The Reach of the Banyan Tree – only 99 cents on Kindle. Now through December 7. Pick up your copy HERE!
And to celebrate this sale, here’s a fun excerpt from one of my favorite characters, the loud brash C.R. Carson. Enjoy!
All the Air Sucked out of the Room
Charles Regal Carson II, CEO and majority owner of Carson Oil Subsidiary, never talked. He yelled everything; a troubadour announcing Christ’s second coming, or so everyone around him had to act. He stood a caricature of every loud-spoken American who ever lived. He had a red, chubby face, with a large beer belly that took up the half of the room not already occupied by his ego. His silver-gray hair, parted on the side and slicked back like a greasy car salesman’s, would have made him seem regal if his ego would have let him stoop that low. A half-chewed cigar would have felt at home in his mouth, and he had the aura of a master black marketeer, comfortably sitting in a dimly lit room at a table with stacks of cash on it. But he made his billions the legal way—paying off cronies and cuddling up to lobbyists. A force of nature who always wore a blue sports jacket with a white collared shirt, unbuttoned at the top, with no tie.
C.R., as everyone called him, had no idle, whether walk, talk, or do. Everything was full-tilt in overdrive. His administrative assistant had been taking stress counseling for three years now, and her therapist insisted that she quit working for the human hurricane. She would have quit, too, if he didn’t pay her so handsomely and piled her perks high enough to offset the abuse she had to endure. Billie went everywhere with C.R., as did his accountant and publicist, Fuller, who had learned to just keep his mouth shut and try not to ruffle the feathers of a bird already engaged in a daily war of survival. It was the oil business, after all, the greasiest of them all.
C.R. and Chip had had their share of disagreements; everyone knew that. When Chip left the company two years ago and ended up in Vietnam, C.R. threatened every sort of banishment and exile possible from a father to a son. He didn’t mean any of it. He rarely meant anything he said; he just talked like he breathed, in and out, not knowing up from down or left from right. He could charm the fur off a malevolent cat on the same day he could coax a frown out of a bride during the processional. He had rare verbal magic, the kind that most people avoided, except for Billie and Fuller. And so it was no shock when he cursed his son for quitting the company. But when he heard that Chip was in prison, he was on his private jet as soon as visas could be secured, ready to take on the Vietnamese bureaucracy and legal system with nothing but a loaded mouth and a pile of cash.
The jet landed without incident at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport, and C.R., Billie, and Fuller whisked through immigration to meet an assistant of the chief minister of the Department of the Interior, which had sent a car to pick up the three. A young professional, Nguyen Thi Thanh, charged by the minister to ‘handle’ the ugly American on his visit to his son in prison, waited patiently for them outside the exit. She had no idea what she was about to encounter as she greeted them politely as they walked through the immigration doors and into the airport’s small concourse.
“Mr. Carson, welcome to Vietnam,” she spoke in proper and clear English.
“If you want to be welcoming, you can release my son from prison. He didn’t do anything, and you have no idea what you are dealing with.” C.R. charged right past her. “Where’s the damn car?”
Thanh, completely taken back, drew a complete blank and couldn’t say anything.
“What kind of translator are you? Do you speak English or not? Fuller, what the hell kind of arrangements are these?”
Fuller came up to C.R. and spoke in his relaxed, accommodating manner. Billie introduced herself to Thanh and told her not to mind C.R. and that he didn’t mean any offense. It was the first of many lies that Billie would have to tell about her boss in Vietnam.
Thanh finally composed herself and pointed over to a black Lincoln sedan sitting by the curb.
“The car is over there, sir.”
“Well, it’s about time. Do you think I’m on vacation here? I’m here to save my son from the antiquated, communist legal system that shot the hell out of all the G.I.s I ever knew that were stuck in places like this.”
C.R. made his way towards the car as Fuller and Billie scrambled behind with the suitcases. Thanh looked on the scene in a bewildered manner.
“I’ll never understand how my idiot son could be stupid enough to walk away from his responsibilities and come to a third-world country. Vietnam. A country that killed over 58,000 of our soldiers. I should know. I was here. Right, Fuller?”
“Which car is it?”
“Here, sir,” spoke the intimidated Thanh.
“Black Lincoln? Well, I am impressed. Somebody got the message.”
“I informed them, sir, that an American car from the airport would show their grace and goodwill towards you and your company.”
“Good job, Billie. It’s about time somebody does something right. Fuller, if it was up to you, we’d probably be in a Yugo.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll try better next time, sir,” said Fuller, juggling the suitcases.
Thanh stood in shock. She had translated for numerous Americans before and had found every single one of them courteous and friendly. She couldn’t understand the vulgar man who put his nose down at everything he saw. The forty-five minute trip to the hotel was a complete rant and rave from C.R., who was on a jet-lag high, wound tighter than usual. Billie and Fuller felt great sympathy for the milquetoast Thanh, who sat in the corner of the limo, sulking and nodding politely at the force of nature.
Eventually, they walked into the lobby of the Hanoi Opera Hilton. All eyes seemed to be on the man who pronounced the supremacy of American neo-colonialism with every foot forward. Charles Regal Carson II was exactly the type of person Vietnamese immigration would have been happy to deny a visa to, except for one important fact: he controlled one of the largest oil companies in the world, the same oil company that in the last year had secretly signed multiple agreements with the Ministry of the Interior to build a dozen oil platforms off the coast of southern Vietnam in the disputed territory of the Spratlys. They had dug their heels in deep with a man who could give the Sicilian mafia a run for their money. Carson Oil had huge investments in China, so the Vietnamese government thought that C.R.’s leverage might be to their benefit as they explored the oil capacities of the disputed territories off their coast. They had not anticipated a personal matter getting in their way. Now they had a mad dog inside their borders, cornered and ready to attack.
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