Armand was bouyant as he walked along the sidewalk after leaving his car at the parking lot. So Davis complained to Didi? That’s fine. I will deal with him. Meanwhile, I’ll deal with some pressing stuff. Then I’ll celebrate.
“Mr. Hymen! Mr. Hymen!”, a man was shoving a microphone close to his face, trying to cut his progress on the sidewalk. “Was everything that happened in the fight what you expected?”
Armand quickened his pace so the guy has to move aside. He wouldn’t have answered even if he was in the mood, what with the way the guy pronounced his name. It rhymes with ‘Hey, man!’, not with that stupid part of the female genitalia, so he quickened his pace even more.
“Mr. Hymen, Mr. Hymen, was the Fight of the Era what you expected it to be? Did it simply follow your script? That everything went according to your plan? That you planned it all? Mr. Hymen? Mr. Hymen?”
He reached his office building and pushed at the door, then released it so it would slam into the reporter following closely behind, then heard the bang and the satisfying “Oh, shit!” before the glass door closed. He went straight to his office.
“Marina,” he said to the buzzer.
“Yes sir?” a female voice answered.
“Can I have the folder on Danny Pakmon?”
He rummaged through his table drawers and found what he was looking for.
“Marina,” he said to the buzzer.
“Never mind the folder.”
“Ask Cron to come over.”
— — — — — — — — — — —
Cron is a black guy of medium build, immaculately dressed in a suit.
“Hi Armand,” Cron greeted, smiling.
“Hey, Cron,” Armand answered, also smiling. They touched knuckles, then Cron sat opposite him.
“Everything went smoohtly, huh?” said Cron.
“Not everything,” answered Armand. “Listen, I want you to deal with this people,” he said while giving Cron the list. “Do you know them?”
Cron looked at the list. “Some of them.”
“Those are our people at Danny Pakmon’s training camp,” Armand said.
“What do you mean?”
“They are our eyes and ears on Pakmon’s camp.”
“You mean, our spies? All of them? Wow. It seems only Pakmon and the roach are the only ones not in on the scheme!”
“Some people never contacted our side. Or may be too late to find out and get a share of the spoils.”
“Pakmon and the roach have no idea that almost everybody around them were betraying them?”
“Every move,” said Armand. “Yeah, no idea. When Pakmon suffered his first cramps, we got the info within an hour. And almost everybody reported the same thing within an hour. So that’s how we confirmed any report. One guy reports, and the others report it too.”
“Wow. And everybody was trying to be the first to report.”
“That’s right, they were so eager. We know what he is eating, drinking, what kind of sparring, who’s the sparring partner, what time he sleeps, what he does after waking, what vitamins, what supplements, what kind of strength conditioning. Everything. Sometimes we even know ahead of Pakmon. So we pay them for their troubles for every report. Just peanuts. Just to keep them eager and drooling. With the promise that the huge pile of money that will keep them happy for the rest of their lives to be paid after the fight, when everything has been confirmed.”
“And of course confirmation will never come.”
“Same old suckers! They’re all the same! Ha-ha! So when did you know about his shoulder injury? What do they call it? Rotation buff?”
“Rotator cuff. Within an hour. They say the guy who first reported it has such a bad accent he could be a Filipino.”
“But I thought all Filipinos are loyal to Pakmon.”
“Ha-ha! That’s where you’re wrong. Everything has a price. Even loyalty. Money is God. Offer anyone money he could only dream of and he will forget his mother.”
“And that money will remain a dream.”
“That’s right. That’s where you come in.”
“You are the one who will deal with them.”
“But I thought they are not getting any.”
“That’s right. You will give them the runaround.”
“Oh. I see. I know how to do that.”
“That’s why I called you. Oh, and one thing. That shoulder injury?” Armand said, smiling.
“Yes? The rotator cuff?”
“It was our coup. We planned it,” Armand said smugly.
“What do you mean!?”
“We engineered it. It has to be accidental-like so they’ll never notice.”
— — — — — — — — — — —
“Olympic Doping Prevention, how can I help you?”
“Davis Traggard please,” answered Armand.
“May I know who’s calling, please?”
Davis came on the phone after a few seconds. “Hi Armand, I have been trying to contact you.”
“Why did you talk to Didi?” Armand asked.
“Because I cannot contact you, man.”
“Yesterday was just the day after the fight, what’s your hurry?”
“You said you will give me a huge bonus after the fight.”
“It is after the fight.”
“It was just the day after the fight!”
“It is after the fight.”
“Why did you have to talk to Didi?”
“Because I cannot find you, man. You were nowhere in sight!”
“Christ! Where do you think I will go?”
“I have no idea.”
“Listen, Davis, didn’t I guarrantee your bet on Froid?”
“And you collected, right?”
“So? What about it?”
“You collected your winnings, right?”
“Yes. Of course!”
“There you go! So why are you still looking for me?”
“My winnings has nothing to do with your promise!”
“That was the promise. You got it already.”
“But, but — ”
“Listen, I don’t like you contacting Didi. I don’t like it at all.”
“This is all the appreciation I get? After all I did for your Froid? How long do you think I can get my people, the lab people and the others to keep their mouths shut?”
“That is your problem.”
“But I have to pay these people! You think they give their services for free?”
“Look, how you do your work is none of my business.”
“But I have to pay so many people!”
“You were compensated well for your services.”
“Do you know how many times your Froid failed? Perhaps the only juice he didn’t take is the fruit kind! He overdid it this time!”
“I don’t care.”
“Look, Armand, I can’t keep people’s mouths shut forever.”
“Is that a threat?”
“I am not threatening anyone! I need help! I have to pay these people to keep their mouths shut! Look, he overdid it this time! Unlike before, where he failed once or twice, this time he failed so many times, I can’t count anymore! We don’t even know which tests to avoid so he would be clean, but he keeps failing! So I want to reward the lab techs for all their efforts!”
“You got your winnings, Davis.”
“That’s different! That’s not in our agreement.”
“Davis, there was no agreement.”
“Please, Armand, understand my situation — ”
“Look, Davis, I am busy.”
“I need help!”
“No. I already helped you. A lot. And don’t call Didi again,” Armand said and hanged up.
— — — — — — — — — — —
Bernie Smith, Armand’s media relations man, came visiting.
“Hey Bernie,” Armand greeted.
“Hi Armand,” the tall white guy greeted back.
“Glad you came,” said Armand. “Let’s go to the den. What will you have?”
“Oh, it’s too early. How are things?”
“Fine, fine. You got everything down pat.”
Bernie seated himself.
“Thank goodness both Froid junior and senior kept their stupid mouths shut and controlled themselves,” said Bernie. “They really cooperated. So the press really got nothing but good vibes from them this time.”
“That’s right. Silence is golden, like you said,” said Armand. “That was good.”
“Because everytime they open their mouths, everything goes awry. They behave like teenagers. Look at those videos of Froid ranting about Pakmon. So crass. So embarrassing.”
“Right. It shows a very childish, immature, insecure, fully-grown black guy behaving like a schoolboy. But it can’t be helped. It’s done. People uploaded it so many times, it’s all over the web. But you managed it well this time around.”
“Yes,” said Bernie. “Thank goodness they cooperated. I had a long and hard talk with them. It took a long time to convince them not to talk to the press or give any interviews. Except of course for the interviews we approved and set up. But, yeah, they agreed. And the result is fantastic! Our publicists were able to persuade the media that the reason they were not talking is because they respect Pakmon! Froid gave off a semblance of class! Imagine? From crass to class! Fantastic! The media bought it! Froid became the golden boy. The media was in the bag the whole time leading to the fight! And we got nothing but good coverage!”
“Yeah, I saw that. But we have to pay loads of money.”
“But money well spent. Until now we are still reaping the benefits. The interest was just so much! We only have to ‘pay’ certain critical people. Like that Yahoo sportswriter, the SI guy, the ESPN guy, and some guys from CNN, Fox, NBC. Also some guys from the boxing sites, but they are peanuts. Give them a small amount and they will go a long way to put in some good word for Froid.”
“Good. And we really did in that doddering old fart Aramberg.”
“That’s right,” said Bernie. “He did nothing. He did no credible campaign to bolster his fighter’s image. Or counter our campaign. None whatsoever,” said Bernie.
“I really don’t know why he calls himself a promoter when he hardly promotes. He is simply raking in the money. That doddering, old Jewish fart is simply greedy and wants to take in and take in and take in and doesn’t want to spend.”
“And will have a laundry list of expenses if ever any of his boxers ever complains.”
“That’s right. If I were Pakmon’s promoter, I could have made him a lot richer than he is now. A lot richer. I could have given him a fair shake. Why, I could have made him richer than Froid! Froid doesn’t make endorsements, yet he is richer!”
“That’s very possible, given the right image handling, of course.”
“That old fart does nothing to promote Pakmon. He is so popular that the old, doddering fart doesn’t have to do anything and simply rakes in the money.”
“Yet Pakmon has tax problems here and in his own country,” said Bernie. “Why? If Aramberg is taking care of his finances, including his taxes, why is he in such a financial mess?” asked Bernie.
“Right on. He has tax problems here and in his own country, and what does the old man do? Nothing. He could have rectified it in an instant, just like that. When that auditing firm was hired by Pakmon and started digging into the dirt and the slime of the old man’s financial hocus-pocus, he demonized them. So Pakmon has to let go of the auditing firm. It was his last chance of making Aramberg change his ways. Now he lost that chance. Pathetic. Now the old man can do anything he wants with impunity.”
“Can’t Pakmon realize Aramberg is robbing him blind?” asked Bernie.
“I think he knows,” answered Armand. “I think he realizes somewhat. Like why he always ends up being short of cash. Why he always has a problem with the IRS come tax time. But he can’t do anything. That old Jewish fart can convince a priest that the Devil himself is such a noble heart. Pakmon is no match. It looks like he has already mortgaged his future to the old man. He is just a pawn. He is just a puppet. And that old fart is the master. He calls the shots. Even who he should fight next. Or else there will be a backlash. Like making Pakmon suffer financially. Or not give him the fights he likes.”
“I heard that even Pakmon’s personal adviser reports to Aramberg,” said Bernie.
“That’s right,” answered Armand. “Aramberg knows everything. Pakmon is stupid, simply stupid. Stupid for signing up with Aramberg in the first place. Stupid still for signing up again with Aramberg at every end of his contract. And more stupid for letting that old, greedy leech manage his finances. Oh, that fucking Aramberg is so lucky for having such a continuous windfall after taking in Pakmon. He doesn’t have to do anything. Just announce the next fight then rake in the money.”
“And now that Pakmon lost to Froid, Aramberg will simply dump him,” said Bernie.
“The greedy old fart will milk him to the last drop yet, then discard him like an old rag when he is no longer useful.”
“Ha-ha! Then bye-bye, Pakmon! Pakmon deserves that. That’s his reward for his stupidity.”
— — — — — — — — — — —
Armand mulled over what he is going to say to Didi, known as the Fixer. He decided he can no longer hold off the call to the ex-judge.
“Hi Didi,” said Armand.
“Who is this?”
“This is Armand. Hymen.”
“Oh. Armand. How are you?”
“I am fine. I want you to know that Davis and I have already come to an understanding.”
“It was just a misunderstanding.”
“Miscommunication. I thought we were on the same page, but it turns out, he misread me.”
“He misread you.”
“Or we misread each other. But everything’s okay now. We already arrived at an agreement.”
“Good. Good. I want you to be in good terms with each other. Okay? Irritants should be avoided. Right?”
“Or there will be problems.”
“Like if it is as big as the Pakmon-Weatherling fight.”
“I know. That’s why we threshed it out as soon as we could. And we did. Everything’s settled now.”
“Okay,” said Armand.
“Everything’s settled now?”
“Yes. Everything’s settled now.”
“That’s all I want to tell you,” said Armand.
“Have a nice day.”
— — — — — — — — — — —
Cron got his first call that afternoon.
“Heelloo? Good murrneng. I mean, good afteernoon.”
“Hi,” answered Cron.
“Me I spik wit Cron?”
“I’m Cron. Who is this please?”
“May I know who this is?”
“Oh, I see, sorry, I am Rene.”
“What is your full name, Rene?”
“Oh, sorry, I cannot till you. I want meek sure I’m towking to Cron.”
“This is Cron.”
“Is it about the payment?”
“Yees! Da peeymeent!”
“Good. Don’t worry, this is Cron. I am the one in charge.”
“Ooh good! So… when I git… peeymeent?”
“Soon. As soon as we verified that all the information you gave us is correct, you will get the payment.”
“As soon as we finish verifying.”
“But shooldeer injuree berripie already.”
“Not yet. We are still waiting for the official medical report.”
“When you berripie?”
“We don’t know, but as soon as we do, you will get the money.”
“Okee. But plees don’t cool me. I want this secreet. So I cool you.”
“I give you my bunk account now.”
“We have plenty of time for that. When we are about to send you the money, you can give us your account number. Isn’t it safer that way?”
“Yees, yees. Tank you.”
“I cool ageen.”
“Please keep this secreet.”
— — — — — — — — — — —
Steve Sanders, Armand’s legal adviser, came to report.
“Everything’s okay on my end,” Steve said. “But that day Froid got caught by the Olympic Doping team injecting his juice was one scary day. I thought it will blow up on our faces. Luckily we have a guy there that very moment. He held a closed-door session with the two guys from Olympic Doping, reminding them of the many legal entanglements thrown their way if they could not keep their mouths shut. Our guy handled it well. And I have to call Davis to rope in those two guys. So they came up with the ‘rehydration therapy’ technical bullshit. It worked.”
“It wasn’t handled perfectly,” Armand answered, “but at least you were able to stem the possible disaster,” answered Armand. “I had to talk to Froid myself. They were becoming more brazen. Or careless. I told him if he really wanted us to help him beat Pakmon, he should help himself first. Be more discreet. Fucking sonofabitch! After all our hard work with the media and all. We had to make a new round of ‘favors’ and payments to the media again just so they will forget to mention it or mention it in a favorable light.”
“But I still cannot understand why Froid has to juice up for his fights. He could have easily handled his opponents even without PEDs, even Pakmon.”
“I know. But he still wasn’t fully confident. He was still scared. Of losing. Not necessarily of Pakmon. He wanted to be one hundred percent sure.”
“Yes, I wonder why.”
“He was worried that the Pakmon that will show up is the Pakmon of 2009, the Pakmon who destroyed Cottman.”
“But Pakmon is so old now, so slow,” said Steve.
“I know. Everybody knows that. Almost all boxing experts said so. But that Pakmon who destroyed Cottman is so scary. Did you see how many punches he can throw in one second? All clean, accurate and powerful! From all sorts of angles! Unpredictable, highly unpredictable. How can you time that? That was why Froid was scared. I would be scared too. He was a monster. But, yes, he is so slow now. A lot slower.”
“That’s right. Even his former strength coach, Almar Acero, says he is just a shadow of what he once was,” said Steve.
“Even in sparring, he was awful. He wants to be a boxer now instead of the old, all-action storm he once was. Which made him easy pickings for Froid.”
“I know!” exclaimed Steve.
“But he really has no choice. Even if he is still an all-out slugger, Froid will still be timing him all night, he is that slow now. And it seems the roach does not see that his fighter now has habits that make him predictable, even his feints. He telegraphs his moves from a mile away. That is how Marquez timed him. That is why Froid fought him now, instead of six years ago. But that Pakmon who fought Cottman did not telegraph his intentions. The next thing you know, the punch is already there, so how can you time that? That is why we avoided the fight by accusing him of using PEDs. Well, it worked. And it stuck. Until now, people are still accusing him of using steroids. That was brilliant. By the way, we had his camp riddled with our spies, so we know what was happening there each and every day.”
“I know you will do that. Who doesn’t do that, or try to do that?” asked Steve.
“Anyway, Froid wants to make sure, so he made sure all the odds were stacked in his favor. So did anything come up with the suits?” asked Armand.
“Not yet. But they will come. When you informed me about Pakmon’s shoulder injury and the possible cancellation of the fight, we immediately made the rounds of the casinos and hotels, then we contacted the high-rollers, the big bettors, warning about the possible cancellation, and advising them that if and when the fight is cancelled by the Pakmon camp, they can sue Top Gun and Pakmon, and that we will be willing and ready to provide legal advise. The number of lawsuits alone would be enough to sink Top Gun and that Aramberg, as well as Pakmon. Even if they win all the suits, which is very unlikely, all the legal fees alone is enough to bankrupt them.”
“And now they have to deal with the lawsuits from bettors,” said Armand.
“Yes,” answered Steve. “After the fight, we advised some of the high-rollers that they can and should sue. They were duped by Pakmon for not announcing before the fight that he has an injury. So they betted on the wrong guy. Pakmon himself admitted the injury, even blaming the injury for his bad performance! He cannot backtrack now! He even lost some respect for that.”
“We knew what was going on at Pakmon’s side after the injury happened. They were torn between announcing the injury, cancelling the fight, losing all those potential revenue, and facing all the possible lawsuits from hotels and casinos, or going on with the fight even with an injury, which is a sure way of losing. So either way, they will lose! Now that they’ve lost the fight, they will face the ire of the bettors, and the lawsuits!”
“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!” exclaimed Steve. “Poor Aramberg. And Pakmon. We really did them in this time. They were made for each other. The wily old leech and the stupid boxer.”
“But you know what?”
“What?” asked Steve.
“I strongly suspect that Aramberg knew that some people around Pakmon are betraying him.”
“What? Yet he turned a blind eye? Why would he do that?”
“Perhaps because he wanted to teach Pakmon a lesson. Or so that Pakmon will not grow so big. So he can keep Pakmon under his control.”
“Poor Pakmon. He is being used by everybody around him. He is really fucked.”
— — — — — — — — — — —
Pakmon’s popularity should suffer now, Armand thought after Steve left. The memory of what happened at the arena before the fight made him shiver. He can’t understand it. Almost all of the spectators were pro-Pakmon. To think that they were mostly Americans! After all our media campaign! And the money we poured! Yet they were all rooting for Pakmon! Perhaps only the celebrities and the media were pro-Froid. The din was deafening whenever Pakmon’s name was mentioned and became menacing when Froid was mentioned. It seemed they all wanted to be in the ring so they can hit Froid themselves, the hatred was that palpable. It was unnerving, surreal.
So no matter what media campaign you do, however much money you pour on journalists, anchors, writers, producers, even media execs, the people will still not buy it; Pakmon is still their man. The people’s champ. And Froid will always be derided, despised and reviled by the majority. That’s fucking twisted. No matter what we did, Froid was still seen as an asshole. An immature, egotistic, narcissistic, woman-beating ex-con asshole. Will that always stick with him despite his genius in the ring? That’s so unfair!
Well, their champ lost. That should take away his luster and sheen. So perhaps now the tide will turn. America loves a winner, especially a winner oozing with money. Money is everything. You do not choose between God and Mammon, they are one and the same. No matter what kind of person, everybody worships money. Yes, the tide will turn. This time it is Froid’s time, all the way. He knew it.
He decided to call it a day. It was exhilarating yet tiring. Time to celebrate, so he called Ricky.
“Hi Ricky-boy. How are you?”
“I’m fine, although getting a bit lonely here.”
“We can do something about that.”
“How about you and me doing something interesting tonight?”
“Like some hanky-panky?”
“Something like that.”
“Ummm, sounds interesting.”
“See you tonight, then.”
“I’ll be waiting, baby.”
“See you there, babe.”
“Hurry up! You’re wasting time!”
There’s nothing like a wild and exciting night to soothe my nerves after a hard-won fight, Armand thought as he turned off the lights and locked up his office.