Milly brooded on the voice during the rest of the day. When she got home she stood absentmindedly over the kitchen counter, stuffing filled herself with yoghourt, bread and fruit. She didn’t come to any conclusions, couldn’t frame the questions that reverberated in her head and annoyed her intensely. She headed for the dolls’ room. She checked conditions at the panel. Temperature, humidity, light and dust control showed normal. Only then did she move her right eye to the scanner. There was a click. She entered a complicated code and passed through the double doors, shutting them in the security sequence.
She was jumpy. That was an advantage. It made her hyper alert. She was also angry and frightened. That dampened the intellect, slowed her down. What was the voice getting at? Whoever it was thought several steps ahead. That much she knew. It was something they had in common. The “voice” she called him. He controlled her drug trade. She was like Superman, but wore her rue with a difference. Political assistant by day, drug queen by night. Milly made real bucks after sunset. She let her hair down at night and coined the shekels. There was a message in this. She’d quit her day job. Or was the message that there were more things in heaven and earth than compassed by thrills and a soaring bank account?
Arthur Vincent was Milly’s boss by day. He was chief of Arthur Brull’s legal department, among other less savoury things Milly was sure. She imagined his spread of illegal and nasty activities outside office hours. They paled compared to her own, but for moments she thrilled at the notion that he pulled on latex and flew through the air fighting justice or injustice. Nominally, the chief of legals for Brull was Milly’s boss. She’d almost married Arthur for goodness sake; she’d had the sense – lord be thanked – to jilt him at the altar. Arthur had run the drug operation before she came on the scene. Milly had quickly proved herself more capable and she took over bit by bit. Arthur kept the crown and sceptor; Milly decided who lived and died, hired the crews and killed when someone needed a lesson. Arthur was the face; Milly held the guns and ammo.
She also sold the drug that let people live to 200. It was illegal in America, thanks to the American pharmaceutical industry and craven Senators. A Frenchman had invented the drug. The American companies didn’t like that. The Frenchman insisted on patent rights. The companies didn’t like that either. But Albert Brull was Governor of New York and sidestepped this opposition. Brull made the drug available in New York. By fiat. By executive order. By finding American companies that did a back door deal with the French. The American companies would get rich, and they’d be praised at every dinner table in the country. And so would Brull. It was a brilliant campaign coup.
The rest of the country had to follow. The people demanded it. Who wanted to die? It was a no-brainer. And every voter supported Albert, a no-nonsense guy who could think straight and take action. Brull would be the next President, and Milly would have a highranking job in the new administration.
But the pills, the pills that America was distributing, their origin was shrouded. They didn’t come from a foreign supplier. They came from Pam Carrera, who coincidentally was a major donor to the Brull campaign. They seemed to come from Pam. Though Milly knew that Pam couldn’t supply enough. Pam didn’t want to admit it and bought large volumes of Milly’s pills wholesale, then retailed them to the US government. Money sloshed here and there, plenty of friends and family took a cut. The people were happy. Milly’s pills were addictive, however, unlike their original brethren. They also had extra ingredients that made them distant relatives of hallucinogens and speed. Milly didn’t tell Pam any of this. Consumers loved the pills. Sometimes they received a normal pill, one from Pam’s stock, and the placebo effect kicked in. Sometimes they received one of Milly’s and they went for a delightful ride. Either way they liked it.
Milly received her pills from southeast Asia, where the voice reigned supreme. He could crank up deliveries or shut them down. Milly needed the voice. The voice didn’t need her. Which was why Milly often gazed at her antique dolls in a befuddled hypnotic state. She admired their permanence and calm. They never died, never faced a tough choice, always looked serene. Milly rambled along the aisles. Each doll occupied its own glass dome, protected from damp, heat, cold, dust, and light by the most advanced controls science could offer. Milly felt safe in this room. She sat on the rubberized floor and let herself drift off to sleep. She was among friends. In this room she had no cares. She could rest.