The couch here is unusable, with no sitting scripts. Tired of standing, Bill (Wheeler) rezzes a wearable chair in Philip Strevor’s so-called “waiting room” and tries to be patient. 1 1/2 hours Mrs. Hazelhurst has been in there, she complains inwardly, but does not dare to say aloud. This place has been bugged for as long as she can remember.
The Boss was admiring his mermaid cabinet when Bill walked in. She had not seen Mrs. Hazelhurst in the hallway but had heard the shutting door. Bill figured she exited through the lounge.
“Red, green, blue,” he began, describing the string of shiny, netted balls immediately before him. “The mermaids and mermen called them marbles for some reason.” He turned to face Bill. “How can I help you today?”
Bill crossed her arms. “You called *me* here. Remember?”
“Oh yes. Of course.” He waved for Bill to be seated. He took his place in The Boss’ chair. “I’m sorry there’s no chair available. The maid took it off for cleaning.”
“That’s all right,” Bill said matter of factly. “I came prepared this time.” She rezzes her wearable attachment again and automatically has a seat in it. She then positions herself so she can face Philip squarely.
“Rat lost his property in the Pond District,” he then said, appearing to scan the photos on the bulletin board beside him. “Owner came back and returned his vanity, his ratmobile. Now why would someone squander a perfectly good piece of property beside that beautiful Linden right of way, not rezzing a house, a farm, nothing?”
“They don’t appreciate what they have,” offered Bill. “They don’t understand the beauty, the loveliness, of Our Second Lyfe.”
“Perhaps.” He leans forward, looking down to consider and then up again. “We made your chess move while you were away playing that role. “Pawn to King 3. I hope you don’t mind. We figured we couldn’t keep Ellen waiting any longer.”
Bill felt the anger rising within but bit her tongue again. “I see,” she managed after a weighted pause. “And has Ellen had time to respond? Or is he still stuck on the beach?” She tried to smile but found she couldn’t.
“The New Island beach, yes,” Philip Strevor said nonchalantly. “The Hook I think they call it in that Moth Man’s book. He removed his web site because of us, you know. Didn’t like the idea of another New Island besides his own. The one *he* owns the trademark for. A public/private domain affair again. I have a whole drawer full of those kind of documents.
“I know,” replied Bill. “She then glances at the money and Philip follows her eyes. “Still haven’t put away that wad of cash, eh? Gloating at the clientele, are you? Like me.”
“No,” Philip said. “That a new stack. Mrs. Hazelhurst graciously gave it to us in return for her safe passage to Zindra. Lots of people leaving this place, Wheeler, er Bill. The axemen and swordsmen and their ilk can’t keep them here forever. Soon enough, people cave in on paying the price. Your friend Roger Pine Ridge is next, if you ask me.”
“You’re barking up the wrong tree there, I think. Roger doesn’t have any money. Cyberpaperdoll got out of the village with that cash they made from the (ruby) slippers heist. Roger thought Iris would be safe — away from prying eyes over at Collagesity. He was wrong.”
Philip settled back into his seat, getting comfortable. “I know all about that. We don’t want his money, we want his *time*. Though brain damage could come later.”
“Hmm.” Bill paused, then: “How much time does he have?”
“Two, three, four weeks on this?” Philip answered as a question.