Persistence of Memory - Pt. 2
By Paul Seely and Jennifer Garza
Three - Saturday
Getting through the gates of the walled housing community called "The Meadows" had recently become a lot easier, especially for intruders. When former night shift guard Teddy Rinna moved on to greener pastures as a private investigator, his post was filled by an obese, sleepy man named LeRoy Parks. At half-past midnight, a lone figure in dark clothing slipped over the six foot gate and silently crept past the glass booth where Mr. Parks was snoring, a Delfonics tape playing on his walkman.
Running beside the high stone wall which encircled the enclave, he soon reached the back row of homes and found a neatly maintained white split-level house with a deep blue Porsche lurking in the driveway. This was the place.
He took a moment to mentally review the security layout for the house. His employer provided a thorough list of obstacles, and they were formidable if somewhat traditional. The paranoia of one of this home's two residents caused the installation of triple-paned, leaded glass windows with horizontal bar locks. Getting through three panes of the heavy glass would certainly allow the occupants time to realize to an impending threat.
Adding to his list of challenges was their replacement of an inferior alarm system with one of surpassing quality, the presence of two reinforced, long-throw deadbolt locks on both doors, and the ultimate frustration of burglar bars bracing both heavy oak doors to the point of impregnability. The innocent-looking little white house was actually closer to a fortress. Fortunately, he was not here tonight to break in, merely to leave a message from his employer.
Positioning himself at a rear window, he produced a compact matte gray device with a six digit LED readout, then gently pressed a sensor pad against the metal window sill. The device whirred for several seconds, then produced a code which he routed back into the alarm system, temporarily disabling the sensitive motion detector which guarded every conceivable entrance into the house. The code would change and cycle in thirty seconds, and the detector would reset on another frequency. This would allow him to briefly touch the windows without activating the alarm - if he acted quickly.
Attached to his belt was a small black leather bag which squirmed and kicked at his touch. Opening the bag, he found a pint-sized rat, still very perturbed and ready to nip at his gloved fingers. This problem he solved by pinching the rat's neck until it snapped like a thick twig. A wicked knife with a serrated blade and a tip hooked like the beak of a hawk came out next and neatly whacked the head from the rodent corpse.
Standing firm in the mushy garden soil under the window, he began to draw on the glass with rat's blood, mindful to make each graceful swipe in reverse so that the message could be read from inside the home. The curtains were not drawn, and he imagined morning light beaming through the eastern exposed window and projecting the red characters onto the pale carpet of the living room. What a nice surprise to wake up to on a Saturday.
Finished, he dropped the vermin paintbrush at his feet and stepped back onto the grass to scrape his tabi shoes on the dry lawn, clearing sticky sod from the treads. Stooping to examine some tiny plants he had trampled, he found that he had all but destroyed a burgeoning herb patch, the tender shoots just beginning to clear the earth and search for sun. Reflecting on a nine year-old memory of cold blue eyes, he found himself reluctant to believe that the intended recipient of his message would be the type to tend a fragile garden. It must belong to the other one, the blonde from the parking lot.
In seconds, he had departed the back yard and returned to his point of entry. Back at the front gate, he scooped up a handful of gravel and leapt to the top of the wall. Just before dropping outside onto the wide shoulder of Vega Avenue, he disdainfully flung the pebbles at the guard house, waking LeRoy Parks from a lovely dream where Pam Grier was feeding him fried pickles.
Some people dream, conjuring lovers from the lonely alchemy of the subconscious, and some are blessed enough to live their dreams in waking hours. These people are often marked by a suspiciously reduced need for sleep and an indifference to the barbed lure of excessive fantasy. Although it may be our latent instinct to regard them with scorn, in fairness, they are merely to be envied like no other creatures on our earth.
"Can you see the clock?"
"Yeah, it's two-forty-eight. Why'd you toss it over there in the first place?"
"Uhhh... I forget. I think it was humming or something. Bothered me."
"Bothered me. So, what do you want next?"
"What do we have left, barkeep?"
"Not much. Take a look-see for yourself, stretch."
Diana rolled Charlotte over and straddled her hips, then quickly surveyed the bedside table as distractingly nimble hands tickled up and down her ribcage. Past the two remaining shot glasses of apricot brandy and the dregs of a bottle of merlot she spied the forgotten ingredients to the perfect tequila shooter. Well, most of the ingredients, anyway. The key component was lying beneath her.
"Find anything?" Charlie asked as she noted the mischievous flare in her lover's smile, visible even by wan moonlight falling through the skylight over the bed.
"Oh, yeah. Lay back and relax for a minute. I'll fix this one myself."
The blonde flopped her arms out wide and sighed as her eyes drifted shut, thinking of absolutely nothing in her slightly buzzed, post-connubial bliss - not her disapproving parents, not her crushing workload, nothing at all. It was the most satisfying oblivion imaginable. She could feel the brush of a firm breast against her forearm as Diana leaned over to reach the night stand, but that tactile tease merely elicited a trippy little smile. She hadn't the energy for much more.
"Don't go to sleep, now," a low voice warned her.
"Mmm hmm. Won't," she promised, yawning as her muscles took on the consistency of warm syrup.
Her torpor was short-lived, however, as a tepid trickle of liquid drizzled into her navel. Hazel eyes flew open and she was beset by a sudden squirming fit, which the tall woman ended by tightening her thighs around Charlie's hips.
"Be still. This is Cuervo Gold - don't wanna waste it."
"Diana, dear... what are you doing?"
"Fixing myself one last drink."
"In my belly button?"
"Small drink," Diana explained, smiling as she replaced the bottle and came back with a lime wedge and a tiny crystal salt shaker.
"And what do you plan to do with those?"
Charlotte closed both her mouth and her eyes as Diana lowered soft lips to her breast, kissing a wide circle around the perimeter, then slipping her tongue out to run a smaller path around the dusky pink aureole, wetting the pebbled surface and the waking tip. One last, languorous swipe across the fleshy crown, and she moved away.
"Hey, don't stop," Charlotte whispered, then giggled as she felt a rain of minute granules fall across her damp nipple, the salt clinging to the moisture.
"Would you open your mouth for me?" Diana's voice was a throaty husk, making it unthinkable for the younger woman to refuse her. Charlie let her lips drift apart and felt the cool rind of the lime wedge rub against her mouth.
"Hold on to this, please."
Again, she complied and clutched the thin wedge between her teeth. Diana deftly shifted their bodies, parting Charlie's legs and moving between, then sliding down with a slow, delicate exertion of pressure as her stomach brushed over a gilded pubis. An unsatisfied groan met the end of this action, alerting her that they might not be done yet after all. She drew her long black hair over one shoulder and leaned down to kiss sloping indentations outlining each hip bone, murmuring into smooth flesh.
"You're not going to sleep, are you?"
"Nuh-unh," Charlotte managed to mumble around the lime.
"Good," her lover's contralto answered back, just before dragging the point of a firm tongue through the preliminary dusting of fine hair linking the lower abdomen to something even lower. Diana strung a line of whispery kisses along the curly border, testing Charlotte's resolve to collect on her promise. "You said all night, remember?"
"If you're too tired, let me know and I'll stop."
Diana smiled as she raised her head and surveyed the tiny pool of golden liquor, but couldn't resist a final tease. "Later. If you're lucky."
"Don't shtart wiff me... ahhh."
The attorney's brief fit of pique dissolved like sugar in hot water as her lover dipped a rigid tongue into her flooded navel. Hazel eyes popped open and a smile tripped accidentally across her face as she felt the odd tingle of oft-ignored nerves livening in her tummy. Both hands fell instantly on the dark crown of hair, petting and pushing and stroking in time with the dancing tongue.
Her toes pointed and her calves contracted as Diana withdrew, then dropped the wet muscle in again, slowly swirling around the tiny cavity, gently sucking out the potent alcohol. Without warning, the probing tongue hardened again and shoved in deeper, spelunking to the depths of the baby cave touching each hidden, hypersensitive crevice, rooting out every trace of tequila. Charlotte didn't know whether to laugh or scream, so she did both, nearly losing the lime in the process.
Once the first of her three enjoyable little tasks was complete, Diana immediately ascended to the whitened peak of Charlie's breast and dropped her open mouth fully onto the salted skin, hungrily lapping up the grains. The twin textures of the scratchy crystals and velvety tongue seemed particularly delightful to the young attorney, and she moaned unabashedly until, with one parting kiss to the drawn nipple, the second step was done as well.
"Hold on to it," Diana said, sliding up a bit further.
It took a moment for Charlotte to register that she meant for her to tighten her teeth around the fruit, then she felt the warmth of her lover's breath climbing her neck. Diana opened her mouth wide and laid her lips over Charlie's, trapping the lime between them. Her tongue eased out and ran along the tart pulp, grazing over both their lips, tasting the sweet and sour before gently closing her teeth and stripping the lime bare.
As requested, Charlotte kept a firm grasp on the wedge, letting the sour juice trickle into her mouth as Diana licked away the the excess from her chin. She felt another tug on the rind, and still she resisted, stubbornly protesting the end of a truly novel experience.
"You can let go now."
Opening her eyes, she found two fingers ready to pluck out the barren lime, and she sheepishly grinned and loosened her hold. Diana took the rind, then twisted her body around slightly and tossed it across the room into the small wastebasket. Proud of herself for more than one reason, the older woman smiled brightly and waited for praise.
"Show-off," Charlotte said dryly, wrapping her arms around her lover and pulling her down into a particularly flavorful kiss which lasted (in one form or another) until the sun slipped through the skylight and warmed their backs with dawn's first rays.
Sunrise found Hideo Yoshima sitting on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, his arms folded and eyes closed in useless meditation as the warm wind flirted with his blue silk robes. Peace would not come to him this day. Among a myriad of other troubles, he was somewhat irked at his spot on the planet as the glorious ball of burning gas slipped up on the wrong side of the water.
Having spent most of his life on the eastern shore of the Japanese mainland of Honshu, it was the first time that he had greeted dawn on the other side of the great sea, and he didn't like it one bit. As he pondered this disconcerting feeling of displacement, an early morning jogger loped by, followed closely by a yapping pomeranian wearing a nylon windsuit and four tiny sneakers.
"This is not pleasing," he said, so softly that only the man by his
side could hear him. The other three guards milling about nearby were not there
for conversation. "California has always seemed alien to me. I wish to
obtain that which I need and return home quickly. You did as I asked?"
"Yes," his compact, dark-clad companion answered, just as quietly.
"Written in blood?"
"Yes. Are you sure she will understand?"
"She will remember, and she will come to me," the elder man proclaimed, "and I will live on."
Sitting in the lotus position, his back ramrod straight, a casual observer would find him strong and healthy. A closer look at his powdery pallor, low body weight and the small, dark lesions on his face betrayed his true condition. Nearing the final stages of AIDS, Hideo Yoshima was dying.
Physicians of world renown had come to him and attempted to treat his illness with a variety of drug therapies and protocols. Mystics had performed rituals with animals and blood and smoke and darkness. His diet was altered to emphasize the inclusion of dairy, then the exclusion of dairy; in fact, he had endured the ingestion of everything from apricot pits to raw flatworms in his search for an extension of his dwindling life span, all to no avail. Every day found him weaker and more desperately aware of his mortality.
Two months prior to this morning on a foreign beach, he had celebrated his fiftieth birthday at home in a sickbed. The humiliation of reaching that milestone in such a shameful condition renewed his commitment to the search, and he hired a staff of twenty data retrieval experts and scientists to search and examine the records of disease research facilities, world government medical databanks, and pharmaceutical manufacturers for anything that held even a glimmer of promise.
Seventeen days in, they hit gold. In an encrypted lockbox on a discarded
eighty-five megabyte hard drive, a collection of files was discovered. The drive
was unearthed in the computer repair shop of Matsuda Industries, and contained
records of experiments conducted on behalf of an unnamed agency. The company's
contact within the agency was listed as Dr. Salvatore Mangano.
The files contained innumerable, indecipherable formulas combining a form of protease inhibitors with short-chain artificial protein polymers - things he did not and would never understand. The only fragment of information which merited interest at all was the repeated assertion that a test subject - an agent working for Mangano's group - had once been completely cleansed of the virus by an early formulation of this treatment. Upon seeing the name of the cured party, Hideo Yoshima fainted.
"You are taking a great risk in trusting this woman to help you," the younger man whispered, his tone cautious and respectful. "She cannot be trusted."
Yoshima turned to his companion and smiled. "I do not trust her to help me, but to help herself. Her heart is soft and weak, as it was years ago. Perhaps even more so, now that she has... stabilized."
"The woman I recall from Nagano felt nothing. She was a machine, an instrument."
"For us, she felt nothing. Our blood stained her hands, and she was unmoved. For the girl, she knelt in snow and surrendered her life as penance for her sins. She would do the same today."
"For Angelia? But we've lost her..."
"She will be safely returned to us, but that is irrelevant. I do not intend to bargain with Diana Starrett's past, but with her future. Her heart is weaker now than ever before, and she will do my bidding to protect those she loves."
"And her family. You will have a grand selection of targets if she is foolish enough to refuse me."
Yoshima unhooked his thin legs and stood slowly, refusing help from his spry assistant. He surveyed the shining, tumultuous ocean, then looked over his shoulder at the blazing sun. He shook his head and ran one hand through his thinning black hair as the jogger with his windsuited pomeranian passed by again on their return trip.
"She will come soon. If not by tonight, then you will bring her to me tomorrow. I will not be kept in this asinine country any longer than is necessary."
Bowing slightly, the younger man offered his arm and escorted his father up
the stairs to the rented beach house, silently vowing that he would do whatever
was necessary to ensure the compliance of the blue-eyed monster from his
youthful nightmares. The great and fearsome Yoshima would not be felled by any
enemy foolish enough to spare that deceitful woman. She would save his father...
and then there would be an accounting for old wrongs. The passing of nine years
had not helped him forget. Diana Starrett was going to suffer.
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