07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was naïve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.

"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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  06:49:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1543 words  
Categories: Batman Comes Out

Batman Comes Out: You Don't Know Dick

ID: Your first adopted son is Batman. I?m not the first person to say this. It?s been making the rounds for a few weeks, now, primarily from a Lex News report. But when we talked about him previously this news wasn?t out in the open, so you had to be taciturn. Because you had to wall off an entire clump of who he was and is to you. I tacitly agreed to that, by not asking the obvious questions. So we?re going to take a spade to that unplumbed depth. When did you decide to take Dick Grayson on as an understudy?

B: Well, it was an evolution. At first, I didn?t think he?d even want a part of my, mission, I guess. It had always been such a specific, personal thing to me up until that point, so it didn?t really even occur to me that Dick would want it.

But he was a gymnast, and I had a lot of gymnastic and acrobatic equipment and facilities in the cave. So at first, he?d just train with me. And then he?d see me doing my katas, or doing strength training, and he?d join me in those things. Honestly, at the time, I thought we were just exercising together, in a way that was helping him to get past what had happened to his parents.

And then one day he showed up in the cave when it was time for me to go out for my patrols, and he?s in costume, and wants to go along. At first I told him no, in no uncertain terms. And he threw a little bit of a fit, and stormed up to his room. Of course, Alfred overhead the whole thing, and said, ?Would you have listened?? And we both knew the answer to that; it was a long series of me not listenings that led me to being Batman.

So I had Alfred design him a costume, with maximum armor without limiting mobility. And it was dark, blacks and crimsons.

ID: That?s always bugged me. Your costume?s black and gray, fairly camouflagey. Your sidekick, his costume looks like the 1980s threw up on someone.

B: You?re going to wish you hadn?t said that. See, the costume he was wearing that night was basically a slightly altered version of the one he and his parents performed in. He wanted to wear it to keep their memory alive.

ID: I?ve always wondered what my foot tasted like; fishy, but with earthy overtones.

B: That might be something that warrants a doctor?s visit. But we fought about it. Like crazy. I forbid him from going out, because I thought, like you?ve said, that his costume made him a flashing light for gunfire, and even just attention can be deadly, you know, when you?re swinging from rooftops, because somebody hurls a brick, or just makes a loud noise, anything that screws with your concentration can be a problem.

But he was able to break into the Batcave without even really trying. There wasn?t anything we could do, at least nothing that wouldn?t count as child endangerment, to keep him locked up. And we tried. About the only true success we had was duct tape, Alfred used about five rolls to really make sure he wouldn?t get out of it. And he still did. Took him hours of wriggling, and later I figured out he?d pulled a Houdini, made sure to keep his muscles tensed up while Alfred was taping him, so that he had a little room to maneuver. He got out and tracked me down for about the last hour of my patrol.

And we?d all but given up when he stopped. He was asleep in his room when I left for my patrols, and still asleep when I?d get back. He shadowed me for almost a week before I realized he was still following me on my patrols. So I trained him to stay in the shadows, keep his distance. I figured it wouldn?t hurt to have someone watching from above, who could tell me if, say, a car full of armed thugs was emptying at the end of an alley while I was preoccupied fighting.

And I was fooling myself the whole time. Dick wasn?t going to stay out of the fight any more than I would have. Any time I got into trouble, he was there to bail me out. But what I really quickly realized, is in doing so, he usually put himself in even more danger, having to act quickly and recklessly. So I grounded him. For two months. And told him that if he followed my every instruction, to the letter, to the detail, for that time period, I would let him patrol with me for real.

I put him through Hell. ?Bruce Wayne? took a ski vacation through Europe- a body double I?ve used before- and I spent eighteen hours a day preparing him. I kind of thought he?d lose interest after a week or two. But on top of that, Alfred and I were pretty inventive with stupid requests; he scrubbed every single toilet in Wayne Manor with a toothbrush, and didn?t complain. Okay, he complained a couple of times when I wasn?t in the room, but I can?t fault him for not finding the recording devices then; it was still pretty early in his training.

ID: You had recording devices in your young ward?s room?

B: Just audio. And, you know, we didn?t listen if he was doing any of those things young boys do that their parents don?t want to think about.

ID: Like voting Democrat?

B: Among others.

But he didn?t give up. We assigned him some crazy tasks, absolutely designed to break him. The best example was the last thing we did, his final test.  

Dick?s family were part of a traveling circus; they didn?t even own a car, so he knew nothing about cars. Alfred and I placed an ?explosive? device inside my car, and told him he?d have to find it and disarm it while I dealt with a threat outside the cave.

I told him that to get at the device without setting it off he?d have to pull the car apart- entirely apart. And of course, since it was a bomb, and we didn?t know how long we had before it went off, he couldn?t rest in the meantime.

This was really before the internet was big. The computer in the cave had a lot of references filed, so there were diagrams and guides. But you know if the Chilton?s guide didn?t do it for you, you were out of luck.

Needless to say, there was a lot of trial and error, there, a couple of times where, as a parent, I was terrified he was going to drop the engine on himself or something. He was up for forty some hours, and Alfred and I took turns watching on the monitors to make sure he didn?t cheat- or worse, do something that would have been unsafe if there actually had been a bomb in the car. 

I gave him strict instructions about how to handle the bomb once he found it. I had a bomb disposal robot, one of the early prototypes, and he used that to remotely take the bomb into a vault that we had, and locked it in. I told him I?d help him with it when I got back. He followed my instructions entirely. I told him to signal me when he got that far, so I could come and help him, and in the meantime to start putting the car back together.

Reassembly never takes as long, but it was still hours he was working on that car. And there was one time he sat down, and we thought he might quit and take a nap, so I?d radio in to tell him that something came up, but I really needed the car ready when I got back. So he went back to work, and the moment he got it started I ran around to the front of the house where I had my bike and drove back around to the cave.

I made a big show of talking him into the proper bomb disposal gear, then walking him through safely entering the vault, and cautiously approaching the bomb. Then I told him all it would take to disarm it was twisting it at the hinge. Inside, rather than an explosive, he found a key.

And I told him at the back of the vault there was a case, that the key would fit into. And inside it he found the costume that Alfred had designed for him, but redone in his family?s costume colors. He hugged me and cried. I?m sure some of that was the sleep deprivation.

ID: Then what?s your excuse?

B: I don?t get a lot of chances to reminisce about being a dad. And I guess it?s easy, going from one life crisis to another, to overlook how special the little moments were. But now my son?s Batman. How much prouder could a father get?

[NOTE: this interview ran overlong, so I?ll be running it over two weeks instead of one]


  09:16:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1713 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 39: Caprica


Richard liked uncomfortable silence. He got to inflate himself, make himself look smarter and more important when he didn't open up his mouth. Of course, if you keep your mouth shut forever, people will begin to suspect you're a bigger idiot than the guy who won't shut up about it. ?Why was my brother part of a sting??


?Pardon me??


?Last night, your new employee practically put her hand in his pants. Are you telling me that's a coincidence? Why are you investigating my brother??


?The more pertinent question is why would your brother be part of a takeover of his own company??


?Shit,? Richard said. ?Because they promised he could run it. Whatever survives the takeover, they told him they'd put him in charge. And not only that, I bet they've even built a court jester of a position for me, too. My fuckwit of a brother. But your investigation ends. We know he was helping Warwick-- we don't need to know anything else.?


?Fine. Lots of other people to look into.?


?Good. That's part of your new job. But next time one of the people you're looking into shares a last name with me, I damn well better know before you try to whore information out of them.?


?That's fair.? I went back to my office. The US Attorney was sitting behind my desk.


?I blame you,? her mouth shriveled unattractively, so it almost looked like an anus with teeth.


?Excuse me?? I asked, walking around to the guest chair on the other side of my desk. She slide across a newspaper, opened up to the politics section. She pointed at a bold headline that read: US Attorney Fails Confirmation in the Senate.


?That was me. After agreeing to your dumb enough an inbred dalmatian wouldn't have gone in for it idea.?


?So you've come here to glare soulfully at me??


?I'm here to cash in the favor you owe me.?


?You're not going to wait until you've found an office you want??


?I don't have the kind of money it takes to start a campaign. And about the only competitive race in the state is that retiring senator?s seat. And my main political credit is failing to be confirmed as a US Attorney, which is like getting shot down by the town bicycle.?   


?So you want a job??


?Your company has a questionable record; having an ex-Attorney on staff would cut down on suspicion. I'm not particularly picky; I just need something to tide me over until I find the next thing.? 


?Can you keep something to yourself??


?I actually have high level clearance as part of my job.?


?I guess that's a kind of yes. Our general counsel is on his way out. I could put in a good word?


?I was hoping for something with a lower profile. No offense, but that's kind of a step backwards in my career, from US Attorney to corporate sell-out.?


?US Attorney's salaries are public. Corporate general counsels, not so much. He makes three times what you do. And that's because, ironically, he's a shit negotiator.? 


?How long before he's gone??


?A month, max, though I'd suspect considerably sooner than that.?


She stood up, took my hand, and shook it. ?Keep me posted.? She walked out of the room, and I couldn?t help but wonder if the short skirt had been for my benefit.


As soon as she was gone, I texted Grey. I?d scratched her back, and it looked like I was going to need someone to scratch mine- or at least someone else?s.


I went down to the cafeteria for an early lunch. I noticed George Morgan?s secretary pay particular attention to me as I went down the elevator. So it didn?t surprise me when he showed up a few minutes later downstairs, with a tray of his own, and sat down at my table.


?You?re our new strategy officer, right? I?d like to pick your brain. What does it take to enter politics??


?Besides ten million dollars? That depends on the level you?re talk about. Local offices require a lot of notoriety in the community, name recognition. State offices, like, say, that open senate seat, it?s a higher bar for success. Attractiveness, mostly grooming, is important.? He sat up a little straighter; he wasn?t just the handsome Morgan brother, but he might have been the most attractive man on the executive floor. He had a strong jaw, and well-kept brown hair cut in  a Christian Bale style. ?Youth. Senators are allowed to get old- practically ancient- but they rarely start old, relatively speaking. And an ability to connect with people. That can mean articulation, intelligence, or as you?ve seen with politicians like George Bush, just being able to exude a kind of everymaness.?


He dithered a carrot around in some ranch dressing, then dropped the pretense of wanting to eat it, and let it fall back onto his tray. ?Be honest with me, and I?ll try not to be a dick about your response: do you think I have what it takes to hack it as a senator??


?Honestly? I?m surprised you aren?t already in politics. But you?re coming from the business community, at a time when the economy could use a good kick in the nuts.?


?But also out of finance, and an institution that took bailout money, too.?


?Yeah, but we?re no Lehman, or Goldman Sachs. Being fourth largest has the benefit of not being one of the failed brand names.?


?Would you vote for me?? he asked, and I almost felt sorry for him.


?You should never ask that question. Ask, ?Can I count on your support?? The former is putting people on the spot, trying to pressure them into voting for you- or at least say they will. And people don?t like that kind of pressure. But asking for support, from a position of need, it makes you sound humble, and human, and like it?s a cause that you?re fighting for with them.?


?Goddamn,? he said. ?I see why Richard likes you so damn much.?


That made me wonder: had his brother told him Julee was working for me? Either he was playing it close to the vest, or he really didn?t know. That was intriguing.


?I ought to get back up to work,? George said, taking the tray he had barely even played with and dumping it.


I finished up and went upstairs. Petra ambushed me at her desk, and say that I was still carrying around an apple I hadn?t eaten. ?You already ate? I was hoping we could talk. Tonight, maybe? I am full of your baby. Not that I?m using that to try to guilt you. Sorry. I just meant??


?I think tonight?s good. Normally I refer people to my secretary to be sure, but? it should be. I?ll try and make sure nothing comes up.?


I plopped down in my chair in my office. The more I thought about it, the more I realized using Grey against George was sloppy. It made more sense to bring in a professional. You don?t get anywhere in finance without knowing the number of a reputable escort service. It wasn?t every venture, but some people, a handshake, a signature, a deal wasn?t concluded until you blew your load in a hooker.


The service I used was a coordinator; they put you in touch with the girls, and you did the negotiating from there. ?Do you know the name of the contractor you?d like to hire, or would you like to discuss your needs and see if I can make a suggestion??


?Caprica,? I said. Her real name was Denise Martin, and I actually had her direct number- it wasn?t the first time I?d used her- but the agencies tended to act just like pimps, including the weird abusiveness if you went around them.




?Mark, I?ve licked your taint; you can call me Denise.?


?I?d like to hire you for a longer-term gig. A current co-worker is looking into politics. He?s youngish, handsome, rich- he?s actually got a shot. And I?d like you to cozy up to him, make yourself his girlfriend on a wife trajectory. You know, the whole Pretty Woman fantasy.?


?So you?re trying to make an honest girl out of me.?


?God no. If anything, I want you to lie even more than usual. I don?t want him to know about your night job. You still moonlighting as a publicist??


?Pays crap, by comparison, but it?s kind of fun; and it keeps me stimulated.? 


?You are such a tease. But I?m booby-trapping him; if he plays nice then there are no worries, but if he becomes a liability, we leak that he?s been using campaign funds to pay an escort service.?


?That?s diabolical- but I relish any opportunity to screw a politician- since they?re always screwing us.?


?I take it you don?t mean literally.?


?For starters, they make sure the IRS audits the shit out of sex workers; heaven forbid their millionaire friends pay what they did under Clinton, but if a hooker tries to get a single set of frilly panties she hasn?t used with a client yet exempted they will throw the very heavy tax code book at you. I have never been cornholed as badly as I have by Uncle Sam. And because they refuse to regulate an ?illegal? profession, we get to exist in the shitty defacto system regulated by pimps and violence. It?s fucked up, that politicians use our illegal service, but when we try to make use of theirs, we get shut down. Sorry; political rant over. This amateur politico have a name??


?George Morgan.?


?And an approach??


?He?ll be at the Taj tonight, drinking alone. Get there by 7, and he should be the right kind of pliable. He likes his women strong, but silent.?


?I feel like Bond, Jane Bond, with a license to fuck.?


?You?ve already started writing the porno in your head, haven?t you??


?You?d watch the living shit out of my porno.?  


?I would at that.? She hung up. She was a beautiful girl, and much smarter than you?d assume- much smarter than you?d probably suspect possible. I?d say F, but I have; maybe M, if it weren?t so damn cliché.


  08:20:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 137 words  
Categories: Blog, Announcements


Nic's published works are now available for e-reader at Smashwords and Amazon, as well as other e-tailers. Visit Nic's book page for specific availability.

TelepathBlood MoonEu/DHomelessBankstersThe Necromancer's GambitNexusWhores book coverDagCinderella Shoes CoverNew Corpse SmellCockfightSave As

This blog showcases the ongoing and in-process work of Nicolas Wilson, full of wierd, fuzzy, wriggly things to tickle your brain. There tend to be several different projects ongoing at once, with their own posting schedules. Nic's publishing schedule briefly broke Nic's brain, but we replaced it with a melted Kit Kat bar we found under his toilet, and that seems to have him back online- better, even. Every November, check back daily to watch a novel birth itself in a month. Expect posting to return to its regular, if slightly assymetrical schedule outside of July and November novel writing marathons. 2014's project will be Next of Kin, a cyberpunk dystopia following a man chasing his brother's murderer.

  08:11:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 225 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 53: Tumbling Down

It happened sooner rather than later. I was woke up by a detonation, way more fire power than was ever necessary.

?Was that an explosion, or did I wake myself with gas again?? Monty asked, without coming out from under his hat.

I didn?t answer him, and he was back to sleep by the time I set myself down at the computer. I pulled up the site camera, specifically the one I?d pointed towards the monument.

Whoever?d done the deal was gone. But I rewound, and sure enough, US military personnel, Navy SEALS, to be specific. They hadn?t even bothered to remove their insignia.

They walked into town from the road, didn?t even pretend to be stealthy. Just before they arrived, we lost all of our remotely operated security systems, including the perimeter motion sensors. The world went dark, and the only word written in the log for that time period was ?maintenance.?

Now, usually, all of our cameras record off-site. But I?d set up our computer to record after my meeting with the Colonel. Hadn?t even been sure anything?d come of it, but I figured that was my due diligence.

I saved a copy of the camera footage, and burnt it to a DVD. If they were determined to turn this into a shooting war, then they?d just given me a fistful of ammunition.

  07:38:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 2257 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 38: Lesbos

I drove myself home, and was just getting undressed when my phone rang. It was Elizabeth Grey. I was surprised she was still using the same phone number she'd given me earlier. ?That thing you were going to do for me...?


?That thing has a name: Teryl.?


?I'm glad you know it, but you might want to start warming up your pipes on your way over here, so you can scream it without hurting your throat.?


?Thought you were going to go in an entirely different direction with 'pipes.'?


?Sorry, tiger. Tonight your myriad pipes belong to Teryl.?


She texted me the location of a party while I showered and dressed. I entered quietly. It was some kind of a ball, debutantes or some other strange ritual for people with more money than shame. But I watched as Teryl Morgan talked to Elizabeth, watched her body language as she walked away. I snuck up behind Elizabeth, who seemed to be chaperoning, though I could never quite tell who or what.


?You lied to me.? I said. ?You said it was a matter of convenience. But you already took a run at Teryl. It's in the quiet moments, but she's awkward around you. Intrigued, but too terrified to chase after the love that dare not speak its name.?


?When it's two girls it's fine to say its name: lesbos. In fact, most of the time, its name alone can get you free drinks- of course by 'you' I mean me and the gorgeous lesbians I make out with.?


?But I am right. You're at an impasse. She's into you, but not quite ready to go bungee jumping  into Box Canyon.?


?Shock. Disbelief. That I could lie to you.?


?Just pointing it out. I'm not sure why you still try to lie to me.?


?I'm not sure why you don't understand it. Is there anyone you don't lie to??


?Myself- which is why I'm so surprised you try to lie to my self.?


?You know how attractive I find it when you wear your ass like a hat like this in public.?


?Anything I need to know about her??


?I'll introduce you. She likes moonlit walks, steak and red wine, and a hard dick between her legs.?


?I never would have guessed you had a romantic side.?


?Careful, or I'll fist you with a copy of Lady Chatterly.?


?Love her.?


Teryl came back with three waters, and handed me one. ?Ter, I'd like you to meet Mark Zane,? Grey said.


?He's gorgeous.?


?We almost had a thing, back in my straight days, before I realized...? Grey cut herself off, and bit her lip. She was still flirting with her- evidently she didn't care which of us seduced her so long as she fell for somebody. 


I could see why Richard had lost interest in his wife. She was just old enough, just heavy enough, just wrinkled enough. Don't get me wrong, she was attractive enough for an woman in her late forties, but Richard had managed to amass enough money and power that he wasn't in her league anymore- though she did have a nice bust. Gun to my head, I'd say shoot. Sorry, old joke. I'd say K. But I'm reasonably informed that this was for a good cause- even if that good cause was just me trying to get back into Grey's pants.


?Teryl?s an interesting name.?


?It?s short, for Terylyn. It was a compromise, between Grandpa Terry and Grandma Marilyn. Why one of them couldn?t wait two years for my sister to be born is anybody?s guess.?


?Teryl and I met in a salsa class.?


?I assume the dance, not the dish.?


She nodded. ?You should take her for a spin.?


?There?s no music.?


?Then you won?t have to worry about losing the rhythm.?


?But I don?t know how.?


?She can teach you. She helped me.? She was practically shoving the two of us together; I?d never felt more like a purebred Dalmatian before. ?But I?m going to stop hovering like a demented mother hen and let the two of you alone.? 


The way to seduce an older woman is to treat her like she isn?t one. She?s more aware than anyone of the parts of her gravity has already claimed- but there?s nothing worse than knowing someone else knows.


But you also have to move more slowly, deliberately. Maturity brings with it a certain expectation of refinement, technique, finesse. An older woman doesn?t have patience to put up with boyish idiosyncrasies- unless of course she?s dating boys. 


?When Lizzy told me about you, I never thought you?d show. I can?t tell you how many times I?ve been set up, only for the man to be a no show, or, more often, I suspect, he showed, took one look at me, then turned around. In this city it feels like, the moment I left my early thirties I lost all of my value- like youth is the only commodity women have to trade in.?


?Can I be honest with you? Cards on the table??


?I expect it.?


?Liz wants you off the market. She?s smitten, but she values your friendship enough that she doesn?t want to pressure you. So she called in a wringer, hoping we?d fall for one another and I?d take you out of play, where she doesn?t have to long for you. Where she can just be happy for you, instead of desperately wanting to make you happy herself.?


?She?s wonderful, it?s just? I?m not like that.?


?You misunderstand. I?m not cheerleading for her. I just didn?t want to, if you had any lingering doubts about her, I wouldn?t want to come between you two. She?s one of my favorite people, and you? you could come to be.?


?That?s very sweet.?


?I don?t think so. Because calling it sweet implies a lack of sincerity, that I?m being nice to you when the facts don?t dictate that behavior. And I think you?re wrong. I can see why she?s into you. You have a presence, an intelligence that?s sharper. You?re a woman of substance, and a woman of great beauty.?


?Now I know you?re being sweet,? she said.  


?I have a confession: I have no idea what we?re doing here. Liz didn?t tell me what the occasion is, and I certainly don?t know anyone her. I guess what I?m getting at is she?s got me craving a dance, so is there anything keeping you here??


?Only the fact that nobody had asked me to leave- until now.?


We left, and found a hole in the wall karaoke bar that had a salsa night advertised on its sign. We danced a few rounds, and I remembered to be clumsy and handsy enough to be convincingly amateurish, and convincingly interested.


When we took a break I ordered tequila shooters. ?I don?t usually drink this early in a night, or a relationship.?


?I?m not usually this forward,? I told her, still a bit winded from dancing. ?Or this fast. But I say we drink, to a night outside our comfort zones.? That seemed to make enough sense to her to get her to raise her glass.


The bartender had given me a lemon wedge on a plate, and I picked that up in my other hand. We clinked glasses, and downed them. I bit the fruit off the rind, and kept it in my mouth. Then I kissed her, deeply, passionately, with lots of tongue, and a hint of lemon.


We did two more rounds, alternating who bit the lemon, and each time the kiss lasted longer. Then she dragged me back out onto the dance floor, which is where we were when the liquor hit, but by then neither of us cared. We stayed until the place closed, at which point she was stepping slowly, and I realized her shoes must not have been very salsa friendly. ?Oh, god, I?m so sore. You should take me back to my car,? she said.


?You?re still too tipsy to drive. And my place is within walking distance. Where I could rub whatever hurts.?


?Even my feet?? she asked hopefully.


?Especially your feet,? I said, but not because I wanted to touch them; Julee hadn?t successfully made me develop a foot thing. ?And I don?t want you to think my intentions are anything other than gentlemanly. I can sleep on the couch, if that would make you more comfortable.?


?Oh, hush; you had me at foot rub.? 


And I did, at that. Screwing an older woman was different; the bits maybe weren?t as taut, but that was basically made up for with experience- she knew her body, and her way around a man?s- better than any twenty-something possibly could.


Getting her into bed was just step one. I made her breakfast, and woke her with a back rub, and I continued to rub her while she ate. ?Oh, god, do I ever have to leave here??


?You don?t have to, but in a couple of hours I have to get up and go to work.?


?Does that mean you?ll have to put on pants??


?I?m afraid so.?


?Then we should take advantage while we can?? she said, and grabbed me with surprising strength and rolled me over onto the bed. She was asleep again by the time my alarm went off. I smelled enough like sex that I knew I needed another shower, so I took one, dressed and went to work.


On my drive in my phone rang. The number was blocked. I wondered if I should bother answering it at all. ?I need to see you in my office.? It was Richard Morgan. Dread shot through me. Did he know something had happened with his not officially ex wife? 


If he was the jealous kind of estranged husband, it was possible he had his wife followed, the occasional private investigator on a nightly prowl, snapping pictures. But surely Grey would have known about that. Would she have set me up like that? She wanted him divorced, but did I think she'd sell me out?


Of course she would. Because I would- if it was pragmatic; just because there's no use crying over spilt milk is no excuse to going running around spilling willy nilly.


Richard liked uncomfortable silence. He got to inflate himself, make himself look smarter and more important when he didn't open up his mouth. Of course, if you keep your mouth shut forever, people will begin to suspect you're a bigger idiot than the guy who won't shut up about it. ?Why was my brother part of a sting??


?Pardon me??


?Last night, your new employee practically put her hand in his pants. Are you telling me that's a coincidence? Why are you investigating my brother??


?The more pertinent question is why would your brother be part of a takeover of his own company??


?Shit,? Richard said. ?Because they promised he could run it. Whatever survives the takeover, they told him they'd put him in charge. And not only that, I bet they've even built a court jester of a position for me, too. My fuckwit of a brother. But your investigation ends. We know he was helping Warwick-- we don't need to know anything else.?


?Fine. Lots of other people to look into.?


?Good. That's part of your new job. But next time one of the people you're looking into shares a last name with me, I damn well better know before you try to whore information out of them.?


?That's fair.? I went back to my office. The US Attorney was sitting behind my desk.


?I blame you,? her mouth shriveled unattractively, so it almost looked like an anus with teeth.


?Excuse me?? I asked, walking around to the guest chair on the other side of my desk. She slide across a newspaper, opened up to the politics section. She pointed at a bold headline that read: US Attorney Fails Confirmation in the Senate.


?That was me. After agreeing to your dumb enough an inbred dalmatian wouldn't have gone in for it idea.?


?So you've come here to glare soulfully at me??


?I'm here to cash in the favor you owe me.?


?You're not going to wait until you've found an office you want??


?I don't have the kind of money it takes to start a campaign. And about the only competitive race in the state is that retiring senator?s seat. And my main political credit is failing to be confirmed as a US Attorney, which is like getting shot down by the town bicycle.?   


?So you want a job??


?Your company has a questionable record; having an ex-Attorney on staff would cut down on suspicion. I'm not particularly picky; I just need something to tide me over until I find the next thing.? 


?Can you keep something to yourself??


?I actually have high level clearance as part of my job.?


?I guess that's a kind of yes. Our general counsel is on his way out. I could put in a good word?


?I was hoping for something with a lower profile. No offense, but that's kind of a step backwards in my career, from US Attorney to corporate sell-out.?


?US Attorney's salaries are public. Corporate general counsels, not so much. He makes three times what you do. And that's because, ironically, he's a shit negotiator.? 


?How long before he's gone??


?A month, max, though I'd suspect considerably sooner than that.?


She stood up, took my hand, and shook it. ?Keep me posted.?


  08:12:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 0 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Be-Mulk

  07:13:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1670 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 37: Pressure

I walked out of my office to Petra's desk, putting on my very serious face. ?I really hate to do this to you again so soon after the last time??


?Take me to lunch?? she guessed, hopefully.


?No, I?d be happy to do that. But I need you to pack up your desk.?


I'd hoped she'd take, from my very serious face, that I was firing her; but she just didn't seem to have pessimism in her. ?Did Ed finally get fired??


?No, sorry, but we did get a promotion.?


?We? Does that mean I can have my own administrative assistant?s assistant??


?It probably just means better pay and benefits.?


?Well, I guess I could take better pay and benefits,? she said with a smile. ?So about lunch...? I tried not to let on I was irritated. I'd only been joking about the lunch.


I just hadn't felt as relaxed around her. She was an FBI agent, and I was a murderer, by proxy, at least. It was beginning to feel like we had less and less in common, aside from the fact that our instincts told us to bash the other one's skull in and suck out the marrow (this impulse might not have been entirely mutual).


But perhaps what was irritating me the most is she was blissfully unaware. She hadn't had a period in over six weeks, but she hadn't said anything yet. A small part of me worried that she spent her quiet time knitting booties and thinking up baby names. Of course, the other part of me worried that she had an entire file labeled ?Dane? detailing most of my comings and goings and more than enough for a federal indictment. Things were tenuous. At best.  


But we ate lunch. She had a salad; I barely remembered to give her a hard time about it, to get her feeling dutifully nostalgic.


?Do you like me?? she asked suddenly.


?What?? I asked back, reasonably certain some lettuce had made it down the wrong pipe.


?I'm not trying to be needy, but you're so hot then cold. We haven't gone out in a week, and you haven't even been over to my place since the break-in at yours. I totally get it, if you started this for it to be fun, and now it's not. I'd just like to know, because... I'm already invested in you. So I think it's only fair if you at least tell me if I'm making a fool of myself.?


?Petra,? I started, slowly closing my hand over hers to stall- and I mean really slowly, ?it's not you. And it's not us. I've been distant because it's all been a lot. The changes in position, in stress. Killing someone,? a pang of guilt flashed across her face, and she looked down at the table.  ?It's not fair to you. You were unbelievably kind to me when that happened, but I think... I think in my head you got twisted up in that. So every time I'm with you, it feels like that night again, like I've been beaten so completely out of my mind and self that I'm just going through the motions. And you told me you loved me, and I still haven't properly responded to that. But I do. I love you.?


She looked up, and into my eyes, with tears welling up in hers. ?That makes me so happy. Because I think I'm pregnant.?


She isn't, of course.


Injecting the right concoction of female birth control, which are for the most part just massive doses of hormones, can stop a woman's periods. Some even cause side effects almost exactly consistent with pregnancy.  


What's the best way to get a female FBI agent to give you a pass? Put a baby in her. Second best way? Make her think she has a baby in her. Admittedly, the first is more fun and less work, but I'm convinced I shouldn't breed.


If I have a child, one of two things happen. Either I'm a great father, and raise the perfect predator, who grows up, murders then eats me. Or, I'm a horrible father, scarring the child irreparably, and as an act of revenge, he murders me and consumes my flesh. Either way I end up as a bowel movement.


But I put on a smile for Petra, and broke out of my chair and lunged at her to hold her.


She held my hand through the rest of dinner, and didn't let go on the drive home. She didn't even want to let go in the elevator, as we approached our floor- though she did, right before the doors opened.


I went back to my office for more research, and I was there until the sun went down. Neville was one of the last people in the office. He wasn?t paying attention to his door, so he didn?t see me come in. The only light on was a small desk lamp.


?I?ve got a legal question for you, Allistair.? He nearly fell out of his chair at the sound of my voice in the room. ?Do they usually disbar someone for sodomizing a fifteen year old girl?? He squinted at me in the dark. Then he recognized me, not that it was going to help him answer the question. ?Did it matter that she was black? Did that make it easier, that she wasn?t quite like you, maybe not even as much of a person.?


?You don?t know what you?re talking about. She was sweet. Smart. She felt like an old soul.?


?But still had such youthful skin? You know it only sounds worse when you expound on it, right? Sodomizing a fifteen year old girl. You?re not a good enough lawyer to sell that as a wholesome or romantic thing.?


?What do you want??


?I want you to have never hired York- but it?s a little late for that. So the question then becomes how do we rectify that situation. I assume he?s got a contract, right??


?Of course.?




?We?re both lawyers. What do you think??


?I think dirty old men with horrible secrets shouldn?t be nearly so snippy. But I assumed as much. That's fine; it just means we have to get more creative, that's all. In the meantime, don't let your other puppeteer know that his strings have been cut- after all, we may have a reason to want to yank him by them later.? My phone rings. ?I should take this- but I'll be in touch.?


?Hello?? I ask.


The caller ID said Julee, and it took me a moment to tell I was hearing a bar in the background.


?What do you want?? George Morgan.


?I think the better question, George, is what do you want?? She lets the question linger, like an accusation, then changes her tone, softening it to be sympathetic. ?Because I don?t think you?re happy here. I don?t think you ever will be. Always in your brother?s shadow. Supporting him, but never really getting any of the credit for the hard work you put in.?


?What do you know about it??


?I know nobody wants to be the supporting player in somebody else?s story. So I?m asking you, sincerely, if you weren?t here, where would you be? What would you do? If a meteor struck the office overnight, and it turned out our insurance didn?t cover meteors, what would you do tomorrow??


?I don?t know,? he said, almost pouting.


?I think you?d do something else. If you stayed in business, you?d always be measuring yourself against your brother, and even if you managed to surpass him in every way, there?d always be a niggling little thought in your head that you?d done it all for him, to prove yourself to or against him. You?d never be your own man. And you are quite a man. Confident. Handsome. Educated. And you?ve got presence. Have you ever thought about going into politics??


?I was class president,? he said into his glass. And captain of his football team. High school was good to him; clichéd, maybe, but the pleasant kind to have to live through. He also got his Bachelor?s in poli sci. 


She did her homework; well, technically, we did her homework, since we were sitting at my computer, and I worked the mouse while she straddled me.


?I could see that. I can also see you in thirty second TV spots, saying you approved this message. Or standing at a press conference, in front of a flag.? I could tell from her voice she had his hand on his leg.


And I could tell from his response he was almost too drunk to notice. ?I'm not sure I'm cut out to be the political type.?


?So you'd rather stay with the company??


?It's what I know.?


?You'd rather stay with your brother??


He swallows so hard I hear it over the speaker phone. ?He's my brother,? he says so flatly even drunk him doesn't believe it.


?But from where I'm sitting, he's your keeper, as in keeping you stuck where you are, stagnating.?


?He won't be running the company forever.?


?And you think you've got a shot at convincing his hand-picked board you're the rightful heir? Because the way I hear it, he's spent his entire tenure as Chairman infantile you in front of the other board members.?


?No offense, I usually like my women aggressive, but I think I want to finish tying one off in peace.?


?I'll leave. But you should know: you can do better than this.? I heard the clacking of Julee's boots on hardwood floors. ?Not exactly a confession, but I'd say he's definitely is eying other suitors. And I made sure I was clumsy in my advances, so you didn't have to worry about sharing me. But all this fidelity makes me feel dirty. I think I need a shower. Under any other circumstances I'd ask you to come with, but,?


?I understand.? 


?Maybe tomorrow.?


  08:02:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 405 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 52: Babble

?I?m getting phone calls. Honest to the Lord fucking Christ phone calls. Somehow, my highly restricted direct line has made it onto jerkoff websites so that jerkoff phone-callers can jerkoff phone-call me.?

?I?m not entirely sure what you?re saying,? I told him.

?I?m saying you built yourself a tower, son. One time before, man tried to build himself a tower, a tower to unite the world and to touch God. And that ended in fucking tragedy and turmoil. I?m saying you got your tower, and if you don?t do something real smart real quick, you?re going to get your stupid ass smited.?


?That can?t be right, cause it confuses the thing. Smoted, maybe. But grammar ain?t the point. The smiting was.?

?Letting them have this, this small, symbolic thing, it ended the hunger strike. It?s saving people, and if your PR people weren?t colossally stupid, this would be a huge win. But they can?t spin that, so instead they?re being outspun on the nonstory of some boards and a plaque.?

?Wasting tax-payer money on this, shrine?

?I paid for it. We used cast-off wood and bent-nails, but anything we needed new I bought, out of pocket- which is principally just the plaque. It guaranteed that I could control the wording, and the language, so it wasn?t some secret wink-wink, nudge-nudge jihad forever kind of thing.?

?And if this hadn?t leaked to the press, I could have given a flying fuck, but it did.?

?We don?t have any press here. It ?leaked? because you leaked it, you cynical shit. You?re trying to get the public to do your damned dirty work. People died- not in self-inflicted violence, but in protest. I can?t think of an American reason to say no to that.?

?This ain?t about America, son.?

?It goddamned should be.?

?They ain?t Americans.?

?I guess I missed the part of the Constitution that says, ?only for citizens, though; all others beware.??

?You can play cute. But it doesn?t end well. You have to know that.?

?Are you threatening me, Colonel??

?This is the Army, son; we don?t threaten. We do. And I?m telling you, the order that will be working it?s way down the pike, is for this to get done. You can effect a righteous stance, you can waggle your finger at the sky if it makes you feel any better. But I?m telling you how it?ll be. And that?s as a courtesy.?

  06:51:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1692 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 36: Strategy

Piss tests don't usually get back the next day; the overnight job cost extra. Which might have meant Richard just didn't want to deal with the suspense.


His secretary called my cell on my way into work. ?Mr. Morgan would like to see you first thing.?


I recognized her voice, so  I didn't have to ask if she meant Richard or his brother.


He was in his office, nursing a glass of scotch on the rocks. When I entered he let me stand around, wondering, for a moment; he liked being able to make me uncertain. ?How'd you know she'd test positive??I he asked, finally.


?I didn't.?


?Come on. You don't do things for no reason, Mark. You always have a plan.?


?An ex-girlfriend of mine. She was prescribed barbiturates to help her sleep. But she started abusing them. And Daria was acting exactly like her, the mood swings, the misplaced aggression, all of it.? 


?Hmm.? He took another drink from his glass. ?Daria will be staying. It's not strictly fair, since I said I'd fire you if you tested positive. But Daria's been good for you. And you've been good for her. Having you two compete has brought out your best game. And in fact, after she's back from her leave of absence, she'll be taking over a new executive level position, Chief Security Officer. Unorthodox, I know, to promote someone immediately after they fail a drug test, but this was in the works before, and frankly, barbiturates? It's not like we found out she was cooking her own meth.?


?But once she's back from some leave, she'll be starting her new position. And so will you. Recent events have proven we need to elevate our security operations. In complementary fashion, I'm naming you Chief Strategy Officer. Sam Warwick is still on our board, embedded in like a tick. The company's position is tenuous at best. We have to outmaneuver that old bastard, or face extinction. Because Warwick doesn't want to merge; he'll tear us apart, take maybe the top 5% of earners, and liquidate the rest of us. There's no happy ending in that event.?


?So this is no cakey promotion for either of you. We're at war with a member of our own board. And I can't be sure who his allies might be. Daria will be off while she works through her little addiction, but for you the fight starts now. I had my secretary get you copies of the loan agreements with Warwick, and some of the more sensitive financial documents. I?m sure you?ve noticed the pattern, already, but we?re not in the best of financial shape, even now. And I don?t want you operating on poor information anymore.?


?I do have one question, though,? I started. ?If I?m heading a new department, to I get my own employees??


?I?ve already talked to payroll about moving Arnie under you.?


?Actually? I was hoping to steal someone out of security.?


?I didn?t promote you to carry on your little territorial pissing match with Daria.?


?She?s just an associate; it?s not about taking a scalp. She?s wasted in security. But she has a real talent for the strategy.?


?This wunderkind have a name??


?Julee Hendricks.?


?From what I?ve seen she has many talents.? 


?Well, I?d like to bring them to bear in this department.?


?All right. Tentatively. If Daria decides to make a stink, I might have to reexamine, but I can?t imagine her taking issue with you stealing a drone to be queen in your new hive.? 


Speaking of the devil, who?d never looked better in a cleavage-showcasing crimson dress- Julee was waiting in my office. She knew better than to pretend that she hadn?t been going through the folder Rich had sent there. I?d have frankly been disappointed had she not already made copies, or at least taken cell phone pictures of the important ones.


?Congratulations,? she said, ?on vanquishing your enemies.?


?I don?t know if I can call it vanquishing, since she?ll be back. But the important thing is Daria is going to get the help she needs. She have anything to say after the meeting yesterday??


?She thought she had you. It?s amazing how simple some people can be. But if you?re supposed to be a heroin addict, where are your tracks? I don?t know how someone could look at you naked and think you?d ever done drugs.?


?I?ve never slept with Daria.?


?Really? I thought it was impossible for anybody to hate someone as much as she hates you without fucking them.?


?Maybe I?m just exceptionally hatable.?


?Your secretary and I would fight over the opportunity to differ- possibly while oiled.?


?Level with me: you?re really a nymphomaniac robot prototype designed by Larry Flynt that he?s having me anonymously beta test.?


?Nope,? she took the opportunity to crush her chest against me, ?every inch of me?s real.?


?All the more impressive, then. But on that note, I got promoted.? 


?Moving on up. Does that mean Noakes is moving on out??


?Unfortunately not. I?m moving up, but parallel, heading up a new strategy division. How would you like a job??


?Would it involve copious amounts of oral sex??


?That?s an understatement.?


?Good. And I don?t want to hear you complaining about your jaw locking up, or your knees all carpet-burned, because there?s only one carpet I want you thinking about.?


?First day on the job and you?re already sexually harassing your new boss. Impressive.?


?So what does my new position entail- besides all the predictable Kama Sutra jokes??


?We think Warwick?s planning a hostile takeover- though technically he?s trying to convert members of the board to his takeover. But I think he?s becoming overtly hostile- after all, he tried to poison Richard. But I suspect George is at least listening to Warwick, even if he?s not outright rebellious. I?d like you to talk to him.?


?Something wrong with your mouth- or you just conserving its energy for my copious oral sexing?? 


?George doesn?t like me, and he?s enough of a lush that I?m not sure I could get him blackout drunk enough to get him to talk to me without him simply passing out. But you? have a way about you. Men open up.?


?They?re called breasts, and yes, they?re the secret to a man?s heart and parts beyond. Do you want me to sleep with him??


?If you have to.?


?That wouldn?t make you terribly jealous??


?It would almost kill me.? It wasn?t true, but she didn?t really need it to be; she just needed it said. 


?Then I?ll do it.?            


?Sleep with him??


?Talk with him.?


?He?s a drunk, but because he doesn?t want the stigma of being a drunk, he goes to a different place every night of the week. Tonight it?s Steadman?s. He?ll be passed the legal limit before he even gets off work, so that should help grease the wheels.? 


?Shit; speaking of squeaky wheels, Joel?s MCing a meeting. Last chance I?ll have to dig up some dirt on my old workmates.?


?Cherish it,? I said as she shut my office door behind her.   


I settled down at my laptop for research. I?d barely powered it on when my phone rang. It was Daria. ?You dosed me. I don't know how you did it. But you did. Don't deny it. I just want you to know that I know. And every single slimey thing you do- it puts me one step closer to harpooning your balls to a wall. So by all means, keep it up. I'll enjoy doing some real damage to you.?


Then she hung up.


She was becoming unhinged, right on schedule. But I had other things that required my attention. Eventually I was going to have to look into the entire board for tell-tale signs of a takeover; but for now I wanted to have a harder look at the executive staff, starting with the legal department.


York had forced his way into the company, that much I was certain of. That meant he could be part of the takeover, or that somebody could exploit the same weaknesses he did. Which meant looking into Neville.


Neville?d been with the company for most of his professional life, so he wouldn?t have been closely scrutinized in the last several decades. But since York knew about it, whatever it was, odds were good that it came up later- likely when York was old enough to have his legal degree and be running in the same circles. That gave me a time frame, and a likely association. A quick search of the local papers? online databases got me enough information to know there?d been a lawsuit, that was settled and sealed.


The thing about sealed court proceedings is they involve human beings. Not just a judge, who while professional bloviators, aren?t likely to compromise their own gag orders, but lawyers, complainants, respondents. Finding somebody who wants to talk, that?s the challenge. Unless of course that somebody lost, and then they?re probably looking for somebody to bitch about it to.


In this case, her name was May Parsons. She sued Neville ten years before, when she was fifteen. She had a number listed for a black neighborhood in the suburbs. I called her on my cell. ?Hello, Ms. Parsons??


?Speaking. Who is this??


?I work in corporate security. I?m investigating someone who works for us, who I believe you?re acquainted with, Allistair Neville. There?s been an accusation, from a fifteen year old girl. Your suit against Neville, part of the settlement was a gag order, negotiated by Henry York. But I suspect Neville?s reverted to his old ways. I was hoping you could confirm for me just some details, anonymously. I?m not looking to cause you trouble, though I know just by calling I?m causing you distress. But there?s another little girl out there. I?d like your help protecting her. Can you do that for me??


I heard a heavy swallow on the other end.


?No one?s going to know you talked to me. I wouldn?t dream of putting your settlement in jeopardy.?


A sigh. ?Okay. What do you need to know??


  06:49:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1691 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 35: Purity

Daria called Armand, but got a busy signal. That's because I was on the phone with him, finalizing a deal for him to provide my reliable scumbag with his payment, as well as a generous finder's fee for him.


A little after lunchtime Daria receieved another incoming call. It was Richard Morgan. ?My office. Now.? She moved there so quickly I barely had time to turn on Julee's bug. ?I understand you called and harassed my sister about her former husband.?


?Some evidence came to light about one of our executive's conduct. He claimed he'd starting attending NA meetings, and gave me his sponsor's number. I didn't know it was Barbara until she picked up the phone.?


?And what was the employee's name?? He asked, dubious.


?Mark Dane.?


?I thought we'd discussed this. Ad nauseum.?




?You really don't want to say anything until I'm done yelling at you.?


Julee burst into my office. ?Must feel good,? she said. ?Both of your conspirators handled. Rand dead, Daria hoisting herself on her own petard. It's better than sex, isn't it. I came on the walk over here just listening in. But what if we mixed it with sex?? she asked, climbing under my desk.


We took turns, who was sitting in the chair, and who was on their knees beneath the desk.


Richard yelled for nearly an hour and a half. When he was done, Daria went straight from his office to Alice Mott's. ?I need to know if an employee's been using drugs.?


?Good morning to you, too,? Alice said. ?Was the employee involved in an accident on the job??




?Absenteeism? History of tardiness? Anything like that??




?Then we don't have a legal reason we can compel the employee to submit to drug testing. It has to be voluntary.?


?I doubt he'd volunteer.?


?You'd be surprised. Most employees, when they're called out, agree to testing. They want to clear their name- even if they know there's a pretty good chance they're going to fail the test. What's the employee's name??


?Mark Dane.?


Alice's tone changed. ?Does Rich know about this??


?I just came from his office.?


?But did he approve it.?


?Not in so many words.?


?What were the words, exactly, that he used.?


?That I needed to drop this. But there's liability. If Dane's using, now that we've been informed of his history of substance abuse, if anything does happen company-related we could be on the hook.?


?Shit. Have a seat. I'm going to call Allistair. We're going to need legal to weigh in on this.?


I could hardly hear the phone conversation, and even then, only Alice's half. But I knew how it would go. Legal would have a fit if I wasn't at least asked to submit to testing. Which Richard would grumble about, but ultimately, he hadn't made it to CEO by ignoring his legal department's advice.


?Okay,? Alice said, hanging up the phone after a couple of minutes. ?Alliistair pretty much says exactly what you said; but there's no way in hell I'm going over Richard's head on this one. So I'm going to have to give him a call. And he's likely to yell at you some more when all is said and done.?


I heard her phone dial. ?Richard? This is Alice. Could I see you in my office?? She hung up. ?He's on his way.?


Then Daria's phone beeped. ?Shit. This thing's always dying on me. It's practically a landline any more, as much time as I have to leave it plugged into the wa-? it died.


That was suspenseful. I wondered what Richard was going to say. Julee hiked her skirt back down as she got up out of my chair. ?It just isn't the same without the background noise,? she said. Then she dialed her phone. My desk phone rang, and she put it on speaker, then slipped her phone in her jacket pocket and left. I sat down in my chair.


There was a knock over the phone. ?Daria in here? June told me you were talking to Admin about Dane, and I figured you might need me for perspective.?


?What's this?? Alice asked.


?Julee got close to Dane, and has been keeping an eye on his activities.?


?Jesus Christ. I'm not hearing this. And neither will Richard.?


?We're just trying to limit our liability.?


?Do you not remember HP's spying fiasco? You're creating liability.?


?I think Daria misspoke,? Julee soothed. ?I entered into a friendship with Mark independently of my position with the security department. It's only in my capacity as his friend that I've observed, naturally, his disposition.?


?She's much better at this than you,? Alice said. ?But have you found anything that would concern either of us??


?Dane's guarded. If he has any skeletons, I haven't seen them; but he keeps his closets shut and firmly locked.?


There was another knock at the door. ?So what's this about, Alice? Daria? Good lord. You're not filing a complaint for a little harsh language, are you??


?Daria just wanted to clear it with me. She has an indication from an investigation that an employee of ours is using drugs. We consulted with legal, and they'd like us to at least inquire with the employee about drug testing.?


?Goddamnit,? Richard said, ramping up for another good yell; I could practically hear Julee's panties moisten over the phone; but he took a deep breath and let it out. ?Allistair said that??




?Well, shit. But inquire??


?We can't compel a test, since there hasn't been an incident. But I think, most of the time, employees don't like having a cloud hanging over their employment. He'll probably agree to it.?


Somebody picked up the phone and dialed. My second line rang through, and I picked it up. ?Dane? Richard. Could I see you in Alice's office.?


I passed Julee on her way out of Alice's as I was on my way in. Alice was a thicker woman, older, with frizzy brown hair. K; it was a little hard for me to understand how she'd been sexually harassed in the first place.


It was Alice who spoke. ?We have reason to believe you've recently been using drugs. You say you've been seeking treatment, and we applaud that effort, but we would still like to make sure you're not still using recreationally.?


?As I understand it, you can't compel me, correct? But I would like to prove that I don't have anything to hide. I just... it feels like a violation of trust. I confided my NA attendance to our head of security so there wouldn't be suspicion. But, if she'd be willing to be tested beside me, I think that would go a ways to assuaging me.?


?Why would I agree to that??


?It's a gesture of faith. You're accusing me, based on no evidence, of using again. And I'm saying if I have to prove myself, fine, but I don't like the idea of being the only one peeing in a cup.?


?Richard?? Alice said.


?I like it. You two have had a rivalry from the moment he stepped foot on this floor. If Mark's lying to us, he's gone. He's willing to spin that wheel. But the ante is you agreeing to be tested, Daria. Does that sound reasonable to you??


?Whatever,? she said.




?I'll put in a call to the clinic,? Alice said, ?and let you know when you've got your appointments set up.?


I went back to my office. I was surprised Julee wasn't waiting there- until I realized where she would be- where she needed to be: Daria's. There for the briefing, there for more espionage.


Alice called twenty minutes later. She'd set up an appointment for me at a clinic within walking distance just after work.


I arrived in time to see Daria leaving. She glared at me, but it was perfunctory; she'd been hating me for so long that now she was doing it just because it was what she felt she was supposed to do. ?I hope after this, we can put our past behind us, start fresh.? She really wanted to hit me for that.


The technician brought me into a room, and had me sit on top of an exam table. She was in her early fifties, but I imagine five years ago still would have been an F; today, frumpy, grumpy, M. ?We favor a comprehensive approach, here. We'll test your urine. If that comes back clean, you're done. But if that comes back positive for drugs, we take a blood sample to test next. And finally,? she reached a hand up to my hair and plucked one out, ?follicle testing. Sorry, I just usually find it's easier to surprise someone, like taking off a band-aid.? I knew that if she wasn't matronly, people would have punched her for that.  ?Could I get you to roll up your sleeve??


?Sure,? I said. I rolled it up. She rolled a cuff around my arm and tapped inside my elbow. She she jabbed me with a needle, and blood started to fill a small collection vial. When it was full, she pulled the needle out, and stopped up the hole with some gauze, which she taped in place.


?The last part I'm not going to be able to help you with, though in my youth,? she stopped, smiling, and handed me a plastic cup. Five years younger her, I might have let do it. ?There's a toilet in the corner.?


?You're not going to leave, are you?? I asked.


?Oh, no. Have to monitor the specimen collection.?


I shrugged. It wasn't the first older lady I'd peed in front of- and at least this was in a medical context.  I filled the cup to the line and screwed on the lid while I finished peeing in the toilet, and held the cup over my shoulder. She took it, and then I shook off, zipped up, and washed my hands.


?Any other fluids you need?? I asked only half joking.


?Oh,? she said, ?I bet you say that to all the girls.?


  06:35:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1699 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 34: Prison Itch

The burner I'd used to call the phone I'd had smuggled into prison rang. It was after two. ?Hello?? It was a different voice.


?What happened to the man I talked to last time??


?He had an accident in the shower. I'm his subcontractor.?


?What happened??


?He was going to blackmail you. And me.?


He hit the play button on a tape recorder, and the first man I'd spoken to came over the recording. ?Boss says it has to look like a he got killed for mouthing off. It's got to be about power, about disrespect. So one of us got to rape him.?


?He's your boss, and it's his plan. Why don't you rape him? I'll slit his throat, no problem, for ten grand.?


?I don't want to rape him, either. You don't just get to call 'not it.' Get your fucking finger off your nose- that don't work with two people. Since we can't rape him twice and kill him twice, we got to figure out another way to divide the labor. Rock scissors paper??


?Once, twice, three, shoot,? they said in unison.


?Aw, come on, man,? the new guy said. ?I went with scissor cause you were gonna have to tear that ass up; I figured you'd go with paper, cause I could tear through that ass like some- and cause everybody in the joint always picks rock.?


?Rock's how hard your dick's gonna have to be. So start thinking of Beyonce. If you want, I can slit his throat first.?


?Fuck you.?


?Nope, fuck him. You want my ass you have to spend some of your share on a proper fucking date, little toilet wine, candles, quiet stroll on the yard.?


Then real quiet, intimate, even: ?Sorry, guy. It's just the way of things.?


He turned off the recording. ?At the start of the tape, he's got you making the deal with him. You want I can play that part, too.?


?That's all right. That's nice work.?


?If you don't want to listen, I'll destroy the tape. I just wanted you to know he made it, what he was trying to do. I didn't want you thinking I was trying to muscle for his share.?


?Of course not. But I'm giving it to you anyway. It was a two-man job. The only part I hadn't anticipated was needing to have the second man take care of the first. $25 total good for you??


?Sounds fair.?


?And how would you like it??


?Heroin. Wholesale.?


?I'll see what I can do; you might have to take cash and find our own wholesaler.?




I hung up the phone.


?Clarence Rand is dead. Raped and stabbed in prison.?


?Want to celebrate?? she asked.


?You read my mind.?


?Your place or mine??


?Yours has bars on the windows. So yours.?


?Feeling like a little role play? You want to make me your prison bitch??  


?Something like that.?


I showed up an hour later, cleaned up, with flowers and champagne. ?You didn't have to,? she said, though she didn't mean it. She was wearing a light green night gown that might have been hideous on most women, but whose color played well against her dark skin.


She put the flowers in a vase, and the champagne into glasses. Then she led me into her bedroom. On her nightstand was a gun, and a knife.


?You have your little role to play, and I have mine.? I picked up the revolver, kicked out the cylinder. ?It isn't loaded,? she said. ?But I want you to point it at me.? She slid the straps of her nightgown off her shoulders and it fell to t floor, and she picked up the knife, and laid down on the bed.


I checked the chamber again; one shooting I could probably get away with, but it was patterns that started to look suspicious. Empty. I closed it, but made sure the safety was on.


She noticed, and put the knife against my throat as I lowered myself onto the bed between her legs. ?We're not having safe sex tonight,? she said, and reached her free hand to the gun to flick off the safety.


?No protection at all?? I asked, nodding towards her nightstand drawer, where she kept her condoms.


?You think they used protection?? she asked with an evil smile. ?Now pull back the hammer, and get inside me.?   


I woke up at four am. I was restless. And I'd noticed when I arrived earlier that the clippings on her walls had changed. There were memos, many of them classified. A glance at them told me everything.


It wasn't a general interest in the news, or even in the company's dark side. She was writing a book. This was going to become a problem, at some point. ?Come back to bed,? she moaned, in such a way I couldn't even think of disappointing her. 


But still, I left her place early. I was wary to stay; she had her own agenda, now, above and beyond anything I'd contemplated. And that increased the chances we were going to be at cross purposes.


The office was abuzz over news of Clarence's death. It was widely enough know that he plead out his case- that there'd never even been an attempt at proving his guilt- that no one liked the idea he was dead. Well, no one except me and Julee.


Not that Julee understood everything. For all she knew, Clarence had manipulated my, and tried to frame me, all well and true, actually, except that in the end I framed him for the whole thing. But, really, he'd hired a man to murder me first, so it only seemed fair, karmically if nothing else.


Daria took the news particularly hard. I tapped into her bugged cell phone, and heard her crying in the background. Which made me particularly hard. It was all I could do not to call Julee into my office for a quickie.


Then Daria's phone rang, two dots, and incoming call. I picked up after it had stopped ringing, and silenced my handset, then shut down the bug. ?Daria Rheme? I don't know if Clarence mentioned me. I'm his cousin. And a private investigator. I was looking into the circumstances surrounding his arrest, particularly as pertained to a Mark Dane.?


?You know a lower level drone in finance, Arnie something, had an OD earlier this year, ended up in the hospital? He and Dane are 'friends'- don't ask if that comes with benefits, cause nobody's talking- and Dane's the one who bought the junk that put him into a coma.?


?If I gave a crap about executives with drug problems we'd lose half the people on this floor.? 


?I found the guy who sold it to him, and he said he warned Dane it was too much for two men.?


?You don't think?


?Looks that way. And the way I understand it, all you need is looks. Let the courts worry about putting this shitbag in a cell. Fella sold it, his name's Armand- or at least that's the handle he pushes under. I've got a number, no address. I'll text you the specifics. But I'd talk to the man before he remembers that a dealer is only as good as his ability not to violate his clients' confidence.?


Well that was all kinds of no good. Armand had only been the man who I bought some heroin off of; not really the kind of thing that threatens a career, even if someone ODs off the stuff. But he'd since been the man who helped me organize a murder inside prison. Of the man they were investigating.


I walked directly to Daria's office and knocked on the door. ?Come in,? she said, and there was a musical quality to her voice.  


I entered. ?I heard what happened. I'm... genuinely sorry.?


She smiled at me, a smile that said she was grinding my balls under her heel and enjoying every second of it. ?I know about Arnie. You bought the heroin that nearly killed him- and I'm not so sure that it was an accident. I'm going to go see the man you bought it from.?


?Wait. You're right... I bought the junk. Arnie ODing... it was a real turning point for me. I nearly killed my best friend, and that... it changed me. I cleaned up. I've been sober since it happened. I can get you the number of my NA sponsor.?


?Seriously?? I hunched over her desk and grabbed a post it and scrawled down Barbara's cell phone number.


?I knew her as Betty, and she knew me as Al.? I handed her the note.


?That is so incredibly lame.?


?We were supposed to be anonymous,? I protested. ?And again, I really am sorry. I know you cared about him... and he cared about you, too.? I left with my head hanging low.


Back in my office, I turned the bug back on. She was calling on her cell phone this time, and I listened in as the call was picked up.


?My name is Daria Rheme. I'm head of corporate security at-?


?I know who you are, Ms. Rheme. You broke up my marriage.?


?Mrs. Rand??


?Ms. Morgan, again. I went back to the maiden name.?


?I'm sorry for your loss,? Daria said, suddenly taken aback.


?Which one? When you fucked my husband, 'losing' my marriage for me? Or his untimely death? Because if it's the latter, I only lost an ex-husband, which doesn?t hurt as much as you might think.?


?I'm sorry for both,? she said, and it sounded like she meant it. ?But um, the reason I was calling isn't actually related to Clarence. An employee who works here, who you knew by the name of Al. He says you're his sponsor. Another employee had an overdose, and he said that watching that happen caused him to get clean. He said you could verify all of this.?


?I can. Al made more progress than anyone I've seen in nearly two years of NA meetings. He's above reproach.? 


?Thanks. I appreciate your help. And I am unspeakably sorry for your losses.? 


  08:48:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1157 words  
Categories: Batman Comes Out

Batman Comes Out: Revelations

ID: I want to thank you for coming back. After last week, I wasn?t sure you would. But you?ve made me out to be an ass. And a homophobe.

B: You usually do a fine job of doing both on your own, actually.

ID: See, I talked to Dick. And I?d been under the assumption that your AIDS nee HIV came from unprotected sex, quite possibly of the homosexual variety.

B: Which is a pretty homophobic assumption to make, honestly.

ID: But you did nothing to dissuade that notion. At all.

B: Force of habit. It can be useful to have people underestimate, or in your case, misunderstand, you.

ID: Okay. Well enough of that. I want to understand. And frankly, you owe it to our audience to help them understand. Because your illness is not a product of unprotected sex, period.

B: And it?s not from needles, not even venom injections.

ID: Or a transfusion. That ticks the usual boxes. So are we done dancing around the subject?

B: It?s a strange circumstance. But I?ll start at the beginning. Keep the suspense up a little longer- I know how much you love that.

I was on a patrol. This was before the cataclysmic earthquake, so before all of the buildings were seismically retrofitted. And do you know the old Gotham National Bank building?

ID: No.

B: Had a lot of personality, that building. Art deco architecture, some gothic gargoyles. I was perched on top of one of those, when the building buckled underneath me. I?ve been involved in enough building destroying events to recognize when a building?s supports are going beneath me. There was a large fire across town, so most of the emergency services were tied up there.

The only person in the building was a little old lady who cleaned up the offices on the upper floors. She brought her cat into the office with her, and didn?t want to leave it, but the cat wouldn?t come out from behind the cabinets. In retrospect, if we?d made it into the stairwell, the way the building came down, we probably would have died- so in a strange way that cat probably saved my life. But I was still standing in her in this file room when the building started to fall. I grabbed the woman and leapt out the window, and this cat clambers up my leg, claws out, like I?m a pine tree. 

I managed to get a line wrapped around one of the gargoyles, which broke our fall, but about half the top floor came down on us. The three of us were basically all right, but cut up all to hell.

And that?s when I saw the boy. A street walker, I knew from the clothes. He hadn?t been so lucky, and the building collapse had seriously messed him up. I managed to get him clear of the rubble, but he wasn?t breathing.

But he was sick. I recognized Kaposi?s sarcoma, and I knew what that meant. But there was no one else there. I was cut up all to hell, and even the usual gloves and breathing barriers I carry with me were perforated. I knew what I would do to myself if I resuscitated him, the consequences that could have for my life, for my mission.

But he was Dick?s age. Under the bruising, the swelling, the blood, he could have looked like Dick. I couldn?t look at him and not see Dick, not see my son dying on the sidewalk at my feet.

There wasn?t even a decision- that made it for me. It took forty five minutes for paramedics to arrive; by then my lungs burned, and I could barely keep up compressions. I mean, I?d had a building fall on me. But before I let them take over for me, I told them, ?He?s positive.?

And they were shocked. The paramedics tried to shove me in the back of the ambulance to start disinfecting me. But I wasn?t even thinking clearly any more. I?d been operating beyond my limitations since the building collapsed; keeping that boy alive had become everything in those moments, and I pushed them back, and said, ?Him first.? And I think that brought all of us back to our senses. They gave me the antiseptics they had in the ambulance and took him away.

I went straight home after that, and bathed in alcohol. I started antiretrovirals immediately. I had my blood tested, every week, knowing it was only a matter of time before it came back positive. And eventually it did. It was almost? almost a relief. It?s amazing how psychotically the brain will cling to hope. But knowing? it let me get back to my life. Not living in anticipation of its end.

ID: That?s? shit.

B: Don?t look at me like that. I did what I?ve always done, what I?ve always said I was willing to do. And I just happened to be the man who was there, that day, to do it. I have no doubt that in the same circumstances, the Flash, a Green Lantern, most of the people in the League wouldn?t hesitate to do the same. And those who wouldn?t, I don?t fault them. That job already asks a lot. I can?t fault them for drawing that line.

ID: But? shit.

B: You need to be a prick to me. It?s part of your process- part ours. You need to be a prick so you can challenge what I say, challenge me. So quite with the puppy dog eyes.

ID: But? shit.

B: Okay. Maybe I have to keep the ball rolling this time. And in this spirit of openness, I hear you got outed by Lex News yourself.

ID: Yeah, um, as in outed as the reporter concealing his identity to conserve the integrity of this interview, not in the sex with dudes kind of outing. So you can breathe easy, mom.

B: But your name, specifically, has been linked up to your nom de plume. And in this Google age, that means it?s out. Period.

ID: Right. I?m Nic Wilson. Way back when, I wrote for a culture and arts magazine called Dangerous Ink, before it went tits up, and I liked that those initials reversed garnered ID, short for identification, and I thought it was clever, in an interview about Superman?s secret identity, that that would be my handle. That?s pretty much it, in a nutshell.

B: But doesn?t it feel good to get that out in the open?

ID: Not really. I don?t like being the subject. It feels icky.

B: Yep. Pretty much.

ID: Kind of makes me rethink that whole wanting to be notable thing. But how do you like sitting on the other side of the table? Being the bad guy, or at least playing devil?s advocate?

B: It?s kind of fun.

ID: I?ve created a monster, haven?t I?

  06:22:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1814 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 33: R & R

At St. Anthony's I helped with a puppet show, which mostly meant that I made a stuffed meerkat have epileptic seizures while yelling, tourrettes style, all manner of absurd and at least borderline obscene things.


When we were done, I helped Shana carry the puppets and a little folding stage back to her car.


?You were really great with the kids back there. You did drop an f-bomb, but sadly that was not the first time that particular gopher did that.?


?I got lost in my character. So it wasn't so  much that I dropped an f-bomb, as Wally Wombat realistically should drop an f-bomb when he finds out he's gotten Sally Sasquatch teenage pregnant- which I still think teaches children strange things about interspecies hook-ups.? I also thought it was an ill-humored joke to lecture children on the dangers of a problem they wouldn't live long enough to worry about.


She closed her trunk. She hesitated, not wanting to get into her car to drive away. Something was weighing on her.


?Wait,? I said, putting my hand on her shoulder. ?How would you feel about going for a walk?? 


?Sure,? she said. She was silent a while, lost in her thoughts; I subtly steered us towards the waterfront.  We were just where the sidewalk gave way to sand when she sighed. ?I feel like crap, every time I leave there. Those kids, all of them have a tougher life than me. And yet I'm the one who hates to have to watch them suffer. It's so stupidly self-indulgent. Which only makes me hate myself more.?


?I have an idea.? I said. ?Ignore the fact that it's usually an excuse for high school guys to get girls naked: we should go skinny dipping.?


?That has got to be the flimsiest attempt to get me out of my clothes in ever.?


?There's something... freeing about it. Not being constrained, by clothing, by gravity, not even tethered to the earth. That's your problem: you're weighed down. You take on all these responsibilities, as if they were all your cross to bear. This is a chance to set your burden down, if only for a few minutes.?


?I don't know,? she said, but she was leading me towards the sound of the water lapping against the shore. 


?Here. I'll turn around, and I'll wait until you're in the water before I turn back. If you want I can even go all the way down the beach so you're just a little pink dot. Trust me, if this were just about getting your clothes off, I'd have waited for 'date' three, and you'd have been drinking, before I tried anything.?


I heard a splash as she jumped into the water. I was already halfway out of my clothes, and bent over to set the rest of mine in a pile beside hers.


The water was frigid, but it almost tickled. She swam around me, using big, broad strokes that pulled her breasts above the waterline, where they were silhouetted by the moonlight. She smiled at me, invitingly, and I think she wanted me to swim for her, and press our moist, naked bodies together, or at least to try. But that wasn't the game I was playing, this time around.


We swam for fifteen minutes. ?I should probably go home. My husband will start to worry,? she said, wading out of the water. She stopped when her buttocks were exposed to the air, and turned back to look at me. I'd already covered my eyes with my hands. ?You can look, if you want. We're both adults, here. Not like I have anything you haven't seen before.?


?Okay, and I will happily take you up on that, but I don't want to reciprocate. The last thing I want is to have you comparing me and your husband. I don't think there's any way for all of us to walk away winners, there.?


?Then I take it back, you have to look away. And forget what my bare ass looks like.?


?You can't welsh on nudity.?


?Fine,? she said, pretending irritation, as she bent down to pick up her clothes, ? but I'll have you know I glimpsed you while we were walking out of the water, and it isn't that cold.?


I had just picked up my clothes. ?Okay. Now you've called out my honor.? I dropped my clothes back down into a pile on the sand. ?Go ahead. Look. Bask. Compare. And if you feel inspired, go ahead and sculpt.?


?Where are my panties?? she asked, suddenly breaking away from our flirtation.


?Um, did you kick them off somewhere??


?No, they should be here with the rest of my clothes.?


?Maybe they caught a breeze, landed in the water, and sunk.?    


?God, submersible underpants. But I really need them. It would be mightily suspicious for my husband, if I came home without panties.?


?Unless you tell him you took them off just for him. Trust me, there's no follow up questions after that.?


?You are a lifesaver. Seriously, that's the second time tonight..? She kissed my forehead, then realized she still was only holding her clothes, not wearing them, and her bare breasts had rubbed against my arm. ?I should probably get dressed before I kiss you, next time.?


?That sounds complicated.?


?We have a complicated relationship apparently. Somehow.? We dressed, and I kept my eyes pointed away from the water, and her.


She put her arm through mine while we walked back to ours cars. I had my hand in my jacket pocket, keeping her underpants balled up so they didn't peak out.


Circuitous? Maybe. But less circuitous than trying to actually seduce her. That, and my penis was starting to get tired.


I kissed her on the cheek when we got back to the hospital parking lot. ?Sorry,? I said, seemed like the thing to do.?


?No,? she said, smiling, ?that was totally appropriate, since we're both clothed, and it was just a little good night peck. I certainly couldn't complain after the naked thank you kiss. But swimming was... it was what I needed. And I never would have thought that. What are you doing next week??


?Same bat time, same bat channel.?


?Good. But don't bring a suit. That would ruin it. But next time we might want to bring some towels.? She shivered for effect. Then she got into her car and drove away.


The next morning at work, I noticed George hovering around the break room, talking with anyone who came into his web. His eyes even lit up when he saw me come in for coffee.


George didn't like me. He didn't like anyone as competent as he was within throwing distance of a rivalry of him. So George didn't really like anybody. But George did like to gossip.


?You heard?? he asked with the most boyish glee that I'd ever seen in him. ?My brother's taken a new mistress. Only this time he's broken with the pattern, and chosen someone who doesn't work directly beneath him- thank the last $3 million lawsuit for that. She still has tangential ties to the company from what I hear, but at least those are lawsuitable.?


?I thought I'd heard she was married to someone here- or maybe someone on the board.? George's face went white for a moment, because he hadn't heard that, and he absolutely hated being left out of the loop. It grated on him, because it reminded him of his standing in the company, his standing in his family, his standing in his own mind.


?I thought that was just a rumor.?


?The person I talked to saw them out together, and was sure it was a board member's wife.?


George was practically salivating, but he asked, ?Reliable??


?I think so.?


?That does narrow it down. Almost takes all the fun out of the mystery.? He shrugged and walked away with his shoulders slumped, but a spring in his step. And he didn't leave the break room, just retired to the far wall to assimilate this new information.


The fact that a rumor was already circulating did half the heavy lifting for me. I knew there was a board meeting today. I had Petra tell me the moment Alex Warwick was on the floor. I followed him to the break room, ostensibly for a refill on my coffee. 


Someone had taken the last of it out of the pot without refilling It. Alex was mumbling various swearwords under his breath for the inconvenience of having to make his own.


?I'm sorry,? I said, lowering my eyes, ?About your wife.?


?What about my wife?? he asked, glaring at me.


?I thought everyone knew...?


?Knew what?? he asked, becoming agitated.


?That she's seeing Richard.? He dropped the pot's large vertical tower into the metal sink and it landed with a loud crash. ?I thought everyone knew. They were seen together at some kind of charity event the other day. And one of the people in operations saw them out at a restaurant last night.?


He didn't bother picking up the tower to finish making his coffee. In fact, he stormed out of the break room entirely, and went directly into George's office and slammed the door shut. That was interesting. 


I went to the board meeting late, because I had to put something in Richard's desk. They were Shana's stolen underpants, and I made sure to leave them ever so slightly protruding out of the drawer after I shut it.


Alex wasn't at the meeting when I arrived. But it wasn't long before he showed up. ?With my wife?? he bellowed as he entered the board room.


He'd been through Richard's desk, that was why he was late, and was holding in his hand his wife's balled up panties. he threw her panties in Richard?s face, then threw a punch right where they?d hit him.


From the floor, Richard put up his hand, so the security thugs stopped their approach, and spit a little blood on the carpet. ?I don't know what you think has been going on with your wife, but I've been nothing but polite. And this behavior, is not becoming of a member of this board. All in favor of expelling Alex Warwick??


There was a unanimous ?aye?ing from the members, with the sole exception of George, and Sam Warwick. But the motion carried. 


Later, Richard called me into his office. He'd replaced all the bottles in his office, but he was opening up a scotch to pour himself a drink. He didn't offer me one.


?I noticed you talking to Alex before he hit me. Whatever you said, whatever you did,? he waited until he'd turned all the way towards the window, so I couldn't see his face, ?excellent work. Though I suspect daddy won't be quite so gullible.?



  05:58:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1652 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 32: Poison Pills

The human psyche is a complicated thing. It?s designed to protect itself, even from reality. So how do you make someone realize he?s put himself in danger, convince him that he?s made a mistake?


I decided to put hemlock in his vodka.


But that was the easy part. Richard Morgan keeps the bottles in his office, and rarely bothers to even shut his door, let alone lock it. He?s been king of this company for a long time, and didn?t think anybody dared move against him.


He collapsed while sitting behind his desk. I?m not too bad a chemist, so he survived long enough for the paramedics to arrive and save his life, but as a rule of thumb, you should never poison someone you?re not prepared to have dead.


By lunchtime the office was a abuzz. The CEO collapsing made everyone nervous. And it brought me to Daria?s door. Intrigue makes for strange bedfellows, and on that note, Daria was looking better these days. Getting a little extra sleep agreed with her. F, unless it was necessary to K.


?I?ve been thinking about what happened to Richard this morning. I don?t think it?s his health, or stress. I think he was poisoned.?


?And you?re here to confess??


?I know you don?t like me, but hear me out. Richard?s been involving the company in riskier and riskier behavior. There are usually two reasons for that kind of a change in personality. Desperation, or puberty. I don?t think Richard?s a teenager, so I think there are things he hasn?t told us- hasn?t admitted to the board or even the executive level staff.?


?Actually, that?s not entirely true. That?s what I thought. And now I know it. We?ve been using Repo 105 to cook the books for the last seven straight quarters. It would take twelve of our highest profit quarters in a row to get back in the black, more realistically we?re looking at close to twenty. That?s five more years of bleeding red ink. If the stockholders knew about that, they?d riot.?


?That?s why we needed those loan guarantees in the first place, the ones that brought the Warwicks onto the board. But the way those were structured, they were basically Repo 115 agreements; we already owe them 115% of what they loaned us, and by the time we can pay it all back it?ll be closer to 125. Those loans were a poison pill, meant to kill the company so they could break apart one of their biggest competitors, pick off the parts of the business they wanted, and drop what was left.?


?But the pill didn?t kill the company as fast as they wanted it to. And they?re our competitors, remember, so the same crappy economy is dragging down their bottom line, as well. They needed at least more of that money back by now to stay competitive. So now Warwick is desperate, too.?


?But how would bringing down the company help them??


?The loan guarantees included a clause that the Warwicks be legally viewed as secured creditors,? I got a blank off her, ?that means that the debts they?re owed take primacy over other creditors, regardless of whether those creditors were owed money first or are owed more of it. It lets them cut to the front of the line, so to speak.?


?Why would Richard agree to any of this?? she asked, flabbergasted.




?I?m still not sure I?m on board, here. How would poisoning Richard solve their problems??


?Repo 105 is risky. Richard?s successor probably wouldn?t want to be sued for fraud. And that?s assuming the Warwicks weren?t successful in getting their own representative named new CEO. They?ve got two of seven votes that we know of on the board. Two hard-liners is more than enough to push everybody else around if there?s no obvious candidate for the job- and I think there is.?


?George?? she asked.


?The only reason he?s even COO is because of his brother.?


?I know better than to even ask about Ed; I?m still shocked they made him CFO. Alice??


?She?s maybe the strongest candidate, but that only underscores my point: there is no obvious successor. So what would it take for them to name, oh, say, Alex or Sam as the interim Chairman? How little would it take? Another few million in loan guarantees? I?m sure as soon as the board was aware of the full implications of the hole we?re in, anything would look better than nothing.?


?Leave what you've got with me. We'll run things down the rest of the way. But Mark, this is good work.?


?Thanks,? I said, as I left.


Back in my office, I called Shana. ?I know it's late, but have you had lunch?? I asked her.


?Late lunch is the only kind I ever get,? she said.


?Because I wanted to talk about ways you could use me.?


?I can't tell if you've been trying to flirt with me, or if you're just a really awkward human being.?


?Trust me, if I were flirting with you, it would be even more awkward than that, exponentially.?


?It would have been fine if you were; I may be a married woman, but that doesn't mean I don't like to walk by the bakery and smell the cinnamon rolls. And just because I think I walked myself somewhere unpleasant, to clarify, the cinnamon rolls aren't balls.?




?Do you know of a good Nissau salad? Because I've got a hankering.?


?Gino's, maybe,? I said. ?Though I'm really more of a steak guy, myself.?


?Okay, well, I'll meet you there.?


Gino's did indeed have her salad, though from the face she made when she took her first bite I dont think it qualified as good. But she didn't complain.


She was a completely different woman from the day before, her hair in a long pony tail that ended just past her shoulder blades, her clothes fashionable but worn. If she'd been Cinderella last night at the charity event, she was pre-Fairy Godmother Cindy now. Still F-able, just different.  


?Have you told your husband about me?? I asked. 


?A little, why??


?Hopefully not much, because he's on the board, and I don't want it to even seem like I could be trying to curry favor. It'd be really helpful if you could only tell him I work with him there.?


?Done. But humble, too? If you're single on top of the handsome, you're dangerously close to getting set up with one of my girlfriends. And my girlfriends are all very slutty, just gigantic whores... by which of course I mean that they're looking for love.?


?Single,? I told her, ?though not quite looking, at the moment.?


?Or is it that you're looking at something that isn't on the menu?? she asked, giving me a knowing smile.


I gave it back to her a moment, then shrugged. She pouted a little at my seeming indifference. ?But I wanted to talk about your next fundraiser.?


?Sadly, it's not until next month. I've found that if I schedule events too closely together, nobody shows up; I think donors start to feel like an overmilked cow. So there's a sweet spot to the charitable giving. Which is a weird thought, I totally know. But I'm volunteering at the children's hospital tonight. We put on a puppet show, with weird nasally voices, pseudo swearwords and copious amounts of fart jokes. So far I haven't actually found anyone who will do it with me more than once- though I keep badgering Alex to do it.?


?Do the voices have to be nasally? I don't know that I have much of a falsetto.?


?Maybe that's why I've never had a repeat partner. But any voice that'll carry over the sounds of sick children coughing ought to be fine.?


?What time??


?St. Anthony's, eight o'clock.?


?I'll be there.?


When I made it back into the office I saw Daria hovering around my office. ?Loathe as I am to admit it, I think you're right. The Warwicks are trying to take over the company, and what's more, they had every reason to want the company to fail sooner rather than later. Richard's conscious, now. I talked to George, and he said Richard would like to see us both.?


Richard looked terrible, and George looked... happy. Maybe he thought if Richard died, he'd be CEO.


?Sir, I'm not sure how to say this, but we have reason to suspect you were poisoned,? Daria said. 


?We?? Richard asked weakly.


?Mark actually did a lot of the legwork on this. I'm not sure I would have made the connection without his help.?


?The lion finally laying down with the lamb?? he smiled.


?Is he the lion? Because it feels like it would be sexist if I'm the lamb.?


?Not to mention that 'laying down' has some concrete sexual harassment overtones.?


?I've been poisoned. Aren't there social norms that say you have to be nice to the poisoned guy??


?Nope. Wasp stings, impotence or lazy eye, yes, sympathy. Poisoning, nope. Full-bore mocking. It's in the Constitution, look it up.?


?The doctor's going to do a full work-up, check for every possible toxin. But as a precaution, I?d suggest getting rid of anything, food or drink, that isn?t sealed. Including liquor. If you have been poisoned, you don?t want to take the chance that you?ll expose yourself again to the toxin. 


?I have to say I'm impressed. You two have been pulling at each other's pigtails since you first got here. It's nice to see you working together.? He was nearly asleep as he said that last bit.


I followed Daria out of his hospital room. She eyed me suspiciously; she didn't like that this was becoming her new status quo. ?Coffee?? I asked her.


?No,? she said. ?I'm going home.? 


I had plans, anyway; but I wasn't a good enough man to resist fucking with her.


  08:03:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 2099 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 31: Pleasure

I lit a cigarette, and let it burn between my fingers without taking a drag. Then I used a prepaid phone to call the prepaid phone I?d prepaid to have smuggled into prison.

?Hello?? a man on the other end asked.

?I have a job for you. It?s a two man job, $10 thousand apiece.?

?And what if I do both parts myself.?

?You try to do it one-man, you?ll fuck it up. And even if by some miracle you don?t, I?ll know. And you only get $8 grand.?

?I don?t like negotiating with some fool through a cell phone.?

?There is no negotiation. You agree to the terms, or not. If not, I?ll give you $500 to pass the phone on to somebody with a more sympathetic ear.?

?My ear?s plenty sympathetic; just needed to get up real close and squeeze your berries, make sure they hadn?t gone soft.?

?There?s an inmate who?s been harassing me, and I need the harassment to stop. As in I never hear from him again. But I prefer if no one knows it came from me, like I wasn?t involved at all; we still know some of the same people, and I don?t want any blowback.?

?Like an accident.?

?In a manner of speaking. I?ll text you the man?s name when we?re done.?

?And my money??

?You can have it however you want. Money order to your mother. Cash, in hand. An interest-bearing account or bonds. You want it in Disney dollars in a locker at the Anaheim airport, it?s done. Same goes for your collaborator, whoever you decide to hire.?

?And I get a finder?s fee for that??

?$500. $1500 if he never finds out about it.?

?What kind of time frame we after??

?The sooner the better- but I can wait, if it means being cautious.?

?Hmm.? There was a pause, where I wondered if I?d overstepped, or worse, if a cop had intercept the phone. ?Pleasure doing business with you,? he said.

?Pleasure?s all mine.? I hung up the phone quickly, as I heard the door into the alley behind me open up. She had on a dress that was thin and silver and hung off her like it wasn?t even there.  

?I didn?t think I?d ever see you again,? I said. 

?I underestimated you. And I so rarely do that. I just thought you didn?t belong, that I could exploit that.? She leaned into me, herding me towards the wall. But I didn?t retreat, just stood my ground and let her press herself against me.

?I thought the same of you- that was what intrigued me. You don?t think I just take home any woman from office get-togethers.?

?Aw. It?s sweet of you to tell me I?m special.? She shoved me backwards, into the wall. Then she gently threaded her fingers around mine, and took the cigarette from me.

?You don?t smoke,? she said, and took a drag off it, then blew smoke in my face.

?Neither do you.? She smiled at me, and dropped it, and ground it out under her spiky shoe. She wrapped herself around me like a snake, first putting her legs around me, then sliding her hips against me, her chest, then folding her arms around me, but stopping just shy of holding me, more closing me in. ?I saw you caught your white whale.?

?I assume I have you to thank for that. Why didn?t you turn me in?? she asked, and for a moment wasn?t vamping- she was actually curious.

?Like I said, I was intrigued by you. You didn?t belong; although you?re blending better these days.?

?Hmm; takes an outside to know one, I suppose,? she said, stroking my cheek with the back of her hand. ?But I have a proposal.?

I looked around the alley; at least the dumpster was out of nose shot, though not out of sight, ?You really know how to romance a fella.?

?From what I remember, you have a functional erection, and flexible ethics. I need you to seduce a woman. I?d do it myself, but seducing a straight girl takes time- and it?s harder to make that feel organic.?

?And who is she?? I asked.

?Teryl Morgan. So you?re not content being the power bobbing at the foot of the throne.?

?Are you? And is that why you?re hard??

?I think you know the reason for that.?

?I like illicit planning almost as much as illicit sex. Almost. And that dress Shana was wearing, Richard?s going to be talking into her tits for the next ten minutes.?

?I?m going to need longer than that.?

?That?s the fun of it, spinning the chamber, wondering if Dickie will catch us, or one of the servers, or Shana??

I pressed her against the wall, and lifted her up. I wasn?t thinking; she seemed to have the ability to stop me from thinking. I hoped it was mutual, because otherwise, she was far more dangerous than me.

We were interrupted, I would guess by a bus boy, though I neither stopped nor looked up to see, and they left quickly enough. She dug her fingernails so deeply into my back that even through a jacket, a dress shirt and an undershirt I knew I was bleeding; and I also knew it must have hurt her hands, too. And neither of us gave a damn.

When it was over, like a gentleman I helped her track down the shoe that had gone astray. I slipped it onto her foot, gently, and in our evening wear I remembered watching Disney?s Cinderella as a child, and then Julee?s foot, and reminded myself that I was not going to develop a foot thing.

But as she was about to go back inside, I felt a pang about her returning to Morgan. Was that jealousy? I grabbed her wrist, and pulled her against my chest. It was foolish; I was still being foolish, but the alternative, of simply letting her walk away, seemed worse. ?Do you want to be the power behind the throne, or do you want to sit on the throne with me??

?If that?s an entendre, you?ll have to give a girl a few minutes.?

?It?s not.?

?Then you?ll have to give me even longer than that.?

I tried to focus, away from Grey. She was becoming a distraction. 

Teryl Morgan. Richard?s estranged wife. They hadn?t been living together in quite some time. He wouldn?t divorce her, because he?d lose half his money. But why hadn?t she divorced him? It was no secret he slept around. Elizabeth was far from the first of his mistresses he?d paraded around publically.

Teryl was a puzzle. And I couldn?t help wanting to unlock it.

But right now, I had to schmooze. Because now I had two different coups to think about: Elizabeth?s, and the Warwick?s.

Shana was hovering over the refreshments. She was stressed, but still managed to be very polite with the catering staff as she asked why there plastic cups instead of the crystal she?d requested. Then she noticed me coming back, and her mouth turned up and she scowled ever so slightly. Which was perfect.

?I?m sorry about that,? I said contritely. ?It?s a nasty habit on the best of days, but here, under these circumstances,? I lowered my head and shook it.

?It?s all right,? she told me, and put her hand on my shoulder. ?Everyone has their weaknesses. You shouldn?t be ashamed of yours.?

?Sorry, I didn?t mean to make this about me. I?m here to help. What can I do??

?Besides writing a very generous check??

?That?s a given. I meant right now. Do you need help with anything? Signing in guests? Liaising with the wait staff. Use me however you need.?

She paused, waiting for a filthy other shoe to drop, and seemed surprised when one didn?t. ?Um, I?m kind of used to running a one-woman band at these things. But since you asked, the arrangements, they?re not supposed to have lilacs. One of our biggest contributors, who comes to every single one of these things, and likes to walk around, is deathly allergic to lilacs. I even asked the florist to fix it when she delivered them, but she just left. I haven?t had an opportunity, and I was a little scared I was going to have to turn him away at the door, or at least make sure he had an epi pen. But remove all the lilacs, out of here, completely.?

?I think I can do that,? I told her, and my lilac jihad commenced. There were over forty tables, and each one had at least a few guests, which made it all the more awkward as I tried to explain that I was there to prune their shrubbery. More than one accidental flower entendre occurred.  

And then I bumbled into Morgan?s table. ?Dane,? he said, ?I didn?t expect to see you here. I?d like you to meet Elizabeth Grey.?

?It?s a pleasure,? I said, reaching out my hand. She shook it with her left.  

?Can?t keep yourself from stroking the petals?? she asked dryly, pursing very red lips. Of course, that wasn?t just for me; she had her other hand in Morgan?s lap under the table.

?I just need to steal your lilacs; schmoozer with an allergy.?

?Feel free to rummage around in my bush, then,? she said, gesturing to the arrangement, at least with her visible hand, though from the look on Richard?s face, I?d say she was gesturing with both.

There were only a few other arrangements scattered around, and I finished delilacing them in short order. After that I made myself scarce. I hovered near to Shana, in case she needed anything, but as she?d said, she was used to running the show herself.

After the guests had all filed out, the catering people took care of the dishes. But the chairs and tables were left to be put away. Shana made eye contact with me again, and started to shimmy her way towards me. ?You?ve already helped so much,? she said to me, ?but the chairs, and tables??

I walked around to the other end of the table she was standing nearest and helped her fold it in half. ?I?m surprised the hall doesn?t manage this.?

?Every dollar we don?t spend on logistics, or cleaning, is money we can spend on research and treatment.?

?So there?s cleaning after this?? I asked her with a grin.

?Usually it?s minimal. Our donors are pretty well behaved. Unless we?re serving champagne. And then the lady?s restroom gets wrecked. I don?t know who, or what they?ve done to their colon, but it?s like a genocide took place in there. Crap. Now I feel bad for that. But there?s usually some picking up, might have to wash down the occasional table, or pick up the occasional paper towel that didn?t quite make it into the trashcan.?

It took another hour, all told, which was far less than I would have guessed. She was sweaty, and her hair was coming out of her bun in places. I preferred it to her put together. We were sitting in the last two chairs still unstacked, sharing a root beer from the machine in the hall.

?I really want to thank you. Most of the people who come, they buy their way through these things.? I took out my checkbook, and started writing. ?And the money?s important- it?s why we?re here, but the money is like the least people could do. Almost literally. When I first started, we actually tried bringing kids with leukemia. It wasn?t a manipulative ploy, we just, I thought it would help people feel more connected, like they weren?t just throwing money at a problem, they were helping real people. Doing something concrete. And most of the donors couldn?t even make eye contact. You?d think leukemia was catchy. It was horrible, for the poor kid, and to an extent for them, too. It turns out, being forced to sit in a room with someone who?s dying does not make people more likely to give you money. But you didn?t just cut me a check,?

?Hint hint,? I said, handing the check over to her; to her credit, she didn?t check the amount before she slid it into an envelope.

?You engaged. Engaged in flower arranging, which, by the way, very impressed you could manage without feeling emasculated, but engaged. But you do know, now, that you?re going to be my go-to person for these things. I?m going to use you shamelessly.?

 ?Nothing would give me more pleasure.?  

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