Outside, the skyline dimmed. Behind his desk were ten windows: two arrays of glass interspersed with steel frames and joined at the northwest corner. Jack faced the sunset, his fingers forming a steeple beneath his lips. It was past six in the evening, and twilight draped Manhattan with shade. To Jack, dusk was film-real: detached and flickering. It began as a change in pallor, then all color drained away. Shades of orange and yellow hardened into reds, then the colors swirled in circles-faster and faster-until the tones were so dense, they plunged over the edge of the earth, sucking the sun down with them. He was aware of these changing hues, but the intuition lay in his subconscious, hibernating, shielding him from winter. Moments passed.
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Jack pressed his fingertips together. I can�t believe it. He picked up the receiver, dialed eight-five-two for Hong Kong, then dialed the number he had scratched onto a Post-it note.The phone rang. Then someone picked up. Jack hesitated, more for what he might discover about himself than for any physical danger. He pressed the phone against his ear. Brent Askew seemed amiable enough. "I�ve been expecting your call. Are you going to join us?" "Maybe."
They spoke for less than a minute. Dial tone.
Jack continued to gaze, but his stewing, and the way the clouds rolled past his windows, made him feel uncomfortably warm. With deliberate movements, he removed his cufflinks and rolled up his sleeves. Thought we were doing the right thing. Ahead of him, several miles of rooftops stretched to the north, reminding him of the ash rock his friends and he had climbed when they were boys. At sunset, the memories were even stronger. He climbed to this plateau alone, but he appreciated the sunlight on his face. This view�s better than any postcard�s. If not for the beauty, then because no one else can claim it. But I need to get away ...
Wide bands of darkness crept over his body, the light coming and going. The office felt empty, except for the hum of a Unix workstation, shallow sighs of breath, and trembling too subtle to shake the air. Pained by reflection, Jack didn�t heed any of these sounds. Self-consciousness, after all, can drive a man mad. He released his fists. But to where?
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