Jenny was already at her desk when Ray came in. He shook off the fresh snow and felt glad it was nicely warm inside.
“Jenny, it’s so beautiful out there! So much snow! Are you as much a fan as I am? That’s a winter. Before Christmas it’s the best. Snowstorm outside and a fireplace with the fragrant fire-wood inside.”
“You’re constantly happy, Ray. I like that about you. Nothing throws you off.”
“You think so? I laugh because I’m a fool. That’s a diagnosis. Us fools, we are happy, that’s our profession, a prerequisite, goal and the path to it.”
“That doesn’t explain much,” admitted Jenny, “but I’m surely going to think about it.”
“And it’ll make you crazy and we’re both going to laugh like fools.”
“You’re so quick on your feet, Ray, always know what to say.”
“I just try to cover the fact that I have nothing to say. Today I’d like a tea rather than coffee, if I may ask you, please, Jenny.”
“I’ll have a cup too. Before Christmas tea tastes better than coffee.”
December of two thousand and five, pre-Christmas time with a small Christmas tree in the office and some holiday music. Softly and inimitably, Frank Sinatra was singing ‘Let It Snow’ and then the lovely ‘Last Christmas I gave you my heart, the very next day…’
“That’s actually a sad song for Christmas, isn’t it, Jenny?”
“I never thought about that. He’ll find a new one for this Christmas.” Jenny was laughing, “and do you know which one’s my favorite?”
“The one I’m going to sing, am I right?” Ray was making his claim to fame.
“I don’t know, now you surprised me a little. I meant the one about Rudolf with the red nose….”
“I’ll practice it. Jenny, today I would like if you could please take a look at the advertisement materials of our competitors. I would like us to be different, to approach our clients in a new way. To capture their attention. I don’t mean something crazy at all cost, not that, but still to grab their interest somehow. Take a look at it, the more you find, the better, and then we’ll brainstorm.” Ray had an idea, but still wanted to sort his thoughts.
“When would you like it?”
“Whatever you manage to do today, we’ll have today. It’s like this. We have to know our customers, what interests them; we need to know when they make decisions and how. Which specialized magazines they read and where we should then place our ad. Communicate through our products. Business is a sensitive thing. Especially in health-care, where you can’t and mustn’t deviate from ethical norms and unwritten laws. We can never forget that we’re selling articles that people don’t choose voluntarily like a vacation, but instead are forced to purchase because of their health condition.” Jenny was watching Ray and recognized more and more that he had much wisdom and experience to share. “But enough talk. Now I’d like that tea and then we should get to work.”
“Right away. Which tea would you like?”
“Pre-Christmas, fragrant, warming tea.”
As soon as the tea aroma spread through their simple office in the rented strip-mall space, Jenny sat down at her computer and began fulfilling her task. Ray turned his attention to study a new stimulator he’d had on his desk together with accompanying documents. On the radio sounded the familiar ‘White Christmas’ and Ray was humming along with it, when Jenny called out. In her tone was something unpleasant.
“Ray, I found something here.”
“What is it?” he understood something was up.
“Come read this.” Ray got up from the stimulator and with his characteristic limping gait rushed to the computer. He fixed his sight on the monitor and pulled up a chair.
“How did you find this?”
“I searched for HeartGong, and in addition to several links to us this showed up in the search as well.”
He was quiet and read the announcement. “Can it be a mistake of some kind, Jenny?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t like saying this, but I actually found three of these.”
“Yes, but no more. Three.”
“That’s a lot. Even one reference like this is one too many. Must be some patient-complainer. It sounds that way,” evaluated the article Ray.
“Probably. But there are three. Do you really think something’s wrong with our cardiostimulators?”
“What could be wrong with them?” threw up his hands Ray, “when they’re programmed correctly, they simply work. It’s a matter of follow-up cardiac care. Perhaps there was some magnetic interference. I don’t know, but we definitely need to find the root of this.”
“Can it affect us somehow?”
“Jenny, forgive me, but the first question must be – can it affect the patient? At the same time, I can put your mind at peace, because if the patient receives proper cardiological care, nothing should happen.” Jenny turned red in the face and Ray continued, “not to worry, it’s alright, you don’t need to feel embarrassed. You’re loyal and that counts. If I’m honest, yes, it can affect us. We’re not yet stable enough. But one thing still isn’t clear to me… Jenny, try to look it up from the other side. Whether patients using predominantly this type of a stimulator also complain about heart palpitations and pressure on the chest. Then something may really be wrong with that model.” Jenny softly tapped at the keyboard and soon several links turned up.
“What about this?” offered Ray. Jenny clicked.
“Nothing much. So let’s go back. Show me the other two.” Jenny quickly looked up a specific text and Ray read.
“And the third one,” said Ray in a fully confident tone. Jenny clicked on it and didn’t understand. Ray carefully read the findings contained in the third text. Nodding, he declared.
“We have three different cardiostimulators. On these three web sites three different patients wrote their complaints. Notice one thing, Jenny.” Now he took the mouse and clicked on one of the complaints, “this appeared as a warning or an alert for the public on this customer-health care site. Probably a frequently visited one. This person indirectly, but still quite roughly, blames HeartGong in the distribution of unreliable and dangerous technology.”
“And maybe they’re just poorly programmed…” continued Jenny.
“Maybe. But that’s not the point. Read it again….”Jenny began reading carefully.
“I think you may have missed it. This is just the ‘sauce’ for the public. A sour and bitter sauce. The important part is up here.” With a pencil he gently tapped the screen just above the second line.
“This stimulator isn’t even ours!”
“You’re right. Someone is accusing us and actually….”
“So it’s just an error!” Jenny cheered up. Ray’s expression remained serious, and it was obvious that for him the answer wasn’t as simple.
“We’ve got a virus,” Ray announced coolly.
“That’s not possible, Ray. Overnight I always run….”
“We’ve got a virus and we’ll need help. For that we will need to hire someone. Can I take one more look at the party in Vancouver?” It seemed to Jenny that it was all a jigsaw puzzle, in which all the pieces were too far away. She knew Ray had a clearer idea about the whole picture. She handed him the stack of photos and Ray sifted through them until he found the one with the man standing below the stage.
“That’s the guy who may want to work with us, Jenny?”
“That’s the one.”
“Did he call yet?”
“Not yet. What should I tell him, if he calls?”
Ray didn’t seem to hear her: “Jenny, you would be able to track down every valve and stimulator we sold and to whom, right?”
“Of course, by purchase numbers.”
“Or almost every one of them.” Jenny shook her head, feeling slightly hurt. She’s well organized. Ray gave her a one-armed embrace and with a pencil in the other hand he tapped the screen, indicating the supposedly defective stimulator in question.