Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – Episode X: Nefarious Opportunity
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. Jack and his team have just liberated their reluctant new host, Vladimir Berber, from a Mexican jail after plying him with psychoactive drugs.
- Episode I here
- Episode II here
- Episode III here
- Episode IV here
- Episode V here
- Episode VI here
- Episode VII here
- Episode VIII here
- Episode IX here
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. Jack has introduced the show’s host, Vladimir Berber, to the executives from VGlobe, in an over the top and highly convincing fashion. Vance proposes launching the new program against the Super bowl and agrees to take 15% of the advertising revenue sold around the launch in lieu of any current and future fees.
Vance wished that there was something in the elevator between himself and Berber besides air. The man who had just thrown a chair through a 50 story office window and then dangled someone out of it was as calm as if he had spent the day meditating with the Dali Lama. This man could devour a pew full of nuns then lead a prayer service while picking their flesh out his teeth with their fingernails. When would this beast devour Vance’s leash and his arm along with it? Vance eyed the elevator. He wanted to put some people and distance into the equation.
“How you feeling Vlad?”
Berber turned and put his hand on Vance’s shoulder. The smaller man almost fainted.
“Isn’t that what you wanted Executive? Fear, compassion? Are you comfortable with the edge?”
Vance responded with his scared-shitless autopilot catchphrases, “You’re a natural Vlad. We’re going places with this.”
The elevator slid open and Vance felt the cool rush of lobby air pushing back the rivulets of sweat gathering under his brow. He was just glad the police weren’t waiting for them and tugged his lobe, calling Naomi Stiles at the Blowfish offices. He ‘thought’ his call to her, instead of speaking out loud.
“Get over the Berber’s hotel room and bring the doctor along. He almost turned a PowerPoint presentation into a murder scene. I’m putting him in a cab now. I’ll send you a video of the scene, let the doc figure out what to do. Take him to dinner at Trotter’s new place; I’ll be there at nine.” And he shook Berber’s hand, told him they’d meet for dinner and headed to the nearest bar. Vance’s hands were shaking so much he wasn’t sure what kind of drugs he’d need to calm down.
New York City: The offices of Drab and Associates
Agness was becoming accustomed to his cubicle, and that was a bad thing. It had been a week since he had seen Roger Drab at anything but a distance. In the marketing world it didn’t take long to connect with people who had known former Blowfishers and he’s started to mingle with the staff. He’d even gone out for beers after work one evening with a few of them and told some of his favorite Vance stories. The scuttlebutt was that he was working on a special project for Drab, which excused him from any other client obligations. But that hadn’t stopped him from poking his nose into a few meetings and throwing out some suggestions. Even though he wasn’t being paid to be creative, he was a creative director, God damnit.
It almost seemed like a real job, but it wasn’t. He had been ‘hired’ for one thing: develop a plan to destroy Jack Vance. But that plan was nowhere. He had been rolling the clues of Vance’s program around in his head, but they still added up to nothing. Vance had kicked him out of the Blowfish conference room before he heard the whole pitch. Like a poor hangman player, he had three letters and a whole lot of blanks to fill. Agness went over it again: Vlad Berber, a reality show about losing weight and the name: Some Will Die. What the hell did it mean? His phone rang and Drab’s angry face filled his mind. Was this it? He answered without looking at the screen.
“Tom, it’s Bill, Bill Neville.”
Agness stopped – his days at Blowfish seemed like a dim high school memory at this point. Had it only been a week?
“Bill? How the hell are you? You gonna get your ass reamed if Vance finds out you’re calling me. You at the office?”
“No, I’m in New York. I quit Blowfish an hour after you were fired. I’m radioactive in Chicago – no one will touch me. I need something Tom. Heard you were working for Drab. Maybe there’s…”
“You said an hour after? So you heard the program?”
“Yeah, made me sick. That’s why I quit. Sickest thing I ever heard. Vance is over the edige on this one and I think he put out the word on me. So maybe there’s something at Drab.”
Agness asked Neville to meet him over at the Algonquin Hotel bar, hung up the phone, pulled his one remaining credit card with any balance left out of his desk and headed for the elevator. He practically bounded to the Algonquin, his exuberance defying the laws of gravity. This was it. With Vance’s plan he could develop a scheme. He was creative, after all.
Neville wasn’t at the bar; Agness found him sunk deeply into one of the overstuffed chairs in the lounge, his posture reflecting his mindset. He clutched a stained paper Starbucks cup like an anal retentive child clinging to a piece of a toilet paper. Agness would have to change Neville’s chemical makeup if he expected to get anywhere.
“You look great Bill,” Agness sat and signaled for a waitress. Neville awoke and was suddenly all elbows and knees on the edge of his seat.
“You think there’s something at Drab, Tom? I’m not cut out for this whole unemployment/job search thing. You landed there right away, they must be hiring.”
“Yeah – if they hired me they’d hire anybody, right? Sure, they’re hiring.”
“I didn’t mean…”
“I know. You’re excited and you’re scared. So was I. But you have an inside edge now. You have me.” The waitress appeared and Agness ordered two Belvedere martinis.
“So you could get me in there…maybe at the same level I was at? I don’t think I could take a demotion Tom, I really don’t.
Agness let the moment breathe. He sat back in his seat.
“Pity you can’t smoke inside – like the good old 90’s – eh? I could really use a cigarette about now. How about you Bill?”
“They use the same titles over there? I mean I was the Group Supervisor, I guess that’s like a Director level at Burnett. So what would they call me at Drab?”
Agness fished around in his pocket and pulled out a thin rolled smartphone. He laid it out in his palm in front of Neville.
“You seen the iPhone 12 yet? Amazing for a handheld, takes an incredible photo with the retinal sync.” Agness slowly donned a pair of Apple branded sunglasses and blinked his right eye. A photo of a very clenched up Neville appeared on the flexible phone lying on his hand. Neville’s vanity briefly overrode his employment obsession.
“Not the most flattering, but the 3D is sort of amazing. Now about…”
The drinks arrived and Agness picked his up, indicating that a toast was in order.
“To the new Drab and Associates Group Supervisor, Director of all things written. Just meet me at the office in the morning and I’ll get you all squared away.” Neville looked at him for a second, smiled, and picked up his glass. The tension flowed out of his body as he drained the entire four ounces of vodka. Agness took a sip and put his glass down.
“Now tell me about Some Will Die, Bill.”
45 minutes later Agness was hoofing it across Midtown towards Penn Station. It was 11:00 PM, too late to get a flight but just in time to catch a train. He had left a giddy Bill Neville at the Algonquin bar, with instructions for the waitress to keep feeding him drinks until his $100 deposit ran out.
Agness’ plan had started to develop as Neville unpacked Vance’s program. Agness would have pointed out the fragility of the whole campaign at the launch meeting – if he hadn’t been fired. Now he was going to be the hammer at the door of the glass castle. Jesus – hadn’t anyone thought out the repercussions of a program based on hate? Vance wasn’t that shortsighted. There was something else in play here. Something he didn’t know, but would. And it didn’t matter. He knew enough to take this whole thing apart, deliver Vance’s head to Drab and take over the Blowfish offices. With any luck he’d watch the Super Bowl from Vance’s own desk. That would be justice – creative justice.
He entered Penn Station, made his way to the ticket counter and purchased a round trip for the midnight train to Washington DC. He had a little time to kill so he picked up what he’d need for the next day’s work: a pre-gelled toothbrush, disposable razor, one shot of Kenneth Cole Black cologne, a pint of Absolute and a few breath mints. He grabbed up a copy of the Washington Post and found the cleanest bench he could on the freshest smelling car on the train. Agness settled in, pulled his iPhone from his pocket and sent Neville’s photo to the building security station in the lobby of Drab and Associates’ building with the message:
“If this man approaches and asks for entrance to Drab and Associates, call the police. He has been harassing our offices and we fear that he may be dangerous. Please call me if he shows up so I’ll know it’s safe to go to work.”
And he sat back and sipped his vodka. He had some time to kill.
Somewhere in the Chicago Loop:
Vance didn’t know where the afternoon had gone, but wherever it was; his shakiness had gone along with it. He lurched out of whatever bar he had wound up at and tried to focus on his watch. That didn’t work, so he touched a recessed button on the side of the case. The watch informed him that it was 0400 GMT. That meant 10:00 CST, translation: he was at least an hour late for dinner with Vlad, the doctor and Naomi. He flagged down a cab and tripped into the back seat. As he began to slide down to the floor his phone rang. He tugged on the wrong ear, then the right one.
“Jack? You alright Jack?”
“It’s Chloe – the girl waiting for you in Paris – remember? I had a dream – there was a ripple in the Force. And it involved you.”
“A ripple in the forest?”
“The Force Jack. You know – Star Wars – the Force – that Force. It means something bad.”
Jack became slightly more lucid when he realized that a woman was calling. He paused, attempting to push the alcohol out of the way of his thoughts.
“Oh, I am sure that several bad things are about to happen tonight. Nice to hear your voice.”
“This one is big Jack. Watch out.”
He wasn’t sure if she hung up or if his head banging against the side of the door when the cab lurched to a stop had ended the call. Either way he had arrived at dinner in a state of symmetrically drunken steadiness that would suppress his newfound fear of his soon to be reality star, Vlad Berber. He exited the cab, attempted to smooth out his alcohol ruffles and strode to the table he knew they be sitting at – the one in the dark, North corner alcove. Vlad Berber, holding a very large knife over a slab of rare meat, looked at him coldly.
“You late executive. I not important to you?”
And suddenly Vance felt almost sober, which meant the shakes were coming on again. He needed a drink.
TO BE CONTINUED.