Richard usually woke up earlier than his wake up call. His internal clock always sounded the alarm an hour before the young maidservant came looking for him. However, that morning was different. Even when the knocks on his door thundered like a stampede of elephants, Richard could not fully awake.
“Master Richard? Master Richard, your father insists on having breakfast with you,” the maidservant said.
She probably repeated herself for a good half hour before Richard finally sat up. He came home the night before a little tipsy and his body ached from the work he did all weekend, making it difficult for him to leave his bed.
“What? Why did you wake me up so early?”
“It’s ten thirty, sir. Your father has requested you to join him for breakfast. He has been waiting for about… an hour now.”
Richard could not help but grunt at the idea. Since his mother left, his father did not seem interested in Richard anymore. It was his mother that glued the family together, and with her gone, Richard and his father became strangers.
“I don’t know, sir. But he has been waiting,” she repeated.
“Fine, I’ll be down in ten minutes,” Richard replied.
Dragging his aching body out of bed, he quickly washed up before heading downstairs. On his way, he began to wonder what his father wanted with him. Just as he entered the dining room, he felt as though a weight had been placed upon his shoulders.
“Did you sleep well?” his father asked.
Richard nodded, before giving a thin smile to his father’s assistant. He seemed to be joining them for breakfast, along with Richard’s own assistant.
“What’s going on?” Richard asked, as he took his seat cautiously.
“I’ll need you to help me with something while I’m gone.”
“Where are you going?”
“Not important. But I’ll be gone for two weeks, so I need you to take over the firm during my absence.”
“What?” Richard could not believe his ears.
“Make sure it is still around when I get back,” his father stated, before casually taking a sip at his coffee.
For a brief moment, Richard was lost for words. All he had in his head was the question ‘why?’. His father could have trusted someone more suitable for the job, but he chose to let Richard reign for two weeks? Was he out of his mind?
“I don’t know. I mean, why me?” Richard asked.
“Why you? You’re my son, that’s why. Don’t worry, they’ll help you,” his father answered and pointed to the two other men in the room.
Richard quickly reached for a glass of water to loosen his tightened throat. The conversation felt so out of place, and he wondered if he was still dreaming.
“When will you leave?”
As though the situation could not have been any more sudden, Richard simply nodded. A few minutes later, his father told him he needed to get ready and left without a goodbye. Nonplussed, Richard ate a slice of bread before heading to his room to get changed. His assistant waited for him patiently, and when he was done, Richard was ushered to the car in a confounded state.
When he finally clocked in, his assistant told him that he had a series of meetings to attend. First with the marketing directors, then with the partners for a big case. Richard stared at his assistant blankly for a few seconds before asking, “Can we… cancel them?”
“No, but nothing much happens during those meetings. You just have to be there to represent your father.”
“Right. Can I have the agenda for the meetings then?” Richard said.
“My father’s office? I’ll go get it,” Richard interrupted.
“Don’t follow me. I can find it myself.” Richard needed to gather his thoughts and the short walk to his father’s office would help. Sitting down in a confined place, with his assistant lurking around, only made him feel worse.
Once inside his father’s office, Richard headed to his father’s desk and skimmed through the files. He then noticed a picture seated next to the lamp; an old picture of his parents. Richard wasn’t in it, and they were smiling. Feeling a little hurt that his father did not seem to care about him at all, he slumped onto the chair and heaved a sigh.
“I should have said no,” Richard muttered.
He gave the chair a spin and then stopped it just as it faced a painting on the wall. Richard recognised the painting, as it used to hang in his parents’ bedroom. Curious, he got up and began examining it. Then a strange thought surfaced and he found himself taking the painting down. When he saw what he was thinking, he chuckled.
The little snooping helped Richard relax, so he decided to continue. He began punching a series of numbers on the hidden safe’s lock in attempts to open it. When all his guesses failed, he tried it once more with the date his mother left. The moment the safe unlocked, Richard stood speechless for a couple of seconds.
When he finally snapped out of it, he took a cautious look around before examining the contents of the safe. There were bundles of cash, a square locked box, and a few brown envelopes. The box had a key lock, so he reached for the envelopes instead. He thought he would find nothing interesting, but instead, he found familiar names on the envelopes.
The first envelope had Jodie’s name on it and when he opened it, he found legal documents. It seemed as though someone was building a case against her and her company. The second envelope had Matthias’ name instead and inside was his portfolio and family records. There was even detailed information on Matthias’ sister.
What was his father doing? Why did he have these? It didn’t seem right. Those thoughts sent a shiver down his spine. Not knowing what to do, Richard felt like he needed to share his new find with someone. Maybe Jodie or Matthias might know what’s going on, and if they didn’t, they needed to know. But who should Richard tell? He had to choose.