The Device
Chapter 2

Copyright© 2013 by JOHNNY SACHU

Once more, he stared into the mirror at his face and body, his fingers touching his cheek, bare chest, and stomach. David really did look like a young kid of fourteen. His body didn't have as much hair on it and even at twenty, he had just barely been shaving before he'd activated the device, coming all the way back from Nevada. Once again, he had no beard at all. He was going to have to lead a sheltered life and use the device very sparingly, having learned the lessen the hard way. He would have to go through puberty, again, too. It wouldn't be as hard as the first time, but it wouldn't be any fun, either. And what would his parents think when they saw him? He would look weird to them, appearing as young as he was, like when he was six years younger and even scrawnier than he'd been of late, before the machine he'd made had changed everything. They weren't stupid. They'd know something had happened to him. But he could never tell them the device made you younger. He could never tell anyone about the device that stopped time for its user.

I'll come up with some kind of fable, he assured himself.

He left the bathroom and went to his bed, walking naked while feeling the cooling effects of his freshly washed, juvenile skin. He put on fresh underwear and jeans, slipped a new white T-shirt over his head and shoulders and walked barefoot into the living room. All of his clothes were new, he'd lost so much weight in the time it took to drive back from Nevada to the mid-west, under the canopy of the device. He was a couple inches shorter, too. Even his shoes didn't fit properly.

Not surprisingly, he didn't want to play a video game. Going through stacks and stacks of them, nothing caught his interest. Before he'd left to go to California and ride back on his new motorcycle, they had been his main source of free-time pleasure. This last week, however, after coming home, had been very hard on his nerves but he was actually feeling better about the experience, the last day or so. That being, his adventure into Groom Lake's forbidden secrets. Otherwise known as Area 51, by UFO jockeys. He'd taken his new motorcycle into the secret base and took a bunch of pictures. This was all under the stoppage of time, with the device, of course. He had avoided detection, he was certain of that. The government spooks would have swooped down on him by now, he was almost certain. No. Certain. Almost. Or -- Maybe?

David decided to go for a ride on his bike, with nothing better to do. Buy some lunch; somewhere; and look at girls on the campus. On the bicycle, not his tricked out, built from scratch, café racer, Sportster, he'd bought in California, built especially for him and made to his specs. It was what had got him into this mess in the first place. Well! That wasn't quite true, was it? he re-thought it. HE had decided to tour Area 51, not the bike. But the bike had made him feel invincible, along with the device that held him in a time stasis and actually had 'allowed' him to slip back down time's corridor, growing younger, unknown to him at the time. The bike was just so powerful, so sexy and beautiful. Chrome plated everything. And what wasn't chromed was polished aluminum, nickel plated, or painted the deepest glossy black he'd ever seen. No. He'd have to stay off the Harley, Sportster, for a while. Until he felt safer that no one was investigating him. Like secret service, F.B.I., or other security forces and people with 9 mm Glocks.

He put on some light, white socks and some white running-shoes. As David was tying the laces, he realized he didn't have the device around his neck. He ALWAYS wore it. He rushed to the bathroom and took it off the high narrow window sill, above the shower, and wiped off the water splashes. It had still been there, thank goodness, and when he slipped the shoe-string thong around his neck, he gave an audible sigh of relief. The thing was water proof, so there was no problem there, he'd made it that way, but he babied it and cherished it. No one could ever have this tool, steal it, take it from him, use it. No one but him.

He held the device around his neck in hand as though it were his security blanket and went to his dresser. He opened a drawer full of money, grabbed about two-hundred dollars worth of five and one dollar bills, folded them once and put them in a front pocket of one of his jeans pockets, then his drivers license. He took a small folding, multi-tool pocket knife off the top of the dresser, as well as a key to the house, and put both into the other front pocket of his Levis.

David took his beloved single speed Firenze bicycle down from its protective wrack, near the ceiling, and went out the front door. He bombed down towards Highland Drive feeling the warm wind in his face and the tousling at his bushy hair. There was a gap in the cars so he shot through the opposite flows of traffic to the far side of the road, next to the curb, and aimed the bike south, pumping up hill, standing up in the peddles. He would head for the restaurants on Highland and then, later, he would visit the campus.

He ate at a Germanic restaurant he enjoyed because there was once a girl he liked who worked there. He'd never approached her but he still had fond memories of her for they'd had several classes together and she'd been a kind of secret love to him, even though he had been four or five years younger than she. The girl never even knew his name but he knew hers and loved thinking, still, about his fantasy girlfriend. She was long gone, now, disappearing into the past, and David had no idea where she was these days, after her graduation, having occurred years before.

After eating a smallish meal of noodles and some sauced meat, David left the restaurant while the summer campus classes were emptying from the parking lots. It was one o'clock and everyone hated afternoon classes, as in most colleges, and they were tearing out of the parking lots in every wealth level of car one could imagine or filling the transit buses to other places in the city.

David locked up his bike and walked around, sitting here and leaning there, casually watching behind sunglasses, like his father used to wear. There were still beautiful girls in their light summer clothes and tank tops coming and going. Some even looked his way, smiling. Not too many of them did that, before. But he looked younger now, cuter maybe, and less threatening than the big bruiser he had been at five ten and one-hundred and forty lbs, Not, before he'd used the device for so long. Hah! Now he was down to one-fifteen and five eight, or so, and looked like the wimpiest kid on campus. And was.

Guys ignored him and after several more stares at girls through his dark, three hundred dollar, prescription granny sun-glasses, David saw fewer and fewer women coming by. He quickly got bored and decided to head for one of the music rooms. There was always an open room with a grand piano behind the main cafeteria, upstairs. That area was still part of the music department.

He found his favorite room was empty. Yes! He could play a little.

He sat down on the long bench, and adjusted it's distance from the keyboard and peddles, removed his dark glasses and began to play. It was solace to him, as it had been throughout his college years, playing the instrument, as it had been for most of his life. He played very well though he'd had no real training other than his basic teaching between the ages of seven and nine. He'd been drawn to it, the piano, and the genius that he was, had mastered it early.

The beauty of the well tuned grand filled the relatively small teaching chamber with it's audience angled seating and the sounds of those exquisite tones and mental reveries made the world and its worries go far away. It was so touching to him, reaching into some inner part of himself, searching feelings real and imagined, looking for that illusion of joy and sadness each time he practiced. That elusive perfection of the quintessential piece that would break one's heart with the sheer beauty of its celestial sounds that was always the goal. He really loved the possibilities.

David made music up on the spot and each session was never exactly the same. Though he worked in several loosely based areas of arrangement at the same sitting, each playing was unique. It all depended on the sensitivity of his mood at the time, how deeply moving each one turned out to be, and he loved the creative process of it; The subtle and minor variations he worked with, the mathematical perfection that came out of his innocent mind, and that beauty of flowing with the sound. It all came from creativity that, to David, seemed to float like angelic wings through the air and into his heart as he explored the metaphoric ivories of the instrument.

The piece came to an end and he let the last chord drift off into infinity for almost a full minute before removing his fingers from the keys. That was the moment he heard a sniffle.

David spun quickly to see a woman, obviously a student, seated in one of the chamber's audience chairs, staring at him, and softly weeping. She was like his piece of music, beautiful and chiseled like love's ideal. Lovely as a piece of nature, she was colored in hues from an Easter's sunrise in gold's and pinks. David stared at her, smitten.

"That was beautiful," she cooed. Her voice weak with emotion though her bright smile was cheerful. "What piece was that?"

"One of mine," he said, deep in shyness while he swallowed hard.

"Are you waiting for someone?"

"No," David managed. "I just come here sometimes to play. I used to go to school here."

"Used to?"

"Yes."

"You don't look old enough..." her voice trailed off as she realized he was gifted. "Oh! You're one of those special kids?"

David smiled and looked at the floor and then back at the safety of the white and black keyboard, touching it with both hands and playing combinations of soft chords so he wouldn't reveal his emotions. He wanted to look at her, but couldn't. Her face was striking, in a magnificent way, and not unlike an actual angels, especially her eyes, but her figure was filled with all the right peaks and curves, too, and hard not to stare at too obviously. But he'd seen that look on other faces before when they realized he was way younger and way smarter than they were. He hated that look of disappointment. It was instant rejection.

But surprisingly, she was different, and came closer. The chamber had fixed seating, in a rising amphitheater style setting, and she seated herself so she could see him and the keyboard perfectly, on the nearest row.

David glanced quickly her way when he saw her repositioning herself, appreciating the beauty of her softly motioned breasts swaying like a promise and their every full feature. He felt a stirring as she smiled, again, especially for him. She was friendly and lovelier than any girl he'd seen in several years. Maybe ever.

"What was your major?" she inquired. "It had to have been music?"

"Math, Physics, Mechanical Application, a few others," he almost mumbled. He wasn't looking for approval or praise.

"Really?"

"Yup!" he almost burped.

"I see. Well, was it fun, learning all those new things?"

David thought he sensed some kind of interest in him. She wasn't put off. Wow! But he had been fooled before. And hurt.

"It was ... for the most part. But after a while, I think I saw my professors were basically simple minded and too stuck in their ways. I think I knew more than they did, the last two years."

"Really? That would be hard to deal with," her voice sympathized.

Her accent sounded mid-western, somewhere well off, almost as if she were from Gross Point, in Michigan, but if that were so, what was she doing in this little state college?

"It would drive me nuts," she continued. "I've never felt that, but they sure seem to have a lot of worthless professors on campus. Their egos are as large as the Bell Tower."

When David looked, they both smiled. There was some common ground there, apparently.

"I'm Cheryl. What's your name?"

"David Evans."

"I've never heard of you and I've been here a year."

"There's no reason you should have. I never did much to gain attention. I stuck pretty much to myself and my school work."

"But weren't you, I mean, aren't you quite, um, smart?"

"I suppose, in some ways, but that doesn't make me a celebrity. What's your major?" he asked, trying to turn the topic away from himself.

"Journalism. I thought I wanted to be a writer but I might switch to teaching. I love little kids."

David lifted his chin as if to say, Oh! I see. His face turned back to the keyboard.

"Would you like to hear another piece?"

"I'd love to, yes."

"I only ask that you remain still and silent while I play. I kind of go into deep thought when I'm playing and noise or movements are distractions for me. They kind of ruin it. Can you do that?"

"I think so."

"Okay."

David took one last quick glance her way and began. He imagined being in love with her and making love. Imagined her natural, uninhibited beauty, her smile, her hair and coloring, the tasteful, incomparable loveliness of her woman's figure. The music came easily, this time, and flowed like a stream's cool refreshment from his finger tips out into the world of their senses, touching them and tearing at their emotional strings. Certainly, tearing her heart strings in two. He could sense her tears flowing, again. David's, also, was included in those feelings, that metaphor, for he knew he would never be together with someone like her. He couldn't possibly win her heart even though she already had his in her palms and didn't even know it.

The piece was intricate, uplifting and exquisitely sad, both. They intertwined like the beautifully long golden braid of her hair that fell off of one narrow shoulder and rested, enviously, on the lovely swell of a single breast and its tip. The music rose and dipped into various emotions with his breathing, working it's way into the very corners of his and their spirits and both seemed to crack under it and then break like an ancient stained-glass cathedral window of a thousand years in the making. Under the spell of his playing, the piece shockingly shattered into a myriad of colored jewels at their emotional, metaphorical feet, along with the storm of its sweet sensual, heavenly bliss gone forever, now, in love's vast, lost field. It was more than a heart could stand and as David finished up, he realized he too was almost weeping.

Cheryl, on the other hand was a complete mess and as he let his hands drop from the keys, she came to him deliberately and firmly wrapped her arms around him. She kissed his face, every inch of it, as well as his neck, cradling his head in a desperate embrace, then resting her head, after two minutes of this kind of display, on his shoulder, hugging him harder and more fully pressing herself into his skinny little boys frame, breathing deeply and fast as if she had just finished making love, her hot breath from those swollen red lips boiling his young blood as they whispered on his skin and into his ear; "That was so lovely, David, so beautiful, so exquisite."

He was glad she hadn't used the word, 'awesome', as so many vacuous minds did, these days. But he had to wonder at her emotional display. He looked like a kid, a child, but found he honestly didn't care. He loved the feel of her body next to his.

She had pleasantly sat herself in the opposite direction from him, on the bench, so that they faced each other. The tender softness of her dreamy figure cuddled him and David had no where to move his one arm, trapped there between the deep swell of her unbelievable bust. He was confined but loved the tenderness and warmth of her front, moving him to appreciate and want it in hand, and made him desire it all the more.

"That was more beautiful than the last piece, David. It was more moving than any piece of music I've ever heard. What were you thinking about?"

He couldn't tell her it was about them making love and falling into eternity as one and then being lost to each other like some ancient Greek tragedy. That would simply be too much of a blatant admission for what had happened to him, or both of them, in his mind, and knew they were but mere shadows to one another in the bigger scheme of things, and doomed to formless emptiness. They would never be lovers. Instead he merely told her, "It was about, love."

"How can you have such feelings? You're so young. What are you? Twelve, thirteen?"

"I'm twenty."

She moved back from him, looking at his child's face and the wild, wind blown, bushy black hair.

"You can't be?"

"I am, though..." It amused him, to see her face with so much surprise in those red eyes streaked with pools of wet and tears falling across her prominent peachy cheeks. He already missed the feel of her breasts against him, their warmth, the way they pushed into and contoured around him. "Would you like to see my drivers license?"

"Yes. You're just so, so, well, you're too ... so young looking."

"I know."

He was able to move his arm without grazing a breast, as much as he'd enjoy it, and retrieved the only card he ever carried these days, his license. Out of the back pocket it slipped into his fingers and he gave it to her. He didn't carry a wallet.

"You are. You're a year older than I am? Almost two. Your birthday's in two weeks." She seemed surprised.

"Yes."

She returned the card but kept looking into his eyes and touching his face until David removed her hands with his own, pulling them gently down by the wrists and looked into her eyes. He was getting rather excited and embarrassed.

"Thank you Cheryl. It was very nice to meet you, but I better get home, now." In truth, the more she touched him and the longer he was near to her, in such a compromising position, the harder it would be to leave and forget her and her beauty. He had other concerns, right now, and didn't need a girl friend. There was the government and that thought suddenly sobered his lust.

"Can we go out for some coffee, or something? I'd like to talk. You know? Get to know each other?"

"I don't know if we should."

"Why?"

"I'm not very interesting and you'll eventually disappear like other girls. I don't think I could handle that very well. It always hurts too much." That last part wasn't exactly a lie. But he hadn't been out with a girl for years, and that was to some dumb birthday party where the girl had disappeared on him. He just wanted to sound more mature, more experienced. Then it suddenly hit him. How the heck had something like this have happened? David wondered. I just wanted to get out for a while, get a bite to eat and now all I want to do is be with her. She'll just tear my guts apart when she leaves, if I do go out with her. It might already be too late. "Girls don't like me after a while." he continued. One had even told him he was boring, back in grade school. No. He shouldn't go out with her. And almost immediately the thought came to mind that was closer to the truth, and said, "Math and physics nerds are always, honestly, a bit boring, I'm afraid."

"I like you, David. Don't be afraid. I'm not going to hurt you."

He didn't know how to respond and just sat there, but suddenly Cheryl stood up, straightened her back and blouse, her breasts thrusting forward like Madonna cones, and took his hand. "Come on, Mr. Sensitive. We'll just go out for a coffee and maybe some snacks." Gathering her books and purse in her other arm, hiding her great assets, she pulled David to his feet.

David grabbed his prescription sun glasses and was lead away like a lamb.

On the way to her car, David saw his bike from a distance. The wheels were missing.

"My bike!" he shouted and ran to it, roughly leaving Cheryl's side, flying down some concrete steps. He took them several at a time, down to the bicycle parking and rushed across the asphalt in between. They were only steel rimmed wheels. Why would a thief steal a cheap set of wheels?

He quickly looked around, saw no one suspicious and then undid the U-lock that kept the bike secured to the bike stand. He snapped the U-lock in the frame holder, standing up with his beautiful Firenze bicycle frame in his hands. It looked helpless and pathetic without the wheels.

David was more than angry and wished his device could turn back time. He looked around, again, and barely saw two kids, two students, up on the far away hillside stairs, headed for an upper parking lot. They were silhouetted against the skyline, carrying a bicycle wheel each. He looked back at Cheryl. She was looking down at the steps she was descending, trying to catch up with him. He pulled out the device and clicked it on and time stopped, for himself. The wind quite moving, Cheryl was in mid stride and those sons of bitches up on the hill were frozen and in for some pain.

He left the frame on the grass and ran after them. He quickly caught up to their frozen forms at the top of the stairs and circled them, staring at their faces, kicking them both in the shins a couple of times, each, just for the satisfaction. They were his wheels alright. He pulled their fingers away from the rims and set the wheels on the ground.

He stripped them of their backpacks and all their clothes, tipping them onto their backs in mid air, over the edge of the spiny evergreen plants, planted on the steep hillside. They were easy to move around, as if they hardly had any weight to their bodies. He looked through their backpacks and found lighter fluid in one of them for a cigarette lighter and the silver, flip top Zippo lighter, itself, in a pants pocket.

David was REALLY pissed off. He looked at them, floating in mid air, helpless yet with grins covering their faces as if they were making fun, having a good laugh at the expense of the chump that dared leave his bike wheels unlocked so they could steal from him.

He finally grabbed the hands of the two and bent back their fingers, every one of them. He heard the knuckles dislocating, or the bones breaking, and didn't care. He was way beyond angry. He got the lighter fluid and squirted it in their eyes, rubbing it in with a baby finger. It wouldn't blind them, but it would hurt like hell for a while. They wouldn't feel a thing, however, till he started time again.

The next part of his plan was to right the word 'thief' all over their foreheads, chests, stomachs, legs, arms, backs, butts and feet with a black permanent marker from one of their packs.

He also took the set of keys, he'd found in one of their hands and went to find the car they had been headed to. But first, he repositioned their bodies once more to fall and tumble through the spinyest section of evergreen brush with rose bushes at the hillsides base, when time began again, for them.

The car David found was a brand new, beautifully white, BMW coupe, sitting all by itself out in the far corner of the upper parking lot, so it wouldn't get scratched, David assumed. Rich bastards. Didn't want his car scratched, huh? But didn't care if they stole something from another student. Anything for cheap kicks against someone else, but not their property. Stealing from a crummy, bottom end bicycle, too. Low life pieces of shit.

David scratched THIEF in big letters on all the major surfaces of the paint, with the cars keys, but then, had a better idea. He'd never imagine it would go this far, but it had, and would. Damn them.

He opened the car, the windows, doors, hood and trunk of the new BMW. They'd pay for stealing from him. Pay deeply. They'd probably been stealing for years, thinking it was funny. Well, they'd find out that their kind of fun had a price, and he was collecting.

He was maybe a hundred yards away from the two guys he had stripped and positioned to fall and was watching them as he was about to turn time back on, but suddenly remembered the parking lot cameras. He took his T-shirt and pulled the neckline up over his hair, nose, neck and took off his unique sun glasses. He was sure it almost totally blocked his features and then he pressed the device's single button. They fell to the ground with a hard thumping, in quick surprised screams in their new found pain. Soon enough, deep crashing cries were wafting up over the edge of the hill with the breeze as they tumbled down the embankment in broken agony and blindness.

David quickly threw all their belongings into the car, except their drivers licenses, which he'd kept for future reference, and dowsed everything, the whole car, with that lighter fluid till the bottle was empty then threw it inside the car, too. He stood back from the German car and tossed the Zippo lighter into the back seat. The cars interior flashed instantly into flames and soon the entire car, bumper to bumper, was in full burn, even the tires. The heat caused David to back away and as the car began to roar with the power of the fire, he pushed the button of the device, again. The flames quit moving, the breeze stopped and the screams from over the hillside quit echoing up to that upper parking lot. David was satisfied and lowered his T-shirt.

He jogged back to his wheels, collected them, and descended the long concrete steps he'd run up, glancing over at the two guys at the bottom of the hill, in various poses of screaming and crying out in pain. Their skin, everywhere, was torn, lacerated, and bleeding. Their twisted hands, with each finger bent back or broken, looked odd, but there was little mercy in David's heart for them. A lifetime of bullies had made him hard, apparently, and eager for this chance at revenge.

He ran back to his Firenze, re-attached the wheels, making sure the chain was tight and the wheels aligned, then left the area. He slowed to look over at Cheryl, still descending the stairs, and wanted to go kiss her good-bye, but thought he just better leave and get the heck out of there. Gosh she was beautiful, though ... So beautiful.

When he was a block from the school, he clicked time back on as he coasted down hill, away from the college, and stuffed the device back beneath his T-shirt. The air movement and noise had returned like a huge wind mill and mega-speaker had suddenly been turned back on. He didn't grin, exactly, but he felt grimly satisfied in his revenge, though he wondered if all his pent up anger, he'd just released, was the guilt he was feeling for stealing himself, from all those banks? No. That wasn't it. He'd taken it from thieves and bullies like those two all his young life. They deserved it and he deserved a little revenge.

Safe back inside his house, David thought about things. Obsessed over them, really. The military that might still come after him, the two driver's licenses he had. He wasn't done with those guys. He was going to burn their lives and their world for a while longer, literally and emotionally. Really make them pay. And he also thought about Cheryl. She was, he concluded, the most physically attractive thing he'd ever seen. She wasn't all that intelligent, he thought, but gosh; beauty, at least for a little while, could go a long ways in a relationship. But he had no place for a girl in his life, right now. There were too many things to worry about. Still, he wished he knew where she lived. Once he'd smoothed things over in his world, maybe they would meet again, somehow.

He sat slumped into his white leather sofa, hands behind his head, feet up on the glass table and stared up at the white ceiling and its plaster texturing, thinking about those three subjects. Eventually, however, his eye came to rest on his super Sportster. He hadn't ridden it for a week, since his return. He had cleaned it up, though, days ago, removing the hard, dried on, dead bugs, the road dust, cleaning and lubing the expensive, gold plated chain and polished and drilled out aluminum sprockets. He had even changed the oil in it, right there on the wood floor paneling, beside the big screen TV. It was all pretty easy and he wondered and dared himself to think of taking it out for a ride around town, this evening.

It was a fantastic bike. It looked like a Super Bike, but it was more tricked out than most people could ever think of. It started out as a Sportster engine but the rest of it had nothing at all to do with Harley-Davidson. It was purity in metals like chrome molly tubing, high end steels, thick chrome plating, beautiful nickel plating, polished aluminum, and black, gleaming paint. Everything on it was aimed at function and performance. It was striking to say the least and handled like a feather weight racing machine. It had cost him a hundred and seventy thousand dollars, but money had been no problem, as free at it was. The world was his bank, now, with his device.

He got a special polishing rag and went over the metal, chrome, and paint for two hours, just for the mere enjoyment of touching the bike, rubbing and re-cleaning the endless details, and generally admiring all the facets he had ordered in its designed features. It had taken quite a while to construct, but David was totally satisfied with the completed work. Too bad it didn't seat two. Maybe he'd really run into Cheryl again, someday. There was always the Kawasaki trail machine that could seat two. What he needed, was a car, though, or a pickup truck, if he was ever going to have a girl friend.

David turned on his huge wide screen television and flipped through the channels and stopped at the news. The two losers were on the six o'clock news, already.

"A bizarre turn of events at, (bla, bla), university, today. Two students were attacked after trying to steal bicycle parts from the campus parking lot, say the police. It seems the owner discovered them in the act and stripped them of their clothing, tossed them down a hillside full of sharp, impaling plants, and burned their car in apparent revenge. He'd also managed to write the word thief all over their faces and bodies. It's been confirmed by police that their fingers were also broken or dislocated for their efforts to take what wasn't theirs from the unknown assailant or owner, depending on your point of view, of the now disappeared bicycle and its rider. Further investigation into the lives of the two privileged students, from wealthy families, shows that their off campus home is filled with stolen property from the school and apparently other students. Deeper investigation is ongoing while the names of the two young men are being withheld pending notification of their parents. I guess, in this case, crime didn't pay, did it Alex?"

"I suppose not, Alice." the announcers both grinned. "In other developments, the states tax levy was..."

David switched channels and found another report and listened to it, too. Luckily, there was no mention of a Cheryl. She knew his name but he hoped after seeing the two naked guys screaming on the ground, and he being gone, she had left before security had arrived. David hoped that would be the end of it.

He gave off a sigh of relief and began flipping channels, stopping on a rerun of the original Star Trek series but soon got restless.

He was feeling hungry and after putting a movie into the DVD player, with Johnny Depp as a kind of anti-hero, David ordered a pizza, bread sticks, and a two liter bottle of soda from Dominos. The movie was a favorite of David's, Secret Window, and the night was going along just fine until the phone rang. David hit pause on his remote.

"Hello?" There wasn't an answer. He asked again and Cheryl answered.

"Hi, David."

"Oh! Hi. Sorry I had to leave so quickly. I just couldn't go out with you Cheryl. I'm not comfortable around other people. I didn't mean to be rude and run away like that. I just can't be around people. I'm just not good at it. I hope you can understand that?"

There was a little silence. One of those deafening pauses.

"Did you hurt those two boys, David?"

"What two boys?"

"There were two boys that were stealing bicycle parts. Your bike didn't have any wheels. Did you hurt them?"

"No. I don't know who you're talking about. I store my wheels up by the cafeteria. It's more public there. I just said that to run away, I'm ashamed to say. I'm a coward, Cheryl and I'm not very comfortable around girls. And you know how big I am. I couldn't hurt you, if I tried, much less a couple of guys. What happened?"

She seemed to respect the fact that David was indeed too small a person to hurt anyone and told him about the two students.

"That seems like pretty extreme punishment," he told her, "for stealing a few bicycle parts."

"That's what I was thinking," and she paused, again. "David, what are you doing right now? I'd like to see you."

"Eating pizza and bread sticks and watching a movie."

"Can I com over? I want to talk, like I said this afternoon. I know I make you nervous, but I won't get close. Can I?"

David thought fast and hard. He didn't need her in his life but damn, she was so darn pretty.

"Sure. Okay. That would be nice. But be prepared. I'm a slob and you might find a lot of junk laying around."

"I don't mind. I'm a little messy myself."

"Have you got a pencil and paper?"

"I know where you live. I memorized the address when you showed me your license."

"Oh!" he said.

"I drove past it, too, when I left school. You were just going into your front door but I didn't want to stop. I figured you left because you didn't like me."

"No. I like stalkers, Cheryl. It's just girls that make me nervous."

She laughed.

"You're funny, aren't you."

"Normally, no."

"I'll be right over. Save me a piece of pizza."

"Okay. Bye."

"Bye, bye."

David hung up and didn't know what to think. He had visualized riding the Sporster tonight, in spite of his concerns about flashing it around town. It was what he'd ridden into area fifty-one, after all. But that decision could wait. This might be fun, too. Cheryl had promised to behave herself and keep her distance but he didn't know if he wanted that, exactly. He just hoped he could. Wow! Cheryl, here. With him. Geese!

David noticed the two drivers licenses of the two guys, on the glass top of his table, in front of the sofa, which served also as a foot rest and dinning room for his pizza and soda, and anything else that ended up on it. Those two cards would be way too incriminating.

"Oh-p! Better get rid of these." Talk about getting on the bad side of her. Girls don't like to be lied to, from what I've heard.

Along with hiding the two pieces of laminated evidence, David tried to quickly straighten up the living room and his bedroom. He didn't know where Cheryl was coming from but it probably wouldn't take her that long to get there. Especially if she already knew where he lived.

In moving around, David got a whiff of his underarms and hands. He smelled, and his hands reeked of cleaning solutions and polishing wax.

He jumped into and out of the shower then put on fresh clothes. He did a fast clean up of the bathroom, too. He had just sat back down on the sofa when Cheryl arrived. She was wearing faded blue jeans, simple, thin white sandals, and a short sleeved, pink sweater. It was thin enough, though, that you could see her lacy bra beneath the weave. Her hair was combed differently from the school look of one braid. It was brushed out and long, covering the sides of her face. She had, he could barely see, a single set of what he thought were artificial diamonds in her ear lobes. Talk about classy. Simple, modest, and lovely. Just the way David liked girls.

He invited her in and they sat at opposite ends of the sofa. It wasn't that long, but it separated them and she did keep her distance, darn it.

"Do you own this house?"

"No. I just rent, but I've been thinking of buying one. Though I guess a car is more important at the moment. But for either, you need money. Maybe after my birthday, and I have a job, I'll go looking for some wheels."

"What do you do for a living, I mean now? Now that you've graduated?"

"I've been weighing my options. Some government people have made me offers to go to work for them but some big companies, that pay better, have made offers, too. Right now I'm kind of living on fumes and my parent's generosity." He felt bad about lying to Cheryl, but it all was camouflage to protect himself and the device.

"So you're not independently wealthy like I thought you were, huh?"

David shook his head and almost snorted, not that he ever did, of course. He wanted her to think of him as broke or nearly so, not the device wielding, Area 51 infiltrator, bank robber of ones and fives, and genius that he was. If she only knew how much money he actually had stolen. He'd become very wealthy, relative to what he'd been living on all through school. All those thefts were hidden away in safe deposit boxes all over the city.

"Not hardly. I get a few odd jobs, tutoring students, under the table, but that's about it, right now."

"And yet you have this big motorcycle, here. In your living room, no less. It's beautiful, but it looks very expensive?"

"It was, but I've been saving up for it for a long long time. If you'll notice, there's several hundred bike magazines around the house. I've been designing it on paper for a eight years, or so, what I wanted in a dream bike."

"Oh! So they didn't pay for it? Your parents?"

"No. They don't even know I have it. My mother would have a cow if she knew. She made my dad get rid of his motorcycle, years ago."

"What do your parents do?"

"They teach college level math and science. That's where I get my skills in it, I guess. It's always been easy for me. I graduated at nineteen with three doctorates."

"You're kidding?"

David looked down at his empty hands then grabbed another piece of pizza.

"Help yourself, Cheryl."

She did, picking up a slice, while they continued their conversation, David coming back with some of his own questions. Like, where did she call home? How many brothers and sisters did SHE have? But she always managed to turn the conversation back to him, strangely. It seemed like a skill she had learned somehow. Girls are always better at conversation, he concluded. The thought of her avid interest in him, though, was just a bit suspicious.

Could she possibly be a spook? No! he decided. Not the way he'd met her. He was being paranoid. Damn Area 51.

"I see you really like video games?" she said.

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