Cash McCall is a believer in free enterprise, a man not yet forty who buys, sells, and merges companies to make huge profits in a postwar nation of conformist “company men.” McCall is an enigma who operates out of an expensive tenth-floor suite in a Philadelphia hotel that he may or may not own. He’s single, conducts secret business meetings, and is both envied and hated. No one knows where he came from.
Grant Austen spent three decades building his plastics company. Now, as he seeks counsel from his banker and lawyer about selling out, he unwittingly triggers a whirlwind of corporate and financial maneuvering he doesn’t fully understand. And his daughter, Lory, commits the cardinal sin of falling in love with Cash McCall, the man who’s about to buy her father’s company out from under him.
But who is Cash McCall? A ruthless operator or a rugged individualist? Reminiscent of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, this is a novel about love, the free enterprise system, and one man’s refusal to be anyone but himself.
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By Cameron Hawley
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1955 Cameron Hawley
All rights reserved.
On the twenty-fourth day of March, which fell this year on a Tuesday, a party of ninety-three men met at a breakfast sales meeting in the Fontainebleau Room of the Hotel Ivanhoe. Sixty-one were salesmen for wholesale firms engaged in the distribution of Andscott television receivers. The others were executives, major and minor, of the Andscott Instrument Corporation, augmented by a few quietly anonymous clerks from the Andscott offices who had been brought in to swell the crowd.
Fortunately, the presence of this latter group had proved unnecessary. No comparable event in Andscott's merchandising history had ever been so well attended. But the normally lethargic personnel of Andscott's wholesale distributors had not been attracted, as the corporation's officials wished to believe, by a resurgence of zeal, nor even by a resurrected hope that the Andscott line would soon begin to sell in real volume, but rather by the prospect of eating in what was widely reputed to be one of the ten most expensive restaurants in the United States. Not one of these wholesale salesmen had ever before set foot in the Fontainebleau Room, none having expense accounts large enough to permit the entertainment of customers on such a fabulous scale.
Although the Fontainebleau Room is advertised as The Mecca of the Gourmet, its successful existence is less an index to the culinary prowess of its famous chef de cuisine, Max Nicollet, than to the phenomenon of the unlimited expense account, and the tolerance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in the auditing of accounts chargeable as ENTERTAINMENT. The Fontainebleau Room grew to its present eminence during the days when corporation executives first made the discovery that a ninety per cent excess profits tax made it possible to buy an eight-dollar lunch at a net cost to the company of only eighty cents. Even the most conservative comptroller could not argue that eighty cents was too much to spend in order to give a valued customer a good lunch, plus the experience of having eaten in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world.
The uninitiated are frequently surprised that a restaurant of the Fontainebleau Room's character exists in Philadelphia, a city characterized in most minds by the frugal and unostentatious members of the Society of Friends. In truth, the Fontainebleau Room is rarely patronized by Philadelphians except when eating on an expense account, a circumstance that affects normality as profoundly in the City of Brotherly Love as anywhere else.
The real explanation of the Fontainebleau Room being in Philadelphia is found through acquaintance with a woman whose name is Maude Kennard. There would never have been a restaurant of this character in the Hotel Ivanhoe had it not been for Mrs. Kennard's canny appreciation of the opportunities inherent in a situation where eight dollars could be collected for a lunch that would cost the payee only eighty cents, as well as her talent for teaching that simple arithmetic to men possessing expense accounts large enough to qualify them for gourmet status.
Many of the regular patrons of the Fontainebleau Room are under the misapprehension that Maude Kennard is the general manager of the Hotel Ivanhoe. They are unaware that she is, by title, only the Assistant Manager. Few know that there is a General Manager. This is understandable, for Everett Pierce is seldom seen in the lobby, and on those rare cases when he does put in an appearance, no one would suspect that he holds the position he does. His appearance and personality do not conform to the accepted standards for hotel managers. He is not gregarious, his handshake is limp, and his spare figure and gray skin coloring leave the impression that he has never eaten a hearty meal in his life. One of the bellboys, exercising his occupational skill in pigeonholing strangers, once wisecracked that Mr. Pierce looked like a certified public accountant on a skim milk diet — and accountancy was, in truth, the profession that he had followed during the early years of his business life. Becoming a hotel manager had been a genealogical accident. Will Atherson, president of the bank that had taken over the Hotel Ivanhoe during the depression, was a distant relative. He had given young Everett a job untangling the bankrupt hotel's snarled accounts, kept him on to install a cost record system, and then elevated him to the managership. Everett Pierce had gratefully accepted the position but not without the fear that he might prove inadequately qualified. It was a fear from which, even after twenty years, he had not completely recovered.
As is so often true of the perpetually frightened, Everett Pierce was a ritualist. By doing everything in the way that he had done it before, he guarded himself against the commission of error. When larger matters were concerned, that course was consciously pursued. In smaller matters, it was unconscious but so thoroughly ingrained in his character that it was apparent even in the manner of his opening the door of his two-room suite and in the way he stooped to pick up his morning newspaper.
On this morning of the twenty-fourth of March, he retrieved his newspaper at eight forty-two, only a minute or two off the schedule that governed his timetabled life. Without opening the paper, he went into the living room of the suite and placed it on the small breakfast table that, the night before, had been moved to its designated position in the curve of the bay window that overlooked Rittenhouse Square. Only one place was laid. Everett Pierce is a bachelor.
With the newspaper ritual completed, he crossed the room again and went into the kitchenette where, in the otherwise empty refrigerator, he found three roses lying on a bed of crumpled wax paper. This morning the roses were yellow instead of his preferred pink but he accepted them tolerantly. His morning roses were salvaged from night-before banquet tables and the fact that the roses were yellow instead of pink meant only that Maude Kennard had gotten a better buy on yellows. Under his tutelage, she had become a very clever buyer — unusual for a woman but Mrs. Kennard was a very unusual woman. He had, of course, taught her everything she knew, but she still deserved a certain amount of credit, if only for being teachable. So many women were not.
Gently cupping the roses in his thin-fingered hands, he carried them to the table and placed them in the slender vase that was always there, carefully arranging the blooms so that he would be looking into the hearts of the flowers after he sat down. Then, and only then, did he look out of the window, finally facing the every-morning unpleasantness of realizing that he was now on the fourth floor.
A year ago, prodded by a suggestion from Will Atherson, the president of the Freeholders Bank & Trust Company, Everett Pierce had moved out of his tenth-floor suite and allowed it to be rented to a guest whose name was Cash McCall. It was true, as Mr. Atherson had pointed out, that the fourth-floor suite was, although substantially smaller, completely adequate. It also was true that a guest who was willing to pay a thousand dollars a month, plus the entire cost of completely redecorating and refurnishing the suite, could hardly be turned from the door. Nevertheless, Everett Pierce felt himself irretrievably demeaned. Even though McCall eventually moved out and allowed him to recapture his old suite, it would never again be the same. The remodeling and decorating had destroyed the character of his twenty-year habitat and he was a man to whom change was abhorrent. In that tenth-floor suite, familiarity had been his antidote for loneliness. Here on the fourth floor, loneliness and disappointment had been stewed into a deep-seated hatred of the man who had dispossessed him, not Will Atherson but Cash McCall.
Looking out of the window, he noticed for the first time that it was raining. Clear weather had been forecast in last evening's newspaper. Automatically, his mind began to tick off the check-list of annoying adjustments that would have to be made to compensate for this failure on the part of the Weather Bureau, but he had gotten no farther than cocoa matting for the lobby when the intrusion of recalled experience assured him that Mrs. Kennard would already have taken care of everything that needed to be done.
It was eight-fifty and Andrew still hadn't arrived with his breakfast. He was on the point of calling the kitchen when the old waiter finally appeared, his drawn face evidencing the intensity of his effort to keep the silver warming covers from chattering with the trembling of his palsied hands.
"You're late this morning, Andrew," Everett Pierce said.
"Mr. McCall ordered for the same time, sir, and I couldn't take care of both of you at once."
"Wasn't there anyone else who could serve Mr. McCall?"
"He always asks for me, sir," Andrew said, as if that were all the explanation that was necessary.
The manager sat in rigid silence, so immobilized by anger that his shirred egg was cold long before he started to eat it. Then, discouraged by the congealed butter that now framed the egg, he pushed the dish away and contented himself with a half piece of dry toast. He was considering a second half when the telephone rang. The voice on the other end of the line was that of Nathan, the chief room clerk.
"Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Pierce," Nathan said in a tone that made his regret seem something less than genuine. "There's a gentleman here to see you."
"I'll be down right away," Pierce said, finding it impossible to withhold a guilty glance at his watch. It was three minutes after nine.
"He says that it's a personal matter." Nathan's voice dropped to a guarded whisper. "I think he's an income tax investigator."
Everett Pierce was instantly struck by terror but, having spent his whole life in the suppression of other unreasonable fears, his experience came to his aid and he said quite calmly, "Send him up, please."
The man who came to the door a few minutes later confirmed Nathan's prediction with an identification folder verifying the fact that Irving J. Teller was a duly authorized Special Agent of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
"I believe you have a permanent resident in your hotel named McCall," Teller said, withdrawing a sheet of notes from the file folder he had taken from his briefcase. "Cash McCall?"
"Yes, that's right," Pierce said quickly, brushing aside the temptation to debate that word permanent, urged on by this confirmation of his own opinion that it was about time some law-enforcing agency caught up with a man who spent a thousand dollars a month for a suite that he occupied less than half of the time.
"I'd like to ask you a few questions about Mr. McCall," Teller said, and then went on as if reciting from something memorized. "In doing so, I'm sure you understand that there's nothing unusual about this procedure, nor should you interpret it as reflecting upon the subject of our investigation. This is quite normal procedure and a part of our regular routine."
"I understand," Everett Pierce affirmed. But he was in no way fooled. Teller was clever. All of these income tax investigators were.
The special agent looked at his notes. "I understand that Mr. McCall uses his apartment for business as well as residential purposes. Is that true?"
"I wouldn't know," Pierce said, attempting to convey the meaning that he knew nothing whatsoever about Cash McCall's suspiciously secret business affairs.
"At least you don't know of any other office that he maintains?"
"And he does have men come to see him here?"
"Well — yes," Pierce said somewhat more reluctantly, disappointed that Teller seemed more interested in whitewashing Cash McCall than in really digging for the truth.
"And he has business calls that are handled through your switchboard?" Teller asked, checking off another note, then suddenly looking up. "But I don't suppose you'd know whether his calls were business or personal, would you?"
Pierce saw his chance. "We don't handle his calls at all. He has his own direct wire — and it's an unlisted number."
Teller didn't seem to get the point. "He does some entertaining, I presume — dinner parties and that sort of thing?"
"Tell me, Mr. Pierce, what sort of people come to see him? Would they strike you as being substantial citizens — businessmen?"
Everett groped for some special memory to the contrary. The wasted moment lost him his chance.
"Oh, skip that," Teller said hurriedly. "Rather a pointless question, anyway. The total rental on Mr. McCall's suite is one thousand dollars a month. Is that correct?"
"Yes, that's right."
"In addition to that, how much would you estimate that he spends with you on other things — these parties he has and the entertaining he does?"
"Well, I could get the figure for you easily enough."
"Oh, that won't be necessary. Would you say that it would average more than two hundred dollars a month?"
"Two hundred? Oh, yes, more than that."
Teller studied his notes through a moment of silence, and Everett Pierce had the hopeful premonition that Teller was finally ready to get down to business. Instead, startlingly, he stood up and extended his hand. "Thank you very much, Mr. Pierce. Sorry I had to bother you, but it's my job, you know."
Everett Pierce's first reaction after the door closed behind Irving J. Teller was that he again had encountered an object lesson in the incompetency of governmental employees. As he thought about it, however, the very innocuousness of the questions became a cause for suspicion. Teller must be more clever than he had seemed. If he were not, it was hardly credible that he would be a Special Agent for the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Wasn't it possible that the income tax people might be out to trap Cash McCall in the same way that they had helped the police break up that dope-peddling gang last fall, by proving that the ringleaders had falsified their tax returns to make it look as if they were in the real estate business?
Again, fear speeded the beat of Everett Pierce's heart. It was not difficult to imagine what Will Atherson's reaction would be if the good name of the Hotel Ivanhoe were smeared all over the newspapers as the habitat of some gangster! This time his fear did not subside. It was sustained by a reasonableness that seemed difficult to refute.
Picking up his telephone, he asked to be connected with Mrs. Kennard. Waiting for her to answer, he found himself taut-nerved with anticipation. Relying upon Maude Kennard had become increasingly distasteful of late, but there was no one else to whom he could talk.
Standing in the center of the Hotel Ivanhoe's small lobby, Maude Kennard heard the telephone ring in her mezzanine office, but acknowledged it with only the briefest of upward-flashing glances. Nothing, at the moment, could be allowed to detract from the rapt attention she was giving the bulbous little man who stood in front of her. He was Park Cady, Vice-president for Merchandising of the Andscott Instrument Corporation, and whether or not there were to be more of these weekly breakfast-time sales meetings was entirely in Mr. Cady's hands.
The check she had given him — which he still held, unsigned — was substantially larger than the Hotel Ivanhoe's total breakfast receipts had ever been before. If the Fontainebleau Room could be made to earn a breakfast profit it would be a miracle of hotelkeeping, another accomplishment to add to her record, and she was a woman driven by a passionate need for superior accomplishment.
"Yes sir, Mrs. Kennard, you sure did things up brown for us," Park Cady said with belt-bouncing enthusiasm. "Yes sir, wonderful breakfast! Say, tell me, Mrs. Kennard — you know those buns, sort of cinnamony?"
She picked up the cue without a lost beat. "Would you permit me to have a pan of them sent to your home, Mr. Cady?"
"Hey, would you do that? Say, that would be swell! Sure would like to have the wife try those buns."
"It's as good as done, Mr. Cady. By the way, we have another very interesting specialty that we plan to serve next week if — but you haven't decided about next week, have you?"
Excerpted from Cash McCall by Cameron Hawley. Copyright © 1955 Cameron Hawley. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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