On the 17th, Mark and Guy were in the Regulating Room, Mark watching the video screens of the clients having sex with the Commodities while Guy was entering data into the computer.
“So, are those new Creeps programmed and ready?” Mark asked.
“Just about…there,” Guy said as he typed a few keys. “All done.”
“Good,” Mark said. “I have to go meet with the police commissioner and the Ministry of Labour, give them their thank-you gifts.” He grabbed the handles of two briefcases filled with cash.
“I’m surprised you’re not having your usual lunchtime fu–,” Guy said, first with a slight frown of disappointment, then remembering he wasn’t supposed to know about what he was about to say. “D-don’t you normally go to F-Fredo’s for lunch around now?”
“No time today,” Mark said. “Gotta give this cash to our business allies.”
“Why do you have to go there physically in this electronic day and age?”
“I could just wire the money to them by computer, I suppose, but I like the personal touch. It reinforces our relationship to give it to them personally, face to face.”
“It’s sure nice having the government on our side,” Guy said.
“It is. I really don’t like the government at all, but we can’t get rid of it. I’m a libertarian, at heart.”
“And a libertine, at hard-on.” Guy chuckled, and Mark’s chuckles followed.
“I’ve always been pleased with the similarity between the words libertarian and libertine, in sound and meaning. Well, if you can’t beat the state, take it over, I always say. With a business like this one, you have to, in order to survive.”
And your hypocrisy in that regard doesn’t bother you at all, obviously, Guy thought.
“I was thrilled when we were able to clinch the legalization of brothels. For me, it was a new sexual revolution, and in my view, the only real revolution. I remember an old play by Peter Weiss, the Marat/Sade, when the Marquis de Sade asks, ‘What’s the use of a revolution without common copulation?’ I don’t remember the exact wording, but the quote was something like that. Anyway, I have to go. Back by 2 PM. Take care of the place for me.”
“I will, Mark. Bye.” Mark went out the door. “And…everything’s set up.” He got his cellphone and called Thea. “We’re ready.”
“OK,” Thea said. “Where’s Mark?”
“He’s off making the payoffs to the cops and the Ministry of Labour,” Guy said. “He says he’ll be back by two.”
“OK, I’ll send an e-mail to him and all the others to get into the staff room for the meeting at that time,” she said. “But I’m letting Mark know last, so he doesn’t interfere in any way before then. Bye.” She hung up, then began typing the e-mail:
To all staff, everyone meet in the staff room at 2:00 PM sharp for a general meeting. IMPORTANT. Stop whatever you’re doing at 1:50 and get in there for a conference with Ricardo Davis and Ken Maynard, who have important policy changes that must be discussed in detail. Only Davis and Maynard will be communicating by phone, because they are too busy where they are to be in the staff room. Everyone else must physically be there to ensure a proper relaying of the information. I just received word from Mr. Maynard himself of this. Urgent. Forward this message to any staff not addressed here.
She sent the e-mail to Mark and every staff member whose name she could remember, while walking through all the halls of Capitol telling everyone and anyone she hadn’t sent the e-mail to about the meeting.
As Mark was being driven to the police station with his two bodyguards, Dino and Leo, in the back seat, he got a message from a staff member on his phone, saying he’d be a little late for the conference. After reading it, Mark said, “What the fuck? Cameron never told me about Maynard or Davis saying anything about ‘policy changes’. Why am I being told about this all of a sudden? Cameron could have told me about this any time earlier today. I’m not too happy about him doing business behind my back. I’m getting the info directly this time, for a change. I’m calling Ricardo.”
As he was dialing the number, his driver asked, “What’s the problem, Mark?”
“Oh, my mixed-up assistant manager, Cameron Thewlis, just sent messages to all my staff about a ‘general meeting’ we’re all supposed to be involved with. We all have to be in the staff room in person, apparently, at 2:00 PM,” Mark said. Ricardo answered his call. “Ricardo? It’s ‘Free Mark’ here. What’s this about a general meeting to make policy changes, and everyone, except you and Ken, has gotta be in the staff room at 2:00 sharp today?”
“What are you talking about?” Ricardo asked.
“You don’t know anything about this?” Mark asked.
“First time I’ve heard about it,” Ricardo said.
“Never mind. I’ll e-mail Ken and find out what’s going on.” Mark hung up and sent Ken an e-mail: “Did you tell my assistant manager about a general meeting to be held in my staff room at 2:00 PM today, everyone attending? Urgent: answer ASAP.”
In two minutes, Mark got a reply. No. What is this all about?
Mark replied: I smell a rat. Let me investigate. I’ll get back to you.
“Alright, Cameron,” he mumbled as he set up an app on his phone to monitor ‘Cameron’, using the tech he’d had implanted on Thea and Guy, slipped in their ears by Petunia and Kusiima. “What are you up to?” He found an archived video recording of her chatting with Guy from a week before. He saw video through her eye and heard through her ear.
“Wait,” Mark said. “That’s a woman’s voice. What happened to Cameron’s gravelly voice?…Oh, of course! It was a disguise! Yeah, come to think of it, I do recall ‘him’ losing that raspy sound and speaking like a girl occasionally. He is a she! Now, who’s this guy—his name is Guy—that she’s talking to?”
“Cameron Thewlis is a girl, Boss?” Leo asked.
“Yeah,” Mark said. “Shut up, I wanna hear what they’re saying. This ‘Guy’…looks familiar. His voice sounds familiar…”
“We’re here, Mark,” the driver said, parking the car in the police station parking lot.
“I’ll go in in a minute,” Mark said, eyeing the video on his phone with obsessive eyes. “Who the fuck are they?” His ears drank up every word of their conversation, which seemed to be in the living room of their home.
“…and then we’ll get Petunia out of there,” she said.
“Petunia?” Mark said. “Petunia…LeBar, the one we renamed Walker? That’s it! ‘Thewlis’ was that woman…what was her name? Cummings! She wanted to prove that Petunia was in Capitol against her will. Guy was that kid, her brother! His voice, his manner, is kind of like…Jack!”
Mark turned off the video, and switched his phone over to the app for monitoring ‘Jack’. He found an archived video recording monitoring Guy from several days before, seeing what one eye of his saw and one ear of his heard.
Mark was looking at video of Thea’s face, in the same living room, for Mark recognized its distinctive wallpaper and furniture, green and brown plant and tree motifs on the walls, and polished wooden chairs and tables. Her voice was identical to ‘Cameron’s’ non-gravelly voice. He heard Guy’s voice…the voice of ‘Jack’.
“How, Thea, will we sync up the use of the green Creeps on the staff in the staff room, with Mark in there, sync that with you calling Officer Van Gorder and the Minister of Justice?” Guy said in the video.
“Now, I know,” Mark said. “They want me in that room with them, so they won’t set the Creeps loose yet. Let’s hurry up and give the commissioner his money, then get back to Capitol.”
“But what about the Minister of Labour?” Dino asked. “We have to give him his cut.”
“Paying him will have to wait for the moment,” Mark said, opening the car door. “Hurry up. Let’s move!”
Mark and his bodyguards rushed into the police station, his bodyguards even shoving people out of the way as he made a beeline to the commissioner’s office. He didn’t even knock on the door; he just barged in.
“Excuse me, Doug,” he said. “I’ve got an emergency situation back at work. Here you are.” Mark plopped the suitcase of money on the commissioner’s desk. “Sorry. We’ll talk later. Bye.”
Officer Van Gorder, who was in the commissioner’s office, looked at Mark with widened eyes as she saw him and his men rush out of the building with the same rudeness as when they’d entered. They got back into the car.
“Drive!” Mark snapped. The driver started the car.