DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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Lynette's Mission

After Shirley left, Lynette sat up wondering how she could construct a bomb—an explosive powerful enough to raze a four-story building—without arousing suspicion. She reconsidered searching the Internet: Some FBI Agent might trace the research to her computer. Certainly, she could find something in the library—or use one of the computers there. But she couldn’t ask the local librarian Miss Fieldspot for help—or allow her to peer over her shoulder. Lynette grinned at the vision of Miss Fieldspot being interviewed by TV reporters who stuck their mikes up to her thin, dry lips.

“Yes, she came in here often,” the librarian would say in her nasal tone. No doubt, she’d sniff between each syllable. “And one day, yes, it was last September, she asked me what books contained information about explosives.” Fieldspot would press a lacy, pink handkerchief to her red nose. “But she was such a nice, such a sweet person. I had no way of knowing she was secretly a terrorist. None of us did.” Tears would run down the librarian’s cheeks. “Such a tragedy. Such a waste.” She’d sniff again.

Lynette laughed aloud. But she realized she couldn’t risk anyone—save Shirley—knowing her plans. She inhaled from another cigarette and stared at her latest sculpture. The thoughts of fighting the Goon had energized her. Finally, she had energy to work in clay again. She’d started the work long before Francois left. It was one of her few pieces that wasn’t “functional.” It stretched to almost five feet high and wasn’t more than ten inches in diameter. But it wasn’t quite a phallic symbol because its crown looped back into a labia’s shape. She’d glazed the folds on the crown with a cherry-red color, then had painted them into cupid’s-bow lips. If nothing else, the work was humorous—and unique. She still chuckled when she looked at it. After a few minutes, she snuffed out the cigarette and lay on her red couch. Immediately after she fell asleep, a strange dream came to her.

In it, gray clouds roiled above a flat horizon outside a gray clapboard house where Francois was locked inside. Lynette and Francois had never shared such a house. It wasn’t the well-kept Colonial they owned in Denver. The house had an entry way with an outer door. Then another door inside led to the living-room. And in the dream, Francois overturned ottomans and chairs while he searched for a set of keys.

Then, two women stepped onto the front stoop. Both of them were plump. One was about sixty or older and sported a gray, pageboy haircut. The other was perhaps in her early twenties and wore her hair in short, black curls. The older woman rang the doorbell. When Francois came to the outer-door, the women held up green boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

“Get out of here, bitches!” Francois snarled, then slammed the door.

In the dream, Lynette crept to the outer door. One of Francois’s friends, whom Lynette hadn’t met, opened the inner door. He smiled, and his voice was soft. But his other features were hazy. In fact, his face was a smudge with watery eyes, earlobes and lips, somewhat like an Impressionistic watercolor. Or he looked as if he were underwater. Nonetheless, in the dream, Lynette smiled, and the two of them chatted about the weather and shared other polite, but meaningless words. All the while, she fumbled with keys on a large brass ring. She smelled Patchouli oil, too, while she fiddled with the keys. And she knew one of them fit the lock.

Francois glared at her. Sunlight haloed his black hair, and his eyes glittered red. Suddenly, he quit searching for the keys, and seemed to force a smile. Then he lumbered to the door and watched Lynette check each key. She didn’t speak to him or acknowledge him whatsoever. Rather, she continued talking with his nameless, blurry buddy.

Finally, she found a brass key that clicked open the lock. Afterwards, she awoke, sweating. She sat up on the couch and crossed her legs. Where was that place where Francois stayed? What was the key? Bombing the house? Suddenly, she heard a crash reverberating from upstairs. She worried about her daughter. Was Sonya okay? Lynette sprang from the couch, raced through the living room, her long, black hair flying, and sprinted up the staircase.

When she opened her daughter’s door, a mirror reflected a vertical rainbow across Sonya, a spray of colors that stretched from her chin to her forehead. With mussed hair and sleep-crusted eyes, the girl sat cross-legged on her rug and rubbed her eyes with her tiny fists.

“Are you okay?” Lynette squatted and wrapped her arms around the child. “What are you doing on the floor?”

Sonya pressed her black hair against her mother’s chest. “I had a weird dream.”

Must be in the air, Lynette thought but said, “And you fell out of bed. Do you want to tell the dream now or wait till after breakfast?”

“It wasn’t a bad dream.” The six-year-old yawned. “It was just weird. So I can tell it to you now. Me and you and Daddy were flying in a balloon—you know, one of those with the fire that sends it higher.”

“A hot-air balloon?”

Sonya nodded. “Yes. And it was red and yellow and blue. And we floated over cows and sheeps and buildings and water and mountains and went up and up.”

The child stopped, yawned again, and smiled. “It was fun.”

“Is that the end?”

“No. The balloon caught fire, and we were shaking. We were scared, too, ’cause it was too high off the ground—”

“Sounds scary. Are you sure—”

Sonya’s black curls swished in front of her face when she shook her head. “No. We were fine, ’cause guess what?”

“What?” Lynette squeezed her daughter.

“An angel flew down from the sky like She-ra, Princess of Power—only the angel had silver-white wings—and she picked us up, all of us, and blew out the fire, and carried the balloon and landed us on this beach that had candy on it. It had pieces of peppermints and Skittles and M&M’s and some chocolate bars, all laying on the beach like seashells.”

Sonya yawned again.

Lynette hugged her daughter again. “Time to sleep.”

The child’s dream bothered Lynette, but she wasn’t sure why. She’d leave her daughter with her mother when she made the D.C. sojourn, if indeed, she did make it. She wasn’t sure yet if she’d chicken out. Certainly, Sonya would know nothing about it. And for Sonya’s sake, she couldn’t get caught. It scared her, yes, but something in Lynette urged her on—she knew she had to carry out this mission. She had to go on with the plan. She could take no more of the ludicrous lifestyle. What was the key, anyway?

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