NaNoWriMo Word Count: 2,500
As Laurel Henney sat with one leg crossed over another in the lobby of the Frobisher Inn, she bounced her foot impatiently. Glancing at the roman numerals of her her Rolex watch of champagne gold, she noted that Vina Winslow was six minutes late. The younger woman seemed to have little regard for punctuality, let alone any other attribute of doing business. Vina was spoiled, raised with money and bailed out from any disaster with more money. In Laurel’s opinion, the woman craved power out of a sense of entitlement, not from actually understanding how to wield it.
A low murmur of voices came from behind the long hotel desk crafted of white slabs of rock. Two clerks, probably reviewing room reservations or work shifts. Both had sleek black hair, wore hotel uniforms with big brassy buttons and spoke with French accents, although the older woman looked Inuit. Of course, Canada had a large metis population, so the woman might have a mixed heritage. Not unlike Texas. Laurel’s father’s mother had been Mexican—Grandma Rosa. Many who took pride in their Texas roots disregarded pretensions of ethnicity. Most of the wealthiest families came from the poorest beginnings.
A man in a dark parka with a yellow knit hat walked in the door, stomped his boots on the entryway carpet that bore the logo of the hotel and proceeded to the desk, greeted warmly by both women. He had the look of a worker, a man who made a living from physical labor. Like her father, brother and first husband. Men who had strong hands and a taste for strong liquor to wash away the pain in aching backs and sore knuckles. But they were not strong in ambitions. Somehow they thought working in the oil field was a way to make the big bucks. Laurel had watched the supervisors and big wigs who sometimes visited the rigs where her dad had worked up to be a foreman. They wore watches like the one on her wrist, ticking away the seconds of Vina’s late arrival.
Another man walked in and met up with the first. They seemed to be discussing the room rates with the desk clerks. The Frobisher Inn was no Ritz-Carlton, but it was the finest hotel in Iqaluit and one of the few to have conference rooms. Even still, the nightly rates were high—$215 for a queen bed—a reflection of the remoteness and rarity of such a hotel in a place like Baffin Island. Laborers headed out to the Mary River iron mining project often found all the lodging filled up when they laid over in town. These two men probably came to the Frobisher Inn last. Even with the big bucks they were making, Laurel knew their sort would rather spend it on a night boozing rather than a comfortable bed made for snoozing. If her father was any indication of this sort of man.
Laurel uncrossed her leg and considered getting a cup of coffee across the lobby. She had already had enough to give her a twinge of a caffeine headache, but she felt like she needed something to occupy her hands to ward off the initial craving for a cigarette. The Frobisher Inn was actually one of the few smoke-free environments in Iqaluit, although that was probably a good thing since all the smoking environments had already increased the number of cigarettes Laurel was consuming.
Smoking had been one habit she retained from her rough neck roots. It had proven to be an asset, as smokers formed a sub-group of sorts and it didn’t matter what your sex was in order to belong. Not only that, but smokers liked to talk when ushered to whatever hidey-hole was allowed for their habit. Laurel had long ago learned that casual conversations revealed more important information than formal business meetings. It was how she diligently stepped up the ranks in her career, penetrating even the manliest of climates in her industry. She far out-earned the big bucks of her dad, brother and ex-husband. And that was why she wore a Rolex.
Vina was now fourteen minutes late. Laurel got up and strode over to the coffee after all. Pouring the thick black brew into a white porcelain mug with the hotel logo on it, she noticed a poster advertising some local event. Free appetizers. No cover charge. Promotional prizes. And an Elvis impersonator. There was even a full photo of the impersonator on the poster. Half the text was all symbols representing written Inuktituk. It made Laurel belt out a big laugh. No matter how remote a place, Elvis was still in the building.
Walking back over to the lobby couches of brown faux leather, Vina finally made her appearance stepping off the lobby elevator. Dressed in yet another snug black pantsuit that looked nothing like the tailored lines of the ones Laurel wore, the woman clicked across the lobby on high heels. Laurel might be killing her lungs with tobacco, but she’d die with her feet intact. High heels and boob jobs might be how some woman thought they would make it in this world, but Laurel understood that it was more important to look polished, professional and be a true asset to men. Not a board room bauble. But then again, as Laurel watched Vina click her way to the couches, she doubted that this woman would understand the inner workings of a board room, even as a bauble.
“Ms. Winslow,” greeted Laurel, rising from the couch more out of habit of good business, than any real show of respect. “Do you want some coffee?”
“I’m tired of the swill in this one horse town,” she said with pursed, glossed lips and narrowed eyes. Laurel smiled a friendly smile and thought how Vina really needed to learn to hide her true emotions, but this was a spoiled brat who was probably never told no or denied any crazy selfish request.
“An interesting analogy,” said Laurel. “I doubt there are any horses so close to the arctic circle.”
“Whatever,” mumbled Vina as she flopped down on the couch. If either of Laurel’s teenage boys flung themselves around like that, she’d skin their hides.
Laurel resumed her seat and considered Vina over the rim of her coffee mug. Vina was so intent on protecting her client as if he was her property that it had made Laurel want to figure out how to release Dr. Dagen Starkka from the other woman’s clutches. It had nothing to do with the scientist or even GGP’s interests which were always her biggest concern. No, Laurel wanted to take away this California princess’s prized possession to teach her a lesson in real power. It wasn’t always in a pretty face and poised boobs. It had to do with brains.
“The food up here is fried or frozen,” Vina went on to complain. “Salad’s are a joke. Can’t these people grow lettuce in those waterless vats.”
“Hydroponically,” asked Laurel, settling back onto the couch, crossing her leg, but schooling her urge to bounce her foot. “That’s an interesting idea. In fact, I do believe it is a part of a food project up here.”
“Well, they could use some decent baby greens,” said Vina. “And decent Vodka. Top-shelf is something beyond local knowledge, evidently.”
Laurel let Vina continue to whine. Uncomfortable beds. Quirky heaters in the rooms. Funny smells. Crude men. Snow. Nothing but snow, so ugly. Yes, Laurel let her spew. She thought about why she loathed such women as Vina. It had nothing to do with her own looks. Laurel was confident in her appearance and could have put on such a persona as Vina’s. Clicky fake nails, clicky high heels. What Laurel hated so much about this tactic was that it promoted undeserving women into positions they didn’t earn. Such women didn’t care to sit among powerful men as an equal, they wanted to destroy powerful men to get their wealth. Some wanted security, others fun. But ultimately women like Vina made it even more difficult for women like Laurel to get ahead as a man would.
“Do you love Dr. Starkka?” Laurel’s question jarred Vina’s composure that she stopped in mid rant about how poor the service was at the hotel.
“What did you ask?” Vina’s nostril’s flared slightly, but Laurel remained composed.
“I asked if you were in Love with Dr. Starkka,” she said. “I’m wondering why you are so intent on keeping tabs on the man.” Laurel shrugged and said, “I mean, he is quite good looking, intelligent, I’m sure if he’s a PhD.”
“He’s an idiot,” said Vina. “Yes, I will admit that with that fit physique, and those unusual green eyes, that thick hair of his so dark brown, but not black, yes he is handsome. But he’s uncouth. Quiet, as if he doesn’t have a thought in his head.”
“Well, maybe he has lots of thoughts but keeps them inside,” said Laurel. “Being an introvert doesn’t make a man an idiot.”
“He’s a bore, really, but he has a fan following and I’ve not had a client that’s kept a fan following like that, but he won’t see his own potential! Idiot. He can be famous, really famous, like Justin Bieber famous,” railed Vina who was now ready to rant about Dagen the way she did about how poor quality of everything in this god-forsaken-winter-wonderland.
Laurel let Vina go on like that for nearly twenty minutes. She watched people, come and go, the desk clerks chatter quietly to each other. Laurel could hold a conversation, show rapt interest in another person, all the while aware of everything else going on in the vicinity. She also picked out important clues from what Vina was telling her. No, the woman wasn’t in love with Dagen. And while she guarded him jealously, it was so that she could make him into what she wanted him to be. And that was the failing of a woman like this. Vina wanted to change, remake or create a man. Laurel preferred to help one achieve his potential. Vina would eventually have to settle on one of her creations like a trophy wife settling on the winning catch.
But not Laurel. She had many powerful men and she earned the right to stand among them. Vina’s rant made her curious about this Dr. Starkka. Did he have screen charisma? And if so, did it matter. Could he convince board directors of the accuracy of reports with a smile. Laurel had known her share of dry scientists. It was intriguing to think of the potential of a charismatic one. But it would only work if Dr. Starkka was a willing participant. Men wanted to do things their way. They rebelled against tinkering. Potential was always interesting, but it was raw material. Laurel would keep that in mind. Maybe this Dr. Starkka could be a greater asset to GGP. But maybe not.
Right now, all that mattered was playing out this game with Vina. And Laurel always won when she set the game pieces in motion. She came prepared not only with a strategy, but several back up plans as well. Despite her growing need for a long drag of her cigarette, she also had patience.
“So, Vina,” interrupted Laurel as the other woman was going on about how the man ate way too much red meat, “Why are you here? Why not go home to your comforts and just let this Dr. Starkka have his winter vacation with us. We only want him for a few months.”
“Dammit,” said Vina, “Because I got him the contract of his career. My career, really. Daddy says I land this deal and I’ll gain a new level of respect in Hollywood. Not that I need respect. I mean after all, my daddy is one of the biggest television prime-time moguls around. Ever, I’m sure.” Then Vina pouted, pulled out her lip gloss and reapplied a fresh coat and said, “I want daddy to take me seriously.”
“Oh, yes. I understand. Approval.” Actually, Laurel sought a different kind of approval. Her own father never understood her desire to get an education and be among the big wigs. She did hear him brag about her job once, but he couldn’t even accurately explain her position. It wasn’t her father’s approval she sought though and Vina’s desire seemed infantile to her. Let her return to Daddy to cry in his lap. She’d live.
“It’s a great new sit-com, but Dagen blows every reading. On purpose. So Daddy pulled a few strings for me, and this executive producer who owes him a favor agreed to give Dagen the supporting role based on his current work on the History Channel. That and the fact that he has a fan base. He liked Dagen’s rugged looks—the producer’s words, not mine—but it was the look he wanted. And because Dagen isn’t yet prime time, I was willing to negotiate a fee that pleased the executive producer and his budget.” Vina’s eyes were lit up with excitement. Obviously it was exciting enough for her to endure the hardships of this one horse arctic town.
“Sounds interesting,” said Laurel.
“It’s a win win situation,” said Vina.
It was win win for Vina and the production company, but Laurel doubted Dr. Starkka would agree. “So, why are you here,” asked Laurel. “Certainly you could communicate this opportunity to Dr. Starkka other than following him to the arctic.”
“It’s a delicate situation,” said Vina with her pout returning.
Delicate, indeed. What Vina didn’t know is that when she showed up in Ottawa demanding her rights to Dr. Starkka’s publicity, Laurel discreetly asked Dr. Starkka to review his contract with his agent, Vina Winslow. Laurel asked one of GGP’s corporate lawyers to evaluate the contract, to make sure GGP wasn’t vulnerable in any way. There wasn’t anything concerning to GGP’s interests, but the lawyer said it was a nasty piece of documentation. Obviously Dr. Starkka had been naive to sign such a contract. But GGP could easily argue against any claim the contract had on Dr. Starkka in regards to the work he was hired to do and communicate to the public. But Laurel wasn’t going to reveal her hand just yet. “Delicate,” she said. “How so?”
“Dagen won’t want the deal. But I’m going to have the reporter ask him about it and before he can answer—the man is so slow—I’ll fill in the details. That is why it is important that I get to Clyde River, but now both Dagen and this reporter have gone off on some stupid rescue mission,” said Vina.
“But if Dr. Starkka doesn’t want the deal, how will announcing it accomplish anything,” asked Laurel.
“Because Dagen is that way,” said Vina. “He won’t create a scene, not on the air, live.”
“Live,” asked Laurel. “But it’s not live.” Vina just smiled at the statement. This woman was conniving, thought Laurel, but also dependent on somebody else’s ignorance. Laurel could end it right here; send her home to her daddy. But she wanted to Vina squirm, first.
“Well,” said Laurel, “Conrado works for me. He’s now sharing a tent with Dr. Starkka. I’m not so sure the men won’t talk.” Laurel watched Vina consider this situation. Then she added, “I have to get to the airport soon.”
“Are you leaving,” asked Vina.
Laurel could already see doubt eroding Vina’s smug confidence. Now was the time to drive in a different nail. “No,” said Laurel, “We’re meeting a colleague of Dr. Starkka’s. And a friend of his.”
“Friend,” asked Vina.
“Yes, from Minnesota,” said Laurel. “Miriam. Do you know her?” Laurel smiled, kindly as if explaining how to lace-up boots. Vina looked ready to chew leather.