the duc d'otrante took a strong interest in the fairweather poker game case and was determined to solve it before anyone else, especially charlotte corday, did. he was studying his file when olivia returned.
"no. i watched her go in to uc hq. it looked she walked right in. the first floor security might not have even known she was gone."
"that's possible," said the duc. "interesting if true."
"do you think she will tell charlotte everything?" olivia aked.
"we certainly went to a lot of trouble for nothing if she doesn't." the duc turned back to the fairweather file. " we might have some busy times ahead of us. why don't you go home and rest up?"
"all right. anything else you need?"
"no. i'm fine."
"your chair is all right?"
"yes, the automatic controls work perfectly now."
the long van pulled back into the garage under the white office building. charlotte hadn't spoken, nor had jeanne or robespierre, since sally had fallen asleep. charlotte handed the laura poll case file back to jeanne. "wake her up."
"and do what with her?"
"take her wherever she wants to go." charlotte got up and left the van by its back door. she jumped down to the ground and headed for the elevator.
jeanne put her files back in her briefcase and looked over at robespierre and shrugged. "you heard her, have her taken wherever she wants."
"with how many guards?"
jeanne thought for a second. "just a regular vehicle with two officers. anything else would just attract attention."
"and have her watched?"
"maybe. i'll let you know." jeanne got up and hurried after charlotte.
"what do you think happened?" jeanne asked when they got on the elevator.
"i don't want to talk about it."
jeanne shook her head. "i guess she has friends."
"i guess she does. i wish we had such friends."
tania went into headquarters and up to the unspeakable crimes office without incident, as if she had never been away.
it was quiet in the office. detective roy torquato , who had been assigned some of tania and larry's lower priority cases, looked up when tania came in. he didn't express any great surprise when she walked up to his desk.
torquato was an earnest and hardworking young man who had found no particular favor in charlotte's eyes but jeanne liked him for his dependability.
"look who's here." torquato looked tania in the eye. "and looking none the worse. how are you feeling?"
"all right. a little disoriented." tania looked up at a clock on the wall. "is it really only four thirty?"
"yes, you've been gone less than twenty-four hours. only a little over sixteen, really."
torquato's partner, annabelle st teresa, came in carrying a cool can of papaya and pomegranate drink. she seemed even less surprised than torquato to see tania.
st teresa was a plump, outwardly placid young woman with good successes in the unit. her easygoing manner irritated charlotte but jeanne was her biggest fan.
"i heard you from out in the hall." she told tania. "are you ok?"
"you want something to drink?"
"that would be nice. anything." tania looked around and after a moments hesitation sat down in the chair to the side of torquato's desk, the one often occupied by suspects.
"is charlotte here?" she asked.
"no. she's been gone since morning."
"is jeanne here?"
"no, i think she went with her. do you want to tell me what happened?"
"no, i'll wait for charlotte."
"fine. you know you will have to make a statement and then statements about the statement and then statements about those statements."
"i'll wait for charlotte."
annabelle came back with a can of mango and pomegranate drink and gave it to tania. "they really stocked up on the pomegranate this week," she told her.
"so larry was arrested?" tania asked.
'how did you know that?" torquato asked her.
"it's what i was told."
"you sure you don't want to tell me what happened?"
"i'll tell you what happened at first. then there's stuff i think i should only tell charlotte."
"not much point in that," said annabelle. "we might as well wait."
"when i came in," said tania. "it was almost like they didn't know downstairs i was gone."
"i wouldn't count on that," torquato told her.
"do you think anybody is still looking for me? maybe you should notify somebody."
"i wouldn't worry about that either," said annabelle.
"you're right. i must still be a little dizzy. by the way, am i under arrest?"
"why?" torquato asked her. "did you want to go somewhere?"
sally, still half asleep, was led by robespierre and a robot over to country girl and pinky's van.
robespierre leaned down to talk to country girl in the drivers seat. "take this person wherever she wants to go."
"got it," country girl answered. "do we get any extra guards?"
"no, just the two of you. a routine assignment."
"we have room in the back for two or three extra guards," pinky volunteered.
robespierre gave pinky an annoyed glance. "my instructions were two officers on a routine assignment."
"roger that." pinky straightened up and looked straight ahead.
"wherever means wherever," robespierre went on. "if she wants to go to the planet mercury, take her to the planet mercury. and make sure she gets there safely."
"got it." country girl's mind was in a whirl. she had deduced from the start of the assignment that sally must be a pretty important person - she hadn't even been handcuffed! - and now that her arrest had been called off - something that never ever happened - she decided she must really be something or somebody. country girl was determined to get to know her and maybe be her friend. but how to get rid of gung ho pinky, the curse of her existence?
"you look tired," she told sally, as robespierre and the robot walked off. "why don't you get in front with me? and that way you can give me good directions."
"that doesn't sound very secure," said pinky.
"it seems like a good idea to me," said country girl. "i think you should get in back."
she was the corporal. pinky got in back and they drove up out of the garage.
"whichever way level 15 is."
"that's south. south it is." they went two blocks and passed a small store.
country girl pulled over. "you want something to drink?"
country girl slid back a small panel in the cab. "why don't you get two orange drinks from that little store?" she told pinky.
"come around and i'll give you the money."
"why don't you get them yourself? you 're sitting right there, all you have to do is open the door."
"but then our honored guest wouldn't be very well guarded, would she? sitting all alone up front here."
pinky got out of the back of the van and came around and took the coins from country girl without speaking.
"he's not a lot of fun to work with," country girl said as pinky entered the store.
"he's a robot."
"you'd be surprised about some robots. you'd be surprised about some people."