Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Heero's flight took him into JFK. It was not the closest airport to the city, but a necessary choice in arranging a rendezvous with his Security Consultant-in-Training flying in from TKI, because it received domestic and international flights. Of course they were all of one nation now, but no one had thought to rename airports ‘intercontinental' yet.
A nor'easter had caused delays in the landing of both flights, and when Heero finally got into the baggage claim area and to the live cargo counter he found Koi had sicked in his crate. Personal communications would be dampened during landing. He had already received, after his devices had a signal again, the automated text message notifying him that his associate's flight was delayed. Even if Claudia's flight had landed around the same time, she would be longer in getting through customs, having come from overseas.
Heero decided it was best to get Koi clean and into fresh air and then meet-up with Claudia. Heero worked quickly, apologizing to Koi that they had to reach a safe place to let him out. Heero popped the wheels from the underside of the crate, collected his luggage and pulled everything along to the area of the port containing shops and restaurants. He cleaned Koi with some PMTs from his satchel and the slicker brush, then cleaned the crate with the towelettes, and napkins found nearby. Heero purchased three bottles of water and emptied half of one into the reservoir in Koi's crate so he could drink.
Heero was still with Koi, holding him on harness and leash, when his phone rang. He saw it was Claudia and answered with the headset. She had just been cleared and suggested they meet to go into Manhatten.
"I am not sure if the shuttle train is running this late, especially with the delay, it may be just as easy to get a taxi, if more expensive."
"You can legitimately bill the client for that."
They decided on a section to meet and Heero let Koi walk before him on the leash while he pulled the crate and luggage atop it. He disliked having the crate to worry about, but unfortunately travel by plane demanded it and the port was not going to let him store it, because it could explode, though an airline might have rented him a crate for a steep fee. In any case, Heero did not really feel too vulnerable, because there were non-lethally armed Preventer agents in the airport as well as cooperating local and commercial security forces. They were there every day, that way, most people did not notice when there we suspected threats, and could go about their business, accustomed to the ever-present security personnel.
It was still raining outside, though the wind seemed to have died down since the reports Heero had heard. Claudia carried an umbrella in her left hand and had a wheeled suitcase in tow and a large bag on her right shoulder. She had the same sort of geek-chic look that Heero was accustomed to seeing. She kissed Heero on either cheek in greeting.
They got utility style taxi at the curb. The crate and luggage was put into the back and Heero climbed into the passenger seats, behind the driver, after Claudia and Koi. He made a point to look at the medallion and the license displayed inside, because it would just be bad for a professional Security Consultant to fall for any scam or plot first thing after coming into New York.
"We're at the Washington Jefferson in Manhatten, it's on West 51st Street, Heero told the driver. There was little traffic on the roads heading into Manhatten from JFK. Inside Manhatten, on the West Side Highway, they noticed more cars, but their taxi continued to move quickly. Heero had not expected a problem coming in Sunday night.
Heero and Claudia talked during the drive, but Heero kept the topic general rather than personal or specific, as he had already once experienced a taxi driver selling information about him to the press. He used much of the time texting Duo to let him know he was safely off the plane and could hardly wait for Duo to arrive Friday.
When the taxi pulled up in front of the hotel, Heero took care of the payment, using a card linked to Lowe Security's account. The driver assisted in getting the luggage from the back. It was raining still and the wind along the street was stronger than at the airport for being channeled between the buildings either side. A doorman held open one of the doors at the front of the building; Heero and Claudia rolled the luggage quickly up the ramp access on the left, and then thanked him as they passed into the wood-paneled lobby.
"You are not worried about the press?" Claudia whispered when she heard Heero tell the desk agent that they had reserved room with twin beds.
Heero gave a short nod to say he had heard, but did not answer where others might hear. The check-in was completed and a porter escorted them up to their room, several floors above. Claudia slipped the porter some Esdees while Heero gave the room a once over. The décor was all very ‘clean lines' and monochromatic and Heero found it pleasant and functional as such. It looked sparse without seeming inexpensive. The building was quite old, judging from it's location and appearance, so the rooms had to be designed to function as hotel rooms with the limited space available in an older building. It was still roomier than many places in the Colonies.
"I saw no problem with sharing the room," Heero said.
"I see no problem for myself, but possibly if the press or paparazzi find us together."
Heero gave a nod to say Claudia had a point and that he knew it. Since adventure in Paris, several publications had pieced together that Johnny Vasquez, the actor, and Claudia Klein, a hacker and possible suspect in events relating to the death of another hacker, were now an item and both had been seen with Heero and Duo in Paris, at the time when the now-well-known interview had been conducted. It was news to some if Heero and Claudia were seen together. "I think it will make the most sense to say you are doing some computer-related work for a business I am associated with and to leave them with that. If I say were are friends on some level, even being true, they might possibly read more into that or else find some scant evidence we are working rather than at leisure and use that to disprove the friendship claim as a lie. I would rather not have them think me caught in a lie."
Claudia agreed this was the best choice. They discussed their upcoming schedule quickly. Heero had two assignments in the city. The first was a residential security test and consultation for the west side penthouse, and Fire Island beach house, of art dealer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Marcellus Lancaster, and when he had learned he had that job, he had done some marketing of his own with hotel owners to solicit their business and found a company that owned multiple hotels in Manhattan, mainly in the Midtown area, that would comp standard rooms a given number of times per month or year, in exchange for given number of reports and tests on hotel security and disaster preparedness, or they would discount more luxurious rooms, for the same work exchange. The hotel testing would be done during the 10 night Heero was in NYC, covering three different hotels. The residential test was to be performed Monday through Thursday, with a rush on processing of Heero's report and consultation the following Monday. Duo arrived on Friday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday he and Heero, as well as Claudia, Johnny and some others they knew, were attending the Bad Apple Fest '98 at the Jacob Javits Center.
Heero borrowed Claudia's umbrella and took Koi down for a walk while Claudia was in the shower. They enjoyed the sites of the northern Theater District by night in rain and then returned to the hotel to wash and go to bed. Monday morning, Heero and Claudia had breakfast at the hotel and then got ready to go to Mr. Lancaster's residence near Central Park's west side. Without the crate and clothing for all the days he would be in the city, there was not much to carry to the worksite, so they could get their walking carrying on bag each. Claudia had agreed, so long as there was not much gear to carry, that a walk in NYC would be good, and there was no need to taxis or trains today.
Heero removed Claudia's Lowe uniform jacket from its vacuum storage bag and presented it to her. She was officially on staff now and once she had completed some training and accompanied Heero on these New York assignments, she would be cleared for solo work. That brought their permanent employees to four and Heero was considering doing some more hiring, depending on how many requests they received over the next month.
The walk along Eight Avenue and through Columbus Circle was pleasant, the rain had stopped, the city smelled fresh, there were reflections of city and sky in the remaining puddles, and the street vendors were selling hats and scarves rather than umbrellas. Marcellus Lancaster lived in a high rise apartment building just west of Central Park. A doorman attended the front entrance, and inside a lobby desk attendant asked what apartment they were visiting and called up to gain permission for them to enter. They even asked for ID. In all, it seemed a very secure apartment building. Heero and Claudia noted cameras in the lobby and elevator.
When they reached the correct floor, the elevator doors opened onto a short hallway. To the left there were two doors and a shorter distance to the right there was one door. This was the entrance they were seeking. They rang at the bell-button and the door was soon opened from within by a middle-aged Caucasian man with graying, neatly cropped hair, wearing what Heero supposed was either an actual robe or what might be termed a smoking jacket over a tee and trousers.
Heero introduced himself, flashing his Lowe ID and then introducing Claudia as his consultant-in-training. He added then, "and this is Koi. He is very well behaved and groomed, but if anyone here has a severe allergy, he can remain at the entrance."
The man, who Heero supposed was Mr. Lancaster from his resemblance to file photos Heero had already been able to access, seemed to do something of a double-take looking at Claudia and then looked briefly at Koi before confirming that he was in fact the homeowner. "You may call me Marcellus," he said, opening the door wider. "Please come in, Heero... and I'm sorry..."
"Claudia," Marcellus repeated.
The front door led into a narrow foyer with two passages leading off of its far end. From the blueprints in public records Claudia had pulled in preparation for the job, Heero had supposed that the Lancaster residence had at one time been two separate smaller penthouses that the building's owner had converted or allowed a tenant to convert to make a single larger residence. Such a residence in this part of New York City indicated money.
There was a small round table decorated with a floral centerpiece and wall mirrors to the right and left and at the end of the foyer, between the doorways, an impressionist cityscape which might have been an older version of New York, if not a European city.
"I have some part-time staff that comes in to take care of things, but I gave them all the morning off so you might have unobstructed access to all parts of the residence and be free to do your work."
"I appreciate it," Heero said. He paused and their client did not speak or suggest moving so Heero continued. "I received the information you sent in your previous communications to LoweSec, if you would like to discuss your specific needs, perhaps you have a place you would like to sit or to have us set up?"
"Of course. Forgive me. Right this way." Marcellus led them through the right doorway, through another narrow hall-like chamber and then into what might be a receiving room or room with similar function. There were some brown leather chairs grouped on a modern art design area rug and there was a bar with steel and crystal accessories along the right side. This room also had art in the form of framed black and white photos on one wall and a classical male nude or reproduction thereof on a Corinthian style pedestal.
Heero sat in one of the chairs and signaled Koi to sit, at which Koi crouched beside his right leg. He removed his mobile from his satchel and opened it on the glass and metal coffee table. Claudia sat in a chair opposite and Marcellus at Heero's left.
Heero pulled up his notes on the client's requests. He already knew the measure of the residence's floor space and approximate number of rooms, and if the few he had seen were an accurate indication, then something Lancaster worked with brought in a lot of money. "I thought, first, we would go over any present security devices and procedures you use and your expectations for our test and future security, and then do the actual walkthrough and continue from there."
"And you wanted to get the timeframe for visiting the other residence," Claudia reminded.
"I thought tomorrow would be best, but if that does not fit your schedule, we can work with you to fit in the walkthrough there another day this week."
"Tomorrow will work well enough. I have some business in town in the early part of the day," Marcellus said; his voice was at once upper class and very New York in its sound. "I can send a car to your hotel to take you out to the Island. I was hoping the weather would let up before your visit was ended. I need to go out there myself to investigate any storm damage. That occurred this weekend, and will be arriving there later in the day. I have arranged that an associate of mine be there to meet you, should I not be able to go there at a time that was convenient for you to schedule all of your work."
"Tomorrow morning will be fine. We will be at the Washington Jefferson, I will leave a message at the desk to inform us if your car arrives, as I asked them not to disclose I was there to the general public."
"I will have the driver give my name."
"Very good. And I can take it, then, that storm damage and flooding from storm surges should definitely be included in your security concerns regarding that residence?"
"I suppose so. I am afraid I do not remember everything I went over with your Miss Une."
"Aa... I have the agreement here." Heero brought the print-out from his satchel. "If you wish to make any amendments, we can do that now. There is no additional fee involved in considering the storm damage, as my associate has indicated to me that you already requested what we at LoweSec term ‘Class D High', meaning threats to security from persons inside and outside as well as natural disaster, with a wide range of potential risk."
"I am not concerned about your fee, it is more I was not sure of your procedure, if there is a set
"Aa. We actually use one general checklist for each ‘class' and then we have our own list of omissions and additions depending on the region of the physical address and level of security sought ranging from low to very high. It is also customary for me, or any of my consultants, to discuss with our client their specific concerns. For example, I had another residential test in the past and it required me to be very thorough and to test for a very wide range of potential hazards, but the client specifically asked me to determine if the structure of the residence could withstand a mobile suit falling onto it. It was peacetime and there were no areas nearby where mobile suits were known to work and it was not directly beneath a flightpath, so I would not have considered this by default, assuming the risk to be minimal. As it was requested, I did the analysis and determined that with addition of certain materials to the structure, it could actually be made to withstand the impact, though some roofing tiles or photovoltaic panels might have to be replaced. The client happened to decide to make the change to the structure."
"Then, may I see the checklist?"
"Certainly. Heero pulled up the general checklist for D Class and then the New York City omission and addition list." He turned the monitor toward his client. "And there is also a third list for Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern North American East District property, which would apply to your beach home. I think storm damage is covered there."
"Off-flight-path aircraft collision?"
"Yes," Heero said quietly, "The Colonial omissions and additions list always includes off-flight-path aerospace craft collision."
"I approve completely!" Marcellus said strongly. "Everything appears very thorough and in good order."
Claudia passed a LoweSec pen across the table. Marcellus signed the agreement.
When they discussed the security already in place, they then began the walkthrough with Marcellus. He would show them through all the rooms and mention any specific valuables he wanted protected, and after the walkthrough Heero and Claudia would have access to the residence to evaluate each room individually. Heero mentioned again, quickly, that Claudia was in training and he hoped Marcellus would not mind if he occasionally stopped the walkthrough to go over a procedure or a point of interest with her. Of course, Heero said, he was quite experienced and their client should feel secure that Heero was the supervising consultant here.
Heero patted his leg to signal Koi to come along when they were ready to begin the walkthrough. "Is the art in these rooms a particular concern?" Heero asked. The three photos on the wall depicted orchids, the profile of a Greek statue, and the torso of a dark-skinned man, respectively. The statue on the pedestal was similar to the one in the photo.
"Mapplethorpes," Marcellus said. "Yes."
Heero gave a nod to Claudia and she tapped at her pad to make the note.
The following rooms were just as luxurious, rich-looking and filled with art. Now and then Marcellus would reveal that a certain artwork was not an original, but a reproduction or a print, but in the main, each room displayed multiple pieces or original art. He had a room, which he said was locked whenever large number of people were in attendance, such as at parties, where some very old pieces or art and artifacts were stored. Their client had indicated that he had never had a problem with theft, but an acquaintance of his had recently lost some artwork to theft, and this had inspired him to improve his security. Also, his insurers would be pleased to learn of the improvements and possibly give him slightly better rates.
When the walkthrough was complete, Heero explained that now he would like to leave the house to take a brief lunch with his associate and then return to continue their evaluation. Marcellus should expect them here into the evening, given the area of the residence, and then at his beach house the next day. Wednesday and Thursday they would continuing their work, either by testing out Marcellus's net security and vulnerability to identity theft or fraud or by returning to his residences to make additional measurements. They would call ahead on those days to arrange the best time for visits, as they would not need to be on site all day.
Marcellus agreed to this and asked if they would still be able to turn in their results by Monday. Heero said they would, and he would set the precise time for the meeting during this week.
They ate lunch at the Hard Rock Café, passing Koi off as a helper animal when questioned, and accepting a table close to the door. They both ordered burgers and floats; it seemed very American. Heero read the notes Claudia had made and gave a few opinions on additional notes she could have made or notes she had made that seemed to include good details or were important to have made.
Claudia asked about his impressions of the client and the residence. "It is a beautiful home," Heero said, "he obviously has a lot of money and a lot of things he wishes to protect."
They went back to work, after lunch. They first went over all points of egress, including doors, windows and access panels leading into the penthouse and the elevator shaft, roof and lobby and sublevel parking of the building. When they had taken necessary measurements and notes, they went on to security of rooms within the home and of individual items the homeowner wished to secure. Marcellus came to look in on them now and then and ask if they had everything they needed. He changed his clothing through the day, first removing the jacket, then wearing a sweater, and later I the evening appearing in a suit.
"I see you have reached this side of the house," he said, when they were in the bedroom for the third time that day, "does that mean you will be calling it a day soon?"
"Soon," Heero said.
"That's good. Would you be interested in going to a gallery opening?"
"Who is showing?" Heero asked, "is it a single artist?"
"Yes. A Photographer. He works under the name Ganymede. This show is something of a departure from his previous work, if you know it."
"Sorry, I do not know of the artist," Heero said honestly, "Is this particular gallery one you have to make an appointment or be on a mailing list to visit?"
"No, that is not necessary?"
"Well, I will be busy tonight with work," Heero said, trying to sound casual, since this was his client, "but if you recommend it, maybe I will go to the gallery this weekend." He would ask Duo if he wanted to go.
"Sure. Let me know when you are ready to leave. I will walk you out and give you the info on that gallery."
They finished their work shortly and found Marcellus in the receiving room. As promised, he locked the house and then took the elevator down with them. In the lobby he gave Heero a postcard sized advertisement for a Gallery, downtown, in SoHo. The artwork featured in the ad depicted a teenaged boy in something like a devil costume, of course this had a very ‘artistic' look and was not anything like a brightly lit snapshot of a kid in a Halloween costume.
"Is it a Halloween theme?" Heero asked.
"No, only coincidentally some of the subject matter may seem that way, and of course the gallery owner, a friend of mine, is taking advantage of the timing."
"I will see if any of my friends would like to go," Heero said.
Heero and Claudia took a short walk in Central Park, mainly for Koi's benefit, and then walked back to the WJ. They put their bags and jackets away in their room and then went downstairs to the restaurant inside the hotel which featured sushi and shocho bars to have dinner and drinks.
They spent quite a few hours going over the data from the Lancaster penthouse and then Heero said he should go check on the security of the exercise room. Tomorrow would be a long day, also, and he needed to start on acquiring data for the report on the hotel's security before he checked out on Thursday. When he was finished with his workout, Heero called up to Claudia to ask her to order room service from the room, so he could see if he was able to gain access to the food before it reached the room.
When Heero let himself into the room a short while later, the food was already delivered and Claudia asked if it was safe to eat. Heero gave a nod. "They use a service elevator and the cart is manned all along the way. The only way might be gaining access to the kitchen, but the kitchen itself seems fairly secure, despite the number of movies with chase scenes through hotel kitchens."
Claudia laughed and said she had ordered them ice cream. Heero sighed and said he wanted to call Duo. He took one of the bowls of ice cream and sat on his bed and dialed Duo's phone. Heero supposed he would be on base now, as the time difference would still make it night there, though earlier.
"Hey Baby!" Duo answered after one ring. No video came through, so the call was probably routed to that funny old phone Duo liked to use.
"We are eating room service ice cream."
Duo laughed; it sounded sexy. "I'm just up shooting the shit with Tro."
"Did he tell you I know."
"How you watch out for eachother."
Heero could hear Trowa laugh and then some low unintelligible conversation. Duo then spoke again, "And did he make it clear that it is just sleeping as in me keeping him from waking others screaming in Spanish about who has switched sides and who is or is not crossing the border into Argentina or whatever the fuck he has nightmares about?"
"Of course he did not say all of that," Heero replied, "I meant ‘sleeping' when I asked him about it, and I rather thought it might be him waking you out of nightmares."
"He is so fucking devious and manipulative. You just think I am testing you subconsciously all the time, but this guy really is testing everyone all the time, consciously probably. Ouch! Get off!"
Heero ate some ice cream and listened to Duo and Trowa curse at each other for a while. "Ok, you know I did not mean that literally, right?" Duo asked and continued without a reply, "I was not lying, but I was exaggerating, because it was a joke. You understand that?"
"Yes. Tell Trowa I understand."
Heero could hear distant speaking and then Duo said, "Hold on a sec, I'm going into my own room now." There were sounds that could be doors opening and closing and then Duo said, "OK. Alone now. Trowa can't take jokes sometimes. He gets really upset about what other people say about him."
"I know." Heero knew, and he did not really understand why Duo continued to press Trowa in this matter.
"I just want to say that I really regret that we fight sometimes. I really don't want to rehash any specific difference, just to let you know, that it's not that I enjoy it in any way, and even couples that do really love each other fight sometimes."
Duo took a deep breath. "And whatever happens, or whatever we fight about, I love you. Ya know? Not just the 'I love ya, Man' way. I really do, and maybe I say it too much one day and not enough the next...maybe I'm not easy to be with all the time or get in a weird mood, but that doesn't really change how I feel, just how I express it."
"I do understand."
"Sometimes... I never want to hurt you..."
"Duo. I understand. A person can have such a good intention to spare another from pain that they start to think they could spare that other from the most amount of pain by just leaving,"
"And I know you understand how that works, and I know that we both promised not to do it that way. Maybe it was not a promise, exactly, or rather it was not worded that way, but I think that is what we really meant when we said we wanted to be together, not just for a day."
"Forever, Heero," Duo whispered.
"Yes, and I understand that sometimes, we will hurt each other, maybe a lot, but there is good to us being together, enough that we can say however much pain there is, it is not enough to make us want to leave the other. And still, even knowing that, that does not stop either of us from feeling hurt when we fight. Even if you or I can say we are not just leaving, at the time, it still hurts a lot."
"Yeah, I got that. I know it's hard sometimes, when you are hurt, to say you love someone or want to stay with them. I guess that is understandable, I mean, if you are really hurting at the time. But, somehow, it can be worked out and we can be OK again."
"Yes. Do you want to go to a gallery this weekend?"
"It's just, I got invited to go, but I was busy and I did not want to go alone with that person, even though I am sure it was not meant to be a date, and I thought maybe you would like it, so I asked about visiting at other times, and maybe we can go Sunday, if you would like. The artist is a photographer named Ganymede."
"Yeah, I mean, sure! Sounds like something that could be worth checking out. Thanks for asking!"
Heero smiled and mushed his spoon into his melting ice cream. "I should go now, I have a lot to do tomorrow."
"And it's even later there."
"I love you."
"Love you, too, Baby!"
Heero disconnected. He looked at Claudia; she was wearing headphones in her ears. She had probably heard a lot of Heero's conversation, but it seemed very courteous of her to pretend she had not been able to hear. Heero ate a little more ice cream, then got ready for bed. When he went to sleep, Koi jumped up on the bed and curled up at Heero's knees, so that he would not be sleeping alone.
The car that arrived in the morning was a limousine. The driver held the door while Heero, Koi and Claudia ducked into the rear of the vehicle. There was a window between the front bench seat and the rear passenger area, and as soon as the driver was in his seat again, he activated the intercom to be heard clearly through the glass and explained they would be in the car 60-to-90 minutes, depending on traffic, and then take a ferry across to Fire Island where Mr. Hilton would meet them to show them the house.
Heero had been in a limousine before, though not on any regular basis, just during the time when he was pulling Guard duty for the vice minister, before people like Duo and Dorothy took over that job. There was a certain element of unease, as there was when letting someone else pilot an aerospace craft. His hands and feet sometimes moved reflexively to work phantom controls in response to the vehicle's movement. It often went away when Duo or Trowa drove or piloted, and that meant something about Heero's trust level in each of them. Otherwise, every time he took a commercial flight, or a taxi, or used other public transportation he made a conscious effort to push the need to control the vehicle into some sub sub subdirectory of his mind. When he was able to do that, it became almost relaxing to ride without being at the controls. Heero could get things done.
During the ride out to Sayville, on Long Island, Heero and Claudia discussed the assignment and worked on writing the report that Heero would present to Marcellus Monday, with comments where they needed to do further analysis.
When they arrived in Sayville at the parking lot for those transferring from cars to ferry, the driver spoke again to say they had made decent time and the next ferry should be boarding shortly. "Mr. Hilton will meet you once you ferry over to The Pines," he said. He walked around to let them out of the limo, and when he had closed the door, their driver handed Heero two tickets for the ferry, courtesy of Mr. Lancaster.
"I have never been to this part of New York," Claudia said as they walked to the boarding ramp. "It seems... quaint... laid back, as they say."
"It does," Heero said, "I think many communities on Long Island were first summer resorts for people living in the boroughs, before they had permanent residents."
They decided to ride on the upper level, though the motion of the ferry on the waves was more noticeable there and the movement and sea air combined to cause a chill wind, because it offered the better view. Heero checked on Koi often. Koi did not usually get spacesick and had been on trains and planes and in cars before, but the turbulence of their last flight had made him sick. The canine seemed in good spirits and Heero knew Marcus had seen him recently and declared him healthy, so he did not worry much. When he got back to Sitka, he would ask Marcus about it. Maybe Koi had just been pushed past his tolerance.
As they approached the long, narrow barrier island, many bay side beach homes came into view. Some appeared modest constructions with great location, but many seemed spectacular homes as well. Heero noticed a lot of glass, and he supposed they might have some type of shutters to cover the glass during storms. As the ferry came in closer, toward the harbor, Heero could actually see activity that looked like repair or construction at a few nearby houses.
Once they disembarked, Heero scanned the area for Hilton, but he did not really know what he was looking for. But, though it was unfortunate in some circumstances, Heero was easily recognized. He heard the other man call to him. The man, presumably Hilton, jogged toward them over the wooden walk. He was wearing a tweed jacket, sweater and tee with cropped pants and sandals. Many people in the area were wearing even more casual attire.
Heero made a slight bow to the older man. He supposed he might be in his thirties, possibly just on the border of being old enough to be a parent to someone Heero's age. "Hello there," he said, not quite breathless from the jog, "Hermes Hilton. Marcellus asked me to meet you."
"Heero Yuy. This is my associate Claudia Klein, and Koi."
"Of course. The Pharaoh Hound. He's a beautiful animal. I remember there was one photo with him along with the interview. And he does show up on the ‘news' with you quite often."
"Thank you. He seems a little atypical for his breed, he is not really high strung at all. If you like dogs, you can pet him. He doesn't mind."
Hermes bent to offer his hand to Koi and Koi sniffed at it and then made a bark, just the one. "He's very well trained." Hermes straightened. "Shall we? The easiest way to the house is to take Pine down to Ocean Walk. We're on the ocean side."
"Let's go," Heero agreed. He gave Koi's leash a slight tug and they began to walk. "I feel a little over dressed," Heero said.
"You look perfect. Don't worry about it!"
"Have you seen the house since the storm?"
"Just arrived this morning. It does not look bad, but I have not had time to look at everything closely. We often loose pieces off the roof. That's very typical."
"How long have you been in the house, or has Marcellus owned it?"
"This was only the second summer. We had a place in Cherry Grove on the bay side and then I found us this place. That was a sweet deal. I made broker soon after that."
"In Real Estate?"
Hermes flipped a card from inside his jacket and offered it to Heero between his first two fingers. "Please let me know if you are anyone you know is looking in the area."
Heero pocketed the card. "Is there much of a range in the price? Many of the houses seem...like celebrities would own them."
Hermes laughed warmly. "There is a range of course, but we have some really fabulous houses on the island and in this community. Many are held as investments or second homes, as they are mainly used by owners during some part of the summer season. A lot of renting is done, even during the off season. A lot of the businesses are closed in the off-season, but there are still outdoor activities to enjoy through the year, hiking, fishing, and even if you just stay indoors, it's a nice get away from the city. Actually, I have trouble sleeping out here. I miss the sound of cars passing and the city light filtering in. I need a drink before bed."
Heero nodded, uncertain why Hermes had informed him he needed alcohol to help him sleep. Heero smiled then, in some ways, Hermes reminded him of Quatre. He was quite chipper. Koi lurched and barked at a gull, but Heero gave a tug at the leash to signal him to stop. Koi barked a bit more and then ran around to Heero's other side.
"He does have hunting instincts, so he is not so calm when small wildlife is about," Heero explained. "at home the dogs are always chasing something up a tree."
"You found a house, then?"
"Been there a couple months now."
"Where do you live now?"
Heero almost answered. "Excuse me," he said, "that is something I am trying to keep private."
"Oh, understandable. I have clients that demand various levels of discretion. You understand, celebrities or politicians."
"I understand it well." Heero laughed. "I can say it is somewhere on the opposite side of the continent and is also located on an island."
"What style of house?"
Heero suspected this was something that might be very telling to a realtor. "It might be Craftsman. It's been remodeled a few times, recently by an architect of Japanese descent."
"I do not imagine it is too far from the Bay Area."
Heero smiled, maybe a lot. "No, not too far." His Duo was quite the jet setter.