Authors: Angus Morrison
Tags: #Literary, #Fiction, #General
The beautiful thing was that Jagmetti didn’t need to ask questions. That wasn’t his job. His job was to do what his clients asked of him, keep his head down, and get very rich in the process. None of that Anglo, moral claptrap about taking only “clean” clients. What was “clean” anyway? That was a sucker’s game. He took all kinds of clients, the same way lawyers did, and he didn’t make apologies. Business and morality were mutually exclusive. Morality was for Sundays. Morality was expensive.
A gentle sun danced on the water. The lilies in his office emitted a fresh, clean smell. It was satisfying to be Swiss. He took his coat from the rack, put it on and walked downstairs. He needed lunch. He decided he’d eat at Cantinella Antinori in the old town near St. Peter’s Church. They had excellent veal.
On his way to the restaurant, Jagmetti stopped by Sprungli to get a box of chocolates. Outside of the store, he took a breath of crisp air. He found it difficult to believe that just 200 years ago, they were trading livestock in this fabled square. He was now a true “Zurcher,” but it hadn’t always been that way. His father came over from Italy in the 50s to work in a turbine plant. His mother was a Swiss-German nurse. They worked hard so that he wouldn’t have to, then they died.
And so, over his veal, Jagmetti quietly toasted his parents with a nice Dole red wine. It seemed the perfect way to congratulate them, and himself.
“Vaughn, it’s Aaron Cannondale.”
“Aaron, how are you?”
“Fine. Let’s get this Cheyenne acquisition rolling. They’re past their IPO, they secured their satellite deal, and they’re making good progress. Whadya say?”
“Two weeks? You sure about that, Aaron? The Euros aren’t going to take too kindly to that. They’ll think you’re pushy.”
“I am pushy. Let’s do this thing. And let’s make a show of it while we’re at it. I want this to be so far out there in the public imagination that the Euro weenies and the folks in Washington can’t possibly back away from it.”
“Are we gonna have any problems with the Justice Department?”
“Good. Call me when you’re ready to pull the trigger. And, oh yeah, Terry. One more thing.”
“What’s that, Aaron?”
“Let’s do it at the Savoy.”
“The Savoy in London?”
“Like the old days?”
“You got it.”
“Why the Savoy, Aaron?”
“I always liked those little sandwiches without the crusts that they serve at high tea.”
For over 2000 years, the Netherlands had been trying to fashion a country out of the sea with a series of dikes, polders and windmills. Today, it was twice the size of New Jersey, and was essentially a delta comprised of silt from the mouths of the Rhine, Waal, Maas, Ijssel and Schelde Rivers. The average elevation of the country is 36 feet. When a plane
lands at the Amsterdam airport, Schiphol, it is hitting the runway at six feet below sea level.
The 12th province of the Netherlands, a place called Flevoland, was carved out of the sea. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
And so, Elliott Pettigrew — part pitbull, part lobbyist, part Louisiana Good ol’ boy, and Aaron’s man in Washington — thought it fitting that the Netherlands was the birthplace of Cheyenne.
Aaron had sent Pettigrew to Amsterdam to meet with Kuipers at the Ministry of Waterworks. Aaron thought it wouldn’t hurt to butter up the Dutchman before Lyrical and Cheyenne made the acquisition public.
Tech rags had spilled endless ink about Cheyenne’s technology. European futurists were brimming with excitement about the impending possibilities of unlimited bandwidth delivered, not by thousands of miles of unused fiber that had been hastily put in the ground by the world’s telecom companies, but rather through a completely new and promising technology. Meanwhile, the rumors about the Dutch national telephone company, N-tel, developing a type of rival technology continued to swirl despite the fact that Cheyenne’s technology was considered to be in a league of its own.
Even before Cannondale had become interested in Cheyenne, Timmermans and Peter had secured Kuipers’ permission to use the Dutch national water system to send data on a trial basis – a decision for which Kuipers still punished himself. Kuipers hadn’t really understood Cheyenne’s technology. He thought he was helping the small Dutch company get a head start. But of course, that was all before Cannondale entered the picture.
Now, the headlines blared about how Cheyenne had secured a satellite. The upstart was on its way. But what was done could be undone. Kuipers had the power to be a kingmaker, and like Eatwell, he sure as hell had no intention of crowning Cannondale.
Kuipers’ Amsterdam office was located at 156 Beatrixstraat. The lobby was a combination of brushed steel, pine tables, trendy halogen lamps and fresh tulips. “Euro-crap,” Pettigrew muttered under his breath.
“Meneer?” a short-haired, middle-aged woman said from behind the lobby desk.
“Elliot Pettigrew to see Mr. Kuipers, please.”
She picked up a phone, whispered something into it, hung it up and pointed to the elevators with an attitude that grated on him. He couldn’t pinpoint what it was that he disliked about her. It was a sort of continental arrogance he sometimes felt when he was in Europe.
“Third floor,” she said sternly.
“You don’t get laid much, do you?” Pettigrew mumbled incomprehensibly, turning to enter the elevator.
Pettigrew took a seat in Kuipers’ waiting room. It couldn’t have been more different from the lobby. It had an old-school, Napoleonic grandeur that momentarily sent Pettigrew back to the big houses of his childhood in New Orleans. On one wall was a framed copy of Vermeer’s “The Art of the Painting.” Another painting was filled with Reubenesque nymphs frolicking near a pond with a grinning goat in the background.
He could just see into Kuipers’ office from where he was sitting. There were urns, and ornate corbels on faux pillars midway up the walls. In the corners stood busts of august European statesmen.
Another stern woman, maybe the receptionist’s sister, arrived to offer Pettrigrew coffee. “Black, please,” he said.
He picked up a copy of
The Financial Times
from the coffee table just as a figure appeared in the office doorway.
It was Kuipers.
“Please, come in, Mr. Pettigrew, sit down.”
“I trust you had a good trip?”
“Good. Now, before we begin, I must tell you that I am not a fan of your Mr. Cannondale.”
“No, I’m not. And if you’re thinking of leaking that to the press, I’ll just deny it.”
“May I ask why you have formed this opinion?”
“No, you may not.”
“In that case, you’re not going to like what I’ve come here to talk to you about.”
Kuipers remained expressionless.
“You are aware of Cheyenne’s intention to use satellites to fill out its network. We have made arrangements to supply Cheyenne with an initial bird.”
, Mr. Pettigrew?”
“I beg your pardon?”
. You refer to
I ask because it has never been entirely clear to me what your role is in Cheyenne’s affairs.”
is Cheyenne, whom I represent, Mr. Kuipers.”
“Are you an employee of Cheyenne?”
“Cheyenne has hired me as a consultant.”
“But you are also a consultant for Aaron Cannondale and Lyrical, Inc., yes?”
“Mr. Cannondale appears to be quite anxious to help Cheyenne move ahead with the build-out of its infrastructure.
“Well, the company is young. I don’t necessarily consider that rushing things.”
“I would have thought that a businessman as savvy as Mr. Cannondale would understand the notion of patience in these types of affairs.”
“ Let me put it bluntly, Mr. Pettigrew. I do not like Mr. Cannondale.”
“You mentioned that.”
“I like neither his arrogance, nor his presumption that because Cheyenne has received our blessing to conduct trials here in the Netherlands that he somehow has carte blanche with the future of this endeavor. I understand the American affinity toward getting things done quickly, Mr. Pettigrew, but on this matter I would advise that Lyrical err more on the side of delayed gratification than immediate conquest.”
Pettigrew fumed, but he caught himself before he spoke. “Sir, you are absolutely right. That’s sound advice. I apologize for my abruptness. I know I can speak for all the principals at Cheyenne when I say that we are grateful for the opportunity to conduct our trials in the Netherlands. I think we all understand how potentially important this technology is. We have every intention of proceeding within the parameters laid out by the Dutch government.”
“It is reassuring to hear that, Mr. Pettigrew.”
“I can also speak for Mr. Cannondale when I say that he is anxious to work with the Dutch government on any steps that can be taken to ensure Cheyenne’s success, a success that Mr. Cannonale is eager to share with the Dutch people. On a larger, political level, we are, of course, well aware that the last few years haven’t necessarily been a high point in the transatlantic relationship, but the economic foundation of US/EU relations remains sound. Our view is that the more partnering we can do together on common interests the better both of our peoples will fare. You are aware of Mr. Cannondale’s recent plans to donate a new research facility in Utrecht?”
“I am. Very timely, I’d have to say.”
“In the interest of understanding one another then, we would like to secure satellite broadcasting rights in the Netherlands to fill out Cheyenne’s network. We have secured such rights from other members of the EU. Failure to expand with satellites will not only jeopardize Cheyenne’s current trial, but ultimately its ability to provide services once the trial has ended.”
“What are you proposing?”
“Cheyenne would soon like to launch a satellite – its first. Doing so will allow us to maintain our timelines. Our client base will initially be pan-Europe, but as you know, we must secure satellite rights from administrators such as yourself in each country where we wish to broadcast signals. I might add that Cheyenne’s plans are also consistent with your prime minister’s push, as well as the European Commission’s efforts, to promote an innovation agenda.”
“Our prime minister’s push is meant to promote innovation between European Union members, Mr. Pettigrew. You’re from Louisiana, are you not?”
“I am. How is that relevant?”
“I just have to think that if someone in the city of New Orleans had discovered Cheyenne’s technology, and a wealthy man from the Netherlands showed up to take it over ... excuse me, to buy a controlling stake, how would the fair citizens of New Orleans feel about that?”
“The people of New Orleans may be southern, sir, but that does not preclude them from being good capitalists. They would understand.”
“Mr. Kuipers. Can we stick to the point of our meeting?”
“It’s my understanding that your Prime Minister’s push for an innovation agenda is primarily, but
exclusively, focused on activities within the EU, or has that changed?”
“Mr. Pettigrew, what is it that Mr. Cannondale and Cheyenne want exactly?”
“What any good business wants — to profit. Can Cheyenne count on your approval to let it use satellite technology to fill out its network?”
“Regrettably, although I have not yet come to a final decision, you cannot count on my approval at this moment in time,” Kuipers said.
The statement didn’t surprise Pettigrew considering Kuipers’ cold reception, but the bluntness did. He expected some equivocation, some room for discussion.
“May I ask why not?”
“Because although Mr. Cannondale now owns a portion of Cheyenne, any future increase in that shareholding would have the potential to dominate Internet communications in the Netherlands. Capitalism isn’t a particularly American endeavor, Mr. Pettigrew. We understand the concept of competition quite well.”
“I see. I was under the impression that given the good work that Cheyenne had already undertaken in this country the ministry would be partial to helping see the project through to completion.”
“Is that a formal ‘no’?”
“For the time being.”
“In that case, sir, I thank you for your time and I look forward to re-visiting this in the near future.”
“By all means,” Kuipers said.
With that, the two men shook hands. Pettigrew smiled and left.
Hayden had just finished putting the final touches on a speech for Aaron, who was sitting across from him in the cabin of the Gulfstream doing a crossword puzzle. Hayden’s head ached from staring at the laptop. He closed his
eyes to take a nap. Just as he was about to drift off to sleep, the phone rang. Aaron put it on speaker phone:
“Aaron, it’s Elliot.”
Aaron’s Washington guy.
“Elliot. Good to hear from you. How did it go with the water miser?” Aaron said, laying down the crossword.
“Not well, Aaron. This whole Iraq thing has got the Euros spooked. It’s the backdrop to every conversation they have about the United States. They’re so pissed off they can’t think straight. Beyond that though, I think something else is going on.”
“I think somebody has gotten to Kuipers. He’s stiff-arming us.”
“What do you mean?”
“My guess, he’s stalling until the Dutch telecom company, N-tel, can catch up on this type of technology.”
“N-tel? They’re a joke. Do they really think they have a chance?”
“They have the Dutch government on their side. I’ve got a guy inside over there, Aaron. He did some digging. They’re definitely looking to roll-out some sort of service down the road.”