In the Belly of the Beast
Sally was right.
The reception was full of young women who were interested in Billy. Twenty-somethings were well represented, many of them casting surreptitious glances Sean’s way. The thirty-somethings simply stared. “Clothes make the man?” thought Sean. Herbert, who had been assigned to ‘Billy’ as his valet, had certainly known what he was doing. Billy’s closets contained quite a collection of high-end men’s clothes and Herbert really knew how to coordinate them. It took some talking on Sean’s part but he finally convinced Herbert to ditch the wingtips. Sean idly wondered if Billy’s appearance, in the minds of the single women in attendance, inspired thoughts of a White House wedding. He was starting to think the same way that Billy would have.
A large group was waiting for the Senator in the foyer and adjoining rooms of a sizeable mansion in suburban Richmond. His plane was late; he was flying in from a rally in Miami. Sean’s appetite still had not returned, so he drank champagne, as discreetly as possible. The staff saw to it that his glass was never empty.
Nora and Sally kept their eyes on ‘Billy.’ They were making sure that Sean looked as if he was enjoying himself. He was seated on a sofa by the fireplace, with a stupid ‘PR grin’ plastered on his face. Sean stood up to greet one of the thirty-somethings who had come over and had asked to sit beside him. She was slim, in a black cocktail dress and flats. The woman placed her expensive-looking clutch purse between them. The diamond studded earrings that she wore must have been at least three carats each. Her style could be summed up in a word: expensive.
“You’re looking sharp, Billy, your maturity suits you. Did you pick out those clothes?”
“I’m afraid not, my man Herbert has the fashion eye.”
“Herbie’s still around? He’s the only person who has ever had any class in that house,” said the woman, “So, tell me, where have you been hiding since you dumped me, without so much as a phone call, seven years ago?”
“So sorry about that. Mea Culpa,” Sean said. He didn’t have the faintest idea who the woman was, but, using Billy’s M.O., Sean tried to mollify her. The champagne was starting to have an effect on him: he was getting quite relaxed. “I’ve been abroad. You might say that I’m still trying to find my place in the world."
“Your place in the world,” said the woman, “Haha, Billy. Always the kidder. Your place in the world is on a broad. Tell me, what is my name?”
“You heard me, what is my name? Say it. Tell me my name... ” There was a pause as the woman waited for an answer. “You can’t even remember my Goddamn name, can you?”
“No, I’m sorry, I can’t,” Sean knew this wasn’t the place to start a fight with one of Billy's old girlfriends, “Please forgive me, I’m not the man I once was.”
“As if that were true. I’ve seen you looking around. Who will get ‘the Billy treatment’ tonight?”
“Look, I didn’t come here to make a scene, or to pick up a woman. I’m just doing what I can to help my father. Please, let it go. If you will excuse me.”
Sean stood up to leave the woman but when he turned around to go the room kept on turning without him. He was a lot drunker than he had thought. At that same moment, a commotion erupted outside the mansion—the limo with the senator was arriving. The whirling of the room around Sean’s head began moving down to his gut. Sean asked one of the serving staff where the bathroom was. Everyone in the house was rushing the other way in order to greet the Senator.
Sean made it to a bathroom where he managed to have the wherewithal to hang up Billy’s jacket before he ‘assumed the position’ in front of the toilet. Between purges, Sean could hear the applause growing from the crowd that was now outside the house. Then a great roar went up and, at the exact same moment, everything went dark and Sean felt an excruciating pain in his belly. He was still retching and his abdominal pains increased with each new spasm. He could feel a warm wetness seeping through his shirt and when he reached to touch it he felt the handle of a knife. He heard a muffled voice speak:
And then he passed out.
Molly, I received something this pm which confirms your doubts. Meet me at the aluminum tree in the sculpture garden 5ish? And bring the clearest photo you have of Sean's face.
Re: Re: Sean
I'll be there, 5 it is.
On the plaza of the sculpture garden, Mrs. Robinson found Molly looking at an image of Sean on her iPad.
“Molly! You’ve got a good picture of Sean? Great. Let’s go inside. I have something to show you.”
The women went into the pavilion and got coffee before they sat down. Mary Robinson opened a folder containing papers and photographs.
“Molly, zoom in and look at the right eye of Sean in your photo and give me an approximate position of the brown flecks in his iris—as if they were numbers on a clock face.”
“I see a small one at two o’clock, a larger one at seven, and another small one between nine and ten.”
“Now, look at this enlarged section of the photo I received in an image file today. The right eye.”
“They are they same.”
“Now, look at the other eye.”
“The same pattern is on each eye in both photographs.”
“Now look at this—the full image—and tell me what you see.”
“It’s Sean, sitting in a cafe, in the daytime, holding a foreign newspaper up to his face.”
“It’s Icelandic. Now, look at the date on the paper.”
“It says Five Maí.”
“That’s the morning after Sean was supposedly killed,“ said Mary, “You were right, he is alive.”
“Where did you get this?” asked Molly.
“It was in a memory card that was hidden in a greeting card—mailed from Reykjavík on the fifth. Look for yourself,” Mary said, handing Molly the card. Mary read the inscription.
Not dead yet. It’s in the card. Your eyes only. Wait for instructions.
“What does it mean, Mrs. Robinson? Why hasn’t Sean called or sent an email?”
“I’m not certain why, but we now know for sure that the body in the morgue isn’t Sean’s. How did you know that it wasn’t, Molly?”
“There is a scar on Sean’s chest just above his heart. From a time when I bit him.”
“"Oh, my. Usually, that would be too much information. We can make an exception in this case. I’ve got too much information as well, more information which was also on the memory card. It may explain who is behind this situation, but I am not yet at liberty to talk about it. We need to go back to the morgue and make them do a dental record check. I’ll tell them that the company’s life insurance policy requires it. That may buy us enough time to find out what has happened to Sean.”
As she spoke, Mary Robinson’s phone began to buzz. She read the text message that had been sent from the office:
Breaking news Billy C stabbed. TV is all over it pls advise
“Molly, we may find out sooner than I thought. Can you pull up a news feed on your iPad?”