L * S * I * T * T
© 1999 Arthur Herzog
By the same author
Glad to Be Here
Make Us Happy
How to Write Almost Anything Better and Faster
Seventeen Days: The Katie Beers Story
The Woodchipper Murder
Vesco: From Wall Street to Castro's Cuba
The B. S. Factor
McCarthy for President
The Church Trap
The War/Peace Establishment
Thanks to my advisers: Martin Ackerman, Mark Belzberg,
Kathy Black, Ivan Boesky, Dr. Stanley Cardon,
Richard Chenney, Dr. Robert Cox, Heidi Fiske, Dr.
Marshall Goldberg, Paul Gould, William Haddad,
Arnold Jacobs, Laxhmie Kallicharran, Beverly Karp,
Harvey Karp, Gershon Kekst, Prof. David Kleinman,
Gaye Leslie, Ben Levine, Martin Lipton, Leslie
Mandel, Walter Maynard, Lawrence McQuade, Richard
Rosenthal, Jay Schein, Herbert Schmertz, John
Skully, Allan Slifka, Cullen Stanley, Mark
Strausberg, Harold Wit, Arthur Woolstyn-Smith.
MODERN corporate takeover battles resemble closely the feudal
wars of the middle Ages. A corporation that fears a raid by a
black knight attempts to establish a reputation for fierce
resistance to takeovers by strongly rejecting all proposals to
discuss alliance by merger. The serfs are pacified with increased
dividends and a shareholder relations campaign. The count warns
his noblemen against fraternization with raiders. Frequently
mercenaries, lawyers specializing in takeover battles, are
specially retained to advise as to the design of the castle,
periodically to check the ramparts and smooth the glacis and to be
available on short notice in the event of a surprise attack. If a
raid does come, the council is convened, the clergy is consulted
and the mercenaries, if not already on retainer, are hired. The
shields of the mercenaries are their legal opinions; the
pikestaffs are their lawsuits. Their religion is loyalty,
persistence and ingenuity.
The board of directors is the council. Like the feudal
council, it is often subservient to the count. However, corporate
presidents are not divine right rulers and the board has a
critical role in a takeover war. Without the full support of the
council, takeover defense is almost impossible and the castle will
quickly be lost. It is only the council that can make the
ultimate decision to reject the takeover bid and defend against a
takeover raid. Here the power of the council is supreme.
The investment bankers are the clergy. They consult the
scriptures by Moody's and Standard and Poor's and damn the
takeover bid as unfair or inadequate. They strengthen the resolve
of the count and the council. They know the bishops of Wall
Street and can read their signs as they appear on the tape. They
know the mercenaries and can reach them at any hour of the day or
night. If the need arises, they act as emissaries to the
neighboring Castles in the sometimes desperate last-minute quest
for a white knight.
So goeth the takeover war.
-- Martin Lipton
* PART ONE *
"THAT really happened?" said her secretary Bruce Stein
with a trace of awe.
"Yes, that really happened," Leslie Royal said in the self-
mocking, old-maidish tone she heard herself use too frequently.
She actually felt embarrassed at relating the incident -- it
seemed too close to showing off -- and yet she had to tell
someone, if only as catharsis. "Not that I did anything except
shout. My showing up was apparently enough to scare him away."
"The woman wasn't..." Her secretary didn't complete the
"He had her on the ground and he'd ripped her pants but she
hadn't been molested yet. That was one lucky girl."
"You too, Miss Royal. You could have been hurt. Women who
jog alone in Central Park at the crack of dawn are, if you'll
forgive me, crazy. Can you identify him?"
"No, he wore a ski mask. He was gone before we could find
a cop." She remembered the patrol car on the horse trail like a
tank late for battle..."Anything going on?" she asked, switching
to safer precincts.
"The report you want is on your desk. Paul Hoexter's
coming at ten to talk about it."
At her door she turned and said, "The man had a knife. I
was scared silly. I think I still am."
Bruce uttered a little screech, and nodded in sympathy.
Seeing her office, people who didn't know better sometimes
assumed the inhabitant to be male. The look was strong and crisp.
Subdued elegance lay in the clean lines of couch and chairs,
upholstered in seal-colored leather, in the trim futuristic desk
on a chrome base that seemed from the front to lack drawers.
Illuminated by a ceiling light, the large painting was a Jackson
Pollock which Leslie Royal, with her instinct for liquidity, would
have sold for the company treasury except that John Royal had been
proud to have bought it before Pollock became a recognized master.
On the wall behind her desk hung a photo of her
grandfather. Her high cheekbones, angular face and round mouth
resembled his, and like him she was tall and thin. She laughed as
he had, a little nervously, and had his rapid gestures. When
preoccupied, John Royal could be brusque, and Leslie Royal had the
"Stan Moffat's calling," Bruce announced on the intercom.
"So early? I'm not in yet." She was eager to read
"I said you were here. I'm sorry."
Moffat was one of those people who, having placed a call
through his secretary, got busy on something else and made you
hang on. Leslie disliked the double-layering of secretaries,
often dialed for herself, was not impressed with subtle devices
for conveying importance, detested wasting time as Moffat was
forcing her to do on the empty line. And talking to Moffat would
be a waste of time in any case: she knew what he wanted and how
she would respond. She hoped she would not be unkind.
Her life as a single woman was complex, crowded with
ambiguities. Without any particular pride she acknowledged to
herself that people considered her good looking, a few even said
beautiful -- she would never have gone so far. She was relatively
young -- thirty-seven -- reasonably ambitious, independent and
successful, the chief executive of a corporation; she was also
feminine enough to let men squire her and pay for what she hoped
was the pleasure. Besides, to have done otherwise, to make a big
deal of equal sharing, would have been to sow confusion or worse
in some male egos she frankly perceived as weak and, having made
decisions all day, it was rather nice to leave them to others
In Royal's experience, men usually called on the second day
after having sex with her, as if phoning on the very next might
smack of gratitude, might indicate too much tenderness,
vulnerability. Anyway, that's apparently the way it was with Stan
Moffat. An investment banker, he'd taken her to a society clip
joint and contrived to give her a peek at the bill -- a rather
poorly conceived effort to dazzle someone who for business reasons
was pretty much forced to eat at the most expensive restaurants
and liked nothing better than home cooking, even if she had to
prepare the meal herself. She was not much of a cook, however.
Stan had insisted on returning to her apartment overlooking
Central Park South for further pleasure and she had gone along.
Not that Royal was what her grandfather would have termed,
quaintly, promiscuous: the rather grim truth, if told, was that
she had passed a month of Saturday nights with attractive female
friends who agreed on the apparent absence (were they extinct?) of
appealing single gentlemen of an appropriate age. Royal's range
was larger than the others, who seemed to crave younger men, while
she would have been content with a nice guy even ten years older
than herself, but she had not found one, had not had sex in some
time, and one reached a point where animal urges were hard to
ignore. She was sorry afterward, in this instance, not to have
ignored them. Instinct told her that Moffat would leave her
incomplete. Probably the fault was hers. Even after an orgasm
some deep part of her seemed to remain untouched and unsatisfied.
She had refused to let Moffat sleep there; in the morning he'd
want her again and she preferred to run.
So the pattern was familiar: have intercourse with a man
and he'd assume with easy certainty you'd want to again, and
again, until the arrangement ended. She appreciated attention
(though Stan would have gotten higher marks from her had he called
the day before), but it didn't matter that much. There was no
necessity to repeat an experience. But men seemed to become
furious if you waffled, couldn't seem to understand that a woman's
right to pick and choose, to decline, or put off another
encounter, was equal to theirs. If you demurred, they'd accuse
you of being spoiled, cold, Lesbian, of (inverting what she
considered the barren rhetoric of women's lib) treating them like
Voice deep and confident, he came on at last. "Hi,
"In a meeting?"
"Busy, that's all."
"Darling Leslie, I think of you every moment."
"Of you or of me?"
She sighed behind the mouthpiece.
"When can we get together?"
"That's the problem, I don't have a free evening for weeks
"I'm afraid so. I'll call if plans change."
"Weeks is a long time."
She examined the report's cover, on which "CONFIDENTIAL"
had been underscored with a Magic Marker, and said, resentful at
being compelled to explain, "Conferences...business dinners...I
have to give a speech...go to Washington, maybe Europe. I'm not
complaining, but there you are. I also need some time for myself,
A breech of family etiquette. Her grandfather, presumably
in the interests of avoiding mistakes in the first place, had
insisted that one should apologize as seldom as possible.
Noblesse oblige, New Jersey style.
"So you're too busy for me."
"I put it as well as I could, Stan."
"Okay, I'll try again, though."
But he might not, she thought without regret. Once he'd
accepted that she had refused to make room for him, his pride
might intervene. Again she would have lost a man. Well, such was
life. Her life. Of her own making, she hastened to remind
Leslie was generally familiar with the matter before her,
although, in typeface, the results seemed even more striking and
immediate. From George Barker, senior vice-president for product
development. The report concerned Royal Pharmaceuticals' final
application to market the new drug. The quality of the research
appeared undeniable, the data overwhelmingly convincing. Sexually
estranged or inactive couples had responded to the aphrodisiac.
An ecstatic quote from an old man a test subject, almost made
She was momentarily gripped with the euphoria of success.
Ever since, early in the planning, John Royal had hit on a name
for the drug -- Libinol, after libido -- making it seem for the
first time real, she had restrained herself, almost
superstitiously fearful that something would go wrong, but nothing
had. She -- whose tenure at the company coincided almost exactly
with Libinol's discovery and development -- was destined to
preside over the first genuine aphrodisiac ever found.
Royal Pharmaceuticals was her fate. From her grandfather
she'd heard about the company from childhood on, had asked
interested questions, had received answers that interested her.
She had learned the rudiments of the business. It was as though
she was being groomed to succeed John Royal instead of his logical
successor, her father.
Her education prepared her either for academia or business
-- undergraduate economics at Smith College, a Ph.D. in the
subject from Harvard. Afterward, thinking that another such free
period might have to wait until retirement, she had treated
herself to a year abroad. Not before or since had she comported
herself so shamelessly: without the slightest hint to her family
or friends, she had been as wild as her screwball sister at her
most blatant. Leslie supposed she had been testing her own
character, or trying to loosen its fetters: uselessly, if so.
Unlike Tracy Royal, Leslie was governed by clock and calendar, and
on the precise day the year ended, she rose from a lover's bed and
was in New York that evening.
Not quite ready to yield, she held off John Royal's embrace
a little longer. She taught economics at Columbia, took courses
in fiscal management and accounting. But always in the background
John beckoned: age only strengthened his insistence that a Royal
be part of the firm, and her father Lennox had quit the business.
Her grandfather did not plead: he merely suggested that she join
the company in advance of her thirtieth birthday. Enjoying the
suspense she caused, she accepted only the day before.
Intimations of an aphrodisiac breakthrough came not long
after. Like most drug companies Royal Pharmaceuticals invested a
substantial part of annual research. Henry Garvin, a young
chemist, had been using a hormone-releasing hormone to rearrange
an amino acid chain. Ironically, he had been trying to find a
drug that would calm overactive pituitary glands, but the results
were completely unexpected. Rats and rabbits dosed with the
substance showed unmistakable signs of sexual arousal ----
erections for the males, vaginal distention for the females. The
reaction was automatic and intense -- the animals would kill to
mate if they had to. Garvin notified George Barker who, with the
instinct for secrecy ingrained in executives from the cutthroat
competitive world of pharmaceuticals, told the chemist to reveal
nothing. Garvin had been working alone in a back lab.
That the giant drug companies -- which Royal was not --
searched for aphrodisiacs could be presumed. With the unraveling
of brain chemistry the invention of an effective chemical sex
stimulant seemed only a matter of time; perhaps Garvin had found
one. John Royal authorized the chemist to continue the work,
thinking not so much of a product -- the prospective aphrodisiac
had troubled him from the start -- as of a research tool for
Side effects are always a worry with new drugs and, indeed,
Garvin established that too great in increase in heartbeat and
blood pressure was caused. During copulation a few animals
collapsed. The chemist rescrambled the amino acid chain and after
a laborious effort came up with a formula that extensive testing
proved to be apparently safe. The patent pending for the "S-
compound", as it was called for convenience, bore a complex
chemical name and, obscurely worded, escaped public notice.
An authentic aphrodisiac for human use had become a real
possibility; Barker, Hoexter, then senior vice-president for
sales, and the handful of others aware of the development were
elated. Drug companies dreamed of the "big breakthrough": one
best-selling product could pay for years of research programs.
Still, there were problems, not least of which was the method by
which the "S-compound" was to be administered. The animals had
been injected; if the drug worked as well on humans as it did on
animals, a couple injected in a doctor's office might not be able
to wait until they got home and the prospect of people fornicating
in cars by the side of the road in broad daylight was not regarded
with amusement by Norman Howe, the unhumorous in-house counsel.
People arrested for indecent exposure and lascivious acts would
sue the company, he said. A pill was decided on instead.
Development of it was not a simple feat. the aphrodisiac would be
destroyed by the gastric juices of the stomach. Garvin had to
return to the bench, where he achieved another research triumph:
a fatty pill that would resist degradation until it could be
absorbed in the small intestine. That fatty pill became another
major asset for Royal Pharmaceuticals.
Royal Pharmaceuticals filed the required documents with the
Food and Drug Administration using a complicated cross-reference
system involving a master file to avoid the possibility, however
faint, of a leak. When thirty days had passed without questions
from the FDA, the lengthy human tests began, first in South
America, to maintain security (stable Bolivia was chosen), the
last in U.S hospitals and reputable sex clinics to prove that the
S-compound worked and that the public -- represented by "peer
review panels", another FDA requirement -- felt a need for it.
the participants, whether guinea pigs or panelists, were advised
"as to Royal Pharmaceuticals' right to confidentiality" -- a
competitor might have a similar product, could rush it to market,
lessening Royal's lead time, if cognizant of the company's plans.
The secret had been kept; the drug not only worked but had been
rated by the panels as potentially important to the community.
So as noted in Barker's report, if nothing went wrong
during the last round with the FDA, the prescription drug Libinol
could soon be available at drugstores.
On the intercom, Bruce announced that a cop named Mallory
was on the line. "Yes, Officer Mallory," Royal said. The throb
in her head surprised her.
Had it been her in the park with the girl earlier in the
morning? Royal had given the police her name and number rather
than go to the station house. She'd wanted to get to work.
"There's a reporter at the precinct who's heard the story.
He'd like to interview you. Can we give him your name?"
"Oh, please don't under any conditions. Have you told the
reporter who the girl is?" If so, Royal could be traced, but the
cops hadn't. "She'll thank you for your discretion. I do too.
Any leads?" The answer was inevitable. Not yet.
In relating the incident to Bruce she had disguised, then
forgotten completely, the impact the attempted rape had had on
her. But her psyche, she realized, was not so easily fooled; it
reminded her with a headache (she rarely had them) that the near
assault had shocked her. And what if the assailant had been armed
with the aphrodisiac instead of a knife? Had forced her to take
it. Would the girl have been capable of resistance? And, if she
gave in to him against her will, would that not be rape,
The issue had been explored, of course, but just as
Barker's report emphasized the nearness of Libinol's introduction,
so the episode in Central Park vivified the risks.
Leslie turned to look at John Royal's photo, and his
reservations about Libinol as other than a research tool returned
John had been something of a doctrinaire purist, as when he
refused to let his accountant take advantage of tax loopholes
deemed as encouraging fiscal hanky-panky among the rich and unfair
to the poor. A conservative Republican -- Leslie too was a
Republican, though not a conservative -- he had nonetheless
refused to oppose a labor union because he felt the workers had a
right to one, even though conditions and wages at Royal's
factories were as good as any in the industry. He had been among
the first to sponsor an employee's stock option plan when others
considered ESOPs to be out of left field.
Nobody had ever accused John Royal of being a rake but he
was neither narrow nor prudish. Still, the aphrodisiac had given
him sleepless nights, he said, after one of which he summoned his
John's office had been the one she occupied. Even in a
Manhattan high rise the walls had been lined with shelves filled
with carefully labeled bottles and jars of all colors and sizes --
a repository of drugs developed over the years by Royal
Pharmaceuticals, some having failed the stringent tests John
imposed regardless of the government's, some having been halted on
their development journey because the old man had doubts other
companies might have ignored.
An ineffably old-fashioned quality hovered about John
Royal, transcending his efforts to belie it -- tailored business
suits, crew-cut white hair. "Sit down, darling." He used
endearment only when no other Royal personnel were present. "The
aphrodisiac's giving me a hard time."
"You've tried it?" She knew her risqué asides were
straight lines to him.
"Of course not. Don't need it," he said.
Men, it seemed, were all alike, she thought. Braggarts
every one, even her dear grandfather.
"Stop worrying about the company's reputation."
"The financial analysts won't worry so much." Leslie had
become John's administrative assistant.
"Come on, Granddad, very few in this day and age will fault
us for producing an aphrodisiac so long, of course, as it's safe.
And the stockholders will be delirious if it hits."
"A big 'if.' We don't know how the public will take to it,
no matter what Hoexter says."
"Hoexter has his statistics."
"Hoexter can't predict how people will react to a substance
"Turns them on?"
"Rotten language, girl. Arouses them without their
"Well, they have to swallow the pill. That's acceptance.
And I guess better a chemical turn on that no turn on at
all....Hey, what's bothering you, John?"
Waiting, she noticed a new accumulation of so-called liver
spots on the backs of his narrow hands, like cinders on snow.
Finally he said, "Have we considered the social effects carefully
enough? Will the drug contribute to the divorce rate if it
encourages infidelity? Will it cause a further decline in the
work ethic because people spend more time in..."
"The sack? I don't know. I doubt it."
He said severely, "Aren't you purposely being vulgar?"
"Sorry. In New York it sort of brushes off on you."
"I only hope the aphrodisiac doesn't encourage more foul
mouths....We can't live by pleasure alone, you know. And I'm
concerned about introducing still another chemical into our
bodies. I almost hope the human tests don't work out."
"They will, I'm quite certain."
He went on as if unable to put his hobgoblins to rest.
"What about drug-induced promiscuity? The further spread of VDs?
That gives me the shudders. Some new strains are almost
Leslie understood her role as a sort of devils' advocate in
reverse. "Luckily the stuff is too complicated for chemistry
students to replicate in the lab. There will be no synthetic
aphrodisiac on the street --"
"Physicians," John said abruptly.
"The only line of defense. Will they be careful enough to
give Libinol to those who truly require it? Or will they pass it
out like cornflakes the way some did with Viagra?"
"I expect the vast majority will act responsibly."
"I wish I shared your faith in doctors. I'd terminate the
project if I didn't think that on balance the benefits probably
outweigh the risks. I'm no old fool. I've no doubt there's a
need all right -- sexual problems Libinol may help solve, burnt-
He hunched his skinny shoulders and Leslie asked, "Are you
"I'm fine. I haven't expressed...but why beat about the
bush? If Libinol has the market Hoexter anticipates, there is
bound to be trouble with competitors."
"The patents are sweeping. Infringement will be difficult,
if that's what you mean."
"It wasn't. I'm talking about attempts to obtain Libinol
"Why should we sell it?"
"I'm saying that somebody might try to buy the company," he
said at last.
"Nuts to that, Granddad. Royal is...Royal."
"That's how you feel, dear, and of course so do I. Others
might not. A merger could be suggested --"
"Who around here wants to merge?"
"Well, if they wanted Libinol badly enough they could go
the takeover route. Hostile acquisitions are in the air, you
Leslie stuck out her chin in a humorous gesture of
defiance. "We wouldn't submit. We'd fight."
"After I'm gone --"
" Stop that!"
"Listen to me carefully. It may be different when I'm out
of the picture. The company may look more vulnerable. I'd hate to
have its character change because a big company gets in charge.
Smaller ones like ours are better, God knows, than the giants
whose managements claw themselves to death. Insecurity makes them
untrustworthy. Least of all do I trust the conglomerates, like
that Allied Technologies outfit across the street. What do the
conglomerates care about their products? Half the time the top
brass doesn't even know what the company manufactures. Maybe I
exaggerate, but everything that counts for them begins with 'p' --
profits, power, position and prestige. Our reputation is good..."
"...precisely because as a family-run company we have some
"Another p-word," she said softly.
He didn't seem to hear. "We're not greedy, not
unscrupulous. We're a damn good, reputable outfit. We're sitting
ducks to them....In my safe is a black book. It's taken me months
to compile. If a takeover attempt happens, whoever succeeds me
should read it -- I've tried to detail the weapons to be used."
His eyes had a hard glint, though the voice was calm. "I want
this to remain a Royal-controlled company, which may take some
doing. As you'll learn from my will -- don't interrupt -- I've
done my best to protect the stock. Of course the company can be
acquired if all of you decide to sell. I have to assume that
"It won't," Leslie assured him.
"You can never be sure. Your great-uncle has other
interests. And Lennox..."
"I think my father will stay, you should forgive the
expression, a loyal Royal." It was a family joke.
"Especially if another Royal runs the show." The old eyes
blinked. "Dear, I can't guarantee the outcome but the person I
want to sit in this office is you. I don't need to mention that's
between the two of us."
"John!" It was truly a shock, though the facts of her life
led precisely to that outcome.
"You're the best qualified, in my opinion, and you have our
pedigree. What you lack in experience you make up for in smarts
and youthful energy." He smiled. "You're free to redecorate, of
Less than a month afterward, John joined Leslie's
grandmother in the family plot....
Now, two years later, Barker's report in front of her,
Royal sat in her refurbished office, not so confident about the S-
compound product as she'd once sounded with her grandfather,
wondering if she should attempt a last-minute cancellation of the
aphrodisiac as John had with other almost ready-to-market
products. But John's power had been almost absolute. She had the
executive committee to content with.
"Hoexter's here," Bruce announced.
A plump man in his early fifties, Hoexter had been with the
company almost all his working life, moving from product
engineering to research to management. A seasoned executive, he
had had every reason to expect the top job and would have been
given it -- his supporters had lobbied actively -- but the loyal
Royals had respected John's wishes and backed Leslie with their
stock. She felt no guilt. The company had, after all, prospered,
thanks in part to her sale of a division and adroit handling of
the money. Hoexter would not have been so aware of opportunity
and smart in handling it.
No doubt, Hoexter's bluff and blustery manner was an
accumulation of traits copied from his corporate superiors during
his climb to the upper echelon. People seemed to emulate
authority, a trait Leslie tried to avoid. Most of the old-boy
club in the company drank and Hoexter was no exception. His stout
face often looked ruddy in the afternoons. She was certain that
he drank more since losing the fight with her, that his ego had
taken a drubbing might never heal while he remained in second
place. Congratulatory handshakes, the shuffling of nameplates,
with him as president and chief operating officer just under
Leslie, who had become board chairwoman and chief executive
officer (titles had been less important during John's reign, in
effect he'd held all the top ones), probably hadn't been
sufficient balm to Hoexter's self-esteem.
So between Royal and Hoexter the relationship remained
tense though they tried to paper it over. She did her best not to
put the man in positions he might regard as inferior. She
suggested they sit at the conference table to avoid the staged
power of a desk. The table, also on a chrome podium, was at the
end of the office in front of a large plate glass window that
faced the street with a view of Madison Avenue. As they walked
there Leslie was conscious of being, in heels, as tall as Hoexter.
She picked up the phone and almost at once Bruce Stein,
short and prematurely balding, arrived with a silver tray. He
bowed like a comic butler and poured. Hoexter frowned at the
retreating back. "I'll never understand why you put up with that
"Bruce's okay. A good male secretary is hard to find."
"Maybe he's queer and maybe he isn't. I also don't care
about the Jewish part. I'm surprised you do. In any case he
makes great coffee." She wore a brown velvet pants suit with a
frilly blouse that muted her breasts, just as her gold jewelry was
understated. She crossed her legs. "You've seen Barker's
"I went over it yesterday."
She felt a twinge of annoyance -- unreasonably, she told
herself. Hoexter had been instrumental in Libinol's development,
he had every right to know what was happening. Yet that he had
seen the report in advance of her ticked off suspicious of an old-
boy club that stuck together, against her. She regarded him in
silence and Hoexter went on: "I don't expect any more obstacles.
We're in the clear. That the Drug Enforcement Agency decided not
to classify Libinol as a controlled substance was a relief."
"Plans for the ad campaign can go into final stages."
Advertising prescription drugs directly to potential users, as
they planned, was still new. "One of the biggest..." He stared
at her. "What's the matter?"
"I don't know. I've developed some last-minute doubts, I
Leslie restricted nail biting to the little finger of her
left hand on the rare occasions she had need for it. She nibbled.
"The potential for abuse still bothers me."
His too-deep sigh sounded theatrical. "We've been through
all that. Norm Howe told us we're not liable. Liability, if any,
The redundant arguments of the in-house counsel suddenly
seemed glib and Royal intensely disliked glibness. "Easy to
say...I know, I know, Valium abuse wasn't the fault of Hoffman-
LaRoche. But this is different. The possibility of one person
taking sexual advantage of another remains. That's what I worry
we haven't thought through carefully enough. Maybe we ought to
introduce a warning feature. People could be told to put the pill
into a glass of water to test it before they swallow it. A
"A popping noise?" he said with evident derision.
"A red dye is released?"
"You'd redesign the pill? Undergo the whole FDA routine
"Maybe they'd rush it through."
"They wouldn't. Five more years. It's crazy --"
"Maybe injections were a better idea after all," she said
"They weren't. We've been through all that too. What's
with you today anyway?"
She could read his mind, damn him...putting out a product
like this takes guts, there'll be flak, she's lost her nerve at
the finish line, is acting like a high school girl. Probably's
about to have her period, that's when a woman's judgment
stinks....She said, "We could scrap the whole thing. John was
tempted to do just that. We're doing fine as it is."
It occurred to her that little eyes appear mean. Hoexter's
smallish eyes (smallish because of the fatty tissue surrounding
them) seemed to glare at her. The glare subsided into cunning.
Now he thought, I hope she pushes this. She'll be
outvoted. Just the opportunity we've been waiting for. She has
no damn business running the show. Scrap the whole thing. Like
hell, over my dead body....But it was his duty to answer her.
"Listen, how profitable is the company? We may not look so
wonderful on the balance sheet when interest rates drop, as I'm
sure they will. the aphrodisiac's surefire, no doubt of it,
unless somebody messes it up ...."
"Don't push me around, I won't take it, Paul."
Her flash of temper ignited his. "You could step down as a
matter of principle," and added, "After all, you don't have to
work for a living ...."
"Neither do you. You have your stock options to keep you
warm." It was their first real confrontation since she had been
elected and even as it was happening it made her think how
childish adults could be.
"Worth how much without the pill? The stock's depressed."
"It will come back."
"Not without the aphrodisiac. Is it your decision to try
to withdraw the product?"
Almost as if for the permanent record, wherever it was
kept, she had registered her objections. But she knew the
exercise was futile. In motion, gears could not easily be shifted
and certainly not by her resignation. It would be a dramatic
gesture but would accomplish what? She would lose the opportunity
to enjoy and develop the success she had worked so hard to create.
After two years she had finally been able to establish her
authority based on respect for her actions -- to throw it away
seemed ridiculous, profligate. Vainglorious. And maybe she was
overblowing the risks on account of that episode in the park.
Yes, that no doubt was it...she would not resign. "No, we'll go
ahead. But I can't stress enough the need to monitor the
"Sure," he said.
The old boys put their feet onto tables.
So did she.
CONTRARY to widespread opinion, Madison Avenue is not the
exclusive province of advertising agencies, many of which happen
to be elsewhere, but is also the home of large numbers of other
businesses, including important corporations like Allied
Technologies, which occupied a half-dozen high floors of a
gleaming black rectangle in the Fifties. On one was a massive
corner office, the lair of Steve Berg, Allied's chief executive
officer. The office had almost everything, including a pair of
Zeiss binoculars Berg used for scouting talent in the building
with the rounded contours across the street. Tilting the
binoculars down slightly, Berg said, "Whose feet?"
"Feet?" Randall said in the tone of bewilderment he
sometimes affected. He glanced up from a sheaf of papers. "I
see. Another discovery."
"Narrow and well-shaped. Expensive shoes. I bet she's
"Ah sweet mystery of life. You'll never know."
"I'll find them again. Bet on it."
"Shouldn't we get started?" Randall said, a fidget in his
Berg hung the glasses on a nail in the walnut paneling by
means of the strap and returned to his desk of burnished metal.
The tall man slumped in his chair and drummed the upholstered arms
with the fingers of both hands. One drawer was open, revealing an
elaborate telephone and dictation system. "How many are there?"
he asked Randall, who ran the mergers-and-acquisitions team and
doubled as Berg's right-hand man.
"We've computer-screened one-oh-seven companies. Types of
business, price-earnings ratios, sales, managements, tax
situations, labor relations history -- the usual," Randall said,
his jargon in full cry. He was not too many years out of the
Wharton School of Finance.
"The shopping list is surprisingly short. Those that would
interest us are pretty well picked off. Bunch of hunters out
there. I only have about a dozen in my tickler file."
"Tickle me," Berg said.
"National Fibreglas is a possibility. We could merge it
with our motorboats division."
"I don't want a bidding war. A British outfit's about to
take on National Fibreglas."
"Oh? I hadn't heard."
"You need better antenna. What else?"
"A midwest farmland company. We could marry it to the food
"They have cash?"
"Would I have mentioned it otherwise?" Randall presented
him with a figure.
"Only marginally interesting. Haven't you a bird that's a
Randall went through the motions of examining his file.
the selection process wasn't really casual -- he and his group had
spent weeks preparing and pruning the list. While Berg had some
idea of who the takeover candidates were, Randall knew them by
heart. There were two kinds of people, Berg decided: those who
presented the best first and those who did it last. The second
class were the methodical ones, like Randall. The deliberate
speech went with the business manner, the neatly cut fingernails
and hair. He must blow-dry it, Berg thought. "Here's an
opportunity," Randall said finally. "This bird is stuffed with
what you like best. In the neighborhood of half a billion cash.
A manufacturer of prescription drugs named Royal Pharmaceuticals."
"How did they accumulate all that?"
"Two years ago they got a new chief exec named Leslie
Royal. Must be a member of the family. They had a cosmetic line
he sold off for forty million cash and ten million in stock. He
rode the stock until it tripled. He put the cash -- this is all
in one of their quarterly filings -- in U.S. dollars, Eurodollars,
overnight loans. He's doubled his money."
"Interesting," Berg said. "Your drug people plough
everything back into R&D. This one didn't. What do they
"Tranquilizers and sleeping pills are their big sellers."
"How do they stack up in the drug industry?"
"Small to medium size. Low profile. Seems to be well
"What's the potential impact on our earnings?"
"They'd add maybe twenty cents a share."
"We could use that. How did the company get started?"
"It was founded by a John Royal in the nineteen twenties,"
Randall recited. "He was a doctor fresh out of medical school.
He went into research. He came up with a problem-free sedative
followed by muscle relaxants, painkillers and other stuff. He's
dead. He had a younger brother, James, who ran the business side.
He's probably dead, too." Randall paused. "I ought to mention
that we sell Royal products in our drugstores and antitrust issues
might be raised."
"No problem. What's the market value of the stock?"
"About a billion. It's listed on the Big Board. It's a
typical mundane book value business -- or would be, except drug
companies are never typical -- that offers good coverage for debts
to make up for the price the stock market won't pay. I'm assuming
they don't have a hot new idea on the back burner."
"They don't, bet on it....The trouble with these old-line
companies is that they keep on plugging the same products until
they peter out. That's the advantage we have -- creativity."
" And efficiency."
"What's this Royal guy like?"
"I didn't look into that. I'm a numbers man," Randall
# # #
With Randall gone, Berg traveled to a remote corner of his
office, where as a gag he had placed a small table. Covered with
cloth, it might have resembled an altar -- in fact he called it
that -- except the cloth was black. Littering the surface were
plastic tombstones two inches high, to which typed stickers were
affixed, each bearing a name and a date. The names represented
companies Berg had acquired for Allied; the dates were when the
deals had been formally consummated. Idly he tossed a tombstone
into the air and caught it.
At his big desk Berg checked with the investment banker
he'd done business with for years. Walter Wiltes -- people called
him Robin, apparently because he'd been a soloist in a church
choir -- was two years younger than Berg. They were friendly, as
friendly as a high-strung fiduciary relationship between two
profit-minded men could be. As proof, Wiltes -- whose heritage as
a descendant of John Quincy Adams and the DuPonts was always cited
by the financial press in its hunger to put color in its stories
(it was never stated that Wiltes came from non-rich DuPonts) --
had offered to put Berg up for membership in the Racquet Club, a
probably insuperable task. Berg demurred, claiming he preferred
to spend his energies on women instead of exercise, as though the
two were mutually exclusive, which in fact he believed. His true
reason, of course, was sensitivity. The club kept Jews at
racquet's length, and Steve Berg did not care to be a test case.
Besides, Sarkin would have been furious at the very idea.
Ben V. Sarkin was Allied's founder and board chairman. His
thinking had shaped the conglomerate. One of his theories (not
all of which Berg agreed with) was that corporate development came
in three stages: start-up and early growth, maturity, and the
harvest mode. In the last category he placed giants like Exxon
and General Electric, too big to be entrepreneurial, even to
manage except from on high. Sarkin believed that such companies
would be broken up eventually and approved of the dismantling of
AT&T. For him, Allied was a mature company a business that had to
expand by necessity despite intense demands on its capital. So
periodically Allied bought new businesses, with cash or shares
from the treasury, or both -- pieces it tried to fit into the
jigsaw puzzle. Most of these companies were small. Wiltes' job
was to work out the transactions and deliver opinions as to
whether they were fair to Allied's stockholders, to avoid lawsuits
later on. The investment banker's reputation had weight.
Berg pressed a button on his desk-drawer communication
system and Wiltes came on.
"Busy?" Berg asked.
"I'm in the middle of a deal."
Which wasn't exactly news. Wiltes' major specialty was
hostile takeovers, unlike his transactions for Steve Berg. He was
always deal-making, and his eager staff, though not he, wore
beepers like doctors so they could be assembled at any moment.
They sometimes worked round the clock. Wiltes was famous in the
acquisitions community for not even loosening his tie in such
"The National Fibreglas takeover."
"How did you find out? We haven't tendered for it yet."
"I played baseball as a kid. Little pitchers have big
"Whoever told you you had a sense of humor wasn't a friend.
What's happening, Steve?"
"In line with our previous conversations..." They had
already decided following Sarkin's theories, that Allied's growth-
rate -- 10 percent a year -- was too flat. You couldn't stand
still; the imperative for movement was implacable. But with
inflation and interest rates still relatively high, starting new
businesses didn't make much sense. Better to acquire existing
ones which was why Wiltes' mergers and acquisitions department at
Brown Rawling had become the firm's most profitable. "I have a
bird in mind, finally. I need to know about the management.
Heard of a man named Leslie Royal, CEO of Royal Pharmaceuticals?"
"Leslie Royal will never get it up."
"Leslie Royal is a woman. A human female in her mid-
thirties. I saw her at a party once, though we didn't meet.
Damned attractive if you go for the willowy ones."
"What's she like?"
"By reputation? Tough. Also, she's publicity shy, for
what that's worth I trust your intentions are dishonorable."
"I'd like to get a look at her balance sheet. If it seems
promising I could pick up control. We could use her cash. The
question is how receptive she'd be to a pass. Would she fight or
"Why don't you proposition her?"
"I'd prefer to stay out of sight, until I find out whether
she'd like me ...."
"She probably won't, but I'll call."
Be discreet, Berg started to warn. Secrecy was key in such
matters. One word in the wrong place and information would flood
what was still called the Street, for Wall Street though a large
part of the financial community was located elsewhere in the city.
Premature disclosure could have serious effects. An acquisition
target might panic, mistake a friendly offer for an unfriendly
one, erect defenses, even search for a rescuer -- a so-called
white knight. Word might get out that the target was vulnerable,
attracting "sharks" -- other corporate buyers. A war could break
But, of course, Wiltse didn't have to be told.
# # #
"Walter Wiltes. I'm an investment banker with Brown
Rawlings .... "
"And a descendant of John Quincy Adams," said Royal, who
read the papers. And a takeover specialist, she said to
herself..."Yes, Mr. Wiltes?"
"How are you today, Miss Royal?"
Hoexter had left not long before; she was still shaky from
the confrontation. "Fine, thank you. Yourself?"
"Limping along. I pulled a muscle jogging."
"Sorry to hear that. I jog too."
"We have a commonality of interest then. I jog around the
"I jog here and there in the park. I tend to dislike
"I guess jogging styles can reveal a good deal about a
person," he said pleasantly.
Silence. Then: "There's something I'd like to ask, Miss
"I refuse to say it's your nickel, Mr. Wiltes." She
examined the damaged fingernail, swore she'd never attack it
"I represent a client who thinks you have done a great job
there, a remarkable job, in fact. My client might wish to take a
substantial position in your company."
A sharp intake of breath. "Oh?"
"Yes. And I want to point out immediately that my client
is not a fighting man. He is not interested in any unpleasantness
whatsoever. He merely wonders what your reaction might be if he
tried, in the vernacular, to come close to you, Miss Royal. In a
friendly way, of course."
"Of course. The subject has been raised before, Mr.
Wiltes. My answer is always the same. No. This company is not
available to strangers. We will fight anyone who tries to take
control of this company."
"I understand...but he might go above Royal's market price
if you agreed."
"I won't. I have no intention of going under. You say
your client is friendly. Do you expect me to believe that?"
The voice was no longer pleasant. "They say never look a
gift horse in the mouth. My client only wants to help you, and,
of course, himself at the same time. We are not speaking of an
"Listen, Mr. Wiltes, I don't know who your client is, or
what his intentions are, though I have my suspicions no matter
what you say, but we have a fine program here and our future is
extremely bright. I don't require insider participation in our
affairs, which is what you seem to be suggesting. Would you
please make that clear to your client?"
"Perhaps you'd at least consent to meet with him. I feel
confident the two of you would get along."
"I don't want to meet your client, Mr Wiltes."
"Don't get agitated, Miss Royal."
"Please fuck off, Mr. Wiltes," she said and hung up.
# # #
To accommodate his frame, Steve Berg's desk, made to
measure by Vladimir Kagan, had to be large. It was a center of
kinetic activity. The upper-right-hand drawer had a flip-up
mirror and battery-powered silent electric razor so that Berg
could shave while doing business. The drawer also held a
checkbook, a mountain of credit cards, a Rolodex, the names in
which were mostly female, a toiletry kit for instant departures in
a company jet. The lower drawer contained file folders with
information on competitors and some associates. Both drawers
could be locked.
A switch raised the desk top and with it a computer
terminal on which Berg checked and rechecked the flow of numbers
that represented the life blood of the corporation he had been
chosen to lead. In three years Steve Berg would be fifty and by
then he was determined to have jumped Allied still higher in the
ranks of Fortune's 500 largest industrial corporations than he
already had. It gave him genuine pleasure to watch the company
climb, slot by slot, moving up the blue columns, leaving others
behind in size, sales and earnings. Nor would he be satisfied
with Allied's, or his, performance. Doing better was a creed. An
From a poor but ambitious family, Steve Berg had gone to
Brooklyn Tech -- he was a native of Brooklyn -- and then on to
Yale on a scholarship. After two years' service as a navigator
with an all-weather navy fighter wing, he had been unable to find
a job in the recession year of 1970. He joined a training program
at the First National City Bank in New York at $5,000 a year. He
became a loan officer servicing the new conglomerates like Allied,
where his keen mathematical mind won him a job offer. He became
an assistant treasurer, a financial vice-president, a member of
the executive committee. He had developed, and given a
presentation to the board on, a new computer system for front-end
investments to pinpoint profit problems and manage the financial
float, for a savings of millions.
Few had ventured to call Steve Berg soft -- "sharp" was the
sort of word frequently applied to him, which did not imply a lack
of personability or social grace. His deftness, his ability to
please, to say the appropriate thing and stop short of the wrong
(no matter how he really felt) combined with his long-faced good
looks had surely helped his career. Steve Berg was also analytic
and objective. He had proved he could tolerate unpleasantness,
could detect talent; had confidence in his own decisions, knew his
capabilities and limitations. It was Ben Sarkin who pushed him
along, although the irony of Ben's original interest in him had
not been lost on Berg. One day when he was still an assistant
treasurer and Sarkin was only a name in the distance, a tiny man
in a plain suit stopped him in the corridor and asked, "How tall
Six-three, Berg had said.
"How did you get so tall?"
Sarkin, who held little other than money in reverence,
happened to be impressed by height. "Look at him," he would say
of someone, "what a big fellow." "My God, a mountain of a man."
"Lord, he's enormous..." And so on. the oddity was that Sarkin
displayed none of the badges of an inferiority complex short men
were alleged to wear like a Napoleonic sash. He was cocky little
fellow whose confidence in himself verged on the profound, or
absurd, depending on how one looked at it. Ben Sarkin had never
regarded humility as more than an idle pretense.
Berg had been one of Sarkin's most important decisions,
important to them both. Sarkin had talked to a good many people
behind Berg's back, to the younger man's annoyance until he
realized Sarkin had a serious purpose. That Sarkin wished to
semi-retire to Florida was known; who his successor would be was
not -- the executive vice-president wanted to retire too. The
president of one of the divisions was the betting favorite.
Sarkin summoned Berg. "The search committee has fingered a
new CEO," he said.
"I wasn't aware we had a search committee."
"We do. Me. The guy's your age and as big as you. I
trust you two will get along.
Berg had hoped for the CEO spot, though he doubted he'd win
it. Still, he was disappointed. "I'll do my best."
"You better. I intend to leave operations to him, but I
request -- no, I demand -- to be consulted in advance on any
decisions vital to the company's future. Who I hire I can fire.
The lord also disposes."
"Why tell me?"
"You're the new CEO."
That had been four years ago. Soon, Sarkin would step down
as board chairman, yielding the vestigial control he still
insisted on, and Berg would succeed him. What next? Berg would
have scaled his chosen pinnacle. He could remain where he was,
the acquisitions-minded manager, he could search out other
objectives -- a top government job, for instance; he could kick
himself upstairs after not too many years, as Ben did. But he was
too young for pasture, healthy, and in some primal fashion that
transcended wealth, unsated, as though there was something elusive
he hadn't yet accomplished or experienced.
Berg had forgotten that he waited impatiently for his
private phone to ring; he was startled when it did. As expected,
the caller was Robin Wiltes.
"Any luck?" Berg asked.
"That one's an iron maiden. Told me to fuck off."
"What prompted that?"
"I said a client of mine wanted to meet her. She sniffed a
merger right away. You can forget it if you expect to go
friendly. She's a tiger. You can proceed anyway, of course.
Tigers can be tamed -- with a whip."
On his computer Berg had been exploring the parameters of a
deal with Royal and rather liked what he saw. Its corporate
configuration would meld with Allied's; its stock price-to-
earnings ration -- 10 to 1 -- was two points higher than his P/E
and would strengthen his stock though Berg was of the opinion that
price-to-earnings ratios meant little in terms of value. Security
prices were usually what investors imagined they should be. Their
healthy earnings would improve his; Royal's solid WASPish
background (WASPS were figures of rectitude) wouldn't hurt; Allied
had been accused of taking too many risks and Sarkins' earlier
wheelings and dealings had a vague taint that still lingered. A
drug company such as Royal would add a touch of class, or at least
upgrade the mix. And there was all that cash. It was conceivable
that if he gained control he could use Royal Pharmaceuticals' own
money to buy it. Yes, the drug company had everything: a good
growth record, no discernible criminal or antitrust problems, a
clean balance sheet. Everything, except a compliant management.
Berg considered himself something more than a bottom-line
man, never mind how astute, and in his fantasy imagined Royal as a
damsel to be pursued. He also did not want to be what the Street
called a "black knight", a raider. Allied was acquisition-minded
but had never invested in another company unless it had willingly
joined the billion-dollar (in terms of stockholders' equity)
Allied fold. Allied could be forceful, but had not imposed its
How did one make oneself welcome to a woman? with
blandishments, not blows. By being thoughtful, polite,
considerate. That had been Steve Berg's technique with the
opposite sex and it was well known -- too well known, Berg
sometimes thought -- to work.
But to work it was necessary for the damsel to respect you.
You needed to have a certain standing in her eyes. "What's Royal
trading at?" he asked Wiltes.
"Buy some. Through fronts. If we do it gradually over the
next few weeks the price shouldn't be affected, unless somebody
else likes Royal too."
"Nobody will. The Iron Maiden's too quick to say fuck
Berg decided to buy just under $15 million of Royal stock
-- over that figure the government and the other company had to be
notified that a takeover might be under way.
Brown Rawlings had no formal relationship with Allied
Technologies. Berg and Wiltes talked on a casual basis until an
acquisition was in progress. Only then would the investment
banker send in a contract and collect a retainer. It was getting
to be that time.
# # #
Like an artist -- and in a sense he considered himself such
-- Steve Berg was never sure how his ideas originated. He
listened to those around him -- an article had pointed to his
ability to attract and keep capable managers without apparent fear
of competition for his job, indicating personal security. He had
a blackboard on which he sometimes scrawled his notions, with
underlines and exclamation marks, for his executives to read and
he was not adverse to brainstorming. But for Berg inspiration
often fell from the air.
He had been standing by the window with the Zeiss
binoculars as a treasurer droned on when he recalled the lady's
Italianate shoe of two weeks earlier. This high-heeled shoe, it
seemed to him, belonged in an office a few stories below his in
the building across the street, and moving the glasses, he was
able to identify, he believed, the table on which the foot had
"Table" led him associatively to "conference table". When
that connection had been made, Berg realized that he was bored by
the treasurer's report and "bored" instantly became "board', as in
"board of directors", of course.
Berg ushered the treasurer from his office as expeditiously
as possible and calle dWiltes. "Robin, I have a thought. No way
to talk to the Iron Maiden in person, right?"
"Not if the subject is control of her company. You could
send her a mash note, but it wouldn't do any good."
"I'd rather see her in person."
"She wouldn't let you in, much less succumb to the fatal
"Suppose I were on their board? She'd have to listen to
me. So would the rest of the directors."
"She's hung up a not-for-sale sign. She'd fight like hell.
Anyway, you don't have enough stock to get on by force. Their
board has ten seats, although one is vacant through death, it's
true. You'd need about 9 percent of their stock to force them to
take you, and even then you'd get on only after their next
shareholder meeting which is almost a year away."
"I want to be on that board," Berg insisted.
"Real problems could be caused if you tried to muscle in.
It's a minefield --"
"The best way to cross a minefield," Berg announced, "is to
BERG lived alone with his Caribbean lady housekeeper in an upper
East Side town house. The house was not a perk although, with the
comptroller's cooperation he might have gotten the company to pay
for it under one guise or another, as it had absorbed the bills
for the apartment he maintained in the city at U.N. Plaza when he
had commuted from Cos Cob, Connecticut, where his ex-wife and now
teenage children still were. To hell with perks. He made a
million-dollar salary, 1.2 million with bonuses, could easily
afford the house which, truth to tell, provided him with a solid
tax deduction as a business expense. It wasn't his fault that the
government seemed to believe that the chief executive of a large
corporation should be helped to exist in style.
Actually, Berg felt impersonal about the house, as though
it were a hotel, as if he had no place to call home, and he had
given the decorator a completely free hand. Lacking directions
from or intimate knowledge of him, she must have tried to imagine
the owner's persona and had come up with a scheme in which looking
rich, albeit tastefully, was the major ingredient in a potpourri
of antique and contemporary, classic and modern design. Berg
professed himself pleased, and was, within his limited interest in
his domestic surroundings. Often as not he was on the road,
meeting with his plant managers and suppliers and exploring new
He let himself in on the stoop level with an e.s.p. key,
crossed the floor-through living room with hardly a glance at it
or the garden behind plate glass windows, climbed the stairs to
the next floor, which contained the sitting room, dining room and
kitchen equipped with every conceivable electrical device and
found his housekeeper, a former Barbadian babysitter matured into
chef. And a good cook she was, as Berg's dinner guests attested.
For such occasions Helen traded slacks and sweater for a white
Helen dwelled in a nice apartment on the ground floor with
its own access through a steel gate. That she had lovers Berg had
no doubt and didn't care, providing her taste precluded people who
would rob him or assault her. That she was overpaid and
underutilized was of no concern to him either. The only problem
between them was disappointment on Helen's part that Berg did not
appreciate her culinary arts, perfected in cooking school. He
simply was not interested in fancy food.
Helen had little latitude on those few nights when her boss
was in town and eating home alone It was useless for her to
purvey pompano with sauce Véronique, vitello tonnato, quail served
nearly raw, a surprise of any sort, dishes that had taken her
weeks to master. Berg would nibble, gaze off and tell her to save
gourmet dishes for the guests. On his own he preferred well-done
steak and mashed potatoes. He would eat fish and salad only if
The simplicity of his tastes was just as well, for, since
he had business breakfasts at hotels, limoed there by his
chauffeur, Helen had stopped rising early and Berg was gone before
she woke. Nor did he communicate during the day, except for notes
he left about his dinner plans. Guesswork wasn't required if no
one but the boss was to eat there.
Nonetheless, grateful for the cushiest of jobs, Helen tried
to put on a show at least.
"What's for dinner?"
"What you got?"
"How about veal piccata? And I could whip up a soufflé."
"Hmmmmm," which meant to hell with that.
She was still determined to achieve gastronomical progress
with him. "A steak au poivre? I never fixed you that."
"Fine." Her eyes brightened, then dulled as he said,
"Without the pepper or the cognac."
"So it's steak again. With mashed potatoes."
"Plenty of butter. And a glass of milk. I'll eat in my
"You always the same, Steve. All you like is work and
women. Anybody coming tonight?"
"I hope so." He smiled winningly. "Gloria is supposed to
be here about nine."
# # #
Helen understood him better than most people, Berg felt.
His interest in business was consuming and had helped to
cost him a marriage, if only because he neglected it and failed to
notice the cracks that preceded the collapse. Though he found the
matter slightly difficult to admit to himself, he indeed cared
about very little except women and business, with the main goal
being the honorable one of success. There were others like him,
he knew, whose animus was difficult to clarify for those who
didn't truly understand. Money was far from everything -- of
that, if he chose to exercise his stock options, he had more than
enough to last him through his life. Nor was power, thpigh it had
satisfactions, quite the goad that journalists and some book
writers insisted. Public prominence counted, but to be addicted
to fame was like having an incurable allergy. He loved his kids
but they would soon grow up. The seemingly well-oiled machine of
his life was at the service of Allied Technologies, with whose
balance sheet Steve Berg deeply identified. To his occasional
chagrin, he even found himself pondering corporate problems during
intercourse. Had he become that much of a company man?
# # #
Berg's bedroom filled almost the entire top story.
Styrofoam-stucco walls gleamed pinkly -- in the center of the
chamber, flames burned in a circular open hearth with a great
brass hood that pulled smoke to a vent in the ceiling. Low-slung
furniture was strewn about.
A perfect place for seduction, or worse, Berg always
thought: another example of how the decorator perceived him.
Helen, too, it seemed. She had lugged up wood and lit the fire
while he took a bath in an oversized tub equipped with a Jacuzzi.
He had been in the sauna when Gloria was buzzed in by the
housekeeper. She was lying on a spotless white flokati rug when
Berg emerged in a terrycloth robe that reached to the floor.
"Fit for a queen," Gloria said. She was a regular -- Berg
saw her about once a week. "And king."
"Armagnac, if you have it."
"I have it." The upstairs bar was fully stocked. Berg
often felt as though he were part of a stage set. He fixed
himself a Campari on the rocks.
Gloria was a buyer at a department store and dressed
trendily. Tonight she was all spiffed out in jewelry and a silk
skirt slit up the side to just below her hip bone. Her fur coat
would cover the flesh. She was young, in her twenties, which
Berg's buddies considered a normal reaction to a divorce from an
older woman. Berg wasn't so sure. The reaction had been under
way for five years.
"What'll we do tonight? Dance somewhere?"
"How about staying home?"
To Berg Gloria was a smart, literate girl. Besides, she
selected his clothes. "I want you to hear something I've written
to a woman."
"A love letter?"
"In a way." During dinner Berg had filled several pages of
a legal pad. He brought the pad with the drinks and sat on the
chaise longue. "Ever heard of talking papers?"
"When a general testifies before Congress, he's likely to
have papers prepared which he peeks at, so he won't make mistakes.
I can't afford mistakes. This is a delicate matter, and
"It's not for Congress, is it?"
"You'll understand what it's for." Berg read: "'I am
desirous of coming to terms with you on the following proposition.
It will be to our mutual benefit if you accede to my request.'"
"Are you supposed to be saying this?"
"On the phone."
"It sounds awfully stiff. People don't use words like
desirous, for God's sake."
Berg made scratches with a ballpoint pen. "'I am eager to
reach an accommodation with you on a matter of great consequence
to us both. It will be of mutual benefit if you accede to my --"
"Accede to? I thought this was a love letter."
"It will be if the other party accepts."
"Well, 'accede to my request' won't help."
"Yes, you're right." He spoke without benefit of notes