Authors: Christine Murray
A SILVER LINING
Copyright © 2012
All Rights Reserved.
Christine Murray asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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A Silver Lining
Of all the companies, in all the towns, in all the world, she had to walk into his, thought Mollie Butler as she walked into the Empressario boardroom.
Ok, maybe that was a bit over-dramatic. Still, she had just landed the first big client for her fledgling firm, and now she found her ex-boyfriend sitting at the boardroom table. And not just any ex, oh no.
ex. The one who had broken her heart.
No doubt about it, Dublin was way too small.
Half a dozen executives for Empressario Corp sat around the table, looking at her expectantly. Dealing with such a large company would make her nervous at the best of times, but being watched by James – the man she’d thought she was going to marry –only exacerbated the situation.
Mollie wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of showing that she was rattled. She shook her heavy blonde hair from her face, happy she had worn her business like cream suit and matching Karen Millen shoes. The last job they’d had, shooting a promotional video for a kids preschool months ago, had been a strictly t-shirt and jeans affair. More than ever, she was grateful to have Greg, her chief editor and second in command, beside her. She sat down and pointedly ignored meeting James’ eye. She’d moved on, she was an independent, successful woman. She didn’t need his validation.
So why was she so bothered?
That was the million dollar question. She needed water but was afraid to pour it from the jug in the middle of the table in case her hands were shaking.
‘Welcome!’ boomed the man at the head of the table. He looked to be in his mid-forties. His suit was expensive, and impeccably cut. It had, unfortunately, been made for a much slimmer man, but Calvin wasn’t the type to let that kind of thing bother him. His hair was as black as coal and had a suspicious amount of volume. He got up and shook her hand, and that of Greg – her business partner.
‘Welcome to Empressario!’ he boomed. ‘Nice office space, huh? You excited to see how the big players’ roll?’
Mollie felt Greg stiffen beside her. Even if they weren’t operating out of her spare bedroom, and relying on a loan from her brother, she knew the remark would have stung. She interjected quickly, before Greg could say something pointed.
‘Yeah, the office space is amazing. The last time we met with Tim, it was at a conference. We’ve never actually been here.’
The subtext being, ‘where the hell was Tim?’ She’d been dealing with Tim Clarke since the project had started. While he still had scared the life out of her – being so close to such a make or break deal tended to have that effect – he had been crisp and professional. He’d mentioned that Calvin Greene would be involved in the project, but not that he would be solely responsible.
‘Tim is away on annual leave,’ said James, helpfully. ‘Family emergency, I’m afraid.’
Damn, she’d have to look at him now. She met James’ eye and gave a terse nod of her head. ‘That’s a shame.’
‘But never fear,’ Calvin bellowed from the end of the table. ‘I’m taking charge of this ship, and all who sail in her!’
Tim hadn’t said much about Calvin, except to note that he was a bit of a wild card. Empressario was an investment firm, so she’d presumed Tim was talking about his gambling on the stock market. It turned out the name was a better fit because he was actually insane.
‘So, what did you discuss with Tim?’ he asked.
‘It was a pretty crisp project,’ she said, before going through the basic details. It was totally in keeping with the Empressario brand. Sweeping camera shots of their building, which had won an award for ground-breaking architecture, a few talking head pieces with their main players and some newer faces from this year’s intake. She allowed herself a moment of pride as she finished up her brief. It was truly brilliant, even if she did say so herself.
Unfortunately, the look on Calvin’s face told her he didn’t quite agree.
‘I don’t know,’ he said slowly, fiddling with his Mont Blanc fountain pen. ‘It just seems a little…tame.’
‘Tame?’ asked Mollie. She glanced around at the cream walls, the mahogany boardroom table, the crisp attire of the staff. Everything about Empressario
‘I have an idea,’ he began. ‘A vision.’
Greg let out an audible sigh beside her, and slumped lower in his chair. He disapproved of clients who tried to run the show. They were never quite as good at it as they thought they were.
‘I’m thinking we get twenty of our best looking members of staff, a fast beat dance track with, I don’t know, something urban playing. Edgy, but without expletives. Interposed with footage of global stock exchanges. New York, Tokyo, Brazil, Shanghai. I’m seeing piles of money, Euros, Pounds, Yen, Yuan, Brazilian Real. All kinds of Dollars, American, Australian, Canadian, Singaporean.’
‘You want a white collar, middle class take on a gangster rap video?’ asked Greg, voicing what everyone else was thinking. ‘That’s not the kind of promotion that companies in your sector would usually go for.’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘That’s the beauty of it!’
This had the potential to blow up badly in Empressario’s faces. But how could they get that across politely?
‘It just seems a little…’ Molly sought for a word. Crazy? Ridiculous? ‘Ambitious.’
‘Really?’ he asked. ‘I’m sure you have other clients that request something similar.’
Mollie knew it was her job to provide whatever the customer wanted. But this time she wasn’t sure just what that was. Tim, the guy she’d talked to initially, had been sedate and well mannered. Conservative. His idea had reflected that and also the brand. People didn’t usually gain reassurance that their investment company was going in a steady and profitable direction with the type of visual headache that Calvin was looking to create. She needed to try to create some middle ground between the two visions.
‘We do,’ she admitted. ‘But the clients that we’d do that kind of thing for are usually for companies in the creative field.’
This seemed to irritate him more.
‘What?’ he asked. ‘Are you saying that us finance people can’t be creative? Can’t be innovative?’
‘No, I’m just saying that your market is…different. Your client base is different. What’s suitable for a dynamic company with a young client base might not be suitable for you. Simple, classy and dependable is closer to your target market.’
‘Classy is just another word for boring,’ Calvin complained. ‘What I’m seeing is something modern. Something slick. I’m hearing edgy music, quick changes between shots. Investment firms have this reputation of being boring. Bland. Safe. I want to smash that perception, Mollie. I want Empressario to be a byword for modern, sexy, financial services.’
‘Do people want their financial services to be sexy?’ asked Greg.
‘People these days want everything to be sexy,’ Calvin retorted. ‘It’s bye-bye Shirley Bassey, hello Rihanna. You know what I mean?’
Mollie didn’t think there was one person around the conference table who truly knew what he meant.
‘Look,’ she said. ‘I can see what your vision is, and it does sound…memorable. But it was Tim who initially talked us through this brief, and I suppose I just don’t feel comfortable going so off his original idea without his say so.’
‘Listen lady,’ said Calvin, as if they were in some 1930’s New York jazz bar rather than a conference room breakfast meeting. ‘I appreciate your concern, but while Tim may have been the one to hire you guys, that’s just because he has to approve all financial transactions. I’m the creative one around here, ok? I’m the one who’s going to single-handedly drag this company kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I want modern, young and edgy, ok?’
‘Well,’ said Mollie resignedly. ‘Then that’s what you’ll get.’
‘I’m getting a bad feeling about this,’ said Greg as they made their way out of the boardroom. ‘The man is a complete nutjob. His Rihanna themed recruitment video is going to be ridiculous.’ ‘I know,’ Mollie replied, walking towards the lift. ‘But you know what they say. The client is always right, even when they’re wrong.’
There was nothing that Greg could say to that. Empressario was a big client, and they needed a cash injection right now. Greg had taken almost as much of a risk as Molly had when he’d decided to leave his secure job and set up with her. And let’s face it; if Calvin couldn’t get his ‘vision’ taken care of by them, then he’d just get another company to do it.
‘There’s only one thing though,’ said Greg.
‘I think we should make our company logo really small at the end of the credits.’
‘Oh completely,’ said Molly. ‘Miniscule. Like, completely indiscernible to the naked eye.’
‘Do you think he’d like it in 3D?’
‘With one of those floating heads of himself? Kind of like Mugatu in Zoolander?’
‘Maybe, we could theme it around Frankie Goes To Hollywood lyrics?’
‘Wouldn’t that kind of thing just make it seem like Empressario is full of sexual harassment cases waiting to happen?’ asked Greg.
‘Maybe,’ said Molly.
Greg shrugged at her. ‘I don’t know, he seems proper loco. Unhinged, even. Is there any chance we can get in touch with Tim?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Mollie. ‘I’m not sure whether or not that would make things even worse. It would look like we didn’t rate Calvin’s opinion.’
‘Yeah, because we don’t,’ said Greg bluntly. ‘This video is going to look more like a sketch from
than a serious business advertisement.’
‘True, but we can’t just come out and say that, can we?’ said Mollie. Greg was a master at editing footage, but had little patience when it came to managing the fragile egos of their clients. That’s where she really came into the equation.
‘What do you say we go back to the team and try to come up with something that will impress Calvin but won’t make any half sane company run a million miles from us?’
‘That,’ said Greg ‘sounds like a plan.’
‘Team’ was probably too grand a term for her company. There were six in all, handpicked by Mollie and Greg when they’d left to set up on their own. They’d all been made unemployed by the recession, and she didn’t want to be the reason they lost their jobs for the second time. She had to find some way to make it work.
‘How about we do a milder version?’ suggested Kim, a camera woman with a great eye for visuals. ‘Yeah, we have the good looking line of executives in the lobby; yeah we show some shots of stock exchanges from around the world. But we use slick changes between the shots, and some instrumental background music. It can still be modern, maybe a music only song from a current popular hit, but nothing garish. It might not be as crisp and professional as Tim wanted, but it would be a good compromise.’
‘Pulling music from a major hit would send our costs sky-rocketing upwards,’ Greg pointed out.
Kim just shrugged. ‘He wants young, he wants hip. That doesn’t necessarily come cheap.’
‘I’m not sure that’s going to work,’ said Mollie ruefully. ‘He’s very clear that the brief for this project is ‘sexy’. He also wants graphics of a spinning globe with red lines linking every major financial city with Empressario Corps. Can you do that, Harry?’
Harry was their graphic designer. He winced. ‘I could do that,’ he conceded. ‘If we wanted to look like we were aiming for a nineties business programme look. Which isn’t exactly young or hip, is it?’
‘I think it’s non-negotiable,’ sighed Mollie.
After a couple of fruitless couple of hours trying to think of some way to meld both visions, Mollie declared herself defeated.
‘I’ll ring Tim’s secretary, see if there’s any way of getting in contact with him,’ she ran an impatient hand through her hair.
She went out into the hall way, which was mercifully empty, took out her BlackBerry, and punched in the number for his secretary.
‘Empressario, you’re through to Mr. Clarke’s office.’ The voice was saccharine sweet.
‘Hi, my name is Mollie Butler from Butler Business Media. I need to talk to Tim about – ‘
‘Mr. Clarke is on annual leave,’ interrupted the secretary. ‘I’ll put you through to his voicemail.’
That wouldn’t do, she needed to get through today. She said as much. ‘Do you have a number where he can be reached in case of emergency?’