The first person Hinkley Border saw when he entered the Situation Room was Angelica’s agent, The Nun. She sat in the corner in full habit: scapular, white coif, black veil, and large silver cross. She was wearing Ray Bans and softly chanting the rosary, but her tunic ended six inches above her knees, exposing killer legs in black rose-patterned hose and impossibly tall heels.
Like most employees of Dumas Pharmaceuticals, Hinkley had dismissed the rumors about the Situation Room’s existence, figuring that a global drug company with a revenue stream greater than Guatemala’s GNP didn’t need a Situation Room. But then, what did Hinkley Border know? He was Marketing.
At 8:17 a.m., before he’d finished the Milky Way latte he’d purchased in the executive dining room, he’d been ushered by two black-suited androgynous figures in berets and high-gloss Florsheims through a maze of corridors and elevators hidden behind phony office doors into the bowels of the Dumas Pharmaceuticals North Tower.
At the first metal detector they confiscated the keys to his Nissan 370Z Turbo and his small change. “Pick these up on the way out.” At the second detector the guard seized his iPhone, the foil wrapped condoms in his suit pocket, and his latte. “Can’t be too careful.” At the third metal detector, his lost his Dartmouth class ring and a dental appliance.
The 40’ by 16’ Situation Room housed a giant table, straight-backed chairs, and an oyster bar. Everything from the floorboards to the ceiling was burled black walnut. At the front of the room was Winston Dunlap, the founder’s grandson and CEO. Hinkley recognized him from the cover of the Annual Report sitting unread on his desk. ”What the hell am I doing here?” he thought.
An unseen hand grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him into a chair. “Sit down and shut up. Speak only when you’re spoken to. You’ve done enough damage.” The speaker was Hinkley’s boss’s boss, the Director of North American Sales and a former Miss Universe contestent, Joan Von Blatten. She was wearing a beige Armani suit, Christian Louboutin knotted suede pumps with 5¼ inch heels, and nothing else. He sat down.
Hinkley watched Winston Dunlap sip soberly on an iced caramel-pecan-flavored Fat Blaster Shake as the last of the executives filled the chairs. No one acknowledged The Nun. The large steel door closed. “It’s so quiet,” Hinkley whispered.
“Good hydraulics,” Von Blatten whispered back.
A small spotlight illuminated Dunlap when he rose to speak. He was 5’2”. He was always photographed seated behind his Frank Lloyd Wright desk or standing next to little people. “I assume you all know why we’re here.” Hinkley started to raise his hand.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Von Blatten whispered.
The west wall of the Situation Room began to glow. The face of Angelica, The Angel Face Girl, faded in. She was the latest in a string of successes for Hinkley’s marketing team. ”One look in her angel face,” the copy ad read, ”and you’ll be instantly aroused.” Hinkley was instantly aroused. Angelica turned slightly on screen as if someone had entered the room. She smiled and fluttered the small, feathered wings on her back. ”But you’ll have a devil of a time pleasing her without . . .” (the music swelled) ”Potent C. Now the nation’s number one choice for men with erectile dysfunction.” Angelica made an inviting gesture.
Hickley glanced nervously at The Nun, and then adjusted himself under the table, as did all the other men in the room. “One look into her angel face and you’ll know why men with erectile dysfunction prefer Potent C to Viagra, two to one.”
On screen Angelica smiled as the scene faded and the music lingered. Advertising Weekly called the commercial “the best 30 seconds on television.”
“Lights!” Dunlap shouted. As the lights came up, he scanned the room. “So, gentlemen and ladies, what are we going to do about that?”
“What do you mean ‘do about that’?” Hinkley asked before Von Blatten could slap him down. “That’s the most watched ad in history.”
Dunlap squinted in the Hinkley’s direction. “Yes, Mr. Border, and that’s why it’s destroying us.”
People moved their chairs away from Hinkley. Joan Von Blatten disappeared from her chair. Hinkley could see her crouched beneath the table. The Nun raced through her rosary. Hinkley stood alone against Dunlap. “I don’t understand.”
“Obviously.” More silence. Dunlap pointed to the bulge in Hinkley’s pants. “I notice,” he said, “that you have a giant erection, Mr. Border.”
Hinkley nodded. People chortled.
Dunlap picked up the November issue of Esquire, and opened it to the Potent C ad page 3. He raised the copy above his head. “Before anyone laughs too loudly, could I see the hand of every male in the room who has a Class A, rock hard, morning wood erection right now?” Even man in the room raised his hand including Dunlap whose pants were absurdly tented despite his anger. “And could you tell me why that is, Mr. Border?”
Hinkley thought it might be a trick question. He pointed to the ad. “Because of her, The Angel Face girl.” He looked around again. People nodded. “That’s why we picked her. Every male working on the campaign got a hard-on just looking at her.”
Dunlap stepped forward. The spotlight trained on the CEO followed him until it spilled over onto Hinkley. “And you didn’t see any problem with that?”
“It was a little distracting while we were filming, but . . ..”
“You idiot!” Dunlap slapped the magazine on the walnut table. “We sell a pill to cure erectile dysfunction. The spokes-angel-person you selected gives every male who looks at her a hard-on.” Hinkley still didn’t understand. “Mr. Border, men who haven’t had a hard-on in decades get boners like granite just by looking at your ads.”
Hinkley sensed a trap. “Well, that’s great, isn’t it?”
“Not if 25% of your company’s gross income comes from selling a pill that now no one needs, thanks to your ad.”
“Yes, ‘oh,’ Mr. Border.” Dunlap scanned the room. “Suggestions?”
Three more ads were in the pipeline, more than Hinkley needed, but photo shoots allowed him to spend time with Angelica. Angelica couldn’t go anywhere except photo shoots without The Nun.
Joan Von Blatten came out from beneath the table.
“Yes?” Dunlap asked.
“What if we took off her wings?” Von Blatten asked.
“No!” Hinkley and The Nun said in unison.
Hinkley turned to The Nun. “You want to earn your commission and handle that question?”
The Nun put down her rosary and stood to face Dunlap. Dunlap’s eyes drifted down her legs to The Nun’s shoes. She was wearing patent leather Jimmy Choo peep-toe pumps with 4 inch wooden stacked heels and 2 inch platforms. “According to her contract, Angelica can only appear with wings.”
“And why is that?” Dunlap asked. “Did we do a market test without the wings? I mean, aren’t wings passé? Victoria’s Secret has been doing wings for years?”
“These wings are not passé,” Hinkley said.
“And why is that?”
“Because,” The Nun said, “they’re real.”
“Angelina’s wings are real,” she repeated. “She was born with them. That’s why her mother brought her to the convent as a baby. ‘An angel should be with people of God,’ her mother said.” The Nun pulled out her rosary and tried to ignore the bulge in Dunlap’s pants. “Of course her mother was also on Crank and…”
Dunlap motioned her silent. “You’re her agent?”
“Yes. Agent. Guardian. Mother Superior. Spiritual Guide.”
“And you get 10% of whatever she makes.”
“Actually 15%. It goes to the Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, but lately most of the money is eaten up by the cost of security.” The Nun looked over to Hinkley. “Being cloistered, security was never a problem before the first Angel Face ad aired Super Bowl weekend.”
Dunlap noticed that everyone was staring at the front of his pants. He sat down. “Let me get this straight. You are telling me that our model, Angelica, is a cloistered nun. And she has real wings.”
“Yes and no,” The Nun said. “Yes, her wings are real. I’ve preened them since she was a baby. And no, she is not a cloistered nun. She is a guest at our convent.”
“So,” Dunlap said, looking over to Joan Von Blatten for advice, “maybe we should send Angelica back to the convent.”
“You could,” the nun affirmed. “Until recently, she has shown no desire to leave.”
“What happened recently?”
The Nun’s rosary beads were flying through her fingers. “Complications.”
Before she could explain, Hinkley stepped forward. “Mr. Dunlap?” His mouth felt dry. He wanted his latte back. “There may be a solution.”
“We have only aired two commercials: the original Super Bowl ad, and the new one that debuted Sunday night during the opening episode of Desperate Housewives, Cleveland.”
“Yes, but your team has prepared an avalanche of Angel Face ads: print, packaging, posters, billboards, brochures, bottle openers, cozies, key chains, Frisbees, flash drives, and felt tips. Am I correct?” Hinkley nodded. “And do these images produce the same effect as the commercials?” Hinkley nodded again. “So we could put ourselves out of business with beer can cozies?” He began nodding like a bobble-head doll.
Hinkley knew what he had to do. “I’ll have my people pull in everything and destroy it.”
Dunlap smirked. “I’ve already done that.”
The Nun dropped her rosary. “When?”
“While Mr. Border was ordering his Milky Way Latte, and you were playing with your beads. By tonight, all that marketing crap will be in ashes.”
Hinkley slumped into his chair. Looked up at the large screen, but Angelica’s image had faded.
“That will be insufficient,” The Nun said softly.
“We’ll kill the television spots…”
“And buy out her modeling contract,” Joan Von Blatten said, hopefully.
“Yes. I think our Director of North American Sales is right. We’ll pay the little angel off.”
“And she’ll never work for us again.” Von Blatten seemed pleased with herself.
That’s when The Nun started laughing.
Von Blatten turned to Hinkley. “Why is she laughing?”
Hinkley was clueless. Angelica’s contract with Dunlap Pharmaceuticals had been a cash cow for the convent. Without her income from Dunlap, how would the sisters pay for the new bowling alley and indoor badminton courts they were building? How would the Mother Superior pay for her designer shoes? Hinkley noticed the cruel smile on The Nun’s lips. Better than anyone, he knew what she was capable of doing. “Oh!” he said.
Hinkley rose from his chair and faced the CEO. “We need to put Angelica under exclusive contract immediately.”
“That will cost you millions,” The Nun smirked.
“We have no choice but to pay,” Hickley said.
Dunlap exploded. “Why the hell would we increase her pay? We don’t want her to model for us any more.”
Hinkley chortled. He was finally a step ahead of Dunlap. “We won’t pay her to model for us. We will pay her not to model for everyone else.”
The whole room fell silent. Dunlap slumped in defeat.
“Angelica will have the same effect on men whether her image is on our product or on a shampoo or a tube hemorrhoid cream.” Hinkley moved to the front of the room. “But we can use that.” The spotlight moved from Dunlap to the marketing man. “First, we pull the magazine ads and replace them with a black page with pale pink lettering. ‘Buy the new Potent C with our angel, Angelica, now in 3-D.’ Then we make billboards and TV ads the same way. We remind every male in America of the image of Angelica, but we don’t show them her image.”
“And how does that work?” Von Blatten asked.
“The only place they can see Angelica is on the Potent C box itself. We wrap the boxes in black to hide the image on store shelves. When the customer opens the package, there is an image of Angelica in 3-D, specially printed to prevent photocopying.”
“You idiot. They still won’t need to buy the product. All they’ll need is the box. Men will hang on to the packaging for years.”
“But that’s the beauty of it. We make the ink light sensitive, so it fades within a month of being unwrapped.”
The Nun nodded appreciatively. “Ah. So, even if they don’t take the Potent C pills, they’ll need to get a refill every month, just to get a fresh photo.”
Dunlap saw Von Blatten retreating back under to her chair. “Will men pay $100 a month for a 3-D photo on the box of a prescription drug they don’t need?”
“Of course they will,” she blurted out. “If we gradually raised the price, they’d probably pay double the current price.”
“And why is that?”
“First, because our product will be superior to the competition. Every male unwrapping the package will get an immediate erection. Viagra, Cialis, and all the other pharmaceuticals for erectile dysfunction have side effects. Ours won’t.”
“Every medication has side effects,” Dunlap interjected. “Even ours.”
Von Blatten shook her head. “Imagine our customer, a patient with this terrible disorder, erectile dysfunction. He opens the box of Potent C. He is immediately aroused by the sight of Angelica’s photo. Why would he ever take the pill?”
“But this is going to cost you,” The Nun added. She sat down again, crossing her legs, and glancing over to Dunlap from behind her Ban Rays.
Dunlap scanned the room. “Reactions?” There was silence.
“What if something were to ‘happen’ to Angelica?” Hinkley looked into the dark room, but couldn’t identify the speaker. It was a woman. She articulated what Dunlap was already thinking. He knew a man who could…
“If something were to happen to Angelica,” The Nun said, “then the sisters and I would be forced into releasing hundreds of images of her we have recently discovered. We would be loath to do it since many of them are of her in various stages of undress, apparently taken by a secret lover. But we have stored them on various hard drives on various computers in secure locations, including the Vatican. Any possible assassins should know these photos would be spread worldwide, free, via the Internet within minutes of any ... accident.”
Dunlap cleared his throat. “Nothing of the sort would ever ....”
“There is another problem,” The Nun said firmly. She gently mopped her brow on her sleeve. “The source of these pictures is a man I trusted. He has apparently wormed his way into Angelica’s affections. I believe he is the reason she has resisted taking her vows. Plus, I believe he may be a danger to your entire company.”
“Is he that clever? That insidious?”
“On the contrary, he is a danger because he is so dreadfully stupid.”
“But how did he ever work his way into her affections? She may not have been a nun, but she was cloistered, too.”
“True. But this man had unusual access. He is my brother and ....”
Alarms sounded by the massive stainless steel doors. A spotlight showed Hinkley Border clutching the door to the situation room. He turned to Mr. Dunlap. “I was looking for my latte.”
“Border. You’re fired.”
“Actually, that would be a bad idea. If you hope to control Angelica, you will need him. My brother, Hinkley, is the only one whom Angelica will listen to. Plus, he is the only one that knows where the other pictures are.”
“Border is your brother?”
“There are more pictures?”
“Hundreds of them.”
Dunlap was displeased. “Border, I always wondered if your success came from brilliance or dumb luck ....”
“Dumb luck, sir. Dumb luck has been very good to me.”
“And Angelica is in love with you?”
“So it seems.”
“And you love her.”
“What’s not to love? She’s an angel.”
Dunlap looked around the room. “Thank you everyone for coming.” That was their cue to leave. The massive doors eased open. The lights came up. People began filing out. “Not you, Border.” Von Blatten hesitated at the door. “You’re done for the day,” Dunlap turned to The Nun. “I’m sorry, Sister, but do you have a name?”
“Sister Mary Immaculate.”
“I see.” Dunlap told her. “We’ll talk later.” He found himself strangely aroused by her. Power was his aphrodisiac. “I would prefer to keep this to ourselves.” He motioned for her to sit around the large table. “So how do we keep this from blowing up?”
The Nun sat down at the table. “First, my idiot brother should propose to Angelica. They can be married on Saturday. It’s my understanding she’s still a virgin, but I don’t think we can press our luck. Second, we send the happy couple on a honeymoon to Guatemala. There’s a convent in Panachel on Lake Attilan. It has a gardener’s cottage that should be sufficient for them, and it will be well removed from photographers. There’s an Internet café at the Sunset Bar. Hinkley can send you a new photo every month for the packaging, in exchange for Angela’s charge minus my fee.”
“Will Border be her agent?”
“Dear God no!” She crossed herself. “Angelica is smarter than that.”
“And what will you do?”
“I’m thinking about retiring from the convent. I thought I might go into business.”
“Yes. I could see that. Border, why don’t you get yourself another latte and then see me in my office before lunch. We’ll discuss your severance package.”
“You’re marrying an angel. Don’t push your luck. Now get out of here. Your Sister and I have things to discuss.”
Paul Lewellan is an Adjunct Instructor of Speech Communication at Augustana College, a small liberal arts school in Rock Island, Illinois. Before coming to Augustana he taught high school speech and debate for three decades. Paul has published over sixty short stories in magazines such asSouth Dakota Review, Watercress Journal, The Furnace, and Big Muddy. He believes that writers should follow Martin Luther’s advice to “sin boldly.” Among the heroes in his fiction are a psychic real estate agent, a nymphomaniac religion professor, the twin brother Jesus, and the Queen of Bass Fishing in America. Paul’s wife and best critic, Pamela, admits that his fiction sometimes frightens her. His latest novel, Twenty-one Humiliating Demands, chronicles an aging assassin who takes a sabbatical to teach Atrocity Studies at small mid-western university. He can be contacted at plewellan (at) ac.com.