Priscilla Good Henley, Episode 7- By Howard Schneider


Jackie returned from her room an hour after she'd abruptly ceased telling Goody about her encounter with Martha and Bobby in the company parking lot and then hurry off to find her laptop. Goody was on the patio hovering over a gas grill. "Smells good. What is it?" Jackie asked. 

"Burgers. There's potato salad in the refrigerator. If you get that, we'll be ready to eat. Grab that bottle of Merlot on the counter, too. Then you can tell me what you've been up to. You want cheese on yours?' 

"The works. I'm starving," Jackie said, heading inside. 

After they'd finished their burgers and slid the empty plates aside, Goody refilled their glasses and said, "Okay, enough suspense. What's your big idea about how to deal with this blackmail situation?' 

Jackie chuckled, then said, "We'll steal their thunder. You know, beat them to the punch?" 

"Is this how you're going to do it?" Goody asked, glancing at a folded up sheet of paper Jackie took from her shirt pocket and held out for Goody to take. 

"It's a statement you could read at a press conference tomorrow. If you agree, that is. After all, we should tell the press about the change in management and the new business plan, don't you think?" 

"We? I'm not involved in the company anymore. Remember? It's yours now." 

"True. But you can still let the press know how you feel about turning your interests over to me. That's new-worthy, isn't it?" Then, after a pause, Jackie added, "You could read that statement when one of your friends in the press asked about me. Why you'd let me take over." 

Goody scanned the first sentence, nodded, then read the whole announcement out loud. "In addition to my confidence in Miss Grant's ability to steer The Good Life Cookie Company along a path of continuing success, I am especially proud of her overcoming an extraordinarily difficult past—an orphaned childhood, being passed from one foster home to the next, abuse by unscrupulous men determined to use her as a disposable commodity, attempted escape from the horrors of neglect and homelessness through drugs and petty crime, and two years in prison for doing what she had to do to survive. But through extraordinary strength of character, formidable intelligence, a stubborn spirit to carry on and do good, and a stroke of good luck, she survived that life. But she did much more than merely survive—she became an accomplished business leader and has proved to be as fine a human being as any I've ever known. I am proud to turn my interests in the company over to Jackie Grant and am confidant she will not disappoint me, her colleagues, her employees, or the public. I fully endorse her as Chief Executive Officer of the Of Good Life Cookie Company." 

Goody laid the sheet of paper on the table, looked at Jackie, then said, "Well, this statement should take the wind from their sail. Normally I'd ask if you are sure about revealing the dark side of your past, but knowing you, I'm sure you've thought it through. And, as I think about it more, you are right to do it this way. Better to have it come from us than from some reporter digging up dirt at some point in the future. I'll be happy to read this at a press conference tomorrow. I'd be proud to tell the entire world what you've accomplished. 

"Thank you, Goody. I knew I could count on you. I'll have Angela schedule a press conference for tomorrow morning. Then I'll call Martha and put an end to her blackmail scheme. She and Bobby will soon be on their way back to whatever rathole in LA they slithered out of." 

Martha stubbed out the smoldering joint on the plastic top of the bedside table in their economy-rate room at the motel they still rented and answered on the third ring. "Jackie. Why are you calling now? I told you tomorrow morning." 

"I won't need to call at all, Martha. There's a new plan. Tune in to Channel Six at eleven tomorrow morning. Have a nice day." 

"What was that about?" Bobby asked, rousing himself from a semi-stupor induced by a pipe of Oregon premium hash oil." 

"I don't know, but I don't like it. She sounded too cocky, like she's ain't gonna pay up. We'll find out what she's doing tomorrow morning at eleven, on TV. She better not be trying to pull a fast one. She don't know who's she's dealing with if she is." 

The next day opened as differently as imaginable in the two locations relevant to this story—one location being a run-down, low-rent, pay by the hour, day, or week motel in Southeast Portland, the other, an exclusive, gated estate in Northeast Portland overlooking the majesty of the Willamette Valley. The inhabitants of each location were focused on the press conference that was to be carried on Channel Six at eleven-o'clock that morning. The futures of both parties were at stake, and each combatant was determined to prevail. Finally, the hour of revelation arrived. 

When the press conference neared its end, one of the Oregonian business reporters asked Goody the planted question about Jackie. Goody's response hit Martha like a jack hammer on full power. 

"Damn her!" Martha screamed as she jumped up from the bed and began ranting and raving as she paced around the ratty room, incoherently, shaking her head back and forth. Finally coming to her senses, she said, "If she thinks I'm gonna give up this money, she stupider than I thought she was. She ain't getting off the hook by spilling the beans like she did. Bobby! We're gonna do what you said we should 'ah done from the get-go. Grab the old woman. Then she'll pay up. She'd be too soft not to. She ain't like me—or her mother. No way we're gonna leave without our million." 

Bobby opened his red-rimmed eyes and looked at Martha. "What'd you say?" 

"I said we're gonna do what we need to do. Get up! We gotta make a plan. It's now or never. And a far as I'm concerned, 'never' ain't in the cards."

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