The client generously consented to one final practice interview. He left muttering about persecution and complaining of the indignity of having to fly back to Memphis via commercial aircraft. Terry had sternly forbade him the company jet. Tomorrow, the client would spend an hour in a soup kitchen ladling out faux humanity to Memphiss wretched, an act of conspicuous compassion that would be inconspicuously video-recorded by one of his aides. If Corporate Crime Scene declined to air it, perhaps it might come in handy down the linesay, during sentencing deliberation. Cass sent him off with a DVD of his practice interviews. With any luck, theyd cause him to jump out his corner office window.
Cass wanted to go home to her apartment off Dupont Circle, nuke a frozen macaroni-and-cheese, pour herself a goldfish bowlsize glass of red wine, put on her comfy jammies, get under the covers, and watch reruns of Law & Order or Desperate Housewives or even the new reality show, Green Card, in which illegal (but good-looking) Mexicans had to make it across the U.S. border, past the Border Patrol and minutemen and fifty miles of broiling desert, to the finish line. The winner got sponsorship for a green card and the privilege of digging ditches in some other broilingor, if he was lucky, frigidpart of the country.
Yes, that would be lovely, she thought, then realized with a pang that she hadnt posted anything on her blog since before work that morning. There was an important Senate vote on Social Security scheduled for that day. She hadnt even had time to glance at CNN or Google News to see how it had turned out.
The light was on in Terrys office. She entered and collapsed like a suddenly deflated pool toy into a chair facing his desk.
Without turning from his computer screen, Terry said, Let me guess. You had a wonderful, fulfilling day. He continued to type as he spoke.
Terry Tucker had built a successful PR firm, Tucker Strategic Communications, on the premise that those with a debatable claim to humanity will pay through the snout to appear even a little less deplorable. Terry had represented them all, from mink ranchers to toxic waste dumpers, dolphin netters, unzipped politicians, makers of obesity-inducing soft drinks, the odd mobster, and pension fund skimmers. Terry had apprenticed under the legendary Nick Naylor, at the now defunct Tobacco Institute. Cass had been with the firm for eight years. Terry had promoted her quickly, given her regular raises, and promoted her to partner. Hed never once made a pass at her. He treated her like a kid sister or niece.
Jesus, Terry. Where do you find these clients? In Dantes Inferno?
He kept typing. Huh?
The mans . . .Ive seen more sympathetic people on the E! Channels True Hollywood Stories.
Terrys fingers went on clickety-clicking. This war criminal, as you put it, is a client of Tucker Strategic Communications. Someday, if all the crap we learned in Sunday school is correct, he will answer to a higher authority. Higher even than a morally superior twenty-nine-year-old PR chick. In the meantime, our job as strategic communicators is to
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I justcouldnt we find like maybe just one client who wasnt . . .I dont know . . .
Well . . .yeah. Basically.
Terry stopped typing, leaned back in his leather chair, massaged the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger, exhaled pensively. Theatrically, the gesture was just shy of a sigh.
Do you know what Im working on right now? What I was working on, before you came in to do an existential download?
Copyright © 2007 by Christopher Taylor Buckley
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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