He heard a soft pad of feet and the rustle of a garment; he guessed it was being removed. Then the bedclothes were eased back and a warm, soft, naked body slid in beside him. Arms reached out. In the darkness lips-exciting, welcoming-found his own. The kiss was long; it quickly grew passionate. As limbs pressed closely, Nim's blood surged, he became erect and urgent. His hands began moving gently and he sighed a mixture of sensual pleasure and contentment.
He whispered, "Daphne darling, all day I've been wanting this to happen.
He heard a gurgle of soft laughter. A finger reached out, groping for his lips to bridge them, cautioning silence. A low voice warned, "Shut up, you idiot! It isn't Daphne. I'm Ursula."
Shocked, Nim released himself and sat upright. His inclination was to leap from the bed. A hand restrained him.
"Listen to me," Ursula said urgently and softly. "I want a baby. And next to Thurs, who can't give me one-and I know he told you about that- I'd rather have it by you Nim, than anyone else I know."
He protested, "I can't do it, Ursula. Not to Thurs."
"Yes you can, because Thurs knows I'm here, and why."
"And Thurs doesn't mind?" Nim's voice was unbelieving.
"I swear to you, no. We both want a child. We both decided this is the best way." Again the soft laugh. "Daphne minds, though. She's mad as hell at me. She wanted you herself."
Conflicting emotions swirled within Nim. Then the humor of the situation got to him and he laughed.
"That's more like it," Ursula said. She pulled him toward her and he stopped resisting as their arms clasped each other again.
She whispered, "It's the right time of the month. I know it can happen. Oh, Nim dear, help me make a baby! I want one so."
What had he ever done, be wondered, to deserve all the exotic things that happened to him?
He whispered back, "Okay, I'll do my best." As they kissed and he became erect again, he asked impishly, "Do you think it's all right if I enjoy it?"
Instead of answering she held him tighter, their breathing quickened, and she cried out softly with pleasure as he caressed, then entered her.
They made love repeatedly and gloriously, Nim finding that his bandaged left hand impeded him not at all. At last, be fell asleep. When he awoke, daylight was beginning and Ursula had gone.
He decided to go back to sleep. Then, once more his bedroom door opened and a figure in a pale pink negligee slipped in. "I'll be damned," Daphne said as she took the negligee off, "if I'm going to be left out altogether. Move over, Nim, and I hope you have some energy left."
Together, happily, they discovered he had.
* * *
Nim's return flight to the West Coast, again with United, was in late afternoon. Thurston drove him to the airport; Ursula and Daphne came along, Daphne bringing her small son, Keith. Though conversation during the drive was friendly and relaxed, nothing was said about the happenings of the night. Nim kissed both sisters goodbye at the car. While the women waited, Thurston accompanied Nim into the terminal.
At the passenger security checkpoint they stopped to shake hands. Nim said, "I appreciate everything, Thurs."
"Me too. And good luck tomorrow and the other days at the hearings."
"Thanks. We'll need it all."
Still clasping Nim's band, Thurston seemed to hesitate, then said, "In case you're wondering about anything, I'd like to tell you there are things a man does because he has to, and because it's the best out of limited choices. Something else: there are friends and exceptional friends. You are one of the second kind, Nim. You always will be, so let's never lose touch."
Turning away toward the aircraft boarding ramp, Nim discovered that his eyes were moist.
A few minutes later, as he settled into his first-class seat for the homeward journey, a friendly air hostess inquired, "Sir, what will you have to drink after takeoff?"
"Champagne," he told her, smiling. Quite clearly, he decided, nothing else would match his successful weekend.
The young, presiding commissioner tapped lightly with his gavel.
"Before the examination of this witness begins, I believe it would be in order to commend him for his conduct two days ago when his prompt action and courage saved the life of a public utility employee in another state."
In the hearing room there was scattered applause.
Nim acknowledged, with some embarrassment, "Thank you, sir."
Until this morning he had assumed that news reports of the drama on the conveyor belt would be confined to Dewer. Therefore be had been surprised to find himself the subject of an Associated Press wire story, featured prominently in today's Chronicle-West. The report was unfortunate because it drew attention to his visit to the coal-generating plant and Nim wondered what use, if any, the opposition forces would make of this knowledge.
As on previous hearing days, the oak-paneled chamber was occupied by commission staff, counsel for various parties, waiting witnesses, officials of interested groups, press reporters, as well as a sizable contingent of the public-the last composed mainly of opposition supporters.
Again, on the bench, the same presiding commissioner was flanked by the elderly administrative law judge.
Among those in the bearing room whom Nim recognized were Laura Bo Carmichael and Roderick Pritchett, representing the Sequoia Club; Davey Birdsong of p & lfp, his outsize figure garbed as usual in shabby jeans and open-necked shirt; and, at the press table, Nancy Molineaux, smartly dressed and aloof.
Nim had already been sworn, agreeing to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." Now, the utility's portly general counsel, Oscar O'Brien, on his feet and facing the bench, would lead him through his testimony.
"Mr. Goldman," O'Brien began, as they had rehearsed, "please 1describe the circumstances and studies which lead you to believe that the proposal, now being submitted to this commission, is necessary and in the public interest."
Nim settled himself in the witness chair, aware that his presentation would be long and arduous.
“The studies of Golden State Power & Light," he began, "supplemented by those of government agencies, estimate that California's growth by the middle of the next decade, both of population and industry, will substantially exceed the national average. I will deal with specifics later. Parallel with that growth will be an escalating demand for electric power, greater by far than present generating capacities. It is to meet this demand that . . ."
Nim strove to keep his tone conversational and easy, to hold the interest of those listening. All the facts and opinions he would present were in briefs filed weeks ago with the commission, but spoken evidence was considered important. It was an admission, perhaps, that few would ever read the mountain of paper which grew in size daily.
O'Brien spoke his prompting lines with the confidence of an actor in a long-running play.
"As to environmental effects, will you please explain . . .
"Can you be specific about those coal deliveries which . . .
"You stated earlier there would be limits on disturbance of flora and fauna, Mr. Goldman. I think the commission would like assurance that Please enlarge on
"Would you say that . . .
"Now let's consider the. . ."
It took slightly more than a day and a half, a total of seven hours during which Nim remained in the witness chair, the focus of attention. At the end he knew he had presented the GSP & L case fairly and thoroughly. Just the same, he was conscious that his real ordeal-a succession of cross-examinations-was still to come.
In mid-afternoon of the second day of the resumed hearings, Oscar O'Brien faced the bench. "Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Tlat concludes my examination of this witness."
The chairman nodded. "I think Mr. Goldman deserves a break, and the rest of us would welcome one." He tapped with his gavel. "This hearing is adjourned until 10 am tomorrow."
* * *
Next day the cross-examinations began slowly and easily, like a car moving through low gears on a stretch of level road. The commission counsel, a dry-as-dust middle-aged lawyer named Holyoak, was first.
"Mr. Goldman, there are a number of points on which the commissioners require clarification. As it proceeded, Holyoak's questioning was neither friendly nor hostile. Nim responded in the same way, and competently.
Holyoak took an hour. Roderick Pritchett, manager-secretary of the Sequoia Club, was next and the interrogation moved into higher gear.