THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
Shweta Kallemullah walks down a hallway backstage with purpose. She’s on the phone, and the conversation seems stressful.
Shweta Kallemullah: Listen, I don’t really care how it has to get done. I don’t ask a butcher to show me what goes in the sausage casing, I don’t visit the workshop to see how the carpenter makes my bedframe, and I certainly don’t ask the florist to take me to the garden to show me where the lilies come from. I just want those lilies on the tables come next Friday.
She is focused more on her conversation than where she is walking, and that is why she suddenly finds herself at the end of the hallway, where a few people are waiting.
Julian Bathory, director of MESSIAH International, stands with hands clasped just above his belt. He’s flanked to either side by sharply-dressed colleagues, a raven-haired young woman of Japanese descent and a stern-faced gentleman in his early-40’s. Each clutches an identical briefcase at their side.
Shweta Kallemullah: Just let me know when it’s done. Thank you.
She hangs up the phone and looks at Julian Bathory. With heels she actually appears taller, but it is obvious who the more intimidating presence is.
Shweta Kallemullah: I apologize. I wasn’t watching where I was going. I’ll leave you to your…business.
Bathory holds up a hand.
Julian Bathory: No need. Our business is with you, Ms. Kallemullah. We’re exactly where we should be.
He gestures to either side.
Julian Bathory: My associates. Vanna Lloris and Lucas Cross. They closely handle our organization’s financial affairs.
Shweta does not look at or respond to either of Julian’s associates.
Shweta Kallemullah: Business with me? What business could you possibly have with me?
The head of MESSIAH breathes in deeply, bringing his hands up and steepling his fingers.
Julian Bathory: We believe in making the world a better place in whatever way that we can. Raising up the downtrodden and the wounded, alleviating the woes of people under duress, offering inspiration to maximize potential. To that end, we have an offer to extend to you, Ms. Kallemullah. Eradicating one of the great evils on this planet is one of the most worthy causes that I can imagine, and let it not be said that MESSIAH is not doing its part in that pursuit.
As he speaks, Lloris shuffles through a thick sheath of papers in her briefcase and draws one out at the conclusion of Bathory’s address, slipping it to the director. He offers a plaintive smile and extends it to Shweta.
Julian Bathory: I believe you’ll find the figure quite generous.
Shweta takes the paper, slowly breathing. She fixes Bathory a stern glare.
Shweta Kallemullah: It doesn’t matter what number is on this paper, it couldn’t possibly…
And against all better judgment, she looks down at the paper.
Shweta Kallemullah: Wow.
She looks down again, searching for resolve. Eventually, she finds it.
Shweta Kallemullah: No. Even that figure isn’t enough for us to associate with you. Mr. Bathory, you may fool every upper class person you peddle your wares to. But I worked for one of the worst people to ever live, so I know the type. And I also know that anyone who associates with Bruce…
She tears the paper in two.
Shweta Kallemullah: …isn’t anyone we want giving us money. So thanks, but no fucking thank you. Respectfully of course.
The grin never slips from Bathory’s face. He appears neither angered nor even surprised.
Julian Bathory: Hasty bit of judgment, don’t you think? Are you really willing to turn down such an ample gift out of enmity for someone whose company I keep?
Shweta Kallemullah: This foundation depends on both the generosity of good people and the reputation of being above board. So yes, the company you keep is more than enough reason to reject your offer. Now, have a good evening. I have a dinner to plan.
The director of MESSIAH sighs in mock disappointment. He steps out around Shweta as if to depart, but pauses, placing one hand firmly on her shoulder.
Julian Bathory: Just so you know, Ms. Kallemullah, there’s a belief we hold dearly within our ranks. In our eyes, those who need help will always find it. The conditions may differ but, eventually, it will be received. Örökké a korona.
With that, the director walks away, leaving Shweta looking at her feet. After a few moments she decides it is safe to exit the corner herself, only to find herself nearly running right into King Blueberry, who is carrying the mannequin over his shoulder.
King Blueberry: …Hey.
He walks past her, leaving her to cover her face.
Shweta Kallemullah: Oh no.