: Left alone with his own thoughts after Bruce Halloran’s dramatic visit, Jeremy Youngblood sits alone in his empty office now filled with ghosts of the past. Barely able to form cohesive sentences, he gently raises his left hand to the office intercom and makes the following order to his receptionist.
“Estelle? I need you to cancel all my appointments for...for the next two days.”
There is a short pause before Estelle comes back,
“Are you sure, Dr. Youngblood? You’ve got that big meeting with the Association of--”
“Cancel it, Estelle!” He bellows into the receiver. Shocked by the noise, Estelle throws her fingers onto the intercom and blusters,
“Yes sir! It’s taken care of, Doctor!”
Relieved of his duties, Jeremy Youngblood retreats from the intercom with reluctance and forces himself to recline back into his desk chair to assimilate what has just happened to him. This...grotesquerie Bruce Halloran has just invaded his office to...well, to ruin his life, basically. By raising the spectre of Phil Tupperman. Philip. ‘Philsy’, as Halloran called him. The phrase cuts Jeremy down to the quick. He hadn’t been able to tell Halloran that Philsy was his pet name for Phil all those years ago.
The intoxicating influence of Chivas is now beginning to work itself upon Jeremy. He doesn’t like being drunk. He’s always hated it, in fact. But having Halloran in his office, demanding alcohol...he found himself giving in to those demands. Just as he did when….
...when Gary Pitts had gotten him drunk all those years ago.
When it had happened.
The very thought of it filled Jeremy with a kind of revulsion usually reserved for the war-weary and those hapless, powerless souls whom life always seems to abuse. Those poor, deluded people who were willing to believe anything they were told. He had been one of those people.
Disquieted by this train of thought, He thinks first of those grand halcyon days of his early practice, sharing it with his former partners Ignacio Alberghetti and Pierce Young. Old friends from school, and just as committed to ending anti-gay treatments and the mental health of the community. And Guidry Sloane, the smartest and richest partner in their venture. Sloane had retired first after creating a mental health evaluation department for one of the oil companies. His 6 figure paycheck had given old Sloane everything he had ever wanted; a free and easy life without the constraints of accountability. He left that burden to everyone else in the firm. Fortunately, they had all been young enough to handle the crap. Then ‘Nacio and Pierce decided they wanted to start a new practice in Florida.
Now, he was the only partner left running the entire firm. Everyone else content with big package deals and ongoing revenues from the practice that still bears their names. Only Jeremy remained working.
And now he has a headache.
And he’ll have it again next week at this time.
Back at his condo, Bruce Halloran breezes past the ecstatic Miss Sara Joy and goes instantly to his computer to pull up his email. At the top of the list is an email from the firm of DiNotto, Tschantz, & Asino. “The partners in the firm,” blah blah blah, “enacting full review,” blah blah, “all requests for assistance will be reviewed and answered within 48 hours--”
“WHAT??” Bruce’s sudden exclamation startles Miss Sara Joy, who runs back to his hidey-hole underneath the ottoman, peering out in fear. Halloran doesn’t see this, focused on these new restrictions. 48 hours? I can’t wait two days for information or supplies, or even two days before I find out if they’re gonna give anything to me at all. Before he can challenge these pantywaists he sees another email from an address he doesn’t recognize. The subject line reads,
“Mr. Halloran: IMPORTANT! OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”
Deciding to take the risk of his computer being infected with yet another virus, he chooses to open the mysterious email. What greets him is the following:
“Dear Mr. Halloran,
This is Mr. Tschantz. I’m contacting you via a private email account. You may have already received an email from our firm. In our weekly meeting today, the senior partners made the decision to personally research and review any and all requests you make for my services before they may be filled. My grandfather was the sole dissenting vote. He and I believe that this is being done to prevent you from fulfilling the requirements of Mr. Pitts’ will. According to the terms of the contract, they are well within their legal rights to enact review procedures. But it is unethical.
After consulting with Grandfather, we have agreed that you and I will now communicate through this email, and through my private phone (number below.) The stipulations of the will remain in force. However, because of the nature of this arrangement I will now be personally assisting you with many of your supply requests. There will be times when I will need you to send formal requests to my company email. You must comply instantly when that request is made. It is imperative that the partners see your requests on a regular basis to prevent detection.
Any and all information I can give you will be sent in a separate file to be downloaded to your phone or computer. Because of the delicate nature of the situation I advise that you thoroughly read all messages and download any and all attachments as soon as you can. 10 minutes after these emails are opened, they will disappear from the servers. This is not only for our protection but for yours as well. Also, all text messages should be deleted as soon as possible.
Please text my number below with the word “confirmed” to let me know you’ve received this message and understand the arrangement. It is imperative that you keep this information private. If the partners discover us, they will have grounds to terminate the contract and invalidate the terms of the will. At which point they will take possession of everything.
Hmm, thinks Halloran. Shoulda seen this coming with the head shysters. Certainly didn’t expect this kind of chutzpah out of Tschantz. The kid’s got a set on him. Good to know. Grabbing his phone, he puts in the new number and sends the text “Confirmed, Q Balls!” He looks forward to explaining the new nickname when kid asks.
He stares at the screen, rereading the email. Obviously the firm plans on putting up every roadblock they can think of to kill off his time. They probably put dibs on everything before he took possession. He imagines them as salivating demons in painfully tailored pinstripes. Their bloody claws grasping for everything they can grab, slowly moving toward him, their eyes wide with hunger. Then, they take his cocktail and--
No, wait. That was a show at The AllWays Lounge.
A tiny whimper at his side makes Bruce turn away from the computer to see Miss Sara Joy looking up at him like an orphan in a Dickens novel. His long tail is a flurry of thrashing fur, waiting for his master to tell him everything is OK now. Bruce bends down and picks him up, his long brown and black fur spilling over Halloran’s hand like a furry waterfall. He plants Miss Sara Joy in his lap, where he curls up and goes instantly to sleep again.
Halloran looks back to the email and begins rereading it once more when his browser suddenly refreshes, and he’s back in his mailbox. Only there’s something missing. The email from young Mr. Tschantz has disappeared. He checks in every folder, but there is nothing to be found.
“Sonofabitch,” he mutters. “It self-destructed. I feel like Barbara Bain!”
Amusing himself, he affects some of her poses from Mission: Impossible when he turns and catches sight of himself in the floor mirror. To his reflection, he sneers and quips,
“Yeah, but’cha still look like Martin Landau. Today!”
He chuckles a bit at the ridiculousness of reading himself in the mirror. But that’s what you do when you live alone and like it. You talk to yourself. And you insult yourself. And you play with the dog and watch a lot of internet porn. Not necessarily in that order.
And you drink, which is exactly what Bruce is going to do now. He has to figure a few more things out before he can decide what to do.
Preparing to close up the office after a long day, Quentin Tschantz begins packing up briefs in his satchel when he hears a muffled ring coming from his desk. He quickly crosses the expanse of his tiny office and closes the door. He rushes back to his desk and opens the center drawer. There, his personal phone jangles away, a familiar number visible on the screen. He picks it up and swipes the screen efficiently, saying
He listens intently to the caller, his eyes darting back and forth as his analytical mind assembles a flood of new information into neat little colored boxes, coded for maximum efficiency. It’s how he thinks. Ideas and concepts appear as geometric shapes of colors. He continues to listen to a greenish-blue circular line of thought, and says respectfully,
“Yes sir. Yes, I sent the information...not as far as I know...he hasn’t said anything…”
He continues to listen, standing at attention like a cadet. The room turns to purple hexagons and orange rectangles and then Quentin speaks up.
“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think th--” The words die on his lips. Black and blue rhomboids. With resignation, he says,
“Yes sir. Everything will be in place by tomorrow morning...I know what to do, sir. Good night.”
Tapping the screen, he places the phone in the pocket of his blazer hanging over the back of his desk chair. Looking toward the tiny louvered window, he sees the late afternoon sun blazing through in thin, bright shafts. And in the light, a trillion tiny bits of dust and whatnot, bobbling along on the waves of heat, each little particle a minute inferno. Unconsciously, the middle finger on his left hand begins picking at the cuticle of his thumb, pulling the skin away from the nail bit by bit. Quentin’s job just got a lot tougher. And he really dislikes it when everything goes black and blue."Q-Balls?!?"...This Is My New Orleans.