the goddess na vanished as quickly as she had appeared. imelda was left alone under the tree with the troll and the witch. she looked at them uncertainly.
"do you guys have names?" she asked them.
the witch smiled unpleasantly and looked at the troll. "do us guys have names?"
the troll, however, seemed friendly enough and smiled at imelda. "we can have names if you like, miss. i think i will call myself cool. i always wanted to be cool." he looked at the witch. "and she can be way. together we'll be way cool. unless she has some objection."
"no, i'm down with it, daddy-o," said the witch.
'if you don't mind me saying so,"said imelda, "both of you sound like you have already spent some time in the new city and the new universe."
"so?" the witch asked her.
'i mean, you didn't just come from the old universe with na," imelda stammered.
"and - are you going to take me back to the the old universe?"
cool the troll looked at way the witch. "i think," he said to imelda, "the time has come to belly up to the bar and put our cards on the table and let the chips fall where they may."
"way cool." agreed the witch.
"you see, the goddess has entrusted us to your care as much as she has entrusted you to ours." he looked expectantly at imelda.
"i guess that's way cool," imelda told him.
"the old universe has just about had the course, and its every denizen for itself. the goddess herself will probably have to bail out herself."
"i think that's enough explanation for now," said way,
"but what's going to happen?" imelda asked them. she turned and looked back at the lighted windows of the hospital. "can't i just walk around to the front and go back inside - like nothing happened?"
"you can if you want to," said way. "we thought the whole point was to get away from doctor varney. he's still inside, isn't he?"
"can you just walk back in?" asked cool. "how will you explain how you got outside?"
"i'll say i fell out the window."
they both laughed at that.
"we know enough about the new universe to know that no explanation that simple is ever accepted," said cool. "there will be an investigation, and then an investigation of the investigation."
"do you want that?" way asked.
'i guess not."
"then let's get going. i'm surprised nobody's been out here looking for yet."
"i just have one more question," said imelda as they started down the path into the darkness.
"can a good and beautiful princess go on a magic quest if her advisors are a troll and a witch?"
"let's find out," way told her.
a hand appeared in front of sally's face and turned off the viewer on the bench outside the office on the 138th floor. sally looked up and saw jeanne d'arc, who jerked her head towards the office door.
charlotte corday's office, or the office she was using, was spare but sunny. charlotte sat behind a plain metal desk with nothing on it. there was a closed door behind the desk. jeanne took a chair beside the desk, and sally was motioned to sit in front of charlotte in a similar chair.
there was nothing else in the office - and no guards or robots. sally sank into the chair. it was comfortable.
"all right then," said charlotte. she reached into the drawers of the desk and took out two folders, a moderately sized yellow one, and a thick green one. she opened the yellow one and took out a brown envelope with postage on it. she extracted a sheaf of about thirty pages, which she fanned to show there they were filled with writing on both sides.
"the sixteenth letter," charlotte told sally, " all 32,678 words of it. would you like to read it? after all, it is addressed to you."
"no thank you."
charlotte fanned the pages again. "the same as before. he loves you, he can't live without you, you're his dream. in exactly 32,678 words. you sure you don't want to read it?"
"i'd rather watch doctors and wives,"
"so would i. you know, we had a robot count the words. but even a robot can't read it - we had to get a machine to do that. don't you find that strange - here is this great protest against the new order on behalf of the old so called romantic ways - but no human, and not even a robot, can actually read the thing," charlotte paused, and waited for sally to answer.
"you lost me," said sally. "what's all this about a protest? i don't know anything about that."
"oh, but i think you do know something about it. i think you know everything about it."
"i don't know anything. i just got the letters. i don't even get them any more- they go straight to you."
"oh?" charlotte asked. "would you like to get them?"
"i didn't say that."
charlotte paused. "you know what happened to detective kelly?"
"oh!! you know what happened to her?"
"i know she disappeared. you know what i meant." sally stared back at charlotte. "and somebody will replace her, that's all i know."
"i'm glad you brought that up. no detectives will replace kelly and lyndon. i was going to have jeanne handle the case herself, buy then i thought, why stop there? so i am going to handle this matter myself."
"you brought me all the way out here just to tell me that?"
'no. no, i have a few other things to tell you. for starters, that you aren't fooling me for one minute. not for one minute, with all this nonsense,"
"i don't know what you are talking about."
charlotte leaned forward on the desk. "you are sending these letters yourself. you and the rest of your co-conspirators."
"conspiracy about what?" sally shifted in the chair. "i don't even know what a conspiracy is."
charlotte laughed. " you are really pushing your dumb act now." she picked the thick green folder up. "what do you know about laura poll?"
"who? i never heard of her."
"really? aren't you an american football fan?"
"you like canadian football better? or maybe real football?"
"i'm not a sports fan. these questions are getting really stupid."
jeanne d'arc laughed. charlotte shot a glance at her.
"i'm hungry," said sally.
"what did you just say?"
''i said i was hungry. i didn't get a chance to make myself a sandwich this morning. i was chatting with you, remember? i want a sandwich."
"you want a sandwich.'"
'bessie gave me half of hers but i didn't like it. there was some kind of hot sauce on it."