The young woman entered the office, looking intimidated by her surroundings. The office was located on the top floor of the Markem building, which was located just off the river. The place was decorated in what one might call ‘Business Wow.’ It was meant to impress, and it succeeded in doing exactly that.
Here on an appointment to meet Dr. Markem, she was wearing her nicest outfit. In fact, it was an outfit that she had bought just for this occasion. She’d fussed with her appearance for thirty minutes. She desperately wanted to make a good impression.
Why was she so unnerved? She was entering the office belonging to one of the richest men in the country. He very seldom gave interviews to the modern press. This time, he had specifically requested that she be the one who interviewed him. She couldn’t help wondering why he wanted her to be there.
Her boss stepped into the office behind her, and looked around at the furnishings. He was an old time reporter with credentials that dated back to the day when newspapers were still printed on paper. He’d been around the block more than once. This wasn’t his first time to meet someone rich and powerful. Despite that, the office managed to impress even him.
The secretary at the desk said, “Miss Powers, Dr. Markem is wrapping up a conference call at the moment. He’ll see you in a minute.”
“Thank you,” the young woman said politely.
“Do you have appointment, Sir?”
“No. I’m Elliot Parks. Miss Powers works for me. I was concerned about her coming here without an escort.”
“I’ll let Dr. Markem know of your concerns,” the secretary said while her fingers flew over the keyboard.
Turning to her boss, Miss Powers said, “Are you sure he asked for me, specifically?”
Elliot answered, “Yes. He was quite insistent that if we wanted an interview with him, that you had to be the reporter who does the interviewing.”
“I don’t know him. How would he know about me?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Elliot said looking around. A poster caught his eye.
He walked over to a poster sized print of photograph of an old man and a soccer star. His eyebrows went up upon seeing it. He had heard about that photograph, but he’d never seen it. Miss Powers looked at the picture and said, “That’s an amazing photograph. Who took it?”
“That’s incredible. What’s the story behind it?”
“I don’t know.”
The secretary said, “You can both go in now.”
“Thank you,” Miss Powers said.
The two of them passed through the door into the private office of Dr. Danny Markem. Miss Powers swallowed heavily on seeing the expensive office furniture and the view from the window. One could see the river below. Her boss was equally impressed.
Dr. Markem stood beside his desk and said, “Come in, Miss Powers.”
“Thank you for your invitation, Dr. Markem,” Miss Powers said.
“You’re quite welcome,” Dr. Markem said. He turned to her boss and said, “Mr. Parks, I’m rather pleased that you chose to escort Miss Powers here. I appreciate a boss who looks out for his employees like that, particularly when said employee is a fifteen year old intern. I would have been quite disappointed if you hadn’t sent someone along to her assure her safety.”
“I’m glad I didn’t disappoint you, although that’s not why I did it. It is rather odd when a man of your stature insists on being interviewed by an intern, rather than an experienced reporter. It is doubly odd when the intern is a fifteen year old girl. It looks suspicious. I wanted to be assured that your reasons are above board.”
“I have my reasons,” Mr. Markem said.
“You’re not going to share them with us?”
“I think you’ll understand why by the end of the interview.”
“I’m not happy about that, but I’ll take your word for it, for now,” Mr. Park said.
“Why don’t you have a seat here, Miss Powers? Mr. Parks, would you mind sitting over there?”
The chair he had indicated was for her was right in front of his desk. The chair for her boss was across the room. Miss Powers turned to look at her boss. He nodded his head. He walked across the room to a chair while she sat in a chair right in front of the desk.
“Would you like something to drink, Miss Powers?”
“No, thank you.”
Mr. Markem walked around to his chair behind the desk and sat down. Miss Powers opened her purse and pulled out a small tablet. In the old days, reporters had used small pads of paper to keep notes from an interview. Now it was the tablet computer. They allowed hand written notes, recorded interviews, and allowed one to take pictures. It was the universal tool of reporters everywhere.
She asked, “Do you mind if I record this?”
“Be my guest.”
He said, “I’m ready whenever you’re ready.”
“Please, call me Danny.”
She nodded her head in response, although her eyes nearly bulged out of her eye sockets at the level of informality that he was suggesting. Mr. Park frowned and leaned forward getting ready to rise from his chair. A sharp glance from Dr. Markem sent him back to his seat.
“May I call you Valerie?”
“Valerie is fine.”
“So ask your first question, Valerie.”
She glanced over at her boss seeking guidance. He said, “Call him Danny.”
“Danny, you are one of the wealthiest men in...”
Interrupting her, Danny waved a finger back and forth. He said, “I don’t think that introduction is leading to a good first question. Would you like to try again?”
Flustered, Valerie looked over at Mr. Parks for guidance. He had gone through the questions with her. That was the first question he thought she should ask.
“Dr. Markem...” Mr. Parks began.
“Mr. Parks. Please, remain silent. This is Valerie’s interview.”
“Do you want me to cancel this?” Dr. Markem asked.
Turning to Valerie, Danny asked, “What is the real first question you want to ask me?”
Giving into her curiosity, she asked, “Why me?”
Danny grinned and said, “That’s an excellent first question. The simplest answer, is that you’re a prodigy.”
“Who told you that?”
“My wife,” Danny answered.
There was the sound of a cell phone being dropped at the other end of the room. Danny looked over at Mr. Parks and shook his head.
Valerie was even more confused by that answer. She said, “Your wife is Val Markem. She’s one of the most feared corporate attorneys in the country.”
“I must admit that she is good at her job,” Danny replied with more than a little pride in his voice.
“How does she know about me?”
“She heard about you from a friend,” Danny said.
Valerie could not imagine any circumstance in which her name would be mentioned in the presence of a corporate lawyer of Val Markem’s reputation. There was something odd here, but she didn’t know what it was.
“What did she hear?”
“I’ll summarize what she told me. She said that you are a sophomore in college, majoring in business with a minor in communications. You are interning at the Gazette to learn how the news business works, so that you could start your own online press. You want to change the world.”
“She knows a lot about me,” Valerie said with a frown.
“Yes. We could talk a bit more about that, but your boss looks a lot like chicken sitting on snake. Maybe you should ask one of the questions that he wrote for you, before he loses his cool,” Danny said looking over at Mr. Parks.
“Danny, you are one of the wealthiest men in the country. Just how rich are you?”
“Very rich. I’m so rich that I don’t know what I’m worth.”
“How can you not know?”
“I own Markem Concepts. It has a number of patents that a lot of companies are paying a fortune to use. Markem Concepts owns significant shares in about thirty other companies, most of which are in the Fortune 500. It’s hard to say how much money those assets represent. It can vary by a billion or so from day to day.”
“Do your holdings include Stanton Construction?”
“Yes, it does. Sam Stanton and I go back a long ways.”
“How far back?”
“We were in high school together. He was one of my friends along with Steve Sharp.”
“Is that Steve Sharp of Sharp Dynamics?”
“He says that you helped him start his company.”
“Yes, I did.”
“How did you help him?”
“After he graduated college, he went to work for a company that made cars. He thought that the manufacturing model for cars that was used at that time, had outlived its usefulness. One day when I was visiting him, he told me what he thought of the automotive industry, and how out of date it was. I agreed with him. That night we founded Sharp Dynamics.”
“So you invested in it?”
“No. I only had savings of about a hundred thousand dollars at the time. Sam and I were still growing our first company. Steve and I developed the idea for Sharp Dynamics, and he made it work.”
“He’s now the largest customizer of cars in the country.”
“Weren’t they customizing cars before him?”
“Not in the same way. At the time, there were just a handful of body styles and all of the car manufactures copied each other. You’d go out to a parking lot and couldn’t tell one car from another despite who made it. Most car manufactures were doing what was called uni-body construction. You couldn’t make too many modifications to one of them. About all you could do was change the rims, jack up the shocks, put on a spoiler, and add fancy lights.
“We put together the idea of making customized cars. It began by importing cars that were complete except for the exterior body. With a large 3D printer, he could print a body in any style you wanted, and put it on the car. My software assured that the car was safe in an aerodynamics sense. No Corvairs for us.
“All of sudden, anyone could own a car that reflected their personality. The idea caught on, and grew faster than you would believe. It seemed that consumers were tired of being one of the masses.”
Valerie glanced down at her tablet and said, “I kind of deviated from the questions. A lot of successful people say that there was one person or event that influenced them significantly. What was the most important influence in your life?”
Danny answered, “There were a lot of people who influenced me. They were exceptionally remarkable people and I owe them a lot. Yet, I would have to say that my last year in high school probably had the greatest impact on my life.”
Valerie frowned on hearing his answer. She flipped through her notes. She saw that she had remembered her facts correctly. His answer didn’t make sense.
She said, “My research says that you didn’t graduate from high school. You dropped out at the end of your sophomore year. Is that correct?”
“I don’t understand. You dropped out of high school at the end of your sophomore year. Yet you say that it had the greatest impact on your life. How can that be?”
Smiling broadly, Danny said, “That’s an excellent question. In fact, that was the question I was hoping you’d ask when I requested that you be the reporter to perform the interview.”
“That’s a long story,” Danny said sitting back in his chair. “Make yourself comfortable.”
Edited By TeNderLoin