'At first, everyone was. I didn't know whose property you were. So I had to get to know you-and when you didn't recognize me, or pretended you didn't. I didn't know if I could trust you. You have to understand the importance of my task.' Her face was washed with extreme feeling. 'But after that night, I don't know. I didn't want you to be expendable. Not after that-under the makeup you were still Owen Grey.' She set a hip on my desk. 'What about you, Mr. Honesty? You haven't exactly been straightforward with me. Look who's wearing the disguise.' There was just a touch of defensiveness in her tone. 'If you aren't Owen Grey, who are you?'

'By all appearances, I'm Tommy Wildclown. And Tommy's not sure who he is.' I tried my best to smile, but was moved by the feeling in her voice. 'I'll be quite honest with you. The only certainty is that I'm a detective. I try to catch bad guys.'

'If I could get that makeup off you, I'd find out a few things.' Her face suddenly became muscular as it struggled over underlying passion. She leaned forward suggestively. 'If it's amnesia, I could help you remember…' The desire drained from her eyes. She smiled weakly. 'But I suppose not. I can tell an angry man when I see one.'

'Some other time,' I said, standing-struggling with feelings of my own. There were long dark corridors opening up that should have contained clues to who I was. But there was nothing. I walked toward the door. 'I don't like to be used, and I don't care what the cause. I never take a liar to bed more than once.'

She looked hurt. 'It was on the desk if you remember.'

'Okay, the desk. You may have found a loophole.' I dropped my hands, defeated. 'Look, I'm sick of everyone just now. And I think my understanding bone got broken last night. Let's talk about desks after the war.'

Redding stood up. 'I suppose you're right. I just thought it might be nice. Since I'm going off to battle.'

'I'll bet that's one of the oldest lines going.' I tried to grin, but my face found the expression too heavy and dropped it.

'I'll be in touch.' Redding turned to go, paused momentarily to pick up her hat. She turned. 'Oh, don't think I'm satisfied about the Regenerics Secret or Hawksbridge. You can be sure I'll be back to trade notes about that! But I want to prove to you that I'm interested in other things. Like justice.' She gazed at me wistfully, and left.

Chapter 69

I shuffled around my desk like an old man, weary and willing to die. I fell into my seat and listened as the transport outside reloaded then drove away. A part of me wanted her to get in touch. But now, now, I was full of hate. I squeaked my chair. I remembered doing that before. It had bothered Billings. I had to keep moving. I rolled out of the chair and walked to the window. I poked a hole in the blinds. The streetlight was bleak. The street under it was gray, the sky over it was gray, even the pigeons that fluttered on a rooftop beside it were gray. And now I was Grey. I had the urge to see no more gray. Who was getting haunted here? But there were no answers forthcoming, no release. All I could do was console myself with the money I had been paid. Perhaps a vacation. I could give Elmo his back pay and the two of us could go to Vicetown, ride a roller coaster. Hell, we could go south of the border. I had heard rumors that the sun still shone there sometimes. The door opened behind me. I turned expecting Elmo.

The corpse was the right height, but that was all that was recognizable about it. Tattered pieces of scorched fabric hung about its shoulders and neck, the wire frame of its glasses had melted to the bridge of its nose-the lenses were cracked. It was black all over and gave off an overpowering burnt hamburger stench-hot and oily. And a sickly sweet smell that hung on and kept coming. The corpse's right foot still had flesh on it. Its skin was pearly white. The toes were chubby and looked clean like they had just stepped out of the shower. There was a gun in the corpse's hand pointed at my heart. The brass toothpick was welded to the thing's dental work.

'Bastard!' it hissed, cheeks ripping with the strain.

'Inspector Cane, you don't look well.' I had nothing to lose but gray. 'You're probably upset.'

'Where's the baby?' The eyes in its face were swollen blisters. Cane must have been almost blind.

'Where it belongs.'

'It is the son. I must have it.' His hand jerked the gun. 'The fifth horseman.'

'Horseman? This kid hasn't even had his first pony ride.' I turned away from him, disgusted. 'It is the son of a young woman, who by all rights shouldn't have had him in the first place. The baby is a miracle. But it doesn't deserve the damnation of reverence. Let it be, Cane.'

'I'll shoot you in the back, then I'll do the same thing to you that you did to me.'

'No, you won't,' I sighed. A gun roared, roared again. I turned slowly. Cane's head was gone. His corpse dropped, it made a feeble attempt to rise, and then lay still. It was in such bad condition, I was surprised that it had made it this far. Elmo walked in holding the auto-shotgun. It was pointed at the corpse.

'You all right, Boss?' He kicked the gun away from the body.

'Yes, Elmo, and thanks.' I looked at what was left of Cane and then at the mess that covered my desk. 'I'm not much in the mood for those fishdogs though.' I had seen Elmo drive up while I was looking out through the blinds. 'I'll tell you what. Why don't we go down to the bank, cash some checks and have some fun?' I walked over to Elmo, set a hand on his shoulder. 'I owe you what friend, a couple of hundred?'

'Twenty-four hundred,' he said, stony-faced.

'Twenty-four hundred, then. First we'll go to Dr. Forrester's place. I'll get some stitches, maybe a few painkillers. Yes, we'll cash our checks and take a trip to Vicetown. Maybe go south of the border. I need a rest. I don't know about you.' Elmo started smiling and nodding his head. 'I have to get out of here.'

Elmo gestured to the corpse. 'What about the mess?'

We dropped Cane's feebly twitching remains in the Dumpster beside the building. I kept walking with Elmo until we got to the Chrysler. We drove to Forrester's. I collapsed again, and awoke a couple of hours later, stitched and numb. It was still dark. Oddly enough I was still inside Tommy. I waited for his presence, but it was strangely absent. Forrester fed me breakfast. We thanked him and left. Elmo drove us to the bank. I left the majority of my money there, wrote a check for my partner, and withdrew enough to take us to Vicetown and farther if we wanted.

As we headed down the coast, morning was coming on. I was tired and could have used some rest, but for some reason was reluctant to give up possession of Tommy. The little baby's Buddha face kept returning to my mind as the ocean sped past. I wasn't certain, but somewhere out under the angry black clouds, at the edge of it all; I thought I caught a flash of sun.

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