Best Served Cold
Written by Woodclaw :: [Tuesday, 22 April 2014 16:47] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 08 May 2014 23:40]
It was a beautiful morning in the big city with crisp cold air and an immaculate blue sky. It was one of those days when people just seemed happy to be alive and – from the perspective of Mark Roberts – today was the best day of his entire career.
He was a 50-ish man with dark chestnut hair rapidly turning salt-pepper, but otherwise of nondescript appearance – in terms of height and build many he was the definition of average. He dressed in a simple light gray business suit. Yet, behind the casual appearance, there was one of the most hated men in the country: Mark Roberts was the editor-in-chief of one of the most successful gossip magazines around. Ever since he started as a simple paparazzi for the Confidential, there had been no scoop too dirty, nor any picture too private for him not to publish. Defamation and explicit content were his bread and butter and, as of last night, he had got hold of the greatest scoop of his long career.
Mark was a very methodical man, once he gave himself a rule he never broke it, one of them was not to accept last minute jobs, but this time he broke that rule. When the kid – as he called most of his young paparazzi – arrived at the eleventh hour with those pictures there was little he could do to refuse. He woke up his entire staff, scrapped a cover that would blown two congressmen out of their chairs and wrote the article himself. After all it wasn't everyday that you could make a cover with the one and only Supreme Woman engaged something as sordid as some steaming hot girl-on-girl action.
As the world first and, so far, only superheroine, Claudia Lehner – or Supreme Woman as she was known while in costume – was a magnet and target for media attention, but none had even been able to get the drop on her, until now. The fact that she was a gorgeous blonde, with a body that looked stunning from every angle was just a very welcome plus from the journalistic point of view. None of his staff had been able to identify the other woman due to the picture’s angle – except for the fact that she had flat-colored chestnut hair – but that was a secondary concern.
Approaching his office, Mark could almost hear the sweet sound of phone ringing, buzzing with requests for new advertisement spaces … and outrage. One should never forget the sweet outrage. He knew that, as soon as those picture would hit the streets would be people shouting about impropriety, scandalous conduct, threat lawsuits, maybe they might go as far as arresting her – although Mark suspected that even Mr. Hoover would think twice about that. No matter, the only sure thing would be that Supreme Woman’s career would sink like the Titanic. Still, after a life feeding upon yellow journalism, Mark was a firm believer that there was no such thing as bad publicity.
He dodged a group of youngsters squatting next to the subway exit – hippies and protesters by the look of them – all long hair, brightly dyed shirts and flip-flops. Normally he found them quite irritating, but he was in a good mood and waved at them, one gave him a peace sign in return. For a moment Mark pondered if any of them would ever protest against those pictures. He made a strange face – something halfway between a smirk and eating a lemon – thinking that some of them might even praise her after today.
The elevator ride felt insanely long and, as soon as the door opened, Mark marched down the hall. He burst into the busy pressing room, it was less filled than usual and many of the people had bags under the eyes from last night editorial effort. He cheerfully made a round of greetings before walking to his private office. In the heat of the moment he failed to notice that many of his collaborators were clearly distressed and nervous.
In front of his office door, Mark met with his personal secretary, Hannah Cohen.
“I'm expecting some calls today, Hannah, but don't put them through too quickly. Let them roast for a bit.” he cheerfully said, “And send me the proof-copy as soon as it arrives.”
“Very well, Mr. Roberts.” she answered plainly.
He walked in, giving her a semi-flirting and very inappropriate comment, which was met with cold professionalism by Hannah.
While she wasn't ugly or anything similar, Hannah had managed to look much more attractive than she actually was by being ordinary. Working in a office where people were constantly exposed to shot of some the most beautiful men and women in the world in rather unveiled looks, Hannah's prim, proper behavior and conservative attires stuck out like a sore thumb. Her colleagues were apparently fascinated by her brown eyes and lithe figure, quickly dismissing her rather beaky nose, flat-colored chestnut hair and lack of curves. She was well aware of this effect and, more often than not, seemed not to mind the attention. Except when it came from her boss. She considered him a untrustworthy person and a chauvinist to boot.
Meanwhile, Mark waltzed to his desk, with visions of big publicity contracts filling his mind. He was literally salivating at the thought. Trying to keep himself in check he sat down and did a very slow and methodical check of his mail and read the first pages of the Washington Post thoroughly. He even emptied the paper bin, grinning the whole time.
An hour passed and his phone remained silent. Impatiently, he called Hannah: “So, how many so far?”
The answer arrived with Hannah's usual cold a professional tone that – this time – sounded almost sarcastic: “No calls for you, Mr. Roberts.”
Mark doubted his ears for a moment. How was this possible?
Before he had a chance to retort, Hannah continued: “But I have a request for an appointment in the next half hour, should I put it through?”
“Yes, yes.” Mark answered quickly, while he tried to figure out why none had called yet.
Thirty minutes later, he was ready for the appointment. He had put a bit of order on his desk and took out a box of cigars. Mark wasn't a smoker, but noticed that having an Avana between his teeth somehow helped people to take him seriously. He sat himself as comfortably as possible and waited until a tap at the window made him turn around and backpedal from the window in a fit of pure terror.
There she was, looking as stunning as ever. Supreme Woman was floating right out of the window.
Instead of the famous silver and black costume she was wearing a pastel lavender lady's suit – in the style popularized by Mrs. Kennedy – with a pair of matching pumps and a cream colored blouse. While not as revealing as her signature gear, there was no mistaking the perfect hourglass of her profile, nor her beautiful face, framed by a cascade of soft golden waves, as if she had just been to a hairdresser salon.
Mark's jaw hung for a moment, while Supreme Woman beamed him a dazzling smile and gestured to open the window. He backed away in shock and waved his hands, as if he was trying to shoo her, while hiding behind his desk.
Apparently, this annoyed Supreme Woman. Energy crackled across the white of her eyes, while her sky blue irises glowed with power. There was no visible beam or blast, but in a handful of seconds the glass trembled and cracked in an irregular pattern, then shattered inward leaving a gap large enough for a person to walk, or rather float, through.
The razor edged shards menacingly hovered midair, only to part like a curtain as Supreme Woman gently floated into the room. As her high heels touched the carpet right in front of Mark, the shards floated down like snowflakes at her command.
“Y … yo … you … h-have no business here.” Mark stammered. He was trying to sound at least a bit authoritative, but it was hard to do sitting on his butt and backpedaling.
Supreme Woman extended a hand to him – in an apparently casual gesture of helpfulness – and replied: “I'm deeply sorry for scaring you, Mr. Roberts. Yet, I believe I have several reason to be here, starting from your agenda.”
“M … my a-agenda?”
“Why, yes. Your secretary said me to turn up 3 minutes ago.”
Something in Mark's mind clicked and he collected himself a bit, while plotting a bitter comeback to Hannah for not telling him who the appointment was.
While the editor tried to look something other than a terrified man, Supreme Woman casually walked to one of the chairs in front of the desk and asked. “May I?”
“Yes, yes.” Mark grumbled, not caring about his manners.
He walked back to his own toppled over chair and sat, hoping to be able to look adequately professional. His hopes were shattered as his mouth opened in shock, Supreme Woman wasn't sitting as a normal person, she was floating midair in a sitting position.
She pulled her blonde curls back behind her ear, in a gesture that managed to look casual and sensual at the same time. “I hope you wouldn't mind my unusual entrance, but I'm a very busy woman. I'll send someone to fix the window.”
“Of course, Supreme Woman.” Mark answered while trying to keep his focus above his waistline.
“Ms. Lehner.” she said coldly.
“Supreme Woman is a moniker that your colleagues of the press gave me. When discussing business, I prefer to be called by my proper name.” she explained, “Now, I has come to my attention that you’re about to publish an article on me, I have some compliments and some complains about it. Would you please summon the photographer who provided you those pictures? And your secretary as well, I might need her assistance.”
Mark was all too happy to comply, as long as he could manage to sway her attention from him, he would be fine. He picked up the intercom and barked an order to Hannah, while pondered how she was able to get hold of the article even before the magazine was out. The obvious explanation was that someone among his team rat him out, but with Supreme Woman none was sure. There were stories that she knew things that even the Bureau wasn’t aware of.
Soon Hannah walked in followed by a tall, wire-thin, twenty-ish man with flat brown hair and dressed in khaki. The reason why he was here instead of fighting in the 'Nam was quite clear from his hard breathing, Jack Seinfield suffered a severe form of asthma. He looked visibly nervous, especially compared to Hannah's cold professionalism.
Claudia floated herself to her feet and greeted the two personally. “Ms. Cohen, nice to meet you.”
Hannah heart skipped a beat. Due to her job she had seen many of the “beautiful people” of the world in the nude, something that had helped her to develop her jaded attitude, but not even her was ever prepared to the sheer force of Claudia's presence. “Likewise.” she murmured with a slight palpitation in her voice, but keeping an almost impeccable poker face.
Claudia grinned, noticing that she had her usual effect on Hannah. “And Mr. Seinfield. I must say that I'm impressed with your work.” she continued, turning to the photographer with an extended hand.
Jack was unsure how to deal with the whole situation, he automatically grabbed Claudia's hand, realizing just a second too late that she could crush it without even trying. “Ehr – Thanks.”
“I have to admit,” Claudia continued without releasing her grip, “it's not often that someone can get the drop on me.”
Jack felt a cold sweat dribbling down his collar, he had no idea how to weasel out of this situation. He tried to pull his hand away, but Claudia shifted her grip a little and stopped him. She was very careful not to cause him pain, just a little bit of discomfort to remind Jack that she was the one dictating the rules.
“What, I believe, it's most impressive is how clear those photos were. Often people in your position tend to produce rather blurry pictures, but you were quite meticulous in your job, weren't you? I suspect you rather enjoyed the view.”
Jack's perspiration was, by now, out of control and his self-control was close to zero. To make things worse, he felt that his asthma was firing up and he started fumbling his pocket with his left looking for his prescription. Taking those pictures had been quite hard to do, mostly because he had to fight against a rock hard erection, while watching. Still, this was much harder. Not only he had to fight a similar sense of arousal, but he had also to keep calm in front of a woman who could kill him with a snap of her fingers. “I … I took a certain … pride in doing my job well.” he answered to his own surprise, before spraying his prescription in his mouth.
Claudia smiled and continued with a note of sincere admiration in her voice, “I'm very glad to hear this. In fact, you demonstrated such an impressive ability to choose the right moment to take the picture that I have a offer for you: would you like to become my new official photographer?”
Jack blinked twice. He had expected any number of things, but this wasn't among them. So far Supreme Woman had two official photographers and, for both, she had been a launchpad into the Olympus of professional photography. “I would be honored.” Jack said.
“Now! Wait a minute!” Mark boomed from behind his desk, “You won't walk out on me, kid!”
Claudia offered him a poisonous grin, “If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Seinfield is a freelancer, not a proper employee. Hence he's free to come and go as he please. Am I correct Ms. Cohen?”
“I believe that's correct.” Hannah answered, not without a bit of satisfaction to see Claudia beating her boss at his own game.
“I'm very sorry for you Mr. Roberts, but you only have to blame yourself for not spotting Mr. Seinfield's talent sooner.” Claudia patronized.
Mark stammered for a bit, then grumbled some inarticulate threats toward Jack, who was apparently on cloud nine already.
“Then it's settled, Mr. Cohen I would like to discuss your job in detail … lets say tomorrow at lunch?” Claudia asked, adding a bit of a mischievous accent to her words.
“It would be my pleasure.” Jack answered in trance-like state.
While the photographer left the room, Claudia allowed herself a predatory smile. If the past was any indication, she would have Jack eating out of her hand in no time. After that she would be able to do whatever she want with him. While many of her past employees had achieved great things thanks to her recommendation, many others had fallen from grace thanks to her scorn.
While savoring her plans for Jack, Claudia walked back to Mark's desk and sat midair again. “Now, I fear, I have a complaint about you article, Mr. Roberts. On the third line of the second paragraph you referred to me as a 'superheroine'. While that is not incorrect, it's not the proper definition either. Perhaps you don't know, but I'm a rather successful businesswoman. My pro-bono activities are a secondary occupation in my life, one might define it a hobby.”
“I'll make sure to fix the proof copy.” Mark hissed between his teeth.
Claudia ignored him and continued: “While I may look like the classic dumb blonde, I can assure you that my mind is superhumanly on-par with my body. In fact, I've been able to amass my first million by predicting and exploiting the Flash Crash of 1962. Being able to follow the global stock market throughout the day afford me quite the advantage too.”
While Mark was nervously ruminating, Hannah was trying not to make her breathing too loud or her admiration for Claudia too apparent.
Claudia stopped for a moment and gave a subtle wink to Hannah, making the secretary’s heart rate step up a notch.
“Now, as you can imagine, my economical assets are … quite relevant, which allows me to indulge in some out of pocket expenses, like buying 53.9% of the property of this fine enterprise.” Claudia finished with an evil smile, producing a signed document from the pocket of her lavender jacket.
It took several seconds for the news to sink in. by the time it did, Hannah was grinning like a shark, while Mark's jaw was hanging in utter disbelief.
“Now, from a cursory examination of the last two years of this publication, it has become clear to me that the quality of your work is absolutely under the standards that I require from my employees. Hence, as owner of this enterprise, I have to say that I consider you not fit for the position of editor-in-chief. You can start by vacating this office right now.”
Mark had poured almost the last twenty years of his life in this magazine and now … in just a moment everything he built was now in the hands of this woman! He trembled with rage and was about to jump over the desk to strangle Claudia right where she stood. Somehow he was able to restrain himself and sneered: “You'll hear from my lawyer.”
Claudia awarded him a condescending smile before leaving. “You have one hour.”
She marched out in long, majestic strides and gestured to Hannah to follow her. As they left the office Claudia said: “Ms. Cohen, until a new editor-in-chief will be appointed, I believe that you can fill the role quite nicely.”
They shared a conspiratorial grin, as they both know that Hannah had as many reason as Claudia to keep that article and, especially, those pictures out of the prints. “I’m sure you’ll have many ideas on how to please your new boss.” Claudia continued in a sultry whisper, “I would be glad to discuss them over dinner.”
To the surprise of the entire office, Hannah’s flat brown hair found a sparkle, she beamed a 100 watt smile and a hint of lust and anticipation filled her eyes. She just nodded, while Claudia gracefully lifted from the floor and flew away.