"The Best Hands in the Business"
by Fiona Conn
Liz was surprised by just how gentle Mother's hands were as he rested them atop her head. She closed her eyes, taking in the feelings around her: the plushness of the sleeping back that was laid beneath her, protecting her from the hardness of the table; the wool of her sweater underneath her hands sitting atop her belly; her feet getting slightly cool, having taken her shoes off. She could hear the faint drag of Whistler's fingers across the page of the magazine he was reading. Somewhere, across the room, Crease clicked open his revolver, dumping the rounds into his hand and setting them aside. Karl and Martin depressing the button on the timer as they completed their moves on the chess board. Slowly, Liz breathed out, allowing some of her tension to melt away as the warmth of Mother's hands radiated across her skull.
The sneaks could be difficult, sometimes. Liz knew that only too well. The boys found their way into trouble on plenty of occasions before. But a pall seemed to settle over the lab that night. Anxiety. Shock. Intrigue. Perhaps even a slight sense of guilt upon realizing that the "Little Black Box" would have been more aptly named after Pandora. What had they gotten themselves into?
"You were the only one who knew Martin's secret," Crease had told her. "There isn't a government on this planet wouldn't kill us all for that thing."
Martin had looked conflicted, before siding with Crease. All Liz could think of at the time was to feel slightly insulted by the paranoia. Yet, Martin's eyes when he told her that the government had found him... He carried the same haunted expression as he mulled over the next move at the chessboard, the only illumination provided by the street-lamps outside.
Whistler had retreated into his reading. Crease was disconnecting the phones, as if they could somehow be traced. The only person who seemed calm was Mother, who after locking up and killing the lights, had settled down cross-legged on the floor, his eyes unfocused as he breathed in deeply and back out just as slowly. Curious, Liz had settled next to him, pulling one knee close to chest, and curling her other leg around her foot, watching.
Mother had smiled to her upon realizing he was being watched. "You meditate at all, Liz?"
"I can't say I've ever tried it," Liz replied, tilting her head slightly to one side.
Mother nodded. "It can take a lot of will-power to stay focused on the breathing. Of course, your mind will eventually wander, but..." He trailed off, not quite looking at her, more... past her. Liz looked over to the side, then back at him.
When Mother's gaze settled back on her face again, his eyes had been alight with curiosity and compassion. "I realize it seems like we don't trust you, even though we have every reason to do so," he mused. "If you had wanted to give us away, you would have done so by now."
"You really believe that?" Liz had questioned, looking slightly puzzled as to where this was going. Particularly given Mother's tendency towards espousing conspiracy theories.
"Sure," Mother had shrugged. "There's a reason Bish trusts you."
Liz remembered smiling slightly at that, but her voice must have betrayed her surprise when she asked, "why are you telling me this?"
Mother smiled slightly sheepishly, and replied, "because you seemed sort of upset, and I think you need to hear it."
Looking away, but still smiling, Liz nodded slightly. "Thank you, Darren."
"Anytime," he replied. "Although it's probably not much comfort in these kinds of circumstances." Mother waved a hand around at the darkness and sombre atmosphere in the lab. Liz looked around, noting Whistler hunched over his magazine, Crease pacing around, Karl and Martin still engaged in their game of chess. "The meditation helps," he added. "But learning can be a bit trial-and-error." Mother paused, thinking. "Maybe I can still help you, though."
"What do you have in mind?" Liz questioned.
"Have you ever heard of reiki before?"
When Liz shook her head, Mother explained, "it's a form of energy healing. The role of the practitioner – that would be me – is to sort of channel 'ki' – the life force – to stimulate the body's healing processes, to produce a general sense of wellbeing."
"And this works?"
Mother nodded. "Mmhm. And there's even been reports of people physically feeling the energy manifest as warmth or even a tingling sensation."
Liz took this in quietly, and Mother prompted, "you want to give it a try?"
"Sure," Liz had smiled. "Why not?"
Mother and Liz had set about clearing a table, and he put down a mat and sleeping bag on top of it, inviting her to take off her shoes, lay down and relax. She hadn't been entirely sure what to expect, but Mother's voice had taken on a reassuring tone, explaining to get comfortable, running her through basic breathing exercises before placing his hands on the sides of her head. They were warm, and very gentle. After a few minutes, he shifted, resting his hands over her forehead, and Liz closed her eyes, taking in the sounds of the other men finding their own way to calmness, trusting in Mother as he continued to work, and reflecting that perhaps Martin's description of Mother having, "the best hands in the business" wasn't solely technical.