Blowfish: A Private Life in Pubic Relations – Episode VI “Mexico Bound”
Blowfish: A private life in public relations
Recap: Jack Vance, the colorful CEO of Blowfish Communications, has been hired to engineer the launch of VGlobe a new online video network. He has just explained the premise of a program that will put the network on the map: “Some Will Die” – a reality weight loss program engineered to render all contestants dead. Their proposed host, Vladimir Berber, is being held in a Mexican jail. Vance and a team are heading down to Mexico to free him.
Tom Agness knew that if he waited long enough the hermit crab would emerge from its shell. He had spent most of the early Winter afternoon in the window of the Westin bar, drinking what was left of his Blowfish corporate Amex card before it was shut off. Let that picky little b**** Peggy classify this under the ‘f*** off Jack’ expense category. But his patience and high tolerance for good liquor on someone else’s tab had paid off. He spied Vance, scurrying out of the 175 East Delaware side of the building, with officer “Pup” Chuck in tow. Something was up.
Agness flagged down his waitress, signed for a $1200 bar bill, added a $500 tip and slipped the card into the waitress’s hand. “Go buy yourself something nice across the street,’ he nodded in the direction of Neiman Marcus, winked, grabbed her and gave her a deep kiss. She didn’t resist. Every woman has her price, it’s just a matter of finding it, Agnoff thought to himself, impressed with his own naively clichéd observation. A little more time and privacy and that tip might turn into…but he had business to do. He hailed a cab just as Vance and Chuck entered one. The game was afoot.
“We need to pick someone up at 200 South LaSalle, then we’re heading out to O’Hare. And turn that music down.” Jack blew his directions at the driver, wondering what native tongue was spoken in the cab when he was alone and talking on his cell phone. Vance saw the man punch the hyper-local address into his GPS and rolled his eyes. Any cabbie who couldn’t navigate an address less than a mile away was probably part of former Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s Right to Drive program, which allowed anyone from any country with a foreign cab driver’s license to become a US citizen by driving for the city of Chicago for a year. Of course, this was after the former Mayor had launched a city taxi service, with fixed rates for all fares, effectively castrating the private cab services.
Emanuel had balanced the city budget with the windfall of revenue, but lost the next election by a landslide. Chicago’s sausage eating Grabowski population didn’t take kindly to saying goodbye to generational favorites Flash, Royal and Yellow Cab in exchange for the city’s new “Little Green Chicago Machine” service.
Vance touched his ear, ringing up Stu Gould, his longtime pub slithering partner and the Blowfish corporate attorney.
“Buddy, you got anything cooking this afternoon?”
“Yea, lots. I’m testing a new Aston over at Continental Motors then heading out on Joel’s boat. He’s got a few hotties lined up. A 42 year old and a …”
“We’ll be downstairs to pick you up in five minutes. Got a job, double time for you.”
“Double standard hourly?”
“Yeah. As of now, start timing.”
“How long? Joel’s launching at 5:00. I just picked up the Belvedere.”
“Bring it along. We’ll need it. And wear a suit, tropical. And your passport, grab it.”
“Suit? We’re doing business?”
Jack hung up and called Naomi at his office. She had secured a charter to Mexico. The trip, with a jet standing by to take them back, was $15,000. He would probably have to pay Gould another three grand for his time. Vance rang Sidney Brill at VGlobe.
“Sidney? It’s Vance. Listen – the program is coming along great and we’ve found our host. Only thing is he needs an advance. And we have some expenses. That’s right, already. We move fast here. Anyway I’m going to need $70,000 transferred to my account. I’ll have Naomi send the numbers over.” Pause. “The $150,000 was for the idea Sidney, and moving the ball to this point; for the intellectual property that you will own. This money, the additional $70,000, is for making it happen.” Pause. “Steep? We’re just getting started. I can always return the $150,000 and we’ll sell the idea to someone else, like NBC.” Pause. “OK. Yes we need the cash today. Yes I will keep you posted. Yeah, bye.”
Every client played this little game when it came to expenses; the ‘oh, I didn’t know that wasn’t part of the retainer’ dance. God, Vance was sick of it. Did they think the ideas were free? He wasn’t being paid to deliver the same kind of meat and potatoes tripe that was the bread and butter of most agencies. As far as Vance was concerned he was going to make VGlobe into a household name, and that was worth almost every penny of the venture money his client had just received. Balking at expenses? He had just thrown the flag up on the meter and they were about to jump on the Autobahn.
Gould was predictably late, emerging from his office ten minutes after scheduled. As usual, he wore the ‘awe shucks’ smile that had served to cover everything from marital infidelities to debt welching. Somehow he made it work. Gould was around Jack’s age, but obsessed with balancing vice with health. He truly felt that he could offset his daily consumption of a fifth of alcohol and prescription painkillers with a discipline of kelp enemas, Metamucil, vitamins, free range chicken and wild caught fish. He piled into the back of the taxi with Vance and Chuck.
“Where we going, Bud?”
“F***, they have some great weed down there. And hookers. I should be paying you. We got business, too?”
“Yeah, we got lots of business.”
“Mexico. I can’t practice there.”
“Don’t let the Mexicans know.”
“So what’s the gig?”
“Tell you on the plane. Snort?” Vance pulled his flask from his packet, remembered that it was empty and instructed the driver to make a stop at Binny’s Beverage Depot on Grand Avenue. The driver stopped to punch in the address.
“Enough already – just go West on Wacker, North on Wells and East on Grand.” Vance directed in exasperation. The driver looked back at him and asked, in highly accented semi-English.
Gould looked over at Chuck.
“You still carry that sweet Sig?”
The thing that pissed Agness off the most about trailing Vance was the fact that he was paying for the ride with his own money. First they picked up that professional party attorney Gould, followed by the obligatory stop at Vance’s supermarket, the liquor store, and now they were taking God knows what route to O’Hare. They had driven past the commercial terminals and through to the private jet center, Signature Flight Support. It would be hard to blend in with the limited traffic around the private facility. He had the cab drop him near the outside of the low building and followed on foot.
Agness entered the bright Lobby as Vance and company were exiting out to the jetway. He could see the nose of their rented Learjet 40. They had booked through Stratos Jet Services, a company Vance had used in the past. Pricey, but they had the best pilots and newest planes. He waited until they boarded then walked up to the charter desk. A matter of fact guy in an officially unofficial looking blue utility shirt manned the post. Agness nodded at Vance’s jet.
“Can you tell me where that charter’s off to? “
“No. Dat’s private. You with the party?”
“Uh, no. Not officially, not with the party.”
“So you wanna book a charter?”
“Yes. Yes, I’d like some preliminary information on booking a charter. Where do you fly?”
The blue shirt guy thumbed his nose at a map of the world behind him.
“Anywhere you wanna to go.”
“I want to go where they’re going.”
Blue shirt paused before answering. “And where is that?”
Agness hated these moments. This guy was a firewall to information that he needed and he was fucking up the interview. At this point, the conversation was going nowhere. Agness picked a brochure off the table and slide to the side of the counter.
“I’ll just let you know. Thanks.”
“You do that and we figure it out.”
Gould, Chuck, the trip to the airport, it had to be connected with the VGlobe launch. What the hell else could it be? Agness pulled a small flexible screen out of the side of his metal wallet and laid it on the counter. He summoned up a listing of his accounts. His live-for-the moment lifestyle played out in the numbers. He had maybe 10 grand in credit, a couple more in the bank and was looking at a $7K nut due in just a couple of days. Between his condo payment (an Old Towne studio, small but THE address), BMW payment (it may be pre-owned but it’s a CERTIFIED pre-owned, thank you), Harley payment (an entry level Sportster, but to the chicks it was still a Harley, OK), student loans (why his parent’s weren’t paying for this was something he could never fathom), credit card payments and the $100 a month he put towards savings (it’s the responsible thing to do), Agness needed a new income stream fast. There was one surefire way to turn a bunch of possibilities into a new job.
He headed for the commercial terminals and found the Jet Blue desk in Terminal 3. He knew that an on the spot ticket was the most expensive way to fly but he really had no choice. Good thing there was still enough of Vance’s liquor in his system to soften the blow. The first station was open; he approached the appropriately blond-and-blued desk attendant.
“I’d like a one way ticket to LaGuardia. Next flight,” he asked the paid-to-be perky Jet Bluette.
“That will be in three hours. Best price in coach is $550.”
“What about business class?”
“$1100. And I have one seat left.”
What the hell. Might as well go out in style.
Agness burned through what was left on one of his Visa cards for this flight. At least he earned some miles for the effort. He accepted his ticket and his boarding pass.
“And where’s the nearest bar?’
The Jet Bluette desk nodded at the security gates.
”You’ll find a selection of bars and restaurants right through security, Mr. Agness.”
And Agness headed into the security line. He tapped the phone in his ear and thought 411. He wasn’t one of those guys who spoke into his phone out loud, like Vance. He could control his thoughts. An automated operator’s voice popped into his head.
“City and state?”
He thought: “Manhattan, New York.”
“What listing please?”
“Drab and Associates”
“There was a pause and a pleasant voice answered the phone. Agness decided to switch to physical mode for this conversation, you know, just in case.
“Drab and Associates”
“I’d like Roger Drab please.”
“Who’s calling please?”
“Tom Agness, former Creative Director for Blowfish Public Relations in Chicago. Please tell Roger that it’s imperative that I meet with him this afternoon and emphasize the word former.”
“Emphasize? Like how?”
””I have important information for Mr. Drab.”
“And you want that emphasized as well?”
“Yes. Just tell him that Tom Agness is no longer with Blowfish and wants to talk.”
“And emphasize all of it?”
“One moment please.”
Agness was becoming increasingly agitated. Had he blown this conversation as well? What was wrong with him today? He arrived at the security checkpoint as the receptionist came back on. He fumbled with his wallet and ID while an impatient TSA screener held out his hand. His look said these things were supposed to be ready in advance of standing at the podium.
“I’m sorry sir, but Mr. Drab is booked for the day. Can you give me a number that he can reach you?
“Tell Roger Drab that I can help him get business from Blowfish – Blowfish clients I mean. And I am bringing him that information now.”
“Are you checking through sir?” Asked the screener. Agness thrust his wallet and boarding pass at the man with the blue gloves on.
”You need to remove your ID sir. Per the sign.” Agness was sliding his Illinois driver’s license from his wallet when he heard Roger Drab’s voice in his head.
“This is Roger Drab. What can I do for you, Mr. Agness?” Agness moved past the guard and started taking off his shoes, pants and jacket. The new TSA regulations required that you walk through the screening gate in your underwear and socks.
“This is Tom Agness, Mr. Drab. I just left Blowfish as their chief creative director and would like to meet with you concerning information that may help you acquire new clients. Clients that are currently with Blowfish.”
“Are you proposing that Drab and Associates take existing accounts from another agency, Mr. Agness?”
“Something like that.”
“As in you have information that will help us…move them over, correct?”
Agness, standing in his underwear in the middle of a TSA scanning device, wasn’t sure if he had blown his third conversation this morning or had sparked Drab’s attention. He decided, in the midst of this booze infused alcoholic quandary that the plain old honest truth was the best defense.
“Not move them, steal them. I want to help you steal accounts from Blowfish.”
Pause. Agness felt his heart beating faster.
“You’re done please move along,” another screener roused him from his state, prodding him to move from the bent over position in the TSA cavity probe microwave scatter device and out to the dressing area. He was clearly clean, inside and out.
“Alright Mr. Agness, we can discuss something like that. When can you be in my office?”
“I’m getting on a plane now. I’ll be there by three.” Drab rang off. That was his style – none of that Vance love/hate stuff. You either had what Drab wanted or you didn’t. Agness looked around for the nearest bar while he pulled his clothes back on. He needed a f**king drink.
Vance reclined in his seat while the plane left his unloved, temporary host city behind. This was his second favorite view of Chicago, from 30,000 feet, dropping away in the distance. His right finger vibrated, the tiny sensor that he had had implanted indicated that he was receiving a private message. A little screen blinked into his field of view on his Linux enabled limited edition Oakley sunglasses. It was a response from one of the women that he had been following on DNADate.com, a dating site that only allowed you to communicate with people who had a similar genetic profile. It was the 30-whatever, who cares anyway, sandy blond with the vague background that had sent her all over the world. Maybe she was private security?
After six months of random back-and-forths, she was finally revealing her real first name and initiating a conversation. She was still just a talking static image however; not comfortable enough to move to the live video stage.
“You said cocktails not coffee; where do you want to meet?”
Vance thought about his response, careful to compartmentalize it before sending. “Depends on the city; hopefully not Chicago.”
“Well, I’m in Paris now, does that measure up?”
“From what I’ve seen in the movies. Maybe you can show me around?”
“How is tomorrow night?”
“I’m sort of on an open ended assignment. Can we touch base in couple of days?”
Vance suddenly regretted using that term.
“Touch base? Is this a business lunch?”
“I’m just messing with you, Jack. I can call you Jack, right?”
And Vance mused on the power of DNA. It was something he would have said.
“Only if I can call you…” He had forgotten her name.
“It’s Beatrix. But call me Chloe. I never liked Beatrix. And as for the rain check – sure, I’ll contact you.” And she ended the call. That marked twice in one day that Vance called himself an a-hole.
TO BE CONTINUED