Make an Offer and Then Get Out

For too many years, Meredith Fitler Bradford had forgotten she was the daughter of a man who had once been a master of the universe.

Pretentious and full of chutzpah, Wallace Fitler had made his money through keen observation and manipulation of the stock market. “Gentleman Wally” was the sobriquet given him by FORBES, and it fit. A patina of sophistication belied the killer instincts that had made Fitler one of the country’s most feared financiers. TIME Magazine once derided him as the Wall Street maven most likely to mow down his own grandmother before the taking of a toast and tea. There are men who would have shirked at such negative publicity. Gentleman Wally was not one of them. Delighted by the article, he had it framed and gave it prominent display in one of the many rooms in the Fitler mansion.

Of his three children, the old man had considered Meredith the one most like him. He tried to teach all of his children the art of the deal. Everyone has their price, he used to say, you just have to be canny enough to recognize it.

Once you saw your opportunity, that’s when you made an offer. When the deal was complete, you moved on. You got out. You didn’t hang around, you didn’t elaborate, you didn’t worry about the niceties of the arrangement. You did what you had to do.

And then you got out

Savvy Meredith recognized the wisdom of this philosophy at an early age. Her father’s daughter, she was no shrinking violet. Projecting a cool elegance that hid a calculating brain, her ice blue eyes quickly sized people up, intuiting their strengths and weaknesses.

Then she met Edward, and for a time affection blinded her. So did her own pretensions.

Scion of an old New York family that had lost much of its money in the Great Depression, Edward was handsome and ambitious. He was hungry to travel again in the circles his family had once enjoyed. He was tired of trading on a name bankrupt of everything but pedigree. When he met Meredith at a sailing party one summer, she could see that he was smitten with her. And why not? She was young, beautiful – and rich. Nouveau riche, to be precise.

But that’s where the art of the deal came in.

Edward had the family connections that Meredith lacked, and Meredith had the financial means that would pay for Edward’s return to a wealthy lifestyle. It was an excellent arrangement – a merger providing the perfect blend of give and take.

And so the daughter of a master of the universe made Edward Pennington Bradford IV an irresistible offer, one he quickly accepted. She failed to take the necessary financial safeguards, however, never realizing the day would come when she’d want out.

Affection can blind a woman, even one as clever as Meredith.

Two decades into the marriage, she understood she’d made a serious miscalculation. Edward was not living up to his part of the arrangement. He began to come home late from his prestigious job on Wall Street, the scent of brandy – and perfume – clinging to him. There were some nights that he didn’t come home at all. Not that Meredith minded the empty bed in the next room. The affection had dimmed; she didn’t miss him.

What she missed was the propriety, the outer form of a good marriage. The unfaithfulness was distasteful, but it was the lack of discretion that wounded her. She was stung by the pitying glances that drifted her way when she lunched at the Club. The rumors of Edward’s peccadillos traveled like wildfire amongst their set, and Meredith felt an angry humiliation when she entered a room and conversations abruptly ceased.

It became untenable. Confused, depressed, she temporarily lost herself in a fog of martinis. Looking into one of the many mirrors on the walls of their handsome estate, she wondered who that sad woman was who stared back at her. Not the daughter of a master of the universe! Disgusted, she sat down the martini glass.

It was time to get out.

Meredith’s father had schooled all his children in practicing patience, saying that it was the key to any successful acquisition or merger. One waited patiently, searching for just the right opportunity. When that opportunity finally presented itself, only then could just the right offer be made.

After all, everyone had a price – and opportunities always presented themselves, if you were patient.

One snowy day in March, Meredith appeared in Edward’s office to sign some papers. It was there that she met Joanna Woollery and learned the truth of her father’s words.

It wasn’t hard to read Edward’s body language. Meredith could tell he was sexually intrigued by the beautiful young secretary. When he took the papers from her, his hands lingered on hers for a moment or two longer than necessary. His eyes, hungry and alive, watched every movement she made. It disgusted Meredith’s cool sensibilities, and she quickly finished executing the papers. Rising from her chair, she happened to glance over at the secretary and experienced a frisson of surprise.

It was then that she knew her patience was about to pay off.

Meredith almost missed the fleeting expression as it crossed the girl’s face. It was an odd look, a mix of disgust and feral wariness, and it was directed at Edward. The look – and the moment – was revealing. Meredith suddenly realized an opportunity had presented itself.

It was plain to see that Joanna Woollery did not like her boss. That she feared him was also apparent. Fear made Joanna interesting to Meredith. It meant she had a weakness – and weaknesses were made to be exploited.

Meredith left the office and, later, made a few calls to a man that no polite woman would profess to have contact with; it paid off.

She discovered some interesting information about Miss Woollery. Now that she had that information, she could make Joanna an offer. An irresistible offer.

And, finally, Meredith would be able to get out of a very bad deal.

image

__________________
Word count: 1,000
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to the ‘Two Shoes Tuesday’ challenge (found here) to write a story based on one or each of the word prompts of OFFER and OUT.

Also, please note this is the third story in a flash fiction series. The first is ‘Not a Vindictive Man’ (found here); the second is ‘Long Live the Queen’ (found here).

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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36 Responses to Make an Offer and Then Get Out

  1. I got angry that you stopped the story when you did as I wanted to know what happened next. Then I read in the comments that you hoped to continue it so I forgave you.

  2. W. K. Tucker says:

    I’m beginning to like Meredith. Don’t you think she might make a good serial killer? Of course, being the woman she is, she wouldn’t dirty her own hands with the crimes, but would exploit others’ weaknesses to make them kill for her–like she took out her husband. I’ve never heard of a serial killer who hired others to do the actual killings. And interesting premise… πŸ˜€

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Now that’s an interesting thought. She is like her opportunistic father… and in the end, she went for the kill. I’m not quite sure she’d make a good serial killer. Edward was a unique case. He had crossed the line one too many times with her, and the best way to deal with him was to do so… um… permanently. On the other hand, there is a certain coldness or lack of empathy on Meredith’s part.

      I like that you like Meredith. I do, too.

      Wonder what that says about us? πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

      • W. K. Tucker says:

        It says we are wonderfully twisted in our taste regarding what entertains us, and that is just fine. I delight in knowing what goes on in a killer’s head; it’s a very interesting place.
        Kate, did you happen to watch the TV series titled Dexter? A serial killer after my own heart. lol Loved that show!

        • Kate Loveton says:

          So we are a pair of ‘twisted sisters’ – πŸ˜€

          I’ve seen bits and pieces of ‘Dexter,’ but not from the beginning. My sister is (was?) a big fan. I should try to check it out on Netflix. Right now I’m watching all five seasons of ‘Fringe.’ I seldom watch TV; then I binge over several months and just watch an entire series.

        • W. K. Tucker says:

          For the most part, that’s how I do it too– binge watching. And yes, we are twisted sisters. πŸ˜€

  3. willow1945 says:

    Another great story–I’m intrigued! Glad to hear there will be more; I’m eager to find out what Meredith has up her sleeve. I’m sorry I haven’t been around–it’s been a rough month.

  4. ivywalker says:

    What a great story…. excellent characters!

  5. MaryHill says:

    I hope she comes up with a devilish plan against her husband. The secretary is not at fault and should be helped not punished. Can’t wait to read more.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Mary! I’m glad you enjoyed this segment of the story. I do have in mind another segment to the story – the next will deal with the mysterious Joanna. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. I like how you have information than follow with a shocking statement. The technique is interesting.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Cindy! I wasn’t consciously aware I was using that as a technique. Now I need to go back and look at the last few segments of the story. I do tend to leave the punchline at the end as a way of (hopefully) drawing people in for the next part of the story. πŸ™‚ You might be correct that it is a technique – in the case of ‘Long Live the Queen,’ I purposely ended with the identity of the caller being disclosed in Joanna’s last remark. I felt it provided the reader with a small surprise at the finish.

  7. “Not that Meredith minded the empty bed in the next room.” I love this. You are too good! A great story AGAIN!!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Adrienne – thanks for the kind words! You made my day. πŸ˜€ I’m glad you liked that line! I was trying to show that Meredith was a cool customer. Her affection for her husband was fleeting, and her personality is such that she’s not really touched by warm feeling. She’s more concerned with appearances, the way things appear. I think that lack of feeling made it very easy for her to arrange for her husband’s murder once he humiliated her one time too many.

  8. I was so happy to see a new link-up pop on to Two Shoes Tuesday, and coming here to find such a well done story of suspense was AWESOME! I love well told stories, and this one brought the point home well. Clearly she had learned the ropes from her father, and her husband was about to learn the cost of his dalliance. Relationships should never be viewed as a business merger, it almost always comes to a bad end. I’d like to read another chapter on this story, see how it all plays out! Thank you for joining us!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Josie. I wanted to do a follow-up story to the two previously posted stories about these characters, and I had in mind how I wanted to present it. When I saw the word prompts for your challenge, I knew exactly what to write. So thank you! I enjoyed participating. πŸ™‚

  9. S.m.o.o.t.h., Kate. The fantastic tension had me holding my breath to the end of today’s third installment. I need to know what happens next. Wonderful story-telling. ❀ ❀ ❀

  10. I love the fact that you’ve made a trilogy of flash fiction pieces beginning with ‘Not a Vindictive Man’. You whet our appetite with the first instalment, gave Edward his just deserts in the second (a delicious treat for us too) and rounded out the story arc with a compelling look at Meredith Bradford and her reasons for wanting out of a bad deal.

    Excellent work, as always! ❀

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Heather, I’m glad you liked the story! We talked about this story a bit during our last skype session. Your enthusiasm encouraged me to attempt to tell a story sequentially. ❀ Thank you!

      • You had me hooked from the moment you spoke about it, so I am delighted that you made this into a trilogy of short stories. I’m a lucky girl to have been given the chance to discuss your plans with you during our Skype, you truly are a master at work! ❀

  11. valj2750 says:

    Welcome to the link up and what a great read! I can’t wait to find out what happens. I’m assuming Joanne is going to set up Edward. Seems like he is the one with the weaknesses.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Val, thank you for the welcome! I’m so glad you liked the story. I think it’s accurate to say Edward was a weak man. He failed to recognize that his actions were puting him in danger, and he really didn’t know his wife, did he? Meredith was the stronger person in the end, perhaps because she is without real feeling or empathy.

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment! πŸ™‚

  12. Barbara Ruqus says:

    Very interesting premise, leaving the reader wondering and caring about what would happen next. Descriptive and well written, thank you. I liked it very much!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Barb! Thanks for dropping in and letting me know you enjoyed the story. Look forward to seeing you the next time you’re in town – there’s a couple of glasses of wine with our names on them… πŸ˜€

  13. Fine writing, Kate, with the right tension and the open endedness leaves the reader wanting more. Fitler’s daughter..love the name Fitler..now i wonder what that rhymes with..had learned well that patience is key.

    Enjoyed this thoroughly

    Big Hugs

    john

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, John! I enjoyed writing this flash fiction from Meredith’s point of view, and appreciate your kind comments about the writing. I am considering one more story in this ‘series’ – telling events from Joanna’s point of view.

      As ever, my friend, I appreciate your support. πŸ™‚

  14. oldegg says:

    Beautifully told. Now I really want to know what that information is.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thank you! (By the way, I stopped by your blog today and tried to comment on a lovely, poignant poem you had posted in response to Two Words Tuesday. Unfortunately, must have been a glitch on my end – I was unable to leave my comment. So let me leave it here: I loved the poem. It reminded me – just a bit – of my story ‘Roses.’)

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