MORE OF SOMETHING MORE,
a story about a salesman trying to establish himself,
a CEO scheming to buy out his father's influenceand the woman important to each
Chairman Graham Slade sat hunched behind the desk in his home office, phone to his ear, listening to the man he engaged to infiltrate the company.
The spy had seemed younger than graying hair and experience should allow due to a marathon runner physique. His thick glasses, though, spoke to years of parsing contractual fine print, determining intent and crafting solutions. The chairman had not warmed to his impish grin, which served to invite intimate conversation from people shouldering lesser burdens. Clayton Clamp had the requisite skills, and now was delivering the goods. He reported that the CEO had amassed a bloc of new investors, which he’d spring on the board of directors and then demand its expansion. With new allies in place, he’d pursue a unitary leadership.
The chairman couldn’t blame a CEO for wanting what he himself had for thirty years. He could fault him for treating employees like fungible items on a spreadsheet to shuffle or fire without regard for the impact. The intelligence, though, was stale.
“I need something to derail him.” As Graham listened to the response, Rhea came through the door carrying a silver tray with coffee and toast and a red rose in a pewter vessel. “Make it concrete.” He hung up and ran a hand over his crew cut hair, then joined her at the table beside the window that overlooked a lagoon.
“Are we getting a new patio?”
“The company and CEO are board business.”
“Family business, too. He’s your son.”
He bit into the toast and sipped his coffee, gazing at his companion who looked smart in a ribbed white turtleneck sweater that contrasted with steely gray hair. She made him feel young. Her hazel eyes met his blue ones.
“Don’t harm his future.”
“He can float away under a golden parachute, and take his contacts and pedigree—my contribution—elsewhere. Or, he can find a dark corner and suck his thumb.”
“If it’s hard on him, it will affect Delfina and the boys.”
“He’ll land on his feet and walk away.”
“We might lose them forever.” She looked out the window on the sunny Southern California day. He searched for the right words.
“There’s a woman fairly new to the company, his assistant who works very closely. I can guess at her game.”
She stiffened. “Delfina complains he doesn’t spend enough time with them. I pray it’s not true.”
“Now you see.”
“I can’t bear them knowing.” She reached her hand across the table to touch his.
“Tell her not to bring them to the wedding.”
“What a shame. I remember Stephen watching you address an audience. It captured his complete attention, and made him wonder how his father, who tells him to stand up straight, could speak to hundreds of people who actually listen. They have some understanding what it means to be CEO, but a ceremony demonstrates the reality.”
He drew back his hand. She held on. “What are we going to do?”
“He needs to be made so toxic the board has to let him go.”
“He could be in violation of SEC rules, but that lacks punch. Sex, on the other hand, captures the imagination.”
She pleaded. “Graham, the family.”
“There are ways to keep things quiet, dependant on what he does. He sets his own direction, which will suggest the remedy.”
She released him and her eyes expanded as if to encompass their lives. “I used to be so proud, too, watching you speak and everyone together and their growing families. I don’t understand why it’s different now.”
“We were all on the same page. Nowadays, we’re presented with a slew of options and are scattershot pursing them. Stephen’s mistake is to want it all for himself, to make himself the big man. He acts like a guy on the street big-talking his way into the confidence of others, the kind of guy who boasts about his gambling wins and hides his losses. Huge, he says, but subtract his losers and I guarantee they’re much smaller.”
“That’s not Stephen! You’re talking about someone else.”
“He can charm in person, but sometimes a salesman starts believing his pitch, and does anything to close the deal. He thinks he’s coming out ahead but bleeds red. In time, Stephen will realize the image he projects.”
She went over to hug him from behind. “You better be right.”
The next chapter will be posted by July 17..
The characters and events in this story are fictitious and do not represent any living person or real event.