There was one good thing about that first morning back. I got to wake Jen at 6AM, so that she could get home change and be at her office by 9AM. I made coffee for us both. My sense of taste wasn’t refined enough to tell good coffee from terrible coffee, but I did remember how to make it. Like Eve had said the warm liquid was relaxing. I had the increased benefit of remembering how good coffee did taste. Memories was heightened, just because I no longer had the same feelings. Heightened to the point of the memory was more real than the current event. That was usually a good thing, so far.
Jen left my place with a cup of my coffee. I sent her coffee home in one of the many cheap ceramic cups I had bought in my old life. I bought them by the dozen for just such occasions. I hated Styrofoam in any form. No I am not environmentally friendly, they just add taste to things which should not have the taste of plastic. Of course by that time it wouldn’t have made any difference. But old habits were going to die extremely hard, I could tell.
I had been shot at the end of summer. It was November by the time I got back to my place. I realized that I had to think about how to dress. Not because I got cold, but because other people did. I could wear shorts in November, but people would begin to wonder about me. Life in this new shell was going to be challenging enough without that kind of stupid mistake to draw even more attention to myself.
I found some old ratty jeans and a cool sweat shirt with a four inch zipper at the neck. I even put on a nylon shell over it all, so that I could at least look like I was dressed for my bike ride to Helen’s. I was headed there mostly because it’s what the old me would have done.
I was a little shaky on the bike the first few blocks. After I passed under the second stop light, I had the balance and the turning thing down pretty well. I had always been a fast learner. It was really just a matter of matching the new movement methods to the old balance issues. Once I had it, I felt I could ride the bike cross country under only my own power. Most likely I wouldn’t have to stop to eat even. I would have to stop for coffee. The liquid keep the circuits cool, even if it went into my body hot. Any other liquid would do as well.
Once in the parking lot of Helen’s, I found the corner where I always parked the bike. It was one of those rounded off spaces at the end of the row. It was too small for even a compact car so they put lines it to keep people from using it. I had always parked there. I found to my surprise that at the end of the funky space Jack had built a bicycle rack. It would hold three bikes. I parked my bike so that I had the most distance between the car on one side and the incoming traffic on the other.
Inside I picked up a number five bag-o-breakfast and coffee. The coffee was my own recipe. Well I hoped in three months Helen hadn’t changed it, but I probably wouldn’t be able to tell even if she had. The food went directly from my mouth to the disposal area. Whenever it was convenient, I would take care of it almost the same as before.
“Maxine, damn when did you get home?” Eddie the EMT asked as I passed a table full of Paramedics.
“I got back last night, of course I had to come here first thing to see everyone and have a decent meal,” I informed him just as I had planned. Not necessarily that it would be Eddie, just what I would say.
“Man when we picked you up nobody thought you would make it, but my got you look better than ever,” One of the others said.
“So which of you pulled my ass out of traffic?” I asked.
“Mike was one, the other one is off today,” Eddie said.
“Well Mike thanks and tell your partner I said thanks as well. If I see you at the cop out, your drinks are on me. Well for one night at least,” I said laughing.
“Thanks Maxine, I just want you to know how glad I am that you made it back. I didn’t think you would.” The younger man said.
“I’m a lot harder to kill than I look,” I said as I turned toward a table away from everyone. The bike ride had burned off just a little of the coolant, so the coffee was welcome on more than one level. I was tasting the breakfast bagel even though my taste receptors weren’t perfect. The gross taste receptors and the refinement of my memory allowed me to savor the food.
Several more people welcomed me back. I was pretty sure a couple of the women were asking each other, if I had had some ‘work’ done. I would be more than willing to explain it away. Nobody seemed to have noticed that I wasn’t struggling around with the cane. I didn’t mind that, since it was harder to explain. I doubted that any of them knew how bad the spinal injury had been.
After breakfast I took off on the bike again. I headed out to the mall. It was a two mile ride that I had struggled making previously. Well when I had the motor bike it hadn’t been a problem but with the bike without a motor, it was a difficult ride back then. That morning of course I made the ride without a problem. I rode it all in the highest gear on the bike and could keep up with the cars, but I knew better than to do it. I could have ridden Lance Armstrong into the ground even on the cheap WalMart mountain bike.
I shed the nylon parka when I entered the mall. The thirty eight had been left at home because I planned to walk. I did have the .410 Derringer in the pocket of my jeans. I had never worn my jeans so tight that I couldn’t get a weapon in and out of the pocket easily.
I didn’t need the mall walk to stay slim anymore, but it was a social event as well as exercise. I wanted so badly to stay in touch with the real me, that I planned on doing as much as possible of the old me things. I planned to do them just to do them.
“Maxine you are back,” the voice behind me almost shouted.
I recognized it as the tiny dancer. “Well good morning to you as well my walking buddy,” I said.
“My don’t you look well. I was terribly worried when Leon told me what had happened and that they had carried you away in a helicopter.” she said.
“Well they did a good job and I am finally rested,” I replied to try to short circuit her next question.
“You look ten years younger, that surely is not from resting in a hospital,” she demanded.
“No, that’s from the knife of a skilled surgeon. I had some body work done while I was recovering from the gunshot.” I explained.
“Well good for you, those hard years were beginning to show, but now you are gorgeous. I will have to be careful Leon will be hanging out at your house,” she said.
“So how are you and Leon getting on?” I asked.
“Let’s say I am one of your colorful neighbors now,” she said.
“Oh that is wonderful news,” I said. Oh course part of the reason for the walk was to determine Dancer’s place in my future life.
I left the mall not surprised by Dancer’s new status. I also wasn’t thrilled by it. What Leon chose to tell her was his business. Most people know about me, and lots of them knew about Vlad and Anya, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
When I got home I arranged a meeting with one of the people from ‘HLF’. The one being sent to me was not the foreman of a building crew. I usually dealt with one of those, but this one was a decorator. Now that was something new for “His Laboring Few.” Way too much class for Aster, so it had to be temporary. Most likely an addict from the nationally known rehab clinic the preacher ran in the old Hazelwood B&B. The preacher believed in work therapy. It also didn’t hurt to have a source of free or almost free labor.
So an hour before noon I met the decorator at the rear door of the Drugstore Condo. I got my first look at the completed reception hall that morning. It wasn’t my idea of classy, but then it was Helen’s area not mine. It was a little too whimsical for me.
I was being followed through the room by a extremely gay young man. “Tell me this is the room I am going to do. It is so horrid that I couldn’t do anything but improve it. Even if I was stoned out of my mind on LSD,” he said.
“Well it isn’t,” I didn’t decorate it, so I can almost agree with you. I don’t find it horrid, just a very small town attempt at chic,” I suggested.
“I find it just plain horrid,” he said.
“I see you didn’t learn tact in rehab,” I suggested.
“Oh aren’t we sensitive?” he asked.
“Not so much as I am easily bored. Small people, with big egos, tend to bore the hell out of me. Now do you want to take a look at the space, or do you want to stand here exchanging insults?”
“I have heard that you are a big deal in this little town, but I’m not impressed,” he said.
At that moment I noticed Leon standing at the foot of the stairs leading up to the condo units. “Could I speak to you a moment?” he said to the young man. I walked away grudgingly. The two of them had an animated conversation for a few minute before Leon turned to me.
“Maxine Trudy phoned me and told me you were back. She also told me that you were gorgeous and to get the name of your surgeon. She was definitely right about your looks.”
“Thanks I guess,” I replied. “No she can’t have the name of my surgeon.”
“I’m so glad you are back,” he said giving me one of those fake European hugs. “I am off to lunch at the barbecue pit. God I do love this town,” he said it as he turned to the door giving the decorator a hard look.
“I am ready to see the space now, Ms Stone,” the decorator said quietly.
“Don’t pay too much attention to Leon. He is like a big brother. He doesn’t like to see me upset,” I said.
“I see,” was all the decorator said.
I took him down the basement dungeon and we talked. “I want a clubhouse here for my friends. Something that might be seen in a medieval castle. Not the stone walls or anything just the dark dismal atmosphere.”
“I understand exactly what you mean,” he said getting a little more into it all.
“Okay this place has two entrances. I want the one from the condo building locked with keys only for the residents. The outside entrance is for general guests, if there are any. The bar needs a refrigerator and storage lockers behind it. I think of it as self service no employees. Heavy tables and chairs not necessarily matching. This is a clubhouse not a bar.”
“And what will the place be called, so I have some idea of your image of it?” he asked.
“The Cloak and Dagger, for now at least.” I said to him.
“Do I remove the coal shoot and pipes overhead?” he asked.
“Definitely not,” I replied.
“I’ll call back with the estimate. It will be about a three week job. The preacher’s crew can do the work I’m sure,” he said.
“The budget is five grand keep that in mind. The next time I see this place i want it to be a finished. If you can do it for under five grand fine, if not let me know, so that I can find someone else.”