'Not really.'

'Not really?'

'He knows about my brain damage and vivid dreaming, but not the rest of it.'

Sharon laughs. 'Wouldn't he be surprised!'

'I imagine so.'

'But what does he think happened to me?'

'He just thinks you're in a coma.'

'But he must have seen my EEG. Nobody in a simple coma spikes like that.'

'He knows about the Lazarus Gate, but he thinks it's nothing more than a fleeting state of consciousness a very few people pass through just before death. He's right, of course.'

'Except for you and me, Veil.'

'Except for you and me.' He could come and go at will; Sharon's mind was trapped there.

'If he ever found out that you can do this, he'd try to make you use it for him, wouldn't he?'

'Of course. Fortunately for me, Orville Madison's main interest is in controlling everybody around him and screwing his enemies. He loses interest quickly in things for which he can't see a practical application to his primary goals.' 'Could you actually spy for him with your dreaming?'

'No. My dreams are just that—dreams. They're projections of my own mind, not an entry into anyone else's.'

'But what is this?'

'This is an exception. Yours is the only mind I can actually touch; that's because you're here and because I'm able to reach this place in dreams. I always dream vividly and often imagine myself living other lives, experiencing things with somebody else's perceptions. But those dreams are nothing more than extensions of my imagination—a kind of sorting-out of things I know, or believe to be true. Except for what happens here beyond the Lazarus Gate, I can never be certain that what I experience in dreams has any basis in reality.'

'You can be anyone you want to be.'

'I can imagine myself as anyone.'

Sharon is silent for a long time. 'I want to be with you, Veil,' she says at last. 'I want to be with you back there— wherever 'back there' is. The other reality.'

'You will be.'

'I love you, Veil.'

'And I love you,' Veil says as he embraces Sharon, then rolls away from the dream into deep sleep.

Chapter Two

The short, stocky black running up East Sixty-ninth Street toward Fifth Avenue was holding Victor Raskolnikov's statue under his right arm and carrying one of the art dealer's African spears in his right hand. His white shirt was stained red over the area of his left shoulder, and that arm flopped limply as he ran.

Pushing aside his thoughts of Sharon Solow, Veil Ken-dry took the wrapped painting he was carrying from under his arm and set it down against a fire hydrant. He was about to angle across the street to intercept the runner when he heard a car door open and slam shut close by. He glanced to his right in time to see a gaunt, pockmarked man in a purple T-shirt and grease-stained chinos skip around a late-model black Pontiac and start across the street. Then he saw Veil watching him—and froze. He licked his lips as fear moved across his face like a ripple in water, then abruptly turned around and got back into his car. He turned on the engine and backed down the street in a screech of burning rubber.

Veil sprinted across the street and was loping easily ten yards behind the injured, burdened man when he suddenly realized that the black did not intend to turn at the corner. 'Jesus Christ,' Veil muttered as he surged forward in a renewed burst of speed. He was only a step or two behind the runner, reaching out for the man's collar, when the black, without hesitation, sped under the red traffic signal and leapt off the curb into the alley of steel death that was Fifth Avenue at 8:50 on a summer Friday evening.

Veil almost stumbled into the traffic, but he broke his momentum by grabbing the pole supporting the traffic signal. He swung out over the pavement, then just managed to pull himself in toward the sidewalk as the side of a taxi brushed against his spine and a loose sliver of chrome caught and tore his shirt. An instant later there was a deafening cacophony of blaring horns and skidding tires, and then, like a discordant echo, the screeching of locked brakes and the crashing of colliding, crumpling metal. Headlights popped, glass shattered. The din slammed against Veil's senses like a physical blow as he spun away from the pole, then watched and waited for almost two minutes before the mammoth chain collision finally ground to a halt.

Now Veil stepped out into the street, carefully picking his way across what resembled a lava flow of broken machinery, vaulting locked bumpers and rolling over crumpled hoods as he searched for what he assumed must be the crushed, lifeless body of the black. But there was no body; somehow the man had made it safely across the street and into the dark green forest-gloom of Central Park.

Veil turned back and immediately went to the aid of an injured motorist in a nearby car. The woman had banged her head on the windshield and twisted her ankle, but did not appear to be seriously injured. Veil wrapped her in his light jacket, then moved on to look for others who might need help. Sirens wailed as police and ambulances converged on the scene from all directions. On Sixty-ninth, a police car's siren died with a loud whoop as two patrolmen jumped out. Veil knew both of the men; one glared at him with open hostility, while the other offered a barely perceptible smile and nod, which Veil returned.

Openly displaying a friendly attitude toward Veil Ken-dry was not something a policeman in any of the five boroughs of New York City could afford to do without risk of career damage, Veil thought with vague amusement.

'Excuse me, sir.'

Veil turned in the direction of the rich baritone voice and found himself looking into the dark brown eyes of an olive-complexioned, heavily muscled man dressed in a brown gabardine suit. 'Yes?'

'Detective Vahanian,' the man said, flashing a gold detective's shield. 'What's your name, sir?'

'Veil Kendry.'

The detective uttered a soft, almost imperceptible grunt of surprise. Shadows of uncertainty moved in the man's eyes, then were blinked away. 'Did you see what happened here?'

'A man ran across the street against the light.'

Vahanian looked out over the wreckage clogging the street and shook his head in disbelief. 'How long ago?'

'Maybe twenty, twenty-five minutes,' Veil replied as he glanced at his watch. 'If you're also investigating a theft from the Raskolnikov Gallery, he's your man. He was carrying the idol they call the Nal-toon, and a spear he must have snatched off the wall.'

'Obviously you read the papers.'

'On occasion. Also, Victor Raskolnikov handles my work. I'm a painter. I know about the Nal-toon; it's been the bane of Victor's existence for the past two months. I don't think he'll ever handle another piece of primitive art.

'I wouldn't blame him. Where did this man go?'

'Into the park,' Veil said, pointing across the street. 'He was short, maybe five-five or six. Mid-twenties, black—but I don't think he was an American black. He had an Oriental cast to his features.'

'It was almost dark twenty minutes ago.' 'The streetlights were on.'

'Just a minute,' Vahanian said curtly, then turned and walked back to his unmarked car, which was parked up on the sidewalk. He spoke for a few moments into the car's two-way radio, then returned to Veil. By now, dozens of police cars, ambulances, and tow trucks had arrived at the scene. 'Where do you live?' Vahanian continued as he removed a cheap ballpoint pen and small notepad from his inside breast pocket.

'Three eighty-five Grand. It's a loft on the Lower East side.'

'How close were you to this man?'

'He was across the street, but I got a pretty good look at him. He was wearing a white shirt without a collar and dark slacks a size or two too big for him. He'd been injured—maybe shot—in the left shoulder, and it looked like

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