Timeline: December 9th, 2008
It was just after 4:30 when Rey found herself standing outside the door to the Blood & Brew. It was unlikely to be busy, as the suppertime “rush” didn’t start until around 5:30.
She’d returned later than she’d expected, having taken Lyla’s advice and had some “fun”. Rey treated herself to a haircut, manicure and pedicure on her boss’ dollar. Looking down at herself for one last check, she opened the door and walked in.
Lyla looked up from where she was wiping down the bar to see the young woman walk in. She was impeccably dressed in a dark gray pinstriped skirt suit and dark green blouse. Her brand new, low heeled shoes snapped as she walked smartly towards the bar, her head held high. If it hadn’t been for the familiar strawberry blonde hair in its sleek bob style, Lyla probably wouldn’t have recognized Rey at a distance. Her makeup was applied differently, making her look pretty, but not beautiful. Even her body language was different. She’d have easily blended into any corporate office.
A glimmer of amusement shone in Lyla’s eye as she said, “We don’t open until five, miss. You’ll have to come back later.”
“Ha ha,” Rey said with a grin. “So, I pass muster?”
Lyla returned the smile and said, “Well done.”
Rey’s face lit up with pleasure from the praise. “Thanks. I bought two off the rack suits, ordered two made to order, and got all the stuff I’d need to wear with them. I also got a simple leather attache case and matching portfolio for me to doodle in when I’m bored.” She chuckled. “And there was even some money left over after I had my fun.” She took two pennies and placed them on the bar top.
Lyla laughed and said, “Then this is your first lesson.” She pushed the two pennies back toward Rey. “When I give you money to spend for yourself or to help you get through a mission, anything that is left over becomes your pay.
“Now, you did fill the gas tank when you were done with the car — right?” Lyla finished with a grin.
“Of course,” Rey replied, pocketing the pennies. “Thank you for the hair cut, manicure and pedicure, by the way.”
Lyla laughed and said, “You’re welcome. And good news; on Thursday the 11th, we’ll be going to Boston to take care of some business. We’ll put that brief case of your to good use and you’ll get to meet some of my business partners.” The way she said “business partners” sounded like they were more like “respected employees” rather than actual partners.
“Are we going to need hotel accommodations, or have you taken care of that already?”
“We won’t need to make other arrangements but bring an overnight bag.”
“Business clothes for both days?”
Lyla looked at Rey as if trying to guess something. She nodded finally and said, “We won’t be dealing with kidnappers or slavers. But you may be invited to party with them later that night if you’d like to. That will be your option and you are free to try it if you like.”
“What kind of party?” Rey tried to think of what kind of partying they’d be doing. She suspected she was going to be meeting some of the many prostitutes Lyla had helped, and she was determined to keep an open mind about the whole business.
“I don’t know,” Lyla said. “I generally don’t party with personally. I’m usually too busy.”
“Okay.” Rey nodded. “What should I call you when we’re meeting with people?”
“Ms. Clairborne will do,” Lyla replied. “Aside from money for your own expenses, you’ll also be given access to an expense account that you can use when paying for things on my behalf. That includes tips, bribes, accommodations, or other day to day expenditures necessary when we are working. You’ll know when we are ‘working’ because we’ll be on business — and away from Eldon Well. Basically, if I am there with you and there are expenses, you will have access to that cash. If you are acting on your own but on my behalf, you’ll have whatever cash I’ve given you to accomplish your goal, and you keep the rest.”
Rey was beginning to catch on. By giving the employees that work for her one single lump sum, she challenges them to get the job done within set parameters, while rewarding them for completing tasks efficiently. At the same time, she eliminates the temptation to “skim” from her own profits by having them simply keep the money left over and thereby cuts off corruption in her own organization.
“So, when I’m with you, I’m the one who takes care of paying the bills, right? I’m the one who picks up the check, signs the hotel bill, and basically takes care of the mundane stuff so you can concentrate on more important things,” Rey said, trying to make sure she understood what her role was to be in the scheme of things.
Lyla nodded and smiled. “Yes. I think you’re catching on to this stuff.”
“A consigliere is really just the criminal version of a CEO’s personal assistant. ” Rey smiled. “And your practice of your allowing people to keep whatever they don’t spend encourages efficiency and prevents your having to have a talk with someone about skimming your profits.”
Lyla’s smile grew wider. “You got it. In the short run, it’s more expensive for me to run my business this way. In the long run, I expect to have to deal with less internal problems. And I expect to be in this business for the foreseeable future.”
“Well, given what you’ve told me, and why you recruited me, you’re not exactly in this just for the money. And when I’m in my dotty old age, I can write my memoir – “Consigliere in a Skirt: My Life Using Organized Crime to Fight White Slavery” Rey chuckled softly. She had no intention of ever writing such a book, but it was an amusing thought.
Lyla laughed. “Sure. Just be certain that the statute of limitations has run out on whatever you might be involved with between now and then.”
Rey sobered. “You know, I never thought I’d willingly ever get back into the lifestyle my parents raised me in.”
“Yeah,” Lyla said. “I’m not sorry to have you aboard. But I am sorry to return you to something you’d hoped to have left behind. I know it will sometime be hard for you.”
“I’d rather compromise my beliefs once in a while than live with the knowledge that there was something I could have done to rescue those women and didn’t do it.” Rey shook her head. “I couldn’t live with that on my conscience.” She still felt guilt over the things her parents had made her do, even though at the time she’d had no real choice. She’d like to think that she was able to rebel once in a while, deliberately fumbling a curse when she could, but she had no way of knowing.
“So on Thursday morning I’ll swing by and pick you up at your cabin,” Lyla said, “and we can take my car to this rental place I’ve done business with in Manchester. We’ll pick up some other sedan there and that’s what we’ll be using to drive in to Boston. The people there are pretty good at loosing track of who rented what for a reasonable price so if we run into trouble with the cops in Boston, as long as they aren’t federal, they won’t have jurisdiction across state lines, meaning that if the rental company chooses not to help, they can’t do a damn thing about it.”
It was a little scary, really, how well prepared and how well thought out Lyla really had all this stuff. It was like she’d been doing this for a long time — and she had only just turned 23 years old. No doubt about it, the woman was a natural at this.
“You’re rather good at this, Lyla. How long have you been doing it?”
Lyla said, “About eight or nine months.” That would have put it from about the time she lost her baby during a battle in Portland, Maine. The very battle Ann-Marie had pushed for against a Mage and his werewolf minions.
“Why did you decide to start? I mean, when we first met you already had what seemed to be a pretty good network of contacts, but you’d never shown any inclination to become the first female Don Giovanni.”
Lyla grew somber. “At the time, I’d just lost my baby. Ramiel had left in search of Serena and I was in a lot of pain. I didn’t know what my future held and it felt like my fate was in everyone’s hands but my own. At first I made some deals because it took my mind off things. Then I realized I could make a lot of money with this, and that meant I could make my own future and bring my own sense of stability to my life. It isn’t in my nature to settle down. It was that way before I became Irraka, and it’s definitely not going to change now. Keeping my hand in, keeping busy, and growing a base of power and wealth — it makes me happy. It makes me feel like my fate is in my own control, even if that’s only an illusion.”
Rey nodded. “I understand. I’d like to think, though, that Fate has nice things in store for us. After all, it brought us back together here, and with your help I’ve been able to build a life that I’m proud of.”
Lyla just looked at Rey. In the past year she’d lost almost her whole world. The year before that she turned into a werewolf and was nearly beaten to death by her lover. She didn’t feel like someone Fate gave a shit about, but she held her tongue. After all, she was still alive and she was in control of her own destiny now. Or at least she was until Bailey Thindle had called her up and pulled the rug out from under her again.
“Well,” Lyla said, “Thursday then.”