The Seeder, Chapter Twenty-Six: Business Advertising

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When it comes to business advertising, the very best kind is free business advertising. When it comes to free business advertising, the very best kind is free online business advertising. Jeremy Boulder, scientist and entrepeneur extraordinaire as well as founder of the Sandfire Glass empire, knew this better than anybody. Every time his firm came under attack by those wishing to gain control of his operation or unearth the secret of his WonderGlass formula, Boulder rejoiced.

There are those who say Sandfire would have come to little or nothing were it not for the strength of its many enemies who posted diatribes against the Boulder dynasty online that went viral. Within less than a decade after the glass company was first launched, Sandfire Glass had become a household name.____Wendell Preston, Business Successes of the Postwar Years, Vol. 3.

The motel he selected was ordinary enough, though like all Nevada facilities, it required guests to show ID. Hardly any other state did such a thing these days, and even the Silver State avoided mentioning it in their business advertising, but the GMA, the Gambling Mecca of America, was weird in a lot of ways. It shouldn’t matter. No one should be studying guest registrations with Sven Jensen in mind.

Besides, he’d be out before daylight.

Which he was, rested and in full disguise despite having tossed and turned fitfully for most of the night. Before turning in, he’d scouted Sandfire’s location and was more than glad he didn’t have to walk around in that neighborhood during nighttime hours.

The early hour was chilly, so his heavy desert camouflage Army jacket didn’t seem out of place. A long black wig kept his ears warmed, and when he parked several blocks from Sandfire, he exited the vehicle with obvious difficulty and walked with a noticeable limp, using a cane to keep his balance. A soft leather headband, sunglasses, worn buckskin gloves, and a bit of Skin Stain Number 27-A, Native American, completed the effect.

He looked like a messed up Indian buck from the Rez, a near cripple with a bum leg.

Sandfire’s present digs occupied the first floor of an old frame building that had seen better days. The only remaining exterior paint consisted of graffiti; this was right in the middle of gang territory, and every gang did its own version of free business advertising on its own turf. Not that he had a clue which gang owned this ‘hood; he could only hope the members were all still down for the count.

Couldn’t really count on that with a tweaker, though, and JJ’s were another matter entirely. A human hopped up on Jovian Joy might sleep for three days or stay up for four as the user played Russian roulette with gelcaps designed to outguess and outmess not only the new user but the experienced Joyhead as well.

You just never knew.

The only constant, or at least semi-constant, seemed to be impaired judgement. Just last Sunday, he and the girls had watched a Criminals Are Crap rerun in which a big fat dude had popped several JJ caps and then gone out to hump a hippo at the local zoo. Tried to hump a hippo. The huge water horse had a different idea.

Point being, you just never knew.

The Joyhead lived through the hippo encounter but without a lot of remaining brainpower. Word had it he was currently employed as a professional pincushion at the Endangered Cholla Project in Arizona. That could be just tabloid talk, though.

Sven made it without incident to the front door and pressed the buzzer.

“Name?”

“Caleb Titan.”

“In.”

The burly man sitting behind a scarred desk in Sandfire’s front office looked formidable indeed. Never mind the walls lined with books and samples of Sandfire glassware. In this place there should one of those signs, the ones that say, Never Mind The Dog; Beware Of Owner! Or, This Place Is Guarded By Shotgun Three Days A Week; You Guess Which Three. Jeremy Boulder resembled his namesake, unmovable as a block of granite with sloping shoulders, little if any neck, and a definitely oversized head from which two snake eyes regarded his visitor as if sizing him up for dinner.

Or a casket

“Jeremy?”

Boulder turned his massive head and spat into an indigo blue cuspidor placed against a wall some ten feet away. His aim was excellent and produced, in addition to the inevitable plop-splat sound, a remarkable note that sounded somehow both metallic and musical. Sandfire glass, no doubt.

“I’m Boulder, all right. But if you think this is some kind of joke, you’re going back outa here short a piece of your scrawny tail.” Clearly, Sandfire’s founder had not expected a crippled old Indian when he’d agreed to meet with Caleb Titan to discuss free business advertising. On the other side of the coin, Sven could easily see this man defying pressure from industry rivals and Feds alike; rent-raising landlords weren’t even in it.

“It’s no joke. Excuse me, though; I do have to ask one question. Is this room secure?”

If anything, J.B.’s eyes became even harder, more suspicious. “Nobody’s bugging this conversation, if that’s what you mean. Unless you’re wearing a wire or one of them fancy wancy implants, in which case you’ll be leaving your privates here along with your gluteous maximus.”

The former Seeder barely kept himself from swallowing nervously. This guy didn’t just look formidable; he was formidable. Two decades of deSeeding every type of rich weirdo in the world had not prepared him for the Sandman, not by a long shot.

Still, he was counted a fair poker player by those who knew him. His voice stayed friendly-neutral, just another chat over coffee between good friends.

“Not wired, no implants. Okay, here we go.” He reached one hand up to his head, keeping the other clearly in view and making no sudden motions while pulling off the wig and headband. These were set aside, along with the sunglasses, gloves, and Army jacket. Only the facial skin stain remained, contrasting starkly with the white of his hands and his light eyes.

“I didn’t consider it exactly prudent to advertise my identity until after we’d had a chance to meet face to face, Mr. Boulder. Though perhaps that does qualify me as a touch paranoid.”

“”I’ll be double dangdamned and rode like a frog in a desert full of horny toads!” Jeremy Boulder threw his huge head back and laughed with hurricane force. “I’ve had people in disguise come popping around here claiming to be on my side, but you’re the first to come in and strip right down like it was our second date! You had me fooled right down to the boils on my hairy butt, you rat bastard! Where the f*** did you get that stain? I want some!”

“Out of the Community Theater Whole Production Catalog.” Jensen smiled carefully. “Oh, and I couldn’t be sure your lines weren’t tapped, so just for the record, my name isn’t Caleb Titan, either. It’s Sven Jensen.” Was this Boulder guy bipolar? A fellow like that could come down from such manic hilarity with a crash…. “Hope you don’t mind the subterfuge.”

This launched the man behind the desk into fresh gales of laughter. “Disapprove? Heh! Hee! Haw! F*** no, I don’t disapprove! You’re the first–Har! Haw! Har!–Hell, three supply companies have sent reps around in the past month. Two of ’em had internal injuries by the time they got to the door on the way out, and the third didn’t make it inside at all. So that makes you the first–Heh! Heh!–business advertising contact to stop by unscathed in a lo-ong time, Bubba.

“Does that mean I get my fifteen minutes to make my presentation? Oh, and um, even if it’s not purely and simply about free business advertising? Though I do think you’ll–”

“S***, Sven–that’s the right name, is it? Yeah? Sven, I’ll give you a f***ing hour if you want it. This is the best entertainment I’ve had in years. Gimme your best pitch.”

“One opening question.”

“Shoot, man. Shoot.” The Sandman’s eyes were no longer cold but warm and mirthful. He was, Jensen realized with something of a shock, someone who might actually have the potential to become a friend.

Scary thought, that.

“Would you consider moving your operation, family and all, to Tonopah?”

“Tonopah?” He wasn’t laughing now. “Let me tell you about Tono-f***ing-pah. A few years back, I was hiking up the hill in that town, the main drag, you know? And I had a little money, but my truck had broken down and I had to leave it. So I started out from the Hungry Gulp with a backpack and a briefcase to hike up to the Station House. You know, to catch a bus the f*** outa there. And let me tell you this: I’ve been all over this Godforsaken planet, traveled them third world countries, in and out of a few EC ghettos and stuff and nowhere. Nowhere. Nowhere has anybody thrown half eaten cheeseburgers out of a passing vehicle at me except in Tono-f***ing-pah. The place is the bunghole of Creation.”

“I agree.”

“You agree?” The Sandfire CEO’s surprise showed. “What kind of sales pitch is that, you agree?”

Sven didn’t bother to explain that agreeing with a prospect is taught as a standard technique in any Sales 101 class whether the product being sold is business advertising or purple-striped zebras. Instead, he simply went for the turnaround.

“Yes, I agree. It’s full of jealous losers and penny-f*** politicians, the scum of the state and several surrounding states besides. The cops are worse than most and so is per capita drug use. Leave a hot motorcycle parked outside overnight and your scoot will be processing in a Mexican chop shop by daylight. So, the question is, would you consider moving there…and getting a whole lot of revenge on a whole lot of people in one swell foop.”

“Well now, Mr. Sven Jensen, how do you propose that might be accomplished?” The gutter-mouth street talk had vanished. Jeremy Boulder was after all an educated man, and he was now listening with both ears.

“Jeremy, my Daddy used to say success is the best revenge. If you live in Tonopah and not only is your business doing well but you can buy the whole town if you want, that’s going to irritate bunches and bunches of people you’d like to irritate.”

“Go on.”

“That recent Journal article said you’re being rent squeezed. True?”

“True enough.”

“I can make your rent troubles disappear.”

The blocky entrepeneur nodded like he’d figured something of the sort. “Keep talking.”

“The other big problem is your basic sand supply. You’re being squeezed there as well.”

“True again.” Boulder’s eyes had taken on a speculative light. This was a man whose measured IQ at the age of eighteen had topped 180; some serious machinery was whirring inside that size 8 skull.

“I can make your sand problems disappear.”

“Keep talking.”

“Better than that.” Sven extracted several sheets of paper from his briefcase and placed them on the desk facing his prospect.

“This one is a sketch of the stone walled Mizpah Hotel as it stands today. No one apparently realizes it yet but me, but when that Jupie bomb impacted the old girl, it generated enough heat to actually fuse the rock walls together into solid slabs. It needs a new roof and interior flooring, but the walls themselves are stronger today than the day it was built. I want the use of the fifth floor and half of the first, though I’ll willingly give up most of the first as well if you like a couple of ideas I have. That gives you very solid wall security and somewhere between three and four times the space you’re currently renting.”

He was rolling now.

“Moving on to these two sheets, here. This one is an aerial photo showing the location of the Mizpah, here, and a currently idle sand and gravel quarry, here, just five miles distant. And this sheet is an analysis of the content of that sand which means nothing to me, but the lab that did the analysis for me said you would know what it meant.”

Silence settled in the room. Sales were often lost by the salesman who couldn’t tolerate quiet; the stain-faced man knew that. He’d said his piece; now it was time to hold his peace. A low hum, some hidden motor he couldn’t quite identify, began to sound louder and louder. Distant Sandfire glass processing, maybe, or a stray appliance in the next room.

Nearly three minutes passed before Jeremy Boulder spoke.

“Very nice. For this I might move business, family, the works. We had a pretty fair offer just last week, but the location is too remote. Have to use wind power, and the towers for those turbines are just too vulnerable. I just might. Depends on the price. I presume you’re the owner, or are you an agent?”

“I own them. My asking price is three percent of Sandfire’s gross profit for the next twenty years.”

“You’re a gambler, Sven Jensen. But you’ve got style, I’ll give you that. No injured Injun ever sold me anything close to this before. You want three percent?”

“That’s my asking.”

“And how much up front?”

“Not a nud.”

“Not–I’ll be double dipped in dog doo. You are a gambler. Tell you what. Instead of three percent for twenty years, I’ll give you two, plus one percent of the company stock after ten–Hell, make that after five years. But how do you know I won’t cook the books so no profit shows at all? Not that hard to do, you know.”

Sven lifted one eyebrow. “A man that’s going to play a crooked game can find a way to load the dice no matter what. Two percent plus the stock works for me if it works for you. We have a deal?”

The burly man answered by turning his head, not this time toward the spittoon but in the other direction, facing a closed door. His voice rang out in a bellow that would have done the Minotaur proud.

“Pete! Ben! Buzz your Mom and tell her to get her black booty in here! Looks like we’re moving this sandforsaken business to Tono-f***ing-pah, lock, stock, and barrel!!”