Reflex Cover Reflex

by Steven Gould
Published December of 2004 by Tor Books  ISBN 0-312-86421-3.

Copyright (c) 2004 by Steven Gould.

All rights reserved. No part of this text or artwork may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the Publisher. Exceptions are made for downloading this file to a computer for personal use.

Chapter One: "Davy was gone."

The first time was like this.

"You are the most stubborn man I've ever met."

The latest incarnation of this argument started in a little pastry shop on Sullivan Street, New York City.

His first response was light. "You probably shouldn’t have married me, then."

She glared.

"I can't help it. It's how I feel. At least I know how I feel. That's better than I used to be."

She watched him push crumbs across the tabletop, herding them into a neat little pile. The bus boy was leaning against the lime colored wall, watching them. They were the last customers in the place and it was almost eleven p.m. on the east coast.

"Let's get out of here," he said.

They threaded out between the tiny tables and into the chill air of the street. It was the first week of March. Out of sight, in a deep sheltered doorway smelling faintly of urine, he put his arms around her and jumped them, and the argument, a time zone to the west, to the small two-bedroom condo they owned near her clinic, in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Her ears popped and she swallowed reflexively, so used to it that she hardly noticed. She was intensely frustrated. How can you love someone and want to kick them in the butt at the same time? "But what about the way I feel? I'm thirty-one. I'd like to have kids while I'm still young enough to keep up with them!"

The corners of his mouth turned down. "Look at how my dad--I don't exactly have the right modeling to be a parent."

You'll never know until you try.

"And there’s the Aerie. It’s not exactly kid safe."

"We can live here. We can live elsewhere if necessary. It’s not as if we don’t have the resources."

"And when the kids starts kindergarten? ‘Did you take the bus today, little Millie?’ ‘No, my Daddy teleported me.’"

She glared at him but she couldn’t really find an argument against this one. Was she to ask him to stop jumping? Jump, but lie about it to their child? Let the child know but have them lie? She knew that one all too well. She’d been lying about Davy for ten years.

He looked at his watch. "I have a meeting with Brian in D.C. in ten minutes. He wants to sell me on another errand."

Oh, that's convenient! Then she recalled his mentioning it the day before and felt guilty for the thought.

"You want to wait here?" he asked.

"How long do you think you'll be?"

He shrugged. "Not too long, I should think."

She was still annoyed. "I've got clients at seven-thirty. I need my sleep. You better jump me to bed, first." Though I’d rather you jumped me in bed.


He paced while she changed into her night gown and brushed her teeth. He looked at books, opened them, shut them. When she was ready, he jumped her to the cliff dwelling--their hidden aerie in the rugged desert of far west Texas. It was cool here, but not as cold as New York City.

He turned on the bedside light and she heard the faint sound of the electrical generator kicking in, from its own enclosure at the far end of the ledge. The furniture, a rough knotty-pine Queen-sized bed, contrasted sharply with the more contemporary bedstead back in the Condo. The walls, ceiling, and floor were all rough stone, the face of this cliff, and only the outer rough mortared outer wall, made of like-colored stone, was man-made. Most of the walls, natural and otherwise, were hidden by rows of knotty pine bookshelves.

She sat on the edge of the bed and sighed. "We talked about it when we got married, you know."

He winced. "You said we could take some time, first."

"It’s been ten years!"

He looked at his watch again. "Look, I've got to go, or I'll be late. We can--"

She turned her back. "Oh, just go!"


She shook her head. "Go, dammit!" Then she thought better of it and turned back to him, but he'd taken her at her word.

Davy was gone.


Of course she couldn't sleep.

When did I become an appendage? There was a price to be paid, being married to the world’s only teleport. It was like being a Saudi wife, unable to travel anywhere unless accompanied by a male relative.

An appendage.

She’d accepted this, she realized, quite a long time ago, trading her own independence for the benefits but she was beginning to feel that something was atrophying. If not my legs, then my spiritual wings.

And even Saudi wives can have children.

She alternated between blaming him and blaming herself with brief stints of blaming Mr. Brian Cox of the National Security Agency. The real blame, she knew, if it was going to rest on anyone, belonged to Davy's father, who was an abusive alcoholic when Davy was growing up, but even he'd changed, going through treatment and now a decade of grumpy and uncomfortable sobriety.

Deciding on blame wasn't going to give her a child. But she wasn't willing to raise a child without a partner's help. Davy's help.

For the millionth time she wished she could jump, like Davy, so she could go after him, to finish this argument, or at least defuse it. She regretted their decision to live here, hidden, instead of in Stillwater where she could expose him more to her friend's kids, to family settings totally unlike his own childhood.

Instead, they commuted, Davy jumping her in and out of the condo in Stillwater, usually from the Texas cliff house, though there were extended periods of living in Tonga, Costa Rica, and one glorious spring in Paris. Still, they always came back to the cliff house. It was the only place Davy felt safe.

He'd built it shortly before the NSA first discovered him and Davy and Millie were the only humans who'd ever been there. The surrounding terrain was incredibly rugged, a tortuous rocky desert region known as El Solitario. Since Davy’s original discovery of the place, it had become more popular. The original ranch surrounding the area had been bought by Texas and made a state park. Still, the house was built into a natural overhung cliff ledge two hundred feet from the canyon bottom and a hundred feet from its top. Backpackers had made it into the bottom of the canyon but since the Aerie was on the side of El Solitario away from the trailhead, there were fifteen miles of tortuous, waterless mountain desert to be crossed just to get to the bottom of the canyon.

She groped for her glasses, got up, and put the kettle on the propane burner. While it heated she started a piñon fire in the wood stove, then browsed the shelves for a book. Davy had covered the walls in the first five years and then added free standing double-sided shelves later. In the last two years, though, he'd finally started culling the shelves, donating books to community libraries, but his acquisition rate still exceeded his outgo and there were piles of new books throughout the dwelling.

It was three in the morning when she awoke in the reading nook, a cold pot of tea beside her and The Wood Wife fallen from her lap, that she gave up and went to bed.

Dammit, Davy! You must really be pissed.

When her alarm went off, at six-thirty, he still wasn't there.

Shit! She couldn’t even cancel her clients, a husband and wife coming in for marital counseling. There was no phone—only a last ditch 406 MHz PLB—a satellite-detected personnel locator beacon used by aircraft and ships for emergency search and rescue. It used the Global Positioning System to send its location so setting it off would put some sort of helicopter on the ridge above the Aerie fairly quickly.

She and Davy had considered a satellite cell phone for the Aerie but Davy was convinced the NSA could use it to locate the cliff house. Instead, he carried a satellite pager, so Cox could get messages to him all over the world, but it was receive only.

The Emergency PLB was just that, for emergencies. Was this one? Not yet, she decided.

He could get to the Aerie right up to seven-thirty and still jump her to the clinic on time, but her professional clothes, were all in the Stillwater Condo. She wasn’t even sure she had clothes here.

She ended up putting on one of Davy’s flannel shirts and a pair of his jeans, which were tight in the crotch and thighs, and loose in the waist. She found a pair of her own running shoes and used Davy’s socks.

For a while she stared at the picture on the bedside table, a Polaroid of both of them taken at a restaurant in Tahiti. She remembered Davy’s irritation at the flash. He hadn’t hesitated to buy it from the photographer. He didn’t like images of himself floating around. He was going to destroy it but Millie asked him to give it to her instead. Only her promise that she would keep it in the Aerie had won him over.

There wasn’t much in the propane refrigerator. She ate some Wheaties dry and drank two glasses of water. The ceramic water tank atop the refrigerator was only a quarter full when she checked the sight glass.

Come on, Davy! This isn’t like you.

Seven-thirty came and went.

She rehearsed speeches of anger and pounded the bed with a stick. She read more. She paced. By mid afternoon the anger had turned, like the worm, and she began to feel afraid.

She was afraid for Davy. Only death or severe injury could keep him from her. No jail could hold him, no prison bars, though, she remembered, chaining him to something solid might do it—something he couldn’t jump. They’d tried that experiment once, long ago, handcuffing him to a railing. He’d nearly dislocated his shoulder. Old-fashioned manacles set in a wall would hold him nicely.

She shuddered.

A while later, she began to fear for herself.

She went outside and walked to the end of the ledge, to the door set in a separate stone generator enclosure. The emergency pack was in there, but it had been years since she’d even looked at it.

She turned and looked out at the canyon. Looking south, she could see the rocky hills. It was twenty-eight miles of rough trail with no water to the trailhead at Sauceda Ranch headquarters. There was some cactus and sagebrush and surprising amounts of gramma grasses, but certainly no trees this side of the Rio Grande. Rocks cast the only shade.

Well, at least it’s not August.

The backpack held the emergency PLB, several sealed bottles of water, survival rations, a light sleeping bag, a signal mirror and flares, and a plastic bag containing five-thousand dollars in hundreds and twenties. The bag next to it held eighty meters of eleven-millimeter climbing rope, a seat harness, and carabiners with brake bars.

She took them back into the house.

Tomorrow morning, if he hasn’t returned.


He hadn’t.

Dammit, Davy, you are a great deal of trouble!

She drank most of the remaining water in the ceramic cistern, then, dressed in Davy’s jeans and shirt and a pair of his underwear. When she stepped outside it was cold, the ledge still deep in shadow, and her breath fogged around her, but she knew that would change rapidly as the sun rose higher. She pursed her lips, then ducked back inside and took the photo from the bedside table, putting it in her back pocket.

Outside again, she shut the door carefully, making sure the latch engaged, then dragged the rope bag over to the anchor bolt and ring. Davy had set into a crack in the ledge with a sledgehammer then anchored it further with concrete.

She put on the seat harness and closed the front with the base carabiner, then used a double bowline to secure one end of the rope to the ring. She tugged on it. Solid as the last time she used it, in the first years of their marriage. They used to practice the descent twice a year, as a precaution, but she hadn’t done it in over five years. There were more cracks in the rock around the concrete and she tugged several more times to be sure the bolt was still solidly anchored.

She put the pack on the end of the rope and lowered it, hand over hand, seeing the excess rope coil reassuringly on the loose talus slope at the bottom of the cliff. She didn’t have to worry about running out of rope.

An odd tingle went through her, almost pleasurable, and she wondered if it was fear. Am I that jaded? She examined it more closely and realized what she was feeling was satisfaction. After all, for the first time in a long time, she was having to do something without Davy, something difficult, even dangerous, and he wasn’t there to buffer her from the discomfort and effort.

Well, one good thing comes from this.

She threaded the rope through the ‘biners and snapped the brake bars closed, then took up the trailing end and brought it behind her, running across the back of her thighs before coming back to her gloved hand. She backed toward the edge, letting the rope out slowly.

She contemplated the long hike in front of her, the fact that her ID was in Oklahoma and she couldn’t fly without it or rent a car and she’d have to take the bus. She thought about walking a minimal distance away from the Aerie and setting off the PLB, but gritted her teeth. Not yet.

She reached the edge and sighed, letting some more rope out and dropping over the edge. She started down with small jumps, then swore, as the rope crumbled a bit of the edge, showering her with gravel and a nasty piece of limestone which caromed off her shin. Sand drifted into her eyes causing her to blink in the morning sunlight.

Oh, great!

She couldn’t help picturing the condo, cluttered, friendly, sand free, with her clothing, her wallet, and a fridge with milk in it.

Davy Rice, you’re a real pain-in-the-

Above her, there was the sound of grinding rock and then a sharp crack. The rope went slack and she dropped backwards watching, in horror, as the bolt and a partial plug of concrete, still tied to the end of the rope, came flying over the edge.  She dropped like a stone, still a hundred and seventy feet above the rocks below, her arms and feet flailing. The cold air cut past her ears and the adrenaline stabbed into her chest like a sword.

Oh, God, ohgod, ohgodohgodohgod

She crouched in the small living room of the condo in Stillwater, a pile of rope draped across her knees and feet. The heavy bolt and ring, with a small collar of concrete, dropped to the carpet at her side with a thud.

That was the first time.


She stopped screaming, hadn’t realized she’d started, but her voice cut off into choking sob. She sat back from the crouch, banging into the glass top of the coffee table and spilling a pile of books across the carpet.

She tried to rub her back where she’d struck the table edge. It stung—she’d scraped skin.

The trouble with being a trained psychologist is that when you experience something unreal, you consider the chance that you are experiencing a psychotic break.

Well, at least I know it’s possible. Davy didn’t the first time it happened to him. Her breathing slowed and some of the tension eased out of her. She felt drained, weak, as if she’d run up several flights of stairs.

Can everyone? If they’ve taken thousands of experienced jumps?

She wanted to talk to Davy about it, but of course, she couldn’t.

Where are you, David Rice!

There were several messages on voice mail but they were all from the secretary she shared with the other two therapists at the clinic. She’d missed seven client appointments yesterday. None of them were from Davy.

She called his pager number and punched in 911, their code for come home now. He didn’t.

She checked her watch. It was only six-thirty in the morning. She had wanted a good start for her hike. But it was after eight on the east coast.

She started by calling the Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore. Davy wasn’t there. All the patients admitted in the last forty-eight hours had their own names. None of them were John Does. None of them had appeared suddenly, inexplicably.

It took her forty-five minutes to find the number in an old phone bill. Usually, when Davy received a page from Cox, he’d jump to D.C. and use a payphone to answer, but there’d been a time when he was sick with the flu, dizzy, and feverish, and had actually called from the condo.

It rang several times before switching to the voice mail system. "Brian Cox here. Leave a message. I’ll get back to you."

The voice took her back ten years, to her only meeting with the man, a judge-supervised interview when the NSA first discovered Davy. Not long after that, she’d spent several days illegally detained in an NSA safe house. She shuddered and almost forgot to speak at the tone.

"This is Millie Harrison-Rice, Davy’s wife. Please call me." She left the condo’s number and the clinic’s, then pushed the handset cradle switch down, cutting the connection.

Shit! What had Davy gotten into?

She tore off the clothes she was wearing and took a quick shower. She ran the water hot, hoping it would thaw the frozen place in her chest, a knot of suppressed grief, fear, and anger. I’ll let it out soon. When I don’t have to function.

She put on therapist clothes, comfortable but slightly formal, a combination she’d found gave her the right mixture of accessibility and authority with her clients. Jeans, a nice blouse, a silk jacket, and flats. She put her palm against the window. It was cold enough that she started to grab her overcoat, but, at the last minute, she pulled on Davy’s worn leather jacket, a bit large on her, but comforting, his smell mixed pleasantly with the leather.

There was a bulge in the inside pocket and she checked it. It was an envelope with fifty twenty-dollar bills. One thousand dollars. They were new twenties, oversized Andrew Jacksons, so it wasn’t his older stash, the used bills he’d stolen ten years before, from the Chemical Bank of New York.

She shook her head. Spy money. A small portion of a payment from one of his "errands" for Brian Cox. Non-lethal, zero-exposure transportation—an agent inserted into Beijing, a remote electronic radio monitor left in Serbia, a dissident pulled out of Baghdad. More rarely, hostages rescued, but he kept those to a minimum, for her sake. He’d done a few jobs a month—more recently during the mess in pre-occupation Iraq. The original plan had been to pay back the million he’d stolen while still a teen, but he’d kept on going, even after it had been returned with interest. He hadn’t returned it to the bank, though. He’d donated the money anonymously into dozens of shelters and drug treatment centers across the country.

He still donated heavily, now, but there was also a closet back in the cliff house with over three million dollars in it.

"What else am I going to do?" he’d said. "Garden?"

She put the money back in the jacket. She might need it to find him.

Her office was only a quarter-mile away, a five minute walk, but she tried to visualize it, tried to will herself there.

It didn’t work.

Dammit. Did I imagine the whole thing? Was I at the condo the whole time?

The climbing rope with ring, bolt, and concrete was still in the corner of the living room, where she’d piled them.

She walked to the office, kicking through drifts of fallen leaves, unable to enjoy the colors of the changing trees. She wanted to find him, to do something. But she had no idea where he was, where to look. Davy would come to her, when he could.

She didn’t know if she was strong enough.

Waiting is the hardest role.



Chapter Two: "That’s not his blood."

Davy jumped to an alley running behind Nineteenth Street Northwest, just east of George Washington University. It was cool and the pavement was wet from recent rain, but it wasn’t quite as cold as New York had been and, for once, the alley didn’t smell of urine. Water dripped from fire escapes and telephone wires and he hunched his neck into his jacket as he turned toward the lighted street.

Just short of the sidewalk, where the alley widened behind a store, a refrigerator carton lay tucked against the wall, waterproofed by a layer of split plastic garbage bags. The ragged blanket that served as a door curtain was half-open and Davy saw two sets of eyes reflecting the mercury street lamp. Children’s eyes.

He paused. Did they see me arrive? The dim faces moved back into the shadow and vanished.

Sighing, Davy crouched down without moving any closer to the box. "Where’s your parents, guys?"

There was no response.

He pulled a small flashlight from his inside jacket pocket and twisted it on, pointing it down. The two children flinched in the faint light. They were cleaner than he expected and the sleeping bag they were sharing looked fairly new. The face in front was Pure Mayan, bright dark eyes and shocks of midnight hair. The second face was paler, with straw colored hair, but the features were identical. Girls, he guessed.

"¿Donde está su madre?" he tried.

Reluctantly, the eldest, perhaps eight—he couldn’t really tell—said, "Está trabajando. Una portera."

A janitor. Nightshift work that didn’t require good English.

"¿Y su padre?"

She just shook her head.

"¿De dónde es usted?" Where are you from?


Displaced. He thought about what their trip must’ve been like. They probably traveled on third class busses up the length of Mexico, then in some horribly crowded van from someplace like Laredo after crossing the border illegally.

The little girl, perhaps five or six, suddenly spoke, "Papa fue desaparecido."

Disappeared. The matter-of-fact way she said it made Davy want to cry.

"¿Cuándo vuelve su madre?"

"Por la mañana."

He dug his emergency cash out of an inner pocket—five hundred dollars in twenties, another thousand in hundred dollar bills, all wrapped with a rubber band.

"Oculte esto." He mimed hiding it beneath his jacket. "Dé esto a su madre. Para la cubierta." Give it to your Mother. For housing.

The girls looked blank. He said, "Para su propia casa." For your own house. He tossed the cash lightly into the box, onto the foot of the sleeping bag.

The kids stared at it, like it might bite them.

"¡Oculte esto!" he repeated. That amount of money could easily get them killed in their situation.

The older girl finally took it and shoved it beneath the sleeping bag.

He turned off the flashlight and stood up. As he turned to walk away he added, "Buena suerte." They’d need luck, even with the money.

He heard movement in the box but didn’t look back.


When Davy finished threading his way through the entrance foyer and into the side room, he found Brian Cox was sitting near a front window with a newspaper open but not quite lifted high enough to block his view of the restaurant. Davy could tell Cox had spotted him first, probably while he was still on the street.

Cox was wearing his hair longer, these days, looking somewhat professorial, and the football lineman physique of a decade past had turned into middle-aged heaviness draped in tweeds. Davy dropped into the seat opposite him with a sigh.

"Something the matter?" Cox folded the paper and put it down on the table.

"Yeah. I just had a delightful conversation with two little girls from Chiapas."

"You jum--came here from Mexico?"

"No. These two little girls are living in a refrigerator carton two blocks from here. Their mother works the graveyard shift as a janitor, leaving them alone most of the night. Their father was disappeared back in Chiapas."

Cox looked at him, surprised. "How do you find these people?"

"They’re all over the place, Brian. You just have to open your eyes."

"You want me to call Child Protective Services?"

"Hell, no. So they get taken away from their mother? How is that going to help? I left them some money. Enough to get off the street, I hope."

Cox grunted and looked thoughtful. "You can’t save them all, Davy."

"I know that!" Davy snapped. "It’s just—" A waitress with dirty blonde hair escaping her barrettes, a bare midriff with a pierced navel, and a large patch of thigh showing through a ragged hole in her jeans stopped at the table. Davy exhaled. "Tea, please. Something herbal." He glanced at the list. "Lemongrass-chamomile."

Cox pointed at his coffee. "A slice of the apple pie and a refill."

She smiled mechanically and left.

Davy looked at the down at the tabletop. "You have kids, right?"

Cox nodded. "Three. A girl and two boys. And yes, I was thinking of them when you told me about these two little girls."

Davy shook his head. "No. That’s not the connection I’d made." He sighed heavily. "I had an argument with Millie tonight. She’s ready to have kids."

Cox raised his eyebrows. "Oh? And the argument is what? That you don’t?"

"Not yet."

"I see."

Davy winced. "What do you see?"

Cox blinked, his face mild. "That she’s ready and you’re not."

A different waitress, a heavily made-up brunette in a tightly knotted tie, snow-white shirt, and black slacks, brought out the tea and Cox’s pie. Her hair was tightly pulled back to a severe bun. Davy shook his head, bemused at the contrast.

Cox looked annoyed. "Could I get that refill on the coffee?"

"Coming right up, sir."

Davy played with the tea bag, dipping it in an out of the water. He’d had coffee in New York only a half-hour before and hoped he wasn’t in for another sleepless night. He inhaled the odor of the lemongrass and it cascaded a memory of spicy Thai soups eaten on high stools under a thatched roof in Cha-Am on coast road to Malaysia. With Millie. He took a gulp. It felt good on his throat, a surprise, since he hadn’t realized his throat hurt. "She’s restless, I think. She has friends but it’s hard for her to get really close when she can’t be truly open with them."

Cox sighed. "I know that one—at least you guys are open with each other, right? There are things I can never tell my wife."

The brunette waitress returned with the coffee pot and refilled Cox’s cup. "How’s the tea, sir?"

"Good. Really good." He drank some more.

Cox stared at him then at the waitress’s retreating back. "She dresses a lot better than the other server’s here."

Davy said, "Probably a law student at George Washington. They need money, too, considering tuition and all."

Cox shrugged. "Seemed a bit old for that, but you never know."

"What’s the job, Brian?"

Cox glanced around and lowered his voice. "You’ve never gone into Pyongyang, right?"

Davy shook his head. "No. South Korea, yes. I’ve got jump sites in Seoul and Pusan but I’ve never been in the Democratic Peoples Republic." He drank more of his tea.

"We have something coming up in two weeks. We’d like you to acquire a site near the Hotel Pothonggang in Pyongyang. We can put you on an Air Koryo flight from Tokyo. You can go in as a Canadian."

Davy shook his head. "If you’ve got something coming up, why not just insert your man? I mean, with two weeks you could probably put Madonna in place without detection."

Brian rolled his eyes. "It’s not an insertion. It’s an extraction. The subject is on the critical mass geometry team for their tactical nuke and is under constant watch by the Civil Security Forces."

"I thought they’d stopped development. Wasn’t that part of the deal?"

Brian shook his head. "Ostensibly, yes. They shut down the factory. Research? That’s unclear."

"Is he defecting?"

"His only daughter went south fifteen years ago. He has grandchildren now that he’s never seen."

Davy gulped the rest of his cup. "Spell it out, Brian. Is. He. Defecting. Did he come to you guys?"

"His daughter did. Subsequent contacts were made directly with him and he was eager and willing."

"Okay. Just so it’s not a snatch."

"It’s not." Brian snorted. "Too bad you’re so particular. You’re awfully good at it."

Davy shook his head. "I may have been good at it. Didn’t keep people from dying."

Cox didn’t push it, shrugging instead.

"How soon does it have to be?" Davy asked.

"He’s scheduled to talk at a conference in the capital on the eighteenth. We thought we’d do it from a hotel room."

Davy rolled his neck and felt muscles relaxing. His shoulders dropped as tension drained from his back. "Okay. Let’s do the flight from Tokyo sometime next week. Tell me when to pick up the ticket and the passsssssporrrt." Davy blinked. The word had stretched oddly in his mouth. He felt himself smile, then he began to laugh softly.

Cox’s eyes widened. "Davy?" He reached across the table and lifted Davy’s chin, then put his thumb on Davy’s eyebrow and lifted, pulling the eyelid up so he could see Davy’s eye. "Oh, shit! Jump out of here. You’ve been drugged!"

This was even funnier and Davy started laughing harder. Jump? Why not? He tried to picture the alcove in the Johns Hopkins Emergency Room and it just wouldn’t come. He thought about the cliff house in Texas but it just didn’t stay in his mind. "I can’t." He said.

Cox pulled a phone from inside his jacket and held down one of the keys. He listened for a moment then said, "Avenue H and Nineteenth northwest. Coffee shop called Interrobang. It’s a snatch."

An ambulance pulled up outside, its lights flashing but with no siren. A driver and paramedic jumped from the front doors, then two more uniformed attendants jumped from the back and pulled a gurney out.

Cox began swearing, his eyes swiveling between the door leading back to the kitchen and the ambulance attendants just now entering the restaurant’s main entrance in the next room. "Can you walk?"

Davy giggled. Why would I want to walk?

Cox stood suddenly, picked up his chair, and threw it through the large plate glass window. Davy watched as glass floated through the air like snowflakes in a blizzard. People were screaming someplace, but he couldn’t be bothered to turn his head to watch. Cox grabbed Davy’s coat front and hauled him bodily to his feet, then stooped suddenly.

Davy found himself hanging over Cox’s shoulder, head looking down, then the world was spinning and they were outside, crunching through the field of diamonds on the sidewalk. It was raining again. He could feel his butt getting wet through his jeans and the diamonds were gone and Cox’s footsteps had mutated from crunching to pounding steps increasing steadily in speed.

Runs pretty fast for an old guy.

All he could see were Cox’s legs splashing down the pavement. He could feel a pounding in his ears as blood rushed to his head but it was just another fact, another observation, seemingly unconnected to anything important.

Nothing seemed important.

He saw something hit the sidewalk near Cox’s running feet and felt stone chips cut his face. The sound of a gunshot followed, lagging behind, and Davy’s orientation changed suddenly, his head swinging wide as Cox abruptly turned a corner and increased his pace, his pounding feet hitting the wet puddles hard enough with his feet to splash water up into Davy’s face.

Davy was still giggling softly with odd gasps each time one of Cox’s feet hit the pavement. His head was swinging from side to side and he caught glimpses of the street in upside-down fragments, left, right, left. Oh, it’s Nineteenth. This was the way he’d come earlier.

Cox stumbled and Davy heard the gunshot immediately after. Cox managed three more steps then went down, spilling Davy into a puddle. Davy rolled sideways through the water and fetched up against a storefront security grating facing back toward Cox and the street.

Cox tried to get up and fell again, crying out through clenched teeth. Between the water and the darkness, Davy couldn’t tell where Cox was hit, but he clearly couldn’t put weight on his right leg.

There were running footsteps, several pairs, getting louder.

"Can you hear me?" Cox said.

Davy managed a slight nod.

"I don’t get out of this, tell Cindy she’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Her and the boys." He rolled over and raised his head to look back, then reached into his jacket. Several bullets slammed into him and he fell back, his hand flopping out. His cell phone skidded across the pavement.

The waitress from the restaurant walked into view, a boxy automatic pistol held extended. Her perfect hair was mussed, now, rain-wet and coming out of the bun, and her mascara was running in dark broad streaks down her cheeks like she was bleeding from the eyes, but her tie was still tightly knotted and her steps were precise.

Cox groaned, a bubbling rasping sound, and the woman took one quick step forward and put another bullet into Cox’s head.

Davy felt something wet splash across his face, but it wasn’t rain. It was warm.

Three more men came into view, the ambulance crew. One of them dropped to Davy’s side. "Christ, is he hit?"

The waitress with the gun said, "That’s not his blood."

Blinding light filled Davy’s eyes as a vehicle pulled up, turning the men into dark silhouettes. They took him by the arms and hauled him up and pulled him, toes dragging through the puddles, to the back of the ambulance. In the distance, the sound of multiple sirens began to grow louder.

"Let’s get a move on!"

As they paused at the back of the ambulance while one of them opened the door, Davy’s slumped head saw the slightest movement, across the street at the mouth of an alley. A tiny figure, a child, crouched behind a trash can, staring. Oh, yeah. That’s their alley.

Then he was tumbled into the ambulance, facedown on the floor, and it was accelerating. He felt fingers on his wrist then something stabbed deep into his left buttock—Hey!—rousing him almost enough to visualize the library in Stanville, Ohio.

Then the ambulance took a turn and kept turning, spinning, like a top, and the lights went completely away.