A salutory tale by Jack Mienhoff, USA aka Dennis A Pells
The name’s Mienhof, Jack Mienhof, undercover investigative reporter. Freelance of course, and that’s the way I like it. No ties to the ‘Man’, if you know what I mean. I write what I want, I write the truth as I see it without influence or prejudice. As you may imagine my stories cut to the quick, no BS, and no soft shoeing around anyone or any subject.
The story I am about to share will reveal the raw observations of a seasoned journalist. That being said I feel compelled to say these observations changed me, changed my life and forever, the way I view the world.
I was on the lookout for a new story, a real expose’ that would catapult me into the realm of a Woodward and Bernstein. With the latest turn of events I focused my attention on the real power brokers, Corporate America.
The lounge was elegant to my standards, rich with dark mahogany paneling, overstuffed leather stools and chairs and a back bar with thirty year old scotch. Sinatra crooned in the background and the lights were low, to my mind, a likely hangout for the corporate types. The patrons were huddled in hushed conversations when a tall woman in a tight fitting red mini skirt approached the bar taking a seat next to me. Towering over me she pulled a Virginia Slim out asking me for a light. I flipped open my Zippo and struck the wheel, the cigarette to her lips she took a quick drag.
“I haven’t seen you in here before.” Exhaling her baby blue eyes ran me up and down as if doing inventory.
“I’m new in town,” I lied. “I was recruited from a medical equipment manufacturer in Oregon.”
She scanned my fingers for a ring, reaching over she gave my bicep a squeeze. “You’re in good of shape for an engineer.”
“Actually I’m in finance, I’m the new CFO.” I said, purposely vague about which company.
“CFO,” she said extending a hand, “my names Grace.” Her grip was strong, my hand lost in hers as we shook.
“I’m Jack, nice to meet you Grace.” Grace took another drag the smoke wafting up and around her sculptured cheekbones.
“In Wisconsin is it legal to smoke in a bar? I asked.
Grace smiled demurely, “you really have no idea where you are. Do you?” Grace fixed me with her large blue eyes, “I see you were purposely vague about who hired you, sounds like the sitting CFO is getting the axe.” Grace finished the sentence with a knowing smile. “Must be GE medical, they have a history of dropping the lowest performing ten percent every year.”
I gave her a contrite nod. “It’s all about performance.” I said, and left it at that.
Grace pointed with her chin to a group of suits at the end of the bar. “You see that bunch? They just got back from a three-day Outward Bound program.” She sniffed, “GE middle-management. GE believes in team building, risk taking,” she rolled her eyes, “sends all the wanabees to that sissy camp.”
Smelling the beginnings of a story I reached in my trousers and turned on the recorder. “So tell me about that,” I said. Grace glanced at her empty glass running her tongue slowly over her upper lip. I motioned for the bartender, “this lady will have a drink on me.”
“The usual Marcel,” Grace said with a dismissive wave of the hand. “You see the Outward Bound program is supposed to be about team building, networking and,” Grace did quotation marks in the air, “thinking outside the box.” She laughed to herself, “its really about teaching those whinny little bastards how to play nice with each other.” Grace took a long drink. “CFO you say? Well they won’t be sending you to Outward Bound.” She studied me with a curious intensity. “You do understand that don’t you?”
“Why’s that?” I asked.
Grace draped her strong arm around my shoulder nearly pulling me into an embrace. “You know.” She whispered. “The top guys, the upper echelon……..” She pulled back studying my eyes. “They never told you about… Inward Bound?”
This was the moment of truth. I had two options, admit I never heard about Inward Bound, which might make her question my CFO rank, or I could try and bluff my way through.
“God damn it.” I said, “there was an email the other day with Inward Bound in the subject line and I deleted it. I thought it was spam that got past the filter.”
Grace rolled her eyes, finished her drink in one gulp and rested her glass on the bar. I raised a finger to the bartender.
“Did I miss something?” I asked.
Grace glanced up and down the bar before speaking. “Probably the most important invitation in your life.” Grace scooted her chair in close to mine. “Inward Bound is very hush-hush. In the last three hundred years its been called by a variety of names but the theme has never changed.” Grace gave another quick look around, “the rumor is, nearly every president of the United States has gone through it, kind of a right of passage, but the names of the participants are as guarded as those of Yale’s Scull and Bones or Rutgers, Sword and Serpent.
The news juices were beginning to gather at my hairline and under my arms, her words were like ripe fruit and I was going to cash in on the harvest.
Grace smirked taking a gulp at her drink. “Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford made a practice of going every summer until they were too old for its rigors, Burnie Madoff and Kenneth Lay would go every spring and fall until, well, you know.”
I took a long draw off my martini hoping it would calm me down.
“So what is the curriculum?” I asked. Grace finished her drink and I ordered another one. After the bartender was out of earshot Grace spoke.
“I can’t say for sure,” Grace said her eyes riveted on mine. “Girls can’t participate. It’s only for men, real men. Men that aspire to greatness.”
The alarm bells began going off, how would Grace know all of this? I watched as she gulped from her drink, the alcohols affect relaxing the smile lines around her mouth. I was trying to think of a delicate way of asking when she began a most interesting narrative.
“I was so young,” Grace said, her head tilted wistfully. “I just graduated from high school, hitch-hiking my way to Florida.” Grace chuckled. “Back in those days you could hitch-hike across country and nobody batted an eye. I was on a lonely stretch of road in Arkansas, my thumb out when a campaign bus pulled over. Anyhow, the door flips open and…” Grace looked around lowering her voice. “I’ll just call him BC. Well BC steps out and invites me on board.” Grace shook her long hair loose, “one thing led to another…” Grace gave a throaty laugh. “I rode him like a bronco.” Grace waved a hand in the air thrusting her hips back and forth as she slapped her ass. “I rode him till he cried.”
“Bill Clinton?” I asked.
Grace held me with a long hard stare. “Ladies don’t kiss and tell!
Grace slopped down her drink and foolishly I ordered another round. Liquor is fuel for the mouth, and her motor mouth was only getting a mile to the gallon, she was running a little rich and if I wasn’t careful she was going to flood out and stall.
Or at least that was my last coherent thought of the evening; I had to that point been matching her drink for drink. Now as I lay on the sofa nursing an award-winning hangover I have time to reflect.
I adjust the volume on my recorder to a level I can tolerate and listen as the evening’s events played back. Grace tells of the two day spent with BC, and now that I know Grace’s capacity for drink, I believe the happenings she describes to be entirely plausible. It was after the last day of non-stop sex and alcohol that BC collapsed in her arms blubbering. He detailed Inward Bounds history, he told Grace to think of its sacred rituals as building blocks, the foundation to American politics. He said its disciplines are woven into and are the strength behind the fabric of Corporate America. BC concluded with this statement; history will bare him out, the Inward Bound experience is the sole driving force behind American leadership.
That concluded the dialog portion of the recording. I can hear in the background the bartender call good night to us. My mind flashed, I could see myself standing to leave, stumbling, Grace moving in, her strong hands gripping one leg, one arm throwing me around her neck and shoulders, next I see Marcel’s crooked smile, sending us off with a good-bye salute. What I hear next is the frantic sounds of our lovemaking. Listening, I hear a shriek, I recognize the voice, it’s mine. I have another flashback. We are in my motel room; I can make out the long shadow of Grace emerging from the bathroom. She seems to float in the dim light, clad in nothing but high-
heels, leather collar, and leopard skin underwear. I see the mischievous look in her eyes, her lips curling to a smile. Next I see the whip, manacles, and ball gag. As the recording plays on I hear my whimpers of pleasure, Grace’s throaty shouts of encouragement and the crack of the whip.
I throw the blanket off and examine my bruised limbs. I smile. God, she was something. I limp to the bathroom and find a used condom hanging from the lip of the wastebasket. Thank you! Even in that drunken state I had enough sense to use protection. Odd though, I don’t remember buying florescent pink, extra large. I try brushing my teeth, too painful, I limp back to bed. On the nightstand I find a note from Grace. In beautiful looping script she wrote;
Jack my Darling,
I doubt you remember our lovemaking, you were pretty loaded. It was erotic, playful, everything I dreamt it would be.
You told me you wanted to attend the next Inward Bound session. I can make it happen!
My breath caught in my chest, my hands trembled. Hell yeah I want to go! This could be the scoop of this decade, I read on.
I know people, important people. In your pants pocket you will find a business card for Robert Douglas Weatheredpoon, the third, grandson to Robert Douglas Weatheredpoon, the first, you will attend as the newly crowned CEO of Weatheredpoon Oil and Gas. If you are serious about going, be at the corner of Water and Broadway, Friday at six pm.
A limo will pick you up. When greeting them show no fear, they will smell it.
BC told me it was because of Inward Bound that he had the courage to sleep with Hiler…. we’ll call her HC. He said before that HC wore the pants in the family; she was always the smart one making all the land deals, making all the money. After completing Inward Bound he went on to become Governor then President! This is your destiny Jack, be all you can be.
(end of chapter one…to be continued)