Jim waited patiently for the members of the executive council to finish their discussion that he completely ignored. He kept thinking about last night with Marlene. When she'd bitten him on the neck it was the most thrilling sexual experience he'd ever had. He almost came in his pants, which he hadn't done since sixth grade, with Bunny Scapella, in the playroom of her semi-finished basement. He couldn't get Marlene off his mind and had been up most of the night, fantasizing about seeing her again, wondering if she knew other kinky tricks. He didn't hear Roger the first time he said his name, and jumped when Roger said loudly, "Come in, Earth. Where are you, Jim?"
He was flustered for a moment, then took a deep breath. "As you know, I met with the representative from the Enhanced Life Foundation yesterday."
"We know that," Gerard remarked pleasantly. "Tell us what happened."
"We talked about a collaborative project, then Ms. Dumont told me about the Foundation. They're a really great organization. They fund dozens of worthwhile causes. You should see their laboratory. Ms. Dumont gave me the tour. It's state of the art. And they don't compete with any other scientific institutions for funding. They're doing incredible work on AIDS treatments.
"Are they on the track of a cure?" Roger asked.
"I don't know where they're at."
"Why not? Gerard asked.
"I'm just getting to know them."
"Have you agreed on a project for our consideration?" Allen said.
"What have you been doing there?" Juan demanded.
"I've been spending most of the time with Marlene Dumont. She's their director of special projects. She's wonderful. She's bright, talented, passionately committed to her work and exciting to be with."
"Wow!" Juan snapped.
"What?" Jim asked.
"I said wow! Wow!!! Wow!!! What have you been doing with that girl?"
"Exploring projects, as you requested," he replied defensively.
"You sound suspiciously enthusiastic," Juan said sarcastically. "Where have you been ... exploring?"
Without thinking. Jim blurted: "We went to a club last night and ..."
"A club?" Tim said in surprise.
"What kind of club?" Tim demanded.
"A dance club. What difference does it make?"
"You're supposed to be working on Gay Health Alliance affairs," Tim responded.
"That's right," Allen chimed in supportively.
"I put in over fourteen hours yesterday," Jim stated, "and I don't get paid overtime."
"It sounds like you collected something," Juan sneered.
"What are you trying to say?"
"We want to remind you of your responsibilities to the Alliance," Tim said.
"Yeah. Don't make us look bad by going out with a woman," Juan shuddered.
"You've got to be kidding."
"I think everyone is concerned that you behave appropriately," Roger said reasonably.
Jim stood up indignantly. "You guys have a hell of a nerve. I was hired as a social worker. I volunteered for an extra project, because I believe in this organization and its mission. If you're not satisfied with my job performance, fire me. But don't criticize my after-hours activities. They're none of your business."
"You're awfully feisty," Tim remarked.
"I don't like my personal rights violated, especially by people who are supposed to be sensitive to the rights of others."
"So now we're insensitive?" Allen asked.
"That's a new one for gays," Gerard laughed.
"You have to understand our position. We don't want to look ridiculous to the media," Roger explained.
"They're out for blood," Tim added.
"I get the message. Don't worry. I'll be discreet ... I guess I shouldn't tell you what Marlene told me last night about our grant application."
"You talked to her about money?" Tim said.
"I didn't bring it up. She did. She told me we'll be refunded."
"We'll get the grant?" Gerard asked.
"That's what she said."
"You can see her as much as you like," Juan said expansively.
"I appreciate that," Jim muttered.
"That's great news," Roger exclaimed. "The money will let us help so many needy people."
"Now you be sure to treat her good. Jim," Juan urged. "You make her happy."
All the council members beamed encouragingly at Jim.
Deputy Inspector McBride struggled to remain patient as his boss ranted on the phone about the lack of progress in the Righteous Avengers murder. He stared out the window at the East River, hoping for some interesting boat traffic to divert him from the grating, unpleasant voice. But all he saw was a water taxi, an old oiler, probably designed and built by Robert Fulton and a lone jet-ski that he thought of as a cockroach of the waterways. The pause in the irate voice brought him back to full attentiveness and he answered smoothly, "There are no new developments, sir ... That's right. We have two detectives on the case ... Yes, sir. They were selected for sensitivity ... I expect to hear from them any moment. Why don't we wait to assign more men until we hear from them." His secretary opened the door and waved frantically from outside his office, and signaled him that Ribowski and Williams were there. "I'll call you within the hour ... We are moving on this ... Good-bye, sir." He disconnected the call and muttered, "Suck ass!" then signaled his secretary to send in Ribowski and Williams. When they entered a moment later, he asked accusingly, "I hope you have some results for me."
Ribowski and Williams looked at each other and Ribowski replied. "Not yet."
"Great. Just what I needed to hear."
"But we're building good will for the department," Ribowski added.
"Fuck good will," McBride snarled. "Catch those psychos."
"We've got an idea, Inspector," Williams offered.
"Let's hear it."
"The two guys who found the body didn't see anything."
"So where does that leave us?"
"If we arrange a leak to the media that we have two witnesses, maybe these Righteous Avengers will try to get them. One of the tv reporters at the scene saw the witnesses. He'll put two and two together and describe them."
"All we have to do is cover both of them thoroughly and pick up whoever tries for them," Ribowski said.
"These kind of operations are always high risk. What about your two targets? Will they go for this?"
"One of them's a real wimp, but the other one is spunky. I think he'll do it," Williams stated.
"He told us he wanted to help," Ribowski declared.
"Did you discuss this with them?"
"No, sir," Williams replied.
"We wanted to bounce it off you first," Ribowski said.
"Can you call them now?"
Before Williams could say anything else, McBride snapped, "Don't stand there gawking! Call!"
Williams took out his cell phone and dialed.
"Hello, Kenneth? This is detective Williams ... Don't be a smart ass. Can I talk to Bruce? ... No, I don't want to date him. Will you please get him ... Put him on the phone!" He covered the phone and told McBride, "That's the wimp." A moment later he said, "Hello, Bruce. How are you?... Good. We want to leak your names to the media, so the Righteous Avengers will try to get you. We'll have police all around you, so you won't get hurt." He laughed at something Bruce said.
"What did he say?" McBride demanded.
"He said don't tell Kenneth yet, or he'll crap his pants," which gave McBride and Ribowski a laugh. "We'll come by later and discuss the plan. Thanks." He shut the phone off and turned to McBride. "What do you say, Inspector."
"Do we have a green light?" Ribowski asked eagerly.
"Go talk to them. If they agree to cooperate, we'll set up the operation. Now get out of here." Williams and Ribowski started for the door. "By the way, no dating the witnesses," McBride cackled.
"That's not funny," Williams muttered.
"It's sexual harassment in the workplace," Ribowski called, as he and Williams walked out.
"What a pair of New York's finest," McBride said softly. He shook his head despairingly, then dialed his phone. "Hello, sir. We've got a plan."