6 months ago

Hard Pressed

Xavier I try not to do

Xavier I try not to do this too much. ‘This’ being whisking people up and away, taking them to far-off lands for multicourse dinners. It’s a little too Aladdin. It’s a little much and, honestly, not the glamorous fun it seems in the movies. Here’s the basic truth: I drop more than a hundred grand to make people feel uncomfortable. They’re rarely enjoyably wowed. This might be my fault. I don’t tell people to bring their passport, bustle people into my private (but shared) plane, and get a last-minute reservation to a Michelin-starred restaurant overseas all because I love them and want more of their company. I do it only because I see doubt in their eyes. Or, no. It’s not doubt I see, but a look of discovery when they suddenly realize who I am is not what I seem. Like this one sitting across from me. Her name is Jane, but she seems like an Amber or Topaz. Someone either born into luxury or someone so hungry they grab at opportunities, determined to make one stick. We met at an event at a TriBecA gallery yesterday. She handed me a glass of sparkling wine and when I went to grab a cocktail napkin, she handed me her headshot folded into a sharp square, small enough to slide into my trouser pocket. She winked at me. I laughed. Chutzpah can be sexy, but mostly it’s annoying. Later, I followed her as she walked around the room with a tray full of canapés, each one capped with perfect mounds of shining caviar. When she stopped and turned to look at me, I took one and, before I popped it into my mouth, I asked if she’d get a drink with me when she got off work. Jane-Amber-Topaz smiled and then she nodded. She turned on her heel and walked to the back of the gallery and through the doors hidden behind a towering sculpture of a faceless man carved in onyx. A minute later she was next to me. She was wearing dark lipstick and her navy trench was belted tight. “Let’s go,” she said. I arched a brow and smiled down at her; she was tall, maybe six feet,

ut I’m taller still and bent slightly toward her. “Your boss is okay with that?” I asked, my voice low. “I’m hoping to convince you to be my boss,” she said. We left, slid into a cab. I let my hand brush her thigh. “This is about work,” she said, so I removed my hand and nodded, looking out the window. I brushed my hair out of my eyes and tried not to be annoyed. “Ok, let’s start with work. Which one of my businesses are you trying to break into?” “I’m an investigative reporter,” Jane said, “and Hard Pressed has one of the best teams working right now: the Russian dossier, the CH Jones scandal…well, I guess, I don’t have to tell you about the scoops your team has racked up over the past few years. I nodded curtly. “No,” I said, “You don’t.” Jane’s forefinger pulsed on her thigh. She was nervous, but her eyes gleamed with excitement. I asked her, “Are you good? Where have you published?” “Mostly in mid-market newspapers, but yeah. I’m really good. I’ll send you my clips. But also consider the facts: We didn’t just run into each other, obviously. I sought you out. I hope it doesn’t make you uncomfortable,” she said. She wet her lips with tip of her tongue and continued. “In order to find you, and get you to talk to me, I had to do a small investigation.” “You could have just made an appointment with my assistant,” I said, feeling fascinated and wary. The air in the cab had gone still. “We both know you wouldn’t have seen me,” Jane said. The cabbie leaned on his horn. The moment broken. The evening went on. We didn’t talk about her investigation. I planned to leave her at the bar and head back to my apartment alone. But she was beautiful and tenacious. I found myself fascinated and curious about what she wanted to happen next. I listened to her talk and answered some of her questions. We both drank our bourbon neat. When the server brought the bill, I put down my black AmEx card over the bill for our drinks. “I’m not going to hire you,” I said. “Not like this and not for that team. You want me to admire your gall and I do—to an extent. But finding out where the CEO of a major media group will be on a Wednesday night isn’t a deep dive investigation, a two-penny PI could have done just as well. “On our investigative team, there are five Pulitzers between them. By asking questions and

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