Florence: The Floating City
Florence was known as a dowdy setting, nestled just below the clouds but far enough from the ground that you never thought of its existence unless someone asked you one day on a crisp summer afternoon in some spacious park, “Hey, how about that old city that was on the news for a good 7 months?” The sky was sunny and ripe, on May 6th, 1945, as news stations poured into Denver, Colorado, in the hopes of broadcasting what was sure to be a historic feat for the entire world. Twenty-four countries were involved into the creation of this “floating city”, which was named Florence upon the Italian government’s hesitant request and America’s gracious generosity, and the countries involved were ones where that could afford to send a couple of their most useful citizens, such as scientists and researchers, on this adventure, which was sure to be a success.
The countries involved are as follows: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, India, Japan, and China. Ireland offered only 50 citizens, most of which were casual civilians in fact, in fear of the city’s failure to handle emergency situations appropriately, stating that, “The dynamics of the city’s structure make us very nervous.”, and that “If there were any success, we would have our foot in the door to say the least.” The only country to give any less amount of its citizens was India, with 30 people, and with officials reluctantly approving of this mission, saying, “We’re not completely sure about how good of an idea this really is.” Safe to say, the USA and UK had more than enough hands on deck for the project.
Truly the idea of the city was not simple due to the complications from the beginnings of the idea, which was originally thought up by Marshall Hinds while he was living in London in 1901, and then the idea was pitched to American scientists and inventors in 1917, with the American government seeing the idea as a device for war, but it was turned down quickly due to the lack of materials necessary for the project, and 3 years later it was pitched again by Hinds’ son John after Hinds died of an unknown illness, with modifications, and was then finally taken serious. Safe to say, the Hinds’ family had a history of stubbornness, because Marshall Hinds’ daughter, Lily, was the person to enforce the idea that multiple countries involve themselves in this idea and that, if they didn’t, she would do everything in her power to stop the whole construction of the city. Quoted from her exact autobiography, “The Hinds Life”, “If a city were to be built in the heavens, then God almighty can only bless it if everyone else does too.” Now I’m no particular fan of the Hinds’ family, but I have an abundance of respect for a chillingly strict woman like Lily Hinds.
In fact, lest it be unknown, Lily was a family friend of my parents. When they had signed up as citizens of the US to be test subjects on this marvelous feat when I turned 18 and my parents decided to retire, they met with her personally and exchanged phone numbers and addresses, in the hopes of keeping in contact with her. This worked for quite some time, until it was discovered that Lily had died in 1951 from food poisoning, which was strikingly unfortunate for myself since I had so much faith in such a strong woman, only for her to be taken out by someone’s incompetence and lack of understanding exactly how food is to be prepared. My family made a point in attending her funeral. Such is life, though, and such are humans. “To be human is to err.”
The structure of the city was the biggest complication, for if it was too square it surely wouldn’t have a safe dome-shape ceiling to protect the city’s citizens from the 25,000 mile high atmosphere. Thus, the idea is solved by making the whole city a perfect circular shape, which, unfortunately, proved to still be a complication on the idea of expansion. This was to only be solved by city leaders and NOT the governments of those who lived in the city. The construction of said “dome” took only but 2 years to complete and have itself built onto the foundation and frame of the city, and due to the uneasiness of the architects originally, it was put in place and signed into city law that those exact architects would return every year to perform inspections on the glass and the foundations of the city. They couldn’t possibly be able to sleep at night knowing that people in this city were being sucked out from the sky and literally falling to the earth like angels because of a hole in a wall. Air was, and is, the only constant resource that the city required, making it such a protected asset to Florence. (Later would we find that some Mayors couldn’t be bothered with public safety and they’d much rather blow money on luxuries than paying the architects.)
It should be stated before I go into any further explanation of the city that I mention exactly how large Florence really was at the start. Florence had a 50 mile radius to begin with. Any larger would completely render the platform it was being built on unsuitable to hold and raise/lower the city to the height idealized for release. It was originally split into fourths, split like a pinwheel on the North, South, East, and West points. Propellers like that of a helicopter, first invented by Heinrich Focke, were built to the bottom of the base of the city and could be controlled/managed by certain engineers upon city government’s orders.
The next problem faced was how to provide not only air, but the other basic necessity of life, water. Due to the world’s consistency of providing the leading scientists to solve this international crisis, the difficulty was solved almost instantly. Much like the creation of the atmosphere below the city, a large square footage of land in the city was to be dedicated to plant life. To help solve the health concerns as well, small 2cm holes were drilled into the top of the dome, so that from time to time it would rain. Over the span of the years between when the city was built and when it would be raised to the sky in 1945, (shortly after the end of the Second World War), it would be fully functional. A machine was built in place to moderate the amount of air that was being produced and being consumed, so as not to suffocate the citizens of Florence while they were going about their business.
Water, being the only other important struggle, was easier to manage. Because the city was to be 25,000 miles in the sky, also adding to the problem of accidentally running into Mt. Everest, the inventors assigned to the task created a machine that produced not only water, but rain as well, so that the city could manage and moderate the water supply it was going to have, ensuring there was water to feed the plants so they can grow, and plants to provide oxygen, and oxygen to provide humans who, in return, provide carbon dioxide for the plants. It was a frustrating cycle, but it was one everyone was familiar with.
Food and clothing and materials would be delivered to the city by hovercraft, invented by an unknown German, which was also designed with the same dynamics the city was. When questioned about how the hovercraft was used, scientists and inventors just replied with “physics”. It seemed simple enough for them, but left literally everyone else too confused to want to question them further. Some of the public down below found it would be simpler to approach John Hinds about the construction of the hovercrafts and propellers, but he expressed his deepest regrets for not knowing, or knowing as much as the public did, about the subject, stating, “I’ve been almost completely cut off from the project itself. If you want to know more, just ask the men and women who put it together.”
Although it sounded like the city was going to struggle and be deprived of much of normal human life, it seemed to have flourished much more than first idealized. The critics, when the news of the city was first revealed to the general public, thought it to be irrational and unrealistic, and basically more or less a waste of money and time, but what one struggling journalist, Paul McWright, wrote about seemed to have covered more areas on the subject of the city’s construction and provided a better understanding on exactly what was happening, making him a Florence exclusive journalist and also giving Florence a better form of criticism. By 1923, most of the world approved, rather, admired the creation of said Florence, and anticipated settling in it. Mr. McWright, though, was a frequenter between Florence and earth for the first 10 years it was open, and began to settle down on earth with less and less frequent visits. He was, on the land below, still known for being Mr. Florence Reports, but the people of Florence knew better. He made things clear with Florence after selling his home on earth and permanently moving into the city, buying a house by the nearest docking station in hopes to return to earth as often as possible.
The docking station itself on which the city was being built on was slightly larger than the city’s circumference. There was a rod that would lift the platform 5,000 feet into the sky above it very slowly, the process taking a few hours, and from that point, the city would then activate itself, everyone aboard of course, and proceed to ascend into the sky until it reached its 25,000 feet high point. The way the city would receive goods and its literal only form of connection with the world below would be through hovercrafts. Each point of the city (North, South, East, and West) would have a docking station. This worked very suitably for everyone once it was to be known that the city would float strictly over the equator, splitting the appropriate docking stations to be adjacent to the world as well. The world became a fixed point for the city.
After the first year in the sky, most of the citizens had their family and friends move to the city with them, truly out of boredom or loneliness. More citizens poured in from all over the world, raising it to become a small city over time. Shops and entertainment centers were set up across the whole city, and into every little crevasse was something to do or somewhere to go. Within the span of 15 years, the city became a tycoon for technology, medicine, entertainment, and beauty/fashion. It became the perfect city, yet not exactly a utopia. Obviously, there were a few technicalities put in place that implied favoritism, such as English being the dominant and most often used language, followed by Asian and European dialects. Alas, one standard protected the support of non-classism: everyone lived in overly-similar houses, and most common people earned the same wage. Though, there were no restrictions on how you could remodel your home, so creativity also thrived in Florence. (Of course, everyone had differentiating amounts (not too different) of money to their name but everyone had houses that looked exactly the same in structure.)
You weren’t allowed to save up too much money either. The government had ways of communicating with the banks. Depending on your job/profession, there was a wage/bank account cap. If you ever went over it, the government would intervene and fine you only so much as to take your savings/earnings down a little. For instance, say Joe makes $4.50 an hour. He has been saving 30% of his paychecks for the past 3 years. He has too much money in his banks account. The government will take $50 out of his account and will reduce his pay by 3%. Joe is now paying to refurnish a worn out park.
Florence has no government like the one below, for its Mayor and Congress are chosen directly by the people. Popular vote is the only vote. The mayor would then choose 4 like disciples. From these 4, the people of the city would then choose their new mayor, and repeat the cycle. This method was a good one, though it enticed a form of dangerous competition between multiple powerful figures. Though, each of the 4 had their own share of the city to control, because business and a steady flow of goods was Florence’s most important feature.
This city is the floating city of Florence, population 800,000, floating gently above the world below, providing for its citizens and growing feverishly.
It is 1960. Much to my insubordination, I have to recollect these tender thoughts of my childhood as selfish and spoiled, though I was devoted to the public by my family as “the perfect child”, which I continued to keep up these efforts as for I saw it as a chance to get ahead of any competition I would soon face then forward on. Competition was never short on evidence in my life.
My mother and father were people of a fairly important background. My mother, Dinah Masterson, worked for a movie studio as a secretary in Los Angeles and my father, Steven Radian, an impressively successful actor, saw her one fine day in 1930 and 2 years later, they had their first child, a boy named Lucas, and a year after he was born they had a daughter named Ida Cora. They continued to live successfully and passed such a trait to their children, ensuring they attended the best schools and soon their children became ridiculously smart and athletic, and loved by all.
When I was 18, my brother decided it was best that he leave home in L.A. and never come back. I was the only one who kept in touch with him for a short while, but it didn’t last very long due to his inability to commit to anyone else except his addiction to the sandy shores of Florida and himself. I lost all contact with him when I moved to Florence in 1954. I only kept in touch with my parents, who also lived there. The rest is history, though, after I hired a private detective to find out about him when I came into office in 1958, this is what I heard: he met a lovely woman named Rita in Florida who was a meter maid, they got married, she quit her job, and lovely Rita and Lucas had been planning an intense road trip across the USA and would take a hovercraft to visit my parents (and if their mission had gone completed would they find out that my father had passed away in 1957 but something tells me that was the reason my brother wanted to visit my mother so badly in the first place), but lovely Rita was adamant that they withdraw an arbitrary amount of money so they may enjoy their time without financial worries. (Let it be known that my brother was NEVER as smart as I, and often made mistakes without anyone telling him how wrong he actually was in fear of his rejection and dissonance.) It could be said that he was in love with this lovely Rita, but with truly a larger amount of love he distributed to her than she to him. On the night after he drew out that impressive amount of money and they began their road trip, Lucas’ car crashed into a tree and he died instantly. Lovely Rita survived. How rightly lucky she was to survive such a tragedy, too, because when my brother turned 25, he signed a will and left lovely Rita most of the proceeds. I was left a 1956 Corvette, which was undeniably the most impressive gift I’d ever received up to that point (especially since this was his favorite car and he was a large car collector with a dream of working for GM), and it questioned exactly what Lucas had been doing in Florida and how he came by such a great amount of money. Though, through the lovely Rita, it was easy to tell how much he really had.
I had never really had much of a romantic interest myself, and nothing that could ever be as close as what Lucas had to his lovely Rita. Once someone becomes a distraction to my success, I get rid of them. I have done this countless times and continue to do it. (Just last Easter at a party I was invited to by a notable singer, a man of significant influence in the Music world approached me and tried to flirt with me, to no avail. It could be clear what he was really after, mentioning such phrases as, “You know, you and I together could really run the show business here and on land.”, and “I hear you keep in touch with almost all of the record companies down on land.”)
In my elementary days, back when the schools were separated not only by race but by gender, I was tethered to many sports, those including football and golf. (Romantic interests didn’t approach my mind until high school, and even then, my focuses were still on things that could only project me into further success.) Unlike my competition in these sports, I faced a dire situation every time I came up to bat: my figure. I was always in a slender way, but could not manage to do much about it. My friends considered bulking up, trying steroids or some other form of enhancements to provide me with such muscles, though I turned it down because also unlike my competitors, I was taught more in my earlier days than they would learn in their whole school rounds. When it came to one particular game in which my team was losing, back when I was playing tennis, I had managed to hurt almost every member of the opposite team, without any flags being called on my part. I played clean and legal the entire game. The other team had to forfeit.
My later years, in my teenage times, I found competition in a different form. I attended a school that was co-ed, so boys became a distraction for most of the females around me who had not much else to aspire to than marriage, while boys for me became more like something that was in the way and wouldn’t move, like a rock or elderly people. I dealt with boys the same way I dealt with all my problems, I got rid of them. In a particular event that I may recall, I had a close friend, Natalie Aggs, who mentioned to me that a boy named Charles, from our English class during my junior year of high school, had a “crush” on me. I took this lightly and ignored it at first, but she kept pushing on the subject until I found it too irritable to withstand. In order to deal with this problem, this great interruption, I proceeded to approach Charles, and I told him that Natalie was in love with him. They started dating later that week. They’re married now.
I realized within time, much later in my university years, that I had a steady method of attack towards my problems and situations that didn’t lean towards working out in the better for me. Everything that was in my way, I directed towards another path, and if something was not going my way, I made sure it wasn’t going anyone else’s. It was an easy technique to adapt, and it continued to suit me just fine as I made my way into the city Congress, which was more of a challenge than I had originally anticipated. Most of the men and women in this part of the government were almost as stubborn as I, but I still found my way to the top, stepping on whoever’s head and hands that could carry me and continue to hold up and long as I needed it to.
Aleksandr Aleksandrov was more of my mentor when I first arrived in Florence. He was a tall white man, with short and deep brown hair. His voice was very youthful for his age (he was 30 when I was 23 for example), though his presence served to change the atmosphere within an instant to describe him as a dominant man. In appearance and career, he was “the ideal man” for me, as described by friends who I became well associated with shortly after I arrived in Florence. It was little of a disturbance in my professional livelihood.
Aleksandr Aleksandrov became mayor of Florence in 1950, through general election, after the impeachment of the former mayor, Michel Beautonne, who was appointed by French leaders in 1945. Aleksandrov won majority vote from the Russian ethnicity. Germans were banned from voting in the 1950 elections, but were soon granted permission to vote in the elections from after that point, being a society that could only continue in greatness if it gave up the harshness of the past. Life in Florence was much different from life on earth. Aleksandrov, unlike the mayor before him who was more focused on personal feats, made sure that the people of Florence understood that in order for us to live peacefully and to continue being as successful and pleased as we were, we would have to give up our selfish morals and those pretentious tendencies to compete with each other based on the basis of gender or race.
He was truly a fantastic leader, one that, safe to say, everyone really loved. Aleksandrov proved to be a consistent point of faith in the government; a protector of rights and happiness. There was hardly any crime, any drug addicts, any acts of racism or sexism. This led to a lack of an expanded police force, and a larger force of doctors and firefighters. (There was an incredible need for firefighters, so much so that every house and apartment was guaranteed at least two fire extinguishers. A fire inside of a city like Florence would be catastrophic if it got out of hand, same with a cold or flu.) Literally everyone coped with each other under his leadership.
Aleksandrov proved a point over time, though, to my colleagues and myself that our determination meant nothing if we couldn’t perform our duties to our public, truly setting an example of this himself. In my department, we require the feedback from nobody but the public, giving what they need and fulfilling all their expectations. Being that my department is what it is, it is difficult to truly design yourself to be the poster child for it. I am not an artist. I am not an author. What I am, though, is a creative and an effortless genius.
Over time, I’ve found it natural to associate myself with people who understood my functions as much as I understood theirs. Creative types in professional forms, becoming my brothers and sisters, would always get their justice when I was in charge. I made sure of this. I met with the biggest names in entertainment, on land and, of course, in Florence. I was a celebrity myself. I was known as the person who made things happen for singers, songwriters, authors, artists, performers, and actors alike. In order to do this, though, it would be the task to make sure that the laws and forms of acts that I wanted to pass were not to clash with the other departments.
For instance, in 1954, there was a law signed into place from the Beauty/Fashion/Luxury department that prohibited the names/logos of musical artists onto clothing, jewelry, and beauty items, causing an unbelievable riot. The riot did nothing to change said law, until I came into office for my department in 1958. I pleaded with Donovan to repeal the law, and he, with his smooth and indifferent voice, agreed. Safe to say, that occurrence didn’t take me very much to make my people content. Though it’s not only these problems that I have to face to keep my department as pleased as it is. Because I am handled like a celebrity, I get treated almost like the other ones. The media in the mid-50’s had a habit of being hostile with words, and some bureaucrats had a habit of bribing them to gain public interest. However, by 1960, there became no paparazzi, and the media calmed down. Due to the hundreds of complaints over time that my department received, it only seemed clear that in order to make these Florence “celebrities” feel safe and like their privacy was protected, I had to get rid of the paparazzi, which continued to violate the basic human right in my own professional opinion, which was the right to privacy.
In Congress is where I met my 3 colleagues and rivals. All four of us together, much like a superhero team, form a working balance on all of the city’s problems. Agnes Eve, a woman of a Hispanic background with the longest and blackest hair, and the Congress leader with the highest approval rating due to her being an apple-polisher to the public, controlled the Healthcare business. She was the most important contribution to the well-being of the citizens, making her the all-time favorite. John Aberdeen, an African American man with the most money in the bank, worked for the Technology and Electricity centers. He was a muscular man, which most of the public found intimidating, but they still felt confident in him. Donovan Keys, an attractive white man with fantastic skin and shoulder-length silky brown hair, and who had a good chance of becoming mayor if everyone decided at once that they cared more about material goods than living for each other, was all about Beauty, Fashion, and Luxury items. His goal was to be happy with himself, whether that is by means of physical appearance, or what counts on the inside. I, Ida Cora Radian, a short-haired blonde white woman with ambition, could only care for Entertainment. Theater, music, acting, writing. Those were the parts of society that mattered most. That’s where the people of the city could connect and everything made sense for them.
Donovan, being such a compliant person, less than Agnes was, was very kind to me. (Almost as kind as I was to him.) Most of the public saw him as adorably ethereal, as someone they could trust. Though, he wasn’t their favorite candidate. Agnes was, and he knew this. His goal was never to be much like Agnes, nor the opposite. He did what she did, but she did it better. Instead, Donovan began his approach to be happier and more in touch with his public than Agnes could ever be. Nobody understood their department like he did. In fact, it was rumored that he married his wife, fashion designer Lisa Arde, because she had her own major fashion line, much in comparison to any major league brand name down on earth.
(Donovan, born November 13th, 1936, came from a fairly wealthy background, having the silver spoon in his mouth for most of his life. That is, until he turned 20 or so when his parents cut him and his 2 siblings off. He moved here to Florence shortly after that, but the small amount of connections he had to some big people in what would end up becoming his department did him favors. I believe Thomas Mann owed his parents a favor and someone must’ve owed Thomas one as well. Donovan collected handsomely on that favor, and he got a little spot working under one of the heads of the Beauty/Fashion/Luxury department. I barely remember but she was a stern woman that reminded me of a spider. I’d only met her once at a small party Donovan was hosting at his house. Something tells me that he spun her web to get her job.)
Agnes Eve, however, was not married, nor did she have any romantic interest with anyone, and I mean absolutely nobody. She was a people pleaser, yet it could be said by literally everyone that she was too rude and careless about her actions that she couldn’t possibly be mayor anytime in the future. She knew this as well, and took advantage of it, claiming, “It is better to put in charge someone who isn’t fazed by what others think or say.” Truly this was her largest weakness.
(Agnes was born in Oklahoma or some other plains state in September, 1935. Both of her mother and her first husband were very poor and eventually he left her mother. Her mother remarried and moved here about a month after it was opened, so she became a Florence native by technicality. That was her main drive behind getting into office anyways. She thought that since she was a native that the people would be more acceptant of her choices since she “knew what was best for her department and also, the city”. Later on, this would prove false. She was well into social activism while she began her time in Congress. I applauded her concern and she was actually elected into the Healthcare department. She started from the bottom though, and now she’s here.)
John Aberdeen was less of an emotionless, self-centered boot licker like Ms. Eve, but he was just as bad in managing the aspects of his life that mattered most. He cared, mostly, about his money. In the idea of classism, he would be considered the 1%. Here in Florence, he is considered part of the 100%. That, being the only true non-relatable aspect of his personality, would be the downfall of Mr. Aberdeen within time.
(Aberdeen was one of the few people in office that I could never respect. He was born August 5th, 1931, in Los Angeles, California. His mother, a teacher, and his father, a businessman, were amongst the wealthiest in L.A. They wanted only the finest for John, giving him everything he needed. Eventually, his father offered him a job under him, but Aberdeen thought he was better than that offer. Instead, he moved to Florence to take up some business ventures, but a friend of his suggested he get into the computer business. That was the only advice John took in his life, and it paid out well. He rose through the ranks with bribes and smooth talk until he owned his own company, and the biggest in Florence. Aleksandrov must’ve seen through his snake-ish behavior and façades because as soon as Aleksadrov came into office, he appointed Aberdeen to his department.)
Myself, I could be seen as a thrill-seeker. My goal in life was to be top dog; to entrust my citizens and peers to consider me their representative, though I had dreamt more towards being the city’s guardian. It wasn’t known at the time that this is what I wanted. The people were always kept up with this strange pretense that my goal, if I was elected to Mayor, would be to continue helping the people. My goals never leaned towards the profit of the citizens, and you may call me selfish, but it was only done out of habitual needs. More or less, it became a personality trait to deceive the people who my success relied on, give or take a couple of actually important people.
Agnes had collected a positive public support percentage of 57%, me following in second place with 28%, John with 10%, and Donovan with the last of the 5%. It could be clear that Agnes was in the lead to be Mayor, even though nobody wanted her to be, with her popularity vote being extremely impressive, but I knew better. Unlike Agnes and my colleagues, I knew that politics was not what steered the people to love their leaders. Agnes had this strange belief that if she could make people worship her through picking the lowest hanging fruit from the “Please Fill My Wishes” tree, then the citizens would, without a doubt, elect her. Nevertheless, I was rapturous to recognize that Agnes was the individual the common treasured. (This would prove to be the reason why she went from 57% to 0% once the election began.)
It is 1960. I am 2 years into my office, and Aleksandr has put in a request from the 4 of his successors to prepare for elections and begin campaigning. I am already prepared, and to note, I always have been. I am in my office on Florence Boulevard. My office is directly next to the finest theater in all of Florence, and it could easily be compared to Broadway. It is called La Boulevardier, and it has a very stylish Art Deco front, much like my office. Gold and blue are the colors. I attend plays and concerts here for free frequently. Their leading actress, the theater’s owner, and my personal assistant, whose stage name is No Name and goes by nothing else, is often found wandering my office, usually waiting for me. She will be a key influence in my success, and also a head I will step on. She is Aleksandrov’s daughter, though more like a daughter to me, and is equipped with just as Russian an accent as Aleksandrov’s.
(With the upcoming elections, I am warned by No Name that I should be extremely prepped for the backlash of any harsh actions I make during this time, for this could be make or break for me. It’s usually expected during election time (which lasts 2 years, mind you) that some if not all of the candidates will undergo dangerous life changes. I do not expect this to occur in me.)
I am in my office, 2 plants in the corners adjacent to my door, and a door straight in front of me. The walls are striped vertically with white and blue. (If I can remember, Donovan’s office is striped vertically red and white. I can only remember this slightly due to the boredom and wandering eyes of what I shall remember as a bittersweet encounter with the more romantic parts of Donovan’s body. His desk is no longer an innocent place of “work”.) Sitting on my desk, a letter signed directly from Agnes Eve’s office, which reads, “Dear Ms. Radian, It has come to my attention that the election has just started,” (no duh), “and I would enjoy to have it known that personally, from me to you, I will not be able to help your electoral campaign in any way due to busy matters of my own. My regards, Agnes Eve.” I folded the letter into thirds and placed it vertically back on my desk, eyeing the edges.
I buzzed in No Name. She opened the door gently, came in taking light steps, and shut the door. She held her golden clutch purse in her hands. “What a lovely outfit today.” I say with a sweet judgment. (It was a porcelain day dress with a gold bow-belt on the waistline, and porcelain shoes. She was wearing a porcelain sunhat to boot. Very bright.) “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day?” I question. She smiles and takes a seat in front of me, and it makes me pay more attention to her face with its light neutral makeup and deep red lipstick being the center focus points. (She does her makeup this way every single day.) “Ms. Radian, I had no idea. And even if did, who else would chastise me but you?” she answered.
“Absolutely no single person but.”
“Good. So, why did you call me in?”
“It seems Agnes has already taken her shots and something tells me she’s taken a shot at Aberdeen and Donovan, but what she doesn’t know is that she missed one of those shots.”
“I know better than that Ida. It can obviously be said that, well, Donovan’s definitely taken a shot at you.”
“Watch yourself, No Name.”
“Forgive me. If Donovan is the man I think he is, then certainly he wouldn’t betray your trust. You both formed an alliance, a certain…bond, and I made well sure that could happen and it wouldn’t be exploited like everything else is. If he breaks his promise, then he’s my problem, not yours.”
“We both know the lengths you went through, but either way he is my problem.”
“He feels like a liability sometimes.”
“He’s the best liability we have right now, No Name.”
I stood up, pulled out my left drawer, opened up my cigarette case, drew out a cigarette, and fuddled around for a lighter until No Name pulled one out of her purse. She lit it for me. “I thought you quit smoking Ida.” She said, lighting my cigarette. “Yeah, you and me both.” I jested before taking a drag, and I started leisurely pacing behind my desk. “Do you think now would be a good time to call on Donovan for a meeting?” she asked.
“No, no. I’ll do that myself and call him up for lunch. Now would be a good time to call on your friend, Paul O’Wright, and get him a nice long interview with Donovan and myself. If anyone’s gonna have the upper hand it should be me.”
“I’ll get right on that.” She chimed, getting up from her seat and strutting out of the room. After she left, I rang up Donovan’s office. After the secretary got me through, he started laughing.
“Ahaha, I’m sorry Ida Cora. I was just hanging out with some friends here when you called. What’s up?”
“Oh. Well it’s just that I was hoping we’d have lunch tomorrow. Ah yes, and I’m trying to get an interview with Paul O’Wright as well.”
“Whoa, whoa. I’m down with the lunch, but why the interview? What happened?”
“Didn’t you get a letter from Agnes?”
“Yeah, but she was only looking to have a meeting with John and me, and I turned her down of course. I remember who my ‘friends’ are. Not so sure about John, though.”
“Yes, well, I’m very sure about John and I know for a fact that he wouldn’t hesitate to help Agnes out with her campaign. They’re two of the like, and he knows there’s money and publicity in it all for him. That’s why I want an interview. I figure it best to rat out the rats and reveal what kind of goal they’re trying to reach in their campaigns, while we join forces to take them out. People would be sure to like us both a whole lot more if they found out about the other two.”
“Are you suggesting blackmail or something?”
“It’s not blackmail if we’re not trying to get anything out of them. We’re trying to get something out of the people.”
“But isn’t what they’re doing the same thing we’re doing?”
“Almost, but they don’t know that.”
“Oh. Alright then.”
“So how about that interview?”
“Yeah, sure, and lunch at 12 at the Prestige.”
After I finished my call, No Name poked her head into my office quickly.
“Oh. I’m sure this might concern you, but after some public statements Agnes and Aberdeen have made recently, Paul’s told me that he wouldn’t feel very…excited to interview you. He said he still would, though, only because it would bring readers in because of Donovan.” She explained.
“I have no problem with that.” I replied, with a smug grin on my face.
“Alright well it’s all set up for tomorrow.”
“Good. Thank you No Name.”
With the forthcoming elections being as dramatic and enduring as they may seem, it was all very technical. Every single lunch or meeting or interview would be all set up and followed accordingly to plan. (On our end at least.) I knew that Agnes and John would be planning their own schemes like I was, of course, but their two minds together would prove them to be more devilish in their work, compared to my co-op with a down-to-earth pretty boy with a pastime that consisted of attending fashion shows. Donovan would be essentially useless after the interview with Paul O’Wright, except for one thing. The only other possible option would be gain some sympathy to boost my publicity, through tragedy of course, that being the loss of some part of my hold with dignity. I possibly couldn’t ruminate any other option to either marry or murder him, both seeming like a theatrical approach to appeal for a position that is only bestowed to those with a flair for manipulation.
The lunch went swimmingly, though, with only one slight hitch of annoyance that really struck a chord, being as follows. He said to me, “Ida, I love this idea. Us being able to get both Agnes and Aberdeen out of the race, but what about the both of us after they’re gone?”
“Oh. I’m not so sure. I’d hope you would drop out due to my ability to intimidate so strongly.”
“Let’s not forget what I’ve done for you, Don.”
“Ah yes, a meeting with the more pleasurable parts of my personality really change things around here.”
“Well they should’ve. Do not expect me to admit my ‘favors’ are just petty pleasures.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry."
“Thank you. Now, in all honesty, I’ve come to a conclusion on my idea to fix this friend v. friend problem.”
“I’m all ears.”
“We either have to get married, or I have to kill you.”
“Hahaha. Are you serious?”
“Yes. I’m very serious.”
Now, Donovan looked at me with a confused expression, speaking to me in a hushed voice.
“Do you honestly think I would marry you? Leave my wife for you? What impression gave you that I would do such a thing? That could potentially ruin my whole career!” he whisper-yelled. I smiled.
“No, it wouldn’t. Besides, we’re already a team.”
“Wow. And here I was thinking you had a crush on Aleksandrov.”
“What gave you that idea?”
“I dunno. You spend a lot of time at his office.”
“The same ‘advice’ you wanted from me?”
“That was not advice and I did not ‘want’ it. More like I gave it.”
“You definitely gave me something.”
His laughter at his last comment made me throw up in my mouth only a bit, but I forced down those undeniably offended feelings. I replied after gathering myself once more, returning the conversation to normal tones, “Well, we’re going to an interview with Paul McWright after this, aren’t we?”
“Oh, right, right. What should I do? Sit there and look pretty as always?”
“I’d hope you’d be able to speak at least once.”
“On what? What will you be saying?”
“I’ll just be speaking out on some references they’ve made through their workers to me about their real goals of becoming mayor such as money and power. I’d want you to speak on your goals, as I will be doing for mine.”
“And if this interview is a success, what will become of us, in all seriousness?”
“Like I said, we could get married.”
“Or we could kill each other.”
“Yes, but if the interview doesn’t work, then we’ll have to go back to our separate ways and I will personally have to deal with Agnes and Aberdeen myself. If that’s the case, you’ll be out of the race anyways.”
“How’d you figure?”
“Because nobody will hear from you with all my success in the way.”
He leaned back and looked off to the distance before smiling and saying, “I’ve been doomed from the start.” Our lunch and our interview finished swell, without a single problem, though the consequences would come back to bite me all over. The public’s view, only a reaction a couple days later to it, was not very positive. It wasn’t the approach I wanted, but it definitely did not require me getting married to Donovan.
Although, it did raise a problem for me strictly. Due to the lack of its effectiveness, I found it hard to get the public to take me as seriously as it did after Agnes’ reply to the interview. She wrote an article in the Florence Headliners, one of the most prestigious magazines, on April 13th, 1961, titled, “The Reason a Cat Cannot Lead a Government” by Agnes Eve. This article read as follows:
Oh, I’m sorry, were we talking about wolves and sheep, cats and mice, or eagles? And if we are talking about mice, does that make Agnes and Aberdeen rats? That’s only all I see in them. Also, if an eagles cuts its wings off, it’ll die, in all seriousness. Rats, though. They’re just rats.
Though I was irate when I read this, I was faintly flattered at the point that Agnes took time out of her oh-so busy schedule to write an article on me and my short-lived partnership with Donovan. I called in No Name immediately after I read it. She was wearing one of her redder outfits. (The one with the deep red pencil skirt and the silver accents that I like.) She took a seat casually in front of me and set her purse on my desk. I had my hands pressed up against my forehead, staring blankly at my desk. She looked around waiting for me to say something, until she gave out a loud sigh. “You read the article?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “Yes. I. Did.” I replied.
“It was pretty dastardly, wasn’t it?”
“A very bold move.”
“I don’t think she knows exactly what you’re capable of.”
“No, she doesn’t. She has no clue what YOU’RE capable of, No Name.”
“What? Me? What could I possibly do to intimidate her?”
“You’re in circles right? I mean for Christ sake you’re Aleksandrov’s daughter. You got to know someone.”
“Well of course I know some of Eve and Aberdeen’s people, but I could never abuse my father’s powers. That’s disrespectful, and it could count as him helping you win, which is illegal. I’m not about to ruin more than just my own reputation.”
“Oh c’mon No Name, we’ve all-"
“Shhh. You hear that?”
“That scratching noise.”
“Oh…yes I hear it now.”
I rose from my desk and we both scoured the room for the scratching noise, until I checked under my desk. It was a tape recorder that had ran out of recording tape. I grinned. “Bingo.” I said, ripping it from its comfortable spot against the underside of my desk, holding onto its prayers made of the stickier type of tape. “This has got to be at least a couple days old. Hah, won’t the owner of this be upset when they find it’s empty.” I said, taking the full tape out. I pondered and fidgeted with the device until it opened up, and I slid the diminutive recording tape bit out. “No Name, who else comes in this office besides you and me?” I asked.
“A janitor. That’s all who’s allowed in here.”
“Fire them, whomever it is, without pay. Make sure you know exactly who it is that comes in here, though. I don’t want to look belligerent.”
She departed after I said this, hopefully to fulfill the task, and I sat down with the tape. I held it at both ends and inspected it, knowing it was Aberdeen technology because it didn’t look like a commercial tape recorder. It was smaller than one I had seen before, so I assumed it was custom made for me personally. More flattery. I buzzed No Name. “What do you need, Ms. Radian?” she asked, annoyed.
“I need you, or someone from the office, to catch 2 rats from the alley behind the building in separate boxes, alive or dead, and wrap them in very lovely wrapping paper and send one each to both Agnes and Aberdeen’s offices, exclusively from my office, with a note for both reading, ‘The cat is on the prowl.’ Make sure it’s written in cursive. I’d like to flatter them both back. ”
“Oh, uh, alright. That seems a little disgusting, but I’ll see if I can get one of the lesser paid secretaries to do it.”
“Good. Also, when you’re finished with that, can you give me the names of a couple of Aberdeen’s colleagues?”
Now I understood that this was the delineation of using someone for personal advance, but I considered No Name a very close friend to me. She would do anything for me so long as I kept her funded and exultant, and I would do slight, inconsequential favors for her at certain theaters and shows when she desired them. I grouped up my personal belongings, including my keys to my office now, and walked out the door. No Name was at her desk when I stepped out. “Can you tell everyone I’ve stepped out for a couple hours if I get any calls? And do not hesitate to send out those gifts by the end of the day.” I said to her after I locked my office door and began to stroll away. I only peeked back, and I saw an expression of disdain on her face. I scorned back at her in response. It was only 3:40 p.m.
After retiring for the afternoon, I headed home, which was directly upstairs (upon request due to my distrust in these faithful Florencian citizens), and changed into a long black gown with gold accents, something more formal, for a premiere of a play I would be attending at 6:00 p.m., titled, “The Coincidence of a Prince”, which followed a supreme story.
It was the story of two lovers, traditionally. A young girl, named Arabella, was a peasant girl and she fell in romance with a Prince Alexander one day after he saved her from drowning in a river after he and his company of men had finished hunting. Though she knew she could never be with him unless she had married him by somehow raising herself to a noble status at minimum, she dreamt for long hours of the day and night of his love and acceptance. One day, she came across Priest in a nearby church to whom she told her woes and the Priest felt so pitiful for the peasant girl that he devised a plan to have her rescue a hundred men from a burning church. This way, she could be knighted and achieve a noble status.
The plan had at first gone a complete triumph, but when she was halfway through with saving the people from the church, she began to panic when the church had started deteriorating down on her. Soon she found herself choking on the smoke and blacked out, only to be rescued once again by Alexander, and his men saved the remaining people from the fire. When she came to her senses, Alexander had asked her if it was her who saved those people, and she was knighted by the King for her noble acts. When Alexander came of age to marry, of all the fair women he could choose from, he knelt down before Arabella and offered his hand. She gladly accepted and they lived happily ever after.
It was really a charming play with admirable acting. (The kind that I enjoyed, anyhow.) I was pleased when I returned to my office that evening to gather my news and final business of the night. No Name was, indubitably, still at her desk working. “Did you send the gifts?” I asked, briskly walking up to her desk, a smile already existing on my face before she answered me because of my faith in No Name to do as she is told by me. She gave me an annoyed face, and said under her breath, “Yes. One was dead, the other alive. Agnes got the alive one, I believe. I was not the one to catch them, so you owe the little secretary of our Literature department a raise.” I smiled.
“Oh please. She should be happy to work here. Any responses?”
“Yes, actually, and she’s paid so much less than I am. It’s not fair.”
“Fine, and from who?”
“Both Agnes and Aberdeen.”
“Which response is better?”
“Depends on what you consider better.”
“Which one was more belligerent?”
“Agnes just yelled at me, repeatedly saying, ‘You’re sick you know that?! Absolutely sick people! You’re disgusting!’ in my ear.”
“Ahaha. Oh that’s great. And Aberdeen?”
“He was a little worse to me, really. He was hysterical. He said, and I quote, ’I cannot believe this! This is absolutely disgusting! I think I’m gonna puke this is the worst thing I’ve seen in my life! (He puked, and you could hear it) I hope you’re happy Ida!”
“Oh my goodness. That is even better. I’m glad they’ve gotten my message.”
“Yeah I bet they know you sure mean business now.”
“Is that sarcastic?"
“No…no it’s not.”
“Good. Do you have those names I asked for?”
“Not quite yet. They’re surprisingly difficult to track down, their names and numbers I mean. Lots of calls today.”
“So long as you have them on my desk by tomorrow morning, then I’m fine.”
With the light of the news I’d received, I called it quits for the day, and left the office to go up to my apartment. My office and home were both in the North District, where most of the Arts and Entertainment leads lived and worked as well.
The West District was mainly meant for food and Technology Drive, which was the largest and busiest street in the entire city. The South District was known for its industry, the hospital, and the East District consisted of mostly fashion geeks and starving artists.
When I came into office, I demanded an apartment be built above my office so access would be fairly easy when I needed it. Also, the people in this town have a habit of egging people’s houses when a bill gets passed that they don’t certainly agree with. Nobody but officials know where I live.
When I approached my door, there was a slice of note with gold font on white, reading, “Good move, but it’s been done already. So much in common. – A”. I was left baffled, and my only conclusion to draw was that it came strictly from Aleksandrov’s desk. I decided I would give him a call immediately for dinner; it was only 7:50.
Aleksandrov and I had a very distinctive relationship, (at the beginning of it he was much like a father to me), one I was proud of and one that was risqué in the eyes of my peers and colleagues. It was often assumed that I, in place of Aleksandrov’s wife who died giving birth to No Name, was his love interest or rather, his girlfriend, and to top that rumor-filled cake, and I quote from All In All Magazine, one of the more popular “celebrity drama” magazines we have here in Florence, and much unlike the Florence Headliners which caters more towards political and economic factors of influence, “On February 14th, , at Aleksandrov’s house party for a day that truly was intended for such, ‘Aleksandrov and Ida Cora Radian were spotted canoodling late into the night on his balcony in what is to be assumed his bedroom while they looked at the stars as the party roared downstairs’, a source tells us.”
I’ll admit, I was truly offended by the minimal section he and I were given for there was much more than just the little “mirage” of an event. That particular night, we were not “canoodling” at all. The source, I’m sure being one of the journalists for the Florence Headliners, was looked into personally by Aleksandrov and, I was told, “not to give you troubles anymore”. However, Aleksandrov did speak to me on that balcony. “I admire how much you’ve cleaned up your districts. It’s a fairly large one, and one that was left in shambles when Beautonne left. He was the worst this place has seen, and probably will be after you’ve been elected.”
“Me? You think I have a fighting chance?”
“Of course. You’re young, and you’re like me.”
“I’m like you? How?”
“You’re dedicated, intuitive, honest, and very strict. You remind me of when I was trying to come up in the ranks. Then I owned two districts though, covering both Technology and the Arts/Entertainment.”
“I know very well of that.”
“All I’m saying is…I expect you to do very well in the election. Perhaps you can take a lesson or two from me. If you do, I’m sure you’ll win.”
Our conversation was in the least bit romantic, and if anything it was completely political, fuelled and filled with suggestive notes towards beating my competition, or there lack of. I had worried numerous times about Aleksandrov’s eager nature and if he would ever input more into my campaign than No Name’s help.
I called him up, nevertheless, and he agreed without hesitation. We found ourselves at a French restaurant. It was one that he owned, ironically, and we had the entire place cleared for us only so that we may talk freely but it still made me feel nervous being in the same room, and I felt strongly that it showed.
“Ida,” he questioned, “You look uncomfortable. Are you okay?”
“Oh. I’m completely okay. How are you doing? It’s been a while since we’ve had a meal together.”
“I’m doing alright. To be honest, I’m actually very anxious. It’s been half a year since we’ve met face to face.”
“Yes, it has. Well, I thought that your message fit the correct timing to meet.”
“It is. So what is the topic of tonight’s meal?”
“Well, I was leaving that up to you, actually.”
“Alright. Let’s talk about your campaign. It dying.”
“What about what you said about my rats?”
“I said it’s been done. Chances are, Agnes and Aberdeen will go to the press about it and they’ll throw in a couple juicy details about you while they’re at it. All the meanwhile, you’ll be laying on your back in a pool. ”
“Oh. Good lord.”
“Do you want my advice, Ida?”
“I crave it.”
“I suggest you call up Beautonne.”
“Call up Beautonne and ask for a favor.”
“Why? What favor could he possibly do for me?”
“He could make a public statement. Perhaps one that implies that he’s helping and supporting both Agnes and Aberdeen. Everyone in this city hates him with a passion. The reason he hasn’t returned since he left office is because they threatened to kill him multiple times if he did. But anyways, in return, I’d do him a favor as well. That way he won’t be able to hold anything to you after you win.”
“Wow. That’ll definitely take out their confidence and it’ll catch them blind sighted.”
“How long have you been thinking about this?”
“Since the beginning, but since you’ve really been not making any hard moves at either of them I thought it’d be good use now.”
“You’re brilliant, Al.”
“I know. What else are you going to do about them, though?”
“What do you mean?”
“Surely you aren’t going to rely solely on that, right? Either of them could still take the lead in the polls. Let’s not forget about Donovan.”
“How could I ever forget about him? He’s an agonizing reminder of how much you need to do to make sure men get the message across.”
“Well it’s not too hard for me, hopefully.”
“How about this: I’ll see if I can dig up any dirt you can use against the three of them for your debate.”
“Absolutely not. It’ll look like you’re assisting my win. However, I can definitely get No Name to do that for me. She’s getting names of people from Agnes and Aberdeen’s divisions so I can meet with them and pick up some dirt already anyways.”
“Look at you, one step ahead of me already.”
“Have they found anything on you?”
“Not that I know of. There’s nothing they can find out. I’m as clean as a whistle.”
We finished dinner in peace and laughter. The kind of company I like to keep is the kind like Aleksandrov. He truly was an individual who understood my motives and why I was the way I was, and he was truly a best friend of sorts, much like No Name. Their family was a good one to me, and I was grateful for what they’ve done.
That next morning, I called Michel Beautonne’s office. His secretary, in the shortest amount of words possible, said he was busy. Fortunately, No Name had been already in the office when I walked in. What confused me the most was that the door was locked. She had been wearing the previous days’ outfit. I strolled up, cheerfully, until I saw her face. She had looked like a zombie. ’No Name, have you gone home at all last night?” I asked.
“No. I…uh, I decided to stay overnight and make some calls so I could get you those names and stuff.”
“Oh, No Name. Thank you, but go home and get some real sleep. Right now. Go.”
She took the rest of day off, and I asked for one of the lesser paid secretaries from the Physical Arts department to assist me for the day. The secretary I received was an Indian woman named Sasha who had 2 children and a loving husband that she’s been married to for about 4 years. She’d moved to Florence when she turned 18 and met her now husband not too long after that (he was a white man named David who worked at the theater). The only reason I knew all of this is because I took her to lunch that day. No Name had left the names and numbers on her desk overnight and Sasha came with me to lunch to read over them.
We ate at a small café in the West District, not too far from my office. It smelled heavily of garlic bread and minimum wage. After we sat down and ordered our food, I began our first order of business. “Let’s get started on our list shall we?” I suggested.
“Who’s on our list?”
“Charles Harris. He’s the head accountant for Aberdeen Tech. Well, he was. He got laid off last year.”
“Where does he work now?”
“Well, we’ll definitely give him a call. Star his name. Next?”
“Cynthia Tanner. She worked as Agnes’ assistant until Agnes fired her for releasing personal statements to the public.”
“Atta girl. She sounds perfect. Star her too.”
“Cameron Dallas. He worked under Agnes. Her lead medical researcher. He is currently still working for her.”
“That sounds risky. I don’t want her knowing that I’m looking into her people yet. Don’t star him.”
We finished the rest of the list after our food came. Once we arrived back at the office, she gave me the list and returned to her station outside my office at No Name’s typical spot. Before I got to official business, I decided to try Beautonne’s office again, and this time I got through. In my wait and anticipation to speak with him, I called Sasha in and asked her to bring me a cup of tea from the break room. (Coffee was no longer legal in areas of business because of a bill Agnes had passed that restricted the overuse/overconsumption of caffeine in the workplace because of the health risks it posed. Also, a man overdosed on it somehow.) When Beautonne answered, he sounded more interested in talking with me than I thought he would be. “Oh, Ida, hello. I’ve been waiting for a while for one of your people to get in touch with me. It’s all over the news in Florence, I hear, what you did to Agnes and Aberdeen.” He explained.
“Ah yes, well, they’re over exaggerating a bit I think.”
“Who cares? It was brilliant! I remember Aleksandrov pulling something similar to that when he was running.”
“Yes, he told me.”
“Well, anyways. Why’d you call me?”
“I need to ask a favor.”
“For you, anything in the world, as long as I get my just rewards. Hah!”
“Right. I need you to call the press here in Florence and make a professional statement. Can you do that?”
“I want you to tell them that you’re fully supporting Agnes and Aberdeen and that you intend on giving them advice and that you definitely want them to win.”
“That’s in no way true, though. I want you to win.”
“I know, I know, but I need you to lie and say you want them to though.”
“Oh, right, right! I can do that.”
“What would you like for me to do in return?”
“Perhaps let me come back to Florence? Ensure my safety from the public?”
“That can be arranged.”
“Thanks. I’ll get right on that call now. Thanks so much, Ida Cora. I really do miss that city.”
Now that I had that train in motion, I could focus more on digging up dirt on my rats. I sent Sasha back to her desk and called myself a cab. I immediately headed over to No Name’s apartment, which was coincidently only a few blocks away from Aleksadrov’s house. I knocked a couple times, but no answer. I could only assume that she was asleep, so I kept knocking. I heard shuffling, and a very different No Name answered the door. I yelped in shock. She had no makeup on and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail; not to mention that she was wearing a robe. Her eyes were squinted and she looked like she had just been in a fight with her stylist.
“Can you please be quiet? I have neighbors, you know.” She said, in a deep and husky Russian accent of hers.
“Oh my god, No Name.”
“What? What is it you want?”
“I need you to come back with me to the office. I need your help.”
“Alllllriiiggghhhtt. Let me get reeaaadyyy.”
With that, she shut the door and bolted it. I stood in humor for a few minutes, contemplating how many people have seen her like this compared to how many people should. No Name came out in full costume and makeup within the few minutes I stood outside her door, and I now stood in wonder. I looked her up and down as she locked her door. “Alright. I’m ready! Let’s go.” She said, getting her car keys from her purse nonchalant but full of energy. “You want to drive?” She kept a large smile on her face as she laughed hard. I kept a calm and expressionless one on mine. (I knew how to drive, but I usually called a cab or have someone else drive me instead. Driving always made me nervous and, I mean, if you can afford it, why not?)
When we arrived back at the office, No Name dismissed Sasha from her desk and slipped her what I’d assumed to be about $40, most likely for the work she did for me that day . We walked straight into my office, and she took a seat in my chair while I stood and paced back and forth throughout the room.
“Tell me, have you heard any news about Agnes or Aberdeen?” I asked.
“Nothing, really. Agnes is going to make a statement tomorrow about her new medicine branch that’s supposed to help get rid of cancer or whatever. It’s supposed to be like a vaccine and she wants everyone to get it, even us.”
“Really now? I’m not getting it, and you aren’t either. I want a meeting with Cameron Dallas and Cynthia Tanner.”
“Sounds like it can be done. When do you want me to set up the meet? And why not if it’ll save us from cancer?"
“Today, for dinner. I want to take them out to La Palais Rouge. And because I don’t trust it like I don’t trust her.”
“How do you expect to get a reservation this late? Also, risking your health because of your opinions isn’t healthy.”
“Just tell them who it’s for. They’ll understand, and so should you. ”
“Alright. Am I coming?”
“Oh. I don’t see why not.”
She got up and left after this, most likely to make those calls. I, on the other hand, was going to go straight after Aberdeen myself. Aberdeen had a way about him that was very intimidating. In fact, Donovan hated speaking with him at all, most likely for fear that Don would say something Aberdeen wouldn’t like. I didn’t mind meeting with Aberdeen or even causing conflict with him. In fact, most of the people who worked for Aberdeen were large fans of me. I had worked extensively so that the citizens in my professions would gain time slots on TV and radio. (Aberdeen’s section of work left him in control of all broadcasting stations being that nobody but Aberdeen’s people knew how to work that nerdy stuff.)
Aberdeen was no threat to me, though. I knew how fragile his ego was and just how much he cared about his bank account. (More than his citizens.) I knew that if I ever wanted to take out Aberdeen, it would be wise to go straight after his bank account and anything that’s related to it, rather than attack his businesses. Surely, he’s clever enough to try to do the same with me, and he did.
That afternoon, the unexpected happened. A two-hour long advertisement for Aberdeen’s campaign ran in the slots where ‘Jane Ryan’s Teenage Rock Hour’ and ‘Captain Axwell and Tommy Tornado’. The advertisement was basically Aberdeen boasting about how successful he was and how successful he could make Florence. (However, both of us know that you can never treat a city like a business.) Both slots were meant to highlight people in my district; one hour for music, and another for two beloved actors. This was an obvious violation of our contract, and I was going to make a point of it. I called up Charlie Harris and asked him if he had any free time, to which I was told that next week would be best.
The Tech-Entertainment Treaty of 1958 was formed after people from the Arts/Entertainment stormed the broadcasting commons at BCC (Broadcasting Committee Center) because they were repeatedly denied TV show time slots and demanded to see the CEO of one of the major channels. He refused and a riot ensued in the West District. I wasn’t in Florence at the time (LA is my favorite place in the world, really), so when I got the call from No Name that there was a riot, I had to immediately leave land and fly back to Florence that night. Aberdeen, the CEO, and I met that night to discuss some negotiations. The CEO was belligerent and upset with me, which made my skin thicker than it already was and I ended up demanding more than my people needed.
According to the document:
I decided it was time to encounter Aberdeen face to face. In my angry stupor, I had No Name stop whatever she was doing and grab her car. When we were heading down the street into the West District, she asked me, “Why exactly are we going to see him, again?”
“I’m going to be frank with you, No Name. I’m pissed.”
“Wait, are you Frank or Pissed?” (She started laughing.)
“Why? What did he do?”
“He took our time slot. He’s in violation of our contract. Like I don’t remember stuff like that.”
“Whoa. Calm down, hun. Surely he had a good reason.”
“Yeah, because his campaign is sooo important.”
“I’m going to go and march in his office and rip his head off.”
“Well, while you’re being arrested for physical assault, please remember that you have dinner tonight with Cynthia and Cameron.”
“Of course. I want to go back to the office after this. Once you take me back, you can go home and send everyone else home as well. It’s Friday, after all.”
No Name and I both stormed into the lobby of Aberdeen Tech Inc., which was much more chic and upscale than the last time I had been there back in 1958. “Whoa” was all No Name said, and once we explained to the cheerful secretary that we wished to see Aberdeen, she let us up instantly without any question.
Aberdeen’s office looked nothing like mine. His office was monochrome and he had eggs for chairs. The lights floated in fixed positions on what presumably was the same technology that made the hovercrafts float. He had a giant window that looked out on the rest of the city from his office and two very large plants along both of the walls. Everything was very futuristic, and very shiny. At first, I couldn’t tell if he was even in the room because his chair was facing the window and there was no way to see him. I coughed slightly to inform him of our presence. He swiveled around in the chair. “Oh. Ida. What a surprise.” Aberdeen said with a smug grin on his face.
“You haven’t been here in a while, and I see you’ve brought a friend.”
“This is No Name.”
“Nice to meet you. You both look like you mean business, so what can I do you for? Anything to drink?”
“No, thank you. I came here to speak to you about this afternoon.”
“Oh. Alright. What happened this afternoon?”
“Oh I think you know damned well what happened. You took our slot! You violated our contract!”
“What? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m serious. What did they put in place of your time slot?”
“A two-hour long advertisement and infomercial of your campaign.”
“What the hell. Okay, obviously my head of my campaign is doing things not only without my permission but also without my knowledge. I’m going to get to the bottom of this, I promise.”
“So you’re telling me you don’t even know what’s going on in your own campaign?” No Name inquired.
“Apparently not. Look, I’m very sorry about your time slot and I promise you that I’ll fire whoever’s responsible for this. Please just don’t go to the press about this. The last thing I need is another riot.”
“It would sure look bad on your campaign if I did, John.”
“Yes, well, I trust you’ll be good about this.” He said opening his drawer on the left of his desk and sliding me an envelope over his desk.
“What’s this?” I asked, opening it up.
“It’s something to compensate the loss of today’s slot. I usually keep an envelope or two around for situations like this. There should be about one or two grand in there for you.”
“That’s very considerate of you, and I will accept this bribe so that I can deliver this to the people who were ripped off from your establishment here.”
“You’re welcome. Now, is there anything else I can help you ladies with?”
“No, that’s all we needed. Thanks, John.”
We left his offices peacefully and quietly, and in the car I couldn’t help but burst out with laughter. No Name looked at me concerned as I began to run out of breath from my hysterical amusement.
“What’s wrong with you?” No Name began as we pulled out of the parking lot and headed back to my office. “Can you breathe? Should I take you to the hospital?”
“No, oh god, no. Ahaha. I’m fine. It’s just that…aha…he gave us everything we needed to send him running.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“I recorded the whole thing in my purse.”
“You know that tape recorder Aberdeen had taped to my desk? I kept it and now his plan is backfiring.”
“Ida, you are a genius.”
“I’m going to take this to the news and he’s going to be seen as an irresponsible big business idiot with no actual interest in this election who isn’t afraid to bribe his way to the top.”
“What about the money? Won’t they find out that you’re holding back money?”
“They won’t because I’m going to donate the money to Starklet Movies so they can restart building their movie theater in the Lower North District.”
“It’s the perfect crime, but he could sue you for recording him without his permission.”
“No. What Aberdeen is doing and has been doing is a crime. The people will prosecute him quicker than he could ever try to prosecute me.”
“True. So, how about I join you for dinner instead?”
“Sure. Let’s head straight to the restaurant then.”
No Name had no problem attending this dinner with her dressed the way she was. She always had a way of looking presentable in any situation. No Name received her clothes from the land below and most of them were high-end name brands, unlike the people from our city. She had made various fashion statements and was often a model for Donovan’s wife, Lisa Arde. It was also through many personal favors I had done for her that she got to where she is.
All the clothing stores were literally on the same street. Donovan had set that up so that “the best competition was immediate competition”, but I thought that was just nonsense advice given to him from Aberdeen. It seemed to work, though. I had a habit of getting my clothes through No Name, though. The clothes that she ordered that would sometimes be too small for her she would give to me, due to my slender figure. (No Name was surprisingly very curvy.)
When we arrived to dinner that night, No Name apologized for showing up 10 minutes late for me. Manners were not always a strong trait for me, but No Name always made up for that. It is for that fact which is why I usually brought her along with me. “I hope you both have been here before, yes?” I asked the two.
Cameron was a man of tall stature, most likely 6’1”, and he was an African-American man with the most incredible green eyes I have ever seen. He was roughly in his late 20s. Cynthia was a white woman with dyed bubblegum pink hair, blue eyes, and she was in her early 20s. She reminded me of a more immature version of myself, except British and very energetic.
“I’ve never been.” Cynthia said, with Cameron replying with “same” after she said that.
“Well, I guess I’m ordering for you. I’ve been here plenty of times before, and let me tell you now, it’s the best French cuisine you’ll ever have.”
The waiter came not too long after we sat down and got acquainted. I ordered for both of them something random but something I knew wouldn’t be completely gross. That last sentence wasn’t a complete lie. I had been there previous times, about 3 or 4, but it wasn’t the best French cuisine I’ve had. The best I’ve had was a French restaurant in New York City in Manhattan back in 1956, but it’s gone now because the owner couldn’t pay to keep the place. He now lives here in Florence and is my personal chef when I need him to be. (He’s an elderly man.)
“Look. I wanna be very honest and straightforward with the both of you. I called you because I want information. Information that both of you have, and I know you do. I trust you to be honest and to give it to me detailed. ‘Why should I help you?’ you may ask. Well, I can’t offer you royalties or any real promises if I win, but what I can offer is a favor, within reason.” I explained. Both of them looked at me with eyebrows raised. Cameron smiled largely.
“Absolutely.” He said, in a sure voice. He took a sip from his drink. “I’ll absolutely tell you all I know for free.”
“I hate Ms. Eve, a lot. She fired me for no reason. Well, I made some moves at another researcher, which is apparently against the rules but I had no idea. No relationships between staff, I guess.”
“Yeah, but we’re together still. I offered to take the penalty for it. I wouldn’t want both of us to lose our jobs.”
“What do you do now?”
“I work at the hospital.”
“Hmm. Well, what information do you have to give to us?”
“I managed to smuggle some documents that I know won’t be missed before I left, just in case I needed to use something against Ms. Eve.”
“You’ve blackmailed before?”
“No. I just figured-“
“Sorry. That’s not important. Do you have the documents with you right now?”
He pulled out a yellow folder with papers in them and handed them across the table. I took them and the waiter came with our food. After the waiter left, I read over a few of the papers. I became excited and No Name wanted a peek, so I handed them too her.
“Oh my god. These are brilliant, Cameron. Can you explain to me what the ‘Designer Test Branch’ is, though?” I asked.
“Of course. You see, it’s all just designer drugs. The cancer drug that we have out now is fully functional and it’s all legal, but there is a secondary branch that is due out sometime this year without the knowledge of the citizens in the city.”
“What’s in this branch?”
“It’s basically drugs.”
“What do you mean?”
“It has the same qualities of some of the most addictive drugs. You know, like the painkillers that they give to people in the ER rooms, except almost 5x stronger. That is the goal of the Designer Test Branch.”
“Does anyone else know about this?”
“Not really. Just a few other researchers who were assigned to the task. The thing is, we had no idea what we were making. I feel so bad knowing that if she wins the election, this will definitely pass. The whole town basically will be addicted to this stuff, even though they don’t necessarily need it.”
“Why don’t they need it?” No Name chimed in.
“Because the same chemicals that are in over the counter medicines here have the same things that are in this, and the normal cancer medicine.”
“It’s all just a scheme to get more money out of the taxpayer.” I said.
“Basically. When she fired me she asked me if I was assigned to the DTB. I told her no. I was afraid she might have me killed or something. Nobody knows her bounds.”
I glanced over at Cynthia. She was sitting quietly, eating her meal. “Do you have anything to add, Cynthia?” I questioned. She nodded as she swallowed her food. “Oh yes. I do, actually.” She said.
“Okay. So, Agnes had never intended on getting these out to the public. In fact, she made a pretty good effort in concealing these. Unfortunately, the reason I got fired was because I did a terrible job at doing what she did. Fortunately, I still remember many of her important contacts, and I’m in good standing with all of them, including the heads of certain broadcasting channels.”
“Do you think you can get me on the news so I can tell the press about this? It would look good on me to make a comment on this at the least.”
“Absolutely. I’ll see what I can do and I’ll get back to you on it as quickly as possible.”
“Thank you so much, the both of you.”
“You’re welcome, Ida. But you know, the funny thing is: I didn’t even know what the DTB was until just now. I was her most trusted confidant for such a long time, and she couldn’t even tell me this. Proves a point, don’t it?”
“What point is that exactly?”
“That she’s scared of her friends.”
We finished our meal discussing other business related things, such as Agnes’ personal guilty pleasures and other secret motives. I called them both a cab and gave them some money to pay for the ride. No Name and I hopped in her car and she drove me back to my office/apartment. “Do you think this will all work out in the end, Ida?” No Name asked from her car as I opened the door to my office. (It was 10 p.m. and everyone but the janitor was gone.) I smiled and shrugged my shoulders, and I walked into my building. She drove off seconds later.
The next week is when I finally got word back from both Cynthia and Charles. Cynthia said she had told the press that I ’had information regarding the public safety of the citizens of the city and you were ready to host a ‘q & a’ for you’. The interview of sorts would be tomorrow.
Charles told me he was ready to sit down and talk with me, and that we certainly did. I had Charles meet me at my office on Monday morning so we could discuss exactly what information he had on Aberdeen. Charles was a 37 year-old man with a newscaster haircut and a chiseled jawline. He was without a doubt attractive, but the reason he was fired was very typical of Aberdeen.
“He wanted his accountants to re-budget his company so he could save money wherever possible. Little did I know that I’d be sealing my fate. We found that he could cut some people off of the roster, and apparently that included me. I pleaded to save my job, but no dice. He laid me and a couple people from our department off. I couldn’t find a job that paid that well for a while, until I took up a spot at a small accounting firm. Donovan recently offered me a job working for him on his campaigning because he didn’t have a budgeteer. I took it, obviously.” He explained.
I sat in incredulity of how this man spilled his life story on me. I couldn’t help but pity the situation he fell into. I had my own accountants, though, and they were very blameless at what they did. “Well, I’m very sorry to hear that, Mr. Harris.” I replied. “I’m in need of information, though. I told you this over the phone and I’m sure you’ve come prepared with some, yes?”
That afternoon, we spent our time going over many of Aberdeen’s finances and the irregularities of some deposits and transactions. (I had No Name close all calls for the day. I could deal with them tomorrow.) Our conversation consisted of phrases like, “I see”, “Wow, really?”, “Yes, that makes sense”, and him often saying, “Look here.” In the end, he closed with explaining to me what these all meant. “The reason I thought you might be interested in his finances for the past 5 years is this: he has been embezzling from his own company. He must have at least more than 50 million dollars to himself in some bank account right now.”
Even more disbelief washed over my mind. This man suddenly became the most dangerous man to Aberdeen, and he just knighted me as the most dangerous woman. I thanked him for his time and he left, but he let me keep the records. “I knew I would need them for something, like if he wanted me back. I didn’t know it would be you who’d care so much, but I can’t say I’m upset. At least I feel like someone needs me.” He said before he walked out.
Tomorrow, I would go to the press and out both Agnes and Aberdeen as the criminals they really were. I expected that the people of Florence would figure out who to vote for when the elections came around, unless Agnes and Aberdeen decided to drop out before then. After those two were taken care of, I would move quickly onto Donovan, especially with only 2 months of campaigning left.
Before the conference with the press, No Name called me to meet up at her house. She answered the door, wearing a white and black collared shirt with chiffon long sleeves, a pencil skirt, a gold belt around the waist, and gold trim. Her gloves matched, and her heels were black. Her hair was in an up-do. I, on the other hand, was wearing a deep blue women’s suit. When she opened the door, I stared with my lips flat lined and I started with, “It looks like we’re going to prom.” She looked me up and down and laughed. “It does. I’ve got a pair of pants and a blouse you can change into if you want.” She replied.
“Oh thank god.” I said, letting out a sigh.
I stumbled in and headed straight to her bedroom. The floorplan of No Name’s house, much like every citizen’s home in the West and North Districts, was made so that the house was a rectangle of sorts, with the kitchen and living space connected and a hallway off to the side that led to the bedrooms. Most houses had 1-2 bedrooms. If you bought a home in the East District, the houses had 3 bedrooms. The South District had only apartments. Apartments were usually 1 bedroom, but the closer to the East or West District you got the higher of a chance you could get a 2 bedroom apartment or a studio apartment would be.
No Name’s interior looked like Art Deco at its peak. The only surreal thing, it all looked very random. The color and the art she had made little to no sense but it all looked very organized, so it looked good. I had been inside her house many times, and every time I never understood how she found the time to clean and take care of it so well with me always having her busy, but she did.
She had laid out for me black and beige capris and two different white collared t-shirts. I stood for a minute trying to decide which to wear. She crept slowly in the room. “I didn’t just have these two lying around. I figured you wouldn’t know what to wear so I bought these especially for you.” She said, folding her arms. I looked over at her and smiled. “No matter which of these you choose, we won’t look like we’re going to prom so much anymore.”
No Name let me change in her room, and when I came out to show off, she was impressed. “My impeccable taste.” She said, eyeballing me up and down from her couch. “Come sit with me for a few minutes before we leave.” The TV was on, and she was watching a rerun of ‘I Love Lucy’. “Sure thing. What do you wanna talk about?” I asked.
“You’re close to winning the election now. Well, you will be.”
“Yeah. It’s gonna be great. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of, basically. I remember…when I was a little girl and I watched my mom on set in that movie she did in ’42. You know the one, it was really popular. It was ‘Mrs. Hollywood’, where she played that really successful actress who found a man she loved after all those terrible lovers she had but he lived in New York, and just when you think he’s never gonna see her again, he shows up at that café and kisses her passionately. Crazy to think that both of them were my mom and dad. Anyways, just being on set with her and my dad and watching how in love they were, y’know? It was magical all the time with them, and it’s still like that. I just wish I could find some type of love like that.”
“Find a man that will support you and shares the same values as you do?”
“Yes, it is. I just don’t think it’s possible.”
“I do. Love is always possible.”
“That’s beautiful, hah.”
“Well, I think you’re gonna find your man soon. Whether he lives here or on land. Once you become the mayor, everyone will be at your heels.”
“Not so sure that’s a good thing. Oh well! I’m doomed to win.”
“I’m glad you are. You’re going to change this city.”
“I know. I’ve decided I’m going to keep you as my secretary.”
“How great to know you’re making decisions for me.”
“You’re welcome. What do I do about Donovan?”
“What? Oh. Well I guess you could do something that will break his ego or his reputation. He prides himself on being an honest and sweet hearted guy.”
“Hm. I have an idea. It’s not a good one, granted, but it could work.”
“I could go to the press about what he and I did.”
“That’s social suicide.”
“It’s basically like saying ‘Hey, guess what? I’m a home wrecker and Donovan cheats on his wife with half the city!’ to the public. It’s bad for your image, even though it’ll definitely ruin Donovan’s.”
“Here’s what I suggest you do: offer to model for Donovan.”
“What?! You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s no way I’d do that for him. Not after all the hell he’s put me through.”
“Ida, listen. Tell him you’ll do it only if Lisa will be there. That way, when you get some alone time with her, you can tell her yourself. Work something out with her so that she won’t say your name in the press and she can just out him and ruin his career instead.”
“That sounds so brilliant, but I doubt she’ll do me that justice.”
“Maybe she’ll be grateful you told her.”
“How do you know?”
“She’s young like me, and we come from a similar background. Her father was a famous fashion designer, no? She’ll probably just want Donovan’s job anyways as fair trade, if you win.”
“You’re right again, No Name.”
“Of course I am.”
“I’m not gonna call him, but I’m glad you are always around to help me with things like this. I don’t know where I’d be without you and your constant support. You have no idea how much you mean to me, No Name.”
“I feel the same way.”
“Well, we have a conference of sorts to attend, don’t we? Am I driving?”
We both rose from her couch and headed out the door. The conference originally was going to be at City Hall, but both the press and I had the idea that it would be much more suitable at a conference hall in the West District. The drive was nerve-wrecking to say the least, but No Name did an excellent job of calming me down once we arrived.
The press was already set up inside and waiting on my arrival, with multiple cameras and microphones ready to record my accusations and answers to their many questions. At first, it intimidated me, but after a while of sitting there waiting for the news stations and the rest of the media to get ready, I began to feel comfortable. No Name was also by my side. They began by introducing myself and No Name. (It was funny to watch them introduce No Name in confusion.)
I explained fairly well in detail the situation with Aberdeen, followed by all the information about Agnes that I had. Most of the press in the room was honestly shocked at what I had to say. They either ate up Aberdeen exploits or Agnes’ villainous plans. I had done my part to ensure that neither Agnes nor Aberdeen were going to win this race. Unfortunately, outing both of them required me to answer double the amount of questions. Most of it went like this:
“When does Agnes’ Designer Test Branch begin once she wins office?”
“It will go into action immediately as soon as she takes office, but that’s IF she wins office.”
“The drugs in the DTB, are they harmful to the consumer?”
“Apparently, and to my knowledge, they are just as harmful as any other pharmaceutical when left unattended to by a doctor or physician. The major problem with them is that they were designed to make you come back over and over again for them. She’s just trying to cheat the citizens of my city out of money and get them addicted to these drugs.”
“Does Aberdeen have anything to do with this?”
“Not to my knowledge, but there’s a high possibility due to his partnership with Agnes.”
“How much money does Aberdeen have hidden away from the public’s knowledge?”
“We’re only guessing at least more than 50 million at the time, being that he’s been doing this for 5 years behind everyone’s back.”
“Do you expect any legal action to be taken?”
“Absolutely. After this press release, I expect to be notified of Mr. Aberdeen’s status so far as prosecution of either him or myself.”
“How has Donovan reacted to the information?”
“Donovan has not been informed about any of the information I present to you today.”
“Do you think light of this news will spearhead your percentages in the election?”
“I don’t care much for the poll results. I care about the well-being of my city.”
(“Is your relationship with Aleksandrov or his daughter, No Name, of any influence in your campaign?”
No Name answered with: “I only assist Ida Cora Radian as her secretary and see her solely as a boss in the workplace.”)
“With the election finally starting next week, will you make any last attempts to win over your competitors’ crowds?”
“I think I already have.”
After the questions were over and we had left, No Name drove us to lunch at the same restaurant Aleksandrov took me to. “Oh, how fancy.” I said upon arrival. She giggled. We ordered without conflict and were enjoying our meal, cracking jokes and reveling in my glory. That went on for a couple minutes, until from the corner did I spy a familiar face storming to our table from the side. It was Donovan. “What the hell, Ida!” I heard him yell.
I turned only to glance at Donovan’s enraged face and then immediately saw No Name’s giant smile, her completely ignoring him. I smirked and figured I might as well reply.
“Donovan, please. Show a little decency.” I said, offering him a seat. “Who are you here with, anyways?” I asked.
“I’m here with my wife.”
“Perfect. So what’s wrong? Why are you upset?”
“I think you know pretty well why I’m mad. You made a move, and you didn’t tell me? I thought we were a team?”
“I did too, but we haven’t spoken in weeks so I just assumed you didn’t care about the election anymore.”
“Of course I do, I’m definitely still running.”
“Is that so?”
“How does your wife feel about it?”
“She loves the idea that I’m going to win, if that’s what you mean.”
“And how will she feel when she finds out from the news that her husband has been cheating on her multiple times with countless women? How will she feel finding out that he’s spent large amounts of money on these women as well?”
“Are you…are you blackmailing me?”
“Don, you’ve let your ego get to your head. Ever since I showed up at your office that night, I’ve had you in a trap.”
“Ida, please. I’m starting a family soon.”
“Oh, Lisa’s pregnant?”
Donovan stared at me in desperation. I had him in a fix like I’ve never had another human being. If Donovan resigned from the campaign, I would win without competition and Lisa would take Don’s old spot. If he didn’t, he’d be exposed to the public and he’d still lose the race. No matter what he decided, I would win.
He reminded me in that moment of a trapped bunny. I remember reading a book not too long ago that featured how to catch wild bunnies, actually. If you want to trap it in a hole, first you must dig a hole that’s deep and wide enough for the rabbit you’re catching. Then, find sticks that are just wider than the hole and place them on top. Find smaller sticks and cross-hatch them on the larger ones. Cover the hole with foliage so that it may blend in with the surroundings. Place typical rabbit treats like carrots or other vegetables on top, and then wait.
My trap worked perfectly with him, and he didn’t even know. I had laid the treats on top and he fell right on in. In a way, I felt bad. Once he lost the race, much like the other candidates, they’d have to retire to some government-paid housing in the East District, or get a real job.
As we sat there, though, I could see in his eyes a deep concern and contemplation of his future. He smiled and leaned back. “I can’t win, can I?” he asked. I shook my head.
“Are you gonna drop out of the race?” I asked.
“No. I don’t see why I can’t go out with style and class.”
“Right then. Go back to your wife and finish your dinner. It’ll probably be your last with her.”
He looked confused and stood from out table, letting No Name and I finished our dinner in peace. We headed back to her house around 11 p.m. and I figured it was best to just stay overnight in her guest room. When I woke up around 7:30 a.m., I stumbled my way into the bathroom after dancing around in the smell of bacon strolling through the hallway from the kitchen. I stared at myself intensely in the mirror, admiring every aspect of my face followed by my constant success.
When I graduated high school, my parents bought me a deep red Aston Martin DB2 as a graduation gift. They had money to spend and they thought that something so material like that car was worth it. I gave the car to No Name but I never really see it anymore. (She bought herself a different car and uses that one instead, which at first seemed a little offensive but after she told me her reason, I didn’t have a problem with it.) That was until I shuffled my way into the kitchen and peeked at her eating her bacon and pancakes. She looked me up and down and examined me as I prepared myself a plate.
“You know, we should take a spin in that car I gave you.” I suggested, sitting down across from her at the table.
“Right now?” she responded.
“Well I figured you’d want to get that hangover out of the way before you go around driving.”
“I don’t get hangovers, No Name.”
She finished her food before I did, and sat on her couch watching the morning news.
“Ida.” She said, watching the screen with an outsized smile on her face. I glanced over, not completely aware of the fact I’ve fully woken up and also still sluggish from the day before. The newscaster spoke loudly, like a thousand drums. “Ida Cora Radian takes the advantage in the campaigning as John Aberdeen and Agnes Eve are ousted. Sources say Aberdeen has fled the city this morning and Agnes Eve is already on the surface below. Their whereabouts are unknown.”
I came to my senses almost immediately, and spat out my foot. No Name’s face was glowing and she started laughing. I stood up and slowly crept towards the TV listening to the newsman explain further. No Name said in a low tone, “I can’t believe that worked.”
A month later, at the start of June, 1961, No Name received a call from Donovan’s office. She didn’t forward the call, even though I was in my office prepping for the election which would begin the next week. Apparently, and according to No Name word for word, Donovan said, “It’s killing me not knowing what you’re going to do or when you’re gonna do it, Ida. Just please, let’s fix this. How about this? I can get you a photoshoot? I mean, it’s free publicity and it’s not like you’re not gonna already win, right? Please, Ida. Let me do you this favor and promise me you won’t go to the papers about you and I?”
I pondered the thought for a short while, and considered the repercussion of not having the media ever find out about this scandal. Surely I will lose morale, but Donovan’s entire electoral career would end. My image was a major component of this election, and to even have it damaged slightly would be a loss of some sort.
I told No Name to get me on the line with him, and as soon as I got through to him, I told I’m I’d do it. He started thanking me and couldn’t stop stuttering me and mumbling, so I just hung up.
The next day, I arrived at Donovan Studios. There were about 3 or 4 other females there ready to go or having their makeup applied. All of them, I’d assumed were going to be in a separate piece because I wouldn’t be caught dead in anything they were wearing. When I did show up, I had already had No Name do my makeup for me so that nobody would have to touch my face. (I despised physical contact of all types with the exception of No Name and Aleksandrov who I’ve spent a countless amount of time with.)
Donovan spotted me almost instantaneously, and he and Lisa approached me from the area where the cameras were set up. Lisa was a tall and curvy woman with long straight thick black hair. She had dark skin, so I assumed she was of African-American origin. Her eyes, on the other hand, were hazel, and beautiful. She greeted me kindly and warmly, and I felt only pity on her for choosing such a horrible man to marry. (She looked to be almost due, but I only guessed because her stomach was really large and hard and it kind of scared me.)
“Ida, this is my wife, Lisa.” He introduced, with an excited look on his face that reminded me of a newly adopted puppy. Lisa stood there, arms crossed. I stood a mirror image to her. The most respectable thing about Lisa Arde was her intelligence. She never finished high school and never went to college, so the story of her success is an unusual one but one that is the definition of the American Dream. Without any certified education, she single-handedly is leading the fashion revolution in Florence. Fortunately for me, this was not the first time we’d met. (I can hardly remember, but something about New York. Fashion week, probably.)
“Don, this isn’t the first time we’ve met.” I told him. His smiled faltered, and picked back up with him saying, “Well it’s the first time with me here.”
“Sigh. So what will I be wearing?”
“A couple of my designs, I’m afraid.” Lisa chimed in.
“Oh, in that case I imagine they’re not that bad at all.”
I wasn’t wrong. Lisa designs has some originality to them, which was something I admired in fashion. I picked a black police cape-style coat with blue trimmings and a black pencil skirt with matching gloves from all the outfits Lisa had organized together.
“Because you’re so slender and tall, I had originally designed for you. I can’t say the same for my other models.” Lisa explained.
“I’m not like the other models. I’m your future mayor.” I said, with emphasis, gathering the items and strutting to the dressing room.
Exiting the room, Donovan and Lisa has been waiting for me outside on a settee on set.
“You look like a real model.” Donovan complimented.
“Hm. That would be the second thing your other models and I have in common then, wouldn’t it?” I asked. Lisa waited for an explanation in confusion and looked to Donovan for clarification where there was none.
We finished the shoot without any other complications or anecdotes to each other, and it wasn’t until I undressed when Donovan went away from Lisa and myself to attend to the other models. Lisa and I stood side by side on the set, with me drinking some water and her examining things.
“I’m glad you agreed to come down here and do a shoot for me, Ida.” Lisa said.
“It’s no big deal. Your husband seemed to be more interested in me showing up than you, anyways.”
“Why would he? He only cares about the business of this. He probably just wants to be on good terms with you after one of you wins.”
“Have you heard about Agnes and Aberdeen?”
“Yeah. What a real shame.”
“It is, but it’s what needed to happen. They were cheats at the game. They were scum and didn’t deserve this city.”
“And you do?”
“What makes you think Donovan doesn’t?”
Something poked at my throat as I stuttered on the words I wanted to speak. Lisa was staring hard at me as I paused in concern. I felt the heat and pressure in my throat, slowly creeping its way onto my tongue until I could spill out the words accidentally.
“Because Donovan has been cheating on you.” I said sharply. Lisa’s eyes became hooded and dark.
“What do you mean? What are implying? That’s not even possible.” She rebutted.
“I mean what I say, Lisa.”
“How do you know? Where’s your evidence?”
“I’m the evidence. Donovan told me that if I slept with him, he would do me the favor I needed at time. Turns out I’m not the only one who needed favors from him. There’s been plenty of other girls. One of them is a secretary in the Theatrics department named Elizabeth and another is Diane Richards, the photographer. It’s all legitimate. I even put together a whole case on it.”
“Please…don’t lie to me.”
Lisa started tearing up as I reached in my bag and pulled out a yellow folder. Inside were all of my spying documents and sources on Donovan’s scandals.
“I wish I was lying, Lisa. I really do. I’m sorry I had to tell you, and I’m very sorry that you’re starting a family soon, too.” I said, helping her to a spot on the settee. Her face was streaming with tears, so I reached back in my bag and pulled out a handkerchief. She wiped her face and said to me, “I knew it. That bastard! I knew he’d done it. I smelled perfume on him one night when he came home late and he said he didn’t, but I should’ve known better.” She said, babbling.
“It’s alright, Lisa. I’m sorry. Just…just know that every girl was lured into this. Every girl was promised something in return. Every single female or male he en-“
“Male? There’s men involved, too?!”
“Yes. Just let me finish. Every single person he encountered was charmed by him solely into his scandalous behavior. Often, he didn’t even fulfill his promises, much like he didn’t fulfill mine. Now, I’ve said I’m sorry because I truly am, but I need you to not take it out on anyone who’s been his victim.”
“Victim? Oh, please.”
“Yes, really. We’re all victims in this case.”
“Liar! You knew what you were doing. Don’t lie to my face.”
“Alright. I’ll admit I knew what I was doing, and I’ll also admit I didn’t enjoy it at all, but these women…” I flipped through the folder. “These women weren’t even aware that you were married to him, probably. He’s a liar.”
“Who cares? He’s my husband.”
“A real husband wouldn’t hurt his wife like this.”
“He’s still mine regardless. I don’t care about his or your stupid election anymore. I just want this all to be over. I want my life left alone. I just want my career to be left alone. ”
“Lisa, I need you to care.”
“Because I need your support now. I can make the pain go away, so long as you don’t tell anyone about me and Don.”
“Who cares if I do? What will happen?”
“I’ll get taken under and this whole thing will be more messy than it is.”
“That doesn’t stop me from going to the press and destroying your so-called election. If I’m going down, then damnit, someone is going with me.”
“Then let’s make sure it’s Donovan. I can cut you a deal, and I always keep my word.”
Lisa cleaned her face up and eyed me up and down. She let out a heavy sigh and stood up. “What do you have to offer me?” she questioned.
“You can still go to the press, but you HAVE to divorce Donovan and not bring up any of the names of the girls in that folder, including me.”
“And what good does this do me?”
“I’ll give you the Beauty, Fashion, and Luxury Department.”
“Because you’re going to win?”
“If you do as I ask, yes.”
It’s the next few minutes after the results from the polls have come in and the announcement is made. “IDA CORA WINS THE ELECTION BY A LANDSLIDE; 73% to 27%” announces the man from the TV from the party room at a local hotel where I will also be giving my speech which consists of my “dearest” condolences to Donovan and my deep regrets behind Aberdeen and Agnes’ absence during the election. Cameras flash, cameras roll.
My colleagues and closest friends lift me and carry me on their shoulders, me with the biggest smile I could manage. They lift me and bounce me while shouting in joy. I can’t tell if they’re happier than I am or not, that is until I see a glimpse of Lisa Arde’s bitter face from across the room, by the exit. She’s holding a martini in her hand, arm still crossed. She turns her face away, giving me full profile, and then slowly walks out. MY curiosity gets the better of me.
After a few minutes of being paraded around after my speech, I’m let down and shuffle my way towards the exit. As soon as I can see it, someone clenches my wrist, only for me to turn and see No Name’s glowing face. She was brighter than the sun. “Where are you going, stranger? We have a party here!” she said, not breaking her smile.
“Yes, I know. I’ll be right back. I just need some air real quick. This is all just now hitting me.”
“Oh, alright. Well I’ll let you know now that my dad is coming soon.”
“Aleksandrov. He’ll be here in a couple minutes.”
“Oh. Alright, thanks.”
Finally I can break away from the crowd and follow Lisa outside into the alley. The streetlights shone brighter tonight than ever before and you could hear the chatter from other hotels and houses down the street, while cars rolled down the main streets. I spotted Lisa from the corner of my eye, and nonchalantly strutted to her. She took a sip from her martini, making eye contact with me the entire time. “You know you’re not supposed to leave the room or bar with a drink.” I say, suggesting we go back inside where everyone can see us. She laughed out loud in my face. “You of all people shouldn’t have to oblige to rules like those!”
“Well, I may not but you still do. It’s not good for your image either.”
“Who cares? It’s not like I’m relevant anymore.”
“Well you will be once Donovan moves out of his office.”
“Oh, right. You’re supposed to work your [she takes a sip] magic and give me his old job. God could you imagine all the stuff he’s left me with?”
“I have a pretty good idea.”
“Yeah, well, I just don’t want him hanging around my new office like some stalker.”
“How’s the divorce coming?”
“Don was reluctant but I figured after all the arguments he kinda just [takes another sip] gave in. He’s giving me everything I actually owned a couple thousand more. I told him he’d need it more than me, but he was like, ‘Those positions don’t pay enough, y’know.’ I guess he knew that you were giving me the position after all.”
“He’s not dumb.”
“I know. He’s just a terrible liar.”
I put my arm around her and give her an awkward hug. A smile finally crosses her face, but fades quickly. The music blasts from the hotel as we stand in silence, my arm still around her. For a minute or two we ponder the future at the same time (one of the only moments where we actually relate). She finishes her martini, and asks me, “Do you think you and Aleksandrov would work?” I stand in slight shock.
“I…uh. I’m not sure. We obviously have something going, but neither of us has made a move. It’s probably going to stay that way.” (3 months later, Aleksandrov proposes to me. I accept. 2 months after that, we are married.)
“Well, I know No Name will be your Maid of Honor, so I’ll only ask to be a bridesmaid.”
“In some sick and strange way, you basically saved my marriage. I’m bitter that it had to be you, but…he just didn’t deserve to win, and now I’m glad he didn’t.”
I didn’t know whether to thank her for implying she was happy I won or to make some kind of joke based off of that, so we just walked back into hotel. She left her martini in the alley.
Aleksandrov welcomed me back in as soon as Lisa and I passed the threshold. She disappeared in the crowd so I couldn’t introduce the two, but I figured she wouldn’t care anyways. Lisa was the type who couldn’t care less about politics. (Later would she confide in me that the only reason she was with Donovan was because he was going to jeopardize the whole department unless someone intervened. “He had no idea what he was doing. Behind every powerful man is a woman who actually knows what she’s doing.”)
He grabbed me by the shoulders and then pulled me in for a big hug. Aleksandrov’s hugs always felt warm and full of love, surely built on affection. He took me to the side at the bar and ordered a “celebratory shot” for the both of us. “To the newest and best leader Florence will ever see!” he yelled, raising his shot in the air. Everyone in the room cheered and yells of “Salut!” rang in the air. Bottoms down.
“I’m so proud of you Ida! You’ve done the unthinkable, and against all odds!” he said, still vibrating a loud voice.
“Yes, well, it wasn’t hard.” I replied.
“Oh, but surely. I find it hard to believe that everyone was so wicked.”
“They really were."
“So you’re saying I made poor choices?”
“With Agnes, the people did. With Don, everyone knew it was a bunch of favors owed, and Aberdeen was a briber. It was hardly your fault.”
“I wish I could say that.”
“Well, I won’t let anyone slip through my hands. You can count on that.”
“I have absolute confidence in you, Ida.”
“Thank you, Aleks. That means a lot to me.”
He looked at me tenderly if only for a second, and leaned in to my cheek, giving me a kiss. Aleksandrov got up and walked away, joining the dancing crowd. I sat there for a little while, playing with a napkin while everyone was dancing to “He’s So Fine”. The irony in how a song could describe my feelings at such a prime time.
No Name followed up Aleksandrov’s lost presence and took a seat on the red barstool. “I saw ALL of that.” She said, ordering a drink for herself. “Oh god, No Name, please.” I pleaded.
“So when do I start calling you mom?”
“NEVER. You’re my friend, No Name. Not my daughter.”
“We’re not even together. It was just a little affection. Nothing serious.”
“Right. Well, I’m still fairly young. I mean, I’m only 19, and I am adopted too. It’s alright if you’re my mom.”
“Yes, I know. But you’re still close to my age. You’re like, 10 years my junior. That’s weird.”
“Well fine, we’ll still be just friends. Will I still keep my job?”
“Yes, of course.”
No Name got up and started jumping and screeching in my ear, drawing attention to the bar. Some people turned my way and made their way over. No Name raised her drink and made a toast herself.
“I’d just like to say…Ida, I’ve known you since I was a teenager and you’ve been more like a mother and mentor to me than an actual friend, and I couldn’t be more grateful than I already am. You have so many more things to teach me, and the rest of us all, and I am ready for your 10 year reign over Florence. May it be virtuous and fun. Let the good times roll!”
It is 1962. I am only a few months into my 10 years of office. I have two plants adjacent to my door, which stands center across from my desk. No Name has a notepad ready to mark the day’s schedule ahead. She’s wearing one of her blue-r outfits (white button-up with a black tie, blue slacks and those same porcelain heels). “So, the papers down below want a statement on what Florence will be like under your control. What should we tell them?” she asked me in that thick Russian accent, reminiscent of Aleksandrovs’. I sigh and fold my hands under my chin, both elbows on my desk. “Florence was known as a dowdy setting, nestled just below the clouds but far enough from the ground that you never thought of its existence…”
“…but now it will be largest and most memorable city in the world.”
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