Dr. Henry Ibber, the Institute's chief investigator and the man who had conducted Veil's intake interview, stood leaning against the wall just behind Parker. Dressed in brown slacks, black turtleneck, and rust-colored tweed jacket, the physician seemed almost as nervous as Parker. Prematurely bald with a droopy mustache that framed thin lips, Ibber kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other as his dark eyes darted about the room. Veil judged the man to be in his early thirties, and tougher than he looked.

Only Jonathan Pilgrim seemed at ease. The director was slouched in a leather armchair at the far corner of the room, his booted feet propped up on a coffee table. He was smoking one of his thin cigars and staring up through a haze of blue-gray smoke at the ceiling. Pilgrim's demeanor seemed to Veil somewhat bizarre under the circumstances. Like a magnet, the slouched figure kept drawing annoyed glances from Parker.

'Am I boring you, Colonel?!' Parker snapped. 'A man's been killed!'

'That's certainly true,' Pilgrim replied in a mild tone, 'and I'm certainly glad it wasn't Mr. Kendry.' Pilgrim slowly swung his feet to the floor, straightened up, and ground out his cigar. When he looked up, there was a hard glint in his eye. 'I think you're being overzealous, Lieutenant. Dr. Ibber and I have told you that the dead man was one of our cooks. When they're off duty, our staff enjoys the privilege of using the recreational facilities. It looks like we hired ourselves a bad apple. It happens. Also, it does seem unlikely that an artist could tear out another man's throat with his bare hands, doesn't it? So, why the hassle?'

Blood rushed to Parker's face, and for a moment Veil thought the man would pound the desk. They gray- haired man swallowed hard, brought himself back under control. 'All right, Kendry,' he said at last, his voice gravelly with frustration.

Veil met the other man's hostile gaze. 'Meaning?'

'Meaning that I know where to find you if I have any more questions.'

Pilgrim abruptly rose to his feet. 'Sorry for the trouble, Kendry. Are you certain you feel all right?'

Veil nodded.

'Good luck to you,' Pilgrim continued brusquely as he walked across the reception area, opened a door, and disappeared into his office.

The director had left the door to his office open, and Veil had a clear, if restricted, view of the interior. A modern glass-and-steel desk was visible, and on the wall behind the desk a map on a spring roller had been pulled down. The map appeared to be a larger version of the one printed in the Institute brochures, except that it included two huge gray areas, each at least half again the size of the 'official' compound. One area was on the northern face of an adjacent mountain, and the second was at the eastern end of the valley running between the two mountains. Neither area was labeled.

A moment later his view was blocked as Henry Ibber moved quickly across the room and pushed the door shut. Parker, red-faced and seething, rose and walked stiffly out the door. Veil glanced inquiringly at Ibber, who seemed embarrassed.

'Kendry,' Ibber said tightly, 'this is an uncomfortable situation for both the Colonel and me.'

Veil smiled thinly. 'I think I'm about to have my invitation withdrawn.'

Ibber took a deep breath as he thrust his hands into the pockets of his tweed jacket. 'Even though you seem perfectly collected, a traumatic experience like the one you've just had can't help but leave deep and disturbing emotional overtones which may be with you for some time. Under the circumstances, it would be impossible for us to properly conduct the kinds of tests we'd planned for you. I hope you understand.'

Veil gave a slight shrug, rose to his feet. 'Sure. Keeping me around might cause some deep and disturbing emotional overtones in the other guests, not to mention your ex-cook's buddies.'

'That isn't the point, Mr. Kendry, I assure you. In fact, we'd like to reschedule you for another session, perhaps in six months or so.'

'I'll look forward to it.'

Ibber smiled uncertainly. 'There's no need for you to leave right away. Why don't you stay the night? In the morning someone can take you to the airport in the helicopter. We'll drop off your rented car.' 'I think not. I'd just as soon fly out tonight, and I prefer to drive myself.'

'As you wish.'

Veil stared hard at the other man for a few moments, until Ibber averted his eyes. 'I know my way to the garage,' he said as he headed for the door. 'Nice meeting you, Ibber. Tell the Colonel I said good-bye.'

Chapter 6

______________________________

Veil stopped for an hour along a barren stretch of coast. Satisfied that he wasn't being followed, he drove on to the outskirts of Monterey and checked into a dingy, third-rate motel under an assumed name. He stayed in his room the remainder of the day, went out to eat an early dinner, then went to bed after leaving a request for a ten P.M. wake-up call. By one in the morning he was back at the base of the Institute's mountain. He drove his car off the side of the road into a copse of fir trees a half mile from the entrance to the underground parking area, then walked back.

The service road leading up to the compound at the top of the mountain was located twenty yards to the right of the closed-down funicular. Veil stepped over the chain blocking the entrance to the road and started up.

Forty minutes later he was hunched down in a shallow depression across the road from a brightly lighted helicopter pad. There was a small guardhouse inside a high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Veil went a hundred yards beyond the pad and guardhouse, then crossed the road to the fence. He had not seen any transformers on the way up, and so he assumed that the fence was not electrified. He checked to be certain that the 38-caliber snub-nose he had retrieved from the car was secure in his waistband, against his spine, then removed his garrison belt from his jeans and gripped it between his teeth as he easily climbed the fence. At the top he wrapped the belt around the palm of his right hand and pressed down on the strands of barbed wire. He swung through the V of the wire and dropped down on the other side, rolling to absorb the shock of his landing. An instant later he was on his feet and sprinting through the moonlight in the direction of the administration building. He intended to find out what was in the gray areas he had glimpsed on the wall map, and he reasoned that the logical place to begin his investigation was with any files Jonathan Pilgrim might keep in his office.

He waited in the darkness outside the administration building as a security guard rolled by in a golf cart, then hurried to the main entrance. He had brought with him the simple tools he would need to pick the lock and short- circuit the alarm system he had glimpsed earlier; however, when he glanced through the glass doors at the entrance, he could see that the red warning light on the central control box was dark. The alarm system was off.

The doors opened when Veil pushed on them. He entered the building, pressed up against a wall in the small lobby, and listened. He heard nothing. Skirting pools of moonlight, he moved across the lobby and climbed a flight of stairs to the reception area where he had been interrogated. The door to Jonathan Pilgrim's office was open. Veil stepped into the director's office. He was searching for a light switch on the wall when a wooden match popped and flared in the darkness fifteen feet away.

He dropped to one knee, snatched the .38 from his waistband, and used both hands to steady and aim it at the spot where he had seen the flame. A moment later the air was filled with the redolent aroma of cigar smoke.

'It's about time you got here, Kendry.' Jonathan Pilgrim's voice was dry, laconic. 'I was getting bored. You'll find the light switch just to the left of the door.'

Veil remained silent and crouched.

'Hit the lights, Kendry,' Pilgrim continued after a pause, a slight edge of impatience to his tone. 'They can't be seen from outside. Believe me, there's nobody here but us chickens. If you were going to be messed with, it would have happened long before you got this far. Important people do come here on occasion, and I do know something about putting together a security net. How about giving me a little credit for not being a dummy, huh?'

Veil reached back over his head with his left hand and turned on the lights. Pilgrim was seated across the room with his feet propped up on his desk. Next to his hand were an open can of Budweiser and a heavy glass

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