tagMind ControlSo Night Follows Day Pt. 05

So Night Follows Day Pt. 05


Note: A couple of the comments I've gotten have complained that my chapters tend to be short. They suggested I make them at least 10k words per chapter. I decided to start smaller, and get at least 5k words into a chapter. It ended up being a choice between "longer chapters" or "getting one out each week." This chapter largely pre-dates that decision, so, after this, they'll be my typical "as long as they need to be" length again.


"He's cruisin' streets for gold. Dressed in designer clothes.
Brother, if you're too slow, then you better not blink,
or you'll wind up in the drink.
He wanna be Americano! Americano! Americano!
Gotta buy a diamond ring, cause that's his baby's favorite thing.
OK, all right, yeah, man! Wanna be Ameri-can! Wanna be Ameri-can!"
-Brian Sezter, "Americano" (Originally Renato Carasone, "Tu Vuò Fa' L'Americano")

Julie Andrews sat in her and Helena Parker's suite in Munich, wrapped in a towel after emerging from the shower, with another wrapped around her head. She was messaging back and forth on her phone with Troy Medina. Every hotel was booked solid for Oktoberfest, but the girls commanded the people renting the penthouse of the nearest hotel to the festivities to decide it was boring and go home early. The manager was only too happy to allow them to stay without charge for the inconvenience.

SUNFLOWER: What'd this one say?

MATH BOY: You know, the usual.

SUNFLOWER: Fuck, that sucks. Hate that shit. Guys're such jealous pricks, too. "You spend more time talking to that Troy guy than you do to me?" Yeah, maybe because YOU ran out of things to talk about after your car and football; and HE'S been my best friend since before I could say his name, when he was still "Toy" and I was still "Joowie," and we never run out of stuff to talk about.

Julie lit a cigarette as she waited for his reply.

MATH BOY: Yeah, I know. "Why're you always talking to that girl who shares your interests? Why don't you want to constantly listen to me go on about reality shows and those bitches at work and somebody who minorly inconvenienced me today? And listen to the extra snotty, nasal voice I use when I repeat my version of what they said? What've you two got going on?"

MATH BOY: YES, my best friend has girl parts, and sure, her breasts are great; NO, that does not automatically mean that we're fucking!

SUNFLOWER: IKR! I mean, I even catch you glancing at them now and then; but I'm like, "He's a guy, and they're boobs. He's gotta look sometimes, it's just how they're wired." I get that.

SUNFLOWER: Hell, I love 'em, too. My own AND others! I mean, you're SUPPOSED to like it when a cute guy or girl notices them, aren't you?

SUNFLOWER: OK, so that cute guy's pretty much my brother; it's still nice.

MATH BOY: Why can't people get that?

SUNFLOWER: Yeah! I'm like, YOU approached ME because you thought I was hot, you're WITH me because you're someone I thought it MIGHT be cool to try more than "I make you my fucktoy, get what I want from you, and never even think of you again" for a change. If my best friend thinks I'm hot, why shouldn't I be flattered?

SUNFLOWER: Hell, he's hot, too, but I don't do anything about it! I mean, he's got a dick, I've seen it! Doesn't mean I'm all over it! And he's a self-confessed tit man, he's GONNA look! I know he's had bigger, I've seen the girls he's been with; and after all these years, he still finds mine worthy of the odd overly-long glance. How can that NOT be flattering?

MATH BOY: I like them because they're boobs, Mistress. I love them because they're my best friend's.

SUNFLOWER: Aww! Why are people such suspicious assholes, Master?

MATH BOY: Down side of Doing What We Do, I guess; finding out who people are, deep inside. Hey, maybe WE should get married! Then they'll think we're cheating on each other with THEM, instead of the other way around!

SUNFLOWER: OMG YES! I'd be happy to introduce myself as "Julie Medina" any day, as opposed to "Andrews, no fucking relation; and since there's no chance that you WON'T do it, I WILL be judging you as a person based on the QUALITY of the dumbass Mary Poppins/Sound of Music joke, that you think you JUST came up with! Oh, superkali-HEARD IT MY WHOLE FUCKING LIFE-adocius!"

MATH BOY: It's not much of an improvement, though. Everyone knows how to spell and pronounce your name. Medina is six letters, and people never stop finding new ways to get it wrong. You learn what kind of rap fan someone is when you always have to tell them, "Like Tone Loc."

SUNFLOWER: LOL! Maybe we could choose a new name together. Something that suits us better.

MATH BOY: I can think of a few. But I'm sure you and Helen have Oktoberfest to tear up. I should get back to the dorm and study.

Julie frowned at the phone and removed the towel from her head.

SUNFLOWER: Fuck that, Troilus! That bitch isn't going to make you retreat to your books! You're gonna go out and pick up a girl with even bigger tits, you're gonna fuck the shit out of her, and then you're gonna tell me all about her.

Helen Parker was walking into the room with a tray of breakfast when Julie undid the towel wrapped around her and let it fall onto the couch she'd been sitting on. She took a picture of her boobs and hit Send. Helen sighed.

"Hey, Troy." Helen said with a bored-sounding voice and an eyeroll as she set the tray down on the coffee table.

SUNFLOWER: Helena says hi. Now there's your baseline. Go out and find a bigger pair than these, Master.

SUNFLOWER: And no more suspicious bitches!

MATH BOY: I might find bigger, but not better. I Love You, Mistress.

SUNFLOWER: I Love You too, Master. Now go get laid, I'll probably go do the same.

Helen popped a grape in her mouth, then tossed one at Julie, who caught it in her own.

"I'm guessing from the traditional 'go find a bigger pair' pic that Troy's been dumped again."

"Yeah. It sucks. He's such a sweet guy, he deserves better."

Helen stifled a groan and the things she wanted to shout at Julie, like the fact that nobody in history has ever said that someone of a gender that the speaker is attracted to can "do better" without the silent "like me" at the end; and NO, normal boy-girl BFFs do NOT have graphic conversations about their sex lives in public and trade their conquests' boob pics back and forth; by cramming a piece of toast in her mouth.

"So, what's the plan?" Julie asked, once she'd finished.

"We hit Oktoberfest, pick up some Aryan boys, maybe a St. Pauli Girl or two, fuck 'em blind, ROB 'em blind, and leave all of them stuck here naked and trying to explain everything to the manager. Ya know, for what the Nazis did to Propappou's village. After that, Rome, where we get even with Il Duce for Papa Emay, too."

"You ARE a vindictive fucking cunt, you know that?" Julie said with a kiss. Helen took hold of the rest of Julie's robe and pulled it away from her.

"It takes a fucking cunt to love a skanky cow like you." Helen said, kissing back and stroking Julie's breast.

"Maybe we could do some Right Here Fucking before going out for Revenge Fucking." Julie replied, enjoying the sensation.

Helen nodded as Julie began helping her out of her clothes.

* * *

Leonard Whyte CBE looked out over the Seattle skyline view from the Space Needle. A sly grin was on his face as he stood on the spot where, on a clear day like this, one can see Mt. Rainer; obscured by the mountains surrounding Seattle from any vantage except that one. A single step any direction, and it was gone again.

He held the prototype of the Whyte 6000 smartphone, and ran his fingers through his short, gray hair, smiling expectantly at it. It would be two months before it was available to the public. A stock ticker scrolled along the bottom of the screen. His grin turned to a smile when it rang. He answered immediately and strolled over to a bench for the conversation.

"Twenty-six minutes, Miss Parker. Brava." He said, his unscrambled voice confirming the Yorkshire accent that education and money hadn't been able to completely beat out of him. "And may I say what a delight it was to meet Ms. Delvecchio in person. Don't worry, I wouldn't dare put a scratch on a national treasure like San Finzione's own Tina Fey."

"I should've known to start looking at tech moguls first, Leonard," Contessa Helena de San Finzione's voice said on the other end of the line, obviously on speaker. "Your love of hiding behind it should have made it obvious in hindsight."

"One woman's hiding is another man's protective barrier, Miss Parker."

"Ok, you know what?" She responded. "I know you thought the 'Miss Helen Parker' thing would get to me because the past is clearly an issue for you, so you thought it would be for me, too. I called you on that. And I get that when someone has you pegged, you can't give them the satisfaction of acknowledgment. You'd committed to the 'Dredging Up My Past' bit, so you had to keep going with it. But now that I know who you are, Leonard, I gotta ask: Do you still feel the need to keep it up, or do I start calling you Lenny? Fine name for a Yorkie, but what kind of name is Lenny for an Oxford Man?"

He paused a moment before answering.

"Very well, Contessa. Civility is very important. I apologize for that. So, how'd ya figure me out, Mrs. de San Finzione?"

"Whyte Telecom," she answered. "Are you new to this whole 'criminal mastermind' thing, Leonard? Cause I'm willing to give you a few months, let you go try to blow up the Eiffel Tower or blackmail the UN with your weather machine; you know, get a feel for it. Then we can pick things up right back where we left off."

"Figured it'd go unnoticed, I admit. Whyte Telecom is where I made my first billion, and decided that there are plenty of billionaires, and you, yourself, are probably one of the world's first trillionaires, so let's shoot for quadrillionaire, shall we? Whyte Phones the brand of choice for crack dealers and terrorists the world over." Whyte chuckled. "They said I created eighteen tons of waste when I shrank the size of the SIM card by half a millimeter for the Whyte 3000. And I'm guessing by the laughter and your jovial mood, that you're in the company of Troy and Julie Equals, correct? Hullo."

"Leonard says hi, guys." She said to someone on her end. There was an "Eat a dick, Leonard" in Julie's voice in the distance on her end before Helena resumed. "Yeah, I told them all about you, Leonard."

"Oh, is that the artist Julie Equals?" Leonard asked. "I've purchased a couple of Julie Equals originals since we last talked, Contessa."

"You can return those at any time for a full refund." Julie said, approaching the phone now. "I don't want YOUR money or MY work hanging anywhere YOU can see it. Whatever you paid for my stuff, my husband and I will get by without it."

"Oh, I know you will, Mrs. Equals. Mr. Equals is no slouch in the money department. If anyone looks closely enough at the public financials of a small, quiet, out-of-the-way corporation called Trans-Universal Exports, which... REALLY, Mr. Equals? But what a track record they have! It's as if they know market trends before they happen. Buying low, but short of rock bottom; and selling high, but well before the bubble bursts. Always quits while he's ahead, satisfied to turn one dollar into eight; when he knows he could be making ten or more by riding the wave. But who cares about the guy who got out at EIGHT, right? Who even notices that he doing that all day, every day? Here an eight, there an eight, everywhere an eight-eight. Not necessarily eight, mind you, but it does add up quickly, doesn't it? Everyone talks about Midas, but who ever heard of a King with a Bronze Touch? Who even notices that he's got so many Bronze Medals that his beautiful wife could melt them down and recreate the Colossus of Rhodes with his face?"

The women all looked at Troy. He looked at Helen's phone, silently. He knew why they were looking at him too, but didn't say anything. He often employed his Greek heritage in his lessons about Doing What They Do responsibly. One of them was an Olympic Medal analogy that wasn't that far off from Whyte's, but with enough of a difference that he could have come up with it on his own. The look on Julie's face said that she was now contemplating making a Colossus with Troy's face.

"But Trans-Universal's Corporate Giving Program is where one truly learns whom Troilus Equals is. Discreetly supporting so many worthwhile causes, never seeking any accolades. The only 'thank you' they ask is the tax receipt and their anonymity. They claim their deductions, of course, but claim no expenses on the Program itself, not even giving himself a salary for running it, which would be completely legal. Except the one dollar a year that the President, Treasurer, and CEO pays himself, of course. Completely legitimate; every 'i' dotted, every 't' crossed, and all completely beneath anyone's notice or care. Lots of news shows would just love to do a human-interest story about him if they knew. 'Troilus Equals: The 28-Year-Old Multi-Millionaire Philanthropist You've Never Heard Of.' Kinda sickens me, really."

"Mr. Whyte," Troy's voice came from her side. "I proposed to my best friend, and she said yes. Her father entrusted me with a firearm to defend his daughter. The Colonel often compliments me on my handshake. My secret is that my workouts focus on grip, arm, and upper body strength. My reason for THAT is a secret worry that, on the day Daddy's Little Girl squeezes my hand bringing his first grandchild into the world, my Partner-In-Everything may very well rip off my arm and beat me with it. This morning, she did something to me with her mouth and a warm mocha latte that I will be writing a letter to a dirty magazine about some time later today."

"That'll be our sixth, right hon?" Julie's voice, returned to the background, came.

"Fifth, dear. Our drive down the Al-Can ended up a two-parter, but still counts as one. But back to you, Mr. Whyte. La Contessa requested she paint my portrait, and my wife agreed because they both love me that much. For my last birthday, My First Girlfriend issued me a San Finzione Ministry of Intelligence License to Kill."

Helen cut in.

"That was a gag gift, Troy. I mean, yeah, it's real, but still."

"My point, Mr. Whyte, is that I speak without hyperbole when I say that your last four words, coming from your lips, flatter me more than I have ever felt in my life."

"You're a very loyal ex-boyfriend, Mr. Equals. Have you seen the All-Star Cast that's traipsed through her bedroom since?"

"She's My FIRST Girlfriend, sir, but I never accepted her resignation. I'm also a very loyal grandson. So please understand, sir, that your last comment compels me to tell you to go fuck yourself and the goat and the whore that conceived you."

Sounds of laughter and kissing came from the other end of the line.

"Now, Troilus," Helena said, in a mock tone of condescending to a child. "That was very rude. Mr. Whyte called to threaten Yia-Yia, and he's a very busy man, so let's not keep him. Let him deliver his threat so he can get on with his day." She went back to her normal voice. "Sorry about that, Leonard. KIDS! Ya know? Please, go on."

"I'm glad you're having fun with this, Helena, did you know that? Because with your 'no bystanders' rule, I'm forced to invent fun of my own."

He looked down at the street far below. A limousine was stopped at a red light.

"You really should have been at the ceremony, Helena. Everyone who's anyone was there. Why, even the Elders sent a delegation."

Helen's voice became serious. Leonard watched as below, a pair of motorcycles pulled up to either side of the limo.

"And why are the Elders worth name-dropping, Leonard?"

"Because of the recent death of a man whose only crime was sharing a name with someone whom I pulled entirely out of my ass. An act of appeasement to... what do the Triads call you? Oh, yes. 'The Viper That Speaks All the Tongues of Man. I'm sure the representative you sent to let the Elders know that the matter was settled was very convincing. The Triads were certain the issue was resolved. An unprovoked attack would catch them completely off guard. And it's important because someone established a No Innocent Bystanders rule, and... well, I'd hardly call a team of Triad lawyers and accountants 'innocent.' Would you, Helena?"

Below, a van pulled up very close behind the limo. The driver caught on a second too late, just in time to ram into a garbage truck that'd stopped in front of him.

"So, if anything happened to their delegation, say..."

He held his phone up in the air as the men on the motorcycles opened fire with sub-machine guns into the limousine from both sides, audible over the phone, even from the six hundred and five-foot observation deck of the Space Needle. Leonard brought the phone back up to his ear and spoke.

"That, for example, they don't get paid if they kill the driver. Bystander, you see. Unless he killed himself just now, ramming into that garbage truck, but that was entirely his decision; I wouldn't fault them for that. I'm sure he'll live at least long enough to remember the words... I don't have it written down in front of me. What's the Cantonese for 'Slavery and Human Trafficking DO NOT happen in San Finzione' again?"

Those had been the exact words of her message to the Elders, that she'd sent back with the thugs Whyte had manipulated into trying to smuggle kidnapped women through San Finzione. She clenched her fist and took another deep drag of her cigarette to stop herself from shouting into the phone. Trying to get to her had been Whyte's motif from the beginning. She couldn't let him have the satisfaction of flying into a rage and screaming at him now. Or letting her friends see that side of her, especially Susan.

"Well, I have to congratulate you, Mr. Whyte. The warehouse thing and sending Morgan were the last clever things at which you've succeeded, and given your track record since, I kind of thought you'd blown your wad there. I mean, the war with the Elders will be easy enough to stop; I won't even need to use my abilities when they hear your confession. Oh, didn't I tell you, Leonard? I had the Minister of Intelligence put a tap on my own phone, just in case we ever got a chance to talk like this. We knew we wouldn't be able to trace you, of course, but we still had to try. Routing it to my birth parents' old house in Alaska was a nice touch.

"But without the recording, the Triad problem might've taken me all week to sort out, forcing me to miss the auction. So, don't get me wrong, this is still clever. I mean, take a cookie on your way out for the effort. But now the Elders are going to learn your name and how you've been playing them. You've got bigger problems now than me." Helen took a drag. "Bigger might be the wrong word, because I'm still your biggest. 'More problems' let's say, then."

"Indeed, I have, Contessa. But nothing I won't be able to solve once Springheel is mine. For now, though, the Elders are your problem, and I'm certain more will crop up as the week goes on. But I'm interrupting your reunion with The Equals. I should let you get back to your friends and preparing for the Elders response to the hit. I mean, what are the odds that traditional old Chinese gents like them will fall into that old 'saving face' cliché and have no choice but to hit you back harder before they'll be willing to talk peace. I wonder if they know about the Equals, too? I'll be better about calling this week. Ta-Ta!"

He ended the call, smiling as police cars and fire trucks gathered at the scene below. He breathed deeply, and caught scent of something. Fresh-baked pretzels? Yes. One of those sounded good to him right now. With a little cup of that cheese goo that Americans like so much. Lovely!

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