Downtown, midday, overcast.
Tia mulled over the presentation while working on her last cigarette. The numbers were bad and the stakeholders already accepted one delay. A third shot of espresso was helping to calm her nerves and headache, until the phone rang violently.
It was Simmons.
First ring. For his display photo, she fittingly picked a clamoring chimpanzee in a suit. Second ring. She stamped out her half-finished cigarette with her three-inch heel and paused to breathe. Third ring. Her navy blue thumbnail hovered over the Reject button. Reason and mirages of her commission set in.
“Bad news, babe! Newest client dropped their skirts- shares. We’re down 37%!”
“They already agreed on 40% this quarter.”
“I know, babe. I’m changing the slides now and’ll send you everything when I’m done with the job. This really blows. I won’t get a nice coffee break outside before the presentation. If you have any curves or saving graces, now’d be the time to bang on their doors! This really sucks!”
“Alright, already. Let me call you back.”
Tia sucked out the last of the coffee, spit the cold poison back in the cup, and set it down. No more smokes. She glanced down the side streets to make sure no one could see her desperately digging out a forgotten note from a hidden pocket in her expensive purse. The crumpled napkin had a phone number written in blood red lipstick.
“Val’s off her rocker, but she’s got me out of worse. Here goes everything.”
Skipping past a dream list of professional contacts, built up over years of good and occasionally nefarious business suitable for any situation except this one, she dialed the number. First ring. She paced over textured cigarette ash and eyed the empty pack for any hidden cigarette. Second ring. A sweat bead ruined her foundation.
“Band practice, Tia! This client’d better be important!”
“Blue and Young bailed! They were our saving grace… we’re in a jam!”
“Jam? You call that a jam, man? OK, gimme a sec.”
Static from amplifiers with a distant voice singing.
“Alright, Tia, here’s it to ya. Getta conference line and call your troops. Even that clingy pair-vert. Can ‘e even talk after I clocked ‘im? Call back in ten. Two-a my best’ll back ya up. After it’s rolling, I’ll do the same. I’m outta the game, remember?”
“Thanks for covering us.”
“Yah. Now a favor. After this, ya gotta fly solo. Speakin’ a that.”
“I’ll call again in ten. Best.”
City noises returned.
Helicopter overhead, traffic, and kids screaming in the nearby park.
Gritty city air.
“All respectful people…” she said, thumbing through her contacts list. “Better than this scumbag with his cartoonishly sleazy remarks. Can I really get rid of this loser? Definitely there are more competent collaborators out there. Everyone else works directly with the shareholders.” Fright. “Give me the strength to do what I need to do.”
“Hey baby, how’d those curves-”
“Shut it, scumbag. Here’s the plan.”
(Writing direction assistance by namedghost.)