Page 92

I'm shaking so hard the director has to hold my face in his hands, steadying it, before he can talk to me.

Basically summing things up, he asks, "Do you really want to go back up there?"

I'm shaking so hard I can't answer him.

"Do you really want to go back up there?" he asks again. "Is this something your character would do?"

I'm inhaling and exhaling so hard I can't catch my breath and slowly people start moving away from me.

After what seems like hours I finally stand up when the urge to go back up to the apartment recedes (not all that unexpectedly, really) and over the sounds of construction and traffic I'm still hearing sleigh bells and someone from wardrobe is brushing off my jacket as I head down the steps leading to the sidewalk and the black sedan waiting for me at the curb which will take me back to my apartment where my viewpoint of this project will be, if not exactly clarified, then at least placed in some kind of perspective.


Outside my apartment building the Details reporter is playing hopscotch, wearing a citrus-colored catsuit, a white leather jacket, platform sneakers, braids held in place by plastic barrettes, and she's dialing a number on a cell phone, her fingernails half-covered with chipped brown polish. I trudge by her without saying a word, gingerly stepping over the remains of my crushed and mangled Vespa, which lies crumpled by the trash lining the curb, a cigarette dangling from my lips, my sunglasses on.

"Hey, we were supposed to meet this morning," she says, clicking off the cell phone.

I don't say anything, just busy myself looking for my keys.

"They canceled the piece on you anyway," she says.

"And you came to tell me in person?" I find the keys. "How intimidating."

"Don't you care?" she asks.

I sigh, take my sunglasses off. "What did you think of me?"

She cocks her head "meaningfully," studies the sidewalk, squinting, then looks back up at my face.

"I thought you were well-nigh inscrutable," she says, mimicking a British accent.

"Well, I thought you were a hodgepodge of banality," I say, mimicking a British accent too.

I open the door and step inside. She shrugs, skips away.

An eviction notice is pinned to my door and when I pull it off I glance over at the director and roll my eyes, groaning "Oh puhleeeze." The instant I walk into my apartment the phone starts ringing and I flop down on my beanbag chair, exhausted, and pick it up, yawning. "It's Victor-whass up?"

"This is Palakon calling," a voice says crisply.

"Palakon, I really can't talk now, so-"

"There's a manila envelope on your kitchen table," Palakon says, cutting me off. "Open it."

I stare into the kitchen from where I'm slouching and spot the envelope on the table.

"Okay," I say, "I'm opening the vanilla envelope, dude."

"No, Mr. Johnson," Palakon says, annoyed. "Please get up and go to the kitchen."

"Whoa," I say, impressed.

"I want you to take that envelope with you when you go to London to find Jamie Fields," Palakon says. "You have a reservation in a first-class cabin on the QE2. It leaves New York at four o'clock this afternoon. Your tickets are in that manila envelope on your kitchen table, along with-"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," I say. "Hold on."

"Yes?" Palakon asks politely.

I pause for a long time, mulling things over before blurting out, "You could've at least put me on the f**king Concorde."

"You have a reservation in a first-class cabin on the QE2," Palakon says again, undeterred. "It leaves New York at four o'clock this afternoon. A car will be by to pick you up at one-thirty. Your tickets are in the manila envelope along with ten thousand dollars in cash for, er, expenses-"

"Need receipts?"

"That won't be necessary, Mr. Johnson."


"I will contact you on the ship. And don't forget to take the manila envelope with you. It's crucial."

"Why?" I ask.

"Because everything you need is in it."

"It's a nice manila envelope," I say finally.

"Thank you."

"How did you know I'd be able to go today, Palakon?"

"I read the News," he says. "I figured it out."


"Oh yes," Palakon says, befor hanging up. "Take the hat with you too."

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