Bruce's ear-to-ear grin was actually audible
through the phone all the way from California. "What it means, Man, is that if
they really want to use this route for their new toll road, they have to spend
about ten million extra to do a new impact study, and then they have to figure
out where to submit it with no guarantee it will even be accepted. Plus, they
have to butt heads with W's wonderful new bureaucracy to do it! We're talkin'
major expense and red tape. At the very least, it extends the court case by two
to three more years. Years! That'll buy us plenty of time to find another angle.
The irony is just so incredibly delicious."
"So, you're telling me that your mission was successful? You've saved your old
secret surf spot?"
"Most likely, yes! The judge'll still have a ruling to make on jurisdiction and
applicability, but that's almost a foregone conclusion at this point."
"Good. So you're coming back to Philadelphia when? I really need you here,
Bruce. It's insane. I swear that holier-than-thou bitch and her shyster attorney
waited 'til you were out of town to turn up the heat, although how they knew
your plans is beyond me."
"Whoa! What happened? We're still in discovery on that case. I mean, yeah, her
deposition's next week, but the next court date's not for another three months."
Mandy took a deep breath and struggled to keep her voice from cracking as she
explained. "Well, apparently, she's decided that not only did the 'defective'
dildo she bought here make her unable to reach orgasm, but it also has now
impaired her fertility and ruined her marriage prospects. Nobody wants her
damaged goods. Cue fuckin' violins. She gave a press conference this morning,
and I haven't had a moment's peace since. I'm hiding in the office. The shop is
busier than ever, though. Everyone wants one of the toys at the center of this
"You're not still selling those are you, Man?"
"Of course not. You helped me pull them all off the shelves before we went to
Chile, remember? That independent research study we commissioned ended a couple
weeks ago. The results are due any day now."
"Right. Once we get the all-clear—and we WILL, of course, get the all-clear—I
want those back on the shelves immediately! We're losing money and looking
guilty in the process. So, where's Eddie? Isn't he there to help?"
"He's in the Annex, Bruce. Communing—or whatever—with Aunt Viv."
"No," she sighed. "Still. He only leaves to use the bathroom and fetch food.
I've even told the staff at Appetites to stop catering to him. He scares me,
Bruce. It's not healthy. I know he's been through a lot in the past few
months—learning of Vivian's death and then losing their daughter—but still..."
With a start, Mandy read at the words she'd written on the Post-It note before
answering Bruce's call, bringing her hand to her mouth to stifle a small cry:
HIRE OFFICE MANAGER. Office Manager. That was Eddie's title. Professor Eduardo
Rojas Aguilar: Office Manager. Not as prestigious as Dean of Archeological
Studies perhaps, but he hadn't objected. Quite the contrary, he said he welcomed
the change. She hurriedly extracted the note and wadded it into a tight ball,
ashamed of herself for subconsciously replacing the genteel old man they'd
recently entrusted with the management of the museum annex.
"We've gotta do something," she continued, "to pull him out of it. I think he's
even sleeping in there, Bruce. I went to Aunt Viv's old place the other day
before I came to work, and neither of the beds had been slept in. No dishes in
the sink. The only indication that he'd been there at all was a damp towel in
Bruce grunted. "We'll think of something when I get back—probably Wednesday
morning. In the meantime, though, you need more help. Lemme make a few calls and
see if I can't at least find you a mouthpiece to get the press off your back.
I've got the weekend pretty much free, here. Call you later, 'kay? Maybe I can
relieve some of your tension—one way or another."