Vantagio soon arrives and asks what's going on.
Vanatgio said, "Oh, kid. Babe sometimes gets upset. I should know. She gets over it."
Heller reached into his inside pocket. "Have you seen the morning papers?"
"I just got up," said Vantagio. "What have the morning...?"
Heller had handed him a ripped-off front page of the New York Grimes.
Vantagio stared at it. He took it in. He went white. "Good God!"
Heller was indicating the piles of clothes. "These are no good to anybody else. What would you say the bills were?"
And he proceeds to argue with Vantagio over how much he owes him, eventually settling on ten thousand dollars.
So Heller leaves the Gracious Palms, and all the girls are crying, and the guards are all downcast, and even Vantagio is teary-eyed. Then the HellerVision gets blurry and Gris realizes that Heller is misting up too. Heller then goes to his Empire State Building offices and tells Izzy that he'll be living there now, which the always gloomy Izzy is not at all surprised to hear. But the accountant has his own bad news - the IRS is coming down on them harder than ever, and plans on impounding all of their international holdings and smearing them in the newspapers.
Heller said to the cat, "You picked the wrong guy to be responsible for." He sounded beaten.
I had won!
Gris has a good half-page celebratory rant.
Suddenly, I understood the power controls of Earth. So this was how even empires had been broken and made. By the PRs. And then the PRs even wrote the history books!
No, they don't. Nor did public relations have anything to do with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Qing Dynasty, Abbasid Caliphate, Aztec Empire, Mongolian Khanates, Soviet Union...
In one deadly blast, Madison had stopped the mighty Heller cold. With a few lines of ink, based only on his imagination, Madison was directing the destinies of not just Earth but Voltar! Now wonder Bury considered him so dangerous!
This is after Madison hyped Heller into a national hero and made Gris panic over which side the publicist was really on, of course.
The PRs were the true Gods of this planet! Gods of wrath and misery. But Gods nonetheless! What a weapon they wielded! What destruction they wrought! Magnificent!
I think Gris gets inordinately impressed by whatever plot point happened last. Like he was all about how drugs and the Feds controlled the country in book two, and in book three he was singing the praises of Rockecenter's energy cartels. Now along comes a publicist and Gris has a new god.
So that's it - Heller cuts his ties with the mob, apparently defeated. But what didn't happen this chapter?
Vantagio, when shown the newspaper, never asked the obvious question: "Is this true?" He didn't express his shock that his young friend would take a bribe from a rival criminal syndicate to throw a race, or even get outraged at this perceived betrayal. He didn't laugh off such a ludicrous charge, especially since it clashes with everything he knows about Heller. He didn't even notice "but that guy looks nothing like you!"
For his part, Heller made no statements confirming or denying the damning charges in the day's headline. He didn't try to explain that he has no idea where this storm of bad publicity is coming from, or protest that the newspapers are just making things up. Nor did he try to reassure his friend that he wouldn't commit such treason, or dishonor himself by throwing a race.
There's no attempt to fight back, or unravel this conspiracy, or even explain the situation. It doesn't matter whether the headline is true, and it doesn't matter whether any of the characters involved would have any reason to think it's true. A newspaper says Heller is a bad guy, so he has to leave.
Gris' sinister plan worked by turning the "good" guys into gullible, passive morons.
Back to Chapters Six and Seven