PREVIOUSLY: Over dinner, the mysterious Bowler Hat (aka Mr. Smythe) shows Bill an autopsy report and suggests Bill’s late friend Frank may have been poisoned by the Masons. Bowler Hat further insinuates that were using Frank as an experiment, just like they are using Bill now. Bill knows Kittie wouldn’t have gotten him involved with such an organization – but can’t let Smythe know that…
“Ah, and there’s the fire in your eyes that I’d hoped to ignite,” he responded smugly, “so I take it you’re ready to join me in my crusade to crush these charlatans, these snakes, these wolves in sheeps’ clothing.”
I was waiting for that tone, the use of the “power of three.” Now I’m not talking about the belief in the power of the number three, I’m talking about a trick that every speechwriter, from political writing for the President to your pastor at the local Baptist Church uses to get a point across. Whether you repeat the same thing three times or use three synonymous phrases, the effect is the same. It almost hypnotizes the listener into falling into whatever verbal trap the speaker has set, with the effect that the listener begins to believe exactly what had been multiplied by three and be more upon to believe whatever else the speaker had said in the conversation.
The “Power of Three” effect has been well documented by psychiatrists and sociologists. There’s one thing about its use though, anyone who’s aware of it doesn’t fall for it. I certainly wasn’t and unlike before with my anger at Smythe’s insinuations about the Masons, this time it was to my advantage to resist.
“Not so fast Smythe,” I said. “Now you got me thinking about the Masons, but the jury is still out on them. I have things you’ve given me, granted, but things nonetheless to confirm. If I don’t like what I find out, I have ties to sever. However, whatever my final opinion on them ends up being, I’m still not sold on your side of the issue either. In fact, for as much as you’ve argued against the Masons, you haven’t said so much of a peep about you or your people.”
“Very good Bill!” Smythe beamed, “An analytical mind combined with a skeptical nature, the ability to hear and understand exactly what is said and not said, as well as the courage to speak one’s mind when faced with adversity. Frank chose well in his heir.”
With that, Angel returned to see if our drinks needed to be refilled. Smythe ordered a Manhattan this time, while I asked for two more cups of coffee. She smiled and rushed off to fill our orders.
“Well,” I started as soon as the door closed behind her, “I guess this is where you start your pitch.”
“Straight to the point,” he responded. “Very well, but remember, you can’t assume all men of business are but well-dressed salesmen. There is education and refinement to take into account as well.”
Spoken like a consummate snake oil salesman, I thought.
“Of course not,” I lied, “But even the most refined businessman has to make a pitch every now and then. You might trick it out in a fancy package, which you might call a proposal, but at the end of the day, it’s just a sales pitch.”