War and Peace: Chapter 40

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Chapter 40

By the time James woke, lunch had come and gone.

He dragged himself through the shower like a cycle in the car wash. As he was pulling his clothes on, his phone beeped.

August Evans: Please don't leave me out of this.

James sat and ate toast with orange juice, leaving his phone on the table next to the plate so that he was forced to stare at the message.

Bringing August along to confront Donald had crossed his mind more than once. She had the right to choose her path. It sounded nice to pretend he was keeping her out of harm's way, but there was only a very small surface plausibility to that theory. The real problem was that if they took the fall together, there would be no one left to make arrangements for his mother.

Out of consideration for August's feelings, James thought it through for as long as it took to eat all the toast and drink all the juice, and then for another five minutes. But in the end, the reply didn't change.

I'm sorry. If it goes wrong, I leave the rest to you.

If there was a tomorrow, it would be nice if pushing his responsibility on to August would somehow cancel out with her originally coercing him, leaving them all square, and back at the beginning.

***

Most weekends, Donald worked from the house. James gambled on him being at home. The girlfriend of the month might be over, but at this time of day would likely be tired of playing second fiddle to a computer, taking off for greener pastures.

James sat outside in the Honda for almost ten minutes. Finally there was nothing to do but get out. The white streams of his breath in the frozen air were a calming presence, until they started to look like the ghosts of his good intentions.

He pushed the button that was not quite a doorbell. Donald could see who was outside and buzz them in from any room in the house. The security system was wired into the home network, accessible by voice, controlling everything from the temperature of the rooms, freezers and hot water faucets to the level of oxygen in the air and the humidity of the wine cellar—all features Donald never used. It was possible that he didn't even know what his house could do anymore. He had to have the top of the line, but merely having was enough.

A buzzer sounded and a green light flashed. James let himself in.

The foyer was huge and open, doubling as a music room, engineered for perfect acoustics and boasting a hidden concert-quality sound system. The focal point was a Yamaha digital grand piano that James had never seen played. Donald was just this side of tone deaf, as likely to touch a musical instrument as he was to become a Luddite.

"Ain't this a surprise," boomed a voice from every direction. The PA system was one of the few household features Donald actually used, unable to resist presenting himself as an omniscient narrator. "What brings the Prez to my humble abode?"

"You busy right now?" James said, to the air, feeling as foolish as he did every time.

"Sorta," came the reply. "But it's that gay type of busy where I was just waitin for someone to interrupt so I could get out of it. Come to the lab."

James started to move through the house. He had been given a full tour once, but retained information only regarding the portions that interested him, which the lab did not. Getting lost was a real possibility. Not being able to rely on mentalism was a pain.

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