The Stars Shine Down(3)


by Sidney Sheldon

"Do you know how long the interview will take? You have a two-thirty with the Metropolitan bankers downtown."

"Push it to three o'clock, and have them come here."

Kathy made a note. "Do you want me to read you your messages?"

"Go ahead."

"The Children's Foundation wants you to be their guest of honor on the twenty-eighth."

"No. Tell them I'm flattered. Send them a check."

"Your meeting has been arranged in Tulsa for Tuesday at..."

"Cancel it."

"You're invited to a luncheon next Friday for a Manhattan Women's Group."

"No. If they're asking for money, send them a check."

"The Coalition for Literacy would like you to speak at a luncheon on the fourth."

"See if we can work it out."

"There's an invitation to be guest of honor at a fund raiser for muscular dystrophy, but there's a conflict in dates. You'll be in San Francisco."

"Send them a check."

"The Srbs are giving a dinner party next Saturday."

"I'll try to make that," Lara said. Kristian and Deborah Srb were amusing, and good friends, and she enjoyed being with them.

"Kathy, how many of me do you see?"

"What?"

"Take a good look."

Kathy looked at her. "One of you, Miss Cameron."

"That's right. There's only one of me. How did you expect me to meet with the bankers from Metropolitan at two-thirty today, the City Planning Commission at four, then meet with the mayor at five, the architects at six-fifteen, the Housing Department at six-thirty, have a cocktail party at seven-thirty and my birthday dinner at eight? The next time you make up a schedule, try using your brain."

"I'm sorry. You wanted me to..."

"I wanted you to think. I don't need stupid people around me. Reschedule the appointments with the architects and the Housing Department."

"Right," Kathy said stiffly.

"How's the baby?"

The question caught the secretary by surprise. "David? He's...he's fine."

"He must be getting big by now."

"He's almost two."

"Have you thought about a school for him?"

"Not yet. It's too early to..."

"You're wrong. If you want to get him into a decent school in New York, you start before he's born."

Lara made a note on a desk pad. "I know the principal at Dalton. I'll arrange to have David registered there."

"I...thank you."

Lara did not bother to look up. "That's all."

"Yes, ma'am." Kathy walked out of the office not knowing whether to love her boss or hate her. When Kathy had first come to work at Cameron Enterprises, she had been warned about Lara Cameron. "The Iron Butterfly is a bitch on wheels," she had been told. "Her secretaries don't figure their employment there by the calendar- - they use stopwatches. She'll eat you alive."

Kathy remembered her first interview with her. She had seen pictures of Lara Cameron in half a dozen magazines, but none of them had done her justice. In person, the woman was breathtakingly beautiful.

Lara Cameron had been reading Kathy's resume. She looked up and said, "Sit down, Kathy." Her voice was husky and vibrant. There was an energy about her that was almost overpowering.

"This is quite a resume."

"Thank you."

"How much of it is real?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Most of the ones that come across my desk are fiction. Are you good at what you do?"

"I'm very good at what I do, Miss Cameron."

"Two of my secretaries just quit. Everything's snowballing around here. Can you handle pressure?"

"I think so."

"This isn't a guessing contest. Can you handle pressure or can't you?"

At that moment Kathy was not sure she wanted the job. "Yes, I can."

"Good. You're on a one-week trial. You'll have to sign a form saying that at no time will you discuss me or your work here at Cameron Enterprises. That means no interviews, no books, nothing. Everything that happens here is confidential."

"I understand."

"Fine."

That was how it had begun five years earlier. During that time Kathy had learned to love, hate, admire, and despise her boss. In the beginning Kathy's husband had asked, "What is the legend like?"

It was a difficult question. "She's larger than life," Kathy had said. "She's drop-dead beautiful. She works harder than anyone I've ever known. God only knows when she sleeps. She's a perfectionist, so she makes everyone around her miserable. In her own way, she's a genius. She can be petty and vengeful and incredibly generous."

Her husband had smiled. "In other words, she's a woman."

Kathy had looked at him and said, unsmiling, "I don't know what she is. Sometimes she scares me."

"Come on, honey, you're exaggerating."

"No. I honestly believe that if someone stood in Lara Cameron's way...she would kill."

When Lara finished with the faxes and overseas calls, she buzzed Charlie Hunter, an ambitious young man in charge of accounting. "Come in, Charlie."

"Yes, Miss Cameron."

A minute later he entered her office.

"Yes, Miss Cameron?"

"I read the interview you gave in The New York Times this morning," Lara said.

He brightened. "I haven't seen it yet. How was it?"

"You talked about Cameron Enterprises and about some of the problems we're having."

He frowned. "Well, you know, that reporter fellow probably misquoted some of my..."

"You're fired."

"What? Why? I..."

"When you were hired, you signed a paper agreeing not to give any interviews. I'll expect you out of here this morning."

"I...you can't do that. Who would take my place?"

"I've already arranged that," Lara told him.

The luncheon was almost over. The Fortune reporter, Hugh Thompson, was an intense, intellectual-looking man with sharp brown eyes behind black horn-rimmed glasses.

"It was a great lunch," he said. "All my favorite dishes. Thanks."