Jeremy was skeptical because things weren’t adding up. Michael’s Jewelers, the store for which he worked as a contractual designer, had never made a request like this one before.
It was unsettling, but Jeremy chose to ignore his gut instincts. The assignment was for a mother’s pin, but it had to be different than the run of the mill pieces on the market. It must be new and exciting in its design. Larsen Michaels, the man who owned and operated the store, was demanding the best for someone, but he refused to share their identity.
According to Michaels, their anonymity was so important to them that if their name were to get out, they would cancel the commission. This commission was large, more money than Michaels had ever offered Jeremy in the two years he had worked for him. The contract included the stipulation that Jeremy would completely relinquish all rights to his final accepted design. He also had to agree not to design anything that could be construed as similar for five years following the date of sale.
It was a tough decision, but Jeremy had a lot of bills and very little money with which to pay them, so sadly he agreed to the terms of the contract. Jeremy, as the designer of the piece, would remain forever anonymous. The design would belong exclusively to the client, and no one would ever know it had been Jeremy Ward who had designed the pin.
How was he ever going to make a name for himself if no one knew his name? It bothered him to sell his designs in this way, but what options did he have?
‘Michaels had made similar demands in the past, and I’ve rolled over for less.’ Jeremy thought to himself in consolation. But the idea wasn’t setting well. This was the first time he would completely sell off a design and would never, apart from the initial payout, earn anything from its reproduction. The piece would completely belong to the buyer.
Larsen had taken over the jewelry store from his father at twenty-five. He’d been running the store for nearly fifteen years now, and over the years, with his special gift of manipulation and greed, he’d been able to nearly double his father’s bottom line.
Larsen Michaels was a small man in every sense of the word, and he compensated for his lack of presence with a compulsion to play people. Playing games and using people gave him a sense of power and control beyond himself and that made him feel ten feet tall.
One of his favorite targets was Jeremy Ward. He was always a few dollars short of making his bills, and that allowed Larsen to use and manipulate him. Larsen would pretend to help when actually Larsen was the winner every time in all of their dealings. It was Larsen who was making a name for himself on the back of his most talented designer.
Larsen generally knew not to take things too far, but this time he couldn’t resist taking Jeremy for all he could get. He knew that Jeremy was in serious financial trouble and with the right persuasion he could get Jeremy to agree to all of his demands. Jeremy’s designs were always good and often amazing and to own the rights to the mother’s pin design for so little was too much for Larsen to resist.
Jeremy Ward, at twenty-four, was a gifted jewelry designer. His training was first rate and his creative eye for beauty and symmetry were unmatched in Northern Michigan. Unfortunately, he believed he lacked the skills and money necessary to make it professionally in the design world.
At five feet six inches and less than one-hundred and twenty pounds, he was not seen as very forceful or powerful and was often taken advantage of in regards to his artistic creativity. Jeremy also possessed a financial naivety that he would not, under any circumstances admit to and which often lead him into business deals that were flagrantly inequitable.
Jeremy’s primary source of income came from working for his parents in their locally owned business, the Ward Gift and Stationary Shop, better known as simply ‘the Gift Shop.' He contracted with Mr. Michaels for extra income to help pay his ever-mounting pile of bills, but his main paycheck came from the Gift Shop.
Ever since the day he bought his dream house, his life had not been the same. Who would have thought a house would completely take over your life in terms of time and money, but he loved the old beauty? It made him feel free and independent and settled, even though he was forever stressing about finances and repairs.
The Gift Shop had been in the family for two generations, but neither Jeremy nor his brother, James, who worked as a navigator with the Great Lakes Fleet, planned on making it their future.
Jeremy had big dreams. He wanted to make jewelry designing his life, but for now, he forced himself to be content with contractual table scraps from Michaels and the occasional art show.
“Who is the client?” Jeremy asked outright. “They must love their mom, whoever it is.” His comments fell on deaf ears as Mr. Michaels merely nodded and continued to read his newspaper. Jeremy grilled all the employees, but no one knew who the client was or they weren’t telling.
“Mrs. Wallace from the bank was the person who contacted us, but she isn’t the client.” Jenny, one of Michaels’s longtime employees, supplied.
“Mrs. Wallace is secretary to the President of Central Bank, isn’t she?” Jeremy asked as his mind tried to pull these little bits of information together.
“She is, and she’s also married to Dave Wallace, the used car salesman,” Jenny added. “Wallace Sales and Service I heard that she asked for you specifically,” Jenny raised her eyebrow.
“I appreciate her support.” Jeremy acted unaffected, but really he was impressed with himself. Mrs. Wallace was influential in her own right and could have contacted a jewelry store downstate to do the work. She didn’t have to give Michaels her business.
Mrs. Wallace worked for Mr. Black, the bank president. She was also married to one of the wealthiest, if not brightest men in town. She was forty-two and still a very attractive woman and usually got whatever and whoever she wanted.
“Did you know that Central Bank was sold to someone from downstate?” Mr. Michaels joined their conversation.
“I heard about that,” Jenny piped in.
“I heard that the person who bought it was an old gentleman from the Chicago area and that his company buys and sells businesses.” Jeremy was proud of the information which he had gleaned while waiting on customers at his parent’s shop. “Mrs. Flynn said that she believes he is single.”
“He’s probably one of those old, bachelor types.” Jenny theorized, and everyone agreed.