1. A NEW LIFE
She was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. When we met they tell me I gaped, that was the effect she had on people. It was at the midsummer employee party, held as always at an exclusive country club on the southern outskirts of Orlando. The sort of place I'd have loved to join, a) if I could afford the fees and b) if they'd have accepted me - which they wouldn't.
The CEO faced no such problem. They'd probably approached him to become a member; such was the kudos of having the head of Bio-Life Corporation on the books. BLInc was one of Florida's leading scientific research and manufacturing companies, a major supplier to the Government and the biggest employer in Orange Grove. In fact, it was the only employer of any consequence in the small settlement, built some thirty years ago on the site of a citrus fruit farm. Orange trees still grew in the grounds, scenting the evening air in spring and summer.
The company didn't advertise its presence except by a discreet sign at the entrance. There was one way into the site and one way out, through the pair of gates in the perimeter fence. Security was very tight, as befits a company involved in top-secret defence work. Few people were aware of what BLInc did and that suited the company fine.
I was a software developer, working on a mixture of artificial intelligence and control systems projects. My security clearance was high but there were many who had higher. To obtain employment you had to be positively vetted, involving a detailed examination of your background - family, education, military service and previous employment. You could be the best programmer on earth but involvement in radical student politics would disqualify you.
A New Yorker by birth, I'd moved to the Sunshine State because I could no longer take the harsh northern winters. After the hustle and bustle of Big Apple life, not to mention the customary rudeness, Florida was a real eye-opener. Laid back? Life was almost horizontal.
After the trials and tribulations of a failed marriage to my college sweetheart I was looking forward to a new crowd and a new social life. The young, mostly under-35 workforce at BLInc believed in mixing business with pleasure and socialised after work pretty much every evening and over the weekend too. As is to be expected from an IT crowd, this meant booze for most, drugs for some and a constant merry-go-round of relationships with colleagues. Being Florida, this included straight and gay relationships, plus all shades in between.
Howard Watson was my supervisor, at 37 one of the oldest employees in the company. He'd taken a fatherly interest in me when I joined, even though he was only six years my senior, and made sure I learned the ropes and fitted into the company culture. Openly gay but not effeminate, Howard made it his business to introduce me to a whole range of BLInc's female employees as soon as he heard I was unattached. He knew everyone's background and a fair bit of his or her business too but managed to avoid appearing nosey or a gossip.
If you wanted to hear the dirt on anyone, you stood Howard a couple of beers in his favourite bar on the Village Square. Zizi's wasn't a gay bar. Howard said he hated such places as they ghettoised a person like him instead of treating him as a Floridian that was just a bit different.
One Friday evening, when he was on his third Coors, Howard touched me on the shoulder. "Tony, are you seeing anyone right now?" he asked with that concerned look on his perma-tanned face. "Only there's someone that's just made for you." How could I ignore an offer like that? "Tell me more", I replied with obvious interest.
2. THE PARTY
On arrival at the Indian Lakes Country Club we were directed to a drop-off point where uniformed college students operated a valet parking service. They were clearly used to parking better cars than were appearing that evening, a mixture of family sedans, pick-up trucks and the odd classic from the '60s and '70s. Just wait until these self-important preppies have kids and mortgages, then you can laugh at what they'll be driving! At least my old Mustang raised a "Mmm, cool" from the 20-something Midwesterner who took my keys. "Make sure you bring it back without any dents!" I said, looking him squarely in the eyes.
A self-important man in a Ruritanian uniform opened the door and said an insincere "Good evening" to each arrival. The well-marked path led to a point where a young woman in a waitress uniform took your name and passed it to an MC who announced you in a stentorian voice. Particularly well-known or popular staff members were applauded with a volume and duration appropriate to their status. My arrival produced a ragged cheer from a group of developers from the IT section.
With champagne in hand, we circulated in a large reception room and inevitably settled with the colleagues we knew best. For half an hour we chatted inconsequentially until the MC rapped the floor with a large staff and prayed silence for Joe Mancini, CEO of Bio-Life Inc. Joe was a popular boss and knew better than to drone on. He kept his address short and sweet, certainly no longer than five minutes, and was answered with genuine applause.
After that we went out onto the lawn to the buffet that was being served in giant marquees. There started the inelegant juggling of plates, forks and glasses that characterises outdoor picnics. A glance at one's colleagues' plates revealed a predictable lading. Jesus Velasquez, a short rotund PC support analyst, clearly intended to stock up on food for the weekend and held a conical mound of Tex-Mex specialities in one hand and a bottle of Dos Equis with a segment of lime in the other. In contrast, Laura Lazenby, the Development Manager's PA, toyed with a few salad leaves whilst sipping soda water, her face bearing its usual disdainful expression.
Hungry though I was, I'd restricted my choice to items that didn't involve getting sticky fingers, thus I looked wistfully at the barbecued ribs as I passed them by. I'd almost finished my plate when Howard announced his presence with his customary touch on the shoulder.
"Tony, I'd like you to meet Julie," he said, beaming his winning smile. I turned and saw a vision of loveliness I'd only ever dreamt about. The vision stood about five feet six, about a hundred and twenty pounds, with shoulder length chestnut hair. She smiled demurely and shook my hand, sending a frisson of excitement running through my body. So this was the someone, I thought!
"I'll leave you two to get to know each other," Howard said as he detached himself, "there's somebody I must see" and walked purposefully in the direction of his partner who worked in sales administration. I was acutely aware of all the eyes focussing on me, more so on the goddess by my side. Jesus' face said it all – how come that only so-so guy's got lucky?
Julie was everything I could want; pretty, well dressed and attentive, hanging on my every word. I talked too much, as is my habit when I'm nervous, but she showed no sign of irritation by it. I offered my arm, she took it and we promenaded the assembled company. The men couldn't disguise their admiration and envy of the position I'd suddenly found myself in, while the women's reaction ranged from friendliness to open jealousy. A notorious lesbian from the garage tried to relieve me of my prize but Julie tightened her grip on my arm and steered me towards the lake.
We walked for a long time until we heard music across the water. "Let's go back – I'd like to dance," she said and I dutifully obliged. At that moment there was nothing I wouldn't have done for her. We stepped onto the raised decking that formed a dance floor and started to dance. Born with two left feet, I'd never been much of a dancer but Julie skilfully eased my way though jive, Latin and smoochy numbers.
Another tap on the shoulder announced Howard and his "excuse me", taking Julie through a well-executed waltz. Tall and handsome, he was every woman's dream and several had tried to change his ways, none with any success. He enjoyed the company of women but not sexual contact with them. The waltz over, he returned Julie to me. "Thank you", he said a little breathlessly, "that's my dancing over for another year. Goodnight to you both." He left the podium and disappeared into the darkness.
It never occurred to me to enquire how she'd got there and a little after twelve-thirty, I led her around to the collection point and asked for my car. We drove the ten miles to the small, gated community where I lived in a three bedroom single storey Spanish-style house.
I've never been one to kiss-and-tell, so you'll have to imagine how we spent that warm summer night. The following morning I awoke to find that Julie had risen and made a breakfast of fresh orange juice, croissants and coffee. We lingered over our first meal together, making plans for her to move in with me. She resolutely refused my offer to drive her home and asked me to call a cab instead.
At one o'clock, she left me after a lingering kiss and I watched the cab drive down the main street to the entrance, around the corner and out of my sight. I was in a daze. Was this really happening to me? Surely I'd wake up in a moment and find it had all been a dream. As time went by I realised it was no reverie and this was confirmed by a phone call from Julie, saying she'd be arriving the next morning with her things.
I drove to the supermarket and bought a selection of groceries, including things that had never been on my shopping list before. I had no idea of Julie's tastes so I'd better be prepared for anything. I also bought five bunches of flowers, to the obvious surprise of the Puerto Rican checkout girl who'd only seen me buy basics and ready meals before. Did I really need all that flour, all those cake mixes, she asked?
I returned home and spent the afternoon and part of the evening doing housewifely chores until the place was fit to receive a princess, that was how I saw the situation. I tried to watch a movie on TV but couldn't concentrate on the plot, my mind being full of Julie and our life together. For make no mistake – I'd made up my mind that I'd ask her to marry me the following evening.
3. THE PROPOSAL
I was expecting at least a vanload but she arrived with two suitcases. Over coffee I asked her where the rest was. "There isn't any," she said, "All my things are in these cases." She must have put the rest in storage, I thought, until she judges that our relationship's a success. It didn't take her long to stow her things away. They were mostly clothes and toiletry items with only the bare minimum of personal possessions. Every girl I'd ever known had had a collection of soft toys, high school souvenirs and the like but not Julie.
She said she'd fix something for dinner but I said I'd like to welcome her to my life by taking her out for a special meal. "That would be nice," she said and I reached for the phone to make a table reservation.
We drove to the Village Square and parked the car in front of The Gypsy's Kiss, a Hungarian-themed restaurant popular with BLInc people with something to celebrate. My choice of venue was influenced by a desire to show off my companion to the world at large, or at least to that part of it that dined out in Orange Grove.
Julie was unfamiliar with Hungarian food so I chose for her, avoiding dishes that might upset a delicate stomach. She ate her schnitzel and noodles with relish and expressed her satisfaction with my choice. She tried a forkful of my goulash and didn't pull a face, saying she'd be a bit more adventurous next time.
I was working myself up to put the question that had dominated my mind for the last twenty-four hours. A second glass of Bull's Blood had produced a mellow effect and I was ready to propose marriage. I took a deep breath and said "Julie, we've only known each other for two days but I know I want to share the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"
She smiled at me, took my hand and said "Yes, that would be nice." I don't know what I was expecting her to say but it was sufficient. We ordered dessert and coffee and passed another hour talking about nothing in particular. As we were about to leave she said "Just one thing; I can't have children, something's not quite right inside. Do you still want to marry me?"
At that moment nothing could be farther from my mind than children. My first marriage had been childless, just as well as it turned out. My sister had two girls and was expecting another child in the fall, hoping for a boy. "Of course I do, but can't anything be done? I mean there's so many new treatments nowadays."
"No," she replied firmly, "a lot of tests have been made but nothing can be done for me." The finality of her words surprised me but I accepted them. "Never mind," I said, "My sister's brood will have a doting aunt and uncle."
Back home, over a nightcap, I asked her what she did. "I work for BLInc like you, in the Sanctum." My eyes widened. The Inner Sanctum was where the really secret stuff took place, stuff that needed the very highest security clearance to get anywhere near. "I am impressed," I said. "Doing what?"
"You know very well that I can't tell you," she said a bit sharply. Seeing my crestfallen look, she moved over, sat on my lap and kissed me full on the mouth. "Sorry about that, I have no choice. Come on, let's go to bed."
4. THE WEDDING
We were married a month later at Cypress Gardens. I was hot under the collar in my hired tuxedo but Julie was as cool as a cucumber and looked the picture of radiance in a traditional white wedding gown.
Mine was not a big family and of those invited, barely half made it to Florida. My mother chided me for marrying in haste and asked if there was anything I wanted to tell her, clearly hoping for another grandchild. No chance there, Mom, if Julie's prognosis was correct. Dad was clearly taken with Julie and spent the afternoon checking his tie and his hair in every available reflection.
Julie had even fewer guests, just two girl friends from work. What they lacked in numbers, Joanne and Jennifer made up for with poise, grace and beauty. No bride could have wished for more accomplished attendants. Dad - with a connoisseur's eye for such things - observed that, but for their different hair and skin colourings, they could have all been sisters.
Thus I embarked on the happiest time of my life. Things couldn't have been more different from my first marriage. I'd known Marilyn since college where we'd taken an apartment to share costs, or that was what we'd told our parents. To start with her sister had occupied the third bedroom but moved out when it was clear which way the wind was blowing. I don't think I'd have wanted to be a gooseberry either.
We were happy for a few years until her parents began applying pressure on us to regularise the union. I didn't mind one way or another. After all, we'd been living together for four years and if a piece of paper would make her mother happy, that was fine with me.
I suppose we grew bored with each other. I began working late and she took to going on girls' nights out, frequently returning in the small hours and the worse for drink. One night, instead of creeping in and going silently to her room (for we were sleeping apart by then) she slammed the front door and opened my bedroom door. She turned the light on. I wasn't asleep but I had to squint against the sudden brightness. She stood unsteadily in the doorframe, trying to focus her bleary eyes on me.
"I'm pregnant," she blurted out in a slurred voice. Before I could say anything she continued "It's not yours, don't think you'd be so lucky!" With that she slammed the door and made her unsteady way to her own room.
The following morning I was up early and had packed an overnight bag before I heard sounds of movement from Marilyn's room. As I carried my bag to the front door, her bedroom door opened. She stood there, looking a total wreck and obviously nursing the mother of all hangovers. Realisation dawned on her that our marriage had reached the end of the line.
"Where are you going?" she asked as I took the car keys from the dresser in the hallway and picked up my bag. "What does it matter to you?" I answered her question with another, opening the door and wedging it with my foot as I passed through. "What have you cared where I've been or what I've done for the last year? Not only have you been sleeping around but you've got the nerve to confront me with the evidence. I hope your boyfriend's a sympathetic type, 'cause I'm not. Goodbye!"
I slammed the door and descended to street level, threw my bag into the trunk and started the car. Marilyn was at the window, screaming "Tony!" over and over again, adding tirades of abuse. Old Mrs Liebowitz passed by, ignoring the commotion. That she should live so long to see what the world had come to…
I drove up into the Catskills and spent the weekend walking miles, trying to make sense of what was happening in my life. On Monday morning I went back into the city and called my brother-in-law Steve, asking him to represent me in my divorce. We snatched lunch at a snack bar between two of his client meetings. Of course, he'd noticed things hadn't been too good for a long time. My sister Wendy had never really liked Marilyn, who was not nearly good enough for her kid brother!
Marilyn saw sense and didn't contest the divorce. With her confinement less than six months away she was happy to take the apartment contents and leave it at that. We knew there was no point in reconciliation. That's how my eighteen-month first marriage ended.
A little older and a lot wiser, my second marriage was absolute bliss. We'd honeymooned in the Bahamas and returned to life in the community on the edge of Orange Grove. Julie was a popular neighbour and made a name for herself as a bridge player. Unfortunately it wasn't a name I'd have chosen.
Susan Johnson next door had asked her to join the ladies who played at the community centre, a five-minute walk from our home. Amazingly, many of those ladies drove the few hundred yards from their homes to the clubhouse. Julie didn't drive, she'd never learned, so she walked or reluctantly accepted a lift from Susan. Their delight in having the young wife in the bridge circle rapidly changed to horror when they realised she had a photographic memory.
At first there were mild allegations of cheating but nobody could prove anything. It slowly dawned upon the ladies that she was just a very good card player. Jack Calhoun, Maureen's husband, had heard all about Julie from his wife. A keen poker player, he'd show this broad how to play cards. Against the accepted rules, he persuaded his cronies to admit Julie to one of their Saturday late night games. They'd never had a woman in to play before and they thought they'd have a laugh. By dawn the smiles had been wiped from their faces and Julie had taken over twelve hundred dollars from them.
We got fewer invitations from the neighbours after the poker school but that suited me fine. A newly-wed couple had places to go and better things to do than spend all their time socialising with a bunch of middle-aged insurance salesmen and their over made-up wives!
When Wendy gave birth to a bouncing baby boy we had the girls stay with us for a fortnight to take the pressure off the new mother. Carol and Nicole hadn't seen Julie before as Steve, Wendy and their daughters had been away on vacation when we'd married. They were amazed and obviously thrilled to have such a glamorous aunt. Carol had brought her camera and constantly wanted me to take pictures of her with Julie. I had to work hard to persuade Carol to include her younger sister in those photos; she wanted Aunt Julie all for herself.
With such an idyllic existence, what could possibly go wrong? Nothing, I thought, but like all good things our marriage came to an end. What's worse, I couldn't possibly have foreseen it.
My department head had called a meeting for seven o'clock instead of the usual eight. He had to fly to Washington for a meeting with senior government officials so he wanted to dot the I's and cross the T's on our bid for a very important contract. As I've said before, Julie didn't drive so I took her into work early.
I wish she'd waited and taken a cab to arrive at her regular start time. As we crossed the intersection of Sunshine Avenue and Twelfth Street, a Kenworth eighteen-wheeler truck jumped the lights and smashed into the side of the Mustang. The sky was barely light and the Kenworth came out of nowhere. The car was pushed by the truck and ended upside down against a dumpster in the parking lot of an Arby's.
I came to in a room at Saint Hilda's Hospital to find a state trooper of the Florida Highway Patrol at my bedside. As I came out of my stupor he was arranging a date with the nurse who'd been assigned to watch over me. They were so engrossed in each other that they both failed to notice that I was awake and had been looking at them for the past ten minutes.
The young nurse turned her eyes from the cop to see me staring at her. Her mouth dropped open and she stifled a scream, that's how much I'd scared her. The patrolman gathered his papers and his dignity and became a law officer again.
"Mr Tony Anderson? I'm Deputy Kelly and I've been assigned to investigate your accident. Are you up to telling me about the minutes immediately before the crash?" There was little I could tell him, as I'd been knocked unconscious by the impact, but I did my best.
"The trucker's admitted responsibility and will be charged with driving while unfit. He's an owner-driver and had been at the wheel for over sixteen hours with barely a break," the Deputy said in his best official voice that, at about twenty-one, still had room for development.
It dawned on me that I hadn't been alone. "Where's my wife, is she in this hospital?" I asked, wondering if she'd been badly hurt.
"She is," the nurse spoke this time, "but you're too ill to see her. You've had a very nasty accident and you need to rest for a while. Get some sleep." With that, the Deputy rose, saluted and took his leave, winking at the nurse as he left the room.
I drifted in and out of sleep for the next twelve hours and then watched daybreak through the east-facing window. By the time I'd had breakfast I was impatient to know what had happened to Julie. When the doctor made his rounds I demanded to see her. He looked anxiously at the senior nurse who accompanied him and asked her to arrange a wheelchair for me. The porter pushed me along the corridor to the service elevator, accompanied by the doctor and the senior nurse. The doors opened, we all entered and the doctor pressed the button for the basement.
Something wasn't right. "Where are we going?" I asked the doctor. "To the ambulance bay," he replied uneasily. The doors opened and I was wheeled out, not as I expected to an ambulance but to the workshop. There, on a bench next to shelving full of starter motors, fuel injector pumps and other automotive paraphernalia lay Julie, face down, her clothes torn and soiled by the contents of the dumpster we'd hit. Through her blood-matted chestnut hair I saw a jagged tear in her scalp. Inside were tightly packed rows of circuit boards filled with semiconductor devices, some of them with edges crushed by the impact.
A black Econoline van drove away from the ambulance bay of Saint Hilda's Hospital. This was not an unusual event, similar vans arrived from time to time to take away the deceased to funeral homes in Orange Grove and farther afield. This one made its way to BLInc's location on the edge of town. Once inside the perimeter fence it proceeded to the building that housed the Inner Sanctum and disappeared behind locked doors.
As I've told you, BLInc was heavily involved in contracts for the US Government in its many forms. One of these was the production of surveillance equipment for the Secret Service, the CIA, the FBI and a whole host of other agencies known and unknown to the average citizen.
These agencies used conventional and unconventional means of keeping tabs on countries, organisations and individuals all around the world, ranging from the unsophisticated right up to the latest hi-tech devices available to the world's richest country. One of the most secret, most hi-tech devices ever invented was produced by BLInc - the Honey Trap, a mobile intelligence-gathering storage and transmission device housed in an apparently human form.
Joe Mancini had been a humble IBM mainframe computer operator in the '70s, facing an uncertain future in the rapidly changing IT industry. On long, boring night shifts the operators would amuse themselves by concocting all manner of fantastic schemes that would make them rich. Most of these schemes involved nothing more than gambling systems for the horses or state lotteries but Joe's were far more ambitious.
In the 1980s he was quick to spot the opportunities for exploiting the new microcomputer technology then in its infancy. He was among the earliest purchasers of the IBM Personal Computer and got to know how it worked right down to its last integrated circuit. By the time the '80s gave way to the '90s, Joe owned a sizeable company that dealt in applied micro technology. By the millennium this had become Bio-Life Corporation, known as BLInc.
BLInc's work combined a number of technologies at the leading edge of scientific research including computing, artificial intelligence, telematics, biotechnology and many others. These enabled it to produce the most innovative intelligence-gathering device to appear on the scene to date, an artificial spy. Exploiting the most basic of human weaknesses, Honey Traps were designed for use in any situation where secret high-tech information gathering was needed. The combinations and permutations were virtually endless, male or female, of any race or age.
All of the prototypes and production models to date had been built as Caucasian females in their mid-twenties. Each took about three months to build and was released at quarterly intervals. Although numbered, they were assigned code names identifiable to their month of release, thus March's output had produced Mandy, Mary and Millie. June's output consisted of Joanne, Jennifer - and Julie. Sally, Suzanne and Serena were the first Black models, already in an advanced state of production and planned for release in September.
The development costs had been astronomical and had been borne by the US Government. In return, BLInc undertook to restrict the supply of Honey Traps to its financial backer and benefactor. Joe Mancini thought this a great pity, as the commercial potential was enormous. Uncle Sam thought otherwise and jealously guarded his investment with all the means at his disposal - legal and physical.
There was one concession, made to provide a cover scenario for its robotics work. BLInc was allowed to put certain aspects of its technology to humanitarian use via subsidiary companies in the production of artificial limbs. The pseudo-skin, neural networks and miniature servomotors it had developed would eventually enable thousands of disabled people to control artificial arms and legs by process of thought alone. Seeing Julie dumped in the corner of the auto workshop had a devastating effect on me. The woman that I'd courted, married, lived with and made love to was a replicant, an android, a robot, call it what you like but it didn't make any difference.
I sank into a deep depression that lasted for a couple of months. I couldn't face returning to the house where we'd lived and loved almost as long as we'd been together. Joe was very good about the whole thing and arranged for me to stay in a beachside convalescent home near Cape Canaveral. It was there that I stopped feeling sorry for myself when I compared my lot with that of my fellow patients, some of whom were seriously mentally ill.
Wendy and Steve came down and stayed nearby for a week while Steve took care of the lease on the house and Wendy arranged the disposal of its contents. Julie had entered my life with next-to-nothing and left it without much more but I couldn't have faced handling even that.
They asked me to go back with them to Baltimore "for as long as it takes," in Steve's words. I accepted, hoping to find solace with my nieces who'd loved their aunt so dearly for such a short time. There'd be some awkward questions from the girls but I would handle them, just as I'd explained away Julie's "death" to Wendy and Steve.
There were many unanswered questions about the whole episode but an unexpected visit from Joe Mancini and Howard Watson produced some answers. The meeting started friendly enough but then I detected a change in Joe's mood.
"You're probably wondering what it was all about though, if you're honest, you can probably guess most of it," he said matter-of-factly. "BLInc's work is classified Most Secret because it is rated as vital to the national interest. There are some outsiders who know a little of what we do and plenty more who'd like to, that's why we remain on a constant state of alert to detect spying attempts. Your activities in that field didn't take long to come to our notice."
"Howard is more than just a supervisor in software development – he's the head of company security." Joe paused while Howard silently nodded in my direction. "He's had his eye on you from the beginning for a variety of reasons," a smile crept over his face and left it just as quickly.
"We weren't sure how much you'd managed to find out but we had to be sure pretty damn quick. The more you knew the easier it would have been for you to see through our little ruse. Fortunately for all concerned the answer was little, until that freak accident gave the game away."
"Most major industrialised countries, allies and enemies alike, have some idea what the US is up to and would desperately like to know more. The State Department has chosen to keep even close allies like the United Kingdom in the dark for as long as possible. The Brits would love to get involved in this kind of surveillance but haven't got the vast sums of money needed for such a project. The Germans have the money but their industry is dominated by metal bashing, mid-tech at best. The Japanese have the technical wizardry but the economic downturn in the Far East means that they couldn't fund it properly. The French? Nobody knows what they're thinking in their elegant ministry buildings in Paris but they certainly couldn't afford it. Which leaves one other major nation, as rich as Crœsus with a worldwide reputation for miniature engineering for the last six hundred years – Switzerland. But you'd know that, wouldn't you, Tony?"
There was no point in denying it. Spying's an ugly word; I preferred to think of it as spreading the fruits of technology wider whilst helping my own financial situation. I'd been approached by a representative of Helvetica Industrie SA before I even thought of applying for a job with BLInc – in fact Helvetica suggested it. I'd been caught – hook, line and sinker.
I made it clear to them that my sudden disappearance would launch a thousand emails to governments, newspapers and broadcasting stations around the world and they'd better pray that I kept fit and healthy for some time yet. Clearly I couldn't return to work at Orange Grove but I needed an income and somewhere to live. Unsurprisingly, BLInc was prepared to be very generous in that direction.
I stayed with Wendy, Steve and the girls for a while but took my leave before I outstayed my welcome. I rented a car, drove up to Canada and disappeared from view, carefully covering my tracks with an itinerary supplied by Helvetica. After spells in the Far East, South America, Russia and Australia, I flew to Zurich and took up residence in a small village thirty kilometres away, courtesy of Helvetica, my corporate sponsors. I was back living in a cold climate but that suited me fine after my unhappy spell in the Florida sunshine.
With the consultancy fees that continued to be paid by BLInc I really didn't need to work but I had to occupy my time somehow. Thus I became a journalist on a Swiss technical magazine published in English.
The following summer I was sitting, drinking a beer outside a restaurant in Zurich, waiting for an industrialist I'd been asked to interview, when I saw a familiar face in the crowd. My heart leapt at the sight of my old love and I rose from the table and ran into the street.
"Julie!" I shouted, "It's me, Tony!" She turned to face me without recognition.
"Excuse me?" She said in heavily German-accented English, "Do we know each other?"
© Brian Smith 2002
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