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.”Her fingers rattled the keyboard.She frowned.“Correct on the location, but negative on the crime.I’ve got nothing even close to a men’s-room stabbing here.You sure that’s where he died?”He is not dead, they’d told me.Find his grave, and you will see.“Try this,” I said.“Just look for an obituary or a burial notice for Payton.Forget the stabbing part.”“This is now officially weird.” Pixie squinted at her screen.“You’re certain he was murdered?”“Watched it happen.”She turned, pushed her Buddy Holly glasses down on her nose, and stared at me over the rims.“I wasn’t there there,” I said.“Forget it, it’s complicated.Why, what did you find?”“No police record of his death, but he does have an obituary.It ran in the Oakland Tribune.Guess he was from around there originally.Talks about how he got his PhD from UC Berkeley and moved back to New York to get in on the ground floor with Ausar.”“Does it say how he died?” I said, leaning in to read over her shoulder.She shook her head.“Not a word.Just says he had no surviving family, no spouse or kids.He was interred at Sunset Rest in El Cerrito.What are you going to do, go dig him up?”I didn’t answer right away.She looked over at me.“Tell me,” she said, “you’re not going to go dig him up.”“I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” I said, turning the pieces over in my mind.“There’s nothing buried there but an empty casket.The Ausar brain trust had a falling out just before the Viridithol scandal.Nedry and Clark tried to assassinate Bob Payton, but they didn’t stick around to see the aftermath.I think he survived the stabbing.He knew he was in over his head, and he faked his death and went into hiding so they wouldn’t take a second shot at him.”“What difference does it make?” Pixie said.“What does this have to do with my missing people?”“It’s all connected.Ausar Biomedical, Lauren Carmichael, Senator Roth, the missing people, all of it.Twenty years ago, Nedry, Clark, and Payton were messing with something they should have left alone.Now the experiments are starting again, bankrolled by Carmichael-Sterling and greased by Roth’s political influence.They’re all after the same thing.”“What?” Pixie said.I thought back to the prison cell and that mutated, twisted creature that had been an innocent man before Nedry went to work on him.The vision of Lauren descending into the tomb, its ancient stones bristling with grass and flowers made of flesh.“Something terrible,” I said.• • •Two hundred bucks bought me a window seat on a jet to Oakland International.It was only an hour and a half away from Vegas, the kind of flight where you spend more time on the runway than you do in the air.I didn’t bring luggage.I rented a little red Altima and set the GPS for Berkeley.I made it just in time to catch the sun setting over the San Francisco Bay, turning the cloudy sky and the clear water into sheets of hammered gold.My stomach was grumbling, so I headed for the Gourmet Ghetto on Shattuck and Vine, on the north side of town.Besides, I needed less light in the sky before I could take care of business.I ended up at La Fable, a cute little bistro on Walnut Street, and sat under an umbrella on the patio with a menu in one hand and a whiskey sour in the other.The Bourbon whiskey, laced with lemon juice and sugar, went down with a smooth heat and helped me think.The strains of a jazz quartet drifted up from the street as the lights of the city—and out in the distance, the sprawl of San Francisco—blazed against the falling night.Lauren and the science boys at Ausar were on the same mission.The linking element was Senator Roth.I wondered if they’d discovered their common interests when she bribed him into sending the feds after Nicky and decided to hitch their wagons together.The one thing I knew for certain was that Bob Payton wanted nothing to do with it.He’d created the smoke-faced men as some sort of antibody, a cure against what his old colleagues were planning, though it hadn’t done a hell of a lot of good.Given that they’d almost started the apocalypse, their idea of a cure was worse than the disease.Payton could tell me what I wanted to know.And he would, once I got my hands on him.Down to every last detail.I ordered the moules frites and switched to sparkling water for the rest of the meal.It was my old habit before a job from my days of working for Nicky: one stiff drink, then nothing but water.Just enough to get me limber but not sloppy.The waitress brought me a plate of black-shelled mussels in a cream sauce, along with a side of fries.There’s nothing like fresh seafood, so juicy and tender you can smell the ocean salt with every bite.I idly stirred a fry in the mussel sauce and glanced at my watch, pacing myself.I was going in blind tonight.I hated going in blind.Once I decided it was late enough and I’d had enough of mussels and jazz, I paid my check.El Cerrito was thirteen minutes north of Berkeley, most of it a straight shot along SR-123.I drove five miles over the speed limit and took my time.I’d never broken into a cemetery before.There’s a first time for everything.Twenty-ThreeSunset Rest was a one-stop shop for the dead [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]