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Episode 1: Part 4

Paul, Don, and Jacob enter the event hall. As baffling as it is, the fundraiser actually looks polished, despite being organized by Johnny (or whoever he hired). Illuminating the room with a warm glow, vintage lanterns grace the center of every banquet table. A decent number of guests are seated already, picking at tiny appetizers and sipping Champagne. Past them, there’s a large stage decorated with orchids.

Jacob looks around at the high ceilings and chandeliers, gawking. It’s not the first time he’s been invited somewhere nice, but the enormous gala venue screams money.

The hostess helps them get to their table. Holden is already there, finishing what looks like toasted bread with a slice of beef on it.

“This fucks,” he says, wiping his hands on a napkin. “Gentlemen.”

Holden gets up to shake Paul’s hand. Not hiding his disdain, he still obliges.

DL has always been a bit dysfunctional, but the split has been especially clear in relation to Holden. The only person that wanted him to make partner was Mateusz Libera, the second co-founder. He’s not around much, mostly appearing once every few months to check in, when he’s not out on his yacht in Bora Bora being a veritable rich person stereotype. His absence had its merits: DL moved on from the standard Eat-What-You-Kill model, choosing to promote loyalty and effort instead of just being cutthroat. Seemingly, Holden didn’t get the note.

“Hey. Nicole didn’t come, I take it?” Paul asks. Holden’s face falls.

“Nope,” he responds, over-enunciating.

When they’re all sitting down, Jacob checks the menu and eventually realizes that he doesn’t understand most of the words in it. He purses his lips and looks up, accidentally meeting Don’s eyes. Amused at the blatant display of confusion, Don sneers.

“Hey, if there’s something you don’t get, just ask.”

“Okay, you know what?” Jacob says, playing along. “You’re not gonna shame me on this one, I do have questions. And they’re perfectly reasonable.”

“Right. Go on.”

“How can you garnish something with tuna? It’s a protein, that doesn’t make any sense.”

“If the piece is small enough you can,” Holden contributes, putting his menu away. “Why not?”

“Sorry, I’m with Jacob on this one,” Paul says; he doesn’t look too happy about it.

Excited about his new ally, Jacob fist pumps the air. Paul immediately tells him to put his arm down.

“What if it’s shredded?” Don asks, tapping his fingers on the table. “Like… flakes?”

“It doesn’t say ‘flakes’, though,” Jacob notes.

“Have we considered that Johnny is just fucking stupid?” Holden asks.

Everyone at the table ponders the idea and comes to the same conclusion — for once, Holden is right. But the thought process is cut short, because an unfamiliar man confidently makes his way to the table. They exchange looks.

“Sorry, do we know you?” Paul starts with an awkward smile, but recognition flashes across his face. “Holy Mother of God!”

The consultants do a double take, realizing it’s actually Johnny Ferrari. Except, his usual tan is gone and so are the frosted tips. He’s even wearing a tuxedo and a pair of dress shoes.

“One and only, Johnny Ferrari in the motherfucking house!” he whoops.

“I didn’t know you were white,” Holden quips; but seeing Johnny cringe, switches gears. “Good on you, though, man, you look great.”

“Thanks,” Johnny half-heartedly mutters, before moving on. He puts on a smile and claps, causing a few people to look back at him. “Time to entertain the masses!”

Recalling something, he stops and puts his hand on Jacob’s shoulder.

“Marie!” Johnny calls out. A waitress comes up to the table. “Can you get birthday boy over here everything on the menu?”

“Of course,” she says with a smile and looks down at Jacob. “Happy birthday!”

“It, uh, was three days ago, but thank you,” Jacob says, then turns to whisper to Johnny. “I don’t… think I can afford that.”

“Are you kidding?” Johnny laughs. “It’s on the house, J-Dawg!”

“Oh!” Jacob exclaims. “Thank you, that’s— That’s really nice of you!”

“This fucking guy,” Johnny says, affectionate, and ruffles his hair. Almost immediately, he winces and wipes his hand on Jacob’s suit.

When Johnny leaves, Don invades Jacob’s personal space.

“So you got a sugar daddy now?” he asks. Jacob sighs and rests his head in his hands.

“What, you jealous?” Holden snorts. “He’s like a cute little twink, of course people are gonna buy him shit.”

“Oh sure. Because you’re so fucking proficient in what gay people like,” Don says, leaning back in his chair.

“I could be. You don’t know me, I could be hustling by day and sucking cock by night.”

“Holden, please,” Paul sighs. “Think about the children.”

“No thank you Paul, not that kind of guy.”

Out of nowhere, microphone feedback screeches, making everyone cover their ears.

“Sorry, sorry,” Johnny says, raising a hand. His voice echoes throughout the hall. “I’d like to thank everyone for coming to raise money for pediatric cancer! For research to stop pediatric cancer, is what I mean. Because otherwise — woof.”

Johnny chuckles and lowers the microphone stand after a few unsuccessful attempts.

“Is he drunk?” Paul whispers, mortified, as Johnny continues to talk in the background.

“Why wouldn’t he be?” Holden asks. “It’s a dinner. And he’s the host.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t need to be drunk to host events. I don’t do shots, I call them.”

As everyone groans at the joke, the waitress brings over the hors d’oeuvres: crostinis with wagyu beef, arugula, and horseradish. After staring at a fork and knife for a few seconds, Jacob ends up following Holden’s lead. He picks the appetizer up with his hand and takes a bite.

Trying not to moan, Jacob just lets out a quiet “God damn.”

“So yada yada yada, you get to pick the next limited edition flavor of Mindscrew,” Johnny announces. “The bidding starts at fifteen thousand dollars, let’s go!”

“Ah, fuck it. Sure,” Holden says, raising his hand. When the others turn to look at him, he just shrugs and smirks.

“Sixteen thousand!” shouts an older man a few tables away from them. His wife — or daughter — pinches the bridge of her nose, sighing.

“Got sixteen thousand!” Johnny exclaims as he looks around excitedly.

“Seventeen thousand,” Holden says, before lowering his voice for the group. “The fuck does he even need an energy drink flavor for? His heart would stop.”

“Nineteen  thousand!” the older man continues. “I like cherry!”

“I’m sure we already have a cherry flavor, but nineteen thousand!” Johnny says. “Can anyone here top nineteen thousand? Because the IRS knows you can—”

“Twenty-five thousand,” Holden sighs. Noticing Jacob choke on his food, he slaps his back a few times.

“Twenty-five thousand! You know it’s in US dollars, not Canadian, right?” Johnny asks with a fake smile; he actually manages to get a laugh from the audience. “Anyway! Going once…”

The older man throws his napkin on the table, conceding.

“Going twice… Sold to Holden Vega! Twenty-five thousand dollars towards the fight against cancer!”

The crowd claps. Holden joins in, laughing under his breath.

“Now the next lot is gonna be very interesting to all you crypto freaks out there,” Johnny moves on. He’s walking around the stage as the microphone volume drops. “It’s a guest spot on Equithereum, a Cryptocurrency Podcast—”

“So what’s the twenty-five grand idea?” Paul asks Holden, exasperated.

“Cum,” he answers immediately. “It’s cum.”

“Who the fuck wants an energy drink that tastes like cum?” Don asks, rubbing his forehead.

“It’s novelty bullshit,” Holden says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Nobody wants pussy beer or pussy chips, but we got it anyway. Same thing.”

“Can you just stop saying—” Paul stops in his tracks. “Is that Nicole?”

“Kinda sexist of you. Oh, it is.”

Wearing a formal black dress, Nicole comes up to the table. Jacob stops chewing and pulls out the one empty chair for her.

“How could I possibly miss Holden make a charity all about himself?” Nicole says with a tiny smirk, sitting down. Her gaze wanders to the stage and she freezes. “Is that…”

“Yeah,” Don says, nodding gravely.

“Holy fuck. He looks like… Who does he look like? Fuckin’…” Nicole thinks for a few seconds, snapping her fingers until she gets it. “Sinatra!”

Everyone at the table turns to look at Johnny and lets out a few hums of agreement. Jacob is out of the loop, but tries not to show it.

Lot after lot, main dishes after starters, the auction comes to an end. Some time during it Paul just got up and left, saying something incoherent about seafood.

“I’m gonna go find him,” Nicole says, leaving the table. Nobody is really paying attention.

Jacob exhales with a pained expression on his face, having somehow managed to finish his braised veal shanks.

“You’re such a fucking baby,” Don says, rolling his eyes.

“That’s a lot of food!” Jacob exclaims. He gestures to the table with both hands — it’s littered with dishes and wine glasses.

“Stop whining. You’re so whiny.”

“I’m not whiny!”

Cackling, Don shoves his shoulder, trying to be playful. Jacob glares at him.

“He always gets like this when he drinks,” Don says as he puts an arm around his shoulder. Looking even more irritated, Jacob crosses his arms.

“You’re so gay for him,” Holden says and points to Don, slurring every word. Hearing himself, he laughs. “Like it’s not even funny, what the fuck is, like, this, you know. Giggity gay.”

“You’re projecting,” Don grumbles and moves away from Jacob, suddenly sober. “All you talk about is cocks, cum and more cocks.”

“The CCC trifecta,” Holden snorts.

They stop talking, because the waitress makes herself known with a tray full of little dessert bowls, each with a light-purple ball in them.

“Homemade ube ice cream made with ethically sourced Tahitian vanilla beans,” she says, putting the bowls down one by one. “It’s topped with yuzu zest and edible verbena flowers.”

“Okay, I’m just gonna,” Jacob trails off and gets up from the table. He looks flushed and defeated.

“Holy shit, are you gonna vomit?” Holden asks. “Can I watch?”

“No!” Jacob cries. “And no!”

Don watches him walk away, poking at his ice cream with a spoon.

***

Begrudgingly, Nicole finds herself behind the stage looking for Johnny. There’s no real end goal, just making nice with him. Which is the concerning part, because Nicole can’t even go on walks without a purpose in mind.

She stumbles on Johnny talking to the sound guy, gesticulating wildly and laughing. The guy nods back at him with an awkward smile.

When they part ways, Johnny notices Nicole standing there.

“Hey,” she starts, unsure of what to say.

“Hey.”

Seeing as Johnny looks like a deer in headlights, Nicole walks up to him first.

“You’re looking… normal,” she says as she gives him a once-over.

“Yeah,” he says, smoothing down his hair.

“Is this ‘cause of—”

“No, no, God no,” Johnny instantly says and laughs.

It’s awkward. They stand like that for a while until Nicole gives up and starts talking again.

“D’you wanna just… Can we smoke in here?”

***

Don discovers Jacob sitting on a couch in the corner of the hall alone, staring at his shoes. Excited at the prospect of scaring the shit out of him, he saunters over.

“Hey cumstain. Thought you got lost.”

Jacob looks up at him, already exhausted from the interaction. Something about him is off.

“Not now, Don.”

“Why is your face so red?” he asks, leaning closer. “Did a woman talk to you? ‘Cause I can assure you, she works here.”

“Fuck off,” Jacob snaps.

Don flinches as if he got slapped.

“Okay, what’s up?” he immediately asks before sitting down next to him.

“So the one time I want you to leave, you’re just not going to?”

“Uh-huh,” Don nods. “So spit it out, because Paul is out there locating and inhaling every shrimp in the room as we speak.”

Still on the fence, Jacob considers his options. Don does look attentive in the moment, usually he wouldn’t even want to hear how Jacob’s morning went. But it could also be one big hazing set-up. Hesitant, he decides to take his chances.

“I think someone spiked my drink,” Jacob finally says.

He sounds like he means it, which makes Don blink a few times.

“Okay. So let me get this straight, you think that someone would spike your drink, of all people, and do it at a charity event.”

“Don, I’m fucking serious!”

Jacob looks up at him, exasperated, and Don gives in.

“Okay, fine. What are you actually feeling? Any subconscious desire to get railed in the men’s bathroom and forget about it the next day?”

“I’m not even going to… Look, it just feels like I’m having a heart attack and I’ve been hiding an erection for like half an hour now.”

Don instinctively looks down and realizes that yes, Jacob has been holding a briefcase over his lap the entire time. God knows where he found it. Jacob slaps his arm, as if to say “eyes up here”.

“For real? Why not just,” Don trails off, making a jerking off motion with his hand.

“I did,” Jacob admits. “Twice.”

“At a charity?” Don gasps theatrically. “You’re a whore, Yang.”

“I really don’t know why I’m trusting you with this. So can you help or not?”

“Jerk you off?” Don asks, getting out his phone. “I mean, I’d ask you to buy me dinner first, but we just ate—”

“No, Jesus Christ, do you know what was in the drink?”

“Well, I didn’t spike it, so no. But if I had to make a WAG, it sounds like the pills Johnny sells.”

“The gas station pills?!” Jacob shrieks.

“I’m sure you’re gonna be fine,” Don mutters, scrolling through his phone. “It’s apparently just Cialis with some shit mixed in.”

“I don’t like that. What does shit entail in this instance?”

“Lots of words I can’t read.”

“Oh great,” Jacob mumbles, staring up at the ceiling in search of God.

***

“Of course it fucking sucks!” Nicole laughs, wiping a tear from her eye. ”Wesreal?!”

“You were there, though!” Johnny cries defensively. “Visreal was taken, so with a W it’s like… ‘We is real!’”

The two ended up in the less busy part of the kitchen, smoking under a range hood. Nicole is leaning against the kitchen island, while Johnny chose to sit on the corner of it.

Nicole takes a drag and coughs before passing the joint to him. The smell is completely drowned out by a myriad of dishes being prepared a few feet away.

“And I was tripping,” Johnny says.

“A two-year-old could come up with a better company name on acid.”

“I’d like to see him try. Square up, loser. Can’t even walk yet.”

“I think they can,” Nicole says. She moves and accidentally knocks over a pot. “Shit. Or not, I have no fuckin’ idea.”

They break into a giggle fit again. When it subsides, Johnny sighs and looks at Nicole.

“Why aren’t you working for me, again?” he asks, hand under his chin.

“Because you suck.”

“Everyone sucks!” Johnny says, throwing up his hands. “Why not, really? What do I need to do? You wanna go to Vegas? Tonight? I’ll fly you and the guys out no problem. Private jet? Got it. Anything.”

“This is not helping your case,” Nicole sighs. “I can smell the desperation on you. And shitty unisex cologne.”

“Chicks dig it.”

“See, this is what I’m talking about! Who talks like that?! It’s not the early 2000s anymore!”

“Okay, okay!” Johnny exclaims and pretends to zip his mouth closed. “I’m really trying to do better here. I mean it. Just give me a chance.”

Nicole thinks about it. Not for long, because the mix of alcohol and weed is what really drives the decision home.

“You know what?” she says. “Fuck it.”

“Yeah? Vegas?” Johnny asks, a smile spreading across his face.

“Sin City, baby!” Nicole whoops.

***

“Grandmas. Dead babies. Dead grandmas. Dead grandmas fucking dead babies.”

“Don, shut up,” Jacob groans, covering his face. “I’m not even, you know, sexually aroused anymore. I just have a massive headache and you’re not helping.”

“I’m not trying to help,” Don says matter-of-factly. He punctuates it by kicking Jacob’s foot.

“Cool, thanks. Maybe consider leaving me alone now?”

Don stays where he is, but allows a few moments of silence.

“Hey, uh,” he starts up again, tapping Jacob’s shoulder. “I think my drink also got spiked.”

When Don receives no reaction, he continues, conspiratorial.

“No, really. Full on boner city over here, I think we should exchange handies in the bathroom.”

Jacob looks up at him with an exasperated sigh. The moment he does, Don lets out a wheeze.

“Oh my God, you totally fucking fell for it! Holy shit, Yang!”

“I literally didn’t!” Jacob shouts, making heads turn.

Mortified, Don tries to put a hand over his mouth, which Jacob bats away. The entire thing quickly turns into slap fighting on the couch, and Don ends up in a chokehold.

“You’re making a scene,” Don manages to croak out in between gasping for air.

“I’m— What the fuck?! You’re making a scene!”

The identity of the person making a scene stays unresolved, because a security guard comes up to them. Jacob immediately lets go of Don, who gets up and fixes his tie.

“I need to answer this,” Don says and walks away, putting a finger to his ear.

“He doesn’t wear a headset!” Jacob shrieks, gesturing to the security guard. “I— Nobody is calling him!”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I’ve received several complaints—”

“Yeah, sorry,” Jacob mutters, getting up. Thankfully, the pills mostly ran out of gas, so the walk of shame isn’t as catastrophic as it could’ve been.

When Jacob steps outside, he breathes in the evening air, relieved. It smells faintly of exhaust fumes and coffee. But none of it matters, because at least Don is not there.

A few cars drive by. Jacob closes his eyes, leaning against the building. He focuses on the sounds of the city: the passing conversations, police sirens, pop music from a nearby café. All of it should be overwhelming, but it just isn’t.

“Jacob.”

The moment is gone. Jacob jolts awake, opening his eyes to find Don standing in front of him.

“We’re going to Vegas,” he says, unbuttoning the top of his shirt. “Nicole and Johnny squashed the beef, I guess.”

“What? Is she high?”

“Yeah, but…” Don says and hums. “You know. Titanic jelly.”

Jacob nods. Not saying a word, Don joins him to his left. They stay like that for a minute or two.

“Sorry,” Don says eventually.

Jacob doesn’t respond.

“About earlier, I mean. I… Yeah.”

“He didn’t even throw you out,” Jacob sighs, giving him a glance. Don looks absolutely disheveled: his tie is gone, shirt wrinkled, and strands of hair stick to his forehead, shiny from sweat.

“He did. After the call he did,” Don says. The corner of his mouth quirks upwards. “I’m like the most wanted person in the room.”

“And I’m not?”

“Well, I mean. You’re what, five foot five?”

“Six. Five foot six.”

“Yeah, whatever, shorty.”

Jacob rolls his eyes.

“We’re good though, right?” Don asks.

“I mean, yeah,” Jacob says. “It’s… yeah. It’s okay. We’re good.”

“Alright, great. Let’s go,” Don says, giving Jacob’s shoulder a squeeze before he steps away and looks around. “I called us an Uber like ten minutes ago, probably paying off the guy’s student loans right now.”

“God, you’re such a dick.”

“I know!” Don laughs and gestures for Jacob to follow. He does.


3 responses

  1. Jack

    OK FIRST, I WAS SO STOKED WHEN I SAW HOW LONG THIS WAS.

    Dude, I really hope that you know how good this is. Like I’m dying from laughter over the characterization, but there’s all these little details that are so goddamn rich. Like every time you post an update, I get so fucking excited.

    I’m so glad Nicole got that joint, girlfriend really needed that. Holden’s reprehensible stank grows more potent, Jacob is so sopping wet that he’s leaving puddles all over the place (BONER PILLS AT LAST!!!). Don FASCINATES me. I don’t quite have a reading on him yet or his angle (I’m getting particular vibes), but it seems like there’s something simmering just below the surface and I dig that so hard.

    CCC Trifecta for life.

    1. ughhhgghgh that’s so fucking nice 😭 thank you, it means a lot to hear that!

      REPREHENSIBLE STANK 💀 i like that, that’s probably what his autobiography would be titled
      and can’t wait to elaborate on what don’s deal is…..

      C to the C to the C 🙌

  2. Jack

    ALSO WOOOOO VEGAS!!! SURELY THAT’S GONNA GO WELL!!!!

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