“I absolutely refuse,” said Lady, “and by the way, has anyone told you that you’re acting a bit off, lately? Maybe something about waiting all those hours under the tropical sun to vote? Anyway, the idea is out of the question….”
“You owe it to your customers,” I told her. “because if it is a fraud, as I very much suspect, then you could be held liable. One sharp attorney, and poof—there goes your business! Or what if Santana finds out? Now he’s running a business with a very possibly tainted product, and who’s responsible? You! Take heed, Lady!”
“Marc, this is ridiculous….”
“Well, if not tainted, then at least checkered. And definitely with a suspicious provenance. So since you’re there, it should be no trouble whatsoever to run over to Les Bouillens. Lovely day trip—be sure to pack champagne, foie gras, and ptarmigan.”
“I don’t know what it is, either, but it goes on picnics. Oh, and you’ll have to take along a string quartet, since you’ll need plenty of Haydn during the meal….”
“And how are they to get into the car?”
“Send them down beforehand, with the butler, and the little men to set up the tents. Oh, and don’t forget the Sarouk rugs!”
“Well, in a pinch, any heirloom oriental will, though really, they should be Sarouk. Things have to be done, as you know, comme il faut. You have your reputation to uphold, remember!”
“You know, the thing about you is that you start off refusing to do one insane thing, and then end up arguing about ptarmigan, string quartets, and Sarouk rugs. So no, I am not going to Les Bouillens, wherever that may be, and there’s nothing wrong…”
“Hah!” I told her, “people doubt that the Twin Towers were attacked, or that we walked on the moon, but everybody is perfectly willing to believe…”
“You might need to seek professional advice,” said Lady, “actually, why don’t you call your shrink? Several of the newer antipsychotics have been shown really promising for low-grade paranoia….”
“The stuff is sold in 140 countries,” I told her, “and also in Puerto Rico, where it costs $1.49 over at Walgreen’s. That’s 75 cents cheaper than the café, by the way….”
“But the ambiance….” she said, and in italics, since she gave the word its French pronunciation.
“Do you really expect me to believe,” I told her, “that all that Perrier comes from one little spring in the south of France? Les Bouillens? Sold in 140 countries around the world? As I recall, there are only 200 or so countries, so that means roughly three quarters of the world is being hydrated by one tiny little spring in the south of France!”
“Mon cher Marc,” she said, taking advantage of the fact that my name is spelled with a ‘c,’ “people do drink other things than Perrier.”
“Of course,” I told her, “wine—and do you think even the lowliest of vin du table is being sold for $1.49 at Walgreens? Hah—answer me that!”
“Though you might want to take along a brass quintet, as well,” I told her, “since when you inspect the factory, you’ll need to have a fanfare when you enter the building. Gabrielli, I think—anyway, something baroque and majestic.”
“Of course,” said Lady, at last surrendering to reason, “and perhaps we should take along the entire choir of the Sistine Chapel, to sing us the Monteverdi Vespers of 1640—all 90 minutes or so—as a sort of spiritual offering before eating? Grace, or a prayer, as it were….”
“Regensburg,” I told her, “though you should ditch the ex-pope’s brother….”
“Get out of here,” she said, and that’s when I told her: I’m where I should be! She’s the one in France! Right on hand to expose the biggest fraud since tampered-with-Tylenol!
“Or maybe your back is hurting,” she said. “Anyway, you’re definitely not yourself….”
“I looked it up, and I very definitely think there’s a conspiracy,” I told her. “It all starts on the up and up. Here:”
The spring in Southern France from which Perrier is drawn was originally known as Les Bouillens. It had been used as a spa since Roman times. Local doctor Louis Perrier bought the spring in 1898 and operated a commercial spa there; he also bottled the water for sale. He later sold the spring to St. John Harmsworth, a wealthy British visitor. Harmsworth was the younger brother of the newspaper magnates Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere.
“Well, that seems perfectly legit,” said Lady. “Though you do have to be careful about younger brothers…”
“Notice that ‘originally,’” I told her. “And then consider this….”
In 1992, Perrier was bought by rival Nestlé, one of the world's leading food and drink companies. Nestlé had to contend with competition from the Agnelli family for ownership of the business.
“You see? The worst rogues in the business, though I could go for a Nestlé Crunch right now. But remember the trouble the company got into, recently? You know, in California? Or was it in Michigan? Anyway, it was somewhere or another, where there was either no water or the water was tainted. And there Nestlé was, sucking up what water there was!”
“Marc? Where is this going?”
“It’s all the damn French,” I told her.
“But isn’t Nestlé Swiss?”
“Nestlé is a corporation,” I told her, “which means it’s a world unto itself. Anyway, the damn French sold the company to Nestlé, and then boom! The water was everywhere! People were giving it to their dogs!”
“I hardly think….”
“Well, the poodles at any rate….”
“Ridiculous,” said Lady, “I’ve had quite enough. Do you know, it’s quite impertinent of you to follow me, here, all the way in France. I put up with enough from you, back in San Juan.”
“Do your homework,” I told her. “A mass fraud of Leviathan proportions is being foisted on the world. Les Bouillens, indeed! Don’t force me to consult my legal team….”
But she’s gone!
“Where did she go,” I ask Naïa, who has been expertly ignoring this entire conversation….
“Out to get the ptarmigan,” said Naïa, and returned to her video game.