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Flight of The Cuckoos (IC) [Closed]

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Dennis Konroy looked up as the buzzer from the outside gate dispelled his reverie. He set the forensic science textbook (which he'd wrapped in the cover for Seduce & Destroy by T.J. Mackey) down on the oak desk in front of him, leaned back in his plush chair, and rubbed his eyes. Then he turned to the camera and intercom mounted on the side of the desk, pressed the button, and asked “Yes?†The camera revealed a portly middle-aged woman behind the wheel of a large blue van. “Happy Housekeepers!†she shouted into the microphone. Den glanced over to the grandfather clock that was older than his actual grandfather. Right on time. He pressed another two buttons, and the gate and front door of the mansion both clicked and swung open. Den turned to meet the gaze of the devastatingly beautiful young brunette lounging on the plush sofa at the other end of his study and smirked. “Showtime.â€

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She slipped a bookmark into her novel, dropped it on the adjacent cushion, finished off her iced tea with one last sip, and swung her legs around to the ground. As she stood up and stretched, Den strode over to the couch, cocked his head, tipped the cover open, and examined the inside jacket. He recited the contents in a mockingly-exaggerated English accent. “'The inspirational coming-of-age story of a young gay Midwestern runaway.' Sounds like Oscar-bait for sure. Scouting the I.P. for development?†He chuckled.

Nikki rolled her eyes. “I wish†she sighed. “My agents are trying to get me into this cheesy Michael Bay flick. They want me to play Nick Cage's girlfriend. The guy is older than my dad.â€

Den rubbed her shoulder. “Yeah, it sure is tough being rich and famous, ain't it? But somehow, we persevere.â€

Nikki slapped his hand away. "Since when do you know any words with more than two syllables? Is 'Hooked On Phonics' finally working for you?" She grumbled as she snatched the book from his grasp. "You don't know what it's like to constantly have to pretend you're something you're not. Asshole."

Den was relieved that she was looking away as she said it, because otherwise she might have caught a glimpse of the tormented expression that momentarily flashed across his face. “Yeah, whatever. Let's just get into character.†He handed her a pair of headphones and followed her out into the hallway, toward one of the bedchambers in the west wing.

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The Happy Housekeeping employees dragged their equipment carts off the van and into Konroy Manor, where they set about their weekly task of cleaning it from top to bottom, as they had every Tuesday since Denny Konroy had returned to Freedom City. The maintenance contract had been quite a coup for the company. The owners refused to cut their employees wages or benefits, so steadily increasing prices in a worsening economy had been costing them a lot of business as their customers fled to lower bidders. But Konroy had told them that their uncompromising labor ethics were the very reason he'd chosen them in the first place.

The maids alternately laughed and grimaced at the noises emanating from the west wing whenever they weren't obscured by vacuum cleaners or water faucets. Mr. Konroy worked out a very complex and specific pattern to the cleaning schedule, such that on any given day, there was at least one open bedchamber the maid skipped over. The reason for this eccentric arrangement became abundantly clear from the very first day, when the sounds of very loud and enthusiastic sexual activity resonated throughout the house.

Unbeknownst to the maids, and several other key personnel Den had put in the same position, the noises came not from any actual activity on his part, but from a very expansive (and expensive) surround-sound stereo system, and a series of pornographic films he cycled through. And these people were all exposed to his supposed “activities†specifically so that they would gossip about them to others, further feeding into the fiction that was “Dennis Konroy†in the eyes of the public.

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Behind closed doors, Nikki continued to read while Den worked out. Both of them wore noise-canceling headsets to tune out the movies; Nikki listened to some soothing classical music while Den secretly listened to the local news. After a couple of hours, Nikki stood up and shut off the video. “I think they get the idea. Could you order us some food while I hit the shower?â€

Den nodded. “Mm-hmm.†He dialed her favorite restaurant, Chez Pierre, and called in a delivery order. The employee on the phone recognized his voice before he had a chance to give his name. After he hung up, the employee remarked to his colleague how much Mr. Konroy seemed to love French food. Had Den been in the room, he could have told them that no, he didn't care for it at all. But then, it wasn't for him anyway.

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Den managed to time everything such that the maids were finishing up just as the delivery drivers from Chez Pierre arrived at the door. As Den and Nikki tossed on matching bathrobes, he gestured toward the intercom camera and asked her, “Are you sure it's him?â€

“The guy who followed me here and hid in the bushes outside the gate? Yeah, that's him, the short one in the cheap jacket. Are you sure it's him?â€

“Yeah, he's one of the photographers I saw outside the Oscars. He's definitely paparazzi. Must have bribed the driver to bring him through the gate. Remember, stay a few steps behind. We have to time this just right if he's going to get what he wants. And don't forget that magazine – he's going to want an autograph.†Nikki nodded as Den left the room.

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Den met the delivery driver and the undercover photographer at the front door, and pretended not to notice the clumsily-hidden camera, or the even clumsier use of it. Den had just signed the credit card receipt, and was slipping a $100 bill out of his wallet to tip the driver with when Nikki came bounding down the stairs. She ran up behind Den, wrapped her arms around his torso, and kissed him on the side of his neck. “Hey Babe.†She turned to the two large paper bags on the floor. “Oooh, you got us Chez Pierre!†She beamed.

The driver's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “Are you...Nikki Stevens? Oh wow.â€

Nikki untangled herself from Den and shook the stunned driver's hand. “Yep, that's me.â€

“It's...wow, it's an honor.â€

“Aww, thank you!†She gave the thoroughly star-struck young man a hug.

“I don't mean to be rude...but do you think I could have your autograph?â€

“Oh, sure, totally!†Nikki pulled a rolled-up copy of the most recent issue of Glamour out of her robe pocket. Nikki was the cover model. “Will this work?â€

“Uh...yeah. Yeah, that'll work.â€

“What's your name?â€

“Tim.â€

She scrawled on the cover. “To Tim, Thanks for the chow! Love, Nikki Stevens. There ya go! Hey Tim, you got a cell phone?â€

He smiled and reached into his pocket. “Yeah! Do you...do you need to use it?â€

“Just for a second.†She took it from his outstretched hand, flipped it open, pushed a couple of buttons, and handed it to Den. Then she walked up next to Tim, wrapped one arm around his waist, and flashed a peace sign. Den snapped a picture. She grinned as Den handed the stunned driver back his phone. “Something for your Facebook page.†Then she walked up and kissed Den on the lips. “Hey Babe, I'm gonna go take a dip in the pool. Can you bring dinner out to the patio?â€

“Sure thing, Doll.†Den smacked her playfully on her bottom as she walked away, then turned back to finish settling the bill.

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By this point, the entire scene had attracted an audience. The maids whispered to each other as they took in the display, until Den concluded his interaction with the drivers and sauntered up to the supervisor. “Right, I need to settle up with you guys, too.†He looked around the entry hall. “Nice job.†He fished his pocketbook out of his robe, jotted down the usual amount, and tore off a cheque. Then he pulled out a stack of $100 bills. “That should settle us up. Tip each of your people with a couple of these.â€

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The buzzer rang again. Right on time. Den saw the taxi on the camera and pushed the button to open the gate without responding. As the maids were packing up their gear preparing to leave, Den approached one of the younger ones and smiled. “Hey, what's your name?â€

“Becky.â€

“Becky, I need a favor. How would you like to make some extra cash, under the table?â€

Becky glanced nervously to either side, then nodded. “Sure.â€

“Great, that's great. It's real simple. See, you know what it's like, when you're famous – you're always dodging the paparazzi. Well, my friend back there has a couple on her ass right now, and it would mean a lot to me if you helped her give 'em the slip. All I need you to do is wear her coat and hat outside, and get into that taxi outside. Here.†He reached into his pocket and took out another wad of cash. “That should be more than enough for him to take you home. Just keep the change.â€

Becky nodded enthusiastically and grinned. “Sure, no problem! I mean, anything for our best customer, right?â€

Den winked at her. “Exactly, Becky. Exactly.â€

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After everyone had finally left, Den brought the food out to the patio. Nikki swam up to the edge of the pool. “Did it work?â€

“Like a charm. The cleaning lady took the bait. Now as far as the photographer can tell, Nikki Stevens has left the building. He stuck around though, just like I thought he would.â€

“Great! Alice should be here any minute.â€

“And when she gets here, our friend from the tabloids will get his big scoop about what a two-timing bastard Mr. Dennis Konroy is. Meanwhile, you guys get the whole house to yourselves for the next few days.â€

“While the mysterious Mr. Dennis Konroy runs off to God-knows-where to do God-knows-what with God-knows-who.â€

“Exactly. Food might be a little cold when she gets here.â€

“She'll live. Thanks, Den.â€

“Don't mention it.â€

“You ever gonna tell me what you get out of all this?â€

“Nope.â€

“Didn't think so.â€

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With several layers of cover-story established, Den retreated to his study. He reached down into the large fishtank, the one filled with piranhas (and labeled as such), slipped his hand down into the gravel at the bottom, and found the hidden switch with the fingerprint scanner. Most people don't realize that there is such a thing as herbivorous piranhas, and even fewer people can tell them apart from their carnivorous cousins. When he pressed it, one of the bookshelves slid out of place. "Don't worry about cleaning behind the bookshelves in the study. They're mounted directly to the walls." Heh. He pulled it aside, stepped into the hidden spiral stairwell, and pulled it shut behind him.

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Den spent the first day down in his secret command center bouncing back and forth between his bookshelves, his files, and his massive supercomputer, reading, cross-referencing, writing charts and posting pictures on his massive board. He researched the local history of Freedom City, focusing intently on any mention he could find of any citizens who had ever even been suspected of having ties to organized crime. He scoured every database he could find, scrounged up newspaper articles and business records. He even hacked into the Freedom City Police Department's servers, downloading every scrap of information their files had to offer. While he was inside the FCPD network, he made sure to locate the records of his fingerprints and DNA, taken fourteen years ago as routine procedure during the investigation into his parents deaths. Once he found them, he destroyed them, and put in orders for the physical samples to be disposed of as well. He subsisted off of MREs, coffee, vitamin pills and bottled water. He kept at it relentlessly, until it felt as though his eyes were going to start bleeding.

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On the second day, having gained as much intelligence as he could remotely, Den laid the groundwork for field work. He practiced with wigs, makeup, hair dyes, and clothing until he had created a dozen different appearances he could faithfully recreate. He even took pictures of one disguise in particular. He cracked open another police computer network, but this time it was Miami instead of Freedom City, and instead of spying upon existing information, he made some new contributions of his own. He created a police record for a Sicilian man named “Antonio Brasco,†alias “Little Tony,†a low-level wiseguy legbreaker. He uploaded scans of his own fingerprints and heavily disguised picture. If someone went looking for “Little Tony Brasco,†they would find a legitimate arrest record – vandalism, assault and battery, even a string of parking tickets.

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By the third day, Den was ready to go “out on the town.†At first, he disguised himself as a street person – dirty, ragged, worn-out clothes, matted hair and beard, fake scars on his face, and a stench that made sure no one would abide his presence longer than it took to drop some change into his cup or scream at him to “Get a job!†as they held their nose. As he'd hoped, most people avoided looking directly at him, and many spoke and acted as if he wasn't there at all. No one noticed the earpiece under his hood, or the cord that trailed through his coat into the parabolic microphone hidden in his duffel bag. At the end of each day, he made sure to discretely slip whatever change he'd collected into the coffers of the truly needy.

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After a few days on the street, he returned home as discretely as he'd left, through the secret entrance to his underground base. Nikki and Alice had left by then, and Den wanted to give the illusion of having come up for air as well. He chartered a flight on his private jet to Paris, where Nikki was about to start filming scenes for her latest summer blockbuster. However, Den confided in the pilot that the trip was just an illusion. Den confessed that he didn't want his whereabouts for the next couple of weeks to be public knowledge, but he left it to the pilot's imagination as to why. Naturally, the pilot assumed it involved a secret rendezvous with a lady-friend. Regardless, the pilot was only too happy to accept a two-week paid vacation in Paris for him and his wife in exchange for flying the jet there and back. Den made sure to “leak†his travel plans to the right people, and was greeted by a throng of reporters and cameras at the airport. Den made sure to schedule a night-flight. Once the plane was in the air, but still near the coast, Den bailed out over the ocean. It did strike the pilot as a little excessive to do a LALO jump with scuba gear and a hand-held underwater scooter just to “get some action on the side.†But then again, Denny Konroy had a reputation for both extreme sports and womanizing, so the whole strange affair had a certain logic to it.

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For the next couple of weeks, Den lived in run-down motels in the bad parts of town, disguised as aspiring Mafioso “Little Tony†Brasco. He wore lifts in his shoes to increase his height, slicked his dyed-black hair with a liberal amount of gel, added some bushy eyebrows and got a spray tan. His shirts opened up low enough to reveal a generous patch of fake chest hair amid several gold chains. He looked every inch the stereotypical “Guido,†but he moved with the deadly selfassuredness of a shark through water, and looked at everyone he met like he was sizing up potential prey.

“Little Tony from Miami†began frequenting the clubs, bars, and restaurants Den's earlier surveillance had identified as Mafia gathering places. He began to fraternize with the other low-level enforcers and errand boys. He bought them drinks, chatted about sports and women, and eventually made it known that he was looking for a new line of work, insinuating that it didn't necessarily need to be legitimate.

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Den was careful not to bring along any of his gear during his time as Little Tony, relying only on his fists and his brains. He diverted his time as equally as possible between Dennis Konroy, Tony Brasco, and The Black Hand. Little Tony even had his own apartment in the South Side. He performed various minor services for the Tonifanni family – collecting debts, unloading ships and trucks full of contraband, and ferrying money and drugs throughout the city. The whole time, Den choked back the bile as he carefully noted names, places, times and dates.

As he continued to prove himself to be “a stand-up guy,†Little Tony began to move up through the ranks, gaining more access to sensitive information, and the responsibility that came with it. After a few weeks, it became clear to Den that his time was running out. He'd already roughed up the occasional person who had been stupid or desperate enough to borrow money he couldn't pay back from the wrong people, and he'd put the fear of God into more than one victim of extortion. But he'd also made sure that he was the one inflicting the beatings, that they looked much worse than they actually were. He secretly paid the bills for hospital visits and replacement windows, and much of the protection money currently filling the Tonifanni family coffers was coming out of Den's pockets. But Den was too good at what he did. Sooner or later, they were going to offer Little Tony the chance to become a “made man,†and that meant he'd be ordered to do something he simply could not abide, let alone make up for.

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