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Corrupted Chapter 4, Page 1

Omar Tyree


  A Serial E-book


  Chapter 4


  Bright and early that morning, Vincent Biddle headed back to the Williams & Klein Publishing Group booth at Book Expo America. In his usual uniform of a suit, shirt, tie and sharp shoes, he was one of the first editors to arrive at the Jacob Javits Center. And not long after he had settled in with his cup of coffee and cherry danish from Starbucks, his assistant, Susan Randolph, showed up to join him. She understood full well that if she wanted to move up the ladder and show her sincerity for the next level of the job, she had to match him step for step, hour for hour, coffee for coffee, and danish for danish.

  “Was everyone well behaved after I left last night?” Vincent joked to her.

  Susan paused in her beige skirt suit and white blouse. She was still tired from thinking about Jackson and the publishing world into the wee hours of the night, but she was fighting off her fatigue with her cream-heavy coffee. Nevertheless, Vincent Biddle never seemed to fail at breaking her concentration. The man had a way of insinuating things that seemed creepy at times, as if he was omnipresent. And it served to keep her on edge whenever she was around him. Why couldn’t he just say, “Good morning,” and be done with it? Instead, he consistently dropped smart bombs on her head, as if his aim was to torture her.

  “Well behaved meaning what, exactly?”

  Vincent frowned before he shook his head and smiled at her. “There you go again, you’re thinking too much. It’s too early in the morning for that, Susan. It’s a simple yes or no answer . . . unless it’s more than that. You have something more to tell me?” he quizzed her.

  She denied it and took a sip of her coffee to maintain her poise.

  “No, nothing unusual.”

  Vincent stopped and stared at her. He grinned and said, “It never fails. You’re always giving me too much information. So every day I have to edit down your words for basic comprehension. Now what are you gonna do when you’re an editor; publish six-hundred-page books, loaded with double and triple meanings?”

  Then he added after a pause, “That may be interesting.”

  Hearing Vincent speak about her being an editor with her own books one day, excited her. The more confidence he showed in her to help him read new manuscripts, thrilled her as well. She wanted to prove that she could match him one day, wit for wit. No other editor at Williams & Klein made her feel that way. Only Vincent Biddle had the air. He was the lone black man with the golden eye for editing, and even better instincts for human motive. He seemed to be able to just . . . feel it and get whatever was going on around him, to the point where real people turned into characters in his own personal novel.

  As his trusty assistant, Susan felt close enough to him now to consider herself his pen. And when Vincent engaged in his daily editorial activities, there was rarely a dull moment to be written or published about him. His story was all juicy, sexy and cerebral, just like he liked it.

  Vincent stretched out his arms, swiveled his shoulders and clapped his hands, psyching himself up. “All right, so here we are, Susan. We got ourselves another full day of bullshit,” he commented. “Let’s see how many book-writing dreamers we can wake up and destroy today. Are you up for it?”

  Susan grinned and shook her head with a chuckle. It was five minutes to nine in the morning, and already, Vincent was in his editor mode. Maybe he never even turned it off. So she was anxious to see who or what would cross his path that day, and how he would react to it, because she honestly never knew.

  “Or maybe we could find a few diamonds in the rough,” she suggested. “Who knows?”

  Vincent pointed and said “You know. You know and I know,” he countered. “If we see seventy-five writers today, only five of them will really have potential.”

  Susan did her quick math and said, “Well, that’s close to ten percent.”

  “Yeah, but not close enough. And even those five will need a heavy dose of editing.”

  Susan shook her head and grinned. Why even bother then? she mused.

  “But we do it because we have to,” Vincent commented right on cue. “Otherwise, we’d have to start writing our own damn books to sell. And what would that look like?”

  Susan nodded and contemplated it. What kind of book would Vincent Biddle write?

  “Do you think anyone would bother to read about the publishing industry?”

  It was only a passing thought, but Vincent pounced on it like a tiger.

  “Hell yeah,” he told her confidently. Then he looked her over. “Girl, with all the licked bones, teeth marks and cum-stained panties in your closet, they would get a real kick out of it, not to mention my closets. Let’s not even go there.

  “That’s why we don’t write about the publishing industry,” he continued before Susan could respond to him. “We’re far too conscious of our own bullshit. In fact, no industry likes to write about itself. The Social Network was a great, honest to God movie, but Mr. Facebook himself hated it. It revealed too much, too little and could never get it all right.

  “Only the scorned write about their own industries after they’ve been unceremoniously kicked out of them,” he concluded. “So give me another ten to fifteen years before I write mine; Books, Sex and Bullshit,” he joked. Or was he?

  With all of that said, Susan decided not to add to it. What more could she say? The man’s assessments were thorough, and he made her arguments seem futile. So she nodded and walked away to give herself a breather.

  I didn’t need to hear all of that, especially so early in the morning, she thought to herself. But that’s just the way he is, raw and unedited. And if I can deal with that from him . . . then I can handle anything this industry has to throw at me.

  She was convinced of it.

  Darlene opened her eyes inside of a small, dark, Harlem-based hotel room near Columbia University and smiled up at the low-set ceiling. The tiny room had minimal sunlight with one back window to an alleyway of crowded buildings that blocked out the New York City skyline behind her. But it didn’t matter. She was in New York, fulfilling her dream to become a published author. And that meant the world to her.

  The no-thrills box of a room had a small bed in the middle, surrounded by a long dresser and a mirror to the left, a nightstand and clock to the right, and a miniature closet right next to the bathroom in the left near the entrance. The bed was far from soft, the sheets were too thin, rugged and dingy for comfort, and the room was barely clean enough to sleep in. Nevertheless, Darlene felt as giddy, sexy and grown as a pretty little high school girl on prom night.

  She playfully kicked off the covers, wearing colorful pajama bottoms and a white wife beater t-shirt, and stretched out her limbs, as if making a snow angel.

  Then she cracked a scratchy morning voice and attempted to sing. “I’m in Newww Yorrrrkkk . . .” And she was loving every minute of it, claustrophobia and all. Despite the low-budget hotel room, she was already plotting how quickly she would be able to relocate from Denver upon signing a lucrative publishing deal.

  “Don’t hate me, Momma. I’m just being a woman and spreading my wings. I’m finally here now,” she expressed up to the ceiling.

  Her first trip to New York had been a long time coming. It took immense confidence to travel there alone, but she had to do it. No one else had believed in her dream of becoming a published author for as long as she had, not even her supportive mother. After five years of graduation from college and limited progress on her writing aspirations, a mother just wanted her daughter to be practical and save her money for the bigger things in life, like a house, a family, vacations, and a solid retirement account.

  “Always think ahead,” her mother liked
to tell her.

  “Momma, I am thinking ahead. I’m just thinking ahead to what I want to do. And promoting family vacations at a ski resort is not it. I mean, how stereotypical it that for a girl from Colorado?”

  Her mother got it. Every girl had dreams. She was only concerned with how long you were supposed to keep dreaming. How long do you hold out for it?

  Well, the wait was over as far as Darlene was concerned. She had decided to take the bull by the horns and ride it around the arena with no intentions of falling off.

  “I’m here,” she repeated to herself authoritatively.

  She looked over at the small, black clock on the old, wooden nightstand to her right. It read 9:03 AM in red neon.

  “Uhhgg, I’m late,” she groaned. “I need to shower up and grab something to eat.”

  As soon as she moved to get up, her cell phone rang while charging. It sat on the edge of the bed to her left with the charger extending to the wall socket. She leaned over to grab it and read the New Jersey area code that was calling her. She then grinned and answered it.

  “Good morning, Tony. I’m still in New York,” she teased.

  “You better be. You owe me a one-on-one date tonight.”

  “I know, I know, it was my idea.”

  “So, are you ready to head down to the BEA yet?”

  She paused and rolled over on her back, smiling up at the ceiling again. She imagined Antonio there with her instead of him calling. Then he wouldn’t ask if she was ready. He would want to lie there in bed next to her. And they could relax there all morning long if they wanted to. Who would complain about it?

  She imagined Tony gently lifting up her wife beater t-shirt and kissing her belly button, where she would laugh and flinch from the tickle. She would then grab his head between her hands, as if caressing a small melon.

  “That tickles,” she would tell him, right before he climbed up to her face to kiss her lips.

  “So, you just want to lie here in bed all day?” he would ask her.

  She would pause again. “Maybe not all day, but at least until noon. How about that?”

  He would shrug and smile back with his perfect white teeth and wild hair from a long, ravishing night of their lovemaking.

  “Okay. I can do that,” he would agree to it, followed by another soft kiss and a gentle hug.

  “Dar-leen-nah! Are you daydreaming again?” Antonio asked, snapping her out of it.

  She laughed and said, “Yeah, I’m not ready yet. I was just about to climb out of bed before you called me.”

  “Okay, so what were you just daydreaming about?” he asked her.

  Darlene felt the butterflies of love scrambling around in her empty stomach. Not that she was in love with the actual man yet, but she was in love with the feelings of anticipation and possibilities.

  “Oh, nothing important,” she told him.

  “Yeah, that’s bullshit. It’s the morning and you’re inside of a hotel room alone. You’re thinking the same thing I’m thinking; wouldn’t it be great to have company.”

  Darlene shot it down immediately. “Nooo, I’m just thinking about getting up and taking a shower. I should have taken one last night, but I was too tired.”

  She understood that a confirmation of her late night and early morning thoughts may have cause him to assume things and move too quickly for true romance. True romance was all about guessing, and never really knowing. Anything else would be unromantic and obvious.

  With his free spirit that Darlene had become accustomed to through their many conversations on Facebook, Antonio blew it off and allowed her to dodge him.

  “Okay, well, I’ll get there earlier than you. You were there yesterday already, so I have a lot more ground to cover. By the way, you have my permission to fantasize about me in the shower,” he teased. “Go ahead and make a new novel out of it.”

  He caught her off guard with it and forced her to chuckle aloud again.

  “You’re funny,” she told him. “And that reminds me, I need to call and update my agent on everything that happened late night before I leave out this morning.”

  “Oh, okay, well . . . I guess I’ll see you in a few hours then if you have to do all of that.”

  Darlene could hear the busy morning traffic in the background. Nevertheless, she still wanted to talk to him. “Wait, you’re hanging up?”

  “Yeah, I’m at the train station already. I’m ready to go. Book editors here I come! Hear me roar!”

  She nodded, impressed by his hyper focus. Antonio had shown her a track record of going for it. He had been another strong influence in her corurageous trip to New York. Or maybe it was just an East Coast thing to push, pull and be ready for whatever at all times. So she backed off of slowing down his hustle.

  “Okay . . . I guess I’ll see you down there then.”

  “Awwww,” he teased, hearing the disappointment in her voice. “Look, I’ll be right there in the shower with you. Just close your eyes and imagine it. We’re writers right? We can imagine anything.”

  “Good bye,” she told him and grinned. “You’ll be on the train not in my shower.”

  But when she hung up the phone with him, the images of an early morning shower romp sounded mighty intriguing to her.

  Hmmm, she mused, still in bed . . . maybe I’ll be a little later than I thought.

  Antonio hopped on the New Jersey Transit line, headed for New York City, while smiling from ear to ear. He imaged a morning shower with Darlene himself. The young woman was scrumptious, and he would eagerly devour every inch of her sweet, curvaceous body without hesitation.

  However, dressed in a beige, corduroy sports jacket, a white dress shirt, a striking blue tie, dark blue jeans and a pair of spotless dark brown shoes, Antonio’s grin evaporated as soon as the train began to speed toward New York. It was time to focus on the task of finding a willing and able editor and publisher, and Vincent Biddle was the first man on his list to see.

  Now I can get there and head straight for Vincent without Darlene knowing. And if we all end up working together . . . so be it, he thought.

  His plans were all mapped out, with a black briefcase full of his printed material, highlighted by his Latino werewolf stories. He was so worked up to present his writings that morning that he didn’t bother to take an open seat on the train.

  A curious, brown-haired Latina noticed him from her seat just a few feet away. She wasn’t sure if it was him at first. Antonio wasn’t facing her. But after staring him down, while observing his familiar height and movements, she confirmed that it was. So she stood from her seat to greet him.

  “Hey Antonio.”

  He turned and looked before he raised his brow and noticed her with an opened smile. As they say, a picture said a thousand words. And the picture on his face was one of shock, recognition, and then tactfulness.

  “Jessica, how are you doing? What have you been up to?”

  Jessica Fernandez had been his high school sweetheart at Cardoza Academy in Jersey City. They had dated right up into their early twenties, but then decided to go their separate ways. She wanted to settle down and have a family, but Antonio wanted to continue chasing his dream of becoming a writer.

  “I have a three-year-old son now,” she told him. Her increase in weight was obvious. She had put on at least thirty pounds since the last time they had been together.

  Antonio nodded. “No kids yet for me.”

  Jessica checked out his dress code and took a whiff of his nice smelling cologne. “Well, you look and smell nice.”