been held back for an important reason. I was so excited to hear his proposal. He didn’t say much on the phone but I knew that for him to suggest it to me, it had to be good.
Finally, I saw him walk through the doors. I had not seen him face to face in a long time. I immediately and excitedly ran up to him and squeezed him tightly. Generally I’m not a very affectionate person, especially in public, but he was not just anyone.
He was my father.
“Oh, my Precious Gem! It’s so good to see you again.” He said.
“I’ve missed you so much Dad.”
“I missed you too.”
We both took our seats at the table and I could not withhold the joy I felt at finally being able to meet my father face to face after being apart for so long. We had to be careful not to meet frequently for fear that someone would see us together and report back to my mother. Mother had a lot of friends in the community because of her role as the Chief of Police and I didn’t want her to find out that Dad was in town and I knew about it.
“So you said you had a business proposal I’d be interested in?”
“Just like your Mum, cutting right to the chase.” He said and I could see him reminiscing for a second before he caught himself.
“Well, you said we should keep our public meetings short because we don’t know who could be watching or listening. If anything, I’m being practical which I think I got from you. Mother always allowed her heart and emotions to take the wheel, which is so not me.” It bothered me that he compared me to her. I loved my mother, I guess, but she’s the last person I want to emulate.
He sighed and shook his head, “Very well. I’ll begin. Gemma, you know what I do and you know your Dad’s very good at it.”
“Yes, of course. You’ve never kept secrets from me.”
“Okay, well business is…booming. I have a number of men who report to me who are all skilled at acquisition. We have a steady flow of merchandise and loyal wholesalers who give us an above average price for the goods. The problem is the cash flow is so much that I don’t know what to do with it all. I pay my guys well for their work and loyalty but being the boss means my share is much larger and I can’t possibly spend most of it without setting off red flags. Because of my past, I have the Feds checking in on me so I have to fly under the radar, hence why I live in that crappy townhouse in Newcrest. I’m also running out of places to stash my money so I want to give you my earnings, make you my partner.”
Give me money? As good as receiving lots of cash sounded, practically speaking it wasn’t a good idea. “Wouldn’t that set off red flags for me? Mother knows how much the estate is worth and she knows how much I’m making. Even if I lied and told her I got a promotion with a bonus, she’ll figure it out eventually. No one at the firm makes as much money in a day as you do unless they’re the CEO or something.”
“It’ll be completely legal, sweetheart. Well, it’ll look that way after we cook the books to fool the federal tax agency. Here’s my plan, you will use money from your family funds to start a retail business. Anything you want, furniture, electronics, toys, nothing too hard to operate but convincing enough for people around you to believe that this is a business you’d go into, especially your mother. She’ll see the money spent on the business as an investment into your future plus you are the heiress after all. That money is yours to do with as you please anyway but still keep her somewhat in the loop so she won’t suspect anything fishy.”
“Wait I think I get it now. You want me to open a business using money from the estate so it will look legitimate but it’s actually going to be a front for you to launder your money.”
“Smart girl.” He said with an approving smirk. “I’m glad I don’t have to walk you through my plan. We’ll split the earnings fifty-fifty. I can be a silent partner in your business just on paper. No one even has to know that anyone else is involved, this is just the title I’ll assume so the paperwork will be in order when you pay me my cut.”
“So I’ll turn your dirty money into clean taxable income?”
It was easy to figure out Dad’s plan. I think he might have been preparing me for this since he left town all those years ago. When he disappeared, he didn’t really disappear. I knew where he was the entire time as we kept in touch by phone and by email. Mother didn’t have a clue and that was just the way we wanted it. After Mum chose Clay over him he decided to get back into the business, but he couldn’t do that without arousing her suspicions so he left. He told me to play nice with Mum so she would choose me as the heiress because he had a plan. He didn’t tell me what his plan was and I never asked because I trusted him. Now that I knew, it was a little overwhelming to be honest. I was clueless about how these things work and concerned that it might be too risky.
“I don’t know Dad. I like the idea, I do. I know I don’t want to work for people and owning my own business where I can be the boss sounds like a dream. I’ll definitely earn more money doing this than slaving away in the corporate world but I don’t have a clue as to how to do this properly. Running a business, keeping accounts, laundering… I don’t know if I can do it.”
“I have a guy who can do all of this so you need not worry. You only have to worry about setting up the business and making it appear successful so no one would question why it’s so profitable. That means you’ll have to find a place, fix it up, get goods and hire employees. When it’s time, you’ll get to meet my guy and he’ll explain any questions you have.”
“Are you sure about this?” I asked still feeling uneasy about the whole thing.
“I full faith in you Gem. We’ll talk more about the details later. Start looking for that spot.”
“Dad, since this whole plan hinges on me spending my money to start the business and I’ll be risking my good reputation in the event we get caught, I think instead of fifty-fifty we should split it sixty-forty in my favour.”
“What?” he narrowed his eyes and glared at me. He appeared offended that I asked for more and the look was a little scary to be honest but I wasn’t backing down.
He took a deep breath and exhaled loudly, almost dramatically. I thought he was preparing to argue with me but instead he stood up and said. “Fine, sixty-forty it is.”
“You didn’t even put up a fight.” I said as I stood up to join him. “Your negotiation skills needs improvement.”
“Gemma, you’re my daughter and I’m an old man. Everything that’s mine will eventually go to you anyway. I would’ve accepted your terms even if you said eighty-twenty.”
“We can still change the terms.” I joked.
“No way!” He laughed. “Sometimes I wish your sister was more like you then maybe we’d be just as close too. How is she by the way?”
I sighed and had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. Everyone always asks about Leni – story of my life! At least I had one up on her. Dad couldn’t trust her to keep his whereabouts a secret from Mother so he only kept in touch with me. “She’s fine, healthy for now. Her birthday’s coming up and she’s still so in love with that douche Ayden.”
“Hmm. He doesn’t treat her badly, does he?”
“Nope, they adore each other.” Once again, I tried not to roll my eyes at the thought of Leni and Ayden. Ayden and I stopped being friends when he started hooking up with my sister but in spite of that he wasn’t a bad person so I didn’t think it was necessary to lie about him to Dad to get him out of the picture. Besides, if anything happened to him Leni would be moping around the place all the time so I didn’t see how that would benefit me.
“Okay, well I’ll be in touch and you have some homework to do, young lady.”
We hugged again and then he left. He was only gone for two seconds and I missed him already. At least now I’d get to see him more since we’d be secretly working together. I stayed to have one drink before heading back to the house to get started on my homework. I was really excited about my new business venture and I couldn’t wait to begin my research and find the right place. I even knew just what kind of store I wanted to open.