Paradigms Lost — Chapter 21

Chapter 21: Admissions and Evidence

The door opened. “Jason!” Sylvie said, looking surprised.

“Hi, Syl. Can I come in?”

“Sure. Watch out for the books on the floor, I’m rearranging the library.”

I stepped in. I noticed again the odd, warm smell of her house; the dusty, comfortable scent of old books blended with a faint tinge of kitchen spices and old-fashioned perfume, a smell that didn’t fit someone as young and gorgeous as Syl — except that, somehow, it did fit, because it was Sylvie’s house. Sylvie stepped ahead of me and carefully lifted a stack of books off a large chair.

“I suppose I should apologize, Jason. I was pretty hard on you.”

“No, Syl, you were right.” I sat down; she took the arm of the couch right next to me. “I’ve been trying to have it both ways and it doesn’t work. I can’t flirt with you half the time and then expect you to act just like a friend the other half. You can’t just switch your behavior to match whatever my mood is, and even if you could it’s wrong for me to expect you to.”

“I know, Jason,” she said gently. She put her hand on my shoulder. “I’m the person you’ve practically told your life story to, remember? I’m only a little surprised that you’ve understood yourself so quickly.”

“It wasn’t me, really. Someone who has better perception than I do held a mirror up to my face.”

“Now who would…” she trailed off, staring at me. “My god, Jason. Not … him?”

I had kept my interactions with Verne quiet, so I wasn’t terribly surprised by her surprise, but… “Verne Domingo, yes.”

She shuddered slightly, then studied me intensely; I almost expected her to start doing some kind of crystal ritual or something. “Are you… all right?”

“What? Of course I’m all right. What’s the matter?”

She stared at me, wide-eyed. “What’s the matter? He’s a vampire! The question should be why you have anything to do with him! Yes, I know you worked together with him but… you’ve gone from turning up your nose at the drug-runner to, it seems, being his best buddy! For that matter,” she frowned, “why does he have anything to do with you? I still don’t understand why he let us remember. It sure would have been simpler for him to make all of us forget.”

“He let us remember because, well, he needs me to remember if I’m going to be of any use, and he knows that part of the price of my cooperation is that he keeps his hands off you. Not that I’m worried about that so much, now. I’ve gotten to know him since. He’s lonely, Syl! Just think about it for a minute. Here you are, immortal, for most purposes invulnerable, with all these superhuman powers, and at the same time you don’t dare mention it to anyone! I think he got to the point that, when he realized that I wasn’t all that scared of him, he just couldn’t make himself wipe my memory away and shut me out of his life. He needs someone he can talk to, someone who knows what he is and still will treat him like a person.

“Also, that’s smuggled drugs, not smuggles. Those stories aren’t just for show — he really has become an art and artifact expert.” I hadn’t gone over the entire story before with Syl, and didn’t want to muddy the waters right now.

Syl’s face was serious now. She’s very empathic; I could see that she understood. “So why did he wipe Renee’s memory?”

“Because Renee told him to do it. She said that she would be better off not knowing, and it would help her carry conviction in the story we cooked up.”

“I see.” She looked thoughtful now.

“I also think he hopes you will visit him. He speaks very highly of you.”

She looked surprised at that, but then her gaze sharpened. “Jason, why were you there yesterday evening? I know it wasn’t just to talk about your love life.”

“You’re right.” I gave her the whole story along with everything Verne had said. Just as I finished, the phone rang. It was Lieutenant Reisman. She was calling from a pay phone, so I took the number and called her back. “What’s up, Renee?”

“Remember our Federal friend? Well, his business associates showed up. We’ve been told to butt out; national security and all that.”

“Well, we could have predicted that. SOP.”

Renee snorted. “Bullcrap, Wood. Usually the Feds cooperate with the locals; they don’t want to piss us off. When they go into a total stonewall like this, they’re not kidding around, and there’s something big involved.”

“So why call me?”

“Because I know you, Wood. You dropped into the middle of it and you never give up on anything. I haven’t told them you’re in the picture. No one else on the site really saw you except the ME, and he’s so close-mouthed he wouldn’t say if he saw his own mother at her funeral unless he was under oath. I’m just warning you about what kind of trouble you could be in if you keep poking into this.”

“What about you?”

There was a pause, then an explosive, short laugh. “Yeah, you know me too.”

“Can you get me the ME report?”

She thought for a moment. “I’ll have to figure out some way to weasel it out of him without alerting the Feds, but yeah, I think I can. So what are you going to do for me?”

“My job. Get you information.” I smiled slowly. “Don’t you think it might help if we can find out why they’re so worried?”

She hesitated. “It sure would. But I don’t want to know how you get it.”

“Right. Look, why don’t you come over for dinner tomorrow, if you’re not too busy? I should have something by then, and hopefully they won’t try to listen in. We can set up some way to talk safely then.”

“Okay. And, Jason,” her tone shifted, “be careful. This is dangerous stuff we’re playing with.”

“I know. Bye.”

I looked up at Syl. One glance froze me. She had that deep-eyed, deadly serious look again. Her “feeling” look. After the last few times, I’d learned to trust those feelings with my life. “What is it, Syl?”

“It’s bad, Jason. Very bad.” She shivered. “More people are going to die before this is over.”