Charlie drove his Mercedes convertible up Georgia 400 with the 90 degree temperature and the sound of the frogs or the cicadas or whatever the hell they caracatted away as he drove on through the sweat and the fatigue.
He exited the highway and drove toward the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Leaving the car with the valet of the Gold Club he saw Tony standing near the entrance, waiting for him.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"Great. The Corline people already went inside."
The sweat flows down his neck and he meets his friend Tony who joins him on the sidewalk and together they walk into the strip joint where the music is pulsing out an assault upon the senses. They sit down and there are a few isolated stragglers assaulted by the scantily clad strippers who finished their acts and are looking for some extra tips. Charlie and Tony are accosted by a random stripper when Derek and Ursala motion to them to come over to their booth and the stripper moves on. Ursula Banzcik, the Corline rep, is a perky strawberry blonde in her late 30s. Dr. Derek Townsend, the clinic head, is balding and in his late 40s. Nothing new here.
"Hi guys," Derek said. "You know Ursula, don't you?"
"Yes, we've met," I said.
"Right," said Tony.
"Charlie never goes to places like this," Derek said.
Ursula grinned. A naked woman spun around a pole. Cheesy strip club pop music played loudly.
"Ursula's working closely with us on the new cardiac center," Derek said.
"That's great," I said.
"We've got a great partnership with Corline."
A new woman walked onto the stage.
"You see the value of partnering with the private sector, don't you, Charlie?"
"Oh, of course," I said. "We both stand to mutually benefit."
"Charlie's got a good point there," Ursula said.
"There you go," said Tony.
"Excuse me, I'm going to try to find the rest room, if they have one for women in this place, that is," Ursula said. She got up and walked toward the rest room.
"Is she flirting with you?" Tony asked me under his breath, out of Derek's hearing.
"I don't know. Boredom maybe."
Tony smirked. Ursula walked toward the bathroom. I watched her slink away and then looked down at my drink.
Ursula came back to the table. She launched into her pitch. "We're sponsoring a series of lectures on the treatment of myocardial infarction and acute coronary syndromes."
An attractive blonde with white pumps walked out onto the stage and did a swing around the pole.
"We want you guys to be members of the Speaker's Bureau."
My attention wavered between the woman on stage and Ursula. I turned my back on the stage and focused on Ursula.
"What's in it for us?" I said.
"Teamwork," Derek said.
"Charlie isnt a team player," Tony said.
"Maybe he should start," Derek said.
"That was a joke, Derek," Tony said.
Ursula ignored the back and forth. "We've got a cardiology journal lined up to publish an issue on medicated stents. You guys will get a stipend for writing articles. You'll get some help from our editorial team."
"Sure," I said.
"We think you guys can really help us get our message out," Ursula said.
"This is going to be win-win," Derek said.
"Yeah," said Tony.
"Like to help," I said.
"Can I stop by your office sometime to go over our plans?" Ursula said to me.
"Sure," I said.
"Glad to see you working with the team," Derek said.
We didn't have much left to talk about. Derek made a move to get up out of the booth. Tony and I followed. We exchanged cards out on the sidewalk. It seemed weird after watching a series of women doing pelvic thrusts while spinning around a pole for the past hour or two. Especially when the woman in our group was hot enough to take a spin or two around the pole herself without having any sense of shame.