8 min read

The Nice Job Award

This is probably one of the hornier chapters.

Previously: We’re still stuck in the past, where the sisters have launched their own business, providing a suite of dangerous and adventurous services. After failing spectacularly for a few months, they finally get a lucrative job: stealing some kind of mystical scimitar from some guy named Kiepper Frico.

— 38 —

It didn’t take long for the sisters to track down the address of this Kiepper Frico. The Operator coughed it up in exchange for a coupon good for one (1) free back rub. Little bungalow over in Threnody, near the petting pool.

They did a stakeout which just meant sitting on a bench across the street and eating the most expensive meal they’d had in years—double lobster cones—bought with the influx of cash they hadn’t received yet.

Around eight in the morning their guy came out and headed up to the streetcar. Mina had been developing a technique to help her a) remember every person she saw, and b) instantly create a psychological profile for that person, based on nothing but her gut (and, frankly, some unkind stereotypes). Then she would file that away in her head for future reference.

(Some use what’s called a memory palace, but Mina’s method of loci might be more accurately called a memory double album, i.e., a collection of songs she can drop the needle on at whim, finding just the right mnemonic snippet when she needs it.)

(Bat calls hers a mental dossier but really it’s more like a mental junk drawer. She knows what she needs is in there somewhere but it takes forever to find so she usually ends up slamming it shut in frustration.)

Mina eyed the guy and used her technique: “Kiepper Frico. Black hair. Five eight. Shirtsleeves. Briefcase. Too-fast walk.” Then she made up the rest: “Thirty-six. Unmarried. Lonesome. Quick to anger. Talks a lot. Drinks. Jerks it to pictures of fully clothed women in catalogs.”

“You know what?” Bat said. “Your little mind games say more about you than about him.”

“You saying that says more about you than it says about me.”

They broke into his house no problem. Nice place, smelled like lemon and leather. Three radios were blaring three stations in three rooms. Some catalogs were stacked on the kitchen counter but Bat flipped them face down before Mina could see them.

They did a solid C+ search but no sign of an eternal sword of legend so they shifted to Plan B: tapping his phone with a ridiculously long cable that Bat ran under a rug, through a vent, out into the backyard, and over to a little crawlspace under his back porch.

“You going to camp out and eavesdrop like a freaky voyeur?” Mina said.

Bat rubbed her hands together. “Gonna make a whole night of it.”


You ew.”

As darkness fell, Bat got cozy in the crawlspace with her sleeping bag and earphone and tape recorder and three giant pretzels. She was a freaky voyeur, she had to admit. Always had a taste for spying on what people did when they thought they were alone. It didn’t even matter if what they were doing was grindingly dull, just as long as she wasn’t supposed to be seeing it.

And, for a while, grindingly dull was indeed what she got. The first night, Kiepper Frico only made two calls, one to a hot turkey delivery service and one to someone named Fireplace Dan. You’d think Fireplace Dan would be an interesting character but he wasn’t, just a pal who borrowed Kiepper’s blender. There wasn’t even a cliffhanger—Fireplace Dan agreed to return the blender the next day.

Fourth night, though, jackpot. A call with a husky-voiced man who made small talk for a few minutes, then abruptly changed the subject:

“So I was thinking we should revisit the list of places we want to make love. I feel like it could use some refinement.”

Bat snapped to attention so hard she sprained her neck. Soon enough, she sussed that the man was a counselor from White Clinic, the local bordello franchise. She just about perished with excitement.

She transcribed the relevant section for Mina’s files, adding her own annotations where necessary:

CALLER 9. OK, that’s a good one. Where else?

KIEPPER FRICO. Do you know of sensory deprivation pod at Heliopause?

C9. Of course. Jotting that down.

KF. Also, in northern arcade there is a shack where they serve cob-corn on stick.

C9. Cob-corn? (laughs)

KF. Yes, on stick. We could boff on roof.

(Batya: !)

C9. Ehh, sounds uncomfortable. I’ll add it but it’s getting an asterisk.

KF. What of the crawlspace under my porch?

(Batya: !!!)

C9. Boring. How about your dead grandmother’s bedroom?

(Batya: !?)

KF: I decline this idea.

C9. (laughs) I just want to expand your—you know, Kip, it doesn’t even have to be a real place. What’s a good made-up place, uh…

KF: What if a…a samurai room.

C9. What’s that?

KF. I do not know. A place of relaxation for samurai? After a gruesome battle. Rice paper. Warm plum wine.

C9. That’s more like it! OK what else. What’s someplace repellent. Ooh, what would be the worst place at your work. The pasture? Oh I know, the room with the milking machines.

KF. I have been wanting to speak to you of this.

C9. Milking me like one of your cows?

(Batya: …)

KF. No, adding my office to list.

C9. You said Folly was…let’s see… (sound of pages turning) “Not conducive to arousal.”

KF. I wish to unsay that. I have…I recently inherited something that may add an element of spice. To our encounters.

C9. Inherited? I hope it’s not communicable.

(Batya: I hope it’s a sword!)

KF. It is an ancient weapon. It is…exceptionally deadly.

(Batya: HELL YES)

KF. Scimitar that belonged to my father. It killed him. Now it is mine.

C9. Feel like you’re skipping some important parts of that story, Kip.

KF. I…it’s just that it’s so… (unintelligible) I apologize to you, Mason. I know I promised to be more…effusive.

MASON. Maybe it’s for the best. It all sounds a little morbid.

(Batya: Brother, you’re the one who wants to bone on dead Nana’s quilt.)

KF. I shall try to explain. This sword, it has…reinvigorated me? I finally appreciate the preciousness of life. The weapon throbs with power. It was forged to cut, and is impatient when it cannot. Do you understand? It calls to me, it demands that I wield it. It says I must fulfill its destiny. The voice of the weapon is…is unnerving. It troubles me in a fashion that makes me feel…lively.

MASON. Lively’s good. And you keep it in your office?

KF. Yes.

MASON. And you want to…fuck on it?

KF. I want to fuck near it. It is very sharp.

The sisters reconvened at their narrow office and enjoyed another meal they could not afford (shaved winter truffles with opal fig jam). Bat read her transcript to Mina, performing the parts in southern accents for some reason.

“Kip sounds loopy,” Mina said. “Sword’s got in his head. Maybe he’s trying to distract his thoughts with all those radios.”

“Let’s do him a favor and get it out of his life,” Bat said.

“Just what I was thinking,” Mina said, then clapped her hands thrice. “OK team, gather around.”

Bat, sitting across from her at their wobbly card table, gently pat her hand. “We’re all here. The whole team is present.”

“Great, because I’d like to announce this week’s winner of the Nice Job Award. In a stunning upset, it is not me, who has won it for the past seventeen weeks.”

Bat slapped her hands against her cheeks and shrieked.

“Yes, for her unwavering dedication to snooping on private sex calls, going above and beyond—too beyond, really—this one goes to…Batya Hull.” She handed Bat the tiny plastic trophy she’d shoplifted from Swampy’s Doubloon Emporium. “Nice job.”

“You’re never getting this back,” Bat said, snatching it away. “And this is good timing because now that I got physical proof of my nice job, there’s something I’m gonna do.”

“And what’s that.”

“I’m gonna plan this sword caper.”


“I’ll be masterminding this one.”

“What you’re saying doesn’t make sense.”

“I got Nice Job and I’m gonna be in charge.”

“Batya,” Mina said, smiling a non-smile. “We have a very simple division of labor in this organization—”

“Yeah, you tell me the plan and I do the plan. That’s not how it’s gonna go this time.”

“Really. I’m curious how exactly it is going to go.”

“OK. What do we know and not know. We know he keeps the sword at his office. He works on some farm.”

“It’s not a farm, have you ever seen a farm around here? Read your transcript.”

“I read it like three times.”

“It’s Folly.”

“You’re folly.”

“Folly Dairy.”

Folly Dairy: For over 45 years (46 years), this family-owned business has been gently squeezing the plump and healthy udders of its delighted cows to bring Fort Hook the rich, delicious flavor it so desperately craves. Whole milks, hefty creams, fat curds, and decadent dips delivered right to your door, no questions asked! And for the crème de la crème, ask about our special premium Golden Milk—a Folly exclusive!

Bat perked up. “Oh we used to chug Folly milk! It gave me the strong bones I still have in my skeleton today.”

“Didn’t keep your teeth from getting knocked out.”

Bat pursed her lips, still a little self-conscious about that. “Teeth ain’t bones. Anyway I like my fake ones better.”

“Me too. So, Folly isn’t exactly a friendly spot but if we—”

“Why isn’t it friendly? It’s got a very friendly jingle. Good moo-orning it’s—

“They don’t let people just waltz in there.”

“Why not?”

“Because Donna’s there.”





Bat took a long slow breath. “Donna the cartoon cow with the little hat that sings the jingle on the TV.”

“Right. The mascot’s based on the real Donna.”

“Donna the Magic Cow is real?

“Yes! Why do I know this and you don’t? Donna produces the golden formula. Which is why they’ve got that dairy locked down tight.”

Bat shook her head, trying to adapt to this new reality. “OK. Good intel, thank you. I like a challenge when it comes to plan-making.”

Mina sighed. “Just let it go, will you. I’ve got a plan percolating that’ll be nice and simple and I think you’ll really enjoy it.”

“I won’t really enjoy it because it’s not happening. Mine is happening. Or else.”

“Or else what.”

“Or else you do this one yourself. And all the ones after it.”

They both sat back in their chairs and crossed their arms. Mina got mad that they made the exact same move at the exact same time, so she uncrossed her arms and leaned forward and pointed her finger. “Let me get this straight. You decide now is the time to throw ultimatums around? On this job? The two thousand job? This is the job, Bat. This will make us. It needs to be flawless. There is no room for error. Which is why my plan is very clean, very—”

“Sounds great, let’s save it for some other sword heist. This one is mine.”

“But why.”

“Because,” Bat said. “This is the job.”

Mina’s glare tore the skin off Bat’s calcium-rich skeleton and skyhook’d it into the toilet. Bat didn’t care.

“All right,” Mina said. “Boss.”


This has been Chapter 38 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

Next upA Writhing Crystal Cobra