Garret isn’t moving, nor am I. Instead, we stare at each other like we each have two heads. Only difference is, I’m the one who looks like a complete fool in reality, with coffee dripping from my mouth.
“I’m...sorry, Sir I’ll...clean up this mess,” I finally say. I can feel my face tingle, and I know that a blush is creeping up to light that will eventually be impossible to hide.
Garrett laughs as I quickly stand up, “Don’t worry about it, Leslie. I’ll call someone to clean this up.”
Still chuckling, Garrett gets up and walks to his desk. He looks small in comparison with the giant piece of polished Italian wood in front of him and huge windows that stand behind him.
As Garrett picks up the phone on his desk, I finally take the chance to let his words travel through my mind completely. Without my espresso entirely in the way.
First and foremost, Garrett is retiring. Not only is he retiring, but I’m the only one who knows he is retiring, based on his technical enforcement upon me to vow secrecy of the heart wrenching announcement until Monday.
In a publicist’s mind, this will be a nightmare, given all of the publicity that will come to surround Harrison Inc. in the up and coming days after the announcement of retirement. But in my mind, as someone who is well aware of the unpopular and somewhat invisible puppeteers, the Board of Directors, who run this establishment along side Garrett, I can’t seem to understand how, in God’s graceful name someone such as Sebastian Harrison will convince the Board to let him take the chair.
Second and proceeding, there is no possible way Sebastian will get past the brick wall hence known as the Board of Directors. Sebastian, infamous party boy, tabloid king, and reckless heathen to society apparently can’t even remember how many women he has slept with in the past month, which I find absolutely disgusting.
I have never met Sebastian. I have seen him on TV, most commonly E! or Extra or some entertainment based informational program. And every time I see him on my High Definition television screen, it isn’t a favorable segment. Either he’s caught partying on some yacht with two naked girls at his side, or passed out in the arms of his trademark entourage who finds it comical that their leader isn’t even aware of what his name is.
Out of all of his siblings, one being a lawyer, another being a charitable saint to the world, and the last known as the “Poster Woman” for young upcoming mothers and current mothers with their abstruse lust to look smooth, slim, and unrealistically stunning, Sebastian is the only one who truly hasn’t accomplished anything worth mentioning. At least with his older sister, Elizabeth, who happens to be pregnant, females in her position want to look as radiant as her by buying her body oils and comfortable clothing. Sebastian just serves as an example to pre pubescent boys who wish to intoxicate themselves and surround themselves with flocks of women, dismissing the fact that Sebastian is actually beyond rich enough to do these things without a steady, commendable occupation.
“I wholly expected this reaction, Ms. King,” Garrett says amusingly. I look up during my deep analyzation and smile faintly.
Ignoring the puddle of coffee on the ground, he sits back in his original spot on the couch and props his ankle on top of his bent knee again, a ritual only I have noticed he does every meeting or discussion.
“Mr. Harrison,” I start, “with all due respect, I’m...very confused. You haven’t told anyone else?”
“Well, on that part I have actually lied. I’ve informed the head of the Board. And you can guess how that resulted.”
Christopher Reynolds, head of the Board of Directors, not to mention the most emotionless and accustomed member of the entire team. He has a tendency of openly criticizing my publicity methods, claiming that they “herd the public into a false representation of what Harrison Incorporated is.” From that day forward I’ve made sure to steer clear of him, however Garrett doesn’t have a choice.
I nod understandingly, “Yes, I can already sense he didn’t take it well.”
“Mr. Reynolds is extremely involved in the traditions of Harrison Inc., as am I. However, after I informed him of my wish to retire he was curious on my choice of CEO. When I decided to create a Board of Directors my first years here I made sure to give them the power to appoint whomever they deem is a worthy CEO, if they are of Harrison blood.”
“So I presume he wanted Patrick to uphold the position?”
Garrett nods, “However, I suggested that Sebastian...that Sebastian would be someone to consider. He laughed at first until he saw that I was serious. Then he told me that Sebastian is incapable of running a company such as this one, in which I made sure to advise him of Sebastian’s attendance to Yale and legitimate degree in Business, Economics to be exact since Sebastian was always good with numbers and math.
“Although Mr. Reynolds considered Sebastian’s accredited education, he still feels that...socially...Sebastian isn’t the right candidate, the right...Harrison, as he puts it, to bring good publicity to Harrison Inc. His...excessive drinking, partying, gambling, sexual activity and consumption of narcotics is mere irony in contrast to what this company stands for.”
I sit there, pondering Garrett’s explanation. I never knew Sebastian attended college, Yale to be exact. Not surprising Yale was his school of choice, more of Garrett’s school of choice. But it still didn’t make sense to me, why Sebastian would go to school for a degree he would never use. Most likely he was forced, which means Garrett somehow knew this day would approach. The day Sebastian would take the reigns of Harrison Incorporated.
“Mr. Harrison I’m...still confused on a few things. First...why did Sebastian attend Yale if his degree is nothing but an item for display?”
Garrett sighs, “Sebastian and I had an agreement before he turned eighteen. I had a considerable amount of money stored away for each of my children, to be accessed when they became of age. And at the time, they each had bright futures in place for themselves. Patrick was in law school when he received access to his trust fund, William was first partnering with UNICEF and ended up using the money for charitable causes. Even Elizabeth was starting her collection of products, clothing and assortment of beauty books after she got her money, all best sellers today. The point is, each of them used their money wisely, and or began to walk impeccable paths to success that have influenced them greatly ever since. Sebastian’s path...has never been exemplary or meritorious.”
There are three knocks on the front door of the office. When Garrett grants entry to whomever on the other side, a Janitor slowly enters the room happily.
“Good day, Sir,” He says elatedly while dragging a small cart filled with cleaning products behind him.
“Good day, my good man. Just some spilled coffee over here.” Garrett points to the mess, and I lower my head bashfully.
The Janitor who, from his name tag, I discover is named Marty walks over and throws a rag on top of the coffee, wiping it clean. His motions oddly remind me of my fiasco of a morning with the spilled Moscatto that I tried to clean before my best friends barged into my apartment. I wonder if they’re still there, waiting for me to arrive so we can go to Sun Salutations and find our inner peace. God knows I need it right now.
As Marty is cleaning, Garrett is silent. He just watches Marty spray the hardwood floor but refuses to continue our discussion, which makes me nervous. How confidential can his final and overall point be to not even finish discussing it in front of a janitor?
So we wait, and while we wait my phone vibrates in my purse. Garrett’s head turns swiftly to my direction, his eyes shifting from my own eyes, to my bag, then to my eyes again.
“No, no it’s probably...it’s probably my Mother,” Probably Hudson was what I wanted to say. Hudson, however, is a topic I keep arcane from Garrett especially. The last thing I want to do is mix my boss into my personal life and make him believe I’m becoming distracted.
When Marty is finished, he bids us both farewell then exits the office. After thirty seconds of silence, Garrett talks again like Marty never even entered.
“Anyway, all Sebastian did in High School was party, drink, stay out late and just...refuse to apply himself. So, I thought a lesson for him was well in hand. I told Sebastian the only way he would be able to touch the money is if he would sign a contract. A contract forcing him to attend a four year university to study business and eventually take my place when I decided to retire. Sebastian, eager to waste his life away, signed the contract without reading a word and took the money without looking back. He attended college, did very well surprisingly, graduated, and from there it was a complete train wreck. He severed all contact with his family, relied on his entourage as a substitute for us, and continued to do the things he did in High School. Only worse.
“I thought college would make him realize who he is and what he is meant to be. I was wrong. But now, it’s time for him to stand up straight, leave his life behind, and step into adult hood. Only there’s a problem.”
“The public only knows him for the Playboy-party animal he is, lack of better words,” I add.
“Exactly,” Garrett smiles. “The only way the Board will consider letting him become CEO is if they see that he has changed his ways. They want someone who can carry Harrison Inc. not only with a strong educational background and beneficial prior knowledge, but with a responsible, mature, and professional social stature to accompany it. And even if the Board does appoint him to CEO, what about our partners? Investors? I can guarantee many other corporations will be skeptical about staying with us and investing in us. They need to see that Sebastian will be someone worth relying on with their money and trust.”
Garrett’s eyes seem to light up as he looks at me. Light up to a fainter, more transparent shade of blue that gives me an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“And not only do I want Sebastian to change for this company,” he continues, “I want Sebastian to change for himself. Because, as his father, I’m worried about him. I can’t count on one hand all of the drugs he consumes it’s ridiculous how subsidiary money can be in regards to the wide range of narcotics available to those that can access them.”
“I completely agree, sir,” Is all I can manage to say.
“Which is why I think a little ‘rehabilitation’ will do him some good.”
I shift forward and place the coffee cup on the table, “Oh, in that case I can have Darcy pull up some rehabilitation centers for him. Preferably around the Los Angeles area?”
Garrett shakes his head, chuckling slightly, “No, that’s not the type of rehab I’m referring to. Although I highly approve of that type of program in assisting him.”
Garrett and I then stare at each other for a good ten seconds, silence prevailing on both ends. I have no clue what Garrett is getting at, yet he looks at me as if I’m catching on.
“Sir, I’m not quite following,” I admit timidly.
“In order for Sebastian to convince the public, to convince himself that he has changed into a man of morals and responsibility, he needs to take a break from the limelight, and take some time to reevaluate himself. He needs to spend time with a professional who will guide him through the process of making connections with influential business associates, Chief Executive Officers, and the heart of the public, all while teaching him to leave the lifestyle of a boy behind to walk into the lifestyle of a man.”
“Oh, I see exactly what you’re getting at, sir. So you think he needs to go through some sort of...‘self cleansing’ process?”
“Indeed. And I feel the perfect person to assist him in that...is you.”
My heart, usually immune to outrageous business tasks assigned to me or self-obligated, drops in my chest and causes my throat to form a huge lump that won’t dissipate. If my ears don’t deceive me, my boss wants me to practically babysit his licentious, morally devoid son, to make him the model Harrison he was destined to become, while making the public and the Board of Directors believe he is more than capable of becoming an efficient CEO of Harrison Incorporated. I secretly pray my ears are undoubtedly deceiving me.
But they aren’t. “I sense by your lack of speech this isn’t something favorable to your ears.”
“I-I just...this is...wow.” All I can do is stammer. What else can I possibly say that won’t come out insulting and rejecting?
“Leslie, I believe you’re the only one I can trust to do this correctly. You know more than any publicist I’ve ever had on what the public wants, what people want to hear.”
“That makes me sound a bit manipulative.” I mumble, though Garrett heard me.
He laughs. “In the most respectable way possible, of course. I feel Sebastian can really become something estimable under your watch. And, I can sense that you will be ‘exempt’ from Sebastian’s tendency to wrongfully manipulate people into getting what he wants.”
Not only is he irresponsible, but manipulative as well. Sadly, I feel manipulation is the only part of our nature that we have in common.
I huff and give Garrett a small smile. “Well, I admit that Sebastian is a little socially under qualified for the CEO position. No offense.”
“I...well,” my hands slap on my lap as I laugh, “of course I’ll do it. This should be quite auspicious for all of us in the long run.”
The moment my agreement to the “operation” reaches his ears, Garrett is overcome with happiness and relief, which makes me grateful I technically, somewhat, to some extent said yes.
“Leslie, you do not know how...indebted I am to you. Truly.”
Garrett stands up and again walks over to his desk. He opens a small drawer and pulls out a fine leather booklet before closing the drawer gently.
“Oh, oh no, sir I-I can’t accept.” I chuckle, waving him off. Even though I will gladly take any check he offers, I find it rude to be so quick to accept money, especially from your boss.
However, I was excitedly expecting a check the moment I agreed.
“Leslie, for this task I believe you should be well compensated.”
My sub conscience smiled evilly at the sound of compensation.
Pulling out his Omas Limited Shakespeare Gold Fountain Pen he received as a gift for his 62nd birthday from Han-Cin Oil and Gas in China, he approaches me and places the tip of the gold pen on the paper.
“What’s your favorite number?” He asks.
“What? Oh, um...two.”
Nodding once, he writes on the paper before speaking to me again.
“Tell me to stop when you start to feel uncomfortable.”
Before I can ask what he’s talking about, he’s already writing zero after zero in his check book.
“Wait! Wait, stop! Stop!” I laugh as I stand and jog up to him.
Garrett, who is laughing as well, lifts the pen away from the page and admires his written wealth.
“Two hundred thousand. Is that enough?”
My mouth drops open. “Oh-oh my God, two hundred thousand!?”
Garrett frowns at me. “Hm, you’re right.”
He then adds another zero, ignoring my protest. Finally, he writes the total out in print before signing his name and ripping out the check from his check book.
“Two million dollars...and fifty cents. I hope this will suffice.”
My mouth hangs open slightly as I gently take the check, admiring it like it’s water in a scorching desert.
“I hope this transaction remains just between us. With anyone else, compensation would be accustomed based on their performance after the assignment is finished. But with you, there’s always an exception.”
Ava gently opens the office door and lets herself inside. Garrett and I discreetly hide the evidence of our deal behind our backs as she meets Garrett’s eyes.
“Sir, your 10:15 is here. Anthony LeCompt and Lee Rupert.” She has a hint of suspicion in her eyes, but returns to her usual placid look as she waits for an answer.
I shuffle to where my purse sits and stuff the check inside before I place it over my shoulder. My coffee is still on the table, in which I’m pushed to take it with me.
“Thank you, Ava. Send them in.”
She nods once, then backs out of the room and lets the door close itself.
I breathe slowly and steadily while turning to face Garrett; the reality that there is two million dollars in my purse is hard to grasp lightly.
“This entire operation is to remain secret until tomorrow; Sebastian is arriving on the premise of an innocent social visit,” Garrett sits down in his black leather chair behind his desk and slowly sways side to side in it. “I’m certain he has completely forgot about our deal ten years ago, so be prepared for a puerile reaction to the news. Then again, he tends to act puerile towards everything, from what I clearly remember.”
I stay still and nod.
“Oh, and I almost forgot. I have that...interview...on Tuesday at four, right?”
“Yes, with Jeremy Heynen from Success magazine. Then around 6:30 in the evening that same day there is that Restaurant re-opening downtown that I have you scheduled to attend. I will be going with you, speaking on your behalf since you will be inside taking pictures with the owner. But after wards I’m allowing three short interviews since we have the Opera that starts at 7:30.”
“Ah, yes the Opera.”
I pull out my phone from my bag and see yet another missed call from Hudson. I swipe and remove the notification from my screen.
“I’ll forward the details to Lucinda tomorrow morning. What time would you like me in here for...for-”
“-Noon. That’s when Sebastian is supposed to arrive but don’t be surprised if he’s late.”
Turning on my heel to leave, Garrett’s voice stops me once my hand makes contact with the cold metal.
“If you have any problems cashing the check, where ever you go, tell them to have their Executive give me a call.”
Darcy, whose unmatched assisting abilities prove hilarious in compassion with her anxiousness, jumps at the sound of me yelling her name once I walk into my office.
“M-Ms. King, I-I didn’t know you’d be in today!” She stutters while trying to make her area presentable.
At her desk, sits an entire meal that consists of a Quiche, sausage muffin, assorted fruits, and yogurt, with coffee to finish it off on the side. Seeing the food on her desk makes me remember the breakfast I didn’t have, which in turn generates a rumbling sound from my stomach.
“Mr. Harrison called me in for something brief, but it looks like I’ll be staying for a while. Has Alejandra made it by?” I ask as I set my coffee on my desk.
Darcy shakes her head sadly, “No.”
“Oh. Figures,” I clench my jaw while placing my purse underneath my desk in my small safe. “Darcy I need you to call-”
“-Ms King, are you alright?” Her hypnotizing sapphire-tinted eyes stare into me, like they’re trying to rip apart and decipher the depths of my soul.
However I realize that’s how she always looks at me.
“Why wouldn’t I be alright?” My eyes are focused on the computer in front of me on my desk, covered with sticky notes and stickers.
“Last night was...it’s just last night the way you left after what happened.”
“Darcy, my personal life and corporate life are completely separate, and I would like to keep it that way. Yes, Alejandra is my corporate life and Hudson is my personal life but that entire situation is the last thing on my mind at the moment.”
She is silent. With the tap of her black heels against one of the legs of her desk, she glances at Alejandra’s desk and working area before looking at me.
“I’m sorry, I overstepped a few boundaries. But just know...I’m always here if you want to talk. Or better yet, my therapist is really good at the therapy stuff. She’s helped me a lot after Gordon’s death.”
Shit, now I feel like a bitch.
I sigh, running a palm over my head to flatten any fly-aways back into my bun, “I’m sorry, Darcy.”
“It’s fine. But anyway, she talked me through things and now I feel a lot better.”
“Was Gordon your boyfriend?”
Darcy shakes her head, “No, my pet Goldfish. He died six months ago.”
She takes a fork and uses it to put a piece of cantaloupe in her mouth as if she never said anything. If it wasn’t for my temporarily black computer screen, I wouldn’t have seen the glare appear on my face in her direction.
“Anyway, what do you need?” she asks.
“I need you to call Skippy and Mia and ask them to pull up any and all information on Sebastian Harrison and bring it to me. No questions asked, please.”
For a moment, Darcy’s face lights up with glee. She sees my irritated expression and quickly composes herself before dialing the extension.
Skippy and Mia are both Private Investigators for Harrison Inc. If we need difficult information to come by, we count on them to retrieve it. I don’t rely on them much, but if an interview is scheduled with a questionable journalist, I will ask for their assistance and use the information they retrieved to determine the type of questions said interviewer will ask. Now, it was a matter of finding everything out about Sebastian Harrison, and I mean everything. If Garrett is willing to pay me two million dollars to “fix his son” then I’m going to return Sebastian to Garrett brand-spanking-new.
After thirty minutes of waiting, two familiar faces walk through my door. Mia Lang and “Skippy” both enter my office with dark green files in their hands, though it’s less than what I initially thought it would be.
“Hey, Les,” Mia greets. Her black boots, leather jacket and long black ponytail exude a mysterious yet collected demeanor, while Skippy’s attire of jeans, jacket and white T-shirt say otherwise.
“Hello, Mia. Hello, Skippy.”
Skippy adjusts the belt around his waist which makes his protruding stomach bigger after wards, “You wanna keep it classic, L?”
I nod, “Yes, no questions asked.”
“No questions asked,” Mia repeats languidly with a smirk.
She opens the first file and sets it on my desk. A photo of Sebastian is all I see in front of me, though honestly speaking it’s far from disappointing.
“Sebastian Harrison, born October 14th, 1985 in Los Angeles, California to the proud parents of Garrett Harrison and Fiona Harrison, now Fiona Vaun. His parents divorced when he was about sixteen, and he, along with his two older siblings besides his eldest brother, lived with their mother in Tennessee while visiting their father in Los Angeles during the summer. They were in the process of building a house in Tennessee under Fiona’s random request before the divorce, but after wards Garrett gave her the house as part of the separation agreement.”
“Sebastian has three brothers and sisters,” Skippy starts as he sets one of the files in his hand next to the one in front of me, pointing to the photos of Sebastian’s siblings, “oldest is Patrick Harrison, 34 years old. Second is William Harrison, 32 years old, and lastly is the oh-so-beautiful Elizabeth Harrison, 30.”
“Stepping stone children. Two years apart each?”
“Mhm, just like Garrett and his siblings, and his ex wife’s siblings, too. Probably tradition or somethin’,” Mia says.
“Sebastian’s entirety of elementary and Middle School consisted of impeccable grades. A’s in each class, every single year, with every teacher raving about him on his progress reports. Yet right when 11th grade started it went downhill. Fast. I’m taking a strong leap of faith and saying it had to do with the divorce, given he finished High School in Tennessee. Either way, when eleventh grade started for him it went south. Fast. Failed most of his classes, was arrested once for driving under the influence when he was sixteen, and was sent to the hospital when he was seventeen due to a little too much cocaine in the veins.”
A photo of Sebastian’s mugshot is placed in front of me. I notice the smile on his face in the photo and roll my eyes.
“Do you know why his parents divorced?” I ask them. Both Skippy and Mia shake their heads.
“The only info on it is a ‘variety of parental differences’ but I personally doubt it was that. I think, and I’m just throwing it out there, that it had to do with Sebastian. But I don’t know why. A small clue could be the glint of hatred his brothers have towards him. Elizabeth, however, really loves Sebastian and ‘wishes she can get closer to him.’”
“Here,” Skippy sets the last file down, which contains all of his close friends and all of the women he has had relations with, “is a little diagnostic on his social life. His entourage consists of Chris Parker, Trevor O’Dalley, and Franklin Pierce. All part of upper Middle Class families. As for relationships he’s only had about three steady relationships, including the one he’s in now, but that conformation was set by Felicity’s publicist, not his.”
A tall, beautiful blonde woman is seen walking side by side with Sebastian on Rodeo Drive. Various bags are swinging freely in her arms while Sebastian is talking on the phone.
“The photo was taken about two weeks ago. Felicity is an heiress to Marco Felix, Wall Street tycoon who actually comes from a long line of Felix’s in the Wall Street world,” Mia informs.
“Is there a reason Sebastian’s publicist hasn’t made a statement on him and this...‘Felicity’?” I ask.
“Yeah, he doesn’t have one. Ingrid Jefferson quit about three weeks ago on claims that ‘Sebastian was another level of difficult and non-understandable, living a complex world she can’t keep up with.’”
My heart tightens in my chest.
“Since Sebastian was eighteen, 54 individual women have claimed to have slept with him, all in which 35 Sebastian has confirmed true.”
“Disgusting.” I look at the numbers, along with the magazine articles with a few statements labeled “One Night with Sebastian Harrison.”
“Luckily, he’s apparently 100% STD free and actually very healthy. Extra information includes the various fan pages for him on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and even Facebook. The most has about seventy thousand followers. He happens to be a lot of girl’s crushes on Tumblr, especially. He’s done quite a few photo shoots, one for Rolling Stone when he was twenty-six.”
Two pictures in black and white of Sebastian are put in front of me by Skippy. In the first photo, Sebastian is pulling on the top of his black T-shirt with his teeth, sneering playfully while cocking an eyebrow at the same time. His light brown hair is long and disheveled which unfortunately covers most of his green eyes. It would be impossible to see them anyway, since his eyes are squinting in the photo.
However, in the second photo, Sebastian isn’t posing, or doing anything playful or outrageous. Instead, he is just looking straight at the camera. His face looks sad but emotionless at the same time thanks to his calm mouth but slightly furrowed eyebrows, but his eyes are what stand out the most. Bright, mesmerizing, but unreadable. Even though his messy hair is away from his eyes, it’s still hard to understand them.
I then realize that I’m staring at him. Full blown staring at this black and white photo of him on my desk. In front of Skippy, in front of Mia, even in front of Darcy. I’m staring, because Sebastian Harrison is attractive, very attractive, possibly the most handsome man I have ever seen. Yet I will never admit this aloud, not about this philanderer who gives the Harrison’s a bad name, to this man who party’s for a living. So instead, I just look at him.
“We’ll just...leave you two alone, then.”
Mia is pushing Skippy out of my office when I look up. A huge grin is planted on her face while Skippy is irritated at the fact Mia is pushing him out.
“I’ll go get you breakfast. The usual?” Darcy asks, trying to suppress the smile on her face.
I feel my face getting hot. Quickly, I put the photos in the file and close it.
“Yeah, the usual.”
Eventually they all leave. And when they do, I pull out the photos and look at them one more time before I close it and place it under the stack of evergreen files.