"He did what?" asked Andrea incredulously, as she set the candle-lit dinner table for her house-mate.
"He paid it all back and hired me to represent him. Andrea, you gotta meet this guy. Hes fucking brilliant. And hes nice, too. Real nice."
"I dont understand. How could he pay us back?"
Leah opened a bulky manila envelope and drew out a crisp stack of banded paper money, fifty bills thick. She held it up in front of her, "Youre looking at five thousand dollars, here. Theres another seven packs like this in here." She cut her eyes toward the envelope. "And more where that came from."
Andrea stared in fascination at the sight, then put down the silverware she was holding and took the stack of money from Leah. "It doesnt feel like regular paper." She sniffed it. "I dont smell anything? Are you sure this is real?"
Leah laughed. "No. Ive never seen paper money before. I thought maybe you did when you were a kid."
"I did. But I dont remember seeing anything bigger than a twenty. Wow, Ben Franklin. He wasnt even a President, was he?"
"God, Andrea. Howd you get your degree?
"Andrea shrugged, "History and civics are your forte, not mine. A person cant be smart in everything." She handed the money back to Leah. "So, what are we gonna do with it?"
"Beats me," said Leah, stuffing the band of bills back into the envelope. "If its good, I can put it in the bank and credit it to my account. Bankers are always happy to accept money. They dont care what form its in. The feds dont give a shit where it came from as long as I tell the bank to deposit it as income so the IRS can take its cut off the top."
"What if it isnt good?"
"I wouldnt be prosecuted for passing funny money, if thats what you mean. The worst that would happen is the Treasury Department would want to know where I got it and Id have to tellem I got it from Blue. He told me he got it from the bank. If he was lying, it would be his ass not mine."
"Its not his ass hes worried about," said Andrea.
"I know. Thats why I tend to believe him. Besides, Im his lawyer, now. I had to quit my job to represent him. He knows better than to lie to me. Plus, I told him I would take the case pro bono. He didnt have to give me a dollar, let alone eighty thousand. And he knows the bank procedure better than I do. He used to work for NBD, for heavens sake."
"Dont say that, sweetheart, please."
"For heavens sake. I told you two weeks ago; Mrs. Travis says that all the time. Whenever I hear it I think of her and that horrible daughter of hers, and poor Arnold."
Andrea waved off the apology. "Sit down," she said, stepping in back of Leah and guiding her by the hips to her seat at the table. "We can figure out what to do with the paper money later. Did you put him up at the other house?"
"Had to," said Leah, as Andrea began serving her a sumptuous dinner. "The police trashed his place. They took his computers and his T-windows and destroyed everything else. It looked like a fucking tornado came through there. I couldnt believe how calm he was about it. The only thing I thought he might have been a little nervous about was the bathroomdont ask me why. Thats the first place he went. Said he wanted to take a shower and change clothes. They had the water turned off and they shredded his clothes so he couldnt even do that."
"Jesus," said Andrea, scooping out a lobster-almond crepe in wine sauce from a crock pot and putting it on Leahs plate. "Is that legal?"
"With a warrant issued on a 387 finding it is. Thats where a duly authorized state or federal magistrate finds that the nature of an alleged offense and the evidence against the accused justifies a presumption of guilt. The attorney general can authorize one on his own authority. Im going to check out everything, but Jack Fleetwood is too sharp and too ambitious to boot a routine play like that."
Well, hed better be vulnerable to something or weve all had it....
The attorney general was vulnerable to something. Blue knew what it was. He knew who it was. She had a letter from him in her computer mailbox. "Dearest Kimberly," it said, "You know how things have been going for me recently. I need your help if you can give it to me. Call me if you can." It was signed, "Your old friend, Shelly."
Kimberly knew at once who the letter was really from. She was relieved to get it and proud of feeling that way. Shed been up all night, worrying mostly about herself, until the shame of putting Blues fate a distant second to her own overwhelmed her. In her fitful, abortive attempt to get to sleep, she knew what it was to be a coward and why people who had met their hazardous tests of honor bravely despised them. Luckily, she had time to do the right thing. Whatever the consequences, she was going to see it through.
She had made up her mind not to abandon her lover before she had read his letter in the desk-top telewindow in her study. She was just as determined not to abandon her husband. Having Little Jack around the house was an inspiration to her. She couldnt tell him what was going on, but she could use his character as a guidepost to what she should do. She could imagine talking to him, not as mother to son, but as an ordinary person to an extraordinary one, and listening carefully to his advice.
Someone tapped at the door. "Mom?"
Kimberly jumped as though he had sprung up in front of her and said, "boo!" This wasnt the first time Little Jack had put in a personal appearance when she was thinking about him. He did it often as a young child when he wandered out of her sight and she searched for him in her mind before calling his name. She would simply think his name, and there he would be, looking at her with big round eyes that seemed to say, "you called?"
Little Jack opened the door just enough to slip inside. Then he closed it. He looked troubled, the way he did when he was nine and shattered a kitchen window with a ball he shouldnt have been throwing so close to the house. Kimberly didnt know what petty crime he was about to confess to this time. As an upper-class child of the Flashback Recording and Encoding Device age, her son had yet to learn that he wouldnt be caught and punished for everything he did wrong. She was glad that he had escaped the trap his peers had fallen into of defining right and wrong only the way the Party did. But, for his own happiness, he needed to know what she had learned about shame and confession from Hector Clay, the host of God.
She learned that shame was what essentially honorable people felt when they did or contemplated doing something dishonorable. It was a confession to God of responsibility and regret that need not be extended to people in authority as long as it was recognized for what it was and used to make honorable choices for the future. Whatever Little Jack did to make him come to her with the demeanor of a repentant sinner, she didnt think she needed to hear it. She knew she didnt want to.
Kimberly swiveled around in her chair and motioned for her son to sit in the one across from her. He did.
"What is it, Jack?"
The boy clasped his hands together on his lap and bit his lower lip. He didnt look up. "I saw you, Mom."
If Kimberly had suffered from a weak heart, that line would have killed her. Did he see her parading around the house in the nude when she thought she was alone? Did he see her masturbating or talking to Blue or doing both at the same time? She felt as though she were sitting there in the buff with a foreign object protruding obscenely from her body. How was a mother supposed to explain a thing like that to her son? Why would he be ashamed of himself for seeing her in a compromising situation unless he had invaded her privacy to do it?
"You thought I was gone last night when you turned to that lunatic doctors show Dad was on with that other lunatic doctorbut I left the door open and watched the whole thing."
It was too early for Kimberly to know if she could breath again, but she no longer felt that her real and imagined sex life was on display.
"I saw how upset you got when Blue Monday went up on the stage. I thought you were going to pass out when Dad had him arrested. I dont know what that meant but I know I shouldnt have been spying on you. Im sorry, Mom. I feel like one of them guys they were talkin about, only worse, cause youre my mother."
Little Jack shuddered with self-loathing. "I didnt mean to do anything. Honest. I kinda hung around outside the door listening to some of it. I was gonna leave. Then, one thing after another caught my ear. Next thing I knew I was watching and listening and I didnt want to miss anything. With the kinda stuff they were talkin about, I didnt know how to tell you I was there."
When Little Jack dared to look up, his mother was looking right at him with an expression he couldnt interpret as fear or anger or something else entirely. She was glad he lowered his eyes when he did because she couldnt hold them much longer. If her son couldnt interpret her expression, it was because she couldnt identify her feelings. She didnt know what to say. She didnt know what to think. He was too astute not to have deduced a personal relationship between her and Blue. On the other had, he must have seen her mostly from behind, except for when she was pacing back and fourth. How could he have read her face without her seeing hisunless he was hiding?
The more she thought about it the more convinced she was that he had observed her from hiding, which helped to account for his contrition. A mutual show of ignorance was apparently in order.
"Is that all," she said sternly.
"No," said Little Jack, lifting his eyes to meet his mothers. "Monday was right. Dad was wrong. And we gotta stop him."
Through Kimberlys study door, she and her son heard a bellow that sounded like her husband....
Jack Fleetwood motioned for an elderly, white-haired, ebony-skinned butler in traditional attire to close the door to his office on the other end of a long hall from his wifes study. Neither the upstairs nor the downstairs servants, the cook or the gardener working below the open window of the attorney generals home-office, had ever heard him raise his voice like that. He was clearly beyond the entrance level of anger. He was furious.
"Youre a liar, Steve! We needed to make an example out of a smut peddler and one of the worst kind fell into our hands. The man had no friends, no associates. We made sure he had no assets, and a seventy-five thousand dollar personal bond. We had his black ass. We hadem! He couldnt have just walked out of jail. And you cant cover your incompetence with one of your dizzy excuses! Frankly, Im tired of hearing them."
The older man in the standard-sized office telewindow gritted his teeth and listened as his young boss continued to berate him.
"I knew I should have put Jen on this thing," said Jack. "If I had listened to you instead of her, we wouldnt have had state troopers standing by to arrest him. Remember what you said about that idea?"
Steve closed his baggy eyes. "I didnt say anything."
"You sure as hell didnt. You laughed! I know, the troopers were only supposed to be for show. We got lucky. But the point is, we were prepared for anything. All you had to do was make sure nothing happened to him once we got him. Now, instead of making the most of a good thing, we're doing our utmost to play it down until we can bring Monday to trial. I still can't believe it...We had him, Steve, and you let him get away."
"No way to stop it, Jack. Everybody did what you wanted. The judge set bond as high as the law would allow"
"You should have anticipated somebody coming up with it. Hell, we didnt even have anybody there to see him leave."
"Nobody did. Not us. Not the networks. Not the STOPIT people. Are you saying all of us are incompetent? Huh, Jack?"
"...No. Ah, forget it. Its done. We have to take it from here. Id still like to know what happened, though. Got any ideas?"
"Know any trackers?"
"What does time track engineering have to do with this? We didnt have a track on him and I cant authorize one unless we can tie him to a Class D felony. You know that."
"I wasnt going to suggest it. I was going to say, trackers have this thing they call, a random factor. It means some things happen that nobody can control, not even the people who think theyre holding all the cards. Its got nothing to do with power or intelligence or planning or not planning. Its a quantum physics thing. It just happens."
"So, are we supposed to forget about this guy because of some...some random factor?"
"No. I'm saying that we should play the cards we were dealt. We still have a good hand. Apart from the people who were watching the show live, nobody saw it. As far as the rest of the country is concerned, Blue Monday doesn't exist. Therefores, he's neither an asset nor a liability. Hes got no home, no car, no money and no source of income. But whoever got him out has to be well-fixed. Find him, we find Monday."
"Finding him is not the problem. The problem is not having him...What have you got on those capsules they found in his medicine cabinet?"
"Nothing, so far. The lab is still working on the one they took to analyze."
"I know those lazy bastards. They probably havent started yet. Tellem to shake a leg."
"I already have. Told em I wanted to see some results by noon tomorrow."
"Good. If you dont give them a deadline they dick you around forever...I want to call a VRS with the whole staff as soon as possible to go over our options. How soon can you get to your office?"
"Give me a half hour. I can call Marge and have her round up the others if you want."
"Ah, Steve. I didnt mean what I said about you letting Monday get away. If anybodys to blame, I am. Youre doing a great job."
Steve smiled. "I know."
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison