Sea Eyes Chapter 6

5 08 2007

Como, Schofeldt & Kurtz

Corporate Practitioners in Advertising

Ste 303A, 1032 Fifth Avenue, Seattle WA 98101

Tel: (206) 555 4100 Fax: (206) 555 4200

email: ads@csk.com

Dapple Foods 30 Sec TVC

 

 

AUDIO VIDEO

 

Music jingle: up beat, bouncy,

plays thruout.

 

JINGLE: OPEN ON:

 

Looking for something delicious                                         HOMEMAKER opens pantry door.

for tea?

Pass me that can – it’s Dapple

                                                                                                CUT TO:

for me!

                                                                                                REACTION SHOTS from family as                                                                                                 she displays can.

Have you had your Dapple today?

                                                                                                CUT TO:

Picnics or lunches

                                                                                                EXT: PICNIC SPREAD featuring                                                                                                     same family tucking into delicious                                                                                                 sandwiches

 

Hot suppers too 

                                                                                               CUT TO:

                                                                                               INT: KITCHEN: MOM takes Tuna                                                                                                Mornay casserole out of oven.

Tuna or salmon

                                                                                               FAMILY waits in anticipation.

Dapple’s for you! 

Have you had your Dapple today? 

FADE DOWN music bed

                                                                                                CUT BETWEEN:

 

MVO:

Low in fat, sodium and cholesterol free.

                                                                                                PRODUCT SHOTS, KIDS eating                                                                                                     sandwiches, SECRETARY at desk                                                                                                 eating salad –

 Just delicious seafood packed in natural springwater

                                                                                                CONSTRUCTION workers with                                                                                                     hero subs

or mono- unsaturated oil. 

 

Make it a Dapple a day everyday.

                                                                                                CUT TO:

                                                                                                MOM in supermarket putting more

                                                                                                DAPPLE in cart.

JINGLE REPRISE:

                                                                                                CUT TO:

Have you had your Dapple today?

                                                                                                HERO SHOT of PRODUCT.

FREEZE FRAME

                                                                                                SUPER: LOGO


Chapter Six

Interviewing was hardly Ben’s forte. A lack of skill today compounded by the fact that being down-wind of Carling Beauford was hardly somewhere to be by choice. As it was Ben had no other place to go and even the breeze flowing in from the open windows behind him did little to drown out the smell of stale alcohol that hung about the man like bad karma. Even the guy’s perspiration was probably 80% proof, Ben reflected, and by the way he was sweating on this mild April morning he could probably open a distillery by July.

“Blind since the day she was born,” said Beauford as if intoning some biblical revelation. He gestured to the woman seated quietly in the corner. She hadn’t said a word since they entered and apart from giving Ben a fleeting handshake had been content to sit silent and unmoving while her husband did the talking. She looked as if her ambition in life was simply to fade from existence. The child next to her was also suitably cowed and at her husband’s signal she rose and led the little girl over. She squeezed the child’s hand for reassurance as Beauford whipped off her tiny dark glasses and waved a hand in front of her face as if to prove his point. “Blind as a bat,” he concluded cheerfully.

Ben looked at Bethany Caul. A thin pretty child in a stiff new dress that had obviously been purchased for the occasion. Her small features dominated by the milky, sightless eyes. The child said nothing. The glassy eyes seemed full of blind accusation as she stood unmoving, focused on some distant place that only she could see. She held on to her little white cane like it was an anchor. It looked no bigger than a conductor’s baton. I didn’t know they made them that small, Ben found himself thinking.

In silent sympathy her mother replaced her spectacles. Ben felt a stab of gut-wrenching sympathy for her as well as a growing desire to punch Carling Beauford in his fat, inebriated gut just for humiliating her. He glanced across at her mother but she evaded his efforts at eye contact. If anything she appeared as remote as her daughter. As if whatever spark of life she once possessed had been snuffed out, leaving just a shadow. Both undoubtedly had retreated into their own worlds just in order to survive living with a man who clearly cared for no one’s needs but his own.

“Why don’t you take her outside Rosie darlin’, and show her them there fishes? Well, let her sniff the breeze anyways while me and Mr. Galloway here talk business? Here ~” he rummaged in his suit pocket and withdrew a crumpled five dollar bill. “Buy her an ice cream or something.” Faced with such unexpected largesse, Rosalie Beauford and her daughter left hastily before it could be withdrawn.

“Like I was sayin’,” Beauford continued when he and Ben were alone, “I may be just her step daddy but let me tell you, I love that little peach blossom just like she was my own.”

I bet you do, thought Ben. So much so you can’t wait to get rid of her.

Beauford licked his lips. He fidgeted in his seat like a man with an itch you couldn’t scratch in public. He could feel the weight of the small hip flask full of JD hanging in his jacket pocket. It was already calling to him even though the clock on the office wall to his right told him it was only just after eleven a.m. He wondered if he offered it to the man opposite him he would agree to join him and thus give him the excuse he craved. But as inured as he was to the nuances of expression, something told Carling Beauford that he had somehow already incurred the other man’s disapproval. Ever the opportunist, he wisely decided to do nothing more that might prejudice his cause. Once the little retard was off his hands he’d have plenty of time to celebrate.

 

Ben turned and gazed out the window, as much to distance himself from his own emotions as Beauford’s fetid personality. Oceanward, stampeding white horses threw themselves against the Seagate which slowed their headlong rush to that of prancing ponies within the lagoon. He’d already made up his mind to take the little girl on to the program. It would be worth it just to get her away from her drunken sot of a stepfather. But having made his decision, Ben was in no hurry to let Beauford know, so he continued to stare silently out of the window, his back to the man, as if engaged in some inner debate, for several minutes. Let him sweat, Ben thought.

“You realize of course Mr. Beauford, that if Bethany were to be accepted onto the program it would be necessary for her to remain here at Seabourne?” Ben said, finally turning back to face the man opposite.

Careful now. Mustn’t appear to be too eager. That’s what had landed him in trouble with the Idaho deal. “Just so long as her momma and me know she’s being properly looked after.” His eyes darted warily but avoided meeting Ben’s own. He cleared his throat. “You mentioned compensation …..”

Ben hoped his disgust wasn’t becoming too apparent but by now it was obvious that Carling Beauford was a man as attuned to the emotions of others like the Ku Klux Klan was to race relations. “I think I can see exactly how much she means to you, Mr. Beauford. How does the sum of five thousand dollars sound to you?”

Leigh pulled the Range Rover up behind the Cherokee which now sat in her driveway like a windfallen lemon. But until she managed to sell it she could boast of being a two-car household. Too bad its only use was to provide a warm resting place for Mister Gonads who happily spent his days sunning himself on the bonnet. As she locked the car she felt a sense of pride. No one had rewarded her in this way before. It gave her a sense of belonging that had been absent in the previous jobs she’d held. A year or two and who knows – she could end up partner. Como, Carson, Schofeldt & Kurtz. Carson, Como, Schofeldt & Kurtz. It had a certain ring to it whichever way you ran it.

Mister Gonads stretched and hopped off the hood, roused not so much by her arrival as the clatter of cans at the bottom of her bag. It was only when she got indoors that she realized belatedly that her shopping expedition ought to have included her own supper. An inventory of the refrigerator revealing a packet of curling Swiss cheese slices well past the use-by date, two less-than firm tomatoes, half a loaf of stale herb bread, a split of Mumm’s and a tin of Dapple tuna that Mister Gonads had yet to get around to sampling.

She dropped her mail on the counter and ignoring the cat’s escalating pleas for food, checked her machine for messages. The inevitable one from her mother with the standard question as to when Leigh planned on returning home to visit. An occasion which Leigh intended to postpone for a long as possible in order to avoid the all-too predictable interrogation as to the status of her personal life. Another from the repair shop with a quote for fixing the Cherokee that just about amounted to a down payment on a new car. And finally a message from her friend Joanna whom she’d met at a Sierra Club outing, inviting her to a barbecue (weather permitting) on Vashon Island at the weekend.

Delaying the conversation with her mother as to her inability so far to provide her parents with any grandchildren, Leigh succumbed to Mister Gonad’s heartfelt wailing and opened a tin of KiteKat. Unlike other cats who ate with dainty finesse, Mister Gonads did not so much eat his food as embrace it, launching himself face first into his bowl and coming away, finally replete, with chunks of turkey in jelly or seafood platter, hanging from his whiskers.

Leigh placed the half empty can back in the refrigerator, once again examining the contents of its shelves as if she expected them to have miraculously multiplied since her last inventory. Tuna melt and champagne banquet. Just the thing to celebrate her success.

She eased open the cork and poured herself a glass of Mumm’s. It was then she realized that there was no one she could call with whom she could share her success. Apart from Joanna there were a couple of other people she’d met at the Sierra Club with whom she’d attended the occasional dinner or social event. Then there were the casual after-hours shoptalk acquaintances who worked in other advertising agencies that she’d met at NorthWest Writers and Art Director’s functions. It was called networking. It certainly didn’t amount to friendship.

Just the thought of her social life caused the high she’d been on since she’d been given the car to dissipate. She knew from bitter experience that if she made the further mistake of dwelling on her sex life she was risking an evening excursion into melancholia. Trouble was, she realized belatedly, she’d been so busy making a new life for herself she’d neglected to include suitable people to share it with, let alone a significant other. But these things took time and right now she needed to keep all her energy focused on her career. Especially now Dapple was in the bag. After all, she’d only been in Seattle six months and the hours she’d been putting in at work didn’t leave much time for socializing, let alone dating.

She rifled through her mail. Ad Week, bank statement and a catalog from Recreational Equipment Inc. She flipped through it idly, more from professional curiosity than acquisitiveness. There was certainly room for improvement as far as their direct mail pieces went, Leigh concluded, making a mental note to contact their marketing department. It would be a nice piece of business to work on and she could certainly earn herself extra brownie points bringing it in.

Sliding the sandwiches into the toaster oven she carried her glass through to the lounge. A glance at the TV guide confirmed a trip to Blockbuster might have been in order along with the supermarket. Later she could look forward to C.S.I. Miami. Right now she had the choice between a game show, a re-run of Star Trek or a current affairs program. She settled for current affairs. After all, maybe it was time she caught up with what was going on in the world.

Not a lot according to In Seattle’s Sights. Billed as the city’s most incisive investigative news program it was obviously a slow news day judging from the interview with a Professor of Psychiatry from the University of the Pacific Northwest who claimed to have proof that many of his patients were suffering from post-traumatic abduction syndrome following their abduction by aliens. Abductions, so the professor claimed, that were fully sanctioned by the United States government who had given these extra-terrestrial vivsectionists permission to experiment upon it’s populace in exchange for technology. What that technology was of course, he couldn’t say. Leigh wondered who shrinks saw when they needed a shrink. Maybe if they became schizophrenic they could talk to themselves. The thought or the champagne made her giggle. She put down the glass. The realization she probably spent too much time on her own was underscored with a hiccup. Maybe I should place an ad in the personals. After all, she thought, I am supposed to be a writer. Desperate ad exec seeks alien abductor. Must have large flying saucer with warp drive. No time wasters. The ping of the toaster oven heralded that her tuna melt had reached critical mass. She got up and left the Professor to his intergalactic conspiracy.

“Next on In Seattle’s Sights – have you had your Dapple today? Environmentalists accuse the cannery giant of breaching the Marine Mammal Protection Act. More on this story after the break.”

Now what? thought Leigh as she headed for the kitchen where the smell of burning confirmed she’d let the tuna melt melt a little too much. She rescued the charred offering from under the broiler and topped up her glass. Don’t say she and Lennie would have to work on some crisis management PR tomorrow. Bad publicity. It was what every client and their agency dreaded. The piece of glass in the hamburger. The broken needle in the diapers. The oil spill. Disasters like that could spell million dollar lawsuits not to mention losses for corporations and their agencies alike. Sometimes it took more than just a clean up to sanitize their image.

Leigh returned to the couch just as the commercial break finished and the segment started to run. She took a bite out of her sandwich. Hadn’t she read somewhere that charcoal was supposed to be good for you?

A serious looking female anchor still sporting an eighties hairdo and make-up was walking along a supermarket aisle. Her demeanor enough to tell us that this was no mere shopping expedition. “Have you had your Dapple today?” the woman asked, picking a can off the shelf and presenting it for the camera’s inspection. “Dapple canneries have been marketing their tuna as dolphin safe in a slick, new advertising campaign but footage obtained by a Seattle environmental group tells a very different story.”

Greenseas? Wasn’t that their name? Leigh vaguely recalled being accosted by their fundraisers outside the Seattle Aquarium. From what she could remember they were nothing short of terrorists.

“Kyle Raitt, Freeseas director smuggled a video camera aboard a Panamanian tuna vessel. Far from being the environmentally friendly product Dapple makes out, the video reveals hundreds of dolphins dying in nets set to catch tuna destined for the Dapple cannery. We warn you that the following footage may upset some viewers.”

Leigh wanted to look away but she couldn’t. She watched, horrified as the animals were dragged onto the deck, writhing in agony as details of their dying was recited in an accusing monotone that seemed to be directed solely at her. Of how in that one fatal catchment over 400 dolphins died but only three tuna were netted. Tuna that a Dapple buyer waited for back in Panama City. The camera zoomed in slowly towards one dying animal hanging suspended in the net. Its rostrum was half torn off, the bloody beak hanging. Tears ran from its eyes. It stared back at her accusingly. ‘Guilty’ it said.

“Freeseas are urging consumers to boycott all Dapple products and already several supermarkets have voluntarily withdrawn Dapple tuna from their shelves. The company has declined to comment on the accusations.”

The segment ended with the camera zooming in to show a man slicing off a dolphins head with a chainsaw which he dumped into a bucket.

Leigh barely made it to the bathroom in time. She retched several times, tuna melt and champagne joining each other down the pan. She wasn’t sure if it was the strain that had forced the tears from her eyes but once they started they wouldn’t stop. How long she laid on that bathroom floor she had no idea. Finally she managed to stagger to the bedroom where she crawled into bed fully clothed. She laid there curled into the fetal position, praying for the oblivion of sleep but the sky would be lightening in the east before it would descend to temporarily silence her conscience. So she lay awake for hours listening to counsel for the prosecution who had no intention of letting her rest. It was bad enough that she’d lied. But what she really couldn’t live with was the knowledge that she’d helped commit murder.

He had been born within the sound of another ocean. Half a world away. Where the Atlantic hummed as it beat upon the sands of Singing Beach. More particularly the three hundred or so feet of it that went with the big white house set far back from the sea where he’d come into the world. On the large dining room table where his surprised mother had delivered him six weeks early to be exact. It was a trait that had remained with James Bartlett Northbridge III ever since. He was never tardy. The first one to arrive at any event, the last to take his leave. It was a habit that had stood him in good stead throughout his twenty-six years. Especially today.

James, or Jamie as he was known to his friends hadn’t merely been born with a silver spoon but an entire canteen stuffed into his well-bred mouth. Born into the old moneyed rich of Boston’s North Shore in the pretty town of Manchester-By-The-Sea. Here large houses were set well back from the road and surrounded by well-kept gardens that fell like an ebb tide down to the ocean. The understated opulence that speaks of old money. Even today Smith’s Point remained a ghetto of the very rich. An enclave of affluent families. This was no suburban neighborhood with handy mini malls close by. You needed a car to get around. Few yuppies had found their way to this part of Boston’s North Shore. Mainly because few yuppies could afford to.

The ocean had lapped at his childhood. Defined its boundaries. Called him with the promise of adventures. When he opened his curtains in the morning there it was. Sometimes calm. Sometimes dark and brooding. Sometimes choppy with anticipation. Those were the days he most looked forward to. Not the balm that called to weekend sailors but the days when the sea was making fast and the promise of a storm hung over the horizon. Sailor’s weather.

It was inevitable then that he would have been drawn to a life at sea. When he was twelve his father had given him a little eight foot dingy for his birthday. If he had known then the profound effect that this was to have on his son’s choice of career he probably would have withheld the gift. James Bartlett Northbridge II had taken it for granted that his son would follow him into the venerable firm of Boston brokers that his great-grandfather had founded one hundred and fifty years before. But Jamie’s dreams had been of winning the America’s Cup as he sailed his little dingy along Manchester’s foreshore and his thoughts were occupied by the differences between sloop and ketch rigged as opposed to bought and put options. By the end of his teens he bowed to family pressure and was accepted into the Harvard business school. But Jamie had wanted more. More than the trust funds and the desk at the family firm. More of what really mattered. More life and the right to living that life to his own and not their expectations. Didn’t they understand he needed to make his own mark in his own way?

In the end they let him go. After all, they loved him. That had never been in any doubt. “We just want you to be happy, darling. It’s what we’ve always wanted,” his mother had said. But even though her words were meant to reassure him just as was his father’s gruff embrace, he knew that while resigned to his decision they were nonetheless disappointed. Especially as their marriage had not been blessed with another child and he knew it had fallen upon him to carry on the family business which now, upon his fathers passing, would be left to a board of directors to run. Every visit home he’d made during the four years that followed, their hearts and eyes continued to be filled with the silent hope that this would turn out to be yet another passing phase like acne or dabbling in marijuana which they only had to endure a while longer before he grew up and came to his senses. A hope he had so far continued to extinguish with every subsequent departure.

So he’d run away to sea. Not to the Navy. Not even to help Dennis Connor mount the next America’s Cup challenge. He’d run away to Freeseas.

The Master of a vessel is more than just the person on the bridge giving the orders. His entire identity gets wrapped up in his ship. It becomes a part of him. Not merely an extension of his personality but of his entire being. At least, that was how Jamie felt about the Crystal Voyager.

Not that he’d started out as her skipper. He’d started out doing every menial task afloat. Everything from cleaning the heads to running a tiny inflatable Zodiac raft straight up the gaping maw of a Russian factory ship. For a rich boy he’d paid his dues. In his spare time, God, what a joke that had turned out to be – the hours between two am and dawn, good thing he’d always been an early riser, he’d studied finally gaining his Master’s certificate and then, the command of the ship he had grown to love six months ago.

The Crystal Voyager rode proud on the water, trailing her wake behind her like a long, glorious braid. Her white sails unfurled and filled with the sharp cut of the ice-laden wind. At her prow the perfectly poised figure of a surfer rode over her bow wave, a tribute to the cult movie from which she’d taken her name. Together they’d surfed every ocean, leaping over the waves more often under sail than steam. Designed to be the most environmentally conscious vessel afloat, once in a previous incarnation as a deep-sea trawler, Voyager had relied solely upon engine power. Now she was powered by a revolutionary system of propulsion which allowed her to combine engine and sail power to suit the prevailing conditions.

From the wheelhouse Jamie watched two Zodiac rafts streak away. He felt a sharp pang of envy as they raced ahead of the mother ship. Once upon a time it would have been him down there, racing towards the Japanese whaler that was presently six hundred meters off the port bow. Command had not brought the loneliness many claimed but its responsibilities distanced him from the action. Nowadays he felt like a tin general watching from a hilltop while his troops were slaughtered below.

Late summer in the Southern Ocean. Most of the whales that had made the journey south to feed on seas crimson with krill had long ago followed the sun on its migratory journey north for the winter. Only a few stragglers remained, taking advantage of the last days of the great white continent’s all too brief summer before being hastened into warmer waters to winter and give birth. And while they continued to linger, so did the Crystal Voyager. Like a party guest loath to depart. For sometimes the seas ran red for another reason, blooming blood and not plankton. For whatever was ratified on land, no one had yet been able to write a treaty upon the water.

First in, last out. Once more Jamie’s instincts hadn’t been wrong. A village of at least sixty Minke whales lay between the Japanese ship and the thickening Antarctic ice cap and from the harpoons mounted on her deck it was safe to assume that the Mutsukito Maru wasn’t in the business of ecotourism.

Jamie picked up his binoculars and scanned the waters ahead. One of the Zodiacs had sped around the whaler’s bow, placing itself directly between the ship and the whales, making it impossible for the harpoon to fire without risking hitting the inflatable. At least that was the theory. There was always the risk that one day some hotheaded harpoonist with an itchy trigger finger would open fire. In Jamie’s book they were already committing murder. Whether their victims had legs or flukes didn’t matter. The second Zodiac remained at the stern ramp with a camera to record whether her flensing decks were laden or empty.

The squawk box next to him crackled into life. “Skipper of the whaler’s on the blower Jamie,” came the voice of Mark the communications officer. “Wants us to withdraw our vessels. Claims that he’s here conducting scientific research.”

“Now that’s original. They’d write off the war to scientific research if they could. Tell him that it appears his vessel has inadvertently wandered into the sanctuary area and that he’s in violation of the International Whaling Commission Treaty. Tell him that we’re here to record that the Japanese government is adhering to the treaty and to provide his ship with an escort back into international waters. To save his government any embarrassment it’s in his own best interests to comply.”

Captain Sado watched the small vessels which continued to buzz his ship like flies about a buffalo, they seemed as numerous and just as noisome, his mouth tight with anger. It wasn’t the first time he’d had to deal with the interference of the gaijin. His one wish was that his government would sanction the order he so longed to give to sweep the anarchists from the water. And they dared to call his people barbarians!

They kept up the game of cat and mouse for hours until sunset, when at last he reluctantly gave the order and the Mitsukito Maru turned and headed north, her flensing decks empty. Away from the storms that could already be heard rumbling around the ice floes. Home to winter and empty decked dishonor. But she’d return in the spring, along with the whales and the krill and when she did, Sado reflected, the ship’s honor would finally be restored.

“She’s going home. No whale sashimi today, you bastards,” Kevin, the First Mate, crowed in triumph.

“They’re not bastards though, that’s just it,” Jamie reminded him. “They think they’re in the right. We’re the bad guys. After all, we do some pretty unacceptable things ourselves.” Jamie watched as the two inflatables headed back to the ship. Streaking home to celebrate a little victory in a vast ocean. “And believe me, no one knows that better than me.”

“I tried to tell you back at the pitch. Repeatedly. But you just didn’t want to listen.” Lennie’s voice was a mixture of impatience and resignation. The tone a teacher reserves for a not too bright student that refuses to grasp a simple concept no matter how many times it is explained.

“You bastard. You mean you knew all along?”

“The truth is Leigh that you only listen to what you want to hear. I knew exactly how you’d react which is why I tried to let you know obliquely. Besides, you’ve been in this business long enough to know that advertising and ethics simply do not mix.”

“Well pardon me for not paying enough attention to your subtext,” Leigh retorted.

“Isn’t it a bit late in the day to be developing a conscience about what you do? You and I both know that our job is to stun what little intelligence the average consumer has long enough to get them to hand over their hard-earned moolah.”

“It’s one thing to manipulate people’s purchasing power, Lennie. Another to engage in mass slaughter.”

“Oh come on. It’s not as if we’re talking about human beings here. Besides, when did you last write a scrupulously honest ad? Remember West Beverly cosmetics? Basically their products are a load of shit but now they’re the number three top-selling brand behind Maybelline and Revlon and you got a Clio.”

Their eyes locked. The horror, the abomination she’d felt last night had given away to anger and the uncomfortable truth that she told lies for a living.

Somehow she knew it was something she could no longer live with. Lennie was the first to break eye contact. He reached for a layout pad and uncapped a Pantone marker.

“Listen, I don’t have time to get into this right now. We’d better execute some damage control and quickly. As you seem to have identified so strongly with the problem, any thoughts?”

“Damage control? You think this can just be swept under the carpet with a little sanitizing campaign? What do you suggest we use for a headline? ‘New from the people who gave you driftnet fishing – tinned Flipper?”

Lennie sighed. “I think it’s obvious you’re in no state to make a serious contribution. The writer’s supposed to be the logical, rational half of the creative team. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? Calm down, smell the flowers. Tomorrow you’ll have this all back in perspective.”

“You’re right Lennie. I’m going to take your advice. I’m going to wake up and smell the flowers, while there’s still some left.” She reached into her bag and slammed the keys to the Range Rover down on his desk. “I quit.”

His double take lapsed into silence. She waited for the other shoe to drop. Finally, it did. “You can’t be serious! Leigh, you’re the best writer I’ve ever worked with. You’ve got a great future ahead of you. A year, eighteen months they’ll make you partner. They’ve already talked about it. It’s only a matter of time.”

He watched as she began to empty out her desk. Thesaurus, Sammy Kahn’s rhyming dictionary, tampons, spare panty hose for the rare occasions she worse a skirt, flash drive, rolodex.

“Leigh, don’t do this.”

“It’s already done. Take my notice out of my holiday pay.”

“You’re giving in to your emotions. Gut reaction, that’s all this is. Besides, what are you going to do? Have you thought about that? You walk out like this, you know this business. Forget the ethics. All they’re remember is that you betrayed a client. No agency will hire you. You’ll never work in this business again. I’ll see to it.”

From his expression she knew it wasn’t an empty threat but she’d already burned too much of the bridge to consider turning back. “Maybe I’ll go volunteer at Freeseas,” she said defiantly. “They could probably use a good writer.”

“Sure. You know what those people are like? They’re anarchists. Bomb-throwing dropouts. It’s the last refuge of the great unwashed. Besides, there’s no way they could match your salary package. How are you going to live, have you thought about that?”

“ So maybe I’ll just stand outside, raise my arms and photosynthesize,” Leigh replied smartly with a confidence she didn’t exactly feel. She’d have to catch a cab home, as if in her newly reduced circumstances she could afford it. She looked at him as if for the first time. The slightly watery eyes behind the wire-framed spectacles, the thinning crown, the expensive suit that did not quite manage to conceal a body already running to middle age and wondered why she had never noticed before how weak he was.

“A week. I’ll give you a week before you come crawling back here,” he shouted after her as she hoisted her bag, now as heavy and carefree as Loreena’s, over her shoulder and headed for the elevator.

As the elevator car arrived, she turned, unable to resist a final reposte before leaving. “By the way, Lennie, I think you’re losing your hair.”

She had the small satisfaction of seeing his hand fly to his crown before the elevator doors closed him out of her life forever.

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