What to Get the Man Who Has Everything / 13-15


They got to El Granada by mid-afternoon and Alec escorted Sylvie into the house.  Now that she was here the whole thing seemed even more fantastic, he realized.  Sylvie had heard the recordings in which Buckley described his euphoric states in detail, and how he had gotten there; and she been captivated listening to them.  But Alec knew that seeing it in person was altogether different.

He spoke in Korean to Sin-joo.  “I just let her know that you were with me,” he explained to Sylvie.  Yun was washing his hands in the kitchen and Alec reluctantly introduced Sylvie to him.  He didn’t think Yun would come across as particularly reassuring.  I guess I still think of him as some demon in a cave, Alec thought.  It’s fine for taking care of Buckley but it’s extremely awkward, embarrassing, when we bring daylight into the cave.  “Very good to meet,” Yun said politely.  As Alec guided Sylvie into Buckley’s room Yun said to him quietly, “You tell Sin-joo you ate your friend.”

Alec waited a moment to let Sylvie take in the outlandish setting:  the living room empty except the hospital bed, surrounded by clear plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling; the equipment and monitors mounted to the walls; the sleeping patient, a tall thin man stretched out on the bed with various tubes and wires attached; various electrodes on his shaved head, especially the two leads inserted in his skull.  I’m still not used to this myself, Alec thought.  Don’t know how she will take it.   He looked to Sylvie to see her reaction: fear, condemnation, repugnance?  He didn’t expect approval. 

Sylvie turned to him.  “This is all his request?  He wanted this?”  She wasn’t asking in a negative way; she didn’t say “He wanted this??”  She was trying to understand how the unusual set-up worked.  Sylvie moved over to the main monitor and looked it over, studying it. 

“It is and he does.  We affirm that regularly.  We’ll try to do it again tonight, officially for the paper trail for the lawyers, and also because he is interesting to talk with.  But it’s been harder and harder to wake him, so I don’t really know.”  Sylvie nodded slightly while she was concentrating on the monitor.  Yun came in the room and Sylvie motioned to him and asked him about the display.  Yun and Sylvie began a discussion about the readings, with Yun explaining and pointing to Buckley. 

After a few minutes Sylvie looked down at the sleeping Buckley.  She walked over next to Alec and said “Don’t you try to persuade him to go back to the hospital?  It looks like you have complete control over him, right?  So you could just take him back?” 

A mix of defensiveness and indignation swept over Alec.  What can I say that won’t sound crazy, he thought.  But the whole point is to convince him to go back , for him to agree to go back, not just manhandle him. 

Seeing his expression, Sylvie said “Wait,” before he could reply.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him.  Yun’s eyes widened by a millimeter, for him an indication of strong surprise.  “What I mean is,” continued Sylvie, “thank you for inviting me here.  I think you care about this man and I want to trust your judgment.  Are you sure that it’s better for him to stay here?”

Alec sighed aloud.  I am going to swoon again, he thought, still affected by her embrace and scent.  “No, I am not sure that this is better,” he said.  “If you are trying to save his life then it is clearly not better.  If you are trying to help David with what he wants, then this is crazy but it is what he wants, and he appears to be sure that he wants it.”  It sounded feeble when he said it.  Well maybe it is, he thought. 

Sylvie nodded, thinking about it.  “Yeah, in your recordings with him he is very assured and convincing.  I don’t think I could help him in this way, though.” 

“But I am not second-guessing you, Alec,” she said quickly, making him laugh.  “It’s just the way I am seeing it here.” 

“Now that you are here, I am not sure about helping him in this way either,” Alec said.  “But if he goes back, it has to be his choice.”

Yun picked up his tablet and tapped a few times.  “Patient is recovering consciousness,” he said, surprising both Sylvie and Alec.  “What does that mean?” she asked Yun, uneasy and excited at the same time.  “He is waking up?”

“Patient not precisely asleep, but in deep state.  But unusual to recover without repeated calling to patient.”

Alec looked down, apprehensive himself, as Buckley’s eyes opened.  Alec had intended to wake Buckley first and then introduce Sylvie, but that wouldn’t happen now.  “Alec?” he rasped, his eyes open but unfocused.

“It’s still June, David.  You are 59 years old, and you have been here at this house for two months.”

“Only two months?” Buckley said.  His eyes focused.  He glanced briefly at Alec and then examined Sylvie through the plastic sheeting.  He was silent as he looked at her.  No other sound, just the whir of the air filter.  Sylvie stared back, not knowing what to think.  He’s going to make the same mistake I made, Alec realized. 

But he didn’t.  “How like her, and yet a beauty of your own,” Buckley wheezed.  Sylvie was startled and began breathing more rapidly but she held his gaze.

Buckley continued to observe Sylvie.  “How did it happen?” 

“Heart attack,” she said simply, a quaver in her voice.

“Her heart seemed the strongest thing about her,” he said after a pause.  Sylvie gasped and reached for Alec’s hand.  I hope this wasn’t another bad decision of mine, Alec thought. 

“Dr. Yun,” said Buckley, “can you bring the wipes over?”  Alec watched, puzzled, as Yun came around the bed with a box of antiseptic wipes.  He came up to Sylvie and said, “With permission, to clean hands for greeting patient?”

How did Yun get that, Alec wondered.  Sylvie nodded at Yun.  “Yes, please,” she consented.  Yun cleaned her hands and then reached through a slit in the plastic to also clean Buckley’s hand.  “Are you okay with this?” Alec asked softly.  “If you are uncomfortable, if this is too strange, we can leave.”  Sylvie looked back at Alec, her gray eyes telling Alec: “Yes, I know we can leave.” 

“Well, this is strange,” she said aloud with a small smile, “but yes, I want to talk to him,” and reached through the sheeting to clasp Buckley’s outstretched hand.  “How do you do, Mr. Buckley.  Glad to meet you.”

“Yes, I feel the same.  Sorry for the weird setting,” Buckley answered apologetically.  I never got that kind of reception, Alec observed.

Buckley raised his bed and was studying Sylvie.  “I was talking to Alec here about your mother, and memories of that time.  Talking to him about the last time I spoke to her, about five years ago.  That was just after your marriage broke up, wasn’t it?”  I guess we are jumping right in, Alec thought.

Startled again, Sylvie stared at Buckley with amazement.  “Did my mother tell you that?” 

“No, no.  At least not directly.  She would talk about you a lot.  A lot.  At first I thought it was a way for her to keep her distance from me.  I mean, when we were in a group and I tried to talk to her, she would start talking about her children, usually you.  Sylvie this, Sylvie that.” 

Alec pictured Buckley, years ago, listening to Lauren talk about her daughter, longing to get closer, impatient at being diverted.  And now he is seeing the diversion in the flesh. 

“It was fine, though.  I liked listening to her.  Lauren told us one time about a presentation of yours at a conference.  I guess you had gotten her a pass.”  Buckley regarded Sylvie.  “Your mother told me– at length — how well you did, how you made the material easy to follow.  About questions you got and how skillfully you answered them.”  Buckley paused, remembering.  “She was very proud of you,” he said in a somewhat detached manner, it seemed to Alec.

Sylvie found Alec’s hand again and squeezed hard.  Buckley looked at her with a complex expression, partly a keen interest in seeing the daughter but also uneasiness over the painful memories with her mother.  I hope this turns out well for Sylvie, Alec thought.  I honestly don’t know what to expect.  And Buckley: sitting up and engaging like this.  Alec had given up on Buckley but now began to hope that this might lead him back to the hospital, eventually.  Not too eventually, he reflected, or he will go back in a box. 

“You wanted to know how I knew about your marriage,” Buckley said, still observing Sylvie.  “I overheard your mother talking to your ex-husband.  At an exhibit.  It was just before she dumped me.”  Buckley’s tone seemed to convey his desire to talk to Sylvie along with some of the bitterness which remained after five years.

Alec wasn’t sure whether Sylvie would ask; so he said, “David, is this the same event that you told me about?”

“Yes, it is. “ Buckley replied.  “Since we talked last I went through the memory again of that time, the … umm … internal memory. “

“Do you know about those?”  He asked Sylvie.  She nodded.  “Yes, I heard you talk about how you can see the memories again, as if they just happened,” she said, “and I heard the recording where you talked about her.  When she told you to stop following her.” 

Buckley looked at Sylvie a little hard, being reminded.  The thin leads on his skull seemed to vibrate, as if to help show his irritation.  Then his expression softened.  “Right.  Well, before she saw me at the exhibit, she had been on the phone with your ex.  I couldn’t hear the conversation before, but now it’s clear.  I heard her talking, I remember what she said.  What was his name?  I heard a lot, but I didn’t hear a name.”

“Carter,” she said softly.  “It was a bad time.  The marriage didn’t last long.”  It didn’t last long, just a few months, Sylvie reflected, but it was still a painful memory, how the break-up led her to doubt herself, her decisions, for a time.  Doubt her own emotions. 

“Carter,” repeated Buckley, obvious disdain in his tone.  He is on Sylvie’s side, Alec observed.  But really, how could it be otherwise?

“Well, your mother was giving it to Carter,” Buckley continued.  “I had never heard her like that.  She was roasting him.  It was fierce.   I don’t know why he stayed on the phone for that.  Lauren didn’t shout, or raise her voice much.  Just a methodical burn.  ‘Small, selfish, narrow-minded,’ she said.  ‘An unpleasant and inflated sense of your own importance.   It’s no wonder you could justify fucking that other woman.  You probably found a way to blame Sylvie.  You used her feelings for you and turned them against her, hijacked them, perverted them.’

“Those were her words,” said Buckley.  “They were clear once I went back there again.”  He continued, with a cadence and tone not his own, which Alec guessed were Lauren’s.  ” ’An immature lout.  You were supposed to grow together.  This was your chance to be a man, and you failed.’ “ Buckley looked up at Alec. “And then she met me, when I was following her around. No wonder she was so blunt.”

Sylvie was mesmerized, struggling to comprehend her mother’s words coming from Buckley.  Her face showed amazement, anguish, bewilderment, as she was riveted to what he was saying.  Alec wondered if he could intervene, if he should intervene. 

Buckley continued his echo of Lauren’s words from five years earlier.  “Carter must have said something in response.  Lauren said, calmly, ‘Sylvie?  She’ll be fine.  She won’t wallow in anger or resentment.  She’ll take the good and the bad with her and she will move on.’

Buckley looked up at Sylvie.  “Your mother loved you very much,” he said simply.  The bitterness had gone from his voice.

With that, after hearing her mother’s words supporting her, encouraging her, Sylvie broke down.  She let out a sob and spurted tears as she grasped at Buckley’s hand through the plastic, at this connection to her mother.  He sat up to get closer to her as she wept. 

“Wait, please,” broke in Yun, “one minute to gown up please.”  He brought over the mask and gown with more antiseptic wipes and held them up to Sylvie.  “To get closer to patient?” he asked.  Through her tears Sylvie laughed at Yun’s fastidiousness.  Soon she was masked and gowned and inside the plastic sheeting, holding Buckley’s hands as he talked more about the exhibit. 

Alec stayed outside while the two talked.  After a few minutes they went through the photographs, Buckley explaining each one in a low voice which didn’t carry well outside the plastic sheeting.  Sylvie would wave to Alec and it was clear she was enjoying the talk.  Benefiting.  Alec left the room, somewhat unwillingly, feeling left out, unless he gowned up himself and found a spot in the little clean room.  When he came back he saw Sylvie, eyes closed, touching Buckley’s face in the same way Buckley had described touching Lauren.  Except he didn’t have exam gloves on at the workshop, Alec said to himself.   Alec watched as Sylvie’s hands — her capable hands, he remembered — gently crept up just short of the bandages wrapped around Buckley’s skull, covering the incision.  Buckley remained motionless.  He saw Sylvie studying the electrodes in the top of his skull, and the two leads, and murmured something to her.  She laughed and Alec again felt like barging through the plastic sheeting, into the conversation.  He found himself slightly jealous. 

Buckley then asked Yun for a some of the plasticine they had brought for him and a sculpting knife: he wanted to show Sylvie how to shape an image of a hand.  As Buckley worked with the clay, his head bobbed around as he would hold the clay up and inspect it from different angles.  Yun hovered around the bed excitedly, trying to get Buckley to move less; concerned that the movement would dislodge the leads, since it would be difficult if not impossible to insert them again in the same spot. 

Yun motioned Alec over to a corner of the room.  Alec was still trying to hear the conversation between Sylvie and Buckley, and wanted to stay involved.  But she was inside and he wasn’t, for the moment.  I hope this conversation goes on for a while, he thought, for Buckley’s sake.  He is staying interested.  Well, I would too, in his place. 

Yun pulled up several images on his tablet.  “Last 24 hour, patient brain waves changing.  Unusual combination of alpha and delta waves.  Not seen prior.”

“I see the changes, but what does it mean?”

Yun shrugged and looked unexpectedly bemused, as if this latest finding was a mystery.  Everything about Buckley’s brain is a mystery, Alec thought.  “Patient diving deep but also staying active on pre-frontal cortex,” Yun said.  “Perhaps merging internal memories with current perceptions?” 

“Have no idea.  Let’s see if he will talk about it — he seems receptive, for now anyway.”  Alec watched as Buckley was talking, still holding Sylvie’s hand.  She was listening carefully — Buckley was speaking in a low voice, barely audible — and occasionally asking questions.

“Also, latest ultrasound scan of patient,” continued Yun, bringing up more pictures.  Alec studied the images and then finally said, “Okay, this blob looks slightly different than this other blob?”

Yun considered him for a moment, as a doting parent might look at a backward child, Alec thought.  “Correct,” he said patiently, “new ‘blob’ is different, and tentacles are rounding off.  Not progressing.”   Alec was trying to understand this when Yun added, “Means that resection would be less difficult, perhaps less peripheral damage.” 

“You can tell that from these ultrasound scans?”  Alec said skeptically.  “Even I can tell that the MRI scans are far better than these ultrasounds.”

Yun nodded.  “MRI would show more detail, but even with ultrasound we have better definition of tumor.”

“Dr. Yun, is there a link between the stimulation and the change in the tumor?  Could the stimulation affect the tumor growth?”  Yun shrugged again.  “Not known.  No way to know.” 

Alec discussed it with Yun for a few minutes, and then moved back to the side of the bed.  Sylvie had stood up and he heard Buckley say “I really need to rest now, am tired.  Haven’t been this much in this world for ages, it seems like.”

Sylvie said, hesitantly, “You’ll be using the … the leads?”  Buckley nodded, slowly as always.  “It’s what I have been doing for a long, long time.”  As he turned away from them he looked at Alec with an expression which was hard to read.  It was more than Buckley’s usual “Here I am turning away from you” face; there was something else.  Alec’s heart sank as they watched him reach for the stimulator button.  He had given up on Buckley, on getting him back to the hospital; and then Sylvie seemed to get Buckley interested again in “this world”; and now it looked like nothing had changed after all.  But I am glad if this was good for Sylvie, he thought. 

Sylvie came out of the plastic sheeting and looked questioningly at Alec.  “Just like that?” she asked. 

“Yeah, just like that.  He can be abrupt.  It’s not you, it looked like he had a great time talking to you.”  They walked into the kitchen as Sylvie took off the gown, mask, gloves.  Her face was still streaked with tears but she smiled and hugged Alec again.  “It was wonderful for me too, really.  Thank you for inviting me here.”  Once again Alec delighted in her touch.

“What do you want to do?”

“Honestly, I want to talk to him more.  Can we just wait here?”

“Well, he stays like this for days at a time.”

“He said just tonight, that we can talk more in the morning.”

“What?  He said one night?”

“Yeah – why, are you surprised?”

“It’s never just one night.  And we usually have to be insistent to rouse him.  But sure, there is a spare bedroom here which I’ve used.”

“Can we?  I would like to stay close.”

“Close to Buckley?”

“Don’t make me answer and sound silly,” Sylvie said.


The next morning Alec woke up alone in the bed.  Maybe she found a better bed, he thought.  This mattress is terrible.  Another terrible one.  He got up to see that Sylvie was back inside the sheeting, gowned up and sitting on Buckley’s bed, Buckley sitting upright himself.  Alec checked the monitor on the wall and was surprised to see that Buckley had hit the stimulator button only once during the night.

There was something in between them on the bed, some object.  As he got closer Alec saw that it was a clay likeness, a sculpture of a face.  It looked like Sylvie but different.  Lauren.  It was Lauren’s face, in the clay.  Sylvie was gently touching it and weeping softly. 

Buckley looked up at Alec.  “I have always wanted a re-do on this one,” he said with a thoughtful expression.  It took Alec a minute to understand what had happened.  “You did this last night?” he asked, slowly, almost stuttering. “How … when … what did you use … oooh,” he exclaimed, finally understanding.  “You went back for a clear memory of Lauren.” 

Buckley nodded.  “I needed that, in order to do this here,” Buckley said, gesturing to the image of Lauren.  He means ‘here’ as in this world, Alec realized.  If he is going to do any sculpture, it can only be ‘here’. 

He was suddenly apprehensive that Buckley had done something like a death mask.  But he hadn’t; he had captured Lauren as Alec had seen her in the hiking picture, slight smile, eyes open, merry expression.  Because that’s how he just saw her, Alec understood.

From the bed Sylvie turned to look at Alec, and even with her surgical mask, Alec could see the flush of emotion and feeling in her face.  I’ve got to get in there with her, he thought.  He rushed over to Yun’s side of the bed to gown up.  When he came back to enter, Sylvie had already come out of the plastic sheeting.  Without thinking Alec embraced her and tried to kiss, producing a guffaw from Buckley as the two face masks rubbed together, and a comic moment as they struggled to shed the gowns and gloves. 

“I didn’t want to wake you,” Sylvie said.  “You looked so comfortable.” 

Alec laughed.  “I was the opposite of comfortable on that bed,” he replied, “but no matter.  Are you all right?  How long have you been up?” 

“Not long.  I am fine.  Feeling a little drained, feeling washed out, I guess.”  When Sylvie arose earlier and saw what Buckley had created during the night, the full impact of the conversation with Buckley the day before, along with the startling likeness of her mother, pierced her heart.  All of the grief, all of the mourning, all of the remembrance which had been locked up inside suddenly flooded through her and out of her.  And maybe left room for acceptance, she realized.  The image of her mother, in the soft and pliable plasticine, was far more real and compelling than any of the photographs she had.  It was a way to help her finally let go, yet still remember.

Alec was watching her intently, but before he could respond he noticed something different about  Buckley.  Something was wrong.  The leads on his skull were no longer connected to the stimulator!  He turned to Yun.  “What happened?” he asked sharply.  “I thought we couldn’t reconnect and get the exact same spot?!” 

Yun stared back at Alec.  “Patient required removal,” he replied.  “Patient said connections impede work with sculpture.”  Yun added a shrug, looking down at Buckley.  

“They were getting in the way, Alec,” Buckley said amiably.  “I couldn’t move around much, couldn’t move my hands and arms, without Dr. Yun getting excited.”

“But when we hook them up again, we may not get it right!” 

Buckley nodded.  “Yes, I know that,” he said placidly.  “Well, maybe it’s time to go back anyway.”

Again, Alec sputtered for a moment, trying to find words to respond, trying to take everything in.  It seemed like he was getting blindsided at every turn.  “Just like that?  After all your talk about nirvana, about this being better than anything?” 

Buckley looked up at Alec with some amusement.  “It’s not ‘just like that’, Alec.  It has been years for me.  It’s been … it has been nirvana, for years, and I will remember it clearly.  I’ll remember all of it.”

“And what about the blindness from the surgery?”  Alec said, not quite snapping back.  Why am I arguing for him to stay, he wondered. 

Buckley didn’t answer directly.  “The mask turned out pretty well, don’t you think?  Did the whole thing in the dark.” 

Alec looked again at the image of Lauren.  It held his gaze and he found himself calming from just looking at it.  The intricate detail, and lifelike appearance, was remarkable.  Yes, it had turned out pretty well.  He felt intimidated, almost duped again, as he pictured Buckley working through the night, in the dark, his adept hands revealing his vision of Lauren.  A vision that deeply touched the heart of another.  But I am just the janitor for all of this, he thought. 

Sylvie, watching Alec, slipped her arm around him for a hug.  He laughed at her touch, at how good it felt.  He felt a wave of sensation ripple up from his back to his neck.  “Oh, thank you for reminding me,” he said. 

“For what exactly?”

“For what I am doing here.  Maybe not being just the janitor.

“Let me try to explain that,” he said to Sylvie’s inquiring look.

“Also,” Buckley broke in, looking at the two and rolling his eyes, “also, a reason for losing the leads is so they don’t commit me to the asylum.  If I do go back, I don’t want to be declared incompetent.  I would want to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Alec, can you handle that?”  Buckley’s voice was recovering some of ‘this world’s’ tone, Alec noticed. 

“I’ll make some calls,” Alec replied.  “We can go back, without the wires, and we can play it as if we were just looking for a second opinion.  We can get with other surgeons, on our initiative.”

“David, not that I know about it;” Sylvie said, “but isn’t there a time limit that you have to decide by?  Because of the … the growth? To do the surgery?”

“Well,” Buckley said, “that means Alec needs to speed it up, doesn’t it?”  It was Alec’s turn to roll his eyes.  As he and Sylvie moved toward the kitchen Buckley called him back.  “Alec?  A word?”  Alec came back to the plastic sheeting and Buckley caught his eye and said in a low voice, “You are hooked yourself, yes?”  Alec nodded.  With an expression of ‘I don’t really need to say this,’, Buckley said, “Don’t screw it up, and then have to live with yourself.”


For the rest of the morning Alec was on the phone, occasionally watching Sylvie talk with Buckley on the bed.  Buckley had surprised them with a request for a meal, and Sin-joo beamed with satisfaction as she prepared a small lunch.  He was eating a few bites with Sylvie when Alec’s phone chirped with a text from the lawyer, Aaron Fisher:  Wife on the way to pick up Buckley.  Somehow got location, might have been Jerry Watkins.

Alec cursed aloud.  “How?” he said to no one in particular and looked over at Yun suspiciously.  He called Fisher.

“When was this?” Alec asked angrily, though not sure why.  Buckley’s going back anyway.

“Just now,” Fisher replied.  “The family lawyer says they are on the way.” 

“Did they call the police?”

“I assume so.  But they said they don’t want the police to get there before his wife and lawyer do.”

“Shit.  All right, thanks.  Call you later.”  He turned to Yun.  “Dr Yun, how quickly can he be moved?  We have to get him to another hospital first, without any wires, before they catch up with us.”

“Some time needed to remove leads altogether, with other electrodes too, and ensure patient remains antiseptic.” Yun replied.  He didn’t appear surprised.

“Yes, I am aware,” Alec said sarcastically. “How much time?”

“Up to one hour to complete,” said Yun, “ and also need ambulance to transport smoothly, no bounces.  Back to isolation ward at hospital.  High infection risk.  Or is preferred to load patient into trunk of automobile?”

I really don’t know about this guy, Alec thought.  “We’ll get an ambulance,” he replied. 

He looked over at Buckley and Sylvie within the plastic sheeting.  This doesn’t make sense, Alec thought.  How would Jerry know where we are?  I didn’t tell him.  He motioned for Yun to come to the kitchen and then grabbed him roughly by the shoulder.  “Do you know where Jerry is?  Is he coming here?  How close are they?”

“Not certain, but perhaps Sacramento,” Yun replied, calmly as if he was expecting the question.

“What?  Why Sacramento?”  Alec said, confused.  That’s going inland, the opposite way from El Granada, he thought.

Yun gently took Alec’s hand from his shoulder.  “Perhaps I misunderstand Jerry Watkins, and perhaps he misunderstand my accent.  He call me and ask about house where patient could be hidden.  I tell him about house in Sacramento, what you call ‘safe house.’ “

Alec shook his head.  “What are you talking about?”

“House is used by my … my previous government.  I know about house, but of course avoid place.  But house could be used to safely hide people.  Hide patient.”

I am not keeping up with this, Alec thought.  “How do you know about a house like that in Sacramento?  You told Jerry we were in Sacramento?   I mean, Jerry doesn’t know we are here?”

Yun stared back through his wireless glasses, again with the look of the parent speaking to the backward child.  “Previous government use house to introduce agents into country.  I tell Jerry Watkins about place, and how patient could be concealed there.  Jerry ask for address.”

Alec walked over to the living room to absorb all this.  Within the plastic curtains Sylvie was still talking to Buckley.  I don’t know what to believe, he thought.  His phone buzzed, and he looked down to see that Jerry was calling.  He answered, still not sure what was happening.  “Jerry??”  He said, more confused than upset.

“Look, nothing about you,” Jerry said, without any preface.  “I am calling to give you time.  I am with the wife and she wants David back.  They are going to declare him incompetent.  We have a lawyer and a team of doctors, and we’re meeting with the police there.  So now is the time to leave.  I mean, you are the kidnapper, after all.  We will take care of Buckley.”

Alec looked over at Yun, still undecided.  “But … but Buckley doesn’t want to do that.  He has repeatedly said, on record, he doesn’t want that.”

“I don’t know, I am just telling you what the lawyers say.  They will get him declared mentally impaired, all wired up like Frankenstein, and say he was kidnapped.”

“Why?” said Alec, stalling to get more information.  “Why would the wires matter?”

“Have no idea, but that’s the point of the declaration, the expert opinion.  They say he can’t be competent with those electrodes frying his brains.”

“Okay, yeah,” Alec said, looking at Sylvie.  “All right.  How much time do I have?” He asked in a resigned tone. 

“We’re on I-80, about an hour away.  We are meeting with the Sacramento Police at your driveway.  We have a warrant and the police need to wait for that.”

I guess he really thinks we are in Sacramento, Alec thought.  Over a hundred miles from here.  “All right, Jerry.  I hope you got your money up front.”

“He should be with his wife anyway.”

“Good luck, Jerry,” replied Alec, ending the call. 

“Well, what?” he said to Yun, who was observing him.  “I bet no one speaks English at that house.” 

Yun nodded.  “No English.  Will take time to resolve.”

Alec took a minute to imagine the scene there: the police and lawyers and doctors in front of the house, talking to someone like Soo-jin, who would not understand a word;  the police showing the warrant allowing them to enter the house and secure a kidnapped cancer patient, which would be baffling even if it were translated; the North Korean agents, or whatever they were at the house, utterly confused and scrambling to react.  In his mind he saw people running out of back doors and jumping out of windows to be chased by the Sacramento police.  It will be quite a scene.  And, Alec realized, it will be a scene that would have to be re-enacted for Ellis’s group.

He sat down at the kitchen table and felt a wave of relief sweep over him.  The tension from the last few months started to drain away.  He laughed a little, and then laughed a little more.  “The police will say, ‘The house is surrounded!’ “ He said to Yun, “but they will need to translate,” and Alec tried the phrase in Korean.

Yun’s eyes crinkled.  “If they say like that, people in house will expect bad smell.”