Solomon and Judy looked grimly at each other after hanging up the phone. They turned to look at Davis.
She stared back at them.
“She did not accept my offer,” Solomon stated.
“No shit,” Judy harped. She stood up from the couch, exasperated.
“She’s scared,” Davis said. “She’s scared because of what I did to her in the office.”
“Or what I did to her in the alleyway,” Judy added.
“She doesn’t trust anyone right now.” Davis concluded.
“We can’t blame her for that,” Solomon said seriously.
“So what do we do?” Judy proclaimed, circling the area. She fumbled in the pockets of her mumu for a smoke, but came up empty. “Should we just go there anyways? Take her by force?”
Solomon turned to look at her, wide-eyed.
“What?” Judy gestured at Davis. “She’s the military one! Maybe she's got some ideas! Isn’t that why we called her here? For godsend's sake, Solomon, what good are we? We’re Abolitionists. We were raised to be goddamned moral thinkers. We’re no good in this case.”
“No,” Davis said. “We don’t make the move. Paltron has someone helping her. ‘Ros.’ And whoever he or she is, I think they’re on the Outside. It’s the only explanation for how Paltron could’ve escaped my apartment. And if she’s scared, then Ros, and possibly others, will be with her. And if she’s really scared, they could be out looking for us. We don’t fully know the extent of her power.”
Judy paused her pacing and placed a concerned hand on Solomon’s shoulder. He reached up to take it.
Davis went on. “We have to find someone she trusts. Or at least knows.”
“How?” Judy asked. “We don't know anything about this woman! We already tried the MAN databases – there’s nothing. We tried her Glide history – it’s completely clean. We could try to pull comm records, but that would take days and there’s no guarantee it would work – not to mention that Solomon and I could be excommunicated. Even you, maybe! Do you know what that means? There hasn’t been an excommunication in our lifetime! Who knows what they would do to us there? They could tear us apart!”
“They aren’t savages,” Davis replied quietly.
Judy stopped mid-sentence, surprised by such a monumentally moronic statement. “Sure, what do I know,” she said drily, “I’ve only spent the last five and a half decades in complete QUARANTINE, while you, on the other hand, were raised in the all-knowing EIU which seems to have had front row seats to Pure life since the Divide itself!”
Solomon gently squeezed her hand.
Judy pressed on. “The point is, us Abolitionists are the scions of everything those people hate and despise about Outsiders. We’re an ideal. We’ll be destroyed. They’ll lynch us!” Solomon turned to look at her, caught off guard by the vaguely familiar word. Where had she learned it? Where had he? What did it mean? “I mean, hell,” Judy went on obliviously, “it was hard enough to find Ms. Paltron the first time, when she had no clue I was looking! Now we’ve probably chased her out of her office; she could completely disappear, and no one would even notice! Right? 'The Box Office has no head,' supposedly? 'No central organization,' they say! So who would care?!” Reeling from what she felt was a breakthrough, Judy looked to Davis for a reaction and didn’t find one. She looked to Solomon, who looked dismayed.
“Actually,” Davis said quietly, “Maybe I do know… one person… who would care.”
Judy and Solomon turned to stare at her, urging her to say more.
“But I’m going to need some money.”
Baldsmith sat nervously at his desk. It had been more than two years since he’d seen Paltron in person. That sultry bitch. He shuffled the tight knot of his tie along the pudge of his neck, hoping to clear a pinch of space in which he could breathe. He rearranged his crotch. God it was hot down there.
The spheric screen flickered on. Prohibitively expensive Inside, spheric was only used for very special occasions – or in this case, highly subsidized ones.
“Well this is a treat.” For a hunted woman, Paltron sure didn’t seem much afraid. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
Baldsmith tugged helplessly at the knot on his throat one more time. “Hello, Jean.”
“I always did love when you called me that.” She sat deliciously atop her desk, angled forward so her dress, red, gaped open. “How are you, Harold, my pet?”
The woman was a palm-to-Jesus psychopath.
“I’m well, Jean, I’m well.”
“Good, Harold, that’s so good to hear. You look well. And you know I’m equally as excited to see you.” She leaned back now, her legs parting subtly so her dress could open in a different, lower way. “I suppose that’s why you wanted to see, rather than just talk, to me…”
Baldsmith’s brows furrowed. Under his desk, he nervously pressed the palm of his hand down against his impending bulge. It was goddamned boiling in there. “Yes,” he stuttered. “Well, no, actually –”
“Shall we get down to business?” Paltron slithered on, interrupting him. Her tongue made its debut – it ran a tight lap around her lips and slipped back into hiding. She grinned. Her hair was down.
At this moment in time Baldsmith could not have told up from down. He had no recollection of who had arranged this call, or what any of his agenda items might have been. Was he having a hot flash? She was too stunning a picture. Her dress was a color he hadn’t seen in years; her skin the purest silk, agelessly smooth... He felt his right foot driving itself into the floor, like a helpless passenger’s attempt to brake and stop everything. His leg strained forward, burning with tension. He had visions of their last, and only, encounter – her milky white arm sweeping the papers off his desk, the frame of his family clattering to the floor, the way he’d bulkily propped her up, up onto the wood, and how she’d parted herself to him as he covered her, slathered her, kissed her, licked her, and had her as his own – repeatedly, lengtheningly, grossly, disgustingly, over and over again, until he was spent, and each of their limbs hung limply across the four corners of his desk. He remembered slumping wasted on top of her, and slipping down onto the ground in a crumpled heap, his pants still clung around his ankles. He remembered crying, humiliated by what he’d done. He remembered looking down at the upturned faces of his wife and sons, leering kindly at him from their frame. He remembered clutching himself, whimpering, as she zipped herself up and walked out.
That was the day he’d yearned for years to forget, but never could. It was the day that she took something from him: he wasn’t sure what it was, but he was certain she still had it – his Achilles heel, his Kryptonite – waiting for him, for the right moment to strike – so she could finish off the Herald and him along with it.
Baldsmith looked back up at the spheric where Paltron was gliding one wet finger up along her thigh, letting it disappear into the dark reaches of her satin. Her head dropped back and her chin rocked up as she touched herself. Infernal hell. He had more visions of thrusting.
“Jean,” he said sternly, a chastisement to himself. He straightened his neck and sat up in his chair. He cleared his throat, while keeping the palm of his hand securely in place down below. He was going to be a goddamned man about this.
“Jean,” he said again, standing up. He leaned his bulge against the front of his desk to free both hands for gesticulating.
“Harold,” she answered. Her icy voice grabbed his attention. She was sitting up now, rekempt. Her eyes, daggers. Her hair, that generic shade of brown, seemed red as fire.
Despite his nervousness, Baldsmith had to proceed. “Yes. Jean.” He took a half step backwards, away from his desk. A few inches of space for cooling seemed necessary. Yet as he did this, his body and mind began to sway and swoon. He pressed forward, determined to keep talking, despite his vision beginning to cross. “I called you here today to discuss a matter which I believe is of great interest to you.” He dared to loop his arms behind his back and begin to pace, almost strut, around his desk. He snuck a sideways glance at her and saw that she was listening, intently.
“Quite an occasion, then,” she played. “I’m listening.” He felt his upper lip tickle and the tips of his ears turn red. Her words were like tacks in a voice made of syrup.
He turned away from the spheric, feigning interest in a glass of water on his desk.
“I’ll keep it short,” he went on.
“As you do,” she replied. She was insufferable. He began to feel the itching heat in his groin return. He’d have to get it all out now.
“Alright, well, the fact of the matter is that I do happen to know the whereabouts of Ms. Monica Davis, my Outside Man. I know I wasn’t willing to tell you before, but seeing as how you’ve publicly exposed her – God knows why – she’s on the run. She’s a loose cannon and a complete liability. As I’m sure you've predicted, I can’t have her wandering around out there knowing what she knows. So… since you are… my sole other contact on the Outside, and I know you have the means to do so, I would like you….to have her exterminated. Entirely.”
Jean Paltron paused a moment before giving her reply. Then, “I don’t do it any other way, Harold. I only do things…” she paused for effect, “…entirely.” He suddenly remembered her blood red lips engorging him. He remembered the warmth of her mouth as it wrapped tightly around him and the cold fear that tore through him as she peeled her lips back to reveal bared teeth – murderous pearls that threatened to bite through and destroy him. Even his ecstasy was her power. He stifled a wave of nausea.
He moved vaguely towards the sound of her voice, his entire body now turning cold and on fire.
“Harold, dear, you have a boner again.” His palm jumped down into place. “You never did know how to lie.”
The spheric cut out.
Harold heaved a tremendous sigh of relief and let himself fall backwards onto his desk, cold sweat dripping out every pore.