Yulga is finishing her third cup of coffee in an hour, but by the jitter in her hands, it must be the fiftieth today. Her prospectus is curled and worn as she fiddles nervously, sunken eyes darting left and right, brittle skin almost creaking with the action. Even her leather bodice seems emptier than it should be.
“All right,” sighs Finn, peering out the windows onto Wall Street. “We’re a bit behind the ball here, but we can catch up, yeah? The important thing is that you called.”
Yulga looks like she’s going to cry.
“Vhat can vee do?” she whimpers. “Eez no time to fix! Festeeval of Dead Souls eez tomorrow!”
Finn turns, points at the screen to his side, traces the graph along, down, and down. Taps it at the end.
“The problem isn’t the stock,” he says.
“No, the problem isn’t the stock. The problem is the approach. Anyone can be a Black Widow, Yulga. But not everyone can do it with panache.”
“You know… that je ne sais quoi that says to your market: ‘Those other Black Widows are playing at a game they don’t understand.’ You understand?”
“What makes a great Black Widow? Is it the clothes? The hair? The thick eye shadow? No. No it’s not. It’s…”
“Eating zee men?”
“Eating the men, exactly! I’ve looked through all your marketing materials, and I haven’t seen that mentioned once!”
“Zey sought it vould scare people avay.”
“Who are ‘they’? Marketing folks, yeah? You can’t trust marketing folks. They specialize in making you beautiful, loveable, digestible. Thing is, Yulga, you don’t want to be digestible. You want to be doing the digesting yourself. From the looks of it, Yulga, you haven’t done much digesting at all. Have you?”
“Not zo much,” she says, flipping through the prospectus slowly, avoiding eye contact. Finn sits across from her, leans onto the boardroom table.
“What’s your favourite product this season? If you had to pick just one, what’d it be?”
She turns to the row of posters along the wall, each touting Black Widow brand delicacies. Her eyes settle on the first one in the row.
“Zee tiramisu,” she says.
“Excellent. Excellent choice. Now how do you advertise it? You see? You say ‘Old Country Delicious,’ but what does that mean? What Old Country? Everyone’s got that. It’s boring. It’s like organic food. You need something with punch. So how about this: ‘Black Widow Tiramisu: Dangerously Delicious.’”
Yulga isn’t sure.
“And then,” Finn continues, “You put a splatter of strawberry sauce down the centre of the cake, just to seal the deal. You can see it, yeah?”
Yulga nods slowly.
“Eez not bad idea,” she says. “But von’t zat scare customers avay?”
“The ones you scare, you don’t want to keep. Look: I specialize in helping people like you make the most of what you are. I won’t tell you to water yourself down. There are people out there that want full strength vodka, and they’re not impressed by anything less. Be that vodka, Yulga. Be it.”
She looks down at the prospectus again.
“But investors vant zeir money und profits…” she says.
“Speaking of investors… have you shacked up with any of them yet? Have you considered that angle?”
“Eez not so easy. Only one of zem eez man.”
“It’s the twenty-first century, darling. You’ve got to catch up. Maybe you should consider one of the women instead. A bisexual Black Widow could be your angle.”
“Dazelda from Romania does zat, many years now.”
“Yes, but she only eats old women. And frankly Dazelda has a drinking problem. She might not even realize what she’s doing.”
“But vomen are so… thin…”
“Darling, this is America. Look around.”
He winks at the camera. How can someone so successful be so obtuse?
“But if I eat zee investor,” she says, checking her blood-red nails. “Zen zee rest of zee investors vill vant to get avay, yes?”
“No, Yulga. Small picture. Small picture. You eat one of the investors, and then you tell the others to double their money or you’ll spend the night. Instant liquidity. Easy as pie, and it’s just doing what you do best.”
She nods. The colour is coming back to her cheeks. She’s watching Finn with hungry eyes, reaching across the table and taking his hand in hers.
“You are very kind,” she says. “And strong…”
He squeezes her hand back and she shudders with pleasure. He smiles, nods.
“My pleasure. Seriously. I had one of your cakes on the plane, and it was life-affirming. Honestly. Even if you had no money, Yulga, I’d do it for the food. You have a gift.”
Her irises have gone black, and there’s sweat on her heaving, flushed chest. She smiles coyly, dancing fingers along Finn’s hand, licks her lips.
“You are too kind,” she says with a lush, deep voice.
“I can see you’ve got the spirit back already,” he smiles. “The spark’s back, yeah? You know where you’re going?”
The room is so warm. Yulga leans across the table, nose touching Finn’s palm so slightly, but we all feel it like a shockwave.
“I do,” she purrs.
“Good,” Finn grins. “You take that direction, that energy, that pure, unbridled sexuality, and you wrap it in chocolate, and that—”
“— is your fantasy?” she breathes.
“— is your next quarter profits. Honestly, how do you think Apple does it? iPhones? Vampiric bloodlust.”
Her hand runs down his chest as we move in closer. We have to move in closer. We need to see…
“Tell me more…” she whispers to his heart.
There’s a knock at the door. I want to scream at them to go away.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” says Yulga’s assistant, a young guy in a over-sized suit and a pair of sneakers. “Trey wanted me to let you know the sale went through. You’re divested.”
He leaves and Yulga continues caressing Finn, who seems oddly out of the moment.
“Divested what?” he asks.
“Eez nothing,” she groans, brushing her hand on his cheek.
“Divested your stock?” he asks.
“Yes,” she says. “To pay for beautiful bedroom vhere ve can do vonderful zings together…”
Finn takes her hand in his, squints.
“How are you paying me again?” he asks.
“From share of profits,” she says and it’s like the dirtiest talk I can imagine. We can’t get close enough. We need to get rid of this camera…
Finn frowns at her, straight into her gorgeous, black eyes. She’s panting, razor teeth desperately calling him in. Calling him close. Calling me close.
“I don’t work on promises,” he says. “What else do you have?”
She laughs, licks her lips.
“Vhat else do you vant…?”
He sighs, shakes his head, and takes a step back as she lunges for his chest with gutting claws. She topples forwards, off the table, onto the floor. There’s a crack and a loud shriek, but Finn doesn’t pause. He grabs me by the arm and pulls me towards the door.
Yulga gets back to her feet, nose gushing blood, and it’s somehow so erotic I can’t stand to be apart from—
“You know what?” Finn says, turning suddenly. “I told you on the phone: don’t panic. Don’t do anything. Wait till I get here. I took me five hours, Yulga. Five hours. And you can’t wait that long?”
“I vill make you so happy…” she moans.
“Happy?” Finn laughs. “You can’t bake simple desserts, you tart. You’re not making anyone happy.”
“But you said you liked my sveets!” she pleads.
“Oh that was just for show. You know why your stock is tanking? Your tiramisu tastes like liver and kidneys. And not even good ones. Do yourself a favour: hire a patissier and try not to eat him.”
We hear her wailing all the way down the hall. It broke my heart. Thankfully, not literally.