Chapter 1 - A New Junior Assistant
John Kingsley, recently divorced, glanced over at the photo of his wife and son. It sat in a rather ornate frame toward the back of his broad desk and he was contemplating whether he should simply place a folded up sheet of paper over his ex or get a solo picture of his son,Christopher. Maybe he should cut Elizabeth out of the photo with a big, sharp, pair of scissors. He had thought about that several times but hadn’t gotten around to it. He would deal with it later. He had work to do now.
It was almost time to go on the air. He hosted a popular radio call-in show and had to get himself ready for the usual assortment of opinionated, loud, hateful, ignorant, but sometimes interesting listeners who kept him on the air. He leaned back in his swivel chair and sighed. With heavy eyelids, he pulled the phone toward him then dragged the boom for the microphone into place.
He reached out to the side toward a small table then realized what he was reaching for wasn’t there. With a snap, he pressed a button and a tired voice crackled over the intercom, “Yes, John?”
“Do I not bring in 75% of this station’s revenue each year, Peter?” His British-Irish accent was clipped and falsely lilting.
The voice sighed audibly, “What is it, John?”
“One would think that my small request for fresh ice water each morning might be honored.” John spun back and forth in his chair as he spoke. “After all, my voice is what keeps us all in the money, isn’t it?”
“One of the girls will get it to you shortly. You could have just called them directly.”
“I thought perhaps, as station manager, you could make sure the ice water is not missed in the future.”
John gave a half grin and a snort as he clicked off. Then he narrowed his eyes as he spun and caught sight of a giant photo of himself embedded high above the door to the studio. This one had replaced the last which had been shot out with a loud blast almost a year ago. He lost his grin and balled up a piece of paper then threw it at the new photo. He wished this one would disappear as well. The paper ball barely made it three feet before it fell flatly to the ground.
He glanced back at the picture of Elizabeth and Christopher. Elizabeth had the most beautiful eyes he had ever looked into. He tore off a piece of paper and tried to hang it across her side of the photo but it kept slipping. He was interrupted when a young girl entered the room carrying a tray with a pitcher of water, a glass, and a bucket brimming with ice.
“Good morning,” she said. “I’m your new junior assistant, Lana.”
“You are, are you?” He eyed her, up and down. “Junior assistant, you say?” His voice got thick as he took in her curves and lush red hair.
“Yes sir,” she assured him.
He leaned forward with a smirk, and said, “Well, if that’s the case, assist me. Pour me a drink.” He tilted his chin towards a little bar across the room, then he narrowed his eyes. “Pour yourself one too. Nice hair.”
Lana walked over to the bar. “What would you like, Mr. Kingsley?” She looked back at him.
“Scotch and water.” He leaned back as he watched her. “Easy on the water.”
She poured the scotch then lifted the glass for him to see as she slowly poured the water. “This much?” He noted that her eyes were almost as blue as his as she looked up at him for a response.
“Very good.” He was surprised that her hands didn’t shake. Usually the girls that came in here were terrified. They talked about him out there, he knew it. And what they said was never nice.
She carried the drink to him. “Would you like a glass of ice water as well?”
“You’re a composed little thing, aren’t you?” He began gently spinning himself in the chair. “Go ahead and have that drink I offered you.”
“I’m working, Sir.”
“If you’re assisting me, Lana… Lana, correct?” He raised his eyebrows and she nodded. “If you’re assisting me, Lana, then you need to do what I say and I say, have a drink.”
“Would you like your ice water before I have my drink,” she tilted her chin down, “or after?”
He guffawed. “I’ll take it before, but then you really WILL have to have that drink.”
She poured his ice water and brought it to him.
“And what will you drink, Miss Lana? Is it Miss or Mrs?”
“Good. That makes you a much better assistant.” He raised his scotch to her. “And what will you have?”
“Perhaps a cognac. This looks like a fine one.” She picked up a bottle and examined the label.
“Yes, Hine Champagne Cognac. $200 a bottle.” He smiled. “I think you’ll enjoy it. You seem like a girl who enjoys the more exquisite things in life.”
“Perhaps,” she opened it and poured a small amount then sipped. “In modest amounts.” She answered without smiling.
He laughed. “Oh, I think I’m going to enjoy having you as my assistant.” He reached for his headphones. “Now, get out of here. Take your drink with you and be on your way. I have to get on the air.”
She moved toward the door, still unsmiling as she carried her glass.
“Oh, and Lana.” He turned toward her and she looked back at him. “Come back after the show is over and assist me again.” He gazed up at her with heavy lids. “I’ll need help closing up.”
“Certainly, Sir.” She bowed her head slightly then went out the door. She was the least servile ‘servant’ he had encountered in this place and that intrigued him. Where did she come from anyway? He spun back toward the soundboard and caught sight of Elizabeth. The familiar warmth of her face hurt his heart. Perhaps he should just place the photo face down. But he couldn’t do that. He was going to have to sit there conducting business as usual, pushing out witty quips and bits of humor as he always did, all under the beautiful dark and watchful eyes of Elizabeth, her loving, innocent, and reproachful gaze ever haunting him.
Lana killed to get this job, not literally of course, but she had worked hard for it. And, yes, it didn’t hurt that her late dad’s best friend was good pals with Pete Hererra: Station Manager, Pete Herrera. Everyone networked these days. John Kingsley was the most popular talk show host in Montreal. She had been listening to him with her grandma since she was a kid. Damned if she wasn’t going to end up working in his studio. She’d had his poster in her room since the first year he went on the air and she had been dreaming about meeting the man since she was old enough to dream about men at all. The other girls could have their Donnie Osmonds and Shaun Cassidies, but Lana was fixated on Kingsley.
Pete Hererra hired her and warned her that she was not going to be happy with this job. He only hired her out of desperation. Nobody wanted to work with John Kingsley anymore. He was known for his up and down moods, his lashing out at women, at anyone who tried to attend to him or take care of his administrative needs. He was particular about the type of paper his assistants used, the size of the margins, the way they sat, talked, and hit the keys. She was told that he was completely unbearable. Pete didn’t hold out much hope that Lana would last more than a few days, especially since she didn’t have much experience. She was newly out of secretarial school. But Pete had no idea how determined Lana was and he had no idea how well researched John Kingsley had been by Lana Armitage. Just about everything she had ever gotten, Lana had gotten for herself and she was determined to get John Kingsley, one way or another.
And why wouldn’t he want someone like her? She knew she was beautiful. She had been told that time and again by a lot of people, but she didn’t need to hear it. She could see it for herself in the mirror. She was fit and curved in the right places. Plus she knew what to do with it, how to toss her head to show off her hair and to walk with just enough sway so that she was enticing but didn’t look like a whore. And with a nice coat of lipstick, her mouth could draw the eyes of any man. John was no exception today.
Still, she knew better than to make it easy. He was a man used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it. She would have to make herself more valuable than just another good looking woman. She would have to make herself into someone he would want to attain.
She smiled to herself as she sat on the bus home and thought about how the day went. She helped him close out the administrative tasks of the show but had kept it remotely professional. There was puzzlement… interest… in his face. He had asked her how she liked the cognac and she told him she had liked it very much but said nothing more. Her professional demeanor and the fact that she stood tall as they worked together sent him the message that she wasn’t going to be intimidated, yet she willingly took on every task he gave her. She was good at what she did. She excelled in school, was a quick and exceptionally accurate typist, which seemed to impress him (although she suspected he was not looking at her fingers). All in all, things went better than she had even expected.
It did not escape her, however, that Elizabeth’s photo sat there prominently on his desk, right by the soundboard, where it was a constant reminder of what he used to have. She would have to figure out a way to get rid of that. It would be one thing if the photo were of Christopher only, but why would John keep a picture of Elizabeth. After all, they were divorced now and everybody knew it was ugly. It was all over the papers. He was a cheat. But, come on, a man like John… Did Elizabeth seriously expect him to be faithful?
If John were Lana’s, she would be more understanding of him than Elizabeth apparently was. But then again, Lana would keep him so busy, he wouldn’t have any energy left for another woman. She’d drain him of every little bit though every adventurous way he could imagine. Then, if he still felt like he had to have a taste of something else, maybe she’d join him and give him a real jolt. After all, with someone like John Kingsley, you’d have to make the sky the limit. Elizabeth was a fool for leaving him. But Elizabeth’s loss would be Lana’s gain, one way or another.