• Ashes to Ashes by Christian Carvajal

    She arrived when my office girl Margie was out to lunch, as if that narrows it down. I welcomed my latest possible client with an enthusiasm I usually reserve for good brandy. “Mr. Wainwright?” she asked, her voice perfect for radio. “I answer to that moniker. Dylan, too,” I said, smiling. I ushered her into the office and gave her the twice over. She had a figure like Beethoven in Braille, and a mug you could use to sell lipstick. Helen of Troy would’ve asked for her autograph. I should’ve known she was trouble before her rump left that valentine-shaped impression in my office chair. She wore black—-short black dress,…

  • Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? By Christian Carvajal

    The Ninjas were just sitting down when President Mendoza arrived, her Secretary of State in anxious tow. I was there by virtue of being one of the handful of American linguists capable of reproducing the apical velar stops, retroflex implosives, and tonal distinctions of our visitors’ formal dialect. Yes, the Ninjas can sit, though it stretches their pelvic joints backward in a curve that strikes unprepared observers as obscene. We call them Ninjas or Keplings partly because their actual name for themselves contains two lateral trills, and good luck with that. It’s also worth noting that Keplan Tradespeak uses nominative diacritics, so if you don’t know how to incorporate those,…

  • Silver by Christian Carvajal

    In those days, the year of our Lord Jesus Christ one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, Paris was a city abuzz with death. It buzzed as a topic of conversation: in the private apartments of His Majesty King Louis XVI at Versailles; in the salons of nobles (who fretted, too, about the aroma of revolution in the air); and in taverns, soon to be called bistrots, in which lesser men shouted and sang around mouthfuls of veal. It buzzed in the clouds of pernicious insects thickening the air over churchyard cemeteries. And it buzzed in the streets, as soldiers, executioners, and laborers made use of what few livres they earned,…

  • Gnosis by Christian Carvajal

    I earn an exceptional living; let’s just leave it at that. I owe it to one basic principle: there’s no such fucking thing as a secret. Secret Coke formula? Horseshit. Sure, there’s an eyes-only folder in some safe in Atlanta, but that formula’s used every day to make millions of bottles and send them all over the world. Any chemist worth his sodium chloride could find the secret formula in one dull afternoon. Secret Original Recipe from KFC? It’s salt, black pepper, and MSG, period. You say “what about eleven herbs and spices!” I say, “When’s the last time you heard that phrase in a commercial?” There may’ve been eleven…

  • Jitters by Christian Carvajal

    Brad Slayton was one of those middle-management tool chests who treat every business lunch with a woman like it was a date, and every date like a business transaction. From where I sat, he was there to debrief me on the Tokyo deal, which, to his credit, he locked down in record time. He seemed convinced it was more about waging a scorched-earth assault on a Bedrock-sized rib eye and flagon of Lagavulin sixteen-year. Between, often during, red mouthfuls of cow, he was talking to me, his direct superior at Cheswick Financial Group, like I was a first-week receptionist on Mad Men. “The thing about Tokyo,” he declared, “is it’s…