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
“Come down, Delfina. He can’t interpret away your presence.”
“Must I be humiliated in public? She’ll be there.”
Downstairs in the mansion a grand staircase spread like a bridal veil, on whose marble steps family and friends gathered for smiles and pictures, while upstairs smiles were sequestered as two camps staked out positions. In the south side room, the chief executive officer Stephen Slade assembled his corps of young managers and recruited investors. In the north side chamber, the chairman Graham Slade conferred with members of the board, his loyalists and his wife. Standing by the window, Delfina, the CEO’s spouse, gazed over the sloping lawn.
Clayton Clamp felt the tension, though he was loose and ready for the task of getting closer to his target. First, he greeted the chairman and the claims manager, who vouched for his cover as freelance investigator. Then he observed waiters and other staff shuttling in and out and between the rooms. The principals were rooted to the spot, except for the director Mark Storts, who was the most youthful member of the board. After watching him leave then return, Clamp approached him.
“Is it any more lively over there?”
“Quite a bit more,” he answered then introduced himself. “I’ve designated myself as go-between for the chairman and the CEO. It doesn’t seem to be appreciated, but that’s what I’m doing.”
“I’m glad someone’s thinking about the company as it’s being ripped apart.” Eyes lighting up, Storts brought his head closer. Clamp stooped to listen.
“The father-son dispute aggravates at many different levels. Employees pick sides then get into arguments that end in silent stares. They’re afraid their guy will lose and in any case would rather not worry about things they can’t control.” He paused then said, “When the baton passes, the hand off should be clean. Don’t hold on.”
“You just revealed your bias.”
“Stephen and I were college buddies after all.”
“Then maybe you can introduce me.”
They skirted the staircase, passing through rays of sun beneath a skylight. Storts nodded to a man outside the door who admitted them, and the difference was jarring. An excited chatter filled the room as men and some women clustered throughout, attired in business wear not particular to a wedding ritual. The crowd would at some point spill outside, Clamp thought, whereas on the other side the walls defined the occupants who were as rigid as marble chess pieces.
Stephen Slade was standing by the farthest wall, slightly apart from those surrounding him. Slender, polished and dressed for the occasion in rich gray suit, wide silk tie and pinned with a pale rose boutonniere, he trained his attention on Storts as they approached. “This is Clayton Clamp, a claims investigator.”
“Claims?” He grimaced and raked him with a severe look before walking away. Storts apologized but Clamp waved it off as they watched him join a young woman who was looking out the window. Then they were amazed when he erupted. “Snap out of it, Helen, will you!” His face was in hers as she daubed her eyes with a handkerchief, then he stalked away. Few paid the outburst any attention, though for Clamp the exchange was charged with meaning. He went to her.
Still facing the window, she wore a dress a subtle shade of violet, and had auburn hair that fell to her shoulders with a slender braid crowning the brow. He strode a step beyond then turned to see her face, which was pale and delicate and stained by tears. “If you’re the bride then you better get changed.”
“I’m not,” she coughed, “the bride.”
“Then it can’t be so bad.”
“No, not so---“
Her eyes grew large and then were eclipsed by Slade’s back. He pushed her, hand at elbow, toward a nearby door, her legs stumbling to keep pace. Storts appeared to wilt.
Clamp left the room then went down the stairs and through the foyer where he spied Lola McIntyre at the champagne table. He made a mental note to add her to the list, then once outside breathed in fresh air and heard the strains of a violin quartet from one of the tents. He turned toward the mansion, which should have been cleaved in two, if reality were reflected in what is seen. The window where Helen stood was vacant. On the other side, Delfina was gone. He pondered whether she too had been crying, and whether tears would bring a mountain down. None benefit by seeing the magnificent fall, and while those who don’t see have nothing to tell, those that do can be struck dumb.
The next chapter will be posted by October 30..
The characters and events in this story are fictitious and do not represent any living person or real event.