L.B.: Management material

L.B.: Management material August 10, 2007

Left Behind, pp. 314-318

After a marathon, 80-page Monday during which Buck Williams never gets a chance to eat or sleep, the authors mercifully give Buck the day off on Tuesday.

Buck doesn’t go to his office on Tuesday. He doesn’t write up his notes on the interview he conducted early that morning with Nicolae Carpathia. The Antichrist had given him a Big Exclusive Scoop about his plans for the U.N. and global disarmament, but Buck has apparently decided to sit on this information. He doesn’t seem to have put in any more work on his big cover story on the Event either. He seems to spend the day in a Chloe-like state of suspended animation, rousing only to make one phone call, to Hattie Durham.

“So, you’re coming to New York?” he said.

“Yes,” she said, “and I’d love to see you and maybe get to meet a VIP.”

“You mean other than me?”

“Cute,” she said. “Have you met Nicolae Carpathia yet?”

“Of course.”

“I knew it! I was just telling someone the other day that I’d love to meet that man.”

I suppose we’re meant to take this as evidence of an unwomanly forwardness on Hattie’s part or something, but I kind of admire her gumption here. I’ve never been good at the whole “networking” thing myself, but Hattie’s got it down. And for all of Hattie’s supposed frivolous shallowness, she’s trying to line up an introduction to a politician and diplomat and not to some pop singer or movie star.

The presidents of Eastern European countries don’t usually have stalker-groupies (not even Havel), so we have to assume that Hattie’s strange compulsion to “meet that man” is the result of the same Antichrist charisma mojo that’s had even Mr. Potter and President Fitz swooning over him. Now that Nicolae has projected his preternatural charisma on network television, you’d think that Hattie wouldn’t be the only one making her way to New York. Rosenzweig’s suite at The Plaza should look like a scene from A Hard Day’s Night.

This idea of giving Nicolae supernatural powers is LaHaye and Jenkins’ response to the biblical passages that warn of false leaders who will “deceive many.” The authors seem to think that such deception requires magical powers of mind control. That demonstrates not just a failure of imagination, but an ignorance of 20th-century history. The choice to give Nicolae these magical powers might have worked here had the authors used these elements of fantasy as a metaphor to explore the almost magical-seeming methods that real-world demagogues have used (and are using) to seize power. That might have been interesting, but instead of that we have the strange, unhistorical notion that the only way a bad person could rise to power is through something like mass-hypnosis.

Anyway, Buck promises to make the introduction and we abruptly switch back to Rayford and learn that Hattie will also be meeting someone else: the pervert-turned-religious-zealot pilot’s daughter. “I’m going to insist on a meeting with Hattie, and I want you there,” Rayford tells Chloe. “I’ve left her a message insisting that she see me in the Pan-Con Club at JFK at one in the afternoon.”

Because, you know, women find it irresistible when you leave them messages insisting they meet with you. That sort of thing never comes across as creepy, controlling or obsessive.

Early Wednesday morning …

Whoa, what? It’s Wednesday already? That was quick.

Early Wednesday morning Buck was summoned to the office of Stanton Bailey, publisher of Global Weekly. In all his years of award-winning work, he had been in there only twice, once to celebrate his Hemingway war correspondence award and once on a Christmas tour of what the employees enviously called Mahogany Row.

Apart from the beating us over the head with Buck’s award-winning winning of awards, that’s a semi-competent bit of scene-setting. “Stanton Bailey” might be the least preposterous name so far, and the publisher-writer dynamic rings mostly true (in five years, I’ve never actually seen the publisher of the paper where I work), although the word “enviously” misunderstands the motive and meaning of the mocking nicknames that the cube-dwelling grunts in any office always have for the pampered REMFs in the corner suites.

Buck ducked in to see Steve first, only to be told by Marge that he was in with the publisher already. Her eyes were red and puffy. “What’s happening?” he said.

“You know I can’t say anything,” she said. “Just get in there.”

Buck’s imagination ran wild as he entered the suite of offices inhabited by the brass. He hadn’t known Plank had been summoned, too. What could it mean? Were they in trouble for the shenanigans they had pulled Monday night? Had Mr. Bailey somehow found out the details of the London business and how Buck had escaped? And he certainly hoped this meeting would be over in time for his appointment with Hattie Durham.

Buck’s imagination doesn’t run wild enough. Global Weekly doesn’t seem to have published an issue since before the Event, and that was eight days ago. You’d think the boss might have something to say about that, since signing all those refund checks to advertisers and subscribers probably wouldn’t make him happy. Buck himself fought for, and was awarded, the responsibility of writing the big cover story on the biggest news story of all time, but before writing a single sentence of it, he flew off to England to research a different story, one which he backed off of, brokering a deal to cover it up without checking with his editors. Combine those with his dropping the ball on Nicolae’s big scoop and that’s three strikes. He should be out of there.

None of that occurs to Buck and, fortunately for him, it doesn’t occur to the authors either. They’ve actually had him summoned before the boss to get a promotion and a raise.

JkarenBuck heads in and sits down next to Steve. (We never get a description of Stanton Bailey, so I just picture him as James Karen, who’s made a career out of playing executives with names like Stanton Bailey.) Bailey starts off by asking him about the evening he spent as an international fugitive:

“But you got it taken care of.”



“Well, sir, I uncovered an international conspiracy involving at least two murders, extortion and probably currency fraud, but in exchange for my personal safety, I agreed never to write about it.”

Oops, no, that’s not what Buck says. That’s what happened, but it’s not what he tells his boss. It’s a measure of how strange this whole scene is that even here, as Buck is actively lying to his boss so that he doesn’t get in trouble, it doesn’t occur to him — or his boss, or the authors — that he should actually be in trouble. Instead, Buck just babbles for half a page about how he liked Tompkins and had no reason to kill him and that it was all just a big misunderstanding. Bailey accepts this, supremely incurious about how a police officer getting killed by a car bomb could possibly be the result of a misunderstanding.

“Well, the news coverage is all vague enough that none of us look bad. Just looks like a misunderstanding.”

“Which it was.”

“Of course it was. Cameron …”

And Bailey goes on to explain that Steve Plank has taken a new job as Nicolae Carpathia’s press secretary and to offer Steve’s old job to Buck, a promotion that will double his salary.

In one way, it kind of makes sense. Buck used to write award-winning reports, but lately he’s proven himself unable to write anything at all. Sounds like he’s ready for an executive office on Mahogany Row.

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