Assessing the immediate situation quickly, and accurately, Pinky understood that Gotcha was first stunned by Kitty’s rebuke, and then stung by his own laughter. He looked at Gotcha and said, with a serious, almost paternal tone, “Tell your ego to shut the fuck up, and take it like a man. Then compose yourself, and answer Kitty’s question.”

The international dealer of shade’s ego shrieked at the load of salt Pinky had dumped into a gushing wound. But Gotcha’s superego told his ego to shut the fuck up, or there would be more insults hurled at it. ‘Look, dumbass, that girl there is going to launch a blitzkrieg on you, if you go off half-cocked. If you’ll quit your caterwauling for a few seconds, you’ll realize that she’s a master strategist of this game, a natural born killer of thin-skinned egos. If you chirp her, rigt now, she’ll bury you.’

That seemed to settle things in Gotcha’s mind, and he was able to compose himself. But he wasn’t able to compose himself enough to come up with an answer to Kitty’s question, so he stalled for time by simply repeating it: “Why would you want to throw in with me and my collection of Keystone Kops?”

Waiting for an answer, Kitty rolled her eyes. Gotcha’s ego shrieked again, and let fly, “Who says me and my collection of Keystone Kops want you to throw In with us?”

Shaking her head, Kitty said, “Okay, that’s it. Amateur hour is over. Bye.” The girl turned, and started walking in the direction of the Chateau Laurier.

“Kitty, wait,” Pinky said.

Turning, the girl snapped, “What?”

Pinky looked at Gotcha, who was at a loss for words. Then he turned his eyes back to the girl, and said, “If you’re walking, I’m going with you.” He took a couple steps, turned, and stood beside her.

Pinky and Kitty looked at Gotcha, who made no response, until the two of them turned and started walking,” Okay, hold on. Time out,” said Gotcha. Kitty and Pinky kept walking. Gotcha scrambled his feet to catch up. “Wait a minute,” he pleaded. “Let’s start this again. Please.”

Kitty stopped, as did Pinky. “Please accept my apologies,” Gotcha said to Kitty. “I do want you to join my team. But I assure you, we are not a collection of Keystone Kops.”

With Kitty’s eyes on him, Pinky said, “I would not be working with him, if they were all rank amateurs. That said,” he added, “where you go, I go.”

Moving her eyes from Pinky to Gotcha, Kitty once again asked, “Why would I want to throw in with you and… yours?”

Looking briefly up at the stars, then lowering his head to meet the girl’s eyes, Gotcha answered, “Because, like it or not, believe it or not, and despite all you have to offer, you need us, as much as we need you.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Kitty said.

“Kitty, please,” said Gotcha. “We are an international network, a web of influential experts ensconced in the upper echelons of business, politics, diplomacy, the arts, and even religion, in every corner of the world. Stephen can confirm that.”

Pinky nodded, but cautioned, “So far as I know, based on what I have seen, that is true.”

“We are not a formal organization,” Gotcha said. “We are a loose collection of individuals, a cabal, if you will, with similar morals, and motives. Without us, you won’t get far.”

Taking one step to get rigt in Gotcha’s face, Kitty told him, “What you don’t know is that this has all been foretold. Some force, call it providence, if you want, I know you Canucks are sensitive about the term manifest destiny, has brought Lance and I together, and we will do what we have to do, one way or another, with or without you.”

Gotcha stared down into Kitty’s bottomless, big, black eyes, and saw truth. Rigt then, and rigt there, he realized that the girl was so much more than any creature he had ever encountered. If she was being driven by a force, she was also becoming that force.

“If we are to bake the bread of life, upon which all of humanity will feed,” Gotcha said to the girl, “me and my cabal of Keystone Kops are essential ingredients, but you are the yeast that will make us rise together.”




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