The Five Faces of Mr V [Short Fiction]

An experiment in perspective built into a short story. I’m interested in knowing whether something like this works. Any feedback would be appreciated. 


The Five Faces of Mr V by Imran Lorgat.

Narration One - Margot Valbuena
Margot’s Cottage
13 April 20XX, 11:20 AM

Stir the sauce pot, give the pasta a turn, check the oven; oh the cheesecake is coming along nicely. Back to the stove. The pasta is just about done. Take it out, drain it. Dip the wooden spoon into the sauce, give it a taste. Hmm, needs just a pinch of sugar to get rid of that tomatoey acidity. Pinch, stir, tastes better; 5 more minutes.
     The doorbell.
     "Ooh I'm coming! I'm coming!"
     I rush to the door, apron and all, and unlock it. Standing there on the doormat, dressed in his stunning grey suit (which is beginning to match his hair) and holding a bouquet of flowers, is my handsome son.
     "Hey Ma, I got these for you."
     "Oh Vincent!" I squeeze him and his flowers in a giant hug, "I've missed you!"
     "I've missed you too Ma."
     "Come in, come in. It's cold out there."
     Vincent rubs his shoes on the doormat and steps inside with the flowers.
     "Hmm. What's that smell Ma? It's delicious."
     He sits at the table.
     "Oh I've just got some pasta on the stove son. I'm making spaghetti and meatballs. Your favourite!"
     "You know Ma, I've been to Italian restaurants around the world, but not one of them can make spaghetti and meatballs better than yours."
     "Oh you flatter your old mother. I've got to make sure that my son eats well before his big business trip. What time are you leaving?"
     "Well the flight is at 3PM so I'll head there at about 2 just to be safe."
     "Don't forget to say your prayers before take-off son. I heard some news on the radio about a plane that went missing and I just want you to be safe."
     "Sure Ma. I'll do that."
     I give the pasta sauce another taste. Perfect. I drop the pasta into a serving bowl, pour the sauce and meatballs over and give it a good toss. When I take it to the table I can see how excited my Vincent is. Such a sweet child. And such a smart one too. I can never understand all his business words when he explains his job to me but I just love hearing him talk about it. He sounds so successful.
     "Dig in."
     We eat. After decades of cooking the same old same old, my food tastes all the same to me. But Vincent enjoys it so much. With every bite I can see his face light up and he keeps telling me how much he loves it.
     "This is the best Ma."
     "One day, I'll teach your wife how to make it for you."
     Vincent laughs.
     "And that reminds me: when are you going to bring a girl home?"
     " Do we really have to discuss this now Ma?"
     "Well if you'd found yourself a wife by now we wouldn't have to discuss it."
     "I'm a late bloomer, Ma."
     "You're 42 Vincent! If you don't get married soon, how am I going to be around to see my grandchildren?"
     "These meatballs are really good. Did I mention that?"
     "What about Sara's daughter? She's a pharmacist. Really sweet girl. She's in her 30s and she's still single. I hear she's looking for someone."
     "Well actually Ma... there might be someone."
     Oh my God! Can it really be true? Is my Vincent really going to get married?
     "Oh Vincent!"
     "But please keep that to yourself for now, Ma."
     "I'm so excited, Vincent! I've waited so long."
     "I really mean that Ma. It's not official or anything. But I've been seeing someone for a while now and it’s getting serious... and well, just give me some time ok Ma?"
     "Well not too much time I hope, I want to be around to play with my grandchildren."
     "Don't worry. I'm sure you'll be around for another 50 years at least."
     "50 years! Good God you have an imagination Vincent."
     "Oh that's the timer. The cheesecake should be done by now."
     "You made cheesecake!"
     "I did. Your favourite one."
     "You know Ma, I've been to New York. I've had actual New York cheesecake from New York. Your cake could teach those New Yorkers a thing or two."

Narration Two - Tyson Howard
The Basque Gardens Hotel – Reception
13 April 20XX, 6:47PM

Sheeit. It's him again. Phoney white guy with his grey suit and his black shoes. He's talking to Alfonse at the counter. Alfonse is doing his usual routine:
     "Would you like a larger room Mr Valbuena?"
     "Should I send a meal up Mr Valbuena?"
     "Can I kiss your ass for you Mr Valbuena?"
Every single time. After a while you get sick of hearing it. Whenever Valbuena comes around the entire hotel treats him like some Arabian prince. Because he's rich. But the moment he's gone, they're all talking about what a prick he is. Typical.
Alfonse calls me. As it turns out, the hotel isn't full so Mr Valbuena is, in fact, getting a larger room.
     "Tyson, please escort Mr Valbuena up to the premier suite." 
Valbuena knows where the room is. He sleeps in it at least once a month. What Alfonse really means is that I'm supposed to carry his bags upstairs and listen to him ramble on about himself in the hopes of getting a measly tip.
     "Sure thing."
Valbuena gives his usual smarmy smile as I fetch his travel bag and laptop case. The travel bag has wheels. Not a problem. Valbuena is wearing a grey suit over a white shirt, open at the collar. On his wrist is a gold watch that probably costs more than a normal person would spend on a car. Prick.
     We step into the elevator.
     "How's it going... man."
     Oh great, he's forgotten my name again. Just last week I carried his bags. I'm even wearing a name tag. I sigh.
     "Good good."
     "Things are going excellently my side, friend," here we go again, "I'm actually in town for a few days to conclude a deal with GenCore, but I was thinking that while I'm here I might as well go see the- blah blah blah"
     You can tell a lot about a man by what he spends his money on. Some guys spend it on their girlfriends. Some spend it on booze and cigarettes. Mr Valbuena spends it on vintage wines, caviar and rip-off jewellery from the hotel's gift catalogue. Whenever he goes one of the bell boys manages to get hold of his bill and my jaw drops every time I see the amount and the stupid crap he's spending it on. And come on, we all know he's not wearing those diamond earrings himself. And there's no Mrs Valbuena. The guys on night shift are always whispering about how women half his age are sneaking up to his room. What a dog.
     -and have you ever been to Belucci's?"
     "You really should try them sometime. The cannoli are excellent."
     PING. The elevator stops. I 'escort' Mr Valbuena's bags to his room. He swipes the card and I drop his luggage off by the door. ‘Valbuena’. French name. Guy isn’t even French. What a phoney.
     "If there's anything you need Mr Valbuena, just dial 1 for room service."
     Valbuena reaches into his wallet and hands over a note.
     "This is for you champ."
     I nod and walk off. The note isn't much. It never is. Valbuena may spend like a king at Italian restaurants, but he tips like an asshole. 
Narration Three - Daniella Bonicci 
The Basque Gardens Hotel – Premier Suite
13 April 20XX, 11:47PM

Well. One thing I can say about Vincie is that he's an exquisite lover. Very experienced, knows all the right spots. But so impatient. It's barely five minutes and already he's belted his pants back on and he’s pacing around the room in an unbuttoned shirt, his grey suit hanging over one of the chairs. Now he’s placing the folder I gave him in his travel bag. I'm still purring under the sheets. I'd smoke if the hotel didn't have a 'no-smoking' policy.
     “What did you need those documents for anyway, Vincie?”
     “Just work stuff. You know how dry the world of insurance can be.” 
     "You’re so jittery today Vincie? Come lie with me for a few minutes."
     "I'm nervous Dani," he tops his champagne flute, "A drink my vixen?"
     "No thanks. Why are you nervous Vincie?"
     "You know you can talk to me right?"
     "I know. It's just this deal tomorrow. I always get like this before a deal. There's a lot riding on this one. It could be make or break for my career."
     "You've said this before. But I know you Vincie; when it comes down to things you'll put on your game face and you'll knock their socks off."
     "You have a lot of faith in my abilities."
     "That's because I've seen some of your other abilities."
     Vincie smirked, then came over and kissed me deeply.
     "You know, I've got something for you Dani."
     Vincie reached into one of the hotel drawers and pulled out a black box. He handed it to me.
     "Open it."
     I did. It was a necklace, thin, sparkling silver, an elegant piece.
     "That's 18 carat white gold."
     "Oh Vincie you really shouldn't have."
     "You know how much I care about you right?"
     "I do."
     "Hey Dani?"
     "Have you ever thought about leaving GenCore? Like maybe leaving town, living somewhere else?"
     "I've considered it. Why are you asking Vincie?"
     "Is something on your mind Vincie?"
     Vincie had a serious look in his eyes. I could always tell that his mind was working overtime when he had that look.
     "Come back with me Dani. Leave GenCore. I can get you a job back at Munich Insurance."
     "I can't just leave. I'm up for promotion soon, Vincie. I've got a career here."
     "GenCore is a sinking ship Dani, we both know that. And whatever they're paying you, I can get you twice as much at Munich. Then I won't have to travel so far to see you every time."
     "It's not that simple for me, Vincie. I'm flattered really, but I can't just up and leave. I've got family here. I've got a life here. I guess I'll need to think about it first."
     "Do think about it, Dani."
     "I'll consider it."
     There’s a look of dissatisfaction on Vincie's face. I'd come to know that face so well, all its crevasses and contours. He was handsome for a man in his forties, but the stress of his job had begun prematurely the process of turning his sleek black hair to grey. I sighed. 
It's hard to say when exactly things escalated to this level. When it started one year ago it had been simpler: he'd been a rich overworked exec looking for an attractive young intern whose legs he could get in between and I'd enjoyed the idea of having an older man take me to fancy restaurants and buy me gifts. We'd both had something the other wanted; we’d transacted. But now? Now things were complicated. Feelings were getting involved. It was becoming painfully more obvious with each visit that Vincie was starting to fall for me. And as for me? Well he's intelligent, and charming, and kind. He isn't like the execs I always hear about who treat their women like objects and sleep with everything that moves. He's a decent man. And we know each other; it's more than just physical.
     But how much further can it go than this? What next? We get married, have kids? He's forty-two, he'll want them soon. I'm twenty-three and I've got a whole life to live before I start thinking about children. I want to live, go out there, have fun. I don't want to be some dolled up trophy wife sitting at home looking pretty. What started out as fun had gone too far. It couldn't last much longer than this. Might as well savour it while it does.
     I lifted myself up and put on the necklace, still unclothed.
     "What do you think Vincie?"
     "You're beautiful."
     "You're staring, and I don't think it’s at the necklace."
     Vincie smirked.
     "Do you know what I think?"
     "I think this deal has gotten you stressed out. I think I know a way we can work out that stress."
     "Oh really?"
     I pulled his face close to mine and kissed him deeply.

Narration Four - Antonio Mylar 
Carducci’s - VIP Private Booth
14 April 20XX, 10:22AM

     "I know you love Italian Vinnie. Carducci’s is the best in town. I know the owner actually. He and I used to play golf together back in the day."
     Vinnie listens, adjusting the collar on his grey suit.
     "Wow Anton, I'm spoilt for choice here. What should I go for?"
     "You like spicy?"
     "I can handle it."
     "Take the Arrabiata. Basic, I know, but you can't find better than theirs."
     "Thanks. What are you going to take?"
     "The Carbonara. I'm in an indulgent mood today."
     I call the waiter over, place our order and tell him to get us a bottle of his finest wine. We eat, we drink, we talk, we laugh. Vinnie is a man of a thousand jokes and a thousand stories. He's always good company. And he's a straight arrow. In a business so full of sharks and charlatans, that's hard to come by. It's a pity and a regret of mine that it’s had to come to this. I pour him another glass; the wine flows into the conversation.
     "Anton, I literally cannot stop thinking about that Arrabiata. Hands down the best pasta dish I have ever eaten. You have incredible taste in restaurants."
     I smile. And then I sigh. The time has come.
     "Thank you, Vinnie. But now that our bellies are full, are you ready to talk business?"
     "Well that's what I'm here for Anton. Whenever you're ready."
     "Well, I'm sure you've heard the news. There's no sense denying it to you. GenCore is, in fact, running the risk of experiencing some cash flow difficulties in the near future."
     ‘Cash flow difficulties’. ‘Liquidity problems’. Euphemisms for 'the company is in trouble', which itself is a euphemism for 'GenCore is bankrupt'.
     "I've heard Anton. I've read the reports."
     "That is, of course, only the market's expectation. Here on the inside of GenCore, we're confident that it's only going to be a bump in the road, one that we'll recover from in short order."
     "So what can Munich do to help?"
     What a guy.
     "Well Vinnie, we at GenCore have decided that it would be prudent to increase our level of Business Operation Insurance."
     "I see."
     "Just to cover our bases you understand? In the case that we do run into liquidity problems, we want to be assured that we'll have enough cash on hand to get the business back on track as quickly as possible. It's mostly to appease the investors. You know how they are: the moment they lose the tiniest bit of confidence the market goes into a panic."
     "Of course I know Anton. It's a tough racket. How much are you thinking of increasing it by?"
     "... Double."
     "I see."
     "Just as a precautionary measure you understand?"
     "Say no more Anton. I have full confidence that whatever issues GenCore is having, you and your board are the right people to lead it forward. I'll speak to my manager and we'll get it done. If you can provide me with the documents I need I can have the contract ready to be signed by the end of the day."
     "This is why I like you Vinnie, you work so damn fast."
     "Of course, you know this comes with a substantial hike in your premium right?"
     "Of course, of course."
     "I'll get started on it right away."
     I heaved inwardly in relief. That was easier than I'd expected it to be. Thank God for people like Vinnie, so good-natured, so trusting. Without people like him, people like me would be screwed. The truth was that the writing was on the wall to everyone inside GenCore: we were finished. The only thing left to do was to cash in our insurance, keep the company afloat for six more months and then take what we can and run before the company explodes. A pity that Vinnie had to be involved in this but frankly he's the only one stupid enough to increase our insurance at this point.
     "Hey Vinnie?"
     "Thank you."
     "Any time for you Anton, any time."

Narration Five - Ron Berkley
Munich Insurers – Ron Berkley’s Office
15 April 20XX, 2:05 PM

     "How in the heck did you manage to get it right with old Anton Mylar? He's quite paranoid if I remember correctly."
     "Well it was easy boss. I let him think that he was he one screwing me over. Nobody suspects you when they think they're the smartest person in the room."
     "You're a real shark you know that Vince? ’Vince the Prince'. I can see why they gave you that name."
     "All in a day's work boss."
     Not even two nights ago Vince was on a plane to GenCore and now here he is, sitting front of me wearing the same grey suit he left in, the deal wrapped up only this morning. Impressive, even for someone of his standards.
     Everyone knew that GenCore was screwed. It didn't matter how many public denials or bullshit reports they issued, the finance world gave them six months to live, and the moment they defaulted on their bonds it was over. No sane person would loan them money so their only hope was to beg their insurers to keep them afloat for a bit. And now that the word was out that Munich had been stupid enough to insure them, the market would regain some confidence. Which would make the credit default swaps on GenCore's bonds quite a bit cheaper. What GenCore didn't know was that the contract they'd signed had an exclusion clause: Munich didn't have to pay out the claim if GenCore was guilty of 'financial mismanagement'. And somehow, Vince had gotten of evidence of just that from an insider's look into their financial statements before they’d signed the contract. How he’d managed to get those documents, I still didn’t know.
     But in short: GenCore would go bankrupt and Munich wouldn't be there to rescue them. On the contrary, Munich currently held a fortune in credit default swaps which would be worth millions once GenCore went bankrupt. An elegant trap: offer a drowning man a rope, ask him to pass you his wallet, then drop the rope. 
     "Only someone as shrewd and cunning as you, Vince, could pull something like this off."
     Vince smirked.
     "By the way Vince."
     "Yes, boss?"
     "There was something I wanted to talk to you about."
     "I've heard rumours. The word going around is that you've been dipping your pen in more than one company’s ink."
     "I'm not sure I catch your drift."
     "You've been sleeping around Vince. I hear you've got a girl in GenCore, and another at EuroRe and one more here at Munich. I hear you like them young. And Italian."
     "Look Vince, I don't care what you do with your free time but try to be more discreet about it. My boss Pete was involved in a scandal like this a couple of years back and it wrecked his career. I know you're not married like he was but don't make the same mistake."
     "I'll do that boss."
     "Good. You should consider sticking to one woman at a time, publicly dating maybe. If you're open about it, nobody will care. But as long as it’s a secret, everyone is going to want to find out. And they'll use it against you."
     "I'll consider it. Thanks for the advice."
     "Good man, Vince. Now go on home, you deserve the rest. I'll speak to the bank about those credit swaps."
     "Thanks boss. I'll get you tomorrow."
     Vince left the room. A smart man, a useful one, but also a dangerous one. Vince the Prince would sell out his own mother to turn a profit. And he'd sell me out too. He's up and coming, he's making a name for himself and one of these days he's going to be eyeing my job. Before that day comes, I'm going to have to get rid of Vincent Valbuena.

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