Betting on Bailey

By: Tara Crescent

Yet when I turn back to Juliette to tell her to tread lightly, she’s not there anymore. She’s all the way in the far corner of the room, her attention on the glowing screen in front of her, her fingers typing out a message.

Already, things are in motion. I shelve the unease I feel, and I throw the champagne down my throat and demand a refill. No regrets. Today will be a day of celebration.


He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War


There are many places I want to be on a Friday afternoon, but this windowless Kansas City boardroom, with its taupe walls and its faded grey chairs, is at the bottom of the list.

“Mr. Hartman,” the blonde assistant slides in, looking apologetic. “Mr. Ryan’s been delayed in another meeting. He’ll be with you momentarily, as will the rest of the board.”

Fuck this shit. Keeping us waiting is Wayne Ryan’s version of a power play, but he’s missing one important point. As much as Hartman & Company would like to acquire Ryan Communications, we can afford to walk away from this deal and they cannot. Their stock price has dropped thirty percent in the last quarter and the only thing that has kept it from free-falling even more is the rumor that we are interested in buying them.

“Ms. Parker.” I eye Ryan’s assistant pointedly, and my voice is icy. “My flight leaves in three hours. I intend to be on it whether I’ve met Mr. Ryan or not. Perhaps you can pass that message on to him.”

Her face pales and she hurries out, no doubt to tell Ryan that I’m getting restive. Next to me, my Uncle Cyrus makes a disapproving sound. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

Things between Cyrus and me have always been tense. My best friend Sebastian, who never minces his words, has called our relationship the most fucked up thing he’s seen. Cyrus has worked at Hartman & Company all his life. I can’t deny that he’s given me some helpful advice since I became the CEO, though his condescending and lecturing tone always grates at me. “Why not?”

“This isn’t New York, Daniel,” Cyrus replies, frustration in his tone. “We are in Kansas. Here, deals are done over a game of golf or at a neighborhood barbecue. You have to learn to play the game. Act like you are one of them.”

This is the one area that Cyrus and I cannot agree on. My uncle is old-school. He hires his friends and he does business with his golf-club buddies. Me? I’m more direct. I have absolutely no patience with small-minded, judgmental assholes like Wayne Ryan and the rest of his board. Last year, Wayne Ryan divorced his wife after thirty years of marriage, and married the twenty-one year old woman who babysat his kids. At the same time, Ryan Communications fired three employees for ‘behavior unbecoming to the company,’ which was a codeword for being gay.

“I’m not here to be Wayne Ryan’s buddy,” I respond. “I’m here to buy his company. We’ve made them a fair offer. They’ll be fools to turn us down.”

Cyrus shakes his head. “There’s so much about the world that you don’t understand. Not everyone is motivated by logic. To make a deal here, you’ll have to learn to belong. Fit in. Live their values.”

I’ve run Hartman for seven years, Cyrus, I want to retort. I’ve doubled our profitability in that time. I don’t need you to tell me how to run my business.

Before I can open my mouth to snap at him, Wayne Ryan hurries in. “Sorry, sorry,” he blusters. “Another meeting ran over. You know how it is.”

I’m not in a good mood. I hate being kept waiting and Cyrus’ attitude has pissed me off. My voice reflects my ill-humor. “Let’s get going, shall we?” I say curtly. “Like I told your assistant, I have a plane to catch. Was the rest of your board planning to join us today?”

* * *

The meeting proceeds very much as I anticipate. There’s some posturing about the financial terms, but Ryan’s not a complete fool and he knows the amount we’ve offered is more than fair. There’s some hinting around what our plans are for the management - Ryan’s way of asking if he’ll still have a job once Hartman buys his company. Not if I have anything to do with it, I think to myself, and I avoid answering the question.

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