Author: Robert Maisano (Page 1 of 15)

Fiscally Fearless

Larchmont Yacht Club is home to overextended Wall Streeters who are stuck in middle management. Range Rover lease payments, private school tuition, and mortgages on their castles keep them in a fiscal quagmire. They’re one stock market blow from complete financial ruin and do everything they can to hide the cracking façade.

They’re a happy bunch though after a good sail, or if they shot below par that week. Tonight though the clubhouse held a tense and somber tone. It was bonus season and it looks like they’d be spending most of their sleepless night thinking about corporate growth opportunities instead of the lift lines at Aspen.

Grigsby entered the clubhouse and scanned the room. He saw men who considered themselves titans of industry but moved past them in search for actual kings. He walked fast through trophy-lined halls and black and white photos of tall ships. Soon Grigsby entered the map room and looked through an old bookcase. Ira caught up with him, Daria too.

“To the left,” Daria said.
Grigsby nodded and grabbed hold of the Annapolis Book of Seamanship. Yanking it outward a latch fell behind the bookshelf and a door opened to the side of it. The trio entered a narrow corridor that smelled like a dry, dusty attic. Soon they entered a wide room at the top of the clubhouse. It overlooked the bay which was as black as oil. Daria flicked on the lights. An elegant boardroom with two phones, one black the other red, sat in the center.

“Setup it up,” Grigsby said.

Ira opened the briefcase and took out a strange looking laptop with a satellite uplink. It looked more like a device used for drone strikes in Kandahar Province than something a Jewish lawyer would be lugging around. Grigsby took this time to check on Ryūki. He picked up the phone and dialed the hospital that sits along the East River. The nurses said Ryūki was pulling through at triple the speed they’d never seen anything like it. Grigsby told the nurse to pass along a message, “The Oni has fallen.” Grigsby hung up.

“We’re online,” Ira said,

Grigsby turned to face the laptop screen. A grey-haired man with a stone jawline stared back. He gave a curt bow and spoke, “Grigsby Ives Pemberton,”

“Mr. Hayakawa, good to see you.”


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Private Victory, Public Defeat

Grigsby pushed the dolphins away and heaved Joji aboard. He lay across heaps of towels on the stern. Grigsby didn’t want to stain the deck. Joji moaned as Ira and Grigsby looked for more injuries, besides the arm, he was okay. Grigsby went to use his Ferragamo belt as a tourniquet but didn’t want to sacrifice it. He grabbed a line and wrapped it up. Joji wailed.

“Shut up,” Grigsby said. “This is karma Joji.”
“Wha, what?” Joji moaned.
Grigsby leaned in close to Joji’s red face, “I know you poisoned Ryūki,”
Joji’s eyes squinted and he began to chuckle, “He’s Samurai, it needed to be done.”
“Well you failed, Ryūki is alive and well,”
Joji tried to hide his reaction but failed. “Look, Grigsby…”
“You’re done Joji,” Grigsby pulled the line tighter, “Your little mission failed and publicly brought shame to your investors. You sank the ferry.”

Joji’s fate settled in and his eyes closed as he began muttering in Japanese. Grigsby and Ira left him there and had Daria motor him to the Coast Guard ship. The servicemen and women helped Joji aboard and Grigsby checked on everyone. He promised they’d be compensated for the unpleasant evening. Then he asked Daria to bring them back to Larchmont Yacht Club. He didn’t want to deal with the press that would be waiting for him a few harbors down in Greenwich.

The hum of the powerboat lulled Ira to sleep. Grigsby stood beside Daria and breathed in the salt air. The night was cold but zephyrs from shore warmed them. He took a long drag on his cigar causing the ember to glow bright.

“What is life Daria?” Grigsby asked.
Daria looked at Grigsby, his eyes looked like sapphires against the night sky. “In life we’re falling, falling fast, but the good news is, there’s no ground.” Grigsby nodded and they beat on against the tides.


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Aftermath, Something Special

The ferry didn’t sink. It submerged to the point where only high structures of the ship peaked above water. Ira kept stressing this point as it will help their case with the insurance companies. The Sound is shallow and the ferry lay in the rocky mud.

Grigsby was the last to leave the ship. It was an elegant sight. A hand-polished mahogany Chris Craft from 1960 pulled alongside the ferry. On the bow, the Pemberton family burgee swayed gallantly like a battle banner. The woman piloting the powerboat was a captain from the nearby Larchmont Yacht Club. Her name was Daria and she was the most talented sailor on the Long Island Sound.

Daria piloted the vintage motorboat alongside the listing ferry. She didn’t seem to notice the insanity of the scene before her. The Very Ferry game show music theme was still blaring from a submerged speaker and dolphins were swimming about as they were released from their tanks. Daria tossed a line along a railing post and steadied the ship. She extended a hand to help Ira aboard, he was holding a briefcase of legal documents. Grigsby gave one last look at the ferry, bit into his cigar, and jumped aboard. “That when as well as Snapchat’s IPO,” he said.

“Welcome aboard Mr. Pemberton.” Daria said untying from the ferry. “We have champagne and pretzels in the cooler.”

“Thank you, Ira open them both. Daria hand me that search light.” Grigsby said. He asked her to circle the wreckage, they needed to find Joji.

The lifeboats clustered by a nearby buoy as the Coast Guard ships came to their aid.

The Chris Craft circled the wreckage for a half hour and found nothing. The Coast Guard announced that Joji was the only missing person, everyone was okay.

“You think he drowned?” Ira asked.
“Well, since he poisoned Ryūki, I kind of hoped he did. But I wanted him to lose publicly so his employers could see. Shame is worse than death.” Grigsby said, pointing the spotlight about the white spume and dark surf.

The cackling sound of dolphins rang out, Grigsby ignored them. Daria looked over and saw a sight that she’d remember forever. “Um, Mr. Pemberton, you’re going to want to see this.”

The spotlight lit up the scene. Several dolphins were pushing an orange and gold heap toward the Chris Craft. It was Joji. He turned over and wailed, he was missing an arm.


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Pyrrhic Victory

The flash-bang grenade sailed through the air toward Joji. The was crowd silent. Grigsby held his breath. Joji’s stare locked onto the airborne ordinance and caught it in the lacrosse stick.

The crowd gasped. Joji smiled and looked at the last convict, a massive man with a black eye. Joji must pass it to him and after that, it can go in the water. Joji leaned back and tossed the grenade toward the battered juggernaut. The grenade sailed by the lacrosse stick and bounced along the deck. Joji’s eyes widened as he saw the grenade bounce down the deck and into one of the engine’s ventilation stacks.

A terrified silence hovered for what felt like ages.

Grigsby looked at the schematic of the ship and realized where it was falling to. He grabbed the PA system mic, “Everyone—” an explosion rattled the ship and the concussion made audience members fall from their seats. Several more explosions sounded and fire and wood splintered from beneath deck. A series of ruptures burst and popped through the ferry. The grenade had fallen into engine system and ignited the gas lines.

Fire roared out of the engine bay as if the gates of hell had been opened. The ferry began to list. Camera equipment and obstacle props slid across the deck and the audience and staff screamed. Grigsby and Ira were in the bridge watching the events below unfold.

“Sonofabitch,” Grigsby said, pulling on a lifejacket. “This is why we can’t have nice things.” He kicked open a box of flare guns and threw them at Ira. “Go to the leeward size and shoot those off, I’ll radio for help.” Grigsby began sending a mayday distress call and reading off the coordinates. The ship listed further to a 55° tilt. Grigsby hit the abandon ship button. The safety crews were inflating orange life rafts.

The Lax Bros panicked and jumped overboard, helping no one. The Convicts stayed and assisted the audience.

The stern of the ferry began to dip into the ink colored surf. Grigsby phoned a nearby yacht club for help, “Bring me my Chris Craft, I’m not going in another damn lifeboat.” he hung up. Ira stood close by and looked at Grigsby.

“Where’s Joji?” Ira asked.
“I thought you had eyes on him?”
“I lost him in the chaos.”

Grigsby and Ira searched the deck as it was splintering apart and couldn’t find their Yakuza hypeman anywhere. He had vanished.


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Hook Line and Sinker

Grigsby watched the contestants pick up the flash-bang grenades and lacrosse sticks. Joji instructed them on what to do. The Lax Bros smirked, knowing this was an easy win. The Convicts nervously looked around asking if these were real grenades. The audience was as silent. It felt more like the final putt on the 18th hole of The Masters than a psychotic Japanese game show.

Joji stepped back and put on his hearing protection and gold sunglasses. He hit a gong to start the challenge. Both teams pulled the pins and began tossing the flash-bang grenades to each member. The Lax Bros did this with ease. But with each pass, the audience gasped as they watched the live grenade sail through the air. The final lacrosse player chucked the grenade overboard, the sea lit up and bubbled. The Convicts were sweating but doing well until one of them dropped the grenade.

“Hit the deck!” Joji screamed.

The shattering boom blinded the Convicts. Everyone held their ears while rolling on the ground. The audience screamed and laughed. The Lax Bros picked themselves up and rubbing their eyes. The Convicts, who were in the center of the blast, remained incapacitated. Joji went to a commercial break and sent in the safety teams.

Grigsby refreshed the chatroom requests and approved a challenge. When the commercial break ended, the production assistant informed Joji of the new request. Joji read it aloud.

“Our latest requests from the chat rooms are asking…” Joji paused, “For me to join the contestants?”

The audience cheered and started chanting, “Joji! Joji! Joji!”

Joji had fear in his eyes but couldn’t dismiss the spotlight. He’s addicted to the fame. He walked over and picked up a lacrosse stick and flash-bang grenade. Joji took off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves exposing his tattoos of Oni demons, foo dogs, a koi, and a dragon. He pulled a headband from his pocket and wrapped it around his head. Closing his eyes you could see Joji was taking deep breaths. When he opened them, the fear was gone.

Joji nodded at the cameramen to began filming. Joji would be playing with the convicts that were conscious. The convict held the flash-bang grenade and pulled the pin. No one foresaw the terror that came next.


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Churros, Convicts & Lax Bros

Grigsby looked at the screens in the control room aboard the ferry. Tonight was the third episode of Very Ferry game show. On the screen was Joji, the hypeman who poisoned Ryūki. Grigsby controlled his anger and reviewed the plan in his mind. Ira wanted to help but Grigsby wouldn’t allow it.

“I must avenge my friend alone,” Grigsby said drinking a chocolate milkshake, he wiped his mouth, “Plus, it’s good for my attorney to be ignorant of such a situation.”

Ira rubbed the back of his neck nervously, “Whatever you say Grigs,” Ira said, “Be careful.”

Grigsby finished his milkshake and watched the opening theme of Very Ferry start. The viewership had tripled since their last show and the chat rooms were at capacity. Joji walked on stage, this time looking like a 1980s weatherman on Telemundo. He waved a manicured hand at the new contestants. There was the “fresh out” crew from Rikers Island, a collection of ex-cons who looked like tattooed heaps of muscle and veins.

The next installment was a lacrosse team from a New Hampshire board school. They wore neon pinnies and backward snapbacks. The title of the episode tonight is “Convicts vs. Lax Bros.” Grigsby knew this was the time to get even with Joji.

The show started with a churro eating contest. A mariachi band swung from harnesses while playing “El Toro Relajo.” Chubby Mexicans in giant sombreros were red-faced as they belted out the classic song. The Convicts were dominating, cinnamon and dough flew through the air as the Lax Bros scarfed down the Mexican treats. The crowds cheered for the lacrosse players, which angered the Convicts. The Mariachi band played amongst the chaos.

The next event was dangerous. Safety officials moved the crowd to another part of the ship and issued goggles and earplugs. The name of the obstacle said it all, “Hot Potato Flash Bang.” A flash bang grenade is used by SWAT teams to incapacitate a room of combatants. It’s non-lethal but the flash and shock of the grenade can bring about unconsciousness. Contestants held goalie sized lacrosse sticks and had to pass a live flash bang grenade to each contestant before tossing it into the water. If they couldn’t do it in time it explodes.

Ira couldn’t bear to watch it, he knew this would be the final straw. All the insurance companies wouldn’t back them after this. Grigsby leaned in closer to the monitor, his eyes fixed on Joji. Now was the time strike.


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Poisoning The Butler

Pemberton Investments has a full-time medical staff in the east wing of the office. They prep employees who are traveling into the jungles of underdeveloped nations. The medical staff is often treating two common ailments: panic attacks and gout. The latter known as King’s Disease is brought on by excess consumption of red meat, scotch, and cake. Today though the staff wasn’t treating either of these ailments, instead it was poison.

Grigsby rushed into the medical room. Ryūki was lying on a table, his skin the color of fishbelly. The lead doctor, Vanessa Myles, stood, snapped off a latex glove and shook Grigsby’s hand.

“The blood work came in and it appears there are trace amounts of cyanide and iridium in Ryūki’s system. We’re treating this by restoring fluids and giving him 100% oxygen and hydroxocobalamin—” Grigsby gave a confused look, “It’s Vitamin B12a.”

“He’ll pull through this?” Grigsby asked.
Dr. Myles nodded, “We’re monitoring him closely, a nurse will be in the room at all times.”
“How’d it enter his system?”
“We’re still trying to determine the cause, but I’d say it was most likely ingestion.”

There was a knock on the door. Ira poked his in, “Grigs the NYPD are here.” Grigsby told them he’d be out in a moment.

“Ingestion…” Grigsby thought for a moment and slammed his fist on the table. He thought back to the night after filming Very Ferry. Joji offered desserts from Tokyo, they were daifuku and mochi. Grigsby and Ira declined as they were about to head to the country club for steak night. “Ryūki couldn’t resist the sweets from his home. Dammit!” Grigsby stormed out of the room.

Outside NYPD officers were talking to Jacques, the head of security for Pemberton Investments. He was from Nigeria and the size of a Volkswagen, he played for Ole Miss as a linebacker then joined the Marines. Jacques ran security operations for employees around the globe. Grigsby walked over and shook the officer’s hands.

“The commissioner sent a team of officers to guard the premises and the Penthouse on Park Avenue,” Jacques said.

They briefed Grigsby on the specifics of the added security. When the officers left he asked to speak with Jacques alone.

“Do the police know about Ryūki?”
“No sir, per your instructions I omitted that fact.”
“Good, we don’t want any written record of this. The Yakuza are everywhere.”
“Understood, how can I help?”
Grigsby looked up at Jacques, “This is something I have to handle on my own.”


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Pemberton Investments on Lex

The aftermath was wild. The Filipino gymnastics team became an overnight sensation. The next day they were interviewed on every morning talk show. Grigsby was by their side translating and spreading the word of his new game show. Technically, Ryūki was translating to Grigsby’s earpiece but no one noticed.

After the morning show circuit, Grigsby returned to the Pemberton Investments offices in the Chrysler Building. He loved the silver art deco tower but hated its location.

“Midtown, especially Lexington Avenue is a gutter of filth surrounded by dry cleaners and shit delis, there’s no charm,” Grigsby explained to the gymnasts in the limo. They nodded politely.

Back in the office, Grigsby led the team to a separate conference room where they met with Becky Pemberton, Grigsby’s daughter. She started a new yoga company and wanted to sponsor them. Grigsby felt confident in his daughter and let her take the reigns. Grigsby headed for his office.

Caitlyn, Grigsby’s secretary, was walking briskly on her treadmill desk outside his double door office. Grigsby didn’t understand fitness, especially fitness at the office. It was too Orwellian for him. It made him feel as if she were a hamster in a pantsuit.

“Any messages from Fox or NBC?” Grigsby asked.
Caitlyn sucked water from a long rubber straw, “Nope.” She said with a smile.
“Ira in there?” Grigsby asked.
Caitlyn nodded.

Grigsby opened the double doors in a clean motion. A monolith of granite and white marble stood against the floor to ceiling windows. It was his grand desk that stretched to the corner of the office. The views looked north toward Central Park and panned to the East River. Grigsby stared at the great red Pepsi Cola Sign on Long Island City and felt thirsty. Ira sat by the Aegean Bordeaux Marble fireplace, the hearth warmed the entire office. Brahms played softly through the intercoms in-wall speakers.

Grigsby smiled, pleased with the upward direction of his new venture. He looked at the brass bar cart, checked his watch and shook his head. He opted for a doughnut from the black and white Sees Candy Cart. Grigsby walked over to Ira and noticed he was asleep with his mouth agape. Grigsby smirked and began tossing chunks of doughnut at his attorney, his mouth being the bullseye.

As he sank one in perfectly Ira stirred awake coughing. “Dammit Grigs!” Grigsby chuckled.

Then the intercom buzzed and interrupted Brahm’s Hungarian Dances with Caitlyn’s voice. “Mr. Pemberton, it’s urgent, something happened to Ryūki.”


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Laddering Up

Cries and feline wails bellowed from the sandpit. The entire gymnastics team was doing their best to fight off the Bobcats. The cameras inside the pit captured the carnage in low light. Ira and Grigsby watched nervously from the TV monitors.

“We should send in the safety teams,” Ira advised.
“No, let’s see what the chat rooms say,” Grigsby leaned over the production assistant, “Sitrep.”
The production assistant spoke low, shocked by the requests he was seeing, Grigsby nudged him urging him to speak up. “Sir, they’re saying we should leave them in the pit. We’re almost at $100,000 in payments too.”
“Incredible.” Grigsby said. “And I saw the demographics earlier today. Most of the viewers are middle aged housewives. Who knew they held such a vicious bloodlust?”
“Grigs, we can’t leave them. We—” Ira couldn’t tell what he was seeing on screen.

The gymnasts were throwing the cats off of their brethren. Then they began to pile on each other against the sandpit walls. Soon four men stood on each other’s shoulders, the other teammates climbed up the human ladder. Soon they reached the lip of the sandpit. The crowd screamed a collective “ahhh!” as they saw the last man climb up the ladder and out of the pit.

The man who made it out, lay on his stomach and clasped onto the forearms of the top of the human ladder. He shouted something in Filipino and the bottom man on the ladder began to climb up his men. Soon he made it out of the pit and held onto the ankles of the topside man. The process repeated itself. Bobcats jumped onto the men as they made their escape. Two bobcats climbed all the way out and fled into the audience.

Moments later the entire team of gymnasts stood on the other side of the obstacle, covered in bloody scratch marks and deep lacerations. But they were victorious and the crowd went wild. Grigsby’s bookie texted him a series of cash emojis. It was the wildest spectacle in game show history.


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Off The Chain

The show started and all of the contestants breezed through Ira’s cerebral obstacle, it was a step above bar trivia, he felt dejected. Grigsby watched as they moved toward the physical obstacles. Joji riled up the audience and encourage the people in the live chat rooms to demand more from them. Grigsby and Ira looked at each other.

“What’s Joji doing? We didn’t tell him to say that.” Ira asked.
Grigsby stayed silent and watched the screen. Strange demands came flooding in with high payments attached.
“$10,000 for pushing other contestants into the pit? I don’t know Grigs,”
“Deny that request, it’s too early,” Grigsby ordered.

The team of gymnasts lined up to the Bobcat Sandbox obstacle. A series of checkered floor tiles lay above the sandpit. Some of them were on hinges and would plunge a person into the pit containing fierce bobcats. One gymnast tested the first tile by hanging onto his teammates in a human chain. He leaned his weight against the tile and watched it collapse, they held on to him. The crowd cheered, thirsty for carnage. The team huddled and devised a plan.

Joji came over and yelled at them in Japanese, he didn’t like any planning from the contestants. “You go! You go now!”

The team of nervous gymnast recreated the human chain and began hopping from tile to tile. As some collapsed the others yanked the falling men skyward. It was as if the members of Cirque du Soleil were playing a dire game of the floor is lava.

Grigsby marveled at the ballet of the team. He muttered something about chaotic beauty but gasped when he saw half of the team fall on separate tiles at once. The human chain broke. Screams cried from below along with the roar of cats. The ones above ground remained alone on their tiles. Joji yelled at them to move and ordered the audience to throw pastries at them as encouragement.

“Grigs that wasn’t a request from the chat room, Joji has gone rogue,” Ira warned.

Moments later another gymnast fell through a trapped door tile into the pit, the remain two ran for the end of the obstacle and both perished.


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