Authors: John Farris
"Be right with you."
Eden reached for a washcloth, ran cold water in the tub, bathed her face and cooled her throbbing eyes, then balled the cloth and hurled it wrathfully.
"Geoff," she moaned. "How
he? I owe him. Oh, God, do I ever owe that bastard, and he
get what's coming to him."
"Maybe you shouldn't judge him too harshly."
"Will you shut up?"
"Just trying to be the voice of reason here. I know how upset you are."
"Shut up now. I mean it. I don't want to talk anymore. I have to think. It's so horrible. Yesterday. I just want to go back to yesterday, wake up in my bed, iron my graduation gown again, go over my speech. I want my diploma, damn it, I earned it! If I have such great powers, then why don't I have the power to do
"There are some physical laws we can't transcend. You need to brush your hair."
Eden brushed without looking at herself in the mirror. Unable to endure herself any longer. Or her doppelganger.
"Leave me alone now."
"Here's an idea. I could put on your clothes and join the party, give you a chance to rest and collect your thoughts."
"Like hell you will," Eden said, yanking the brush bristles through her unruly hair.
s soon as the first helicopter flew over and landed in front of Valleyheart's Chevron station, Geoff decided that he should forget about whatever Eden's doppelganger had in mind and get moving. She had told him where to find Eden. That was all he needed from her, or it. He was still in a state of high confusionâweirded-out probably better described his emotional levelâwhenever he thought about the dpg. It was useful to think about nothing else except the urgency of getting to Moby Bay. The state cops had made him, and the roads were tied up. Reacquiring his car wasn't an option. But there was a river below, swift and bright in the sun. He had seen canoeists, kayakers, and rafters on the river. And the Burnt Oak, he was sure, ran to the sea on its northerly course down from the mountains. With luck, the mouth of the river would be near Moby Bay.
No way down but the hard way. It wasn't a sheer drop, but the angle of descent was steep. Mossy ledges and ravines crisscrossed with deadfalls, sparse sunlight beneath the tall trees. There was no clear path to follow.
Getting down to the river was one thing. Then he would need a canoe.
he Ford Expedition Tom Sherard had rented in San Francisco came equipped with a telephone. They were a half hour out of Innisfall after an emergency visit to a veterinarian's when the phone rang. Sherard glanced at Bertie Nkambe, who seemed as startled as he was. Warhol, the cleaned-up Persian cat, was wrapped in a soft baby blanket on her lap, dozing after a hefty shot of antibiotic.
"Who knows where we are?" Sherard said.
"Nobody. Oh, wait. I did order a large thin-crust with anchovies and three kinds of cheese from the Flying Pizza delivery service. 'Pies from the Sky'? It's big country up here. Oh, smile, damn you."
Sherard smiled. "I don't like anchovies."
"They're for Warhol. Maybe you should answer the stupid phone, Tom."
"I know I'll bloody well regret this," he grumbled, putting the caller on speakerphone.
"Am I talking to Jungle Jim, the man with the gold lion's-head cane?" Danny Cheng. Sherard shook his head in amazement and annoyance.
Bertie said delightedly, "Is this the man with the bad gas leak?" Cheng's voice was raw and strained, as if he'd eaten a lot of smoke.
"The leaks have been stopped for now. We won't go into names, places, or past regrets on this broadcast. I'm all business today. You're really not too tall for me, you know. I can deal with six feet of long legs, bold haughty buttocks, breasts that blush like ripened pears in their warm dish of cinnamon briilee."
"I'm six-one in flats. Is your father okay?"
After a coughing fit Cheng said, "And sends his best."
"How did you find us?" Sherard asked.
"Please. I'm the Infomaniac. Being burned out of my house hasn't cramped my style. I thought you might have had a change of heart and acted on the nudge I gave you. Then you'd need wheels to get around."
"I wish I had better news for you," Bertie said. "But all I have is a cat."
"A survivor everyone else overlooked. Boy kitty. Name's Warhol, according to the tag on his collar. There's a definite resemblance. Anyway, I get along well with cats. This one belonged to someone we talked about last night. American Indian name. That's about all I've been able to get so far. Warhol's been through hell, and right now he just wants to sleep. Later I may have information you can use. Where are you?"
Cheng cleared his throat and coughed deeply. "Safe place. The country hacienda of a great American. There are a few left who can't be bought or intimidated. You might remember meeting him last night. He was very impressed with you, tall girl. He'd like to continue the conversation you were having about another valuable public servant whose luck has been running ugly. I'm talking about rearry rotten ruck, like there's a fix in by someone near and dear to the public servant under discussion."
Sherard said, "Can't do it. There's too much risk. We've reason to believe your host is bugged but doesn't have a clue."
After a few seconds Cheng said cautiously, "Some leading experts from a well-known private firm can negative that."
Sherard glanced at Bertie, who nodded.
"Put it this way. Tall Girl thinks a trusted and loyal aide of our friend may have had outpatient surgery recently, perhaps to remove a suspicious mole behind his left ear. Check his medical history. If there was a mole or even an ordinary wen and it was taken, something else quite unobtrusive might have replaced it. This could be confirmed at a good private clinic, say in Switzerland or Buenos Aires."
"Tall Girl?" Danny Cheng said, requesting an opinion.
"He seemed overworked to me, poor guy. He could use a vacation while having that checkup. I'd see that he was on a plane tonight."
"So those are
travel plans. What about yours? Not hanging around the hot zone, are you?"
"Waiting on a pizza," Sherard said. "And you're fading out."
"I got messed with pretty good last night. Somebody's going to suffer." He coughed hard again. "Need to go hawk up some more black stuff and catch a nap. We'll talk later. Like the melancholy hooker, I'm just too blue to blow right now."
eoff McTyer reached the river bottom after twenty minutes of laborious descent, his toes bruised from being jammed to the front of his inappropriate running shoes while he braked his way downhill. The river was running briskly and loud beyond the thinning trees. He badly wanted water but even this far from civilization giardia was a hazard, no matter how pure the streams looked. He licked his dry swollen lips, tasted blood where the underlip had cracked open again, and stood within a dozen feet of the riverbank for a minute or so, catching his breath, getting used to the light. He had been traveling in deep shade most of the way down. Here the sunlight was stronger but subdued, as if it were filtered through greenhouse glass.
He heard voices, then a canoe suddenly went past him. If either of the occupants had looked up they would have seen him, but they were both busy navigating a shoal close to the bank. Laughing. Then the bottom of the battered aluminum canoe scraped rocks fifty feet downriver and slowed, listing slightly, swinging around sideways in a secondary current away from the main channel. The college kids, a girl and a boy, jumped out and dragged their canoe to shore. They wore flotation vests over long-sleeved athletic warmups and hiking shorts with low-topped boots. They were both wet; soaked, in her case. But having a great time. Watching them, Geoff felt as if he were looking back from the end of his life at the happiness he had known with Eden in similar circumstances. The girl grabbed a rucksack out of the canoe and said she was going to change. The look she gave the guy was an invitation to follow her, back into the trees where they wouldn't be disturbed.
Geoff figured they were giving him at least fifteen minutes, maybe longer, to steal their canoe. Depending on whether they were going to have stand-up sex or just fool around while getting into dry clothes. Then it might take them the rest of the afternoon to walk out of the wilderness and report the theft. If there was anything else in the canoeâfood, bedrollsâhe'd leave it for them.
Ten minutes later he was moving swiftly downstream toward the Valleyheart bridge. There were a couple of canoes and several kayaks beached near the bridge, where the roadblock was still in effect. But now they were letting vehicles pass through town after the deputies looked them over. He saw a helicopter on a baseball field, and FBI field agents everywhere. A tactical force, but not one he was familiar with. Probably from Impact Sector, the deep-cover group his father had begun as a partial answer to MORG. Geoff had never seen anything like the helicopter. It was a stealth fighter with rotors, huge and menacing.
For a few bad moments he thought the cops were stopping traffic on the river as they broadened their search for him. Then he realized the boats belonged to a church group on an outing. They'd paused for sandwiches and ice cream. None of the law enforcement personnel were paying attention to them.
The river was running rough and a little tricky above the bridge. He had to concentrate to maneuver the old canoe through some good-sized boulders. He was wearing a pair of taped-together sunglasses he'd found on the floor of the canoe and a spare yellow flotation vest. And he was wet, hair flattened and clinging to his forehead. They'd have photos of him by now, up on the bridge, but his official FBI ID picture was almost three years out-of-date. The more recent photo from Innisfall PD had never flattered him much anyway.
He'd reached the bridge, keeping his head down as much as possible. There could be another helicopter in the air, covering a wide area with its cameras. He was wary of technological marvels, the one-in-a million chance he could be nailed by a computer programmed to compare his facial bone structure, scanned from a quick snapshot, with measurements on file in his medical history.
But it wasn't lightning-fast technology that did Geoff in; it was pure chance. That, and a pair of borrowed, loose-fitting sunglasses.
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA â¢ MAY 29 â¢ 3:47 P.M. PDT
he FBI building in Sacramento, the state capital, was ordinarily a somnolent place on a Sunday, particularly a Sunday before a national holiday, but Special Agent in Charge Dolph Hackett had canceled everyone's day or weekend off. Before the day was over the Director might be there, and Hackett, just thirty-two and on a fast track with the Review Board, was acting unusually tight-assed with those agents who had not been dispatched to Innisfall and the clerical staff as well. Not knowing precisely what was going down both annoyed Hackett and made him uneasy. He knew who Eden Waring was, but he didn't know why she was, unofficially, a fugitive, a subject of intense interest to Hyde himself. All of the Bureau's activities so far in tracking her down were, to Hackett's mind, extralegal. Or if they were not, he had yet to see the appropriate authorizations. They were acting at a level of wartime emergency. And what was so important about Geoff McTyer, Waring's boyfriend and a small-town police officer, that had earned him the designation "Runaway"?
Then there was this character from Impact Sector, this cross-dressing covert temporarily known as Phil Haman, sitting nearly mute in the interrogation room. Going on five and a half hours now. Drinking a lot of black coffee, making frequent trips to the bathroom, but refusing to scrub the disgusting makeup off his face, remove the wig and padded bra, put on a
clothes. What was with the goddamn Rona Harvester impersonation, Hackett wondered, the mannerisms and dead-on voice?
Hackett was tempted to see if he could pry some useful information out of Haman (to use his current handle). But assassins bothered him, as they did most of the straight-edge, ambitious young agents the Bureau still managed to recruit and keep. All of them knew about Impact Sector, but avoided talking about it. There was occasional, very quiet speculation about who might be in charge there. Wherever
was. Impact Sector, some of the agents believed, was allied with the unit of the Special Operations Group exclusively devoted to MORG surveillance. Everyone with the Bureau accepted, as an article of faith, that MORG was relentless in its efforts to choke off funding to the Bureau, eventually bulldoze the J. Edgar Hoover Building to rubble and push the entire pile into the tidal basin. Only the efforts of Allen Dunbar, until very recently the dual chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
the Senate Judiciary Committee, had so far kept the powers of the rival intelligence agencies somewhat in balance.
Hackett's father had been Executive Assistant Director over investigations in the last years of Hoover's reign. He had known almost all there was to know about the founder's personal peculiarities and official derelictions. But "Hardball" Hackett had never uttered a disparaging word about either his boss or the Bureau while raising two of his sons to join him at the FBI. Charles had defected to the Blackwelder organization early on, but Dolph had his father's code of loyalty. He respected Robert Hyde, and could tolerate the covert stuff because everybody did it; you adopted the enemy's tactics in order to survive. Still he didn't relish close contact with a stone killer like the cross-dressing Haman. And he'd been directed to leave Haman in isolation until further notice. A visit, possibly from the head of Impact Sectorâwhoever he wasâcould be in the works.