Li led us through red, velvet curtains next to the stage. The musicians were backstage laughing and smoking weed. The singer was applying lipstick at a small vanity. She looked up and smiled at Melchior. Then Li continued to lead them down a dark hallway until they reached a door. He opened it and gestured for us to enter.
They entered a study with dark, wood-panelling walls, books, and shelves of Chinese artifacts. A venerable looking Chinese man was sitting at a stately desk.
“Ah yes. My new Misters Johnson and Terrell,’ he said, rising and bowing. “Please have a seat.”
Melchior bowed and elbowed Robbie to do the same. Anxiously, Melchior sat down and so did Robbie, giving him a surreptitious glance.
Mr. Wo sat down, “I’m so glad you’ve decided to join us in our little,” he paused,” resistance. We had a glitch in our system otherwise we would have contacted you sooner. Excuse my men. I did not want you to leave before we had a chance to talk.”
Melchior nodded, not sure of what to say.
“Hand me your cards,” he said.
They handed him their cards and he pulled out a small machine. He put first my card in and it buzzed and beeped, then Robbie’s.
“Now, these cards will get you into any establishment in the UTN–Underground Tourism Network. Consider them carte blanche–unlimited access and credits to our many underground entertainment venues. I only ask that you swipe this daily at any of the Bank of Greater America ATMs. You will have a role to play before this is over. Have fun. Enjoy your little taste of freedom courtesy of the UTN. But when it is time, you will get your chance to fight for all of our freedom,” he said staring Robbie in the eyes with intensity. “We will not let this Fox get away with his crimes. He will stand trial. We will restore democracy!” said Wo, slamming his fist on the desk.
Melchior looked at Robbie, he was on the edge of his seat with fight in his eyes. He turned to me and nodded.
Mr. Wo regained his composure and said, “Li, please escort these fine gentlemen back to their tables. Make sure they are well taken care of for the evening. Show Johnson and Terrell to a private room and bring in their new counterparts, Roberts and McClelland. They have much to discuss.”
When they got to the door, Robbie said, “Mr. Wo? We will not fail you.”
As Li was escorted them to a private room with the beautiful women, Robbie stopped in front of a woman who was smoking and said “Hey, can I bum one of those?” She smiled and handed him a cigarette and a lighter; two things we hadn’t seen in a year before Chuck Wo’s. He lit up and took a long drag. His body relaxed. He turned to Melchior and said “Mr. Johnson. I don’t care about the clubs, the drinks, the ladies…none of that shit. You can have all of that you want. I don’t really know what we’re getting ourselves into, but if it means kicking that asshole out of the White House, I’m in.”
Melchior reached out for his cigarette and took a drag himself. Then he pointed it at him and said, “You’re a crazy motherfucker, you know that?”
“But can I ask just one favor?” said Robbie, straightening Melchior’s collar and smiling his first real smile of the evening, “Next time? Will you just fix the damn bug?”