Authors: Ruby Preston
It had certainly been news to her that those rumors were floating around. But maybe he was just being an overzealous reporter.
Margolies wouldn’t stand for rigged reviews. He had too much money on the line. He
Broadway, she thought. Unless...
Her boss’s ethics left much to be desired, but bribing critics seemed a step too far, even for him. That would mean his entire career was built on corruption. He’d employed thousands of people on Broadway stages and was one of the single largest drivers of the largest economic tourist engine in New York. It just couldn’t be true.
Her phone buzzed. It was a text from Reilly:
When can I see you again?
Her stomach fluttered again, but she forced herself to turn her mind back to the matter at hand. Could Reilly really be on to something? If it were true that Margolies had been bribing Kanter all along, she was probably the one person in the whole world who could find out. She stood up abruptly. There was only one way to know for sure, short of confronting Margolies directly.
She walked into Margolies’ empty office to have a look. If he had an organizational system besides Scarlett herself, it was unclear. She made it her habit every couple of weeks to sit down with him and the intern to sort through the piles and get everything filed away neatly in the row of filing cabinets lining his office wall.
At the moment, his imposing desk was littered with papers: the usual collection of file folders, sales reports, contract drafts, and ad comps that Scarlett had handed off to him in the prior days and weeks. The only uncluttered space in the whole office was a long shelf with Margolies’ pristine collection of Tony Awards.
Feeling guilty already, she walked around to his side of the desk. It was uncharted territory for her. And she couldn’t resist sitting in his chair. So this is how the world looks to Broadway’s biggest producer, she thought. I could get used to this. She eyed the file drawers under the desk. She couldn’t guess what he kept in there, since she managed the filing system. She gently pulled open the large file drawer.
Her phone buzzed on her desk in the other room and made her jump. Reilly again?
Not deterred from her mission, however, she started thumbing through the documents in his desk drawer. They appeared to be bank statements . A quick scan revealed nothing out of the ordinary. They looked like several years of monthly statements.
While the theaters collected the money from the Broadway box offices for distribution, Scarlett knew that Margolies kept several accounts for investor funds as well as development funds for future shows. Banking wasn’t in her job description. Scarlett helped manage the budgets, but Margolies handled the money himself.
Out of curiosity, she pulled out the file of statements from the past year and thumbed through for the months in which they’d had Broadway openings. There had been three openings from the Margolies office during the past year—an ambitious number. Two had received raves and were still playing successfully, and the third,
Thelma & Louise
, had come and gone.
She ran her finger down the list of deposits. Nothing raised any red flags in her mind. A quick glance at the withdrawals seemed in line as well. She turned to the next month with an opening night. Similarly uneventful, except... During the opening week of both shows, there had been a $10,000 cash withdrawal. Scarlett knew the opening-week budgets well. Any show expenses wouldn’t be coming from these accounts. She checked the third show month and found the same withdrawal. She quickly paged through the other non-show months. No sign of the withdrawal.
It can’t be, she thought. And, anyway, if they were payouts, why did the third show get panned? It didn’t make sense. She wondered how she could ask Margolies without revealing that she had been snooping. She closed the file and quickly put it back, feeling disloyal to the man who was making her career and the careers of so many others.
On her way out of his office, she pushed closed one of the file drawers along the wall that had been ajar. It bounced back open. She paused to see what the problem was. It was a file cabinet that she maintained. It had files for every investor over the years, with current show investors in front and past years’ investors in the back. It was records of their contracts, checks, and correspondence.
She saw Lawrence’s file, one of the thickest, alongside all the other investors’, most of whom she knew well by now. Many of them had thick files of their own, since Margolies’ Midas touch brought them back, show after show. More than a few stalwarts had been faint of heart about
, however, worried that the unprecedented costs were just too risky an investment. Still, they had convinced several of the regulars to invest.
An unmarked file caught her eye. It was sticking up, keeping the cabinet from closing. That’s strange, she thought. Maybe the intern got lazy. She pulled it out to see what was inside.
It contained copies of checks made out to
. That wasn’t unusual. Every file around it contained the same thing. But every file would
contain three checks for $3,000,000.00 each. The name on the check, M____ Corporation, was a company she didn’t recognize. A new $9 million investor seemed like something she would have heard about. How strange.
Just then she heard the front door of the office open. Not sure what she had just found, she slid it back into the file cabinet and closed the drawer firmly.
“Is it filing day already?” Margolies
, coming up behind her.
Is it my imagination, thought Scarlett, or does he sound suspicious?
“Uh, no, I was just double-checking an investor’s address for the reception invites,” she lied.
“Did you find it?” he asked. His eyes were boring into hers.
Does he always look at me this way? she wondered. All of a sudden, she couldn’t remember.
“Where is it?”
“Where is what?”
“The address you said you were looking for!” he responded with frustration.
Her hands were empty. She felt her cheeks flush.
“I was just, uh, confirming the address. I had it right after all. Just wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anyone. The reception is shaping up to be one of the biggest events of the season, boss.”
“Thanks for the news flash,” he said sarcastically as he sat down behind his desk. “Close the door behind you.”
She needed to get her wits about her.
She checked her phone to see who had called earlier. It had been Margolies. No message. She turned her focus back to the event preparations. Half an hour later, Margolies strode out of the office without a glance her way and with what she was sure was the unmarked file folder under his arm.
She breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn’t realized until then that she had been so tense. She decided to go out to grab coffee. Get some fresh air. Think. At the door she paused, turned back to Margolies’ office, and grabbed the file of the past year’s bank statements. She quickly ran them through the rickety copy machine (the bane of each new intern’s existence) and stashed the copies in her laptop bag before re-filing the originals in his desk. With that, she walked out the door.
Reilly opened the pizza box on his kitchen table with a flourish.
“Voila! Dinner is served.”
It had already been a busy week so far for both of them, so they had mutually decided to forego another formal date in favor of a quiet evening at Reilly’s midtown apartment.
“I see you slaved in the kitchen all day,” she said with a smile.
Reilly loved that smile. He had been thinking of little else since their last date.
“So it seems we have reason to celebrate tonight. I saw the article on playbill.com that
got picked up by the Manhattan Theatre Workshop. How’d you swing that, Madam Producer Extraordinaire? That’s a pretty major deal.”
“Why, thank you!” she said, looking pleased with herself. “They heard about the show when it was being developed up at the Pinter Theater Center, and a last-minute spot opened up in their season. We got lucky.”
“You’re being modest. I’m sure they had a million shows that could have gone into that spot.”
“Well, I’d gotten to know the artistic director, and he and I have been talking about the show for a few months now. He fell in love with the it, like the rest of us. The timing worked out for us. We start auditions next week, if you can believe it. It’s all happening so fast! I can’t wait for you to see it.”
“From everything I’ve heard it’s amazing.”
“Let’s just say I’m very proud. And thrilled for the Jeremys.”
“It’s certainly a great way to kick off your solo producing career.”
“Speaking of careers. You’ve had some big news, too. Are you ready for your interview at the
“Ready as I’ll ever be. Try me!” he said, unwilling to fully admit how desperately he wanted—no, needed—the chief critic job.
“So tell me, Mr. Mitchell.” Scarlett imitated a formal interviewer voice. “Why do you want to be the theater critic at our hallowed institution?” She continued but started to giggle. “Do you have a death wish or simply a penchant for being truly evil?”
“It didn’t say anything in the job description about being evil.”
“Oh, come on. Or were you planning to go from lethal gossip columnist to ‘Reilly the Friendly Critic’? Please.”
“Are you going to let me answer the question?”
“By all means. Continue.”
“Well, Candace... Or should I call her ‘Ms. Gold’?”
“Better keep it formal.”
“Well, Ms. Gold, it has come to my attention that the critic’s role has devolved over the years to the point where it’s not about the art but about how vicious the criticism can be of any given show. As the
critic, my goal would be to bring a fresh, unbiased voice to the table. Let the shows stand on their own merit.”
“Isn’t that what’s already happening? Hey, are you still thinking there’s something fishy going on with rigged reviews?” The subject hadn’t come up in any of their phone conversations during the week. “Ms. Gold may not like what you’re implying.”
Reilly refilled their glasses of wine and went over to the couch. Scarlett followed. The cold rain on the window blurred the city lights outside Reilly’s one-bedroom apartment, but inside it was cozy. Scarlett curled up on the couch.
“It’s nice to be here with you like this,” he said, their interview prep forgotten for the moment. “But I promise I’ll take you out on the town next time.”
“Do you hear me complaining? This is perfect. I feel like I know you better already.” She gestured to the crowded shelves of books lining the walls.
Reilly loved reading almost as much as he loved writing. He was pleased that she had read several of his favorites, although his taste was more eclectic than most: theater books, history, fiction, philosophy, travel.
“This is me. The mask comes off,” he joked.
“I like what I see.”
“So do I,” he said as he leaned over and kissed her. She moved closer to him and their kiss deepened. He pulled her to his side on the couch, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
“I could get used to this,” she said.