Home > Strike Me Down(4)

Strike Me Down(4)
Author: Mindy Mejia

Gregg Abbott—cofounder of Strike, husband of Logan Russo—is just a guy who sits in meetings. I sat down now, and took stock of my surroundings.

Parrish Forensics wasn’t what I expected, either. Elegance exuded from the sleek fortieth-floor conference room and the paint-splashed canvasses along the wall: indigo on butter, orange against navy. There was no mistaking the crimson on chalk white. It was blood splatter, a crime scene exploded and examined at microscopic range, and I couldn’t tell if it was meant to assure or discomfort the viewer. The same could be said about Nora Trier and the rest of her partners around the table. Most accountants gave you that long-suffering, “no one understands the importance of my tedium” sort of vibe, but this group had a different energy completely.

Jim Parrish was the same hale, jovial boomer who smiled from the white screen of his bio photo on their website, emanating all the energy of his résumé. I could picture him downing wheatgrass shots as he exposed the World Com scandal and running marathons while he linked a five-billion-dollar money laundering ring to several South American governments. He probably had enough enemies to fill a stadium, the type of hatred that keeps you young.

I’d taken the chair on Jim’s left and Rajesh, the partner who’d met me out front, sat facing me.

“We are gratified you reached out to us, Mr. Abbott.”

Rajesh Joshi was no challenge to read. He’d referenced his past professional life within the first minute of greeting me in the lobby (establishing credentials) and drew his shoulders up to hold himself a half inch taller than his spine wanted to stretch (seeking dominance). He wasn’t a short man, average in most dimensions, although his head was disproportionally big, exacerbated by a hairstyle that reminded me of a rippling motorcycle helmet. I wondered if it intentionally emphasized his skull, whether head size to accountants was the equivalent of comparing dicks.

“Parrish Forensics provides expertise in a number of areas.” Rajesh nodded to the assistant who controlled a PowerPoint from one corner of the room and took me through the standard company presentation, their mission statement, which read like a code of conduct for the United Nations, and the various services they offered. Forensic investigation, including asset misappropriation, money laundering, and financial statement fraud. Litigation support. Expert witness testimony. Divorce and estate property valuation. International expertise and resources, on-the-ground investigations around the globe.

While he talked, I took stock of the other two partners. Corbett MacDermott, a ruddy guy with a strong chin, was the only one in the room who wasn’t trying to look pleasant. Unlike Jim and Rajesh, he was tie-free and jacketless, wearing an off-the-rack button-down rolled up to his elbows. Not a brawler, not a wimp. A man who could give or take a punch, but wouldn’t be sorry to hear the bell at the end of the round. He looked, in fact, like he’d love to hear a bell right now. And finally, there was Nora Trier, watching the presentation as though she hadn’t seen it a thousand times before. Occasionally she and the ruddy guy exchanged glances and there was something more there—a partnership beyond the business.

“The only continent we haven’t found money in—yet—is Antarctica,” Rajesh laughed at his own joke as he wrapped up the pitch. The last slide included the Strike logo and a shot from our website, which he left on-screen as they all turned subtly toward me, my cue.

I looked at each of them in turn.

“Strike is the fastest growing premium athletic brand in the country. We formed in 1999. Logan had already done some endorsement work, but together we developed a line of nutritional supplements and hit the market at the exact moment protein powders were exploding. From there we expanded into sponsorships, apparel, and urban gym experiences. We have over five million email subscribers to Logan’s blog and we’ve trained dozens of youth state boxing and professional UFC champions. Our last year-end showed a net worth of $920 million. Based on our revenue growth, I assume we’ve passed the billion mark now.”

You showed me yours, I’ll show you mine.

“I’ve read numerous articles about Strike’s trajectory, and I can personally confirm your sea salt cashew protein bar is excellent.” Rajesh laughed, enjoying the reflected success of having a billion-dollar company at his table. “We understand Strike is a privately held corporation with two equal shareholders.” He paused and glanced at me.

“That’s correct. Logan and I each own fifty percent. We’re the founders, owners, and board of directors.”

“Has the company ever undergone a formal audit?” This from Jim.

“It’s never been necessary. We’re self-made. We’ve financed every step we’ve ever taken, including the move this year to add thirty new gyms to our portfolio, doubling our physical footprint in the United States and moving into select markets in Canada.”

“An aggressive expansion.” Jim took a sip of his coffee.

I couldn’t help it; I leaned in. “We all have a fight inside us, waiting to be unleashed. Skinny, short, fat, weak, old, happy, it doesn’t matter. There’s an animal within, a highly evolved aggressor that isn’t conference room compatible, and Strike provides a channel for that ferocity right in the heart of the city, amid all the boardroom handshakes and neckties and professional courtesies. I’ve seen sixty-year-old women throwing side kicks that would decimate you, and twelve-year-old at-risk boys with their eyes on fire, like they’re falling in love for the first time. Strike is primal; it feeds the animal and hones the human.”

Each partner reacted separately to the pitch. Most onlookers would see an interchangeable assortment of executives, but there were tiny differences opening like fissures all around me. It was completely unlike the single-minded drive we had at Strike, the common goal we held supreme among us. These people were four islands who happened to be sharing a sea. Rajesh seemed like he was going to burst into applause, bobbing his head and smiling, although I’m not sure if he absorbed anything past the one billion in net worth. Corbett swirled his coffee and nodded, while Jim leaned farther back in his chair, acting the benevolent audience to the sales pitch. Nora was the only one who seemed unaffected. Her back was straight, a perfect stack of vertebrae. They didn’t arch with false confidence or bow in intimacy, but sat easy and natural one on top of the other, a tower built of balance and grace. She set her pen down, a careful diagonal across the meeting agenda, then met my eyes squarely and spoke for the first time since the meeting began.

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