Grant straightened his tie once more, almost automatically.
Well perhaps she had won. But he wasn’t going to run.
He slowly got to his feet, glanced one more time around the office, and then switched off the lights before walking down the hall, up a flight of stairs and to the boardroom.
It was still early but several people were already gathered. As soon as he walked through the doors an awkward hush descended around the room.
He nodded curtly at everyone.
“Grant.” Donald edged over to him, as if prepared to run for it if he had to. “How are you holding up?”
Grant raised an eyebrow at the phrasing. “I’m feeling well. And you Donald?”
“Oh. Just fine….it’s chilly for the time of year isn’t it?”
“Very.” Grant brushed past him and took a seat at the table. Victor joined him.
One by one people started making their way to their seats and more board members arrived. Gloria was the last to show up, sweeping in at the last minute, looking for all the world as if she owned the place. She beamed towards Grant and he made a point to smile politely back.
The meeting was called to order and a few basic preliminaries were gone through but everyone was tense. They were all waiting. And from the way some people kept glancing towards Gloria, they were planning on leaving the dirty work to her and she was enjoying dragging it out. Grant had had enough.
He straightened several papers in front of him, took a drink of water, and then set down the glass with a loud and audible ‘click’. Every eye turned to him. He could still command the attention of every single person in this room.
“I think we can dispense with the remaining preliminaries and get down to why this meeting was called in the first place. Don’t you Gloria?”
She titled her head to one side as if considering. “I suppose there is a lot to discuss. Donald?”
“What? Oh yes. Japan. Well I think most of us have heard that they’ve backed out of the deal this morning.”
Gloria shot a glance towards Grant and was disappointed to see that he had indeed heard this.
There was a general murmur around the table.
“I mean we’re all disappointed,” Donald continued. “I know everyone put in a lot of hours to make that deal go through.”
“And it was all but officially a done deal. But I suppose there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip,” said Gloria. “And this meeting was called a month ago. So while I do feel the merger is relevant as it illustrates the problem we have, the real issue is a much bigger one. And I think we’re all aware of it.”
People shifted in their seats.
She continued: “Now I know we’ve all worked hard to create Montell Connected Studios and that that level of hard work creates a bond and no one wants to hurt feelings. But we have a responsibility to more than ourselves. We have a responsibility to our employees to do what is in the best interests of the studio. And the time may have come when the best, is also the most difficult.”
“And what do you think is the best?” asked Grant.
Gloria gave him a sympathetic smile that grated like iron. “Malcolm. Our studio is more than one person. So when one person is bringing it down, changes must be made. Wouldn’t you agree Victor?”
“I’m not getting involved in this.”
“Oh but we’re all involved in this. Look at what’s been happening this past year! We formed one of the biggest international movie studios that has ever existed. We were on top of the world. And now our studio is under fire for going after an indie film that is just trying to get by, and an actress that has been in a total of one television show and two movies. An actress who should be so far beneath our notice we shouldn’t even be talking about her at our board meeting. And yet here we are. The laughing stock of Hollywood because of our vendetta against her. Only, in recent months ‘laughing stock’ is too generous a phrase to describe what we have become. Tampering with photographs, framing her for leaking films, and…who knows what else.”
Grant knew every single person in that room was thinking about Lionel Atwood.
“That’s what people are saying,” said Gloria. “It’s a wonder we’re not under a criminal investigation at this point. Of course I say we, because that is how people see us. As a unit. As a studio. When we made the merger, we threw our lots in together. And now, we have to show unity. We have to show that we do not tolerate this kind of behavior. This kind of petty cruelty and underhanded dealing. Or else we will lose everything that we’ve built. This is an industry based on appearances. And we need a makeover.”
Grant chuckled. He’d had a speech in his head. It was a good speech. He was going to pull it out right before the vote so the last thing in everyone’s mind was that speech. It would have laid down exactly everything he had done for everyone present in that room, and have just a hint of what he could do if pushed to it. But McCall was right. People already knew what they were going to vote. And it wasn’t going to be in his favor. So why not see exactly who he could drag down with him?
Mentally he threw the speech out. It was time to wing it with something new.
“Let me see if I understand this Gloria. Your interpretation of unity…isn’t actually us as a unit is it?” he asked.
“It’s making the hard calls together Malcolm. No matter what it may cost us personally.”
“Why don’t you just admit that you want to call a vote to have me ousted from the board?”
Gloria blinked. She obviously hadn’t expected him to take this approach and didn’t appreciate him stealing her thunder.
“You are the one who’s brought this on the studio singlehandedly,” she said.
“Have I? Singlehandedly?” He got to his feet. “Let’s think about that shall we? First I admit that I’ve made some mistakes. But I had some help in making them. Luke Page for instance. I bet if you talked to him, he would tell you all about his meeting with Gloria. Which is very interesting, because when his interview with Holly Woods was killed, it raised some eyebrows, didn’t it Donald?”
Grant began to walk around the table. “And let me ask this of each and every one of you: how many private lunches have you all had one-on-one with Gloria this year at which somehow you ended up talking about me?”
“I don’t see how that-”
“Gloria please. You got your speech. Now it’s time for mine. Gossip always starts somewhere. This studio has been infested with it. Where do you think it all began? Don’t misunderstand me. I accept my responsibility. But Gloria has been fanning every single flame that would have died a natural death. Gloria has wanted to bring the studio to this point, so she could force this vote, and she could take my place. She wants to you to vote me out. And who then could possibly be the head of Montell Connected Studios then?”
“What? You think I couldn’t handle the job better than you? At least I wouldn’t drag the studio’s name through the mud.”
“No. Because you’ve already done that. You have relished every misstep I’ve taken. I know, for a fact, that you’ve been talking to press.”
“You want to talk about the press? What about Clint Morgan? That’s the kind of press you talk to.”
“See. There she goes again. She talks of unity but at the first opportunity throws the people she’s done with to the dogs. Is that really the type of person you want running this studio? That you want over you? A woman who fought to bring the studio low just so she could take over? In fact let me go one further. Is that really the type of person you even want on this board? She exacerbated every, single error, and it’s partly thanks to her that we’re even here today. So please, by all means, vote me off, but cut out all the infected area while you’re at it. I ask for a vote to remove Gloria Stanhope from this board as well.”