Chapter 15. Diplomatic terms

All four people in the room peered out the window, trying not to be visible to the suit-monkeys disgorging from the limo down below.

“They have to buzz up to get in, right?” James said.

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Maxim said. “Also I’m going to assume they won’t all take the elevator.”

“How strong are your—” Marcy said, and then she heard sounds of banging metal and breaking glass from below.

“That’s not very diplomatic,” James said.

Maxim got a bright look on his face. “Can you see their licence plate?”

James peered, craned his neck, squinted. “Mmm… nnnot sure.”

“I’m taking a chance,” Maxim said, rabbithatting his laptop from his backpack. He glanced right and left for a moment and then decided to flop on the floor with it. Further banging sounds bumped the air from below. He dove into the keyboard. Tap tappa tappity ttap tappttttaptatatatttapptptptpatap. Chuck. Tppak. Chak chak chak ttap tpattap. TAP. He pushupped off the floor with a catcanary smile. “Well, we’ll see. If they’re on diplomatic plates or diplomatic visas, they’re diplomatic. And if they’re our customers, then… they practice diplomacy. They will handle affairs without hostility.”

Cathryn’s phone rang again. She looked. It was the front door intercom. “Hello?”

“Good evening,” a voice said in English so perfectly pronounced it couldn’t have been learned in childhood. “Please accept our apologies for an unfortunate incident that has just occurred involving your front door. We were just hoping to have a conversation with someone we believe may be with you.”

“Oh! Uh—” Cathryn looked back at Maxim with her eyes pointedly widened. “Who would that be?”

“A Mister Maxim Patryshyn. We are hoping he may be able to do a small favour for us.”

“…No one by that name lives here.”

“Ah, indeed,” said a voice that even sounded like it was smiling politely. “Would he perhaps be a guest of yours?”

Cathryn was unsure what to say. Perhaps if she said “Perhaps” Maxim might only possibly be there. She looked again at Maxim. He mouthed “Elevator.”

“I don’t know the full name of everyone who is visiting me,” she said, truthfully. That James dude, for instance. And Maxim’s middle name. Marcy’s too, if she had one. “But perhaps you could come up and meet them. Please take the elevator to the fourth floor.”

“Very good, ma’am,” the voice said.

Cathryn ended the call. “Why elevator?” she said to Maxim.

“Look it up for fun if you want,” he said. “I updated it in the van before meeting you, but I guess not soon enough to keep them where they were. …You’re not the top floor, right?”

“Right,” she said. And then: “I really have to get to the hospital.”

“Is there a back door?” Marcy asked.

“Yes, I can take the stairs,” Cathryn said.

“Wait just a minute if you can,” Maxim said.

“Maxim. Henry may be in real danger.”

Maxim’s face pinched with concern. He looked around. “What’s his middle name?”

“John,” Cathryn sighed.

Maxim’s eyes caught on something by the door. “Is he a bicyclist?”

Cathryn looked to see what he was looking it. It was a pair of bike shoes and, ugh, really? a pair of bike shorts Henry had left hanging there. She had been so stressed she hadn’t even noticed and now she felt embarrassed in spite of everything. But: “Yes.”

Maxim flopped back down to his laptop. “I’m going to give him a second time around. A second chance. A whole new life. If he needs one. He gets two cycles.”

Marcy looked at him with wide-eyed amazement, shaking her head slightly with a smile that was so appalled it was almost in lust. “That’s lexical vandalism!”

Maxim, tappattapping, looked up: “You don’t get to complain.” He smiled for punctuation and resumed his tapping. As he continued: “We get… what, three and a half hours more of this game? And I will never be a lexicographer again.” He looked up. “Not that I ever really was one.”

Marcy smiled, her lipstick making two blood-coloured crescent mirrors. “Honey, we’re rich.”

Maxim smiled quietly to himself as he kept tapping. TAP. “There.”

James, meanwhile, had wandered over to the computer, where the definition of “term” still showed. “Huh,” he said. “There should be a lot more definitions than that.”

Maxim got up and walked over. “That was partially accidental. I hit Enter too soon and deleted all but the first.”

All four in the room gathered and looked. The page defined it once, and tersely: “a word or expression that has a precise definition.”

“Half of that one, too, I’d say,” James said.

Cathryn held up a finger and went over to her purse, from which she produced Karly Presser’s book. She opened it to the bookmark and looked. She read out loud: “God is logically necessary because the concept ‘God’ exists – in other words, God exists by definition. … But if words can create God, what other tricks can they pull?” She looked up. “We’re subject to the updated terms and conditions. Which is why every time you update a term we’re subject to it.”

“A condition too,” James said.

“Like plethora,” Cathryn said to the inside of her head. “Or starvation.”

“By definition,” Marcy said.

“I haven’t updated ‘definition,’” Maxim said. “I could.”

“Make it something… infinite,” Cathryn said. “De-finite. The possibilities are limitless.”

Maxim smiled slightly. Then he looked towards the door, nodded up at it. “You’d better get to the hospital. While the diplomats are still going up.”

Cathryn nodded, purse-stuffed the book and shouldered her purse, and went to the door. “Be safe,” she said as she went out.

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