We did end up hugging and kissing a lot, but not at home. We spent the night in a hotel. Rather a nice one, since it was on the League’s nickel. We got a suite with a kitchenette, as there was no telling how long we’d need to stay there. The pond that had replaced my house had not been marked with an expiration date.
I was extremely pleased to have the beloved quartet out of Mr. Bob’s clutches. The patch on her face was a constant reminder, however, that the danger was far from over.
The next morning, over a breakfast that included some delicious toast, I talked with Matilda, Heather, Sara, and Gertrude, recounting the events that had transpired since I had left her on what was, to her, the previous morning. They listened with interest. When I had finished, they sat back and processed everything for a bit. Then Sara said, “That the League might be behind the fish in the sky is troubling.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I’m not sure what to do about it, though, even if it is true.”
“I think you should go into the office and demand answers from Management,” said Gertrude. “Cut through the bullshit, you know?”
“I wish it were that simple,” I said. “But barging in on Management would be just as dangerous, and as ineffectual, as barging in on Mr. Bob.”
“Yes, I’m afraid subtlety is called for, Gertrude,” said Matilda, placing a hand on Gertrude’s shoulder soothingly. Gertrude snorted but did not offer further comment.
“You got to meet the God of Toast!” said Heather, her eyes aglow. “That is so cool.”
I grinned. “Yeah.” My smile turned rueful. “I just wish I could remember more about it.”
“I’d like to know who wrote ‘Fuck you’ in the bathroom, too,” Gertrude muttered darkly.
“I think Gertrude is right,” said Sara suddenly. We all looked at her. “Partially, at least. About going to the League, I mean. There are ways of getting information that are more subtle than barging down mahogany row. I think you should do some poking around.”
“Sounds kinky,” quipped Heather.
In the end we all agreed that Sara’s suggestion was best, and I left shortly after breakfast and made my way to the Complex.
On the way there, I contemplated the beloved quartet. Gail Millik had applied for a consultant’s position in the Complex shortly after I had been offered one. Unfortunately, she had failed to meet the qualifications. The quartet is formidably capable, with powers that exceed my own. The problem is, under times of high stress, they tend to trip over each other. In a crisis situation, the consequences could easily be disastrous.
Nevertheless, Matilda, Heather, Sara, and Gertrude play a vital role in my success. The League offers their consultants carte blanche to designate their own sidekicks, and I did suggest that to the quartet. I didn’t blame them a bit for dismissing the idea. Matilda, Heather, Sara, and Gertrude are not sidekicks. They are content to serve as my behind-the-scenes advisors and allies, and I am very fortunate to have their help.
I got to the Complex and tracked Carver down with as little trouble as could be expected. he seemed a little surprised to see me.
“Hello, Andrew,” he said. “Have you any news for me?”
“Sort of,” I said. “I had a run-in with Mr. Bob’s people last night.”
Carver’s eyebrows raised. “And what did they want?”
“I didn’t really wait around to find out. I sent the two reps packing, but I wanted to check in with you to see what I should do if I have more run-ins.”
This was not like me, and I knew it. Carver knew it too. Normally, he didn’t hear from me for weeks at a time when I was on an assignment.
Carver’s eyes narrowed a bit as he regarded me. He said, “Well, I don’t know that you needed to check in with me. Company policy is pretty clear on Mr. Bob and his associates. Still, given the sensitive nature of your assignment, I guess I can’t fault you for being too careful.”
I shrugged. Carver fixed me with a careful expression. I did my best to look blandly back. Finally, his face cleared. “Just as well you’re here,” he said. “I have some more info from Management anyway. It ties in with your Mr. Bob encounter, as a matter of fact. We’ve learned that Mr. Bob’s organization is responsible for the fish in the sky, and I’m to instruct you to include them in your investigation, and to regard them with extreme prejudice. That would seem to be your answer.”