Josh takes me back to my apartment early the next morning and kisses me for the benefit of George, the ever-present menace. Out of the corner of my eye, I see George smirk and reach for his phone. We had agreed that Josh would call me and ask me to bring ibuprofen if everything seemed normal at the Institute. If I do not receive a call within an hour, Josh wants Mom and I to flee the city. How exactly we would do that, I have no idea. I expect that he will call me. If Katharine is going to do anything to us, she’ll wait for me to get to the Institute. I also would never flee to safety and leave Josh and Kevin to fend for themselves.
I already wrote a note to pass to Mom before I ventured into the apartment. I didn’t have a chance to warn her about the new listening devices. I’m also unsure about how she feels about me spending the night with Josh. Although I already spent the weekend alone with him, it a completely different dynamic when it happens during the week. Fortunately, I don’t have much time to think as I ascend in the elevator.
When I come in, Mom comes towards me and throws her arms around me. “Are you okay?” Mom asks. I slip her the note as I return the hug.
“I hate to admit it, but I drank tequila last night and feel like I have the flu this morning.” I walk over to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee.
“Why don’t you have two glasses of water before you start on the coffee? Listen Analia, you have to be careful. You are not used to drinking, nor are you legal. I never made a big deal about it before, mostly because you never went out drinking before. Tequila can be rather harsh.”
“Mom, I get it. You don’t like to hear I was drinking. Please don’t nag. I have a headache.” I wink at her as I speak.
“Nali. One day you will have children and you will stay up all night worrying about them and get no sleep. The first night it happens, please call me so I can experience karmic satisfaction.Now, go take a shower so we can make it to work on time. Also, do what I say. Drink some water and flush the alcohol out.”
“Sorry mom.” I walk over and hug her again. I try to convey a thousand and one words by holding my mother. “Why don’t you come to the beach this weekend? I’ll ask Josh if he would mind if Jax came. I don’t think he would.”
“You sure you want your mother to tag along with your boyfriend?” Mom pulls a wisp of hair out of my eyes.
“I don’t look at it like that. Besides, you have been my best friend all these years. You don’t cramp my style. I better hop in the shower. Did you go running this morning?” I ask over my shoulder as I head for my room.
“No. I didn’t sleep well last night and stayed in bed longer this morning.” Once she hears Analia in the shower, Branna signals Jax on his beeper. She is going to have to warn Jax about the new listening devices that were planted. For now, they will have to assume Jax is also under surveillance. He immediately calls her back on her cell phone and innocuously asks to meet her for dinner.
Branna sets out to clean the kitchen the kitchen. It has been difficult to keep up with the housework, after being away every weekend. Branna sets out to clean the counters, scrub the microwave and empty out the refrigerator. It might be time to have a housekeeper come in, but the constant invasion of their privacy by Lucas’s henchmen stops Branna from hiring a stranger. The busy work helps to calm her nerves. Analia is undergoing a complete metamorphosis right in front of her. She has more than a few questions to ask her about the night before, but the new listening devices stop her. The uncertainty of the future is starting to weigh on her. She keeps thinking of one of her favorite quotes by Marcus Aurelius. “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” It is amazing how thousands of years later the quote is still accurate.
“Hey Mom, I am ready. We can go.” I come jogging into the kitchen and take another sip of coffee. Mom finishes wiping down the counters and washes her hands.
“I have to remember to teach you how to do a little housework before you fly the coop.” Mom admonishes me with a smirk.
“Sorry mom, I know I have been slacking off.” I hold the door for the two of us. We ride the elevator down and wave to George on their way out. Once outside, I query. “Do you think George will lose his job once we leave? He has devoted almost a decade to being my minder.”
“I am sure they will get him a job monitoring someone else’s life. I just can’t feel sorry for him. So what happened last night? How did you learn about the new listening devices?”
“We were hidden behind a secret door in Katharine’s office and heard Jenny Whitcombe mention it. Long and short of it, Jenny is having an affair with Marcus in my lab and Marcus is a paid informant. Jenny mentioned that Katharine suspects we are up to something but it sounds like they don’t know what exactly. Just so you know, we need to walk slowly. Josh is going to call, if his mother doesn’t detain him upon his arrival at the Institute to ask for a bottle of ibuprofen. If he doesn’t call, he wants us to make a run for it. Not that I would.”
“Were you able to get the documents you were looking for?” Mom motions for me to follow her into our local pharmacy
“We did plus a whole stack of other memos that we will go through tonight. I will be home late again.”
“That’s not a problem. I am meeting with Jax to warn him about the new listening devices. How are you feeling?” There is a double entendre in that question but I’m not ready to talk about my night with Josh.
“I am fine. Sometimes I think I am on overdrive emotionally, vacillating between sheer terror and happiness and every emotion in between. But mostly, half of me wants to spend every minute I can with you and the other half wants to spend every minute with Josh.”
“The love bug infected you pretty bad.” Right then Josh calls and asks me bring the ibuprofen we have already purchased. Mom and I head to the subway platform and board the train.
Once in the lab, I seek out Josh with my eyes. I walk over and hand him the ibuprofen and he hands me a coffee. I quickly ask him if I can invite my mom and Jax to the beach with us this weekend and he agrees without reservation, but his eyes whimper a little. Kevin walks in right after our exchange and looks relieved to see the two of us.
Josh directs his first question to Kevin. “How’s your head, Kevin?”
“It ’s fine. Why? Did I get something on the back of it?” Kevin starts feeling the back of his head to see if anything is there.
“No Kevin, I was referring to the fact that you had quite a bit of tequila last night. I just used an expression.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize. I should write that down. Sorry, I usually tolerate liquor well. I really enjoyed meeting Luis and his father last night. I had such a good time and I really liked the Cuban food. His father is an incredible cook. I want to get that recipe for “ropa vieja”.”
“We’ll go back soon. While last night may have been exciting, I would refrain from calling it a good time. Just let’s knock out as much work as we can. We need to start running all our statistical analyses by next week. I want to start working on the presentation by the beginning of September. Hopefully you will get your passport this week Nali.” After saying that, he disappears out the side door.
I look at Kevin and let slip a half laugh. “I think he just cracked the whip. So where are we on the correlation work?”
Kevin and I work in tandem for hours. Josh rejoins us an hour later, with coffee in hand. He had gone to the archives division and found videos on previous lectures given at the International Genetics Conference from previous years for us to look at. He hands each of us a copy. We work feverishly through the next several days to accomplish all the detail work and watch the videos on our breaks. By Thursday, Josh and I sit down with Dr. Morehouse to critically analyze all we had accomplished so far. Kevin joins us when he finishes running a statistical analysis on the computer. All is going along well. Some of it is tedious but that in and of itself is comforting.
The only moment of tension comes when Katharine Lucas shows up unexpectedly on Thursday afternoon. Kevin immediately goes into freeze frame at the sight of her and his facial expression resembles the “Scream” by Edward Munch. I engage him in banal conversation to distract him until his facial features stop contorting. Fortunately, Katharine becomes involved in a deep conversation with Dr. Morehouse and Kevin starts to relax before Katharine turns her attention to the three of us for a few brief moments.
“Dr. Morehouse and I agree that the three of you will be ready for the conference next month. I am happy to see you are up to the task. You have done amazing work. I would like the three of you to come to dinner with my husband and me next week. Dr. Morehouse will be attending as well. Jenny Whitcombe will give you the details tomorrow.” Katharine turns and walks out
Josh whispers to me. “Great. We have to have dinner with the dragon lady.” He looks at Kevin. “Kevin, blink your eyes and get that shocked look off your face.”
“We are going to have to mentally prepare Kevin for this dinner.” I whisper to Josh.
Kevin’s breathing has turned rapid and shallow. “Do you think she will try to interrogate us Josh? I don’t think I could stand up to the pressure.”
“Kevin, relax. We have your back.” As Josh says this to Kevin, I catch Dr. Morehouse eyeing the three of us critically. Dr. Morehouse nods at me and walks out of the conference room to his office.
“Come on, let’s grab a coffee and take a ten minute break.” I motion for them to follow me. “I want to knock off as much work as we can tonight and get out early tomorrow.”
“Do you think we should take Kevin with us to the beach or leave him to work with Luis?” I whisper to Josh on the way to the outdoor balcony.
“As much as I want to have tomorrow night alone with you, I think it would be a good idea unless Luis is planning to work with him this weekend. I’ll call Luis later and check.”
By Friday afternoon, we had worked nearly around the clock. Kevin clearly benefitted from having us around him almost continuously. The routine seemed to calm his nerves, but Josh and I were tired. As it turns out, Luis had secured a nondescript safe house with an untraceable wireless signal for Kevin to work in for the weekend. Kevin was actually quite happy to go. Apparently, he had talked to Luis. Luis is a master in aikido and had agreed to spar with Kevin and feed him all the Cuban food he wanted. Once we have Kevin settled, Josh and I can’t wait to get to the boat and sail to the beach.