Randall McQuaid had never known anything other than a comfortable life. Like the sons of the fellow millionaires he grew up with, Randall lived the de facto existence of a millionaire. Because every millionaire father and mother wanted their children to grow up knowing how to become the eventual custodian of the family fortune. That meant keen awareness of how to keep up the appearance of comfort through any “lows” in said fortune. And yet, Randall’s parents should not have sent him to such a liberal private school if they had hoped to hold onto the wealth established by Randall’s great-great-grandfather, Finneas McQuaid. Alas, it became apparent to Darrin McQuaid, Randall’s father, far too late in the game to stop the indoctrination, and he subsequently blamed Evelyn, Randall’s mother, for everything. Including Randall’s recent headline-making turn as the poster boy for being a “patriotic millionaire.” That is to say, a millionaire crying out to be taxed more heavily by the government so as to offset the economic disparity affecting the other ninety-nine percent with more pronounced consequences each passing year.
That’s how he found himself at the World Economic Forum (which probably should have been called the Wealthy’s Economic Forum) as “the face” of millionaires “everywhere” calling on government leaders to tax them. Randall had no idea that he wasn’t the only one in this income tax bracket who felt so strongly about the matter. Or that a slew of millionaires like himself would come together in time to create a petition and open letter signed with rich people signatures for the gathering of “the global elite” in, where else, Switzerland. Neutral, “turn a blind eye” Switzerland. Well, Randall would not let Them turn a blind eye. Nor would his sudden partner in crime against the elite (the crime being to even remotely suggest siphoning some of their wealth).
Her name was Mila Moldonovich, the thirty-something daughter of a Russian oligarch who had turned against her father long before the war in Ukraine began. Yet somehow, she still had money. Gobs and gobs of it… if one were to go by appearances. But, of course, having been trained in the art of keeping up appearances like most other rich people, Randall was aware that, in all likelihood, Mila’s “affluence” wasn’t what it seemed. Sure, she had parlayed her way into a “career” as an influencer, but that didn’t get her as much actual money as it did trips and designer clothes and lavish hotel stays.
He knew it was probably ill-advised to align himself with Mila, what with her wealth being so questionable, but, well, she was just so hot, how could Randall resist? Not to mention the fact that his father was livid over Randall’s association with a commie (side note: all Russians were commies as far as Darrin McQuaid was concerned). It was what he referred to as “bad PR.” McQuaid Corp. was a loud and proud American company, after all—based out of Dallas, Texas from the get-go. Randall explained to his father, over the phone, however, that because we live in “an era of extremes,” extreme action was needed to start tempering it all. For yes, he was catering to Darrin’s idea that allying (as an American) with a Russian was “extreme.”
Despite the “logic” presented, however, it wasn’t good enough for Darrin, who proceeded to tell Randall in the same phone conversation that he would get his wish to no longer be a millionaire. When Randall interjected to say that wasn’t his wish—he only wanted to be taxed more accordingly—Darrin bulldozed over his vocals with the assurance, “That’s right! I’m cutting you off. You no longer have to worry about being ‘taxed accordingly’ because you won’t have anything to tax. You stupid fool! My god, I can’t believe your mother ever suggested anything other than Choate for your education. It was the beginning of the end.”
Randall was suddenly extremely panicked. He had never even considered that Darrin would actually cut him off. He imagined it would be the usual rancor, followed by a public statement insisting that his views in no way correlated with his son’s (all to placate Darrin’s Republican business and political cronies). Never an actual cutting off. Damn, that was a different story. For a cutting off of money was like a cutting off of the balls. Randall felt totally impotent and powerless when, just minutes later, he put his father’s threat to the test and found that all of his accounts had been frozen. But, more than anything, he was concerned about Mila and their unofficial date that night.
They were meant to meet at Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier—just a stone’s throw from Davos when one had a private jet. Which, all of the sudden, Randall did not. He had a horrible image of her sitting at the restaurant alone, unable to pay for whatever obscenely-priced item she ordered while waiting for Randall to show up. When he tried to call her, it went straight to voicemail, and none of the text messages he sent were being marked as delivered. Where the fuck was she? “No reception” wasn’t real, so it couldn’t possibly be that.
As his panic mode reached a full-on anxiety attack, he couldn’t even call upon his masseuse for a release (yes, that’s a euphemism for a happy ending). To boot, he had no place to stay after tonight and his private chauffeur had also been pulled from being “accessed.” Why did millionaires like Darrin have to be so fucking extreme in their thinking? No allowance for even the possibility that just a little “skimming off the top” of their wealth would not be noticeable in the least to their to day-to-day existence. And now Randall was left with his dick in his hand vis-à-vis “standing for something” by being one of the self-proclaimed “patriotic millionaires” in attendance at the forum.
How could he show up now? With nothing to offer. He was little better than the very poor person he could only formerly vaguely think about because he had so much free time thanks to his erstwhile fortune. As he left the hotel the following morning, no wiser to Mila’s whereabouts, he was seething over the theme shift of the forum from 2018 to the present. It went from, “Creating a shared future in a fractured world” to being repurposed as, “Cooperation in a fragmented world.” The latter sounds a lot more subjugating. With the obvious expectation being that the poor “cooperate” with continuing to remain, well, poor. But how could Randall, presently poor, possibly cooperate having previously known the joys of being rich? He rued the day he ever tried to stand for something. What the fuck does “standing for something” get anybody other than an arrest record (Greta) and maybe being pervasively on a t-shirt after they’re dead (Che)?
Walking toward the location of the forum, Randall contemplated turning back around and walking to the airport instead. Where was he to go from here? How could he proceed without the necessary funds? His answer came unbidden when a Rolls-Royce Boat Tail pulled up next to him. The back window rolled down to reveal Mila inside of it with not a millionaire, but a billionaire. Ludvig Karlsson. He was the CEO of an AI-oriented tech company that just went public. But that was no matter—the point was, why was Mila with him? Where had she disappeared to during the past twenty-four hours?
“Hello Randall. On your way to the forum?”
Randall shrugged. “I honestly don’t know what I’m doing.”
Mila looked over at Ludvig and flashed him a seductive smile. “Poor baby. Why don’t you get in the car with us and we’ll take you?”
With no better offer, Randall assented. Once inside the car, Mila was sandwiched in between them. Randall was surprised to then find her “subtly” caressing his groin area as Ludvig chatted away animatedly on the phone about some nebulous business dealings (for all such dealings are nebulous). Randall took her warm welcome as an opportunity to ask, “What happened to you last night?”
“I should ask the same of you. You’re lucky I’m so attractive, otherwise I might never have gotten Ludvig’s attention at the restaurant. You know, the one you stood me up at.”
“I tried to contact you, why didn’t you answer?”
She tittered. “I’m sorry Randall, but I don’t answer to broke asses.”
He looked at her quizzically. “I don’t understand.”
“I know all about what your father did. He told me last night. After he fucked me.”
Ludvig ended his call at that moment and turned to Mila to say, “That was Darrin. He’ll meet us in the lobby beforehand to discuss a few particulars.”
Randall was afraid to know what such particulars his father could be discussing with Mila and Ludvig. How they even came to know one another—apart from the usual reason of all rich people knowing one another. But before he could let his mind race too quickly, Mila sidled up even closer to him to whisper in his ear, “Your daddy’s going to make an example of you, Randy. About how you’ve been a very bad millionaire.”
Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, it came to light that Randall had evaded taxes (the term “Cayman Islands” was bandied multiple times) for his entire “working” life. Naturally, that wasn’t really true, but Ludvig—the “King of AI”—had been able to assist Darrin in fudging the facts. Not that facts were things that anyone was concerned about to begin with. Regardless, it helped to have some planted documents in the headlines to corroborate what once would have been “outlandish” statements. Statements that both Mila and certain key members of the IRS were happy to back with Ludvig and Darrin giving them the financial and clout-increasing motive to do so.
After being publicly humiliated at the forum, where the news of Randall’s “avoidance” had been conveniently leaked, he was bombarded with further media shame that centered on how the only reason he supported taxing the rich was because he himself knew how to avert taxes altogether. Thereby discrediting the entire “movement” called “the patriotic millionaire.” For, in the U.S., there was nothing deemed less patriotic than tax evasion. Seeing what had become of Randall at the hands of such powerful men as Darrin and Ludvig, the scant few other patriotic millionaires decided to step back from their previously ardent stance on the matter. Being rich afforded one the luxury of not having to notice when others suffered anyway. In short, it was easy to put blinders back on.
As for Randall, the last anyone had heard, he was seen somewhere near a homeless encampment in San Francisco. Or so the AI-generated image would have other millionaires believe to keep them in their place and shut them all up about any such “grandiose” notions as taxing the rich. Wherever Randall had actually landed, he nonetheless failed in his one job as a rich man: “keeping up appearances.”