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[Academy RP] Overlooking the Regatta

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 66th annual Ekar Regatta. Please take your seats and-

John pushed the butt of his cigarette into the ashtray, looking out over the balcony. Although the heat brought along with it a slight haze, the bay was in full view, showing scores of sailing boats lining up for the start of their race. On the shore, metal stands and balconies held a horde of people, all who John assumed were sweating to death as they pushed into each other to get better views.

“Jesus Christ, it has to be above forty at least, right?”

Turning his head, John was met with the reddened and sweaty face of Michael. Still in his light grey suit, the middle-aged man dabbed at his balding head with an embroidered handkerchief. “I still hate how you drag me here every year. You’re not even a boat guy.”
John chuckled as he adjusted his collar. “I’m not, but we’re also not here for the boats.”

“Or the casino, apparently. Couldn’t find you at the tables at all last night.”

“I had a dinner engagement with an old friend.”

“Well, your loss. Me and Fatima won 10 grand at blackjack. Lost almost all of it later, of course.”

“How’s she doing, by the way. I only saw her at the airport.”

“Went to her mother’s pretty much after she landed. The old lady got diagnosed with some type of cancer last April, so Fatima’s playing nurse for the week.”

 As Michael continued to dab, a waiter, hair slicked back and dressed in black pants and white cotton shirt, approached.

“Sirs, if you’re interested, we’ve refilled the champagne. It’s inside when you’re ready.”

John nodded to the young man, and before turning away from the balcony, checked his phone. Forty-one degrees Celsius. He was smart to take off his jacket hours ago.

Returning to the air-conditioned room, John’s eyes scanned the hall. It was for all intents and purposes a higher-end hotel room, stripped of any furnishings outside what was needed for a watch party during the Ekar Regatta. Despite this, very few of the fifty or so guests were looking at neither the balcony where the two businessmen had come from, nor the large flat-screen TV bolted to the left wall. John knew exactly what was going on. This wasn’t a watch party, it was a networking extravaganza.

“Remind me how we can get champagne and liquor in a Salamid country again?” John softly asked, as he grabbed yet another glass from the pyramid of champagne flutes that covered the table in the centre of the room.

“Long answer? Half of ‘em are Christian, and the other half don’t give a shit about religion ruining a good time. Short answer? Hedonism.” Michael himself had grabbed his own champagne flue, downing the bubbly drink to cool himself off. “Do you want a thesis on how you can gamble here too, or are you just extra dense today?”

“No, but I wouldn’t mind a premier on who’s all here.”

Eyeing the room, John noticed almost everyone was either wearing a suit, and around half of them didn’t look like they came from Ekar or any surrounding country.

“Fine,” Michael sighed as he placed his empty glass down. “I guess I can be of service. See that man, the one with the white beard? Business magnate Bakar al-Sadri. Probably the richest man in Ekar who actually grew up here, heads the largest private law firm in the city. Self-proclaimed pious zealot, but considering the double fisting of champagne, I’m going to say that’s only for the cameras.”

“Next to him is Aasim al-Fayad, the director of the National Bank of Ekar. Quiet man, but I have it on record some magnate from Europa’s buttering him up to get a fast-pass to citizenship, which means-”

“No income tax.” John continued sipping on his drink.

“Bingo.” Michael, his left hand now occupied with yet another champagne flute, points with his right hand to a heavier-set man in a corner.

“Bilaal el-Hashemi, Minister of Finance. Rumour says that when al-Bey finally leaves, he’s next up for Prime Minister. I can introduce you, if need be.”

“That depends, what can he offer?”

“For the right price, his mother, probably. Come on, he’s really a big teddy bear at heart.”

Pushing through the crowd, Michael and John weaved their way through the other small groups having their own conversations, before appearing in front of the bespectacled minister. He was much larger up close, as well as smelling of a musky cologne that seemed overpowering in the small room.

“Bilaal, may I introduce John Culp. He’s in-”

“Property development.” John cut Michael off. The minister, suited in a thick wool jacket, looked at the two paunchy businessmen, before extending his hand for a handshake.

“Glad to meet you. Marhabana bikum fi Eakaar. What brings you here today?”

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