She went on like this, and the fries boy came over to add masturbatory sins of his own, but I’d heard enough and took my egg sandwich to the seating area. I spied a middle-aged man in a rumpled suit talking on a cell phone. He had a cup of coffee, so I went over to sit near him. He was so engrossed in his conversation that he didn’t notice me eavesdropping.
“Uh-huh … uh-huh,” he said while pushing doughnut crumbs around the tabletop with his finger. “The reason I called … uh-huh … the reason I called … uh-huh.” He took a final sip of coffee and said, “Listen, Ted, shut up for a minute, will you? I have something important to say. Yeah … that’s right. You’re my brother, and I love you, but I’ve been holding this back for too long. Uh-huh … You know Billy? Yeah, your kid, Billy, only he’s”–the man wiped his brow with a paper napkin–“he’s not your son. He’s your nephew.”
There was a long pause, and then the man continued, “What the hell do I mean? I’ll tell you what the hell I mean.” And he did so, in excruciating detail. I half listened as I checked off my list: muscle twitching–negative; bizarre behavior–negative. Out of the corner of my eye I watched G, C, and B working the other tables, approaching anyone drinking coffee from one of our vendors.
We compared notes on the drive back to the motel. Beyond a doubt, True Confessions was a keeper. The early reports on its harmlessness seemed justified. Nevertheless, C’s idea of delivering test doses via adulterated coffee was a brilliant precaution, because no children became involved. We’re patriots, not monsters.
M’s part in the operation had concluded that morning, and when we arrived at the motel room, she was in the bathroom removing tattoos. We quickly changed our clothes and cleaned the room for final departure, meanwhile logging our test results. M came out of the bathroom a new brunette with scrubbed pink arms, and B and G went in to remove their disguises. M walked around the room gathering up her things and asking how it all went. C looked up from his handset long enough to say, “It’s true! No offense is too large or too small for a detailed accounting.”
M nodded thoughtfully, then turned to me and said, “And this is a good thing, why?”
I just grinned, and she let it drop, said she had to go get her kid, and left.
G, meanwhile, was in the bathroom brewing up a celebratory pot of coffee. His idea of a joke.