At Slopes each of the women enjoyed a Black Diamond. Clara giggled and said that she didn’t know whether or not she should even be drinking one considering all the painkillers that she was on. She said this and then she shrugged barking "What the hell." before taking a sip. Everyone laughed.
"So." Myrah smiled as she twirled her hair with her fingers. "What’s the deal with Dan’s new face?"
"You saw it?" The woman asked looking up.
"I didn’t." She corrected. "Jack did. He said that he looked like a teenager."
Clara shook her head angrily. "I hate it." She spat. "This is actually his second new face and it’s the worst one yet. It’s ridiculous. Jack’s right, he looks like a stupid kid now."
The force that she answered the question with took them all by surprise. Both Jill and Myrah exchanged glances. It was like they were back in the grocery store looking at that detergent box with the cute little dog on it again.
Jill let the moment pass. "He’s had plastic surgery before?" She asked as she timidly leaned forward.
Clara nodded. "It’s all a part of what he does."
"To look so good?"
"To keep a face."
The girl hesitated. "I don’t understand."
"It’s because of his job." The woman sighed. "Every once in a while he needs a new face."
Myrah cocked her head. "What the hell is Dan’s job anyway?" She asked.
The question had long been part of the mystery of Clara’s marriage. Before his accident Dan had come and gone from the house as if he were going to work but nothing much was ever said about what he did. It was largely agreed by everyone in the neighborhood that she supported him using what she made through her advertising company although Jack had once said that he’d heard the man mention insurance before.
"He travels." Clara answered vaguely.
"In a sense." She winked.
Myrah shot her a questioning look.
A girl wearing fur lined snow boots licked her lips and laid an order of cheese fries down before them. "You guys are my milk run." She smiled.
It was still early in the day and the trio had practically opened up the restaurant. The waiters and waitresses were putting on their caps and parkas when they’d arrived. They ignored the trespassers using their own accents to chat back and forth about seating assignments and duties. It was remarkable how much they sounded like local kids instead of Colorado snow jocks when they were out of character.
Jill took a sip. "An insurance salesman." she nodded. "They can make really good money."
"He’s not a salesman." Clara said bitterly.
The woman shrugged. "I couldn’t even begin to tell you what an adjuster does."
"Well, what the hell does he do in insurance?" Myrah asked. She grabbed a fry from off the plate and popped it into her mouth.
"His job is all very hush-hush."
"Why is it such a big secret?"
"It’s stupid." Clara shrugged. "I’d tell you but I’d have to kill you." She made a dramatic display of putting her fingers against her swollen lips.
The women had never seen their friend this incapacitated before. She had always been the one in control. She grabbed products from off of shelves and dissected them with her pen. She told everyone what they wanted to buy. She had a no nonsense hair-do and bad taste in clothing. She shouldn’t have been sitting here confused, beat-up and helpless.
The builder’s wife shrugged. "Okay so he doesn’t work in insurance then." She said dismissively. "Why does he keep getting new faces?"
Clara laughed. "Explosions, knife fights, barroom brawls in seedy third world villages using assumed names and identities."
Both Myrah and Jill leaned away from their drinks fixing the woman with a pair of wide eyed stares.
"He’s a fighter?" Jill asked in genuine surprise.
"He’s a killer."
There was an icy silence. A group of senior citizens began dismounting off of the ski-lift up front. The robotic moose saw them and said: "Here come the Bunny Slopers."
"His first face was rugged." Clara continued using a whimsical tone. "He had a big nose and scars on his cheeks. He was fatter then too before they cleaned him up."
"Who cleaned him up?" Myrah asked.
"Doctors in rooms." The woman answered with a wave of her hand. "I don’t know. People that the government always sends to patch him back up again after one of his accidents. He had to have six inches of intestines removed that time. It took him almost two years to recover."
"Six inches of intestine." Jill said in amazement.
Clara nodded. She made a display of looking at the lights spinning around the room. She struggled to grab her straw and take a drink. She winced as she shifted her weight on the chair.
"What caused him to have to lose six inches of intestine?" Myrah asked seriously.
"A car bomb."
Jill sat up straight in her sear. "Oh my God!" She said. Her mouth droped open in amazement.
Myrah laid a hand down on the table. "Where?" She asked.
"This was in the mid-90’s between the Iraq wars." The woman explained casually. "He was in the Middle East on some kind of a peace keeping mission. It was some street in some town. They never saw it coming."
Myrah tried to envision the scene. She saw Dan, in his loafers, wearing a golf shirt with a designer’s logo on the chest. He stood on a dusty corner where children were playing and vendors were selling their wares. He was telling a group of mercenaries clad in body armor and holding high powered weapons about his most recent fishing trip. A car off in the distance had explosives hidden beneath the frame. It sat counting down. BOOM!
"Who’s they?" She asked.
The woman nodded. "Others like him."
"You mean he’s some sort of secret agent?"
"You didn’t hear that from me." Clara said. She took another drink and shook her head. "Besides, he’s not anything anymore. Everyone hates his new face. That’s part of why I was in Washington D.C. I was trying to get the people where he works to warm up to his new face."
"Where does he work?" Jill asked.
"He doesn’t work anywhere now." The woman shot back a little more insistently. "He was fired because he looks like a 14 year old."
No one but Clara, Jack and Wallace had seen Dan since his accident. When Jack had laid next to Myrah on the night that he’d given them all cards he said that running into Dan in the kitchen had been one of the most shocking experiences of his life. He described the man as seeming to have lost all sense humor. He said that he thought that Dan was like a kid with some kind of weighty objective and a great deal of malcontent in his soul. He told her that he’d left the Get Well note on a table by the door.
"The first time that I saw him after he came back," Clara continued. "I thought that they must have sent home the wrong patient. They took the bandages off and there was this kid staring back at me. He smiled when they showed him himself in the mirror. He asked me for a hug but I didn’t know how to give one to the kid who was there looking up at me from the bed. It felt so strange."
"What happened to him this time?" Myrah asked.
Clara sighed. "Special forces raid the home of a high level terrorist in Jordan. Six are killed and one is sent home with serious injuries. The general comes by later with a blue marlin to mount on the wall."
They all took a sip from their drinks. Myrah just couldn’t believe any of this. To her, Dan was a playful doofus. He was a guy who talked football and caught big fish’s while vacationing in the Caribbean. He wasn’t a secret agent. This had to be part of the medication talking.
"Are you sure that you want to finish your drink?" She asked her friend.
The woman was obviously in a state of mental bewilderment and physical agony. She was loopy from the flight and the pills. She was fascinated by little things. She was either being completely honest or living in a fantasy world. She grabbed a fry and chewed it using only one side of her mouth.
"To tell you the truth, I never really cared for Dan’s second face." She said dabbing at a spot on her swollen jaw. "You marry one person and you expect them to be that person forever. When he came back to me looking like a model out of some magazine I just could never reconcile that with the rugged man that I had married. That’s when I told him to leave the business."
"The secret agent business?" Jill asked.
Clara laughed. "He was never a secret agent."
"But you just said that he worked around car bombs and terrorist."
The woman shook her head. "I said that he worked in insurance."
"Actually," Myrah interrupted. "You didn’t really specify where he worked."
Clara looked at her with glassy eyes. "Insurance." She said evenly.
All that Myrah had wanted was to find out what the woman thought of her husbands visage of youth. Now she was getting nonsense.
"What’s that like?" She asked suddenly. "How does it feel to live with a man who looks like a teenager?"
"Really, this is all nothing." Clara said dismissively. "The kids face suits him perfectly. He’s not a soldier of fortune or James Bond. He’s just a 36 year old man trapped in a kid’s body."
Myrah lifted her eyebrows. "You mean he’s a kid trapped in a man’s body?"
"Something like that." The woman nodded. "Someone raids the home of a high level terrorist. Six people are killed by armed sentries hiding in the shadows. One is sent home with serious injuries. A general delivers a big assed fish to hang on the wall. ‘Here’s your cover and your pink slip.’ He says. Meanwhile Dan’s completely incapacitated by a blue marlin and unable to leave the safe room in our house. Nice life I have."
Myrah found the situation that she was in to be somewhat of a guilty pleasure. She’d always felt inferior to her friend and now she was the one who was driving Clara around and watching her spill her guts in a drunken stupor at eleven o’clock in the morning. She decided to press the matter more.
"So he’s a secret agent?" She asked.
"He’s a man who catches fish."
Myrah nodded. "Yes, but who deliver’s the fish?"
Clara laughed. "A man with stars on his hat." She said. She spread her arms out and shrugged as if it were the simplest thing in the world. "He doesn’t wear the stars when he brings the fish. That’s the only thing. It wouldn’t look like Dan caught the fish if he did."
Jill cocked her head. "You mean Dan doesn’t fish?"
"He fishes." Clara slurred. "He’s a damned fine fisherman. How do you think he got so messed up?"
Both Myrah and Jill exchanged looks. "A terrorist in Jordan?" The builder’s wife asked.
"A shark!" The woman answered. Her eyes lit up as she described the scene. "He wrestles it to the ground bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds and bites. He screams for his buddies on the boat to help contain the beast but they’re all dead. In a rage he grabs his Desert Eagle and puts a bullet in its brain."
"Jesus." Myrah said again.
Jill’s brows knitted. "Why was he fishing with a gun?" She asked. It did seem like an obvious question.
Clara grinned. "America’s Enemies." She said.
Laughing she raised her hands like a pair of claws.