Corrupted Chapter 11, p.1Omar Tyree
A Serial E-book
Back To Business
As important as chief publishing executive Arnold Dutch was to everyone inside the Williams & Klein building in downtown New York, even he had superiors in the business world who could put the fear of God in him.
It was a late Tuesday morning, a week after the BEA, and time to get back to work at the office. A fit and fortyish man in a light grey suit, white dress shirt, mint green and royal blue tie, with medium cropped, dark brown hair and engaging green eyes, sat across from Arnold’s large executive desk in a comfortable black leather chair with his legs crossed. This younger businessman represented the interests of the owners, who were no longer two men or two families named Williams and Klein, but a conglomerate of investors who all allowed Arnold Dutch to continue running the company. So he was forced to pay strict attention to their wishes.
“So, how was the BEA this year?” the businessman asked.
The publishing boss let out a deep, grave sigh and answered, “Well, it’s not what it used to be, but that’s all understandable in today’s economy. We may have to keep the expo around in the New York area for the next three to five years until we can all figure out our bearings.”
Arnold sat in his high-back and reclining office chair behind his desk, wearing a darker grey suit with a purple and black tie, a full gray head of hair and crystal blue eyes. Behind him was a huge, wall-to-wall window, where he could see clear to New Jersey on his left and New York City’s Central Park on his right from the nineteenth floor of the building.
“Any exciting new developments?” the businessman asked him.
Arnold grinned and told him, “Robert, we always have new and exciting developments around here.”
“Anything as hot as Jackson Smith?”
It got to the point with Arnold where he hated to even hear the name “Jackson Smith.” It seemed that one man had begun to dominate their entire publishing house with his gritty, New York thrillers. However, one hot series of books from a lone author was hardly enough to keep their bottom line afloat. And their other authors were no longer able to hold their own weight. That was the problem. Jackson Smith had become a Michael Jordan on a publishing basketball team where no one else could score, rebound, defend or impact the game like they used to. So the team couldn’t win, while the group of owners continued to marvel at their one superstar.
Feeling like an overwhelmed general manager, Arnold rubbed his hands together and said, “We’re working on it. Of course, you can never really know for sure who has the goods. This business is not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination,” he added with an easy grin. He was pulling out the clichés to try and loosen up the grim reality. The first and second quarter numbers at Williams & Klein were down, and prospects didn’t look good heading into the summer; except for Jackson Smith’s new book, of course.
Robert shrugged. “Well, you know . . . it’s time to cut some more of the fat,” he commented. “If we’re not making what we used to make, then you can’t spend what you used to spend.”
It was a plain and simple solution for the numbers crunchers. But Arnold and his staff were the ones who had to deal with the fallout from the real humans who continued to be cut. That’s what made the job so hard for the man to get too close to anyone. Maintaining a rock solid distance and a cold demeanor allowed him to keep the real people from taking it too personal. They could blame the industry instead, while not having an opportunity to voice it all to him, because Arnold didn’t want to hear it. Regardless of the flesh, blood and bone that lived and breathed and dreamed around him, he knew what he had to do to keep the machine running, and no man or woman could stop its flow.
“So, how’s your wife and family these days, Arnold?” Robert asked, changing the subject. There was no need to rehash their talks of cuts, losses and gains. Arnold was a veteran of the industry who knew what had to be done, and the younger man was only sent there to do his job, following up on procedure.
“Everyone’s doing good. In fact, Matthew, my youngest, he and his wife Sabrina gave birth to my seventh grandchild; their first.”
Robert perked up in his chair. “Oh, congratulations. Is it a boy or a girl?”
He nodded and continued to grin. “It’ll be a long time still before I have my first grand. My oldest is only nine.” He chuckled and said, “Caroline and I got started pretty late in that department.”
The old boss grinned himself. He said, “You got time. Enjoy all of it when you have it.”
Robert then looked at his watch and saw that it was approaching lunch hour at noon. He had already went over everything he needed to discuss and he had made his rounds early through each department of the building to see where more expenses could be cut. He had given Arnold his suggestions for the past hour.
“Well, let me get out of your way. I have a lunch meeting coming up,” Robert commented.
They stood up from their chairs and reached out to shake hands across the desk. Arnold then decided to show Robert out of the office and back to the elevators.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it,” he concluded.
“I know you will,” the younger businessman told him.
Arnold couldn’t wait to get rid of the man so he could breathe again. The stench in the air from their hard business talk could be suffocating, especially when he was not the source of it. Nevertheless, the hard facts and tough decisions were all a part of running a company. It was what the big cheese were paid to do, to right the ship. Many times the dead weight had to be thrown overboard so that the ship could move faster and safer to get to where it’s going.
With an empty and quiet office, Arnold sat back in his chair and thought out his strategy. It was the ugliness of old-school corporate practice.
We fire the middle guys who struggle to make it to the next level, elevate those who can, allow the seniors to run their own show with assistance from the young editors at the bottom, and if the new seniors can’t make the cut, we fire them and replace them with younger, cheaper workhorses, he mused. He didn’t like it, but the crash and burn process was very real. It was what it was.
After a few minutes of thought, he called downstairs to the editorial department on the fifteenth floor, where Thomas Richberg had his office right in the middle of the action.
“Hey Arnold, how’d it go?”
Thomas knew all about the visit from Robert that morning, and it was only a matter of time before Arnold called him up with his response to it all.
“Welp . . . we’re out of time,” the boss stated with a pause. “Over the next few days, we need to make of list of who to let go, who to keep, who to promote and why; including that position for your guy, Vincent. I guess he gets exactly what he wants now.”
Thomas paused from the news that they both knew was coming. And there was no time to celebrate for Vincent Biddle. Tom realized the hot shot editor would be under the gun to produce like he had never been before now. As they say, be careful what you wish for.
“Yup,” Thomas grumbled, behind his desk in his own large office. He had the same window-view as Arnold but from a lower floor. His office also was a lot more crowded, with several published books from their Williams & Klein authors, along with a few fresh manuscripts that he had requested to read.
Thomas was dressed a lot colorfully as well in a tan summer suit, a striped dress shirt, and a multicolored tie. “We knew it would have to be done sooner or later,” he commented. But when Arnold spoke of “we” he really meant that Thomas would need to supply a list of who to cut or promote. With his acquisitions, content, and editorial duties, he was lot more in tune with
“What kind of numbers are we talking about?” he asked.
Arnold answered, “Don’t worry about the numbers for now, just give me the facts and we’ll go from there.” He said, “We still have to decide on a feasible game plan, but we’ll probably have to cut our new book acquisitions in half or more for the remainder of the year. We want to publish only what we’re obligated to under contract, and acquire new material that counts.
“We’ll also have to cut these damn advances in half,” he added. “Let’s make these authors earn it. Everyone’s dealing with the same revenue and books sales decline these days, so there’s no sense in us continuing to be the fat cats on the block. Let’s get smarter.”
Thomas listened to it all and nodded as thoughts of his Williams & Klein staff raced through his mind. “All right.”
When he hung up with Arnold, he took a deep breath himself. The hammer would be handed down from one level to the next, and quickly. He had been in discussions with book industry friends and rivals who were going through the same cuts at the other publishing houses. And the BEA conversations over lunch had been the most grim that he had heard in years.
“I guess we’re headed for a sad summer for a lot of people,” he mumbled. But there was nothing that he could do about it. Williams & Klein was not a charitable organization. It was a business.
On the other side of the building, on the same fifteenth floor, Susan Randolph flipped through Darlene Krause’s manuscript at her small desk area. It was a tiny cubicle area right outside of Vincent Biddle’s corner office.
Susan grinned as she read a section of the young, female protagonist who second guessed her desire to become intimate with a new man. She was painfully counting the number of men she planned to sleep with before finding the one who would become her husband.
This is pretty good, Susan thought. It’s so honest. Every self-respecting woman goes through this struggle of how many men before marriage.
Dressed in a soft blue, short-sleeve knit top with a tweed, knee-length skirt and tall, light brown leather boots, Susan continued to read the manuscript while being very mindful of the office phone that sat to the right of her desk and could ring at any moment.
“Hey Susan,” another editorial assistant greeted her. She leaned over the six-foot wall of the cubicle and grinned, with short, dark brown hair and dark eyes. “How was the BEA this year?”
The fellow assistant hadn’t been in town that weekend to attend. She and her husband and family had hit the New Jersey shore for the weekend. Nor did she attend any of the previous expo showcases that traveled to Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Every assistant was not on a priority travel list. But since Susan was under the higher editorial rank and file of Vincent Biddle, she had been able to attend three BEA locations in her three years at the publisher.
Susan sighed and shook her head. “It just wasn’t the same in New York. I didn’t feel like I was getting away on the job like before.”
“Oh, well, I wouldn’t know anything about that,” the assistant stated. “I don’t get to go to those things at all. That shows you what they think about me around here,” she leaned in closer to whisper. She was in her early thirties and a mother of two young children.
Susan began to smile right as her office phone rang. She held up her left index finger, gesturing for a minute to speak, while grabbing the phone with her right. But the assistant waved her off to get back to work herself.
“Williams and Klein,” she answered.
“Yeah, I was wondering if I could, ah, speak to a Susan Randolph.”
Recognizing Nikola’s voice, Susan began to smile even wider. But then she tempered herself. He stood me up two nights in a row for sex rumps, she reflected. He doesn’t deserve my attention. He’s just an author who I work with.
“Speaking,” she answered coldly.
“Oh, well, hi. I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but someone just wanted to tell you that they apologize for not getting back to you this weekend while his parents were still in town, but he wants you to enjoy your beautiful roses today.”
Susan frowned and said, “Excuse me.” There were no roses there to enjoy. But right after she said it, a flower delivery man rounded her cubicle corner.
“Susan Randolph?” the young man dressed in biker clothes asked her. He held a bouquet of roses in hand and sat them out on her desk. They were red, white, yellow, black and purple.
“Oh my goodness,” Susan responded to it, shocked.
The editorial assistant popped up again, being nosey,
“Those are nice,” she commented with thumbs up.
Susan didn’t know what to think or do. “Thank you,” she uttered to her co-worker before she disappeared again.
“You’re quite welcome. I’ll be sure to give him the word that you like them,” Nikola responded over the phone to her.
She wasn’t even speaking to him, but she let it slide instead of voicing it.
“Okay, so . . .” She remained speechless. She was still trying to put her words together. He really caught her off guard.
“It’s a token of his appreciation,” Nikola added, continuing to speak about himself in third person.
“Who’s appreciation?” Susan finally asked him for clarity.
“Oh, Jackson Smith.”
She winced. “That name doesn’t ring a bell. Does he have another name, perhaps?” she hinted.
He paused. “Nikola Tubollati,” he answered.
“Oh, yeah,” Susan cheered. “What about him?”
“He’s the one who sent you the flowers.”
He’s also the one who stood me up twice in one weekend, she countered. And the roses didn’t change anything. They were just nice to look and sniff at.
“Tell him I said, ‘Thanks but no thanks’,” she retorted. “So I’ll take the roses but not his apology.”
“What? Why not?” he pleaded.
Because you’re an asshole, and I won’t take anymore of your friggin’ excuses for it! she told herself.
“Tell him that real men speak up for themselves, they don’t send flowers and hide behind someone else.”
That comment caught Nikola off guard. He asked, “Are you serious?”
“Deadly. Is there anything else I can help you with?” she asked, moving on.
“Hey, Susan, come on, this is me.”
“Well, why don’t you be you?” She meant that in several ways. Who was he now, Nikola Tubollati or Jackson Smith?”
“Okay, look, I’m apologizing here,” he told her.
“This is Williams and Klein, how may I help you?” Susan asked him again. All she could think about were the fluzzies that he chose to be with instead of with her on Friday and Saturday night, after she had gone out of her way to decide to be with him. So it was all back to business now, roses or not!
Nikola paused over the line again, realizing his predicament. He said, “Okay, if that’s how you want it to be.”
Susan felt she had no choice. As much as she wanted to go the other way and stay involved with the popular author in private, she understood now why it was so much more sensible not to. She knew far too much about the ins and outs of the publishing industry now and what goes on behind closed doors to ever trust him. She couldn’t be a death, dumb and blind housewife back home in Connecticut somewhere, while he ran around the country sowing up his wild oats from missed opportunities in high school and college. Besides, she had her own career aspirations to think about.
“Yeah, it’s better for both of us that way,” she told him glumly. “This is our business.”
Corrupted Chapter 11 by Omar Tyree / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes