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Authors: Jane Haddam

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Out at St. Joseph's University, in the middle of a class called Roots of the Western Philosophical Tradition, Mary Mac-Allister had a sudden revelation. Actually, she had two, but she was only aware of the first one, the answer to her moods of the past several months, the light at the end of her particular tunnel. The class was being taught by a priest who tended to lecture in the same way he had once given homilies at Mass. He modulated his voice until it sounded as if it were coming from a synthesizer. He gestured with his arms, moving them in big arcs from the shoulders, so that some of the students in the first row had to flinch away to avoid being hit. Worst of all, he explained too much, and too often. Mary already knew St. Thomas's proofs for the existence of God, and why they didn't really prove anything. She could do the Argument from Design in her head, and recite the sophisticated spins that had been put on it by modern religious philosophers like Plantinga and Swinburne. She was doing a minor in theology, and sometimes—like now—she didn't know why, because what she really wanted to do with her life was what she was already doing with it. Bag ladies and winos didn't care about the Argument from Design, or the Argument from Morality, or even the Argument from Miracles. Most of them were too far gone to understand anything but brutality and kindness, and most of them weren't really human anymore, most of the time. “Respond not to the man but to Christ in the man,” Mary's favorite grade-school nun had told her, over and over again, as the very core of religion. It had taken her a while to figure it out, but finally she had. Mr. Morelli and Mrs. Carstairs and Mr. Hemmelwaite and Miss Janns were old and sick and crazy, but she was called to see beyond that. She was called to see inside each of them, where they really were still human, because Christ lived in them, Christ was part of them, as Christ was part of all people everywhere even if they had banished
Him from their hearts. It didn't matter that Mr. Morelli wouldn't be the way he was if he had only been able to stop drinking. It didn't matter that Miss Janns had never had a chance at anything, because she was born with the schizophrenia she had never been able to shake. Nothing mattered except that they were human, and they deserved to be treated as human, and if nobody else would do that, then she would have to.
You need two different documents, a voice in her head said, when you've got two different files.
She came to, startled, and realized that she had zoned out completely, she had no idea how long. Father was talking about the philosophy of the Scholastics and the importance of the Aristotelian synthesis to the medieval construction of reality. Some of the students around her were taking notes. Others were only doodling, the way you could often in this class, because Father repeated everything four or five times. Mary wondered what his parishioners had thought about it, all those years ago, when he had been assigned to a parish and expected to preach. She suspected that he hadn't lasted at that parish very long, much the way she expected Father Healy wouldn't last long at St. Anselm's.
You need two different documents when you've got two different files, the voice in her head said again, and then she looked up, past Father's shoulder, and saw the crucifix on the wall above the chalkboard. It was an odd moment. Like most other Catholics she knew, Mary had devotions she felt comfortable with and devotions she couldn't make meaningful at all. For her, Christ Crucified had always been an uncomfortable image. Even Christ Triumphant, in the Resurrection, had made her feel oddly out of place. Christ on the cross had sometimes made her cringe. She liked mangers, and Virgins, and the star floating over the cold desert night in Bethlehem far more than she would ever be able to like the Stations of the Cross.
“Aristotle,” Father was saying, “could never have been accepted as a source of Christian philosophy if St. Thomas hadn't found a way to disguise his religious skepticism, but once that skepticism had been disguised—”
Mary blinked, and the Crucifix on the wall seemed to waver. She felt a wave of dizziness roll over her, as if she were
about to faint, except that she didn't feel faint. She felt as if she were floating. The floor had dropped out from under her feet. The air had become tactile and electric. The light no longer seemed to be the light from the fluorescent lamps above her head, but another kind of light entirely, coming from nowhere, going to nowhere, purely white.
A second later it was over, except for the slight feeling of nausea that presented itself as a rush of acid to her throat. Mary swallowed as hard as she was able. Then she closed her notebook and put her pen in her pocket, deliberately and carefully. She was afraid that if she moved too quickly, she would find that she had forgotten how to walk.
“Miss McAllister?”
“Sorry, Father,” Mary said. “Don't feel well.”
This was not exactly true. She didn't feel unwell as much as she felt claustrophobic. She had to be out of this room, and after that she had to be out of this building, in the air, in the cold, anywhere where she couldn't be confined. She put her notebook into her backpack and stood up. Father had come down the row to her, a half-panicked frown on his face. She could hear him breathing.
“You don't look well,” he said. “Are you sure you'll be all right? Would you like to have somebody come with you?”
“I just want air,” Mary said, and then blushed a little, because that was rude, and she was never rude to priests. She got one of the straps on her backpack over one of her shoulders and headed out of the room, into the long corridor that went the entire length of this wing of the building. It was a beautiful building, picture-perfect college Gothic, made of marble and almost brand-new. It must have cost the earth, and it occurred to her that it was strange she'd never thought of it. At the end of the corridor there was a fire door. She went through it and out into the quad.
Out there, there was a statue of St. Francis, in habit, holding out his hands to the birds. St. Francis was one of the saints Sister Harriet Garrity had actually been able to like, although, of course, she had disapproved of his relationship with St. Clare. She liked St. Teresa of Avila, but disapproved of her relationship with John of the Cross. She positively hated The Little Flower, who had seemed to her to be the worst sort of male-identified woman. Mary rubbed her eyes and walked past
the statue, farther into the quad. There were statues everywhere. She had, she thought, liked Edith Lawton more than she had liked Sister Harriet Garrity. Edith might be annoying, but at least she didn't pretend to be a Catholic.
When she got to the statue of St. Clare with the stone bench wrapped around it, she sat down. She had, she thought, known this was coming. Somewhere at the back of her mind, it had always been with her, waiting for her to stop long enough to notice it was there. The problem was, now that she had noticed it, she wasn't too sure what to do with it, or even how to go about deciding what to do about it. Her head ached a little. Her hands were cold. St. Clare's veil was as long as a waterfall.
All right, Mary thought. This is it. I'm going to be a nun.
Execution in Pennsylvania was by lethal injection. Gregor Demarkian had known that all the time, but for some reason he had been blanking it out, especially when Bennis had been the one asking him. He didn't know why that should be so. Of all the possible forms of capital punishment, lethal injection was certainly the best—although the idea of calling one method of killing someone “the best possible” made his head ache. He could imagine other situations, and other people, with other answers: Homolka and Dreen, up in Canada, who only thought a killing was good if the victim screamed. Still, there really were worse methods. The gas chamber, which was a matter of being fully conscious while being asphyxiated in a booth with windows all around it, so that you could be seen by the largest possible audience. The electric chair, which was not only obviously painful—you
scream if your mouth wasn't muzzled shut—but which kept malfunctioning, doing only half the job, causing buckets of blood to gush out of the mouths and eyes of its victims, causing burns. With lethal injection, they put you to sleep first. The element of righteous retribution was removed. The apocalyptic undertones were banished, once and for all, to the minds of the lunatic fringe who came to stand at the gates on execution evenings, cheerleading for death.
And that, Gregor thought, as Henry Lord pulled the car through three sets of electrified gates into the “official visitors” parking lot, is what I don't like about lethal injection. It may be the most humane method we have, but it normalizes the whole process. It makes capital punishment appear as no more
serious a policy decision than farm price supports.
The electrified gates were guarded by uniformed officers with rifles—with machine guns, Gregor noticed. Being used to federal prisons rather than state ones, he was a little surprised. Federal prisons were often minimum security. Stockbrokers who had traded on a little inside information and bankers who had scammed a few federal loans weren't going to do much that was physical except notch their daily running time from thirty minutes to an hour. State prisons got the kind of prisoner whose idea of an interesting afternoon was to kill all five of the people in the convenience store they were robbing, and then to try to kill the cops who came to arrest him. Of course, federal prisons also got interstate kidnappers and Timothy McVeigh, but Gregor had no idea what they did about those people. McVeigh, if he remembered rightly, was on a federal death row. That one was probably not minimum security.
“What's the reverie about?” Henry Lord asked, pulling into the parking space one of the guards was indicating with a waving machine gun.
“Timothy McVeigh,” Gregor said. “I hope that idiot has his safety on.”
“I hope he's not an idiot. I never have liked this place. I used to have clients here, when I was younger, but I never have liked it.”
“I don't think you're supposed to like it,” Gregor pointed out.
“I know that. That's not what I mean. I've been to other prisons, though, and it doesn't give me the feeling this one does. I really hate being in this place. Maybe it's because of death row.”
Henry got the car settled in the space and turned off the engine. The guards suddenly surrounded the car, staying just far enough back to give the impression that they didn't really think they'd have to shoot anybody, but close enough in so that they could if they decided they wanted to.
“Maybe it's because they treat visitors here as if they were potential escapees,” Gregor said drily. He opened his car door and stepped out, unfolding a little from the car, because it was a compact and he was so tall.
Henry got out, too, unfolding less, because he was shorter.
A thin, small man in a neat brown suit came through the guards, holding out his hand.
“Judge Lord,” the small man said, shaking vigorously. “Mr. Demarkian. I'm very pleased to meet you. I've read mountains of print on you. You lead a very interesting life.”
“This is the warden, Ed Nagelman,” Henry Lord said. “You've got to introduce yourself, Ed. Gregor was with the Bureau. He doesn't know the first thing about wardens.”
“Actually,” Gregor said, “I was thinking about wardens. About the one at the federal facility that has Timothy McVeigh.”
“We're very happy not to have him here,” Ed Nagelman said. “We've got enough trouble with the SGN.”
“What's the SGN?”
“The Seamless Garment Network,” Gregor said. “That's very odd. Sister Harriet Garrity was a member of the Seamless Garment Network.”
Ed Nagelman looked momentarily blank. “Oh,” he said finally, “you mean that woman who died, the murder you're looking into. Well, I wouldn't be surprised. Most of the members of SGN seem to be nuns. You may have seen some of them out in front of the gate. They're already gearing up to protest this one.”
Ed Nagelman nodded at the guards, and then led the way through them and across the parking lot to the path that led around the front of the large building.
“Everybody has to come through the front,” he told Gregor, “even me. And anybody who comes in or goes out of the secure area has to have an armed escort.”
“Even on visitor's day?” Gregor had this vision of dozens of wives and small children, waiting for men with machine guns to follow them everywhere.
“Visitors of that kind aren't admitted into the secure area. We have a visitor's room where people can sit at booths and talk to each other through bulletproof glass. But for somebody like you, who will be meeting with a prisoner face-to-face, within the prison's secure compound itself, we've got armed escorts.”
Gregor cleared his throat. He did not repeat his line about hoping that the idiots had their safeties on. He just thought it.
They got to the front door, which oddly enough—at least
oddly to Gregor's mind—did not seem to have anything in the way of security on it. It just opened, like a door. Inside, in the lobby, there was plenty of security, including four more uniformed men armed with machine guns.
“It makes you wonder how anybody ever escapes from places like this,” Gregor said.
“If it makes a difference to you, nobody has ever escaped from this one,” Ed Nagelman said. “It's our job to make sure they don't. And it's in their best interests, although they think it isn't. I don't know of a single escape attempt from a maximum-security facility anywhere in the last ten years that has resulted in somebody successfully getting out and staying out alive. They die of cold. They die of exposure. They get shot dead on the main street of some godforsaken small town somewhere when a concerned citizen who watches too much television recognizes them and panics. Do you know how many people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania carry handguns?”
“I don't think I want to,” Gregor said.
Ed Nagelman led them to an inner door. One of the armed men came forward to open it up for them. They stepped into a small space with another door on the far side of it. Then the door they had come through closed and snapped locked behind them. Only then did a uniformed man from the other side of the far door open that one, so that they could go on through into yet another room full of men.
“The whole place is set up like this,” Ed Nagelman said. “They've got scientists who work out the possibilities and devise ways to protect us from them. I would expect that this system would be much the same in federal prisons.”
“Not so many guns,” Gregor said politely.
They went through another door, into another secure lock, and out the other side through yet another door. Gregor had the odd feeling that they were caught in a journey to the center of the earth, or—what was that movie, with Gregory Peck, or maybe with Cary Grant, where the man had amnesia and kept remembering himself going down to subbasements that didn't exist? Beyond this set of doors there was another room with another set of doors. Beyond that, there was yet another room and yet another set of doors. Gregor had not seen a single prisoner yet, as far as he knew. It was as if this place had
been so thoroughly occupied by an invading army, all its inhabitants had left.
After this next set of doors, they found themselves in a long corridor with rooms on either side. They were still not actually in a cellblock, but they at least seemed to be in a functional part of the building.
“These are conference rooms,” Ed Nagelman said. “They're here so that prisoners can talk to their lawyers—death-row prisoners, by the way, and only death-row prisoners. Contrary to the people who picket us at the gate, we do not indulge in summary executions here. Most prisoners stay on death row for over ten years, and, if anything, they have the best accommodations in the place. Their own individual cells, without roommates. Their own exercise yard, very uncrowded and very carefully policed. Their own communications facilities, including telephones and Internet access. I'd be a fool to think that prison rapes never happened here, but I can guarantee they don't happen to condemned prisoners. Here we go. A smallish room, but adequate for the purpose.”
It was, Gregor saw, thoroughly adequate for the purpose, sort of a cross between a police station's interrogation room and a law firm's conference room. There was a carpet, but no paneling. The table was made of wood but the chairs were made of metal. At least they weren't bolted to the floor.
“I've sent somebody out to tell Miss Hannaford you're here,” Ed Nagelman said. “As soon as she's ready, she'll be brought down.”
“Miss Hannaford?” Henry Lord said.
Ed Nagelman shrugged. “She objects to the use of her first name. I don't feel like arguing with her. Some of the guards are not so polite. She has quite a manner, though, our Anne Marie.”
“She always did,” Gregor said.
“Yes, I gathered that,” Ed Nagelman said “It's odd how they are, you know. Of course, most of the prisoners I know are men. The only women I deal with are the ones on death row. But it's surprising how many of them have an exaggerated sense of their own importance—of their own virtue, I'd guess you'd call it. In all the time I've been here, I've only met one man who hasn't been convinced that he's innocent as the day is long, and that was Father Murphy.”
“Father Murphy?” Gregor stopped in the middle of taking off his coat.
Ed Nagelman nodded. “Father Murphy. Brian Murphy. From Our Lady of the Fields. I was thinking about him when Henry told me you were going to come up here. Because the papers have been saying you're helping the police with a murder at St. Anselm's, and that was Father Corrigan's old stomping grounds. Not that Corrigan was ever here, of course. He was dead as a doornail before the lawsuits started.”
Gregor dropped his coat on the nearest chair. “But Father Murphy was here?” he said.
“Oh, sure,” Ed Nagelman said. “For three years. There are people who say he would never have ended up here if it hadn't been for Corrigan, but I don't believe that. It isn't 1964 anymore. Kids who get molested tell their parents, and their parents believe them, and there are laws that prevent anybody from keeping it all quiet. At the time the scandal broke, Murphy had a boy at Our Lady of the Fields, so they could prosecute him, and they did. Gave him ten years. He lasted three.”
“Do you mean he was paroled?” Gregor asked.
“Paroled and shuttled off to a monastery somewhere in Wisconsin, from what I remember. The archdiocese promised he wouldn't be permitted anywhere near children, and they kept their promise. If you want my opinion, from what I've heard about cloistered monasteries, I'd prefer jail. But I've got to give this to him. He knew he was guilty. He accepted that he was guilty. He was ashamed that he was guilty. I've often wondered if it had anything to do with his being a priest, and if Corrigan would have been the same way. But I doubt it. Corrigan had that look in his eye, you know what I mean? The look that says, as far as he was concerned, the world, the universe and everything came right down to him.”
“Well, Jesus,” Henry Lord said. “What was it in the end. Thirty kids?”
“Exactly sixty-two corroborated,” Ed Nagelman said. “We got that information as part of the package on Brian Murphy. And when I saw it, I hate to say it, but all I could think of was that we'd all gotten lucky. I mean, at least he didn't kill them. Most of the ones I see, the kids are dead. You know what I mean?”
“Yes,” Gregor said.
There was the sound of a door opening and shutting in the hall. Ed Nagelman went to the door of the conference room and looked out
“Here she comes,” he said. “Good luck with your conversation. Where you think you're going to get with it is beyond me.”
Here, as in all prisons, inmates were expected to wear the clothes the prison issued them, but Anne Marie Hannaford had found a way to make that uniform appear to suit her self perception. Gregor Demarkian watched her curiously as she came in. She was, he thought, his first extracurricular murderer. If she had not decided to murder several members of her own family, he would not have met her sister Bennis, and he might never have developed this retirement consulting business, which he still insisted to himself was not a business at all. Looking back, he remembered thinking that an “ordinary” murderer ought to be different than the serial killers he was used to tracking. Now he knew that she was not different at all. Like the most intelligent of the serial killers—the ones, like Ted Bundy, who were not schizophrenic or bipolar or otherwise mentally impaired—she lived in a world of her own making, where nothing really existed but herself. It was the first requirement of murder, that ability to blank the rest of the human race out of existence at will, and that was why Gregor had always thought it was hogwash, the idea that anybody could be a murderer. Anybody could kill in the heat of passion, or if they were afraid for their lives and panic—that was true. Most people could not do what Anne Marie Hannaford had done, or what was being done now at St. Stephen's and St. Anselm's.
Anne Marie was a daughter of the Main Line. She had gone to Agnes Irwin and Bryn Mawr. She had come out at the Philadelphia Assemblies. If she had been prettier, she would have been the kind of person he would have expected to find on the cover of
Town and Country.
But she hadn't been prettier. It was Bennis whose picture had appeared on the cover of
Town and Country
the year she was a debutante, and in
Vogue, too, that same year, dressed in riding clothes and carrying a whip. Bennis still had both of those pictures, framed, in her own bedroom.
Anne Marie, on the other hand, could spend the next fifty years of her life in a maximum security prison and never be anything but what she was: a Main Line society lady; a volunteer for all things charitable; a devotee of the arts. Her body under the shapeless prison shift was thin and hard and wired strong. Her hair was carefully cut and curled back away from her face. Sometime not too far in the past, it had been dyed, and dyed well.
Henry Lord and Ed Nagelman left the room. So did the two armed men who had brought Anne Marie in. Gregor supposed they had searched her thoroughly before they had ever allowed her to leave her cell, but he wasn't actively worried about it. He could imagine Anne Marie Hannaford doing a lot of things, but pulling a gun on him and trying to bull through an escape were not two of them.
He had stood, instinctively, as she walked in. Now he sat down as she did, stretching his legs out under the table a little ways. She sat with her legs crossed carefully at the ankles, the way girls were once taught to do at dancing classes, in the days when crossing legs at the knees was a signal that a girl was “fast.”
“Well,” he said, when it became clear she didn't intend to say anything until he did. “I'm here. It's been a long time since we've seen each other.”
“Since the trial,” Anne Marie said.
“That's right. Since the trial. You asked me to come, Miss Hannaford. I came. It's Bennis who wants to come.”
Anne Marie looked away. It was, Gregor thought, the first time she had blinked since she had come into the room. Then he realized that that couldn't be right. She must have blinked a dozen times. It only seemed as if her eyes were propped wide open, as if they were arc lights on an empty roadway.
She stood up and rubbed her arms, seeming annoyed. “I know Bennis wants to see me. I don't want to see Bennis. What would be the point of my seeing Bennis?”
“She's your sister.”
“Myra was my sister. Emma was my sister. What difference
does it make? I did see her once, you know, at a distance. At the funeral.”
“Our mother's funeral,” Anne Marie said. “They let me attend. Sent me out there with enough of an armed guard to secure Panama City. I could have talked to her then, I suppose. I didn't want to.”
“I think,” Gregor said, “that she feels that, under the circumstances, it would be a way to say good-bye, or to make amends—”
“Or to feel sorry for me, because that's what she's always felt for me. Sorry. I was a good person to feel sorry for. When we were young, she felt sorry for me because she was popular and I was not. When we were older, she felt sorry for me because she was pretty and I was not. When we were older still, she felt sorry for me because I was stuck taking care of our mother and she was making herself famous. Except, of course, that I didn't feel stuck. I would have done that forever, if my father hadn't been a son of a bitch. Did you know I could use words like that? Son of a bitch.”
“Everybody can use words like that,” Gregor said.
Anne Marie nodded. “I suppose so, yes. But I'm glad it's over, if you want to know the truth. I know there won't be a stay of execution this time. Our bloody-minded governor wouldn't allow it. It means I don't have to go on pretending anymore. Pretending I'm sorry. Because I'm not sorry. Did you know that?”
“Maybe if you tell Bennis that, she won't want to come.”
“She'll want to come.”
Anne Marie sat down again. “Tell her to come for the execution. They issue invitations. It has to be witnessed. Teddy is coming for the execution, did you know that? It's just like Teddy, wanting to see somebody dead.”
This, Gregor thought, was the stupidest situation he had ever been in in his life, and he had spent some time escorting vice presidents of the United States to official FBI functions. He had no idea why Anne Marie had wanted to see him, but she didn't have anything of interest to say, and so far she hadn't said anything he wanted to hear. He ought to get up and walk out on her. It would be better for Bennis if Bennis
didn't get a chance to talk to her. It would be better for him if he could get past this feeling that he had no right to make these kinds of decisions for anybody but himself.
“Want to leave?” Anne Marie asked him.
“Very much,” he told her.
“Why don't you?”
“Because your sister Bennis wants very much to talk to you before you die. And I am trying to make that happen for her.”
“Are you in love with her?”
“How convenient. But then, Bennis always had half a dozen men in love with her. She was that kind of woman. Does she see only you or does she still sleep around?”
“Your brother Christopher,” Gregor said carefully, “is coming up to be with Bennis during the day you are to be executed. He won't watch the execution, either. But he will come to keep Bennis company.”
“I think you ought to be very sure what your arrangement is, because she does sleep around. She always did. And she always had such interesting people to sleep around with. Writers. Artists. Rock stars. Did you know about the rock star?”
“I know that I don't intend to engage in a conversation about Bennis's sex life with you.”
“Well, that's typical, too, isn't it?” Anne Marie laughed. “When we were growing up, we were taught that bad girls do and good girls don't, but it was a lie, like all the rest of it was a lie. Some girls are good even when they do and some are bad even when they don't and you're born with that. It's all luck. Bennis got lucky, and I did not.”
“Do you really think that your decision to kill three people was a matter of luck?”
“I think you ought to tell Bennis, for me, that she's not wanted here. Christopher isn't wanted here. Even Teddy and Bobby aren't wanted here, and I have a lot less to hold against them. Tell Bennis I don't want her here to gloat.”
“Bennis doesn't want to gloat. You know she doesn't want to gloat.”
Anne Marie stood up. “Tell her from me that I'm glad I did it. I'm glad about Myra. I'm glad about Emma. I'm glad about our father. I'm only sorry I couldn't finish the job. If
they had ever let me out of here, I would have tried. Now call them back. If I go to the door, they'll panic.”
“Are you sure this is it? Once I leave, I won't come back. If you want to see her, tell me now.”
“I don't want to see her. And if I change my mind, they'll bend over backwards to make it happen. You know they will. They don't want to get charged with brutality or cruelty or any of those other things the protesters are always screaming at them. Are there going to be protesters at my execution?”
“Protesters and cheerleaders, from what I gather. The protesters are from something called the Seamless Garment Network.”
“Excellent. Nuns. When I was growing up on the Main Line, nobody would admit to being Catholic. Being Catholic was being Irish. It was being—low-rent. Are you going to get me out of here?”
Gregor stood up and went to the door. It had a window in it, and he knocked on that until the guard outside understood what he wanted. Then he stepped back, and the guard came in. Anne Marie stood up.
“It was pleasant to have spoken to you, Mr. Demarkian. Give Bennis my message. Give her all of it. I don't want to have to hear from her again.”
Out in the hall, Ed Nagelman came up behind the two guards who were coming to get Anne Marie. He stood back politely, because the guards' work would always come first. It was the most dangerous. Anne Marie, though, was not dangerous in that way, and she went out without a protest, her head held up and back as if she were entering a ballroom.
Ed hurried into the conference room. “That was lucky. I was afraid I'd have to interrupt your talk. There's a call for you at the security desk.”
“A call for me here? From whom?”
“A Mr. John Henry Newman Jackman, who identified himself as the deputy commissioner of police for the city of Philadelphia. I looked him up. There is such a person, and his caller ID matched the phone number we've got for him. He says it's serious. And urgent. He sounded”—Ed Nagelman spread his hand—“highly agitated.”
“All right,” Gregor said. “I wonder what could be urgent.”
“I did, too, but all he told me was to tell you that it had
happened again, and this time all bets were off, because it was Father Healy. I don't like to make guesses about things like this, but I assumed it had something to do with the murder you were looking into. Wasn't there a Father Healy involved in that murder you were looking into?”
Gregor didn't answer him. He was half running down the hall in the direction of the security desk, and he thought he was having a heart attack.
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