Vanessa had been released from the asylum at last, just in time for Christmas. Millicent and Mirabelle brought her over to Ruby.
“I’m so glad to see you both,” Vanessa was saying to them. “It…sometimes seems strange there are two of you…but I think that’s all right?”
“It’s perfect,” said Millicent. “And you look wonderful.”
“And this must be…Ruby, yes?” said Vanessa. “Ruby…Fitzgibbons?”
“Fitzgibbons Cuevas,” said Millicent. “Ruby, this is Vanessa. My mother.”
“How wonderful to finally meet you,” said Ruby. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Thank you. Your hair is very red, isn’t it?”
“Oh, thank you.”
“Who does it for you?”
Dr. Born and Dr. Orange met at the bar. “Julius! Happy New Year! Let’s consult the list of things we are allowed to talk about with each other.”
They flipped through their government-issued notebooks.
“The Yankees,” said Dr. Born. “I think they will win the World Championship again.”
“I favor the team from Brooklyn,” said Dr. Orange. “And the war, that’s terrific, isn’t it?”
“Nice talk. Let’s do this again next year.”
Senator Grey brought Jimmy into his library. In one corner, half in the shadows, was a tall, rugged man wearing a Marine colonel’s uniform.
“This is that guy from the War Department who wanted to see you,” said the Senator.
“Hello, Francis,” said Jimmy.
Francis O’Donnell stalked into the light. “Jimmy,” he barked without preamble. “I have a mission for you.”
“What are you doing with the war department?”
“SERVING MY COUNTRY! There’s a little outfit we’re forming, the Organization of Strategic Services. I’ll tell you about it on the way.”
Dawn broke clear and cold the morning of the 14th of January. Inside the Grey’s mansion, the party was still in swing. Jimmy opened a second story window, crawled out on the windowsill, and then slid down a drainpipe.
He froze for a second, listening intently while glancing around. Finally he waved for Francis to come down as well and turned the corner of the house.
Ruby was standing there waiting for him. “Look who finally learned how to sneak up on people,” she said.
Jimmy frowned, then shook his head, then sighed. “I guess I can’t keep you from coming, can I?”
“I love you for even asking the question. Where are we headed?”
“Burma, to start,” said Francis, coming around the corner. “Both you and your husband are coming, I take it? Good. I think I have something just right for your talents.”
And a few hours later, the Brightening Dawn lifted up, turned over the Bay, silhouetted against the sun. Below, Los Angeles woke to another day, or turned in from yet another endless night shift. But that didn’t matter, in the long run. It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor, they were still free even if they didn’t know it. For the moment.
Free, in a way they couldn’t appreciate. Free to be ignorant, free to think that a landlord’s overdue notice was the worst thing that could happen to them. Free to live and die and maybe even do something that the rest of them would remember for a short time, a year, a century, a civilization.
And on high, Olympian, the gods looked down uncaring and uncomprehending, disinterested in the organic infestation on this measly planet, set upon their own schemes and trials. None of them would take notice of this puny unevolved species. None of them but one, the one who carried their message to an insensate universe, their soul, their magician and trickster, unable to avoid noticing these creatures because they were a part of It. A meddler, a torturer, a soul lost upon the void, drowned in a sea of silence…
And that reminds me of a guy I know.