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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11/22/11

  03:28:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1760 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 22: York

York?s fork hovered like a hummingbird over his greens, and then he ran through a tomato. He seemed to be enjoying stabbing vegetables more so than actually eating any of them- which would have interfered with his rapid-fire explanation of his plan.

?What really makes this possible is index speculators. There?s an investment class, right now, mostly larger investors like university trustees, pension fund managers, who use index speculation- say corn futures- in their portfolio. What the futures market is supposed to do is gauge what it thinks a commodity price will be in the future. But index speculators don?t care; they?re parking money in these indexes with the vague notion that prices will rise to at least keep pace with inflation. They?re slow to react to market fluctuations, if they even deign to, because they plan to hold their position for the longer term. But their disinterest also guarantees that they won?t know when they?re buying too high.?

?So it?s taking money from colleges and retirees?? I quickly took a drink from my Coke to keep him from trying to guess how I felt about that.

?Some. Most of it would still come from other speculators. It?s just that the index speculators make the market as a whole more prone to inertia, and more gullible overall.? 

?Hmm,? I said, and boxed up my salad. ?Should give me enough to start with. I think I?ll finish this up in my office.?

I?d left the file with Petra, and from her crinkled forehead I could already tell wasn?t happy with it.
?This is illegal,? she told me, closing the file.

?That?s not what our counsel says.?

?Okay, maybe not technically?

?Which I think is an important part of legality?

?but it?s wrong. Highly unethical. Scandalous, at a minimum. It?s the kind of thing that could drag the entire hierarchy down. I can?t believe you?d give this to me.?

?It wasn?t mine to give; it originated out of legal.?

?What? That doesn?t make sense. Their profession is built around hedging- keeping themselves and their clients as far from harm as humanly possible. This is? it?s stealing burning coals out of a fireplace- we?ll get burned, the only question is how soon and how badly.?

?It doesn?t seem very prudent- especially given how little time York has been with the company. But Richard wants it implemented. I?m still hopeful there?ll be a dropped someplace that scotches the idea, before I have to try and get more creative. But for now, I?m going to be stuck behind my desk analyzing the logistics.? 

And that?s where I was, though I took time out of my busy schedule to also look up Henry York. He was new, so I?d never researched him as a player before. He was a Rhodes scholar with a background in feel-good kind of crap, community organizing, ACLU, women?s rights, some Ralph Nader-lite mishigas. So what was he doing in the highest echelons of corporate power?

Henry York was a boy scout, personally and professionally. No arrest record, and even his school records were clean. But his birth certificate was so clean as to be blank. It took me a few minutes to find a name change complaint in New Jersey. His birth name was Sandy, last name Steagall. And that opened up the floodgates.

Steagall was the sole survivor of a murder-suicide. His father was a mechanic, disabled by an accident, but still too young to tap his social security. Our company, specifically a broker by the name of Richard Morgan, decimated his pension- the only thing keeping his family from starving. Destitute and immasculated, daddy killed mommy, then himself. And little Sandy went into foster care.

But what was more interesting was Allistair Neville, head of our legal department, had hired him directly, which was unusual, especially for a posting that high up the food chain. Which meant when I?d looked into Allistair I missed something- some prior connection to York. 

I heard a knock on my door. It was Petra, and she didn?t wait to be invited in. It was after six. She should have been gone a long time ago. ?I need to talk to you,? she said. ?I?ve thought a lot about it, and I? don?t want you to do this. I really, I care about you. I don?t want to see you get hurt.?

?I?m not doing anything, yet. This is all logistical background. If the numbers work out, if I can identify some futures markets without too much volatility, so they?d be ripe- that?s when you have to start worrying about my immortal soul.?

?I worry now,? she said, softly.

?How about you stay over, so you can keep me out of trouble.?

?If I remember right, we get up to nothing but trouble at your place.?

?Yes, but almost all of that was legal- well, not in Texas- but still legal here.?

?Dinner, first, then maybe.?

?What do you feel like??

She thought for a moment. ?Pizza.?

?Yeah, I could really go for  a slice.?

?Of pizza?? she asked, raising her eyebrows at me.

?What else? Just because your filthy mind went there, doesn?t mean mine did.?

?Yes, I?m sure I offended your saintly sensibilities.?

?Apology accepted, on condition that we sex later.?

?Like a dog with a bone.?

?Well, not yet, but maybe if you reached real far over your desk, or showed me a little leg.? She thwacked me in the arm, then led the way to the elevator. We rode down to the parking garage. ?Should we carpool?? I asked.

?Only if you promise to stare at my legs at every possible opportunity, otherwise what?s the point??

?You strike a hard bargain,?

?Snare drum.?

?but I accept.?

I was good to my word; she had nice legs. We stopped at a little pizza place I?d driven by on my way to and from work every single day.

We didn?t talk much, which surprised me; she was still swimming in her thoughts.

Back at my apartment she seduced because she felt she had to; I let her, because tampering with her sense of obligation was likely to piss her off twice: by making her feel unattractive, and calling attention to the fact that she wasn?t acting completely of her own volition.

But then her body got the better of her. Sex makes the body happy; it?s why we risk the diseases, the shame, and the responsibilities- though denial makes that pill a little easier to swallow. Sex, for all intents and purposes, is a mood-enhancing drug, only one that makes women like Petra cling. It started subtle, her grabbing my hair and looking into my eyes, insisting I hold her down, and by the end she was tired of skirting the issue and demanded I stare into her eyes.

She was exhausted after all of that, and she fell asleep in my arms. I didn?t sleep, not until after 2. The number of variables in play was beginning to make even me uncomfortable. 

We came into the office together. I didn?t bother being subtle about it; the only person who might have cared was Julee, and she already knew. Petra went right to her desk, and I went to the break room to get us both some coffee. When I got back, her forehead was doing that crinkling thing again.

?Richard and George want you in their office, first thing,? she said.

?When did that happen??

?Eight-fifteen this morning.?

?Hmm.? I set my laptop in my office and locked it.

George, Richard and Ed were all talking; well, Richard was talking, George was trying to get in a word, edgewise, and Ed was trying not to be noticed as he imitated one of the cacti in the corners of the room.

?Mark. We were just talking about you.?

?Good things, I hope.?

Richard ignored me. ?We have two AVP positions to fill. Now, normally, we wouldn?t be sticking our fingers into your and Ed?s department, but you?re both still new to this level, and we wanted to make sure we offered guidance.? Read: we?re going to tell you what to do, fuckwits. ?I assume you want that friend of yours, the one worth billions.?

?Arnie,? I said.

?Didn?t he just OD?? Ed asked.

?Happens to the best of us,? Richard said, ?or have you forgotten that Christmas party eight years ago? You were running around with someone?s panties on your head, trying to get anyone who would to do a line with you yelling, ?let it snow, let it snow.??

?I quit after that.?

?Which was only right. But I?m going to say the word again, in case you missed that first and very most important letter: billions. Unless we have reason to think he?d be a liability, we?d be foolish not to put a ring on that brain of his.? 

?And Mark, where are we on that futures project? Ed told us you?d taken point on it.?

?Just making sure we cross our Ts, dot our Is. Though it might grease those wheels having Arnie as one of my AVPs.?

?York brought this to us; he?s potentially another Golden Goose, and I want him to know that we don?t just sit on great ideas- we make them into reality.?

As soon as I was back in my office I back on the York Project, which meant I was splitting my time trying to figure him out and his proposal. Then my phone rang.

?You have a collect call from Clarence Rand. Will you accept the charges?? I?m not a superstitious man, but doing quasi-legal things while getting a call from someone in prison did give me a moment?s pause.

?Sure.?

?I have to inform you there?s an $8 connection fee, as well as the usual $2.49 a minute rate.?

?I?ll accept the charges.?

?Connecting you.?

?Mark? Thank fuck. No one?s been accepting my calls. Not Barbara. Not Daria. Not even Rich or George. I was their brother in law for fifteen fucking years- not that I ever mistook either of them for loyal.?

?How?ve you been doing??

?I?m adjusting. It?s not as different as you might think. People want, and if you can make them feel like you?ll help them get what they want, you make friends quickly enough.?

?So what do you want??

?I need to see you. I know, I?m a pariah, and if anyone knew you were still in contact with me, they might get the wrong idea. But I need someone on the outside. This was done to me, and if I don?t plan on living out my sentence, I need someone who can think and act independently. Don?t decide now, though. I want a chance to explain everything, first.?

11/21/11

  03:26:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1831 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 21: Paper Cuts

He cried. Clarence cried, then he thanked us. That gave me an erection that I knew wouldn't go away in four hours. So, following doctors orders, at least in spirit, I called Julee. ?Where are you? I need you.?

?Home.?

?I can come to you, or you can come to me.?

?I'll text you my address.?

She was only a few miles from the police station. She'd unlocked the door in anticipation of my arrival, and when I knocked she asked me to come in.

She was naked, which caught my attention first. Then I noticed that her walls were covered in newspaper clippings. ?Wow. The newspaper industry didn't really die, it just moved into your apartment. Does it split expenses with you like a good roommate??

?I like to watch trends,? she said, not at all self-conscious. ?It's a weird habit I picked up in college. Not that I think there's any predictive power in it, I just like to watch.?

?If that's really the case I could see about getting Petra over here.?

?I think she's about four cosmopolitans from letting that happen.?

?She really hates you.?

?Five, then, but the problem, is, just watching is only fun for so long. And I don't think she's the kind of girl who ever learned how to share.? She lunged at me, pressing herself against me, and shoving me against her bedroom door. It kicked open, and there were even more clippings in her bedroom, and a large pile of them on her bed, making it look like a hamster's cage.

?That's kind of kinky.?

?I wasn't expecting guests.?

?Should I move them to the side,? I asked, leaning over them in anticipation of her answer.

?What, you afraid of some paper cuts?? she teased, and then tackled me onto the bed.

Slightly over four hours later, the priapism had passed. Julee was drifting in and out of consciousness, and I decided to have a closer look at her walls. Without me lying next to her, she woke up, and came to find me.

?That wall's natural disasters,? I said. ?That one's politics. That one's the company.? I turned to face her. ?But it isn't random coverage, is it? It's negative, a particular slant, too: corporate greed. So how long have you been a reporter?? I'd known since before she slipped her panties in my desk drawer; I was still surprised Daria somehow didn't. ?The phone hacking is an interesting rub; though you're much prettier than Rupert Murdoch.?

?You going to tell??

?That depends on what you're doing in my company, and what you're planning on doing now that you know that I know.?

She looked like a chastened puppy, and started to kneel. But I touched her cheek to stop her. ?Not at all what I meant, though if that's you still in the mood, there'll be plenty of time for that. No, I mean, what are you planning on writing in my company? Because some stories of corporate greed, they help. The industry has some pretty dark corners, and it's good for all of us to clean those out. But, if, say, you were planning on focusing your attention on something that would make our company look irresponsible, but that would also make it almost impossible for us to compete, say, limiting executive compensation- that would make our interests conflict. And I'm not a fan of conflict. Conflict is just another word for a failure to find solutions that have mutual benefits.? She kissed her way down my chest as she knelt. This time that was exactly what I was getting at. 

As the sun rose I dressed, then went straight into work from her apartment. I was on a roll, and even my work seemed to come easier. At ten fifteen I was called into a meeting in progress. The rest of the executives were already seated, and it was Richard who greeted me at the door. ?Mark's only been with us for a short while, and at least in my memory this fast an ascension is unprecedented, but I'd like you all to welcome our new Vice President of Finance, Mark Dane.? Vice President? There was applause, but I couldn't hear it for the sound of blood pumping in my ears. I looked at Ed, sitting in the chair that had been empty my first day, that Clarence had briefly occupied. He looked like he'd screw the canary and her underage sister. I wanted to jump across the table and tear his throat out with my teeth.

But instead I forced myself to smile. ?At this rate, it won't be fifteen years until you're in my seat.? Richard clapped me on the back. People left over the course of the next few minutes. I tried to slip out, myself, only for Richard to take hold of my arm. ?Stay a moment, won't you, Mark??

He even waited for George to leave, and shut the door behind himself, before he spoke. ?You don't have to pretend anymore. You're disappointed; I certainly would be. But you were smack dab in the middle of everything that happened, with Cliff, Rand, all of it. I don't know why, or what role you played; I honestly can't know if you were helping Rand, or keeping your enemies close. And I suspect it'll be months or years, if I ever find out what really went on between you and Daria. But I couldn't invite all that uncertainty into an executive vice president position.  I had no choice but to give the job to Ed. I did not like making that decision. But if we can't promote from within.... And know that I meant what I said: you're a rising star at this firm, and I have every confidence that some day you'll be at the highest echelons of this company.?

?Thank you, sir,? I said, and left.

It was certainly a setback, but likely a temporary one. Ed Noakes was a moron. He'd only managed to keep his position out of an odd sense of loyalty that came from him being the oldest  extant AVP.

But there was another implication to Ed's rise I hadn't thought about, but realized immediately upon seeing Petra's face.

?Shit,? I said. ?I'm taking you out to lunch. To, uh, celebrate.?

?Celebrate?? she asked; she understood that getting the VP slot against no competition while losing the EVP position to Ed was basically bad news.

?We're a step closer to where we want to be. And at the very least, where I'd like to be at lunch is somewhere not here, with you.? That seemed to brighten her smile a bit. 

But it didn?t last. At a small little café with a harbor view, she barely spoke, except to order. ?I?m sorry, about Ed,? I told her finally.

?It?s not your fault. It?s mine- I?m the one who brought my shitty luck into the equation; if anything I should be apologizing to you, since you got screwed. And maybe if I?d reported him??

I reached across the table for her hand. ?Don?t. It is not your fault. But Ed?ll get his. He got away with being an idiot, and useless little harassing troll, because he was buried, very far from the spot light. Now he?s up on a rope without a net, and the frosting on that is he doesn?t know what he?s doing. He doesn?t understand finance, and he doesn?t understand people, either. The only difficulty will be trying to make sure he only destroys his own career, and doesn?t get the entire department spun off.?

?You really think so?? she asked, hopeful for the first time.

?I guarantee that within a year, he won?t be working here anymore. And that?s being awfully generous.?

She was brighter after that, and even hummed as she finished her soufflé. And when we got back to the office she spun around and hugged me, in front of God, the office, and everybody, including Julee. She stared at the back of Petra?s head like she wanted to hack it off with a letter opener- or maybe she wanted to run up behind her and lick her ear to get in on the action; it?s always difficult to tell with her.

I wasn?t surprised to get a call on my cell the moment I was back in my office from Julee. ?She might as well have just pissed on your leg right there- or at least left pussy stains on your pants.?

?She had a rough day, and I helped her smooth it out a little.?

?Well my day?s bent all out of shape- maybe you could help me bang it back in.? I could practically hear her licking her teeth.

There was a knock at my door. ?Have to go,? I told her, and hung up, knowing full well she was going to listen in anyway through my phone. ?Come in.?

?Ed told me to bring this to you.? It was York. Strange, seeing him twice in one day like this. Stranger still, there weren?t a lot of black people on this floor, and I had two of them barking up my tree- though obviously for different reasons. ?I don?t think he understood it,? he said, handing me a stack of papers in an envelope. ?What exactly were your areas of responsibility??

?I?m a capital market guy, and he?s a contract one- futures-?

?Then this should have been right in his wheelhouse.? Bravo. First day of knowing Ed and York had figured out he was a moron. That showed promise. 

?How?s about you spitball it for me- I find it?s easier to wrap my brain around something when I know the concepts.?

?We buy up futures markets, fifteen, twenty percent of them. And we?re a big enough firm, with a good enough record, people will start to think we know something they don?t. So they?ll try to ride that speculation wave, and as more people pile on to the avalanche we?ve started, the value of those futures go up. We sell early, as the wave crests, and come out looking like geniuses and do it again in a different futures market. And the beauty of it, is once people get wise, they?ll still come along for the ride, on the hopes they can get out with us when the price is at its peak.?

?I assume, since you?re from legal, that this scheme is legit.?

?There?s already a law on the books, from the 30s, that bars ?excessive? speculation. But there?s no definition of excessive, so the law has never had any teeth.  The CFTC has been negotiating rules to limit market points, they call them, to ten percent, but they can?t get that decided, and until then, this is money we?re leaving on the table.?

?Sounds risky,? I said, some animal instinct telling me to be cautious with York.

?I emailed the CEO this morning. He wants it done.?

I forced a smile onto my face, and put on my hand for him to shake. ?Then I guess we?re in business.?

11/20/11

  03:24:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1683 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 20: Bad Day

I was summoned to Clarence's office. In one of the more brilliant demoralizing moves, Richard had actually forced him to vacate Cliff's old office and take up Gene's. And he'd paid someone to add ?temporary? to the title on his door. It usually took them a week to get names and titles changed over when it wasn't planned for; Richard had paid extra for the rush job. Of course, Rand had fucked with a Morgan. That pretty much guaranteed his career, probably his life, was fucked. I admired that, envied it. Of course, in my own modest way, I'd contributed to his bad day.

?She left me,? Clarence said.

?Your wife?? I asked, playing dumb.

?You haven't heard? I thought everyone...? he let out a ragged sigh and shrank several inches. ?She hadn't cheated on me. Ever. I found that out during a shouting match, after she caught me balls deep in another woman. I told her she started it, and the moment I said it, the way she reacted, I knew she hadn't. All that time I spent so fucking angry at her, all I'd had to do was talk to her to know it wasn't true. I mean, maybe I still would cheated on her; I have no claims to genius. But it's hard not to think that if I'd known better...?

?But I should have. That's the fucked up part of it. I knew my wife, loved my wife. I should have know she wasn't cheating on me. That she couldn't.?

?I'm on my way out. You don't fuck a Morgan- they fuck you. The only exception was because she was my wife, you know. But now? It's a stain on the family honor. What I did, Richard Morgan is going to destroy me. He's going to make sure I can't work, anywhere, ever again. And the fucked up thing of it is, I don't blame him. In his stead? I'd do the same fucking thing. And I can't blame Barbara. I wronged her, so deeply; knowing how much I hurt her is the worst part.?

?You've been a real friend to me, during this; I can't help but think, if I'd listened to you better...? he didn't finish the thought. ?I'd tell Rich to give you the job, but I think that'd be the kiss of death. It probably just makes more sense to shuffle off quietly, and hope they make the right decision. I'm sorry we were ever rivals,? he finished, and poured himself a drink.

I was ecstatic after that, and wondered if I could talk Petra and Julee into a three way in my office; probably not, and also probably an undue risk so close to my promotion. I settled for having a whole chocolate chocolate chip muffin at lunch, instead of just a half.

Daria worked late that night. I imagined she was afraid. If Rand was on the chopping block, I'm sure she had to feel her position similarly threatened. Maybe she was trying to prove herself useful, maybe she was just trying to hide from the world. Either way, I stayed in late, too.

Around 8 that night, Daria got a call, and it rang through on my phone. I picked up. ?I should have told you earlier. The police were here, yesterday, with a warrant for my home. I just thought... I thought it was Richard, fucking with me through someone he knew downtown. They found a syringe, one of Barbara's, from when she was using. I'd picked it up, because I thought she'd fallen off the wagon. They made a beeline for it. I thought it was...?

?I've been arrested. My fingerprints were on it, duh, but they found trace amounts of dried blood. Cliff's type. And potassium. They're saying I killed Cliff.?

?Why did you call me??

?I didn't know who else to call. You worked with me on this. You know I didn't do it.? Except, of course, that she didn't. He'd come to her with hearsay about the crime, and details that had turned out to be almost too accurate. She probably didn't really think he'd killed Cliff, but the hesitation cut to the bone, anyway. 

?This still all sounds pretty circumstantial. They're sure it isn't just your wife's blood?'

?Wrong type. But they're sequencing it now.?

?Maybe she used to share needles?? She was grasping. ?You didn't kill Cliff. This has got to be a misunderstanding. But I'll get ahold of our counsel, so they can advise you.?

?Thanks. I don't think I've got much time left on the call, so I should go. I love you.?

She didn't respond to that, just waited for the phone to disconnect.

I hung up, and quickly dialed the executive night secretary.

?I need to talk to the CEO.?

?What's this in regard to?? she asked, her voice flat.

?A member of the executive staff has been arrested for the murder of another executive staff member.?

She was stunned a moment, before resuming her laconic manner. ?On moment, I'll put you through.?

It rang once. ?Richard??

?Exactly who the fuck is this??

?Mark. Dane.?

?This better be worth billions to me,? he snarled.

?Probably only millions this time. Clarence Rand's been arrested. For murdering Cliff. I thought you should hear it from me.?

?Shit.?

?I've heard it through the grapevine Daria's got legal counsel on the way over there.?

?That's smart- especially if she plans on keeping her job- protecting the company interest over her fuckbuddy's.?

?I'd like to be there.?

?Why??

?Like you said, the lawyer will be there to protect the company interest. But Clarence has pretty good survival instincts. He'll see through our lawyer, and demand to hire his own. But if you send me, I've been working with Clarence for a couple of weeks, now. He considers me a friend. I assume we'll want this as quiet as possible, and I can intercede on behalf of our legal eagle, make whatever deal they get sound more palatable.?

?That's smart, too. It makes me wonder what you're trying to cover up for.?

?Just trying to do my job, sir.?

?I think this is well above and beyond your usual day to day- though maybe it's time we looked into that.?

?Thank you, sir,? he said and hung up. I got my coat, folded up my laptop, and glanced at my computer, and realized Daria's phone had picked up a conversation and started broadcasting. I turned up the volume, and could hear the sounds of cars driving down the street in the background. ?Look, this is stupid. As hell,? she said. 

?You're lucky I used to fuck you. Cause anybody else, I mean even my wife, would be in the back of a squad car right now. Dar, you got to ask yourself what this guy is worth to you, because right now it's looking like fifteen to life. Maybe it just looks bad for you, but this Rand guy, it looks needle in the arm bad.?

?We don't have a death penalty in this state.?

?That's just because the state hasn't found anybody it wants dead badly enough to push it. But this guy, rich asshole executive, murders somebody just for a slightly bigger piece of his already bigger than my whole fucking pension pie?  Politicians would get in line to shit on him on camera. And what you're forgetting is the body was found on the other side of the river. If there's even an indication that any part of it involved interstate travel, it's a federal beef. And they've got plenty of needles for your friend.?

?This can't be happening,? Daria said.

?Hold on, my phone. Yeah? Uh-huh. That's what we expected. Sequencing just came back on the syringe. It's Pembroke. Hope your friend's real comfortable with needles, cause I see more than just the one we pulled out of his place in his future. You've always had shitty taste in men- not that I'm complaining, as it worked out in my favor- but forget about this guy. He's radioactive waste now, and unless you're looking to rot away because of the proximity.?

She was still at the police station when I got there. I recognized her car outside. ?What in the hell are you doing here?? she asked, and I imagined if we weren't in a police station she might have taken a swing at me.

?Richard asked me to be here. As a friend of Clarence's. And as a representative of the executive staff. Counsel here yet??

?I talked to Allistair. They sent in the new guy, because he's got an in at the prosecutor's office, and he thought that might be useful.?

?My ears are burning,? I heard a deep voice say from behind me. ?I'm going to assume you're Dane and you're Daria; of course, if I'm wrong, then you both had unhappy childhoods. I'm Henry York. I just came from the DA's office. ADA who used to undress me with her eyes offered a sweat heart of a plea. Ten to fifteen years. Good behavior, he could be out on parole in seven.?

?A plea? He's innocent.?

?You don't understand. This is a lap dance by way of paperwork. The crimes they can prove, he's looking at thirty five years. The ones I'd give them a coin toss or better, fifty. Either way, Clarence is butting up real close to life expectancy. Those aren't dice I could ethically suggest he roll.?

?And you're saying this as his lawyer, not our corporate one??

?My ethics are pretty clear, here: the company might be writing the checks, but Rand's the client. Maybe it's just cause I'm new, here, but I don't feel all loyalty oathy about the workplace, yet, and contrary to what some people think, some of them old, white and wearing judge's robes, corporations aren't as much like people as human beings are.?

?And that's the best you can do??

?This is the ADA trying to bargain my pants off; by even showing this to the client, it's possible I'm legally indenturing myself to sexual servitude.?

?Then I guess we don't have a choice. Let's go sell him on the plea.?

11/19/11

  03:56:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1315 words  
Categories: Batman Comes Out

Batman Comes Out: Hush

ID: You mentioned a while back that Hush seemed to have inserted himself into your life in a very peculiar way. I?d like to talk about him, today, if that?s all right. You met him as a boy./p>

B: His parents were friends of my parents. Wealthy, influential, socialite types, you know, running in those kinds of circles. Tommy was a, well, he was just another kid trapped in that particular glass bottle of wealth.

ID: Sounds horrible.

B: It?s not, and I know it?s not. But there are obstacles that come from that kind of affluence, the expectations that come along with it. Both of our parents, they pushed us, put a lot of pressure on us. We were expected to succeed, in a way few other people really are.

I think overall we benefited from the pressure. Although?

ID: What?

B: I dress up as a bat and he murders people. So I can?t objectively say that it was the best way to parent.

ID: Are you actually questioning your parents?

B: No. Because I don?t know how things would have happened for me. I think the persona I built Bruce Wayne into, the foppish, vain, shallow playboy, I think he was in part who I was afraid I was going to become. I mean, if my parents hadn?t died, it?s entirely possible that would be me. I think having to pretend to be that, reminding myself of what I very nearly became, it kept me grounded.

But if my parents hadn?t been murdered, I don?t know. My upbringing wasn?t much different from Tommy?s. I wasn?t abused, and that might be the salient factor; I?m not saying rich people?s children are likely to become murderous Machiavellians. But that?s just the direction that Tommy?s dysfunction grew- it?s entirely possible I would have been just as dysfunctional in a likely less criminal and violent direction.

ID: I think we?re wandering. Um. What happened between your family and Tommy?s?

B: I think when we were born, our families were on a relatively even keel. But as we grew, I think his dad did worse. I think it was just in the industries where Tommy?s dad had most of his money, they were doing poorly, whereas my dad and his tech and industry holdings just kept increasing in value.

I think that?s why Tommy?s dad started hitting his wife and child. He and my dad, they were friendly, but also rivals. And at almost the same time he had to put up his home for sale, dad put a whole new wing on the manor. I mean, dad actually bought Tommy?s house and gave it right back to them- but that only strained their friendship further. And he actually got arrested that time, he beat Tommy and his mom so badly.

That same night, my dad bailed Tommy?s dad out. And he tried to talk to him, to understand what had happened. And it went very badly. Tommy?s dad took a swing at him. And I came upon my dad, in his study, a few hours later. It was one of the few times I got to see my father, as a man. He was shaken. He couldn?t understand that kind of mindless violence, against his own wife and child, from a man he?d loved as his brother. He had a scotch in his hand, but he wasn?t drunk, and I remember what he said to me, because he?d been pondering it for a while, but he said, ?Sometimes the only thing a man can do is admit that he doesn?t know what to do.?

Let that sink in. It?s profound. Because it, for me it made it okay not to know an answer. I mean, for me, the implied second clause became that it?s also a man?s duty to do everything he can to figure it out. But I spent a lot of nights like that one with my father, puzzling over what to do to help people- people who maybe didn?t think they wanted my help.

Not much time passed after that before Tommy?s parents died. At the time everybody thought it was an accident; even I did, until later. My parents offered to take Tommy in, but he was shipped off, along with his family?s fortune, to Europe, where he trained to be a surgeon.

A few years ago, Tommy came back into my life. I got myself pretty badly injured, and he fixed me up. His timing was impeccable. I think I was just glad to have him back in my life, because I didn?t question that at first.

But then Hush entered the picture. He set in motion a series of events that nearly killed me, and succeeded in killing several other people. What was strange is at first the two were diametrically opposed. Hush was manipulating and murdering. But Tommy was being friendly, and helpful. He even volunteered to try and fix Harvey?s face- and succeeded. 

And in the end, that act of kindness proved to be his downfall. Harvey had been seeing therapists for a while, anyway, so he?d made a lot of progress, but having his face fixed, it solidified for him something that he?d been struggling with. He missed being one of the good guys. And it was Harvey, when Hush had me, dead to rights, who saved me. He shot Hush twice.

ID: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

B: But he saved me instead. And evil limped away with a couple of fresh bullet wounds.

ID: Is that when you fell in love with Harvey?

B: I think it?s hard to track exactly where a friendship ends and a romance begins. I mean, I?m sure you?ve had relationships that started as friendships. And I?m sure there was? flirtation. Suggestion. But at the same time, there?s a gray area in there, where it?s not romance but it?s progressed beyond a friendship. I think for me what that moment was was notice. It made me take stock of Harvey, and ask myself if he was the same unbalanced guy I?d been worrying over for years. And I remember thinking, maybe this was the new Harvey, that he was going to be an asset like he?d been back when he was district attorney.

ID: And is it safe to assume you wouldn?t be with Harvey if he hadn?t had his surgery?

B: I don?t think that?s fair. On several levels. Would Harvey be attracted to me if I didn?t look like this? If the mafia had been convinced I was the Holiday killer and was the one with horrible scarring because of it, I imagine most of my adult relationships would have gone differently. Attraction is a big part of relationships; I think we?ve been socialized in such a way that it plays perhaps an unhealthily outsized role. But I?m not going to apologize for being attracted to beautiful people, that?s an asinine insinuation.

ID: So, I?m going to consider that a yes, preachiness to the side. So in a very real way, you owe your relationship with Harvey to Hush.

B: Accidentally, perhaps.

ID: Of course, he stole Selina away from you. So at best that would put you even, and- no offense to Harvey- but he?s no Ms. Kyle, at a minimum in the pulling off a cat suit category.

B: He does look quite smart in a suit, though. But comparing them isn?t really fair or even sensical. People aren?t trading cards; you can?t compare their stats on the back to see who?s better. They?re different. And Harvey?s who I?m with right now.

But I do feel bad about how things went with Selina. Me, and people I care about, we?ve been paying for the things Tommy?s dad did forty years ago, the proverbial sins of the father.

  03:23:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1625 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 19: Hell

I called Petra Saturday morning. ?This week?s just been Hell,? I said.

?You?re right,? she replied. She was testy. She suspected I?d been seeing Julee- or at least was jealous enough at the thought that she wasn?t happy with me.

?I meant to ask yesterday, but got sidetracked. Are you free for dinner??

She weighed it. ?No,? she finally replied; I could tell she was punishing me.

?Of course not,? I said; ?silly of me to hope no one would have gotten to you by now. Tomorrow??
She wanted to be angry with me, but she was flattered being pursued. ?You know, unless things go really well tonight, and then maybe you?ll prefer to have dinner with that someone else.?

?My Sunday should be free.?

?You?re worth the wait.?

That left my Saturday wide. I visited Arnie in the hospital. He was having fitful periods of wakefulness, and even managed to remember my name. His doctor now expected a full if slow recovery.

I slept in Sunday, late enough that by the time I got out of bed it was time to start getting ready for dinner with Petra. I took her to Brooks again, because I wanted to see her trying her best to impress. And it wasn?t bad.

Whatever had kept her busy Saturday, it hadn?t sated her in the least. From the moment I picked her up, she couldn?t keep her hands, or at the restaurant her feet under the table, off me. I managed to hold her off until we got into the elevator; she stopped it one floor beneath mine so we could finish.

It was good I?d slept extra, because she didn?t fall asleep until after 2. And that was when I heard it, a key sliding softly into my front door. I grabbed a robe and threw it over myself and ran to the door. I caught Julee?s hand as it pushed the door inward, and shoved her back into the hall.

?So she is here,? she said with a toothy smile. ?I don?t mind sharing, but I get the sneaking suspicion she does.?

?And you care??

?Not in the slightest. But it amuses me you do. It?s cute, that you want to like Ms. Girl Next Door, even if we both know you never will. And it amuses me even more to watch you contort. Keeps you limber- and I like you limber- morally and otherwise.?

?Well, if you care in the least about experiencing my flexibility again, you?re going to have to back off.?

?That?s not our arrangement.? She kissed me, forcefully, slamming me against the wall. ?You don?t get to tell me what to do.? She reached under my robe, and traced her hand up my thigh. ?You ask nicely, and maybe I let you have what you want.? She pulled her hand out of the robe, undoing the belt so it hung open.

?As long as it doesn?t keep you from getting what you want. So what do you want??

?I want you to want me.? She bit my lower lip and dragged it back until there was no more give and let it go. ?I need you to need me.?

?And I need you to stop quoting Cheap Trick.? But I knew that I wasn?t going to get off that easy; I had to pay the toll. So I grabbed her by the hair and turned her around so it was her back pushed against the wall, with her legs conveniently spread apart just enough for me to fit between them.

?Now this I like,? she said, and I kissed her to shut her up, then pulled away.

?Tomorrow,? I said.

?After work??

?If I can wait that long.? I walked back to my door. ?And stop listening in on my phone, or I?ll start carrying a pager, too.?

?You?re no fun.?

?You have no idea.? It all reminded me of what a classmate said back in school: that a woman?s crazy was proportional to her hotness.

I was almost sad, though. I?d been under the impression Julee and I had similar philosophies. But I suspected there was more to her Cheap Trickery; she did need me to need her- she needed to feel like she had power over me, that I was more invested than she was. It was pathetic, and disappointing. At least Petra wanted me to need her because she wanted the relationship to be mutual; it was a normal need, a human one, even if it was still about validation.

She was sitting up in bed, with a worried look on her face. ?Problems??

?Neighbor ordered a pizza and passed out before it got here. Delivery guy wanted to leave it with me, and have me pay for it. About had to deck him to get him to leave. Maybe if I actually liked my neighbor, but he?s evil, of the I?m pretty sure he?s hit every woman who ever went into his apartment sort of way. I?m surprised how many repeat visitors he gets- and I?m reasonably sure they?re not all prostitutes.? 

?Because it?s okay to hit prostitutes??

?Because it?s one thing for a woman on the clock to enter into that agreement, knowing that part of her price is compensation for the licks she?s going to take. It?s different if it?s a transaction between adults, on equal terms, instead of one person exploiting the other?s weakness.?

?I guess.? She wasn?t happy thinking about any of that, but she sighed contentedly when she laid her head against my bare chest.

We slept in late, and showered together, which led to some shower sex. The nice thing about sleeping with my secretary is she knew when we could come in late, because she was the one who made my schedule up. 

I knew the blow-up over Rand?s infidelity was going to take some time. But at least some of it happened over the weekend. I imagined Barbara must have gone to her brother, Richard, because his demotion was already around the water cooler by the time I made it into the office.

There wasn?t even a meeting this time, just a memo. Clarence was only going to be acting VP, and even that was pending the search for dependable executives to permanently fill the role. The wording was face-saving at its finest; it let them keep Rand employed, without having to acknowledge making a mistake in promoting him.

I bumped into Daria in the cafeteria, full of melancholy. ?For what it's worth, I'm sorry,? I told her. ?Relationships in the workplace are always complicated, but when two people fall in love,? I sighed.

?Don't think you can put on your sympathetic face for ten minutes and I'll forget who you really are.?

?Daria, I don't know where all this hostility comes from, but I hope it's something we can get past. I like you, and I think we could work well together.? 

But I?d only stopped in the cafeteria on my way to my car. Once there, I dialed Julee. ?You need something?? she asked eagerly.

?You. Parking garage.?

?I like the sound of that.?

Cut to exterior of my car, rocking so hard it sets off half the car alarms in the surrounding spots, windows fogged up. Even through the closed windows a woman's moaning can be heard.

Cut to the interior of the car, a sated Julee collapsed against my dashboard. I'd already finished dressing, and was straightening my tie. ?Might want to get your shirt back on before the windows defog,? I told her before I shut the car door, because I was a gentleman.

It also meant I was leaving her alone in my car; trust can be something you make somebody earn. It can also be something you pretend to give someone. She'd found nothing on me, despite having access to my computer, my phone, my apartment and now my car. That was going to drive Daria crazy, and at the same time make sure Julee trusted me even more.  

I didn't wait long to cash in that trust. At the end of the day, I dialed Julee, and breathed heavily, getting myself good and panicked sounding. ?Julee? I just heard Rand on the bug. I don't know how much Daria knew, or when she knew it, but he was talking about a syringe, and wanting to sneak it into my home, or office, or maybe my car. He said it was at his home. I'm terrified. I think Clarence killed Cliff. And I think he wants me to go to jail for it.?

?Are you going to call the police??

?What can I tell them? That their primary suspect uncovered this through an illegal bug? I mean, what can I do?? It was the same test as before, when she agreed to bug her boss for me, only with less tension, because she'd already jumped over that hurdle once before, and this one was shorter- and as the old Churchill saying goes, we'd already established what she was, we were just haggling over price.

?Let me do it. I can make an anonymous call from one of the phones in the security department. I can tell them I overheard it, but can't be sure what it means. I think that'll get them enough for a warrant to search his place; after all, he's got the same basic set of motives as you, only he's actually and not potentially benefited. But are you sure he said the needle's still there??

?Yeah. He had his wife put it on top of the fridge; can't imagine she knew what it was, though. But it should still be there, unless his housekeeper found it- and then it'd probably be in the trash.?

?I'm sure they'll check the trash. I mean, I would.?

11/18/11

  03:22:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1643 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 18: Close

My phone didn't ring, but I suspected Rand would have called Daria after that, so I picked up hyer line anyway.

?He's a sociopathic creep, and he's fucking with you. He gets off on other people's suffering. If he gave you advice that sounds good, that's because he's good at lying; the best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. You'd be better off doing the opposite of what he suggested than actually taking his advice.?

?He said I should talk to my wife.?

?And that sounded good to you? And when you're talking, what were you planning on saying? Because, gee, honey, I've been schtupping the head of corporate security seems like kind of a conversation ender.?

?He doesn't know about us.?

?Really? You don't think he at least suspects? After what he said??

?No, I don't. Because he hasn't said anything that would make me think he knows anything. So obviously that would be a bad idea. But she's my wife. I shouldn't just... punish her without finding out why she's been acting the way she has.?

?So that's what we've been doing? Punishing your wife??

?Don't, please. This isn't about us, and it's not even about you. We happened. And we kept happening, because you made me happy. But a part of me... felt like my wife had betrayed me, and got off on the idea of giving back to her what she'd given me. That doesn't change anything about us, what we have, how we feel. Can you honestly say outside relationships have never factored into your sex? You never slept with a guy to get back at dad, or at least enjoyed it a little more knowing he wouldn't approve? I'm not saying it's something I'm proud of, but it's there, regardless.?

She didn't have a reply. ?But that'll all have to wait. She's seeing him again tonight. Can I see you again? I really don't want to be alone, not knowing she's with him. I know I was a horse's ass. shoved up an ass's ass, but I want to make it up to you. Dinner. Maybe even a show.?

?I don't think you've been as real with me the entire time I've known you than in the past twelve hours.? She paused, giving both of us to wonder if she meant that in good way. ?You were an ass, that's true, but there's a lot of reasons for that, and not all of them are on you. So yes, I'll see you tonight. But not so you can make it up to me. I just... I want to feel close to you.?

Clarence left at 5, but they had made my life a little more difficult lately by varying up which hotel they used. And he was even too paranoid to use any actual pattern, so I had to be clever, and ran down the stairs to catch his secretary as she leaving for the day.

?Your boss gone??

?Yes,? she said, not entirely certain how to handle my agitation.

?Shit. He was supposed to have this signed for me by end of business today. As it is, he?s lucky it?s a Hawaiian company and the contract?s on local time, or we?d already being paying a fifty-thousand dollar kill fee.?

?I can give you the address of his hotel, but please, be discreet.?

?Absolutely. See no evil hear no evil- I?m only there for his name on the dotted line.?

The name of the hotel was Biltmore, which gave it an air of sophistication it mostly didn?t deserve. Back in the sixties it had probably been a fashionable, if small, place to stay, but nowadays it was little more than a hole in a slum. It was kept up nice, particularly on the inside, but it was only just a step up from places that rented by the hour.

The concierge as a short man with red hair and too many freckles for an adult. ?I?m looking for a couple friends of mine,? I told him. ?They?re regulars, though I suspect they alternate between your establishment and a few others, usually Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but then they got paranoid and started up Tuesday and Thursday, too, sometime last week.?

?I?m afraid that?s not enough to go on,? he said dryly.

?I thought that might be the case, so I brought pictures, five of them- three that are yours to keep.? I laid down Polaroid shots of Rand and Daria alongside three pictures of Ben Franklin.

?I?m sorry, sir, but I?m afraid I?ve run out of polite ways to dismiss you. The privacy of our customers isn?t for sale.?

A concierge with a moral center? What was this world coming to? ?I'm a private investigator. Man's having an affair, cheating on his wife. Normally I could give two tugs of a dead dog?s cock, but he?s got a pre-nup that says his wife gets nothing unless there's infidelity; I'm just trying to get her the half that she deserves.?

He touched his own wedding band instinctively. ?Rich guys, huh? It?s practically like he bought his wife, so he feels like he can treat her however. I bet you got a wife of your own, though, so we can?t have you getting into trouble here. How about you give me the room beside theirs, and a card keyed to their door. If I?m not as stealthy as I?m supposed to be, you tell them there was a minor error, the drunk tenant next door had the wrong key and that?s that.?

?I think if I had a couple more pictures to go off, I might be able to say for sure who you?re looking for.?

?And be able to get your own wife something pretty. Here, let me see if I?ve got something a little more illuminating.? I laid another couple hundreds onto the counter.

?You?re going to be in room 106, and your friends are staying in 108. Your reservation comes to three hundred dollars.?

I knew damn well the rooms came to a little over a hundred, but I also noticed he wasn?t typing anything into the computer, and knew that his discretion was part of the invoice. I laid another three Franklins on the pile, and took the two worthless pictures off the counter. He handed me two hotel keys, ?106,? he said, ?and 108.? I put my key into my left pocket, and kept the other in my palm.

I called Barbara. ?I leaving your key in your mailbox. Room 108, the Biltmore.?

?If you?re here, why don?t we just go together??

?Wouldn?t that be suspicious??

?God, you?re right. I?m not used to thinking all dastardly,? she said; there was sadness in her voice, as well as excitement.

?It?s not dastardly. You?re trying to live your life for yourself. It?s healthy.?

?Says the man trying to get into my pants.?

?Don?t sleep with me, then,? I said. ?I know I have an ulterior motive, and it?s good that you do, too. We all do. It?s rare that people ever want exactly the same thing; but what I think is wrong is when people pretend like what they want is something different, when they mislead people to get what they need- even if that means denying others what they need. I want into your pants. Desperately. But I want you to want me in them; I want me getting into your pants to be the right thing, for both of us. And if you even suspect it?s not, I implore you no to sleep with me. I don?t want tonight to be about pressure. It should be about you deciding what the next step in your life is going to be. And if that means we end up cuddling in a hotel room watching Seinfeld eating overpriced room service ice cream, so be it. You?re worth waiting for, and you?re worth waiting for it to be right; you?re even worth me not having you, if that?s how things should turn out. But what I guess I?m trying to say, what I?m dancing around because I?m a total wimp, is,? I paused for effect, ?I love you. And whatever?s best for you, that?s what I want us to pursue.?

?I think? I love you, too.?

?You don?t have to say it back. No pressure, remember??

?I want to. I?m shaking. I can?t wait to see you.?

?The waiting?s almost over,? I told her. ?Goodbye.?

I drove directly to the hotel room. Daria?s and Clarence?s cars were already there, which meant they were in their room, which meant I wasn?t likely to bump into them in the hall. Still, I had on a hat that made me feel a little too much like a noire detective cliché. But I made it to my room unseen.

The hotel had exceptionally strong wifi, and terrifically thin walls. I booted up Julee?s snooping program, and put in some headphones. Whatever conversation or closeness they?d planned was already over; all I got was gasping and heavy breathing.

I turned down the volume on it and flipped open some spreadsheets to get some work done while I waited. But I didn?t have to wait long; Barbara was eager. I heard footsteps outside my door, then the sound of a card swiped next door. 

?Did you hear something?? I heard Daria ask over the grunting.

Clarence didn't stop thrusting long enough to say, ?Probably, next, door.?

There was a beep, the clunk of a door unlocking, then the faint whine of hinges that probably needed some WD-40. 

?Fuck,? Daria said, realizing just exactly what she heard this time.

?What?? Clarence said, thrusting obliviously; I had to give him that- the man stuck to his gun.

Her next words were heated and heaving, as I imagined she tried to shove him away: ?Get off me, third-wit, your wife's-? then her tone shifted, ?standing in the doorway.?

?What the fuck is this?? Barbara asked.

11/17/11

  10:54:17 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 266 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 48: Sleeping Dogs

?So Hamdi hasn?t sold out any of his co-conspirators, huh?? Ismail asked. He pumped me for information about as subtly as he pumped the plunger into Monty?s always clogged toilet.

 

?I?ve got him eating nothing but MREs- meals ready to eat- Army rations, this side of their expiration dates. Nasty even when they?re fresh, but you know, they?re designed for portability and survivability, not for their appeal to the gourmet appetites of the US fighting man.?

 

?Or woman,? Ismail pointed out, irritated, though it wasn?t because of my political incorrectness.

 

?But it isn?t that he hasn?t squealed.? Ismail actually turned to face me, then glanced at Monty?s empty cell. ?The problem is he?s squealed on everyone. Literally, every single person here- including me and my deputy- and several who aren?t. He?s blamed so many people that we haven?t yet been able to figure out who was in on things- with the exception of Mustafa. Circumstances are pretty damning, for him; oh, and that group Monty caught making for the gunsafe.?

 

?Hmm,? Ismail said. ?I think I?ll need one of the deeper snakes.? Then he got up and left.

 

?That tight lipped Arab hasn?t said shit, discounting his rather thorough instruction to ?tongue my balls.??

 

?Yep. But if he gets out of house arrest, and people know he held his tongue, he emerges a martyr, with more power, and more influence, exponentially increasing the odds of this kind of shit happening again.?

 

?I don?t think I get it.?

?Monty,? I said, ?you don?t need to. Just keep yer trap shut.? 

  03:21:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1693 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 17: In The Mood

I followed Barbara home from the diner, because I had to know how what happened next played out. See, she could have gone straight to her NA meeting, though that wasn't for an hour. She could have just stopped off for some froyo. But I thought, at least, that I'd planted enough of the idea of her husband in her mind that she would want to see him, on the off chance he came straight home.

And he hadn't; his conviction that his wife was cheating on him, that she was out there somewhere, at that very moment, screwing some addicted loser, he needed to be ploughing his mistress; he'd have been doing it in his own home, pounding Daria into his wife's pillow if he weren't paranoid, now, about their affair. 

I was almost impressed that he'd convinced Daria along for that ride; but she'd gotten involved with him in the first place, obvious evidence of a personality flaw, and he struck me as an expert at exploiting those. 

I had gotten ahold of the program Julee installed on my work computer, a version I knew was clean, without any keylogging software or other tagalongs. I'd learned when I first started watching Clarence's  home that he had wi-fi over an insecure network. I turned on the laptop, in the hopes that Daria's phone was close enough I'd get at least audio of what happened next.

Her phone was certainly close to the action. I could hear the nearby labored breathing of two people, and the subtle banging of a bedpost against the wall. Then a phone rang. ?Seriously?? Daria nearly yelled, as the motion all stopped.

?Baby?? Clarence said. I couldn't quite make out what she said.

?Turn it up,? I heard Daria say, then Barbara came across loud, but distorted, from the speaker phone.

?know you've been working really hard for us, but I need you tonight. Can't your company just let me have you, this one lousy night??

Clarence sighed, though I think it was mostly to cover up how much he was panting. ?It's not that simple. This is a complex deal. Your brother asked me to set it up. And we're a critical juncture. One misstep now could cost the company millions.?

?Richard would understand. He's family, and he understands that family sometimes has to come first.?

?Really?? he mocked her. ?The man who is all but divorced because he wouldn't stop banging his mistresses and his boardroom table long enough to come home?? He was redirecting, trying to make her out to be the one who'd made mistakes, when he'd been called in the middle of his most recent one. ?That Richard? The one who you had to browbeat into promoting me, for positions I was overqualified for, because he doesn't think he cares for me personally? Because I'm pretty sure that Richard is a cock, and would rather jab it in another quarter inch deeper than help either of us.? I was beginning to feel righteous in what I was about to do to him.

?I just thought?

?No, you didn't think. You weren't thinking. You were just shooting your mouth off, like the spoiled little princess you still think you are, still expecting that because you've got money the world changes itself for you. And it doesn't. That's the reality.?

?I'm sorry, Clarence.?

?I have to get back to work,? he said, refusing to even acknowledge the apology he'd bullied out of her.

?I'll see you when you-? he hung up on her, and set his phone down.

?Now where were we?? he asked lustily, amidst the shuffling of blankets.

?Yeah,? Daria said, ?after that I'm not really in the mood.?

?Seriously?? he asked, letting the anger from the phone call seep into his voice. ?You're going to send me home to my wife with blue balls??

There was the wet snap of a prophylactic, ?Here's the condom you left in me, ass, why don't you use it to fuck yourself??

?That's real cute, and real mature. What's you're sudden fucking problem??

?That woman, the one you just humiliated for the crime of wanting your support, she's one of two people you claim to love, claim to be torn between. So what does that say about me? What does it imply? Because I'd shoot your dick off before I let you talk to me like that.?

?Whoa, calm down.?

?Please, like you're suddenly intimidated by me carrying. The first time you fucked me you practically begged me to leave me holster on. You remember? You said it was like fucking Dirty Harry, which I now feel free to tell you was the gayest thing any man has ever said to me. And also really poor taste; leathery old Clint Eastwood is your loftiest man-crush??

?Dirty Harry wasn't that old and leathery; and what I meant was if he were a woman. I love that you're tough, tougher than me. That you can take care of yourself. Because, as you've just heard, my wife is a wet hot mess. A few weeks of me 'working late' and she sounds like she's ready to go back to using.?

?You really don't know when to stop talking, do you??

?What?? he asked, pretty much proving her point.

?I know about your wife's addictive past. But I never thought- if I'd even suspected we could be pushing her back towards that. Which brings us back to you being a cold, emotionless dick. I don't know her, have no reason to care about her except in the most abstract of terms. And I'm horrified that even a portion of what you just said wasn't hyperbole. But you're her husband, of fifteen plus fucking years, and here you are, completely unconcerned that you're on the verge of making her relapse into a destructive drug habit. You convinced me Dane was a sociopath, but obviously he wasn't the only one one our floor.?

?That's not fair.?

?Yes, because now is the perfect time to worry about fairness during a conversation about the two women you've been fucking in varying ways.?

?I meant it as a compliment. The first time Barbara started using, it nearly ended our marriage. Not being able to have kids, that had already done most of the heavy lifting. But when she got into recovery, it was actually worse. Because I had to be strong for her. Couldn't criticize her, couldn't argue with her, even when she was wrong. Because anything could hinder her recovery. I was just constantly walking on eggshells, and I realized eventually that it wasn't just when I was around her, but in my entire life, every decision I was making, I was on eggshells. And it's impossible to deal with that kind of fragility. Long-term, it hollows you out inside, until you're stomping on eggshells because you don't have the strength anymore to do anything else. She's weak, and that weakness wore me down. And you're strong, and beautiful, and with you I could actually be alive again.?

?I'm sorry,? Daria said.

?No, I should be. Fifteen years of marriage, leaves a lot of contested battlegrounds. And it's an ugly to see firsthand like that. Of course it upset you.?

I heard the sound of lips, moist kisses, then Daria again. ?Look, don't. I get it, where you're coming from in all this. But still, I don't want to. We can hold each other- I think I might like that- but I think I'm definitely done for the night.?

He sighed peevishly, but she was wearing a gun, and he was far more coward than he even usually let on. ?That would be nice.? 

Barbara struggled. It was nearly an hour after her husband had hung up on her when she called me back. She'd been upset, that much was still in her voice, but she wasn't speaking to me from a place of anger, seeking revenge; she'd found a calm little hole in her emotional storm from which she could see what she wanted, what would make her happy.

?Tomorrow night,? she said.

?I'll make arrangements.? She went to her NA meeting; I didn't follow her because I didn't have to to know. She gave a rousing speech about her troubles, and how she was taking responsibility for her life, and no longer going to live from a position of weakness. It pissed off the churchy in charge; the anonymous are supposed to be powerless, and let God take care of the heavy lifting. But that was never going to be Barbara.

Her... metamorphosis was the one pleasant thing that was going to come off all of this... unpleasantness. And I was genuinely going to miss her, when all was said and done.

Cliff was pissy the next morning, which brought me no end of amusement. I imagined he was quite pent up. After an emotional outburst, there's never really a good time to inconspicuously tug one out in your hotel room; and there was no way he was taking care of himself once he got home. In truth, he was lucky they were only blue balls; the women in his life seemed capable of just lopping them off.

I caught him abusing the coffee maker, to the point that he cracked the glass pot. ?Trouble in paradise?? I asked.

He was upset enough he forgot to worry I might bash his skull in with my mug. ?Domestic bliss,? he said, noncomitally.

?So things didn't go well with your wife? Because I- I'd hate to think I gave you some lousy advice.?

?No. I didn't get a chance to talk to her. She saw him last night, and called me, upset. I don't know if something happened, but... I couldn't comfort her. Not after she betrayed me. And she's meeting him again tonight.?

?But what if it was all innocent??

?I'm not naïve.?

?But this isn't just your marriage, it's your life. You don't want to throw it away on a suspicion. You need to talk to her. Let her know how you feel- and find out what she's feeling.?

He grunted something that sounded like approval. I made myself some coffee, and went back to my office.

11/16/11

  08:09:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 0 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: CoD Piece

  03:18:58 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1664 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 16: Blow Up

At lunch, I called his wife. ?I need to see you.?

?Are you sure that's a good idea??

?It's probably a really bad one, but... I need to, anyway.? 

?It should be at the meeting.?

?I don't want to go and listen to strangers and their problems. I want to see you.?

Moment of truth: had I jumped the gun, or was she ready? She left me hanging for a few seconds, and I almost forgot to breathe before she said, ?Okay.?

?Early again. And if things go well, we can go to the meeting together.?

?All right.?

I waited a couple hours, then knocked on Clarence's office door. ?What?? he growled.

?Your secretary off for the day??

?Gave it to her off. After I blew up at her.?

?Aah. So that thing that wasn't going to bug you??

?Ran out of vodka.?

?My offer of a sympathetic ear still stands.?

?Yeah, couldn't hurt, I guess. Come on in, have a seat.?

He kept one of the waiting room chairs opposite his desk. They were less comfortable, and closer to the ground, which meant in his seat at his desk he was going to tower over me. Always with the childish damn power plays. I wondered if maybe I was using a nuclear weapon against a mosquito. I plopped down in the chair.

?My wife's... had some substance abuse issues in the past. She's clean now, but a few years ago she got pretty bad before joining a program. Things were good for a while. And she got confident enough that she agreed to sponsor this guy. At first I thought she was just sponsoring the guy, but when he fell off the wagon, she took it really hard. Like too hard for him to just be her friend, you know? But I never had the guts to just confront Barbara with it. But I knew it. I don't know how, I just knew. You ever been married??

?No.?

?I've been with Barbara for fifteen years. And I think after that kind of time, you know when someone's cheating on you.?

?But if he fell off the wagon, she stopped seeing him, right??

?Yeah. She said she wasn't strong enough to be around someone who was using. And I made sure I called her home, and came home early, stopped in to have lunch with her, for a while, just to be sure. The only time she could have been seeing him was those meetings, and not exactly a lot of time for romance.?

?So far that's all background. What has you upset today??

?She's sponsoring another addict. She's only been doing it about a week, but she's already seejng the guy outside the meetings- which I'm pretty sure is a no no. And even if it weren't, I don't like it. It's deja  vu all over again. And you know, after being pissed off this morning because we fought last night and before work, I was back to being okay with it again. And then she called me an hour ago, and she's seeing him again. Last night and again tonight. It didn't take this many dates for me to get her clothes off.?

?But she's your wife. I'm sure it's nothing- I'm sure it's innocent. I bet if you went home tonight, talked it out, you'd see that she's been nothing but faithful to you.?

?You think??

?Would you cheat on her?? His eyes flashed anger, and for a moment he thought that I knew about him and Daria. ?Of course not,? I said, and he waited way too long to smile at the revelation. ?Talk to your wife.?

?Yeah, buddy, I will. Thanks.?

I'd barely made it back to my office when Daria's phone rang, two dots, incoming call. It was Rand. ?I... I think I was wrong about Dane??  

?What??

?I didn't know him, when I came to you, about Cliff. I've been working with him a while now and... I think maybe he just said something, he's got a peculiar sense of humor, maybe he was just being dark about Cliff.?

?He did it.?

?What??

?They autopsied Cliff. Found a injection site with a massive dose of potassium under the skin. Cliff's heart attack wasn't any accident. This guy really did it.?

?Holy shit. I was just talking to him. In my office...?

?Jesus.?

?Why haven't the police taken him into custody??

?All they have right now is evidence Cliff died unnaturally, and some circumstantial rumors. It takes a while, based on that, to get access to his apartment, computers, phone- got to find a judge who likes a creatively worded warrant. And without more evidence, there's no way he gets arrested.?

?But what's that mean for me? He killed his last boss to get the position I'm occupying.?

?I don't think he's going to try to kill another boss- a little suspicious, that.?

?You don't think he'll try to murder me quietly? Isn't part of your job supposed to be making me feel more secure??  

?Don't be an ass if you're at all fond of touching me. I can keep you safe from the big scary day trader.?

?Yeah, when I'm with you. But what about when I'm at home? Or on the weekends??

?He might be crazy, but he's not crazy crazy, which you'd have to be to murder a second boss in as many weeks. And especially with a cloud already hanging over him. But if it makes you feel any better, you could stay over.?

?And tell my wife I'm having a sleep-over with one of the guys at the office??

?Actually I think her suspecting you're closeted and having an affair is slightly scarier than you just having the affair.? 

?The usual place, then??

?Unless you're suddenly feeling the need to take your wedding vows more seriously??

?That's unkind.?

?So's this,? she said, a little sadly.

?Second thoughts?? he asked softly.

?Third or more. I never wanted this.?

?No one did. It just happened.?

?No, the first time, on my desk, that just happened. Every time since, we knew what we were doing. Hell, we knew about the possibility every time you came to my office, every time we ate together.?  

?Do you want to stop??

She was quiet a long time, and I felt myself absorbed, as in a good radio drama. ?No,? she said quietly, full of self-loathing.

?I don't either. I love you both, and I know it's not right, but...?

?Don't. Don't tell me you love me and still go back to your wife.?

?I'm sorry.?

?I won't be your mistress indefinitely. You will have to choose.?

?Tonight??

?Soon.?

?No, I meant, will I still see you tonight??

?I don't know. I'll call you. Your wife will be at her NA meeting, right? So I have time to decide.? Daria hung up. I wondered if they would have their usual liaison, or more interestingly, when they did, if he could still talk her into bed.

It sounded like she was wavering. Her morals were getting the better of her. But it was too late for her to walk away.

I had time to go home and shower before I had to meet Barbara. I put on my nicest suit, and my favorite tie.

She'd been waiting, since long before we were scheduled to meet. The sever told me she'd been there over an hour; since before I left work. She was reading a book, over cold coffee, in the booth we'd shared twice.

I slid beside her noiselessly, and pressed ourselves together. She barely reacted at first, and then she looked up, ?Al.?

?Dennis,? I smiled at her.

?It doesn't fit you,? she said. ?Or maybe I've just got used to thinking of you as Al, Alvin, Albert, Alan, or God forbid Aldo or Alfred. But whatever your name, I'm glad you came.?

?I'm still not sure it was a good idea,? I hesitated, ?but so am I. And I'm sorry. Last night, it was supposed to be your night, and I ruined it. I feel I owe you dinner.?

?Well, we are in a diner, if you'd like to make it up to me, and you did reserve the time..?

?What would you like to talk about??

?Anything but my husband.?

?That is tricky, because I have one consuming thought, a question, really, whose answer involves him, if obliquely.?

?Should I infer the question from that?? she asked, raising an eyebrow at me.

?You're mocking me??

?I prefer to call it teasing, because that sounds less cruel. But if I weren't a married woman.?

?Are you happy? Does your husband make you happy? Or does he try you, every day, make you question yourself, question your strength?? I let her silence linger before I continued. ?Do you think I would do that? Do you think I would do anything to ever hurt you if I could help it?? She wouldn't look at me. She was one thin moment away from crumbling.

?No,? she said, and hated herself for admitting it.

?Can you honestly tell me you want to stay with him? More than that, do you really think it's the right thing, for you, to be doing? Clarence is a big boy. He can handle himself. But do you think it's the right thing for you, to stay in your marriage??

?I never told you my husband's name.?

?I googled you. You give an impressive amount of money to charities, and a few of them even mention him in their press releases. But the question: do you still think your marriage is worth saving??

?I think I still love him, but... I don't know.?

?That's fair,? I told her. ?And honestly, what I expected. I'm going to find another NA group. I can't be around you, watching him hurt you. And I know it isn't a good idea for you to be my sponsor... I don't think I can separate my feelings for you enough to keep that healthy. But if things ever change, let me know. And do me one favor: Kiss me; kiss me like you never even met him, like I'm the only one in the world you ever wanted.?

She does.

11/15/11

  10:53:05 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 438 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 47: Drive-by

I could hardly keep myself from falling over. So we got the truck. I used the PA on the truck. ?Hamdi, Mustafa, exit your homes, now. You?re going to walk to the Sheriff?s office, turn yourselves in. The alternative is that I call in the Army to escort you. I?m in no mood to fuck around.?

 

Mustafa came out first, with his hands up. ?You?re a dumb ass,? I told him, and he put down his hands, and hung his head.

 

Hamdi waited. He wanted me to have to call him a second time. Instead, I keyed the PA at the same time as my radio to the TOC. ?This is the Sheriff, calling in to Fort Gates, we?ve got a sit-? and with that Hamdi scurried out onto the sidewalk. ?Situation?s normal at the moment, but if it gets all fucked up, I?ll let you know.?

 

Hamdi and Mustafa started to march. I kept the Bronco crawling behind them. When they arrived at the station, I flashed my brights at them and they stopped. Monty got out of the passenger side and unlocked the door. He kept his distance behind them, and the shotgun between.

 

I parked the Bronco and get inside quick as I could move. Per my instruction, Monty had waited to put them in the cell with the others until I arrived. Once I was there to cover him, Monty unlocked the cell door. ?Y?all stand back; I been itching for some trigger practice.?

 

They stood back, but he was shaking. Mustafa walked in without a word. 

 

?You look like you?re about to fall over,? Hamdi said with a smile.

 

?You at all familiar with the spread pattern of a shotgun at this distance?? I asked him. ?For you, it?d be like I shoved both my hands through your chest; for them,? I pointed to the men in the cell, ?well, all manner of pain and disfigurement. I would gladly and kindly shoot you, without an ounce of remorse; but I would feel badly about them back-stopping my shot. For me, it?d be a regrettable necessity, but for you it?d be avoidable stupidity, verging on hubris.? His smile faded.

 

?I was, merely concerned for your well-being.?

 

?Given you?re responsible for the deplorable state of my well-being, I kind of doubt it. But if it means you ain?t going to try and get yourself killed and these other men shot, then I am happy as I can be, under the circumstances.?

Hamdi stepped inside, and Monty got the door latched behind him. I felt safer already.

  03:17:48 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1647 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 15: Cold Water

I'd made our reservation days earlier. I'd hoped she'd call, made it all seem that much more spontaneous. But I'd been prepared to need her deeply, to call her in the midst of a crisis over Arnie.

Which reminded me, I needed to visit him again, and talk with his doctor about his progress. And maybe buy him some flowers, and a little stuffed penguin.

They seated us on the balcony, overlooking a fountain that took up the remainder of the wall with a pair of circular inlaid staircases. It lent a quiet, babbling brook ambiance to conversation, but didn't overshadow our voices. 

?I'm sorry, I know you said you didn't want to talk about my husband?

I cut her off: ?It's your night. If you want to talk about your husband, we can talk about your husband. If you want to talk about genocide in Africa, we'll talk about that. If you want to talk about pap smears... we should probably save that until after dessert.?

?Why?s that? Is dessert something pap smeary??

?It's a chocolate mousse; but I don't know what pap smear actually is, so, it could be, for all I know.?

?Well it's a,? she started, but I put a finger to her lips and she grinned. I let the finger stay a moment too long, and drug it off, so I stroked her mouth gently as I took the finger away, then looked off, embarrassed.

?He was mad at me. He left the syringe out on our kitchen counter, like an accusation. And I hid it. It was a lie, one he was telling himself about me. And I couldn't stand for it. So I hid it away.?

?Where'd you put it?? I asked with banal curiosity.

?On top of the fridge. Just out of sight, out of mind. But when it wasn't where he left it, he got angry. He started accusing, and I, I thought we were going to have the same exact fight as last night. And then I told him I'd made plans for tonight. I said to him that I was sponsoring somebody, now, who was going through a rough time- sorry to use you like that.?

?Happy to be used,? I said, and raised my water glass to her, ?I meant rhetorically, not, uh, the dirty kind. I?m happy to be used the dirty way, usually, too, just, um, not what I was getting at.? She blushed a little.

?But he accused me of using- with you. That maybe I'd brought you home while he was working late to provide for me, and we'd shot each other up and... in our bed? In our home? What kind of person does that? I don't even think I understand the kind of person who sleeps around, but... to do it where he holds me...? tears slipped down her cheeks.

I took hold of her hand, and first wiped away the moisture from her left cheek, then the right. ?You're not that kind of person. I'm surprised you end up with someone like him, who is;? that was a mistake, and I knew it the moment I let it out. She gave me a peculiar look. ?People know themselves better than anyone else. So when they're paranoid, when they have fear for the things that other people are capable of, it's because somewhere, deep down, they think they're capable of it. They're trying to protect themselves from people like them. And that he could think that of you, could think that you?re capable of it, it?s because he is. He doesn't deserve you.?

?That's very sweet of you.?

?It's not sweet. Holding a little old lady's hand to help her cross the street, that's sweet. What I am isn't. Because I'm angry at him for hurting you, and jealous,? I stopped, and swallowed, ?that he has someone like you in his life.?

She smiled softly at me. ?You have someone like me in your life.?

?Transiently floating through it on Tuesday and Thursday nights- with the occasional Wednesday encore performance. But he gets to come home to you.?

?When he comes home,? she said sadly.

?He gets to share a life with you. Don't get me wrong,? I lifted her hand, still wrapped in mine, off the table, ?I'll happily take what I can get, but it hurts me to see him appreciate you so poorly.?

?Maybe we shouldn't talk about him,? she said with a wry grin that masked how sad it made her.

?Like I said, it's your night.?

?I've never eaten at Brooks before. Clarence always promised... whoops. I guess I just got a little less anonymous, but he always said we'd come, it just never, we kept putting it off. It's just so beautiful, especially that fountain.?

?It's lovely,? I said, staring right at her.

?You're not even looking,? she said.

?I'm taking in the beauty where I find it.?

?Should I have ordered you a bucket of cold water??

?I'm just...?

?Surprised??

?At the meetings, you look like the angry mom who dominates all the PTA meetings by terrorizing everyone else in attendance.?

?I never had kids. We couldn't have kids.?

?But you wanted them??

?Who doesn't? Clarence and I... we tried. For years. He wanted to go to a fertility doctor, but I couldn't. I knew it was one of us, and I knew, whoever it was, the healthy person would blame the other one. I didn't want to hate him; and I didn't want him to hate me. I think I still had hope for us, then.?

?Betty,? I said, and squeezed her hand.

?It's not Betty. It's Barbara. Rand. You've earned at least that much.?

?There's always hope. Things maybe not always turn out the way we want them to, they may not always turn out in a way we can even convince ourselves was a success, but if we have hope, so long as we can live through it we can get through it. And things will be different tomorrow.?

?I want to believe that. But I've been hoping. I was hoping so long that, when things didn't get better, I was weak enough to become an addict. I'm not- that's not an excuse, and it's not abdication- but our addictions don't happen in a vacuum, either.  And I've been clean two years, and I've been hoping for those two years, too. And I don't know that I have any hope, I don't know that I can even feign hopefulness anymore.?

?Barbara, I hate seeing you like this.?

?This is me.?

?You I like,? I said, leaning in closer to her, touching her jaw, and moving her mouth towards me, ?I just don't like to see you hurt.? I kissed her, passionate and sudden, harsh and excited the first moment, a little aggressive, a little too much tongue, then finding that right rhythm. She hesitated, but then, as if she knew her part in this ballet, her lips responded, ever so slightly,  then they parted, and her tongue touched mine, and I let that happen for just long enough for her to enjoy, but not long enough for her to think about. And then I pulled away rashly. 

?I?m sorry. So sorry. You're a married, and you've got all these things going on, and you just seem so sad, and vulnerable, and I just want to comfort you. I hate that he met you first, I really do. But you have a husband, who you love,? those words cut deep, ?and I don't want to get in the way of that. You've got more important things to worry about than how I feel. I should go now. Because I don't know that I have the restraint to keep from doing something foolish.?

I make it a few paces before she stops me. ?Wait. It's my responsibility to make sure you don't do something foolish. You won't, right??

?I'm not talking about using, Barbara. But if I stay, God himself isn't strong enough to keep me from kissing you again.?

She called me on my way home. ?Am I going to see you tomorrow??

?I don't know if that's a good idea.?

?Please,? she said, ?don't let my problems get in the way of your recovery. I can stop being your sponsor, if you think that would?

?I don't know. I... I need time to think.?

?I understand,? she said, though I knew she couldn't possibly. ?I'll talk to you later? she said.

The next morning Clarence was pissed off. I found him in the break room, making the loudest cup of coffee ever. He slammed his mug down on the counter and a piece of it went flying off. He picked up the powdered creamer and upended it, but pointed the spout in the wrong direction, and a cloud of white dust spattered across his pants. ?Goddamnit!? he yelled and threw the creamer into the wall, and it impacted a few feet from me in a shower of white.

?Bad morning?? I asked.

?Jesus!? he yelled, spinning around. ?Scared the Christ out of me.?

?Sorry about that. Anything you want to talk about??

?I'm just...?

?Lactose intolerant??

?Violently,? he said, with a grin.

?Would a sympathetic ear help?? I was curious: Daria really believed that I'd killed Cliff. But Clarence was the one who told her that I was suspect in the first place. Would she have confirmed that with him? Because if not, he wouldn't really have his guard up around me, because to his mind I'd only fake murdered Cliff in order to guarantee him a promotion.

?Nah, man,? he said, putting his arm around my neck. ?Just one of those mornings. A little coffee- with a little vodka in it- I'll get the bounce right back in my step.? He squeezed my neck, a little half-hug, before he let me go and walked away. So he didn't know- because you don't let someone you think is a murderer that close in.

11/14/11

  03:16:43 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1573 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 14: Sympathy

Barbara started to cut another bite off the slice of pie, but as she was about to lift it off the plate with the fork, I took hold of her hand at the wrist to stop her. I positioned my hand on her thigh to push myself back up,  and let it stay there; that put us at eye level, our lips inches apart.

I sat back in the booth, but kept my other hand on her thigh. I traced my fingers down her wrist, across her hand, then threaded them through her fingers, and , took the fork from between her fingers. I lifted the fork with the bite up to her mouth. She licked her lips, then looked at me, and took the bite. I gave her the next bite, too. Then she took the fork from me.  

?But what about you? How have things been with your husband??

?If anything... he's been more distant.?

?I know I'm new to this, but I think this is more a relationship problem, and those... I know a thing or two about. And maybe it's time you talked to him. Maybe, if he just knew how you feel, maybe that would be enough for him to see that you're hurting, and that you love him and want, well, what do you want??

?I just need to feel loved,? she said sadly, setting down the fork.  

I rubbed her thigh, very slightly at first, just comfort that happened to be a little higher up the leg than usual. But as the minutes went on, I kneaded at her flesh more deeply, and slipped my hand still further up her pant leg. 

?You shouldn't,? she said.   

?I shouldn't,? I followed her eyes. ?My god. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking, I just... I guess sometimes for me, the line between comforting a beautiful woman and intimacy, it blurs.?

?I'm beautiful??

?Since you love your husband, I'll leave it at just, 'yes.'?

?Thank you,? she said, ?taking my hand off her thigh and squeezing it in hers.

I waved down the waitress and asked for the check. Then I turned back to Barbara. ?You should know, it's a two-way street. You can call on me, if you need anything.?

?Thanks.?

She drove me back to my car. Then I followed her home. I'd kept her away long enough Clarence was sure to have made it to bed, sure to have seen the syringe and thought the very worst. I'm sure he picked it up, looked at it, and held it while he waited to confront her when she got home. Which was exactly what she was waiting to do herself. It was going to be an explosive night, and I was sad I wasn't going to be there to see it.  

I slept well enough, waking only once when I thought I heard Julee's key sliding into my door- strangely suggestive as that was. 

Julee was in my office, hunched over computer. ?I've installed the listening program on her phone, and the complimentary program on your desktop.? It was brilliant, an excellent excuse to root around in my files while helping me. Hell, she might have even cleared the bug with Daria.

She stayed bent over, at the computer, giving me a clear view of her ass, and when I approached her, she pressed it against me. I reached for my zipper, and she asked, ?Aren't you worried your little secretary might hear us??

I took an unsharpened pencil out of my penholder, and put it in her mouth. ?Hmm,? she said.

By the time she left my office Petra was at her desk. She seemed agitated, watching Julee leave. ?There seems to be all kinds of extra security I have to be briefed on, and after my run-in with Daria, I think they've been having one of the lower-downs explain it to me.?  

She wanted to believe me, so she did. ?Lower-downs??

?Opposite of higher-ups.?

?I was hoping you'd found a nicer way to call her a low-rent piece of trash.?

?Hard day already?? I asked her, sliding behind her chair. I kneaded her shoulders with my fingers.

?Oh, God, that's good.?

?How about I take you to lunch??

?How bout you just keep touching me??

I moved my hands up to her neck. ?I think we're only moments away from this crossing the line from simple comfort to public foreplay.?

?I'm game,? she cooed.

I stopped touching her neck. ?Lunch??

?I guess I could take the consolation prize.?

?Is the cafe good enough??

?I had hoped I could feel underdressed at lunch again... but I guess it'll do. At least until we can go someplace more intimate.?

?I'll  be in my office until then, unless there's something else??

?No meetings on the schedule today. Just the usual grind.?

?Then pencil in lunch.? I knew my office computer was compromised; Julee had installed at least one program onto it that I knew about, so I assumed she'd installed at least a keylogger and some basic snooping software. So I surfed to Pandora, and started Julee's eavesdropping software. She said it was programmed to voice-activate.

I started up my laptop to get some work done. Then I heard muffled speech interrupt the Paul Simon-like music playing from the computer. I paused the music, and turned up the volume on the eavesdropper.

?...found a puncture wound, and in the immediate vicinity of the wound site, there was an excess of potassium.? It was Joel, her associate.

?Holy shit. So it was murder. I was beginning to think,?

?That Mr. Rand wasn't entirely on the up and up??

?Not that, it's just,?

?You didn't want to think about your new bump bump buddy pumping you to sick you on his rival... but you're smart enough you couldn't not think about the possibility.?

?I was being careful. And we weren't bump bumping when we first started talking about the vetting process.?

Barbara called my cell, and I turned down the sound on my bug. ?It was awful. He accused me of using. I was so upset.?

?Slow down,? I told her, pretending I didn't know what she was talking about. ?What happened??

?When I got home, Clarence accused me of shooting heroin. He had a needle he said he found in our home, and he was shaking it at me. And I got so angry at him for it. I tried to talk to him about what we've talked about, but it all came out wrong, and by the end we were just shrieking at each other. He spent the night in a hotel. I think my marriage may be ending.?

?Only if he's an idiot,? I told her. ?He made a mistake. You aren't using. But he'd be making an even bigger mistake if he tried to leave you over this.?

?I'm not sure I'm not leaving him.?

?Barbara,? I said. ?You love your husband. This is just... it's one of those things you'll be able to laugh about when you're both gray and old.?

?I wish I had your optimism.?

?That's why I'm here, to lend you optimism when you need it.?

?You always know how to make me feel better, Al.?

?I'd like to see you tonight. I think... I'm not sure everything will keep until Thursday.?

?I'm so glad you said that, I was trying to be strong, but... it's so hard; relationships are supposed to be built on trust, but instead all I get from the people who are supposed to trust me the most is doubt.?

?I trust you. And I believe in you. I just want to be there to support you, like you've been there for me.?

?Would you like to pick me up??

?I'm not so sure about that. If your husband's having trust issues, I think the last thing that would be helpful would be seeing you driving off with another man.?

?Probably right about that. So where should I meet you??

?The diner??

?I'm feeling like I should treat myself. How about something fancier? We'll go dutch.?

?If fancier will make you happy, fancy's what you get. How's Brooks sound? And I'm going to pretend you didn't say anything about the dutch part- it should be a treat, something you're doing for yourself, by yourself, without your husband, or his money.?

?I've got money of my own,? she said.

?But he works. Brings in the paycheck. And no matter how much money you might have, I bet it always feels like you're spending his money. And tonight, he isn't on the menu.?

?All right, it's a date. Um, an appointment, you know, not a romantic thing.? I could practically hear her blushing through the phone.  

?Meet up at the usual??

?Hell, we don't have to worry about anybody else's schedule. Make it earlier. Six??

?I can make that, if you don't mind me with a little stubble.?

?I think I might prefer you looking roguish.?

?I could see about getting an eyepatch, or a swash to buckle.?

?Let's not overdo it.?

I arrived at five til six, and she was already waiting for me. It was the first time I'd seen her done up, at least, in person. The years melted off her, but then again, she had never been as old as she looked, and I could have believed her ten years younger than she was, and fifteen younger than she'd looked that first night I met her. ?You clean up real nice,? I told her.

?And you rough up pretty nice yourself,? she said, stroking the stubble on my chin.

11/13/11

  03:15:18 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1712 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 13: Reach Out And Touch Someone

The entire bed was a wet spot by the time we fell asleep.

I didn't sleep well, with someone in my apartment. I supposed that was a feeling I was going to have to get used to, now that she had open access to my apartment. But in a way it was; I was used to being on display, being 'on,' as they say in drama classes. This just took it in a new direction.

She stirred early in the morning; and I pretended to wake myself, and be pleasantly surprised by the ample bosom that was my pillow. ?Morning,? I told her. ?It's nice being able to forget about everything, for a while, and just...?

?Yeah,? she said, stroking my hair. 

?Everything's been so...? I acted like it wasn?t all preordained, let her watch me mentally put the pieces together in front of her, as if for the first time. ?What you said, about cell phones? could anybody really do that??

?It's scary how easy it is,? she said. ?Why??

?Rand and your boss, they say they've been working on a secret new project for Richard Morgan. But since that started, rumors I was involved in Cliff's death have started circulating, coincidentally at the same time as Rand was given control of the entire department. It just... it can't all be a coincidence.?

?So the rumors aren't true?? she was still sleepy, and still a little sex-fuddled, but she wanted to believe me.

That made the next part easier. ?I haven?t killed anybody. They?re ramrodding my career with about the most awful rumor I can imagine, just so your boss?s boyfriend can beat me out for a promotion. I just? I want to be able to defend myself. That?s all.?

?You knew about her and Rand?? Whoops.

?Doesn't everybody? Staying late, spending the entire day alone in her office...?

?Yeah, for a security chief she's not very discreet, is she??

?Says the woman who was progressively undressing in my office.?

?Yeah, but the progressivity meant that nobody else knows what I was doing.? She sat up. ?I want you to tell me honestly. You wouldn't be the first guy I screwed who killed somebody, but is it true??

?You?ve probably heard all kinds of things. But if I had, wouldn?t they have just let the police take care of it? But they don?t need a conviction. All they need is rumors and intrigue to screw me.?

?All I needed was cleavage and to leave a couple buttons undone.?

?All you had on was a leather trench coat and some jeans.?

?I had a shirt, it was just in my pocket.?

?I appreciate the effort? but this is my life. I?m not going to get another shot like this. So if they ruin my name here?? I covered my eyes with my hands. I was curious the kind of person she was. Would she leave me hanging, while she weighed whether or not her boss really was corrupt? Would she hedge, give me a little pat on the back, while making sure she kept her distance just in case? Or would she wrap her arms around me, comfort me, allow herself to get at least that little bit involved even if it was dangerous?

I sighed, heavily, to up the ante. I felt a hand on my shoulder, cold, dispassionate, and was a little disappointed, until it guided me against her naked chest.

Thank God for Samaritans.  

?Daria has an iPhone.? She hated telling me even that much. ?I can remotely install a listening program onto the phone. It would give you the ability to listen through a computer- even a PDA.?

I let myself get bigger, just expanding my chest, straightening my shoulders. Then I fixed her with my eyes, and smiled, just a little, like the sky was still full of clouds, but there was a single patch of sunlight breaking through them. ?Thank you, I don't know what I'd,?

?Shut up,? she said, and kissed me.

?But I feel like I owe you, like I should make you some breakfast while you relax.?

?Sex first, eggs later,? she said, and rolled on top of me.

Eventually, I made it back to the kitchen. I cooked eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and brewed some coffee. When I brought them all back to bed, Julie pretended to be asleep, until I'd set the plates down on the nightstand, and then she grabbed me and threw me back down on the bed. 

?I thought you were hungry,? 

?Never said I was hungry for food,? she said.

We ate a cold breakfast, later, and we slept the last few hours of the early morning. I woke up late, and showered. I left her to finish dressing, since I reasoned it made sense not to look like we were coming into work together.

Petra had a worried look on her face when I passed by her desk. ?You're late. Is everything ok-? Julie walked in at that precisely inopportune moment, and Petra finished the sentence a little sadder than she started ?ay??

?Car troubles.?

?You really might want to think of an upgrade,? Daria said from behind me. ?You're a top-flight executive now- there's no reason you shouldn't be taking advantage of all the perks, while you can.? And she was gone again, swooping towards the coffee machine. She smiled at Julie, before remembering that she wasn't supposed to know about her liaison with me, and then put on her best scowl.     

The day went quickly, perhaps because I was full of anticipation- and I was anxious to be rid of the incriminating evidence to a fake murder I'd been holding onto.

Clarence and Daria seemed to be even more rapturous today. They even held hands beneath their table at lunch; I supposed their spy getting a key to my apartment made them feel cocky. Good. Overconfidence was going to make this next part easier.

They couldn't even wait until later that night, but left together after work, barely pretending not to be exiting the building together. I followed them to their hotel, despite the fact that Barbara was had her NA meeting- though that wasn't for several more hours. 

I drove to Rand's home, parked several blocks away, and waited for Barbara to leave. I managed to time it so that she was already down the road before I stuck my foot in her closing garage door. It tripped the sensor, and  the door slid back up. 

I snuck in through the garage door, and made my way up a grand set of spiral stairs to their master bedroom. I left Clarence a little gift on his wife's nightstand, my way of saying if you're going to try to frame a man for murder, make damn sure he isn't better at it than you.

Then I drove to Barbara's AA meeting. I waited in the doorway another ten minutes, making sure I was seen, but also making sure no one knew exactly when I arrived. And in that time Barbara glanced back twice, looking progressively worried.

I sat down beside her, and took up her hand in mine. ?I was so worried,? she said, and looked deeply into my eyes.

?It was so hard. Arnie...? I closed my eyes, put my hand over them and shook my head.

?Do you want to talk about it?? she asked me.

?Not here,? I told her.

?All right,? she said, and put her bag over her shoulder. ?Let's go.?

She drove me to the same cafe. The server recognized us, and smiled when we arrived. ?The lovebirds.? Barbara looked nervously to me, because she wanted to correct it, but I tried to look vulnerable, and she let it slide. She led us back to our table. This time I curled up against her, like I needed her to keep me from falling over.

?Coffees, and Oreo pie,? Barbara told the waitress. When she was gone, she stroked my hair. ?There's no rush. Whenever you're ready to talk about it.?

?I,? I hesitated. ?I mentioned my friend Arnie.... over the weekend, we were hanging out. I had a little to drink, and decided to take a shower. When I came out... he'd overdosed. I didn't even know he was holding, but I came out, and he was... he's in the hospital. In a coma. They don't know if he'll ever wake up.?

?You poor thing,? she said, and pulled my head under her chin, against her chest. I nuzzled against her breastbone, enough to keep it innocent, but also enough to tease at her curiosity.

?But the worst part,? I said wearily, ?we were together because I wanted him to come to a meeting. I was trying to convince him that we both had a problem, but that there were solutions, too. I thought I was getting to him, I thought after we talked that I knew the right things to say, to convince him that we needed something more from our lives. And, finding him laying there, with a needle in his arm. It was the realization of my worst nightmares.?

It seemed like a lifetime had passed by the time the waitress returned with our coffee; but from the way she lookied at me, it was possible she'd been waiting until the emotional moment had passed.

Barbara dragged her saucer closer, very aware of the noise it made, and worried it would upset me. She stirred in a packet of artificial sugar, stirred it, then sipped at it. Then she pulled my saucer closer. ?Careful, it's hot,? she told me, but I didn't look up at it. Her breath was heavier for the weight of my head against her chest, and she exhaled heavily. ?I know it's hard, watching someone else fail. But you can't let their weakness become yours.? She stroked my cheek.

I heard a single plate slide onto the table, but I didn't look up, and it was a moment before Barbara noticed that the pie had arrived. ?Darn,? she said, ?they only brought one slice.?

?It's okay,? I said sullenly, ?I'm not that hungry.?

?Nonsense,? she said, cutting off a bit and positioning it on the end of the fork. ?We can share,? she put the fork in front of my mouth and I put my lips around it and slid the bite off the prongs.

11/12/11

  03:13:21 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1660 words  
Categories: Banksters

Banksters 12: Party of 5

A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. A man I didn't know, but who I assumed was Armand, was there when I opened it. He seemed surprised to see me. ?Arnie here, man? Because you I don't know from Abraham, and I don't take business from men I don't know.?

?Siesta,? I told him, and nudged the door open with my foot far enough he could see his loyal customer drooling all over his collar.

?Cool, then. But this ain't just for the both of you. Right? Because dead customers ain't repeat customers.?

?The whores are on their way.?

?Right.? He hesitated. I think he wanted to stay for the hookers; he probably would have even knocked a few hundred off his asking price. Of course, the hookers were fictional... so I imagined his discount would have been similarly imaginary. And I didn?t want any witnesses for what was coming next.

I gave him a wad of bills that was a hundred dollars heavier than the number he'd texted, not that he counted it; I figured he had men on his payroll that fretted over the dollars and cents, and took care of the ankle busting when they didn't add up, and one look in my apartment told him it wasn't worth my time to nickel and dime him.

The reason a guy as smart as Arnie never got any advancement, contrary to his bitter bitching, was because he fucked up, in a big, impressive, fairly public kind of way. Nobody would have ever found out he was shooting heroin into his scrotum if he hadn?t passed out at his desk with his pants around his knees and a needle in his nutsack. Which would have been completely fine, if he?d had an office, but he had a cubicle.

So his little stunt at the office party wasn?t the first time, and everybody knew Arnie had a heroin habit, but now his problem was a lot less existential, by which I meant the needle I just jammed into his arm with enough junk in it for a party of 5.

I sat down on the couch next to him, and found a rerun of Seinfeld on the satellite. I?d never managed to catch more than one episode, the turtling episode. And that?s what it happens to be again.

When the credits roll, I?m forced to think to myself: what would a non-sociopath do? Finding a co-worker, maybe even a friend, unconscious with a needle in his arm. I yank the syringe out of his arm and throw it behind me- get the poison as far away from him as possible, irrational as that might actually be. ?Arnie, Arnie, wake up,? I yell, and slap him, hard, across the cheek. That should leave a red mark by the time the paramedics get here. And now to dial 911, sounding panicked, but not too panicked.

?My friend, Arnie, I think he?s ODed.?

?Sir, what is your location?

?557 Lake River Road.?

?Is the person unresponsive??

?Yes.?

?And what's this person's name??

?Arnie Powell.?

?I?m sending an ambulance to your location, if you?ll stay on the line I have some other questions.?

?Okay.?

?What reason do you have to suspect it?s an overdose??

?He had a syringe sticking out of his arm. And he? sometimes he liked to party.?

?What kind of recreational drugs did he use??

?I don?t know, um, cocaine, I think, and he had a needle, so heroin, smack, I just don?t know.?

?I'm going to ask you to stay on the line while we wait for the paramedics. Can you do that for me, sir?

?Sure.?

?Do you know how to feel for a pulse??

?I've seen it done,? I said, hesitantly.

?I'll walk you through it. Put your middle and pointer finger together. Press them into the victim's neck, to the side of the Adam's apple. Do you feel anything??

?No... no I don't.?

?Can you tell if the victim is breathing??

?It doesn't look like his chest is moving.?

?Where is the victim??

?On a couch.?

?Is it safe to move him??

?I think so.?

?Do you know how to perform CPR??

?No.?

?Okay, then he'll have to wait for the paramedics. Do you know if your friend has any existing conditions or medications??

?I think he's healthy. But he takes something. Pills. Regularly. He used to keep them in his desk at work.?

?Did he ever give you any indication of what the pills were for??

?I think he mentioned having a family history of heart conditions.?

There was a knock at the door. I walked over to answer it. ?Paramedics are here,? I said over the phone.

?All right, sir.? She hung up.

The medics pushed me out of the way getting into the apartment. They found Arnie almost immediately. I dropped down into my armchair, and tried to look like I was in as much shock as I should have been. 

One of them knelt over Arnie and jabbed him in the neck with two fingers. I figured that was the last of it, until he said, ?I've got a pulse, but it's weak. We need to move him.?

The other medic ran back to the hallway for a stretcher. The strapped him down, and wheeled him out. In a matter of minutes they were gone and I was alone in my apartment.

I realized it was Sunday, now, the Lord's day, so I took a cue from the big guy and rested. I slept until the middle of the day. I still felt refreshed from my shower before I'd slept, so I went to an art museum. After that I visited Arnie. He was still unconscious,

I'd never wanted him dead. So this turn of events seemed perfect for me. If I'd considered a coma an accomplishable outcome, I'd have seriously contemplated it.

The next morning I went to work early, so early in fact that Petra wasn't even in the office yet. But my office wasn't empty.

Julee was sitting in the same chair as before, and she had pulled my chair back out like it had been before, the better to see her, my dears. I could see the strap of a bra sticking out of one of my desk drawers, the mate of the panties from last week. I sat my laptop on my desk, and nonchalantly dropped down in my chair. Then I pulled the bra out of her desk drawer, and ran my fingers over the lacy detailing. ?Still warm.?

?You never responded to my question.? She leaned forward, and her breasts swelled forward in her shirt. 

?I'm afraid I don't speak panties- and now other underthings- in my desk drawers. I get the gist, but...?

?Do you really need me to spell this out for you??

?No, but maybe if you hum a few bars I'd at least know the tune.?

?I want two things from you: a key to your place. And several hours of your time.?

?Tonight work for you??

?It's a date,? she said, and started to get up.

I grabbed her wrist, just hard enough for it to hurt. ?And what if I don't date co-workers??

She smiled at me. ?I think your secretary would beg to differ. Or at least moan to. But I'm not looking for Prince Charming.?

?Well what if I don't screw co-workers I'm not dating.?

?That tent you're pitching would seem to contradict that notion.?

?I'll see you then.?

It was genius. It got her access to my apartment; not that I kept anything incriminating there. Of course, I didn't have an extra set of keys on me, so I had Petra get an extra set made up after her lunch. Of course, I also knew I couldn't let her see me with Julee again, without her assuming I was done with her. And I was anything but. I called Julee and let her know I'd leave the key in my desk.

At quitting time, I walked Petra to her car. She even gave me a peck on the cheek.

At 8, I was just beginning to wonder if she was going to show. I heard my new key slide into the lock. I set down my iPod and a Cussler I was midway through but still entirely uninterested in. Julee slunk into my apartment like a jaguar stalking prey.

She had on a leather trench coat, cinched at the top, dark jeans and knee high leather boots. Under the coat all I could see was her soft, mahogany flesh, and I wondered if she was so cliché as to not be wearing a shirt under it; cliché, of course, but still hot.

Julie smiled, and unbuttoned the top button on her coat as she moved toward me. I raised an eyebrow.  Another button, this one load-bearing, and her chest bounced freely, as she straddled me on the couch. Another button, and her breasts wanted to escape out of her coat. There was just a limp strip of cloth keeping her breasts dammed up. She took my hand and pushed it against the side of her bra.

I moved my hand from her bra down the gentle curves of her abdominal muscles, down to her belt, and then felt the last thing I'd have imagined: a pager. ?A pager? Tell me honestly: have you been sent from the 1980s to kill me??

?Cell phones are never secure. It's a microphone attached a transmitter that you carry with you wherever you go, which can be activated remotely. In essence, you've bugged yourself. And it isn't just cops or the feds who can use it. Anybody smart enough to load up a program onto somebody's phone remotely can listen in. So I carry my cell, but I keep it off. And if anybody needs me so damned urgently, they can beep me.?

I kissed her plump lips. ?That was actually quite hot,? I told her.

?You're just trying to shut up.?

?Yes, but I'm doing it with my tongue.?

She said something else, but I couldn't make it out, because she was licking my mouth.

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