The danger increases for Kelly.
"Kelly, do you know what this is about?" asked one of the female members.
"I'm not sure why the meeting was called, but I do know that before it's over, there will be a few surprises and a new direction for this company. That's why Gregory Cameron is here. He has a proposal that I think you all should hear."
"Well, it's nearly 10. Why don't we all go into the boardroom and wait for him there?" said another member, this time a male.
Everyone turned and headed to the door. The first person through stopped in shock. Sitting in the chairman's position was Arthur Peterson, with his daughters on either side. "Don't just stand there," he said. "Come in, sit down." He smiled and waved his hand at the empty seats on either side of the long conference table.
His smile faded when he saw Kelly, Michael and Gregory walk in. "What's he doing here? This is not an open meeting, Cameron. Get out!"
"He's here at my invitation," said Kelly, "as is Michael. Everyone, I believe you all know Gregory Cameron. This is Michael Knight, from the Foundation for Law and Government. You will see soon why they are here. But 'Father'," and she put a great deal of contempt in her voice, "I think you are sitting in the wrong seat."
"I am CEO of this company and chairman of the board. This is my seat and I'm keeping it. Now sit down and be quiet. I have a few announcements to make."
Kelly took her seat next to Laura, who looked questioningly at her. She shrugged and shook her head at her sister. It may be his seat right now, but not for much longer, she thought. After setting her briefcase on the floor next to her, she turned her attention to Peterson. He glared at her, but her gaze never wavered.
He turned away and looked down the table. "All right. Let's begin. Miss Winslow will take the minutes." The secretary in one corner of the room nodded and indicated that she was ready. "I called this meeting to inform you of a few decisions I have had to make regarding this company. As you know, we have suffered some losses and as a result our stock has slipped. Therefore, I have decided to streamline the company down to just one department. It was a hard decision, but I feel the progress the medical department - the hypnotism section in particular - has made, more than justifies this step."
"What?" "No!" "You can't do this!" "What do you think you are doing?" "That's ridiculous! That department hasn't made any significant progress," were cries heard from around the table.
"Enough. I'm not interested in your opinions about my decision. I can and I will do this," Peterson retorted, "and none of you can stop me. With the stock my daughters and I own, plus other proxies, I have enough to outvote you all, and I -"
"No you don't," said Kelly. "You don't have my proxy, and never did."
"If you think the paltry shares of stock your mother left you will stop me, then you have another think coming."
Kelly smiled. "I have far more shares in this company than that. I have exercised my stock options every year - oh you didn't know I had that, did you?" she added, when she noticed the startled look on his face, "and I have been buying as many shares as I could over the past five years, starting when I realized that Mother was dying and you would take over. You have been doing everything you could to ruin this company. Why?"
"How dare you accuse me of something like that? You have absolutely no idea of what I've been doing to-"
"I have more knowledge about your activities than you think. I remember."
Arthur Peterson sat back in his chair, his face paling. He said feebly, "I don't believe you."
The other members turned to each other and Kelly heard one of them say, "What's she talking about? Remember what?"
"Do you want to tell everyone the truth, or shall I?"
"You wouldn't dare!"
She gazed calmly at him, smiling slightly. She turned to the others in the room, who all looked confused. "Arthur Peterson is not my father," she said. "Gregory Cameron is. Peterson showed up at the house yesterday and one of the first things he said was that I wasn't his daughter. I remembered that as executrix of Peterson's will, I had access to his safety deposit box. I knew that he'd put some of my mother's papers in it after she died. I went there yesterday and found a birth certificate with my name on it. This one said that I had been born four months earlier than what I had been led to believe. A check with the hospital confirmed that it was the genuine one. Also, that rumor that he had planted vital
information hypnotically in my sisters and myself is - well, all I can say is that he is a liar."
She turned to Peterson. "Did you even implant any information in my sisters, or was it just me you hypnotized? How long have you known that I wasn't your daughter?
"I knew before I ever married your mother!" he spat.
"Then why did you marry her?"
"For the company! For the power it would give me! But she put conditions on our marriage and my becoming part of RTC. One was to treat you like my own daughter. And she decided that I wasn't doing that, so she never turned the reins completely over to me, like she promised. The day she died, was the best thing that had happened to me in years!"
"Father!" gasped Shauna. "You're saying -"
"No, darling. I don't mean you and Laura weren't - I mean, I love you both. Look, I may not have loved your mother, but you are my daughters. I would never harm either of you in any way. You're a part of me. Kelly is right; I never implanted anything in your subconscious minds. You two were never in any danger."
Shauna and Laura both looked shocked. They turned and looked apologetically at Kelly, who smiled at them briefly, then turned back to their father.
"But as time went on, you grew to despise my mother, even hate her, because you decided she wasn't keeping her end of the bargain, even though you didn't keep yours. And you hated me, as well, because I was her daughter, but not yours. Once she died, you dropped any pretense of civility toward me. And it was because Mother still was in love with Gregory Cameron, right?"
"Very good, Kelly; you're right on the money. Oh, I was attracted to your mother, physically. But she didn't feel anything in return, not really. And after a few years, she said I revolted her. But I was her husband, and I had certain rights, which I exercised. Is it any wonder I wanted to destroy what she had made, after the way she treated me?"
During this time, everyone else was listening in shock. Then one man stood up. "Now just a minute, Peterson. This has gone far enough. You may have gotten away with a lot over the last few years, but it ends here!"
"Sit down, Russell!"
Instead, the man turned to the rest and said, "I move that we consider firing Arthur Peterson as CEO and removing him from the board. Does anyone second the motion?" Instantly, several people agreed.
"You can't do this. I have a contract.
"The terms of the contract state that you can be relieved, should we find you have done anything deliberately that would cause damage to this company in any way, including its reputation, stock value or credit rating. It is evident to me from what we've heard here that you have done so," replied Nichols. "It is our duty to stop you."
"I can block you!"
"No, you can't," said Gregory. "You are officially dead, and until such time as that changes, your stock and proxies would be voted by your daughters - all three of them. Plus, Kelly has the extra shares to tip the balance. I've seen her portfolio."
Laura turned to Kelly. "Is that true?" Kelly nodded. "Then," Laura continued, turning to the rest of the board members, "I think we've heard enough to vote. Unless someone wants to speak on behalf of my father." She looked at Shauna, who shook her head slightly and looked down. Then she looked at the others, none of whom indicated a willingness to speak. "Then, it's time for a vote."
"Laura, don't do this to me. I'm your father!"
She looked at him with a combination of pity and scorn. "And weren't you my father when you decided to do this to the company that Shauna and I are also part of? What would you have had us do then? The house is Kelly's and because of the way we've treated her - following your lead, I might add - she would have been justified in throwing us out. We would have had no viable means of providing for ourselves. Or would you have taken care of us?"
Peterson opened his mouth as if to reply, but thought better of it and subsided, shrinking back into his seat. His look grew thoughtful.
Laura turned back to the others. "Does anyone, other than my father, object?"
No one did.
"Then all in favor of removing Gregory Peterson as CEO and Chairman of the Board, please indicate so by a show of hands." Everyone's hands went up, including hers, Kelly's and Shauna's. "All opposed?" Slowly, Peterson's hand went up. His look was venomous.
"You will regret this, I promise you."
"The ayes have it. Father, I'm sorry, but you were wrong. I regret that I have to do this; I do love you, but I loved Mother, too. I can't let you ruin her company. You are hereby fired as CEO of RTC Enterprises, and removed as chairman of the board. Please leave."
"Laura, don't do this. You have to understand, I did this for you and your sister. Please don't do this."
"No you didn't," said Michael. "Laura and Kelly were as much a part of your wife as they are of you. Didn't you realize that hurting her would hurt them, too?"
Peterson paled at that thought. "I -"
"Just one moment." All eyes turned to Kelly, who was looking at the man she used to call Dad. "You tried awfully hard to get me into the limo with you that day. Was there another body, a female one, or was I supposed to be in that car when it blew up?"
He sneered at her, full of hate. "What do you think? You're so smart; figure it out." He rose slowly from the chair and moved around the table in her direction. "Your mother's fair haired child; you were always a reminder of what I couldn't have. Well, now the tables are turning."
He pulled out a gun and, before anyone could move, aimed it at her. "Everybody stay where you are. Kelly and I are going to take a trip together." He grabbed her arm. "I may have lost this company, but I'm not going to lose anything else. And you're going to help me make sure of that. Move!"
She walked down the length of the table toward the door and opened it. He kept her between himself and the others the entire way. As he went out, she turned and looked directly at Michael. Now you know why I wanted you here, was what her look said to him. I was afraid of something like this. Help me! Then the door closed