Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – Episode III
Recap: 2020 – Jack Vance, the colorful CEO of Blowfish Communications, has just secured a $150,000 retainer for the publicity launch of VGlobe a new online video network. Vance has returned to his offices in the Hancock Building to inform his team of the new client.
Missy Slats always tried her hardest to get Vance’s attention when he blew past her receptionist’s desk into the Blowfish offices. Every day, she piled neat a stack of handwritten messages, complaints and issues that needed to be resolved. She sometimes wondered, when she rode back on the CTA bus, how many of these were ever anything but deleted or thrown away. No one told her when one client was added and another deleted, or who the hush-hush people were when they slipped by her desk into private conference rooms. It was supposed to be her job to know everything in an office – but she felt like she knew nothing at Blowfish. And that wasn’t right.
And there he was again, covering his booze stench with a whore’s bath of cologne and hand sanitizer. Today was going to be different. Today, he was going to read his messages in front of her and she would watch his eyes and study his reactions and then she would know something that no one else knew. She would discern secrets, because that’s what a receptionist was supposed to do. The scuttlebutt was that if he didn’t bring home a winner, her paycheck would be bouncing in two days. His eyes would tell if that was going to happen when he read those messages. She knew. Part of her was relieved; working at this place had been hell. Ignored for two years, given no tasks whatsoever, just receiving that paycheck every two weeks for sitting around and watching webisodes of “The Price is Right.” If she left it behind, it was with no regrets – except she’d be the only woman in the office without grounds for a sexual harassment suit. Story of her life: always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Vance glanced over at the 300 pound manatee that he had hired to get TIF financing for his office; he silently thanked her fat ass every time he walked past her desk; she qualified Blowfish for minority, female and disabled status in one fell swoop. On paper, he was running one of the noblest businesses in Chicago. He couldn’t tell if today’s agitated waving was any more significant than any other day, but the flask had made him feel all warm and charitable, so he stopped on his way to the team meeting.
“Missy, you look…”
“Lovely today? Pretty? Almost like someone you’d like to kiss?”
“Concerned. Very concerned. What’s the message?”
“Mr. Willis has been calling; he says you promised him a lunch with the Money Honey for re-upping on the contract.” She handed him a stack of notes. He accepted them and immediately slid them all into the shredder that he had had installed in the front of her desk – just for such occasions. It was situated right below the Blowfish tagline:
“Truth is overrated”
Vance was incredulous that his freight train ride through the morning was being shunted to a side track for something like this. If he didn’t keep one step ahead of the drugs and alcohol, he was lost. He put on his nicest face, but not too nice; he didn’t need this fatty attempting to file some kind of trumped up harassment suit against him like the rest of the gold diggers in the office.
“Let him know that we’re running a communications firm, not a house of prostitution. If he wants to meet Bartiromo, let him fan her on Facebook.”
He turned, shaking his head, and continued with his DOC, Stanley Best, to the War Room.
Vance had poured the first half million of Blowfish profits into a tech playground of a conference room. Window dressing closed deals. He approached the room’s large double glass doors and placed his hand onto the biometric pad; they slid open with a swoosh sound lifted from the audio files of the first season of the original “Star Trek.” A hailing whistle from the same show announced his presence.
The War Room ate up 1500 square feet of his offices. He had purchased the office on the floor above, knocked out the ceiling and added its space to accommodate the War Room’s technology. The War Room was inspired by Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and was ringed with monitors tracking Blowfish initiatives across the globe. The central conference table was an interactive white board with an algorithm that had been programmed to reflect Vance’s thinking. “Good” ideas were automatically stored and the creator received an additional day of pay. Conversely, “bad” ideas were deleted and the author’s pay was docked a day. Enough bad ideas could cost a job, with the newly unemployed technically owing Blowfish money. Most approached the white board with trepidation – however, participation at least once during every meeting was mandatory or would also result in a docked day.
Vance crossed the room to his control chair at the head of the table. He knew all the questions racing through the minds of his staff: What happened with the pitch? How big was the contract? What did they buy, and everyone’s favorite: Are we getting paid this week?
“Don’t everyone talk at once.” He looked to his right at the only staffer one who wasn’t waiting like a Doberman on a raw steak. Jason Mayhew was a former Chicago Tribune reporter who had broken the Emanuel mayoral scandal case, won a Pulitzer Prize and had been unable to write anything else. He was Blowfish’s chief proofreader and slavishly poured over his daily obsession: reviewing the Tribune for errors.
“You will be paid Friday and…” Before Vance could finish the room burst into conversation. His Group of Eight came alive.
“And we have a new client.” He touched his Smartwatch and a scan of the $150,000 check filled all the monitors. “And this is just for the remainder of the month.”
Naomi Stiles believed Vance’s business chatter when it was backed up with one thing: money. And the only reason that she had put up with his bullshit, from drunken gropings to hiding a spycam under her desk, was his uncanny ability to talk clients into campaigns – and then paying her to execute them. She had been the Regional Director of Psy Ops at the CIA; Vance liked her title so much that he allowed her to keep it when he seduced her into resigning from the government and working at Blowfish. Together, they had ridden the edge of every ethical issue relating to dissemination of information, and had concocted things that were still being considered by minor courts. She had been the only member of the Blowfish G8 privy to the VGlobe campaign pitch, and she knew at least two people in the agency who would resign upon hearing the plan.
Naomi depressed a small button on the arm of her chair; a big question mark appeared on the table in front of her.
“Can you tell us the nature of the campaign that we’ll be conducting for VGlobe, Mr. Vance?”
Jack stood up and waved his right arm. The monitors surrounding the room turned red and three black words slowly dissolved onto the screens: SOME WILL DIE.
“Glad you asked Naomi.”
TO BE CONTINUED