Author/blogger’s note: This is Chapter 17 of my unpublished novel “Grabmore.” The title is also the name of a fictional media empire.
In this chapter a band of rogue employees have stashed the company CEO away in a safe house in Chokoloskee. Maybe it’s time kill the CEO.
At least the flag out on front of the Tropical-Times building wasn’t at half staff. Or is that half mast?
Anyhow, the flag flying atop the building told me management didn’t think O’Riley was dead. But the managers certainly were atwitter with anxiety.
Over my morning bowl of whole grain cereal with raisins and fat-free milk, I had read the print coverage of the story.
Although perhaps 5 percent of the paper’s readers could tell you the Tropical-Times was owned by Grabmore and no more than 1 percent could identify the company’s CEO, the story was plastered across the front page.
This was the banner headline in 48-point type: Is CEO OK?
This was the sub-headline: Grabmore top boss O’Riley missing; foul play possible
Ace cops reporter Ace Hamill, who has covered Florida crime for 32 years, was assigned the O’Riley story. There were front-page photos of O’Riley, one of him on his yacht, another at his polo club and yet another of him gambling in a Monaco casino with movie director Quinton Tarantino, who later was asked about the guy next to him.
“Never seen him before,” Tarantino told TMZ. “Struck me as a doofus. But somebody gave me a book called ‘Poet, Pugilist and Pressman.’ It’s by this idiot’s great-grandfather. I may do a movie on his great-grandfather. His great-grandfather was not a doofus. Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. We’ll see. Gotta go. Let me cash in my winnings
“And keep me away from that moron and those teenage girls he’s got with him.”
This is what was on the front page of the Tropical Times that Wednesday under the Ace Hamill byline:
“Chesterfield Ebenezer O’Riley IV, scion of one of America’s most powerful families, vanished from downtown Fort Myers on Monday afternoon.
“The CEO of Grabmore Publications, the parent company of the Tropical-Times, was last seen on his yacht the Never Enough around noon, sipping a Frappuccino and giving career advice to a young female employee.
“The employee, whom authorities are not identifying, was seen eating lunch early Monday afternoon at the Oasis Restaurant in downtown Fort Myers and is not a suspect.
“O’Riley was in Fort Myers to visit the Tropical-Times and did not leave a message with other company officials that he would not make his appointment. He is usually fairly punctual, newspaper management indicated.
“Tropical-Times officials realized O’Riley was missing by about 3 p.m. Monday when he did not step off his yacht and into a waiting limousine that was going to drive him to the paper’s offices a few blocks away.
“’This is very distressing,” Tropical-Times executive editor Col. Nate Longtreet said. “Chet, as I call him, is one of America’s foremost journalists, public intellectuals and business leaders. I can’t imagine this company moving forward without his powerhouse IQ and uncanny wisdom guiding the ship of Grabmore through these turbulent waters of these tumultuous times.’
“By Tuesday afternoon, more than 24 hours since he was last seen, the Fort Myers Police Department was investigating.
“If he was kidnapped, the FBI will be taking over the case,” Fort Myers police chief Bubba Tippins said. “But we don’t know if O’Riley was kidnapped or got drunk and passed out in some floozie’s Cape Coral condo and is still sleeping it off.”
Grabmore officials tried calling O’Riley. His cell phone was spotted and heard on a seawall near the Royalty Supreme Yacht Club early Monday afternoon when its old car horn ringtone awoke a homeless man sleeping on a bench. The man’s startled screech alerted officers to the telephone.
“Longstreet said O’Riley has no known enemies or even bitter business rivals.
‘We call him our Dear Leader,” Longstreet said. “He’s universally beloved and respected within the company. I know all Grabmore employees share my worries about our Dear Leader’s welfare and hope he returns once more to pilot the Grabmore ship of state.’
“Continued Page 4A
“See Also, Page 4A: A legend in pictures, an O’Riley photo gallery.
“On Tsquared.com: More on O’Riley including photos, a timeline of the Grabmore empire and comments from community and national leaders.”
Well, it’s out there. The story is definitely out there.
I walked in the Tropical-Times side door and went about my job. I had ideas typed up for our spring training coverage I wanted to print out prior to our 11 a.m. sports department meeting.
I nodded hello to Tess, my sports department confidante. She walked over to the printer and I whispered that all is well, that O’Riley is stashed away in a secret hiding place. I never told her where because the less she knew about specifics the better protected she would be.
Meanwhile, Mabel was in full-blown Mabel mode from her command post.
“Oh, this is the worst thing ever,” she said, loud enough for everybody in the newsroom to hear, even Longstreet in his office with the doors closed. “Our dear Dear Leader. I hope he’s safe. I saw him once when he visited. So handsome. So smart. So brilliant.
“He’s like a combination of that actor George O’Clooney and that real smart science guy from long ago with the frizzy hair. Eisenfeld? Eisenstadt? Whoever. Mr. O’Riley, our dear Dear Leader, he’s like that smart. Only smarter. And better looking than George O’Clooney.”
O’Clooney? Nobody bothered pointing out Mabel mangled the actor’s name.
With that she glanced at Longstreet’s office, clearly hoping he heard her worshipful lamentations. What good are worshipful lamentations if the right person, the person to boost your career, doesn’t hear them?
What a day.
There was time, before our 11 a.m. meeting with sports editor Bo Lowe, to check the Grabmore Blog to see what my fellow employees were saying.
Grabmore Blog comments:
From Triple-Xfoxxyladie: “What a pig this guy is. He should be emasculated, the sleazie ceo skum. I’ve seen the girls he brings on that yacht of his. He should be ashmed of hissself. I hope them kidnappers kill the creep.”
From editordude: “Can’t people spell any mores. Why is this blog so filled with such typos all the time? What’s wrong with people. And O’Riley? I met him once. Sort of. He walked through our newsroom clutching a cold bottle of Starbucks Frappucino and wearing that riduclous captain’s cap.
“He asked me, ‘What do you do, old sport?” I said, ‘Well, Mr. Gatsby, my name is Nick Carraway and I live in that little house near your mansion.’ He had no idea what I was talking about. Just nodded blankly and walked away.’ I got a scowl from our managing editor for that wisecrack. But she later admitted she kind of liked it because she had no use either for this idiot sucking money out of our paper to pay for his trips to Iceland and Lapland and wherever.”
And this from Corporatedrone123: “I work at corporate HQ. Most of us know what sort of person we’re dealing with here. We know he lives in some alternative universe lacking any sort of accountability for his actions. As long as he owns 54.point something percent of the company, the board can’t do anything. But even if there were folks with common sense on the board, they wouldn’t do anything.
“All they care about is the next quarter. They don’t want to invest in making our newspapers and TV and radio stations better in the long term. It’s all about making money now.
“I’m not a violent person but if O’Riley turns up dead on a Florida beach or flop house not many tears will be shed here in Buffalo.”
Finally, this again from anonymous: “Hope the stupid rat basterd rots in heel.”
So the blog was singing. …
The folks still employed at the Tropical-Times had a website to update and a paper to put out.
The sports department had to plan spring training coverage. I had to remind the sports editor again and again that there were two Major League Baseball teams holding spring training in the county.
He knew about the Boston Red Sox but always seemed to forget the Minnesota Twins were also in town.
But my attention kept drifting away from discussions about starting rotations and bullpens to my Uncle Orville’s house down in Chokoloskee, to where my friends Sal, Nigel, Monique and Ahmad were babysitting America’s most famous missing CEO.
Maybe we should just kill him. It was something we would have to discuss. It would make things easier for all of us, assuming, of course, we were not caught.
A dead CEO whose body is never found would make it easier for all of us. From Chokoloskee we were on the fringe of the Ten Thousand Islands, 10,000 places to stash a body that would rot fast in the Florida heat.
Or we could just run out to the Gulf of Mexico, wrap O’Riley up in some of the extra orange shag carpeting in Uncle Orville’s garage, attach some dumbbells to the dumbbell and pitch him overboard.
But could we actually murder a quasi-human being?
It was something to discuss the next day.