The producer’s phone rang once, twice, three times. Heath glanced at the minimalistic wall-clock and calculated that if it was seven o’clock here, it would be noon in New York and nine in L.A. Brendan Fischer was likely finishing his second mimosa, wiping his mouth on a monogrammed napkin, calling for Natalie to reschedule his nine-fifteen appointment an hour later so he could cram some yoga into his routine and swing by the juice bar before hitting the office. Heath winced as a deafening crackle birthed a dubious connection between two continents.
“What’s up, man?” Brendan’s voice sounded suntanned.
Silence. Silence so firm and cold you could skate across it.
After confessing the non-plausible plausible solution to Flavian, the man had quietened, suggested he might have someone who could help the case, and invited Heath into the street with him. Every cell in Heath’s composed, civilized brain told him this was what travel guidebooks called “a compromising situation” and suggested the American traveler at all costs avoid.
They passed skinny boys and gangly men, shapely women with braids swinging to their hips, fat women with hair combed into thick knots at their necks. No one seemed in a particular hurry to close themselves into their homes for the evening. All doors were open to the street. Half the children ran naked, chasing a ball down the center of the street. Dogs skulked between legs and cats hid in potted petunias, their eyes catching odd shards of light leftover from the setting sun. Everywhere the streets reeked until Flavian led Heath and the boy into a clean, white lane set with the most opulent mansions Heath yet seen. The contrast between the sector through which they’d just trekked and this celestial glory hurt Heath’s eyes almost physically. He blinked a few times and caught his breath while Flavian spoke to a slender gypsy man smoking against a gold-painted fence. Daniel climbed the fence and swung by his hands on the top spikes, making faces at the grand house in its beautiful cage.
“I am supposing the spirits brought me to you.”
Heath looked at him curiously. “You believe that?”
“Of course. What do you believe? Are you Orthodox?”
“I’m not saying it’s a popular belief and I’m not saying I don’t sometimes forget I believe it, but I’m a Christian.” He laughed. “The only Spirit I have dealings with is the Holy Spirit.”
“Oh.” Flavian eyed him slyly. “Ah...Pentecostal.”
Heath grinned. “Baptist.”
At the balancing point in all awkward interactions when some decision or another must be made, the farther door opened the queen who had once been beautiful entered.