I was not surprised to see Luis was the first one up the next morning. I looked up at him from the papers I was going over. I nodded, and he waved at me as he headed for the kitchen in the hunt for coffee. Soon after, he came back and sat next to me, and he peeked into the stacks of papers I had in front of me with all the grace of a puppy that needs walking.
“Any progress in choosing the next of the Two-Threes, sir? I will need to put the plan in motion soon if we are to meet the necessary deadlines.”
I let out a small sigh and pinched the bridge of my nose in a meager attempt to settle my thoughts. I had come across something in the late hours of the night when everyone was sleeping. No matter how deep I delved into the information, there was something that bothered me. Of course, at the moment, I could not remember what it was exactly.
I looked at Luis and nodded. “I have, and I have not. Overnight I narrowed it down to two options, but now I do not remember the reasons why. I saw some sort of a link between the two, so I kept them in.”
Luis leaned in to see which two of the companies remained and nodded. “You might as well flip a coin on these two. They both use the same low-class standards when it comes to wine production. It is as if they are both purposely undermining the whole process you have been trying to teach others for millennia.”
That comment made me sit up straight. “Luis, you are a genie! I’ve been looking at both these companies, and I can’t choose because they are both making the same exact offenses!”
“Genie, sir? Don’t you mean genius?”
“Shut up, you old goat! Now pay attention…”
With that, I went on full presentation mode. Dion style. I yelled, and flailed my arms, and stuttered, and sputtered, and got lost in my own thought process, and repeated myself ad nauseam. The idea I had forgotten that dawned on me overnight was that the coincidence of two companies making the same strategic decisions in a mirroring timeline was too rare to be just a coincidence. Both companies seemed to be following the same business plan as enacted by the same source. I think I was on my seventh attempt at saying that there seems to be a connection between the companies in all new words, when Luis put both hands up in a show of surrender.
“I get it! I get it! So there has to be a connection between the two companies because of how they are operating. I will investigate commonalities and get back to you. For the present, sir, have you chosen one of the two?”
“Yes…. The one on the left.”
“Which left, sir? Yours or mine?”
“Don’t be a smartass, Luis. You are too smart for that.”
Luis picked up the files and adjusted all the papers within, reading the company profile. “Nouvelles Règles. Established in 2000 as a new millennium choice for wine drinkers. The company is owned by a handful of investment groups that see profits as the bottom line. It is operated by a CEO by the name of Deborah Fleming. If I remember correctly, she runs the vineyard as a business with no prior knowledge of wine, other than—in her own words, drinking them while I lived in France for a while. Her father bought her the vineyard because she had failed at every other business venture she had taken a part in.”
“Yes, and it is time for Debbie to fail one more time. Involve the people to get it done. You know what to do, yes?”
“I do, sir. It will take a few days extra if you want me to protect the people like we…”
“Of course, you protect the people! Always!”
“As you wish, sir. I will pay all the undocumented workers they have been exploiting, a year’s worth of wages not to go back there. At the same time, the evidence of the company’s shady practices and a lot of other damning documents will be anonymously released to the authorities, the news, and all customers they supply.”
“Make it three years. Those poor people deserve so much more. And make sure to pay any others they have worked with in the past. If anyone deserves some money out of this, they do.”
“I agree, sir. Hopefully, once the fallout from the company’s ugly dealings goes public, we’ll be able to make up for the financial hit by swooping in and buying them out when they’re on their back.”
“You know I don’t care about money, but if you can make the responsible people hurt, make it happen.”
Luis cleared his throat a bit and said in a loud voice, “It will be done so, Mega Kyrie!”
I groaned and waved him off with a look. “I swear, you sound just like Shirley Temple when you say that. Just stop! I am going to take a long shower. We can plan where we want to concentrate our efforts during the convention. After that, I want to get some rest before blessing the vines of La Dolce Vita’s tonight. Make the calls you need to make.”
After my shower, I walked back in to find a full dining room. Luis had thrown his whole team at the task at hand. I could not make out the details of the half a dozen conversations, but I could tell half the team was already on phones talking to different news outlets. I was giddy with joy and did a little hop and dance as I walked to the table.
As soon as I grabbed the main file, I heard a gasp, and then a scream, followed by another scream. I looked around, trying to spot the danger, but did not see anything. Could it be that Mourgo popped up out of nowhere again and scared people off? That is when I heard Luis’ voice, high pitched and cracking even more than usual.
“Oh, for goodness sakes, master! Again!?”
I turned back to him, shrugging my shoulders. “Again, what? What am I missing here, Luis?”
“What you are missing, sir…” Luis coughed and heaved a deep sigh, his face red and his eyes downcast. “What you are missing is your clothes. Again. They are laid out on the bed in your room.”
I looked down and saw that I was indeed naked. I shrugged again. “I guess I did forget. Thank you, Luis.” With that, I turned and headed back to the bedroom, but not before catching the gazes of the three women and two men that were getting some really good looks and winking at them.
Back in the room I had picked out, I saw the clothes folded neatly on the bed. I never did understand why most mortals shy away from a naked body. Everyone was born naked, after all. I slowly got dressed and made my way back to a handful of annoyed glances and an equal amount of blushing faces.
“Alright. I am back, and I am clothed, so catch me up.” I reached for a chair and sat down, while checking to make sure I had remembered my zipper as well. To their credit, everyone chuckled, and the tension melted right away. Soon, we all returned to the full swing of the Master Plan, talking over each other, writing notes, and commenting on numbers and strategy. I tried to retain as much as I could, but I was not worried about the details. I knew Luis and his team had all the angles covered.
It was early evening when I was finally caught up, and it was time to head out to Antonio’s to bless their vines. I knew that technically Fran now ran the business, but I could not help myself. Antonio’s personality and demeanor had touched me. I could tell in his heart, the vineyard was like another child to him. Part of me wanted him present so he could see his passion bear fruit, but I had sent word ahead of time that I wanted the place to myself.
When we got to La Dolce Vita, I got out and told the driver to wait in the car. I slowly made my way deeper into the vineyard. The spacing between the vines was following a more modern method. It was further apart than in olden days, allowing space for access to machinery. I placed a hand on the first trunk and closed my eyes, concentrating and reaching out with my senses.
How do I explain something this personal to someone that has never been exposed to it before in their life? The blessing is a way of communing on a very base level. People tend to forget common knowledge, and they need to be reminded that plants are indeed living beings. When I reach out to a plant, and of course, a vine, I communicate with it. We do not speak in words, but in feelings, thoughts, and mental images. The healthier the vine, the more exhilarating the experience. The more damaged, the more draining.
Antonio’s vines were very loved and cared for, and they knew it. I got flickering images of kids laughing and playing, warm hands caressing the vine and holding the grape, music, humming, and an overall sense of wonder. There were a few flickers of unrest here and there, stemming from not getting the right angle of light or being colder than they should be on those dry winter nights. Nothing that could not be easily fixed with attention directed to the right place.
Just as I reached out and took, I also reached in and gave. In my own way, I let the vines know there would be a few changes, but they would be for the better. I showed them that from then forward, they were blessed and would be loved and cared for. I would help them rise, expand, and make the best grapes possible to give their gift to the masses. I sent out all my love, care, and protection to them. The Beatles had it right when they said love is all you need.
When I walked away from the vines, I felt like I was floating. There was nothing like getting in touch with something you love dearly, and that loves you back. Especially when the love is on that prime, natural, and base level. I got in the car and as we headed back, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. My thoughts had trailed from the vines to Amphitrite. I could not shake the feeling of anticipation at seeing her again, mixed with that of dread for the danger she so willingly ran toward. I wanted to reach out to her, but I knew I could not reach her where she was, much less talk to her on the phone.
The handful of times I had dialed her number, I got her assistant saying she had not contacted them yet. With a sigh, I put my phone away and closed my eyes. I had to trust in the process and give it time. We were both immortal, we had both come back to the family fold at pretty much the same time, and we both had bigger fish to fry. I chuckled to myself as I pictured Amphitrite’s face frowning at the thought of frying fish, and my chuckle turned into a roaring laugh. The driver knew better than to ask, so he just gave me a look and kept driving.When I got back, Luis was waiting for me with another update. The news outlets were already having a field day with the information that was leaked about Nouvelles Règles. There was already talk that most of the investors were getting ready to pull out of their contracts. Apparently, tomorrow would be a free day for me. The offer for the buyout would be made through the right channels, and I did not need to be present for that. I let others deal with the money part. I was euphoric and danced a little jig when I heard the news. The Master Plan had indeed been so masterfully masterful after all. Was there ever any doubt?