There was the sound of laughter and the buzz of voices. The hotel’s waiters were passing among the guests with trays of champagne glasses and hors d’oeuvres. There were evening gowns and tuxedos as far as the eye could see and the walls of the hotel’s ballroom were hung with expensive reproductions of classical paintings. It looked, thought Grant as he surveyed the scene with a critical eye, more like a scene out of a thirties film then an event suited for the modern age. However he had passed on any role in the planning of tonight’s celebration. Plenty of the other board members had had opinions on how the merger should be celebrated and on the list of things worth fighting for, this reception didn’t even appear. Especially since he had already entered this merger with less influence than he had originally anticipated.
He frowned, as he remembered Holly Woods and her article. Of course it was her article. Even if legally he couldn’t prove it, he never for a moment doubted it. Linda Atwood had certainly not written it, she was happy back in Arizona, content that her children would be taken care of. Peter Glades wouldn’t have had any desire to draw more publicity and that paparazzo that Linda had mentioned…he searched his memory…Clint, he wasn’t about to publish such a juicy news story without making a substantial amount of money in return.
No, it had been Holly.
It wasn’t exactly that the rest of the board believed the story but yet…he could sense it more than he had concrete evidence to prove it, but he felt he was on dangerous ground and he had to tread carefully. Which frustrated him. This should have been his moment. He had finally achieved his dream: this merger had created the international studio he had been planning for the past ten years. But instead he was playing Hollywood politics on a very low level.
“Stanley!” He approached a tall, thin man, and shook his hand vigorously. “It’s good to see you and I’m so glad you could make it.”
“Thank you for inviting me. It’s a fantastic party.”
“Well thank you for that little favor. I appreciate it.”
“Of course. I’m sure if you’ve recommended her, she’s going to be a fantastic costume designer for the film. And it’s always exciting working with new talent.”
Malcolm nodded. “I’ve been keeping my eye on her for a while, just waiting for the perfect fit, the right project to place her in. When I remembered your film I knew it was a match made in heaven.”
“We’re meeting tomorrow to go over some ideas. Oh and I discovered when I was interviewing her that she actually graduated from my alma mater.”
“No, really? I had no idea,” Grant lied. “It’s a small world isn’t it?” He spotted someone across the room. “Sorry Stanley, there’s someone I should talk to. I’ll see you later.”
Grant crossed the room, placing his champagne glass on the tray of a passing waiter and approached McCall.
“Victor, it’s good to see you. I’m glad you’ve come.”
McCall smiled and shook his hand. “It’s quite a party.”
“It is. Donald planned most of it. He’s quite a character.”
“Yes,” Victor agreed. “I’ve known him since school and this does seem his type of event.” He took a drink and looked around.
“Of course a lot of this is all thanks to you,” said Grant, “you spearheaded the talks in the UK. I know we haven’t agreed about…everything this past year, but I’m glad we’ve worked together and that you’re a part of this new studio.”
Victor didn’t answer directly instead he nodded towards someone a little ways off. “Is that Kyle Greene?”
“What? Oh. Yes. He’s working as a director on a new project with me.”
“Wasn’t he working with Henry Donne on a project?”
“As cinematographer. He’s been wanting to expand.”
Victor wasn’t a fool. They both knew exactly what was going on here. Grant eyed Victor and considered. If he could get him on his side he’d be an invaluable ally. And as an enemy he couldn’t do much harm. The merger was through and McCall’s role in new studio was too unsubstantial to enable him to create real trouble.
“Victor, we’ve been working together a long time.”
Victor took another drink and leaned back against the wall, surveying him. Someone else might have felt uncomfortable under the close, studying gaze, but Grant brushed it aside.
“I feel our professional working relationship has always been a very satisfactory one. We’ve created some great things,” he continued.
“Yes we have.”
“We’ve created this too,” said Grant gesturing around him. “This studio. I am not pandering to you when I say your help was invaluable. It was. I know Donald wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. So thank you. And I’m excited to see what we work on next.”
Victor made a noncommittal noise.
“Cards on the table here Victor,” continued Grant, “I know you’re friends with Holly Woods. But you have to see that my hands are tied in this. She forced this battle. I responded in the only way I could.”
“There’s a dead man Malcolm. I may not have agreed with all of Holly’s decisions in this matter but I understand where she’s coming from. And you’re playing dirty here. You’re attacking her behind closed doors and getting the press to assassinate her in public.”
“Is that any worse then what she did to me with that article?” Grant shook his head. “She is the one that set the stage so that only one of us can walk out of this intact.”
“She thinks you shouldn’t be able to get away with covering up murders and committing manslaughter.”
“And that’s her prerogative. Just like it’s mine to make sure she doesn’t take away everything I’ve worked for my entire life. I’d like you on my side Victor. I’ve always respected you.”
“I’m sorry Malcolm. If it’s got to be between you and her, I’m going to stick with Holly.”
Grant sighed. “Then keep her out of trouble. If she backs down, eventually I may be able to as well. But that’s a long time from now. If I were you, I’d rethink your decision. There’s bound to be some collateral damage.”