Marianna inhaled deeply on the cigarette as she waited by the phone. On official records, she had given up smoking years ago- John had always said it was an ugly habit unbecoming of a woman. But sometimes when she was alone and feeling stressed or tired, old habits died hard. It was 2am and she was waiting for her daughter to call. The last few weeks had been particularly stressful, just as Scarlett had warned her they would be.
At the time she hadn’t really asked what was going to happen, or how Scarlett knew. She had simply prepared for the worst, or thought she had anyway. But it had all happened so fast. The oil refinery fire, destroying the entire complex and killing almost fifty employees. The tanker crash taking out millions in cargo and to of the most prominent ships that the company had owned. Two board members arrested, one for embezzlement and one for sexual assault on a minor. The stock crash, wiping out assets so fast. True, in the end only 20% of the company had suffered the effects thanks to her swift handling, but when a company was worth as much as hers it had cost them billions. She didn’t know how long it would take to repair the damage to both their business assets and her company’s reputation. It had been staggering, but Scarlett had assured her that it could have been so much worse.
She took another drag, exhaling a cloud of lavender smoke out the window. A sudden sharp ring made her stub out the cigarette and quickly pick up the phone.
“Mother?” Marianna picked up a small bottle of air freshener and sprayed the area by her desk. “Mother, you know smoking is bad for you.”
“So is salvaging a company’s reputation after a near catastrophic chain of events.” The note of resentment in Marianna’s voice was clear.
“It could have been worse. At least we had some warning, and I did everything I could to prevent it.”
“That remains to be seen.” There was a pause at the other end of the line.
“You’ll just have to take my word for it, mother. In any case, we owe a great deal to a young man named Larry Page. Both figuratively and literally.” Marianna sighed.
“How much?” She winced at the figure. “It better be worth it, especially now.”
“It is. Without him we’d have lost so much more. He’s a brilliant young man, mother. From well-to-do stock anyway, but we should nurture his talent. I cold use someone like that on my side, especially if these computers get more important.” Marianna found herself automatically reaching for the packet of cigarettes, but stopped herself. Scarlett was still green, but she could sometimes make the right call.
“Very well. I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me who was behind this?” She really hoped that her daughter would not say John.
“I’m not completely sure mother, but I have been looking into it. We can’t discount father’s involvement at all, but I don’t believe he would have been directly influencing this. I’ve made some… new acquaintances in New Orleans of the last half year, and not all of them have wanted to fall at my feet, shall we say. I’m sure you hear about the mayoral election scandal?”
“Two of the candidates dying on the night of the results, leaving only the incumbent? Yes, it made some of the middle pages of the papers. You were involved?”
“In a fashion. One of them made it very clear that our company’s interests were not his and that he worked for ‘higher powers’.” There was a note of bitterness in Scarlett’s tone." Have you heard of Pentex?" Marianna stiffened slightly. Of course she had.
“That is a bad enemy to make Scarlett. You could have warned me earlier.”
“They aren’t necessarily my enemy mother, just one of their associates was. I can’t guarantee father isn’t a member, but I am doing my best to do a bit of research. I’ll let you know in due course.”
“Very well. Be careful Scarlett. I’ve worked too long and hard for you to bring down this company in less than a year. At least wait until your forebears are dead.”
“I will mother. How is grandfather doing?”
“He’s still in the hospital. Doesn’t remember who I am or where he is, but the nurses keep him sedated.” Marianna stifled a yawn. “Darling, I have to go, we have more meetings and talks with the press tomorrow. I can’t keep your hours any more.” They exchanged goodnights and the phone was put down.
Marianna sat for another hour staring out the window. By the time she went to bed the last three cigarettes in the packet had gone.