Roger made a sound of irritation as his hair refused to slick back neatly. It was hot today, and sticky, and the lowering clouds made the humidity even worse.
He refused to concede to the weather. As always, he was dressed in his black suit, although his shirt collar didn't quite have its usual crispness.
Already, beads of sweat were forming on his forehead, and waves were starting to show in his hair. In a half an hour, it would be curling again.
Dorothy didn't understand why he went through all this. In this fifth day in a row of unpleasantly hot weather, it seemed to her that it would make more sense for him to put on one of the pairs of shorts she knew were in his bureau, get a tall, cool drink, and go sit down in the bay with Big O. The hangar was enough below ground that it was much cooler there.
She intended to spend some time there herself. While the heat didn't make her uncomfortable in the same way it did humans, maintaining proper operating temperatures was harder when it got too hot outside. Besides, if she said she was going to go down to do some cleaning, Norman would join her if only to make sure she didn't misplace any of his tools. He needed a break from the stifling kitchen, and this was a handy way to insure he got one.
"Do you have an appointment with a client?" she inquired when Roger came out of his room into the solarium.
"Not yet, but I will," he said.
She looked at him, puzzled. There was a grim expression on his face that made no sense to her. "How do you know someone's going to make an appointment?" she asked.
"Because this is the fifth day it's been in the nineties," he said. "The illegal residential sector is going to be like a powder keg just waiting for a match."
"I see," she said. "And your services will be required?"
"Likely," he said. "Weather like this makes people a little crazy."
She knew exactly what he meant. There had been an above average number of incidents requiring Military Police intervention, as evidenced by the nearly constant wail of sirens as the officers rushed from one crisis to the next. People were nervous, snappish, and on edge.
She followed Roger as he went downstairs. "Norman," he called.
"Yes, Master Roger?" the butler came out of the kitchen.
"I was wondering if you could do one of those cold plates for dinner tonight," Roger said. "Maybe some ham or turkey for sandwiches? It's been so hot that I don't want a heavy meal."
"Certainly, sir," Norman said. "I'll see what they have at the butcher's."
"Excellent," Roger said. "I'm looking forward to it." He turned to go back upstairs, Dorothy still following him.
"That was kind of you," she said when they were out of earshot.
"He doesn't need to be spending hours in the kitchen making a meal I won't really want to eat," Roger shrugged. "I'm likely to be late, too, if tonight goes like I think it will." He walked out onto the balcony and scanned the sky. "There's no sign of this breaking," he said. "When I saw the clouds this morning, I was hoping for rain."
The sky was definitely getting lighter, as if the sun was going to break through, and with it, the temperature was rising. Roger mopped his face with his handkerchief and went back inside, closing the drapes to keep the solarium from getting even hotter than it already was.
Dorothy busied herself with chores as the day dragged on, saving her time in the maintenance bays for the hottest part of the afternoon.
The temperature was still solidly in the nineties well after sunset. There was a flicker of lightning in the sky, but no rain. It was nearly ten when the phone rang.
"Yes? I'll be right there," Roger said and hung up the phone.
It was not a night Dorothy would soon forget. After Roger talked a drunken man down from his precarious perch on a rotting fire escape, there was a situation with a couple of teenagers who were holding a store owner and his family hostage. Apparently they'd gone intending to steal some ice and panicked when they heard the Military Police arriving.
The worst was yet to come. They were on their way home when Norman called yet again. "There's a riot starting over on Clinton Street across the river."
"And the real fun begins," Roger muttered, quickly turning the car around. "Any word on what started it?"
"The electricity went out," Norman said.
"Wonderful," Roger sighed. "Do you know if they have a crew out?"
"The crew can't get in to try to fix it," Norman said.
"Tell Dastun we're on our way," Roger said.
Roger parked the car a safe distance away and hit the remote to armor it. They could hear the noise of the angry mob even from there. He quickly combed his hair and straightened his tie, adjusting his jacket and vest with a quick tug as he walked towards the source of the sound.
"I don't think they're going to be looking at you," Dorothy said, walking quickly to keep up with him.
"You'd be amazed," he said without breaking stride.
It was an ominous scene. A number of people had makeshift torches, and their voices were an angry buzz punctuated by occasional calls to bring down Paradigm Corporation.
"Oh good, the burning hasn't started yet," Roger said.
Dorothy had no idea why he wasn't calling the megadeus. There had to be 500 people gathered there in the street, and it was clear their mood was turning uglier. "What about Big O?" she asked.
Roger laughed hollowly. "And what do you propose Big O and I do, step on them?
"A show of strength?" she asked.
"No, they would see that as more of a threat than a reassurance," Roger said. "This is something I have to do with my own abilities."
He quickly identified several key people who seemed to be in the thick of things and approached them. All but two were willing to talk to him.
"It's Roger Smith. He says he'll negotiate for us," the word quickly went through the crowd. Most appeared relieved and willing to listen.
Dorothy's quick eye caught one man skulking around the edges of the crowd trying to further inflame them, but he was getting nowhere. When he picked up a rock with the obvious intention of throwing it at the group speaking with Roger, Dorothy promptly stopped him, giving him enough of a scare that he couldn't leave the area quickly enough.
While Roger negotiated, she continued to quietly walk around the edges of the crowd, watching for trouble. There was none, and after about a half an hour of earnest conversation, the leaders went back and began to disperse the crowd so the utility trucks could come in to restore the power.
Roger waited with the leaders and in another hour, the lights came back on. They shook hands all around and he walked over to where Dorothy stood waiting. "Nice catch on the rock-thrower," he said.
They got back into the car, but to Dorothy's surprise, Roger didn't take the usual route home. "Where are we going?" she asked.
"I don't know if you noticed, but it's hotter than hell," he said. Dorothy gave him a look and he grinned at her. "I want to take a quick swim," he said as they pulled up to the beach. "You'll pull me out of the water if I start to drown, right?"
"I'll think it over," she promised and he laughed out loud.
He quickly removed his tie, cuff links, and watch, putting them in the glove box, then he popped the trunk and got out of the car, unself-consciously stripping down to his shorts and throwing his clothes and shoes on the seat. He walked around to the trunk and came back with a couple of towels. "Can you go into the water without a protective suit?" he inquired.
"As long as I don't dive, and dry off promptly," she said.
"Feel free to join me, then," he said, and immediately went down to the water, dropping the towels on the sand a short distance from the high-tide mark.
She stood there watching him swim for a little while then shrugged and pulled off her dress and tights. The water wouldn't hurt her cotton slip any, so she left that on and waded in.
It was an unexpected pleasure. She was more buoyant in salt water, so it was easier to move, and the water cooled her down nicely.
Roger splashed at her playfully and rolled on to his back, floating. "I could go to sleep like this," he said as he bobbed gently with the passage of each ripple of the waves. "It's like being rocked." She tried it as well, and found the sensation strange but not unpleasant.
All too soon, it was time to go. She dried off with one of the towels and picked up her dress and tights, deciding against putting them on over her wet slip.
Roger apparently felt the same, and simply padded the seat with his towel and got behind the wheel. As soon as she had done the same and closed the door, he started the car and they headed towards home.
"If we keep getting weather like this, you'll have to get a swimsuit," he said. He sounded a lot more relaxed than he had earlier.
"It would be easier," she agreed. She stole a glance at him and suddenly understood his insistence on wearing his suit today despite the heat. It wasn't about vanity, it was about image.
Formally dressed, people recognized him instantly. It had only taken the crowd a moment to realize that Roger Smith was there to negotiate. They all knew his reputation for making a fair deal no matter whom he was representing.
The suit told everyone he was on the job and ready to bring the opposing sides to the table. If the same people saw him now, his curly hair making him look almost boyish, it wouldn't have been nearly as effective.
As they neared the mansion, they saw a flash of lightning. It was followed by a rumble of thunder loud enough to be heard even in the car, and Roger smiled. "Looks like the heat wave is about to break," he said as they pulled into the garage. "I can't say I'm sorry!"
"I'm not either, but I'd like to swim again," she said.
"Well, it's only the end of July," he said. "We still have the entire month of August ahead. Goodnight, Dorothy." He headed in the direction of his room.
She took a quick bath to rinse away the salt water and dried off carefully. As long as she was reasonably cautious, there was no reason she couldn't go swimming in the future.
As the storm crashed overhead, she made a quick round of the house and closed windows. There was a store near the market that sold swimsuits, and there was a bikini in the window display that looked to be the right size. She would, she decided, go there this week