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The Present, Pulopolis:
I sit in the back seat of the limousine, facing Harvey. He is wearing a white suit and is sipping from a martini glass. He has as dark of skin as you can have while still being called white, and has a thin moustache that runs by the sides of his mouth to meet up with his goatee. He is chatting on his cell phone with his father, Anthony Farleone, Pulopolis' biggest crime boss. The conversation seems typically one-sided, as Harvey says very little. I can't make out any words, but it's clear that Anthony is yelling angrily on the other end. Finally, Harvey tells his father goodbye and hangs up. He rubs his forehead irritably and downs the martini like a shot. He groans and smiles painfully at me.
"Business, Mark," he says distractedly. "It's always business with that man. Apparently that dog fighting ring that this Black Enigma character broke up last week wasn't one of his gigs, it was some new crime syndicate from out of town. Now they think that the Black Enigma was working for the Farleones and they've been hitting a bunch of our operations in retaliation."
"Well that worked even better than we hoped," I reply contentedly.
"No kidding. Nice work, Mark. This does present a problem going forward, however."
"We have two choices. Option one, we keep doing what we're doing, taking down all crime, without exception. Unfortunately, the new guys realize you weren't working for my dad, and both of them come after you. Our other choice is to keep fighting only the new guys and keep up this masquerade of working for the Farleones. That works in the short term, but it ends up creating large scale gang war and eventually, whoever wins ends up filling the role of both syndicates, creating one that's as large as both combined."
"No good options there," I say as I scratch my chin.
"So, who are these new guys?"
"Good question. No one really knows." Harvey pours himself a glass of red wine. "We know there are multiple heads, and they are recently arrived from outside the city. That's about all we know. That's why dear-old-dad was so furious on the phone just now. He's used to knowing everything. But these guys are very well hidden."
"Great," I sigh, "That makes this much easier."
"Well, don't stress too much, because we're here." Harvey motions outside as the limo slows gently to a stop. a young man dressed formally and wearing a red feathered mask open the door and held it as Harvey and I climb out. I motion to the driver in the limo and he drives off.
"Where is 'here', exactly, Harvey?" I ask him as I look around. We're at a large Victorian-style mansion, and expensively dressed people were exiting their flashy cars and walking up the wide steps to the enormous open doorway.
"I didn't tell you?" Harvey says in mock surprise, knowing full well that he hadn't. "The mayor is throwing a masquerade ball for charity. Here, put this on."
Out of his suit pocket, Harvey pulls a black mask that was decorated with feathers and curving flourishes. I put it on and look at him. He's wearing a white mask that curves down over his nose as if it were a beak.
"This is absurd," I tell him.
"Anything but," Harvey retorts with a wink "With people like this, a masquerade is the only place where they are being truly honest with themselves."