Stan was in his fifties, tall and gaunt, with thinning hair and a tendency to stick his sharp nose squarely up the client’s ass. Stan was the senior telecom consultant at Goldman & Stern and my immediate boss.
Juliette Ruiz, a sour-looking woman in her forties, was Stan’s second in charge. Juliette, who was so thin her clothes hung off her like a hanger, hated everyone except Stan. And if she hadn’t reported to Stan, she would have hated him, too. They were Goldman’s power couple when it came to telecom. Together, they had over fifty years of telecom experience, and were leading the team conducting the final due diligence for Wright Enterprises’ acquisition of Anderson Telecommunications.
Bob Gaines sat next to Juliette with his hands folded neatly on the table in front of him. Bob was a balding forensic accountant who had the look and pallor of a mortician. It was a fitting comparison because Bob could find financial skeletons in even the darkest of corporate closets. He not only looked like a mortician, he had the personality to match.
Between Bob and I sat Irving Hunt, Goldman’s legal expert in the telecom sector. Irving was a head shorter than me and several times my age. Rumor around Goldman was that Irving could sleep with his eyes open during meetings. I kept watching him from the corner of my eye, waiting for any sign that he was nodding off.
I was there because I’d been on several telecom teams in the last year and had a good handle on the industry. My input was valuable, but I wasn’t fooling myself. I was the low girl on the totem pole. I would be the one getting coffee and donuts and making copies of documents. And I would be the recipient of most of Juliette’s angry stares.
That was just fine with me. A few years from now I’d be sitting in Stan’s chair pulling down half a mill a year, and some other slab of fresh meat would be fetching my coffee.
A tall, distinguished-looking man with salt and pepper hair entered the room and Stan jumped up to shake his hand. I recognized him from my Google research as Henry Costas, Tanner Wright’s former professor at MIT, and for the last ten years, his right-hand man at Wright Enterprises. He would be our primary point of contact for the project.
Stan introduced Costas to the team. Costas leaned across to give everyone a welcoming smile and a handshake. I noticed his eyes lingered just a bit longer on me than they did on anyone else.
I immediately wondered if I should have put my long hair up in a more business-like bun rather than letting it fall naturally around my shoulders.
God, I hated how self-conscious men could make me feel with just a casual glance.
I was dressed professionally in a dark blue suit and grey top. My big boobs were squeezed into a bra that was supposed to make them look smaller and I was barely wearing any makeup or jewelry.
Still, Costas continued to glance at me as if I were a fox trying to get into his hen house. He took the chair at the end of the table across from Stan and finally released me from his gaze.
“Tanner will be right in,” Costas said with a quick smile. He looked at the three of them and held out his hands. He didn’t look my way again. “Would anyone like coffee or tea?”
“We’re all good,” Stan said, answering for the group. He glanced at the thick folder Costas had brought into the meeting with him. “I trust our proposal is in good order?”
Costas nodded as he opened the folder. “Yes, my team went through your proposal and we believe you have a good handle on everything that requires further verification at Anderson.” He glanced up and smiled at Stan. “As I told you over the phone, telecom is not normally in our wheelhouse, so we’re looking to you to make sure everything is good to go before we sign the final acquisition documents next week.”
“No worries,” Stan said, patting the air with his hands. “If anything is out of order, my team will find it.”
“Very good,” Costas said with a curt nod. He flipped through a few more pages and took out what looked like a contract. There were two copies. He slid one in front of Stan and kept one for himself.
“The contract is good to go,” Costas said, reaching inside his suit jacket for a pen. “It’s been vetted by our legal department and yours, so I’m ready to sign if you are.”
“I am ready,” Stan said eagerly. Stan already had the expensive Monte Blanc pen Goldman had awarded him for twenty years of service in his hand. He knew he’d be signing this contract today, so he’d probably had the pen in his hand for hours.
He twisted off the cap and with great flourish, scratched his signature on the signature line on behalf of Goldman & Stern.
Costas signed on behalf of Wright Enterprises. I noticed he was using a disposable Bic pen with the company name on the side. That said something about him to me. He was either so humble that he didn’t feel the need to show off by using a thousand-dollar pen, or he was so rich that he didn’t give a shit about impressing the likes of us.