The Moral Hazard (Part 1 of 2)

       Arjun Vivekananda / Thrillers & Crime
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Table of Contents
Authors Note
Eris - Part One
Eris - Part Two
Persephone - Part One
Eris - Part Three
Persephone - Part Two
Eris - Part Four
Persephone - Part Three
Eris - Part Five
Persephone - Part Four
Persephone - Part Five
Eris - Part Six
About The Author

The Moral Hazard
Part I
By Arjun Vivekananda
Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2017 by Arjun Vivekananda

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Author’s note

This story takes place in the fictional city of New Lyonesse in the fictional state of Narragansett. New Lyonesse replaces the city of Providence, Rhode Island while Narragansett state encompasses both Rhode Island and Connecticut. Locations mentioned have real world analogues in order to give the fictional world a more vibrant and realistic feel.

However, this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Eris Lisbeth Benson watched her older sister Persephone tap her pen on her desk. As long as Eris could remember, Persephone had that habit when she was bored. Listening to the Taggart Group’s Chief Operating Officer Lai Zhen's quarterly report was boring for her to bring it back.
“Really fascinating stuff,” Persephone said, yawning a little bit. “Are we done with the bean counting? Can we get to real business?” Persephone picked up her hundred dollar booze glass and shook it in Eris’ direction, the rattling of the melting ice reverberating in the cavernous corner office. “Eris, you’re twenty one now right? Get me a vodka rocks. Make it a double.”
Sitting in her black satin cocktail dress and wide studded leather cuffs, with a fur-lined coat draped over the arm of her chair, Eris could only scowl at the request. “Oh, sorry sis, I’m not nearly as deep in the sauce as you are. So I think I’ll make something you’ll hate so much you’ll just toss it across the room.”
Persephone didn’t flinch. “I’m willing to take that risk.”
“Maybe you should get Yolanda in here to wait on you hand and foot. She’s not bright enough to understand anything that we’re saying anyway.” Eris’ scowl morphed into a smirk. “What? Not all us blondes are as dumb as she is.”
There were a lot of things Eris had always been good at: math, technology, strategy, subterfuge, but she had never developed a skill sharper than her ability to make her oldest sister pissed as all hell. Of course, Persephone was so tense these days that it was almost too easy. Just any mention of her private life and--
Lai stood up and took the glass out of Persephone’s hand. “I’ll get you the drink. And I’ll make it a single. We’re still having a meeting here.” Persephone didn’t give the COO a death glare. More of a terrible maiming glare. Lai didn’t seem to mind. At least not anymore than she seemed to mind that she was forty nine and was answering to a woman half her age. The same woman who was the daughter of her former lover/boss.
Not for the first time, Eris marveled at how the two billion dollar conglomerate was just as screwed up as the Benson family that owned it.
“Whatever,” Persephone said, surrendering the glass. The awkward silence was just starting to settle before she broke it. “Numbers are nice but I want to know what’s going on with all those idiots Dad hired.”
Lai came back to the desk and handed Persephone the glass before pushing away her stylishly cut black hair from her eyes. “If you’re referring to all the executives we have with all those valuable connections then I don’t think you have much to worry about. The whole point is that they’re just there to smooth feathers, open accounts, give us access to people, that kind of thing. What does having you as CEO do to change that?”
Persephone drank half her drink. “Because they don’t respect me like they did Dad. Because they think they’re more important than they are. Because--”
Lai held up a hand to stop Persephone from talking. “Listen, when Victor and I started this company we had our fair share of disrespectful subordinates and they bucked too. Once you wow them with your--”
Persephone brought the glass down on the desk so loudly it made Eris jump a bit. “The memo!” she said. “'The Disney Princess Memo.' You’re not going to sit there and tell me that you haven’t heard about it!”
“I’ve heard about it,” Eris said. “‘What To Do When You Work For Cinderella and Snow White.’ I guess you're Snow White with those brunette locks of yours while I'm Cinderella.” She took the opportunity to flip her back length blonde hair. “They got the hair color right but can you think of a less apt comparison to us than those happy and carefree little bitches?”
“Accuracy isn't the point Eris.” Persephone's grip on her booze glass got tighter. “It’s about these useless assholes thinking of us as ditzy and privileged little girls playing at being the boss in Daddy’s office.”
Well. Eris hated to admit but, on occasion, her big sister actually made a good point. Lai didn’t seem to think about it in those terms, though. “Harmless office banter. Stuff like that circulates all the time. Victor never let it concern him.”
“Yeah Dad wouldn't have done anything to somebody calling him a pretty princess would he?” Persephone said. “Don’t answer that. Just go. I need to talk to Eris. Alone." She gave a flap of her hand at Lai.
“Shorter meeting than usual Persephone? You won’t hear me complain.” Lai stood up. “Call me if you need me this weekend and try not to do anything too wild and crazy while I’m not around will you girls?” Eris didn’t like the tone Lai used or the ghost of a smile across her face. On the one hand Victor had trusted Lai for nearly thirty years. And, without her, there wouldn’t be a Taggart Group.
But that was then and this was now.
Persephone stood up as soon as the door closed and stormed back to the bar to make another drink. “I don’t trust that cunt.”
Eris clucked her tongue. “Good thing we paid for those bug sweeps. You probably don’t want to be caught on tape saying that.”
“Well I’m paying good money to make sure I can say whatever the fuck I want in here. Cunt, slut, whore, bitch, dyke--”
“I don’t need your curriculum vitae. I do need to know what you want to talk to me about.”
“This 'Disney Princess Memo'. Find out who wrote it then tell me. Nobody else, not even Lai.”
That didn’t surprise Eris at all. Getting Lai to go through big hoops for something this inconsequential would be like pulling teeth. Unfortunately, Persephone had an ego that was half the size of New Lyonesse and as fragile as a little crystal statuette.
"What makes you think I can do it?”
Persephone took a sip from the drink as she sat back at her desk, looking much more focused than she had when Lai had been there. “Please. You think I don’t know what you’re doing with all that ‘surplus’ IT budget?”
“If you did then it would mean I’m not using it right.”
Persephone laughed. "Give me some evidence about who did this shit and I can grow that little surplus into that big secretive 'business intelligence' proof of concept you've been asking about since day one."
"Three million for a name? Generous offer. I can't say no but--” Eris’ eyes narrowed. “Why do you want to know about this shit anyway?"
Persephone was studying the bottom of the empty glass. "By the way, don't bother saying hi to that bitch for me when you see her this weekend."
There could have been a dozen women labeled “that bitch” but that venomous tone was only reserved for one. Eris hadn't told Persephone that she was driving out to see their mother this weekend and she didn't like that Persephone knew about it. "If it makes you feel better, the subject of Her Royal Highness Princess Persephone of House Benson never comes up." Eris stood up. "Give me a few days. You'll have your info." She glanced at the empty vodka glass. "And I know you won't listen but it might behoove you to take it easy on the alcohol."
"Just as soon as you take it easy on the amphetamines. Bye Eris."
Shit. Persephone knew that too. Eris was far more annoyed with herself than she was with her sister. It was bad enough when most of her weekend was going to be spent finding the Rogue Memo Writer. Now she also had to find all the holes in her security and plug them. Marvelous.
"Bye Persephone."


Eris knocked on the door of the modest suburban house in eastern Narragansett. She loved getting out of New Lyonesse, even if it was just an hour’s drive to Hartford, but after her last meeting with Persephone this particular trip had enough foreboding to make it less enjoyable.
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