Sean was greeted at the airport by Sally and a man who appeared to be a customs official. Sally gave Sean his ticket, passport and boarding pass, and took Sean’s cell phones—the one from the embassy—as well as Billy’s possessions: the duffle bag, the iPhone and the MacBook. Sally and Sean went to the check-in.
“We’ll be flying together again,” said Sally, “First class this time. I took the liberty of giving you the window seat, I hope you don’t mind,” She spoke pleasantly, but her face lacked emotion. “We’ve got some time before boarding, did you eat?”
“No, I might be able to eat a little.” Sean’s guts still felt as if they were tied into knots.
“There’s plenty of food to choose from in the terminal, do you have any Kronur left? Might as well spend it now, you won’t get much back from the exchange.”
Sean and Sally went up to the main terminal where there was a deli-style restaurant. Sean got a sandwich and a Coke. Sally didn’t eat but did get a glass of wine. They sat down and Sally looked at Sean carefully.
“Not exactly a fancy dinner date, is it, Billy? Are you doing alright? I appreciate what a remarkable thing it is that you’re doing. I’m not at all surprised that you are on edge.”
“I’m OK, I guess. I knew going into it that this would be a strange gig, but I never imagined it how it could turn so bad. The realization that I don’t have any say in what’s going on—that’s the thing which bothers me the most.”
“How much control do any of us have over our lives?” said Sally, “You’re already past the hard part. The Senator’s people have seen to it that everything will be considerably easier from now on. We’ll see to it that you are kept comfortable—if you continue to play by our rules.”
“I understand,” said Sean, “Although I would be a lot more comfortable if I had a proper pair of shoes.” Picking at his sandwich, Sean’s brain was telling him that he should be hungry, but his stomach wasn’t ready for a full meal yet. “I will play the role of the dutiful son." he said. He wondered how Molly was taking the news of ‘his’ death. She must have been notified by now. “Tell me, if you can, where it is that we’re going?"
“We’ll land in Washington and then go to the Senator’s compound in Maryland. You’ll be under Secret Service protection.”
“In a sense. You’ll be taken out for campaign appearances, but your freedom of movement and access to communications will be restricted. It shouldn’t be too onerous. You should be used to it by now—look behind you.”
Sean turned around and saw that the two goons who he had seen in the nightclub and at the scene of Billy’s accident were sitting a few tables away.
“They were on your side, then?” Sean asked.
“They are on our side,” said Sally with a smile.
Sean put down the sandwich without eating any of it. Sally finished her wine then indicated it was time to go.
“Passport control is open now. After clearing customs we’ll wait in the departure terminal. Don’t talk to anyone.”
The passport officer gave a cursory look at Billy’s replacement passport and stamped it without comment. Sean and Sally went to their gate. When Sean glanced at the departure board he saw that the Seattle flight was at the next gate—with its hold open, in the process of being loaded. Amidst the usual mix of luggage and parcels was a large, coffin-sized shipping container.
The flight left on time. Sally was in the aisle seat. Sean was still queasy, both his mind and body were in turmoil due to the events of the last few days. As he looked out the window, he could see the landscape of Iceland disappearing into the fog. Sally leaned over and began to speak quietly into his ear:
“You’ll have to grow into your campaign role, Billy. You’ll be spending a lot of time on airplanes, and even more time in hotel rooms. You’ll have to perform as if you were a great actor in a poorly-written play, and remember, no ad-libbing, ever.”
“How will I be able to I pull this off?” said Sean, “Everyone will see through me. What about Billy’s half-sisters? What about the Senator’s wife?”
“The twins hardly know Billy—they were infants when he went to college—and, aside from a few drunken appearances at Christmas parties, haven’t seen much of their ‘older brother’ at all. Nora, Billy’s stepmother, already knows what’s going on.”
“What’s your stake in this, Sally? Or is that privileged information?”
“Nora and I go way back. She helped me when I needed it most, and I’ll help her, and the Senator, whenever they need it.”
The attendant brought the beverage cart down the aisle. The thought of alcohol repulsed Sean. He motioned to what looked like a can of orange soda.
“Appelsín?” said the server.
“Um, yeah, OK.”
Sally smiled, “Apple Sin? The cause of Adam’s fall.”
“But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.Sally knew her Bible.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day
ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened,
and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
“You’ll be getting to know good and evil real well, Billy. Let your eyes be opened and your mouth be shut and you’ll get along just fine.”
Sean took a sip of the soda. The can said it was ‘Limonade’ but it tasted like nothing He’d ever had before. Not sweet, not citrus and certainly not apple, but it was a good match for his parched condition. He wondered if he’d ever get back to eating regular food. Leaning back in his seat, he closed his eyes.
“Before you nod off Billy,” Sally said, “I want you to know this: I’ll be on your side—but only if you’ll let me. Nora is a powerful woman, and she can be blunt with those she thinks aren’t fully supportive of her. You will have to put up with a lot of grief from her, even cruelty, and get no rewards. She can be truly awful at times. You’ll just have to grin and bear it.”
“I’m beginning to understand why Billy was on the run,” said Sean, “I can’t imagine Billy ever letting a woman like that have the upper hand over him.”
Sally gripped Sean’s arm and looked him straight in the eyes as she spoke:
“At the last Christmas party we were at Billy said this to me: ‘The only way I could make Nora Clarkson happy would be if I walked through a mile of her shit just to kiss her ass.’ That’s not far from the truth,” Sally said, lightly touching Sean’s cheek, “Pleasant dreams, Billy.”