Actually, it was that same night that things began to go sour.
When I got through with the 1730-1930 debriefing Hilda was waiting for me as usual, but she didn't hustle me off at once. "Listen, Danno," she said, sounding either embarrassed or annoyed, I couldn't tell which. "Do you think you can take yourself to dinner without me?"
"Well, sure," I said, startled. "Does that mean you trust me to go off on my own?"
"It means I'm a little tired tonight, Danno," she said, sounding irritable. "No argument, just go do it. And listen, I might be going to bed early tonight, so I'll see you in the morning."
I guess I was in my prisoner state of mind again, and any break in the routine made me uneasy. But when I got to their apartment Pat and Dan M. were unsurprised. "Actually," Dan M. said, "she called me a while ago, asked me to escort you to the rest of your dates if she wasn't up to it."
"She's about ready for dialysis again," Pat told me.
It was the first I'd heard of dialysis; Hilda had never said a word. "So she's sick?" I asked, trying to imagine Hilda Morrisey allowing herself to be sick.
Pat looked reproving. "She's always sick, Dan. That Tepp woman did a good job on her. Do you have any idea what she has to go through every night?"
I didn't, so Pat explained it to me while we were waiting for our dinners to arrive. It pretty nearly spoiled my appetite.
I knew that this religious fanatic named Tepp had killed a Doc and shot Hilda before she offed herself as well. I didn't know quite how shot up Hilda actually was. There wasn't much left of some of her organs-thus the dialysis every couple of weeks- and even less of her whole autonomous metabolism. Every night, Dan said, when she rolled herself into her private little clinic, the medics extracted what was left of her body from the life-support box-as gently as they could, but never without pain. Then they did all the undignified things that had to be done for a body that had lost the skills of doing them for itself. Check the Foley catheter, empty the urine bags. Roll her over for the daily high co-Ionic. Patiently massage every last muscle and tendon, kneading hard to keep them from wasting away entirely. Bathe her. Feed her the extra nutrients that weren't included in her permanent glucose drip. Lift her onto the air-cushion bed that hissed and grumbled at her all night long, but saved her vulnerably fragile skin from bedsores, and, yes, brush her teeth for her, too.
It sounded like a hell of a life.
"But," Dan said, "better than no life at all. At least she can work." Then he grinned at me. Let's talk about something else. Pat, did you tell him the news?"
Pat looked coy. "Oh," she said, "well, it's just that Pat Five is going stir-crazy, stuck in the house with the three babies. She wants to get back to work in the Observatory. So they're setting up a little nursery there-had to kick Pete Schneyman out of his office to make the space, and he's really mad about it, too."
"Yes?" I said, with only moderate interest.
But then she said, "So that means Patrice might have a little free time. She's talking about coming down here again for a visit."
I stopped eating, with a forkful of lukewarm Bureau mashed potatoes on the way to my mouth. "That-would be nice," I said.
Pat was grinning at me. "Just nice? Who do you think she's coming to see, Dan?"
"And listen," Dan M. said sternly, "don't blow it this time. Take my word for it, this is what you want. When a Dan Dannerman and a Pat Adcock get together, it's a match made in Heaven."
Well, I didn't doubt that. I didn't even mind this other me telling me so, either.
I don't mean that there were not some residual male-primate flashes of jealousy still floating around in my head. How could there not be? Jealousy is in the genes. No previous male primate had ever had to deal with this particular sort of situation before. My genes weren't up to the subtleties. They were still loudly complaining that this man had taken this woman away from me, and what was I going to do about it? Settle, for instance, for second best?
It was an unworthy thought. Patrice wasn't second-best anything. I knew that, but my genes weren't sure, and I was too busy refereeing the debate between reason and instinct that was going on in my mind to be very good company at the rest of the meal. And then the news came that took my mind off the pointless interior debate.
Dan M. stretched and yawned, pushed aside the rest of his uneaten soggy apple pie, glanced at his watch and said, "Well, about time to hit the road for your nineteen-thirty, Dan." But as we were standing up there was a call for him on his private screen. He took it in the other room, and when he came back he wasn't cheerful anymore. "Shit," he said. "There's been a leak. Let's see if I can call it up."
Pat said, "What do you mean, a leak?" But he waved her off while he tinkered with the wall screen. It took him only a moment before he got a bare frame with the legend:
National Bureau of Investigation
Excerpt from "Maxwell at Night" program
Recorded at 1850 local time
The legend disappeared and we were looking at the face of the TV newscaster known as Robin Maxwell. I knew who the man was. Everybody in the Bureau did. Maxwell had been on the Bureau's watch list for a long time because he seemed to have contacts in some dubious places.
It looked like he had found himself a new contact now. "The spooks are at it again," he was telling his audience. "You know what they've got at the NBI now? They've squirreled away a Scarecrow submarine and a live Horch, would you believe it? Take a look." The face disappeared and we saw a picture of the sub, with Beert standing on top of it. "They don't want you to know about it, but hey, that's what Maxwell's for, telling you the things the big guys don't want told…"
He kept on talking, but there wasn't any point in listening anymore. The thing that mattered had been said, and said on broadcast television which the Scarecrows were no doubt monitoring. So the secret was out.