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From Part 1, Chapter 1 of Loose Ends: The King, Book 1 of Volume 1 of Dragon Drive:

The days before Pat Wall’s visit to the Keep went by quickly, but were not uneventful.

On Tuesday, May 14, Canela Johnson’s public memorial was held. It was attended by about ten people, including two who were, to put it frankly, spies sent by the Thorssons to see who might have been among Canela’s close associates (Andy chose two who weren’t likely to be well-known by to anyone else at the ceremony, but who would be just familiar enough from chance meetings around the Keep that they wouldn’t seem out of place, either – and who excelled at surreptitiously dumping suspect potations, such as Canela’s Water of Life, into potted palms or whatever else was available without being noticed). None of us – not the Jamiesons, the Thorssons, or anyone in our household – cared to go ourselves, in part because none of had known Canela well (and hadn’t liked what little we had known of her), but also because it would have looked worse than suspicious: I had been the cause of Canela’s death; Paul, the deaths of her two male lovers Emil Cartwright and Mark Thompson; and, like Paul and I, others close to me were no friends of any of the three of them, to say the least.

As it happened, Maria Parker, one of Andy’s spies at Canela’s memorial, did bring back the information that of the eight attending the memorial service who weren’t from the dojo, five of them were employed in Accounting, while the other three, two men and a young woman, had probably been among Canela’s many lovers. She also managed to get the names and other pertinent data of all eight. Andy, happy as a cat in a nest of sick mice, immediately sicced some of his two-legged hacker ferrets on them – or rather everything Administration had on them – to find out anything about them that might have a bearing on our current situation, and got to work analyzing everything they found for pattern.

Tuesday was also memorable for another reason: when Andy called us that evening to let us know what his two agents had learned at Canela’s memorial, after he talked with Monty for a while, he told Monty that Liz wanted to talk with me about something.

“Sure,” Monty said, beckoning to me to come take the phone.

“Liz? Wants to talk with me?” I asked him, puzzled. “What on Earth does she want?”

“Here,” he said, shrugging and handing me the receiver, “let her tell you. Girl-talk, mebbe.”

“All right . . . Liz?”

“Yes. I have some news for you both I thought you might find interesting.”

“What is it?”

“Remember the other night, when the subject of Fresno came up in conversation?”

A tremor of unease ran up my spine. “Er, yes. What’s going on with Fresno?”

“Well, Andy owes Monty an apology – he called the head of the state police, Joe Cabrini, and asked him what he knows about Fresno, and got quite an earful. I won’t go into details right now – that’ll keep for later. Let’s just say we have a whole lot more to worry about when it comes to Fresno than we thought we did.”

“Oh, great! I really needed that about now . . .”

“Oh, there’s no immediate danger – Fresno is no more likely to turn up on our doorstep tomorrow morning than ETs from another galaxy are. But there’s enough there to worry about that over the next year or so, Andy’s going to insist on beefing up Keep security in certain ways, just in case. He also talked with the Governor, just after that conversation with Joe Cabrini, and he and Yeats came up with some ideas for that which I think Monty and Bill will like, and really should be put into play if what Cabrini was telling us is true. And knowing just how good Cabrini is at his job, we have no reason to believe they aren’t true.”

“Do they think Fresno may try something in the next year or two we’d have to worry about?”

“Well, maybe. Or they could strike at any number of communities up and down the state between Fort Sac and here. The possibility is quite real, though, and forewarned is forearmed. We’ll get together again soon, I’m sure, and when we do, we can talk it over then. I just wanted to tell you now that we want to apologize for taking Fresno less seriously than perhaps we should have – Monty is right to worry, and we owe him and you an apology.”

“Uh, thank you – I think,” I said.

“That’s all right. You’ve been through a lot as it is – I didn’t want to dump this on you all at once, and thought maybe telling you now that there is a problem and we’re trying to put together some ways to deal with it effectively will help, because it won’t be quite the shock it would be otherwise when we tell you all the details. I especially wanted to be the one to tell you, because you’ve had a rocky week as it is, and while I love Andy dearly and always will, at times he can be a little less . . . sensitive than he should be when it comes to such things.”

“Oh, Liz . . .”

“Hey, chin up, my dear! We both think the world of you and Monty – you get some rest, now, take some time to pamper yourself. You’ve had a pretty rough ride these last few days, and we’ll both do anything we can to keep it from getting worse.

“Okay, I have to get off the line, now – I’ve got a class to teach starting in about fifteen minutes, and I’m sure you’ve got plenty to do yourself. Until we see each other again, take care, and remember there are a great many people here who love and appreciate you, you and Monty both, and if you ever need anything, just come to us and we’ll help any way we can.”

“I – thank you,” I said, deeply touched. “Same to you – you know that.”

“I do,” she said, the smile in her voice warming me right through the phone.

And somehow, after that, the day was far brighter than it had been before Andy’s call, the warning churn of hot acid in my gut and the silent shriek of steel wire under breaking strain in the muscles of my shoulder and back, which had been there ever since the night of May 10, finally subsiding to nothing, not returning again in the days to come.

Wednesday, May 15, was the day of the memorial for George Fogle, Canela’s father. That one was attended by seven people. This time, Andy sent a different pair from the dojo to attend the memorial, with results similar to those his observers at the first memorial had produced. Of those who attended Fogle’s memorial, those who weren’t from the dojo included a couple of Fogle’s beer-buddies, along with a former girlfriend, the ex-girlfriend’s barely nubile daughter, and a young man who was regarded as frankly weird even among the more libertine people in the Keep – it was likely that the last three had all been Fogle’s sexual partners, the adolescent girl included (I made a note to myself to ask Rachel if she would make sure that someone in Medical checked the girl over to make sure she hadn’t contracted an STD from the bastard, and find out her mental state, so that if she needed psychotherapy, she would get it quickly). Except for the underage girl, the attendees, exclusive of the two from the dojo, also seemed to have some suspicious ties to Accounting. And like the two Andy had sent to Canela’s memorial, the two he sent to Fogle’s memorial reported that they did indeed find ways to avoid drinking the wine containing Fogle’s Water of Life that didn’t look too suspicious (absolutely amazing, the uses to which potted plants can be put!).

As Andy told Monty that Wednesday evening, literally rubbing his hands together with something as close to glee as I’d ever seen out of him, a very significant pattern was already beginning to emerge from what they’d found out so far, one that precisely pinpointed a number of people in Accounting, Medical, and a couple of other departments as definitely closely involved with Canela. Furthermore, what he’d found out had a direct bearing on the discrepancies we’d already discovered in Accounting’s files; on many of the problems in the children’s dorms that more and more people were finally reporting, now that they knew we were interested; on problems Stores had been having over the last few months with missing inventory; and on unexplained shortfalls of pharmaceutical and other supplies from Medical. He had a pretty good idea now about who had been directly involved in all those matters as well as in the operations of Canela’s Communist cell-system and what its members had been up to, and would be able to put the collar on the truly dangerous or otherwise seriously problematical ones by no later than mid-July. He wanted to wait until we’d left for the drive ourselves before doing that, then give his targets a few weeks after that to assume we weren’t on to them and get careless before making his move. Monty agreed with him that giving the bastards plenty of rope to hang themselves with would probably be an excellent idea. He also asked Andy to keep us informed about any important changes in the situation, both before the two of us left to join Paul and Leah on the drive and via radio link afterward. . . .

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