Friday, June 08, 2007
The Accidental Tourist - Part Four
He had forgotten, after three months, the pure satisfaction of a hot shower. All those days of bathing in streams, on the beach, of not bathing at all, and even those occasional showers in the hatch (which was a pretty shitty rig, all things considered - too cramped and too dark to enjoy). He turned the water up as hot as he could stand it, and his skin tingled from the sensation. He immersed his face in the stream, let it run through his hair, down his back, over and over. It was very nearly bliss.
He was still trying to understand what had happened to him. He only barely remembered the beginning of this latest adventure. It was just another attempt at distraction, another joy ride with Jin and Hurley in the party mobile, the VW microbus they had found. Nothing special about that day, until ...
And that was where his memory cut off. He remembered nothing from the moment he stepped into the microbus until the moment he woke up on Main Street in Mayberry. With a new outfit on his back. And with money - several hundred dollars - in his pocket. And a new calfskin wallet, a Connecticut driver's license with his birth name, and a mysterious credit card he had never seen before. Hanso? Who or what was Hanso, and why were they financing this little trip?
Something fishy was going on. But he had had that sensation since he first landed on the island, so this just fit into the same realm of disbelief as everything else. He had been tortured for asthma inhalers, had been held captive in a bear cage, had been spied on in his most private moments, and now he was in an Andy Hardy movie. He rolled with it, the way he always did.
He snapped off the shower and just stood for a moment, steam billowing around him, and let the water run off his body. He was savoring the experience. God knew when he would catch another hot shower, so he wanted to remember what it felt like.
His instincts, which he had relaxed during the shower, kicked in as soon as the water shut off. His ears were wide open, listening for any stray noise, any unfamiliar sound. There was nothing. It was silent - almost too silent. He dried off, wrapped the oversize towel around his waist loosely, and started looking through the sink's drawer for a comb.
And then he heard it. A soft click at the door. Someone was breaking in.
He looked around the bathroom for a weapon. The only thing close was the hair dryer hanging by the mirror. He took it in his hand and looped the cord silently around his hand, then thought better of it and lay it on the floor.
The bathroom door was slightly ajar. He dropped to the ground silently, peered through the crack at the foot of the door and saw - high heels?
The door opened then, bumping him in the forehead.
"Ohh God!" The door started to close, but he caught it with one hand and wrenched it open. He reached out and grabbed a stockinged ankle. The intruder fell to the floor.
He rose to his feet. It was a woman. And that was the understatement of the year.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
"Hmm, funny. That's what every single person in the whole town wants to know about you!"
"Oh, great. Another screwball. Let me guess - you're working for that skinny little freak, Kirk or Spock or whatever his name is."
The woman stood up modestly and brushed her dress off. "Kirk?" She looked offended. "No, I don't work for Kirk. Don't even tell anyone you thought that. I don't work for anybody."
"No. As a matter of fact, I'm one of the owners of the inn."
"Oh. So you forget to leave the mint on my pillow?"
"Um, no, that's not it," she said, fumbling. She tried to stuff the bug in her pocket, and remembered too late that her dress had no pockets. His hand whipped out and before she could move, he had the bug in his hand. He turned it over and over, and her expression grew more grave as the seconds passed.
"You were going to spy on me."
"It would appear that way, yes."
He put the bug down on the sink gently and stared it, a bitter expression on his face.
"What's going on here?" he said, so quietly that she almost couldn't hear him.
"I ... think a lot of people want to know that."
He turned to look at her, and his face was twisted in rage. He spoke slowly. "I don't know who you think you are. But I am not answering one goddamn question until you tell me why all you goddamn people are spying on me! What the hell are you trying to do to me?! First the island, and now this, and I'm just about bugshit out of my mind from this crap! What's going on?!" His final words were a roar.
"I don't ... what island?"
"Lady, don't lie to me," he growled.
"I'm not lying! What island? I don't know anything about an island."
"No," Lorelai insisted.
Sawyer was taken aback. "You don't?"
She shook her head.
After a long time, he relented. "Well, I'm just gonna have to take your word for that. So let's try something you do know. Tell me about this Kirk character."
"Yep. I want to know everything you know about him." Sawyer described the incident in the diner, the knife, the brochures.
"Well, that's completely bizarre and totally in character for him."
"What the hell you talking about? And I'm warning you, I'm not in the mood for cute answers tonight."
"Look yourself, bub, I'm not trying to be cute or coy or even especially clever. What do you want to know about him? I hardly know anything about him myself."
"Aw, come on. Nobody knows nothing about somebody who lives in their town."
"Seriously, I don't know anything about Kirk! Look, you want the truth, no one knows much about Kirk. He's got unbelievable amounts of money, no one knows why. He's always working, and he has, like, fifteen different jobs that he does one day a month. He's like his own front operation, except instead of a fake store and fifteen guys in green visors in the back, he's just one guy who works ninety hours a week.
"But is he hiding money for the mob or is his mother some kind of Howard Hughes type with millions of dollars stuffed in her mattress? Nobody knows. No one knows anything! And what's with the jobs? He's the mailman. He installs cable. He delivers pizza, he runs the theatre, he sells jewelry. He takes polls for the town! He's Taylor's right-hand man, although God alone knows what qualifications he has."
Sawyer mused, "maybe he has some black-and-whites of Taylor in flagrante."
"I'm saying, maybe he's got little manila envelopes on all of us. No one knows why he does what he does around here. He's like ... that little kid in the Twilight Zone episode that everyone was scared of, and he secretly runs the town. Little Ronnie Howard."
"It wasn't Ron Howard played that kid."
She glared at him. "Look, buddy. Don't screw with me on television shows. My knowledge is legendary at bar trivia nights all around southwest Connecticut. "
"It was Billy Mumy."
She stopped and stared at him, jaw agape. "You're kidding."
"Will Robinson hisself."
She blinked. "All right, the world just shifted on its axis, but I'm just going to ignore that. Where were we?"
"Your buddy Kirk."
"Yeah. My close personal friend Kirk. Oh, and another thing!" She was shouting now. "He's always got some mysterious project going on that no one knew about before, like he's some kind of closet mad scientist. Some hidden talent. Some weird knack for technology that just shows up, out of nowhere."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean ... once he showed up selling soap that was made out of hay. All kinds of stuff - lotions, shampoos, all this stuff with some active ingredient he synthesized out of hay. He made it all himself in the basement of his" - she used air quotes " - 'mother's' house."
"And ... another time, he just showed up and installed a traffic light in the middle of town. Taylor said it was his idea, but I really thought it was Kirk. Still do. Once, he installed a security system in my house. I didn't know he was even there until I set the stupid thing off!"
Oh, and once..." she shook her fist menacingly. "Once... once, he showed up here. Pretended he was on staff. Sat in on the staff meetings. I turn around, he's working the front desk, and no one said boo!"
"That doesn't sound very high-tech, darlin'."
"No, but that's the other thing he does. It's like mass hypnosis, mass hysteria, mass something. Everyone just goes along with whatever he's doing, like he's been doing it the whole time. What's Kirk's game? Hell, I wish I knew. He's a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a $10 haircut."
Sawyer took all of this in, and he felt less sure of himself than before.
"Okay, so why are you here, then?"
"Our town selectman disappeared. He's ... nobody likes him very much, but he's kinda like the pothole at the end of Main Street. It's a nuisance, but everyone would miss it if it went away. And this morning, our pothole went away, and you showed up, and long story short - okay, not such a long story - anyway, people think that you had something to do with Taylor disappearing."
"Well, sure. I mean, this is a small town, not much happens here. Something big just happened, and another something just happened, and it's only natural to think the two somethings are related. Ergo ... something ... propter hoc, or whatever that Latin phrase is."
"Well, yeah, that makes sense. Not the Latin, but the rest of it." He rubbed a hand through his moist hair. "What did you say your name was again?"
"Lorelai. Lorelai Gilmore."
"Ah," he nodded. "Should have known."
"Because your name is all I've heard since I showed up here."
Lorelai, startled, asked, "where have you - who's been - what are you talking about?"
"At the diner. Your boyfriend with the ball cap, when he called you." He made his voice gruff, blunter. "'Lorelai, I'm telling youse, don't touch this guy. He's bad news, toots.'"
She grimaced a little, and said, "he's not my boyfriend."
"Uh huh." He went on. "Someone else said it in the diner. That loud blond chick, Nanette or Ronette or somethin'. And Mrs. Kim, after I left. The door opened and I heard her saying something about you. Some guy was on his cell phone in the town square, and I heard him say he wanted to talk to Lorelai Gilmore, stat. So hell, I figured you were a doctor."
There were more, and he shared the rest with Lorelai as she turned various shades of red.
"I don't know what you really do here besides just run your inn, but from the looks of it, everyone here thinks you're the town selectman. And the police. And the savior come back to free us all. Hope I'm not telling you something you didn't already know."
"Oh, no. No. I guess... Yes, I didn't know all that."
"So really, I'm not the mystery around here. You are. You show up in my room, ready to spy on me. You're talking about this guy Kirk and the hold he has on this town, but way I see it, you're the one that really pulls the strings.
"No, I ..."
"Now listen to me, Ms. Lorelai Gilmore. I ain't got a gun - only weapon I have is what God gave me - but imagine I'm holding a gun to your head. If you had to answer the question - " His voice slowed, almost to a purr.
"If you had to say the real reason you were standing here, what is it? Why are you standing here in my room?"
She looked toward the mirror, toward the floor. And then looked at him bashfully. "I wanted to be the hero."
"There you go."
"I liked ... that people were depending on me. I don't know why they have faith in me like this, but they do, and I was going to prove to them that I was worthy of it."
Sawyer nodded gently.
"And ..." She twitched her nose and said, "I wanted to see you."
"You know, I wanted to ... see how bad this Sawyer person could be. Did he look violent, did he carry a machine gun, did he have tattoos up and down your arms? How bad is this guy?"
"And how bad do I look?"
"There's a lot of ways to answer that question," Lorelai responded.
"Do I really look like a bad guy?" he asked softly.
"Okay. Now we got that settled. Sounds like we've both got some mysteries to solve, maybe we can help each other out."
"And maybe," he purred, "there's more than a few questions that are worth asking."
"Maybe there are," she responded, her heart pounding in her throat.
"So let's hear it, Lorelai. You got any questions you want to ask me? " He took a step toward her, eyes lowered a notch, a little smirk beginning to show.
"What's your real name?" she whispered.
He lifted his hand, reached across to caress her hip. "You can call me James if you wanna call me something."
Lorelai stopped just then. He was a con man. Maybe he was setting her up right now. She didn't know. She didn't trust him. Didn't not trust him, either. But she needed to stop him from running the show. She was getting pulled in.
"There's a nice comfy bed out there, maybe we could ... sit down and interrogate each other..."
"You know what? " She pulled back fiercely. "Shut up. I'll decide what I'm going to call you. And it might be Sawyer, and it might be James, and I might not call you anything at all. You're not the one in control here."
Without meaning to, she added, "say it."
He paused for a very long time and then finally said, "I'm not in control here."
"I own this place," she said quietly.
"You're on my turf, 'James.' My property." She reached out unexpectedly, ripped the towel off him, and held it in her hand.
"I make the rules here." She moved toward him then, tossing the towel aside, and Sawyer felt a rush of emotions, fear not the least among them.
"Yes, ma'am," he said again, and then her mouth was on his.
It was quite some time before they made it to the bed.