In Missoula, Sean stopped the car at a Subway fast food restaurant.
“Nothing spicy on mine,” said Mary. Her nausea hadn’t returned, but she was still a little on edge from the near miss with the deer. “I’ll stay in the car, I’m going to check in with Seattle,” Mary said, calling her point person at the legal firm.
“Robinson here. What do you have for me?”
"Ms. Robinson, have you seen any of the on-line tech magazines? You and Sean have gone viral. TechCreeper has plastered a picture of you two across their home page."
“We haven’t looked at the internet in a couple of days. We’re on vacation. What’s the gist of the story?”
"The story is harmless enough, it's about how you and Sean cashed in on the ADR sale, but the backlash appearing in the tech forums is becoming scary."
“The usual jealously trolls, I suppose?”
"Well, it has gone far beyond that. The misogynists and racists are out in full force as well. It appears as if there is an orchestrated attack on your character."
“Not much they can do about it now. The checks have been cashed.”
"I hope that there isn't. Where are you two? When will you be back? The media has been calling us all day for interviews," said the lawyer, peeved.
“That’s nobody’s business. I’ll check in every couple of days, keep a log. If something really important comes up, like a subpoena, we can be back in 48 hours. Absolutely no interviews—it only feeds the trolls. The internet will forget about us in a couple of weeks.”
"Billing to be sent to your home address?"
“Yes, don’t worry, we’ll be back by ‘net thirty days.’”
Mary ended the call and closed her eyes. When Sean returned with the food he found her asleep.
“Oh, I must have dozed off.”
“What’s the news out of Seattle?”
“Oh not much, just that we’re the latest internet celebrities. The ADR sale.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Sean, you know that I’ve always been one to stay out of the spotlight.”
“To be expected when you're running a private investigation service.”
“There's more to it than that. I learned early on that as far as business was concerned my race and my gender were debits. For most men, the tech world is structured exactly like any other business enterprise: a woman on top is a woman who needs to be pushed down to her proper place. The anonymity afforded by the internet allows the real depths of hatred to be revealed. Evidently, due to the ADR sale, I've become a target, and you as well.”
Sean paused a moment before speaking.
“There isn’t anything we can do about it, is there?”
Now it was Mary’s turn to pause.
“Sean, let’s make a family, a real family, not just you and me and the baby, but your Aunt Tina, maybe my stepmother, maybe even my stepfather, maybe more kids someday, but something more than being just a man and a woman who happened to ‘get together’ for a while. The internet stuff will fade away soon enough, but in the meantime, we can build something real together.”
“You didn’t mention my father. Billy thought he killed my mother.”
“That’s a real problem. But how can you mend another person’s broken heart? His whole life is based on cruelty, selfishness, and bullshit. Let’s let that problem ride for now, but I want you to think about what I’m saying. We will have to come to grips with the Icelandic child as well.”
“You’re right, I understand what you’re saying.”
They ate in silence. Finally, Sean spoke:
“Mary, we can do this. I’m with you all the way.”
“May it always be so.”
Sean drove the rest of the day, with Mary drowsing from time to time, but when they got close to Billings she suddenly sat up.
“Oh Sean, have you ever seen the mountains so beautiful? All the colors are so vivid, it’s as if I’m seeing the world for the first time.”
“It is beautiful, Mary, it is all so beautiful.”