All the King’s Queens – Chapter 5: Meet and Greet

No matter how many hundreds of times Dylan has invited a female bodybuilder over to his home, he always gets butterflies in the stomach right before she arrives.

For the first time ever, he’s hosting three beautiful ladies all at once, which only adds layers upon layers to his current state of anxiety.

Before becoming a social pariah, Dylan frequently hosted dinner parties with high-level Perseus Analytics executives, lawmakers, media personalities, celebrities, athletes, and friends (the ones who didn’t object to his work with the U.S. military and government). But since then, these kinds of gatherings have become few and far between. In his estimation, which Lawrence confirmed recently, his last dinner party was more than a year ago. He was celebrating his older brother’s 40th birthday party with nearly three dozen guests – his parents and three surviving grandparents among them. Nothing too crazy happened (he comes from a Japanese-American family, so the bar for “craziness” is set pretty low) and it was a nice reminder of a time when life seemed normal. For Dylan, those days are getting further and further away. There was no talk about his past scandals, dead civilians in the Middle Eastern, or controversial government contracts. It was great.

Right now, Dylan is pacing around his living room, pretending to be looking at a picture book sitting on the coffee table. The photographs of boathouses in Maine, beaches in the Florida Keys, and horse stables in Utah are pretty to look at – but he’s not interested in them at the moment. Dylan estimates he’s burned at least 500 calories just pacing back and forth. Perhaps this should be the start of a new workout routine.

For security reasons, non-employees aren’t allowed to bypass the front gate without requesting access. There’s a callbox right outside the gate that visitors can use to communicate to someone on the inside. There are transistor radios strategically placed throughout the house, with a security room located on the second floor. This makes it easy for Dylan or Lawrence to speak to and let in visitors. Once the gate has been opened, they can go park on the driveway. Lawrence, Henry, and Joey have their own keycards so that they can come and go as they please. Uber/Lyft and taxicab drivers must instead drop off their passengers at a nearby public park (a dog park that’s mostly used for pooping and scooping purposes) and either walk up to the gate to request permission to enter or wait for Lawrence to personally escort them to the house. It’s rather bothersome when a large number of guests come over, but that’s the way it is. Being a billionaire has its drawbacks (in addition to a few perks). The dog park runs along several blocks of 43rd Avenue, with Dylan’s home located at the end of Winchester Drive.

“I just got a text from Miss Wright. Her driver is about a mile away from here. I’ll pick her up shortly,” Lawrence informs his boss. Still pacing around the living room, Dylan turns toward his loyal butler and smiles.

“Thanks Lawrence. I’m guessing Monique shouldn’t be too far behind,” Dylan says. “We’re expecting Peggy to be the last to arrive, yes?”

“That is correct, sir. She’s estimated to arrive shortly before dinner.” Lawrence knows his boss is nervous as hell. It’s obvious to anyone observing his behavior. The butler usually ignores this and pretends like everything is normal. He hopes this sense of “normalcy” will help put Mr. Tanaka’s mind at ease.

“Great. Thanks. Go ahead and wait for Melanie to arrive.” With that, Lawrence turns around and walks to the garage. Dylan finally sits down to calm his nerves. He doesn’t know why, but he feels an extra amount of anxiety at the moment. Which is perplexing, considering how excited he should be feeling instead. He’s about to spend quality time with three of the most beautiful women he’s ever met. This opportunity doesn’t present itself all the time. Perhaps that’s why he’s feeling so anxious.

He looks at the living room liquor cabinet, eyeing an unopened bottle of Glenlivet 25.

“Is it too early to drink?” Dylan asks himself. He looks at his watch. The time is 1:38 p.m. A single drop of sweat rolls down his cheek. His pulse is racing. He’s out of breath, even though he hasn’t been running.

“No, it’s not.”

***

Five minutes later, Lawrence is sitting in his red 2019 Toyota Avalon right next to the dog park, listening to the radio. At first he was listening to some random bozo complain about the Seattle Mariners bullpen. Was Henry complaining about that earlier this morning? Lawrence thinks so. Now, he’s listening to some Ariana Grande song. Lawrence has vaguely heard of her. He’s pretty sure she’s young enough to be his daughter.

Or granddaughter. Who knows?

Buzzzzzzzzz!

Lawrence’s phone starts to buzz, indicating an incoming text message. He checks it. Sure enough, it’s from Miss Wright. It reads:

“Hi Lawrence sweetie! I’m here. What are you driving?”

Before he can respond, Lawrence notices in the rearview mirror the figure of a large, shapely woman wearing a sleeveless blue polo shirt, white skinny jeans (which leave no doubt that she never skips leg day), and black platform boots. It would be difficult not to see her. She appears to be walking toward the car but still looking around for her ride. Just as she comes a bit closer, Lawrence lightly taps on the horn to alert her to his presence. She immediately spots the Avalon just ahead of her. The butler pops open the passenger side door.

“Greets, Miss Wright. How was your flight over here?” Keeping his composure and professionalism, Lawrence tries his hardest not to stare too long at Melanie’s broad shoulders, bulging biceps, or massive quads. He may not share the same “tastes” as his boss, but Lawrence knows a beautiful woman when he sees one. Even if she’s “non-traditional.” And he is without question in the presence of one fine looking lady.

“It was fine, just any other flight,” Melanie says while stuffing her luggage in the back seat. “I landed safely and didn’t get motion sickness, so that’s a bonus!” One disadvantage of being such a large woman is that it can be incredibly difficult for Melanie to get into cars. Her enormous frame forces her to uncomfortably contort herself as she bends over, enters the vehicle, sits down, and pulls the seatbelt over her massive torso. It stretches to its furthest limit.

“Indeed it is. It’s a blessing to be alive.” After managing to buckle her seatbelt, Lawrence starts the engine and drives toward his boss’s property. Twenty seconds later, his phone starts to buzz again. He pulls to the side of the road to check it. “That might be Miss St. Martin. She’s supposed to arrive shortly after you. But I wasn’t expecting her to arrive quite this soon.”

“I love that girl! I’m excited to see her again. It’s been forever.” Melanie takes out a pocket makeup mirror to see if her eyeliner needs to be touched up. It doesn’t. She puts the mirror away back in her handbag.

With the engine running, Lawrence gets out of the car to look for Monique St. Martin’s cab. In the distance, he sees one approaching the park from the south end. Not one to make a spectacle of himself, he waves his arms in the air (like he just doesn’t care) to catch the driver’s attention. It obviously works, as the taxi makes a hard right turn toward the red Avalon.

“Indeed it is her,” Lawrence informs Melanie. She looks up and sighs.

“I hope she’s doing okay. My heart still aches for her after what happened.” Like Dylan, Melanie couldn’t help but shed lots of tears as she watched that poor girl get carried out of that stadium on a stretcher. It didn’t help that the NBC camera crew kept focusing on Monique’s distraught coach weeping at her side. The esteemed television network received harsh public backlash from their coverage, which was labeled “exploitative” and “insensitive” by critics. To their credit, they later apologized.

A yellow taxicab stops thirty feet away from Lawrence and Melanie. The back-passenger side door opens, with a single supple leg stepping onto the pavement. Wearing a long-sleeved white t-shirt and tight-fitting jean shorts, Monique is also unafraid to wear clothing that generously shows off her fit, athletic body. While not nearly as muscular as Melanie, Monique still stands out in a crowd. Her sturdy body is hard to miss, with curves layered upon curves. Wherever she goes, she turns heads. All the time. She’s allowed her fluffy black hair to drape all over her scalp. As Lawrence tips the driver (in addition to the payment he’s already receiving automatically from Mr. Tanaka), Monique and Melanie embrace like two old friends who haven’t seen each other in ages.

“Girl! It’s so good to see you again!” Melanie has, for quite some time, become a surrogate “auntie” to Monique. After her accident at the Olympics, Melanie called and texted her every single day until her rehab was finished. Even after that, she still contacted her on a weekly basis to check in on her progress. Monique feels indebted to her. They met through Dylan, though their paths could have still crossed without him being in the picture.

“I’m doing great. There’s so much to talk about, trust me!” Monique says. After stuffing her luggage on top of Melanie’s suitcase in the back seat, the three of them are finally able to depart for Mr. Tanaka’s home. Lawrence doesn’t expect Miss Cole to arrive for at least a couple hours. He still has his phone handy though, in case the unexpected were to happen. One can never assume anything anymore.

A random jogger stops running to see what the commotion is all about. It’s quite unusual for this much activity to transpire in this quiet neighborhood. The sight of two gorgeous women with big muscles hugging on the sidewalk nearly makes him run into a mailbox.

Luckily for him, he doesn’t.

The black girl is short but sturdily built. She’s gorgeous as a supermodel and as fit as an Olympic athlete (which, unbeknownst to the jogger, she actually is). The other lady, however, is taller but much bulkier. Much, much bulkier. At least, he thinks she’s a “she.” There isn’t a chance that she could be a man in disguise, right? Or someone who used to be a man but is now a woman? What’s the proper term for that these days? As the two ladies enter the car, he can only stare impolitely and think such politically incorrect thoughts.

“What the fuck is going on here?” the jogger wonders aloud. “God damn…”

As the red Avalon drives off to the far end of the cul-de-sac, the jogger looks down and sees his erection straining against his gym shorts. There’s no hiding it. A little old lady sitting on a nearby park bench feeding some squirrels gives him a look of profound disapproval.

“Whoops.”

***

“DYLAN! It’s so good to see you again!” Melanie screeches with delight.

Embracing in the foyer, Dylan tries to wrap his arms around Melanie’s thick torso but fails to do so all the way. A testament to her substantial girth, Dylan cannot help but notice her new breast implants. Peggy Cole is still the Queen of Comically Oversized Boobs (she’s currently a 40FF, which is as eye-popping as you might expect), but Melanie has enhanced herself quite beautifully. But it still makes hugging her a challenge.

“Hi darling! It’s great to see you again too.” Dylan kisses her on the cheek. “I love what you’ve done with your hair! It looks fabulous.”

Once she turned 50, Melanie decided it was time to stop coloring her hair to remove the grey. Three years later, she’s fully embraced the white streaks complementing her dark brown locks. Standing at 5’ 10” and weighing 215 pounds, Melanie is a force to be reckoned with. Her statuesque figure and dazzling chiseled muscles make her stand out even amongst her bodybuilding peers. Famous for her enormous biceps, triceps, forearms, and quads, Melanie figures her hair is the last thing people will notice about her. She’s not wrong about that.

“I’ve finally decided to stop trying to be younger than I am,” Melanie says. “After all, with muscles like this who gives a shit what anybody thinks?” She strikes a double biceps pose, showing off her impressive guns. It steals Dylan’s breath away. Unable to control himself, he reaches out and places his fingers onto her hardened flesh. He squeezes her 18-inch bicep, focusing on the hardened peak at the top that very few female bodybuilders can say they have. It’s like she has muscle piled on top of other muscles. Dylan temporarily forgets that anyone else is in the room with him.

From a short distance away, Monique cannot help but laugh. “God damn! Wow, we’re starting the party early. Hey, don’t forget about me now.”

Dylan turns around to see Monique standing in the doorway. She bites her lower lip suggestively. Lawrence has already taken everyone’s luggage upstairs to the guest bedrooms. “My dear, my beautiful Monique. There’s no way I’d forget you! Come here.”

Monique picks up Dylan with her embrace, engulfing him into her warm body. Monique is smaller than Melanie (she’s 5’ 7” and 189 pounds) but she’s built like a World War II tank. Her legs could move mountains. Her calves are as large as most women’s thighs. Her six-pack abdomen looks and feels like small stones glued to her tummy in a symmetrical pattern. Dylan bets he could scrub his dirty clothes on them.

“Hello baby.” Her sweet smile sends his heart fluttering.

“I’m glad the two of you showed up together. That’s one fewer trip Lawrence needs to make.” Dylan kisses Monique’s cheek. Her distinct musky smell is like sweet perfume to Dylan’s senses. He could smell it all day and never grow tired of it. “I’m sure you’re both feeling a bit jet-lagged, perhaps?”

“I’m doing okay. I travel a lot, so I’m used to air travel.” Melanie points out. She looks at a marble statue of an Amazonian warrior sitting atop a stone pedestal. Not wanting to touch it out of fear of accidentally chipping this priceless piece of art, she marvels at its artistry instead from afar. This happens to be one of many artistic masterpieces he has in his collection. The others are located throughout the house and downstairs in a storage room. “Some little kid at the airport asked his mommy if I was a boy or a girl.”

“Oh my!” Dylan remarks. “I sure hope you didn’t feel the need to prove anything definitively!”

Melanie and Monique both laugh. “Ha, no. That wasn’t a problem,” Melanie reassures him. “It goes to show that you still don’t see women built like us out and about every day. I think I turned his world upside down today. He’ll probably never forget it as long as he lives.”

“I have no doubt you did,” Dylan approaches her, peering into Melanie’s dark green eyes. “You certainly turn my world upside down, even at this very moment.”

Dylan and Melanie share a long, deep kiss. Monique awkwardly tries to look away but cannot help but feel a sense of pride that Dylan, a man who’s stood by her through thick and through thin, can guiltlessly enjoy his life even for a brief moment in time. Dylan and Melanie are good people, even if the rest of the world doesn’t agree.

“Oh, get a room you two!” Monique playfully taps Dylan on his behind. This makes him gasp.

“We will!” Melanie devilishly declares. “Later tonight, we will.” She reaches down and strokes Dylan’s pulsating groin. It’s been a long time a woman has touched him like this, a fact that both Melanie and Monique know full well.

Dylan’s heart doesn’t stop mid-beat, but it might as well have. The wicked grin Melanie gives him reveals her intentions unambiguously.

Before this evening is over, they will make love.

***

Looking at himself in the mirror, Stephen Callahan suddenly realizes he’s living out a tired old Hollywood cliché. He’s the dastardly villain who’s looking at himself in the mirror before committing an evil act, wondering if a little bit of his soul will perish upon doing so. Or whether his soul already has. Not one to usually sympathize with history’s wicked men, Stephen is under no pretense that he’s a flawless human being who’s been wronged by powers beyond his control. He is a victim, yes, but he is not without blame himself. And, he can choose not to do this. He can still call it off if he wants to. There’s still time. They haven’t done anything illegal yet (at least nothing that they’d be caught doing). However, he has no intentions to abort the mission. It’s still on. Does that make him a complicated villain?

Perhaps.

“You’re about to burn the bacon, goddamn!” Xander yells at Roddy from the kitchen. Stephen was under the impression that it was Cortez’s turn to cook for the group (Xander prepared lunch), but that assumption is obviously wrong. “Do I have to do everything around here? Holy shit, dude.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Roddy fires back. “Don’t tell me what to do, motherfucker!”

“Come on, guys! Don’t get into a petty fight about goddamn bacon,” Thomas scolds them. “Seriously. Cut it out. Now.” This brings a smile to Stephen’s face. He’s glad Thomas has taken on a larger leadership role within the team. It was getting exhausting to do it all himself. While everyone in this outfit is a professional crook with a substantial résumé, that doesn’t mean everyone is going to get along at all times.

“Sorry,” Xander and Roddy reply almost simultaneously. The bacon does smell burnt, but Thomas decides not to say anything about it. Xander backs off to give Roddy some space. Thomas smiles. Cortez is nowhere to be seen.

Stephen is not a fool. He knows the chances of today’s score being 100% successful isn’t guaranteed. Not by a long shot. Even though they’ll be well-armed – combined with Dylan’s lack of stringent security systems outside of a tall gate, a few security cameras hidden here and there, and the possibility that Lawrence the butler may be carrying a concealed firearm – anything can go wrong. That’s one difficult lesson Stephen has taken to heart in recent years. Even Stephen’s plan to temporarily disable his security systems isn’t guaranteed to work. It should, though. But always expect the unexpected.

This is why Stephen has a secret back-up plan. It’s so secret, he’s the only one who knows about it. His compatriots have no idea about it. And they never will unless they have to find out about it.

Several months ago, Stephen’s first robbery after being released from prison was at a local hospital. He snuck through the back of St. Mary’s Cancer Research Institute and entered the building by paying off a security guard with a wad of $100 bills. The guard was near retirement as it was, so he had nothing to lose. Once inside, Stephen and another man (who was too busy to work on this particular job) went to the radiology wing of the hospital. Disguised as maintenance workers, they stole a portable x-ray imaging machine – which is the size of a typical backyard grill – and left the premises without being harassed by anyone. They passed by about a dozen people, who didn’t seem to suspect anything nefarious was going on. He and his partner looked official, acted calm, and seemed like they belonged there. Two people dressed like technicians carrying a piece of equipment didn’t ring any alarm bells, both literal and figurative. It was one of the easiest scores both men have ever been a part of. In and out, just like that. They stuffed the machine carefully in the back of an unmarked van and casually drove off into the proverbial sunset. Stephen has never bothered to check whether or not the security guard they paid off was ever discovered or reprimanded. He also has no idea if the stolen x-ray machine caused a stir over there.

X-ray machines are useful for developing weapons because of the radioactive material found inside them. There’s a damn good reason why you wear a lead apron before getting pictures of your bones or internal organs taken. Long story short, afterward Stephen reached out to an expert chemist (who was a member of the controversial Weather Underground during the late 1960s) who had plenty of spare explosive materiel on hand and absolutely no love for coldblooded warmongering corporate assholes like Dylan Tanaka. For a modest fee, this gentleman reconfigured the x-ray machine to Stephen’s specifications. It took several weeks for him to finish this project, but he eventually got it done. Of course, there’s no way for Stephen or his bombmaker to test it, so there’s an element of faith at play here that the contraption won’t be a dud. However, given this man’s track record, Stephen has every reason to believe that it will work beautifully – though he hopes it doesn’t have to come down to that.

Today, what was once a device about the size of a gas-powered grill can now fit inside a backpack. It’s fitted with a timer that can be set at the most 48 hours ahead. That backpack is now sitting atop Stephen’s bed across the hallway, looking as innocent as a backpack can possibly look.

That’s why Stephen is looking at himself in the mirror and experiencing a momentary existential crisis. This is why he can’t be bothered with whatever arguments are happening elsewhere in the safehouse.

Because inside that backpack is Plan B just in case Plan A doesn’t work or gets derailed unexpectedly. If he can’t win, nobody can win. It’s that simple. It’s a device Thomas, Xander, Roddy, and Cortez have no idea exists because this is Stephen’s ace up his sleeve. His “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” contingency plan. The rabbit he can pull out of his hat.

A dirty bomb.

***

An hour later, Dylan and his two guests are drinking margaritas in his spacious living room. Hearty laughter fills the air, a joyous noise that hasn’t been heard inside this household in a long time. Whatever nervousness Dylan felt earlier today is now completely gone. He’s finally relaxed and able to be himself for once. From a distance, Lawrence feels happy for his boss. This truly is one of the few times Dylan seems happy. While he doesn’t share his boss’s love for muscular women, he approves of him doing whatever brings him joy. After reading a short but crude text on his phone, he enters with a grand announcement.

“Miss Cole has arrived, sir.” And she certainly has, uh, an unusual communication style, Lawrence notes to himself.

Melanie and Monique’s eyes get wide. Dylan stands up, with his two guests following suit.

“Fantastic! Now we’re all here,” Dylan pronounces. All three hurry to the front door as quickly as they can.

Standing in the middle of the spacious foyer, Peggy admires the décor. She cannot remember the last time she came over, but it certainly was before Dylan’s legal troubles. Before she can take off her aviator shades, Melanie and Monique bust through the side of the hallway, sprinting as fast as they can toward her.

“Peggy! You’re here!” Melanie screams. She embraces Peggy as tightly as she can, lifting her off the ground. Melanie clearly takes every opportunity she can to showcase her impressive strength. When Peggy’s heels touch the floor, they make a loud double CLICK sound. “Excuse me baby girl, I may be a bit drunk already.”

“Damn girl! I need whatever you’re having because you’re thick AS FUCK! Damn woman!” Peggy pinches Melanie’s enormous biceps, admiring both their sheer size and vascularity. Peggy’s sexual orientation is “all over the map” (in her own words), so her admiration of Melanie’s body isn’t just professional. Suffice to say she’s quite appreciative of beautiful looking people of all gender identities. “I need to stretch out my legs, that plane ride doesn’t get any shorter. Then, I need a drink. Pronto!”

Dylan enters the foyer as meekly as a church mouse. He pauses a moment to take it all in. Right before his very eyes, standing in his own home, are three gorgeous strong women. It certainly wasn’t planned this way, but he cannot help but admire the diversity of his three guests: Melanie is tall, powerful, authoritative, and massive in size. Peggy is short (a modest 5’ 4”), squat, muscular (though not nearly as bulky as Melanie), and surgically enhanced in all sorts of places (her enormous boobs are the most obvious, but there are plenty of places that are not-so-obvious). Monique is slim, sturdy, curvy, strikingly beautiful, and possesses the picture-perfect “athlete’s body.” Melanie gives off “motherly” vibes. Peggy is a pure hedonist. Monique is calm, focused, goal-oriented, and determined. Melanie’s skin has a pale golden complexion that allows her muscles to shine. Peggy’s light brown caramel tone comes directly from her Peruvian side. Monique’s rich dark black skin is just as silky smooth to the touch as it looks from a distance. Dylan’s gaze cannot focus on any single one of his guests because all three present a feast for the eyes. This may be a few margaritas talking, but in this moment, he thinks they are the three most beautiful women on the planet. Nobody comes close.

“Hello Peggy. Welcome to my humble abode.”

As if time had suddenly stood still, Peggy’s eyes zero in on Dylan’s. Having perfected the art of the “sexy walk,” she saunters over to her host with the sultry confidence of a Brazilian supermodel. She and Dylan embrace. Her considerable chest makes it difficult to lean over to kiss her, but Dylan successfully does so by craning his neck as forward as he possibly can. It’s a miracle he doesn’t suffer any neck strain.

“It’s good to see you again, baby…” Peggy whispers in Dylan’s ear, causing the hairs on the back of his head to stand at attention. Dylan tries to contain his composure, which becomes even more difficult after Peggy lightly strokes his groin. “I have a special treat for you that I’ll show you later tonight!”

Dylan’s eyes widen. Melanie and Monique lean in with curiosity. Peggy, as usual, loves an attentive audience.

“Is that so? I’m intrigued.”

“Me too!” Monique chimes in.

“And I,” adds Melanie.

“Well, it looks like I’ve set expectations pretty damn high!” Peggy releases her grip from Dylan’s groin. She looks up at a remarkably beautiful 128-light candle-style tiered chandelier hanging from the ceiling. “Mother of God. Is that new? I don’t remember seeing that last time. Holy shit! Dylan baby, you know how to live the high life!”

Dylan tries to display modesty but cannot do so convincingly. “To answer your question, it is new. I had it installed last year. And yeah, I certainly do. Just because I’m holed up in here for the rest of my life doesn’t mean I can’t have nice things on the inside. You know how that is.”

An awkward silence ensues. Peggy’s gaze shifts from the chandelier – which cost Dylan more than $50,000 to have specially made, shipped, and installed by a team of expert interior decorators – to Dylan’s somber eyes. She knows he’s not literally trapped like a rat in his own house, but the sentiment has been conveyed loud and clear. He doesn’t have much of a social life. Weekends like this are all he has now. This makes it even more critical that this be a weekend to remember.

“Not exactly, but I can imagine,” Peggy rubs Dylan’s shoulders. “Still, I think you’re going to love this, uh, special treat I have in store for you. The two of you as well.”

Melanie and Monique nod along in agreement. Dylan and Peggy kiss once more. No one feels the need to say anything else.

“Ahem,” Lawrence interrupts them. For who knows how long, the butler is standing in the doorway leading to the dining room. Dylan’s faithful domestic employee found the time to change into a black tuxedo between breakfast this morning and this present moment. He was probably wearing the tux right before picking everyone up, but Dylan was in no mental state to notice or care. But right now, he looks urbane. He definitely respects decorum. “I have just been informed by Mr. Jameson that dinner is ready. And the dining table has already been set.”

“Henry’s last name is Jameson? I didn’t know that!” Peggy says. A naughty thought suddenly crosses her mind. She grins, hoping nobody notices.

“Indeed, it is, ma’am,” Lawrence answers. He turns around and promptly exits.

“Fantastic!” Dylan claps his hands in excitement. “Let’s eat. I’m starving.”

“As am I!” Monique declares. Melanie silently nods.

Just by luck, the grandfather clock sitting in the foyer rings six times, indicating it is now 6:00 p.m. on the dot. Henry’s ability to finish dinner on time is impeccable, yet another reason why Dylan keeps him around and will continue to keep him around. As Dylan and his guests scurry off to the dining room, Peggy breaks off from the main group and makes a beeline toward the kitchen.

“Speaking of Mr. Jameson, I’d like to poke my head in and say hi! Don’t mind me.” She scurries off to the kitchen. Dylan, Melanie, and Monique don’t think much of it. Then, Dylan decides they should go down to the wine cellar to pick out a few bottles for dinner – and afterward.

“I have a grand idea. Let’s go downstairs to the basement.”

“Why?” Monique asks, her tummy growling.

“I have a wine cellar down there. Let’s go select what we’re going to drink tonight. Have you seen it before?”

“No, but that sounds lovely. I’m not supposed to drink too often, but this weekend is an exception, for obvious reasons,” Monique says.

“It should be the most memorable weekend of our lives,” Melanie promises. She takes Dylan’s warm hand and leads them on. “Mark my words.”

All the King’s Queens – Chapter 4: The Guests of Honor

With a small suitcase packed and ready to go sitting near the front door, Monique takes one final look at herself in the bathroom mirror before heralding an Uber to go to the airport. Esmerelda, her four-year-old fluffy orange cat, jumps onto the toilet next to her, purring as loudly as a motorcycle cruising down the highway.

“Mama has to catch a flight soon to visit some friends,” she says to Esmerelda, lightly patting her head. “When I get back we’ll snuggle on the couch. Which should be tomorrow night!”

Esmerelda looks at her mother, quickly peers out the window after a gentle breeze lets itself in, and hops off the toilet. She scoots away to the laundry room, looking for a warm clean pile of socks to sleep in. Sadly, she will be disappointed that laundry day isn’t until Tuesday.

“Silly girl.” Monique shakes her head. Esmerelda chooses a dirty pile of clothes to sit on instead.

Monique St. Martin lives with her boyfriend in a crammed one-bedroom apartment in downtown Miami. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is more than a year away (14 months, to be exact), but that doesn’t mean she isn’t hard at work training for the biggest athletic competition of her life. After her horrific injury at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics where she suffered a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) in her left elbow after attempting the clean and jerk, doctors told her she’d need surgery and at least two years of rehabilitation work before she can even attempt such a lift again. One Boston-based surgeon she visited told her she probably should never attempt the clean and jerk ever again out of fear she may reaggravate the injury. But Monique knew 2020 would be her best – and most likely final – shot at winning a medal at the Olympics. She’s “on the bubble” as it is, with younger and younger athletes emerging who are so much stronger than she is. The powers-that-be at the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee says she’s basically guaranteed a spot at Tokyo but nothing beyond that.

Therefore, she’s in it to win it next year, the consequences be damned. If she does reinjure herself, Monique is confident she’ll have no regrets. Not trying will haunt her much more than trying and failing.

Before all of this happened, Monique met Dylan Tanaka by accident. Prior to becoming an Olympic athlete, during her junior year in college she scored a coveted internship at Perseus Analytics in their data modeling department. One day, Dylan paid a random visit to their Miami-based office to check on how everyone was doing. By a stroke of fate, she shook hands with Mr. Tanaka after her boss delivered a brief presentation on their progress on a supply chain modeling project. He remarked at how impressed he was at her grip strength. She casually said she’s currently training for the 2012 London Olympics. Like magic, his eyes lit up. He smiled at her and whispered in her ear “I’ll be in touch.”

And with that, he left the building and got back in his private helicopter to fly up to New York City to meet with PA’s east coast headquarters.

At first, Monique didn’t know what to think. Is the boss hitting on me? An intern? How crazy is that? she thought to herself. He wasn’t creepy (and Monique has encountered her fair share of creepy guys in her life) or seemed like he had bad intentions. In fact, he came off as warm, gentle, and caring. After a few weeks, she forgot about the whole incident. About a month later, she received an email from Mr. Tanaka himself inviting her to lunch. After picking up her jaw from the proverbial floor, she nervously but excitedly said yes. One week later, she and Dylan were enjoying blackened salmon Caesar salad, crab chowder, and toasted garlic breadsticks alone in a private dining room atop the Panorama Tower in Downtown Miami. After requesting that what they discuss not leave this room, Dylan revealed a secret interest in strong, athletic women.

“For whatever reason, I just really admire women who break the traditional mold. Women who are driven to win, who love being strong and athletic,” Dylan tells her. “I see those qualities in you, Miss St. Martin.” His kind eyes peered into her soul. Same as before, Monique did not feel uncomfortable having lunch with the CEO of the company. Her nervousness went away the moment they started chatting.

“Thank you, Mr. Tanaka!” Monique blushes. She can only stare at the last breadstick, which was getting colder by the minute.

“This will sound so ridiculously clichéd, but please call me Dylan,” he instructs her. She silently nods her head. He smiles back. “So, I have a modest proposition for you, since you appear to be striving toward competing in London next year…”

Dylan proceeded to offer Monique the opportunity to be sponsored by him. He’ll wire her $5,000 per month into a private bank account that he’ll create for her. This will be enough to cover the cost of her training, dieting, coaching, supplementation, and travel expenses. The only catch being that she must keep this business relationship a secret, even from close friends and family. Dylan admits his “secret admiration” for female athletes could harm his reputation if revealed to the public, a sentiment that Monique understood completely. She had lost count of how many times random guys have told her they “dig her muscles” in hushed tones, as if they were afraid someone would hear them say it out loud. She knows men like her muscles but cannot express that admiration publicly. It’s understandable why Dylan Tanaka would feel the same way. He’s not just the CEO. He’s a mini-celebrity. His public profile is much different than a random dude jogging on the treadmill at the gym.

From then on, Monique and Dylan formed an unusual friendship. They were rarely in geographic proximity to each other but always found time to chat on the phone or talk via teleconferencing. He would ask about her progress and Monique would gladly update him on what she’s been up to. After graduation, Monique decided to go into business for herself by becoming an Olympic-style personal trainer – while training for the Olympics herself! Most of her clients were high school and college students training for their sports teams. She learned a lot about running her own business from a nice couple who runs the gym she regularly attends. They taught her everything she knows. It isn’t always glamorous but it’s honest work. No offense to Mr. Tanaka – er, Dylan – but working in an office all day bored the hell out of Monique. She’d rather be on her feet and actually do stuff instead of sitting at a desk and stare at a computer screen for eight hours.

Dylan said if at any time she ever felt uncomfortable by his relationship with her, she could cut it off without any penalty. The money would eventually stop coming in (of course) but he wouldn’t launch any legal or personal vendetta against her. Monique always smiled and insisted she was perfectly happy with her friendship with him. Thus, their friendship-from-a-distance continued with no issues…and all in secret.

Unfortunately for Monique, a year later she did not even qualify for the London Games. She was disappointed, but not devastated. The same goes for Dylan. Despite her failure to earn a roster spot on the Olympic team, Dylan still offered to sponsor her for the next four years in preparation for 2016. Monique thanked him for his generosity. Even throughout the scandal, federal investigation, trial, and media circus that wore Dylan down to a nub, he still deposited that $5,000 into her account without pause. His fierce loyalty endeared him to her.

Then 2016 arrived. She qualified for Team USA! Dylan was ecstatic. So was she. Most experts didn’t think Monique would win a medal, but she did have an off chance of earning a bronze if everything went her way.

Sigh. As it turns out, things did not go her way.

Not only did she tear her UCL on live television, the heavy bar fell on her neck, fracturing four of her vertebrae. She was lucky she wasn’t paralyzed from the accident. As she lay there on the floor, screaming in pain and crying tears of agony as emergency medical personnel attended to her, Dylan sat on his couch thousands of miles away in stunned silence. Tears also formed in his eyes. Eventually, as an ambulance with ominous red flashing lights rushed into the stadium, Dylan couldn’t handle it anymore and had to turn off the TV. He sat there all night, unable to get up. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t do anything but think about Monique, a beautiful and intelligent young lady whose physical pain is outweighed by her emotional pain. During the following months, Monique spent a lot of time in hospitals between multiple surgeries and consultations with physicians about the future of her Olympic aspirations. Many told her she should quit. She refused to let her dreams die like that. If she’s going to go down, she’ll give it her all.

Dylan wisely kept his distance from her. They stopped talking to each other for long periods of time. But he still deposited that $5,000 into her account. Like clockwork. During a time of uncertainty, he felt like the one thing she needed most was certainty.

He was that certainty.

As she finishes reflecting on her past, Monique quickly touches up her eyeliner before heading out. She takes her phone out of her pocket and hails the Uber. It says it should be here in less than five minutes. Just enough time to turn off all the lights, lock up, and take the elevator downstairs.

Jake, her boyfriend, is currently at work. He’s a civil engineer for the City of Miami. She already kissed him goodbye earlier this morning. Even though it’s a Saturday, the city is attempting to close a major highway for construction next month, meaning structural engineers like Jake are having to work 60-hours a week in preparation for it. So only the cat is around. Which may be a good thing because she and Jake aren’t on the best of terms at the moment.

“You be good, Esmerelda,” Monique says to the feline.

“Meeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrr,” she responds back.

“I thought so!”

Jake knows that his girlfriend has a long-time friendship with a rich billionaire who has a secret fetish for strong muscular women. Dylan’s friendship with Monique predates their relationship. He says he doesn’t care what they do together as long as they don’t have sex. Monique has strong reasons to believe he’s lying about that. However, that’s not something she wants to think about right now. Her current priority is to dally off to the west coast to see Dylan, Peggy, and Melanie for the weekend. Whatever happens will happen. She’ll try to have the time of her life.

She may even break the longstanding “limitations” she has with Dylan. Previously, there were certain boundaries she refused to cross. Sex with Dylan was one of them. Dylan knows this. Monique knows this. Jake knows this. However…that may change.

With that, Monique turns off the living room lights, locks the door, and walks to the elevator.

***

As Melanie Wright sits at Gate D17 at O’Hare International Airport, she cannot help but notice a little boy staring at her. He must be at least five or six years old. Melanie has been a professional bodybuilder long enough to have grown accustomed to people – both children and adults – giving her strange looks in public. But there he is, sitting in a row of seats right across from her, unable to peel his young eyes from this unusually large lady.

The boy’s mother is reading something on her iPad, oblivious to the fact that her son is being rude to a perfectly innocent stranger.

“Mommy!” the boy taps his mother on the shoulder. “Is that a boy or a girl?”

The boy’s mother, perplexed and annoyed that her reading is being interrupted, looks up in the direction he’s pointing at. She notices Melanie sitting no more than six feet away. Her eyes widen when she sees Melanie’s enormous frame sitting across from her. She looks feminine, though she’s much bulkier on top than most women she knows. Melanie smiles at the mother. Embarrassed, she wags her finger in front of her son’s face.

“That’s a very rude thing to ask! She’s a lady, of course. Stop it!” At least, she thinks the giant woman sitting across from them is a woman. Could she be transgendered? Or a man in women’s clothing? She couldn’t be sure, but she wanted to nip this situation in the bud as soon as possible and not cause a scene.

“Oh, okay,” Unsatisfied with that answer, the boy continues to stare at Melanie’s 18-inch biceps, which are prominently displayed in her sleeveless blue polo shirt. The mother looks even more embarrassed, looking Melanie straight in the eye (and trying to avoid looking at her muscles as well, which are truly a sight to see!) and apologizing.

“Sorry for that,” she begins. “He’s young and doesn’t quite understand the art of proper etiquette. I mean, he is five. If he’s making you feel uncomfortable, I…”

“No, he’s fine. I’m used to it,” Melanie responds. Her deep voice almost makes the boy (and mother) jump out of his seat. She doesn’t sound like a man, but she also definitely doesn’t sound like a woman. Who is she? What’s her story? Where did she come from? Why does she look like that? The boy has so many questions that he’ll never get the answers to.

She lifts up both of her arms and gives the boy a quick double bicep flex. She smiles at him. The boy’s mouth remains agape, with a small bit of drool leaking out. This is also a fairly normal reaction from onlookers. Melanie loves the attention when she’s in the mood to receive it. Other times, she finds it annoying. This is one of those times when she sort of likes it. Especially coming from an impressionable young child. No doubt this kid will remember this moment for years to come.

The mother takes out her phone and tells her son to play Temple Run while they wait for the flight to Denver to depart. The son agrees wholeheartedly and starts to play, his eyes glued to the screen instead of Melanie’s figure. The mother gives Melanie one final apologetic look before resuming reading from her iPad. Melanie looks up at the clock and sees the time is 10:16 a.m. Even though she’s taking a private flight to Seattle, she still must wait somewhere in D Gate until she gets a text message from an airport employee telling her the jet is ready. Then, she’ll go up to the front counter and meet a different airport employee who will then escort her down to the tarmac. Sounds simple enough.

This isn’t the first time Melanie has ever flown over to Seattle to meet with Dylan. But this is the first time she’s flying in a private jet to do so! The flight is scheduled to leave at 11:00 a.m. But she was still asked to arrive at O’Hare two hours beforehand. She isn’t sure why but she didn’t think to question it.

Like many professional female bodybuilders, Melanie supplements her income by providing muscle worship sessions to paying customers. A “muscle worship session” is when a paying customer is given the opportunity to meet a female bodybuilder alone in a hotel room for about an hour or two. It’s usually men who pay to see her, though she’s had a small handful of bisexual and lesbian women as clients. For many professional female bodybuilders this is a great way to supplement their meager income. There isn’t much money to be had in competing. And it’s tough to hold down a 40-hour a week job on top of training for bodybuilding contests. So, providing sessions around the world is a sure way to earn income (tax-free, since all of this happens off-the-record) so one could continue pursuing the bodybuilding lifestyle without the fear of going broke.

Usually, she travels from city to city to offer these appointments, normally at a rate of $400 per hour (bikini) or $500 per hour (fully nude). These rates are a tad higher than what is considered “market value,” but Melanie is in high demand for good reason.

She’s a world-class bodybuilder with an eye-popping physique. And name recognition.

At 53 years old, Melanie is no spring chicken but she’s still at the top of her game. She hasn’t stopped competing professionally. Her first competition was in 1987 at the tender age of 21. She placed 8th at the IFBB Chicago Pro in the Women’s Lightweight Class. From there, her career took off at warp speed. Considered a “rising star” in the bodybuilding industry, Melanie placed higher and higher in regional competitions as the years went on. She even gained attention from Hollywood executives.

Her claim to fame was being in a deleted scene in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” She played a female cyborg that briefly clashed with Arnold Schwarzenegger in a flashback scene at a Skynet research facility. The director of the film, James Cameron, didn’t want the sight of an attractive woman with big muscles to distract viewers from their moviegoing experience (or polarize them), so her scene was left on the cutting room floor. To this day, the scene still has not been released on DVD or Blu-ray. Or YouTube. It still makes Melanie a little bitter for her hard work has never seen the light of day.

But that did not stop her from being on the cover of several fitness/bodybuilding magazines throughout the 90s and early 2000s. She wasn’t a major celebrity but those who paid attention to the sport of professional bodybuilding definitely knew her name. She’s racked up impressive wins throughout her career, culminating in placing 3rd in the Ms. Olympia in 2005, 5th in 2007, 6th in 2008, and 9th in 2010. Melanie is no fool and could clearly see the writing on the wall. She was declining. Her hopes of ever finishing in first place were diminishing quickly. To this day, she still competes at the highest level but has yet to recapture her “elite” status from a decade ago. Melanie has no regrets, however. There’s no shame in being a bonafide top 10 bodybuilder for a brief window of time. She still treasures her “brush with greatness” even to this day.

Melanie first met Dylan in 2009. She took a year off from competing in the Ms. Olympia due to a minor ankle injury that prevented her from training for a short period of time. She was, however, perfectly able to travel the globe to provide muscle worship sessions as usual. She was floored when Dylan first reached out to her. He was a major celebrity! Well, he was a well-known CEO, which is almost like being a celebrity. They met at The Westin hotel in Downtown Seattle one cold October evening. During their two hours together, she and Dylan really “hit it off” and formed a genuine friendship.

Then in 2015, almost at the exact same time Dylan was going through his own travails, Melanie’s life nearly came crashing down.

While traveling to Budapest, Melanie was arrested for illegal prostitution after local authorities caught her during an anti-human trafficking sting operation. She and her client (who apparently had a history of soliciting underage prostitutes, unbeknownst to Melanie) were both booked and spent the night at a local jail. Utterly humiliated, things got worse for Melanie after word of her arrest “went viral” and started to trend on social media. Ultimately, she was fined 1,500 Euros and avoided having to serve any prison time because of her American citizenship. The local authorities didn’t want to deal with the potential backlash of jailing a U.S. citizen for a minor crime. But the financial harm she experienced was no match for the personal turmoil this would incur on her life.

For about a year afterward, Melanie became sort of a social pariah within the bodybuilding community. Everyone knows that many female competitors offer sessions as an “off-the-record side job” in order to make a steady income. Everyone knows this but it’s taboo to talk about it. It’s the worst kept secret in the industry. Yet, her brush with the law was enough for several corporate sponsors to cut ties with her. Her friends dare not be seen publicly with her or stand up for her. She was branded a “prostitute,” a stamp that one cannot easily get rid of. It was like a scarlet letter being tattooed on her forehead. A permanent stain on her record. A grime that could never be washed off.

Her husband, an aspiring Illinois gubernatorial candidate, divorced her in a public spat that made local headlines. Her four adult children (and two infant grandchildren) still love and support her, but she knows her relationship with them has changed forever. She dreads what her grandchildren will go through once they’re old enough to learn about grandma’s sordid past. Will they still love her? Will they get teased for this? Will they lose respect for her?

After this, her friendship with Dylan deepened, as both of them knew what it was like to be banished from public life, shunned by the very people who once held them in high esteem. While they were together, they never talked about it. But they both knew each other’s tragic stories. It was an unspoken truth that hovered over their heads at all times.

Eventually, Melanie was able to reintegrate herself into the bodybuilding community. A small handful of sponsors came back. An athletic apparel line was willing to have her name and face appear on the boxes of fitness smartwatches. So unlike Dylan, she was able to ride the storm and come out on the other end fairly intact. A bit beaten and weary, of course. But still intact nevertheless.

Dylan was canceled. She was just postponed.

Just as Melanie was about to go to the Starbucks kiosk to buy a cup of coffee, her phone buzzes. She takes it out of her pocket and reads the text notification:

HELLO MELANIE WRIGHT. YOUR FLIGHT AXKPP18833 IS NOW READY FOR DEPARTURE. PLEASE SEE THE FRONT DESK AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE. END MESSAGE.

“It’s go time!” she announces to herself. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

With that, instead of getting that elusive cup of overpriced coffee, Melanie picks up her carryon, puts her phone back in her pocket, and walks up to the front desk with her boarding pass in hand. The little boy looks up from playing Temple Run and waves good-bye to her. Melanie returns the favor and waves back. His mother is still staring at her iPad, more interested in reading about vampire hunters than witnessing a moment that her young child will remember for the rest of his life.

***

“Damn girl! Are you some sort of bodybuilder?”

Peggy readjusts her sunglasses, which are almost falling off her nose. Her kind-hearted but chatty taxi driver hasn’t quite gotten on her nerves yet, but that could change in short order. They’ve just left the airport and are now cruising north on the freeway toward Seattle. Traffic is light at the moment, which is common for a late Saturday afternoon in the Pacific Northwest. She – and her driver – knows this wouldn’t be the case if it were a weekday during rush hour.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am,” Peggy tells the man, whose Jamaican accent and colorful rastacap are a dead giveaway of where he’s from. “I’ve been a bodybuilder for almost ten years now. Damn, has it been that long?”

“Whoooooeeeee! Yes ma’am. I see you girl. I see you!”

“Thanks sugar!”

As long as she’s been a professional bodybuilder, Peggy Cole has grown accustomed to curious strangers asking her all sorts of questions about her life. Some of them appropriate…others not so much. It probably doesn’t help matters that Peggy chooses to wear skimpy or tight-fitting clothing as often as she can! Nor the fact that she’s carrying around two large suitcases, which is suspicious considering she’s simply enjoying a “weekend getaway.” Or her enormous breast implants. Or the many plastic surgeries she’s had on her face. Or if you are into certain kinds of fetishes, you might recognize her by her Internet nom de plume:

LATINAMUSCLEPRINCESS67

So every time Peggy gets a weird look from a complete stranger, she’s left wondering if that person recognizes her for who she is…or just simply because she’s a woman with large muscles and even bigger boobs. There’s a part of Peggy that enjoys that kind of mysteriousness. It makes for great stories around the campfire.

“I know I shouldn’t be asking you this, uh, but do you mind if I ask you a personal question, my dear?”

He seems like a kind enough fellow, so Peggy decides to humor him. “I get the feeling you’re going to ask it no matter what I say.” She rolls her eyes. Hopefully he doesn’t see this.

He heartily laughs, knowing that not only is she right, but she can probably predict his every move. “Yeah, well, you got me there, sis! So, I got to know. Are you here in Seattle on vacation or are you seeing someone in particular?”

“Are you referring to the two large suitcases I brought with me?” Only one of them fits in the trunk, meaning the other one is currently sitting right next to Peggy in the back seat. The driver didn’t say anything when he saw her with her luggage, but she could tell from the look he gave her that his curiosity level was sure piqued. “Yeah, you’d be right, my man. I’m here to see a dear friend of mine. I won’t say his name, but he’s a pretty big deal. A big deal.”

“Oooooooh, is it Bill Gates? Jeff Bezos? Pete Carroll?” The driver frequently looks into the rearview mirror to gauge her reaction to his questions.

“Now, now,” Peggy chides him. “I said I won’t reveal his name. His identity is a secret. I gave him my word I’d protect his privacy. So I won’t tell. That’s the way it’s going to be.”

“Sorry, ma’am. I’m an old soul, so sometimes I can’t keep up with what’s right or wrong these days,” the driver defends himself. As they enter Downtown Seattle, traffic begins to noticeably pick up. Peggy hopes this doesn’t mean she’s stuck having to converse with this inquisitive person for too long. “But that’s cool, sis. That you’re seeing a friend. He’s a lucky man!”

“Yeah, you can say that.” Peggy knows Dylan’s life hasn’t been peachy since his downfall, but she doesn’t want to reveal that to her driver since that’ll be a sure giveaway. Instead, she decides to switch gears just for the fun of it.

“I’m also deeply involved in the adult entertainment industry, in case you’re curious about that.” Even though his head is turned away from her, she can sense his eyes bulging out of his eye sockets after that bombshell reveal!

“REALLY? WOW!!!” the driver screams. Peggy is afraid he might swerve off the road at any moment if he doesn’t contain himself. Luckily for both of them, he remains committed to being a safe motorist. She notices the car ahead of them switch lanes after getting peeved that the taxicab is tailing them too closely. “I can’t say I’ve spent too much time watching videos of that nature, but damn girl! Good for you! I’m glad you feel like you can put yourself out there like that, you feel me?”

“Thanks. I’m not super famous or anything. I’m no Jenna Jameson,” Peggy quips. This is ironic, considering Peggy has met Jenna before (and several years back did a couple of videos with her). But that’s a story for another time.

“I don’t know who that is, but I doubt she’s more beautiful than you!”

“Oh, that’s very kind of you.”

“You’re welcome!” The driver reveals a bold, toothy grin. Peggy raises an eyebrow in response, hoping this will please him. It appears that it does.

Peggy began her career as a professional bodybuilder but wasn’t quite able to win enough trophies to earn a lucrative living. At the age of 31, she dipped her toes in the world of adult entertainment by appearing in a few fetish-themed videos with other FBBs looking for quick cash. She had a tremendous amount of fun showing off her sculpted body to people who weren’t official IFBB judges (who could be a stuffy bunch). A turning point in her life was when she received a ton of fan mail after releasing a particularly steamy video where she gave blow jobs to a roomful of men (17, to be exact) wearing nothing but a skin-tight BDSM-style leather outfit and semen smeared all over her face. She was hogtied by rope and suspended from the ceiling several feet off the ground. At first, Peggy was reluctant to get too deep into this scene, but as more adult film production studios began to know her name, more job offers started to stream in. Eventually, she decided to quit bodybuilding to pursue porn full-time. She was probably going to quit competing anyway, so this was a convenient backup plan.

Her online avatar is Latina Muscle Princess, which is sort of true because her mother is half Peruvian. In reality, she’s half Irish, a quarter German, and a quarter Peruvian. But her olive complexion, jet black hair, curvy figure, and amber brown eyes make her look just as Latina as Shakira. So she went with that identity and never looked back. She’s carved out a fantastic niche for herself as a webcam performer who hosts both weekly shows for the general public (for a small fee) as well as offering personalized one-on-one shows for individual clients (at a significantly higher fee).

Dylan is, not surprisingly, one of her loyal clients. As is Henry.

Other than making videos and webcamming, Peggy is in talks to co-host a porn-themed podcast with Kit Styles – a male adult entertainment star known for his 12-inch-long penis and fabulous hair – but the details of this venture are still up in the air. She’s reluctant to wade through the choppy waters of podcasting, but it seems to be all the rage these days. Besides, caution never got her anywhere. Everything she does she does boldly. Maybe it’s prudent to continue to live life like this.

“We’re almost here, my dear. I received specific instructions to drop you off at a park near the house, but not at the house itself. Is that still fine?” Peggy has been to Dylan’s house many times, but she understands why he would want to instruct a taxicab driver to drop her off in close proximity to his house but not at it. It’s doubtful the driver would take it upon himself to investigate who lives at each house and “out” Dylan to the general public. But one can never be too careful. Especially these days.

“Yeah, that’s fine. Drop me off where you’ve been told to drop me off. I’m a big girl. I can carry my suitcases to my friend’s house just fine without any help.” Peggy pats her suitcase for good measure.

The driver looks into the rearview mirror to check out his passenger’s impressive biceps. If the mirror were a bit larger he could probably also see her big boobs. He wants nothing more than to stick his face inside her cleavage. That, most likely, would result in his termination. He knows that outcome would be unacceptable to him and his family.

“Oh, I know you don’t need my help, sister! I can believe that!”

All the King’s Queens – Chapter 3: The Master Plan

As smoke billows out from the makeshift barbecue pit, Stephen Callahan’s eyes begin to get watery. Rising out from the ground and surrounding him like an ash-filled blanket, it prompts him to try to remember the last time he shed tears.

Was it after the verdict was read by the judge? Or right after “lights out” during his first night in the federal penitentiary? Or was it after his first confessional with the prison priest?

Stephen cannot for the life of him recall at the moment. Perhaps it was before all of this shit had transpired. Or not.

For three long years, Stephen has been planning his revenge against his former boss. To him, Dylan Tanaka isn’t a bad man but rather a dishonorable one. He got away scott-free while Stephen had to sit in a federal prison cell for 1,095 days – stewing in his emotions, denied his freedom. Stephen knows what he did was wrong. But what he objects to is the fact that he got punished for it – and well as witnessed his reputation suffer – while Dylan simply was forced to resign from his position as CEO, pay a fine that he had no trouble paying, and quietly retire from public life. If unofficial house arrest in his palatial mansion is his “punishment,” then the least Stephen deserved was a mighty slap on the wrist. Which he did not end up getting.

“Lunch is almost ready, my man,” Xander, a professional thief he just met a week ago, happily reports to the team leader. Xander is a man recommended by Thomas Sellars, whom Stephen considers in high regard. While in prison, Stephen met Mr. Sellars, a professional safecracker who was caught breaking into a high-end New York City jewelry store and stealing nearly $1.8 million worth of merchandise (the majority of that coming in the form of a rare 1948 edition of a Rue de Pierre Flaubert Modernité XIIV wristwatch). He was convicted of that – as well as a robbery of Caesars Palace’s main casino vault in Las Vegas – and sentenced to five years in prison. Thomas was serving his final year just as Stephen was beginning his first. They formed a “friendship” (which tend to be dubious in nature due to the circumstances of living together with someone in forced confinement) and started plotting what they’d love to accomplish once they both get out. One ingenious plot they came up with was the one they are about to execute later tonight.

“Thanks Xan. Smells great,” Stephen says. “But no beer until tomorrow, remember?”

“Oh yeah, we’re staying clean and sober till our job is done,” Xander reassures his boss. “We all are. I got that, chief. Don’t worry about me.”

“Good. Thanks.”

Xander returns to the barbecue pit. He splashes a bit more honey glaze on the beef ribs so they don’t dry out too much. Roddy and Cortez, two of the other hired hands who’s worked with Thomas before, are lounging around on lawn chairs sipping Gatorade. It’s not their usual beverage of choice.

Clean and sober until tonight.

Clean and sober until tonight

Clean and sober until tonight.

“We can’t let anything distract us,” Stephen whispers to himself. He wipes away a cloud of smoke with both hands.

Stephen does feel a bit apprehensive about tonight’s job, but that’s natural. Until three years ago, he never considered himself a criminal. He always imagined the “bad guys” to be people not like him: Destructive, amoral, violent, psychopathic, jaded, and social misfits. It never occurred to him that crimes are committed for a wide range of reasons – fear, vengeance, impulsiveness, desperation, mental illness, social conditioning, and so on. His perspective of the world has certainly evolved over the past several years. Now, crime is not just something “bad people” do. Instead, it’s a clause in our Social Contract. Written (unofficially) in fine print. When society has wronged you, it is perfectly justifiable to wrong them back. Without such a system, where is the justice?

It’s not personal. It’s just business.

Dylan Tanaka has wronged Stephen Callahan. So it’s only fair to wrong him back. Thomas, Xander, Roddy, and Cortez have no direct connections to Dylan, Perseus Analytics, or the congressional show trial that engulfed the nation. However, they know a good score when they see it.

And tonight is guaranteed to be a great score.

In 2014, the year before the New York Times essentially ended his sense of “normalcy,” Stephen and Dylan were working on a top-secret project behind the scenes for the U.S. military. They were developing a prototype for a robotic suit that troops could wear on the battlefield. Basically, it took bullet-proof vests, helmets, communications equipment, and other types of armor to the next level. Far from being like Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” these suits couldn’t fly or shoot out laser blasts, but they were sturdy as hell, agile, and contained AI technology that could alert them to enemy movements, strategy, and predict future behavior. Not surprisingly, the military fell in love with the idea of what Dylan and Stephen were working on. Pilotless drones were fine, but sometimes you needed human boots on the ground to do the dirty work you can’t do from the sky. And, casualties are bad for morale back home. It’s terrible publicity. It causes voters to demand that wars come to an end well before the mission is complete. So, how do you fight wars with people without endangering those people?

This is when Perseus Analytics swept in. Already a trusted government contractor, PA’s top engineers drew up several plans for developing this “Battlefield Smart Armor Tech” that would eventually be presented to high-ranking military and government officials. The BSAT Program was in its infancy when the bombshell New York Times report made everything come to a crashing halt. The news that innocent Iraqi and Syrian civilians were being incinerated to death did not sit well with the public. Of course, they had few objections to the hundreds of terrorists PA’s technology helped kill. But photographs of charred men, women, and children should make anybody’s stomach churn.

After the federal trial wrapped up, Dylan quietly put all his research – blueprints, sketchbooks, CDs, DVDs, photographs, computer models on external hard drives, USB flash drives, and even a personal diary kept by Stephen himself – into a large impenetrable safety vault somewhere in his mansion. The BSAT Program may have come to an end, but the dream lives on.

That vault contains information that, if utilized by a rival tech company, could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Warfare is costly (especially in terms of soldiers’ lives), so anything governments can do to reduce that cost – with no regard to innocent civilians, of course – would be invaluable. Priceless. Coveted. Worth a damn fortune.

Tonight, Stephen and his crew plan to break into Dylan’s home, steal every piece of intel they can, and sell it to the highest bidder on the black market. Stephen may or may not kill Dylan in the process. He hasn’t decided yet. But afterward, all five men are guaranteed to become rich beyond their wildest dreams. There are already two interested buyers whom Stephen has already spoken to. Both have the financial resources to participate in this expensive transaction. No more petty crimes. No more jobs. No more “living the life” because there would no longer be any need to steal anything.

Stephen approaches Roddy and Cortez casually, wanting to take the temperature of the whole crew. “Hello fellas. How are things going? Nervous for tonight?”

“Nah, we should be fine. He has basic security and no armed guards at his place, right?” Cortez asks. He takes a sip of his Gatorade.

“That’s correct. His self-imposed exile has made his life so low-key he doesn’t think he needs it,” Stephen hypothesizes. “That means we can just simply walk up to the front door, knock, invite ourselves in, threaten him with our weapons, and take what we came to take.”

“Holy shit! Seriously? It’s going to be that easy?” Roddy asks. Stephen laughs.

“No, it’s going to be a little more complicated than that. But don’t worry. I’ve got it all figured out.” Stephen looks at both men, hoping neither of them is having second thoughts about tonight’s score. It would be a shame if anyone got cold feet this late in the game.

Roddy and Cortez nod along, seemingly happy with the plan. This puts Stephen at ease. As it were, the plan is to arrive at Dylan’s home in two separate vehicles. Stephen and Thomas would arrive in Stephen’s Buick; while Xander, Roddy, and Cortez would arrive in a spacious SUV with plenty of room to store their loot. They’d park their cars a block away at around 11:00, activate the anti-security system measures at around midnight, sneak onto the property, and armed with Glock 19s (Xander claims he has an Uzi, but no one has seen it yet), break in through the back door, and calmly round up Dylan Tanaka and put him in the basement. They would take his phone away and threaten to kill him (and any unlucky son of a bitch who happens to be there) if he disobeys.

Stephen anticipates Dylan will most likely be alone. From a safe distance, he and his team have spent a lot of time scoping out the joint. The landscaper shows up a few times a month. A couple of women (both of them hot, it should be noted) visit during the day but never on weekends. Henry, the cook, leaves by 7:00 p.m. Lawrence, the butler, normally leaves about an hour after that. Sometimes two hours. But by midnight, everyone should be gone except for the owner of the house. Dylan Tanaka.

He’ll occasionally have company over, but it’s usually a small crowd of no more than four or five guests. Assuming none of them are packing heat, Stephen and his crew should have no issues handling a small crowd – assuming such a small crowd will even exist tonight. Stephen doubts it. His former boss is living as a hermit. All alone. Living life aimlessly with no clear purpose. No more parties with celebrities. No more luncheons with politicians, powerful businessmen, and global influencers. That part of his life is over.

If Dylan refuses to hand over the loot willingly, Thomas says he can crack the safe in two or three hours. Most personal home safety vaults contain either a combination lock or a keypad and password. Thomas guesses the vault’s steel walls should be at least two inches thick. Using his supremely sharp drill, it might take a few hours to crack open the door. But none of them suspect it’ll come down to that. Most likely, Dylan will succumb to his survival instincts and just open the vault himself without putting up a fight. He knows the secrets contained in that vault cannot stay hidden forever. Eventually, it will come out into the light. But he has no idea tonight would be that day. Or who would show up to snatch it.

Once they get the booty, everyone will quietly exit the house, get into their vehicles, and drive back to the safehouse using different routes (so traffic cameras can’t spot them as easily).

So that’s it. That’s the master plan.

But right now, all Stephen and his crew are thinking about is lunch.

The safehouse is located in Cle Elum, a small town in Central Washington. About a two-hour drive away from Seattle (depending on traffic), it’s far enough from the crime scene that no one will suspect they’re holed up there. But it’s also close enough that they can drive there, steal their loot, and drive back before the sun rises.

“Let’s eat! Have at it,” Xander announces. Everyone hovers over the grill to see what’s been cooking. Ribs, corn on the cob, potato fingerlings, and some kind of homemade coleslaw. In addition to being a former U.S. Marine who was dishonorably discharged from active service after participating in a robbery of an Iraqi museum (he and a few of his fellow Marines drunkenly stole some priceless artifacts after one of their translators dared them to. They were caught and subsequently kicked out of the military after a speedy court-martial), Xander is apparently an excellent cook. He may have done that while on active duty. Or not.

“You know, I have a feeling – a gut feeling, you know – that this guy may not be alone tonight,” Roddy says nervously. “When I was there earlier this morning, he, I don’t know, seemed to be in a different kind of mood, you know? Like, he was excited for something, you know?” Taking a generous bite out of a succulent piece of barbecued beef rib, Roddy leaned against a moldy wooden picnic table to eat his lunch. The past few Saturdays, Stephen has sent at least one person on the team to scope out Dylan’s property in order to learn about his daily routine, movement patterns, and report back anything unusual. That, and to become familiar with the terrain.

“Excited for what? I’ve known the man for a long time,” Stephen says, cracking open a can of LaCroix. He sips it. “He doesn’t usually wear his emotions on his sleeve. Did he say anything strange?”

“Nah, man. I couldn’t hear him exactly, but he had, I don’t know, sort of like a skip in his step, know what I mean?” Roddy tries to replicate how he observed Dylan walk around the house, but it doesn’t seem to persuade anyone that anything would be out of the ordinary. Everyone shakes their heads dismissively.

“You’re just imagining things, my dude,” Cortez reassures him. “Please don’t tell me you were smoking weed at the time. That shit smells. And he notices bullshit like that, remember? I learned that the hard way.”

Stephen looks up at the group, chewing on a piece of grilled potato. “He does, yeah. Several years ago we sat next to each other at a board meeting and he literally could smell on my breath what I had for dinner the night before. It was pretty fucking insane. I brushed my teeth the night before, trust me. I’ve never met anyone who had that great sense of smell.” He meanders toward Roddy, eyeballing him carefully but not with any hint of intimidation. “Were you lighting up near his property?”

Roddy smiles sheepishly, trying to diffuse any hint of him messing up the mission. “Nah, man. It was nine o’clock in the fucking morning, dude! I don’t smoke that early, man. Nah, that ain’t me, bruh. Don’t worry about it, we’re good.” Seemingly convinced by his defense, Stephen resumes eating his lunch. Roddy looks around at the others. Nobody looks back at him. Thomas, who’s been silent practically the whole time, burps loudly. He stands up and grabs a second beef rib from the grill pit.

“Good. Let’s not be reckless. Not today. Not now. We’ve come this far, we’re not fucking up now.” Thomas rips a huge chunk of meat from the bone like a primitive caveman. He swallows it quickly, almost as if he didn’t even chew on it. “Clean and sober until tonight, am I right?”

“Fuck yeah, my man. Clean and sober until tonight, yeah, yeah, yeah,” Cortez grins. He finishes his Gatorade and tosses the bottle in a nearby recycling bin.

“Clean and sober until tonight,” Xander repeats.

“Because this time tomorrow, all five of us will be on our way to become rich beyond our wildest dreams,” Stephen promises. “Seriously. Whatever petty amount of money you’ve made before will pale in comparison to what we’re going to acquire from this. And that you can believe.”

“Here, here!” Roddy exclaims.

Roddy, who was in fact smoking pot earlier this morning while he was sneaking around Dylan’s spacious property, hopes his eyes aren’t bloodshot, which could reveal his lie. Still, he doubts this rich guy can smell that well from a distance. Nevertheless, he hopes his incessant smoking – which he does mostly to relieve himself of anxiety, which becomes more prevalent on the day of a risky job – didn’t blow his cover or the cover of the team. That would be fucking brutal. Not to mention he’d never work with this outfit – or any outfit – ever again. It would be career suicide. Word spreads fast in the business when people screw up big time.

After lunch, Stephen plans to gather everyone around and meticulously go over the master plan once more. If he’s learned anything during his brief life outside of prison, it’s that it’s impossible to be overprepared when you’re about to do something like this. Poor planning, complacency, or forgetfulness is a one-way ticket back to the slammer. And that’s something Stephen refuses to experience again. He’s done that before. He’s not doing that a second time.

No way. No fucking way.

***

After a brief ten-minute jog on the treadmill, Dylan walks into his home gym, an expansive room in his basement that contains enough equipment to open his own CrossFit business. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but it’s pretty damn close.

Dylan has always been (fairly) in shape, but never as much as he is now. During his days as a celebrity CEO, Dylan rarely had time to do anything health-wise. He’s always eaten right, never smokes, and drinks occasionally (a classic “social drinker”). But now that he has much more time on his hands, Dylan regularly works out in his home gym an average of 4 to 5 times a week. After all, he has nothing better to do with his copious spare time but run, lift weights, stretch, and down protein shakes afterward.

The other reason he built this gym was so his guests could have a place to work out while they’re over. Tonight won’t be the first time Melanie, Peggy, and Monique have visited his residence. Nor are they the only female bodybuilders and athletes he’s had over. Locally, 3 to 4 times a week a young woman named Lindsay Wells – a CrossFit star in the making – comes over to train. In fact, she comes here (where she doesn’t have to pay a membership fee) more often than she goes to her actual CF gym. In exchange, Lindsay is more than happy to “entertain” Dylan for an hour or two after she’s finished. She lives up in Snohomish, which is only about 35 minutes away in good traffic.

It’s a small price to pay for accessing world-class exercise equipment for free! There is also no crowd of creepy guys hitting on her or staring at her while she works out.

Dylan also invites Laura Kang, a half-Taiwanese amateur bodybuilder who lives down in Olympia, over for dinner about once a month. Her husband and 6 kids (you read that right!) have no idea she does that. They just think she drives up to Seattle for “business reasons,” which isn’t technically inaccurate. She’s 48-years-old but looks half that, a testament to the fact she’s Asian and she treats skincare like a religious ritual. She and Dylan have never had sex (that’s a strict limitation for her), but she appreciates a quiet place to lift and enjoy a fantastic Henry-cooked meal afterward.

All Dylan asks for is to be able to “worship” her for an hour in his bedroom. She gladly obliges. Then, she goes home and resumes her life as a working mom.

Today, Dylan decides to go light. A few sets of dumbbell back rows, pull-ups, seated dumbbell shoulder presses, front raises, and lat pull-downs are all that’s necessary for now. He usually finishes with stretching and several sets of incline bench sit-ups. Normally, Dylan does deadlifts on Saturdays, but today he’ll play it safe and not do any significant heavy lifting. He’s always cautious, but today is a special day – it could very well be the best day of the year! – and he wouldn’t want to accidentally injure himself in any way.

“Got to get the blood flowing, especially for tonight!” Dylan gleefully tells himself. He picks up a towel to wipe the sweat off his face.

Dylan is pretty sure Lindsay came over yesterday, but he can’t be certain. He can usually smell her scent. Miss Wells probably needs to consume more magnesium in her diet because her musky odor is noticeable even 24 hours after visiting. Then again, Dylan does possess remarkable olfactory senses, so perhaps he’s being a little (pardon the expression) oversensitive. He makes a mental note to talk with her about this the next time he sees her.

“I wonder if the four of us should work out together tomorrow morning before everyone leaves?” Dylan wonders aloud. Then, he proceeds to make his pre-workout smoothie. He pours protein powder, a banana, yogurt, and other frozen fruits into a blender and turns it on. The loud whirring of the machine fills the entire room. The thought of the four of them lifting weights together in the privacy of his own home is quite…arousing.

“Unless Henry wants his own private time with Peggy, of course. Devilish man, that Henry is.” He stops the machine, opens the lid, sticks his finger in it, and tastes the smoothie. It meets his standard of excellence. Dylan pours himself a tall glass and drinks it as quickly as he can. This turns out to be a mistake once “brain freeze” takes over and gives him a headache.

“Damnit! I got to be more careful next time.”

An hour later, Dylan walks over to the shower stalls located right next to the weight room. It contains four showerheads in one large room. Perfect for himself, Melanie, Peggy, and Monique! The very thought of the four of them, naked together and showering off their sweat and grime, is enough to give Dylan an unexpected erection. He looks down at his hardened penis, smiles, and chastises it. “Calm down, little fellow! You’re in for a real treat after dinner tonight. Just keep calm. Don’t want to get too excited yet! Your time will come. Literally.”

After drying off, Dylan gets dressed, puts on his shoes, and heads outside to take a casual stroll through the neighborhood.

This beautiful summer-like weather won’t enjoy itself, after all. Time to get some Vitamin D.

***

“You seem nervous. But you shouldn’t be,” Thomas says to Stephen, who’s noticeably twiddling his thumbs with enough anxious energy to power a whole skyscraper. Both men are still outside, lunch being long over. The other three companions are inside either cleaning their weapons or going over the schedule again.

“I know. We’ve done our due diligence. We’ve spied him outside his home almost every day for the past five weeks. We know his daily patterns, his sleep schedule, his normal activities, everything. We know who comes in and out of his house,” Stephen says. “I shouldn’t be nervous. But I am. Don’t know why.” He spits on the ground.

“I think you’re nervous about seeing him again, not the job,” Thomas replies, channeling his inner psychologist. This isn’t the first time he’s had to calm down an anxious colleague. “We have five armed guys robbing one rich guy with minimal security systems. And your guy is taking care of that. We have the clear advantage. His butler won’t be there. His fucking cook won’t either. The bitches who come over to work out won’t be there either. We’re good. We’re good to go.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Stephen stands up to stretch his legs. He hates long drives, which the five of them will be embarking on soon. The plan is to leave Cle Elum at 9:30 p.m. and arrive in Seattle at around 11:00 p.m. From there, things should be pretty straightforward. Stephen has a man inside the company that provides Dylan his security. He’ll make contact with him to get the party started. Once inside, the only issue is how easily Dylan surrenders and delivers to him what he wants. Will he put up a fight? Or will he capitulate the moment a gun is pointed at his forehead? And if he does, what will this vault be like? Can Dylan easily open it himself, or has he installed some special security protocol where a second authorized person (who could very well be thousands of miles away) has to help him open it? This is the nightmare scenario that is somewhat keeping Stephen on his toes.

But that’s why Thomas is along for the ride. He’s an expert safecracker who can do it all – and has seen it all. In fact, he was the one who suggested the possibility of the two-person authorization protocol (heck, it could require three or four people to open up this fucking vault, depending on how valuable its contents are). That’s why he’s bringing his high-powered drill and other specialized equipment with him. Just in case.

“Well, I’m guessing this’ll be much easier than we think it’s going to be. At first, I was concerned that he’ll have advanced systems like security cameras, electric fences, or even a 24-hour armed guard standing at attention at the front door. Thankfully, that’s not the case,” Thomas says. “Like you said before, he’s a loner and a social pariah. Who the fuck would want to break into his house anyway? Tourists? People looking for his autograph?”

“People like us, my dude. People like us.” Stephen and Thomas fist bump. Inside the safe house, they can hear Xander and Roddy arguing about which version of the Remington RP is better. It’s unclear who’s winning the argument. Probably neither of them. Cortez seems to be taking a nap on the sofa.

The two men who sat next to each other at the prison lunch table for nearly a year exchange a quick glance before returning back inside.

There’s work to do.

All the King’s Queens – Chapter 2: Everything is in Order

The chirping of birds outside is not making it easier to sleep in. Even with newly installed windows that normally do a good job at blocking out exterior noise, the incessant chirping cannot be ignored. And it will not stop.

Dylan Tanaka has no choice but to wake up. Curses!

But all is not lost. Today, after all, is the Big Day. No, not his wedding day. Not the day he graduates from college (even though graduating as the class valedictorian at the Hamburg Institute of Futurist Technology was quite a spectacular accomplishment). But the day of the Big Dinner Party. With three distinguished guests.

The time is 6:48 a.m. Dylan planned to sleep in at least till 8:30, but the army of chickadees just outside his window yapping away is derailing those plans. Oh well. No big deal. If that’s the worst thing that happens to him today, Dylan will consider himself lucky.

Dylan crawls out of bed and quickly dresses in a comfy old pair of jeans, white polo shirt, and grey cashmere socks. As he walks downstairs to the dining room, he can already hear Henry, his personal chef of twelve years and close confidante, complaining about the Seattle Mariners’ frustrating bullpen issues.

What else is new?

“Damn, if a baseball game were seven innings long, we’d be going to the World Series!” Henry exclaims. He’s evidently talking to himself because no one appears to be in the kitchen right now except for him. Apparently, he’s listening to sports talk radio or some baseball podcast. Dylan cannot tell which one it is.

“Good morning Henry!”

“Hi Boss Man! Don’t worry about my ramblings. I know we suck this year, but this shit still frustrates me, you know what I mean?” Henry is chopping scallions and looks to be preparing a frittata. That makes sense because this is Saturday morning, which is when Henry alternates between making Dylan either a veggie omelet or a frittata. Occasionally, he’ll switch it up and make eggs benedict, but that’s usually reserved for special occasions. Which apparently today isn’t, for some strange reason.

“Yeah, I hear you loud and clear.” Dylan leans over the kitchen counter and watches Henry cook. “No eggs benedict this morning?”

Henry stops what he’s doing and gives Dylan a sarcastic side-eye. He’s worked for Dylan long enough to know that giving him sass won’t endanger his job security. Even if it did, he’s confident he’d have plenty of other job offers lined up.

“Sorry, no. But I ain’t making no omelet or frittata neither! I know today’s a very special day,” Henry smirks. “You’re having a chorizo scramble with sweet mango salsa and whatever the hell vegetables I have in the fridge.” Henry gestures to the opposite side of the long sixteen-foot kitchen island. Dylan sees a package of unopened chorizo sausage from the local Mexican grocery store thawing. This brings a welcomed smile to Dylan’s face.

“Thanks Henry.” Dylan opens the refrigerator and takes out a can of Starbucks Frappuccino. “Are we all prepared for tonight’s festivities?” He opens the can and drinks from it, while Henry stops what he’s doing to look his boss in the eye.

“Oh, hell yeah! Can’t wait to see the ladies again. Damn, it’s been a while since you’ve had anyone over. And three at a time? Whooooooooooooooooeeeeeeeee!” Henry resumes cooking, imagining in his head what sorts of naughty fun his boss will partake in tonight. One’s imagination will often be more scandalous than reality, though Henry suspects his boss has plenty of erotic shenanigans on his personal to-do list.

“Make sure you say hi to them. I know you appreciate these ladies just as much as I do!” Dylan pats Henry on the shoulder and walks out of the kitchen toward the dining room. Henry heartily laughs to himself. It may have happened by accident, but when Dylan hired Henry to be his personal chef twelve years ago, he had no idea he was bringing on a fellow fan of female bodybuilders into his home. Dylan has done everything he can to keep his fetish for strong muscular women a secret, knowing how embarrassing it would be to him if the public found out (let alone the awkward texts he’d receive from his own mother!). After he hires a new domestic employee, Dylan usually asks everyone to sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep his personal secrets private. With Henry, however, such an agreement was still done, but somewhat unnecessary. Henry is more open about his love for strong beautiful women than Dylan, however he understands why his boss would want that part of his life kept hush-hush. Plus, silence has its benefits.

Every so often, Dylan will let his trusted cook join in on the fun!

Well, not at the same time, of course.

As Henry continues to work in the kitchen, Dylan sits down at the head of a 12-foot-long oval glass top dining table. Lawrence, his butler of fourteen years, has dutifully left the latest issue of The Atlantic sitting at his place. The cover story, unfortunately, is enough to make Dylan want to vomit.

“Throw Every Billionaire in Jail?” Henry reads aloud the front cover headline. “It’s a travesty that in Modern America men like Dylan Tanaka is a free man while thousands of Iraqi and Syrian children are dead.” Dylan stops reading and almost tosses the magazine across the room in disgust. Before he can do anything impulsive, Lawrence emerges from the dining room entrance.

“Sorry, sir. When I first saw the cover story, I figured this would be an issue you wouldn’t want to read,” Lawrence picks up the magazine, inspects it once more, and hands it back to Dylan. “But orders are orders, if that makes any sense. You always want reading material to go along with breakfast. I didn’t just want to assume you wouldn’t want to read this.”

Dylan finishes his Frappuccino and gives the empty can to Lawrence. He sighs. “No, you’re fine. You did what you’ve always been instructed to do. It’s not your fault.” Dylan rubs his tired eyes with Lawrence watching his boss with a mixture of concern and empathy. “It’s been four years since everything that happened. But it seems much longer than that. I need to get over myself, but I still need more time. Fuck. Looks like I’m going to need at least twenty years to get back on my feet.”

Now, it’s Lawrence’s turn to pat someone on the shoulder.

“Perhaps tonight’s dinner party will lift your spirits. Because I highly doubt the FBI will be knocking down the door anytime soon, regardless of what this author may fantasize about in his or her mind.” Lawrence takes the empty Frappuccino can so he can toss it in the recycling bin. “Other than that, everything is in order. All the preparations according to your requests have been made.”

Dylan gives his loyal butler a smile of approval. He smiles back. Exiting to the kitchen, Dylan hears Lawrence and Henry having a pleasant conversation faintly into the distance. He cannot make out what they’re chatting about. He places the magazine face down on the table defiantly.

“Let’s hope the only visitors I get tonight are those who actually like me,” Dylan whispers under his breath. He sighs again.

At the age of 23, Dylan was a recent graduate of the most prestigious technical university in the world. He became an intern at Boeing in the fall of 2004, right when the U.S. was more than a year into the Iraq War and a few years into the larger War on Terror. Big technical firms were being given multibillion-dollar contracts from the Department of Defense to build weapons, vehicles, and technology to help defeat al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and whatever new threat would rear its ugly head. After four months at Boeing, Dylan developed in his parent’s basement an AI program that could analyze international bank transactions, phone calls, emails, texts, trade agreements, and satellite images to predict when future terrorist attacks would happen. His algorithm analyzed trillions of pieces of data simultaneously and calculated a “threat coefficient” to whoever cared to know. His test modeling used data collected from the ten years leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks, in which his program predicted with 97% accuracy the likelihood that Osama bin Laden would successfully plan and execute a mass terror attack on U.S. soil sometime between Jan. 1, 1998 and Dec. 31, 2002. This gave him confidence that his algorithm works. It’s not 100% reliable but it doesn’t need to be. All it has to do is provide intelligence officials credible warnings that certain threats are imminent. Dylan had all the confidence in the world that his AI program can do just that. After quitting his gig at Boeing and working at the Pentagon as a contract worker, young Dylan spent the next few years successfully helping the U.S. government sniff out potential plots that may have saved the lives of thousands, if not millions. He felt really proud of himself. So much so that in 2007 he tendered his resignation at the DOD and began his own startup firm.

This is when Dylan went from being a boy genius wunderkind to an international celebrity CEO.

His company, Perseus Analytics (named after the Greek mythological demigod who slayed monsters like Medusa), skyrocketed to become one of the largest and most influential corporations in world history. PA mostly used AI technology to help agricultural, shipping, construction, and engineering companies make data-driven informed business decisions. However, they also carried on as a military contractor, continuing the work Dylan did for the DOD – but at a much larger scale.

PA’s immediate success as a cutting-edge leader in the “Business Intelligence Software” industry made Dylan Tanaka an overnight celebrity. He was on the cover of several magazines, profiled by TV stations across the world, and spoke at several prestigious technology conferences. He went from a modest 4,983 Twitter followers to 2.4 million in less than a month. Forbes Magazine even suggested that he should run for president when he’s eligible in 2016, writing that “Mr. Tanaka represents what the future of our world is rapidly becoming: data-driven, pro-active, emotionally intelligent, innovative, and best of all, altruistic to a fault. If he were to run for President of the United States in 2016 – when he would be 35 years old – we would be hard-pressed to come up with a plausible reason why he wouldn’t receive this magazine’s glowing endorsement. This sentiment would gladly apply in 2020, 2024, 2028, and so on.”

The first several years of Perseus Analytics’ existence were a whirlwind for everyone involved. Dylan’s sudden celebrity, while amusing in the moment but ultimately meaningless in the long run, caught the attention of people other than tech journalists, social media influencers, and podcasters. His work also captured the imaginations of powerful men and women inside the U.S. government. The hefty contract PA signed with the DOD in 2009 is a testament to that. At first, the work was fairly modest. Dylan continued the work he did prior for them but at a larger scale. However, that quickly changed as the geopolitical landscape also changed.

In 2011, as drone technology was reaching its maturity, Dylan’s AI programs helped the military decide which targets to bomb. He entrusted Stephen Callahan, a longtime colleague he first met at Boeing, to head up this division. This project signified a dramatic strategic shift in PA’s work with the government. At first, they provided military and intelligence officers with information to help them make wise decisions. Now, they’re assisting in dropping bombs, launching missiles, and planning precision airstrikes. PA went from providing useful intel to delivering weapons of mass death.

For several years, their work went largely unnoticed by the public. Every PA senior executive and several high-ranking employees signed confidentiality agreements. Their top-secret work remained exactly that: a secret.

That all changed in 2015.

An explosive New York Times article – quoting several anonymous sources inside Perseus Analytics, the Pentagon, CIA, and U.S. military – claimed a bug in the AI program led to several drone strikes killing untold thousands of innocent civilians. In the wake of ISIS’s shocking November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, the U.S. and its European allies stepped up drone strikes in the Middle East and North Africa. Most of those drones were equipped with Dylan’s AI protocols. Unfortunately, as Dylan and Stephen publicly admitted, the AI wasn’t perfect.

So yes, thousands of innocent people lost their lives because their technology wasn’t flawless. Additionally, this work flew under the radar of the usual systems of checks and balances. Many members of Congress, even those on defense and intelligence committees, were kept in the dark about PA’s relationship with the government. So not only was their work borderline immoral, it also could have been illegal.

Demands for a public inquiry grew. It quickly happened. Testifying before a hostile Congress, Dylan and Stephen (along with several other high-ranking PA executives) had to defend themselves amidst accusations of being “war profiteers” and engineers of genocide. Dylan felt like Howard Hughes being accused of the same thing shortly after World War II.

After a truncated federal investigation and trial, Stephen was sentenced to three years in a federal penitentiary for “gross negligence” that led to the deaths of countless Iraqis and Syrians. After cutting a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice where Dylan agreed to step down as CEO of Perseus Analytics and “retire” from public life, he was able to avoid any prison time if he agreed to pay a hefty fine. He did. As one of the youngest billionaires in the world, the fine was substantial but not life-altering. It was just money, not his freedom. Stephen Callahan, on the other hand, took the fall. A few others served much lighter prison sentences, but that didn’t stop Dylan from becoming a public pariah. Many said he got away with murder. Even members of his own family told the media that Dylan deserves jail time! That led to an estrangement that continues to this day.

And in the blink of an eye, Dylan Tanaka went from a beloved celebrity to genocidal monster.

Whew.

Most of his friends and family abandoned him. His own university unceremoniously stripped him of his degree. After cleaning house, Perseus Analytics rebranded as The McDermott Corporation (named after the brand-new CEO, Amanda McDermott, a woman Dylan briefly dated before the New York Times’s bombshell report ruined his life). All mentions of Dylan were scrubbed from the company’s website and social media channels. He was erased. Cancelled. Exiled. Ostracized. Turned into a “persona non grata.”

For the past four years, Dylan has lived quietly in his mansion in Seattle, rarely going out in public or doing anything worthwhile. He has no friends or acquaintances who are willing to be seen with him. Nobody who values their professional and personal reputations wants anything to do with Dylan Tanaka. He still sees (some of) his family during the holidays, but rarely outside of that. He is alone.

But not totally alone.

Still flushed with plenty of cash, Dylan decided to live his life the best he can despite the less-than-ideal circumstances. Just because he’s considered a war criminal in the eyes of an outraged public doesn’t mean he can’t do what he loves. And what does Dylan love?

Muscular women.

Dylan has befriended – although he knows better than to actually consider them real friends – several female bodybuilders and athletes throughout the years. Either inviting them over to his home or visiting them in their hotel rooms, Dylan figures if he can’t live a normal life, why not enjoy the stripped-down existence he currently has to suffer through? So as often as he can (averaging two or three times a month), Dylan sets up meetings with female bodybuilders so he can enjoy some companionship outside of Henry, Lawrence, or Joey (a weird but reliable landscaper who comes over periodically). He pays them for their time, of course, which is why he’s reluctant to call any of them “friends.” During their time together Dylan touches, kisses, and massages their muscles to his heart’s delight. In return, his female companions usually give him either a hand job or blow job to ensure he leaves the encounter perfectly contented.

He knows their relationship is strictly professional, but at least it’s something. Dylan has met at least 50 female bodybuilders in his life, many of them multiple times. But out of all of them, Melanie Wright, Peggy Cole, and Monique St. Martin are his three favorite. Dylan secretly is one of Monique’s sponsors, as he’s followed her Olympic career from the very beginning. He’s met Melanie dozens of times. She’s even told him that she considers him a real friend. But he still pays her nevertheless, mostly out of kindness.

His relationship with Peggy and Monique is more business-like, but still close. Monique allows Dylan to touch her body but has limitations when it comes to sex. Melanie and Peggy, however, have no limitations. He’s made love to both women many times throughout the years.

Dylan’s interest in muscular women began when he was 12 years old. He was always interested in sports like baseball, football, and basketball. One aimless Sunday afternoon his dad took him to a used bookstore. After perusing through dusty books and finding nothing interesting, he stumbled upon a bin full of old sports magazines. They were on sale. Five magazines for $4. Not a bad deal! Dylan looked through almost all of them, selecting an issue of Sports Illustrated and a few ones previewing the upcoming baseball season. Then, he found it.

An old issue of Muscle & Fitness from 1985.

On the cover was Cory Everson, who at the time was in the middle of a Ms. Olympia winning streak that ended up lasting six years. It was his first time ever seeing a photograph of a muscular woman. Not just that, but a beautiful muscular woman with a bright, friendly smile. Dylan could not stop staring at it. He probably looked at that cover for a solid five minutes without moving. He had to have it. His dad didn’t notice what his son decided to buy (he figured they were all baseball related), so Dylan felt like he got away with something naughty without being caught.

That night – and several nights afterward – he masturbated in the privacy of his bedroom to a two-page spread of Ms. Everson flexing her big, sleek muscles. It was an eye-opening experience. He just started noticing girls but fantasized about more “traditional” women like Pamela Anderson, Cindy Crawford, and Carmen Electra. He had no idea there were women in this world with big muscles. Women who lifted really heavy weights like Arnold Schwarzenegger. They weren’t as big as Arnold, but they were pretty damn impressive!

It was a revelation. An epiphany. A mind-blowing discovery. He knew he liked looking at pictures of beautiful women…but women with muscles? How crazy is that?

Young Dylan knew this was strange. He knew he could never tell another soul about this. So, he kept this his little secret. Nobody ever found out about his massive crush on big buff ladies. Whenever he could he returned to that used bookstore and eventually started to buy bodybuilding/fitness magazines with his own money. He flipped through all of them to make sure they didn’t just feature buff guys. The ones that showcased ladies were his for the taking. And he took them home and hid them under his bed. He made sure his mom never found them. Every night until he left for college he jerked off to photos of some of the world’s most famous FBBs: Cory Everson, Rachel McLish, Carla Dunlap, Lenda Murray, Bev Francis, Peggy Schoolcraft, and famous fitness competitors like Monica Brant and Deidre Pagnanelli. He knew all their names, faces, birthdays, hometowns, competitive history, and measurements.

He was obsessed with muscular women. He thought about them day and night. But throughout his many years fixating over female bodybuilders, he never ever told a single soul about it. Not even his pet dog knew about his scandalous fetish. It was a closely guarded secret. Even today it’s still a secret, though to a slightly lesser degree. Dylan’s domestic employees know about it. The female bodybuilders he’s met over the years know about it (obviously). But that’s it. Nobody else.

He’s sworn every FBB he’s ever met to secrecy. They are to never tell anyone that Dylan Tanaka is one of their loyal clients. Ever. Being “outed” like that would be an utter embarrassment. So far, so good. Female bodybuilders who provide muscle worship sessions are great at respecting and maintaining privacy. He has no worries of his secret being exposed to the public. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d ever be humiliated on the world stage.

“Breakfast is served!” Henry enters the dining room, places the frittata and a cup of coffee in front of Dylan, and notices the magazine lying face down. “Anything else, Boss Man?” This pleasant interruption disrupts Dylan’s unpleasant trip down memory lane. He shakes his head.

“Nah, I think that’s it. Looks absolutely delicious!” Dylan takes a bite out of his breakfast, savoring every morsel of flavor. “You’ve outdone yourself, my friend. Incredible.”

“Thanks my man!” Before returning to the kitchen, Henry turns to his boss and asks in a lowered voice: “Tomorrow morning, before she leaves, can I spend some time with Peggy? After watching her latest video, wow! I got to have some of that!”

Peggy’s primary source of income isn’t bodybuilding, but instead being a webcam performer. As a fairly well-known “celebrity” in the world of adult entertainment, Peggy boasts a regular following of 1,260,000+ people from around the world. You don’t need to speak the same language in order to understand that watching a beautiful muscular woman strip naked in her bedroom and masturbate is a sexy thing to behold. Not unexpectedly, her large subscriber base doesn’t just supplement her income. It is her income. And also unexpectedly, Henry is one of those subscribers who pays a modest monthly sum to watch her “do her thing.”

Dylan too. This goes without saying.

“I can’t guarantee anything, but what I’ll say is this,” Dylan begins. Henry is nearly drooling with anticipation. “I’ll ask her if she has time before she has to leave for her flight. Of course, I can’t guarantee anything. But it never hurts to ask. How does that sound?”

Henry’s eyes get really big, a sure sign that he’s responding positively to this proposition. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. That sounds good with me! I’ll make sure to say hi to her when she arrives for dinner. Maybe that’ll sway her. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.”

Henry returns to the kitchen, laughing to himself. Dylan didn’t ask what’s for dinner, but he’s assuming it’s going to be absolutely delicious. For special gatherings – and yes, Dylan occasionally hosts dinner parties with non-female bodybuilders – Henry has an impeccable record of choosing a menu that makes all the guests happy. From braised lamb shanks to grilled salmon to carbonara to prime rib to sushi to Korean tofu soup, Henry can cook anything. Anything. Any culture, any region, for any occasion. In addition to their shared love for muscular women, his culinary skills are the primary reason why Henry has been employed by Dylan for so long. That is, after all, why one keeps a chef around.

A few moments pass in silence. Eventually, Dylan begins to eat his frittata. After dreading it, Dylan picks up the magazine and opens it to a random page somewhere in the middle. Thankfully, a story asking for Dylan to be incarcerated in a French Revolution-style “eat the bourgeoisie” class war doesn’t appear. Some random story about the Chinese government hacking into the CIA’s database. As if that’s any more comforting.

Eating and sipping his coffee in silence, Dylan decides he should simply enjoy his breakfast so he could prepare for what should be the best weekend of his life. He learned at an early age that if you let negative emotions fester too long inside your mind, it will have a direct impact on your entire life moving forward. This weekend is intended to be one of the greatest of his life, so he better get his head right if that’s going to be the case. The outside world may hate his guts, but inside his own little kingdom he’s in control of what happens. And he knows the three guests whom he cordially invited to his home love him for who he is, not for what he’s done. It’s a comforting feeling to be around people who truly care for you.

A half an hour later, Dylan returns his dirty dishes to the kitchen. Henry has left for the morning – probably off to run errands – and Lawrence is nowhere to be seen. Dylan looks out the kitchen window overlooking Lake Washington. It’s a gorgeous day, with the weather forecast promising an even greater weekend. He hears the faint sound of a chainsaw roaring away in the backyard. That must be Joey, Dylan’s stoner landscaper who comes around usually once or twice a month. Usually on a Saturday. Today being Saturday, that makes perfect sense.

After putting on a pair of shoes, Dylan takes a stroll outside to see what Joey’s working on today. He immediately smells the strong odor of marijuana emanating from the backyard toolshed. Dylan isn’t a smoker himself and has no problems with people smoking reefer – even while on the job. But that still doesn’t change the fact that the reek of pot bothers him. But not enough to tell Joey to stop doing it while on his property. Dylan tends to be a “live and let live” kind of guy. He’ll give him a pass.

The ruckus caused by the chainsaw is probably powerful enough to wake up the whole neighborhood. Either that or the smell of weed. Dylan’s 6,125 square foot property boasts a massive backyard designed in the style of a traditional Japanese garden. In the middle is a large lotus pond that snakes around almost ¾ of the whole property. The lip of the pond feeds into a small waterfall that flows downward toward the beach. That water then gets recirculated back into the top of the pond, located adjacent to a massive cherry blossom that still takes his breath away even to this day. The rest of the yard consists of lines of willow trees (which Joey is most likely trimming with the chainsaw), lanterns, a gorgeous walking bridge connecting one end of the lotus pond to the far west side, rocks big enough to sit on, bamboo, Japanese maple, rhododendron, and various other plants and flowers. Many years ago, Dylan hired an architect and his wife – a world famous gardener – to design everything.

They did a bang-up job.

A small chashitsu (a traditional Japanese teahouse) sits in the northeast corner, which serves as a toolshed for Joey (and whenever a professional arborist pays a visit). Sure enough, a few feet away Joey is hard at work trimming some of the overgrown willow trees. He has Beats by Dre headphones on, listening to some kind of music as he works. It’s a good thing he has noise-cancelling headphones on because that chainsaw is so annoyingly loud. If he didn’t, he might go deaf after twenty minutes of having it on.

Dylan waits until Joey stops for a drink of water to interrupt him. “Hey there! How are things going?”

“Oh, hey Mr. Tanaka! Things are going good, nothing to complain about. I got a new chainsaw! Take a look at it.” Joey carelessly waves the sharp blade of the 20-inch gas-powered Helinski Class-A toward his boss’s face. Even as Dylan suddenly leans back, Joey doesn’t seem to notice. “It’s super sharp and cuts through these branches like melted butter. It’s really meant for wood, you know? But it’s all good.”

Admiring the clean, sharp blade and jagged teeth, Dylan gives Joey a courtesy smile and nod. He inspects the willow trees from the top on down. “As long as it gets the job done. I just wanted to say hi and tell you I love your work…but could you do me a favor?”

Joey puts down the chainsaw, removes his headphones (so the music he was listening to wasn’t that loud?), and turns to his boss. “Sure thang, what is it?”

“Could you, uh,” Dylan hesitantly begins, “Could you maybe smoke before you show up to work, as opposed to during? No offense, but it’s sort of messing with my head. I can be oversensitive to smells like that.”

“Oh, that’s weird! Because I ain’t smoke nothing yet today, my man. It must’ve been the neighbors, for real,” Joey says. He must be telling the truth, because when he gets high his Mexican accent comes back. When he’s “sober” – or as sober as he can possibly be – he tends to ditch the accent. “Seriously though, I can smell the pot too. But it ain’t coming from me, I can tell you that homie!”

“Ah. Okay. No worries. It must be the neighbors,” Dylan reassures his nervous employee.

Joey gives Dylan a fist bump and burps loudly. Dylan chuckles. They shake hands. As he proceeds to return to his job, Dylan sniffs the air one more time and notices, strangely enough, that the smell of pot has gone away. Joey is wrong about the neighbors smoking. He highly doubts anyone who lives in this neighborhood would do anything that even resembles rebellious behavior, even though marijuana has been legalized in this state for a few years now.

No worries. Maybe it was his imagination playing tricks on him.

As he looks up, one of the pesky birds who woke him up earlier today is staring right back at him.

“Are you the one who was lighting up this early in the morning?”

The bird does not verbally respond. It then proceeds to fly away to a different tree in someone else’s yard.

“I thought so,” Dylan mutters under his breath.

All the King’s Queens – Chapter 1: Sincerely, With Love

Melanie Wright
19903 87th Avenue SE
Chicago, IL 60640

April 18, 2019

Dear Melanie,

I hope this letter finds you well. It’s hard to believe I’ve been “retired” for nearly four years now, but here I am, alive and well. The older I get, the more I realize the importance of health, happiness, and contentment. It’s a shame it takes a life-changing event to make that truth reveal itself.

The reason I’m writing to you today is because I would love to invite you to a special dinner party at my home in Seattle. I know you are currently traveling Europe, so you may not receive this letter for at least a few weeks. But don’t fear! I plan to host this party on the weekend of June 29-30. I will send a private jet to pick you up at O’Hare International Airport on the morning of the 29th at 11:00 a.m. (CT) It will take you directly to Seattle, where I’ll have a taxicab ready to pick you up and drive you to my private residence.

For the sake of transparency, I’ve also invited Monique St. Martin and Peggy Cole to join us for the weekend’s festivities. I believe you are acquainted with both of these fine ladies and are on good terms with both. I cannot guarantee that both will join us, but I have no doubt our weekend together will be a special one to remember regardless of who will be here with us.

Speaking of which, please bring with you any toys or “accessories” you think would enhance our fun together. As well as a few sexy outfits. I know you’ll look beautiful – as you always do!

I expect our weekend’s frivolities to end on Sunday afternoon after lunch. I will guarantee that you will be able to return home to Chicago by 9:00 p.m. (CT) at the latest. I hope this will not be an inconvenience for you and interfere with any prior engagements.

If you will be so kind, RSVP to this invitation by Sunday, May 26th at the latest by calling or texting me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, with love,

Dylan Tanaka

***

Monique St. Martin
2477 Santiago Boulevard N
Miami, FL 33125

April 18, 2019

Dear Monique,

Hi honey! How are you doing? From what I’ve read, your rehab process went better than expected, meaning you were able to begin training again sooner than your doctors thought was even possible. That’s great news!

Like many people across the world, I was heartbroken when your accident happened. I cried real tears as I watched the horror unfold on television. I cannot even imagine what you were going through as it was happening. My heart still breaks for you, even though your accident was almost 3 years ago. It’s like it happened last month.

However, it’s on to better times!

I’d love to invite you to a private dinner party over at my home in Seattle during the weekend of June 29-30. You’ve been over here before, so you know where it is. But don’t worry about transportation! I can arrange for a private airplane to pick you up at Miami International Airport on the morning of the 29th at 10:00 a.m. (EST) You should arrive here in Seattle at around 1:30 p.m. local time (PST). I will then arrange for a taxicab to pick you up and drive you to my home.

Just so you know, I’ve also invited Melanie Wright and Peggy Cole to join us for the weekend. I believe you’re acquainted with both of them, am I right? I cannot guarantee that both of them will be able to join us, but that shouldn’t get in the way of everyone who will be in attendance from having a banging good time!

Speaking of which, please feel free to bring any sexy outfits or “accessories” along with you. I understand you have strict “limitations” when it comes to your relationship with me, so I promise you I will not pressure you to do anything you feel uncomfortable doing. If at any time you feel like your boundaries are being crossed, please speak up and let us know. I would be horrified if you felt violated during our time together.

I will also be able to give you your quarterly sponsorship money in a sealed envelope. No need to hassle with the bank on securing a wired deposit. Unlike that one time, I don’t plan to show up to Miami unannounced anytime soon!

I expect our weekend’s frivolities to end on Sunday afternoon after lunch. I will guarantee that you will be able to return home to Miami by 10:00 p.m. (EST) at the latest. I hope this will not be an inconvenience for you and conflict with any prior engagements.

If you will be so kind, RSVP to this invitation by Sunday, May 26th at the latest by calling or texting me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, with love,

Dylan Tanaka

***

Peggy Cole
9090 Cortez Road SE, apt. 540
Las Vegas, NV 89110

April 18, 2019

Dear Peggy,

Hello gorgeous! Long time no see, am I right?

I love watching your cam shows every Tuesday night! It’s definitely the highlight of my week, which seem to be getting more and more pointless as time goes on. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

I’d love to invite you to a private dinner party over at my home in Seattle during the weekend of June 29-30. You’ve been over here before, so you know where it is. But don’t worry about transportation! I can arrange for a private airplane to pick you up at McCarran International Airport on the afternoon of the 29th at 1:30 p.m. (PST) You should arrive here in Seattle at around 4:00 p.m. I will then arrange for a taxicab to pick you up and drive you to my home.

Just so you know, I’m also inviting Monique St. Martin and Melanie Wright to join us for the entire weekend. I believe you know both of them and are on good terms with each other. I wouldn’t want any unnecessary drama following us around! There will be plenty of excitement as it is, I’m sure. Obviously, I can’t guarantee that all four of us will be able to enjoy each other’s company, but no matter who shows up it will certainly be a weekend to remember for years to come.

Speaking of which, please bring along with you lots of sexy outfits, underwear, toys, accessories, lubricants, bondage paraphernalia, and “magical substances” you think all of us will enjoy. You know about Monique’s limitations, but Melanie and I are up for anything, as usual.

I expect our weekend’s frivolities to end on Sunday afternoon after lunch. I will guarantee that you will be able to return home to Las Vegas by 5:00 p.m. at the latest. I hope this will not be an inconvenience for you. I know you are a busy woman with all your clients, cam shows, wrestling sessions, and video shoots to keep track of. Trust me, I’m watching your career unfold very closely. A little too closely, perhaps!

If you will be so kind, RSVP to this invitation by Sunday, May 26th at the latest by calling or texting me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, with love,

Dylan Tanaka

***

Saturday, April 27, 2019

8:49 a.m. (PST)

MELANIE WRIGHT
Hey baby! I just got your letter. Yes I’d love to come over for some fun at your big mansion. Can’t wait! Thank you darling!

DYLAN TANAKA
Fantastic! It’s great to hear from you. Thank you for the quick reply, my dear. You’re the first to respond, to tell you the truth.

MELANIE WRIGHT
O really? Haha

DYLAN TANAKA
For sure. I look forward to seeing you, my lady. I’ll text you flight itinerary info once we get closer to the big weekend. Lots of love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MELANIE WRIGHT
Love you baby xoxo

***

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

11:17 p.m. (PST)

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
Heeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy babyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DYLAN TANAKA
Monique my dear! I trust you just received my letter in the mail?

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
Yassssss daddi! I want to come over and see you and the girls soooooooooo badly lol

DYLAN TANAKA
That’s great news! You’re just in luck. I heard from Melanie a few days ago. She said she’ll be able to join us. Haven’t heard back from Peggy yet, though. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be able to make it. She has so many lovers I cannot imagine how many hundreds of texts she gets every day. That’s why she can be slow to respond.

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
I hope she can cum lol

DYLAN TANAKA
Me too.

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
Sounds like fun. You know about my limitations, but you just may be in luck.

DYLAN TANAKA
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
lol

DYLAN TANAKA
I hope you don’t feel pressured or anything. That’s not my intent at all.

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
Oh no, baby! That ain’t it. I’m just feeling a little more generous than usual lol I want to show you how much I appreciate you supporting me and stuff xoxoxoxoxo

DYLAN TANAKA
Oh good. Well, I certainly look forward to seeing you and knowing how generous you plan to be. I love you, Monique dear.

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
I luv you too daddi

DYLAN TANAKA
Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
haha looooooooooool do you still think of me when you jerk off every night?

DYLAN TANAKA
Yes, definitely, yes. I always think of you and those beautiful biceps of yours. Mmmmmmmmm

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
Keep your dick in your pants daddi!!!!!!!!! But you can still think of my big 16 inch biceps when you nut all over yourself lol

DYLAN TANAKA
I’ll make sure to blow an extra large load just for you, my dearest. All over my silk sheets…

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
looooooooooollllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yo nasty!!!!!!!!!!!!

DYLAN TANAKA
I love you, my sweet angel. I’ll text you flight info when we get closer to our date together.

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
k

DYLAN TANAKA
Love you.

MONIQUE ST. MARTIN
Luv you 2 bye bye

***

Monday, May 13, 2019

2:31 a.m. (PST)

PEGGY COLE: Oh fuck yeah…………

DYLAN TANAKA: Yesssssssssssssssssss!

PEGGY COLE: Oh I’m close…I’m so, so close baby!

DYLAN TANAKA: I can see. You’re so fucking wet, my dear. So, so wet. I can see it dripping all over the place. So beautiful. Such a sight to see.

PEGGY COLE: What about you? Are you close too?

DYLAN TANAKA: Uh, well…

PEGGY COLE: Tell me you sick fuck! Tell me you little fucking bitch. You worthless cunt. Are you going to come too? With me? Like a good little boy?

DYLAN TANAKA: I think so, yeah.

PEGGY COLE: You better. You and your tiny little dick better come with me. If we don’t come together, I’m going to laugh at your limp little Asian cock and tell ALL MY FRIENDS how tiny it is! Do you want me to do that, you fucking little bitch?

DYLAN TANAKA: NOOOOOOO!!! Don’t do that. No!

PEGGY COLE: Well, I’m going to. I’m going to unless you –

DYLAN TANAKA: – Oh fuck!!!!!!!!!!!

PEGGY COLE: Yaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssss king!!!!!!!!!!!

DYLAN TANAKA: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh…….yessssssssssss!!!

PEGGY COLE: I’m coming too! I’m coming too! I’m going to…oh, oh, oh, oh, YAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DYLAN TANAKA: Oh my fucking God. So juicy! Wow! Look at the juices flowing out of your beautiful pussy, my dear. Look at that.

PEGGY COLE: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DYLAN TANAKA: It’s so beautiful! So, so…so beautiful!

PEGGY COLE: Oh fuck yeah. Fuck, fuck yeah. Did you come all over the fucking place?

DYLAN TANAKA: You know it. All over the floor. Mother of God. I’m too embarrassed to ask Lawrence to clean it up. I think I’m going to have to do it. Holy shit, it’s everywhere. Man, I made a mess in here. Woooooooooooooow…

PEGGY COLE: Me too!

DYLAN TANAKA: Drink your pussy juices like a good girl.

PEGGY COLE: I’m drinking, I’m drinking…

DYLAN TANAKA: How does it taste?

PEGGY COLE: Like your cum. Like you came all over me. On me, inside me, everywhere.

DYLAN TANAKA: I want to come inside you so badly.

PEGGY COLE: How badly?

DYLAN TANAKA: Really badly.

PEGGY COLE: Well, you’re just in luck.

DYLAN TANAKA: How? Um, why?

PEGGY COLE: I’d love to come over to your party next month! How does that sound?

DYLAN TANAKA: I was going to ask you about it once we’re done here, so I’m glad you brought it up. That’s great to hear! I look forward to seeing you and everyone else.

PEGGY COLE: Did Monique and Melanie also say they can come?

DYLAN TANAKA: Indeed, they did. You’re the last to RSVP, incidentally. I almost was afraid you didn’t get my message. I’m a bit old fashioned, as you can tell, sending people actual letters in the mail. It’s a nice touch. At least, I think it is.

PEGGY COLE: Yes, it sure is.

DYLAN TANAKA: Fantastic. Lovely. Damn. Such a fucking mess.

PEGGY COLE: I’m sure we’ll make an even bigger mess when we’re all together.

DYLAN TANAKA: Oh for sure. Speaking of which, make sure to bring lots of outfits, toys, and ideas for our time together. Monique says she’s open to getting in on the action, believe it or not.

PEGGY COLE: Really? Wow! I thought she’s the innocent type.

DYLAN TANAKA: Ha, she’s not as innocent as she appears. On TV she’s perfectly wholesome, but she has a bit of a nasty side to her if she allows you to see that side of her, of course. Rumor has it she may get freakier with us than she normally does.

PEGGY COLE: Huh. That I got to see! I knew she was freakier than she seems.

DYLAN TANAKA: Well, you certainly can a month from now. I’ll email you flight itinerary information once we get closer to our special weekend together, okay?

PEGGY COLE: Sounds great. Can’t wait.

DYLAN TANAKA: Same here.

PEGGY COLE: Love you, Dylan.

DYLAN TANAKA: Love you too, Peggy. I’m still going to watch your cam show tomorrow!

PEGGY COLE: Cool! I’m introducing the same vibrator that I used tonight, so you just got a sneak peek at something the world hasn’t seen before.

DYLAN TANAKA: Lucky me.

PEGGY COLE: For sure.

DYLAN TANAKA: When I’m watching I’ll pretend like I’m seeing it for the first time. I’ll, uh, “act” surprised.

PEGGY COLE: I’m sure you will. Good night, sweetie.

DYLAN TANAKA: Good night, my sweet princess.

PEGGY COLE: Kisses.

<LATINAMUSCLEPRINCESS67 has ended the conversation>

<How would you rate the quality of your chat? Please give us a rating out of 5 stars>

***

Dear future me,

After three of the longest fucking years of my life, I will finally be a free man.

I will be let out of this cage.

This hellhole.

This torture cell.

This prison.

But not just a physical prison. But a psychological prison as well.

A prison in my mind.

But all of that will be over soon. I have a plan. I know what to do.

I have the means to do it. But every day I ask myself whether or not I have the will. I have the means. I have the methods. I have the help. But, do I have the desire to see it through to the end?

I’ve wondered this every day for the last three years. These thoughts never leave my mind.

And you know what?

I do.

Let’s rock.

Sincerely,

Present me

P.S. – Regardless of what happens, all that matters is that this motherfucker burn in Hell. Like he deserves. Even if I die in the process, as long as he bleeds like a stabbed pig, I can die a happy man. But he must get hurt. Badly. In order for this to be worth it. Anything less than that would be a failure on my part. I cannot let it come to that.

Never.

All the King’s Queens: An Introduction

Hello dear readers,

At long last, I am ready to reveal to the world my debut novel, “All the King’s Queens.” This is an exciting development for my modest writing career, such as it is. This project is a long time coming, so it is a relief to finally see it come to fruition.

I understand it is quite unusual to just drop a full-length novel like this without charging people money to read it. As long as I’ve operated this blog, my intention has never been to force readers to subscribe or pay a monthly (or annual) fee to access my content. Everything has always been out in the open, free of charge, and easy to share on message boards, social media, blogs, and email. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally create content (such as a follow up novel) that will only be available through a self-publishing platform like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Apple Books, or Smashwords.

If “All the King’s Queens” enjoys a significant amount of success – judged by both reader feedback and page views – then I might consider charging a few dollars for people to read any future novels that I may write. But, I will cross that bridge when I get to it. So, do not fear. All my essays and short stories will not be moved behind a subscription firewall anytime soon, if ever.

For a long time I’ve wanted to write a longer story that explores more than just my personal fantasies about muscular women. I wanted to create a story that’s fun, exciting, emotional, and hopefully, meaningful. The protagonist, Dylan Tanaka, is a good man at heart who got caught up in the illegal and unethical activities of the technocratic-national security apparatus. After his top-secret work for the Department of Defense is exposed, the international scandal that followed forced him to retreat away from public life and live as an exile in his own home. The only thing that gives him (the “King”) happiness is his friendship with three unique women (the “Queens”): a professional bodybuilder, an adult entertainer, and an Olympic athlete. But when an old colleague with malicious intent pays him an untimely visit, Dylan is given the opportunity to redeem himself, his reputation, and his future…or face dire consequences.

Sound intriguing? I sure hope so! The characters you will meet in this book – which also include the aforementioned trio of “queens” in Melanie Wright, Peggy Cole, and Monique St. Martin – were a delight to create, explore, and flesh out. Rest assured, you have not heard the last from these incredible people. In the spirit of transparency, I do have in mind plans for creating a larger “Female Muscle Literary Universe” not unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe or (whatever supposedly passes for) the Star Wars Universe these days. I haven’t decided which characters will come back, but I do have other stories festering in my brain that I’m planning to write in the coming years. And, some of the minor characters you will meet in “All the King’s Queens” are guaranteed to play a larger role in a future novel. But I need a break before I put my “creative thinking cap” back on.

My plan is to publish two chapters a week, most likely on Tuesdays and Fridays. I may or may not intersperse my publication schedule with the usual assortment of essays and short stories; though I may just stick with “All the King’s Queens” for now to avoid unnecessary confusion. Today I’m publishing this introduction. You will see chapter #1 tomorrow.

So, enjoy the ride. I hope it’s as satisfying to read as it was for me to create from scratch. “All the King’s Queens” contains everything a bona fide female muscle fan could ask for: sex, action, suspense, political intrigue, and plenty of beautiful muscular women doing their thing. At least, it contains everything I’m looking for in a female muscle-themed book. I will defer to your own judgement whether you end up feeling the same way.

Take care,

Ryan

P.S. – Graphic design and drawing aren’t in my skillset, so please excuse the crude cover art you see above. If you think you can draft a better looking cover, please reach out to me at ryantakahashi87 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Of course, you’ll probably want to read the whole book before you decide if you want to submit any artwork or not. I can’t offer you industry-standard compensation, but I would be willing to pay a small stipend for your labor.

More to Come in 2021

Happy New Year, dear readers!

There’s no need to rehash the unexpectedly tumultuous year that was 2020, so I won’t even try. As you probably can tell, I haven’t been as active updating my blog as I usually am. And you’d think since I have more free time than usual, I would be constantly posting new content. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

The reason for that isn’t because my love for female bodybuilders has waned. On the contrary! I don’t foresee that ever happening. Rather, it’s because I’ve been working diligently on a writing project that I hope to wrap up in the next few months. It’s a fictional story that won’t be a two or three or four-part series, but rather something that’s much longer. Once I get closer to completion, you can expect an update from me about it.

Rest assured that I do not plan to hide any content behind a subscription paywall or anything. That’s not my style. Never has been, never will be. So you can read what I’ve been working on for free. No charge. I believe that’s what the word “free” means.

So be on the lookout for that in 2021. I hope to drop whatever it is I’m cooking up sometime in March or April. It may happen sooner than that. Hopefully not later. But we’ll see.

Have a safe and happy New Year! May 2021 be better than the hot flaming dumpster fire that was 2020. It can’t possibly get worse, right?

Uh, right?

Sincerely,

Ryan

Out of Bodybuilder Experience (part 1 of 2)

Helle Trevino wearing a sexy bikini.

“Want to hear a secret?”

Max, having just stripped down to nothing but his boxers, was about to approach Emily’s beautiful right bicep and kiss it before she unexpectedly asked this question.

“Uh, yeah. Sure. What is it?” Max Shimura politely asks. He walks right up to Emily, dressed in a sexy revealing white satin slip dress, and places his warm lips onto her hard bicep peak. He recalls her arms being 16.5 inches in circumference, but that could be when she’s in “competition shape.” Regardless, they seem noticeably bigger since the last time he saw her.

“This building is haunted. The front desk guy told me when I checked in.”

Genuinely curious, Max stops kissing her muscular arm and turns to face her. He gets lost in her gorgeous ocean blue eyes before refocusing on the conversation at hand. “Really? As in haunted by a specific ghost, or by mysterious apparitions in general?”

“By a ghost, I think,” she says. Emily Jakobsson is a 30-year-old professional bodybuilder and athletic apparel model from Sweden. Like many Scandinavian women, she has dense bone structure and the genetic makeup to grow large, impressive muscle mass. Max first saw her for a muscle worship session about 8 years ago when she was a 22-year-old powerlifter and he was a poor 20-year-old college student. The $350 he spent to see her that evening made a significant dent in his modest bank account, but it left quite an impression. He instantly became infatuated with her. Dare say, he fell in love? Max knows these sessions aren’t romantic in nature (he’s pretty sure she’s married, or at least engaged), but he can’t help but dream.

“Not sure who specifically, but he says somewhere within the halls, guests have seen the white figure of a dead woman float around in mid-air,” she says. A casual fan of the paranormal himself, Max actually wants to know more to this story. He’s not one for hunting ghosts, but if it’s right here in this very building, he definitely doesn’t need to travel far. “I haven’t seen her yet, but I’d love to!”

“Yeah, no kidding. I didn’t know this building was haunted, but I do know that this place wasn’t always a hotel. I believe it used to be an insane asylum,” Max says. “World War I era, I think. Maybe later. I don’t know exactly.”

Emily’s eyes widen. Max quickly steals a glance at her broad shoulders before returning his gaze toward her lovely face. “Seriously? That’s some top-notch horror movie shit right there!”

“Well, to be fair I think it was technically a regular hospital that happened to have a mental ward,” Max recalls. “It may have been in the basement? Who knows…”

Max places his fingers onto Emily’s sculpted pecs. She kindly flexes them in response. But she still seems preoccupied by the possibility of ghosts haunting the building to focus on giving her client a good time. No worries, though. Max appreciates Emily’s body with or without her attention being on him. From head to toe, Emily is a sight to behold. He can only count on one hand other women who’ve achieved her flawless balance of natural beauty, femininity, muscle mass, symmetry, and fun personality.

“Still, that’s quite a coincidence,” she observes.

Emily motions for Max to lift her dress over her head. He happily obliges. Wearing nothing but a creamy orange-colored bikini and stiletto heels, Emily is in full Goddess Mode. She lifts her left leg up and impressively bounces her quads up and down, mesmerizing her client. They have to be at least 28 inches around. Maybe 30 inches? Max can’t help but feel a chill go down his spine just thinking about it. He can see every striation, every individual muscle dancing in response to her flexing.

“God, you look amazing. Absolutely perfect, Emily.” She stops daydreaming and turns toward Max. She smiles to acknowledge his compliment.

“Why, thank you kind sir. I suppose I should stop talking about ghosts and instead start showing off my rock-hard body!” And with that, Emily does exactly that. Emily takes a small step back to give her room to showcase all the main bodybuilding poses. Max gets down on his knees to watch the Scandinavian Muscle Goddess in action. He reaches out to touch her meaty calves, tree trunk thighs, and bulging hamstrings. He’s always been a leg guy, in case that hasn’t been made clear yet.

“Mmmm, unbelievable. Love these legs. Love how much hard work you put into them.”

“Thanks, darling. Thank you very much. I’m glad someone notices.” She then turns around to show off her back muscles. As wide as a freight train, Max cannot fathom how a woman can be so damn large and remain as unquestionably feminine at the same time. Miss Jakobsson has achieved the seemingly impossible. She’s peerless.

“Oh, I’ve noticed. I follow you on Instagram, so I’ve kept track of–”

Out of nowhere, the lights suddenly start to flicker. Emily stops posing. Max stops regarding her immaculate figure. They both look up at the ceiling light fixture. After about a dozen rapid flickers, it finally goes out. The bathroom fan turns off. The air conditioning unit – which had been blowing in gentle warm air to heat up this small room on this late October evening – stops humming.

Darkness. Nothing but darkness and…eerie silence.

An ominous hotel hallway.

There appears to be a power outage. No need to be an electrician to understand that.

“Well, shit. That sucks,” Emily says. She walks over to the desk phone sitting on a small bedside table. “Is it just us, or has the entire building gone dark?”

“Let me check.” Max quickly pokes his head out the door to see what the hallway looks like. He’s careful not to step outside because he’s wearing nothing but boxer shorts…and sporting a massive erection. How embarrassing would it be if somebody saw that?

“Hm.”

All the lights appear to be on in the long corridor hallway. And, as a side note, there isn’t a single soul in sight. Which seems odd considering how many tourists he saw in the lobby an hour ago, milling around and chatting up a storm. So it must be just their room that’s without power.

Max closes the door. He sees Emily on the phone, speaking to a front desk staff person. She nods her head, mumbles something unintelligible, then hangs up.

“What did they say?”

“They said it’s an old building and that shit like this happens frequently,” she says, rolling her eyes. “They recommend finding the electrical panel and manually switching the room lights back on. If that doesn’t work, they’ll send over a maintenance guy to inspect what’s gone wrong.”

Great. A fucking maintenance guy showing up? That’ll ruin the mood!

Max turns back toward the door to look for the electrical panel. He doesn’t see one. Emily also starts to search. In complete darkness, it’s difficult to see anything. A moment later, she apparently finds it.

“I think this is it.” Emily pulls back a small painting of a 1920s speakeasy hanging on the north-facing wall. “It’s a weird place to put it. And why would they hide it behind a painting?”

Emily tries to open the old rusty metal door situated at eye level. It’s somewhat jammed shut, so she has to force it open with all her (considerable) strength. Once she does, a cloud of dust greets her as the door flies open.

“Oh gross! Ugh.”

Max is now standing behind her. He cannot help but admire her rounded butt. Holy shit, she must squat a lot. Or do endless walking lunges. Or both. Damn! Before he can caress it, a brown leather-bounded book drops to the floor. Emily picks it up.

“What the fuck is this? This isn’t the electrical panel. It’s some sort of safety deposit box,” Max says. He leans over to see what kind of book it is. It appears to be a diary.

“It’s a journal. It’s really old. Take a look at it,” Emily says. She opens the curtain to let in some moonlight. There’s a full moon out with not a single cloud in the sky. Max takes the diary and thumbs through it. Indeed, it’s somebody’s old journal. Emily finds her cell phone, turns on the flashlight app, and shines it on the crusty yellow pages of the diary. Max finds a random passage and decides to read it.

“My love for you is unending. It has no bounds. But society will not let us be together. I am unwell and everyone knows it. You have your whole life in front of you. You say you want to go off and fight in the war against the Germans. While you are in the trenches, I shall be here. Rotting away in my little room. All alone.” Max reads aloud.

“Damn. That’s sad. It must be the personal diary of a former patient here. You said it used to be a hospital, right?” Emily asks. Max nods his head. He continues to read:

“The world will not allow us to be together. But we are stronger than that. We are meant to be together, in love, for all eternity. If we cannot be together in this life, we shall be together in the next life. I know a witch who understands the ancient incantations. She has taught me how to give us eternal life. So no matter what happens, we will live our lives together in love forever and ever. With or without society’s approval. I love you, Private Max Kincaid. Sincerely, Emily Carroll. August 7, 1916.”

Both Emily and Max are silent for a moment, deep in thought.

“Whoa. I mean, holy fucking shit. Her name is Emily and his name is Max. Just like us!” Max whispers to Emily. She too is stunned. This shocking coincidence disturbs them both.

“This is from World War I. This Emily Carroll girl seems like a patient at this hospital. She says she’s ‘unwell,’ so that probably means she was a mental patient,” Emily ponders. “And Max Kincaid is a private, so that must mean he was in the military. Maybe he worked at this hospital as an orderly. Or maybe he was a patient as well, but not a mental patient. Just a regular one.”

“Fort Brennan is 30 miles away from here. Maybe he was injured in a basic training accident. Wow. What a find! I wonder if the local museum would want this.” Max wonders aloud.

A leather-bound diary.

“She mentions knowing a witch. Was Emily Carroll into witchcraft?” Emily asks. She takes the book, finds another random page, and reads out loud: “Today is the day we choose to die together. Our fates are bound. There is no going back. This is the path we choose. At the stroke of midnight, we will slice our throats and bleed out all the hate that has been oppressing us. All the demons that have denied us our happiness. And before our hearts stop beating, we will say the ancient incantations that will grant us eternal life. Sincerely, Emily Carroll. October 31, 1916.”

“Wow! It was Halloween night, more than 100 years ago when she wrote this. They carried out a suicide pact. Fuck! That’s intense.” Emily exclaims. By now, it’s a mini-miracle that Max has completely forgotten that he’s currently in the presence of a beautiful, scantily clad female bodybuilder. He’s seen her three times before for a muscle worship session, and usually savors every minute of it. But tonight, on Halloween Night 2020, they’re both distracted by the personal diary of a long-dead woman whose tragic story is yet to be fully uncovered.

“I’ll bet you’re right. Private Max Kincaid was either an orderly at the hospital or a patient here. They met, fell in love, and understood that their families wouldn’t approve of them being together. There’s no way his parents would want him to marry an unstable woman who was committed to an insane asylum. So they formed a suicide pact, probably went through with it, and hoped their souls would forever haunt this building, so they could actually be together for all eternity,” Max speculates. “Ancient incantations? A witch? Holy shit, that’s fucking intense.”

“I found it! The incantations, or whatever it’s called,” Emily announces after flipping through more pages of the diary.

Emily shines her phone at a slightly torn out page located at the very end of the diary. It’s written in English but seems to be Sumerian in origin. Max is no historian, but his father is a history professor at the local university. So he knows a bit about ancient civilizations. The scribbled writing is Miss Carroll’s attempt to phonetically spell out an ancient language.

“Shall we read it together?”

Emily looks up at Max after he asks this. Max doesn’t blink. A wicked smile forms across her gorgeous face.

“Yes! That’ll be fun. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Well. Famous last words, Max thought to himself. But what the heck?

“Let’s do it.”

To be continued

It’s Official. I’ve Joined Twitter

Well, it’s finally happened.

I joined Twitter.

Yes, the cesspool of bad opinions, personal attacks, venting, raging, score settling, election meddling, grievance airing, vengeance seeking, corporate influencing, product pushing, and narcissism. Yours truly has decided, after all these years of staying off social media (at least as far as my online alter ego is concerned), to join the fray.

May God have mercy on my soul.

For the longest time I decided not to self-promote and allow my writing to spread organically. And since May 23, 2012, that’s been the case. But no more. I’m not sure how to explain the change of heart. I guess I’d like to connect with you, my dear readers, in a way that goes beyond email. I’ll admit I can be slow to respond at times (when you have another personal email and a work account to keep track of, maintaining yet another one can be a hassle), so perhaps this’ll remedy that. You should have noticed by now that I’ve also changed the appearance of this blog. So I guess you can say “change” is in the air.

So, that being said, go ahead and follow me if you are so inclined to do so! I’m at @RyanTakahashi87. If you follow me, I may follow you back – assuming I’m pretty sure you’re not a Russian bot, a mean-spirited troll, or anything like that. I think that whole “Russian bot” is a bit overblown, but that’s neither here nor there.

As far as content goes, I’ll definitely promote new blog posts, remind you all of older posts, keep you in-the-loop about future posts, and curate opinions/takes/ideas for future posts. I may also sprinkle in stuff about pop culture, sports, bodybuilding news, sharing content produced by other female muscle enthusiasts, and conversing with you, my loyal readers. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I’ll avoid (or try to avoid) discussing politics. There’s enough of that going around as it is. No need to add to the noise. And if we’re being honest here, talking about our favorite female bodybuilders is soooooooooooo much more interesting and worthwhile. I hope you agree with that sentiment.

So have at it! I’ll see you on the other side. Let’s keep things classy, fun, sincere, honest, and as positive as possible. We all need more of that in our lives.

Peace out.

In Our Darkest Hours, We Celebrate the Best of Humanity

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty, it is exceedingly easy to view our current state of affairs through a pessimistic lens.

Over here in the United States of America, this past week has been rough. Worldwide, the past three months have been a doozy. Nothing seems normal anymore. In calmer times, “boring” is considered a bad thing. Today, we’d all take “boring” in a heartbeat. I know I would.

Between COVID-19, economic shutdowns, financial anxieties, rampant unemployment, and here in the U.S., protests and riots caused by the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police, it’s understandable why our opinion of humanity would be at its lowest. What started as an outrageous tragedy in Minneapolis has cascaded into a nationwide nightmare chock full of angry demonstrations, social unrest, riots, property destruction, reckless endangerment of innocent bystanders, and lives uprooted. It doesn’t appear as though the people smashing windows and burning down buildings have ever considered the negative effects this will have on poor people and racial minorities. But then again, thinking isn’t an activity an angry mob will often participate in while throwing bricks at car windshields.

It would be an overstatement (an insensitive one, to be exact) to say that this is our Darkest Hour. This isn’t blitzkrieg. This isn’t the Nazi invasion of Europe. This isn’t the Holodomor or the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide or the Tiananmen Square Massacre. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t hurting. Around the globe, the novel coronavirus is still killing thousands of people and causing social/economic/political destruction that will last for years to come. So this is less about our current situation and more about Bad Times in general, no matter what form it takes.

During the Bad Times, people often resort to enjoying the basic things that make life worth living. Food, cooking, music, art, movies, sports, literature, poetry, gardening, exercise, and so on. In times of uncertainty, we seek certainty. And enjoying a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is certain to bring you joy. Or watching your favorite childhood movie. Or reading your favorite book again and again. Or tending to your plants. Or painting the sunset from the comfort of your back porch. We know that we’re in the midst of the Bad Times, but hopefully these storms will pass and we will see bright clear skies once again in short order.

But in addition to certainty (and stability), we also seek reminders of a better future. It’s not just relishing in past glories, but also looking forward to happier days ahead. And this can be done by appreciating humanity at its best. It’s easy to see humanity at its worst (just turn on the TV or scroll through endlessly terrible Twitter takes). But humanity at its best is right around the corner if you know where to look.

For me – and, I suspect, for many of you as well – I look to female bodybuilders as my shining beacon of hope. It didn’t occur to me until fairly recently that part of the reason why I admire female bodybuilders so much is because they represent the pinnacle of human achievement. They don’t shatter the glass ceiling. They prove to us that there is no ceiling to begin with. That ceiling is an artificial social construct that exists for no other reason than we think it exists. Unfortunately, believing it exists is enough to give it so much power.

But those who are able to escape from the limitations of other people’s narrow imaginations will find themselves accomplishing things they never knew were possible. Society says a woman with big muscles isn’t sexy. Alina Popa proves them wrong. Haters say men will never accept or celebrate female bodybuilders. The legions of guys who attend bodybuilding shows, pay for sessions, and support FBB entrepreneurs would like a word. Whenever you try to put an FBB into a box, she will inevitable break out of it and carry on with or without your approval.

When I see photos of Cindy Landolt, I see the Peak of Human Potential. Not “Female Potential,” but actual “Human Potential.” Miss Landolt is more than just a regular flesh-and-blood human being. Her body is art. Her life is a celebration of what it means to be human. Her achievements inspire those around her to become better. It’s as though Cindy has transcended her original form and reached a new level of purpose. Her purpose is to add beauty to the world. As long as she lives, Cindy is just like a rainbow, mountain range, cherry blossom tree, or sunrise over the horizon. She’s a beautiful part of nature who reminds us that the Good Times didn’t go away. They’ve just been temporarily overshadowed by the Bad Times.

FBBs will never become mainstream, but that’s not the point. My point is to demonstrate why female bodybuilders are important to our lives. We are deeply attracted to them, both physically and emotionally. During times of stress, tumultuousness, and social upheaval, we desire to be reminded of things that brought us happiness. For many of us, strong beautiful women bring us this happiness.

Instead of focusing on humanity at its worst – which is easy to do right now – we’d rather focus on humanity at its best. At its brightest. At its most inspirational. Female bodybuilders are just the magic elixir we need to satiate this craving. You cannot help but look at a female bodybuilder and think to yourself, “Damn! I didn’t know people could get that sexy!”

Indeed, such a feat is in fact possible. When I see photos and videos of female bodybuilders flexing their biceps, I see the limits of human potential being challenged. Expectations of what is or isn’t possible subverted. I see women who refuse to be shackled down by sexist beliefs and take matters into their own hands. Sometimes, quite literally. They’re picking up weights with their hands, with each repetition making them stronger and stronger and stronger. Just take 30 seconds to scroll through Jessica Sestrem’s IG account. Don’t tell me she looks “manly” or “unfeminine.” Don’t tell me her large muscles make her a tomboy. She’s as girly as someone can possibly be. And she has enormous biceps that put most guys to shame (even guys who regularly workout). If she were to get even bigger, do you doubt that she’ll continue to be as gorgeous as she currently is? I don’t.

No reasonable person expects FBBs to transform society at large. But for the small number of us who do appreciate these ladies for who they are, they offer us comfort during the Bad Times. The Dark Times. Our Darkest Hours. They remind us that humanity at its best can be as beautiful, aspirational, and transcendent as anything you can imagine. People can be terrible at times. But every once in a while, we deserve to have our faith rewarded. We deserve a sliver of light in a world of darkness.

Female bodybuilders are that light. Maybe not for everyone, but for us. No matter how insignificant that may seem, that’s all they need to be for us. A light.

Not a savior. Not a miracle. Not a cure for all that ails us. But a light. A bright shining light.

It may not seem like that’s enough. But it is. That’s more than enough.

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