فصل 01

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فصل 01

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER ONE

‘We want your voting stock, Doug’

Outside the window boats sailed up and down the River Harb. In the clear October air, orange and gold leaves screamed their colour against the cold blue sky.

The room was full of cigarette smoke. It hung over the five men like the breath of ghosts. The room was enormous, but it was full now, full of the dirty ash-trays, used glasses and empty bottles left at the end of a long and difficult discussion. The men themselves were as exhausted as the smoky air.

Tired but determined, the men sitting opposite Douglas King hammered out their argument. King listened to them silently.

‘We’re asking you to think about profit, Doug, that’s all,’ George Benjamin said. ‘Is that a lot to ask?’

‘Think of shoes, yes,’ Rudy Stone said. ‘Don’t forget shoes. But think of profit. Granger Shoe is a business, Doug, a business. Profit and loss. The black and the red.’

‘And our job,’ Benjamin said, ‘is to keep Granger in the black. Now take another look at these shoes.’

A thin man, he moved fast and silently to a glass table, which was covered with women’s shoes. He picked one up from the pile and gave it to King.

‘What woman wants to buy a shoe like this?’ he asked. ‘Don’t misunderstand us,’ Stone said quickly. He was a muscular blond man who looked much younger than his forty- five years. ‘It’s a good shoe, a fine shoe, but we’re thinking of profit now.’

‘The red and the black,’ Benjamin repeated. He turned to an older man sitting beside him. ‘Am I right, Frank?’

‘One hundred per cent,’ Frank Blake said, in a thick Southern accent. He blew cigarette smoke at the high ceiling.

‘The American housewife,’ Benjamin said, ‘can’t afford this shoe. But even if she could afford it, she wouldn’t want it. Mrs America, our customer. The stupidest little woman in the world.’

‘We’ve got to excite her, Doug.’

‘You’re a married man, Doug. What excites Mrs King?’

Pete Cameron, King’s assistant, was standing at the bar at the back of the room. He smiled at King, but King did not smile back. He stared at Benjamin.

‘Clothes excite a woman!’ Stone said.

‘Dresses, hats, jackets, bags, shoes!’ Benjamin said, his voice rising.

‘Profit depends on excitement,’ Stone said. ‘You can’t excite a woman with these shoes. There’s just no excitement at all in these shoes!’

The room was silent for a moment.

Then Douglas King said, ‘What are we selling? Shoes or a good time in bed?’

Frank Blake rose to his feet. ‘Doug is making a joke,’ he said. ‘But it’s my money I’m interested in, not jokes. I hold a lot of stock in this company, and I can see now why Granger is almost in the red.’

‘Frank is right, Doug,’ Benjamin said. ‘This is nothing to make jokes about. We have to do something fast to save Granger Shoe.’

‘What do you want from me?’ King asked softly.

‘Now you’re asking the right questions,’ Benjamin said. ‘Give us all another drink, will you, Pete?’

Cameron began mixing the drinks. A tall and handsome man of thirty-five, he moved quickly and watched the others as he worked.

‘All right, Doug,’ Benjamin said. ‘We’re the top men in Granger Shoe. I’m sales chief, you’re production, and Rudy here is fashion and design. We’re all on the board of directors, and we all know what’s wrong with the company.’

‘What’s that?’ King asked.

‘The Old Man.’

‘What does he know about women’s tastes? What does he know about women?’ Stone said. ‘But he’s president of Granger. Year after year, he’s president, because he has enough stock to keep it that way.’

‘And the company goes down and down.’

‘And my stock is worth less and less each year,’ Frank Blake said.

King watched, as Benjamin went quickly to the glass table and picked up a red shoe. ‘Look at this!’ he said. ‘This is what I mean by excitement!’

‘Made up from my own design,’ Rudy Stone said proudly. ‘Take a good look at it, Doug.’

‘Women will love it,’ Benjamin said. ‘What do women know about quality, as long as the shoe looks good?’

King turned the shoe over in his big hands, saying nothing.

‘I know what he’s thinking,’ Stone said. ‘He’s thinking the Old Man would never let Granger make a shoe like that.’

‘But the Old Man won’t have anything to say about it. That’s why we’re here today.’

‘Oh, is that why we’re here?’ King said, smiling. Only Cameron smiled back at him.

‘The Old Man’s got twenty-five per cent of the voting stock,’ Benjamin said.

‘The Old Man’s got twenty-five per cent,’ King said quietly, ‘and you, Rudy and Frank have twenty-one per cent between you. Not enough to fight the Old Man and win. What’s on your mind?’

‘Control,’ Stone said.

‘Control,’ Benjamin repeated. ‘We want your voting stock, Doug. You’ve got thirteen per cent. Come in with us, and we’ll have thirty-four per cent. More than enough to get the Old Man out. How about it, Doug? With a shoe like this one we’ll take control of the cheap end of the market and kill the competition.’

‘George is right,’ Blake said. ‘I don’t care what kind of shoes we sell, as long as we make money.’

‘Who will be the new president?’ King asked.

There was a short silence. ‘We think George Benjamin should be president,’ Stone said.

‘Well now,’ King said dryly. ‘That’s a surprise.’

‘With you as vice-president, of course,’Stone said quickly, ‘at a much larger salary than you get now.’

Douglas King rose slowly to his feet. He was tall, with the hard muscle and wide shoulders of a diver. At forty-two years old, his hair was turning grey, but this only added to the strong character which showed in his face and his blue eyes.

‘You’ll sell a shoe like this, George?’ he asked. ‘You’ll use the Granger name on a cheap shoe?’

‘Yes, that’s right. It’s a good idea, isn’t it?’

‘Profits will be higher,’ Blake said.

‘The Old Man may have faults,’ King said, ‘but he’s always made an honest shoe. You want to make garbage.’

‘Now wait just a second, Doug -‘

‘No, you wait a second! I like Granger Shoe. I’ve worked for this company since I was sixteen. I know shoes. Good shoes. Quality. I won’t put the Granger name on a piece of garbage!’ With one quick movement of his strong hands, he tore the shoe to pieces. ‘Is this what you’re going to sell? To women?’

Blake said angrily, ‘If we can’t make profit with quality, we’ve got to -‘

‘Who can’t make profit with quality?’ King asked. ‘Maybe the Old Man can’t, and maybe you can’t, but -‘

‘Doug, this is business, business.’

‘I know it’s business! It’s my business, the business I love! Shoes are part of my life, and if I make garbage, my life will smell!’

‘I can’t continue to hold stock in a company that’s going downhill,’ Blake said.

‘Then sell out! What the hell do you want from me?’

‘Careful, Doug,’ Benjamin said suddenly. ‘We could vote you out of your job.’

‘Go ahead, vote me out,’ King said.

‘If you find yourself out in the street -‘

‘Don’t worry, I won’t be out in any street.’ King threw the pieces of red shoe on the table, and started to walk towards the door.

‘If you helped me to become president,’ Benjamin said, ‘you would get a much bigger salary. You could . . .’ He stopped. ‘Where are you going? I’m talking to you.’

‘This is my house,’ King said. ‘I’ve had enough of this meeting, and your plans, and I’ve had enough of you! So I’m leaving. Why don’t you leave too?’

Benjamin’s narrow face was red with anger. ‘You don’t want me to be president of Granger, is that it?’ he shouted.

‘That’s it exactly,’ King said.

‘Who the hell do you think should be president?’

‘You just think about it,’ King said, and went out of the room. There was a long silence. Then Benjamin walked over to Pete Cameron, who was standing at the bar.

‘What’s he planning, Pete?’

‘I have no idea.’

‘Don’t play the innocent, Pete,’ Benjamin said. ‘We offered him a plan, and he refused us. He must be feeling strong to do that. What’s he feeling so strong about?’

‘Why don’t you ask him?’

‘Don’t get clever with me, boy. What’s your salary? Twenty, twenty-five thousand? You can do better than that, Pete.’

‘Can I?’

‘What is it? A deal with the Old Man? I want it smashed, and the man who helps me smash it could find himself taking King’s job. Do you know my home telephone number, Pete?’

‘No.’

‘Westley Hills 4-7981. Will you remember it?’

‘I’ve been Doug’s assistant for a long time,’ Cameron said.

‘Then it’s time for a change. Give me a call.’

‘You’re very persuasive,’ Pete said. ‘It’s a good thing I’m an honest man.’

‘Yes, it’s a good thing,’ Benjamin said dryly. ‘That’s Westley Hills 4-7981.’

Stone put on his hat and said, ‘If that bastard King thinks he can . . .’ He stopped, as Diane King came into the room. The men stared at her. Then Stone raised his hat and said politely, ‘Mrs King.’ He went out of the door, followed by Benjamin and Blake.

Immediately, Diane said to Cameron, ‘What did they do to Doug?’

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