A fanfiction based off of "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand.
This story takes place during the events of the book, but in no way interacts with the plot of that story. Instead, view this as a story about how Gail Wynand operates The Banner before Dominique enters his life. This will be a multi-chapter story.
If you make your way through my little writing here, let me know and leave a review. Hope you like it.
Arthur Stuart Hytten waited at a white table for two. It was half-past noon and he was expecting a lunch guest. The small restaurant was on the floor level of a five-star hotel on Madison Avenue. At the right angle he could see Central Park through the glass windows on every side. Every table was adorned with silver cutlery, bone-white china, and crystal glasses that danced in the light and tossed out prismatic colors over the predominantly austere interior. Every waiter had white gloves and held serving napkins over their arms, and each looked fashionable enough to be sitting and dining instead of serving. Those being served were graciously quiet to their other guests, keeping their chortled opinions of a recently-seen play or their loving adoration for a dazzling new novel to a respectable hum. Each meal cost more than a dockworker would make in a week, and each guest was more concerned with seeing someone famous than with enjoying said meal. Every so often, a slightly-louder bulge of sound would coalesce into a name, a sound that would rise above the din, and the speaker would look around as if they were fishing, waiting to see if anyone else would perk up at having heard their own name.
Arthur Stuart Hytten was getting bored. He checked his Swiss-made pocket watch. Hytten had specifically bought a Swiss watch over all others because the denotation of "Swiss-made" meant that it was a superior timekeeping piece of unrivaled international quality. He saw his reflection in the glass on the watch and smiled, turning the watch over in his hands. It truly was a quality watch, he thought to himself, and quality was something Arthur Stuart Hytten found to be paramount. If something was not of good quality, it had no right to exist. This watch, gold plated, engraved with an ornate floral design, and crafted by the finest Swiss watchmakers, was quality.
A lack of quality in things was something that could not be tolerated. It showed a lack of expertise on the part of the craftsmen, and it showed a laziness from a society willing to accept cheap substitutes. Arthur Stuart Hytten found no use for such substitutes.
Everything Arthur Stuart Hytten owned was of superlative craftsmanship. His suit was imported from an Italian tailor who owned a small shop adjacent to an abbey in Brindisi, whose father owned it before him, and whose father's father owned it before he. His vehicle was a Mercedes-Benz imported happily from the National Socialists, and paraded by Hytten as a piece of expert engineering, and it was driven by a chauffeur trained in the Alps' steep and narrow curves.
And the revulsion that Hytten found from incompetence was usually professionally fatal. He did not accept cheap substitutes for anything, and when he found a mockery to be held in the esteem of a marvel, he made it well known-enough so as to force the mockery's creator into an embarrassed seclusion so deep that he never touched his wares again. Quality was exempt from specific knowledge, Hytten thought. True, he mused to himself, he didn't know the details of watchmaking, nor did he have to. But, he knew quality. He wasn't a clothier, but he knew a good suit when he put it on. He didn't know automobile mechanics, but he knew that when a car made your trip a joy rather than a necessary evil of commerce, it was a stellar achievement.
And, above all else, he knew that disciplined and professional journalism was the only acceptable journalism. While he could understand the cut-corners of production and the regrettable realities of large-scale operations, he saw no tolerance for the beast known as yellow journalism.
And then the king of that beast walked in, five minutes late to his afternoon lunch with Arthur Stuart Hytten.
Gail Wynand entered with a swagger reserved for vortexes. Once he entered, all idle chatter ceased. Light seemed to bend toward his entrance, leaving the rest of the room stuck in an eternal darkness. Air sucked into Gail Wynand's lungs and out of everyone else's.
Wynand stood quietly at the entrance of the restaurant, waiting for the server. A young girl quickly came up, looking at the list, and asked Wynand his name. He didn't answer. He didn't have to.
"I'll seat myself," he said courteously. She looked up and couldn't find the words to express herself as he slid by her. His coat hung over his arm, and he strode evenly, without haste, to the table occupied by Arthur Stuart Hytten.
Noise followed in his wake. People snapped their heads inward to ask their lunch partners if that man truly was who they thought it was. Whispers lurched into a cacophonous sound of rumors. Gail stood at the table and the server quickly came behind him, grabbing his chair and pulling it out for him. He thanked her, then remained standing. He looked to the room, at the mouse-like eyes peering at him from hunched positions behind cupped hands whispering to their compatriot mouse's ears. He took a breath, a deep and vitalizing theft of the air in the room, then sat down.
Arthur stared at Gail. It was quiet between them. They locked eyes, like two beasts prowling though the grass. After a few moments, it became an awkward silence, a gazing inquiry that held nothing between them. Air was being sucked out from between them, and suddenly, it was very cold. Hytten looked to the side, then returned his gaze to Wynand, and then he had lost. They were no longer beasts to fight, they were predator and prey.
Hytten cleared his throat then sat back in his chair. "They adore you," Arthur said.
"As they should," Gail responded. A busser delicately filled a glass of water for Gail, and Wynand thanked him without looking. They sat without exchanging a word for another few moments. Finally, Gail spoke. "I could have lunch in silence at the Banner. What did you wish to speak to me about?"
"You know damn well, Mr. Wynand."
"Perhaps, but I'd like to hear it from you."
"Your stories about my business are lies."
"Isn't that a matter for lawyers?"
"I thought we could discuss this before lawyers were involved. But, surely, you must know that I have informed my attorney and have him waiting for a call to file a libel suit."
"I don't see what there is to discuss," Gail said as he picked up the menu. Arthur was waiting for this, and smugly leaned to his side. He produced a folded-over copy of The Banner, smeared with underlines in red ink and large, thick circles drawn over specific words.
"This is just a preliminary view of things I find to be libelous. With more time and more discretion, I am sure my layer and I can find even more defamatory content within your rag of a publication." Gail looked over the menu at Arthur, whose hand held out the newspaper like the tip of a rapier, pointed at Gail's face. He turned his gaze back to the menu without taking the paper. Arthur, biting his lip, put the newspaper on top of Gail's place setting. He did not respond.
"And what do you wish to accomplish with this meeting?" Gail asked, still staring at the menu.
"You are going to print a retraction, and you are going to write an article about how Hytten Steel cares deeply for the safety of our workers and that what happened Tuesday was an accident, plain and simple, and you're going to also say why Hytten Steel is a terrific company to invest in, Hytten Steel treats its employees more than fairly and safely, and that Mrs. Hytten has not, and I cannot stress this enough, has not been privately seeing Senator Danforth. Have I made myself clear?"
"You have," Gail said. "But I won't do any of that."
"I have the best lawyers in this town, Mr. Wynand, I golf with Lester Sharpe every other Sunday and have the entire firm of Sharpe and Orth at my disposal!"
"They are impressive lawyers," Gail said uninterestedly.
"And what you have written is libel! Clear cut libel!"
"It certainly might be. But, you did have a man die at your factory."
"That was the only truth to your entire heap of yellow journalism."
"That is very possible, Mr. Hytten."
"Then you agree, you agree that the lies about Hytten Steel not having adequate safety measures is a lie, that we are indeed a company to invest in, and the matter of my wife's preposterous affair, which I assure you is as imaginary as any code of morals or ethics at The Banner, are all lies, and you agree that the best course of action is to print the retraction!"
Gail sat silently. Then, slowly, he put the menu down. He stared at Arthur, who was now leaning over the table, one of his hands grabbing the edge of the table and the other balled in a fist underneath. Arthur Stuart Hytten dressed as a man of his time and wealth should. He wore a double-breasted suit tightly over his thick chest and a silk bowtie that hung slightly crooked. His neck seemed to bulge out of his collar and the natural lines of his neck were thick and straight. His cube-shaped skull sat weighted, as if to tip, on top of his beam-like neck, and his eyes were like two black rivets in his face. He was thick everywhere and nowhere did it look muscular, but nowhere did it look like loose drapes of fat either. He was, simply put, a brick of a man.
"I will, on one condition," Gail said. "I am going to ask you a question, and I want you to answer me honestly." Arthur sat back hesitantly, leering at Gail. With a furrowed brow, he nodded for him to continue. "Do you believe yourself to possess integrity?"
"One of the only few men who do have it," Arthur confidently replied.
"So if I told you that I wanted you to beg me to retract that article, that you needed me to retract it because your business depends on it, because what I have written will cripple you and your family and your livelihood and without me saying differently, because if I don't, you will crumble. If I told you to beg me for that, all that, what would you say?"
"I'd tell you to go to hell, Mr. Wynand."
"Good," Gail said. He picked the menu back up.
"Well? That's it?"
"That's all I wanted to know."
"Are you going to print the retraction and write the article in favor of Hytten Steel?"
"Of course not," Gail said. Arthur Stuart Hytten sat back in his chair. It was as if he had been hit by a slug, and the force knocked him backward, expelling all thought and words from him except for the force of impact. He struggled to put words together, each sentence falling over one another like a collapsing building, each girder crumbling and knocking another one out until there only stood a mess of words.
"Are you quite through?" Gail asked, turning the menu to a side. "I've been called far worse far more eloquently than that. And it's no pleasure of mine to hear myself called such disreputable things in such unimaginative ways."
Arthur Stuart Hytten stood up, throwing his napkin to the table. The whispers of the room silenced, and the pair of men were the subject of dozens of staring eyes, like rows of opaline nocturnal eyes from a bush in the dead of night. "You'll be hearing from Mr. Sharpe this afternoon, and I will see you in court, Mr. Wynand!" Arthur then collected his coat, adjusted his posture, and walked out as dignified as he could. Once he left, the whispers began once more, and this time, they were a torrent of furiously subdued snips and hisses. Gail smiled from behind the menu, closing his eyes to the sound, as if it were an orchestra tuning up before a symphony.
After lunch, he returned to his office at The Banner. As he passed his secretary, he told her to send Alvah Scarrett in immediately. When Alvah entered, Gail was looking over the proofs for the next day's edition of The Banner.
"Gail," Alvah said as a greeting as he entered.
"Who wrote the story about the worker who was killed at Hytten Steel?"
"Cyril Watkin," Alvah responded.
"Give him a raise, and tell him to write a follow-up for tomorrow. Also, what was the name of the worker who died?"
"Nino Arco, an Italian immigrant."
"Good name," Gail said.
"What should Mr. Watkin write for tomorrow's follow-up?"
"Tell Mr. Watkin to go find out what the workers at Hytten Steel think about Mr. Hytten refusing to see the recently-widowed Mrs. Nino Arco this afternoon for lunch."
"Did that happen?" Alvah asked incredulously. "How do you know?"
"He was at lunch with me, Alvah."