ALBERT BARRGRAVE II
“THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON”
Nathan Barrgrave was a cold son of a bitch in business and if you stuck ’em out too far…
…he‘d cut your nuts off. But like his father Albert, he loved and respected the land and never took from it without paying it back.” These final words of the eulogy at the funeral of Nate Barrgrave were spoken with great respect by lifelong competitor and friend, Andrew Russell Tate of Tate World Wide Enterprises.
Since the middle 1800s, the Barrgrave family owned most of everything that made money, including power companies, steel manufacturing, and large holdings in the aircraft and armament industries. Nathan Barrgraves’ great-grandfather, Nikita Bargranoff, came to the United States in 1825 from the city of Kiev in the Ukraine. He was a woodsman by trade and began to amass the family fortune harvesting pine trees in the northern woods of the Oregon territory. When Oregon became a state in 1859, Nikita Bargranoff celebrated the event by changing his name to Nathan Barrgrave. Nate’s son, Albert, showed great financial expertise as well by setting up new company headquarters in Texas where he expanded the family interests into oil, coal and holdings in steel. Albert also had the foresight to acquire millions of acres in Alaska containing timber and petroleum reserves. Sensing the outbreak of the Second World War, Nathan Barrgrave II, Albert’s progeny, added an armament business, bringing the Barrgraves’ thriving spheres of financial influence into the lucrative military-industrial complex.
Isaac Carver’s dedicated research had finally put him on the trail of possible archeological proof that an ancient nomadic people crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into North America millennia before the generally accepted time frame dating back some twelve-thousand years. The information also implied that tactile evidence of these earliest migrations might be found in the western coastal region of Kodiak Island.
Through the university, Zack received written consent from Nathan Barrgrave II himself to excavate the unspoiled tundra area owned and controlled by Barrgrave International Industries. Finally, after a massive amount of research and several years of chipping, poking and digging through geological layers, the seemingly unyielding permafrost ground had at last relinquished one of its prizes. Dr. Carver unearthed the cambered section of what appeared to be a spherical granite marker. It contained a series of petroglyphs possibly designating the location of a nearby pre-Columbian sacred burial site. Some of the etchings seemed to indicate that the tomb might well be that of a Paleoamerican tribal chief. However, Zack was mildly perplexed by the surrounding geology, which had no formations similar to the unusual granite marker. Where could it have come from?
In any case, the curious finding enabled Zack to get permission to continue his excavation for an additional two years. But then, barely two months into the contract extension period, old Nate died and the family-owned controlling shares of the corporation and its holdings, including millions of acres of valuable oil deposits in Alaska, came into the stewardship of Albert Barrgrave II.
Now that the old guard was gone, Albert II could finally run things as he always desired. It was well known that this newest Barrgrave-in-charge never gave much thought to the environment except for the resources it provided. He always believed that the climate-change issue was a ploy used by the left-wing tree-huggers to scare the public. Even if it were true, Albert was a businessman, not a nature lover and he now had control of millions of acres of petroleum reserves to drill for millions, maybe billions, of gallons of oil.
Summoned to a powwow with Albert Barrgrave II, Dr. Carver found himself bouncing along in the bumpy air on the relatively short flight from Kodiak Airport to Anchorage International. The flight arrived on time and the dizzy and nauseous Zack was greeted by a pair of three-hundred-pound Barrgrave security staffers and driven in a stretch Humvee limousine to a Gulfstream VII corporate jet parked on the tarmac at the executive terminal.
One of the last ancient-growth rosewood trees from the Brazilian rain forest provided the bulkhead decor for the walls of the airplane’s executive suite. The opulence was mind-numbing. Several Silk Kashan Persian carpets, a desk that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and original Monet and van Gogh paintings were hanging on the paneled walls of the luxury jet.
Zack was positioned about a yard from the desk. He was offered no handshake and no pleasantries. No spring water and not even a chair or an invitation to sit. It was all business.
Barrgrave fired the first shot. “I’m canceling our deal. There are more urgent considerations.”
“But we have a contract.”
“We do not. You had one with Nate, but he’s gone and I no longer choose to recognize or contend with his mistakes.”
Zack tried reason. “The agreement was with the Barrgrave Industries Foundation.”
“Yes, the Foundation,” Albert growled, “another one of father’s bad ideas, a haven for social do-gooders and environmentalists. The Foundation has been dissolved, and you have sixty days to finish your work and clear out of the dig site.”
“Sixty days? It’ll take a lifetime to explore that find. This is unacceptable … illegal.”
“You’d never win in court. But you can’t even afford litigation can you?” Albert II wouldn’t have asked the question unless he already knew the answer. “Not a chance. You have no resources,” Barrgrave sneered, then opened a file folder on his desk, snatched a single sheet paper from it and held it up for Zack to see. “This represents your entire financial picture … there are homeless people in better fiscal shape. You’re swimming in debt. Alimony payments to a pair of ex-wives, you don’t own a home or anything else, and your charge cards are maxed out. With your current credit score and restricted earning potential no decent attorney would even consider taking your case.”
It was true, and Zack was deflated. He pissed away everything and couldn’t even ante up the fee necessary to undertake an action in small claims court, much less come up with the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to wage a protracted legal battle against a politically and judicially favored multinational conglomerate such as Barrgrave Industries.
With brimming condescension, the powerful magnate picked up the folder, opened it, grabbed a smaller file from the top and unceremoniously tossed it in Zack’s direction. It landed on the floor in front of Zack and he kneeled down to pick it up. It contained a two-page agreement with a cashier’s check stapled to it. Barrgrave stood as Zack glanced at both. “The check will cover all your debts plus a sizable sum for your next project,” the corporate Goliath said, “Sign the attached release and it’s yours.”
“That’s it? Pay me off and send me slinking away? Money? It’s about money?”
Barrgrave shook his head. “Please,” he said impassively, “You say that like it’s a revelation … it’s always about money … “money breeds power.” Then the tycoon closed the file folder and dropped it back on his desk for accent. It landed with a loud thwink. “Oh yes, the meek shall inherit the Earth,” Albert II pontificated and made a pompous, sweeping gesture with his hand indicating the collection of finery around him. “Yes indeed as they say, the meek shall inherit the Earth only when the powerful are through with it.” Then he brushed his hands together as a sign of sheer dismissal and sat back in his chair.
“You mean after you and the other bastards like you turn this planet into a complete slime pit.” Without taking his eyes off Barrgrave, Zack took several steps forward and stopped when his thighs bumped up against the priceless desk. He felt his cool slipping away and he closed his eyes in an effort to grab hold of it. He failed, spread his hands on the Jeffersonian sample of Americana and leaned in slowly toward Barrgrave to get more in his face. “You greedy corporate sons of bitches are all alike. Who cares about a few prehistoric trinkets and some land basically undisturbed since the beginning of time as long as you can harvest your oil and keep your creepy hands around the throats of the people? Who gives a damn that the criminally negligent actions of the BP bandits in the Gulf of Mexico, the fracking Mafia and the rest of the fossil-fuel pimps who are turning the world into a giant, toxic wasteland of bleeding dinosaur ooze?
Zack removed his hands from the desk, straightened up to his full height, and staring at Barrgrave eyeball to eyeball, the archeologist crushed the release along with the accompanying check.
“I take it that we have no deal,” the industrialist said coolly, barely glancing up. “So be it. Our interview is over, Dr. Carver.” The magnate then motioned his two super-sized underlings into action. They flanked Zack, grabbed him under his arms and dragged him away from his tormentor. But as they were manhandling him toward the aircraft entryway, Zack broke loose, turned and seethed back at Barrgrave over his shoulder.
“There are better ways to produce energy. And you and your international gang of petroleum thugs know damn well what they are. You can get four times the amount of ethanol per acre from the hemp plant than you get from corn and you can grow hemp almost anywhere. Christ, it’s like a goddamn weed! And the Sun … it shines down on half of the world every single day.”
One of the security men bent over and grabbed Zack by his feet. The other took him by the arms and they lugged him in the direction of the cabin door.
“When are people like you going to learn that it’s useless to resist,” the mogul scoffed, “utterly hopeless?”
“Right … so you’re saying that if I complain no further things will get better? Well then … fuck OPEC, fuck BP, Exxon/Mobile and fuck you, too!” Zack punctuated his remark by throwing the crumpled wad of the release and check back at Barrgrave. It bounced off the big shot’s forehead and landed on one of the ancient Persian rugs. The two mammoth bearers quickly regained control of Zack and were hauling him out of the cabin door when Barrgrave shouted out as a reminder:
“Sixty days, Carver, sixty days!”
Then Albert II picked up the phone. “Still there, Bix? Right, you heard? Carver’s done. We’re ready to move. Have the President sign the order to nullify Carver’s contract with the Foundation on the grounds that it is in the national interest.
”Barrgrave listened for a beat. “Absolutely … that’s why we keep the dumb son-of-a-bitch in power.”