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Corrupted Chapter 6, Page 1

Omar Tyree


  A Serial E-book


  Chapter 6

  This Is Real Life!

  Vincent Biddle took a break from the Williams & Klein booth to join his assistant Susan at Jackson Smith’s two o’clock book signing before it ended. There was a wide open area at the back of the Book Expo America publishing booths, where twenty long lines were roped off and leading to the elevated tables, where book readers and fans would step up to have a free book signed by the author. Each author spent an hour signing books, as twenty of them sat side by side at their individual tables. An army of BEA volunteers, all dressed in yellow promotional t-shirts, helped along the process by supplying the books from boxes. And hopefully, they had enough of Jackson’s new book to satisfy his hungry fanbase.

  Vincent smiled as he looked on at Jackson’s long line of enthusiastic readers, many of whom were young white women. It was nearly three o’clock already, and the line was still long. He and Susan stood just a few feet away from it.

  “This is night and day from the first the year we do this,” Vincent noted. “I remember when people were still trying to figure out who Jackson Smith was. That’s not the case now. He is definitely our rock star writer.”

  Susan grinned and held her response.

  “How was Chelsea’s signing?” Vincent asked her.

  She nodded thoughtfully. “She had a nice supportive crowd.”

  “But it was nothing like this, right?”

  Susan continued to grin. “Well, unless you’re a popular children’s book author, a paranormal writer, Stephen King, John Grisham, or one of the other big boys, no one’s line is gonna be longer than Jackson’s.”

  Vincent nodded back to her. “And how much longer do you think it’ll last for him?”

  Susan rubbed her hands together. She said, “It depends on how long he can maintain focus.”

  “You mean with all of the women and things,” Vincent alluded. He wasn’t blind to Jackson’s philandering. He had even set a few adventures, included Jackson’s failed attempt with Darlene.

  Susan said, “You know, it’s funny how in the music, television and film industries, the more crazy your personal life, the more you tend to extend an interest in your career. But in our industry, it’s really more about the work. So, the authors who are really able to last are the ones who quietly let their books do the talking for them.”

  It was her own philosophy to zero in on good books and less on flamboyant authors. It was where she differed from Vincent’s philosophy of pushing personalities as much as the literature.

  Vincent nodded and agreed with her, but only to a certain extinct. He said, “Imagine if I would have published him as Nikola Tubolatti and not hired Lauren to work with him for more publicity and fanfare? Do you really think his audience would have become this broad?”

  Susan knew better than to believe that. She immediately smiled and shook it off. “Of course not. I mean, you do have those situations where it works the other way.”

  Vincent told her, “With my African-American authors, you can’t afford to be unknown. That’s why I still like Chelsea, she gets that. She saw a van parked on the street at the Harlem Book Festival years ago with Zane’s brand name and titles all over it, and that was it. No one ever had to tell Chelsea a thing about how much her name and marketing meant to her career. She’s been a publicity dynamo since day one.”

  She’s also ultra liberal about her sexuality, Susan mused. But how many people have the courage and confidence to get away with that?

  Chelsea Christmas reminded her of the Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj schools of thought, where she would use anything outrageous to not only sell her work, but to sell her total imagery.

  As Susan and Vincent continued to survey the line and share their publishing small talk, DeWayne “Double D” McDonald walked up on them in his usual, I-love-New-York-city clothes. His orange Mets t-shirt jumped out at them from under his dark blue blazer.

  “So, what they gon’ do now, tell the people that’s it? It’s almost three o’clock,” D commented to them curiously.

  Vincent smiled and turned to shake his hand. “Hey D.”

  Susan smiled herself. “You’re right on time as usual,” he noted.

  D’s hour shift of book signing was up next, and he hated going right behind Jackson. But it was what it was.

  “Was his line like this the whole time?” he asked. He already assumed that his line wouldn’t be.

  Vincent continued to grin. “Susan said the first wave died down before the second, third, and fourth waves showed up. I guess they were all trying to pace themselves to avoid the rush, but it didn’t work.”

  D shook his head incredulously. “It’s a crying shame, man. But that’s America. for you. Justin Bieber should is nowhere near the talents of Chris Brown. But since he got the right color, he can talk about haircuts and be all over the damn news.”

  He then looked at Susan and felt a need to apologize. “My bad, Susan, I’m just telling it like I always do.”

  “I know,” she told him with a smile. “We were just talking about how much more African-American authors have to do to sell books or anything.”

  “You got that shit right,” D agreed with her. “It still feel like we gotta sing and dance at the Cotton Club.”

  Vincent smirked at D’s reference to the old time religion of black artists who cater to the generosity of high income white Americans to maintain a living, but he was tired of hearing it. You would think that after five years of working together on new content that allowed DeWayne to maintain a comfortable living, that he would finally understand the business and stop all of his useless complaining. But D continued to run his mouth about every institutional shortcoming that he could do nothing about.

  I wonder if he’ll be satisfied when we give him his walking papers to sell books back on the streets of Brooklyn and Harlem? Vincent thought. Most-likely, he’ll complain about that too. It’s all a fucking conspiracy against the black man, right? I’ve heard it all before.

  To splash a bowl of mineral water onto DeWayne’s fire, Vincent said, “You would think that after all these years, we would own our own Cotton Club by now.”

  D looked at him and agreed with it. “Dig it.”

  “Well, how come we don’t?” Vincent asked him.

  “You tell me. You’ve been in the publishing game this long. How come we don’t have our own house?”

  Because it cost more money than black people are ever willing to spend to run a book business, that’s why! We barely fucking read! Vincent was tempted to yell at him. But not with Susan still at his side. So he maintained his cool and smiled.

  He said, “That’s a long and detailed story, my friend, nice and long.”

  “No it ain’t,” D countered with a shake of his head. “That’s a short story. We don’t have the fucking money, that’s all that is.” Then he looked back at Susan, “Sorry about that.”

  “It’s okay,” she lied to him with a grin. DeWayne’s ire about the publishing industry was making her feel a bit uncomfortable. Susan liked to concentrate more on the positive aspect of things. She was still at the beginnings of her career, and all of the negative talk was counterproductive. So much talk about all of the difficulties made her not want to deal with any black writers, a policy that thousands of white editors had already accepted as an unwritten rule. Don’t get involved with black writers. They’re far too difficult, and few of them sell well.

  Vincent figured as much, so he wanted to let his assistant go. “Susan, why don’t you go back and get settled in at the booth. I’ll walk back with Jackson.”

  D frowned and thought, Walk him back for what? Ain’t he a grown-ass ma
n? Nobody’s walking me back and forth from shit. But he held his tongue for a change instead of voicing it.

  Susan said, “Okay, I’ll see you guys later,” including DeWayne.

  D smiled at her and waved. And as soon as the young assistant editor turned her back and was out of reach to hear them, D nearly whispered, “Between me and you, I have no chance in this world at her, do I?”

  Vincent was caught off guard by it. Not that DeWayne would be attracted to his tall and striking assistant, because plenty of men were. He was only shocked at the timing. D had just finished ranting and raving about white and black people right in front of her.

  Vincent grinned and said, “After all that raising hell you just did about white people, you turn right around and ask me about Susan?” He couldn’t believe it.

  D chuckled and said, “I don’t have any problem with her. It’s the white people who don’t read my shit who I don’t like.”

  “Well, do you think Susan would read your work if she wasn’t working for me?”

  D thought about it and chuckled. “Probably not.”

  “So, what’s the difference?”

  “The difference is that I know her.”

  Vincent smiled and nearly whispered back to him, “Do you eat pussy?”

  Double D froze himself now. How would he answer that question, especially coming from a man who everyone rumored as bisexual.

  He said, “It depends on who’s asking? Why, is that what she likes?”

  Vincent shrugged and said, “She’s white, isn’t she? Do you believe the hype?”

  D thought about it and asked, “Does she suck a mean dick too?”

  Vincent stared and repeated, “She’s white, isn’t she? That fits the stereotype.”

  He was only leading his author on and toying with him.

  D finally shook it off. He said, “I don’t know, man, I’ve never been with a white girl. But Chelsea said she probably would go for Jackson,” he mentioned.

  Vincent looked up at Jackson, who was still signing books and chatting up a storm at the author tables. “I could see that happening,” he commented. Jackson and Susan had been so professional around each other that it didn’t make any sense. So he suspected himself that they had slept around at some point. Nevertheless, since he worked with Susan each day, he would never even hint at such an affair. Besides, they all got along, and he had plenty of his own shit to cover up, so Vincent was the last man in the office who could afford to gossip.

  He added, “But you don’t want to talk about stuff like that to the wrong people. We all still have to work together. You feel me on that?” he asked with hip language.

  D smiled and nodded. “I got ’chu.” But he was jealous as hell. He looked toward Jackson, still signing dozens of books and was incensed, This white motherfucker. He get all the breaks and all that pink pussy.

  D then looked at his wristwatch. It was five minutes to three. “Aw’ight, it’s time for me to have my turn,” he suddenly announced.

  “You go get ’em, tiger,” Vincent teased him.

  D looked back at frowned at him before he shook his head. Fuck this faggot talking about? he asked himself. I ain’t no damn tiger. I’m a man!

  As DeWayne approached the author signing tables at the front of the lines, the BEA volunteers tried their hardest to taper off Jackson’s never-ending crowd.

  “I’m sorry, but we have to close off this line now,” a balding white man informed the anxious line-up of women, who continued to crowd Jackson’s area for books. Some of the women were not even there for his books.

  “I just wanted to hand you my head shot and resume for your next casting,” a pretty brunette told him in high heels. She was very busty in a white, designer tank-top with blue jeans.

  Jackson smiled and signed her copy of The Next Mark, his thriller series based on a hit-man and a New York city cop who is determined to stop him. He said, “I’m sorry, but I have no say so over who the film and television producers decide to cast.”

  “But you’re like a consultant at least, right?”

  Jackson sighed and paused, while the BEA volunteer beside him grabbed the next book to hand to the next reader. She was an older white woman in her early fifties, and during the past hour, she had heard enough come-on lines from young women in their twenties to last a lifetime.

  How could any young man respect women with so much shamelessness? she wondered as she continued to do her job quietly.

  “I consult mainly on the scripts and not with the actors and actresses,” Jackson told the brunette.

  “You’re kidding me. But it’s you’re vision,” the brunette protested.

  The volunteer finally voiced her concerns. “I’m sorry, but we really have to move this line along,” she spoke up.

  “Okay, well, just keep my resume and head shot just in case. And call me, my number’s on there.”

  DeWayne McDonald overhead her as he made his way to the front tables.

  “Hey, Double D, you’re up next at three, right?” Jackson called after spotting him.

  D smiled and answered him cordially, “Yeah, man, but it won’t be like yours.”

  “You never know,” Jackson responded.

  “Naw, I do know,” D countered.

  He walked right up to Jackson and grabbed a book for himself, ahead of all of the white women in line. Again, the volunteer was ready to speak up, but Jackson waved off her worries.

  “Nah, he’s okay. That’s DeWayne ‘Double D’ McDonald, another author at Williams and Klein.”

  “Oh, yeah, I saw that on the boxes in the back,” the volunteer responded excitedly. “O.G.s Never Die, right?” she asked him.

  “Real Gs Never Die,” D corrected her.

  “Oh yeah, I’m sorry. The Real Gs,” she restated. “So, you’re signing is next?”

  “As soon as Mr. Popular is done,” D joked.

  Jackson joked back to him. “Oh, well, pull up and extra chair and get ready to wait a while.”

  D smiled and turned back to look at the line. There were at least another thirty more people waiting to have their books signed. “Dig it, I might as well,” he grumbled.

  “I’m sorry, DeWayne,” Jackson apologized to him. “But look on the bright side. Now you’ll have an excuse to rush everyone.”

  “To rush who?” D claimed. “You’re the one with all the movie and television fans.”

  “Yeah, but they don’t care about me, they just want to be in the next movie.”

  “True, but still . . .” D refuted.

  The next reader stepped up and told Jackson, “We do care about you and your books. Those are not really readers who ask you about your movies and stuff. Those are the groupies and the hangers-on who will leave you as soon as you no longer have a production deal.”

  She was a short, butterball of a woman in her thirties, with a whole armload of author books from the event. She appeared to be an avid book collector.

  “Well, thanks. I needed that,” Jackson told her as he signed her book. “What’s your name?”

  “Ah, Sharon, but I don’t want my name in it, just a signature and a date, please.”

  Jackson nodded and eyed the armload of books she carried. “So, you’re a collector?”