FLYING is better when you don't have a body to deal with the inevitable hard landing.
But instead of sensibly vanishing, I held on to the wheel and stuck it out.
We were in the air for maybe three seconds, it seemed longer, then wham, we hit the snowy ground at about fifty, bounding quick and rough down an incline toward some trees. They would stop us, oh, hell, how they would stop us. I pumped the brakes (not working too well), kept the wheel straight, which was pointless since the car's momentum was in charge. We hit something, and the Buick slewed majestically, rear wheels coming to the front, the landscape rushing by sideways and far too fast.
A terrible low hammering noise, an abrupt and sickening twist-the big metal body tipped and tumbled like a kid's toy.
I was thrown around for one brutal, bruising, and frightening turn before winking out like a bad light. The steel bulk of the car pummeled my invisible form, but I'd be spared a maiming or worse. Dimly, I heard Kroun curse amid the tin-can noises as we rolled.
Then it stopped, just that quick.
Re-forming, I found myself lying faceup on the ceiling. The car was upside down, a fact that was slow to creep into my rattled brain. I understood it would be a good idea to get clear-especially when I smelled gas.
Kroun was curled awkwardly on his side, still clutching his gun. He looked dead, but was more likely just stunned.
I kicked at a window to break it-forgetting it was too thick for that kind of easy escape.
The effort made me grunt. I could almost taste the gas in the air.
Squirming and in a hellish hurry, I aimed myself feetfirst toward Kroun's open window, went nearly transparent, and slipped out backward belly down. Solid again, I got purchase with my knees braced against the outside frame, grabbed his shoulders, and pulled. He weighed more than I expected. The bad angle wrenched my back, but I pulled again. Once my shoulders were clear, I was able to get a better grip. I dragged him free and didn't stop until we were twenty yards away behind a thick pine trunk.
Then I collapsed. Some nerve in my spine went off like an electric shock and had me close to screaming, but another quick vanish and return took care of it. I didn't bother getting up. Sprawling exhausted in churned snow in the woods was all I wanted to do for the next few weeks.
Kroun shifted and groaned. Yeah, things were bad all over. He sat up, wobbly, staring around.
"Over here," I said, raising one hand.
His stare concentrated full on me. It took a second before I realized something was off. His eyes had gone funny, dilated to the point of being all black with no pupil. That thing so carefully hidden behind them was back.
It didn't recognize me. We were complete strangers.
It still had the gun and swung the muzzle around.
I got out of there, invisibly, and not an instant too soon. I felt the bullet punch through the space I'd occupied.
No second shot, but I heard him moving, standing up. I shifted quick, trying to get behind him, but he'd backed against the pine trunk. He was silent, making no unnecessary moves.
He fired again, accurately. Unlike other people, he was able to see my amorphous form floating around.
I could wait until he ran out of bullets, but this crazy change in him sparked a matching fury in me. Hit me for no reason, and I'll hit back twice as hard; that's how it works.
He got off a shot as I rushed him, but no more when I went solid, grabbed his arms, and slammed him into the trunk. He ducked his head forward, twisted, and suddenly I was the one about to collide with the tree.
I faded, shifted, went solid, and hit him in the gut. He doubled over, but brought the gun up again. I stepped into his reach, knocking his arm wide, backhanding his jaw on the return with my fist.
He should have dropped, damn it. I'd gotten too used to dealing with regular guys. Kroun was a match for my own strength and speed and also knew how to fight dirty. He swiped his gun hand quick as lightning toward the side of my head. I had to fade again, coming up behind, but he was ready for that, so I wasn't solid for long. A glimpse of his face threw me; cool, purposeful rage distorted his features into that of a wholly different man. What in God's name had come over him?
He wasn't anyone I wanted to meet in the dark woods at night. I floated back some yards, hoping he'd waste bullets, but he wouldn't take the bait. Going solid, I cast around for something useful. The ground snow hid any rocks the right size for throwing. Tree limbs? Nope, those were hidden or still attached. I had my own gun in a coat pocket, but hadn't reached the point where shooting him was a prudent option. I was mad, but not that mad. He, on the other hand, looked-
That one missed my nose by a fraction. I disappeared and rushed upward. Much as I hated heights, that was my best place to get a weapon. The plan was to break off a dead limb for a club, except this time of year they all looked dead. I shifted to another tree, going higher. Soon as I judged the branches thick enough to take my weight, I had a quick look, made a grab at one that might work, and yanked hard. It snapped off with a crack as loud as a gunshot-which I heard a second later. I made myself missing, dropping the branch. It was too big to vanish with me.
Moving to another tree, I skimmed down on the side away from Kroun, going solid just enough to get my bearings.
We were about twenty feet apart. He stood over the fallen branch, looking right at me as I held to a semitransparent state. I couldn't talk; there wasn't enough of me formed up yet to push air. He kept his gun aimed point-blank at my chest. From his coat pocket he drew out another gun, the one he'd taken from Michael the other night.
Kroun-or whatever it was that was running him-pointed the second muzzle my way. He seemed ready to hold out all night like that.
We traded glares, catching our mental breath since neither of us had a need for the other kind.
He held himself tense, but his features began to gradually relax. That crazy blank-eyed rage ebbed, replaced by wary puzzlement.
He tilted his head, eyes going narrow. "What the hell are you doing? What's going on?" he asked, sounding annoyed. He looked like himself again.
But I wasn't taking chances. He had a beaut of a stare as I floated across the space between, going solid at the last second.
I busted him as hard as I could.
Damn, that hurt my fist. But this time he dropped and stayed down. I pocketed his guns, then leaned against the tree. The woods got quiet again.
We were miles from anyplace except the diner. I'd had my fill of Mrs. Cabot's country hospitality and figured to take a stab at hitchhiking back to town.
Provided the road was clear of the guy who'd rammed us.
Of course my efforts were bound to be hampered by Kroun's unconscious body slung over my shoulder. He was goddamned heavy to haul uphill, too. I took it at a long easy angle almost parallel to the road, but the vanishings had tired me out. Halfway along I gave up, put him on the ground, and grabbed a handful of snow, mashing it against his face.
He came awake, snarling and struggling. Since I'd tied his arms together with his coat belt, I was in a better position to keep him from doing much damage.
"What the hell is this?" His outraged roar echoed through the trees.
"You're nuts, that's what it is," I said in a calm voice, which was surprising. Part of me wanted to bust him again.
Other guys might have done a lot more yelling, but he clammed up, giving me a second look and maybe a second thought to my statement. He could see neither of us was in a neatly groomed state. "What happened?"
Since he asked in a civil tone, I obliged with an answer in kind, filling him in.
The last thing he remembered was the car going off the road. He unexpectedly thanked me for pulling him clear, but shook his head over the rest, not believing it. "Why would I want to kill you?"
That netted me a "go to hell" glower.
"Why do you think you wanted to kill me?" I asked.
He shrugged as best he could with his arms restricted. "Undo this, would you?"
"You going to go crazy again?"
"I've had two bad turns in cars in less than a week, how the hell am I supposed to know? C'mon, my head's killing me."
He did look bad, but his eyes were as normal as they could get-for him. I began to work the knot from the belt... and heard something.
Kroun caught it, too, and tried to stand. I shoved him back, signed that I'd check things, then moved toward the sound's source. Someone was working through the broken brush of the slope, following the trail my Buick had plowed. He was a distance away; only my hearing and the wind being in the right direction scotched his chance of going undetected.
The trees prevented me from seeing him. Between the trunks I caught a blur of a shadow heading toward my wrecked car. An innocent Samaritan might have seen the skirmish on the road and be checking for survivors, but my money was on its being the maniac from the diner come to finish us off. I was in a mood for dealing with the latter and crept closer. A little mayhem, followed by robbery, would suit me fine. Thump the guy to a pulp and take his car, yeah, that sounded good. Maybe I could persuade him to tell me why Mrs. Cabot had a grudge against Kroun.
The shadow far ahead was not careful about keeping quiet. The wind still restlessly stirred things around. He might have been counting on that to cover his own noise.
I could be absolutely silent, though. It just required going invisible.
Which I did, after fixing a direction in my mind and holding to it. I'd get to the car ahead of him, pop out of nowhere... yeah, a good old-fashioned bushwhack.
I streamed down the slope, flowing between trees, compensating for the push of the wind, going at a good clip. A partial re-forming showed that I was only five yards off course. I checked toward the road, hoping to spot him.
Lot of trees, black trunks stark against unbroken drifts of snow except for the wide gash the car had carved. My poor Buick was banged up, but not nearly as crumpled as it should have been. The armoring had held the frame intact, preventing it from pulping Kroun during the fall. He'd have probably survived, but he wouldn't have been happy.
Footsteps... up there. The man was too far away to see. Just another black shape concealed by the woods. Damn, but I preferred the straight lines of the city.
He paused a moment, probably checking things out. He might have smelled gas and was keeping a prudent distance. The wind was wrong for that, but the stuff was all over.
Something as big as a goose egg arced through the air. I could only track the movement and general size for a split second, then instinct took hold, and I vanished completely.
Damned smart of me. I'd have probably survived, but I wouldn't have been happy.
He'd lobbed a grenade at the car.
I figured that out afterward.
The explosion-despite my muffled hearing-was impressive. Shrapnel and God knows what else tore into the space I'd occupied, violently and quick as thought. I felt each one, but had no real physical reaction. Stuff like that and bullets pass right through, disrupting a relatively small area.
Wind, on the other hand, can throw me around like a son of a bitch.
The grenade combined with the gasoline displaced a hellish amount of air in very short order. I didn't know what was going on, but the hurricane lasted entirely too long and was a few notches past unnerving. Abruptly going solid, I rolled downhill, no breath left in me but cursing a blue streak even when I picked up a mouthful of snow. I spat and rolled and cursed and vanished again, then popped back solid before coming to a halt.
It was another damned tree that did the halting. My upper legs banged against it, my body folded, and I fifinished up wrapped around the base of the trunk like a damp sheet of newspaper.
After all that I didn't feel like moving for a good long while. Except for a terrible roaring somewhere upslope, my world was fine just like this. I was tired. A nap would be nice. I couldn't have one, but it would have been nice.
The roar died, and the red lights dancing on the other side of my eyelids faded. By then I'd worked out what the goose-egg object had been and what the consequences of dropping one of those things close to a ruptured gas tank were, and that I'd gotten lucky.
Footsteps slogged my way.
Odds were the Caddy driver would miss me in the dark. He'd thrown his toy at the car, not me, probably unaware I was so close. I lay still and... well, it's not called waiting when you don't give a damn about what comes next.
The steps got closer, walked wide around the tree, then slowly approached.
Kroun crouched on his heels and squinted into my face. "Hey. You in there?"
He looked normal and had somehow recovered his hat. Mine was gone and my head was cold. I hated that he had a hat and I didn't. "Go 'way."
"Love to, but someone blew up your car, then lammed it. I might have stopped him from leaving if you hadn't trussed me like a turkey."
Yeah, I'll keep that in mind the next time you go nuts and start shooting at anything that moves. I wanted to say it, but all that came out was something sounding like, "Rrrer-nugh."
Kroun straightened, hands unencumbered by the belt that I'd tied tight enough to keep him out of trouble. He rethreaded it through the loops on his overcoat then bent again to peel me away from the tree.
That hurt, and I got even colder rolled out flat in the snow.
"You're a mess," he said, taking back the two guns I'd taken from him. He checked each for bullets and put them away. "Looks like you were right. I must have blacked out or something. Sorry."
"You do that a lot? Blacking out?"
"I wouldn't know now, would I?"
"Come on, let's get clear before someone spots the smoke."
Oh, jeez. My car. I boosted up in stages after finding out just how dizzy my downslope tumble had made me, using the tree for support. I hung on to it like a drunk and gaped at what was left of my Buick. She lay belly-up, dead and strangely poignant. The gas had burned away; smoke from the still-burning seat covers and smoldering tires rose high into the night, making a terrible stink. The fire hadn't spread. The recent snowfall had discouraged that, thankfully.
Eventually I got close enough to throw snow on the tires to kill the smoke. It was a lot like dropping clods on a coffin after it was in the ground. She wasn't my first car, but had been the first one I'd paid for without help, even if I had taken the money from a gangster; I had a right to mourn.
"So..." said Kroun. "You got insurance?"
Hitchhiking at night in the winter on a country road without your hat is terrifically boring. I don't recommend it, especially when you have to duck from sight to avoid grenade-throwing maniacs. Every time we spotted headlights, we dodged clear, so we weren't exactly hitching. My shoes and socks started out soaked through and icy and never improved despite the exercise.
Neither of us talked much. I was mad, and Kroun again mentioned that his head hurt, then shut down. At one point he made a snowball and held it against the white streak on the side of his skull, and apparently that helped. Sometime later he threw what was left of the ball at a fence post ten yards away, hitting it square. He grinned briefly and kept walking, taking on a cheerful gait. The way he could shift moods was both annoying and disturbing, and I wondered if that was a personal quirk or something to do with the bullet he carried.
We progressed a couple miles toward the city glow far ahead before hearing the low grumble of a truck motor coming east and decided to chance it. I stuck out a thumb; Kroun held up a ten-dollar bill.
The truck, a big one with a covered load caked with snow, slowed and stopped, the driver bawled down at us. "I'm goin' to Detroit. You?"
"Chicago," Kroun yelled back over the diesel noise. "Buy you gas to get there?"
"That's enough to pay for my whole trip. Climb in!"
I didn't get his name, but he and Kroun had a fine old chat about the weather, bad roads, lousy drivers, and who did what for a living. Kroun and I were stranded insurance salesmen whose car had died in a lonely and inconvenient spot. The driver was hauling machine parts and usually drove at night because there was less traffic.
The night-driving business bothered me, and I wondered if he was in the club, too. But he took a swig of coffee from a Thermos jug, and it smelled like coffee, not blood. He offered us some, which we turned down, and Kroun asked him about trucking jobs since it seemed a good way to make a living. That set me to wondering if he was just passing the time or really interested in the work. Though monotonous, it was one way to earn money without having someone looking over your shoulder.
"Your friend okay?" the trucker asked.
"He's just tired."
Nail on the head for that. I wanted to stretch out in a warm bed and ask Bobbi to rub the sore spots even if I didn't have any. If I turned up this late in her room, she was more likely to bounce a lamp off my noggin.
The driver was agreeable enough from the talk and the money to take a route through Chicago's North Side, dropping us at a hotel two blocks from the Nightcrawler Club. Kroun added another ten to the first, pumped the delighted man's hand, and wished him good luck on his haul. He sounded absolutely sincere, as though he'd made a new friend. When the truck was gone, he turned to look at me, his smile amiable. If he felt good, then the whole world should feel it, too.
"What?" he asked, when I just shook my head. "Is it the car?"
"You could say."
"I guess that was sort of my fault. We should have taken one of Gordy's. Tell you what, pick whatever you like, and I'll have Derner put your name on it."
"I don't want one of Gordy's cars."
"You're right. You should have something new." He pulled out one of the wads he'd taken from Michael and counted off a grand in hundreds. "This should set you up."
I took the money. The car was Kroun's fault, and that much cold cash did ease the sting. I was still mad and shaken that he'd shot at me, though there wasn't much I could do about it. As for what led to it... "Someone wants you dead and anyone with you. Why?"
That took his smile away.
"Nobody followed us out there. Your Mrs. Cabot called for help, and it came fast and packed grenades. Not a lot of farmers keep that kind of stuff in the toolshed. I wanna know what's going on. Everything."
Again, visible indecision as his mental gears spun and finally stopped. "Not now. I don't know when, but later."
"You'll know when I tell you."
It would be bad news, not that I expected any different, but he had a reason for having me along, and it wasn't just so I could tell tales to Michael.
With the wind freezing my ears and the street slush soaking my already wet shoes, I was in no mood to walk. The hotel had a taxi stand. I crossed to the first cab and got in. Kroun followed, and I gave directions. We got out again behind the Nightcrawler, and I tipped well since the drive was so short.
The delivery truck and mugs who had been in the alley were gone, but other mugs stood in their place. Soon as one of them saw us, he hurried inside.
"We're expected," said Kroun. He ran a hand over the white patch of hair and settled his hat in place. "Dammit."
Before we reached the back steps to the kitchen, Michael slammed the door open and came down. He was hatless, with no overcoat, evidently impatient.
"Where the hell have you been?" he demanded. He stopped and pushed his glasses up, giving us a once-over. "And what happened?"
"You tell me." Kroun put his hands in his pockets, apparently ready to stand outside all night and discuss it. "Where's Broder?"
"Back at the hotel. Why?"
"You sure he's at the hotel?"
Michael looked at me. "What's happened?"
I shifted in my soggy shoes. My feet were damned cold. "Somebody ran us off the road, then blew up the car. Does it bother you we got clear?"
He digested the news pretty quick. Smart guy, unless he'd known already. "You think it was Broder?"
"Unless it was you." I checked his shoes and pant cuffs-dry-but he'd had plenty of time to change from walking in knee-deep snow. "Give me proof to think otherwise."
"You-" Michael shut himself down. "Inside. We'll talk there."
"Mike," said Kroun. "Did you send Broder after us?"
He glared at me-I had the same idea, and it showed on my face-then he turned to Kroun. "No, I didn't."
"And you think he's at your hotel?"
"That's what he told me."
"Did you come after us?"
Michael shook his head. "I've been here all night waiting for you to turn up. Derner and half the dancers will tell you-"
"Never mind. Are you okay? You look like hell."
"I'm just peachy. Word to the wise, Mike: if it was Broder, you keep him out of my way. If it was some other mutt you let loose, you keep him out of my way."
"Are you done?" The wind was getting to Michael. He'd hunched in his suit coat, fighting off an initial bout of shivering.
"I'll tell you when I'm done."
"What'd the old bastard say to you?"
If the question was meant to surprise him, it didn't. Kroun took a moment, apparently considering his answer. "Not a damn thing. He's crazy, you know that?"
I got the sense that Michael was being careful not to look at me. He'd want to hear my version of tonight's fun and maybe hope Kroun wouldn't figure it out. I was tempted to vanish and let the wind carry me clear, but had a more prosaic option to take. "I'm leaving. See ya tomorrow."
"Not yet, you stay put," said Michael.
"I've punched my card for the night, I'm going home."
"And I need to talk to Derner," Kroun said. He stepped around Michael and went up the stairs, banging the door shut.
Michael started after him, then turned back to me. I picked up that he was worried, grimly worried.
"If you'd tell me what the problem is..." I said, slowly and calmly, though inside I was kicking myself. This was officially sticking my neck out. Or putting my foot in, I wasn't sure.
I missed my hypnosis gag. It made many, many things a lot easier. "I think he means to."
"What happened with the old man? You were there, right?"
Kroun had allowed me into the small room with that two-legged snake, knowing I'd talk to Michael. Maybe it was why I'd been there. "The old man's crazy."
"Yes. But what did he say?"
"Whitey tried to get him to talk about that cabin, going up there for the fishing. The old guy seemed to think that would be a lot of fun. The rest of the time he was cussing us out or tearing pictures of women from a newspaper." I threw out the last bit to get Michael's reaction.
He pulled in on himself just that much more, nothing to do with the cold.
"That's why he's in the booby hatch, because of how he treats women?"
He kept his gaze fixed, unreadable.
It had long past come to me that if I showed too much interest, then dire consequences could follow. It might already be too late.
He gave me a long, assessing look. "About this car trouble-what exactly happened?"
"We were taking a drive in the country..." I made out that Kroun hadn't told me our destination, gotten us lost, and when we finally turned back to Chicago, the guy in the Caddy tried to kill us. It was a risk. If the guy was Broder, then Michael would learn his end of it and know I was lying for Kroun.
I wasn't exactly siding with him, but I did owe him for saving Escott's life. Besides, it might goad Michael into telling me something useful about whatever feud he had going. "If your boy Broder's behind this-"
"He won't be," Michael said quickly.
"You don't know that. He could have his own operation running, like the late, unlamented Mitchell. If that's the case, you may need a friend."
"Uh-uh. Derner." I let that sink in. "I'm just a saloon-keeper. Soon as you guys leave town, I'm going back to my bar and keeping my nose clean. That's all I've ever wanted, it's no secret. For now I'm getting out of the cold, that was a hell of a long walk."
I turned to look for another cab, but he caught my arm. "Your car's wrecked?"
"Grenade, tank of gas-what do you think?"
"Here..." Damned if he didn't dig out a wad of cash and peel off ten portraits of Ben Franklin. "Get another on me."
He shoved the bills into my hand, then hurried back to the club, hunching low against the cold.
"Thanks!" I called after him. He raised one hand to show he'd heard, shot up the steps, and hustled inside.
I looked at the money. It was real. I would keep it. That Kroun had already bought me a replacement didn't matter. After tonight's excitement, I deserved a tip.
Gabe took the stairs to Gordy's office one at a time, but quick-stepping it. He wouldn't have much of a respite before Michael finished with Fleming and followed.
Derner didn't stare too much. "Have some trouble, Mr. Kroun?"
"You could say. I need a car. A good one, gassed up and with some heavy blankets in the back. No one's to know about it. Especially Michael."
"Uh... okay. Now?"
That done, he crossed to the bathroom and shook out of his once-new coat. It wasn't a total loss, but the slush and mud stains annoyed him. No time to have it cleaned or get another.
He checked his faint reflection in the mirror and scrubbed the scrapes and dirt from his face. The hot water warmed his hands. He'd not realized how cold they'd been. Aware of the problem, he checked his shoes. Yeah, soaked and freezing, no wonder Fleming looked so miserable.
Gabriel gingerly touched the ridge in his skull, bracing for pain, but nothing blazed up. Holding that snowball against the damage had killed it. He'd have to buy an ice bag sometime.
He emerged, coat over one arm and a pistol in each hand. Derner was on the phone giving orders about the car and only looked a little curious when Gabe dumped the coat and put the guns on the desk. Gabe opened each, removing the empty cartridges from the revolver and checking how many bullets were left in the semiauto. He opened his hand in a "gimme" gesture. Derner pointed to a chrome-trimmed liquor cabinet against one wall and mimed opening a drawer.
The second drawer held boxes of ammunition of various types. Kroun found what he needed in the jumble and loaded his guns. He thought about packing extra bullets, deciding against it. If he couldn't turn a problem in his favor with the loads he had, then it was unturnable.
It griped that he'd had no chance to resolve matters with Mrs. Cabot, but the woman had surprised the hell out of him. Fleming should have done something then, damn him. He could have gone invisible and gotten the drop on her while they were there.
Instead, he hauls me clear.
But to be fair, Gabe hadn't argued the point. Though more or less bulletproof, he had no desire to go through another night coughing his lungs out and feeling that burning inside as he healed. But what was Fleming's excuse? On the other hand, any man with sense would have run from Mrs. Cabot and her six-shooter. The look she wore could scare granite.
What the hell had happened to her daughter in that cabin?
And was it my fault?
He felt cold sweat along his flanks, his usual reaction to the not-knowing.
"Got your car, Mr. Kroun," said Derner. "It'll be out back in five minutes with a driver."
"I won't need the driver."
"You remember my last visit here? When was that?"
"Uh, yeah. August."
"August. Not December?"
"No, sir. I had to get you tickets for Wrigley Field, and it was hotter 'n hell you said."
Gabe put his fists on the desk and leaned in; Derner blinked under the pressure but filled out the details. He had no idea who Ramsey was or where he might be. He did not know anything about a girl named Nelly Cabot or her mother. Gabe told him to forget and eased back.
A couple nights ago, Gordy had given the same story about Ramsey, didn't know about Kroun's December visit, and chances were he was ignorant of the Cabots. Whatever business had brought Gabe to Chicago two months ago had been very much under the table.
"Gabriel," said Michael from the doorway. He always used that tone and that name when he thought things were truly serious.
He turned, on guard as always with Mike, which was a shame. He wanted to like the guy. He did like the guy, but couldn't trust him. "You look cold. Why don't you get one of those chorus girls to fix that?"
Michael scowled and couldn't suppress a shiver, and it clearly irritated him. "Where did you go tonight?"
"You already know."
"Besides seeing him."
"I got a haircut."
Gabe brushed the side of his head and put on his hat. "I got 'em all cut for that matter. The barber talked boxing, and I didn't listen." Gabe pulled on his damp overcoat and slipped the semiauto in the shoulder holster. As he reached for the revolver, Michael beat him to it.
"That's mine," he said. The gun rested lightly in his grip, not pointing at anyone, but ready for use. He had long strong fingers, and they reminded Gabe of Sonny's hands.
"It's reloaded," he said cheerfully.
"Who did you shoot?" Michael's tone matched the cheer.
"Doesn't matter. I missed."
"It was a new gun."
"Who'd you shoot?"
"Black Cadillac, last year's model. It'll have a damaged front bumper, a lot of scrapes along the passenger side, and a bullet hole in the windshield. Ask Broder. Let him explain."
Derner, who had gone very quiet as soon as Michael walked in, made a soft sound from the back of his throat. It had to be involuntary, the man was trying his best to be invisible.
"What do you know?" Michael asked him.
"Uh, I got a call about that. One of the club Caddies was stolen earlier. The boys were hopping mad about it. No one saw anything. They figured some kids hot-wired it and drove off. Anyone else wouldn't dare. We don't know where it is."
"Have them look within walking distance of Mike's hotel," Kroun suggested. "Was it stolen at about the time Broder left here? No, don't tell me, Mike will deal with it. I have to go." He pushed past, aiming for the door and hoping things were off-balance enough for him to make a clean getaway.
"Where?" Michael demanded.
"Wrigley Field. I heard it's an ice rink now."
Mike didn't follow. Gabe had raised enough doubts to make him think twice about Broder.
Seems pretty obvious.
Gabe hadn't been a hundred percent on it, but the timing worked out right.
Mrs. Cabot had called for help, and while he and Fleming waited in the woods, Broder came rolling up in his stolen car. He had no reluctance about running them off the road and dropping a grenade on the wreck. He was not concerned about consequences. That was Broder all over.
Was he on his own or working for Michael? How did the woman even know to call Broder? Or had she wanted Michael, and Broder answered instead? She'd have had to call New York first. No one there would have given up the name of Michael's hotel, but they'd have passed on the message. How did she rate that kind of service?
Or had it been Ramsey? Maybe he's still involved.
Michael wouldn't lie to him, but neither would he tell him everything. Gabe was tempted to go back, put the eye on Mike, open up his head, and find out what lay inside.
Not at the Nightcrawler. He'd need someplace more private. He needed better questions to ask, too. Gabriel didn't know enough yet to ask the right ones.
The car was a new Hudson, painted a snappy green. It was warmed up, the tank full, and four thick wool blankets lay neatly folded on the backseat. What had Derner made of that request? Probably something to do with body disposal. He wouldn't be too far off.
The waiting driver was a young, friendly, chatty sort, with a mouthful of chewing gum. Gabe thanked him and got rid of him quick.
Once behind the wheel, Gabe went easy for a block to get the feel of the gears, then headed toward Fleming's house. He still had his crumpled and damp Chicago map in one pocket and only had to pull over once to get his bearings.
The lights were on, but no one answered the bell. He let himself in and listened. The house was empty, the only noise coming from the electric icebox. Good, else he'd have to put up with a bunch of questions from Fleming.
Gabe thought about tracking down the doctor who had treated Nelly Cabot. The man would have questioned Nelly and very probably called someone else for help with the problem. Not anyone in Chicago, or Gordy would have heard something. The disappeared doctor had apparently been high enough in the pecking order to have a number direct to New York. If so, then some word of what had happened must have reached Michael.
Who doesn't want me anywhere near that cabin.
That is, if Mike and Broder had been there... or had it been only Ramsey's doing?
The lack of memory was a different sort of pain than the physical kind that often hammered at Gabe's skull, but just as intense.
Gabe cracked open one of the suitcases and pulled on fresh clothes. The dry socks were the best improvement; he wore three pair since they were the fancy silk kind and thin. Wool would have been better for this trip. He wanted woodsmen boots, too, but had only the one pair of shoes. Wet, of course. None of the clothes he'd bought during that ten-minute shopping jaunt were suitable, but he'd survive. He left his discards draped on the stair rail for Fleming to marvel over and snapped the suitcase shut. He thought of taking it, but decided against. Better to travel light and make everyone think he'd be back for his stuff.
He planned to return, after all.
Thoughtfully, he relocked the door when he left.
The Hudson ran a little rough, but he got used to it. He checked his map again, compared its routes to the directions Fleming had so accurately copied down. It seemed simple enough: get out of Chicago, head north, follow this line, then that one.
Depending on the roads, he could make pretty good time before dawn.