Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chapter 35

Chapter 35
      With my new house only two blocks south of campus, I can comfortably walk to work, and often do, including one morning last week. Reaching the office, thankful for air conditioning, I found Jonathan Long, Boyle’s second in command, outside my door, pacing the hallway. 
  “Jonathan,” I said as he noticed me. “What a nice surprise.” Noticing his frown, I quickly said, “What’s wrong?”
“Wrong?” he said hurriedly as I unlocked the doors and he followed into my office almost stepping on my heels as he went. “Nothing. Everything. Just the usual chaos from Boyle. He called me late last night, woke the baby for God’s sake, and demanded I have this report ready for him to look at by 9 this morning. I’m telling you, Maggie, the man’s a tyrant! And he’s gotten worse now that Parker got the presidency he wanted. He’s driving me to distraction, not that he wasn’t doing that already, mind you.”
“So how can I help, Jonathan?” I interrupted, amazed any human could talk as fast as this one did. 
   “Oh, yes. The report is done, but I need you to look at it for coherence. I’m not sure it makes sense, and you’re good at being objective. Will you look at it for me? I brought it on a flash drive.” He handed me the blue flash drive and I plugged it into my computer. He continued, “Stayed up most of the night getting it done. I swear, since Stone left and Boyle threw Miss Katherine away, it’s been harder and harder to know what the man wants. Sometimes I think even he doesn’t know what he wants. And then that mess with that girl he brought from HR. Now he doesn’t even have a secretary and uses mine or Nancy from the president’s office. Guess word got around how difficult he is and nobody who is even remotely qualified wants the job ... can’t say as I blame them ... wonder myself why I stay, but the wife...”
   “Jonathan,” I interrupted again. “Sit down and give me time to go over this report if it’s due by nine.”
   “Oh, yes, of course. Sorry. I’ve a tendency to ramble.”
   Smiling at him, I thought, yes, you do. We spent the next 45 minutes working to rearrange sentences and paragraphs, adding and deleting enough information to make a quality report, one I knew Boyle couldn’t dispute. 
Jonathan called later to thankme, saying Boyle had approved it immediately. I thought it a good thing Jonathan hadn’t told the idiot I’d helped. Work was getting to be more than a pain ... it was getting harder to get the work done at all with Boyle’s constant ignorant interference. As settled in as I am, I hope this isn’t as good as it was going to get, because I know it could be so much better ... and so much easier for all at the university. 
While I pondered my growing frustration, Jonathan interrupted, almost in a whisper, “Um, Maggie, I think I need to see you about something else. Do you have time?” “Of course, Jonathan. Come on up or do you want me to come down?”
“I think I’d better come to your office. Be there as soon as I can slip away.” He hung up and I wondered what that was all about. He sounded more nervous than usual. 
Five minutes later he was standing in front of my desk once again. This time he closed the office door behind him. I looked at him questioningly. 
“Now don’t go getting all mad or anything, Maggie, because you’re not supposed to see this ... but I thought you should.” He handed me a piece of paper he took out of his leather folder.
“What is it?” I asked, taking the page. I scanned it quickly, then looked up at him in astonishment. “Who wrote this?” I said quietly, trying to contain my fury.
“Boyle said President Parker wrote it and I was to send it out to media without telling you,” Jonathan said guiltily. 
“Why? I don’t understand? Our department writes news releases and sends them out and this ... this is drivel. No newspaper worth its salt would publish something this mundane. What in the world is he thinking?”
I reread the short paragraph, an extremely unprofessional excuse for a news release stating that President Parker had met two weeks ago with the local chapter of the Tech alumni association, which wasn’t even named correctly. Attached was a badly centered photo of the president shaking hands with a person whose back was to the camera. There was no caption for the  photo. 
“I don’t know,” Jonathan said apologetically. “All I do know is when I turned in the report this morning to Boyle, I was directed to obtain a media list from your office so I could send this out ... and I was not to show it to you. And Boyle said Parker would be writing all his own news releases from now on and wanted this to appear all over the state.”
“Well, that’s not going to happen. Fact one: No reporter is going to write about a routine meeting that happened two weeks ago. Fact two: It is definitely not news. There’s nothing in it readers will care about. Where’s the hook? The interesting action? Space is money, and newspapers won’t waste their space for something as routine as this. Fact three: The photo is terrible and without proper id. Fact four: Why the heck didn’t he tell us about the meeting beforehand so we could find some angle to pitch if he wanted publicity? Was there an alum there Parker went to high school with? Did they present him with a huge donation for Tech? Did he make any statements about his vision for the university? Tell them anything new and exciting?” I knew my voice was getting louder, but I didn’t care. Jonathan closed his eyes. “This release tells me nothing!” “I’m sorry, Maggie,” he said sheepishly. “But can I have the media list?”
“No, Jonathan, you can’t. I’ll go talk to Boyle right now,” I said with determination, getting up and moving to the door. 
“Maggie, wait,” Jonathan pleaded. “He’ll kill me!”
I stopped, took a deep breath and handed the paper back to him. “Sorry ... You’re right. I’ll let you go back to your office. Then I will calmly go see our esteemed Mr. Boyle and ask why you need the media list. I’ll feign ignorance of the news release and take it from there. I promise you won’t be blamed, Jonathan. And thank you for showing it to me.”

Thirty minutes later, a much calmer me stepped unannounced into Boyle’s office. He glanced up, surprised, the usual scowl on his face. “What do you want?” he said, looking back down at the papers on his desk and rubbing his forehead.
“Excuse me, Mr. Boyle,” I said in my best professional manner, “But we were asked to provide our media list to Jonathan Long’s office and I wondered why? If you have something you need to send out, my office is more than happy to do that for you.”
He looked up at me suspiciously, but didn’t seem to detect any malice. “We just need the list, that’s all,” he said, obviously hoping that might pacify me. 
        It didn't.
“What for? Perhaps we can assist with whatever you need it for and make it easier to accomplish. We are ...” He put down his pen as if exasperated and looked at me. “If you must know, President Parker has decided to send out his own news releases and wants to bypass Communications. That’s why I need the list.” He shifted self-satisfactorily, as if he knew it would wound me. I was genuinely surprised.
“I see. May I ask why he wants to bypass the university’s department of professional communicators?” I asked, trying to control my temper.
“Because he doesn’t like you, that’s why.”
That was the last thing I had expected to hear. I was dumbfounded. “Doesn’t like me? How can he not like me? He hasn’t even met me!”
“He just doesn’t. Doesn’t think you’re doing a good job, so he’s writing all his own releases. Send the media list to Long’s office as directed,” he said briskly.
I involuntarily reached up and twisted my hair, coming to a decision. It's a childhood habit that I can't seem to shake. I consciously pulled my hand back down then stood straight, almost at attention and said firmly but calmly, “No, I won’t, sir. If the president wants news releases sent out, my office is the best place to handle them. We have contacts all over the state and can make calls ... and ... Do you have a press release he wants sent out? May I see it?”
Boyle opened a file and gave me a copy of what Jonathan had shown me earlier. I read it again and sighed. “Mr. Boyle.” He didn’t look up, but continued his work. I sat down directly in front of him and repeated a little louder, “Mr. Boyle. This is not in standard release form, there’s a mistake in it, there is no university logo, there is no contact information, no photo caption or I.D., and nothing that any newspaper would print. It’s not really news, and it’s two weeks old. No one will print it.” He put his pen down again and looked at me hard. “He wants it in newspapers all over the state. He wants it sent out today. He doesn’t want you to make any changes in it. Send it out as it is.”
“But if we send it out, it reduces our credibility with the media ... they will not only ignore this, but they might then ignore future releases we send out that do contain something worth printing. We’ll be wasting their time and they won’t appreciate it. Let me talk with President Parker so I can convince him how wrong this is.” “Do you want to keep your job, Mrs. Grant?” Boyle said sternly and loudly. I stayed silent. “Then send it out! And bring me a list of who it went to. You may NOT contact the president! Dismissed.”
I returned dejectedly to my office where I instructed my crew to send out the news release, but to call all the media outlets first and apologize. 

That night, over a large glass of sorrow-drowning wine, Sharon and I discussed the serious implications of the afternoon’s encounter with Boyle. 
“But you know you can’t trust Boyle,” Sharon said. “Maybe he’s setting you up.” “Setting me up? How?”
“I don’t know how, but no matter what you do, you’re damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t. Send out the crapy releases and lose credibility with the media and never again get anything good published. Don’t send out the crapy releases, and lose your job.” I sighed, “Definitely not good in either case.”
“Parker can’t be that stupid, can he?” Sharon asked.
“How would I know? I’ve never even met the man. Maybe I should just give up and move back to Dallas.”
“What? No way, Maggie Grant. We’re not the giving-up type of women. And you’re not ... repeat NOT ... moving. Besides, as much as I hate conspiracy theories, I think I smell a big conspiracy here. I think Boyle is flat out lying.”
“You may be right. Maybe I should do a little investigating before I put the house up for sale,” I said only half-kiddingly.
Every day since, Boyle has called to see where the article appeared. The only place the information ran was in the local alumni association newsletter and they misspelled the president’s name.
I put in a discreet call to my counterpart at the University of Illinois, President Parker’s last place of employment. What I learned from him made me decide to stay in Lubbock.   

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