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A Scabbard Full of Vengeance

A Scabbard Full of Vengeance

 

 

“Copyright & Notes”

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 Chris Forward

First edition published by Chris Forward Publishers 2016

 

The text of this publication, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder.

 

The Author/Publisher has made every effort to trace and acknowledge sources/resources/individuals. In the case of any information being incorrectly attributed, the Author/Publisher will endeavour to correct these omissions at the earliest opportunity.

 

ISBN

 

Edited by Yvonne Dimbleby for Chris Forward Publishers

 

 

E Mail – [email protected]

 

 

 

A Shakespir Edition 2016

 

 

 

Also by Chris [email protected] Shakespir.com

 

Ebony & Ivory (Novel)

 

Two Kinds of Courage (Novel[+)+]

 

A Fistful of Diamonds (Short Stories)

A Scabbard full of Vengeance

 

 

 

“Author’s Foreword”

 

 

 

I was once told the genre of short story writing is the most difficult to master, and a field that is reserved for literary luminaries such as Jeffrey Archer and Frederick Forsyth.

 

“A Scabbard Full of Vengeance” is one of nineteen short stories from the anthology dubbed “A Fistful of Diamonds”

 

As always, I will let you the reader be the final adjudicator on whether this mastery has been achieved.

 

It’s free to read and feedback is appreciated.

 

Chris Forward 2016

 

 

If you enjoy this short story, take a look at Chris Forward’s other free stories.

 

 

Icon (A Free Short-Story)

 

The Great White Ball of Fame (A Free Short-Story)

 

Essence of a Woman (A Free Short Story)

 

The Road to Abaddon (A Free Short Story)

 

A Timeless Profession (A Free Short Story)

 

All available at Smaswords.com

A Scabbard Full of Vengeance

 

 

A Short Story

 

Written by Christopher Forward

 

Stephen Fuller had been a contributor to many a corporate bloodbath, but nothing could have prepared him for the one he was about to experience. Compton’s was as popular as Daly’s on your typical British High Street. Wherever one was situated, you were guaranteed the other would not be more than a stone’s throw away.

Nearly a hundred years of bitter rivalry, wrestling for the customers’ shilling, had left both organizations at the pinnacle of success. A few upstarts had tried to muscle in, but they were brushed aside with price wars that took no captives.

It was a strange quirk of business, which saw Compton’s and Daly’s, from time to time, form unholy alliances when perceived threats reared their heads. They were nearly comparable to Woolworth’s and Marks & Spencer in the grand scheme of things, but even they were wary of taking on those two corporations.

Stephen Fuller had been with Compton’s for the last thirty years – the last twenty as chairman of the board. He was a direct descendent of Arthur Compton, who had founded the company in the late 1890s. A third of the company was still in family hands, with the balance being held by a multitude of shareholders.

This was what led Stephen Fuller to be at the Dorchester Hotel on a cold January morning in 1998. Compton’s quarterly board meeting was due to be held there owing to renovations taking place at Compton House. Besides, Stephen was looking forward to a very quick meeting and then lunch, and perhaps further dalliances with his mistress, Anne Crowley.

The High Street was not the best place to trade approaching the end of the millennium. Times were hard and margins small with consumers getting increasingly particular on where they shopped. The Internet had also made a large dent in operating profits, since online shopping was the new vogue.

Compton’s had done well to maintain a stagnant growth, while Daly’s had made a very small increase in profits. Financial institutions had pegged them both as having to do some major restructuring to be able to continue challenging the likes of Woolworth’s and Marks & Spencer.

With this in mind, Stephen was going to propose to the board that his deputy, Colin Moss, be tasked with finding a solution to Compton’s current woes. Colin was Stephen’s protégé and was on the fast track to become the next chairman. What Stephen could not know was that it would be sooner rather than later.

 

At fifty-two years of age, Stephen Fuller thought he was invincible! He and his wife currently had a relationship which was superficial to say the least. She spent her time at their country house in Berkshire while Stephen oversaw the day-to-day running of Compton’s from his large flat overlooking the River Thames. They saw each other every other weekend, but the relationship was nowadays just a front for keeping up appearances. Divorce had been discussed, although dismissed as an option because of the lifestyles they led.

She was from a noble bloodline that did not endorse marital separation. Stephen Fuller was the commoner who had whisked her off her feet. They’d had a few good years together and a daughter and son in their late twenties who adored them both. They understood what their parents were going through and were perhaps learning from what they were witnessing, since neither had succumbed to a lasting relationship.

Anne Crowley had been a revelation! She was the company accountant and for some reason Stephen had fallen for her in a big way. The last twelve months had been bliss because their association had turned into an office affair. She was a girl with a vivacious personality who turned into a dynamo in the bedroom. Her appetite was insatiable and Stephen was now attending gym regularly to stay the pace! Anne was also a great sounding board for any business ideas he needed to run by her.

In retrospect, Stephen Fuller should have seen it coming. At eleven o’clock, he walked into the Dorchester as chairman of Compton’s. At ten past eleven he walked out, having been completely sandbagged. As soon as Stephen opened the meeting, Colin Moss stunned him with a point of order.

Standing up quickly from his seat, Colin floored the chairman with a haymaker Lennox Lewis would have been most satisfied with. “Mr. Chairman? Before we continue with today’s meeting, I would like to table a vote of no confidence in your stewardship of Compton’s.”

If Stephen Fuller had been Evander Holyfield, he might have been able to beat the count! Stephen knew the writing was on the wall when there were no murmurings of outrage from the seated board members. Even Anne was looking straight in front of her at some invisible point in the distance.

The vote, when it came, was damning to say the least. Out of the twelve board members present, eleven voted against Stephen Fuller with one abstention. Anne at least had the courtesy not to twist the knife that Colin Moss had thrust into him. No one could look their ex-chairman in the face while he packed his briefcase and then solemnly left the room. It did not help matters when Stephen later found out Colin Moss had been elected to take his place, with Anne as his deputy.

The final rub was when he got home to find Anne had removed all her belongings from his flat. Talk about having a bad day! Stephen now knew that he had been royally stitched up. Anne must have been feeding Colin all the information he had shared with her after their romantic trysts. A bottle of the finest Scotch whiskey was Stephen Fuller’s only companion that evening while he tried to douse the flames of a raging anger. This was far from over and he was determined some form of vengeance would be had!

 

All the periodicals had a field day at Stephen Fuller’s demise, quoting trustworthy sources that he had been ousted in favour of a younger and more dependable chairman. They were all forgetting one thing, though, and that was the investment he still held in Compton’s.

Try as he may, Stephen was at a loss on how he was going to exact his revenge. His holding in Compton’s would normally entitle him to propose four members to the board. This, however, would not be anywhere near enough to help his cause. Colin Moss and the other seven board members would still counteract anything he had in mind.

It was on one of those rare family weekends in Berkshire that Stephen came across an idea from an unexpected quarter. Lara and Peter Fuller – Stephen’s daughter and son – were staying over with their parents in a show of support for their father. Even Stephen’s wife, Margaret, was doing everything in her power to make it a weekend to savour. She was well aware of the circumstances Stephen now found himself in and wisely refrained from making any judgement.

Sunday lunch was always a tradition in the Fuller household whereby everyone would forgo the pomp of sitting around a large impersonal table for the intimacy of a kitchen table laden with succulent goodies. Carrots, cauliflower, peas and roast potatoes would surround a large joint of beef while a rich brown gravy was waiting to salute the meal. To top everything off, a large apple sponge and lashings of custard would complement this. The aromas swirling around the kitchen would have made any mouth water and if there was one thing Stephen took pleasure in, it was this.

It would be over the apple sponge Lara served that Stephen would come across an idea he would ultimately embrace. Peter had been extolling the virtues of online shopping while his father had been half listening over mouthfuls of his favourite dessert. Stephen had never acknowledged this form of retailing because he thought it was a trend that would never catch on. When Peter mentioned the revenues made by some of the larger American online stores, Stephen’s spoon hesitated before his mouth.

“Are you certain of those figures,” Stephen asked.

“Yes, dad,” Peter replied. “Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s both had revenues of over a billion dollars last year and there’s no reason to see it stopping there.”

Stephen knew his son was not prone to exaggeration since he had a successful business setting up online sites such as this. Lara was also working with Peter as his creative partner while he was the computer boffin who flew everything off into cyberspace. As Peter explained the intricacies of his profession, Stephen was getting the first stirrings of an idea welling up in his mind.

Lunch nearly stretched into supper while Stephen listened to his son’s view on online trading. Meanwhile, Lara and Margaret had retreated to the confines of the television room to catch up on the Australian Open. Tennis was a passion they both enjoyed.

Stephen’s first shot across the bow of Compton’s was when he liquidated ten percent of his holding in the company. This realised one hundred and fifty million pounds and led to a phone call from Colin Moss. Stephen’s answer to Colin’s question of what his intentions were, led to a terse: “Mind your own business!” and the phone being slammed down. He was well aware of the waves he could cause by flooding the market with the rest of his shares, but that was not his purpose.

Over the next few weeks, Stephen Fuller spent more time with his daughter and son than he ever had done in the past. He came to realise they were a chip off the old block, especially when he told them his idea.

It was nothing new as far as Internet businesses went, other than the fact there would be a subtle difference. Stephen was going to start with two warehouses to the east and west of London, stocking everything you would expect to find at Compton’s and Daly’s.

That way he could cover a fifty-mile radius around the capital and the outlying suburbs. A fleet of minivans and motorcycles would deliver within a two-hour time frame dependent on the size of the order. This was the crux of the business and would lead to the company being labelled “120” in reference to the delivery period. If the time frame was not met “120” would offer an immediate twenty percent discount on goods received.

As always, there were a few teething problems in the first months of operation – even so, those were quickly ironed out and “120” started to gain a reputation for prompt delivery service.

After two years of trading, “120”, under the shrewd guidance of Stephen Fuller, expanded to take in Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. By 2006, it was taking a fair chunk of business from the established High Street traders, not to mention Compton’s.

When it was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2007, “120” was valued a tad short of three quarter of a billion pounds. Stephen Fuller made sure he retained the controlling interest, owing to his past experiences with Compton’s. At sixty-two years of age, a now resurgent Stephen Fuller was going to exact his vengeance, but by a strange oddity of fate it would not be by his hands.

Hostile takeovers of struggling companies are two a penny in the corporate world, and it had been mooted in the first few months of 2008 that Compton’s was under threat. The financial crash, later in the year, finally put paid to any bail outs by other institutions. Fortunately, Stephen Fuller had slowly, and without bringing attention to himself, diluted his shareholding in Compton’s to seven percent. Therefore, his exposure was minimal.

The festive season heralded no saviour for Compton’s, with business being the worst they had experienced in nearly fifty years. On the other hand, “120” beat all expectations by enjoying its best ever Christmas sales. By the second of January, Compton’s had applied for protection from insolvency. It had been a torrid period for Colin Moss, with the final humiliation being the sight of padlocks on all of Compton’s stores. Far from wallowing in the demise of Compton’s, Stephen still held twinges of regret for his old company.

 

To say Stephen Fuller was disenchanted at the downfall of Compton’s would have been an understatement. Stephen had, if truth be told, wanted to bury that bastard, Colin Moss, but circumstances had conspired to overwhelm the settling of old scores. The fact that Compton’s had gone belly up stuck in Stephen’s craw like a rogue chicken bone.

The only solace Stephen Fuller got out of the whole, sorry debacle was acquiring Compton House at a knockdown price the liquidators were comfortable with. For sure, the building had to be renamed and he took great pleasure in emblazoning the frontage of the building with “120’s”, stand out, yellow and orange logo. It was like he’d finally come home after an unwanted leave of absence.

Two weeks after everything had been relocated, Stephen was paging through the “Times” as he had done religiously every morning for the last thirty years. He was always a great believer the financial section held important information if an astute reader knew what he was looking for.

One report caught his attention! Colin Moss had committed suicide in a lonely wood on the outskirts of Maidstone in Kent. His body had been found in his Mercedes – the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. Even though Stephen harboured no time for the man, he still managed a passing reflection of regret at the way it had ended for him.

As if compounding Stephen’s thoughts, his secretary buzzed through to say he had an unexpected visitor. When Anne Crowley walked through the door of his office, Stephen Fuller was completely taken aback at the way she looked. It had been ten years since he had last seen her and she had doubled that time period in looks. Flecks of grey could be seen in her hair while her face had a jaded appearance to it.

Stephen’s initial gawp must have had some effect, because after he had motioned her to take a seat, she greeted him with: “It’s been a long time Stephen. Please don’t judge me on my appearance since I’ve borne what happened to you with a heavy heart. Looking back, it was foolish of me to do what I did and I’ve regretted it ever since.”

Well, that was a skilful opening gambit! Nonetheless, when you harbour grudges like Stephen did, it takes a hell of lot more than that to break them down. Stephen Fuller just put on his best poker face and replied with: “What can I do for you, Anne?”

He could see Anne was a defeated woman by the look on her face. She just delved into her handbag, pulled out a picture and placed it on his desk, before saying: “I don’t require anything from you, Stephen. I made my bed and I’m prepared to lie in it. Colin and I had a very close relationship, but we never married because I still held a candle for you. Colin was not aware of this and truly loved both my son and I. Or perhaps I should say, your son!”

That completely fractured Stephen’s composure while she raised a finger and pushed the picture towards him. Lennox Lewis must have been on the comeback trail because Stephen felt like he was being counted out once again.

When Stephen managed some form of mental consciousness, he picked up the picture and stared at it. There would be no cause for him to argue, because the boy gazing back in his school uniform and sporting a killer smile was the spitting image of Stephen Fuller fifty years ago.

Anne was not a woman to stand on ceremony, so she continued to land a few more blows while he was on the ropes. “I’ll put it to you this way, Stephen. All I want is for you to acknowledge your son. That also means financial help, because I have no means of my own since Colin’s suicide. I want nothing from you bar a decent education for Anthony.

“And if I refuse your demands,” Stephen carelessly said, fumbling for something to say.

“You do not want to go that route, Stephen. You know as well as I do that Anthony is your son. Do the right thing and I’ll remain in the background. Anthony is all I have now and I will do anything to make sure he gets what he deserves, and I mean anything!”

Stephen was well aware Anne meant what she said, because of the implication she left hanging in the air. The referee had finally counted him out and it was time to salvage what was left of his existence.

“OK, Anne, you’ve made your point. I’ll make all the arrangements with my lawyer. Everything will be done under the guise of confidentiality and you will also receive a monthly stipend for the foreseeable future. I do hope this meets with your approval?”

“Thank you Stephen,” Anne answered, before turning and leaving. When she got to the door of his office, she made one last comment. “You know something, Stephen? Colin and I were always expecting you to come after us in some form or another, but I was pleased you didn’t. It was not your style!” With that, she closed the door behind her and left.

When Stephen Fuller sat down at his desk, he knew that Anne had had him taped from the first day he’d met her. She was probably more aware of his personality than he ever was. There was Stephen thinking he could rain down untold vengeance while in reality there was no way he could ever remove that sword from the scabbard!

 

 

 

nd of June 2016


A Scabbard Full of Vengeance

Stephen Fuller has long been the Chairman of Compton's, one of the largest chain of stores in the United Kingdom. Being unceremoniously dumped from the company, his family has overseen for more than a century, Stephen harbours thoughts of vengeance against his conspirators. Can Stephen come to terms with his dismissal or will he exact his own kind of revenge? Find out as the story unfolds in the short story "A Scabbard Full of Vengeance".

  • Author: Christopher Forward
  • Published: 2016-06-22 15:05:07
  • Words: 3283
A Scabbard Full of Vengeance A Scabbard Full of Vengeance