Euphonious Richard Wrathsmelter; CEO of World Commerce Bank, majority owner of Titan Oil and complete or majority owner of various international media, rolled over on the black satin sheets of his enormous custom made bed and stared upward at the baroque cacophony of his bedroom ceiling. The lids of his eyes lay in their customary half closed position, giving them the appearance of lizard’s eyes. This was a genetic trait in the Wrathsmelter line, occasionally skipping a generation here and there. Euphonious had them in full. He also possessed the rough shock of thick sandy hair, the wide jaw and cherubic lips that were all Wrathsmelter traits. At seventy he maintained the body of a man two decades younger; a wide barrel house frame precisely six feet and one inch long, also a Wrathsmelter standard.
Euphonious did not have to look at the clock to know that it was within minutes of 6:00 AM. It was the time at which he had awakened throughout his adult life, no matter when he had gone to bed.
He let his left hand move across the surface of the bed until it contacted another body some eighteen inches away. Idly, he let his fingers play over the softness of it. A smile of remembered pleasure briefly danced across his face. No time for any more of that now. It was a new day and, as always, there was much to do; an empire to maintain, fortunes to make and to ruin.
Euphonious turned his head and looked for a moment on the sleeping form of the young boy. The boy had been procured for him by the same service that attended to all of his sensual needs. They delivered and Euphonious enjoyed and paid the bill. The boy’s enjoyment wasn’t a consideration but it was understood by Euphonious that it must be as great as his own. It was his considered belief that everyone enjoyed things as he did, while they were in his company. He believed that his will to pleasure over arched all other individual impetus and that the pleasure transferred, just as he believed in any business encounter that his will would guide the intentions of all others, whether it was known or not, whether it was resisted or not.
In his life he had never met with any resistance that lasted. He had been disciplined in his youth but that was long ago and not a thing that he resented upon reflection. Such things had contributed to the man he was today. Over time, there had been many who had sought to oppose him, had hated him. He dealt with them as his father had dealt with the Second World War widows who assumed that the World Commerce Bank would show understanding concerning the mortgages on the homes of fallen soldiers. Foreclosures were the cream in the Wrathsmelter coffee.
On those occasions when the overwhelming influence of the Wrathsmelter name, fortune and alliances were not enough to dissuade some importunate competitor or ideological zealot, there would be recourse to other methods of suasion. Euphonious was a practical man and unfettered by any ghost of conscience. What was necessary was done. Many bodies lined the tracks upon which the Wrathsmelter train traveled and many, many more bodies rested in far-flung locations, brought to the long dirt nap by Wrathsmelter policies or Wrathsmelter actions.
Ten years previous, over five thousand people died in Malaysia, poisoned by an industrial accident. Thousands more were injured and disabled. Many thousands of birth defects followed. Wrathsmelter lawyers exonerated the corporation of all responsibilities, proving by convolution and baksheesh that the fault lay with the country’s environmental regulatory agency. In its usual manner Wrathsmelter Inc. made a generous donation to the people of the locality, none of which ever found its way to a single recipient.
In the mind of Euphonious Wrathsmelter these people were ciphers. At the time he had even reflected upon the event as ‘coincidentally auspicious birth control’ to a small group of aides. Euphonious was a monster of Leviathan proportion, made all the more so by the fact that he considered himself a reasonable man upon whom hard choices were often forced. His catch phrase, “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” seemed to cover every possible event. When he smiled and his brilliant white teeth flashed over the voluptuous lips, he seemed to be part televangelist, part avuncular elder statesman and part Lucifer. As fearsome as he could be he also had that special ability to put people at their ease. All the calculated ministrations of the true sociopath were at his command.
Tinkling chimes drew Wrathsmelter out his reverie and his eyes moved toward the door some fifty feet from the bed. The door opened and in came his manservant Loki, bearing a silver coffee service and a large quantity of newspapers that he placed on a nearby table. It was Wrathsmelter’s daily custom to scan the news media in various formats for one hour over his coffee upon arising. For this purpose a large plasma screen TV also hung on the wall opposite the table.
“Good morning Sir.” Loki whispered as he arranged the items on the table.
“And a good morning to you, Loki.” Wrathsmelter replied as he escaped the bed and moved naked toward the leather armchair that awaited him.
Finishing his activities Loki looked pointedly at the bed’s remaining occupant. “Shall I remove the charm?” Wrathsmelter always referred to his temporary love interests as ‘charms’. This was a carry over from his childhood when Charms was the name of his favorite sweet.
“Yes, of course Loki.” Wrathsmelter did not even turn his head as he switched on the television.
Loki moved toward the bed and scooped the young boy up in his massive arms, laying him over his left shoulder like a sack of grain. The boy was not dead but deeply asleep. It was part of the event for Wrathsmelter’s children to be dosed with specific narcotics. This provided a greater flexibility on their part and simultaneously enhanced and deadened the sensory input of certain painful moments that were unavoidable in the process of their encounter with Euphonious. The present chemical blend was the result of trial and error. It had actually resulted in the deaths of two boys in the initial exploratory efforts. It was remarkable in the amount of energy it gave its recipient...as well as a heightening of the tactile sense. However, after the conclusion of the night’s ritual it left the consumer exhausted.
“Will that be all Sir?” Loki stood at bedside with his huge right hand covering the entirety of the boys’ calves.
“For the moment, Loki”
Loki turned and moved silently across the room to its opposite end and then through a parting of the walls which closed softly behind him. An ingenious craftsman had designed this exit which dropped back from the corner molding and then slid aside to reveal a staircase that descended to a hidden basement room. This room was Loki’s lair. Another exit from the room led through a similar construct into the basement proper. Had Loki wanted privacy, or even known what it was, he’d have been delighted.
Wrathsmelter watched Loki move away. He nodded his head in recognition of the foresight that had caused him to arrange for his release from prison, well in advance of the conclusion of his sentence. Wrathsmelter had encountered Loki during a tour of Greenhaven Penitentiary in upstate New York. This was during an ostensible fact finding mission on prison conditions, which was nothing of the kind. Wrathsmelter was a member of the Board of Prisons, a seemingly charitable extension of his persona into community service. In fact, Wrathsmelter recruited from the prison system and had a number of ex-convicts in his employ. The terrible irony was that Wrathsmelter was made to look good to powerful New York liberal interests, when in fact he employed these men to continue in their former professions. The visit on which he found Loki was in reality part of an inquiry into the feasibility of entering the private prison industry. Accountants and tame industry experts had accompanied Wrathsmelter. Later, there were news items concerning Wrathsmelter’s ongoing interest in prison rehabilitation and reform. A year later, ground was being broken on the first of a series Wrathsmelter prison complexes due in various states. Wrathsmelter intended to apply the McDonald’s formula to the prison industry.
“After a long time, seeking changes that the states have been unable to provide, I have found, once again, if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. It is past time for business to apply itself more pervasively in the area of social concerns.” is what Wrathsmelter said afterwards.
He spotted Loki working in the kitchen area of the prison. Their eyes had met and there was that transfer of understanding that passes between men of shared perversions. After that Wrathsmelter had noticed his size. Loki was a freak. He was nearly seven feet tall and weighed over three hundred pounds, all proportionally distributed on a hulking apelike form. Loki was an example of that genetic type who never had to exercise to achieve a great muscular profile. He was born that way, a nightmare rarely seen in modern times. He was truly simian in aspect with a huge shelf of forehead thrust forward over deep set feral eyes. He had a wide flat nose with the nostrils prominently exposed and huge bulbous lips through which large horsy teeth protruded. The jaw was extended and flat and gave him the appearance of a demented Jay Leno.
Wrathsmelter had gone to considerable expense in the remaking of Loki. There had been the large cash payouts for his release, plastic surgery for a cleft palate and over a year of laborious training to bring Loki to the point that he could manage Wrathsmelter’s morning needs as well as certain other singular duties. To the casual observer it was another example of Wrathsmelter’s philanthropic bent. Not hardly.
Loki was in prison for the rape and murder of several young boys he had encountered while they were camping in the Adirondacks. He had dispatched a scoutmaster as well. It took over three years for Wrathsmelter to negotiate his release from prison where he was serving life without the possibility of parole. First there was the necessity of finding new evidence, combined with the discovery of legal mistakes at his trial. Then there was the new trial at which Loki was found to be mentally incompetent. Then there was the remanding to the state mental institution and the application of cutting edge psychiatric techniques and finally, the cure and the release into Wrathsmelter’s custody. There was in fact, no cure. Loki was still Loki and ever would be. But now he was Wrathsmelter’s Loki, someone who could be relied on to serve his master and who could be perfectly contained by the gifts of the master’s leavings. Add to this Loki’s formidable abilities as a bodyguard and his willingness to do anything that was asked of him and you had, as Wrathsmelter would put it; “A damn good investment.”
The man who had previously done Loki’s job had not shared Loki’s predispositions. There had come a time when he considered what it might profit him to give up his master for financial reward. The emissary of a rival interest had approached him, the emissary of a man who would have some greater portion of the goods controlled by Wrathsmelter. Wrathsmelter’s predilections were not unknown in certain circles. Invariably these things find their way to the attention of others. A man of real power can always protect himself against such ineffectual efforts as those presented by law enforcement and the press. That is, unless that man be truly compromised and the videotape or the several redoubtable witnesses and the victim be accessible to the right and equally powerful interests.
This man came close to pulling it off. It was only due to Wrathsmelter’s policy of checks and balances that discovery of this man’s intentions had precluded the damning event. Wrathsmelter had everyone who worked for him watched. He even had the watchers watched to some degree. Wrathsmelter operated in all things like the true paranoid. So, for the entire careful step by step, it was in the end, to no avail. The man suddenly vanished without a trace and that was the end of the matter.It was through the same hidden door where Loki had recently disappeared that Loki’s predecessor had gone one final time long years ago.
Enemies of Wrathsmelter thought they had some measure of the man. They did not know him at all. No man is capable of measuring the bottomless depths of those who bear no resemblance to humanity beyond the appearance of form. There are those who move among us that are as alien to our understanding as is a lawnmower to an Amazonian headhunter. We can know that someone is evil but in some cases we can never know to what degree unless we ourselves become like them.
As Wrathsmelter poured over the newspapers before him and separately interpreted the companion traffic from the TV, a third part of his mind wondered at the extraordinary fate that had granted him so much opportunity to fulfill his every ambition and appetite over and over again. He paused for a moment and looked up at the carved ceiling as a radiant smile broke out upon his face.
'Camouflage' is track no. 8 of 8 on Visible and The Critical List's 1987 album
'La Vierge Sperme Danceur'
About this song (pops up)