Pinot Noir ch. 5 (part 1)

"Remind me. Why am I doing this again?" Fakir asks, fiddling with his black bowtie. He's standing in the middle of the room, tracking Duck's progress around him, the motion of his head further complicating the bowtie procedure. Both of them are half-dressed, each new to their high-class couture- Fakir rented a tuxedo on Duck's orders and Rue had a dress ordered for Duck especially. Putting it on is a multi-part process; she had to go buy all manner of new undergarments and whatnot, much of which employ technology Fakir hadn't known existed. Mercifully, he was excluded from that part of the adventure (he acted disappointed). But his keen detective's brain was piecing the thing's arcane function together, noting the lift it provided to key parts of his orange-haired lover's physique. Despite that, his gripes continue as he tugs ineffectually at the strip of silk. "This thing was not cheap, and by that I mean very not cheap."

"I keep telling you, we're going to a big fancy film premier! It's not just a premier, either, it's strictly cast and crew, plus friends. We're going to be the first people in the world to see it! Rue invited me 'specially and told me to bring you along, she so wants to meet you!" As the man adjusts his cufflinks and starts on his shirt garters, his gaze follows her around- she's tugging at a thing on a thing and then putting a thing on over it, before withdrawing a pair of stockings from a little bag with a French word on it- he recognizes stockings, he's not stupid- and as they travel up her lithe, pale legs, his activity stops altogether. "Hey! Hurry up, we've still got the hairdressers in an hour!"

He gets back to work, and once the elastic bands are firmly pulling his shirt down and free or wrinkles, he begins to don his trousers, jet black with the classic stripe on the side. By the time he's done save the coattails and tie (he gave up), Ahiru is fully dressed in a beautiful blue evening gown, sparkling with sequins and ensconced with a cream-colored fur around her neck. "Oh, Duck. Wow." Is all he can say.

She giggles. "A year ago, my idea of dressing up was a flannel shirt and not being covered in cow shit." She twirls around, showing off the beautiful outfit from all angles. Her long hair, cheery color perfectly offset by the brilliant color of the dress, flows behind her as she spins. Her big blue eyes shine, full of spirit and joy like always.

"Mmm. You're so sexy when you talk about excrement." Fakir draws her to him, snaking a hand to the small of her back. "If I wasn't aware of the logistical nightmare it would create, I'd have you here and now."

She giggles again. "Oh, stop! I can't wait for tonight, though- I want to know what it's like when rich people do it!" She runs a small hand down his tuxedo shirt. All the layered fabric is unfamiliar to her.

Fakir laughs heartily. "God, a third of their income must go towards buying new supportive undergarments that get broken or ripped in fits of passion. I know I'm gonna rip that whatsit of yours to tatters."

"Please, do it now. I can hardly breathe in this thing." She stands on tiptoes and kisses him. But before he can actually cause any damage to her fastidiously-donned garments, though, she breaks away from him, and squeezes his hand. "I'm going to go do my makeup, I'll only be a sec."

As she vanishes into the bedroom, he watches her go. The whatsit, the inner one… whatever its intended purpose is, it's working. Fakir smiles to himself, and with a quite whistle, goes back to fiddling with his bowtie.

They make quite an odd sight; Lady Rue Corvo in full regalia dragging along a shorter, thinner redhead whose head seems stuck looking straight upwards. She keeps grabbing Rue's gown and pointing at little details of the decoration- the ornate ceiling of the hotel ballroom, the various actresses and actor's wives' clothing, the band along one wall playing a cheerful number for small orchestra. A plump lady is singing but the words are lost over the din of 300 socialites socializing.

At the center of all the tuxedoed men and bejeweled women stands one Mr. Gerald Charon, a severe but pleasant-looking chap in his late 30's with graying temples and thick eyebrows. By the way he stands, figures Duck, he's done some military service- She learned to tell from the other cattle hands back on the ranch where she worked in her younger days, just a couple of little details but they're there. He stands very straight, but doesn't appear to be making any effort to do so. His clothing is immaculate, but many details show signs of permissible personalization- a neat pocket square, tie bar and pins matching silver inlaid with mother-of-pearl. When he raises his drink she sees his cufflinks match too. He turns to look at them before they're within earshot of his conversation with a bespectacled Asian man.

"…And here she is now! Lady Rue Corvo, please meet my esteemed colleague, Sato-San all the way from Tokyo! Mr. Sato here is one of the world's finest cinematographers." Gerald Charon's deep voice rumbles. The two men turn to face the oncoming pair of women.

Rue glides up to the pair of well-dressed men, Duck trailing behind her and exhibiting approximately none of her aristocratic grace. She's wearing a deep red gown cut from a shiny material, all draped with wispy translucent flourishes that trail behind her. Her diamond necklace sparkles as bright as her blood-red eyes, dark eye shadow making them appear brighter still. The dress's cut is generous in a manner of speaking (some might even say charitable). Her pale skin seems to glow in the dim room, and there's a lot of it to see glowing. One thing's for sure: She could never get away with wearing the gown on camera.

The starlet smiles radiantly at the bespectacled cameraman, and the lights in the room all seem to dim a bit. "Let's see… Hajimemashite, Sato-San." She performs a perfunctory (but somehow still elegant) half-bow, taking care to keep all of her anatomy accounted for, and upon his returning a lower one, beams again. "I'm such and huge fan of your works. I do believe I've seen them all! Or at least, all the ones that played here in the states."

The Japanese man's serious expression dissipates, leaving a smile on his Oriental features. "Why, to be complimented so by the world's greatest- and most beautiful- star of the screen! A greater honor I could not imagine." He takes a sip from a small ceramic cup Duck didn't notice before. "I invite you to try this subarashi- excuse me, this excellent sake. I am aware of your prohibition… But a joyous occasion without sake is like a clear spring day without falling cherry blossoms… or a camera without a lens! After all, there's no prohibition in Tokyo!"

He brandishes a lacquered-wood box, and from within it he withdraws 2 more tiny cups, fills them with a mysterious whitish drink, and hands them to the women. Upon handing the cup to Duck, he appears to notice her for the first time. "Ara! No need to be shy, my dear. Ha ha! After a cup of osake, your temperament will be as warm as the color of your hair! Kanpai!" And with that, the four toast and drink, Duck a little more reluctantly than the others. The milky, smoothly alcoholic drink has a complex taste and at first she doesn't like it, but soon a warm feeling spreads through her belly and she wants more.

"So, Rue, I see you weren't lying about your friend. Miss Duck, I've heard many good things about you… Descriptions of your good looks fall well short of the mark. I'm Gerald Charon." Says Gerald Charon, scooping up a small hand and planting a quick kiss on the back of it. "My leading lady here won't rest until I feature you in a picture. She can be very convincing, too…"

"Convincing?" Asks Duck, nervously. The sake and the kiss work in tandem to spread a light blush on her cheeks. From behind Charon, Rue winks at her and Mr. Sato chuckles cheerfully.

"Oh, don't take me the wrong way, we're both married. But how can I possibly say no when she looks at me with those big, red eyes… I mean, come on, they're scary!" And with that, he laughs uproariously, continuing even after Rue punches him playfully on the shoulder. Duck can't help but smile. "So, think you can take a break from whatever you do and come out to California for this next one? There's a role for a younger girl in it, and seeing as you dance ballet too, you'd do quite nicely. Whaddayasay?"

Duck notices her tiny cup had been refilled. She downs the thing in one and practically shouts "Absolutely! I won't let you down, Mr. Charon! I'll work hard every day!"

He closes his eyes and smiles. "Ha ha ha! Just what I like to hear. We're catching an express next month, you're gonna love springtime on the coast. Beach weather every day- and they wear a lot less out there, let me tell you! Ah ha ha ha!"

Mr. Sato chimes in. "I'll drink to that! Kanpai!"

"Stupid party, Stupid Tuxedo, cost me 5 damn bucks, lousy…" Fakir's mumbled ruminations continue as he stalks along the room's walls, looking for a place to sit down and enjoy the non-alcoholic beverage he had wasted no time turning into a very alcoholic one, with the help of his hidden whiskey flask. He was told to stay away from Duck until she could talk to Mr. fancy director man for a while, and he doesn't know anyone else… Hell, he doesn't even go to the movies! But his complaints are stifled immediately, upon noticing a familiar face. A long, lean face with a pointy beard belonging to a tall man whose portrait hands on practically every wall in the entire police station. It's the chief, Ross L. Meyer, unmistakably. Unmistakably, because he's turned out in full uniform. Also unmistakably, because with senses true to a career cop, he notices he's being observed in moments. Surprisingly though, upon looking at Fakir, his expression brightens.

"Aren't you Detective Fakir?" He asks, effortlessly parting the crowd over to Fakir. There's so much metal on his jacket he's like a walking mirror ball, only somewhat more gaunt.

"Um. Yes sir, that's me, Detective Fakir. Is there anything I can do for you, Chief?"

"I think you mean, 'how did you know who I am.'"

"Well, yes sir, I was wondering that."

"You should have received an award when you returned to the force from your hospital stay. Did you notice the signature on it- my signature- was genuine and not a stamp?"

"Actually, sir, I did."

"Of course, wouldn't be much of a detective if something like that escaped you. Now, fancy office and big hat I may have, but I assure you- I started out just like you, son. When a man in my force goes down, I know about it- I care about it."

Fakir swallows. Even through the warmth of the man's tone, there's a seriously scary note. "Sir, I'd like you to know that I'm pursuing leads into a connection between illegal drug trade through Chinatown and the Corvo mob."

The older man claps his hands, smiling like a child. "I expected no less! Well that's wonderful, I've been after those greaseballs- er, pardon my French- since their current don was in his 20's. If you can get them on anything, I'll be overjoyed." His tone returns to its previous, serious note.

"See, here's the thing- I spent my entire career working my way up, from beat cop to detective, to field agent in a series of specialized units- organized crime, homicide, etcetera- like a character in a story. I was out there, in the thick of it, doing my part. But eventually, like all great career men, I got stuck behind a desk, where I remain. Rising from desk to bigger desk meant very little to me- I just wanted to go out once in a while and get a thrill. I spent all day writing paperwork about other officers' adventures- I realized I had gone from character to author. So what does one do when he's effectively writing the book of crime and punishment in Steel Cable City?"

Fakir looks down at the ginger ale in his hands, hoping the chief doesn't notice the liberal amount of whiskey he's spiked it with. "Well, sir, I suppose… Give it a happy ending?"

"You're exactly right, my boy. So when I see something happen like a fresh new detective getting shot, I want to give him something he can feel made the whole horrible experience worthwhile."

"Sir?"

"I'm saying, I took an interest in your work, and it's provided me a lot to be proud of. Every time I see your name on a piece of paper it's near words like 'outstanding' or 'great progress.' It's pretty clear you're ready for some more responsibility."

Fakir takes a drink. He remains silent.

"Congratulations, Lieutenant Fakir. You're moving up to the organized crime unit starting Monday- might as well buy that tux." And with that, he turns and walks away.

Fakir takes another drink. He's trying to figure out if his keen detective's mind is playing tricks on him, but in just a moment- "Oh, one more thing. About that young lady you came in with, the redhead who's been talking with Charon and Lady Rue- Just a reminder. There are a lot of benefits to getting married when you're in the SCPD." And the tall man vanishes again.

Fakir gulps the rest of his drink. He remains silent until the man is gone. Then he says quietly to himself, "Lieutenant Fakir."

He grins.

"Oh Duck, I'm so proud of you! Can you believe it? You're going to be an actress!"

"Wow, Rue, I mean, just wow! I never thought in a million years- Thank you so much! I can't thank you enough! "

Rue gazes at the younger girl, tears of joy in her blue eyes sparkling like jewels. They've retreated to a small closet repurposed as a powder room for the event, a mirror and electric light hastily set up inside it not masking the small room's original purpose. The cheap bulb isn't even part of the room- it's taped in, with the cable running out. It's not really big enough for them both. Rue likes it that way. She takes the redhead's hand in hers. "You don't have to thank me. I just like doing nice things for my friends. You feel the same way, right? I read about you saving your detective in the paper, and you didn't even know him!"

Duck looks surprised. "You know about that? About Fakir getting attacked?"

"Yes, dear- to be honest that's one of the reasons I chose Mr. Katz's studio to practice dancing, It was mentioned you attend there. But when you turned out to be such a lovely person, and really… just so lovely…" Rue blushes, expression telling of admiration, and maybe something else. "Duck. Do you like me?"

"Why, Rue! Of course I do, I mean…" Duck fumbled with her words, and suddenly noticed how small the dimply-lit room was- she and Rue were pressed together slightly in order to both fit, which with the way Rue was acting made her a little nervous. It was also getting uncomfortably warm. "You're so, I don't know, elegant, and beautiful-"

"Duck. Please don't hate me for this." And with that, Rue leans toward the smaller girl and kisses her, softly but with no hesitation. As she presses her red lips to Duck's, she closes any space that existed between them, and puts a hand on the girl's back- but it doesn't feel like Fakir's hand. It doesn't feel anything like Fakir. Rue's hands are softer, her lips are sweeter. They don't taste like cigarettes and gin. Duck's eyes are wide open at first, and she sees Rue's are closed. She knows she has to make a decision.

Rue's hands snake up the girl's back, hooking under her arms to her freckled shoulders. She presses herself against the girl, pushes her against the wall- gently, softly. She deepens the kiss, lips parting and tongue stroking the other girl's. Duck realizes there's no decision to be made. Her eyes close, and she dives into the other girl, kissing her back with passionate abandon.

The cheap light bulb taped to the ceiling flickers and dies. Neither one notices.

"GET THE FUCK OUT! COME ON YOU USELESS PIECE OF- YEAH! YEAH!" Mytho screams, half his torso extended from the window of a speeding limousine, waving his beloved Luger in the air and slapping the door. The automobile is swerving like a slaloming skier, leaving serpentine streaks on the street and sending squeals skyward. The gangster's hat blew away blocks back, but he didn't seem to notice, he's been too busy- no, he's been having too much fun- shooting at the pursuant black autos, full of furious Chinese not-actually-dockhands. There's a sack of something in the back seat next to him, something he and Joe had to kill a lot of smugglers to get (so it must be valuable). They're not taking it sitting down, either. "YEAH, YOU [ ] COCKSUCKERS! YOU WANT THIS SHIT BACK YOU'RE GONNA HAVE TO COME AND GET IT!" He expends the rest of his magazine at the car in front, hitting the passenger's seat gunman but missing the driver. Each shot sends a casing flying happily upwards. One of the headlights explodes in sparks.

This is not Joe's first gunfight chase. He's been around the block, so to speak, enough times to know to stay the hell away from Corvo territory- gotta ditch the creeps first. This is, however, the first time he's seen Mytho so utterly batshit crazy. They told him they might see this kind of shit from the young man when they put him on his medicine, but up to a few days ago, his episodes hadn't been nearly as severe. As his appointed Driver, he was put in charge of all aspects of the Boss's health and safety as well as transportation- in fact, despite the title, driving is literally the least of his concerns. Well, in most cases, anyway.

"Boss! I'm gonna give you a clear shot- take out the driver and one of the front tires. Only one! Then we're gonna go right, real fast, so you got about a second, then get back in. Got it?"

"FUCKING DO IT! HA HA, YEAH!" Mytho slides the spent magazine diagonally out of the grip of his pistol and clicks a new one in. Joe begins a right turn, yanks the handbrake back, whips out the rear of the car, and points it straight towards the road they're about to tear down. For a brief second, Mytho is looking down the iron sights right at the driver's forehead.

He pulls the trigger, sending a process in motion that begins with a tiny hammer hitting a tiny dot on a 9mm round in the pistol's chamber and ends in the driver's brains spread out in a vague fan shape all over the back seat of his car. In milliseconds, the mechanisms within the handgun have pushed another round into the chamber and returned the entire process back to its initial state. One happy little casing is sent skyward. With complete confidence in this system, Mytho adjusts his aim to the front left wheel of the vehicle, and begins the process all over again. This time, it's the wheel that explodes, causing the speeding car to slump forward on one side, carriage sending up sparks as it skids along the street, then it shrugs and begins to turn, the simply spins around once. It would have spun around again, if not for the following car smashing into it at 75 miles per hour. The resulting noise is pretty much the best thing Mytho has ever heard. Two happy little casings.

As the limousine peels away, the muffled sound of an explosion and a plume of smoke rising over the buildings assures Mytho they won't be pursued any more. "Ha ha! Great job, Joe! God, look at all this shit- can't wait to find out what it is…" He hefts the probably-valuable bag a couple times. "Anyway, we'd better lie low for a while. How 'bout a little vacation- Maybe Iron Lake? or we could go all the way to Board Walk, but we'd have to cross a lot of state borders…"

"Sure thing, boss. Let's get out of here, head east, and decide on the road. Hey, Boss, what do you think that is?" He points across the white-haired man and out of the right window.

"What? What what is?" Asks Mytho, peering out. The last thing he sees is a group of alcohol picketers in front of a former bar he knows to currently be a speakeasy. Then Joe's blackjack sends him into a deep, deep sleep.

"Sorry, boss… Just following orders." Mumbles the driver, as he pulls a U-turn and begins to drive back to Don Corvo's mansion.

"Who's first? Been waiting to do this for a while…" Fakir chuckles to himself, walking into his and Duck's apartment. Duck is close on his heels, unsure of the meaning behind his words, but nervous nonetheless of his cheeriness. "Oh, yeah! I hate this thing." He crosses the living room to a decorative plate given to him by someone (he honestly has no recollection), and simply drops it on the floor, reveling in the sound of it shattering on the hardwood.

"Fakir! What are you doing?" Duck asks, concernedly. She had no feelings about the plate one way or another, but seeing Fakir so recklessly break something has set her thoroughly on edge. "Stop!"

"Oh, I'm just getting started." He replies, taking off his hat and tossing it on the table. He points to the shiny bar on one of his lapels, says "This," and then the white Steel Cable Police patch that only sergeants and above wear, "And this, are going to make sure we're living in style from now on. Come on, there's gotta be something in here you want to break."

Duck looks around helplessly. "Well, I guess- I really don't like the curtains much-"

Fakir sidles up to her, hugs her, and mumbles into her hair "Well then tear them the hell up." She giggles.

The pair had just came back from the swearing in ceremony in which several dozen sergeants and Fakir got their long-awaited silver bar, mark of a major step up in their careers, or in the case of Fakir, two major steps up. Major steps up in his paychecks, too, and Fakir got his first one already. That plus the month's speakeasy collection money has him giddy, and after wrestling with the idea of moving yet again and deciding not too, he's settled on a shopping spree and a nice meal with his girlfriend. But before he can redecorate, he has to dedecorate.

He loosens his collar and yanks his necktie out as Duck tentatively grips the ugly yellow curtains in both hands and looks over her shoulder at him for one last reassurance. He smiles and nods. She yanks with all her strength and down comes the beams and curtains all, with a thunk of wood hitting wood, and she giggles again. "Okay, I can see why you wanted to do this. let's break some shit."

Fakir's finished unbuttoning his service shirt and carefully takes it off, laying it flat next to his hat. Much more comfortable in his t-shirt, he windmills one arm and then the other, and then walks over to a crummy, fragile old clock that doesn't work most of the time, and punches the shit out of it. Duck is bouncing around behind him, stomping on something, and laughing like a child. Her behavior doesn't match the fine dress she's waring at all, so Fakir slinks up behind her, catches her mid-hop, and tosses her bodily onto the couch, leaping on top of her. Her face is flushed from exertion and she grins. "You beast! Was this your plan all along?"

"Not quite." He replies, reaching under her for the hooks and loops of her dress, and undoing them one by one, poking her all up and down her spine. She squirms, wriggling out of the garment, and in just her underwear she rolls off the couch and springs upwards again. She pushes him over onto the couch, dives onto him, and pins his arms on either side of his head. They both know he could easily wrench out of her grip, but he doesn't, curious about what she's going to do.

"You looked so handsome up there on stage." She says. "With your uniform and everything."

"Guess I probably did."

"I'm so proud of you."

"Says the soon-to-be actress."

"Oh please. I didn't even have to work for that, it was just a lucky break. You on the other hand- you're the best cop in Steel Cable."

"Guess I probably am. And pretty soon I'll have the most beautiful wife."

"What- What?"

"Duck, I love you. When I saw you for the first time, in that crummy apartment where you cared for me after the incident- I thought you were an angel. Turns out you are. Will you marry me?"

Duck laughs once, disbelievingly. "Oh Fakir, of course! Yes! I- I love you too, I love you so much."

For a moment the couple just looks at each other, their huge smiles telling worlds. Then Fakir hugs the girl to him, prone, and says. "We still have a lot of furniture to destroy, but for now, let's just stay like this."

"Yes sir, lieutenant." She says, and kisses him.

"I really must apologize for the uncouth way in which I treated you. If there had been a better way, I'd have taken it, I promise. However, my son…" The enormous man in his wide-pinstriped suit shifts in his enormous chair, a chorus of creaks and moans issuing from the leather surface, and continues speaking in Italian. "The fact is, you've been a little bit uncouth lately yourself. This is true, yes?"

"Don, What are you talking about? Everything I've done is in the best interests of the Family! I don't know what you're talking about!" Mytho responds truthfully, in English, struggling against the ropes tied around his hands. He's in a simple shirt and slacks, his coat taken when they searched him, and tied at the wrists to keep him from doing anything rash. "I just follow orders!"

"Mytho, My son-in-law. You've always been extremely obedient, and I'm grateful. But in this case, what you don't know... can hurt you. What's the last thing you remember doing, before you woke up here in full faculty?"

Full faculty? What is he talking about? "Father, the last thing I remember doing was double-checking the accountant's figures on our Q3 pharmaceutical revenues to see if he was skimming any for himself. He wasn't, the man's straight as an arrow."

"Do you remember when that was?"

"It was yesterday morning- assuming today is Wednesday."

"Today is Friday, son. You don't remember anything of the last few days because the person you think you are... is only you when I don't have something better for you to be doing." The Don's eyes narrow. "You're an experiment, my son. A tool. The fact that you thought I'd legitimately make a… Fucking German orphan-" he spits at the words- "a member of the family informs me of what a tool you are. No, all you are is a puppet, and I pull the strings. Don't worry though- I'm good at it by now. Well, I thought I was." He heaves a sort of one-handed shrug.

"Father- I don't understand!"

"Piuma. You saw its effects demonstrated recently, did you not? But the new piuma we distribute and the piuma you've been taking for years now are not the same. You see, you don't need a signal to fall under its effects." He takes out his cigarette case emblazoned with the Red-and-black logo, withdraws a smoke, snaps the thing shut, and waves it back and forth before slipping in back into the dark folds of his jacket. "You see-" He lights the cigarette- "You take two pills of Piuma every night. You do this in your sleep, you don't realize it. This much was accomplished with hypnotism. The piuma lasts until the next dose, and as long as it's in your system, certain signals will cause you to fall into the state of- Well, you know. You don't remember these times, and you don't notice not remembering them."

"But- What about my wife? What about Rue?"

"Rue is not my daughter. I adopted her and had records forged to make her appear so to increase the legitimacy of your experiment. After all, it does explain why there's a non-Sicilian on the board. She doesn't know anything."

Mytho chokes slightly. "What do I do- when I'm under it's effects?"

"Oh, you know. Murder, torture, maybe a massacre or two- all standard stuff. It's your recent escapade in Chinatown that has me concerned, however. Not your handiwork- it was all quite impressive. But that fact you did it of your own volition. Puppets don't act on their own. You forced me to make a decision about what to do with you..." His eyes glint, even as tears stream down Mytho's pale face. "...Which wasn't hard, considering the resources I have at my disposal. You see, I view everything as a cost/benefit equation." The huge man stands up, begins to gesticulate. "If the benefit outweighs the cost, I invest. If the cost outweighs the benefit, I cut my losses and find a new enterprise. Fortunately for you, you're still worth my effort. However, I needed a bit more insurance. Send her in!" He calls the last order loudly, and a door opens. Rue is escorted into the room by two men, her arms bound and lips gagged, bruises obvious on her face, tears sparkling in her crimson eyes. The men force her into a seat and exit silently.

"You- you're insane! You're a madman! This whole time I thought-" Mytho gets this far before the pain grows too intense and he begins to hack and cough. Blood and phlegm splatter on the exquisite tilework floor.

"Forget what you thought! In fact, that goes for both of you. I held off on explaining the full details of your little adventure until now, so you could watch her, and she could see the miserable state you're in." He picks up a newspaper from the small table to his side, tosses it to land in Rue's lap. He walks over to her, strokes her purpled cheek, gently removes the gag. "I'll hold it for you. Read it out loud. Use English, so he understands everything."

Between sobs, Rue chokes out a solemn "Fuck you." Without hesitation, Don Corvo winds up and bashes her face with an enormous fist, then in the same gentle voice repeats himself.

"Read the paper, my dearest daughter."

Rue's cheeks, so usually dusted rouge and full of cheer, are marbled with blood, tears and bruise marks. They quiver as she begins to read. "Mmm… Mass- Massacre in Chinatown- Local g-gangs likely involved- number of dead in the dozens? Mytho, whu- what does this mean?"

"Baby, baby, I don't know, I don't know, I don't-"

"Look closer." Rumbles the elated voice of the Don, a grin revealing numerous gold teeth. "Who's that white-haired man pointing a gun at that woman?"

Rue's eyes go wide, ruby irises fully encircled by white, mouth struggling to drop open but for the throbbing pain. "No- God in heaven-"

"What, what is it, Rue, tell me what you're looking at-!"

"It's you. It's you, Mytho." At her words, Mytho's jaw clamps shut.

"No…"

"Oh, yes." says Don Corvo with relish, clapping his white-gloved hands a few times. "Now that you both get the picture, here's the next step." He reaches into his coat pocket, withdraws his cigarette case once more, and opens it with a springy click. He withdraws a single red-and-black pill. "We're going to add one more player to our little game." He saunters back to Rue, roughly grabs her face in his palm, and wrenches her mouth open. He sticks the pill all the way to the back of her throat, chuckling at her attempts to bite his fingers, and then forces her mouth shut again. When he's sure she's swallowed the pill, he leans down to her level, drinking in her hatred eye-to-eye, and whispers to her. "Now listen well, daughter. Your husband is a bad man. He's not a pharmaceuticals company vice president, he's a gangster, a made man in the sicilian mafia. He kills for a living, and he kills for entertainment as well. But he only kills when I say it's OK. Now your role in our little arrangement is simple. If he behaves against my wishes, you will kill him, and then yourself. You will know what this means without remembering having learned it. The gun is in your home. You will know where to find it without remembering having been told."

Rue's eyes have become glassy. She nods, then passes out. Mytho screams.

"NOOOO! RUE! NO, RUE, DON'T LISTEN! DON'T LISTEN TO HIM!"

She doesn't react to this at all. The Don turns to him and says "You should be feeling nostalgic right now, this is exactly how your indoctrination went. Now here's what I want from you. Live your life as though you didn't know this, just as you've been living, and there will be no further complications. Complicate matters and the police will find a high-society open-and-shut murder-suicide case in your house like they see all the time. My organization will take care of you just as it has been if you stick to my rules, but go and do something like this again and you and your wife will both die."

"Why not just kill me." Asks Mytho, defeated and deflated.

"Because, my beloved Mytho. You're providing so much valuable data for a new generation of soldiers- once Piuma is ready and on the streets, within a week I'll have a ten-thousand-man army who will obey my beck and call, completely obliviously and without resistance. I estimate I'll have enough men to seal off the city and overthrow the police in approximately 15 days. Of course, I'll need to know how they behave when they're aware of their addictions, as is practically inevitable, hence, cost-benefit. Now go to sleep, and when you wake up, check the drawer of your bedside table. There's no sense in only using you half the time now, you're going to start working for real when you're awake, too."

"What do you-" But Mytho can't finish his sentence before a blackjack finds his head for the second time in a day and everything goes black.