fine. Now tell me the bad news.”
Gradon leaned on one arm and nodded. “Increased growth,
especially in a short span, opens opportunities for corruption and
theft throughout the company. The count has found many
perpetrators like a predator chasing down his prey. He can fill in
the stories for you. The problem I see is that there may be
members of our organization dealing in a dishonest way without
“Even though the new stores are not run directly by us, they
still reflect the company and expansion makes monitoring that
much more difficult. I am pleased with the direction we are
heading. It was just so much easier in the old days when Dirk and I
ran this store and only had to worry about this building.”
Linvin placed his cup and saucer on the desk and lit his pipe.
After a drag, he turned to look out the window. He saw a carriage
of great stature rolling toward the store and knew it to belong to
Count Venicci. Linvin then turned his attention back to Gradon.
“I understand your lament, old friend. Those were golden days
when the store was young. As I recall, I had less hair, and you had
more. Perhaps the expansion was too quick and too broad. Time
will answer that, I suppose. The decisions I made may be radical
even to a visionary like my father. Nevertheless, the economic
climate is changing so rapidly that standing by and doing business
as it has always been done would have left us behind and soon
without a company at all. It is a better thing to kill the rats in your
cellar than to let your house be destroyed.
“If you need more staff to oversee matters, hire them. Root out
those who would tarnish my name. For it is that name the people
trust. There is a great demand for our goods in the markets of the
world. If we do not fill that need, another entity not interested in
fair dealings likely will. This is not simply about money. It is a
responsibility to spread our values of fair play and honest business
to the market.”
The sound of the metal knob of a walking stick was heard
knocking at the door. “Come in, good count,” Linvin called. The
door flew open. Stepping into the room was a tall, lean gentleman
dressed impeccably in white with gold threading and a tailored
midnight-blue cape. He pulled his matching top hat from his head,
revealing his nearly bald scalp and bowed in a most distinguished
What little hair he had, and his wrinkled skin betrayed the fact
that his years far exceeded that of Gradon. Even so, he displayed a
spring in has stride and zest in his movements scarcely seen in any
man, let alone one of his advanced age.
“My dear Linvin Grithinshield,” the count said as he rose. “On
behalf of myself and the entire Venicci Banking clan, I celebrate
your return to our fair city.”
Linvin stepped out from behind the desk and shook the count’s
hand with both of his. “It is good to see you again, my friend,”
Linvin said with a smile. “I understand you and Gradon have been
The count turned and shook Gradon’s hand, “Once again, a
pleasure to work by your side Gradon.” Gradon returned the
sentiment while Linvin closed the door.
Linvin resumed his seat and pulled a ledger from the pile. “We
have a limited time before Mr. Gredly arrives, and we have much
Venicci took a seat by Gradon and produced his own ledgers.
“Even the mentioning of that man’s name feeds my contempt,” the
count remarked with disdain.
“That is precisely why you are my accountant,” Linvin noted.
“Now show me the irregularities.”
As morning turned to afternoon, the three dealt with corruption
in the outlying stores, merchandise procurement, potential
opportunities, financing and the overall health of the company.
Linvin was satisfied with the decisions made and the courses being
pursued. As if on cue, there was a half-hearted knock at the door.
Linvin nodded to Gradon who opened it for their new guest.