Chapter 27

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"You clean up nice," said Andrew. On the Pitch Deck producer's suggestion, and using the last of his available credit, David had bought his first suit. It was a trim navy suit with a crisp white button-up shirt and simple skinny tie. "You almost look like a banker."

Andrew handed David a drink.

"I can't have this," said David. "We're about to go in front of seven million people."

"You know this isn't broadcasted live, right? Hell, even after they tape it they might not air it. Especially the way you look right now. Drink it."

"But seven million people will see it."

"Focus. We're only pitching five people right now. And the only two we care about are Tom and Atlas. The other investors wouldn't understand the first thing about our business. I need you relaxed right now. You've been brooding all week."

"I haven't been brooding."

"Okay, whatever. So, have you heard from her lately?"

"No."

"Drink it."

David opened the little bottle from the minibar and stared at it. Then he threw his head back and downed it in three gulps. He didn't usually drink anything harder than wine.

"One way or another, I'll be glad to get out of this crummy hotel," said David. "Los Angeles does not suit me at all. It's just weird that there are places like this where the sun rises and sets at the same time every day."

"You guys ready?" said Jesse with a rolling chuckle. "It's time. Are you pumped up yet? Here, have a Red Bull with coffee."

* * *

David and Andrew stood silently in the dead center of the studio with bright lights blaring down on them. David began sweating and wondered why none of the investors seemed to be sweating under similar lights. Audrey Kinsey and Sandy Donovan began whispering to each other. They shot glances at David and Andrew.

"Why are they acting like we don't even exist?" whispered Andrew.

The crew had already adjusted their cameras and done sound checks. David couldn't figure out why they hadn't started yet. If it was to build tension, it was working. Albert Schiller shouted to get Atlas Vanguard's attention. They were talking about a basketball game from the night before. Albert and Atlas had apparently made a bet together and lost some serious money.

"Hey, you okay?" asked Andrew out of the corner of his mouth. He gave David a nudge. David didn't respond.

Ryan Dillard was typing on his smartphone and Tom Lewis started laughing.

"You really bet against my team?" said Tom.

"Excuse me, this is a private conversation," said Atlas.

Ryan looked up from his phone. "You guys bet against Tom and didn't let me in on it? You guys are dead to me." He grinned and went back to his phone. Nobody laughed.

"What the fuck, man," whispered Andrew. "Are you freaking out on me? You're going to snap out of it, right?"

A makeup artist went up and started reapplying makeup to the investors, starting with Tom on the left.

"Hey, Atlas, switch seats with me?"

"No, this seat gives me a competitive advantage. I get to be closer to the action," said Atlas. "If there's another bidding war, I want to be as close as possible so I can hug my way into the deal."

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