86. Mischief, Pure and Simple

A few steps and Doris, Duke and Pimlipper were gone.

“Where they headed?” I asked Brimsnod.

“Does it matter? It’s all the same.”

She went quiet. Her eyes lost their focus, like she wasn’t there.

I didn’t want to be with her, but I didn’t want to be alone.

“Brimsnod!” I said.

She shook her head, snapped back into the here and now.

“Sleeping? I thought you didn’t need to.”

“More like suspended animation. Dreaming without the sleep. We got a lot of time down here. Wakefulness, consciousness, whatever you want to call it, it wears you out. You’ll see.”

“Not so soon, I hope.”

She shrugged.

“You know something I don’t?”

“Where would I start on that?” she said.

Brimsnod looked like she was drifting off again.

I heard a murmur, like the noise from a distant stream. Whispers. Conversation at a remove. Screams from a long way off. Where it all came from was impossible to say.

“Brimsnod!”

“Jesus, what?”

“Why did they haul Doris off?”

“I’m the junior partner. They don’t tell me everything. You’ll find out soon enough. We both will.”

Again, silence.

“Brimsnod.”

“A minute of quiet. It wouldn’t kill us,” she said.

“I got to ask. Why did you rat me out? Jen LItely. Doris didn’t need to know.”

“Solidarity. Woman to woman.”

“Seriously?”

“Not really. Let sleeping dogs lie, you heard of that?”

“Sure.”

“You believe it?”

“I don’t know. Depends.”

“I’ve kicked sleeping dogs. Just to hear them yelp.”

“I still don’t see why you turned on me.”

“It’s not about you.”

“Sure it is.”

“Okay then. It’s mischief. Pure. Simple. Occupy the time. Separate one moment from the next. You’ll see.”

“You keep saying that.”

I heard shuffling, foot dragging. Voices. “Your Greatness!” someone called.

Those kids in their hoodies appeared again.

“Gentlemen. A pleasure, as always.” Not really, considering that Brimsnod called them angels of death. No point in dwelling on that. “Game over?”

“Game’s never over.”

“Players always playin’. To quote.”

“Who?”

“Everybody.”

“I could go for a game myself at the moment,” I said. “Never played shuffleboard in my life. But now I’m killing time.”

“So we hear.”

“Really?”

“Word travels. Word trots right along.”

“You leave your cues back at the court?”

“Your Immensity. Begging your forgiveness. We’re cueless. Plus, at the moment we find ourselves pressed for time.”

“That seems surprising, boys.”

“Could be worse. Trust us on that.”

They scuffled off. I thought of rousing Brimsnod again.

Monday: The only real question