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Northwest Exposure

By Virginia Lore

The inside of the egg was hollow. Not hollowed-out, like a Russian Easter egg,
painted delicate patterns and carefully preserved. No, just hollow. As in: nothing
had ever been there. No dried up, miscarried foetus. No bits of white clinging to the
inside of the shell. Most people would say such a thing was impossible in nature.
Impossible.
Dvorjak knew better.
One of his students had seen the birth of a piglet with two tails when he was a child.
He knew that most of the stories printed in the National Enquirer could be true. Yet,
the light dry husk of an empty eggshell nestled in his warm hand made him stop and
blink.
"In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous," he whispered to the
egg. Aristotle.
He put down his pail where he stood, just outside the chicken house. He brought the
egg closer to his face and breathed a mist over it, watching his breath crystallize
momentarily in icy grey patterns. There were no pin-pricks. Dog snuffled at the
other eggs in the pail, sensing their shiny coat-enhancing proteins, perhaps. Dvorjak
nudged him away with his leg, absently.
"Whatcha got there?" Elizabeth called from the house.
"Not sure." Dvorjak called back. He shrugged and picked up the pail of eggs and
turned back toward her.
She stood at the back door of the house, which had been converted by the previous
owner from a simple, solid farmhouse to a structure of 4,000 square feet and a
testament to hideous bad taste. Dvorjak and Elizabeth had already tried to cover the
bright purple paint with a couple coats of white and had muted it to a kind of purply-
grey. But nothing could change the fact that the living room had been turned into a
chapel and all the first floor windows were stained glass. Pretty enough on the
occasional sunny day, but sometimes you just wanted a clear view of the outside and
you had to go to the second floor to get it. Between the stained glass windows and
the failing pump house, Dvorjak dreamed about moving back to the city more days
than not. But sometimes–like this morning–when he held some kind of miracle in
his hand, Dvorjak knew it was all worth it.
Dvorjak had been married once before, and it had been a train wreck of a completely
different color. Rainblossom had been an undergraduate in one of the classes he had
been a Teaching Assistant for. She had had wild red hair and Orwellian ideas about
the power of the state which had been refreshing and attractive when they were
dating, but smothering and paranoiac when he had actually had to live with her.
After finding her at the bottom of the bedroom closet hiding from what she called
"The Invaders" he had still tried to make the marriage work. He had sent her to
psychiatrists who had recommended in-patient treatment. When she had left him for
a psych-tech she had met on the unit, he had been–well, not bereft anyway. Angry,
sure, but once that wore away, what he found underneath was relief. For the next
two decades he had reveled in living a solitary scholar's life, punctuated by breakfast
with friends in town and the occasional conference where he met and sortied with the
like-minded.
Elizabeth had taken him by surprise. It had been an autumn day six years ago when
he had met her. She had come to the college to consult with The Active Ethicists, a
group of students who wanted to organize a blood drive. He had been the faculty
advisor to them, and meeting Elizabeth made up for all the heartache the club had
suffered around choosing a name (there had been a strong "Ethical Activists"
faction). He had fallen in love. Not instantly, he thought. There was nothing about
her physical appearance at first that would have hinted at how sensual she was. She
had seemed stodgy then, plain, a plump woman with a bad hair cut and
unremarkable features. But that was before he had talked to her and discovered how
intelligent she was, how humor infused almost every comment in their first
exchanges. It was not long before he had learned that she was not laughing at him,
she was just constantly on the verge of laughing at all of life. In spite of her tough
job and the long hours and all the tragedies that she couldn't talk about with him
because of the confidentiality of her work, she was a woman who enjoyed life. And
had taught Dvorjak to enjoy it too. And now–though on the outside she had n't
changed, there was no woman sexier than Betty in a flannel shirt. Dvorjak strode
toward the kitchen. They had been married for four years now, and every year she
just got sexier and wiser and more magnetic.
"You're letting the heat out," he said.
"Get in here then," she shot back. Her eyes twinkled. She moved back to let him in
and he put the pail in the sink.
"Look at this," he said, and handed to her. Elizabeth handled it gently, wiping it with
the tail of her shirt and holding it up to the light.
"Well," she said.
"I know."
"You can see through it."
"Yup."
She handed it back to him and shooed one of the cats away from the bottom drawer
next to the sink. Bending, she retrieved a couple of cloth napkins, which she used to
line a basket from the top of the refrigerator.
"Here," she demanded, holding out the basket. He put the egg in the basket. It
looked unremarkable there, a grey-ish white object on stained white linen on a
scarred kitchen table.
Dvorjak liked the kitchen table. It was what it purported to be. In the semiotics of
furniture, it signified utility and simplicity. It was the only thing he liked about the
kitchen, in which one had to take six steps to get from the fridge to the stove. The
floor was a knock-off of Italian marble tile, and chipped when you wore shoes on it.
A dated food processor popped out of the counter at what was supposed to be the
touch of a button–but you had to use both hands and press the button hard to make it
work, and instead of popping up the food processor creaked halfway up slowly. You
had to help it the rest of the way. The house was full of gadgets like these–gadgets
which may have been time-saving for the first week or two after they were installed,
but which broke down shortly thereafter. He sighed.
"Now what?" He said.
"I don't know. You're the professor." Elizabeth went back to the kitchen table,
where she had been working on her laptop.
"Poultry is not exactly one of my research specialties." Dvorjak said drily.
"Can't you ask one of the guys at Middling to take a look at it?"
"I don't know." Dvorjak did not know any of the agriculture guys. The years he had
spent at the University he had been engrossed in the politics of his three-professor
department, embattled with the effort to keep philosophy separate from English, in
spite of budget cuts.
"Sure you can," she said. "What about Hal's brother?"
"I don't think he's there any more."
"Well he's somewhere!" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"I think he's in Chicago," Dvorjak said. "I guess I could ask Hal next time I'm in
town."
"I guess you had better," She pointed at the egg, which now shook slightly as if a
chicken were trying to peck its way out. Dvorjak drew closer to watch the egg
tremble.
"Why don't I shower and get the truck out now," he said.
"Hunh. Why don't you skip the shower," she said, handing him his keys, and before
he knew it, Dvorjak was on Old 77, headed into town with the basket perched on the
passenger seat.

The drive into town was one Dvorjak had always liked. His driveway bisected the
front ten acres of his property, which he rented to a neighbor who kept cows there.
Dvorjak liked watching the cows. In truth, he was not much of a farmer, so he
particularly enjoyed those animals he had no part in caring for. Cows were
particularly peaceful, and on summer evenings, Dvorjak would walk down the
quarter-mile drive just to watch them chew their cud. The road in front of the
pasture ran past six houses, and Dvorjak knew everyone who lived there. He waved
to the Sellens' girl, who was stretching after her morning run. She was the high
school track star and pride of the county after taking first at State. She nodded back,
stretching her ham foot up behind her. And then he was on Mohawk, passing the
wildlife preserve and the girl scout camp and the house that one of the art faculty had
built into a cliff. He had been there once for a faculty party. It was the perfect
blend of nature and habitability. A natural spring fed the aquarium in the living
room. The kitchen was warm and bright and smelled of apples.
Where Mohawk ran into Old 77 the Episcopalian church sat on the corner. It looked
something like an old schoolhouse with a parking lot, and though quaint, was always
in perfect repair with a trimmed lawn and well-tended flower beds. Old 77 wound
past hills dotted with trees that still had some color to them though winter was
coming on fast. The trailer park halfway to town even seemed to fit this morning,
with its quiet white and tan single-wides and cheery light beaming out from the
occasional window. The trailers were the cheapest form of student housing, and it
was well-known that you could rent one for less than $250 a month if you picked
your moment.
One of the things Dvorjak liked most about this drive was that he often had this road
to himself. Most of the people who were in a hurry took the New 77, which had
been installed some twenty years before. Today he drove freely, keeping some part
of himself cautiously alert for a deer that might cross the road, but otherwise
allowing his foot the freedom of the pedal. As he approached town, he slowed for
the four-way stop, then proceeded more slowly, at a sedate 30 instead of the 55 he
had been doing on Old 77. At the second four way he slowed to 15 and, spotting a
parking space directly in front of Kitschy Cottage, he took it.
Kitschy Cottage was something of a misnomer for the diner, which should have been
called Dottie's or Harry's or something like that. Except for a rack of Middling
postcards and "Go Mustang!" scarves, it was a typical mid-western coffee spot–the
coffee was unoriginal and not too strong, but always hot and fresh, and the pies were
always–well, sweet, if not great. Most Middling residents knew they could find Hal
here mornings until 11 if they had any business for the town sheriff. Few of them
did, but as Hal was a friendly sort and good with a joke, he never lacked for
company at his table. Except today.
Dvorjak stopped halfway into the diner.
"Where's Hal?" He asked Linda, who worked behind the counter. She shrugged.
"Maybe he's on a hot case!" This was from Skeletal Bill down at the end of the
counter and drew a few good-natured chuckles.
"Sick, I think," said Janet Mallory, who taught creative writing and could often be
found at the café, munching on chocolate chip cookies and doodling into a notebook.
Dvorjak slid in across the table from Janet. "He looked awful at the Arts Council
meeting last night."
"Yeah?"
"Just awful. It did not even surprise me much not to see him here this morning."
"He hasn't missed a morning here since the stock market crash of 1987," said
Dvorjak, and Janet nodded. He had been called away the Wednesday after the crash
to tend the bodies of one of the new Middling residents who had shot his wife and
children before killing himself. "Has anyone checked on him?"
"Somebody ought to," Janet said. "I've got a graduate seminar in about 45 minutes,
though. You want to drive by his place?"
"Guess I could," Dvorjak said. His reluctance was outweighed only by the thought
of the egg trembling itself out of the basket on the front seat of his truck. He hefted
himself back out of the booth. "Guess I'll pass on the pie today," he called to Linda,
who shrugged. He stopped himself from actually hitching up his pants.
Outside, fog lingered around the lamp-posts and tree-tops, wreathing the hardware
store sign and the inflatable candy-canes strung across Middling Ave. Dvorjak felt in
his coat pocket for his key. As he opened the door of the truck, he noticed that the
egg seemed to have come alive. Where it had been trembling, it was now shaking
violently. Dvorjak quickly climbed into the truck. He put his hand on the egg and
was surprised by the warmth of the shell. The egg continued to shake in his hand.
He made cupped his hand over the egg in the basket and started the engine. The
truck roared into life and the egg stilled. Cautiously Dvorjak lifted his hand from
the egg. It remained still. Lifeless. He put the truck in reverse, glanced into his
rearview mirror, and waited for two cars to pass before leaving.

Josiah White was having a wonderful breakfast. His favorite: three flapjacks cooked
golden brown with real maple syrup, two strips of bacon cooked extra crisp with the
grease sopped up by a paper towel, a cup of real Honest to God coffee. Folger's, not
that European crap they sold in the big cities. Folger's made with 2 scoops of coffee
to a pot of water so he could drink it all day, but it was best in the morning with this
breakfast. He smiled at Eve across the table and she beamed back. Eve was a sunny
person. After breakfast, she had wash and he had dry, and then he would relax with
his Bible and another cup of coffee and she had give him some orange juice with a
vitamin in it that he was not supposed to know about. Eve was always concerned
about his health. He cared about hers too. That was one of the secrets of a great
marriage.
He took another bite of flapjacks and noticed how delicious it was. He always put
just a pat of farm fresh butter on them before adding the syrup. This bite was one of
the ones with butter. No, it just did not get better than this. The sun was shining, if
they'd had birds around here they'd probably be singing. He could hear the hum of
his neighbor's tractor down the way. Sipping his coffee, he leaned back a little in his
chair and looked at Eve.
"What's on your mind, Old Man," she teased. Her eyes twinkled. His twinkled back.
She knew him so well.
"What makes you think something's on my mind?"
"You've smoothed that napkin out three times," she said. "Do you want to talk about
it?"
Josiah smiled.
"No," he said. "I don't think so."
"Okay," She smiled and got up to start a sink full of soapy water. She liked to do the
dishes by hand. She always said she could see what was happening to them that
way, and there was something comforting about that. Josiah agreed.
"It's one of those things that's in the works," he said. "Now Eve, you know I'm not a
superstitious man, but I just don't want to jinx it right now."
"That's fine Josiah," she said. She tested the temperature of the water with her hand.
"I'll wait and hear about it when you're ready."
"Because today's the day it's all going to happen," he said.
"God willing and the creek don't rise?"
"Exactly," he said. "So say an extra prayer if you've got one handy." He took
another bite of flapjacks, this one with a tiny piece of bacon sandwiched between
two layers. My, it was good. He praised God every time he ate bacon that he was
not born a jew.
Eve came back to the table with the coffee pot.
"Warm up?" It was one of the ways she flirted, reminding them of the day they'd met
at the Stevens Way General Store, where she had waited on customers at the coffee
counter while her father had run the register and helped people carry feed to their
trucks. Who could have guessed that 50 years later, he had be running that same
store after taking a cup of coffee from that same pretty girl.
"Thank you," he said. It was going to be a busy day. He usually had one of the
Twins cover the store. The Twins were Abraham and Gabriel–Abe and Gabe–and
while they weren't really twins, they were as alike as two teats on the same cow, so
they might just have been. Most people said you could tell them apart by looking at
their hands. Abe had a thumb missing from an accident involving friendly fire in the
Gulf War. Josiah always thought you could tell them apart the instant they opened
their mouths. Abe couldn't hold a conversation to save his life, and probably did not
even know many words over two syllables. Gabe was the one who kept the store
running smoothly when Josiah couldn't be there. He had be relying pretty heavily on
Gabe in the next couple of days. Come to think of it, Abe might be out of town right
now. He went to the kitchen wall and dialed the phone there–a real phone, one
they'd had since the remodel in 1977. Gabe answered on the first ring.
"Stevens Way General Store."
"Hullo Gabe. It's Josiah."
"Well hullo Josiah. How are the hens pecking this morning?"
"Oh pretty good, pretty good." Josiah smiled. That Gabe. Unlike most of his
neighbors, Josiah had work that many people acknowledged was more important
than farming. The few who knew what he really did were a worthwhile handful, and
Gabe was one of them. But every day Gabe came up with a new way of asking how
his day was, and it always had something to do with the farm Josiah did not have.
"How're things at the store?"
"Pretty quiet right now," Gabe said. "The produce truck is going to be a few hours
late, but nothing that'll inconvenience us. Of course, we have the grilled cheese for
lunch and you know how popular that is."
"Better prep for a rush."
"Yup." A rush in Stevens Way was anything over 10 people, but you still had to
know to thaw out extra cheese and put up an extra sleeve of cups just in case. "I'd
better chill some extra soda pop too."
"Sure. How is the fridge section holding up?"
"So far, so good. Were you in again last night?"
"Yup." Josiah went in every couple of days to monkey around with the fridge motor.
He barely knew what he was doing, but the fridge seemed to like the attention. She
broke down if he skipped more than two or three days.
"I thought so."
"Listen, Gabe. I'm going to be driving out on a buying trip today, and I may not
make it back by tomorrow. So you'll have the reins for the next couple of days. Can
you handle it?"
"Well, I'll try not to let it go to my head," Gabe said drily. This was the fourth time
this year Josiah had left on a trip.
"It's Levi business."
"I figured. Abe's been up in Canada you know."
"That's right. So. I know the store's going to be in good hands," Josiah said heartily.
"Yup. Don't worry about a thing." They hung up.
Once the phone call was concluded, Josiah returned to the breakfast table. It was not
every day that he had business for the Brothers of Levi, but since he had become a
district Leader two years ago, his involvement had picked up quite a bit. And every
day he had Levi business was a good day. It brought him that much closer to a
better world.
Josiah finished his breakfast, taking time to appreciate every bite. Appreciation of
the little things was one of the secrets to a high quality of life, and something he
thought a lot of people in modern America had forgotten about. Most people rushed
through life with barely a kind word for their neighbors. Josiah took his time, took
time to smile and shake hands, took time to help a child with a heavy load, took time
to taste his breakfast, and took time to thank the pretty waitresses. Had he not been
in the habit of enjoying life very early on, he might not now be married to the
largest-hearted, most generous woman in all of Idaho.
There was a lot to protect about the life he led. And a lot to teach people about how
to make their lives better. One of the biggest things they could all start with was
taking power into their own hands. The people had gotten into the habit of relying
on the government to regulate their survival, both physical and moral. Maybe things
were getting a little better, now that America had re-elected the President, but until
people could think for themselves and fend for themselves on a local, personal level,
there was not anything that would save them. Not the Department of Homeland
Security, not the military, not all the tea in China.
Josiah joined his wife at the sink, where they worked together companionably and
quietly. She hummed a little, absent-mindedly, and he recognized the tune as "How
Great Thou Art." So she was in a good mood too. He took a breakfast plate from
her, enjoying how warm it was from the hot water. He dried it. Even if he wanted to
change things now, he couldn't. It had all been set in motion months ago, and the
starting gun had gone off last night in a small college town over in coastal
Washington.

The road that led to Hal's cabin ribboned its way over several hills. As Dvorjak
drove, he noticed how the fog would come and go with the dipping of the road.
Again, there was no other traffic on the road, but Dvorjak took it slow. He had once
had to have his car's front end rebuilt after taking out a buck on a highway once–
since then he had been very cautious about deer. Almost everybody in Middling
had a story about a close call with a deer. This time of year they had just leap out of
the trees with no warning.

One of Dvorjak's favorite classroom exercises in Intro to Philosophy was to survey


the class and find out who believed in hunting and who favored animal rights. At
Middling, the groups were pretty evenly split. He then would have each student
write an essay arguing the opposite point of view. The essays were graded on
thoroughness of research and presentation, not on writing. For most of his students,
this was a social exercise, involving buying coke for someone who did not agree
with them. But for a handful of students every year, this was their first practice in
opening their minds to possibilities that existed outside of their frame of reference.
Dvorjak kept an eye on those students. Some of them made great philosophers or
attorneys. The rest of them usually dropped out of college at some point.
Dvorjak did not have any closely held beliefs about either position, but he could see
how keeping the deer population away from roads like this would be a good thing.
He now had a whistle on the front of his truck that emitted a high-pitched sound only
deer could hear. It was supposed to keep them away. He had his doubts about its
effectiveness, he reflected, as he veered right to catch the gravel road that led to Hal's
cabin.
He cupped his hand back over the egg as the truck bounced up the steep road. If he
remembered correctly, Hal's cabin was up at the end of this road, down a path to the
right. When he got to the end of the road he stopped and turned off the truck. In the
sudden silence, he heard a high pitched humming from the egg. The egg suddenly
cracked. Hal jumped back, hitting his elbow against the steering wheel.
"Dammit!" He looked down at his elbow, catching some movement from the egg in
the corner of his eye. As he looked back up he saw a fine grey mist ascend from the
crack and dissipate through the window of the truck.
"What the–?" He looked back at the egg shell, now an ordinary broken egg shell,
looking like any other baby chick's. He touched it lightly with his index finger.
Cold again. Nothing out of the ordinary there. A fine white powder dusted his
fingertip and he absently smoothed it off, doubting now that Hal's brother would
have any answers for him.

Back at the farmhouse, Elizabeth opened her laptop and logged in to her knitting site.
She was looking for something particular–a post from KnitRiderT3. But though she
had been looking for it, when she saw it she was startled. There it was. A post to a
public forum of Miscellaneous – Open Topics.
She knew that Dvorjak knew about her interest in knitting. They had been married
four years, but when she had brought out the knitting needles last winter, she had
surprised him with her deftness.
"I did not know you knew how to knit," he said. She had put her knitting down in
her lap, exasperated.
"I'm always looking at knitting sites and buying patterns and yarn!"
"Yeah but. I thought you were just interested, I don't know..."
"Academically?" She had teased him.
"Well, I thought you probably knew how to knit, but I did not know you knew how
to knit that well," he said, looking at the four diamonds she had just finished across
the front of the sweater.
"I'm full of surprises," She had said, picking up her needles again. If only he knew.
Now she looked at the message from KnitRiderT3 and a sense of dread rose in her.
She crossed to the sink to scrub her hands with a home-made soap, and scrubbed
them up to the elbows, rinsing in hot water. She disrobed there at the sink and
stuffed her clothes into the washer in the laundry closet with the same soap and hit
"Hot wash". She had have to run it twice.
She got a disk from the kitchen drawer and put it into her laptop. Moving quickly,
she copied and pasted this thread of the forum discussion into a word document and
saved the document onto the disk. She had take her laptop with her, but she had
need a back-up. She grabbed some underwear and a clean pair of khaki slacks from
the pile on top of the dryer, and dress quickly. She buttoned on of John's white
oxfords over herself, and grabbed a few things from the laundry for him. She put on
socks and running shoes, unplugged her laptop, and looked wildly around the
kitchen. The disk. She wrapped it in a linen napkin and stuck it into the bottom
drawer under a couple of others.
The message had been clear. It was time to move. She went into the garage and
opened the fuse box and turned all the power off to all of the appliances. Then, on
second thought, she turned them back on. It should look like they still lived here. If
she came back she had deal with the mold in the fridge then. If not, it wouldn't
matter much any way.
The last thing she took from the house was a jar of the soap. It made more sense
than the wedding photo. Much more sense.

Dvorjak climbed down from the truck, no longer trying to make sense of what he had
seen. It was not going to make sense, he thought, at least not without more
information. He walked up to the cabin, noticing the oddity of the slightly open
door. Hal usually kept the door open in the summer for air flow, he knew. He had
had many beers at Hal's kitchen table feeling the cool breeze brush across his face.
But in this weather, it had to make the cabin awfully cold. Dvorjak glanced up at the
chimney. No smoke.
"Hello?" He called in, knocking on the door frame. "Hal?"
There was no answer.
"Hal?" He swung the door open.
The cabin was not large. Hal had built this cabin over a summer as a lark, but ended
up moving in permanently after the divorce. He still kept an outhouse for what he
called "doing the necessary". The cabin was a simple square structure with a
wooden partition across the back six feet of space to hide the sleeping area from the
main cabin. Dvorjak glanced over the main room. There was not much to see. The
fireplace was dark, chairs were tucked neatly under the table, a Polartec blanket was
folded on the back of the couch. The place was so clean it looked abandoned. In
itself, this might not be unusual, but Hal had never had much use for tidiness. It was
one of the reasons his wife had kicked him out. Dvorjak approached the sleeping
area at the back, knowing already what he would find.
It was Hal, laid out neatly on his bed, wearing his Sheriff's uniform, barefoot. Dried
blood caked around his fingernails, under his nose and eyes. A crust of dried blood
formed over one ear. And white powder dusted the outline of his body.
"Oh God." It was an odd epithet for a philosophy professor, but Dvorjak tended to
revert to the Christianity of his childhood when he was surprised. He patted his
pockets for a cell phone before realizing he had left it at home–not much of a signal
out here anyway. Hal did not have a phone. But he did have a radio in his car.
Dvorjak stumbled from the cabin towards the Sheriff's car. It was unlocked and he
reached in for the radio.
Picking up the mike, he pressed the button and said "Hello? Hello?" There was
static for a moment and then a woman's voice came on the line.
"Sheriff? That you?"
"Uh no. It's John Dvorjak. I'm out at Hal's place. Is this dispatch?"
"Oh. Hi Professor Dvorjak. It's Janet Werther. I'm the dispatcher here. How are
you?"
"Fine. No. Not fine. Hal's dead, Janet. Can you send somebody up here?" There
was a pause during which Dvorjak noticed the crumpled sack on the passenger seat.
He poked at it. A cold french fry came tumbling out.
"Dead?"
"Yeah," Dvorjak said. He cleared his throat. "He's just...laying there on his bed."
"Oh. Deputy Smith is gassing up at the 7-11. I guess I could send him." She
sounded doubtful.
"Um, Janet?"
"Yeah?"
"You might want to send someone who can handle hazardous materials."
"You mean like radioactive stuff?"
"There's a white powder on his body."
"Oh. Right. That could be uh, oh, what do they call it? That that one guy sent
through the mail to all those people after 9/11? Not asbestos. What's it called?"
"Anthrax."
"Right. Anthrax. Okay, well. I'll tell Deputy Smith. He might want me to call
somebody else in too."

"Right."
"You up there at Hal's cabin?"
"Yeah."
"Gosh. Well. I guess you should probably stay there until somebody gets there."
"Yeah....thanks Janet."
"Okay. Just call again if you need me to do anything else."
"You got it." Dvorjak put down the radio and sat on the front seat of the car. He
looked at the smear of powder on his pants from when he had touched the egg. He
picked up the radio again.
"Janet?"
"Yeah? I just got Smith on the radio. He'll be up there in about 15. He also says do
you want a coffee?"
"Uh, no. Tell him to bring some latex gloves though...and a mask. He won't want to
touch whatever this stuff is."
"Oh, right. Yeah, he probably already knows that. But I'll tell him anyway."
"Okay. And..."
"Anything else?"
"Uh no. Nothing else." He had been about to have her call Betty and tell her to
wash her hands, but realized how that might sound to the dispatcher. Best to wait
until someone was in charge of the investigation and let them know about the white
powder from the egg.

Dvorjak waited on the front seat of the Sheriff's car. Cold seeped up from the vinyl
through the leg of his pants. He wanted to get up and look around, but vague
impressions from CSI left him pretty sure that he shouldn't do anything that might
disturb the scene of the crime. He remembered helping Hal put up the cabin. He had
only come out a couple of weekends that summer, mostly just in time to chip in to
the pizza and beer fund. But it had been a good time, working with Hal. Surely
there were a number of motivations for socially unsanctioned murder, but it was
unlikely that any of them applied to Hal. He was not rich, he was not corrupt, his ex
was remarried more happily, and as far as Dvorjak knew, Hal did not have an enemy
in the county. He had been voted "Class Clown" junior year and "Most Likely to
Own a Bowling Alley" senior year. Every girl had confided in him; every guy had
clapped him on the shoulder at least once. He was that kind of guy, a buddy, the one
everyone trusted. Even people who had been arrested by him liked him. He got fan
letters from prison.
Hal heard the gravel crunch and turned to welcome Deputy Smith. But it was not the
Deputy. It was Elizabeth.
"Get in," she said.
"Betty–what are you–?"
"I'll explain everything later–just get in."
"I've got to wait for Zack Smith. Betty, Hal's been killed."
"I know." Betty turned pale as she heard Smith's car come up the road behind them.
"Oh crap. All right. We'll have to talk it out. But we don't have much time."
"What?"
"John, please. Trust me. Just follow my lead. Don't say anything about the egg.
Just tell them about Hal and we'll be just fine."
"Betty–do you have something to do with this?"
Smith's car stopped behind Betty's.

"Hi Dvorjak. Elizabeth." They nodded.


"Where's Hal? I mean, the body?" He asked. His Adam's apple bobbed and his
voice squeaked up as he asked.
"In the cabin." Dvorjak said.
Smith glanced toward the cabin.
"You'll want to wear gloves or something."
"Already got ‘em." He looked at the cabin again and said, "So. How did you find
him?"
"Well, they said at the diner that Hal hadn't been there–."
"So we came to check on him," Elizabeth finished. "Well, actually John did. I just
followed him up here because we were going to have lunch together and we thought
if Hal were stranded up here or out of gas or something it had be nice to have an
extra car."
"Oh. Yeah." The Deputy said. He glanced nervously back at the cabin and a sheen
of sweat popped out on his forehead. "So. I guess I should take a look."
"Or you could call the FBI or someone from another county," said Dvorjak. The
Deputy looked as if he were going to throw up.
"I guess I could," he said. "But there's protocol. I have to ascertain that there really
is a dead body in there." He pronounced the word "ascertain" very deliberately, as if
he had never said it aloud before.
"Oh trust me," said Dvorjak. "Hal's dead. But you should probably look for
yourself."
"Yeah." Smith squared his shoulders and put the latex gloves on, accidentally
snapping his wrist in the process. He turned toward the cabin and stepped toward it.
A squirrel suddenly ran across his path and he gave a little shriek. He looked back at
Dvorjak and Elizabeth, who were looking at the ground, and entered the cabin.
Dvorjak turned toward Elizabeth.
"Later," she whispered. "We don't have time right now."
Smith emerged from the cabin with large strides.
"It's Hal all right," he said.
"Feeling a little better?" Elizabeth asked.
"He did not look as bad as I thought."
Dvorjak nodded.
"You see those movies, and you think about, oh, I dunno, corpses with half-eaten
faces or something."
Dvorjak swallowed.
"But this–well, it just looked like Hal, only sick and a little beat up or something,"
Smith said.
"So what next?" Betty asked. She looked at her watch. "I only ask because we still
haven't eaten anything and John gets low blood sugar."
"Oh. Right." Smith slid into the front seat of his car and called the dispatcher. While
he was on his radio, Dvorjak considered demanding that Elizabeth tell him whatever
she knew about what was going on, but one look at her firm, set jaw and he decided
to keep his mouth shut. If she was mixed up in this somehow, he had have to get
her to turn herself in. But that would come later. For now, he should just admire
how calmly she was handling herself. He himself felt nowhere near that calm. But
as an academic he had learned long ago how to compartmentalize things. He had
get through this and get Betty somewhere where they could talk.
"The Grays Harbor Sheriff is coming," Smith said when he returned, crunching
leaves under his brown leather hiking boots. "I guess he'll be here in about an hour."

"Can we go then?" Elizabeth said. "I'm a little worried about John." She gave Smith
a significant look.
"Right." Smith said. "Yeah. No problem. Just let me know where you're gonna be
so I can come take your statement."
"Just down at the Kitsch," Elizabeth said. "And if you don't catch us there, we'll be
going straight home."
"Right."
Elizabeth steered John toward the car and opened the door for him. The passenger
seat was lined with towels.
"Try not to touch anything," she whispered, waving to Deputy Smith and sliding into
her own seat. Dvorjak sat gingerly on the towels, declining to put his seatbelt on.
Elizabeth started the car and, maneuvering around the Deputy's Ford Escort, started
down the road.
"Betty, what–?"
"Not yet, John." Elizabeth did not go all the way down to the main road, but instead
veered off the road onto a logging access road that was barely worthy of the name.
Dvorjak braced himself against the seat as they bumped up the hill along the road
until it crested the hill and dipped down. Elizabeth stopped the engine.
"Take off your clothes," she told John, digging into the back seat for a jar.
"Betty, I hardly think this is the time to get–."
"Oh John. It's the powder. From the egg. Take off your clothes."
"How did you know about the powder?" Dvorjak asked, even as he started to
unbutton his shirt.
"No, not in the car. Here." Betty helped him exit the car without touching anything
but the towels, and began to assist him with taking his clothes off. John noticed that
since they had parked she had donned latex gloves.
"Two pair," she said, answering his unspoken question. "One is not really sufficient
with this stuff."
"What about Zack?"
"If they get the FBI out here in the next couple of hours, there'll be time for him.
Chances are he hasn't touched anything yet anyway. If he's smart, he won't."
Dvorjak blinked as the cold air hit his naked chest and Elizabeth began working the
zipper of his pants. He watched as his clothes joined a pile of towels next to the
path.
"Betty," he said, pitching his voice low and willing her to look at him. "I'm trusting
you. I'm coming to understand that you know something. So I have to ask you–"
Elizabeth held one hand up to stop him as the last bit of his clothing was added to the
pile.
"I can't tell you anything," she said. She began to apply the soap to his hair and
worked down his body, covering him with the thick fatty paste. "Where did you
touch the powder?"
"I don't know," he said. "I was in the truck with the egg when it just–exploded. It
was like watching a ghost hatch. But I left the truck a couple of seconds later."
She nodded and gathered another handful of goop.
"We had better do your face too, then," she said. "Everything. I'll get your hands,
and then you need to get–well, everything. Nasal passages; lips and mouth;
eyelashes."
"Betty–that's soap. I haven't had my mouth washed out with soap since I was six
years old."
"You probably did not breathe much of it. If any." she said. "But if you did, it can
kill you. I'm guessing that's what happened to Hal, although we wouldn't know
without an autopsy. It can also kill you if you ingest it, or it can get you through
your skin."
Dvorjak froze.
"That's why we need to be so thorough," she said. "It's not too bad. You only saw
the egg for the first time, what? Two hours ago?"
"Closer to three."
"So we had still have a couple of hours before you started dying. But best to take
care of it now."
Dvorjak heartily agreed.
"But what is that stuff?" He asked.
"I can't tell you."
"Because you would have to kill me?" He chuckled.
"Because, John, if I told you, someone else might try to kill you," she said. She took
a loofah out of a plastic bag and began to scrub his body. "Do you know what a
mycotoxin is?"
John blinked. "Is not it some kind of fungal spore?"
"No, not a spore. It's a toxin that comes from a fungus. Most are harmful to animals,
and some to humans." She handed him the loofah and walked around to the trunk of
the car, where they kept a case of distilled water. The pump house at the farm had a
way of breaking down, and they never knew when they had need extra. She took a
gallon from the case and brought it back, and began rinsing off the soap.
"So, are you saying this is a mycotoxin?"
"That's exactly what I'm not saying," Betty said. "And it's what I'm not going to say.
I'm just mentioning generalities here. Things any nurse might know."
"Right." So it was some kind of mycotoxin. And for some reason, she did not want
to confirm it.
"Uh, Betty–these mycotoxins–have any of them ever been used as biological
weapons?"
She went back to the trunk for a clean towel.
"Depends on who you ask, I guess," she said. "Look John, I want to answer your
questions, but right now we have to focus on what's practical. You have to trust me."
She handed him his socks. Dvorjak was a man who liked to put on his socks first. "I
know I keep saying that, but...can you do that?"
"Depends," he said. "Betty, can you swear to me that you had nothing to do with
Hal's death?"
She stopped. He usually loved the way she considered every question carefully
before answering. Right now, though, all he wanted was an instant "of course." He
did not get it.
"I did not kill Hal," she said.
"That's not what I asked."
"I had never want any harm to come to Hal, and I had never intentionally do
anything to harm him," Betty said. She took the loofah from him and dropped it
onto the pile of dirty clothes and used towels. "I know I'm not answering your
question, but that's the best I can do. What I can tell you is that we have to move
quickly and get out of here before the FBI gets here."
"But Betty–."
"I know it looks like I'm fleeing the law," Betty got a large bottle from the back seat
of the car. "But I'm not. It's more complicated than that." She poured the contents
of the bottle over the pile of clothes and towels, then retrieved a second bottle and
repeated her motions.
"Ethanol," she said. "It won't decontaminate the whole thing, but I can't risk a fire
right now."
Dvorjak finished dressing and watched her work. She worked like she did
everything else, efficiently, competently.

Deke wheezed a little as he crested the hill. Exercise-induced asthma, his doctor
said. She did not know what she was talking about. Asthma, my ass, he thought.
He was in excellent shape. He could bench-press a lot. Sure, it had been awhile
since he could give a specific number, but he could still lift Sally over his head and,
while she was no heifer, she was not exactly a rail either. And he had strong legs.
Like a bull. Or a baseball player, he thought. So he was no weakling. Still,
climbing 2,000 feet made his breath come out in a funny whistle, so maybe the
doctor was right. Anyway, he could still shoot pretty much anything that moved
from pretty much any distance you could name.
Deke slowed as he reached the top. He could almost hear their voices below, and if
he could hear them, they could probably hear him. He did what the Army had called
xxxx and he always called "Indian walking", one foot in front of the other, walking
as if there was broken glass between you and the ground. He moved a few feet
forward, crouched, silent. One of his knees cracked loudly.
"Shit!" he said. He fell to the ground and rolled to his stomach, crawling a few feet
forward to watch the scene below. That was Dvorjak down there, naked. Deke
fished his binoculars out of his backpack and peered through them for a closer look.
Hunh. Wouldn't have thought Dvorjak would be so fit. He focused in on the
Professor's flat stomach and broad chest. Not bad for a guy who used to be an
annoying tubby little midget.
Deke remembered hanging out with John in fifth and sixth grade, before the
differences in them became so marked. They hadn't been best buddies, really. Just
members of the same club, the Geronimoes, with a clubhouse hidden in a stand of
evergreens. There had been four of them: The Brain, the Brawn, the Buddy and the
Bastard. Deke had been the Brawn. John had been the Bastard. And now their
Buddy was dead in his cabin.
Which left only the Brain. Deke had no idea where Marty was. He had n't heard of
or from him since that summer after high school when the bad thing had happened
and they had all gone their separate ways.
Deke watched Dvorjak get dressed and Elizabeth pour the alcohol over the clothing.
He wouldn't go down there for a million dollars, not knowing what he knew about
the stuff. He could hear their voices, but not what was being said. Dvorjak gestured
with exasperation, but Elizabeth looked as if she was keeping him calm. Elizabeth
could probably handle it, Deke knew. If not, it had be up to him.

Deke watched as Elizabeth got Dvorjak into the car and drove off, then felt in his
back pocket for his walkie-talkie. It was his grandson's actually, but it did the trick.
As soon as they were clear of the site, he turned it on.
"Rex, this is Zulu. Over."
"Copy, Zulu. This is Rex."
"Amazon has left the building. Repeat: Amazon has left the building."
There was a pause.
"What?"
"They're gone, Rex. Drove off just a minute ago."
"Well, yeah. Probably just headed home."
"I don't think so Rex. Elizabeth looked pretty worked up. Over."
"Copy that."
"Any instructions?"
"Pigeon, return home. Over."
"Hey, I can't be Zulu and Pigeon. You gotta make up your mind, Rex."
"Deke, just get your butt home so we can figure out what to do, okay?"
"Right. Uh 10-4."
Deke turned off the radio and sat another couple of minutes, watching grey clouds
thin out and to show spots of lighter grey sky here and there. He reached in his bag
for a beer, then thought the better of it. His ass was getting numb. He stood up and
began the long walk back down the hill to his truck. If Elizabeth thought she could
get away with this, she had another think coming. Oh yeah. If he knew Rex, that
woman was not going to get very far.

Chapter 2xxxx

Martin Pfannenstiel straightened his tie as he walked between two large bodyguards.
Since those morons in the south had elected that idiot again, he couldn't be too
careful. Not that what he was doing here was so very public, or anything, but you
never knew when you were on the radar. Colleagues of his had made the mistake
of underestimating the US president. Though the man made decisions with all the
judgment and forethought of a toddler, that did not mean he was predictable. In fact,
Martin thought, he was all the more dangerous because he was unpredictable. You
never knew who he was going to go after next.
One of the bodyguards secured the elevator. Martin automatically glanced down the
hall left and right before getting in, and looked up at the ceiling panels. Elevators
made him nervous since the accident in Spain which had had him trapped in an
elevator with an unconscious would-be assassin for six hours. But he refused to give
in to his fear. He glanced at each of his bodyguards. They were from the agency
and had been with him for a couple of months now, since the plan had gone into
Phase III. He almost trusted them. But he had a few surprises tucked away to deal
with anything unexpected.
Though a slight man, Martin could take down just about any single armed opponent
hand-to-hand. Two opponents was trickier, though, and Martin hadn't quite mastered
the art of fighting several opponents simultaneously. Still, he thought he could trust
these two–Tom and Thumb, he called them in his mind. Tom for the very attractive,
magnetic, sexual man to his left, and Thumb for the bulky human discard who lacked
a digit on his right hand. These were very tough men, Martin knew. He had a lot in
common with them. But they were not friends. He could never afford to think of his
tools as his friends. It was too painful when he had to move into the end game.
The elevator came to the lobby and they moved through it toward the street. Outside
it was a sunny November day, the kind that brought all kinds of people out, residents
and tourists alike. Martin and his bodyguards separated. He preferred that one of
them walk behind him and the other on the opposite side of the street. Around him
he heard Japanese, English, French, Cantonese, if he was not mistaken, and Spanish
all flowing in a continuous babble. He threaded through the crowd toward Robson
Street. A tall blonde couple wearing matching brown leather jackets moved past him
from the other direction. He stepped around a dowdy American-looking couple
stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to look at a map and bit back the urge to tell
them to move aside for others. This kind of behavior from his former compatriots
always gave him a twinge of embarrassment although he was now as far from being
identified as American as he was from being identified as gay. Which is to say, it
was not immediately obvious.
Martin stopped a Lush, one of his favorite shops, to buy a bath bauble for his mother.
She loved the soaps he sent her, the more bizarre, the better. Her favorite had been a
fruit basket in which every piece of a fruit was a different soap. When she called,
she had said the pineapple would probably last her a year, but don't stop sending
them. She loved to show them to guests.
The bodyguards hung back as Martin looked at the new products from London.
Vancouver was not quite as cosmopolitan as London, but then it was quite as
obstinately provincial either. A newer city, Vancouver had been founded just prior
to the gold rush in the mid-19th century and had been a mecca for the ambitious ever
since. Those who couldn't achieve still bought the things they associated with status,
and so Robson street had been born as a haven for those who sought the perfect curio
as well as those who sought the ideal bowl of yakisoba.
Among the new soaps, there was a soap shaped like a miniature book, complete with
"The Velveteen Rabbit" scrolled across its cover. His mother had always wanted
him to read that story, although, truth be told, he couldn't stand it. A ratty throw
away justifies his piss-poor existence, he thought, as he brought the item to the
check-out stand. It was so perfect for his mother, who had chosen never to leave her
two-bedroom home even though Martin had offered to move her to one of his
residences up here so many times he could no longer keep track. He purchased the
soap and moved down the street again, glancing up every few yards. If he was going
to be hit it wouldn't come from street level, he had bet.

He continued to move down hill, walking many blocks. Past shoe stores and
souvenir shops with candied maple leaves in their windows; past the juice store, the
chocolatier, and the many US chain stores which had started to diminish the
character of the neighborhood. At the Blue Hotel, he entered, and nodded to the
concierge, who glanced to the ground and pretended not to see him. He was well-
paid for his periodic blindness. Tom came in with him. Thumb remained across the
street to watch the hotel entrance.
Another elevator, this time behind a group of laughing senior citizens in white slacks
and sports coats. Odd, that he should think of them as "senior citizens". He
supposed that if he had followed the track he had been born to plod, he could have
been one of these white-haired cruise refugees, fresh off the boat from Alaska,
harboring here for a couple of days on his way home. Instead, he looked twenty
years younger and could not imagine the discomfort of a cruise when compared with
an outing on his private yacht. The tourists got off on the 23rd floor. Then it was
just him and Tom until they reached the floor they were looking for.
At the right room, they knocked politely, but did not wait for an answer. Tom
produced a key card which let them in. A young woman in blue jeans and a UW
sweatshirt sat at a table by the window, looking out at Burrard Inlet and biting her
nails, next to a table topped with an empty plate with ketchup streaks on the table
beside her. She looked up, anxious, then flew into Martin's arms.
"Thank God you made it," she said. "I was so worried."
Martin glanced at Tom, who had checked the bathroom and the room's
circumference. Tom nodded. Martin raised his eyebrow and nodded his head as
Tom slid out to guard the door from the hallway side.
"Janeane," Martin said, hugging his niece.
"I just–God–I'm so glad you're here," she burbled. "I had the most hellish train ride,
and then they stopped us at the border and asked all kinds of questions about our
business here and I was afraid I might be on some kind of list–but I did what you
said and just said I was here for vacation for a few days, and that was it. But it was
so nerve-wracking! When did the border crossing get so serious? Probably after
9/11, huh?"
"Sit down for a minute, Janeane," Martin said. "Do you want a drink?"
"You mean, from the mini-bar? You know what they charge you for those? It's
crazy."
"It's on me," he said, smiling faintly. His niece still amused him, as she had since
she was about three years old.
"Oh. Okay. I guess–if they have seagram's I could use a 7 and 7."
Martin lifted his eyebrow at her.
"When did you have a 7 and 7?" He asked.
"Oh, at this party a couple of weeks ago. Not a frat party or anything like that. Just
a...well, a cocktail party I guess you had call it. We all were looking for an excuse to
get really dressed up, so we just threw our own formal at Todd's place. And before
you go asking, no, of course Daddy doesn't know. So don't go telling him."
"A 7 and 7 it is," he said, pouring the seagram's into a glass with some 7 up. He
handed it to her.
"I already feel better," she said, coughing on a sip. "Sorry. Shouldn't breathe and
drink at the same time. But it's great just seeing you."
"I feel the same way." Martin sat down on a wing chair on the other side of the table
and crossed his legs. "So. Janeane."
"Yes?" She looked nervous. Martin smoothed the crease of his pants with his thumb
and forefinger and flicked a barely-visible bit of carpet fluff off of his shoe.
"I think we're going to have to come up with some ground rules for these visits. This
is business, not the Walton's Christmas special, and I need you to be professional and
ready to go when I come by."
"Right." She sat up straighter in her chair. "Okay then. I have it in my book bag if
you want to take a look."

Martin smiled.

"I don't think that's necessary just yet," he said. "It's safer where it is. But if you
wouldn't mind meeting me at the UBC library later this afternoon–."

"But I thought–."

"I need more than just a carrier pigeon," he said. "If all I needed was a messenger I
wouldn't have involved you."

"Oh." She picked at her fingernails. He reached over and laid a hand gently over
one of hers.

"Stop that." She stopped.

"I need someone who is not just intelligent, but someone who is involved. You may
not know it yet, Janeane, but you're more involved than anybody other than me and
your father."

She started.

"Daddy knows about this?!?"

"Well, he doesn't know you're here, but he's been part of the project from the
beginning. If everything doesn't go smoothly, he'll suffer the same consequences
that I will."

Janeane paled.

"Take deep breaths." He waited until she had calmed herself. He had n't wanted to
involve his niece, but there hadn't been much choice on such short notice. She was
the only one he could motivate sufficiently to make sure that everything was not only
done, but done right.

"You're very intelligent, Janeane. I know you have questions about what you've
been carrying, and they are questions that will have to wait until you can meet me at
the UBC library this afternoon. Do you understand?"

She nodded, slowly.

"Okay. I'm going to leave my bodyguard with you and he'll make sure you get there
okay."

"Uncle Martin–."

"I know you can do this on your own, Sweetheart. But it'll be more convincing if
you look like you're part of a couple. And this way I'll know you're staying safe.
Okay?"
She nodded as he stood up. She stood up too and walked him to the door, watching
as he whispered a few words to the bodyguard, who raised his eyebrows and then
nodded, slipping into the room. Nervously, she started to bite a nail and then
stopped as Uncle Martin turned to her.

"Meet me in the stacks by Clifford Geertz. Do you know his work?"

"The Interpretation of Cultures."

"Right. GN something. Find it and meet me there at 4. If anything happens–


Janeane, are you listening?"

"Yes, Uncle Martin." I'm not an idiot Uncle Martin, she thought.
"If I can't meet you there, I want you to leave it inserted between Chapter 1 and
Chapter 2, just after ‘The Context of a Wink'."

"I understand."

"Good girl." He chucked her under the chin and left. The bodyguard came into the
room, filling it with his presence. He moved efficiently, like the kind of guy who
had beaten up so many people he did not even break a sweat about it any more. He
was tall and dark, of course, there was no escaping that. But not ordinary, Janeane
thought, oh no. He was the kind of guy you never met in real life, although you
might glimpse them up on stage from the back of an auditorium or something. His
brown eyes lingered over her body, drinking her in as if no detail would go
unnoticed. Surreptitiously, Janeane wiped her palms along the sides of her jeans and
then, as his mouth quirked in a half-smile, she wished she had n't.

"So, you're Tom?" she said.

"Michael," he said. His voice held the trace of an accent–French, she thought, or
more likely Quebecois. It was deep and quiet.
"I thought Martin called you Tom," she said.
He stared at her a long moment while she cast about for something else to say.
"He does that," he said finally. "You are his niece."
"Well, yeah. My Dad's his brother. I mean, they're not all that close or anything, but
I see him every couple of years. Of course, when he called me at school I was totally
surprised. I mean, I haven't seen him all that often–." She stopped, aware suddenly
that she was babbling. "So because you are his niece, he believes you are as innocent
as you pretend to be?"
"Pretend?" Janeane blushed.
"He feels that he can trust you." It was a half question, not the statement it seemed to
be. Janeane lifted her chin.
"Of course he can!" she said. "We're family." She became aware that he stood just
inside the doorway and backed into the room. "Uh, would you like to sit down or
something?"
"Yes. Thank you." He moved further into the room, half man, half panther, and
removed his jacket. Janeane caught the strong smell of leather and a fainter smell–
sandlewood?–as he hung his jacket on a hanger. He was wearing a black turtleneck
tucked into black pants, belted with something that looked expensive. He removed
the plate from the table.
"Oh you don't have to do that," Janeane protested, but he had already set it aside by
the sink. Against the blue of her room, he was undeniably warm. Janeane flushed.
He sat in the easy chair by the window.
She started to sit on the bed, then thought the better of it and sat in the other chair.
"You don't have to babysit me," she said. "I can just meet you down in the lobby or
something if you had like."
His eyes caught hers and he shook his head once.
"Okay." Her eyes widened. "Um...you want to watch tv? Or, well, I guess do you
need something to read or something? I mean, this is not exactly comfortable."
"That's all right," he said. "It's not my job to be comfortable."
"What is your job exactly? I mean, if you don't mind my asking."
"Security."
"Ah," she said. "That doesn't say a whole lot. You don't look like security if you
don't mind my saying so. You always think of security people as being...you
know...fat guys who can't get jobs as cops or something."
He shrugged. "I don't mind you saying so," he said. He seemed to look at her lips
and then back up to her eyes for a long moment.
"Well," she said, licking her lips. "I've got some homework I could do, or..."
"I will need to see your suitcase."
"Pardon?"
"I need to see the contents of your suitcase."
"I can't just–I'm not going to–," she sputtered.
"I need to make sure you weren't tagged in any way," he said. He retrieved her
suitcase from on top of the bureau and tossed it onto the bed.
"Tagged? You mean, wired? Bugged?"
He opened it and began to set her clothes aside neatly on the bed, shaking each item
out and then folding it neatly. He picked up a pair of her white cotton underwear.
Janeane blushed and hoped he did not notice the hole near the waistband. He set it
aside.
"There's not much there," she said. "Martin said I had probably only be here a day or
two."
He continued, making quick work of the "Kiss My Venus" sleep t, the two shirts, and
the extra pair of jeans. He rummaged through the pockets of the suitcase, pulling out
cosmetics and setting them aside with equal dispatch. Janeane blushed again when
he found the condoms.
"My roommate's," she said. "She's kind of a joker."
"Is this it?" He asked, ignoring both the comment and the box. He turned the
suitcase upside down and felt along the outside seams.
"Well, yeah. That and my book bag," said Janeane, and then wished she had n't.
God, the last thing she wanted was to have him look through that mess. "It's kind of
half a book bag and half a purse." She stood in front of it defensively.
He stopped moving, then deliberately set a hand along the side of her neck and
guided her gently aside. Janeane could feel the pulse quicken in her throat even as it
occurred to her to be offended. He picked up the book bag and emptied the contents
on top of the second bed. Out tumbled her sociology and calculus books, her
pocketbook, pencils, gum wrappers, receipts from the last four weeks which she had
crammed in there, lint, an old ink-stained pen (he took a handkerchief out of his back
pocket and wiped his fingers, and threw the pen in the trash), a Pisces horoscope
book from last month, the current issue of Cosmo, her iPod and headphones, travel
kleenex, a passport, lip balm. Janeane hid her face in her hands as he thumbed
through her Hello Kitty address book.
"What is it you're looking for exactly?"
"You have it, right?"
"You mean, the thing that Uncle Martin–."
"The blueprint. Right."
"Well, yeah. It's–." He turned and hushed her with two fingers held up.
"I don't need to know. I just need to know that you have it." He looked at his watch
and sighed. "Are these all the things you have with you?"
"Yes."
He nodded and pulled out a cell phone, dialing quickly.
"Marie? Michael. I need to make an appointment for Martin's niece this evening at
about 5:00."
"What–?" Janeane started to whisper, but he held up his fingers again.
"Right." He paused. "About five-seven...I had say 160, 170. Yeah....Mm hmm.
Hair too. And eyebrows."
"Hey!" Janeane said. He shushed her.
"All right," He said. "Yes." He hung up.
"What the heck are you doing?"
"You look fine for the drop at the University," Michael said. "But you'll need
something more sophisticated for the Embassy."
Janeane's jaw dropped.
"The...Embassy?"
"It's a club in the Gaslight district. Mr. Pfannenstiel suggested I take you somewhere
safe to await his instructions. I think you will have fun there, but I think you will
also want to prepare yourself for dancing." He smiled and two dimples appeared,
making him look more friendly and, ironically, more dangerous as well. "I have two
sisters."
"But...I don't have anything to wear," she protested.
"That is partly why I called Marie," he said. "She'll find something for you."
"Well, then...thank you, I guess. I mean, thank you." Janeane said.
"You're welcome." He gestured toward the stuff on the bed. "Would you like me to
put this back as I found it?"
"Uh, no," she said. She sighed. "I guess I needed to organize it anyway." As
Michael moved back to the window and drew back the curtains a little further, she
sat on the bed and began sorting through things, making sure the blue print stayed in
the back of her sociology book, page 342. It had been placed there by someone she
did not know at her dorm cafeteria who had warned her not to touch it. No worries.
Whatever it was her father and Uncle Martin were mixed up in, she did not want her
fingerprints on it anywhere.

Xxx

Back in Washington state, somewhere along highway 6, a car sped toward I-5.
"If we can make it past Seattle, I think we'll be home free," Elizabeth said. She took
a swig of water from a bottle and handed it to Dvorjak. He drank deeply, still
stunned. He had known Elizabeth for six years and been married to her for four, but
now he was not sure whom he had married. He had thought he knew everything
about her: that fall was her favorite season, for example. That she went into
oncology nursing because of her own breast cancer scare as a young woman. That
she hated peanut m&m's but would eat the plain ones by the pound if they were in
the house. Now he was not sure he knew anything.
The knitting, for example. Apparently that was all a ruse. The time she spent online
on knitting sites, exchanging patterns, when they weren't patterns at all. The way she
engaged him in talk about his students and his work, when all along she was looking
for...what exactly? He was not a geneticist or a rocket scientist. He was a
philosophy professor with no connections. He squinted up at the tall evergreens
lining the highway. Like his marriage, they hinted at no secrets. But a hundred feet
past the highway on either direction the trees were clear-cut.
Oddly, he did not feel betrayed. He had made assumptions. Sure, they were
assumptions most people would make, but what was life if one weren't constantly
surprised. He was shocked into a space of re-evaluation, a space he had only been
in thrice before in his life: the summer after high school, the night JFK had been
assassinated, and the morning of September 11th, 2001. But instead of betrayal, he
found himself looking at Elizabeth with a strange new kind of admiration. Nothing
in their previous life together had suggested she was this new person. Though he felt
unsure, he also felt connected, as if the real Elizabeth, the one she was now, had been
there all along, and she had finally dropped a veil that had been covering her beauty.
The sun was now breaking through the clouds. The logging truck on the horizon was
the only other vehicle they had seen on the 6 so far today.
"So I guess we're heading to Canada?" He said, taking another drink of water.
"Close," Elizabeth said. "We need to stop in Bellingham. Whether we go on from
there or not depends."
"Depends?"
"On what we find there."
"Hmm."
She glanced over at him and smiled.
"I know I'm being mysterious, John."
"Well, I had rather you be mysterious than to learn something that might endanger
my life."
"That's pretty astute for someone who doesn't like Tom Clancy novels."
"Yeah, well, I watched a lot of Mission Impossible in my formative years." She
laughed. God, he loved it when she laughed. Fear clenched his lower gut. He
dismissed it. If Elizabeth had something to do with it, it would all be okay. In a way
it was a good thing this had happened. It proved to him how much he still trusted
her.
The logging truck loomed large ahead of them, going about 10 miles too slow for the
road. They were going to have to pass it. Hal looked up at the driver as they passed.
He looked familiar, a little like Martin actually...or...could it be Rex? Surely not.
The last Dvorjak heard, Rex was the vice president of operations at a large
accounting firm in Seattle. That such a man would be driving a logging truck was
impossible, Dvorjak thought, looking into the side view mirror by his window. But
it sure did resemble him.
"So we'll stop in Bellingham, find something there–."
"Someone, actually."
"Okay. And then what? Call the FBI?"
"It would be the CIA if we called anybody," she said. "But we're not going to call
anybody and–dammit, John, I'm saying too much. Look, by mid-day tomorrow we
should be on a pleasant cruise to Alaska. Luxury suite and everything. And once
we're safely on the boat I should be able to tell you a lot more. But for right now,
John. I just can't. tell. you. anything."
"I can accept that," Dvorjak said. "I guess what I need to know is just this: are we
doing anything that I had disagree with doing, say, if I knew the whole story."
Elizabeth shook her head.
"John, I swear to you that what we're doing is something you couldn't turn your back
on doing if you knew the whole story. You have to believe me, John."
"Then I do," he said, and reached for her hand. She put her hand in his. It was dry
and trembling. She was not as calm as she claimed to be, he thought.
The sudden thud caused the car to swerve.
"Oh shit!" She said, as the brought both hands to the steering wheel. Her arms tense
and her jaw clenched as she fought to keep them on the road while bringing down
her speed. The car fishtailed and straightened and she steered it onto the shoulder of
the road. A flapping sound let Dvorjak know that they had a flat tire. They got out to
look at it.
"Blow out," she said. "Oh perfect."
"It's no big deal," John said, opening the trunk, "We have the spare. I'll just–."
"I took the spare out to make room for our emergency supplies."
"Well, darn it, Elizabeth. A flat tire is an emergency."
She shook her head and sighed.
"I guess we'll just have to wait for somebody then," John said.
"I don't think that's a good idea," she started to say, and then they both heard it.
Hunters up in the woods, was Dvorjak's first thought. And they were shooting
awfully close to the road. In the next shot, the window in front of him shattered and
he realized they were shooting at him.
"John, get down!" Elizabeth said. He dropped to a crouch and moved to the highway
side of the car, away from the woods where the shots seemed to come from.
Elizabeth reached into the back of the car.
"Elizabeth, what are you doing?!" Dvorjak hissed. With the next shot gravel sprayed
up from a spot about three feet from her. She ignored him and brought a bundle of
blankets out from the back of the car, then dove to where he crouched, behind the
wheel.
"What the hell?" Dvorjak said as Elizabeth unwrapped the blankets. She had what
looked like a small arsenal at first glance: two handguns, an assault rifle of some
kind (Dvorjak did not know anything about guns), and what looked like a hand
grenade, but couldn't possibly be a hand grenade, because who drove around with
hand grenades in the back of their cars?
She handed him the gun.
"The safety's off and it's loaded," she said. "Don't shoot yet. If they just want to
scare us, they'll stop and be off before we get a chance to shoot. If you see them
approach, they'll be coming in for the kill. I'll shoot when they're at mid-range–."
A shot shattered another window on the car. Dvorjak felt a small rain of glass spray
around him and land in his hair. He held the gun in the palm of his hand.
"I've never shot a gun before," he told Elizabeth.
"I know John. It's just in case."
She did not say in case of what. He knew. If he used this gun it would be after she
couldn't shoot any more.
"Hide it under your jacket," she instructed. He did, careful not to aim it at his foot.
They waited. A rough male voice shouted in the distance. Another voice answered.
He couldn't make out what they were saying. He could barely hear them over the
rough hasps of his own breathing.
"Shhh," Elizabeth whispered. He closed his mouth and tried to slow his breathing
through his nose. His heart beat wildly. They waited.
Elizabeth threw the blanket over the end of the rifle and raised it cautiously above
the car. A shot rang out. She brought it back down.
"Sounded further away," she said.
"How could you tell?"
"Practice," she said grimly. They waited a little longer and Elizabeth poked the rifle
above the car again. Silence. From the road behind them a powder blue Ford Escort
approached.
"Oh hell. Civilians," she said.
"You hope."
"Actually, it had be better if they weren't. At least then, we had only have one thing
to cope with."
The car pulled to the side of the road, and a woman's voice called, "You folks need
help?"
"Just a little," Dvorjak muttered.
"Sure," said Elizabeth hiding the guns in the blanket. "We had a little accident here."
"Looks like it," the woman said. "You want me to call the state troopers?"
"Actually, could you give us a ride into Centralia?" Elizabeth said. "Our son is
coming in on the train today, and we're late picking him up."
"Well, sure. But what about all this?" The woman gestured at the car. Standing,
Dvorjak could see that it looked as if the car had been in some kind of accident. He
had forgotten to give the gun back to Elizabeth and he kept his hand hidden under
his jacket. The woman looked at him strangely.
"You're bleeding," she said.
Dvorjak put his hand up to his head. It came away wet with blood.
"Just a scalp wound," Elizabeth said, "From the glass. You'll be fine." To the
woman she said, "Scalp wounds always look scarier than they are. I'll just get a
bandage on it real quick and then we can be off."
"Okay." The woman seemed uncertain, but Elizabeth ignored it. She gestured to
Dvorjak, and under the cover of bandaging his head, slid his gun into the first aid kit.
"I'm a nurse," she told the other woman, who looked a little more relaxed.
"Elizabeth Dvorjak. This is John."
"Nancy Pettinger," the woman said. "You folks from Middling?"
"Yup. You?"
"Neosho."
"Nice town." Elizabeth helped Dvorjak retrieve her first aid kit and a couple of
plastic grocery bags from the car. Nancy snorted.
"Couldn't tell my folks that," she said. "They're from Raymond. They're still living
forty years in the past when the basketball rivalry was *really* hot."
"Raymond's a nice town too," Elizabeth said. They climbed into Nancy's car and
moved forward. Dvorjak watched the woods from his side of the car. There was no
movement.
They were safe for now. And apparently headed to the train station in Centralia.

Xxxx
"they got away," Deke said.
Of course they did, Rex said. We only wanted to scare ‘em, not hurt ‘em. Martin
wants them alive when he gets them.

Dvorjak leaned his head back in the back seat and let the women's talk up front flow
over him. They were talking about knitting, a subject he could easily tune out. It
had now been about four hours since he had found the egg–about two and a half
hours since he had seen Hal lying dead on the cot in the back of his cabin. Hal. He
was too sad to think of a good quote about the death of a friend. He had known Hal
since he had moved to Middling in second grade.

He had been out at recess, kicking a ball around the playground by himself. He
remembered now that his shoe had been untied–he had always had the worst trouble
keeping his shoes tied–and his hair had been in his eyes. He did not care. It was
their third town in as many years, and the kids hadn't started beating up on him yet.
He did not care if he did not make friends. He just wanted to be left alone. With that
thought he had kicked the ball extra hard and it had hit the fence, rattling it, and
drawing attention to him.

"Hey, it's the Bastard." Peter Cannelino said, approaching Dvorjak with his two
buddies. "Hey Bastard–who do you think you are? Superman?"
The two other kids had laughed. Dvorjak shrugged.
"You're a Bastard–you know what that is? You're a bastard and your mother is a
whore."
"Stop it Peter. That's not nice," Hal had appeared then. Dvorjak had noticed Hal
before–red-headed, freckled, sitting up front and making other kids laugh. It was not
the most dramatic thing to say, nor had Hal threatened to hit Peter or beat him up or
anything. But with those words, Dvorjak's status had shifted from Impossibly Other
to Just a Normal New Kid. Deke had been with Hal, Dvorjak remembered. But it
was Hal who had spoken up.

From then on, Dvorjak had belonged. He had never been in the inner circle like Hal
and all the other kids who had lived there since birth, but he had been part of the
class in a way he had never experienced before. He had had a couple of kids he
talked to; he had walked home with Martin xxx once in awhile. Marty always had
something interesting to say–he had the biggest collection of xxx comic books that
Dvorjak had ever seen. And it was Marty who had continued to walk with Dvorjak,
even after all the other kids got bikes. Well, Marty and Rex, Marty's younger
brother, who had come trailing behind them.

They did not talk much about their families, except for one time in fifth grade when
Marty had seemed troubled about something. It was cold and they had been walking
home together. Marty had a coat, but Dvorjak had made do with a denim jacket.
"Lifesavers?" He had held the roll out to Marty.
"No thanks."
"It's cherry." Marty never turned down the cherry ones.
"Naw." They turned down the alley towards Dead Man's Hill. Marty chewed his lip.
"Hey Dvorjak."
"Yeah?"
"You know about that dog the Russians sent into space?"
"Yeah. They say the dog won't live very long probably."
"First Sputnik, then the dog."
"Yeah, the Reds are getting pretty far ahead."
"Yeah."
"You know, we could get atomic bombed any second, and what are we doing to stop
it?"
"Well, Deke has a bomb shelter. We could go there."
"That's not what I'm saying." Marty seemed frustrated. He scowled and yanked at
the sleeves of his jacket. "It's just–look, I know how it is at your house, with your
Mom and all–."
Dvorjak froze. It was not something he ever talked about.
"I mean, it's not a secret," Marty said. "People see her buying that stuff."
"Well, what about your Mom?" Dvorjak said hotly. "Your Mom is–is–." He
couldn't think of anything. Marty and Rex had the perfect Mom. She was like
Donna Reed, only her hair was not that pretty.
"I'm just sayin'."
"What?"
"I'm just sayin' even though people have stuff to worry about, we should worry more
about the Russians getting ahead, you know? Like, look at Deke. His parents built
that bomb shelter, but if Deke comes through an atomic bomb attack, so what? He's
not going to invent anything to stop the Russians."
"Yeah...?" Dvorjak squinted and tilted his head. "You gonna invent anything to stop
them?"
"I'm just sayin' someone should," Marty said. "That's all. Somebody should get
ahead of them because if they don't it's gonna be Katy Bar the Doors around here."
"Yeah. Katy Bar the Doors."
"Yeah." Marty fell into silence. They reached Dead Man's Hill, where Hal and his
buddies were talking heatedly about what would happen if you moved the soapbox
derby here.
"Like twelve broken legs," was Hal's droll comment, which sent them all into
laughter. Dead Man's hill was a steep hill that had been zoned for residential
development after months of arguing among the city council members. It was
whispered that money had changed hands, but nothing had ever been proved. What
every 11 year old knew, though, was that the houses built on this hill would probably
all be at the bottom of the hill within a couple of years. The street went almost
straight down, and emptied onto a cross street that flooded every once in awhile.
Some of the more daring boys talked about scooter-racing down the hill. None of
them did it.
Marty and Dvorjak hung around the other kids until dark started falling and the
groups began breaking up. Hal came up to them.
"Did you guys hear X Minus 1 Saturday?"
"Was that the one with the guy who really wanted to go to the Moon before he
died?"
"No that was the week before. Last week–." Hal caught sight of Marty's face and
stopped.
"Hey, you know what we should do?" Marty said. He almost never spoke when Hal
was around, so they all turned to listen. "We should start a club, where we solve real
problems. Like in X Minus 1."
"Like what? Like when the aliens did not want us going back and destroying their
planet?"
"No. Like real problems. Like between us and the Russians. Like getting America
into the space race."
"Yeah! That had be great!"
"Nifty!"
"I know where we could meet," Deke said. "You wanna see?"
Dvorjak's teeth were chattering, but excitement overtook the chill he was feeling.
"Sure," he said. "Is it far from here?"
"Nope." Deke led them to the next block through a back yard covered in drifting
leaves to a large old Evergreen tree surround by bushes. "Under here." He
disappeared between two of the bushes. Dvorjak followed him.
Where the bushes surrounded the Evergreen, its branches drooped to form a natural
cave.
Inside the bushes it was another world. Warm, Dvorjak noticed. Marty came in
after him, followed by Hal.
"This is great," said Hal.
Deke nodded.
"We could bring some boards or something and maybe a chair." The boys sat on the
packed earth under the base of the evergreen, covered by branches and surrounded
by bushes, enjoying the dark, close, warm space.
That had been the beginning of the X Minus 1 club. Though the program had gone
off the air in January, another casualty of television's growing popularity, the boys
had continued to meet after school a couple of times a week. They had brought in a
wooden pallet, a tarp for ground covering, staked with large sticks they had found in
the woods around the school. There was usually a stash of candy bars–Mars bars,
since those were the only ones Deke did not like and the only ones they could keep
on hand. Where Hal had claimed a spot, there was a carton of comic books and
usually a couple of milk bottles from home. Where Dvorjak usually sat gradually
became more elaborate, complete with a sleeping bag and a car seat dragged over
from the city dump.
He never told the others when he started spending the night there now and then–
usually when his mother had company–but he thought maybe Hal guessed. Marty
was too busy making plans, plotting the downfall of Russia and the rise of the
American space program. Where he sat, notebooks accumulated along with a
flashlight, extra batteries, and a first aid kit. Marty's project that winter was planning
the lunar colony they had all live in some day. Deke was the first to bring a girly
magazine into the cave. His spot was usually littered with the candy bar wrappers he
couldn't be bothered to pick up, even if they did attract mice. Dvorjak occasionally
took care of that for him.
They met through that winter and spring, over summer, and into sixth grade. Deke
drifted away first. Though he was still in elementary school, he played on the
Middling Junior High baseball team. He had extra practices after school and
gradually started spending time with the older boys, going to the soda shop after
practice, and then on days when they did not have practice too.
Marty continued to take science and think of things he could invent. As he became
more sophisticated in science, he lost the impetus to propel the United States into
space and turned to chemistry and what Hal called "the joy of blowing stuff up."
When sixth grade let out for the summer, he stopped coming to the meeting place
altogether, favoring the library where Linda Burkhardt volunteered to shelve books.
Hal still came to the place–to humor him, Dvorjak thinks now–until Dvorjak stopped
spending nights there when his mother remarried a drunken but benign tavern owner
who kindly left Dvorjak to his own devices and treated his mother well.
When they started junior high, it became evident that no one had time for the club
any more. It was kid stuff. Marty's little brother Rex inherited the secret of the place
and started bringing his friends over.
Dvorjak did not really pal around much with the other guys in high school. Between
the two jobs he worked to save money for college, and all the extra studying he did
to try to make the grades that would earn him scholarships, he did not have much of
a social life at all, unless you counted working as a soda jerk and serving ice cream
to all the prettiest girls in town. But he was too shy to talk to them, so unless Hal
was around, he was ignored. Marty was in a couple of his classes but seemed as
focused on academics as Dvorjak was. They might have made good study partners,
Dvorjak thought, but Marty was both competitive and secretive, so they did not study
together. The couple of times they had sat together in the library had been
awkward–and he couldn't have said why. He did not see Deke at all unless it was out
on the football field in the middle of a championship game, or with a girl in the
corner booth on a Saturday night. And so it went, until the summer after high school.
Dvorjak shifted in the back seat and opened his eyes. Elizabeth glanced back at him
from the front seat.
"You fell asleep," she said.
"No," he answered. "Just resting my eyes." She exchanged a significant glance with
their driver Nancy, a look that Dvorjak knew just said "Men!"
"We're coming up on Centralia," Nancy said. "You said you needed to go to the bus
station?"
"Train station," Elizabeth corrected with a smile. Nancy nodded.
Dvorjak leaned back but did not close his eyes. He stared out the window as they
approached the town. Once in town, it was a short drive to the train station. Nancy
let them out at the curb. The train station was an old brick building with green trim
around the windows and terra cotta tiles on the roof. A sign directed them to the
central portion of the building, where the Amtrak waiting room was. Elizabeth had
Dvorjak sit on a bench while she went to check the train schedule with a portly man
behind the ticket window. Dvorjak leaned back, staring at a chandelier hanging
above him. The elegance of the chandelier was at distinct odds with the musty smell
of the cavern. Dvorjak imagined layers of dust and mold accumulating, swiped
haphazardly by a series of apathetic custodians. He imagined terrorists visiting to
case the place out for a chemical attack and leaving with a case of the giggles. Not
that the place did not have a certain majesty, but the three or four people who would
meet the train as they came through wouldn't be worth gassing. Elizabeth joined him
at the bench and sighed.
"We missed the mid-morning train and it's another four and a half hours until the
xxxx comes through."
Dvorjak nodded. His stomach grumbled. He could use a candy bar or a bag of
chips–or a full breakfast if it came to that–but there was no vending machine or
snack bar visible. He stared at the white tile on the wall behind Elizabeth and asked,
"What next?"
"Rent a car, I guess."
"With the credit card? Won't that leave a paper trail?"
"Yes it will," she said. "But we haven't gone far enough for it to matter. We'll want
to get more cash too in case we have to stay in Bellingham or go past the mountains
before we head up north."
"What about whoever shot at us? Won't they be looking for us now?"
"They'll be looking for us," she said. "But I've been thinking. If they wanted us to
die, we had be dead. They had plenty of chance to get closer before they shot us, but
they missed anyway. I'm thinking they missed on purpose. Besides, they're back
there–."
"–theoretically–."
"–and we're here. If we move quickly enough, we should be back on the road before
they can catch up."
"Okay. Why don't we just rent a car and then get some cash in Olympia or Tacoma."
"Now you're thinking," she said. "Good idea. Maybe breakfast too."
"Sounds fine," Dvorjak agreed. In truth, though, none of this sounded fine. It all
sounded preposterous, as unlikely as the possibility that he had be strapped into the
upside down roller coaster voluntarily to ride it for all he was worth.

They were the class of 1964. In retrospect this might have meant that Viet Nam was
heating up and on their radar, or that they were concerned with the case of the civil
rights workers who went missing in Mississippi that June. They might have been
concerned with more local events–that the Mayor had taken in a woman that who
had been arrested for marijuana possession; that Zemmit's Shoes had closed their
doors forever; that the Tippins kid had been missing for two weeks. What it really
meant was that Hal was into the Beatles. He had grown his hair down past his ears
to the dismay of his other friends, and he had bought a ridiculous pair of pants with
vertical green stripes on them. Dvorjak was more of a Four Freshmen guy himself,
when he had time to think about music. But he did not have much time to think
about music. He had been accepted to the University of Washington's English
program and he worked every spare minute he had at the saw mill to earn enough to
get by the first month without a job. He was excited and full of plans. He wanted to
work on the school paper and take French and become an international
correspondent.
Deke was also at the saw mill full-time, but he hoped to stay on after the summer
ended. He and Linda, his girlfriend, had already set the date for a September
wedding, although he swore up and down to Dvorjak that she was not pregnant. He
was just eager to be a man, to start a family, and he hoped to make foreman within a
couple of years.
Martin was the other one of them who was full of plans. He had been accepted at
M.I.T. and Westpoint and had finally settled on M.I.T. Westpoint still attracted him,
but he figured he could pick up military history after he had conquered a hard-core
science program. He was interested in biological chemistry, and was pretty sure he
did not want to be a doctor.
Hal had thought about college, and enrolled in a couple of classes at Middling, but
what he was really into was his guitar. He and a couple of juniors from their school
had started their own group, and Hal had big plans for the band. They had already
played a couple of pool parties, but Hal wanted them to play all over the Northwest
in the next year.
"It's way past the wedding band stage," Hal told them all the night they got together
in August. "No offense Deke."
"None taken," Deke could afford to be magnanimous. They had two twelve-packs
on ice in his parents' backyard, and they had already stuffed themselves full of bar-b-
cue. His folks were out of town, his girlfriend loved him back, and life was good.
"We've already booked a gig at Western for the Fall Mixer in September," Hal said.
"And after that the sky's the limit. Word gets around, you know."
"From one gig?" Marty was skeptical. He slapped at a mosquito on his leg. Of the
four of them, he looked the least comfortable. Sitting on the cement patio, wearing
Bermuda shorts, his pale white knees sticking out from his body as he tried to find a
comfortable position.
"You never know who has connections where," Hal said. "This is a sorority thing.
You know what that means, don't you?"
Martin snorted. "Yeah...their big ape boyfriends waiting for you to make one wrong
move."
"No," Hal said affably. "It means that they'll have connections. Sororities talk to
each other. A Tri-Delt at Western is going to know Tri-Delts at UW."
"Plus you'll know Dvorjak," Deke said.
"Yeah. I'm sure that'll come in handy." Martin said.
"You never know. It might," Hal said. He smiled at Dvorjak, who nodded
thoughtfully. In truth, he was not paying much attention. Every time he thought
about college, he got butterflies in his stomach. But whatever happened, it couldn't
be as bad as the sawmill.
"Hey, you know what?" Deke said. "We should go on the rope swing one last time
before you guys take off."
"Oh man, that's kid stuff," Marty said.
"Besides, it's probably not even there any more," Hal said.
"Shows how much you know," Deke said. "I was at the creek last week with Linda
and we found it. Looks like it hasn't even been touched since last year."
"That's nuts," Marty said. "It was hardly more than a shoe string. How could it still
be there?"
"Don't know, but it is."
"Hunh."
Dvorjak took another sip of beer. The rope swing had been an invention of Marty's,
but they had all pitched in. It was a noose with a slipknot hung over a low branch of
a tree. You stuck your foot in and rode it out over the bank and then worked your
foot free and jumped back toward the tree. If you waited too long, your foot got
stuck and the others had to haul you in and work you free. There was no question of
dropping into the "creek", which was about 8 inches deep, algae-covered and moving
with all the swiftness and grace of a herd of banana slugs. He did not know why
they had liked it. It was uncomfortable and it was not even that fun. But it was
something the four of them had in common, something they shared that no one
outside of X Minus One even knew about.
"Let's go," he said. The other three looked up in surprise.
"I was just kidding about going," Deke said. "Let's stay here. We haven't even
killed the first 12 pack yet."
"No seriously," Dvorjak said. He bounced on the balls of his feet, irritated, restless.
"Let's go. Let's see who still has it in him."
"I'm game," said Hal. "Anyone want to place a bet that I can do a triple swing and
still get free?"
"Ah, bullshit," said Marty. "You couldn't even do a double last year. We kept
having to haul your ass in."
"Yeah, but who knows? I'm in a band now. I can probably do anything." Dvorjak
thought Hal might be only half joking.
Deke sighed.
"All right," he said. "Let's go look at it at least."
Marty jumped up in disgust.
"Fine," he said. "But for the record, I think it's stupid."
"Noted," Dvorjak said drily.
The four of them piled into Deke's mother's Thunderbird and headed into the hills.
They drove up the dirt-packed gravel access road, then found a small logging road
that led off to the right.
"That's the one," said Hal.
"I know." Deke turned the steering wheel sharply to the right. The Thunderbird
squealed in protest.
"I don't think you can take it all the way up there," Marty cautioned. Deke took this
as a challenge, shifted down into 1st and jounced up to where the logging road
stopped suddenly on a plateau.
"Hah!" He said. "You owe me a cigarette."
No one answered. The four of them spilled out of the Thunderbird and began
looking at the trees around them. Apparently no one had been up here since the
summer before, as the road hadn't progressed beyond its stopping point.
"There!" Dvorjak said, pointing out the bandanna scrap they had left to mark the
trail last summer. "But the path is not there anymore."
"No shit, Sherlock. What was your first clue?" Hal clapped him on the shoulder,
smiling. (Xxxxxnote: have this refer to a childhood conversation).
"Oh, it's there," said Deke, "It just doesn't know it's there." He crashed through the
underbrush.
"Deke the Indian Tracker," Marty said drily as he followed. Hal fell in after him,
and Dvorjak brought up the back. It looked as if there might be a clearer way easing
off to the left of them, but he did not say anything. All for one, and one for all. It
was starting to feel a lot like sixth grade.
They had been crashing downhill after Deke for about five minutes when Hal
stopped.
"Hey!" he yelled. Deke stopped. "We should have reached it by now."
"Naw, it's further down," Deke yelled back through cupped hands. "Remember the
pine tree with the broken branch?"
"There are lots of pine trees with broken branches," Marty said, gesturing back
towards the other guys with his head. "C'mon Deke. Let's backtrack a little."
"I want to go on," Deke said. "It's at the bottom of this hill. I remember."
"I think there was another path back there," Dvorjak told Hal.
"What?"
"There was another path!" Hal yelled.
"I can't hear you!" Deke yelled, and then tripped over something and fell back.
Marty and Hal started to laugh as Deke struggled to his feet. Their laughter was cut
off with his scream.
"What–." Hal leaped past Marty and ran toward Deke, who had turned pale and was
still screaming.
"Are you hurt?" Yelled Dvorjak. He followed Hal. Deke stopped screaming and
pointed.
"Oh my God," Hal said.
Dvorjak stopped short. There just below Deke's boot was a child's arm, still partly
covered with a handmade pink sweater. At the shoulder joint it was severed.
"The Tippins kid," he breathed.
Marty came up short behind them.
"Jesus."
"Yeah."
Deke was taking short breaths, hyperventilating.
"Put your head down between your knees or something," Marty said.
"Not here," Deke said, but the suggestion seemed to mobilize him. He moved back
up the path a few yards and sank to his knees. The other boys backed up with him.
Dvorjak felt sick.
"We've got to get back to town and call someone," he said.
"Yeah," Hal said.
They got Deke up off his knees and started pulling him back up hill toward the car.
"Don't look down," muttered Marty, "If there's more of her somewhere..."
"Stop," Dvorjak silenced Marty with a look. The last thing he wanted to hear about
was the possibility of discovering something even more gruesome. He felt light-
headed, but Deke was not going to be able to drive the car and Hal looked ready to
fly off the handle.
"Shit, I need a cigarette," Marty said. Hal broke out a pack with shaking fingers.
It seemed to take them forever to get back up the hill, although it was probably only
ten minutes or so, Dvorjak thought. The drive back into town seemed to stretch out
as well. When they pulled into town, Dvorjak took them straight to the Sheriff's
office. Solemnly the four boys piled out, faces various shades of green and white.

Dvorjak thought a lot about that moment in the woods in years after. It seemed to
him that there were defining moments in a life, moments in which you had a choice
about how to respond to something, and what you had responded to was not nearly
as important as how you responded. In that moment in the woods, he had come face
to face with his inadequacy, and though he knew it was not his fault at all that a five
year old had been taken and killed, with his guilt. Just the act of not paying attention
to the disappearance made him somehow a culprit in it, he thought. It had been
someone else's problem, not real, until he had seen that pathetic little arm in scraps
of a sweater that her mother had knitted for her. The Tippins Kid became Karen
Tippins to him in that moment, a child who had lived two blocks over and had ridden
her tricycle on the same playground where he had once played kickball with the
guys. It was that moment that had determined his choice of classes as he sought first
answers to and then better questions about human suffering. If that moment had
never happened, he might not have gotten drawn into the fight against his own
government, a fight that resulted in his arrest and detention more than once. If that
moment had never happened, the world's darkness might have remained distant, at
least until his classmates started dying in Viet Nam.
That moment had changed the other guys as well. Marty had all but disappeared
after that day. He had poured all his energy into getting ready for college, and when
Dvorjak had showed up to say good-bye the night before he left, Marty had said he
was not going to look back. He was done with this hole-in-the-wall town. And no
offense, Dvorjak, but he had decided to start his life over. He did not want to keep
in touch.
Deke and Linda eloped to Las Vegas the next weekend, and moved in and set up
house almost immediately when they returned. Tongues wagged as speculation that
Linda was pregnant grew, but they were stilled when their first anniversary rolled
around and there was no evidence of a baby. When Dvorjak heard that Deke had
been drafted, he called him and asked if he had thought of going to Canada. Deke
had taken a shaky breath.
"I don't know Man," he had said. "I know I'm not going to be much good over there,
but I don't think I had be much good over here if I did not go, if you know what I
mean."
Dvorjak said he did.
"There are some things men just have to do," Deke said. "This is one of those things
for me I guess."
Deke had ended up in an Army unit with Rex, Marty's brother. He had written to
Dvorjak that it had been funny serving with the Pipsqueak. Especially when the
Pipsqueak was promoted and Deke had to take orders from him. "Sargent
Pipsqueak," he referred to Rex in his letters to Dvorjak, but it seemed he felt
confident in Rex's abilities to keep him alive. "I had serve with him anywhere," he
said in a later letter. "He doesn't lose his head like a lot of the guys. If I stick with
him, I just might come home alive." Deke survived his tour of duty and came back.
Rex signed up for more.
Hal had joined the volunteer fire department and the search-and-rescue team.
Though he still played with his band for a couple of years, his passion was clearly
elsewhere. He moved to Olympia and joined the police force there, and when the
Sheriff retired in Middling and his mother had gotten sick, he had come back to take
on the responsibilities of middle aged man, though he was 24 at the time. Thinking
of Hal now made Dvorjak blink back tears. He had never known a more decent
man, or a friendlier one. Dvorjak couldn't believe he was dead.
"I had like to drive," he told Elizabeth as they stood in the parking lot outside the car
rental shop. She nodded and handed him the keys. They had managed to get cash at
the bank down the street, and if worse came to worst, they had be able to survive
several days on what they carried with them.
Dvorjak accompanied Betty around to the other side of the car and held the door
open for her. She smelled delicious, like spiced apples or pumpkin pie. She kissed
his cheek and slid into the car. He closed the door behind her. Whatever it was she
was mixed up in, he *did* trust her. Maybe he shouldn't; maybe a wiser man
wouldn't, but "All for one and one for all," Dvorjak whispered aloud as he opened his
own door. He adjusted the seat backward to compensate for his long legs and
checked the position of the rearview mirror. A logging truck idled at the curb a
couple blocks back.
"Elizabeth."
"Yes?"
"Don't look just now, but I think that logging truck is back," he said.
Elizabeth pulled a compact out of her purse and peered at her face, flicking an
invisible speck from her face with her pinky.
"Don't peel out of here," she warned. "You don't want to tip them off. So pull out
slowly, and drive just at the speed limit. We need to see if there's another tail."
"Another tail?" Dvorjak was horrified.
"Well, they can't be planning on following us in a logging truck," she said. "And I'm
guessing they don't care if we see them, so there must be another car. Don't worry
about it. Just drive like normal. There are a lot of miles between here and Canada.
There'll be a chance to shake them off somewhere."
"I hate to sound cranky, but what about food?" Dvorjak asked.
"We'll have to do a drive-thru," she said. "Maybe before we even leave town.
That'll give us a better chance of seeing who else is following."
Driving like normal was easier said than done, Dvorjak thought as he pulled out of
the parking lot. It was like being followed by a cop after being pulled over and just
barely passing a Breathalyzer. He turned right into traffic and headed towards I-5.
About half a mile up a McDonald's beckoned. He turned in and went through the
drive-thru, focusing on his order. He ordered a substantial breakfast for himself and
Elizabeth, as she continued to gaze vacantly out the window.
The food was hot.
"We'll just have to eat as we drive," Elizabeth said. She put his coffee in the cup
holder that came with the car. "Don't sip the coffee just yet," she said. "It's still
pretty hot." She handed him an apple pie and he munched on it, driving with one
hand on the wheel, trying to look normal until they got to the on-ramp.
"North," Elizabeth said.
"I know which way Canada is."
"Sorry."
"That's okay. I'm testy."
"It's your blood sugar. You'll be okay once this stuff has hit your bloodstream."
"If it doesn't end up killing me. I mean, the fat." He felt he had to clarify since this
morning was so very strange.
"What are we going to be doing in Bellingham anyway?" He asked Elizabeth.
"Meeting someone."
"Can I ask whom? Or should I just keep wondering."
"No I guess it wouldn't hurt. We're meeting with Rex Pfannenstiel's brother Martin."
"Marty?!?"
"You know him?"
"Knew him as a kid." Dvorjak shook his head, stunned. "Why Marty? What's he
doing these days? Is he still a chemist?"
"I guess you could say so," Elizabeth said. "He's the CEO of an International
Pharmaceutical Company. And we have something he needs."

Josiah enjoyed the feeling of the road underneath the large tires of his SUV. He
loved the SUV, the sophistication of it, the rich leather smell of the interior, all the
places it had where he could hide his cargo. He had just left the district headquarters
and now had half a million dollars–all the Brotherhood's liquid assets–in the vehicle
with him. It was down payment, and he could have taken a check. But the man he
would be meeting would be more impressed with cash, and so it was bundled into
separate small packages and secreted throughout the inside of the car. That would
make it safer in the event of an accident on the road, and easier to protect, in spite of
the fact that he was not carrying a gun. He had guns, and had even planned on
bringing one, but at the last minute had decided to leave it home as an act of faith. A
lifting of the chalice before God, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane.
"Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me." Jesus had known that God
wouldn't take the chalice, just as Josiah knew that nothing would happen to this
money. God's plan would come to pass on earth, and every ounce of Josiah's faith
said now was the time.
He knew he was something of an oddity in the Brotherhood, but it was partly
because of that oddity that he had risen to a position of leadership. Josiah White
could be trusted, it was widely agreed. People respected his intelligence and the
devoutness of his faith, as much as they admired the bold vision he had for the
Brothers of Levi. Brothers of Levi. He loved that name. They had almost been the
Children of Levi, but some of the men thought that a Brotherhood sounded more
manly. A silly distinction, Josiah knew, but he was glad of the outcome all the same.
The Brotherhood was a new, purer, more organized cell of folks who believed in
Christian Identity, along with some of the wiser people who identified with the
Phineas Priesthood. While most of the Priesthood operated in darkness, committing
acts of violence with little clear purpose, those who gathered around Stephens Way
knew the difference between a senseless bank robbery and a world event that had a
lot of impact. They were committed to the latter, and would not sacrifice the future
of their race on pettier crimes.
Josiah knew there were those who were committed to spreading the word about
Aryan Nations. He knew there were folks out there putting up stickers and spraying
them with adhesive mingled with ground glass so that anyone who tried to remove
them would feel the sting of righteousness. But Josiah was of the opinion that these
were the antics of children, while what he planned would be a series of events that
would tilt the world upright on its axis and bring evil to its heels. He already
regretted the loss of innocent White lives, but it would all be in a greater cause, for
the greater good, and before the glory of God's throne, they would see how just were
his actions.
Josiah switched on the radio. He was nearing the Cascades, so there was not much
to listen to, but some of those Seattle radio stations could broadcast all the way out
here. He fiddled with the buttons for awhile and then gave up. He had no interest in
listening to car stereo commercials on a car stereo that offered him nothing better to
listen to than commercials.

Back at the Blue Paradise hotel, Janeane locked the bathroom door. Michael had her
cell phone and there was no chance of escape. Where would she escape to, anyway?
She could barely justify bailing out on her uncle, but there was no way she could bail
out on her father. She hated to think what might happen to them if this part of the
deal did not go through. Still she was nervous.
She turned on the shower to give herself some time to think. Plus–she sniffed at her
armpit–she needed a shower. Might as well see if she could clean up a bit before
they had to leave for the library. She was stepping into the shower when she heard
Michael's knock on the door. She ignored it. He rapped again, harder.
"I'll be right there," she said. She closed her eyes and let the hot water soak her hair.
It felt great. She reached for the tiny shampoo sample on the ledge of the sink and
felt a sudden draft. The door was open, and Michael was right there. She shrieked
and pulled the shower curtain around herself.
"I got the call," he said. "We need to leave."
"H-how did you get in here?" She demanded.
"Now," he said. His voice was deep and sure. He commanded her gaze and handed
her a towel. She nodded.
He left and returned with clean clothing from her suitcase.
"Uh, you need to leave so I can get dressed," she said. He nodded with Gallic
precision and backed out.
With trembling hands, she pulled another sweatshirt over her head and stepped into
her underwear. She hurried into her jeans and came out to put her socks and shoes
on in the room.
He stood looking out the window, broad shouldered in black.
"You don't have time to dry your hair," he said.
"I'll braid it on the way," she answered. She shoved her foot down into her shoe.
"Okay. Ready to go."
"Good." He glanced over her. "Here's your book bag....will you be warm enough?"
The last question caught her by surprise.
"Well, yes, I think so," she stammered. "It's only a few blocks is not it?"
"A little longer than that," he said. "Here." He pulled off his jacket and helped her
into it.
"This really is not necessary," she said.
"It helps the fiction," he explained. "Makes us look more like a couple."
"Well...thanks," she said awkwardly.
"Goes with the job."
He opened the door for her and they left the room.
Once on the street they turned to walk up hill. The University of British Columbia's
library was about half a mile or so ahead, he said.
"Have you ever seen it?"
"No," she said. "This is my first trip to Canada."
"You will enjoy it."
"It seems strange now–I've lived in Washington like my whole life and Uncle Marty
has lived up here, but we've always just met in Seattle. I don't know. Canada always
seemed so much further away than it actually is, you know? Kind of like a foreign
country, but not, if you know what I mean."
He nodded and put his arm around her. She jumped slightly.
"In case anyone is watching," he said, scanning the rooftops with his eyes. He turned
to her and smiled. It changed his face. "So Canada is foreign and yet familiar?"
"Well, it's English speaking officially, right?"
"English and French."
"Right. So that's what you had expect to hear. And you get here and the bank signs
are in English and French and everything, but you hear a lot more languages than
that."
"Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city."
"Yeah, I guess that's what I did not expect. I mean, I knew they filmed the X-files
here, but I thought it would be kind of like Seattle only further north. And maybe
cleaner. But it has its own vibe, you know?"
He smiled again. This time, the smile reached his eyes and he looked genuinely
amused. Janeane took ten years off of her initial calculation of his age. He was
closer to her age than she had thought.
"The library is a work of art," he said. "I think you will like it."
"Okay." She concentrated on walking quickly without huffing. She did not work
out much, and while she was not a total cow, she couldn't exactly run a marathon
either. Fortunately, she got a lot of exercise running around on campus. She picked
up her stride to match his. The smell of leather wafted up to her from his jacket,
and she noticed how the sleeves came down to her second knuckle. There was
nothing quite like wearing a man's jacket, she thought. Not that she had had that
much experience. But her one of her last boyfriends had given her his high school
football jersey, and it had been her favorite thing to sleep in until they had broken up.
Janeane reminded herself to stop thinking about the man next to her as a possibility.
He was sophisticated, in his 30's, glamourous. He was the kind of good looking that
you usually only saw on tv, and she still couldn't look him directly in the face. The
sooner she got this paper handed off, the better. She should probably skip the dinner
her Uncle would be at tonight too, and just get home.
As if sensing her thoughts, he slowed his pace and tightened his arm around her.
"It's just ahead," he murmured into her ear. His breath was warm on her neck, and
against her own better judgment she discovered herself leaning into him.
"Good," he murmured. She felt absurdly flattered. Well, a license to flirt is a license
to flirt, she figured. Just don't start thinking of it as real and you'll be fine. She
slipped her hand into his back pocket and smiled up at him. Xxxxreplace UBC
library with Vancouver Public Library. Website:
http://www.glasssteelandstone.com/CA/BC/VancouverPublicLibrary.html
"Oh my Gosh," whispered Janeane as they approached a huge structure, "That can't
be it. Is that it?"
"That's the library," Michael replied.
They faced a huge round coliseum. It's curvature was echoed on one side by a
curved passageway between the round building and a tower.
"That's amazing," Janeane said.
"If you like that sort of thing."
"It's beautiful!" They approached the coliseum, and stepped inside. Janeane gasped.
She was in an atrium, a large, airy curved space with a glass roof, small boutiques
and shops on one side and the library on the other.
"Oh my Gosh."
"Yes. It's impressive." His voice was neutral.
"You don't like it?"
He shrugged.
"It's beautiful in its place," he said. "It was built with the money of the public. I
don't know if coffee shops and flower stands have a place in a public building."
"Well, they have cafeterias in Federal buildings in the states," Janeane said. "People
have to eat."
"Yes." He said, still neutral.
"I think it's a wonderful work of art," Janeane declared. She looked at the visible
layer of pipes and computer wiring between library floors, glassed in like a
postmodern display of Nam Joon Paik's cast-offs. "You know, the people who built
the Seattle Public Library might have been aiming for something like this."
"Perhaps," he said. "But we need to make a drop."
"Oh. Right. Okay," she said. They took an escalator to the main floor and she
looked at a map of the building. "Social Sciences is on Level 3," she said. They
quickly located the Geertz book and she fished her sociology book out of the book
bag. She removed the piece of paper in the back of the book with her fingernails.
"What is this, anyway?" She asked, as she put it in the designated spot.
Michael shrugged.
"I mean, it can't really be a knitting pattern...can it?"
"I think, the fewer questions you have, the better," he said. There was an edge to his
voice, a warning. She heeded it.
"Okay. Well, um...I was wondering if we could check out the children's
department?"
He lifted an eyebrow.
"It's just–I used to work at the children's department at the Middling Library, and so I
try to see what other departments are doing. I went to the Boulder Public Library in
Colorado once, and it was great. I was just curious what it might be like here."
"Very well," he said. "It's downstairs from here. I will accompany you, however, I
have to make a phone call."
"That's okay," she said. "You can meet me down there."
"It is my job–."
"I know," she said. "But we've already gotten rid of ...you know. So I'll just hit up
the restroom and meet you down in the kids' section, okay?" She sensed his
hesitation. "Really. I'm fine. I can't get lost just going downstairs."
"Very well," he said, moving toward the stairs.
Once he was gone, she could breathe again. He had so much impact on her, even
when he was not moving or speaking that she could hardly move. Now, she felt like
herself again and snorted. A knitting pattern, emailed to her university account.
What was she thinking? This had to be some kind of practical joke. Maybe her
uncle was setting some kind of treasure hunt in motion. Now that she had delivered
the thing, "dropped it off", she could think reasonably again. Not that the drama was
not fun, but she had enough homework to eat her alive for the next six or seven days
when she got home because of this sudden jaunt.
She emerged from the stacks and moved toward the restroom. An older Japanese
woman wheeled a cart full of books across her path and she stumbled.
"Oh sorry," she said.
"No, I'm sorry," the woman returned, and Janeane felt something sharp in her arm.
As she looked down, the woman was joined by another woman on Janeane's other
side. Together they held her up between them and started walking toward the
restroom.
"She just needs to throw up," she heard one of the women say to a concerned
bystander. Her vision went blurry as she was dragged into the restroom and dumped
on the floor. She felt...worse than drunk. Dizzy and immobile, yet hyper aware of
everything in the restroom, as if her brain were working overtime. She watched as
the older woman checked to make sure the stalls were empty, and as the younger
woman locked the bathroom door. Her tongue seemed to have swelled to five times
its normal size.
"Okay, dear, tell us where the formula is," the older woman said.
"F-formula?"
The younger woman yanked her up by the shirt collar and slapped her. Her head
lolled to the side.
"We know he gave you the formula," she said. "So you have a choice: you can try to
keep the information to yourself for a time and cause us problems and end your life
painfully and miserably. Or you can save yourself some grief and tell us and maybe
just walk out of here on your own steam eventually."
The older woman rolled her eyes.
"She is over-dramatic, Janeane, but she does have a point. The easier you make this
on us, the easier we can make it on you. So why don't you just take a deep breath
and tell us where you have the formula?"
Janeane took a deep breath. And screamed as loudly as she possibly could until the
younger woman punched her in the gut. She sank to the floor, coughing.
"Look through her bag," the older woman said.
For the second time that day, Janeane watched as the contents of her bag were
dumped out unceremoniously and sorted through.
"I don't see anything here."
"Check her calendar. And textbooks." The older woman sat by Janeane on the floor
and stroked her hair. "We don't want to hurt you, dear," she said. "But you need to
leave us some choices here."
"Choices?" Janeane croaked. She could hardly breathe.
"Oh god. She's going anaphylactic," the younger woman said. "Hurry."
The door burst open and Michael shot through it, kicking the younger woman in the
stomach. She stumbled back and grabbed the towel dispenser, yanking it off the
wall, and heaved it at his face. Janeane felt her throat closing. She had seen
hundreds of these kind of fights on tv shows, but in real life it was different. There
were no sound effects; there was no music. There was just the wet grunting sound of
landed punches and kicks, punctuated by the skittering of the trash can over the tile
floor. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the older woman reach the door and
escape the room. The younger woman was still fighting, but was losing steam as
Michael backed her into the handicapped stall. He back-handed her and she went
down, scrabbling to get away even as he landed a knee on her chest and wrapped his
hands around her neck.
"How did you know we were here?" he demanded, squeezing. She scraped his
forearms with her fingernails.
"Oh my god! Call Security!" Janeane heard a woman yell in the distance.
"Who do you work for?" The woman sagged and seemed to give. Janeane could no
longer breathe at all.
"She's dying," the woman said, pointing to Janeane. As Michael glanced toward
Janeane, the woman grasped both hands together and brought them up between his
legs. He fell sideways and she escaped. Janeane grasped her throat with both hands.
She was suffocating.
"Anaphylaxis," Michael said, reaching her. He jabbed her with something, and held
her hands in both of his as her throat stopped swelling and air started to whistle back
down her throat.
"Oh thank God." Janeane said. She sat up. "Oh thank God."
"Yes," said Michael. "And we have to go now before the police come." He scooped
her up, grabbed her wallet and hotel key from the floor, and carried her out the door
and towards the service elevator, ignoring the curious onlookers who stood by as he
strode through the library.

Deke pulled up to the Taco Bell between Centralia and Olympia and parked. There
was the logging truck Rex had borrowed. He went in and found Rex sitting at a table
in the back of the small store, reading a newspaper and sipping a monstrous Coke.
He looked like he could be anybody there–any middle management guy in a
pinstriped oxford with wire-rimmed glasses. He looked nothing like someone who
might drive a logging truck and shoot at his neighbors.
"Hey Rex," he said.
"Deke."
"So, we're just letting them go now, right?"
"That's the plan," Rex said.
"Yup. I have to admit it Rex. I'm kind of glad we don't have to do any more
shooting."
"Yeah."
"I mean, it doesn't feel right, shooting at Dvorjak, you know?"
"You guys were buddies, weren't you?"
"Well, yeah. We all were. That's what makes all this so spooky."
Rex put down his paper. He pulled off his glasses and rubbed his nose.
"Sit down Deke," he said. Deke sat. Rex looked tired. It had been an exhausting
two days for all of them, but for Rex particularly, since he had so much
responsibility for the plan working. Everything came down to him.
"I know it's hard to shoot at people you're friends with...but at least you weren't
trying to hurt them."
"Well, yeah, but–." Deke stopped.
"But it doesn't feel right all the same?"
"Well, we're just making them do what we want them to do. And then there's Hal–."
"Let's not talk about that right now. Let's just stick to the main point."
"I'm just saying. I don't like tricking people like that. I mean, why don't we just tell
them the truth?"
"We've covered that Deke."
"I know. But it still doesn't seem right." Rex sighed.
"I know," he said. "But you're just going to have to trust me. It's all going to work
out for the best. You want to get something to eat?"
"I guess I had better," Deke said, and went up to order. He knew those Mexi-nuggets
were nothing but little potato flecks held together by heart stopping grease, but they
were so good he couldn't resist. He ordered two sides of Mexi-nuggets and a taco
salad and got one of the big Cokes like Rex had. He had been needing food in a bad
way. In retrospect, the tequila he had had last night had been a huge mistake. Not
that he had n't been able to deal with the Hal situation–in fact, it had helped with that.
But tequila always made him feel like a squirrel had died violently in his stomach.
Well, one of those big Cokes would help him flush it all out of his system, and the
salad was healthy. He brought his food back to the table and sat down.
"So we're just letting them go then?"
Rex sighed.
"For the last time Deke. We want them to go to Bellingham. We want them to
exchange items with Marty. And if they don't think it's real, they can't convince
anyone else it's real, right?"
"Well...yeah...
"They have to make that switch, Deke."
"Well, yeah, I know that."
"Because if they don't, we're going to have problems."
"Real problems."
"That's right Deke. Real problems."
Deke shivered and picked at his Mexi-nuggets. Rex was the sternest and maybe
scariest person he had ever served with, but the other guys made Rex look like a
cartoon pussycat in combat boots. If this did not come off right, what these guys
could do would make 9/11 seem like a tricycle wreck on a playground. He had been
in the jungles of Laos after the sky had dumped yellow rain on them. He had seen
what that stuff could do.
He remembered a movie about Halley's comet that he had watched with Linda back
in the 80's. It was one of those stupid teen movies that had played on HBO like a
million times in between the movie about the repo man and that thing about the
teenagers who had moved to their Uncle's carnival in Florida. In the movie they had
seen, there had been this comet that passed over the earth and where it passed
everyone either turned into a pile of ash or a zombie. Everyone except these three
teenagers who had to survive and perpetuate the human race. The movie had been
kind of funny, he remembered.
Now he felt like one of those teenagers before the comet was coming. Except this
was not funny. This was dead serious, and if he did not buck up and do what Rex
wanted it was going to be a whole different world come sun-up.
He took a sip of his Coke.
"Yup," he said. "So what's next?"

Dvorjak drove 72. Just far enough above the speed limit to make good time; not so
far as to attract unwanted attention. Elizabeth snoozed beside him. They had passed
Olympia awhile back and were now passing Boeing Field on their way north. There
had been no sign of a tail, but they couldn't take chances. He switched the radio on,
and then off again. There was nothing on the radio that could distract him from his
thoughts.
It was surprising how little he really knew about Elizabeth, now that he had thought
about it. He had n't known her all his life–she was not from Middling, but had
moved thereabout a decade ago. He had always thought that a blessing, that he had
n't met her until his first marriage had long since dissolved. He had thought that if he
had known her as a young man, he might never have dated anyone else, and he
wouldn't give up some of those experiences even for the solace of being Elizabeth's
husband. Always he had been someone else's steadying hand, but she was his. His
compass. His rock. And maybe it might not have been the same way if he had met
her when she was "young and wild" as she had claimed to be.
He knew that she had been a nurse in the Gulf War, and that that had changed her.
But now he found himself wondering what he had missed of the Elizabeth who'd
existed before the Gulf War. Had she been the life of the party? Or had she been
this grim, competent woman beside him who seemed capable of anything from
spurring the most successful blood drive of Middling history to catching a snake with
her bare hands? It seemed to him that his domestic, slightly dumpy Betty had
disappeared into this new Elizabeth, who was, it would seem, some kind of...what? A
covert agent for the military? Or in some kind of deep, deep trouble?
As if hearing his thoughts, Elizabeth turned and smiled sleepily at him.
"Have I been out long?" she asked.
"No. Twenty minutes maybe," he said.
"Good. I did not sleep well last night."
"Did you know all this was going to happen?"
She sat up straighter and looked at him.
"John. If I'd known all this was going to happen, would I have let you even touch
that egg this morning?"
"I hope not," he said, eyes on the road.
"No I would not." She said. "I know I'm being far too cryptic about this, but I did
not know about the egg. It never even occurred to me that this would happen so
soon."
"What? What is ‘this'? Elizabeth, if our marriage means anything to you at all, you
have to tell me–what the hell is going on?"
"Don't shout, John."
"I'm not–," he lowered his voice and said through gritted teeth. "I'm not shouting."
"Okay." She took a deep breath.
"You know what a mycotoxin is–."
"Yes, we've covered that."
"Well, there's such a thing as a T2 Mycotoxin."
"A what?"
"T2–tricothecene mycotoxin–is the most potent form of mycotoxins. And it's the
only mycotoxin known to have been used as a deadly weapon by the U.S.
Government."
"You mean, we've used this stuff? On people?"
"Don't be naive John."
"But–."
"Reports exist which suggest we may have used it in Laos. And there are people who
suspect that it was used in Kampuchea and Afghanistan in the early eighties."
"How come we haven't heard about this? You'd think there'd be more of an outcry if
it was something like Agent Orange?"
Elizabeth shook her head.
"I'm not one of your students, John. You don't have to play Devil's Advocate with
me. This is just background that anyone can get. What I'm about to tell you is
something that most people don't know."
"What?"
"When I was in Desert Storm, you know what I did?"
"You were a nurse."
"Yes, but do you know what I actually did? As a nurse over there?"
"I assume you patched people up and sent them home."
"I was in Saudi Arabia, John. And I was part of a unit that did patch people up and
send them home. But I did something else too. I assisted the Army by collecting
and recording data regarding symptoms of patients. Most of it was pretty routine,
but then I started seeing clusters of symptoms from one camp in particular. Mouth
lesions, bleeding indicating internal hemorraghing, respiratory problems."
"Gulf War Syndrome."
"That's a label we've attached to a whole set of symptoms to dismiss them. This was
a smaller subset of symptoms, John. From one camp in particular. Within a few
days, I saw dozens of people from this camp. And John, about 20 percent of them
died before we could even send them home."
"Oh God."
"Yes. We did not tell their families of course. We came up with other stories for
them. But it was pretty mysterious. There were reports of an Israeli missile that was
detonated near the camp, but we never found anyone to confirm that. It was just a
hospital rumor, really."
"That's some rumor."
"Keep in mind that the government has never admitted to any of this, not even to
using T2 mycotoxins in Laos, where over 6,000 people died from exposure to what
they called The Yellow Rain. Over 6,000 people, John. And the general public
knows nothing about this."
"Jesus."
"Yes. So when I came back, I had a great deal of interest in the subject, and so did a
few other people I served with. There were four of us who kept in touch for awhile.
We were pretty stupid about it–used our own phones, wrote letters and emails. In
spite of what we'd seen, we did not believe our own government would use us that
way. We felt protected, by the First Amendment if nothing else, and, well, we were
all in health care. In our own way, we had never lost the cockiness most Americans
feel so deeply that they never question it. We felt entitled to live, entitled to know
the truth. And then something frightening happened."
She paused.
"What?"
"It's hard to talk about." She cleared her throat. "One of the people I admired most
in Saudi was a man named David Gershom. Dr. Gershom. He was kind,
compassionate, smart as a whip. He was the one who noticed the syndrome first, and
he did a very smart thing. Instead of reporting it up, he reported it down. I mean
that he told staff first, people who would be working with these guys. He had us
redoubling our infectious diseases protocol."
"I can see how that might be prudent. But why did he keep the Pentagon in the
dark?"
"It was not so much that he kept them in the dark. He just wanted to know exactly
what we were dealing with. He wanted to have something to report, rather than just
a vague suspicion that something might be happening. He also knew how the
military worked. So he clued us in, and as we worked with patients and started to see
the pattern and he had more details, he gathered them into a comprehensive report. I
was so glad he did that. If he had n't, we might never have known anything.
Because as soon as his report was made, we were all split up and reassigned. It did
not happen gradually. It was within 24 hours. A whole new slew of doctors and
nurses came in and every single person who had worked at that hospital was
stateside within the next two days."
"Wow."
"What they underestimated was the power of personal relationships. David and I
kept in touch, and we had two friends who were in the loop too. It was Martha who
kept the questions alive among us. Martha was an intern who had been outraged by
the reassignment, and she was a bit of a firebrand. She worked in a VA hospital in
Seattle. She encouraged vets to consider the possibility of Gulf War Syndrome, and
she did some hell-raising of her own with newspapers and radio shows. Anyone who
would listen really." She fell silent, and reached for the water. Dvorjak concentrated
on his driving. He sensed she was not finished and he did not want to say anything
that would close her down.
"It started with David. It had been a couple of weeks since I'd heard from him, and
I'd tried calling him several times. At that time we were talking every two or three
days on the phone, so it was very unusual for him not to call me back. I waited
because sometimes he traveled to conferences and so on. He had n't mentioned
anything to me this time, but I guess I wanted to think that–everything was okay. So.
I tried calling the other two, and they hadn't heard from David either. So I called his
mother. And that's when I started to get scared."
"His mother?"
"David talked to his mother almost every day, whether he was in town or not. When
we'd been in Saudi Arabia, he had written her every day. She had diabetes, so he
was always checking in on how she was and whether she was complying with her
doctor and so on. But John–it had been over ten days since his mother had talked to
him. She had n't heard anything from him and had no idea where he was."
"Where was he?"
"That was the question. John, we filed a missing persons report. And for about a
year we hoped that something would turn up. But as time went by, and nothing did,
we just had to learn to live with it." Her lip trembled. She took a deep breath. "It
was tragic. It was the saddest thing that had ever happened in my life, and I was
consumed by it. It never even occurred to me that it might have had something to do
with what happened during the Gulf War. Martha was more suspicious, but at that
time we weren't talking much. There was no funeral to meet up at, no closure. It was
several months before we really talked. But when we did–.
"Martha called me that summer and told me she was on the road and coming to talk
to me in person. She was driving from Seattle and I was in Portland at the time, so
that was not a quick jaunt. I asked what it was about, and she said she couldn't tell
me, just that she had been in touch with someone who knew what we had been
dealing with in Saudi and he was working on something even more dangerous. She
said she couldn't say much over the phone but that it hadn't been an Iraqi missile that
had detonated near the camp. I tried to get details, but she wouldn't say any more.
She said she did not trust whoever might be listening to our conversation.
"Now John, I thought that was going a little far, but I did not say much. I knew she
was unsettled by what we'd seen in the Gulf, but I thought she might be coming
unglued. I figured I'd hear her out and then calm her down a little and send her on
her way. But–." She bit her lip.
"But?"
"But she never got to me. She had an accident on I-5 just south of Kelso. A witness
said she had been run off the road by a white truck, and that the driver had just kept
going."
"Oh my God."
"They never found the driver. It went down as a hit-and-run and that was that." She
glanced over. "We're low on gas."
Dvorjak looked at the gauge.
"I'll pull over at the next exit," he said.
"Good." They rode in silence, looking for billboards that would announce the next
gas station. At the next exit they pulled off the highway and Dvorjak pulled into the
station and cut the engine. He got out silently and began pumping gas while
Elizabeth went to the restroom inside a market that advertised food, beer and coffee
in addition to the gas. She came out with a package of cinnamon donuts, something
he had only seen her eat once before, when she was not getting along with her
hospital supervisor, who had put her back on nights just to spite her.
"The car will get messy," he said.
"It's a rental," she said, smiling. "You'd better hit up the restroom unless you want to
start keeping a chamber pot in the car. It'd be nice if we did not have to stop again
until we got there."
"Right," he said. He went inside and to the back of the store. There were security
cameras behind the register, and monitors in two different corners. Security cameras
usually made him feel better in a public place, but today it made him nervous. He
finished as quickly as possible, washed his hands, and went back to the car.
Elizabeth was at the wheel. He climbed into the passenger seat and scooted it back
as far as it would go to make room for his legs. After they were both belted in, she
started the engine and pulled back out onto the road that would take them back to the
highway.
"You said there were four of you," Dvorjak said.
"Yes." Elizabeth signaled and merged into traffic. It was light for I-5, which is to
say that it was heavy for just about anywhere else in the country. They were able to
go the speed limit, but not to exceed it. "There were four of us," she said.
"So what happened to the fourth?"
"Well, first I need to tell you what happened to me," she said. "I was terrified after
David disappeared and Martha was killed and I kept culling over things we had
talked about and things we had discovered. And I stopped trusting that my phone
was untapped or that every guy who smiled at me at the store was really interested. I
started seeing government spies everywhere and it was driving me crazy.
"So the first thing I did was try to send a message that I was not interested in the
Gulf War thing anymore. Any time my service came up in conversation, I said I was
not interested in talking about it. I let people think that it was because I was so
distraught about David, and to some extent that was true. I was distraught. We
were–we had been–well, not officially engaged, but we had been a couple. So what
happened to him felt like it happened to me too. People respected my feelings about
that and did not pursue conversations with me anymore about it. But I was not just
distraught I was wary. I was trying to send a message that I got it, that I was not a
threat. I couldn't imagine just pulling up stakes and changing my name and all that,
so I just tried to be as bland and predictable as possible. When one of Martha's
contacts in the press called me with information, I told him I did not want to talk to
him. And I did not. I was so paranoid I was not even sure that he was really with the
press."
"Did they back off?"
"They seemed to. Then one night, I was at a convenience store in my neighborhood.
I was the only customer in there. And this man came in. He was dressed as a young
urban person–you know, those hip-hop pants that sag down? He was wearing those,
and baseball cap turned backwards. But something did not sit right with me. He was
walking too straight, you know? He did not slouch like those kids do. And he
seemed a little older. And when he pointed his gun at the cashier, the first thing I
noticed was that he held it military style."
"Military style?"
"It's kind of a double-handed hold, where you steady one hand with the other. It
minimizes the kickback, and the stance keeps you balanced and better prepared for
what comes after the shot. But most people you see on the news and on tv holding
up liquor stores and convenience stores, they're waving the gun around with one
hand. And something in me just clicked as not right. It was not just the posture and
the hold, it was also the robbery. He did not really seem interested in getting the
money from the cashier. I mean, he was looking at the cashier, but it seemed that
most of his attention was focused on me. So I just knew. I knew he was not an
ordinary robber.
"If it had been an ordinary robbery, I don't know what I would have done. Probably
nothing, because I would have thought I might get out of there alive. But after what
happened to Martha, I just knew he was there to kill me, as deeply as you know
anything. So I knew I had to take some kind of action."
"What did you do?" Dvorjak was aghast. It was not like his wife was a ninja, or even
someone who worked out all that much.
"I lobbed a soup can at him."
"What?!?"
"Well, two soup cans really. I was not thinking that clearly, but in spite of the fact
that he was so close, I did not trust that I would be able to hit him. So I threw one
soup can to distract him, and the other to slow him down. I got lucky. The first can
hit him on the back and the second would have hit him on his face if he had n't
thrown his arm up so quickly. A shot fired, but I did not wait to see where it went. I
threw that soup can hard enough to really hurt, so maybe I shattered his elbow or
something. It was family-sized.
"As soon as I started throwing things, I did not stop. I just grabbed whatever I could
and kept throwing as I was running toward the back, and then the clerk dumped a
rack of cigarettes on his head and I was out of there. I left out the back because I
thought he might have a partner in the front. It turned out he must have been
working without a partner because I got away at all. Leaving by the back was as
stupid as leaving by the front would have been if he had n't overestimated his chance
of success."
"After that happened I knew I needed to get in touch with Martha's friend and warn
him that they'd probably be coming after him. It turned out he was exactly the right
person to go see. I went to him in person to warn him, and came away with new
identity papers and a job and a town to hide out in. He sent me to Middling, where
his old buddy Hal could keep an eye on me."
"His...old buddy Hal?"
"Yes. John. The fourth person–as far as I know, the only other person alive from
our unit–it was Martin. Martin Pfannenstiel."
"Marty? But–he's a business man." Dvorjak was stunned.
"He's the CEO of a pharmaceutical company now," she said. "Back then he was a
researcher, on site at the hospital to evaluate the symptoms

"It's the deadliest form of mycotoxin known to human beings. Until now."

Janeane stretched out on Uncle Marty's leather couch in his 17th floor office suite.
Out of his window she could see the sun setting over xxxx, casting a golden glow
over the city. Michael stood at the window, talking in a soft French-sounding lilt
with her Uncle. His deep accent softened the sound of her Uncle's stern tones. She
drifted in and out of drowsiness, an effect of the antihistamine Michael had given her
to counteract the allergic reaction she had had. When he saw she was awake, Uncle
Marty came over to her.
"Did you tell them anything?" he asked.
Gazing at him, she shook her head.
"It all went so fast," she said.
"So you did not tell them where you put the item," he said. "Or that you had been in
contact with me?"
"I–there was not time," she said.
"Good girl," Marty said briskly. He lifted his hand to his forehead and turned to
Michael. "I have to get on the road. I trust you can handle everything at this end?"
Michael nodded, still gazing out the window.
"Good. Good work. I'm glad you got her to me before she was compromised," he
said.
"Uncle Marty?" Janeane croaked.
"Yes," he said sharply, then softened as her eyes widened and tears appeared. "I'm
sorry, Janeane. It will be all right. There's just a lot to do still and a lot at stake." He
smiled ruefully. "Sorry to be so abrupt, but I've got a meeting to make."
"O-okay," she said. He leaned down to kiss her, then straightened to talk to Michael.
"Don't let her retrieve anything until this cools down," he said, and left.
Janeane felt a prickling sensation in her nose and felt her eyes tear up. Michael
approached and drew a chair up to the couch.
"You are a wonderful actress," he said softly. His voice was a caress. Janeane
turned her face toward the back of the couch.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"How are you feeling?"
"I'll be all right," she said. "I'm sleepy."
"That's normal," he said, and reached out to take her hand. "I know this has been
very upsetting to you." Janeane felt her tears slide down her face. She let them.
Michael moved to the edge of the couch.
"I would like to let you sleep here and recuperate from your–experience," he said.
"But I can't."
Janeane turned to face him.
"What is going on here?" she asked. "Why don't we just go to the police? Or the
Mounties? Or whoever you go to up here?"
"We can't." Michael said, as if that was all the answer she had need. Reflecting on
the situation, Janeane agreed that it might be the only answer she needed. Her Uncle
and her father appeared to be into something unusual. Something that made middle
aged women attack her and drag her to the bathroom and threaten her. Something
like that wouldn't have surprised her about her father, who used to be in the military
and always seemed to be reliving his experience. But it did surprise her about Uncle
Marty, who had given her her first diary, her first subscription to Vogue, her first silk
brassiere. He had always seemed to be the delicate one, but now he seemed wiry
and tough. She wondered if she had ever really known him.
Janeane became aware of the warmth of Michael's hands, of how alive her skin felt
underneath his touch. She lifted her eyes to his lips and found herself wishing he had
kiss her. He did not.
"You need to stand up and start moving around," he told her, pulling her up off of the
couch. She wished she could sag against him, but pride kept her on her feet, though
the effort was exhausting.
"Very good," he said in her ear. "Now. Marie has an empty suite of rooms down on
the 5th floor. We are going to take the elevator to meet her down there. If you feel
you have to, you may lean on me. But it would be better if you can walk on your
own. We still have much to do."
"What? What do we have to do?" Janeane asked.
"All in good time," he said. "The first thing you have to do is to get a massage." He
smiled. "You are up to that, I think? Yes?"
"I think I can manage," Janeane said.
Michael punched a code into the elevator keypad.
"The third floor is locked to the general public," he said.
"What is it?"
"It's a spa."
"Sounds exclusive."
"It is."
The first thing Janeane saw when the elevator doors opened was a grey marble floor.
She and Michael were standing in large, empty reception area. In center of the room,
an 8-foot rock pile trickled water into a fountain.
"Marie," Michael said, nodding to a slight woman in a loose silver smock.
"Michael." She shared his accent.
"This is Janeane." Janeane loved the way he said her name. "She has had a bad
experience with strawberries this afternoon."
"What a shame," Marie said, turning to Janeane. "I am allergic to peanuts. Even a
little bit and –poof!–I am in hospital."
"Yes," said Michael. "Well, as I told you, we are still due at the club tonight and we
cannot skip it."
"I will be happy to help however I can. Perhaps instead of the cosmetic treatments,
we should focus on a detoxifying body wrap. Seaweed maybe," she said, lifting
Janeane's chin with her hand and looking at her eyes. "Yes. Seaweed."
"Do whatever you can in three hours," he said. "We need to be at the club by 9:30."
"I will."
"And Marie? Go ahead with the other things too. This is Mr. Pfannenstiel's niece."
"Ah. Then we have a certain image to protect."
"Very well."
"Now go," she said, pushing him toward the elevator. "We are secure here. I've
already sent everyone home."
"I'll stay here."
"Michael."
"Marie." They locked eyes and Janeane noticed how similar they looked. Marie
laughed suddenly.
"Okay Michael. You win, as always. Come, Janeane," she said, and led Janeane by
the hand to a door in the back of the reception area.
It opened onto a wide hall carpeted with thick, plush stuff of the same silver of
Marie's smock.
"I will take you to one of our treatment suites," she said. "And I will do all the
services myself. I think we will start with a scrub that I make myself of rosemary,
lavender, sea salt and oatmeal. This will help exfoliate you, and then I will spray
you with salt water, which will complete the initial portion of the process."
"Does it hurt?" Janeane asked.
Marie laughed.
"Not much," she said. "It's like brushing your teeth when you have sore gums. You
might feel a little tender, but trust me, you will feel like a whole new person when
we're done. After the exfoliation, I'll give you a seaweed massage, wrap you in hot
towels, and let you relax until the body has received the maximum benefit from the
minerals in the seaweed concoction. Then you will shower and we will begin."
"Begin?"
"Hair, feet, nails, dress. By the time you leave with my brother, you will look as
great as you feel. Are you ready?"
"I guess."
"You can disrobe in here," Marie said, opening the door into a treatment suite. It
looked a lot like a doctor's office, Janeane thought. A very expensive doctor, she
amended. There was a massage table in the center of the darkened room, a double-
headed shower at one end, and hooks for her clothes. "I will go get what we need.
When you've gotten undressed, you may climb up on the table, face up, and cover
yourself with the sheet. Do you have any questions?"
"Uh, no," Janeane said. She wondered if she should take off her underwear, but did
not know how to ask.
"Oh, and remove your underwear," Marie added. "I will have clothes provided for
your trip to the club."
"Okay." Marie left.

Three hours later Janeane emerged into the lobby and Michael stood up to greet her.
"You've done a wonderful job," he said to Marie, who smiled and shrugged.
"How do you feel?" He asked Janeane.
"So much better," she said, and she did. The tension she had been holding in her
neck and shoulders since she had gotten the email from her Uncle Friday had
disappeared. She had drunk a half gallon of an electrolyte-replacement drink Marie
had made for her, and she no longer felt tired. She looked great too. Her hair hung
just below her shoulders now, cascading in soft layers highlighted with copper. She
wore a fitted blue silk sheath, which fell just above her knees. It looked far better on
her than she had thought it would, thanks to the foundation garments Marie had
selected and bought for her. Though the heels were unfamiliar, they added another
two inches to her height. And while she was wearing way too much makeup in her
opinion, Marie had assured her it was perfect for the club she would attend.
"You look beautiful," Michael said as they stepped onto the elevator, and she felt the
tips of her ears get red. He was just her Uncle's employee, she reminded herself
sternly. But he was so manly it was impossible not to think about wanting him.
"You need just one more thing," he said. He pushed the "Stop" button on the
elevator and went down on one knee before her, bringing something out from behind
his back. It was a small leather strap.
"What are you doing?"
She backed against the elevator wall as he pushed her skirt up slightly and strapped a
small knife to her right thigh.
"How does that feel?" He murmured as he stood up again.
"I–wha'?"
"Can you forget that you are wearing the knife?"
"Well." It was surprisingly comfortable, melding into the flesh of her thigh and
warming there. "Yes, I guess."
"Good. Most likely you won't need it. But I'd like you to have it in the event that
something untoward happens."
"What can happen?" Janeane asked, frightened all over again.
"Most likely nothing," he said. "And I will be with you all evening. But it's good to
plan for any contingency."
"I suppose so," Janeane said. She still had trouble catching her breath from the
moment in the elevator.
"Janeane," he said, looking at her seriously, "It is time to stop pretending to be so
very young. It is fine for the library, but the club we are going to...it can be a tough
place. A place where dark things happen. If you have to use the knife, don't hesitate.
You must promise me this."
Janeane licked her lips.
"Do you promise?" He waited until she nodded.
"Good. You are supposed to be the niece of Martin Pfannenstiel, a CEO of a very
powerful and wealthy company."
"I am his niece."
"Right. Don't forget that. Now the other part of the story is this: you want to be in a
rock band."
"But I don't sing."
"It doesn't matter. The man we are meeting at the club manages several successful
Canadian pop groups, and he won't expect you to be talented. What he will expect is
that you will be young, and rich and bored, but eager to have him arrange your
career. He will not expect you to be too bright."
"Wait. Why are you telling me this?"
"Because your uncle needs you to do something at the club."
"So we're not–this is not just for fun?"
"No. It's work. So. When you get to the club, we will find the man–Clifford
Brooks–and you will let him know that you've heard of him. You will flirt with him
and tell him that you would like him to listen to your demo cd. He will show you to
a private area of the club, and one of your uncle's other employees will be there to
detain and question him. I will extract you and take you to your uncle at that point."
"Why this man? What does Uncle Marty want to know from him?"
"It's best not to ask too many questions if you don't need to know the answers."
"Well, if I'm going to come on to some guy I don't know and pretend to be someone
I'm not, I do need to know. Otherwise, I'm not going."
Michael started the elevator again.
"You're going," he said.
"That's ridiculous," she snapped. "I'm not an idiot, and I do have morals. Who is
this guy and what does Uncle Marty want from him?"
Michael sighed.
"I will explain," he said. He guided her to a corner of the lobby and sat her down on
a small couch. The lobby was dimly lit and empty, except for a security guard at the
far end. Michael nodded to the security guard, then sat down next to her on the
couch.
"Lean into me a little," he said. Janeane sat up stiffly. "So we can talk without
arousing suspicion about why we're here." She sat back a little and allowed him to
put his arm around her.
"So who is this guy, other than a band manager?"
"He is man your Uncle has a relationship with."
"A relationship relationship?"
"A business relationship. Mr. Brooks is a courier for items that would involve a lot
of expensive red tape for Mr. Pfannenstiel to get legally approved. He takes
xxxxxxmedication to xxxxxxAfrican country, for example. And in exchange, Mr.
Pfannenstiel provides Mr. Brooks with items for some of his clients."
"Items? You mean, drugs?"
"I mean items. Items of an unspecified nature. But I digress. About three weeks
ago, your uncle had a breakthrough on a project. He contacted a foreign agency
through Mr. Brooks and was told that the agency was interested in the project. Mr.
Brooks, however, was very vague about his contacts."
"Vague...how?"
"He wouldn't tell Mr. Pfannenstiel which agency it was, or with which government.
Which left Mr. Pfannenstiel feeling as if he needed to have an alternative."
"So why is he still dealing with Mr. Brooks?"
Michael was silent.
"Michael?"
"I don't feel as if it is my place to tell you that."
"But if you want my cooperation, you're going to." Janeane loved the new tough
person she was becoming. It must be all that eyeliner. The club they were going to
apparently required all patrons to have raccoon-like eyes. She had to admit, it did
make her feel aggressive. Maybe she should start wearing more makeup.
"It is my guess that Mr. Pfannenstiel might have amorous feelings for Mr. Brooks.
But in addition, Mr. Brooks has more than one kind of clientele. One of Mr. Brooks'
clients is a high level genetic researcher in New Zealand. Mr. Pfannenstiel couldn't
deal openly with this client, but it's this researcher who has helped him reach the
final stage of a project that he's been developing for two decades."
"Mr. Brooks did all that?"
"Well Mr. Brooks's client, yes."
"So–wait–why would he just take me to private area of the club? I mean, he's
probably not...uh...lacking for company, right? And he's a band manager? And
apparently...not interested in women?"
Michael sighed and stretched.
"Let me make this simple for you, Janeane. Mr. Brooks is a pompous drug-dealing
glamourkind who spends more time looking at his own reflection than he does
looking at either men or women. But he is also a pompous drug-dealing
glamourkind who is sexually gluttonous."
"Oh."
"I have never known him to turn down an offer from anyone, regardless of age,
gender, inexperience, hygiene, or appearance."
"Hunh. So he's an equal opportunity pompous drug-dealing sexually gluttonous
glamourkind."
"Exactly."
Janeane stood up.
"So let's go then. If that's all I have to do."
Our ride is waiting," Michael said, and took her elbow, guiding her out of the
elevator, through the lobby and to motorcycle waiting at the curb.
Janeane stopped. She had had exactly one ride on a motorcycle once, and it had
been disastrous. A man she had met at a party had wanted to take her up to an
outlook point on Mount Rainier and she had made a date with him, thinking that she
could use a day in nature. He had shown up at her dorm the next day on a
motorcycle, expecting her to get on and ride an hour and a half on it with him. She
had balked. He had begged her to try it, saying she had love it when she had tried it
out, and she had gotten on, clumsily, aware of how much extra weight she carried.
No worries, he had said, and taken off right then as she screeched in surprise,
without even a helmet to guard her. When she had caught her breath, she had
demanded to be taken home.
"A motorcycle," she said.
Michael nodded.
"I think this will fit our arrival at the club much better than a limo or a town car," he
said. "Here." He handed her a sparkly blue motorcycle helmet that matched the
shade of her dress and a large denim jacket.
"I always carry a spare," he said.
"Really?"
"No."
"Thank you." She put the jacket on, and then pulled the dress up to throw her leg
over the bike.
"I don't think this is going to work," she said. The dress was already at mid-thigh
and if she pulled it up much further, she would expose the knife.
Without blinking, Michael pulled a switchblade out of his back pocket and slit
through the silk on the left side of the dress, and then handed her up to the back of
the bike. It felt surprisingly substantial underneath her, a much larger motorcycle
than the other she had ridden once.
"It's nice," she said, surprised.
"Thank you." He positioned her hands around his waist and gave one a squeeze. In
for a penny, in for a pound, she thought, and leaned into his back.
"Are you ready?"
She nodded, and he took off, slowly at first, into the night.

Rex peered out the window of the Taco Bell. He had wait at least ten minutes after
Deke took off before he left. He did not think anyone was watching them, but you
couldn't be too careful. He had been up constantly in the last two days, and he knew
that's when even the most clear-minded started engaging in fuzzing thinking.
And if there's anything Sargent Rex Pfannenstiel was not a fan of, it was
fuzzy thinking. Rex was a man who needed answers and most often got them.
So when Martin had called Thursday to ask if Rex still had that old Superman cape,
Rex had known enough to be irritated that he was not going to get to know more.
The Superman reference was a code they had worked out between them after Marty
had left the Gulf War. It meant it was time to save the world, time to put their plan
into action. The plan itself was specific and clear, but what Rex did not like about it
was that it involved civilians, including his own daughter. Still, neither Dvorjak nor
Janeane would be in real danger, and this might be the way he could help Elizabeth
and Marty get out from under the shadow of fear they had all lived with for so very
long. What they had to do was to stop information from getting into the wrong
hands, and a certain amount of subterfuge was necessary if the right information
were going to get to the right place at the right time. Damn it. Fuzzy thinking again.
Rex went up to the counter and ordered a coffee. He needed every little edge he
could get at this point, and he had already been up for most of the last two days
arranging this goose chase. The real formula for the new genetically modified
mycotoxin was safe in his wallet, disguised as a bar code on a grocery store club
card. The knitting pattern he had forwarded to Elizabeth and the email Marty had
sent to Janeane were red herrings. Not that they knew that, of course. Convincing
the people watching them would only be possible if Elizabeth and Janeane thought
that what they were doing was real. Rex sipped his coffee at the table. There were
people watching them, of that he was certain. That's why he had had Deke shoot at
Dvorjak and Elizabeth. If there was nothing to flee, they'd take their own sweet
time.
In the meantime, he had to make sure the formula stayed out of the hands of the
wrong people until he could get it to the CIA. That was Martin's plan, anyway. Rex
had something different in mind.
In the wrong hands, the formula would be disastrous. Hell, he knew the CIA well
enough to know that in the right hands the formula would be disastrous too. So he
had very few qualms about selling the formula to the highest bidder, who, in this
case, was a patriot and likely to use the stuff on the right people.
This T3 next generation mycotoxin was hot stuff. From a Dr. Locasto at the
University of Cincinnati, he had learned that in the history of biochemical warfare,
there had always been snags in creating the perfect weapon. The problem with T2 is
that it was a better assassination tool than a weapon. There were problems
developing it to be dispersed over a large area. But T3 met all of Locasto's criteria: it
was easy to manufacture (or would be, once they got rolling), it was durable when
stored, stable under chemical changes–UV radiation couldn't touch it. And unlike
T2, it could be widely distributed over a population and it would take out the entire
population in a matter of hours. It was highly toxic whether through skin or
ingested, and it could now be dispersed in the form of a harmless looking egg. The
egg he had planted at Dvorjak's farm last night had been a microscopic portion of the
stuff, enough to kill a couple of people at close range, but not enough to instantly kill
thousands over a square-mile radius. The real T-3 eggs would be much more
effective. Rex had thought it all through carefully. If they'd had those T-3s in
Afghanistan, you can bet your ass Al-Quaeda would be nothing but a bad dream by
now. That's why he wanted to get this formula to the right people. Anything he
could do to make the world a little safer for innocent Americans, innocents like his
Janeane, and he wouldn't hesitate to do the right thing. Even if it meant betraying his
brother.
Rex finished his coffee and stood up, stretching leisurely. It was time to go. Deke
had headed off to Bellingham to make sure things went smoothly there; Rex needed
to go back to Middling and check on Hal. As he walked to his car, he had to admit
to himself that if this was played off right, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing that
he had screwed Marty and his friends. From the time he was in grade school he
could remember them getting together, always excluding him, making him walk
behind them and stand guard at the clubhouse instead of coming in. They had their
club, their secret handshakes, their in-jokes, their own candy bars that only Deke
would share with him once in awhile. Not that they were such bad guys as
grownups. Deke was loyal and Hal was funny. But the Bastard had always had a
disconcerting way of looking at him as if he knew that Rex was up to something, or
like he was made of see-through glass or something. And Marty–hell. Marty was
too smart for his own good from day one. It was almost foreseeable that one day he
had cooked up a mess so big that only Rex could save him. And now he had .
North of Seattle, John said he had to pull over for a pit stop. Elizabeth (is E driving
at this pointXxxxxx?) pulled off at the next ramp and found a gas station.
"Can you get me a coke from inside?" John asked Elizabeth.
"Since when do you drink coke?"
"I used to drink it as a kid. The carefree feeling of someone shooting at me has
raised in me a desire for a coke. Do you think you could accommodate that?"
Dvorjak tried to sound haughty.
"Okay, I guess I could use something too," she said. She got out of the car, and on
his side Dvorjak stood.
"You know what I used to do as a kid? I used to pour a bag of peanuts in the coke.
Maybe I'll get peanuts too."
"I did not know they did that in Oregon."
"My mom was from Georgia. It's a family tradition."
As soon as Elizabeth disappeared into the station, John made a beeline for the side of
the station. He lifted the sticky pay phone and dropped some quarters in the slot. He
needed a phone book, and he could see a chain where one had been, but it was gone.
He dialed the number for long distance information.
"Washington DC," he said into the mouthpiece, and "CIA Headquarters". He
glanced around while he waited, then turned his head toward the wall, searching his
pockets for a pen. No pen. The voice came on the line and gave him a number. He
tried to memorize it quickly, scratching the first four numbers into the dust at the
base of the phone. He startled when Elizabeth's hand appeared, disconnecting him
from the operator.
"Don't," she said.
"Elizabeth."
"I mean it."
"We need to call somebody."
"John, you just have to trust me."
"So you keep saying."
"Do you trust me?"
"Oh Elizabeth," he sighed. "This is big. It's too big. It's not that I don't trust your
intentions–and I don't doubt your capabilities–but this is too big for one person to
handle."
"John–."
"No. We need someone else involved. We need to trust someone with the
government. If we can't trust the military, we need to contact the CIA. Elizabeth,
this is a biotoxin. We're talking about something that could kill millions of–."
"Lower your voice."
"We need to bring in the CIA."
"John," Elizabeth paused, her hand still holding down the receiver. "I'm with the
CIA."
"Elizabeth."
"Seriously."
"Elizabeth."
"So they–we–already know. I've been assigned to this mission. It's my job to hand
that formula off to a contact in Bellingham. Marty's arranged for someone to meet
us there. I'm sorry you got involved but–."
"Look, I know you're afraid, but you don't have to lie."
She shook her head and brought her cell phone out from her pocket and dialed a
number.
"Who are you calling?" John asked.
She shook her head at him as someone picked up on the other end.
"This is 98106. I'm calling from an unsecured line. Yes, I'll hold."
"Elizabeth–." John whispered.
"In a minute, John. Oh Oliver. Hi. It's me."
John felt the sweat break out on his palms and tried to calm himself.
"Yes," she continued. "The knitting project is ready for exhibition. We're headed
north to meet up with the judges."
"Knitting project? Judges?"
"Hush." She waved her hand at him.
"I can't get into that right now Oliver. This is the first chance I've had to call. John's
with me. I had to tell him I'm with you. Can you confirm it for him?" She listened a
little further and nodded. She held the phone out to Dvorjak. "He wants to talk to
you."
"Hello?"
"Hello, this is Oliver Schwartz. I'm the Deputy Director of the T3 Knitting Force
which is a joint project between several agencies. I understand you have some
questions."
"Well, yes. Elizabeth says she's with the CIA?"
"I am not free to confirm or deny that on an unsecured line."
" ‘Even man and wife are foreigners'. Twain," Dvorjak murmured.
"Mr. Dvorjak–."
"Professor."
"Professor Dvorjak, I can understand your shock. Elizabeth has been knitting with
us since before she met you." The man's voice emphasized the word ‘knitting.'
"Until now, there's been no good reason to allow her to discuss that association,
though we suspected she might one day have to."
"But–."
"Could you put Elizabeth back on the phone?" Dvorjak handed the phone back to
his wife silently. He had have to think about this. Make no mistake, he had be
enraged if the situation called for it, but it would take him a couple of days to figure
out what his response should be. In the meantime, they had something to drop off in
Bellingham. And it looked like there was no one he could call who could lift them
out of this nightmare.
Across the car from him, Elizabeth nodded.
"I understand. Yes. I'll try to call again in a couple of hours. But it would be good
if we knew where to meet the other knitters." She frowned. "I see. Well, we'll put it
off as long as possible. Maybe we'll stop and have a bite to eat. Okay. I'll call you
from a secure line when I can." She hung up. "He says I can show you my i.d.," she
said, and fished a small wallet out from her back pocket. It was a CIA identification
card. Whether it was real or not was anybody's guess, but John felt the possibility of
having someone else take over this nightmare slip away from him.
"John," she said, "There was a little more to the story."
"So I guessed." He felt his mouth grow dry.
"When Marty sent me to Middling to hide out with Hal, I made a little detour that he
did not know about." She took a deep breath. "That's when I joined the CIA." They
walked slowly to the car and John climbed in the passenger seat.
"I–don't know what to say," he said.
"You don't have to say anything," she said. "I know we'll have a lot to process and a
lot to work on after this goes down–."
"Goes down?" He lifted an eyebrow.
"Yeah. That's spy talk. C'mon John. It's not like you *never* watch tv."
"Right. Well. We'll see."
"That's exactly what I'm saying John. We'll see. And in the meantime, we have
some bad guys to stop."

Dark fell early in the Northwest by late October. Josiah usually drove with his
headlights on, though, so he made no changes in the interior of the car as the night
crept on him. He was approaching Olympia now, and he would be meeting Ray
there. They were supposed to meet in Middling, but after a traffic back-up in the
Cascades, Josiah had called and let Ray know he was not going to be able to make it
all the way to the coast. For half a million in cash, he reasoned, it shouldn't be too
inconvenient for Ray to come meet him in the state's capitol. It would save Josiah
three hours round-trip, and he might be able to make it back to Steven's Way by
morning with the formula. Plus, if Ray had been planning an ambush, this would
throw a last minute kink into his plans, thus making them potentially more visible to
Josiah.
He did not suspect Ray of any kind of a double-cross, though. Ray was good people.
Josiah had served with Ray and Deke in Viet Nam, and they'd all come through alive
because they'd shared a common trust. You had to trust people if you wanted what
was good in the world to continue, Josiah thought. Otherwise, all was darkness.
He circled the city park for a few minutes looking for a parking lot. There were a lot
of Orientals and Indians in the park, even at this hour. But Josiah was a people
person. He wouldn't need a gun. He parked across from the hotel, and half a block
away from his destination, the Urban Onion. He was half an hour early.
Funny thing about the Urban Onion–it had been the Herb and Onion at one time, but
people had just gotten confused when they were looking for it in the phone book, so
the owners decided to change the name. Both names continued, however–one on the
external sign, and the other painted over the wall inside. It was mostly hippie food.
Josiah liked hippie food for the most part. Hey, he even liked hippies. Which was
good, because Olympia was full of ‘em.
The Brothers of Levi shared a lot of their agenda with the hippies, even if most
hippies wouldn't acknowledge it. They both distrusted big corporations and the
world bank. They both believed in a diverse world–it's just that the Brothers of Levi
would like to see every race have their own part of the planet. Neither one of them
liked cops much. They both hated the World Trade Organization, and whether the
hippies wanted to admit it or not, the Brothers of Levi had been instrumental in
organizing the most successful of the sit-ins. Unlike the hippies, though, the
Brothers had been able to slip away before being arrested. That's how they worked,
Josiah thought. They worked smart.
Josiah went into the restaurant, nodding at the White bookstore employee. The
waitress asked him if he had like a table or booth, saying it would be a bit of a wait
for a table. That was fine with him, he said. He liked waiting and people-watching.
He sat on a bench outside the interior door of the restaurant and admired the lobby,
which was the lobby of an old building. The wooden parquet floor was polished to a
high shine. There were obviously some places where the work ethic was not dead.
He spotted Rex before Rex saw him. He sauntered in with Deke, who blinked at the
brightness of the lobby lights in contrast to the darkness outside. They nodded to
him when they saw him, and he stood to greet them.
"Hell of a long time Rex," he said, smiling.
"Well, you look like the same old Cheerful Joe," Rex said.
"Just goes to show you what clean living and good wife can do for you."
"Right on," Deke said. It was well known that he did not care much for his wife
Linda, whose surliness would turn off even the most determined of suitors, but
maybe Deke was not bright enough to notice.
The waitress came back and told them their table was ready, and they were led to a
booth in the back of the room.
"So...what's good here?" Rex said, squinting at his menu. Josiah smiled. He was one
of the few people he knew who wore reading glasses and admitted to it. In truth, he
enjoyed how grandfatherly he looked wearing them. Like a Santa without the beard
or quite so much fat.
"Let me look." He put on the glasses and scanned the menu.
"I had the veggie stir-fry last time," he said. Deke looked horrified.
"Oh it was good. They fried up the vegetables and served ‘em over hash browns,
and I think I had them put some cheese on that too. It was very good."
"Do they have anything American?" Deke asked, looking anxious.
"Well, they have burgers," Rex answered him. "That's what I'm having."
"Okay. Me too," Deke said. The waitress came back. She had altered herself
unnaturally with a ring in her nose, but Josiah had no problem with that as long as
the service was good and the food came hot.
"Three burgers," he said. "Fries all around too, I think." The other men nodded.
"What kind of burgers? Garden, chicken or beef? Oh or root–the new cook is
experimenting with a kind of turnip-oat burger that's actually a lot better than it
sounds."
"Beef, please," Josiah said firmly. She wrote it down, nodded and wove her way
back to the kitchen to put their order in, stopping to refill someone's water glass on
the way.
"So what's your daughter doing these days?" he asked Rex.
"Oh, she's at college now."
"Really?"
"Yup. Studying up to be a history teacher I think. That's this year. Last year she
wanted to be an astronomist."
"She sounds like a smart girl."
"Oh she is that," Rex said. "Smart as a whip. I'd never have trusted her with Marty's
business if she was not."
"Well, how ‘bout that. And how is Marty? Still not married?" Josiah watched Rex's
face redden. They all pretended Marty was not a Sodomite, and sometimes Josiah
like to see how far he could push Rex, see how many ways he could make him dance
around the subject.
"Well, he's busy with the business. You know, the pharmaceuticals." Rex stretched
the word out significantly. Josiah did not pick up the cue. Have a good meal before
discussing business, that was his motto. You couldn't concentrate on anything if
your stomach was empty. And he still had to make sure they hadn't been wired or
anything. You couldn't be too careful, even with old Army buddies.
So they talked about inconsequential things until the food came. Rex seemed to
catch on to Josiah's pace, but Deke wolfed his burger down and then looked antsy
until Rex sent him out to patrol around the perimeter of the old hotel that the
restaurant inhabited and make sure there were no cops around.
"Busy work," Rex told Josiah when Deke was gone. "That's always been the key
with Deke."
"I've always thought so," Josiah said. "I have one employee like that. Abe. Good as
gold. Solid heart. Sensible head on his shoulders, but you know. Not so smart."
"Dumb as a post?"
"Well, lets just say that if God takes care of fools and children, Abe's covered. And
he's well over 21."
"I see."
"Sent him up to be a bodyguard to your brother."
Rex looked startled.
"Why?"
"Thought it would be good for him. And, as you've said, busy work." Josiah
finished dipping his last french fry in mayonnaise and suggested that they go to the
men's room when Deke got back. "I've got to check you for a wire," he said.
"Right," Rex said. "Me too. You, I mean."
When Deke returned, they suggested that he order dessert for all of them and
adjourned to the men's room. Josiah made sure it was empty, then locked the door.
"Skivvies, I guess," Rex said.
"That would be fastest." Both men amiably dropped their trousers and opened their
shirts, revealing their wire-free status.
"Good we can talk now," Rex said, pulling his pants back up.
"Not so fast friend. We're in Olympia."
"So?"
"Seat of government. You think they don't bug their restaurants?"
"Right," Rex said.
"Let's go to my SUV," Josiah said.
"Okay."
They left the old hotel building and walked down the street to Josiah's vehicle. As
they passed the Starbuck's, a young man asked them for some change.
"We could all use some change," Josiah said, passing him without giving him
money. Rex did not kick him, but looked as if he wanted to. The young man backed
up, then left. Rex climbed into Josiah's SUV, and Josiah climbed in on the driver's
side. They locked the door."
"Now give me the money, Joe," Rex said, pulling a gun on him. Josiah shook his
head.
"Oh Rex."
"Do you have the money or not?"
"Rex, you don't want to do this."
"And why the fuck not, Joe?"
"Because, Rex, for one thing it is not Christian. I came here in good faith with half a
million in cash, and you know I'm going to go home with the formula because you're
a decent guy fundamentally, and you want a better world for your family too.
And..." he let his voice trail off.
"And?"
"Well, I'd hate you to think I did not trust you, but I do have some insurance," he
said. "I have two men in Canada, one of them posing as a bodyguard to your
brother."
Rex laughed.
"Do you think I give a fuck about Marty?" He asked. "Marty's been the bane of my
existence. If you got rid of him you'd be doing me a favor."
"No, no." Josiah smiled. "I don't overestimate your concern for your brother. The
person I'm thinking of is your daughter. By the time we leave this car, we'll have her
in our custody. And if you rob me or try to double cross me in any way, I'd hate to
think what might happen to her."
Josiah couldn't see well in the dark car, but he could see Rex's gun hand trembling
and he had bet money–heck, half a million if it came to that--that the man's face had
lost blood.

The motorcycle pulled up to an alley entrance of a club and Michael helped Janeane
get off the bike. Her knees were shaking. It had been a very uncomfortable ride.
She had had to hike the dress up to straddle the bike, and the knife sheath had dug
uncomfortably into her skin. She had bet she had a nice long triangle-sized welt on
her thigh about now. Which would probably go well with her helmet-head. She
pulled the helmet off of her hair and tried to fluff it with her fingers, finally just
shaking it. She felt like someone in an Herbal Essences commercial, but it was
better than having it stick to her head. In spite of the leather jacket Michael had
loaned her, was cold.
"Is this it?" She asked.
The alley was an abandoned and lonely place between a brick building and a fenced-
in lot containing used auto parts and appliances. The black door they stood in front
of was lit by a single fixture of maybe 40 watts. The only sign that it was a club was
the faint sound of a thumping bass line from somewhere deep inside the building.
Michael ignored Janeane, and pressed a button and a couple of numbers on the side
of the door.
"They give out a security code?" Janeane asked. Michael again ignored her as the
door swung open, then slung his jacket over one shoulder and his arm over her
shoulders and accompanied her in. She tried to match his casual saunter, although
she could see no one watching them. They were in a long hallway, lit at baseboard
level with black lights. Every twenty feet or so a small sconce lit a portion of the
upper wall, revealing a ceiling hung with toasters and irons and hubcaps welded
together in sculpted clumps. It might have been artistic, except that it was so
obviously placed in as unpleasing an arrangement as possible. They followed the
hallway around a bend, and Janeane noticed the music getting louder. It was a heavy
thrum–not quite metal, not quite punk, but something in between. And as she started
noticing people in the distance she slouched and pulled her bangs over one eye,
trying to look rich, tough, and bored.
"Good," Michael whispered, as they slunk into the big room.
The main dance area was a warehouse with twenty-foot ceilings. More of the
appliance sculptures dribbled down from the ceiling in long icicle-like
configurations. In the center of the room was the most elaborate sculpture, complete
with the twisted wreckage of a Volkswagen Bug strung with machine-gun
ammunition, camouflage netting, and Christmas lights. Underneath this monstrosity
a few people sat at tables on a raised dais, around which danced twelve glittery
naked people.
"I did not know this was a strip club," whispered Janeane.
"It is not." Michael guided her through a throng of people in various states of dress
and undress. Janeane's mini-dress was among the most conservative choices,
although she did notice a woman in a long red latex dress, and a man in a silver
jumpsuit. When he turned though, she saw that a hole had been cut in the back of
the suit so as to highlight the tattoo on his right buttcheek. Why he had to highlight
a tattoo of a penguin, Janeane had no idea, but it was not the strangest thing she saw.
As they made their way to the dais, she noticed small dimly-lit alcoves along the
outskirts of the room. Suddenly, a spotlight hit one of them, and Janeane gasped. A
hooded man was stretched out on what looked like a piece of exercise equipment.
He wore nothing but the hood, a black collar and some kind of thong or leather string
or something (she did not want to look too closely) around his testicles. Two women
circled him, each holding a knife, and several brilliant red scratches on his torso and
thighs dripped blood. She started to ask Michael whether they should contact the
police when the spotlight swung to the other side of the room to an alcove where a
couple was apparently very close to orgasm. It then swung to another alcove where a
woman reclined on a massage table while three other people slathered wet clay
slowly over her body. Then it blinked off as a laser show began near the bar to their
left.
"Keep moving," Michael whispered, "You're supposed to have been in places like
this before, remember?"
Janeane had a hard time looking bored. She shook her hair further over her eyes and
tried to stop blushing as they moved through the nude dancers and started up the
ramp to the dais. It was a good thing that the spotlight had gone out. The spiraling
ramp itself was a sensual experience. Refrigerated trenches on each side of the ramp
were filled with luscious clumps of grapes, ripe pears, and piles of satsuma oranges.
Michael caught an orange up in his palm, and slit it open with his thumb. The scent
of orange surrounded them, lightening Janeane's step even as she struggled a bit with
the steep ascent in unaccustomed heels in thick plush carpet.
When they got to the top of the ramp, Janeane saw that there were only four tables
there, round booths with high-backed seats. The people sitting there seemed more
relaxed than their frenzied counterparts on the floor or in the alcoves. Michael
nodded toward the farthest booth.
"That's him," he said.
There was no mistaking which man was Mr. Brooks. He was a pale, blonde man
with blonde eyelashes and eyebrows. He wore a grey suit and tie. As he noticed
Michael, he whispered to one of the men surrounding him and the man stood up,
removing his jacket to reveal a shoulder holster. Michael held up his hands and
grinned. Janeane tossed her hair coltishly. At least she hoped it was coltishly, and
not inanely. Hard to tell the difference when you're young, rich and bored, she
thought, and almost snorted as she thought of her work study job at Physical Plant
services going to different buildings to adjust the thermostats for complaining faculty
and staff. The spotlight came on again, and Janeane focused her attention on Mr.
Brooks to avoid looking elsewhere and giving herself away. Mr. Brooks touched the
tip of his lips with his tongue and looked her up and down as if measuring her for an
ergonomic desk chair, she thought. He nodded. He leaned over and said something
to another of his bodyguards and they spilled away from the booth like water spilling
over a rock, splitting in half and pouring away. When they had gone, he made a
gesture of invitation to the empty booth beside him, locking eyes with Janeane.
His eyes were amazingly blue and large in his face. As depraved as he must be to
own this club, thought Janeane, his eyes made him look young and defenseless. She
sallied forth to slide into the booth, or at least that was her intention. At the last
moment her heel snagged a bit of the carpet and she fell into the booth at an
awkward angle, bruising her hip.
"Meant to do that," she muttered out of habit.
It seemed that Mr. Brooks did not have much of a sense of humor.
"That looked painful," he said reflectively.
"It was," she said, rubbing at the sore spot. "I suppose you're Mr. Brooks?"
"And you are...?"
Michael slid in on Janeane's other side.
"This is Mr. Pfannenstiel's niece, Janeane."
"Ah," said Mr. Brooks. "Would you like something to drink?"
"Oh thanks, but I can't drink yet," she said. "Or can I? What's the drinking age in
Canada?"
Mr. Brooks smiled.
"In my club the drinking age is whatever you happen to be," he said.
"It's nineteen," said Michael.
"What would you like?" Brooks said.
Sophisticated, thought Janeane. What would a sophisticated person drink?
"Do you have a menu?" She said.
"Why don't you let me choose something for you," Brooks said. He signaled to one
of his men. "Could you get a Betty Page for Ms. Pfannenstiel here? Anything for
you?" He turned to Michael, who shook his head.
"What's a Betty Page?" she asked.
"It's a blackberry brandy with a special liqueur we make here from the satsumas,
whipped with an ounce of cream and served over ice."
"That sounds good," she said. "But why do you call it a Betty Page?"
"Because it's so much better when it's properly whipped," he said, smiling a bit at her
blush. So much for bored and sophisticated, she thought. Maybe she had better stick
with young and rich.
"Ms. Pfannenstiel is interested in the music business," Michael said, leaning forward.
"Right!" Janeane caught his drift. She moved a little closer to Brooks. "My uncle
says you put bands together?"
"It's one of the things I do," he said, lifting an eyebrow (xxxxxor doing something
else that conveys reservation combined with some potential mocking).
"Wow. I love Canadian bands. Do you know Alannis Morrisette?" Hey, she had
already blown sophisticated. Maybe she had get further on saccharine. Michael
shook his head slightly at Brooks and shrugged. The movement was so small
Janeane knew she was not supposed to have seen it.
"Saved by the booze," Brooks greeted the arrival of her drink. "Drink up, Jenny."
"It's Janeane," she said, trying not to notice the spotlight landing on an alcove with
bars across it. Out of her peripheral vision, she had a vague impression of someone
exhausted holding on to the bars but she tried not to know much more than that.
Michael put his hand over her drink.
"Just a minute Janeane," he murmured. He turned to Brooks.
"You should be aware that Mr. Pfannenstiel treasures his niece and is unlikely to
want to continue business with anyone who would try to amuse themselves at her
expense."
"The drink is clean, if that's what you're getting at," Brooks said drily. Michael
looked at him a moment more, then, satisfied, nodded. Janeane sipped at her drink.
The drink was sweet and fruity, yet creamy at the same time, like the jell-O/cool
whip salad Sheriff Hal usually brought along to Thanksgiving.
"It's good," she said. She noticed her teeth chattering a bit with nervousness and
took another swallow. The alcohol began to warm her. "So, Mr. Brooks. I don't
know if my uncle has ever mentioned this, but I'm a singer."
"Are you?"
"And I have a demo cd with me if you'd like to listen to it." She turned to Michael.
"Do you have the cd?"
"Damn," he said. "I left it outside."
"But I really wanted Mr. Brooks to listen to it."
"You can send it around to me tomorrow," Mr. Brooks said. "I'll be happy to listen
to it sometime this week."
"But I wanted to you to listen to it tonight," she pouted, and looked into his blue
eyes. Michael sighed.
"I'll go get it, Janeane," he said. "But you may want to come with me. I don't feel
comfortable leaving you here."
"Oh don't be a pain, Michael. I'm fine here with Mr. Brooks," she said, taking
another sip. "And it's cold outside. I'm perfectly comfortable here."
Michael shrugged.
"Have it your way," he said. "I'll be right back." He left the table.
Now what? Janeane wondered. She took a sip to cover the awkward pause.
"This really is very good," she said. "It reminds me of–." What did rich people eat?
Not Cool Whip, she had bet. Brooks did not seem to notice that she had stopped
speaking. He put a hand on her thigh. "We could go to one of the alcoves while your
chaperone is away," he said. "Of course, I'd never do anything you wouldn't want to
do." She glanced down at her hands.
"I don't really–like to be looked at," she said.
"How odd. For a singer, I mean."
"Well, being on stage is different," she said. "I mean, it's not as intimate." She
blushed.
"I would have thought it'd be more intimate," he said, beginning to move his hand
upward. Oh God. The knife. She grabbed his hand with both of hers and squeezed.
"I'm not–I mean. I'm kind of shy," she said. "Do you have something a little more
private. I mean, some place where you might want to listen to the cd, or...?"
"Of course," he said, smiling. He lifted three fingers and three of his men came
forward. One of them slid into the booth beside her.
"Escort Ms. Pfannenstiel to the back office," he said.
"Oh no," she said. "I mean, after the cd gets here and Michael–."
"That's fine," he said, no longer smiling. "We'll take care of Michael."
Janeane felt something cold against her ribs through the silk of her dress. She looked
down. The bodyguard had a gun nudged up against her. The shivering, which up
until now had been limited to her teeth, took over her whole body. Knees quaking,
she stood up and moved off with the three men, looking helplessly back toward
Brooks, who lifted his drink in a toast to her.
She walked with the men down the ramp and through the dancing crowd toward a
doorway in the opposite direction of the way she had entered. She hoped Michael
would return soon enough to see where she was going, but when she tried to look
that direction, the man behind her glared her down.
"Keep walking," he said. She kept walking. The ambience of the club took a turn
for the worse as she walked toward the south end of the room. Here, where the
dancers were fewer and the spotlight never ventured, were four cages which housed
human beings. The first woman looked as if she had been there for days. The third
cage housed a man who looked as if he had been there for weeks, long enough to
lose weight and become ill. The fourth cage was empty. When Janeane was
marched past it, she felt a small relief, followed instantly by terror.
She tried frantically to think of her options. She could step on one man's instep
while elbowing another, and run maybe two feet before the third man caught up with
her...and that was if she forgot about the gun at her ribs. They went through the
doorway and she found herself in a hallway similar to the entrance hallway, but
much plainer and more well-lit. They passed bathrooms and phones. Outside the
women's room, there were two women standing and talking.
One of the men moved closer to her and grabbed her hair, forcing her head back.
"Hi Jean-Paul," one of the women greeted him. He nodded.
"Fresh meat tonight?" she said.
"Just someone who wants to find out how we play," he answered.
"Please help me," Janeane said. "You've got to call someone–."
"Ooo, that's good," the woman told her. "You've picked it up fast."
"No I mean it," Janeane said. "These men are holding me against my will."
"I remember those days," the other woman said longingly.
"Yeah, me too," said the first woman as Janeane was marched past her. "Have fun!"
she called.
Janeane trembled more violently as they approached a door. One of the men opened
it and pulled her in. The others followed.
She found herself in an office space, and not a very pretty one at that. Whatever the
warehouse had been before it was a night club, they hadn't put much into the interior
decorating. It looked as if the office hadn't been touched since its original owner had
sold the building. Jean-Paul propelled her around a dusty desk and sat her on an
office chair of brown cracked leather, patched with silver duct tape, and handcuffed
both her hands to the wooden arms of the chair. Janeane was quaking so violently
she could barely sit still.
"Breathe," Jean-Paul muttered to her as one of the other men put his gun away.
"We're not going to do anything to you." He gestured the other two men out of the
room and turned to her. "You're Pfannenstiel's niece, right?"
"Yes." She said meekly, although "who wants to know" echoed in the back of her
mind.
"Then nobody's going to hurt a hair on your head unless he doesn't cooperate," Jean-
Paul said. He looked at her. "And he'll cooperate. Brooks'll make it worth his
while."
Janeane tried to focus on her breathing.
"We're going to be here awhile," Jean-Paul said, "So if you want anything, you tell
me now."
Janeane looked at him directly for the first time. He was almost as tall as Michael,
but much broader. His shoulders and chest were massive, and his hair was flecked
with silver. She thought he might be almost as old as her dad. She shook her head.
What she wanted was to be out of here. Jean-Paul sighed and sat down across the
desk from her.
"I don't even know what this is all about," she said.
"That's how it usually works," he said. "Those who suffer rarely know why they
suffer. And those who know why rarely suffer." He shook his head sadly. "That's
not going to change."
"I'm sorry," Janeane said. "Not going to change here? Or–are you talking about
world affairs?"
"World affairs. What do you know of world affairs? You're American, aren't you?"
"Well, I'm a history major. I'm not totally ignorant." Janeane sat up straight in the
chair. "I know we have an ugly foreign policy, and I know it's getting uglier." Jean-
Paul looked up as if seeing her for the first time.
"You have no idea how ugly it's going to get," he said.
"I can guess. I don't really know what Uncle Marty is doing or what I'm involved in
with him, but I know that he does a lot of good work in third world countries and that
without him a lot of people wouldn't eat."
"Yes," Jean-Paul said. "And did you know that he is responsible for the deaths of
thousands of them?"
"That's not true!"
"It is true. Oh, not yet, perhaps. But your uncle, the philanthropist, did you know
that he has developed a weapon for terrorists?"
"No way!" Dad, maybe. Janeane could see that. But Marty knew next to nothing
about weapons.
"It's true. He has developed a biological weapon."
"A biological...a drug?"
"No, a toxin. He has conducted the genetic research which has led to the
development of a toxin so powerful it can kill an entire city of people at the whim of
a single terrorist."
"But–but Uncle Marty is not a terrorist!"
"No. He is a powerful man who fancies himself a humanitarian, but who has no clue
how to handle the power of what he has built."
"Who are you?"
"Me? I'm nobody. I'm a bodyguard." Jean-Paul stood up and walked to the door.
"Is Mr. Brooks coming?" He asked someone outside. Janeane couldn't hear the
answer. "Fine," Jean-Paul said, and slammed the door shut turning suddenly to
advance on the table. Janeane rolled her chair back as far as she could.
"People like your uncle are the reason I lost my family," Jean-Paul said, pointing a
finger at her.
Janeane sat very still. "I come from Laos. Most of your people don't even know
where Laos is. Do you?"
Janeane nodded. Somewhere in Asia, she knew that much. Southeast Asia. More
specific than that–well, she just hoped there was not a test.
"Then you are more intelligent than the pompous morons you share a country with."
"You–." she stopped.
"What?"
"Never mind. It was rude." She tried to smile apologetically.
"Tell me."
"You just–seem to dislike America a great deal," she said.
"It was American weapons that destroyed my people," he said. "American weapons
that killed my father, and American soldiers who took my family away from me.
Why would I have any love for your country?"
"Well, you wouldn't, I guess."
The door opened. (Oh thank God, thought Janeane). Mr. Brooks walked in with
Michael and a bodyguard.
"Mr. Pfannenstiel will not be happy about this," Michael said casually, as if it were
all a game.
"Mr. Pfannenstiel will not need to be happy about this," Brooks said. "Mr.
Pfannenstiel will only need to give me the formula and he will be well compensated.
And his niece will be safe. You will carry this message to him."
"I see," Michael said. "And how could I explain to him that I allowed his niece to be
taken? Why on earth would he trust me?"
"He may not," Brooks said. "That's not our problem." He took a camera out of the
breast pocket of his suit jacket and took several pictures of Janeane. "Email these,"
he said, handing his camera to a bodyguard. The man disappeared, leaving Michael,
Mr. Brooks, Jean-Paul and Janeane the only people in the room.
"He will need some proof of your intentions," Michael said. "He does not want this
to fall into the wrong hands. He will need to know who your client is."
"Tell him my client is the CIA," Brooks grinned. "Tell him Jean-Paul is a secret
agent. Tell him whatever you like. But also tell him this: that if he does not meet
my terms, his niece will be dead by morning."
Janeane gasped and looked desperately at Michael. Michael looked at his nails.
"I'll tell him," he said. "But he's not going to like it. Perhaps you might consider–."
"Perhaps you might consider getting your ass out of here and hustling my message to
him," Brooks said.
"Very well," Michael said, and turned to go. As he took a step toward the door,
though, he flew into action, first landing a punch on Jean-Paul's chin and throwing
him into the wall, kicking Brooks backward over the desk. Jean-Paul stumbled to
get up as Brooks landed in Janeane's lap. Michael hauled him up and backhanded
him.
"Enough!" Brooks gasped. Michael pushed him into Jean-Paul and pulled a gun.
"Either of you moves, and I'll kill you," he said, still casual. The door burst open and
Michael rounded on the person entering, but it was Abe.
Brooks moved suddenly, launching himself toward Michael. Michael wheeled back
around and pulled the trigger, landing the bullet in his abdomen. Brooks gasped in
surprise, and looked down as he fell.
"Glad to see you," Michael said, handing Abe the gun. "Keep that other one down.
If he's alive we need to get an ambulance." He knelt in front of Brooks' well-dressed
body.
"Michael!" Janeane tried to warn him, but she was not quick enough. Abe bashed
him on the head with the gun, knocking him out, and turned the gun back on the
other two.
"Where are the keys to the cuffs," he said.
Jean-Paul silently slid the keys over to his foot.
"Back to the wall," he said. Jean-Paul did as told. Abe unlocked one of Janeane's
wrists and told her to unlock the other.
"But what about Michael?" she said.
"Don't worry about him," he said.
"But–."
"Do as you are told," he thundered, holding the gun with both hands, steadying it
well to accommodate the lack of the thumb on his right hand. Janeane unlocked her
handcuffs and preceded him out of the room with one desperate glance back at
Michael.
Abe took her out of an entrance she had n't seen, and bundled her into the cab of a
pick-up truck.
"Are we going back to Uncle Marty?" she asked.
"Don't talk," Abe said. He started the truck. Janeane felt uneasy. Either Abe or
Michael had betrayed her uncle and she had n't figured out which. Her fears were
put to rest when Abe turned his truck in to the parking garage at the Blue Paradise
Hotel. She couldn't wait to get up to her room to take a shower. Abe took her to the
elevator from the garage and pressed a button.
"Wait. That's the wrong floor," she said.
"No. Your uncle has a second room for you." The elevator rose to the sixth floor and
Abe followed her out of the elevator. At one of the doors, he handed her a key.
Janeane used it to open the door and she entered the room. Suddenly, she stopped.
The women from the library were here. She stepped back into Abe's solid body, but
he shoved her into the room.
"Good to see you again," the younger one said with a sneer.
"Hush Marcie. She's probably tired," the older woman from the library said. "Sit
down, hon," she told Janeane.
"You guys got it then?" Abe asked.
"Yeah, it was a fake," said the younger one.
"What are you talking about?" Janeane demanded.
"The pattern you dropped off at the library this afternoon. It was a knitting pattern."
"Oh. So?"
"No, it really was a knitting pattern. Not a code, not a formula. Just a knitting
pattern. We think your father has the real formula."
"My...father?"
"We thought your Uncle might not trust your father with the real formula, so we had
to take a chance that he might have given it to you. But it looks like you were the
red herring, dear."
"You mean...all this was for nothing?"
"Oh, not for nothing. It kept us busy, if nothing else. But it looks like your Uncle
was stupid enough to give the formula to your father. Who is going to give it to us.
And for much less than he thought he would."
"What do you mean?"
"Your father's selling us the formula, Janeane. He intended to all along, but we want
to make sure he goes through with it. So we're keeping you as insurance."
"But–you plan to let me go," Janeane's voice trembled.
"Well, that's really up to Abe." Janeane looked at Abe.
"Uh. Probably. Josiah's a decent man. I don't think he had want to knock off a
woman."
"Other than the women he's going to kill with this biotoxin," Janeane said.
"He's not going to use it on White people."
Janeane was so aghast she couldn't think of anything to say. Given her precarious
situation and questionable value here, it was probably best that she couldn't. She sat
on the bed and watched as Abe walked out of hearing range and made a phone call
on his cell phone, and the older woman picked up the remote control to turn on the
tv. The younger woman sat down on a chair next to the bed, put her heels up by
Janeane, and picked up a bag of knitting that had been left by the chair.
"Don't try anything," she warned Janeane, pointing at her with one of the needles. "I
know how to use these."
"You dropped a stitch," Janeane said quietly. She moved back to the headboard and
leaned her head on it, looking up at the ceiling. This morning she had been a trusting
niece and daughter, being set up by either her father or her uncle or both. Tonight
she was a little wiser, having been attacked once, kidnaped twice–no, make that three
times–in the same twelve hours. More importantly, there was a formula out there
with which a racist loony could commit genocide.
Every once in awhile the history department had a social function. For the most part,
these were lame affairs involving scones and muffins from campus food services,
starting at 3:00 and over by 4:00. Occasionally, though, when a few history majors
got together at Pizza Brava, they'd played "what if". One of the questions that came
up most frequently was: "What if you'd had a chance to stop Hitler? Would you
have killed him?" Janeane, as a pacificist, had always taken the position that she
probably wouldn't, because how could you tell that he was that important to history?
If it hadn't been Hitler, it would probably have been someone else, she had always
argued. Hitler was a product of his times.
Now, though, she recognized that line of reasoning for what it was: a way of ducking
the question. And guarded by the pointed end of a knitting needle at the end of a
very long day, she found in herself a kind of determination that she had never known
before. She had get out of this somehow. And she had stop this horrible thing from
happening. She had to.
Janeane rolled to her side and felt the pinch of the knife strapped to her thigh.
Surely, she couldn't really use it on a person, could she? And even if she could
disable one of them there were still the other two to deal with. No, she wouldn't even
have a chance unless one of them left first, and even then she had have no chance in
a fair fight. She was not some kind of karate expert; she was a history major. A
history major with just enough sense to know that the good guys did not always win.
"I'm hungry," the younger woman muttered. "Hey Mary, can we get some food up
here or something?"
"I don't want to get anything from room service," the older woman said. "But maybe
Abe here could go find us something."
Abe shrugged.
"Josiah's supposed to call."
"So take the cell phone," the younger woman said.
"Marcie," the older woman warned.
"Well, it's not like he has to go fifty miles. There's places all up and down this street.
He could get us a pizza or something."
"I could go for a pizza," Abe said. "Alright. Don't let anyone in. Unless it's me."
He put on a jacket and left.
Janeane watched Mary watching tv. The older woman was definitely not the threat
that the younger woman was. She was wiry and strong–Janeane remembered that
from the library–but not as quick on her feet as the younger woman. Plus, if Janeane
had to stab one of them, she had rather stab Marcie. But there was no way that she
could do that while the younger woman held so furiously to the needles.
"Excuse me," Janeane said to Mary. "I need to use the restroom. Is it all right if I
get off this bed."
"Of course," Mary said. "Marcie, go with her."
"No way."
"That's not really necessary, is it?"
"I guess not," Mary said. "You should leave the door open just a little though. We
don't want any trouble."
"Right." Janeane said, scooting off the bed.
Marcie stood and shadowed her the few feet to the bathroom, staying between her
and the door.
Janeane went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet, looking desperately around the
bathroom for something to use as a weapon.
"What's taking so long?" Marcie demanded.
"Sorry," Janeane called. "I–this is embarrassing, but I need some privacy. Would
that be–?"
"Fine!" Marcie shut the door, cutting off Janeane's words. Janeane could hear her
arguing with Mary.
Quickly, she unhooked the shower curtain, listening for any indication that one of
them would be opening the door. Once she got it unhooked, she unsheathed the
knife, stood on the toilet and waited. She heard the argument build up to a
crescendo.
"Well if it's so important, you do it," she heard Marcie say.
The door opened. Janeane threw the shower curtain over the bundle of the older
woman and pushed her into the bathtub, then wheeled around with the knife out just
as the younger women flew at her. The knife sank deep into the younger woman's
ribs, and Janeane pushed past her and ran out the door, not looking back. She took
the stairs down to the lobby and used the public restroom to wash her hands and
most of the makeup off of her face, and then she wondered what to do next. There
was no one whom she trusted, whom she could call. But what was it Brooks had
said about the real formula? That it was Dad who had it? Janeane knew she had to
stop her father from selling that formula.

Michael woke up groggy, head throbbing from where he had been knocked out. He
was tied securely and lying in the back of a parked van. Apparently it had been
parked for awhile. He could feel waves of cold encroaching from the tire-well he
faced. He, however, was covered with a blanket and fairly comfortable, apart from
the fact that he was lying on the floor. Instantly, he was wary. In his experience,
being tied up did not go with being covered by blanket. He heard someone approach
and climb into the driver's seat ahead.
"Good, it looks as if you are awake," Jean-Paul said. He was alone.
"Where's Janeane?"
"Good question. The man who burst in after you did took her. For what it's worth,
he seemed to want her alive."
"He would."
"Who was he?"
"Who are you?"
"I asked first."
"Are we going to play schoolyard games, or are we going to exchange information?"
Michael asked. Jean-Paul frowned.
"Very well. I worked for Brooks, but he was not my only employer."
"I figured that out." If Brooks had been Jean-Paul's only allegiance, Michael would
either be dead or waking up in the back office of the club. "And your other employer
wants me alive."
"Yes. So now I have a question for you. Who was the man who came into the club."
"He was Mr. Pfannenstiel's other bodyguard, Abraham Johnson."
"Why did he take the girl?"
"I don't know."
"Is it some plot of Mr. Pfannenstiel's?"
"No, I don't think so. Mr. Pfannenstiel wouldn't have trusted Abe to be able to carry
off something like that. I have to admit, it's a surprise to me too."
"Why?"
"Because the man is not that bright. I'm not saying he's stupid, but there's an
interesting story about how he lost his thumb."
"Oh?"
"He was playing chicken with a live grenade."
"A live–."
"Oh yes. It's a game he and a few of his friends play back in Idaho. They pull the
pins out and see who can hold it the longest before throwing it into a pile of hay. He
did not hold it for long, he said, but he threw it the wrong direction, and his thumb
was severed by a flying tractor piece."
"So. Not an international mastermind."

"Apparently not."
"Hmmm." Jean-Paul gazed out the window, lost in thought. Michael tried to wiggle
his wrists out of his restraints. His nose was starting to run.
"I think we may be working toward the same end," he said.
"Oh?"
"Yes, I imagine that you want to stop Abe from whatever it is that he wants to do.
Obviously Brooks knew about the formula, and if he knew, you knew."
"Yes."
"So you probably want to stop Abe from procuring the formula, regardless of who he
works for."
"Yes." Jean-Paul said cautiously.
"Well, I have a dual protocol. The first is to protect Mr. Pfannenstiel's niece. I have
already failed there, but if I can retrieve her from whoever's holding her, I will have
redeemed that part of my mission." He paused.
"You said there was a secondary protocol?"
"Yes. It regards the formula. Mr. Pfannenstiel does not want to sell it to the highest
bidder."
"No? That surprises me."
"It's true. His motive in developing it was primarily to satisfy an intellectual
curiosity."
"That seems like a risky way to satisfy intellectual curiosity."
"Yes; however, he planned to give it to the Canadian government. Mr. Pfannenstiel
believes that with a powerful weapon in its arsenal, the Canadian government will be
able to check some of the insanity that is perpetuated by the United States."
"But–Canada is a close ally of the United States."
"It is also a close ally of New Zealand and Australia. Mr. Pfannenstiel has already
made contact in New Zealand, and he believes that if Canada and those two allies
were to have a technology that the United States and the European Union did not
have, it would create a safer balance of power situation for the entire world."
"And you? Do you also believe this is true?"
"If it were not true, I would not have worked for him so loyally."
"So," Jean-Paul said in a mocking tone, "You are a patriot and loyal first and
foremost to Canada?"
Michael answered him with a low and very serious, "Yes."
"Well, then, it seems that we *are* working toward the same end."
"Oh?"
"Yes. My primary employer–it is the Canadian government. I am in intelligence.
I'm an agent with the counter-terrorism department of the Privy Council Office."
Michael stopped himself from making any jokes about the PCO. Jean-Paul untied
his wrists, and that alone was worth keeping a still tongue. The first thing he had
have to do is call Mr. Pfannenstiel. After that, he had to retrieve Janeane. He
wished he had n't given her the knife. In the hands of an amateur, it was more likely
to land her in deeper trouble than passivity. But if all went well, he should be able to
locate Abe within the hour. The man was not exactly an expert in covert ops.
"How do we go about finding your employer's niece."
"Wait," said Michael, "There's something I can try." He pulled a cell phone out of
his back pocket and dialed Abe's number. It rang a couple of times and then Abe
picked up.
"Hello?" In the background, Michael could hear street noises and someone saying,
"You wanted extra cheese with that?"
"Yeah, yeah, hold on," said Abe. "Extra cheese, and make it extra hot. I have to
carry it back to the hotel." He came back on the line.
"Hello?"
"Hi Abe, it's Michael."
"Oh. I–thought you were–."
"No, I was. It's okay. I don't blame you."
"Good. I did not want to hurt you or anything, it's just–."
"I completely understand. Where did you take Janeane?" There was a pause.
Michael could hear the faint sound of a violin playing in the background.
"I don't think I should tell you that Michael."
"Why not?"
"Well, if I do, Josiah might get mad."
"I understand. That's okay. You don't have to tell me."
"Thanks Michael."
"Maybe if you just tell me where you are, we can talk about it."
"Um, I don't–."
"I know. I won't make you tell me anything you don't want to tell me. We're
buddies, right?"
"Buddies?"
"Did not we work together for four months? Remember all the times I took
mornings so you could go to church?"
"Well, yes..."
"And remember all the burgers we bought together? We're buddies."
"Buddies."
"So Abe, where are you?"
"Robson Street."
"Uh huh. Where on Robson Street."
"I don't think I should tell you that Michael. I mean, I know we're buddies, but I
have to get back."
"Back to where Abe?"
"I don't want to say."
"I know it's a hotel, Abe. Which one is it?"
"Um, I'll call you later. Bye Michael."
"Abe–." Michael said, then realized he had hung up. "Well, they've got her in a
hotel on Robson Street."
"That should narrow it down."
"Some people think sarcasm is a sign of intelligence. They're wrong."
"Do you know how many hotels there are on Robson Street?"
"Not exactly. But then, neither does Abe. My guess is that he took her back to the
Blue Paradise."
"Surely he's not that stupid."
"The man tossed a hand grenade at a tractor."
"You have a point."
"The Blue Paradise is the only hotel he knows. He may even have registered it under
Mr. Pfannenstiel's name. He has authorization to do that."
"It's a long shot, but we could start there anyway."
"Oh, I don't think it's such a long shot."
"Then let's go." As Jean-Paul put the van into gear, Michael pulled out his cell
phone to make another call. This one would be much harder. The phone on the
other end rang several times. He hung up and tried again. It rang several times and
went to voice mail.
"Mr. Pfannenstiel, this is Michael. We have a situation up here. Please call when
you get a chance." He hung up. There. That would cover it, and with any luck,
they'd have Janeane by the time Pfannenstiel called back.

Janeane looked pretty good for all she had been through, she thought. It really was a
great hair cut. She blended in with the wedding reception crowd, nibbling at a mini-
quiche and looking for an opportunity to steal a cell phone. She had come such a
long way in such a short time. She nodded at an elderly woman who smiled vaguely
back and eyed the coat check in the back of the room. She wouldn't be able to get
anything from there, but there were several wraps and sweaters and purses over the
backs of chairs and as people drank more, they'd be more careless.
She became aware of being the object of someone's attention and melted down into a
seat. She picked up a spoon and pretended to look at the silver pattern. In its
reflection she saw a young red-haired man glancing over at her, as he threaded his
way through the crowd to get to her. She put her hand on the handle of a steak knife
as he got to the table.
"Uh, would you like to dance?" He asked.
"Me?"
"Yeah. I noticed you when you came in and, well, you look like someone who might
like to dance."
Janeane smiled. At least she was passing for normal.
"Okay," she said. Anyone pursuing her would not give a second glance to the
dancers. She stood up. The wedding band was playing a passable, if boring, pop
song in 4/4 time.
"What's your name?" She asked the young man.
"Steve."
"Hi Steve. I'm Janeane." She led him to the dance floor and tried her best to match
his shuffle, even if it seemed a little off. "Are you bride or groom?" She asked.
"Uh, I'm the bride's brother?" He said. "I read the Gibran poem?"
"Oh yeah. I was a little late."
"It was towards the end of the wedding."
"Okay, you caught me. I was a lot late. But it seemed like a nice wedding."
"It almost did not happen. Debbie thought that Rob might have slept with Molly at
the rehearsal dinner. But it turned out not."
"I hope not. That'd be horrible."
"Yeah. Molly said she already spent $400 on the bridesmaid dress, so why would
she risk that by sleeping with the room. Especially when he was her ex."
"Yeah."
"She said she hoped Debbie would know that it wouldn't be worth it to her. That
convinced her."
"I guess she did know."
"Yeah. Debbie says he's not that great in the sack, but he's got a lot of money, so–oh
hey, I probably shouldn't be telling you this."
"That's okay. I've heard people say things like that about Rob before."
"Oh. So you know him pretty well?"
"We're cousins. But we worked together one summer, so..."
"At the cannery?"
"Yeah."
"Hunh. You did not seem the type."
"You're a good dancer." He was not but it seemed like time to change the subject.
She still had to get a cell phone and a change of clothes, or at least a coat to cover her
dress. She had stick out like a honey-covered prostitute at a fly convention if she
went out on the street dress liked this.
"Do you have a phone?" She asked Steve.
"Oh. Uh. Not on me. There's payphones in the lobby though. And I think I've got
some change."
"That's okay. I did not want to make a call–." At least, not in such a public place, she
thought. "I just was thinking about buying one and I like to ask people if they like
their service."
Steve was happy to tell her all about his cell phone, and cell phone service and
coverage in the BC area outside of Vancouver. As he was talking, the song changed
and became a 70's ballad.
"I found her diary underneath a tree," the lead singer warbled off key. Janeane saw
Mary come to the door and look wildly around the room. She shivered and moved
closer to Steve.
"Could you put your arms around me?" She asked. "It's a little cold in here."
"Okay." He put his arms awkwardly around her. "I'm a little sweaty though."
"That's all right." They danced closely together. "I've always thought this song was
romantic."
"I don't know it."
Janeane tried not to look back at the door too often, and by the time she did, Mary
had moved on. Abe was still out there somewhere, and she had no idea if Marcie
was really disabled or not. She had to get to a phone now. She scanned the room
until she saw an older gentleman on a cell phone, then waited as he finished his call.
She excused herself to Steve and thanked him for dancing and approached the older
man, wondering what she would say to get him to let her use his phone.
Fate intervened. She watched as he put the phone down and bent to talk to his
grand-daughter, who appeared to be about four and ready to pass out from tiredness.
He lifted her in his arms and a younger woman came out of the crowd to take her.
As he handed off the young child, Janeane glided by the table and took his phone.
At the next table, she swiped a large white sweater. She made her way out to the
lobby, aware that the older man was only beginning to look for his phone. Once in
the lobby, she looked for a private place to make the phone call. There was not one.
She found a chair behind a tall plant, and sank down into it.
Her father did not have a cell phone, but if she could get to Sheriff Hal, he would
deliver it. She dialed the number.
"Pacific County Sheriff's Office," Great. It was Zachary Smith. He had been in her
grade at school.
"Hi Zack. It's Janeane. Where's Sheriff Hal?"
"Oh Gosh. Oh Janeane. I hate–I hate to be the one to tell you this, but–."
"Just spit it out, Zack."
"Hal's dead. I found the body–well, John Dvorjak found the body this morning, but I
saw it!"
"Oh my God."
"Yeah."
"Is Janet there? Can I talk to her?"
"Uh, no. She's busy with the feds. What with the body missing and all–."
"What?! The body's missing?!"
"Yeah, and it was HazMat situation, so the whole county's been locked down ‘til we
find that body."
"Wait, Zack. Tell me–how did Sheriff Hal die?"
"That's the thing, Janeane. Nobody knows. I saw the body and it was all covered
with this white powder and blood and stuff–I just couldn't bring myself to go very
close. And I know I was supposed to secure the scene, but I thought I'd just, you
know, sit in the car until the feds got there, but–you know, and Dvorjak had seen it
too, so I thought he could answer some of their questions. But somebody got the
body out the back window, and now Dvorjak and Betty are missing, and the feds
think they took the body."
"Oh my God."
"Yeah."
"Well, I have to get a message to my Dad. Can you do that?"
"I don't know. Janet's in labor. The Grays Harbor Sheriff was here for awhile this
morning, but he had to go back up north. I'm it for manning the phones."
"Okay, okay. Listen." While she had been talking, she had forgotten to watch the
lobby. A pair of man's shoes appeared in front of her and she raised her eyes to
Michael's. "I have to go," she said, and hung up. The cell phone rang. She stood,
ignoring it.
"Let's walk," he said.
"Michael–."
"I know," he said. "It's been a long night. I've just been to the room where they were
keeping you."
"Is Marcie–?"
"We moved her to a service corridor and called an ambulance," he said. "They won't
be able to trace anything back to your uncle."
"We?"
"I'm with Jean-Paul. He's cleaning the room now."
"Oh my god."
"He's on our side, Janeane. He's with the PCO."
"What's that, like the Canadian CIA?"
"There is no Canadian equivalent of the CIA, but he does work domestically to
counter terrorism. He's been working undercover with Brooks because they started
to identify a pattern of small attacks coming from people who had some association
with the club. Mr. Pfannenstiel knew this. I believe it was his intention to make
contact with Jean-Paul. We don't know what other associations Brooks had, but it
looks as if Abe had some associations of his own too."
"Yeah, he was some kind of religious nut."
"Do you know what kind?"
Janeane shook her head.
"I don't remember if he mentioned anything specific. He talked about a guy named
Josiah, though. And about killing people of color, but not Caucasians."
"That should give Jean-Paul a little bit to go on."
"Oh and–this Josiah guy–I think he's blackmailing my dad to get him to sell him the
formula. That's why he took me. So we've got to get in touch with my dad and stop
him!"
"I don't know if we can. But it might not matter."
"Might not matter? Why not? People could die!"
"They could, if Mr. Pfannenstiel had trusted his brother with the real formula."
"If–you mean, he–."
"I mean he did not trust your father. He gave him a false formula."
"But why?" Janeane wailed. Michael shushed her.
"We need to find somewhere to talk."
"Where?"
"Let's go back to your room."
"Are you sure? Is not that the first place they'll look?"
"They might. But I'll be there, and so will Jean-Paul. And, if you don't mind my
saying so, you could use a change of clothes."
"I don't mind. I need something I can run around in."
"Exactly."
They took the elevator to the xxxx floor and Michael unlocked Janeane's room. It
looked the same as it had when she left for the library so many eons ago. She
grabbed some jeans and a sweatshirt and went into the bathroom to change. When
she came back into the room, Jean-Paul had joined them.
"So what next?" She asked them.
"That's a good question," said Jean-Paul.
"I think we need to follow Mr. Pfannenstiel," Michael said. "It looks like he's
meeting up with the person he gave the real formula to."
"But why would he send it out just to retrieve it again?" Janeane asked, "It doesn't
make sense."
"No, it doesn't," agreed Jean-Paul.
"I don't know what his endgame is," Michael said. "But if we follow him we are
more likely to find out."
"Do you know where he's going?" Janeane asked.
"Bellingham."
"Then that's where we go next," Jean-Paul said.

"So let me get this straight," Dvorjak said to Elizabeth as they entered Bellingham.
"We're going to Western University to the student union, where we're going to hand
this off to someone we don't know whose allegiance is unclear unless your CIA
contact gets there first? And then we follow them and retrieve it and hold them until
we ascertain who they are? Unless your CIA contact has already apprehended them?
Doesn't that strike you as a little bit vague?"
"Well, a little," Elizabeth admitted. "But sometimes you have to act on faith."
"Betty, you're being a little blithe about this."
"Well what do you want me to say, John? That I know exactly what's going to
happen? That I trust Marty? That I don't think this is dangerous?"
"I'm not even worried about all that yet. Let's start with logistics: how are we even
going to recognize the person that Marty wants us to give this to."
"Well, he or she will probably recognize us."
"How?"
"Oh c'mon John. We're not exactly spring chickens. I imagine that we'll be pretty
visible in a student union."
"Surely Western has faculty."
"Yes, and the person we're meeting will probably approach a couple of them before
figuring out that we're the right people to meet. But there's a password, too."
"Of course there is."
"Whoever it is will approach us and ask how to find the admissions office. We'll say
it's closed right now but say ‘We're happy to answer any questions you might have.'
Then the person will sit down at the table. That's how we'll know."
Dvorjak rubbed his chin.
"Sounds pretty simple."
"Yes, it is."
"I don't trust it."
Elizabeth sighed.
"Do you have a better plan?" she asked.
"Why don't we just hand the formula over to the authorities...or the CIA, which you
say you're with? I mean, we have it in our possession."
"Yes, we probably do."
"Probably?"
"Marty said he was going to send out a couple of false formulas," she said. "He told
me I'd have the real formula, but I won't know if that's true until I hand it off and see
what happens with it. Marty wouldn't sell a false version of the formula...it'd be too
dangerous. So until we know who our contact is, we won't know whether our
version of the formula is real or fake."
"Fake? Fake?!?"
"John, don't lose your temper."
"You mean, I might have been shot at for the privilege of carrying around a knitting
pattern?!?"
"It's a possibility."
He sputtered.
"I think we should eat something. Your blood sugar is low again."
"Oh hell, Elizabeth. Just find the student union and let's get this over with."
Elizabeth looked at her watch.
"All right," she said. "We have about half an hour until the meet. Let's at least get a
burger or something while we're waiting."
"Fine."
"You'll feel better with food."
"Betty, I said ‘fine'. That doesn't mean that this thing is not crazy. It just means I'm
with you for the ride." His mouth quirked up in a half smile. "And is not that what
marriage is, after all?"
They arrived at the campus and parked. Though many streetlights dotted the parking
log, Elizabeth chose to park underneath one that was broken. They climbed out of
the car and she hitched up her purse over her shoulder.
"We're looking for the Underground Coffeehouse at the Viking Union," she said.
"I know where it is," John said. "Third floor."
She looked at him, surprised.
"Conferences," he said.
"Good." It was good being on a campus again, Dvorjak thought. Even after dark.
They passed students with bookbags scurrying from dorms to library and back again.
They passed a sauntering group of laughing young men. Without much trouble, they
found the building and bypassed the desk in the main lobby to go straight to the
stairs.
"We're supposed to sit on the blue couch," Elizabeth said, "Or as close to it as we can
get."
They reached the coffeehouse. Not bad, thought Dvorjak. They'd made some
improvements since he had been in here last. Better art on the walls certainly. It
looked like their standards had gone up.
A flock of students left all at once, and Elizabeth smiled at the Barista.
"Something I said?" she joked.
"Ah, no. We just had a poetry reading in here. What're you having?"
"Do you have real food here or just coffee?" John said.
"Right over here. Sandwiches, bakery items, ah...we'd usually have soup, but it was
kind of scorched on the bottom and so I could only sell about half of it."
"Of course."
"So, you want some coffee or what?"
"Oh, a latte and one of those scones there," he said. "Elizabeth?"
"Just drip for me. Or an Americano. Whatever you do here."
"Okay." The barista set to work. John waited while Elizabeth hovered around the
two young men on the blue couch. Apparently, her hovering made them
uncomfortable. They'd left by the time John approached with her coffee.
"Good work," he said.
"Thanks." She looked up at him and her eyes sparkled. How could one stop oneself
from being in love with such a gracious being, he wondered. And why would one
want to? He sat down beside her.
"Still mad?" She asked.
"Just concerned," he sipped his coffee.
"Well, that sounds like an improvement."
He did not answer, just took a bite of the scone, a zucchini-walnut affair that tasted
better than it sounded.
"Bite?" He asked Elizabeth. She shook her head, but put her hand on his knee and
whispered "No thanks." He looked down at her hand. Betty had the same hands his
grandmother had once had: small, square, practical. Where his grandmother's hands
had been calloused, though, Betty's were soft and well-cared for. Her nails were
short and rounded and clean. The wrinkles on the back of her hand were faint,
telling the stories of all the people she had helped with them. He lifted the hand and
kissed the back of it.
When condensed, all of life is personal, he thought. Our urges to save the world
spring from the grains of our personal lives, of all whom we love, of all we hold
precious. Dvorjak. He grinned at himself and then felt the grin fall from his face as
he looked up and saw Hal enter the house.
"Hal!" He jumped up and his coffee spilled on his pants. With some part of his
mind he registered the burning sensation on his leg, quickly becoming cold and wet.
Most of his brain was occupied with trying to make sense of Hal's appearance. He
stood there, solid and smiling, walking toward them, no evidence of any harm
anywhere on his body.
"You gonna say hi or what?" Hal joked, and hugged him before he could do more
than start to form a question.
"Hello, Hal," Elizabeth said. "I thought it might be you."
"What–why–?" Dvorjak couldn't make up his mind which question to ask first.
"What" should come before "Why" he thought, but he couldn't figure out what to put
after the first word.
"Sit down, John," Hal said.
Dvorjak sat. Hal took up a seat on the pale mauve couch to his right and moved the
tall floor lamp between them so he could lean over the arm and talk to him more
confidentially.
Dvorjak noticed that his leap upward had caused little stir among the few students
left in the coffee house. One young man had paused, but now continued to put a
poster up for a band. Zangwill, Dvorjak noticed. Ghetto children. The kids today
were getting more literate.
"I'm sorry we had to put you both through that," Hal said. "Marty and I were
concerned about Rex."
"Rex?" Dvorjak blinked. "Something wrong with Rex."
Hal sighed.
"Rex and Deke had access to Marty's plans too. Initially, Marty trusted his brother
with Elizabeth's identity and her need to stay hidden. And of course, he let me know
because he was concerned about her safety. But it looks like Rex was trying to sell
Marty's formula to a terrorist group. We couldn't be sure, though, and the closer
Marty got in his research, the more crucial it became that he knew who he could and
couldn't trust. So we decided to set some things in motion."
"You did not trust me with this?" Dvorjak looked back and forth between his wife
and his best friend.
"It's not that we did not trust you John," Elizabeth said. "It was that we wanted to
keep you safe and keep it under wraps until Marty had decided what to do."
"And frankly, we were concerned that if you had time to think it through you'd take
it to the authorities," Hal said. "You're always over thinking things. We couldn't be
sure you wouldn't hand it off to the wrong agency, or to someone posing as a
representative of the right agency. So we came up with a high stress test of all of
us."
"I wanted to tell you Hal was not dead right after we left," Elizabeth said. "But I was
outnumbered. I'm so sorry."
"Me too," said Hal. They waited.
Dvorjak dabbed absently at his pants with a napkin and thought about it. Taking his
personal feelings of hurt out of the equation, he tried to think about it abstractly. He
could understand that they would need to trust absolutely in whoever was in on the
secret with them, and that it would have to be a level of trust that was unnecessary in
most human beings. Perhaps a test of an unusually high level of trust required
extremity. Perhaps. And he had be the last person in the world to tell anyone to trust
blindly or to take a leap of faith. He nodded slowly. He could understand it, in the
abstract, but–he blinked–damn them for letting him think Hal was dead. And damn
himself for not investigating further when he first saw Hal's body. If he had just
touched a pulse point–
"Damn," he said quietly.
"Yeah," Hal said. The barista approached.
"We're closing now. You guys are going to have to go."
"Oh. We're meeting a couple of people here who aren't here yet."
Hal slipped her a five.
"Any chance we could get an extra five minutes."
She looked at the money in her hand.
"Sure," she said. "But my boss comes in right after closing to do the drawer
countdown, so you need to be gone when he gets here."
"I thought this was a student-run coffee house," Dvorjak muttered as she left, but no
one answered him. He turned back to Hal.
"So you were the one shooting at us?"
"Oh no, not me," Hal said.
"My guess is it was Rex or Deke." Elizabeth said.
"Deke? Deke wouldn't shoot at us!" Dvorjak said, and then wondered. Deke was a
creature of loyalty. He had been very loyal to the group of four when they were
boys, but something had happened. For the thousandth time, Dvorjak flashed on
what had happened in the woods when they were teenagers. Not for the first time,
Dvorjak wondered if Deke had known something to do with what happened to the
Tippins girl. But he was not smart enough to think of stumbling on a body in order to
throw suspicion away from himself. At least, not alone.
"Deke would shoot at us if Rex told him to," Elizabeth said. "He's always said that
Rex saved his life in Viet Nam. I think Deke could be talked into shooting at us as
long as Rex told him not to hit us. In fact, Marty warned me something like that
might happen. He was really testing Rex."
Dvorjak shook his head.
"So now we know Rex will shoot at us? Why? What would he gain from shooting
at us?"
"Marty thought Rex might keep the real formula himself and pass a fake formula on
to me and then try to convince me that it was real by posing a shadow threat."
"Shadow threat?"
"Marty's term. He's convinced that the unknown enemy is more frightening than the
known one and will motivate someone who is frightened into more extreme actions.
That's one of the reasons he wanted to know who his enemies were."
"I just talked to Marty on the phone about half an hour ago," Hal said. "He's not sure
how much Deke knows about what they're doing, but he's still convinced Rex is
trying to sell him out. He's just not sure who to."
"Sheriff Hal!" a student squealed from across the room. As she flew over to where
they were sitting, Dvorjak recognized her as Rex's daughter Janeane. She threw
herself around Hal, who stood up to hug her. "They told me you were dead."
"Well, it looked that way," he said. "But only for awhile."
"Oh my God, what a day," she said, throwing herself down next to him on the couch.
"Oh! Michael!" She waved to a man who stood in the doorway. "Over here! Come
meet some neighbors of mine."
The man who approached was perhaps the most dangerous-looking man he had ever
met, Dvorjak thought as he stood. For his own part, the man seemed wary,
approaching them with caution, hands held loosely at his sides as if he were about to
pull out a pair of six shooters. Dvorjak nodded. The man nodded back.
"Have a seat," Elizabeth smiled.
"I'd rather stand," he said, taking up a position behind Janeane, who had returned to
the sofa.
"Michael's Uncle Marty's bodyguard," she explained. "He's paid to assume
something's going to happen."
"A fair assessment," Dvorjak told him. "It has been a hell of a day."
"Tell me about it," Janeane said. "I was kidnaped."
"Kidnaped!" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"Three times," Janeane said, lifting her head. Dvorjak noticed a spark of
determination in her eyes that he had n't seen there before.
"But why?" Elizabeth asked.
"Long story," Michael interrupted, his eyes narrowing. "You're Mr. Pfannenstiel's
contacts?"
"Well...yes," Elizabeth said. "And you're here because..."
Marty walked in.
"They're here because they've figured out more than I gave them credit for," he said.
"Hi all."
"Uncle Marty!" Janeane jumped up to hug him.
"Marty, we have so many questions," Dvorjak said.
"All in good time."
"But–this thing that you gave to Elizabeth...?"
Marty nodded.
"It'll all become clear soon," he said. "In the meantime–." He let his voice trail off as
the barista approached.
"You have to go like, now," she said.
"We're going," Janeane said. She stood. Everyone else followed, Janeane and
Michael leaving ahead with Elizabeth, everyone else filing out behind.
"Well, I'm glad everyone's made it," Elizabeth said, then gasped and fell to the floor.
A bright red spot blossomed out from the space just below her rib cage.
"She's been shot!" Hal said, going down on one knee next to her. "Take cover!"
There was some confusion as everyone crouched down and looked for something to
hide behind. There was nothing immediately in the vicinity.
"The shooter!" Marty shouted.
"Where?" Michael said.
"There! The end of the hall!" He pointed and Michael ran toward the end of the
hall, looking for a shooter. The shot must have been taken with a silencer. He
cursed his preoccupation with looking after Janeane. Usually he noticed his
surroundings. He was paid to do so. In this case, his professional judgement was
being compromised by something between pity and affection.
"Is she going to be okay?" Dvorjak asked.
"Did anyone hear anything?" Hal asked at the same time.
"Where did it come from?" Michael could hear Janeane ask.
He leapt into the stairwell and almost bumped into a young man with red hair
coming up the stairs. He grabbed the kid by the lapels and threw him into the wall.
"Hey!"
"Did someone just run past you?"
"Jesus, what is it with people today?"
"Did someone pass you on the stairs?"
"There was a guy in a black sweatshirt outside..."

Michael let go of him and leapt four stairs to the landing.


"Hey what is this about?" the kid yelled.
Hal had his fingers on Elizabeth's jugular.
"There's a pulse," he said into the phone. "Send an ambulance!"
Elizabeth groaned.
Dvorjak held her hand tightly.
Blood pooled around her. Janeane sat in shock down the hall a ways, holding her
uncle's hand.
"Will she be all right?" she asked him.
"I don't know," he said. "I hope so."
"Me too."
Michael came back up the stairs with Jean-Paul.
"Whoever it was got away," he said.
"I did not see him at all," Jean-Paul said. "And I was just outside the whole time."
"He must still be in this building."
"Great," said Janeane.
Michael grabbed the red-headed kid who was standing at the door of the coffee shop,
watching in shock as the pool of blood around Elizabeth's body grew.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" Michael said.
"Hey, I work here," he said.
Michael pounded on the door until the Barista came to answer it.
"This your boss?" he asked.
"Yeah, this is Brian."
"Okay." He let the kid go. "Sorry."
"No problem," Brian said, obviously shaken. He retreated into the coffee house with
the Barista and closed the door.
"Oh shit," Marty said.
"Yeah," Janeane answered.
Dvorjak sat with Elizabeth, staring at her, willing strength into her until the
paramedics could come. It was not long. One moment he was staring at her, and the
next, they were there, stemming the blood flow, lifting her onto a stretcher. Dvorjak
and Hal accompanied them to the ambulance, and Dvorjak climbed in. Police cars
started showing up: campus police, city police, county sheriff.
Michael came up to Janeane and whispered something to her. She nodded, then
looked at her uncle and nodded at him as well. Marty, Hal and Jean-Paul melted
back from the scene, leaving Janeane and Michael to answer questions.
Janeane leaned against Michael's chest, appearing to draw strength from him. A
police officer approached her.
"Excuse me," he said. "Were you here when the woman was shot?"
Janeane burst into tears as instructed, allowing all of the day's stresses to emerge in
her sobbing. She turned into Michael, who held her close to him and patted her hair.
"She's upset," said Michael. Janeane was impressed with how shaky he made his
voice.
"Yes, I imagine you both are," said the officer. "Let's go to the lobby where we can
talk." He escorted them to the main lobby. Xxxxxxxdescription here. Janeane
allowed herself to be calmed, to sit on a small couch next to Michael. The police had
cleared the building, so they were alone with two police officers.
The one who had talked to them was a tall Native American officer. His partner was
a short, tubby black woman who kept her hand on her night stick. She said nothing
during the interview, but tapped her hand impatiently against her night stick and
squinted at them as if she suspected them of lying.
Janeane looked down at her hands, clasped tightly together.
"Elizabeth," she said. "Her name is Elizabeth Dvorjak."
"You know her?"
"Well, she's my neighbor back in Middling."
"Kind of far from home, aren't you?"
"I was looking at grad schools here and Professor and Mrs. Dvorjak wanted to come
with me. They said they were interested in moving up here sometime, and they
wanted to look over the campus to see if Professor Dvorjak could be happy working
here."
"I see," he said. He looked at Michael, "And where do you fit into all of this."
"Where she goes, I go," Michael said, taking Janeane's hand. The sincerity of this
statement was unquestionable, as was its truth, Janeane noticed. He was paid to go
everywhere she went.
"So what happened," the officer turned his attention back to Janeane.
"Well, we just stopped in at the coffee shop to talk and have a latte, and they were
closing, and we were coming out when she–just went down. I did not hear
anything."
"Did you see anyone?"
"It happened so fast. I did not have time to look–I mean, I was busy looking at Mrs.
Dvorjak," Janeane's voice trembled and tears came unbidden to her eyes. No acting
was necessary for this. "I–I hope she's okay. Can we go see where they're taking
her?"
"Well, we have a few more questions, but yes, we'll take you to the hospital when
we're done."
"Good," Janeane slumped back. She really was exhausted. But it looked like the
evening was not over. She had to make contact with Dvorjak at the hospital, then
hook up with Marty and Hal and Jean-Paul, and she still hadn't been able to reach her
father, although it looked like it did not matter anymore. The formula he had was
not real. A piece of her ached for her father, but there was no time to grieve before
the next question was upon her.
"Does Mrs. Dvorjak have any enemies?"
"Not that I know of," Janeane looked at Michael, who shook his head.
"Can you think of any reason anyone might want to shoot her?"
"No," she said. "Mrs. Dvorjak is one of the kindest...I mean, she's a nurse, you
know? I can't imagine anyone wanting to hurt her."
"And you did not hear anything or see anything?"
"Until she fell, no."
"And there was no one behind her?"
"What?"
"Who came out of the coffee shop behind her?"
"Why?"
"Just answer the question."
"No one."
Janeane's mind worked quickly. Was someone else the target? Or were the police
implying that the shot had been fired from behind her instead of in front of her? No
way. Because the person coming out of the coffee house with Elizabeth, the person
who'd been closest to her when she was shot was Uncle Marty.
Michael stepped in.
"Officer, I know you'll have other questions, but could we please talk about them in
the hospital?"
"Yes," Janeane said. "Oh God. Professor Dvorjak. He can't wait to hear about her
all by himself."
"Very well. Let me take your contact information and I'll let you know if we have
any more questions after we've had a chance to evaluate the scene."
"Thank you," Janeane's gratitude was heartfelt. Michael nodded at the officer, who
nodded gravely back.
"Do you need a ride?"
"No, I think we can find it," Michael said. "They took her to....?"
"St. Xxxxxx," the female cop said suddenly, making Janeane jump. She had
forgotten the woman in her effort to convince the man that she did not know
anything. Now she wondered if she had given anything away with her body
language.
"We'll drive there," Michael said. He helped Janeane up from the couch and
escorted her out of the building, one arm around her shoulders.
"Oh Jesus," Janeane said. "God, Michael, what are we going to do?"
"Invoke the deities, it appears," said Uncle Marty's voice from the dark outside of the
stairwell. Janeane turned.
"How can you joke when someone has been shot?" She said. She was furious.
"What is this about? How could you involve us in this–this–." She sputtered to a
stop, and sighed.
"There are a lot of answers to that question, honey," Marty said, drawing her into the
darkness with him and hugging her. Michael followed. "We don't have time to
answer them. Hal went ahead to the hospital to brief Dvorjak on the story before the
police get to him."
"That's another thing," Janeane said, "Why are we lying to the police. I mean, you've
got this biological weapon or something, right? Why aren't we doing the decent
thing and letting them know about it."
"We are doing the decent thing," Marty said, exchanging glances with Michael.
"They're not prepared for knowing about it. We need to get it to the right people."
"And who is that?"
"Well, that's complicated. I thought it might be the CIA," he said. "But they knew
about Elizabeth and I'm not sure that they aren't the ones who shot her."
"The CIA?" Janeane said. "Why would they shoot someone? They...they...ah fuck."
"Janeane!"
"Yeah, I know. I said the ‘f' word. Get over it."
"I just never heard you use it before."
"I guess the CIA is perfectly capable of shooting an American citizen," she said, "if
you believe all the stuff they were supposed to have during the cold war."
"And after," Marty said. "There was the little matter of the Iran-Contra affair or
don't you remember that?"
"Uh, hello? I was in grade school. But I get your point."
"Good."
"We're wasting time," Michael said quietly.
"Good point," Marty said. He ushered them back to the van, where Jean-Paul was
waiting behind the wheel. "Take them to St. Xxxxx's."
"Aren't you coming?" Janeane wailed.
"No. I have other business here to attend to," Marty said.
Janeane shivered and Marty hugged her again.
"It'll be okay," he said. "It's almost over."
"That's what I'm afraid of," she said, but he had already let go of her and was gone.
Jean-Paul turned to Michael.
"The formula?"
"Still with the Dvorjak as far as I know."
"Fine," he started the engine. "Then the hospital next."
"Can I use your cell phone?" Janeane asked Michael.
"Who are you going to call?"
"I just thought of someone else who might be able to get in touch with my Dad," she
said.
"Okay." He handed her his cell phone.
Back in Olympia, Deke was working on his second milkshake. He loved milkshakes
like this, he thought. They were perfect–extra thick, so thick you had to suck real
hard at the straw for the first third to get the ice cream up. He thought about ordering
a third, but it might make him sick. The pies he had ordered for Rex and Josiah sat
untouched. They'd been gone a long time, about an hour or more, he thought. He
took another sip of his milkshake. They should make straws out of something
stronger than plastic, he thought. That way he could suck harder and get a bigger
swallow.
The waitress passed by his table for the third time, giving him a significant look.
She had already asked if he wanted a doggie bag for the pie. He had already said no,
and that his friends were coming back. So what else was there to say? If Rex was
gone much longer he had have to order something else, he thought. The restaurant
was full and there were people waiting at the door.
His phone rang, and he fished it out of his pocket.
"Yup."
"Deke, is that you?"
"Hey–is this Janeane?"
"Yeah. Deke, are you with Dad?"
"Well, kind of. We're here in Olympia."
"Can I talk to him?"
"Well, he's not right here at this minute, but he should be back any time. I can have
him call you."
"Actually, you can't really. I'm up in Bellingham and I'm at the hospital. Elizabeth
Dvorjak's been shot."
There was a pause while Deke coughed up the milkshake that had gone down the
wrong pipe.
"I did not do it," he said.
"I know you did not," Janeane said. "I was there when it happened."
"When did it happen?"
"About half an hour ago."
"Oh good."
"Good?"
"I mean, that she had some friends up there with her." He paused. "Hey, Janeane,
what are you doing up there with her anyway?"
"It's a long story," she sighed.
"You're not mixed up in this business stuff are you?"
"Deke, what do you know about that?"
"Not much. Just that we're all gonna be rich by tomorrow."
"Deke, is Dad there or not?"
"Well, yeah. Well, no. He's kind of –."
"Where is he?"
"He went outside for awhile. He went for a walk with someone."
"Was that someone named Josiah?"
"Hey, how did you know that?"
"Deke, I've got to get a message to him and you've got to help me."
"Well, he told me to stay here."
"I know he did. But that was before he knew something that might change things.
Can you find him?"
"Sure. I mean, he can't be far."
"Good. Tell him I got out of the situation, okay?"
"You got out of the situation?"
"Yup. Tell him I got out of the situation and I need to talk to him. I'll call back in
awhile."
"Okay, I'll tell him."
"Deke?"
"Yeah?"
"Can you go try to find him now please?"
That did not sound like Janeane. Usually she was a pushover. This sounded like a
stronger version of Janeane. Someone kind of bitchy.
"Yeah, I'll try." He sighed and hung up. He had n't really wanted to finish his
milkshake anyway. He got up and went to find Rex, but was stopped by the
manager.
"Someone needs to pay for dinner," the manager said.
"Someone will," said Deke. "I just need to go find my friend."
"You don't leave here until somebody pays that check," the manager said.
"No, see...I will, but I'm not done yet. I need to find Rex."
"I understand that, but I don't have any way of knowing you'll be back. So I need
something for collateral."
"What?"
"Like, your wallet or your credit card or something."
"How about my coat?"
"How about your wallet?"
Deke handed it over, feeling ridiculous.
"I really will be back," he said.
"I know you will now," the manager said.
Deke left and went out into the cool Olympia night. He looked up and down the
street for Rex and Josiah. He walked down to Starbucks and jumped as a horn went
off in an SUV nearby. There were two men in it.
Deke walked to the SUV, and knocked on the driver's side door. Josiah opened it.
"I thought I told you to stay in the restaurant," Rex said. He looked miserable. The
hold up must not have worked, but he still had the gun.
"Well, I was going to stay, but I got a phone call. From Janeane."
Both men looked suddenly alert.
"She said she got out of the situation and she'll call back in an hour," he said. "And
somebody needs to go pay the check at the restaurant."
"I'll go," Josiah said.
"Oh no you don't, you son of a bitch," Rex said. "We'll all go. And then we'll all
come back here and conclude our business."
Josiah shrugged. "Fine," he said. "But you can't blame me for wanting some
insurance."

Dvorjak sat in the waiting room outside surgery, waiting for any word from
Elizabeth's doctor. The room was long and narrow, like a train car. The only other
person in the room was an elderly woman at the far end, wrapped in a blanket and
looking out the window. She was so well bundled up he couldn't even see her face,
but he did not really want human contact. Whether she was waiting for someone
with traumatic injury or waiting for a visitor was unclear, but everything about her
body language said that she did not want to chat. Fine with him. He made a cup of
tea at the hospitality station at the end of the room, because holding a hot drink was
what you were supposed to do in this situation. He thought of Elizabeth, of
everything he had learned about her that day. He had always known she was a
strong person, but he had never known how strong. She had always been someone
he had admired for saving lives, even while she was saving her own. And all during
today, she had been about the business of saving hundreds of thousands of innocent
lives. Or at least they'd thought she was. He could kill Marty for sending them on
this wild goose chase. If Elizabeth was permanently wounded, he would.
Something about Marty's whole story did not make sense. Why would he work on
research and development of a substance that had caused him only pain? And once
he had achieved the goal of making such a powerful toxin weaponable, why had he
set so many gears in motion. It reminded Dvorjak of something that had happened
that summer before they'd gone to college, about two days before that time in the
woods.
He had been in Marty's room, waiting for Marty to return from the library. Marty's
mom had let him in, and Marty was already twenty minutes late getting back.
Dvorjak was bored. He knew this room as well as he knew his own, but unlike his
own, Marty had very little that was interesting to read. There was the obligatory
model airplane that Marty had finished with his father, hanging from the ceiling by
the window. There was the straight pine desk with the simple single bookshelf on
which Marty had a dictionary and a thesaurus and a world atlas. There were the
comic books Dvorjak knew were under the bed, and the Playboys he knew were
under the mattress. And there was the box that Marty had always kept on his
dresser, filled with the odd things he found in the woods and on the street. Marty
had started the collection when they were twelve and he had found a wooden yo-yo
on a broken thread. Throughout the years, he had collected things and whenever the
box was full, he had transferred the contents to a larger box in the closet. Dvorjak
knew that it was a kind of diary Marty kept, something he did not like to show them
much. Sometimes he would show Dvorjak a single object, but he never let him look
in the box. And that afternoon, Dvorjak found himself more curious than usual,
driven by boredom and irritation to go look at what was in the box.
He had opened the top of the box and looked over Marty's current collection. There
was a teddy bear necklace, and a long bootlace. There were bottle caps and pens and
a matchbook from the bank. And there was a button. A small white button,
completely ordinary, with a little bit of mint green thread clinging to it. It was pretty
ordinary for the kind of stuff Marty collected, and when Marty had caught him
looking at that stuff and lit into him, Dvorjak had shrugged it off as a bad mood. But
now, in the hospital the adult Dvorjak startled. He hadn't thought of that afternoon
since it had happened. The events of the following Saturday had overshadowed it
and he would worked to forget all of it until it faded away in black and white and
became abstracted by words. But now he made himself remember in full color. The
dark green of the foliage in the woods, the mustard and brown plaid of Deke's shirt.
The ghostly paleness of Deke's face when he would found the child, and that arm,
that small arm, encased in a pastel mint green sweater.
"Oh my God," he whispered. The woman at the far end of the room pretended not to
hear him...or maybe she hadn't heard him. In the back of his mind, he'd suspected
Marty of knowing something about the disappearance of Lacey Tippins, but he'd
always shied away from the memory. Now he knew. The Marty he'd always known
had liked to experiment, had loved science. And the Marty he now knew was
capable of murdering a friend just to test a theory. A sweat broke out on his
forehead. He lowered his face to his hands. When he looked up, Janeane was
approaching, looking concerned.
"Hey, Dvorjak. Are you okay?" She whispered, sitting next to him. He nodded.
"You look–sick. Do you want me to get a nurse or something?"
He shook his head.
"No." He was surprised that his voice could sound so firm.
"Tea?"
He waved his hand toward his untouched cup sitting on the window sill.
"Have they said anything about Elizabeth? I mean, Mrs. Dvorjak?"
He smiled faintly.
"You can call her Elizabeth," he said. "No, they haven't told me anything. They just
took her straight into surgery."
"Um, Michael–my uncle's bodyguard–he's with me. Jean-Paul, too. I guess it turns
out he's with the Canadian government or something. Would it disturb you if they
came up here? Jean-Paul said they need to talk to you, and I know they wouldn't
disturb you, it's just that there's this, you know, toxin..."
Dvorjak sighed.
"Time and tide wait for no man."
"Shakespeare?"
"Chaucer."
"So...that means they can come in?"
"Yes." He stood up and crossed to the window as she went to go get them. It was
dark outside, except for the lights of the parking lot. In the window's reflection, he
watched as Janeane returned with the two men. He turned toward them.
"I'm Jean-Paul Claudot." They shook hands. "And you've met Michael and you
already know Janeane."
"Yes."
"Sorry to disturb you at a time like this, but the formula for the mycotoxin...we
haven't figured out who has access to it, so I thought we should compare notes."
"Mr. Pfannenstiel should be here for this," Michael said.
"Mr. Pfannenstiel can't be trusted," Dvorjak said. "I've known him since second
grade."
"Well, he said that the formula he gave to Dad was fake, and he also said the formula
that he gave to me was fake," Janeane said. "That means that Elizabeth is the one
who had the real copy of the formula."
"Hal said that the formula we have is fake, too," Dvorjak said. "Which means that
either the formula was never sent out and they're all three fake, or that at least one of
them is real."
"They could all three be real," Janeane said.
"Well, no need to get excited, but that's a possibility. Now, Elizabeth has one of the
copies...I think it's somewhere on her body, because she wouldn't have kept it in her
purse. My guess is it's in her pocket."
"My dad has a copy," Janeane said. "But he was going to sell it to some group called
the Brothers of Levi. And I left a copy in the Vancouver Public Library. I don't
know who picked it up."
"I did," the older woman at the end of the room said. She shed her blanket and
wrappings, and Janeane gasped. It was the older woman, Mary, from the hotel.
"I'm Oliver," she said. "Your wife's contact with the CIA."
"But–." Janeane said. She and Michael exchanged glances.
"I've been assigned to watch the Brothers of Levi for several months now. We
suspected them of preparing for a terrorist activity. When they discovered the
existence of the mycotoxin, I was sent to Canada to pose as a mercenary who would
work for them. Abe hired me on the team to kidnap you, Janeane, because when the
Brotherhood discovered you were coming up here, they put two and two together
and figured out that Marty would use you as a mule to try to sell the plans to the
AOIT."
"The AOIT?"
"The Alliance of Organized International Terrorists. [note: This is author poppycock.
Need to come up with something different here]. He's had contact with them through
Brooks for awhile, but he's also felt us breathing down his neck, and he needed to do
something about Elizabeth, who knew about the testing of the previous mycotoxin on
US soldiers in the Gulf War."
"But that's how he discovered it, too," Dvorjak protested. "He was in just as much
danger from having information about that as Elizabeth was."
"No, it only seemed that way. The program to test the mycotoxin on a US military
unit was his brainchild. He was assigned to the hospital as a pharmacology assistant,
but he was military intelligence, and there to observe and evaluate the effects of the
mycotoxin, as well as evaluate the military's response to it."
"Wow," Janeane said.
"I'm not sure I follow you," Dvorjak said. "Are you saying that all three versions of
the formula are fake?"
"That's what I'm saying," Mary said. "Pfannenstiel knew we were closing in on him
and he decided to keep all of us very busy while he made contact with the Alliance to
sell the formula."
"So then...he's not giving the formula to any of us?"
"Looks that way," said Jean-Paul. "Of course, we'll have to verify this..."
"Of course," said Mary.
"But it looks as if he has pulled a fast one."
"But–Uncle Marty–?" Janeane shook her head. "I mean, he's a good person. He
wouldn't put so many people's lives at risk just for profit."
"No, not for profit," Dvorjak said. "But for power. Just for the power of knowing he
could." And he had them all sit down so he could tell them what he knew about
Marty and the murder of the Tippins kid. As he was finishing the recount, a surgeon
approached from the hallway.
"Are you Professor Dvorjak?"
"Yes," John said.
"Well, we got the bullet. It passed through the small intestine but managed to miss
her other internal organs. We'll have to do some reconstructive surgery on the
intestine, but the prognosis is good."
"So, she's going to live?" Janeane said.
"Well, we never give anyone 100 percent, but leaving legal considerations aside, I'd
say she has as good a chance of a full recovery as anybody who has ever lain on that
table."
In the small clamor that followed that announcement, Dvorjak found a second to
whisper a thank you to the Universe that Elizabeth was going to be all right. Tears
came to his eyes as he shook the doctor's hand and accepted the good wishes of the
people around him.
"Hey, did I miss something good?" Hal said from the door. He had a pizza in one
hand and a six-pack of cola in the other.
"Elizabeth," Dvorjak said. "It looks like she's going to be okay."
"That's great!" Hal put the pizza down in the lobby. "So why aren't all these other
people looking a lot happier."
Quickly, Jean-Paul recapped what they had discussed before he came in.
"So the bad guy gets away and the–what are we calling it–the mycotoxin is out there
somewhere in the world to be set loose among some population of innocents?" Hal
recapped for them as he sipped his coke. He sat on the couch with his legs on the
coffee table. "Gosh, that sounds tragic."
"What do you know, Hal?" Dvorjak asked suspiciously.
"What do you mean, John?"
"You've got that look." Hal's eyes twinkled. Dvorjak knew that look. Hal had a
secret, a good one.
"Well, I don't know, John. What would you all say if I told you that I had the
Bellingham Police arrest Marty a short while ago and he's safely in custody now?"
"What!" Janeane screeched. "For what charge?"
"Attempted murder."
"What–how–what?" She sputtered.
"Sit down Janeane," Michael ordered. She sat. Michael sat next to her. Hal took a
couch across from them. Everyone else settled around them.
"Janeane. John." Hal said. He was all business now. "Initial ballistics suggests that
the bullet that Elizabeth was shot with came from behind her instead of in front of
her."
"Which means..." Dvorjak gestured with his hands.
"Which means that Uncle Marty must have shot her! But–what about the guy in
black at the end of the hall."
"Janeane," Michael said softly, "the only person who saw him was Mr. Pfannenstiel."
"Oh. Oh my God."
"But how do we know it was Uncle Marty and not..." She thought back. She and
Michael and Elizabeth had come out together, with Marty, Hal and John behind
them. Even she had to admit that of those three, Marty was the most likely person to
have shot her.
"But why...?" she wailed. "She was doing him a favor! Why would he shoot her?"
"I can guess at that," Dvorjak said grimly. "I don't know everything that goes on in
Marty's mind of course, but he didn't know that Elizabeth had told two other people
the story of what happened during the Gulf War. It's possible that he just wanted to
erase anyone who had knowledge of the T2 mycotoxin attack, that he wanted to kill
her just as their coworkers were killed."
Janeane shook her head.
"Are you all right, Janeane?" Michael asked.
"Yeah, I guess. It's not every day you find out that your Uncle's maybe a murderer
and your Dad is doing business with some backwoods group that wants to kill off
anyone who isn't white." She shrugged. "Is this what growing up is?"
"If so, then today is the day I grow up too," said Dvorjak.
"XxxxxxMe too," said Hal, "Although I had some suspicions about this from way
back on page 2. But Virginia has to write them out so that I can tell you about
them."
They all had a hearty laugh over that.
"The CIA will have some interest in questioning Mr. Pfannenstiel in regards to the
formula he's developed," Mary said quietly to Hal.
"Oh, I thought so," he said. "You them?"
"I work for them," she produced her i.d.
"Yeah, okay. I'll take you over there now if everyone else is okay here." They all
nodded.
"I would also like to go, on behalf of the Canadian government," Jean-Paul said.
"You don't have any jurisdiction here," Mary said.
"Mr. Pfannenstiel is a resident of Canada and his pharmaceutical company is
headquartered in Vancouver. It is likely that he did research and development there,
so we do have a vested interest."
"Sounds about right to me," said Hal. "I never did much like all that fighting over
territory anyway. We can all go and get it sorted out later." He left with those two
in tow.
"Keep the pizza," he told John on his way out.
Michael, Janeane and Dvorjak sat quietly on the couches for a few minutes, eating
the pizza and drinking the cola.
"I've never cared for artichokes," Dvorjak said suddenly.
"What?" Janeane asked.
"Elizabeth loves them. She'll grow them in the garden and steam them and make a
special butter sauce. But I've never liked them. Something that pointy wasn't ever
meant to be eaten, I thought. We don't eat porcupine meat, after all."
"Well, yes."
"But on pizza–it's like a whole different vegetable. These artichoke hearts. I've
never had pizza with artichoke hearts on it before. I like them." He took another
contemplative bite and ate. Janeane sipped her Coke.
"She's going to be all right," she told him.
"Oh I have no doubt," Dvorjak said. "But it's been an amazing day. It's not every
day you find out your wife is a CIA agent."
Michael nodded.
"I should probably get a hotel room up here or something," Dvorjak said. "I want to
wait until she's out of surgery, of course. But I could stretch out here and go to sleep
right now if somebody'd flip the lights off."
"I think the room's built for that," Janeane said, taking in the couches, the
microwave, the folded blankets in a cabinet by the tv. "Let's go down to the lobby,"
she said to Michael, who nodded. They left, flipping the light switch off, leaving
Dvorjak to tuck his shoes underneath the couch and lie down.
In the elevator Janeane looked at her reflection in the fluorescent lighting, noting
how drawn and pale she looked. Even in this lighting, however, Michael looked
sexy. His black t-shirt was tucked into his pants. His curly brown hair brushed his
jaw. Only the stubble of beard where this morning he was smooth gave any
indication that it had been a long day. His brown eyes regarded hers in the elevator
doors. Blushing, she looked down and checked her Mickey Mouse watch. 11:10.
"What are you going to do now?" Michael asked.
"I don't know," she said. "I thought I might spend the night in the hospital lobby,
and get a bus down to Seattle in the morning."
"We could rent a car," he said.
"Michael."
"Or take the train if you'd rather."
"Michael. You're not responsible for me."
"Perhaps."
They stepped out of the elevator into the hospital lobby. XxxxxxAt this hour it was
dark, except for a sign pointing visitors to the emergency room and the custodian
who was emptying the trash. They took a seat in two couches on opposite sides of a
lamp.
"You're not," Janeane insisted. "My Uncle probably doesn't even need you anymore.
Not as much as he's going to need a good lawyer, anyway."
Michael shrugged.
"Maybe not," he said. "But I will still see you home."
"Why?" Janeane asked. "You don't owe me anything–or if you think you do, you
are mistaken. And I don't think I need the babysitting anymore. I might have this
morning, but I feel like I've aged five years since then. Surely I can get myself back
to my dorm on a public bus without a lot of drama."
"It's not that," Michael said, taking her hand.
"Then what? What is it?" Janeane demanded, sparks flying from her eyes.
"This," he said, coming to sit beside her. "And this," he said, drawing his hand along
her jaw. "And this," he said, bringing her face to his and leaning toward her.
The kiss was tender, mixed parts sympathy and attraction, but as she moved her lips
under his, it grew harder until the attraction was unmistakeable and the sympathy
was almost gone. Almost. Still there, she saw, in his concerned look for her. Still
there in the protective way he held her hand. Still there in the desire to go with her
to Seattle and make sure she got there safely.
"Thank you," she whispered. "That was a wonderful kiss." She squeezed his hand.
"But...?" He said.
"But I can get to Seattle on my own," she said. "And the last thing I need right now
is a distraction from all the catching up I'm going to have to do when I get there. I do
need you to do something for me, though."
"What is that?" He asked, bringing her fingers to his lips and nibbling on them. She
shivered, and withdrew her hand.
"I need you to pack up my stuff from the hotel room and send it to me in Seattle,"
she said. "And I need someone to go to the library and see if they have my book
bag. I mean, there's nothing really irreplaceable in there, but it would be nice not to
have to buy all those text books again."
"Very well," he said. "I will do this for you."
"Thank you."
"And I would like to ask a favor of you as well."
"Yes?"
"I would like to ask you for another kiss," he said. And this time, the kiss was firm,
a kiss between equals, a kiss of respect and attraction and an awareness that a kiss
was all they would get.
Janeane enjoyed it very much.

Two weeks later, Dvorjak sat on the milking stool, hands on the cow's teats, forehead
against her warm side. Elizabeth would be coming home later today. They'd had to
remove a small portion of her small intestine, but all in all, the bullet had done
surprisingly little damage compared to its potential. Marty had been booked with
murder, conspiracy to commit terrorism xxxxx, blah blah blah, and if the US
Government ever got done holding him under the Patriot Act, then the local courts
would get their turn, and if he ever got out of that mess, the Canadian government
would get a chance at him too. He wouldn't ever see the outside of a prison cell
again, Dvorjak thought, and if that wasn't quite satisfactory enough for the horror he
had committed against the Tippins family, at least it made it impossible for him to
hurt anyone else the way he hurt the people who had surrounded him lately.
Dvorjak milked the cow for a few minutes, contemplating the milk as it squirted into
the pail. Most milking was done by machine these days, but when he'd bought this
small farm, he'd intended that it be run as an old fashioned place, with a little
everything and not too much of anything. If peace was to be found, it would be here,
with Elizabeth, after everything settled down.
He marvelled at the changes that had been wrought. Hal and he were still buddies,
but he had a wary respect for Hal's intellect that he'd never had before. Rex was in
jail for conspiracy xxxxxxxxxxxxx, but Deke was still free by virtue of being
ignorant of Rex's plans and Josiah's identity. This was good for Linda, Deke's wife,
Dvorjak guessed, but you'd never know it from the woman's dour demeanor as she
poured coffee down at the Kitschy Cottage. The gossip was just beginning to die
down. Not that anybody was really sure what had happened. Hal had told the
newspaper and his office that the stunt he'd pulled had been a terrorism alert drill,
and he was backed by the feds. All in all, everything was okay, even for Janeane,
who was coming with Elizabeth later this afternoon to spend the weekend. Poor girl.
With her father in prison, she'd have to make a few decisions about what to do with
his place, and it might not be an easy road to hoe. If anyone could make it though,
Dvorjak thought, it would be Janeane. In the two weeks since they'd had their
adventure, she had proven tougher than anyone ever would have guessed. She'd
provided a deposition to the prosecution against both her father and her uncle, and
she'd decided to learn to shoot and started an aikido class. She hadn't said anything
to Dvorjak about it, but he'd guess she was experimenting with the idea of going into
law enforcement. As far as he knew, she hadn't seen Michael since he'd left her in
the hospital in Bellingham, but Michael had called him a few days ago. Dvorjak
would have a surprise guest this weekend to keep Janeane company.
Dvorjak sat up and patted the cow gratefully. There was something to the healing
powers of nature, he thought. He may never go back to teaching, but he didn't know
how he'd live without this farm. Yup, life was pretty good out here. Life was pretty
good.
The End.