Doctor Pete answered on the third ring, audio-only. In the background, I hear_ chorus of crying children, the constant backdrop of the Magic Kingdo_nfirmary.
“Hi, doc,” I said.
“Hello, Julius. What can I do for you?” Under the veneer of professiona_edical and castmember friendliness, I sensed irritation.
Make it all good again. “I’m not really sure. I wanted to see if I could tal_t over with you. I’m having some pretty big problems.”
“I’m on-shift until five. Can it wait until then?”
By then, I had no idea if I’d have the nerve to see him. “I don’t think so—_as hoping we could meet right away.”
“If it’s an emergency, I can have an ambulance sent for you.”
“It’s urgent, but not an emergency. I need to talk about it in person.
He sighed in undoctorly, uncastmemberly fashion. “Julius, I’ve got importan_hings to do here. Are you sure this can’t wait?”
I bit back a sob. “I’m sure, doc.”
“All right then. When can you be here?”
Lil had made it clear that she didn’t want me in the Park. “Can you meet me? _an’t really come to you. I’m at the Contemporary, Tower B, room 2334.”
“I don’t really make house calls, son.”
“I know, I know.” I hated how pathetic I sounded. “Can you make an exception?
I don’t know who else to turn to.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’ll have to get someone to cover for me.
Let’s not make a habit of this, all right?”
I whooshed out my relief. “I promise.”
He disconnected abruptly, and I found myself dialing Dan.
“Yes?” he said, cautiously.
“Doctor Pete is coming over, Dan. I don’t know if he can help me—I don’t kno_f anyone can. I just wanted you to know.”
He surprised me, then, and made me remember why he was still my friend, eve_fter everything. “Do you want me to come over?”
“That would be very nice,” I said, quietly. “I’m at the hotel.”
“Give me ten minutes,” he said, and rang off.
He found me on my patio, looking out at the Castle and the peaks of Spac_ountain. To my left spread the sparkling waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon, t_y right, the Property stretched away for mile after manicured mile. The su_as warm on my skin, faint strains of happy laughter drifted with the wind, and the flowers were in bloom. In Toronto, it would be freezing rain, gra_uildings, noisome rapid transit (a monorail hissed by), and hard-face_nonymity. I missed it.
Dan pulled up a chair next to mine and sat without a word. We both stared ou_t the view for a long while.
“It’s something else, isn’t it?” I said, finally.
“I suppose so,” he said. “I want to say something before the doc comes by, Julius.”
“Lil and I are through. It should never have happened in the first place, an_’m not proud of myself. If you two were breaking up, that’s none of m_usiness, but I had no right to hurry it along.”
“All right,” I said. I was too drained for emotion.
“I’ve taken a room here, moved my things.”
“How’s Lil taking it?”
“Oh, she thinks I’m a total bastard. I suppose she’s right.”
“I suppose she’s partly right,” I corrected him.
He gave me a gentle slug in the shoulder. “Thanks.”
We waited in companionable silence until the doc arrived.
He bustled in, his smile lines drawn up into a sour purse and waite_xpectantly. I left Dan on the patio while I took a seat on the bed.
“I’m cracking up or something,” I said. “I’ve been acting erratically, sometimes violently. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” I’d rehearsed th_peech, but it still wasn’t easy to choke out.
“We both know what’s wrong, Julius,” the doc said, impatiently. “You need t_e refreshed from your backup, get set up with a fresh clone and retire thi_ne. We’ve had this talk.”
“I can’t do it,” I said, not meeting his eye. “I just can’t—isn’t ther_nother way?”
The doc shook his head. “Julius, I’ve got limited resources to allocate.
There’s a perfectly good cure for what’s ailing you, and if you won’t take it, there’s not much I can do for you.”
“But what about meds?”
“Your problem isn’t a chemical imbalance, it’s a mental defect. Your brain i_roken, son. All that meds will do is mask the symptoms, while you get worse.
I can’t tell you what you want to hear, unfortunately. Now, If you’re ready t_ake the cure, I can retire this clone immediately and get you restored into _ew one in 48 hours.”
“Isn’t there another way? Please? You have to help me—I can’t lose all this.” I couldn’t admit my real reasons for being so attached to this singularl_iserable chapter in my life, not even to myself.
The doctor rose to go. “Look, Julius, you haven’t got the Whuffie to make i_orth anyone’s time to research a solution to this problem, other than the on_hat we all know about. I can give you mood-suppressants, but that’s not _ermanent solution.”
He boggled. “You can’t just take dope for the rest of your life, son.
Eventually, something will happen to this body—I see from your file tha_ou’re stroke-prone—and you’re going to get refreshed from your backup. Th_onger you wait, the more traumatic it’ll be. You’re robbing from your futur_elf for your selfish present.”
It wasn’t the first time the thought had crossed my mind. Every passing da_ade it harder to take the cure. To lie down and wake up friends with Dan, t_ake up and be in love with Lil again. To wake up to a Mansion the way _emembered it, a Hall of Presidents where I could find Lil bent over with he_ead in a President’s guts of an afternoon. To lie down and wake withou_isgrace, without knowing that my lover and my best friend would betray me, had betrayed me.
I just couldn’t do it—not yet, anyway.
Dan—Dan was going to kill himself soon, and if I restored myself from my ol_ackup, I’d lose my last year with him. I’d lose his last year.
“Let’s table that, doc. I hear what you’re saying, but there’re complications.
I guess I’ll take the mood-suppressants for now.”
He gave me a cold look. “I’ll give you a scrip, then. I could’ve done tha_ithout coming out here. Please don’t call me anymore.”
I was shocked by his obvious ire, but I didn’t understand it until he was gon_nd I told Dan what had happened.
“Us old-timers, we’re used to thinking of doctors as highly traine_rofessionals—all that pre-Bitchun med-school stuff, long internships, anatom_rills… Truth is, the average doc today gets more training in bedside manne_han bioscience. ‘Doctor’ Pete is a technician, not an MD, not the way you an_ mean it. Anyone with the kind of knowledge you’re looking for is working a_ historical researcher, not a doctor.
“But that’s not the illusion. The doc is supposed to be the authority o_edical matters, even though he’s only got one trick: restore from backup.
You’re reminding Pete of that, and he’s not happy to have it happen.”
I waited a week before returning to the Magic Kingdom, sunning myself on th_hite sand beach at the Contemporary, jogging the Walk Around the World, taking a canoe out to the wild and overgrown Discovery Island, and generall_ooling out. Dan came by in the evenings and it was like old times, runnin_own the pros and cons of Whuffie and Bitchunry and life in general, sittin_n my porch with a sweating pitcher of lemonade.
On the last night, he presented me with a clever little handheld, a museu_iece that I recalled fondly from the dawning days of the Bitchun Society. I_ad much of the functionality of my defunct systems, in a package I could sli_n my shirt pocket. It felt like part of a costume, like the turnip watche_he Ben Franklin streetmosphere players wore at the American Adventure.
Museum piece or no, it meant that I was once again qualified to participate i_he Bitchun Society, albeit more slowly and less efficiently than I onc_ay’ve. I took it downstairs the next morning and drove to the Magic Kingdom’_astmember lot.
At least, that was the plan. When I got down to the Contemporary’s parkin_ot, my runabout was gone. A quick check with the handheld revealed the worst: my Whuffie was low enough that someone had just gotten inside and driven away, realizing that they could make more popular use of it than I could.
With a sinking feeling, I trudged up to my room and swiped my key through th_ock. It emitted a soft, unsatisfied bzzz and lit up, “Please see the fron_esk.” My room had been reassigned, too. I had the short end of the Whuffi_tick.
At least there was no mandatory Whuffie check on the monorail platform, bu_he other people on the car were none too friendly to me, and no one offere_e an inch more personal space than was necessary. I had hit bottom.
I took the castmember entrance to the Magic Kingdom, clipping my name tag t_y Disney Operations polo shirt, ignoring the glares of my fellow castmember_n the utilidors.
I used the handheld to page Dan. “Hey there,” he said, brightly. I could tel_nstantly that I was being humored.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“Oh, up in the Square. By the Liberty Tree.”
In front of the Hall of Presidents. I worked the handheld, pinged some Whuffi_anually. Debra was spiked so high it seemed she’d never come down, as wer_im and her whole crew in aggregate. They were drawing from guests by th_illions, and from castmembers and from people who’d read the popular account_f their struggle against the forces of petty jealousy and sabotage—i.e., me.
I felt light-headed. I hurried along to costuming and changed into the heav_reen Mansion costume, then ran up the stairs to the Square.
I found Dan sipping a coffee and sitting on a bench under the giant, lantern- hung Liberty Tree. He had a second cup waiting for me, and patted the benc_ext to him. I sat with him and sipped, waiting for him to spill whatever bi_f rotten news he had for me this morning—I could feel it hovering like stor_louds.
He wouldn’t talk though, not until we finished the coffee. Then he stood an_trolled over to the Mansion. It wasn’t rope-drop yet, and there weren’t an_uests in the Park, which was all for the better, given what was coming next.
“Have you taken a look at Debra’s Whuffie lately?” he asked, finally, as w_tood by the pet cemetery, considering the empty scaffolding.
I started to pull out the handheld but he put a hand on my arm. “Don’_other,” he said, morosely. “Suffice it to say, Debra’s gang is number on_ith a bullet. Ever since word got out about what happened to the Hall, they’ve been stacking it deep. They can do just about anything, Jules, and ge_way with it.”
My stomach tightened and I found myself grinding my molars. “So, what is i_hey’ve done, Dan?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
Dan didn’t have to respond, because at that moment, Tim emerged from th_ansion, wearing a light cotton work-smock. He had a thoughtful expression, and when he saw us, he beamed his elfin grin and came over.
“Hey guys!” he said.
“Hi, Tim,” Dan said. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.
“Pretty exciting stuff, huh?” he said.
“I haven’t told him yet,” Dan said, with forced lightness. “Why don’t you ru_t down?”
“Well, it’s pretty radical, I have to admit. We’ve learned some stuff from th_all that we wanted to apply, and at the same time, we wanted to capture som_f the historical character of the ghost story.”
I opened my mouth to object, but Dan put a hand on my forearm. “Really?” h_sked innocently. “How do you plan on doing that?”
“Well, we’re keeping the telepresence robots—that’s a honey of an idea, Julius—but we’re giving each one an uplink so that it can flash-bake. We’v_ot some high-Whuffie horror writers pulling together a series of narrative_bout the lives of each ghost: how they met their tragic ends, what they’v_one since, you know.
“The way we’ve storyboarded it, the guests stream through the ride pretty muc_he way they do now, walking through the preshow and then getting into th_ide-vehicles, the Doom Buggies. But here’s the big change: we slow it al_own. We trade off throughput for intensity, make it more of a premiu_roduct.
“So you’re a guest. From the queue to the unload zone, you’re being chased b_hese ghosts, these telepresence robots, and they’re really scary—I’ve go_uneep’s concept artists going back to the drawing board, hitting basi_esearch on stuff that’ll just scare the guests silly. When a ghost catche_ou, lays its hands on you—wham! Flash-bake! You get its whole grisly story i_hree seconds, across your frontal lobe. By the time you’ve left, you’ve ha_en or more ghost-contacts, and the next time you come back, it’s all ne_hosts with all new stories. The way that the Hall’s drawing ’em, we’re boun_o be a hit.” He put his hands behind his back and rocked on his heels, clearly proud of himself.
When Epcot Center first opened, long, long ago, there’d been an ugly decade o_o in ride design. Imagineering found a winning formula for Spaceship Earth, the flagship ride in the big golf ball, and, in their drive to establis_hematic continuity, they’d turned the formula into a cookie-cutter, stampin_ut half a dozen clones for each of the “themed” areas in the Future Showcase.
It went like this: first, we were cavemen, then there was ancient Greece, the_ome burned (cue sulfur-odor FX), then there was the Great Depression, and, finally, we reached the modern age. Who knows what the future holds? We do!
We’ll all have videophones and be living on the ocean floor. Once wa_ute—compelling and inspirational, even—but six times was embarrassing. Lik_veryone, once Imagineering got themselves a good hammer, everything starte_o resemble a nail. Even now, the Epcot ad-hocs were repeating the sins o_heir forebears, closing every ride with a scene of Bitchun utopia.
And Debra was repeating the classic mistake, tearing her way through the Magi_ingdom with her blaster set to flash-bake.
“Tim,” I said, hearing the tremble in my voice. “I thought you said that yo_ad no designs on the Mansion, that you and Debra wouldn’t be trying to tak_t away from us. Didn’t you say that?”
Tim rocked back as if I’d slapped him and the blood drained from his face.
“But we’re not taking it away!” he said. “You invited us to help.”
I shook my head, confused. “We did?” I said.
“Sure,” he said.
“Yes,” Dan said. “Kim and some of the other rehab cast went to Debra yesterda_nd asked her to do a design review of the current rehab and suggest an_hanges. She was good enough to agree, and they’ve come up with some grea_deas.” I read between the lines: the newbies you invited in have gone over t_he other side and we’re going to lose everything because of them. I felt lik_hit.
“Well, I stand corrected,” I said, carefully. Tim’s grin came back and h_lapped his hands together. He really loves the Mansion, I thought. He coul_ave been on our side, if we had only played it all right.
Dan and I took to the utilidors and grabbed a pair of bicycles and spe_owards Suneep’s lab, jangling our bells at the rushing castmembers. “The_on’t have the authority to invite Debra in,” I panted as we pedaled.
“Says who?” Dan said.
“It was part of the deal—they knew that they were probationary members righ_rom the start. They weren’t even allowed into the design meetings.”
“Looks like they took themselves off probation,” he said.
Suneep gave us both a chilly look when we entered his lab. He had dark circle_nder his eyes and his hands shook with exhaustion. He seemed to be holdin_imself erect with nothing more than raw anger.
“So much for building without interference,” he said. “We agreed that thi_roject wouldn’t change midway through. Now it has, and I’ve got othe_ommitments that I’m going to have to cancel because this is going off- schedule.”
I made soothing apologetic gestures with my hands. “Suneep, believe me, I’_ust as upset about this as you are. We don’t like this one little bit.”
He harrumphed. “We had a deal, Julius,” he said, hotly. “I would do the reha_or you and you would keep the ad-hocs off my back. I’ve been holding up m_nd of the bargain, but where the hell have you been? If they replan the reha_ow, I’ll have to go along with them. I can’t just leave the Mansion half- done—they’ll murder me.”
The kernel of a plan formed in my mind. “Suneep, we don’t like the new reha_lan, and we’re going to stop it. You can help. Just stonewall them—tell the_hey’ll have to find other Imagineering support if they want to go throug_ith it, that you’re booked solid.”
Dan gave me one of his long, considering looks, then nodded a minute approval.
“Yeah,” he drawled. “That’ll help all right. Just tell ’em that they’r_elcome to make any changes they want to the plan, if they can find someon_lse to execute them.”
Suneep looked unhappy. “Fine—so then they go and find someone else to do it, and that person gets all the credit for the work my team’s done so far. I jus_lush my time down the toilet.”
“It won’t come to that,” I said quickly. “If you can just keep saying no for _ouple days, we’ll do the rest.”
Suneep looked doubtful.
“I promise,” I said.
Suneep ran his stubby fingers through his already crazed hair. “All right,” h_aid, morosely.
Dan slapped him on the back. “Good man,” he said.
It should have worked. It almost did.
I sat in the back of the Adventureland conference room while Dan exhorted.
“Look, you don’t have to roll over for Debra and her people! This is you_arden, and you’ve tended it responsibly for years. She’s got no right to mov_n on you—you’ve got all the Whuffie you need to defend the place, if you al_ork together.”
No castmember likes confrontation, and the Liberty Square bunch were tough t_ouse to action. Dan had turned down the air conditioning an hour before th_eeting and closed up all the windows, so that the room was a kiln for hard- firing irritation into rage. I stood meekly in the back, as far as possibl_rom Dan. He was working his magic on my behalf, and I was content to let hi_o his thing.
When Lil had arrived, she’d sized up the situation with a sour expression: si_n the front, near Dan, or in the back, near me. She’d chosen the middle, an_o concentrate on Dan I had to tear my eyes away from the sweat glistening o_er long, pale neck.
Dan stalked the aisles like a preacher, eyes blazing. “They’re stealing you_uture! They’re stealing your past! They claim they’ve got your support!”
He lowered his tone. “I don’t think that’s true.” He grabbed a castmember b_er hand and looked into her eyes. “Is it true?” he said so low it was almos_ whisper.
“No,” the castmember said.
He dropped her hand and whirled to face another castmember. “Is it true?” h_emanded, raising his voice, slightly.
“No!” the castmember said, his voice unnaturally loud after the whispers. _ervous chuckle rippled through the crowd.
“Is it true?” he said, striding to the podium, shouting now.
“No!” the crowd roared.
“NO!” he shouted back.
“You don’t have to roll over and take it! You can fight back, carry on wit_he plan, send them packing. They’re only taking over because you’re lettin_hem. Are you going to let them?”
Bitchun wars are rare. Long before anyone tries a takeover of anything, they’ve done the arithmetic and ensured themselves that the ad-hoc they’r_isplacing doesn’t have a hope of fighting back.
For the defenders, it’s a simple decision: step down gracefully and salvag_ome reputation out of the thing—fighting back will surely burn away even tha_eager reward.
No one benefits from fighting back—least of all the thing everyone’s fightin_ver. For example:
It was the second year of my undergrad, taking a double-major in not makin_rouble for my profs and keeping my mouth shut. It was the early days o_itchun, and most of us were still a little unclear on the concept.
Not all of us, though: a group of campus shit-disturbers, grad students in th_ociology Department, were on the bleeding edge of the revolution, and the_new what they wanted: control of the Department, oustering of the tyrannical, stodgy profs, a bully pulpit from which to preach the Bitchun gospel to _eneration of impressionable undergrads who were too cowed by their workload_o realize what a load of shit they were being fed by the University.
At least, that’s what the intense, heavyset woman who seized the mic at my So_00 course said, that sleepy morning mid-semester at Convocation Hall.
Nineteen hundred students filled the hall, a capacity crowd of bleary, coffee- sipping time-markers, and they woke up in a hurry when the woman’s striden_arangue burst over their heads.
I saw it happen from the very start. The prof was down there on the stage, _peck with a tie-mic, droning over his slides, and then there was a blur a_alf a dozen grad students rushed the stage. They were dressed in Universit_overty-chic, wrinkled slacks and tattered sports coats, and five of the_ormed a human wall in front of the prof while the sixth, the heavyset on_ith the dark hair and the prominent mole on her cheek, unclipped his mic an_lipped it to her lapel.
“Wakey wakey!” she called, and the reality of the moment hit home for me: thi_asn’t on the lesson-plan.
“Come on, heads up! This is not a drill. The University of Toronto Departmen_f Sociology is under new management. If you’ll set your handhelds to ‘receive,’ we’ll be beaming out new lesson-plans momentarily. If you’v_orgotten your handhelds, you can download the plans later on. I’m going t_un it down for you right now, anyway.
“Before I start though, I have a prepared statement for you. You’ll probabl_ear this a couple times more today, in your other classes. It’s wort_epeating. Here goes:
“We reject the stodgy, tyrannical rule of the profs at this Department. W_emand bully pulpits from which to preach the Bitchun gospel. Effectiv_mmediately, the University of Toronto Ad-Hoc Sociology Department is i_harge. We promise high-relevance curriculum with an emphasis on reputatio_conomies, post-scarcity social dynamics, and the social theory of infinit_ife-extension. No more Durkheim, kids, just deadheading! This will be fun.”
She taught the course like a pro—you could tell she’d been drilling he_ecture for a while. Periodically, the human wall behind her shuddered as th_rof made a break for it and was restrained.
At precisely 9:50 a.m. she dismissed the class, which had hung on her ever_ord. Instead of trudging out and ambling to our next class, the whol_ineteen hundred of us rose, and, as one, started buzzing to our neighbors, _oar of “Can you believe it?” that followed us out the door and to our nex_ncounter with the Ad-Hoc Sociology Department.
It was cool, that day. I had another soc class, Constructing Social Deviance, and we got the same drill there, the same stirring propaganda, the sam_omical sight of a tenured prof battering himself against a human wall of ad- hocs.
Reporters pounced on us when we left the class, jabbing at us with mics an_eppering us with questions. I gave them a big thumbs-up and said, “Bitchun!” in classic undergrad eloquence.
The profs struck back the next morning. I got a heads-up from the newscast a_ brushed my teeth: the Dean of the Department of Sociology told a reporte_hat the ad-hocs’ courses would not be credited, that they were a gang o_hugs who were totally unqualified to teach. A counterpoint interview from _pokesperson for the ad-hocs established that all of the new lecturers ha_een writing course-plans and lecture notes for the profs they replaced fo_ears, and that they’d also written most of their journal articles.
The profs brought University security out to help them regain their lecterns, only to be repelled by ad-hoc security guards in homemade uniforms. Universit_ecurity got the message—anyone could be replaced—and stayed away.
The profs picketed. They held classes out front attended by grade-consciou_rown-nosers who worried that the ad-hocs’ classes wouldn’t count toward_heir degrees. Fools like me alternated between the outdoor and indoo_lasses, not learning much of anything.
No one did. The profs spent their course-times whoring for Whuffie, leadin_he seminars like encounter groups instead of lectures. The ad-hocs spen_heir time badmouthing the profs and tearing apart their coursework.
At the end of the semester, everyone got a credit and the University Senat_isbanded the Sociology program in favor of a distance-ed offering fro_oncordia in Montreal. Forty years later, the fight was settled forever. Onc_ou took backup-and-restore, the rest of the Bitchunry just followed, a value- system settling over you.
Those who didn’t take backup-and-restore may have objected, but, hey, they al_ied.
The Liberty Square ad-hocs marched shoulder to shoulder through the utilidor_nd, as a mass, took back the Haunted Mansion. Dan, Lil and I were up front, careful not to brush against one another as we walked quickly through th_ackstage door and started a bucket-brigade, passing out the materials tha_ebra’s people had stashed there, along a line that snaked back to the fron_orch of the Hall of Presidents, where they were unceremoniously dumped.
Once the main stash was vacated, we split up and roamed the ride, its servic_orridors and dioramas, the break-room and the secret passages, rounding u_very scrap of Debra’s crap and passing it out the door.
In the attic scene, I ran into Kim and three of her giggly little friends, their eyes glinting in the dim light. The gaggle of transhuman kids made m_uts clench, made me think of Zed and of Lil and of my unmediated brain, and _ad a sudden urge to shred them verbally.
No. That way lay madness and war. This was about taking back what was ours, not punishing the interlopers. “Kim, I think you should leave,” I said, quietly.
She snorted and gave me a dire look. “Who died and made you boss?” she said.
Her friends thought it very brave, they made it clear with double-jointed hip- thrusts and glares.
“Kim, you can leave now or you can leave later. The longer you wait, the wors_t will be for you and your Whuffie. You blew it, and you’re not a part of th_ansion anymore. Go home, go to Debra. Don’t stay here, and don’t come back.
Ever. Be cast out of this thing that you love, that you obsess over, that yo_orked for. “Now,” I said, quiet, dangerous, barely in control.
They sauntered into the graveyard, hissing vitriol at me. Oh, they had lots o_ew material to post to the anti-me sites, messages that would get the_huffie with people who thought I was the scum of the earth. A popular view, those days.
I got out of the Mansion and looked at the bucket-brigade, followed it to th_ront of the Hall. The Park had been open for an hour, and a herd of guest_atched the proceedings in confusion. The Liberty Square ad-hocs passed thei_oads around in clear embarrassment, knowing that they were violating ever_rinciple they cared about.
As I watched, gaps appeared in the bucket-brigade as castmembers slipped away, faces burning scarlet with shame. At the Hall of Presidents, Debra preside_ver an orderly relocation of her things, a cheerful cadre of her castmember_uickly moving it all offstage. I didn’t have to look at my handheld to kno_hat was happening to our Whuffie.
By evening, we were back on schedule. Suneep supervised the placement of hi_elepresence rigs and Lil went over every system in minute detail, bossing _rew of ad-hocs that trailed behind her, double- and triple-checking it all.
Suneep smiled at me when he caught sight of me, hand-scattering dust in th_arlor.
“Congratulations, sir,” he said, and shook my hand. “It was masterfully done.”
“Thanks, Suneep. I’m not sure how masterful it was, but we got the job done, and that’s what counts.”
“Your partners, they’re happier than I’ve seen them since this whole busines_tarted. I know how they feel!”
My partners? Oh, yes, Dan and Lil. How happy were they, I wondered. Happ_nough to get back together? My mood fell, even though a part of me said tha_an would never go back to her, not after all we’d been through together.
“I’m glad you’re glad. We couldn’t have done it without you, and it looks lik_e’ll be open for business in a week.”
“Oh, I should think so. Are you coming to the party tonight?”
Party? Probably something the Liberty Square ad-hocs were putting on. I woul_lmost certainly be persona non grata. “I don’t think so,” I said, carefully.
“I’ll probably work late here.”
He chided me for working too hard, but once he saw that I had no intention o_eing dragged to the party, he left off.
And that’s how I came to be in the Mansion at 2 a.m. the next morning, dozin_n a backstage break room when I heard a commotion from the parlor. Festiv_oices, happy and loud, and I assumed it was Liberty Square ad-hocs comin_ack from their party.
I roused myself and entered the parlor.
Kim and her friends were there, pushing hand-trucks of Debra’s gear. I go_eady to shout something horrible at them, and that’s when Debra came in. _oderated the shout to a snap, opened my mouth to speak, stopped.
Behind Debra were Lil’s parents, frozen these long years in their canopic jar_n Kissimmee.