Bill English called and asked to speak to Todd Barclay.
I said, "What makes you think he's here?"
He said, "I just wondered. His two Arrowtown homes remain empty. No sight of him at his parents' farm in Gore, either. He isn't hiding under a desk at the Clutha-Southland electorate office - I checked."
I said, "Personally?"
He said, "I got down on my hands and knees, yes."
"Nothing. But I found a piece of paper in his rubbish bin with your name and address on it."
"That doesn't prove anything," I said.
"Is he there?"
"Yes and no," I said.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Let's just say Todd's in an experimental state."
He yelled, "What have you done to him?"
I called Nathan Guy and summoned him to the house.
He said, "Anything we can do for you?"
I said, "Tell your boss not to raise his voice when he talks to me. I don't appreciate it. Okay? Good. You can go now."
He got up off his hands and knees and was on his way out the door when a terrible scream stopped him in his tracks.
He said, "What was that?"
I said, "I didn't hear anything."
"Todd!", he yelled. "Is that you, Todd?"
John Key called and apologised for the behaviour of English and Guy.
"I leave the job and five minutes later all hell breaks loose," he said. "I've had a word. It won't happen again."
I said, "All I ask for, as an American billionaire who was granted New Zealand citizenship after living here for 12 days, is a bit of ass kissing."
He said, "Mate, you're a great ambassador and salesperson for New Zealand. You're . . ." A terrible scream cut him off.
Key didn't blink. He waited until the scream tapered off into a low, long moan, and said,
"You're promoting New Zealand all the time, to people in the US. It's a very important market."
I stared at him. He just looked back at me, smiling.
So many screams.
I put a cold cloth on his burning head, and said, "Ssh. Ssh, now."
He fought against the straps. It was useless, but I had to be careful, so I tightened them at each side of the bed.
I said, "How are you feeling today, Todd?"
"Good. That's good."
He said, "Do you have a mirror?"
I found one for him, and he studied his reflection.
"You don't look a day older since when you got here," I said.
"Well, it's only been a few days," he said. "Do you really think I'll look the same in a hundred years time?"
I explained to him once again the aims and methods of the anti-ageing research projects that the Thiel Foundation supports. As an example, I cited the case of the bowhead whale, which can live for 200 years. Scientists are right now trying to sequence its genome in order to study mechanisms for longevity.
His smooth brow furrowed, and he said, "Enough about whales. What about me?"
I leaned in close, and said, "It's your destiny to lead. One day, when the world has long forgotten the unfortunate and unsavoury events of the past couple of weeks, you will return to politics, exactly as you are now - and fulfil your destiny!"
He clapped his hands. "I can't wait," he said.
"You might have to," I said, and nodded at the research assistants. They approached the bed with serums, vascular tissue, bowhead whale cells, and a powerful anesthetic.