“A spritzer for the lady. And an espresso for me. In one of those, you know, small cups.” As if to illustrate, he held his hands out, holding an invisible cup and saucer.
“Yes, Mr. Wigman,” said the two stevedores in unison.
Wigman looked back at Desdemona, his gaze steely and intent. “So what’s going on now?”
“It’s just that … well, it is all he thinks of. All he talks of. It is never out of conversation with him, this Wilderness.”
“It’s an issue,” said Brad Wigman, letting out a sigh. “We’ve been trying to curtail it.”
“Yes, and I think he was good for a time. He focused on work, on the machine parts. But then…”
“Then, he’s had a visitor.”
Wigman raised his left eyebrow. “A visitor?” he asked.
“Yes, a man of mystery. He dresses like old times. He has—what do you call it—pince-nez.”
“What, like on his nose?”
In truth, Wigman had been considering how to incorporate a pince-nez into his outfit; he’d ruled it out, deciding that it was pushing things just too far. And yet this gentleman had managed it; it gave him new hope. “Is he a Titan? An industrialist?”
Desdemona shook her head. “I’m not thinking so. He has strange thing about him—a thing I cannot explain. A .”
“A yuckies?” That was how it had sounded.
“Yes,” said Desdemona, assuming he’d understood the Ukrainian word. “Like special mist or shadow. I cannot explain.”
“Go on,” prompted Wigman.
“And ever since this meeting with this man, all operations stop. Everything. All clients, poof! Everything now is thing he must make.”
“Wait a second.” Brad’s face had sobered considerably. “What are you talking about, all operations stop?”
“Exactly what I say! All machines, once making bolts and … bolts and things, now making this thing, this one machine part. Children are stopped working; they sit in bed all day, playing the poker.” She mimed the dealing of cards with her long fingers.
Wigman waved his hands impatiently in the air. “Hold up, hold up,” he said. “What is this thing?”
“It is thing he is told to make, from gentleman. It is some machine part. A cog.” Desdemona was content that she’d got the Titan’s full attention.
“And he’s stopped all production to make this cog?”
“Yes, indeed.” She was really getting somewhere; she was seeing the color rise in Wigman’s cheeks.
The two stevedores, Bammer and Jimmy, returned with a small espresso cup and a glass of clear, bubbly liquid. Wigman took the espresso, slammed it back with a jerk of his head, and handed it, empty, to the stevedore. Desdemona politely took the glass of spritzer; she sipped at the contents.
Between sips, she continued to talk. “And it is all for Impassable Wilderness, Mr. Wigman. The gentleman says he will let Joffrey into I.W. if he makes this piece of machine for him.”