Henry Lindon is playing a game of tit for tat that he’s about to lose. Successful, charming executive Henry Lindon was happily making high-dollar global deals and enjoying the good life in Dallas when his job mysteriously disappears—and with it, his identity. On top of that, he’s sure his beautiful wife is having an affair with some Romeo down in Argentina. While attempting to start a new life teaching law, Lindon is finding his paranoia has got him around the throat and won’t let go. In class one day, the discussion goes off track from law and libel to tattoos. When a student appears in his office in pink shorts and a crop top and takes the subject of tattoos to a much-too-personal level, Lindon’s at a loss to explain why and worried about ramifications. Discovering he may have the Department of Justice on his back with phony felony charges, he’s reaching his breaking point and nothing’s making sense. Two tattoos, a murder, and an old rivalry are part of a distant game of revenge that’s about to come full circle.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Clay G. Small is the former senior vice president and managing attorney for PepsiCo, Inc. He lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Ellen, and teaches at Southern Methodist University.
Read an Excerpt
Heels Over Head
By Clay G. Small
Greenleaf Book Group PressCopyright © 2017 Clay Small
All rights reserved.
"What about academia interests you?" asked Southerland University's president, Phil Thomas. His nonchalant tone bordered on indifference.
What the hell am I doing here? Henry Lindon wondered. He took in the room's somber amalgamation of mahogany walls, drab portraits of past university presidents, and worn Persian rugs. Is this really for me?
He was thrust back into the moment when he realized Thomas was waiting for an answer. "I see teaching as ... a chance to give back, to share what I've learned in business over the last twenty-five years," Henry answered.
Thomas grinned. "I've heard that answer a time or two. Let's be candid, shall we?" He leaned forward as he steepled his fingers in front of his prominent hawk nose. "I'm reluctant to hire long-term players from the corporate world. They tend to see teaching as a cushy retirement option and do just that — retire on the job."
"That's not what I ..."
With a slight wave of his hand, Thomas cut him off. "I'm curious about your career at Inveress, Ltd. Your brother told me you started in the law department, rose through the ranks, and, at the time your company Inveress was taken over, ascended all the way up to the CEO chair. Pretty impressive."
"Thanks," Henry said, irritated that even in his own interview, his brother Marvin was front and center. Always being the "other" brother was tiresome. He began to fidget, trying to get comfortable in the hard wooden chair.
"Marvin said UNS Partners out of New Jersey took over Inveress," said Thomas.
"Yes, they took over lock, stock, and barrel with a hostile tender offer at a thirty-eight percent premium above the market price," replied Henry.
"Why was UNS willing to pay such a premium?" asked Thomas with a quizzical look. "They're a huge conglomerate, but a thirty-eight percent premium is one fancy price."
"They wanted a specific cookie operation called San Miguel Galletas, based in Argentina. When we were unwilling to sell just the San Miguel operation, their answer was to take over the entire company."
"Marvelous mentioned that San Miguel developed a special technology," Thomas said.
The mention of Marvin's name was bad enough. Now the mention of his nickname "Marvelous" put Henry on edge. His own interview was not about him. It was about Thomas ingratiating himself with Marvin. But he pushed through.
"San Miguel found the Holy Grail of cookies. They patented a technology to produce fat-free, low-calorie, moist cookies. Their product is delicious."
"It's amazing that you got the drop on the opportunity," Thomas said, as he leaned back in his high-backed, tufted burgundy leather chair. "I would think a company of UNS's size would have people all over the globe scouring for breakthrough technologies."
"Sometimes you're lucky," Henry said with a shrug.
"Henry, in my experience, most CEOs are prima donnas. You're a welcome exception. Marvin shared with me the details about how you single-handedly identified San Miguel and wrestled down the acquisition. And, even better, how UNS was forced to pay an exorbitant price for your handiwork. Marvin was real proud of your work and I bet your shareholders loved it."
Henry wondered what other details of his life Marvin had volunteered. As Henry prepared to ask his first question of the interview, Thomas abruptly stood up, came around from behind his desk, and thrust out his hand.
"Henry," Thomas said with a knowing wink and an aggressively firm handshake, "you'll make a great professor. We just need to find the right spot for you. We have one need in the business school you might be able to fill. It plays to a much earlier part of your career."
"What's that?" asked Henry.
"We have an opening in a course called Corporate Legal Affairs. Are you current enough on legal issues to tackle it?" Henry was not particularly current on legal issues. However, his legal background was deep. Besides, Marylou always said he had a knack for explaining thorny legal issues. Thoughts of his wife triggered a twinge of melancholy. "Henry, you with me? Would that course potentially be of interest?" "Could be," responded Henry. One class? That was it? He was accustomed to seventy-hour weeks.
"Tell you what, let's sleep on it and I'll give you a call in the next day or two."
"Great," said Henry, rising and suppressing the urge to sigh. This had not gone at all as he had expected.
"Please forgive me, but I have a meeting of the Development Committee," Thomas said, placing a hand on Henry's shoulder and easing him toward the door. "Running a university requires lots of resources. Nice spending time with you." The office door closed firmly behind Henry and as it did, his shoulders sagged. The interview had lasted less than ten minutes and been nothing more than a rehash of what his brother Marvin had already told President Thomas.
Is this how universities work? Did Thomas offer me a job? Do I even want to be a professor? Leaving the administration building, Henry stopped to admire the view of downtown Dallas rising above the live oak canopy stretching for half a mile down the boulevard. Henry mused that academia had a certain cachet and working in a beautiful place would be fun, but he felt agitated. Was it the fact that Thomas had brought up the UNS acquisition of Inveress? That deal had deprived him of the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his work in acquiring the San Miguel company. Or was it that his brother Marvin had hijacked the entire interview process?
As he continued across campus, submerged in introspection, his phone buzzed. It was Marvin. Henry considered ignoring it but knew his impetuous brother would simply keep calling until he picked up. "Hey, Marvin."
His brother's familiar, too-loud voice came bursting over the cell. "Yo, how'd it go? I bet Phil Thomas offered you the job on the spot. I can't wait to hear about it — for sure nobody will ever talk to me about a professorship. Tell you what — meet me at the pub and give me the play-by-play over a beer. And hey — I got a big surprise to show you!"
Only a little curious about Marvin's surprise, Henry reluctantly agreed, and fifteen minutes later the two sat on high stools at a raised table at the Trinity Hall pub. The table was the one Marvin favored. Its proximity to the mahogany bar, imported from Dublin, made it easy for him to chat up the waitresses and participate in bar chatter at the same time. Henry preferred a quiet table in the back.
"Sounds like the meetin' with ol' President Thomas went real good," Marvin said in the gentle twang he steadfastly clung to from his years growing up on a Kansas wheat farm. Henry had long ago modulated to a neutral California nonaccent. "He's grown pompous over the years, but he's doin' a good job for the university. You know, Henry, you'd make one hell of a good prof. Gonna do it?"
"Nothing's been offered, and if it is, I'll give it some thought," responded Henry.
Marvin grinned. "That's my bro, always givin' everything some thought. Let's get that beer."
Henry waited as Marvin, as always, started up with the waitress. Predictably, she responded, with batting eyelashes and a toss of her hair. Marvin's six-foot-six athletic frame, handsome face, and affable demeanor were magnets that often drew females into conversation. At just over six feet, Henry had spent a lifetime literally looking up to Marvin. Listening to Marvin's banter, Henry couldn't help but smile at his brother's interminable congeniality. It was hard to stay angry with Marvin, but the memory of the interview still irritated him.
"You must have spent one hell of a lot of time working on Thomas," Henry said as the waitress walked away with their order. "Was that really necessary? I can carry my own water."
His brother's brows went up in surprise. "Hell, you and Southerland University are two of my undisputed favorite things in the world. Can you blame me for tryin' to get them together? Hey, aren't you curious about my surprise?"
"Sure," Henry said off-handily.
With a gleam in his eye, Marvin dramatically unbuttoned his shirtsleeve and slowly rolled it up. "Check 'er out!"
Henry was dumbfounded. On the underside of his impetuous brother's left arm was a large royal-blue tattoo whose words were interwoven by a slave chain. The words read, "I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link."
"How freakin' cool is that!" Marvin shouted. Heads at the bar turned to the brothers' table. Henry hoped none of the patrons knew him.
"How did you choose ... that particular phrase?" Henry asked in a calming voice.
"Come on. You gotta remember," Marvin said. "It's what Marley's ghost told Ebenezer Scrooge."
Henry dropped his chin, closed his eyes, and stroked the perpetual cowlick on the back of his head. He recalled the Dickensian darkness from A Christmas Carol. "Was there a special reason to get a tattoo?"
"It's been bubblin' in the back of my head for about thirty years. Ever since that a-hole Guy Wheeless Jr. got his tattoo and we chickened out."
Henry rolled his eyes. "Marvin, we didn't chicken out. Getting that tattoo was stupid and we decided not to act like sheep."
"Maybe. But that didn't stop him from flashin' his cherry bomb tattoo all over school and tellin' everyone we were too chicken to get inked."
"It was a bad idea when you were eighteen and living in Wichita ... now at fifty-six ..." Henry shook his head.
Marvin took a drink of his beer, smacked his lips, and laughed. "Aw, Henry, loosen up. You been livin' in that uptight corporate world way too long. Out here in the real world, everybody's got a tattoo."
"Whatever," Henry mumbled. "Guy Jr.'s tattoo dredges up some bad memories for me. A lot of crap flowed from that stupid cherry bomb tattoo."
"Yeah, like that practical joke we pulled on Guy Jr. and his date," said Marvin. "To this day, I get a kick thinkin' about that girl goin' heels over head into his back seat flashing her pretty pink panties."
"Some of the other stuff that followed our little stunt wasn't much fun," Henry murmured.
Marvin leaned back in his chair, his brows knitted together. "Man, just the mention of Guy Jr. sets your ass in a tailspin. All that stuff in Wichita was a long time ago." He signaled the waitress with a raised finger and said, "Darlin', can you sprinkle the infield again?"
* * *
Leaving his apartment atop the Wheeless Strategic Fund office building, Guy Wheeless Jr. admired his patrician reflection in his private elevator mirror. He made a minor adjustment to his electric-blue necktie and, with both hands, smoothed back the sides of his gleaming black hair. The one constant irritant in his appearance caught his eye — the missing top half of his left ear. It looked like someone had cut across his ear with serrated scissors at a twenty-degree angle.
It had been nearly a week since he had been out of the apartment. Pushing through the building's glass doors into Wichita's late-afternoon sun, he spotted his gunmetal-grey Bentley Mulsanne parked at the curb. Nothing of import would occur until the evening's meeting in Chicago, but he had community agenda items requiring attention. A man of his standing had obligations. The driver, Larry, came around the car to open the door.
As the rear door opened, Wheeless's eyes tightened at the sight of his driver's ever-growing cauliflower ear. The ear was an unwelcome reminder of Wheeless's own deformity.
"Afternoon, Mr. Wheeless," the man said deferentially.
"Afternoon, Larry. First stop is the hospital for the board meeting, then the airport." He settled into the backseat. "Catch the fight on TV last night?"
"Not much of a fight, boss." Larry spoke with a wide grin, flashing extensive silver crowns and bridges. "That Mex'can boy reminds me of the ol' sayin' of da man."
"What man is that?"
"Why, Iron Mike Tyson is da man, boss. He said, 'Everybody got a plan until they get popped.' And that's what happened last night. Dat boy come out dancin' like Ali, but when he got popped on his nose, he turn into a twelve-year-ol' girl rest of the night." He shut the back door and in seconds was in the driver's seat.
"Larry, is your son still training to follow in your footsteps?" "Boss, he just like his ol' man," Larry said with a grin. "Feet don't move too good, but can sure take a punch. He need a bit mo' hop in his step."
Wheeless's cell phone rang and he frowned down at the caller ID. It was Jane Birney, general counsel of UNS Partners in New Jersey. The company was one of Wheeless Strategic Fund's largest investments — it was also the worst performing. "Yes," Wheeless answered.
"Good morning, Mr. Wheeless. Glad to reach you." Her lawyer voice was already grating on his nerves. "The UNS board meeting just concluded and I was asked to reach out about your recent letter."
"Mr. Wheeless, the board, of course, values input from all our shareholders and we certainly value your opinion as our largest shareholder. We understand your concern about what you perceive as our lack of progress. I can assure you that we have redoubled our efforts to improve results. The problems are multifaceted and we have put into place a holistic approach."
"And?" What ridiculous business-speak. Can this woman speak English?
"The board has reviewed your proposal for a meeting and, unfortunately, the date you chose is inconvenient. Perhaps you and I should meet so I can be in a better position to present your point of view to the board."
"Ms. Birney, I made myself clear the last time you disturbed me. I don't give a rat's ass about the board's convenience and have even less interest in meeting with you. I gave you months to prepare for the meeting. Our team will be at UNS's offices at 10 a.m. sharp on the date I specified. We will lay out our plan to remedy your company's abysmal performance and, if any member of the board is absent, I will consider it a personal affront. Good-bye, Ms. Birney."
As Birney began to reply, Wheeless calmly clicked off his phone, unfolded the Financial Times, and began reviewing the currency quotes.
When they reached Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, the hospital's president was waiting in front of the building. She warmly greeted Wheeless and escorted him from his car to the meeting room. With oldschool charm, Wheeless made sure to shake hands and exchange a few words with each attendee. At the meeting's end, he gave effusive praise to the staff's efforts on the hospital's behalf and reiterated his support for the new cancer wing.
Walking out of the hospital building, Wheeless smiled to himself. In their small-minded, parochial fashion, the hospital staff probably perceived him as a generous and amicable benefactor. Reality was starkly different.
Larry opened the car door for Wheeless, who then settled into the diamond-quilted seat, picking up a red folder lying on the adjoining seat. "Those meetings have become a pain in the ass," he muttered to himself, and then he addressed Larry. "Let's head for the airport. I see you left me the red folder — you have some good news?"
Larry's dark brown eyes looked back at Wheeless from the rearview mirror. "Boss, you'll see in there some photos an' some info on one fine lady that gives tours at the Wichita Art Museum. She's called a docent or something. She got quite a pair of getaway sticks on 'er and 'er walk-onby is sweet as honey. Maybe when you get back from ol' Chi-town you might take a peek at the paintings in the museum." He gave a sparkling silver smile.
"That's the first good news all day," replied Wheeless. He carefully reviewed the red folder's contents, tucked one photo into the inside pocket of his dark blue double-breasted suit, and opened the Financial Times again to the currency page.
* * *
Henry returned home from the Trinity Hall pub, walked through the back door, and dropped his briefcase on the antique oak desk in his study. From the kitchen, Marylou called out to him. He had always loved the perpetual smile in his wife's voice. Tonight it was grinding. Conflict in their marriage, once rare, had settled in like a cold front.
Since losing his job, Henry felt disorganized and fragmented. Some of his former Inveress colleagues, with more operatic souls, exited the corporate world bound for new conquests. They climbed Kilimanjaro, piloted a private jet around the globe, or joined archaeological digs in Peru. Others, like his close friend and Inveress executive vice president, Ken Maltman, immediately jumped into new corporate positions. Some simply slid into utter boredom and surrendered to the siren of early afternoon cocktails.
Henry yearned for something concrete, something new, something engaging. Being a professor at Southerland had positive pedigree and would bring him some needed focus. But was he really cut out for the sleepy world of academia?
Excerpted from Heels Over Head by Clay G. Small. Copyright © 2017 Clay Small. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was an okay book, there were several pieces that I felt jumped the shark or were just out of character. Henry was a bit whiny for my taste and then all of a sudden grew a backbone. There just seemed to be too many "coincidences" for someone to start putting things together. An unnecessary death, I think the author didn't know what to do with this character so it was easier to kill her off then to find a way to fit her into the final plan. Overall it was an entertaining easy to read, fluff mystery.