Not Even a Mouse: A Rona Shively Short (Chapter Two)

I collected my mail when I got to my apartment building and was surprised to see only a couple of bills in the pile. The rest were flyers and advertisements for products or services for which I had no use. I removed the two bills from the stack and chucked the rest in the trash can as soon as I got in the door. It was about three p.m. and somehow, I’d forgotten to eat lunch. The meeting with Nellie had left me feeling unsettled and I hadn’t even thought about food until I reached my apartment. I was starving so as soon as I got in the door, I checked the refrigerator to see if anything had miraculously appeared in there since this morning when there was nothing to eat for breakfast.

Sadly, there was only about a half gallon of orange juice, two slices of American cheese, one pickle and what was left of a deluxe pizza that I had ordered three nights ago. Anyone who knows me knows that I have practically no culinary talents. There was really nothing I could do with two pieces of cheese and a pickle that would make me less hungry, so I picked up the phone and dialed Paco’s. My old favorite, Micelli’s had gone out of business a couple of weeks ago and Paco’s had opened in their old location. I hadn’t tried their pizza yet, so I decided on a large Italian sub. Since orange juice didn’t go so well with Italian food, I also ordered a six pack of Coke. That accomplished, I plopped down on my couch with the two bills in my hand. Reluctantly, I opened the first one and pulled out its contents.

It was the bill for my renter’s insurance and it looked like the premium had actually gone down from last month. At least that was something good. The next bill wasn’t quite so wonderful. Last month I had to have some dental work done after an altercation with a rather surly individual I’d encountered as part of a case I was working. Some words were exchanged and before I knew what was happening, a couple of fists were flying. One of those fists had connected with my jaw and knocked out one of my teeth. In short, I still owed about $475 for the time I’d spent in the dentist’s chair. I tossed the bills aside and got up to go to the bathroom. I went down the hall and did what I needed to do. By the time I made my way back to my living room area, there was a knock at the door. Thank God, I thought. I took a twenty from my pocket and opened the door. I handed the money to the delivery boy and took the bag and the six pack.

I was so frigging hungry. The sandwich smelled heavenly, if that’s possible. I unwrapped it and took a bite. This was just what I needed. I opened one of the cans of Coke and put the rest of the six-pack in the refrigerator, still holding the sub in one hand. I wasn’t about to put this sandwich down. Once I had settled down, I realized that my attachment to the sandwich was worrisome. I really needed to find a hobby. It’s a sad thing when the most exciting event of the day is unwrapping an eight inch sub. Though it might have been more sad if it had only been the six inch.

After I had finished the sub, I opened up my laptop to do some research. If I was going to play the role of a salesperson, I needed to come up with something clever to “sell.” It’s not like you can go into a business and say, “Hi, I’m a salesperson, please let me come in and look around.” After about an hour, I stumbled upon an idea that I thought might work. I couldn’t find much in the way of products, but I figured that any business needs decent advertising. Since I hadn’t been very effective in marketing my own services, I wasn’t sure how I was going to come across in a sales presentation but hey, who really cares? All I needed was a business card and maybe a flyer or two and I could at least look like I knew what I was doing.

Though I’m not highly computer savvy, I opened up my Word program and started working on a template for a business card. I had recently taken one of those free classes at my local library where they taught me how to do some basic stuff with Word. I had liked the class so much that I had gone out and bought myself a couple of tutorial programs that I worked on in my spare time. After selecting a business card template from the menu, I filled in a fake name for myself, Jenny Herman. It was the first thing that came to me that didn’t sound like something out of a cheap movie. From there, I added the fake P.O. Box number that I use for all of my undercover endeavors. After that, I decided that my “company” really needed a name. Like I said, I’m not terribly good at this marketing stuff. I sat back in my chair for a moment and looked at the ceiling. Often, ideas came to me when I stared at the ceiling. I’m not sure what’s up there, but it usually sparks some creativity. As I studied the grid of the suspended ceiling tiles, the name came to me. I typed in “Criss-Cross Advertising Solutions.” After that, I pulled a graphic into the document to spiff it up a bit. I was pretty impressed with myself. Just a month ago, I couldn’t have figured this shit out and now here I was making fake stuff like a pro. Cool.

I pulled out a sheet of business card paper that I had purchased for making my own cards and stuck it into my printer. I hit the print button and within five minutes, I had my very own set of cards for Criss-Cross Advertising. Now, all I had to do was come up with some pricing and services. To do this, I just looked online for some advertising companies and copied from them. Most of them offered the same types of things, but I stuck with the ones that looked like things I understood. Pricing was a little more difficult. For that, I had to make a couple of phone calls.

“Hello,” I said as the receptionist for AAA Advertising picked up the phone.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a polished, professional tone.
“Yes, I am looking for a company that can do an advertising campaign for my business,” I said, not really knowing what to ask for. “What kinds of services do you offer?”

She ran down a list of things and then said that she could connect me to a Marketing Specialist. Before I could object, she had put me on hold and transferred me over to Ted in Marketing.

“This is Ted, what can I do for you?” he said cheerily.
“I’m looking to do some advertising for my business, can you tell me how much an advertising campaign might cost?” I asked. That sounded really stupid.
“Were you looking for print, direct mail, tv, radio?” he asked and then added, “Or maybe online?”
“Well, I don’t really know, what do you think works best?” I asked. I hoped he would be able to explain some of this stuff to me so that I could just repeat it all when asked later.
“What type of business do you have?” he asked.
“I make and sell stuff, all kinds of things like toys, knick-knacks, you know,” I said, remembering Donella Clos’s words.
“Okay, well, then you’re probably going to want a mix of all of these to reach the largest possible audience,” he said, “Where is your business located?”
“Here in Crystal Ridge,” I said.
“What kind of advertising do you use currently?” he asked.
“Currently?” I said, “Well, I really don’t have anything right now.”
“How long have you been in business?” he asked.

I didn’t know the answer to that one, “Five years,” I blurted out.
“You’ve managed to stay in business for five years with no advertising,” he asked, incredulous.
“Well, yeah, I mean, there’s word-of-mouth I guess,” I said, cringing.
“Sounds like you’re going to need a lot of help,” he said. I could hear him smiling like an idiot on the other end of the line. He was no doubt thinking that he had caught a live one with me. “Can we meet to discuss some of your options?”
I hesitated, “Well, right now, I’m really just calling around to get some idea of what an ad campaign would cost. Can’t you give me a ballpark figure over the phone?”
“It’d be better if we could talk in person,” he said, “But, I guess the type of campaign I’m thinking of might run you around $15,000.”

I nearly fell off my chair, “$15,000?” I said, “What would I be getting for that?”
“Well, of course there’s brand development and some really great market research that we could gather for you to help you target your customers more effectively…” he went on and on after this and I could feel my eyes glaze over. Finally, he finished up by saying, “I have some time available today if you’re free.”
“Uh, well, I’m going to need to get back to you on this,” I said, “I didn’t really plan to spend so much.”
“We can work with you on payments,” he said, “our goal is to get you results.”
We went back and forth a little before I was finally able to get him to hang up the phone. I had jotted some of what he said down as he spoke so that I could capture some of the key phrases. I looked at my paper; market research, brand promotion, print, direct mail…none of these meant anything to me. Maybe that’s why my P.I. business never really took off.

I spent a little more time putting together some materials for my performance and then picked the phone up to call Mrs. Clos. No one answered, so I left a message telling her that a “representative” from Criss-Cross advertising would be stopping by tomorrow morning to talk with her about her recent inquiry. I hoped she would recognize my voice and that I wouldn’t take her by surprise when I showed up there.

Party animal that I am, I curled up on my couch at around 9 p.m. and fell asleep. I had strange dreams as I tossed and turned on the small sofa. Why I didn’t just get up and go to bed is beyond me. I just felt restless and I couldn’t get my mind off of how weird this little old lady had been. My dreams took me out into a snowy field where I saw a Santa Claus-like figure loading boxes into the back of an SUV. There were reindeer, I think, or maybe they were some other kind of animal. I’m not good with nature, so they could have been horses for all I know. Through the whole thing, I heard Christmas music playing in the background but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I floated through the field until I came to a house that was decorated up with all kinds of lights and other holiday junk in the yard. I walked up to the window and I could see my new client inside. She was baking cookies, but not just one tray of them. There were literally thousands of cookies coming out of the oven. I could actually smell them baking.

Come back tomorrow for Chapter Three!

Until next time…

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