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Hats and upgrades

Models posing in examples of three floppy hats.
Models demonstrating examples of three floppy hats.

Walt thrummed his fingers on his workbench as he watched the newsfeed on BBC International. Susannah Fontaine-Williams, tanned and relaxed, watched from a bar at Athens International, while Macallan and wife, back on the Greek mainland, drove back to Alethia’s ancestral home.

It came as no surprise to any of them that the bodies of a man and a woman were found in a cabin below deck, that the man’s skull had been caved in by a fire extinguisher and the woman’s windpipe had been brutally crushed.

“Authorities are searching for a tall man and a woman wearing a floppy hat in connection with the double homicide,” the news said.

A picture taken by a security camera at the dock showed a man and an unrecognizable woman wearing a floppy hat. Walt screen-grabbed the image and enlarged it. SFW’s grainy, hat-obscured features grew even less distinct, but anyone could clearly see the stylish handbag dangling from her sunburned shoulder.

Susannah Fontaine-WIlliams boarded her flight, pleased that she’d upgraded to the pod section in the front of the jet. On her mind as the jet taxied to the runway:

  1. Take a zolpidem and try to sleep, or stay awake and watch movies?
  2. Turn to a life of crime?
  3. Turn to a life of heroic deeds?

She popped the zolpi and chased it with duty free cuban rum.  Are  numbers two and three mutually exclusive, she wondered. “Oooh, they have the Lego Movie!” she said. She’d been scrolling the movie listings.

“Excuse me miss,” a flight attendant said, “did you need something?”

“A glass of champagne would be nice,” and she pulled the blanket up around her, put on the complimentary eye mask, stretched out in her pod and started the Lego Movie.

Macallan finds nothing in SFW’s stylish, yet functional bag

The head of security at Neiman’s, Macallan, saw what he saw in the monitor and radio’d the doormen to stop the blond talk show host as she left the building. The man everyone called  Single Malt very much liked Susannah Fontaine-Williams. They’d met a few times in the massive department store and she chatted with him as if they were old grade school buddies who’d somehow lost track of each other over the years. She remembered his wife’s name and how old his kids were. He made a point to DVR her show though he seldom had a chance to watch it, what with the crazy hours and the side jobs.

So when Darrel’s voice came over the radio, “She’s here boss,” he felt more than a tinge of sadness as he made his way to the 52nd Street entrance. He found Susannah Fontaine-Williams and Darell talking  basketball. “If I was the NBA comissioner, Miss Fontaine-Williams…” “Please, Darrel, just call me Susannah already.”

Darrel continued, “…first thing we do is get rid of at least six, maybe eight teams. Talent’s too diluted.” She nodded appreciatively. “Then, I order the refs to start calling ‘traveling’ again. Anyone can make Top Ten if you can take four steps to the basket!”

“Mac!” SFW squealed. Macallan watched her face and body language and thought, wow, for someone caught shoplifting on camera she is one cool customer.

“Miss Fontaine-WIlliams,” he started. “I mean, Susannah, I hate to ask you this, but I need to have a look inside your bag.”

Inside the bag with Walt

Walt liked going into the storage pod and standing among the objects in Susannah Fontaine-Williams’s purse. It felt cozy to him. And while he had a legitmate reason to go into her bag from time to time to check on capacity and to make sure that nothing too odd was going on as clearly stated in Item 141, Periodic Inspections,” he was aware that he needn’t really do more than poke his head in the door for a moment or two. He also knew that he might have personal issues he didn’t really understand as even someone who crammed as much into her bag as SFW would never come close to filling what amounted to a 12-foot cube. Walt particularly liked those moments the bag was open and he could peer through the ceiling at her world. It was like looking up from the bottom of a pond through the shimmering surface, everything a little bit distorted, especially at the edges. He theorized that the difference in the size of the portal on either side caused the distortion. On his side of the opening, the portal took up most of the ceiling, umbrella-shaped, about ten feet across. On her side, the opening stretched just the width of her bag. That he could have devised such a thing awed him to no end. The few times he’d peered through the opening to her side of bag, he’d seen the underside of a chandlier, or a plain white ceiling. But this last time, he could see SFW’s torso crossing back and forth, and the bottoms of clothes that must have been on hangers or draped on hooks. He thought he ran a small risk of course of getting clunked on the head by some object or other, and wondered what would happen if she reached in while he was there. Could she, he wondered, mistake him for something or other, grab him, and pluck him from the storage pod – her bag – into her world? I will install a transparent barrier, he told himself, and a chaise lounge beneath it to optimize my observations.

After shoplifting

Following the taping of SFW that afternoon, Susannah Fontaine-Williams accepted the invitation of one of her guests, the British  philosopher/astronomer Malcolm Norton-Hollings, for lunch and drinks at Fiorello’s. It was a gorgeous New York afternoon and they sat at a sidewalk table drinking something fizzy and critiquing the passersby. The bag lay at her feet and she checked it by rubbing her leg against it every few minutes. Still there. Norton-Hollings was her favorite (favourite) type of guest: intellectual, witty and tweedily good looking, there to talk up his latest book, generously dishing out the flirty banter. When Norton-Hollings excused himself to relieve himself of too much fizzy, she plopped the bag on her lap and reached inside to check on the contents. She had had no intention of taking more than one item, but once the Vera Wang had been gulped up into the bag’s void, there was the matter of the Dior, the so many things they brought her to try on that they couldn’t possibly keep count of what remained piled on the chairs and day lounge in the dressing room. The dresses were not there, nor were the shoes, nor anything else she had liberated from Neiman’s. She found, however, an envelope that she did not recall placing and pulled it out, did not look at it, and quickly tucked it back. Would it be, she wondered,  better to discuss the bag’s properties with Norton-Hollings before or after their upcoming tryst? As the distinguished scholar returned to the table squinting in the bright reflected sunlight, she thought also that it might be worthwhile to read the license agreement she had so eagerly signed.