Friday, May 24, 2013

Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Three - The Fifty-Thousand Dollar Question

The more I think about the previous chapter, the more puzzled I get.  My overall impression from seven volumes of Mission Earth is that the author is putting the bare minimum of planning into it, writing by the seat of his pants with only the vaguest idea of how the plot's supposed to come together.  Thus the subplots that go nowhere, plot points that the author shows interest in for a few chapters before forgetting about, and the godawful pacing.

Yet last chapter looks like it was written backwards.  Flagrant drove a pickup instead of a proper garbage truck, and decided to cruise along in reverse, so that Heller could waste a concussion grenade by throwing it in the back and creating that miraculous barrier of garbage bags expelled from the other vehicle.  I guess the author decided the book needed an action sequence on page 133 instead of having Heller easily catch up to a slow, unwieldy garbage truck and pull a gun on the driver or something.

Anyway, this chapter.  Having been trapped by an impenetrable wall of garbage bags, J. P. Flagrant has no alternative but to crawl out of his vehicle, fall on his knees, and beg for mercy.  And refuse to rat on F.F.B.O.  Yeah, he definitely learned his lesson from Babe, and won't reveal the "scared" Rockecenter interests to a Corleone.  "Now let me go back to my garbage."

Well, he's got principles, at least.

Heller just wants Flagrant to tell him what F.F.B.O. means, because our heroes aren't smart enough to call a friggin' information desk or flip through a phonebook instead of a dictionary, and the internet certainly doesn't exist.  Flagrant again refuses, because "you're not from the advertising world or you would know."  Heller reaches into his pocket, Flagrant flinches, but Heller's pulled out a business card instead of a firearm.

Ochokeechokee, Florida
Sales Office: Empire State Building

I can only assume they're in New York for tax reasons.  And that Heller had a good reason to take their card and carry it around with him.  And a good reason to pick this business card out of any alternative.

Flagrant looked at it.  He stopped weeping.  He stood up and gave his green derby a twitch.  He said, "Fifty thousand dollars a year, one percent of the gross of those sold, a five-year contract with ninety-day renewal, my own secretary---a brunette, under twenty-five, nice build, nice (bleeps), pretty face?"

Heller said, "I hope the information is worth it.  The answer is yes."

I guess we're really spoiled these days.  Maybe it's just about impossible to figure out what a four-letter acronym stands for without the internet.  Maybe this really is the best way of solving this mystery: shelling out tens of thousands of dollars and objectifying a young woman to get a former enemy to explain what the letters stand for.

Now that Flagrant works for Heller... wait, so Heller owns an alligator farm company?  Is it worth asking why?  Anyway, Flagrant is now perfectly happy to spill his guts: F.F.B.O. stands for Fatten, Farten, Burstein and Ooze, the biggest PR firm working to advertise the Rockecenter interests, such as I.G. Barben Pharmaceuticals, Octopus Oil, and Grabbe-Manhattan Bank, and J. Walter Madison was the one behind the Whiz Kid job, hired on orders of Mr. Bury from Swindle and Crouch, the Rockecenter attorneys, and Madison lives with his mother Mrs. Dorothy Jekyll Madison, she's in the phone book if you need her address.

Good thing Heller has a perfect memory and doesn't need to write any of this down.

Gris is - say it with me - freaking out at this point.  He heard the "deadly voice" Heller used when asking where he could find Madison, and was particularly upset when Flagrant mentioned a "brown-eyed, swarthy" fellow he saw with Mr. Bury - Gris himself!  Flagrant rushes off to start his new life promoting alligator farms, Bang-Bang, Krak and Heller saddle up to hunt down Madison, and Gris wonders where Teenie is instead of why he's wasting time hauling her around instead of properly faking his death and escaping the country.

The Countess Krak said, "It would have been cheaper to use a helmet."

And I kinda regret that they didn't use one.  Because then we could've had the heroes pin down Flagrant, strap an alien mind-control helmet onto his head, and grill him for information, in the middle of the street in broad daylight.  And nobody would notice, because these are the only four people in Yonkers, New York.

The chapter doesn't mention them cleaning up the wall of garbage, either.  Jerks.

Back to Chapter Two

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