A flash fiction piece in preparation for my novel tentatively titled Annie and the Second Anasazi, scheduled for publication in late 2012. Sign up for notification by email here.
Tucker Roth sat behind his desk working his face and Reagan Newcastle watched with well-disguised disdain.
“Something wrong?” Newcastle asked. “Surely it’s not too much for you.”
Anything was too much for him at this point. In his second year, even having the initial push of the business his wife’s uncle started two decades ago wasn’t enough to push him into the profits he wanted. Gross sales of his five Fort Worth stores probably didn’t match the take at the dawn services at 2G Inc.’s New Directions mega-church.
“Lot of money,” Roth said.
“A small percentage of your gross,” Newcastle said. He knew precisely because all three members of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission attended one of 2G’s churches, and the chairman of the board of directors convinced their pastors to convince them to send Newcastle everything about Running Roth Liquor. And all his competitors.
“Sure. But it’s all my net. To the penny. No net, no business. You know that.” Without a sugar daddy, he thought. That’s what Newcastle wanted. Put him into debt, owed to 2G Inc.
“Something can always be arranged.”
“And I guess you’ll shut me down if I don’t,” said Roth.
“God doesn’t always work in mysterious ways. Sometimes He’s very straightforward.” He looked at his watch. He had another appointment. Just wanted to collect his money and go. “You’re not the only one, you know. It’s everybody. A level playing field.”
With a sigh and a flourish of penmanship, Roth signed the document, then a check. Took a picture with his handset, then inserted the papers into the envelop Newcastle had given him. He stood.
“Oh, one more thing,” said Newcastle, remaining in his seat. He smiled. He loved his internal sense of timing. Controlling others took all the mastery he had in the art of people, and the tiny details were very important. But he knew he could relax and simply play it by instinct. Now that he had his envelope and check. God had granted him perfect timing. “Did you notice in the papers where the account will be held?”
Roth shook his head and remained standing. Some boring money-management firm. “No.”
“You’ll want to know,” said Newcastle. He smiled again. His great coup revealed. “Dodge Financial. It took me some years, but the great Gordon Oliver Dodge has agreed to manage our account. His first for a church, in fact. So if history is any guide, we should see a thirty to fifty percent annual growth.”
Roth nodded, but made no move to relax back into his chair.
“And therein lies our opportunity. I have full authority to fund the account — and to set up any secondary accounts I wish. Does that give you any ideas?”
Roth shook his head. No ideas he wished to consider with Reagan Newcastle.
Liar, Newcastle thought. Ideas raced through his head like lightning now that he had Roth’s signed documents and check, his first to collect. “With your permission and funding, I could open a separate endowment account with the designated beneficiaries being … well, you and me. Fifty-fifty split of returns. Even only taking half, it could be the best investment you’ve ever made. After this shrewd donation you just made to the 2G Foundation, of course. One cannot, after all, cheat God.”
“What exactly are you suggesting.”
“A million-five or more to each of us a year as long as Mr. Dodge doesn’t lose his touch. Think of it as a long-term investment for your family. Your daughter.” Newcastle gave a flat, smug smile. He’d seen the pictures on Roth’s desk. Tucker Roth obviously had a cute little daughter he adored.
“They’re fine,” said Roth.
“Well. Think about it. Dodge is a goldmine. He only accepts one or two new clients a decade. I’m his golden boy of the moment. All I need is a little cash to get started. The next time I ask, the terms will be a little different.” He stood to go and put his hand out for Roth to shake. Roth ignored the hand and stared without expression at Newcastle, who nodded, thinking how he could make Roth pay for his insult. Unless, of course, he came up with a lot of money fast.
Newcastle turned and saw the face of a girl leaning onto the doorway of Roth’s office. Her eyes opened wide and she pulled away when she realized Newcastle saw her. He heard soft shoes scurrying away.
“What a pretty daughter you have, Mr. Roth,” he said. But his heart beat wildly. He had never seen a more beautiful, a more angelic face. “How old is she?”
“Not old enough,” said Roth.
“Annie is her name, is that right?” He feigned uncertainty. He knew, of course. But he suddenly wanted to know more. Much more. He would put his man Zoop on it. He wanted pictures. He wanted video. Voice recordings. Handwriting samples. Even a lock of her hair. When God sends an angel, one must pay complete attention.
“I’ve given the donation to your ‘charity,’” said Roth.
“Oh, it’s your church too, Mr. Roth. And you’re daughter’s. You should bring her to services. Innoculate her against the evils of the world.”
“Mr. Newcastle?” Roth asked.
“If I make a contribution to your private account, will you give me your solemn word, as a Christian and a gentleman, that you will forget you ever saw or heard about my daughter? Convince yourself, in fact, that I am a childless man? Can you do that?”
Newcastle smiled. Roth saw him as a threat to his daughter. How amazing. When he only meant to do nothing but consider her for God’s army. An honorable role in the new great plan spawned by the men of Christ.
“I doubt if God will let me forget the face of such an angel,” said Newcastle. “But the effect of large sums of money on memory are well-documented.”
Roth lost his color. His lips pressed thin together and his eyes became slits. He sat at his desk and with a few quick slashes with his pen, he handed another check to Newcastle, who looked at it, raised his eyebrows, and nodded. Roth really, really wanted him to forget young Miss Annie. Ten million dollars. That meant he’d hit another mother lode. As soon as he got back to his office, he would get Zoop on the tail of an angel.
Annie and the Second Anasazi is about a migration of intellectuals into the deserts of New Mexico where people live like the ancient ones because of changing climate coupled with an intolerable mix of politics and religion that rises in the cities of the American South. Note that Zoop is the nephew of Mr. Haymer (a.k.a. Ball Peen) from the upcoming novel, The G.O.D. Journal. Annie is the daughter of Tucker and Lydia Roth of Girl on a Rock.