The phone rang for the umpteenth time that day. Until now, I’d ignored the ringing but this time well, enough is enough. All my friends and business associates knew never to ring me when I was working so whoever it was ringing was going to get an earful from me.
With a good deal or reluctance, I put down my brush and after wiping my hands I walked to the phone and picked it up.
“Yes!” I said rather sternly.
A voice at the other end said,
“Am I speaking to Liam Bryant?”
Oh shit I thought, I hadn’t heard that name in quite a few years.
“Yes… I was…” before I could finish the sentence, the voice spoke again.
“I’m sorry to have to inform you that your father Maurice Bryant passed away earlier today.”
Oh well the bugger has finally popped his clogs. Done something decent at last I thought to myself. Still, it didn’t concern me as he’d disowned me years before.
“So? What has it to do with me? The bastard disowned me years ago.”
“That is not entirely true Mr Bryant. You are his sole beneficiary. You have to organize the funeral and remembrance service.”
Fuck! Fuck and triple Fuck. He’s managed to get the last word in as usual.
“There will be no remembrance service and you can cut his body up and feed it to the rats for all I care.”
I was not going to be dragged into his world. I’d built a new life for myself and was quite content with things as they were thank you very much.
The voice totally ignored my ranting,
“There are certain formalities that need doing before the body can be buried.”
My patience was wearing thin.
“Who am I speaking to?”
The voice said,
“I’m sorry Mr Bryant, this is Helen Barker, Mr Bryant’s assistant.”
For the first time, I realised that she sounded like she was rather cut up about the episode.
“I expect that my father left very detailed instructions as to what is supposed to happen in the event of his death?”
“That is true.”
“Then what has it got to do with me then?”
“My Bryant, you don’t understand, everything requires your presence.”
“What will happen if I refuse? Will his body be left to rot somewhere?”
Ms Barker started to sound a little desperate.
“If you don’t take control, the company is to be liquidated and everyone will lose their jobs. The…”
Bastard. He’s done this deliberately. Just to get me to take over from him. Why couldn’t he let me live my life in peace? I hated him when he threw me onto the streets with not a penny in my pocket and I hated him even more now that he was dead.
“Very well. Are Gilberts, Davies & Rice handling his will?”
“Yes they are.”
“Good, I will deal with them”
“Mr Bryant! Please you must come to the office. The old Mr Bryant was trying to stop the sale of the business to Spitbrook Publishing. If they get control we will all be out of a job within an hour.”
I knew about the business practices of that Company. One of my friends was a writer who’s publisher had been taken over by that bunch and suddenly found himself without a book deal and rumours flying around that he was a drunkard. All they wanted were the grandfather rights to the copyrights they held. They were not interested in new works at all. Spitbrook Publishing had a reputation as Slashers and Burners in the Publishing world.
“Very well. I will come to the office at eight this evening. I only want to meet the lawyers, the board of directors and yourself.”
“Thank you Mr Bryant. You don’t know how much this means to all of us.”
Year right. Wait until I get finished with you all there won’t be a company left to work for. I was really angry.
I hung up without answering her.
I sat down for a few minutes trying to calm down and trying to plan what to do next. My carefully ordered and controlled life had just been ruined by my pig dog bastard of a father. In the words of god old Queen Vic, ‘I was not amused’.
I looked at the clock and tried to plan what when and how for my journey to London. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had better get a move on.
It took me almost an hour to shower, do my hair, put on make-up, get dressed, feed Churchill, my slightly psycho cat and pack a small suitcase for my trip to London. My last job was to slip a note under my next-door neighbours door asking him to feed Churchill for me while I was away. Then I got in my car and drove to Wool and the train to London.
I switched on the radio in an attempt to think of something other than my hatred for my father when the news came on.
“The media and publishing world is today mourning the death of Maurice Bryant, the enigmatic founder and chairman of Bryant Media and Publishing. It is understood that his death is not being treated as suspicious.”
I snapped off the radio and nearly hit a traffic island in the process. I was in no mood to hear sycophantic hacks ranting on about what a great man he was. I knew differently.
Thankfully, I managed to get a pair of seats to myself on the London train. I was in no mood to stare at some stranger for the next two hours.
At Waterloo, all the evening paper stands proclaimed ‘Media Tycoon Dead’. I could see my father’s ugly chiselled features on the front page. I didn’t accept a copy even though one was thrust in my direction. My thoughts were on finding a taxi.
I jumped in the first one and said to the driver,
“Bryant House, Bloomsbury please.”
Although the poor man tried I wasn’t interested in striking up a conversation about the death of my father.
In the end, I felt a bit sorry for the cabbie as we pulled up outside the building so I gave him a little bigger tip that he was expecting. There was a phalanx of reporters and media crews camped outside.
“Excuse me please,” I said to a film crew as I tried to make my way to the front door of what was now my empire.
In the end, I asked one reporter,
“What are you lot doing here?”
“We are waiting for the son of Maurice Bryant to arrive. We are hoping to get a statement from him about his plans for the company especially in the light of the greatly reduced offer from Spitbrook Publishing.”
I smiled back.
“Thanks. If you ask me, he should just close the place down. The world is a better place for his death.”
“Can I quote you on that?”
“Yeah, go on. My name is Emily Cromwell. That’s with two L’s.”
I left him writing in his notebook and climbed up the steps to the front door on the building. A few photographers took a picture of me but when they realised I wasn’t who they were looking for they gave up. Part of me felt pleased and part of me felt a bit cheated. I soon put that to the back of my mind as I entered the Foyer.
There was one security guard standing by the doors.
“Can I help you Miss?”
“Yes, I smiled. I have some papers for the lawyers who are meeting her tonight.”
“Who might they be, if you don’t mind my asking? We have has all sorts of press trying to blag their way in here tonight.”
“Certainly, they are Gilberts, Davies & Rice of Chancery Court.”
“Very well Miss, you may go up. I think everyone is in the Boardroom.”
I breathed a sigh of relief in that I’d used my ‘Pilots Case’ as my overnight bag. It looked like it could contain lots of legal files.
The lift journey was all too short as I tried to sort out what I was going to say to the men in suits I was about to meet. I knew one thing for sure and that was whoever tipped the press off was going to be out of the door in an instant.
The lift door opened and I viewed an empty corridor. The boardroom was at the far end of it so I started walking towards it, the sound of my heels echoing in it emptiness.
When I reached the door I stopped and took a few deep breaths. Then I opened the door.
The chattering that was going on inside stopped in an instant. I walked into the boardroom to a sea of startled faces.
“Can we help you Miss?” asked one man. I had no idea who he was. I didn’t care. My eyes were on Charlie Dobson. He was standing at the top end of the table. Charlie had started the company with my father many years before I was born. He was a drunken womaniser and sadly he was also my godfather.
All the eyes in the room were upon me as I made straight for Charlie. I had no idea what his role in the company was these days but he was the first person to be shown the door. He’d turned me away when my father had thrown me out all those years ago. Now it was my turn.
I stopped in front of him and smiled.
“Are you in the right place Miss? This is a private meeting.”
“Yes Charlie. It is one to which I’m invited.”
He did a double and a triple take.
“I don’t believe it,” he cried and went white as a sheet. He collapsed into a chair.
“Just who the hell are you?” demanded another man.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Stephen Connors, the Company Secretary.”
I smiled. I needed him.
I turned to address the men in suits that were staring at me. There wasn’t a woman amongst them.
“Gentlemen, my name is Emily Cromwell. I used to be Maurice’s son, Liam.”
There was silence in the room so I continued.
“I am sure that when Charlie has recovered, he will confirm this fact.”
“Now down to business. Who tipped off the press that I was coming here tonight?”
No one moved a muscle.
“Come on. One of you must have done it. This was supposed to be a private meeting. Instead we have half of the media teams in London camped outside.”
A few eyes turned toward a man in his thirties.
“I suppose I did.”
“My father was known as hire and fire Bryant. Well, I’m firing you right now for gross misconduct. IF you breathe a word of who I am to that lot of piranhas outside you won’t get a penny in redundancy understand?”
The man nodded meekly and left the room.
“I want it to be known right from the beginning that I am looking for a way to dissolve the company as soon as possible. This company has no ethics and it right down there with the Daily Star as far as journalism goes. I hate to think what the headlines will be when the news room gets to know that a Transvestite is in charge. Make no bones Gentlemen, all of you are on borrowed time so I’d start looking for that new job right away. And don’t go thinking you can offload any share options between now and the opening tomorrow because if you do I’ll have great pleasure in dobbing you into to the SFO and the FSA. Right, I now declare this board meeting closed so get the fuck out of my sight. I only want the lawyers to remain.”
“You can’t do this,” came a chorus of objections from the members of the board.
“I can and I have. You lot are nothing more than a bunch of useless hangers on so get out of here NOW!”
One by one they slowly left the room muttering to themselves. Four men remained behind.
“I take it you are the people from Gilberts, Davies & Rice?”
“Yes. I’m David White, this is Peter Jones, John Gilberts and Andrew Waite.”
“Please take a seat Gentlemen and we can get down to business.”
The all sat down and placed weighty folders of paper in front of them.
“Ok, who wants to start? How did he die?”
John Gilberts answered,
“He died in bed.”
“Was he with someone?”
“I am afraid he was.”
“So he hadn’t changed even after the heart attach a few years ago?”
“Sadly no he hadn’t.”
I felt glad that he’d gone that way. IT was hi philandering that killed my mother. The final straw for her was finding him in their bed with three topless models. She overdosed a week later and my father didn’t even come to the funeral.
“I was given to understand three things. Firstly that he didn’t write me out of his will as he so vehemently promised, and to add insult to injury he has inserted certain conditions in the will that is basically going to force me to work in an industry I despise and finally, the company is being perused by the leeches of Spitbrook Publishing. Is that a fair summary of the mess I seem to have gotten myself into through no fault of my own?”
There was general agreement that it was correct.
That was when the real meeting began. It didn’t end until well after two the next morning. The upshot was that I was up a creek without a paddle. My dead father had stitched me up totally.
When ,y discussions with the lawyers ended, I peered outside to see if the press were still there. If anything, there were more cameras there now than before. There was nothing to it but to go and face them.
I sent one of the lawyers outside to set things up with the press.
A little before 03:00 I stepped out of the building to a deluge of lights and flash guns going off at fifty to the dozen. I let them have their fill before I started to speak.
“Firstly, can we have all the happy snappers stop wasting memory card space while I talk?”
There was some laughter from the press. I took that as a good sign.
“My name is Emily Cromwell. I am the new Chairman and CEO of Bryant Media. I’d like to deal with three things tonight an then we can all get home to our beds.”
I looked at a single sheet of paper that I was carrying.
“I’d like to deal with the proposed takeover of the company by Spitbrook Publishing. It was reported in the press that they have reduced the amount of their bid by some 30% following the death of my father yesterday. I want to go on public record that I will never allow the sale of the company to that bunch of leeches. I would rather liquidate the company and return the publishing rights to all our works to their authors.”
I looked at the paper again.
“Next, I will continue to run the company until such time as I have fulfilled the terms laid down in my father’s will. Then I will seek to relinquish any and all interest in the company. I will naturally make sure that the transition is orderly.”
The lawyers had insisted that I say that.
“Finally, and before you all ask, I was once upon a time the son of Maurice Bryant, He threw me out on the street the day after my sixteenth birthday without a penny to my name. He did this after I told him that I hated his guts for what he’d done to my mother and that I wanted to become a woman. In the intervening years I have made a career for myself as a painter and sculptor. When this is all over I will return to that life. Thank you very much for your patience. I am sure you have enough for all your late editions front pages. Goodnight.”
As I turned around, a barrage of verbal questions and flashguns started up once again. I ignored them and went back into the safety of the building.
That night, I was thankful for my father being a randy old sod. He’d a small flat at the top of the building. It had a rear exit that led to an alley in the next street. His passion for ‘boobs on legs’ used to come and go that way. This time, it was my exit from the scene of the my revelations. Once in the street I hailed a cab and directed it to take me to the Park Lane Hilton. I needed to get a few hours sleep before I Addressed the staff later in the day.
I didn’t make an appearance back that the HQ until that afternoon. Thankfully most of the press had packed up and gone onto the next juicy story. Before I returned to the HQ, I went shopping. If I was going to play the part of a CEO for a while then I felt that I should at least look the part.
I was wearing what was at that time, my best suit but that was bought from a chain store some years previously so I decided to go the whole hog and get some clothes made for me. At least I would look the part. I left the hotel just before ten and walked the fairly short distance to Saville Row. While there were still some tailors who catered only for men, there were quite a few that had branched out into women’s outfitting. I chose one and got myself measured up for a full set of dresses and business suits. I was going to become one of the people in suits at least temporarily.
I actually got a bit of a kick about being measured up. Thankfully my paintings had sold well enough for me to indulge myself in some fairly extensive changes to my appearance. I saw myself in the mirror and found myself pretty pleased by the results. I’d had a lot of plastic surgery done to my face so that I looked just like my mother. Originally, I’d intended to meet my father again and rub his nose in it by appearing to be the woman her spurned and subsequently, in my eyes at least killed. In the end, I never got the chance so I changed my hair style and colour and got on with my life. I’d also had some pretty extensive surgery around my waist. I had an awful lot of fat removed over a nine month period. That gave me a waist. The light corset or basque that I wore almost every day ensured that I kept it.
The image that I saw in the mirror and saw a young woman who was finally proud of whom she was. I smiled to myself at the rather pleasant side effect of a death in the family. It had taken that for me to realise that I’d been hiding away for far too long. But, because I was new at this game, I wondered how long I could keep it up the pretence of a confident young woman.
With all the measurements taken and a deposit left with the tailors, I took a cab to Knightsbridge and purchased enough decent clothes to last me a while. Then I returned to the hotel. I wasn’t unduly surprised to find that there were several reporters waiting for me outside. I quickly dashed past them and into the safety of the building.
At 1:30, I emerged in some of my new clothes ready to face the staff at the HQ. I knew that the next few hours were going to be difficult but I was determined to wash away as many traces of my father as possible. The photographers were there once more taking endless shots of me getting into a taxi. I just shook my head in bewilderment. I knew that they were only trying to do their job but several hundred pictures of a ‘tranny’ getting into a taxi in London? What a waste of time.
It was just my luck to climb into a cab where not only did the driver recognise me at the outset but he had a copy of ‘my’ paper on his dashboard.
“Aren’t you the one who’s taken over Bryant Media?” asked the driver as we pulled into Park Lane
“ I saw you on the telly this morning. I have to say and if you don’t mind my language, you had some balls to stand up there like that and say what you did.”
“Thanks. It is nice to know that at least some of what I said was appreciated.”
“I saw that exhibition of your paintings you had on at Tate Modern last year. I liked that Landscape of Lyme Bay. It reminded me of my holidays as a child. We used to stay in a caravan at West Bay.”
“Thank you again for the compliment. I live not that far from there these days.”
The taxi dropped me off right outside the HQ. This time, only a few reporters where hanging around. I dodged them hoping that if I said nothing for long enough, they would give up and go back to pursuing some ‘D’ list celeb who liked flashing everything she had in public. That was most certainly not me by a long chalk.
I entered the HQ and greeted the security people. They had all been briefed about how I looked and for them to be on the lookout for me. Someone was doing their job.
I took the lift up to the top floor and headed along that same corridor as the previous night but instead of going into the boardroom, I turned left into what was not my office or rather the office of my assistant, Helen Barker.
You know how you build up a mental picture of someone when you speak to them on the phone and you are very disappointed when they turn out very different well, this was certainly the case here.
Helen was Miss Congeniality before she got glammed up. I called her look, ‘hiding in plain sight’. I could not imagine my father employing someone whose appearance was… well so ordinary and unattractive. To my artist’s eye, there was a pretty woman in there screaming to get out. Food for thought I said to myself.
“Welcome Ms Cromwell. We are expecting you.”
“Thank you Helen. Did you hear what havoc I reached last night?”
She gave me a smile. I was here and heard it all.”
She smiled again,
“Your father didn’t trust the board so he had some microphones installed into the boardroom just so he could hear what they were saying about him behind his back.”
I smiled, that was very typical of the old bastard.
“What do you think?”
I guessed that she could sense that I was testing her.
“Last night and well, you know what I did and said in my bull in a china shop act.”
“If you don’t mind me speaking a bit out of my place but it was well overdue. Before you arrived, several of the board members were openly discussing selling out to Spitbrook. You certainly put a stop to that.”
I sat down on the edge of her desk and looked her right in the eyes.
“Most of what I said and did last night was pure gut reaction. I am new to this stuff and I don’t intend to stay around long enough to become one of them even though I will have to play their games for a while.”
She didn’t react.
“I need someone to help me sort this mess out. From the little information I have gleaned so far, I understand that my father was more interested in getting into bed with the latest page three girls than moving the business forward. Is this correct?”
She didn’t move a muscle.
“It is not for me to say.”
“Come on Helen, loosen up a bit. I won’t bite your head off if you are open and honest with me.”
She was so buttoned up that she rivalled the vault at the Bank of England for security.
Eventually, she said,
“Yes. Since his heart attack, your father has been living as if every day was his last.”
“Good. Now that wasn’t so hard was it?”
A little shake of the head was all I got back but I thought that it was at least something.
I left her and went into what was now my office. Everywhere I looked I say my father. I couldn’t work in there as it was. Too many bad memories so I bolted back into the outer office.
“Is there another office I can use? That one reminds me too much of HIM”
This time, I got a proper smile from Helen.
“Yes. Let me show you where it is.”
As we walked along the corridor I remarked,
“Get it cleared out. I’ll go through everything when I have time so don’t throw anything away. Then get the decorators in. I don’t like all that horrid dark panelling.”
“I’ll get onto it right away.”
From the tone of her voice, I could tell that Helen was in agreement with my plans.
“While you are at it, you could get your office done as well.”
Now that did produce a reaction from her. She had a really nice smile when she tried.
“But just don’t go overboard on the cost. Keep it simple but practical.”
She was grinning now as we stopped outside a door much closer to the lift.
She opened the door and stepped away.
I didn’t even need to go inside to know that HE had won again. There right in front of me was the very picture that the cabbie had talked about, my landscape of Lyme Bay.
I was close to tears. Was there anything that he had not anticipated? The bastard was probably planning this all along. That was why he was bonking every bit of totty he could. At least he could go out with a smile on his face knowing that he had WON.
I walked into the office. It was perfect for me.
“Who… who did this?” I said pointing at everything?
“One of our graphic designers. A Miss Space, if my memory serves me right.”
“Go and fetch her. I’d like to meet her.”
Helen reverted to her normal assistant role. She looked at her watch and gave a little ‘tut-tut’ of disapproval.
“Aren’t you supposed to be addressing the staff in less than ten minutes?”
She was right, naturally.
“Ok. I’m ready. Let us get this over with.”
We took the lift down to the first floor and where all the HQ Staff were gathering. I knew what I wanted to say but how I was going to say it was a complete mystery to me at that moment.
When everyone was present, I stood up and waited for the room to quieten.
“I want to thank everyone for coming here today. I know you all have things to do so I will keep this short and to the point.”
I looked around the room. There were hardly and women present. I took this in and knew instantly how I was going to introduce change to the organisation.
“As you all know by now, I’d rather I wasn’t here but my father has played a few legal tricks on me in his last will and testament so I am afraid you are stuck with me for the time being. That said, I am not going to let things as they currently stand continue. There are going to be a number of changes both here and in every division of this company. Some of you won’t like those changes. If you don’t like them, you know where the door is.”
There were more than a few murmurs from the audience.
“I notice that there are very few women working here. I can only guess that my somewhat lecherous father was behind all that. Well, that will stop. Women make up more than 50% of the population. It make sense that if the publishing business is going to remain relevant in the 21st century, it will have to be more adaptable. We all know that women are more adaptable than men so it makes sense to have more women involved in the business. I will be instigating a number of policy changes that will be designed to make this company more attractive to women and more relevant to the public at large. Naturally, these policies will be implemented slightly differently in other divisions according to their particular needs. However, don’t let anyone make the mistake that I’m a raving feminist. I am not. I am for social justice and equality so if anyone in this company has any proposals about how we can make this place a better place to work then please don’t hesitate to come forward with them this applies to everyone, both men and women.”
“I will also be looking into changing the articles of incorporation of the whole group. I intend if it is at all possible to turn this company into one modelled on the John Lewis partnership. As you all know that is one where the company is owned equally by all the staff. That is why I want you all to be part of this move for change.”
I swallowed hard. Nearly done.
“I will be issuing a detailed list of proposals for change in due course. Now are there any questions?”
In times like this, no one wants to be first to put their hands up. This must go back to their days at school where no one likes someone who appears to suck up to the teachers.
Eventually, one hand went up.
“I see a question. Will that person please step forward.”
A small timid looking man came forward looking highly embarrassed by the whole thing.
“Will there be a change in policies towards Gay and Lesbians?”
“I am not sure what the current policies are but let me say this at the outset. I will not have any discrimination or bullying towards Gay or Lesbian employees. You all know that I am a transsexual so I am from this day forth, extending that policy to include Transsexuals. That also applies to the use of the toilets. If a man comes to work here wearing female clothes then they are allowed to use the women’s toilets. The same goes the other way naturally.”
The man looked a lot happier.
“Any more questions?”
Another hand went up and a man came forward. I vaguely recognised the face from somewhere but couldn’t place it.
“What about the bid from Spitbrook?”
“As I said last night, as far as I’m concerned, they can go to hell. Add to that, the intention to convert this company into one that is owned by the staff, I think you can safely say that their bit is a dead duck.”
Then I added for some reason I could not understand why.
“Do you have a particular reason to ask that question”?
“Yes. I am a writer and fear what they are doing to the business. It appears that they are nothing more than slash and burn outfit. I really don’t want my works to end up under their control.”
I smiled back at him.
“Most excellently put if you ask me. Please make an appointment to see me through my assistant Helen. I would like to re-negotiate all of our writers contracts to include a clause that would allow them to buy back the rights to their works should they be about to fall into the hands of a company like that. How does that sound?”
I grinned to myself. There was nothing like making policy decisions on the hoof. I felt exhilarated.
The man was standing with his mouth open. I took that to mean that he was amazed.
“Good. Are there any more questions?”
The room was strangely silent.
“Ok. Thanks for coming and don’t forget to come forward with your ideas for the company.”
I sat down and let everyone file out. Soon, only Helen remained behind.
“How do you think that went?”
“You must have been thinking about these things for sometime?”
I laughed and shook my head.
“Nope. Doing all this was not even on my horizon before your phone call yesterday.”
“But… you seem so natural.”
That worried me. Was I in danger of turning into my father already?
“Helen, I am an artist not a CEO. If you see me turning my father you must tell me. Do you promise?”
She gave a little smile.
“You are so like him in many ways.”
“Stop right there. I am not like him at all. He threw me out onto the street and turned my whole family against me. Even though he is dead he is still messing with my head and I don’t like it. This is how he was at home before… Before he killed my mother. I am my own person.”
“Yes just like him.”
I glared at her. She took the hint.
I returned to my new office and looked around. It certainly appeared that my hated father had taken an interest in my career in the latter part of his life. In addition to my painting hanging on the wall, there was a collection of sketches and charcoal drawings that I’d sold a few years earlier. I knew that they’d been sold to a good number of different buyers so I was amazed that he’d tracked them down and collected them. Unless… No he couldn’t have. Oh, how I hated him. He must have used ringers to buy the works on his behalf. He was pure shit! Why couldn’t he leave me alone? He’d made it abundantly clear when he kicked me out that he wanted out of his life for good. Was it possible that in later years he’d changed his mind? I told myself not to go down that road as I knew in my heart that it would only lead to a lot of misery for me. The fact that he was playing me all along was bad enough but this was just too much.
Then I became aware of someone standing in the door to my office. I looked from my nasal gazing to see a young woman standing there. To say that she was striking would be an understatement. He had two snakes tattooed on her head. Her eyes formed their gaping mouths as if they were going to strike you that instant. I could see what looked like their bodies coiled around her neck.
“I was told that you wanted to see me?”
I smiled back.
“Yes, if you are responsible for this?” I said pointing at the room.
“Yes, I put it together under orders from your father.”
“When did all this happen?”
“Oh, about a year ago.”
That was not long after his heart attack. Things were starting to make sense.
“Please come in and sit down.”
She shut the door and sat on the other side of the desk from me. She looked nervous so. She was dressed part Goth, part Punk. Her head was shaved clean apart from a long pony tail that she started fiddling with. Yes, she was nervous.
“My assistant said that your name was ‘Space’. That is an unusual name?”
“It is actually Blank Space. My parents could not make up their minds what to call me so the story goes that they threw a dart at a load of papers. It ended up sticking into something that read ‘Fill in your details in the Blank Space below.”
Wow, that was certainly different.
“I’d like you to do the same to his old office and to his assistants one as well. Can you work with her to settle on a scheme?”
She didn’t reply right away. When it did come, it wasn’t what I expected.
“She’s a bit up tight if you don’t mind me saying so.”
She was a one off all right.
I thought for a few seconds,
“Blank? Between you and me, I totally agree with you. I’m going to have to work with her so how do you suggest that we loosen her up a bit?”
It was then that I noticed the paint on her hands.
“Are you an artist like me?”
“Not in your league though. Maybe one day I could mount an exhibition but… who knows.”
Oh shit. I’d forgotten about that. I had lots of work to complete for my forthcoming exhibition. Then I made another decision of the hoof.
“How about I fund a gallery for you?”
The look of surprise on her face was immense.
“Let me be honest with you. I did have a show coming up in two months but I’m nowhere near ready. Then I get thrown in at the deep end like this and I have gallery space booked. The owner will be livid with me and will probably find it difficult to fill at such short notice. So if I pay the expenses of the gallery can you fill it?”
“But you don’t know what my work is like? It could be total crap for all your know?”
“Look Blank, if you have the balls to wear that fantastic tattoo then your work can’t be all that bad. I’ll tell you what, when I’m finished here today, you can show me what you have. If it is crap then no harm done ok?”
This brought a little smile to her face.
“Deal?” I asked.
“Deal,” came her reply.
Blank’s ‘gaff’ as she called it was right on Brick Lane. I hadn’t been in that area for a long time and was a far better place now than when I was living homeless around Spitalfields market all those years ago.
She lived in a small flat above a Bagel Shop.
“This is it,” she announced proudly, “such as it is.”
“What’s so funny?” she asked in a slightly offended tone.
“I lived around here when my father kicked me out. Mostly around Spitalfields but the Bagel Shop hasn’t changed at all. Did you know that this place was used by local prostitutes?”
Any anger she had vanished in an instant.
“That explains some of the men asking me ‘how much for a quickie’?”
We both giggled.
“My studio such as it is, is in here,” she said leading the way through her bedroom into a small room some 8ft wide by about 12ft long. A single window lit up the place. The only other illumination was provided by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling.
Blank pulled a sheet off a stack of canvasses.
“Here you go, let me know how bad they are.”
I bent down and started going through them. I went through them quickly at first just to get an overall picture of her work. As I pushed them all back in place, she said,
“There, that didn’t take long did it? They are shit aren’t they?.”
“Don’t be too hasty. That was just a quick review. Now I need to look at them in more detail.”
“Take your time. I’m going to put the kettle on. Fancy some tea?”
I smiled back at her.
“Tea would be fine thanks.”
When she’d gone, I let out a breath. I’d just found a goldmine of unbelievable work. They were all very erotic and mostly were of two women in positions that could only have come out of the karma sutra. They were all ‘Pen and Ink’ drawings but the simplicity of the medium only served to enhance the appeal of the work. I’d willingly pay £500 for one of these. I counted them. There were more than thirty in total. Ms Blank Space was very talented. I put them back and went in search of her.
She was in what passed for an apology of a kitchen.
“Well? Just how crap are they?”
“Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
She sighed and replied,
“Get it over with, the bad news.”
“The bad news is that if you don’t shift them soon, the damp will ruin them.”
“Yeah. The place is a shit hole but it is all I can afford round here. So what’s the good news?”
“I could see a good few of them going on sale at the gallery for a grand or even more.”
“Now you are kidding me. Come on stop fooling. What are they really worth?”
I could tell that she needed a second opinion.
“Let me make a phone call first.”
I pulled my mobile out of my bag and called the gallery. I prayed that the owner was still there. After three rings, it was answered.
“Hi Jake, Emily here.”
“I’m fine. You did? Am I CEO material?”
“Jake, I need your opinion on some work. Can I come round with the artist and some samples?”
“Yes, now or you in so much of a hurry to get home to Marcel?”
“We can be there within the hour.”
“Fine, See you soon.”
I hung up. We can forget the tea. Go and select half a dozen of the best and we will go and see what my friend Jake has to say.
Blank just stood there with her mouth open in amazement.
“You aren’t kidding are you?”
“Blank, when it comes to the price of art, I am deadly serious.”
She literally ran into the room and collected six of her best pieces.
We took the tube to Sloane Square. I watched the reaction to her tattoos from the other passengers. A group of giggly Japanese or possibly Korean girls insisted upon taking her picture with each of them posing by her side. She probably got this reaction wherever she went. There must be a story behind it, one that I was determined to find out but that could wait for now.
Almost an hour on the dot, we walked through the door of the gallery. The owner Jake was there with his coat on ready to head home. His reaction was a mixture of ‘oh shit they are here’ and amazement at Blank’s appearance.
“Jake, this is Blank, Blank Space, Blank, meet Jake the owner of this fair gallery and who is supposed to be putting on a show of my work in two months.”
“Blank? Is that really your name?”
“And what is this ‘supposed show’ are you going to do it or not?”
He gave me a shitty look.
“We can talk about that later. I, or rather Blank has some work she’d like to show you.”
His whole attitude was one of ‘I’d rather be somewhere else’. I knew that wouldn’t last long when he saw the items.
Blank took the canvasses out of the large canvass bag she’d carried them in. Even before they had been put down Jake went all dolally.
He came out with his usual stock set of phrases he used when he was really impressed with something. “Oh my god. These are fantastic. Where have you been hiding all this time?”
“How many more like this do you have?” he asked.
“More than twenty, why?”
“I want to show them. Please tell me that no one else has seen them?”
“No. They are all mine.”
He looked towards heaven and uttered a silent prayer.
“Now Jake, calm down for a moment. That top one. How much value you put on it?”
“Ever practical is Emily. She is a wise biddy.”
I loved it when Jake talked like that.
He looked at the canvas once more.
“Easily two, maybe two and a half.”
”No honey, Two Thousand and I do like that tat. It is very original. I could sell that for a lot of money.”
Blank was about to protest but realised that he was joking.
“Are you serious, really serious?”
“Look darling, genuine erotic art like this is in very short supply.”
I took my chance.
“Jake, I was thinking that if I funded the expenses, Blank could use my slot for a show?”
He thought about it for a moment then a light bulb went on inside his brain.
“Fantastic, absolutely bloody marvellous. Great new artist show sponsored by Emily Cromwell. It will sell out in no time at all.”
“That looks like we have a deal then.”
I turned to Blank,
“What do you think? Are you up for this?”
“What do I have to do?”
“A normal show is forty canvasses. Can you do say another twenty by then? That will allow us to select the best for the show.”
She thought for a while.
“Not if I have to work in the day. And I’ll need to hire the models and,”
Then an idea hit me. I was getting rather a lot of them at the moment.
“Why don’t you use my studio in Dorset? I’m going to be up here most of the time at the moment. You can feed the cat as well. His name is Churchill.”
Blank was giving me the drowning fish impression.
“Look, if the show is a failure, there is always your job at Bryant’s to fall back on. If it is a success then you probably won’t be coming back. Are you game for this?”
“I don’t know,” came her reply.
“I was just the same when I was offered my first show. Now my pieces go for…” cue Jake.
“One of Em’s little daubles went for eighty grand about a year ago.
“So what will it be?”
“Ok I’ll do it,” she said rather reluctantly.
I left Blank to take the tube home while I took a cab back to the hotel. As I stared out the window, I got to thinking about some more mundane matters, like where was I going to live while I was in London. There was no way I was going to use my fathers house or his ‘bonking’ pad on the roof at the HQ. There was nothing for it but I’d have to rent somewhere for the next six months. I didn’t have a clue as to when I’d find the time to do it. That little problem could wait for another day as my stomach let out a rumble that said, ‘feed me please’, breakfast was a long time ago.
I took Blank down to Dorset the following weekend and got her settled in to my studio. She was most impressed with my barn. I’d bought my half of the farmhouse a few years previously. It came with a number of outbuildings. I’d only used the barn to store any some of my larger items of art. Most of these were metal. My original intention was to renovate the place and use it as a large studio. Somehow I’d never gotten around to it. I could tell from the minute she walked into the place she was sizing it up as a location to work. I had to admit that it was pretty attractive. If you opened the main doors you had a view over the hills almost to the sea. That view was one of the main reasons why I’d been attracted to the place in the beginning.
My cat, Churchill thankfully took to Blank right away which was a good sign. I also introduced her to my neighbour, James Harvey. James is an Architect so spends a good deal of time away from home as most of his clients are in places like Dubai or Bahrain.
His first words to me when we showed up on his doorstep were,
“Now I know why you never hooked up with me. Why didn’t you tell me?”
That was a question that could wait for another time.
I stayed down in Dorset until the Monday morning. When I came down from my bedroom, Blank was walking around the kitchen stark naked. Only she wasn’t quite. Her body was almost covered in a reptilian tattoo. He breasts were the mouths of two cobras and the pattern around her private parts was indescribable.
“Wow!” I said when I saw her.
“Yeah, it is all the work of my ex boyfriend.”
I noticed the use of the word ‘ex’
“I take it you are not with him any longer?”
“Nah. I told him that when he’d done my eyes, that was it but he wanted to cover me completely in scales. “
“Do you like it?”
“It is not a case of liking it but living with it.”
“But do you like it?”
“Sometimes I’d like to get the stuff on my head removed but other times, I wish that I was completely covered.”
Then she chuckled. I looked at her inquisitively.
“I was just remembering these gloves he had made for me. They were like a second skin only all the fingers were webbed and the nails were like claws. They were cool to wear for a while but I couldn’t draw properly in them so I got him to take them off.”
“Couldn’t you take them off yourself?”
“No. The bastard had incorporated a lock in them and he kept the key. He said that as I wouldn’t let him cover me entirely this was the next best thing. He also made me a mask but I flatly refused to wear that. A girl has her limits you know. It would have made me look like a complete plonker.”
We chatted for a while longer until I realised that I had a meeting in London so I made my excuses and got ready to return to London.
My Assistant Helen took me aside as soon as I got into the office.
“We may have a strike of our hands.”
This was the last thing I needed.
“What has happened?”
“Two male members of staff turned up for work today looking like prostitutes and demanding to be called Tiffany and Charlene.”
“I take it that they aren’t serious then.”
“Far from it. The women on the 2nd floor are refusing to let them into their toilet.”
“Ok, I’ll deal with this.
I headed down to the 2nd floor and found the two men still trying to get into the women’s toilet.
“What is going on here?” I asked.
“We are demanding our right to use the women’s washroom,” said one of them.
“We aren’t letting them in,” said one of the women barring the way.
“Well ladies, I do not like us fighting like this. How about this?”
They all looked at me.
“You two,” I said referring to the men “can use the women’s toilet on the 4th floor. There are no women working on that floor at the moment. If by some strange chance, you are still coming to work dressed like that by say this time next week, I would expect you to have informed HR that you were changing your names. Then when you are officially ‘women’ on our payroll then you can use this toilet. If on the other-hand, you decide to return to coming to work as boring old men then the question will be moot but you will buy flowers for the women’s toilets for the next moth as a way of saying sorry for being… well, you can insert what adjectives you like. Does that sound like a good idea?”
There were no objections so Helen and I returned to my new office.
“Despite what you say, you are good at this.”
“Good at what?”
“Being a boss.”
“I don’t want to be a boss.”
“That is probably why you are so good at it.”
Helen just smiled.
A week later I buried my father in the family plot. There was a stream of long legged blonds all tearfully saying goodbye to him at the funeral. I had to give him one thing and that was his ability to shag women.
I carried on with the reorganisation of the company. The News Division were the hardest to crack but in the end, even they caved in. I had a good supply of suggestions for improving the business from,’ you need to get laid’ to some very good ones indeed.
I’d rented a house in Notting Hill for six months. I really hoped that I would complete my work with the company by then and that I could return to being just a plain old artist. The Saville Row tailors did themselves proud with the business skirts and dresses they made for me. It felt good in the morning putting on such well-made garments that I broke with habit and for the first time in my life as a woman, I even bought some decent underwear.
Being measured for a bra was an uplifting experience in my life and one that I’ll never forget.
The new wardrobe meant that I had to buy a whole lot of new shoes. Back home, five or six pairs were more than enough. Now I ‘needed’ at least two pairs per day. Finally, I got my hair properly coloured and styled and that coupled with new makeup and coloured contact lenses, I felt like a new woman.
Even Helen commented positively about my new look despite the fact that she seemed to wear the same grey trouser suit to work every day. Still, I felt good about myself and that is what mattered.
Despite the pressure of work, I returned to Dorset as often as I could. Blank was had finished producing forty drawings for the show. I knew that it would be a success. Now the problem was what was she going to wear to the opening? The same question applied to myself and to Helen.
Helen? Now that was a problem. Despite her numerous protestations along the lines of ‘I don’t go to such things’, ‘I’m not an art lover’,’ Mr Bryant would not…’ and even ‘I won’t know anyone there’, I finally got her to agree to come along. My next hurdle will be what to wear and her overall appearance.
The weekend before the big opening I broached the subject to Blank.
“What about Helen? She has agreed to come but what is she going to wear?”
“I know. It is a problem isn’t it.”
“I’m going to send her to a friend of mine for a makeover. I know he’d love to work on you.”
“I’m a lost cause and you know it.”
Then she smiled.
“Besides, I have someone to bring.”
This was news to me.
“Ok, who is he?”
“If name is Douw. He’s a South African and he makes wearable art.”
“Wearable Art? To my mind, wearable art is jewellery.”
“He goes a lot further than that. Most of them are much larger pieces. If you ask me, he is into a bit of BSDM and his so called wearable art is nothing more than bits of bondage. I saw him rivet a breastplate onto a woman. It took her ages to get out of it. He just laughed.”
“I take it you two aren’t an item then?”
Blank just looked at me and laughed.
“He’d eat you for breakfast but no we aren’t. He helped me after I’d split with, you know who”.
I knew who she meant.
“I wouldn’t mind having some hair though,” said Blank out of the blue.
Then I had an idea.
“Stay right there. I’ll be back in a minute.”
We were in the barn sorting through the catalogue and making sure all the work was properly labelled.
I dashed back to the cottage and did some rapid flinging open of drawers and cupboards. Within a minute, my normally super tidy bedroom was looking like it had been trashed by a herd of elephants but eventually, I found what I was looking for and headed back to the barn.
Blank was as was normal for her stark naked. She called her tattoos her suit of many colours which always amused me. I put everything down of a table and called her over.
“Don’t argue, I want to see what you look like ok?”
She just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘whatever’.
I gave her a bra to put on.
“I haven’t worn one of these in years.”
I just glared and she put it on.
Then I handed her a pair of 150 denier tights. I knew every trying to get her to wear knickers was a lost cause.
I put down a sheet onto the floor and pulled over a chair for her to sit on while she put the tights on.
Then I handed her a white silk blouse. It buttoned up the back and while it looked great, it was a pain to put on. I did up the buttons for her and then gave her the dress. It was black, knee length and with a pinafore style neck that came under her breasts hence the need for a bra. I zipped her up and gave her the shoes. I’d bought these on a whim a few years previously. They were red patent Mary Jayne’s with a decent 4in heel. Finally, I gave her the crowning glory. This was a cloche hat that was almost identical in colour to the lizard skin of her tattoos.
“Well, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, I can’t see myself now can I?”
I took hold of her hand and led her back into the house, up the stairs and into my bedroom. I kicked some discarded clothes out of the way and placed her right in front of the mirror.
“Now? What do you think?”
“It needs some work,” was her reply.
“Yes. A necklace perhaps?”
“Nah. Help me out of this dress and blouse and I’ll show you.”
Slightly mystified, I did as she wanted. Then she disappeared into the spare bedroom which she’d been using while she was staying with me. She soon returned with a cardboard box.
“They are in her somewhere,” she muttered.
“Ah yes. Got you!”
Then she took off the bra and proceeded to insert the items into her pierced nipples.
“I didn’t know you had pierced nipples?”
“I normally don’t wear anything in them. Some fabrics make them itch like mad.”
Then she stepped into the blouse again. I did it up and the same for the dress.
After she’d settled her breasts, the produced a pair of scissors and said,
“I hope you don’t mind me destroying your blouse?”
“Go right ahead. It is a pain to get into on your own.”
With a huge grin on her face, she cut two small slits on the fabric and pulled the rings she’d inserted into he nipples through. The black of the metal was perfect against the brilliant white silk.
“That looks great.”
“I’m not finished yet.”
She went rummaging and pulled out a two lengths of black chain. She slipped one to her left nipple ring and the other to the single the small hoop she wore in her right ear. She repeated the process for the other nipple and ear.
Then she went rummaging again.
“I’ll put these in on the night,” she said producing a pair of contact lenses that would make her eyes look even more snake like.
By now I was grinning from ear to ear.
“What about the shoes”
He looked down at them.
“I’m not really into heels but if I wear them for a few days, my feet will get used to them.”
“You look pretty good.”
“Yeah, I think so too. Thank you.”
Then she put her arms around me and kissed me. She tasted nice but I wasn’t attracted to her in that way.
“That was just to say thanks for everything. You have changed my life completely,” then after a moments reflection, she took my hand and led me downstairs and outside.
“I really don’t want this to end. This place is so peaceful I love it. I really don’t want to go back to Brick Lane. Do you think I could afford a place like this sometime?”
I smiled back at her.
“Yes Blank, I think you could. I don’t think it will be all that long either.”
Just then my neighbour James drove up. He parked his car and wandered over.
He did a double take on Blank before smiling.
“I almost didn’t recognise you for a minute Blank. It is a change to see you with clothes on.”
I looked at the both of them a bit hurt.
“James here has cooked me a meal from time to time.”
“Blank is a remarkable young lady,” remarked James. James is about fifty years old and single.
“I lost a big contract a few weeks ago and I was a bit down. Blank cheered me up no end. Now I must go and start to pack. I’m off to Singapore for the foreseeable future. I’m going to let the house when I get settled over there.”
He turned to go and my mouth engaged a few seconds before my brain.
“Could Blank rent your place?”
He stopped dead in his tracks.
“What a splendid idea. That is if you want it Blank?”
She thought for a second. I could see her eyes darting about all over the place. That was a sure sign the she was in deep thought.
“Well, Ok and as long as I can decorate it?”
I smiled. I knew that she’d do a good job.
“And get some new furniture and stuff?”
James looked at the two of us and nodded his head.
“I think we have a solution.”
Then I said, “What are you doing Friday Night? Will you still be in the country?”
“Yes. I’m not going until Sunday afternoon. Why?”
“Will you do me the honour of going to Blank’s opening as my guest?”
He beamed a smile back at us.
“It would be my honour to accompany you.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. That was one less problem to deal with.
The big day arrived and everything was already in place. Blank and James were going to stay over at my rented house.
I’d been and bought a long black silk evening dress that fitted where is clung and it clung a lot. It was more of a sheath that a dress. I was going to have to go commando as even my tiniest thong showed up through the thin material.
In the middle of the afternoon, I took Helen for her makeover. We went to Sam Plunkett’s place in Soho. Sam was a make-up artiste par excellence. Most of the time he worked in TV and Film but I thought even he would find Helen a challenge.
In the end I bought her a dress as a way of saying thanks for all the help she’d been giving me in the art of running a multi-million pound business and despite her constant protestations that I was good at it, she had become my rock.
I’d chosen a bright red off the shoulder number by Nicole Farhi. I’d teamed it up with some fairly low heels and some sheer seamed stockings. I giggled to myself at what she’d say when she saw them. I’d also purchased a matching shoulder bag and shawl to complete the outfit.
Helen was good as gold as Sam went at first totally bonkers when he let down her hair. It reached right down to her waist. Then he sank into despair at the huge numbers of split ends in said hair.
In the end he trimmed about an inch off the length. He also made a fringe that ended just above the eyebrows. Helen had beautiful eyes and Sam was going to make the most of them in his make-over. He then dyed her hair a radiant golden blonde while his assistants attended to her nails.
What was the reaction to her new look?
“I feel such a fraud?” as she looked out through her fluttering false eyelashes.
Meanwhile I’d been done over as well. I was now almost platinum blonde. Sam was going for the Jayne Mansfield look with my hair and makeup. I had to say that I loved it.
I was wearing some long false eyelashes as well. Sam had warned me that he would be applying them so I’d been practicing at home. Even so, my lids felt tired by the time we reached my rented house in Notting Hill where we would all meet up and get ready.
Right on time at seven, the limo that I’d ordered arrived and three well dressed ladies and one rather dapper older man got in. We were off.
Blank’s escort for the evening was pacing up and down anxiously outside the gallery when we drove up in out Limo. He almost didn’t recognise her when she stepped out of the car. When he realised who it was his eyes lit up. I made the introductions and we went into the gallery.
Jake and his partner Marcel was pacing up and down like two expectant fathers. This was normal for them so I didn’t worry. I knew that this would be a success before the doors opened on the dot of 8pm.
When all the invited guests were inside, I said a few words.
“Tonight was originally going to be my show. I recognise many of you from previous shows of mine at this gallery so I hope you won’t be too disappointed. When I saw the work of Blank in a damp bedsit in Brick Lane, I knew in an instant that we have a new star ready to be launched on the art scene in this country. Her work might not be to everyone’s taste but even if it isn’t I am sure that you will agree that she has a huge amount of talent and will go a long way. Without further ado, I declare this show open.”
At that moment, all the covers that had been hiding the drawings were removed. There were a few gasps as people recognised the theme of her work. Then to my immense pleasure, someone started applauding. It quickly spread to almost everyone in the gallery. I looked across at Blank and she was shaking from pleasure.
Blank was soon talking to the few journalists that had been invited to the opening. I steered Helen away from a notorious lecher of an art critic and left her with Blank’s guest Douw. Then I stepped back into the shadows. It was not my time to hog the limelight.
By the end of the evening, almost all the drawings had little blue stickers attached to them. Blank was going to be pretty satisfied with the result. Jake was so sure of her ability, he’d started the prices of at a cool £2000 and went up as high as £5000. These figures were unheard of for a new artist. Helen had spent the whole evening being spellbound by Douw. I felt happy for her yet a little sad for me. Seeing her tonight and how utterly ravishing she looked had made me realise that I fancied her something rotten. I had to admit to myself that I was jealous as hell.
We all went back to my house for an after show party. The perfect evening was only ruined by some bastard photographer taking my photo as we left the gallery. They were only interested in me which pissed me off no end.
Still, the champagne flowed well into the early hours. In the end, I just collapsed onto my bed and slept the sleep of a happy person.
The following morning saw a few sore heads in my kitchen. James headed off just before lunchtime taking Blank back to Dorset with him. Suddenly, the house was quiet again. Only Helen remained strangely silent.
“Is there anything the matter Helen?”
“I don’t know?”
I sat down next to her. Oh god she smelt good.
“I don’t want this to end,” she said in almost a whisper.
“I take it you enjoyed yourself last night?”
“I didn’t think I would but I did. Thank you.”
“You were getting on like a house on fire with Douw.”
“He’s a nice guy. He wants to show me some of his art. He says I’d make a great model for it.”
I was in two minds about telling her what Blank had tome me about him. In the end I decided not to.
“Do you fancy him then?”
“Me? No. He’s a nice guy but not really my type.”
My mouth got into gear before my brain as I said,
“What is your type?”
She looked me right in the eye and said, “You.”
I was stunned.
“These past months have been really hard for me. You come waltzing into the company claiming you know nothing about management and calmly proceed to take the place apart and put it back together again. In case you haven’t noticed it, all the staff adores you. I do too. I have been there with you as you seem to make odd decisions that later turn out to be perfectly correct. Every time you do that, I fancy you even more. You are good looking and are… Damm it Emily, I’m in love with you.”
I’d never heard even half a swear word from her. Then she comes out and tells me that she loves me in my own kitchen and we haven’t even dated. Now that was a turn up for the books.
“But you never gave any indication to me that you were even interested? You even tried to get out of going to the opening last night.”
She looked sad.
“I know but it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
It took me a second to trig what she’d just said.
“What wasn’t supposed to be like this?”
“Me falling in love with you that’s what!” she said angrily.
“Why? Sometimes nature takes its course.”
“No. You don’t understand.”
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“Just take your time. We have all day.”
She sat for a few minutes with her eyes closed. Then she began.
“I wasn’t your Father’s assistant for six years like I said. My real name is Paula Prentice and your father hired me to make sure you failed to manage the company after his death and that was going to be his final parting gift to you. He wanted you to fail miserably. He was so jealous of your success as a painter he would fly into rages. It really hurt him that you had become a success despite his best efforts to stop you.”
“Wait a minute, are you saying that he actually tried to stop me?”
“I didn’t find out until much later. He’d tried to buy off the galleries when you were putting on your first show. When that failed he tried to bribe the critics to write bad things about you and your work. There was a lot more I am sure that I never knew about.”
I sat there speechless. Helen continued.
“I was put in place about a year before he died. He wanted to go out have a good fuck as he called it. So that’s what he did most of the time. I virtually ran the company for the last six months. ‘Just keep things ticking over’, he’d say. I did just that.”
“What were you supposed to do to make me fail?”
“Oh there was a whole list of things. I never did one of them.”
“That first evening when you took on the board and then dealt with the press persuaded me that it wasn’t right to make you fail and take everyone down with you. He was a real megalomaniac at the end.”
“I’m rather glad you didn’t I would have screwed up big time.”
“Your father didn’t put all his chickens in one pot, me though.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those photographers hat keep popping up everywhere. They are all his doing. He paid some shyster lawyer a lot of money to make sure you were pursued everywhere you go and that all sorts of lurid stories about you and your sexual habits would be leaked to the press. In short he wanted to make your life a misery even after he was dead.”
“The bastard. Do you know who they are?”
She shook her head.
“I tried to find out but he always said, ‘Better you don’t know’”
I sat dumbfounded, stunned, flabbergasted, call it what you will, my father was pure evil.
“Almost his last words to me on the day before he died were along the lines of, ‘that he had great expectations of failure for you. My son was always a failure as a child now I will make him fail as a woman. He is just as weak as his mother and deserved the same fate as her’.”
We sat quiet for a long time. If he’d have been alive, I would have killed him in the most slow and painful way possible but he was dead and I couldn’t which annoyed the hell out of me.
In the end I asked,
“What do we do now? Do I call you Helen or what? ”
“Helen is fine. That is my legal name now anyway.”
Then she took hold of my hand.
“I think we need a breath of fresh air. It’s Saturday so why don’t we go for a wander through the Portobello Market?”
“I think that is a splendid idea.”
Together we headed across Ladbroke Grove and towards the hustle and bustle of the Saturday Market. We just happened to pass by a convenience store when I saw my picture plastered all over a couple of the tabloids. Both of us were shocked rigid at their headlines.
“Is it a He or a She? Has he had it chopped off?”
The other one simply said
“Totty Boy’s night out.”
I felt so invaded. How could they be so cruel? I turned tail and legged it back to the safety of my home leaving Helen in my wake.
“They have gone too far this time,” she said defiantly.
“No. Leave it alone. We won’t stoop to their level by replying in kind. I think I know a better course of action.”
We sat down together and planned our revenge. That took us a few hours. Then we made a few phone calls to other staff members. We composed an email to all staff plus another to the editor of our newspaper and sat back. There was nothing more I or we could do until the following day.
‘My’ Sunday paper carried an open letter from me on its front page. It said,
“The pictures of me that appeared in some of the tabloid papers yesterday were a gross invasion of my privacy. I have already instructed my lawyers to seek legal redress for the hurt and discomfort those frankly silly headlines have caused.
Unlike many people they pursue in their endless ratings wars, I am in a position to hit back at them.
After one week from today, all the publications in the Bryant Group will stop accepting advertising from companies that also advertise in the tabloid newspapers that carried those lurid stories about me yesterday. I am sure that the advertising execs of those companies will not want to be associated with such gutter journalism for one minute longer than the can.
However, I do not blame those publications entirely. The photographers who took those pictures of me are reprehensible enough but I discovered only today that they are being paid to chase me wherever I go. There is a company behind this activity. The only way to describe it is stalking. I will be speaking to the police in a few days. If any members of the public have information about the company behind the stalking, I urge you to contact Crimestoppers as soon as possible.
Emily Cromwell, Outgoing Chairman and CEO, Bryant Media Plc.
This incident was the catalyst that made me accelerate the re-organisation of the business. The sooner that was done, the sooner I could get back to work.
The story was carried on all the TV and Radio networks. By lunch time Monday several large advertisers had pulled their campaigns with those tabloids. I graciously declined the numerous attempts to get me on a number of TV shows.
As soon as I could I handed over the reigns of the business to a new team and left London behind me.
A few months later, I was invited to receive an award by some business institute. I refused graciously. The reason was that Helen and I were far too busy down in Dorset trying to emulate some of the positions that Blank had drawn so beautifully in her art.
‘We’ had great expectations of a long and happy life together and may my Father burn in hell.
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