The conservatory was a split-level affair, the musicians, or in this case politician, displayed on a raised section, two steps up from the main floor. Mayor Wilkins stood halfway between two pale pillars with the night sky's darkness muted but not hidden by the white, gauzy curtains covering the windowed wall behind him.
"And last but not least, I'd like to thank you ladies for all the wonderful work you've done, and I'm sure will continue to do, towards the gentrification of Sunnydale, a cause near and dear to my heart." As he looked out over the applauding crowd, Mayor Wilkins was struck by how closely current society's casual dress resembled the ritual robes of the Sustiri demons. He briefly thought that a demon fashion designer could make a killing amongst the upper class ladies of Sunnydale but, really, high-fashion was a sidebar to the real show. Not worth his trouble.
As he stepped down the marble steps into the main room, smiling politely at the gathered crowd, he whispered to Mr. Trick, who had joined him from out of the shadows, "Now lets try to get me out of here without any delays, shall we?"
"Oh, Mayor Wilkins. Yoo hoo. Over here," he heard a high-pitched voice calling as Mrs. Louise Doud, taking on the prerogative of hostess, called him over to join her by the refreshments. At least she's near the door, he thought.
"Mrs. Doud," he said, taking her hands in his. "I can't begin to tell you how much your self-sacrifice..."
"Oh, please Mr. Mayor," she interrupted. "You'll have me blushing like a schoolgirl if you keep that up."
"You can't have been out of school more than a few years now," he replied as if he hadn't noticed the crows feet around her eyes or age spots on her hands.
"Oh, you are such a naughty man," she said with a pleased smile. Indicating the auburn haired woman standing next to her, Mrs. Doud added, "I'd like to introduce you to Mrs. Rosenberg. She's my right hand woman, well, after Mrs. Wolsey of course."
"Enchanté," he replied, bringing his lips to her hand.
Mrs. Doud frowned slightly and said, "Mrs. Rosenberg brought these little petit fours even though I'd told her there was no need."
"Really?" he asked, looking over the confections. "Well, we can't let them go to waste, now can we?" Picking up a small cake that was covered in a dark chocolate glaze and sprinkled nuts, he added, "Of course, I can only have one or else they'll all go to my waist." As he chuckled at his own joke, Mrs. Doud added a trilling laugh to his.
"Mr. Mayor, you wanted me to remind you of your eight o'clock."
"Thank you, Mr. Trick. I'm sorry ladies but duty calls." He ran a gauntlet of handshakes and polite conversation before making his way out the door and into the backseat of his limo.
"I need them to go away, Mr. Trick."
"Sir," the vampire said silkily. "I thought you'd approve. Gentrification brings wealth into the town, putting more money into your pocket."
"More money into the city's coffers, not into my pocket but that's not the issue. Gentrification has some serious side effects. Family sizes are reduced, for one. This town was built on family values and we can't afford to lose any of it's children. Well, yes, the random demon takes some out here and there but, well, Mr. Trick, do you know why the children are important?"
"You haven't filled me in on any of the details yet, sir."
"Because they're the future. They're my future and I won't have anything interfering with that."
"Of course, Mr. Mayor."
"And then there's the economic changes. Property values go up but do you know what that really means? People can't afford their homes. Homes they've put their whole lives into and people don't like that, nope, not one little bit. They become agitated and unrestful. Aware. A blind populace is a happy populace, Mr. Trick, and don't you forget it."
"I won't, sir," Mr. Trick replied, "but, in regards to the gentrification society, taking out the whole groups seems a bit, um, noticeable."
"Well, golly," Mayor Wilkins replied, slapping his knee. "That sure would be and we certainly don't want to raise suspicions. A blind populace is what we want, unthinking and content. Any group has a few key leaders. If they go away, the rest will disperse, like dust in the wind. Do you like that song, Mr. Trick? All we are is dust in the wind."
"I can't say I'm very fond of it, sir."
"Ha," the mayor laughed. "I guess you wouldn't be. One quick stake to the heart and that's all that'd be left of you."
"I'm hoping to avoid that, sir."
"Yes, I'd imagine you are. Back to the issue at hand. Mrs. Doud is definitely the driving force behind the society but Mrs. Wolsey could cause problems as well and, unfortunately, I don't know enough about Mrs. Rosenberg to judge her yet. Grandmotherly kindness, Mr. Trick. Take out as few as possible so as not to awaken the sheep."
"Very good, sir."
Three days later, Mrs. Rosenberg gave a tight smile and a small wave to Mrs. Wolsey, already seated at a table with her drink, while she stood in line at the crowded coffee shop. At least the man in front of her, some sort of businessman based on the gray pinstriped suit he was wearing, was being reasonably efficient, ordering only one Caffè Americano. The three girls in line ahead of him had waited until they'd gotten to the counter to start debating amongst themselves what they should order.
Finally she was at the counter. "I'll have a dark cherry mocha, please. Oh, and one of those chocolate croissants." As she carried her order over to the table, to join Mrs. Wolsey, Mrs. Rosenberg noticed, with pleasure, that the three girls had found a table outside, while the businessman was seated at the table closest to them. Thank goodness for that, she thought, I won't have to try and hear over the clatter of a bunch of teens.
Mrs. Wolsey started out with a bit of polite conversation, the niceness of the weather and wasn't it a shame about Mrs. Doud, while Mrs. Rosenberg wondered why she'd wanted to meet. She was halfway through her croissant before Mrs. Wolsey got down to business. "And I'm sure Louise, Mrs. Doud that is, would want us to carry on her good work."
Mrs. Rosenberg took a sip. "I'm sure she would. It's just David and I are planning a trip to Hong Kong, Japan, that sort of thing," she said with a wave that was supposed to suggest an extended trip to the Orient. "We'll be gone for quite a while, months actually. When we return, I'll be happy to see where the society has gotten to."
"Oh, don't you worry," Mrs. Wolsey said, the flowers in her hat bouncing up and down in agreement. "We'll be going strong when you're back and ready to join in again."
If either woman had noticed the businessman flipping open his cell phone as they left, they wouldn't have given it any mind. There was no reason to think it had anything to do with them.
A week later, as Mrs. Wolsey's coffin was lowered into the ground, Mayor Wilkins stood at the edge of Shady Grove cemetery, admiring the landscaping. It had been over a hundred years since he'd gardened himself. He'd never had a green thumb himself but Edna May had been a wiz with plants and he'd helped her in the garden. It had been restful. Sometimes his work still reminded him of those far of days. Like this little job, pruning away the weeds so the garden would grow to his design. As he heard a faint "ashes to ashes" from the funeral, Mayor Wilkins checked his watch.
Fifteen minutes later he was striding across the marble floors of the funeral home to join Mrs. Rosenberg by a coffee table. Picking up a few candy coated mints, he asked her, "Have you ever had any of these? Delicious." He tossed one into the air and caught it in his mouth.
She poured herself some coffee as if composing herself. "Umm, yes, they are quite good."
"And speaking of good, are you ready to take up the good fight? Step into your predecessor's shoes?" He nodded towards a dark, red velvet curtain, which hid the viewing area. Mrs. Wolsey's coffin had been laid out there earlier.
"My predecessors?" she asked. "Oh, you mean Mrs. Doud and Mrs. Wolsey." She covered her mouth with her hand. Putting her coffee cup down, she added, "I don't think I could. It's just so disturbing, losing both of them in such a short period of time." Turning away, she added some sugar to her coffee, stirring it so quickly that it spilled onto the white tablecloth. "My husband and I are leaving anyway, very soon, for an extended working vacation."
Mayor Wilkins patted her comfortingly on the shoulder. "I'm very sorry to hear that." With a slight chuckle he added, "Not about your vacation, of course, but that nobody will be taking up the mantle. If you change your mind, please let me know."
"Perhaps one of the other ladies," she trailed off.
"Yes, perhaps," he replied. "If you'll excuse me?"
After they'd made their polite goodbyes, Mayor Wilkins whistled his way back to his limo, confident that all was well in Sunnydale.