Since nobody’s life or career was in immediate danger, I allowed things to just coast for a couple of days. I did nothing, about anything, until the downtown building’s ‘Eve renovations’ were completed. As I had expected the renovations took almost two weeks instead of one.
I found out that the contractors were finished only because I stopped by the building every morning to check on the progress. I wasn’t paying the bills, so they didn’t answer to me. Fortunately we didn’t have any differences of opinion, because I have no idea how that would have worked out.
I can’t say that I was surprised when they finished. I had the sense that things were winding down for a day or two before the end. I knew pretty much what everything was, so I didn’t really need a grand tour. I also expected that Eve would know what everything was and how to use it.
The morning I found all their contractor equipment gone, was the morning I moved back into my downtown place. I packed my boxes and bags after breakfast, then I dropped them inside the back door of the downtown place, before I went to the mall to walk.
The building had an outside utility room where I had kept my bike for those two weeks. I was thrilled to see that the bike started immediately. Since it did, I rode it to the mall for my Wednesday morning walk. I arrived late, so Tiny Dance was already gone. The new man at the Mall was walking straight as a stick. I set my walking direction opposite his so that I passed him twice in each of my five laps.
The last time I passed him, he stopped me by explaining, “This was my last lap. Walking around the mall is a bit boring. Would you care for a cup of coffee after your walk?”
“I have one more lap then I will be finished. I don’t really care for the coffee in the food court though. Do you know where the Brown Bag Palace is located?” I asked.
“Up at the corner of Lexington and Main?” he asked.
“That’s it. If you like, I will meet you there in about fifteen minutes.” I suggested.
“Fair enough,” he said smiling. I walked with him to the side entrance of the mall. I continued walking after he went through the doors. The complete lap actually took me just over ten minutes. The rest of my fifteen minutes was spent getting the bike started and out of the parking lot. The ride up to the Brown Bag Palace took about ten minutes, because I got stuck at every stop light along the way.
I saw the sign on the most visible corner of the parking lot. Helen had finally settled on the name, and had the sign made, after almost six months at the location. I loved the place and the atmosphere, but most of all I guess I loved Helen. Most likely everyone else in town felt the same.
I found the chief sitting at one of the smaller picnic tables. He had already made friends with a couple of the cops, who were in for an early lunch. They were talking about something from a TV show. I sat down at their table with my coffee.
“Okay, which of the world’s problems are you solving today?” I asked.
“Today it’s cheap energy on the agenda.” the chief said.
“Speaking of which,” one of the cops asked. “What kind of gas mileage does that bike get?”
“The forums all say these bikes get 100mpg, but that’s bull. In this area with my fat ass, it gets about 85mpg. Some of those hybrid cars do better than that.” I said.
“But they can’t be anywhere near as much fun.” one of the cops said.
“What the hell are you guys talking about?” the chief asked.
“They are talking about my motorbike,” I replied.
“Really, do you have it outside?” he asked.
“Sure go on out and take a look. I’m sure it’s the only one in the lot. Well on second thought, there might be one of those new scooters, but mine will be the only bicycle with a motor on it.” I smiled.
“Excuse me a minute, this I have to see.” The chief said as he stood to leave.
“He seems to be a nice guy,” the older of the cops said.
“Yeah he does. All us old retired military types are pretty good people.” I replied.
“I got to agree with that, at least as long as you are sober.” he agreed. Then he added, “Well we need to get back on the street.”
“Well be careful all kinds of bad shit out there these days.” I said.
“No amount of scrubbing can wash some of the stink off,” the other one agreed.
“So where did you get that bike,” the chief asked.
“It’s a long story and I really don’t have that much time. I’m expecting a call soon. When it comes I will probably have to drive over to Tryon Internatioal Airport,” I said. “Let me give you this instead.” I wrote the address of the Web TV show Marty had produced about our bike trip cross country. “If you get really bored one day, you can see the beginning of it there. The guy planned to sell them to every bicyclist in the world didn’t quite make it work. Some of his franchises are still in business, others went under. He designed the motor on my bike, for a friend of mine and I got it when he passed away.
I knew when the phone rang that it was Priest. “Sorry I have to take this.” I said that as I stood and walked away.
“Maxine, be at the airport at 1PM to meet your cousin Eve.” Then Priest just hung up on me. The bastard didn’t even wait to see if I agreed or not. I looked at my watch and realized that I had just over two hours to get to the airport.
“Sorry Chief, but I have to go,” I said. I found that I actually did regret that I needed to leave so quickly. I rode he bike back to the building. I hardly recognized the building after the remodeling. It had been quick but it seemed to be thorough.
The contractor had replaced the glass and metal store front windows with a wooden framed small paned window that actually had a colonial look about it. The whole front of the building did. I would bet my bottom dollar that it also had bullet resistant glass. I had been on the site when the contractor installed the steel door that was supposed to look like wood. Actually it would have fooled me, if I hadn’t tried to lift it. The door was a hollow core steel. The hollow core had been drilled then filled with energy absorbing ballistic gel. The rear door was the same material. Even the upstairs windows were a bullet resistant polycarbonate material.
I rolled the bike through the exterior utility room door. Yes even the door on it would require C4 to open without a key. I locked the bike into the utility room, then went on line to review the security footage. Things had been quiet for the last two hours, so I was satisfied. Once inside, I moved the boxes, which I had earlier stacked by the back door, upstairs.
When I picked up the last box I decided to take a good look at the small room the contractor had built just inside the back door. That doorway opened into a hall which did not exist previously. The room created by that hallway was filled with computer junk. There was at least as much as Lucas had scattered around his office. It looked as though the gamble on Eve might pan out after all.
The front room of the first floor was an area that would be used as an office and reception room. It could also be a living room, if the space were just being used solely as a residence. Up the open stairway was what amounted to an efficiency apartment. The front space overlooking the street remained my sitting room/bedroom. Then there was a small dining area across from a wall of kitchen appliances. Behind the kitchen beside the door opening to a fire escape was my tiny bathroom. Across the hall from the bathroom I had a giant closet for storage and my few clothes.
After my quick tour, I decided that the renovations by the CIA were well done. I didn’t have time to really examine the place in detail, since I had to get dressed for my first meeting with Eve. I knew that I didn’t have to do anything to impress her, but I took a shower and changed into, not quite so worn, jeans for my airport run.
I arrived at the terminal 15 minutes early. I left the cruiser in the short term parking lot then walked to the terminal building. I had taken a spiral notebook from the office supplies in my downtown office. On that notebook I wrote in very large block letters… “Eve Stone” well it was either that or Cousin Eve. I thought Cousin Eve sounded just too redneck.
At the terminal I went looking for coffee. I found the the vending machines in a snack bar called the robot room, since everything was mechanized. I saw the humor. but I doubted that Priest would have.
“Maybe I should change my sign to Roomba 5000,” I mumbled too quietly for anyone else to hear. Armed with the Styrofoam cup of black coffee and my sign, I headed to the gate just as the plane began to spill passengers from it’s guts. I kept thinking about the .38 in the small of my back, and how it was a good thing I didn’t have to walk through a metal detector to meet my ‘cousin’. While I stood outside the doors to the loading gate, I began to wonder how Cousin Eve got through the metal detectors.
I held my sign up as the people pushed through the doors in front of me. I recognized her before she seemed to recognize her name. She looked like Lucy only more butch. Lucy had been no knock out, or even very feminine, but Eve was downright androgynous. Her hair was cropped shorter than mine even. It was spiked, just as I wore my hair.
I couldn’t believe it, but even I had bigger boobs. If they had made her a few inches taller there was no way she could have passed for a woman. As things stood, it might be difficult to get her into a ladies room. I wondered why they decided to make her look so much like me, when they could just as easily have made her beautiful.
“You must be Maxine,” she said.
“Well hello Cousin Eve. How was your flight?” I asked.
“The flight was good,” she said.
“So do you have luggage?” I asked.
“Of course. but just the one bag checked through.” She looked around to be sure no one was close, then said. “Appearances you know.”
“Yes, I guess I do. So let’s get your bag and get you home.” I suggested.
I hung back and let her take care of her own luggage. It was part of my learning curve. I needed to know what she would do in any given situation. She obviously understood the procedures required to collect her luggage. I did casually check to be sure that it was her luggage and not some school teacher from some other small town whose luggage Eve carried from the terminal.
“So we need to work out our relationship,” I suggested as we drove toward Aster.
“I was told to go along with anything you felt necessary, but the programmers felt that pretending to be a lesbian might make sense. It is known that you are bisexual, so it would explain my being an in residence girlfriend.” she suggested.
“I think you mean, live in girlfriend.” I said.
“Yeah that,” she replied.
When we got back to my place, I showed her the small computer lab which had been constructed for her. “This will do nicely,” she informed me.
“Good, I’m sure I will be asking you for help, since I’m not all that good with technology,” I admitted.
“So I have been told,” she replied.
Some piece of shit programmer’s superiority complex was showing, I thought.