Mr. and Mrs. Smith|
The banana peel came that morning when I was woken out of a sound sleep with a phone call.
Dorothy and I went back out to the Radinov/Radinova mansion to figure out what the hell happened between yesterday afternoon and this morning ...
Roger strode into the study of the mansion, exuding enough coolness to freeze the room as he went all business. "What's the problem?"
Dasha Radinova, completely unprofessional in a pink and green housedress and her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, did not bother to cover up her emotions. "That monster conveniently got amnesia this morning when he woke up!"
Dorothy settled on the couch next to the upset woman and faced her. "Calm down, Dr. Radinova. Take a deep breath and explain what happened."
The woman inhaled deeply, her hands fidgeting with her glasses. "Benjamin is always up early in the mornings to do surgery to get it out of the way so his afternoons can be free. The hospital called and asked where he was, which scared me. I looked through the house and found him in his room, still asleep. I woke him up and asked him why he wasn't at the hospital and asked if he was ill or something. He asked me who I was!"
One hand picked up the glasses and moved to throw them across the room toward the face of one of the animal heads.
Dorothy caught them inches out of Dr. Radinova's hand, placing them on the table next to the sofa to be safe.
"Go on," Dorothy encouraged her.
"I told him my name and that I was going to be his ex-wife ... and he asked why we were divorcing! Then he asked who he was and what he did for a living! Then he asked how much I was getting from the divorce!" She jumped up and began pacing. "Some amnesia!"
"Did you tell him everything?" Roger asked.
"I told him everything up to the point of what I was getting! I can't believe he would do this! He's trying to back out of giving me anything!"
Roger and Dorothy looked at each other.
"Perhaps he really had been struck with amnesia?" Dorothy suggested. "After all, flashes of amnesia have occurred regularly, no one is exempt."
Dasha Radinova's words spat bitterly across the room, "Then explain why the farkuckt he found his way to the beach!"
* * *
Roger and Dorothy stood on the boardwalk separating the grassy park from the beach sand leading to the indoor ocean.
"See him, Dora-girl?" Roger asked.
"He's sitting under that palm tree. Do you want to go out to talk to him?"
He glanced at his wife. "I thought you wanted to work alongside me on this?"
Dorothy continued to stare at the artificial shore. "I am afraid I have no use in figuring out if a human has amnesia or not, Roger-dear. You have more experience in dealing with this sort of situation."
Roger raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? Why don't you come down with me, anyway. Maybe you can spot something I don't."
Dorothy leaned down and removed her shoes, then picked them up and stepped into the sand. She wiggled her toes. "I've never walked barefoot in sand before."
Roger chuckled as he followed her, trudging through the sand. "I've never walked in it before at all."
Both walked through the heavy sand, feeling the warmth under their feet.
And Roger realizing he should have taken his own shoes off as they rapidly filled with sand.
Dorothy approached Benjamin Radinov first.
"Dr. Radinov?" she inquired.
The man, laying on a beach towel and his sunglasses over his eyes, did not move.
"Benjamin Radinov!" Roger snapped.
The man sat up quickly. "I'm sorry, I don't recognize my name yet. And who are you two? Did I know you?"
Roger shoved his hands in his pockets. "We're negotiators, Dr. Radinov. Yesterday we negotiated your divorce settlement with your wife."
Radinov pulled his sunglasses up on top of his rapidly thinning brown hair and stared at the two individuals in black. "I hired negotiators?" He paused, scratching his belly. "Can you at least tell me your names, son?"
"Roger Smith - my wife Dorothy."
"Listen, Mr. Smith, I don't know what happened, but I don't think I should be divorced, at least until I figure out why I'm getting divorced."
Roger and Dorothy looked at each other. "Dr. Radinov - " Dorothy began.
"Please, darlin', call me Ben. Whoever this Dr. Radinov was, he sounds like a bastard if he was willing to let go of that lady he's married to."
"Ben ... " Dorothy began again. "Are you saying that you wish to remain married to your wife Dasha? You were divorcing due to 'companionable differences'."
Roger folded his arms. "Not to mention divvying up the goods in a fair manner."
Ben waved his hand in front of his face, pulling his sunglasses down. "I'm going to think of this amnesia as a second chance ... Dr. Benjamin Radinov was a workaholic stiff that would rather let go of his wife than worship her."
Dorothy picked him up by the front of his floral shirt, raising him off the ground and allowing his feet to dangle in the air. "Dr. Radinov, I have had enough of this. You must be held responsible for your actions before the amnesia, if you truly had amnesia. You will go through with the settlement and reestablish yourself. You were a doctor of medicine and - due to amnesia - no longer allowed to practice. This impractical attitude is not accomplishing anything that needs to be done."
"Dorothy Smith," Roger said quietly. "Put him down."
"But, Roger - "
"Dorothy, do as I say."
Her eyebrows knotted low over her black eyes and she dropped the man to the sandy ground.
Roger went to help him up, brushing sand off his clothes. "Dr. Radinov, we'll give you a few days to reacquaint yourself with your former life, then we'll come back and discuss what to do next."
Ben nodded. "Thank-you, Mr. Smith. Although I'm quite sure I don't want to return to what I used to be." He settled back down on the towel. "If this place is any indication, I have it pretty damn good, and I'm wasting it by working." He closed his eyes and dug his feet into the sand. "Good day."
Roger grabbed Dorothy's elbow and pulled her back to the walkway, temporarily stopping to take off his shoes and pour the sand out of them.
"I think he is lying," Dorothy stated.
"I'm not sure what to think, yet," Roger admitted, putting his left shoe back on then went to dumping his right shoe. "So far, we have Ben Radinov wanting to get back with his wife and his wife not wanting any more to do with him."
An explosion rocked the dome, the force felt through the ground and rattling the organs. The Smiths looked at each other, then looked at the smoke rising to the dome ceilings from the direction of the Radinov mansion.
Both raced down the street, Roger shoving the shoe back on his foot. They found one of the wings of the brick mansion smoking from the explosion which had torn a huge hole in the side of the building.
"Dr. Radinova!" Roger called.
Dorothy dashed right into the remains of the wing, vanishing in the smoke.
Roger dove for the Griffon and sent out an alarm to the fire department -
Dorothy emerged from the smoke, Dasha Radinova draped over one shoulder. She placed the woman on the lawn, propping Dasha's head back.
"Roger!" Dorothy called. "She's not breathing and her pulse is weak."
Ben Radinov appeared beside her, dropping to his knees. "Dasha! Dasha, wake up!"
Dorothy looked up at him. "You have to perform CPR on her."
He pulled back. "But I don't know how to do that! I forgot everything!"
Dorothy narrowed her eyes, then went to respiratory resuscitation. After a moment, Roger knelt down next to Dorothy and began pumping Dasha's heart.
The little maid ran out of the front of the house, coughing into a damp dishtowel. "Master Radinov!" she coughed. "Are you all right? The mistress is still - "
"Is right here," he replied. "What happened?"
"I don't know," she coughed. "The house just - blew up - "
Dasha began coughing, her body jerking, causing a hand to slam into Roger's gut.
Roger exhaled with an "OOF!" then muttered, "Had to get hit by the diamond ... "
Dasha's eyes squinted open as she continued coughing.
"Dasha!" Ben cried, pulling her toward him. "Are you all right? Talk to me, darlin'."
She continued coughing, pushing him away. "Let go of me, you bastard," she hacked. "Don't touch me! You tried to kill me!"
"Dasha ... " Ben whispered.
* * *
The military police found the remains of a shaped-charged bomb amid the wreckage of the west wing of the Radinov mansion. The funnel was directed right at the study where Dasha Radinova had been all morning.
Questioning had been pointless. All the servants knew nothing about the bomb.
A puzzle indeed.
Dorothy stood in the doorway to the balcony, watching Roger meditate as he leaned against the railing in the rapidly dimming twilight.
At this moment, she hated him. She hated the fact he was human and was susceptible to whims and temptations. She hated his flesh and blood, his tissue brain that could be both brilliant and idiotic. She hated that his emotions could swing from one extreme to the next, and she completely despised his ability to hide these extremes behind coolness and logic.
Detachment is reserved for androids, Roger Smith. You humans who envy our detachment have no right to emulate it.
And what of your excuse, Dorothy Wayneright Smith, she who enjoys emotions filling her drives and spilling over into her being?
She had always been aware of her emotions. As Dorothy Wayneright, she knew them all from rage to fear to jealousy. As Dorothy Smith, she became aware of joy and pleasure and comfort.
All due to Roger Smith.
That was what she hated him for the most - for dragging out these emotions and making her vulnerable ... on the level of humans ... and embracing her emotional core with the possessiveness of a desperate lover.
When - at any moment - he could turn around and tell her to get out. No longer feel affection or even a liking for her. He could even fall under the temptation of that Angel woman; there was always that possibility, since Angel had a much better figure and long hair and ... had actual flesh that could respond to his caresses...
The thought of Angel claiming her husband made Dorothy wish she could vomit.
So, Dorothy Smith, if you're such a cold machine, why do you desire to be married to this human male who is just as prone to human error as the rest of them?
It felt right.
And that is what angered her most of all - an undefined feeling that being married to Roger Smith felt right.
She needed to talk to someone who knew the situation, who had experienced the unique life of being married to one not of their kind.
* * *
In another part of Paradigm City, Beck sucked on a synthetic cigar as he lay in a bubblebath and scowled to himself.
She promised him money. Shape-charged explosives were child's play, and all the woman asked was for one big enough to kill the Radinova bint.
Of course, Crow Boy and his Android Lover were on the scene when it happened.
The figure in the red cloak came into the large bathroom, her white cuffs visible as she raised her hand and tossed an object toward him.
Beck caught it in midair and looked at the cellophane bag. "What the hell's this?"
The woman lowered her arm. "Peanuts. That's all your bomb was worth since it didn't finish the job."
Beck sat up, pulling the cigar from his mouth. "Hey, I did my job. You should have made sure the Negotiator wasn't there when it went off!" He threw the bag of peanuts back at her, the cellophane crackling as it landed at her feet. "And, Angel-baby, I need money to make these things proper. You can't hit a roach with a flyswatter - go with a sledgehammer."
The woman sighed. "Mr. Beck, I can see the job won't be done properly unless you can act out your vengeance against Roger Smith. Fine. What do you need?"
He leaned back, placing the cigar back in his mouth. "Now you're talking my language. How much you got? I have this brilliant design in mind ... "
* * *
Roger wandered back into the house, looking around for his wife.
Perhaps he did spend too much time thinking, but he had to ponder about the case involving the doctors. There was something not right at all with both the amnesia and the attempted murder ... not that attempted murder is right to begin with ... and he was hip-deep in trying to sort out this mess.
"Norman?" Roger said as he poked his head into the kitchen. "Where's Dorothy?"
Norman looked up from the dishes he was washing, his sleeves rolled up and yellow rubber gloves on his hands. "Mistress Dorothy went to see someone, Master Roger. She said she would be back later on tonight."
Roger processed this. "Do you know who?"
"I'm afraid not, sir."
"Thank you, Norman."
Roger left the kitchen and shoved his hands in his pockets, absently gazing around the big house.
Funny how empty the house was without her in it...
* * *
Dorothy was shown into a large, ornately decorated parlor where a tall elderly woman was sitting primly on a settee.
The woman's face was more handsome than pretty, long years and recent grief ravaging the surface, but never taking away her dignity and elegance.
Dorothy curtsied. "Mrs. Fitzgerald."
The woman nodded, a forced smile appearing on her face. She indicated a chair. "Welcome to my home. I'm afraid we were never formally introduced due to ... circumstances several weeks ago."
The girl sat, folding her hands in her lap. "My name is Dorothy Smith. When we had seen each other last, my surname was Wayneright."
Kelly Fitzgerald's eyes widened slightly. "Then you must be the late Timothy Wayneright's second daughter I've heard about."
"How do you know of me?"
Kelly Fitzgerald produced a linen handkerchief, dabbing at her eyes. "Roscoe knew all the androids in the city, including you. After all, you two were the only ones ever known to be produced to resemble human beings."
Dorothy felt a sense of relief for coming to this woman. "Did anyone else know he was an android?"
"Oh, no." Mrs. Fitzgerald nodded to the maid who brought in the tea. "If it were known to the public he would have been dismantled. Androids and robots do have very few rights, but being in politics isn't one of them. You understand it had to be done."
Dorothy nodded. "Yes, Mrs. Fitzgerald." She got up and waved the maid away. The maid glanced at her Mistress who nodded a dismissal. "Please allow me to serve you."
"Thank you, young lady." The older woman studied the younger one as Dorothy poured tea. "When I had first met you, I believed you were on Mr. Smith's staff."
"I was at the time," Dorothy confirmed. "Roger Smith and I had married a week ago, so I am now his wife." She watched Kelly Fitzgerald's eyes as she poured a few drops of cream into the tea, then reached for the sugar. Seeing a disapproval toward the sugar, Dorothy then handed the cup and saucer to the older woman.
"Thank you. Then, Mrs. Smith, I congratulate you on your marriage."
Dorothy sat down. "That is what I came to speak to you about, Mrs. Fitzgerald, if you do not mind."
The older woman lowered her teacup and looked expectantly at the girl, not with apprehension, but with motherly concern. "What is it, dear?"
"I believe you would have experience in the problem I have, since our situations are nearly identical."
She nodded. "You being an android married to a human."
Kelly placed her teacup and saucer on the coffee table and moved across the settee toward Dorothy's chair. "You're afraid his heart will change."
Dorothy nodded. "Roger and I both work together as Negotiators, and a recent case involved a divorcing couple who simply 'fell out of love' has affected me." She paused for a long moment, then finally, her voice choked with unaccustomed emotion which surprised her, blurted, "I'm scared to death he'll come to hate me because I'm not human enough!"
Kelly remained silent, her motherly expression never wavering. At last she said, "I had been married to Roscoe since The Event, and quite possibly had been married to him before then. As the spouse of an android, I have experienced things normal human spouses could never know. And I would not trade in those years and experiences for anything else in this world. I love Roscoe, I always have."
"How did you two do it? Did you ever want to leave him because he wasn't like you? That he wasn't ... human enough."
"I never thought of leaving him. Roscoe ... was my anchor. The one sane person in my life after I lost my memories. The politics were chaos and the press was cruel, but I could not imagine life without my husband. He showed me affection and love, and I returned them. It was like a lifeline for both of us - sanity and peace with each other. The only way to forget the world would be to lock the bedroom door and hold each other."
Dorothy smiled slightly. "Yes, I know that." She became somber again as she looked down at her hands. "I'm ashamed of being an android, Mrs. Fitzgerald."
"Child, there is no shame in how you were born. While most androids would be shunned for having such emotions, you should be grateful for having the ability to be empathic and compassionate. No amount of programming can instill such things. You are the daughter of Timothy Wayneright, given a second chance to live." She reached over and patted Dorothy's hand. "You have a husband who loves you and will crush the demons of hell for you."
Dorothy's dark eyes raised up to Kelly Fitzgerald. "But will it last forever?"
Kelly gazed at her. "Did you ever ask him why he married you?"
"Yes. He said that it felt right."
"And why did you marry him?"
Dorothy's eyebrows knotted. "Well ... it felt right. Which confuses me. It's undefinable."
Kelly smiled. "That's love. The undefinable feeling that they are supposed to be there, that it feels right to have them by your side, that you can imagine growing old with them and loving them despite their faults and them being the shield at your back when it's just you two against the world ... that's love. It's what makes a marriage last." She paused. "Even beyond death."
Dorothy processed this for a long moment. At last, she said, "Thank you, Mrs. Fitzgerald."
A few minutes later, Kelly Fitzgerald watched Dorothy Smith leave, seeing the girl's enlightened steps blossom with relief and hope.
"As it should be," the old woman murmured to herself, picking up her teacup and saucer. "For much depends on both of them making it through this."
* * *
Dorothy entered the large house, stepping off the elevator as her eyes automatically adjusted to the dim light.
The soft notes of a Chopin piece floated around her. The time was a bit off and a wrong key was hit at times, but she recognized it as Chopin nonetheless.
Roger sat at the piano, plunking out the notes as he concentrated on the page of music before him. He was in his shirt, which was unbuttoned and the sleeves rolled up, and his suspenders hung down over his hips. His hair was slipping out of the smoothed back style, strands falling in his face and before his brown eyes.
There was something about him at this moment that made him absolutely wonderful, and Dorothy was not sure what it was that made his rumpled appearance and bad piano-playing simply divine in her mind.
Kelly Fitzgerald said it was love.
And she should know what an android in love is like.
Dorothy approached the piano, placing her hand on top as she gazed at him.
"I wondered if you were going to come back," he said quietly as he continued to pick notes out. "I thought you finally grew tired of your old married man and his clinginess."
"No," she answered. "I just needed questions answered."
"Were they answered?"
"Yes." She moved around to the bench, sitting next to him, feeling the infrared warmth from his body as she pressed against him.
He took his hands away from the keyboard. "I never intended any of this, you know. When I first met you I did not intend to get tangled up in your life or anything beyond you being my client. Less than that, really - you were just part of a loose end in another case."
"But I began working for you," she offered, placing her hands on the keyboard and picking up where he left off on Chopin.
"Yeah." He folded his arms, looking down at her hands moving across the keys. "I grew used to you, even with your blasted morning piano playing and your disrespect of my authority in the house and the way you insisted on serving me syrupy coffee. You got under my skin and refused to leave ... and ... I found I wanted you here." He looked up at her. "Even though you mocked me, I trusted you. You are one of the few things in my life that hasn't bitten me on the ass or run out." He paused. "When Clark's death hit me, I lost one of those few things ... and I guess during my drunk I decided that I had to make sure you wouldn't go the same way."
"And you asked me to marry you," Dorothy concluded.
He turned and pulled her hands away from the piano, holding them in his. It still amazed him how small her hands were. "I don't regret it, Dora-girl. If the last week has proven anything, it's that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I can't go back to being alone and I refuse to let you go now. You fill that empty spot in me."
Dorothy looked up at him. This was not Roger Smith of old. The old Roger Smith would have rather eaten his sunglasses than admitted such things. Heck, he would have rather been stomped on by Beck's Super Victory Deluxe than admit that he was discontent with his existence and that he wanted someone.
"Roger, I have always wanted you, even when you acted like a pompous ass and put me in danger and flirted with that Angel woman - " (he winced) " - I had struggled with these feelings for ages while I worked with you. I was jealous of any woman you talked with, I feared for you whenever you went out to battle, I savored those moments you talked with me and complimented me and showed some degree of affection. I have nothing in my programming to categorize and justify the existence of these feelings ... and I had hated you for producing these feelings in me." She looked up into his face. "I had talked with someone who would know ... and I finally accepted that I do feel love for you, Roger. I want you in my life, I want to spend my life with you, I want to care for you and be by your side in battles - Mmph!"
She never finished since Roger embraced her tightly and kissed her violently. This she did not mind; while human women would have been bruised with such treatment, she found she enjoyed him being rough when he got into these moods.
He pulled slightly away, his lips brushing against hers as he spoke, "I love you, my Dorothy. You've turned me into a mush-talking romantic and I don't want it any other way."
"I wouldn't want you any other way, my husband," she replied, drawing her arms around his neck and darting her tongue out to his lips. "I love you, Roger Smith."
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