Corrupted Chapter 2, Page 1Omar Tyree
A Serial E-book
A Crazy Life
Publishing vice president, Thomas Richberg, finally got Vincent’s attention in the crowded room. He gestured to his popular editor to come speak to him and the boss in their corner. Vincent managed to stall them in the distance with a raised index finger.
Arnold Dutch shook his head and grumbled, “You see that? He’s already gotten out of hand. And he wants us to pay him more money? Hmmph, that’ll be the day.”
Tom was speechless. Vincent had sure picked the wrong time to keep him waiting.
Kid, I’m trying to help you as much as I can here, but you have to help me too, he thought.
Vincent stood in the mix of editing associates, authors and admirers, who had all waited eagerly to see him. And it wasn’t that easy to part the Red Sea. However, Lauren Grandeis, the exotic East Indian publicist, managed to force her way the crowd. That was her modus operandi as a marketing queen. She had learned to make her presence felt at any and all costs.
“I got the Esquire piece for Jackson. They’re here tonight,” she told him. “Make sure you say a few good words to the editor.”
Vincent looked around and asked, “Where is he?”
Lauren pointed as she spoke, “Over to the left.”
Vincent spotted the middle-aged white man in a button-up, stripped shirt with no tie and a dark sports jacket. He wore rimmed glasses and short cropped hair.
Vincent nodded. “Okay. Good job.”
“Of course,” Lauren purred confidently. No one else existed when this woman spoke.
Jackson Smith looked on in his black leather get up, while standing beside the Esquire editor. He waved to Vincent and Lauren and smiled.
“Was the Shaft look your idea tonight?” Vincent asked Lauren.
She grinned and ignored him. “They have a cute cameraman with them.”
Vincent eyed a young, hip cameraman taking pictures of everyone who moved inside the room.
He grinned and nodded again. “Nice.”
“So, who’s the girl? Is she really next?” Lauren was back to business as usual.
Vincent paused and thought about it. He then spotted his author, Natalie Cumberland, quickly moving in their direction.
Uh oh, here we go. Time to make my escape, he mused.
“Ahh, I don’t know really yet,” he answered Lauren in reference to Darlene. “But I’ll let you know something soon.”
“Well, she’s cute. I may be able to do something with her,” Lauren gushed. Her tanned skin radiated through a smile as she breezed back into the crowd.
Of course you can do something with Darlene, Vincent reflected. America always finds ways to spotlight the half breeds, but not much for writers like Natalie anymore?
Natalie, an ebony brown woman with a round mound of curves, hidden behind her black dress, had an ongoing gripe to address with him, but it was no place to address it at a party. Nevertheless, she moved in for the kill.
“Vincent, we really need to talk.”
He immediately looked over her right shoulder toward her inebriated husband near the bar. “How’s Michael doing tonight?” he asked her.
And why even bring him out here? he mused. The man made her look bad and hypocritical on a number of occasions.
Obviously distracted by him, Natalie looked back to her husband to make sure he hadn’t done anything ridiculous. Michael smiled sheepishly at her and raised his drink.
Vincent used the distraction to make his fluid escape.
“I’ll speak to you in a minute.”
“Vincent. Vincent!” Natalie pleaded, raising her voice with urgency. Her effort was in vain as she was blocked off by the closing gap of people. She even reached for her editor’s arm but too slow to snag him.
Her problems will not become my problems, Vincent insisted as he headed in the direction of his bosses.
Next up were Chelsea and Double D, who stood right in the middle of his path.
“So, you got another one, huh?” DeWayne asked him on the fly, concerning the new female author.
Vincent denied it. “No, not yet.”
Chelsea frowned. “Well, why hype the girl up then? You could have hyped me up for all that.”
Vincent grinned, while still moving.
“Chelsea, baby, you don’t need any hype. Just look at you.”
She was indeed striking. In her small package, the erotic muse always managed to stand out. However, she was also familiar with her editor’s frequent head games. Vincent was liable to say anything to generate a certain result.
Chelsea shook her head as her editor quickly disappeared through mass of bodies.
“He is such a bullshit artist,” she snapped.
Double D laughed it off. “That’s how he do what he do. I ain’t mad at him, as long as I’m making my money.”
“And what if you wasn’t?” Chelsea challenged him.
“Then we’d have a fucking problem,” D fired back.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
As Vincent made his way to his bosses in the corner of the room, he grabbed his tall, stunning assistant by the hand to accompany him.
“Come on, you need to meet Arnold.”
Susan Randolph became terrified with wide eyes. She even wanted to pull her hand back from him, but it was too late. The bosses had already spotted her.
“Have you officially met him before?” Vincent asked as he led her.
“No, I have not,” Susan squealed.
“Well, if you wanna move up the company ladder, you need to get to know him sooner or later. And why not let it be now at a party?” Vincent told her.
She certainly knew who Arnold Dutch was at the company, but she had never had the courage to speak a word to him outside of, “Good morning.” That had only been on a few occasions outside of the elevators in the company lobby. Even then, Arnold didn’t seem to be overly friendly. He was doggedly focused on the bottom line.
As they approached, Susan wished that she could disappear into Vincent’s hand like a magic handkerchief to be pulled out of his suit jacket pocket for later. But there was no such magic. She would be forced to deal with her nervous fears in a matter of seconds.
Oh my God! I’m just not ready for this right now, Susan panicked. However, Vincent had a point. Meeting the brass in a more social setting of a party was much less stressful than meeting them at the office.
“Vincent, Susan,” Tom greeted them both.
Vincent shook his hand and nodded. “Hey, Tom.” He then addressed Arnold. “Hi Arnold, my editing assistant, Susan Randolph, says she’s never officially met you.”
Susan was ready to swallow her tongue as the boss looked her over.
“I’m sure I’ve seen you at the elevators a few times.”
“Yes, you have,” she stated with an eager nod.
“Well, this is Susan Randolph,” Vincent introduced her.
Arnold nodded, smiled and switched his drink to his left hand before he took hers in his right.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Susan.”
“Oh, no, it’s my pleasure to meet you,” she gushed.
Vincent boasted, “She’ll make a fine editor one day. She pays strict attention to everything I do.”
“Is that right?” Arnold asked her.
Susan grinned. “I’m just trying to learn from the best.”
Arnold looked again at Vincent and nodded. He wanted to get down to the business of feeling the man out.
“Well, if you’ll excuse us, Susan,” he hinted nicely. It was time for executive man talk.
“Oh, no problem. It was a pleasure again to meet you,” she repeated.
p; Susan made her fast exit as the three publishing men faced each other in their tight circle.
Arnold Dutch jumped right into it. “So, what are your exact plans now, Vincent?”
“Domination,” Vincent answered as planned. “I want to find a few new authors who can move a hundred to five hundred K in hard back, secure movie adaptations, stageplay rights, international sales, as well as maintain street and popular book credibility.”
Arnold looked in the direction of Chelsea, Double D, and Natalie, who had reformed in their small, African-American circle of authors.
“You really think you can still move hard backs with them?” The boss was obviously skeptical. Few African-American authors had sold those kind of numbers in recent years in hard back, unless it was Terry McMillian or Toni Morrison, neither of whom were published by Williams & Klein.
Tom stood there listening for the response himself. It was Vincent’s show now.
“No, not necessarily them,” the confident editor answered. “I’m going after some new writers. But it’s all a bubble, where you get a chance to push the entire stable. And as my top new authors do well, I push the right buttons to move the bottom authors.”
Vincent had been doing it for years already, packaging three authors through the popularity and sales of one. To make his point, he gestured his left hand toward Jackson, who was still interviewing with Esquire magazine over in the far left side of the room.
He said, “If Jackson calls DeWayne one of his favorite street lit writers, it would help me to introduce Double D to a whole section of white men who had never heard of him before.”
Arnold looked again and grimaced. “Jackson would be willing to do that?”
Tom chuckled at that question. It was an inside joke. Vincent always had his methods.
“It’s all about teamwork,” the editor commented with a smile.
“Well, who’s this ahh, new girl you just announced?” Arnold questioned. “Are you really thinking about signing her? What is her agent asking?”
He was referring to Darlene Krause.
Vincent shrugged, unconcerned with the dollar amount. He figured he could get Darlene for cheap and make her a fortune.
He said, “They can’t ask for much. She doesn’t have a track record yet. And she’s from Denver, Colorado. Maybe I can get her to write about nympho ski bunnies,” he joked. “She told me she works for a ski lodge agency and she’s been out on the slopes a lot.”
Arnold failed to see the humor in it. Forcing authors to write popular hack stories was not his idea of inspiring great sales numbers. He wanted more great finds with pure talent.
“Well, what does she want to write?” he asked Vincent sternly.
“Good old American love stories.”
Arnold nodded. “Is that her title, An American Love Story?”
Vincent thought about it. “I could make it her title. It does have a ring to it.”
“An international ring,” Tom interjected. “Everyone wants an American love story. That’s why immigrants all come here. They all fall in love with the American dream.”
Arnold considered it with a nod. “Does she have what it takes?”
Vincent didn’t hesitate. “Yes.” He figured he could work on it with her like he did with all of his authors.
The boss let out a deep, grave sigh before he looked at his vice president. The man didn’t like spending money; he just wanted to keep making it. But scared money didn’t make any. So he was never scared, only cautious.
He grumbled, “You show me the pudding . . . and I’ll show you the cream.”
With that, he sat the remainder of his drink on the nearby table and headed for the door without saying good bye. He had said all he needed to say, and had waited all night to say it.
Tom looked at Vincent again with his own concerns.
“So, who is this girl? You never mentioned her to me before, did you?”
Vincent shook it off. “No, I didn’t. But she’s Darlene Krause. And she walked right up to me today and said that she was going to be a star,” he lied. She hadn’t been that bold. She only wanted to take him out to dinner up in Harlem to talk about it. But that was bold enough to spark his interest.
Tom asked, “So, she’s not really . . . proven?” He looked even more concerned.
Vincent had just put his ass on the line with the boss for her. But he kept his poise.
“Don’t worry, I’ll work it out. I always do.”
Tom couldn’t believe his ears. But Vincent had worked it all out. Straight from the Bronx, New York, via Medger Evers College in Brooklyn, with a Masters Degree from Columbia, he had been a buddle of pleasant surprises for more than a dozen years at the publisher. Before that he worked at the highly regarded editor at Village Voice.
“Well, I hope you know what the hell you’re doing this time.”
Vincent grinned at him and patting him on the left shoulder. “Tom, you say that same thing to me every time.”
After texting Antonio Martinez her location from the restroom, along with a ton of other exciting details about her evening, Darlene gathered her nerves and finally returned to the crowded publishing affair.
Here we go, she told herself.
As soon as she reentered the room, she was bombarded again.
“Oh, thank you.”
Shit, I haven’t even done anything yet, she mused. Is this how it is? They believe it just because someone says it? What if my writing sucks? What if none of them really likes it after they read it?
“So, what do you write about?” an older white woman asked her. She looked genuinely interested.
Darlene went into her practiced speech, the one she had repeated all morning and afternoon at the BEA. “Well, I like to call my writing a breath of real air. It’s funny, youthful, observant, adventurous, self-defeating, optimistic, you know, everything that we really are. And I like to capture the men just how they are.”
The woman nodded, patiently. “Okay, but what do you write about? I mean, is it a memoir?”
Darlene was stunned by her bluntness. She stammered and said, “Well, it’s ah, American love stories, you know, from the West and Midwest.”
The woman didn’t seem as enthused any more. She had read enough love stories. What else was new?
“So, it’s nothing paranormal?”
Darlene began to chuckle. “Well, no, I have a friend who writes that, but not really me.”
He’s on his way here now, she thought without sharing it.