Cha 9 from LionWorld by William E Justin Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

Ethan Vulerummer slept peacefully through the morning hours. He had been very drowsy on his return from The Beast Bar and barely remembered to contact his man Jay Carroll over the ultra secure link provided by his Deep Water Communicator. He wanted all his appointments put on hold into the early afternoon. He’d gotten into his bed in his suite above the V Corp Building at 6:00 AM and went out like a light. At 10 he woke up just enough to realize how peacefully he was sleeping and rolled back into his pillow for more. It was noon when he came awake all at once and quickly sat up in his bed. His restful sleep had been shattered by a striking and vivid dream. His view was encased in a field of dry bushes and small wilting trees. He saw the body of a child laying flat on its back in front of him and it appeared to have been in that place for quite a while. The child was dead. The head had a bullet wound at one of the temples. The male child was naked and covered with worms that were breaking down the corpse. He couldn’t move his own body and was frozen in place and looking down. All he could see from this fixed viewpoint were the tips of his KuomGotti shoes with the spot of ink barely visible on one of the toes; and the naked remains of this child who was perhaps 7 or 8 years old. The skin on the stomach and abdominal region of the corpse had been removed—not by a wild animal, but by the precise cuts of a hunting knife. Worms had gathered on the exposed muscle and were hard at work. Seemingly paralyzed in the grip of the horrible site, he became aware of some pleasant odor not unlike that of Sandalwood oil—then, of a “presence” he sensed hovering over him from behind. More then anything, he wished he could turn around and see who or what it was that was at his rear. The dream then reached its apex: the eyes on the corpse shot open and it reached out its arms in the motion a baby might make to its mother. Then, in a flash, the child lifted from the ground as if a powerful gust of wind had caught it and made it sail upwards. This happened in a single motion and it wasn’t even the corpse that had suddenly come alive. It was more like an apparition that was contained in the decaying matter before him and then set free—a replica of the corpse or a template from which the dead body had been made. He struggled to move but could not. He felt an looming sense of doom upon him. Then he realized he was only dreaming and came awake in his bed. Vulerummer had nightmares before but this was very real and vivid. After a moment’s thought he had “read” the dream—or that part of it he could easily understand. He had been urged to “read his dreams” during his many years of once-a-week therapy sessions. The therapy was helpful to him. Such dreams, as he understood it, were a kind of moral debris not unlike the microscopic chunks of metal that sloshed around in the oil pan of a car. He believed only weak fools made more of it then that. So he quickly dismissed this dream as unfit for much thought at all—he knew how KuomGotti shoes were really made and it didn’t bother him in the least.

Fully awake now, he realized there were important things to think about. He needed to call the head of his personal security team and meet with him as soon as possible. This was serious business and he didn’t waste any time in ordering the man up to his penthouse suite immediately. He put in a live call to Jay Carroll and told him to set his rest-of-the-day schedule to begin at 2:00PM. He had the heads of his largest American media companies gathering in Capital City for a scheduled conference the following day. They were to talk about “themes and schemes” as they called it. Setting guidelines for Fascist-oriented streamlining of the news and concocting “hot new stories” that would keep the public enthralled enough to sit through the many commercials. Critics charged this as having a dual effect that included distracting people from focusing on the important issues that affected their lives. Of course, real critics that understood the manufacturing of consent that took place on the majority of media in the western world, didn’t get air time on the channels where it took place. When the head of security came into Vulerummer’s office, he was visibly nervous. There had never been anything close to a breach such as what had occurred that morning when the shoeshine man and his strange-looking cat had set up right, smack in the middle of their detail without any of them having noticed. Even with the anomaly of what weather people were now calling “a historical occurrence of fog”, this breach was like a cardinal sin. The two men most responsible for this were sitting around like freighted children in their office waiting for the verdict—which at best would be the loss of their employment, and at worst, being killed for incompetence! They became even more agitated when they were summoned up directly to the penthouse suite. Both men would’ve run if they could have. Instead, they joined the other members of that morning’s street-team and crowded into the private elevator that led to Vulerummer’s suite. “I want to apologize to you men”, Vulerummer said strongly. He pointed at one of the guards. “This man told me to stay put and I overruled him. That goes against our agreement and contract. I’m afraid I made a bit of fool of myself.” The men were more then surprised to hear this and almost gasping together in relief. All of them quickly assured the richest man in the world that he was entitled to do anything he wanted to. The commander of the security team said he also wanted to apologize that this odd shoeshine man had gotten inside of their defense net. He even had statistics to quote to the boss that would reassure Vulerummer that there was always room for improvement and that they were dedicated to learn mightily from this episode. He told him that the density of the fog and the movement of their detection network of men had left the little shoeshine man with no better then a thousand-to-one chance of doing what he had done. “I take it that you’ve asked all of the questions and have the identity of that man?” “We’re still working on it. Apparently he’s not very well known in this vicinity. But it’s only a matter of time before we find out who he is, sir”. “He told me he was originally from Ceylon and that he had always moved around a lot. He appeared much too soft to be any kind of threat.” Vulerummer thought about it some more and said that he should’ve gotten his name. “Still, I would think it should be pretty easy to get a handle on him.”

That is just what Kerri Branghaue was thinking when she set a team out to make discrete enquiries about the shoeshine man. They had come to the same conclusion as Vulerummer’s security head. The man must’ve wondered in a good distance from his usual haunts and was not known on the street around there. And nothing on him had turned up in any of the databases that had been searched. She had gotten on this immediately and as Vulerummer slept, she was soaring back across the country on a World Security Burner Jet. At the time her adversary was waking up from his vivid dream, she was passing down a hallway in Los Angeles that led to the office of Eric “Brick” Smith. He would’ve already have known that she had taken a jet and flown to Manhattan City the previous night. He hadn’t called her which meant a show of trust and she was eager to fill him in on everything. Smith was surprised to see her and was doused with a look of amusement. He couldn’t imagine what she might’ve been up to. “Well, I hear you and your secretary had a night on the town—in Manhattan City no less. Kerri, I’m glad to see you’re finally beginning to let your hair down a little.” He was smiling broadly. She didn’t give him many opportunities to tease her and watched her face frown up a bit. As he was anxious to hear what she had been up to, he stopped his kidding there. The thought she would take a burner jet and go on a pleasure run was comical enough and way more then he could’ve actually hoped for. When he finished hearing her account—complete

with the admission of her dream and odd preoccupation with the photos of the steel door, he was wide-eyed. “Wow!” was all he could say at first. “Do you think I was wrong in playing my hunch?” she asked her mentor. “Ah….no. Certainly not in this circumstance. If nothing else, we’ve gained some real insight into Vulerummer that we didn’t have. And we know there are going to be holes in his defenses…that thing about the shoeshine man?” Smith paused and searched his mind. This part of Branghaue’s account reminded him of something but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. “That was odd” she said. “It was like there was one tiny hole in his security net and this nobody from no where shows up and walks right through it.” This sparked Smith’s mind and he became aware of what he was trying to put his finger on. “It sounds a bit like all of that weird stuff we heard from White out in Santa Barbara.” He lightened up some. His mode of behavior was to never be seen as sinking into the perplexity of a difficult situation. Smith saw himself as the commander on the hill overlooking the battle. But now he had a strange sense of there being a larger hill and something looking down on him as well. This was not a feeling he liked at all and so he made light of the whole thing. He offered that perhaps the shoeshine man was part of these “Washington Kachina” people she liked to believe in. “He must be one of their guys!” he said, feigning seriousness. “Well, maybe he is” she said, going along with the joke. “You should call up that one guy…what was his name, White’s trainer in Arizona?” “Paul Cavalet”. “Yeah, you might want to give him a call. He’s probably the boss of the Kachinas”. Kerri laughed. Smith always had a way of reassuring her. He was perhaps the best man she’d met; a good and strong father figure that becomes the standard by which a women will measure all other men. “There’s one other thing that’s been kinda bothering me” she said. “Eric, would you have killed Vulerummer when you had the chance, like I did last night…I mean like I would’ve had if I’d thought to bring a weapon?” “Nobody expects us to make sacrifices like that. If upper level people like us did that, trust in World Security would go out the window. This is why we have people like the Arab Assassins Group. Did you consider trying to get one of them in?” “It never crossed my mind” Branghaue said. “There wasn’t time for it any way and Vulerummer’s man was sitting right on top of me.” “That’s too bad. I’d of liked to have seen if one of those guys would actually function if called upon.” The Arab Assassins Group or (AAG), was an odd religious organization that had been bound to World Security for decades. They supposedly wanted to sacrifice themselves as some kind of sacrament. They maintained a training program year in and year out but had never been called upon to actually execute. They were considered a specialty group to be used only in very select situations. Nothing suiting their profile had ever really come up. World Security had never run up against the prolific planning of an organization such as what The Seven Lions of Private Control had become under Vulerummer. “I’m going to station one of them very close to The Beast Bar” Branghaue said. “We’ll try and get an operative in there, a bus boy or something. If Vulerummer shows up again we can pull the trigger.” “But he almost never goes there? Right?” “Before last night, maybe once about a year ago. And that was only a rumor.” “Still” Smith said, “that’s better then what we had this time yesterday. You did a great job Kerri.” Six weeks after those events had taken place, Bill Le Muffet began his day in The Oakland. He had rolled out of the sack just past 9 am and was at his kitchen counter sipping coffee and surfing through the web pages that came and went on a 21 inch screen mounted to a nearby wall. He lived at the top of a three story development of town houses overlooking a plush urban lake front. A confirmed bachelor, the outside spearman of the Le Muffet Crew had a central core of training he practiced daily during the off-season. He would gaze out his window and watch the steady flow of young, female joggers looking for “a candidate”. When one appeared, he’d sprint out of the house and down the three flights of stairs and jog after her at a polite distance. When she stopped, he would stop and make conversation and try and hook her up for a date out to whatever club or restaurant or social event “him and the boyz” would be attending that evening. Bill liked girls who were well-endowed on the backside— ones who could “weather the storm” as he put it.

The other thing Bill Le Muffet did religiously was to stay abreast of the latest in electronics. He wanted to know everything that was going on—from miniature cameras to the latest audio equipment to industrial laser technology and motion detection. He planned to open a state-of-the-art security business in the coming years and further capitalize on The Le Muffet name. Today, he was looking for information about a coming product from Asian Motors called, The Scout. It was a two-seat, compact four-wheeler with the purported ability to jump and clear a six-foot wall. They were designed as recreational toys and also for security patrols. He’d heard that the first videos of The Scout would be out at anytime and that an initial lot of the vehicles would be available prior to the general public release in Asian Motors’ showrooms after the first of the year. Bill did a fast search for The Scout and didn’t realize he’d entered a typo into the search box. He ended up on a web page featuring a video of some old guys driving around on Asian Motors’ Scoots . Bill, still sleepy-eyed, was trying to figure out how these over-sized wheel chairs and their ancient drivers were going to jump a six foot wall. Then he saw he’d made the typo and went to go back to do a new search. Before he could click out of The Scoot video however, something called an “intrusion ad” shot out from the far right middle portion of the screen. It occupied about a fifth of the screen-space and a male figure in a video superimposed on the black background of the rectangle turned to center-screen with a cupped hand at his mouth. His voice was conspiratorial and very familiar to Bill. “Hey, buddy! If you’re a single senior man who decides he’s not yet ready for a Scoot ride to an early grave, follow me.” The video figure motioned for the viewer to come along and the “intrusion ad” collapsed back into the far right of the screen leaving a small arrow and a box that said; “Click Here For More Information”. When he did, Bill Le Muffet was staring at a video featuring Buster White in full promotional mode introducing a retirement home for single senior males down near Rio in Brazil. He could hardly believe it. He watched spell-bound as Buster led the viewer on a video tour of La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community in Paradise Canyon, Brazil. There was a sparkling pool, a bar, a restaurant, a 9 hole golf course and putting green, a gym, tennis courts, an on site medical office, 300 rooms and even a miniature train that delivered the men to various points on the large property. The retirement center featured an array of young women in bikinis that provided all of the service duties for the men. By day they caddied for them, cooked and served the food, cleaned the individual units, trained with them in the weight room, and played bad mitten, tennis and joined in the card games. They also did singing and dancing shows four nights a month and provided massage services “with all the trimmings” according to Buster. Toward the end of the promotional video, he introduced “the beautiful president of La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community, Mrs. Lucile Trump—the aunt of world famous Lion-Fighter Maxim Le Muffet”. Bill Le Muffet, watched his aunt flash one of the perfect smiles he had known since he was a young boy and she would come to visit them. She warmly told the video audience of single senior men that they were welcome to come down to Brazil for a complementary 3 day, 2 night stay and judge for themselves whether they might want to spend their wonder years as part of the community here. The promotional video ended with Buster White saying how he’d only been at La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community for a short time but felt ten years younger as a result. He mentioned there was a financial officer on site to offer information on reverse mortgages. The video hit freeze frame after a miniature train came by carrying several guests. It was driven by one of the bikini clad young women who mostly disappeared off camera making it appear to Bill as if this train was being driven by “fine booty”. He was wide awake now and bouncing around nervously on the bar stool at his kitchen counter. He knew he needed to do something but he was unsure just what to do or why to do it. He stared at the part of the freeze frame featuring “the fine booty” and suddenly knew what he had to do. He had to go on down to Brazil and investigate just what was going on here. He told himself this video promo could have the effect of hurting The Le Muffet name. It looked dangerous to him. He called up his younger brother Ronnie who lived at the opposite end of the development of townhouses there. “Oafy, you gotta see what I jus saw! Remember that bet we made about Busta and Lucile? Well you won. Busta alive and smellin’ like a rose jus like you said. Where Sheri?” Ronnie said his wife had taken the two babies out grocery shopping. “Good” said Bill. He sent his younger brother a link to the video and soon Ronnie had seen what his older brother had seen.” “Damn, I can’t believe what I jus saw” he said. “Them two are like partners in crime now or something!” “That why I’m callin’ you. We gotta do somethin’. The family name at stake here.” “You wanna call Max?”

“Hell no” Bill replied. “There no telling how he gonna react. Same with Big-E and fo sure don’t be callin’ Coco. We gotta take care of this ourselves little bro. You and me gotta go down there and investigate this! Then we tell the family”. “You wanna call Merle or mama?” “No! We can’t tell anyone till we check this out. They no tellin’ how people all gonna react to this. We gotta be smooth and find out ourselves what’s goin’ on down there.” Ronnie stared at the final frozen frame of the video, and like his brother, at “the fine booty” poking out that appeared to be driving the train. “You see that fine booty at the end at the right hand side of the picture…?” “Yeah” Bill said with some exasperation. “That’s what I mean. This is hot. It might blow up. We gotta get down there and get on top of this.” “I gotta tell Sheri” Ronnie said. “Yeah, you gotta tell ya wife but don’t let her see the video”. “I’m not stupid!” Ronnie said. “I know. But you gotta be sly. You gotta make it so she not gonna say nothin’ till we check this out.” “She cool” Ronnie said. “You want me to get the boyz together?” “Oh, hell no!” Bill said. “Little Bro, this shit is serious. It no place for the boyz!” “So jus the two of us going?” “Yeah. As soon as you can get free, we out. I’ll call the travel dude, see what he put together fo us. You jus settle it with Sheri and call me.” Ronnie continued to stare at the scene from the video. He started laughing. “I tell you, Busta and Lucile for real. They strikin’ like a pair of his and her shark!”

Two days had passed since the first wave of “intrusion ads” crept onto various web pages up north in the United States. Buster White didn’t know what an intrusion ad even was but they had shown him the final cut of the promotional video and he liked the way it turned out. He was thinking about it and feeling pleased when that little semi-guttural sound went off in the back of his throat. No one ever heard but him. It was his secret laugh. “Hhe, Hhe, Hhe”. Sitting out at a shaded table at the little restaurant at La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community, Buster was feeling like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. But he didn’t care if anybody knew it or not. He was floating on the warm air of his recent turn of fortune. Two months earlier, he had been stuck dead in the back water on a run down street in the Hollywood . Now the world was his oyster again. Plus, he had managed to produce a batch of his “secret smoke” as he called it. He’d gotten in a couple tokes before he went to bed and came back into the world feeling great. The nagging pains all over his old body had subsided and he almost felt like he could sprint over to the nearby pool and dive into the water like he did as a young man some sixty years before. But even free of the pain, he knew how time had deformed the joints and muscles in his body. He was well into middle age when he finally had to give up on the idea he had that with the right training and diet he could return to being the young man who could run like a greyhound, swim like a porpoise, and fuck like a rabbit. It had been that realization which caused him to search out and find the receipt for the “secret smoke”. The only trepidation Buster felt when Lucile offered to taken him down here with her was that he might be cut off from attaining the various materials that made up his tonic. But this one guy Hector had helped him get what he needed and now he possessed everything his heart could desire. The girl was coming with his breakfast. Buster received as much joy listening to her talk as he did watching her move about in the little bikini she always wore. She was one of the girls who stayed in her bikini day and night. He thought she was a natural nudist and would’ve walked around naked the whole time if that sort of thing were allowed. Lucile had found her somewhere in Rio and called her Morning Child because she always seemed full of the burst of a new day. Nobody knew what her real name was or where she was born. She seemed to be at least partly an eastern European but wouldn’t talk about her past. She mixed Spanish and English in her speech although she couldn’t speak either much at all. She put down a plate with four sausage links, three eggs, toast, and ranch style potatoes—An All-American breakfast Buster only allowed himself one real breakfast a week. For three decades, he had made himself eat very healthy food four out of every five times he dined. He smiled warmly at Morning Child who looked at him with bright, eager eyes. Buster was trying to figure out if she ever did more around there then cook and serve in the restaurant—which seemed to be her specialty. He

decided to ask her if she also gave the nice massages like several of the other girls. She clearly didn’t understand what he was saying but responded affirmatively just the same. She nodded. “Oh, si, senior Whitey” she said in some good-natured attempt at an American accent. She pointed at the plate of food. “I kooky the sosa…hot and juicy…you put in mouth and like. I know you like”. She raised her eyebrows and nodded once more with a bloated expression of knowing. It made her whole face more round. Then she rubbed her tummy like someone making a gesture to a child. All of this made Buster squint. He wondered if she was trying too hard to be pleasant—or possibly a bit retarded. A deep howl of amusement came up from the next table where Hector Lopez was eating his breakfast. He whirled around. “Her Englesh es no bueno, Booster. She comprendes no too mooch.” “Hector, you think Morning Child does the nice massages?” The man looked at Buster with some perplexity. “I not know Booster. You needy to ask señora Lucile of this”. Morning Child stood by until Buster had taken a bite of one of the sausage links. She wagged her head up and then down in a satisfied nod and happily walked off. Buster enjoyed the view as she departed. He made a crude gesture at Hector after pointing at the young woman’s sexy exit. “Booster, no too mooch for you!” Hector was laughing. Then he covertly pointed up toward one of the housing units. The one where Lucile’s infirmed husband, Johnny “Butch” Trump, sat frozen in his wheel chair beside the window. “Senior Trump…too mooch….e now….” He made his hand into a fixed claw and donned a crazy paralyzed face. Then he stared down at his plate and laughed at his joke, trying to hide this in case anybody but Buster was looking. From what Buster could gather, Hector Lopez had a slightly altered view of what brought on the paralyzing stroke to Lucile’s husband—the Cleveland, Ohio real estate developer they all called “Butch”. He claimed the man had been done in by “poison tee tee”. When Buster asked Lucile to decipher this for him she laughed gaily and explained that Hector was a bit superstitious. He believed there was a nest of poisonous “teetse flies” that came in from high up in Paradise Canyon on the full moon. Its tendency was to bite a person that become run down by rich food and too much sexual activity. The bite of this Teetse fly would setup a paralyzing stroke. Later, when he saw Hector, the man presented a small can of bug spray to him. Buster wouldn’t receive the gift and shook his head. He made a fist, tensed his upper body muscles and pointed toward himself. “Total Hombre, total time!” he told Lopez proudly, flashing a robust smile. This really set Hector off into a flood of mirth. “Oooooh, Booster es muy más macho!” he said celebrating the burst of testosterone the old man had displayed. While casting an almost child-like demeanor in his behavior and antics, Hector Lopez had been a cowboy—a vaquero—in his native Argentina. Buster and him had became instant friends although Buster thought the guy had possibly been kicked in the head by a horse—Lopez seemed a little crazy to him. He was employed there as Lucile’s driver and right hand man. Buster had been riding with her in back of the small limo, heading into to Rio, when he caught sight of Hector gazing at him through the rearview mirror. There was a crazy glint in his eye. Buster didn’t know what to make of it, perhaps Hector was jealous of him. Lucile was a kind of woman that brought it out in men. She actually fawned over Hector and that disturbed Buster. She would rub his back and kiss him on the cheek—and call him her “Argentine baby”. Buster didn’t think Hector was getting any though. But he was suspicious of a young handsome Brazilian that worked for a mail carrier and delivered small freight out to Paradise Canyon. He had disappeared with Lucile into her office for close to an hour one day. Buster had confronted her and she told him that she had only shared lunch with the young man whom she had known for several years and had become friends with. Lucile claimed to be “finished with men…at least until Butch Trump was in the ground”. Buster whispered to her that he was ashamed to admit he was growing more infatuated with her every day and that her image was now beginning to appear in his nightly dreams. “Busta, you are such an old player” she responded with good nature. “I tell you what, one of these nights when I’m taking my bath, I’ll leave the door open and you can come in and masturbate if you like.” Lucile’s smile became supercharged with gleefulness when Buster chocked a bit on her words. The image of Buster White masturbating to a woman in a tub was disturbing—especially to him. Hector Lopez had always been first in to the restaurant each morning. With the arrival of Buster White on the scene he now had a dining partner although each sat at a different table next to the other. They had fallen into this pattern and it seemed to suit them both. Buster had been in Paradise Canyon for a month now and Hector saw that he was quickly becoming a fixture there. He didn’t mind this. He wanted the retirement community to thrive and saw him as an asset. So he helped him get his bearings. It was he who introduced Buster to the thirty

or so men that had arrived during the previous year-and-a-half. Many of them were well-to-do old gentlemen from up and down Brazil and Latin America. Some were investors and all of them were counting on Buster White being able to bring in retirees from the U.S. There was a long term business plan in effect that included further development of Paradise Canyon to begin once a clear market developed and they made a sufficient dent in the 300 rooms on the existing property. Buster claimed he could bring in many of the old Navy men that had excellent pensions. He suggested that they bring in an initial batch of men for whatever they could afford in order to build up a solid reservoir of “English speakers” as they were known to the locals. They already had a core group of five navy vets including Buster who loved to join in the card games and talk about the old days. Since he had many stories to tell from his years as a Lion-fighting broadcaster, he was quite popular. And it didn’t hurt that his son Big-E White was an international sports celebrity. Buster was used to fielding the many questions people asked about his son. “How’s that boy of yours, Buster? He gonna kick some more Lion ass this season?”. That’s usually how it started and he would have to embellish the stories about his son. Buster’s true feeling that Big-E was a pussy-whipped, semi-recluse that spent much of his free time roaming the outback like some solitary woodsman was not what anybody wanted to hear. So he would change things around a bit and make Big-E sound more like the son of Buster White. More freewheeling and fun. Fun was not a word that seemed to mesh with his famous son unless you got excited about all things cerebral. If Big-E had been a normal man, with his looks and wealth, Buster would’ve had grandchildren all over the planet. Instead, he didn’t have even have one. He would have to explain to people that, “his wife wants to wait” until the end of his Lion-fighting career. This was true, but it was something Big-E himself wanted as well. Neither wanted to bring children into the world that would be left fatherless by a Tall Lion. Buster just couldn’t understand that. The possibility of early death in battle had sure as shit never stopped a Navy man from spawning. In fact, as far as Buster was concerned, the situation seemed to call for it! He would’ve liked to have been able to blame Coco for this decision. At first, Buster White thought his boy had hooked up with a really hot little packet of fire with Coco. He saw they loved each other. When he had goofed a little on the air that day and supposedly disrespected her, he never thought of it like that. In fact, he felt it might’ve saved their relationship. Big-E was such that he might never have popped the question of marriage before Coco got mad and broke the thing off. That’s the way the two of them were in Buster’s evaluation. And he was excited about a union between the White genes and the Le Muffet genes. He expected plenty of “Lion-fighting grandbabies”. He was planning on a Lion-fighting dynasty! Now, he’d probably be dead before he got even one grandchild. Big-E was so into his damn wilderness crap, and Coco into her damn designer crap—and the two of them together were so into their damn Santa Barbara seaweed crap—that instead of getting good Lion-fighting grand-babies, he’d probably only get sheep-like grandchildren with all the grit of that pathetic little dog of theirs. But Buster felt he only had himself to blame. Maybe if he would’ve done a better job of supervising Big-E as a teenager, he wouldn’t have had that accident and fallen under the spell of that Cavalet character. It’s not that Buster resented Paul Cavalet. Everybody agreed he had saved Big-E from sinking into a vegetative state and had brought him back. It’s just that the boy who came back would never be all that Buster would’ve hoped for in terms of being normal. Paul had tried to explain that Big-E was different and that his path had changed. Then he tried to tell him some Native American mumbo-jumbo and Buster made it clear he didn’t want to hear about any of that non-sense and the two agreed to never bring such talk up again. But Cavalet had him and that was something Buster had to accept. At least Big-E never disowned him like his two older children from other women. In most ways, he couldn’t complain and Buster loved his boy. It was just that he had to make up a lot of stuff about him when talking to the kind of people he liked to associated with—honest-to-god damned real people like strippers and casino guys and Navy men. Normal working people. His relationship with Coco went south from the beginning. The girl turned out to be a spoiled little princess and Buster had told Lucile this very plainly. She was as smart and slick as her aunt but would never possess Lucile’s innate charm or superior beauty—not in Buster’s opinion. When he moved to The Hollywood after the Nevada gig played out, Coco had shown up at his door one day unexpectedly. She was dressed to the hilt and all smiles and full of charm. “Buster, I wanted to come over here and bury the hatchet with you” she had told him in an innocent little voice. “Now, I’ll never call you daddy because, well, you’re not. But I’m hoping we can become civil toward one another.” This had excited him at first. It appeared to be something a pregnant woman would do as part of the pre-nestbuilding process—get the father-in-law on board. So he asked her if they were expecting and she quickly told

him that, no, they were waiting until after Big-E finished his Lion-fighting career. Then he waited for what he predicted would come next—the actual reason she had dropped in. “You know, Buster, Big-E and I wanted to offer you an alternative to having to live here in this nasty Hollywood. My family has a sweet little cottage in South Florida that I think would be perfect for you.” She wanted to move him as far away as possible he thought. He was polite and mild—partly because he was crestfallen over the realization that no grandchild was on the way. He said thanks and told her he’d give the matter a lot of thought. When she left he got his son on the phone to find out if he had sanctioned this. Big-E had tried to cover for his wife but it was clear to him he knew nothing of this attempt to move him out. Buster blew up and said he didn’t need the damn money his son was sending him each month—that he’d sell drugs rather then be treated like that. But the checks kept coming and they all patched things up. Buster and Coco learned to tolerate each other during the few times each year they would get together. Buster couldn’t really figure out why she didn’t like him. Everybody liked Buster White—even after some the things he said and did. He figured he just wasn’t “homosexual enough” for his daughter-in-law. The girl always seemed to have a troupe of homosexuals around. It wasn’t that Buster was prejudice toward homosexuals either. In the Navy, guys would get drunk and play that “stormy night” game. He never remembered being involved in any of it himself. But that was just men being men in his opinion. Coco liked having the real ones around. She’d even turned the damn little dog into one. He couldn’t understand her. She had grown up with four manly brothers—he’d of thought she’d be more of a tomboy or at least the type of woman who knew her place among men and would strive to provide her husband with good male offspring. Her older brother Maxim was as manly as one could be. Buster had hoped some of this would rub off on Big-E. Max had fifteen known children, four wives and was revered by the good people in his community and feared by the bad people. He was a king. He reckoned Big-E could’ve been like that too. Instead, his son spent his days out in the woods—probably collecting arrowheads for his anthropologist friends to marvel at when they all came together at one of the Santa Barbara seaweed restaurants But Buster had made his peace with the way things turned out. Especially now that his own fortunes had changed. He wasn’t going to worry about Big-E and Coco and his dashed dreams of seeing a White-Le Muffet Lion-fighting dynasty emerge. He wasn’t the type to get caught up in the problems of his children. Problems he couldn’t solve for them. It had always been mostly about him anyway; why change now he thought. Buster and Hector finished their breakfast and headed off for the limo. They were going into Rio to run errands for Lucile who had meetings with the retirement community’s expansion steering committee. When it was just the two of them, Buster would ride in the front passenger seat with Hector. When with Lucile, he had to sit in the back and play the role of her companion whom she introduced as, “Coronal Buster White”. On the flight from Los Angeles, Buster had told her that during his time in Nevada, the strippers had nicknamed him “The Coronal” for some reason he didn’t know. Being an old Navy man, he didn’t really like the title but the girls had found it endearing so he let it ride. Lucile liked the title and said they should use it for special occasions when they would have lunch with some of the older business people in Rio. She also bought him a white suit and decorative walking stick. So far, he had donned the full Coronal Buster White persona for two such luncheons where she instructed him to just smile and pass a hidden wink to a few of the old gals in attendance. It was easy work. He didn’t speak Spanish and nobody other then Lucile spoke English, so he didn’t even have to entertain anyone with his stories. Coming down Paso Paraíso —the two lane road linking the retirement center to the greater Rio metropolitan area—they passed a taxi cab. This wasn’t unusual as taxis came and went as residents and guests were always coming and going. But if Buster had caught a view of the passengers in the rear of the cab, he would’ve been surprised. Bill and Ronnie Le Muffet had arrived in Paradise Canyon and Ronnie thought he saw Buster in the limo sitting next to some older guy in a cowboy hat. “I think we jus passed Busta”, he said to his brother, still looking back through the rear window of the cab. They decided not to try and chase the limo down as Ronnie couldn’t say if he were 100 percent certain. Instead, they wondered into La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community from the parking lot not knowing which way to go. They walked out toward the pool and putting green that had been prominently featured in the video promo and down some steps to the restaurant where they stopped before a group of three older men having their morning meal. The men looked healthy and relaxed and were smiling as they approached. One of the men wore a sports shirt with a stars and stripes motif. “Excuse me” Bill said as they approached. “We was lookin’ fo…ah…Busta White or Lucile Trump…?”

“Oh yeah,” said a solid looking man who appeared to be in his seventies. “I haven’t seen Buster this morning but Lucile is definitely here. She has some kind of meeting going on over in that building.” He pointed out toward the golf course. Another of the men was eyeing them steadily and asked if they were perhaps professional Lion-fighters. Both smiled and introduced themselves and the men all said how they had guessed they were part of the Le Muffet Crew and the nephews of Lucile. “Is Maxim here with you today?” one asked excitedly. Bill explained it was only them two and they were dropping in on their aunt and Buster as a surprise. The residents implored Bill and Ronnie to sit down with them for a cup of coffee. Bill thought this was a good place to begin his investigation and said they’d love to join them. A few moments later, Ronnie exclaimed, “…Damn!…”. The young woman who cooked and served breakfast had popped her head out from the kitchen area, spotted the new arrivals, and was making her way toward them with a tray of coffee and mugs and an eager-to-please countenance. “This is Morning Child”. One of the men introduced her to Bill and Ronnie and she shook each of their hands and said “Buenos Dias, Big Men” smiling broadly. She poured them coffee then pulled a little notepad and pen out from the side string of her tiny bikini bottom to take their order. “Her English and Spanish are both pretty bad” said one of the men. “So we help her out”. “Now Morning Child” the man instructed, “Bill here would like one big rack while Ron would enjoy a nice piece of ass.” The old guy used his hands to emphasize big and nice. The young woman made check marks beside some short-hand codes she used for the various orders and then ran them back to her new diners. “OK. Senior Bill…Uno Big rack …e…extra juicy?” She looked at Bill with a professional attitude. “Oh yeah” Bill said politely. This all sounded a little goofy to him, but she didn’t seem have to any clue as to what was going on and the old guys all had bright eyes and seemed to be having fun. “Senior Ron like nice ass….big piece?”. “…and extra juicy…” he said, joining in on the fun. Morning Child looked at him oddly and shrugged. When she made her exit, all the male eyes followed her bouncy walk. “I hope you like your oatmeal wet!” laughed one of the men. “Say, you old duffers is wicked”. Bill said, ultimately approving their little farce. As the group spent twenty minutes together having coffee and breakfast, he was able to get a complete rundown on what was going on at this retirement community for dirty old men as he was calling it in his mind. He was amazed at how ambitious the plans were set up for the months and years ahead. He figured these guys were really dishing out the cash to be part of this but he didn’t want to come out and ask how much. Bill and Ronnie were alerted to the spot down by the golf course where people were leaving an office. Amidst the group, they could make out their Aunt Lucile. They said good bye to their new friends and Ronnie grabbed some cash from his pocket to leave Morning child with a tip. He was stopped by one of the old guys who told him cash wasn’t allowed around there. “The only place you display cash here is in the rub down rooms” he tipped them. “Some of the girls make use of it and some don’t.” They moved up a walkway and caught the attention of their aunt who froze in place for a moment then put her hands on her hips. By the time they reached her she’d recovered from her surprise and was smiling like a child. “Why, the babies have come to visit me”. She reached out to hug each one. The two youngest of the Le Muffet children had always been called the babies by everyone. Lucile asked them if Buster had been behind this surprise visit and Bill said no—that he’d saw the promotional video. He explained that they had come down on their own and that nobody back in The Oakland knew. He confessed his concern that she and Buster might’ve gone out on a slippery slope with their enterprise. Lucile thought that sounded odd and ushered the men into her office which was packed with items from all over the world and an artist’s renderings of the future structures that were planned in Paradise Canyon. “You needn’t worry son”, Lucile said to Bill. “This is all fully legitimate.” He replied that what had worried him was the web “intrusion ad” that had appeared inside the Asian Motors page. “That’s straight illegal auntie. They send lawyers after ya’ll fo that!” Lucile regarded Bill with a quizzical glance. “That’s not illegal in Brazil” she said. “Besides, our first wave of advertizing is blinking on and off all over that interweb. They just come and go, here and there. We also have mailers with brochures out, some radio spots in Florida; a little television spot on the eastern seaboard at a station running reruns of that old show, ‘Navy Boys’—that was Busta’s idea. We have all sorts of advertizing breaking all over. It’s all good. Can I get you two something?” Her voice had a musical sound to it.

Ronnie was smiling childlike. She had him in the palm of her hand like when he was little and she’d be telling him things and making him smile and saying how she was going to go get him a big bowl of ruby ice cream which she made herself by mixing three different flavors together. Bill was more suspicious. “Auntie, it all come out lookin’ like some kind of sex resort you runnin’ down here. What happen when the kids of these old dudes get pissed off that you takin’ their inheritance?” “I ain’t takin’ nobodies’ inheritance” Lucile protested. “These is grown men who come down here. Busta even came up with a slogan for some of our ads; “Don’t think about the kids, they sure aren’t thinking about you!”. She giggled and said she thought that was especially clever. She was a little amazed at how puritanical her one bachelor nephew appeared. “Bill, I thought you liked the young women?” Bill gasped a little out of exasperation. “Come on, I crazy ‘bout girls. But that’s not what I’m sayin’. I jus concerned that this might reflect bad back on the family. You know, we gotta brand. You using Max’s name in that video. It gonna sound like Le Muffet backin’ all this. And, Busta? You know that in the States, many people think Busta rhyme with trouble.” “Did Maxi send you two down here?” Bill reiterated that nobody knew about anything when they flew out the day before. He asked her just what she though Marthia was going to say. “I’ve always had a warm relationship with Marthia” Lucile said simply. She tried to put to rest the matter of the effect this venture would have on the Le Muffet family. “I didn’t say nottin’ bout this to ya’ll so you could just react naturally to it. Maxi and Marthia will jus tell people they weren’t really aware of this and that it was nothing they were involved in. To the degree that ol Busta gets mentioned…well that what we want. Busta always create talk and we want some word-ofmouth”. Then she asked the two if she could provide rooms for them and encouraged them to stay for as long as they wished and get to know some of the residents and some of the girls. “Where you find these girls, auntie?” Bill inquired. It looked to him like she stole them away from strip clubs. “These girls are from all over. I meet them in Rio. I don’t steal them off the college campus. They no medical students here. These are just regular warm climate girls who make an honest living utilizing their assets. They are good girls.” Lucile focused on Ronnie and said that the girls were not allowed to fraternize with married men. “Hey, I’m cool” Ronnie said defensively. “I don’t mess around, Bill know that. I’m straight. I jus come down to keep an eye on my brother, that’s all”. “Good” Lucile said and smiled. “Let’s have dinner together tonight and afterwards, I’ll make up some of that ruby ice cream!”. Then she picked up her phone and made a call. “Busta, when you coming back? You’ll never guess who just arrived here!” Buster and Hector were making their way down a narrow lane in an old Rio shopping district. They were in search of a specific candle shop to pick up an order Lucile had placed earlier in the week. There were five boxes of specially scented candles that would be used for the show that was to be put on for the men that night. Buster was more then a little surprised to find out that Bill and Ronnie Le Muffet were there at La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community. He was pleased to find out that the promotional video had reached them in The Oakland. He told that Hector and him would be returning as soon as they found the candle shop. Hector led them through a door into a patio courtyard filled with a multitude of different candles, scented oil and incense. A tall, middle-aged dark-skinned lady emerged from the portion of the store that was inside of the building. She didn’t speak English and Hector and her spoke in Spanish for a few moments. He patted Buster on the shoulder at one point and the woman laughed and gazed at him with unabashed curiosity for a moment before retrieving their packages which she had waiting for them. Hector had Buster pay for the order and they each carried out two bags of candles. It was at dinner that night where Bill and Ronnie finally met up with Buster White. They each embraced him and were eager to hear more about the girls they had been seeing and exchanging smiles with pool-side in the late afternoon. Not a great deal of English was spoken here but the universal language of lust and sensuality moved in both directions between the Le Muffet men and the bikini-clad young women. The girls kept asking them; “Tonight we dancing for men, you come?” Both Bill and Ronnie had responded to four or fiver versions of this question with a robust, “Oh Hell yes” and before they knew it, they were passing girls who looked at them and would say, “Oh Hell yes!” excitedly in broken English. When Buster returned from Rio, he didn’t seek out Bill and Ronnie but went straight to his little apartment and put on a pot of Navy beans with bacon chunks. They’d be ready in the slow cooker late that night before he finally hit the sack. He took a couple tokes off his “secret smoke” and climbed into the bath tub. He would wait

until dinner before having his first drink. Hector had told him that tonight’s show being put on by the girls would be excellent. He was having that drink now and telling the Le Muffet men his impressions of the different girls when Lucile arrived at their table. She was wonderfully dressed in a long strapless dress cut up one side to her thigh. Buster felt as if plunged suddenly into a heavy scent of flowers. His almost imperceptible swoon was noticed only by Lucile. He thought of all of these young, scantily-dressed women here as hot, cute and sweet, but he felt real passion for the aunt of Bill and Ronnie. The four of them along with Hector had their dinner on the restaurant patio. It was everybody's favorite place to dine. She chatted with a number of the men who came by to say hello. Some portable TV’s had been rolled outside and hoisted up on tall stands they were attached to so the men could watch a big league baseball game from the US that was playing. When they finished eating Lucile went into the kitchen and returned a short time later with a tray of the ruby ice cream she had promised to make. Bill and Ronnie were transported back to their childhood to the first night when she had made the dish for them and brought it out to the backyard of their home in The Oakland. It had been a warm night like tonight almost twenty years earlier. Neither had tasted anything like it since. Then, Lucile excused herself to go and see how preparations for the night’s entertainment were progressing. Before she left, she asked Buster and Hector if they would go and fetch her husband and wheel him into the cantina at 8 pm just before the show began. When she had left, Buster commented to Hector that he wasn’t aware Mr. Trump would be having a night out. The two got these little smiles on their mouths and looked down into their bowls of ruby ice cream. Neither Bill nor Ronnie had heard a single word about Johnny “Butch” Trump since they’d arrived. Each had assumed that their aunt’s paralyzed husband was in an institution somewhere. It never occurred to them he was kept here at the retirement resort. Ronnie asked Buster about his condition. “Oh, I imagine his male nurse has him all fixed up and ready to go” Buster said, thinking more about his condition this evening rather then in the general context the question had been posed. He told Hector it was his turn to “keep the mouth wiped down”. He had done the chore the previous week during an outing to the cantina. “He tends to drool a bit”, Buster explained to Bill and Ronnie who now wore wary expressions on their faces. He added; “They keep him bagged up pretty good down below so we won’t have to worry about that”. “We shood going now Booster..getting him” Hector suggested. “It coming time.” The four made their way up to the personal apartment where Butch Trump was housed. On the way, Bill inquired about the man’s personal history. All he really knew was that he had been a very successful real estate developer from Cleveland, Ohio that their aunt had married five years earlier. The full story about him included a middle class origin. He had a real estate license even before he finished high school and was buying and selling houses and fixing them up for years. Then he became a developer and made tens of millions of dollars. People had always called him Butch. Sometimes people referred to him as, “The Butcher” because of the many divots had left on golf courses. Lucile met him at a party there in Brazil where she maintained permanent resident status. She became the fourth Mrs. Johnny “Butch” Trump. He had one son from his second marriage that was heir to much of the fortune he had amassed. She was willed the property in Paradise Canyon and would receive monthly checks as well upon his final demise. The son and her were in constant communication and had a good working relationship as she made it clear she wasn’t interested in anything other then the project there in Brazil which Butch and her had began together about a year before his massive stroke. Buster explained that Lucile had feelings for the man and would roll him out on long walks a number of times each week and say sweet things to him. Doctors said he could hear and understand very well. Nothing moved on his body however except the eyelids which would usually blink several times each hour. The eye sockets as well as the mouth and nose, required steady work to keep him looking his best. Ronnie came into the room behind the other three. He was a little bit frightened after hearing Buster explain the man’s condition in detail. The male nurse—one of a team of four men that provided Butch Trump with round-the-clock service—told Hector in Spanish that he was all ready to go. He would be there on the property in case any problems or “spillages” occurred. They kept a small clean up kit attached to the wheel chair but Buster had refused to do any “mopping up work” whereas Hector saw it as his duty. The nurse departed and Buster introduced Butch Trump to the Le Muffet men. “Don’t be timid, say hello” he told them, “I know it looks like a corpse but he’s in there somewhere, listening. You can talk freely though, he’ll

never say shit!” Buster laughed and Hector smiled and shook his head. “Come on Booster, no too mooch juegaro this noche! “You should tell that to the nurses” Buster cackled. Hector cringed and made a little circle with his right index finger. “Booster es a little loco, I think”, he said to Bill and Ronnie. “We know that!” Bill said plainly. “Ah, I’m just kidding around” Buster told them. Then he cackled again. “If you guys had been in the Navy, you’d understand a lot more then you do.” Butch Trump just sat there staring forward. His eyes were frozen into a blank stare. He was dressed in a red blazer, white shirt and black tie. His arms rested on the edges of the wheel chair. Buster explained how they had him fastened to the chair by leather straps that cupped his wrists below the sleeves of his jacket. Another was attached in a similar manner inside a hard plastic collar hidden by a bow tie. Some hooks came through the rear of the chair and were secured to a special belt he wore. Hector pushed back one of the sleeves to show them. “He no going to fall now” he said confidently. Buster smiled wryly. “They tell me it took ’em a couple trips out before they figured this out. He was rolling Butch past the pool one day and hit a crack in the cement…and in he went.” “I bringing him up rápio” Hector said defensively. Ronnie was snickering at all of this but his brother just kept staring at the man in the chair. “He look like somethin’ I saw at a wax museum”, Bill said. “I think the nurses put make-up on him, I’m not sure” Buster said. As an afterthought he added; “I think they dress him up in little costumes…when nobodies around” . Hector protested this wagging his index finger. “Come oon Booster, you beiy nice. Next es you!” “You’re probably right.” Buster said. “It coming…one night, La Lune es todo and coming in the window ..the poison tee tee.” Hector nodded affirmatively. “Oh shit” Buster said, “Don’t tell ‘em that crap!” He explained to Bill and Ronnie about the Tsetse fly. “He says it flies in from high up in the canyon and goes after the guys who have depleted themselves from too much humpin’ and whacking it”. He looked at Bill and smiled devilishly. “the moon won’t be full for another week so you can conduct yourself as usual”. “You all filled up with bullshit, Busta”. Ronnie said it sounded to him like they had all kinds of weird stuff going on around there. Buster said they really didn’t. He was just practicing his craft. “Your aunt brought me down here to embellish and entertain” he said. “Booster…funny guy!” Hector said and slapped him on the back. “Let’s hope ol Butch here has a sense of humor”, Buster said. Then he started laughing. “But if he doesn’t, he sure won’t complaining to Lucile.” Buster braced himself up against the chair and began to push. The unusual-looking quintet of men slowly made its way down to the cantina. It was bustling with activity. There was a large table reserved for them with a place for Butch Trump. They ordered drinks and Buster noted how the place had been fixed up. All of the candles Hector and him brought back earlier in the day were now placed everywhere in bunches. Special lighting augmented the flickering flames. The tables were placed in and about a wide runway that began up on the regular stage and ended in a T-shape out to side doors at the rear of the room. It had been set up especially for that night’s show. The cantina itself had been specially built. The interior of a second story had been removed leaving it with a high ceiling that was decorated with rustic woodwork. A huge window of stained glass faced the rising sun. There were many masks of African-Brazilian origin placed mostly in groups on the walls—a few of them were peeking out from behind smaller potted palm trees. Some looked comical, others more malevolent. The overall design was highly eclectic which matched a long-emerging trend in design across the world. The place could hold several hundred people and was filled with most of the older men of the community plus their guests. It reverberated with the floating sound of wind instruments and Spanish guitar from the versatile musicians that played there regularly. A man sitting behind Hector asked him to remove his cowboy hat so that it wouldn’t obscure his view and he obliged him, putting the hat on Butch Trump’s lap to save space. A very old man sitting on a chair along the rail

next to them looked at Trump’s blank stare and then at a giant mask fixed to the wall on his opposite side. That particular mask had a flickering amber light inside of it making the eyes look as if alive. The old man—a Brazilian—was frowning. After a moment he got up and made his way to another spot from which to watch the show. Ronnie noticed this as he was looking around the room. He also saw that as many as ten or twelve of the old guys had younger women with them that looked like professional escorts. He wanted to tell his brother how he had never seen so many old dudes in one place before. But he didn’t want to offend Buster or Hector. When he made eye contact with Bill he subtly motioned with his chin at Butch Trump and made a quick little “frozen face” expression. Bill turned his head away not wanting to bust up laughing at the antic. Soon, the stage lighted up and Lucile appeared leading a blond lady by the hand. The woman, known as Masuria Arête, was a close friend of hers. She was a theater woman from Rio who put on the shows there and was very popular with the residents. She wore a see-through gown and a cheer rose up as the two attractive and elegant women came forth. Buster was about to express his desire to “be with both of them at the same time” when he remembered Lucile’s nephews sitting there and pulled the remark back. “Don’t the two of them just look lovely” he said instead. “Muy Bonito. Estupendo!” Hector replied. Both men, and many of the guys in the room, were genuinely moved. They admired the perfect bodies and fresh faces of the youthful, bikini clad attendants there; but were at such an age that what really attracted them were women in their late thirties to late fifties. Lucile introduced Masuria Arête and said that she had planned a wonderful show for them tonight which would feature all of their own La Casa de Hombre Viejo girls modeling an array of beautiful fabrics. Four Brazilian men wearing black pants and t-shirts and head scarves appeared on opposite sides of the stage. The musicians began to play Spanish Gypsy beats and notes as Masuria Arête stepped forward and announced in Spanish what Lucile had in English. The group was largely Latin and a really large cheer went up. For the next forties minutes or so, the twenty-five young women that worked full and part time there appeared on stage fully nude and made their way down the runway. The young men dimmed in black attire held out two long strips of various colors and patterns of fabric. As the women moved down the runway with big smiles on their faces, the longs strips of fabric moved along with them mostly shielding their private parts from view. Each would stop twice and shake their bodies a bit or throw their arms up in the air and pivot a little as the fabric handlers performed various movements across the girls’ bodies with their cloth. It made for a sensual display and the girls would roll their eyes and seemingly blush as part of the routine developed by Masuria Arête. Then they would proceed to the T-Shape at the rear of the runway where the young men in black would quickly exchange positions and “wrap them” with the fabrics. Then each girl would speak into the microphone and say something funny and clever about one of the residents that they spent time with regularly each day as part of their service. This was all planned in advance by Masuria and Lucile as they interviewed the girls for antidotes about the men and would tell each just what to say to get a big reaction from the crowd. Hector tried his best to interpret for Buster, Bill and Ronnie the Spanish that was spoken. Each of the girls would disappear out one of the side doors and return two more times in different color heels with changes in the jewelry they wore and the flowers or other items put into their hair. And the fabrics changed with each model as each pass brought another funny remark to or about, one of the residents Late in the first parade of the young women, Morning Child appeared and walked down the runway with an almost over-exaggerated aplomb. She came to the mike and said, “e mi dancing fo Senior Whitey”. She waved at Buster and jumped up and down some. “Senior Whitey like the big sosa, hot & juicy…in his mouth”. The old-timers howled as Hector called out the interpretation in Spanish. Later, he claimed he saw a big spark of light go off deep in the eyes of Butch Trump and also saw the mouth move open the tiniest bit. Buster claimed it was only a play of reflected light and shadow that Hector saw. Bill and Ronnie Le Muffet—both of whom were no stranger to exotic dance clubs—agreed that this was a very classy presentation of naked booty. While each preferred more overt sexuality in a strip show, they thought this was a good change of pace and about right for the Senior men. A man wielding a video camera for a future promo was taking comments and both of them gave big praise to the show. When the final promenade was complete, Lucile and Masuria Arête came down the runway to great cheers from the house. Lucile, smiling wonderfully, thanked all of the men for being so gracious and asked Hector to re-position Butch Trump to face her at the rear of the cantina. “Gentlemen, it is my dear husband that has made our community possible…could we show him some love tonight?”. The crowd climbed to their feet and gave Butch Trump an emotional standing ovation.

Of course, he didn’t appear to notice. The following day, the two Le Muffet brothers played golf at the nine hole course on the property and spent the remainder of the day at the pool getting to know some of the old guys and trying to converse with the young women who were laying about. Most of the men were alone in the world. Their wives had died or left and their children lived away from the various places they had spent their lives. They were by-and-large happy to have found La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community and enjoyed the golf and card games and the constant presence of the young women. They would go out in groups with the girls taking them around Rio—to medical offices for check-ups, to the airport, and to the various attractions. With plans for expansion under way and a steady stream new people coming on the scene, they liked the sense of fresh activity—of this being a place of new beginnings instead of a spot where men were simply melting away. On the day after that, Buster and Hector drove Bill and Ronnie to the airport and said their goodbyes. Buster felt a little tinge of sadness. He wished Big-E had been along with them. Maybe he would find time to come and see him. At this same time, on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, David Ohuna sat on the patio of the main residence of his ancestral plantation. He was mulling over a telephone call he had just received and the invitation it brought. Jimmy and Sydney Luani would be returning soon from talking their boys to school. David knew he would have to involve Sydney in the conversation when they returned. He expected Jimmy would go forward on what had been proposed during that telephone call. None of this made him happy. Getting sandwiched between Ethan Vulerummer and World Security was not a desirable position to be in. When David’s protégé’s came back into the house, he called them out to the patio and asked them to sit down. “I just received the call from one of Vulerummer’s people. He’s ready to go ahead with the exhibition match.” Jimmy was beaming. “For the million?”. David nodded. Jimmy regarded his wife whose jaw had dropped. Her initial surprise was quickly transforming into anger. “You’re going to participate in some exhibition match with Ethan Vulerummer? What’s this all about?” “He’s planning to kick off his presidential run with this exhibition Lion-fighting match along side Jimmy”. The disappointment in her voice was plain and clear. “David, that guy is the biggest piece of shit since Rashling. Why would we want to be involved with him?” Jimmy thought about again mentioning the one-million dollars for a day’s work but knew it would only get his woman angrier. He didn’t know how to explain it to her. He looked at David but he just looked back at Jimmy as if to say, “you’re the man, be the man”. It became obvious to him he would have to tell his wife the full story. “Sydney, there’s more to it then the million, we’re working with World Security on this. I’m going to set Vulerummer up. If they get a chance, they gonna knock him out!” Jimmy smiled triumphantly. He thought the part about knocking Vulerummer out would please his wife some. She just sat there looking like a woman that had returned from taking her kids to school, gone out to her patio for a pleasant cup of coffee, and then watched a Barracuda drop out of the sky onto her deck and begin to twitch and squirm about snapping at her toes. “This is really too much…way too much! I knew you guys were up to something, but this? You’re going to set up the most evil man since Rashling….and then what? A lion’s going to eat him while his goons stand by and watch? What exactly are you planning to do?” Jimmy could feel a rising hysterical wave of energy rising up in his wife. She could get very loud when she went off. His dad had told him to avoid blondes for exactly that reason—they could turn into crazy women. She’d get so worked up she’d start calling him “a bitch” and then it would be on. Nobody called Jimmy Luani a bitch. The first time it happened, he told her he was going to bend her over and slap her ass unless she took it back. So she called him a punk instead. “Baby, I’m just gonna do my thing and show Vulerummer how we fight lions. That’s all. Maybe I’ll accidentally trip and the lion will get a claw into him, I don’t know. But I ain’t gonna put myself at risk. It’ll be up to World Security to make something happen.” David spoke up. “What’s most likely to happen is that World Security will try and do something to humiliate Vulerummer so that his chance of getting elected president will be hampered.” If having her husband involved in this “set up” of Vulerummer was unsettling, so was the idea of seeing him and his Fascist Party get the presidency. While his popularity ratings were very low, he had huge resources in the media and entertainment business where he controlled most of the major players. He would be able to “filter” the truth anyway he needed and the average disconnected voters would never know what hit them. With an increase of Fascist power, there would be increased pressure on the poorer people; the economic “losers”.

Their lives would be further compressed into the modern “ghettoization” that even now had them permanently assigned to lives of servitude for the wealthier classes. Instead of intelligent expansion into “The Wild Lands”, the Fascists would further draw in the borders, making private luxury enclaves and exotic “get-a ways” with “all the toys” for themselves and their families. A royal existence for the upper-class, an existence of increasing humiliation for a “rising bottom” class. Further reduction of Education and health opportunities in return for stupid action movies, porn, and junk food. Sydney Luani knew something had to be done about Ethan Vulerummer, but she didn’t like the idea that her family would have to get involved to make it happen. “Vulerummer has invited the two of you to meet with him at a luncheon the day after tomorrow” David said. This didn’t sit well with Jimmy. “Oh man, I don’t want to be flying to Manhattan City on short notice.” “You won’t have to. He’ll be here all week. He’s rented the residential unit and offices at Lord Rashling’s Castle. That’s where the luncheon will take place. I told his people I would talk to you and get back to them. I’m to come along myself. And there’s one other thing. Big-E and Max are being contacted and will be asked to attend as well.” Sydney got up and said she was going inside to call Coco. When she left, David said they should expect a call from World Security before long. They only had to wait five minutes before David’s phone rang. The caller had texted a formal introduction with the call. It read: “For David Ohuna: From World Security Regional Headcounters, Los Angeles: Deputy Chief Controller Kerri Branghaue Would Like To Introduce Herself’.” At Lord Rashling’s castle on the big island, Ethan Vulerummer sat at the desk of his boyhood hero. Ordinarily, the office was available only for viewing by tourists. The world’s richest man however, had paid his way to full use of the private quarters and suite of offices built by Rashling. It sat at the rear of the huge, terraced estate facing downward and out beyond various buildings and grounds, at the ocean. Among the first construction projects to utilize steel girders in its basic framework, early century photography of the site—before ceiling and walls were constructed—showed the basic architectural motif. It was the outline of a bird of prey lifting off. The private residence and offices were housed in a circular structure at the top of the gently rising slope the estate had been built upon. When completed, the perimeter of the site was fitted with lighting to make it appear as a great raptor with outstretched wings, to ships and planes coming in off of the Pacific. Never before had such a grandiose and detailed compound been put together. Altogether it contained 433,000 square feet of space. Below ground were a network of tubular passages that connected all parts of the estate. Air-drawn carriers fitted to a “four-rail” track delivered residents, guests and workers from thirty-six points to landings, then up to various entries in the suites of rooms, conference centers, display galleries, pools and gardens, and other centers of activity. During the Final War, Rashling had spent over 80% of his time in Hawaii at his “castle”. It acted as the central command for the Fascist League of Nations. With his empire crumbling world-wide, Rashling left the grounds to return to England with the famous words, “I shall return to the eye of the great bird!”. This was what he had called his office in the private residence of the estate. He never did of course. In England he was tricked into attending a football match and was dragged into the crowd and stomped to death. The stomping was so bad that Rashling’s head became detached from its body and was kicked around the stadium for a full two hours before order was restored. From then on, disorganized pick-up football games around the globe—where anything went—was called “Rashling-style Football”. Ethan Vulerummer hadn’t played football as a child. He was busy studying and gaining the skills he would use to amass great financial holdings in media companies. This would allow him to undercut the rise of collective bargaining among the lower classes—while at the same time maneuvering himself into the ultra elite Seven Lions of Private Control organization in which he would become chairman. Today, it was he who was “in the eye of the great bird” and preparing to cement his power with a run for US President. He planned to spend the week in Hawaii. Supporters were coming in from all over to learn just how he was going to throw off the long odds at getting elected. Among the corporate elite, there was whispering that Vulerummer’s ego was getting the better of him; that he was putting the Fascist Party at risk by seeking the presidency for himself when there were several other more viable candidates ready to take the stage. But his handlers at the advertizing firm PubliCon had created a political strategy they felt would bring him up in the polls and provide an even bet of taking the nation’s top job. And Vulerummer wanted this very badly. He felt that from such a perch, he could ultimately control the technology prize of the age—the information accountability software nicknamed The Thumb. Fascist tailoring and implementation of The Thumb would mean the freedom to make critical moves such as The Pruning, without any real electronic trail or public accountability. He also real-

ized that failure to control The Thumb would bring about the end of Fascism. While he had great control over politics and any Fascist leaders that might assume the presidency, he couldn’t fully trust them. A case in point had occurred earlier that day. His man Jay Carroll came to him with a problem. A Fascist political operative had been displaying a digital photograph around the media. The photo was of a male penis. Vulerummer wanted to know why Carroll was bringing this to him. He didn’t deal with matters like this. “Didn’t you fire him?” he asked. ”We did sir. He belongs to PubliCon. He’s also been working on our policy paper. He doesn’t want to go…says he’s been helping us and doesn’t think he should be thrown out”. “How exactly does waving a penis around in public help us?” Vulerummer asked incredulously. “It was a Democratic penis”; Carroll was smiling. “He thinks this makes a difference? Is he planning an anti-penis campaign?” Vulerummer shook his head. How was it possible that the so-called best people in media manipulation of the public couldn’t see three moves ahead? “And you say he won’t go?”. Carroll’s eagerness peaked. This is why he had come to the boss with such a thing. “Has someone explained to this guy that we have protocols for situations such as this?” “Someone will now”. Carroll had what he came to get and left. Vulerummer sighed. Then a more pleasant thought crossed his mind. Earlier in the day, final arrangements were made for having Jimmy Luani, Maxim Le Muffet and Big-E White join him in an exhibition Lion-fighting match to be held several months from then. The famed trio and their wives would be his guests there in a few days for a luncheon where they could discuss the design for the match. It would be the highlight of his week’s stay at Lord Rashling’s Castle. In Brazil, at La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community, Buster White was relaxing poolside. It was afternoon and having finished his duties, he was well into his first drink of the day. Earlier, he had put on his white suit and gone with Lucile into town for a breakfast with various business and civic leaders. He had smiled, and winked, and shrugged his way through the entire thing. Lucile had shown him how to profusely say just how sorry he was that he hadn’t yet mastered the beautiful Spanish language. He had been introduced to everybody as; “El Coronal, Booster White”. He watched a young woman that was not employed there come into the area and introduce herself to several old Brazilians sitting nearby him. She was a writer and wanted to hear all about the life stories of the men—and of all the old guys there. Inwardly, Buster was smiling. She didn’t know what she was getting into. These old farts could talk for hours on end. The “Spanish speakers”, the “English speakers”—all of them. He could barely get one of his prized stories in before somebody was interrupting with one of their own! There were a lot of blowhards around there with more coming each week thanks in part to his own role in the videos and print ads they were making. All-in-all he enjoyed being around the guys and playing in the card games. He liked laughing and talking about their beautiful, bikini-clad attendants and talking about the old days—especially about their experiences in the decade following The Final War. But the day before, somebody had said something that got under his skin. The man said, “Buster, you are the most profane person I have ever met!” Everybody at the table seemed to agree and although he waved the comment off and changed the subject, it stuck with him. He didn’t feel that was accurate. He just happened to be honest about his profanity and the profanity in the world itself. They masked their own profanity from each other and from themselves. The world itself was steeped in profanity and the best people knew it, accepted it, and made their way through the shit storm with as much dignity as possible. The average people were simply too confused and timid to understand much. They became the sheep of normality and moved with the herd out of instinct. That’s how Buster White saw it. Big-E had tried on many occasions to alter his father’s world view. “You only see that part of life that dissipates into the wrecking yard of profanity” he had told him. Buster didn’t buy it and explained to his son that he appreciated the sweetness and beauty of life—as much as—if not more then, the next guy. Big-E had pressed him. “But you don’t believe in it, do you? It’s not real to you. It’s only a respite from the shit storm of existence. Dad, they sold you a free trip to the crapper but didn’t put any toilet paper in there for you to clean up with”. That had been the funniest damn thing he’d ever heard from his humor-challenged son. He heard himself in there. And the influence of Paul Cavalet. Mostly, Buster heard Big-E’s mother behind that sentiment. She had gotten the boy hooked on all that Cristopian redemption nonsense of “happily-ever-after” worlds beyond this.

But he didn’t buy it. It didn’t make any sense to him. So he always just smiled or told a joke when his boy thought he’d try and convert him. Buster White leaned back in the lounge chair and tipped his hat forward on his head. A cat nap was in order. He planned a lot of them out there poolside at La Casa de Hombres Viejo Retirement Community. He knew he’d never leave Brazil. He was in Paradise Canyon and planned to stay there and have fun until his “secret smoke” lost its remaining power and he melted back into the primordial sludge. He fell off into sleep. At one point, Morning Child came by and moved the umbrella above him a bit so the afternoon sun wouldn’t scorch the old man.

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