True Value
Who? "billionaire" What? "purse" Where? "Machine shop"
            John Gerrard wakes up one morning and goes downstairs to breakfast. His breakfast is waiting at the table along with his coffee, morning newspaper, and reports. The reports look good, there is growth, but not as much growth as he would like. He decides to visit his many businesses and check on his properties. It has been awhile since he has done a surprise inspection. There is usually a growth spurt in his businesses right after he shows his face. 

John is a billionaire from a map dot in the middle of Iowa. He owns many of the businesses and factories within the small town and the neighboring towns. He also owns 70% of the rental properties and 40% if the commercial property not counting his personal businesses. It is through his many different investments that truly make him his money. His properties and businesses are more of a hobby. His personal estate is actually located outside of town where he would not have to deal with neighbors. He bought the lands that are next to his estate just to ensure the lack of neighbors.

John goes to his car and has his driver start out on his journey. He visits his businesses and checks on the rental properties in between the businesses. He confronts the managers in each business with the things that he does not like. He visits a few of his tenants that are late on rent. He chuckles as he drives away from inspecting one of his rental properties. Many of his tenants are also his employees. He gets back a good chunk of what he is paying out in payroll.

His next stop is a machine shop. The machine shop usually does very well. The closest machine shop to the one that he owns is a good three hour drive from here. He parks by the front door and goes in for his inspection.

He walks in and goes to the manager’s office. He nods to the greeting that he gets from the manager and sits down to look at the production reports.

“Why is the production not higher, Robert?” He asks the manager in a dry tone.

“We are up from last month, sir.” Robert answers.

“Yes, but the increase should be higher. You asked if you could hire more help and I gave it to you. The increase should be much higher with all the help you have here now.” John responded in a strong tone.

John knew full well that the production of his machine shop was actually very good and was producing at almost optimum efficiency. His employees worked hard. He was not a very tolerant man with people. They worked hard or looked for another job; it was that simple.

“I’m going to look around the shop now, Robert, and I do not need an escort, stay here.”

He pulled a clipboard out of his briefcase and went to look at the facility. He walked around looking at all the machines and the condition of the shop. He jots down all the things he will bring to the manager’s attention. He enjoys doing this. He will bring to the attention of the manager every little thing that he finds wrong, no matter how small or insignificant it is.

He walks into the employee break room and takes a look around. There is a purse on one of the tables. He picks up the purse and looks through it. The first thing he pulls out is a small pocket bible that he quickly puts aside. He finds the employee’s wallet and looks at her driver’s license. He knows the name, Stephanie Collins. She is also a new renter as well as a new employee. It is the picture on the license that captivates him and holds his attention.

He puts everything back into the purse and goes back into the main work area. He spots Stephanie at her work station and approaches her.

“Good afternoon Miss…..?” He asks.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Gerrard. I am Stephanie Collins, but you should already know that since I also rent from you.” Stephanie responds.

“Are you new in town, Stephanie?” He asks.

“Yes, Mr. Gerrard, moved in about a month and a half ago.” She responds.

He looks at her hands as he talks to her, specifically her left hand. She is not wearing a wedding ring, and that is what he was looking for. He wasn't too concerned about her being married or not, but was finding out how discreet he would have to be.

“Call me John.”

“You are Mr. Gerrard, sir, and that is how I will address you.” She responds.

John was a bit shaken with that statement, but let it go. He bids her a good day and goes into the manager’s office with his clipboard. He doesn't actually say much this time to the manager. His mind was still seeing Stephanie’s eyes. He goes back to his car and directs his driver to go home.

When he arrives home he quickly goes and changes his clothes to jeans, a T-shirt, and a ball cap and goes into his incognito car as he calls it. It is an old Ford Taurus. The engine and all mechanical workings of the car work perfectly, but it doesn't look pretty. He drives back to the machine shop and parks in an empty lot across the street that has a clear view of the employee parking lot. He owns the lot, but has not decided what to do with it yet.

Stephanie comes out at the end of the shift and gets into her old Toyota Celica. She drives in the other direction than he thought she would drive, since he knows the duplex that she lives in. He turns the car on and follows her. She drives to one of the properties and businesses that he does not own. A property that he wanted to own but the owners would not give it up. It is a local church.

The church actually owns most of the property that is around the church. There is the property that the church itself sits on. Another lot is where the church office is. Another property is a food bank and what looks to be a clothing store. There is a property owned by the church that is a day care. The last holds a small house for the pastor and his family. There is one property that is owned by John and it holds an adult video and novelty store. John opened that store strictly to stick it to the church, he does not care if it turns a profit or not. In fact, it is the only business that he has that shows a loss. It is to the day care that Stephanie turns into.

He pulls into the parking lot of his store and sits and watches. Stephanie emerges with a little boy and gets in the car and drives towards where her duplex is. John follows her to her home and watches her pull into the driveway and go into the house. He stays parked on the road for a few minutes then drives home.

John stays awake for most of the night. He is unable to get the image of Stephanie from his head. He must have her and he will do anything to achieve that end, within reason.

He goes out the next day to the machine shop right before lunch time. He walks to Stephanie and asks her to have lunch with him. She accepts his offer and they go and sit at a table in the outside break area.

After some small talk where John finds out that her son’s father left them before he was born, and she has not seen or heard from him since. He learns about the town she grew up in and a little about her. He asks if he could see her again at the end of their lunch meeting.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Gerrard that would not be proper for many reasons, sir.” She responds.

“Why is that?” He asks.

“I’m sorry, sir, but I do need to get back to work. Thank you for your company during lunch. Have a wonderful day.” She says and goes back to work.

John is absolutely bewildered. She knows who he is. By now she must also know the extent of what he has. This was new grounds for him. He has never been refused like that before. There are many women that would give anything to be in the position that she was in. It just does not make any sense to him.

He was sitting at home and decides he must know more. He gets in his car and drives to her home. He knocks on the door.

Stephanie answers the door and says, “Good evening, Mr. Gerrard, how can I help you?”

“You can tell me why you will not go on another date with me,” John answers, “You know who I am. By now, you must also know the extent of what I have.”

“I know Mr. Gerrard, I have heard much about you. To be bluntly honest, sir, you do not have anything of true value.” She responded.

John was speechless. True value? What was she talking about?

“Have a good night, Mr. Gerrard.” She said as she closed the door.

He drove back home. He spent more than one sleepless night wondering what she meant by that statement. He decides to drive to her house again on Sunday morning. He arrives at her house and her car is not there. After some thought, He decides to drive to the church. He goes into the full parking lot and sees her car there. He parks and waits for her to come out.

He approaches her as she goes to the car with her son. “Can we talk?” He asks.

“Sure. Tommy, this is Mr. Gerrard.”

“Hello, Sir.” Tommy says.

“Hi, Tommy.” John replies.

“Let’s go to the park. We will meet you there.” Stephanie says as she straps Tommy in his booster seat in her car.

They meet at the playground in the local park. Stephanie explains to John what she was talking about while Tommy is playing.

Stephanie started her explanation by asking questions in a soft and gentle tone, “I know much about you Mr. Gerrard.” You own all these rental properties When was the last time that you truly looked at their condition?” When was the last time you truly looked at the working conditions in your factories and businesses? What about the last time that you showed any appreciation for the people that work for you? What about checking on the managers that you have running your businesses? Have you checked on them, other than to see if they are ripping you off? Have you seen how they treat your employees?”

John just sat on the park bench speechless again. He was angry, but he also admired her. No one ever talked to him so boldly.

Stephanie continued in the same soft voice, “What do you have of that is of true value, sir?”

Stephanie’s voice was soft and gentle the whole time. She was not angry or raising her voice. In fact, she appeared to be compassionate towards him.

John answered her by telling her how much he was worth. He told her of all of his possessions, and their value. She just looked at him with a sad smile.

She answered him, “With all that you own you have nothing of true value, sir.”

She left with Tommy and drove off. John sat there in the park for a long time. So long that it was dark by the time he got home. He watched as the maid was putting out his supper. He looked at his maid as if seeing her for the first time. She was fairly new, only worked for him for about three years, but she was good at her job. His house was always clean, food always hot and ready, his mail, newspaper, and reports always ready for him.

He sat down to his supper and continued to watch the maid work. He realized that she had been almost invisible to him. He really did not treat her well. He paid her decently, but that is about it. He began to look around his home. There were more people there. Although, you could hear a pin drop for all they spoke. He remembered why they do not speak, by his orders on not to be bothered.

John had another sleepless night as he began to think more on what Stephanie had said. He was a landlord to many around these parts, though slumlord is probably the more appropriate term. He was a business owner, yes, but for all his interaction with others, he might as well be invisible.

He decided the next Sunday to go to the church and talk to the pastor there. He had seen Stephanie there but did not approach her. He sat in the back so no one would notice him, though he was sure that a few did. Stephanie was there with his maid and he noticed a resemblance between them. He made a mental note to ask his maid about that later on tonight.

The pastor began his sermon and there were many things that were touching John in a way that he could not explain. He kept examining himself the more that the pastor spoke. He got up and left as soon as the service was over.

John talked to his maid and found out that Stephanie was her younger sister. That is how Stephanie knew so much about him. John let her go back to her work without another word. John was thinking all week long about the things the pastor was saying and the things Stephanie had said.

He started to attend the church on Sundays. He was surprised on the number of his employees that attended this church. He also started to look more at his own life and the things happening within his businesses.

One Sunday during the altar call at the church, John stood up. He walked forward and asked the pastor if he could speak. The pastor nodded his head and let John speak.

John turned to the congregation and said, “All of you know who I am, so I do not think that I need to introduce myself. There is a lady here that told me that I had nothing of true value. I have been thinking on that and listening to the messages that the pastor here has been giving.”

John paused as tears started to fall from his eyes.

He continued, “She was right. With all of the riches that I have, I truly have nothing. I am so sorry for the way that I have treated you all. Please forgive me.”

John went home from that service with a torrent of emotions running through him, emotions that he had not felt in years. He decided that something needed to change. He got home and started talking to the staff at his home. He began to thank them for their hard work and dedication. The river started to flow from there.

Over the next month, he began to pay his employees what they were truly worth. The unfortunate thing was that all of his managers ended up being fired after he found out what they had been doing, including the one that manages his staff at home. The adult store was closed down and he donated the building and the land to the church.

He did a tour of his rentals and things all of a sudden started to glare at him. He began to fix up his rental properties, truly fix them up. He started to give each of his renters the month of December rent free as a Christmas present to each of them. Stephanie is now the manager of the machine shop and her sister, Donna, is his household manager.

A year later, he went on an inspection of his businesses. He was greeted warmly as he walked into each one. It now takes about a week to do his inspections instead of one day. He does a thorough inspection now. He finds out how all of the people are doing, and if they need any help. He is making sure that he is taking care of the things he has that have true value, the people that are in his life.

He saved his last inspection for the machine shop.

He walks into Stephanie’s office, “Good morning, Stephanie.”

“Good morning, Mr Gerrard.” Stephanie responds.

He smiles and says, “Call me, John.”

“OK, John, How can I help you today?” She asks.

JoAnnaQuist   JoAnnaQuist wrote
on 3/20/2014 12:50:33 PM
Good story line. Would like to read more "meat" on John.

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A story about what truly matters.