Cover art rendered by Commotion22
Six Djinn Get Geniefied
June 15, 632 B.C.
Aleser of the Green Tribe of Djinn loudly claimed, to anyone who would listen to him, that Sumera of the Blue Tribe of Djinn learned her djinni magic from demons. And yes, Reader, that is as much of an insult as it sounds like.
Perhaps Aleser was joking; perhaps Aleser truly believed what he was saying. It didn’t matter, because the Blue Tribe demanded that Aleser be turned over to them for “correction.”
Green Tribe’s answer, stripped of all its rude Arabic, was “No way are we handing Aleser over.”
Blue Tribe declared war on Green Tribe. Blue Tribe is always certain of everything they do, so Blue Tribe was sure that they would win the war against Green Tribe. But then the Pink Tribe allied with Green Tribe. The Brown Tribe, wisely, stayed out of the whole shebang.
(Brown Tribe djinn have brown hair, brown skin, and brown eyes. They could pass for human, without shape-shifting. Which is good, because Brown Tribe djinn can’t shape-shift. Their only magic is to foom themselves, plus whatever they’re touching, from Point A to Point B.)
Anyway, a place and time were set to start the Djinn War. So everyone in the Green Tribe started practicing their repulsion-spells.
(Which seems odd, at first. Why bother to knock down an enemy djinni when you know how to kill him, by freezing him or by immersing him in water?)
Fatima, a loyal Green Tribe djinni, asked Ashnadim, Chief of the Green Tribe of Djinn, that same question.
June 17, 632 B.C.
Amid sand dunes, somewhere in Arabia
Fatima spoke the words, and made the gestures, that Ashnadim had just taught her.
FOOM. Fatima grinned as a five-cubit-tall, three-cubit-diameter, cylinder of sand and shimmering air was replaced by a like-sized cylinder of water. Which immediately collapsed into the cylindrical tub that now existed in the sand dune.
Ashnadim, Chief of the Green Tribe, smiled at Fatima. “I knew you would be quick to master this spell. Very good.”
Fatima’s grin turned wolf-like. “I can’t wait to give Kharmesh a bath.” Kharmesh was the tallest djinni in Blue Tribe. Also the strongest, the loudest, and the pushiest.
Ashnadim’s smile disappeared. “Do not use this spell. Even if we are losing a repulsion-spell battle, do not use it.”
“Why not? We could rid the Earth of that pack of loudmouths, so why settle for pushing them away?”
“Listen to me, Fatima. Don’t even think it. If you water-swap one djinni in the Blue Tribe, they might not know who did it—”
“Which leaves me free—”
“But they will respond by water-swapping two from the Green Tribe. At least two. Then we will respond by disappearing more than two of theirs. More Blue and Green djinn will disappear every second. In less than a minute, the Green Tribe will all be gone. Or worse—”
“—the remnant of Green Tribe will have to surrender to Blue Tribe, and we Greens will be so few in number that the humans will no longer fear us.”
“But if I’m not allowed to use this spell, why learn it?”
“So that if water-swapping starts happening, I want you to kill all the Blue Tribe djinn you can before you yourself are ‘given a bath.’ ”
“So you’re telling me, plan on repulsing them hard. Even though that won’t kill them.”
“Yes. The beings of the Blue Tribe aren’t really djinn, they are wailing human infants. Make them hurt often enough, and Hakeezib”—Chief of the Blue Tribe—”will say Please stop, please stop, we give up.”
The next morning
June 18, 632 B.C.
Solomon, King of Israel, had just been awakened by a palace servant when they both heard a voice: “SOLOMON, OBEY THE ANGEL OF GOD.”
Solomon’s sleepy eyes snapped open. Standing in a corner of his bedchamber was a being that could only be an angel: It had white wings, and silver eyes in an inexpressive face.
Solomon replied, “I am here, O Angel. What does God command?”
“PUT A SADDLE AND SADDLEBAGS ON YOUR HORSE. GATHER FOR YOURSELF FOOD AND WATERSKINS FOR A JOURNEY, AND A PURSE FILLED WITH COPPERS. THEN RIDE YOUR HORSE TO THE CITY MARKET.”
“What about bodyguards? What about my sword?”
“LEAVE THEM. GOD WILL PROTECT YOU.”
The angel disappeared then. Solomon sent his trembling servant off to the stables, to pass on orders to the stablemaster.
A time later, when Solomon’s black stallion reached the edge of the city market, the angel appeared again—
—with its wings flapping to hold the angel above the ground. The angel’s face was level with Solomon’s face, though Solomon was astride the biggest horse in Israel.
“SOLOMON, GO TO THE STALL OF ELKANAH THE BRASS-SMITH. BUY FIVE BRASS OIL LAMPS AND ONE BRASS BOTTLE WITH STOPPER. LOAD THE PURCHASED BRASS INTO THE SADDLEBAGS BY YOURSELF.”
The angel disappeared again, and Solomon walked his horse forward.
Elkanah blinked in surprise when Solomon rode up in front of his stall. Perhaps the man’s surprise was because there was no herald loudly announcing Make way for the king! and no bodyguard shoving shoppers aside.
Solomon had been puzzled by the angel’s strange shopping order. But once at the brass-smith’s stall, Solomon saw for himself that Elkanah was selling only five oil lamps; Solomon was buying his entire inventory of them.
Solomon had not realized how accustomed he had become to servants, until he had to load the oil lamps and the brass bottle into his saddlebags without help. Those brass containers weren’t small, and it took Solomon three tries, with everyone in the marketplace watching him, before he got everything to fit.
Solomon climbed back onto his horse, not knowing what else to do. The angel appeared then, and the crowd gasped.
“What now, O Angel?” Solomon asked.
“GOD HAS A TASK FOR YOU, WISEST OF HUMANS,” the angel replied.
That’s when horse and king rose into the air, making the crowd gasp again. A semitransparent white bubble formed around Solomon, his horse, and the angel, and the bubble hurried south from the marketplace.
Inside the bubble, it was as quiet as a library, so Solomon heard the angel clearly. The angel did not speak for long, or need to. The rest of the trip was spent in silence, with Solomon thinking hard.
One hour, 27 minutes before the Djinn War
The agreed-upon battlefield-to-be
Some djinn of the Green Tribe were elsewhere, practicing their spells, but Fatima was on the battle line.
Except it wasn’t a true battle line yet. Instead, it was a line of Blue Tribe djinn facing east, and a line of Green Tribe and Pink Tribedjinn facing west, and the two lines were trash-talking each other. Aleser (Green Tribe) and Thrim (Pink Tribe) were insulting Sumera (Blue Tribe); Kharmesh (Blue Tribe) was insulting Ashnadim (Green Tribe) and Sigvard (Pink Tribe); and Fatima was loudly informing everyone in Blue Tribe that their leader, Hakeezib, was uglier than a human leper and more stupid than a dog.
Only Fatima’s close friend Jerngert (Pink Tribe) was keeping quiet. Jerngert looked nervous.
If Fatima was honest, she was nervous, too. Getting hit by a full-blast repulsion-spell hurt; and she was going to be hit with lots of battle-grade repulsion-spells before one side or the other surrendered. Then, too, there was that other worry: Would someone in Blue Tribe “give Fatima a bath” before sunset? Would Fatima die today?
The number of Green Tribe djinn plus the count of Pink Tribe djinn was a little more than the count of Blue Tribe djinn. But Blue Tribe had a unified command, and the Green Tribe-Pink Tribe alliance definitely did not. Fatima couldn’t begin to guess what that would mean, once the battle started.
Then Fatima saw something out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head to look—
Coming rapidly closer, from the north, was a white bubble. The bubble landed on a sand dune, and disappeared. Now revealed by the vanished bubble were a gold-crowned human man atop a black horse, and an angel.
The human’s knees nudged his horse forward, but the beast moved slowly. The human was making himself an easy target for any fireballs thrown his way, which puzzled Fatima. Is the human so stupid he doesn’t realize the danger he’s in?
The angel flapped its wings slowly, to match the snail-like speed of the human and his horse. This also puzzled Fatima.Why is the angel deferring to the human? Humans don’t deserve to be deferred to.
The human’s face and posture were relaxed, and his horse’s pace slow, as if he were passing between two lines of human servants, instead of two lines of human-hating djinn. When the human had come close to Hakeezib, Chief of the Blue Tribe (to his right), and Ashnadim and Sigvard, Chiefs of the Green and Pink Tribes (to his left), he stopped his horse.
As slowly as if the human were half-asleep, the man got off his horse. Clearly he didn’t realize the danger he was in, or he would never have done anything so disrespectful.
“I am Solomon, king of Israel,” the man said. “God says to stop this war and for you all to leave this place.”
Hakeezib laughed. “I care not whether you are king of the whole human world. I don’t take orders from humans.”
“In this, we agree,” Sigvard said. “I care not a bit about humans.”
Solomon said, “But God cares about humans. Your repulsion-spells will take human lives and destroy human villages, and God will not allow that.”
Ashnadim said, “But I don’t see God here. I see a human who is not even wearing a sword, and one angel.”
Solomon walked around the horse, and removed three oil lamps from the saddlebags. He set the oil lamps on the sand.
“Your last chance, tribes of djinn. Stop this war and leave this place. Now.”
Hakeezib said, “You bore me, human. You leave now, before I hurt you.”
“Um,” Jerngert said. But when all the djinn in all three Tribes turned to look at her, she said no more.
Nobody else said a word.
Solomon looked at the angel. “Who started this fight?”
White lightballs appeared in front of the angel; the lightballs flew to Aleser and Sumera, and floated over their heads.
Solomon said to the angel, “I need a troublemaker from Pink Tribe.”
Seconds later, there was a white lightball over Thrim’s head.
Solomon said, “You, male of the Green Tribe: Enter this first oil lamp, which becomes the Vessel that Binds you. You, female of the Blue Tribe: Enter this second oil lamp, which becomes the Vessel that Binds you. You, male of the Pink Tribe: Enter this third oil lamp, which becomes the Vessel that Binds you.”
The three djinn thus commanded-Aleser, Sumera, and Thrim-turned into smoke and entered the three oil lamps. Fatima was close enough to Aleser to see the surprise on his face; he was not doing any of this by choice.
For a moment, there was complete silence.
Then the silence continued, while Ashnadim, Sigvard, and Hakeezib exchanged glances.
Hakeezib said, “Kill the human. The human must not escape.”
Ashnadim and Sigvard nodded.
The angel had not left Solomon’s side. The angel did not speak words, or gesture, but the semitransparent white bubble again formed around the human, his horse, and the three oil lamps.
Blue, green, and pink fireballs blasted the white bubble. Repulsion-spells hit the white bubble and broke up, without the white bubble even wobbling.
Inside the bubble, Solomon smiled at the djinn. Calmly he took the reins of his horse and walked the animal away from the attacks-turning his back on his attackers in the process.
As Solomon moved a few cubits away, the wall of the bubble moved with him. In less than a minute, the three oil lamps were on the outside of the bubble.
“Get Aleser’s lamp!” Ashnadim yelled.
FOO-F-FOO-FOOM! Suddenly the three lamps were surrounded by djinn of all three tribes. Fatima saw Nadaar bend down to pick up an oil lamp, and Fatima expected him to foom over to Ashnadim and to hand Aleser’s lamp to his tribe’s chief. But instead, Nadaar started cursing.
That’s when Fatima realized that Nadaar’s counterparts in Pink Tribe and Blue Tribe also were angry; while the three oil lamps had not moved one pinky-width.
Nadaar turned his back on the oil lamps to face Ashnadim, and Fatima was surprised to see green smoke below his elbows.
Nadaar said, “No matter what I do, or how hard I try, I can’t stop my arms from turning to smoke when I touch Aleser’s oil lamp.”
Nadaar was getting everyone’s attention except Fatima’s. Fatima watched Solomon, inside his white bubble, take two more oil lamps and a brass bottle, and lay them on the sand.
“RETURN,” the angel said. There were flashes of white light near the first three oil lamps, and Nadaar and the other would-be rescuers reappeared where they’d come from.
The white bubble vanished again.
Now-exposed Solomon seemed unworried. Calmly he said to the three tribes’ djinn, “I told to you all, God’s word for you: Stop this war.”
“NO!” everyone yelled.
“You turned your ears away. I took a hostage from each tribe, to humble you. You have not turned from your course, except to try to kill me. Again it will cost you.”
Solomon picked up the middle oil lamp by its handle, using his right hand. With his left hand, he slapped the metal body of the oil lamp. The oil lamp shook in Solomon’s hand, then blue smoke poured out. Within seconds, Sumera stood before Solomon.
He smiled at her. “You have the prettiest blue hair I’ve ever seen. What is your name, pretty djinni?”
“DON’T TELL HIM!” Hakeezib yelled.
Sumera looked ready to strangle. “Go-Go-Master, I am Sumera, of the Blue Tribe.”
Hakeezib said, “I told you not to tell him!”
Solomon waved the comment away. Then he looked at Sumera and said, “Correction: You are Sumera, formerly of the Blue Tribe, now one of three bounddjinn. Sumera, how long before the war is scheduled to start?”
“Don’t tell him that, either!” Sigvard yelled, just before Hakeezib yelled the same.
But Sumera summoned her scrying ball, worked it, vanished it, then said to Solomon, “There are slightly over sixty-eight minutes left before the war starts, Master.”
Sumera turned to look at the gathered djinn-Blue, Green, and Pink. “I had to tell him. I couldn’t not tell him.”
Solomon said, “Now Sumera, look at the djinn of Green Tribe. Look at their faces. See anyone you hate?”
Sumera said, “I hate everyone in Green Tribe, Master.”
“Is there one face you see whom you especially hate?”
“Nadaar. He acts like Ashnadim’s lapdog. Nobody in Blue Tribe would act like that; Blue Tribe has more pride.”
“Hear me, O Sumera: Walk up to Nadaar, kiss him on the lips, do him no harm, then walk back here.”
Djinn don’t walk-they foom wherever they want to go. But Sumera turned away from Solomon and began walking. Fatima could clearly hear Sumera’s footsteps cross the sand, because nobody spoke a word.
By the time Sumera got to Nadaar, Sumera was so angry that her face was bright blue. But she carried out all of the human’s orders.
Solomon had not let go of Sumera’s oil lamp. When Sumera again was standing in front of Solomon, he ordered, “Go back in your Vessel, Sumera.”
Sumera clenched her hands into fists. But her resistance did her no good; she turned into blue smoke, all of which entered the spout of the oil lamp that Solomon held.
Solomon put Sumera’s lamp down, then stood up and faced the three tribes. “These three will be the servant of whoever summons them, and only a human can summon them from their Vessels. Each bound djinni will grant their human master three wishes, under certain conditions, and the bound djinni will obey any nonmagical command that his or her human master will give.”
Then the human smiled at the furious djinn. “Any comments?” he asked.
“You will suffer, human!” Kharmesh yelled. “All the human soldiers in your Israel cannot stop Blue Tribe from coming after you. Your every breath will be agony, from today till your Fated Death! I, Kharmesh, swear this by—”
Solomon silently pointed to Kharmesh, then pointed to one of the empty oil lamps at his feet. Kharmesh turned to blue smoke and entered that oil lamp.
Silence fell among all djinn.
Then Fatima yelled, “Why are you doing this to us, Son of Dust? None of us have hurt you!”
Solomon answered, “Yes, Daughter of Smoke, none of you has hurt me. None of you has hurt my human brothers. Not yet. But you will, if this war happens. Thousands of thousands of humans will die because of your repulsion-spells, and human innocents will suffer, and this must be prevented.”
“So what?” Fatima said. “I don’t care if humans die. Because they’re human. I don’t care whether human innocents suffer. Because they’rehuman.”
The angel came over and murmured in Solomon’s ear. Then Solomon and the angel had a quiet conversation. Fatima could not hear a word.
When the angel moved away, Solomon bent down and picked up the brass bottle. His left hand held the bottle by the neck; his right hand wrapped around the stopper. Then he looked around at all the djinn of all three tribes.
Solomon said, “There is one djinni here who is an innocent. She does not want to hurt anyone, even her supposed enemies. She deserves not to suffer, whether by her enemies, or God, or me. But I will make her suffer unfairly, so that the rest of you will sympathize with those close to her.”
Fatima was getting a very bad feeling about Solomon’s words.
Solomon pulled the stopper from the bottle. “I command you to enter this brass bottle, which becomes the Vessel that Binds you . . . Jerngert of the Pink Tribe, friend of Fatima.”
“NO!” Fatima yelled.
But Fatima could do nothing but watch, as Jerngert pink-smoked and entered the brass bottle.
Solomon stoppered the brass bottle, set it down on the sand, and picked up the fifth oil lamp.
Waving the oil lamp to emphasize his words, Solomon said, “Hear me, O djinn of the three tribes. I will take a she-djinni from the Green Tribe now, and Bind her into this Vessel. I do this by the power of God, and you cannot stop God. God sends you a warning: If you indeed fight this war, God will no longer Bind you djinn, He will kill you. Blue, Green, or Pink, no Tribe may defy God.”
Solomon then looked at Fatima. “I need a female djinni from the Green Tribe, Fatima. It seems you volunteered.”
I Meet The Rescued Kids’ Parents
Saturday, May 15, 2010, evening
Outside Rhonda’s house
“I enjoyed the party, Rhonda,” I said. “Thank you for letting me come.”
I was leaving Rhonda’s costume party. Redhead Rhonda was dressed as Jessica Rabbit; I—Marvin Harper, nicknamed “Shorty” until recently—was dressed as the very tall, very muscular Captain America, complete with shield.
“I’m glad you came, Marvin,” Rhonda now said. “You and Tim were a big help with those nasty girls.”
Rhonda was referring to Almira and Elvira LeClerc, who had threated to plant drugs in Rhonda’s toilet after they’d been caught party-crashing. Instead, thanks to Tim Hanson and me, Almira and Elvira had been arrested.
Rhonda added, “And that other thing you did, with the Witter kids? That was heroic of you. Brave, too.”
I shrugged. “I did it because it needed doing.”
During the party, our half of the state had lost electricity for twenty-seven minutes, and Rhonda’s house did not have a land-line telephone. So when I had discovered that a house on Rhonda’s street was on fire, that people had been trapped inside, and that nobody at Rhonda’s party could call the Fire Department, I had run across the street.
I had wound up rescuing two small children, Katie and Larry, from that burning house. I had also, without intending to, saved the life of the kids’ dog, Blackie.
Rhonda now said, “I feel sorry for Julius and Nancy, when they find out what happened tonight. They’re in for a shock.”
Then she stepped forward, and looked to her left. “Speaking of whom, it looks like the Witters are home now.”
I turned to look where Rhonda was looking. In the driveway of the ruined house, a silver SUV now was parked. In the front yard, a man, who was holding a flashlight, and a woman were talking to Kimberly Paulsen (the sixteen-year-old babysitter). The children, Katie and Larry, were holding hands as they and Blackie listened to the older people talk.
“Rhonda, I need to talk to your neighbors,” I said.
I shook Rhonda’s hand again-and was still surprised when Rhonda did not turn into my touch-slave. Then I turned and walked toward Katie, Larry, and their parents.
It was four-year-old Katie who spotted me, as I was crossing the street diagonally. She started pointing at me, yelling, and jumping up and down. Five-year-old Larry ran up to me (not looking both ways as he entered the street), and grabbed my hand.
“Captain America, we told them you rescued us, but Mom didn’t believe us!” Larry exclaimed. “Come meet Mom and Dad, and then they’ll hafta believe Katie and me!”
By now, there was a flashlight beam in my eyes. “Good god, look at him!” I heard a woman’s voice exclaim. She sounded amazed.
I could understand her amazement. I was now 6’8″, and I was now richer and more muscular than anyone deserved to be. Eight days ago, I’d been a shorty at 5’2″, the butt of jokes at my high school, a victim of bullying and helpless to stop it, and I was as unrich as you could get. So now I was still mentally adjusting to all the new goodies in my life.
Isn’t it amazing, Reader, how one old brass lamp, with Fatima the green-eyed genie in it, can change your life?
I faced the children’s father and stuck out my hand. “My name is Marvin Harper,” I said.
You know the drill, Reader. Just by shaking hands, I magically turned Julius Witter, then Nancy Witter, into my touch-slaves. Then I said to them, “Let’s just be friends,” then both adults became (mostly) free of my enthrallment.
I said to Julius, “I came over to see if there was anything you needed. Anything I could help you with.”
Nancy looked at me in confusion. “You already saved our children. What else is there?”
Julius laughed bitterly. “Is there anything I need? Yes, ten grand, right now. But ever since that factory closed, this whole city has been in a housing slump, so good luck with us getting a second mortgage. Especially after our house has burned down. So my choices are either, move the five of us—”
I said, “Five of you? Are you counting the dog?”
“I’m pregnant,” Nancy said. “That’s why we went out tonight: to celebrate.”
“Oh, jeez,” I said.
Julius said, “So my choices are either to move the five of us into whatever house we can buy with the insurance settlement, or. . .” His voice got hesitant.
“A guy at work has a little gambling problem. He knows somebody who would loan me ten K.”
“Oh jeez, you’re talking about a loan shark? Don’t do that!”
Julius shrugged. “My family has to have a place to live, and the OB/GYN doctors have to be paid. What can I do?”
Then Julius looked at the burned house and sighed. “Shit, I could be in debt for the rest of my life, because of this goddamned fire.”
I made a snap decision. “I’ll give you ten grand. Then you won’t have to borrow from a loan shark.”
Nancy said to me, “You’re how old, mid-twenties? How can you get your hands on ten thousand dollars so that you can give it to a total stranger?”
I said, “Mid-twenties? No. I’m eighteen, but—”
Kimberly (the babysitter) asked, “Are you rich, Marvin sir?”
Little Larry said, “Captain America is strong! Of course he’s rich too.”
I laughed. “Actually, folks, I am a little rich. All you need to know is, If I promise you ten thousand, I’m good for it.”
What an understatement. I was worth thirty-two billion. At age eighteen. How absurd.
Nancy asked, “But why are you doing it? People don’t just give thousands of dollars to other people they’ve just met.”
I replied, “Because you need the money. Also, because I didn’t earn my money. I’m set for life because one time, I visited a cranky old man in the hospital. So why keep my money, when I can do good by giving it away?”
The next afternoon, the Witters were holed up in a motel room. Lawyer David Dodd knocked on the motel-room door, then he gifted Julius and Nancy Witter with ten thousand dollars in cash from my wall safe.
I would have worked that errand myself, except that I was hosting a pool-party orgy at the time.
ALLAHU AKBAR On The Airplane
THREE YEARS, NINE MONTHS LATER
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Last April, I had decided that I wanted to own my own jet and be allowed to fly it around.
Ten months later, I still needed 23.2 hours of solo flying to qualify for my private pilot’s license. So when I decided to attend a stockholder’s meeting in California, I had to fly in a big commercial jet instead of in my private jet.
Because I’m big and because I’m rich, I always fly First Class in a passenger jet. In this case, that puts me very near the cockpit door. (Not that I thought in those terms, when I took my seat on that flight.)
Boarding at the same time as I did were two Arab-looking men. They sat together in the same First Class row I did, on the other side of the aisle. They never relaxed.
Okay, fine, I occasionally notice one passenger who gets fidgety on an airplane-I figure he has a fear of flying. But two such passengers, sitting together?
These two are up to something.
An hour later, the cockpit door opened up, and the captain came out. He was walking toward the forward galley (which was only a few steps away). But then everything turned to shit.
The window-seat Arab guy stood up, and he had a white, ceramic gun in his hand. He fired two shots, and the captain fell down.
As soon as the captain dropped, the Arab guy in the aisle seat pulled a gun out of a little bag, stepped out into the aisle, and ran for the cockpit door (which was still open).
Well, two can play that “element of surprise” game. I jumped out of my seat, ran over to Window-Seat Arab, and punched him in the stomach as hard as I could. He bent over, and I brought my knee up against his chin.
He went down then. I didn’t take time to check whether he was dead or unconscious.
By now the First-Class passengers and the First Class flight attendant all were screaming.
I was handing Window-Seat Arab’s ceramic pistol to the passenger just behind him when a voice came over the airplane’s public-address system:
“Hello, passengers, this is not your captain speaking. Allahu akbar, God is great. You make ready to die.”
At that, the airplane tilted down into a steep dive.
Now everyone on the airplane was screaming.
Except me. I ran into the cockpit. (Which was made easier by the fact that it was downhill.)
The copilot was dead on the cockpit floor; I had no choice but to step on his hand.
The hijacker-pilot didn’t turn around at first, figuring I was his companion. When he noticed me in his peripheral vision, he grabbed the gun out of his lap and started to aim it at me.
One of my hands grabbed his wrist. The other hand grabbed his gun by the barrel and yanked it out of his hand. I might have broken some of his fingers; I didn’t care.
He hissed in pain, then managed a taunting smile. “You not hurt me, American. Who fly the airplane?”
“Me,” I replied.
He looked surprised, right up to the moment that I grabbed his head with both hands and snapped his neck.
I stuck his gun down the back waistband of my pants, yanked the hijacker-pilot’s corpse out of the pilot’s seat, sat down in the pilot’s seat myself, and—
—pulled the airplane out of its dive.
Reader, that sounds a lot more impressive than it really was. Mostly, leveling the airplane from a steep dive took strength, which I had plenty of. And yes, the cockpit of a 747 has lots of dials and controls, but some things haven’t changed since the Wright brothers flew.
After I stopped the airplane’s dive, it was just a matter of contacting air-traffic control and giving them a situation report. (“First the bad news: I’m flying an airplane I’m not legally qualified to fly. . . .”)
Achmed had already talked to the tower in Omaha, so I’m sure Omaha was surprised to hear from me. After that, I got on the PA system and told the (other) passengers that it was not Achmed flying the airplane anymore, it was I.
Whoever was minding the store in Omaha was no lazybones; he grabbed a 747-qualified pilot named Chuck, and Chuck talked me through landing the airplane.
An hour later, the airplane was down and we were rolling on the runway. That is when I heard, through the cockpit door, loud applause.
That applause was nothing compared to the cheer that I got when I stopped the airplane on the tarmac and shut down the engines.
Was I a hero? Not at all-because I knew that my Date Of Fated Death was at least six years away. I’m just the guy who managed to get himself in the pilot’s seat, then managed to land the airplane in Omaha. With help.
Parole Hearing . . .
FIVE MONTHS LATER
Monday, July 21, 2014, 4:00 p.m. EDT
Greentree Lake State Women’s Prison
Almira and Elvira LeClerc were up for parole on their drug convictions. I had words to say about that topic.
I was in a mellow mood as I walked into the prison’s conference room. The main reason I was feeling good was that Victoria Allblue had spent the entire trip “entertaining me” while I’d been driving.
But now, after Victoria had chewed on several breath mints and had fixed her lipstick, she again looked like what she was (officially): one of my attorneys on retainer.
When Victoria and I walked up to the long table in the prison conference room, six people were already there.
On the other side of the table were the two men and two women of the Parole Board.
On our side of the table were Rhonda (the almost-victim of the twins’ crime) and Michelle Landrieu-LeClerc (mother of Almira and Elvira). Michelle and Rhonda were glaring at each other.
When we walked in, Michelle went from glaring at Rhonda to glaring at the two of us. “Well, if it isn’t the Harem-Pimp himself, Marvin Harper. Not to mention, my turncoat attorney, Victoria.”
Victoria replied serenely, “I am convinced that there is no conflict of interest between what I did four years ago as your representative, and what I do now as Mr. Harper’s representative. If you feel otherwise, you are free to complain to the relevant state bodies. However, they are not bound to keep anything secret.”
I smiled at Michelle, the fire-breathing feminist. Right now, I had an approval rating in the high nineties within the state, and an approval rating in the low nineties nationwide. Michelle would have a shitstorm rain on her head if word got out that she had ever told her attorney to file a frivolous lawsuit against the mega-popular Marvin Harper.
Now Michelle scowled and turned around, as a man on the other side of the table pounded a gavel.
Bang-bang-bang. Gavel Man said, “This parole hearing, which is in regards to Almira Sharon LeClerc and Elvira Karen LeClerc, will now begin. Bring in the prisoners.”
Both twins were wearing orange jumpsuits, and had their hands handcuffed in front. Almira gave me a bedroom smile-but then, Almira always gave me a bedroom smile. Elvira, on the other hand, looked nervous.
After some pompous boilerplate, the Parole Board let the women speak for themselves.
Almira said, “I’ve already learned my lesson. I can’t tell you how awful it is to know that Marvin Harper is disappointed in me. If you let me out, I promise I won’t do anything to disappoint Marvin Harper ever again.”
Elvira said, “I have to be with my sister, Almira. Nobody is more important to me than my sister. If Almira doesn’t want to break the law, then I won’t break the law either, and you can take that to the bank.”
Bang. Gavel Man rapped his gavel once. “Thus ends the prisoners’ statements. Ms. Allblue, as the prisoners’ legal representative during their trial, do you have anything to say to us?”
Victoria stood up. “My clients have a close bond. I feel it is in their best interest that you parole them at the same time. Even if that means that you deny both twins’ parole now.”
As Victoria sat down, the twins didn’t say anything, but Almira elbowed Elvira in the ribs. Almira also shot Elvira a look that I was sure meantIf we don’t get parole, it’s your fault, twin.
Bang. Gavel Man rapped his gavel again. “Now we will hear from anyone opposed to giving parole to the prisoners, then hear from those in favor of their parole.”
Gavel Man asked formally, “Is anyone opposed to giving parole to these women?” Gavel Man was looking straight at Rhonda, the red-haired stripper.
Rhonda stood up. “These two women crashed a costume party I was hosting. When I told them to leave, they threatened to plant drugs in my toilet and then call the sheriff to arrest me.”
“So says a woman who takes her clothes off for men, for money,” Michelle said. “Whereas my daughters were students at Gorshin University, till youlied in court about them.”
Rhonda said, “Yeah? One of your little darlings, I forget who, had drugs in her purse. You’re either lying to the Parole Board, or you don’t know your daughters well.”
Rhonda turned to face the Parole Board again. “Those two showed no remorse on the day they were arrested. I have no doubt that if you let these two walk, sooner or later somebody will get on their bad side, and she’ll be wearing the jumpsuit on a bogus drug bust, like I almost did.”
When Rhonda sat down, Gavel Man asked, “Does anyone else wish to speak against granting parole to the prisoners?”
Bang. Gavel Man said, “Now we will hear from anyone in favor of early parole.” He was looking straight at Michelle.
Michelle stood up. “I’m sure that is merely a one-time lapse of judgment. I raised my daughters to be strong—”
“By which she means Man-hating bitches,” Victoria murmured to me.
“—not to commit crimes,” Michelle continued. “Well, except for killing an abusive husband. I’ll say it again: I don’t expect my girls ever to do anything like this in the future. If they even did it at all.”
Michelle sat down.
Gavel Man looked at me. “Am I correct, Marvin Harper, that since you have not spoken out against the prisoners’ parole, that you are in favor of it? Even though you were present at the party at which they were arrested, and you were called as a prosecution witness?”
I stood. “Am I in favor of their parole? It’s complicated. I am convinced that Almira has reformed. As for Elvira—”
I glanced at Elvira, whose face was white with fear. Elvira knew that I had every reason to trash-talk her.
“—I am convinced that Elvira means it when she says that if her sister Almira behaves, then she will behave too.”
I glanced at Elvira again, after I sat down. She was looking at me in amazement.
Back in 2010, I had given strict instructions that Paula Sarin was not to be allowed in my house (because I knew she wanted to steal Fatima’s lamp, but I didn’t mention that part). Elvira then not only had let Paula Sarin enter my house, but Elvira had extorted fifteen hundred dollars in cash from Paula. So yes, Reader, you would expect me to say bad things about Elvira.
Now the skinny brunette on the Parole Board looked at the other members and said, “We should take seriously what Marvin Harper says. He’s the ‘hero billionaire,’ after all, and already his Harper Foundation has helped many people.”
The other woman on the parole board jumped in: “Plus he’s spent time with the prisoners, both in monthly prison visits and . . . during their time out on bail.”
Michelle said, “Let’s not get carried away. I’m glad he’s arguing for my daughters today, but while they were out on bail four years ago, he had them serving as French maids in his mansion. He was exploiting them!”
Almira said, “Mother, it wasn’t exploitive. I’m glad I French-maided for him, and I’ll gladly do it again.” Almira gave me another bedroom look.
I smiled at Almira, then I looked at the Parole Board. “That brings up another topic: How will these two earn money after prison? I offer them each a job at the Harper Foundation if she wants it.”
“Oh, I want it, I want it!” Almira said. “Anything to spend more time around you, Marvin sir.”
“If Almie works there, then I’ll work there too,” Elvira said. But she didn’t act happy about it.
“And where will they live, while they’re working at the Harper Foundation, huh?” Michelle demanded of me.
I said innocently, “They can always move back in with me, if they choose to.”
“But you’re married,” Michelle said. “To that bimbo big-breasted former cheerleader.”
“She has a name,” I said. “Anna Kay Henderson Harper.”
“Anna Kay is so understanding,” said the skinny brunette on the Parole Board. “She thinks it’s great that every woman in the country wants to fuck her husband.”
When Michelle glared at her, the brunette said, “Hey, I’m telling the truth. Anna Kay Harper gets interviewed on TV a lot. And she always says the same stuff.”
The skinny brunette, meanwhile was giving me a look that said I don’t care if you’re married, I want to fuck you too.
The skinny brunette’s reaction did not surprise me. When Fatima had granted six wishes of mine all at once, she had become both creative and generous in her wish-grants. Since that day, if I would touch someone (and if they did not already have a strong negative feeling about me), they instantly became my touch-slave. If I then said, “Let’s just be friends,” that cancelled most of the person’s enthrallment, but they still treated me favorably. Similarly, if I would sit near to someone for a long time, my magic pheromones enthralled them.
Clearly, that is what had happened here. Without my intending to, I’d affected the two women on the Parole Board. Now they would gladly get naked if I told them to; so they voting for the twins’ parole was only to be expected.
So I smiled at Almira and Elvira. Don’t worry, you’ll be out soon.
Though part of me wondered whether I was acting foolishly. Each twin was evil, which explained how the twins wound up in prison. Complicating things, Elvira was magically enthralled to Almira, Almira was enthralled to me, but Elvira was immune to all
djinn-based mind control (including mine). Was I doing the wise thing, trying to put Elvira back on the street?
. . . And The Drive Home
Victoria smirked when I started the Lincoln Town Car. “I can’t believe you’re a billionaire, and yet you’re driving a five-year-old car.”
I said, “Why trade it in? It runs great, so buying a new car seems silly. Plus I got this car for free, from Uncle Warren. Plus it has headroom.” Which at 6’8?, I desperately needed.
Victoria glanced around. We were now away from the women’s prison, and zooming through the countryside. She said, “Mm, speaking of head, shall I go back to what I was doing during the drive down?”
I smiled. “If you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind one bit. In f—zzz.”
Victoria fell back against the passenger seat and started sleeping—in mid-sentence. A moment later—
—there was a flash of green light from the backseat.
“What’s up, Fatima?” I asked, surprised.
The voice of my genie was angry: “A tall, balding, redhead guy put a bomb in your car while you were inside the prison.”
“FUCK! Was it set to blow up when I started the car?”
“No, it’s set to go off when he remotely activates it. But he hasn’t tried that yet, so I can’t do anything to him.”
“Ah, because he hasn’t committed himself in human terms to an attack on me.”
There was a green flash from the backseat.
Fatima said, “Boom, you’re dead—or would be. And whoever this guy is, now I own his life.”
“Anything I need to do, Fatima?”
“Please pull over and stop the car. If he’s watching us, let’s make it easy for him.”
I slowed down and moved onto the shoulder. There was another green flash.
Fatima said, “This guy knows he didn’t get you the first—”
Still another green flash from the backseat. By now my car was stopped on the shoulder.
I said, “Gotta give the guy points for persistence.”
“I’ll sure give him something,” Fatima said. “Something he won’t like.”
There were two more green flashes, one second apart.
Fatima said, “I’m bored with this guy.” She gestured—
—and a tall, balding, redhead guy appeared in my backseat.
“WHAT THE FUCK?” he exclaimed.
He was wearing a cross-draw, underarm holster. He went for his gun, even as Fatima went for his forehead.
Fatima had Hyperspeed. The redhead man didn’t.
For the next minute, he trembled and shook as Fatima memory-read him.
When Fatima broke the connection, she said to me, “Meet Michael ‘Red Mikey’ Smith, contract killer. He was in Delta Force, but he got kicked out of the Army for striking an officer. The Carlino Family hired him after you and I broke up that loan-shark cartel.”
I said, “Yeah, the loan sharks would be pissed at me, wouldn’t they?”
Meanwhile, Smith had been dazed, but now clearly he’d come out of it. He quick-drew his pistol and took turns aiming his pistol at Fatima and me. “I don’t know how I got inside your car, Harper, but I’m hired to kill you, and that’s what I’m going to do. You too, Green Eyes.”
I was calm at that moment. Mainly because I knew that my Date Of Fated Death was not for at least six more years.
So calmly I said, “You’re not the least bit curious why your bomb didn’t go off? Or how you got in my car?”
Smith said, “Doesn’t matter. You’re the fucking Hero Billionaire, so who knows what kind of tricks you can pull with your dough?”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re stupid, Michael Smith. You plan to shoot us in this car, which is registered to Marvin Harper the Hero Billionaire? Our murders will be discovered within the hour by the Highway Patrol. Then the police will bring in every crime-scene investigator between here and Poland to track you down.”
Smith sneered, “Then I’ll have to make sure that your corpses aren’t discovered for a while. You two, out of the car.”
Somehow Smith had completely failed to notice the sleeping Victoria Allblue. I didn’t correct his mistake.
Once Fatima, Smith, and I were out of the Lincoln, I said, “Now what?”
Smith said, “See that gas station?” Near us was a boarded-up, weathered roadside gas station. “March. Behind the building.”
Fatima and I marched, with Smith behind us. Fatima started humming a tune from Disney’s Aladdin.
“You trying to cheer yourself up, Green Eyes?” Smith said.
“I’m already cheerful,” Fatima said. “And in a minute, I’ll explain why.”
“In a minute, you’ll both be dead.”
One minute later, we were behind the long-closed gas station. Where the three of us were walking, no cars could see us from the road.
“That’s far enough, you two,” Smith said.
Fatima casually tossed a hand over her shoulder. Foom.
“What the fuck? Where’d my piece go?” Smith said.
Both Fatima and I turned around. Smith was staring dumbfounded at his curled-fingers right hand.
Fatima said, “I sent your gun to Mount Kilauea in Hawaii, which has lots of hot lava in it. The good news is, that’s not where you’re going.”
Smith stared at Fatima in confusion, saying nothing.
Fatima said, “You ever heard the term crush depth?”
—and where Smith had been, there was a seven-foot-tall, four-foot-diameter column of water. Which immediately fell to the ground.
On the ground was a strange-looking fish. Which, as I watched, got bigger and bigger, and then it exploded.
The water on the ground, I noticed, smelled like sea water.
“What did you do with him?” I asked Fatima.
She shrugged. “Bottom of the Indian Ocean.”
Then Fatima gave me a feral grin. “I’ve been wanting to use that particular spell for twenty-six hundred years.”
The whole incident seemed like no big deal. After all, I knew at the time that I was in no danger.
But Reader, I made a mistake then. Fatima said a couple of things to which I should have paid more attention.
Sex With Anna Kay
When I got back to the mansion, I told Anna Kay all about my adventures at the parole hearing. I didn’t mention the magically defused bomb.
This had begun to bother me, that I was keeping a huge secret from my wife. Part of me felt I should sit her down and should tell her, “Honey, about Fatima, my housekeeper? She’s actually a genie, I’m her master, and everything that makes me special, came from Fatima. And Fatima’s lesbian sex slave, the pretend-fembot SJ-1? SJ-1 is actually Sheila Johansson, the disappeared assistant to disappeared Senator Paula Sarin; and by the way, Paula Sarin also is a genie master.”
On the other hand, my conscience didn’t bother me enough yet to make me tell Anna Kay the truth.
Anyway, after I’d told the tale of my words at the parole hearing, Anna Kay said, “That’s one of the things I so love about you: You’re so good.”
“Good at what?”
“You’re good good. I know you don’t like Elvira for some reason—”
“I don’t, but I’m sorry, honey, I can’t tell—”
“But today you went down to the prison, and used some of your time, and charm, and good reputation, to get Elvira out of prison earlier. I am so lucky to be married to you. You’re good, you’re nice.”
I said, “I’m lucky to be married to you too. You are good, you are nice, and”—I hefted her big, tear-shaped tits—”you’re lots of fun to be with.”
Anna Kay gave me a smoky look. “You know I want to suck your dick whenever you play with my boobs.”
I replied, “I’m feeling like more than that. How about we go to the master bedroom and I fuck you till you see stars?”
“I’m sure that isn’t on the Sex Schedule.”
Not counting my wife Anna Kay, my genie housekeeper Fatima, and Fatima’s lesbian sex slave SJ-1, there were thirty-two women living in my house, and all thirty-two were in my harem. I was getting fucked and sucked by thirty-four women, so a computer-generated Sex Schedule was a necessity for me.
Now I picked Anna Kay up and started walking toward the stairs. “Not by the Schedule. I’m about to have passionate, unscheduled sex-not with my housekeeper, or a haremée, but with my wife.”
In my arms, Anna Kay gasped and shuddered.
Somehow, in the process of granting six wishes at once, Fatima had set things so that whenever I give Anna Kay any special treatment, she has an orgasm. Anna Kay doesn’t mind.
Meanwhile, I was climbing the stairs, with Anna Kay in my arms. When we reached the top of the stairs, we saw Colleen, who was dusting the furniture in the upstairs lounge. Colleen put down her duster and gave me two thumbs up.
Colleen said to us, “I wish you were carrying me so easily. Strong Marvin gets me hot.”
Anna Kay shook with another orgasm.
A minute later, I set her down in the bedroom. She said in a Southern accent, “You carried me up the staircase, and now you are going to ravage little old me. Fiddle-dee-dee, I love a husband who’s dominant.”
I laughed. “I love you, Anna Kay.” I began to undress my wife.
For whatever reason, she had sworn off anything stretchy since she married me, except for exercise wear. So at the moment she was wearing a light-blue button-up blouse, a purple skirt, and purple shoes with two-inch heels.
I enjoyed unbuttoning her blouse and casting it aside. What was revealed underneath were two glorious mammaries, encased in a light-blue lacy bra. I took a moment to fondle Anna Kay’s tits through her bra.
“Mmm, I’ll give you till midnight to stop that,” she said.
I unhooked the bra, cast it aside, then bent at the waist to take a revealed nipple in my mouth.
Have I mentioned, Reader, that Anna Kay’s large and tear-shaped tits are perfect?
“Mmm,” Anna Kay said again.
But for all Anna Kay’s clear enjoyment of my attentions, she was not trying to kiss me, caress me, undress me, or undress herself; she was acting totally passive.
This excited me; my dick started to get hard.
I pulled off her shoes, then I unzipped her skirt; and again, Anna Kay just let everything happen to her.
By now, the only thing that Anna Kay was wearing was lavender-colored, soaked panties. I didn’t pull her panties off then; instead, I reached inside her panties and lightly stroked her clit.
“Take me, command me, use me,” Anna Kay said. “Take me, command me, use me.”
Every time Anna Kay says that, she means it. And every time she says that, with me knowing that she means it, her words get me hard. I was rock-hard now.
“Get me undressed like you’re undressed,” I commanded Anna Kay. “Everything but underwear.”
“I obey, my husband,” she replied.
Anna Kay pulled my shirt out of my pants, unbuttoned my shirt, and cast it aside.
But instead of starting on the next article of clothing, Anna Kay’s hands began caressing every inch of my chest, back, and arms. “You’re so muscular,” she kept saying, “you’re so strong.”
Anna Kay got rid of my shoes and socks by me lifting a foot and she pulling that foot’s clothing off of it, just as I had done with her. But before Anna Kay removed my shoes, she had knelt down to untie the laces.
“Is there anything else you wish me to do while I’m kneeling?” Anna Kay had asked.
“Not now,” I had replied, but my dick had twitched with arousal.
Now she ran her hands over my still-pants’d legs. “Mmm, you’re so muscular, you’re so strong.” Still kneeling in front of me, Anna Kay unfastened my belt and unzipped my pants.
My pants dropped to the floor. I stepped out of them.
Anna Kay said, “Are you sure there’s nothing you want me to do, so long as I’m on my knees?”
I growled, “Right here, right now, I decide when I get my dick sucked. You got that, wife?”
“I obey, my husband.”
Anna Kay stood up now, and walked up to me, so that her flat stomach was pressed against my hard dick. She reached around me and started caressing and squeezing my ass muscles. “Mmm, so muscular, so strong,” she said again.
I said, “It’s time for sex. Take off your panties.”
She did, with a shimmy. When Anna Kay was naked, she said, “Take me, command me, use me.”
By now I was myself naked, erect, and hard enough to punch holes in armored plate.
I restrained myself. “I’m going to taste you now,” I said, moving down to the end of the bed, “while you’re all wet.”
“But don’t you want to-?”
“I’m doing what I want.”
Anna Kay shaves all but a one-inch wide “landing strip” of pubic hair, so getting hairs in my teeth is not a worry.
Licking a pussy when Anna Kay is aroused is very different than when she’s not aroused (at first). When she’s aroused, her pussy lips are bigger; my tongue can feel the difference. Of course, when Anna Kay is aroused, her pussy smells different.
Does it surprise you, Reader, that I would do such a servile thing as licking my wife’s pussy? First of all, I love Anna Kay; I’ve loved her since middle school. Anna Kay is just nice. Second, one of the ways that Anna Kay is nice is that she’ll suck my cock at the slightest excuse; I’d be a total rat bastard if I didn’t reciprocate at least once in a while. Third, licking Anna Kay’s pussy is the only time, and the only way, that I am not obviously the dominant one in our marriage.
By now, after four years of our having sex, I know how to get Anna Kay off. I slid a long, thick finger in and out of her pussy all the time I was licking her clit, stroking her pussy walls in the process-and this sent Anna Kay into several hip-thrusting, hair-grabbing, screaming orgasms.
But all good things must end. I slid up the bed, wiped my face on the bedsheet, and—
“I love you, Anna Kay.”
—I kissed my wife.
After I broke the kiss, Anna Kay said, “Something big and thick and warm is poking my thigh.”
“It wants to fuck your pussy. Give it a kiss to let it know this is okay with you.”
So just as I’d slid down the bed a few minutes earlier for the purpose of oral sex, so Anna Kay moved now.
“Use me for your pleasure, my husband,” she said. Then she put her mouth on my cock.
Reader, Anna Kay not only loves sucking cock, she’s good at it. She can put her mouth on my absolutely unaroused, flaccid dick, and only seven minutes later, she’ll have me spurting. But that was not what I wanted right now.
I let her put her lips and tongue (but not her teeth) on me for only one minute. Then I said, “Stop. You are delightful, Anna Kay, but now I want to come inside your pussy.”
“As you wish, my husband,” she replied, lying down on the bed.
She was wet. Slick-wet, slurpy-wet. Her sugar-walls squeezed and caressed every inch of my cock when I first thrust it in.
After that first thrilling thrust, whenever I thrust down, she thrust up, and gasped, and squeezed my back. Her ankles soon locked around my ass.
She took her hands off my back, and used them to grab my head. She pulled my head down to her face and kissed me hard. Then she kept kissing me.
“Oh Marvin, kiss, my darling, my husband, kiss-kiss, that feels so good, kiss, you fuck me so good, kiss, I need it, don’t stop, kiss-kiss, that’s so good.”
Her skin was hot and sweaty. Soon my skin was hot and sweaty. Sweat pooled where our stomachs came together.
Despite all my self-control (from working algebra problems in my head), soon I came hard. As I was seeing fireworks in my brain, I thrust my dick in Anna Kay’s pussy as deep as it would go. Then I thought about playing catch with my son.
“I love you, Anna Kay,” I said, when I could speak normally.
She replied, “I love you too, my husband.”
From the way that Anna Kay talks during sex, you would think, Reader, that she’s the most mind-controlled woman I know. But the truth is the opposite—
Fatima granted six wishes in four-and-a-half minutes, and she achieved this by combining wish-grants. One wish-grant gave me the magic pheromones and the magic touch that have given me my harem, but which have no effect on Anna Kay. Another wish-grant made me become Anna Kay’s perfect man.
Anna Kay’s perfect man is the alpha-est of alpha males.
Since I’m so alpha, this frees Anna Kay to play at being the complete submissive. She isn’t really, of course-she’d never have made it onto the cheerleading squad.
But Anna Kay acts completely submissive to me when we’re private, and I never abuse her trust. So when feminists ask her why she married a man who openly has sex with other women, Anna Kay confounds the feminists with her reply:
“I married Marvin because with him, I get to live out my fantasies.”
Vinnie’s Lucky Night
HALF A DAY LATER
Tuesday, July 22, 2:03 a.m. EDT
Several states over from Marvin Harper
Twenty-six-year-old Vinnie Lavagetto was a hit man, but he wanted more out of life.
Right now, his big claim to fame was that he was the great-great-grandson of a cousin of “Cookie” Lavagetto, the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball player.
Which was worth less than a plate of spaghetti, so far as the Family was concerned.
Other members of the local Family were asleep right now. Or maybe getting a blowjob from their honeys. But what was Vinnie doing, at fucking 2 a.m.?
Vinnie was in Podunkville, Massachusetts, sneaking around some lowlife’s backyard with a stepladder. Hoping that the guy didn’t have a barking dog. Hoping that the guy’s neighbors didn’t have a barking dog. Hoping that none of the guy’s neighbors had insomnia and were right this minute calling the cops on Vinnie.
Sometimes Vinnie wondered if he should have stayed in high school. Maybe he’d be sleeping now, instead of trying to whack somebody at fucking 2 a.m.
Vinnie made it into the backyard without Fido or Spot or Killer announcing his trespassing to the world. So far, so good. He laid the stepladder on the grass and—very quietly, which meant very slowly—extended the stepladder to its full length. The attic of this house was on the third floor, and that was how Vinnie planned to enter the house—through the attic’s window.
The climb up the stepladder was not fun. For most of the way, the ladder shook with every step. Plus Vinnie was clearly visible to any neighbors who might be awake.
When Vinnie got up alongside the attic window, he was surprised to notice that the glass had bubbles in it. Whaddaya expect? Old house, old glass.
Vinnie grinned. This window had glass in it that was hundreds of years old, and Vinnie would get to bust it out. That didn’t make up for the blowjob that Vinnie wasn’t getting right then, but fun is where you find it.
Vinnie took a deep breath. There was no quiet way to break glass, and the noise might wake up somebody inside the house. But there was no other quick and easy way inside this house, either.
Fuck it. Let’s do it.
Vinnie busted the glass, pulled leather gloves over his latex gloves, and climbed through the window.
Vinnie thought, If I was a big shot in the Family, I wouldn’t need to worry about cutting my fucking hand with no fucking glass at fucking 2 a.m.
The first thing that Vinnie heard, once all of him was in the attic, was—
“George, I’m sure I heard glass breaking.”
“Okay, okay, Susan, I’ll check it out.”
One floor below the attic, Vinnie heard a man’s footsteps move along a hallway, then go down stairs. Once the footsteps left the stairs, Vinnie couldn’t hear any more.
Vinnie grinned. George could check his first-floor doors and windows all he wanted; the fact that everything was okay didn’t mean squat.
But meanwhile, Vinnie didn’t move. He wasn’t about to give Susan any ideas to tell George to check the attic.
Ten minutes later, Vinnie heard George’s footsteps on the stairs, this time moving slowly. George’s footsteps moved along the hallway to his bedroom, this time more slowly. Vinnie heard—
“You dreamed the glass. Windows are fine, doors are fine. I’m going back to sleep.”
“I didn’t dream it, I heard it.”
“Good night, Susan.”
Well, shit. Now Vinnie was stuck in the attic till they fell asleep. Figure half an hour, at the least.
Ten minutes later, he was bored. He clicked his flashlight on, and looked around the dark attic.
The light beam picked up wires that ran from a light switch by the attic door, to a light-bulb fixture overhead. Interestingly, the wires weren’t covered with plastic, they were covered with cloth.
Next, the flashlight showed Vinnie a dress on a dressmaker’s dummy. Vinnie didn’t know anything about women’s dresses (except how to take them off), but this dress was fancy enough, and old enough, to go into a museum. That is, if it weren’t so bug-holed.
Vinnie saw a rectangular thing that was hidden by a sheet, which had to be a painting of someone in a fancy frame. Vinnie felt no curiosity to reveal the painting.
Whoa, what is this?
The wall of the attic consisted of boards that were nailed horizontally. But one board was free of all but one of its nails, and so it went from the wall diagonally down to the floor. In the wall, behind where the board was supposed to go, the flashlight beam showed Vinnie something of yellow metal.
Vinnie wasn’t especially curious. He figured that whatever he was seeing was something that a museum might want, but Vinnie couldn’t pawn. And in any case, Vinnie was stuck in this spot on the attic floor for—Vinnie glanced at his watch—another eighteen minutes, at the least.
Twenty-eight minutes later, Vinnie stood up, intending to walk out the attic door, walk down the attic steps, and make the hit that he’d been sent to make.
But before doing that, he detoured to the attic wall and the yellow-metal thing that was in the wall.
His mild curiosity went instantly to keen excitement when his flashlight showed him what the yellow-metal thing actually was. Vinnie grabbed the brass thing by its handle and pulled it out of the wall.
“You’re shitting me,” Vinnie muttered.
In his left hand, Vinnie was holding a genie lamp.
Vinnie Does His Job
Vinnie quietly shut the attic door, and quietly descended the attic stairs. He held a silencer-equipped pistol in his right hand, and the genie lamp in his left hand.
Vinnie was wary and alert, but the house seemed quiet.
Descending the attic stairs put him at the end of a second-floor hallway. Vinnie already knew, from hearing them talk, that George and Susan slept in the room at the far end of the hallway, but there were three other doors that Vinnie had to check first.
Vinnie didn’t know if the lowlife had any kids. Vinnie hoped not; he really didn’t want to kill any kids tonight.
Killing a kid was impractical. You kill a lowlife, and the cops figure “He deserved it,” and they only go through the motions at catching his killer. But when you kill the lowlife’s wife, the cops up their game. And if you kill a kid, the cops will hunt you to the ends of the Earth, even if the kid’s papa was Adolph fucking Hitler.
The first door that Vinnie checked, looked into a tiny room. Nobody was sleeping in here, and the room looked like it was used for storing junk.
The second room had two filing cabinets, computer stuff, and lots of cutesy decorations. Vinnie figured this belonged to Susan. Nobody was sleeping in this room.
The third room had a folding card table that was covered with a plastic shower curtain. On the shower curtain were bricks of white powder, wrapped in clear plastic. Nobody was in this room either.
George didn’t wake up when Vinnie walked into the bedroom. But Susan did. She took a breath to scream or yell.
Before Susan could make a peep—
—Vinnie shot her dead.
Then Vinnie woke up George.
Vinnie spoke Tony’s message to George. Then Vinnie put the silencer-end of the barrel into George’s hair, just above the ear, and Vinnie pulled the trigger.
Two minutes later, Vinnie was out the front door and walking up the street to the van that Tony had loaned him. In his gloveless left hand, Vinnie was holding the genie lamp.
Vinnie. Kharmesh. Fatima.
At 11:02 a.m., Vinnie picked up the genie lamp from his bedroom dresser, took a deep breath, and rubbed the lamp.
By the time that Vinnie had driven back to Boston, had swapped out Tony’s van for his own car, and had driven back to his own house, it had been nearly four o’clock in the morning. Vinnie had been sleepy enough to nearly fall asleep while driving.
Vinnie was renting a house, which came with its own garage-door opener, so no neighbor had seen Vinnie carry the genie lamp from his car.
Tony had told Vinnie that he didn’t have to come in today till noon. So normally Vinnie would set the alarm for 10:30 and would have fallen fast asleep.
But normally, Vinnie didn’t have a genie lamp atop his dresser.
Vinnie’s sleep had been fitful, and it had ended too soon.
The alarm clock had awakened Vinnie up at ten. One hour for shit-shower-and-shave, and breakfast, and Vinnie was . . . half an hour from when he needed to leave the house.
Vinnie had given himself thirty minutes, when he was more-or-less well rested, to make his three wishes.
Vinnie wasn’t smart, and he sure wasn’t educated. But he’d seen a lot of TV shows where somebody got a genie, the guy acted stupid, and the genie played the guy for a chump. Vinnie was determined to not be that guy.
Vinnie rubbed the lamp. The brass lamp shook in his hand like a frantic rat were trapped in it, then blue smoke poured out of the spout. Lots and lots of blue smoke.
The guy who came out of the lamp could’ve been a pro wrestler—he was that tall, and that muscular. Sure, he wore blue silk pants, and he was wearing blue silk shoes where the toes curled up at the big toe, but the muscles kept the guy from looking froo-froo.
But the guy was definitely a genie. He was wearing a fancy blue turban that was held together by a big blue jewel, he was wearing a blue sash around his waist, and was wearing a buttonless, sleeveless blue jacket. All that blue clothing he was wearing matched his blue eyes.
Not to mention, the genie’s blue clothing matched the genie’s blue skin and dark-blue mustache and trimmed beard.
“Greetings, O Master of ye Lamp,” the genie’s deep voice boomed out. “I am Kharmesh, ye greatest of ye bound djinn, here to grant to you three wishes.”
Tuesday, July 22, 11:02 a.m. EDT
Several states over from Massachusetts
In the mansion of Marvin Harper
Virgilia O’Keefe parked her car in the mansion’s big garage. Seconds after that, she was in the mansion and fluffing her hair in the foyer mirror. Seconds after that, she was walking, click-clack, into the monster kitchen.
Virgilia was now president of the Harper Foundation, so she was wearing a woman’s serious pin-stripe business suit. Of course, considering that Virgilia had a wish-enhanced figure, that serious business suit, when she wore it, looked like the porno-movie version of such.
When Virgilia walked in, there were about a dozen women in the monster kitchen. Half the women there were cooking lunch, and the other half were eating it.
Fatima, who was supervising the cooking, smiled when Virgilia walked in. “Good morning. Work going well?”
“It is indeed, thanks for asking.” Virgilia sat down at her favorite spot at the second table.
Virgilia heard Fatima say to a young woman who was chopping carrots, “Cindy, stop that and start cooking Virgilia’s hamburger. Cook it medium, no pink. . .”
Fatima had stopped speaking mid-sentence. Virgilia turned to look at Fatima, and saw that Marvin’s genie looked like she’d just been goosed in the ass.
Fatima rushed over to Virgilia, grabbed Virgilia by the wrist, and dragged her out of the monster kitchen and into the deep-sink room.
Washing pots and pans at the deep sink was Connie, one of Marvin’s touch-slaves. When Marvin had met her, she was a cocktail waitress and a dropout from Ewert Grant High School. But thanks to Marvin’s “influence,” Connie had returned to Ewert Grant, had earned her diploma, and was now attending classes at the community college.
Supposedly. Virgilia now asked Connie, “Aren’t you supposed to be in class?”
Connie said, “I was, this morning, while you—”
Fatima said, “Connie, I need to talk to Virgilia alone.”
Connie gave the two other women a sexy smile. “Gee, Fatima, I thought you didn’t do girls. Well, except with SJ-1.”
Fatima said, “Shows what you know. But not right now. Out.”
As soon as Connie was gone and the door was shut, Fatima started making gestures. Fatima’s scrying ball appeared with a pop, floating in front of her face. The scrying ball looked like a fortuneteller’s crystal ball that was the size of a volleyball, and Virgilia no longer startled whenever it suddenly appeared.
Fatima made more gestures, and a blue-skinned man appeared in her scrying ball. Once Virgilia got past the shock of blue skin and blue facial hair, she noticed the guy’s arrogant attitude. Perhaps the man’s rippling muscles had something to do with that attitude.
Fatima made one last set of gestures, and the scrying ball popped gone.
Virgilia said, “You look unhappy.”
“You bet your ration, Jackson, I’m unhappy,” Fatima replied. “There’s now another bound djinni out of Vessel. But is it Sumera, Thrim, or Aleser? Any one of them, I could cope with, though Sumera is Blue Tribe, so she’s a bitch. But nope, the bound djinni who’s out is”—Fatima launched into a long string of Arabic-sounding profanity—”Kharmesh. The biggest asshole jerk of three tribes’ worth of djinn.”
“So what are you going to do?” Virgilia asked.
“I need permission from Master to watch Kharmesh. Kharmesh won’t care if he causes problems for humans.”
Virgilia said, “Marvin’s in the computer room, as of—”
Virgilia didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence. Fatima yanked open the door and ran off.
11:02 a.m. EDT
Vinnie Lavagetto’s bedroom
“Greetings, O Master of ye Lamp,” the pro-wrestler blue genie said. “I am Kharmesh, ye greatest of ye bound djinn, here to grant to you three wishes.”
“You talk funny,” Vinnie said. “Plus you sorta got a British accent.”
The genie frowned. “Indeed I have a British accent, for I speak as did my last master, a loyal subject of King George II.”
“If he was a Brit, what was he doing in Massachusetts?”
“What was he doing in His Majesty’s royal colony of Massachusetts? Are you softheaded, Master? He was being born there. Living there. Dying there in 1760, many years after I was sent back into my lamp.”
“Never mind that,” replied Vinnie. “So all that stuff in the ‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’ story, it’s all true?”
“Aladdin? I know not that name.”
“You’re shitting me. C’mon, he’s trapped in a cave, he has a magic ring and the magic lamp, he marries the princess, Bad-Something—”
“Badroulbadour,” Kharmesh said,
“—yeah, her. And Aladdin gets a big, fancy palace, even bigger and fancier than the one that Bad-Something’s papa has, and he’s a king or something.”
“You pronounce the name strangely,” Kharmesh said. “I knew him as Ala ad-Din.”
“You knew him? You knew Aladdin?”
“Of course I knew Ala ad-Din. He was a former master of mine.”
“Whoa,” said Vinnie.
FOOM. Vinnie saw a flash of green light out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to look, he saw a woman standing in his bedroom.
Kharmesh, if Vinnie ignored all his blueness, looked like an Arab. The woman looked Arab too, except she had the colors right—black hair and brown skin. But her eyes were very un-Arab: they glowed green, like a traffic light.
Her clothing was un-Arab too. She wasn’t wearing a veil or a scarf on her head. Instead, she was wearing green shoes, tight green-denim jeans, and a tight green t-shirt that said “Not Just Another Pretty Face.” Inside that t-shirt, the woman had amazing tits.
“Behold what ye cat dragged in,” Kharmesh said, glaring at the woman.
Then Kharmesh said more stuff to her, in a foreign language. His words sounded insulting. The woman replied back to him in the same foreign language; her tone sounded just as insulting.
“Dammit, Kharmesh, stick to English!” Vinnie said. Then he demanded of the woman, “Who the fuck are you?”
“I am Fatima of the Green Tribe of Djinn,” she replied with a smile, “hoping I’m not too late for the show. I came here to watch him“—she nodded at Kharmesh—”have to grant you three wishes.”
“You may leave anytime, Fatima,” Kharmesh said. “None did invite you here.”
“Yeah,” Vinnie said. “I decide what woman comes in my bedroom, and when. Leave now, or I’ll make you leave.” Vinnie walked toward the dresser, atop which lay his pistol.
She said, “I apologize for intruding, but I’ll be here only till you’ve made your three wishes. Then I’ll leave and you’ll never see me again.”
“Bitch, I told you to leave now.” Vinnie grabbed the pistol, flicked the safety off with his thumb, and pointed it at Fatima. “This baby has a great silencer on it. I can pump you full of lead and my neighbors will never hear. Take a hike.”
Fatima looked at him, and her friendly face hardened into contempt. Then she said sarcastically, “Oh dear, I’m about to be shot.”
She gestured, and a tunnel formed in her chest. Vinnie could shove his hand and arm all the way to his shoulder, and not touch any of her body.
Tunneled-Fatima said, “You can aim every shot perfectly, and empty out your entire magazine, and I’ll still be standing. Then the real fun will begin, human.”
Vinnie didn’t like that. “What does the bitch mean, Kharmesh?”
Kharmesh said, “Normally a bound djinni like Fatima or myself may not kill a human. But a bound djinni may defend herself against an attack against her master or himself. If you try to kill her, even if you fail completely, she may kill you.”
Then Kharmesh grinned at Fatima. “But when you try to kill him, you will be trying to kill my master, and I must needs defend him. Sorry, Fatima, ye rules are ye rules.”
“You two are both stupid,” Fatima said with a scornful laugh, as her chest became solid again.
She looked at Vinnie and said, “After you shoot me, I’ll magically blind you, and Kharmesh can’t do shit because by our rules, I haven’t harmed you. Then you’ll have to use up a wish to get your sight back.”
“Whaddaya mean, that’s not harming me?” Vinnie said. “I’d be goddamned blind—that sure sounds like harm to me!”
Kharmesh replied, “She would not rend your flesh, or break your bones, or spill your blood, so the rules say she would not harm you.”
“That’s fucked up,” Vinnie said. “She could abracadabra me, and I wind up having to use a wish to fix it, and you can’t just straighten the bitch out?”
Fatima said, “I’m getting bored. I came here to watch Kharmesh have to grant you wishes, and that hasn’t happened. As for that squirt gun of yours, human, would you either put it away or shoot me so I can have some fun?”
Vinnie glanced at the clock and said, “Fuck, I have to get going soon.” He flicked the safety on, and lay the pistol back on his dresser.
He glared at Fatima. “You win for now, bitch.”
Then Vinnie turned to Kharmesh and asked, “You got rules about what I can wish for?”
Fatima said, “James Bond here is smarter than he looks.”
Kharmesh said to Vinnie, “All three wishes must be made the same day.
“You may not wish for a throne, nor may you wish to cloud men’s minds to grant you a throne, nor may you wish to cloud men’s minds so that they will fight war for you. If you wish one of these three forbidden wishes, you forfeit that wish and all remaining wishes. You may not wish that anyone die, or be made so sick or so injured that death comes soon. If you wish one of these three forbidden wishes, you forfeit that wish and all remaining wishes. You may not wish for immortality, your own or anyone else’s. If you make a wish like this, you forfeit that wish and all remaining wishes. You may not wish to delay your own or anyone else’s fated death by more than 120 lunar cycles—”
Vinnie said, “Huh? How long is that?”
Fatima answered instead of Kharmesh: “It’s nine solar years, eight months, and some days.”
Vinnie nodded at Kharmesh, who continued, “If you wish to delay your own or someone else’s fated death by more than 120 lunar cycles, you forfeit that wish. These are all the rules but one, which I may not tell you until after you have spoken all three wishes.”
Vinnie slapped his left fist into his right palm. “I gotcha. I’m ready to wish now.”
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