I was sent home early from work because I might have been yelling too much this morning. Sometimes the fifty-one percent interest in the business doesn’t help when the VP and the assistants get together and vote. Let’s just say there have been incidents where the drink machine continually plugs itself into a faulty outlet. The only cure for my bad behavior is posting un-beta’ed Schwarz fic. Then again, Schwarz fic might enable bad behavior. Either way.
I’m seeing a formula to these stories that goes like this: (C/S=question~no answer x bed) divided now by Nagi, who I love, thank youahpookishere particle theories. There will be more sex in the next story.
Fandom: Weiss Kreuz
Characters: Crawford / Schuldig, Nagi
Notes: Schuldig hires Nagi to be his financial advisor.
"...prefrontal lobotomy ...has recently been having a certain vogue, probably not unconnected with the fact that it makes the custodial care of many patients easier. Let me remark in passing that killing them makes their custodial care still easier." –Norbert Wiener
Schuldig sagged against the back wall of the metal elevator that moved upward through bedtime stories and domestic disputes in the center of the twenty-seven floor apartment building. The elevator interior gleamed brightly, efficient as a kitchen appliance. The elevator might be a kitchen appliance, a stainless steel oven designed to hold four people comfortably, six with a suffocating sense of claustrophobia.
You’re much too thin, little boy – peer inside this oven and check the heat.
Except this oven was freezing cold; Schuldig shivered and tugged his hands into his coat cuffs. The elevator wasn’t an oven at all; it was a professional freezer, the kind of freezer found in a restaurant kitchen. He’d seen the interior of those not a few times through other people’s eyes.
Ice hung from the trees like beautiful, crystalline knives.
Was there a story in the building that Schuldig hadn’t heard before? The elevator dinged to a stop a floor below the apartment they’d lived in for a month, and he’d adopted Farfarello’s habit of never arriving precisely at his destination, but taking the roundabout route. Schuldig took his time wandering down the dim hallway lit by half-shell, faux, Tiffany sconces, tortoise dripping glass. His knuckles trailed the wall as he walked, bumped across doorframes, slid across the doors.
As some would note apartment numbers, Schuldig listened to the human contents settling in behind the walls: asleep, twisted with anxiety, drunk, asleep, annoyed, angry . . . Schuldig pressed his palm flat against the angry door and closed his eyes to better listen. The thin carpet was padded thickly beneath his feet, stylized vines twisting through synthetic fiber, weaving in and out, hiding the dirt of people’s living, their comings and goings, the tar and dust of their soles. The anger Schuldig listened to in the apartment was brought about by money, the absence of it, another familiar story.
Schuldig continued to the staircase.
His feet moved sluggishly from fatigue and contemplation. His eyes were so tired they burned like dry ice, and as he moved up the stairs he felt as if he were slogging through mud. A three second window of chance kept him from literally wading through the swampy river bank that evening. He didn’t know whether the brown stains ground into his fingerprints were dirt or blood, and he had no desire to analyze his knuckles. He stopped doing that a long time ago. What was the point? All the proof could be washed off, so he could begin again with clean skin, a new task and greater insight into the fictions everyone created to hide the crucial facts. The more he understood the mechanics, the easier he could find the things, the hidden bolts of insight, he was paid exceptionally well to find.
Which brought him back to money. Schuldig’s only problem with the things he encountered in the stagnant riverbeds of people’s thoughts, was that he didn’t know what to do with the money he was paid to slog through them. He bought everything he wanted, but there was still an indecent amount left over in his bank account.
Their apartment, like every other apartment in the building, could be opened by both keycard or pass code. Cards were too easy to lose; Schuldig didn’t fool with carrying one. He tapped the code into the pad and turned the knob, shoving his shoulder against the door simultaneously, assuming it would give. Crawford always said that doing things in their proper order would bring success, so the door should work as follows: pass code, turn, open.
The reproduction wood grain gleamed good-naturedly at Schuldig, but the door didn’t budge. He leaned his forehead against it, sighed, and knocked with a single dirty knuckle. He kept knocking when he sensed small feet bearing weighty thoughts come to a stop, with a sniff, on the other side.
Schuldig stepped back out of habit as he waited for the door to open, though he had no problem sprawling on top of Nagi. He was that tired, and it served Nagi right, always messing around with things.
The door opened and they stared at each other gravely.
“I assumed you had a key.” Nagi was already drifting back down the hallway toward his room.
“Why are you always changing the codes around?”
“Because I can.”
“I can change them too – and I’m going to, next time you’re out.” Schuldig dropped his coat onto the floor beside his shoes.
“You only change things around when I’m out, not the others.”
“That’s right.” Nagi conceded Schuldig’s expert reasoning with a single finger flicked over his shoulder.
“Nagi – wait. . .” Schuldig hoped his tone emphasized genuine concern, and it worked. Nagi turned around and waited, arms hanging loosely at his sides and his fingers tapping against his legs, tapping, tapping, tapping.
“What do you do with your money?” Schuldig trusted Nagi, out of all of them, to have the best answer. The others would tell Schuldig anything to appease him. Nagi never fooled around with numbers, not like that, and as far as Schuldig could tell, the money in his account was nothing but a shifting list of numbers waiting to become things, stuff to carry around and use up.
“It’s none of your business what I do with my money,” Nagi said, and Schuldig thought – good, he had his attention.
“I don’t want to know what you do with it – I want to know what you do with it . . . as in what.”
“I do with it?”
“Yes.” Schuldig move casually toward the gleaming, stainless steel kitchen sink and hoped that Nagi was interested enough to follow. It was the long-suffered matter of politeness between them that kept Schuldig from just taking the information he wanted out of Nagi’s head. Broken fingers were the devil to manage when he had to get his hands dirty, as he did that night. Schuldig turned the faucet on, barely, and played with the drip.
“What do you do with your money?” Nagi asked.
“I buy cocaine.”
“Really?” Nagi almost sounded excited.
“Because that would explain a lot. What then?”
Schuldig turned the faucet on all the way and pumped a pile of soap into his palm. “I don’t know. It just sits there, that’s why I’m asking you what you do with all your money. I’m looking for ideas.”
Nagi came over and hopped up on the polished black counter beside the sink. He sat there watching Schuldig use too much soap, trying to wash some off so there wasn’t too much to actually do the job of soap, as it was, the soap was only a protective layer keeping the dirt safe in the whorls of his fingers.
“You’re serious,” Nagi said.
“Yes, I’m serious.”
“I never thought you had money, I assumed you wasted it, or handed it over to Crawford.”
Schuldig stared at him, but he couldn’t think of anything sufficiently terrible to say in response to that. His hands stilled in the prickly flow of water.
“Just kidding. I’ve seen your account.” Nagi smiled, half apologetic, half victorious, and turned off the tap. “Stop wasting water. I’m sorry, does that bother you?”
Schuldig turned the water back on. “I can take care of myself.”
He really had no business left with the sink. Nagi handed him a towel and they both focused on the process of drying until there was nothing left to dry. Schuldig handed the towel back so Nagi could do whatever he did with the towels. Schuldig realized there was a lot he could learn from Nagi about the process of things, but he refused to say anything about this out loud, no matter what information could be purchased through flattery.
“What should I do with it?” Schuldig asked as he stared at his hands.
“Shut up.” Schuldig sat on the counter beside him. “What do you do with your money?” He used a different inflection this time, one that implied quiet, awe-filled enthusiasm, secrecy – it was a stretch, Schuldig didn’t care that much, but no one in their household could walk away from a secret.
Nagi’s fingers tapped, tapped on the edge of the counter. “I invest,” he said confidentially, as if he disclosed his favorite category of porn.
“No, really, I spend a lot of time researching my investments.”
“So you take your extra money, the money that you don’t spend, and you invest it to receive even more money that you will also not spend on more things you have no use for,” Schuldig said, inordinately pleased.
“I average a thirty percent return, emerging markets, foreign exchange, or I skim off the top of other investments that aren’t carefully managed.”
“You’re welcome to skim off the top of my unmanaged savings because I can’t figure out what the fuck to do with it. I don’t think you understood my question.”
“You rarely make sense.” But Nagi looked at him like he understood perfectly. The coffee maker hissed. “You believe in socialism.”
“That’s twice you’ve said nasty things tonight. Fix me some coffee. First you accuse me of being inept, then you accuse me of being fair. I support a free market because I see what goes on up there”- he tapped Nagi’s head –“ and I believe property should be distributed as a reward for usefulness.” The coffee, black, landed gently beside Schuldig’s hand. Schuldig took a sip. “Like so – you should get more because you can do this. Now we need to decide what to buy.”
“Socialism.” Nagi repeated.
They sat side by side, sipping coffee noiselessly, and staring at a painting of a black dot on the wall opposite the bright and gleaming refrigerator.
“Art is a good investment,” Nagi said after some time.
Schuldig frowned, and shook his head. “I thought we’d moved past that kind of thinking.”
“Sorry.” Nagi bit the right corner of his lower lip when he was absorbed in a task, which meant his lip was always chapped. He regarded the dot. “We could buy art because we like it.” He said this with a helpful, enthusiastic sort of brightness that seemed foreign coming out of his mouth.
“You’re really into this?”
“It’s the first time you’ve asked me something I can’t answer, except for that time you asked if Crawford was really American, but you were just speculating, so it doesn’t count. “ Nagi refilled their cups as his heels tapped the cabinets. “What does Crawford buy?”
“Clothes, but he usually bills them as an expense, same with guns.” Schuldig searched his memory of Crawford’s shopping. “Property. He buys real estate that he never visits.”
“He spends a fortune on hair products. He’s addicted.”
“So are you.”
Schuldig lifted a strand of Nagi’s hair and examined it carefully, dismayed. “Yeah. What about Farfarello?”
Nagi jerked his hair away. “Religious charities, he likes to see a personal return on his capital spending.”
“He would.” The counter was getting uncomfortable and Schuldig’s feet were falling asleep, but he didn’t want to move. “Isn’t there something we can do with our money . . .”
“Your money,” Nagi corrected.
“ . . .the money, that would make us look like we were investing when, in fact, we were not investing but spending.”
“Ponzi scheme – Crawford’s cornered the market in Japan.”
“Look it up. The definition has his picture beside it.”
Schuldig turned suddenly and sloshed some coffee onto the neatly polished floor. “Listen – how about this? Kidnap insurance, people pay it to be safe, but what they’re actually saying is: we have x to spend if something happens. So they automatically become a target because we know the guaranteed return. Imagine that –“
“We do that already.”
“Let me finish. Apply the kidnap insurance theory to buying things – I know what people want – and we take their money, buy the items they suggest and see if we like the things enough to keep them. Then we’ll know what to spend our money on after you’ve invested it and made more money for us to spend.”
Nagi looked at him and blinked. “That’s sad.”
“I really thought you were going somewhere. You started off really strong.”
“What wrong with my plan?”
“I lost you somewhere around the dirty personal shopper part. There’s no reason for you to buy the same things unless you plan on returning the items you took.”
“Why would I do that?”
“I see what Crawford means now when he calls you The Prospectus.”
“Papers that come with investments, they’re compiled by statisticians, filled with words, come in pretty envelopes, but when you open them up, they don’t say much at all.”
“You set yourself up. You’d be guileless if you weren’t so guileful. “
The front door opened and closed quietly and Schuldig and Nagi sat very still, waiting to see who would pass the kitchen.
Schuldig inclined his head until his cheek almost rested on top of Nagi’s head. “You gave him the fucking code?”
“He was here when I changed it,” Nagi whispered.
Crawford came to a halt in the doorway beside the black dot. He held up the innocuous white key card and said, “It helps to have both.” He shook off a rain-splattered tan overcoat, Schuldig noticed a few brown stains around the cuffs and hem, and draped it over the back of a chair. Nagi’s heel tapped, tapped, tapped against the lower cabinets. “What are you doing?” Crawford asked.
“Having coffee.” Schuldig presented his cup.
“Schuldig just hired me to be his financial advisor,” Nagi said.
Schuldig was on his way to give Nagi the most injured, treacherous gaze he could gather but he was stopped short by the mirrored look of fleeting . . . was that hurt? . . .on Crawford’s face.
Schuldig spoke fast. “I didn’t ask him how to invest, I asked him how to spend. There’s a difference.”
Crawford stared at the empty coffee pot until Nagi set another into motion. They all watched the mechanics silently until the machines started to splutter and hiss.
“What do you want to buy?” Crawford asked as he tested a stool for balance and when it passed inspection, sat down on it. Stools were never made for Crawford’s chosen method of presenting himself to the world; stools required too much conscious balance and took his time away from other things, like deliberate composure. He rose and moved it closer to the counter so he could casually rest his elbow on the edge. Schuldig was so preoccupied by the studied deliberation that he forgot to answer the question.
“You want to buy something?” Crawford supplied.
It all came rushing back. Schuldig slapped his hand on the counter. “I don’t know what to buy, that’s my problem.”
Crawford shifted the holster that held his back-up gun at the small of his back. “Where’s Farfarello?”
“Still out,” Nagi said.
“Were you able to find a date for the Elder’s next visit?” Crawford asked as he stared at Schuldig’s foot.
“I have all the notes in my room.” Nagi moved to rise, but Crawford gestured for him to stay put.
“I’ll look at them later. I spent the past five hours with someone who thought he knew exactly what he wanted to buy, until it came time for bargaining and he quickly realized that the only thing he could not purchase was his life. He was outbid. I think you found yourself in a similar circumstance this evening, Schuldig. What were his last thoughts?”
Schuldig thought back to the river. “He didn’t think anything. He panicked, cold, like metal.”
“There’s your answer,” Crawford said with certainty.
“I have no need for kitchen appliances.” Schuldig muttered, but there was no way to brief them both on his earlier thoughts in the elevator.
Nagi sighed, and Crawford’s gaze moved from Schuldig’s foot to the coffee maker, subtle urging.
Schuldig realized it was going to be a long night. “I know what you mean and I know where this is headed. Freedom is worth any cost, I get it. But I have more money than god in my account and I don’t have anything to buy with it. I’m open to suggestions. If you could buy anything right now, what would it be? Everything we do is an expense – and I have a car, a bedroom, and a small house on Lake Como that I’ve never seen.” Nagi and Crawford looked surprised. “I outbid a Russian, and I don’t like water. Bodies of them.” Schuldig winked. Nothing interested Crawford like hidden real estate.
“I think that Schuldig is intrinsically Marxist,” Nagi said, and floated a cup of coffee toward Crawford.
“He very well could be,” Crawford agreed.
Schuldig ignored them. “Do you see me buying something?”
Crawford looked right at him, through him; he sipped the coffee meditatively and glanced, at last, down into the depths of the cups as if he might read Schuldig’s fortune there.
“Well?” Schuldig pleaded.
Crawford smirked. “Time. You will buy us time.”
Coffee pots always seemed never-ending, but they weren’t. Hours later, Schuldig lay on his stomach staring at Crawford’s feet as he said, “I don’t even use my bedroom.” He kicked the pillows for emphasis.
“What do you think of Nagi?” Crawford asked.
“He’s smarter than me.”
The bed shook as Crawford laughed.
Schuldig rose and started gathering his clothes. Crawford opened his mouth to say something, but they both paused to listen to a quiet knock at the front door. “Nagi will get it,” Crawford said, instead.
“Could you tell him to stop changing the code?”
“He changed the code because I asked him to.”
“Could you tell him to give me the code after he’s changed it?”
“That’s up to Nagi. Where are you going?” Crawford asked, placing the file he was reading off to the side.
Schuldig pointed to the pile of papers on the bed. “To my bedroom. What are those?”
Schuldig dropped his clothes back onto the floor and picked up one of the small booklets as he made himself comfortable again on the bed – except for Crawford’s knee against the small of his back, but it always helped to have a reminder to not get too comfortable. He studied the bland letters on the cover sheet of the prospectus; he flipped through the graphs and facts. He’d stared at the biographies of the board of directors for five minutes before he opened his mouth.
“This is what I want,” Schuldig said.
“I wouldn’t. We’re rearranging their management next week.”
Schuldig returned the prospectus to the pile. “Not that. I’m hiring Nagi to invest my money, for a reasonable fee, the interest to be paid out in dividends to a separate account.”
“You’ll lose the benefit of compound interest.”
“I’m not finished. A separate account used for research.” Schuldig pressed his hand to Crawford’s mouth so he, theoretically, couldn’t interrupt without giving Schuldig access to his mind, a nice bonus, or struggling physically, which could also be advantageous. “I want to find other telepaths before Rosenkreuz hears of them and sends someone to find them.”
Crawford mumbled something into his palm.
“The Foundation for the Neurologically Annoying?” Crawford grabbed Schuldig’s wrists to keep his hands from wandering.
Schuldig found it hard to speak with his ability to gesture taken away. “Something like that. Did you know that the USSR banned prefrontal leucotomies in 1950; they thought it was too inhumane. The procedure was carried out in the US until the mid 1980s.”
“And was never outlawed in Austria. Moniz, the pioneer of the procedure in 1935 worked closely with Esset until he received the Nobel Prize in medicine. ”
“I didn’t know that.”
Crawford shrugged, and gripped Schuldig’s wrists tighter.
“I want to use the money to tag the telepaths, shield them as much as possible and decrease the potential recruitment pool. Then, if we find ourselves in need of some mind readers, we know where to look.”
“This is my project. You can do what you want with your money.”
A flicker of interest filtered over from Crawford. “Will you be hiring?” Before Schuldig could answer, he was on his back, a staple digging into his spine, and both hands pinned above his head.
“I might be in the market for an advisor. Maybe . . .” the rest of his thought disappeared into Crawford’s mouth.
Schuldig straightened a painting on the wall while Nagi opened a safe. He stepped back, tilted his head to get a better view, and reached forward to straighten it again.
“Is it real?”
“It’s a Kandinsky. Crawford will own it when we’re through here. If you ask nicely, he might let you hang it in your room.”
“But is it real?”
Nagi’s body was reduced to legs and voice, half hidden in the safe as he searched for the gun that would place their client at the murder scene. It was all Schuldig could do to not push Nagi all the way in and shut the door, but Nagi would let himself out and demand redress for his indignity and Schuldig would be forced to do something else, and the cycle would be exhausting.
Nagi floated the gun into Schuldig’s pocket and brushed off his knees as he stood. “Real?”
“I see shapes, but I also see faces.”
They stood side by side, looking at the painting.
“We should really be going,” Nagi said, but he didn’t seem in a hurry to move. “Kandinsky was trained in law and economics, but he moved to Germany to study painting when he was thirty.”
“Do you see the faces?” Schuldig leaned in to study a crooked grid of lines.
“His paintings are often used in the diagnosis of common psychosis; schizophrenics, in particular, often report that they see faces in the designs.”
“Really?” Alarmed, Schuldig glanced quickly toward Nagi, who bit his lip to keep from laughing. “Shut the fuck up.”
Nagi couldn’t stop laughing as he followed Schuldig out of the office. He was still laughing as the elevator shut, and he leaned against the back wall to catch his breath. Schuldig tugged his jacket cuffs over his hands and watched the blinking numbers decline above the door. “You could walk home,” he offered.
“But then I couldn’t tell you about the anonymous donation I found in your Abnormal Psychology Fund this morning,” Nagi said, weakly.
Schuldig tried to stay silent as he waited for Nagi to catch up with him across the lobby, but curiosity got the best of him. “How much?”
“200,000, two seats on a flight to Prague, and a business plan.”
Schuldig held the door for Nagi. “How did it arrive?”
“I’ve no idea. I found an envelope beside the coffee maker.”
The three block walk to the car was both too far and not far enough. The gun weighted Schuldig’s pocket and, every so often, Nagi bumped into him as he sidestepped to avoid the sea of people that moved past them.
They’d just reached the garage when Schuldig thought of one way to spend his money. He glanced down at Nagi and smiled wickedly. “Can I buy you lunch?”