BÏSTDÅGG ACQUISITIONS




Show a dog a finger and he wants the whole hand
-Yiddish Proverb








Welcome to all Rosicurians and other Theurgists of good will. It is another exciting week here at the Hyperion Institute. We'll laugh, we'll cry; we'll eat our own weight in mango slices.

Today is International Mock a Vegan Day. Would you be interested, Biff Spiffy has constructed a Dr. Seuss-like poem that you may use in your mockery.

As no doubt you have circled on your calendar and know already, Sunday is Hyperion Day! I know what you're thinking: "What do you get for the man who has very little and can afford even less, but has brought so much freakin' joy into my life each and every day with all his columns and movie reviews and rankings and stories and if I really think about it, if I had to pay for that much quality in magazines it would most likely cost hundreds of dollars and it still wouldn't be as good."

I know what you mean.

Luckily, I have a couple of suggestions for you. And even if for some strange reason you hate me and want me to be miserable on my most holiest of days, you should still click on the link because I have exquisite taste, the kind cannibals only dream of!

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[We're back for some more Fagin Dupree. I hope you're enjoying this. I liked this chapter. Hyperion was definitely starting to get more confident here. I might have made too much of my USUAL SUSPECTS in-joke, but frankly, do you want to live in a world where people are aloud to enjoy stories when they won't watch that movie? I think the living would envy the dead! One other thing I noticed is that I can't seem to get Pittsnogle dialogue down very well. Definitely on the to-do list. I very much like the idea of becoming an ethical drug dealer. Hmmm…..Maybe I'll figure out a way to buy my own gifts.]



THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE ADVENTURES OF FAGIN DUPREE


Read Chapter 3



Chapter Four - Holly Gibb: Loan Officer

The interior of Empire Trust was spacious and elegant, with high vaulted ceilings; marble and granite everywhere. Six months ago Fagin Dupree would have been very critical of such opulence, but now he sat there, drinking it all in. People did not want to keep their money in some rattrap with dingy carpets and an aura of neglect. This much obvious expense inspired confidence: it screamed wealth, and people were rushing to be a part of it.

Fagin sat in front of a modern-looking oak desk, waiting for Holly Gibb: Loan Officer (according to her name placard). The plan was to get a loan, so Fagin could afford the house he found, the house he wanted; the house that, unfortunately, cost more than Fagin currently had, even counting his extra-curricular activities. These plans meant a loan, a loan that Fagin had no way to repay. But one thing at a time.

Fagin considered what approach to use. "Holly" did not sound like an older name, so with any luck this girl would be young, maybe even late-20s, although Fagin was not too sure a girl that age would be given such a responsibility. That might be something to play on.

The girl who did sit down at the desk of Holly Gibb: Loan Officer was the last thing Fagin ever would have imagined. She could not have been a day over 19. Her bleached hair was in a shaggy ponytail, with streaks of black and –was that lemon yellow?—running throught. She had a nose ring, and raccoon-level eye makeup. She was attractive; if he met her in a club Fagin would not hesitate. But how did this girl, at this age, get to be a loan officer in this place? Something did not add up.

"So why should Empire give someone like you a loan?" Holly Gibb spoke breezily, as if she was on her cell phone. A plan began to solidify in Fagin's mind.

"The question, Miss Holly Gibb: Loan Officer, is not why you should give 'someone like me' a loan, but how 'someone like you' got to be a loan officer in the first place."

"Oh, that." Holly said nonchalantly, with a shake of her ponytail. "My Uncle Cecil owns the bank."

Bingo.

Just the way Holly said 'my Uncle Cecil' told Fagin everything he needed to know. The loan was guaranteed. However, no need to play that card just yet. A soft-sell might be just as effective.

"I run a small business: BÏSTDÅGG ACQUISITIONS." Fagin began smoothly, proffering his card to Holly. The card was cool as ice: matte black with embossed chrome-colored lettering. Holly Gibb was impressed, running her fingers over the rising words sensuously. "Wicked." She said.

"We deal in mergers and acquisitions in as-yet-untapped and below-the-radar markets."

Holly was impressed with this line too, going so far as to write it down on her pad. In reality, the concept was far from revolutionary. Two weeks ago, by chance Fagin ran into Ricky Velázquez, a small-time street dealer. They hit it off, and Fagin realized the opportunity. Ricky called Fagin "Beast" after witnessing him fight off three assailants, and Ricky continually referred to himself as "Dawg." That produced the name. As for what BÏSTDÅGG ACQUISITIONS actually did…that was the fun part.

"Do you have a business plan?" Holly asked, looking at Fagin with respect and interest.

"Oh, we have a plan, Miss Holly Gibb: Loan Officer, and I could tell you that plan…" Fagin let the silence hang pregnantly. "But I would much rather show you our plan in action. You up for that?'

Fagin cocked his head and looked at Holly intently—not leering—but she was very much aware that he was a man and she was a woman. Holly blushed involuntarily and cleared her suddenly hoarse throat.

"I'm up for anything." Holly managed, proud that no tremor showed in her voice.

"Write down your address." Fagin ordered. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black book, opened it to "G," and placed it on the desk in front of Holly. She wrote her address and phone number down as told.

"I will come for you tomorrow at a quarter to midnight." Fagin said, standing and putting the book back in his pocket. "Now Holly…" She hung on every word. "This isn't a nice safe bank we'll be going to, it is the street, so you must dress appropriately." She nodded as he leaned down close to her ear.

"Wear something your Uncle Cecil would approve of, you know…outside the office." She did not blink, but he saw her tremble.

"Wicked." Was all she could manage.

He looked at her and smile in that slow lazy way of his. "Girl…you ain't lyin'."

*****

Christine's second trip to Pittsnogle Consulting Services went a lot better. Gloria greeted her like family, and the very same HIGHLIGHTS was there too. (Christine put in more work on the crossword puzzle, but got nowhere, deciding it was impossible to solve). This time Frank Pittsnogle did not seem too intimidating either. However, all of Christine's newfound warm fuzzy feelings went out the door when she heard what Pittsnogle had to say.

"We have encountered a few set-backs, Miss Baran." Pittsnogle made it sound like they had to work in the rain.

"What kind of set-backs?"

"During the course of our investigation, Mr. Dupree became aware of our surveillance. He accosted my detectives…there was a struggle…it did not go fortuitously for my men."

"Does he know it was me?" Christine asked, beyond alarmed.

"No, ma'am, he does not, and we will continue trying all avenues of pursuit, but I wanted to be forthright with you and not blow a lot of smoke up that pretty little dress of yours."

"I appreciate that." Christine said uncertainly. What had she gotten herself into?

*****

The Lincoln Navigator pulled up to the curb at exactly 11:44. Holly Gibb was already waiting outside her apartment on the steps. From the ground up: Holly wore black calf-skin boots with a five inch heel, black sheer stockings, a very short black miniskirt, and a white blouse with so many rips that Fagin knew she paid in the hundreds of dollars for the privilege of wearing such rags. Her face had blue and green eye shadow and what appeared to be glitter, and her hair was piled on top of her head in a look so messily casual that Fagin knew she spent hours getting it just right. In short, Holly Gibb: Loan Officer was dressed to kill, and tonight that mattered.

The idea behind BÏSTDÅGG ACQUISITIONS was simple: no one sold drugs on the streets of Atlanta unless "the Beast" sanctioned them. Said Beast did not actually exist except in the hearts and minds of the street, and the fertile imagination of one Ricky Velázquez. Fagin let Ricky run wild, telling horrific stories. The Beast had rules: only pot, X, and a few designer drugs could be sold. None of the hard stuff. The Beast got a percentage (collected by Ricky). And woe to anyone who did not fall into line.

That is what they were doing tonight.

For two weeks, Fagin had Ricky tell stories. Word of what happened in the alley behind Tongue and Groove spread too, inflated with each retelling. No one knew what the Beast looked like, but he already had a reputation. The real masterstroke, though, had been recruiting the enemy.

*****

Pittsnogle watched Christine leave his office with a slight shake of his head. Even being "forthright," Pittsnogle managed to sugarcoat things. The case was all but dead. Too bad: with positive news Pittsnogle had a feeling Miss Baran might have been…most appreciative.

Gloria stuck her head in to say she was going to get coffee, as she did every morning. Pittsnogle nodded absently and went back to his ledgers. A minute later he heard the bell on the front door again; Gloria must have forgotten something.

Pittsnogle prided himself on never losing countenance, but he very nearly gaped when Fagin Dupree walked into his office, cool as a cucumber in an icebox. Fagin looked around at the room, and Pittsnogle felt his life weighed and measured in that glance. Finally, Fagin sat down in the chair as if he owned the place.

"How you doin', Pittsnogle?" Fagin asked amiably. It took a few seconds before Pittsnogle trusted himself to speak.

"I'm doing fine, sir. And yourself?"

"Oh, life is just grand out my way. Have a few bruises from the other night, but they are healing up nicely." Fagin did not appear to have a care in the world, and was in no hurry to get to his point.

"What can I do for you?"

"Well, sir: the other night I got to know a few 'associates' of yours and, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I have to say I do not think you are putting them to the most optimum use."

Pittsnogle was wary; was this a trap? "What did you have in mind?"

"Happy you asked."

*****

The Navigator came to a stop on MLK Blvd. Fagin looked over at Holly. Her eyes were shiny with excitement.

"Are you ready?" He asked.

"Yeah," she said eagerly. "But can I ask a question? One thing I don't understand, Fagin. You had me dress like this…" she motioned to her clothing, "while you're all button-down lawyerly."

It was true. Fagin came to the party in a charcoal gray pinstriped three-piece suit. "For the part I'm going to play," he told her, "this will work best." He then shifted to a cultured lilting English accent. "One other thing: tonight there is no Fagin Dupree. I am Kobayashi, and you are arm-candy."

"Kobayashi?" she said, confused. That alone told Fagin how young she really was.

They got out of the car, immediately joined by the three "detectives" of Pittsnogle Consulting Services, previously met. The men had newly shaven heads, black leather jackets, and 2-foot sections of lead pipe hidden therein. They screamed "hired muscle."

The three flanked Fagin and Holly, walking in lockstep. The group approached a group of three men, dealers. Fagin swallowed, preparing for full English Lawyer mode. If he was going to play Kobayashi…plus, it went well with his Cockney gang. Ricky had supplied the necessary details about the dealers.

"Mr. Price, I presume, along with Mr. Fisher and Mr. George." The three looked at Fagin, mildly amused. A three piece suit and a limey accent will tend to have that affect. Time to see what seeds Ricky had been able to sew.

"I am Kobayashi. I represent my employer. His name…is not for you to know, but he also goes by another appellation, one you have indeed have heard of." Fagin handed over the business card.

"You work for the Beast?" Trevor Price sounded incredulous.

"Indeed I do, Mr. Price. You have—I take it—heard of his proclamation?"

"Yeah, we heard. What about it?" Price put on a brave show.

"We ain't scared of that fool!" Kevin George put in helpfully. "Bring him on!"

"I rather suspect, Mr. George, you might feel differently should your poor fortune come to include a face-to-face meeting with my employer."

"Whatever." Trevor Price responded. "We don't roll over for nobody. You tell this 'Beast' he wants a piece o' me, I'm right here."

Fagin looked at Price a long minute, an appraising glance. "Well, Mr. Price, men of good will can disagree. Perhaps we can arrange such a meeting. Good evening to you, sir."

Fagin stuck out his right hand in a friendly gesture. Trevor Price shook it uncertainly. His caution was well founded, but he should have paid more attention to the hand he was shaking.

Hidden in Fagin Dupree's right palm was the industrial-strength military version of the TASER X-26, which delivered an electrical charge to the body, cutting off the person's neuromuscular control. It was non-lethal force (just barely), and had the practical effect of making Trevor Price convulse uncontrollably, and then slump to the ground. And because of Fagin's deft hand-movements (he'd practiced), to the casual observer the whole thing appeared to come about as the result of a normal handshake.

Mr. Fisher and Mr. George definitely had that opinion, and stared at Fagin/Kobayashi in stunned disbelief. At this moment (they'd practiced this too) the three "detectives" rushed in. Using the lead pipes with economic efficiency, they felled Fisher and George and then added a few kicks in for good measure.

This task completed, the three went through the collective pockets of the downed men and came up with a full-service menu of drugs and a good amount of cash. (Counted up, over $30,000.) Fagin peeled off two wads of three thousand and one of four thousand (for the one he had designated the "leader), and handed them to his crew.

"What do you want us to do wif 'em?" the leader asked.

"Strip them." Fagin ordered, still in his Kobayashi English accent. "Put the clothes in a pile, first come first served. Keep one piece of jewelry each, give one to my lovely companion here, and give the rest away. Give away all the pot and X too. Tell everyone it comes courtesy of the Beast, the jewelry too. Make sure they know of everything that happened here tonight."

"'ow 'bout t'other drugs?" Another asked. "What 'bout 'em?"

"Burn the herion and the coke." Fagin said. "My employer will not tolerate those drugs on the street. Page me when you are done. I will tell you the location of the next engagement."

They started going to work. "'ee's bad enuf, but I 'ope I never meet that Beast." Said one of the Cockneys fervently.

Fagin offered his arm to Holly. After the taser incident, she looked a bit apprehensive, but took it anyway. She still was quite excited by the evening's events, and more than a little scared (which excited her even more).

"There is a club just up the street." Said Fagin, back in his regular voice for the time being. "We can have a drink and wait for my associates to complete their work. Then, a few more stops like this one."

"Wicked!" Holly said. She really was into it (although it must be confessed she said that often). "This is the most interesting business plan I've ever seen."

"About that," Fagin began, "I do have some more 'hard numbers' for you. Perhaps when we finish tonight I can show them to you."

"What kind of 'hard numbers'?" Holly asked, a bit tremulously. They were at the club now. A long line snaked halfway into the parking lot. As was his new custom, Fagin ignored the line utterly and went directly to the door, where the bouncers let the two of them in like VIPs.

"All in good time, lass." Fagin said, easily slipping back into the accent now that there were people around. "All in good time. I am sure we can come up with something your Uncle would approve of."

Holly Gibb: Sometimes Loan Officer looked at Fagin Dupree, who gave her that trademark slow smile. This was the night of her life, but for the first time all evening, Holly Gibb realized she just might be in over her head.

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