PRIEST OF SALES
D. Scott Cole
Based on characters and ideas from
Priest of Sales
By D. Scott Cole
Copyright 1993, 1994, 1998, 1999
Dorian Scott Cole
Contact: Primary Contact.
Margo, a book open on the counter before her, is mixing makeup ingredients. Tracy is putting away a box of supplies. Travis enters the office. He wears a fashionable new suit and sports a new hair style.
Tracy spots him first. "Travis! Here for your facial?"
Travis nods. "Hi, Tracy. Margo."
"Hi," Tracy returns the greeting, her smile telling all.
"I was hoping you would come," Margo says, as she appraises the new look with approval. "How do you like the new job?"
Travis's shoulders slink into a weary pose. "Gina streaks around the world like a comet - Eight a.m. to ten p.m. Where does she get the energy?"
Margo smiles knowingly. "She calls it a race, you know. The sales race." She points to a chair. "Have a seat and Tracy will get you started. I'll come back in a minute and I'll tell you a little about Gina."
Margo takes the half full box out of the room. Travis sits in the beauty chair and Tracy brings a wet pad and gently begins to cleanse his face. Travis smiles at her.
"You're very gentle with that," Travis says with admiration.
"Pulling on the skin makes it sag," Tracy replies. She fluffs his hair. "I like your hair. It looks very masculine, like clumps of rope, but very stylish."
She takes mud and begins to smear it on his face, enjoying it. "You have a nice face. Firm. sculpted. Good strong chin. Prominent Roman nose." She dabs mud on the end of his nose and they laugh.
"Are you single? Committed?" Travis openly queries her.
Tracy shakes her head, not the least put off by his obvious intentions. "I like my freedom."
Nor is Travis put off by Tracy's independence. "Do you like to eat out?"
"Would you have dinner with me tonight?"
"What? With someone with mud on his nose?"
They laugh and Tracy hands Travis a towel.
"Seven?" Travis asks, as he wipes the mud away. "That is if Gina gets us back in town early enough."
"I won't hold my breath," Tracy says resignedly with a smirk on her face. She obviously knows Gina's work habits.
She completes the mud smearing. "There, we'll let that dry."
As Tracy washes her hands, Margo re-enters and puts a few remaining products away, talking to Travis as she works. "An oily complexion, like yours, you need to steam it once or twice a day. Come here for a facial twice a week. Don't worry about the cost, they're free."
"Sounds like a nice offer, but I'll be lucky to make it here once a month."
"Well, drag Gina in here, too. She needs a facial at least once a week."
Travis gives her a dubious look. "Gina actually needs something? I thought she ran on pure energy."
Margo looks amused. "So you have noticed something different about her now that you're traveling with her?"
"Was I supposed to?"
Margo comes closer to him. "Everyone who travels with her notices sooner or later. She's a special person."
"Special?" Travis grimaces. "That means you're going to tell me something is wrong with her."
"No, I mean really special," Margo asserts. "What happens if you shake up a can of cola?"
"It fizzes - you get cola all over everything."
Margo nods her head. "That's Gina's chemistry, she fizzes a lot. I think the hippocampus in her brain, the seat of emotion, isn't restrained. That's Gina, unrestrained. Her endorphins probably keep her that way."
Travis looks worried. "I don't understand all that medical stuff. What are you trying to say?"
Margo continues carefully. "Gina is ... excitable. She gets euphoric, sometimes goes into a trance." She pauses, then continues solemnly, "Sometimes with other people."
Travis is alarmed. "Does she ever do this while she's driving?"
"No, she controls it. Just don't put her in a hot tub."
"Don't put her in water, don't feed her after midnight?" Travis mimics terror as his imagination runs wild.
Margo smacks him with a look of mock reproach.
Travis settles down. "So something is wrong with her brain?"
"Nothing is wrong with her!" Margo says emphatically. "It's her mind that keeps her high as a kite. Let me explain it this way, honey. What happens if you don't shake a can of cola?"
Travis shrugs. "Nothing."
"It doesn't fizz. Just like you and me - we don't fizz. But maybe we
could if we knew how to get shook up. I think she knows something we mere
mortals are missing."
The bar is dimly lit. Travis and Tracy are seated in an intimate booth sharing a giant Margarita and nibbling on an appetizer.
Travis nervously glances at the door. "We're going to have to find less public places to meet. Anyone from the office could walk in and spot us."
"You just want to get me in bed," Tracy says as if it is plain as day.
Travis is taken aback by her statement. "You sound like you believe that."
"I do. You're no different than any other man." Tracy again states what she believes is a universal truth.
Travis's pride rises at her statement. "Believe me, if that's all I wanted, I would have made my move."
Tracy is not about to shrink before a threatened male ego. "If you had made your move, you wouldn't be seeing me."
"Touché," Travis replies. He sees that he can only lose by continuing with this conversation. They sit in uncomfortable silence for a moment, egos ruffled. Finally Travis says, "Let's not spar, I like you too much."
Tracy is caught off guard she drops her reserve momentarily. She is visibly moved. She did not expect Travis to back down - this is not typical male behavior. Perhaps he really does like her and has honest intentions after all. But men are tricky. Once again the barrier slides in place around her heart and she looks at him as if asking if he is worth the risk. "Isn't there any way around this rule that Kenrick has about employees not dating?"
"That rule hasn't been tested. But you're worth the risk."
Tracy laughs. "You sure know the right lines." She is not at all sure of Travis - she will tread carefully. "Hey, I have to go," she says briskly. "Are you having dinner here tomorrow night?"
"Tomorrow, yes. Next day, no, I'm traveling."
"Rats. Never enough time," Tracy replies, not at all sure if she means it.
Travis senses the tenuous meaning in the tone of her voice and gives her a pained look.
Tracy rises and kisses him on the cheek. Travis pulls her closer, and she allows him, until she is sitting on his lap. His warmthencompasses her, beckoning her closer. His eyes seem to swallow her whole. Their lips touch. His manly fragrance fills her nostrils. There is no doubt now - she wants him. They embrace and kiss passionately. The bartender watches, smiling to himself, impressed, then finally turns away to give them their privacy.
Tracy reluctantly pulls herself away and slides from his lap. Whatever questions she had about Travis are now buried in a remote corner of her mind. "Bye," she says softly and backs away.
Travis turns in his seat and watches her as she reluctantly goes out the door. After the vision of her fades, he stares into his drink looking like he has lost the love of his life.
The bartender, having watched the entire incident, is compelled to walk over to him. "Nice lady. Uh..., anything else I can get for you?"
"Get that lady to marry me and I'll never need another thing."
"That's what they all say until they need a divorce."
Gina is busily working on paperwork at her usual frenetic pace. The phone rings.
"Beau Monde Enterprises, this is Gina."
"Gina, this is Arabella."
Gina could immediately tell by Arabella's tone that something was out of kilter. She desperately hoped that Arabella's resignation wasn't next. She put her enthusiasm in high gear. "Hi, Arabella! How do you like running a club?"
Gina breathed a sigh of relief. "You were lucky getting Travis' club. He had the most profitable club around."
"Speaking of Travis... there is something I think you should know."
Gina could hear the reluctance in Arabella's voice. This must not be good. She steeled herself. "OK, what's up?"
"He seems to have seduced a number of women here. I think you might have a problem."
Gina's first reaction to this revelation is anger. Stealing from the till, molesting people - those were real problems - but seduction? His sex life? "What do you mean seduced? Did he ask customers for a date?"
"It's hard to describe. They go down willingly, but its a hard fall. I'm a little short on details but so far I've had three women in here looking for him, and they're not friendly - they make threats."
"OK, I'll check into it," she said abruptly. Travis was out of their town. So he had a sex life and women fawned over him. When it came to Travis, what wasn't to fawn over? She liked him herself. He damned well is sexy. This is not a problem.
Gina hangs up the phone and it immediately rings again. She sees it is internal.
"Gina," she says flatly.
Margo's voice emanates from the phone, her flat tone matching Gina's. "I need to see you."
"I hope this is good news. I didn't sleep a wink last night and I just got a bad report on Travis."
"I wish it was good," Margo replies ominously.
Gina sighs. "I'll be right down."
Margo is checking a spot on a woman's cheek as Gina enters. Gina waits near the door.
"No, it's not cancer, it's just dry skin."
"But I have oily skin," the woman argues. "I have to powder my nose all the time."
"Most skin has dry spots. Use a moisturizer on it and avoid anything that will dry it."
The woman considers that for a moment, then seems satisfied and leaves.
"Hi," Gina greets Margo, and closes the office door.
Margo launches right into it. "There are rumors flying everywhere that Travis is into seducing women."
"Oh, why now!?" Gina moans. "What do they mean by seducing?"
"It means he's taking women to bed and there's no depth to the relationship," Margo explains.
"Well, is he raping them? Can't they say no?" Gina objects.
"No, frankly, they can't say no," Margo says firmly. "But don't overlook the real point."
"I don't want to see the point," Gina protests. She sees Margo is firmly resolved about this. "But you're right, I'll talk to him about it."
"I think you're going to have to do more than talk." Margo is adamant,
and Gina knows she means that Travis must go. Gina can only hope.
Gina rushes into her office and gets on the phone. As she dials voice mail, Jordan Wells appears in the doorway. He folds his arms and doesn't look happy.
Gina delivers her message while glancing warily at Jordan. "Travis, this is Gina. Give me a call in the office when you can. I need to see you, preferably today."
As she completes the call and hangs up, Jordan says weakly, as if someone
had just beat all the will out of him, "Kenrick wants to see you. If you
have this months sales reports, better take them. The golden goose is laying
fools gold." His arms drop to his side and his head sinks as he trudges
out of the office.
Kenrick is watering his plants when Gina enters. Gina is making an extra effort to maintain her high spirits. Kenrick waves her to a seat, then sits behind his desk.
Kenrick sounds forlorn as he talks, like a man without hope. "Profits are way down, Gina. Way, way down. I want to hear the story from the front line."
Gina looks momentarily at the sales reports hanging limply in her hand. She has seen the figures, and Kenrick must know something she doesn't. Yes, things are sliding, but they always turn around. From the way Kenrick sounded, she had better make this good. "We're having more problem than we have ever had getting members - especially male members. The managers are working their tales off recruiting and doing promotions. Our sales people can't make enough sales to make a living and they quit. When one quits, they all quit, then we have no sales. It's a nightmare."
"What are you doing about it?"
Oh, rats, darn, and shoot! He had to ask that damned "personal responsibility" question, like everything in the business hung on everything she did. Kenrick was looking for someone to blame - someone to hang. Better shift the blame elsewhere. "What am I doing? Everything I can. Recruiting, promoting, pumping people up. You know we've seen this slide grow over the last two years. I'm not sure we can stay at the levels we were: men have lost interest - they're off to some new toy."
"That's right, and long term we're going into new ventures. But seemingly overnight this business is in crisis. We're about to lose our ass before we can get these other businesses established. We can't do this, we'll go under." He rose from his chair and charged her, jabbing his finger at her. "This is Gina's responsibility, and the question is, is Gina doing the right things?"
Gina leapt to her own defense, arguing vehemently. "Jordan and I have put together plan after plan and put them in effect. We have several more on the table, some are just waiting for research. Jordan is putting together a plan based on mid-life crisis and he is grinding out advertising as fast as he can. I'm not psychic - "
Kenrick holds up his hand, stopping her. He backs away.
"A little reality here. When things aren't working, you find the new direction and make it work. If you can't then I'll have to find someone who can. I can't let this whole damned business go down the tubes while Gina plods along "business as usual," he says sarcastically and circles her. "It's a crisis - you have to react quickly."
Kenrick is behind her. He shouts in her ear. "Ten sharks are on our tale - swim like Hell for safety!" He lets that sink in. Gina shrinks. "Understand?" Again he lets that sink in.
He walks to his desk and rests his haunch on it. Suddenly he is pretends to speak gently, but his words are accusing. "What happened to you? Five years ago you were so spontaneous. You could think on your feet and make instant decisions that were right on. Is your energy gone? Have you lost interest?"
Gina has gone from being intimidated to being angry. "I'm doing ten times as much as I did five years ago. The only way to cope is to be organized!"
Kenrick shakes his head at her. "You're ten times as capable as you were five years ago. You can't slide by on your looks in this business. Give it some thought; I may have to find someone else."
Kenrick returned to his desk seat while she burned in place. He continued, "In the meantime, since you are plodding along, I'll make some decisions to help you along. Are Travis' sales good?"
"Yes, but - "
"See, there you go with the buts, second guessing in a crisis.
I'm making him Sales Supervisor. Still under you. He'll pick up part of
your responsibilities so you can get to work on saving our ship." He gave
her a look that said there had better not be anything else. As Gina walks
out the door, Kenrick smiles smugly to himself.
Gina leaves the office, angrily walking down the hall toward her office, talking angrily to herself and anyone who cares to listen.
S.O. Fucking S!"
Jordan hears her pass by and catches her. "Rough meeting?"
"He's been reading that one minute thing again. After thirty seconds of being chewed out the only thing on my mind is shoving that sucker for one full minute."
Jordan nods and sympathizes silently. Their eyes meet and share their distress. Gina melts. "Jordan, he scares me."
Jordan gives her a hug. "Kenrick's like a kidney stone - it only hurts till it passes."
"Any cure for him?" Gina quips.
"Take lots of Vitamin C."
Gina's eyes crinkle with a smile and she laughs despite mood.
She peeks in her office, sees Travis, smiles and waves. "Be with you in a minute."
She turns back to Jordan and says discreetly, "Travis. Not a minute's peace."
She walks down the hall the other way to the bathroom.
Gina enters her office. Travis is sitting in front of her desk. She stands in front of him, close enough to tower over him, trying to be a little intimidating. After Kenrick's power play she is not feeling her charming self. Travis can see her characteristic smile is missing and his brow furrows with concern.
"I got reports today that you seduced women at your club. What is going on?" she demands.
Travis looks down. Gina places a finger under his chin and pulls his head back up.
"Travis, remember, no lies, keep it open."
Travis looks as if he means to be sincere, but Gina can see that he is going to be less than honest. She hadn't expected anything else. "Well, I admit - "
Gina cuts him off, takes his face in her hands and makes him look at her face.
"Travis! Lay it out plain and simple." she says as if talking to a four-year-old caught with his hand in the cookie jar. She stays quiet, making him reveal it all.
"I seduced some of them," Travis begins. He looks at Gina's cold stare and breaks out in a cold sweat. He falters - he is worried about something. "I've.... got this thing going with Tracy - you won't do anything to her, will you? Please?"
Gina's face is frozen into a chilling stare. She waits expectantly for more.
"I got fired from my last job for seducing the boss's daughter," he pauses but Gina doesn't respond. "And I think I'm in love.... with you."
Gina's mouth falls slack at that revelation. She regards him blankly for several seconds and finally begins snickering, then laughing.
"Tracy and me. Just two weeks?" she says in incredulous astonishment.
Travis smiles weakly. "Actually a week."
They both laugh, with Gina shaking her head in disbelief.
"I'll just pack my bags and go."
Gina nods. Travis hurries out the door with Gina watching. After a moment, Gina goes to the door.
"Travis. Come here," she calls after him.
Travis comes back in the room, his expression showing a combination of puzzlement and fear. Gina pushes him into a chair.
"Stay here a moment, I'll be back."
Margo is counting pills into a bottle. She smiles at Gina as she enters and continues counting. Gina checks the doors for other people and closes the doors for privacy.
"Vitamin E supplements," Margo says, holding up the bottle. "Essential
for skin and sex - we're out of the essentials.
Gina hops onto the counter next to Margo. "You were right about Travis. He seduces women; said so himself. He got fired from his last job because of it - the boss's daughter, no less - he doesn't care who it is. And he's seeing someone right in this building."
"Believe me, you don't want to know."
"I love it when people give me a mystery. Shouldn't take longer than say, oh, two days to figure that one out." Margo smiles smugly at her, and continues looking at her expectantly.
"I saw the chemistry there," Margo says like it couldn't have been anyone else. "Did he seduce her?"
Gina hopes to surprise her. "No. They seem to have a relationship."
"Did you fire him?" Margo asks flatly. Gina can see that for once she is one up on her friend. She is going for two.
"He's sitting in my office. Things just got complicated. Kenrick promoted Travis before I could stop him."
"So go explain it to him," Margo replies imperatively.
"Kenrick's really on the warpath," Gina groans, unable to hide her fear. "I don't want to get within a hundred feet of him."
Margo sizes her up for a moment. "Not exactly a realistic approach," she warns her friend.
"Margo, what would make a man seduce women like that?"
"Could be a lot of reasons. Why?" she eyes Gina suspiciously. "You're not thinking of keeping him on are you? He won't stop."
Gina shrugs apologetically. "I'm trying to sort it out. I have a commitment to him. You like to make people beautiful, I like to make them successful. But....."
Margo's voice develops an edge of disgust to it. "Honey, get out of your trance and wake up. You know what a problem person does to the organization. He will take five times the amount of your time a normal person does. Do you have that kind of time? No! And he will upset everyone. We don't need any of that. You have the goods on him, boot him out the door."
"I should," Gina laments, as if grieving for herself.
"Oh, damn, that means you won't!" Margo says as if she is about to throw a fit. She continues emphatically, "Gina the man needs therapy. Years of it!"
"What would the problem be?" Gina continues as if she hasn't even heard Margo. "Too much testosterone?"
"What have you got, a Messiah complex? You gonna' try and save the world?" Margo derides her. But she can see that convincing Gina is hopeless. "It's extremely unlikely it's physical," she explains. She moves in front of Gina to make sure she has her full attention. "It's his mind," she says softly, as if giving fatal news to a friend.
"I can give him a chance to fix it." Gina continues upbeat. "Replacing him would take me weeks.... months to get a replacement doing as well as Travis is now. I don't have that kind of time - Kenrick would...." Gina's voice trails off as she comprehends the difficulty of changing Travis, and the difficulty of pleasing Kenrick.
Margo appeals to reason. "You don't have the time for Travis. What would you be doing this for?"
"I don't know... Maybe for Mark." Gina looks away, tragic memories of love lost tearing at her.
"You've done enough for Mark, you saved his job," Margo reminds her.
"Maybe this is for me," Gina argues, unable to turn away from this.
"Are you masochistic?" Margo asks, again disgust creeping into her voice.
She doesn't know why she is doing this. It's irrational. She can justify it, but she shouldn't do it. She just knows she is going to do it. "Thanks, Margo." Gina says happily as she jumps off the counter and leaves.
Margo shouts after her, "You're hopeless!" And then she continues to
herself, "This company doesn't deserve you."
Gina enters her office, her smile is still gone. Travis is sitting glumly in a chair. Gina sits in the chair beside him.
"Whatever your problem is, I don't know much about it. I told you when I hired you, if you did your best, I would do mine. I didn't think it would come to something like this!" She looks at Travis like she is looking for a merciful reply, but Travis only looks more uncomfortable. He is caught red-handed with no alibi. "But I don't have many good choices."
"Whew!" Travis breathes a sigh of relief. "I thought you were rounding up some women to beat me up."
"I've had a long day, Travis, and it's only noon, so bear with me. Do you have any idea how wrong it is, what you've been doing?"
Travis nods, then being honest with himself he shakes his head.
"If you go to therapy, it may take five years to put you right, and often as not it doesn't work. And we can't have a five year risk on our hands." Gina feels worn out. Suddenly a major challenge like Travis doesn't sound like such a good idea. "I'm going to give you a month. That's it."
Travis looks at the beautiful woman sitting next to him, now looking haggard, her enthusiasm killed, even her persistent smile missing - and he is the guilty party. Guilt overtakes him. "Look, Gina, you're too nice to do this to. I'd love to hang around for a month and maybe seduce you, too. Do you know what I'm saying?"
Gina appreciates his being candid with her. She flashes an encouraging smile. "If you're willing to work on it, together we can beat this."
Travis is clearly moved. "What are you, a priest?"
"Yeah," she answers sarcastically, "Priestess of Sales. A very appropriate
title." Gina is still smiling, but it is a pained smile. Life with all
of its serious problems is crowding in. She knows she has opened another
of life's doors and gone through it, but she doesn't know where it's going
to lead. But for just a moment she sees that she is indeed a priestess
to sales and she doesn't know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but
it is a consuming thing and she can feel that it is about to get worse.
Margo is pulling files from a filing cabinet. Tracy enters the office and puts some exercise clothing away.
Margo turns to address her, putting a hand on her hip, an unsympathetically expression on her face. "Your boyfriend has a problem."
Tracy looks at her blankly.
"We know you've been seeing Travis," Margo responds to her blank stare. She lets the news hang for a moment, watching Tracy squirm for not owning up to her liaison with Travis, before saying, "You're not fired."
Tracy slumps into a chair and stares at the floor, wiping the sweat from her brow with a towel. After recuperating from the shock, she ventures, "What is his problem?"
"He seduces women," Margo seethes, hating Travis for what he does. "He may be seeing you regularly, but he gets a couple of other women a week."
Tracy absorbs that for a moment. "They're all the fucking same aren't they," Tracy says, and wipes herself furiously with the towel as if trying to rub Travis off of herself. "I should have known. He seemed so nice."
Margo's heart melts and she goes to her. "No, they're not all the same. And Travis has a problem. Maybe it can be fixed."
"Yeah, right. When turkeys fly."
Travis enters. He takes a look at both women and realizes what is going on. Tracy and he exchange pained glances and she hurries out past him, almost knocking him over.
"Do you have any idea what you've done?"
Travis looks helplessly after Tracy.
Disheartened, he turns to Margo and says lowly, "Look, Gina gave me a month."
"A month and you're out?" Margo asks almost hopefully.
"No, a month to fix it."
"You have no idea how lucky you are to have someone like Gina pulling for you."
"Yes, I do, and I want some help, Margo. I like this job. I like the people. I want to beat this." Travis looks to Margo, looking for any sign of compassion, but Margo is a stone wall. Determined, he asks anyway, "You're a physician, can you help me?"
"Not likely," Margo replies, her voice showing no sign of caring. "I doubt it's a physical problem. Only someone like Gina can help you with your mind - and that's a slim chance. You had better see a psychiatrist."
"Please," Travis pleads. "They give smokers some kind of nicotine replacement to help them quit."
"There's no replacement for sex," Margo scoffs. But in spite of her dislike of what Travis has done, his sincerity gets to her. "All right, what the Hell. I can prescribe a testosterone blocker. It won't stop you, but maybe it will slow you down."
Next: 4 The Challenges