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CHAPTER FORTY

I hadn't had anywhere near enough sleep, and the question of what the Bureau was doing with Beert and Pirraghiz and the sub hung heavy in my mind. But right then, not very heavy, because I had more personal things to distract me. Partly it was the presence of Patrice Adcock. She was a lot cleaner and better-dressed than the last time I'd seen her, with her more or less reddish hair curled around her pretty face and looking so exactly like Pat that I had to remind myself that she wasn't really Pat. That was confusing, and I had too many other things on my mind to want to be confused about the woman I loved.

The other part of it was food. I didn't hear any order given, but almost immediately two Bureau noncoms appeared at the door, rolling in breakfast tables that were covered with hot plates and cold. I think the meal must have been prepared in the deputy director's private kitchen, because it was fine. There were eggs, four of them, lightly fried with their perfect golden yolks staring up at me. Hash browns, crisp and oniony. A liter or so of orange juice that had obviously been squeezed within the hour. Crisp bacon. Crackly-crusted sausages. Pancakes with melted butter and hot syrup dribbling down their sides. More coffee-more of everything, in fact.

It was the precise kind of meal I had been dreaming about for a long time.

The metal-mesh babushka kept getting in the way of my mouth, but I didn't let that slow me down. I managed to get down a good share of everything in sight as we talked, while Patrice contented herself with picking at some toast and half a papaya. "The reason I'm here," she told me, "is they wanted somebody who knew you to check you out, and who better than me? So let's get down to it. What was the name of Uncle Cubby's cat?"

That made me grin, with my mouth full of sausage. "Starting right out with trick questions, are we, Patrice? Uncle Cubby didn't have a cat. Grandma Dannerman was allergic to them. The cook had a little yellow dog, but it wasn't ever allowed out of the servants' quarters. I think its name was Molly."

She made a face at me. "Was it? I don't remember. So tell me how old you were when we first met, and what rooms we had in Uncle Cubby's house."

So I told her that and, when she went on to ask, told her what it was like to swim in the muddy-bottomed river below the house, and the names of Uncle Cubby's servants, or as many of them as either of us could remember, and what games we used to play. Except that when I started to mention the games she and I had played under Uncle Cubby's big front porch she cleared her throat and changed the subject. Well, I knew why that was. I had no doubt that every word we spoke and every expression on our faces was monitored so that the Bureau's gumshoes watching us wouldn't miss a thing, and there were things Patrice didn't choose to discuss in front of strangers.

By the time I had reached the point where I couldn't eat any more, she had run out of questions. "All right," she said, and looked away. She spoke to the air. "Hilda? If he's a fake, he's a damn good one. Come on in."


The door opened at once, and Hilda's mobile life support rolled in. The big white box stopped right in front of me, so she could take another good look at my face, but when she spoke it was to Patrice. "You're sure about him?"

Patrice shrugged. "As sure as I can be in twenty minutes. I think it's him, all right."

Hilda meditated for a moment, then sighed. "All right, Pa-trice, but you'd better come along with us to double-check. The chopper's waiting."

Patrice frowned as if she might be about to object to the idea. I didn't give her a chance. All this talk about good times in the old days had put more urgent matters out of my mind, but they came flooding back. "Hold it," I said. "What's happening with my friends and the sub? And where are we going?"

"We're going to Camp Smolley," Hilda informed me. "Ever been there? The old biowar research plant? That's where the action is on trying to reverse-engineer Scarecrow artifacts these days."

"My friends-"

Her voice got harsh. "I said the chopper's waiting, Danno. We'll see your pals when we get there. The Navy towed the sub to Hampton Roads for security reasons, and now they're flying it to Smolley."

I stared at her. That huge thing? Flying it? But when I tried to ask her about it she wasn't patient anymore. "You'll see when we get there. Now get your ass in gear."


CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE | The Far Shore of Time | CHAPTER FORTY-ONE



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