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A beautifully strange and odd land.

"Mariko recruited me not long after that meeting in Barbara's office where she assigned us numbers. You know, the one where she basically told me to shut the fuck up and stay out of her sight or else. I got a pickup order from that room in the east wing about a week or so after that. The Hiromoto tech was there and handed me the phone with Mariko on the other end. I hated Barbara so much that she didn't need to twist my arm much."

"So does Barbara have security footage to prove that you took it?" I asked.

Kelly shook her head. "No, I was careful about that. After I handed it off to the Hiromoto tech I talked to Mariko about it on the phone. Barbara has the recording of that." God, they have everything on us from those phone calls with Mariko, I thought to myself. We're so screwed.

"She told me you signed a new contract today. Is that true?" I asked her.

"Yeah. The bitch called me into her office first thing this morning and played the recording. I had no choice. It's for less than half the money I'm making now and with no expiration date. I figure I'm stuck working as a mailgirl now until the statute of limitations runs out on the VR theft."

"How long is that?"

Kelly shrugged. "Who the hell knows? Quite a few years, I'm sure."

Barbara really did have us dead to rights, I thought to myself despondently. I couldn't see any way out of this.

"I'm afraid I have some bad news for you," I said turning to Anna. "Barbara knows about you and Ben."

"What?" Anna replied in shock, the color draining from her face. "How?"

"Barbara says she set the whole thing up, supposedly to help you move on from me. She claims Ben doesn't know anything about it and she doesn't care if you two hook up as long you're discreet about it."

"And you believe her?"

"God no, Anna. I don't believe anything that comes out of her mouth anymore. I'd stay the hell away from Ben if I were you until your contract is up."

"But that's three months!" Anna protested. "And you'll be moving in with Barbara so I won't even have you!"

"Yeah, it's three months, Anna. So what? What the hell do you have to complain about? Kelly and I are going to be stuck in this shit show for years!" That came out much more harshly than I intended but I guess my nerves were frayed from everything that had happened that day. I glanced over at Diana who had a look of wide-eyed horror on her face as she listened to all of this.

"Can I ask a stupid question?" Diana said. "Who the hell are Hiromoto and Mariko?"

I filled her in on Hiromoto's background and told her the story of the trip Kelly and I had made to his headquarters in Tokyo. I even told her the story about watching him whip Mariko on the 14th floor. This was also the first time that Kelly and Anna had heard it.

Diana's eyes were the size of saucers by the time I finished. "Jesus, what the hell have I gotten myself into here?" she said. "Blackmail, whippings, Japanese gangsters, corporate espionage? What the fuck, Danica? I'm going to call my agent tonight and see if I can get out of this!"

"I wouldn't if I were you," I told her. "You really don't want to screw with Barbara. She'll eat you and your agent for breakfast. Just do the movie and then get the hell out."

"You also promised to keep your fucking mouth shut about what you heard here tonight," Kelly warned her. "Did you sign a contract with Barbara?" Diana nodded. "Well then you might want to take another look at the fine print in it, Bixby girl. You'll want to make sure you really can leave after the movie." A look of panic came across Diana's face as Kelly spoke.

It was Anna's turn to speak up. "We've got to do something," she said to me. "You and Kelly should go to the media or the police or something and tell them what's going on!"

"The media?" Kelly snorted derisively.

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