Ted Balducci was an asshole, pure and simple, but more importantly, he was just the current asshole, Madigan Gardner had to tackle in a negotiation. He had pulled out all the stops during the present meeting from condescending remarks to intimidation.
‘Now, why don’t you talk this over. I’ll be happy to supply you with the financial analysis if need be. I’m confident the board members will understand the mutual benefits.’
Madigan hadn’t punched anyone since junior high, but she was considering landing a right hook against Balducci’s jaw. The asshole was so manipulative, Madigan registered her associates nodding slightly. Neither of them had the balls she had, but she needed the show of force. In truth, Balducci rubbed her the wrong way. He got under her skin and Madigan hated it – and him. However, she wasn’t going to show him that.
‘Ted,’ she said, relaxing in her chair and flashing him a wide smile, ‘that won’t be necessary. I’ve heard your arguments regarding the capitalization of these assets and I reiterate, the present offer on the table will expire in 72 hours.’
Balducci’s associates caught their breath, showing the pressure. Madigan felt confident that she had checked Balducci.
‘I believe that concludes our meeting today,’ Madigan said in lieu of goodbye. The conference room was quiet as Madigan and her associates, Gavin and Jimmy exited. Madigan’s heels pounded the hard wood floor as they paced towards the elevator. Madigan loved the sound, knowing that Balducci and his associates could hear her leave and time slipping away.
Ted Balducci could use every trick in the book, but he wasn’t going to bring her down. She excelled at hard ball and she was more than used to men who erroneously believed they could push her around in a professional arena due to her sex.
Gavin pressed the elevator button for the ground floor, and the three representatives for Allister Consolidated watched the countdown above the door.
‘That was…’ The wide-eyed Jimmy stopped mid-sentence when he met Madigan’s steely glare. Her clear blue eyes were capable of Arctic temperatures, and the young Jimmy would not make that mistake again. There is no such thing as a private conversation in an enemy’s territory or corporate headquarters.
Madigan was close to trembling with anger. Jimmy’s utterance added one more drop to her already full cup.
As soon as the doors slid open, Madigan lead them across the foyer and out to the waiting car. The town car with driver was waiting at the curb. Once inside they could talk, but seething with anger, Madigan had no interest in hearing Jimmy’s outraged guffaws.
‘De-briefing tomorrow morning?’ Gavin asked, checking his watch and Madigan’s expression. It was after 10 PM and Gavin knew her well enough to know, an angry Madigan was to be avoided at all costs.
Madigan nodded her consent. She was ready to blow. Conversation wasn’t on the menu.
‘Tell the driver to stop,’ Madigan chewed out. Jimmy, who looked stunned, complied. The town car came to a stop.
‘I’ll take your brief case,’ Gavin said matter-of-factly.
‘This neighborhood…’ Jimmy began. Madigan didn’t hear the rest of it. She didn’t care. She pushed the door closed and didn’t look back at the car.
The street was dark and deserted, apparently not the first place the city’s maintenance crews cleared the gutter or checked the street lights. Madigan didn’t mind. In fact, she was content to be away from anyone who would recognize her. She needed a drink and a place to decompress.
Neon lights flickered down the block. Outside the bar, cars were parked illegally and there were a number of motorcycles. Rock music vibrated from the store front and a sandwich sign announced that happy hour was between 8 and 9 PM.
Madigan wouldn’t meet any friends or business associates here. She peeled off her formal jacket and went inside. The place smelled of beer, sweat, and smoke-drenched interior. Madigan headed directly to the bar, well aware that she stood out, even among the bar’s female audience. Madigan didn’t care. This bar was a means to an end.
The bartender stopped in front of her in his T-shirt and leather vest.
‘Whisky,’ Madigan said.
‘You sure, you’re in the right place?’ the bartender said as he placed a sticky shot glass in front of her and filled it with the golden liquid. Madigan was aware of the clientele. Huge men, all adorning patches and scantily clad women of the tacky sort. She was in a biker bar, but it really didn’t matter.
Madigan nodded and downed the shot. She wasn’t going to stay long. A couple of drinks and she would find her way home. She needed to shake her recent Balducci experience and then she would be ready to face the world again tomorrow.
Madigan edged the shot glass towards the bartender. He filled it again, showing a slightly toothless grin. First tier resistance overcome. The bartender moved away.
Madigan nurtured her second whisky, anticipating the alcohol-induced relaxation. She wasn’t a big drinker, but after the day she had, a couple of drinks helped her shrug off the anger. Madigan stood and the bartender reached for her empty glass.
‘Not so quick, I’ll be right back,’ Madigan chided him and headed towards the restrooms in the back of the bar. One more drink and she would be on her way. This wasn’t exactly a classy establishment.
Madigan passed a couple, making out against the wall outside the restroom. At a second glance, Madigan realized the woman was giving the guy a hand job right there in the hallway, writhing her body against his, looking for a closer connection. The guy held her back.
The guy fixed his stare at Madigan and she nearly jumped. His eyes were so dark, almost black, and the sentiment behind them was murderous. Madigan felt it in the pit of her stomach and shuddered. She pushed herself through the door to the ladies’ room, realizing she was holding her breath.
The tremors quivering through her body caught her completely unaware. She studied herself in the graffitied mirror. Locks of her amber hair had escaped her up-do and her features had momentarily lost their inherent confidence.
She could stare down the Balduccis of the world, but a biker with is dick out in the open, made her tremble. Madigan grimaced at the situation. She needed a good night’s sleep and she would be back in the game tomorrow.
A series of loud pops pierced the rock music. Madigan crouched by the sink. Gun shots. This had been a bad idea. She was in the back of a biker bar, and now there were shots fired. There was shouting and screaming from the bar room.
Madigan needed to get out of here. She couldn’t be associated with whatever was happening outside. She couldn’t be questioned by the police as a witness. That would be information on record to be used against her.
The commotion died down. There had to be a fire exit according to building regulations. Madigan tried to recall what the end of the hallway outside looked like, but all she could see was the guy’s stare directly at her. She couldn’t wait in the restroom forever. She moved over to the door and listened. The music was still blaring, but the screaming and shouting had ebbed.
Madigan eased through the doorway and with her eyes turned towards the bar room, she edged down the hallway to where she hoped there was a fire exit.
In front of her the guy with the black eyes towered, a dark silhouette against the bar room with a gun visible in his hand. Madigan panicked and turned to run down the hall.
The authority of his thunderous voice made Madigan drop where she stood. The crack of the gun sounded above her head. The muzzle flash was a luminous moment, before a heavy weight slumped to the floor.
‘Get up!’ he barked, grabbing her arm and pulling her with him down the hallway. Madigan stumbled forward, her breath caught in her throat. Behind them, a new series of shots pounded in the bar room.
There was a door at the end of the hallway. Locked. Madigan nearly screamed at the fact. The guy drove his shoulder against the door and wood around the lock cracked. Another shove and the door gave way.