Note from the author. This is less about the sex than it is about introducing characters for an oncoming series. Please look for Ingrams & Assoc 1: Double Bluff for the next stage in this story arc.
"Good afternoon, Algy. I may call you Algy, yes?" said the little man cheerfully. "I hope so. I know you can't answer me, but I also know you are in there. I can see it in your eyes. We can chat, yes?"
The little man, in a white crumpled linen suit complete with Panama hat, settled into the large overstuffed chair present in every hospital and old people's home. He put down his steaming coffee on the side table, took off his hat and mopped his brow with his handkerchief, revealing that he still had a head of hair, even though it was bright white. His accent was faintly British, though coated with American – what they called a Mid-Atlantic accent today.
The little man peered over at the immobile man in the bed next to him, hooked up to many machines and a respirator. The man in the bed looked back at him, questions in his eyes.
"Algy, I won't bother you unless you give me a sign, all right? I have a story to tell – one I tell once a year to someone who is actually old enough to remember the events, and always to someone who is unlikely to pass this particularly story on. I just ... need to retell this. Once a year."
--The little man watched the bed's occupant for some sign. The man in the bed looked back and then looked down at his hands, by his sides on the bed. One finger was raised. The little man looked at it, back at Algy and said, "Ok then. I'll take that as a yes. I should introduce myself. My name is Marcus, and I'm sad to say, I'm broken inside..."
April Burrows pulled in the parking lot of the Mecca Miles Retirement Community and sat in the driver's seat, listening to the car ping and creak as it cooled down. She checked her watch again and saw she was twenty minutes early. While she loved Uncle Marcus, hanging out in these places to wait for him was not her idea of a great time. They smelled too much of antiseptic, hinting at personal emergencies she honestly didn't want to think about.
April was twenty-five years old. She was lithe, as girls who play a lot of sport often are. She was 5'9", tall, and had a large bush of red hair, deep red, which she habitually kept in a scrunchy so it was out of her face. It wasn't that she disliked her hair – she quite liked it in fact. She just hated the amount of time it took to get it under control. Easier to just tie it up, and leave it at that. She didn't have anyone to impress right now anyway.
When she did let it down, she looked like a cross between the princess from Pixar's Brave and Prince William's wife, Kate Middleton. She had slim hips, was not over endowed up top (something she was eternally thankful for – her best friend at college, Jessica, had large boobs and as she said, "I could never tell if a guy was talking to me or my chest.") and had a pixie like nose. She had often wondered if she should have work done on it, but decided against it. It was part of her. The chin now ... the chin could definitely use work. She had sparkling green eyes that were never looking at one thing too long – her attention darted around, taking in everything and filing it away. April was just glad she didn't have the pale countenance that usually came with red hair – she had gotten her slightly olive skin from her mother, god rest her soul.
Having just come from a particularly hard volleyball game, she was still sweating slightly, even though she'd showered afterwards and the car's AC was running. It was hot out here in Arizona, she though, marveling again that she was still here, in Phoenix, even after graduating ASU in Tempe. She had imagined herself away from this oppressive heat the moment she graduated, but here she was, still here.
She checked her watch again – two minutes had passed. The car was starting to heat up from the afternoon sun and she considered her options. She had agreed to pick up Uncle Marcus from this dreary place and drop him home, but knowing him, he'd insist on dinner with her and grill her on the day's activities. She smiled. "Grill her" was a bit strong, but he was always interested in her life and made no bones about it. It was another reason she loved him so much.
She could either start the engine again and get the cold air flowing or just go inside and talk to the receptionist. They'd talked a few times the other times she'd picked up Uncle Marcus. She frowned when she thought about the fact that she still didn't know what he was doing there – who he was seeing, what he was talking about or anything. Not that it was her business, but April was smart enough to know she was nosey. Very nosey in fact. When she'd asked him he'd just smiled that sad smile of his and said "Oh, magic tricks for the natives, dear. They are the only ones who would remember it."
She thought it was great that he wanted to visit the old folks – it spoke to the kind of person he was – but it was a trifle ... she couldn't figure out the right word. Strange? Weird? Peculiar? No, it was eccentric. That was the word. After all, that was her uncle to a T. Look up "eccentric" in the dictionary, and there was a picture of him. As a matter of fact, she would have to do that – go buy a dictionary, stick his picture in next to the word and definition and give it to him as a present. She knew he'd find it funny.
Bored, she considered her Uncle Marcus, her favorite and only uncle. He was almost seventy-five now, but still spry. His background in showbiz and archeology had kept him young-looking and she knew his interest that which had been his life's work was still strong. After her parents had died, Uncle Marcus had been the one to arrange her upbringing, paying for it out of the proceeds he'd gotten from the various discoveries he and her parents had made in the years following the war, plus the radio and TV appearances he'd made over the years, playing the part of Older Statesmen Archeologist.
Her Uncle Marcus – his name was always preceded by "Her Uncle", something she noticed she'd been doing since she was six, and had just never stopped – was all the family she had left now. He wasn't even 'real' family – her only family had been her parents, and they'd died when she was an infant. But he'd been the one to look out for her; he'd even tried to adopt her, but back in the late sixties, single men trying to adopt little girls was frowned upon. She'd ended up a ward of court, in the system, but he'd never lost sight of her. Always there on weekends and for birthdays and other events, in whichever home she happened to be at the time.
He'd even been the one to explain to her what periods were, and embarrassed as he'd been, taken her out to buy her first set of period pads. When she had her first sexual experience and was dumped unceremoniously afterwards by the dickwad who had fooled her with his smooth talk, Uncle Marcus was the one she turned to for solace and understanding. She learned some lessons that day, both through her own desire to believe bullshit and also through the information that Her Uncle Marcus had imparted. One thing in particular had stuck with her: "If you want to be sure, wait. The more you wait and the more you know someone, the more you will know if it's right or not." Words to live by, she thought.
When she'd won a college scholarship–she was an uncommonly smart and observant girl–but hadn't been able to afford all that came with it, the living expenses and so on, he'd been there to help out. She was in his debt forever, but quite content to be because he was just so nice to her and it meant he'd always be in her life.
He was all the family she had left now and she did not intend to let him go, no matter how eccentric he was. Plus he was just fun. Although, she had to consider, he was sad. It was part of him, the sadness. She'd see him watch old films and just be crying by the end of it. He couldn't watch any of the news reels he and her parents had been in from way back, or the flickering black and white TV shows he'd presented way back before color and clickers. One year for Christmas she'd bought him a collection she'd had specially made for him, of the newsreels and shows he'd been in when he was young, and he'd dissolved into tears when she gave it to him. She knew he'd never watched any of them; the plastic wrap they'd come in had never been opened.
He'd never dated or married. She'd suspected for a while that he was a closet case – during her sophomore year in college, she'd used him to create a psychological profile out of idle curiosity, to see if there were hints that he was gay, but all that had come out was that it was likely he'd been hurt or had some tumultuous event in his past and he'd never got over it.
He was popular with the old fogeys and with the waitresses at the restaurants he took her to and she knew for a fact that a couple of the MILF divorcées in the area had tried to invite him to 'mixers' – thinly disguised hunting grounds for older rich cougars with nothing else to do. But he always begged off politely and instead ate by himself at Subway or some such.
He did look good for his age. A goatee beard – something he'd had since he was a young man, not one of these affectations in the last few years – sun burnt skin, white teeth. He looked like the Most Interesting Man in the Universe's Father. He was dapper, smartly dressed and unfailingly polite to everyone.
He'd whole-heartedly supported her career choices. She'd gotten a double degree in Psychology and Criminal investigation. It was her fervent desire to join the FBI and be either a profiler or an investigator. She'd known what she wanted to do ever since seeing an old episode of Dragnet as a little girl. She wanted to chase down the bad guys and figure out who had done what. With a steady stream of those kinds of shows and the new CSI-style shows, she knew exactly where she wanted to be, and she'd gone for it.
Uncle Marcus had been right behind her, encouraging her and giving her small sums to help out. She knew he could afford it, but she also knew he didn't have to – she was no blood relative. He was doing it because he'd loved her parents.
All this went through her head until the car got too stifling and she jumped out and went inside, antiseptic smell or not.
As she walked in, she saw Patty sitting behind the desk. A somewhat large, middle-aged woman who always had a smile and always nervously laughed at the things she said, she had no idea how irritating she was. But as April had learned in her Psychology degree, these things were done subconsciously, in order to divert attention because the individual concerned had their own self-worth issues. Thinking briefly 'I've really got to stop analyzing people' as she walked in, April waved to Patty and approached her desk.
"How ya doin', Patty?" she asked.
"Oh SSDD, girl, you know that," replied Patty with a wan smile.
"Is the old man here?"
"Yeah, I think so. He's in with Algernon tonight. I have no idea what he's telling him. Algy is basically a vegetable. But he's good with the old folk. Ha! Listen to me! That man is seventy-five if he is a day and I'm going on about the 'old folk'! I hope to God I am as cognizant as he is at that age!"
April had to smile at the use of the word "cognizant." It wasn't generally in Patty's vocabulary, and she was sure that she'd heard it on TV and was desperate to use it and sound smart. She did get the context right and it was nice to hear her expanding her horizons. Then suddenly, April realized how condescending she sounded in her own head and shook it, annoyed at herself.
"You know, now I come to think about it, I do wonder what he's telling Algy. I wonder ... hold on."
Patty started rummaging around in her draws and brought out an older registration book. "Let me see..." she said, leafing through the book. "Yeah. I thought so. I may be an getting older but there's nothing wrong with my memory. He did this last year."
"Did what?" asked April, idly curious now.
"He spent all day with one of our almost-coma patients. We have to note down the people visitors see – it's a state requirement. Yeah, he spent the day with Mary. Mary Whitehorse. She died about three months later. I remember because Marcus came to the funeral, and he almost never does that. He sent a huge bouquet of flowers. Normally he visits with the cognizant folks, talking about old times, his history, the old TV show he was on and doing magic tricks. But once a year, he spends the day with one of the veggies" Patty put her hand over her mouth, "Sorry, non-cognizant folk, and just talks. For a whole afternoon. You know, now I look at this, this is a little weird."
April was taken aback. This was ... interesting! A mystery! She'd have to ask Uncle Marcus about it later. Or better yet, work it out for herself. Yeah, that was more like it. A challenge!
"What do you think he's doing in there?" she asked Patty.
"So Algy. I wonder if you remember back in the sixties? The start of flower power and all that stuff? Probably. You look like a man who knew how to have a good time," said Marcus Carlisle. He sat back, eyes unfocussed, seeing the past and smiling about it.
"I know I did. What a time eh? Do you remember those adventure serials at the movies? Saturday mornings? I lived for those. Flash Gordon, Superman, Tarzan. Oh those were the days. Real stories, real characters. My life was like that once. You may remember the TV show Marcus Explores? That was my show. Four years I was on that. The life and soul of the party. Do you know how I got that show? It was because of my past. I lived, Algy. Oh, I lived. Such excitement. That Indiana Jones character? Oh, he's nothing on what my pal Johnny Burrows, my girl Alice Slocumbe and I got up to. Let me tell you..."
There was silence for a moment, while past histories replayed behind distant eyes.
"I'm getting ahead of myself a bit though. I should give you some background. When I first met Johnny Burrows, it was ... oh, 1958 I think? Something like that. I was working as a curator and cataloger at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York. I was young, stupid, hungry – all the things you are at that age. I'd weaseled my way out of England, after the war, and came to the U.S. to seek my fortune.
"I had a degree in ancient history and the only future I had in England was to slowly fossilize over time like the relics I was so interested in. When Johnny came in to the museum with his samples, well, I was impressed. He was older, he was worldly and he was doing all the things I had dreamed of myself! He'd found the elephants' graveyard in Kenya, he'd chased down gold from the conquistadors, and now he had most of the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, in the best condition we'd ever seen.
"He wouldn't tell us where he'd got it, but we knew. We knew. We'd heard about the running gunfight on the train in Spain. He was glamorous, he was clever, he was bold and he liked me. There he was, in the flesh, all perfect hair, clean shaven, bronzed skin, square jaw, twinkling eyes. Your typical action hero. I was just surprised there wasn't a little flash from his teeth when he smiled."
Marcus stopped to take a sip of the coffee.
"When he made the offer to me to me to join his team, well, I jumped at it. Of course, the condition was that I bring Alice with me. I thought he just wanted to be sure I'd go with him – offering my girl a place on the team too, well, that would just guarantee it. He was smart you know, like I said. Oh I know that history says she was his girl, but before she was, she was mine.
"Alice ... oh, Alice. I should tell you about her. Blond, beautiful, smart as a whip. She knew more about archeology than I ever would. That's where I met her, you know. At a conference in Manhattan. I was giving a talk then – all slides then. This Power Point stuff would have been wonderful back then. Anyway, we met at a conference and I knew she was the one. I knew it. Trouble was, of course, lots of other men also knew she was the one for them too, but I beat them out. I have no idea how, but I did.
"Alice was all ambition and brilliance and beauty and the sex! Oh the sex! That woman could suck the chrome off a bumper. They don't have bumpers any more, do they? They have crumple zones now. I think that says it all. Anyway ... my God, she could give a blowjob. And she swallowed too. She used to show me my jiz in her mouth after I blew in it, then swallow it and smile at me."
There was an uncomfortable silence as Marcus shifted and cross his legs. At his point in life, he wasn't used to erections anymore and he had one now, with the memories he was evoking. Then he realized how inappropriate he was being and glanced over at the man in the bed, whose eyes were pleading silently.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gone into such detail. It's not seemly. Although we are both men of the world, eh, Algy? For instance, I know you were on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. That, my friend, took some guts. I shouldn't imagine a description of a blow job is going to shock you too much, eh?"
Marcus leaned across and winked at Algernon, who blinked back at him.
"Alice, she was special. God knows what she saw in me, but she saw something. We dusted bones in the day and she dusted my boner at night. We were happy. It couldn't last, of course; nothing like that ever does, but still, it was pretty lovely while it lasted. I didn't know it at the time, mind you. I was on cloud nine. And then it just got better when Johnny Burrows showed up. We were off in to the world, doing exciting things and barely getting away with it..."
Six months later, April drove her car through the torrential rain that served as Arizona's fall and winter weather. She loved the rain as much as she wearied of the sun; the falling water soothed her. And after the discovery she'd just made, she was in desperate need of something soothing.
It had come up as she'd been doing a detail course on CSI techniques in preparation for applying to the FBI for an agent's position. She'd been thorough with her preparations – she'd learned where the head of local recruitment went to the gym and had struck up a friendship with him, being careful to keep it professional. They were running partners now, and she'd made him aware of her infatuation with the Bureau and her intention to apply. Having a friend in high places couldn't hurt.
She'd also been taking post-graduate courses in crime law, CSI techniques and applied criminal psychology, building on her graduate degree. She'd already acted as an unofficial—and unpaid—consultant to the local police in Phoenix when they were hunting a rapist on the ASU campus. She'd not been 100% right in her profile, but when it was put up against the one supplied by the FBI profiler, they'd found they'd agreed about almost 70% of the time, and the local police department was impressed. She knew she had a future in front of her and so did they.
And then this had sprung up. She had done the test three times because the results she got simply didn't compute. It was only supposed to be a lab example – nothing serious. When she got the same results a third time, she sat back on the lab stool and just stared at the screen. It didn't make sense. Or it made perfect sense. Either way, she had no idea what to do with the information she'd just garnered. Obviously she'd have to confront the specific individual, but she had to decide when and how, and what would change if she did. Part of it made her ecstatic, too. It was just so unexpected.
She found herself analyzing her own feelings and found that, in a scary way that was almost more interesting than the actual news itself!
She needed a plan. She needed to think. And she needed to know why.
"So there we were, Sam - me, Alice and Johnny Burrows. Running around the world, digging stuff up, sometimes grave robbing but always having a great time. We ran from Maoris in New Zealand, dug up antiques in Peru, we even grabbed a large ruby from within the Forbidden City in China itself! We barely got away with that one."
Six months after April made her discovery, Marcus was sitting in another room, with another bed-ridden occupant. This time it was a woman. She was conscious but unspeaking. She'd suffered a stroke three days before and was just coming out of it. Marcus wondered if he was doing the right thing, unburdening himself to someone with such serious health problem, but there was no one else in the residential home that wasn't completely non compos mentis. So here he was, telling his yearly story to Sam Nixon, an elderly woman who in her youth was the wife of the local chief of police. There was certain irony in telling her his story, he had to admit.
Marcus looked across at her, saw her looking back at him with what he sincerely hoped was compassion, and he pressed on.
"We were unstoppable. And the news reels loved us. We were in the movies, in the news reels, we were on fledgling TV shows, we were interviewed on the radio – it was heady stuff, Sam, let me tell you. We were mobbed when we opened an exhibition in New York. Block busting they called it. And in those days, blocking busting meant the queues went around the block! But then ... Then it all changed."
Marcus stopped and looked down for a bit, then took a drink of water from a glass next to him. He took a deep breath and carried on.
"Johnny Burrows was a character. No question. He had no patience for what he called 'the stupid people' – and everyone was stupid at some point or another. He drank when he wanted to – and sometimes to excess. He thought he was immortal and he always had a trick or a dodge up his sleeve. He only came unstuck a very few times in our adventures together and even then, he minimized the damage. He was pretty clever and fiercely brave. He gave the impression of being everyone's friend and completely fair and he was, mostly. But when it came to women ... ahhh, even the best of us is undone.
"He was smitten with Alice. I should have realized, but I was young and stupid and thought it was my brain he wanted. And he did, I'm sure of it. But that was the icing on the cake. What he wanted was Alice. He paid her attention and she lapped it up. We made a great threesome when we went to the dance clubs in Los Angeles and Miami – of course she was supposed to be with me, but everyone thought they were a couple. She was gorgeous, he was tough and bold and rugged and I was ... well, me really. I could never compete with that personality.
"I know Alice loved me. She did, I know it. But this kind of attention would turn any girls head. And she got it, in spades. Johnny made sure of that. He made sure that when we were out in public, she looked a million dollars. Dresses and jewelry from Tiffany, makeup, the whole deal. 'It's the public image, Marcus, we've got to keep it up' he'd say to me. And then he'd nudge me and say, 'And it's not like you mind, is it? I mean, look at her! Lucky man there Marcus.' And I'd smile weakly and go along with it. I knew though. I knew where this was going to end up – I could see the inevitable end - and I was powerless to stop it.
"Alice wouldn't have it though. When I talked about what I thought Johnny's intentions where – conscious or unconscious, she'd pat my hand and look at me and smile and say, 'Stop worrying. What we have is something he can never touch.' And then I'd just grumble and she'd do something that would take my mind of it. Take my mind off the end of the world, in fact. Now I look back on it, I guess even what she said to me wasn't a denial of where it would end. Just compartmentalization of it."
Marcus paused and looked slyly over at Sam Nixon and said, "I wonder how graphic I can get here, Sam? You want to hear the details?"
He looked into her eyes, and she slowly blinked once. Marcus smiled roguishly at her and said, "I thought so. These young people, they think that because we are old we are used up and no longer interested. They think they invented sex. If only they knew, eh Sam? Well ... they'll find out soon enough themselves."
He shifted position and took another sip of water.
"My goodness, that girl could fuck. Yes, I said fuck. Our generation never used to use words like that, did we, Sam? But I think there's an interesting delineation between fucking and making love. A fuck is what you do to someone, you make love with someone. And Alice, she could fuck and then immediately after, make love to you, like no one I've ever been with. It was just astounding. She made you feel like you were the only man who could ever satisfy her.
"She was verbal with me – another no-no from our generation – and she just loved to get it on and be adventurous. I remember her telling me once that when we did an interview for The Tonight Show – it was with Jack Paar in those days – she wasn't wearing any underwear for the whole interview and she was worried she'd left a mark on the seat because she was so wet the whole time. Luckily, the chairs were leather, but still! Can you imagine? Can you imagine any of the current generation doing something like that?
"Johnny and I were quite close at that time. We'd go drinking together, have poker parties, tell each other our memories of childhood, that sort of thing. I'd confide with him how head over heels I was in love with Alice, how I wanted to marry her but she was a thoroughly modern girl and wanted her freedom. He knew how I felt and empathized. Mind you, he was working his way through a chorus line of girls at the time. It was somehow expected of him, he said. I remember him sitting back and saying how tired he was of the whole image thing, but 'that's what the public expects, and we must deliver.'
"We were a great team, until the Peruvian trip. That's where it all came apart. I'd been tracking the burial ground of an Incan King – it had been discovered by a Spanish group of explorers in 1560 or so, but of the original group, only one made it back. The others were picked off by disease, accident and an attack by a deep forest tribe. The one that returned wrote his memoirs but never described where they found the tomb because, as he put it, 'no one else should have to endure that journey.'
"I spent weeks going over his memoirs, looking at maps, and other texts of the time, and I was pretty sure I'd worked out the route he'd taken. I was pretty smart back then for things like that – it was all deduction and reasoning. He said it had taken three days to get a river, so looking at maps, I could work out potentially which rivers they might be and so on. It took a while, but I was pretty sure I had the approximate location of where tomb was. It was literally carved into a cliff face, with a face on it. It was all covered in creepers and the original expedition only found it because there had been a forest fire a month before, and the creepers had burned away."
Marcus stopped the flow of words for a moment, got up and wandered over to the room window and looked out. It was another sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. It was hard to see how hot it was outside just from looking at it. He paused for a moment, hands in his pockets as he gathered his thoughts, and then continued.
"We were disembarking at Callao, by Lima in Peru, from a flying boat when it happened. I was trying to get off the plane, down the rickety stairs and somehow I fell onto the pontoon. My leg was fractured and I was carted off to what passed for a hospital. They patched up the leg, reset the bones and slapped a cast on me, and I was stuck. The expedition had been sponsored by RKO and they had a crew with them, so it's not like the trip could be postponed. I had to wait behind. I was really upset, and I remember, just before the rest of the crew left, Alice coming to the hospital room and holding my hand and saying, 'It'll be ok. We'll be safe and we'll find this thing'. That I shouldn't worry and she'd be back as soon as she could.
"They were gone seven weeks. Seven weeks of them trekking through the jungle, working out where they were and navigating using dead reckoning and what little landmarks I could give them. Of course today it would be all Google Maps and satellite photos and what not, but back then it was a rope, a compass, a map, stars and lots of back and forth.
"When they returned, I was in a holed up in a hotel – my leg had mostly healed and I was going stir crazy. When the local kids, who were watching for the return of the expedition, came to find me I was down outside that hotel in five seconds flat. The entire expedition had returned! All of them. That was a nice surprise – I had expected them to lose a couple as we often did - but apparently not this time.
"However, I was less happy about the rest of what I saw. Alice and Johnny where hand in hand, and she was wearing an Incan headband, complete with carved icon. No one else knew that meant, but I did. And if I did, then I knew Alice did too. See, when Incans got married, one of their traditions was that the woman presented the man with a headband once they returned home from where the wedding was officiated at. That's what she was wearing – it was a man's wedding present, but in this case, no one would know. To everyone else, it was just nice jewelry. They'd obviously found the tomb and she'd either helped herself, or been presented it from Johnny. I was betting on the latter.
"They both had to perform interviews with the local press and with the RKO team, on their successful arrival back to base, what they found and so on. Neither of them would look at me, but they never let their hands go the whole time. The interviewers even noticed it and commented that they were now a couple, something neither denied, saying only 'there are others we have to talk to before we can comment on that.'
"But I knew. I knew it the moment I saw them. I think that subconsciously I knew it the moment my leg was broken, and perhaps, even before that. That being around Johnny, it was only a matter of time before the light of my life took up with him.
"I just left them to it, and returned to my hotel room, not knowing what else to do. After a couple of hours, there was a knock on the door and there they were. You could tell how uncomfortable they were, but they asked to come in and sat down next to each other on the couch. Alice reached out to me but I just pulled back. I knew what was up and I didn't want this scene either.
"They explained that nether had planned this, it had just happened – they were in hostile territory, they turned to each other for comfort et cetera, et cetera. I just sat there, not saying anything. Really, there was nothing to say.
"At some point I remember saying to Alice, 'What about all that stuff you said about him never intruding on what we had? That you could never have that with someone else?' and Alice told me that she stood by that. What she had with Johnny was different from what we had. What we had was still what we had and would continue to have.
"I know I was confused by that last statement and said so. Johnny said that the last thing they wanted to do was hurt me and break up the team. You have to understand, Johnny was successful before we all became a team, but what most people didn't know was that most of it was dumb luck – him just being in the right place at the right time – and they didn't know about the six or seven expeditions where he failed outright. For every one thing he recovered or found, there were three or four trips where he came away with nothing.
"When I came on board, his success rate went through the roof. He needed me; he needed my research and detective work to direct him to the right places to find this stuff. But, being Johnny, he wanted Alice too. And he got her, just like he got everything else he ever wanted. He just reached out and took it, because he could.
"So Johnny and Alice had worked out what they thought was a solution. Alice and I were never 'an item' in terms of going out or the public knowing we were together. The media didn't care since I was a background person to Johnny's huge personality and as a couple we hadn't been particularly public in terms of going to events together. So we'd just carry on as we had before, only Johnny would be sharing Alice. Ostensibly she was 'his' girl – 'All about the image old boy', as Johnny kept reminding me – but she'd still come to me some nights, when it would work out, and be mine, the same as before. The other time, she'd be with Johnny, being his other half. Our relationship would be kept in the shadows and publicly, she'd be Johnny's.
"I was stunned. I didn't know what to say. I could see Johnny was not happy about it, but he was going along with it for the sake of the team – to offer me at least something and a way for me to not leave in a huff. I could see Alice trying so hard to make me understand that she still loved me and still wanted me, but she needed Johnny too. She was trying to find a way to make it acceptable to everyone.
"The thing is, Johnny knew how I felt about Alice. He knew that he could throw me this bone and I'd stay, just because I loved her so much. I wanted her happy and if this is what it took, he knew that deep down I'd find a way to accept it. He got Alice, he got me to stay around and publicly we all looked happy and cheerful and that damn image wouldn't be tarnished – it would be brightened, when he mentioned a wedding."
Marcus paused again, and then turned away from the window and went back to his seat. He took a sip of water, leaned forward, clasping his hands in between his knees, glanced over at Sam Nixon, and then took a breath and carried on.
"Johnny sat back and said that I had to know this was coming. That there was no way we could all remain a team and not have this happen eventually, that Alice would end up in his bed sooner or later and frankly, he was surprised it hadn't happened sooner. That I had to know it had been coming and I should have been prepared for it. His casual arrogance was staggering, but that was Johnny. And, of course, looking back on it, he was right.
"It was also stressed by Johnny, in private, later, that this was a one-time offer. That while he and Alice had been trying to work this out with me like adults, if I didn't take it, I'd be out on my ear and he'd figure out how to find the relics by himself. It was made clear to me that Alice would prefer him over me and I had just better take what was on offer or piss off entirely.
"And I ... like the idiot in love I was, I stayed. I soon found out what he meant about 'When it would work out.' It was rare, if he could help it. If he was in town, he found all sorts of reasons for them to go out and be public and so I didn't see her. When he went out of town, she came to me every night. We still made love and I could feel she made an extra effort. It was ... endearing and depressing at the same time. It was clear she still loved me but she was torn and I was on the losing end.
"She told me that she loved making love with me, that with Johnny it was good but it was more animal and raw and with me it was more about emotion and love. Not that she didn't love Johnny fucking her – she was quite blunt about that – but that she needed both and how lucky she was that she got both.
"When the wedding approached, it got even worse. Again, that fucking image Johnny presented got in the way. Who else could he ask to be his best man, but his right hand man? If he hadn't asked me, the media would have been asking why.
"So there I was, forced to stand up and hand the rings to the man marrying the love of my life. I had to give a speech extolling his virtues at the reception, and wave them off as they went off to start married life. I remember Alice sitting there, with a single tear running down her cheek when I'd finished my speech. Everyone thought the tear was for the wonderful job I'd done talking about Johnny and their future—there's a famous picture of it if you look it up on the Internet—but we both knew better. She was crying for the position I was in.
"After that, our times together grew less. She told me that when she did come to me, Johnny took her roughly the next day to, in his words 'fuck the Marcus out of her.' Reclamation sex I think they call it now. She confided that to start with it had been exciting, but more recently it was just angry and upsetting.
"Johnny kept trying to get her to bring me his cream pies – that's what they call it now I think - and she was resisting, insisting on giving me whatever respect and dignity she could. Thinking back, there was quite a back and forth of sexual conflict going on and it was more between her and him than it was me – I was just the pawn they were fighting over in their attempt to create dominance. If I'd had one ounce of respect for myself, I should have just gone. But I was in love and blinded by it.
"She didn't know how much longer this relationship sharing was going to last because Johnny was getting less and less happy about the notion of sharing her – that she wasn't 100% his, as she should be.
"And then she was pregnant. Again, it was inevitable really. Almost two years to the day from when they returned from the Incan tomb, Alice gave birth to April Burrows, my faux niece. I was there at the hospital with Johnny, pacing up and down outside. In those days the father was never in the room.
"She was born all complete and beautiful, and I couldn't help but burn when I saw Alice and Johnny, posing for pictures with April, while they were still in the hospital. Alice looked at me, smiled tentatively and I just left. It seemed like the best thing to do.
"After that, things slowed down. Johnny told me that he felt it was time for them to stop globetrotting. He had been approached by the ABC TV company to do a special on him and Alice and April – the first reality show – and he'd agreed to do it. The archeologist at home, kind of thing. It was a smash hit and then ABC approached him about him hosting a regular show on his adventures and the cultures he'd investigated.
"He'd told them he would think about it, but with his personality and the fact that April was tying the two of them down, it was a no brainer. Apparently I was tapped to be the onset advisor to 'make him look good'. In the meantime, we had one last trip planned.