“Basic principle,” Brimsnod said. “Research-wise, we’ve got years…”
“Centuries,” Pimlipper said.
“Millenia,” Duke added.
“We’ve looked into this is what I’m saying,” Brimsnod said. She tapped her papers on the wine cellar table. “What gets in the way of life?”
“You’re asking me?”
“Go ahead. Take a shot.”
“A thousand things, right? Proscrastination. Ambition. Lack thereof. Unrequited love. Money. Too much. Not enough. You want me to go on?”
“Try again,” Brimsnod said.
“Deeper,” Duke suggested.
“Love. Greed. Rage. How’s that? Any further and you’re into the cosmic issues. We’re specks of dust, insignificant, but we think we’re…”
“Yeah, yeah, sure,” said Pimlipper. He was hard to read. Encouraging and vaguely mocking all at once. “That’s the spirit. Go big. Not what we’re talking about here exactly. But what the hell. You’re moving to the edge of the box. Danny, Juliette. Thoughts?”
They shrugged like they were wired in parallel.
“Let’s take it back,” Brimsnod said. “Back to the real world.”
“The real world?” I said. “From here?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Brimsnod snapped.
I made a gesture that took in the room. The wine cellar. The stuttering candle light. The six dead guys around my table.
Brimsnod’s face did things when she was peeved. Her lips pulled downward, her nose tightened. She looked like she could drive that beak of hers through a plank. “We’re not real enough for you?”
“Compared to the normal day-to-day, let’s just say…”
“It’s a crazy world. We can all agree on that,” said Pimlipper.
“Remind me. What was the question?”
“What gets in the way of life?” Duke repeated.
“I get the feeling this is a trick.”
“Not at all,” Pimlipper said. “It’s like any great idea. Simple. Once you hear the answer you’re going to say, Jesus, of course.”
“Give it another go,” Brimsnod said.
“We’re brainstorming. No wrong answers,” Duke said.
“Not really,” said Brimsnod. “You’ve already come up with a bunch of dumb answers.”
“Death. Death gets in the way of life.”
Pimlipper clapped his hands. “Exactly,” he said. “I told you, he looks like a lump but there’s something to work with here.”
“If I were still a drinking man,” said Duke, “I’d propose a toast.”
“Let’s move it along,” Brimsnod said. No nonsense, that was her. “Juliette. You’re up.”
Tomorrow: It’s the real real thing