“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I thought it was a bad one.”
Kade crossed his arms and turned to look around the small room. The walls were dingy and bare. He was sitting in a large chair in the middle. It had adjustable arms and lots of chrome. Kade thought it used to be a barber’s chair, but it had been a long time since he’d seen one.
Saffi patted his shoulder and went to sit on the worn vinyl chair in the corner behind him. She leaned back and tucked a stray wisp of auburn hair behind her ear.
Someone knocked on the door. Kade looked up but didn’t have time to respond. The door opened, and a man entered the room. He had slicked back hair and a short, trimmed beard. His complexion was pale but he had a glow in his cheeks. One hand was in the pocket of his grey smock. He smiled at Kade. “Good morning. Are we ready?”
Kade couldn’t place the accent. He thought it might have been South African. “I guess so.”
“You have the…” The man tapped at the back of his neck, just below the base of his skull.”
“Wonderful.” The man walked past Kade and nodded to Saffi. He opened the doors of a beat up metal cabinet to her right. He pulled out a jumble of nylon straps and shiny metal. The device attached to the straps looked like the dregs of a computer repair bin that someone had assembled into art. The man took a plastic capsule from his pocket. It was about the size of a large vitamin. He pried a cap off near one corner of the device and screwed the capsule into it.
The man stood in front of Kade, smiled even wider, and held the apparatus up. Kade’s eyebrows pinched together. The man’s smile faltered.
Saffi leaned forward. “Take your hat off, genius.”
“Oh.” Kade reached up and lifted the wide brim hat from his head. He ran the other hand over the stubble of his receding hairline.
The man’s eyes darted to Saffi, and then back to Kade. “Hold still, now.” The man stretched out the nylon straps and arranged the contraption over Kade’s head. He straightened, and then tightened two of the buckles. An open metal frame with a soft plastic ring on the inside sat over Kade’s left eye. The man adjusted the position and cinched it down so it was tight against his face.
“Good. Okay, this part may be a little uncomfortable.”
When the man said uncomfortable, it was drawn out in an unusual way. Maybe not South African, Kade thought.
The man pressed a button on the frame and a soft glow lit up the inside. “You can see the blue dot?” he said.
“Yes,” Kade said.
“Good.” The man stood to one side. “Focus on the dot please. Eyes wide. And… three, two…”
A pulse of air hit Kade’s eye and he blinked hard. The man flipped open the buckles and pulled the apparatus from his head. He unscrewed the capsule and put it back in his pocket. He replaced the cap, and then set the apparatus back in the cabinet.
The man picked up a square handheld mirror with a tarnished metal frame and small box with a number of lights and dials and a small tube screen on the front from a table beside the cabinet. He handed Kade the mirror and then held the box close to his face and started pressing buttons.
Kade looked to Saffi. She motioned toward the mirror. The glass was pitted and had a crack along the top. Kade held it up to his face, then brought it closer. On the bottom of his iris was a dot. It looked like little more than a deviation of pigment. He closed his eyes, and then opened them. The dot was still there. Kade looked up to the man in the smock.
The man was smiling again. He was holding the control box up at shoulder height with the opposite hand poised to press a button. “Ready?”
Kade drew in a breath and exhaled slow. “Yeah.”
The man nodded and then pressed down.
For Kade, the room lit up. Words scrolled across the bottom of his field of vision, but he didn’t understand a single one. He could see heat signatures. He could see through the wall into the next room. Kade blinked. “Turn it off.”
The man pressed down again. “Good? Yes?”
“You will need to… make adjustments to the settings, to your liking. The instructions have been sent to you.”
Kade looked to Saffi. She had her hands interlaced over the back of her head and her legs were stretched out and crossed in front of her. She was smiling like someone who had just won the lottery.
Kade looked back to the man in the smock. “Am I done?”
The man shook his head yes.
Kade tilted his head toward Saffi. “Can we go home now?”
“We need to make a stop first.” Saffi said.
Kade lowered his head. “Damn it.”
Saffi stood and walked to the door. “Come on champ, we need to go see a man that owes me money.”