The car drifted quietly to the curb, making little more sound than the soft crunch of the tires against the pavement. It had barely yielded the last of its motion when a man wearing a red vest hurried to its rear door and carefully pulled it ajar. From within the black car’s depths stepped Charles Adair, clad in a suit the color of smoke and accented only with a watch worth more than the average house. He didn’t spare a glance for the valet, that was his driver’s job to attend to. Instead he strode forward, directly into the restaurant where Simon was already waiting.
“Good evening sir,” Simon greeted. He was a good head shorter than Mr. Adair, and lacked the man’s high cheekbones and distinguished looks. His face was plain and clad in glasses that were too large for his head giving him a wide-eyed, perpetually surprised look all the time. This was, in fact, a misimpression most people drew, for while Simon was not impressive on the aesthetic front he was quite intelligent and very rarely surprised. The fact that he’d managed to hold onto his job with Mr. Adair for over five years was proof of his skill, as Mr. Adair was not known for his tolerance of failure.
“Mr. Ambrose is already waiting, we’ve secured your favorite table and alerted the staff to your presence so your favorite white wine is stocked and chilled.”
“What if I’m in the mood for red?” Charles asked.
“I’ve had them stock up on that too, but given that tonight’s special is the flounder dish you adore I felt it most important to have the white on hand,” Simon replied without missing a beat. Mr. Adair nodded and continued walking through the restaurant, not even bothering to pause at the host stand where a nervous maître d’ watched him pass. Charles turned a few corners and found himself at his usual table for business, a round man with an impressive mustache already seated. He rose with some effort and grabbed Charles’ hand, giving it a meaty shake.
“Pleasure to meet your Mr. Adair. I’m Kevin Ambrose, but you can just call me Kevin.”
“Appreciated,” Charles said, doing his damndest to resist wiping his hand on the table cloth. Though he might not be enjoyable company up close, Kevin Ambrose was a local politician gaining a lot of traction and one hell of an orator. He had his eyes on bigger dreams though, contemplating taking a crack at the next senate seat, and maybe one day the ivory house at the top of the hill. Charles had financed up and comers before, getting in on the proverbial ground floor of their success, and making sure they had a mutually beneficial relationship.
Simon, in the mean time, took a seat at an adjacent table. Mr. Adair was not so set on formality that he refused to dine with the help, but when dealing with official matters it was prudent to default to the most deferential style of seating. He had good ears though, and listened carefully as the men began their talks of wine and food, gradually moving into policy and procedure. Simon documented each point on the pad in front of him, pausing only on occasion to take a quick bite of his meal. The men wound down their discussion as things moved to dessert, and Charles began outlining an understanding of some of Mr. Ambrose’s proposed policies rather than his current ones.
“Now tell me Kevin, given the budgetary concerns of your state bringing spending to a halt will obviously be a primary platform. How are you proposing to address those issues?”
“I’ll be taking a huge chunk out of the fluff programs,” Kevin said readily. “We waste too much money on things like the arts, schools, and disability programs.”
“Yeah, wheelchair ramps for people in chairs, braille on all those signs for blind people, and don’t even get me started on the special concessions for Powereds. That stuff really adds up. I’ve run the numbers and the bite I can take out of that would be a great first step toward bringing the numbers and cents in line.”
“I see,” Charles said. “Don’t you worry that will be a difficult sale to the public though? Slicing spending on support for those with physical limitations beyond their control will make you seem cold-hearted at best.”
“I’ve got a plan for that, you see we make the Powereds the focus of the proposal. We bring up all the damage they do, and how they oversell their own disabilities to engender pity for their group. People already aren’t fond of Powereds, with a proper campaign we can paint them up as public menaces sewing the seeds of societal destruction. Then, when everyone is focused on how the spending cuts will only hurt them, we slap on the other groups on the bill near the eleventh hour and push it through before anyone can object.”
“A sound plan,” Charles agreed. “Well Kevin, this has been a lovely meal. You can expect a call from my people in the next couple of weeks.”
“Thank you very much for your time, Charles,” Mr. Ambrose said. Charles bit his tongue to stop it from correcting Mr. Ambrose’s presumption to address him by his first name. Such things were trivial in the grand scheme of things, besides it didn’t matter if he got away with it this one time.
Simon followed Mr. Adair’s exit wordlessly, climbing into the waiting car with him and clutching his notepad tightly. Mr. Adair liked to review meetings after their conclusion while the details were still fresh in his mind. Simon had been with the man for many years though, and he understood this would be a quick one.
The car pulled away from the curb and began heading toward the hotel Mr. Adair had them put up at. He stared out the window as they rolled through the streets, pensive at a level that was out of character for the usually rigorously efficient man.
“What are your thoughts Simon?” Charles asked at last.
Simon cleared his throat and checked his notes briefly. “He is intelligent and capable, despite his lackadaisical appearance. His proposals, if presented in the correct light, could gain traction. He seems to have an above normal level of connections and influence already within his sphere, leading one to believe he would continue to cultivate them in new environments. If I were to estimate I’d say his chances of succeeding with your assistance are well over eighty percent.”
“And without me?”
“He lacks funding to run a proper campaign, which would limit his level of reach to those unaffiliated with his current role. Without you I’d give him about a forty percent chance of making it,” Simon replied.
“I see. And what if I were actively hindering him?”
“Well, sir, I would then have to give him odds of less than five percent. I could plot out something more precise, but it would be so low it would hardly be considered a relevant possibility.”
“Good,” Mr. Adair said. “Crush him.”
“Consider it done, sir.”
“Excellent. Makes the calls this week, then check in on it at the first of the month when you get back from your honeymoon,” Mr. Adair instructed him.
“Are you sure that’s okay? With everything we have going on, my fiancé understands if we need to make some delays.”
Mr. Adair turned his eyes out the window once more. “Don’t you dare Simon. There will always be work and always be reasons to put things off. Don’t give up the important times for the trivial ones.”
The car pulled up to the curb and another valet leapt to open the door for Mr. Adair. He stepped out and shut it behind him, leaving only Simon who still had to work to do before he could retire that evening.
It was a shame the deal with Mr. Ambrose hadn’t worked out, it could have been quite lucrative. Then again a man who would do that little research probably didn’t have a big future in the business anyway. It wasn’t exactly a secret that Charles Adair was ruthless, efficient, and morally grey in nearly every aspect of business, but it was also common knowledge that he funded one of the largest private charities dedicated to helping Powereds in the world. He’d even named it after the Powered who he’d always held dearest.
After all, Charles Adair might have a heart colder than steel in the arctic in regards to many a thing, but anyone who knew him could speak to the how much he had loved his wife.