“Thank you all for joining us during these trying times,” Alex called through a microphone placed on a raised platform at one end of the factory floor, gazing out at seventy-six previous employees, several government officials, and a dozen members of the press who were recording every word that was said.
The usual flash and spark of welding, grinding of metal, and whirring of industrial-sized fans was replaced by flashing and snapping of photographs for news articles and murmuring of disgruntled men and women who were no longer employed. Alex shifted onto his right leg, trying not to fidget or make himself look guilty or nervous.
“We were shocked and disappointed hearing that our business partner and long-time friend had been conducting illegal activity right here in our community,” Alex said. “I will leave the investigations of wrongdoings in the capable hands of our law enforcement agencies and step aside to let them determine who else was involved in the illegal transactions.”
Alex fought the urge to sweep his gaze sideways to where Noah stood at his right.
“As you are all aware, Domrey is closing our doors for the foreseeable future. We will be liquidating all assets. Mr. Huron’s share of the company will be used to pay any legal fees and to support his extended stay in the State penitentiary.” Alex let out a chuckle of irony. “With my shares of the company, I intend to provide severance payments to all of you, equally divided among all former employees.”
Murmurs of shock and appreciation resounded throughout the floor of the factory. Alex stepped back and allowed Mark to take the floor.
“My friends and neighbors,” Mark said into the microphone. “I, also, will be dividing my share of the company equally among all of you. I do not wish to profit from this hardship. Thank you for your years of service to the company. I wish there was more we could do for you.”
Mark took a step back and looked over at Noah, whose politician fake-smile held a twinge of falsified sympathy. Mark held out his hand, offering Noah his chance at the microphone. Noah stepped forward.
“What kind benefactors we have here,” Noah said, smiling sweetly. “Can we offer them a round of applause in appreciation for their generosity?” Noah stepped back with a sweep of his hands leading the applause as if he weren’t mostly at fault for the whole situation. What he didn’t offer was his share of the liquidation. Snake.
Mark narrowed his eyes at Noah as he moved forward again to the microphone. Noah’s smile faltered a fraction and he gulped. His response was probably not visible beyond a few feet radius, but Alex could tell that Noah knew he wasn’t fooling everyone.
“One other thing”—Mark’s voice contained an edge that hadn’t been there prior, and he almost seemed to be gritting his teeth— “We will be cooperating with law enforcement to provide any documentation they require to complete a full investigation and determine who else was involved in illegal transactions within this company as well as local government officials, contractors, surveyors, installers, or developers.”
There was an uncomfortable shift in the mood on the factory floor. Most people seemed concerned or angry, but a few people shifted their stance, or glanced around the room at one another. Alex knew the FBI agents would be watching for these reactions and he hoped others would be prosecuted and Drew wouldn’t take the fall for everyone.
“If any of you in this room were involved,” Mark continued. “I encourage you to turn yourselves in and take responsibility for your actions. Illegal activities that involve our local government affect the law-abiding citizens and our ability to provide services to our community. That’s all I have to say at this time. Any members of the press can contact us directly.”
With that, Mark reached up to click off the microphone and pushed past Noah, hurrying down the steps and off the podium. He ducked out the side door. Although legal investigations were far from over, the press conference definitely was. Alex narrowed his eyes at Noah and then followed Mark.