TO GAIN THE WORLD
This is his secret - Abe has a poor grasp on reality. He exists in a sea of thoughts and memories flashed into his mind by the people around him. Every object he touches speaks to him. All too often he loses track of the here and now. I only know because I am let ‘behind the scenes’.
He allows others to guide him, leaning on their thoughts to keep his focus. He leans on me, discretely Touching me, counting on me to be an impartial viewer.
Alone in the room with Manning, he found it easier to keep himself focused. For there was only Tom, and the director had only two things on his mind.
“Abe, let me say first, that I’m very sorry I didn’t come clean about this at the beginning. You have to understand, we are very concerned about the safety of the bureau.” He smiled painfully. “And you were, so loyal, to let me come to you about this. I know you could Read me at any time, and find out the truth.” Abe sat studying the man.
“When your wife asked me about this matter, I first needed to pull the documents to examine them myself. She never saw them – I’ve kept them all this time.” He pushed a folder across the table toward Abe. "What we have here is your record of service, from the time of your induction into the Bureau, until you were sealed in the room at St. Trinian’s. It concerns details of your life before you were,” he coughed, “changed.”
Manning became more nervous. “The doctor who changed you was suddenly overcome with a plague, the project abandoned. They thought it came from you, and that you also infected. the report showed that you were lifeless. They thought you were dead. The lab was sealed to prevent further infection.”
Abe sat still, leaving the folder untouched. He gazed at Tom, thinking about the damage caused to his wife the last time he ventured into his past. Tom was right to keep this from Wen, even if he had kept it for different reasons. She would have to file it somewhere safe, without looking inside. He left it where it was, for her to pick up later.
“Thank you Tom. I’m not upset – in fact, it is a blessing you kept it. Please, think no more about it. I won’t.” Abe expected Tom to relax, and then realized that what Tom would tell him next, was causing Tom even more distress.
“Thanks Abe, really.” He brought out another folder.
“Now, for the second part of our meeting…”
After a few minutes, measured words came from the room, heard by those in the corridor.
"No! I need Wen! If you want my help..."
Abe came back from the meeting in a very excited state, almost agitated. He thumped something down on the desk in front of me, ruining my drawing, interrupting my daydreams.
I blinked at him. “I’m almost irritated, Abe. What's up with you?”
“But you aren’t irritated.”
“No, Abe, it’s already forgotten.” What do you have here? Is this what it looks like? I stood up and put the thing over my head. It fit around my ribcage, about as heavy as I expected.
“Special-ops just got this. Manning’s little gift to us,” Abs said. “He calls it a rebreather/air extractor.”
“That would explain the logo – ‘rebrexor’. The government is so good with catchy names for things.”
“It’s a gift, Wen. Don’t be sarcastic.”
“Abe, I don’t know anything about scuba equipment. I don’t want to take this in the pool without instruction of some kind.” This would be useful at night however. Did it need batteries or anything?
“I have a pack, with batteries, charger. There are small tanks, they can be charged, too. You have enough for a year of normal use.” The pack was small.
I suppose I could try it. “Well, I’m willing to start training anytime, but you’ll have to get a good instructor.”
John started my training with classroom time, and gave me a book to read. “It shouldn’t take you long to get through that,” John said, pointing at the book. Charts - I hated them.
“Not now, since I practice so much. I suppose you learned this for the FBI,” I said.
“No, before that. There are PADI schools in Nebraska. I tried scuba in high school and at the academy, I got my teacher certification. I’ll give you a few hours to read, then suit up and meet me at the pool.”
There was so much to learn - neutral buoyancy, depth classifications, timing, signing, decompression. Abe helped me cheat, going between us to transfer John's knowledge into my mind. And I gave John a hard time, telling him how many items didn't apply to Abe and me. His answer was always the same.
"What will you do if Abe's not around?"
We found the rebrexor handy at night in the tank. Abe still held on to me to make sure I was breathing correctly. I found drifting around untethered while I slept disconcerting.
If, one day, you find yourself in prison, you fill the time reading, exercising, maybe involved in a few illicit activities. Or you watch movies. Abe joined the group with me, in Liz and Red’s room, to see a silly action picture. We had piled tables with junk food, and every TV had the same image, so that no matter where you looked, you saw the star jumping across rooftops, shooting at people. ‘Johnny’ – was one of the best known actors of our day, dark-haired, with a friendly face that everyone seemed to like. Red and John liked him anyway.
At one point, Abe took my hand and Thought, I know that man.
Does Red know? Maybe you could introduce them, I responded. Strange thing for Abe to say. I wonder in what mission he met him, and then, why wouldn’t Red have met him also? Abe was quiet, not watching the movie, but rather sitting and thinking.
Red hit him on the leg and said, “What’s the matter Blue, Too much like watching me?”
“Yes Red. But when it’s over, they don’t lock him back in his trailer.”
I knew Abe sometimes felt the BPRD was too confining, as ambivalent comments about his job would slip out every so often. But I never thought I’d hear those words spoken to me as we drifted in the tank that night.
Wen, I’m going to leave. Will you come with me?
But we just got in the tank.
No Wen. Escape from the BPRD.
I was struck with panic. If we ran, how long before they’d catch us, and how little freedom would we then have? They could separate us. I started to realize the trap my friends had been in all this time.
Yes, now you know. There is someone I need to talk to, on the outside.
Couldn’t I pass notes between you, so that you’d stay safe?
He’s far away from here. You have to accept, I may never come back here. Do you want to go with me? Abe asked again.
You’d leave Red.
He would do the same, Wen. If he and Liz had the chance.
I’ll go with you, Abe. I have no other choice.
Open your mind. Abe went deeply into my thoughts, searching I suppose for the chance of failure on my part. I almost wished I could probe his mind in the same way, but then I’d have the same gift, and I didn’t want that.
Trust me, Wen.
Abe somehow formed a plan to get us out, much to my surprise. Even telepathy is not enough of a link for one’s husband to start doing things totally mysterious to his wife.
I had renewed the lease on my storage locker, and moved a few more things to it, hoping the BPRD would not discover it. Then the day came when Abe had me take a few more items, stuffing them into the bag that carried the rebrexor. When he also put in a small roll of bills, I knew we would leave the BPRD within the day.
The weather had warmed, and Abe and I were to continue my training with a swim in the river, supposedly so that I could test out the rebrexor in more natural conditions.
Abe had a light suit that covered him from wrist to ankle. The top was tan from elbow to wrist; like my skin tone. Likewise, from ankle to knee, matching my skin tone. The rest of the top had yellow from elbow to shoulder, then black with two yellow large swashes from shoulder to waist, on front and back. This gave an impression of a short sleeve shirt with a blue hood – the hood actually being his skin.
Both Abe and I had fake scuba tanks – his to hide the fact he didn’t need one, mine covering the rebrexor. Myers was our only guard and drove the car to an isolated place under a bridge, in order to give us more privacy. We got out of the car, John putting on normal scuba gear, me putting on my rebrexor. Abe took off his breathing collar, the charger for it hidden in the rebrexor bag. I had asked to bring clothes in a separate bag, in case I wanted to change. Myers made a joke about the size of it, but knowing just enough about women, I suppose, thought it was feminine vanity. He didn't know how much I had stuffed in.
How would we make our break? Was Myers in on it?
We climbed down to the river’s edge, put on our fins, and went in. Once we were under, Abe wasted no time. He swam up to John, putting a hand on John’s shoulder, then his arm around his chest. John immediately went limp.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Abe motioned to me, and we pulled John out of the water, carrying him over by the curb. He turned to me. “He’s not hurt, Wen. Now, if you don’t want to go any further, you can stay with him, until help arrives.”
“Or you can come with me.”
I can’t leave you Abe, but is this what you really want to do?
“I have to. You brought your phone – please get it for me.” He gave me the keys he had fished out of John’s belt pack, and I got my phone out of my bag. My hand went in deeper, and I found a gun.
“We might need it,” Abe answered. He took the phone from me and placed it in John’s hand. He then went to the car, waving his hand over all parts of it. Opening the hood, he pulled out a small plastic box, and tossed it. “This would track us,” he said.
We got in the car, and drove away.
“Where do you want me to go?” I asked.
“First, drive to a spot by Bethel.”
The small office in Long Island was shabby, but its owner was quite wealthy from his little business. I walked in the door, and an older man reading the paper glanced up.
“Mrs. Sapien, nice to meet you.”
He knew me by sight. We talked briefly, and he handed me an envelope. Inside was my I.D. – completely fake, totally perfect in every detail.
“I know you need to go. Say hello to Abe for me – I’ll send him a bill.”
I got back in the car. “It was just as you said. He didn’t blink an eye. He said he’d send you a bill.”
Abe laughed. “Yes. A bill that will come month after month – blackmail. It doesn’t matter. I’ll be glad to pay it.”
“Where to now?”
“Now, we drive to Atlantic City.”
By mid-afternoon we had pulled into the suburbs surrounding the City. While Abe hid in the car, I went into a local coffee bar to use the computer. I quickly pulled up a list of B and B’s in the area, and we drove to the first one.
“Go inside and talk to the innkeeper. Tell them you don’t use credit cards, that you’re looking for a room for one. Try to touch her, and come back out to the car. You need the room for two days.” After I had done as instructed, I came back out to the car. Abe Touched me, looking for the right kind of lodging.
The fourth place on the list checked out to Abe’s satisfaction.
The room I had rented was above the garage of the house, and so had its own entrance, hidden enough for Abe to be able to slip in. It was shabby but we were safe here, and it had a tub and shower, so he could get wet. I charged his respirator as best I could. As soon as it was dark, Abe and I drove around, until we found a car similar to ours, and switched plates, then drove back to our room.
“Next, you need to dress for the casino. Put on eye makeup, and darken your eyebrows, it may confuse any profiling equipment they might have.” We drove to the boardwalk casinos, parking at one of the hotels.
I counted out my money. We had enough for a day, and I was about to get more. “Go into this casino, to the crap tables. Place a small bet at each table. Lean on them, keep your hands on the tables. Then come back to the car.”
It took an hour, but I did all he asked. When I came back, we sat together, his hand on my forehead. Abe studied in silence for a few minutes.
This is how you need to bet… and he plotted it all out for me. Take my watch, you start at exactly 11:35. Don’t forget to tip the dealers. You may want to get something to eat first, you’re very hungry.
It was true, I was. What about you?
I shouldn’t eat. It would take too much energy.
Thank goodness this wouldn’t take much time. Abe need to conserve his oxygen. He lay down, and I put a blanket over him.
It was 11:25 when I walked back into the casino. I grabbed a couple of food bars at the hotel convenience shop, then headed for the tables.
11:30 – I put a bet down on the come line, let it ride once, then switched to the don’t come line. I switched to the next table, made a right bet, placed a side bet on the winning number, and let it ride for the other right bet Abe Saw. On to the last table, the crowded one, with just enough room for me. It was noisy. I looked at my watch – Midnight. I need to make a last right bet, with all of the money. I was handed the dice.
Abe, I hope your vision was correct. I threw, and won. Cheers erupted, and I left the dice for the next person.
I walked back to the car quickly, before anyone tried to talk to me. Once in the car, I threw back the blanket covering my husband.
“Okay Abe,”I demanded, “I did my part Now it’s time to tell me your plans.”
“Wen,” he grabbed my hand, We are going south. I’m going to see, someone, about our future. You must come with me for this.
We drove back to the inn, and undressed quickly. Abe immediately went to the tub, his respirator recharging in its stand. I sat next to him, between the toilet and tub, wrapped in a blanket, holding hands with him underwater. We slept, making love in our dreams. When I woke early the next morning, the vivid images still in my head, I took my perpetually wrinkled hand out of the water.
How I wish we could have stayed in that dreamworld.
We set off for the southern-most tip of Florida. I first stocked up on food and water – lots of water – and an adapter so that Abe could recharge his respirator in the car. He only wanted to shop for supplies once, so that there would be less of a chance of being spotted. Then, we drove without stopping until Abe was dried out.
Our route taken kept us near the coastline as often as possible. When Abe need to get in water, he would suit up in his fake scuba gear and swim out into the ocean, until he was a safe distance from shore. Then off it would all come, and he would stay in the water until he was refreshed. He re-suited before he came back in to shore.
“I felt a shark nearby,” Abe said, at one rest stop.
“Did he sense you?” I asked.
“He did, but I was no threat. Maybe I was the wrong color.”
While it was night, Abe drove, and let me sleep. I tried to stay behind the wheel as much as possible, just in case.
The road lead us back to the freeway at the south end of Georgia, and at Jacksonville, Florida, we again took the road near the ocean.
Abe drank more water in order to hydrate, and because of the need to flush the extra salt out of his system. We had to make more rest stops. I sat on the hood of the car, and watched my husband’s slim silhouette wade out into the surf. I held the gun in my lap; it made me feel safe. Looking at it reminded me of home.
When we crossed the bridge leading us away from the mainland, Abe sat up, and placed his hand on my cheek. This has been so hard for you, but soon, you can rest.
I felt a calmness from him as he looked over the expanse of blue. He rolled down the windows to let the ocean breeze fill the car.
“Don’t hang your head out the window,” I said. “People will stare.”
I was rewarded with a small smile.
Keep going Wen, all the way to the end of the road. I’m going to meet an old friend there. The scenery that passed those last hours resembled that of an above ground reef – colorful, with an odd assortment of 'fish', odder as we went farther south. We drove all the way to Key West, arriving there as the sun was setting. It seemed we had headed into a party, that parted slowly around our car. People waved drinks at us, trying to see in the windows. One person knew Abe was in the car. He turned to the small group with him, holding his drink up for a toast. His friends clinked glasses with him, unaware of his sudden elation, and came with him, as he suddenly headed home.
We pulled up to the gate of a small mansion. "I’m going to get out of the car," said Abe.
“No disguise?” I asked.
“Someone will think it’s a costume, no stranger than any other costume we’ve just seen,” answered Abe. He stroked the gate, then turned and came back to the car. “Yes, this is it. We need to wait here, but if he doesn’t show up soon, I’m going to need a dip in the ocean.”
In the dusk, a small group headed our way. From out of the group, a lone figure walked to our car. He waved at the others, and they turned and walked to the other mansions.
The man motioned for me to roll unlock the window.
“Please do as he asks, Wen.” Abe said.
He opened the back door, and got in. It was the actor we had watched not three days before, in Red's quarters.
“Johnny Wilkes.” He stuck out his hand to me.
“Wen Sapien.” The moment I shook his hand, I knew I didn’t like him.
He turned to my husband. In a low voice he asked, “and what is your name now, my friend?” The name Abe Sapien made him laugh. “Did you come up with that?” Abe shook his head.
“It came from a note by the glass container they found me in, almost fifty years later.”
Concern momentarily crossed Johnny's face. “I can tell you’re stressed. Do you need water? I have a large pool, very fresh. Come in with me.” He got out of the car and opened the gate, then motioned for me to drive in. We went in the garage door, and I parked. The three of us walked into the house, met by an expanse of pure white from floor to ceiling. Every room was large, with a private beach and dock outside, as I saw out the opening glass walls. Abe smelled the water and took me directly to the pool.
I held Abe’s hand as we walked. He knew what you felt – can he Read people like you can? I asked.
No, only emotions. He thinks his talent makes him very attractive. It does make him a shrewd businessman, Abe answered.
Yuck, I replied.
As soon as we got in the pool, Abe unsuited, and jumped in. Johnny did the same, to my discomfort.
The man sure can stay down underwater for a long time. He’s an awful lot like Abe, although physically there are big differences.
I checked my watch, and Johnny had been down for ten minutes. He was like Abe.
At fifteen minutes, he finally came up for air. He sensed how I felt about his lack of clothes, and laughed at me. “You’re uncomfortable! That won’t do around this little town – there’s little modesty here.”
”That doesn't change how I feel,” I answered. Abe, please don’t make me have to talk to this man.
Abe broke the surface of the water. “Please. She doesn't know you well enough - we need a place to stay, Johnny.”
“Stay with me, Johnny replied, "We have a lot to talk over, you and I. I’ve been waiting a long time for you." He continued, "You know, I thought you were dead, until the rumors started. If I had known, I would have come for you.”
“We’ve fled the BPRD. I want to make a new life for us now, and I want Wen to be well taken care of.”
“Oh, she will be,” he answered, looking at me with that guileless, friendly face.
I left soon after for bed, Johnny and Abe talking late into the night.
By the next morning, Johnny already knew my background. He also knew that Abe and I had indeed run form the BPRD. He had checked on his own; I learned that he had a pipeline to any information he needed, and that he had a watchful eye on the entire Key. If any agents started looking around, he’d know.
I sat at the table with Abe, as Johnny fixed a breakfast. “Tell me,” he said as he worked, "you aren't pure Hawaiian, are you? It took me a minute to guess your heritage when I saw you, and your maiden name is English.”
“I’m American, Mr Wilkes.”
“I didn’t mean to insult you, and you don’t have to have to call me by my last name. But if you do, you can call me Mr. Booth.”
Booth. John Wilkes. No - it couldn't be. “Is this a joke?” I looked at Abe.
“No, my dear, he really is the same John Wilkes Booth. Manning kept a file from you about my past, before you gained access to the archives. He recently gave it to me, and I found out about our connection. When I saw him on film, I realized who it was, and that I knew him.”
I knew in an instant that Abe had said that to hide his psychic talents.
Johnny continued Abe’s revelation. "We were both in the same secret group, although none of us knew until it was too late, that your Abe was working for the other side.” He smiled. “And I still took care of Abe Lincoln. It would have been a whole different country if we had been successful in our plan for a new government. However, it has worked out for the best after all, for me. I forgave your husband long ago. Now perhaps, you'll let me help you make a new life, Abe. It's the least I can do for one of my own kind.”
His own kind. "Are you also a Chimera?” I asked.
Johnny, a true actor at heart, silently began to take off a wig, eyebrows, eyelashes. He turned, and grabbing a bottle of olive oil, poured some into his hands, bringing it up to his face. Makeup came off. The skin color underneath was a cool grey color, mottled, with faint stripes.
“You see now that heritage means little to me. Mine is only partially human. I took the same therapy from the doctor soon after your Abe did. Because I was an adult, my change was not as drastic, and it took quite a bit longer. After my escape from the capitol, I hid out West for quite a few years. Eventually, when I thought I was gravely ill, I admitted who I was to someone. But after my change I quickly became better, and decided to fake my death. I hid from public view for a long time, until I was able to perfect a makeup.”
“I thought you were killed after you shot Lincoln.”
“No, it wasn’t me, it was a vagrant. I hid in the well.”
“But the exam of your body…” I said.
“My friends were there to identify the body. I escaped,” he replied.
Johnny leaned over the counter. “You haven’t seen the best part.” He put a tissue on the counter, and putting a finger up to his face, pulled off the large contact completely covering his eye. He did the same with the other eye, and looked up at me. His irises were the same color as Abe’s, the pupils huge, with a sliver of white showing around the edges. I was intrigued, but not surprised. “It would have been more dramatic if your husband’s eyes were not the same as mine. I look like an anime character, don’t I,” he said, amused at himself.
“I think you look better that way. It’s more honest,” I replied.
“Johnny,” Abe said, “what happened to the doctor?”
“Yes, Hawkins,” Johnny replied. “He became very sick – now I think it was food poisoning. He died soon after the accident in the lab. Johnny’s tone suddenly flushed. “Abe, I thought you were dead. You were on my mind for many years. I heard from my sources when they found you. I was so glad you were alive.”
“We’re the only ones of our kind," Johnny stared at Abe. "I went to the Amazon and hunted down every one of those fish – and killed them. I knew someday you’d find me, Abe. I want you to stay, and be my partner.” Abe showed no emotion. He was expecting this.
I had a sinking feeling. “What kind of partner are you talking about?”
Johnny turned in my direction. “Why, a business partner of course. What else did you think?”
I was afraid of what I was thinking. They were the same in makeup – separate from the rest of humanity, perhaps ageless. Could Johnny eventually seduce Abe away from his humanity? I felt very inferior. Abe came to my side, and kissed me. You and I are bonded together, trust me.
As we ate breakfast, Johnny announced he had business to conduct, and would be gone until the next morning. “Why don’t you explore the water while I’m out? We have beautiful fish in a reef right beyond the dock. They stay here, away from the tourists,” he said. “And Abe, if you sunburn as easily as I do, you may want to wear a hat, at least until you’re in the water.”
I didn’t know if Abe could get a sunburn.
Johnny had made quite a bit of money acting, and as much in espionage. He enjoyed his secret career much more than his public one.
He said goodbye, and gave Abe the security code for the house. As soon as he had left, Abe put his arms around me and said, “What shall we do with this house to ourselves?”
He suddenly pushed himself into my thoughts, without even so much as a ‘please-open-your-mind’.
Oh yes, Wen. Please.
In the afternoon, Abe and I suited up and went out in the water. Abe threw the hat he had borrowed on the dock, and we went underwater.
Johnny was right – there were a lot of fish. I grabbed Abe’s hand. No Wen, nothing dangerous.
I watched him As he swam in with a school of fish, matching them turn for turn. Abe is one with the ocean – it moves with the rhythm of the waves. When Abe leaves the water, the wave is still in him.
It upset me he had been denied this because of the BPRD. This is where he should live.
But I have spent time in the ocean before, he Thought to me as he touched my cheek. Then he disappeared from sight.
Even though I wouldn’t run out of air for a long time, staying in the water longer than an hour could have its consequences, so I kept checking my watch. When I looked up, Abe was still nowhere to be seen.
I turned my head, and was suddenly face to face with the blue of the ocean made solid. Abe had unsuited, and I was right, he was all but invisible underwater. I removed my respirator for a moment to kiss him, then put my hands on his shoulders. He swam for both of us, speeding away.
I had to spend time decompressing after all, staying in the water for a longer time, but I didn’t mind. We drifted, and exchanged thoughts, his thoughts bringing an unwelcome surprise.
Wen, we have a little problem. The security code Johnny gave me was intentionally wrong. When we try to enter the house, the alarm will go off. Guards will show up.
You waited until now to tell me?
I didn’t want Johnny to know the range of my Vision. The cameras would have exposed us.
Cameras, I thought.
Yes, the cameras were on.
Talk about being exposed. I suppose you couldn’t have told me that before we…?
Can you think of any better way to show we knew nothing? This is serious business, my dear. I can’t let Johnny know I have the upper hand, until I find out what he’s really prepared to offer.
And you don’t know that already.
I have an idea, but he’s very old and proficient in deceit. I want room to negotiate.
I had no idea Abe was that skilled. Another side of him that I was unaware of. What else would he reveal? I looked at my watch. I had fifteen more minutes of decompression. We moved up a level.
When I was done, we walked back on our beach with a plan in mind. I came up to the control panel at the side of a window, and punched in Johnny’s fake code sequence. When nothing happened, I did it again.
“Abe,” I said, “it doesn’t work!”
Abe came up to the buttons and touched them. “Something is wrong,” he said,”you’ve tripped the alarm. I’m sure there will be security guards - I’ve got to go back in the water.”
I nodded my head, looking worried. “Go, run. I’ll talk to them.”
“Abe, your hat!" He threw it to me, and I put it on.
As we expected, two security agents in khakis puttered up to the house in a small power boat. They docked, and came across the beach to me.
“We’re staying with Johnny,” I said. “My husband went to the neighbor’s, but I thought it would be better to wait here for you,” I lied.
“What code did he give you?” I told him. “Well, you’re just one number off, see?”
The guard punched in the combination, and the two went in to check out the house. “Come in and get your license for me, would you?” I joined them inside.
“Just as we thought, Mrs. Sabean.” The guard showed my license to his companion, then handed it back to me. “Mr. Wilkes told us you and your husband would be visiting. Here, let me show you how to work the code, so we don’t have to come out here again.”
They led me outside, and I waved to them as they pushed off. After a couple of minutes had passed, Abe came out of the water, and we went back inside. We had dinner, and retired early to our room, out of range of the cameras.
Johnny came back the next afternoon.
After we said our hellos, and Johnny was settled, Abe confronted him.
“You gave us the wrong code, and I have a feeling it was intentional.”
“Yes, Abe it was. I wanted to know the extent of your power. You failed the test of course, but managed to get out of it fairly easily. I was told you could get ‘impressions’ by touching objects, yet you tripped the alarm. Are you holding out on me?”
“Johnny, I couldn’t tell the code was fake until the alarm went off. I wasn’t looking for the code on the keyboard, but I can now. Would you like to see me do that?”
“Please,” Johnny waved his hand.
Abe walked over to the keyboard, and stroked it. He bent his head, and concentrated. “Nine, five, six, two, five, one, six. You had just changed the code when you got back home.”
I knew Abe had still held back, but Johnny didn’t.
“Very good Abe. That talent in itself is worth a lot of money. Can you read people the same way?”
“People are so mutable. It’s best if they are inert.”
“As in dead? you have quite the sense of humor, my blue friend. We need to talk. Wen,” he said, pulling a neat fold of bills out of his pocket. “Please take this money into town and spend it. Consider it your husband’s consulting fee. Is that alright with you Abe?”
“Take it Wen," he said. "You can always give it away.”
Something about the way he looked at me, gave me the impression I would help him by spending the money. I took the roll of bills, and kissed Abe.
“Thanks for letting me take this, Abe,” I said. “And thanks Johnny. I’ll do my best to spend every last dime.”
“May I have a kiss, too?” I looked to Abe. Do I have to?
Abe turned his gaze to his partner. “Johnny,” said Abe, “are you still a gentleman?”
“Yes, of course. Even though I have been in Hollywood.”
The kiss I got was gentlemanly, the nicest he could make it. He hoped to get a flicker of excitement from me, but I held off any emotion.
“Your wife has a very cool head. I admire that.”
“Yes, she does.” I’m counting on it.
Johnny turned away from me, and said to Abe,“I just talked to my agent.’
“You have a new film you’re up for?” I asked.
“I miss having hair.” His fingers twined around a lock of mine, and I pulled away. “No, my other agent,” he said. “A client has a job for me. One I’ve been after for a long time.”
“What kind of job?”
“A very special, mission.” He had a satisfied smile on his face.
“You have an agent for that?”
“Of course. I never let my customer know who I really am. humans can’t take that kind of knowledge. No offense, Wen. You’re a special case.”
A bigot of the worst kind. I glanced over at Abe, and saw the slightest expression of shock on his face. What was the job Johnny had just gotten, and did Johnny really want Abe to participate so quickly?
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