here and let me kiss the hand of a gutsy lady.'

Reyna, helped by Veil, walked forward, grasped Walrus's hand in both of hers, and kissed it. 'Walrus, what can I say? How can I ever thank you?'

'Listen, m'dear, if you knew what a grand time Kendry, Schneider, and I are having, you'd realize that you don't have to say anything. Incidentally, open the brown envelope under my seat. That's for Toby. I figured he might want a souvenir to show his buddies.'

Reyna opened the envelope and giggled when she saw the Tourist Guide to New York City. She stepped forward to kiss Walrus's cheek, then tensed when she saw his face. 'What's the matter?'

'Lie flat on the floor,' Walrus said curtly. 'Wrap your fingers around the ridges and hang on. John, is that bay door secure?'

'Roger.'

Reyna dropped to the floor, braced herself by grabbing hold of Veil's forearm. 'Walrus . . . ?'

Walrus banked ninety degrees to his left and dropped still lower. 'Those are cop 'copters,' he said, nodding toward the radar screen, 'or maybe Coast Guard. Unlighted, unidentified aircraft flying through city airspace makes them nervous and cranky.'

'Oh, God,' Reyna said, squeezing Veil's leg. 'What are we going to do?'

'Lose them, of course.'

'How?'

'Not to worry,' Walrus said as he banked right and the helicopter scudded over the roof of a high rise. A white smudge had appeared at the top of the radar screen; Walrus flipped a switch beneath the screen, switching to a different mode, and the smudge became dozens of small blips. 'We'll cut across JFK. That's a radar jungle. They won't follow us through there.'

'Why not?'

'Because they'd be crazy to,' Schneider answered dryly from the rear of the bay where he was lying across Toby and the Nal-toon. 'They know they'd be killed.'

Reyna glanced up, saw that the radar screen was now aglow with what seemed hundreds of tiny lights. Still holding tightly to Veil, she eased herself up into a sitting position beside him just in time to see brightly lit buildings and runways flashing by beneath and on either side of them. Shouting voices crackled in the air, and

Walrus abruptly turned the radio off. A 747 emerged from the darkness ahead of them, slanted across, and landed no more than two hundred yards to their right.

'Reyna?' Veil said quietly.

'Huh?'

'Do you believe in happy endings?'

Reyna was staring wide-eyed, mouth open, at the frenzy of activity all around them. The helicopter swooped over a building Reyna recognized as the International Arrivals Building. 'What . . . huh?'

'I asked if you believe in happy endings.'

'What?'

'Reyna,' Walrus said, 'tell him he'll get his answer after I land this thing.'

And then they were beyond the airport. The lights on the radarscope dimmed as Walrus switched back to a mode with a tighter focus. There was no one following them.

Thirteen minutes later Walrus brought the helicopter down in a remote, dark corner of Flushing Airport. A two-engine jet was tied down off to one side of the weed-covered field, and Walrus taxied to within a few yards of it. Veil was the first out, and he took Toby's unconscious body from Schneider. Schneider jumped down, took Toby from Veil, and carried the K'ung to the plane. He strapped Toby onto a cot, then started the plane's engines.

Walrus was already out and busy ripping tape from the helicopter's identification numbers. Reyna, the Tourist Guide to New York City clenched tightly in her fist, jumped down from the cargo bay and threw her arms around Veil.

'Yes!' Reyna shouted, kissing Veil hard on the mouth.

'Yes?'

'Yes, I do believe in happy endings!'

Then Walrus was standing beside them, his huge arms draped around their shoulders. 'No time for chitchat, folks. You two want to come along? I'm betting the cops are really pissed, if you'll pardon the understatement, and I'm betting they have a pretty good idea who they're pissed at.'

Veil and Reyna smiled at each other. 'I don't think so,'

Veil said to Walrus. 'What the police think and what they can prove are two different things. Don't forget to write.'

'I'll call whenever I can and keep you posted on progress. Try to stay out of the can.'

'Yeah.'

Walrus took the Tourist Guide from Reyna, kissed her. 'Raskolnikov is probably out cruising on the highway looking for you two,' Walrus shouted over his shoulder as he ran toward the plane. 'I'll be in touch!'

'Be safe, my friend,' Veil said quietly.

Veil and Reyna stood with their arms around each other, staring into the empty sky, long after the plane's lights had disappeared. Then they turned and, hand in hand, walked toward the lights of the city.

Chapter Nineteen

Veil dreams.

Vivid dreaming is his gift and affliction, the lash of memory and a guide to justice, a mystery and sometimes the key to mystery, prod to violence and maker of peace, an invitation to madness, and the fountainhead of his power as an artist.

Once again, for the last time, Veil is Toby.

He has never felt quite this way before. There is a lightness in his chest and inside his mind that is new, and he understands that these feelings are gifts from the Nal-toon. Only as a small child did he ever laugh or cry, yet now he feels like laughing and crying at the same time; he does and is not ashamed. He suspects that these new feelings will stay with him for the rest of his life.

He is different now than when he left, Veil thinks. He is filled with love. He thinks of Reyna and the man-in- night with love.

He even thinks of the two silly, old missionaries with love; they had kissed him when he had come down with the two Newyorkcities in their flying machine, and he had kissed the missionaries back.

He had stripped off his clothes and sat stiffly in the back of the Landrover, Nal-toon and Reyna's paper in his lap, as they had set off across the desert. However, despite his eagerness to reach his people, he had insisted during the night that they stop and rest. While the missionaries slept, Veil had stood watch over them.

It is the first time Veil has ever really cared about anyone who was not K'ung.

But the missionaries had also been anxious to reach the camp, and they had only slept a short while. Now, with a luminous dawn glowing in the sky behind them, Veil smells a campfire. He asks the missionaries to stop, which they do. Once again he kisses both of them, then gets out.

He walks up a dune and stands looking down on his people who have heard the approaching Landrover and are waiting expectantly. They see him, rise to their feet. With the sun burning behind him, Veil lifts the Nal-toon and Reyna's paper over his head, draws air deep into the light place in his heart, and screams with joy and triumph before rolling away to another dream that is more than a dream.

'Veil, come to me. Love me. Tango with me on the edge of time.'

Electric-blue flight, Veil speeds toward love and promises to be kept.

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