|Knapsack Secrets First Chapter
|ISBN 978-1-59705-306-8 (electronic)
ISBN 978-1-59705-727-1 (print)
The intercom buzzed and Audrey Fleta Hroc turned from the presentation board to answer it.
“Misters Prescott and Parker would like to see you in the conference room at once,” her
She thanked her, clicked off the intercom and picked up the materials she had been
working on for the Gregg account. She hadn’t hesitated to take on their biggest advertising
client, and Audrey knew she could do them justice. The bosses were concerned they would
lose the account if the advertising campaign wasn’t top notch. She felt she had outdone
herself this time. They would be pleased. They had lost a few rather large accounts lately
and the big investigation had everyone on edge. The challenge to perform or get the axe
was like heavy static in the air, charged and ready to spark.
She was sure this campaign would be well received. Audrey thought about her rise to the
top. It wasn’t a rise, it was a hard climb, and she didn’t get there by designing ineffectual
campaigns. Many long and hard late hours had gone into this campaign. Pendergast and
Parker couldn’t help but applaud it.
As the elevator opened on the floor across from the glass wall of the conference rooms,
Audrey could see the two imposing figures of her bosses, staunch and straight with severe
expressions on their faces. At the last second before she opened the door she saw her
husband, Jerard, on the other side of the table. His new assistant, Clarinda Wade,
was next to him. She noticed an easel propped against the far side by Jerard and Clarinda.
Red, block letters screamed across the top sheet of paper The Gregg Proposal. So they
were prepared for it, that’s what this hurried meeting was about. Audrey greeted the others’
stares with a smile; and, though none were returned, she took a place, hoisted her
proposal folder onto the conference table, and glanced at the others.
The stern expressions on Don Pendergast and Avery Parker’s faces unnerved her. Her
husband and Clarinda refused to meet her gaze seeming to be totally absorbed in what
they were reading. The jury never looks at the condemned man, flashed through her mind.
Don Pendergast motioned her to be seated.
“I see you’ve brought something along--is that your Gregg proposal?”
She nodded, “As a matter-of-fact, it is. I...”
He held up his hand stopping her mid sentence, “Could I see the presentation?” he asked,
never venturing to warm his voice. It reflected the sternness in his eyes.
“Certainly, I’ll use the easel...” Once again she was interrupted before she could finish and
when she rose to make the presentation, he motioned her to remain seated. Heavy storm
clouds suddenly passed across the windows of the conference room and the room
darkened noticeably. In the second it took the sensors to activate the overhead lights,
Audrey felt a sense of doom pervading the atmosphere.
“Ms. Wade, will you be so kind as to share your presentation first?” Don Pendergast said.
Clarinda Wade flashed a broad smile at the bosses, glanced quickly at Jerard; he gave her
Audrey fidgeted nervously in her chair. Something was going on here that was making her
extremely nervous. Why wouldn’t Jerard look at her and when did Clarinda become a
campaign proposal guru?
“Now,” Clarinda said in her perfect speech, her beautiful red hair flaring with the highlights
from the florescent light directly above the easel. Audrey thought she was a beautiful
woman. “I don’t want you to presume that I have done this all by myself. I’ve watched and
learned over the past months. I’ve had a lot of help and encouragement from Mr. Hroc, as
well as many others.”
Why was she drawing this out and why were Jerard, Don and Avery lapping at her feet like
loved starved puppies? She was touching all the bases, though by not taking full credit, she
was making herself look better and better. When Clarinda lifted the first page with the
blaring red letters The Gregg Project, Audrey’s heart leapt to her throat. Her exact
design, her exact wording graced the next page. “Wait,” she sprung instantly to her feet
throwing the chair away from her as the back of her knees forced against it. Angry, nearly
losing control because of it, she slid her chair back with her foot as she spoke “Those are
“Please, Audrey, don’t interrupt,” Jerard said and motioned her to be seated.
“Ms. Fleta, please let the young lady finish. You’ll have your turn next,” Mr. Parker said.
Clarinda shot another hypnotic smile at him. “Thank you, sir,” her voice heavy with sexual
Audrey sat down, fuming inside but having gained control of her impulse to choke Clarinda.
She would bide her time.
Clarinda continued, page for page, slogan for slogan, every detail matching Audrey’s
campaign to the letter all except the signature that sprouted CW, May Campaign.
“Excellent, absolutely excellent. Don’t you agree, Ms. Fleta?” Pendergast said, the other two
men nodding in agreement.
He turned to Audrey. “Now, Ms. Fleta, would you like to see if you can top this outstanding
presentation or would you concede that perhaps, Ms. Wade has the most perfect
Audrey felt trapped, she drew herself up to her full five-foot six inches and looked at Jerard
and Clarinda. It suddenly struck her where Jerard’s long nights working at the office had
been spent. It took only a split second she read the look between them and the implications
of what would happen if she showed her presentation now. She looked at Don
Pendergast and Avery Parker, “I guess I’m beaten on this one. For some reason Ms. Wade
and I have thought out nearly identical proposals. No need to bore you with a repeat.” The
look on Clarinda’s face was enough, when their gazes locked anger and hatred fused
them. Audrey picked up her presentation folder prepared to leave the room.
Mr. Parker held out his hand, “Please, I’d like to take a look at your proposal myself, he said.
Reluctantly she handed it over to him. Now she knew why Clarinda had been so close with
her. Why all the luncheon invitations. She wasn’t just picking her brain she was picking her
pocket. It all became alarmingly clear. Clarinda was after her job.
“Why, my dear Ms. Fleta, I’m afraid our worst suspicions have been confirmed,” the two men
said in unison as they compared the two campaigns side by side, page by page.
Audrey wasn’t sure what to say in her own defense. They had worked together for twenty
three years and they have the audacity to think she would stoop low enough to steal a co-
worker’s campaign. Certainly they gave her enough credit to think she would have changed
a few things, not let it be so obviously the same exact campaign. “And that would be,” she
said standing straight hoping her shaking angry insides weren’t showing on the outside.
“I’m afraid we must ask you to pack up your personal belongings, and vacate the
premises,” Pendergast said.
Audrey nearly reeled backwards from the shock. “Excuse me?” she said disbelief holding
her hostage. Over one campaign someone swiped from her. All her years of loyalty and
hard work suddenly she was worthless garbage.
“We will have Ms. Wright escort you to your office to retrieve your things and then security will
escort you from the building and parking lot.”
“Jerard?” she said looking for some support from him. He shrugged and held up his hands
in surrender. “I don’t understand,” she said.
“We have done a thorough investigation into our lost clients and your name keeps turning
up,” Pendergast said. “Secrets, campaigns leaked or sold to our client’s competition and all
the evidence points right back to you. This last bit, this campaign you tried to steal from a
fellow co-worker, is the proverbial straw Ms. Fleta,” Parker said.
“Without so much as a chance to defend myself, or produce evidence to the contrary,” she
said holding her calm ice exterior. She wouldn’t give Jerard and Clarinda the satisfaction of
seeing her fall apart.
Mr. Pendergast pushed a button on the intercom. “Ms. Wright, get security up here and then
you come in here and escort Ms. Fleta to her office to clear out her personal things.”
Audrey couldn’t believe her ears as she looked from one to the other. It was as though she
was a new employee who just breeched probation. She was devastated. Jerard wouldn’t
even lift his gaze from the table top to look at her.