I’m lying in bed hung over and someone is pounding on the door. There’s only one person who’d pound on the door like that. I better get up and answer it.
I open my eyes. Things are blurry and bright. My mouth is dry and tastes like stale whisky. My head hurts. “Yeah, hold on,” I call out, wincing through the sound of my own voice. I roll up onto the side of the bed and look for my pants. They’re still on me. I’m only missing my shirt.
The pounding resumes. “Hold on, Dima, I’m coming,” I groan and I shuffle across the room. I open the door. “What the fuck—” I try to say, but he pushes past me.
“Where is she? Where is Delilah?” he demands. His eyes are glassy and his nostrils are flared.
“How the fuck should I know?” I ask.
“You were last person she was with, she no show up for work yesterday, and you no answer phone all day and night.” His eyes are locked on me and I realize the seriousness of my predicament.
“Listen, Dima, I don’t know. I brought her back here, I interviewed her, we hung out for a few hours, and I woke up in the morning she was gone.”
“Why you no answer phone all night?” he demands.
“I don’t know. I was drinking. I was depressed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” I say. “If you were that worried, why didn’t you come looking for her last night?”
“I have better things to do than chase runaway whore,” he growls. “Did you fuck her?”
“What?” I ask.
“Did she fuck you?” he demands.
“Uh,” I pause. “I don’t know,” I realize. “I don’t think so.”
“You keep whore here all night and you don’t know if you fucked her?” he inquires.
“We partied pretty hard. I don’t remember much. She came over, I interviewed her, we talked and drank and ordered some coke, and the next thing I remember is waking up and she was gone.”
“Where is tape?” he says, holding out his hand.
“What are you talking about?” I ask.
“You interview her? You record her, no?”
“Oh, yeah,” I admit. “But there’s no tape. It’s all digital.”
“You give it to me,” he growls.
“Yeah, okay, just give me a second. I’ll make you a copy. Do you have a USB stick?” He stares back at me blankly. “Okay, never mind. I probably have one you can take with you,” I say. “So what happened?” I ask ruffling through my desk. “She never came back to the agency?”
“No,” he sneers. “And she’s not been back to her apartment,” he says.
“So why do you think I’d have her?” I ask.
“Delilah likes to do this sometimes,” he says. “We look everywhere else first. You were last person to see her.”
“Wow, I hope she’s okay,” I say.
“She no gonna be okay when I find her,” he says.
“Here you go,” I say handing him a USB key. “The interview is on there.”
“You save me time and tell me what she said,” he says.
“I really don’t remember, Dima,” I chuckle. “It’s all kind of a blur after I left the office.”
“Maybe you drink too much,” he growls, leaning in close.
“Probably,” I concede.
“You see her or hear from her, you call me,” he warns.
“Yeah, no sweat,” I assure him, and he turns and leaves without shutting the door behind him. I bolt it up and start shuffling over to the coffee maker but the phone starts ringing. I find it in the cutlery drawer and have a flashback to putting it there when Vlad wouldn’t stop calling. I hate how things come back to me slowly and wonder what else awaits me as the day goes on. It’s Dorothy calling and my head clears for a moment. “Good morning beautiful,” I answer. “Your timing is perfect,” I smile.
“What the fuck was that?” she asks.
“What are you talking about?”
“That interview,” she says.
“What are you talking about?” I ask.
“It’s seven minutes of you asking her template Mickey Mouse questions, then almost an hour of you pouring your heart and soul out to her,” she says.
“Ooh, yeah,” I recall. “Sorry, I was already drunk when the client dumped her in my lap. Maybe not my best work,” I admit.
“I’d say,” she says. “Your sad and pathetic heartsick diatribes about how your girlfriend left you and your life didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.”
“I’m sorry Dorothy. I fucked that one up. Just bill me for the time—”
“I’m not your shrink, Carl,” she interrupts. “I don’t get paid to listen to your problems.”
“Well think of it as some insight into how these girls work their Johns,” I suggest.
“Whatever, Carl. I’ll have the first batch of posts ready by tomorrow. We can talk about them, then,”
“Okay—” I try saying, but the line goes dead. Now I’m curious about what’s on that recording, so I brew a pot of coffee and queue it up on my laptop. It’s worse than I could imagine. After a few clichéd questions, I’m answering hers and opening up about my darkest regrets. She really is good at her job. She has this caring, reassuring tone that just keeps coaxing me from one secret to another. She really knows how to build trust. I’m a mess. I’m telling her how beautiful she is and how she could do more with her life. She’s telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that she’s going to turn this off and then the recording ends. I’m only on my second cup of coffee and my day is already falling apart. I really don’t need Vlad hearing any of this, but it’s too late now. I wish I hadn’t sent it to Dorothy.
I can’t worry about this now. I have work to do. And if I do it right, agent Harris will take care of Vlad for me. As for Dorothy, well, I’ll just hope she comes around after she cools off – but even if she doesn’t, she’s with someone else and I can’t really expect much from her anyway.
I sigh, check my email. There’s a reply from Jeremy. It reads:
All the major talking points are there, but it’s not really our style. We usually go into a little more depth than this. But let’s try it your way this time and see what happens. See you at 5:45.
Well, that’s it, I guess. It’s a go. Now I just gotta help a bunch of disenchanted mainstream journalists get back in touch with the starry-eyed altruism that pushed them toward their calling in the first place. That, and make them regret not being more in the loop and giving into corporate interests so easily. Easy enough…
I start reaching out to all the influential city bloggers I know of: the scenesters, the foodies, the politicos – all the trendsetters that the journalists already depend on to watch their beat for them. I already know a lot of them personally so reaching out is easy. I drop them a line, tell them there’s this awesome flash mob stunt going down at 5:45 today downtown just as everyone’s getting out of work, and if they’re interested in knowing more, like where and when, to drop me a line and I’ll fill them in.
Just as I email the last one on my list, the first ones start replying for more info. They’re taking the bait. They love a good social media stunt almost as much as they love documenting it. I’m feeling smug and self-satisfied. Without me, Jeremy and his crew would’ve ended up with just a bunch of user-generated cell phone videos: there would’ve been views but no context. Instead, now they’ll have a bunch of influencers pre-loaded with statements and media kits hours before it goes down. They’ll all think they’re breaking the story and, in a way, they all will. They all have different audiences, different communities and different readers, and they’ll look important to them.
It’s about 3pm and I reward myself with a beer – and then another. I haven’t eaten yet today and I’m feeling good. I order in some lunch and take a shower and work on cleaning myself up.
It’s 5pm and I’m almost ready to head down to the flashpoint, so I email all the local journalists with barely any warning about the event. They’ll never make it. They’re too overworked and their beats are already cut for the day. They might not even see my emails until tomorrow morning, but they’ll see the blogger coverage – the videos, the boilerplate statements, the context – and they’ll kick themselves for having missed out on such a scoop. They’ll regurgitate it and they might even reach back out to me for comment, but they’ll definitely pay closer attention the next time I email them. That’s how these things work. That’s how it’s done.