A Bargain with the Boss - Page 13

Tuck grinned. “Then, book us a company plane. If I’m going to take Dixon’s place, I might as well enjoy all his perks.”

Amber wanted to ask if he considered her one of Dixon’s perks. But the question was as inappropriate as it was dangerous. Her relationship with Dixon was comfortably professional. By contrast, her relationship with Tuck grew more unsettling by the day.

Three

Tuck knew he had no right to be cheerful. Dixon was still missing and Zachary Ingles was unforgivably late arriving at the JWQ Convention Center in midtown Manhattan. Add to that, thirty Tucker Transportation employees were working with the convention center staff to assemble the components of the company’s pavilion, with less organization than he would have expected.

Still he couldn’t help but smile as he gazed across the chaos of lights, signs, scale models and scaffolding. Amber was at the opposite end of their allotted space, watching a forklift raise the main corporate sign into position. Her brunette hair was in a jaunty ponytail. She wore pink-and-black checkerboard sneakers, a pair of dark blue jeans and a dusky-blue pullover. It was as casual as he’d ever seen her.

“Mr. Tucker?” A woman in a navy blazer with a convention center name tag on the lapel approached him through the jumble. “I’m Nancy Raines, assistant manager with catering and logistics.”

Tuck offered his hand. “Nice to meet you, Nancy. Please call me Tuck.”

“Thank you, sir.” She referred to the tablet in her hand. “We have the east-side ballroom booked for Friday night, a customized appetizers and hors d’oeuvres menu with an open bar for six hundred.”

“That sounds right,” said Tuck.

He’d read through the company’s final schedule on the plane and he understood the general outline of each event. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Amber coming their way.

“We understand that there was a last-minute booking of a jazz trio, Three-Dimensional Moon,” said Nancy. “Are they by any chance an acoustic band?”

“An acoustic band for six hundred people?” Tuck found the question rather absurd. How would anyone ever hear the music above the conversation?

“The reason I ask,” said Nancy, “is we have no arrangement in place for a sound system.”

“There’s no sound system?”

That was clearly a mistake. Aside from the music, there were three speeches on the event schedule and a ten-minute corporate video.

Amber arrived. “Can I help with something?”

“This is Nancy. She says there’s no sound system for the reception.”

“There should be a sound system,” said Amber. “And three projection screens.”

But Nancy was shaking her head. “There was no tech ordered at all.”

“Someone from the marketing department should have handled that. Have you heard anything from Zachary?” Tuck asked Amber. He needed to get to the bottom of this right away.

“I’ve texted, emailed and left a voice mail, but he’s not returning.”

Tuck withdrew his phone from his pocket. “We’ll need the tech setup,” he said to Nancy. “Can you take care of it?”

She made a few taps on her tablet. “I can try. It will have to be rush, and that’ll mean a significant surcharge.” She looked to Amber. “Do you have the specs?”

“I’ll get them to you,” said Amber, pulling out her own phone. “I’ll track someone down.”

Nancy handed her a business card. “You can send them to my email. I’ll call a couple of local companies.”

“Thanks,” said Amber.

Tuck pressed the speed dial for Zachary.

Once again, it rang through to his voice mail.

“Maybe his flight was delayed,” Tuck mused.

Amber held up her index finger. “Melanie? It’s Amber. We need specs for a sound system for Three-Dimensional Moon. Can you find their web page and contact their manager?” She paused. “In the next ten minutes if you can.”

Tuck checked his text messages, and then he moved to his email interface.

“I’ve got a new message from Zachary.” He tapped the header.

He read for a minute and felt his jaw go lax.

“What?” Amber asked.

“It’s a letter of resignation.”

“No way.” She moved to where she could see his small screen.

“It says he turned in his keys to security and asked them to change his password.”


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