The perfect sun did not suit the funeral of the late Armand Coi. Very few attendees shed any tears, and the many hundred overdressed mourners to the Sierra Estate appeared more interested in the mountain vista than the starring casket: car-sized, repulsive and adequately plain and wooden.
With much persistent effort, Francis pulled his obliged attention off his father’s ridiculous coffin. This was difficult considering the ear-splitting mechanics of the crane, its overworked metal arms lowering Mr Coi’s half a tonne corpse into what looked like the foundation dig for a new building.
Air thick with fumes and oud-based perfume, Francis, from behind his shades, caught the smarmy observations of his guests. He never knew such embarrassment. It took the form of magma in his gut, his skin an overworked pressure cooker. Breath held, he watched his father’s descending coffin with a distasteful mix of tension and humour. It was as if he and everyone else expected the chains to snap, the casket to drop, and the gargantuan body of Armand Coi to spill out like a gelatinous raw chicken.
What a sight it would be. No doubt someone here was slimy enough to find their way onto the estate ready for such a catastrophe. One of these traitorous friends was likely concealing a camera nestled in their fedora or implanted in their spectacles. Francis pictured the front-page headlines, the gratuitous image of a deceased legend next to it.
Though the sticky grease-coated pieces of his father’s dynasty were now his to pick up, Armand’s death was the best birthday present a twenty-year-old could ask for. With his childhood behind him, Francis at last possessed power to bury all mediocrity along with the slob lowering into the dirt. Dirt destined to share an eternity with the human excrement embedded within it.
Francis looked on, chin held high to the universe’s long awaited alignment. Calm and composed, he rearranged his plans for optimum efficiency. For decades, the family business suffered without an iron leader to fix its cracks.
The Coi International Corporation, regardless of its global and market-dominating success, was but a collection of well-selected words to its name with Armand at its helm. The perception of corporate power was non-existent, and Francis knew this. No longer would these pompous idiots view him as unimaginative, ambitionless, and careless like Armand.
So careless, the man allowed a simple heart attack to finish him. A fitting and unsurprising end. And yet such a death would have been insipid without Francis’s timely discovery of him: floating on the water of his hydro-pool, a perpetual replay of domination pornography on an opposite television, the morsels of fast food and magnum bottles bouncing around his father’s custard-like fleshy layers, the pool’s gold tap buried into his back rolls.
It was only appropriate following such a discovery for Francis to have his father’s personal burger bar demolished and wiped from the estate. He imaged Armand’s desire to hold the takeout packaging as a connection to the marketing world he was so proud of. After all, the CIC was the owner of America’s largest fast-food chains. Francis, however, detested the idea of mixing something so enjoyed by the average mass with somewhere so perfect as his home. Such a thing was pure self-ridicule. They were business gods, not blind sheep.
The service ended.
The fancy flock dispersed to exchange compliments on outfits and success stories, as so-and-so from this company, and what’s-his-name from that company discussed how the late Armand’s investment contributions aided in their own corporate empires, their own niceties as false as the loyalty to their customers.
Francis rose, dusted his suit, and repositioned his shades with an arrogant finger nudge. Fascinated by poise and royalty, he extended his back and exuded a triumphant allure. He relished his performance of authority. On the surface, he perfected an image of pomposity, but inside lay a delicate balance between his need for precision and an unruly temper.
The day was too nice. The sun was mocking Francis, for it highlighted the enormous gap in the ground, judged by the mausoleums of past Cois, each of their impressive tombs laughing at the modesty of Armand’s dirt hole, soon to be nothing but a flat stone slab with his name on it: a gesture Francis insisted upon. Still, why couldn’t it have rained? The cliché would have been most welcoming.
Francis leant down to the elderly lady in the wheelchair and brushed her bony shoulders.
‘Let’s find some shade, Gee-Gee.’
But Georgette Coi spoke no words, just as Francis knew she would. Her face remained placid, hidden too behind a pair of oversized sunglasses. She stared forward, her hands in her lap, her somewhat paralysed condition as unchanged as the day following her son’s death.
As Francis pressed on to avoid the shareholders, lobbyists, and family friends, the gazelle-like figure of Miss Sofia Lung approached him from the other end of the cemetery path. Her sharp face, pulled to attention by her tight red hair, both excited and worried Francis. As though sewn to her palm, her tablet screen rarely brought with it much good news. Then again, Francis saw her as his most valuable business asset. He also respected the fact she knew her place, ordering her to sit obediently at the back of the funeral to oversee the company’s share value.
Sofia tucked herself close, as if to conceal gossip.
‘How are you, Mr Coi?’ she said, her face stiff and respectful.
Francis walked his grandmother’s wheelchair away from the family cemetery.
‘Fine. I’m taking Gee-Gee to the house for a rest. I’ll brave the reception alone. In about an hour, maybe. What do you have for me?’
Miss Lung presented the tablet.
‘The NY Daily has praised Armand nicely. A philanthropist to the world is what they’re saying. Isn’t that nice? And they say his donations have helped millions of future generations.’
Francis tightened his grip.
‘Ridiculous. Nothing but a prolonged PR stunt, of which he threw money at for years. He was an obtuse moron… sorry Gee-Gee.’ He cupped his grandmother’s ears. ‘What about the board? Have they released a statement?’
Miss Lung charged forward to open the door to the limousine, the echo of her heels another of Francis’ kinks.
‘Just the usual, I’m afraid to say. They still think you lack sufficient business experience. All they want from you is a solid proposal.’
Francis whisked his grandmother from her chair and settled her lightness into the limo. The public did not perceive the Cois as an athletic family. Francis used his hereditary pale slenderness as fuel in which to carve an image of himself. No genetic flaw was going to stop him. With a self-enforced strictness of militant exercise, nutrition, and mental awareness, he created the very Adonis he saw himself as, now reflected in the tinted window of his Maybach.
He plucked a stray black hair from face, snapping his thumb for the driver to stow the wheelchair in the trunk.
‘Are they aware of Project Bedrock?’
Miss Lung shook her head.
‘No. I’m sure they would mention it if they did.’
Francis peered over her shoulder. The company directors were shaking hands with his distant family. This blatant show of affection did not convince him. To him, they remained nothing more than sneaky shareholders intent on seeing him take a permanent sabbatical. But as long as Project Bedrock stayed between him and Sofia, their unhealthy interest in him would unlikely jeopardise his position.
Francis boarded the limousine, inviting Miss Lung to join him.
‘I want the resurrection of Bedrock to begin immediately.’ With his wristwatch, shaped like a black ceramic snake, Francis checked the time, as if to monumentalise the occasion.
Back arched and adjusting her specs, Miss Lung returned to her tablet, crossing her legs to give her superior a certain unavoidable view.
‘We can go ahead as soon as you’ve presented your proposal at the succession summit next week.’
Through the tinted window, the New York countryside whipped passed. Francis eyed one particular mountain in the distance. He hated waiting. Why couldn’t Bedrock start when he wanted it to? Now he needed to supply a ridiculous presentation for his company’s continuation, whilst somehow reallocating company capital to feed his secret venture.
Francis’ grandmother remained still and expressionless. To see her this way burned the back of his neck. How he pitied her.
‘Miss Lung. As I prepare my business plan, I would like the redevelopment of Wystan Mountain to be a top priority. Nobody involved is to disclose it.’
‘Oh? But sir, you don’t yet have access to company capital. What shall I pay the contractors with?’
Francis inhaled deeply, finger combing his hair and unhinging a kink in his neck.
‘Then exhaust my personal accounts… all of them.’
Miss Lung paused, then resumed typing.
‘As long as you’re sure.’
‘And the primal weapon,’ he said. ‘I want its location changed. To the mountain as well.’
Sofia nodded, knowing exactly what he meant by this.
Francis eyed Gee-Gee, resting his chin upon his knuckles. He momentarily halted his seriousness and offered Miss Lung one of his smiles, lowering his tone.
‘And get yourself something nice? My treat.’ He leant forward so his grandmother would not hear. ‘Something revealing. You know what I like.’ He reclined back in to his seat, then reverted to his former severity. ‘I despise unnecessary patience. So, while we wait… let’s have some fun.’
Miss Lung blushed, tapped away, crossed her legs once more, and nodded.
Francis opened a leather-clad compartment between the seats, drew out the chilled champagne, popped the cork with a white CIC cloth, and took a well-deserved swig, tasting the gloriousness of a golden future.