Grant Braden was a man of action. When he saw a problem he tackled it head-on and once he knew the extent of the situation, began finding ways to fix it or mitigate its impact until he found a solution.

Confidence in Braden Stock was at an all-time low. It was frustrating, to say the least. Grant had updated, renewed, refurbished on as many levels as humanly possible and yet the stock remained abysmal at best. He wasn’t concerned for himself. His concern centred around his staff. If stocks continued to drop, he’d have to consider letting staff go and that worried him.

Although the problems he was facing weren’t dire yet, they could become so and he wanted to nip that problem in the bud. Should his inquiries became known, it could create a further decrease of confidence in his stock. It wasn’t as though they were bleeding money, but there was a problem somewhere. After making some discreet inquiries, he’d learned Janice Bailey was an expert in the field of problem-solving these sorts of issues. She was a headhunter, good at enticing new interests and creating renewed interest in companies going through difficulties. She had an interesting sideline – investigator.

A meeting was scheduled at 4:00 which gave him exactly an hour to continue his research on her. So far, there was precious little. It seemed she valued her privacy and he couldn’t find so much as a picture of her, anywhere. She could be thirty to fifty – married single or something in between. In reality, he didn’t matter. As long as she got the job done quietly, efficiently and well, she was worth her weight in gold. He hadn’t realized until that moment how much he was counting on her investigative skills to assist in finding the source of the problem(s) within his company. It frustrated irritated and angered him that he had to admit they existed at all and he hadn’t found them himself. With her help, he hoped to speed up the process, find the breach and move on.

When she arrived, he had to hide his surprise. She was a stunner, no other way of describing her. Vibrant richly auburn hair, flashing green eyes, tall and slender, she oozed authority, determination, confidence. Well he supposed that’s what it took to do what she did. It was exciting on a personal level…such women were rather rare. Rising, he walked toward her and held out his hand. “Thank you for coming, Ms. Bailey. Pleased to meet you.”

“My pleasure. I don’t stand on ceremony, it’s Janice.”

“Janice. Call me Grant. Would you like a beverage?”

“Strong black coffee would be appreciated. I pulled an all-nighter and I’m a little punchy.”

As he walked toward the coffee machine he asked, “Hazard of the business?”

She smiled and replied, “Sometimes.”

After handing her a coffee he said, “I contacted a mutual friend who suggested you. He guaranteed me you are the epitome of discretion. That’s an absolute.”

Realizing the formalities were over she sat straighter in her chair and continued, “You can count on that. It’s why there is little to no information about me on social media. I work strictly from word of mouth.”

He smiled, “I noticed.”

Janice smiled. “It’s the only way to guarantee anonymity for my clients. No “paper trail” if you will. Plus, since no one knows my true identity, I can blend in which assures quicker results.”

“Makes sense,” he agreed while privately thinking there wasn’t a hope in hell she could blend in; she’d turn heads no matter where she went.

While giving her a condensed outline of what he was dealing with and what he expected from her, he’d watched closely for a reaction. She was excellent at hiding her emotions and nothing showed in either her facial expression or body language to suggest any of what she was thinking.

“Sounds like we have several options to consider. I’m going to be blunt here, Grant. I prefer plain speak to subtlety which can lead to misunderstanding.” When he nodded, she continued, “You may have all the respect and faith in the world in your staff, but you’ll have to put that aside for the duration, while we check out all the possibilities.”

“Your right, I have complete confidence in my staff, but I’m also aware that something is amiss and I need a cooler head to point out all the considerations I may have overlooked or not considered. Expect some resistance because…”

When he paused she quickly replied, “I understand and it’s a heads up so you realize the paths we travel down may not be to your liking.”

“I get that and while I may initially balk at the idea, I will follow through. Simply considering I might have a mole within my organization infuriates me.” He rose and paced the room. One because he treated his staff fairly, paid on time, at an above-average wage with medical dental and insurance benefits – unlike others in his line of work and two because he’d vetted each person on his staff himself and he was a damn good judge of character.

“Good, then I’ll begin. Unfortunately, in this kind of scenario, there’s usually an inside source, an accomplice, someone working for their own ends and gain or for someone else.”

“Do you have any enemies?” she asked, watching closely for a reaction.

“Doesn’t everyone in business?” He smiled, then became serious. “Not that I’m aware of, Janice. I have always been fair in business dealings.” He knew only too well what could happen and how it felt to be on the other side of things.

“Have you had any clashes with other businesses? Any angry husbands or boyfriends or girlfriends out there that could be holding a grudge?”

He feigned a look of askance then smiled, “No. I never poach and the few women I’ve been close to, have all been of the same mind. We weren’t looking for commitment.”

“Good.” She sighed. That closed off vengeance as a motive. “Any hostile takeovers or buyouts that could have been misconstrued as hostile by the other party?”

“That’s a tough one. While I’m always fair and offer top dollar, there will always be animosity and anger at a party losing their business. It comes with the territory, unfortunately. If at all possible, when possible, I use the people already in place in any business I buy up. I never displace anyone holding a position within said company unless it’s warranted…ie they are not willing to follow the new rules I’ve implemented for the betterment of the company. As a result, there have been a few that walked and were none too happy about it. I never followed through on those individuals since it’s impossible.”

They sat together for another two hours as Janice asked all kinds of questions and Grant answered or suggested someone she should talk to that might have more hands-on knowledge.

He hadn’t eaten since breakfast and he was hungry. He suggested they take a break and enjoy a meal. When she agreed, he ordered from a well-known restaurant and hanging up the phone explained that dinner would arrive within a half-hour.

Janice rose and walked to the magnificent view. “Pretty incredible.”

“Makes you feel small in the grand scheme, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, yes it does. Doesn’t take away from the beauty of the city, though.”

They ate together in enjoyable silence as they enjoyed a delicious meal. As soon as it was finished, they were back on track and worked for another two hours before calling it a night.

Feeling they’d made a good head start Grant thanked her, “This is good. I’m getting a handle on how your mind works, and I’m enjoying it.” At her surprised look he continued, “Your an innovative thinker. I like that. I can see why your as exceptional in your field as I’ve heard, I can see why.”

Janice wasn’t usually sidetracked by a client, but she had to admit she liked what she saw when she walked through the door. Not to mention, she’d done her due diligence before arriving and knew quite a bit about Grant. She wouldn’t take a case on unless she was sure she liked the client, and his ethics as well. She refused to work for anyone attempting to circumvent the law. That was a given. She was looking forward to working with Grant. He definitely had a problem, how big a problem remained to be seen.

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