Elmo was a tall man who tried to appear to be much shorter. His voice was powerful but he never spoke above a whisper. Fellow work mates could not understand where he was coming from. They could not file him away into a neat category. Elmo was neither young nor old. The most accurate guess from prying peers was that he was in his early thirties. No one had been in the office when he arrived. Most only stayed about six years at that firm. When probed at office parties Elmo gave vague replies. Many peers asked the same question which was,
"Where did you come from Elmo?"
His reply never changed. In a dismissive tone of voice he would say,
"Oh here and there."
No further probing would get anything more out of him. In desperation a few peers might ask,
"Have you got any family somewhere Elmo?"
To which Elmo would always reply in a flat tone of voice,
"None living that I know of anyway."
This response would dissuade even the most inquisitive peer from asking Elmo any more questions.
Still for some inexplicable reason everyone liked Elmo. A workplace psychoanalyst would say it was because Elmo was not ambitious. He never applied for promotion positions so never competed with anyone for a better paid job. In other words Elmo was no threat to anybody.
Maybe a sociologist might say that Elmo was liked because he was a good listener. Elmo would let other people talk on about themselves without interruption. It was like he had no ego to mention. In an office full of self-centered salespeople this made Elmo unique.
At staff drinks and office parties everyone tried to have a word with Elmo. Yet Elmo was always the first to leave. As far as anyone he had actually worked with could remember, Elmo never got drunk. He never told on anyone! If someone made a complete fool of themselves at the Friday drinks outings then Elmo would deny knowing anything about that incident. At one such outing a fellow staff member had one too many glasses of Irish Whiskey then began to sign songs from the old country. When absent staff asked Elmo about this he said that he left before it had occurred, which was not the truth.
In fact no peer could guess exactly when Elmo was lying. None knew his personal views or even his pet hates. So whatever Elmo said to a work mate was believed. At staff meetings Elmo answered direct questions about his work progress but never ventured anything else. He never asked a question at the staff retraining seminars.
Elmo was an enigma! After ten years of being happy to remain a sales clerk, he was starting to be treated like part of the office furniture.
Yet there was a sadness in Elmo's eyes that drew in certain types of women. He was never short of romantic overtures. Women looked into his haunted eyes before falling for his quiet charm. They lined up to go out with him but always were disappointed with the outcome. This had nothing to do with sex. Elmo was still a young man. The failure of their romance with Elmo rested on his refusal to open up about his early life. Any information about his family was strictly taboo. Women had affairs with Elmo without learning anything about him.
One day he received an email from a local law firm. They had traced him from his social media posts. It was to his rented apartment that a document was delivered to Elmo. This was a photocopy of a will. His uncle from back home had finally died. The document's covering letter said that Elmo Eveings was the sole beneficiary of a substantial family trust fund. Elmo was asked to attend at a legal office on any Saturday morning that was convenient.
Turning up the very next Saturday morning, Elmo went up to the legal receptionist. He showed Elmo into the floor conference room. A short time later two lawyers entered the room. The senior one said in a professional tone of voice,
"Elmo Eveings? My name is Barnard Cromwell. I am the senior partner here at Cromwell Cromwell and Cromwell. This is my junior legal clerk, Francis Upjohn. She will be taking notes. Is that okay with you?'
Elmo responded in a timid tone of voice,
"Yes, but what is this all about?"
This question stopped Barnard Cromwell in full flight and changed his fake smile into a genuine frown. He turned on his junior to say sharply,
"I thought I told you to courier a copy of the will to Mr. Eveings. Did you do as I asked?"
Fran Upjohn replied in a hurried tone of voice,
"Of course Mr. Cromwell. I had the confirmation sent to my smartphone by our usual courier firm."
This reply caused Barnard Cromwell to swivel his gaze back onto Elmo before saying,
"Perhaps you could show us some proof of identity. After all we are here to discuss a confidential matter."
Elmo took out his smartphone and brought up his passport ID app. Then he opened up his passport photo page which he showed to Barnard Cromwell. When Fran Upjohn had verified that the passport number on this page was the one assigned to Elmo Eveings, she nodded to her senior.
Mr. Cromwell then took up the charge by saying in rapid fire speech,
"Your uncle died recently. His lawyer found his will buried in all his personal papers. That will left your uncle's sizable estate to you. His lawyer did a search that showed that you are his only blood relative still alive today. Thinking this rather strange in the Twenty First Century, he researched your family background...that is to say his client's family background. His findings were shocking and tragic. But they confirmed your status as sole heir under that will."
Elmo was obviously expected to respond at this point but he just sat there as painful memories came flooding back into his mind. When he did not speak for five minutes, Barnard finally got the message. In an embarrassed tone of voice he said,
"Of course it was not our intention to reopen old wounds. We are merely doing a favor for your uncle's lawyer in Canada. He has asked us to inform you that if you would travel back to your homeland and visit his law firm then you will inherit a considerable fortune. It seems to be all tied up mostly in real estate......Ah is all that clear."
Elmo shook himself of the ghostly images that were gripping his imagination. His voice had a hollow tone to it when he said,
"Perfectly clear Mr....Cromwell is it? But I have no intention of claiming this inheritance. So you see I cannot help you in this matter."
Now Barnard was shocked out of his stuffiness. He gasped,
"You would be giving up the income from a multi million dollar trust fund. Do you realize how much that decision will cost you? "
Elmo was unmoved. He shrugged his shoulders then said in a disinterested tone,
"I have what I had before I entered your office. That will do me just fine."
Flabbergasted Barnard tried repeatedly to get Elmo to change his mind. But after thirty minutes of argument, he gave up. The senior partner was called from the room on an urgent international call. While he was absent Fran Upjohn asked Elmo a simple question,
"You went white when my senior was talking about you family history. Can I ask what happened to the rest of your family?'
Elmo thought that he would never see this woman again. He liked the look of intelligence in her eyes. So for once he relented to tell the ghastly truth about his family. He said in a subdued tone of voice,
"When I was twenty one I went on a short holiday to an interstate resort facility. When I got back to my home city airport I expected my father to be there to pick me up. But only my uncle, the one who just died, was there instead. He was a widower! They never had any children. He was what we Catholics call my godfather. I knew something was wrong by the look on his face. He took me to an airport bar. We sat at a closed booth where he told me that there had been a bad fire at my home. I asked if anyone was hurt. He said that everyone was hurt that was in the house. Trembling I asked how badly they were hurt. He looked away but then said softly that they were all dead. My head swam with the news. At first I refused to believe that my lovely Mother, my great Dad and my brothers and sisters were no longer alive."
Fran could not resist extending her arm in sympathy. She tried to find some words of consolation. All she could come up with was,
"You Catholics believe in heaven. Perhaps they are all safely in heaven."
Elmo shook his head before saying,
"I am no longer a Catholic. I have not been inside any church for ten years. After the funeral I just lost my faith in organised religion."
All further questions were forestalled by the re-entry of Barnard Cromwell. He sat down brusquely before saying in a professional tone of voice,
"What exactly do you want us to tell your uncle's lawyer Mr. Eveings?'
Elmo looked him dead in the eye to say in a firm tone of voice,
"Tell him that I will never return to my homeland so he may as well seek another heir."
The lawyer in Mr. Cromwell took over. He shook his head violently before saying in a harried tone of voice,
"Your uncle's will is clear. Only a blood relative can inherit. You are the last blood relative. If you refuse this inheritance then your uncle effectively dies intestate. Good grief, that means the Canadian government gets the lot."
Unmoved by this revelation, Elmo said in a tone of voice that allowed no come back,
"So be it. I will not care nor will I do anything to claim that inheritance."
There was no more to say so Elmo signed a statement outlining his wishes which was witnessed by Fran Upjohn. Then he left the offices of Cromwell Cromwell and Cromwell. Fran Upjohn escorted him to the weekend security lift. She got him down to the lobby. Then she said in a sad tone of voice,
"Goodbye Mr. Eveings. I suppose that we will never meet again."
Elmo could see that look in her eyes but hardened his heart. He said in a tone of voice that spoke of final partings,
"Thank you for the kind ear back there. Sorry to bore you with my past. You must get that a lot. But I wanted you to at least know why I could never go home. I hope you understand."
Fran nodded her head and smiled weakly. Then she shook Elmo's extended hand. Elmo left the building to walk to the nearest train station.
Ever workplace has someone like Elmo! They are publicly lauded as being 'indispensable to the team' or 'trustworthy' or even 'generous to a fault'. But this only allows work mates to overburden them with favors. When someone in the clerical department had a difficult problem, they got Elmo to solve it for them. This meant that he often had to work back late to finish his own work. When it was convenient to do so, these same work mates would ignore Elmo's own pleas for some assistance. Finally, they would think nothing of making a joke about Elmo to amuse their own friends.
Elmo was not unaware of this parasitic behavior. He was a highly intelligent man. The fact that he had no high level tertiary degree allowed others to act superior in his presence. But Elmo did not care. Since arriving in this new country he now called home, Elmo had suppressed his own ego. Never voicing an opinion about anything, Elmo was mistaking labelled as introverted. In fact, he had withdrawn to avoid detection. Elmo did not want his past to catch up with him. So he kept his recent 'lawyer experience' to himself. When one work mate on Monday morning asked him,
"Hey Elmo what did you do on Saturday? Someone said they saw you in the city around near the Park."
Elmo came up with a white lie in a flash of inspirational thinking and said in a light tone,
"Yeah I went in to see the floral exhibition. It was amazing."
This silenced Elmo's work mate as he knew it would. This particular clerk was a sports crazed obsessive compulsive who thought floral meant something unmanly. So he stammered in reply,
"Right, well, each to their own I always say."
Then walked away quickly. The staff room gossip was that Elmo did not go on dates. He was their token weekend 'recluse'.
In this they were hopelessly off track. Elmo did date women every weekend. But he made sure that those dates were never the same woman as the previous weekend. Elmo was still a young man but he had no intention of being a 'modern' young man. Women who dated Elmo knew as much about him before their dates as they did after these dates. Reflecting back on their dates with Elmo, they all realized that they had done most of the talking.
Assiduously avoiding all forms of intimacy, Elmo was able to avoid relationships.
Some clerks on the staff prided themselves on knowing everything about everybody. They tried to get the low down on Elmo. So they would ask him,
"Where were you born Elmo?"
He would pretend to be jesting with them when he replied,
"Hopefully in a hospital but I can't be certain about that as I was a baby at the time."
Then if he got asked,
"Where did you go to college Elmo?"
He would invent yet another white lie by responding somberly with the following joke at his own expense
"I was home tutored."
As for others who tried to get details on Elmo's past, they were often hampered by Elmo's strange surname. Almost always they got it wrong or assumed that Elmo was short for Elmer. The common mistake people made about his surname was the spelling. So he saw name tags at sales seminars with mistakes like
None of these mistakes worried Elmo in the slightest. In fact, he never corrected them, so they appeared in lists of attendees at conferences he was forced to attend. To avoid any chance of someone recognizing him at any work sessions, Elmo avoided attending any of them. If he was at a beach conference center in summer, he went swimming. When the sales conference was at some chalet in winter, he went skiing. If it was the latest craze that sales conferences were held at bush setting venues then he went bush walking. In other words Elmo thoroughly enjoyed himself by not attending plenary sessions, sales lectures and work seminars. If his absence was commented upon, a rare event, Elmo pretended to have the flu or laryngitis or deep vein thrombosis from the long plane flight. Before going to sales conferences, Elmo did a lot of medical research on debilitating illnesses. His 'swot notes' got him out of a lot of awkward moments.
But life will never let you hide forever. Just like those people who try to stay young, Elmo learnt about the inevitability of fate. One morning Elmo got a intranet message to go to the Head Negotiator's office. Confused, Elmo went as directed. The sign on the door said
Elmo sat in this powerful woman's reception area for twenty minutes. Then he was summoned into the august presence of one of the most powerful people in Elmo's firm. She looked up at him from behind her desk then nodded for him to sit down in the chair provided directly opposite. She kept working for five minutes before leaning back in her chair as she said,
"Well .....eh?....Oh yes... Elmo isn't it? How are you today?... Fine? ...That's fine....Now we are all busy people here at head center section so I will get right to the matter at hand. Is that okay with you?"
Elmo had counted four questions and could not work out which one he was supposed to respond to so he responded to them all by saying,
"Yes! Fine. Yes! Of course."
Confused Ms. Elsebrook looked at Elmo for an instant. But she quickly recovered her composure to say,
"Elmo... I can call you Elmo can't I because your surname is hard to pronounce and I want to do you the courtesy of getting your name right....We in upper management have been greatly impressed with your work in 'Clerks' over the last....Eh....Oh the last ten years. Your data record shows you logging in first thing every morning and logging out late every night. There is also an impressive array of Saturday logins. So we have decided to give you a promotion."
Elmo started to perspire with fear. This sounded like he was getting the last thing he wanted. So he interrupted by saying in a harried tone,
"I am perfectly content where I am. No plans to leave. No need for any promotion."
Not used to her carrots being thrown back into her face, Ms. Elsebrook's distaste rose inside her so the next thing she uttered was at a high decibel,
"Elmo your firm needs your help. Don't be ungenerous with your time. We are all busy. But sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the benefit of the firm. Right now we have a flu epidemic decimating our fine sales negotiating team. Yet clients must still be met. Sales contracts must still be signed. All you would have to do is go to a lovely hotel. Have tea or coffee or whatever you people drink. After chatting a bit then get one little signature. Not too hard a task is it? Well what do you say Elmo? Will you help us out this one time?'
Somewhat mollified by the mention of 'one time' Elmo missed his chance to back out gracefully. For once his pool of white lies was empty. He mumbled a quiet,
"I suppose its alright just this one time."
Then he heard Janet Elsebroook say in a final tone,
"Well that's settled then. My secretary has all the information you need. Let me get him in here....GERALD? Are you ready for Elmo?....Fine then you take him through the details will you?..... No, now please Gerald. Then and only then you can go out for coffee. I am late for my lunch meeting with the State Manager."
With that Elmo became invisible to this power player. He slid out of her office but was caught by Gerald at reception. Gerald looked like he was overworked, stressed and caffeine deficient. He thrust a memory stick into Elmo's hands before saying hurriedly,
"Its all in there. Time place and contract document. Old Simpson really is down with the flu but he had already negotiated the renewal contract details. I just dropped them into our standard contract. All you need to do is get the client to sign then you are home and hosed. Look on the bright side, you do get away from here for a bit."
Elmo was back at his desk trying to work out what had just happened to him. The fundamental question running through his mind was,
Finally after racking his brain for any show of gumption on his part at any staff function he guessed the answer correctly. With negotiators falling by the wayside due to a major flu epidemic, staff were being snatched from everywhere in his firm. Elmo was the longest serving clerk in the office, so he was a natural choice for a reliable person to stand in for one day. Now he was stuck with being 'out there in the open' as it were. Elmo Eveings was going to be a negotiator even if it was only for one day.
That night was one of the worse nights Elmo could remember since coming to this new country. He just could not get to sleep. All sorts of 'failure scenarios' sprang to mind. When his alarm finally rang Elmo almost kissed his smartphone. Routine helped, but not much. Elmo made it into the office even earlier than normal. Logging on was no relief because his new appointment was now officially logged in the staff daily activities bulletin. Everyone he worked with would eventually read his name on that list with his task represented as "Temporary Negotiator".
His morning was ghastly. People kept coming up to pat him on the back. They gave 'nothing phrases' away like confetti after a wedding. No one noticed that Elmo flinched ever time he was approached. Then he groaned every time another platitude washed over him with its false sentimentality. He put up with things like,
"Well Elmo, they finally noticed you after all these years. You are on your way."
"Elmo what an opportunity. From the hands of the 'dragon lady' herself. Don't mess it up. She'll eat you alive. Ha. Ha. ...'
"Who would have believed you had it in you. We will all have to watch our backs now..."
Some said their quips in a humorous tone of voice but a few were said with a not so well hidden veiled threat embedded in the so called compliment.
Lunch came and Elmo went on his appointment. A taxi took him to one of the city's best hotels. He was to have his first ever business lunch. A corporate credit card had been assigned but had to be returned to the treasury department within the next twenty four hours. Elmo had been given an upper limit for his expenses that afternoon.
Arriving early for his appointment, Elmo went to the bar. Not a drinking man he had no idea what to order. As he sat there staring at the row of bottles under the full length mirror a voice said,
"Why its Elmo Eveings isn't it? Imagine us meeting like this so soon after our last encounter. How are you?"
Elmo looked to his right to see the face of Fran Upjohn smiling back at him. Of course he immediately remembered her name. After all he reminded himself, Ms. Upjohn was a very beautiful young woman. She had shortish blonde hair, was of a statuesque build and her body was very slim. Elmo had noticed that she had a very distinctive walk. You might describe how she moved from her end of the bar as majestic. That is until you realized that this could mean anything from a parade walk to the shuffle of an old woman. No it was better to say that it was very stylish, poised and deliberate. Of course the high heels she wore made her look taller than her real height. The two of them had meet recently as Fran Upjohn had intimated in her approaching salvo. So Elmo was forced to reply in kind by saying,
"Hello Ms. Upjohn. Are you here with your senior partner?'
The face of Fran Upjohn which boasted a pert nose and pixie countenance said it all. The words that came eloquently from her mouth reinforced the aura of this power woman when she said,
"No thank goodness. He is a lovely man but a bit of a 'wet blanket'. I am here all alone! There is a conference on in this hotel that I am involved with as a presenter. But I thought you were a penniless clerk. This hotel charges a fortune just for coffee."
Elmo wanted suddenly to appear important for the first time in ten years, so he said in a proud tone of voice
"I am also here on a business matter. Having lunch with one of our firm's best clients. They promoted me to sales negotiator. That comes with a corporate credit card."
Obviously, he left out the prefix 'temporary' before sales negotiator and the short possession he had of that corporate credit card. Not lies exactly. Well more like the 'white lies' that Elmo was so good at deploying.
Still they had the desired effect. Fran Upjohn now looked at Elmo with something approaching real interest. Unattached men of Elmo's age were scarce in this city. She knew Elmo was not married. So the 'game' began. She said,
"We should have coffee one morning."
Not wishing to appear rude Elmo said in a friendly tone of voice,
"Maybe, but tell me about your presentation."
By cleverly changing the subject, Elmo avoided any more awkward intimacies. Fran Upjohn had a powerful ego so she said in an excited voice,
"It's my first solo presentation. My expertise at law is with contracts. More especially hidden clauses in contracts. If I had my notes I could show you what I mean. All contracts you see have them...hidden clauses I mean. Sometimes they can cause real commercial embarrassment to firms in the longer time frame."
Elmo was somehow fascinated with what this woman was saying. He could not work out if it was because of her eyes or her voice. As those dark almost black eyes lit up with strange bursts of light Elmo was drawn in irresistibly. The voice had a 'trust me' sublime tone that got past all of Elmo's well planned intimacy defenses. He did not want her to stop, so Elmo looked for a way to keep her talking. As he moved his hand it brushed against the printed copy of his sales contract. A sudden inspiration made him grab it up to show this woman. He said,
"Strange you should say that but I am getting a commercial contract signed today. My legal advice is that it is a standard contract."
Fran Upjohn let out a derisive laugh before saying,
"Ha! the number of times I have heard that would make your head spin. I get people coming to see me about contract clauses they did not even read. Of course by then its too late. If only people would read all the clauses of a contract. Take your one today. Did you read every clause of that contract?"
Elmo had to admit that he hadn't read even one clause. Expecting scorn from his bar partner Elmo got a pleasant surprise,
"See that is what everyone says after the contracts are signed. Let me see this contract, if its not too confidential"
Elmo knew that it was a standard sales contract that his firm used for all their clients, so he handed over his copy.
Fran Upjohn read only the last two pages. She ignored the first ten clauses. Soon she was showing great animation as she plowed through the legalese of the contact. Then she gave it back shaking her head in sad disbelief. She said in frank language,
"I did not think they still put in those clauses. The term 'sale or return' can be used so maliciously. More modern contracts avoid that term completely."
Elmo was lost and confused. So he asked in all ignorance,
"Is that bad for us? I mean it is important I don't make a mistake this afternoon."
Fran Upjohn said in a precise tone of voice,
"Look I don't know what you are selling. I purposely avoided reading the details pages. My expertise is back of contract hidden clauses. You contract has a couple of blinders. But that term 'sale or return' has done more damage than anything else in contract dispute resolution situations."
Seeing Elmo was still confused, she went on to explain that this one term allowed a client to decide if what they had purchased was sale-able. They could return the whole order if they decided none of it could be sold at a profitable price. Fran knew of many cases where goods purchased were returned under these circumstances.
Now Elmo was sweating badly. He was about to get his first contract signed and that contract could end up costing his firm big money. In desperation he said,
"What advice do you give to clients who want to avoid such a result?"
Fran said in a frank tone of voice,
"My advice is either, don't sign such a contract at all, or, if you must sign a contract delete that clause."
Elmo now grasped at this straw by saying in a pleading tone of voice,
"Is that possible...not the not signing part but the deleting the clause?"
The lawyer now took over as Fran intoned this advice,
"Either party can delete any clause they wish deleted. It is then up to the other party to accept the deletion or refuse to sign the changed contract. Deleted clauses need only be initialed by both parties but it is better to redraw the contract without the deleted clause."
Elmo now saw a way to save face with the 'dragon lady'. So he thanked Fran then promised to take her out for coffee the next time she had a gap in her appointment schedule. He did not have a card so he exchanged smartphone numbers via an app put on his phone just that morning. They parted with a friendly handshake as Fran glided away to lead her seminar.
Arriving at the hotel well ahead of the scheduled meeting time meant that Elmo had plenty of time to reread the sales contract stored on his smartphone. He worked out how to delete the offending clause after noting that it was designated as Clause 36. As he tried to work out how he was going to get the client to agree to its deletion, a mature aged woman approached him. She said in a polished tone of voice,
"The concierge pointed you out as the sales rep I have come to meet. Lucky that because I was expecting someone much older. What happened to Barney? He usually handles my account. Poor man, he often crosses the city street when he sees me out and about. I am afraid I hound him relentlessly. But why is he not here today?"
Realizing that this overpowering woman had paused for a breath, Elmo got in before she got a second wind. He said in an apologetic tone of voice,
"Barney...I mean Mr. Simpson is down with the flu. It is going through our firm at the moment. Probably in the air conditioning system. I am Elmo Eveings, his replacement. Our head negotiator whom you must have met sent me to get your signature on a sales contract."
Laughing in a not unpleasant way, this forceful woman replied,
"Sorry but you don't look like a hardened sales negotiator. What could Janet Elsebrook be thinking or was this all Gerald's idea. But no, little Gerald is a mouse in kittens clothing. He would never send such an innocent into the slaughter....Ah that is it...This is all Janet's idea of a joke isn't it? Still hasn't forgiven me for pinching her last assistant. Well Elmo Eve....sorry is that Evenings or Everings?"
Elmo was not ready to lose his one advantage over this woman, so he smiled before saying in a casual tone of voice,
"Just call me Elmo. Everyone else does."
The steely gaze he got convinced Elmo that he was up against a formidable negotiator. But this woman let the opportunity to pull him up slip away by saying in a gregarious tone of voice,
"Where are my manners? My name is Henrietta Hunt! You may want to call me Ms. Hunt but my friends call me Henri."
The battle lines having being drawn, the two of them went into lunch when they heard the maitre d'hotel call out their names. After making sure they were both happy with the table allocated, the Head Waiter was called to take their order. She was asked in a smoothly professional tone of voice,
"Could you give this table your special attention Mila. Ms. Hunt is a great frequenter of our restaurant."
Mila nodded before saying in an even smoother tone of voice,
"Of course. How are you this afternoon Ms. Hunt? It is always a pleasure to welcome you back to our restaurant."
Henri Hunt thanked both these people by saying in a pleasant tone,
"Louis you are always welcoming. And Mila has helped me before. But I am just the guest this time. Elmo is my host for this lunch!"
As seamlessly as only a true veteran Head Waiter can be, the attention of the restaurant staff switched to Elmo. Milan called over the wine waiter. She said in a neutral tone of voice,
"Mr. Eveings is ready to order the first wine. Could you give him the update on our cellar range."
This highly polished veteran of many lunches saw Ms. Hunt watching with amusement as he handed the wine list to Elmo. Then she got her first shock when Elmo ordered exactly what she would have ordered herself from that list. It was not the most expensive wine on the list but certainly not cheap. Added to that Elmo specified the year 2011 for the French vintage chosen. He indicated by that qualifier that he knew his wines.
Impressed with this selection, the wine waiter went off to quickly open up a bottle of this wonderful wine.
The Head Waiter called over a passing waiter then excused herself for a moment. Elmo looked at the menu before glancing at Ms. Hunt and asking in a subdued tone of voice,
"What is good here? I must admit to never having had the pleasure of this restaurant's chef specials, which are listed without elaboration on the menu."
Ms. Hunt was still off balance from the surprisingly excellent wine choice so she said in a factual tone of voice,
"I always start with the Sushi then order the Seafood Pie. The chef here is a master of ocean cuisine."
Elmo spoke before thinking and gushed his next comments,
"In that case I will have either, the Lobster bisque or the Takoyaki whichever one you think this master chef does best. Followed by ...Yes by the Pajeon. I had those in Osaka on my last holiday to Japan! They were brilliantly delicious."
Lost for words Henri Hunt merely said,
"I will have my usual. They know what that is and the Head Chef does it to a treat. As for the Lobster bisque I never eat lobster so I will have to recommend the Takoyaki. I did have that once finding it to be exceptionally delicious. In fact I will replace my entree order of Sushi with the Takoyaki."
Elmo looked at the waiter who was entering the order on her smartphone. Once she had sent it to the kitchen she asked about side dishes and bread choices. This was speedily dealt with then the waiter slid out of sight.
The Head Waiter arrived back to give a seamless service. She watched over the arrival of both the wine and the food, aways showing deference to the slightest wish of Henri Hunt but not ignoring Elmo at the same time. Only when completely happy with the service did Mila slip away to give them some privacy.
Henri Hunt looked over at Elmo before asking in a friendly tone of voice,
"I must ask you about your wine choice. You look too young to be a wine connoisseur. If that is not too ageist of me to say so."
Elmo looked her right in the eyes before adding a smile to his informative tone of voice,
"Oh you were right, I am no wine expert but my uncle was a mine connoisseur. Before I was twenty years old he took me to many restaurants back home. Always he explained his wine choices. When I visited him in Canada he kept me updated on the best vintages. Even now I keep up with the latest on the award winning wines via a website he introduced me to many years ago."
Despite her determination to grind out profitable terms from this sales contract, Henri Hunt could not help liking this young man. So she said in a revealingly immodest tone of voice,
"I am a wine illiterate...or is that a wine innumerate? Whatever, I wouldn't know a Chablis from a Chardonnay."
Elmo could not stop himself so he sprouted out a bit of wine trivia. In a tone of voice he had often heard his uncle use he said,
"Chablis is in Burgundy in France. The best chardonnay comes from Burgundy. So Chablis is a Chardonnay. At least that is what my uncle used to say. He was usually right about wines."
Impressed despite her hidden agenda, Henri Hunt said in a overtly positive tone of voice,
"I would like to meet this uncle of yours. He sounds like a lot of fun."
Elmo hated to bring in a negative comment but he felt it necessary so he said,
"I am afraid my uncle died recently. I was summoned to a law firm's office to be told I was the sole heir. So maybe I will get his extensive collection of books on wine. It is about all I would want from his estate."
Now Henri Hunt was trapped in the glare of Elmo's charm so she said in an innocent tone of voice,
"Sole heir? You look too young. Why is one of your parents not the heir before you?"
A dark shadow seemed to play across Elmo's features. Seeing it up close made Henri Hunt wish she had not butted into this young man's family affairs. But Elmo shook himself before saying in a controlled tone of voice,
"Both my parents are dead. They died in a house fire along with all my other close family members....Oh it was ten years ago so I am not still in mourning. My uncle was the only other relative I had left in all the world. Besides, my uncle was my godfather and financial guardian after my parents died."
Feeling just awful, Henri Hunt felt like reaching out to hug Elmo. She settled with saying,
"I lost my parents early in an airline disaster. But I have always had my brother and sister to comfort me. There is no way I could even begin to imagine how hard it must have been for you these past ten years."
Elmo smiled weakly but was saved from further embarrassment by the arrival of his main course.
The meal was a bit more subdued after that as Henri Hunt confined herself to safe areas of conversation. Weather, travel, media scandals were talked about to overcome the risk of too much silent brooding.
When coffee was to be served Henri Hunt suggested they take it in the hotel lounge so they could discuss the sales contract. When they began to sip their coffee Elmo sprung his surprise. He said with a disarmingly open way,
"I have read the contract that was negotiated by Mr. Simpson and am not impressed with Clause 36. I have had legal advice on this so must insist on its deletion before signing."
Instead of challenging this, Henri Hunt said in a determined tone of voice,
"I am glad you raised the issue of bad clauses because I have strong objections to some other clauses. I was going to tell Barney that I cannot sign his contract until those clauses were deleted."
Elmo had read the contract closely so he understood her objections. He risked censure later from "the Dragon Lady' when he said,
"How about we delete all offending clauses then go to signing the amended contract?"
Henri Hunt seized on the moment by saying in a firm tone of voice,
"Elmo Eveings on those terms I can say that we have a deal. Such an amended contract I am happy to sign."
Before he knew it Elmo was shaking Henri Hunt's hand on his first ever deal. A contract of intent was singed by both Ms. Hunt and Elmo. The final sales contract would be signed by one of the principals in Elmo's firm the following week. Parting company with Henri Hunt left Elmo feeling elated and excited. He got a taxi back to work then filed the new contract specifications digitally. With nothing else on his digital desk Elmo went home.