Hugo made his notes in his tight script with a cheap black pen. Mark ignored him, staring down instead at his phone which seemed to chime or beep every few seconds.
“Investors,” Mark said. His tone was fraternal, as if there were some shared understanding between them. “You know how it is.”
“I’d like it if you explained. It’ll add to the flavor of the piece.”
Mark waved a hand as if the question was beneath him. “The app made a half-million in its first month through micro-transactions. That’s a number that people tend to pay attention to. Everyone wants to see if they can get a piece of the pie, or if not, how they can monetize their bullshit news-scrollers and GPS apps. It’s not through ad-supported content, I can tell you that much.”
“Is ad-supported content dead?” Hugo asked.
Mark started to answer and then stopped. He finally looked up from his phone. He tapped the device on his knee a few times and cocked a head to the side.
“Are you goading me into making a brash statement?”
A month before Mark had proclaimed that the mobile marketplace was dead in its current form and longed for a new iteration. Hugo grinned, shrugged. “The enfant terrible of mobile app design declares the mobile marketplace dead. It made for a good headline.”
“And you want a good headline as well.”
“The thought had crossed my mind.”
Mark shifted in his chair. His phone chimed and he ignored it, giving Hugo his full attention for the first time since the interview started. Eventually Hugo spoke up.
“Is there something on my face? You’re staring.”
“I’m just considering. Three months ago I was writing code for a company that didn’t know who I was, and now my personal net worth is double that company’s. I’m still getting used to what power feels like.”
“And how does it feel, Mr. Shube?”
“Like everyone wants something out of me, but most won’t say so upfront.”
Hugo licked his lips and smiled. “Well, Mr. Shube—”
“Mark. What I want is to tell the story of how a community college dropout became worth more than the company that plucked him from obscurity.”
“And you just need a few choice quotes for: what was your word? Flavor.”
“And what does that get me?” Mark asked.
“Exposure. You’re not a household name yet. If you want to keep climbing, you’ll need brand recognition. This article may be the first of many but it’s still the first.”
“You’re going to help me build my brand? That’s all you’ve got for me? Isn’t that what I’m paying my publicist for?”
“Your publicist is why I’m here, but she’s not writing this article,” Hugo retorted.
“If the article alone isn’t particularly attractive to you, what do you want? What makes Mark Shube talk?”
Mark’s phone went off and he lowered his eyes to the glowing screen. As he typed, presumably in reply to whatever he’d been sent, he said, casually, “take off your pants.”
“If you want a good quote, take off your pants.” Mark didn’t look up as he said it.
Hugo put down his notebook, put his pen behind his ear and stood up. He undid his belt and put it on the chair behind him and unzipped his tailored slacks. He let them drop down to his thighs and then pulled them off the rest of the way. He sat back down in bright blue briefs and black socks, his collared shirt hung loose and his legs were hairy.
Mark looked up again— “Nice underwear.” —and then went back to his phone.
“Thanks,” Hugo responded. His notebook was in hand once again. “So about that quote.”
“Are you hard?”
“Do you sleep with men?”
Mark looked up. “This isn’t about being gay. It’s about power. Keep up.”
“That’s not an answer.”
Mark smiled. “No. I suppose it’s not, but you answered a question with a question. Why should I answer yours if you didn’t answer mine?”
Hugo pushed his shirt aside to show his half-hard cock twitching under the sky-blue cotton.
“Do you sleep with men?” he asked again.
“Off the record?”
Mark shrugged and tapped something on his phone. “I don’t discuss my sexuality in interviews.”
“Make an exception.”
“Why? What currency can you pay me in besides infamy?”
Hugo stood up again and pushed down his underwear. He sat back down and kicked them onto the floor. “Do I have your attention now, Mark?”
“I’m absolutely riveted.”
“Should I touch myself?”
“If you like.”
“Is ad-supported content dead?”
“Does it have to take its last labored breath before it’s declared irrelevant? Everyone’s wondering where to put the ads, the better question is: what’s the product? Are you selling privacy? Then put it at a premium. Are you selling connectivity, then make the user pay to bullshit with his friends for hours a day. Maybe instead of talking about the death of ads we should be talking about the death of free.
“If you want something you have to pay for it. That’s how we create value.”
Hugo scribbled notes. Out of the corner of his eye he watched Mark watching him.
“The answer is yes,” Mark said suddenly.
“What’s the question?”
“You asked it: should I touch myself. The answer is yes.”
“And that’s valuable to you?”
“Valuable enough for me to ask for it. I want to see you touch yourself.”
“Then give me a better headline.”
Mark licked his lips again and sank back into chair, his mouth holding back a smile. “Tell the world I’m bisexual then. Make my publicist earn her keep.”
“On the record then?”
“Sure, why not?”
Hugo put down his notebook again and stood up. He unbuttoned his shirt slowly and glanced out the window as he did. He saw the city out in the dark punctuated by lights and himself reflected back. His shirt came off and his skin rippled with goosebumps. He let the shirt drop to the floor.
“I was just thinking, this is the most expensive handjob I’ve ever bought.”
Hugo licked his hand and let it find his cock. He shivered.
“Should I turn up the heat?”
“No. I’m fine. Just…” Hugo squeezed his shaft and locked eyes with Mark. He didn’t finish his sentence.
His dick was fully awake now. Hard and already a little wet at the tip. Mark shifted in his chair. Hugo smiled at that, but didn’t comment. He was tentative at first, stroking it with just enough verve and no more. Then Mark tilted forward.
“C’mon, do it for real. Be earnest.”
“You don’t think I’m earnest enough?”
“I think you like to tease. But that’s not what this is about. I want to see you cum, right on my floor.”
Hugo sucked air between his teeth and ran three fingers over his dick head. His cock spat more precum, stringy and clear. He looked down at it as he jerked off. His eyes somewhat glazed over. Mark was rubbing himself idly, as if waiting for something, or just biding time.
Hugo stopped for a moment as if that were the end of it and then began shooting. It was a prodigious amount of cum. A great many shots on Mark’s clean, shiny floor.
“Was that so hard?” Mark asked. His cock was now in hand, he masturbated with a big broad smile on his face.
“Should I go?” Hugo asked. “Let you finish up?”
“It’d be better if you helped me finish up.”
Hugo shook his head and grinned. “Can’t. Journalistic impartiality and all that.”
Mark laughed. “Alright then, get out of here. Go write your story.” As Hugo left, Mark was already streaming porn from his phone and his eyes were locked onto the images there as he pulled his prick vigorously. Hugo showed himself out.