The Incumbent: Chapter 25

Summary:It's an intricate web of murder plots, government conspiracies and rampant tanning. Oh, and the future of the entire nation.

ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.

Security at the doors of Radio 2IQ was always intense. They had to ensure extremist nutters couldn't enter the building, unless they presented a show there. And Sydney Musson looked like the sort of person they'd like to keep out. He appeared agitated and disturbed. There was nothing unusual about that. All their listeners were agitated and disturbed, but that didn't mean they had to let them in the building. Sometimes they'd be allowed as far as the reception desk to receive a signed souvenir photograph of Adam Willis, then sent on their way. Others, who were particularly agitated and disturbed, combined with a small degree of coherence, might be given a try-out on-air shift in the middle of the night, when the broadcasting regulators weren't listening.

They wanted to hear the demented ramblings of an uncontrolled lunatic — it was part of the 'sound' of the station.

Musson, though, looked even more insane than the regular 2IQ listener. He seemed to be a man on a mission and the security guard was trained to look out for this kind of character. There had been previous attempts on the lives of various presenters, which was always a concern, particularly if the presenter was rating well.

Less effort was made to protect those whose audience numbers were on the slide and it wasn't unusual to find a presenter mortally wounded after four or more bad survey results. Two minutes left in a room with a demented listener was usually enough for the presenter to forego any future talk of contractual obligations and pay-out terms. With the exception of Willis, who had such a strong following from the most deranged elements of society, all announcers were dispensable. For every madman they put to air mouthing a tirade of extreme right-wing hysteria there were thousands more maladjusted fringe dwellers able to fill his or (very rarely) her shoes.

Of course, Musson hadn't turned up as some sort of sycophantic listener embarked on a little hero worship. He was there, as requested, to appear alongside Damien Woodburner on the Adam Willis breakfast show. VastTel had insisted that a psychiatrist attended with Musson, in case anything untoward should happen. Zimple Whimplestein was only too happy to help. He was quite keen to meet the broadcaster, having considered signing him up as a client, then deciding that he was probably beyond help before concluding that more money could be made helping his listeners.

Whimplestein's presence that morning had been a point of extreme negotiation with the management of the radio station. First, they didn't want someone there to calm the level of debate. If Musson went off his rocker, so much the better. They wanted to hear the demented ramblings of an uncontrolled lunatic — it was part of the 'sound' of the station. Secondly, they were always concerned about having psychiatrists on the premises, aware that many of their prime-time announcers could easily be sectioned with the stroke of a pen.

The bouncer, standing at the door of the 2IQ studios, also noticed a tension between Musson and Whimplestein. It was a fleeting observation that only occupied his mind for a fraction of a second, but for that tiny moment it was remarkably astute.

The resentment between the two men went back to early on in their relationship, soon after the court ruling. From that day Musson had been making great strides forward in terms of controlling his anger. He moved swiftly away from his position of wanting to kill someone, anyone, at VastTel and became quite philosophical about the whole episode.

In just a few weeks he had found some perspective. He realised murder was an extreme reaction and human life should be treasured. There were feelings of deep remorse for the throttling of the police officer who had taunted him at the time of his arrest. All in all, he was showing the first signs of being able to become an upstanding member of society at some point in the future, more tolerant than most perhaps.

Many put this positive step down to the great work of his psychiatrist, although on this they were very much mistaken. Whimplestein's own mental state was itself open to question. He was, after all, intent on helping Twistie Buffet kill Damien Woodburner, which, apparently, goes well beyond the ethics of psychiatry.

So, given Whimplestein's counsel, it's staggering that Musson had shown any signs of progress. In his early consultations Musson had been filled with a thirst to see one, or possibly a number of VastTel executives, meet some gruesome fate in the dead of night. The psychiatrist had muttered beneath his breath that he shouldn't be thinking such thoughts, but Musson had doubted the sincerity of his protestations. At the time he assumed it was some sort of technique he used.

Topics: Telcos

About

Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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