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We came to a house—though house is putting it mildly. It was a baronial, three-story, 14-bedroom Gilded Age palace, built in 1883, according to Joel, and recently restored to its former glory. Think about it, 1883. A whole army of carpenters, masons, coppersmiths and wrought-iron craftsmen had gathered here, working their asses off while a heartbroken Karl Marx died in a London bed, while the first cash registers were being manufactured, while Beatrix Potter was writing the story of Peter Rabbit, while Sigmund Freud was thinking about buying his first gram of coke from the local apothecary, while somebody was first trying to sell the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge to a dumb-assed tourist.
I was still trying to estimate the cost of heating the place when we stepped out back. The garden was wild with reeds and tall grasses—lemon, diamond, pink pampas—all cultivated to look untended and overgrown. You almost couldn’t see the small building on the other side. The house’s original kitchen, said Joel, had been constructed as a separate outbuilding.
Two men were standing in the middle, a fine pair of dull-eyed gentlemen whose resemblance to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now—right down to the shaven heads and cement-barrel bellies—was remarkable.
“Quinn,” said Joel, “say hello to Wayne Schuster.”
“Wayne’s a security consultant from out in Seattle. Wayne, say hello to Quinn here.”
My own mouth went leather dry, like I’d just been sucking on a baseball mitt.
“Protect,” Wayne said with slow difficulty. “Protect something.”
“Nothing. We’re just giving him Genevix, one of our high cholesterol drugs.”
“If you take enough of it.”