WordPlay #2.4: “Family Business”

It’s been a busy weekend, but now I’m back in front of my computer and ready to post yet another WordPlay – because as it turns out, I missed Nika’s latest challenge *D’Oh* I blame the Facebook algorithm.

So, today’s overall topic is “suspense”! As you (probably) know by know, most of my stories have an element of suspense, so I thought this would be pretty easy to write. But as it turns out, I’m having a hard time doing something on command. So there’s probably less suspense in this piece than there should be. The prompts were “elation” and “the fear of nothing”. Enjoy!

Family Business

BOOM!

Yet another series of fireworks exploded high above the silver tower that was the headquarters of Walhalla Corp. “100 years of service to the community”, or so the celebratory slogan was. A cynical one, evidently, because that “service” mainly consisted in producing as many different weapons for as many different armies as possible. Whenever Freya saw a picture of her grandfather, the company’s founder, she had to think of all the blood on his hands.

Sadly, she was the only one to have these thoughts. The rest of her family and the company’s employees were indulging in all-out elation, drinking champagne and eating caviar as if there were no tomorrow. Well, they were probably right about that.

“Still brooding about the oh-so cruel world?” It was Sigrun, Freya’s older sister, equipped with what appeared to be an unopened bottle of champagne. “You should be celebrating with us. The more money we spend on this, the more losses we can claim in this year’s tax report.”

“I see why he made you CFO…”

“Oh, you’re jealous? I thought you weren’t interested in the post.”

“I wasn’t. I’m just saying that maybe, just maybe, we should talk about something other than money tonight.”

“And what would that be …?” Sigrun seemed disinterested. They had had this discussion many times before and they both knew how it would end. Or at least Sigrun thought she knew.

“This company has been founded on blood and it’s run on blood. Killed soldiers’ blood. At least today we should commemorate that, just for a second. Everyone who has died through us deserves our respect.”

“Everyone? What about those desert terrorists who abducted and killed hundreds of innocent girls? They don’t deserve anything.”

“And what about those innocent boys who were sent to the trenches because they were the only ones left to fight?”

“Should have emigrated the second that dictator came to power.”

“They weren’t even born then!”

“Look, Freya, I really appreciate your compassion.” As if to contradict her statement, Sigrun took out a cigarette and lit it, blowing the smoke straight into Freya’s face.

“Could you please not do this in my office?”

“Oh, your office, yes? Ever thought about who gave you this office? What company you’re working for? You’re a part of this operation, whether you like it or not.”

“Not for much longer.”

Sigrun coughed in surprise. “You’re quitting? Wow, daddy’s gonna love that.” She took an empty glass from a nearby table and poured as much champagne into it as possible. “Seriously, Freya, you’ve announced this so often it has lost all meaning around here.” With a swift movement, she took up the glass and emptied it in one big gulp.

“I am serious. I thought I could make a difference if I stayed here. But you never let me near the people that really matter. I’m like a prisoner in this office!” Freya clenched her fists. She had rehearsed this in front of her mirror so many times. It was time and she couldn’t waver anymore.

Sigrun shrugged. “Well, if you’re so damn serious, maybe we should just go see daddy and discuss this with him.”

“That’s what I meant.”

As they ascended towards the top 99th floor, they could hear the fireworks exploding, sending little shivers through the cabin. Sigrun was smoking another cigarette – was she nervous? Freya’s heart was beating fast. Praying that the fireworks were louder than it, she tightly clutched her purse.

As they entered the office of Odin, CEO of Walhalla Corp., they found him sharing his giant leather sofa with five scantily clad young women who were not his wife. It was no big secret that his marriage to Eva had gone sour long ago – just like all his other marriages before. The gossip papers had long lost track and were now sensationalizing the fact that Sigrun and Freya were stepsisters, completely ignoring that none of Odin’s children had the same mother.

“You found Freya! Excellent! Come here, my love, I’ve saved you some caviar!” Odin patted his ever-growing belly as if to say that he had eaten all the rest.

“Actually, father…” Freya inhaled slowly. “There is something that I need to talk to you about.” She looked at the other women in the room. “Alone.”

“Oh? Okay, fine. Why don’t you girls wait outside, then? Sigrun, take some champagne with you, will you? All bottles need to be empty by tomorrow!”

As the doors closed behind the giggling and toasting girls, Freya shivered. So this was it. You mustn’t waver. Whatever fear you may have, remember that there is nothing more dangerous out there than the Nothing. Fear the Nothing if you must fear something, but don’t fear what you must do. Or so the three women had told her.

“So? I thought you wanted to talk about something.” Odin put a large chunk of caviar on a piece of bread. “Or was that just an excuse to be alone with your dad for once in a while?” He laughed and his belly shook.

Freya had to smile. “You’re a kind man, deep at heart.”

Odin smiled. “I am.”

Freya’s smile fell. “Or so I thought when I was still a little girl, running around in your garden. But working here has shown me the truth: you’re just as cold and calculating as everyone else in this family. You have never heard of honor or compassion.”

“My, my, those are grand words for a girl of just 20 years.” Odin took a step towards Freya. “I think you may have had a few glasses of champagne too many. You should really go to sleep now.” He put forth his hand.

“Try and touch me. It won’t do you any good.”

“Are you threatening me? Me, the richest man on this whole planet?”

“No.”

“What?”

“You’re not the richest man. Not anymore.” Freya had to grin. It was just so easy. “This morning, the FBI received an anonymous package. In it they found every piece of information about Walhalla’s illegal stock trading and its complex system of shell corporations. They will find that the company – that you – owe insane amounts of money to almost every state on this planet.”

Odin went pale. “You’re kidding me.”

“I wish I were. I really do. Because if I were kidding, I wouldn’t have to watch you using this.” Freya took the small gun from her purse and put it into Odin’s still outstretched hand. “You’ve lost everything. And you realize your life was built on money that didn’t belong to you. You became rich through death and now that your riches have vanished, death is the only thing that’s left to you.”

Odin shivered, his fingers refusing to clench the weapon in his hand. “This can’t have been your plan. You’re not clever enough for this!”

Freya giggled. “I should be offended. But I guess that’s just you panicking in the face of your imminent death. So, yeah, you’re right. It wasn’t just me. This plan was designed and executed by the Folkwang Society – to bring justice to all those dead soldiers and to bring wealth to the planet. Oh, and to make your private art collection publicly accessible, but that was just the initial motivation of the three sisters.”

“I knew it.” Odin slowly sank into the nearest chair, his fingers now closing around the gun. “They’ve been after me ever since I became CEO. And you willingly became their accessory! Have I taught you nothing about who you can trust?!”

“You did. Never trust anyone but yourself. And I did. I trust that I’m doing the right thing for the future.”

“I could kill you with this gun, you know?”

“And go to jail for murder and fraud?” Freya looked at her watch. “The grand finale of the fireworks will begin in a minute. No one outside will hear the bang.”

“You’re out of money now too, you know that?”

Freya laughed. “Silly man. When mum was still your CFO, she transferred quite a bit of money to some – special accounts. Of course the FBI doesn’t know about those.”

Freya went to the tray with the caviar and unhurriedly put some on a piece of bread. This had gone exceptionally well.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

As the final explosions of golden fireworks illuminated the sky, Sigrun wondered whether her father would really be able to shoot his own daughter. And what she should get the FBI Director for Christmas.

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