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Skin Deep

Skin Deep

Page 26

Mrs. Maheras looked up and met my eyes. “I appreciate people who make decisions and act on them, Mister Leeds. Not people who try to make small talk about things in which they obviously have no interest.”

“Several pieces of me are very interested in gardening,” I said. “I just didn’t bring them along.”

She regarded me, waiting.

I sighed. “Mrs. Maheras, what do you know of your son’s research?”

“Almost nothing,” she said. “Ghastly business.”

I frowned.

“She thinks it took him away from the church,” Dion said behind me, kicking at a clump of dirt. “All of that science and questioning. Heaven help us if a man spends his time thinking.”

“Dion,” she said, “don’t speak stupidity.”

He folded his arms and met her gaze, defiant.

“You work for the people who employed my son,” Mrs. Maheras said, looking at me.

“I just want to find his body,” I said. “Before anything dangerous happens. What can you tell me of your priest?”

“Father Frangos?” she asked. “Why ever would you want to know about him?”

“He was the last person to see the body,” I said. “He visited the coroner on the night before your son’s corpse vanished.”

“Don’t be silly,” Mrs. Maheras said. “He did nothing of the sort—he was here. I requested a house blessing, and he visited.”

To the side, Tobias and Audrey shared a glance. So we had a witness that Father Frangos had not gone in to see the body. Proof an impostor was involved. But what good did that knowledge do us?

“Did Panos give you anything, before he passed away?” I asked her.

“No.”

“It might have been something trivial,” I said. “Are you sure? There’s nothing you can think of?”

She turned back to her plants. “No.”

“Did he spend time with anyone in particular during the last few months?”

“Just the men from that ghastly laboratory.”

I knelt beside her. “Mrs. Maheras,” I said softly. “Lives are at stake because of your son’s research. Many lives. If you are hiding something, you could well cause a national disaster. You don’t need to give it to me. The police—or, better, the FBI—would work just fine. Just don’t gamble with this. Please.”

She glanced at me, lips pursed. Then, her expression hardened. “I have nothing for you.”

I sighed and rose. “Thank you.” I walked away from her, back toward the steps, where J.C. had perked up a little at Ivy’s prodding.

“Well?” he asked me.

“Stonewalled,” I said. “If he did give the key to her, she wouldn’t tell me.”

“Coming here was a mistake,” J.C. said. “A distraction from what we need to do.”

I glanced at the mother, who had continued to regard me, trowel in her hand.

“Admit it, Skinny,” J.C. continued. “If we don’t do something soon, the world is going to get cancer.” He hesitated. “Smet, it sounds stupid when I say it like that.”

“. . . ‘Smet’?” I asked.

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“Future curse.”

“Why does it sound so much like—”

“Future curses always sound like our curses,” J.C. said, rolling his eyes. “But they’re not, so it’s okay to say them when prudes are around.” He thumbed at Ivy, still sitting beside him.

“Wait,” Ivy said. “I thought you were from another dimension, not from the future.”

“Nonsense. I’ve always been from the future.”

“Since when?”

“Since two days from now,” J.C. said. “Look, Skinny, do I need to repeat myself? You know what our next move is.”

I sighed, then nodded. “Yes. It’s time to break into Exeltec.”

Part Three

16

“Are you sure about this?” Ivy said, rushing along beside me as I strode out of the front of the house.

“It’s our best lead, Ivy,” J.C. said. “We don’t have time to investigate new threads. Exeltec has the body. We need to find out where it is and steal it back from them.”

I nodded. “Panos’s key could be almost anywhere, but if we destroy the corpse, then the key doesn’t matter.” I raised my phone, noticing that I’d missed a call from Yol. I nodded for J.C. to watch the perimeter as I texted Wilson for a pick-up, then dialed Yol back.

Yol picked up the line.

“Hey,” I said. “I—”

“I don’t have much time,” Yol interrupted, voice muffled. “This is bad, Legion. Seriously bad.”

I grew cold. “What happened?”

“Panos,” Yol said, talking quickly, his accent growing thicker in his haste. “He let something out. Damn it. It’s—” He cut off.

“Yol?” I said, growing tense as Ivy and Tobias crowded in, trying to hear what was being said. “Yol!”

I heard voices on the other end of the line, followed by rasping. “I’m being arrested,” Yol said a moment later. “No more information in or out. They’re going to take my phone.”

“What did Panos let out, Yol?” I asked.

“We don’t know. The feds tripped a hidden file on his computer. It erased the damn thing and popped up a screen that taunted us, saying he’d already released his infection. They’re freaking out. I don’t know anything else.”

“And the things I asked you to do?”

“Did some. Set others in motion. Don’t know if I’ll be able to finish.”

“Yol, my life could depend on whether or not—”

“All of our lives are in danger,” Yol snapped. “Didn’t you hear me? This is a disaster. Hell! They’re here. Find that body. Find out what that man did!”

The phone rustled again, and the line went dead. I had the distinct impression that Yol hadn’t hung up—someone had taken the phone from him. The feds now likely knew I was involved.

I lowered the phone and looked at my aspects as Wilson pulled up. Behind us, Dion trailed out of the house, hands in his pockets. He looked troubled.

“We need to get moving,” J.C. said, rushing back from watching the perimeter. “Zen could show up here at any moment.”

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