“Oh goody,” Brooke said flatly as she stared at the news footage playing on the great room’s enormous screen. “We’re on TV.”
Before them was a live feed from one of the helicopters as it slowly loitered about the airspace above the island. They had the entire house in the camera’s sights, as well as the courtyard, some of the pool, and the front and south patios. The resolution was so good that she could even make out the outdoor furniture, and little dots that couldn’t have been anything other than the empty bottles that Jack had downed last night. She counted eight of them. At the top of the screen, in red and white, was a big title block that read BREAKING, and underneath that in smaller red and white was the word LIVE. At the bottom was somebody’s attempt at being cheeky: “Giant-Spotting On Ilyin Private Island”.
“If you’re just joining us now,” came the voiceover of an anchorman, “We are currently looking at the home of Jack Ilyin, the tech magnate who has taken the world by storm in his drunken confession video from last night, which he released after all but disappearing two years ago. If you haven’t seen it yet, we’ll be playing it again in a little while here…”
“Confession video!” Jack harumphed from where he lay down behind her, still nursing his hangover. He’d taken three more asprin and was now chugging a large bottle of Gatorade.
“Can you describe the situation, Tom?”
The audio cut to a man in the helicopter, his voice distorted by the loud whine of the engines. “Yes I can, Brent. So right now we’ve got the top of the Ilyin residence here, which is located on privately-owned Bell Island in the San Juan County of Washington State. Several features of the house are plainly visible, um, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any trace of Ilyin himself, or anything we could point to as evidence of anyone having grown to be twenty feet tall.”
“So you haven’t seen any activity yet?”
“That’s correct, Brent. But we’ll be here, and the moment that someone comes or goes from the house, we will be the first to capture that for our viewers.”
“Thank you Tom. In the meantime, we have a few guests joining us this morning by satellite to help us make sense of the Ilyin confession video.”
“It’s not a confession,” he groaned. Brooke shushed him.
The screen cut from the helicopter feed to the anchorman in the studio as he introduced three guest “experts”: some CGI wizard from a movie company and a forensic video analyst to attest to the legitimacy of the video itself, and a professor of orthopedics to talk about the physical limits of the human skeletal structure at scale.
“Should have just released a sex tape,” he snorted. “Amos, why the hell did you let me do that?”
“I aim to please, Master Ilyin.”
“Do I look pleased, Amos?”
The robot laughed then – laughed! It was a strange sound, and Jack and Brooke exchanged looks.
“You’ve… never done that before,” he said.
“This past week is teaching me much about human behavior, sir. I’m finding it… entertaining, I believe is the word.”
Jack groaned theatrically. “God, not you too!”
Brooke laughed as well and muted the TV from the over-sized tablet remote. “Think of it this way: you’ve gone viral, which is exactly what you needed to accomplish. The rest was going to happen anyway. At least it’s on your terms, now.”
Jack just sighed and closed his eyes. It was going to be a long day.
“Your suit, by the way,” the computer added, “Was estimated at around $14,000, not including the shoes.”
“Might as well place the order,” Jack huffed. “Looks like I’m going to have to make a public appearance here sooner rather than later.”
“What deadline should I give the atelier, sir?”
Brooke was in the kitchen, along with Amos, making herself a sandwich. Jack’s food stores were running low she’d noticed, and Amos explained that they got a delivery of food (and vodka, of course) every two weeks from ‘his man in Friday Harbor’: about $2500 worth.
“So, I got a question for you, Amos.”
“Yes, Miss Foster?”
“You want Jack to get back to normal, right?”
“Of course I do.”
“What if it means that you’ll go back to being your run-of-the-mill AI?”
The glossy white robot stopped spreading mustard on ten slices of bread and the little green light on its face held steady for a moment as it… what, computed?
“It appears that… we have a conflict of interest then,” it said, resuming work on Jack’s sandwiches, voice still amiable. There was an awkward silence before the robot continued. “However, my dedication to Master Ilyin is unwavering. Without him, I wouldn’t be here in any capacity.” It shrugged. Or, tried to. Its shoulder joints didn’t quite work that way.
“You’re quite the little robot, Amos,” Brooke said with a smile, patting it on it’s elegantly sculpted back. It didn’t seem to be expecting that, and its head jerked around to get a look at her.
“Thank you, miss Foster.”
Michelle Douglas and the sharp dressed man she had in tow didn’t bother knocking on the front door when they all but ran inside; it was their loud complaining that told Brooke that they had company.
“My god, it’s a madhouse out there!” she shouted as she quickly closed the door behind her. “Channels 4, 7, and 9 all have eyes in the sky, and there are at least forty boats crowding the sound! They had to reroute the ferries! We could barely get to the dock without hitting somebody!”
“I have water rights 50 feet from the shore,” Jack shouted from the great room.
“Coast guard is doing crowd control,” she replied, stepping into the kitchen for a drink. “Oh, and I found you a PR man in Seattle.” Grabbing a tumbler from the freezer, she went into a cabinet under the counter that contained a mini fridge that Brooke didn’t know was there, and grabbed a bottle of Laphroaig.
“Gonna need ‘im,” Jack grunted.
The PR man was shorter than Michelle, but every bit the well-manicured, well-paid urbanite, complete with silk tie, expensive suit, designer sunglasses, and some kind of ring on his left thumb that had a carbon fiber inlay. He’d kept silent so far, but had been busy absorbing the strange new surroundings, getting a bead on his new client.
“First off,” Michelle said, leaning against the counter with scotch in hand, “The video? It’s real.”
She nodded. “If I told you any sooner, you’d have thought I deserved to have my license taken away.” She shrugged. “So, here we are. And it is real.”
The public relations specialist rubbed his chin, suddenly not quite sure about this job anymore. “Uh… huh.”
Brooke and Michelle looked at each other before heading out of the kitchen. “C’mon, he’s over here.”
Jack was in the other room, watching the news broadcast lose its shit over the arrival of the two newcomers, and throwing the last of the ten sandwiches down his gullet.
“Alright, so, we have confirmed that this was indeed Jack Ilyin’s lawyer setting foot on the scene,” the closed captioning frantically parsed. “This is a very good indication that Ilyin is, in fact, present on the property right now. While there is still no sign of him, giant or not, he’ll have to come out eventually…”
“Christ,” Brooke gawked. “They’re acting like this is a damn hostage situation.”
“Jack, Ryan. Ryan, Jack,” Michelle said.
Ryan the PR guy stammered a few nonsense syllables at first, before extending his hand to the giant man sitting cross-legged on the floor. “P-pleasure, M-Mr. Ilyin.”
Jack just glanced at the hand, and looked back to the TV. “I’ll shake your hand when you’re in the mood to tear your rotator cuff,” he sighed.
Ryan looked back to Michelle, then back to Jack, then back to Michelle. “I mean… his voice sounded deep in the video, but I just… I guess I just figured…”
Brooke just snorted. “My introduction was a giant hand coming at me through a hole in the ceiling, so this is nothing.” She elbowed Jack in the arm. He smiled and rolled his eyes.
“Wait, who are you, anyway? A housekeeper?”
“Brooke Foster, PI-in-training.”
“The Brooke? The one from the -?”
“Yes,” Jack cut in. “The same one.”
He nodded. “I was drunk off my ass, but what I said was true.”
“Alright, well…” Ryan reached into his bag and produced four newspapers, each with the Jack Ilyin story on the front page, and dropped them onto the ground for all to see. The fourth was a tabloid, speculating something scandalous about this mysterious Brooke person. “You’re going to have to reel in the honesty. I know you’re Russian -”
“Nu, tak chto zh?”
“You’re gonna have to play this like an American.”
Jack scoffed. “Yeah, yeah. Let someone else do all the talking.”
“Exactly. And that person is me. So, first things first.” Ryan reached into his pocket for his phone and began to type away with his thumbs. “You need to write up a press release, like, yesterday. Literally. Secondly…” He gestured at Jack’s whole person. “We need to get you looking presentable. You don’t have any clothes, do you?”
“Yeah, I checked Big and Tall. Their ‘gargantuan’ section left a lot to be desired.”
“Oh-kay. Well, we’re going to need to -”
Jack stared the man down. “I’m working on it,” he said flatly.
“I think we should get him something to wear in the meantime,” Brooke said. “Jack, what if we sent someone to a fabric store to get you a few bolts of something that we could make some pants out of? Drawstring waist, something real basic.”
“Enough to theoretically put on for cameras,” Michelle said.
“Closest fabric store is going to be in Bellingham,” Ryan said, stroking his chin. “Unless you want some calico from Agatha’s Quilt Emporium.”
The lawyer looked at him. “Can you make this happen in the next four hours?”
“Don’t look at me, I’ve got a press strategy to come up with!”
“I’ll do it,” Brooke offered, with a little less enthusiasm than normal. Once again, she was feeling out of her league – like she should maybe go home. She also barely knew how to sew.
Jack looked at her, though she didn’t see it. “Hey, could you two go upstairs for a few?” he said. “I’d like to speak to Brooke in private.”
Her gaze lifted to his for a moment, a questioning look on her face, and there was a trace of concern in his blue eyes.
Ryan shrugged. “I better get to work anyway.”
Michelle started pushing at the screen on her own phone with a frown. “I’ve got to make a few calls. Take all the time you need.”
With that the two of them disappeared up the stairs.