Chapter Two: Spellbound
In the morning Danielle was gone. Adam patted the other side of the bed to confirm that she wasn't just invisible. His heart sank.
He sighed and got out of bed. He should have asked her more about her abilities, his rational brain told him. But he had been hoping for more than just one night with her.
Yawning, he walked into the bathroom. On the mirror, written in Danielle's red lipstick was a phone number and an X underneath. He smiled to himself, and pretended the doubt in his mind had never existed.
He wrote down the number on the notepad he kept on his nightstand. Then he picked up the telephone. He dialled the first few numbers, then jabbed the switch hook to end the call. Then he dialled Mason's home number. There was no answer.
Adam put the phone down and went to find his sneakers. A lot of other people ran laps around the park in the mornings, and a bit of friendly competition was just what the doctor ordered.
Mason's eyelids scraped against his dehydrated eyes as he tried to open them. The world spun around him and he felt intensely nauseous. He was sitting down against a wall. He recalled sitting on the sidewalk outside the club and for a horrible moment he thought he was still there. But then he saw his neighbour's door in front of him.
So the good news was that he had made it back to his apartment block. The bad news was that he had evidently slept in the corridor.
His left shoulder ached. He moved his head and saw Genevieve slumped against him. She looked a mess. She was barefoot, her knees were scraped and her dress was falling off her. Mason moved to pull the strap back onto her shoulder.
And of course his neighbour chose this moment to come out of his apartment. The man held his thermos bottle and lunchbox in front of him. "Do I need to call the cops?" he said.
Mason looked up at the construction worker, and the light reflecting off his high visibility jacket almost made him vomit. "No, I live here. Number twelve."
"I've never seen you before."
"I live here," Mason repeated. He was in no mood for an interrogation.
"Whatever," the man said, walking off.
Genevieve had woken up. "Ugh," she said, rubbing her head.
"What happened last night?" Mason asked.
"Ugh, I dunno," Genevieve said, rubbing her head.
Mason patted his pockets. He pulled out his wallet then checked them again. "Where are my keys?"
"Oh, I remember now. I helped you up the stairs and then you couldn't find your keys."
Mason shut his eyes. "Thank you for that enlightening information. I couldn't possibly have worked that out for myself."
"Go and get the spare. I need some water. And a Tylenol or three."
"You can have two. No more," Mason said. "No. On second thought, you can have none. I don't have a spare key."
"What do you mean? Call your Mom or whoever."
"I wonder when the locksmiths open."
"Unbelievable. I'm going home." She dragged herself to her feet, picked up her handbag and stumbled off down the corridor. Then she realised she was barefoot, so returned to put on her boots. "You should really give someone a spare for next time."
"Next time? I never lose my keys," Mason muttered. The world was spinning again. He put his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
Monday rolled around again, as it almost always did.
"So, did you enjoy Friday night?" Adam said, falling into step with Mason while he was on his rounds.
"No of course I didn't."
Adam chuckled. "Not really your kind of music?"
"I would have rather been at home listening to a good Purcell symphony."
"I prefer Mozart, myself."
"All this time we've spent together, I can't believe we've never spoken about music. There's another thing we have in common."
"I fail to see what I would have in common with a fan of Mozart," Mason said with a smirk. He glanced at a couple of women heading towards them. They were looking at the two of them. Adam greeted them cheerfully, and they returned the greeting. "Go away. We shouldn't be seen together."
Adam raised his eyebrows, but then nodded. "Later?"
"Later." Mason inclined his head and headed for the stairs.
After hours, Mason headed to Adam's lab, and soon found himself wishing that he hadn't.
"So absolutely nothing of note happened on Friday?"
"I had a few drinks. The fact that I was bored, is that of note?"
"I saw you and Genevieve," Adam said. There was a questioning look in his eyes which Mason pretended not to see.
"All over each other."
"Oh." Not a terrible nightmare then.
Adam smiled at him for several prolonged terrible moments. Then he waved a hand in the air. "No need to be shy. But I'm not cruel, I won't embarrass you any further." He clasped his hands together/ "I met the invisible girl."
"I see." He picked up the case file for one of the New Mutants who was due to visit them, and started to flip through it.
"I saw her use her abilities. On the weekend I was working on possible theories on how she renders herself invisible. If only I could get her to come into the lab."
"Should have hit her over the head like I suggested."
That comment went over Adam's head. He was still smiling into the middle distance. "Her name is Danielle. I have her phone number. I'm taking her out tonight."
"You don't sound very interested."
"Perceptive of you to notice." Mason sighed. "We are overrun by children of Genomex looking for assistance. She is but one more."
"But invisibility, Mason! Imagine the possibilities if I could figure out exactly how she does it. Her abilities are because of a chance mutation during gene editing, but if I could isolate that gene, everybody would want it!"
"I'm not sure the world is ready for an army of invisible people. Ah, but the army – I am sure this would have some interesting military applications."
"I'm not interested in working for the military. I want to make the world a better place, not destroy it."
Mason smirked. "I believe the military's official line is that they protect, not destroy."
"Indeed," said Adam. "So are you seeing Genevieve again?"
Mason sighed. "We almost managed to segue into a high brow conversation."
"Fine, keep your secrets," Adam said.
"Thank you so much for driving me, Mason," Genevieve said. "My sister says I have to look nice for her wedding. I mean, how rude? Do I not always look nice?"
Mason gave her a sidelong glance. Patched denim jacket over a Cramps t-shirt, ragged tartan skirt and mismatching socks under worn Doc Marten boots. He shrugged. What did he know?
He wondered how this had happened. She originally wanted Adam to drive her, but he was indisposed. He had certainly not volunteered for the errand. He mentally added it to the list of favours Adam owed him back for.
"Thanks a bunch," she said, crossing her arms. "Here! It's here, make a left! What are you doing?"
"I'll have to go around the block."
"Can't believe you missed the turning."
"Perhaps if you had given me more than one second's notice."
Adam pulled the chair out for Danielle and then took a seat opposite her. She was wearing the same amount of makeup as in the club, but today she paired it with an elegant black dress and heels.
"You look lovely," he said.
"Thank you," she said. "You don't look so bad yourself."
Despite himself, Adam yawned.
"Excuse me," she said, picking up her bag and leaving the table.
Adam focussed on his breathing, recalling the classes in meditation he took in college. He tried to drive the worries that he had offended her already from his mind. But Danielle was gone for some time. He forced himself to look at the menu.
When she returned, he leaned his chin on his hand in a way that he hoped didn't look too falsely casual. "So, how are you?"
Danielle smiled. "I'm fine. Good." She leaned forwards. "Your eyes are red."
Adam nodded. "This morning was an early start for me," he said. "I had an early appointment in the lab."
"So you really are a scientist?"
"You still don't believe me?"
"No!" Danielle said, laughing.
Adam sighed and pulled his Genomex ID badge out of his pocket and handed it to her. Danielle took it and looked at it. There was a change in her demeanour, her shoulders and jaw tensed.
"Don't laugh at the photo. I was young, that was the style at the time."
Danielle looked up at him, and slowly pushed the badge across the table to him.
Guiseppe Gaetano was suddenly at their table, fanning himself with his notepad. He kissed his fingers. "Mamma mia! What a beautiful couple you two are making!"
Adam grinned. "Why, thank you."
Danielle smiled a little.
"Have we decided what we are ordering?"
Adam tilted his head at Danielle. "Oh. No," she said, picking up the menu for the first time.
"Not worry. You no want any of this." Giuseppe slapped the menu, then poked his cheek with his thumb and twisted it around. "I bring you chef's special." He raised his hand to his mouth conspiratorially. "Is good, I know. I am chef."
"Thank you," Adam said as the Italian rushed back into the kitchen.
"Is something wrong?"
"You're with them," Danielle said quietly. "What do you know about me?"
Adam concentrated on giving her a warm smile. "Only what you've told me about yourself," he lied. He'd read her file. As much of it as he had been able to access with his security clearance.
"Oh, you really don't know?" She narrowed her eyes. "Maybe it's just a coincidence."
"The place you work at. I went there when I was young. I was sick. My Mom found out about this experimental treatment they were doing there. My Dad didn't like the sound of it, but my Mom would take me while he was at work. They're not together any more."
"You were sick? What was wrong with you?"
Danielle lowered her gaze. "I had a problem with my heart. The doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me."
Adam reached across the table and laid his hand on top of hers. "And my, ah, colleagues. Did they help you?"
Danielle nodded. "I was completely cured."
Adam rubbed her hand with his. "That's amazing."
"Yeah," Danielle said. She excused herself again, leaving Adam to worry about what he had said wrong.
Adam shook his head. Why was he letting himself get so stressed about this? He had been on plenty of dates, and apart from one or two, they had been fun and enjoyable. But somehow he felt like he had to make a good impression on Danielle. At some point during his thoughts, a plate of olives had appeared on the table.
Danielle returned to the table smiling, and plonked herself down on the chair.
"I just love Italian food," she said as they began to eat the appetiser.
"Have you ever been to Italy?"
Danielle shook her head. "I went to Mexico, years ago."
"That's not the same," Adam said with a smirk.
"I know that!" she said, laughing.
"Maybe I'll take you one day?"
"Adam," Danielle said, suddenly looking serious. "I would definitely let you take me to Italy."
Adam smiled. "I'd better remember that promise."
"Don't worry, I'll remind you."
"Oh, this one's nice," Genevieve said, handing Mason a long dress. He shifted the shopping bags he was carrying to one hand so he could hold the hanger.
"But you have already bought several dresses. I thought you were looking for shoes."
"Yeah, I'll return them," she said, continuing to look at and touch other dresses, dancing to the Duran Duran song that was playing in the store. "Wait no, I wanna try this one first." She grabbed the dress back from him and flounced off.
Mason sighed and leaned against a wall near to the fitting room. "Hell is closed and all the devils are here," he said to himself. He glanced around and made eye contact with an older man who was sitting in a chair.
"Well I've got news for you, sonny. It don't get any better!" the man said, gesturing at the shopping bags that surrounded him.
Genevieve came out of the fitting room and did a twirl in front of Mason. "How do I look?"
Mason said nothing. Like you're wearing a dress had not gone down very well earlier. Nor had different. Or bafflingly enough, the same.
"Psst... tell her she looks nice," the older man hissed loudly.
Genevieve looked at the man. "Thank you," she said to him, doing a bit of a curtsey.
He grinned and said, "you're welcome, ma'am." Genevieve disappeared back into the fitting room. "You're s'poseta say you think they look nice. That's the secret." He tapped his nose.
Mason frowned. "Why, if it's not true?"
"Don't matter one heck what you think. You just tell 'em that. Ya'll get home quicker that way. Well, some'a the time."
"I love it, I'm having it," she announced, holding the dress out to Mason as she walked past him.
He grabbed it and followed her. "This is not the way to the checkouts."
"Yeah, I need shoes."
Mason found himself wishing he had slipped away while she was in the fitting room. He watched with little interest as she crammed her feet into the most unsuitable shoes in the store, occasionally asking his opinion, which he refused to give. Women's shoes were a different world that he had no interest in.
"I really like these ones," Genevieve said, prancing unsteadily past him wearing a Mona Lisa smile. Her eyes were following him like one of those paintings. "But they're so expensive!"
"Then choose some cheaper ones."
"But they'll go so well with my dress."
Mason looked at the red shoes and then the blue dress.
"Not that one, obviously. The first one I bought." She sat down and wiggled her feet, looking at them sadly. "I really wish I had the money for them." She glanced at Mason.
"Perhaps it would be prudent to find a part time job."
Genevieve was silent for a moment. "Yeah, you're right. I bet I could hold down a job now that Adam helped me with my thing!" She started taking off the shoes. "What's it like working with Adam?"
Mason snorted. "He is an, ah, he is certainly an individual."
"You have a lot of respect for him. That's nice." She finished tying her Doc Martens and stood up.
-You had better not be reading my mind,- Mason thought while staring at her hard. He shoved the dress he had been holding at her, and she took it.
-I would never!- Genevieve thought, but the look on her face told a different story. "I couldn't think of anyone better to be an assistant to. It must be so inspiring!" They joined the end of a long line for the checkouts.
"Assistant?" Mason said. "I am not his assistant. We are equals." That was not true. Not only was he acting as Adam's assistant, he was doing it without being paid. He tried to suppress the anger that bubbled up periodically about it. Genevieve could probably hear all of these thoughts. But who knew what secrets she had learnt about from reading Adam's mind? He looked at her. She looked like an average punk girl. No-one would guess that she was a mind reader. Probably nobody would guess who he really was either. Which was for the best. He couldn't remember when his life had not been chaos. There must have been a time when he was a small child. But he didn't recall.
"Mason?" Genevieve said, drawing his name out in that way causes apprehension.
She flicked her hair over her shoulder. "Would you mind charging this to your credit card? I think mine will be declined if I try to use it again."
Mason didn't say anything because he knew she would read his mind. He took the dress from her and hung it on the nearest rail. "It is of poorer quality than the others you have already purchased."
Genevieve swallowed. For an awful moment he thought she might be about to cry in the middle of the store. "Thanks Mason. You're right." She slipped her arm through his and they began to walk to the exit. He resisted the urge to push her away. "Do you want to talk about something?" For once she looked deadly serious.
"I'm a good listener."
He snorted. "I bet you are."
"That was delicious," Danielle said as she put down her fork on her plate.
She was smiling at Adam, but at that point chef Guiseppe appeared beside them. "Thank you," he said, holding up his hand with his pointer finger and thumb making a ring.
"No, thank you," said Adam.
"Now I bring you special lemon cake with best gelato. Is secret family recipe." His eyes darted side to side. "Do not tell other customers."
"I like this place," Danielle said, sipping from her wine glass.
Adam smiled. "So do I. But I may be a little biased because I have such good company. For it to be a fair experiment, I would need to return here alone as a control." He picked up his wine glass and raised it in a toast. "To fortuitous coincidental meetings."
"To- what you said!" Danielle said, laughing and clinking her glass with his.
Then the wine glass appeared to be floating on air. Danielle had disappeared. It only lasted for a few moments. "That hasn't happened in a while," she said. She knocked back the rest of her wine.
"Are you okay?" Adam asked.
Danielle nodded. "I think so," she said.
"So this has happened before?"
"Not for a while. I thought I was okay now."
"I could take a look at you if you like."
"I think you already got a good look at me the other night," she said with a smirk.
Adam chuckled. "I wouldn't mind another one."
Danielle slapped him playfully on the arm.
"But I'm serious. I've helped other people... in your situation."
She looked surprised. "There's more of us?"
Adam nodded gravely.
"I can't say."
"So, do I make an appointment with your secretary?"
"No no, come to me directly. This is something I deal with alone. I am somewhat of a specialist."
"I really am lucky to have met you. You're almost too good to be true," she said as Adam refilled her wine glass and then his own.
Adam grinned. "I do my best."
Genevieve laughed to herself. Now they were back in the parking lot, she was finally carrying her own shopping bags. "So did you get back into your apartment?"
"Yes," Mason said, feeling vaguely sick at the memory of that day.
"Did you get a spare key like I said?"
"Yes. Although what use it will be, I don't know."
"Aren't you supposed to give it to someone you trust to take care of it? Just in case it happens again." She giggled.
"But then they would be able to get into my apartment."
"Exactly. That's why you gotta trust them! Hey, I could look after it for you. My family drives me crazy, it'd be nice to have some other place to stay."
"I could look after your pets."
"I don't have any," Mason said. He opened the trunk of his car for her to put the shopping bags inside.
"You don't?," Genevieve said as they walked to opposite sides of the car. She put her arms on the roof of the car and rested her head on it. "I'd love a cute dog. Or a snake. Maybe some rats."
Mason shuddered. He opened the driver's side door, growing impatient that Genevieve was clearly in no hurry.
"You don't like animals?" She tutted. "You're just like my Dad. He wouldn't even let me try to win a goldfish at the fair."
"As much fun as this has been, I really should get you home," he told her.
"Sarcasm doesn't work on me, remember," she said.
"I don't think you understand the point of sarcasm," Mason said.
Genevieve clearly had no answer for that. She stuck her tongue out at him.
Adam and Danielle ate the chef's special dessert and made their way through another bottle of the wine that was on the house. They talked until all of the other customers had left and Guiseppe looked like he wanted to close the restaurant.
Danielle glanced at her watch on the way out. "It's late. I think I've missed the last subway train."
"Take a cab," Adam said, laying a hand on her arm. "I'll cover it."
"Oh Adam, you're too kind."
"May I?" he said, holding out his arm.
"Of course," she said, hooking her arm through his and leaning against him as they walked to the nearest taxi stand.
Adam lamented that the walk was not long enough. "It's been a wonderful evening," he said, stopping and facing her.
"Yes," she breathed, and leaned in for a kiss. Adam closed his eyes and kissed her back. He had been dreaming of this since they had first met, and all too quickly been parted. He pulled out his wallet and pressed a wad of bills into her hand, mindful only that it was more than enough to pay the cab fare.
"Thank you," she said, kissing him again. And then she was getting into the cab.
"Call me," he said, and stood and watched the car drive away.
"Before you say anything, I know I'm late. There was a situation I had to deal with." The door to the lab shut behind Mason, and only then did he realise that Adam was not there.
But he was not alone.
A slim, dark haired woman sat in a chair, her eyes closed, listening to a tape on a walkman.
"Excuse me," he said. She did not appear to hear him. He walked over to her, hoping to disturb her.
A hand grabbed his wrist and pulled him forward. "Mmm Adam, I thought you were never coming back." Their faces were inches apart when her eyes flicked open. She looked at him in shock. And screamed.
Mason reflexively hit her in the throat with his free hand. But the chair toppled over backwards and she did not let go of him. It seemed to happen in slow motion and he was powerless to stop it. He landed awkwardly on top of her. He tried to get off her as quickly and carefully as he could, and ended up sitting on the floor.
The woman was coughing and rubbing at her throat. She took off the headphones, which had miraculously remained in place and tried to sit up. "Who are you?" she spluttered.
Mason took a breath, smoothed his hair, and held out a hand. "Mason Eckhart."
The woman looked at his hand for a moment, then gently clasped it in that odd gesture that women sometimes used in place of a handshake. "Danielle Hartman," she said. She read his ID badge. "Security?"
"Only by day," he said, looking at her hand which was still holding his. He hoped she did not expect him to kiss it. Who knew where it had been?
"What, and by night you're a caped crusader?"
"Something like that," Mason said with the ghost of a smile.
"Sorry, I thought you were Adam," the woman said, looking flushed.
"Evidently," he said, hoping his own embarrassment was not showing. He was suddenly unsure what to say. She was sitting there staring at him. He refused to apologise, both because several moments had passed, and because it had not been his fault.
"So are you a friend of Adam's?" she asked.
"I'm not sure I'd go that far."