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Chapter 26

THE WALLS WERE COVERED WITH THEM. PAGES AND PAGES.

They weren't the usual Futura Garamond layouts. For once he had reined himself in, mimicking exactly the pseudo-hip but unthreatening style of a certain magazine for rich young trust-funders.

"Hoi Aristoi," Jen said.

"Sort of." I looked closer. The photographs in the layouts were all from the party, penguins and penguinettes looking drunken and wild-eyed, almost animal in their petty squabbles, overt jealousies, posturings for status. You could read the body language like a neon sign. The crumpled dresses and crooked bow ties were also crystal clear. As the pictures progressed, the whole machine of privilege and power became unglued before your eyesas pathetic as a cummerbund spattered with Noble Savage. By contrast, the occasional stuffed caribou glimpsed in the background seemed intelligent and sane.

Thousands of printed photos were piled on a long workbench along the wall, the booty of five hundred cameras, an embarrassment of riches. As per Jen's theory, every photo taken on the giveaway cameras had been wirelessly captured by the anti-client.

"Futura must have come back here after the party and worked all night," I said, looking nervously at the entrance to the office. "You suppose he went home to sleep or just out for coffee?"

"He'll probably be back soon," Jen said. "These pages must have already been laid out, just waiting for the photos. Which means they want a quick turnaround."

"Okay," I said, edging toward the door. "Speaking of quick turnarounds"

"But what's this going to be?" Jen asked. "A fake issue of Hoi Aristoi or a real one?"

I shrugged. "It's whatever people decide it is, I guess."

"The cover must be this way."

She followed the wall, counting down the page numbers. I despaired of a hasty exit and went after her. The job was completely professional: Futura Garamond wasn't going for parody; he had created an exact imitation. He had even added real advertisements lifted from the first issue. Of course, the ads were as essential to the magazine as anything else.

At the far end of the office we reached the masthead and cover. The headlines read: Launch Party Exclusive! Special Subscribers-Only Issue!

"Issue zero," Jen said, pointing at the upper-right corner of the cover.

"That's what they usually call trial issues of new magazines. But Hoi Aristoi already tested their prototype. The free one we got in our gift bags was issue number one."

"So this isn't real."

"No, but it looks real enough," I said. Except for the grotesque photographs, it would have fooled anybody.

"Well, I guess you were rightthis isn't blackmail. It's something much weirder. But what, exactly?"

"Good question."

We looked around the office. The late-afternoon sun slanted in through the windows, filling the loft with warm light, revealing the inevitable layer of dust on darkened computer screens. High-end printers waited to feed on wide spools of paper, and stacks of big hard drives flickered away in semi-sleep. A few laptops sat around a pile of wireless base stations. No doubt they had captured the launch party photos from the Wi-Fied Poo-Sham cameras.

I found a few issues of Futura Garamond-designed magazines from the past, a mocked-up bottle of Poo-Sham, and a few sketches for the label of Noble Savage rum. So that had been a fake too. I wondered how strong the stuff in the bottles was and if it had been just alcohol or something more. There was nothing to suggest that Movable Hype had any real clients. Garamond was working for the anti-client full time.

"Check this out," Jen said. She was holding a thick, accordion-folded printout. "Names and addresses. Phone numbers, too."

"A mailing list. I wonder if it's the mailing list."

Jen looked up at me. "You mean all the Hoi Aristoi subscribers?"

I nodded. "See if you can find Hillary Winston-Smith. She's under W, not 5."

Jen flipped to the end of the mailing list. "Yeah. Here she is."

"So it is the Hoi Aristoi mailing list." I glanced over Jen's shoulder to scan the addresses and confirmed my theory. Every third one was on Fifth Avenuea few of them actually lacked apartment numbers. Owning an entire house in Manhattan is like having your own airport anywhere else: it means you are rich. Hillary Winston-hyphen-Smith's address was no slouch, for that matter: she resided in a certain Upper East Side building famous as a home for movie stars, oil sheiks, and arms dealers.

"They bought the subscriber list," I said.

"So they're going to send out copies to all their victims," Jen said, chuckling. "That's friendly of them."

"And all the wannabe subscribers as well, just to show them what aristocrats are really like. I bet the press gets issues too." I shook my head. "But why? All this money just for a practical joke?"

Jen nodded. "What did you say to me after I pissed off Mandy at the focus group? Messing things up takes talent, right?"

"Yeah." I looked around. "Garamond's got plenty of talent, that's for sure."

"And he's got a plan, too, which I'm starting to figure out. Sort of."

"Please, let me in on it."

She shook her head. "I'm not totally sure yet. But we're getting closer. It would help if we knew who else was behind this." She pointed at the mailing list. "How much would that cost?"

I leafed through the printout, pondering the question. Whether they're about snowboards, pet ferrets, or the latest gadgets, most magazines make more money from selling their subscriber list than they do off newsstand sales. It's big business to know how people perceive themselves, how much they earn, and how they're likely to spend it. A magazine may just be wrapping for advertisements, but it's also a bible for a lifestyle: it tells readers what's going on, what to think about it, and, most importantly, what to buy next. That's why you get a ton of new junk mail every time you subscribe to a magazineyou've pigeonholed yourself as a snowboarder, ferret lover, or gadget buyer.

Advertisers divide humanity into marketing categories, tribes with names like Shotguns and Saddles, Inner City, or Bohemian Mix. Magazine subscriptions are the easiest way to tell who's what. In my hand I was holding a list of high-grade, uncut Blue Bloods. Hot property.

"Very pricey, like the rest of this operation."

"Well, I bet you Movable Hype didn't pay for it."

"Why not? Futura's made decent money over the years.

She nodded. "Sure, he has. But would he want everyone to know he was behind a job like this?" Her gesture took in the pages stretching along the walls. "Something so unoriginal and tame? Even if it's a great practical joke, it's pure imitation."

"Yeah, and also pretty likely to guarantee he never works in the magazine industry again."

"So somebody else paid for it. Someone involved with the anti-client."

I shrugged. "Even if we could find out who paid for the mailing list, wouldn't it just be a front company or something? Like Poo-Sham, Inc.?"

Jen nodded. "Maybe. But whoever's putting up the cash had to pay for the really expensive stuff in those gift bags: hundreds of bottles of Poo-Sham and Noble Savage, not to mention all those wireless cameras. Those aren't things you can just stick on your credit card. There must be some kind of money trail."

"Okay." I looked at the front door of the office, imagining keys jingling at any moment. At least this would get us out of here. "Where do we start?"

She lifted up the mailing list. "With this. Doesn't your friend Hillary work for Hoi Aristoi?"

"Hillary doesn't work for them; she just did some PR. And she's not my friend."

"Still, she'd tell you what she knows, wouldn't she?"

"Give me private information about a client? Why would Hillary do that?"

Jen grinned. "Because she's probably dying to find out who turned her head purple."


* * * | So Yesterday | Chapter 27



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