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Authors: Harold Robbins

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The Dream Merchants

BOOK: The Dream Merchants
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The Dream Merchants

The most powerful, most explosive novel from America’s master storyteller…

“Harold Robbins is a master!”

Playboy

“Robbins’ books are packed with action, sustained by a strong narrative drive and are given vitality by his own colorful life.”

The Wall Street Journal

Robbins is one of the “world’s five bestselling authors… each week, an estimated 280,000 people… purchase a Harold Robbins book.”

Saturday Review

“Robbins grabs the reader and doesn’t let go…”

Publishers Weekly

The Dream Merchants

Harold Robbins

Copyright

The Dream Merchants
Copyright © 2014 by Jann Robbins
Cover art, special contents, and electronic edition © 2014 by RosettaBooks LLC

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Cover design by Alexia Garaventa
ISBN Mobipocket edition: 9780795341007

Many thanks to the man who wears the hat, Bradley Yonover.

CONTENTS

AFTERMATH: 1938

MONDAY

THIRTY YEARS: 1908

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

AFTERMATH: 1938

TUESDAY

THIRTY YEARS: 1911

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

AFTERMATH: 1938

WEDNESDAY

THIRTY YEARS: 1917

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

AFTERMATH: 1938

THURSDAY

THIRTY YEARS: 1923

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

AFTERMATH: 1938

FRIDAY

THIRTY YEARS: 1925

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

AFTERMATH: 1938

SATURDAY

THIRTY YEARS: 1936

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

AFTERMATH: 1938

SUNDAY AND MONDAY

Harold Robbins, Unguarded

Harold Robbins titles from RosettaBooks

AFTERMATH

1938

MONDAY

I got out of the cab on Rockefeller Plaza. It was a windy day even for March, and my coat flapped around my trouser legs as I paid the hackie. I gave him a dollar and told him to keep the change.

I grinned as he thanked me profusely. The meter read only thirty cents. The gears meshed as the cab drove off. I stood there a few minutes breathing deeply before I entered the building. The air smelled fresh and clean. It was too early in the day for the usual gasoline odors to drift over from the bus stand on the corner and I felt good. Better, perhaps, than I had felt in a long time.

I entered the building and bought the
Times
at my usual stand near the Chase Bank and then walked down the steps into the arcade to the barber shop.

De Zemmler’s was to barber shops what Tiffany’s is to jewelers’. The door opened magically as I neared it. A small stubby-looking little Italian held the door for me as I walked through, his swarthy face flashing large white teeth. “Good morning, Mr. Edge,” he said. “You’re early today.”

I looked over at the clock automatically before I answered him. It was only ten o’clock. “Yes, Joe,” I answered as he took my coat. “Is Rocco here yet?”

“Sure, Mr. Edge,” he grinned. “He’s changing clothes; he’ll be out in a minute.”

I put the paper down on the counter while I took off my jacket and tie. Joe took them from me.

Just then Rocco came out from the back room and walked toward his chair. Joe seemed to signal him invisibly. Rocco looked at me and smiled.

“Rocco’s ready now, Mr. Edge,” Joe said to me; then turning to Rocco, he called: “Okay, number seven.”

I picked up my paper and walked toward the chair. Rocco stood next to it grinning at me. I sat down and he whisked a cloth around me, tucked some Kleenex down my collar, and said: “Early today, Johnny.”

I couldn’t keep from smiling at the tone of his voice. “Yeah.” I answered.

“Big day for yuh, Johnny.” He smiled back at me. “I guess yuh couldn’t sleep?”

“That’s right,” I replied, still smiling, “I couldn’t sleep.”

He walked over to the washstand in front of the chair and began to wash his hands. Looking back over his shoulder at me, he said: “I guess I couldn’t sleep either if I just got a new job paying a grand a week.”

I laughed aloud at that. “A grand and a half, Rock,” I told him. “I wish you’d get things straight.”

“What’s five c’s a week when you get that kinda dough?” he asked, walking back to me, drying his hands on a towel. “Pocket money.”

“Wrong again, Rock,” I said. “When you get that high, it’s not money any more; it’s prestige.”

He took his scissors out of his pocket and began to peck at my hair. “Prestige is like a pot-belly. You look like a well-fed guy with it. A guy what’s doing okay. But you’re always secretly ashamed of it. You sometimes wish you could do without it and be skinny again.”

“Sour grapes, Rock,” I answered. “On me it looks good.”

He didn’t answer, just kept pecking away at my hair, so I opened the paper. The first page was nothing but news. Very uninteresting. I kept turning the pages until I found it.

It was on the amusement page. A two-column head in twenty-point type: “John Edge Elected President of Magnum Pictures.” The story that followed was the usual thing. History of the picture company. History of me. I frowned a little at that. They didn’t skip the fact that I had been divorced from that famous actress, Dulcie Warren.

Rocco looked over my shoulder at the paper. “Gonna start a scrapbook now that you’re Mr. Big, Johnny?”

That one got a little under my skin. It was as if he had sneaked into my mind and sneaked out again with my thoughts. I tried not to be sore. I managed a weak grin. “Don’t be silly, Rock,” I said. “I’m still the same guy. I only got a different job. It don’t change things for me.”

“No?” Rocco grunted. “Yuh shoulda seen yourself coming in here just now. Like Rockefeller cut you in on the joint.”

I began to get a little sore. I held up one hand and looked at it. “Call the manicurist,” I told him.

The girl heard me and came right over. She took my hand. Rocco tilted the chair back and began to cover my face with lather; I couldn’t read the paper any more, so I dropped it on the floor.

I had the works—shave, shampoo, sun treatment, everything. When I got out of the chair, Joe rushed over with my tie. I stood in front of the mirror and knotted it. For a change I got the knot just right and didn’t have to do it over. I turned to Rocco, stuck my hand in my pocket, and came up with a five-dollar bill, which I gave him.

He stuck it in his breast pocket carelessly as if he were doing me a favor by taking it. He looked at me a minute and I looked at him. Then he asked: “Did yuh hear from the old man yet? What’s he think?”

“No,” I answered, “And I don’t give a damn. Frig him and what he thinks.”

“That’s no way to talk, Johnny.” He shook his head gently. “He’s an okay guy even if he did screw you up a little. He always liked yuh. Almost as much as his kid.”

“He screwed me though, didn’t he?” I asked almost belligerently.

Rocco’s voice was gentle. “So he did. So what? He’s an old man. He was sick and tired and desperate and he knew he had shot his load.” He stopped talking for a second to light the cigarette I had put in my mouth. His face was very close to mine when he spoke again. “So he went a little crazy and took it out on you. So what, Johnny? You just can’t wash away the thirty years before that happened. You can’t say those thirty years never happened, ’cause they did.”

I looked into his eyes. They were soft and brown and had a subtle sort of compassion in them. They almost looked sorry for me. I started to say something but didn’t. Instead I walked away from him and went to the door, put on my jacket, and threw my coat over my arm and walked out.

The tourists were already in the building. There was a whole group of the yokels lined up waiting for one of the guides to come and show them around. The yokels never changed. They had the same look on their faces that they had at the carny over thirty years ago. Eager, expectant, their mouths a little open as if they could see more through them.

I walked past them to the escalator and rode up to the main floor, then went over to the second bank of elevators—the bank that went express to the thirtieth floor. I entered the elevator. The operator looked at me and then punched the button marked 32 without my saying a word.

“Good morning, Mr. Edge,” he said.

“Good morning,” I answered.

The door shut and then there was that slightly sickening feeling as the high-speed elevator gained momentum and rushed toward the roof. The door opened and I got out.

The girl at the reception desk smiled at me as I walked by. “Good morning, Mr. Edge.”

“Good morning, Mona,” I said, turning down the corridor and walking the rug to my new office. It used to be his. But now my name was on the door. “Mr. Edge,” it read in gold letters. They looked funny there instead of his name. I looked closely at the lettering to see if any traces of his name remained. There weren’t any. They had done a thorough job of it, and it didn’t take too long either. Even if your name had been on the door for a thousand years, it only took a few minutes to take it off.

I put my hand on the door and began to turn the knob. Suddenly I stopped. This was only a dream up to now. It wasn’t my name on the door, it was his. I looked closely at the name on the door again.

“Mr. Edge,” it read in gold letters.

I shook my head. Rocco was right. You just couldn’t wash away thirty years.

I opened the door and stepped into the office. This was my secretary’s office; mine was through the next door.

Jane was just hanging up the phone as I came in. She got to her feet and took my coat and hung it in a small closet and said: “Good morning, Mr. Edge,” all at once.

“Good morning, Miss Andersen,” I returned, smiling. “My, aren’t we formal this morning?”

Jane laughed. “Christ, Johnny, after all, you’re the big boss now. Somebody’s got to set the standard.”

“Let somebody else do it, not you, Janey,” I told her as I walked into my office.

I stopped at the door a minute to sort of get used to it. This was the first time I had seen the place since it had been redecorated. I had been at the studio until Friday evening, flew into New York Sunday night, and this was only Monday morning.

Janey had followed me into the office. “Like it?” she asked.

I looked around. I sure did. Who wouldn’t like an office that looked as if it were made out of spun gold? The office was on the corner of the floor. It had ten windows, five on each side. The inside walls were lined with an artificial wood. On the large wall there was a large photo-mural of the studio made from a picture taken from a plane. On the small wall there was an artificial fireplace complete with andirons, grille, and fireplace chairs. There were other chairs made of a deep rich red leather scattered throughout the office, and my desk was of a highly polished mahogany covered with a matching leather. In the center of the leather were my initials in raised leather of a slightly contrasting color. The place was big enough to throw a ball or party in and there would still be enough room left over to have some privacy.

“Like it, Johnny?” Jane asked again.

I nodded my head. “I sure do.” I walked over to my desk and sat down behind it.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” she said. She walked over to the fireplace and touched a button on the wall.

The fireplace began to turn around and a bar came out.

I whistled.

“Pretty slick, eh?” she asked proudly.

“I’m speechless,” I answered.

“That isn’t all,” she said. She touched the button again and the fireplace came back into view. Then she walked a few steps and touched another button. Part of the wall slid back and the door revealed a shining tiled bathroom. “How do you like that?” she asked.

BOOK: The Dream Merchants
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