“The math works out to about thirty-five percent.”
Alex blinked, as she looked at the bank officer. “Thirty-five? Really?”
“Well, property values may be low in this town, but the bar is still on Main Street. Between the assets, the building, and the location, the business value is higher than you would think,” the officer explained as she tapped the folders in front of her. “So one hundred and fifty thousand dollars gets you thirty-five percent.”
“Wait, that’s supposed to be-”
“Forget it,” Ryan said from the seat beside her. “I’m not letting you invest your entire settlement in the Black Lantern.”
Alex shot him a look. “It’s MY settlement. I can do whatever the hell I want with it.”
“You still have to pay taxes on it. Besides, we’re both still figuring this out. If we fuck up, I’m not gonna let you lose everything.” He looked back at the bank officer. “One-fifty it is.”
“… fine.” Alex sighed and looked back at the women on the other side of the desk. “So, what do I have to sign?”
“A lot. But let’s start with this.” She opened the first envelope. “Your rights as an owner, and it needs to be signed by the two of you. You’re to be given full access to the bars finances, first and foremost-”
“I already looked at them with Ryan.”
“I’m sure, but this is just formalizing the arrangement.” She moved on. “You also have the right to act as an agent of the business, though as majority owner, Mister Lucan still needs to agree on all of your decisions. And you have unfettered access to the building.”
“I can live in the building without issues now?”
The officer looked confused. “You were living in the building before?”
“The upstairs apartment,” Ryan clarified.
“Ah.” The officer seemed unsure of herself. “Um… that’s not my area. You may want to look into a residency agreement nevertheless, but that’s for you two to figure out.”
They both signed the first paper.
“Okay, ownership acknowledgement.” The second folder opened. “An agreement that Miss Chen will receive thirty-five percent of the business ownership in exchange for a cash sum of one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
Alex and Ryan both signed it as well.
“How much is left?” Alex asked as they gave it back.
“Oh, we’re just getting started, Miss Chen.”
Her face fell as the officer got to the next envelope, with was almost an inch thick. “Aw, crap.”
“I’m afraid so. Now, starting from the beginning, these first two pages are…”
“Does it really still hurt?”
“No. It’s just sore.” Alex shook her right hand, while she carried all her copies of the paperwork in her left. “I’ve never signed my name so many times at once in my life. I don’t even know if my signature was any good there at the end.”
“We’ll get some ice for it when we get back to the bar,” Ryan assured her. “For a little bit. My lawyer gave me a bunch of stuff you need to sign too.”
“Excuse me?” she shot him an incredulous look. “For what?!”
“I don’t know, but there’s a lot.”
Alex’s eyes narrowed. “… no, he didn’t. You’re full of shit.”
Ryan smirked. “Worth a shot.”
“You’re gonna get a shot in the arm if you make me sign my name one more time today.”
“Could you even do it with a busted hand?”
“It would be worth it.”
He shrugged, looking down at the paperwork in their hands. “It will be so nice to finally have a day off tomorrow,” he admitted. “Can’t wait to sleep in past seven in the morning.”
Alex frowned. “Has it really been so long?”
“God, yes. I want to go one day without having to set foot in the Black Lantern.”
“What are you going to do?”
“After sleeping in? I’m not sure.” He pondered the question as they passed the flower shop. “Maybe I’ll go for a hike. I haven’t done one for fun in months, they’re always for work.”
Alex tilted her head. “What’s the difference?”
“When I do it for fun, I don’t have to stop every twenty minutes to document the trail conditions. Or take soil samples, or swap out cards in the trail cameras. I can just enjoy my time in nature and bird-watch.”
“Maybe you should work on that dating profile too,” Alex teased. “How long has it been since you went on a date?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Why, because it’s embarrassing?”
“No, because I don’t need to give Steph any more ammo than she already has.” He peered down the road. “Speaking of which…”
Alex followed his gaze to see Steph waiting at the door of the Black Lantern. Standing beside Riley, Charlotte, Eleanor, and Duckie.
“What are you guys all doing here?” Alex asked as they walked up.
“We heard there was a change of ownership in the Black Lantern,” Riley answered with a smile. “We wanted to come and see for ourselves.”
“How did you-”
“It’s on MyBlock.” Steph showed Alex her phone.
Black Lantern: We’d like to thank our newest investor, Alex Chen, and publicly welcome her to the Black Lantern’s management team! Excited for some changes around the bar!
Several likes and comments followed below the post, congratulating Alex. She looked at Ryan, who shrugged. “Surprise.”
“When the hell did you have time to post that?”
“When you were signing those last sixty pages of insurance stuff.” He stepped ahead of her and unlocked the door. “Alright, we’re open for business.”
The call was repeated by everyone else, before they swallowed their shot. Alex grunted as she drank her whiskey. “Nothing like a shot before lunch,” she offered grimly.
“Eh, it’s celebratory,” Charlotte reminded her. “It doesn’t count.”
“I forgot how much fun that is,” Eleanor commented as she set down her glass. “We might have to do it more often.”
Riley groaned. “Great. Just what I need, my Nana partying like it’s the seventies again.”
“I just might.” Eleanor patted her granddaughter’s shoulder. “You’re welcome to try and keep up, dear, if you think you can.”
“Our first Ladies Night is this Thursday,” Alex reminded her.
“Ooh, even better.”
Riley shot a look at Alex. “You’re not helping.”
“I’m not trying to.”
Duckie chuckled as he slid his glass towards her. “For what it’s worth, Alex, I think you did good,” he offered. “
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Our talk last week. You could’ve done worse.”
“Oh. Right.” She exhaled slowly. “… I hope so. It’s still a little overwhelming, that I’m actually a part-owner now.”
“What made you decide to buy into the bar?” Charlotte questioned.
“I mean…” Alex looked around. “This is a really great bar. I love living upstairs, I like working here, and the boss is a pretty cool guy.”
Ryan raised a glass of beer. “Damn right.”
Everyone chuckled at that. “… yea. I just… wanted my own connection to this town,” Alex admitted. “It’s the first place I’ve ever actually felt like home. And I guess now it officially is.”
They all nodded.
“Okay. I have a burning question.” Riley leaned forward. “Where did you get the money? It had to be expensive.”
“Does it matter?” Steph asked quickly.
“I’m just curious.”
“Riley, it’s rude to ask questions like that,” Eleanor admonished.
“Actually, I’m curious too,” Charlotte conceded. “I’ve been wondering since I heard the news. Was it a life insurance payout from your dad?”
“It’s not important,” Ryan assured her.
Alex bit her lip as she watched the others ask questions, while Ryan and Steph deflected them for her.
… fuck it.
“It was a legal settlement,” she answered quietly.
The others looked at her, blinking in surprised silence. “From Typhon?” Riley finally asked.
Duckie tilted his head. “The company who purchased the mines?”
“Why would they offer you a legal settlement?”
Alex took a slow breath, before explaining everything. Ted coming into the bar, their conversation, the research she’d done with Steph and Ryan, culminating in her signing the paperwork. Everyone listened quietly as she recounted the narrative.
“… wow,” Eleanor said quietly, once she was done.
“Yea.” Alex glanced at Charlotte. “Sorry.”
The other girl frowned. “Why are you apologizing?”
“You aren’t mad I opted out of an investigation?”
“I mean… well, it would’ve been pretty satisfying to see Typhon pay through the nose for what they did,” she allowed. “But what that Ted guy said makes sense too. We know what happened to your family already, a lawsuit would take forever, and the miners in this town still need to be paid.”
“Besides, from what we’ve been reading in the news, Typhon’s still suffering for the crap they pulled,” Riley added.
“Also, I’d be a pretty big hypocrite if I got mad at you for taking a settlement after you told me to take mine,” Charlotte reminded her.
“Yea, but… I mean, that was different.”
“Not really, at the end of the day. We both got paid to accept the facts already in evidence.”
Alex looked at the others. “You guys aren’t mad at me, then?”
“Oh, honey.” Eleanor looked at her sympathetically. “After everything that happened to you? Nobody’s going to be angry at you taking a settlement for your pain and suffering.”
She exhaled, feeling the stress leave her. “… thank you,” Alex said quietly.
“Of course.” Duckie nodded at his glass. “I think we should do another round.”
“Forget it,” Ryan said good-naturedly. “You’re not using this as an excuse to drink for free, Duckie.”
“If ever an occasion called for it, Ryan, it’s certainly this one.”
Alex snorted. “Tell you guys what, this next round’s on me.”
“That’s the spirit, my dear Alex.” Duckie smiled as she picked up the bottle. “Keep it up and you’ll be my favorite owner.”
“Not like the competition’s fierce.”
Ryan put a hand to his chest. “You JUST said that I was a cool boss.”
“I’m actually pretty sure you two are co-workers now,” Steph reminded him. “And she is definitely the cooler one.”
The park ranger gave her a look. “No offense, Steph, but your bias is well documented.”
“Let’s put it to a vote.” Steph looked at the others. “Hands up if Alex is the cooler bar owner.”
Alex smirked as all five of them raised their hands.
“Okay, you know what?” Ryan drained his beer before sliding the empty glass towards Alex. “I’m going home and taking the rest of today off, too.”
“Excuse me?!” Alex looked at him with wide eyes, everyone else laughing as he started walking towards the back. “What about the bar?! We’re open for another nine hours!”
He smirked over his shoulder as he opened the door. “Sounds like a problem for the cool bar owner to handle.”