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gulfnp > Eileen Reed - Ground Zero > Part 26
"I understand," she said in a low voice. "I agree, Admiral Kane. I'll let the Schriever case be buried as completely as all the other cases." She looked up at him. "But Fouad Muallah may be a bigger threat than we know. I would like permission to continue working on that case."

Admiral Kane considered, and Lucy's fingers clenched the armrests of her chair.

Then he nodded, and she heaved a sigh of relief.

"I trust your discretion, Lucy," he said.

"Thank you," she said. Even with that small victory, the taste was terrible. Those poor people out at Schriever. She was going to have to find a bathroom after all, it seemed.

"May I go now, please?"

"Of course," the Admiral said. Jefferson leaned toward her and spoke quietly in her ear. He was telling her the directions to the ladies' room, she realized.

"Thank you," she murmured to him, and gathered her bag.

She made it to the ladies' room with seconds to spare, but at least she hadn't lost her dignity by running.

Colorado Springs.

For a s.p.a.ce of time, in the green underwater light, nothing of blood or murder existed. Eileen asked Joe about his childhood, where he had grown up, what he had done as a little boy. Eileen loved to listen to people talk about themselves. Joe Tanner, not surprisingly, talked a great deal. Eileen had learned years before that her delight in listening to people's stories was extraordinarily useful. Everyone liked to talk about themselves.

Joe talked about his summer car trips, the swimming lessons, bright sunny days. His family was very poor, but all the children worked their way through college. His sisters and brother were all very close. He loved computers, loved the relentless logic of them and the satisfaction of making them work. He was a computer nerd with an athletic bent. He refused to turn pale and doughy like his other computer friends: Somehow Eileen found herself, during the main course, explaining about growing up on her parents' ranch, near Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Her school years were spent farmed out in the Smithsons' family home in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. She told Joe how it was to wait through that last week of school, both dreading and longing for the day when she could be home with her mom and dad.

"No brothers or sisters?" he asked.

"No," she said. "A brother I never knew. He was only a few months old when he died. A heart problem, my parents said. That was before I was born."

"I'm sorry," Joe said. "Your parents must have been very happy to have you."

"They were, really," she said. "They never clutched, as you might've supposed after that. Just let me be. I was lonely for a brother or sister, I think, but it didn't really matter."

"Where are they now?"

"My parents? On the ranch, of course. They're only in their sixties; they still run over a thousand head of cattle on the land."

"Wow," Joe said, sitting back in his chair. "I didn't really think- Hearing your stories, I gue

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