Dateline Singapore. Friday, 16:25:
The Thin Man met the accountants for an early drink at the Alligator Pear as promised. They drank Mojitos, a ridiculous drink that is invariably watered down. The Thin Man had a vodka and soda, a safe choice ahead of what could be a long night.
The mood of the men swung between giddy and glum. One of them was on an app, choosing an escort for later on. The men advised him on his choice with the surgical precision of serious professionals. The Thin Man hoped that he could be as precise in his own operation tonight.
“Did you folks get wristbands yet?” a waiter in his early 20s asked. They hadn’t, so they did. Yes, the event security is poor, but to be fair they all looked the part of party goers. And so they were. All going to the party.
The party must have been paid for weeks ago because all the stops were turned out. A full bar, lobster tails, sushi, fondue, steak tartare, champagne. Sometimes the best way to look prosperous is to look prosperous. The guests were high in no time. The future was unwritten, terrifying. All they had was tonight.
Nursing only his second vodka and soda, the Thin Man scoped out the scene. Anderson was not present, nor was Rink. The highest ranking Green Grouper seemed to be a regional vice-president called Lewis. It was he that gave the toast, “to a glorious future, the Green Group!” Salut. Lewis was in his early 40s, too young and too on the spot. The Thin Man needed someone older, someone with less to lose.
The Cigar Smokers:
Outside on the pool deck a group of three men had lit up cigars. This was surely against regulations, however a payment must have passed under the table, either that or tonight was one of those nights were regulations just weren’t in effect. Regulations are like that, even in Singapore. They are human created and human maintained. Or, in this case, not.
Cigar smokers, mused the Thin Man. Cigar smokers tend toward the genial and the venial. Toward the cynical and the amoral. Toward the reckless and the egotistical. In that moment, he loved cigar smokers. Cigar smokers were excellent. The only problem was he might have to have one too.
He approaches the group a little gingerly. The move here is a little different than cozying up to the accountants. There he wanted to be taken in as a peer and forgotten about. Here, his role is of the acolyte, the younger man. Now which one is our mark? Individual one appears in his mid-sixties, and sports a brown jacket that is at least three years past its prime. His feet are shuffling an alcoholics’ shuffle. No thank you. Individual two is in his 50s dressed in a tux. Hair slicked back with pomade, a little glassy eyed. A greaser who got lucky. No.
The third man, however, is of a different type. Also in his 60s, he wears a pale red sweater over a tieless pink shirt. He is handsome for his age, white hair adding a touch of distinction. He is slightly overweight but in a way that suggests ease not sloth. The Thin Man cages a cigar from brown jacket, lights it, and stares into the middle distance. A few puffs later he casually turns to the man in the red sweater.
“Jack,” he says, “quite a view eh?”
“Marcus,” says the man, “view of the end of the world if you ask me.”
“The company? The rumors?”
“Rumors? Boy, ain’t no rumors about it. We’ve got a ringside seat on the Titanic.” His laugh was actually merry. The Thin Man was elated, an emotion he subsumed into wide-eyed curiosity. He willed himself to look 10 years younger, like we said, an acolyte.
“I heard Rink is making his move by Monday,” said the Thin Man. He had heard no such thing, it just made sense in context.
“Made his move already. Anderson is bleeding like a stuck pig. Rink will announce the coup on Monday at the latest. The wires may have it before then.”
The Thin Man was getting warm. He gently turned to face Marcus, cutting off communication lines with the other men. Drink in his right, he stretched his left arm out part way as if he was about to put his arm around the older man. But not quite. It’s all in the mechanics. Marcus took a few steps away from the edge of the pool and toward a padded bench for two.
“Can I get you another drink, sir?” asked the Thin Man.
“You sit with me boy,” said Marcus. “Drinks are his job.” He gestured to the young waiter. “Two Gibsons, and make ’em strong.” They sat, and the Thin Man channeled “boy.”
“So Rink will really pull it off eh? That should get us right back on track.” Fishing.
“Balls boy. Back on track! Anderson siphoned so much money out of the company that Rink will have to go hat in hand to Company X. Won’t have a choice.”
“Oh, the merger? I forgot about that. Well, we should get a good price right? I mean, our fundamentals are still strong.”
“Fundamentals? Boy what have you been smoking? Anyway, Rink doesn’t want to lead Green Group any more than I do. He’ll sell and take a pretty title, head off to the desert on his dune buggy.”
“At a good price, of course.”
“Phah, he’d like 60% on the dollar and would die for 51%.”
“I see. And what would he take?”
“45%. Lot of whores out there on the dunes boy. Rink’s no dummy.”
“Naturally. And what will you do sir, once the ship has sailed?
“Fuck off to Venice and blow the lot. Or, stick around and see how things develop.” Marcus leaned in close to the Thin Man. “Do pass that on to your paymasters, will you? Marcus is ready to play ball. Marcus knows where the bodies are buried and where the light shines.” He puts his arm around the Thin Man, paternally which just the slightest touch of menace. “Take care of old Marcus, eh kid?”
The man knew, or guessed. The Thin Man drew breathe to recalibrate. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said. And he meant it.
Reporting to HQ:
It was still early-ish and the Thin Man had what he needed. He decided to phone home, and made sure to exit the hotel and walk around the corner before he placed the call. Alejandro picked up on the second ring. The Thin Man filled him in on the basics. Alejandro told him to come to the office, gave an address. It was a 10 minute taxi ride. The taxi driver was an ex-policeman. “I drive for my enjoyment and because it gets me out of the house,” he explained. I could drive a taxi, thought the Thin Man, there are plenty of worse ways to earn a living.
Alejandro met him at the door and escorted him through building security. The security guard asked for the Thin Man for ID and Alejandro shook his head vigorously. His whole being shook with indignation.
“We are going to the 14th floor,” he hissed with equal parts insistence and menace. “The 14th floor.” The guard recognized a losing hand when he saw one and waved them through.
“That reminds me, said the Thin Man,”I need a passport. The company can take care of that yes?”
“Sure,” said Alejandro. “As long as you’re willing to take a job overseas we can provide identification. What name would you like to use?”
“OK Mr. Bishop. Let’s go make the report and see where else you might be of use in this little world of ours.”
On the 14th floor the team was waiting, 11 people strong. The man in the middle crossed the room and shook the Thin Man’s hand. “I’m Mr. Miller, Head of Operations for the region,” he said. “I hear you have some news for us?”
“Yes. Anderson’s a dead duck. Rink will have control by early next week. He’ll take a haircut on the shares and a sinecure. You’re good to go.”
“How much of a haircut?” asked Miller?
“Offer him 41%, replied the Thin Man. It’s a brutal lowball, and the Thin Man felt great saying it.
A man in a yellow jacket piped up from the left corner. “41% is nothing. We’ll risk poisoning the negotiations entirely with such a number. Where is your information from?”
“The information is sound.”
“Who did you have to deep throat then,” asked the man in yellow.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” asked the Thin Man.
“I’m director of security. It’s my job to assess risk.”
Standing in a fucking room on the 14th floor. The ocean floor is a great place to watch movies, and the Thin Man had seen his share. He turned to Miller. “I came here because Alejandro asked me to. He asked me for a favor.” He pointed to the security man. “I said, the real favor, follow my advice and fire his fuckin’ ass because a loser is a loser.”
You could hear a pin drop. “41% percent,” repeated the Thin Man. “Thank you for this opportunity. And, there is a man called Marcus, as in Aurelius. He’s an asset.” He was bone tired as he turned to walk out the door.
Alejandro tagged behind. “Well done, well done. Miller is pleased.” Alejandro possessed the eternal skill of reading the boss’ moods from micro-inflections, a true survival skill.
“Thanks,” said the Thin Man. “When is the earliest I could get that passport?”
“Day or two. Let me get into it.” The black market economy is a marvel of efficiency, thought the Thin Man. To live outside the law you must be honest. “And you’ll be available for international work?”
“Then we are all good.”
“See you on the dunes partner,” said the Thin Man. Alejandro’s look was quizzical.
“Sorry, inside joke.”
“Yeah, inside to you and you alone.”
“See you around,” said the Thin Man. What he meant was, “it’s funny to me,” but he didn’t want to push it. He staggered back home in a second taxi, making no eye contact until he was safely ensconced in his room. He managed to take his shoes off, and didn’t even text Desiree before he passed out.
To be continued in one final installment…
Works Cited/ Referenced:
Bob Dylan, “Absolutely Sweet Marie.”
Glengarry Glen Ross, dir. James Foley.
Featured Image credit swissotel.com