Board members swim around us, hungry sharks sniffing for blood. Marci’s red dress doesn’t help erase my dark thoughts. I never noticed before. The member of IntegraLink’s board don’t much care for her. The feeling falls completely mutual from what I gather.
Marci and I went our separate ways shortly after our arrival. I relegated myself to the peons on the outer periphery of importance. Nevertheless, notable people sought me out, like Penelope, one of the VP’s of something or another.
“So. Marty. You escorted Ms. Rader to the ball. Did the two of you suddenly become an item?”
The eyebrows of my fellow bottom feeders told me I now consisted of four parts radioactivity and one part plague. The all scattered as my response stumbled from my lips. “Um, well, no, we just walked in together that’s all.” I hate it when I can’t think of anything clever to say.
“Looked like more than just a chance meeting at the door to me.” She paused, then added, “It appears I underestimated you.”
“Wow, I was never aware you’d even noticed me.” I turn and show her my back, nearly knocking over a young lady sporting a tray of hors d’oeuvres. While Penelope may hold a ton of clout, the conversation appeared headed for no good place. I caught back up with my kind, but they stood wary of every higher-up that strolled by.
“You’re playing a dangerous game, Marty. You don’t understand the politics of this place yet. Ms. Rader is not someone to ally yourself with just yet. Since her old man died, she’s taken a lot of heat for changes she’s implemented.” John Merriweather from accounting. For some reason, he appears to want my friendship.
“Hey, John. I’m the least political person in this room. I don’t give a crap about all that stuff. I let everyone else play the games.”
John looked unconvinced. “You better brush up on your tact. Here comes Bathesda. You won’t blow him off as easy as Penelope.”
“I didn’t blow her off. I simply didn’t care for the conversation.”
“If you want to keep your job, you better give this conversation a better shot.”
John walked away just as Mr. Bathesda stepped into my field of vision. Hell, he took up my field of vision. He had to be six-eight and all muscle. His forty-ish look told me he most likely nestled into fifty a couple years ago. He works hard at appearing virile.
“Good evening Mr…ah, my apologies, I didn’t quite get your name.”
“Funny, you had it the other day in the board meeting when you shot down my idea.” Off to my right, John shook his head and frowned at me.
“Yes, that’s right. Pitchford. Let’s walk.”
“No thanks.” I didn’t care for his tone. John’s now red-faced and storms off into the crowd.
“You don’t care for me much, do you Pitchford.” Bathesda’s steel gray eyes attempt to bore through me.
“Why should I Bathesda? You’re pushing some political power play on me like an actor from some bad B-movie. If you don’t have the balls to say what’s on your mind, then let’s go enjoy this soiree.”
The slight tinge of color to Bathesda’s face rewards me for my efforts, although I’m sure I’m in deep shit now. I suppose I drifted a bit too far from my old ass-kissing persona. “Pitchford, whatever you’re up to, you better hope you have someone covering your back.”
“And why would that be, Dan?” Marci slipped in beside me. “Go plot your little power games elsewhere. Father told me you’d be a pain in the ass.”
Bathesda turned on his heel, his face now a bit brighter.
“Marci. I, uh, I apologize for stirring him up…”
“Have you had enough of this party yet?”
The question didn’t sound like a question, and by the tug on my elbow, I didn’t need a map to figure out what she meant.