This is from the middle of a novel I started a couple of years ago.  I was challenged to create a female hero. On a whim I decided on a black female ex-con. I realised far too late in the game that I didn’t have the skills to portray her realistically. I did, however, write about 100 interesting pages. The scene below features the head of a crime syndicate and his son. Nicholas George, referenced in this section, is the ostensible villain of the novel.

Around his friends and siblings, Ben Athos tended to be outgoing and the leader of whatever group he might be in. He put forth ideas in such a way (show don’t tell) that people would naturally buy into whatever he had to say. His siblings engaged in whatever plan he might have for an adventure and his classmates considered him the most important member of any group (how?).

Around his father, however, he became sullen. He answered in single syllable sentences. At the age of 20, Old Athos called him.

“Ben. I have something to discuss with you.”

“Yeah.” There was no lilt even to the word, though he dragged it out a bit.

“I want you to come to my office. It’s better this not be done over the phone.” Ben was still too young to actually believe that some things had to be said face to face, but answered anyway, “When?”

“Is there anything keeping you from coming now?”


“Good, I’ll see you here in half an hour. Til then.”

Though it hardly seemed necessary, Ben added a “Bye” before putting the down the receiver.

The drive over was easy enough. Midday traffic was almost not there at all. Ben pulled into the extra space by his father’s car, the one next to the one marked “handicapped” and pulled up the handbrake with a little more force than was necessary. His face had gone from the sullen scowl that took over whenever he heard his father’s voice, to something brighter as he took the curves of the road from their house into town, and back into a scowl as he parked.

He entered the building and nodded to the man at reception who nodded back, with a nonchalant “Afternoon, Master Athos.” The receptionist had been greeting people in the town’s largest office building since the days when the town didn’t seem to be able to support an office development that large, much less the six that sprang up later to define downtown. The receptionist remembered when young men were called Master until they married, or at least had a college degree, just as young ladies were called Miss until they married. Ben’s memory wasn’t so long and the appellation just added to his resentment as he boarded the elevator. Of course Ben didn’t remember the days when the man who now greeted visitors to the building actually ran the elevator.

Old Athos’ office were on the 14th floor of the building and the elevator seemed to go awfully slowly. Time enough to resent that there was really nothing his father could say to make him any happier at being Old Athos’ offspring, son, and heir.

The elevator opened onto an office that took up the tapered top floor. A large Persian rug covered the floor in front of an antique oak desk. The chairs on the rug were only lightly padded, but Old Athos generally didn’t keep people sitting in them very long. Business was concluded, whoever visited stood up, and if the business was concluded well, Athos poured snifters of Metaxa to seal the deal.  If the business concluded poorly, the visitor made sure to convey that whatever blockages were in the way would soon be removed as he backed towards the elevator and Athos put his head back down to his work.

Ben came into the office and approached the desk and remained standing until his father acknowledged him a minute or two later. “Have a seat son. I just need to finish reviewing this document.”

Ben sat on the chair and put his hands together. He leaned forward as much as he dared, but couldn’t make out what his father was reading. Might have been a contract, or an article for tomorrow’s paper that the editor knew should pass muster. Never know where there might be toes sticking out. The most innocuous subjects sometimes had Organismos in an uproar. Ben had no way really to tell. If he were reviewing a contract, he’d have a pencil in his hand, Ben thought. But wasn’t sure. He didn’t spend any time actually engaging the business. The old man wouldn’t let him. Not since the day he told his son that the business had to pass to someone else.

“Right then, son,” Athos said without looking up.


“Good gracious, my boy. Is there any chance at all you might speak to me in sentences as long, even, as the Bible’s shortest verse?” All the Athos children knew what this meant. “Jesus wept” was a favourite phrase of their mother’s and its source was discussed ad nauseum.

“Yes, father?”

“Fine, Ben. If that’s the way you want it. It’s come time that I follow up on what I once promised you. I told you that Organismos would not continue in our family, and I’ve decided on a successor.”

“What? You’re denying it to Jeremy and Frances as well as to me?”

“Finally. That’s more than you’ve said out loud to me since my last birthday. Yes. The Athos family will no longer govern the Organization. You’ll still be its main beneficiaries, but the day-to-day operation? No. I’ve got someone else to take on the business.”

A silence sat between them as Ben leaned forward to learn who had usurped his place.

Finally he rejoined, “Who? Who could possibly deserve to take over from our family. We’ve run it – you’ve run it for decades. We’ve watched you. We know what to do.”

“No, son. You haven’t and you don’t. Not that this is your fault. I’ve not let you in. This is why, despite your lack of respect in general and for me in specific, you will still reap the rewards of Organismos’ successes. You and your siblings and your offspring for as many generations as I can manage, will continue to be supported well, however much or little you earn.”

“So then, father. Who’s it to be? Don’t I deserve even to know that?”

“The man who will earn your keep, who knows what it takes to keep our interests producing fruit, or golden eggs – pick your metaphor – is Nick George.”

“What? Saint Nicholas’ whelp? What does he know? How does the son of every Greek’s little helper take my place at the helm?”

“It was never your place, Ben. You should know this. And how does he do it? From the minute I first spoke to him, he was willing to get down in the dirt to do the nastiest shit work Organismos does. That’s how.”

Old Athos remained silent for a moment and Ben didn’t break it.

Athos continued, “I said it wasn’t your fault, Ben, because the dirty work of what we do? I never wanted you, wanted any of my kids, to do that. That’s the work you have to be able to do to lead this company, but I don’t want my kids doing it. Let the company earn for you. Do you want to move someplace warm? Do you want to study in Athens or Rome? Do you want to surf in Hawaii until the volcanoes bury Honolulu? Or make movies in Hollywood? All of this is yours for the taking. The only thing that isn’t is Organismos.

“It’s up to you what you want to do, but please don’t fight me.”