Chapter 24 - City Chat with Giselle - Part 1

Nancy came under increasing pressure from the upper management of Emerald Empire to make arrangements for her favorite presenter to be interviewed. One of the national news networks was filming a series about recent changes in the international art market and would include a segment on the company. It was an opportunity for publicity that would be foolish to pass up.

Nancy did not think having Eveline speaking on television would be a good idea, but her supervisors overruled her. Fortunately Nancy's employee had moved away from being the nervous, shy high school student that had entered her office just a few months before. Eveline agreed to do the interview.

"I'm gonna need talking points from the public relations department, and a specific list of things you wouldn't want me to say in public. Don't assume I'm gonna just know what to say and what not to say. You're gonna have to tell me so I don't mess up. I also want the public relations department to get me talking points from the West African Confederation's embassy. Same thing with them as with the company. I want to know, in writing, what the WAC doesn't want me to say."

Eveline drafted Lance to help her get ready for the interview. She ordered him to research how the news outlet interviewed models, especially ones that had been connected to political or business scandals. She also instructed him to find previous interviews with officials from the West African Confederation. When she told Lance about the likelihood Comandante Foxtrot was getting ready to set up a state religion, he responded:

"This is your chance. You can nail that crazy bastard dictator to the wall! You can... "

"Nail 'that crazy bastard dictator to the wall'? What are you talking about?"

"If he's buying all that stuff so he can set up his fake religion, you can get the information out there; warn people what he's up to... "

"Uh, no... I'm not gonna warn anybody about anything."

"But I thought that was why they were interviewing you."

"No, they're interviewing me because they want a fluff piece on the antique market and they want to put a naked blond girl in front of their cameras."

"Then make it something more than that! Don't you want to let everyone know what's really going on over there?"

"No, I don't. Let the diplomats handle that. And if you think I'd do anything, anything at all, that'd risk pissing-off Comandante Foxtrot, you'd better think again!"

"Yeah! 'Let the diplomats handle that!' Like that's gonna happen! That's the problem! No one wants to piss-off Comandante Foxtrot! So, he keeps doing all that shit! That's... "

"Lance! Lance! You listen to me! I've been right next to him a couple of times! He's had his arm around me! He's talked to me and I've looked him in the eyes! That dude is fucking scary! There is something about him, I can't explain it, but there's something about him... and that's how he got to where he is today! Maybe somebody can stop him, I wouldn't know! But it's not gonna be me!"

"But... "

"Stop! Stop! Let's have a reality check! I'm an 18-year-old nude model who's living with my teacher! My mom's in jail and I've got a meth-head brother who blew up our house! That's my fucking reality! Your reality is, if you love me, you're gonna do what you can to help me! I don't need you pushing a bunch of 'save the world' bullshit and trying to convince me I need to risk my life, and the lives of everyone at Emerald Empire, 'for the good of humanity'! I don't need that shit! I don't fucking need it! What I need is for you to support me! Do you get it? Do you understand?"

Lance was shocked and terrified by how quickly and how harshly his girlfriend came down on him. She was showing the dark side of herself: angry, cold, and hardened by the realities of life. He had not realized that dark side was part of her.

"Yeah. I... I... understand."

Eveline was continuing to tighten her grip on Lance. She was learning how to better manipulate and control him. She could also see how much she had just scared him. She felt kinda bad about that, because she liked him and admired a lot of things about his character. But Eveline had to survive in a world that was increasingly sinister and hostile. Given that truth, his choice was simple. Either he would assist her in her desire to survive, or he wouldn't. And if Lance could not make himself useful to Eveline, she'd have no choice but to leave him. She didn't want to do that. She wanted him in her life, but under her conditions, not anyone else's.

Nancy had doubts about bothering to contact the embassy of the West African Confederation. They were going to take time to advise an auction presenter doing a fluff interview on a late-night talk show? Yeah right. However, she decided to humor her employee and give her the benefit of the doubt.

To Nancy's surprise, the WAC embassy press secretary responded almost immediately. Nancy didn't know that when Eveline gave her high school presentation about the history of the West African Confederation, the embassy had sent an official map and a large portrait of the Supreme Leader. Now that same girl was going to be on national television? Of course the WAC was going to respond.

The embassy sent an interview guide and the talking points Eveline had requested. They included a quick-reference statistics flip-booklet and several maps. They also sent an ominously-worded memo:

"Attention, Presenter Eveline Rogers:

The information we have provided will guide you through most journalistic inquiries that are usually made about Supreme President Comandante Foxtrot and current conditions within the West African Confederation. To avoid controversy and possible misunderstandings, we strongly advise you to adhere to the guidance we have given you. Our team of international analysts in the Foreign Operations Division of our Information Ministry will be most interested in observing and evaluating your performance. We wish you success in your public endeavor."

Eveline showed the paperwork to her boss. "They made it really simple, if you think about it. Looks like they want me to do two things: keep everything vague and positive, and do it while not sounding like a cheerleader or total idiot."

"I gotta admit; they did a good job with this script. A lot better than what Jackie in PR wrote up for the company. I'm gonna go upstairs, show this to her, give her a good kick in the butt, and tell her to write up some real talking points."

"Nancy, I wouldn't do that."

"Why not?"

"I don't want anyone to know that the WAC embassy gave me these talking points. This is between us, you and me. We're in deep enough as it is. Both of us."

Nancy handed the paperwork back to Eveline. She was more than impressed by the girl's sudden show of caution, maturity, and astuteness. She no longer doubted Eveline would do just fine during the interview.

Eveline was ready when she entered the studio for her appearance on "City-Chat with Giselle". All that preparation turned out to be very fortunate, because the interview was not the "fluff" interview that everyone was expecting.

It turned out that Giselle had connections with one of the museums that had lost an artifact to Comandante Foxtrot's collection. The talk show host had an ax to grind against Emerald Empire and their dealings with corrupt foreign leaders. Giselle attempted to throw Eveline off-balance with some hard questions, but the guest responded that her company was nothing more than an intermediary that connected buyers and sellers of expensive art. She managed to stay on script, even though she had no notes and had to recite everything from memory:

"Our role is to get the best sale price for each item we present at auction. That's our commitment to each customer who entrusts a valuable item to our care. Each of us, myself and every one of my companions at Emerald Empire, has an important part in fulfilling that commitment, which is, as I stated, to get the best price... the best fair price. We are nothing more than honest facilitators of the free market."

"The purchases made by Comandante Foxtrot were all fair and honest purchases, no different from any other transaction we facilitate. The seller was providing the artifact and wanted the best price. Making the purchase was, in Comandante Foxtrot's judgment, a decision that would serve the people of the West African Confederation, and it was our role to facilitate the sale."

Eveline threw Giselle off by using the professional vocabulary that she had picked up from studying her briefing materials. When specifically asked about Comandante Foxtrot, she kept her personal opinions about him to herself. Instead she cited various accomplishments and used the WAC official talking points to deflect questions about the Supreme Leader's aggressive foreign policy and massive human rights violations. She went slightly off-script only once, when she shared an observation that he was a savvy customer who was well-versed in the antiquities market and had a real appreciation for Africa's history. That was the closest she ever came to voicing a personal opinion of the Comandante.

At that point Giselle realized that Eveline was very astute and knew how to avoid saying anything that would get her in trouble. She also realized that her guest was very likeable and she would not be able to press her much more without making herself look bad, which would hurt the program's ratings. The talk-show hostess decided to back down and spent the rest of the interview chatting about more neutral topics such as Eveline's school, her basketball team, how she felt about her naked lifestyle, and her plans for what happened after she graduated. Oddly enough, the inquiry about Eveline's future was the one question she had difficulty answering. Finally she blushed, laughed a moment, and concluded:

"I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing now. I'm really having a lot of fun with it." She stood up and turned around for the cameras. "And you can't beat my work outfit, low-cost, low maintenance."