48. Shady Is Our Brand

“Your average person, what will they pay to know when the lights go out?” Duke said.

“I still got questions about the premise.”

“We went over this. Concentrate. How much?”

“We surveyed,” Juliette said. She was a good-looking gal if you could get around the tattoos. The longer you looked, the more you noticed. A ship under sail. An armadillo. Betty Boop.

“Surveyed? Who?”

“One thing the dead have. Time for surveys,” she said.

“Seems like a sample problem.”

“You know what they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty. The dead know things.”

“They’d pay to know this?”

“Would have, sure. That’s our overwhelming conclusion.”

“How much?”

“Tricky. A lot of them, their experience of spending money is dated. Like from the Civil War era. You got your native guys thinking in terms of pelts. But before you can talk price, you got to decide. Premium product or mass consumption?”

“My feeling,” Duke said. “We roll out on the high end. Tap into the estate planning market. Make it a standard feature of wealth management. What’s ten K in that environment? The more you got to lose, the more you’ll pay. We sell one at ten thousand, it’s the same as selling two hundred at forty-nine ninety-nine.”

“The other hand, it’s easier to pry loose fifty,” said Juliette.

“Two hundred times easier?”

Duke brushed the dust from his suit. I tried not to breathe. Dust to dust and all of that. No telling where Duke’s dust had been.

“The marketing plan?” I asked.

“We really should have Brimsnod here,” Duke said. “Juliette, how about the short version?”

“Our thinking, upscale print. In consideration of the market. Mature. Professionals. The Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Travel and Leisure, Vanity Fair. Later the roll-out on a slightly down-market product. Less counseling. Range of expiration dates instead of pinpoint precision.”

“One costs more than the other?”

“To generate? No. Same deal. But no distinctions? Then what’s the point of paying more?”

“Seems shady is all.”

“Business,” Duke said with a shrug. “Shady is our brand.”

“Counseling?” I asked. “I didn’t realize.”

“Why do you think we’re redoing your Frogtown joint?”

“Life coaching, you said.”

“Part of the integration strategy. Occupy all the price points. Sixtieth floor for the high rollers. Suburban office plaza for the mid-range. Frogtown for the proles.”

“Where do we start?”

“Personal contacts. Test marketing. Small scale to get on our feet.”

“Who does that?”

“Who do you think?” Duke said.

“Don’t worry, we got your back,” Juliette said.

She smiled at me and patted my forearm. Sure she was dead. But it was the first anyone had touched me since Doris disappeared.

I put my hand on hers and smiled in return. She felt cold but given the circumstances, it was better than nothing.

Tomorrow: Optimized for mobile

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