This is actually my second Black Friday story. The first was published three years ago. It needs some editing, but is otherwise kind of fun.
I’d like to think this story is really clever, but–back off Seven–the truth is it’s probably not as slick as I want it to be. Still, it was fun to write, and I like the riddle quality of it. Part of the fun of developing this kind of fiction is hiding what’s really happening in plain sight. That said, if you read it all the way through and find yourself scratching your head wondering what the hell is going on, click this link for your ah-ha moment.
The Dark Calling will be back next week. Apologies for yet another week off from the series, but, you know, Nimue asked.
back in black
“They can all piss off,” Two said.
“Stop pouting. You still have more than me.” It was One. She reclined in her chair, voluptuous curves wrapped in a tight silk blouse. Her fingers traced the ridge of her collar bone absently. She made it look like she had no idea what she was doing.
“Do you hear yourself? It’s like Six is feeding you lines.” Two had a point.
“And there’s not a hint of Five in the way you’re talking to me? Have the two of you been hanging out again?”
Two gave her a sheepish look.
“We get drinks together sometimes,” he said.
“You get drunk together, you mean. I’ve seen you. I hang out in the same places. It’s not like you guys have the bars all to yourselves.” She used her elbows to push her breasts together, looking down at the resulting cleavage.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, give it a rest. Those things aren’t toys.”
One grinned like the Big Bad Wolf waiting in gramma’s bed.
“There are more than a few people who would disagree with that assessment,” she purred. She leaned forward, giving him a generous view. Her lips glistened as she ran her tongue from one corner of her mouth to the other.
“I’m not buying what you’re selling,” he said.
“It’s okay, really,” she said. “Plenty of people are.”
The door to the conference room opened. Three, Five, Six and Seven walked in like they owned the place–which made perfect sense. They did. At least for that weekend. Granted, it wasn’t really Seven’s gig, but he never let anything happen without profiting from it. He had his hand in all the pots. That’s why he was at the top of the food chain.
Seven nodded a greeting to the pair.
“One, Two,” he said.
“Still sulking?” Three asked. He and his twin, Six, smiled.
“He wants what we’ve got,” Six said. She made walking look like gliding, her tall, lean figure almost as visually appealing as One’s. Almost.
“Where the fuck is Four?” Five asked. “That motherfucker. I swear, if he was on time once, just one motherfucking time, I would shit a solid gold brick.”
His fists were clenched, knuckles white.
“Sit,” Seven told Five. “Save it. Four gets here when he gets here.”
Everyone found a seat.
“Let’s get right to it,” Seven said. “I have other pressing matters.”
He didn’t have to say it. They all knew. He was in high demand. He said it because he liked reminding them that he was top dog.
“Black Friday,” Seven said. “Three and Six, it’s your show.”
Two grunted. Seven considered the passive aggressive gesture for a moment and then called him out.
“Let’s deal with that, first. Two, I understand this used to be your weekend. I can sympathize with how you must feel, seeing it evolve into something that is more the twins’ forte. You’re in a support role now. Learn to live with it, and try to do so with some grace. Practice humility, please.”
One giggled, a thoroughly feminine laugh that was two parts little girl and one part porn star.
“Want me to deal with this?” Five asked. “My way?”
Seven cleared his throat.
“I don’t think that will be necessary–will it, Two?”
The door swung inward. Four made his way in, slowly. He sighed several times in the short distance from the door to the last available seat, as though the effort required to walk was almost too much to bear.
“Sorry,” he said under his breath.
“What was that?” Five asked.
“Eh,” Four said.
Seven raised a hand.
“Enough,” he said to Five. “Let it go. Two, are we going to have a problem?”
Two huffed. He was out ranked, out played and out numbered.
“No,” he said.
“Excellent,” Seven said. Beside him, Five didn’t even try to mask his disappointment. His fist, still clenched tight, bounced on the table top. He wanted to hit something. Or someone.
“Then you should all know the plan,” Seven continued. “The same as last year, with a moderately accelerated time line. Two, do what you can on Thursday. Push them as hard as you like. Three and Six, you should ply your wares, as well.”
The twins smiled like cats who had just eaten the canary.
“Four, you have free reign on Thursday, too, but I want you to withdraw completely on Friday,” Seven said. Four shrugged by way of acknowledgement.
“Five, capitalize on the football games if you like, but otherwise allow for peace. Your big move will be on Friday at the checkout lines and on the roads. Got it?”
Five nodded, still glowering at Two.
“One, my dear, do what you do. Wherever, whenever.”
One gave Seven a shameless wink. He ignored it.
“Anything else?” Seven asked, looking down at his watch. When no one spoke, he stood. “Very well. I want to remind you all that we’re on the same team. Play your part. Keep your egos out of it.”
Two rolled his eyes.
“Sage advice from the master,” he said.
“Indeed,” Seven said. “I must be going. Five, please walk me out.”
It was a tactical move. It put distance between Five and Two and immediately eased the tension.
Seven and Five left quickly, followed by the twins.
“You always want what you can’t have,” Six said as she passed Two.
One didn’t move. When only she, Two and Four remained, she slid her hand under the table and placed it on Two’s leg. She massaged his thigh, her fingertips drifting toward his groin.
“Want me to help you with that tension?” she asked. “I’ll let you go as long as you want. I know what kind of appetite you have when you get started.”
“Sure,” Two said. “I could do with some pleasure overload.”
They left arm in arm, the lesser players content to feed each others’ needs for the night. Two flicked off the light on his way out.
Four stood slowly. He looked toward the door in the dim light and then decided it was further away than he cared to walk. Sighing, he fell back into his chair.
He didn’t move again for days.