this is if only [dot] org


“You know the new account, yes? I don’t want another transfer intercepted like–”

Leslie catches up with my intercontinental echo. “The number you scribbled on the napkin at Indigo?”

Happy memories. “Yep. And when do we get to do that again?”

“Not soon. There’s been a change of plan.”

“So the car to London–”

“Won’t be coming. We’re expecting to hear from Sippey any time now.”

The surprise leaks into my reply. “I thought he was taking his operations legit.”

“You didn’t expect it? The new appointments. The surprise guests?”

“Well, you know I don’t pry. And I took the visit from Kottke as a courtesy call.” I glance back towards the bar. “As did most of the women round here.”

You can talk.”

“That was another life, dear. You know the only reason I came out of retirement is to make sure she’s well cared for.” This isn’t part of the game. They live by the A-Link, leaving me to cover up the joins. I take care of their intimacies, keeping my own sacrosanct. “But that’s not important. Should I expect to hear from the others? Boyer? Allen? Lance? You know I need time to prepare if I’m ghosting Lance’s Memos.”

The line is breaking up. “I can’t say,” says Leslie, her voice dropping to a whisper. “and I can’t talk now. The croupier is getting suspicious.”

“Okay, okay. I’m on the case. But tell Alexis that she owes me a decade of martinis.”


Stepping back out front, I check the clock and ring the bell. “Time at the bar, please.” A few murmurs of discontent, but soon the place is clear and the shutters down. And I climb down to the cellar, ease past the kegs and the wine-racks to the back wall, and reach for the switch. The partition slides open. I step through. Half a dozen monitors click out of their screensavers, and as I ease the stopper from the half-empty bottle of scotch, I’m enveloped by the mesmeric hum of processor fans. I pull up a chair and tap out the first few words of five hundred, thinking myself back into the life of another. It’s going to be a long night.