(2018-11-13) The Spiel
Heather and Xavier chat about the Winchester investment proposal. Katherine gets exasperated.

Katherine is putting the finishing touches on dinner, sprinkling parsley into the crock pot, her eyes on Heather. "Are you going to have some of this, Heather? I promise it won't kill you. Beef stew never killed anyone." She turns, pulling out a knife to slice the bread that she pulled out of the oven about an hour ago. "Have you ever been to Mount Everest, by the way?" She frowns, scraping butter with a butter knife before she spreads it on the bread. "Don't answer that if you don't want to, I think I'm going insane today."

"Of course I'm going to be having some of that" Heather replies about the food. "Who would turn down your cooking?" Heather, in business clothes, sits at the table, checking her phone. "Beezy wants to talk. I wonder what she's gone and done now." She tucks her phone away. "Mount Everest? In Nepal? Umm…no. I haven't got that far." A pause. "Or was it a metaphor?"

There's the sound of the front door closing. Xavier finds himself returning to the B&B rather earlier than expected, it seems, an air of distracted thoughtfulness about him as he hangs up his heavy wool overcoat. He starts for the stairs, but a whiff of the beef stew and the faint sound of voices has him changing direction and entering the kitchen instead. Today's suit is charcoal herringbone, with a black waistcoat, and a grey silk tie and pocket square. "Is there enough of whatever smells like that for another?" he asks, with a faint smile. Heather gets a curious look.

"I cook enough for a football team, I think it's safe to say there is enough for you." Katherine says, smiling at Xavier. "Come in, sit down. This is Heather McCormack, I believe I might have mentioned her to you a time or two." She sets a bowl of stew down in front of Heather, two buttered pieces of toast on the side. "Heather, this is Xavier Westin, he's the man I told you about." She moves to ladle stew into a bowl, adding a spoon and more toast. "I'm glad you made it back for dinner, you both okay with some ice water?"

"She probably mentioned my name along with swear words" Heather smirks as she rises to offer her hand to Xavier. "I've heard a lot about you. Hope you don't mind, but I Googled you. Quite the business you have. Buy up. Do up. Sell on. Not one for putting down roots?"

"Ah, yes. I've seen you on the news since arriving," Xavier says, approaching to take a seat at the table, and taking his leather gloves off and tucking them into an inside jacket pocket before offering one hand to Heather. "And Katherine has mentioned you, but not with swear words. It's a pleasure to finally meet you." His faint smile widens. "I don't mind. I expect it. And you're not wrong; although the Institute's headquarters is in Chicago, most of the last decade, I've spent in other cities. I prefer to take direct control of major projects when I can. And you? I know you're local, but have you been here your whole life, or are you a returning native daughter of the city?" He glances at Katherine. "Ice water will be fine for me, thank you."

Katherine gets water for the pair of them, but doesn't immediately make herself a plate or get a drink. She loads the dishwasher as she listens to the pair of them talk, not interjecting, but certainly listening. She puts a pot of coffee on, leaning against the counter as she pulls her phone from her pocket, tapping on the screen.

"I went away for college and a career" Heather nods, "But now I'm back home. Reconnecting with old friends…and enemies." A sly wink for Katherine before she sits after the handshake. "I understand you're offering to help Ms Stone take over the Winchester hotel? I'm interested in participating. So, if you don't mind talking while we eat, I'd love to hear your spiel."

Xavier settles back in his seat. He turns to watch Katherine for a moment before Heather's words draw his attention back. "Yes, I suppose that's the gist of it, and no, I don't mind." His grin flashes out. "I'm a workaholic, so talking business is never an imposition." He reaches for the water and takes a sip. "I'm sure you're aware of TechEase's interest in the area; the Institute's analysts suggest that if that deal goes through, a substantial uptick in the number of business travelers could be expected. Not just TechEase people, but other industries and professionals - like myself - will be drawn to the area, adding to the already robust tourist traffic. The Winchester is a historic building with classic appeal which is being sadly underutilized; with renovations and competent management, it's in a very good position to capture a substantial slice of that pie. Business travelers aren't going to want to stay up in the resort, most of them. They'll want to be close to offices, transportation hubs, and the amenities of the city. Even a number of tourists these days prefer to have a less expensive 'hub' in which to stay, and make day trips to things like the ranches, the parks, and the ski slopes. There's potential there. It's not a sure bet by any means - like any investment, there's risk. The serial killer and recent disasters are…unfortunate factors in the analysis. But they're also temporary factors, not lasting influences."

Katherine laughs softly as they both speak, clearing her throat to dismiss the noise. She finally gets herself some beef stew, dipping two slices of toast in it as she approaches the table to take a seat. "Isn't he good at this?" She asks Heather, pulling the toast from her broth to nibble on it. "It's like you flip a switch and suddenly he's saying business tag words like amenities and investment."

"He's had a lot of practice" Heather smiles to Katherine before turning a cold gaze on Xavier. "Your business proposal is based on TechEase? That would seem more dangerous to me than any serial killers…or cult murders. They're not very popular around here with most people. And if you've tried to use one of their apps, then you can understand why. If that is the only thing that you believe will increase traffic, then I'm not sure this is a good idea. This town needs to be more than a tourist town, that I agree on, but I'm not sure that relying on TechEase will do that for you. What returns are you thinking you'll get? Any conditions on the use of the Winchester that have been established by the city council?"

Xavier gives Katherine an amused look. "You flatter me, Katherine." He turns more serious as he looks back to Heather. "It's not the sole factor in our calculations - even if the deal falls completely through, there's interest now, and that interest can be carefully cultivated with various projects throughout the city. Now's not a bad time to look at acquiring and repurposing some major tracts of land, actually - the fire and floods have caused a lot of property damage, and land can be acquired at below market value because rebuilding is more expensive than just finding somewhere else." He pauses to try some of the beef stew. There's a moment of silence as he chews. "For the investors, I'm thinking the standard angel contract. Ten percent stake in the business, up to forty-nine percent. Assuming Ms. Stone continues to wish to assume ownership, she should maintain a 51 percent stake at all times, of course. Investors will receive a share of the profits from the business - but likely not for the first two years; to be frank, the building needs a lot of work, and I'm expecting it to operate in the red for some time until that can be complete, and the new staff come up to speed. It's a long-term investment if the property succeeds. The investors will have the option to collect dividends, and to sell their shares for a profit, with a particular option to allow Ms. Stone to buy out the investors should she be able to." He pauses again. "If the business fails, the assets will be liquidated, and the investors will receive as much of their investments back as possible, with any remainder being distributed back to Ms. Stone. It's a standard clause in such arrangements."

Katherine keeps her eyes on her bowl, spooning stew slowly in her mouth. She rests her cheek in her palm and sighs, glancing between Heather and Xavier. "So are you throwing this charity thing to find out who had the worst losses, a way to target them to buy up their land?" She doesn't sound angry about it, resigned maybe. She takes a bite of her bread, watching Heather to see how she reacts to Xavier's many words.

"I run a television station, not a real estate empire" Heather points out about the prospect of buying up land. "Though I suppose I could build a movie studio one day." No point in thinking small." She nods her way through most of the talk. "And I'm not doing this for the money. I'm doing this for a friend. You have legal documents I can get my lawyers to look through? And when do you plan on this happening?" A quick mouthful of food before she looks to Katherine. "You have fifty-one per cent of the money needed? That's beyond just the initial purchase, it will be fifty-one per cent of any renovation and maintenance bills too. If you want to do this, I'll help you out, but know what you're getting into." Her gaze turns back to Xavier. "And Ms Stone will be allowed to approve all the investors. No suddenly finding out that one of them is a cartel member. And remember that I own a television station. If you fuck Ms Stone over, or this town, you won't be able to show your face anywhere."

Xavier chuckles, and shakes his head at Katherine. "You have a devious mind. I appreciate that and it will serve you well. But no. The city will be distributing the funds - neither I nor the Westin Institute will have knowledge of who exactly the money is going to. We will expect the city to keep records, in case of audit, but that's the only point we'll be interested in it." He falls silent, then, as Heather talks, eating his way through the stew. He nods, once, briefly in agreement with her comments on Katherine knowing what she's getting into. The last part brings his head up. He puts the spoon down, and fastidiously wipes his mouth, before offering Heather a steady smile. "Ms. Stone may certainly exercise approval, and I'll have the standard angel contract that we use sent to your office. The actual contract will take a few weeks - for one, I'm going to have one of my guys come and take a quiet look through the hotel to get an accurate picture of the renovation costs. No one will be asked to commit until all the facts are on the table." There's another deliberate pause, before he says, quietly, and with the same pleasant smile. "Ms. McCormack, everyone gets one threat directed towards me without me taking it personally. I understand the impulse; you have to show that you're a devoted friend, that you're a person to be taken seriously, that you care about your town. Please take those things as understood, and understand in turn that that was your one. Let's not have another, hm?"

Katherine looks embarrassed as Heather speaks, cutting a brief glance at Xavier, her eyebrows raised. "Heather.." She says, her voice low. "When we're talking business, feel free to be a spitfire. When we're not, please be polite. You don't need to threaten Xavier, I don't think he means me any harm." She eases her face into her palm and mutters something softly. She drags the hand down her face and then smiles at both of them. "We can all get along, I'm certain, we all have similar goals." She picks up her bowl and walks it to the sink, muttering something softly under her breath.

Heather sighs at the admonishment from the both of them. "Sorry, I took it too far. My apologies, Mister Westin, I won't threaten you again." A sip of her water to try and calm down a little. "Depending on the report we get about the building, and the contract details, I'm in. I have no intention of hounding you every day. I don't know anything about building renovations or running a hotel, but that same television station can give you a lot of free advertising and help put out the right messages."

Xavier raises a hand to Katherine. "No, it's fine. Genuinely. I'm well accustomed to it, and in this case, it is warranted. You /should/ have someone in your corner in this, Katherine, and it can't be me. I /am/ in it for the money, and there are a lot of ways this could be turned against you in some extremely nasty ways. Ms. McCormack is quite correct to remind me that someone is watching." He reaches for his glass, and takes a sip, before smiling and offering a nod to Heather. "I'm glad to hear it. I'll send our investors' packet to you with more detail about the Institute's financials than you'll find through Google. Just so that you can feel confident on that front." He smiles. "And, of course, I will be available to answer any further questions or concerns you might have. Does that sound acceptable?"

"Regardless on if I need someone in my corner like that, it's not my style. She can be as rude as she wants when talking business. Threatening you is unnecessary, the threat should just be implied." Katherine shoots a smile at Heather, continuing to clean up. "I trust that between you two, the lawyers, and a lot of research, we'll be able to make something amazing. It will do a lot better if we can manage to get along, or pretend to." She taps a finger on the counter. "Well, you two, I don't need to pretend."

Heather nods to Xavier. "That sounds acceptable." A frown at what Katherine says. "I know it's not your style, Katherine. You're an angel and I wouldn't want you to change a thing. Sometimes, just sometimes, you will also need a bitch like me in your corner. I have a lot to make up to you, let me be a hard case /for/ you. Just this once." A wink to the other woman. "And, yes, we can all get along. Mitch Buchanan works for me, I can get along with anyone."

"She's not wrong, Katherine," Xavier says, watching the bed and breakfast owner with a moment of intensity. "If you don't want to be an attack dog, that's fine. But you need one, and one who has actual loyalty is worth more than gold." His smile is thin and sharp. "For what it's worth, nothing in this conversation makes it difficult to get along with Ms. McCormack." He turns the smile on Heather, and it widens to a grin. "I think we understand each other reasonably well, don't you?"

Katherine lets out a sigh, gazing up at the ceiling. "I don't think I can take much more." She says, loud enough to be heard but it doesn't seem to be directed at anyone. She opens the fridge, putting away food slowly. "If you're fine sniping at each other in the interest of keeping me safe, feel free. I'm not going to argue with either of you, what's the point, you both could roll me without much effort." She shuts the door with a thud, eyes narrowed. "Hell, everyone can!" She uses her foot to shut the dishwasher, making it bang. "Is there anything else we need to discuss before I go take a very very hot shower?" She folds her arms over her chest.

"We do" Heather nods to Xavier. But Katherine doesn't seem to at all, and that makes Heather sadder than she was expecting. "No, we're done" she replies, standing to leave. "Nice to meet you, Mister Westin. I'll see you later Katherine." Heather feels she has fucked up somehow, but not sure why. At least she acknowledges that she's done /something/ wrong these days. "Have a good night." Then she is out of there.

Xavier chuckles, and pushes his way away from the table. "Good night, Ms. McCormack. It was a genuine pleasure." He looks towards Katherine, his smile softening a bit. "Sometimes people don't show camaraderie the way you do, Katherine. Just let us get the genital waving out of the way, and things will be fine from there on. It was a lovely dinner, and I'll get out of your hair." He waves to Heather, and also departs, up towards his room.

Katherine stands in the middle of her kitchen, a frown on her face. She puts the remaining dishes in the sink and walks around, swearing quietly as she turns off the lights so she can head upstairs.

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