At the end of the workday on Friday, Dr. Morehouse herds the whole team out of the lab. My dinner with Jackie ran late the night before and I had called Josh in the middle of the dinner and told him I had to cancel our late night meeting. That broke my heart. We agreed to meet tonight instead. Even though Jackie had already verbalized her suspicions about Josh and me becoming an item, I still wasn’t ready to discuss the issue when Jacki brought it up last night. I’m also not sure if Jackie is the mole in our group although I hope she isn’t.
On Friday, I lose all track of time while working and I’m relieved and grateful when Dr. Morehouse enforces a shut down of the lab at 4:30 PM. Josh informs me, as we are packing up, that we have a secret mission to run. I try to convince him to tell me what the secret is but he refuses. Just as we are exiting the front doors, the clouds let out a torrent of rain. Josh grabs my hand and we run towards the subway laughing hysterically. Once inside and soaking wet, Josh pulls me into a half embrace as he grabs an overhead strap. As the subway doors close, I look back at the Institute and see Katharine Lucas staring at us from the top floor of the atrium. I pretend I don’t see her.
“Please tell me where we are going.” I beg him.
“No, it’s a surprise, but I did mention something about it last week.” I rack my brain but I can’t remember any reference to tonight. Josh is grinning at me. “Analia, just give that brain of yours a rest. It’s all good.”
Josh grabs my hand when we approach the 72nd street station and leads me off the train. The rain has stopped temporarily but it doesn’t matter because we are already soaked through to the skin. We walk several blocks down Columbus and then up 73rd street to Josh’s building. We take the elevator to the top floor. Josh leads me into his living room and then says he will return in a few minutes. I start to feel slightly unsure of myself until Josh returns with two sweatshirts.
“You can change in the spare bedroom over there.” Josh points to a door fifty meters away.
Once I change and throw my clothes in his dryer, we ride the elevator back down. Josh grabs my hand as we walk over towards Amsterdam Avenue. The threatening storm heightens the anticipation I’m already feeling. Thousands of New Yorkers have infested the Upper West side. Usually, New York thins out on Friday evenings during the summer. It appears that citywide, travel plans have been cancelled due to the incoming monsoon.
“We are here.” Josh announces as he stops in front of the West Side Animal Shelter. He opens the door for me and walks in behind me. The smell of wet dog assails us as we enter. The dogs look like they also were also caught in the rain. The young man at the counter yells out that they are closed for the night until he looks up and sees Josh.
“Hey Josh. The puppies are back here.” He goes to the front door and locks it and then motions for us to follow him into the back area.
“Thanks for waiting for us Jimmy. I really appreciate it.”
“ Not a problem. How is Bent? We miss him around here. The dogs all respond to him.”
“He is down at the beach for the summer and doing well. He doesn’t know about the new puppy.”
I look at Josh with a big grin. “You are getting Bent his dog?”
“Yeah. I called here on Monday. One of the female retrievers here had puppies seven weeks ago. I told Jimmy that I would come pick out one tonight. Bent was so disappointed when I called to say that we wouldn’t come until next week because of the weather. I thought I would run down tomorrow and give the puppy to him. Bent really likes you by the way, and so does Francesca. Bent won’t stop asking about you.”
“That’s nice to hear. He is a sweet guy. I think he’ll forget about me when he gets one of these puppies.”
Jimmy leads us to a large pen in the corner where the mother and puppies are playing. Actually the mother looks like she is trying to take a nap and the puppies are bouncing all over her. Jimmy explains how happy he is that we came to take a puppy. If they are not adopted within the next several weeks, they will have to be put down.
Josh looks at Jimmy. “Best not tell Bent that, he’ll want to take all the puppies.”
I ask if I can go into the pen. When Jimmy nods yes, I go in and sit on the edge and all five puppies climb into my lap. In an instant, I am being licked and kissed all over. I can’t stop laughing.
Josh calls out. “Hey Analia, you get to pick the puppy.”
I look up. “I do?”
Jimmy remarks to Josh. “I don’t think your girlfriend will be any better than Bent at picking just one puppy.”
Josh laughs and calls out to me. ”Analia do you have a favorite?”
“I love all of them. They are so sweet.”
Josh looks at Jimmy. “You’re right. This is going to be a tough one.” He walks over to me and kneels down. “Nali, you’re going to have to choose. There is no way we can take all of them. Francesca would quit if I brought all of these puppies home.”
“I just can’t imagine all the other puppies being put down.” I look at the mom and the pups with empathy. If we weren’t facing the prospect of running for our lives, I would convince my mom to adopt at least one dog.
“I know. But there is still a chance that they will all be adopted.” He puts his hand on the back of my neck and whispers. “You are going to have to choose. Jimmy needs to go home.”
“Well, this little one, with the white star on its’ head, hasn’t moved since planting itself on my lap. She is a cuddler. I think Bent would like this one. Maybe we can ask around the Institute and see if anyone wants a puppy.”
“Sure thing. No wonder you and Bent hit it off so well.” Josh looks back at Jimmy. “We’ll take her. Is she up to date on her shots?” I give Josh a big smile and hug the puppy.
“She is. She will need another round of distemper and rabies shots in two weeks. You’ll also have to get her a microchip implant. Do you have a crate?”
“Yes. I got it out of storage last night. I also have puppy food and toys. I’ll pay you now and let you go home.”
Josh finishes paying for the medical care the puppy received. I thank Jimmy as well for staying late and then the two of us leave. Josh asks me if I want to get take-out so the puppy can acclimate to the apartment. Just as we round the corner to his apartment, the rain comes teeming down in sheets. It is the kind of rain that blinds you. We sprint to the apartment building. Josh stops right before the entrance doors and pulls me into his arms. Under the illumination of the streetlight, he put his hands on either side of my face and kisses me. And kisses me. Finally he lets me go. I feel all the concern I had about becoming involved with Katharine Lucas’s son leave me. I know it is dangerous, but right now I just don’t care.
“Maybe we should get out of the rain.” He says grinning. Both of us are dripping but I had protected the puppy under my sweatshirt, so at least the dog is dry. I am trying so hard not to look shocked. I’m not even sure if my mouth is still open and gaping. Josh pus his arm around me as we ride up in the elevator.
“I’ll grab some towels, and see if your clothes are dry.” As he walks out of the living room, he takes his button down off. I only have a view of his naked back, but it is a good view. I look around the living room. It is simple but tastefully furnished. The color scheme is tan and white with onyx accents. Like most bachelor apartments, the decorative accents are minimal but there a widescreen television that extends from ceiling to floor. I’m relieved to see none of Katharine Lucas’s color scheme of navy and steel grey.
Josh comes back into the living room and takes the puppy from me and hands me my clothes from the dryer. He has changed into a t-shirt and track pants. I go and change quickly, put my wet hair up in a clip and walk back into the kitchen.
“You have a beautiful apartment, but it is not exactly puppy friendly.”
“No, it isn’t. My mother had offered to send her interior decorator when I moved in, but I wasn’t up for another navy blue color scheme.” I let out a laugh.
“That thought just crossed my mind. She definitely likes the color motif of blue and grey. We have been painting our apartment. What did your mother want to talk about yesterday?”
“You. She has noticed that we are always together and is worried about you.” Josh pulls out two dog bowls from the hall closet and the dog food from the kitchen pantry.
“Me! Why?” I walk into the kitchen with the puppy and set the puppy down in front of her dog bowl.
“Well, as you can imagine, my mother knows that you lived a rather sheltered life not having any contemporaries your own age at Stanford.” As he says this, he lifts me up and puts me down on the kitchen island. He puts both his hands on either side of my knees. “She wanted to warn me that I better not look at you as a conquest and then leave you. She is worried that I could seriously hurt you and then our work in the lab would be affected.”
I let out a nervous laugh. “Oh, have you had many conquests?”
“No. I was photographed frequently with women when I first moved to New York after finishing my postdoc work. I made the rounds on society events with some of my boarding school friends. After a while I became bored and stopped doing the circuit. Since my mother and I never discuss my personal life, she still thinks I am a bit of a playboy.”
“Why are you interested in me? Obviously, I am not as sophisticated as you or most girls my age. By definition, I am a nerd because of my I.Q.”
“I hope that isn’t how you see yourself. You are brilliant but you are not a typical nerd. You are quite beautiful and innately kind. That is why I like you.”
I’m slightly blown away by his revelation. All I can think is: Please don’t let this be the biggest con of all time. But looking into his eyes, I believe him. “I like you too. But I am a tiny bit nervous. This is all new to me plus we have the added pressure of uncovering a conspiracy and finding a cure for pedophilia. I need to take things slow.”
“Do you want to leave now?” Josh looks hurt.
“Well I didn’t mean that slow. Just let’s keep doing what we are doing.” I look down to see the puppy chewing on the upholstery. “I think the puppy needs a chew toy.” I give Josh a slow smile as he lifts me back off the island and gives me quick kiss.
“We should order food. I don’t know about you but I am starving. What is your preference? Chinese, Korean, Sushi, Thai, Indian or pizza?
“Let’s try Thai food. By the way, I went out with Jacki last night. She nicely interrogated me about you and me, but didn’t ask me anything about Rosewood. I haven’t talked to Marcus or Jiang this week. Have you?”
“Hang on. I am just going to order the food.” He makes the call and comes sit down next to me on the floor. The puppy has already fallen asleep on my lap.
“In answer to your question, I have only talked to Marcus. I doubt Jiang is involved. Her command of the English language would make her an unlikely spy. I checked her background and there is nothing remarkable in it. My money is on Marcus. He has been asking questions about you. He mentioned something about your past. His father was on Halliday’s senate election committee and his family has been members of Halliday’s party for years down in Miami.”
“It would be nice to know who the mole is, if there is one. In any event, I don’t think we have done or said anything suspicious except fuel romance rumors.”
“How soon do you think it will be before the vector problem is solved?”
“I have a meeting with the other group next week. I had actually done the basic research on the vectors for PPZ gene therapy and the Institute collected my notes when I accepted the job offer. I would guess three to six months. Why?”
“We have to start planning. Once they solve the vector problem, they will start using the memory altering serum on a large scale. We have to be ready to leave. I went down to see Francesca and Bent last Tuesday. Francesca and I talked and we think it is best if they leave for Brazil in September. I decided to send them by private jet, which is why I got the puppy. It wouldn’t have been logistically possible on a commercial flight with quarantine regulations to send the puppy with them. They don’t check the luggage on private planes coming into Brazil.”
My eyes widen at the revelation. “I hadn’t realized how close we are to uprooting our lives. It all seems so real now. Are you afraid?”
“Yes and no. I am afraid of losing people I care about. I am really afraid of dying and no one would be left to look after Bent once Francesca’s gone.”
The last statement takes me aback. “Dying? That is a harsh dose of reality. I have to admit I have thought about how this could end badly. I am worried about losing my mom. Just so you know, I would look after Bent if anything ever happened to you. But we are going to make sure nothing happens to any of us.”
Josh smiles at me. “I believe you would. Do you really think we are all going to be okay?”
“I have to. Nothing less than optimism will cut it. If we don’t believe in what we are fighting for, how will anyone else? And we will need other people’s support if we are going to free all the Rosewood detainees.”
The intercom buzzes and Josh tells the concierge to let the delivery person up. I realize I am famished. Carefully I lay the puppy on its’ blanket while Josh pays the deliveryman. I move to the kitchen and help Josh dish up the food. We settle back on the floor with the food and a glass of wine each. There is silence for the next few minutes as we eat contentedly. I break the silence by asking Josh if he screened for any listening devices.
“Yes. Don’t worry. I also have a security camera installed. I checked when we first came in.”
I nod my head. “How are you going to get the puppy to Bent tomorrow? I don’t like the idea of you and the puppy alone on the boat.”
“I am going down tomorrow by car. The seas are a bit rough and I don’t want to upset the pup. When I get back Sunday, do you want to catch a movie?”
“Sure. Just give me a call. I am actually going to a dance class tomorrow at Broadway Dance Center and then to the MOMA.” I pick up both our empty plates and carry them to the kitchen. “I will miss you.”
Josh follows me into the kitchen and smiles at my statement. “Well that’s encouraging. I’ll miss you too.”
“I should go now before it really starts pouring.” Josh walks me to the subway and insists on taking me all the way to my apartment. The skies have let up and we grab an ice cream on the walk. I kiss Josh and the puppy goodbye. Josh first. He gives me a bug detector and a jammer for the listening devices in our apartment in a gift-wrapped box as I enter my building.