Riding rough – chapter 4

Madigan sincerely hoped, she wouldn’t need Mike’s number, but she was relieved he had offered it. This was what happened when she couldn’t calm her anger and went off in the wrong part neighborhood. The biker guy – Heavy – scared her and the fact that he knew who and where she was, left her vulnerable in a way, Madigan strongly disliked. She had to be in control. This vulnerability was inacceptable. However, clearly, Madigan couldn’t intimidate Heavy. She had to let it go and put it behind her.

Madigan poured the rest of her beer into the sink. Beer wasn’t her drink of choice, and she had lost her happy buzz from earlier. Madigan contented herself with getting ready for bed.

He was so close to her, Madigan felt his warm exhalation on her face. His hands moved up her body under her silk chemise, his touch rough and purposeful. Madigan squirmed with desire. Her nipples called for his touch. When he finally flicked a nipple with his thumb, Madigan was ready to combust. Madigan opened her eyes and focused on his face. She saw the outline of his head under the buzz cut and his muscular frame against the ambient light in her bedroom. She sought his face, running her fingers over his square jaw and the stubble. She longed to feel its roughness on her body. He looked down at her with an almost smile, his black eyes piercing every barrier.

Madigan shot up from her pillow, covered in cold sweat. She stared around her in the dark bedroom. It was empty. He wasn’t there. It was just a nightmare. Madigan struggled to control her breathing. It wasn’t a nightmare. It was a fantasy with herself and Heavy staring side by side or rather on top of one another. This couldn’t happen. She needed to forget about it. She couldn’t carry any thoughts of him around with her. No nightmares, no fantasies. It would take focus from her work and Madigan wanted to keep focus on her position at Allister Consolidated.

Madigan got up and changed her sweaty chemise to another one in the dark. Out of the periphery of her vision, she saw movement outside on the street. A shadow moved around the corner, and her heart flung into a gallop.

‘Don’t be silly, Madigan! And now I’m talking to myself. This is not going well.’

Madigan shook her head. The shadow could’ve been anyone. Just someone walking along or even a cat. She hadn’t seen more than the movement. She couldn’t be this jumpy, not in her line of work. Madigan was a prime negotiator. She needed her cool to perform.

She crawled under the covers again and willed her eyes shut. However, sleep eluded her.

 

Madigan was in a meeting after lunch, playing devil’s advocate to a product development team. It was an easy task for which Madigan was grateful for today. She wasn’t on top of her game. She told herself that she was just tired, but that didn’t explain the fidgety crawling under her skin.

‘Ms. Gardner,’ Bethany pocked her head in, disturbing the meeting.

Madigan joined her outside the conference room, where Bethany presented her with a thick envelope. Inside was the settlement, Madigan had offered Balducci, signed by the chairman of the board in duplicate.

‘It’s signed, isn’t it?’ Bethany’s curiosity was uncontainable.

‘Indeed it is, thank you.’

Madigan walked briskly down the hall with her signature heels clicking on the floor. She had done it. She had closed the deal, bringing yet another company under the umbrella of Allister Consolidated.

Mr. Ollivers was in front of his desk, gently swaying his putter.

‘Good news, Miss Gardner?’ he said with a smile already spread across his face.

Madigan nodded and handed him the signed contracts. This felt so good. Months of research and preparations followed by weeks of negotiations led to this moment. Madigan felt the surge of prowess that accompanied success.

‘You’re an asset for this company, Madigan,’ Mr. Ollivers said, shaking her hand. ‘Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to call Grugger and gloat.’

Madigan left him to it and went back to her office.

Bethany had already summoned Gavin and Jimmy without giving them the news. They were twitching in their seats.

‘Well,’ Gavin prodded as Madigan entered and leaned against her desk.

‘Now it’s a done deal,’ Madigan told them with a smile so wide she was straining her cheek muscles.

Jimmy shot out of his chair with a shout and his hands victoriously over his head. This was his first big win with the company. Gavin gave him a pat on the shoulder.

‘Beats a touchdown, doesn’t it?’

‘Sure does. This is amazing. I can’t believe it.’ Jimmy still couldn’t get his hands down.

Madigan and Gavin shared a glance. They remembered their first deal, the exhilarating high after all the hard work.

‘Furlani’s?’ Gavin asked.

‘Of course,’ Madigan answered.

Riding rough – chapter 3, part 2

Back in her office, Jimmy flopped down in a chair, chuckling. The meeting had only lasted 17 minutes, so Bethany’s assistance hadn’t been necessary. Gavin smiled his slanted Hawaiian eyes at Madigan.

‘Congratulations, looks like a done deal.’

His voice was full of recognition. Madigan knew how deep his recognition ran. At the Christmas party two years ago, Gavin had proclaimed his feelings for her among tinsels, cheesy carols, and way too much egg nog. Madigan had been inebriated enough to get caught up in the moment. It had taken months to rebuild their easy professional relationship and Madigan knew better than to challenge the equilibrium.

‘It isn’t over until Balducci accepts or the offer expires.’

Madigan was well aware that this was the kind of deal that solidified her position at Allister Consolidated and ensured her a Christmas bonus.

‘Let’s see what happens in the next 30 hours, fellas,’ she said, giving Gavin and Jimmy sly smiles in turn.

 

At home that night, Madigan did her own little happy dance around her living room with the habitual glass of Chardonnay in hand. Allister Consolidated was a good firm in the cut-throat world of corporate finance and even as nice as Mr. Ollivers and Ms. Jimenez seemed over lunch, they were ruthless at business. They wouldn’t shy away from dropping an employee, who didn’t perform. Madigan gleefully considered whether Balducci was down on his luck after this negotiation and found she wouldn’t mind seeing him in headwind.

Her phone rang, and Madigan ended her dance to answer it.

‘You home?’ Mike asked, ‘Good, I’ll be there in ten.’

That was strange. Normally, Mike would send her a dossier by email or leave an envelope for her. Madigan couldn’t remember the last time she was in the same room with Mike.

Ten minutes later on the dot, the doorbell rang. Madigan wondered for a second how Mike had bypassed the locked front door and locked elevator, but this was Mike. He was allusive and ingenious in a MacGyver-ish way. Madigan opened the door and he strode in without a greeting.

Madigan followed him into the kitchen where he opened the fridge and grabbed a beer.

‘Please Mike, help yourself. To what do I owe this rare honor?’ Madigan asked, sarcasm thick in her voice.

Mike shot her a glance from under the heavy, grey eyebrows that were evidence of his Italian ancestry.

‘Forget the biker,’ Mike said and put the beer bottle to his lips.

‘No.’ No one was going to come into Madigan’s home, drink her beer, and try to boss her around.

‘He’s bad news, Madigan. He’s Lost Legion MC. That is the epitome of bad news.’

Madigan found a beer for herself.

‘He’s a biker and scarier than the boogey man. I get it, Mike.’

‘You don’t get shit,’ Mike said, ‘he is the boogey man and he is so good that all I can find on him is rumor and lore.’

Madigan set her beer on the countertop. Mike’s statements made her tremble in fear and in truth, Mike was only confirming her immediate impression of the biker guy.

‘Tell me what you have.’

‘He’s called Heavy, I haven’t been able to get his real name, which is uncommon, when the rumor is that he is ex-army. He should be in the system. When he isn’t, I’m guessing someone made sure he isn’t in the system. He is known member of the Lost Legion MC. A 1 % club. Do you know what that means? 99 % of motorcycle clubs are on the up and up, sort of. It is the last percent that really give MCs a bad name. Lost Legion is involved in weapon sales, drug dealing, murder, you name it. Heavy is known as Lost Legion’s enforcer. Do you know what I mean? He’s their resident hitman. Now, Madigan, what kind of shit are you in?’

Mike crossed his arm and gave Madigan as stern stare.

Madigan hesitated, feeling hallow where her voice box should be. She needed to get her head on straight, think through whatever she was going to use this information for. Perhaps the intimidation game wasn’t the best approach. Now it was even more concerning that Heavy knew who she was.

Madigan met Mike’s glare.

‘I’m not in anything. I just crossed paths with him by coincidence and wanted to know who he was. Now I know.’

Madigan gave Mike her most convincing smile. Mike didn’t look like he was completely convinced. He gave her a grave glare extraordinaire and left it at that. On his way out of the door, he looked at Madigan over his shoulder.

‘If it hits the fan, you have my number.’

Riding rough, chapter 3, part 1

Madigan mulled over the fact that she hadn’t made a clean getaway last night. She bit her fingernail as she stared blindly out of her window at the other skyscrapers dotting the city.

This was a dire situation.

She didn’t have to replace her cellphone, keys, and credit cards, which was a hassle she could do without. Her personal items weren’t found by the police and admitted into evidence or in someone else’s possession like a motorcycle club involved in whatever seedy business that made a shootout an eventuality.

However, the return of her jacket and clutch meant that someone knew. The biker guy, it had to be him. The mere fact that he knew where she worked and lived, was a threat.

Madigan felt a molten heat creep through her body at the thought of the biker guy close to her. Details from the night before were vivid. She could feel the timbre of his voice resonating in her chest, making her unsure in her heels. He was a massive granite statue, radiating heat when he towered in front of her, pushing her against the wall.

Her breath hitched in her throat. She needed to control this. He couldn’t turn her into this feeble skirt, sighing at the thought of him, if she didn’t let him. Madigan could stay on top on the situation. It was no different from her professional life. She looked at her rugged fingernails in disgust.

First, she needed to know for sure, the biker guy had returned her stuff. She dialed Bethany on the loudspeaker.

‘Call security. I want to see the footage of the person, who returned by belongings. By tonight.’

Madigan ended the call and dug out her personal cellphone to place the next call. Two could play the intimidation game, she resolved.

‘Hello Mike. It’s Madigan Gardner. I have a job for you. I need some information on a biker. I don’t a name or a club, but he was present at a shootout in a bar called the Narrow last night. Come evening, I’ll have some surveillance footage of him.’

Madigan didn’t have to tell Mike to be discreet nor did she need to explain why she wanted the information.

‘Sure thing. With the footage in hand, I’ll have something to go on.’

Madigan ended the call, knowing that within a few days, she would have the same information, the biker guy had on her and thus have levelled the playing field.

Later that night, Madigan cleared away after her dinner consisting of a piece of salmon and a salad. She reclined in her small couch with a glass of Chardonnay within reach and flicked through a design magazine. She reached for her phone to glance at her email.

It had to be him on the surveillance footage. No one else would return the jacket and her personal effects. She had already contacted Mike and given him the case, but still restlessness bubbled in her stomach. Madigan wanted to see the footage. She wanted to see the guy, she remembered, see if he lived up to her expectations.

Madigan sprang up from the couch. She didn’t have expectations for a biker. He was a random guy. She just needed to make sure that he was going to stay away.

The ping from her phone notified her of a new email. Madigan opened the attachments and flipped through the pictures. It was him, tall with the upper body strength to impress a wrestler. He had dark hair cut in a buzz cut, which Madigan didn’t think conformed with her image of a biker. He was dressed in black from top to toe which the exception of the detailing of the patch on his back. Madigan shivered at the sight of him. He scared her, and nothing was allowed to scare her.

Madigan forwarded the footage to Mike, had a sip of her Chardonnay, and schemed.

 

“Ms. Gardner?’ Bethany approached Madigan at her desk, where she was reading the reports Gavin and Jimmy had compiled. ‘You asked me to let you know the minute Ted Balducci made contact. I just got off the phone with his P.A., scheduling a meeting for 2:30. I told her you only have half an hour, like you said.’

Madigan grinned. ‘Excellent. You did good. Now, at 3, I want to the knock and tell me next appointment is waiting in my office.’ That would get Balducci’s panties in a bunch, letting him know that he isn’t the most important person around.

Madigan was ready at 2:30 and with Gavin and Jimmy in tow, she headed into the conference room, where Balducci and his three associates were already seated.

‘Gentlemen,’ she greeted him with a nod, ‘Ted’.

Madigan sat down with the back towards the windows and Gavin and Jimmy on either side. There were 30-some hours left before the offers expiration, and Mr. Ollivers’ ex-mistress had sung as told.

Balducci looked confident, but Madigan knew the ruse was thin.

‘The board isn’t happy with offer, Gardner. I’m afraid they may vote against it, if there isn’t something to sweeten the pot.’

Madigan translated his statement. The board didn’t dismiss the offer. They aren’t happy with the very bleak offer on the table nor are they happy with Balducci’s results, but they’ll take it.

‘What would you suggest?’ There was no way Allister Consolidated to was adding to the offer, but Madigan couldn’t help to see where this would lead.

Balducci leaned back in his chair and exhaled, feigning nonchalance.

‘A no-fault compensation of 25 million to the three majority shareholders.’

Madigan let the silence hang in the air as she slowly counted to ten, making sure that everyone heard how preposterous the suggestion was. The older of Balducci’s associate had trembling hands. Madigan smiled at him and then centered on Balducci.

‘The offer is final and expires tomorrow at 10 PM.’

Madigan got up leave.

‘You’re one cold bitch,’ Balducci gnarled at her back.

‘So I’ve been told,’ Madigan retorted and left him in the conference room.

 

 

Riding rough – chapter 2, part 3

Madigan’s head throbbed and her hands kept trembling. She wished the last 24 hours could be rewound and played through differently. The negotiation with Balducci probably wouldn’t end differently, but she would have acted sharper and controlled her annoyance better.

She would definitely have stayed in the town car back to the office and found a bar full of more benign corporate sharks in comparison to the bikers and gunmen of the Narrow. In comparison with the guy that pulled her down the alley.

Madigan had churned the night’s events in her mind, analyzing what happened and how she felt. The conclusion was a killer headache and the dark shadows beneath her eyes.

The memories of the biker guy made her core bothered and needy. He had saved her in a gunfight, manhandled her, and yet she felt her breath quicken at the thought of him. Even before that, the first time their eyes locked, she felt instinctively drawn towards him and at the same time he had scared her socks off.

She needed to get up and push the night behind her, ready to head into the office of Allister Consolidated with her wit about her. Luckily, her agenda was manageable today. De-briefing with Gavin and Jimmy. She needed to do her own documentation of yesterday’s negotiations, and then she had a late lunch with Mr. Ollivers and Ms. Jimenez.

‘I heard there was some kind of shoot out around the place where we dropped you off last night.’

Jimmy prodded as he and Gavin sat down across from Madigan in her office. Madigan gave him an uncommitted reply, feigning ignorance. Gavin raised his eyebrow at her, as if asking if she was okay. Madigan gave him a smile. She knew he fancied her, but Madigan’s priorities were straight. Career first, relationships second, and so far, she had only accomplished the first item on her list.

Getting down to business, Madigan admonished Jimmy for his faux pas yesterday,

‘You do not acknowledge anything your counterpart say. You only listen. Poker face on and you abide by that rule from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. Is that clear?’

Perhaps Madigan was being harsh on young Jimmy, but this wasn’t a Lassie movie, but corporate negotiations regarding billions of dollars.

‘Do you think, Balducci will take the offer?’ Gavin asked.

‘No. He still has a trick or two in the bag. I don’t think we’ll hear from him today. His associates felt the pressure – and so will his chairman.’

Jimmy looked confused.

‘How will you get the information to his chairman?’

Madigan smiled her most benevolent smile. Jimmy had a lot to learn. Mr. Ollivers’ previous mistress, a sultry paralegal, had moved on to greener pastures, but Madigan couldn’t divulge that tidbit to Jimmy.

‘The executive level of the corporate world is smaller than you would think,’ she answered, noticing Gavin’s knowing grin.

Madigan gave Gavin and Jimmy the issues she wanted them to prepare before the next round with Balducci and adjourned the de-briefing.

‘Are you sure, you’re okay?’ Gavin had lingered behind, undoubtedly noticing Madigan’s less than perfect appearance today. ‘You know, I have you back anything.’

Madigan and Gavin had worked closely together for the past six years. She even counted him among her few friends and wouldn’t lie to him.

‘Maybe, I should have had one drink less last night.’

Gavin seemed to call her bluff, but didn’t call her out.

Lunch with Mr. Ollivers and Ms. Jimenez went as well as expected. Mr. Ollivers’ little black book had once again come in handy. Ms. Jimenez with her strong sense of justice and bureaucracy was against the work-around.

‘Linda, I know you, at times, find the corporate world repulsive when even my indiscretions have upsides.’

Mr. Ollivers patted his vice-president’s hand and smiled fatherly to Madigan.

Madigan returned to the office and paced towards her office, when her assistant, Bethany, came running after her.

‘Miss Gardner, someone returned these for you in the reception,’ she said triumphant.

Madigan paled as she stared at her jacket from yesterday and her clutch. This wasn’t a coincidence. The biker guy knew where she worked and lived.