Friday, November 8, 2019

The End

a short story by Bill Adler

Lionel Jones leaned back against the thick, leather chair, the fabric squeaking as he settled in. He noticed his shoelace had become untied, and took a moment to retie it before taking a sip of coffee. “The coffee’s good,” Lionel said. “I can’t drink hot beverages, but it’s the perfect temperature now.”

Mark Halperin waited until Lionel was done tying and drinking before continuing. “I'm not sure why you came to me, Mr. Jones.” Mark cocked his head to the side, sizing up his potential client. “With what you’re saying, I don’t think any lawyer could get you off. The statutes involved — destruction of property, computer invasion, information security damage, computer hacking, denial of service attack, cyber terrorism — those are just some of the crimes I’m sure you’ll be charged with.”

“And the penalty?”

“This would be a prosecutor’s field day. The number and magnitude of these crimes would add up to multiple life sentences.”

“But not the death penalty.”

“No, not the death penalty.” Mark narrowed his eyes. “But something tells me you already know that. Something tells me that’s not why you’re here.”

“Hmm.” Lionel took another sip of coffee and set the cup aside.

“BA from Harvard, PhD from MIT in physics, a professorship at Stanford at the age of thirty, the bestselling “Small Rules: Quantum Physics and the Nature of Time,” which Netflix made into a feature film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Reynolds — not even a documentary — though I think Reynolds was too old to play Lawrence’s lover. You parlayed the proceeds from that film into building a quantum computer, beating Google and IBM to the miracle finish line.”

“Hmm.”

“It puzzles me, too, why you made an appointment with me. I’d have expected you’d use a five-name law firm on the 30th floor of the Transamerica building and not an attorney who’s one step removed from an ambulance chaser.”

Lionel swiveled his head to the side. “I like your taste in art.”

“Ukiyo-e. Japanese, depictions of people and life in old Japan. The past is another planet. There’s nothing about the seventeenth century world that bears any resemblance to today.” Mark got up from behind his desk. He pulled the chair that sat to the side of the room in front of Lionel so he was only a foot away from his would-be client.

“Why are you here? You know I’m legally required to report crimes that are going to be committed. As soon as you leave I have to pick up the phone and report our conversation to the FBI.”

“I see.”

“Of course you see.”

Lionel balled his hands into fists. “Marcie Davenport.” Lionel leaned forward so he was eye to eye with Mark. He spoke slowly. “Marcie Davenport.”

“The Golden Gate Park Murderer.”

“No, she’s not. She’s innocent.”

Friday, November 1, 2019

Are We Home?

a short story by Bill Adler


“I’m tired.” The words slipped past Angie Bard’s lips like air from a deflating balloon. Angie tucked her head on top of Brian’s shoulder. She pressed so closely that their cells nearly merged into one.
“I’m cold, babe. I’m very cold.”

Brian pinched the opening in the gray, wool blanket that enclosed them. His exposed fingers felt like they had been dipped in a frozen pond.

Angie forced her lips into a half smile. “And my ass hurts from sitting on this park bench for six hours.” Her teeth clattered.

They watched the moon dip below the horizon, taking with it the last light, and though it shouldn’t have been, the last of the day's relative warmth. Shivers cascaded along Angie and Brian’s bodies like earthquake aftershocks. “How can the moon make us warm?” Angie asked. “The moon only reflects light, not heat.”

“I don’t know. Physical laws are different on this Earth, in this universe.” Brian wished that his watch's luminous glow could warm them, too, but they had yet to encounter a world where wishing changed reality.

“How much longer?”

Brian slipped his arm out from under the blanket. Between his shivers and icy drops around his eyes, it was almost impossible to read his watch. Brian brought his wrist closer to his face. The bluish, yellow glow of his Grand Seiko dive watch’s hands read 3:09.

“Four minutes.”

“Okay.” Angie’s teeth tapped against each other. “Thanks for looking at your watch for me. I think if I pulled my arm out of the blanket it would freeze and fall off in an instant.” Angie shivered again. “How much cold did you say a Spring Drive can withstand? I don't want my birthday present to be ruined."

“It’s fine to plus five Celcius. Below that, all bets are off when it comes to accuracy.”

“What’s the temp?”

“Dunno. But around that I’m sure. I think my lips are blue.” Brian's teeth sounded like they were communicating directly with Angie's in Morse code.

“I’d kiss you to warm them up, but I can’t move.”

"Next world will be warm, I'm sure." Brian slid his arm forward again. “Three minutes till 3:13.”

"Just promise me that the next world won't be one where blood sucking bats have replaced birds like three Earths ago." Angie sighed, exhaling ice clouds. "Maybe the next world will be home. I miss my bed and our cat."

Friday, October 25, 2019

Those Damn Elves

a short story by Bill Adler

“Dervish, why?” Aethelu smiled. Aethelu always smiled. So did Dervish. It was the elvish way to constantly smile, like a sculptor had molded their faces into canoes. But their smiles could never be interpreted in the same fashion as a human’s, and to do so would be to put yourself at risk. “What’s wrong with just slipping frogs into women’s handbags, tying men’s shoelaces together while they wait at crosswalks, or dabbing fish oil on the faces of cat owners while they sleep?”

Tonight’s moon was a quarter full, letting starlight fill the dark spaces around their campfire. A faint breeze rustled the tops of the trees, making the flames dance while fireflies zigzagged above. A white deer circled their camp before bolting into the deep woods.

Aethelu twirled a marshmallow on a crooked stick over the open fire. The fire cracked as it drew moisture out of the wood and small drops of marshmallow fell into the flames. Dervish licked his lips as he watched the white puffs turn golden brown. “Your favorite food, I know,” Aethelu said as he grinned. “Premium marshmallows. I got them from a house seven hascams from here. Somebody’s going to be upset when they get home tonight and find a bag of dried sardines instead of marshmallows. That’s going to make for strange s’mores.”

Aethelu ran his forefinger along the exterior of his ear. “Tell me why you have to invent a new prank when we’ve had perfectly good ones for years — for centuries — and I'll give you a roasted marshmallow. Maybe even two. Mmm. They smell delicious.”

“Variety is the spice of life,” Dervish answered.

“What does that mean?” Aethelu shook his head so profoundly that his whole body twisted. The marshmallow flew off the stick into the dark woods behind their camp. There was a crunching sound, no doubt caused by a chipmunk running across the fallen leaves with a marshmallow in its mouth.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Morpho

a short story by Bill Adler


Jason Chien was walking south on Third Avenue between 56th and 55th Streets when he went blind. A bright blue and green light that appeared to have been fired from a laser cannon destroyed his eyes.

Jason had never thought about what he’d do if he suddenly couldn’t see, but today he found out. Jason froze in place. The sidewalk was crowded with office workers on the hunt for lunch, and Jason fully expected somebody to crash into him. Jason’s last sight was of tattooed blond woman in her twenties walking two border collies, closing in at a fast clip, which made him think that if he didn’t get tackled from behind he would become entangled in the retractable leashes and face plant onto the pavement.

Morpho photo by Ricky Wong. This is the same Morpho
as the one in the photo below. 
After standing still for about thirty seconds — Jason couldn’t tell exactly how long because he couldn’t see his watch — he concluded, happily, that he wasn’t going to topple over. Jason extended his arm and took a tentative step forward. When he didn’t collide with anything or anyone, Jason braved another step. He detected light leaking in from the sides of his eyes, a gray glow that resembled a thick, nighttime fog illuminated only by a weak streetlamp. Jason took another step. Jason could make out shapes, and while the forms were only rectangular slabs, being able to see anything at all offered hope. Jason shuffled forward another meter.

Same Morpho as above - hard to believe, but that's the
magic of the Seiko Morpho. Photo by Ricky Wong.
Though motionless, the rectangular slabs jingled like windchimes in an approaching storm, but with the sound coming from all directions at once.

A shadow to the right followed him. Jason told himself that the shadow was just an aftereffect of temporary blindness, that nothing was there. But with each step the shadow stalked him. Jason sped up his pace. He wasn’t ready to run lest the shadow attack, like a leopard chasing an impala that suddenly darts, but he tensed his leg muscles just in case. Jason maintained a steady pace, his arm still in front of him.

Jason glanced to his right. The shadow still followed. Jason darted his eyes toward the left where he saw another ghostly phantom tracking him. He slid forward faster, lowering his arm in case he needed it to defend himself from whatever was pursuing him.

A man jumped toward him.

Jason screamed.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Mr. Gold's Cold

"Seymour, waddya up to next weekend?"

"What what? Can't you see I'm busy with a patient?" Seymour hunched over the rigid body on the table.

"They're not patients, Dr. Seymour Haas, and you're not the kind of doctor anyone wants to see."

"Yeah, well, pathologists go to med school just like every other doctor."

Mike Angelo revved his bone saw to maximum. He did his best to spray bits of tissue and blood Seymour's way like the spitballs he used to toss in class in middle school. "Say again! I can't hear you," Mike shouted over the machine.

"What I want to say..." Seymour yelled back. He paused to wipe something sticky off his goggles, but ended up smudging his left lens with a mucus sheen. “...is that this one definitely died of the common cold. Lungs and air passages stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. Rare for a thirty’s guy, but given the number of people on the planet, even the unexpected and rare will happen. The younger the patient, the more their immune system’s counter attack doesn’t just kill the invading virus, but mortally wounds the victim, too.”

“You're a poet,” Mike said.

“I'm not sure why they bothered to have his body exhumed. There's no foul play, no drugs, no impalement or bullet holes, no exotic diseases, nothing that required calling me in and missing a Friends rerun. God, that Jennifer Aniston is hot. It was just a cold. Poor guy. I bet when he went to CVS for Nyquil he never expected it would be his last drink."

“Who wanted Gold’s body exhumed?”

“Dunno, like I said.” Seymour bent down and peered into Gold’s eyes, the light from his halogen headlamp absorbed by the opaque orbs.

“'You said you didn’t know why. I asked, ‘who?’”.

“The exhumation sheet doesn’t say. The requesting name was blank. Somebody’s lazy. But we have a job to do, even when our bosses don’t do theirs,” Seymour said.

The overhead fluorescent light cracked. The crackling reminded Seymour of when he was little and the wind rustled the venetian blinds in his bedroom, amplifying the ghosts that he already knew lived in those blinds, and sending him deep under his blanket. The autopsy room’s pale blue and white tiles were interrupted by a single, faded poster of a cat doing a chin up with the words, “Keep Your Chin Up” printed on it. None of the city’s seven pathologists liked that poster, and nobody knew who hung it. But after a time it became invisible to everyone who worked in this basement room, so there it stayed. A bank of numbered, steel-clad lockers spread from floor to ceiling along the side opposite the doors. On the adjacent wall were a cluster of sinks and basins for washing hands and tools. The room held twelve tables. It used to have thirteen, but a former Chief Medical Examiner had ordered one of the tables removed. “We need more walking around space for cops and such,” he had said.

Mike dropped his instruments next to his patient, and sallied over to Seymour's table. “They should tell us what the deceased did for a living because that would give us more insight into what killed them. Like if it’s a lawyer, it’s going to be a heart attack, or if it’s a race car driver and the body’s 2D, we can surmise he wasn’t pushed off a building. Maybe your guy was a professional ice diver and caught a really bad cold that way.” He surveyed Mike’s patient and asked, "Gold’s been dead about two weeks, right?"

Seymour took the clipboard at the foot of the autopsy table and flipped to the second page. "Yeah, that's what it says."

Mike lifted the dead man's arm, a stiff, rotten branch, tapped around the elbow and forearm, squeezed the upper arm, and said to himself, “Does feel like two weeks.” He turned back to Seymour. "Answer me this. How can it be two weeks if his watch is ticking and showing today’s date?" Mike ran his fingertips along the watch’s crystal like he was polishing it.

“You’re not going to steal a dead man’s watch, are you?” Seymour held the clipboard in his left hand and the pencil attached to it by string in his right, as if he were about to give Mike a demerit.

“So what if I am? He’s not going to need it.”

“Maybe he does. Like you said, it’s ticking.”

“That’s exactly why I want it.” Mike offered Seymour a wide, toothy smile. “I’ve never seen a watch that’s still going strong after a body’s been in the ground for two weeks.”

“You’ve been sniffing too much formaldehyde, Dr. Angelo.”

Mike sneered. “Tell me you’ve never stolen anything off a corpse.”

Before Seymour could complete a sentence, stuttering his way through a seemingly random set of consonants and vowels, Mike interrupted, “I saw you slip that diamond ring off a dead lady and pop it into your pocket the week before last.”

“I...I…”

“You thought I didn’t notice? You’re so clumsy, so obvious. You may be an okay pathologist — and I’m not saying you are — but you’re a lousy thief. Make a note of that on your clipboard: Seymour Hass will never be a competent thief. So I’m keeping this watch and you’re not going to tell a living soul.”

Friday, October 4, 2019

Alternate Reality

a short story about watches by Bill Adler

"Are you sure you won’t press charges?" The young cop straightened his shirt with a quick tug. He would have smoothed his collar, too, but was already feeling self-conscious about his stiffly starched uniform.

"It's certainly your privilege, but I've never known anyone not to." The cop neglected to mention that he’d only been on the police force for a week and this was his first investigation. "A crime's been committed, and justice should be done." That’s what they taught him at the Academy.

The cop’s name tag read Fitzmond McElroy, but he liked to be called Fitz.

Fitz stood just inside Stan Harwood’s apartment. Fitz had also been taught that a cop can learn more from what you see where somebody lives than by what they tell you. The essence of a person is in their furniture, art, decorations, style of living, and the other artifacts of their life. Stan’s apartment told Fitz that whatever Stan did for a living, Fitz would never know such opulence even if he eventually became a police captain. Fitz patted his Timex.

“Officer —” Stan glanced at Fitz’s name tag. “McElroy. I appreciate your concern and I appreciate your coming so quickly, but I just wanted to report the crime for statistical purposes. I believe crimes should be reported regardless of anything else.” Stan brought his arm to his face and coughed into it.

“Are you okay, sir?”

Stan continued to cough for the remainder of the minute. “I’m fine. Just allergies.” As if on cue, a tuxedo cat strolled over, rubbed against Stan’s leg, and then retreated back into another room. “Cat allergy. What can I do? I love Alley.” Stan looked at his watch. “Where were we, Officer McElroy?”

“We were talking about you pressing charges.”

“Ah, yes. But no.”

“May I see your watch?”

“Of course.” Stan unfastened the metal clasp, snapped it back together, and gently placed his gold Grand Seiko in the policeman’s outstretched palm. With his right hand, Fitz pulled a magnifying loupe out of his pocket and scrunched it with his eye. He rotated the watch through all possible geometric angles. Fitz returned the loupe to his pocket.

“May I?” Fitz asked.

“Of course.”

Fitz ran his fingertips across the watch’s crystal. “Oh, lovely.” He then held it to his ear. “Hi-beat. There’s no more beautiful sound.”

“I agree.”

Fitz retrieved his phone from his other pocket. He tapped the screen, opened an app, and placed the phone’s microphone next to Stan’s watch, silently holding it there for a full two minutes. Red, yellow and blue lines wobbled up and down on the screen in a graphical dance. Below the graph was a digital display that flashed a pattern of numbers: +.01/+.085/+.072/-.0036/-0052. Finally, his phone beeped a long, mellow tone, and the top half of the screen displayed OK in green. Fitz aimed the screen at Stan, who nodded and smiled.

“While the injuries are just cosmetic — it looks like everything’s fine on the inside — that’s still aggravated assault. Plus Diamond Kerr — we caught him thanks to street cameras — ran away, which adds a charge of hit and run. He’s looking at five to ten years. We’re holding Kerr now at the Twenty Second Precinct, but will have to release him in the next seventy-two hours if you don’t press charges.”

Friday, September 27, 2019

Time Serviced

a short story by Bill Adler


SBGC231 photo by Samuel Chan
The following is a record of email correspondence between John Logan and One Watch, from which John Logan purchased a Grand Seiko SBGC231, a GMT Spring Drive of exceptional beauty. In September 2019, the Grand Seiko SBGC231 made its journey from One Watch’s’ Florida shop to San Francisco, where John Logan lives.

Or so he thought. There was an unplanned detour along the way.

September 10, 2019:

Hi Kate, Just wanted to let you know that FedEx seems to have lost the watch. It was supposed to have arrived yesterday according to an automated email, but now the tracking information says, “No Delivery Date Scheduled.” I even received an email from FedEx that said, “Preparing for your delivery,” but after that, crickets. Can you help me? -John

September 11, 2019

Hi, John I’m so sorry to hear that your watch hasn’t arrived on schedule. I’ll contact FedEx and let you know what they say. -Kate

September 12, 2019

FedEx is still looking for your watch. The latest tacking information says it was at their hub in Memphis. Thanks for being patient. We’re on it. -Kate

September 12, 2019

Thanks, Kate. It’s strange that the watch was scheduled for delivery, but then just vanished. I’ll stand by. -John

September 13, 2019

John, We’ve enlisted out insurance company to help track the package down. This has only happened once before, but one way or another you’ll have a Grand Seiko SBGC231, even if we have to send you another. Hang in there. -Kate

Hi Kate. Thanks again. It still says “Processing at Memphis.” It’s been that way for three days. I’ll hold on. I have faith. -John

September 15, 2019

They found your watch! It got misplaced somehow. It will arrive in San Francisco in a few days. Same tracking number as before. You’re a prince for being so patient. -Kate

September 17, 2019

I got it! Thanks. You’re wonderful!

October 1, 2020

SBGC231 photo by Samuel Chan
Hi Kate. Do you remember me? I ordered a Grand Seiko SBGC231 (nicknamed Chewbacca) from you about a year ago. The package was lost for several days with no tracking information and no indication of what happened to it during that interval.

I’m not writing about any problems. The watch is still working great. In fact, too great. Weirdly great. This isn’t my first Grand Seiko Spring Drive, so I’m familiar enough with them to know the range of a Spring Drive’s accuracy. I set the watch when it arrived a year ago; the SBGC231 hasn’t lost or gained a single second in over a year. The second hand is right on the money. Exactly, even after a year. Although Seiko rates the Spring Drive to +/- a second a day, some people’s watches will do a bit better. But no Spring Drive I’ve ever heard of is perfectly accurate like this one.

Here’s the other thing. The power reserve. It’s supposed to be 72 hours. But it lasts six months on a single winding.

Anyway, I’m happy with Chewbacca. Thanks again for all your help a year ago. I just wanted you to know how it’s both fantastic and strange.

October 2, 2020

John, Thanks for the update. I’m glad you’re enjoying the watch. That is odd, but it’s a Grand Seiko, so not so surprising, eh? -Kate



“Sam. Sam I Am,” Chip said. He scanned the box in front of him with his laser wand.

“Stop calling me that,” Sam replied. He sneered at Chip. 

“I’ll stop calling you Sam I Am when you stop messing up.”

“Oh, did I make a mistake?” Sam grunted as he put the FedEx box he was sorting on the table. 

“Only like the third time this month.” Stop with the innocent look, too. You know exactly what happened. “You put a parcel in the experimental temporal sorter.”

“I did?” Sam blinked several times at Chip, surrendering to him with a wide smile. He shuffled his feet on the concrete floor, as if starting a dance routine. 

“Where did you FedEx it?” Chip demanded. “We could lose our jobs for this.”

“Chill.” Sam waved his hands in an arc. “Nobody’s going to know we used the ETS. What’s an experimental device if you can’t experiment with it? Besides, you mean ‘when and where’.”

“Just tell me.” Chip tapped his foot on the concrete floor. 

“The customs invoice on the box said the contents were a Grand Seiko, so I FedExed it to Seiko in 2039, along with some instructions.”

“What instructions?” Chip narrowed his eyes. 

“Please service this watch.”

“And?” 

“FedEx in 2039 returned the package a few days later the same way they received it, through the temporal sorter. The ETS is no longer experimental in 2039. But it’s all good. Seiko serviced the watch and I forwarded it to the original recipient in our time, a guy named Logan in Frisco. No harm, no foul.”

“Just. Don’t do that again. Okay?”




Friday, September 20, 2019

The Grand Seiko Man


a short story by Bill Adler

“Mommy, can I have a lollipop?” Bobby tugged on his mother’s arm with all the strength his five-year-old muscles could muster. He opened his eyes wide, doing his best to resemble Pepper's face when she begged for food. Pepper was their beagle. “Look, Mommy, that man has a basket full. Maybe there’s a blue one. Blue lollipops are my favorite.”

Alice scanned the man up and down, from his perfectly coiffed brown hair, to his impeccably starched white shirt, to his tan, alligator belt, gray, Merino wool pants, and his shiny, unscuffed, Versace black shoes that were laced in perfect symmetry. Had she been single, Alice might have been attracted to the man’s soccer player physique, flawless skin, and come hither lips. But that was long ago, and besides, she was in mom mode.

The man directed his gaze downward, smiled at Bobby, and flicked his wrist so his watch reflected the yellow sunlight toward Bobby’s feet. He traced a rocket ship with the sun’s reflection. “Mommy, please?” Bobby smiled at Alice, trying to mimic the man’s expression. Bobby didn’t notice that his missing two front teeth made him anything but a mirror image of the man with the lollipop basket.

Photo by Greg Goode
“He’s a Grand Seiko Man,” Alice said, punctuating the sentence as if there was no more that needed to be said. Alice wanted to throw a sheet over the easel the man was standing next to, which displayed photographs of shiny Grand Seikos worn by attractive women and men like him. Bubbling inside her was a powerful urge to pull a pen out of her bag and deface the words, "Grand Seiko. Timeless elegance, relentless perfection." If she had been alone, Alice might have done that. Her muscles tensed, and a vein separated her forehead into two parts. "It's all lies," she needed to scream.

Alice tugged on Bobby’s arm. Bobby planted his feet on the sidewalk, summoning gravity to glue himself in place. “Just one lollipop, mommy, please. My tummy is hungry.”

“If you take a lollipop from a Grand Seiko Man he’s also going to give you a pamphlet. He’s going to want you to read it.

“I can’t read yet, Mommy.”

“It doesn’t matter. He’s going to give it to you anyway.” Alice had a vision of throwing out the pamphlet only to have it return, the pamphlet finding its way to Bobby’s pillow as if under the spell of a dark fairy. She’d throw it out again and again, but each time the pamphlet would come back until Bobby was old enough to be persuaded by its dangerous words.

“All I want is a lollipop.” Bobby groaned. He rubbed his belly. “I’m so hungry for a blue lollipop.” Bobby took a gulp of air, and held his breath, trying to turn his face blue, too.

Alice noticed the man grinning. He was counting on her willpower being worn down by a five-year-old. It had happened to her, to every parent in one place or another, and it could happen today.

“It doesn’t matter if you can’t read.” Alice tried to slow her heartbeat by focusing on her breathing. One and two, in; three and four, out. “He’s going to say things to you when you’re close enough to hear him. That’s what the Grand Seiko Man wants, to whisper a few words to innocent little boys, to plant evil thoughts that you'll recall when you're older.”

The man took a small cloth out of his pocket and rubbed the watch's crystal, as if he was waxing a car.

“I don’t understand, mommy. Is he a bad man?”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Time Eater

a short story by Bill Adler

"Take my hand," Ann says. "Feel my life."

We hide in the forest as it devours time’s last scraps. Only a sliver of sun still glows, but I have Ann’s warmth. Is it a monster from another universe? We only know that the behemoth eats watches, grinding time to a halt with each bite, its obliteration relentless. Today, rivers stopped flowing; yesterday, clouds froze in place. We’ve not seen people in weeks. We may be the last.

It senses our Grand Seikos, crushing the trees that had concealed us, anticipating its final meal before the Earth stops spinning.



I wrote this story aiming to keep it short, very short, under a hundred words. One hundred word stories are special genre of short story, a complicated dance between word count and adventure. I hope that you enjoyed Time Eater. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Revenge Is Expensive

a short story by Bill Adler



“This better work,” Alexandre typed.

“Damn right,” came out of Kyoko’s keyboard.

“That’s one thing I’m certain about — this is going to cost a fortune,” flew across the shared messaging screen from Tomas.

“Everyone pause a sec,” William said. His words glowed. “This is going to work. And it is worth it. You know that. We’ve been discussing this for nearly a month and now’s the time.”

“Yeah, but $100,000 US,” Kyoko said to the group. “That’s over 10 million yen.”

“It sounds larger when you say it in yen,” Tomas typed. “But I agree with William. It’s put up or shut up time. Is everyone still in?”

“Oui.”

“はい.”

“Yes.”

“Si.”

“Before we commit our bank accounts to an irrevocable path,” William typed, “I just want to reiterate how much of a jerk Mr. Pleasant is. He’s not pleasant at all. Posting that picture was wrong, more wrong than anything I’ve seen since starting our online Grand Seiko group. My stomach fills with acid when I think about that day.”

“Poor Harry,” Kyoko said. “He didn’t deserve what Pleasant did.”

“Nobody does,” Alexandre added. “Even if Harry lied. We’ve all lied in the group about something at some time.”

When nobody replied for thirty seconds, Alexandre continued, “Let’s start next week. The sooner the better.”

“I’ll handle the logistics since I’m in Japan,” Kyoko typed. “I can do it so we remain anonymous. You all just make sure to cover the $75,000 that’s your end.”

“The first package will arrive next week?” Tomas asked.

“Yes. And one a week for twelve weeks or until we run out of funds,” Kyoko said. “Or until his wife leaves him, whichever comes first.”

Alexandre, Tomas, and William sent blue thumbs up.

“Anyone who’s married to a watch collector gets angry when their spouse buys an expensive watch without telling in advance. She’ll steam when Pleasant gets his first package. Become enraged when the second watch arrives. She’ll be furious when the third $7,000 watch is delivered. I figure Pleasant’s marriage may not survive even four watches,” Kyoko wrote. “What’s he going to say? ‘These aren’t mine! I didn’t order any Grand Seikos.’ Once Pleasant’s wife brands him a greedy liar, it’s only a matter of time until the next box kills their marriage for good. I only wish I could see Pleasant’s face when his wife confronts him.”

“If we’re lucky, she’ll think he’s got a mistress who’s sending him watches,” Tomas added.

“Somebody might get a ten dollar baseball cap in the mail by mistake. But not a Grand Seiko. His marriage is toast,” William said.

“That will teach Pleasant not to post private information about anyone on the Grand Seiko Street. I feel bad for Harry, despite him lying.” Alexandre said. “Posting a picture of Harry wearing a Rolex right after Harry said he only wears Grand Seikos was wrong.”

“Pleasant’s an ogre and he’s getting what he deserves,” William added.

Four blue thumbs popped up across their screens.