At 8:57 Glenda arrived in front of her office building at Rockefeller Center on Fiftieth, its site graced by the colossal bronze statue of Atlas bearing the world on his shoulders. Directly across the street, Saint Pat- rick’s Cathedral aspired in grand elegance toward the heavens. When she’d first started working here, she’d liked to think that the
two buildings showed Man and God vying for the attention of the soul. To Glenda, both images illustrated purpose and initiative, perfect for Monday morning.
The constructive part of her day began here in this smooth terminal of business, now alive with the sound of intent: her heels clicking on the marble floor, the swishing elevator doors, the economy of words. “Up,” she called to one of the elevators as its doors were sliding shut; as if by magic, it reconsidered and opened to admit her. “Thanks,” she said, stepping aboard. “Floor?” asked a man in a black coat with a token closed-lips arc. “Twenty-two,” she replied,
returning his smile.
She headed to her cubicle of office space at Business Advisors, LLC, her usual ambition brewing like the coffee at the receptionist’s station. The floor was divided into five such areas for consultants like herself, one slightly larger to accommodate two secretaries, and one unequivo- cally private office for the
president of the company, Matthew Crowley.
Glenda sat at her desk and gathered together the material on her most recent client,
Richard’s Fur Outlets, for whom she had been making systems-streamlining recommendations. That was her job, to ensure that companies were using the most
up-to-date computer systems and processes possible, while Matthew, the company
president and chief CPA, ensured that their record-keeping was efficient and compliant. She reviewed her notes for her morning meeting with Matthew:
Limited compatibility between
departments, need additional cloud storage, tutorial a must!
Printing her notes along with other pertinent documents—Matthew, who had been in the
business for twenty-five years, still preferred presentations in hard copy—she got up and went to Crowley’s office.
“Hold my coffee for now,” she advised the receptionist, Jeff, who was chatting in the
pathway with a hyperactive young consultant whose expertise was mailing-list management.
“Morning, babe.” Danny’s moustache twitched mischievously. “Doing anything for lunch?”
“Why? Has it ever done anything for me?”
“I’m getting through to her,” she could hear him confide sotto voce to Jeff as she walked by. “She didn’t say no.” Her regret for being the cause of his unrequited crush was, as ever, void of self-satisfaction.
Compared to the company’s main working area, all commercial carpet and functional
furniture, Crowley’s office was plush. His carpet was dense; desk and bookcases, sandalwood; chairs, leather; window, draped. A commodious couch and a floor lamp suggested the context of home.
Crowley was not, at the moment, enjoying his comforts. He was jogging in shirt and tie
on the moving belt of the treadmill situated alongside his desk, headed for cardiopulmonary efficiency and tireless tennis. “How’s it going?” he asked without altering his pace. “Have a good weekend?”
“Yes. You?” She held the printout of her notes to her chest.
“So-so.” He frowned, deepening the crease between his dark blue eyes.
“Where are you with Richard’s specs?”
At fifty-two, though twenty-three years Glenda’s senior and four years her boss,
his tone was that of an equal. He had great respect for her talent.
“I’m about finished with the initial planning,” she said. “There are a couple of questions that I’d like to discuss with you before I prepare my final outline.”
“Can it wait until tomorrow? I’ve got a prospective client whom I’ve promised to get
the ball rolling on, and you’re the best man for the job.” He smiled; the lines bracketing his mouth and etched around his eyes offset the regularity of his features. Time had invested what had been a good-looking but bland face with a past, and thus with character. Along with his graying temples and agreeable diction, he could have been mistaken for an anchorman.
“It can wait, sure,” Glenda answered.
There was a lengthy pause while Crowley gradually slackened his pace, taking short
breaths with pursed lips, until he came to a halt. “Whew,” he said, patting the modest paunch on an otherwise trim physique.
“Okay, let’s talk. Sit.”
Glenda sat opposite him at his desk as he changed from sneakers to shoes. “Have I ever
mentioned my old college buddy Jack Henson? Of Henson and Blackman Publishing?”
Glenda shook her head.
“They publish periodicals in the medical management line. Perspec- tives in
Neurology and Physician’s Marketplace, plus a couple I can’t recall. Would you like some coffee?”
“I’ll hold off.”
“Right. Well, Jack and his partner just acquired MD Forefront and Gynecology
Today, which is a great deal. But it’s a lot more volume for them, and they’re kind of at loose ends operations-wise. They’ve got to beef up their system and educate their staff. Blackman is not an enthusiast—he thinks he’ll lose touch with the operation if he can’t personally wish each of his readers a
happy birthday. But that’s another matter. What I want you to do is lay the
groundwork. Get a general idea of what they’re using now to handle billing,
mailing, editorial, produc- tion, and their online editions, as well as the general stats on distribution, advertising, and pricing. Then, give me a couple of ideas about what you think they’ll need, and meanwhile I’ll go over their tax returns for the last couple of years to see what compliance issues we may need to address. Excuse me.” He buzzed Jeff on the intercom extension. “Has a parcel from Henson and Blackman come in yet?
Right. Thanks.” He hung up. “They haven’t already sent their tax returns over, so you can pick those up when you go. They should include statements from the acquired publishers as well.”
“I take it you want me to run over there today,” Glenda said, brushing the hem of her jacket.
“Yes. Jack’s kind of counting on my being
there, but I figure I won’t be of much use until I’ve got a coherent picture of the accounts. I’ll come to your next meeting. Besides, I’m up to my ears in that electron- ics deal Sherm and Danny are working on.”
“I’ll call Henson and Blackman now, then.”
“Appreciate it, Glenda. They’re on Madison, in the low thirties. I’ve got the number here
somewhere.” He moved the papers on his desk without really searching.
“No problem. I’ll find it.” She rose.
“Good. Keep me posted.” His private line rang as Glenda reached the door. “That’ll be
the wife. Yes, Sybil,” he answered, glancing at her framed photo angled toward him on his desktop. “What? I made him distraught? Whose word is that, his or yours? . . . Sure, I’ll meet him for lunch.” He acknowledged Glenda’s departure with a nod. “Yes, Sybil, I realize he’s my son too.”
Glenda pulled off her knit gloves and thrust them into her coat pock- ets. “Glenda
Fieldston. I have an appointment to see Mr. Henson at ten-thirty?”
A pale young woman made paler by the overhead fluorescent lights tapped a key on
her computer. She nodded, agitating a long and other- wise unremarkable ponytail. “Mmm, yes, of course. I just spoke to you. From Business Advisors.”
“Yes,” said Glenda, just as two men in overalls who carried cartons on their shoulders
appeared at the open door of the establishment ten feet behind her. At the same time, a woman in a red coat, who was approaching from down the inner hallway,
broke into a run.
“Down! Elevator down!” Glenda stepped aside to clear the runway, but the workers and the woman still almost collided in front of the receptionist’s desk just as the
elevator closed its doors for departure.
“Hell!” the woman exclaimed, and then she
looked back to smile at Glenda. “Sorry,” she said. “Back at noon, Claire.”
“That was Mary Mahoney,” offered the receptionist, Claire. “Our creative director.”
“Where do you want this stuff from the West Side?” one of the men asked Claire as he
adjusted his burden.
“Is it MD Forefront, or Gynecology?”
“It’s heavy,” he said.
“Okay, bring it down to the end of the outer hallway. There’s an empty room on the right.”
a little hectic here,” Claire confessed to Glenda, holding her ponytail for security. “Moving the files for the new publications and all. We’ve just acquired additional office space. We’ve got the floor to ourselves now.”
“You must have over two thousand square feet,” Glenda estimated, peering down the
“Mmm, probably,” she said. “Oh—if you want to see Mr. Blackman, he’s out of the office today. I’ve already buzzed Mr. Henson. You can go ahead in. Fourth door down, on your left. Just past his secretary’s.”
The floor of the hallway, although of high quality parquet, could have used a good
waxing, Glenda thought. The observation made her feel prissy. She banished it.
Henson’s door was half open. There were two men in his office: one sitting behind the
desk, and one standing in front of it with his back to Glenda. The man behind the desk rose from his chair.
“Come in. You must be Glenda Fieldston. Jack Henson.” He extended his hand as she
approached and the second man turned.
Henson, Glenda knew, was about the same age as Crowley, but while the years had
sculpted Crowley’s face, they had inflated Henson’s, obliterating his jawline. “Hi,”
she said, grasping his hand firmly. The younger man in Henson’s office was moderately tall, with a pleasant face: brown eyes, a nose with a prominent bridge, a slightly asymmetric smile. “I hope I’m not
interrupting anything,” she said, addressing him.
“Not at all,” Henson replied for him. “Oh, sorry. This is Eugene Lerman, overworked
editor. Take the lady’s coat, Gene.”
“Glad to meet you, Miss, uh, Mrs—say! Aren’t you—”
“Glenda’s fine,” she said.
“Aren’t you the woman—”
“Lerman—you’re Meredith’s father!”
“—from the museum?”
“You long lost cousins or something?” Henson interjected.
Eugene grinned, offering Glenda his hand. “We nearly met at an anatomy lesson,” he said.
“Our daughters go to the same school,” Glenda submitted, shaking Eugene’s
“What a delightful coincidence,” Henson remarked, with a touch of sarcasm.
Eugene reached out to help Glenda off with her coat, but she beat him to it. She could see him hesitate before placing it on the rack with Henson’s old umbrella and spare sweater.
“What brings you to our hallowed halls?” he asked.
“Glenda’s here to see we’re optimally computerized,” Henson explained, caressing the place where he might have worn a tie.
“Don’t let me hold up the stampede of progress—I was just leaving,” Eugene said,
taking a pile of galley proofs from the desk.
“You’re okay on Dr.Thayer’s article, then,” Henson said.
“You’ll have it by the deadline?”
“I’ll have the translation ready by tomorrow.”
“Oh?” Glenda was impressed. “What language are you translating from?”
“Bad English,” Eugene said, backing out of the office. “Ciao.”
“Have a seat, Glenda,” Henson said, pointing to the only one free from papers and mail. “I apologize for the commotion around here. What a time for my doctor to order me to quit
smoking—you wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette, would you?”
“I don’t smoke.”
“Damn. You sure?” He rummaged in his bottom desk drawer, unsuccessfully.
“Isn’t this a smoke-free environment?” Glenda asked.
“Of course. What a stickler you are. I only wanted a puff.” He slammed shut the
“Ah, well, onward to distraction. I’m going to give you a rundown on what we do
here, and then we’ll call on the office manager, Harriet Vickers, who will tell
you her side of the story.”
“Very good.” Glenda removed a notepad from her bag.
“I’m all ears.”
As Henson progressed with his briefing, Eugene, two doors down, waded through the
convoluted prose of Dr. Morton Thayer describing his techniques of pre-surgical
consultation. The article had been accepted by a physician on the editorial board with the understanding that all participles would be undangled before publication. Midway through a sentence that grammatically placed a neo-vascular growth on a patient’s bill rather than on his retina, Eugene was interrupted by an office assistant, Connie Falls.
“Excuse me, Eugene, but I’m going to lunch now. Will you be going out, or do you want
me to bring you back a sandwich?”
“A roast beef on rye would be great, Connie. Thanks.” He started to reach for his
“Never mind, I trust you,” Connie said, her little heart-shaped mouth curling into a
Eugene liked Connie. She was an easy person to co-exist with. There was something
vulnerable and nothing arresting about her. She was 5’ 2”, heavy-chested and hippy, with a round face and an upturned nose like an editor’s caret. She was twenty-three, and she took pride in her work.
She deserved more attention, he thought. Unfortunately, however, about a month
ago he had made the mistake of giving it to her, and he had regretted it ever since.