Chapter Three: The Next Day
Shortly after dawn Bryson awoke, unable to sleep. She belched gin. Her stomach was in flames. Bradlee’s wallet and keys were on a steel table and his pants and suit were draped over the back of a black folding chair. She took his white, monogrammed robe off the back of the bedroom door and walked into the living room to look at the blue glass and steel of the city adjacent to her window. She wanted to watch them sway in the morning wind, against the dull, far off bricks and, below them, the composite buildings, constructed of fused landfill. Impermeable. Flexible. Extrudable. Cheap.
The apartment was austere. The walls were various shades of white. The floor was natural stone, smooth but unpolished, cool on the feet. Water flowed continuously down one wall, over bedrock, and into a pond with three water irises at one end, the delicate sulfur blossoms opening above green spears. Two goldfish swam in languid circles. The air was 19 degrees at 50% humidity. The other three walls were windows, floor to ceiling. There was some generic metal furniture around a glass coffee table. There were no paintings on the walls or decorations of any kind. A pair of black crepe shoes stood by the door, and an umbrella stuck in a plastic elephant’s foot.
From this height, the world looked even dirtier and more remote than usual, but also less menacing, not as harsh.
Gin was only the proximate cause of her stiff neck, the flames licking her esophagus. She just couldn’t sleep off the failed trials. All the time now, even in her sleep, she probed the data, autopsy reports, prior conditions, for a discernible cause of death. But there was none. It was like SIDS for adults. A failure and an unsolved mystery. How could she just leave that undone? Nothing perfect could be real, reality is a botch job, disparate things crammed together, junk DNA, aberrant proteins that started to think. The real was Bradlee’s stretched out gut and her pendulous breasts. The sound of the universe was the sound of Bradlee’s thighs slapping against her ass.
She ground her teeth and lit a cigarette. Somewhere he had to have a bottle of vodka. She couldn’t take anything with a taste.
Bradlee padded up behind her and touched her shoulder. She seized up and hissed. “Goodness Bryson, what’s wrong?”
“Get me a drink, vodka, ice if you have it.” Now she was mad. Now she knew what was wrong. Anyone with a car like that, with an apartment like this, could make it happen. Bradlee was no one’s errand boy anymore, he was running his own show now. If she was part of it, then he owed her something, something more than 25 million bucks and a bunch of stock. He brought her the drink. She took a sip and squeezed the glass till her hand shook. “My reputation, my career, my life.”
“No, you listen to me. I can’t become known as the woman who killed ten thousand people just to prove a theory.”
“My goodness, we’ve all done that in one way or another.”
“Don’t be flip, and don’t pretend you’re a monster. I’m serious. It won’t do. I’ll retire. You’ve given me enough to. I can get by fine on it, with Leonard.”
He lifted and dropped his fists slowly and said, “I don’t think we’re ready for you to do that yet. But I understand your concern.” He stroked his mustache, made a point with his fingers and touched his lips. “Would it make you happy if I arranged things so that, when you come back to work, you have a little free time, a small budget, to pursue unspecified, pure research? Then you could, with your time, conduct some discreet experiments.”
In her ruined eyes there dawned a light that marked her as a daughter of the sun. “Of course it would.” She turned away from him and looked out the window, down into the low buildings.
“I’ll make the necessary calls.” He crossed his arms across her belly and kissed her ear. “You’ll need an assistant, someone from security to help with surveillance.”
She hadn’t thought about that. But it was true. She had to find someone to study. She faced him and spoke close to his lips. “Yes of course.” He kissed her and squeezed her hands. “I have to go now. I’ve got to pack.”
His face twitched. “Not staying for breakfast even?”
She broke away. “Rain check, Bradlee.”
After she dressed and left Bradlee went over to the kitchen area and made toast, which he methodically spread with french butter and grapefruit marmalade. He made black tea and downloaded the news onto a sheet of gold electraweave and sat down at the steel table in the bedroom.
He had not taken on the Monozone job to be with her, but he had looked forward to starting up again with Bryson. He was unusually drawn to her. And he had great hopes of her being there to relieve the boredom. By boredom he didn’t mean the day-to-day business. Details of his job he treated with the utmost respect, and attended to them diligently without ever appearing to do so. It was the other boredom. A sense of the attenuation of things. She was one of the few people he could be with and not feel the passage of time. Sometimes when he masturbated or went to a prostitute he thought of her in his bed, years earlier, a ripe 47, with a big hard ass, in the suburbs, when it was always hot indoors.
There was no harm in conceding her a privilege, if it made her happy and didn’t hurt him. The main thing of course was to protect Paregane from meddling. Then he could ride it for as far as it would take him. And if Bryson wanted to go for the ride, so much the better. In some ways, he was counting on it.
Still, he would have to know what Bryson was up to, if only to protect himself. If she failed, no one would ever know. And if she did manage to succeed, how could that be a bad thing? A safer Paregane was in the best interest of everyone involved.
He took a quick hot shower and dressed in a grey wool suit and called his employer, General Valdez at the department of defense. “No no,” he said to the general, “She won’t be a problem. She’s happy with the money, and is ready to move on.”
Next he called Laraby at Monozone. Laraby was Director of Security. “Hello Laraby,” he said in a jovial, sing song voice, booming, “Owen Bradlee here. I say, do you mind assigning a good man to Dr. Bryson when she gets back? We anticipate a little trouble over this Paregane business. And, do you mind, have him report to me as well. You understand?”
Laraby understood. He had just the man for the job. Jacob Boyle. He got Boyle at home, just to tell him the good news.