It seemed to her rather rapid for him to suggest that they were now friends. Well, even if they weren't friends yet, what could it hurt to comply with his request? "Okay, Bill," she said. "What's this all about? Tell me?"
"As you know, Mark is a defense attorney with some pretty high-profile clientele. Recently, a friend of mine hired him. You'd recognize my friend's name if I mentioned it, even though you probably don't know him personally or about him through me. He's high profile in the community. Hell, he's high profile in the state and nation. In any event, my friend --- who will remain unnamed here until I determine whether or not you are interested in this project --- hired Mark prospectively. That is, nothing has come out about anything this friend has ever done that would require a defense lawyer. But it is likely to come out in the near future. A lot of it involves issues of accounting and taxation. Mark needs a good accountant, one who doesn't have a recognizable name or some blaring reputation. Somebody who can fly under the radar, so to speak."
The waiter came and took their order. Mary Lou ordered her coffee black. She didn't usually order it that way, but it was looking like black might keep her awake and be more appropriate for this particular conversation. Bill ordered his entrée and then asked Mary Lou if she didn't want a piece of pie or something. She told him the coffee would be enough, for now, but then, as the waiter turned to leave, she said, "How about a muffin? A blueberry one would be nice." The waiter wrote it down and left.
"So I would work for Mark Goodrich and not our firm? In essence, you'd be letting me go? Or would it be an arrangement through our company for him? How would that all work?"
"What we can arrange," Bill Telford said, "is a paid leave of absence from the accounting firm for now, and you would be a freelancer --- self-employed --- in your work for Goodrich. In other words, you would stand to make double what you're making now --- at least double."
"Okay. That sounds okay, as long as I'm not losing my position with the firm, of course, unless you or somebody else in the firm thinks I should. The big thing is, I want some assurance that my work is valued, and that this isn't just an attempt to slough me off."
"No, no, it's not that at all. Everybody here thinks you do great work. That's why I'm coming to you. You're the best person for this project."
Mary Lou still wondered why it was him coming to her and not somebody else in the firm. It seemed peculiar for the head of the firm --- in particular, this man who held all the power and didn't know her that well --- to come to her with this, ah . . . project, especially, since he didn't normally do this kind of stuff anymore. It almost seemed like a personal piece of business. But then again, it seemed apparent that they wanted to keep it out of the spotlight of the media.
"Okay. And it is accounting and tax knowledge that is required? What can you tell me about what I'll be doing?"
"Like I said before, not much. Not much, that is until I get a commitment that this is something that you will do."
"But the devil is in the detail, as you know. How is it possible for me to make a sound decision on such scant information?"
"Look, Mary Lou. I'm the founder and an executive partner in this accounting firm. Under my leadership it has grown and developed into what it is today: one of the most prestigious firms in the Intermountain West. It's me that's coming to you with this proposition, not some underling, not someone less established with the firm. It's me, William Telford. Shouldn't that count for something? I look at it this way: if you feel comfortable and safe working for the firm --- and you have worked here now for a couple of years --- and I'm promising that you will be able to retain your position with the firm and be able to retain even your pay and return here when this other project is finished, why wouldn't you do it? Can't you just place your trust in me? "