“There is only one Kimo Balthazer. One mouth in a billion.” Kimo’s show, This Is Rage, now on the internet, discusses the kidnapping of Choy and Finkelman, and Kimo gets some inside info from his audience.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is the sixth chapter in the ongoing syndication of the first section of Ken Goldstein’s new novel, This Is Rage, published by The Story Plant. Need to read other chapters first? Check them out here.
Chapter 6: Live from the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SANTA CLARA, CA
ENVISIONINK WILL NOT NEGOTIATE IN CO-CEO MATTER
(1:00 p.m. EST) EnvisionInk Systems (NASDAQ: ENVN), a global leader in digital advertising platforms, today responded to news reports of the abduction over the weekend of the company’s co-chief executive officers, Calvin Choy and Stephen J. Finkelman.
“Our board of directors is working with legal authorities in all proper respects,” said Chairman Daniel Steyer. “While it would be unwise at this time for us to comment more specifically on our actions in order to best protect our colleagues, it is the unanimous opinion of the Board that no ransom will be paid such that it might reward criminals for their undertaking.”
The company acknowledges the presence of two unnamed, uninvited men who attended a party at the home of Board Chair Steyer over the weekend, and, following an altercation, their departure from the residence with Choy and Finkelman. The company confirms that that the basic well-being of Choy and Finkelman has been verified, and a dialogue exists between the company and the abductors around their release. In keeping with the spirit of necessary confidentiality to maintain the safety and optimal outcome for all involved, the company must offer no further information on the location or comment on any other circumstances surrounding the incident.
Company management remains unchanged with a strong senior executive team in place. More formal succession planning at this time has been deemed by the Board unwarranted. Government and legal bureaus remain fully apprised of the matter in consultation with board and management.
In an unrelated matter, and in the spirit of relevant disclosure given current circumstances, the company also acknowledges preliminary strategic discussions with Atom Heart Entertainment, a Los Angeles based media conglomerate under the executive management of CEO Solomon Edward Seidelmeyer, which has approached EnvisionInk to consider the merits of an amiable combination. No definitive agreement between EnvisionInk Systems and Atom Heart Entertainment has been reached, nor is further statement on this matter likely before the expected safe release of Choy and Finkelman.
Commentary in this notice may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Such statements may use words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “predict,” “project,” and similar expressions as they relate to EnvisionInk Systems, Atom Heart Entertainment, or the respective management of either or both. When we make forward-looking statements, we are basing them on our management’s beliefs and assumptions, using information currently available to us. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, these forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions including those discussed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both EnvisionInk Systems and Atom Heart Entertainment extend caution not to place undue reliance on its forward-looking information as a number of factors could cause actual results, conditions, actions, or events to differ materially from the targets, expectations, estimates, or intentions expressed in the forward-looking information.
Kimo Balthazer was parked outside a McDonald’s in Stockton, reading the press release on his laptop. The gift of free wireless from McDonald’s was much appreciated, as was the tremendous improvement of late in their coffee. If you didn’t have an office and didn’t speak Starbucks, which Balthazer didn’t, McDonald’s had really come around these past few years, especially if you stayed away from the children’s climbing equipment, a survival strategy.
The press release was now almost a day old, though not quite, this fine Tuesday morning after its distribution the day before. Balthazer looked at the hot stock listings on his home page and noted the stock of EnvisionInk was trading up 17%, an increase from the previous day’s decline of 6%. Balthazer was not much of an active stock trader, but common sense told him that if the founders and co-CEOs of a company were kidnapped, their stock price might be expected to remain in a nose dive. Perhaps the company was getting credit for “refusing to negotiate with terrorists” as the government was fond of lying about, but that would hardly seem solace for Investors in a company so closely tied to the personae of Choy and Finkelman, names known to Balthazer through front page headlines, financial as well as news and lifestyle. More likely it was optimism and expectation of a premium anticipated in an acquisition of EnvisionInk by Atom Heart, although that seemed strangest of all, to confirm a rumor of a potential corporate merger but provide no more details, not even identify formal discussions. Yes, to Balthazer that did seem strange, an almost deliberate attempt to put some good news out there with the bad, presuming you thought a merger of EnvisionInk, a tech giant built on a single, albeit windfall, premise, and Atom Heart Entertainment, a fully diversified old world media giant with big profits but little digital DNA, was in fact a good idea. They were both lumbering assemblies of fat cells, both once inspirationally great, both still mammoth cash cows. Two generations center stage at the dance, one old school and one new school, one with its acerbic but enormously successful CEO still at his desk, possibly contemplating merciful retirement, the other with two celebrated but long term unproven thought leaders swept away in captivity. Maybe Sol would run the NewCo for a while, maybe the adolescents would be released tomorrow and they would prove their true genius running it. Maybe it was a good deal, maybe as moronic as AOL Time Warner. Honestly, Balthazer had no clue. The only thing that mattered to him was he now had a killer topic for his internet debut.
In the last twenty-four hours, Balthazer had suddenly become focused on rebirthing his career, with a determined, if unproven, path now fixed in his mind. Turning to pure play internet radio as a creative outlet was no doubt an act of desperation, but he had learned repeatedly that self-delusion was often the key to longevity in the media spotlight. Anyone with a brain would tell you the idea of becoming internet radio’s first breakout star was so outlandish you would have to be staring down the hangman’s noose to bet what was left of your name on it. The level to which this was absurd did not escape Balthazer, not long ago a much sought and highly followed radio talk show celebrity syndicated coast to coast and on US military bases around the world. His signal had for many years been streamed online, but the aggregate of all those streams on any given day did not even add up to a small redevelopment zone on the outer edges of Fresno. In any given week, all the streams and podcasts together did not goose ad rates even a penny, it was just nothing, nothing at all worth mentioning even at a buffet happy hour. Original programming for internet radio had no traction, no commercial scale, there was no apparent reason for it. Stations and branded channels were nihilist remnants of another age, fragmented beyond recognition, remaindered bits of forgotten noise for baby boomers. Listeners today no longer thought in terms of channels or themes. They thought in term of personalization and I want what I want, assemblies of Pandora predictions and Spotify collectives, not return destinations. Hyper niche was an amateur hidden URL spitting out pennies, and hyper local was a fire pit for small fry cash. The brand was the listener, self-absorption that trumped opinion. Internet radio signals were repurposed air fillers, intended for surviving station managers who wanted to tell their bosses they “got it” when it came to digital destruction. Internet radio tuned to retransmission was beyond geeky, there was almost no one listening, and no one at all who mattered to the ad mob which was all the more disheartening. If anyone alive still cared about old fashioned talk radio, they would listen the old fashioned way, in their car, directing that thing with knobs in the dashboard. The rest of the mobile world could care less. Digital distribution qua internet radio should have held all the potential in the world, but to date it reflected no measurable audience share worth quoting.
Balthazer was determined to change that. This was his answer to, “Where do you go after Fresno?” It was simultaneously an act of need, fantasy, speculation, and prayer. If there was an audience to be had, he was going to find it now or disappear forever. His email list of almost a half million was a good enough place to start. Last night at the roadside motel, which he picked from a crumbling sign for its generous free Wi-Fi and acceptance of cash without questions, he had blasted an announcement to his loyals that today was his launch. No anxiety, no apprehension, he thought it up and did it. Now, live from this McDonald’s parking lot in Stockton, which kindly offered free Wi-Fi, he was going to give it the first test. His laptop drew power from the cigarette lighter dock of his Infinity turned studio. He had enough bars on the connect gauge to move voice upstream and down. His Bluetooth headset and mic were comfortably fitted around his skull. The basic version of Skype was free. He tilted back his leather seat and took a deep breath, redemption hour was on deck. This Is Rage—real, unadulterated, pure, internet exclusive, going on the air, and his day one rant was ready.
The signs were good. The Chat Text box had been populated since dawn. Feedback was flowing without pause, great comments from the many loyals who had received the email and found him:
“Kimo, can’t live without you. Mega glad you’re back.”
“Internet radio is a loser, Balthazer. You’re a loser. But you’re our loser. Count me in.”
“My boss was a prick when you were in New York, LA, and Fresno. She’s still a prick. I need you, Kimo. Help me from doing something I’ll regret.”
“There is only one Kimo Balthazer. One mouth in a billion.”
The comments kept scrolling, it gave him pause, a hell of a pick-up from his first discovery of just three in the box. When he went to sleep the night before, he thought if he got a hundred today, he would call it a walk-off win. If he got a thousand, he would call it the Pennant. He looked at the ticker widget on his home page—over five thousand people had checked in! Five thousand internet listeners, a 1% response rate from his half million emailing! In Fresno an audience of five thousand would have you sweeping floors at the Slovakian broadcast cooperative. For Balthazer, these five thousand were a new world, the chance at a comeback. He was ready to go, voice to voice, as long as McD’s bandwidth held up. His listeners would hear him and he would hear them. Just minutes to broadcast and This Is Rage would be back on the air. There were risks, so many risks. Could he get a decent caller without a screener or would he have to take whatever would come? Would this first show be enough to go viral? How far did he need to go to get listeners to push the forward button on their emails? Could he keep his promise and not hurt anyone this time, but still be entertaining? Could he balance the edge with a sample of so few?
It would all come down to today’s subject matter, his first run at this vacuous new world. He needed a hype story, momentum that could not melt. That EnvisionInk press release was packed with lies, pure brain pollution, a gift of masked pain forged by the company’s counter intelligence propagandists. Their sins were his onramp, no judgment, a business proposition inviting entry. Thank god, thank god for EnvisionInk—those joyously corrupt, awful, scumbag, horror freak show criminals running EnvisionInk.
The self-imposed air time moment had arrived, Balthazer’s last stand.
On The Air.
KIMO: Welcome, This Is Rage. I am back, your host, Kimo Balthazer, 100% commercial free, you have my promise on that. Live on internet-only radio from . . . I can’t tell you that. Too many ticked off people looking for me, and I don’t see a reason to tip them off. I’ll be on the move for a while, but when I am on the air, I’m all yours. So let’s get angry. Let’s talk about things that matter. I need your important calls more than I’ve ever needed them before, because this show is about us. It’s our show. We need to prove that. What’s going on in your company that hurts you? How is your greedy, soulless employer bringing you down? There’s a bit of news on this in the headlines—seems everyone’s favorite lovable, huggable, digital teddy bear, EnvisionInk, has a mighty mess on its hands. Have you seen any of this soap opera? Their superstar billionaire CEOs—they have two of them, you know, when you’re minting that much coin, why compensate one gazillionaire when you can double the cost and have co-CEOs—well, it seems they were kidnapped over the weekend. You can’t make this stuff up, gang. This is the stuff of legends and it is real, real, real. According to news reports, Mr. Calvin Choy and Mr. Stephen J. Finkelman were whisked away from a party at the home of their board chairman, Mr. Daniel Steyer, who might be the wealthiest man in California. Steyer is what’s known as a venture capitalist, a mega high risk, super self-important investment addict. What he does is collect mountains of money from other rich people, kind of like a loan to buy whatever he wants after he takes out a 2% annual fee, and then he bets it on rising stars like Choy and Finkelman. If it’s a good bet, he gets to keep 20% of the winnings and the rest goes back to the rich people so they get, you know, richer. If they burn it all up in an oil drum, well then, it’s a tax write off, not many tears shed. Now in this particular case, unless you have been counting your savings on an abacus, you probably know the bet paid off, Lotto Style! EnvisionInk Systems is one of the most successful technology companies ever, and I wish I could tell you what they do, but as clearly as I understand it, they tell companies like Macys and Amazon when not to buy advertising on sites like Google and for that they have been tremendously rewarded. I don’t much get it, but then, I don’t get Google either, so let’s just say Yin found a Yang and the legal money keeps on coming. So now the co-CEOs of EnvisionInk are holed up somewhere, they can’t tell us of course or they’d be swimmin’ with the fishes, but what we do know from an EnvisionInk press release is that whoever took Choy and Finkelman must have requested a super oozing vat of moolah, because all the press release says is they aren’t serving up a cent. I’m reasonably sure that’s not going to be pleasantly received by the mean old monsters who took Choy and Finkelman, whoever they are, so pretty soon we’re all going to find out what the hell is going on here. Okay, here’s my question for the, wow, 16,572 of you who are now checked in and listening to me—and thank you for that, you have no idea what that means to me—but what I want to know is, if you were on the EnvisionInk board of directors, would it make good sense for you to shell out some dough to get back your top dogs with all their limbs still finely tuned, or would you trust our government—which has such an amazing track record on these sorts of showdowns—to get your founders home safely?
In those very few moments, Balthazer had recouped his groove. He might as well have been talking to himself, for all he knew he was talking to himself, save for that ticker widget on his monitor that kept ticking up like an energy meter in summer. It was fluid now, the numbers were turning steadily. Somehow people were finding him. Perhaps he had been wrong about Malcolm Gladwell, maybe The Tipping Point was not a pointless expression of the obvious masquerading as a book. What was also quite real was the sound of his voice. Outside the Infiniti M in the McDonald’s parking lot, you could almost feel the bass notes booming through the windows. Balthazer did not even notice that civilians, kindly families with lively young children, were pulling into the lot all around him on Big Mac retrieval missions and could not help but notice the funny looking fat man with the headgear bantering away at full volume. Of course the french fry adoring passersby likely assumed he was just on a mobile call, but mobile calls had beginnings and endings and were not usually accompanied by wildly waving hand gestures and drama queen bits of steam forming on the inside of the rolled up auto windows. If you did not know better, and no one had reason to know better, you might think there was a mad man raving uncontrollably in his luxury car, either talking to himself or freaking out whoever might be on the other end of the line. In some senses, you’d be right, and you might even bring it to the attention of the McDonald’s dimple cheeked manager inside. Host Balthazer was oblivious, he was fully alive and again in his glory. This was plain clothes therapy, now with 29,419 therapists on his virtual frequency. Or were they the patients and he the head shrink? It didn’t matter, he was rolling.
KIMO: Well, it seems we have a nice list of willing participants teed up in the bullpen and ready to play today. I see your “screen names” on the Skype grid and if I click on you then you will be on the air with me. Warms my heart so many of you are here, but to be clear, a few ground rules—this is uber low budget, I don’t have a screener anymore, so I’m going to be guessing when I bring you live. If you are dull or pointless, I’ll have to dump you with even less patience than usual. So be angry, but be interesting. Otherwise you’re gone. Dracula XY—now there’s a handle—Dracula XY from Benton Harbor, Michigan, Welcome, This Is Rage!
CALLER DRACULA XY: Dude, you’re back. And I’m caller number one, how cool is that?
KIMO: Depends on how attention-grabbing you are, Drac. Try me on.
CALLER DRACULA XY: So, like, I don’t know much about all these rich guys in San Francisco and that technology of the future stuff, whatever they call it, the vision thing. I just work in a tire shop, you know, like, fixing tires. But I’m like wondering, like, maybe they kidnapped the guys themselves, like, they didn’t like the CEOs, so they got rid of them. ‘Cause I’ve thought about doing that myself, you know, because our CEO is such a douche bag, he tells us we’ve gotta tighten our belts, but all he does is keep taking all our money. So if I could, I would definitely have him kidnapped, wherever he lives, you know? He needs to suffer.
KIMO: Swing and a miss, Drac. Already got a story about kidnappers, don’t need another. Stay away from the sun light, you’ll stay out of jail longer without human exposure.
Not at all what Balthazer was looking for, he dropped the call. This was undoubtedly going to be harder than he imagined. Inside the McDonald’s, he was starting to draw more attention. Kids were watching him through the windows, their breathing fog on the glass panels starting to rival his in the car. The playground was becoming an unsupervised observation deck, children hanging backwards with their legs wrapped around the climbing bars, eyes fixed on the Infiniti and its very strange driver.
Balthazer looked at his screen, and to his delight the ticker widget crossed thirty-seven thousand. He was ready to go again, mouse click on.
KIMO: Alien Bean, from El Paso, Texas . . . That’s Bean, rhymes with mean, not Being, that’d be too on the nose. Alien Bean, Welcome, This Is Rage.
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: Good thing you’re not on regular radio, Kimo. You’d have to report that vampire creep for threatening a crime. The internet is so much better, don’t you think? No rules, no FCC, just let it out.
KIMO: Don’t make me do to you what I did to Dracula, Ms. Bean. What do you think—ransom, rescue, or no rescue?
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: I don’t know about that, but let me tell you this about EnvisionInk, Kimo. They’re a bunch of bullshit fascists. That’s so chill, this is like HBO. I can say bullshit on the radio.
KIMO: You’re not on the radio, Alien Bean. You are talking into a tiny chip in your computer and we’re on the internet with, how about that, 48,358 of our compadres and still climbing. I tell you what, we get to one hundred thousand, this digital sideshow act could make headlines of its own. So what’s your problem with EnvisionInk?
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: Used to work there, Kimo, back when it was a start-up. It was a cool place then, maybe seven or eight years ago, before it was all about the money. Choy and Finkelman were normal guys. They were way smarter than the rest of us, but they weren’t assholes. Oh, that’s just so cool, I can say asshole and you don’t make me stop. Love this. Then it got weird, after the company had its IPO, that’s an Initial Public Offering, you know, where they sell stock to people and people start watching the stock price everyday . . .
KIMO: I know what an IPO is, Alien, and I’m guessing most everyone else listening does too. I don’t know, maybe not, let’s not forget Dracula. What exactly happened after the company went public?
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: Oh, crap on me, everything changed. We moved from these cool digs where everyone worked around a couple of tables to this football field office park. They stuck all of us in rat box cubicles and gave us job descriptions that no one with a Ph.D. could translate into human speak. Choy and Finkelman moved into these steel vault offices and we couldn’t talk to them anymore without an appointment, which was impossible to get from their horrid bitch secretary unless you sent an email that was about how you could make the stock go up. Then it got even weirder.
KIMO: Weirder, how?
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: Choy and Finkelman, it’s like they weren’t focused anymore, they got spooky. They turned our courtyard into a biodynamic micro-vineyard with a signpost that said, “How green is your pasture?” They started caravanning every year to Burning Man—I mean, Choy did, Finkelman went once and thought it was a sick joke; he was more into extreme windsurfing on the bay. They’d review milestones while doing yoga on the lawn, invite Russian poets to give lectures in the cafeteria on making variables more beautiful—except almost no one in the company speaks Russian. They’d raffle off seats as recruiting incentives to watch the sunset and down mixology blends on this ginormous party jet they bought. Meanwhile it was all, make the stock go up, make it go up more. Don’t get me wrong, our software was selling like cheap crude oil. Our customers loved us because we were saving them money when other companies were stealing it, but all the money we made, it went to Choy and Finkelman and a few VPs and the board, and no one else could get noticed. And if you told anyone in management maybe you had a better idea, you got yelled at.
KIMO: Choy and Finkelman didn’t share? That is a bit of weirdness. I thought they were such jolly, model visionaries.
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: Image police, dude. I mean, what do I know, I don’t even think they make those calls, who gets the money and who doesn’t. That’s not their thing. They’re big picture, front office, at least that’s what happened after the IPO. They surrounded themselves with handlers, and the handlers knew every dollar we got was one less dollar for the handlers. They tossed around a few pennies to prevent a revolution, fed us free trade coffee and USDA lamb shanks, but the big money, hardly any of the worker bees could even trade up their condos.
KIMO: So you left for greener pastures?
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: Texas, dude. I did better than a lot of people, cashed in enough to live on for a few years to study rodeo. At least I didn’t have to stick around with the grind of doing the same thing every day while the handlers took all the money. I don’t like being bored, or getting yelled at.
KIMO: You studied rodeo, fascinating. What are you doing now, Alien?
CALLER ALIEN BEAN: Calling you, Dude, aren’t you paying attention? I’m just messing with you. I’m hacking, what else? I’m going to tap into their system and crash it. I’ve been at it for two years now. It’s a pretty good system, that’s for sure, but when I break through, it’s coming down and I will be immortal. That’ll kill their stock price, huh? And don’t you think it’s weird their CEOs have been kidnapped and the stock is going up? There’s got to be some kind of conspiracy there. Maybe Dracula was right.
KIMO: Thank you, Alien Bean. We’ll call that the JFK angle and keep an eye out for J. Edgar Hoover fashionistas roaming the halls on casual Fridays.
Balthazer dropped the call and saw the counter roll past sixty thousand, incomprehensible for a first day stat. He wondered if the ticker widget might have a virus, if someone really was messing with his mind and moving the decimal a place or two in the background. No, he triggered a quick background scan for malware. His system was clean, the tally appeared to be good. He had only been on the air a few brief moments, and with no expectations, he was on his way to a verified audience of one hundred thousand. Call letters or not, he could still draw. Internet stardom seemed possible, he just needed to lower his expectations to a milder definition of star, and with all that had transpired that was not so hard. He noticed his callers were more themselves here—more anonymous meant more raw and unformed, but also more candid and engaging. What he did not notice as he took the next call was the iron-willed McDonald’s manager, who had noticed his antics and was trying to calm his customers, all at once starting to leave the store.
KIMO: Dark Thunder from Santa Clara, California, Welcome, This Is Rage.
CALLER DARK THUNDER: Hey there, Kimo, thanks for coming back. We missed you. On the job, nothing like your voice to pass the hours.
KIMO: I think that’s a compliment. Beats working for your paycheck. Let’s see where you take us.
CALLER DARKER THUNDER: I’m an EnvisionInk employee too, still on the job. I think the most interesting part of the press release is what you haven’t talked about yet, the part about Atom Heart Entertainment.
KIMO: Yeah, I thought that was on the creepster side. Why’d they throw it in, any insights?
CALLER DARK THUNDER: I actually have some inside information, and I’m just pissed off enough to tell it to you and your listeners.
KIMO: All 77,921 of us now?
CALLER DARK THUNDER: Yeah, whatever you got, maybe that’s enough to spread it, because it needs to be spread.
KIMO: Let me make sure I have this right. You are at your desk, at EnvisionInk Systems in Santa Clara, and you are going to drop some inside information right here, on This Is Rage?
CALLER DARK THUNDER: Kimo, I’m not stupid. I’m not going to lose my job on their time table. No, I’m not at my desk where they log every keystroke. Let’s just say I know how to route internet packets so they can’t be traced. I know the EnvisionInk platform forward and backward, but that’s not the point.
KIMO: Sure are a lot of angry people inside that happy camp everyone likes to put on their resumes, where the second tier brass isn’t willing to pay a dime to rescue your founders. Guess all that free food in the cafeteria isn’t as tasty as it once was. What exactly is pissing you off in paradise?
CALLER DARK THUNDER: The Atom Heart deal is going to happen. There are definitely people here who want to do it, not Choy and Finkelman, but others who call the shots. That’s why the stock is up. The take out price when they get to a tender offer is going to blow your mind. They aren’t betting the farm, they’re auctioning off the county.
KIMO: I don’t know, Dark. You’re awfully confident for guy on a call-in show. You sound like one of those blah-blah guys on the finance bulletin boards, a virtual talking head. How do I know you’re not some big mouth trying the run up the stock and dump it?
CALLER DARK THUNDER: If that were the case, why would I call you? No one who listens to your show has a brokerage account. Look, no one cares about Choy and Finkelman anymore. We’ve squeezed all the profit we can from the EnvisionInk enterprise, the smart money knows that. All we have now is a ton of cash, and no one with a checkbook trusts these guys to keep using it for our own acquisitions, they’re too soft. So instead we’ll let ourselves get bought by a big, stupid, analog entertainment company who wants to pump content through our engine, get advertisers to up their buys on search, and use our system to save them money. The pie gets bigger, the size of our slice balloons with the pie.
KIMO: I don’t see the bad part.
CALLER DARK THUNDER: Layoffs, Kimo, enormous cuts at both EnvisionInk and Atom Heart after we integrate. That’s how they pay for it, bigger profits from labor savings, wash away the overlap in one quarterly charge. Hello cash flow, hello misery.
KIMO: Seen that one before, haven’t we?
CALLER DARK THUNDER: Not on this scale, it’s an asteroid crater, and it’s a nasty secret. Well, it was until a minute ago. For all I know, that’s why Choy and Finkelman vaporized. Might even be someone on our own team, like your other callers said. Morale has been way low here, and that was before Choy and Finkelman were grabbed. They keep telling us there’s no more organic growth, all of our ideas can’t move the needle. So they just buy things and try to take out costs, but they don’t take out enough because they don’t want to be bad guys, they don’t fire enough people from the companies we buy. This deal is different. Sol Seidelmeyer will have no emotional problem strip-mining costs.
KIMO: And you know this because you’re an engineer at EnvisionInk and you don’t want to see it happen?
CALLER DARK THUNDER: Me, an engineer? That’s funny. I mean, everyone at this company can code, that’s how you get in. No, I’m in human resources and I helped evaluate the initial elimination plan—until I saw the latest draft, which had my name on it. Choy and Finkelman haven’t even seen it. The jump in earnings is staggering. No, I’m in a conference room at one of our competitors, waiting to interview for a new gig. Good luck, Kimo, keep it honest and don’t ever sell out. We need you.
The caller was gone. Balthazer was not sure what to make of him. He might have been legitimate, but maybe not. The listener count kept building, now a magnificent 89,113. Balthazer looked up and noticed the side door to the McDonald’s opening, a focused young fellow with a manager’s nametag starting to make his way across the parking lot for his car. For the first time, Balthazer realized he might be making a spectacle of himself. The windows of the Infiniti were thick with steam, but not so much that he couldn’t see so many mom eyes were on him. This would not be an extended debut, that was for sure.
KIMO: Well, we are having some first day with this new way of talking, aren’t we? We are over ninety-two thousand listeners now, and you know, I would be further humbled to reach one hundred thousand so I can put that bragging right in my pirate radio email to all of you tonight, which I invite you to look for in your in-box. I promise, we will continue tomorrow, so stay tuned for my announcement of the specifics. I think we have time for one more call, but let me say in advance, if I have to drop the show suddenly, there is a very good reason, so please come back tomorrow. Ben E. Arnold, Gilroy, California, Welcome, This Is Rage.
CALLER BEN E. ARNOLD: Kimo, sounds like you’re in a squeeze, I don’t know if I can make this quick. I have some information your audience will find valuable. I just don’t know if I should tell you.
KIMO: You’re conflicted, Ben. That’s understandable. Start in the abstract. Tell our 94,626 listeners in the broadest strokes what you have. And please don’t take too long.
CALLER BEN E. ARNOLD: What I have is the location of Choy and Finkelman.
KIMO: Is this internet bonanza day or what? First we get the inside scoop on the Atom Heart deal, now we get to know where the co-CEOs are in captivity. I so love the grid. Any credential sharing you wish to offer so we know you’re not a crackpot, Ben?
Balthazer peered across the parking lot. The Burger Meister was coming, followed by a posse of disturbed mama warriors and their sugar infused children—ketchup McNuggets and apple slices with caramel on parade. Balthazer was going to have to wrap up this show pronto.
CALLER BEN E. ARNOLD: How’s this—I have a relative who is a captain with one of the police departments called for back-up. If I tell you any more, I might cost him his badge. Unlike that HR geek who called before me, I’m not much with a keyboard, so I’m probably leaving a trail. Luckily I’m at Best Buy, shopping for a new tablet, no one even notices I’m here, show-rooming rules. I’m just not sure if telling everyone is the right thing to do.
KIMO: Very helpful, those bright polo shirts at Best Buy, easy to find since they never find you. I’m sure you realize, if you do tell our 97,304 listeners where Choy and Finkelman are holed up, it’s going to draw a crowd. That could be helpful, bring the right things into focus.
CALLER BEN E. ARNOLD: They’re already drawing a crowd, Kimo. There’s FBI all around the place, plus cops from every neighboring district. If this goes on much longer, we can probably expect National Guard, maybe soldiers from one of the bases.
McDonald’s Finest was at now at car-hop position, tapping on the glass of Balthazer’s car window, looking much like a school principal annoyed by a spit ball war. Coupon moms surrounded the vehicle, and kids armed with dipping sauce were finger-painting the Infiniti. Time was of the essence.
KIMO: Ben, I know you’re struggling with this, but as I mentioned before I took your call, this first internet radio show I’m doing is experiencing a few technical difficulties. There are two things left on today’s agenda: getting to one hundred thousand online listeners which you are helping me with, and letting our audience know where they can find Choy and Finkelman if they want to get to the truth about EnvisionInk. Can you close the loop for me and we’ll call it a show?
Mayor McCheeseWhiz was becoming more irritated that Balthazer would not acknowledge his existence. His tapping was translating into an echoed thumping that astute listeners could pick up on the webcast. The sound of children whining began piercing the soundproofing of the Infiniti, finding its way past the windscreen on Balthazer’s mic. Gobs of caramel were dripping from the car’s hood.
CALLER BEN E. ARNOLD: Okay, Kimo, I’ll trust you. If you say people need to know, they need to know. There’s a crowd outside Salinas Valley Memorial Medical Center. There’s a reason. Choy and Finkelman are being held inside. Now that it’s clear EnvisionInk isn’t going to pay up, who knows what happens next. Maybe your listeners can help.
KIMO: Ben E. Arnold, you are a prince. And you know what else? We are at 99,865 listeners, and as much as I hate to stop shy of a goal I think we’re going to have to call this milestone incomplete. The good news is, tomorrow I promise I will have a better set up. Tomorrow, we reconvene. As always, This Is Rage.
Balthazer snapped down the laptop clamshell, pulled off his headset and gave the McDonald’s manager the finger. Without otherwise telegraphing it, Balthazer hit the ignition and revved the engine. Startled by the pulsating motor, the sugared kid pack jumped away, their doting mothers following after them. The McDonald’s manager returned the favor of the finger and pointed to the driveway with it, standing between the families and the Infiniti.
Balthazer put the car in gear and tore out of the parking lot with a sly smile affixed. He was headed south out of Stockton, en route to synch up with Highway 101. In a matter of hours, he would be in Salinas.
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This Is Rage: Serialization Schedule
We will be serializing the complete first section of This Is Rage.
August 5……..In Tres Partes Divisa Est
August 12…….It’s Terrestrial
August 19…… Never Bet Against the Bozos
August 26…….Let’s Get Small
September 2….No Such Thing as CEO School
September 9….Live from the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
September 16…The House Checks and Raises
September 20…If There Were Rules Who Would Listen?
September 30…Show Me Your Bulls