Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
Billy insisted that they enter Sean’s flat separately.
“Just go in the foyer and wait—keep the door open a crack so it won’t slam,” Billy said, “I’ll come in about three minutes later. We look enough alike that anyone seeing me enter after you did will only remember one person. If we go in together he would remember there were two men and wonder what the connection was between them.”
“A little paranoia never hurt anyone,” said Sean.
Billy stayed behind in the graveyard while Sean walked the block and a half to his apartment. Nobody was on the street, although Sean did notice that there were children doing homework on a dining room table in the ground floor flat. They didn’t look up when Sean climbed the stairs. He waited in the foyer a few minutes, and when he heard Billy’s footsteps on the porch, Sean opened the door and Billy slipped in silently.
“Step in unison,” Billy whispered.
They managed to get in Sean’s apartment without being seen. The door to Sean’s flat opened into a hallway. A tiny bathroom was on the left. At the end of the hall was the ‘living room’: a single bed, two chairs, a small table, and a TV. Off to one side was a doorway to a small kitchenette. Billy turned on the TV.
“Just for a little masking noise,” he said.
The program that came on was a dreadful call-in strip-show from the UK. It featured nearly comatose young women with bad skin gyrating in their underwear as telephone callers (paying by the minute) suggested lewd acts they could perform on each other.
“You’re witnessing the fall of the British Empire, Sean,” Billy said a faint smile, the first smile Sean had seen from him. Billy relaxed a little as he sat in the overstuffed Ikea chair. As Sean opened the wine he wondered if four bottles would be enough.
“Sean, can I use your phone? I left mine in its charger. I’ve got couple of people I need to touch base with.” Sean handed him his phone, thinking that the ADR team could use the information. Billy used it to text a couple of messages and handed it back.
“OK, I’m free, said Billy, “You’ve got my undivided attention.” He spoke to Sean the same way he used to do when he thought that Sean wasn’t being quick enough on the uptake, “I see that you are still lugging around a laptop.”
“I’m not quite ready to commit everything to the cloud yet,” Sean said as they lifted their glasses.
“A toast, then,” said Billy, “To our secrets, brother.”
As he spoke, Billy smiled again, this time with a glint in his eye. They sat without talking for a few minutes, watching the woman hosting the television program as she did her best ‘big sister’ act, imploring lonely men across the British Isles to “ …pick up, call in, we can’t make it happen without your call.” Sean switched the channel to an Icelandic newscast, then turned to Billy.
“Ok, Bill. I’m still trying to process the Senator as my father, forgive me if I don’t follow everything as quickly as I should... tell me, what’s the story with those Icelandic women you’ve been seeing? Silu, and Þora? One of them is the mother of your child, I take it.”
“Silu is the mother, but she won’t admit that I am the father. She doesn’t want anything to do with me. Þora is her sister but she thinks that I’m here for her. How it actually works is complicated and messy. That’s why it doesn’t help matters any having you running around as my double. One of me is trouble enough! I need a little time. Silu will come around. Þora is fun, but she will get distracted soon enough.”
The sun was setting. The room was getting darker, but Sean didn’t turn on the light.
He refilled the glasses with the remainder of the first bottle.
May 4, 1500 PDT
Sean, I'm writing from the library downtown, I'm getting really paranoid at home, there are definitely people following me. I don't think they'll try anything in a public place. I think I lost them (for a while at least) back at the market. I know they've watching my car. This might be something from my past. Remember when I asked you not to run a background check on me? It was for your own good. Things aren't turning out the way we planned, are they? Shit. They're here, in the library. I'll say good bye, maybe I can
“Molly Berenson? Agent Mathaison, FBI. Don’t get up, don’t make a scene, trust me, it will be better this way. Pick up your things, and walk calmly to the elevator. Don’t try to run.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Have you ever seen anyone with a grand mal seizure?” the agent said, taking a thick bracelet out of a case and deftly clipping it around her wrist. “You have a choice. You can walk out with us like a sensible woman, or you can be rolled out convulsing, strapped to a gurney.” The agent’s tone of voice was intimidating: “Don’t speak. Come with us, the bracelet is on in its lowest setting. Don’t force us to turn it up.”
Molly could feel a tingle on her wrist. The agent closed her laptop and placed it in his briefcase, leaving it on. Molly stood up slowly and walked to the elevator with the FBI man.
“So, what’s your story, Sean?” Billy said, holding the wine glass as if it was a baby’s rattle, “How did you end up with the job of being my babysitter? And just what are you doing with yourself when you aren’t dashing off to the arctic, rescuing your wayward brother?”
“I never know how to answer questions about myself,” said Sean, “I don’t see myself completely committed to anything. I’m always ready to move on. I thought it was different with Molly, but somehow I have ended up four thousand miles away from her, in a strange place, on a dubious mission that has little chance of succeeding. I could be coding for Oracle. Now I’m just a glorified hacker and a not very good P.I.”
“Molly? That wasn’t the woman you were with the last time I saw you? You haven’t gone soft on me, have you? Settling down?”
“She’s alright, Bill. Somehow it works for us.”
“So, who is she? I mean where is she from? Where did she go to school? Does her family have any money?”
“Ha ha. No money Billy. There isn’t much of a story. We live in a lower duplex in Seattle, under her mother. Her father’s dead. She’s in insurance. I met her in Chicago."
“Who knows about her? Your boss know? I bet the Senator has a file on her.”
“Anything is possible,” said Sean, “I take precautions. Are you ready for some more wine?”
“I’ll get it. I need some water for my meds.”
“So, you still like playing doctor, do you? How can you keep taking that shit?”
“Not to worry, it’s just a little something for pep, no prob. Give me your glass, you’re running on empty.”
When Billy went into the kitchen Sean took the opportunity to hit the can. He never wanted to see anyone dosing. When he came back Billy was staring out the window in the direction of the Russian Embassy. His foot was tapping, the way it always did when he was on speed.
“No story on the girlfriend, Sean?” Billy said, “Not good. Everybody needs a story, that’s what makes us human. Apes don’t have stories. They don’t know how to lie. That’s what being a human being is all about, Sean. Little lies grow into big ones. It’s the telling of them that makes them come true… sort of. That’s why Daddy’s running for president. It’s his story, ever since he was a teenager: he wrote it, he believed it, and now it’s coming true. Heaven help anyone who gets in the way. What’s the title of your story, Sean?”
“Something Happened. What’s yours? The Valley of the Dolls? A Million Little Pieces? I’ve read them. They all have unhappy endings.”
“Sometimes a Great Notion,” Billy said, raising his glass. “Cheers!”
Sean thought that the wine from the new bottle tasted a bit off.