#fridayflash: sweet old things

The machine pinged, and a clipped voice asked if it should read the report.

"Commence," said Mrs. De Santo. She took a sip of coffee, set the cup beside the laptop, and picked up her cross-stitch to work on while she listened.

The machine chanted out the text of the report in its rote, expressionless voice.

Remote Listening Results since: ten PM yesterday

Data filtered for: voice recognition of all items in the standard search list

Sorted by: location

Location: Embroidery guild hall. No results.

Location: Office of cleaning services. No results.

Location: Pharmacy. No results.

Hmph, thought Mrs. De Santo. And after all the work it was to plant that bug.

Location: Peter's house, bedroom sublocation. Results from eleven-thirteen PM, yesterday. Play audio?

The machine pinged.

"Play audio," Mrs. De Santo said. "Start from five minutes before the search hit." She threaded her needle with some blood-coloured embroidery floss.

The first thing she heard was a lot of grunting and screeching that made her wonder when Peter and that idiot wife of his had acquired pet monkeys. Then she realised the sounds had a rhythm to them. She sighed, shook her head, and pulled the needle through the tapestry. Halfway through she stopped and glanced at the laptop with some alarm. Peter and his wife were doing this five minutes before a search hit for her name came up on the bug filter?

Mrs. De Santo harrumphed and pulled the rest of the length of floss through the fabric.

"Oh baby," said the wife's voice through the computer speakers. "I can't believe we did that."

Mrs. De Santo rolled her eyes.

"I can't believe you wanted to tonight," said Peter's voice. "You were pretty cheesed off after Aunt Thelma left."

Mrs. De Santo raised her eyebrows and turned her head towards the laptop again.

"Oh her. She doesn't really bug me. She's just such a relic. When you were getting the barbeque ready, I tried to show her my tablet, show her that game I got? She just wanted to do her sewing."

"Embroidery," Mrs. De Santo said through clenched teeth. Neither the game nor the tablet were news to her. Her research division had sold the designs for both over five years ago.

"Yeah, but we gotta be nice to her," Peter's voice said. He sounded muffled. "Just a sec, I gotta..." Mrs. De Santo closed her eyes and tried to not think of what he was probably doing.

"Ow! I know, I know, she's your only surviving relative..."

"But you get along with her," said Peter. "She seemed happy when you two were talking about the fish."

"Yeah, well my uncle Fred used to keep fish too. I can just see your aunt sewing a cozy for her aquarium."

"Shark tank," said Mrs. De Santo. "It's a shark tank, you moron! We spent over fifteen minutes discussing the best places to buy remoras!"

"...we gotta be nice to her," said Peter. "She's way more loaded than you might think. She's just not, whaddayacallit.... ostentatious. Yeah, that."

"I guess she saves money by coming over here for dinner every Sunday."

Mrs. De Santo decided it was high time her nephew was made a widower. If she used the shark tank, she wouldn't need to re-order chum for a few days.

"No. Seriously. Brandy. Listen to me."

Brandy, right. No wonder her brain always rejected it from memory.

"I'm her only living relative, and she's loaded. You get it? That old bitch keels over, we're the ones who'll be loaded. So we split a few rotisserie chickens three ways instead of two 'til then. Big whoop."

Mrs. De Santo rose from her oxblood leather armchair, fists clenched.

"You call me an old bitch? You fed me rotisserie chicken? After making a big deal of it and telling me five times it was a secret family recipe for that wife of yours? And you're talking about this right after you... oh.... augh!"

She threw herself back into the armchair and took a slug of coffee.

"Computer! Override!" The machine pinged. "Cease report. Take a memo: call lawyer tomorrow to rewrite will. Leave all the money to... to an academic prize fund for high school girls who want to pursue careers in STEM and... and who show a high degree of proficiency in the textile arts! But not sewing!"

The laptop chirped, issued a series of differently-pitched chimes, then pinged again.

"Send a message: to Night Leader, Covert Operations Team. Tell him I want the surveillance in my nephew's house ameliorated, stat. I want enhanced audio and video in every room in the house. Include the closets."

Mrs. De Santo reached for her coffee as the computer chirped and chimed. She decided that once it was ready for its next command, she'd bring up the chum delivery schedule.