The City of Mirrors Page 119

“I’ve been thinking,” Sara said after.

Hollis was nestled behind her, wrapping her in his arms. Two spoons in a drawer, they called it. “I thought you might be.”

“I miss them. I’m sorry. It’s just not the same. I thought I’d be okay with it, but I’m just not.”

“I miss them, too.”

She rolled to face him. “Would you really mind so much? Be honest.”

“That depends. Do you think they need a librarian in the townships?”

“We can find out. But they need doctors, and I need you.”

“What about the hospital?”

“Let Jenny run it. She’s ready.”

“Sara, you do nothing but complain about Jenny.”

Sara was taken aback. “I do?”

“Nonstop.”

She wondered if this was true. “Well, somebody can take over. We can just go for a visit to start, to see how it feels. Get the lay of the land.”

“They may not actually want us out there, you know,” Hollis said.

“Maybe not. But if it seems right, and everyone’s agreed, we can put in for a homestead. Or build something in town. I could open an office there. Hell, you’ve got enough books right here to start a library of your own.”

Hollis frowned dubiously. “All of us crammed into that tiny house.”

“So we’ll sleep outside. I don’t care. They’re our kids.”

He took a long breath. Sara knew what Hollis was going to say; it was just a matter of hearing him say it.

“So when do you want to leave?”

“That’s the thing,” she said, and kissed him. “I was thinking tomorrow.”

Lucius Greer was standing under the spotlights at the base of the drydock, watching a distant figure swinging over the side of the ship in a bosun’s chair.

“For godsakes,” Lore yelled. “Who did this fucking weld?”

Greer sighed. In six hours, Lore had seen very little that she actually approved of. She lowered the chair to the dock and stepped free.

“I need half a dozen guys down here now. Not the same jokers who did these welds, either.” She angled her face upward. “Weir! Are you up there?”

The man’s face appeared at the rail.

“String up three more chairs. And go get Rand. I want these seams redone by sunrise.” Lore looked at Greer from the corner of her eye. “Don’t say it. I ran that refinery for fifteen years. I know what I’m doing.”

“You won’t hear any complaints from me. That’s why Michael wanted you here.”

“Because I’m a hard-ass.”

“Your words, not mine.”

She stood back, hands resting on her hips, eyes distractedly scanning the hull. “So tell me something,” she said.

“All right.”

“Did you ever think it was all bullshit?”

He liked Lore, her directness. “Never.”

“Not once?”

“I wouldn’t say the thought never crossed my mind. Doubt is human nature. It’s what we do with it that matters. I’m an old man. I don’t have time to second-guess things.”

“That’s an interesting philosophy.”

A pair of ropes drifted down the flank of the Bergensfjord, then two more.

“You know,” Lore said, “all these years, I wondered if Michael would ever find the right woman and settle down. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my competition was twenty thousand tons of steel.”

Rand appeared at the gunwale. He and Weir began to hitch up the bosun’s chairs.

“Do you still need me here?” Greer asked.

“No, go sleep.” She waved up at Rand. “Hang on, I’m coming up!”

Greer left the dock, got in his truck, and drove down the causeway. The pain had gotten bad; he wouldn’t be able to hide it much longer. Sometimes it was cold, like being stabbed by a sword of ice; other times it was hot, like glowing embers tossing around inside him. He could hardly keep anything down; when he actually managed to take a piss, it looked like an arterial bleed. There was always a bad taste in his mouth, sour and ureic. He’d told himself a lot of stories over the last few months, but there was really only one ending he could see.

Near the end of the causeway the road narrowed, hemmed in on either side by the sea. A dozen men armed with rifles were stationed at this bottleneck. As Greer drew alongside, Patch stepped from the cab of the tanker and came over.

“Anything going on out there?” Greer asked.

The man was sucking at something in his teeth. “Looks like the Army sent a patrol. We saw lights to the west just after sundown, but nothing since.”

“You want more men out here?”

Patch shrugged. “I think we’re okay for tonight. They’re just sniffing us out at this point.” He focused on Greer’s face. “You okay? You don’t look too good.”

“Just need to get off my feet.”

“Well, the cab of the tanker is yours if you want it. Catch a few winks. Like I said, there’s nothing going on out here.”

“I’ve got some other things to see to. Maybe I’ll come back later.”

“We’ll be here.”

Greer turned the truck around and drove away. Once he was out of sight, he pulled to the side of the causeway, got out, placed a hand against the fender for balance, and threw up onto the gravel. There wasn’t much to come up, just water and some yolky-looking blobs. For a couple of minutes he remained in that position; when he decided there was nothing more, he retrieved his canteen from the cab, rinsed his mouth, poured some water into his palm, and splashed his face. The aloneness of it—that was the worst part. Not so much the pain as carrying the pain. He wondered what would happen. Would the world dissolve around him, receding like a dream, until he had no memory of it, or would it be the opposite—all the things and people of his life rising up before him in vivid benediction until, like a man gazing into the sun on a too-bright day, he was forced to look away?

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