William had transformed his living room and deck with miniature white lights wrapped around the railings and the plants. A pianist played quietly in the corner. The room buzzed with conversations. The smells from the kitchen promised an incredible meal to come.
On the deck, the mayor sipped a cocktail with a member of the town council. She was not happy. The councilman lifted a casual hand to the back of his head and made a small adjustment to his toupee.
"We're going through with this?"
The mayor rolled her eyes.
"A deal's a deal. Believe me, if I had any idea how much resistance there would be to that pipeline..."
"Maybe he won't produce the dolphins after all."
She shook her head.
"In our dreams. William never fails."
I passed Julie and Tim just as the roaming photographer snapped their picture. Celia, a regular at William's parties, gushed over Julie. She wore a long flowery thing with tassels.
"You're an artist?"
Celia popped a second hors d'oeuvre in her mouth and kept right on talking. There was plenty of room for both.
"Are you studying at the institute? I could introduce you to some very helpful people."
"I'm applying for Fall."
Tim spoke up.
"Actually, she may be going to UCLA with me…"
Celia wiped her mouth.
"I'll introduce you to the director; he's right over there."
She elbowed her way through the crowd.
Julie turned to Tim.
"I wish you wouldn't tell people I'm an artist," she said. "It embarrasses me."
"You're too shy. I don't want people to think I'm engaged to a nobody."
* * * * *
Outside, William joined the mayor. That red top was spinning nicely in the back of his head, but he was nervous anyway.
"Ready for the show?"
He guided her to a pair of telescopes on tripods at the corner of the deck. He motioned her toward one, and peered through the other himself.
"There they come, now."
In the distance, over the aquarium, a helicopter approached. A sling underneath held the two dolphins. As the mayor watched through a telescope, William signaled Nick.
"It's in the study."
He felt the red top wobble slightly on its axis.