categories: Cocktail Hour
Comments Off on Serial Sunday: The Weight of Light, Episode 6
[An ongoing story, 500 words at a time. This week’s episode written on an airplane between Buffalo, New York, and Wilmington, North Carolina. To start at the beginning, click here.]
The Weight of Light
“The Need Shall Not”
“One and all,” someone said halfway around the world.
“Then with no further ado,” said Mr. Ricketts.
Signatures were appended to documents in three conference rooms. The fax machine beeped and whirred. “Did you get my gift?” One of the Shanghai set said.
Mrs. Allway squeezed once.
“Mr. Soo, so good to see you. Don’t you see I’m wearing them?” He put his feet up on the table to general laughter.
“A great trick,” said Mr. Soo. “To learn your shoe size.”
“I was happy to help,” said Mrs. Allway briskly.
The German fellow gathered the faxed and original pages offered to him, inspected each, added his own signature, and more faxing and whirring and signing ensued. When the next wave of paper was before him, the German opened a padded book and wrote, tore off the document, an outsize check. “Velcome to The Project,” he said to Ted.
In the distant offices, everyone clapped.
Ted took the symbolic check, held it long enough to see the amount, written in the most elegant hand, with curious plurals: Thirteen millions, five hundred thousands dollars and no/ 100ths.
Ted said, “Thank you.”
“The first of ten,” said Mr. Medwallah.
“And that only the start,” said Mr. Soo. “If the path we’ve painted proves passable.”
“Mr. Allway must get back to his rest,” said Mr. Ricketts.
Ted bowed his head as he’d been instructed: man with a headache.
The screens went blank, the German got up and was shown out.
Mrs. Allway dropped Ted’s hand.
“Well done,” she said.
Mr. Ricketts handed Ted an envelope. “A token of our gratitude,” he said. “Your consultation has been very much appreciated.”
Ted opened the envelope. A check for $35,000. “No, no,” he said.
Mr. Ricketts only shrugged.
Mrs. Allway got up with no more than a cold nod his direction, her beauty only more severe. Freckles showed her out.
Mr. Ricketts pushed a piece of paper in front of him. “Just sign this invoice.”
Consultation services, it said. With his full name, which he hadn’t given anyone, and his accurate address and phone, simple and to the point, a little unsettling.
He signed it. If she was going to be like that, one mercenary to another.
“Don’t think of it as hush money,” the lawyer said. “We have other, much more effective ways to keep you quiet, should the need arise.”
Ted said, “The need shall not.”
The door to the fine room sucked open and freckles returned. “Mr. Allway,” he said.
“Swallow,” Ted said, standing.
And freckles showed him out, a stiff hand on Ted’s elbow. They got into the waiting elevator together and stood in perfect silence as the doors closed. Smoothest elevator Ted had ever felt. When the doors opened, he was surprised to be facing the roof and the sky and a thousand midtown buildings. Also a helicopter on a landing pad, blades whirring and popping at the wind. Another, much bigger man joined them, took Ted’s other elbow forcibly and with Freckle’s help overcame Ted’s efforts at resistance, threw him bodily up into the hold of the chopper, where another big man laid him efficiently face down and strapped his wrists and ankles together with plastic ties even as the aircraft lifted off, even as it swung out over the world and away.
Ted struggled, wriggled till he could turn his neck, and looking straight into his eyes was Ellen, her mouth covered in duct tape and her hands and feet tied like Ted’s.