Warning: The following story may contain graphic descriptions of sex between consenting adult males. If you are underage or do not wish to read such material, or if reading this sort of material is illegal in your jurisdiction, then read no further. This multipart story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation.
A special acknowledgement to David from the Lakeview area of Chicago and Brad from Denver for providing diligent proofing and editing of the story, to Carey for being a patient teacher, and to Drew for helping to expand my boundaries.
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Part 15, ALL IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS TO BE
Putting the clothes bag containing two suits, shirts and ties in the trunk next to Bill's items, I got into the limo dressed in a tee and jeans. As I told Bill, we were going to be a perishable commodity that would have to be freshened throughout the day.
As the chauffeur navigated over to the Congress Expressway, I said, "Did you get any sleep?"
"Shit, Jerry, are you serious? I'm on overdrive from yesterday. I hope the makeup guy knows his stuff."
"I hear you." Reaching over, I took his hand and squeezed hard, which he returned. "This is a big day for both of us. Just remember, we're going to kick ass." I turned and aggressively kissed him.
"Okay, Franklin, that's the operative word today. Kick ass." We held each other's hands for the remainder of the twenty-minute trip.
The whole executive floor had taken on a life of its own. Between camera crews, lighting and sound assistants, production assistants, and gofers, the human traffic jam around the conference room was amazing. The on-camera talent for the local shows had yet to arrive.
God bless Margie. She understood the importance of this morning. I appreciated that she had not delegated this to a subordinate. "Jerry, good morning. Quite a mess, isn't it?"
"Thanks for being here. George will appreciate it."
For the next 15 minutes makeup artists that would have made Hillary Clinton ready for the fashion runway carefully worked on Bill and me. Whatever loss in sleep was camouflaged by their skills.
Starting at 5:30 a.m., we followed Margie's plan. Fortunately, all of the interviewers tossed out soft balls. Since 'perky' Katie Couric was on assignment, a friendly Matt Lauer drew the interview. After facing Harry Smith and Diane Sawyer, the rest of the morning interviews were a piece of cake. When Fox wrapped up 2 1/2 hours later, Bill and I went to his office and the private restroom to wash away the makeup and dress down to casual clothes again. The entire process would be repeated in three hours at Harpo Studios.
"Babe, you were brilliant. And you are definitely my hero now," I lowly uttered behind the closed door.
"You made me look good," Bill answered, as he zeroed in for a long, hard kiss. "And it didn't hurt that the interviewers were sympathetic." The kissing resumed as we heard a knock on the door. Pulling away, he opened the door to meet Sammy face to face.
"Great job, guys. Dad wanted to know if you could join us in his office? Margie and Joe are already there." If he picked up on our heat and flushed appearance, it wasn't mentioned immediately.
"We'll be right there," I replied, sitting on the desktop.
Smiling knowingly, Sammy said, "Shall I close the door so you two can get back to your 'conference'?" Laughing, he winked walking out.
"Leave it open, and mind your manners, young man," I said, laughing. We followed shortly, strolling through the offices that were beginning the day's activity. Several staff tossed out positive comments along the way. George was at the reception area outside his office when we arrived.
"Come on in," he beckoned with a smile. Entering, I noticed that the group had expanded by two new faces.
Margie led off and said, "Guys, you got over the early morning hurdles well. The big one is coming up." We all knew she meant Oprah. "Let me introduce two staff members from my office. Sally Berns and Jennifer Scarpino. We're setting up a special desk downtown to handle press relations for your two companies and the two of you for the next week. I've already spoken to George, and he approves of the plan."
"What can I do, Margie?" I asked.
"I'd like both Martin offices in Chicago and New York to refer any press requests to Korman Communications. George will do the same here. The press is running with the story, and all of you need to be coordinated and present a positive, unified image. We can also weed out the crap press without them being offended and pissed at you."
"No problem. I'll call New York and my office as soon as we're finished."
"Sammy will notify the day telephone operator and department heads as soon as they arrive," George volunteered. American Foundry officially opened the telephones at 9:00 a.m.
"Anything else, Margie?" Bill Asked.
"I'm taking you two out to breakfast. The Wishbone Café is across from Harpo Studios. You need some food in you before she takes you on. If George is finished, why don't we leave now. I can brief you on the show structure at breakfast."
George added, "It's time to go on with business as usual. Have a good experience with Oprah."
"Joe, I suggest that you and Sammy continue finishing your part of the project today. We can touch base later." We all agreed to talk by phone late afternoon.
Walking out the building, with clothing bags in hand, Bill said, "Act two coming up. I'm sure that she'll be touchy-feely."
"But I'm really looking forward to Act three."
"Yeah, touchy-feeling with you tonight," I said, with a confident smile.
"It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, Jerry."
"Naw, Babe. Whatever you call that thing swinging between your legs," he snickered.
Approaching the limo, I said, "I'm going to call Ben in New York while we drive back to the Westside." The driver opened the door, and we eased into the rich, leather back seats. Pulling away, I punched the speed-dial for Ben's private line. "Hey, guy, how go the reactions back there to the interviews?"
~~~ "Jerry, terrific. Great PR for your client. And I noticed that you kept the Martin name alive. This is the best exposure we've had in a long time."
"Well, Ben, you better block 3:00 p.m. and turn on Channel 7 in New York. We're not quite finished out here in little old Chicago."
~~~ "Shit. You're on Oprah?" Oprah controlled the 3:00 p.m. slot on the ABC channels in all the major markets.
"None other. Bill and I start taping in about two hours. He's with me now."
~~~ "Say hello for me. You feel comfortable about the interview?"
"Yes. Margie has been handling this personally. We're meeting her for breakfast in a few minutes for a last briefing. We both know Oprah slightly from the East Bank Club. I have no doubt that it will be a very friendly interview. You know, good guys win, triumph over evil, life and death drama with a real hero, etc.," I said, while winking at Bill."
~~~ "I'm watching for sure. Listen, Jerry, call me after the taping. Some last minute business things have come up that we've got to discuss. I'm grabbing a sandwich in the office."
"Okay. I'll call around 1:30 p.m. your time. Bye, boss."
~~~ "Good luck Jerry."
At the Wishbone Café, Margie told us over 'red eggs and salmon cakes' that there would be four segments. "The FBI Agent Engelhart and a Chicago police spokesman will discuss the racketeering indictments and how the authorities have dealt with them. Bill and you will be featured in the middle two, and the last segment will be financial writer and commentator Terry Savage. She will join you two for a light financial discussion about your plans to strengthen American Foundry's international position and saving jobs. By the way, she will be introduced as a financial writer for the Sun-Times and syndicated column. There will be no mention of you know who." Margie meant competitor NBC.
After breakfast and the briefing, we all walked over to the stage entrance of the Harpo Studios. A very courteous, organized assistant producer assigned a dressing room for us and took us to make-up. We said hello to Agent Engelhart as he was leaving the chair. The other man walking out with him was a Lieutenant Bostwick from the Chicago police's public affairs department.
After the second makeover of the day, we returned to the dressing room and groomed ourselves for the big moment. About 10:30 a.m. there was a knock on the door. It was a little unsettling to open it and stand in front of a local and national legend.
Walking in, she extended her hand and welcomed us to the show. "I know we've talked on occasion at the East Bank Club and at some charity events. But I like to personally say hello to everyone on my show before hand."
"Bill said, "I appreciate it. As a lawyer, I'm used to addressing people. But when I think of the millions your show reaches, it can be overwhelming."
"Just think about our wonderful audience, and be comfortable. I saw you two on TV this morning. You're both naturals. By the way, Bill, I was overwhelmed myself, hearing about your rescue of this gorgeous man."
Feeling my face getting red under the make-up, I replied, "He definitely saved my life."
"We did it as a team, babe," Bill added. "Whoops, I think I let something slip out of the bag." He sheepishly looked at me as the talk show queen laughed.
"Um, I don't think we're ready to come out on national TV," I said, looking anxiously.
"Guys, my lips are sealed. We'll just say you're business associates. Listen, I've got to get going. One of the producers will bring you to the staging area behind the set in a few minutes. We'll have fun. And Bill, you are a hero." With that she swept out and closed the door.
"Jerry, I'm sorry. I just got carried away.
"Hey, no problem. She's cool. But this is a good lesson for both of us."
About ten minutes later, a producer escorted us to the staging area. We said hello again to Engelhart and Bostwick and waited for the show to begin. We heard the pre-taped music intro and live applause as the show started. The first segment was interesting for me because it focused on how the FBI and Chicago police worked together on the information we had given them.
In the next two segments, Bill and I, completely at ease due to the expertise of Oprah, shared facts and stories about ourselves, the two companies and the actual evening of the invasion and attack. The audience provided plenty of sympathetic 'Oh's' and 'Ah's' in the final moments, and they gave us a standing ovation.
During commercial break, Terry Savage was escorted to the stage and seated in an added chair. Bill warmly greeted her as a friend, and I was formally polite. The floor director counted down five seconds and we were back for the final segment.
Terry was introduced and there was a general discussion of business in America and how the competition internationally needed to be addressed. Terry praised American Foundry for recognizing the problem and having the foresight to bring in Martin Consulting as a catalyst and advisor. Because of the afternoon viewing audience, the questions and banter were light.
"Jerry, we're very familiar with Martin Consulting and the success your firm has had in Chicago and New York. How do you feel about merging soon to be a larger company?"
I kept my facial expression in a frozen confident smile and replied, "What exactly do you want to address?" 'What the fuck was she talking about?' I wondered.
"The impact of Martin Consulting merging with McKenney Consulting. Or, bought out, I should say."
'Don't blow it, pal,' I reassured myself. Smiling more intently, I looked squarely at Terry and said, "There is enough work for all of us. Both companies have separate strengths we bring to the table. I look forward working with my new colleagues." Terry looked at me strangely but said nothing. Oprah took the reigns and wrapped up the interview. Again, the audience was very excited.
As the hot studio lights were turned off, we got up, were thanked by the star and producer and walked off the set. I eased up to Terry and asked, "What the hell was that all about."
She stopped and looked at me. "Shit, you weren't aware of the merger?"
"No. What do you know?"
"Without mentioning names, someone in the McKenney office called me this morning with the news. Apparently it's being announced at 4:00 p.m. New York time. The lead-time allows me to do good research for my column that's due by early evening."
"I'm just startled, that's all. Just make Martin and my office look good." I was using all my personal energy not to scream.
"Jerry, count on it. Aside from owing you one, your work is impeccable. Gotta run. Bye, bye."
"Bill, let's grab our shit and get out of here. I've got a very angry phone call to make," I said as we walked to the dressing room.
"Wow, talk about getting your nuts chopped off on national TV. And you didn't know?" he asked walking into the room.
"No. Not a fucking a clue." Grabbing our bags, I continued, "Let's leave our clothes on and get back to my place."
"I understand." We found the car and got in after the driver placed our bags in the trunk. As the limo sped away to my home, I punched in Ben's number."
"You've got some explaining to do, pal."
~~~ "Explaining. What do you mean?"
"I mean being told in front of an audience on national TV that the company I work for and direct in Chicago is being sold or merged. Holy fuck, Ben, how could you do this to me?"
~~~ "Wait, slow down. Who told you that?"
"If you'll watch your fucking TV at approximately 3:53 p.m. you'll see and hear Terry Savage ask me about the merger with McKenney. How could you and your Dad knife me in the back? Jesus, Ben, it's not like I'm some office flunky. Or am I?"
~~~ "I can't apologize enough. I'm really sorry, Jerry. This is what I wanted to discuss with you at 1:30 p.m. Dad and old man McKenney have talked about this for at least two years. It just got serious last week. I was even caught off guard."
"And you couldn't trust your friend of ten years about this. Were you afraid I'd blab it around? This doesn't make sense." The driver turned north on Dearborn Street from Wacker Drive.
~~~ "I guess I was too wrapped up in the ramification here in New York. Again, I'm terribly sorry. I wasn't thinking too clearly on this. You are, of course, important to the company and the future."
"Okay, let's talk about that. What about the future. Who's going to be running the Chicago office of the merged company? McKenney has a strong presence here."
~~~ "These details haven't been worked out. I'll be upfront. McKenney is in the driver's seat. I'm not sure where I'll be after a one year transition."
"Christ, Ben. That's reassuring. And here I am in Chicago, where the asshole who runs their operation here hates my guts. I've taken too much business away from him." The limo was crossing Ohio Street.
~~~ "I don't know too much about him. Jerry, I will promise to find out everything I can about Chicago."
"Paul Porter is his name. A real slime ball. I don't know what he has on McKenney. Up to now, I was happy to have him there. Made us look better."
~~~ "I gotta run. Under the circumstances, you better come into your office tomorrow. I'll call you at the usual time."
"I'm going in now. Can't leave my troops dangling in the wind. Ben, this is very serious. I need to know what's happening soon. You understand?"
~~~ "Understand. I'll call you first thing." I turned off the cell and stewed, looking ahead.
"I just discovered that I'd better not get my best bud pissed off at me," Bill said, stroking my thigh.
With a forlorn expression, I weakly smiled and replied, looking into his comforting eyes, "Yeah. Pissed because my friend Ben didn't extend the courtesy of telling me about something that would affect my life." The limo turned right on Goethe Street. I'd be home in a few minutes.
"Is there anything I can do for you, Jerry?"
"Yes. Have the driver take you home. I've got to get to the office and prepare the troops for the press announcement. I don't like it, but I'm going to call my own press conference for 4:00 p.m. to manage the local news. You up for a little dinner at your place and a good mercy fuck later? That's what you can do for me, buddy." I leaned over and kissed him. 'To hell with the driver,' I mused. 'I'm sure he's seen worse in this back seat.'
"Food, and a fuck? I can do that." We both laughed lowly as the driver eased up to the curb. Getting out of the limo, I thanked the driver as I got my clothes bag and told Bill to expect me around 6:30 p.m.
As Bill sped away, I moved into action. I rapidly entered the house and turned off the alarm as the cat came bounding over to me. Feeding him first, I next called Alice and told her that I was coming in to conduct an important staff briefing for everyone at 2:30 p.m. Scanning the first floor to make sure everything was in order, I re-set the alarm, dashed over to Lake Shore Drive and grabbed the next cab cruising by.
Once inside the Yellow Cab, I called Margie and explained the new emergency and my idea of a press conference. She would call all the media. We decided to hold it in the open office area with me without a jacket and tie slightly pulled down to project an image of a hands-on executive at work. Mayor Rich Daley used this effectively.
Arriving at the office, I waved to those working and asked Alice to join me. In the office, she gave me a three-page confidential fax addressed to me. "Have you read this yet?" I asked.
"I hope you won't be mad, Jerry. After your urgent phone call, I decided that I'd better brief myself to help you. This is pretty heavy stuff," she said, looking concerned.
"Shit. Heavy shit. Might as well take the gloves off and call it what it is. No, I'm not mad at you. It was the right thing to do. What's your analysis on this?"
"Well, it says merger, but everything leads to the conclusion that McKenney is buying us. Apparently there is an agreement in principle. The release says that the exact details of the merger will be worked out within the next 30 days."
"Okay. I'm going to digest this before meeting everyone in the open office area. Tell them because of a press conference I'm conducting, they are free to leave the office at three. I'll need all the space for the crews and reporters." I was still hot news. Margie and I agreed that there would be a big turnout.
"I'll get right on it."
"One more thing. Call Joe Jenrette at American Foundry. Apologize for me not calling personally. Give him a complete rundown. He'll understand."
She nodded, and I sat down to digest the release and complete my strategy for the press. Although a little late, sound bites from my conference would find their way back east for the evening news. And if I was correct, that dumb shit, Paul Porter, over at McKenney, would be watching me as a lead story tonight.
The staff was anxious. But I told them that their value would only increase in a larger organization. It would be folly, I told them, to break up a winning team. As they departed for the day, the first of the TV crews arrived. 'God,' I thought, with a smile, 'I was starting to recognize the cameramen.'
By four, the office was in organized chaos. Margie and her P.A. directed traffic. The turnout was not quite as large as this morning's because this was primarily a business story. Knowing everyone was on deadline, I stood up to a bank of microphones and made a statement that in effect said that Martin Consulting had been the leader in our field in Chicago for several years, and I welcomed additional associates to tackle the many challenges in keeping corporate Chicago competitive and the community prosperous.
Recognizing many of the on-air talent, I rotated questions so that each channel got good exposure and sound bites with their reporter. Because this was a very important local story on a soft news day, I calculated that this half hour with the press would have major impact. 'For Martin?' I asked myself. 'No, this was selfishly for Jerry Franklin. Fuck Porter and McKenney.'
With the TV and radio crews satisfied with enough for tonight's news, they decamped as I continued more questions from the print press. I finally got out of the office around 5:15 p.m. As I walked out with Margie, she said, "Jerry, that was quite a performance. If I had a guess, I'd say that this was a personal message from you to New York?"
"You read it loud and clear. I'm a pretty mellow guy until I get fucked over. I dominate business consulting in Chicago. I'm not going down without a fight."
"Well, Mr. Mellow, can I give you a lift home?" We both laughed.
"Thanks, I needed that. And yes, I'd love a ride home."
With her personal assistant driving, I was home in no time. I rushed to take off the stale interview clothes and jump in for a quick shower. Soaping myself down, I started to get hard thinking about Bill. As tempting as it was, I saved the energy for Bill.
Dressed in clean, casual clothes, I retrieved the SUV from the apartment building garage at the corner and sped away to 2800. Arriving at his condo tower, I went directly to the front and asked them to valet park it. I had one idea in mind: to be with my friend and lover.
Bill met me in the hallway and almost pushed me into the condo entry. Wrapping his good arm around my back, he moved in for a long kiss with our tongues getting reacquainted. In the background, I heard my voice from the TV set coming from the family room area. "You've been a busy guy."
Walking to the kitchen and family room, I saw my image in the conference of two hours ago. "Yeah, I'm a real media whore." We both chuckled. "This is the first shot at their bow."
"Some shot. Or shots," he replied, directing the remote to hit the local stations. "It looks like 'all Jerry, all the time' on the news in Chicago tonight."
The CBS2 anchor concluded, "...no one from McKenney Consultants was available for comment."
"Fuck 'em. Although I'm very disappointed at the way Ben handled this, I'm going to deal with Paul Porter and McKenney aggressively. No prisoners taken."
"Do you want to watch any more of this? I could tune in the cable business channels."
"No, let's get some music on. I'll have other 'music' to face tomorrow. What's on the menu, babe?"
"Everything's cold. First, gazpacho soup. Then poached salmon with a dill mayonnaise and a green salad. I've got a Chalone chardonnay chilling."
"Okay, here's what I propose. I'll open the wine and pour two glasses. Then, my friend, I propose that we adjourn to your bedroom to work up a little appetite. I was serious about needing a mercy fuck."
Taking the wine bottle from the refrigerator, Bill replied, "Babe, just show me what to do. Having just one good arm is limiting."
"Not when I'm finished with you," I answered with a smile, as the foil of the wine cap was cut. After pulling the cork, I poured the wine and offered a glass to my new lover. After clinking the glasses together and taking a sip, I took him by the hand to the master bedroom.
TO BE CONTINUED