Cain put the phone down in it's cradle. He had a look on his face like the cat that ate the canary.
"I believe a celebration is in order," Cain said.
"White or red?" Victory asked, eyeing his friend strangely but going to the liquor cabinet instead of asking him what had just occurred to warrant his last statement.
"Champagne, nothing less!" Cain exclaimed.
"But of course," Victory said with something less than enthusiasm.
When they were both sitting across from each other with wine glasses in hand, Victory finally asked, "Do you mind telling me why, exactly, we're celebrating?"
"Congratulate me, my boy, we've just gone international!"
"International? Are you kidding?"
"Not at all! I've just given the go ahead to three new chapters of the Fellowship - one in Berlin, one in Rome, and one in Tokyo. We're a global phenomenon!"
"To a world full of Oxen," Victory said, lifting his glass.
"I'll drink to that," Cain said, clinking his glass to Victory's.
After Cain had downed four or five more glasses than Victory, there came a sudden knock on the door. It surprised both of them, despite the fact that they were in Fellowship Headquarters and, as they claimed, "the door is always open". They normally didn't actually have to live up to that promise.
"Come on in!" Vic called out.
The door swung open and a man stepped in. He was tall and built like a brick wall. He had blond hair and blue eyes and immense muscles. He seemed to be a creature of myth, an Aryan giant of ancient India.
"Hello," he said, with a slightly Teutonic intonation, "I hope I am not interrupting anything."
"We always have time for a hard-working citizen," Cain said with a smile, "What can we do for you?"
"You're Adrian Cain, aren't you?" the hulking Aryan asked in astonishment.
"Yes, I am," Cain said, beaming with pleasure at being recognized.
"I saw you speech on television, Mr. Cain. I was very impressed. I wanted to know if I could join your Fellowship."
"You're perfectly welcome to," Victory said, getting up to fetch the official roster.
Victory returned a moment later and sat back down with a grunt. He brandished a fountain pen.
"What's your name?"
"Henry Schutzstaffel," he said trepidaciously, "But everyone calls me Duke."
"How do you spell your last name, Duke?" Vic asked, deeply engrossed in his scribe work.
Duke slowly spelled it out and then said, "But are there no requirements for membership? No dues?"
"The only requirement for membership is to be diligent and gainfully employed," Cain said, beginning to grow slightly giddy from the alcohol.
Duke looked at Victory helplessly.
"He means you have to work," Victory said, realizing that Duke was the kind of person who had more practice using his hands than using his mind and mouth, which was a perfectly noble type of person, "You do work, don't you, Duke?"
"Yes, sir," Duke said, beginning to understand, "I work in the mines."
"Did you hear that, Victory? He's a miner! How simply wonderful," Cain said.
"Don't mind him, he's drunk," Victory said in an irked tone of voice.
"I am not," Cain said in a cheerfully inebriated tone of voice, "Now then, Mr. Shungerstibble, about your other question..."
"Did I ask another question?"
"Dues!" Cain said crossly, "We have twenty dollar dues every month. But they're not due until the first of the month, so you have a few weeks."
"Adrian, we don't..."
"Shhh!" Cain said loudly and drunkenly, "I'm just telling this gentleman what's what. Now then...welcome aboard."
"Thank you, Mr. Cain."
"Call me Adrian," Cain said, his natural charisma beginning to shine through even his intoxicated state, "Now, before you go, Mr. Shamsizzle, how to like to avoid paying dues, and get a somewhat better paying job in the process?"
"I don't think I understand, sir,"
"I'd like to offer you a job as my personal assistant. The work would involve mostly being my bodyguard and doing certain small tasks for me. I will guarantee you a pay increase on whatever your mining salary is, and full benefits, and you will be exempt from our membership dues. What do you say?"
"That sounds excellent, Adrian," Duke said, clearly reveling in his new status, "When can I begin?"
"Tomorrow," Adrian said, "Or as soon as you can escape the drudgery of your mines."
"Absolutely, tomorrow, sir," Duke said, smiling, "When can I show up?"
"I'll be here, sir."
"Good night, Duke."
"Good night, Adrian. Good night, sir," he said, nodding absently at Victory.
"You know, I believe that's a step in the right direction," Cain said when Duke had left, "I believe he's the first person who has sought us out for membership, instead of us seeking him."
"Do you mind telling me what the hell that was about?" Victory asked angrily.
"What? Well, I've been meaning to get a bodyguard. Believe me, I can pay him out of my own pocket, I won't put undue stress on the treasury..."
"I mean that bullshit about dues, Cain!" Victory exclaimed, and his use of Cain's surname was a clear indicator of how angry he was, "It's not twenty dollars every month. It's a hundred dollars for life."
"Well, I think we need to change our policy, Victory, and I intend to. We can't accomplish anything in this free-enterprise society without money in our treasury. My God, we can barely pay my salary. I've been taking just enough to live so that I wouldn't be an undue strain on our financial situation. One all-encompassing fee isn't going to cover our expenses, Vic. If we want to really do good in this world, we've got to change our financial policy."
"So that's it. You just change a major policy without consulting me. We're partners, Cain. You're not a dictator here."
"My God, Vic, would you just settle down! I haven't changed anything yet. And if you like we can discuss it, but I think you'll see I'm right. The fine details may need ironing out, but in the end, this is what's best for the Fellowship."
Victory smashed his wineglass to the floor and leapt from his seat. He pointed a damning finger at his partner.
"You'd better learn to get your power hunger under control, Cain. I don't want this kind of crap to happen again."
As Victory stormed angrily out of the headquarters, Cain called after him, "Good night!"
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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