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.”“It may take me a little while to figure out.”“You have four days.”“That might not be enough.”“If it isn’t, we’ll reassess.But I’ll be leaving right at the deadline, so if someone does find the answer, then whoever’s not at the meeting point when I arrive will be left behind.I don’t have to tell you what will happen if you’re still here when we fix the problem.”No, she didn’t.“You have until Friday at noon, East Coast time,” she says.“What is that? Eight o’clock here?”“Nine,” I say.“All right.Nine a.m., then.Are we clear on everything?”“Yes.Very clear.”“Good.Then I’ll let you get to work.See you in the past.” She whips out her Chaser and winks out of my room.I sit in my chair, staring at the space where she was, half expecting her to reappear and point an accusatory finger at me.The sudden desire to be anywhere but this room is what finally gets me to push off my chair.I fold Lidia’s note and shove it in my pocket.My fingers touch another scrap of paper.When I pull it out, I see it’s the message Iffy left me.Her address.A place that’s not here.Something’s coming! Iffy’s words.Something came, all right.I shove my few possessions into my satchel, pull it over my shoulder, and leave my dingy hotel room for the last time.CHAPTER TWENTYUSING A MAP I purchase near my hotel, I make my way to the address in Hollywood from Iffy’s note.There, I find a three-story house with green wooden siding and a large, dimly lit stone porch.As I walk up to the door, I wonder if I’m making a mistake.Maybe I should find another hotel and lock myself away until I can figure out what to do.But I can’t stop myself from knocking.A beautiful woman of African descent opens the door.“Hello,” she says with mild surprise.“Something I can help you with?”“I’m sorry to bother you.I think I might be at the wrong place,” I say.“Who are you looking for?”“A girl.Her name’s Iffy.”“Not the wrong place.What’s your name?”“Denny.”“Of course it is.” Turning slightly, she calls, “Carl, can you tell Iffy her guest is here?”From somewhere inside, a male voice says, “Sure.”The woman opens the door wider.“Come in, Denny.”She leads me into a large living room that features a wide stone fireplace.The couch and chairs are leather while the small tables are stained dark brown.A blonde woman is sitting in one of the chairs, probably ten years younger than the woman who answered the door.“Catherine, this is Denny.Iffy’s friend.”The woman smiles as she rises from her chair and holds out her hand.“Nice to meet you, Denny.”We shake.“And I’m Marilyn,” the first woman says.“Please have a seat.”I sit on the couch but perch near the edge.Marilyn takes one of the overstuffed chairs.“So, you’re Denny?”“Uh, yes.”“She described you well.”“She what?”Marilyn smiles as she reaches forward and pats my hand.“It was all very innocent.Don’t worry.”“She told you about me?”“Only that she made a new friend and that you’d be stopping by tonight.”“What do you do, Denny?” Catherine asks.“Do?” I say.“Your profession.”“I’m a…student.”“Oh.Which school?”The only answer I can think of is one I saw on a sign at the library.“University of Southern California.”That garners raised eyebrows from both Marilyn and Catherine.“My, USC.You must be a smart one,” Marilyn says.“Or rich,” Catherine throws in.“Let me guess—business school?”My lies have been coming so fast and thick that I feel the need to say something closer to the truth.“History.”“That’s…interesting,” Marilyn says.“What do you plan to do with that?”“What do you mean?”“When you graduate.What kind of job do you get with a degree in history? Teacher?”I’m saved from burying myself under even more lies by the arrival of Iffy and a man I assume is Carl.“Hi,” she says as I shoot to my feet.“Hi.”The awkward silence that follows is broken by Marilyn.“Perhaps we should give you two the living room.”“That’s okay,” Iffy says.“We’ll go to my room.” She waves for me to follow her.As we leave, Catherine says, “He’s cute, Iffy.Nice catch.”“Leave them be,” Marilyn chides.Once we’re out of the living room, Iffy grabs my hand and guides me up a set of stairs, all the way to the single room at the top of the house on the third floor.The ceiling slants in either direction from the high point in the middle, convincing me this was once an attic.The shortened walls to either side are lined with bookcases stuffed to overflowing.A mattress lies on the floor at the far end under an opened window, the only other piece of furniture being a dresser near the stairs.She leads me to the mattress.“We can sit here.”As I lower myself, I say, “So I guess you knew I was coming.”An uncomfortable nod.“It’s okay,” I tell her.“You’re not crazy.”“You don’t know me very well.”She’s right about that.“The something I warned you about happened, didn’t it?” she asks.Instead of answering, I say, “I came because you said there was a room.”Her lower lip slips between her teeth and she looks away.“There is a room, right?”She half nods, half shrugs.“Can I use it? Who do I need to talk to? Marilyn?”“Uh…”“What?”“Well, um…”“There isn’t a room, is there?”She shoots me a worried glance that tells me everything I need to know.“Dammit,” I mutter and push myself to my feet.She jumps up and puts a hand on my arm.“There was one, I swear.Marilyn rented it out to a couple of guys this morning.They’ve been moving their stuff in all day.”I start walking toward the stairs.“Where are you going?”“To find a place to stay.”“You can stay here.I’ll sleep downstairs on the couch.I’ve done it before.”I shake my head.“I’m not kicking you out of your room.”“Please don’t go.Not yet at least.Just…” She rubs a hand across her eyes.“I don’t know what’s happening.”I stop and turn to her.“I told you, you’re not crazy.”“Then what’s going on?” she says, looking as if she’s on the verge of a breakdown.“Why do I know where you’re going to be? Why do I know you’re in trouble? Why do I feel you?”My training demands that I say nothing, but in reality, what will it hurt? Once the twelve-second gap is eliminated and Richard Cahill is allowed to report Washington’s position, Iffy will either be entirely erased or live a life under empire rule in which she never meets me.As I think this, other thoughts begin stirring in my mind, the ones I was having at the library earlier today.I shove them away before I have time to acknowledge them.I walk back to her.“I know why.”“Tell me, then.Please!” Whatever she’s been using to hold herself together crumbles and she begins to cry.“I want to understand.”I shouldn’t do it.I shouldn’t even be thinking about doing it.I should be turning around and walking out.I should already be on the stairs.I pull her into my arms [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]