by Martha Taylor, soulcake[at]bellsouth.net

Chapter 12

The plan was to take it easy and keep his cool. Blair wouldn't waste his energy fighting battles he couldn't win. Not that there had been a whole lot of battles he could win recently, bound hand and foot in the basement of the house with his captors all around him. Five to one. Even if he hadn't been shackled, even if he hadn't broken his ankle, the odds weren't great.That just meant he had to stay calm, as calm as Jim would be. He would watch, and he wouldn't fight back, and he would wait for his opportunity and be ready for it when it came. An opportunity would come, he couldn't allow himself to doubt it. They had planned everything pretty well so far, and things seemed to have gone their way, but they were sure to screw up eventually. They were amateurs, and that meant their ruthlessness had limits. Blair would stay calm and horde his strength, and he would wait and watch for the moment to prove he was more ruthless than they were.

 That was the plan anyway, but it all went out the window when Blair saw the syringe.


"Really, I don't know anything about it." The girl's hands were shaking with nerves, and she kept pushing her straight black hair back over her shoulder. It slipped over her shoulder again every time she bowed her head. "Nobody broke into my room. Look, you can see it hasn't been vandalized. That's what I told the policeman who came by this morning. I don't know anything about any of this." She looked over at Suzanne Tamaki with open, pleading eyes, but apparently didn't find the solidarity she was looking for there. "I swear I don't know anything about it."

"We're not accusing you of anything," Jim said. "We're just trying to figure out why your room would have been reported vandalized. Where's your roommate this morning?"

 "She wouldn't have called either. Nothing happened, I promise. I don't know why someone called you and said there was a break-in, because there wasn't. I was here all morning."

 "Take it easy, Danal," Suzanne said, her tone a little short. She hadn't been happy to learn Blair had been investigating Ross's death in the first place. She hadn't been any happier to hear he might be missing. This was looking like the second year in a row her "safest campus in the Pacific Northwest" record was going to be shot straight to hell. "We need you to stay calm and just tell us what you know. What's your roommate's name?"

"Honoria. Honoria Lopez. She's been in a physics lab all morning. You can call over there and check."

"How long have you and Honoria been roommates?" Jim asked.

 "Since freshman year. We're gonna try to get off-campus housing next quarter, but the places near school are so expensive, and neither one of us has a car."

 Jim had heard the same complaints from Sandburg when he tried to explain why he'd been renting that warehouse space. "What are you majoring in, Danal?"


"Doing pretty well in it?"

She shrugged, the tremor in her hands beginning to fade. "Ok, I guess. Pretty good. My folks always think I could be doing better."

 Jim managed a smile for her. "My dad was always the same way. What's Honoria's major?"

 "She's bio-chem too."

 "Both premeds, I guess?"

 She even flashed a quick smile. "Yeah."

 "Have you ever taken an anthropology class here? As an elective, say, or to fulfill a breadth requirement?"

 Danal smiled again, this time in slightly superior amusement. "No, huh-uh. I took Japanese lit and a couple of French classes for my GE's freshman year."

 "How about your roommate? Did she ever take anthropology?"

 "No. It wouldn't really be her thing."

 "How about any of your other friends?"

Danal smiled, seeming pleased to finally have a question she could answer in the affirmative. "Honoria's seeing a guy who's taking some sort of anthro class. Seth something. I can't think of his last name. They've only been out a few times. He's all involved in this anthro class, I know."

 "You don't think too much of anthropology, do you?" Jim asked with a faint smile, acknowledging the undercurrent.

 "It's funny. Me and Honoria were talking about it the other night. To us, it just seems like a bunch of white guys with time to feel guilty now because they raped every culture they ever encountered."

 "So you don't happen to know a grad student in the anthropology department named Blair Sandburg. He's teaching a class this quarter."

 She shook her head. "I've never even heard of him." She was starting to look worried again. "What does he have to do with someone calling to say our room was vandalized?"

 "Do you know if it was his class that Seth was taking?"

 "Sorry, no, I don't."

 "You wouldn't recognize Blair Sandburg if you saw him?"

 "I never even heard of him until just now."

 "We think he might have been here this morning, Danal," Suzanne interrupted, getting impatient with the pace of the questions. "Little guy, not a whole lot taller than me. Curly brown hair, about shoulder length. Kind of cute if you don't mind the hair. Ring any bells?"

 Danal just looked bewildered. "No. If he was here, I honestly didn't see him."


Now wasn't the moment, but Blair fought anyway. His left hand was still shackled to his ankles, but Seth had freed his right arm just before Tom handed over something that was slender and steel-bright. Seeing the glint of metal, Blair lashed out desperately. Seth grunted in surprise and sat down hard, trying to scuttle out of reach. The guy was scared of him. Blair felt a dull glimmer of satisfaction. Good, he should be scared. If he came any closer Blair would break his nose again. "Keep away from me," he panted furiously, reaching down to fumble with the clasp that pinned his other wrist. "Just stay back."

 "God, watch it, Seth," Tom snapped angrily, and before Blair could free his hand, Tom had dropped to his knees behind him and wrapped his arm around Blair's neck. "I've got him. Hurry up."

 Blair groped back with his free hand, trying to gouge Tom's face, his eyes, anything he could reach. Tom jerked his head back, turning his face away. The grip around Blair's neck tightened. The wool flannel of Tom's sleeve was scratchy and hot against his throat, and his belt buckle was digging into Blair's naked back. Blair heard a roaring in his ears, feeling a pressure like an iron bar laid across his throat. "Get him," Tom said. "Come on, get him, dammit."

 Someone grabbed Blair's wrist and yanked his arm down. "Can't you guys do anything right?" Susan growled. Her hands were strong, and her fingers dug into Blair's wrist. "I've got him. Come on, the way his veins are popping out, this should be easy."

 Blair's very soul seemed to spasm in revolt. Reason didn't matter when he simply couldn't stand it anymore. He would stop this now, no matter what.

 His vehement resolve meant nothing. It didn't even slow them down. Tom's arm forced his chin up so he couldn't see what they were doing. He felt a splash of something inside his elbow. It was cold and evaporated fast, and he smelled alcohol. "No," he grunted in anger, trying to wrench himself out of their hold. The arm around his neck tightened, and Susan's grip kept his arm extended. He felt something metallic bite into his inner arm, and he convulsed in his bonds. Muscles flexed uselessly, screaming with cramp, his hand jerking in Susan's grasp. "Steady," Seth muttered. "Steady, I got it." The needle slipped in, and Blair could not bear it. This far only, and no farther, he had promised himself, and it didn't do any good at all. The splinter of steel nosed into his vein, and a fierce, dragging pressure spread outward from the small wound, cold and inexorable. An ache settled deep into his elbow. The tips of his fingers went numb.

 "Don't," he pleaded, because he couldn't do anything else. "Please don't do this."

 "Hand me the next one," Seth said. Blair's vision had begun to fog, his empty stomach cramping with nausea. He wasn't fighting anymore. The roar in his ears had resolved itself into the rhythmic thumping of his own heartbeat. Someone took a vial from Seth and lifted it away. It passed before Blair's eyes, thin liquid splashing within, and the glimpse of his own blood seemed to leave a smear of saturated color imprinted across his mind. He saw red when he closed his eyes.

 How could the world have gone so insanely wrong in so few hours? The day hadn't started out this way. The nightmare this morning had been a bad one, but Jim had been right there, dripping from the shower, banishing demons like some kind of white knight under a standard of soap suds. He'd made coffee while Blair showered, and a cup had been sitting on the sink waiting for him when Blair got out of the shower. It had tasted so good. Best damn cup of coffee he'd ever had, and he wished he had told Jim so. All he'd done instead was offer to make Jim a sandwich for lunch while he was making his own, knowing good and well Jim wouldn't take him up on it. The man had a pretty cosmopolitan diet, all jokes about wonderburgers aside, but that didn't mean he considered a tahini and sprouts sandwich "lunch." Maybe if he'd been making corned beef, Jim would have taken him up on it.

Next time, man, I promise. I promise.


"Jim, may I speak to you outside for a moment?" Suzanne Tamaki's voice was too careful, too polite. Jim shut his eyes for a moment, swallowing back his annoyance at the interruption. When he opened them he told Danal, "Excuse us for just a moment. I'll have a few more questions, if you can wait."

 The student nodded solemnly, her eyes moving from Jim to Suzanne and back again. She was reading the situation as clearly as Jim was, and that angered Jim all over again. He followed Suzanne into the hall outside Danal's dorm room. It was quiet this hour of the morning. Most people were in class, but the Resident Advisor's door was standing open near the stairwell. Suzanne kept her voice down. "Jim, the girl obviously doesn't know anything. I don't want you badgering her anymore."

 "A student is dead. Sandburg is missing. And you're asking me to curtail my investigation."

 "Now hold on, I'm not asking you to do any such thing. But be reasonable. We don't even know Blair is missing. How do you know he didn't just lose track of the time? He could be having a cappuccino down at Starbuck's right now while you're browbeating students looking for him."

 "He isn't at Starbuck's. Sandburg hates that place." Wrong thing to say, absolutely the wrong tack to take with Suzanne, he knew that, and he said it all the same. He had to get a grip here. He was acting like a man on the verge of losing control. Was that the truth? Was he really that scared?

 Suzanne drew herself up stiffly. "Fine. So he's not at Starbuck's. You know what I mean. In fact, you know what I think? I think you're letting what happened last year at the research facility with that kid Alec affect your judgment. Think about it, Jim. You're so convinced that something's happened to Blair, but what are the odds of him being attacked on campus twice in the space of a year? I don't care if he is riding along with a cop, it just defies all the odds. It's crazy."

 She sounded like someone else Jim had talked to recently. Eddie. She sounded like Ross's roommate Eddie, talking about the disasters that seemed to follow Blair around.

"It is crazy," Jim agreed slowly. "That's what worries me. Look at what we've got here. Blair called campus security from his office at 8:50. That's only ten minutes after I dropped him off. In other words, he walked straight to his office and called to security to report a break-in at a dorm halfway across campus. A break-in that apparently didn't even happen. Why did he do that?"

 Suzanne spread her hands. "I agree it doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

 "I think someone met Sandburg at his office. A student of his, or someone he knew, who told him their room had been vandalized."

 "But why?"

 "Sandburg said he would meet the officer at the dorm, right?"

"I think so."

 "If you were going to walk from Hargrove to Mathers, which way would you go?"

 She though about it for a moment. "Well, Tacoma Street winds around behind Hargrove and up the hill to Mathers, and there's a sidewalk the whole way, but probably I'd cut through the Geology Building or the Law Library and up through the faculty parking garage. You cross the street and go behind the dumpsters, and here you are."


Blair's head was resting on his knees, even though his neck didn't bend that way. Not comfortably at least. Both his hands were bound to his ankles, and the last he remembered, his right hand had been free. That made him wonder if he had fainted after all. His elbow ached, and he felt a faint trickle of wetness along the inside of his arm. The hair at the back of his neck was drying in a tangle, despite all Susan's combing. After his frantic, utterly useless fight against the needle, he felt oddly calm and detached. He could almost imagine all this was happening to some other poor sod, not him. That was good. In fact, maybe that could be the new plan. Calm and distant. Cool and collected and utterly detached. That would keep him sane until Jim found him. Which would be soon. Very, very soon. Come on, Jim. Soon.

 Something was burning nearby. He could taste acrid smoke in his mouth and at the back of his throat. The smell made his nose prickle and itch. He wanted to sneeze, but didn't have the energy. Raising his head, he could see the haze of blue a few inches below the tile ceiling. No working fire alarms, obviously. This place should be reported for major fire code violations, he thought in the corner of his mind that seemed to keep up an endless stream of nonsense no matter what was happening around him. The smell was familiar, and he looked around himself, trying to place it.

 Susan and Eddie were standing by the antique sink, and the smoke was curling up from there. Charcoal, Blair thought. They had lit a couple of little tabs, the kind you would use to burn powdered incense. You weren't supposed to use that stuff in an unventilated room, of course, but he didn't suppose Susan and Eddie cared very much about indoor air quality. Blair swallowed. His throat was dry, and the smoke wasn't helping any. The plume died for a moment, then began to rise again more thickly than before, another scent twisting in the smoke. It was harsh from combustion but left a faint, lingering fragrance behind. They were using the charcoal to burn some kind of resin incense. Blair thought it was probably frankincense, though it was hard to tell in the cloyingly close quarters.

 "Hey," he rasped, and the effort of speech made him dizzy. Amazing what a little blood loss could do. He felt so drained. Ha ha. Drained. He was killing himself today.

 "Hey," he tried again. "You keep that up, and we're all going to suffocate down here."


On the other side of the dumpsters there was a steady stream of traffic along Tacoma. The sun was shining brightly through leafless trees, and out on the sidewalk, the air smelled like spring. But these few square yards behind the dumpsters were a different world. The back of Mathers Hall rose blankly for five stories above them, the only windows small, dark squares all in a line, one window for every flight of the stairwell. The dumpsters and recycling bins stood in staggered ranks along the cracked cement. A dark, sunless little canyon it was, and Jim prowled restlessly from the street to the back door, hardly knowing what he was looking for.

Not entirely true. He did know. He simply wasn't finding it.

 Suzanne Tamaki stood on the doorstep, arms crossed over her chest. She had tried the door and found the keycard lock was working, no sign the mechanism had been tampered with or the door propped open. Jim wasn't surprised. Whoever had lured Blair here probably lived in the dorm.

 "Jim, I don't see anything," she complained at last. "What do you expect to find?"

 Not an unfair question, all things considered. "You have to admit it's the perfect place for an ambush," he pointed out. "There are almost no windows on this side of the building. Dumpsters block the view from the street. I think they were waiting for him here."

 "No," she disagreed. "I don't buy it. Anyone could have walked out the back door or come up from the sidewalk. You'd have to be desperate to attack someone in broad daylight right here."

 "We're talking about people who stole a corpse out of the police morgue. I don't think they mind taking risks."

 She seemed taken aback, as if she'd forgotten that macabre detail of the case, or deliberately forced it out of her mind. In other circumstances, Jim might almost have felt sorry for the woman. She wanted to believe Rainier was its own world, that it could be neat and safe and contained if she only did her job well enough. It probably wouldn't be true on any campus, but least of all here. He was dimly surprised she didn't understand that.

 He looked down. The early afternoon sun threw painfully hard-edged shadows past the dumpsters and the side of the building and the bare limbs of the trees. Their shadows met upon the cement to form a strange silhouette. Almost like the skyline of an impossible city. Wavering spires and odd, blocky towers constructed at uncomfortable, impossible angles. Darker than a moonless night.

He jerked his head up, shaken by the memory of his vision in the library, half afraid he would see that nonexistent city again if he watched the shadows too closely. "They were waiting for him here," he announced with certainty.

Suzanne looked at him. "All right," she said at last. "Can you show me anything, Jim? Anything at all?"

 That was the problem. He couldn't. The closest he could come were the scattered cigarette butts, but even they proved nothing. Of course people had clustered here to smoke. Especially in the nice weather they'd been having lately. Cold but sunny. Personally, Jim was starting to get tired of so much sunlight. It was so bright on the cement it hurt his eyes, and the brightness of the reflected light made the shadows so dark.

 "There's nothing here," Suzanne said quietly.

 She was right, and that meant there was something wrong with his theory. If they had taken Blair from here, there would be some sign, because Blair would not have gone easily. There should be something left behind. A few strands of hair. Fingernail scrabblings on the sidewalk. Fibers from a torn sweater.

A drop of blood.

 And he could find nothing. Perhaps he was having trouble filtering out the stench of garbage in the dumpsters, or maybe he wasn't looking as hard as he could be. Maybe he was afraid of what he would find if he probed too deeply. He didn't really believe that, though. It didn't matter what darkness walked at the edges of his mind, nor at the furthest reach of his senses. Not when Blair needed him.

 Dammit, Chief, but this is hard without you.

 "OK," is what Jim said out loud. He walked out of the shadow of the building, into the harsh sunlight. On the other side of the road, he could see across the top story of the parking garage built into the hill, and down to the backs of the buildings on the south side of the quadrangle. He was still certain they had waited for Blair right here, but perhaps things had not gone according to plan. After all, they never seemed to when Sandburg was involved.

 He looked back at Suzanne. "Let's check out the garage," he said.


They doused the burning frankincense with a vial of Blair's blood. Blair was watching it all, his lungs aching deep in his chest from the smoky room, his eyes burning, exhausted and light-headed. He still felt detached and unnaturally calm, even as he listened to his own blood spattering and sizzling on the hot charcoal. Eddie wrinkled his nose and stepped back.

 "Get everyone else," Susan said. Her voice was hoarse from the smoke. "We're almost ready."

 Eddie nodded and walked out. The door swung open and back, and the moving air made the smoke hovering below the ceiling roll back and forth like waves on the beach.

 "You didn't ask me if I was ready," Blair said, and Susan turned to smile at him. She was holding a second vial of his blood. Calm, Blair said to himself, even as he felt his calm slipping away. Calm and relaxed. Jim would be here soon.

 "Well, OK," Susan said agreeably, still smiling. "Are you ready?"

 That was an easy one. "No.  Absolutely not."

 She laughed at him, baring her teeth. "It's your fault. Ross didn't want it this way."

 "I don't think you mind, though," Blair said softly.

 She shrugged. "Maybe I don't. I'm starting to think that sometimes it's better to just reach out and take what you want. Ross had been waiting for years, came all the way across the country, and look where it got him." She worked the stopper off the second vial and poured it into the dish of blood and ash. Blair couldn't see it over the edge of the sink, but he could imagine it too vividly, and the picture made him a little sick. He closed his eyes for a moment.

"So where did it get Ross?" he asked Susan at last.

 She shook her head and made a dismissive motion with one hand, refusing to look at him.

"It got him dead, Susan. All of this -- this charade, this black magic shit, it's useless. It can't change anything. Ross is gone. Listen to me. There's no reason for you to throw your life away too."

 She didn't look at him, but she raised her head and stared straight ahead. "I wish you would tell me what it feels like. That's the only thing I'm sorry for now." Her broad shoulders shifted under her flannel shirt in a shrug, and she opened the third vial of blood and poured it slowly. Blair couldn't look away. It was already clotting. A gelatinous, dark mass that came out in a rush, then the thinner, clear fluid in the bottom of the tube that poured out one drop at a time. "Ross will tell us, even though you wouldn't. That's why it's better this way."


The gun was painfully easy. Jim walked straight to it across the parking garage, not wholly sure if it was the smell or the glint of the metal or something else altogether, a tangle of impressions even Blair could not have teased into its component parts. Suzanne practically had to jog in order to keep up with his long strides, and that reminded him of Blair so powerfully his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

"Jim! Jim, wait up. What is it?"

 He knelt at the grate without answering her. The Colt had fallen between the bars of the drain and caught there, the muzzle winking darkly up at him. He got a handkerchief from his pocket and dropped it over the gun before picking it up.

 "My god," Suzanne said, crouching at his side. "How did you know it was there?"


Blair stared up at the tile ceiling and tried very hard to think about something else. This summer. He could think about this summer. He was planning to fly up to Fairbanks in July and spend a week in the university library. He'd seen an article in Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska on incised stones from Chaluka and Anangula nearly two years ago that had made him think he should go up and look at the primary materials himself. This year he'd finally gotten the little travel grant from the department so he could actually do it. He hadn't told Jim that he was going yet, which was dumb of him. Especially since the only reason he hadn't said anything was because he was nurturing this fond hope Jim might want to go with him, and might even be able to clear the vacation time to do it. Pretty much a long shot. That's why Blair hadn't said anything yet, just so he could childishly keep imagining they would fly up there together, instead of dealing with the disappointment of knowing he was going alone. Dumb, he knew it was, but there you go. He would just ask Jim about it the next time he saw him, get it settled one way or another.

Which would be soon. Real soon now, Jim. Please.

The tile floor was slick and gritty under his back. Seemed a waste of time, all that scrubbing and cleaning, washing his hair and all the rest, if they were just going lay him out on this filthy floor again. He wondered when it had last been cleaned. Probably not since the days of poor old President Bollingen's housekeeper.

 She must have been a pretty tough old lady, you know? It couldn't have been easy to chop off a man's forearms with a carving knife, not even a good sharp one. Of course, she'd probably deboned a lot of chickens in her day, so she must have gone after her employer the same way, cutting through the joint at the elbow. That would be easiest, but even so, it must have taken some strength.

 Great, that was great. Just the line of thought to distract him from the dry scrape of the razor across his breast. He closed his eyes, trying to suppress a shudder. He was afraid even to take a deep breath, though he didn't suppose they would actually cut him. Not intentionally, at any rate.

 So. Fairbanks in July. Wonder if the mosquitoes would be bad. Did they even have mosquitoes that far north? Probably, or something just as bad. He could just hear the conversation now. Hey Jim, want to spend a week swatting mosquitoes with me up in Alaska? See, there are some rock carvings I wanna look at. It'll be fun, man. He could almost see the look on Jim's face. But you know something? If there was any way for Jim to swing it, he probably would spend a week of his hard earned vacation with Blair in Alaska, if Blair asked him to. That was pretty much just the kind of guy Jim was.

Blair wished he had thanked him for the coffee this morning.

 He blinked his eyes open again. There was still a haze of smoke in the room. He could see it, faintly blue against the grimy white tiles. His captors were crouched around him on the floor, their faces dark and expressionless. Blair's back hurt, as well as his shoulders. After spending so much time curled into a ball, suddenly being forced to lie flat was an interestingly awful experience. His shoulder blades felt as though they had been stitched to the muscle with red hot wires. Imagine how much real torture would hurt.

 Actually, if they did cut him, that would at least be a distraction from the pain in his back. Monica was being very careful though. Blair didn't think she would break the flesh unless she intended to, which wasn't really all that reassuring, actually. She'd already shaved a patch of flesh bare from his hip to his navel without shedding a drop, and he could still feel the dry scrape of the blade. It reminded him of a patient being prepped for surgery.

 Oh god, what a thought. Suddenly his heart was pounding in new terror, his breaths loud and harsh. Susan and Tom tightened their grip on his wrists, keeping his arms pinned flat, but Monica leaned forward over him and smoothed his hair back off his brow. "Just be still," she told him. "This won't hurt."

 "It already hurts," he gasped out, angry at their nonsense, and tried to wrench his head away from her hands.

She said, "Seth, can you keep him from jerking around, please?"

Seth snuffled something in the affirmative, and came to kneel behind Blair's head. He put his hands on either side of his face and held on tightly, fingers spread, keeping Blair's head still. Monica got up and moved away, and when she returned to kneel beside him once more, she was carrying a small calligraphy brush and a glazed bowl. She dipped the brush and then wiped the bristles along the lip of the bowl. When she lifted the brush, it was still dripping clotted blood and flecks of ash. Bending closely over Blair, she touched the brush to the center of his forehead. The feel of the sable bristles and wet kiss of that obscene paint made his whole body flex in horror. His back arched up off the floor and his hands clenched into fists. He made a sound, wanting to scream his rage and terror, but all that escaped was a long, helpless moan of loathing.

Monica just smiled, and Susan said, "It's working. He can feel it."

 Blair wanted to tell them he didn't feel anything but the ache in his back and shoulders and the still-sharp pain in his ankle, and most of all, a hatred so profound he really did see a haze of red before his eyes. Seeing red. Who knew it really happened? He wished he still didn't. He collapsed against the floor, panting and gasping. "Keep him still," Monica directed once more, and she dipped the brush again and drew it across his cheek and over the bridge of his nose. Then again, down his chin, a crosshatch stroke over his other cheek. She was writing on his flesh, and Blair knew what the letters would spell. He'd read the Huysmans translation. He'd seen the letters on the whiteboard in his class. Pretty damn brazen of them. Who had done that? Monica or Seth? Both of them together? Someone must have seen them. If Blair had stopped class and demanded an answer, perhaps someone would have said something. Maybe this whole thing could have been stopped right then and there. Stupid of him, stupid. He'd guessed wrong over and over again, right from the start. No one could be trusted. No one could be believed. That was the lesson he had learned today. He'd never forget, he swore to himself despairingly.

Then it didn't seem worth fighting about anymore. The whole world was blood red with betrayal and grief, so there was no point struggling. He didn't have to worry about keeping his calm. This was the new plan, and it was the best one yet. He would just lie here and let them do whatever they wanted to. Wasn't like he could do a goddamned thing to stop them, was it? Monica had shifted downward, and was now drawing those dirty letters on his breast, over his heart, and he stared up at the ceiling, seeing pictures in the mold of the grout. Jim wouldn't want to go to Alaska. Who was he kidding anyway? What a stupid plan that had been from the start. If he were honest, there wasn't any point in him going either. He thought he saw references to sentinels everywhere, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it was nonsense. It's called obsession, man, and look where it gets you.

The third set of letters Monica painted low on his belly, in the flat of his right hip. He trembled a little in shame and disgust, but he kept his eyes fixed on the ceiling. Heart, brains and bowels. He was marked through and through now. Anyone could look at him and see what he was. The pictures he saw in the ceiling were obscene. Bodies roiling together, the living and the dead. Limbless, eyeless, crawling down the streets of a terrible city of unimaginable antiquity. He knew now what President Bollingen's housekeeper had been trying to do, but they had stopped her too soon. Perhaps it wouldn't have worked even if she had been able to finish it.

Don't come here, Jim, he thought, and suddenly realized he was not as far gone in the apathy of despair as he had hoped. Thinking of Jim finding him this way and seeing the things Blair saw hurt him more than he had thought anyone could hurt. As Monica laid the wide, soft strip of cloth over his eyes, and lifted his head carefully to tie the blindfold, he pleaded with her not to let Jim see this. She just laid her fingertips over his mouth and laughed quietly, and did not promise.


Chapter 13
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