Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – Episode VIII – “Short Trips”
Blowfish: A private life in public relations – Episode VIII – “Short Trips”
Recap: Jack Vance, the colorful CEO of Blowfish Communications, has been hired to engineer the launch of VGlobe a new online video network. The cornerstone of his launch campaign is Some Will Die, a reality weight loss program engineered to render all contestants dead. Their proposed host, Vladimir Berber, has just been release from a Mexican jail on manslaughter charges but refuses to leave his cell. Meanwhile, Tom Agness, Blowfish’s former Chief Creative Director has an axe to grind with Vance and has engineered a plan to trump Vance’s launch and sold it to Vance’s competitor, Roger Drab of Drab and Associates, in exchange for a job.
Vance needed an insanity break. He sat down on the dirty wooden bench next to Berber, pulled out his recently refilled flask and took a long draw. He had seen Berber’s “guilt by association with himself” shtick before and didn’t have the time to talk him back off the ledge.
“You can’t stay here Berber, can he Commandant?”
Regus shook his head.
“I can have the guards drag him out now, we dump him outside the door or in your trunk, whatever you want.”
Berber tightened. The old menace that made him famous flashed across his eyes and charged through his muscles. It was palpable; Vance could feel it. That’s what he was looking for. Berber tucked his chin and rose into a natural fighting stance. At 6’5” the man was a giant, he was made for violent reality TV, and that was about it.
“First man who touches me, I tear off his arm. Second man, I feed the arm to him. Who is hungry here?” Chuck rose, his arm slipping to his side, which Gould took as a cue to back out the door. Maybe carrying a gun wasn’t such a great idea after all. Regus’ two guards were already in the hallway; nobody wanted to tangle with the Russian beast.
“Relax Vlad, you’re a free man, you can’t stay here. Why not come with us and we can talk it over.”
Vlad looked up at Vance.
“It was men like you made me what I am: hated…a killer. I can’t go anywhere, do anything. Everyone afraid of me. You took my life and left me with guilt. For what? For ratings? And I went along for the life. I think I don’t deserve anything but pain anymore. That is my world, Executive. I’ll walk until my feet bleed, then take my punishment in the desert. ” He sat and folded his eyes. Vance stood and walked over to Regus. He handed him a $100 bill.
“This should cover him for a night’s stay. Let’s talk.” And they exited the cell.
Vance put his arm over Regus’ shoulder and started walking him away from where Chuck and Gould were standing with the guards. He spoke quietly.
“Can you somehow heat that room up, without Berber knowing it?”
Regus considered the odd request. Vance was a businessman with a free flowing wallet, and he was a typical American pig. Let the Russian and American pigs eat each other, as long as he profited from their mutual misery. He whistled for a guard and instructed him to place space heaters against the wall of the adjacent cell.
“Do you keep confiscated contraband here, Commandant?” Vance asked.
“Evidence must be maintained until trials, of course.”
“Could I see the room?”
“Why, Mr. Vance?”
“Motivation, Mr. Regus. I believe that your room may hold the motivation that Mr. Berber needs to leave your jail with me.”
Regus studied the American for a good ten seconds. He could put him in the cell next to Berber just for asking such questions. But where was the profit in that? The answer was clear; let him have what he wanted as long as he was willing to pay for it.
“We keep the confiscated materials down the hall. Let’s walk, maybe you’ll find the motivation you seek.”
As they walked through the strangely quiet corridors, Vance marveled at the kind of fate that geography had spared him. There but for a joint go I, he mused.
“I will show you the room. What you do there is your own business. And the charity appreciates any donations, of course,” Regus whispered as they approached a guarded metal door. He shooed the guard away. Vance pulled $500 out of his pocket and handed it to Regus, who opened the door. He put his hand on Vance’s arm.
“Be careful what you pick Mr. Vance, there are many forms of motivation to be found in there, some not what they may seem.”
Vance found himself alone in a long, narrow, steel shelved room that could have been the cover of the year for High Times Magazine. Bales of confiscated marijuana were ringed with large clear plastic bags of cocaine. But that’s not what he was looking for. He approached an examining table filled with hundreds of small plastic boxes of chemical evidence of wrongdoing. As he rummaged through the packages, squinting carefully at the labeled contents, something caught his eye. A large quart container of white powder with an old white label that read “Carlos Escobar, personal;” to Vance this was like finding the Holy Grail. He carefully opened the lid on what he deduced to be the drug lord’s private stash, fished in a finger and helped himself to a good sized snort. Even though this supply might have been almost 30 years old, it had enough kick to buzz him to clarity. He had another, and another. Within 60 seconds, his mission was clear.
Fifteen minutes later Vance exited the room. Regus was nervously waiting outside the door, distinctly alone on the corridor.
“This remains between us, senor.”
“Of course, commandant. Now let’s get your guest checked out. I’ll probably need a couple of your men to help me.”
It had been a good half hour since the heaters had been put next to Berber’s cell. Vance knocked on the door. Waited, then let himself in. As a free man, Berber’s cell remained unlocked. Chuck and Gould were standing at the end of the corridor with the guards, playing cards, using bullets for markers.
Vance loosened his tie and sat down next to Berber. The room was stifling.
“Hot in here. Shit; you want to stick around for this?”
“It gets that way here, Mr. Executive.”
“Call me Jack.” Vance extended his hand; Berber reluctantly shook it. In the back of his reptilian brain Berber knew that everyone was potentially an asset, it was just a matter of when.
Vance pulled his flask from his pocket; he motioned towards Berber.
The word caught Berber’s ear and stuck.
“Russian Dovgan?” He hadn’t so much as heard the name “Dovgan” uttered or tasted the national spirit for years.
“I have a friend brings it back from St. Petersburg. Best thing for the heat, eh? Of course you don’t have to have any. You can just sit here and sweat and feel sorry for yourself.”
Predictably Berber accepted the flask, took a sip, assented to the authenticity of the beverage, and proceeded to drain the flask. He wiped his mouth.
“You have good taste, Executive. Maybe you not so full of shit.”
Vance hadn’t counted on Berber downing the entire 12 oz. flask. He had mixed some of the rare DMT that he found with MAOI to allow for oral ingestion. The combination would yield an intense metaphysical high that would leave Berber open to suggestion and was known to have lingering psychic effects. It also generated strong erotic reactions; Vance hoped that he could complete his mission and get Berber out of this cell before the bear started humping his leg. The drug ramped up quickly; its full effects would be felt for hours, and this dosage could keep Berber out for a day…if it didn’t kill him.
Berber prided himself on his situational awareness, it was strange that he hadn’t noticed Vance was glowing. Like an angel, Vance had an ethereal, warm, welcoming firefly light gently leeching out of his skin and shimmering on his suit. It made Berber feel good, and he hadn’t felt good in a long, long time. He handed him the empty flask back. No need to keep something that belonged to this glowing man.
“Can I open the door for you Vlad? Maybe it will cool things off.” Vance rose and Berber watched him. He didn’t want the Executive to leave. Vance returned to Berber’s bench and sidled up to him.
“Let’s talk about the future, Vlad. I want to put you back on TV. I want to help you help people. Is this something that we can talk about Vlad, or should I just leave you alone in this cell?” Vance feigned standing. Berber pulled him back down. He didn’t really didn’t want the glowing man to leave him in this cell. His tongue felt like a muddy lizard tail dragged through recently vomited fur balls.
“I hate this cell. I hate these people and everyone in the world hates me. I haven’t felt love in years.”
“We can change all that, Vlad. Let me help you become…popular again.” The glowing man was emanating warmth. Vlad liked what he was hearing. Maybe he had something for him. He was sick of this cell and these people and this damn heat. He missed being popular and he really liked that vodka. Berber stood up, grabbing Vance by the waist and hoisting him over his shoulders. The Executive felt like a warm scarf. It was time to leave. Berber took a step forward and felt his leg stretch. He looked down. His legs had turned into slithering octopus arms, with thick, wet suction cups adhesed to the hot stone floor. He gently lowered Vance down to the floor in front of him and pointed to his feet.
“We stuck, Executive.”
Within two hours Vance and his team were exiting Texas airspace on their flight North. Berber was strapped into a seat, long gone on the drug cocktail, which was rapidly increasing in hallucinogenic potency it worked its way through Berber’s system.
“He must be having a great time in there,” Gould said to Chuck, nodding at Berber’s obvious arousal.
“Thanks for reminding me, I’ll take my gun back now counselor,” Chuck responded, with an open hand. Gould sheepishly fished the Cobra from his waistband and handed it to the security agent.
Vance was on the phone in the plane’s small lavatory, sniffing more of Escobar’s private stash. He was speaking with Naomi Stiles at Blowfish; it was critical that the stage was properly set for the moment when Berber reentered the world. He needed complete buy-in for program success.
“Dig up everything you can find about Berber from his first season on Survivor. His clothes, where he lived, what he ate, what he drank. Get him a room at the Four Seasons. And I want him to be receiving a massage when he wakes up. He needs to feel like he just stepped out of the pool after a good night of drinking and f**king. We’re going to make the whole Mexican adventure into a dream and the dream into his new reality. Got it?”
“Yes Mr. Vance, drinking and fornicating.”
“I said f**king. There’s a difference.”
“I’m trying to help you cut down on some of the abusive language Mr. Vance. Drinking and fornicating.”
“If he was trying to make babies he’d be fornicating, Ms. Stiles. But that’s not what the host of Some Will Die does with his evenings. He F***S, Ms. Stiles. Frequently and with abandon. We’re in the language business Ms. Stiles – colorful or not we’re paid to use the right words!”
“OK sir, one night of imaginary drinking and f**king coming up.”
And Vance rang off, considered his rare stash, and determined that properly rationed, it might see him through to the end of this god damn campaign.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT FRIDAY